Published August 26, 2010
Larry Di Ianni has been keeping very quiet on this stadium issue. And for good reason: this issue is a hot potato if ever there was one.
Mayor Fred Eisenberger knows this. Raise the Hammer was knee deep in this long before he took a solid public stand on the issue, and now people are trying to paint the issue as if he was Lex Luthor and the West Harbor Stadium was his secret plan.
Did the Mayor knowingly withhold information about a phone call from Provincial Liberals? I don't know. I certainly wouldn't trust a word they said at this point - especially if they're leaking details of these conversations to his opponents in the fall election.
If anyone can be accused of having a secret plan, it's Larry Di Ianni. Aside from the fact that he uses the same adviser, Eric Cunningham, as the Ticats, he's also got strong connections to "higher ups" and it's clear that they still feel he can be useful. He ran Federally for the Liberals two short years ago, in one of Canada's most infamous ridings - Hamilton East-Stoney Creek.
What does all of this have to do with the Liberal Party? A fair bit. To see how, we need to go back in time to a simpler age, where the city has a few more trees and one less highway.
At the dawn of the Di Ianni era, while he battled David Christopherson for the Mayor's seat, there was a far more brutal battle going on in the background.
Everyone loved Prime Minister Jean Chretien, seemingly no matter what he did. But at the end of his era, a big battle took place for the future of the party, and a large part of that played out right here in Hammertown.
On the left were the "kinder, softer, gentler" Liberals, led by former Deputy PM Sheila Copps. On the right were the fiscally conservative former Finance Minister Paul Martin and his supporters.
In an epic battle, Copps battled former Transport Minister Tony Valeri for the new Hamilton East-Stoney Creek riding and lost, helping to consolidate Martin's control over the party.
Copps was named in a $75 million City of Hamilton lawsuit against the Federal Government for attempting to impose an Environmental Assessment on the highway project, which the City claimed constituted "targeted malice" intended to delay the project.
Valeri was a well-known highway supporter.
The federal Liberals were fed to the proverbial lions after "Adscam" broke, only confirming what much of the country had always believed about them. Di Ianni himself, as Mayor, was charged and convicted of violating the Municipal Elections Act over illegal campaign donations. He lost the next election to Eisenberger.
The outcome of all these games - the construction of the Red Hill Valley Parkway and subsequent development boom on the East Mountain are all a direct result of the work of Larry Di Ianni.
Highway opponents predicted this boom and sounded the alarm about development corruption and collusion in Di Ianni's campaign long before anyone else.
Groups spawned by prominent highway opponents (such as CATCH) were also among those first to warn about frequent flooding in the East End as a result of this development, and the inability of our infrastructure to handle billions of dollars of homes and parking lots draining into it.
The first time this happened, it was written off as a "once in a century" storm that had simply overwhelmed our storm sewers with its pure force. Then it started happening yearly, or even several times a year.
While the price of upgrading our sewer systems and paying out to people who had their basements ruined will fall on the shoulders of taxpayers, the profits from the developments will go to corporations like Multi-Area Developments, whose massive Summit Park development required the completion of the highway and whose owner was one of the illegal over-contributors to Di Ianni's 2003 election campaign.
Without the Red Hill and the Linc, without the booming East Mountain development, and without hundreds of millions of dollars of Hamilton's money thrown into this sprawling development, the East Mountain stadium wouldn't even be a possibility.
No matter what he wants to admit in public, the East Mountain Stadium is the "Larry Di Ianni" option. Whether he wants to admit it or not, a lot of blame for this nonsense falls clearly on Di Ianni's shoulders.
To argue that "the marketplace wants an East Mountain stadium", as people like Herman Turkstra have, is an absolutely falsehood. Every step of this process has been paved with hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars, and if we commit to a stadium which the city's own reports state will cost tens of millions more.
There is nothing "free market" about spending this kind of public money for the enrichment of already famously wealthy citizens.
If an East Mountain stadium is ever built, I've got a suggestion for a name: The Red Hill Valley Memorial Stadium.