Light Rail

Council Not Aware City's LRT Position Changed: Clark

By Ryan McGreal
Published September 12, 2011

Last friday, I received the phone call I have been dreading all summer: Spectator reporter Emma Reilly contacted me to ask for my opinion on a quote from Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty:

[All-day GO train service] was the No. 1 ask of the city. We've had some important conversations with the mayor, and this is their priority, which made it our priority. Over time, we can enter into other discussions about things like the LRT.

In response to Reilly, I pointed out two things:

  1. The public campaign to build LRT in Hamilton didn't really take off until the Liberal government promised, in 2007, to build "two light rail lines across Hamilton" as part of the Metrolinx regional transportation plan.

  2. The reason Premier McGuinty sees all-day GO service as the Province's top priority is because that's what our Mayor says is the City's top priority.

Essentially, we've given the Province an excuse not to fulfill their commitment to build LRT in Hamilton. It's a diabolically self-fulfilling plan on Bratina's part to de-prioritize LRT to death, even though Council has never voted to instruct staff to stop planning LRT.

This, of course, is exactly what I've been worried about ever since Mayor Bob Bratina and City Manager Chris Murray began their public disinformation campaign against light rail transit back in May.

In mid-July, Murray unilaterally issued an order to suspend all work on LRT aside from what the City is contractually obliged to complete under a $3 million funding arrangement with the Province and announced a new task force to pursue the city's new top priority, all-day GO train service.

This policy change was never ratified by a Council decision, but it resulted in the near-elimination of the Rapid Transit Office as staff were redeployed to other projects. We only know about it because RTH obtained a copy of the email the following Monday and published it.

Councillor Clark Concerned

Before Murray's email came to light, Councillor Brad Clark suggested that LRT supporters were overreacting:

Nobody on council has stated that they oppose LRT or that we are reconsidering. We are acting with all due diligence, waiting for a decision from the province on funding at which point we must make a final decision.

Now Clark seems to have changed his mind.

After the Spectator published Reilly's article on Saturday, Councillor Brad Clark posted an entry on his blog in which he quips, "The Spec's scoop was so exclusive that council was not aware that our position on LRT had changed!"

Clark notes that Council never voted to change its position on LRT: "Clearly, the Mayor did not have a resolution authorizing his representation to the premier that the expansion of Go Transit was council's #1 priority."

He also notes that if the City does not continue developing its LRT plan, the $3 million class environmental assessment will be wasted. "If we flush LRT now than we will have to complete the studies all over again because EA work must be current!"

Clark remains skeptical about the utility of all-day GO train service. "Go Transit has considered all day service on a number of occasions. Each time, the business case has always shown a significant loss."

Clark reiterates the Liberal government's 2007 promise to build two light rail lines in Hamilton and notes that Toronto has "seized their opportunities with ten projects worth almost $10 billion under construction. Toronto is not paying a penny."

Finally, he points out that Hamilton Council was desperate not to lose the 56 percent capital funding from the Province on the Pan Am Stadium, even though it committed the city to cover the other 44 percent; and yet the Mayor seems willing to walk away from a Provincial commitment to pay 100% of the capital costs for LRT.

Councillors Jason Farr and Brian McHattie plan to introduce a motion in October to reaffirm Council's commitment to LRT.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

18 Comments

View Comments: Nested | Flat

Read Comments

[ - ]

By Myrcurial (registered) - website | Posted September 12, 2011 at 10:45:39

Good thing we're waiting until October...

... of course, we're really going to wait until one day before the deadline and then we'll say that we need more time to study the issue.

Why is it that our city council behaves like a bunch of high-school students who hope that homework will do itself?

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Mag Wag (anonymous) | Posted September 12, 2011 at 10:57:13

"Essentially, we've given the Province an excuse not to fulfill their commitment."

Devil's advocate: Maybe it's a pilot project to see if amalgamation can also be undone?

Permalink | Context

By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted September 12, 2011 at 11:41:55 in reply to Comment 69429

I don't see any meaningful similarity between de-prioritizing the development of a new capital project and unwinding a municipal organizational change that happened a decade ago.

Permalink | Context

By Mag Wag (anonymous) | Posted September 12, 2011 at 15:17:32 in reply to Comment 69436

That was intended as a joke. Obviously sliced a bit thin. :/

Permalink | Context

By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted September 12, 2011 at 15:25:15 in reply to Comment 69472

hangs head in shame

As a feeble excuse, I hereby invoke Poe's Law.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By highwater (registered) | Posted September 12, 2011 at 12:04:02

Start screaming to your MPP's. They need to educate their premier on the fact that the mayor represents only one vote on council and has no business dictating what the city's 'priorities' are without the support of a majority council members.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted September 12, 2011 at 12:35:23

With the provincial election coming soon, I'm pessimistic and expecting Hudak to take the reins. There's no way we can get any kind of real commitment from the province before then.

Kiss LRT goodbye.

Permalink | Context

By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted September 12, 2011 at 12:40:56 in reply to Comment 69446

Recent polling does not support your pessimism. Over the past two months, the Liberals have closed the 20 point gap with the PCs and the latest polls show the Liberals ahead.

Permalink | Context

By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted September 12, 2011 at 13:40:03 in reply to Comment 69449

I'm predicting a liberal minority myself, with Hamilton voting predominently NDP.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By jason (registered) | Posted September 12, 2011 at 12:37:58

Brad Clark is absolutely right on so many counts. The EA, the Toronto experience, the fact we were willing to go broke giving the Ticats money etc..... I would fully expect council to strongly re-affirm LRT in a 15-1 vote. If so, let's make sure the Premier knows how committed our city is to LRT and to continuing the great work started by Jill Stephen and her team.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted September 12, 2011 at 13:33:37

Oh GREAT Ryan, thanks a lot! A blog about you being quoted in the Spec and LRT.... Mahesh is sure to have another fit!

Permalink | Context

By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted September 12, 2011 at 15:17:08 in reply to Comment 69458

No Mr. Janitor, I assure you I won't have another fit. For this truly is Brad & Ryan's baby - with Emma here just playing the role of a midwife :)

Who am I to rain on their parade? I just hope that they do take ownership of this the morning after.

With Brad knowing that the province agreed to pay 100% of the capital costs for LRT - why would he have kept this away from the Council? I say let's place the order for the LRT tonight, and surprise the LRT lobbyist tomorrow morning!

Comment edited by Mahesh_P_Butani on 2011-09-12 15:33:51

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By HartLang (anonymous) | Posted September 12, 2011 at 14:33:58

I find Councillor Clark's stance difficult to swallow, considering that, at the July 5th Planning & Ecdev meeting, Clark and Councillor Collins sparked this entire heated LRT debate over their less than complimentary trashing of the land use planning work that is happening concurrently with the LRT studies. If memory serves, it was the two gentlemen in question who started the entire debate by claiming "I don't recall a Council decision to name LRT our top priority." Now, Mr. Clark is saying almost the exact opposite and sounds eerily supportive of LRT (Chances are, if we were to get him behind closed doors, he'd tell us on the q-t that he'd really like to deep-six LRT now.)

I really can't keep track of the on-again, off-again support/opposition to LRT. And you can bet your bottom dollar that the premier is only telling us what he's been told to say---that yes, Hamilton will get all-day, two-way GO rail service. The million dollar question is "exactly, when?"

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Woody10 (registered) | Posted September 12, 2011 at 15:02:51

October??? You're kidding right? My god this city is sooo far behind it's not funny, just downright sad.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By LadyGaga (anonymous) | Posted September 12, 2011 at 16:18:33

"Recent polling does not support your pessimism. Over the past two months, the Liberals have closed the 20 point gap with the PCs and the latest polls show the Liberals ahead."

Agree with Ryan but if we waste our votes on NDP (sorry I mean divide our votes with NDP), Hudak wins for sure.

I also suspect Brad who is out campaigning with the Tories is also trying to be mischievous against the Libs suggesting that it is all the bad premier's fault for listening to just one vote on Council. As we know from Toronto, the mayor's voice can be quite powerful. Didn't Rob Ford on his own cancel Transit City in favour of subways, which he now can't afford to build?

Permalink | Context

By misterque (registered) - website | Posted September 15, 2011 at 18:32:16 in reply to Comment 69480

I think it is pretty clear the Mayor Rob Ford's antics has cost the Conservatives the election. Which on all accounts was the Conservative's to win. Mayor Ford reminded everyone that "no cuts = cuts" and the reminder to the public of this Conservative habit will be too recent in their memory to fall for Hudak's window dressing.

Comment edited by misterque on 2011-09-15 18:32:56

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By upset (anonymous) | Posted September 12, 2011 at 19:05:35

What a sad story all this makes. Hamilton is poised to lose both LRT and all-day GO if Council doesn't get its collective act together and lobby hard and strong for both. Why isn't Council lobbying hard and strong for both services? Why instead are they wasting time and money on futile projects like the new Ti-Cats stadium and a veledrome project that won't generate dollars or investment into Hamilton? A sad story indeed.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By AETHERMAN (registered) | Posted September 23, 2011 at 20:47:03

LRT = Lost Revenue Tomorrow! IF LRT happens, it will make RIBBONS happen in peoples underpants when they see increases on their property tax bill, year after year! Oh ya, don't forget about the excuses for increasing the fair costs for passengers year after year! Hamilton needs it's roads and infrastructure repaired FIRST before any Luxury Rail TranSHIT!

Permalink | Context

View Comments: Nested | Flat

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to comment.

Events Calendar

Recent Articles

Article Archives

Blog Archives

Site Tools

Feeds