Light Rail

LRT Referendum an Excuse Not to Lead

By Grant Ranalli
Published June 06, 2013

Last week, Spectator columnist Andrew Dreschel called for a referendum on the "polarizing" east-west Light Rail Transit (LRT) system being planned in Hamilton.

I don't recall a referendum being requested when the Red Hill Valley Parkway was built - as polarizing an issue as any. Ditto for the new stadium. Yet for some reason we need one for LRT?

Could it be because of the estimated $477 per household projected increase in taxes? Think of this: The Red Hill and Lincoln Alexander Parkway cost nearly half a billion dollars (with another half a million just announced for creek repair to stop erosion and flooding).

These costs, and the costs of all the roads and highways built and continually upgraded and maintained, run into the billions of dollars.

Are you puzzled by the lack of hue and cry over these large tax expenditures? Don't be - because none of these road costs have ever been separated out (nor extracted via 'revenue tools') but rather are apportioned out of general revenues in provincial and municipal taxes you pay every year.

A 2005 Transport Canada study found that the total annual cost of Canada's road and highway system was billions of dollars more than the total revenues from all sources, including fuel taxes and fees, licencing costs, parking charges and even traffic ticket fines.

The issue of revenue tools (read: taxes) is the 'third rail' few politicians want to touch. Concerns about re-election always loom large, but sometimes tough decision have to be made for the public good. Contemplate where Toronto would be had the subways never been built in the 1950s.

Waterloo Region recently voted to build an LRT because they calculated that it would cost the region more money not to build it. We need to inform ourselves about the true costs of not building Hamilton's LRT system.

We also need politicians with true vision and leadership who can shepherd this important project through to completion, while getting the best deal for Hamiltonians.

Grant Ranalli lives in Hamilton and works as an elementary school teacher.

16 Comments

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By hammerman (registered) | Posted June 06, 2013 at 07:17:48

You have hit the nail on the head Grant. A referendum is not necessary, it is a cop out.

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By Rimshot (anonymous) | Posted June 06, 2013 at 07:54:16

Since we're concerned with value-for-money, a referendum is a wasted cost. Politicians have a number of equally unscientific ways of weaselling out of LRT -- direct mail, town halls, website questionnaires or inbox extrapolations among them. Or simply harpooning the liferaft.

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By bikehounds (anonymous) | Posted June 06, 2013 at 09:10:21

How about a referendum on aerotropolis? How about a referendum on every new development that requires the city to service it with roads and sewers? We don't need a referendum every time we spend money. We just need staff and council who understand ROI

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By Rimshot (anonymous) | Posted June 06, 2013 at 09:30:14

1-800-CALL-BOB

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By Conrad664 (registered) | Posted June 06, 2013 at 09:37:53

You have that wright Grant its going to be in 2014 election for the poeples in Hamilton to speak out on wheater we wnat LRT im in favore for it but this cousiel is far from it

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By highwater (registered) | Posted June 06, 2013 at 17:27:52 in reply to Comment 89351

We already had that in 2010 and elected a pro-LRT mayor. Bratina only flip-flopped after the election.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted June 06, 2013 at 10:15:52

A referendum is the worst idea. Yes, lets spend millions of dollars in research and planning to show that LRT is a good idea, and then put that all aside and let people make an emotional decision about it.

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By positive1@cogeco.ca (registered) | Posted June 06, 2013 at 23:32:49

While I agree referendums do have their place, there is no point in having one if the public is ill informed or worse, mis-informed. Unfortunately, not everyone takes the time to educate themselves before registering their opinion, hence, many referendums prove little. As Paul Weller from The Jam once sang, "And the public wants what the public gets. But I don't get what this society wants ... I'm goin' underground" - Grant Ranalli

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By Jessie (anonymous) | Posted June 07, 2013 at 11:26:28

Didn't we have a petition for LRT going around at some point? What happened to that? Can we start it up again or initiate one to send to Bob?

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By Kevin Love (anonymous) | Posted June 07, 2013 at 23:24:37

One of the problems with a municipal referendum is that the provincial legislation governing municipal referenda requires a voter turnout of at least 50% for the results to be binding upon the municipality. When was the last time we had over 50% turnout for a municipal election?

See Part III Amendments to the Municipal Elections Act as follows:

Results
8.2 (1) The results of a question authorized by a by-law under clause 8 (1) (b) are binding on the municipality which passed the by-law if,
(a) at least 50 per cent of the eligible electors in the municipality vote on the question; and
(b) more than 50 per cent of the votes on the question are in favour of those results

Source:

http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/source/statutes/english/2000/elaws_src_s00005_e.htm

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By TreyS (registered) | Posted June 08, 2013 at 17:06:14

Grant perhaps you're just afraid of the results from a referendum. I support LRT and the City at large would likely vote against LRT. It's our council's exit strategy.

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted June 08, 2013 at 19:57:55

The net revenue from the car industry is huge and is what keeps the government coffers full. The taxes start with the raw materials being extracted from the ground and just keep going and going like the energizer bunny. Every step of the way there are taxes. Taxes on the companies profits. Taxes on the wages of all the workers. There are so many steps and so many parts that I don't know how anyone can get definitive answer. Just look at Hamilton. Dofasco (or whatever it has morphed into) produces many tons of steel for the auto industry. This is the most expensive steel they sell. While Dofasco's number of employees has shrunk there are still a lot. Not only are there lots of jobs they are very well paying jobs. How many thousands does the federal and provincial governments get in income tax? How many thousands does the city get from the homes that these well paid employees own? I know these homes are not downtown like they used to be but rather are mostly in the burbs, Ancaster, Stoney Creek, Dundas and so on. That may count less in your eyes but the city relies on that money. Every level of government relies on that money. This is just an example of one stage in the middle of the process. There were miners getting the ore out of the ground. Again another high paying job that pays lots of taxes. Then the ore needs to be shipped to Hamilton. Taxes on the ship workers and the shipping company. On and on it goes. That is why the government will do anything to attract the auto industry. Taxes taxes and more taxes. Real taxes on high paying jobs. Compare that to the taxes paid by waiters and busboys in all the coffee houses and restaurants. That is why governments will not do anything to attract these low paying jobs that Hamilton is starting to fill up on.

Without the car industry the government would be broke in a heartbeat.

Let the downvoting begin.

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By Henry and Joe (anonymous) | Posted June 09, 2013 at 15:51:18 in reply to Comment 89422

I don't think anyone is calling for the abolition of the car industry. People are asking for a hedge against a rise in fuel prices and a dependency on big Oil. Taxes start with ore being pulled out of the ground, but taxpayer subsidies begin there as well. In the last 4 decades of the 20th century, the Canadian government received 150 million in royalties from mining activities, but taxpayer have paid $ 4 billion for clean up costs. Dofasco may have jobs for now, but Stelco jobs have all but disappeared thanks to neo-liberal policies that allow financial corporations to pillage our manufacturing companies and and treat its workers like refuse. We lost 500 000 manufacturing jobs in the 2000s and the US lost close to 3 000 000 jobs. Those jobs have been replaced with the poor ones you mention. That is the unofficial policy of all cities in North America - not just Hamilton. No amount of highway building is going to change that. If corporations are supposed to save the day, I'm a little doubtful. General Electric has paid zero tax in the last 10 years to the US government. Meanwhile, corporations like Amazon, Apple, and Starbucks are strong arming Congress for a reduction in their tax rate to single digits.

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By Justin (anonymous) | Posted June 09, 2013 at 10:06:57

When a politician wants to kill a project they do not like, they call for a referendum so lies and misinformation can be spread to confuse the general public. It's an exit strategy.

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted June 09, 2013 at 10:18:20

http://mayorbratina.com/2013/05/30/hamiltons-biggest-ask-ever-lets-ask-the-voters/

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By mighty muse (anonymous) | Posted January 23, 2014 at 07:38:35

i just want clean air n proper support when city bylaws are broken be it uncut grass parking complaints or the average downtown ass who throws their cigarette butt on the sidewalk, get these cops that are downtown to start issuing tickets or hire 1 more bylaw officer specifically for downtown, do it on a 6 mnth pilot project he will bring in more than he is paid easily!! COME ON HAMILTON LET YOUR VOICE BE HEARD DOWNTOWN IS A PIG STY. ITS A WASTE OF MONEY TO DO ANYTHING UNTIL THE CITY TAKES CARE OF THE PEOPLE DOWN THERE!!!

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