Allowing Us to Dream Again

By Jason Leach
Published June 19, 2005

The long awaited "new deal for cities" was finally signed on Friday afternoon. This will pump millions of dollars into Ontario municipalities for "environmentally sustainable" projects such as transit and sewer systems.

We here at Raise the Hammer have serious doubts about Hamilton's intentions with this money. In fact, we've even gone as far to ask the province to stop giving Hamilton money and bailing out our politicians all the time.

If you're reading this from outside of Hamilton, allow me to explain something to you. The words "environmental" and "sustainable" are usually mentioned alongside "wacko" or "young idealist". In fact, the city is currently suing seven residents as well as employees of the federal department of Oceans and Fisheries for their opposition to the Red Hill Expressway. Need I say more?

I will, anyway.

Let's take a quick look at some initial responses from local politicians upon having this historic deal inked.

Legendary Mississauga Mayor Hazel MacCallion said, "If he (Stephen Harper) kills the budget (amendments), I think he will have a tough time getting elected across Canada," she said. "We want to put more buses on the road."

Other municipal politicians were quick to applaud Martin for finally reaching an agreement with the province, the city of Toronto and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario on sharing the gas tax.

"This is a big shot in the arm for the TTC," said Howard Moscoe, chair of the Toronto Transit Commission. "It allows us to dream again."

Toronto Mayor David Miller said, "We intend to spend it all on transit."

Mayor Larry DiIanni called it great news for the city of Hamilton and added that he is optimistic Hamilton can also use it to upgrade roads, bridges and other infrastructure. DiIanni explained that the City hasn't decided what it will spend the money on yet, but is glad the feds are allowing cities of less than 500,000 to use it on more than transit.

Just as we suspected. While other cities drool over the improvements that can be made in their transit systems, Hamilton drools over the possibility of more roads and more sprawl.

Remember, new buses and improved transit have "ongoing operating costs" that we can't afford. Yeah, at least roads and highways don't have that problem...

Hamilton is pleased the government used a funding formula based on population than on transit ridership. We would have received much less money had transit ridership been the determining factor.

Shouldn't that be a big hint to city council that our transit system is inadequate and embarrassing? Toronto was hoping for a forumla based on transit as it would have significantly increased their funding, and yet they are still committing their new money to even better transit.

Once again, Hamilton shows its true colours as a small-minded, developer pleasing city first. And a city that cares about moving into the 21st Century and making this a great people-friendly city, at the bottom of the agenda.

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.


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