Our Unbelievable Mayor

Not only does Bratina change positions as quickly as the wind changes direction but his position appears to change depending on the day's circumstances or the audience to whom he is speaking.

By Adrian Duyzer
Published October 17, 2011

On August 7, 2010, Ward 2 Councillor Bob Bratina took the stage at a rally supporting the West Harbour location for the Pan-Am Games stadium. In an unforgettable moment, he tore off his dress shirt to reveal a bright yellow t-shirt emblazoned with "WEST HARBOUR".

It was a shock, and not just because of the theatrics. Previously, Bratina had not supported the West Harbour. In 2009, he wanted the stadium built at the site of Sir John A Macdonald high school. In February 2010, he said, "After reviewing the documents related to a Pan Am Stadium site selection, I have to declare my total opposition to a West Harbour Site, and the creation of a Stadium Entertainment Precinct."

Then on July 15, 2010, he said he favoured "genuine 'Downtown' locations" for a stadium. Maybe he was warming up to the West Harbour. It was hard to tell, because he also said that "city building is not served to any great extent by stadiums and arenas".

All doubts were cast aside on August 7 when he tore off his shirt and declared that the east mountain location the Tiger-Cats demanded was "crap" and that the West Harbour had become "the best decision for the community".

That was music to the ears of cheering West Harbour supporters. Unfortunately for them, Bratina didn't carry the tune for long. On August 31, he voted in favour of considering building the stadium at the McMaster Innovation Park instead. Four days later, on September 3, he said that Confederation Park was "probably still the best overall site" for a stadium.

In the end, no one really had any idea where Bratina thought the stadium should go. He became mayor and somehow we ended up with a brand-new stadium at Ivor Wynne, even though we thought we were paying for a renovation.

Now consider light rail transit (LRT) and ask yourself: does Bob Bratina support LRT?

He did when he was Ward 2 Councillor, or at least he said he did, but let's just focus on Mayor Bratina for now.

On June 30, The Spectator reported that Bratina had reservations about LRT. "We're not hearing any kind of clamour from the public on that file," he said. This triggered quite the clamour indeed, and he was forced to clarify his position, which he said was simply that he's waiting for staff to finish studying the LRT proposal.

"We're still in the LRT game," he said, "LRT has not changed on the priority list," and "The LRT file is fine."

In other words: don't worry, be happy, and don't listen to people who voice concern. It's all just a "Spectator brouhaha" and "boosterism by certain groups". "The only damage seems to be occurring among a small group of dissident local residents", he claimed.

It's impossible not to notice, however, all of the other things he said that contradict this position. He has repeatedly said that all-day GO Transit service is a higher priority for the city, even though Metrolinx has said GO Transit and LRT are not an either-or proposition. He has said that "no solid interest has materialized" from developers for LRT.

On August 31, he came right out and said that LRT "is not a priority", but that planning for it would continue "ad infinitum": "if somehow a million people move to Hamilton over the next five years and we have traffic congestion all over the place, we will look at all transit options including LRT."

It's also impossible not to notice that his actions and those of City Manager Chris Murray have gravely jeopardized the future of the LRT project. On July 15, Murray suspended all work on the LRT project except for the work that had to be completed as part of the $3 million funding agreement with the province to study it.

Since then, Jill Stephen, the manager of the City's Rapid Transit Office, has resigned, and Premier McGuinty has said that GO Transit outranks LRT as a priority based on "important conversations with the mayor". "Over time, we can enter into other discussions about things like the LRT," McGuinty said.

By the time you read this, the situation will probably have changed yet again, but if the past is any indication, you still won't have a clear picture of where Bratina stands on the issue.

The economist John Maynard Keynes once responded to criticism that he had flip-flopped on policy by saying, "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?" Keynes was right. There is nothing wrong with changing your mind when new evidence emerges.

Bratina's behaviour is different. Not only does he change positions as quickly as the wind changes direction but his position appears to change depending on the day's circumstances or the audience to whom he is speaking.

Combine this with a new culture of secrecy at City Hall, a series of questionable in-camera meetings, and musings by Bratina's Chief of Staff Peggy Chapman about controlling information, and it's hard not to ask the question: is Bratina being forthright and honest with the public?

When Bratina says something, do you believe it? If not, what does this say about the office of mayor under Bratina's leadership?

Here's one more quote to ponder. Speaking about the B-line LRT route - the one that passes through downtown and its many surface parking lots - Bratina said, "you can drive up and down our proposed LRT route all you want and you don't see large parcels of land waiting to be developed".

That's just unbelievable.

This article was first published in the October issue of Urbanicity.

Adrian Duyzer is an entrepreneur, business owner, and Associate Editor of Raise the Hammer. He lives in downtown Hamilton with his family. On Twitter: adriandz


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By defensive manouevres (anonymous) | Posted October 17, 2011 at 08:04:31

Look at this bizarre story:


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By z jones (registered) | Posted October 17, 2011 at 08:39:45 in reply to Comment 70602

If CHML is Bob's official state radio station The Bay Observer is Bob's official state newspaper.

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By Bligh Times (anonymous) | Posted October 17, 2011 at 09:23:22 in reply to Comment 70602

"3) Identify funding sources and complete implementation plan for Randle Reef"

We're about two weeks away from the fourth anniversary of municipal funding being the lone stumbling block to getting this project started.

And the ROI on what is now a $35-40m investment?

"...a York University study... says polishing the city's image by cleaning up the harbour is worth at least $1 billion.

York's computer model predicts the Randle Reef project will generate a direct economic gain of $126 million for the port, industry and tourism, but the big payoff -- more than $900 million -- will come when that work leads to the International Joint Commission taking the harbour off its list of Great Lakes pollution hot spots, helping to change the picture of Hamilton as a dirty, polluted place."


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By Jt (anonymous) | Posted October 17, 2011 at 10:47:02

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted October 17, 2011 at 11:24:36 in reply to Comment 70605

This blog site is just jealous that the spec and other media get more attention, scoops and insider information from the mayor's office. RTH is always on the outside looking in.


I'm a notable critic of this site (Ryan can attest to how much of a feather-ruffler I can be), but this comment is hilarious.

Can we have a separate section for such commenters? You know, a 'minor-league' setup, where you have to work your way up to 'The Bigs'?


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By Putsch Cassidy (anonymous) | Posted October 17, 2011 at 11:26:21

Tomorrow (Oct 18) from 7:45am-9am, the Hamilton Chamber is hosting a breakfast presentation/Q&A session at 555 Bay North with guest speaker City Manager Chris Murray. Next Tuesday (Oct 25), Mayor Bob Bratina’s State of the City, hosted by the Flamborough Chamber of Commerce, takes place at Carlisle Golf & Country Club, 523 Carlisle Rd. For ticket info, call 905.689.7650.

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By bobsblogsite (anonymous) | Posted October 17, 2011 at 11:50:06 in reply to Comment 70605

I'm assuming your entire comment is just a vehicle for delivery of a "blogsite" joke...

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By schmamber (anonymous) | Posted October 17, 2011 at 11:52:06

Oh good, events sponsored by chamber of commerce. These unbiased talkes are certain to unearth hidden truths and expose the real problems and solutions for Hamilton!

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted October 17, 2011 at 17:55:14

Honestly, I think Bob gets an unfair rap for the West Harbor thing. To me, Bob's opinion was consistent - he wanted the stadium in the lower city, preferably as close to downtown as possible... and he wanted all the options reviewed.

His "Go West Harbour" theatrics were reactionary - it was about West Harbor vs. East Mountain, not about his favourite site.

I think this pragmatic viewpoint is what won him the election - the Ti-Cats actions revealed that we really didn't have a plan B. Heck, we barely had a plan A. When Bob Young torpedo'd the West Harbour at the 11th hour, Bratina's "review all the sites" policy suddenly looked prescient. Of course, the obvious counterpoint is that Young shouldn't have had the power to ruin Hamilton's stadium plans at the last second like that, but that's beside the point - in the eyes of the public that's exactly the power he had, since the public weren't about to support politicians that lost us our beloved Cats.

Bratina's fear of commitment actually is what got him elected... all the more reason why it's obvious his LRT stance is the result of backroom shenanigans. A man who wants every option reviewed and every avenue pursued (except the Ti-Cats being put way out in Stoney Creek because no urban Hamiltonian football fan wants that) suddenly wants to abort on the research process of this massive and potentially spectacular project.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted October 17, 2011 at 18:07:38 in reply to Comment 70622

To me, Bob's opinion was consistent - he wanted the stadium in the lower city, preferably as close to downtown as possible... and he wanted all the options reviewed.

Sadly no. He certainly wanted SJAM in the very early days of the debate, but his push to have 'all the options reviewed' was all about his preferred site - Confederation Park. It was only after Confederation Park was ruled out once and for all (and even then he kept harping on about it), and it came down to the West Harbour vs. East Mountain, that he switched his support to the West Harbour. As the councillor for that ward it's not like he had much of a choice.

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted October 17, 2011 at 20:48:49

I feel like the Chamber of Commerce is trying to keep Hamilton as a version of Pottersville instead of Bedford Falls.

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By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted October 17, 2011 at 22:11:45

Matt Jelly has an article titled "Does Mayor Bob deserve to be muzzled?" on the Open File Hamilton website today: http://hamilton.openfile.ca/blog/news/20...

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted October 17, 2011 at 23:15:31

When you campaign with no platform, apparently it offers you the ultimate in mandate flexibility.

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By misterque (registered) - website | Posted October 18, 2011 at 00:45:02 in reply to Comment 70602

This one is even worse.


At least the Bay Observer article is so poorly written it is incomprehensible. And the BO is already known to be part of the Bob Media Circus.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted October 18, 2011 at 14:48:24

Enough people believed his lies to get him elected and that's all that matters to Bob.

He just wants to feel like the "big man" and will say and do just about anything to get that feeling... proof in point the "yellow t-shirt" incident. I was there and the only thing bigger than the smile on Bob's face when everyone started cheering was Bob's ego.

It saddens me that the city I live in could be duped by such an obvious charlatan and clown.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted October 18, 2011 at 16:33:37 in reply to Comment 70607

"The progress that has been made towards revitalizing the downtown core has highlighted the latest speech by Hamilton's city manager.

Chris Murray was the guest speaker at Tuesday morning's "hot topic breakfast", hosted by the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce.

Murray highlighted a number of major of projects happening in the core, such as the Lister Block, Farmer's Market, McMaster Health Campus and all-day GO Trains.

The official opening of the restored Lister Block, which will house Tourism Hamilton and the community services department, is planned for April."


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By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted October 18, 2011 at 21:31:32 in reply to Comment 70641

Precisely, Ryan. Other potential stadium sites were considered by the City of Hamilton in 2009 and the west harbour was the preferred site. Here is a summary of the timelines:

January 12, 2009- Removal of Confederation Park From Short List of Possible Stadium Sites

On a motion by Councillor Chad Collins at a Committee of the Whole Meeting on January 12, 2009, Hamilton city council voted 10 to 3 (three councillors were absent) to remove Confederation Park from the short list of potential Pan Am venue sites.

For: Eisenberger, Merulla, Collins, Jackson, Duvall, Whitehead, Pearson, Ferguson, Powers, Pasuta,

Against: Bratina, Clark, McCarthy

Absent: McHattie, Morelli, Mitchell

Declarations of Interest: None (Question: Did then Ward 2 Councillor Bratina declare that he was the spokesperson on CHML radio commercials for Baranga’s On The Beach at Confederation Park)?

Here is the link to the Minutes of the January 12, 2009 meeting: http://www.hamilton.ca/NR/rdonlyres/5AAE...

Eighteen to nineteen months later, Bob Young was demanding a 60 acre, 6,000 car parking lot on 100 acres of land at the proposed east mountain stadium site. Page 28 of the city staff report submitted to City Council at the Committee of the Whole meeting on August 10 and 11, 2010 (and amended by Council on August 12, 2010 and September 29, 2010) summarizes the parking situation at the east mountain site: http://www.hamilton.ca/NR/rdonlyres/2390...

In retrospect, thank goodness Hamilton city council had already removed Confederation Park as a potential stadium site by then. Confederation Park would have become unrecognizable if Bob Young had somehow commandeered 100 acres and a 60 acre parking lot.

February 3, 2009- City Staff Report on West Harbour, Downtown Core and Airport Stadium Sites

City staff concluded that a west harbour Pan Am athletics/football/soccer stadium and velodrome site was preferable to a Downtown Core site and an Airport site for various reasons: http://www.hamilton.ca/NR/rdonlyres/043C...

February 23, 2009 - After hearing several apparently supportive presentations including one from Tiger-Cat President Scott Mitchell, Hamilton City Council voted to spend $60 Million for a Pan Am stadium and velodrome with the west harbour as the preferred site contingent on winning the Pan Am bid.

Here is a link to the Minutes of this Committee of the Whole meeting on February 23, 2009: http://www.hamilton.ca/NR/rdonlyres/B4BA...

Questions: If the Tiger-Cats were vehemently opposed to the west harbour stadium location and wanted the track removed after the Games, why didn’t Scott Mitchell inform city council of this before they voted to spend $60 Million on the Pan Am athletics/football/soccer stadium on February 23, 2009 and again on February 18, 2010? Why didn’t Bob Young attend either of these meetings? Why did Young and Mitchell wait until May 7, 2010 to publicly declare that the Tiger-Cats would never play at the west harbour?

The fact remains that city council had a well prepared preliminary plan, approved by the Pan American Sports Organization, for a Pan Am multi-use west harbour stadium until the plan was later destroyed by the Tiger-Cats when they began their threats in July, 2010 to move the team out of town. What seemed to be a synergistic "win win win" Pan Am opportunity for the City of Hamilton, amateur sport and the Tiger-Cats has become a hollow victory for the Ticats and a salvage job for the city and amateur sports.

Comment edited by RenaissanceWatcher on 2011-10-18 21:47:17

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By lesser evil (anonymous) | Posted October 19, 2011 at 09:44:28

The main reason he won is because he was the lesser of two evils. We suffered with DiIanni's backroom dealings for long enough already, so his only real challenger was (rightfully) shut out. Fred, unfortunately, cost himself re-election by failing to connect with TiCat fans, and failing to connect with progressive voters (what was with his bizarre vote in support of AEGD funding immediately before the election?)

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted October 19, 2011 at 14:16:57

What ever happened to Bratina's campaign pledge to de-amalgamate the city? Bratina was best when he was calling the Ticat games.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted October 19, 2011 at 14:46:50 in reply to Comment 70663

I think you give the public too little credit on that one (holy crap, I can't believe I posted that - usually I'm the cynic). I meant more that the alternative sites hadn't been fully studied... I think most of us were aware that there was an extensive site selection process in which numerous sites were considered... it's just that those alternatives were never explored to the point that they could be determined as properly feasible or unfeasible locations.

Bratina pushed for that in-depth study of other sites (like Confed. Park and his preferred downtown locations). As you said, the alternative sites really were unfeasible for a variety of reasons, but that hadn't been demonstrated until Bob Young's last-second ultimatum sent them scrambling and valuable time was wasted on things that could've been eliminated earlier.

I'm disturbed by Bratina's unmentioned conflict-of-interest WRT confed. park, though. I didn't know about that one.

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By Bratto (anonymous) | Posted October 19, 2011 at 22:55:38

Once an untruth teller always an untruth teller.

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By vote early and often? (anonymous) | Posted October 25, 2011 at 16:26:50

Our online poll question today... How would you rate mayor Bob Bratina's first year in office? You can vote at... http://fb.me/DuebwwtG

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