Special Report: Light Rail

Mayor Manufactures More LRT Controversy

Mayor Bratina claims Hamilton has to choose between LRT and all-day GO service extended to Stoney Creek. The Premier says they're "not competing projects". We've heard this story before.

By Ryan McGreal
Published April 17, 2013

this article has been updated

According to a report published today on the Hamilton Spectator website:

Mayor Bob Bratina says Hamilton will have to choose between a light-rail transit line running through the lower city and extending all-day GO service to Stoney Creek.

The mayor says that was made clear by Premier Kathleen Wynne at a private fundraiser for local cabinet minister Ted McMeekin last weekend. Her senior staff confirmed that when pressed by Bratina later.

Assuming such an exchange actually took place, the question we need to ask is: did Premier Wynne frame the matter as having to choose between LRT and extending all-day GO service, or did Mayor Bratina?

I've contacted Mayor Bratina, Premier Wynne, Transport Minister Glen Murray, Minister McMeekin and Metrolinx to seek clarification and will update this if and when we receive any responses.

Meanwhile, the Spectator article has just been updated with the following:

But the premier’s office issued a statement after Bratina’s comments Wednesday saying Hamilton LRT and the expansion of GO "are not competing projects."

"Metrolinx has already committed to providing two-way, all-day GO service to Hamilton," a spokesperson for Wynne said in an e-mail.

So it looks like the Mayor is once again attempting to manufacture controversy over Hamilton's LRT plan.

Pattern of Behaviour

Mayor Bratina has spent the first two-plus years of his term steadily undermining Hamilton's plan to build an east-west light rail transit (LRT) line across the city.

Sometimes the undermining has been overt and aggressive, as during the summer of 2011 when he claimed the city was "not hearing any kind of clamour from the public" and "no solid interest" from developers, that LRT was "not a priority" and would only make sense "if somehow a million people move to Hamilton over the next five years".

Bratina also told then-Premier Dalton McGuinty that LRT was not a Council priority, allowing the Premier to wiggle out of his own 2007 promise to fund LRT, and went on to argue that the promise had never actually promised to fund LRT after all.

During this time, City Manager Chris Murray suspended the Rapid Transit Office and Bratina claimed the city had to choose between LRT and all-day GO service. Other Councillors questioned the email, which Murray sent out right before going on summer vacation. Rapid Transit manager Jill Stephen, who was on vacation when the email went out and didn't know it was coming, resigned from the city soon after.

Metrolinx was also caught unaware by the city's abrupt change in focus and clarified that both all-day GO and LRT "are viable and can co-exist. Hamilton's current rapid transit situation is not an 'either-or' scenario."

Meanwhile, Bratina was also busy misrepresenting successful LRT systems in other cities, arguing point-by-point against LRT to neighbourhood associations and residents, and claiming he didn't know where infill development along the LRT line would go.

Continuous Undermining

After the furore of that manufactured controversy died down, Bratina continued to undermine LRT, albeit more passively by consistently refusing to champion the plan - despite acknowledging that a successful LRT plan needs a political champion!

He has been perfectly happy to accept the Transportation Ministry's warning that Hamilton may have to bear some of the capital cost - despite the fact that the Province still refuses to provide any straight answers on what that share might be, and Metrolinx has been operating on the assumption of full capital funding.

Instead of demanding a fair deal for Hamilton, Bratina has questioned whether LRT is affordable and claimed that LRT is at least a decade away - a self-fulfilling bucket of cold water on a project that could already be under construction with the right political leadership.

After Council unanimously approved the Rapid Ready final LRT report, Bratina said he will now champion LRT.

It seems pretty clear from this latest stunt that his heart still isn't in it.

Update: According to a follow-up article in today's Spectator, Mayor Bratina wasn't even in attendance at the event where Premier Wynne ostensibly made the remark about LRT and all-day GO extension.

But it emerged later Wednesday that Bratina did not attend the event where Wynne spoke last Sunday - a $500-per-ticket fundraiser for Hamilton cabinet minister Ted McMeekin at the Hamilton Golf & Country Club.

McMeekin said the premier spoke about transit in general, but did not convey any expectation that Hamilton would have to make such a choice.

"I'm a little confused because he (Bratina) wasn't at the fundraiser," McMeekin said Wednesday, noting only a member of the mayor's staff attended.

Bratina did not respond to The Spectator's requests for a second interview to clarify his comments.

It just gets more cringe-inducing from there.

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 wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted April 17, 2013 at 21:22:21

The fact that the premier's office issued such a prompt clarification speaks volumes about our mayor. I try and try to give him the benefit of the doubt. What the heck is he up to?

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By movedtohamilton (registered) | Posted April 17, 2013 at 21:27:17

I think the mayor is given far too much credit for devising a strategy of disruption/undermining. My close observation of him since moving here leads me to believe he is a dullard. Any game plan Mr. B is working with was not written by him.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted April 18, 2013 at 06:46:27 in reply to Comment 87895

Dullard is a given.

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By RobF (registered) | Posted April 17, 2013 at 22:34:19 in reply to Comment 87895

Agreed. Who bargains against themselves? It's like the Seinfeld episode where George manages to negotiate he and Jerry's pay down.

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By No city funding for political party dinn (anonymous) | Posted April 17, 2013 at 21:34:19

Question if Bratina was at the fundraiser, who paid the $500 plate cost?

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By Rimshot (anonymous) | Posted April 18, 2013 at 11:08:05 in reply to Comment 87896

I'm still enjoying the deliciousness of the Minister of Community and Social Services holding a platinum-plate insider hobnob at a private country club.

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted April 18, 2013 at 03:22:25 in reply to Comment 87896

Spectator is reporting he was not even in attendance at the event...

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By z jones (registered) | Posted April 17, 2013 at 21:39:54

If Bratina has any supporters left by this point, I wonder how they'll spin this one.

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By Fernie Baloney aka Brundlefly (anonymous) | Posted April 17, 2013 at 21:50:55

Hamilton should be careful.

Toronto spent years dickering ( its a word ) around on transit city, until Metrolinx just yanked the project from the TTC. Now Toronto will have Metrolinx LRT's and the Ontario government will pocket the fares, and the TTC is left sitting there with their mouths slack jawed.

I honestly hope we choose to build something by the city for the city.

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By RobF (registered) | Posted April 17, 2013 at 23:00:19


As I understand it, Metrolinx always had its fingers in Toronto LRT projects (at least the Transit City ones). The lines and rolling stock were to be Metrolinx assets. It was always unclear what that meant for the city and the TTC, i.e. who would build and run the lines, and who would ultimately be responsible for operating costs, etc. The fear for some is that dysfunction at city hall (i.e. the Rob Ford show) will give the province cover to have Metrolinx swallow the subway portion of the TTC under the guise that it is a regional asset, which is the position they have taken vis-a-vis the LRT lines.

Comment edited by RobF on 2013-04-17 23:04:56

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By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted April 18, 2013 at 01:43:12

Bratina will be on TVO's "The Agenda" tonight. (Dare I watch?)

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By Hollow Deck (anonymous) | Posted April 18, 2013 at 01:46:49 in reply to Comment 87906


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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted April 18, 2013 at 01:54:28

So now it's all-day-go to Stoney Creek? Where next? Will we have to wait until there's all-day GO service to Binbrook to seriously debate LRT?

The question I see is "cui bono", or who benefits? Transportation megaprojects like LRT or GO, like highways, are always linked to development hopes. LRT advocates have been pretty up-front about this, but that's generally not how things go down...

For a Stoney Creek GO station, that seems pretty obvious. Like the rest of the way along the GTA corridor - from Burlington to Whitby, where they've spawned endless tracts of suburban homes for Toronto workers, I suspect a few of East Hamilton's infamous homebuilders are already licking their chops...

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted April 18, 2013 at 02:03:30

How does one go about impeaching a mayor? Seriously Bratina is outright lying to Hamilton and expecting that the Ontario government will hopefully ignore his fabrications? I'm no lover of the Ontario government, but good on them for calling out Bratina and I hope council does something about this guy, sooner rather then later.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted April 19, 2013 at 22:48:13 in reply to Comment 87911

Upon calming myself, I think suspension is perhaps the better option here (if it's possible). This is strike two and a by election would be costly for the city.

Although that is an interesting question, how does one go about impeaching a mayor?

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By Mal (anonymous) | Posted April 18, 2013 at 02:42:43

There's always an asterisk.

Hamilton can have everything it wants and then some, given enough time and money.

This file has become a Rashomon of political calculation and competing interests.

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By Cynic (anonymous) | Posted April 18, 2013 at 03:25:43

I for one live in the lower city; I mostly telecommute for work. When I do have to go to toronto for a face to face I mostly take the GO bus... What's the problem ? Will the train be any faster?

Will the train be able to divert if some one gets hit behind the Chapters in Burlington? ....

Can some one explain to me what is so much better about the train than the bus ?

Hamilton risks being drawn into the same transportation vortex that toronto is in ....
Which is basically you argue until you transport is so fundamentally broken that it is unfixable ....

I lived on Spadina in toronto for almost 25 years, I almost bought a building with some 'money from heaven' ... today that same amount of money would barley pay the lease for a year. Spadina is the poster child for LRT's that should be held up. NOT buffalo .. I realize that to most people Spadina is (now) a gridlocked mess, if you had seen it's condition in the 1990 you would understand why it is a success.

Go trains to Stoney Creek, is only a recipe for more urban sprawl, less farmland and plays right into the usual suspects hands.

How about this? A full on campaign for the GO busses going to and from the the 'maintenance' ( I have no idea what happens there) yard on Wentworth (behind the dog park on birch). To use the a consistent route to and from the station on Hunter(?) and to STOP in ward 3 ... just like they do between the station and the 403.
As it is Ward 3 gets NO benefit from this added traffic and pollution ( These busses have NO people in them besides the driver). For me (conflict of interest) this could remove 20 minutes from a trip to Toronto(If I was on time!).

There are too many 'towns' and not enough bypass tracks for a train to be anything more than a milk run...

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted April 19, 2013 at 23:06:47 in reply to Comment 87916

The big thing is the train is far more consistent and efficient then the highway, but here are some reasons.

  1. Uses less gas which is cheaper and more enviromentally sustainable after the initial startup costs are taken care of (which they practically are, the tracks and trains are already in place).

  2. Delays are far less frequent and typically smaller in scope then traffic accidents, volume delays, visual distractions on the highway. This makes for more cosistent arrival times.

  3. Scales better with use, adding a new cart to a train costs far less then adding a new lane to an already large highway system or buying a new bus.

  4. Infrstrucutre cheaper to maintain as rails typically last longer then road do, espcially when you consider how many large volume trucks use the QEW/403. Also cheaper to maintian with longer lifespans then busses.

  5. Expansion lowers car commuters who drive their cars to other stations, such at Aldershot and Burlington so they can use the train, because it is more attractive then bus service for reasons stated above.

  6. Immediate benefit for large events, and stadium evens in downtown Hamilton or events at the New Ivor Wynne/Gage Park have an efficient method for people from out of town to get into town without having to use a car or be humstrung by traffic congestion. This makes conventions, hotels and large events more viable.

  7. Better riding experience as fewer bumps, quieter engines and more available room is present.

  8. Safer as track and train inspections are done far more regularly then most vehicles and drunken & reckless rail operators are far rarer. Accidents are far rarer although admittablly larger in scope.

  9. Has a better effect on property values and spinoff development then bus terminals and routes do.

  10. Potentially faster with electrification of rails.

Comment edited by -Hammer- on 2013-04-19 23:12:44

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By Hink (anonymous) | Posted April 18, 2013 at 21:23:05 in reply to Comment 87916

• There are important journey time savings that come from electrification. Over the longest trips, journey time savings would be between 5 and 10 minutes per trip. This reduction in journey time will benefit existing riders and attract new ones.

• There are significant operating savings associated with electrification, up to $18 million per year for the recommended option.


Two years ago, the RJ Burnside ESR on the Niagara Rail Service Expansion noted that "as ridership demand for rail service increases and funding becomes available, future service is defined as two way service, seven days per week with 20 minute peak service and 1 hour off-peak service."

"It is estimated that GO commuter service could begin in the corridor as soon as 2015, however this timing is contingent upon funding approvals and authorization to proceed... two broad service scenarios (Opening Day and Future) are discussed in this document within the context of options. The Opening Day service scenario would consist of four Toronto-bound trainsin the morning peak period and four Niagara-bound trains in the evening peak period including mid day service to Confederation station. The Future service scenario is defined as full two-way service, 7 days per week with 20 minute peak period service and 1 hour off peak service."


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By Kiely (registered) | Posted April 18, 2013 at 06:55:55 in reply to Comment 87916

Can some one explain to me what is so much better about the train than the bus ?

Lower maintenance and operation costs, increased life of equipment, higher passenger carrying capacity, greater potential for alternative energy sources (e.g., overhead electrification), just to name a few.

Granted trains aren't the answer on every transit route but on your high capacity main transit corridors they are far superior to buses. Using trains to the central hubs and buses, LRT and trams to lower density outlying areas is the design of most successful public transit systems worldwide... we are not exceptional.

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By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted April 18, 2013 at 04:18:43

Train will be faster. Can't understand how you don't see that.

Especially the express service when that comes on line

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By Hentor (registered) - website | Posted April 19, 2013 at 13:45:29 in reply to Comment 87918

Bus during non-rush hour times = 45-55 minutes Hamilton Go Centre to Union Station.

Train from ALDERSHOT to Union during non-rush hour times = 67 Minutes

Train from Hamilton to Aldershot - 15 minutes (assuming no freight traffic - then all bets are off)

Unless the "all day rail" from Hamilton to Union is express - this is actually a reduction in service time as we are looking at up to 82 minutes...

Rush hour train from Hamilton to Union = 77 minutes (assuming no freight traffic from Hamilton to Aldershot)

Just saying as someone who uses both methods regularly...I use trains in rush hour only as they are more predictable than the buses...

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted April 19, 2013 at 23:16:42 in reply to Comment 87984

Be fair

Rush Hour Bus - 85-110 minutes

Non-Rush Hour Bus that encounters volume congestion due to a sporting event or a traffic accident - 65-90 minutes.

I think the key thing here is the "-" in the numebrs meaning the bus travel is far less consistent that rail.

Comment edited by -Hammer- on 2013-04-19 23:17:17

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By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted April 18, 2013 at 04:35:34

Watching Mayor Bratina on TVO right now, I've come to the conclusion that he is a political coward. Grow a pair! Do the right thing. The mayor of Caledon (pop. 50,000) is lecturing him, and she's right.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted April 18, 2013 at 06:40:46

and went on to argue that the promise had never


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By Conrad664 (registered) | Posted April 18, 2013 at 11:01:20

Its easy the City of Hamilton has a jackass for Mayor simople as that

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By Mal (anonymous) | Posted April 18, 2013 at 11:54:46

While we're ladling out scorn, spare a helping for the lazy reporting/fact-checking at the Spec, which allowed a misleading and apparently biased secondhand account to be replicated more ore less undiluted, a lapse magnified by the fact that this false proposition was initially blasted out as a headline. Misinformation may be the mayor's forte but it shouldn't be the Spec's.

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By spectanator (anonymous) | Posted April 18, 2013 at 15:25:09 in reply to Comment 87928

the city hall reporter at the spec seems to do more regurgitation than reporting - and it's not just this story. i figured in journalism school they'd teach you that you can't just print what someone says. that's not reporting. a reporter needs to investigate the ACTUAL FACTS and compare the quotes to reality. and if the quote is inaccurate, the inaccuracy is news, not the quote itself. UGH!

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By Cultosaurus (registered) | Posted April 18, 2013 at 19:24:38 in reply to Comment 87943

Pretty much the reason I killed my subscription. What isn't pulled directly from theStar is sub-standard journalism at best.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted April 18, 2013 at 15:16:30 in reply to Comment 87928

Amen to that! Let's hope they're sufficiently embarrassed by this that we are spared Paul Berton's Saturday sermon on how reliable and responsible the trad media are, at least for this week.

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By WTF*1000 (anonymous) | Posted April 18, 2013 at 12:23:58

Did anyone notice this in the Spec article?

'''McHattie said that during a private meeting with the mayor and several councillors last week, Bratina denied council had endorsed the east-west LRT B-Line. (That endorsement happened in February, when councillors approved Hamilton’s pitch to Metrolinx for 100-per-cent funding of the $800-million project.)

“He didn’t think council chose the B-Line. It appeared to be news to him,” McHattie said. “I think it’s only because he’s being wilfully stupid, because he doesn’t support that (LRT).”'''

Is Bob losing his mental faculties or is he just pathologically incapable of telling the truth?

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By GrapeApe (registered) | Posted April 18, 2013 at 14:35:28 in reply to Comment 87930

Yeah I read that too and was like wth? Lie or incompetent? Good to see some strong words from council.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted April 18, 2013 at 14:45:47

I want to know the name of Bratina's contact at the OLP. Bratina has obviously been making a massive amount of backroom dealing with the Liberals - the suddenly-massive-budget stadium, various talk undermining the Liberals' LRT commitments... is he making this stuff up, or is there a Liberal insider feeding Bratina information that diverges from the official party line?

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By highwater (registered) | Posted April 18, 2013 at 15:22:53 in reply to Comment 87938

I'm beginning to suspect it might be McMeekin. I had a lengthy email debate with him during the last provincial election, in which he tried to frame Bratina's personal opinion on LRT as the 'will of the people', in order to justify his government's backing away from the promise of full funding. His comment in the Spec article is similarly ambivalent.

Comment edited by highwater on 2013-04-18 15:23:45

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted April 18, 2013 at 20:48:28 in reply to Comment 87942

McMeekin is also ambivalent about running for re-election post-2013. His riding will be bisected in 2015, which probably contributes to this.


As to the question of what McMeekin might hypothetically stand to gain from making Bratina look like a hot mess?


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By highwater (registered) | Posted April 19, 2013 at 03:48:47 in reply to Comment 87964

Actually, I was suggesting that McMeekin is supportive of Bratina's attempts to sow doubt and confusion about LRT in Hamilton. .

The Spec article was updated. An earlier version had a quote from McMeekin suggesting that Hamilton still had to decide if it wanted LRT, conveniently forgetting council's clearly articulated position much like Bratina, and much like the argument he was trying to make to me in our email exchange.

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By shmoo (anonymous) | Posted April 18, 2013 at 17:57:13

Hey Ryan did you get any replies yet?

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By Today (anonymous) | Posted April 18, 2013 at 18:55:02

I really wonder about The Spec at times and what "facts" they actually publish concerning various news items.

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By iliketobike (anonymous) | Posted April 19, 2013 at 02:47:37

It is certainly hard to know the truth with this episode. Was it the mayor or the spec that manufactured more controversy? http://www.thespec.com/news/local/article/921054--council-pushing-back-against-mayor-s-lrt-gaffe

Bratina has shown no support for LRT and so I was not surprised by the reported shenanigans yesterday, but with him vehemently denying the spectator story on the radio this morning I'm left wondering what the heck really happened. Personally I think the likelihood is higher that Bratina is backtracking than the Spectator fabricated the entire thing.

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By Today (anonymous) | Posted April 19, 2013 at 03:50:53

I suppose we will find out in due time. Hopefully for the Mayor's sake, his side of the story can be verified. Mainstream media though is often very selective in how they report the news to the point that often it really amounts to nothing more than fabrication to make a story line.

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