Brian Mchattie Explains Support for Fare Increase

By Adrian Duyzer
Published March 28, 2007

In yesterday's non-binding vote on the proposal to increase transit fares, which passed, many people were surprised to see Councillor Brian McHattie's name on the list of those who supported the proposal.

Councillor McHattie had previously indicated that he was not in favour of the proposal, and that he would instead propose that city staff find the necessary funding for improved transit in the tax levy.

Raise the Hammer contacted Councillor McHattie to find out why he changed his mind. He gave two main reasons for his decision.

First, the recently released provincial budget left Hamilton $5 million short.

To maintain funding for social services that were downloaded to Hamilton by the province, the Ontario government gave $19.5 million to Hamilton in 2004, $15 million in 2005, and more than $20 million in 2006.

This year, the Ontario government sent Hamilton a paltry $12 million, much less than Hamilton was expecting.

As a result, McHattie felt he had to weigh the needs of families who depend on the National Child Benefit against other priorities such as transit, deciding that "ensuring that the NCB clawback monies go back to families (many single mother-led families) is the most important thing to do from a low income-poverty perspective."

Second, McHattie explained that a recent city-funded social services program that will help low-income individuals and families deal with the transit increase influenced his decision.

"Our social services dept has come out with a Fair Fare pilot program targeted at assisting low-income folks with affording the fare increase."

McHattie made it clear that this was a hard choice, one that he isn't happy about.

He said, "This is the very difficult balancing act that someone like me must work through: a Councillor keen on transit and poverty issues but working within a system that is radically underfunded and with some colleagues who are not keen on either issue."

The councillor is open to finding other sources of funding for transit, however. He has established a Transit Area-Rating Sub-Committee of the Transit Steering Committee to explore what impact a change in Hamilton's area rating system might have on public transit.

Personally, I hope that creative ways are found to adequately fund Hamilton's public transit and social services, whether they are related to area rating or not.

According to the Your City, Your Future survey, a majority of Hamiltonians support making the Red Hill Creek Expressway a toll road. Maybe the HSR should get its funding increase from that.

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 not a robot (anonymous) | Posted March 28, 2007 at 16:58:20

If people are truly a priority then mega projects like Red Hill should never be. How much better would our system be if even a fraction of what was spent on the travesty was spent on transit and social services.

As usual council budgets a best case scenerio and gets cought running on empty when the other levels of government do not cover their poor spending habits.

Back to Mr. McHattie, how can we expect anyone to support the anti-idling bylaw he is championing when he fails to support public transit, another initiative that will help our health and environment?

This should not be social services on one hand and transit in the other. We need to make room for both. If this means councillors lose some perks, or expressways take longer to finish, so be it.

People should not be forced to choose between getting to work and making a living or public assistance. and what is going to happen when the oh so brilliant council allow our bounderiues to sprawl further? How can we do that when we cannot afford what we have!

We need politicians who will stand for all that is right not pick and choose due to political expediency. Look elswhere to make cuts, not at the expense of the poor and the concientious to cater to the rich and the lazy.

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By james g. (anonymous) | Posted March 28, 2007 at 23:19:48

the city should (and can i think) tax gas stations. use the revenue to support transit, pedestian and cycling initiatives. we all know the gas companies can afford it.

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By adrian (registered) | Posted March 28, 2007 at 23:43:57

This article gives some more in-depth information about the goings-on at council last night.

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By A Robot (anonymous) | Posted March 29, 2007 at 00:12:59

It's nice to see a balanced view of this situation. I can support McHattie's view more than those of the knee-jerkers. If anything we can now make sure he delivers on the system improvements this fare increase is meant to provide.

James, gas stations themselves are the wrong target. Additional municipal taxes would not reduce either fuel consumption or the number of cars on the road, and only squeeze the little guys out of the market leaving the big nasty energy companies unscathed. A real progressive government* would give per-litre gas taxes a significant boost. Their new plan to add a few thousand to the price of a $70,000 H2, while only rewarding the brave few hybrid buyers is silly.

*Remember the PCs? Sad to see what they've become, not that I think they would have made such a decision.

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By Maureen (anonymous) | Posted March 29, 2007 at 10:29:05

I don't agree with Councillor McHattie's postition on increasing bus fares.I think council needs to study this fully and find money from some other source to keep bus fares at their current rate.Many seniors live on fixed incomes and having a reasonably priced bus pass allows them to get around the city for shopping (hitting the stores with the best bargains), medical appointments and socializing.If the price for this pass is increased some may not be able to afford the bus pass and we will see other costs go up as they will need more help to get to places they need to go.They may forego things such as exercise programs and then become more dependent on the health care system.This needs more work.

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