Mayor Bob Bratina returned from the Association of Municipalities of Ontario Conference last month with the news that Hamilton will have to put up a significant amount of money if it wants an LRT system. When the debate on LRT started in Hamilton four years ago there were some who actually believed we would get LRT without putting up a nickel for construction. But that talk was during a provincial election campaign, and when the campaign ended so did any believable talk of Hamilton getting LRT for free. In fact, shortly after the election the McGuinty Government kicked all the municipal politicians, like then mayor Fred Eisenberger, off Metrolinx and replaced them with transportation stakeholders. It’s no surprise that a Metrolinx controlled by municipal politicians would think it’s a good idea to hand out LRT systems solely with provincial money; and its certainly no surprise that in the wake of the 2008 near-death experience with recession that a non-political Metrolinx Board would back away from such promises. How much money will Hamilton need to chip in? For a clue, Transport Minister Bob Chiarelli suggested we look at the Waterloo LRT funding formula. There, they are planning an $800 Million system, a little less than Hamilton’s proposal, and there, the municipality will have to come up with over $250 Million to fund its share. The other difference with Waterloo is that the Federal Government is providing $300 Million towards the cost of the LRT. So far the Hamilton system has been envisioned as one that is mainly funded by the Province through Metrolinx. There have been no discussions with Ottawa about Federal funding for Hamilton’s LRT —something that will be corrected soon. Minister Chiarelli will be meeting with the Federal Government and he is going to put infrastructure cost-sharing on the agenda. The Building Canada Fund which financed the federal portion of Waterloo’s LRT is more or less tapped out and will expire in 2014, but there will likely be a new fund at that time, which will provide Hamilton with its chance to get in line. Before then, hopefully, we will also get a realistic assessment of how much LRT we need in the first phase, because almost certainly a phased-in approach will also be necessary. As it is, Hamilton needs to spend approximately $65 Million to get the rest of the transit system up to a standard that will allow implementation of the BLAST plan and to properly integrate the bus-based stem with a future LRT.
Voter Suppression Efforts widespread
“If you can’t beat ‘em at the ballot box, take the ballot box away.” That seems to be the trend in the US as it heads towards the November election. In recent years a number of states have passed voter ID measures that disproportionally affect the elderly, students, blacks and Hispanics—all who tend to be low-income voters and most of whom tend to vote Democratic. And it’s not happening just in the southern states. The Huffington Post reports that this month a Pennsylvania judge upheld a strict government voter photo ID requirement that could block nearly 800,000 voter s (9 percent of the entire state voting population) from the ballot box on November 6th.
Nationally, strict photo ID laws will have the harshest impact on already marginalized populations. Studies have shown that 25 percent of African-Americans, 16 percent of Hispanics, and 18 percent of individuals over 65 do not even have the documents required to gain the proper photo identification mandated in new voter ID laws.
In states like Texas and Pennsylvania, the law takes it a step further, targeting students who are a part of the fastest growing voting bloc. In Pennsylvania alone, an estimated 120,000 students could be disenfranchised. Proponents of such restrictive tactics claim its all about stamping out voter fraud, but as Benjamin Todd Jealous, head of the NAACP says, the states imposing these restrictions have launched an attack on a nonexistent problem. Based on the last federal election, in Canada voter suppression manifests itself as an electronic phenomenon with the use of fake robo-calls advising voters that their polling station has been moved.