Editor’s note: on January 26 Bob Bratina, MP for Hamilton East-Stoney Creek delivered his maiden speech in the House of Commons. At the end of the speech was an exchange with Flamborough-Glanbrook MP David Sweet. In our view, the tone of this exchange should be a template for all elected representatives at all levels.
Bob Bratina Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Ajax for allowing me part of the time to have the honour and privilege of speaking to the 42nd Parliament today as the elected representative of Hamilton East—Stoney Creek.
I owe my presence here today to a small but dedicated group of volunteers who brought our message to the voters of my riding during the campaign. I am forever indebted to them and to my wife of 50 years this year for providing the kind of support that all of us in this chamber need to be successful.
Every day that I spend in Ottawa, I pass by the National War Memorial and pay silent tribute to Corporal Nathan Cirillo who was a proud member of Hamilton’s Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Regiment. On the morning of October 22, 2014, the sun was shining and everything seemed normal as I arrived at Hamilton city hall for the day’s work. Within a couple of hours, our world was turned upside down at first news of the shooting, then the realization that one of our own was down and then the tragic news of Corporal Cirillo’s death.
Later that day, I attended the family home with Police Chief De Caire and then began the planning for a funeral that would need to respond to the terrible sorrow that Canadians felt across the country. Chief De Caire arranged the motorcade from Ottawa while the regiment co-ordinated with my office and the family on the details of the visitation and ceremony.
Nathan will never know how much his sacrifice did to bring Canadians together in sorrow and in pride. I feel his presence every day on my walk to Parliament. I am proud of how our city responded and provided a humble Canadian soldier one of the most significant funerals in our country’s history.
Hamilton East—Stoney Creek will, I am sure, benefit from the faith that it placed in this federal government. My colleague from Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas and I will provide positive and useful input here based on our experience in moving our city forward.
I believe many in this chamber will be surprised when I tell them what we have achieved over the past few years during my term as mayor. This connects with the throne speech and in particular the infrastructure investment portion.
Our unemployment rate trended below the Canadian and Ontario averages and when I left office it was at 5.2%. In each of the four-year term the value of new development in our city of half a million people was over $1 billion, that is $1 billion each year for four consecutive years.
Real estate values in Hamilton grew at the highest average percentage rate of all Canadian cities and at the same time, we actually reduced the number of Ontario works or welfare cases by significant numbers. The median household income of Hamiltonians has risen to over $80,000, well above federal and provincial averages.
In the much beleaguered manufacturing sector, we still have more than 23,000 workers. There is hardly any industrial land left and we have a waiting list for potential customers.
We still make things in Hamilton and making things, and by that I mean manufacturing, is the real key to a sustainable economy.
One of my favourite success stories is National Steel Car which typically had a workforce of 1,000 employees and that company, during my term, had two advertised hiring bees and now employs 2,500 men and women making tank cars, grain cars and potash cars for clients all over North America.
The Port of Hamilton is one of Canada’s largest industrial complexes. We are still a big steel producer, but in the last few years we have grown our agribusiness with grain handling facilities, soy processing and a brand new flour mill now being built. Canada’s largest bakery, which just opened about a year ago on Hamilton Mountain, will be one of its customers.
If members have not been to downtown Hamilton recently, they may be shocked at what they see. Right across from city hall is a brand new $80 million McMaster Health Campus which trains family doctors, offers clinical care for 16,000 people who might not otherwise have a family doctor. Within the project is Hamilton’s Public Health Department which creates a brand new health delivery service model for Canadian cities. Alongside that health centre are two new hotels and several new residential high-rise buildings. Once they are all built out, they will generate well over $1 million in new taxes for our city on about an acre of land.
I had the pleasure and privilege over 20 seasons to do the radio play-by-play broadcast of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the Toronto Argonauts, depending on which city I was working in, which allowed me to travel to every Canadian city with a CFL team, as well as a few in the United States, every year for 20 years. I watched these cities evolve. That enabled me to see Vancouver’s Expo 86 and the domed stadium, Winnipeg’s Forks development, Edmonton’s makeover of its railway lands, Calgary’s transit system, and so many other growth-related projects.
Sadly, on my return home after those road trips, I saw that my city had hardly changed at all during that time. That is what prompted me to enter into politics, because I knew, as the Prime Minister often says, that better is always possible. Therefore, with a few key investments, we turned Hamilton around. This took place with an average tax increase over the four years of 1.3%, among the lowest in Ontario. I based my spending policy on the principles my immigrant father and thousands of others used to become successful in a new land: live within one’s means, do as much as one can for oneself, and make the most of what one has.
My folks arrived in Canada just in time for the Depression, but somehow they managed and even chipped in to build, without any government grants, a cultural building, the Croatian hall, which opened in 1930. Every ethnocultural group in Hamilton could tell the same story, Serbians, Italians, Ukrainians, Poles, Hungarians, Scots, and so many others. Often at that time the down payments for newlyweds’ houses came from a collection at the wedding party, but occasionally and for good reasons, they might have had to borrow a little, perhaps for home repairs, school clothes or even university tuition, because every immigrant wanted their children to have a good education.
This brings me to the throne speech, especially the infrastructure program rolled out during the campaign by the Prime Minister. There are many former mayors among us. None would disagree that our cities need help, help to renew aging infrastructure, provide affordable housing, provide sorely needed social amenities, clean up the environment, and enable the private sector to make investments in their communities to provide the jobs and economic growth that will pay back our public investments. As an example, the U.S. Steel operation is in bankruptcy. That is imperilling the pensions and benefits of thousands of our residents. Hundreds of acres of land may become available that could see commercial and industrial development with the accompanying wages and tax revenues that could provide relief for pensioners and jobs for young people. The entire country would ultimately benefit as well, but the residential taxpayers of Hamilton cannot purchase those lands and do the remediation required on their own.
The projects I mentioned that enhanced the Canadian football cities all had federal and provincial investment in infrastructure. There is a new GO train station in downtown Hamilton that has had immediate payback in terms of revenue-producing new development and growth in land values. The deal that was made was a simple one and it reflected the confidence that had been lost in Hamilton. We lost our way and I believe that we in the House have an opportunity now to change our country in the way we work together. Liberals want to approach solving Hamilton’s infrastructure and social problems by bringing together all elected officials from all three levels of government. We call it team Hamilton. It worked during my term as mayor. The new stadium could not have been built without the help from the senior level of government, including many who sit across the way. Further expansion of the GO train service will accelerate by several years and expand into the Niagara Peninsula with help from a federal infrastructure funding program.
I will finish by asking my colleagues across the way to put aside the acrimony and rancour that has debased the work of Parliament on many occasions in the past. I know by my experience as mayor of Hamilton that there are good people in all areas of the chamber who have helped make historic contributions to the rebirth of my community and can do the same for all of Canada, the greatest country in the world.
David Sweet Flamborough—Glanbrook, ON
Mr. Speaker, I will put away the rancour right away and commend my colleague from Hamilton East—Stoney Creek on his maiden speech in the House and also commend him on his work as the mayor of the City of Hamilton, which was one of the best administrations I ever dealt with when I was the member of Parliament for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale.
I want to ask my colleague a friendly question. Over the term that he was mayor, we invested in things like Maple Leaf, Canada Bread, and FibreCast, which created a renaissance in manufacturing in Hamilton. We made multiple investments in Hamilton airport; a $200-million investment in waste water remediation in Hamilton; a $150-million investment in Randle Reef that has proved to be a very difficult project, but work is under way now to get Hamilton off the hot spot list in the Great Lakes and ensure that the waterfront can be developed. We made multiple investments in McMaster Innovation Park, $60 million, CANMET Materials Technology Lab, which is the first file I worked on; as well as $10 million in McMaster Automotive Resource Centre. These are innovative research centres that will create jobs in the future, high-paying jobs, high-value jobs. We invested in social infrastructure for the Ronald McDonald House so parents can come and stay there while their kids are being looked after in McMaster hospital.
I want to ask my colleague if he would affirm that those investments were made and, while I’m asking that question, I want to reassure him that any support that he needs for Hamilton he will get from the member for Flamborough—Glanbrook.
Bob Bratina Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON
Mr. Speaker, the list is actually too short. The hon. member has forgotten that it was the federal government that enabled our brand new, wonderful stadium, Tim Hortons Field, with a $69-million investment. It is an international, multi-purpose, multi-sport facility.
Once again, we had relationship with provincial Liberals and federal Conservatives all working under the umbrella of team Hamilton. We all knew what we wanted to achieve.
Yes, I have confirmed that is a correct list, and I hope that kind of collaboration will continue in this House.