Ford reaffirms pledge to free Council on transit Funding


As much as Hamilton Council has dithered and dodged on the LRT issue, it appears the day of reckoning is coming. The battle lines over LRT are firming up at a number of levels—in the mayoralty race, in the lower city-vs mountain and suburbs, and at the provincial-municipal level. With the close of nominations July 27 there were 15 candidates for mayor and 89 candidates seeking the 15 Councillor posts.

In response to a questionnaire in the Hamilton Spectator the candidates for council, at least those who gave a coherent answer, were pretty much evenly split on the issue—29 in favour, 30 against. But when the responses were broken down geographically a major shift was evident. Candidates in the five lower city wards where the LRT would be located favoured LRT by a margin of 18 to 8. But in the remaining 10 wards, it was LRT opponents who led by a margin of 22-11.

Interestingly at least three sitting coun-cillors who voted for LRT in May of 2017 showed signs of being prepared to change their vote. Chad Collins who had opposed LRT for years but changed his vote last year, now lists himself as a “qualified” yes on the subject. He did not elaborate on his reason for the qualification, but the only thing that has changed since his last vote is the election of the Ford government and Ford’s pledge to allow Hamilton’s transit money to be spent as it wishes. Similarly Terry Whitehead, running in Ward 14 has moved from yes to “not necessarily.” 30-year council veteran Tom Jackson, who voted yes last time, alluding to the Ford pledge to allow Hamilton to decide how the provincial money would be spent, said he had always reserved the right to change his vote, “My preference, that I have stated many times publicly was that if given the “choice”, I would spend the money on much needed infrastructure projects, expanding the HSR (and DARTS) and on other projects that would provide “Community Benefits.”

The Bay Observer contacted MPP Donna Skelly who affirmed that Ford will keep his promise. “As you can see from some of the other actions taken in the last few days, this government believes that a promise made is a promise kept,” she said. She has conferred with the Premier’s office and the Ministers of finance, infrastructure and trans-port and says they all are on-side with the plan to allow Hamilton latitude on the transit funding, but, she adds, “it will be council who will have to decide.”

Meanwhile the Bay Observer caught up with Amalgamated Transit Union President Eric Tuck at a union conference in Newfoundland to discuss the staffing implications for LRT in Hamilton. Ottawa recently announced that 380 driver jobs would disappear as a result of that city’s new LRT. He estimated about 36 operator positions would be lost in Hamilton. Tuck says as union head he has to prepare his members for LRT, but he also said Hamilton does not have the ridership to support LRT. “You have to have ridership first, before you can go to LRT,” he said. “Once the ridership is established, then you can consider higher order transit.” He also says he doesn’t believe the money that has been spent on LRT so far is wasted. “If we build rider-ship to justify LRT, all that planning will be of value to us. I just don’t think we are there yet.”

Looking beyond the LRT issue, Eric Tuck says with the possibility of autonomous vehicles coming on stream, the future for his membership will be in the maintenance and IT side of the business.



Providing a Fresh Perspective for Burlington and Hamilton.

7 Comments to: LRT showdown unavoidable

  1. jim graham

    August 21st, 2018

    Joe Mancinelli and LiUNA are in favour of a plan to eliminate existing union jobs and replace them with unorganized outsiders?
    Well isn’t that something. A union boss prioritizes real estate at the expense of rank and file.
    And they call them anchors? Fitting, that.

  2. Marshall

    August 22nd, 2018

    “As you can see from some of the other actions taken in the last few days, this government believes that a promise made is a promise kept” – MPP Skelly

    “The unexpected decision by Ontario Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod to cancel a year-old pilot project that gives low-income people a guaranteed basic income can be described in many terms. Deceitful, because the Progressive Conservatives promised during the election campaign that their party, under Leader Doug Ford, would continue the project.”

    Ms. Skelly was presumably thinking of that cool, delicious, almost entirely fictitious buck-a-beer.

    The nice thing about keeping a promise is that the issuer gets to define what it’s worth and when, if ever, it will be delivered on. It took Hamilton 10 years to go from the promise of crosstown LRT to an MOU. And that’s on a single project. Unless you’re of the opinion that the Ontario PCs aren’t as fiscally conservative as the Ontario Liberal Party, there is no compelling reason to believe that an open-ended and as-yet-undetermined number of transit projects planned across the city would be funded any time in the next two election cycles. And that’s without accounting for the comprehensive community and business consultation and civic debate that transit critics perennially prescribe. The province is always happy to look like the good guys, and hand council a set of black hats to fight over, while never needing to deliver a single cent.

  3. jim graham

    August 27th, 2018

    so Mattie Green, Hamilton’s self proclaimed “transit champion” and advocate for organized labour voted in favour of a plan to replace existing HSR Union jobs with non-union outsiders.
    Mattie put his football helmet on, tucked his tail between his legs, and demonstrated the greatest betrayal in recent memory.
    With friends like Mattie, HSR never really stood a chance.

  4. jim graham

    September 1st, 2018

    and Andrea Horwath fully supports a plan to replace existing union work with non union outsiders? Isn’t that strange? I thought Andrea was a big union supporter.
    Of course, all of these advocates like to point out that there is absolutely nothing preventing these “new” workers from organizing “after the fact”
    Of course I like to point out that there is nothing stopping these advocates from supporting their brothers and sisters at ATU now……with the exception of money. Easy to see where the priorities lie.
    Such principled advocacy.
    Small wonder that Labour Day Parade gets smaller every year.

    • Marshall

      September 5th, 2018

      363,000 public sector workers in Ontario lack union protection. More than 72% of Ontario’s public sector workers enjoy union protection. That’s up from 70% a decade ago, but the average nation-wide public sector unionization rate is now around 79% in the rest of the country (excluding Ontario). So unions can’t make much headway in Ontario’s public sector.

      4,000,000 private sector workers in Ontario lack union protection. Around 14% of Ontario’s private sector workers enjoy union protection. That’s down from 19% a decade ago, but the average nation-wide private sector unionization rate is now around 18% in the rest of the country (excluding Ontario). So unions can’t hold on to what they have in Ontario’s private sector.

      If unions can’t make inroads within the walls of the public sector and they’re alien to the precariat, and if they’re not equipped to navigate the politics of globalized supply chains and power dynamics of late period capitalism. Maybe workers need new heroes. And not fake everymen like Ford Nation PCs.

    • Marshall

      September 6th, 2018

      Andrea Horwath, Dec 15, 2016: “I believe public services and public transit should be owned and operated and serving the needs of the public.”

      Andrea Horwath, Jun 28, 2017: “The Hamilton Street Railway should operate and maintain the LRT line, not a private contractor who is not accountable to the public.”

  5. Marshall

    September 5th, 2018

    “Andrea Horwath says her NDP government would split the cost of operating LRT, HSR, and DARTS with the city — while also boosting GO train service between Hamilton and Toronto.… Horwath also promised to boost GO service between Hamilton and Toronto, saying that adding more trains between the two cities would be one of her first priorities as premier.”

    “The Ontario PC platform doesn’t mention GO service to Hamilton, said Donna Skelly, Flamborough-Glanbrook PC candidate.…

    [Horwath’s] GTHA plan includes funding 50 per cent of the operating costs of transit. That includes HSR, she said, and it includes Hamilton’s planned $1-billion light rail transit line. The province used to fund half the operating costs of transit, she said. Reinstating that would free up money for Hamilton to expand routes and buy more buses.”


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