Hamilton Councillors supporting LRT are showing increasing impatience with fellow councillors who continue to either oppose LRT outright or to question various aspects of the project, including the route, costs, economic uplift and ridership projections. Arguably one of the reasons these questions are popping up at the eleventh hour, is despite assertions to the contrary, these questions were not adequately addressed in the almost decade since the LRT project was first raised. Councillor Sam Merulla, an LRT supporter, nonetheless admitted in a recent podcast that some of his colleagues voted to keep the LRT project moving forward, because they frankly didn’t think the province would ever come up with the money. Various unanimous or near unanimous council motions calling for 100% funding from the province were interpreted by some as overwhelming support for the LRT project, where others saw the funding demand as a poison pill that would surely kill it.
Staff recently prepared a chronology of all of the actions taken by council since April 2008. An examination of those council decisions does not yield the clear path to support of LRT that some would suggest. Early motions dealt mainly with allowing staff to continue a public consolation process. As appears elsewhere in this edition, that early public consultation process could best be described as a promotional exercise in manufactured consent, involving mostly transit insiders who had already a strong bias towards LRT. In 2009 the province gave the city $3 Million to pay for further feasibility studies into LRT. A council motion at that time endorsed receiving the funds for studies but was silent on endorsing the project itself. After the 2010 election which saw Bob Bratina replace Fred Eisenberger the LRT team was scaled back amid revelations that about the city had spent roughly $6 million on the project. It wasn’t until the province stepped in early last year with a firm commitment of $1 Billion dollars and a prescribed route that the project took on an element of certainty but even then without a clear up or down vote by council.
In light of the less than clear legislative path the LRT project has taken it is unfair to suggest that those who continue to question the project have “not done their homework.” There is a nasty, aggressive tone starting to creep into the debate. LRT skeptics are being targeted with personal criticisms and satirical cartoons on social media that go beyond reasonable disagreement on a public issue. In some cases merchants have been told they will be boycotted if they don’t jump on the LRT bandwagon. An admittedly unscientific scan of reader comments in media stories about LRT nonetheless indicates there is real division amongst the public on the issue. To dismiss those concerns and to vilify those members of council who echo them is not worthy of our elected representatives. A better tone is needed.

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One Comment to: LRT tone needs changing

  1. Brockman

    August 30th, 2016

    As Executive Director of the Southern Ontario Gateway Council, I would hope that you call for the same level of project cost analysis and extensive public consultation before any road expansions or new highway construction. On first glance, it appears that you do not:

    “The right infrastructure decisions are the most difficult and easily opposed. Approvals processes are taking longer than terms of office for municipal councils and provincial governments – decisions are no longer durable. We run the risk of building the wrong things, because they are politically and publically easier.”



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