After repeatedly denying it until election night, Mayor Fred Eisenberger declared that the election that resulted in his 22,000 vote victory over challenger Vito Sgro was a referendum on Light Rail Transit after all. He told CHCH that he would be conferring with the new council with a view to calling a council “affirmation” vote on LRT early on. A detailed examination of the vote, however, suggests there is still significant division in the community and that a majority of the voters in at least eight city wards actually voted against LRT.

For the purposes of this examination the Bay Observer counted the votes of the council candidates in each ward according to their position for or against LRT, based on their responses to media surveys and their own campaign literature. Then the mayoralty votes in each ward were added to the totals. Excluded were a small number of candidates who did not respond or who provided unclear answers.

Using this formula, only the five lower city wards showed a clear majority of votes in favour of LRT. Eight wards—all mountain or suburban wards showed a similar majority against LRT. And two wards—Ward 12-Ancaster and Ward 13-Dundas could not be clearly declared because the incumbents adopted positions on LRT that were open to interpretation. In Ward 12 candidate Lloyd Ferguson, referring to the Ford government promise to allow Hamilton council to decide how the money would be spent said “If money can be used for other infrastructure projects, then I will reconsider my support and invest some of the $1 billion in Ancaster.” Similarly in Dundas, Arlene Vanderbeek said, “It is our responsibility to continue to consider new information as it becomes available. LRT in and of itself is not the top priority for me. An efficient, functional, affordable transit system – one that works for this city – is my focus.”

With Ward 12 and 13 up in the air, there was an even split–approximately 100,000 votes for and against LRT– in the remaining wards. The polarization was evident in the spread between pro and anti-LRT votes. In the five lower city wards the pro LRT vote outnumbered the anti LRT side by over 37,000 votes; but the reverse was the case in the eight mountain and suburban wards where the anti-LRT side posted a 38,000 vote majority. The only ward where the count was close was the newly-drawn Ward 8 where John Paul Danko, an LRT supporter won the seat but where anti-LRT votes posted a narrow 600 vote majority.

Now that the election is in the books, all eyes turn to the Ford Government which has said it will allow Hamilton council to decide the issue. A new round of lobbying of returning and new councillors has begun with the publishing of a full page ad by an organization calling itself Hamilton’s anchor institution leadership (HAIL), urging a speedy commencement of the LRT project. Aside from Arcelor Mittal Dofasco, the organization’s membership consists of public sector organizations including McMaster, Mohawk, the two Hospital corporations and the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board who collectively receive approximately $2 Billion annually in provincial funding.  Also subscribing to the ad were the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, The Hamilton Community Foundation and the Hamilton Roundtable on Poverty Reduction, chaired by Spectator Managing Editor Howard Elliot. Given the government’s $15 Billion deficit, there are a growing number of voices suggesting the issue may be moot. Adding to the uncertainty is the question of how effectively Eisenberger can negotiate with a government that he criticized for being undemocratic in the reduction in the size of Toronto city council, and whose only local representative he called a “rookie, who doesn’t much care about Hamilton.”

Providing a Fresh Perspective for Burlington and Hamilton.

15 Comments to: LRT vote lays bare deeply polarized city

  1. jim graham

    November 10th, 2018

    Interesting analysis. I do not believe there is a reasonable person left in town who doesn’t realize that this “vision” has divided the community. I remember Fred dismissing the notion of an actual referendum on LRT as a needless expense-estimated at the time to cost as much as $1M to implement.
    And I am hearing that Ford and Skelly believe they are now beholden to assume responsibility for the associated expense, and that a YES or NO proposition is now being considered for resolution on the matter.
    We should have started there.

    Reply
  2. Mars

    November 13th, 2018

    Crosstown LRT is not exclusive of Hamilton’s transit system. It’s part of it. Hamilton can invest in transit to complement the provincial investment. Pretending otherwise while claiming to advocate for local transit investment merely betrays critics’ lack of familiarity with the file.

    The main thing “dividing the community” is tendentious “analysis” such as the above, and manufactured horse-races designed to generate clicks and nothing more. The results of this election, as is true of the provincial election, speak to a city that is far more progressive than the old guard is prepared to accept. And so they grump and grouse.

    The main “challenger” in this election was barely worthy of the descriptor… merely a useful idiot, a stooge propped up by vindictive Tories looking to have Hamilton nullify its transit agreement with nothing in its stead but the hot air of an unelected official, humblebrag heresay from an MPP who locks her doors against constituents, and vacuous words from a Transpo minister since turfed to MNR (no thanks to his sister, a highway construction lobbyist).

    D

    Reply
  3. Mars

    November 13th, 2018

    Crosstown LRT is not exclusive of Hamilton’s transit system. It’s part of it. Hamilton can invest in transit to complement the provincial investment. Pretending otherwise while claiming to advocate for local transit investment merely betrays critics’ lack of familiarity with the file.The main thing “dividing the community” is tendentious “analysis” such as the above, and manufactured horse-races designed to generate clicks and nothing more. The results of this election, as is true of the provincial election, speak to a city that is far more progressive than the old guard is prepared to accept. And so they grump and grouse.The main “challenger” in this election was barely worthy of the descriptor… merely a useful idiot, a stooge propped up by vindictive Tories looking to have Hamilton nullify its transit agreement with nothing in its stead but the hot air of an unelected official, humblebrag heresay from an MPP who locks her doors against constituents, and vacuous words from a Transpo minister since turfed to MNR (no thanks to his sister, a highway construction lobbyist).

    Despite claims about a divided city, it is obvious that while there is work to be done in terms of increasing issue awareness on a number of fronts, there is a case to be made that the electorate was hungry for a more substantive debate on a range of issues that was unfortunately eclipsed by certain pundits’ insistence on presenting a single-issue election. The arrival of new blood in a number of races is cause for optimism, if guarded optimism. It’s also notable that a progressive (and unapologetically pro-LRT) candidate managed to mount a very substantial campaign against a veteran suburban councillor in a ward race that would have been too close to call had the outgoing rural councillor not bestowed his blessing on the incumbent. Finally, the gender balance on council now finally approximates a representative sample of the City. It wasn’t that long ago that council managed no better than two female councillors. That imbalance has now been redressed.

    BTW, you could forgive someone reviewing the above data experiment for thinking that you’re building toward a call for ranked balloting. After all, in any given election, the majority of citizens don’t vote for the person who ends up representing them.

    Reply
    • jim graham

      November 19th, 2018

      and obviously it goes without saying that a progressive (but virtually unknown and unapologetically anti-LRT) candidate managed to mount a very substantial campaign against a veteran politician and incumbent Mayor, securing 4 out of every 10 votes cast while running on a single platform.
      Yes, we are progressively polarized.
      Choo Choo.

      Reply
      • Mars

        November 20th, 2018

        There was obviously a degree of opposition to the LRT project that council has been pursuing single-mindedly for the last decade. How much of that was based on a critical analysis of the pros and cons and how much was rooted in fearmongering and wishful hypotheticals (like a billion-dollar shopping spree) is another matter.

        It’s certainly true that the new ward boundaries (a byproduct of suburban and rural councillors’ refusal to acknowledge proportional representation and agree on any of the dozen ward redistribution maps before them, instead wasting a quarter-million in consultants’ fees and opening the door to OMB decision) impacted the mayoral race (as well as the Ward 13 race). As such, there was a variation on the 2010 deamalgamation ruse at play.

        Former Ward 14 councillor Pasuta, quoted in the Hamilton Spectator:

        “As a rural resident myself, I believe we deserve a mayor who will respect Flamborough, support agriculture and the rural way of life,” Pasuta said in a statement… Pasuta, who has represented Ward 14 for 12 years, decided not to seek re-election after the Ontario Municipal Board eliminated the sparsely-populated all-rural ward and divided it between Ancaster and Dundas. A farmer himself, Pasuta is critical of Mayor Fred Eisenberger for not supporting his motion last December to appeal the board decision.”

        Ward 15 councillor Partridge, quoted in the Flamborough Review (which is *cough* located on Guelph Line in Burlington):

        “Vito Sgro understands Flamborough’s concerns and shares our priorities,” Partridge said in a press release. “That’s why I am very pleased to support his campaign for mayor.” She added she believes Waterdown and Flamborough issues have been ignored for too long and she and Sgro will make sure Flamborough has a strong voice.

        Sgro found a quarter of his supporters in Wards 12 & 13 (which absorbed the former Ward 14), and Ward 15 (which was part of Flamborough 1974-2000). It’s uncontroversial to suggest that a large measure of those votes arose from the angst around ward distribution alone.

        Setting aside the “progressive” canard, Sgro was anything but unknown. He was a Liberal political operator dating back to the Munro era experience running campaigns at the municipal, provincial and federal levels, Maybe you remember him reveling in the spotlight as the architect of local leadership campaign victories for Kathleen Wynne and Justin Trudeau, driving fundraising and GOTV initiatives in their hour of need. Or maybe you remember how he was contextualized by the Spec’s Andrew Dreschel:

        “In Hamilton political circles, Vito Sgro is a well known Liberal campaign organizer who prefers working behind the scenes instead of in the spotlight.… after playing insider roles in scads of federal and provincial Liberal election campaigns, what Sgro does have is backroom smarts.

        Over the years he’s been a volunteer sign guy, campaign manager, treasurer and area organizer. He’s worked on campaigns for John Munro, Tony Valeri and Tyler Banham, to name a few. He was the president (now resigned) of the Hamilton East-Stoney Creek Liberal riding association when Bob Bratina was elected MP in 2015, to which Sgro imported techniques he picked up while volunteering for the 2012 Barack Obama presidential juggernaut.”

        In Wards 4, 5, 9 & 10 (aka Hamilton East-Stoney Creek), Sgro’s home turf, the riding association he has campaigned on for more than a generation, the challenger found another quarter of his support (and an endorsement from anti-LRT grump and perpetual ghost mayor Bob Bratina, HESC MP).

        So at least half of Sgro’s support could easily be traced to factors other than his platform. And because Dreschel anointed him “the challenger”, all other candidates were factored out as hopeless, giving him visibility and credibility that other mayoral hopefuls lacked. So even though he avoided debates and critical engagement with the media, he became the go-to for dissenting and disenchanted voters. This is not to take away from the show leather politicking that he undertook, but earned media was a huge part of the equation, and all of that came about because he was identified early on as a well-connected Liberal insider who knew all about running a great ground game.

        And while we’re on ideology, let’s not forget about the role that Ontario PCs played in boosting Sgro’s vote count. All of Hamilton’s provincial PC riding association presidents endorsed Sgro, as anti-LRT politico MPP Skelly effectively did by sticking her oar in repeatedly (in part, no doubt, to repay the kindness shown to her by Mayor Eisenberger during the provincial election).

        Single-issue, maybe, but let’s not over-simplify the electoral dynamics.

        Reply
        • jim graham

          November 22nd, 2018

          4 out of 10 voted against LRT, in a vote Fred claimed had very little to do with LRT, then quickly proclaimed was an overwhelming endorsement for LRT.
          One issue. The City is divided….and if this actually occurs, you’ll be able to see the scar running right down the middle of town.

          Reply
          • Mars

            November 22nd, 2018

            Don’t worry. We’ll spend the next 10 years trying to burn that $1B. This is Hamilton, after all.

          • jim graham

            November 23rd, 2018

            despite your pessimism and the complete absence of leadership from the Mayors office, I believe that $1B will ultimately be used to transform the City, injecting much needed revenue into the HSR with BRT and system wide enhancements, upgrades for D.A.R.T.’s and it’s vulnerable users, and a safe cycling network that will keep cyclists off of our busier roadways and actually improve safety.
            All while your busy burning.

  4. Mars

    November 23rd, 2018

    That was sarcasm. I was playing off your chronic negativity.

    All of what you have suggested is doable and within the CIty’s ability deliver on its own — it just has to dedicate existing federal and provincial gas tax revenues to transit and cycling infrastructure. It is not and has never been an either-or proposition. The provincial commitment to crosstown LRT can be undertaken at the same time as the municipal government invests in sustainable transportation initiatives (with or without matching grants from federal and/or provincial governments).

    Reply
    • jim graham

      November 26th, 2018

      all of what I have suggested can be accomplished with a gift from the Province, with no further burden upon the taxpayers of Hamilton, a notion which has escaped your extremely limited “vision”

      Reply
      • Mars

        November 26th, 2018

        I’m gratified to see that you basically agree with me. Considering how urgent you feel the problems are, however, I’m not sure why you would advocate delaying overdue investment until some indeterminate point in the future when a government dedicated to austerity decides to start delivering $1B “gifts” with no strings attached simply because it fulfils a Liberal promise. (That said, your position is off-the-charts optimistic, so my “chronic negativity” diagnosis no longer holds.) In provincial and federal gas tax revenues, the City has the means at its disposal to easily double or triple capital investments in these areas starting in the 2019-2020 budget cycle, with no further burden upon the taxpayers of Hamilton. Why wait?

        Reply
      • Mars

        November 26th, 2018

        My preference would be to invest existing federal and provincial gas tax revenues to transit and cycling infrastructure as you’ve described, so that positive changes could begin in the coming 2019-2020 budget cycle rather than being put on ice until the province has eliminated debt and deficit and is cutting $1B blank cheques to any municipality that needs them.

        Reply
        • jim graham

          November 27th, 2018

          we now agree what I propose is positive, we just disagree on who should pay. I’d prefer to cash the cheque and put it to good use, you would prefer to increase the Municipal burden.
          At least we have established this. Progress.

          Reply
          • Mars

            November 28th, 2018

            If you (or anyone else getting this far) re-read my comments, you’ll see that I have proposed allocating existing revenues from senior governments toward the transit and sustainable transportation priorities you have identified, ASAP.

            You have proposed postponing said investments until a $1B blank cheque arrives. Even the most generous estimate of when that might be would put it somewhere in the neighbourhood of 2025.

            Delaying infrastructure investment only increases the municipal burden.

          • jim graham

            December 4th, 2018

            I propose using that $1B for things we want and need.
            Not you.

Leave a Reply

  • (not be published)