At a time when many people have retired Bob Bratina looks forward to his new role as a rookie MP representing Hamilton East-Stoney Creek. He heads to Ottawa, where he has secured an apartment within walking distance of Parliament Hill with two economic objectives. “I hope to help Hamilton capture its fair share of the infrastructure investments that will be made and in the same vein I want to keep the lines of communication open with local industries.” His initial focus will be to closely monitor the unfolding US Steel bankruptcy saga with an eye to the interests of pensioners.
Bratina says he was first exposed to the notion of running for political office in the late 1960’s or early 1970’s when he was approached by locals Conservatives with an offer to run for Parliament. Then he was approached by the provincial Liberals before the 1995 election, but declined to run in Hamilton Centre. The seat was ultimately captured by the late Dominic Agostino. In the intervening years the Bratina name popped up frequently as a possible candidate in elections at all three levels, before he finally ran for council in Ward Two in 2004, and then became Mayor of Hamilton in 2010.
Bratina looks back on his term as mayor as a productive one. He cites solving the stadium issue, consecutive years of billion-dollar assessment growth, and addressing the contentious area-rating issue as highlights of his term. But his relations with fellow councillors were often strained. As MP, Bratina says that’s all behind him. “The past is the past. There is a new voice in Ottawa for Hamilton and I’m assuming we are all on Team Hamilton. I am looking forward to working with the mayor and the city manager to bring forward a positive agenda for our city.”
Looking back on the campaign, Bratina says they decided early on to fight a positive campaign rather than attacking his opponents. “We wanted to attract as many soft Conservatives and NDP as possible, and you can’t do that if you are on the attack all the time,” he said. “The approach we took was to craft a positive vision.” He noted that Canadians appear to be less tied to rigid adherence to political parties than Americans. “This riding was at one time a Liberal stronghold, and in recent years many viewed it as an NDP stronghold. We wanted to show people in the riding that the Liberal Party had a big tent where all were welcome. One reason for Bratina’s success was his showing in the Hamilton East portion of the riding which was viewed as traditionally rock-solid NDP. “I was born and lived in that part of Hamilton, and we were able to significantly close the gap in some polls and win some,” Bratina noted.
Looking to the immediate future the new MP says, “I don’t want to be criticized for making grandiose statements, but I can’t help but feel that this is a historic moment for Canada and Hamilton. Hamilton has been a great city in the past, went through some tough times; and now is coming into itself. I hope the next decade is Hamilton’s.”