As former Hamilton Mayor Larry Di Ianni puts it, “the war drums are certainly beating louder on the political front,” in Hamilton. Di Ianni whose was recently spotted having coffee with past and putative mayoralty rival Fred Eisenberger says he hasn’t made a decision yet on whether to run for Bob Bratina’s job and won’t likely made his mind up for a while, but if he does run, clearly the issue will be Bratina. “Finding strong, less erratic, more transparent and capable leadership that can actually lead a team willing to follow is an important motivator,” he told the Bay Observer. Other issues he sees as important are “development, transit, employment opportunities, Harbour development, agricultural issues, a culture of respect for enterprise at city hall (and) poverty reduction.” Di Ianni says he will not be deterred by the number of candidates that are in the race, although he acknowledged that the task of winning will be more difficult , the more candidates are in the race.
At press time the declared field consisted of Ward One councillor Brian McHattie, long time Hamilton councillor Don Ross, perennial candidate Michael Baldasaro and newcomer Crystal Lavigne. Mayor Bob Bratina has not officially announced his plans. Fred Eisenberger says he is going to enter the race soon, and Lloyd Ferguson is still considered a strong possibility. For the first time in a long time there is a prospect of new faces at city hall. If McHattie stays in the mayoral race his west Hamilton Ward One seat will be vacant. The death of long-time Ward 3 councillor Bernie Morelli will likely result in a lively multi-candidate race in the East Hamilton ward. If Lloyd Ferguson enters the mayoralty race as is being rumoured, his Ancaster seat would be up for grabs. And there is a possibility that long-time Dundas Councillor Russ Powers could be ready to move on—either to contest a new federal riding created in Ancaster or even to take a private sector job. Powers was Liberal MP for the old riding of Ancaster-Dundas- Flamborough-Westdale from 2004 to 2006. Powers told the Bay Observer that following the death of his wife five years ago he has a new person in his life and “she will be very much part of any decision.” He year of municipal office and admitted that for the first time in that stretch he is “seriously considering (his) options.”
Although the power of incumbency is traditionally seen to virtually guarantee re-election at the municipal level; there are two council seats which were won by narrow margins in 2010. Ward 2 councillor Jason Farr took the seat with a slim plurality of 173 votes over the runner-up Matt Jelly, and Brenda Johnson took her Glanbrook seat by less than 250 votes. Additionally other members of council appear to be at least kicking the tires for possible advancement to higher political office. At the founding meeting for the new federal Liberal riding association of Hamilton West-Ancaster- Dundas; in addition to Councillor Powers, also seen at the meeting were Councillor Terry Whitehead and Brian McHattie. With a provincial election looming, there have been some signs of renewed optimism in Provincial Liberal ranks. Hamilton businessman Javid Mirza has been nominated on Hamilton Mountain for the Liberals and is believed to be ready to mount a well-funded grass-roots campaign to recapture the seat formerly held by Sophia Aggelonitis. Mirza points out that he has lived on Hamilton Mountain and operated businesses there for the past 30 years. He has reportedly been working to rebuild relations with the local labour leadership, who were a factor in 2011 in the election of NDP-er Monique Taylor in the Hamilton Mountain riding.
Local labour leaders were recently impressed at a meeting with Mirza when he brought along Provincial Labour Minister Yasir Naqvi who attended university with the candidate. After several botched interventions into Hamilton Liberal nomination processes, the current Premier’s office is taking a hands-off approach to the Campaigns of Mirza and Ivan Luksic who will represent the Liberals in Hamilton East-Stoney Creek. Both candidates are bucking conventional Queens Park positions on LRT and the Niagara to GTA corridor.
The candidates issued a joint statement calling for all day GO service and improvements to Hamilton’s conventional transit system ahead of introducing LRT. They also have both taken strong positions in favour of the Niagara to GTA corridor. So for Hamilton voters thirsting for some significant change on the local political scene, there are some hopeful signs, locally and provincially. But as one political observer noted, it could end up being yet another case of Charlie Brown running to kick the football only to have Lucy once again, pull the ball up at the last second.