A poll commissioned by Metrolinx indicates that while Hamilton ranks ahead of other GTA communities in awareness of the LRT project, actual support is the lowest of the surveyed cities. Further, as LRT opponent Donna Skelly pointed out the survey methodology may understate the opposition to the project because the sample was heavily skewed to people living in the five lower city wards where the LRT will be located. Described by pollster GQR Canada as a “mixed mode” survey it reached 800 Hamiltonians — half from the LRT corridor, the other half from the city’s other 10 wards. GQR is headed by long-time Dalton McGuinty strategist Don Guy.
The survey shows at least 80 per cent of surveyed residents in Toronto and Mississauga were supportive of LRT projects like Eglinton, Finch West and Hurontario, and after the benefits were explained, support grew. But in Hamilton support remained at 59 percent and was not affected by explaining the purported benefits of the project.
A poll taken last year by Forum Research showed 48 per cent of respondents opposed LRT while 40 per cent were in favour after weighting to include millennials who do not typically use land lines. The actual poll results before weighting was 60-40 against LRT. The poll reached 3,300 people and had a margin of error of 1.7 per cent, 19 times out of 20. LRT opponents said weighting the poll to include millennials who could not be reached, actually distorted the voting public’s attitude, since millennials traditionally have not voted in large numbers.
The release of the Metrolinx poll comes weeks after PC leader Doug Ford stated he would allow Hamilton to spend the Billion dollars earmarked for LRT any way the city wished. That triggered an immediate response by some members of council who had voted for LRT only because they did not want to be responsible for losing out on the money, some now suggesting they would change their vote. Spectator columnist Andrew Dreschel joined the fray by writing a column that speculated about the possibility of building a Bus Rapid Transit system for an estimated $400 Million and having $600 Million left over for other infrastructure. An unscientific straw poll on the Spectator website showed strong support (3 to 1) in favour of fixing roads over transit. Mayor Fred Eisenberger took to social media to say that in reality there was no billion dollars lying around; that the LRT was going to be paid for over a 30 year span. But a source familiar with provincial infrastructure financing countered by pointing out that bonds issued to pay for LRT could be just as easily issued to pay for other infrastructure.