Two meetings involving Hamilton elected officials last month stressed the value of collaboration and teamwork. At the first meeting, organized by Hamilton East-Stoney Creek MP Bob Bratina, he, his Ancaster-Dundas counterpart Filomena Tassi, Provincial Cabinet Minister Ted McMeekin and Mayor Fred Eisenberger sat down one weekend late last month to discuss a “team Hamilton” approach to areas of common interest. Much of the tri-level meeting was taken up with a discussion of the looming influx of Syrian refugees and the implications for Hamilton. With the federal government’s announced extension of the timeframe for receiving the refugees, the group will likely be holding more meetings in the coming weeks. “It is my hope, and I think that of my counterparts, that this group will meet regularly as other issues arise that touch on our three levels of government,” Bratina told the Bay Observer. Bratina plans to play an active role in the Parliamentary Steel Caucus—an interparty group of MPs representing ridings with steelmaking operations. “It’s critical that government is kept aware of the value of an indigenous steel industry to the Canadian economy,” he said.
A second intergovernmental meeting saw a busload of Hamilton municipal politicians and senior staff head to Queen’s Park for ‘Hamilton Day’– a round of meetings with provincial cabinet ministers and their senior bureaucrats. Since council decided to seek the meetings last March it has been the task of Kwab Ako-Adjei, the city’s Policy & Public Affairs Advisor to make the arrangements. Kwab, who has a background as a policy advisor at Queen’s Park and more recently as Manager of Government Relations at McMaster stays in regular touch with more than half a dozen ministries at Queen’s Park, pushing buttons and making sure Hamilton issues are understood at the provincial level. “It’s not always about an ‘ask’, he told the Bay Observer, “ you have to build relationships—not just show up when you need something.” He has been on the job for just the past year. He stresses that it is not his role to be the only point of contact with senior governments. “Most of our senior management team and elected officials have their own lines of communication into senior governments and these are very effective.” His role is one of coordination and regular outreach. As evidence of that, City Manager Chris Murray noted, “the Ministers we met with were very aware of what’s happening in Hamilton. They understand it as a place to invest and centre of excellence. Many references were made of (General Manager, Community Services) Joe-Anne Priel’s work on poverty reduction and Planning and Economic Development’s effort in economic development.”
Key items discussed were the U.S. Steel pension and benefits crisis, Hamilton’s $32.5 Billion infrastructure deficit, Airport and waterfront development as well as skills development. Asked about the value of sessions like Hamilton Day, Kwab says the contact is important. “We need to establish consistent priorities with Queen’s Park in areas like transit and housing, and meeting as a team helps us maintain that consistency.” The Hamilton delegation met with several Provincial cabinet ministers, including a luncheon meeting with Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister McMeekin as well as the Progressive Conservative critics for finance and transportation. The delegation did not meet with NDP members because of a scheduling conflict.
Written by: John Best