If anybody was wondering why the Ford Government went from rejecting LRT in Hamilton as too expensive to today’s statement, Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna made it clear: Ontario was told that funding for the Toronto subway projects that were announced on Tuesday were contingent on Queen’s Park coming up with more money for Hamilton LRT. It was a rare, and perhaps unguarded peek behind the curtain at how these deals are arrived at between governments.
As expected the resurrection of the Hamilton LRT project was confirmed at a virtual news conference today chaired by Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna, who was joined by Labour Minister Filomena Tassi and Ontario Transport Minister Caroline Mulroney. Absent from the meeting were Flamborough-Glanbrook MPP Donna Skelly and Hamilton East-Stoney Creek MP Bob Bratina who have both expressed their opposition to the LRT project in their previous roles as Mayor and Councillor as well as privately since their elections to the senior governments. The details were as previously announced—both Ontario and the federal government will contribute $1.7 Billion to the project. McKenna said there were “conditions” attached to the deal—affordable housing being one and another was “community benefits,” but there was no detail provided on how these extras would be financed.
McKenna repeatedly referred to the LRT project as “shovel-ready,” but Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster who was in on the conference said it would take “many months” to get the main contract in place. He also mentioned that there are still approximately 30 properties to be purchased and demolished in addition to the roughly 60 properties that have already been purchased or expropriated.
Reporters attempted several times to get answers to the elephant in the room, Hamilton Council, several of whom have spoken against the project and who have complained about the way the project has unfolded without their involvement. Minister Mulroney finally cleared the air on at least one point: there will be a presentation to council by Metrolinx about what costs will be expected from the City. Mayor Eisenberger also acknowledged that there will need to be a ;presentation to council although he warned against, “foot-dragging”