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Skelly asks Mayor to clarify his plan to finance LRT

Last month Mayor Fred Eisenberger in a discussion with Hamilton Chamber of Commerce President Keanin Loomis, suggested there might be a way for Hamilton to make up the $2 to $2.5 Billion shortfall needed to build the LRT. He suggested there was interest by the private sector that could result in Hamilton qualifying for Federal assistance under the 3-way funding formula that was used to finance LRT in Waterloo and Ottawa. In Hamilton there has been speculation for months that such finding might come from the LIUNA fund. The Bay Observer wanted to know if such third-party funding would effectively be a loan to the city, keeping in mind that members of council have in the past been adamant that Hamilton would not contribute to LRT. The following E-Mail exchange took place May 12th:

Q: Hello Fred; I’m not sure if this has been discussed much in local media yet, but there is a lot of talk around town about LIUNA or the Infrastructure Bank ponying up roughly a billion dollars at low interest rates for Hamilton’s share of LRT– which would then qualify Hamilton for funding from Ottawa under a formula similar to that of K-W and Ottawa. Is that being actively pursued?  Can you say what would be the implications of Hamilton assuming that debt in terms of its credit rating and ability to borrow for other capital needs? And what would be the annual carrying costs? Much appreciated.

A: I am well aware of Liuna’s interest and I am not aware of any discussion around the scenario you present and that is not under discussion at the city. Fred

Q: Thanks Fred. You mentioned the private sector in your chat with Keanin Loomis and a new funding formula. But you are saying you are not involved in this?

A: Correct. Not in the kind of discussion or funding model you described .

Q: Sorry to persist Fred, but are you pursuing any kind of funding formula that would obtain sufficient funding to build the full 14KM of LRT? Thanks.

 A: Right now, I am waiting to hear what the province is going to do with the report they have been given and we will go from there. Fred

Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas MP Filomena Tassi has said Federal Infrastructure Minister McKenna has been in contact with Ontario Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney and Eisenberger about various infrastructure projects for the city, including transit, but while McKenna has expressed interest in the project he has also said it would require that the province make the ask.

Today the matter was raised again in an interview between Flamborough-Glanbrook MPP Donna Skelly and CHML’s Scott Radley. Skelly said, “I wish (the mayor) would clarify—is he asking the residents of the City of Hamilton to come forward and support a plan that involves borrowing up to a billion dollars to pay for LRT.” She said she was unaware of any federal program that would see the Federal Government making up the entire $2.4 Billion shortfall.

The LRT portion of the Skelly interview can be accessed here:

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  • Why would we pay LiUNA interest? They think this is is a great idea-just ask Union Joe-so they can get their return on investment from the fare box. Unless of course, this is all just a pile of malarkey, and the folks at LiUNA were only interested in growing their real estate portfolio on our dime. Watching Skelly school Fred on all of this has been sublime. Thank-you Donna.

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