Tuesday October 23, 2018

By Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday October 23, 2018

The Eisenberger train rolls on

Fred Eisenberger handily won the so-called “LRT referendum” election to become the city’s first repeat mayor since amalgamation.

But it is still unclear whether his signature project, a controversial $1-billion light rail transit line, will survive the election of a council that remains badly divided over LRT.

The veteran politician, 66, fought off a surprising challenge from Vito Sgro, a behind-the-scenes Liberal organizer who was not well known but ran a well-organized “Stop the Train” campaign hinging on the use of LRT cash for other infrastructure.

Eisenberger told jubilant supporters at his Upper James Street headquarters that there was a “fair number” of votes cast against LRT — “but we got more.”

“I see that as a mandate for us to move forward on LRT,” he said to a huge cheer from supporters squeezed into the room.

The veteran politician, who has served two terms as mayor separated by a defeat, repeatedly rejected the notion that LRT was the defining campaign issue. But Monday night, he told The Spectator “for those who wanted to make it a referendum, well, I consider this a referendum.”

It’s possible the fraught debate helped push up voter turnout in 2018 to an unofficial 38 per cent — not fantastic, but an improvement from last election’s dismal showing of around 34 per cent.

The LRT is backed by an unprecedented coalition of politicians, businesses, developers, education and health institutions, unions and anti-poverty groups.

But that establishment support certainly did not translate into a unified council. (Source: Hamilton Spectator)