Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday May 27, 2016
Premier Wynne wonders why debate, believes decision made
Pressure is building on Hamilton council to formally accept or reject the province’s $1-billion offer to build LRT in the city — but don’t expect it to happen anytime soon.
Council has twice in May put off a contentious motion to endorse the province’s offer to pay 100 per cent of capital costs for light rail transit, with some councillors even floating the idea of a referendum.
The uncertainty prompted Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, local MPP Ted McMeekin and two major city developers this week to urge council to publicly back the project — or at least make a decision.
“I honestly thought that the conversation was done,” said Wynne on Tuesday at an unrelated press conference. “I was very surprised that it was being revisited. My hope will be that they will be able to go through this process and we’ll have a final answer soon rather than later.”
Mayor Fred Eisenberger said after council Wednesday he understands the premier’s “frustration,” but added it’s possible the council motion to support the project will be put off until fall.
“I think a definitive statement, in my mind, has already been made,” he said, pointing out the city “asked for the money, and the province delivered.”
“Are there additional questions councillors feel they need answered? Apparently so. Whether we resolve that in June, or later, is another issue.”
But the mayor also argued the proposed vote won’t guarantee or kill the project, which requires several layers of council approval, including a design sign-off and other formal legal agreements.
Coun. Sam Merulla, who put forward the oft-deferred motion, said he’s fine with waiting until the fall, when answers to questions about LRT traffic impacts and expropriation requirements will be available.
He added the delay also allows time to address councillor concerns “and bring support back up” for the project — which some council members campaigned against in the last election.
“What I’m trying to prevent is an 11th-hour travesty,” he said. “What we’ve learned is that support is not as strong as it needs to be.”
Several councillors Wednesday questioned the need to have a vote at all, however.(Continued: Hamilton Spectator)