Lincoln Alexander, former Ontario lieutenant-governor and Canada's first black Member of Parliament, died Oct. 19 at age 90. The news triggered mourning and memorials from across the country, and an outpouring of public emotion in his home town of Hamilton.
“Linc,” as he was affectionately known, was elected to the House of Commons in 1968 as the Progressive Conservative candidate for Hamilton West, and was re-elected in 1972, 1979 and 1980. He served as the lieutenant governor of Ontario from 1985 to 1991. In 1992, Alexander was appointed a Companion of the Order of Canada and to the Order of Ontario.
Besides his political career, he was a proud Hamiltonian, a Royal Canadian Air Force veteran, a lawyer, a music fan and a supporter of education, serving five terms as chancellor of the University of Guelph.
The public paid their respects as Alexander lay in state at Queen’s Park, then at Hamilton’s city hall. Thousands attended his state funeral in Hamilton on Oct. 26.
A series of deaths at Saltfleet District High School rocked the community and put a spotlight on the issue of mental health and Hamilton’s youth in 2012.
CBC Hamilton teamed up with Mohawk College, parents, students and local experts for a town hall session, Mental Health 101: Youth and the Hidden Crisis in Our Community.
All eyes were on London this summer for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and there was celebration in Hamilton as the city’s athletes put on world-class performances.
Ancaster’s Summer Mortimer won four medals – two gold, a silver and a bronze – in Paralympic swimming.
Melissa Trancredi brought home a bronze in Olympic women’s soccer.
Hamiltonians who competed at the Games included marathoner Reid Coolsaet, Swimmer Scott Dickens, cyclist Denise Ramsden, and basketball players Shona Thorburn and Rachael Vanderwal.
Closer to home, McMaster University’s Marauders had local football fans on the edge of their seats, hoping the team would be just the fourth school in the country to repeat as back-to-back national champions.
The Marauders demolished the Calgary Dinos 45-6 in the Mitchell Bowl to advance to their second straight national title game, but faltered in the final. Playing in front of a record Vanier Cup crowd of 37,098 at Toronto’s Rogers Centre on Nov. 23, the Laval Rouge et Or beat the Marauders 37-14.
"They brought their 'A' game," said McMaster head coach Stefan Ptaszek after the game. "They were razor sharp and we needed to bring our best, and we were something short of that."
The game itself may have been a bust for McMaster fans, but the bus trip to Toronto was a blast (CBC Hamilton’s was along for the ride), and Olympic kayak medalist and McMaster alumni Adam van Koeverden spiced things up after the game with a controversial Tweet.
McMaster was also in the news this year because of the controversy surrounding the new McMaster Downtown Health Campus. The project called for the demolition of the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board education centre at 100 Main St. W., but critics thought the building – built in 1966 — should be saved and remodeled.
The demolition ultimately got the green light, and construction of the 195,000-square-foot centre started Dec. 3.
The building is expected to cost $85-million and is scheduled to open in 2014. The campus will host about 4,000 medical students and 450 employees, as well as a Public Health office, family health clinic and maternity centre expected to handle about 54,000 patient-visits a year.
Controversy also dogged another demolition project in 2012 – the replacement of Ivor Wynne stadium with a new facility for the Pan Am games.
The original Ivor Wynne stadium was built in 1928 for the first Commonwealth Games in 1930. The new $147.5 million stadium will be built on the same site, but will be rotated 90 degrees, and will host 32 men's and women's soccer games for the 2015 Pan Am games. It will also host the Tiger-Cats starting with the 2014 CFL season.
The new stadium will have 22,500 fixed seats, fewer than the current stadium, but will be able to hold nearly 40,000 with temporary seats placed on the sidelines and endzones for special events.
Local residents, councilors, Pan Am Games organizers and backers of the new stadium have all locked horns over the design of the facility. And while Hamilton soccer fans were thrilled at the news of the new stadium, many Ticats fans weren’t as effusive, partly because they face a long drive to the smaller University of Guelph Alumni Stadium that will be the team’s temporary home.
On the heels of the news that the Tiger-Cats will have to leave Hamilton for a temporary home in Guelph while their new stadium is under construction, there was speculation that the hockey Bulldogs might be leaving town for good.
There were reports that Geoff Molson, owner of the Montreal Canadiens as well as the Hamilton Bulldogs ( the American Hockey League affiliate of the Canadiens), wanted to move the Hamilton hockey team to the new 10,000-seat Place Bell sports complex in Laval, Que.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs were in the final year of their lease agreement with the city to use Copps Coliseum, and a renewal wasn't a sure thing. Global Spectrum, the new manager of Copps Coliseum, worked with city staff on a report about whether to extend the Bulldogs’ lease or pursue an OHL team.
And there were rumours the OHL’s Erie Otters were sniffing around for a home in Hamilton.
In the end, Bulldogs fans breathed sighs of relief when it was announced in early December that Hamilton would sign a new lease with the team.
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats started the new year with a change of coaches — and ended it the same way.
George Cortez was named the Ticats' 21st head coach and director of football operations on January 7. He'd spent the previous two seasons as a quarterbacks coach with the NFL's Buffalo Bills. The 60-year-old joined the Ticats with an extensive CFL coaching resume that included working as the offensive co-ordinator and assistant head coach with the Calgary Stampeders from 2007 to 2009.
On Dec. 11, about a month after the Ticats wrapped up a disappointing 6-12 season, the team announced it was dropping Cortez even though he had three years left in his contract.
On Dec. 17, the team hired Kent Austin as head coach, general manager and vice-president of football operations. Austin won a Grey Cup as the Roughriders' head coach in 2007 and helped the Toronto Argonauts win a CFL title in 2004 as the team's offensive co-ordinator. The 49-year-old also earned championship rings as a quarterback with Saskatchewan in 1989 and B.C. in '94. He has been head coach at Cornell since 2010.
Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina stirred up controversy after his chief of staff, Peggy Chapman, was given a $30,000 raise in December 2011. Chapman's salary jumped 33 per cent to $120,000 from $90,000, igniting a firestorm at city hall that some referred to as "Peggygate."
Hamilton city council challenged the mayor over the raise, and whether it contravened rules governing compensation of city employees. Bratina became the first mayor in post amalgamation Hamilton to be censured after a 15-1 council vote on March 28.
Mayor Bratina was reprimanded June 8 by city integrity commissioner Earl Basse for his explanation of who reviewed Chapman's salary before the raise was given. In his report, Brasse indicated that Bratina had given erroneous information to the Hamilton Spectator editorial board, which had the potential of injuring the professional or ethical reputation of the City of Hamilton Human Resource staff.
One of the most divisive issues of 2012 was whether Hamilton should place a big social and economic bet on a downtown casino.
Those in favour of a casino say it would give Hamilton’s downtown and its businesses an economic boost, and bring much-needed revenue to the town’s coffers.
Those against the idea are worried a casino could aggravate social problems in the community, cause a spike in the number of people with gambling problems, and undermine other businesses in the region such as the horse-racing industry.
With lots of strong feelings on both sides of the debate, expect this story to keep making headlines well into 2013.