Eisenberger and Bratina remain cordial at infrastructure announcement

As federal government announcements go, the $2 million one at Auchmar Mansion was pretty standard. The juicier story was the interplay between two men in the room.

The announcement occurred just a couple of weeks after some pointed verbal sparring between them

Mayor Fred Eisenberger, Filomena Tassi and Bob Bratina talk post-announcement. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

As federal government announcements go, it was pretty standard — about $2 million worth of infrastructure money for Hamilton for projects like stone walls and elevators.

The juicier story was the interplay between two men in the room — Hamilton's current mayor, and its former one, now the MP announcing the funds.

It was, after all, their first public appearance together since an unusually high profile war of words where the MP Bob Bratina dissed the Mayor Fred Eisenberger's pet project (light rail transit), and Eisenberger hit back by saying Bratina wasn't doing enough to fight for Hamilton.

"Today's not about that," said Bratina when asked about the LRT issue at Auchmar Mansion, where he and Liberal Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas MP Filomena Tassi announced the infrastructure money.

Mayor Fred Eisenberger and MPs Filomena Tassi and Bob Bratina pose post-announcement. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

It was, however, certainly the elephant in the room. It was alluded to in the speeches, when Bratina talked about what his government was doing for Stelco pensioners. It was evident in the way the two hovered on different sides of the room before the event started.

"I'm professional enough to keep working on behalf of our city," Eisenberger said afterward. "That's my job. His job is to do the same and we will deliver one way or the other."

Bratina echoed that.

"Personal issues may arise from time to time," he said. "They really shouldn't and in my case don't affect the performance of MPs, mayors, provincial MPPs and so on."

The issue began on May 9, when Bratina, Liberal MP for Hamilton East-Stoney Creek, weighed in on a municipal issue. He wrote an opinion piece for the Hamilton Spectator critical of the $1 billion LRT project. He was similarly critical of the project when he was mayor from 2010 to 2014.

Mayor Fred Eisenberger speaks at Auchmar Mansion as Bob Bratina and Filomena Tassi look on. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Eisenberger — after "a great deal of thought," he said this month — took an equally unusual move and issued a scathing response.

Bratina has been unhelpful in advancing the city's interests in Ottawa, Eisenberger said. And he's been "uncharacteristically silent" on important issues such as Stelco pensioners and fighting for more infrastructure money.

Only media brought up the friction on Friday, when Tassi and Bratina announced $2,063,505 for Hamilton from the government's Canada 150 infrastructure pot. More announcements are likely.

The biggest ticket items Friday were $400,000 toward a $1.2-million project to renovate the windows of the Central Library branch, and $273,000 of a $817,000 project to renovate Auchmar's stone garden walls.

Every bit at Auchmar helps. The stately Gothic 1852 manor house has sat empty since 2001, and it needs substantial repairs.

While council voted last year to remain owners of Auchmar, the city wants a future tenant for the "Dundurn of the Mountain." And it still doesn't have one.

For months, it has been in talks with the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry (RHLI), 13th Batallion, which has plans that include a volunteer saloon, a heritage museum and a gift shop.

Terry Whitehead, Ward 8 councillor, says he wants to establish a mutual drop-dead date for those negotiations.

The main goal, he said, is to find a tenant to manage the building's operating costs while leaving the amenity in public hands.

samantha.craggs@cbc.ca | @SamCraggsCBC