Hamilton city council bickered about light rail transit (LRT) again Wednesday when councillors made comments about the Republican Party and whether their opponents were family men — all over how many members of the public they'll listen to in one day.
'The filibustering will continue, I guess.' - Coun. Lloyd Ferguson
About 30 people have already signed up to speak at a meeting Apr. 19, when councillors are due to vote on a necessary environment assessment (EA) update for the $1 billion project. That's nearly as many speakers as the last LRT meeting on March 28. That lasted 14 hours and some of the same people are speaking this time.
Donna Skelly, Ward 7 councillor, proposed breaking up the delegations into several meetings if the speaker count hits 60. But that could take the process until early May, which city staff say jeopardizes the project's 2019 construction start.
Coun. Aidan Johnson of Ward 1 referred to "death by delay." Matthew Green of Ward 3 said there was "something awfully Republican" about Skelly's motion.
"The filibuster will continue, I guess," said Coun. Lloyd Ferguson of Ancaster, who like Johnson and Green, supports LRT.
'I know (the mayor) doesn't have children and maybe he doesn't put value in families spending time with their children.' - Coun. Terry Whitehead
But sparks really flew when Mayor Fred Eisenberger called out Coun. Terry Whitehead, who said in March that he hadn't had time to read the EA. That's why the issue is coming back on April 19.
"He came with a stack of documents that said 'I haven't had the chance to read this,' even though it had been out for three weeks," Eisenberger said.
"In fairness, I think everyone should have been able to read the document, quite frankly. But notwithstanding, we said, 'A couple of more weeks. We can deal with that.' And now here we are."
Whitehead replied that he got the report during March break, when he was with his kids.
"I know (the mayor) doesn't have children and maybe he doesn't put value in families spending time with their children," Whitehead said.
'Bring your pyjamas. Don't waltz out. It will be four in the morning and we may start debating.' - Coun. Donna Skelly
It's just the latest in countless hours of LRT debate that, at this point, has lasted years.
Councillors have voted dozens of times on the project, including at least twice to ask the province for the full capital cost of building LRT. In June 2015, the province agreed. But dissent has grown since then among some councillors who think the city should turn down the $1 billion project.
The city established a joint office with Metrolinx in 2015, and staff have worked on it ever since. That work has culminated in the updated EA, which council must send to the province the project to continue.
'My windows were down. I had my car seat heater on so the rest of me would be warm, and I had show tunes blaring so I could stay awake to get home to Winona.' - Coun. Brenda Johnson
Councillors were going to vote to send it in Mar. 28, but it was delayed so they could ask Metrolinx and city staff more questions.
In the end on Wednesday, Skelly withdrew her motion, saying she was only trying to make this easier on councillors and the public.
"Bring your pyjamas," she said. "Don't waltz out. It will be four in the morning and we may start debating.
"Tell your constituents you cannot tell them what time they're going to be heard, and they may be here at two or three in the morning. I was simply trying to manage it, and it was misinterpreted."
Coun. Brenda Johnson of Ward 11 said she's bracing for it too.
Heading home from the last meeting, she said, "My windows were down. I had my car seat heater on so the rest of me would be warm, and I had show tunes blaring so I could stay awake to get home to Winona."