Hamilton MPs and MPPs have added their voices to the latest chorus of those in favour of light rail transit (LRT) here. But one name is noticeably absent – Hamilton East-Stoney Creek MP Bob Bratina, a former mayor who says there are too many unanswered questions.
Six federal and provincial reps wrote a bipartisan letter to the city this week saying the planned $1 billion LRT system would be "a great benefit and building it is the right thing to do for our community." The letter is the latest of a number of letters supporting the project.
'I did not sign the letter because there are still too many unanswered questions about the project, such as who will receive the fare revenue.' - Bob Bratina, Hamilton East-Stoney Creek MP
Ted McMeekin, Liberal MPP for Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale, signed the letter. So did the following:
- David Christopherson, NDP MP for Hamilton Centre.
- Scott Duvall, NDP MP for Hamilton Mountain.
- Andrea Horwath, Hamilton Centre MPP and Ontario NDP leader.
- Paul Miller, Hamilton East-Stoney Creek NDP MPP.
- Monique Taylor, NDP MPP for Hamilton Mountain.
Filomena Tassi, Liberal MP for Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas, also wrote an open letter in favour of LRT.
"I am very proud to say that I support Hamilton city council's several successful resolutions that choose LRT as a way forward for improved transit infrastructure in our great and thriving city," Tassi wrote.
Bratina's signature was also missing from a letter this month from seven former mayors and regional chairs who support LRT.
Bratina told CBC Hamilton that he didn't sign the recent letter because there are too many unanswered questions, particularly around fare revenue from the B line.
City transit officials say the line from McMaster University to the Queenston traffic circle – the proposed B line LRT route – is the most profitable in the city, and helps pay for transit in the rest of the city.
City councillors have asked question about what happens to that revenue when Metrolinx builds LRT.
"I did not sign the letter because there are still too many unanswered questions about the project, such as who will receive the fare revenue," Bratina wrote.
'Nobody really wants it. They're all scared of it.' - Victor Starecky, Hamilton business owner
He said he hasn't been doing any LRT-related work in Ottawa, but has had "informal conversations" with Hamilton businesses about the project.
He also wrote a letter to the Hamilton Spectator saying there shouldn't be a rush to build LRT.
"The notion by others that we need to 'get our act together' is a rush to judgment council is not currently willing to take until important questions are answered," he wrote.
LRT is a hot topic at Hamilton city hall right now, as politicians prepare to debate in October whether to accept the $1 billion system from the province. City council has voted several times in favour of asking for the province for money, but since Premier Kathleen Wynne announced it last June, some have reservations.
Bratina's stance on LRT caused friction when he was mayor from 2010 to 2014. In 2013, he faced off with councillors in a heated debate over whether to state that LRT was Hamilton's transit priority, even having an exchange with city manager Chris Murray that led to an integrity commissioner investigation. (Bratina was found not to have broken the council code of conduct.)
'Unless the federal government participates in the project, I just don't weigh into it.' - David Sweet, MP, Flamborough-Glanbrook
Bratina argued that LRT wasn't necessary yet since the city hadn't built up adequate ridership. He wanted BRT instead.
David Sweet, Conservative MP for Flamborough-Glanbrook, didn't sign the recent letter of support for LRT either. He was asked to sign it, he said. But he's leaving it up to council.
"My record has been, in the 10 plus years I've been elected, that unless the federal government participates in the project, I just don't weigh into it."
The current plan will see LRT run from McMaster University to the Queenston traffic circle, with the route running on King Street East from Highway 403 to the delta. It will also run down James Street North from King to the West Harbour GO station – or the waterfront, budget permitting.
Terry Whitehead, Ward 8 councillor, plans to bring forward a motion at a future meeting to look at putting it on Main Street for that stretch instead. Staunch LRT advocates say that route has already been studied, and that changing now would add years to the project. Whitehead says that hasn't been studied adequately enough.
Meanwhile, more than 200 businesses have added their logos to a poster of those in favour of LRT, and developers such as Darko Vranich have written in favour.
But there's another movement afoot. Victor Starecky, owner of Weird Stuff at 1363 Main St. E., opposes LRT and plans to help distribute petitions this week to stop it. He says it will mean less vehicle traffic on the route, which his business needs.
He's talked to other business owners about it, he said.
"Nobody really wants it. They're all scared of it."
The goal is to "stop it, stall it or move it to Barton Street," he said.