The city has spent 10 years and $2 million in a lawsuit with the federal government over the Red Hill Valley Parkway, and one Hamilton councillor says it’s time to drop it.
Brian McHattie will introduce a motion at city hall in two weeks asking his fellow councillors to drop the $75-million lawsuit. This comes about two years after the judge on the case said the city’s legal team is acting “as if it had a client with inexhaustible resources.”
The lawsuit was a bad idea to begin with, said McHattie, who represents Ward 1. And he's skeptical that the city will win.
“My sense is that we’ll continue to chalk up legal costs,” he said. “It’s time to cut the whole thing and get out of it.”
The Red Hill Valley Parkway opened in 2007, but the often-bitter battle over its creation dates back 50 years.
In 2003, the city launched the current lawsuit against Ottawa, charging that 46 government employees acted in bad faith by applying the Environmental Assessment Act to the highway project, thus delaying construction. The highway opened four years later.
'We need to stop spending money now.'- Coun. Brian McHattie
City lawyers have always updated council behind closed doors. But this week, the local watchdog group Citizens At City Hall released a report with comments from 2011 by Justice P. B. Hambly, including the part about inexhaustible resources.
The city even had to pay $310,000 in legal costs for the federal government for pursuing motions that were “contrary to the fundamental fairness and the system of justice in this country,” Hambly wrote.
That got McHattie's attention. “That was very different from what we heard in camera,” he said.
“We should have stopped a bunch of years ago when we had less money invested in this,” he said.
“I think we need to stop spending money now.”
He’ll introduce his motion on Dec. 4. Votes on the lawsuit have traditionally been close, he said.
Coun. Tom Jackson of Ward 6 wants to hear from legal staff before forming an opinion. The city’s outside lawyer on the case, David Estrin, has already won twice in court for Hamilton against the federal government, he said.
“That’s the reason why strong majorities on successive councils since amalgamation have consistently said we’d like to have compensation in regards to what we felt were unnecessary delays when it comes to building and finishing the project,” he said.
If the city wins, Jackson said, the compensation will “far, far, far outweigh the cost right now of legal counsel.”
McHattie's motion says that the city "has spent in excess of $2 million on the lawsuit, with no concrete results."