A Hamilton MPP is filing a complaint with the Ontario Ombudsman after being shut out of a closed-door light rail transit meeting between the city and the province.
Monique Taylor, NDP MPP for Hamilton Mountain, says she asked to attend a meeting Friday between the city’s government relations advisory group and Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca. The two parties will discuss Hamilton’s transit priorities, specifically provincial funding for LRT or bus rapid transit (BRT).
Taylor wrote to Mayor Bob Bratina’s office asking to attend the meeting. In an email back, Bratina told her that she could “join the public session immediately following our closed-door session during which public statements will likely be issued.”
“I was in complete awe,” Taylor told CBC Hamilton.
“Why wouldn’t I be able to be involved in such a major project?”
Taylor will be at city hall at 10 a.m. Friday, when the group will meet in the mayor’s boardroom, and “I guess I’ll wait outside.”
Ted McMeekin, a Liberal MPP for Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale and Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, will be at the meeting.
The mayor’s advisory committee is comprised of Bratina, Coun. Sam Merulla, Coun. Scott Duvall and Coun. Russ Powers, although Merulla said he is boycotting the meeting to protest it being held behind closed doors.
At least two councillors not in the group — Brad Clark and Brian McHattie — plan to attend.
Clark, of Stoney Creek's Ward 9, says it’s typical for meetings with ministers to be held in private.
“It is 100 per cent legal and consistent with the Municipal Act and City of Hamilton bylaws,” he said.
The mayor's office, via chief of staff Peggy Chapman, said Friday's meeting is only an introduction and "one of likely many more conversations to come." The meeting was booked with an agreed slate of attendees.
In this year's budget, the province allocated $15 billion for transit in the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area, including an unspecific portion for "rapid transit" in Hamilton. Whether that goes to LRT and BRT, McMeekin has said, depends on what the city tells the province it wants.
Last February, city council approved LRT as long as the province provides 100 per cent capital funding.
The advisory group, which is not a formal committee of council, will discuss Hamilton's transit priorities.
Read Taylor's letter and the response below.
Thank you for your message regarding my up-coming meeting with Ministers McMeekin and Del Duca. You will have the opportunity if you wish to join the public session immediately following our closed-door session during which public statements will likely be issued, as well as questions being taken from those present. I’ll also be circulating briefing notes to Council which will be copied to you as well.
Mayor Bob Bratina