A Hamilton councillor has written to the premier reaffirming the city’s commitment to Light Rail Transit (LRT). But not everyone thinks he should have taken the liberty.
Coun. Brian McHattie wrote to Premier Kathleen Wynne on Thursday. Council stands by its preference for an $800-million LRT line running from McMaster University to Eastgate Square, he said in the letter. It also needs the province to pay for it.
“We are ready for LRT,” wrote McHattie, who is also running for mayor. “If introduced today, LRT along our preferred route would already have ridership comparable with many successful North American systems.”
McHattie used city letterhead as a Ward 1 councillor. Mayor Bob Bratina, who has stated reservations about LRT, says McHattie shouldn’t have done that.
“Since the councillor is a registered candidate, it would have been more appropriate had he sent that on his own letterhead as his own submission.”
Bratina approached McHattie about the letter, asking whether he had council support. McHattie said he’s within his rights as a councillor to write to the premier.
“I see it as one member of council communicating to the premier,” McHattie said. “We do that all the time.”
Such letters are typically sent after a council resolution, said Coun. Lloyd Ferguson of Ancaster. But he’s spoken to Wynne on his own too.
Letter is 'factual'
He has no issues with the content of letter, he said. “It’s all factual.”
Coun. Chad Collins doesn't have a problem with the letter either "as long as his message is consistent with council's approach."
But Coun. Brad Clark of Stoney Creek would rather McHattie have sent it as a mayoral candidate.
“He could have written it…on his political campaign letterhead and not have any issue with it at all.”
As a city representative, Clark said, "He doesn't have the authority to communicate directly with the premier."
Council stated support for LRT on Feb. 27, 2013, McHattie wrote. He’s “troubled” by media reports that the province might not fully fund LRT, the letter said. Other cities have gotten money for transit and Hamilton should have a share too.
Metrolinx has unveiled a host of potential tools to raise money for transit, including road tolls and higher taxes.
Money spent in Toronto is 'frustrating'
Clark is cool to LRT if it means funding it like that.
“That’s not what we agreed to,” he said. “That’s not what we were offered. When you see the money that’s being spent in Toronto, that’s a little bit frustrating.”
McHattie introduced a motion last April to prompt council to state its preference for LRT. It spawned raucous debate that included shouting and allegations of bullying against Bratina.
McHattie worried then that Bratina wasn't representing the city's position on LRT to the province. He implied it again with his letter.
“I’m writing to you because I believe someone has to stand up for all Hamiltonians when it comes to ensuring promises made to our citizens are kept,” he said.
'As a candidate, everything changes'
Bratina didn’t want to open that debate again on Thursday.
“I was elected to (stand up for Hamiltonians) and that’s what I’m doing.”
McHattie isn't the only one who's been accused of early campaigning. In January, Bratina asked the province to review Hamilton's 2001 amalgamation, which Coun. Terry Whitehead called "cheap politics."
Bratina hasn't stated whether he'll run in the Oct. 27 municipal election. That's because he wants to deal with city issues as mayor and not a candidate, he said.
"As a candidate, everything changes."