Hamilton·Hamilton Votes

Campaign Briefing: Eisenberger won't debate Sgro 1-on-1 about LRT

Fred Eisenberger, incumbent mayoral candidate, has turned down a debate about light rail transit (LRT) with competitor Vito Sgro.

Eisenberger says any debate should include other candidates and other topics

Fred Eisenberger says he won't have a one-on-one debate with Vito Sgro about LRT. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

Fred Eisenberger, incumbent mayoral candidate, has turned down a debate about light rail transit (LRT) with competitor Vito Sgro.

Sgro, who's campaigning against LRT, wrote Eisenberger on Friday challenging him to a debate. 

"This debate needs to happen," Sgro wrote. "(It's) no surprise that a majority of Hamiltonians oppose this train and Fred continues to lack leadership on the issue."

Eisenberger, who supports LRT, said he's happy to debate, but if it includes other issues and some of Hamilton's other 13 candidates.

His priorities are "economic development and jobs, affordable housing, and building and improving our infrastructure, including roads and transit," he said.

Mayoral candidate Vito Sgro challenged Eisenberger to a one-on-one debate about LRT. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

"If other candidates want to promote themselves and their issues, they need to do what I am doing, which is getting out there and campaigning. I am happy to debate, but fairness and the integrity of the election process demands that we do not exclude any candidates or limit the issues to be debated."

The province pledged $1 billion in 2016 to build LRT. Metrolinx has been working on it since then, and is selecting a consortium to design, build, finance, operate and maintain the system. LRT will run from McMaster University to the Eastgate Square and is designed to be the first stage of a city-wide rapid transit network called BLAST.

The Ford government paused property acquisitions for the project in August. It says it will still give Hamilton $1 billion for "transit and infrastructure" if it doesn't choose LRT. It's not clear if that infrastructure has to be related to transit.

Some LRT advocates have also questioned the likelihood of Hamilton getting the money for infrastructure.

Sgro is campaigning with the slogan "Stop LRT. Fix infrastructure." He'd like to spend $300 million to run express buses along the BLAST line to build ridership. He'd like to spend the rest on a variety of infrastructure projects, including a much-needed bypass in Waterdown.

Both will face off with other mayoral candidates Tuesday night at a debate organized by the Afro Canadian Caribbean Association in partnership with the African Canadian Action Congress. The event starts at 6:30 p.m. at 754 Barton St. E. 

Advance polls

Here's a list of remaining advance poll dates from the City of Hamilton website:​

  • Thursday, Oct. 11 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Saturday, Oct. 13 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She often tweets about Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca