City will investigate low-cost transit options - after a 'low and unnecessary' debate

​Hamilton city council voted Wednesday to look at affordable transit options, as well as the future of dozens of brightly coloured talking birds.

Mayor Fred Eisenberger called on Merulla to apologize for a comment he made to Coun. Pasuta

Coun. Robert Pasuta was off for several months this year because of a pair of farm injuries. Another city councillor, Sam Merulla, took a dig at Pasuta Wednesday after Pasuta said he'd vote against Merulla's transit motion. "He’s missed half the term anyway," Merulla said. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

A debate over how to make Hamilton transit more affordable turned nasty Wednesday when one city councillor referenced another's debilitating farm injury.

That was low and unnecessary.- Mayor Fred Eisenberger

Sam Merulla, Ward 4 councillor, was arguing that the city should investigate a variety of ways to make HSR more affordable for people. That includes fares geared to people's incomes.

Merulla also wanted to look at scrapping area rating, a controversial taxation method that sees urban areas pay more for transit. Robert Pasuta, of Ward 14 in rural Flamborough, said he wouldn't support Merulla's motion.

Merulla was baffled about Pasuta voting against an idea that wouldn't directly impact his ward. But "I'm not surprised because he's missed half the term anyway."

The line got a disapproving reaction from fellow councillors. Pasuta was off for several months this year because of a pair of farm injuries, including a bad fall off a tractor and a head injury.

Sam Merulla said he wouldn't apologize for the remark about Robert Pasuta because he was just stating a fact. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

The injury led to debilitating pain, and issues with concentration and short-term memory loss, Pasuta has said.

Mayor Fred Eisenberger called on Merulla to apologize. "Quite frankly, you should," he said. "That was low and unnecessary." Merulla said he was just stating a fact.

These are the ideas that will go to city council's public works committee:

  • An application system for discounted transit passes, and a system that allows community agencies can purchase transit passes at a price of two-for-one.
  • Invest in strategies that increase access to transit in rural areas by building on existing programs such as Trans-Cab.
  • Gearing the cost of transit to a riders' ability to pay, especially for residents in the lowest income brackets.
  • Different types of passes (weekly, day, and/or weekend) for low income residents, in addition to existing monthly affordable transit passes.
  • Possible fare-free transit or reduced fares to all residents.
Ron, a green-wing macaw, is one of the birds at the Hamilton Aviary whose future home is uncertain. (Friends of the Aviary/Facebook)

Here's what else council decided Wednesday:

  • Giving Hamilton Aviary volunteers until June to find a new home for the more than 60 colourful birds in their care. The Ontario SPCA has given the city until December to fix issues with mice and lighting in the decrepit building. The volunteer group Friends of the Aviary has a public meeting Thursday in Dundas.
  • Moving forward with a report on restoring the Cross of Lorraine, which formerly glowed red on the escarpment, to "its former glory." This was tabled at a previous meeting to consult with the Inuit community. 
  • Spending $2.5 million to battle a surging gypsy moth threat to Hamilton's trees. That includes dropping pesticide from a helicopter.
  • Dropping the Sulphur Springs artesian well from the city's list of items to worry about. Hamilton Conservation Authority has solved the problem by putting a fence around the well and charging people membership fees.
  • Satisfying a request by Orthodox Christians to rename Woodward Avenue from Melvin to Barton streets "Saint Sebastian Way."
  • A motion from Mayor Fred Eisenberger to enable fibreoptic technology along the light rail transit (LRT) route.

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About the Author

Samantha Craggs


Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She has a particular interest in politics and social justice stories, and tweets live from Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at