Doug Ford says if Hamilton's mayor wants LRT, he'll get LRT
'If someone gets elected, let 'em govern,' Ford said of Fred Eisenberger and his pro-LRT platform
Premier Doug Ford says if Hamilton's mayor wants a light rail transit (LRT) system, he's going to get one.
Ford visited Grimsby Wednesday to announce money for West Lincoln Memorial Hospital. He also told reporters he's still committed to Hamilton's planned LRT system. The province, under the previous Liberals, committed $1 billion to build it.
I go back to democracy. If someone gets elected, let 'em govern.- Premier Doug Ford
Ford said residents elected Mayor Fred Eisenberger in October. He hopes to meet with Eisenberger before the legislature breaks for the holiday season.
"I'm a strong believer, he was democratically elected," Ford said.
"When people democratically elect someone, if he wants an LRT, he's gonna get an LRT. I know that it's a tough issue in Hamilton. That city's almost split if they want an LRT or not. But I go back to democracy. If someone gets elected, let 'em govern."
Those are positive comments for those in favour of the system, which will run alternately down Main and King streets from McMaster University to Eastgate Square.
Kathleen Wynne's Liberals pledged the money in 2015, and planning has started. But when Ford's Ontario PC party was elected in June, some wondered if the promise would hold. This is especially true since the PCs have focused on cutting costs, and have pulled major projects in other ridings.
Since 2007, Metrolinx has committed $170 million to the project, and spent $118 million of that. Of the money already spent, $49 million has gone toward buying properties for LRT. In August, Ford paused future land purchases.
Ford and Donna Skelly, MPP for Flamborough-Glanbrook, have said numerous times since that the $1 billion is still available. Ford added a wrinkle, though, by saying it could be used for LRT or other transit or infrastructure projects.
'I'm ready to meet'
Eisenberger's main challenger in the October municipal election, Vito Sgro, campaigned against LRT, saying the money should be used on other infrastructure. Sgro characterized the election as a de facto referendum on LRT. Eisenberger won with 54.03 per cent of the vote, or 74,093 votes to Sgro's 52,190.
Thrilled to hear <a href="https://twitter.com/fordnation?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@fordnation</a> confirm provincial support of the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/HamOnt?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#HamOnt</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/LRT?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#LRT</a> today. Looking forward to meeting & discussing next steps in this project! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/HamOnt?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#HamOnt</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/LRTReady?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#LRTReady</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/FullSteamAhead?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#FullSteamAhead</a>—@HamiltonsMayor
Eisenberger said he was "very pleased" to hear Ford's comments.
"I'm ready to meet whenever they're ready to meet," he said. "I'm ready, willing and able."
Several newly elected and returning city councillors have said they'd rather see money invested elsewhere. Eisenberger said he doesn't think another council vote is required, though.
"If the province says 'let's go and keep going,' then we're going to keep going," he said. "I don't see a need to have an alternate vote at this point, unless something dramatic happens that changes the parameters. I'm comfortable with an indicator from the province that they're prepared to move forward on this."
LRT will bring jobs, chamber says
The next major LRT-related vote will likely be a master agreement between Metrolinx and the city, which will be sometime next year. City staff have said that vote will be a legally binding commitment to the project.
Keanin Loomis, president of the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, was heartened by Ford's comments too.
"It's clear to me that Premier Ford is committed to making the province, including Hamilton, open for business," Loomis said.
"The chamber has advocated for the business case for B-Line LRT for years, due to the development it will unlock and the jobs it would create, and we look forward to continue working with the provincial and municipal governments in the roll out of this project."
At the Grimsby announcement, Ford pledged $8.5 million for interim improvements to the aging hospital, as well as $500,000 grant to pay for early planning to build a new hospital.