City is finally ready to move forward on LRT, Eisenberger says after election win
Mayor Fred Eisenberger spoke with the CBC's Adam Carter live on Tuesday
The day after a hotly contested election win on one of the city's most divisive issues, Mayor Fred Eisenberger says Hamilton has given him a clear mandate: we want LRT.
The third term mayor was reticent to run a campaign solely focused on light rail transit, but in the wake of his win, Eisenberger was much more inclined to call the election a kind of referendum with challenger Vito Sgro almost solely focusing on the project.
"They did make it a quasi-referendum on LRT and I'm going to accept it as that. And so the message from the citizens at large last night was pretty overwhelming," Eisenberger said during a live interview with CBC News Tuesday. "Seventy-five thousand people indicated that they are supportive of the vision that I've put out for our city, which includes LRT.
"They came out in strong numbers to say we agree, we think this is the right project for the city of Hamilton, and let's move forward … The reality is we've had 10 years of analysis, review, [and] approvals on this project and currently it's out for tender. So this is not something that's in the 'what if' stage, we need to now just see it through."
Eisenberger said he now plans to "hold the province to their commitment" to fund LRT.
In a previous comment to the Sgro campaign, transportation minister John Yakabuski said the province "will ensure Hamilton gets the money it needs for transit or infrastructure. Our government will wait and see what the city's transit priorities are after the municipal election, and whether it is for the $1 billion LRT project or other projects that council wants, the Ontario Government will be there with funding."
In his concession speech, Sgro said despite his loss, the number of anti-LRT councillors elected means the "referendum" result touted by Eisenberger is not as clear as he suggests.
"It is a very divisive issue, I don't think it's solved yet. If anyone thinks this is over, this is far from over... if you think this is a done deal it's not," he said.
Several councillors, including Judi Partridge, Brad Clark and Terry Whitehead, endorsed Sgro for mayor.
Eisenberger, for his part, told CBC News that he believes council will be able to work together on the project.
"I am able to work with anyone that has at heart the interests of the city of Hamilton first and foremost in their minds," he said. "If we're going to continue to be parochial, [and] 'I'm only going to care about my particular area,' then we're going to have some challenges. But I anticipate and expect, given the strength of the vote yesterday, that this parochial approach will end, and we'll all come together and work in the best interests of the city of Hamilton."