Hamilton

Provincial budget confirms - again - that Hamilton will get LRT

It's yet another sure sign the province is committed to paying for Hamilton's $1 billion light rail transit (LRT) system — it's mentioned in the provincial budget.

The budget 'leaves no room for further questions' about the future of LRT, says chamber president

It's yet another sure sign the province is committed to paying for Hamilton's $1 billion light rail transit (LRT) system — it's mentioned in the provincial budget.

The provincial PCs unveiled their first budget Thursday, which included a few references to Hamilton. The biggest was "$1 billion towards 14 kilometres of new light rail from McMaster University through downtown Hamilton to Eastgate Square."

Mayor Fred Eisenberger said it's another "very positive confirmation" that LRT will happen.

"I was very pleased to see the commitment confirmed to the Hamilton LRT."

It's not the first. The former Liberal government gave the commitment in 2015. The Doug Ford PCs temporarily paused Metrolinx buying property for the project last summer.

But Ford said in a Grimsby stop in November that the reelection of a pro-LRT mayor showed the city wanted the project. And in late March, the province gave Metrolinx the nod to start buying land again. The request for proposals for a consortium to design, build, finance, operate and maintain the system closes in September. 

The budget "leaves no room for further questions," said Keanin Loomis, president of the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce. "We are moving forward with the project."

Donna Skelly, PC MPP for Flamborough-Glanbrook, said there were skeptics, but the province is keeping its LRT promise. 

The budget in general, she said, is "an even-handed approach to balancing the budget" while "protecting public health care and education."

"The entire budget is good for Hamilton," she said. 

Eisenberger thought it was an even-handed budget too. So far, he said, he hasn't seen any bad news in it for the city.

"I think people will be surprised it wasn't a draconian cut budget," he said. "I think they've nicely balanced some key investments with some changes."

Sandy Shaw, NDP MPP for Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas, saw it differently. She's the finance critic for the official opposition.

It contains health care spending below the rate of inflation, she said, and does little to address Hamilton's lack of affordable housing.

The budget also contained no mentions of child poverty, she said, and 35 references to alcohol.

About the Author

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 samantha.craggs@cbc.ca

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