Let's confirm once and for all that we want LRT: Merulla

Sam Merulla asks: Do we want the province's $1 billion for LRT or not?

The Ward 4 councillor asks: Do we want the $1 billion for LRT or not?

This rendering shows LRT in the central lower city near Tim Hortons Field stadium. (City of Hamilton)

A pro-LRT city councillor wants other Hamilton councillors to reaffirm that they're in favour of the $1 billion light rail transit line.

Sam Merulla, Ward 4 councillor, will introduce a motion next week asking councillors to "reaffirm the acceptance of the $1 billion infrastructure and public transit investment from the Province of Ontario."

Last year, the province announced $1 billion, the full capital cost of the line that will run from McMaster University to the Queenston traffic circle, and down James Street North from King Street to the West Harbour GO station, and possibly the waterfront. Metrolinx is building the project with input from the city.

If the support's not there, (we) might as well know now.- Sam Merulla

But there have been signs of local political dissent lately. Coun. Chad Collins of Ward 5, for example, has been vocally opposing LRT – a stance he's called unpopular on council, or "15-1" – and used a #NOlrt hashtag in a tweet to Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca.

If city council doesn't support LRT, now is the time to deal with it, said Merulla. Otherwise, the city will have wasted time and energy on it.

"If the support's not there, (we) might as well know now." 

Jason Farr, Ward 2 councillor and LRT advocate, doesn't see it as a risky move. Neither does Lloyd Ferguson, Ancaster councillor, who says it's time to just build LRT.

Sometimes I'm just not so sure I want to support it anymore.- Coun. Rob Pasuta

"This is not for today," he said. "This is for the future. We've got to suck it up for future generations."

But Donna Skelly, Ward 7 councillor, says there should be a referendum. And Rob Pasuta, a Ward 14 councillor in Flamborough, says the closer it gets, the more he worries about its impact on businesses.

"Sometimes I'm just not so sure I want to support it anymore," he said.

Merulla's motion references "a growing perception" that city council "is not strongly in support" of accepting $1 billion.

He also says that "dysfunction and distraction" is counterproductive to the process of developing and building LRT.

Merulla will bring up the motion at a city council meeting next Wednesday. It could either be a notice of motion, which means council will vote on it on May 25, or he could try to have it voted on at Wednesday's meeting. 

Full text of Sam Merulla's motion:

Whereas the City of Hamilton has formally requested one billion dollars from the Province of Ontario for the sole purpose of infrastructure  redevelopment for Light Rapid Transit and

Whereas the present City Council has not reaffirmed its support for the Light Rapid Transit Project and

Whereas there is a growing perception that Hamilton City Council is not strongly in support of receiving the one billion dollars in infrastructure redevelopment for Light Rapid Transit and 

Whereas the dysfunction and distraction of the process of developing Light Rapid Transit  and receiving  the associated one billion dollars in infrastructure and public transit investment from the Government of Ontario with no local tax impact, without full knowledge of the commitment of Hamilton City Council, would be counterproductive. 

Therefore, be it resolved, that  Hamilton City Council reaffirm the acceptance of the one billion dollar infrastructure and public transit investment from the Province of Ontario. 

samantha.craggs@cbc.ca | @SamCraggsCBC


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