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Look at creative ways to pitch in for LRT, task force says

A Hamilton Chamber of Commerce task force is urging some creative methods for the city to pay for light rail transit should it have to pitch in some money for the project.
If the province wants the city to pitch in money for LRT, the city should look at creative ways to do it, a chamber of commerce task force says. (City of Hamilton)

A Hamilton Chamber of Commerce task force is urging the city look at some creative methods to pay for light rail transit should it have to pitch in for the project.

On Wednesday, the task force that includes three city councillors voted to ask the province to allow “alternative funding strategies” should the city have to kick in money for the $800-million LRT project from Eastgate Square to McMaster University.

Specifically, the task force wants the city to look at “value capture” methods — quantifying what sort of economic benefits are coming from development along the line, and using that to help pay for the project.

The province will release its budget next week, with an expected announcement about LRT in Hamilton, said Keanin Loomis, president and CEO of the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce. And all indications show that Hamilton will have to contribute money somehow.

“We know there’s going to be a local contribution required,” Loomis said. “That’s what we know. So we’re trying to come up with a pragmatic solution.”

Some saw the resolution as contradicting council’s position that it wants the province to fully fund LRT. Loomis says it doesn’t.

“We’re saying if we have to provide a contribution, let’s look at tax incremental financing.”

Coun. Brian McHattie, a task force member, says the motion contains specific wording saying that it wants the province to fully fund LRT.

But if the province offers the lion’s share of the money, he wants to look at value capture funding to bridge the gap.

“If the province comes forward and says it has 90 per cent of the funding instead of 100 per cent, we can use the value capture amount of money as the local contribution,” he said.

LRT would bring economic benefits in the form of new taxes, development charges and other “economic upswing,” he said. He wants the city to use that if the province wants a financial contribution.

Coun. Jason Farr also voted in favour with the understanding that it would be money that came from LRT-inspired growth.

The resolution also urges the city to meet with Glen Murray, Minister of Transportation, to discuss the city’s request for LRT.

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