Hamilton·Hamilton Votes

Skelly and Bratina join mayoral candidate Sgro in anti-LRT telephone town hall

Two Hamilton politicians will join mayoral candidate Vito Sgro in a telephone town hall Wednesday to promote his anti-light rail transit (LRT) election platform.

Fred Eisenberger says he's not surprised

Mayoral candidate Vito Sgro is holding a telephone town hall Wednesday with MPP Donna Skelly and MP Bob Bratina. The event will promote his anti-LRT platform. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Two Hamilton politicians will join mayoral candidate Vito Sgro in a telephone town hall Wednesday to promote his anti-light rail transit (LRT) election platform.

Bob Bratina, Liberal MP for Hamilton East-Stoney Creek, and Donna Skelly, Flamborough-Glanbrook PC MPP, will join Sgro at 7 p.m. to answer questions about transit and LRT, Sgro said.

"We're going to get our platform out," he said. "And if people have questions, there are members of government there."

Sgro's opposition to LRT — and a PC promise that the money can be used for other projects — is a central plank in his campaign. Many of his signs read "Stop the train. Fix infrastructure."

The previous Liberal provincial government pledged $1 billion to build Hamilton's LRT, including the corresponding infrastructure work. On a campaign stop earlier this year, now-premier Doug Ford said that $1 billion can be used for other transit or infrastructure projects.

"I don’t think it’s the riveting issue some are trying to make it," says Fred Eisenberger of LRT. "Other issues are resonating a lot more." (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Sgro said the money should be spent on transit upgrades throughout the city. He also wants to see more express buses along the city-wide BLAST network route to build ridership for eventual rapid transit.

Incumbent Fred Eisenberger says BLAST is a rapid transit plan, and the planned LRT line is the first stage of extending rapid transit through the whole city. And B-line ridership is already sufficient for LRT, he said Tuesday.

LRT has been in the works since 2007. Metrolinx has a short list of consortiums bidding to design, build, finance, operate and maintain LRT. In August, the Ford government paused property acquisitions for the project.

Bratina and Skelly are long-time LRT opponents. Bratina is a former mayor, Skelly a former city councillor, now an MPP in Ford's provincial government.

Skelly said she's not endorsing Sgro. She's also not trying to sideline LRT. She's just there to hear residents' opinions.

"I'm also there to make sure it's made very clear that we're not going to be telling the city how to spend the money," she said.

Donna Skelly, MPP and former Hamilton city councillor, will participate in the virtual town hall. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Sgro uses a polling company called Prime Contact, he said. That's who extended the invitation to "tens of thousands" of people.

Eisenberger, meanwhile, is skeptical there's $1 billion available for Hamilton infrastructure projects. The project is being debt financed against future revenue, which means "there isn't $1 billion lying around."

As for the town hall, he said he's "not surprised."

Bratina and Skelly "have been no LRT folks right from the get go. Donna Skelly spent most of her time working against LRT when she was on council, as did Bob Bratina."

Eisenberger said in talking to residents, he doesn't even think LRT is that big of an election issue.

"I don't think it's the riveting issue some are trying to make it," he said. "Other issues are resonating a lot more."

Edward HC Graydon, Phil Ryerson, Nathalie Xian Yi Yan, Todd May, Carlos Gomes, Ricky Tavares, Ute Schmid-Jones, Paul Fromm, Jim Davis, Henry Geissler, Michael Pattison, George Rusich and Mark Wozny are also running for mayor in the Oct. 22 election.

Several participated in all-candidates events Tuesday in Waterdown and downtown Hamilton.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She often tweets about Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca

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