Dave MacDonald wants to fight LRT, 6 months after saying he wouldn't

Waterloo mayoral candidate Dave MacDonald says light rail transit in the region should be stopped, six months after he told CBC News he didn't see any advantage in 'trying to push against it any longer.'
Dave MacDonald, second from right, says the LRT will be a massive burden on taxpayers for years to come with little return. (Matthew Kang/CBC)

Waterloo mayoral candidate Dave MacDonald says light rail transit in the region should be stopped, six months after he told CBC News he didn't see any advantage in  'trying to push against it any longer.'

MacDonald had called for a referendum on LRT development in Waterloo Region before the province signed a $300-million commitment with the region for the ION system in March.

Just after the deal was signed, though, MacDonald said the province and the region had said no to a referendum, "so I think we just need to move forward and put the issue behind us," adding there was "no point in beating a dead horse."

"We need to look at other issues that will come up during the mayoral campaign," he said at the time.

"The best thing we can do going forward is try to make the transition and the construction that's going to take place ... as easy a transition as we can [for] the businesses that will be affected."

However on Thursday night, MacDonald called for a stop to the LRT repeatedly at an all-candidates question-and-answer session at the Waterloo Memorial Recreation Complex.

When asked about the change, MacDonald said his opinion of LRT has always stayed the same.

"I simply said [in March] it doesn't look like we're going to get a referendum, there's no sense in fighting for a referendum because everything is done in that respect," said MacDonald, the general manager of Faith FM, a faith-based radio station in Kitchener.

"But now that we have a number of candidates who are running on an anti-LRT platform, or at least they're against and willing to look at revising it, this election becomes the referendum," he told CBC News after the forum.

Some of those candidates MacDonald is referring to include Jay Aissa, who is running for regional chair. Cambridge mayoral incumbent Doug Craig has also been vocal about his displeasure that taxpayers in the city will have to contribute to the LRT, even though it may be many years before light rail is extended to Cambridge.

'I really do believe it can be successful'

Feedback from MacDonald's rivals in the mayoral race on his LRT statements was mixed.

"Not too surprised," said Rami Said. "Down the road, if we find [LRT] doesn't work, there are options we can go, we don't always have to stay the course."

"But right now, if you look at solely in terms of cost, it's cheaper to keep going than stop." he added.

But Erika Traub says she was surprised to hear MacDonald revisit the idea of stopping the LRT.

"Today the reference was the election would be a referendum. I don't share that view," said Traub. "I think we need to face the challenges going forward with the LRT."

As for Dave Jaworsky, he says he anticipated the LRT would come up once again during the election campaign as a way to prey on people's fears of a major infrastructure project.

"I really do believe it can be successful," said Jaworsky. "What I'm not hearing from other people is what are the alternatives."