By Kevin Werner, News Staff
Hamilton’s council needs a new face, with fresh ideas, and a willingness to work with the ward politicians to get things done.
“There are some of the same old faces around council,” says Ejaz Butt, a mountain resident. “It’s time someone from the diverse community showed how we can do things.”
Butt this week filed his papers to run for mayor and challenge the more experienced candidates that have already registered.
But the 62-year-old taxi cab operator isn’t intimated by what he’s up against. In fact, he’s confident he can win the mayor’s chair in this fall’s municipal election.
“I came from the bottom,” he said. “I don’t think there is anybody on council with that kind of experience.”
Butt says this will be the first time a person from the East Asian community is running for mayor, which he believes will be a key factor in garnering support for his campaign.
“I want people from other countries living here to be pro-active in the political system,” said Butt. “I am encouraging them to get involved.”
Butt will be running against a who’s who of local political experience with Ward 1 councillor Brian McHattie, Stoney Creek councillor Brad Clark, former Hamilton alderman Don Ross, and former mayor Fred Eisenberger. Also running for mayor is Michael Baldasaro and resident Crystal Lavigne.
Butt arrived in Hamilton from Pakistan in 1987, and never left. He got involved in the taxi business with Hamilton Taxi Cab, and raised two sons. Butt became president of the Muslim Association of Hamilton, and in 2011 became president of the Ontario Taxi Workers Union.
“I have a different way of doing things,” acknowledged Butt. “Criticism doesn’t affect me. I start something, I complete it.”
He calls Mayor Bob Bratina an honest person, but unable to “get along well” with other councillors.
“I would compromise with those councillors,” he said.
Some people would have a different perspective on Butt’s ability to work with people.
Over the last 18 months Butt has been in a dispute with the Taxi Workers Union. Last summer he was ousted by the union, but in January 2014 an Ontario Superior Court judge ruled the union’s board of directors didn’t follow the rules and re-instated Butt as president.
But last month an OTWU membership vote saw Butt removed as president by 95 per cent.
“He is officially removed as president,” said Ali Naimpoor, vice-president of the OTUW, and now president. “We didn’t want him. This is a democracy.”
Butt disagrees, saying he is still the president of the OTUW.
“I’m fighting back,” he said.
Butt’s agenda, if he becomes mayor, includes building the light-rail transit, but only from McMaster University to Eastgate Square.
“Mountain residents don’t want it, but the downtown people want it,” he said.
He wants to crack down on social service programs, arguing “millions of dollars” can be saved from people abusing the system. The city’s spending habit needs to be reigned in and he calls taxes “ridiculous” even at an average of 1.5 per cent year. Instead, zero per cent should be the goal, he said.
One proposal he has is exempting people older than 65, earning less than $15,000 annually, and owning their homes, from paying property taxes.
“They should live a stress-free life,” he said.
This is the first time Butt has entered a political contest. After helping to build the mosque on the mountain, and forming the taxi union, something that people said was impossible, Butt wants to do something for his adopted city.
“I love this city. This is my home,” he said. “People are the best judge. But I’m confident I will be elected.”