By Kevin Werner, News Staff
Queen’s Park is going to hear a lot more from Hamilton, whether it likes it or not.
City councillors agreed at their Oct. 2 general issues committee meeting they have to meet with provincial ministers more often and lobby on behalf of the city as a group and not just allow the mayor to speak on behalf of the city.
“We want to do government relations with the mayor and council,” said Ward 1 councillor Brian McHattie.
The idea includes holding a so-called Hamilton Day at Queen’s Park where members of council talk to various ministers about specific issues, such as transportation, infrastructure and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. McHattie’s motion also includes holding a special general issues committee meeting to outline the city’s past lobbying strategy, and proposals for future discussions with provincial officials.
Stoney Creek councillor Brad Clark, a former minister in the Progressive Conservative government of Mike Harris, urged his colleagues to create a specific strategy, while providing relevant information to the government for help. He said if the city simple asks for more money, the Liberals will respond it has already givenHamiltonmore money than any other municipality for projects.
“There needs to be some sense of strategy of how we go,” he said. “We need to go to Queen’s Park and have those one-on-one meetings. It’s pragmatic, and prudent to proceed.”
Over the course of this council term, politicians have been upset at the city’s poor intergovernmental relations policy. Twice council has rebuked Mayor Bob Bratina over how he has represented the city at Queen’s Park over the light-rail transit issue. Councillors have also grumbled that the mayor hasn’t fought on behalf of the city enough, giving in too easily to senior levels of governments.
Bratina said he backed the more aggressive lobbying strategy. But he said the city should communicate more with the area’s MPPs, including Ted McMeekin, a Liberal cabinet ministers, NDP leader Andrea Horwath, and Tory leader Tim Hudak.
“We are dependent on them,” said Bratina.
Clark, though, was dismissive o fHamilton’s area MPPs. Horwath, he said, has in the past raised issues about Hamilton, while McMeekin has sometimes done it as well.
“He will not jump in the middle of a freight train” on behalf of Hamilton, said Clark.
Hudak, he said, has never raised an issue on behalf ofHamilton, even though a portion of his riding includes Stoney Creek and Glanbrook.
“They are partisan politicians and follow their leaders,” said Clark.
Ward 8 councillor Terry Whitehead, who has worked at Queen’s Park, and with former mayor Bob Morrow, said as far as he knows at no time hasHamiltoneven made a presentation to an all-party standing committee on any number of issues vital to the city’s interest.
“I would like to see our activity expanded to keep in touch,” he said.
City Manager Chris Murray said Hamilton’s senior staff is already making connections toQueenPark’s representatives. He said meetings are being scheduled to talk about city interests.
“This is just the beginning,” he said.