By Kevin Werner, News Staff
Hamilton politicians are locked into continuing the city’s $75-million lawsuit against the federal government because it’s probably too expensive to pull out after 10 years.
But councillors decided to try and turn the tables on the Canadian government, after publicly releasing its legal costs at their Jan. 27 general issues committee meeting under a threat of a freedom of information request. The city’s expenses have now totaled just over $3 million. The cost includes the $309,885 cost after a 2011 judge’s ruling, and $32,864 in HST.
Politicians approved a motion to seek the federal government’s legal costs in its battle with the city through their own FOI appeal.
“This motion is unprecedented,” said Stoney Creek councillor Brad Clark. “The feds don’t have to offer up their numbers. (But) it’s important we file the FOI.”
Even though he believes the lawsuit is wrong, Ward 1 councillor Brian McHattie withdrew his motion requesting the city end its lawsuit against the federal government.
The councillor was prepared to introduce his motion prior to politicians holding nearly a four-hour incamera meeting to discuss the issue with its lawyers. But after hearing from the city’s solicitor overseeing the case, David Estrin, McHattie decided to pull his motion.
“The incamera session was all about (the legal issues),” said McHattie. “The risk we may put the city in, I don’t want to put the city in that position.”
He said it could cost the city even more money if Hamilton ends its lawsuit. The lawyer said the federal government could seek legal action against Hamilton to recover its costs in the costly court action.
McHattie was one of the seven politicians who voted against initiating the lawsuit in 2004. The vote was 8-7, with councillor Bill Kelly absent.
“I still have questions about whether Estrin will be successful,” said McHattie. “It’s still a crap shoot in my mind.”
The city’s legal action was laid against the federal government, employees and former Hamilton East Liberal MP Sheila Copps. The city alleges there was a conspiracy by some members of the federal government to stop the Red Hill Parkwayconstruction.
Estrin said at the time Hamilton’s legal case was “unique,” and it had a good chance of succeeding.
TheRed Hill Parkway, after nearly 50 years of delays, was completed in 2007.
Clarkwas unsettled the city was voluntarily releasing how much money it has spent on the lawsuit. He said the federal government could get a legal advantage overHamiltonthrough the information.
He said the city was doing it because of a judgment made by the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner ofOntario.
“This is quite concerning,” he said. “It does handicap municipalities.”