By Kevin Werner, News Staff
If Hamilton is to reach the level of success that other mid-sized Canadian cities are basking in, then the city needs a mayor who will provide the necessary leadership, says Ward 1 councillor Brian McHattie.
“It’s a critical time for Hamilton,” said McHattie, 53, elected in 2003, who became the first candidate to register for the mayoral race Jan. 2. “It’s a critical time for me to step up and play a different role in this city and that’s a leadership role for mayor.”
He pointed out the current mayor, Bob Bratina, has a style that excludes other councillors, while he goes it alone when it comes to governing.
“The mayor is a bit of a funny mayor,” said McHattie. “He really hasn’t been that involved with council. He hasn’t really been that involved in city issues. It’s not clear to (council) what he is doing at Queen’s Park or Ottawa.”
Except for helping to solve where to build the new Pan Am stadium, McHattie says any policy success the city has made over the last three years should be laid at the feet of council, and not the mayor.
“He hasn’t included us as councillors. I haven’t been able to play a role with him. If we had the mayor working with council we could fast forward Hamilton from where we are now to a much greater point,” he said. “That’s a huge change when I become mayor.”
McHattie, accompanied by his wife Dr. Elaine Blau, and son Mitchell, and supported by over 30 appreciative friends, wants Hamilton to become the next “it” city, ahead of other progressive, mid-size communities such as Calgary, Edmonton, and Winnipeg.
“(Hamilton) is set to lead,” said McHattie.
Also registering for the mayoral race soon after McHattie was Michael Baldasaro who finished fourth in the 2010 election. Bratina is expected to announce his candidacy soon after he completes “a few things,” he said. Other names that have been talked about as entering the race include former mayor Fred Eisenberger.
Along with creating a more cooperative leadership style, McHattie outlined a few general themes of his campaign, including building stronger neighbourhoods; creating living wage jobs; establishing an open and responsive municipality, especially for developers who he says have been mistreated by city staff; improving the city’s health, including overseeing the delisting of Hamilton Harbour from the International Joint Commission’s Area of Concern list of toxic hot spots; and growing the city.
Although aware of Hamilton’s rising debit problem which is scheduled to reach about $1 billion by 2015, McHattie is more focused on increasing the city’s revenues. That means attracting more people and businesses to the city, he said, and not boosting taxes.
He remains committed to keeping taxes at two per cent or lower during his term.
McHattie, who has pushed hard for sustainable development, says he will not re-fight the emotional issues of expanding the city’s urban boundaries, such as in Winona, and the aerotropolis, he said. Still, for the airport lands, McHattie says he will continue to make sure the employment lands’ footprint doesn’t increase.
McHattie acknowledged while he is well known in the urban area of Hamilton, he may not be a household name in the suburban and rural areas of the city. He hopes that will change.
“I think I’m known more as an urban guy in the city,” he said.
He pointed out he has studied rural planning and understands small-town issues. But over the next four months in what will be a 10-month-long campaign, McHattie wants to meet with anybody who wants to sit down and discuss issues. Those discussions, he said, will help shape his campaign platform that he will release later in the year. It was one reason why he registered on the first day candidates were able to on Jan. 2. McHattie pointed out when he unseated incumbent Ward 1 candidate Marvin Caplan a decade ago he registered on Jan. 2 as well. By registering early, candidates can also begin raising money for their campaign.
McHattie will be officially kicking off his mayoral campaign later in January at a “significant venue.”
Over the course of his council elections he has managed to increase the number of votes, receiving 5,373 votes in 2010 well ahead of Tony Greco’s 2,187 votes.
McHattie did run for mayor in 1997, challenging incumbent mayor Bob Morrow, but he finished fourth.
In the 2010 mayoral race Bratina emerged from a crowded field of 15 candidates to win, taking 52,684 votes, followed by former mayor Larry Di Ianni with 40,091 and incumbent mayor Fred Eisenberger third at 38,719.
Candidates can register for the Oct. 27 municipality election up to Sept. 12. It will cost mayoral candidates $200 to register, and $100 for council candidates.