So what was that confab between Hamilton politicians and staff and Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca all about?
A simple meet and greet? A media-generated story blown out of proportion in the dog days of summer? Political opportunism?
How about all of the above.
As Mayor Bob Bratina pointed out, he has met in private about 35 times with numerous provincial politicians, including former transportation minister, now premier, Kathleen Wynne in his first month of office. Yet, this meeting, which had been officially approved by politicians in an earlier council motion, generated more notoriety than any previous municipal-provincial get-together stretching back to former mayor Larry Di Ianni meeting — in secret — with former Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty in 2003, soon after the municipal election.
The media, especially over-the-top bloggers, took the opportunity to showboat, raising the profile of the discussions, which was subsequently picked up by the light rail proponents as they argued for a place at the table, or at the very least to listen in on how the Liberals were going to fulfill the Holy Grail of funding 100 per cent of the cost of the $800-million LRT.
And then there were the politicians who couldn’t ignore an opportunity to make some rumblings to further their own agendas. Of course, Ward 4 councillor Sam Merulla was front and centre, calling the behind-closed-door meetings questionable and possibly illegal. The local NDP politicians were also “shocked” at what was transpiring that they entered the fray, with Hamilton Mountain NDP MPP Monique Taylor moving to file an application to the Ombudsman’s office accusing the meeting of violating the Municipal Act.
As for the meeting itself, by most accounts Hamilton representatives were pleased with what the transportation minister had to say. There were some discrepancies with what Del Duca’s message was about. He mentioned LRT in the meeting, but not during a media conference afterwards. He repeatedly stated in public there would be 100 per cent capital funding, but said only behind closed doors that the funding was for construction costs only.
So where does that leave Hamilton? Taxpayers are still going to foot the bill for what will be a very expensive transportation system that will have little to do with improving transporting people from one end of the city to the other. And it is still nearly a decade away from seeing a shovel in the ground. But what the LRT debate is slowly revealing is another Red Hill Creek Parkway adventure where the ongoing debate divides the city and alienates those who may benefit from the project from those who think it’s a terrible idea.
Was the meeting between the Minister of Transportation and the city important?
- Yes (50%, 16 Votes)
- No (50%, 16 Votes)
Total Voters: 32