Eisen­berger clashes with Bratina over LRT

Blasts ex-mayor for re­marks against plan

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - MATTHEW VAN DONGEN

Hamil­ton’s mayor has re­turned fire in a pub­lic war of words over LRT with pre­de­ces­sor Bob Bratina, call­ing the Lib­eral MP’s editorial crit­i­ciz­ing the project a “great dis­ser­vice” to the city.

Mayor Fred Eisen­berger was re­spond­ing to an opin­ion piece in Wed­nes­day’s Spec­ta­tor writ­ten by his for­mer coun­cil col­league — and some­times po­lit­i­cal foe — that crit­i­cized the “dys­func­tion­al­ity” of coun­cil and sug­gested mem­bers could “re­visit” the provin­cially funded light rail tran­sit plan.

Bratina’s pub­lic sally against LRT came two weeks af­ter coun­cil de­cided to con­tinue with LRT fol­low­ing an ag­o­niz­ing de­bate.

Given that de­ci­sion, “to have him at­tempt to throw a wrench in the works now is un­for­tu­nate and un­nec­es­sary,” said Eisen­berger fol­low­ing Wed­nes­day’s coun­cil meet­ing. “I don’t know why he put it out there, but I felt it ap­pro­pri­ate to re­spond.”

In a widely dis­trib­uted state­ment, the mayor re­jected Bratina’s ar­gu­ments against the 14–kilo­me­tre planned line be­tween Mc-

Mas­ter Univer­sity and East­gate Square.

“Rather than de-rail­ing Hamil­ton’s renaissance, as Mr. Bratina al­leges, our LRT project is pro­pel­ling it for­ward,” he wrote.

The mayor sug­gested it’s not too late for Bratina, a long­time LRT skep­tic, to “join the team.”

But at the same time, Eisen­berger sug­gested the MP seems “to have grown tired of fed­eral is­sues” and ac­cused him of be­ing “un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally silent” on im­por­tant fed­eral is­sues to Hamil­ton like the fate of pen­sion­ers un­der the Stelco court-or­dered re­struc­tur­ing process.

Bratina was in Ot­tawa Wed­nes­day and The Spec­ta­tor was un­able to im­me­di­ately reach him by email or phone.

But in his opin­ion piece, Bratina com­pared the cur­rent “dys­func­tion­al­ity” of coun­cil with the “near-una­nim­ity” among coun­cil­lors for big projects un­der his lead­er­ship.

Bratina, who was crit­i­cized by LRT fans dur­ing his may­oral term for pri­or­i­tiz­ing GO tran­sit im­prove­ments over light rail, said in his op-ed the project is con­tribut­ing to un­healthy di­vi­sion on coun­cil and in the city.

“The no­tion that a light rail tran­sit sys­tem ... should oc­cupy most of the en­ergy of our City for the next ten years in my opin­ion would re­verse the mo­men­tum we are now ex­pe­ri­enc­ing,” he wrote.

Bratina also ref­er­enced Eisen­berger’s re­cent mus­ings about may­oral veto pow­ers, sug­gest­ing such a move would only “fur­ther di­min­ish the voices of our sub­ur­ban ward coun­cil­lors.”

It’s not clear why Bratina chose to go pub­lic with pointed LRT crit­i­cism now, af­ter the lat­est piv­otal coun­cil vote. The next time coun­cil can vote to kill the project is likely in 2018, when an op­er­at­ing agree­ment is pre­sented by Metrolinx.

Bratina did tell the Hamil­to­nian in April, how­ever, that “coun­cil should now con­sider pre­sent­ing op­tions that ben­e­fit all area rid­ings based on the Pre­mier’s com­mit­ment to Hamil­ton tran­sit fund­ing” as a re­sult of a poll com­mis­sioned by coun­cil­lors that showed a slim ma­jor­ity of polled res­i­dents op­posed LRT.

The fed­eral Lib­eral gov­ern­ment came to power vow­ing to spend big on tran­sit and Eisen­berger specif­i­cally brought up LRT and pos­si­ble add-on fund­ing dur­ing a meet­ing at City Hall with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last year.

Eisen­berger said he isn’t con­cerned about Bratina’s opin­ion af­fect­ing the city’s chances to ob­tain fed­eral cash for fu­ture rapid tran­sit.

The Prime Minister’s Of­fice didn’t re­spond di­rectly when asked if Bratina’s opin­ion on LRT rep­re­sents the view of the fed­eral Lib­eral gov­ern­ment, in­stead for­ward­ing the ques­tion to In­fra­struc­ture Canada.

“The gov­ern­ment’s po­si­tion is that we sup­port the pub­lic tran­sit de­ci­sions made at the lo­cal level and work with our part­ners to move those pri­or­i­ties for­ward,” min­istry spokesper­son Brook Simp­son said in a late email.

Some coun­cil­lors de­clined to weigh in on the LRT-in­spired ex­change.

But Coun. Matthew Green didn’t hold back on Twit­ter af­ter see­ing Bratina’s op-ed pub­lished on­line. “I can’t even be­gin to count how many sides of his mouth @BobBratina speaks from,” he wrote in a self-de­scribed “rant” of tweets.

Lib­eral MP Bob Bratina

Mayor Fred Eisen­berger

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.