Coun­cil­lors back union ap­peal for HSR to run LRT

Metrolinx of­fi­cial says city push could de­lay project; oth­ers worry it might de­rail LRT

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - CARMELA FRAGOMENI

City coun­cil­lors are back­ing HSR tran­sit work­ers in their push to op­er­ate and main­tain the pro­posed new pro­vin­cial Light Rapid Tran­sit line in Hamil­ton.

Coun­cil­lors at Wed­nes­day’s gen­eral is­sues com­mit­tee (GIC) voted 9 to 4 to ask Metrolinx to put the Hamil­ton Street Rail­way in charge of those two as­pects. (The vote goes to coun­cil for for­mal ap­proval on Au­gust 18.)

With­out this re­quest, the agree­ment would see Metrolinx choose a third party to de­sign, build — and op­er­ate and main­tain the LRT.

Metrolinx project lead An­drew Hope said af­ter­wards, how­ever, that the GIC vote will prob­a­bly de­lay the LRT “a few months at least” but also that the length of de­lay will have to be as­sessed once the prov­ince re­sponds.

The GIC vote was a vic­tory for HSR driv­ers, main­te­nance work­ers and ad­min­is­tra­tive staff, their Au­to­mated Tran­sit Union Lo­cal 107 — and the 5,000 rid­ers the union says signed a pe­ti­tion in sup­port.

About 150 of the 700 ATU mem­bers showed up at 8 a.m. at City Hall for a ‘Keep Tran­sit Pub­lic’ rally be­fore at­tend­ing the GIC meet­ing. Lo­cal 107 pres­i­dent Eric Tuck af­ter­wards praised the coun­cil­lors for “en­sur­ing tran­sit work­ers have jobs for the fu­ture” and for keep­ing the LRT op­er­a­tion pub­lic rather than pri­va­tized.

But the GIC vote was far from unan­i­mous af­ter con­cerns were raised this could de­lay the LRT project or even de­rail it en­tirely.

“By sup­port­ing this mo­tion, we are tak­ing a risk that if another (pro­vin­cial po­lit­i­cal) party is elected and changes course, it could can­cel this (LRT),” said

Coun. Lloyd Ferguson.

“I think we’re open­ing a huge can of worms. Is there a pos­si­bil­ity the prov­ince could pull back on the project?”

Hope, at the meet­ing for Metrolinx, re­sponded “I won’t say how the prov­ince will re­act,” adding “It would be a de­par­ture from other LRT projects in the prov­ince.”

The GIC heard, how­ever, that the tran­sit sys­tems in Toronto and Ottawa op­er­ate the LRTs in their cities, although they don’t do the main­te­nance.

Elim­i­nat­ing main­te­nance ap­pealed to Mayor Fred Eisen­berger and Coun. Judi Par­tridge.

“I’m wor­ried about the main­te­nance be­cause we’re not the de­signer and builder,” Eisen­berger said. He pointed out that the city is re­spon­si­ble for main­te­nance of the sta­dium although it was de­signed and built by a third party (In­fra­struc­ture On­tario) which dumped a host of struc­tural prob­lems in the city’s lap.

Par­tridge added “the main­te­nance part (of LRT) could be a huge cost to us”.

Eisen­berger in­tro­duced an amend­ment to re­move main­te­nance from the mo­tion, but it was de­feated.

He hoped the mo­tion to have HSR op­er­ate and main­tain the LRT was not be­ing used to de­rail or de­lay the LRT even more than it al­ready has been, he said.

Other coun­cil­lors were very sup­port­ive of the mo­tion.

Coun. Matthew Green, who brought the mo­tion, said the City is still in the ne­go­ti­a­tions phase with Metrolinx and the mem­o­ran­dum of agree­ment has lan­guage that al­lows the City to make the ar­gu­ment that HSR should op­er­ate and main­tain it.

“I don’t buy the fear and gloom that this is go­ing to take it off track,” he said.

The op­er­a­tors of the LRT de­serve great pay­ing jobs and ben­e­fits, but he wasn’t clear that would be the case if a pri­vate com­pany ran the LRT, he added.

At the rally ear­lier, he told the crowd “I put my name on the good jobs and ca­reers it would bring to the city … There is a re­sound­ing sup­port that we need to … keep tran­sit pub­lic.”

Hamil­ton Dis­trict Labour Coun­cil pres­i­dent Anthony Marco said the LRT is an op­por­tu­nity to also bring good jobs with union wages to Hamil­ton.

He said it was time to send Pre­mier Kath­leen Wynne a mes­sage that Hamil­ton wants the LRT in­vest­ment, but also wants good jobs — and not the pre­car­i­ous, low wage ones that are be­com­ing so com­mon in the prov­ince.

Mem­bers of Amal­ga­mated Tran­sit Union Lo­cal 107 at a Keep Tran­sit Pub­lic rally at Hamil­ton City Hall Wed­nes­day morn­ing.

SCOTT GARD­NER, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

Hamil­ton City Coun­cil­lor Matthew Green speaks at a Keep Tran­sit Pub­lic rally hosted by the Amal­ga­mated Tran­sit Union Lo­cal 107 at Hamil­ton City Hall be­fore en­ter­ing coun­cil cham­bers for a com­mit­tee meet­ing on Wed­nes­day. He backed the ATU ap­peal and put for­ward a mo­tion.

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