Hor­wath says city could use LRT cash for other tran­sit

NDP leader says she’d be un­happy if coun­cil killed LRT, but said it’s up to coun­cil to de­cide pri­or­i­ties

The Hamilton Spectator - - Front Page - EMMA REILLY

An­drea Hor­wath says she would give Hamil­ton city coun­cil $1 bil­lion for any tran­sit project — not just LRT — if she is elected premier on June 7.

The NDP leader and Hamil­ton Cen­tre MPP said while she would per­son­ally pre­fer to see an LRT sys­tem in Hamil­ton, she said an NDP gov­ern­ment wouldn’t force city coun­cil to build it. In­stead, she says that coun­cil could use the $1 bil­lion ear­marked for LRT on any tran­sit-re­lated project.

“The re­al­ity is, the prov­ince shouldn’t be de­cid­ing what mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties choose to do with their tran­sit sys­tems,” she said. “I would cry; I would be un­happy; it would make me sad, be­cause I’m a sup­porter of the LRT and al­ways have been — but it’s im­por­tant to ac­knowl­edge that the mu­nic­i­pal or­der of gov­ern­ment has these re­spon­si­bil­i­ties in terms of en­vi­sion­ing the tran­sit projects for their cities.”

The bomb­shell com­ment sets up a sharp con­trast be­tween the three ma­jor party lead­ers when it comes to the di­vi­sive sub­ject of LRT.

Premier Kath­leen Wynne’s Lib­eral gov­ern­ment has agreed to pay for the

$1-bil­lion LRT line, but the cash would be re­voked if coun­cil voted to kill the project. PC Leader Doug Ford has said that Hamil­ton could keep the $1 bil­lion in LRT money to spend on gen­eral in­fra­struc­ture, even if coun­cil de­cides to switch gears and aban­don the project.

Hor­wath’s prom­ise, made at an ed­i­to­rial board meet­ing at The Spec­ta­tor on Thurs­day af­ter­noon, sees Hor­wath stak­ing out a mid­dle ground. The sur­prise an­nounce­ment has the po­ten­tial to anger some NDP stal­warts, many of whom are LRT ad­vo­cates, but also to woo vot­ers who are un­sure about the mas­sive tran­sit project.

Hor­wath says she has faith that Hamil­ton coun­cil­lors would take into ac­count the years of plan­ning and the mil­lions of dol­lars that have al­ready been poured into LRT — in­clud­ing the ex­pro­pri­a­tion of homes along the planned route — when mak­ing their de­ci­sion.

“I would hope that the mu­nic­i­pal de­ci­sion-mak­ers would be re­spon­si­ble in terms of switch­ing tracks — par­don the pun,” she said. “I don’t think it’s the premier’s re­spon­si­bil­ity to dictate that lo­cal de­ci­sion-mak­ing. You have to draw the line and ac­knowl­edge that these folks get elected at the lo­cal level to make the lo­cal de­ci­sions.”

In her 50-minute con­ver­sa­tion with the ed­i­to­rial board, Hor­wath also touched on the fol­low­ing issues (edited for space and clar­ity):

On why the NDP didn’t launch an in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion into MPPs Paul Miller and Monique Tay­lor af­ter ha­rass­ment al­le­ga­tions were lev­elled against them:

“My un­der­stand­ing is that there was an of­fer to have an in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion, but that’s some­thing the par­ties needed to

agree to in terms of the com­plainants, and they pre­ferred to go through the other av­enues — which is the griev­ance pro­ce­dure, as well as the Hu­man Rights Tri­bunal. My un­der­stand­ing from the HR depart­ment was that they made that of­fer, but it was not some­thing that the com­plainants wanted to pur­sue.”

On whether the NDP can shake the spec­tre of a Bob Rae gov­ern­ment:

“It’s not 1990 any­more. There are many peo­ple who will be vot­ing in this elec­tion who weren’t even alive when Bob Rae formed a gov­ern­ment, and I’m no Bob Rae. I have a dif­fer­ent vi­sion, a dif­fer­ent set of val­ues, and I won’t be switch­ing to be a Lib­eral any time soon.”

On cor­po­rate tax in­creases:

“We’ve seen the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment re­duce cor­po­rate taxes over the past num­ber of years, and so we’re go­ing to re­verse the cuts. In the sec­ond year (of our term), we’re go­ing to go up one point, to 12.5 per cent. In the third year, we’re go­ing to go to 13 per cent,

and we’re go­ing to stick there.

“I’ve spent a lot of time over the years build­ing re­la­tion­ships with the busi­ness com­mu­nity, and I started that work here as a down­town coun­cil­lor. One of the things they’ve told me from day one is that busi­ness is pretty nim­ble, but ‘We can’t change things on a dime. So if the gov­ern­ment’s go­ing to make changes, you’ve got to give us enough no­tice to in­cor­po­rate those changes into our busi­ness plans, our fore­cast, so we can adapt. Be­cause we can adapt to any­thing — but you’ve got to give us no­tice. We don’t want shocks, and we don’t want sur­prises.’”

On her plan to of­fer uni­ver­sal den­tal care:

“I be­lieve, and I think many peo­ple would agree, that this un­cer­tainty is go­ing to be with us for awhile. We don’t know where it’s go­ing to land, and in the mean­time, we’ve got peo­ple mak­ing ter­ri­ble de­ci­sions about putting off their den­tal care. Ev­ery three min­utes, some­one goes to a hos­pi­tal, an emer­gency ward, or a doc­tor’s of­fice, to get pain in their mouth dealt with. Why?

Be­cause they know they don’t have to pull out a credit card to pay for their visit.”

On how her party can main­tain its mo­men­tum until the June 7 elec­tion:

“I want to stay fo­cused on what I be­lieve is my most im­por­tant task, which is to show the peo­ple of On­tario that they don’t have to keep bounc­ing back and forth be­tween Lib­er­als and Con­ser­va­tives. Af­ter 25 years, fam­i­lies are feel­ing the squeeze, folks are not feel­ing like they’re get­ting ahead, peo­ple are strug­gling still. My fo­cus is to tell those folks that it doesn’t have to be that way, and show them there’s an op­tion for change for the bet­ter.”

Ed­i­tor’s note: The Spec ex­tended in­vi­ta­tions to three ma­jor party lead­ers for a one-on-one in­ter­view or an ed­i­to­rial board meet­ing. Lib­eral Leader Kath­leen Wynne sat down for an in­ter­view with the Spec ear­lier this week. Doug Ford’s campaign has not re­sponded to the Spec’s re­quest.

JOHN RENNISON THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

On­tario NDP Leader An­drea Hor­wath at The Spec­ta­tor ed­i­to­rial board meet­ing on Thurs­day.

BOB TYMCZYSZYN THE ST. CATHARINES STAN­DARD

NDP Leader An­drea Hor­wath vis­ited St. Catharines’ Via Rail sta­tion on Thurs­day to talk about GO ex­pan­sion.

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