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Councillor frustrated by events leading to Hamilton LRT cancellation

Mayor Fred Eisenberger and Councillor Brad Clark at the Sheraton in Downtown Hamilton after Ontario cancelled the city's LRT project.
Mayor Fred Eisenberger and Councillor Brad Clark at the Sheraton in Downtown Hamilton after Ontario cancelled the city's LRT project. Don Mitchell / Global News

The finger-pointing continues following this week’s provincial cancellation of Hamilton’s light rail transit (LRT) project.

City manager Janette Smith, in an email to city councillors on Tuesday, released documentation from a Sept. 26 meeting between Mayor Fred Eisenberger and Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney in which Mulroney outlined projected cost overruns.

READ MORE: Ontario government cancels Hamilton LRT project, mayor calls announcement a ‘betrayal’

As of late September, capital cost estimates were pegged by the province at up to $3.7 billion, with a total cost over 30 years of up to $6.5 billion.

Stoney Creek Councillor Brad Clark says “there was an obligation in my mind that council be informed and be kept up to date,” rather than having members be “completely blindsided in the last few days.”

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Clark adds that “we could have prioritized, we could have strategized, we could have considered the information, we could have done any number of things with that information back in September.”

READ MORE: Stakeholders weigh in on province’s $1B funding promise after cancelling Hamilton’s LRT

Hamilton Mayor Eisenberger says the province’s high-level cost estimates were assembled by “persons unknown,” didn’t make “rational” sense to the city’s transit staff and required “more explanation” before being presented to the public.

Eisenberger also insists that the only way to know the “true” costs would be to let the process continue and get to the end of the request for proposals (RFP) stage.

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He adds that “in my mind it was the right call to make and, you know, when other people are the mayor they’ll be put in these positions and they can make their own determination as to whether they make that sort of a call.”

READ MORE: Ford government says it will not release report on cost of scrapped Hamilton LRT project

Flamborough-Glanbrook Conservative MPP Donna Skelly says Hamilton’s LRT project was “simply unaffordable” based on her government’s updated cost estimates.

Skelly insists that the city now has a “phenomenal” opportunity to use the province’s original commitment of $1billion to “roll out a state of the art, thorough transit system” that reaches all parts of Hamilton.

Transportation minister Mulroney has said Queen’s Park will form a task force to work with the city in coming up with transit priorities.