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Hamilton task force submits spending recommendations for $1B transportation fund, says province

Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger and Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath at the downtown Sheraton after the province told them Hamilton's LRT project was cancelled on Dec. 16, 2019.
Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger and Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath at the downtown Sheraton after the province told them Hamilton's LRT project was cancelled on Dec. 16, 2019. Don Mitchell / Global News

Ontario says that after 13 meetings, the Hamilton Transportation Task Force has made its recommendations on how to spend $1 billion of provincial funding.

The task force — formed in early January, just a month after the province’s cancellation of the city’s 17-stop LRT — was originally given a February deadline but asked for an extension to March 16 to come up with a preliminary list of new projects.

READ MORE: Province forms Hamilton Transportation Task Force to recommend how $1B should be spent

Ministry of Transportation spokesperson Christina Salituro told Global News that Ontario Transport Minister Caroline Mulroney will now examine the list but did not reveal whether any of the recommendations would be shared with the public.

“Once the minister receives the list of transportation projects, provincial officials will also engage with the task force to undertake further due diligence, such as identifying any commercially sensitive information, prior to any release of key outputs of the task force,” said Salituro.

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

Queen’s Park appointed five people with varying backgrounds to provide recommendations on how $1 billion of transportation funding should be spent in Hamilton.

The move came after Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation cancelled the province’s $1-billion commitment to Hamilton’s LRT, saying capital and operating cost estimates for the 14-kilometre rapid transit line from McMaster University to Eastgate Square soared as high as $5.5 billion.

The task force included former federal transport minister Tony Valeri and Hamilton city manager Janette Smith.

Monday’s recommendations to the province could potentially reopen discussion of a possible LRT in Hamilton after Mulroney said in December, not long after the LRT cancellation, that it would consider a plan if the task force came back with a feasible option.

READ MORE: Tenant group makes push to bring affordable housing to vacant Hamilton LRT properties

Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger, who says he’s never been a fan of the task force idea, told Global News he’s reached out to the federal government in recent months, particularly Minister of Infrastructure Catherine McKenna, who he says told him Ottawa was open to potential overtures from the province to help finance a major Hamilton transit project.

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However, Eisenberger says the Ministry of Transportation’s response to such a move was considered “premature” in light of the transportation task force still examining potential projects.

“The Hamilton task force has considered all options on the table. Any nomination for project funding to the federal government would be premature without the receipt of the task force’s recommendations,” Salituro told Global News.

Caroline Mulroney speaks about Hamilton LRT cancellation
Caroline Mulroney speaks about Hamilton LRT cancellation

Eisenberger made the suggestion upon hearing about the province’s $28.5-billion ask of Ottawa to fund new Toronto subway projects.

However, the mayor believes that a political sea of orange in the city and a lack of Conservative MPPs in office following the 2018 provincial election are the reason the province has been putting Hamilton aside.

READ MORE: Director of Hamilton’s LRT surprised by cancellation amid report bidders ‘dropped out’

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“As long as there are NDP members in the city of Hamilton, you know, they’re not going to be funding any projects for the city. More and more, it seems to be not a costing issue. It seems to be more a political issue,” said Eisenberger.

Despite that, Eisenberger believes an LRT recommendation made the task force’s list.

” I think so,” said Eisenberger.

“If they’re they’re looking at city building and looking at the improving transportation in the city of Hamilton, they will also come to the same conclusion. But I don’t know.”

Hamilton LRT project derailed as province claws back funding
Hamilton LRT project derailed as province claws back funding