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‘We need you at the table,’ Ontario premier tells feds on plan for Hamilton LRT

Artist rendering of Hamilton's LRT project.
Artist rendering of Hamilton's LRT project. Metrolinx

Ontario’s premier made a plea for “help” from the federal government to tackle Hamilton’s struggles with new transit projects and a possible LRT project.

During a press conference at Mohawk College in Hamilton on Thursday afternoon, Ford acknowledged a proposal from the Labourers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA) and a potential plan for a Hamilton LRT project, after a previous outline was cancelled in 2019 over budget concerns.

“I had a great meeting with Mayor (Fred) Eisenberger and we’ve agreed that we’re going to work together,” Ford said.

Read more: LiUNA pitches public and private plan to revive cancelled Hamilton LRT

“And, you know, I love LiUNA. I’ve said it over and over again that there’s something special about Joseph that he thinks outside the box. He really does.”

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Ford was referring to Joe Mancinelli, LiUNA’s vice-president and regional manager for central and eastern Canada, who last week pitched a $3.4-million LRT construction plan that would combine private money with potential contributions from the provincial and federal governments.

The proposal suggests the project can be completed if the province and Ottawa put in $1.2 billion each, and the private sector picks up the balance.

“If we have both levels of government showing interest, I can’t for the life of me see why we can’t get this done,” Mancinelli told Global News in an interview on Aug 26.

“Why not go to the private sector and do a P3 (public-private partnership) on this project where the two levels of government and the private sector can invest in this project and get it done, once and for all.”

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On Thursday, Ford reaffirmed the province’s commitment to $1 billion in funding for either an LRT or bus rapid transit as per recommendations of a provincial task force in April and appealed to the federal government for aid.

“We have a billion dollars. Here’s a shout-out for the federal government,” said Ford.

“To the federal government, we need your help. We need you at the table. And I know they want to, but they haven’t. They haven’t showed up at the door yet.”

Read more: Province reveals task force recommendations for Hamilton’s $1B transportation handout

On Friday, Canada’s Minister of Infrastructure Catherine McKenna told Global News that Ottawa was “committed to funding good public transit projects” and recognized the potential Hamilton LRT project as the “most shovel-ready” with local support.

Ford suggested that the next move needs to come from the federal government and that with federal and provincial contributions plus support from LiUNA, the project could “get going.”

“The mayor and I said, even if we move it, a little bit, get half, get two-thirds, get anything going, we can add onto it,” Ford said.

“The critical thing is to get the shovels in the ground. My theory in life is there’s always a way to make things happen.”

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