Hamilton-East Stoney Creek MP Bob Bratina is asking for a parliamentary review of the federal government’s commitment to fund the Hamilton LRT project
In a statement, the former councillor and Hamilton mayor formally requested the budget office take a look at a $1.7-billion contribution by the ministry of infrastructure and communities, suggesting it may not be in compliance with the government program it’s coming from.
“I’m asking the PBO to determine if the Hamilton LRT project fully complies with the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program criteria, and whether the announced project cost and funding is adequate to achieve the objectives of the project,” Bratina said in statement on Monday.
Bratina announced he would not be running in the next federal election after the province and the Trudeau government revealed a combined investment of $3.4 billion for a 14-kilometre light rail transit line (LRT) across the lower city, from McMaster University to Eastgate Square.
In a mid-May interview with Global News, he cited cost and the way the deal was constructed as the reasoning for his decision to departure.
“So I realized that I would not be able to defend this if an election were called in September whenever I couldn’t go door to door and honestly support this in any way,” Bratina said.
On Monday, the MP reiterated his concern over the project’s impact on city taxpayers tied to the operation and maintenance.
In addition, he suggests limitations of the funding that tie it specifically to an LRT project “infringes” on the city’s responsibility to effectively prioritize solutions for the city.
“As stated in the Municipal Act of Ontario 2001, ‘It is the role of council to determine which services the municipality provides’ and ‘to ensure the accountability and transparency of the operations of the municipality,’” Bratina said.
On Tuesday, Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas MP Filomena Tassi and Minister of Infrastructure and Communities Catharine McKenna released a joint statement in response to Bratina’s release suggesting the federal government has been transparent with it’s platform to ‘better public transit.’
“MP Bob Bratina’s position on this project is well known, dating back more than a decade,” the MP’s said in their reply.
“Of course he has been involved in numerous discussions and engagements about the project and the federal government’s role in it.”
Tassi and McKenna suggested the success of large, complex projects requires all orders of government to work together.
“The Hamilton LRT, a shovel-ready project that was supported by the previous Hamilton Council, was the fifth priority transit project to be prioritized by the Ontario Government, with a request for federal funding. It has also been endorsed by many local stakeholders,” said the MP’s.
The 17-stop LRT is set to be equally funded by the feds and Ford government at a cost of $1.7 billion each.
The money will pay for planning, design and construction costs. It’s anticipated that the city will be responsible for yet-to-be-determined operating and maintenance costs following construction.
In an early June meeting, councillors deferred a motion from mayor Fred Eisenberger to work with Metrolinx and the province on a memorandum of understanding for the project.
Members of the general issues committee cited the financial impact of the day-to-day operating and maintenance costs as the issue.
James Nowlan, Ontario’s assistant deputy minister for the ministry of transportation, appeared virtually before councillors and estimated those operating and maintenance costs at $20 million annually.
Councillors are expecting a report from finance staff on June 16, outlining how retiring buses on the east-west corridor and the elimination of incentive programs that encourage downtown investment.