Posted April 27, 2017
Dundas Councillor Arlene VanderBeek best captured the spirit of last night's historic Council vote for the LRT project: "If you're not sure, err on the side of progress."
Last night, Council voted 10-5 to approve the Environmental Project Report amendment - and in doing so, helped restore the faith of Hamiltonians who have been shaken by months of turmoil and dysfunction. Councillors who have been on the fence for months took an impressive leap of faith and deserve recognition for their vision and courage.
We have called on you to make your views known while Council was deliberating, and they heard the message loud and clear. Now it's time to thank Council for listening carefully and doing the right thing.
Please take a few moments to contact your councillor and thank them for their engagement on this issue, regardless of how they ended up voting. This issue must not have been easy for anyone around the table, and they all deserve our appreciation for taking on such a thankless job on our behalf.
That is particularly true for Councillors Chad Collins (Ward 5, East Hamilton), Tom Jackson (Ward 6, East Mountain), Terry Whitehead (Ward 8, West Mountain) and Arlene VanderBeek (Ward 13, Dundas), who went out on a limb despite uncertainty and misgivings.
Nor should we take for granted the core of committed LRT champions - Mayor Fred Eisenberger, Aidan Johnson (Ward 1), Jason Farr (Ward 2), Matthew Green (Ward 3), Sam Merulla (Ward 4) and Lloyd Ferguson (Ward 12, Ancaster) - whose steadfast support provided the foundation on which to build last night's majority.
Of course, a major factor in Council's vote was the last-minute announcement by Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca committing the Province to work within the approved LRT funding envelope to extend the line to Eastgate Square. We owe Minister Del Duca, MPP Ted McMeekin and Premier Wynne a debt of gratitude for intevening yet again to keep this project on the rails.
But that intervention, and the ensuring vote, would never have happened without the tremendous outpouring of support and advocacy from the many thousands of Hamiltonians who inundated Council with phone calls, emails and meetings urging them to weigh all the benefits and costs and make the best decision.
Have no doubt about it: you made this happen!
This is a watershed moment for Hamilton: a grand coalition of thousands of engaged citizens and hundreds of businesses, community organizations and anchor institutions have worked together to change the course of history.
The level of engagement on this project has been unprecedented. A tremendous number of Hamiltonians have taken the time to learn about this LRT project, read reports, attend public information sessions, ask questions, express their opinions, and get involved in organizing and advocacy.
Many people who started out skeptical or opposed came to support the plan as they have learned more about it. But even those people who still oppose it are at least willing to take the time to be engaged, and we must respect their essential role in the messy democratic process of building consensus around a large, transformative initiative.
There is still a lot of uncertainty, fear and misinformation in the community, and it will be up to us over the next year to do everything we can to explain, clarify and evangelize this project in order to grow the consensus that this is a bet worth making.
As Councillors Ferguson and Merulla remind us, when you take the time to explain what the LRT plan actually is, most people agree with it. Over the next year, it is more important than ever that we take the time and make the effort to reach out to all Hamiltonians and continue to broaden the base of support and enthusiasm for this transformative investment.
Council will have to vote on the Operational Agreement with Metrolinx next year, and we need to make sure the community is ready to make that a smoother, more assured process than the "gong show" (as Councillor Collins put it) of the past few months.
A campaign to grow our LRT consensus across Hamilton is forthcoming, but for now, let us all take a few minutes to breathe a sigh of relief that we live to fight another day.