Hamilton City Council returns from three weeks of vacation today for a special meeting on the Light Rail Transit project.
Staff will update Council on the Ministry of Environment’s approval of the updated Environmental Project Report, then Council will debate two separate motions related to the unionization of the LRT system.
The first motion is moved by Ward 3 Councillor Matthew Green, calling on the province to make City Council and the HSR the operators of the system, which automatically means unionization of the LRT work force.
The second motion, by Ward 1 Councillor Aidan Johnson is for the Council to endorse, in principle, that the workforce.
Good morning, apologies for some technical glitches that delayed my liveblogging.
Council is presently hearing from delegations.
The first two delegations expressed concerns about the stormwater sewer system, and how the City will manage combined storm sewers along the LRT corridor, especially during the construction phase.
Councillors asked questions about the City’s sewer system in response, Public Works General Manager Dan McKinnon says that east of the Red Hill, sewers will be separate, west of the Red Hill will be combined sewers.
McKinnon says the City’s upgrades to the Woodward Avenue Wastewater Treatment plan will significantly decrease the number of overflow events in the future.
He also says new development on the LRT corridor will be required to implement storm water retention and run-off management measures which will decrease run-off.
Two other delegations focused upon concerns about the calculations during the 2006-2010 Council term which lead to the decision that LRT had greater benefit for Hamilton compared to BRT.
We’re now at the Matthew Green motion for the HSR to operate the LRT, the motion is seconded by Ward 9 Councillor Doug Conley.
Green argues strongly against any private operation of public assets, public services should be publicly operated.
Ward 1 Councillor Aidan Johnson does not support Green’s motion, saying he is concerned that it will result in a lost of the LRT as a result of death by delay.
Johnson wants to move a motion to support the unionization of the work force of LRT. He says its important to note that Metrolinx is a public body, and that GO Transit’s trains are operated by Bombardier with a Teamster unionized workforce.
Hamilton’s LRT will be similar.
Ward 4 Councillor Sam Merulla says he will support Green’s motion – Merulla had initially spoke out against Green’s motion.
He says the City is presently in the negotiation phase, and this is part of negotiations.
Mayor Fred Eisenberger says he wants to see a fair wage policy and unionization as part of LRT construction and operation. Will support A.Johnson’s motion.
He will vote against Green’s motion, says the motion to have the HSR operate LRT will create risk for the City, uncertainty, and could jeopardize the project.
Ward 8 Councillor Terry Whitehead is now speaking, opens by directly challenging Eisenberger for his past lobbying work during the privatation of Hamilton’s water treatment plant.
Whitehead is gaining applauds from the audience as he says he will support Green’s motion, the private section “isn’t doing this out of the good of their heart” and there is a profit motive. Whitehead wants that profit instead invested into the system for better service.
He doesn’t “buy the argument” that giving operation will result in better capital work, companies have an incentive to build good capital works to gain future business.
Ward 7 Councillor Donna Skelly is the quickest speaker thus far, says in none of the 50 votes Council cites on the LRT, had Council acted to make sure the Council would maintain control of the LRT.
She supports well paying public sector jobs, supports the local ATU, praises ATU 107 President Eric Tuck for his leadership in getting Council to act today, and she will support Green’s motion
Ward 6 Councillor Tom Jackson says he will support the Green motion.
Ward 13 Councillor Arlene Vanderbeek will support the motion.
This means 3,4,6,7,8,9,13 are in favour. There are two councillors missing today, meaning that only one more vote and this will pass.
Ward 10 Councillor Maria Pearson says she will support the Green motion. This means it will pass. 3,4,6,7,8,9,10,13 have all said they will vote for.
Ward 12 Councillor Lloyd Ferguson says Council is “taking a very significant risk” by passing Green’s motion because the RFP/RFQ will need to be restarted, and the project’s timelines could be pushed past the provincial election.
City of Hamilton LRT Director Paul Johnson says he will need additional staff to quickly respond to this change. Metrolinx Hamilton LRT Project manager Andrew Hope says he’ll have to go back to the Province with Hamilton’s changes, he cannot predict how the Province will respond to the change which will differ from the Province’s LRT model.
Ward 15 Councillor Judi Partridge is asking questions about the model.
Toronto and Ottawa are Design, Build, Finance, Maintain – with OC Transpo and TTC both operating the system.
Outside of Toronto and Ottawa, the Metrolinx funded LRT model is Design, Build, Finance, Operate, Maintain
Green’s motion is for Hamilton to be a Design, Build, Finance with the HSR Operate and Maintain the LRT.
Partridge asks Green to amend to only seek HSR operation of the LRT. Green nods approvingly towards Partridge.
Partridge will support the Green motion.
Councillor Partridge asks how much money has been spent on the Hamilton LRT project, Metrolinx Hamilton project manager Andrew Hope says over $50-million
Ward 2 Councillor Jason Farr is now asking questions about what resources are needed for the City LRT office to respond if Council passes Green’s motion.
Staff say they’ll need hundreds of thousands of dollars in new resources to rework the LRT project to respond to the new project delivery method sought by City Council.
Andrew Hope, on a separate question, says he’ll need to go back to the Province, the current approval from the Treasury Board is for a DBFOM model, not a DBF or DBFM.
Green says he will not be amending his motion, he is calling for a DBF model for LRT. Says that has a true progressive, DBF is the best model for unions.
He says he is prepared to play political football with the province, noting that he prepared to negotiate with the province for changes to the LRT project delivery method. Green notes he played football for 20 years.
Many references to the 407 and stadium during today’s meeting.
Mayor Eisenberger says he will now support Green’s motion if he amends to remove the HSR maintaining the LRT.
Green says his position that the Request for Qualification was just for the potential bidders to show that they can DBFOM, not a guarantee that they’ll get to DBFOM.
Metrolinx’s Andrew Hope says the RFQ will have to be reissued, and that process will have to restart. Presently, Metrolinx is close to selecting the three consortium that will be asked to bid on the project. The RFQ was issued in February.
Green will not amend to remove maintenance from his motion, says this is a negotiation.
Councillors are now word-smithing on the City/HSR maintaining LRT.
Some of them want to word that this is not an ultimatum.
Green “I cannot bind Metrolinx”, says Council is giving them the City’s negotiating position.
Mayor Eisenberger moves an “amendment” to Green’s motion, which is a rewrite of the Green motion.
Eisenberger’s motion is for Hamilton staff to go to Metrolinx to seek to negotiate to change the LRT project delivery model to DBFM by having the City/HSR operate the LRT.
And that staff report back to Council on the outcome of that negotiation.
Aidan Johnson “I’m happy to second that”, “I appreciate Mayor Fred watering down the motion”.
The motion is officially seconded by Partridge.
Motion fails on a 6-6 vote
In favour were: 1,12,13,14,15,Mayor
Green’s motion, unamended, passes on a 8-4 vote.
In favour: 2,3,4,6,7,8,10,13,15
This means City staff now will go to the Province with the City’s position that the LRT project should change to one that the consortium only Design Builds Finances the LRT, with the City/HSR Operating Maintaining, the question now is how will the Province respond.
If the Province comes back saying they are continuing with the LRT plan was previously approved, and in the RFQ phase already, does Council then vote to pull the plug?
Or does the Province decide – facing the tight timelines of the approaching provincial election – to pull the plug.
The reality is we don’t know how this will play out in the coming weeks. In the end, we could just see a bunch of political posturing, money spent on consultants, and no change to the outcome.
The meeting was adjourned after the vote, this liveblog is complete. I’ll do my best to get a story up this evening summarizing.