Hamilton City Council meeting in December 2022 Credit: Joey Coleman

Wednesday, Hamilton City Council is expected to remain deadlocked 8-8 on a proposal to allow affordable housing on two surplus municipal parking lots at 5 and 13 Lake Avenue South in Downtown Stoney Creek.

The result will be the defeat of the proposal, unless Mayor Andrea Horwath invokes ‘strong mayor’ powers to override Council.

This got me thinking: Could a councillor who wants to vote against the proposal for political reasons but does not actually want it defeated ‘accidentally’ go to the washroom, miss the vote, and the measure pass in an 8-7 vote?

It’s a proven political maneuver. They arrange to have other councillors call the vote when they are in the washroom, the motion passes, and they performatively protest.

Here’s the problem: Hamilton City Council now votes down items during by-law ratification votes. (This is how the Vacant Unit Tax was defeated in November)

Obviously, they can’t be ‘caught’ off-guard twice.

How did this come to be?


February 21, 2024, Hamilton City Council GIC vote on declaring two Stoney Creek municipal parking lots surplus and building 67 affordable housing units

People Value Parking

67 units of housing, in place of 57 parking spots.

The debate has been framed people versus parking, housing versus parking, and various similar phrasing.

I think a better frame for understanding the politics of the issue is People Value [Free] Parking.

Parking is one of the biggest issues in municipal politics. It matters to people [who vote]. People want free parking close to where they live and where they work. They see parking as an asset they will use.

It is parochial, and guess what, in politics, parochial matters.

People will vote out a politician who takes away their parking spot, no ward councillor can be seen voting to decrease parking supply.

Contentious Comments, Commentary, and Political Posturing

For the number of comments and attention, one could think we’re talking about hundreds of each.

City councillors have used the past five weeks taking to various platforms and pulpits to declare why the other side is wrong.

The eight opposed have stated they will not change their position.

This is parking, changing their position would come at great political cost.

No Face-Saving Options

Since time immemorial, ward councillors have voted parochially against unpopular proposals in their ward, only to “lose” to a majority vote of the Council. When the next time rolled around, and a similar issue occurred in another ward, the ward councillor would be parochial, and the first ward councillor voted against them alongside the majority of the council.

Technology has partially ruined this political game; people can watch Council meetings anytime. The game is exposed.

They can’t change their votes, they can’t be in the washroom.

This leaves us, hours before the hour, with what appears to be an unbreakable deadlock.

We’ll see what happens.

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Published: March 26, 2024
Last edited: March 26, 2024
Author: Joey Coleman
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