Project would cost 5 times what previous government estimated, transport minister says
Protesters gather outside a meeting room where Ontario Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney was set to hold a news conference, in Hamilton, on Monday. She left abruptly, leaving the city’s mayor to announce that the province had pulled its funding for a light-rail transit project. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)
The Ontario government cancelled $1 billion in funding for Hamilton’s light-rail transit system on Monday, killing it amid a chaotic afternoon that included a hastily cancelled news conference, city councillors facing down police and Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney leaving the city with a police escort.
Mulroney left without actually making her announcement. Her press conference was called off at the last minute when protesters, anticipating that the LRT would be cancelled, filed into the room at the downtown Sheraton hotel.
It was Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger, who had only just been briefed by the province, who told the room.
“In my view that’s a betrayal of the city of Hamilton,” he said to reporters. “That is not working in good faith with a partner.”
“Their timing on this is just outrageous,” said Eisenberger. “If they were going to do this, they could have picked a better way.”
A police officer talks to Couns. Maureen Wilson and John-Paul Danko in the lobby of a government building where Mulroney relocated after the news conference was cancelled. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)
Provincial staffers moved Mulroney to a government building across the street. Two city councillors followed, refusing to leave the lobby until they were allowed to hear the technical briefing.
The property manager called the police, but even as officers arrived, Couns. Maureen Wilson and John-Paul Danko — of Ward 1 and 8, respectively — stayed.
“My constituents demand answers and my job is to give them that information,” Danko said. “For the minister to come to Hamilton and not be prepared to face the public or face council, that’s just ridiculous.”
Mulroney left in a police-escorted car.
Eisenberger described the project as a massive investment for the city that would have “created hundreds of jobs,” provided economic uplift, cut carbon dioxide emissions and added to affordable housing.
It has been in the works since 2007, and would have run 14 kilometres from McMaster University in the city’s west end to Eastgate Square.
The previous Liberal government pledged $1 billion for the capital costs. Premier Doug Ford said his Progressive Conservatives planned to follow through, and the project was in the spring budget. The regional transport agency Metrolinx spent $162 million on it so far. MORE