OPINION: What is Brad Clark thinking?

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It was with heartfelt dismay that I read the comments recently made by city councillor and mayoral candidate Brad Clark dismissing the need for LRT in the Greater Hamilton Area as wanted but not needed.

Not only that, he has filed a freedom of information request with the city for the correspondence of ex-mayor, and current mayoral candidate, Fred Eisenberger, suggesting there is more to the story than we know, and that, indeed, the LRT file is a puzzle with pieces missing. Well, only if you haven’t been paying attention, I suppose.

With one fell swoop Clark managed to cast doubt on a project that received extensive public consultation and gained unanimous city council support, including his own, and disparage the integrity of a fellow mayoral candidate at the same time. Politics rears its ugly head and an important infrastructure issue falls victim to cheap political grandstanding for attention.

There is no puzzle in the LRT file. Lots of evidence has been put forward and we’ve been talking a long time. It’s not like anyone’s trying to slip one over on anyone while they’re not looking.

There has been plenty of discussion and thoughtful writing by people who know a lot more about transit issues and economic development than I do.

I only know what I have to put up with when I take the bus and I know how much better it can be; I’ve seen it in other cities. If they can do it, why can’t we?

I also know Hamilton could be a lot more than it is if we stopped bickering among ourselves about which ward gets what and instead worked together to build a greater Hamilton, not just make do with a lesser one. We are our own worst enemy.

Why our transit renovation has to be exclusive of BRT is a mystery to me. It’s a canard to think we have to have either LRT or BRT. A blended system is more likely to solve our needs, starting with an east-west LRT on our most heavily used line. The solution to a north-south line up the escarpment could be a stunning achievement of engineering genius. What we lack is the vision of a champion and the political will of the people to make it happen. But more importantly, what’s missing is the belief that the people of Hamilton are worth the investment. I think we are. Do you?

The Liberal government has pledged $15 billion toward transit improvements in the Greater Toronto-Hamilton Area. Hamilton only needs $1 billion. Other communities are breaking ground; they see the need. Why don’t we? Are we cursed? Are we blind? Are we afraid? What happened to our ambition and why can’t we apply it to public transit? What is wrong with us?

In this election year, we would do well to consider how some politicians think so little of us that they can’t champion our basic need of affordable accessibility for all to all corners of our city. Some of our politicians and candidates don’t even know our needs and continue to demand more studies. These politicians need to take the bus and do their own research. Nothing beats the lived experience.

We need a mayor who has a vision for Hamilton that is bigger than what is seen from behind the wheel of their car, narrowly focused on the road in front of them. There’s a great big city full of people with all kinds of needs and limitations that have a right to travel the roads for which they pay taxes.

Public transit is an investment in people. It is the infrastructure improvement we desperately need if we want to position ourselves competitively for new business and increased population growth. If our mayor can’t sell the province on an LRT for Hamilton, if our mayor lacks vision for the future, we have the wrong mayor.

We can go forward with innovation and an investment in our people or we can sink into the morass of what we’ve always done, which is waffle between issues, half-step our solutions, be afraid to commit ourselves and listen to the same factions mount their defences against the logic of public transit and the need for affordable and reliable transportation to access stores, schools, hospitals for everyone all over the city.

We did that with the Pan Am stadium and look at the debacle that spawned. We can do better. We have to do better. If we want to reclaim our crown as the Ambitious City, then we better show some ambition.

Margaret Shkimba is a writer who lives in Hamilton.

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