What is wrong with Hamilton? That seems to be the question everyone is asking recently. The city’s light rail transit system has been sitting on a shelf for just over a decade now. Waiting for someone to say, go. It looked like all the signs were green. Political efforts were being made to push forward, until Premier Ford abruptly reversed course. Effectively cancelling the project. Mayor Fred Eisenberger was furious at not being properly consulted, and that this decision essentially ended the project before it began. The cry in Hamilton was “Why can’t we catch a break?”
Well this week they did. The federal government announced that it was going to pony up the needed funds to get shovels in the ground and get the LRT up and running. The federal and provincial governments were going to build it, as long as Hamilton agreed to take on the cost of operating the system. So why are we still debating this? Why isn’t construction on the LRT already begun?
To answer that question, we had Laura Babcock join us on The 905er to talk about that. It was a great conversation, and we went into the politics and the malaise that seems to be part of the DNA of Hamilton. I’m not going to rehash the conversation. Listen to it here:
I will add my own two cents though to the conversation. The problem with Hamilton isn’t something that is unique to Hamilton. It is a symptom that is endemic across much of the 905 region. A reluctance to let go of the past. An identity that was formed long ago, as a union driving steel town is hard to move past. It’s romanticised. It’s a simple and easy fantasy to hold on to. However it’s day has come and go. Here in Burlington and Halton region in general, our municipalities are tied to this quaint small town utopia. The reality is that the past was never as good as we want it to be. As well, change is inevitable.
We all enjoy looking at old photos of our cities, seeing familiar intersections when they were only a couple of houses and dirt roads. At some point we have to concede that future generations will look back on photos of our current cities and see them as a vintage throwback to a time past. Progress is happening. You and I can’t stop it, but we can embrace it.
A city like Hamilton has much going for it. A world class university, a young and ambitious population, strong union ties, and a diverse ethnic population. On paper this is a recipe for success. So why does Hamilton always fumble the ball on the 1 yard line? Well in that analogy you can blame the quarterback, so in politics you can blame the mayor. Leadership is needed to move forward with a vision of Hamilton for the 21st century. There will always been naysayers and the cynics. They are the ones sabotaging the LRT project right now. There is a leader waiting to rise in Hamilton. Someone who is truly going to turn the tide against the malaise that grips the city. Hopefully, that someone might be reading this. If you are, I hope you start now. If you do start and succeed, you’ll have proven what many have known all along. Hamilton’s best days are yet to come.