A fortunate update on the transportation project haunted by political chicanery
Graphic by Elisabetta Paiano and Andrew Mrozowski, Managing Editor
A RECAP FROM LAST YEAR
We last wrote about the state of the Hamilton light-rail transit system project on Jan. 23, 2020. The proposed project involved the construction of an LRT line, extending from McMaster University to Eastgate Square along the Hamilton Street Railway B-line.
However, on Dec. 16, 2019, the Minister of Transportation Caroline Mulroney informed Fred Eisenberger, the mayor of Hamilton, that the provincial government had decided to cancel plans for the project.
The reasoning behind this cancellation was that the project would have cost over five times more than the previous Kathleen Wynne provincial government had implied. Eisenberger considered this a betrayal on the part of Premier Doug Ford and the Ontario provincial government.
The estimated cost for the Hamilton LRT project was revealed to range from $4.6 billion to $6.5 billion in a meeting between the Ministry of Transportation and the city of Hamilton. This is approximately five times that of the initial $1 billion Wynne promised Hamilton in May 2015 for the project.
The cost was later set at $5.5 billion, without any cost breakdown. According to a statement from Mulroney on Dec. 16, the estimated costs originated from a report by an unnamed expert third party. Kris Jacobson, then director of the LRT project office, noted that without context, the estimate from the provincial government was impossible to interpret and verify.
Andrea Horwath, NDP member of provincial parliament for Hamilton-Centre and leader of the official opposition, called onFord to reveal the third-party’s cost estimate. On Dec. 18, 2019, Horwath sent a letter to the auditor general of Ontario, Bonnie Lysyk, requesting an investigation and report of the rationale behind the LRT cost estimates provided to the public. The Auditor General’s report on the Hamilton LRT costs was set to be released by the end of 2020.
Despite the cancellation of the Hamilton LRT project, it was decided the initial $1 billion commitment from Wynne’s provincial government would be used for transportation in Hamilton, with the total funding being diverted to different infrastructure.
Exactly what infrastructure would be funded by the $1 billion would be at the discretion of a newly formed Hamilton transportation task force. Comprised of five respectable people who reside within the city, the task force was responsible for creating a list of transportation projects for the ministry of transportation to consider as alternatives to the LRT.
This list was due to the provincial government by the end of February 2020. Despite the cancellation of the LRT project and the creation of a task force to plan the diversion of the allocated funding to other projects, Eisenberger remained committed to the construction of the LRT.
More than a year later and the situation has greatly evolved. The Hamilton transportation task force made its recommendations on the allocation of the $1 billion granted to Hamilton by the Wynne government to the ministry of transportation on March 16, 2020. Mulroney later made the recommendations public for the sake of transparency.
“So basically it wasn’t an announcement per se, it was the province of Ontario following up. They said they would do an audit, they did an audit, they did a task force, the task force came back and said that higher-order transit was necessary for the city of Hamilton,” said Eisenberger.
The task force made a total of 15 recommendations. Some of the recommendations included: a "higher-order" transit system and an "intra-city" bus rapid transit or light-rail transit system along the A or B lines in Hamilton. This would resemble the previously cancelled project.
LRT or BRT, the report said, would reduce congestion, bring economic uplift, thus bringing substantial benefit to the residents and businesses of Hamilton. This indicated the task force was still in favour of the Hamilton LRT project and recommended the province reach out to the federal government to acquire the funding required for the LRT project.
This recommendation came after Eisenberger spoke to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a visit to Ottawa prior to March 2020 about the Hamilton LRT. According to Eisenberger, the federal government was willing to fund the Hamilton LRT project, but the provincial government had to officially ask for the funds.
“That task forced looked at all the transportation options and came back with the same conclusion that higher order transit was necessary for the city of Hamilton. It was the best investment and it was certainly aligned to LRT and since then, the Premier on several occasions, has came to make sure that Hamilton gets the appropriate investment in transportation and LRT is the one that he’s been advocating for,” said Eisenberger.
This turn of events indicated a sentiment towards revisiting the Hamilton LRT project. With that said, there were other recommendations in the Hamilton transportation task force report, including a cost estimate around all-day GO service. The recommendations from the task force were welcomed by Eisenberger as an indication the LRT project was still on the table.
The awaited auditor general’s report on the breakdown of the $5.5 billion estimate for the Hamilton LRT project was released on Dec. 7 2020. Lysyk determined that the original $1 billion commitment from the provincial government only covered the costs of construction and was based on a 2012 Environmental Project Report from the City of Hamilton.
Lysyk concluded in her report that the $5.5 billion estimate that led to Mulroney cancelling the LRT project was a more accurate estimate for the total costs of the project. Although Ford welcomed this news as vindication for his government, the auditor general’s report indicated that the city of Hamilton was misled on the actual costs of the LRT for years.
“The Ministry of Transportation was aware as early as December 2016 that the estimated costs for the project were significantly higher than its public commitment of $1 billion in 2015, which was only for construction costs. The increases were not made public or communicated to the City of Hamilton until fall of 2019,” said Lysysk in the report.
According to Eisenberger, the city of Hamilton and the province of Ontario have a signed memorandum of understanding which outlines how the project will proceed. In the event of budget constraint, it is documented that the provincial government would lobby at the federal level to gain more funding for the project.
“[The city’s] level of involvement is not at the highest order, but certainly awareness as to what direction [the province is] going [in] . . . So true to that original [memorandum of understanding], [the provincial government is] following up with the federal government and as I understand it, they are warmly received. Now it’s a matter of discussions on who’s going to contribute what,” explained Eisenberger.
While the project is now set to conclude at Gage Park, Eisenberger plans to continue the project in phases.
“We’re not going to be tearing up everything from Eastgate to McMaster,” emphasized Eisenberger.
Currently there is no estimated time as to when the project will be completed. However, the mayor is looking forward to the benefits that the project will bring.
“The whole idea behind this project was to inspire new opportunities, to inspire new development, to inspire more people coming along that corridor to provide more business opportunities. More shops, more stores and more housing,” said Eisenberger.
Bill C-7 expands medical assisted in dying to include those whose death is not reasonably foreseeable
C/O Bill Oxford
cw: mental illness, death, ableism
The Canadian government has passed Bill C-7, which changed the medical assistance in dying law. The bill was introduced in October 2020 after a September 2019 decision made by the Superior Court of Quebec.
The law previously required that the individual seeking MAID must be faced with a “reasonably foreseeable” natural death in order to be eligible. The law included the following: someone who has a serious and incurable illness, disease or disability, who is in an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability, who is experiencing enduring and intolerable suffering that cannot be relieved under conditions acceptable to them and whose natural death has become reasonably foreseeable.
The 2019 ruling found the requirement of a reasonably foreseeable natural death to be unconstitutional.
As such, Bill C-7 proposed amendments to the criminal code. This would expand MAID eligibility to persons whose natural death is not reasonably foreseeable. Individuals with mental illness will also be eligible for this within two years. The Senate passed Bill C-7 on March 17, 2021. The royal assent was given a week ahead of its court-imposed final deadline of March 26.
The bill will create two different sets of safeguards for those whose death is reasonably foreseeable and for those whose death is not reasonably foreseeable. Furthermore, Canadians will have a minimum 90-day assessment period for their MAID request in which they will be made aware of alternatives, such as counselling.
Bill C-7 has raised a lot of concerns from disability advocates. More than 300 disability groups in Canada opposed the change, as they believe it would create situations where people with disabilities are offered MAID instead of stronger support and community services.
We are horrified by the direction parliament is taking Canada’s euthanasia legislation. The idealization of doctor-assisted death as a peaceful, easy solution to the existential problem of life’s challenges is cruel. @TheSpec#BillC7@djnontario#HamOnthttps://t.co/fDNBfEj5nP— Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion (HCCI) (@HCCI1) March 11, 2021
"How are we going to make sure that marginalized communities like the Indigenous, racialized people and those with disabilities, don't feel pressured to access MAID because they feel like a burden on the state?” asked Jama in a CBC MAID town hall.
These concerns were also echoed by the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Gerard Quinn.
“We’re concerned that it massively expands the range of [MAID eligible] people with disabilities, who potentially will be given access [to MAID],” said Quinn in a CBC interview. “We’re concerned that there might be issues there . . . undermining their autonomy and their capacity to make the right decisions. I don’t mean the lack of legal capacity. What I mean is subtle pressure being brought to bear by, for example, lack of services or lack of community living options."
MSU Maccess coordinator Calvin Prowse echoed concerns around the bill.
“Things like the lack of social services, the erosion of the social safety net, lack of healthcare... a lack of pharmacare so people can actually pay their medications…in many ways, [for] disabled people, their inclusion in society is being prevented . . . We're trying to give folks with disabilities access to dying, but as a society, we are not actually helping people meet their needs and allow them to actually live,” said Prowse.
"Of course it’s not promoting death. Death is inevitable, you don’t need to promote it. No, this is to reduce suffering and pain.” Former prof Ronald Bayne on why we need medical assistance in dying. At 98, Dr. Bayne chose #MAID and died on Friday. https://t.co/NHE8JvP2G4— McMaster University (@McMasterU) March 1, 2021
cw MAiD, death, genocide— MSU Maccess (@MSU_Maccess) March 2, 2021
It is upsetting to see @McMasterU romanticize MAiD like this. Changes to Bill c7 perpetuate the idea that disabled lives are not worth living. During a pandemic in which disabled lives are constantly devalued, c7 reads more like coercion than choice. 1/4 https://t.co/HhguxIWedj
Prowse also pointed to the timing of the bill being discussed during the COVID-19 pandemic, as people with disabilities have already had to advocate to be prioritized for vaccines and more folks are developing disabilities and chronic illnesses. Some advocates worry that their voice is not being heard.
“I think that we see a lot of people with disabilities and a lot of disabled organizations coming forward and sharing their criticisms and concerns about this bill . . . There’s so many, but I think often that is lost or, truthfully, ignored when we have conversations about MAID. Those perspectives are often not considered,” emphasized Prowse.
The government has committed to launching a joint parliamentary committee to review additional unresolved details around the bill, such as whether mature minors should have access to the procedure and what the inclusion of individuals with mental illness will entail. This committee will be launched within 30 days of the royal assent.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asked Canada’s governor general to dissolve parliament for a 40-day federal election campaign. The election will be held on Oct. 21.
“In every election, as Canadians, we get to make an important choice for the future of our country. We get to decide what kind of future we build together,” said the prime minister in a press conference last Sept. 11.
The 2019 campaign, leading up to election day on Oct. 21, is taking place only months after Trudeau violated Canada’s Conflict of Interest Act. He accepted full responsibility for attempting to influence the attorney general during the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin, a Quebec-based construction company that was bribery and fraud charges at the time. In the aftermath of these events, the upcoming federal election will determine whether the Liberal Party will retain a majority government.
Residents of the Hamilton West - Ancaster- Dundas riding will soon be electing their Member of Parliament.
The Silhouette spoke to Liberal, Conservative, NDP and Green party candidates about how they believe their parties will benefit the students of McMaster.
Students interested in learning more about the candidates or their platforms should attend MacVotes’ Federal Candidates Debate in MUSC Atrium on Oct. 8, 2019.
Filomena Tassi, Liberal Party
The Honorable Filomena Tassi, the incumbent for the Hamilton West - Ancaster - Dundas (HWAD) riding, remains optimistic about the upcoming election.
“The Liberal Party has a plan, has values that we want to make sure Canadians embrace as we move forward,” she said.
For her, these values will lead to a diverse, open and inclusive government who believes in Canadians, who wants to give everyone a chance and who wants to level the playing field so that everyone has a just and fair chance at succeeding.
Born and raised in Hamilton, Tassi has been a high school chaplain for the past twenty years and believes that government policies greatly benefit from student engagement. Her re-election campaign is already underway and touches upon several issues she believes students are passionate about, including affordable housing and education, job creation and the environment.
“We have an advisory group that consists of representation from McMaster, Mohawk and Redeemer,” said Tassi.
According to Tassi, the advisory group meets on a regular basis and is continuously provided with input from leaders of these three post-secondary institutions. This is to ensure that the group is responding to the needs of youth and keeping their voices in mind when creating policy. Tassi stated that, if elected, she would continue consulting with student groups.
“I want to make sure moving forward that we continue on that same front, an open communication where the student leadership is able to share with me what the student body wants and is looking for from the Federal Government,” she said.
Much of the Liberal platform for the upcoming election is yet to be announced.
Bert Laranjo, Conservative Party
Bert Laranjo immigrated to Canada from Portugal at the age of nine and is a registered nurse by trade. Having managed Cambridge Memorial Hospital’s multi-million dollar emergency department, he believes he has the qualifications to serve as MP.
With regard to his role in the Conservative Party, Laranjo says that he wants to ensure, as Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has said, that the healthcare system remains intact and that funding continue to be transferred towards the provinces.
“Most families are feeling … they are short at the end of the month and just getting by. We don’t want you to just be getting by. We want to help Canadians to get ahead. To have money set aside for education, have money to pay bills,” said Laranjo.
According to Laranjo, the Conservative government will serve students by prioritizing job creation.
“That’s something that the Conservative government has always been focused on — to make sure when you come out of school that the opportunities are there so there’s a return on your investment,” he stated.
In addition to job creation, the Conservative platform includes reducing taxation on income bracket, repealing Bill C-69, which provides a process for assessing the environmental, health and socioeconomic effects for energy and resource projects, eliminating the Trudeau’s government carbon tax and attempting to end illegal border crossings into Canada.
Yousaf Malik, NDP
Yousaf Malik is a graduate from McMaster and holds an M.A. in economic policy. He has lived in the Hamilton West - Ancaster - Dundas riding for the last 10 years. In that time, he has been a public advocate for the voices of everyday Canadians, running for School Board Trustee in 2018.
“One of the main drivers for why I’m doing this is [that] we have four generations in the household, from my grandma who is 85 years young, to my son who is now almost nine months. And from what I see is, our government has consistently not followed through [on] their promises and commitments to all four generations,” said Malik.
He brings forward the issue of some students being unable to afford education. He refers to education as ‘the great equalizer’ and declares that education should not be limited to those who are able to afford a large loan or who have other resources to pay for school.
“I am so happy to be representing the New Democratic Party which is committed to increasing support for students and the increased federal bursary for students, working with provincial government and universities and colleges to reduce tuition with the ultimate goal of making university and college education post-secondary education tuition-free in Canada,” he stated.
He is also interested in Canadian healthcare system reform. He says the NDP is committed to creating head-to-toe coverage—including prescription medication, vision, dental and mental health.
“It’s not right that we have a system in Canada where you are able to see a doctor, but then at the end of the day, you’re not able to, in many cases, afford the medication you need to actually get better,” he said.
The NDP hope to lower Canada’s debt-to-GDP ratio over the next decade; both the Conservatives and Liberals intend to balance the budget in the next five years.
Their platform emphasizes the creation of 500,000 affordable housing units and support first-time buyers, incentivized zero-emission automobiles and established a federal minimum wage of 15 dollars per hour.
Victoria Galea, Green Party
Victoria Galea is a McMaster alumnus, having graduated with an Honours B.A. degree and will soon complete an M.A. in International Relations.
She has served as the CEO for the Green Party Riding Association for the last two years and believes that the Green Party is the only legitimate option for voters interested in changes in climate action policy.
“This federal election is crucially important to make climate action policy happen. The Green Party is the only option if you care about [the] climate emergency,” said Galea.
On top of pushing towards free post-secondary education in Canada, Galea stresses the importance of mental healthcare on-campus. Having seen firsthand the lineup outside the McMaster health clinic, she mentions that the significance of mental healthcare providers is something the Green Party wants to put forward to effect — and one that people should support if they want ‘preventative’ and not simply ‘reactive’ mental healthcare services.
The Green Party platform this election may captivate the student audience with plans to forgive the portion of existing federal student debt, make college and university tuition free and provide 1 billion dollars annually to municipalities to hire youth.
“We can pay for all of Canadian students’ free post-secondary education by removing the current subsidies in place that the government provides to fossil fuel corporations,” she said.
“By no longer enabling the fossil fuel industry to develop, we are able to get better for every individual in Canada and not just the one per cent.”
The MP candidates stress the importance of youth participation in the upcoming election and emphasize the particular importance of this federal election for students and young adults.