Hamilton mayoral hopeful Loomis rolls out platform; says Horwath, Bratina have ‘baggage’

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Published September 8, 2022 at 3:13 pm

Hamilton mayoral candidate Keanin Loomis. (YouTube)

Averring that he is the ‘change’ candidate in the Hamilton mayoral race, Keanin Loomis took a shot across the bows of Bob Bratina and Andrea Horwath while releasing his platform today.

Loomis, who is the former president and CEO of Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, and was the first person to announce a run at the mayor’s job, offered plenty of policy details in an announcement at Merit Brewing on James St. N. on Thursday morning. He emphasized that Hamilton seeing its way out of challenges with the climate catastrophe, housing affordability and public engagement will require more engagement with the Ontario and federal governments. And he suggested he would have more of a rapport than any other contender would with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Doug Ford.

“We will need re-engage senior levels of government,” Loomis said during prepared remarks. “Premier Ford, and Prime Minister Trudeau, I will invite both to Hamilton within a month of taking office.

“I am the only mayoral candidate that can guarantee I can get my phone calls answered at Queen’s Park and Ottawa because I’ve worked with both the Ford and Trudeau governments (with the chamber of commerce). My competitors’ baggage when it comes to dealing with higher levels of government would be harmful to Hamilton.”

Horwath, who is releasing her platform on Monday (Sept. 12), was the Ontario New Democratic Party leader opposite Ford and the Ontario PC Party in the last two provincial elections. For the four years in between, she was the Official Opposition leader, and had the task of critiquing and scrutinizing the governing party and the premier.

Ford offered public praise when Horwath announced her bid to become mayor of her hometown. In February 2021, though, when his messaging was not through communications pros, Ford snapped at Horwath during a question period by saying, “It’s like listening to nails on a chalkboard, listening to you.” He did not apologize for the remark, with his spokesperson stating that Ford “condemn(ed)” sexism and misogyny.

“It’s not really about me — it’s about the fight that I have and that I bring here to Queen’s Park on behalf of everyday families,” Horwath told CBC’s “Power and Politics” after the furore.

Different parties were in power federally and provincially while Bratina was mayor of Hamilton from 2010 till ’14. But
Bratina is the former Liberal member of Parliament for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, who was elected in 2015 and ’19 as one of the spate of candidates running alongside Trudeau. Last year, though, on his way out from federal politics, he called for the parliamentary budget office to review his own party’s commitment to building light-rail transit in Hamilton. The route will originate in the riding he once represented.

At that time, Ward 1 Coun. Maureen Wilson called Bratina “a petulant child who didn’t get his way.” Ultimately ,the Liberals and Ontario PCs are committed to a 50/50 split on building LRT.

Of late, Bratina has called himself as the “transit mayor” and has said he will sometimes take Hamilton Street Railway city buses while campaigning.

Loomis is emphasizing “four pillars” in his campaign. Those include “restoring truth, trust and transparency at city hall”; “growing Hamilton smartly”; “a more responsive city hall”; and “safe/clean/healthy Hamilton.”

On the first count, Loomis says council meetings would open with “a mayor’s statement of respect,” which a custom adopted by St. Catharines Mayor Walter Sendzik. He pledged to hold a mayor’s town hall in all 15 wards within his first year in office, and plans on having one in Stoney Creek as a candidate next Wednesday (Sept. 14).

“Everyone deserves to feel safe, valued and heard in Hamilton,” Loomis said.

Select council meetings would be held away from the chambers in city hall downtown, as well one half-day per week for residents to have access to the mayor’s office.

“We will take council meetings on the road,” he said. “We have many city halls across our city.”

Loomis is also promising anti-racism, equity and cultural capacity training for councillors and City of Hamilton staff, along with a commitment to zero tolerance for bullying, disrespectful behaviour.

In the past council term, departing Ward 14 Coun. Terry Whitehead was docked 75 days’ pay for four separate incidents where he was found to have abused a city employee, including one fellow councillor.

Housing, jobs, area rating also points of emphasis

On the second count, Loomis is touting two big figures: 5,000 new jobs across the next five years, and 50,000 new homes across the next 10. The latter is in line with a recent Smart Prosperity Institute about the role Hamilton can play in fixing Ontario’s shortage of affordable housing stock.

During the urban boundary freeze debate in 2021, urban planner Cheryll Case revealed the city has an underutilised “yellow belt” where density can ber added.

The current council recently approved a gentle density plan. Loomis says he would add $1 million to the budget of the city planning and economic development departments.

“The next conversation needs to be about the economy and jobs,” he said. “We are blessed to be growing. We need to enable our city hall engineers, planners and economic developers to be able to do their job smartly … (but) we must grow our commercial base in order to keep property tax increases low.”

Figures from the 2021 Canadian Census show that Hamilton is growing, and is attracting more people with high incomes. But social dichotomies and disparities across the city are starkly evident, and not just necessarily in the lower city.

Loomis offered several proposals to better support unhoused people who are living rough, suburban residents who wish to be less car-dependent, the Indigenous community and students and seniors. Those include.

  • Appointing a taskforce to work on “immediate implementation” of tiny shelter and alternative shelter projects. The first-ever tiny homes show in the city was held last month.
  • Providing “meaningful support” for the Hamilton Urban Indigenous Strategy, which the city approved in 2019. Loomis also wants the city to better support for the National Day of Truth of Reconciliation, which falls on Sept. 30.
  • Hamilton is the lone big city in Ontario that has area rating, where property taxes are indexed to the level of city services in a ward. It was put in after former rural municipalities joined the city in 2000, meaning they would pay less tax but receive less service.But a spotty HSR network, and overreliance on personal use of fossil fuel-burning cars, has been a consquence.

    “We will execute an area rating review and bring more transit out to those areas,” Loomis said.

    “We know it’s divisive, but it is time to stop kicking the can down the road.”

  • Other proposals include a four-year program for free transit for seniors and students age 12 and over. Transit ridership dipped early in the COVID-19 pandemic. Loomis also mentioned that the city’s only seniors’ centre is on Hamilton Mountain, even though proportionately, many people of that vintage live in Dundas and the lower city.”We need a seniors’ centre along the LRT line,” he said.
  • Loomis also reiterated a plan for Hamilton to adopt 311 service. It is the largest city in Canada without it, even though retiring Ward 4 Coun. Sam Merulla called for it nearly two decades ago.
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