It’s very early, but Hamilton’s mayor has kept her major promise
Published December 8, 2022 at 1:43 pm
Hamiltonians can be simple folk at times. Feeling betrayed by city council’s lack of openness over the years and amid accusations of cover-ups by local politicians, voters made a seemingly simple demand during last fall’s election cycle: show us honesty and transparency.
Andrea Horwath entered Hamilton’s mayoral race with the advantage of experience and name recognition as a long-time public servant and former leader of a provincial opposition party. Many, however, saw those qualities as a detriment. Having been burned by so many politicians before her, how were Hamilton voters supposed to trust someone who was months removed from leading a major Ontario party?
Wisely, Horwath leaned on transparency during her campaign, and after she was elected as the first female mayor in Hamilton’s history, there was an immediate test.
The equivalent of 135 Olympic-sized swimming pools filled with sanitary sewage had been flowing into Hamilton Harbour for over 26 years. Not the first time sewage has “leaked” into a local body of water. The city estimated that as much as 337 million litres were discharged, and when Hamilton Water found the hole in a combined sewer pipe on Nov. 22, 2022, the city’s new mayor kept her campaign promise.
Hours after the leak was discovered, the public was notified, and Horwath issued a statement calling for an investigation.
“It’s very troubling for all Hamiltonians to see another sewage leak into our harbour,” she told insauga.com’s Khaled Iwamura in an exclusive interview. “The public deserves to know, and I made that commitment when I was elected. When I find something out… we have to deal with these things upfront with the community.”
The pipe was also repaired within days.
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Sure, the first test was an easy one. Being newly elected, Horwath had nothing to lose and everything to gain by being upfront about the latest sewage breach. But Horwath doubled down on her commitment to transparency ahead of one of the biggest projects and impending construction headaches in the city’s history: light rail transit.
“There’s no doubt that there’s going to be a lot of disruption with the building of LRT,” Horwath told insauga.com. “What’s important is ensuring we stay in touch with the community. That means neighbourhoods and the businesses all along the route.”
The $3.4 billion LRT line will go from McMaster University, through downtown, to Eastgate in Stoney Creek. It will cover 14 kilometres with 17 stops.
The LRT project was officially greenlit in May 2021 after the federal and provincial governments confirmed matching $1.7 billion investments towards its construction.
The City of Hamilton will take on operating costs.
Some of the biggest detractors of the project are those living and working along the route who are predicting a long, painful installation period.
“So that’s something that I am very, very sensitive about,” explained Horwath. “I used to represent the downtown ward as a city councillor (1997 to 2003)… and we did some major construction projects where I worked very, very closely with the business improvement areas. We have to be really diligent by keeping those lines of communication open.”
Openness. Honesty. Transparency.
Again, it’s early. But so far, so good. And that’s all Hamiltonians can ask for at this stage of the game.insauga's Editorial Standards and Policies advertising