LRT: Let’s Reduce Taxes

LRT: Let’s Reduce Taxes

by Sean Hurley

The current municipal election is about LRT.

That’s unfortunate because Hamilton’s housing crisis should really be the main election issue. The second most important topic ought to be road safety. Every neighbourhood in Hamilton is confronting the dangerous consequences of cars speeding and failing to stop on residential streets. And what about HSR, which has been neglected into crisis with fare hikes imposed, again, this past September?

Instead of focusing on these three critical issues, this election is mired in a debate that has been decided many times before. People are losing their homes while others are losing their lives—or learning to live them very differently—and yet we continue to talk about LRT.

When politicians mention transit, they all say they support it. However, when challenged by Environment Hamilton’s 2015 Throw Council On the Bus campaign to commute by public transit for a week, only four council members actually got on the bus. Politicians complained that public transit wasn’t adequate for their transportation needs. That’s not surprising. Despite words of support, investment in HSR has been declining for years while fares have been climbing.

There are two streams of money for transit costs in Hamilton: capital and operations. We pay the operational expenses through the tax levy (property taxes) and the fare box. The capital investments—buses and infrastructure—rely on contributions from upper levels of government. HSR’s ten-year strategy calls for capital investment, fare increases, and tax levy dollars in support of the BLAST network.

BLAST is a series of transit corridors that will link the city together:

  • B-Line: East /West transit corridor
  • L-Line: Downtown to Waterdown.
  • A-Line: Airport to the waterfront.
  • S-Line: Eastgate to Ancaster.
  • T-Line: Centre on Barton to Meadowlands.

Of those routes, B-Line LRT is the only hundred per cent capital-funded project. Hamilton has secured half the funding for the LAST lines over a ten-year period from the federal government. The City is still seeking capital funding for the remaining $150 million to implement express buses along the LAST routes. However, those buses must also be operated—and here is where it gets tricky.

Operation expenses are paid in part through municipal taxes, which are “area rated”. Area ratings are a tax scheme that exempts certain wards (ones that were not serviced by HSR at the time of amalgamation) from contributing fully to a public transit that didn’t serve their area. So a resident of “old” Hamilton pays a lot more to ride the same bus as a resident in a post-amalgamation suburb. However, it also means that any transit service added to an area-rated ward (Dundas, Ancaster, Waterdown, and Stoney Creek) must be borne in full by that ward. Area ratings are inherently unfair to all residents, an effective cork on service expansion.

Hamilton Urban Area Rated Transit Levy for a $466,900 assessed home
Area Area Rated Levy (%) Transit Levy in Dollars
Dundas 0.026 $121
Stoney Creek 0.027 $126
Ancaster 0.028 $131
Flamborough 0.030 $140
Glanbrook 0.040 $187
Hamilton 0.095 $444
Based on average assessed property value:
2018 Tax rates:

Currently, HSR operations are funded 50 per cent at the farebox and 50 per cent by the tax levy. In every scenario of “just more buses”, Hamiltonians will pay more taxes and fares will go up. Not so with LRT. In fact, not building LRT will cause taxes to go up and building it will provide Hamiltonians with a tax benefit. Here’s how.

At a time of economic uncertainty that includes trade wars, steel tariffs, and official austerity, LRT represents to Hamilton a direct stimulus investment of $1 billion over five years. Of that investment, the lion’s share (about $700 million) is invested into infrastructure owned by the City.

Among the direct tax benefits:

  • The Longwood Road South bridge must be rehabilitated or rebuilt very soon. The LRT will replace the bridge. That is worth $20 million to ratepayers or about $66 on a $300,000 house. The dollars that would have been spent to rehabilitate the 62-year-old bridge can be reallocated to other infrastructure priorities.
  • The upsizing and optimization of underground infrastructure to manage stormwater and population growth is worth $150 – $180 million to Hamilton voters, immediately. In the longer term it lays the groundwork for additional assessment growth.
  • The complete repaving of King and Main Streets along the transit corridor is worth $20 – $25 million to Hamilton property taxpayers.
  • The Hamilton B-Line: Value Uplift and Capture Study concluded that LRT “would stimulate an additional 350,000 m2 (3.7 million sq.ft.) of development over a 15-year period relative to development in the area without an LRT … [equating] to a projected $280 million in new taxable assessment”.

Hamilton’s LRT is 100 per cent funded by the province in a commitment upheld by the recently elected government. There is no risk to Hamilton taxpayers as the Memorandum of Agreement makes the province solely responsible for the costs of the project and overruns. The operation and profit and loss is the responsibility of Metrolinx, through its contracted partners.

It is true that the Doug Ford government has said the one billion committed to LRT is available for another transit or “approved” infrastructure project. However, that has always been true.  Premier Ford is not saying anything different. Here is the process: the municipality develops a plan, performs the studies, conducts the consultations, observes the regulatory due diligence, and then asks the province for money. LRT is no different and neither will any future project be different.

The financing is committed to LRT. It took 12 years, through three municipal and provincial elections, to get to where we are now—a year to shovels in the ground. If LRT is abandoned so is the investment. There is no guarantee that any new project developed over a reasonable amount of time will obtain the same level of capital funding and that includes any unfunded aspects of BLAST.

As well, the HSR buses, drivers, and infrastructure made available by LRT can be redirected with the current levy and fares to the LAST lines. They would run at an operating deficit at first but they would provide Hamilton city council with the opportunity to commit to completing BLAST and building ridership as so many politicians have so openly supported and with no additional capital investment. Doing so could promote a phased elimination of area ratings for transit commensurate with service and demand.

Agree with me? Vote. Disagree with me? Vote.

This is the election to decide this issue once and for all. Let’s go to the polls, elect our councillors and mayor, and then live with the outcome so that we can get to the pressing work of making homes secure regardless of income and roads safe regardless of neighbourhood. See you at the polls.


Make a break: Planning for pleasure

Make a break: Planning for pleasure

by Deborah LeBaron

Going on holiday sounds wonderful. The idea of a trip to some magical place, the prospect of not just a change of place but a change of pace, and perhaps the chance to live in a different way, even for a short period of time, are all part of what attracts us to travel. However, making a trip a reality is sometimes impossible. Perhaps the financial burden of a trip is beyond our means or perhaps we can’t find a travelling partner and don’t have the courage to go it alone.

The possibility of a holiday is affected by the demands of work. If you have a demanding position, you may find that taking time off is hard to arrange. However, it is equally (or more) difficult to take a holiday when your employment is precarious. You may work from contract to contract, have been recently hired and thus feel uncertain about the wisdom of taking time off, or just not have the money to go away.

One of the realities of contract work, especially if you do short-term contracts, is the feeling that you always have to be ready to say “yes” to work. This can lead to periods of overwork which alternate with periods of no work (and the attendant anxiety of whether you will ever work again). This pattern can make the idea of a holiday seem impossible.

We all need time off work. Whether you are planning a long holiday or a day away, taking time off takes discipline. It isn’t only the discipline required to save up the money you need for your holiday. It is hard to avoid checking calls and messages, hard not to pick up the phone when it rings. It is hard to say to potential employers that you won’t be available for a period of time.

If you are only able to take short periods of time off, block them off as if they were work. Prepare a message that lets potential employers know how long you will be unavailable and when you will be able to return calls. Start small: a day at a time may be all you can afford, economically and psychologically. If you know that there are predictable slack periods in your line of work, try to take time off then. At least you won’t be pacing around the house waiting for calls!

It helps to plan an activity for your vacation day (or days). This gives your day some structure and prevents you from just hanging around the house thinking about things that need doing, wondering what to do with your day, or wondering whether you have any messages. Checking for messages, even if you don’t return calls, means that you are focussed on work, rather than on your time off.

Planning and research can add to the pleasure of a holiday. Whatever you plan, whether it’s a day or a month, a free neighbourhood activity or an elaborate expedition, when the time comes, focus on your holiday and enjoy it.

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TH&B 103

TH&B 103

by Brendan Oliver

For many Hamiltonians one of their best childhood memories is playing on the old train in Gage Park. For years the locomotive sat neglected and unwanted but now it’s on display in restored condition at the Westfield Heritage Village in Rockton.

In June of 1954 the Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo (TH&B) Railway gave the City of Hamilton an old steam locomotive to be used as a museum piece. For more than a year the Parks Board debated where locomotive 103 should be placed but eventually they agreed on a spot at the south end of Gage Park just east of the Roselawn Lawn Bowling Club.

In its working days the train, which was built by the Montreal Locomotive Works in 1910, travelled between Hamilton, Welland, and Montrose hauling steel and other goods to points on the New York Central and Canadian Pacific lines. In its 44 years on the job the train had no accidents and maintained a fine safety record.

In early October 1956 the train was moved across Lawrence Road and into Gage Park using two sections of temporary track. On October 18, 1956 at a formal ceremony the locomotive was officially handed over to the City. Present at the ceremony were Mayor Lloyd D. Jackson and Fire Chief Reg Swanborough who once worked aboard the train as a stoker.

At the ceremony TH&B General Manager Percy Hankinson proclaimed, “We give her to the citizens of Hamilton and to their children who have for so many years watched our trains from this very spot and to the generations of Hamiltonians yet unborn.” The train would remain in the great park for the next 20 years.

By 1976 the train that was loved by so many children was in a state of disrepair having suffered the effects of weather and vandalism. In September of the same year it was decided to transport the old iron horse to the Wentworth Pioneer Village, now known as the Westfield Heritage Village.

On January 16, 1977 the two pieces were loaded onto trailers and hauled up the Claremont access on route to its new home. The trip up the access alone took over two hours.

In May of that year a ceremony was held at the Pioneer Village to celebrate the new addition. Herb March, an 87-year-old former engineer on the 103, and Ancaster Mayor Ann Sloat each took turns driving in the ceremonial spike.

In 1987 the train was in the news again when the Wentworth Pioneer Village fell on hard times and closed. A group of railway enthusiasts suggested the train should be moved to the Museum of Steam and Technology on Woodward Avenue. Working every Sunday to prepare the train for transport, the group put more than 1500 hours into the project.

Plans to move the train came to a halt when Alderman Bill McCulloch opposed the move due to its high cost. The disheartened railway group ceased their work and one member wrote in The Spectator, “Goodbye Engine 103, may you rust in peace.”

In 1997 a group led by Charles Doubrough began restoring the 103 as a millennium project. The group found extensive damage and it wasn’t until 2005 that the project was completed. Now on display in restored condition inside the village, the train is being enjoyed by a new generation of area children.

For more information about the TH&B 103 and the 1997 restoration project, please visit

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Rollin’ round the bend

Rollin’ round the bend

by Michelle Martin

When travelling as pedestrians, we rely on sight and sound. Our brain reacts, and we adjust our behavior as needed in order to avoid hazards. Crossing the street, for example, is a complicated undertaking involving perception, judgment, and reaction time.

Experienced pedestrians have learned how to decide if a car coming toward them will be able to stop, or will be blowing through the stop sign. It gets trickier to determine this from a longer distance, when a vehicle is really speeding, because the speed of a fast-approaching vehicle is difficult to judge when it is farther away. This is why we have speed limits, and why pedestrians are not allowed on freeways.

Consider how an airplane appears to you, when you look up and observe it flying. It will seem to be travelling more slowly than any cars driving past your house. Our brain judges speed according to the time it takes an object to cross our field of vision. The farther away the object, the longer it takes to cross our visual field, even if it is travelling at 1,000 km/hour. This isn’t a problem with airplanes because we aren’t normally at risk of being hit by a plane as we walk across an intersection.

Where this trick of perception can get us into real trouble, however, is on railway tracks. Trains are big—they can weigh tens of thousands of tons—and can’t stop quickly. According to the Operation Lifesaver Canada website, the average freight train travelling 100 km/h needs about two kilometres (roughly 18 football fields) to stop.

The distances trains cover, combined with the speed at which they travel, can make trains look as if they are approaching more slowly than they actually are. This combination of distance, speed, and bulk can be deadly if you are crossing the tracks illegally. By the time you’ve seen that the train is too close, it’s too late for you to move away. By the time the engineer sees you, it’s too late to avoid hitting you even after braking.  

The stakes are so high that it is illegal to cross train tracks anywhere but at designated crossings. “But I can hear the train coming,” you say. Well, no, not necessarily—because of the way we perceive sound. To begin with, modern trains are very quiet, with tracks designed to be as frictionless as possible. On top of that, what you hear of a train’s approach depends on your position relative to it. High school physics students know this is called the Doppler Effect: sound waves change depending on how far away the sound-creating object is from the person hearing it.

In fact, the Doppler effect was demonstrated on train tracks in 1845. A brass band was pulled in an open cart behind a train, and a change in instrument pitch was observed, even though the same note was being played. You can conduct an experiment of your own this summer, if you’re a GO train user. On the platform as the train approaches notice how close the train is when you actually hear it—you’ll be surprised. If you were walking along tracks and a train was approaching from behind, odds are you wouldn’t know until it was on top of you, even without earbuds in.

From January to May of 2018 alone, according to Transportation Safety Board of Canada numbers cited on the Operation Lifesaver website, there have already been 19 fatalities and 31 serious injuries on railway tracks. We know there was a serious injury recently, just west of Gage Park. When I was a teenager, my cousin’s boyfriend lost his life trespassing on tracks to take a shortcut. I wonder how many of us are six degrees of separation from someone killed or hurt by a train.

Operation Lifesaver ( has an excellent set of resources on railway safety, including suggestions on how to raise the topic with our children, if we have them. Among their online material is a hair-raising virtual reality demonstration: just search “I didn’t hear a train” on YouTube.  

Stick to safe pedestrian routes and designated railway crossings. Don’t trespass on railway property. Just because Johnny Cash said he heard that train a comin’ doesn’t mean you will. Don’t risk it.  

Michelle Martin lives and writes in Crown Point. She sometimes tweets @deltawestmom.

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Art for the people

Art for the people

by Andrea Jackman

The “Crown Point Gallery” art collection has increased again with the acquisition and installation of a mural on the Pipeline Trail. Located on a freshly painted shed just east of Fairfield Avenue, the mural is an enlarged reproduction of Leonard Hutchinson’s (1896-1980) woodblock print Webster’s Falls. The dynamic black and white relief jumps out from a distance at any passerby. Atmospherically, the sun acts as a natural spotlight for the image and the nearby birds add to the experience, as if you are standing right there viewing the rushing waters.

The group behind the installation is the Red Tree Collective of artists. Their aim “…is to work in interdisciplinary and cross-cultural collaborations with artist and/or community members.” For more information, visit  According to collective member Ingrid Mayrhofer, the group partnered with Elizabeth Seidl from the Pipeline Trail Committee and she assisted with selecting an image and a suitable site.

Leonard Hutchinson’s artwork was chosen for a number of reasons. First, without going into extensive biographical detail, Hutchinson is considered one of the best woodblock printmakers in Canada during the mid-twentieth century. His home was Hamilton and he was one of a few artists who emotionally and simplistically depicted rural Ontario, the uncomfortable reality of Hamilton life during the Great Depression, and everyday workers’ portraits—from the blacksmith to the tobacco field worker. Second, Mayrhofer points out that one of the founding members of the Red Tree Collective is his daughter Lynn Hutchinson; gaining permission to use the work was one less hurdle in such a project. And third, the image of Webster’s Falls, though far west of the mural’s location, resonates with the idea of water flowing along the Pipeline Trail.

Once the imagery was secured, the last part of the project was to find an appropriate context and location. Mayrhofer states that once the garage at Fairfield Avenue had been identified as their choice location, “It did not take long at all to convince owners Bethany Osborne and Ed Miedma to host our mural trailhead.” Being happy to participate, Miedma even went ahead and put on a fresh coat of neutral grey-blue paint. He also enhanced the foot of the shed with a raised garden box.

Naturally close to the art installation, Osborne has overheard community members responding to the new mural. “I have seen mothers explain the art to their children in strollers. Groups of various people just stand in front, looking and enjoying—even stopping and chatting in front of it. It’s only been a week, but I think its presence has already started to change the flow of activity on the trail.”

Hutchinson’s work is not the first art addition to the Pipeline Trail. One block east, near Strathearne, is another cooperative project headed by the Red Tree Collective: a garden box boasting artistic expression of black and white etchings similar to his, but with a more organic and abstract subject matter. Within the next block east of Hutchinson’s artwork, the group aims to continue to work with the Pipeline Committee on further art initiatives. One may even say that the Pipeline Trail is beginning to exemplify a well-curated exhibition, open to the elements.

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Riding the Red Hill Trail

Riding the Red Hill Trail

by Tyler Fish

The scenic Red Hill Valley was forever altered when the Red Hill Expressway was completed in 2007. Hamilton’s most contentious infrastructure project prior to the LRT, the construction of the $245 million expressway divided residents and city council and involved a lengthy lawsuit against the federal government. Despite the loss of much of the woodland, a trail which follows the Red Hill Creek remains.  Beginning at the Niagara Escarpment, the Red Hill Valley Recreational Trail runs northeast through the valley until it intersects the Waterfront Trail near Van Wagners Beach Rd.

The trail is approximately 10.5 km long and includes a variety of surfaces and grades. Despite being adjacent to the parkway, the trail passes through several quiet forested areas, some of which feature vibrant cherry blossom trees. There is also an accessible 1.1 km section with a tar-and-chip surface which can be reached through the King’s Forest Golf Course. This walkable area is frequented by family hikers and dog walkers.

My typical path involves biking from the house to the trail entrance on Queenston Road. The trail north of Queenston towards the waterfront is unpaved, and features some moderately steep hills, but is not an especially challenging ride. After 30-40 minutes, riders will reach the highly visible red pedestrian bridge which crosses the QEW. From here it’s a short trip to the Waterfront Trail, which I would usually take to Hutch’s on the Beach for a moose tracks-filled waffle cone. Hutch’s has been a fixture on the beach strip for over 70 years, with it’s 1950’s dining experience and famous fish and chips drawing in visitors from across the city year-round. Other notable attractions in this area include the more upscale Greek restaurant, Baranga’s on the Beach, and the amusement park of Adventure Village. If you wish to ride farther, the Waterfront Trail runs east to Confederation Park and northwest all the way to Burlington’s Spencer Smith Park.

On the other hand, riders who set off south on the Red Hill will eventually reach Albion Falls. One of the best waterfalls in the region, Albion has been featured in numerous news articles and blogs across the GTHA. Unfortunately, this popularity has proven to be its undoing. After several deaths and injuries from people walking into or along the top of the falls, fences were put up and police stationed to ticket trespassers. Although the sight is still well worth visiting, riders should be prepared for heavy foot traffic by the falls for most of the day.

Most Crown Point and Delta residents live within a 15-minute ride of the trail, with easy access via Queenston Rd. or Barton St. There are parking lots by Lawrence Rd. and King’s Forest, while street parking is available by numerous other trail entrances. Readers interested in learning more about the trail or who wish to support the Ontario Trails Council can visit

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POINT PEOPLE: That’s a wrap

POINT PEOPLE: That’s a wrap

by Sean Hurley

Packing a lunch for school or work is an everyday routine for thousands of Crown Point residents. Plastic wraps or bags for sandwiches are staple ingredients in lunches. But plastic becomes a huge problem once it is tossed away. It ends up in landfills, breaks down into tiny pieces, and enters into the food chain and water tables. Thinking about it could spoil your appetite. Luckily two women, one who happens to live in Crown Point, have a solution.

Robyn Menzies and Sarah Shearing are two moms and long-time friends. They met while living in Toronto and “bonded over their love of family life, baby wearing and healthy living.” After Sarah moved to Crown Point their friendship remained strong.

“We always knew we would find a way to collaborate together and just needed the right project,” Sarah explained by email. That project turned out to be Earthology Food Wraps. The two women produce food wraps that are reusable, washable and, when they’re finally tattered and torn, compostable.

Sarah Shearing, left, and Robyn Menzies make North America's first vegan-friendly, 100 per cent plant based food wraps.
Sarah Shearing, left, and Robyn Menzies make North America’s first vegan-friendly, 100 per cent plant-based food wraps.

Describing themselves as environmentalists committed to “reducing toxins, waste, and protecting the planet,” Sarah explained that the project began when their children were set to begin school. “We started brainstorming ways to transition our home habits into our kids’ lunch boxes,” she said. “Nothing we saw combined both the all-organic, toxin-free materials with the beauty we wanted to see. Being green doesn’t need to be boring or difficult…so we decided to make our own.”

Thus began “a long and arduous journey” of sourcing materials that were organic and naturally produced. “It wasn’t easy, but with a little research a lot of patience and a little alchemy, we finally did it,” Sarah exclaimed. “We are proud to be the first North American makers of a vegan-friendly, 100 per cent plant-based food wrap.”

The market for Earthology Food Wraps is anyone who packs a lunch and who wants to reduce their consumption of single-use plastic materials. They also target those looking to “add a little flair to their kitchens or who are looking for a unique and beautiful gift.”

Sarah explained that while beeswax food wraps are not uncommon in other parts of the world, they are new to North America, “… so a lot of what we do is education.” She added, “Getting our product out there and demonstrating how amazing and easy it is, that’s our biggest challenge.”

Sarah said they both work hard to maintain the quality of their product while keeping prices low enough to entice people to give them a try. For anyone who would like to try Earthology Food Wraps in their kitchen and lunches, they can be purchased at Simply Zen on Ottawa Street near Cannon or ordered directly online at

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