Ontarians have elected a Liberal majority to lead the province. What does this mean for Hamilton?
The biggest change will be oversight of City Hall by Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin if the Liberals pass Bill 179 as they promised prior to, and during, the campaign.
On LRT, we’ll need to watch who Minister of Transportation and Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing are.
If Glen Murray remains Minister of Transportation or Ted McMeekin becomes Municipal Affairs Minister, the funding formula will quickly become clear – instead of the wishy-washy promises of Liberals past. Murray promised – if reappointed – to attend a meeting of City Council.
Welcome Andre Marin, better disinfectant than sunlightThe Liberals promise to reintroduce Bill 179 soon after the election.
With the majority, they can quickly make it law – meaning the Ontario Ombudsman will have jurisdiction over the MUSH sector and Hamiltonians will be able to get redress when the municipality fails in its responsibilities.
If a complaint is filed to his office, for example, Andre Marin could launch an investigation into the culture problems at City Hall that saw 25.7% of City staff self-reporting in a survey they’ve been pressured to compromise their ethics and values, less than half of staff saying their can report wrong-doing without fear of retaliation, and the majority saying code of conduct concerns are not properly addressed by senior management.
The culture at City Hall is so poisonous that a recent arbitration ruling regarding sexual harassment in the Transit division found qualified women were not applying for management out of fear of losing union protection against sexual harassment. (There are no women in management in this division)
The City’s own “investigation”, which was lacking in any rigor, into the matter didn’t look at harassment against other women who were advancing up the ladder – one of whom it was claimed decided to leave because of the poisoned work environment.
I often focus on Marin’s ability to force City Council to open meetings to the public, but the Ombudman’s office is most effective with dealing with systematic failings and shortcomings of government culture.
Glen Murray, LRT, and HamiltonWe need to watch where Glen Murray lands in Cabinet. The former Winnipeg Mayor, and current Toronto Centre MPP, is one of the biggest believers in Hamilton’s economic growth potential and a huge advocate for the economic development uplift that LRT promises for Hamilton.
If Murray is returned to Minister of Transportation, expect Hamilton to get upfront LRT capital funding. Murray becoming Minister of Municipal Affairs will have the same effect.
However, with a majority government, the Liberals will be expected by Bay Street to rein in spending.
Ontario is facing a credit downgrade, which will increase the interest costs of the provincial debt – decreasing the fiscal flexibility of the government, and funding available for the full capital costs of LRT.
Watch for LRT to be funded with an alternative funding strategy with Hamilton expected to contribute to the capital cost via a recovery from future increases to assessment value along the B-Line corridor: tax-increment financing.
McMeekin, Social Services, and HousingTed McMeekin returns to Queen’s Park by a comfortable margin for what will likely be his final term of public service.
The former Hamilton Mountain City Councillor and Mayor of pre-amalgamation Flamborough has served in public office for decades – it is legacy time for him.
If there is a cabinet shuffle, McMeekin could move from Community and Social Services. Premier Kathleen Wynne may wish to place one of the new Liberal MPPs who defeated long-standing Toronto NDP MPPs in this high profile portfolio.
McMeekin was an early supporter of Wynne in the leadership race, and a key confidant to Wynne prior. An astute observer of municipal government who still attends Hamilton City Council meetings to observe, he can request the municipal affairs and housing portfolio.
Affordable housing is an issue McMeekin spoke about frequently during the campaign, it’s a provincial crisis that needs a solution, an issue the Premier says she believes in, and an opportunity for legacy.
For a politician with a Master’s Degree in social work, and former executive director of the Burlington Social Planning Council, there isn’t a better portfolio in the Cabinet.
McMeekin in Municipal Affairs and Housing, with Murray in Transportation means an acceleration of provincial investment in Hamilton’s urban renewal.
Horwath, the Hamilton Centre result, and her future.What happens to NDP leader Andrea Horwath – the person who forced the election that lead to a Liberal majority government, ending the power of her party over provincial policy for the next four years.
Horwath told reporters she doesn’t see her leadership of the party at risk.
The NDP marginally increased its total votes this election, and increased its percentage won from 22.7% to 23.8%. There were a close second in many Toronto ridings, but lost two long held seats with long-time steward of the party’s left Rosario Marchese being defeated in Trinity-Spadina and NDP moderate Michael Prue losing in Beaches-East York.
They entered the election with 21 seats, and return with 21 seats. They are, however, in rough shape with their Toronto losses.
What does this all mean for the provincial NDP and Horwath’s leadership? The answer to that question will come in time.
Horwath lost support in her home riding – undermining her ability to influence City Council and the upcoming municipal election – a rarity for an opposition party leader.
Despite an increase in voter turnout in Hamilton Centre, Horwath’s vote count tdropped from 20,586 in 2011 to 18,699. The Liberals increased from 5861 to 8450. Green Party candidate Peter Ormond jumped his total from 1,249 to 3,078.
Peter OrmondWatching the results released by Elections Ontario, Peter Ormond’s support was inconsistent riding-wide. It appears, EO doesn’t release poll-by-poll locations in real-time, Ormond enjoys concentrated pockets of support in the Hamilton Centre riding. Depending on where those pockets are, 3078 votes is enough to get elected to City Council.
Ormond’s name recognition can make him a viable candidate in Wards 1 to 3 if he chooses to run for Council – something he hasn’t done previously.
Let the Municipal Election Begin
With the provincial campaign out of the way, the City’s political operatives will now focus upon the municipal race.
Let the race begin and the discussion of Hamilton’s future made clear by Liberal majority government in Queen’s Park.