Hamilton city manager Chris Murray spoke on the theme of “plans, partnerships and progress” at this year’s 7th Hamilton Economic Summit held on June 5 in downtown Hamilton.
Murray used the opportunity to present a case for tackling local issues – including those related to transportation and seniors healthcare – through regional collaboration and council-led political activism.
He spoke about a “charter” among five leading regional municipalities west of Toronto: Peel, Halton, Hamilton, Kitchener-Waterloo and Niagara.
He explained how this regional partnership is working to unlock investments from Queen’s Park, Ottawa and other partners. These strategic investments – particularly in transportation infrastructure for people and goods movement – are needed to support significant population and employment growth expected to flow into the areas west of Toronto in the coming decades.
The question of how Hamilton is to ensure quality of life for a growing seniors population threaded throughout Murray’s talk. Access to public transit serving “healthy neighbourhoods” was referenced as a big part of the answer.
Murray noted that the members of parliament representing the five western regional municipalities outnumber Toronto 24 to 16. “If ever we could get our act together and work together to make sure there’s a transportation system that supports the economy and allows it to grow in the right way, I’ve got a feeling some of the health issues will start to get addressed,” he said.
This approach, added Murray, would also help curb the number of Ontario businesses heading to the United States to access upgraded transportation infrastructure, predictable development processes and generous relocation incentives.
Murray also stressed the need to push the province to fund LRT and other transit priorities germane to Hamilton’s growth plans. “We want to get an answer to the fundamental question: Are you going to pay for the transit you had committed to a few years ago?”