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City remains in limbo when it comes to fighting for Hamilton

By Kevin Werner • METROLAND WEST MEDIA GROUP

Hamilton politicians seem to be stuck in neutral when it comes to lobbying the provincial government for financial relief, say members of the Fairness to Hamilton Campaign sub-committee.

The sub-committee was revived a couple of years ago, after it was first created in 2005, to give politicians an opportunity to development a strategy to pressure provincial officials to either provide financial help to the city, or have the province take more responsibility for their programs that councillors say are dumped on them. Councillors on the sub-committee were angered recently when the Liberals announced last year cuts to social services programs without informing the city. Councillors responded by covering the shortfall, but it is expected that funding to end by June 2013, putting at risk needed homelessness services.

After the committee’s last meeting in September, there was an expectation from members that some sort of action would take place. But except for a meeting in November attended by Mayor Bob Bratina, City Manager Chris Murray, Ward 4 councillor Sam Merulla, and area MPPs, nothing has really happened.

“We can’t wait any longer,” said Flamborough councillor Judi Partridge.

The Jan. 21 sub-committee meeting was the first one of this year.

She said Hamilton officials have about one and a half years before the next municipal election to convince the province to take dramatic action.

“We have been in a vacuum. I’m a little bit frustrated.”

Ward 1 councillor Brian McHattie, who was also experiencing some disillusionment about the sub-committee’s efforts, said there needs to be better co-ordination among the city, and social services groups to properly direct their activities.

“We need regular reports on what meetings are occurring,” he said.

Tom Cooper, director of the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction, said members of that organization have meet with Liberal leadership hopefuls Sandra Pupatello, Kathleen Wynne, and Gerard Kennedy. But he was left disappointed with MPPs’ answers saying they were more interested in internal Liberal party politics than addressing their party’s social issues.

There has been a sense among staff and politicians of how can everybody work together to lobby the province on behalf of the city. Some discussion by the mayor, councillors,  the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction officials, or other social services agencies has taken place on how to work together, but there has yet to be a formal strategy approved.

Murray said city staff will schedule a special government issues committee meeting next month to discuss the city’s social services strategy.

“There is a sense that we can be more effective,” said McHattie.

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