Hamilton East-Stoney Creek Liberal MP Bob Bratina’s decision not to seek re-election prompted two divergent views from the candidates attempting to capture the riding.
NDP candidate Nick Milanovic remains puzzled about Bratina’s reasoning for essentially criticizing his own government for helping the residents he serves by investing billions of dollars into building the 14-km light-rail transit project from McMaster University to Eastgate Square.
“I don’t see too many MPs walk away from $3.4 billion,” said Milanovic, who finished second to Bratina in the 2019 race with 28.6 per cent of the vote to the former mayor’s 38.6 per cent. “It boggles my mind.”
But Conservative candidate Ned Kuruc praises Bratina for adhering to his principles.
“Good for Bob,” said Kuruc. “I have more respect for him after what he has done. You do not see politicians stand up for their beliefs. You have to admire that.”
Kuruc, who ran in the 2018 municipal election for Ward 3, said Bratina’s decision doesn’t impact his strategy, since he is targeting the Liberal party and not the local candidate regardless of who the person may be.
Milanovic says the LRT project will benefit the entire city, similar in concept to paying for a new hospital.
The $3.4 billion investment — $1.7 billion each from the provincial and federal governments — will have an economic windfall of up to $18 billion across the region, say city and union officials. Union representatives say there will be about 7,000 “good, paying jobs” created.
Kuruc acknowledges the economic stimulus the LRT will create in the city is “undeniable.” If he were MP and he had no choice, Kuruc said he “would have a hard time saying no” to the funding. But he questions if there really will be 7,000 jobs created.
He said the project only benefits the downtown area, and it doesn’t connect the entire city that bus rapid transit or the BLAST transit network would provide.
In addition, the LRT route will accelerate gentrification in and along the downtown corridor, forcing out people so developers can build high-priced condominiums.
“I support the BLAST network,” said Kuruc. “I’m not completely anti-LRT. But we need to look at a plan to connect the city.”
With Bratina out of the race, Milanovic says the NDP has a good chance of retaking the riding after it was held by former MP Wayne Marston from 2008 to 2015.
“It changes the dynamic for us,” said Milanovic, who has been critical of Bratina for failing to help the riding. “There is more space for us.”
Milanovic says he has improved name recognition from his 2019 campaign. But that could change if the Liberals land a so-called “star” candidate for a riding that is being targeted by both the NDP and Conservative parties.
Familiar names have been linked to the riding such as former Mayor and Liberal candidate Larry Di Ianni confirmed he won’t seek enter federal politics.
“I will not run except for the hills,” said Di Ianni.
Another possible candidate is Ward 5 Coun. Chad Collins. Di Ianni said Collins would be an “excellent” candidate.
Collins did not respond for a request for comment.
Regardless of who will be the Liberal candidate, Milanovic and Kuruc will be hammering hard at the federal Liberal government for failing to oversee the pandemic response, especially botching the vaccine rollout.
Kuruc says the pandemic and vaccine rollout is the major issue for residents in the upcoming federal election.
The Liberals, along with past Conservative governments, were unprepared for the pandemic, ignoring the shortage of personal protective equipment when health-care personnel needed it the most, said Milanovic.
“They didn’t take strong leadership,” said Milanovic. “I don’t think people will forget about it, and I will keep reminding them.”