Hamilton mayor reveals details about Italy ‘mission’ trip, gets backlash
Published August 8, 2023 at 1:34 pm
Hamilton Mayor Andrea Horwath says she has gained ideas, insights and connections that could benefit the city from her recent 12-day trip to Italy, calling it a “mission” to strengthen Hamilton’s relationships and reputation with international partners.
But a few critics lamented what they said was her failure to handle the pressing issues of the city.
In a recent episode of her YouTube show called OShow,” Laura Babcock, a pundit and senior communications strategist for Power Group, accused Horwath of being absent on issues concerning the city such as the Greenbelt fight.
Graham Crawford, a Hamilton community activist, said the mayor’s trip was spun as an economic development mission.
“This whole mission trip has been … bouquets and banquets … it has always been that,” said Crawford on the show. “So she came back with memories and some sh***y photographs. That’s it. It’s so unsophisticated, it’s embarrassing, it’s pandering.”
Babcock said she doesn’t have any problem with the mayor going on the trip, but what she “begrudges is her not doing anything the rest of the time. Nine months she’s been in this gig. … Where is our mayor?”
In response to some of the criticism about her trip to Italy amid a homelessness and housing crisis, spokesperson Michelle Shantz said the mayor is “entirely focused” on leading the city and was “available and responsive” to staff and city issues throughout her time out of town.
The mayor’s trip from July 3 to 14 cost taxpayers $4,505.40 total for the flights and accommodation, according to Shantz.
Horwath, who said she was invited to visit Italy by the mayor of Racalmuto, had posted photos and a recap of her trip on X, formerly Twitter, in July.
She said she took note of initiatives and programs from Italy that may be adopted in Hamilton, including recycling receptacles made into art pieces such as one that resembled a giant fish.
However, when asked for more examples, her spokesperson in an email to inthehammer.com didn’t provide any. “The mayor will be meeting with city staff over the coming weeks to discuss follow up opportunities from the mission and best practices (by other mayors),” she replied.
“This mission continues a tradition of cultural exchanges and reciprocal mayoral visits that began with the twinning of Racalmuto, Sicily and Hamilton in 1985,” said Shantz in an email to inthehammer.com. “The Mayor’s mission was intended to strengthen Hamilton’s relationship and reputation with our international partners and opens the door for future trade and economic development opportunities.”
Fred Eisenberger had also done a work trip to Italy in 2016 when he was mayor of Hamilton.
“Mayor Horwath is proud of these ties and has always been a strong champion of the Italian-Canadian community,” said Shantz, the mayor’s spokesperson. “Hamilton is home to many Italian-led businesses and this mission showcases how global cities are fully embracing face-to-face relations in the 21st century. … Our hope is to build on our strong relationship with the Italian market to further attract investments and business partnerships.”
Mayor’s office provides a breakdown of trip expenses
Shantz said the mayor’s office budget paid for the mission trip to Italy.
She provided inthehammer.com with the following breakdown of costs for Horwath’s trip in Canadian currency:
- Flights for the mayor totalled $2,952.49, including return flights from Toronto to Rome ($2,604.64) and two flights within Italy from Rome to Palermo and back ($347.85).
- The accommodation was $1,552.91. She noted that “many hotels were paid on-site, and final accommodation cost may differ slightly once the team has received all final payment receipts.”
- The total for flights and accommodation was $4,505.40.
Racalmuto, Sicily, became the first Italian city to have a twinning relationship with the City of Hamilton in 1985. More than 25,000 Hamilton residents have roots in Racalmuto. Part of Murray St. West in Ward 2 is even known as Corso Racalmuto in honour of the Racalmutesi.
In 1992, Valle Peligna, Abruzzo, became the second Italian city to twin with Hamilton, according to the City.
The mayor’s itinerary included meeting with senior Italian government officials, including Sicily’s President Renato Schifani, touring key Italian cultural areas, and engaging one-on-one meetings with Italian dignitaries, according to the City.
Click here to see what the mayor posted on X about the trip.insauga's Editorial Standards and Policies advertising