A majority of Council supports Galbraith; are they attempting to influence the Integrity Commissioner

By Staff

November 26th, 2020



The following is a column written by Joan Little for the Hamilton Spectator.   Following the column is a response from the Mayor of Burlington and three members of Council.  The two pieces are indicative of how messy things are at the city council level

By Joan Little

Burlington hosted a splendid inaugural meeting of the 2022 to 2026 council, re-elected en masse, hitting several highs. Good, especially because voter turnout was so low — 27.6 per cent. I called it the worst in 50 years, forgetting an even worse stretch in 2000 and 2003 at 22.7 and 16.5 respectively. Worth forgetting!

Indigenous leaders played significant roles in the opening meeting. Chief Stacey Laforme, of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, offered opening remarks, and Elder White Eagle Stonefish offered hers.

The City council elected in October 2022. Shawna Stolte was self isolating.

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward addressed the audience, which judging from the volume of applause, appeared sparse that cold night. She relayed promises kept, and issues facing council, including climate and budgetary ones, then zeroed in on planning. Burlington, she said, was on target to meet its growth allocations without the appointed OLT (Ontario Land Tribunal) — usually one appointed person — overriding the elected council’s position.

She noted that Halton, other municipalities, and AMO (Association of Municipalities of Ontario) have tried to get the OLT disbanded or curtailed. The province says red tape is slowing housing construction. It is, but the red tape comes from the industry itself.

It totally disregards city standards (ours and others) applying for outrageous exemptions municipal planners decry. Then it appeals, costing cities millions to defend, and delays construction by years because the OLT’s schedule is so backlogged. That, dear readers, is where millions in our local taxes go since Doug Ford took office. There were always appeals, but his rule changes and affinity with developers dramatically escalated them.

In my last column I mentioned conflict of interest, musing that a page listing conflicts would have merit. An astute reader emailed that a page now exists. I also mentioned that a voter was questioning whether Ward 1’s Kelvin Galbraith, who owns developable property, was following all rules on conflict of interest. The citizen will know in a few weeks, having launched a complaint to the City’s (outside) Integrity Commissioner (IC). An IC’s report goes to council, usually with a recommendation, which council can accept or alter.

The response from the four

Regarding ‘No change on Burlington council’ (Oct. 26): We expect more from The Spectator than to simply repeat allegations without attempting to first verify whether they have merit.

In this column, Joan Little repeats an allegation levelled by a constituent about potential violations of Conflict of Interest against recently re-elected Ward 1 Councillor Kelvin Galbraith. The Spectator amplified this allegation in their Tweet.

The councillor sought and received both verbal and written advice from the city’s Integrity Commissioner on the matters raised by the constituent. The councillor followed that advice.

This advice from the IC was provided to the constituent who raised the concern. It was available to Ms. Little had she asked before simply repeating the allegation.

Additionally, the City of Burlington has an online Conflict of Interest Registry which lists every conflict declared by any member of council for the term, including the items raised by the constituent. https://www.burlington.ca/en/council-and-city-administration/conflicts-of-interest-registry.aspx

It is fully transparent, public and easy to find if one simply does their homework. Our clerks is office is also willing to assist in furnishing this information.

The constituent has now filed a complaint with the Integrity Commissioner on the matters for which the Councillor has already sought, received and followed the IC advice. It appears the constituent takes issue with the advice the IC provided to the Councillor. The IC will respond in due course.

Just what did the Integrity Commissioner give Councillor Galbraith in  the way of advice and direction

The Gazette published the advice the Integrity Commissioner gave Councillor Galbraith six days before the election.  It is our belief that had the public been aware of that advice the outcome of the election would have been quite different.  We believe that Galbraith had a duty and a responsibility to make the information public when he got it back in March.

An Aldershot resident filed a complaint with the Integrity Commissioner that is now being investigated.  The Gazette is aware of at least one additional complaint that is to be filed  After what is certain t be a detailed response to the complaints the Integrity Commissioner will take a recommendation to Council.  Council then has to decide what it wants to do with the recommendation

Councillors Stolte and Bentivegna did not add their signatures to the Letter sent to the Spectator

What has become quite evident is that Mayor Meed Ward is going to go to considerable length to protect Galbraith and has convinced two other Councillors to join her.

Combined the four members constitute a majority of Council, who, when the Integrity Commissioner does bring back a recommendation, will be in a position to disregard a recommendation.

Worth noting is that Councillors Kearns, Stolte and Bentivegna did not sign the Letter to the Editor sent to the Spectator

Related news:

The advice the Integrity Commissioner gave Councillor in March 2022


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15 comments to A majority of Council supports Galbraith; are they attempting to influence the Integrity Commissioner

  • Penny Hersh

    Many of us have been following this conflict of interest issue very closely.

    “The councillor sought and received both verbal and written advice from the city’s Integrity Commissioner on the matters raised by the constituent. The councillor followed that advice.

    This advice from the IC was provided to the constituent who raised the concern. It was available to Ms. Little had she asked before simply repeating the allegation.”

    The above statement certainly holds no merit when the public was given access to the report( that Councillor Galbraith requested).

    I am certain that Joan Little read this prior to writing her column. It specifically indicates that there is a conflict of interest and that the councillor needed to recuse himself. The issue in question is did he at all times or just some of the time? Councillor Galbraith owns property in the ward where development applications have been filed.

    Councillor Galbraith had this report for months and chose not to share it with the resident who repeatedly asked for it until online voting and advance polling had taken place. Thankfully the resident chose to make this public or we would never know about it.

    The question residents need to ask themselves is WHY? Why would the mayor be rushing to defend this councillor before the Integrity Commissioner’s report was completed?

    HOW independent can a report be when the lawyers preparing the report are paid for by the city, and would want to have their contract renewed? Should these firms be able to have their contract renewed? This is the situation presently.

    Better yet the Integrity Commission needs to be hired by the Region rather than the Municipality. This does happen in some Municipalities in Ontario.

    LAST but not least, the Integrity Commissioner’s report is simply a report with” no teeth”. Council has the final word on how it will handle the recommendations.

    Let’s hope that should this come down to a vote that the councillor in question does not have the ability to vote on this report.

    • Mary Hill

      You obviously have not read Galbraith’s response to the complainant which I believe was published in the Gazette. His position I believe is that there have as yet been no council discussions on developments where his property ownership would put him in conflict. He also confirmed that should such discussions come to pass he would recuse himself.

      Editor is that an incorrect summary of his position?

      As far as you questioning the potential for the IC report not being independent or impartial because the law firm that undertakes the review is engaged by the City, you are basically calling into question the integrity of the Integrity Commissioner.

      In a different forum someone called into question the integrity and impartiality of the Emergency Act inquiry Commissioner because he had worked on Paul Martin’s election campaign.

      Both you and that person are tainting the character of those people without a shred of supporting evidence.

      Editor’s note: I have reason to believe that is as correct as you think it is. Some follow up to be done.

  • Mary Hill

    Bit of a stretch? Maybe, maybe not. We’ll see.

    Do you concede the point that Galbraith will have to recuse himself? So cannot vote for himself. Thus a total of 6 votes.

    Marsden, I believe in earlier comments you have made on the Galbraith conflict matter you pretty much “convicted” the guy. Now you criticize others for taking a position. As always double talk from you.

    • Mary why can you never debate an issue without a claws out attack on one or more of the debate participants. It does not get your point across rather it sets the stage for skipping your remarks. Want to be considered as having something worthwhile to read as you often do, cut the nastiness!

      • Mary Hill

        No nastiness. No claw out. Just stating what I believe is factual. You took a position on this matter. Now you criticize others for taking a position.

        “PPerhaps Sharman’s constituents who become aware of what he is doing should let him know protecting councillors from being impartially investigated and consequences, if any are needed are put in place as they should be.”

        That is what you said here in the Gazette.

        The letter signed by the four councilors, in my opinion, only put forward to Ms Little Galbraith’s side of the matter. Again in my opinion, tere was no effort to influence the IC. If you believe the contrary, could not the complainant and the Spectator be accused of that too?

        That’s why again I say you offer double talk..

        • We took a position as taxpayers. Council are elected ro make decisions to protect the well-being and best interests of residents of Burlington,there is nothing in the legislation that says they are elected to take a position on the behavior of fellow councillors until.after they receive the IC report. If I was an elected official it would be wrong of me to have made the comment I did. You have a habit of basing your opinions on a lack of understanding of the Governance legislation which is put in place to protect taxpayers. There is no-one in Ontario who has had more experience in adjudicating member of Council’s actions than Andre Marin. He made it very clear on the public record that his experience identified councillors make MPPs look like choir boys. You should be grateful that the Gazette is not afraid to address the issues that affect taxpayers getting what they have a right to have I.e transparency and accountability.

          • Mary Hill

            Marsdens, you say “there is nothing in the legislation that says they are elected to take a position on the behavior of fellow councillors until.after they receive the IC report”. I ask you, as the self-professed expert, is there anything in the legislation to which you can refer to us that prohibits a councilor from taking a position on the behaviour of a fellow councilor prior to an IC report being presented to council? If there is perhaps you would cite it.

            Would you explain please why the reference to Andre Marin? What relevance is he to this subject matter?

          • It is inappropriate for councillors to openly support a councillor who is evidenced as showing lack of transparency to those he is asking to elect him. If he had been transparent there is a huge question as to whether he would have been elected. End of story.

    • Mary Hill

      NOT end of story. Very arrogant remark! That is just your opinion. Your opinion carries as much or as little weight as mine.

      You failed to point out any legislation or article in the City’s Code of Good Governance that prohibits councilors making comments.

      BTW the only opinion on this issue that matters is that of the Integrity Commissioner. So if you feel so strongly that your opinion is correct file a complaint with the IC and let’s what happens.

      • Mary perhaps knowing who we are replying to we should have put end of our story but did not think that was necessary …. another lesson learnt!

        • Mary Hill

          And you still have not answered the question. Just like your election campaign. Never responded to questions put you. I should have learnt my lesson by now that that is you modus operandi (need help with the Latin?)

  • perryb

    Yet another questionable black mark on the Mayor’s usually impeccable reputation. She has now announced that her posse will be the two weakest Councilors in Council, joining in a co-signed attack on Joan Little. As a Ward 1 voter, I believe Galbraith campaigned under false pretenses and kept a very worthy candidate in second place. Sad

    • Dave Turner

      Perryb, with respect you say you believe Galbraith under false pretenses. At this time you have nothing to base that on. Only after the IC report is out will we know if he acted whilst in conflict. He says there have been no discussions on developments where he would be in conflict. Let’s wait for the IC’s findings.

      BTW my kids were taught by Radway. He would have been a good choice.

  • The accountability issue as far as we know it has always been the electorate did not know that Galbraith had been told he had a conflict of interest and must declare such when an item was discussed. This would mean Ward 1 would not be represented when this important discussion leading to a decision that affects Ward 1 residents more than others took place. Joan Little’s article did not deserve the attack strategy led by the mayor and a majority of our small council. Surely this could be construed by some as an attempt to influence the IC’s decision.

    Joan has not been our favorite reporter over the last few years and we believe Burlington municipal politics is grossly under reported in the Spectator and its sister paper that covers Burlington. Spectator readers were promised nothing would change when they closed their Burlington office, but it absolutely did. However, Joan’s article was as far as we could see accurate reporting of the facts and an admission that she was corrected in terms of a conflict of Interest page and on low voter turn out statistics. We believe that the Mayor and her three majority in the making councillors went too far, and far too early – they should have waited until the Integrity Commissioner made his recommendation. We can hear the question of the month now – Burlington council members x 4 – wannabe influencers?

  • Mary Hill


    I believe your penultimate paragraph is incorrect. Councilor Galbraith will be required to recuse himself from discussion relevant to the complaint against him. Surprised you did not spot that one. So there will only be six votes.

    The article makes note of who did not sign the letter but fails to mention that very notably Councilor Sharman did sign.

    If the IC finds in favour of Councilor Galbraith I trust the Gazette will print a full detailed article clearly confirming and accepting his exoneration.

    Editor’s note: Exoneration is a bit of a stretch.
    We will publish whatever the IC releases. They may not release their recommendation to the public – but just to council who may choose to go into a CLOSED session