An informed observer gives his take on the ward six debate; Gazette comments.

council 100x100By Pepper Parr

September 26, 2014



Was it a good debate? Not bad. It was the first the Gazette has sponsored and perhaps the only ward level debate the city will see – however we understand there might be a ward level debate in Aldershot.

We will certainly do this type of thing again – maybe not this election. Events like this take time and with our limited resources – time is one of the things we never have enough of.

On the stage at the theatre at the Hayden High School were the following:  Angelo Bentivegna; Jim Curran; Pardeep Dodanjh; Jennifer Hlusko; Blair Lancaster; Jivan Sanghera; Ishar Thiara and Vanessa Warren.

Mina Wahidi had to excuse herself from the debate – her Mother was taken to hospital.  Ishar Thiara had to leave the stage part way through the evening; he had become ill and Shoaib Shams didn`t show up.

Email from people we look upon as reliable, informed observers who have served the city in some form in the past and are aware of what happens at city hall, sent in some comments.

Debate ThiaraNone of the comments came from people working on a campaignThe contributor asked to remain anonymous – there is a lot of that going around in Burlington.  People like to comment but seldom want to put their name beside their comments.

We pass these along to you along with our own observations. Later this week our reporter Walter Byj will complete his write of the three hour event.

“I was expecting to see some strong drive for change, but all I saw was room temperature water, except for Warren’s opening remark about the number of candidates being a good indicator of how well Lancaster has done her job.

Bentivegna – wants to do more studies – there are already too many studies – need some action!
No such thing as ‘try harder’, said Bentivegna, “everyone does the best they can with the skills and abilities they have.”

Gazette comment: Should Bentivegna be elected he will choose to be very tight with senior staff. He very much wants to be part of what he sees as the people who run the decision. Bentivegna believes he can help the Mayor be a better mayor by offering him direction and guidance.

Curran – weak communicator – hard for him to string more than 5 words together – could not hold my attention.

Debate Bentivegna-Curran -DosanjhGazette comment: Curran was lack lustre. He however believes he has more boots on the ground that anyone else and that he can win this race. Time will tell.

Dosanjh – save your time and drop out.

Gazette comment: At one point she began to believe what she was saying – but lost any credibility she might have had when she asked another candidate how much he had donated to the flood victim account.

Hlusko – acted like she did not want to be there –
“indignant, self-righteous and out of touch

“too much anger when responding to the early question when she said ‘which question do you want me to answer’

“strange loud positive response from the crowd when she said that…
“and strange response re being set-up over Greenbelt question and being set-up over delegating to Council.

“SHE built Hayden school’ – her quote – Government of Ontario funding had nothing to do with it, nor did demographics or the province’s school funding formula? If force of personality could get a school built, why did Millcroft not have a school for 8 or 9 years? Because of the funding formula…. she was on duty when it was built, but to take credit, I don’t think that is a valid claim

Debate Bentivegna and Sanghera

Angelo Bentivegna and Jivan Sanghera exchange comments after the debate

“Burlingtonians have deep pockets and are willing to pay for parks, road repairs” – paraphrased – Easy to say when her family brings in north of $200k and her peers working for the school boards make $90k plus. Example: Two husband and wife school board employees near me. First set – her teaching 10 years ~ $80k / year. Him, school admin ~ $120k / year. Second Set – him, school admin ~ $170k, her teaching 30+ years $90k+. If Hlusko comes out of her circle of friends/peers she will see there are many people in Burlington who struggle to get by or live paycheck to paycheck.

Gazette comment: Hlusko had the best grasp of the numbers than anyone else – she knew her file and while she is a little quirky – (She might be a Mensa.) she knows what she is talking about. We saw her as snappy in a very positive way.

We don’t share the view of our observer.

Lancaster – – she is so meek, silent and vacant in Council, I was surprised she skated so well on thin ice
Spoke of building coalitions among Councillors but not one specific example – no one called her on it…
Spoke of ‘her’ ward when talking about other Councillors ‘interfering’ with citizen calls to other Councillors (re Code of Conduct)

It is the Ward she represents, not a Ward she possesses.

Gazette comment: Lancaster was Lancaster – she described Warren as an activist – a word that left a bad taste in Lancaster’s mouth, but she gave as good as she got.

She represents a demographic that is older but they love her and if enough of them stick by her – she could make it back.  Her support is solid – the question is – just how deep is that support.

When the incumbent has nine people running against her it has to be a message she hears. One didn’t get the impression she has heard the message,

Sanghera – did his research, spoke well – needs to find a differentiator to succeed – potential – maybe not this year.

Gazette comment: We were very impressed with this young man. He spoke very well, had his fingers on the facts and came across, to us anyway, as balanced and rational. Were we to live in ward six – he would be our choice.

Warren – very well prepared, confident – may be the ultimate winner – if she gets a presence south of 407

Debate WarrenGazette comment: Warren is always well prepared. She is the best delegator we have seen at both city hall and the Region, her research is close to impeccable. And she is an activist – Burlington needs more like her. She just didn’t come across as a person who could find the middle ground and understand that politics is the art of the possible. A city is made up of a collection of interests and all those interests have to be contended with and considered.

We are not sure Warren has the patience to sit through those hour upon hour Standing Committee meetings talking about parking spaces and property setbacks. Her sense of justice would bristle at some of the things developers ask for – which the current council usually gives them.

Warren would be a firm ally of Meed Ward – not a bad thing – but it would mean 5-2 votes on many issues. In the past they have been 6-1 with Meed Ward calling for a recorded vote each time.

Meed Ward is good at this kind of thing and, while she is an irritant to her colleagues she is effective. Warren doesn’t have the stomach for this kind of thing.

There are going to be those out there that claim we are biased.  We don`t live in the ward.  We know the incumbent better than most people; we have watched her for the past four years.  We have followed several of the candidates for some time.  Others we saw for the first time Wednesday night; for at least one of them that was all we needed.




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7 comments to An informed observer gives his take on the ward six debate; Gazette comments.

  • Kevin,

    Lets so some backstory shall we?

    There has never been an election with so many people in Ward 6 history.
    Ward 6 does not have community groups to host unbiased debates.
    This was the first one for this sponsor who has limited readership, and it was not well published. Even the candidates did not push it because of the relationship.
    Ward 6 is very much a commuter neighbourbood, and Wednesday nights are tough even if it was well published.
    THAT is exactly what Blair Lancaster is counting on! She hopes that our day, or life and our stress will keep people from the poles.

    Until you have an issue and need help you will never know how inept Ms. Lancaster is how she “delegates” to others and you will be left in a nightmare!

    I did not enjoy the debate either, but I went , I learned a few things and I am listening and talking to my neighbours.

    Dont swear off the intention, just learn from it. We have never had so many people wanting to be a councillor in Ward 6 or any Ward in Burlington and its not about the pay, trust me.

    I would like to thank the editor on a much more well balanced opinion of the debate, His anonymous interviewee is pretty obvious if you read the gazette on a regular basis. Outside a few of these remarks about a couple of candidates which the interview missed equipment and misintrepted body language for anger other than pain,,,,, which I did , until I spoke to the candidate,,,,,,,, This was a pretty good recap. I can understand back pain, and after walking door to door and moving wrong on a step and your back just goes,,,,, one will never understand…. age is not a factor, it just happens.

    I called all the candidates that impressed me and checked my opinions.

    However I still want an unbiased debate,,,,,, no connections to any candidate, no one feeding questions to their preferred choice.

  • lisa

    I checked and Rosie’s comments about Warren and Koster’s link to the same advocacy group (RBGC) and found that it is in fact correct. Something doesn’t smell right here. It is insulting to me that people seeking political position (and politicians in general) would take advantage of a situation like this without full disclosure. It may be insignificant but it is an indication of how a candidate will operate once elected.

    Editor`s note:
    I chose Kurt Koster as a panelist because he was an informed resident and because he has been active in the community all his life. He happens to be an environmentalist and cares about what we do to this planet.
    We published background material on both panelists – we had nothing to hide. We would like to have been able to promote the event more heavily – we rant into that thing called limited resources.

  • Dianna Bower

    Just to clarify for the informed observer re salaries of school board trustees. There isn’t one. It is an honourarium that at the present time is just over $13,000 a year.

    The informed observer might also want to check past history at the HDSB Board of Trustees table to learn how much Candidate Hlusko has supported all families; including those affected by low socio-economic circumstances.

  • Kevin

    TO the EDITOR: I am absolutely delighted that your reporter has 10 fingers. My concern is that can he even COUNT.

    Here is some backup information about the candidates please scroll down on the link and read the comments section. My analysis about one candidate is true.

  • Kevin

    First of all, lets do a recap of the debate. So a total of 100 guests showed up and the place holds 220, here is the break down: 8 candidates, 8 media personal, 10 auditorium staff, 40 candidate supporters and finally 35 seniors who have nothing else to do. Overall a waste of time, the gazette has been promoting this event for months and nobody even cared to show up. Here is my feedback:

    Dosanjh….absolutely useless, get her out
    Curran…..nothing special, really boring
    warren….the best speaker, knows her stuff
    sanghera…seems devious and has other intentions.
    bentivegna…not bad you should here him out
    lancaster…overall knows her stuff
    hulsko….seemed to relaxed…didnt care

    This is the last Councillor debate I will ever attend, overall a complete waste of my 3 hours I will never get back.

    Editor`s note: Our reporter counted 120 people NOT including the candidates and the school staff. I checked and the reporter has ten fingers so I will go with his numbers.
    My concern for you is that you vote – just the once though.

    • JQ Public

      Just one thing Kevin. Never assume seniors have nothing else to do. As retirees, they have lots of potential things to do – that’s the advantage to being retired. Many choose to stay engaged with their city and follow electoral races. They are mature in their thoughts as well as their ages. And they vote in high numbers.

      And no, I’m not a senior, yet. But I hope to be one, as I hope you do too.

  • Rosie

    Thank you to the Burlington Gazette for hosting the debate. I was disappointed to find that Mr. Koster, one of the panel of two questioners and Vanessa Warren, a candidate, are closely linked to the same advocacy group, as cofounder and former director respectively. They are very closely allied politically, this made for a skewed panel.
    The debate guidelines got thrown out the window, giving the advantage to two candidates. Ms Warren and Ms Lancaster spoke more than once to several panel questions, while other candidates were limited to one comment per question, as had been announced. A maximum of two comments per question were allowed if the question had been originally been directed to the candidate. At one point, Ms Lancaster rebutted the replies of four candidates. I understand that as the incumbent, and to defend her record, there should have been some leniency, but she had far too much floor time in the first part of the evening. There was no reason for Ms Warren to be allowed multiple comments.
    The timer was not used consistently. Much of the audience had a clear view of it, as did the candidates, and on several occasions both Ms Lancaster and Ms Warren spoke well beyond their allotted time, while others were cut off mid-sentence.
    This group of candidates seemed to be well-intentioned, and mostly well informed people who care passionately about their ward. I hope that the residents of Ward 6 choose a councillor who will respond to them every time they call, and one who is approachable, and able to work with others on council.