Brittle, has trouble finding his sense of humour yet Rick Craven is the best committee chair council has - but isn't popular with his constituents. Warm and fuzzy he ain't.

council 100x100By Pepper Parr

October 25, 2014


 The Gazette is doing profiles of each member of Council. They are based on four years of observations and interviews with most Council members. An overview of the ward they serve is linked to the profile.

Rick Craven; a well-entrenched incumbent facing five challengers one whose web site address is “Had enough yet?” which does say something about voter satisfaction in the most westerly ward in the city.

Question here is – can the incumbent deal with that part of the ward that is very unhappy with the way they have been dealt with?

As a Standing Committee chair, Ward 1 Councillor Rick Craven is as good as it gets.  Handling delegations and accepting the ideas of other people - not as good.  But he wins elections.

As a Standing Committee chair, Ward 1 Councillor Rick Craven is as good as it gets. Handling delegations and accepting the ideas of other people – not as good. But he wins elections.

Rick Craven is a strong administrator, who knows the Procedural bylaw manual better than anyone else at city hall – and is the strongest Standing Committee chair this Council has. He is quick with his facts and has the ability to skate around an issue better than his two colleagues who have 20 years + experience as Council members.

What Craven has in administrative capacity is weakened by his people skills; Craven isn’t comfortable with people – unless he can control them.

He chooses his issues and is unyielding once he has taken a position. He is brittle, has a sense of humour that is tough to find at times.

Our assessment of Councillor Craven is the result of watching him for the past four years, a number of lunches with him and several situations, where we reported on an event that Councillor Craven would rather not have mentioned.

Rick Craven: Best committee chair the city has; not big on the warm fuzzy stuff through.  Needs a hug badly.

Rick Craven: Best committee chair the city has; not big on the warm fuzzy stuff though. Needs a hug badly.

There was an occasion one evening at a Conservation Authority meeting when Craven said he “might take a shot at being mayor”. That came as a surprise.


More candidate than Craven could manage?  Sandra Pupatello on a trip through town looking for local support for her Liberal leadership bid.  Craven was prepared to let the party romance him.

More candidate than Craven could manage? Sandra Pupatello on a trip through town looking for local support for her Liberal leadership bid. Craven was prepared to let the party romance him.

What didn’t surprise us was the close look he took at a possible run for the Burlington seat at Queen’s Park. Jane McKenna ran against Craven in 2010 when she was soundly trounced. Craven was pretty sure he could trounce her again – his issue at the time was who the Premier was going to be. Sandra Pupatello, who was giving Kathleen Wynne a good run for her money at the time, met with Craven at a local Liberal event, but nothing came of it. Craven would have made a good MPP.

His strength is not in working with small groups – unless he has close to total control. The General Manager of the Aldershot Business Improvement Association doesn’t open the door to the office without calling the ward Councillor.

The Beachway residents have vowed to do everything they can to defeat Councillor Craven in the October 2014 municipal election and have designed a button they are distributing.

The Beachway residents have vowed to do everything they can to defeat Councillor Craven in the October 2014 municipal election and have designed a button they are distributing.

The Beachway residents found that they had no support whatsoever from their Councillor, when the matter of what was going to be done with the Beachway part of the waterfront, was being fiercely debated at both city council and the Region.

Craven tends to see skulduggery where there is none; he believes that developers will eventually buy up the property in the Beachway and we will see sky-high condos built along the edge of the lake close to the Hamilton border.– Jurisdictionally, the Beachway is a mess; everyone has a finger in that pie. Burlington wasn’t able to come up with a unified position on what it wanted, which left Councillor Craven promoting his view, with no input from the people who lived in that community.

Councillor Jack Dennison had some ideas on what could be done with the Beachway. That should have been given more attention. Craven didn’t really have any ideas for what is one of the most important pieces of property in the city and a vital part of the recreational element of the Region.

If Burlington doesn’t think through and have a position on what that part of the city is to be, we stand a chance of becoming a playground for the Region. Halton’s Wasaga Beach south if you will.

The residents felt they were entitled to the support of their Council member. Unfortunately he didn’t personally think they should be where they lived and would point to minor encroachments and the number of times that some pieces of property had changed hands in the recent past.

The Beachway had, still has, a small core community that fought very hard to get the Regional government to look at the location a little differently.

Councillor Craven fought hard against the 30 home owners in that community and they were justifiably upset. Tempers of a few of the residents flared – so much so that Councillor Craven felt his personal safety was in jeopardy and asked the city hall security guard to escort him to his car – which was maybe 15 yards outside the city hall door.


Councillor Cravem inspecting the Pump House on the Beachway - thinks the place could sereve as the Official Residece for the Ward Counillor

Councillor Craven inspecting the Pump House on the Beachway – thinks the place could serve as the Official Residence for the Ward Councillor

Councillor Craven is not a people person; he is uncomfortable listening to the small problems people have; he has a tendency to denigrate his constituents privately. There have been occasions when Beachway residents have had to appeal to a Councillor from another ward for help.

Our assessment of Councillor Craven is not as complete as we would have liked it to be. Walter Byj, a freelance reporter with the Gazette asked for an interview with Craven on several occasions:

August 22nd- wrote e-mail to assistant Kathi requesting an interview for the Burlington Gazette.

Sept. 5th- sent follow-up e-mail to Kathi re request for interview. Received reply that as a city employee, she can not organize any election related events. Advised that she would forward my request to Craven.

Sept. 9th- sent e-mail directly to Craven asking for an interview and have not received a reply.

It is irresponsible for a Councillor to make themselves available when they like what is being written, but become unavailable when they don’t like what is written. It is small, petty and unbecoming an elected official; there is a higher standard for those chosen to lead.


Plains Road; an old suburban highway transitions into a vibrant urban main street.

Plains Road; an old highway transitions into a vibrant urban main street.

Craven is immensely proud of the work he has done in the 14 years he has served on Council representing the Aldershot residents. Plains Road has been vastly improved and while it has been a struggle – in time the development that Plains Road needs will settle in Aldershot. It will not happen easily – the smallest change to the community upsets the older population as well as people who just plain don’t want change in their community.

Craven at least understands that change is both inevitable and necessary. While the city shared the development of the King Road grade separation – Craven wanted everyone to know that with that road more open to traffic, new business would work its way to the area. He is immensely proud of the grade separation.

Councillor Craven is not a popular person – warm and cuddly he ain’t. He is though, the best Standing Committee chair this city council has and he knows the procedural manual better than anyone else – including the current city clerk.

Councillor Craven may have felt his McMAster jacket would ward off some negative comment.  Don't think it did - every member of Council had their ears bent by the 125 people who showed up at the Mainway Arena SAturday afternoon.

When it is to his advantage Councillor Craven will dress for the occasion.  He wanted people to know that he was truly local at this heritage event.

There are those in the community however, who want a Councillor who is:

open; approachable; empathetic; trustworthy; ethical; can be believed without reservation; representative of all residents’; someone who can differentiate between concerns and interests impartially and neutrally; not appearing to possess and pursue a personal agenda regardless of residents views; ensures openness, transparency and accountability in his own dealings and at City Hall in general; faithfully carries out their sworn and legislated responsibilities and duties; actively promotes meaningful citizen engagement in decision-making; shares authority for decision-making; is cost effective and benefits conscious – recognizes the difference between needs and wants.

There is talk out there that the incumbent is lacking in some of these.

Residents would like a Ward 1 Citizens Advisory Committee that meets regularly to open up the raising, discussion and debating issues. This is distinct from the present Aldershot information meetings the Council member holds where the flow of information is one way – from him to them.

Gary Milne, a candidate for the ward 1 seat sums it up quite well with his web site:


Burlington councillors support Liberal candidate KArmel Sakran during press event.

Burlington Councillors Rick Craven and Marianne Meed Ward supported Liberal candidate Karmel Sakran during press event.  One of the very few occasions, when the two pose for the camera together.

Ward 2 councillor Marianne Meed Ward runs a very robust and effective Ward Council, which she listens and reports to – she sees her ward council as the group that keeps her focused and grounded. Residents of Aldershot would very much like to see such an organization.

Councillor Craven attended one of the Meed Ward’s community council meetings – but none of what gets done in ward 2 seemed to rub off on the ward 1 Councillor.

The Aldershot Business Improvement Association is far from an arm’s length organization. Councillor Craven determines what gets done and when it is going to get done; General manager Bob Meehan follows.

There are residents in Aldershot, who want Openness, Transparency and Accountability- they are not likely to see much as long as Craven represents the ward – it just isn’t his personal style. There is an older population that is comfortable with the authority Craven projects; that is a large part of his core vote.

Councillor Craven sits beside Councillor Meed Ward at city council meetings – it is frequently an uncomfortable time for both. He can’t stand her and she has no time for him. Craven can be crass and mean at times. He has been known to give delegators to city council a very difficult time – and if it happens to be someone from his ward that he crosses swords with – they don’t get the courtesies one expects from a person with some authority.

Townsend Ave., which runs parallel to Plains Road on the south side is an example of what many think is the incumbent’s pet project and has been since before 2008; residents only found out about it by accident at a meeting on the Presbyterian church site application in 2010.

The problem on Townsend started out as a speeding issue that could have been fixed with a stop sign. Some residents, including Tom Muir, who lives on the street, think Craven wants to make Townsend Ave an overflow for heavy traffic from Plains Rd. Muir believes that is the plan and what current planning discussions suggest. Muir is quick to add that he lives on Townsend.

A number of residents talk about term limits and feel that after three terms, a council member should hang up their spurs and make room for new blood. In Aldershot the sense that many have is that other than the election, there is really no apparent way for them to hold their Councillor accountable. Between elections a council member can do what they want.

Rick Craven knows his Ward, understands what his constituents need and they appear to think he's great.  Is there a life beyond city hall for Craven?

Rick Craven knows his ward, has his own agenda which he doesn’t share with everyone in his community.  Is there a life beyond city hall for Craven?

Greg Woodruff, currently running for the Chair of Regional Council, with no experience, said he chose that route to get some issues on the table. “Why didn’t I run against Councillor Craven? I didn’t have a hope of winning.” He doesn’t have a hope of defeating Regional Chair Gary Carr either, but the point is made – there are people very frustrated over the leadership they are getting, but find they have not been able to organize effectively to bring about a change.

Tom Muir, one of the residents who was prepared to go on record said: “Craven will point out that I have my opinion, but others have theirs; however he adds, there is no forum, where these different opinions are revealed, just his assertions. “Then he does, what he wants behind this cover of contrived controversy. This is a general thing, and he uses it to dismiss views he doesn’t want.”

Muir says Craven is “willing to distort demographics and traffic counts and cut corners to get what he wants or to defend a position; he is not one to advocate transparency.”
Muir adds that there was a time, when he voted for Craven. He now thinks that term limits are a good idea.

There are a number of issues in the ward that came up during the term of Council that is ending, that highlight the approach Councillor Craven takes to situations.

Eagle Heights is still nowhere near a start date; the Bridgepoint idea made it to Council, but Craven couldn’t move it forward as much as an inch; it was outside the urban boundary and nothing was going to happen.

Dennison, Craven, Taylor with leashes

Craven is delighted with the memory stick that has a city budget on it – he has a very strong grasp of the city’s finances.

The community is still waiting for a supermarket and an LCBO outlet. The supermarket was going to follow the growth in population that projects, like the multi-tower Drewlo apartment complex were expected to deliver. They then learned that Drewlo is not made up of families – so no supermarket yet.

The owners of the Murray variety store at Waterdown and Plains Road, were told that the city needed some of their property to widen Waterdown Road

Hearings were held, the hearing officer found that the city didn’t need all the land they were asking for – didn’t matter – all the property was expropriated by the city.

Just north of the variety store there is a branch of the Royal Bank that has a lease which will expire soon.


The Lee family had property they owned expropriated. City didn’t need all the land – but took it anyway. Councillor Craven didn’t say a word during the council discussion.

Further up Waterdown, at Masonry Court, the Paletta interests sold a large piece of land to Adi Development for a reported sum of $14 million. Masonry Court is yards south of the GO station.
Waterdown leads right into the 403.


The city needed just part 1 – they took part two as well because they could – reasons for doing so were made behind closed doors. The owners were never told why.

Property at the corner of Plains Road and Waterdown would be seen as prime real estate. The Korean family that owned the property was prepared to sell what the city needed. They were prepared to sign off on the sale of property to expedite the actual property title transfer so the road widening could begin.
City chose to expropriate and did so on July 14th. Councillor Craven didn’t say a single word on behalf of his constituents during the discussion nor did he ask any questions of their legal counsel.

The city needed land for the reconstruction and widening of Waterdown Road between Plains Road and Masonry Court including the provisions of full municipal services. It needs to buy property to do that work. Vito Tolone, Senior Transportation Planner in the Engineering Department testified at a Hearing of Necessity that “as presently configured, Waterdown Road will not be able to accommodate the travel demand growth anticipated by 2031″

Mr. Tolone testified that sometime between Environmental Assessment (EA) (December 6, 2006) and the Notice of Expropriation being served on the land owner on or about March 24, 2014 the City of Burlington decided that it was desirable that the City expropriate more land than required to perform the scope of the work contemplated in the EA document. On that basis, the City seeks a full expropriation of the Lee property.

Having your property taken from you when all the evidence indicates that all of the land is not needed is as drastic as state intervention can get. The Lee’s did not want to give up all their property yet their Council member did not say a single word during the public session of that July 14th public meeting. He did not ask questions of the Lees when they delegated nor did he asks questions of their lawyer when he delegated.

Council did go into a Closed Session that evening but we’ve no idea what, if anything, Councillor Craven said.

Since that July meeting we learn that the Royal Bank lease is up for renewal and that Adi Development has purchased a large swath of land for $14 million from the Paletta interests. There is certainly a lot of development going on in ward 1 – but the Lees are not going to be a part of it.


For Councillor Craven the opening of the King Road grade separation was like a parade: he understood the development potential possible from the better flow of traffic.

Citizens in Burlington are moving beyond the practice of sending someone to city council to represent them and having that person make all the decisions without any input from the broader community. Public participation in the decision making process has evolved and now calls for a level of transparency and collaboration that some have difficulty with

Burlington has a Public Engagement Charter which Councillor Craven is aware of but not comfortable with. He does know that procedural manual inside out though.

Link to Lee expropriation



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14 comments to Brittle, has trouble finding his sense of humour yet Rick Craven is the best committee chair council has – but isn’t popular with his constituents. Warm and fuzzy he ain’t.

  • Maggie

    Mr. Ettlewood
    Perhaps you are right. Perhaps I should go back to trying to trying to save our country and the world instead of the city. Or perhaps I should sell my family home before property prices plummet and move to Belize. At least I wouldn’t have to freeze in the winter trying to get around on our horrendous overpriced transit system, the alternative being to spend a fortune in cab fare. Perhaps in Belize I will open a shop. At least the rent will be affordable. The only problem with this scenario is that Burlington is my home town and I love it.

  • Maggie

    One word Mr. Parr

  • Maggie

    I have no problem about Katharine Henshell bringing up her family or her accomplishments. She should be proud of them. It was however, her family situation that sent up the first red flag to me.
    As a candidate I could talk about my beautiful adult daughter and her accomplishments. or my boyfriends adorable grandchildren. I could talk about my past involvement and accomplishments with Protecting Canadian Children. Since this is a municipal election I have chosen to concentrate on the issues affecting our city.
    As I said I have no problem with Ms. Henshell bringing up her family or accomplishments. My point was that I would have liked to see a little more attention to the issues. One box stating the issues with no indication of her position or solutions is not enough.
    Also speaking of family, I have joking talked to a few friends that if this were 20 or even 15 years ago I could probably counted on votes based on my last name. My father was well known in the area as well as other places. He died 3 years ago at the age of 86 and many of his contemporizes have moved on or are deceased. On reflection I have to admit that I would much rather be voted in based on my abilities and position on issues rather than my family name.

    Editor’s note: why one woman would suggest that another woman should not be running for office because she has a young child and ready to give birth to a second very soon. I thought we were past that kind of nonsense.

  • DB

    Henshell’s website SHOULD have her kids/family/herself on it. She is a person, with a life like all of us – she wants us to know her better – and she is proud of them. That is an accomplishment after all. She will represent Burlington well, is all I’m saying. Henshell is a lawyer. She knows the rules. She didn’t break them. Good luck to all in the election and may they serve their city well.

  • Maggie

    My concern about Katharine Henshell started before I was even aware of the arena situation and before I made up my mind on running. It was when I read the age of her daughter and that she was expecting another child. With her own law practice and soon to be two very young children, both of which are full time jobs, I am concerned about whether she will have the time and energy to devote to the ward. Being a city councillor is a full time job. It is not a volunteer position where one can decide how many hours to devote. If elected will she give up her law practice. Does she plan to get elected and then take maternity leave, leaving the ward without representation. I have not heard of these issues being addressed.
    I have been reluctant to speak out since I have not wanted to become embroiled in a discussion on working mothers, who I approve of by the way. I did mention my concern to an acquaintance and her friend and practically had my head bit off before I could even give my reasoning.
    I do know that no-one can do it all. The concept of superwomen (or man) is a myth. Residents of Ward 1 and Burlington deserve full time representation.

  • Maggie

    I am not saying the rule is right. It is silly but until it is changed it needs to be respected.

  • Maggie

    I agree with Jim that Katharine Henshell is not the best choice. When I first read about her in the Gazette I was impressed and thought that if I didn’t run she would be my choice. That opinion has completely changed. In reading her website it is long on her and her growing family and short on the issues and her views and solutions to them. Combine that with her using city owned property for her campaign I have to conclude she is not the best choice.
    Personal dealings I had with Jason Beolhouwer and his company were not positive.
    If I did not believe I was the best candidate for the job I would not be running. I’m not your conventional candidate. I often have a unique way of looking at life and issues. A few years ago when I spoke out against adoption subsidies at the Ontario Legislator one of the politicians approached me and commented that the point I had made was a good one and had not even been thought of. I also have a natural objectivity which helps me see different points of view. Combined with my years of retail and customer service I can handle people quite diplomatically. I am not however intimidated by wealth or position. I do not bow to threats and have no problem speaking my mind when necessary.
    This week at the all candidates meeting hosted by Aldershot high school I had the privilege of finally meeting the other two candidates, Patrick Allen and Gary Milne. I found both to be intelligent and pleasant. While I might not always share their views I find both are men I can respect. Both appear to be very ethical.
    While I hope people will vote for me, if not please choose one of these two men. Either would be a better choice than Rick, Katherine or Jason. It is unfortunate that the Gazette did not find time to interview Patrick, Gary and myself as promised.
    Maggie Steiss Candidate for Ward 1

    Editor’s note:
    What is the problem with a person renting space in a building the city owns? If they pay the fee – they use it. Burlington needs to look at the silly rule (Not sure there is even a rule) that allows the Clerk to say city property cannot be used for the purpose of an election. One would like to think that the city administration would do everything they can to get people out to listen to candidates. They should have a special rate for such events.

  • Jim

    Katharine Henshell is definitely not the best choice. The mayor was not allowed under the municipal election act to make an environmental, non campaign speech, set up when it looked like he would be acclaimed, at the CITY OWNED gazebo in Spencer Smith park but Henshell can have her campaign kick off party at the CITY OWENED Aldershot arena. I believe she violated the municipal act. She is a lawyer who also had ample time to review the rules. One has to wonder how this got past the people booking the room and if they were aware of the rules. The application for rental askes the purpose of the rental. Definitely a matter for the city clerk to look into and if she won’t then her superiors.

    • Mike Ettlewood

      Oh boy, you’re right Jim – definitely a hangin’ offense. She’s a citizen, she pays to use the facility (a small room in it actually), then she’s entitled to use it – even under the arcane municipal election rules. Quite different from the Goldring example I think but I’ll defer to your advanced sense of indignation.

  • Mike Ettlewood

    Brittle and has trouble finding his sense of humour – and these are the good points! Seriously, the time for ‘party boss politics’ should be long over and, hopefully, there will be a new day in Ward 1. Henshell is the best of the contenders and will be a Councillor with both an ear to the ground and the ability to make effective decisions. Hope that she has the opportunity to prove herself.

  • “Sept. 9th- sent e-mail directly to Craven asking for an interview and have not received a reply.”

    I am NOT surprised in the least. On the BEACHWAY, he took his FLAG under the former Mayor and the supposed APOSTLE OF HIMSELF, Wee David Crombie.

    BRITTLE produces “flakes” too!

  • DB

    I live in ward one. Vote for Henshell. She’ll get everything DONE!