Can political influence play into decisions made by the Integrity Commissioner ?

By Staff

December 13th, 2022



The following is a Letter to the Editor that appeared in the Hamilton Spectator today. It was written by Burlington resident Penny Hersh.


There have been some conflict-of-interest issues that have arisen in Burlington concerning Councillor Kelvin Galbraith’s ownership of property that surrounds some of the proposed developments, including those that abut the MTSA.

In Joan Little’s column she mentioned the possibility of a conflict-of-interest and as a result was asked to justify this- which she did. This was followed by a comment sent by Mayor Meed-Ward, Councillors Galbraith, Nisan, and Sharman refuting this and indicating that no conflict-of-interest had taken place. All this was done prior to receiving the report from the Integrity Commissioner. A complaint concerning this issue had been filed by a Burlington resident.

Burlington resident Penny Hersh

After doing some research I discovered that the Integrity Commissioner is hired and on a contract that is paid for by the City. There does not seem to be any term limit and presently in Burlington this contract has been renewed.

I learned that in some municipalities it is the region that hires the Integrity Commissioner. Personally, I feel that this is a better way of handling the hiring of a third party that may have to prepare a report that finds the city/councillor to be in error.

The Integrity Commissions report is simply that. It falls to council to decide to accept the recommendations or to simply ignore them. Why bother going through this exercise at all?

Can political influence play into this when Council members go public with defending a councillor prior to a report being issued?

Where in this process are resident’s rights protected?

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7 comments to Can political influence play into decisions made by the Integrity Commissioner ?

  • Keith Demoe

    When a city or region vote against boundary expansion for development, one must consider the fact that who gains from an action like this. For example, by suggesting that agricultural land needs to be protected because we need these farmers, (they feed us as Ward puts it) knowing full well the land is not used for farming…did council just spike the values of inner city properties that are up for development that much more??…Of course it does and they know it. Regarding commissioner and who does the hiring…blame the province and their lack of governance on municipalities.

    • Jim Thomson

      No, they spiked the value of single family dwellings in Ward 2. No more can be built and they are busy using the Heritage register to try and prevent development.

      Do Mayor Ward and Councillor Kearns have a Conflict of Interest? How close are their properties to all the “Heritage Properties” which are being added to the register without any actual assessments being done?

      They already had to walk back one of the properties which was found to have already been modified to such an extent that it had no actual “Heritage” value.

      Just yesterday a couple who wants to build a 10 unit building were complaining at council. Staff had told them their property wasn’t on the Register, but now it might be because… No evaluation has been done.

      Wasn’t Red Tape Red Dress Task Force supposed to get rid of barriers to growth like Heritage designations?

      • Ahh at last someone able to join all the dots for us about the use of the Heritage act that is resulting in multiple appearances at Council of puzzled residents who believe they have done their due diligence. It also raises another prospect of an undeclared conflict of interest question for 2 of 7 councillors. Thanks Jim.

        An elderly stakeholder couple clearly explained how they got whacked by a reversal of rules they considered governed a very expensive purchase and sees their stress level raised exponentially. Pepper should post that last Council delegation of this very courageous senior couple that Jim references.It just might be a five minute encouragement to others to “speak truth to power” as difficult as it is for those who have enough stress in their lives that results in huge health problems.

        MMW advised at Council that we are the smallest City Council but did not comment where they fit in the Municipal pay scale eg $111 000 as opposed to Hamilton Councillors of $90,000 according to Spec. She bragged Burlington Council is small but mighty. Hmm doesn’t pride go before a fall?

        • Apologies it was the 2nd delegation not the last one.

        • Jim Thomson

          “Follow the Money!”
          She’s setting the stage for a pay increase for council.

          All those deputy mayors obviously deserve one. Think of all the added responsibilities. /s

        • Mary Hill

          Mr, Thompson

          I’m appalled you seen more than willing to sacrifice the city’s heritage.

          The options available for consideration are not only (1) leave the property as is or (2) integrate it into the new development. Neither is likely to be what the developer would like. There is a third option which I have suggested to the city in regards to 795 Brant St and the designated property located at the junction of Plains Road and Fairview Street.

          That option is to have the developer purchase a vacant lot in the downtown area. (presently there are two vacant lots on Burlington Ave and one on Caroline St). Move the heritage building to the vacant lot. The developer can recoup much of the expense by then selling the moved heritage property. That is a win for the city, the developer and most of all for the city’s heritage.

          As far as the lady whose house may or may not be on the registry there is only one difference with being on the registry than not being on it. That difference is as a property on the registry there is a 60 day pause time from the date an application to demolish during which time the city may wish to determine is the building should receive “designation” status and pass a bylaw to enact a designation status. The city must either designate the property to be protected under the Ontario Heritage Act or provide a demolition permit. Being on the registry does not in any other way impact the owner’s ability to make alterations to the property. A superficial assessment is made to determine if a property should be placed on the registry. Being on the registry provides no protection that may be afforded by the Ontario Heritage Act. If at any time consideration is given to whether to designate a property as heritage, the Ontario Heritage Act requires an independent third party assessment be made to determine if the property meets the Provincially set criteria for designation.

          Mr. Dimoe, who would you suggest be responsible for engaging and appointing the Integrity Commissioner?

          Ms. Marsden, just which dots did Mr. Thompson join. He obviously lacks knowledge regarding the differences between a property not being on the registry, being on the registry, or being a designated property.

          You make a vague and unsubstantiated accusation of two councilors having an undeclared conflict of interest. Why not have the courage to voice specifics of the conflicts and which councilors you believe are in conflict. Maybe you are like the Galbraith complainant and do not know the specifics that determine what may or may not be a conflict.

          Mr. Thompson & Mr. Dimoe would you please address the Mayor by her correct name, not by your disrespectful version.

  • perryb

    Looks like the integrity commissioner has a conflict of interest. Kind of like the consultants developers hire to justify why a 50 story building is just what our downtown needs.