Advocate for preventing railway crossing deaths given a bigger platform by Miniter of Transport: Raitt to promote better safety.

By Pepper Parr

March 23, 2014

BURLINGTON, ON.

Denise Davy, a mother who lost a son in a railway crossing accident, became a tireless advocate for change and took her concern about the lack of safety barriers at railway crossings in Burlington to city council.  She managed to bring about changes – there are barriers now in a number of places where people foolishly scoot across railway tracks, including ward 4 councillor Jack Dennison who publicly set an example he showed be ashamed of – but apparently isn’t.

There is now a sturdy fence at this rail line.

Davy, a former Spectator reporter, who now runs a writing and editing business, took her cause to the Regional government; she took it to Mississauga and got invited to a Roundtable held by the Member of Parliament for Halton,  and also the Minister of Transport, Lisa Raitt.  Here was someone who could do something.

Davy understood that she was to be one of a number of people taking part in a discussion about safety features along the railway tracks.  She was amongst some pretty important people:

Attending were: His Worship, Gordon Krantz, Mayor of Milton; Andrew Siltala, Senior Manager, Economic Development, Town of Milton; Bill Mann, Chief Administrative Officer, Town of Milton; Jean Tierney, Senior Director, Corporate Safety and Security, VIA Rail Canada; Susan William, Regional General Manager, Central, VIA Rail Canada; Greg Percy, President, GO Transit; Paul Finnerty, Vice President, Operations, GO Transit; Michael Farkouh, Vice President, Safety and Sustainability, Canadian National Railway; John Orr, Vice President, Eastern Canada, Canadian National Railway; Randy Marsh, Manager, Community Relations, Canadian Pacific Railway; Andy Ash, Director, Dangerous Goods, Railway Association of Canada; Brad Davey, Executive Director, OntarioConnex; Eve Adams, Member of Parliament, Mississauga-Brampton South and a Representative from the Halton Police.

Simple message bearing a lot of the pain that results from a needless death at a place where rail tracks were easily cross.  No more at this crossing.

There wasn’t a hope in hades that Denise Davy would have ever been able to pull a group of people with the kind of clout this crowd had.  Davy saw herself as one of the group and was a little stunned when after a few words from Minister Raitt, she turned to Davy and gave her the floor.  It wasn’t what Davy was expecting but she dove into her story, her experience and explained for the hundredth time that education alone does not work – barriers have to be put up – and if those barriers are expensive then we have to find a way to pay for them.

She worked at dispelling the myth that most of the people who lose their lives on railway tracks are suicides – the people in the rail transportation business have words to describe them: deliberates and accidentals.  To Denise Davy they are all lives that were needlessly lost.

She points to the way the public safety people reacted to motorcycle people who used to drive without helmets – we passed laws requiring motorcycle people to wear helmets and we reduced deaths.  We are in the process of putting in stiffer penalties in place for those who text and think they can drive at the same time.   We learned she said that public education didn’t work in those situations and we know it doesn’t work to prevent rail crossing deaths.  If it is going to cost money – then we have to find that money.

There weren’t a lot of concrete suggestions thrown out by others; mainly they went around the room and talked about what they’re currently doing, which included everything from public education to putting educational campaigns in the schools.

A fence that cannot be easily climbed with a notice and a contact number for those under severe emotional stress is now in place at Drury Lane.  Now for the rest of the Region and then the rest of the province and then the rest of the country.

Davy said she listened and commented then said that the problem was clearly none of the things they were doing are working because people are still being killed.

Raitt proved to want to be more proactive than many expected. She made it absolutely clear according to Davy, that this is an issue for her, that she is concerned and glad that it was brought to her attention and said that it should be included with an overall review on rail safety. She is going to connect with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and Rail Association of Canada and get the conversation going on the issue with them as well.

She also wants to go big with something on rail safety week which is April 28. It was mentioned a few times by various people, that the area around the GTA has the highest number of accidents in Canada.

Raitt gave Davy a printout that listed 29 accidents and incidents in Burlington, Milton and Oakville between 2009 and 2013. The total for Halton for same period was 46.

The tragedy came right to the doorstep of the Friday Roundtable in Milton.  Passengers on the Lakeshore West GO line got the following message:  Due to a police investigation of a trespasser fatality at Clarkson, train service on your line is suspended between Port Credit and Clarkson until further notice.

Davy had not seen the message as she was preparing to drive from Burlington to Milton for the Roundtable.  “That is unreal. How many more people have to die before something is done!!! My heart is breaking reading this.”   All the pain, the grief, the sorrow and the hurt came flooding back and the realization that the anniversary of her son’s loss was less than a week away.

Trooper that she is, Davy attended the meeting and left with a platform created for her by the Minister of Transport to get the message out.  The matter of rail crossing safety was not on the agenda said the Minister – and added that “it is now”.

Denise Davy rests a little easier knowing that fences like this at places where rail lines were once easily crossed might eventually get put up across the province.

Raitt is planning something for the week of April 28th – Rail Safety week in Canada.  The rail car disaster in Lac Megantic is the high-profile event – but Denise Davy now has a platform she can work from.  She said after the Roundtable: “ I know change can’t come right away and the fact that I was given a platform to speak to such high level officials who are in a position to make change was a huge step forward.”

“The main thing” said Davy is “to watch where it goes from here. I am going to plan something for April 28 and told everyone in the room I would be open to working with any of them to do something on that date.”

Before Denise gets to April 28 – she first has to deal with March 27th.

Background links:

Single citizen get rail crossing safety improved.

Rail crossing deaths brought to attention of council.

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Rivers: “trade deals have inadvertently contributed to the de-industrialization of Canada.”

By Ray Rivers

March 20, 2014

BURLINGTON, ON.

Another day, another free trade deal.  Canada has landed what is being called a big one, this time with South Korea.  Promoted by both Liberal and Conservative governments, these trade deals have inadvertently contributed to the de-industrialization of Canada. 

Recall the sound of doors closing and windows being shuttered as the ink was drying on our first trade deal, the Canada-US FTA.  Many of Ontarios small and medium manufacturing enterprises, acting like characters in a Steinbeck novel, packed up and moved to larger markets, a warmer climate and the lower wage rates south of the border.

Former Ontario premier, David Peterson, had predicted that a quarter of a million jobs would be lost to FTA, and indeed, unemployment in Ontario more than doubled as its manufacturing sector took the hit.  And then there was NAFTA.  The Economic Policy Institute, a research think-tank in the US, estimated that by 2010 NAFTA had lost 700,000 US jobs to Mexico.  It is worth recalling US presidential candidate Ross Perot and his famous prediction of a giant sucking sound, as American jobs rushed off to Mexico.

Free trade is just another economic theory.  Hypothetical notions of absolute and comparative advantage sound logical on paper.  But, the reality can be so different, particularly if the playing field is uneven, if your trading partners dont play fair.  South Korea is one of those nations which adjusts its exchange rates to make their exports competitive, and the nation employs a raft of non-tariff barriers to discourage its citizens from buying foreign goods. 

Cars being loaded on to ship for transportation to North America. with tariff removed many of those cars will come to Canada.

The Korean deal is being sold as offering greater access to the Korean market for Canadian beef and pork, but even the government accepts that Canadian manufacturing, and auto making in particular will be hit by this deal.  The US signed a trade deal, just last year, with South Korea (KORUS FTA) and their experience was that the US lost 40,000 jobs, and its historical trade surplus with Korea was turned into a substantial deficit.

Ford Motor Company, whose US parent had not initially objected to the KORUS FTA, pointed out this sad experience to the Canadian government just as we were putting the seal on our own trade deal.  The PMs response was a sharp rebuke to the manufacturing giant, accusing Ford of duplicity.  Ford is Canadas largest auto maker, employing about eight thousand people in Ontario and responsible for substantial spin-off employment, mainly in Ontario.  Currently about a half million Canadians are employed in the auto industry, with fully a third of those in manufacturing.  All Korean-made cars are imported into Canada.

Another potentially impacted auto-maker, Fiat-Chrysler, had been in discussions with the federal and provincial governments over financial support to help it expand its manufacturing operations in Ontario.  Last September Ford had been awarded $140 million in a similar move to help it upgrade its plants.  In fact the federal government maintains an open budget allocation just for this purpose.   And jurisdictions south of the border have long used grants and loans to attract auto companies and other large employers to their states.

Will beef actually get from Alberta to South Korea?

Before either the federal or provincial governments could officially respond, Ontarios provincial opposition leader, Tim Hudak, slammed any funding for Chrysler, calling it corporate welfare, extortion and ransom.  Both official levels of government were stunned and Chrysler immediately withdrew its request, claiming that it was not prepared to become a political football.  Mr. Hudak, who is fond of complaining about Ontario losing its industrial base and jobs, needs to reflect on his behaviour and how he has shown himself to be unfit for the job of premier of this province.  And his party needs to show him the door before the next provincial election, something a number of PC party members have already contemplated. 

There will be winners and losers from this South Korean trade deal.  While some beef and pork producers from Ontario and Quebec may see increased sales, most of the meat products will come from the west, primarily Alberta.  On the other hand, Ontario auto makers Ford, Chrysler and GM, will losHudak needs to reflect on his behaviour and how he has shown himself to be unfit for the job of premier of this province.e sales to even cheaper Hyundai and Kia models, depressing both employment and provincial incomes.

Why would the federal government be so keen on adding more jobs into Albertas booming economy and driving up inflationary pressure there?  And why are the feds OK with further depressing Ontarios economy – the latest entry into the economic have-notclub?  It makes no economic sense, something that Ford and the Ontario government have been saying.  And that is perhaps the reason this South Korean deal, which had been started a decade ago, had been left sitting on the shelf until now.

This is not only bad economic policy, it is patently unfair – unfair that a trade deal will benefit one province, one where the PM happens to reside, at the expense of another.  Watching Quebecs PQ government set the ground work for another sovereignty referendum, perhaps as early as next year, it is useful to reflect on what we tell Quebecers to expect by voting to stay in Canada.  If it is not fairness, then what?

 Background links:

Premier Peterson      US Korean Trade Pact      Free Trade and Jobs      Auto Sector Worries     Harper Slams Ford   Harper Takes on Ford

Hudak Slams Chrysler     Chrysler Backs Out

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What’s private? City’s policy and procedure on personal privacy and what you can access.

By Pepper Parr

March 17, 2014

BURLINGTON, ON.

Information is power.  Knowing what is happening gives the person with the information an advantage over the person who doesn’t have that information.

City hall has tons of information – getting at it is not always easy.

Must be provided to the public, limited by a few exceptions.  Should be released proactively and responsibly.The city recently released a report, it was put together by Andrea Holland of the Clerks department and covers almost every sin imaginable when it comes to what information there is, what you can have, what you can’t have and how you get it.  It’s not exactly an easy read but the information is there.

Transparency, accountability and privacy are common themes today. The City of Burlington is committed to fostering a culture of transparency, based on the principle that city information:

Must be provided to the public, limited by a few exceptions

Should be released proactively and responsibly.

Early in this decade the provincial government created the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act; FIPPA for short.  The purposes of this Act are,

(a) to provide a right of access to information under the control of institutions in accordance with the principles that,

(i) information should be available to the public,

(ii) necessary exemptions from the right of access should be limited and specific, and

(iii) decisions on the disclosure of government information should be reviewed independently of government; and

(b) to protect the privacy of individuals with respect to personal information about themselves held by institutions and to provide individuals with a right of access to that information.

The province then created a sub set for the municipal sector and called that MFIPPA.  In order to provide clarity around the FIPPA legislation with regards to records of members of council and the protection of personal information contained within those records, staff have prepared a reference guide – Access, Privacy and Records, A Guide for Council.  It is to provide you with information to make informed decisions about the personal information you have within your office.

It is to provide you with information to make informed decisions about the personal information you have within your office.The guide was prepared in consultation with staff and members of council to ensure that the information provided was clear and informative. Further research was conducted on Information and Privacy Commission orders that have been issued with respect to councilor records as well discussions with staff from the Ministry of Government Services.

The Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA) came in to effect on January 1, 1991.  It applies to all municipalities in Ontario, including local agencies, boards and commissions, school boards and police services.

MFIPPA has two purposes:

Allows every person to request information from a municipality

Describes how the municipality must respond to requests, step by step

Lists limited and specific situations where access must not or  may not be granted

Allows individuals to access and correct their own personal information

Requires that municipalities protect personal information in their care

Establishes rules for how personal information must be managed, including proper collection, use and disclosure

Compliance with MFIPPA is overseen by the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario (IPC).  If a requester is not satisfied with the quantity or quality of information released by a municipality in an access to information decision (e.g. adequacy of a record search, information withheld under an exemption), or if an individual feels that their privacy has been breached while interacting with a

municipality, appeals and complaints may be made to the commissioner.   Following an investigation, the IPC will then issue a public order or report describing the circumstances of an appeal or complaint, and what must be done to resolve the matter.

Transparency, accountability and privacy are common themes today. The City of Burlington is committed to fostering a culture of transparency, based on the principle that city information:

Must be provided to the public, limited by a few exceptions

Should be released proactively and responsibly.

This report explains how MFIPPA applies to elected officials at the City of Burlington, and provides guidance for how to comply with the Act in daily practice.

MFIPPA and the City of Burlington:

The City Clerk has been delegated with the responsibility for overseeing and administering MFIPPA within the municipality.  Within the Clerks Department, the Records and Information Coordinator is responsible for the receipt and processing of access requests, providing advice and consultation to corporate staff, serving members of the public, and advocating for privacy and confidentiality throughout the organization.

FOI request process:

1.    A request is received via mail, or in person at the Service Burlington counter. Requests must be accompanied by a legislated $5 fee.

2.    The records and information coordinator sends a search memo to all affected departments and staff, which may include individual members of council.

3.    Within 7 days, the affected departments and/or individuals provide unaltered and entire records to the records and information coordinator, along with recommendations on release, for analysis.

4.    The records and information coordinator analyzes each record to determine whether or not it should be released under MFIPPA.  At this stage, the Clerk’s department may seek an opinion from the City’s legal counsel.

5.    When analysis is complete, a release package is prepared and approved by the City Clerk.  Records may be released in part or in full, or withheld in their entirety, in situations where all responsive records are exempt from disclosure, or where no records exist.

6.    All records pertaining to the request are securely stored in a locked cabinet in the Clerks Department until the required retention period has expired.

What is a record:

MFIPPA defines ‘record’ as “any record of information however recorded, whether in printed form, on film, by electronic means or otherwise.”  The definition is broad in order to include the full range of possible information formats.

Under MFIPPA, councillors are not considered to be officers or employees of the corporation and records related to interactions with their constituents as elected officials (constituency records) are therefore not covered by MFIPPA and therefore not accessible under the Act.  However, if a member of council holds corporate records created by the City of Burlington, or is discussing city business, or where they relate to city business such as communicating directly with City staff, that information may be accessible under MFIPPA.

Councillor Assistants are considered to be City of Burlington employees, to which MFIPPA access provisions do apply.

Records of a councillor acting on behalf of a constituent and representing their interests are not accessible under MFIPPA.Constituency records:

Records of a councillor acting on behalf of a constituent and representing their interests are not accessible under MFIPPA.  This includes all content, opinions and personal information contained in any correspondence to and from a constituent, i.e. name, phone number, email and mailing address.  For more details on what constitutes personal information, see Definitions below.

Examples:

Correspondence from a constituent concerning a pothole in their neighbourhood

Email from a constituent requesting that the councillor attend a community event

Correspondence between a councillor and a private sector company

City business records:

Corporate records include information that is related to the business of the city, its agencies and boards, and may be requested through MFIPPA.  All corporate records related to city business are also governed by the City of Burlington records retention by­ law 97-2005 and amending by-law 62-2013.

Examples:

Email sent to city staff and members of council, including carbon copies (cc).

Councillor records that advance the interests of the city.

Councillor forwards request for pothole repair to Roads and Parks Maintenance.

Roads and Parks Maintenance receives a request sent via email directly from a constituent to repair a city owned asset.

Email from a citizen, forwarded to a city department by a Councillor’s Assistant for follow up

Records related to a Council member’s involvement with a City agency, when acting on behalf of the city.

Email between Council members and city staff is typically accessible under MFIPPAEmail:

Email between Council members and city staff is typically accessible under MFIPPA. Other email contents which are not generally accessible under MFIPPA include:

Citizen contact lists, addresses and phone numbers stored in email systems (hosted and on site, i.e. Outlook; Constant Contact.) 

Emails between a member of council and a constituent or local business

Personal emails sent from one member of Council to another.

When a FOI request is received for councillor records, all requests will be analyzed on their own merit and a decision will be made whether the records are subject to MFIPPA or not, and if they are, a further decision will be made to release or withhold.  Each request represents a unique set of circumstances that will need to be considered.

Councillor records management: During the term of office and when re-elected.

At the start of each term of office, members of Council will receive training on MFIPPA as part of Council orientation.

Corporate records related to city business must be retained and disposed of according to the City of Burlington records retention by-law.

Confidential  and Transitory  information,  including draft or working documents  and duplicate copies, can be securely destroyed in a locked shredding bin or with a cross-cut shredder when no longer required.  On-site shredding services are highly recommended for secure disposal of personal, confidential and sensitive information.

Constituent records fall under the sole custody and control of the member of council. Even though MFIPPA does not apply to these records, each councillor should take steps to safeguard any personal information that is in their possession from unintended use or disclosure.

Constituent records can be treated as “General Correspondence” for retention purposes, with a suggested retention period of Current + 4 years.

Any constituent records and/or personal information that has been collected by a member of Council or received through the Councillor’s office, including contact details, that resides on city email or other city-owned resources, can not be shared or used for any purpose without the individual’s prior consent.  Similarly, contact information cannot be shared with election teams without prior consent to do so from the individual.  The voter’s list is not intended for use related to constituency business.

Before leaving office, a councillor may forward any outstanding constituency matters or ward-related documents to their assistant for future follow up with a request to the affected constituent for approval to send the unresolved matter to the incoming councillor.

Private or personal contacts saved in Outlook folders must be destroyed.

Private or personal contacts saved in Outlook folders must be destroyed.If an elected official wishes to retain a copy of any records associated with their time in office, contact the City Clerk.

Any records and documents retained by former councillors must be kept according to the City of Burlington records retention by-law.  Electronic records should be encrypted, using one of several methods available.

When there is a change in office, the Councillor’s assistant should send an email to all current recipients of the Ward newsletter, offering a clear option to opt in and continue receiving the newsletter, or to opt out from future communication.

One example is provided below:

“As you may be aware, a new Councillor will be in place for Ward X as of December 1.  If you wish to continue receiving the Ward X newsletter, please opt in at the link below.”

Collection, use and disclosure under MFIPPA

 MFIPPA includes specific requirements for how municipalities collect, use and disclose personal  information.

 Every time that personal information is collected by a municipality, notice must be provided to the affected individual(s) which states:

The legal authority to collect 

The purpose(s) for which the personal information will be used

The title, business address and telephone contact for an officer or employee who can answer questions about them collection.

MFIPPA prohibits the collection of personal information unless the collection is:

Expressly authorized by law, or

Used for the purposes of law enforcement, or

Necessary to the administration of a lawfully authorized activity.

The personal information collected by an institution may only be used under the following conditions:

With informed consent from the individual

For the purpose for which it was obtained or compiled, or for a consistent purpose.

A municipality is not permitted to disclose personal information in its custody or under its control, unless the person to whom the information relates has consented to its disclosure, or in a few other limited circumstances described under the Act, for example: when there is statutory authority to disclose for law enforcement purposes.

Example:

The name and address of a citizen signing in at a public meeting can only be disclosed if the citizen provided consent,or if the possibility of disclosure was indicated in a written collection notice posted at the meeting.

The use and disclosure of personal information must always be consistent with the original purpose for which it was collected.

A consistent purpose is defined under MFIPPA as something an individual might reasonably have expected. Reasonable expectations are typically established in collection notices.

Under MFIPPA, councillors do not have any special right of access to records held by municipalities, including the personal information of citizens and employees.

In other words, members of council may only access information that would not normally be exempt from disclosure under MFIPPA.  The same is true for former members of council or employees who, at one time, may have had access to records in the performance of their duties.

This approach is intended to protect members of council and the City of Burlington from the following risks:

Contravening MFIPPA

Breach of privacy or confidentiality

Negative media exposure Example:

Members of Council cannot access contact information listed on public meeting sign-in sheets unless the attendee has consented to that kind of disclosure in advance.7

Records of unsuccessful tender submissions for a city construction project are reviewed and redacted according to MFIPPA exemptions before being received by a member of council, if requested outside of standing committee and council documentation

Councillors may have a right of access to certain types of information that would not be available to the general public, if they require the information in their capacities as members of council in order to carry out duties related to that function.

Councillors who wish to request information from the City of Burlington outside of their official capacity may submit an FOI request to the Clerk’s department at any time.

Access to personal information:

Where a councillor acting in their official capacity seeks access to personal information held by the city (for example, the personal information of an employee), information may only be obtained if the individual has provided prior consent.

The Mayor, as Head of Council, is considered an “officer” of the City.  The Mayor’s records that relate to the mayoral duties, as opposed to constituency or personal papers, are considered to be in the City’s custody or control and therefore may be requested under MFIPPA.

Staff within the Office of the Mayor are considered to be in political positionsExamples of mayoral duty records, which may be accessible:

Notes taken at Burlington Hydro meeting, while acting in official capacity

Speech delivered at opening of new recreational facility

Staff within the Office of the Mayor are considered to be in political positions, to which MFIPPA access provisions do not normally apply.  For example, an email sent from the Mayor to one of their staff members would not typically be accessible under MFIPPA. However, if city staff are copied on the email, it could be accessible.

Any time that the Mayor or one of his or her staff forwards a customer service or constituency matter to city staff for follow up, that record may also be requested under MFIPPA.

This is in contrast to staff working within Councillor offices, who are considered to be City of Burlington employees to which MFIPPA access provisions do apply.

Definition of personal information:

“personal information” means recorded information about an identifiable individual, including,

(a)   information relating to the race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation or marital or family status of the individual,

(b)   information relating to the education or the medical, psychiatric, psychological, criminal or employment history of the individual or information relating to financial transactions  in which the individual has been involved,

(c)   any identifying number, symbol or other particular assigned to the individual,

(d)   the address, telephone number, fingerprints or blood type of the individual,

(e)   the personal opinions or views of the individual except if they relate to another individual,

(f)     correspondence sent to an institution by the individual that is implicitly or explicitly of a private or confidential nature, and replies to that correspondence that would reveal the contents of the original correspondence,

(g)   the views or opinions of another individual about the individual, and

(h)   the individual’s name if it appears with other personal information relating to the individual or where the disclosure of the name would reveal other personal information about the individual.

There you have it.  Not the kind of document you will take to the beach to read in the summer – but it is the kind of document you might want to refer to – and it will be on the Gazette website for a long time – until it is revised.

In the past these rules have not been fully observed.  with an informed public – we just might see better compliance.

 

 

 

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Work of a master quilter on display at BAC – several powerful statements made with these quilts.

By Pepper Parr

March 15, 2014

BURLINGTON, ON.

John Willard has certainly put a much different twist on what we thought quilts were all about.  Canadians used to see quilts as things that people on farms used – often made out of bits and pieces of discarded clothing and flour sacks.

We then saw quilts done by the Mennonite community that were pieces of art – with traditional patterns that sold into the tens of thousands at the annual quilt sale in New Hamburg each fall.

A lot of tradition in this quilt but  the use of pastel colours move it out of what many see as the “traditional” rural quilt made from remnants and flour sacks.

Then along came John Willard who introduced designs that had not been seen before and quilt making was now going in a different direction.  Willard has a 40 year retrospective on at the Burlington Art Centre where there is a feast for the eye and, if you look very closely, some very, very powerful statements hand stitched into a quilt.

There are a number of quilts that would meet the demanding standards of the Mennonite community and there is one that would fill the wall of one of those Lakeshore mansions.

Willard will tell you the very moment he became an artist.  The family came across an old trunk stuck in a chicken coop on a family farm in Shediac, New Brunswick.  It was filled with brightly coloured crepe paper – that moment James Willard could almost feel the colour entering his blood stream – we see that colour today on the walls at the Burlington Art Centre.

Willard was a set designer, a photographer  He bought his first quilt in 1972; in the next five years he could display a collection of 30 quilts.

His work has meandered all over the place.  He worked as a custodian at the Oakville Library and later accepted the position of Publicity and Programming Assistant which he held for 23 years.

Willard’s introduction to the finer art of actually quilting was received at the hand of Michael James who was giving workshops.  Willard didn’t subscribe to the diehard traditionalists who insist quilts must be completely hand stitched from geometric blocks, have four square corners and be used as bed covering upon completion.  Willard went with those who believed a quilt could be of any size, shape, texture or subject matter and could be hung on a wall to be admired as a work of art.

It all began on an evening in 1907 needs very close inspection.  What appears to be white caps on the waves is much more than the eyes sees at first glance.

There is a quilt that didn’t do much for me when I glanced at it.  It saw it as a postcard, mildly interesting, until a woman asked if I’d looked at the Titanic – I said I had but it wasn’t my kind of quilt – but that I did like the ribbon quilts. “Take a closer look” the woman said to me.  I did and said – “so it’s a quilt of the Titanic sinking – there are two of them.” 

The names of those lost when the Titanic sank in 1907

With that tone of voice only a teacher or a Mother can use, the woman said: “get closer” so I walked up and took a really close look – and then it hit me.  The names of the more than 1500 people whose lives were lost when the Titanic sank at sea were hand stitched into the waves the ship was sliding beneath.  The quilt is called:   It all began on an evening in 1907.

This massive piece needs a very large wall – it takes over any room it is installed in – but then what a room.  The colour, the energy – it is almost a tapestry.

The Ribbon Series, of which here are seven at the exhibit, celebrate a turning point in Willard’s life when he came out of the closet and embraced his life as a gay man with a joy and celebration that is evident in the flows of the ribbons in some of the quilts and the tight design and discipline in others.

The colour, the flourish and the tight discipline take the art of quilt making some distance from the remnant quilts traditionally seen as folk art.

Willard is very much a quilter, evident when you watch the way he holds the needle and draws a thread tightly but he has always relied on fellow quilters who have worked with him following his designs and instructions.  The late Alvina Martin and Linda Robertson have done much of the finishing work from designs Willard spent months perfecting.

This is an exhibit well worth the time.  It is the work of a master who broke old moulds and advanced the art of quilt making to a new level.

The quilts are on display until the end of the month – well worth some of your time.

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Friends of Freeman membership increases by one – artist brings gift with him.

By Pepper Parr

March 15, 2014

BURLINGTON, ON.

Much like the way rolling stock went through town at the Burlington Junction, what we fondly call Freeman Station, people come and go at the organization that is getting ready to begin real work on the structure that now sits on the north side of Fairview just before you get to the fire station.

It was a proud day for James Smith – the signing of the Joint Venture Agreement between the city and the Friends of Freeman Station.  Smith, standing behind the red light, signed on behalf of the organization.

The Board of Directors announced that James Smith, President of Friends of Freeman Station (FoF) has resigned for personal reasons – good personal reasons.  Smith will remain on the Board of Directors.  He was a lead player in the significant effort that saved the station from the wrecking ball – the city did everything it could to get rid of the building – weren’t even able to sell it for scrap wood.

Brian Aasgaard, will assume the position of President; he served as a Vice-President of Friends of Freeman Station for a number of years.  Brian has done an outstanding job as Vice-President, and will devote the same level of high energy and enthusiasm he has always shown. Brian has this uncanny knack for getting people to give the FoF stuff that relates to railway operations.

The FoF is always looking for new members, especially people who are good with tools and want a reason to get out of the house and be with the guys.

John Mellow stands in the cold with artist David Harrington proudly displaying a print of the building the FoF are refurbishing to its 1906 condition.

The renowned, internationally acclaimed heritage artist, David Harrington has taken out a membership and generously donated one of his limited edition prints to Friends of Freeman Station to assist in their fundraising efforts to restore the station back to its 1906 when it was first constructed. This limited edition “ The Burlington Freeman Station” print is numbered 19/500, signed by the artist.

Getting the public to take a sense of ownership in a project is a fine art – coming up with a name that tells the story in a few words is part art and part science.  The good people over at the Friends of Freeman Station appear to be breaking one of the cardinal rules in keeping a story alive and growing: never mix up the message.

Most people know it as the Freeman Station – even though officially it was the Burlington  Junction station and that is what the sign on the structure will say the day it is opened as a tourist destination.

We are seeing the words Burlington Junction being used – and that is in fact the real name of the station.  It was one of two train stops in Burlington.  The Burlington West station was the one used by the farmers to ship their produce into Toronto.  It was located near a farm owned by the Freeman family and came to be known as the Freeman station when in fact the Freeman’s and had nothing to do with the station.  Farmers tend to talk in terms of property by the name of the people who own the land – even though the ownership of that land changed hands years ago.

However, the public knows it as the Freeman Station – introducing the real name in media releases just confuses people.  Do what the politicians do – stick to the message.  If you don’t – you lose your audience.

Background links:

Freeman station saved – city signs the agreement.

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First go at the idea went to the dogs – Burlington Humane Society benefits.

By Staff

March 13, 2014

BURLINGTON, ON.

If the inaugural meeting is any indication of what’s to come from this grassroots group, several local charities and organizations will be benefiting from additional funding, simply because passionate and caring women are coming together as 100 Women Who Care Burlington.

The concept is simple enough – 100 women (or more), $100 each (or more if you choose), 1 hour meetings 4 times per year. The goal is for 100 Women Who Care Burlington to collectively generate a minimum of $40,000 annually for local charitable initiatives. The impact is very powerful!

Laurel Hubber, the energy behind this project said: “Just thinking about the impact we’ll have on much-needed charitable programs and services in our community is incredibly inspiring.”

She put the word out to her friends and networking circle and asked if they would give an hour of their time to talk about people and organizations in Burlington that needed some help.  Once they had decided who – the cheques got written and the funds distributed – all within an hour.

Having decided who they want to donate their funds to this first meeting of the 100 who care sat to have their picture taken. As a concept – this is very powerful.

At their first meeting they chose the Burlington Humane Society as the recipient.  Here is how Adrienne Gosse, Shelter Manager commented “the Burlington Humane Society was incredibly surprised to learn we were the recipients of this wonderful donation! You could hear the shouts of excitement and joy from the shelter staff and volunteers when we got the call from the 100 Women who Care foundation. This money will be used to provide our cats and dogs with all the medical care they need, such as medical exams by a veterinarian, vaccines, medications, spays and neuters, along with any additional care such as dentals and broken bone repairs.”

The group meets again on March 26, at Tansley Woods – for an hour, to donate and decide where the funds are to go this time.  Meeting begins at 7:30 – ends at 8:30; registration takes place at 7:00 pm

Background links:

They get it done in an hour.

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Chimney fire results in an estimated $250,000 damage to Hadfield Court home.

By Staff

March 11, 2014

BURLINGTON, ON.

At a time when many were at church last Sunday, the fire department got a call – 10:56 am exactly – that smoke was coming out of the roof at 2063 Hadfield Court, a street north of Upper Middle Road, west of Appleby Line.

The first fire crew to arrive could see smoke and flames on the roof of the single family dwelling. Firefighters determined the fire originated in the attic area on the second storey of the house and pulled the ceiling beside the chimney down exposing the flames which were quickly extinguished.

In a community with swimming pools in many of the back yards – a chimney fire cause damage estimated at $250,000

The fire had extended into the roof which moved the focus to the exterior of the house.

Once the fire was extinguished on the roof crews ensured that any extension from the fire was eliminated.

The fire was declared out and the home owner was allowed back into the building at 14:02, the fire trucks pulled out and that was it.

There were no injuries just massive water damage estimated at $ 250,000

The fire is believed to have been caused by a fire in the chimney  The fire safety message in the media report: Have all chimneys cleaned and inspected every year.

And now the family at 2063 Hadfield Court begins the messy job of cleaning up and doing their best to get the smell of the fire out of the house.

 

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Seedy business at St. Christophers Anglican church; hope springs eternal for the gardeners – winter will end.

By Staff

February 25, 2014

BURLINGTON, ON

If you are one of those who believes that there is an end to this winter and that Spring will arrive and the flowers will bloom and you are thinking about the work to be done to get your garden ready – there is a place you want to be:  Saturday, March 1, from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. at St. Christopher’s Anglican Church 662 Guelph Line for the Halton Seedy Saturday.

A large variety of garden seeds will be for sale at the Halton Seedy Saturday.

A $2 entrance fee will give you access to a day full of swapping seeds at community seed exchange tables, buying from heirloom and organic seed vendors, learning from garden experts, and garden craft fun for kids. You can also discover community garden opportunities in Burlington and Halton. Food and drink from Family First Organic Meals will be available for purchase.

Featured guest speakers: at 11:15 a.m., Karen Walsh, a Halton Master Gardener, will discuss starting vegetables indoors; at 12:15 p.m., Fran Freeman, an Urban Beekeeper, will present urban beekeeping and attracting pollinators; at 1:15 p.m., Linda Crago, an heirloom vegetable farmer from Tree & Twig will discuss exciting vegetable varieties for your garden; and at 2:15 p.m. Sarah Hemingway from Sarah’s Kitchen Garden, will present growing, cooking and preserving herbs.

Confirmed vendors and exhibitors thus far include: BurlingtonGreen, Greening Sacred Spaces, Oakville Sustainable Food Partnership-Growing & Sharing Food in Halton, Burlington Horticulture Society, Urban Harvest Seeds, Days to Harvest, The Plant Lady, Matchbox Garden & Seed Co., Sarah’s Kitchen Garden, Tree & Twig, Urban Beekeeper, and Halton Master Gardeners.

Additional information can be found at Burlingtongreen.  Event proceeds will support Halton community gardens. Non-perishable food items will also be accepted for food bank donation.

Halton Seedy Saturday is brought to you by BurlingtonGreen, Greening Sacred Spaces (Halton-Peel), and Growing & Sharing Food in Halton, with funding support from the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

Background links:

Burlington opens its community garden.

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Full time heritage planner first step to a Conservation Heritage District designation for Mt Nemo plateau

By Pepper Parr

February 22, 2014

BURLINGTON, ON.

There will be a heritage planner – a full time heritage planner but getting the position secured was easier said than done.

The question in front of city council as they worked their way through the budget was: how much did they want to spend on a heritage PLANNER – $206,000 or $103,000.

The city already has a heritage planner who spends half of her time on heritage matters and the rest of her time on other planning work; she is swamped.  She gives the city far more time than she gets paid for and has done a lot of superb work.

Heritage has become a sort of favourite flavour of the moth in this city.  The Heritage Advisory Committee is much more active – at times they think they need a full time planner.  When the decision was made to go forward with the idea of a Conservation Heritage District for the Mt Nemo Plateau the work of the heritage planner suddenly got much bigger.

The question then was – how much staff resource are needed?  For some reason council wanted to get right into the weeds on this one.  They first talked in glowing terms about the job the current heritage planner has been doing and then began to map out her career for the next ten years until they were told  that wasn’t council’s job.

It was about 15 months ago that rural Burlington began the discusion about what it wanted to be. Some things were clear – others not as clear. The early draft of a vision got put on a huge board and for the most part the community liked the look of what they had said to each other.

Council had gotten into the weeds on this one the way they do far too often.  For a bit it looked like they were going to start running the department.  Should the current planner become full time on heritage? a full time role and contract someone for an additional half day; no that’s not good use of human resources.  OK look for someone within the department and have them pick up the development work the planner was doing – the rationale for that view was that development is off so there must be bodies in planning with nothing better to do.

General manager Scott Stewart who signs off on everything that comes out of planning, struggled to get a grip on all the ideas flying around when the city manager pipes up with his position:  it isn’t pretty.

“You don’t Jenna, she does; she decides what she wants to do.  You have asked us to manage – then let us manage; that is not your job; this is not the type of discussion we should be having; you have me here to tell you things like this.”

A heritage planner was critical if a Conservation Heritage District bylaw was ever to get passed. First part of that effort got through a Standing Committee.

The proposal to think about turning the Mt. Nemo Plateau into a Conservation Heritage District which is just at the information gathering stage will require a lot more of a planner’s time.  That file has the potential to become a lot messier than it would at first appear – when individual land issues are on the table get ready for noisy meetings.

Councillor Taylor is a big advocate on for making the plateau a conservation district – he wanted the planning resources available.

While council was digesting that blast from the city manager, Scott Stewart the general manager invited the Director of planning to “take it outside” where they worked out the possible time/task splits

The proposal was to have 1.5 heritage planners – then it looked like they were looking at two planners.  Then there was a tussle over what this planner would be doing.  The issue was where the planner was going to come from and the amount of work that was going to get created by the Mt. Nemo Conservation District task that is now on the table – or look as if it is going to be on the table.

A motion to hire more people failed, the amended motion to make the existing half time planner into a full-time position and distribute other work she was doing within the existing staff compliment passed 6-1 with Taylor voting against the decision made.  He wanted more in the way of human resources than his colleagues were prepared to pay for.

Residents look at a large map of their community during a Rural Summit more than a year ago. That meeting was the genesis of making the Mt Nemo Plateau a Conservation Heritage District.

Some members of council wanted to know why staff just didn’t do the staff allocation.  It was a new position – they were moving from a half time heritage planner to a full-time heritage planner and that was a decision council had to make, explained director of finance Joan Ford.  What Ford was trying to say in a polite way was that council had to decide on the expenditure – staff would then decide who should be doing the job.

Councillor Meed Ward said she had “difficulty with the process that got us here”.

Was the spend going to be $103,000 or was it going to be $206,000 and would the new position be added to the base staff compliment or would they go outside and contract with someone, or would they look within the planning department and find someone who wasn’t all that busy.

Councillor Lancaster thought the city was moving too quickly on this file. Her view was that council needed to be more reflective and to take some time.  But that wasn’t the view that Councillor Taylor brought to the horseshoe.  The Conservation District would be in his ward and he is fully aware as to just how powerful the people in North Burlington can be.  They were the folk that hung in and fought the Nelson Aggregate quarry expansion.  Those people know how to dig in and for them a Conservation District would solve a lot of their concerns or they think it will.

It took $2 million out of the legal department’s budget to pay for the tear long tribunal that decided the Jefferson Salamander was important and that an expansion of the existing quarry should not be permitted. It was rural Burlington residents who were the force behind that battle – they were not to be trifled with.  The expansion to the quarry was going to be in the lower part of this topographical map

Councillor Dennison said that “we didn’t ask for this, we don’t need to get all gung-ho about it.  He wasn’t all that keen on the “foremost specialist the city hired to do the first cut of the research presented at the January meeting.  Get ready to see this as a file that becomes very contentious.

At the community event in January city planner Bruce Krushelnicki explained that a Heritage Conservation District was created through a bylaw passed by the city.  No one else has any input on that bylaw he explained.  The city can pass a bylaw to create something and they can revise that bylaw anytime they wish.

What the planning department has to do is do the research necessary to figure out how best to craft a bylaw that will stand up to scrutiny – and at the same time ensure that the community wants such a bylaw and understands the ramifications.  There are both ramifications and consequences – some of them unintended.

Once e a bylaw is in place it tends to take on a life of its own – which is what the rural life advocates want to see.

Making that happen requires a lot of hard work, a lot of research and a lot of public opinion massaging.

The first battle was to get the planner in place so that some of the early research work could get done.

There will be a planner, working full-time on heritage matters.  The planning department will figure out a way to reallocate day-to-day work in the department.

Our significant seven weren’t seen at their best on this issue and they needed the sharp rebuke from the city manager to remind then what they were supposed to be doing.

At times one wonders how we manage to stay out of serious trouble.

Background links:

Rural Burlington figures out what it wants to be.

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RBA, SBB, BPM – alphabet soup or a more efficient way to run a city? Will it keep our taxes down?

By Pepper Parr

February 4, 2014

BURLINGTON, ON.

Where would you go if you wanted to figure out what RBA and BPM and SBB meant?  You could do worse than talking to someone who has CIA, CCSA, CFE, CGAP, CRMA behind her name, which is what Sheila Jones, the city’s auditor has behind her name. 

And she can explain what RBA, BPM and SBB mean and why they are both very relevant and important to the financial management of the city.

Burlington has,  up until the 2014 budget year, based its spending on what each department does.  City manager Jeff Fielding has changed that approach to a focus on the service that is delivered to the citizens of the city.

The objective is to first identify the services the city is in and decide if these are businesses we want to be in.  There are a total of 54 services, of those 13 are internal to city hall – think legal and HR; leaving 41 services delivered to the public.  Of that 41 – 31 are delivered by the city.  Others are delivered by other levels of government.  Region is an example – they handle water and waste removal. 

If the residents of the city, and let us hope that it is the residents who make the decision along with their council members, and not just the administrators at city hall, decide a particular service is something they want and are prepared to pay for the city manager will assign responsibility and accountability for the effective and efficient delivery of that service to a specific person.

As a broad approach to the delivery of services it would appear sensible – now how do you define the metrics that will be used to measure the value of the services and determine  if it is being delivered in an effective and efficient manner?.

Sheila Jones, CIA, CCSA, CFE, CGAP, CRMA, Burlington’s first auditor

Back in December, at a Committee of the Whole meeting Auditor Jones took Council through a detailed overview that left them with more questions than answers.  Jones used about 45 minutes to lay out the changes that were in the works and asked for feedback.

She started by explaining what was going to be fundamentally different.

The city is moving from a traditional approach to budgeting where all the expenses were attached to a department. They are moving to an approach where the expenses are attached to a service the city delivers.

The city administration does see this as an effective way to manage the city.  The approach is going to be for staff to provide Business Plans and Cases, Performance Tracking and Monitoring, Performance Reporting and Continuous Improvements.

At the end of this process the city manager expects to be able to ask, and answer two critical questions.  There is a third question that you the voter will get to ask and answer.

Fielding is requiring his staff to tell him:

How much did we do?

How well did we do it?

He then wants you, the public, to tell him if you are any better off?

The process he is putting in place certainly has merit.  Fielding is the kind of guy who thinks things through but isn’t afraid to change his mind if he didn’t get it right the first time.  He has a lot of experience with “unintended consequences”.

The time line for all this:

First, if you ever wondered what they do at city hall – charts like this are an example. This was not an easy task. It sets out the time frame to get to the new approach.  This will be a very significant shift for staff and will be the making of careers for some and maybe early retirement for those who can’t make the transformation.

Public input and education are a critical part of this process.  What the city wants to do is promote dialogue about: Service management, Council and Service Owner roles and  responsibilities, and the portfolio of services delivered to the public.

The city wants input on the level of service performance accountability reporting people want to see, along with the Importance and value of services delivered.

Auditor Jones wanted to know where Council felt they fit into the process.  Were they OK with maintaining a strategic view of services by making decisions regarding commissioning and/or decommissioning of services; increasing and/or decreasing service levels and their appetite and/or tolerance for risk and a review of service portfolio?

Examples of de-commissioning a service can be seen in the 2014 budget.  Do you want leaf collection in the fall as frequently; how often do you want sidewalks plowed. 

Jones asked: Do you accept Council’s role and responsibilities? 100% they said BUT, …there was still some work to be done to show the link from strategic goals to performance management.

The report that was being discussed set out Senior Management, Service Owner and Staff Role and Responsibilities.  Each was to:

Maintain an operational and tactical view of services by: making decisions regarding how services are delivered within the limits of Council approved service levels and budgets; determining, tracking/monitoring and reporting on performance and identifying risks; determining and implementing opportunities for continuous improvement; reviewing services and maintaining the service portfolio based on the decisions of Council.

Jones went on to give a detailed example as to how this would work using Burlington Transit as an example.  Those details will be part of a different article.

Everything the city does under the 2015 budget will be somewhere within the Service Portfolio that is currently being revised and refined.  That data is expected sometime in the spring when it can ideally become part of the election debate.

At this point in time the service portfolio consists of:

A Service Portfolio is a list of all the services the city delivers. With the new Service Based Budget there will be a business plan for each service that will be approved by each Council at the beginning of its term of office. This basically sets out what the city is going to deliver.
Full details of that portfolio have yet to be released – there could be some surprises in that document.

The core, the foundation of this new approach is the service that the city delivers.  What services does the city want to be in and which services does the city want to get out of.  This is a Council decision – what staff want to know is: What is the most suitable cycle time for a Council to review the service portfolio?  60%  said at the beginning of new council term; 60%  said some other time and 20% said at the beginning of each year.  That comes to 140% – is this a harbinger of the kind of number stuff we can expect?

Every service will have a Business Plan that sets out the rational, purpose and the expectation the service will deliver.  Whenever there is a change to the Business Plan a Business Case has to be provided.

One assumes these business plans and business cases will be on-line, which, if the Strategic Plan is any example, the public will pick up on very quickly and begin to demand that what is published is delivered.  Which is exactly what city manager Jeff Fielding wants them to do – he wants the public to hold his staff accountable for his staff to learn to be accountable to the public they serve.

What is going to be in a business plan: Service Banner, Current State, Sub-services, Recent Continuous Improvements Initiatives, Financial Investment, Human Resource Investment, Emerging Opportunities & Anticipated Risks, Measuring Success and Service Objectives.

The presentation was extensive.  Each of the parts of the Business Plan had forms that staff had to complete.

It all starts with what city people call the Service banner which a high level view of what the service is, why it is being delivered, what it will cost and how it will be reviewed by city council.

The document that sets out the high level view of the service being delivered.

This type of document sets out the working plan for a service. The focus is always on improving the quality of the service and keeping the cost in line.

How much money has to be put into the service and what are the HR needs.  Burlington has managed to keep the number of people on staff down – and without the use of all that much in the way of contract work.

City manager Fielding wants to see improvements and realizes that means taking some risks – and some of those risks will not work out.  Staff can advise Council, Council has to make the decision.  The public has to learn that changes need to be made and that much of the territory we are moving into is uncharted waters. Mistakes will be made and the public is going to have to learn to accept the mistakes.  The Pier was not a mistake – but it was a classic example of terrible oversight and shockingly poor  management.

 

These are the documents that performance evaluations are going to be based on: Did city hall deliver – and if they didn’t, why not and if the why not isn’t satisfactory maybe HR will suggest another line of work – outside city hall.

For city manager Jeff Fielding it is all about improvement in the way services are delivered along with a hard look at what the city wants to actually deliver. Fielding isn’t a hard-nosed, cut everything to the bare bones. He thinks the flowers along main roads is a plus and are a part of what makes Burlington the top city it is – BUT he wants to make sure the public fully understands the costs – and is prepared to pay them. Fielding says the ear he has to the ground tells him the public is prepared to pay the cost for the extras – Council of course has to make that decision.

With Council having had an overview of the process Auditor Jones wanted to know how they, Council, wanted to track what was being done.

She proposed that Council review the service portfolio at the beginning of each new council term. The Service Portfolio is that list of all the things the city does – the different businesses they are in.

All the Business Plans for all the services in place would be before Council and be made part of the orientation process for a new council and reviewed again annually during the budget process.

Council would look only at those services that have had a change made to them which would be shown in business cases that would be before Council.  Waiting for a staff member to decide a change was needed and that a business case should be written up works only if you have a civil service that is responsive and genuinely feels they are accountable to the public.  Many are, quite a few are not – it’s a culture change that is still being created.

Auditor Jones then wanted to know: What is the appropriate frequency of reporting performance

Measures; 40% said quarterly; 40% said semi-annually and 20% said annually

Jones took the middle road and proposed that management report to Council semi-annually to coordinate with financial reporting starting in 2015.

Management proposed to assess quarterly as the methods and data for calculating performance measures become stable, predictable and easy to access.  This is a work in process that will need quite a bit of fine tuning.

Jones then poses the critical question: What does the public needs to know? Key messaging would include: what is the service portfolio?; why is it important to them? why should they care?; what is the service management framework?; what is a business plan?; what is service based budgeting?

The intention is to do this work in Q2 2014 using various communications channels along with Council involvement to actively engage the public in a process of education and awareness promotion.

Jones is close to emphatic when she says the city needs this valuable information from the public to assist Council in making decisions about services and service levels and to help administrate and prioritize initiative and activities.  The city will begin gathering this kind of information in Q3 of 2014 for the 2015 budget and every year after that to inform the budget process.

What is the most suitable cycle for review of a service?

When a service review is defined as a formal undertaking by the service owner to ensure what is delivered is of the highest value to the community; that it applies best modern practices for cost-effective delivery, and directs valuable, limited resources to the delivery of community valued programs and services, a business case is prepared.  The limitation here is that it is the service owner making the decision to review.  The city might want to look for a way to pull the public into the process.

Council split on that approach as well: 40% said let’s do it bi-annually; 40% by priority sequence and 20% based on some other criteria.

Management came back with having management determine a service owner and Council requirements and develop a Service Review Framework and Methodology for implementation in 2016.

The public will participate – if you give them the opportunity.  More than 70 people turned out for a budget review that was held at the Art Centre.  The city didn’t take advantage of the opportunity to hold an event at Tansley Woods, where space is admittedly limited nor did they look at all the space in the Alton Campus.

And that was it – Auditor Jones had set it out for them:

Develop performance measures and complete business plans

Undertake continuous improvement efforts

Develop and implement: service based budget views; service performance accountability reporting and service review framework and methodology.  Then educate the public on service management

With just under an hour for the presentation Jones asked: What do you think?  And there wasn’t a word, not a peep from one of the council members.   All seven members of Council were totally mute.  Not a word, not a question. There was no interaction, no debate – nothing, which did not bode well for where this vital initiative for the city is going to go.

What was it that Jones said that stunned the seven?  If the elected types don’t respond – what likelihood for a robust public response?

Before this new approach gets taken out to the public a lot more work needs to be done on the current council – because they didn’t appear to get it.

Jones has been the city auditor since January of 2009.  A 20 year Royal Bank Financial Group veteran where she ended her career with the ban as  senior manager of enterprise operational risk assessments. She also holds business degrees from Dalhousie and Queen’s universities.

 

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A single citizen, a single voice: a major change with perhaps lives saved.

By Pepper Parr

February 1, 2014

BURLINGTON, ON.

In April 2013 Burlington resident Denise Davy spoke as a delegation at the city’s Community Services Committee, urging the city to take responsibility for the safety of pedestrians at railway crossings. City Council directed staff to consult with community stakeholders to research rail safety.

This was the situation in Burlington before Denise Davey delegated to city council for a change.

A rail line safety and awareness stakeholder committee was formed to bring the various groups together to review the issue and develop strategies to prevent rail line deaths. The committee included representatives fromGO Transit, CN, VIA Rail, CPCOAST, ROCK, Canadian Mental Health Association, theNorth Halton Mental Health Clinic, Halton Police, Region of Halton Public Works, Transport Canada and theTransportation Safety Board.  The review resulted in a number of short-term strategies and long-term opportunities.

Today there is appropriate fencing and protocols in place to ensure that the city tells the GO people and other authorities that the fence has been breached.

It was not quite this easy when Denise Davey first took on the task of making the railway tracks safer by blocking crossing that were not properly secured.  Davey’s son, Ryan, was 18 when he was killed by a train in March of 1998.  Here is how she tells her story:

“Many more people have been killed by trains going through Halton since then and the numbers over the last year have increased at an alarming rate. In a six-month period, from August 2012 to February 2013, six people were killed, including a 23-year-old Hamilton man.

“That’s a huge increase from previous years and it speaks to the need for better safety measures to prevent further deaths. The area of major concern is along Fairview and Cumberland where many people have been killed by trains.

“It’s wide open and also extremely close to one of the busiest shopping plazas in Burlington. Although there are “Danger” signs posted, the well-worn footpath is a testament to how few people heed them. The same problem exists with the tracks that run between Appleby Line and Burloak, by Sherwood Forest Park.

“Not only are there openings in the fence by the park, but in many areas the bottom part of the fence has been pulled up where people have obviously crawled under. Finding out who is responsible for safety along the tracks was so difficult, however, that even after several calls to rail officials, I’m not completely clear on it.

“Indeed, it seemed even rail officials weren’t clear on it. Transport Canada and the Transportation Safety Board were quick to deflect all blame for any deaths or injuries and talk about the public’s responsibility.

“And there is truth in that. The public needs to be responsible around the tracks. But at some point, the people who run the trains also need to take some responsibility. I can think of several stories I’ve covered as a reporter in which a person was killed crossing the street illegally but a stoplight was later put in place to prevent further deaths or injuries.

“Not only are rail officials quick to deflect blame, they’re tight-lipped when it comes to statistics on train-related fatalities and injuries. After several calls to the GO media folks I was told they don’t have statistics on the number of people who have been killed by GO trains along the Halton tracks.

“How can it be?” I asked the GO spokesperson, “You’re telling me that you don’t know how many people have been killed by the service you run?” I was quickly put on hold then told I needed to talk to someone else. I never got the number from GO.

“I was eventually told by Halton police (who told me earlier they didn’t have the numbers) that five of the six recent deaths in Halton were a result of GO trains.

“I will be talking to members of Burlington city council about changes I think need to be made to areas along the tracks. They include fencing, surveillance cameras, motion sensitive lighting and noise barriers, the same type you see along the QEW in Grimsby.

“I figure if they’re deemed important enough to buffer noise for residents who live close to the highway, they should be considered important enough to save a life.”

Will the sign make a difference? If it doesn’t – well we tried. But if it does – that is a victory. Denise Davey deserves great credit for her efforts. Keep her in mind when it comes to selecting Burlington`s Best.

It was an uphill fight for a long period of time but at a city council meeting in January Bruce Zvaniga, director of transportation services said: “The various stakeholders came to the table prepared to discuss and make changes,” said Zvaniga, and  “I would like to thank them for their responsiveness, action and commitment to safety.”

The committee has already put in place a number of short-term strategies, including:

A communication protocol where city staff share information with rail operators regarding fence damage and footpaths near the rail line. Rail operators are also to share information with roads and parks maintenance staff regarding fence damage on city-owned properties

Rail operator “high rail” reviews that exchange information about identified outcomes

City fencing improvements in five different locations where chain fences will be installed

Rail line safety and awareness in 11 public schools and seven catholic schools as part of the schools’  safety awareness programs and under the leadership of Operation Lifesaver

Site specific strategies have been implemented by GO Transit and the Canadian Mental Health Association

“I am very proud of the work done by the stakeholder committee,” said Mayor Rick Goldring. “ The committee has created a set of best practices for the entire country. If what we have set in motion can save one life, than it has well be worth it.”

An annual stakeholder review process is now in place. The stakeholder group will meet each year to look at the outcomes of previous strategies, identify possible new strategies and discuss long-term opportunities. In 2014, the committee will invite the Catholic and public school boards to participate.

Somewhere along the way the woman who had lost a child to a rail line accident got forgotten as all the bureaucrats who should have been on top of this issue from the beginning did nothing until Denise Davey delegated.

The power of one person with a voice and the courage of their convictions is immense and magnificent.

Background links:

City staff directed to start asking questions.

Three deaths in seven months.

Parent wants better rail line safety – death level intolerable.

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An open letter to the LaSalle Park Marina Association – stick to the agenda.

By Vanessa Warren

January 30, 2014

BURLINGTON, ON

An open letter to the LaSalle Park Marina Association (LPMA),

Last night I attended a public Consultation Meeting and Workshop for the City of Burlingtons 2014 budget.

Vanessa Warren on the right reading through the city budget workbook at a public consultation last night took exception the way the LaSalle Park Marina association tried to hijack the meeting.  Ken Woodruff, former Burlington Green president,  is on the left.

Full disclosure: I am a farmer in Burlingtons rural north, sit on the board of Burlington Green, and Chair the Rural Burlington Greenbelt Coalition.  I had never attended a workshop like this before and to be sure, what got me off the couch and to the meeting was a desire to see that public transit, environmental sustainability and rural issues were being represented within the context of the Citys financial plan; but I also attended because I feel we all have a civic duty to ensure our municipalitys house is in order. 

I prescribe to the belief that I cannot ask my government to be accountable to me, if I do not engage with them.

Upon arrival, an encouragingly large group of attendees were put into working groups around large tables, and instructed as to the evenings feedbackprocess.  We were then given an opportunity to ask questions, and the first two or three queries from the group were salient, intelligent and budget-related; but when John Birch, president of the LaSalle Park Marina Association stood up, it quickly became clear that the meeting had been hijacked.

Some background.  The wealthy boat owners at the LPMA, led by rhetorician John Birch, would like to expand their private harbor, currently occupying the waterfront of a public park and further, want the city to provide more funds beyond the $150,000 already given to them to start detailed designs before the environmental assessment challenge is resolved.  The crux of the issue, as I and many others see it, is that the desired construction will almost certainly destroy the wintering grounds of 1/4 of Ontarios Trumpeter Swan population; a population that has been crawling back from the brink of extinction.  I would, and have, also publicly argued that there is no demonstrated need for this redundancy particularly in the face of the Citys fiscal concerns, and with a great deal more environmental assessment to come.

However, regardless of your position on the project IT WAS NOT AN AGENDA ITEM at this budget meeting.  The LaSalle Park Marina Expansion is not even being considered in the 2014 budget, and yet, the LPMA thought it appropriate to use the workshop as an illegitimate soapbox for its cause.

Many, many people, citizens, City staff, and almost the entire City Council (with the exception of Councillor Blair Lancaster), devoted their time last night to be engaged in the messy process that is democracy.  The workshop was well-attended, well-organized, and should have been much more fruitful; instead, we spent a devastating amount of utterly useless time being commandeered by a special interest group railroading a non-budgetary issue.

John Birch of the LaSalle Park Marina Association, on the left, going through his workbook.

John Birch and the LPMA: I find your case for public funding of a private marina totally without merit.  However, if you believe it to have merit, and as a joint ventureof the City of Burlington, then you must follow the public process as it has been laid out.  Your project already hangs by a thread of legitimacy, and if you truly believe your cause is just, then you should promote it justly.   Engage with the community and your council where appropriate, and where people who have a counterpoint may enter the dialogue as well.   The guerilla tactics that you used so disrespectfully last night were disruptive and unprofessional, and from my perspective, only further eroded your projects credibility.

 

 

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Quilt retrospective featuring work of John Willard to be shown at BAC starting February 15th.

By Staff

January 27, 2014

BURLINGTON, ON

We have a fascination about quilts.  Long a household staple in the rural community – it gets cold out there they eventually became an art form with some very traditional patterns.

Quilt sales and exhibitions draw consistently strong audiences. In southwestern Ontario quilt designs were once painted in the sides of barns.

Over time many of those traditional patterns were challenged by new artists .  John Willard was one of those who challenged the traditional; a 40 Year Retrospective of his work will take place at the Burlington Art Centre from February 15, 2014 – March 30, 2014.  The quilts will be hung in the  Lee Chin Family Gallery

Denis Longchamps is curating this exhibit and will lead the Reception & Artist Talk on February : 23, 2-4pm at the BAC

Armed with scissors, needles, threads and fabrics John Willard has been making quilts for 40 years. Not one to follow the rules of tradition, he creates his own designs. Sometimes inspired by traditional patterns he has deconstructed, others by historical events, Willard creates quilts that are beautiful and turn the craft of quilting into an art form.

Willard working on a quilt. A 40 year retrospective of his work will be shown at the BAC in February.

John Willard is a basically self-taught quilt maker. He came to quilt making via set and costume design, photography, display and collecting, and created his first quilt in 1975 after amassing a sizeable collection of antique ones. Although his first quilts were very traditional he soon branched out into his own designs, which have evolved into bravura works of intense colour and complex patterns. He is especially noted for his daring combinations of varying and disparate fabric prints. John’s quilts have been exhibited internationally in Britain, Denmark, Japan, France, Taiwan and the West Indies as well as Canada and the US. His works are in numerous private, corporate and public collections.

There is a level of precision seen in Willard’s quilts that is not seen in some traditional patterns. This Clair de Lune, done in 2002 was well received.

John teaches the art of quilt making, specializing in contemporary design for those who wish to break away from the traditional. He and his works have been featured in many books such as A Fine Line: Studio Crafts in Ontario; Design Through Discovery: An Introduction to Art and Design and magazines including City and Country Home Magazine, Select Homes Magazine, Quilters’ Newsletter Magazine, American Quilter, Embroidery Magazine, Ontario Craft and West of the City Magazine. As a photographer he published a very successful book on Victorian houses, The Gaiety of Gables in 1974.

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What they want to take from you and how they want to spend it. Budget time in Burlington. Your Budget, Your Say

 By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON.

January 23, 2014

You write them a cheque for times a year.  It’s not exactly chump change. It’s just one of those things one does in a civilized society.  You pay taxes and expect value for money.

Joan Ford, the city’s Director of Finance knows where every dollar comes from and where every dollar gets spent.

The city will be putting most of its Finance department people on the front line next Wednesday at the Burlington Art Centre.  No open bar but there will be coffee and cookies while you participate in a public consultation meeting and interactive workshop on the budget.

The city wants you to tell them what is important to you.  They do this each year and the turnout is not bad.   They do an overall presentation and then run small, staff-led work groups focusing on such topics as service choices, infrastructure and planning for the future.

In a nut shell this is what the 2014 budget is about:

The City of Burlington’s proposed 2014 current budget recommends a 4.13 per cent tax rate increase to the city’s portion of the property tax bill. When this is combined with the Region of Halton’s increase of zero per cent and an education increase of zero per cent, the overall result is a proposed property tax rate increase of 1.68 per cent or $15.08 for each $100,000 of residential urban value assessment. 

There are a couple of things that could be done to make this more effective.  Putting a document on-line that can be downloaded and printed that sets out the basics of the budget so that people can do some homework if they wish.  The budget is there if you want to download all 254 pages and print them out.  How about something that is say 10 pages with lots of graphs?

And why this event is always held at just the Burlington Art Centre is inexcusable.  While space is limited at Tansley Wood a public meeting could be held there and with the Alton Campus now open a public meeting could be held there as well.

The Burlington Gazette has been following the development of the budget for 2014 closely.  Links to what we’ve written appear below.

Most of the council members hold meetings in their wards to get local input. A couple of Ward 4 residents discuss a previous budget.

Members of your city council continually say that half the population of the city is north of the QEW.  City hall needs to do much more to serve the needs and interests of these people as well. This is a great opportunity for members of the public to share their insights, to learn more about the city’s proposed 2014 current and capital budgets and to discuss the impact the budget will have on property taxes.

The small workshop sessions can be quite useful, particularly if there is something you want more detail on. Every Council member is on hand and anybody that knows anything from the Finance department is in the room.

Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014; 7 to 9:30 p.m.; Burlington Art Centre.  Plenty of parking at the rear of the building.  They should make the parking free on budget review nights.

This is an election year – so expect members of Council to listen with bigger ears this time around.  Make your views known and let them know you will be watching.

If you can’t attend the meeting, watch the webcast on the city’s website and complete the online workbook   If you’ve really got a burr under your saddle and have to talk to someone – a real voice can be reached at: 905-335-7600, ext. 7896.

Background links:

City manager tries to get some ground rules in place.

City administration begins to negotiate with Council on 2014 tax levy.

Will the 10% over four years hold; doesn’t look that way.

 

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Are you a voter or a consumer? Noted author suggests you are a consumer being manipulated and not served by your government.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.

January 21, 2014

Good authors, good books and a good interviewer can make for a pleasant evening.  Burlingtonians got some of each last night at the Central Library where Susan Delacourt talked with former Liberal MP Paddy Torsney about her book – Shopping for Votes.

Torsney, who has shopped for the odd vote herself, sat with Delacourt and tossed questions to the author of four books who has been covering the federal political scene for more than 25 years. 

The keeners – those that take notes like crazy and often ask a lot of questions.

She stunned this listener when she said Question Period in the House of Commons wasn’t worth listening to – this at a time when the public is seeing some of the very best opposition questioning of the Prime Minister day after day in a relentless onslaught that has kept the hottest political topic in front of the public for more than six months.  No mean feat in this world of 24 hour news cycles.

Delacourt’s fourth title appears to have struck a chord in those who question the way politics is done in Canada.

Delacourt is however on to something significant when she talks of the way politics has changed from a discussion about vision and direction to one where the political parties treat voters the way a toothpaste company treats its customers and merchandises product to them.

Delacourt believes Canadians’ relationship with their politicians changed with the consumer boom of the 1950s.  The explosion in consumerism resulted in advertising becoming the leading source of information — even in politics.

Frank McKeown, former Chief of Staff to Mayor Rick Goldring asked about how politicians can handle complex issues when voters tend not to be informed and don’t have the background needed to arrive at decisions.

But as she argues in her new book, Shopping for Votes, consumers have wants, while citizens have needs — and that creates a clash between short-term and long-term policies in the bid for votes.

Delacourt told her audience that she has found when she speaks to people about politics and elections she is asked: “Is this all there is to politics?”  It’s not much different than going to the mall she said and then added that her very first visit to a mall was here in Burlington.

The Milton native said she found that “government is done to you instead of being you” and that governing today has followed a consumer approach.  We started with Henry Ford telling us we could have any colour of car we liked as long as it was black.  He made the cars and we went to him to buy them.

That shifted Delacourt pointed out when corporation used advertising to tell people what they had and hoped that you bought it.  We are now at the point said Delacourt where political parties research and poll the public to find out what they want and then make it for them.

A healthy, just under 100 audience, took in the event on one of the colder evenings the city has experienced. An older crowd – the kind that tend to vote. Was there a future first lady for the city in the audience?

Delacourt won a  Canadian Journalism Fellowship at Massey College where she happened upon a course in “material culture”. It was essentially about our relationship to stuff, and it raised a lot of good questions about consumerism.   “I was taking the course” she said “at the same time as the 2008 election was under way, and I suddenly realized that the politics friendliest to consumers (Conservatives) was the winning formula.

Delacourt explained to her audience that the Conservative government doesn’t like data in government but they love it in politics and are relentless in digging out small pockets of support and exploiting each to the fullest.  She gave the example of the snow mobile community for which the party bought a magazine mailing list and began targeting individual households, first with research polling and then  with literature supporting ideas that had come out from the research.  Delacourt explained that the Conservatives were miles ahead of the Liberals on this type of engagement with the public.  She added that the New Democrats are pretty good at target polling as well –  they focus on consumer interest matters.

Book signings are a part of the game for authors. Delacourt, surprisingly tended to write fairly long notes in each book – not just a signature dashed off.

Delacourt brings 25 years of political reporting to her explanation that the public does no always understand that politics and government is not the same thing.

Many people want the government to operate as a business, to bring market discipline to the operation of government services – which is an interesting approach except that the public are not consumers or employees when it comes to government – and you can’t lay off voters when times are tough and revenue targets are not being met.

What the just short of 100 people at the event heard was a journalist who has been at the game for more than 25 years and has followed the current Prime Minister from the day he began to serve as an elected politician.  As an experienced observer she brings a critical eye to what she sees and is quite direct with her observations.

Book sales are what it is really all about. The event, a joint effort by the Public Library and A Different Drummer Books, was part of a series of events.

You can almost feel her ire rise when she talks of the “robo-calling” that took place in Guelph where it was a clear case of voter suppression. “We don’t know who the master mind in that situation was” she said, “ but we certainly know who the players were” and then added that that situation is not done with yet.  Elections Canada have been all over what was done.

According to Delacourt people do not get their information from news anymore – they get their information from advertising where the message is totally controlled.  Andy Frame, a Tory since the beginning of time told the audience that he had listened to Justin Trudeau at an event in Oakville and he was convinced the young man was going to be the “next Prime Minister of the country”.  That perked up Torsney’s ear and brought some comment from Delacourt who said it is too early to tell whether or not Justin is more than a flash in the pan but there is little doubt that there is something going on there.

As people were leaving the library the membership secretary of the Burlington Provincial Liberal Association approached Mr. Frame and asked if he would be interested in purchasing a membership.  Money did not exchange hands.

Is there hope asked one member of the audience?  There is according to Delacourt.  The British are finding that they don’t like being manipulated and the changes that we have seen in the United States where Barak Obama tapped into a deep yearning on the part of the black population to be at the table.

Delacourt explained that in Canada about 60% of the people vote and that 10% of that vote is really the swing vote – people who are not locked into a political party.  Every stripe and flavour of politics works at tying down their core vote and then doing whatever they feel they have to do to get more of than 10% than the other guys.

Paddy Torsney, Delacourt’s “interrogator” during the evening certainly understood what the author was saying when she declared that attack advertising certainly works.  Jacket at Joelle’s if you wanted to know.

What about those attack ads? Delacourt was asked.  “Well the certainly work” she replied.  Dionne and Ignatieff will attest to that.  And they will continue to work as long as the public gets its information from advertising.

The irony of all this for Delacourt is that at a time when there is more information available than ever before, people have less time to read and there is no one giving the public the analysis and background needed to make sense of all the noise and the clutter.

“Is it depressing” asked an audience member?  “No” replied Delacourt, but there didn’t appear to be a lot of confidence or certainty in the response.  Many feel Justin may turn out to be a “celebrity” rather than a sound political leader.

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The police want to engage you – which is probably better than having them arrest you.

December 14, 2013

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON. The Halton Regional Police Services board has released the Draft of the 2014-2020.  The Police Service, in cooperation with the Police Services Board is in the process of undertaking a review of its goals and objectives for the next three years. These goals are important as they guide the service in the delivery of services that are vital in maintaining the safety of the residents of Halton.

The the public are encouraged to have a say on what they feel is important by contacting Keith Moore, Senior Planner at 905-825-4747 ext. 4830 or by email at Keith.Moore@haltonpolice.ca

The material is organized into four themes with a series of points listed under each theme.  Unfortunately, there is no comment on any of the points.  The draft consists of a list of things the police plan to do during the next four years.

Community safety, Outreach and collaboration, Organizational capacity and Organizational excellence

Under Community Safety the Board lists:

Identity theft and bank scams are a continuing public threat.  HAlton Regional Police have led a number of successful multi-jurisdictional investigations. 

Ensure that Halton maintains the lowest overall crime rate and Crime Severity Index of any comparable-sized community in Canada.

Deter criminal activity— strengthen crime prevention, community policing and safety initiatives – and relentlessly pursue criminals.

Improve crime clearance rates.

Focus on key areas of concern to the community;  traffic safety and enforcement, growth in illegal drug activity, gangs and organized crime,assaults and sexual assaults, domestic violence,  youth and young adult crime, victimization of seniors/youth/children, technology-based crimes (e.g. Cyber-bullying; internet financial crimes and fraud). , monitoring and tracking of offenders, hate crimes and human trafficking.

Engage and mobilize the community to collaboratively share responsibility for keeping our region safe.

Establish and practice leading-edge emergency preparedness measures, including ongoing business continuity during emergencies and special events.

Under Outreach and Collaboration the board lists:

The  police are out at hundreds of community events.

Build public awareness of and trust/confidence in the Halton Regional Police Service and policing in general.

Educate the public about safety and security issues through an inclusive approach that respects the diverse composition of our community.

Reduce the fear of crime — help those who live, work and play in Halton to feel even safer.

Define and clearly communicate the areas for which the Halton Regional Police Service is responsible.

Strengthen communication and community dialogue (e.g. using social and other media).

Collaborate with our communities in the prevention and solving of crime – and contribute to overall safety and wellbeing.

Strengthen relationships with youth and diverse communities to establish a solid foundation leading to improved understanding of policing, recruitment opportunities and other policing initiatives.

Continue to strengthen working relationships and information exchange with other law enforcement agencies.

Under Organizational Capacity the Board lists:

There are community police stations throughout the Region.  Police appear to want a new headquarters building as well.

Ensure that police resources and funding responsibly address operational requirements and changing demographics.

Enhance the use of police analytics to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the organization.

Be the leaders in the application of new technologies and maximize innovation, responsiveness, outreach and service delivery.

Ensure that all employees are well-trained and well equipped in accordance with provincial requirements and in areas of emerging concern — and that support of the front line remains paramount.

Strengthen police ability to effectively address situations of elevated risk (e.g. mental health-related incidents).

Embrace human resource best practices and customize them in support of: employee recruitment/retention, diversity, career development, succession planning, performance management, and positive labour relations.

Strengthen employee understanding of the Halton Regional Police Service and its initiatives, and secure support for future strategic directions.

 Ensure that police facilities adequately meet current and future needs.

Under Organizational Excellence the Board lists:

Do the police deliver the service the public needs?  The RIDE program is a proven service.

Ensure that the Halton Regional Police Service demonstrates the highest levels of ethical and professional standards.

Strengthen service delivery and positive interactions with the community.

Ensure that our Police Service is an employer of choice for both uniform and civilian positions.

Strengthen employee motivation and engagement — foster a sense of employee pride and high job satisfaction, and a belief in the value of individual contribution.

Ensure that our police service culture emphasizes respect, responsibility, accountability,relationships and results.

Meet or exceed all current and future provincially mandated police service requirements.

Be the leader in identifying and implementing innovative policing practice

What is the Police Services Board telling us?  Is this list a collection of clichés and self-serving statements?  Is the Board, which oversees policing in the Region, calling the people who police the community to account?

Government services employ people to communicate with the public.  Major corporations have public relations departments that are in place to tell their story to the public.  These are companies that are in business – they are there for the most part to make a profit for their shareholders which are often large pension groups.

Public services are considerably different.  They are in place to SERVE the public and to seek the advice of the public they serve.

This DRAFT plan for the next three years is the first step in the process of making their plans public.

Let us see how the public reacts to the document.

The following data for the fiscal year 2011 puts who the police serve and what the public pays for that service into perspective.

There are 178,232 households in the Region

The police budget for 2011 amounted to $116.4 million.

There were 629 men and women in uniform .

There were 282 civilian people working  for the police service.

Calls to the police for service amounted to: (2009): 124,503; (2010): 129,971; (2011): 128,202.

The annual cost to each person in the Region for the police service we get amounted to: (2009): $224.66;(2010): $225.83 and (2011): $236.08

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Local “People’s Inquiry” supports a mock trial for Premier Wynne and members of her government.

December 4, 2013

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  She was somewhere between 35 – maybe touching 40.  Kleenex in her hands to manage the tears as she gave “testimony” before a mock trial that was held at St. Christopher’s Anglican Church on Guelph Line.

Appearing before three “citizen judges” this witness told of how she had to understand why she was marginalized.

“I once had a comfortable life, I had a car, the trappings, I had a good job, I had friends but then the downsizing took place and I was the one with a new child that was not well and needed a lot of time and attention.

“I has RRSP’s and I knew how to manage.  All that can and did change for me more rapidly than I ever imagined possible.

“I have had to move five times in the last three years.  As a last desperate attempt to find accommodation I could afford I tried sharing accommodation with another single mother – but it didn’t work out and I had to call my case worked when my son was threatened by a child with scissors.  In a flash I was homeless – marginalized.

“I was poor, I was unworthy and made to feel like a low life.

“I was food insecure.  I was housing insecure.

“I felt un-liked, wasted, humiliated – embarrassed.  I began to feel invisible.  People that were part of your life change when you are poor.  I was seen as someone with a disease, as someone with an affliction.

“I couldn’t get a job – no one would take a chance on me.

“People in my situation are looked upon as lazy, as people who chose the life they are living.

“There is no poverty in Burlington because we don’t see poor people on the streets.  For those of us who are very low income people paying $1000 a month for a one bedroom apartment just isn’t possible.

“The politicians don’t understand what it means to be marginalized.”

They sat as ‘citizen judges’ hearing testimony from the marginalized and delivered a verdict that the Premier of the province should be brought before a mock trial in Toronto and charged with failing to live up to her promise to run a social justice government.

This witness was one of several who gave “testimony” in Burlington on Wednesday at a “People’s Inquiry”.  It is one of 20 being held across the province and will culminate in a mock trial in Toronto where the Premier Kathleen Wynne, her Finance Minister and Minister of Community and Social Services will be served with a summons charging them with failing to deliver on the promise to be a social justice government.

The marginalized believe that the Premier has described herself as a social justice advocate and tells the public that is who she is – but those who are on the receiving end of social support see little justice in what they are receiving.

Mike Balkwill, part of a group of community activists working under the Put Food in the Budget umbrella,  asked the 20 or so people at the Burlington inquiry what they felt they could do to have the Premier act on her social justice promise.  The local People’s Inquiries” and the mock trail planned for some time in February are designed to draw attention to where the Premier is failing.

Premier Wynne told the media that social justice is her top priority. A tough statement to take at face value when there are 400,000 people using food banks every month in Ontario.  Wynne’s claim “is believable only if she significantly increases social assistance rates and puts food in the budget of people who are poor in Ontario.”  It is her failure to make even a meaningful increase in assistance that has her being brought before a mock trial.

Wynne runs a minority government and at some point she is going to have to go to the people and ask for their support.  We will support her – will she support us? Was the question most of the people at the Burlington Inquiry were asking.

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BurlingtonGreen hears how other communities do what has to be done to save prime farmland – sound familiar?

November 28, 2013

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  It has been a banner week for BurlingtonGreen.  They held their annual meeting, installed a very strong board and heard a stirring story about how a quarry proposal in Dufferin County was defeated.  Later in the week after a very bumpy ride through several Standing Committees they got a sole sourced agreement with the city to continue developing the community garden concept that has done so exceptionally well.

Gloria Reid, on the right with her husband – a welcome addition to the BurlingtonGreen board.

Let’s take this one step at a time: The new board is made up of: Todd Mooney, Gloria Reid, Neil Sentanie, Vanessa Warren, Ken Woodruff, Chuck Bennet, Colin Brock, Susan Fraser and Paul Haskins who will serve as president.

Vanessa Warren will add to the already impressive delegation skills BurlingtonGreen takes before various levels of government.

BurlingtonGreen has become the go to community organization you want to be part of in this city.  This year two of the impressively active community leaders joined the board: Vanessa Warren who formed the Rural Burlington Greenbelt Coalition that brought the landfill dumping in north Burlington to a grinding halt when she delegated to Burlington and Regional Council and Gloria Reid who brought some impressive thinking  to the creation of a Community Engagement Charter.  We wish Ms Reid had stayed with that project and gotten it out of the clutches of the upper reaches of city hall where is will suffocate from the dust on the shelves it sits on.

The BG AGM brought in Donna Tranquada to talk to them about the successful effort to stop the application for a quarry permit in Melacanhom Township which is north of Caledon and south of Collingwood.

Monte Dennis in conversation with BurlingtonGreen guest speaker Donna Tranquada. Dennis was part of the Pickering airport battle more than 25 years ago. He could tell Tranquada some real horror stories.

What was really interesting and odd was that Ms Tranquada made no reference to the PERL success with the Nelson Aggregate fight – that win paved the way for the change in the way the public reacted to any expansion of  quarries and their development .  The Nelson win was the first time a quarry looking to expand was turned down.  The Food and Water First people knew a good thing when they saw it though: they had Sarah Harmer out to their events as well

Donna Tranquada had a great story to tell.  A year to the day of the BG AGM, a group that was formed to protect thousands of acres of farmland from a planned massive quarry operation learned that the company had withdrawn its application to develop a quarry.  It took more than a year to beat back the proposal put together by an American, Boston-based hedge fund, that was buying up property in the township.

When that company began buying up farm land they said they wanted to create a large, world-class potato farming operation. Property by property they told farmers what they were doing and got to the point where they had purchased more than 30 farms.  “It didn`t take long” Tranquada explained “for word to get out in that rural community that something was going on.”  The company, called Highland had been incorporated in Nova Scotia, and had begun using pressure tactics on some of the holdouts – meeting with farmers and putting a cheque for more than $1 million on the table and saying the offer was good for just 24 hours.  The community began to get uneasy.

Then came the announcement:  Highland had filed an application with the province for the largest quarry in Canadian history on some of the best farmland in Ontario and at the headwaters of five river systems. The mega Quarry would have sprawled across 2,316 acres and would have plunged 200 feet below the water table on a 15,000 acre plateau of Class 1 farmland. The massive open-pit limestone quarry would have put rare agricultural soil and precious water resources at risk in Melancthon Township.

One of the studies showed that the quarry would have to pump out 600 million litres of water a day forever.  You had to be in the room when Tranquada used the word forever.  She is a bit over 5ft 5 inches and she literally spit out the word.

You start with a great location for a public gathering.

Donna Tranquada`s  talk was “meat and potatoes” for the protest movement crowd – it was a crowd like this that stopped the Spadina Expressway in Toronto;  that stopped the extension of the Gardiner Expressway in Toronto  through the Beach community and parts of Scarborough.  The same demographic stopped the first attempt to put in an international airport in Pickering.

When Burlington was threatened with a highway being rammed through the Niagara Escarpment close to 400 people showed up at the Mainway Arena on Walkers Line – and the province eventually backed off.  The province will have another go at an Escarpment highway and it will take a different generation to fight that battle.

The  Melancthon Township battle used ideas that pulled together the interests of the rural communities with the needs of the urban dwellers – then used food as the bridge between the two.

Chefs from Toronto and other urban centers made soup, thousands of bowls of soup that was both a fund-raiser and the way to connect  farmland where food is grown and the stomachs of the people in cities who have to eat.  The event became known as SoupStock and it drew crowds in the tens of thousands.

It was a magnificent collection of ideas and dedicated people who showed once again that the public can prevail.  Highland had employed one of the biggest public relations companies in North America who knew they were up against a public that was driven and focused – rarely can that kind of energy be beaten.

That draws great crowds.

Tranquada said that on one Saturday there were 40,000 people who dropped into a large park in the east end of Toronto to hear the story about the quarry application.  If you believe in an idea and you can get your troops out – you can prevail.

Burlington has a fight on its hands that is critical for the city and relevant to every municipality that has a small airport and problems with landfill sites.  While many expect the city of Burlington to prevail through the several levels of appeal that can be expected of the decision that decided the city had the right to have its site bylaw adhered to, the bigger question is – what des the city do with that property once the Court issue is resolved.  There are hundreds of tonnes of landfill in the more than 100 + acres of property and a runway that is in the process of being paved.

Tranquada, surprised some people who asked where they could get one of the signs that she had with her. “I  just have the three “she explained – “that was all I was able to carry on the subway and the GO train.  A high-profile media personality trudging from Toronto to Burlington on the GO train is what they call “waking the talk”.

Tranquada is now part of a group that goes from community to community with the message: “There aren’t a lot of victories these days, but the mood-altering blocking of the monster quarry in Melancthon Township in potato country a year ago was a brilliant model of how to get stuff done. The alliance of urban ecos, farmers, foodies and chefs showed the power of partnering, bridged the messy city-country divide and ulti­mately triumphed over a Boston-based hedge fund… Plus, it made the point with the mass soup-athons, that protests can be jubilant and very digestible – and that determination and positivity are our best weapons.”

And those crowds sign a petition – and with public reaction like that – the company wanting to quarry prime farmland withdraws their application.

With the farmland in Dufferin County saved, the group, known as Food and Water First,  decided to get to the real core issue which was the Aggregate Resource Act – it sets the rules for the extraction of aggregates.  Turns out Ontario has the weakest regulatory environment governing resource extraction in Canada, enabling anyone to pillage the very resources Ontario needs to drive parts of its own economy.

The Food and Water First people have taken the position that the aggregate producers require a “social license”, that is the permission of the wider community, to do what they do.  That concept will be hard for some of the old-timers in the industry to digest but it is a changing world – Global Warming is real and both food and water will become the most critical elements of our society continue to exist.

There is legislation and policy that govern the activities around resource extraction in Ontario.  The Ontario Sand, Stone and Gravel Association (OSSGA) chose to push for keeping things as they are instead of helping to create a document that would lessen rural strife and have them become a responsible corporate partner.  OSSGA members will continue to be challenged by communities in which they want to do business and will have to defend their businesses. Instead of doing better and voluntarily recognizing that prime farmland and source water regions should be off-limits, OSSGA has clearly belittled the efforts of thousands of Ontarians who have so reasonably engaged in this policy development process. The public at large will continue to withhold that social license until there is modernized legislation.

Nothing in the Aggregate Resources Act (ARA) review document would prevent another Mega Quarry application tomorrow, destroying forever thousands of acres of our most productive farmland and putting the control of unbelievably vast amounts of Ontario’s fresh water in danger.

Food and Water First wants to see new legislation that recognizes  prime farmland as a strategic provincial resource and  protect source water regions by eliminating industrial extraction in those regions.

These social activists believe that as an engaged public, both urban and rural, we have had all kinds of assurances from MPPs that the thousands of people had been heard. Now is the time for those MPPs to act, not just speak.

A productive board meeting; the story of a community action that saved precious farmland – and the week wasn’t over. BurlingtonGreen went on to get the city behind their community garden project – but that’s another story.

 

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Understanding the school board: an agenda would have helped. Intern leaves feeling she really wasn’t there.

Milla Pickfield is a Nelson High School graduate who decided to spend a year working in the community, helping her Mother with her business and doing volunteer work before she headed to university.  She volunteered to try writing and did two piece for us; one with the Chief of Police and an interview with the new Hayden High school principal.

Milla’s most recent piece for us is on the school board, that organization that directed much of what she has done for the past ten years.  Her attendance at a Board of Education meeting was a bit of an eye opener for Ms Pickfield.

November 26, 2013

By Milla Pickfield.

BURLINGTON, ON.  I got to my meeting of the Board of Education an hour early; when you have to use public transit or rely on your parents for transportation – your time is not your own

I wasn’t at all sure where I was supposed to go and asked the woman at the reception desk where the meeting was being held – school board meetings are open to the public.

Milla Pickfield is a Nelson High graduate – understanding the proceedings of the school board was not something high school prepared her for.

I was half hoping she could point me in the right direction and expected someone would supply me with an agenda. I was pointed in the right direction – without an agenda.   And I had not brought anything else to read.

Half an hour after I arrived, Dr. Frank J. Hayden and his wife also showed up with Jacqueline Newton from the new high school.  I had already interviewed Ms Newton and was delighted to meet Dr. Hayden and his wife.

When I was doing some research on what school boards do, I came across a quote that put everything in perspective for me. Sir Ken Robinson once said: “Everybody has an interest in Education.”

Those words resonated with me. I know that I am very interested in education which is why I was very excited to go to a Board of Education meeting. I didn’t know what it would be like, I didn’t know what the people would be like, and I didn’t know what they would talk about.  After the meeting, I was left with more questions than answers.

Dr Frank Hayden – spoke to Board of Trustees who had named the new Alton Community High school after him.

It wasn’t a very satisfying experience for me.  I don’t usually need help nor do I willingly accept it most of the time, however I did expect someone to greet me upon arrival at the large room in which the meeting took place. That was not the case. No one greeted me or any of the other three students in attendance.  Everyone was crowded around Dr. Hayden, which was certainly understandable.

No one approached me and asked if they could help and without an agenda I found myself spending most of my time hurriedly trying to write down all I could and hoping to understand a little later from the notes I was taking.   Working without an understanding of what was going on I was forced to pay extra attention to everything they were saying which still did not help. Most of the language used was part of my vocabulary however the fashion in which they used it was not.

I believe myself to be an educated person. I have done everything expected of me; I went to elementary school and high school and graduated from both with relatively high grades, what I lacked in book smarts I made up in common sense, and I can follow many conversations with adults and form and deliver an opinion.   I could not follow the meeting of the Board of Education.

I wondered: if I could not follow the meeting how would other people in Burlington understand the proceedings.  What about someone who just moved here from a different country; someone who just decided (like me) to drop into one of those meetings; someone with very little knowledge of the education system but with a hunger to learn; ever keep up with the meeting?  

The impression I left with was that the meeting was separated into four parts:

First were the speeches which were delivered by Dr. Hayden and a student attending Hayden High.

Second part was passing a whole lot of bills and not talking about any of them.

The third part was mainly focused on speaking about some bills that were to pass and problems they’ve encountered.

Finally there was the freelance period of time, or at least that’s how I understood it. In this time anyone was allowed to bring forward an issue they though important and speak about it to the council.

Milla Pickfield started an internship as a journalist interviewing the Chief of Police. She ‘aced’  it – wasn’t able to do as well at understanding what gets done at Board of Education meetings.

I found the second and third parts of the meeting the most confusing. Perhaps it was the fact that I didn’t have an agenda, so the bills were hard to follow, or maybe it was just the extremely fast pace of the meeting but I have to wonder how someone from the public, like me, would ever follow a similar meeting to that one.

The Board of Education controls a large chunk of our lives, along with a lot of our tax dollars, and we should be able to be a part of the process and understand what’s going on. What I experienced was personally disappointing. I went in with a desire to learn all I could, perhaps understand how our education system works, and see important decisions being made.

I left the meeting feeling as if there was something wrong with me; I should have been able to understand what was going on.  I read, I am informed and I understand the English language.  When I think about the several hours I spent in the Board of Education meeting, I feel like I wasn’t really there. 

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Electric car charging stations being set up at GO stops – Burlington will see theirs in 2014.

November 27, 2013

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  The province is doing everything it can to get you into an electric car. Announced this morning at the Oakville GO station –  electric vehicle charging stations are up and running at five GO stations in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area to make it easier for drivers to use environmentally friendly transportation.

Starting today, Aurora, Centennial, Lincolnville, Oakville and Whitby GO stations will offer charging stations for electric vehicles.

Ajax, Burlington, Pickering, Erindale and Clarkson GO stations will open electric vehicle charging facilities in early 2014.

ChargePoint cards are available now.  why not put everything on the existing PRESTO card

Charging a car will be free for the first month; after that, each charging session will cost $2.50. Electric vehicle users can wave a credit card or a Chargepoint smart card over a card reader to pay for their electric vehicle charging access.

$2.50 a charge?  It cost me $68.74 to fill my tank.

The ultimate electric car charging station: Solar panels shaped like trees with plug-ins for cars – why not fill GO station parking lots with these things?

The provincial government says the new stations are part of a three-year pilot program, which may be expanded depending on demand.

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