Racist graffiti painted on the walls of St. Patrick Elementary School on Kenwood Drive.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  APRIL 19, 2012  Sometime over the weekend of March 6th, someone snuck onto the grounds of St Patrick’s Elementary School located at 200 Kenwood Drive and spray painted racist graffiti on the brick walls.

Despite the immediate removal of the graffiti the school was targeted three weeks in a row.  While the property damage is bad enough, it is the thinking behind the spraying of racists graffiti on a school that is the most troubling.

School targeted with racist graffiti - three weeks in a row

If caught early enough the behaviour can be corrected.  If left to fester in the minds of whoever did this – it can lead to things like the trial going on in Norway where a racist individual committed a horrendous crime.

Catch it now before it gets out of hand.  The person behaving like a racist learned this behavior somewhere – he or she didn`t pick it up from a doorknob.

Anyone with information on this or any other crime is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1 800 222-8477 (TIPS) or through the web at www.haltoncrimestoppers.com or by texting “Tip201” with your message to 274637 (crimes).

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Is there a vision for Burchill’s MeetUps at the Waterfront hotel? Yes, but it isn’t crystal clear.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON April 12, 2012  Literally hundreds of people continue to register for the Business in Burlington MeetUps that are currently being held at the Waterfront Hotel in Burlington.  But no one, not even the man that made it all happen, is really certain where this is all going to go.

It’s clear that the people who take part have decided against organizations like the Chamber of Commerce; they don’t see any value in the $400 membership fee. The Chamber argues that there is a lot of value for that membership fee.  We will let the different opinions stand.

James Burchill is delighted with the growth in his membership which has reached more than 1,000 individuals following his grouping.  That’s pretty close to what the Chamber has.

They shouldn't have worked - but they are most certainly working. For how long - no one knows.. Until they no longer serve a purpose says James Burchill.

So what’s going on? Why do people want to be part of this and why do they register for MeetUps that are taking place more than two months later?  Well they want to be certain they can get in, space at the MeetUps is limited, mostly because the size of the room they use.

Burchill thinks there is more to it than that. “I’m meeting a need.  These people have chosen what I have to offer over what organizations like the Chamber offers.  Burchill doesn’t have a membership fee and he doesn’t make a dime out of what he has created.

He is also very quick to tell you that when he started this – less than four months ago he “didn’t know what he didn’t know”.  This has been like flying in the dark with no instruments and as you listen to Burchill you get the impression he just loves it that way.

“We are all in this together” claims Burchill – he just wants to mobilize people and thinks social media, which means different things to different people, is a tool that can be used.  At this point everyone is dipping their toes into social media.  The big brand corporations are pretty sure there is something going on out there – but they really don’t know –  have decided to throw some marketing dollars at it anyway.

Burchill is putting time and energy into this because he thinks there is a group of people who want to be part of something – even if they aren’t sure what it is they are becoming a part of.  There is no membership, they aren’t asked to be on a committee – it’s all quite loose.  And yet every month a couple of hundred people arrive at the same place, spend a couple of hours together and go their own way when it’s over.  The cash bar is open but you can walk in and not spend a dime – and throw back some of the nibbles that are set out by the hotel.  They love the traffic – they fill a space that is close to empty on a Wednesday between five and seven.

It's 50% business and 50% social - and that's about all I can tell you, says Burchill

Burchill did little to no research on this project.  “They shouldn’t have worked he will tell you.  They aren’t a  “will I manage to make out” evening – even though there is a bit of that evident.  Burchill thinks his MeetUps are 50% business and 50% social and behaving like the “benevolent dictator” he describes himself as – he thinks he can guide this in a direction that will become a service to people who aren’t part of any of the mainline social groupings.  A MeetUp is certainly not a Rotary meeting, nor is it a country club.  There are no rules – you just show up and be who you are.

He does think that in the not too distant future he might be able to offer this crowd services and information that they need and can opt into if they wish.  Burchill who has a publishing background thinks the people who attend his events have a need for information but don’t want to spend a fortune on accountants or lawyers.

Take the HST rules – Burchill thinks he could put together a document that would sell for a couple of bucks – would have everything you needed to know without all the “what does this mean” words that the bureaucrats drop into what they write.

Less than the cost of a beer for the report – but something that would produce revenue for Burchill who strives to make the point that he isn’t in partnership with anyone and is not working his way through some grand plan.

There is a vision but it isn’t crystal clear.  The vision is being shaped by what he sees from the people that turn up for his events.  “There’s something going on here, that much I know” says Burchill.  Other than that – he’s just riding the wave and having fun along the way.

Having fun – that could be the vision.

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If you want to be the person that writes the cheques – you might want to attend this seminar – offered by Burlington lawyer.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON  April 5, 2012   An exceptionally successful fund manager couldn’t decide which she wanted to be when she went to university; a business person or a lawyer.  Her Dad asked which she wanted to do: write the cheques or ask for the cheque.  I want to write the cheques the woman decided and she became an entrepreneur.  Her Father explained that lawyers ask for cheques – business people write cheques.

Burlington lawyer Rick Burgess, a former candidate for the office of Mayor has decided that he just might be able to have it both ways by putting on a seminar for entrepreneurs ” like you”.

Burgess points out that entrepreneurs start their company with a great idea and work  many, long hours to build a successful company.  They have a few successes. They also make costly mistakes that could have been avoided if they had known what the experts Burgess has assembled have known for some time

Burgess believes that time, money and frustration can be saved if you have the right information before you start and he has put together a seminar at which you can gain that valuable insight.

Burgess wants to:

Let our panel of experts and colleagues share with you how to avoid costly, common mistakes entrepreneurs make at different stages in their business. They have seen it before and can help you identify future opportunities so that you are better prepared to meet those challenges.

The panel will discuss:

•              Getting Started Right

•              Managing Growth

•              Preparing for Times of Crisis

•              Planning Your Exit Strategy

Come and join this interactive panel discussion. Learn how to take advantage of the opportunities these milestones create. Turn the unexpected into opportunities with the help of our experts and other entrepreneurs like yourself.

The Panel of Experts includes:

Richard Burgess. BA (Honours), LLB, Burgess Law Office Professional Corporation

Doug Gowman, HBA, CFP, Investment Advisor and Financial Planner, RBC Dominion Securities

Greg Clarke, BCom., CA, Partner SB Partners

Stan Lang, Senior Account Manager, RBC Royal Bank (Halton)

Doug Robbins, President, Robbinex Business Intermediaries

Spaces are limited to 25 attendees per meeting to allow for participation and discussions. Please register early to avoid disappointment.  If you have any questions please contact Kristine at 905.523.7510 x217.

 

 

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Acclaimed Titanic author to speak at library April 17th; tickets limited..

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON  April 4, 2012  Prolific, widely honoured publisher, writer and historian Hugh Brewster, an internationally recognized authority on the Titanic, brings us his vivid examination of the people and the ship known to all after the events of April 1912.

On the Centenary of the tragedy, Hugh Brewster visits the Different Drummer Bookstore Engaging Ideas series at the Burlington Central Library on April 16th at 7:00 pm, to discuss his superlative new book, an absorbing document of the passengers’ stories, RMS Titanic: Gilded Lives on a Fatal Voyage.

Tickets are $10, available at the bookstore and at the third floor Information Desk at the Library.

Brewster has worked closely with Robert D. Ballard, the discoverer of the remains of the Titanic, and has created several acclaimed books about the vessel, for both adults and young readers.

The author has an extraordinary gift for storytelling and for recreating history, both in person and on the page.  His other subjects have included Grand Duchess Anastasia, John Singer Sargent, Mozart, and the First World War.

To reserve seats in advance, please contact us at (905) 639 0925 or diffdrum@mac.com.

 

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It looks pretty white to me! So much for diversity in Halton. Board of Education appears to take a pass on diversity

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  April 2, 2012  The flyer reproduced below was handed out at the Mayor`s Economic development luncheon last week where a group of students from different Burlington schools listened to an invigorating speaker who buzzed the crowd with a solid presentation of information bombardment.

Not exactly inclusive or all that "politically correct is it?

There was a certain irony to a presentation on information and a flyer that surely gave the wrong information to the audience

The Halton District School Board was one of the sponsors of the event and were entitled to have some of their promotional material put out on the tables in the room.  It wasn’t a pretty picture.

We have people from dozens of countries sharing the community with us and while Burlington is, for the most part,  a pretty white community there are many people of colour who have chosen to make Burlington home.  They are for the most part quiet and unassuming.  We don`t hear a lot from them.

Bringing about a sense of inclusion is not something the private sector is very good at – it is not in their immediate best interests.  They don`t avoid changes in the social make up of a community – they just adapt to the change.

The leadership in bringing about more inclusive community has to come from the public sector in its hiring and promotional practices.

The police hire men who wear turbans; the school boards strive to hire teachers who are people of colour who reflect the change taking place in the community.

Thus it was with some surprise and concern that we see a flyer being handed out at an Economic Development luncheon promoting a Pathways program, which in itself appears to be an excellent way to tie the private commercial sector to the educational system.  The problem with the flyer was that everyone in the pictures was white – and mostly male.  It was as politically incorrect as you can get.

If people of colour and diverse backgrounds do not see themselves in the literature put out by the public sector – it doesn’t take them very long to translate what it means – if you don`t see yourself in the picture it`s because you are not in the picture.

Burlington needs to take another picture.

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Committed shopper didn’t take to the Momstown line ups – suggests going on line to save time or head for the Mall.

Sarah O’Hara, a Burlington Mother of two, who is completing a joint Arts Degree/Teaching certificate program at York University, will be our “Critical Consumer” with regular contributions once she has finished her studies this April.  A hearty welcome to her.  This lady has a keen eye for value.

By Sarah O`Hara

BURLINGTON, ON March 31, 2012   When a friend sent me an email about a Momstown clothing sale, I thought I’d check it out.  Last summer my daughter still fit into the shorts, Capri’s and sundresses from the summer before, although they were much shorter than they were originally.  I know I won’t luck out again this year, so I am going to have to buy some new things.  My friend Christy’s son is three years older than mine, and she hands down all of his clothes to us.  We aren’t fortunate enough, however, to have a close friend or relative with a daughter slightly older and bigger than mine, so we have to shop for my six-year-old, Laura.

I have to admit, I do love to shop.  Usually I go from Burlington Mall to Mapleview Mall and buy whatever is cute or on sale or durable – all of these are factors in my decisions on clothing for Laura.  However, this year we have a different financial situation in my household, so I have to pay more attention than usual to price tags.  Thus, when I found out about the Momstown sale I decided to go.

The dream view for every Mother shopping for childrens clothing at bargain prices.

The email said the first hundred people would get a goody bag.  I like to get anything for free so I resolved to be there right at eight o’clock, when the sale began.  However, when setting my alarm last night I was hesitant to set it too early.  After all, it has been a busy week with six a.m. wakeups – Saturday is my morning to sleep in a bit.  Besides, would anyone actually show up to buy used clothing and toys at eight o’clock on a cold Saturday morning?

As luck would have it, my kids woke me up by seven thirty anyway, and by eight o’clock Laura and I were out the door.  It’s only a few minutes from our house to the Angelic Treasures Christian Childcare Centre on Mountainside Road where the sale was held.  We turned onto the street just after eight and immediately saw cars and minivans being rerouted from the already-full parking lot.  I groaned inwardly but was determined to follow through on my aim to be financially smart and buy some decent second hand clothes.  After all – how long do kids actually wear their clothes?  I have donated outfits that have been worn less than a handful of times.  Kids grow – fast.  It seems silly to pay full price for clothes that only last one season.

I parked on the street and Laura and I trudged through the still-snowy grass to the back of the Centre, following bright orange signs hung with balloons directing us toward the entrance.  As soon as we turned the corner I groaned again – this time out loud.  There were at least sixty people queued up at the entrance.  Mothers, grandmothers, women with very pregnant bellies, a few men, strollers, toddlers, and women with politely unobtrusive lumps under their jackets obviously concealing babies.  We made our way to the end of the line.  I spoke to the woman in front of me who told me she is not a member of Momstown, the hosts of the sale, but that she often comes to these types of sales.  The woman behind me told me she is from Lindsay and is staying in Burlington with her in-laws for the weekend.  She is not a member of Momstown either, but heard about the sale on Kijiji.  She often finds out about such sales through the Internet and plans for them when she comes to Burlington, as she said there is very little of this sort of thing in Lindsay.

This isn't the line up outside the Angelic Treasures Christian Childcare Centre on Mountainside Road but it paints the picture our Critical Consumer, Sarah O'Hara wants to pass along - the line ups were just too long.

By this time I counted forty people in front of us and forty behind us.  It was ten after eight.  Slowly, slowly, the line moved.  When we were close to the doorway a Momstown representative came around with a clipboard and ballot entries for a draw.  With fingers numbed from the cold I filled out my information and asked her if this type of lineup is usual.  She assured me these sales always draw such a crowd.  Unfortunately, due to space restrictions, only a few shoppers are allowed into the sale at one time.  Laura and I finally gained entrance and were relieved to feel the warm air.  However, we were then stuck in a tiny vestibule for about ten minutes.  This was both the entrance and the exit, so we were routinely pushed up against the wall while people left with sacks full of goodies from clothing to ride-on toy cars.

One of the people exiting was an old high school friend, Lee-Ann.  She stopped to chat for a moment and told me she used to be a member of Momstown, but because she worked she was able to make very few of the scheduled events.  She told me the meetings are generally held on week days in the afternoons and because of her hours as a working mother she was never able attend.  She felt the group is best for stay-at-home mothers or those still on maternity leave with young babies.

We eventually made it to the table in the lobby where we could choose which draw to put our ballot in.  I let Laura pick and she chose an Avon draw.  I’m sure the stuffed panda in the basket helped to sway her vote.  I paid my Toonie to the volunteer at the desk, and then we lined up again to wait for a certain number of people to leave before we could enter the sale proper.  A volunteer told me that to my right was the boys’ clothing, across the hall toys, and through to the left girls’ clothes.  After that I could continue through to check out.

In about five minutes, after receiving some signal I was not aware of, the volunteer told us we could go in.  Laura and I entered a small room lined with racks of boys’ clothes.  They started from 0-6 months, 6 months to a year, and so on.  The final rack held clothes for ages five and up – this was the one rack that applied to my family in the crowded room.  I rummaged through the hangers of assorted clothes, each marked with a price and the identification number of the seller.  The clothing ranged from brand new looking to very well worn.  I finally found a pair of camouflage shorts for $2.

Mothers shopping for clothing. This wasn't a photograph of the Monstown sale - but it's what you run into when there are crowds looking for bargains.

We then moved into the toy room.  This room had games, books, videos, puzzles, cars and dolls.  It also held exersaucers, playpens, bicycles, vibrating “bouncy” chairs and safety gates.  The prices ranged from a few dollars to about fifty dollars.  I saw a bouncy chair for five dollars sitting right beside one nearly identical for thirty.  I am not sure who set the prices but the range didn’t make sense to me.  I browsed through a table of toy cars and was surprised to see some broken cars for $3.  I saw a large tent-like castle which looked like fun but it was $45 – far more than I would pay for such a toy.  The toy room was well organized however, and had many books and toy animals neatly packaged in zippy bags at reasonable prices.

Finally Laura and I entered the room we had come to see – girls’ clothes.  Again the racks were organized by age.  The racks with clothes for young children were bursting at the seams, while the one we were interested in – age five and up – had very little on it.  I managed to find two cute pairs of Capri pants for $2 each.

I spoke briefly with Andrea Kovacs, who told me she owns Momstown Hamilton.  Momstown is a franchise.  The first one was started right here in Burlington, and now there are twenty chapters nation-wide.  She told me the $45 per year membership fee pays for all the events and get-togethers members can enjoy.  There are both on- and off-line programme events for members, and each event aims to include six pillars that are fundamental in infant and child development.  These include literature, nutrition and fitness, art and music, play and socializing, math, and science.  The programme also helps mothers to make connections with others.  She further informed me that a recent study by the University of Waterloo confirmed that Momstown plays a distinct role in helping new mothers deal with illness such as post-partum depression.  Andrea told me that they had thirty sellers there today, and that sixty per cent of their sellers were not members.  They have this sale biannually.

Momstown seems to be geared to the stay at home Moms with younger children

When my children were babies we frequented the Burlington Family Resource Centres.  Laura was just two weeks old when we first attended “Calling New Parents,” where I learned all the ins and outs of being a new mother.  I met many new mothers there whom I still call friends today.  We met at each others’ homes, took our babies on walks and to movies.  The Centre grew with our children and we were able to register for programs such as Mother Goose, Creep Crawl and Toddle, and Creative Movement and Arts.  There are no fees involved and it is a fantastic network for new parents who want to seek out connections and learn about parenting.  I guess the biggest difference from the Early Years Centres and Momstown, besides the fee, is the on-line connection.  Momstown also hosts events and field trips (which cost extra on top of your yearly fees).

After speaking with Andrea, Laura and I moved on to pay for our three pairs of pants.  Of course we were met with yet another line up.  A volunteer took the tags off my clothing and put them in an envelope.  Then I moved to another line where a volunteer behind a table totaled my bill and gave me a receipt to take to yet another volunteer, whom I paid.  She cheerfully asked me if I got the information for another sale just a few blocks away hosted by BAMOM (Bay Area Mothers of Multiples).  I replied just as cheerfully that I did, but inside I was aching for the anonymity of a good old mall where I could walk in and out of stores at my will without having to pay to get in, nor wait in lineups to enter and pay, or collect stacks of flyers and coupons (which is pretty much all my “goody bag” held).

This lady was NOT at the Momstown sale - her pet would not have put up with the lineups. Don't think she would have either.

So I spent six dollars for three items – a very good deal.  But it took me an hour, and about forty-five minutes of that was spent in lines or shoulder-to-shoulder with other people.  I think I will make my way to Burlington Mall next week and see if I can get good deals for Laura’s summer wardrobe without this hassle.  I am all for recycling and up-cycling, and for new mothers I would highly recommend buying second-hand items such as cribs and high chairs.  But for me, as the parent of a four- and six-year-old, this was more hassle than it was worth.  In the future if I want to buy used items, I will do it from the comfort of my home and shop on Kijiji.

The Burlington Momstown can be found at:  https://burlington.momstown.ca/

An excellent little shop on Main Street in Milton has no line ups and a very wide range of  slightly used and new clothing at bargain prices. SnailsnPails  221 Main Street East, Milton –   https://www.snailsnpails.com/

 

 

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Different perspectives on student art. Dutch use war scenes to work from while Burlington students use local landmarks.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  March 21, 2012  Three or four weeks ago there was a sudden unexplainable burst of traffic from Brazil of all places to the Our Burlington web site.  At one point there were over 350 hits to the web site from Brazil.  They’d get to the Home page and leave.

We get traffic from more than 20 countries but usually nothing more than two, maybe three except for those bandits from Ukraine – they are always prowling.

Some of the art work from Burlington public schools and our twin school in Apeldoorn, the Netherlands, on display at city hall.

Then we noticed there was an increasing number from Holland and it climbed and they were drilling down into the web site and we began to watch carefully and took a second look at our anti-virus and hacking software defences.  We got just a little nervous after five days of consistent growth in traffic from Holland while other countries were stable in terms of traffic.  Why were those wooden shoes walking across our screen?

When I leave a Council or a committee meeting, I usually have a word or two with Bob, the security guy at reception.  Monday evening there were a bunch of partitions on wheels scattered about the atrium that could be rolled around with what looked like art from elementary school students on the panels. “The ones with the red borders are from school kids in Holland, they are part of something being done by the Mundialization Committee” explain Bob.

A quick email to the security people – you can stand down fellows, there is nothing wrong with the traffic from Holland, it’s legitimate but it is sure playing havoc with our day to day, hour by hour analytics.  School children were given an assignment that had to do with Burlington, Ontario and if you want to know anything about Burlington, Our Burlington is the place to go.

The Dutch students took an interesting approach - half of each piece is a photograph the other half was drawn in by the students..

The traffic was the result of the student art exchange that had students from John T. Tuck Public School in Burlington and the Heuvellaan Public School students in Apeldoorn.  The Apeldoorn works explore war monuments while the local art is inspired by Burlington landmarks.

The student art exchange is one of many events organized by the city’s Mundialization Citizen committee to celebrate Burlington’s twinning relationship with the cities of Apeldoorn, The Netherlands and Itabashi, Japan.

This is the first of several art exhibitions planned this year. The next exhibition will be held in May and will feature art from four Burlington elementary schools and six Dutch schools.  In June, there will be an elementary art exhibition that will also feature art from Japanese elementary schools.

 

 

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Three times a day every school day – even when the weather is terrible. Our 114 school crossing guards are on the street.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  March 19, 2012  They are the men and woman who see our kids safely across the street morning, noon and at the end of the school day.  They are there when the weather is nice; they are there when the weather is not so nice and they are there when the weather is terrible.

They are the set of eyes that keep an eye on your child and while they aren’t a part of the team that educates your child they perhaps should be, because they see behaviour that a classroom teacher might miss and that a parent would like to know about.

Christine Hopwood is the woman that ensures there is a crossing guard for your child at every school in the city.

The school crossing guard program is run out of city hall where Christine Hopwood and John Crass, Manager of Traffic Services for the city,  oversee the 114 crossing guards that make the three trips a day needed to ensure that traffic is aware that children are crossing the street and that everything stops.

There are days Hopwood will tell you “when we get the phone calls telling us that a particular guard can’t make it to their station and then the team swings into action.  Dennis Ward is the first replacement to go out followed by Emily Keith and then I am in my car. If we need more help I call the Burlington detachment of the Halton Regional Police and they get an officer out to the intersection.”

“Some days” Hopwood adds, “it gets a little hectic’.

“We are constantly looking for crossing guards” says Hopwood, who adds that “we have a pressing need for guards in the Orchard community.  If you know anyone in the area please have them get in touch with me.

Crossing guards are usually seniors who have the time and find the income helps.  Guards are paid between $10.54 an hour up to $13.17  They are given the uniforms they need which consists of a vest a hat and of course the STOP sign.  They are paid mileage to get to and from their crossing station.  “We look for people in the community so that they don’t have to drive very far and people in the community know the children as well” explains Hopwood.

“We are concerned about the workplace safety of the people who stand out in the middle of a street or road – we have, thankfully” adds Hopwood, “never had a guard injured by a vehicle.”

Every August we bring all the crossing guards in for an instruction session where we review the job they have signed up to do and listen to their concerns and complaints.  “There are some complaints” admits Hopwood “but we always get them resolved.  We have a structure in place where Zone leaders are the first response to concerns a crossing guard might have and if they can’t be resolved at that level they come to me and they do get resolved.”

Christine Hopwood is a “resolver” if she is anything.  She brings a cheerful voice with a distinct accent and a fast walking pace to everything she does.  One doesn’t see Christine standing around – unless she is out on a street filling in for a crossing guard who couldn’t make it to their station.

The crossing guard programs costs the city $1.1 million annually and covers every school – even the private schools.. “For the most part” explains Hopwood “the private schools don’t need any help from us because they bus their students in.”

The key issue for the people that administer the crossing guard program is the safety of everyone involved.  “Slip and Fall accidents are what plague us” explains Hopwood “and we have very few of those.”

John Crass, Manager of Traffic Services has oversight of the school guard crossing staff as part of his file

Each year there is an Awards Dinner for all the crossing guards..  “These men and woman are a part of the community adds John Crass who supervises the work Christine does and manages issues that come from the public and council members who may have concerns.  Hopwood is the face of the program out in the field.  John is the “inside” man.

Sgt Chantal Corner, the liaison with the Burlington detachment of the Halton Regional Police, speaks to the crossing guards each year.  Last briefing session a crossing guard who didn’t measure much more than 5’2” asked if she could do a “citizen’s arrest” if she saw someone doing something she thought was wrong.  The Sgt, a good 5’10” didn’t miss a beat when she responded: “It would be better if you gave us a call”.

Those crossing guards are they eyes and ears of the community standing on the street watching over your children.  In the weeks and months ahead we are going to profile many of those men and woman for you.  They are a remarkable bunch.

One last word – if you know anyone in the Orchard community that you think would be a good school crossing guard – have them give Christine a call at 905-335-0172.  We asked Christine if there wasn’t a web site people could go to and she replied. “I’d rather talk to people directly.  I’ll personally take all the calls” – so there you go – if you think you’d like to be a crossing guard – Christine Hopwood is your gal.  Give her a call.

 

 

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If you know how to raise your pinky finger and can fake a British accent – Barb Teatero wants to hear from you.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON February 25, 2012 For those who are of a monarchist bent – there is an opportunity for you to be the “Queen” at  Ireland House on Mother’s Day.   The event is one of three Museums Burlington is putting on with funds they received to celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee.

Barb Teatero, Director of Museums for Museums of Burlington, made the application for the funding of a program that has three parts and was given a grant of $20,400 which allows the Museum to put on the events with no entrance fees.

Along with tea being served at Ireland House on Mother’s Day, with someone impersonating the Queen, there is going to be interactive activities for the student crowd during the March break as well as an exhibit that will tour the city with a probable stop at Tansley Woods and City Hall – the details are still being worked out.  Teatero just got the cheque on Friday and it hasn’t cleared the bank yet – so details aren’t cast in stone yet.

The Jubilee is a government program designed to focus on the 6o years that Queen Elizabeth has worn her crown.  That’s a big deal and the government is right to spend money on marking this occasion.  The current government has decided it wants to make the relationship between Canadians and the Monarchy a little tighter than previous governments.  Relationships with the Monarchy are quite specific for Burlington.  While the city had never had a “royal” visit, it has had a citizen who saw quite a bit of the Royal Family even if those visits were a couple of hundred years ago.

In this portrait Joseph Brant is seen wearing the gorget given to him by King George III. That gorget is the most important piece in the collection at the Joseph Brant Museum.

In the 1700’s Joseph Brant, an aboriginal who spent a lot of time in Burlington and was given 3,500 acres of land at the “head of Lake Ontario” for his service to the King.  That land is basically what we know as Burlington.  Elizabeth and James Streets were named after two of Brant’s children.

Not much attention is paid to what Joseph Brant actually did – it’s quite an impressive list of feats and worth knowing more about.  Most Burlingtonians know that the hospital was named after the guy and that’s about it.

Given to Joseph Brant by King George III with the inscription: "A Gift from a friend to Captain Brant`.

Brant travelled to England on two occasions and met with King George III in 1775/6 and again in 1785/6.  The practice in those days was for gifts to be exchanged and George III gave Brant a gorget made of silver with the inscription: “A gift from a friend to Captain Brant”.  A gorget is a piece of equipment that is worn around the throat by warriors. The item is the most important piece in the Brant Museum and is something borrowed by other museums around the world.  It is a priceless piece of history.

 

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If done properly it could be made into a fun event and one that could save their lives. Plan on this one.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  February 17, 2012  The Burlington Fire Department  has an idea for your family on Family Day.  Not quite the same as goofing around and doing nothing.

The fire department is asking families to make a home fire escape plan and practice it as part of their Family Day activities on Monday, Feb. 20.

This little girl got out of the house - the tragedies are when people don't make it out during a fire. Plan an escape on Family Day

“Everyone is responsible to ensure they know what to do if a fire occurs in their home,” said Public Education Officer Lisa Cockerill. “If there is a fire in your home, it’s important to be alerted by working smoke alarms so you can quickly execute your family’s escape plan.”

Simple steps for home fire escape planning include:

Install smoke alarms on every storey and outside sleeping areas. It’s the law. For the best protection, install smoke alarms in every bedroom.

Develop a home fire escape plan; discuss it with the entire family and practise the escape plan.

Check that all exits are unobstructed and easy to use.

Determine who will be responsible for helping young children, older adults or anyone else that may need assistance.

Choose a meeting place outside, such as a tree or a lamp post, where everyone can be accounted for.

If caught in a smoke-filled area, get low and go under the smoke to the nearest safe exit.

You can too escape safely from fires that rage like this.

Call the fire department from outside the home, from a cell phone or neighbour’s home.

Once out, stay out. Never re-enter a burning building.

Doesn’t sound very cool does it, common sense seldom is “cool” to the younger people.  But we’re not talking to the younger set; we are talking to parents and as you take the GO or drive to work on Tuesday you might think about the important thing you did for your children – and it could be made into a fun event.

You may have only seconds to safely escape your home. Practice your home fire escape plan and know where to meet outside the home to save your life and the lives of loved ones.

 

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Like it or not you have to deal with Facebook’s new layout. Here’s how you lock down your profile – post-Timeline.

ItCanada.ca publishes more than half a dozen technology magazines including CIO Canada and Network World.   They are a reputable publisher that has been in business for quite a while.  They recently did a piece on securing your Facebook data.

Our Burlington is about to embark on a series about Identity Theft and this is as good a way as there is to get you started on securing your identity.  Most of us use Facebook and like the way it allows us to keep in touch with people we don’t see very often.  Louise tells me about how she takes care of pets; Cory inundates me with things about the NDP that I really don’t need to know, Brian somehow digs out trivia stuff that I usually don’t get and I’ve got a guy in Spain who shares a family name with me – and that’s about all.  I enjoy the service but really resent someone using the information and comments I put up on the web site to their advantage.  If I’ve made you a Friend then be my friend and respect my privacy.

Set out below are five ways to secure your new profile

By Logan Kugler

With the ongoing rollout of Facebook’s Timeline feature, security and privacy have never been more important to your digital life. The new layout presents all of your current and past activities on Facebook — posts, photos, comments, likes and so on — in a handy timeline format to anyone with access to your profile, which may include friends of friends, colleagues, executives at your company, a potential future boss … well, you get the idea.

If you’ve made the jump to Timeline — and if you haven’t, you will within the next few weeks, like it or not — you should know that Facebook has changed a few things, and there are certain settings you need to pay attention to if you’re concerned about what parts of your life others can see. Here’s how to lock down your profile in the post-Timeline world.

1. Limit your connections

Most key privacy settings are accessible by clicking the arrow in the upper right-hand corner of your profile screen (next to your name and the Home button). From here, select Privacy Settings in the drop-down menu.

Protecting your Facebook data: Rule # 1 - Limit your connections

Click on Edit Settings next to the How You Connect option to begin your profile lockdown. This section contains five privacy settings.

The first three settings govern who can look up your profile and see your contact information, who can friend you and who can send you messages. For maximum privacy, change the first and third settings to Friends, thereby preventing anyone else from looking up your profile or sending you messages.

The second setting governs who can send you Friend requests. The more secure choice is Friends of Friends, but it limits your connectivity on the world’s largest social network. If you’re worried about losing out on friendship opportunities, keep it set to Everyone.

The last two settings dictate who can post on your timeline and who sees those posts. Only Me is the safest option, but choosing it severely reduces the number of interactions Facebook offers. If you’re seriously considering limiting your timeline posts to you and only you, it might be time to leave Facebook entirely.

Setting both of these options to Friends is relatively safe while still allowing the sharing that makes Facebook fun. And there is a way to review posts from friends before they appear on your timeline, as you’ll see in the next section of the story.

2. Tailor your tags

An easily missed entry in the Privacy Settings is one innocuously labeled How Tags Work. However, it is essential to tweak the settings found here if you want to take control of your profile’s privacy, as some tagging actions can be pretty invasive.

Protecting your Facebook data. Rule # 2 Tailor your tags.

The first two settings (Timeline Review and Tag Review) are particularly useful. When you enable them, you can review posts and photos that friends tag you in, as well as the tags friends add to your own posts — all before this information goes public. That’s especially valuable if you have well-meaning friends who think tagging you in those Vegas party photos is a good idea.

The third setting, Maximum Timeline Visibility, should be set to Friends or customized for certain friend lists or networks to ensure that these tagged posts, once approved, aren’t seen by everyone.

Disable the fourth setting on the list, Tag Suggestions. It makes it harder for friends to tag large quantities of photos featuring you or people that look like you. But it also takes some of your profile’s privacy out of the hands of others.

The last setting on the list is seriously important: It determines whether or not friends can check you in to places. Turn it off. The only thing worse than constantly broadcasting your location is having someone else do it without your express permission.

3. Rein in app permissions

Speaking of permissions, the permission window that used to appear frequently when Facebook apps wanted to access your profile information is pretty much MIA now. Currently, apps need to ask you only once for permission. Once they do, they’ll mine your profile information as often as need be, sometimes even when the app isn’t being used.

Protecting your Facebook data. Rule # 3 - Rein in your app permissions.

Fortunately, there’s a privacy fix. Unfortunately, it’s not a quick one, since you’ll have to tweak each app’s settings individually.

In the main Privacy Settings, click on Edit Settings next to the Apps and Web sites entry to bring up the Apps, Games and Web sites privacy settings page. Next to “Apps you use,” click on Edit Settings again to access a full list of apps running on your profile. Each app is accompanied by an Edit button, which displays the app’s permissions when clicked. Each app has different permissions enabled, so you’ll have to check each one individually.

Here’s the bad news: Some permissions, such as sharing basic profile information with the app, cannot be altered. These are marked by the grayed-out word “Required” next to the particular permission.

Other settings, however, have the word “Remove” next to them — click on it to remove any permission. These are the only items that can be changed, so you’ll have to take a hard look at what permissions an app deems a necessity. If you don’t like what you see, click “Remove app” at the top of the same page and learn to live without that app.

For the apps you do keep, it’s important to control who sees the information that the apps share — many of them are designed to broadcast your activities on your timeline and in the “ticker” on the right side of users’ home pages. At the bottom of each app’s permissions page is another important option entry titled “App activity privacy.” Click on the drop-down menu and select Only Me to be sure your app activity isn’t seen by anyone else.

Similarly, if you install any new apps, be sure to select Only Me under “Who can see activity from this app on Facebook” on the installation page.

4. Stop others from taking your information with them

The Apps, Games and Web sites privacy settings also contain some other features that security hounds would be wise to disable.

Protecting your FAcebook data. Rule # 4 Stop others from taking your information.

Click on Edit Settings next to the entry labeled “How people bring your info to the apps they use.” Other users may be able to bring your personal information with them when they use apps and Web sites. It’s all in the interest of making things more social. It can also be invasive. Uncheck the box next to each information category listed (there are 17 of them) to prevent others from using your personal data.

Head back to the Apps, Games and Web sites privacy settings and click Edit Settings for the “Instant personalization” category. This option should be turned off by default, but check to make sure. You’ll first see a pop-up screen explaining the feature; when you close that, you’ll be able to see whether it’s enabled. If it is, disable it. This will prevent Facebook partner sites from accessing your public information to personalize your experience on their own Web sites.

5. Reduce your social footprint

Sharing is the whole point of Facebook, but the Timeline layout sometimes takes this to extremes, making it easy for others to see all your activity from years gone by. The good news is that you can disable Recent Activity updates, which broadcast new friendships, groups you’ve joined and any other changes in your basic information (such as relationship status or political views). Just click on the X next to a Recent Activity update on your timeline and select Hide Similar Activity from Timeline.

Protecting your Facebook data. Rule # 5 Reduce your social footprint.

This makes the process of hiding certain activities from your past a little easier. But here’s the bad news: Individual status updates or posts from, say, your less judicious days need to be removed individually by clicking the pencil icon next to each item and choosing Hide from Timeline — a process that could take you to the end of 2012 if you’ve ever been very active on Facebook.

There’s a limited solution, though: In the main Privacy Settings window, the second-to-last entry on the list is titled Limit the Audience for Past Posts. Click on the Manage Past Post Visibility link next to it. A window will appear giving you the option to change all past posts so that they’re visible only to friends. Click Limit Old Posts to do so.

That will at least prevent anyone other than people you’ve friended from seeing older items on your timeline. But considering that your boss, colleagues and other acquaintances may be among your Facebook friends, it’s still a good idea to review your entire timeline and remove compromising status updates, comments, links and photos. Start with the oldest items first. When you first started using Facebook, you probably had fewer contacts and might have posted and commented with less caution than you’ve done more recently.

As a last precaution, make sure that everything you post on Facebook moving forward is shared only with friends, specific networks or friend lists: Click the drop-down box next to your status update, comment, link or other shared content and select Friends or a group. For even more granular control over who can and can’t see a post, select the Custom option.

It bears mentioning that the last and best defense against digital privacy invasions is common sense. You may want to be a bit irreverent with your Facebook friends — and there’s nothing wrong with that. But ask yourself if you’d wave that questionable photo or say that pithy comment in front of someone who could affect your future hiring prospects. If not, think twice before you post it on Facebook.

 

 

 

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One of the better advocates for equality and social justice to speak in Burlington.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  January 16, 2012  Literally thousands of Burlingtonians log into Our Burlington – and that pleases us.  The analytical reports we get tell us how many people visited the web site and how many were first time visitors.  We learn how long people stay on the web site and how many pages they look at.  What we don’t know is who you are – and that is as it should be..

Today, we wish we knew if teachers at our high schools were reading us – because there is an event taking place later this month that we would really like every high school teacher with young women in their classes to know about.

The A Different Drummer Bookstore is bringing Michelle Landsberg to the city.  This woman is a must for every women getting an education.   Who is Michelle Landsberg and why would you want to listen to her?

We could fill pages telling you about her.  Michelle is a Mother, a community activist, a book reviewer, a writer for the Globe and Mail, Chatelaine and the Toronto Star, appearing over more than forty years, Michele Landsberg has engaged with and exposed the injustices borne by women, seen in infamous events and present in the mechanisms of our society.

Always the advocate - Michelle Landsberg take up the microphone and the pen - and brings aboiut change.. A speaker not to be missed.

Many of gains made by women and for women came about because Michelle Landsberg was there, fighting the good fight.  You may not want to be out there burning your bra – but you do want to hear what Michelle has to say.  This woman isn’t a strident feminist but she is feminist advocate of exceptional courage, widely recognized and celebrated for the light she casts on the most troubling of iniquities.

Michelle will be talking about her latest book, Writing the Revolution.  In her Toronto Star columns she  continually broke new ground, ably and frankly delineating the social and legal status of women, with her cogent commentary from today’s perspective.  She also has one heck of a sense of humour.

Michele Landsberg presents and discusses Writing the Revolution on Monday, January 23, at 7pm, in the Centennial Room at Burlington Central Library.  Tickets are $10, available at the Third Floor Information Desk at the Library, and here at A Different Drummer Books.

To reserve tickets, please contact us at (905) 639 0925 or diffdrum@mac.com.

 

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A quick quiz and a $1 off coupon for a burger purchase; part of the Halton police high school RIDE program.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  December 7, 2011 – Nelson High School students got a chance to learn just what happens when there is more alcohol in your system than the legal limit and a police officer asks you to walk a straight line.

Part of the training session included a quick quiz that was set out in a different news story that you can find at: https://www.burlingtongazette.ca/?p=5920

Two Nelson high school students do their best to stay on the green line wearing Fatal Vision goggles during a Halton Regional Police RIDE program.

Here are the answers to the ten questions the students were asked:

Question 1      False

Question 2      False

Question 3      True

Question 4      False

Question 5      False

Question 6      False – A G1 has to have a qualified driver with them – and being drunk means you’re not qualified – bit tricky that one.

Question 7      False

Question 8      False

Question 9      False – the licence is suspended for a period of 90 days

Question 10    True – but if you’re drinking and driving and the police have the evidence – there isn’t a lot your lawyer can do for you.

The students will have had problems with some of those questions – the media officer we went to for the answers had to look up the answer on more than one occasion.

Male students at Nelson High had just as much difficulty as female students trying to stay on the green line while wearing Fatal Vision goggles.

They also got a very up close experience with a breathalyzer and came away with a firm understanding of what the police do if they pull you over and ask you to blow.  And in the quick quiz the students did later in the training session they got to learn what they knew and didn’t know about the rules in place to control driving if you’ve been drinking.

It was a bit of fun and they got to laugh at their friends while they tried to walk the green line set out on the gymnasium floor.  None of them could stay on the line and most were nowhere near the line.

The day was part of the Regional Police RIDE program that had police officers at several regional high schools as well as being out on the streets with their cruisers pulling drivers over to politely ask if the driver had been drinking.  If there was any concern on the part of the police officer – the driver would be asked to breathe into a breathalyzer and perhaps try to walk a straight line.  Failure to do either of the requests and they are placed in a cruiser and taken to a police station.

The vast majority of people have not been drinking, although this year on the first day of the program in Burlington, three people were charged with driving while under the influence of alcohol.

For those that are clear the police hand out a small card, created by grade four and five students in regional schools.  The card does drive the message home.

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High school students get to see what happens when driving while under the influence of alcohol. Wasn’t pretty.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, on  December 7, 2011  – Nelson High School students – all 1500 of them were in the hands of the Halton Regional Police for a good part of Tuesday morning.  They were being taken through some “experiential training” on what happens to a person when their drinking has gone over the legal limit.

The experience was a bit of a shock to many of them.

This is the one thing you do not want to see should you be pulled over by the police. The smile on Cst. Mike Korda is nice enough - but that little grey box is not good news. If you don't drink and drive Korda will be your buddy.

Halton Regional Police have been attending at Halton high schools and showing students what breathing into the breathalyzer was all about; what happens to their bodies when they have consumed alcohol and are asked by a police officer to step out of the car and attempt to walk in a straight line and then to write a short quiz on what the rules are when it comes to drinking and driving.

Many of the parents of these students can remember a day when it was very common to say to a guest at a house party to “have one for the road” which meant you threw back a drink, thumped your chest and got behind the wheel.

Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) brought a very painful and realistic look to what happens when people drink and drive and as a result of their efforts we see programs like the one at Nelson High School.

HRPS Cst. Mark Vegso holds the "Fatal Vision" goggles students at Nelson High experimented with earlier this week. It was a strong lesson.

Each year the Halton Regional Police roll out their RIDE program – this year HRPS arrested three people for drunk driving on the first day of the program.  Seems like we have some distance to go yet before we rid ourselves of this menace.

The police take their rotating RIDE crews around the Region and stop traffic, ask drivers if they have been drinking, and if they suspect any use of alcohol they invite the driver to breathe into the little grey box and see if they can walk a straight line.

If the driver can’t – their car is impounded and they get taken to the police station.

Cst. Mark Vegso is one of the Regional police officers who is assigned to a high school, in his case it is a school in Oakville, where he handles small discipline situations, trespass problems and is in the school regularly to keep an eye on things and to also serve as a contact for students who want to talk to a police officer but don’t want to go to a police station.  Cst. Vegso also teach some law classes in the school.

Failure to provide a breath sample is also a criminal offence.  The police officers doing the training make the experience very, very realistic – there is little doubt in the mind of the student just what they are being asked to do and why.  Many of the students must have walked away from the breathalyzer table shuddering with the thought if they are ever asked to blow into the little grey box – they are in serious trouble.  The objective is that hopefully they will look for a lift before getting behind a wheel if they’ve been drinking.

The goggles used to experience what it is like to be asked to walk a straight line with alcohol in your body.  The goggles, which are made in Mexico and referred to as “Fatal Vision” goggles cost $1000. each.  But they do the job.

Staying on that green light with goggles that simulated an alcohol level over 70 was not quite as easy as this young lady thought it was going to be.

The students found that they could not walk a straight line – more frightening to all of them was that they couldn’t really see the line – it was just a blur and kept moving out of their field of vision.  The goggles used to simulate a situation where the user was slightly under the legal limit resulted in a scary experience.  The goggles used to simulate situations where the user was well over the limit – like 2.0 and up – made it very clear that driving with that much alcohol in you would result in your death or that of someone else you ran into.  And there was no doubt – you could not operate a car effectively or safely with that much alcohol in your system.  It was a pretty blunt message.

One wonders what these students said to each other as they gathered in the cafeteria for lunch with their lap tops open in front of them.  The Regional police  wondered and at the end of the training sessions – they left hoping they’d done the job.

Part of the training session included a quick quiz on drinking and driving.  Test results and more on the RIDE program are at: https://www.burlingtongazette.ca/?p=5937

 

1: The legal limit of alcohol to be present in your blood while behind the wheel of a motor vehicle is 100.  T/F

2: The legal limit for a G1 or G2 driver is 50.  T/F

3: A person can be charged with impaired driving after smoking marijuana.  T/F

4: It is acceptable for open alcohol to be inside your car. T/F

5: It is not a criminal offence to be intoxicated in the driver’s seat.. T/F

Friends look on a Nelson High student tries to keep his feet on the green line while using "driving under the influence of alcohol testing goggles".

6: G drivers who are accompanying G! drivers can be intoxicated while in the passenger seat. T/F

7: A person charged with Over 80 must always be charged with Impaired Driving. T/F

8: A person can refuse to provide a legally demanded breath sample and not be charged for refusing to provide a breath sample. T/F

Nelson High students write the ten question quick quiz. How would you have done with the test? Try it.

9: Upon being charged with Refusal or Over 80, a person’s driver’s licence shall be suspended for a period of 30 days. T/F

10: A police officer shall read you your rights to counsel upon arrest for Over 80. T/F

 

Being charged with any kind of a drinking related offence and found guilty will impact your driver’s licence – which is nothing compared to what it is going to do to your insurance rate.  While you may be allowed eventually to drive again – you may not be able to afford to – and if the car you were driving belonged to your  parents – they are not going to be very sympathetic.

Drinking is not a crime – just do so responsibly.

 

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Health policy analyst cool on the idea of a JBMH upgrade; advocates for community based health delivery instead.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  November 26, 2011  –  Burlington`s Strategic plan calls for the city to set aside $10 million a year for the next six years to pay for a part of the upgrading of the Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital which the province has promised would take place in 2013.  The Mayor`s Inspire series speaker last week seemed to suggest that an upgraded hospital was not what Burlington needed.

Globe and Mail health columnist Andre Picard, an eminent policy analyst in the health field and the recipient of numerous awards including the Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service Journalism, the Canadian Policy Research Award, the Atkinson fellowship for public policy research and the Centennial Prize of the Pan American Organization. He was named Canada’s first Public Health Hero by the Canadian Public Health Association and was honoured as a champion of mental health. He is a four-time finalist for the National Newspaper Awards.  In other words he is thought of as someone who knows what he is talking about.  So when he suggests that upgrading of the Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital was not necessarily the best thing to do with the limited resources available we might want to sit up and listen.

Andre Picard, a noted authority on heath services policy and lead columnist for the Globe & Mail was just a little cool to the idea of a new hospital for Burlington at the Mayor's Inspire series last week.

Picard outlined the need for community delivered health services which led to Our Burlington asking Mr. Picard this question:  If you are calling for a community based system to deliver health service because that is more cost effective delivery and better health – then does Burlington need a major upgrade to the Joseph Brant Memorial hospital ?

Picard equivocated a bit with his answer when he said it would depend on there being hospitals close at hand that could deliver the kind of service that only a hospital can provide and then added that he thought an upgraded hospital in Burlington was probably a good thing, more or less.  More or less?  That wasn’t exactly a ringing endorsement was it?

Using his criteria – one could argue (and the provincial government might well do that)  that there are excellent hospitals in Hamilton and Oakville which are a very short ambulance drive away.  You can get to a Hamilton  hospital from Lowville faster than you can get to JBMH.

Does Burlington then need an upgrade to its hospital?  Asking that question in this city and you have really put the fat in the fire.  All three candidates in the recent provincial election swore on their Mother’s graves that they would fight mightily to have the province give a firm commitment – with a date attached to it – guaranteeing that our hospital would get the upgrade it needs and which we were promised.

And now we hear from one of the best thinkers in the country suggesting that a new hospital in Burlington might not be what’s best for the community.  Isn’t that ducky?

We know the province doesn’t have any money, and we know that our economy is getting more wobbly every week.  But no one at the provincial level is suggesting that Burlington might want to look at a different model to meet the needs of its aging population.

The city did, what it thought was best, and what the province required them to do, and that was put up $10 million a year for six years to pay for a portion of the cost of the upgrade, we have been told was totally necessary.

The city and the hospital are still working out how the $60 million the city is going to put into the kitty will be spent.  At this point it looks like the city’s money will be used to pay for the building of a parking lot, because the space now being used to park cars is needed for the expansion that is planned.  The city hasn’t written the cheque yet – maybe they want to put a hold on it and ask the hospital to sit with them and take another look at the plans.

Andre Picard, speaker at the Mayor's Inspire series has given Mayor Goldring much to think about, when he came out as less than enthusiastic about the planned JBMH upgrade.

That will take a level of political courage that is seldom seen.

The long term outlook for a new hospital in Burlington just might need a real hard look before we do something really dumb.  Added to Picard’s  Wednesday evening comments, were remarks made in the provincial Legislature on Thursday, where an NDP member read out the list of hospital upgrades the province is talking about – more than 20 of them.  In the economy we are in it just can`t happen.  And someone needs to begin to be much more honest with the people who live here, pay the taxes and expect the public health services they need

Every candidate in the last provincial election said they would ensure that we got the hospital upgrade – what wasn’t asked was – do we need a hospital upgrade?  Every candidate said, what they thought you wanted to hear.  Not one of them had done their homework.  One of them, Liberal candidate Karmel Sakran, used to sit on the hospital board and was as close to the center of political power as one can get – and he never suggested, that perhaps the hospital model we are working within is the wrong model.

All the candidates just mouthed, what they thought the voters wanted to hear.  Should the province decide that Burlington is not the place for a large expensive hospital, and that we should have a number of community care centres spread throughout the city – – just wait for the political howling.

JBMH president Eric Vandewall might want to have lunch with Inspire speaker and noted authority on public health service delivery and talk about the best form of public insitution to meet the needs of the community. Mayor Goldring might want to sit in on that lunch - even pick up the tab if some sensible thinking comes out of the meal.

Picard`s comments suggest that Burlington might not have made the smartest move.  Is the city – that means both the citizens, its city council and the senior hospital staff plus the Board of Directors – courageous enough to ask the hard questions  like, is this really the best thing for the city and its citizens?

One would hope that the Mayor would take the opportunity to have dinner with Picard and ask some hard-nosed questions.  Maybe even ask for some advice as well on how we determine what is best for the city.  In the meantime, don’t write the cheque that would deliver the $20 million plus  sitting in the bank.

Let’s be absolutely sure we are doing what is best for the community and not just what’s best for the medical community who would love to have a shiny new building.

 

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Seeing Christmas through different eyes and a great history lesson an added bonus at Ireland House.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON  November 25, 2011  It might seem just a tad early to plan for Christmas Season events – but if you’re a busy household – then you need to plan and the Ireland House  Heritage Holiday event is something that deserves a second look.

If you take the time to spend part of a day at Ireland House you will experience a much different Christmas spirit.  The Ireland House goes back to the early to mid-1800s.   It is an historic jewel.

Tracy VanderVliet, an educator at Ireland House stands with the gift basket that is part of the Christmas Season holiday. It will be given to one of the free draw winners for all those who attend.

The Heritage Holiday event is every Sunday in November and December up to and including Sunday, December 17, 2011 An Old-Fashioned Christmas & Santa’s Cabin.  Ireland House is at Oakridge Farm, 2168 Guelph Line, just north of Upper Middle Road  If you’ve got questions try calling them –  905-634-3556

The Sunday events started  November 20, 11:00am to 4:00pm, and will be held every Sunday thereafter through to and including  December 17th.   There is a chance to see the historic home decorated as it would have been decorated in the mid 1800s  Children can then scoot across to Santa’s Cabin and make a Christmas toy if they wish.  There is a small fee for the toy making.

The day gives you and your children a chance to see the Christmas Season in a simpler setting to  discover and celebrate the season while seeing the traditions and customs that shaped many of the Christmas celebrations around the world today…  It’s a day away from the hustle and bustle back to a simpler time and enjoy the smells, sights, sounds and tastes of Christmas on a historic Farm!

The young ones get to make their own holiday arrangement,  make a decorative wood snowman, make and stamp your own Christmas card,  punch your own tin ornament!

Additional charges apply to some activities.

Ireland House is a city of Burlington initiative run by Burlington Museums.

 

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Empty nesters, Golden Years operatives, Seniors, recently retired – all have a new place to hang out – it isn’t a Tim Hortons.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON  November 22, 2011  Carole Ward, Burlington’s 2010 Civic Recognition Award winner for community service once said that Canada is about to experience a tsunami of seniors and doesn’t think the community is at all prepared for the services and support they will need. “There will come a point”, she said, “ where seniors will need help dressing and feeding themselves and many will want to stay in their homes for as long as they can”, and Ward doesn’t believe the community is at all prepared for the number of people who will need care and support.

This generation of people, known ever since they were born as the Baby Boomers have changed every aspect of society as the moved from pre-school, to elementary, high school and on to university.  Now that they are seniors there is no reason to suggest they aren’t going to continue to make waves which Ward calls a tsunami because she believes we are not at all prepared for the demands they are going to make on society.  And if this crowd doesn’t get what it wants from its government – they will elect one that will give them what they want.

Keeping active and mentally alert is a part of getting older but there are only so many books you can read and most of the stuff on television is hardly worth the time.

Third Age Learning, Burlington (3ALB) is a new community organization dedicated to offering lecture series to the 55+ community.  The inaugural series, An Introduction to Third Age Learning, begins Jan 19, 2012.

Keeping mentally alert once you're into retirement and away from a job isn't always easy and television isn't going to cut it. A lecture series designed for seniors might be just the ticket for you.

We increasingly live in a sound-bite world. The Third Age Learning model, however, offers the opportunity to delve into a topic in breadth and depth.  Once the program is underway there will be as many as 8 expert speakers presenting differing perspectives on a single subject.  Series 1 is an introduction.  Going forward, each series will focus on a single theme.

Registrations for Series 1 is going well, although there are still have a few seats available. 3ALB is a registered non-profit, entirely run by volunteers who are seniors.  Third Age Learning, Burlington – 3ALB – is the newest Canadian member of the Third Age Learning movement established in France in 1973. The movement rapidly spread throughout Europe and arrived in Canada, in Sherbrooke PQ, in the late 1970’s.

The audience 3ALB proposes to serve is the 55+ community. Multiple research studies indicate that for this community, preventing cognitive decline is perhaps the best strategy for aging well.

Each presentation series consists of 8 lectures offered over a period of 8 weeks. We plan our inaugural series to run from Thursday January 19 to Thursday March 8, 2012. When the project is fully implemented we anticipate offering two Fall and two Winter series, for a yearly total of 32 lectures.

Each weekly meeting consists of:  An information-rich, entertaining, 45-minute presentation delivered by a subject matter expert – a respected economist, for example, or a working actor, a heritage gardener, or a professional historian – typically accompanied by PowerPoint slides or some other visual augmentation

A 15-minute break for coffee, chat, and the opportunity to write a question for the presenter that they hope will result in a lively, often provocative, and always informative Q&A session

Participants should leave with enough information and contacts to follow up on their own, or with friends and family, if they find themselves fascinated by a brand new interest. There are Three Age Learning groups in Guelph, Kitchener that have, for more than twenty years, consistently delivered sold out series to audiences of upwards of 200 members.

Registration fee is $40. For each 8 lecture series – five bucks apiece, less than a cup of coffee and a newspaper.

For registration and more information click here.

For more detail on the program click here.

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Halton Regional Police Service Launch Holiday R.I.D.E. Campaign. They’ll getcha.

 By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON  November 22, 2011  – The Halton Regional Police Service have started their holiday R.I.D.E. campaign – and have once again partnered with local students, businesses and community organizations for the sixth year to offer “RIDE 101”, a program designed to educate drivers, particularly young and future drivers, of the importance and responsibility while driving and the consequences associated to mixing alcohol or drugs and operating a motor vehicle.

R.I.D.E. is the acronym for Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere and was started in 1997 as a program to get control over the then increasing number of drunken driver fatalities on highways. There was a time when Christmas parties in private homes frequently had the host saying “Have one for the road”.  Like ashtrays – that phrase has disappeared but drinking drivers have not – R.I.D.E. will be out there in force.  If you’re dumb enough to drink and drive – keep your lawyer’s business card in your wallet – you will need it.

High schools from across the Region will be participating in the program.  Burlington’s Nelson High will be the participating school December 6th.

Amazing picture, amazing headache, amazingly stupid - a drunk driver.

The official launch will take place at Iroquois Ridge High School, 1123 Glenashton Drive, Oakville, where Halton Police RIDE 101 officers will team up with students from Iroquois Ridge to distribute RIDE 101 educational information, provide students an opportunity to test roadside screening devices and put all students through a series of simulated ‘road side’ sobriety tests during a fun, yet educational format.

The night component will entail members of the student council assisting designated officers in speaking with drivers of stopped vehicles during a R.I.D.E. spot check and distributing ‘Think of Me’ cards and information pamphlets on the consequences of impaired driving.  The ‘Think of Me’ cards are hand-drawn and coloured by grade four, five and six students and reflect on that child’s perception of drinking and driving.

The daytime component will be held within the school from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and the spot checks will be conducted from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. out front of the school.

The Halton Regional Police are grateful for the community partners who are supportive of this worthy endeavour, including:  the Halton Catholic District School Board, the Halton District School Board, Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (M.A.D.D.), McDonald’s restaurants and Tim Horton’s.

 

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The Shape Burlington report as presented to city council in 2010

backgrounder 100Shape Burlington logo

A report by the Mayor’s Citizen Advisory Committee on Civic Engagement – April 2010

Mission Statement

Through community consultation and research into best practices, to determine and recommend to the Mayor, Council, and citizenry, those methods the Committee feels will best enable citizens to become more engaged in their communities and empowered to effectively communicate their concerns to the government and other citizens, resulting in more timely citizen involvement in the decision making activities of local government

Letter from the Co-Chairs

Exceptional people do exceptional work. The people of Shape Burlington who put this report together are exceptional. They are eloquent representatives of the diversity of Burlington’s population as well as first-rate interviewers, facilitators, writers, and include a highly competent web master. All their time and personal expenses were contributed freely as caring and concerned Burlington citizens.

We thank you for volunteering and accepting our assignments without reservation. We congratulate all of you on a job well done.

We could not have developed this Report without the guidance and input of consultants Peter Macleod, Joslyn Trowbridge and Chris Ellis of MASS LBP.

We owe so much to Dr. Joey Edwardh and Ted Hildebrandt of Community Development Halton who provided the administrative services and expertise in community development.

We are honoured that Mayor Cam Jackson had confidence in our integrity and judgment to select a committee and to reach out to Burlington citizens for their views on better and more effective communication and involvement with City Council and Staff. We thank Mayor Jackson for this opportunity to serve our community. We believe we have fulfilled the terms of reference for this advisory committee.

For us, this has been a journey of discovery, which has reinforced our belief that we live in one of the finest communities in Canada.

This Report reflects accurately the views of those people who took the time and opportunity to share their opinions on how we might improve civic engagement and two-way communication with local government. City Council can honour these citizens by considering carefully each and every one of the recommendations. . . In our opinion, these eight (8) recommendations must all be implemented.

We understand that these recommendations will require City Hall and Burlington residents to re-think how local government communicates and interacts with the community in a more participatory and consensual mode. We believe the implementation of these recommendations will foster more informed deliberation, inspire greater confidence in local government, and build a more caring community.

John Boich, Co-Chair Walter Mulkewich, Co-Chair

 

Transforming the culture at City Hall – City Hall must reinvent itself.

As social, technological and demographic trends alter the face of every community, municipal governments are struggling to adapt their long-established practices to meet the challenges of an ever-evolving new world.

Burlington is experiencing a period of rapid growth and change. Citizens are more literate, more educated and more connected than ever before. They are also busier, more distracted and require more from those who represent them, develop the policies and provide the services in their community.

Formed at the request of the Mayor, Shape Burlington was given the freedom to act independently. We spent three months working with Burlington residents and City Hall staff and members of Council to learn more about how the City operates and how it engages with residents.

Shape Burlington is comprised of citizens who live in all areas of the city. They bring a broad mix of experience and expertise to their commitment. We were assisted in our research and procedures by MASS LBP, a public consultation company with expertise in citizen engagement and democratic innovation.

We investigated practices from communities around the world. Who is facing similar challenges? How are they doing it? What can we learn? What best practices are already being implemented, and how can Burlington create its own recommendations?

We conducted interviews with members of current Advisory Committees. We spoke with representatives of cultural and sports groups; representatives of the business community; citizen groups and high school students. We met with City staff at different levels from many different departments. We interviewed Department heads and managers, Councillors and the Mayor. And throughout, we met with many Burlington residents in public forums and listened to them via our website. Ail expressed their hopes for creating a better City and also their frustrations over how City Hail makes decisions or sometimes fails to listen.

Tasked with recording a broad spectrum of messages and observations, Shape Burlington has delineated 14 specific issues that were constant themes in our investigation. From this, we have identified eight recommendations that can help Burlington navigate the future.

Some are self-evident; some are bold. But all come from the people who live in and work for this City. They call for increased engagement and a dearer vision; for more communication to a recovery of trust; for a sense of belonging and more meaningful participation of all segments of our community.

Recommendations

Engagement: Transform the City Hall culture to promote active citizenship and civic engagement

Promoting active citizen engagement and meaningful public dialogue requires a culture shift at City Hall. A crucial first step is the development an Engagement Charter – a plain language policy document developed with public involvement that incorporates benchmarks and accountabilities, and describes the value, purpose and opportunities for citizens to influence city policies.

The charter would explain how to navigate City Hall and its services. It should stipulate best practices for various kinds of public consultation and affirm the city’s commitment to inform citizens and respond to their ideas and contributions. t would address the question of reaching out to a diverse population.

The charter would incorporate an early notification system to provide citizens and groups information about meetings, events and issues, and to allow reasonable amounts of
time to understand, discuss and develop positions before decisions are made. A guide for its development could be the Edmonton PublicInvolvement process.

Vision: Shift City Hall processes to greater involvement of all citizens in a shared vision of our city

Citizens should be more fully involved in preparing Burlington’s Strategic Plan after each municipal election. It is the single best time for them to influence the City’s long-term direction.

The 2011strategic planning process is an ideal opportunity to begin implementing the principles set out in this report. Citizens should be involved in writing the plan.In this way, they will participate in developing a vision statement for Burlington, set out with clear and measurable action plans that the community can buy into. Some participants could be chosen through citizen juries or random selection.

The strategic planning process and the municipal election itself should be linked explicitly in the minds of voters. n this way the election and the development of the strategic plan would be twinned democratic processes and act as the principal conduits through which the city renews and resets itself every four years.

Communication: Empower people by overcoming the communications deficit

The City should foster the development of an independent information service, including a web-based community news and information portal through start-up subsidies and encouraging community support.

In addition, the Communications Department at City Hall should be fundamentally transformed into a timely and reliable source of City information free of political bias. t is an essential step in providing more resources to foster information, education and continuous learning.

After a comprehensive review of diverse multimedia communications processes, the transformation would include a revamped and more frequent City Talk,webcasts of committee and Council meetings and a user-friendly, well-written website that incorporates the latest web2.0 and gov2.0 innovations to make government more accessible and interactive.

Members of Council are encouraged to develop their own communication vehicles that are separate from the corporate communications process.

A robust, independent professional media is essential in a functioning democracy. We encourage the local news outlets to develop the business and technological solutions that will allow them to reclaim their proper role in the community.

Trust: Improve the public’s trust and confidence in City government

Staff and members of Council should review their protocols and procedures for dealing
. with citizens to improve public trust,confidence and respect for citizens. This would include ongoing staff training programs and establishing cross-department and measurable
, customer service standards.

The delegation process should be overhauled so that is not an obscure or intimidating experience for citizens unfamiliar with City Hall or unaccustomed to public speaking. To make citizens feel more welcome, Council, staff and the public should work together to amend the Procedural Bylaw, develop a new manual and provide staff assistance to delegations as required.

To enhance transparency and access, Council could periodically hold its meetings in different geographical areas across the City, including libraries, community centres and schools where students could participate in the proceedings.

Belonging: Build a caring and inclusive community

The City should reach out to minorities, marginalized groups and all of Burlington’s geographical areas. This would include building greater social cohesion through strategic promotion of Burlington’s opportunities and celebrating each others’ success.

In partnership with the community, the City should establish a policy of inclusivity measurements to ensure that City policies, programs and services reflect our changing population. This includes the needs associated with changing population groups, such as seniors and people from diverse backgrounds, and the social, economic and cultural contributions of these groups. The goal is to forge a city where all participate in building the infrastructure for caring and the opportunities to belong.

As society moves faster and individuals become more mobile, creating a sense of place and marking important milestones become more significant. This can be accomplished through pageants and fairs, special occasions and events – a cycle of distinctive annual events that have widespread appeal and draw the community together.

An inclusive community is one that provides opportunities for the optimal well-being and healthy development of all children, youth and adults. All members of the community gain from social inclusion – those who are vulnerable for reasons of poverty, racism, or fear of difference – as well as the broader community that benefits when everyone is able to participate as a valued and contributing member of the community

Participation: Empower committees and community organizations that work for people

An Office of Engagement should be established to foster and implement recommendations contained in this report.

The Director of the Office, reporting to the City Manager, would implement the Engagement Charter, working with municipal departments to review their policies and design more effective forms of consultation and engagement. This would include a program to support different levels of.citizen access and providing meeting space for community/neighbourhood councils and other community-based groups organized around specific issues.

The Director should consider initiating discussions with community groups to develop a template for independent community or neighbourhood councils such as developed in Quebec City, Portland (Oregon) and Los Angeles.

The Director would provide support for Burlington’s Citizen Advisory Committees, important local institutions whose potential has not yet been fully realized because of variation in their

operation, constitution and purpose. Council needs to rethink the structure, responsibilities, standards and accountabilities of future advisory committees. One option is to establish committees that cut across different issue areas.

Youth: Reach out to the next generation

In cooperation with the school boards, Council should invest in meaningful initiatives at different grade levels. Members of Council and staff should be made available to speak to students in their schools.

A specific proposal is involvement in the Grade 10 Civics program, already in place.
Initial meetings with the Director of the Halton District School Board have produced enthusiastic interest in augmenting this program with a module that could be created with input from the City, the school boards and a committee with experience in both these fields.

Using their volunteer hours as currency, students should be brought into the planning process in ways that they help define: creating a website and social networks that allow them to engage with issues that are important to them: transit, sports facilities, bicycle paths, cultural events, festivals, environmental issues, education and diversity.

There is a genuine need, and value, to reach out to Burlington’s youth. Lifelong civic engagement begins here.

Governance: Define roles and responsibilities

A.governance review should be undertaken to clearly define and differentiate the roles and responsibilities of Council and staff.

Workshops, conducted after each election, would help ensure that Council members make effective decisions and spend their time appropriately and effectively at the policy-making level. They will also ensure that staff is empowered to do their job of administration, providing advice and implementing Council policies and decisions.

Messages & Observations

Burlington is using traditional models in a new age

The City of Burlington public involvement processes and methods of engaging the public for both decision- and policy-making are based on traditional models that belong to the past.

Significant social and demographic changes, population growth, increased urbanization, and new technology in the past 30+ years mean that changes in the modes of civic engagement  and communication between citizens and government are necessary to relate to a changing society. In recent years, a wide variety of innovations in civic engagement and democratic inclusion have been developed in municipalities and communities in Canada, U.S. and globally.

Burlington is not on the cutting edge of these developments to match its leading edge economy and above average literacy and education rates.

Everyone recognizes the need for improvement

There appears to be as a broad consensus among the public, City staff and members of Council that the processes of public involvement should be improved. However, there are many different viewpoints on what and how extensive these improvements should be.

The public wants more extensive change than City Hall does.

While staff and members of Council generally agree that improvements are needed, most believe that the City is doing a better job in communicating and promoting and civic engagement than does the public. Further, the public appears to favour greater changes than those suggested by Council or staff.

Many believe that City Hall is not listening

There is a broad consensus among representatives of citizens who deal with City Hall as well as the public at large that City Council and staff is not listening. Citizens want to see that their input is taken seriously and has a meaningful impact on outcomes.

Citizen confidence in local democracy is declining

There is a broad consensus that public confidence and trust of the City and its democratic processes have declined, especially in the past few years. Most members of Council agree.

Tomorrow’s major transformative issues will require a new form of leadership.
Burlington will face a number of significant transformative issues over the next decade: greater urbanization and intensification 1 the impact of build-out on taxes, an aging population, and the need to adjust services for seniors and youth, low income groups and those from diverse backgrounds.

These issues will require leadership at all levels of City Hall to enhance civic engagement.If there is not effective public involvement in the decisions and policy-making processes, the community could become even more distressingly polarized.

Good citizenship means citizen responsibility

Good citizenship is a two-way street Citizens have a responsibility to help make a better community and take part in decision and policy making in an appropriate manner and with mutual respect. The public involvement process should give citizens the greatest opportunities to exercise those responsibilities.

Issues Governance – the roles of Council and staff
Some citizens suggested that a lack of unified direction and leadership from City Council made it more difficult for staff members to do their job and, further, that staff members were not sufficiently empowered and trusted. Others suggested that staff had undue influence over Council and its decisions. These questions of leadership and respective roles are governance issues, but they have a significant impact on the ability of City Hall to establish a high level oftrust for effective public engagement. Some citizens suggested
that staff members are frustrating to deal with because they do not have a sense of Council’s direction or goals. The public has difficulty putting issues into their strategic context when they do not understand Council’s goals or feel Council’s directions do not represent a community consensus.

Governance – size of Council

There was a widespread view that the size of Council should be re-visited. Many citizens felt that Council members were too overburdened to make good policy decisions or be able to respond as well as they should to public demands for input and service. However, Council has been the same size for 13 years and it appears that only in the past few years has the concern about its size become a major factor. So are other factors at play? There were some suggestions that the issue is not so much size as one of establishing better standards, measurements, and process for accountability. There were some suggestions that Council members need not spend as much time on service issues and they should restrict their time and efforts to focus on policy directions and major issues, and show greater trust in City staff to do their job.

Service quality and process

Many citizens thought that the quality of service, response time and staff attitude has declined. Interestingly, several members of Council agreed. Citizens’ experience with City Hall is a major determinant in creating trust in municipal government and the democratic process. Citizens have a right to be well treated, as customers and as citizens. The City does not appear to have a clear quality service policy, although one is in early stages of development.

Not au citizens feel included or respected

Some citizens felt business groups and other organizations have a better relationship with City Hall than those involved in activities such as social justice and the environment They believe that the City should do more to reach out to all citizens and sectors of society.

A number of citizens said they felt intimidated and faced an adversarial attitude on the part of Council when they attended Council or committee meetings as delegates,

Staff reports and presentations

A specific suggestion, repeated several times, was that staff reports should, as olten as possible, include options for Council and public to consider so that there is a greater ability to evaluate the best possible direction. Further, the suggestion was made that staff presentations at public meetings should be dear, succinct and relevant to the audience.
And, the suggestion was made that the Chairs of public meetings, whether they are Councillors or staff, should be trained in conducting meetings.

The need for more and better information

While we live in an information-based society, communications about the local community, local government and local issues have declined. To have information is to have power.
The local information deficit is significant and is a major deterrent to public involvement. There was agreement among all participants that the decline of traditional media as a source of information and platform for debate is a major issue, Fewer professional journalists cover City Hail. Council and committee meetings are often unreported.
Compared to 15 years ago when Burlington had three newspapers and frequent radio and television coverage, fewer pages are devoted to City news and there is no radio or television coverage to speak of. Cable TV is still present but competes in a multi channel and multimedia universe. There was some feeling that the media often shows bias, City Talk received mixed reviews, with a large number of people perceiving it as more of a political document than an information provider. Citizens, especially those involved with
various organizations, expressed a desire to receive information before issues are discussed.

The need for more education

A common comment was that many residents do not understand City Hall’s procedures and policies and therefore require some basic education so they can navigate the system better and have more confidence to engage.

Importance of early citizen engagement

There was wide agreement among the public, Council and staff that it is important to involve citizens as early as possible in the decision-making process, especially for major issues. Citizens felt that they are consulted too late, after the staff report is already in a final or semifinal form. The timeline after a final report is publicly tabled is often only a few days before a committee meeting, leaving citizens little time to adequately prepare if they wish to express their views effectively.

The need for meaningful dialogue

Public information sessions and many public meetings do not allow citizens to become engaged in dialogue with each other to arrive at a consensus. We heard from some members of Council that meetings and processes where residents have dialogue and help frame solutions result in better buy-in because citizens feel they have had an impact.

The influence of single-issue groups

The influence of single-issue groups received mixed reviews. Some citizens considered them to be a major barrier to allowing the opinions of the large spread of citizens to be heard effectively. Several members of Council indicated that this was an issue. Other citizens believed single-issue groups are positive and effective.

More effective use of digital communications

Digital communication and new information technologies are enabling improved interactivity, information-sharing and collaboration as well as a range of social media services, wikis and biogs. They are substantially changing how we communicate and use information. With some exceptions, most people have access to this digital world, particularly young people whose civic involvement is so important. The City should be prepared for the next wave of wireless technology. The City’s website has come in for criticism because it is not user friendly and does not contain useful information. The City has not yet entered the web 2.0 stage. So the City’s proposed website revisions and social media considerations are timely. Some have suggested that web-based communication tools can complement and even replace many traditional meetings. Burlington’s knowledge base could be expanded by a Burlington Wikipedia, a repository of public-sourced information on a range of local subjects.

The importance of public involvement in major policy plans of the city

The Strategic Plan, Official Plan, Capital and Operating Budgets, the Parks and Recreation Master Plan and the Transit Plan are all policy blueprints. Typically, they are the most difficult for the public to provide critical input. There is a need to develop processes to obtain better and more effective public input at the earliest stages. Further, there was a strong feeling that the Strategic Plan does not include sufficiently specific and measurable goals to be effective.

The need to make more effective use of Citizens Advisory Committees

There is a public perception that the Citizen Advisory Committees are not listened to sufficiently. The City is not taking full advantage of this important resource.
Representatives of Advisory Councils have mixed reports on the effectiveness of their activities in terms of influencing City Council decisions and the community’s quality of life. A common issue is that the committees often have difficulty meeting timelines to provide advice.

North versus South,new versus established

It was noted that different geographical areas in the City, particularly new neighbourhoods in the northern and eastern areas, do not feel part of the Burlington community. Some residents of these areas may feel closer to neighbouring municipalities in terms of entertainment and shopping.

 

Excelence in government

One of the best measures of a city’s quality of life is the successful engagement of its citizens with their elected local government. This has been an ongoing issue for Burlington for many years. Citizen engagement is a broad and complex issue, which, ultimately, has its roots in the state of social cohesion in the community. One aspect of citizen engagement is the effectiveness of the communications between the local elected government and the citizens they serve,

In 1997, the City of Burlington hosted a citizens’ workshop on community-based government. Subsequently, City Council appointed a Citizens’ Community-Based Government Committee, which presented a report to City Council in October 1997 with recommendations to improve citizen engagement and communications. After 1997, City Council changed from seventeen elected members to a smaller size of seven members including the Mayor, all of who also served on Halton Regional Council. Other dramatic changes since 1997 include the diminished role of the local media, the use of digital and web based technology, and rapid population growth.

Mayor Cam Jackson has expressed his belief that the City’s communications with its citizens needs to be enhanced to achieve higher levels of awareness and civic engagement. Others have expressed similar concerns. Encouraging broader citizen engagement and improving the way local government communicates with its citizens is a commitment that should involve ongoing, two-way community dialogue. Mayor Jackson has announced the creation of a “Mayor’s Citizen Advisory Committee on Civic Engagement”.

He has asked respected community activists John Boich and Walter Mulkewich to co-chair the committee and select the committee members ensuring a broad range of representation, including gender equity, diversity and geographic representation from across the city. This committee will prepare a report for the Mayor. Their recommendations will be shared with the public and council. John Boich is the former Chair of the Rambo Creek Ratepayers Association, a local citizens group advocating for the citizens in the greater downtown area. Walter Mulkewich is a former Mayor of Burlington and was a member of the 1997 Community-Based Government Committee.

Terms of Reference

1. Review the 1997 report on Community-Based Government (Report of the Community­ Based government Committee,October 29, 1997; City File: 130) and other relevant information on citizen engagement.

2. Review civic engagement with local municipal government through research of current modes of communications between the City and its citizens, as well as the type and level of citizen engagement with the City through Advisory Committees and other means.

3. Develop a work plan, including a communications plan and a budget to meet the mandate of the committee.

4. Solicit information and ideas from members of City Council, City Staff, ratepayer and citizen groups, community organizations, high school students and the general public.

5. Review best practices in communication in the public and private sectors as well as civil society.

6. Consider the culture required to incubate and nurture the engagement of the public, in the public decision making process.

7. Hold focus groups in different areas of the City, which will include invited participants representing a broad cross section of Burlington life, as well as being open to the public.

8. Prepare a final report on its findings and recommendations by March 31,2010. This committee will present this report for the Mayor and share their recommendations with the public.

Purpose

The Mayor’s Citizen Advisory Committee on Civic Engagement is established to move us closer to realizing our Future Focus Seven goals to be “customer focused where residents are part of City Council’s decision-making process” and “striving to keep residents informed and engaged so that all members of Burlington community have the opportunity to have their voices heard.” This Committee will provide ideas and recommendations that could be helpful to implement this Council’s approved goals and strategic actions of the Future Focus Seven strategic plan: ·

Future Focus Seven: Excellence in government

12.2 Engage citizens more effectively in city Council’s decision-maki ng processes by: 12.2.A Exploring every opportunity to raise awareness of city services through different forms of communications technology and offer additional opportunities for citizens to provide their views to council; and,
12.2.B Develop framework and protocol which council may consider for undertaking enhanced public consultation.

Committee composition and organization

Committee Members: Maximum of 10

Administrative Support Departmental Resource Support External Resource

Recruitment and selection

Voluntary, inclusive citizen representation ensuring balanced gender and geographic representation
Mayor’s staff As requested TBA

1. The Committee shall be selected by the Co-chairs.

2. The Committee shall be representative of the social and community fabric of Burlington. Citizens who have had active experience with City Hall as users of services or participants pertaining to City government will be an asset to the committee’s work.

Resources

This committee will be resourced through the Mayor’s office. City staff and Council are asked to be available to provide information and input to the Committee’s work, as requested by the Committee.

Acknowledgements

This Shape Burlington Report is only possible because of the huge commitment, hard work, and outstanding contributions of many people in a short period of time from November
2009 to April 2010. Therefore it is important to not only acknowledge them, but also thank them.

Our citizen volunteers

We thank an incredible group of committed citizens from every geographic area of Burlington representing the diversity of our population who attended many committee meetings and consultations with the public as well as doing individual research.

• The Co-Chairs: John Boich and Walter Mulkewich
• The Steering Committee: Doug Brown, Leslie Bullock,Amy Collard, Ken Edwards, Hussein Hamdani, Blair Lancaster, Paul Sharman, Lorraine Sommerfeld, John Searles
• Sub-Committees (Research, Communications, Community Dialogue, Writing): Marilyn Abraham, David Auger, Kale Black,Neil Bryson, David Conrath, Joey Edwardh, Larissa Fenn, Mark Gregory, Mark Henderson, Tim Lindsay, Paul Mitchell, Rennie Mohammed, Roland Tanner, Chris Walker.
• Other participants: A number of citizens were only able to attend some meetings. Carolyn Forbes, Kurt Koster, Anisa Mirza, John Morrison, Yaw Obeng, Karen Parmenter, Andy Rotsma, Judi Smith, Bob Wood, Ken Woodruff, Pat Wright.

Mayor Cam Jackson

The project was initiated by Mayor Cam Jackson who appointed the Co-Chairs and approved the Terms of Reference. We appreciate his support and commitment without input or interference from his office or City Hall, allowing our committee and report to be independent. We also appreciate his support by providing the resources of his office.
Finally, we appreciate the contribution from the Mayor’s Pride in Our Community Fund (within the Burlington Community Foundation) and financial support from the Mayor’s budget.

The public

We thank people in the Burlington community who responded to our request for input.
• Citizens who attended our three public roundtable workshops.
• Representatives of community organizations who attended three small group conversations
• Representatives of the City of Burlington Citizen Advisory Committees.
• Students at Corpus Christi and Central High Schools.
• Citizens who participated in our on-line survey and dialogue on our website.

Council and City staff

We thank all the members of Council and staff who gave us their time to openly share their experience, skill, knowledge, and vision.

Burlington Community Foundation

Shape Burlington is extremely thankful for the $15,000 grant received from the Burlington Community Foundation (BCF) through its Mayor’s Pride in Our Community Fund. This grant made it possible for Shape Burlington to enter into a partnership with Community Development Halton (CDH) and to engage MASS LBP as consultants to our project. We are also thankful for the interest shown by BCF in our process and for the input of representatives of BCF at several Shape Burlington meetings.

Community Development Halton

Community Development Halton (CDH) is a community-based organization providing Burlington with social planning and community development capability. We were pleased to have CDH as full partners as advisors and participants. CDH assisted the Co-Chairs in the supervision of our consultant, MASS LBP. Joey Edwardh, Executive Director, and Ted Hildebrandt, Director of Social Planning, participated in many of our Shape Burlington committee meetings and public conversations as well as being full participants in our Research Committee. We thank them for their knowledge and skills, as well as meeting space for several meetings.

MASS LBP

MASS LBP is a new kind of company that works with visionary governments and organizations to deepen and improve their efforts to engage and consult with citizens. We were pleased to have Peter Macleod, Joslyn Trowbridge and Chris Ellis work with us throughout this project. MASS LBP helped establish a context and direction for our work plan and final report. They provided us with two important papers, a reflection paper on the trends in local democracy and an environmental scan of trends in innovation in civic engagement in local municipalities. They attended a number of meetings of our Committee and sub-committees, and they facilitated the conversations with City Staff and two of the public roundtables. They also helped facilitate our conversation with the representatives of the Citizen Advisory Committees. Finally, they summarized all our research, conversations, interviews, and meetings and gave us their analysis of the process and its findings to help us shape our final report.

Website (www.shapeburlington.ca)

We are grateful for the many hours of volunteer time of our Webmaster, Roland Tanner, who created and maintained the website. We also thank for the members of the Communication Committee who provided advice.

Three General Managers met with MASS LBP and the Shape Burlington Co-c.::hairs for a candid conversation on the role of citizens in municipal governance. The General Managers perceive a shift in municipal governance that is moving to a more upstream process of citizen engagement and public consultation, doing more engagement earlier in the policy making process. They see staff and Council working more cooperatively with citizens now than ever before, making an effort to be transparent and more open about the constraints facing the City and the changes that are in Burlington’s future. This shift to a more robust process of citizen engagement is still in its early stages, the General Managers say, and thus the implications are still ill defined. Nevertheless, they feel there is a consistent effort being made at City Hall to improve the public’s awareness of new cost containment policies and the impacts this has on the City’s services.

Internally, City Hall faces several challenges to engaging citizens more effectively. The first is a lack of clear measurement of which departments are working collaboratively. This is related to a lack of standards for public consultation and engagement across the departments – while some departments, such as Planning, must adhere to Provincial standards in notification and consultation, others do not. Not measuring what departments
are doing in terms of consultation, and not having best practices and standards to adhere to give the feeling, in the words of one General Manager, of being in a pinball machine, with many consultation activities happening across departments. Without the time and resources to benchmark engagement practices, effective public consultation will be harder.

Other internal challenges include the lack of diversity in City Hall staff, which detracts from the City accurately reflecting the growing cultural and linguistic diversity of Burlington’s community. This lack of diversity can present challenges for customer service and engagement activities. Finally, General Managers expressed concern over the formal rules of Standing Committees and delegations to Council meetings, which can prevent some citizens from communicating their views in a way that makes sense to them.

External challenges to effective public consultation and engagement identified by General Managers include the lack of public trust in democratic institutions and the high expectations and volume of demands placed by citizens on staff and elected officials. The lack of public trust makes positive messaging of the City’s activities difficult – General Managers feel that the public assumes staff is not very involved or caring and not on the public’s “side.” At the same time, citizens are demanding more from staff and elected officials, expecting quick turnaround times to their questions or concerns. These factors combine to make communication, messaging, and consultation resource-intensive.

Speaking about the process of public meetings in particular, General Managers identified two problems. First, they feel that citizens only come out to a meeting if they are upset or unhappy with a situation. This means that broad and inclusive representation is hard to achieve, as only vocal individuals with a stake in the outcome attend. It also compounds efforts to get high levels of participation in priority-setting and visioning meetings, as these meetings do not offer a point of contention for participants to engage on.

For example, consultation on the City’s budget traditionally sees low participation, but offers citizens the greatest opportunity to affect change for the future. Second, an increasingly mobile population means high turnover for neighbourhoods, and thus a different slate of participants show up at each public meeting. This erodes the consensus and knowledge
built through previous consultations, placing more constraints on moving forward through an issue during a series of consultations.

Based on these internal and external challenges, General Managers identified opportunities for improvement to the City’s public consultation and engagement practices. These opportunities are as follows:

• Set standards of engagement and consultation across departments and embed them as aspects of performance management to help change the culture at City Hall
o Look at best practices within City departments and establish corporate consistency
o Establish measurements and benchmarks to respond to citizens in an appropriate manner and time frame, especially when considering vocal groups and contentious issues
o Promote a culture in which staff recognize citizen knowledge as complementary to their own professional expertise
o Help the next Council term to look at expectations and roles around communication and engagement

• Work towards a “one window” service approach where all staff are ambassadors for all City programs and services to break down “professional silos”

• Improve communication with and messaging to citizens by:
o Being clear about expectations and how cost containment strategies will
affect programs and services
o Encourage broad conversations on the City’s future rather than just ‘hot button’ issues
o Use new technology better and begin a social media strategy to reach out to the public in a variety of ways

• Improve citizens’ knowledge of how city government works, potentially by offering educational sessions on and offline

Department Directors

MASS LBP and the Shape Burlington Co-Chairs met with seven department directors, representing the Traffic and Transit, Parks and Recreation, Roads and Parks Maintenance,
·Engineering, Corporate Strategic nitiatives, Finance and Environment departments. The Directors agreed that the rapid pace of technological change require their departments be able to adapt their modes of communication. n light of technological advancements, increased resources and staff time need to be dedicated to learning, using, and sharing new technologies. They noted that the main internal challenge lies in determining the priorities for devoting money and training time to keep pace with new technologies for internal and external communication.

When asked about their views on the role citizens have to play in municipal governance, City Directors felt that overall citizens are deeply engaged. This engagement contributes to high citizen expectations of interaction with Burlington municipal government, especially in comparison to other municipalities. Directors perceive pressure from citizens to provide increased transparency and accountability, and for government to present a sound rationale for its decision-making. The challenge in responding to that pressure lies in providing information that is succinct while using a convenient mechanism for input and feedback.

Directors note that their staff has trouble determining what and how much information they should provide to the public, as well as the amount of resources to dedicate to this task.
They also said that while certain segments of the population, particularly retired or older citizens and those who oppose an issue, can regularly attend and be vocal at public meetings, other demographics such as commuters and younger citizens with families are harder to get feedback from. However, the consistent positive responses to the City’s Quality of Services survey leads Directors to believe that the majority of citizens are satisfied with City Hall.

When asked what they thought was working well in terms of public consultation, Directors expressed pride in a “commitment to excellence in governance at the top” in City Hall culture, including engaging and consulting with citizens to incorporate citizen input into decision-making. Council was particularly praised for its efforts in this regard. Directors identified the ability to make materials such as reports available to citizens online as greatly facilitating City Hall’s ability to provide citizens with an abundance of real-time information. They were also pleased with the interest citizens demonstrated in providing feedback. As noted above, the Quality of Services Survey consistently results in a high rate of return and positive comments. Opportunities for interest groups and special focus groups to make presentations to Council also garner a high level of participation.

Building on these successes and responding to the challenges identified, Directors discussed opportunities to improve the City’s public consultation and citizen engagement activities.
These opportunities are as follows:

• Better communicate the existing opportunities for engagement and consultation

Use more web-based media to counteract the decline in local print media,  For example, use web-casting for sessions on the budget

@ Involve commuter citizens and those without young families/lack of time

Modify the Quality of Services survey to include more questions on engagement

® Consult citizens on improving the website to identify what types and how much information the public wants

Finally, the Directors expressed the need to communicate to citizens that their job, as staff, is to bring many different perspectives of an issue to the conversations that interest groups and citizens are involved in, but not to advocate for any particular perspective. Their challenge is to remain neutral during consultations and allow all options to stay on the table throughout the duration of public input, which can conflict with citizen demand for direction, guidance, and the elimination of unpopular options.

Other Staff

Thirteen staff, including Clerk’s department and communications staff, Councillors’ Assistants, customer service and accessibility coordinators, T and business staff and graphic designers, met with MASS LBP and Shape Burlington to discuss their perspective as frontline staff who communicate with Burlington residents often, if not daily. Many of the challenges they identified related to customer service and the transactions that occur between citizens and City Hall. nternally, staff recognized that they had limited capacity in serving citizens and other customers with different linguistic backgrounds, and that the elderly may not find their services accessible.

The counters on the first floor of City Hall are often the first point of contact for many citizens, and the staff recognized the need to constantly strive for improvement in customer service. n addition, staff identified difficulty in using plain, simple language to inform citizens about an issue. One participant remarked that some reports produced were even difficult for Councillors to understand.

On communications, staff felt that there was a lack of strategic and standard marketing across departments, and expressed concern that some official City communications looked like advertisements for Councillors, instead of focusing on City information and activities. Finally, staff echoed the concerns of General Managers and Directors that the formal rules for presenting to Council and the language used in Council meetings could alienate and discourage citizen participation.

External challenges to effective public consultation and engagement identified by staff included only receiving negative feedback from citizens and thus not being able to identify what staff was doing right, and the lack of initiative from citizens to inform themselves about the issues. Staff felt that they were doing a good job of getting information out to citizens, and expressed frustration when citizens emerged at the end of a public consultation process to claim they had not been informed. t is often too late to consider public input at the stage in which citizens start to provide input. This “not in my back yard” impetus for getting involved is frustrating to staff who feel that they have provided avenues for input early in the decision-making stage.

Finally, staff felt that there was a low level of awareness of the division of responsibilities between Federal,Provincial and Municipal levels of government, remarking that citizens often asked staff to change services that the City does not provide.

Other external challenges identified by staff echoed what we heard in conversations with General Managers and Directors, as well as in departments. The public perception that government employees do not work very hard, the need for staff to remain politically neutral throughout the consultation process, and the difficulty in engaging young citizens were mentioned as factors preventing effective engagement.

While staff felt that their role in customer service, particularly having a live answer switchboard, was making a positive impact on how citizens perceive municipal government, they were concerned that one “hot button” issue that receives negative press can be detrimental to citizens’ positive perceptions.

Opportunities for improvement i dentified by staff include:

• Break down issues to show how they impact citizens and localize meetings to increase engagement
o For example, show how the Official Plan or other planning/visioning documents can affect citizens

•Involve the public earlier on issues and keep them involved throughout the decision making process

• Mail and communication from the City should reflect City business and be politically neutral

• Citizen participation in Council meetings should be less formal,more modern and “real”

•Implement standards and training for customer service for frontline staff
o This is currently being reviewed

• Measure how departments are faring on customer service, implement a system for following-up with complaints

• Market the City better to increase a sense of pride, use strategic marketing

• Advertise outside of City facilities (we go to them instead of expecting citizens to come to us)

Clerks and Communications Department

We spoke with five Department staff responsible for community relations, council services, committee services and communications. This session addressed current practices to interact with and respond to citizens as well as the successes and challenges staff have experienced when connecting with citizens. The department faces several internal
11challenges to effective consultation and engagement. Citizens are demanding more
f information and expecting quicker response times. This places pressure on staff to balance
completing their daily tasks and core work while responding to this demand.

Taking on new staff and using new technology to increase department capacity is a potential solution, but these both take time and resources for training and management. Staff struggle with reporting back to the public on how public input will be used to make changes, and have difficulty communicating operational plans in plain language.
Communication costs, such as marketing, branding, and ensuring consistency across departments, can be high, and the public is usually at odds over this spending, as it competes with spending on core services. Thus staff face increased demand for clear, fast and effective communication, but there is a lack of public will to spend money to obtain this kind of communication.

The Clerks and Communications staff also identified the difficulty in staying neutral during public consultation on a contentious issue, and are often asked by citizens for information on the “best option”,which City staff cannot give. Finally, staff identified a “work squeeze” in the middle of a Council’s four year term, where pressure for results mounts as the lead­ up to the next election begins. They felt that the “City sees customers, but Council sees voters.”

A main external challenge Clerks and Communications staff face is “private sector demands” on the public sector. n the private sector, niche marketing, customized experience, and access to information and technology raise customer service expectations. These are often replicated in the expectations citizens place on elected officials and public servants.
However, the process by which the public sector gathers, interprets, and weighs competing demands and remains neutral and open to all opinions prevents them from offering customized services to each citizen. For example, many staff noted that citizens demand an unrealistic response time to emails (usually two hours). Many citizens send a second email if they do not receive a reply within two hours or so, placing demands on staff that staff simply cannot meet.

Other external challenges echo the conversations with other City staff – the public misconception that staff do not work hard or long hours, a changing audience at public meetings does not allow staff time to keep up with input and demand for changes to plans, and the lack of public awareness of the division of services between the City and the Province. Despite these difficulties, Clerks and Communications staff felt that they did provide excellent customer service and that considering the volume of requests, their response times were adequate. They pride themselves in working to be information providers and to get the right information to the right person, and hold their internal communications to a high standard. They identified the following opportunities for improvement:

• Need research that establishes:
o What does the public think of us?
o What information do you want to hear?
o How do you want to hear it?

• Consistent public notification and consultation process prior to the drafting of reports
o Find a best practice that works with the legislative requirements

• Dedicate more staff and more staff time to the Citizens’ Advisory Committees

• Expand the department’s arsenal of communication methods, including the use of social media and new information technologies

Planning Department

Six staff from the Planning Department responsible for Policy, Development, Planning, Site Plans and Urban Design met with MASS LBP and the Shape Burlington Co-Chairs to identify challenges their department faces when consulting with the public. They identified a shift in the planning and development field towards more public input and consultation, but noted that this takes time and resources to do effectively. The complicated nature of planning

presents staff with a significant challenge when communicating with the public. Specifically, documents and reports, such as the Official Plan, contain information that is imperative for citizens to understand, but are often written “by bureaucrats for bureaucrats.”

This makes it difficult for staff to help people make an informed contribution, and significant resources are required to communicate both the big picture vision associated with planning and the specific tradeoffs associated with a particular project. n particular, staff noted the lack of citizen understanding of the legislative requirements around city planning, which means citizens are asking to change plans that are not always up for negotiation.

Staff feels that the public is only engaged on a topic when it affects them personally, and that citizens do not understand nor respect the stages of consultation associated with planning. They noted that citizens have the greatest opportunity for input during the policy, visioning, and budgeting stages, but usually participate in public meetings that happen after these stages and are mostly meant to inform the public of what is happening. This results in frustration on both sides. Staff also find that citizens come to a public meeting misinformed, thus forcing time to be dedicated to educating and informing citizens on the project rather than providing input or feedback. n addition, the length of time between consultations presents a challenge, as neighbourhoods change and different people show up to different stages of the consultation.

This makes Planning Department staff feel as if they are “speaking to a parade” and erodes the knowledge and consensus built in previous public meetings. Staff also noted that participation rates in rural areas are low, contributing to uneven consultation across the city. Finally, staff felt that citizens are generally adverse to land-use change, and have difficulty communicating the demographic necessity of these changes for Burlington.

Despite these difficulties, the Planning Department prides themselves on their public engagement efforts, noting that they often go above and beyond the legislative requirements for consultation. They try to use public consultation activities as “teachable moments” to help educate the public on how the planning and development process works, and note that of 2000 Customer Service Questionnaires distributed last year, less than 2% had negative comments.

Opportunities for improvements identified by Planning Department staff are:

•Implement a more streamlined, continuous process of engagement that focuses on the positive implications of development

• Dedicate more staff and more time to innovations in public consultation

• Explore ways to cope with the changing audience in public meetings

• Fill in gaps left by the decline of the local media
o Use website to better communicate planning and development projects in a more timely manner

City Talk

The five conversations with City Hall Staff included a short discussion on City Talk, the City of Burlington’s corporate newsletter. Many staff agreed that the newsletter is in need of redesign, and that this is in fact underway (City Talk was previpusly outsourced and is now being brought back in house). They agree that City Talk is an important source of information for citizens who are not online, but feel that it has “lost its way” over the past few years. Staff would like to see City Talk include more information on what is happening in the City and less space devoted to Councillors’ activities. One staff member suggested a survey or inquiry into how the public uses City Talk and what they would like to see it contain.

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Premier backtracks very quickly on fund raising practices - she wants to get in front of the parade and not get trampled by a herd of protest.

News 100 redBy Staff

April 12, 2016

BURLINGTON, ON

The Premier of Ontario Kathleen Wynne released the following statement earlier today.

I have just had a meeting with the Leader of the Green Party of Ontario to discuss election financing reform. I want to thank Mr. Schreiner for a very positive meeting to discuss these much-needed changes. He provided input, advice and feedback on the areas for reform and on the questions I asked of him — the same questions I asked the Leaders of the Official Opposition and NDP yesterday. There was much agreement between me and Mr. Schreiner on the areas for reform.

Wynne RibFest-Rotary-guy-+-Premier-595x1024

GypTech president of Gary xxxx escorts Premier Wynne during a RibFest in Burlington.

Mr. Schreiner made some specific requests that I would like to respond to directly. He said he wants to make sure the legislative committee process to consider election financial reform is open, has time to hear from witnesses across the province on the draft legislation, and allows for a full consideration of the draft legislation after both First and Second Reading.

As I said yesterday, I intend to bring forward legislation in May before the Legislature rises on June 9. With the agreement of the Legislature, we would send that legislation to Standing Committee sooner than usual, after First Reading to allow for a first opportunity to make amendments based on public input, before Second Reading. In addition, further legislative committee hearings after Second Reading will allow for another round of input and amendments.

This would allow for consultation immediately, while the Legislature is still sitting, and for further consultation during the summer, across Ontario, in agreed-upon locations. The first government witness invited to appear before the legislative committee hearings would be Ontario’s Chief Electoral Officer. In the meantime, as the legislation is being drafted, we will consult regularly with the Chief Electoral Officer.

The second government witness invited to appear before the legislative committee hearings would be Mr. Schreiner.

wynne-at heritage dinner

Was it the smile that drew these two together? Does he have influence?

In an open letter prior to today’s meeting, Mr. Schreiner asked that “big money” be taken out of politics, and asked the government to bring in comprehensive reforms that include eliminating corporate and union donations prior to the next Ontario general election. The legislation we will introduce this spring will propose a ban on corporate and union donations and I am committed that changes be in place or significantly underway before the June 2018 election.

He has also asked that the government end the practice of “selling access to Ministers of the Crown.” As I said yesterday, political donations do not buy policy decisions. Any suggestion otherwise is completely false. As Premier, I’ve always been clear that decisions made by me and my Cabinet are always made with the best interests of Ontarians in mind.

Ministers need to fundraise, just as all MPPs do, to support their work during campaigns.  Ministers can do small group high-value fundraisers with two stipulations:

1. The event is publicly disclosed before it occurs.

2. The Minister is not meeting/fundraising with stakeholders of his/her ministry.

I have made the decision to immediately cancel upcoming private fundraisers that I or Ministers attend.

Future Liberal fundraisers will be made public on the OLP website.

Wynne Kathleen - looking guilty gas plant hearing

Premier Wynne can be very convincing.

To recap, our government has already undertaken a number of initiatives to make election financing more transparent. In 2007, we introduced third-party advertising rules and real-time disclosure for political donations. Last June, I announced that we would make further changes to the Elections Act. And, as I announced last week, our government plans to introduce legislation on political donations this spring, including measures to transition away from union and corporate donations.
The legislation we will bring forward this spring will include the following:

First — reform of third-party advertising rules, including definitions, anti-collusion measures and penalties. Maximum spending limits on third-party advertising will be severely constrained for election periods and constraints considered for pre-election periods.
Second — a ban on corporate and union donations.

Third — reduction of maximum allowable donations to a figure that is in the range of what is permitted federally for each Party; to all associations, nomination contestants and candidates, as well as leadership campaigns.

Fourth — constraints on loans/loan guarantees to parties and candidates, including leadership candidates

Fifth — reform of by-election donation rules.

Sixth — overall reduction in spending limits by central parties in election periods and introduction of limits between elections.

And seventh — introduction of leadership and nomination campaign spending limits and donation rules.

To reach critical decision points associated with these issues. I have asked the following questions of all three party Leaders.

Ribfest-Prsemier-with-ribs-and-helper1-1024x1007

Premier Wynne has been to Burlington on a number of occasions. She learned how to flip a rack of ribs pretty quickly at RibFest. She also personally recruited current MPP Eleanor McMahon to run as the Liberal candidate in the last provincial election.

• On the issue of third-party advertising, we are proposing a much lower spending limit. What should that limit be? What should the constraints on third-party advertising be between elections? Should there also be an individual contribution limit for those advertising campaigns?

• We are proposing a ban on corporate and union donations, which would begin on January 1, 2017. Should there be a transitional subsidy based on vote counts from the previous election? If so, how long should the transition period be in order to allow all parties to adjust?

• We are proposing a lower limit on donations. Should that limit be phased in over time?

• We are proposing that, during by-elections, that there be no special doubling of donations to the central party. By-election campaigns should be restricted to raising funds only to the allowable limit, both locally and centrally. What are the other Leaders’ thoughts on how we should manage any by-elections that occur before the legislation is in effect?

• We are proposing overall spending limit reductions in the writ period and setting limits between elections. We would like the Leaders’ input on this.

• We are proposing setting spending limits for leadership and nomination campaigns. What should these spending and donation limits be?
The government also intends to bring forward separate legislation this fall to amend the Elections Act, including proposals to:
• Change the fixed election date for the next general election to the spring of 2018

• Allow provisional registration of 16- and 17 year-olds

• Establish a single address authority in Ontario

• Eliminate the first blackout period for all elections, and

• Integrate, simplify and modernize a range of election processes as per the advice of the Chief Electoral Officer.

It is clear that there are flaws in the current legislation, which all parties have been operating under. The reality is that Ontario’s election financing system has not kept up with changes made federally and in some other provinces. The current system also does not meet today’s public expectations. I am determined to make changes that are right for Ontario. And I believe it is important that we now move expeditiously to make these changes.

It is important to get this right. I look forward to hearing further from all three Leaders as they consider the answers to the questions I have asked them, so that we can move quickly to bring about these needed reforms.

Ray Rivers on election funding.

The times they are a changing- the public has gotten to the point where they just plain don’t like the way the politicians climbed into bed with any special interest with a cheque book.  The conflict of interest was just too blatant.  The tip of that iceberg was identified by the Globe and Mail when they published a series of articles on how the politician raised the money they need to fight elections.   The opposition parties didn’t make too much noise over the news reports because they too rely on corporate, union and special interest money.

But the media coverage was a little too strong to ignore – and so now the Premier has set out an aggressive set of changes that everyone is going to get a chance to have their say on.  Note though that the Premier made this announcement after meeting with the Green Party – she is avoiding what the NDP and the Conservatives want to do to her neck.

Premier Wynne does deserve credit for getting in front of the parade and not getting trampled by a crowd reaction.

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