City hall staff to be collectively accountable and asked to ‘up the pace`. That`s good news.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  August 23, 2012  When an organization brings in a new leader expect changes – that`s why the new leader was brought in.

City Manager Jeff Fielding, formerly with London, Ontario has been with Burlington for six months now and staff are getting a clearer picture of how he operates.

The city manager has traditionally used an office on the 8th floor, steps away from the Mayor.  Fielding has decided to move down to the 6th floor, where he will have an office with his General Managers.  Fielding wants to be where his team works and not two floors above them.

He has re-aligned some of the departments that report to the three general managers the city employs.  Two, Kim Phillips and Scott Stewart are in place and a third will be hired in the fall to replace Steve Zorbas.

General Manager Scott Stewart wants his staff to be sharp, come up with good ideas, deliver great service and have some fun while they are at it.  Here he models his vacation wear. Councillor John Taylor is on the left with MP Mike Wallace on the right

General Manager Scott Stewart heads up what has been called community services – that has been renamed to General Manager Development and Infrastructure.  Kim Phillips heads up what has been called Budget and Corporate Services – that will be called Corporate Services.

A third General Manager will be hired in the fourth quarter of the year and Fielding let it be known that third person could well come from within the organization.  Bruce Zvaniga, who has done some excellent work recently, is serving as Acting City Manager while Stewart is on vacation.  Expect Bruce to be polishing up his resume when the job is posted.

The building on Brant Street is becoming a different city hall.  The budget process the city goes through this year will focus on where the city should be investing funds and not get tangled up in the weeds of  how much should be spent on pencils and paper clips.

Soft spoken, direct, wants his people to be creative and bring him new ideas and then expects them to deliver on those ideas. Some staff members will not meet that challenge but for those that do, and there are lots of them, the city is going to be a great place to work. City Manager Jeff Fielding is changing the culture at city hall.

In a past budget a senior staff member spent time explaining what some software would do – it was an upgrade of a program used all over the world.  Fielding doesn`t want his staff spending time like this.  He wants his staff to do forward thinking and will be bringing what he calls a business case approach to deciding the business the city should be in and what they shouldn’t be doing.

For Fielding it is a matter of supporting the staff in what they do, have them see themselves as collectively accountable to the public for the way the city is run.  He also wants them to pick up the pace.  This is certainly not the approach that was operational at city hall with the previous city manager.

For many of the sharper people at city hall it will be seen as a blessing – an opportunity for them to be both accountable and creative.

Fielding commented on a meeting he took part in earlier in the day when staff was making a presentation.  The ideas they put forward “almost brought tears to my eyes”.

Economic development is going to get much more attention from city hall as is investments elsewhere in the city.  Community Development Halton has been asked to prepare a business case for an approach to serving the city that will see funds invested in neighbourhoods.  Joey Edwardh, Executive Director of CDH has been asked to develop a business case and bring it back to the management team where it will get discussed, debated and some recommendations developed that get taken to city council committee.

The Economic Development Corporation has been asked to produce a new business case as well.  Fielding sees the EDC as an investment the city makes – and if that investment is paying off – then it should continue. Operations will continue if the business case can justify them; if not, then the question asked will be: Why are we doing this?

These business cases will be put before Council and they will decide which ones they want to fund.

Fielding tells of the 45 different services the city provides.  Each is looked at, reviewed and a case for continuing with the service is put forward and Council decides which they want to continue and which should be abandoned.

For Fielding it is a matter of delivering service.  Staff will be asked to make the business case and uses something as simple as the sending of an invoice.  It costs the city $1 to mail an invoice but just 40 cents to send it via the web. You can see where he is going with this kind of thinking.

Master University is developing a three year program that will significantly improve the management skills of senior and middle management staff at city hall. As many as 150 staff members will be taking courses over a three year period.

Staff development is getting much more attention.  The city is about to conclude an agreement with the DeGroote campus of McMaster University that will have staff taking courses designed specifically for the city.  Paul Bates, Andrea Mior at McMaster and Laura Boyd and Roy Male at city hall are working this up – we may see more than thousands of children heading back to classrooms in the fall.

Fielding is asking much more of his staff than they have been used to.  Those that see civic administration as a career opportunity will meet the challenge while others will begin to feel very uncomfortable at city hall. Fielding added that salaries at city hall will reflect the cost of living increases but staff won`t be getting all of it.  “We are coming in a little below the actual cost of living increases.”

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They are out there again – trying to scam seniors of their savings. If the “bank inspector” calls – demand to see him at his office.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON July 31, 2012    The Bank Investigator Scam is back.  And as they usually do- they target vulnerable trusting seniors who have savings they need tucked away.  Some slickster wants to take that money from you and will call saying he is an Inspector with the bank and needs your help.

Tell him you’d love to help him and then ask which branch you can meet him or her at.  Then call the police.

The Halton Regional Police Service is warning seniors about a “Bank Investigator Scam”.  The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (formerly known as Phone Busters) recently reported over 100 complaints with reported losses to victims of 1/2 million dollars.

This scam is predominantly targeting female seniors and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre says that the fraudsters sometimes use the obituaries to obtain personal information about their potential victims.

Constable Wendy Moraghan works with seniors in the Region as the Elder Services Coordinator.  If you think there is something fishy about a phone call you get – call Wendy, she’s there to help.

The fraudsters contact seniors by phone advising that they require their assistance to catch a bank employee that “has been stealing money”.  The person is instructed to go to their bank and make a cash withdrawal, usually in 100 dollar bills, for amounts in the $5000.00 range.  The person is told not to tell the bank teller what they are doing because the teller may be involved.

When anyone asks you to to withdraw cash from your bank account and meet them in a parking lot – let them know you would prefer to meet in the parking lot of the police station and hang up.

The senior is instructed to place the cash in an envelope and meet the “investigator” in a nearby parking lot where the cash is turned over.  If successful the “investigator” attempts a further request for funds to ensure the investigation is a success.  On one occasion the “investigator” also asked if the senior had any cash at home because the employee had been handing out counterfeit money.

The senior turned over $6,000.00 in cash from her residence which the “investigator” confirmed was counterfeit by looking at the serial numbers.  The fraudsters will represent various different financial institutions.  The public is reminded that this is not the way banks operate.  If there is an investigation it is done by the police.

Police constable Wendy Moraghan (Elder Services Coordinator) with the Halton Regional Police Service is as far away as a telephone call – if you’re suspicious – give her a call -905-825-4777 ext. 5064   She’s a real sweetheart and will answer every question you  have – she’s there to help you.

Moraghan will tell you to never give out personal information on the telephone to anyone.  Constable Moraghan attends many seniors events in the Region.

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School is not out yet – but someone wanted to stay a little longer – flooded a classroom.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON  June 21, 2012  Halton Regional Police Service is investigating a break and enter at St. Christopher Elementary School located on 2400 Sutton Drive. It is unknown how the suspect(s) entered the school, but it is possible a door was accidentally left unlocked.

Classroom flooded - floor damaged when tap turned on in a sink with plug in place

Suspects entered one classroom, put a plug in the sink and turned the water on, causing the sink to overflow. The result was water damage to the surrounding counter, as well as books, and other school materials and supplies. Damage is estimated at $500 – $1000.


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Freiburger is on the right track with is cultural plan thinking – getting the city on the same track is going to take some doing.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  June 10, 2012   He launched and managed to gain some altitude and it looks like he will stay aloft.

Jeremy Freiburger told a close to full house in the Performing Arts Community Studio the fundamentals of the community engagement part of the Cultural Plan that he has been contracted to prepare for the city of Burlington.

Freiburger is well qualified to take on the task and brings both energy and innovation to the work he has to do.

He does have his hands full working with the city’s communications people – but then he’s not the only one struggling with that department.

Freiburger has arranged to meet with citizens in every ward and while the turnout has not been large – those that did show up were enthusiastic.  The first event was in Kilbride – to the surprise of many – culture is usually seen as something that happens south of the 401.

Each yellow marker indicates a location that someone saw as culturally significant.

The turnout was better in Kilbride than it was at the Senior’s Centre which is smack dab in the middle of Ward 2 where all the cultural mavens are thought to live.  So much for that thought.

While Freiburger was talking to the audience in Kilbride about what he is setting out to do – a group playing baseball got rained out; Freiburger didn’t miss a beat – he invited them in to hear what they had to say about culture.  This guy clearly knows how to innovate.

David Auger thinks about where he spends his disposable income dollars on culture.

Freiburger asks those who show up to do three things for him.  Put a small dot on a map showing where they spend their cultural time and then go to an identical map and put down dots showing where you spend their cultural money.

Then Freiburger asks people to go to a very large map of the city and put down stickers on the places they like to go in the city.  Lowville Park, put a sticker there, Student Theatre, put another sticker there.  Freiburger wants to map points of cultural significance.

Out of all this data collection will come a picture of where people spend their time, where they spend their money and what it is about places they go to that attracts them.

Freiburger will be collecting data at events in each ward, for almost the first time we have seen events take place well north of the QEW divide.  It would have been nice to see something in the Alton and Orchard communities. The Sound of Music crowd will be invited to take part in this exercise.  If you didn’t get to one of the community events – Sound of Music and the Children’s Festival are good opportunities to take part in the data gathering

The crowd at the Performing Arts Centre heard Edie Friel, the man who put the city of Glasgow on the cultural map and made cultural events the strongest part of the Glaswegian economy by using a model from Azerbaijan to catch people’s attention.  Using an Azerbaijani  model to get the attention of people in Glasgow –  – that’s chutzpah!

Friel explained the role culture plays in the development of a city.  “People”, he said “don’t go to France, they go to Paris.  People don’t go to Italy; they go to Milan or Rome.  People go to cities because those cities have created a brand for themselves, a reason to go to that city.”

“When you brand a city you highlight it’s history, its heritage and its culture”, he said.  We will come back to those three – they are very relevant to Burlington.

Friel pointed out that “we human beings have a need for membership, we want to belong to something”.  That something can be a model railroad club, a photography club, a drama group.  People go to things they identify with.  There are literally thousands of people in Ontario who want to do nothing more than walk the Bruce Trail.

Most people either know what they want to do with their time and their disposable income or know they are open to a new idea; a new experience.  Friel talks of “destination marketing” and he explains that you have to develop the “supply chain”.  What does all that mean?

If Burlington is going to attract visitors we have to give them a reason for coming to the city – and those reasons are what he refers to as the supply chain.  “Develop the brand” says Friel – “not the artists.  When you do that, then people will come and see all the artists.”

This artists wants to be a little higher up on the food chain - wants people to pay for the work artists do.

There was at least one artist in the audience who didn’t see it quite that way.  While he had no problem being part of the supply chain he suggested that the artists could be a little higher up on that chain and complained about artists being asked to do their work for free by people who had good jobs running the cultural institutions in the city.

A near perfect example of just that happening is the two events held at the Burlington Art Centre on the weekend.  The BAC had invited more than 100 artists to show their work and at the same time has the six Guilds that work out of the BAC showing their work.   The crowds will not be coming to see a specific artist – they will be here looking at artisans and while here get a good look at what the BAC does day to day.

Just what is the Burlington brand?  Is Freiburger expected to create a brand for the city?  Nope – his job is to put together a plan to market Burlington and its culture – without really knowing what that culture is.  THAT is a task and a half.  Burlington is certainly festivals.  Is it a gathering place for artists? Maybe not yet – but if the Burlington brand is fully developed and exploited the city will become known as the place that always has a festival of some kind going on. If you develop the brand, if you make Burlington a place where people know there are a lot of artists – they will come.

Niagara on the Lake has a very clear brand?  Well yes and no.  The Shaw Festival takes place there but the Shaw is not the Niagara on the Lake brand.  Stratford on the other hand is Shakespeare.

Besides mapping data participants in the Cultural Conversations were asked to contribute their thoughts and ideas.

The city has several events that are part of the brand – the Sound of Music Festival and RibFest – both of which need significant image upgrades.  That’s not a criticism – it’s an observation.  Burlington types are very edgy when it comes to making any kind of observation about how they are doing.  The drama people understand the significant role criticism plays.  Good critical comment helps an actor or actress improve their importance.

“A community” advised Friel, “has to believe in itself.  You have to decide what the place is going to look like.”  Now back to his comment about a community and its history, its heritage and its culture.

Burlington struggles with its history.  There is a plaque in the western end of Spencer Smith Park that tells you the Brant Inn once stood there – but it doesn’t tell you very much about the Brant Inn and the very significant cultural events that took place there.

The Burlington Heritage Advisory committee is struggling with a way to get the community to agree on some format to recognize those structures in the city that are of cultural significance.  That problem is almost like a festering wound with two sides not seeing the issue the same way.

The Freeman railway station has had to fight and scratch its way to stay alive despite a city council that exhibited truly disgraceful behaviour.   Were it not for the efforts of Councillors Meed Ward and Lancaster the structure would be fire place kindling somewhere.  It isn’t a completely done deal yet but there is every reason to believe that the structure will be saved and that at some time in the future – maybe before the pier is officially opened – Freeman Station will be open for the public to use.

Jeremy Freiburger - leading a committee with a mandate to come up with a Cultural Plan for the city.

The question that comes out of all this is – how does a city create a cultural plan if it doesn’t have a clear firm sense of what its history is or a civic administration that strives to support and maintain that history?  There was a point when Burlington had hundreds of thousands of dollars to restore and find a home for the structure – but the city couldn’t get agreement on where it should be located and the federal/provincial and municipal funding that was in place to do this was lost – it got used to pave some streets instead.

Burlington was once one of the premier locations in the province for fruit farms – that land got turned into shopping malls.  Burlington and Maple View malls were once orchards – now they are covered in asphalt and serve as parking lots.  The Freeman Station was one of several stations where barrels of apples were loaded into freight trains.  There was once a cannery operation at the edge of the lake.  Not even a plaque there now to mark a very important part of the city’s history.

Jeremy Freiburger has his work cut out for him.  The city is at least looking at how culture can be highlighted and the city turned into a tourist destination.  The basic elements are there – all we have to do is bring them to the surface, polish them up and Burlington will be a place to visit and spend some money while they are here.

Is that what this is all about?

We will follow the development of this plan.


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Burlington`s first TED event – ideas worth spreading – held at Performing Arts Centre.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON May 28, 2012  TEDx Burlington came and went – some 100 people plus filled the Community Room of the Performing Arts Centre and then trooped up Locust Street to ThinkSpot!  after the three hour event,  where they munched on sandwiches and continued the conversation.  In a couple of weeks the Burlington ideas worth talking about will be up on the TED web site and those of you who couldn’t score a ticket will be able to see what the rest of us took in.  We will let you know when the presentations are available for the rest of the public.

Some very powerful statements were made.  There was some difficulty managing the time allotted to each speaker – they were supposed to be limited to 18 minutes and that didn’t work with the one session, to the point where the impact of the point the speaker was making was lost.

The live presentations were interspersed with feeds from some of the really great presentations done in the past by other TEDx’s

TEDx is about ideas that are worth talking about and the story Arthur Fleischmann told of his daughter Carly was amazing – but was it an idea worth talking about?  It wasn’t an idea – it was the story of a man and his autistic daughter who has made tremendous strides and as a teenager has come to the point where she can communicate with people like us.  The story is truly magnificent and we will pass it along to you when they have been prepared for internet loading –  it wasn’t an idea that revealed anything to me other than the courage her Father has shown as he walked with his child.

The Josh Nelson story was told – Josh wasn’t able to make it to the live session.  Dramatic, tearful, the story of immense personal courage.  But was it an idea worth talking about?

Scott Graham told about bullying and the damage done.  He mentioned more than half a dozen students who had committed suicide. – the two woman beside me could not hold back the tears.  It was very hard to listen to and they didn’t return after the break.

TED was a concept developed to take ideas that people had; ideas worth talking about and give them a public forum.   Two of the ideas that came out of past TED sessions held in other cities are set out for you below.

Both are quite short – one is a great idea about how we can solve a serious problem with getting clean water that people can drink during a crisis when water is available only in plastic bottles.  This is something that is really worth talking about.  The Mayor was in the room – will he order a dozen or so and have the Emergency Measures Service people try them out?  He should.

Derek Sivers told of the way we identify where we live with street addresses and the way the people of Japan describe where they live.  It is certainly very different and as you listen to the explanation you realize that it wouldn’t work here but it works there – why?   An idea worth talking about?  Yes most certainly.

Of the seven presentations seen Sunday afternoon in an event that was about an hour too long, were any likely to make it onto that list of presentations that will be watched again and again by people around the world?   Other than the comments Patrick O`Neil made about how we in North America tend to use our heads and brains instead of our hearts and maybe the comments Deb Pickfield made about complacency – but other than that – probably not.

One needs to be fair.  Spencer Campbell deserves buckets of credit for taking the initiative to bring TED to Burlington and then doing all the calling around and setting up that makes events like this work.  It was announced at the first annual TEDxBurlington event – which would suggest there will be another TEDx held in Burlington.  Only time will tell if that proves to be the case. Should there be another

An interesting observation. Four times a year the Mayor of Burlington sponsors a speaker – all the seats available are usually filled for hour and a quarter presentation made by very informed, qualified speakers – several with national and international reputations.  The crowd that usually attends the Mayor’s Inspire speakers event was not the same crowd that was in the Community Room this afternoon, which suggests there is a larger audience than we have seen in the past for quality events that engage the mind.  For that reason alone Spencer Campbell should begin now to prepare for the next session of TEDxBurlington.   Is there a personal Spencer Campbell agenda here?  Isn’t there always?


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New Canadian author makes cookies for guests at the launch of her book at Burlington`s Different Drummer.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  April 21, 2012  It was her first book reading.  She was in Burlington at the Different Drummer to celebrate the launch of her first novel; Rachel’s Secret.  The small room at the Drummer was packed with at least a third of the audience made up of people who knew the author but that didn’t deter them from buying books.  Many, many people bought three and four copies of Rachel’s Secret by Shelley Sanders.

Shelley Sanders wait for a book buyer to say what she wants the inscription inside Rachel's Secret to say.

Sanders began her presentation with a short visual presentation about the background of the time period the book was written about which made the point she wanted to make.  She then stood there looking at her audience and they sat and looked back – this went on for a few minutes and then Sanders moved abruptly and said:  Oh, I`m supposed to read from my book now” and began her reading which went just fine.

New Canadian author Shelley Sanders signs books at Different Drummer launch.

Missing her cue made the occasion just that much more real and pleasurable.  The book will sell well enough and one should expect to see a second title from this author.

The event had a nice home spun feel to it.  The refreshments were made by the author and she explained in some detail what was in each, and one expected her to say that she would pass along the recipe if you wanted it.

Set in pre-revolutionary Russia, where tensions are high between the Jewish and Christian populations. Rachel, who is a Jew, and Sergei, a Christian, find their worlds torn apart by violence as lies about Jews leap off the pages of the local newspaper. Vicious riots break out on Easter Sunday, 1903, and when they finally end, almost three days later, Rachel finds that the person she loves most is dead and that her home has been destroyed. As she struggles to survive the aftermath of the riots—or pogroms—support comes from someone totally unexpected, as Sergei turns against his father to help Rachel. With everything against them, the two young people don’t want to fight the bond that is growing between them, one of the few signs of goodness and hope in a time of chaos and violence.

The basics of the story are factual; there is some novelization needed to ensure this wasn’t just a history book.  The editor of the newspaper in the town of Kishinev continually published brutally damaging headlines that built the tension in the community around the murder of a young man is a true and terrible example of the lies that drove much of the anti-Semitic literature that was behind the Nazi ideology.  On that level alone the book is a good example for young readers of what vicious propaganda can do to a society.

It was THE best selling book at the Different Drummer Saturday afternoon when Shelley Sanders launched the book.

The grandmother, the story is built around, was Shelley Sanders’ grandmother which is what inspired the author.  Her grandmother`s horrific experience may have been what more than 100 years later launched a new Canadian writer.

Ian Elliot, proprietor of A Different Drummer is using the launch of Rachel`s Secret at his book store as the first step in the creation of a Teen Book Club.

The Kirkus review, a literary publication librarians rely upon for reviews of new titles had this to say about the title: “Sanders’ debut has generic prose and occasional anachronisms, but nonetheless adeptly conveys the history, from Mikhail Rybachenko’s real name to the bitter bigotry and bloodbath”, which is not bad for the first effort by a new Canadian novelist.



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Is being sustainable a philanthropic gesture or does it impact your bottom line?

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON  April 19, 2012  Can you be sustainable and profitable at the same time ?

Some organizations think of sustainability as philanthropy that they can afford when times are good.  Leading  companies are investing more into sustainability through the downturn because they have found that sustainability can expose rich veins of cost savings within inefficient buildings, processes and supply chains.

Is sustainability a nice to have when you can afford it or does it work its way to your bottom line? Chamber Seminar offers some insight.

Those companies have also found that the sustainability lens is an effective way to attract talent, appeal to green consumers and play an important part of your brand image improvement.

The Burlington Chamber of Commerce is hosting  a special “Think Sustainable” seminar with James Gray-Donald, Vice-President & Sustainability Leader with Sears Canada, outlining  real-life examples of how sound sustainability practices can improve your company’s bottom line.

There are Burlington businesses that understand how having environmentally sustainable business practices is good for the bottom line.

The seminar is being held at the Waterfront Hotel Downtown Burlington. Registration desk opens at 7:30 a.m. with a full buffet breakfast running from 7:30 a.m. to 8:00 a.m.  The presentation runs from 8:00 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and is followed by a question and answer session.  The price to attend is $25.00 (+HST) for Chamber members and $35.00 (+HST) for non-members.  You must sign up in advance.  The event is sponsored by the CMA Certified Management Accountants.

Check in with the Chamber of commerce at


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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 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


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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:

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 –



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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. 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


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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:

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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