Rainbow Crosswalks in Hamilton get a better go of it than those in Burlington - more TLC in Hamilton water?

By Pepper Parr

April 24th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Why does the Rainbow Crosswalk in Hamilton, on a street that has more than 300 transit buses driving over it every day and thousands of cars as well look as good as they day it was painted?

Damaged Rainbow Crosswalk in Burlington.

While in Burlington two Rainbow Cross walks are peeling and are a bit of an eyesore.

Hamilton Crosswalk next to city hall is in splendid condition despite heavy traffic.

What a bit galling is the big expensive fuss the Mayor made of the installation of the Rainbows – which are attractive and make a much needed statement?

It’s like a gift that is broken – and no effort is made to make a public statement about what is being done to fix the damaged Crosswalks and when results can be expected.

It’s a bit of an affront to the people who really supported the decision to have Rainbow Crosswalks in the city.

Return to the Front page

Mistakes get made in the news business - you apologize and correct the misitake

By Pepper Parr

April 24th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

On Saturday we published a news story and an opinion piece that had a serious error.

We reported that the Closed Meeting Investigator, who had done a review of the meetings that were the subject of an Integrity Commissioners report, were going to be heard in a Closed Session of Council

We were wrong. A trusted adviser called me at just after 7:00 pm on Friday to advise me that the agenda for the May 4th CSSAR FIX Standing Committee had been published and the reference to the report was that it was to be heard in a Closed Session of Council

That was incorrect – we got it wrong.  Our source misread the listing which said “…Closed Session report.

The two content pieces will be revised and we ask the readers and the Clerk’s Office to accept our apology.

In the world of new reporting, mistakes are made.

In 1948, when Harry Truman was running for re-election as President of the United States, the Chicago Daily Tribune called the election result just a little too early. Truman had won – the early polls misled the editors of the newspaper. Truman won 303 Electoral College votes – his opponent got 189.

 

Set out below is a copy of the New York Tines Corrections section. They list the corrections needed for errors in previous editions.

It happens in the best of families.

The New York Times runs a Correction Section in every edition of their paper.

Return to the Front page

Saturday in the sunshine - politicking and advocating

By Pepper Parr

April 24th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Call it ore-election campaigning or maybe a chance to get out for some fresh air and sunshine.

Our reporter bumped into Ward 2 councillor Lisa Kearns who was leading a walking tour of the downtown area on Saturday to review and discuss current, significant planning projects in various stages. A total of 10 high-rise projects were discussed. One has been rejected by city council.  Two are under construction, one has been approved by the Ontario Land Tribunal, two approved by the OLT subject to conditions, one subject to site plan approval and three under appeal by the City

Ward 2 Councillor Lisa Kearns took some of her constituents on a tour – her fifth tour so far this year, showing her the location of the ten projects that are in various stages of development.

In this picture Kearns is steps away from the Waterfront Hotel that is the object of a development application asking for Official Plan changes and zoning bylaw changes to build two structures that will top off at 40 stories.

Kearns said she could live with the 20 and a bit buildings the city planners are talking about.

The developer will undoubtedly take an appeal to the Ontario Land Tribunal where they are reported to be represented by Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP,, a highly regarded law firm that just might get something a bit better than a defeat.

With the sun shining and people getting out for some exercise the Alienated Grandparents Anonymous had a crowd on a walk through the downtown area protesting in front of the office of MPP Jane McKenna, Ontario’s associate minister of children and women’s issues,  during their march through the downtown on Saturday.

Parental alienation needs to go.  That’s the message marchers delivered on Saturday.   Photo by DENIS GIBBONS

Members of the Alienated Parents and Grandparents Peer Support Group, Our Alienated Grandchildren Matter, and Alienated Grandparents Anonymous stopped in front of the office of Burlington MPP Jane McKenna, Ontario’s associate minister of children and women’s issues,  during their march through the downtown on Saturday.

 

 

Return to the Front page

It's a matter of trust and competency - not much of it around this past couple of weeks

By Pepper Parr

April 26th 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

OPINION

Reports that are going to Council meeting as a Standing Committee are always published about 10 days before the meeting.

The report on the comments from a Closed Meeting Investigation were put on the city web site sometime after 7:00 pm on Friday.  Bad optics but optics are no longer a concern for this council or this administration.

The respected law firm, Aird and Berlis were brought in because someone filed a request with the city Clerk asking for an investigation – basically to determine if the city was following the rules about going into a Closes session.

The four dates that were investigated related to those occasions when the Integrity Commissioner was asked by Councillors Nisan and Galbraith to determine of Councillor has breached the Code of Conduct.

Few would argue that she did not – she certainly did and has accepted the consequences of her decision.

What the public wants to know is – did the city tell its citizens enough about why they went into CLosed and what they talked about during the meetings.

The Integrity commented that the could improve on what it tells the public.

The public will get an answer to that question; it may not be as fulsome as they expected and would like to see.

In their report Air & Berlus conclude that on each of the four occasions complaints were based on the city met the rules as set out in the Municipal Act – and they site chapter and verse to back up their conclusions.

It goes before Council on May 4th as a Receive and File Report .  All Aird and Berlis were asked to do is advise on whether or not they had the right to go into Closed.

Getting that answer, which we already know has cost the taxpayers $15,000.

Marianne Meed Ward in September of 2018 asking the public to trust her

During the discussion on the Integrity Commissions report Councillor Galbraith made this statement.  He said Staff can submit a report and ask that it be discussed in a Closed session of Council.  He added that it is Council that determines whether or not they actually go into Closed.  They have to vote on that – each time.

Burlington’s city council is beginning to look foolish, incompetent and lacking a clear sense of direction.

Mayor Meed Ward said in a lengthy Statement she released on her tweet account that trust in this council has to be maintained.  She could not have been more right.

In the 2014 election Marianne Meed Ward asked citizens not for their vote – but for their trust.  And they gave it to her and were impressed enough to make her Mayor.

She has lost that trust – the skills. the integrity and the spunk to win it back do not appear to exist.

Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette, an online newspaper that was formed in 2010 and is a member of the National Newsmedia Council.

 

 

Return to the Front page

When is enough enough - the ADI Group may have asked for too much

By Staff

April 21st, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Developer wants to work well into the night to construct a tower that no one wanted in the first place.

Residents in the immediate area of the ADI Group development – Nautique; a 26 storey development that was controversial when it was just an idea.

ADI is asking for a noise exemption to allow construction until 11PM – Monday to Friday from May-September.

Resident have said this is totally unacceptable. In this area there are three senior complexes. Martha’s Landing, Pearl & Pine and also Martha’s Terrace.

The City of Burlington was unable to stop the height and intensification of this development but surely the city can prevent this noise extension from taking place. Those of us living in this area have a right not to have to listen to constant construction noises until 11PM.

Return to the Front page

Rickli Sculpture Finally has a Home of its own at the AGB

By Pepper Parr

April 21st, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

A number of years ago insurance executive Dan Lawrie  donated a healthy sum to the Art Gallery of Burlington to commission a Walt Rickli sculpture that would sit in the Outdoor Garden that was eventually named after the Lawrie  Family.

I was personally impressed with the work – to me it was an incredible work of art. The AGB curator at the time saw it as very good craft work; he didn’t see the interpretation that Rickli felt the work expressed.

The sculpture, which was very heavy, was put in storage and remained there for a number of years.

I had occasion to be in the Art Gallery recently and asked whatever happened to the work – and was told that it is now in the Garden.

I skipped around to the Conservatory and there it was.

Photographed it so you can see what Rickli did – when you are in the Art Gallery next see for yourself and decide if this is art or craft.

It was certainly a large work and weighed a tonne. It was paid for by a respected citizen with the work done by a respected and award winning artist.

There is an obligation to at least support and recognize our own.

Return to the Front page

Kearns Puts a More Positive Spin on the Messy Integrity Meeting at Council on Tuesday

By Pepper Parr

April 21st, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Ward 2 Councillor Lisa Kearns held her sixth – it may been her seventh Ward meeting. This one was another hybrid.  She made comments about the Integrity Commission process that she took part in yesterday that are worth publishing.

Here is what she had to say.

“We also had a report in Council yesterday that we dealt with in regards to the Integrity Commissioner, and one of the Councillors, Councillor Stolte who had made a misstep and was cited for an infraction against the Code of Good Governance. There were two counts that they had identified had been breaches and she was penalized accordingly in the recommendation report from our third-party Integrity Commissioner.

Councillor Kearns has always supported positions taken by Councillor Stolte.

“There has been some media coverage. There is a lot of weight to what is ethical is not always legal, and what is legal is not always ethical. I want to acknowledge that the Councillor was working very hard in the pursuit of opening up greater transparency and communication to the community.

“Many of you are no stranger in knowing that there are matters that I would like to be brought a little bit more into the open. One thing that you will start seeing is a definite improvement in listing the locations on why we are going into closed – especially if it’s for litigation matters. There are some conversation out there around having an increased number of times of this Council going into closed versus the last Council so I do want to be really upfront with that.

“There is significant litigation, especially for matters in and around the downtown. Many of you will know that because we have posted all of the individual locations or files that have been submitted Ontario Land Tribunal as appeals against the new Official Plan in the downtown alone. I believe there are 26 of those, in addition to any other site specific concerns that we are working through the tribunal with, so that to me, does make up the bulk of those close sessions; whether they are proposals for settlement or updates on litigation strategy those are considered in closed under Section 239 of the Municipal Act.

“The other piece that is significantly discussed in closed session is matters surrounding Robert Bateman. It’s a very large acquisition where some proprietary pieces of information are discussed. My council colleagues know there are parts that I will be looking for their support and making more public. But we are not always alone in our decision making, our decisions do affect other parties.  I do continue to applaud Councillor Stolte’s pursuit of working to bring about more change.

“But at the same time, I always respect the process and process was duly carried out by our third party Integrity Commissioner and I do respect the findings of that report. Although it was a very uncomfortable situation to move through as a council. I am hopeful that we will come out on the other side as more knowledgeable and continue to shine for our city constituents in the very best light that we possibly can.”

Return to the Front page

The news game and how it sort of works in Burlington

By Pepper Parr

April 21st, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

Part 1 of a series

Media has always had a role to play in the way a public is informed.

Like any commercial sector, and media is a commercial sector, it has had it low points and its high points.

Media brought about the downfall of US President Richard Nixon when the Watergate story was told.

Media failed terribly, and to some degree is still failing, in the United States with the way it reported on and failed to report on Donald Trump.

Media has excelled with its reporting on the war in Ukraine and how different countries around the world have responded. That the South Africans have gone mute is more than disappointing.

The way in which media reported on the tragic death of Princess Diana and the response from the Royal Family changed the way the British public reacts to their monarchy – that institution is undergoing a tectonic level shift and may not exist at all a few decades from now.

The advent of the internet stripped away the revenue base of print media, many have just sold their presses and disappeared.

Online newspapers began to appear.

The Gazette came into being when a group was trying to establish a radio station for Burlington, not being fully aware of how complicated it is to get a license to broadcast over the public air waves.

I was asked to help with the writing of a business plan and convinced those involved that a radio license was not possible but there was an opportunity for an online newspaper.

At about that time, ten years ago, John Boich and Walter Mulkewich co-authored Shape Burlington which took serious exception at the way city hall handed out information and advocated for public support for a new newspaper.

Shape Burlington cracked the ice that was blocking so much information but it didn’t open the flood gates.

The Gazette grew organically – take that to mean slowly. We covered the building of the Pier and covered the attempt on the part of the owners of the Air Park who were secretly dumping tonnes of fill on land without the proper licenses with the intention of creating more runway.

It took several years of court cases, a libel suit against the Gazette and two citizens before the Air Park owners threw in the towel

Eventually the courts cases ended and the Air Park owners decided they had had enough and walked away from the libel suit as well.

The Gazette was the first online newspaper to be accepted as member of the Ontario Press Council – an organization that became the National Newsmedia Council

Media matters.

Fully understanding just what it is and how the different players are expected to play the game is a different story in Burlington.

The Gazette has worked with five different city managers. The relationship with three of the five worked well.

It was my practice to reach out to a new city manager, do an interview and help where I could as they settled into the city. Jeff Fielding was a dinner guest at my home; I took him to the top of Mt Nemo – he was amazed.

The other guy from the Region

James Ridge: Ten years in the Canadian Army in the Discipline side of the service where he attained the rank of Major were not the ideal background for a job that calls for collaboration and an ability to accept different points of view.

James Ridge was different. That first call to him in Vancouver went well enough; he talked about his dogs and the plans he had for he and his wife to drive across the country while their furniture followed in a moving van – for which the city paid. That is a common practice.

Before Ridge left Burlington he banned me from attending at City Hall on two occasions – one was a life time ban.

The reasons for the banning was set out in documents that I have yet to see. There is litigation. More on that at another time.

When Tim Commisso was hired, first as an interim City Manager and then hired as THE City Manager the relationship was iffy but reasonable.

Tim Commisso had years of experience on the administrative side of the city before he went to Thunder Bay – then returned to Burlington to become the city manager..

I have never met Tim Commisso.

Traditionally media and administration meet personally to exchange greetings, get the measure of each other and set out the rules each intends to follow.  Being the senior level Commisso was the one to do the inviting.

My approach has always been to make sure that those I deal with, elected or appointed, understand that I am not there to be there friend. I am there to hold them accountable and do what I can to ensure that everything is transparent.

Given the current mess where a member of Council is the subject of an Integrity Commissioner report that recommends she be docked five days’ pay I am not sure I can say that we are doing just fine with the matter of transparency and accountability.

One perseveres.

Return to the Front page

How did the Integrity Commissioner arrive at 5 days pay as a penalty for breaching the Code of Conduct

By Pepper Parr

April 21st, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The stories we published on the Integrity hearing shot readership through the roof. Not as high as the story on the closing of Emmas but very good nevertheless.

It isn’t possible to publish a single story that tells the whole tale – the meeting ran for 3.5 hours.

So we are going to excerpt sections from the transcript we have and run those over the next few days.

The penalty is what seems to interest most people. Why five days and how much money will Councillor Stolte lose.

On the money side her income from the city is what is at risk – the income from the Region couldn’t be touched.

The city portion of the total salary is about $60,000 – assume 260 work days a year – divide the 60,000 by 260 and you get what she has to give up. It won’t put Stolte in a lower tax bracket.

Earlier in the meeting Commissioner Abrams commented on the matter of contrition saying in conversation with Stolte he came away with the impression that she was contrite but when he reads the opinion piece Stolte gave the Spectator he felt that she was not truly contrite and seemed to hint that he would have recommended a 30 day penalty.

Ward 3 Councillor Rory Nisan, one of the two Council members who filed a complaint with the Integrity Commissioner

Councillor Nisan said: “…you mentioned since the report that you’ve not heard the contrition that you heard privately. Does that mean you have an updated recommendation for a penalty for us at this time or are you able to provide some colour as to what you would have recommended had you not received that contrition.”

Abrams: “Let me answer the question this way. It’s in Council’s hands to deal with our recommendation in any way of wishes. And it’s quite reasonably simple to ask if the circumstances warrant something other than what we recommended in the report and I spoke to that so it’s acceptable for Council to take into account the counselors opinion pieces as published in the Spec for example.

“And so in the context of this matter, a sanction anywhere in the range of five to 30 days could be reasonably supported by the contents of the report and the circumstances directly tied to the report after it was finished and provided to the council and to the respondent. So that the counsellor public comments are relevant. “… relevant to councils consideration of the recommendations that appear in our report, simply because contrition did that play a role in our assessment.”

Councillor Bentevegnia said he wanted to “follow up a little bit on that question that Councillor Nisan mentioned in the report he thought was very, very explicit and very detailed.

Angelo Bentivegnia serving as the Chair of a Council Workshop

“The recommendation that you have put forward or I’ll say your office has put forward the circumstances were anything from a reprimand up to as the 90 days you mentioned. I know you’ve given us the situation where we have to make a decision but how does commission decide what is appropriate I know you have that range, but why didn’t you say a reprimand or why didn’t you say 90 days?

Sorry if I’m getting too direct. I’m just curious.”

Jeffrey Abrams responded: “Well, that’s that’s quite a fair question. And in fact that recommending a sanction is more art than science. There’s an important issue, breach of closed session confidentiality is an exceedingly important issue.

A reprimand is not another thing. It’s a statement by counsel that a member of council has fallen short of their ethical responsibilities. We do from time to time, I recommend a reprimand and it’s a meaningful sanction. A monetary penalty is a more significant sanction. And therein lies the question of what is the appropriate sanction. In our view and looking at other Integrity Commissioner reports and considering what we have done elsewhere.

Jeffrey Abrams: a partner in the firm Principles Integrity who serve as the Integrity Commissions for the city of Burlington.

And given what’s happened recently, with respect to this report, it’s not extraneous to the reporters relates to this particular matter. We think that somewhere in the range of five to 30 days is appropriate.

Now, that puts you a bit on the spot and we recognize that it’s very difficult for councils to meet in a disciplinary mode. We recognize that we do have some thoughts on how to do it better, but that is what the legislation requires it at present.

And so as we have indicated this is more art than science and it is now in your hands.

Council voted to accept the recommendation – 5 days with no pay.

Return to the Front page

Council votes unanimously to penalize Councillor Stolte five days pay for breaching the Code of Conduct

By Pepper Parr

April 20th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

After three and a half hours of debate, Burlington city council voted last night to accept the recommendation set out in the Integrity Commissioners report that said ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte had breached the Council Code of Conduct on two occasions.

The penalty was to not pay Stolte for five work days.

Integrity Commissioner Jeffrey Abrams

Jeffrey xxx, the Commissioner who did all the talking related to the report, said  had he been aware that Stolte had written an Opinion piece in the Hamilton Spectator he would have recommended a 30 day without pay penalty.

Ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte

He said that in arriving at what the penalty should be he had taken into account that he felt Stolte was contrite. When he learned that Stolte had written the Opinion piece (the same opinion piece appeared in the Gazette five days earlier) he said he would have recommended a 30 day period of time without pay.

The decision by Council to accept the recommendation was unanimous.

In closing the meeting Mayor Marianne Meed Ward began the process of trying to heal the differences and urged her colleagues to look at how much they had achieved this term of office.

The meeting was a hybrid event that had Councillors Nisan and Galbraith taking part from their homes while the rest of Council was in chambers.  The complaint to the Integrity was filed by Nisan and Galbraith.

City Manager took part in the meeting and commented on several occasions.
The Gazette reported last night that Councillor Stolte had said she had begun to realize she “was not cut out for this kind of work” and said she would not be running for office in October.

Stolte set out the numerous occasions when she said she had tried to have her council members look for ways to ensure that the public had more information on just what takes place in a Closed sessions of Council.

Of the two breaches that the Integrity Commissioner identified the Bateman High school property purchase was the one that drew the most attention and concern.
Councillor Stolte told her colleagues that she was not going to apologize for what she had done.

A separate report from the Closed Session Investigator is due early in May. It will report on the review it has done of the Closed Session practices of the administration.

Councillor Galbraith made a strong point when he said Staff bring a recommendation to go into a Closed Session of Council but it is Council who make the decision to do so.

Return to the Front page

Stolte announces she will not run for the ward 4 Council seat in October

By Pepper Parr

April 19th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte announced she would not be running for the Council seat in October.

Ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte announced during the Integrity Commissioners report that she had come to the conclusion that she was not cut out for this kind of work and said that she would not be running for Council in October.

Council has yet to determine what the penalty would be for the two breaches of the Code of Good Governance.

Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman asks her to reconsider the decision.

 

 

Return to the Front page

Some spicy comments on the Integrity report and the role the Mayor played

By Staff

April 18th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Roland regrets:

“I posted a comment on Friday on my personal Facebook account about the current controversy between Burlington councillors.

“Nobody can claim that ‘private’ Facebook accounts are really private any more, and I can’t complain, given the circumstances in which I made the post, about anybody breaking the ‘confidentiality’ of a personal account.

“Within about two hours I thought better of the comment and deleted it. However, while it was online the comment was copied and sent to the Burlington Gazette, which posted it in an article today.

I’m not reposting the comment here, because it doesn’t need any further publicity, but it is linked to above.

“I have long been guilty of sudden rushes of blood to the head, and it frequently gets me in trouble. “Good Roland” tries to be fairly even-keeled and temperate. “Bad Roland” can’t keep his mouth shut.

“While I stand by the essence of the points made in the second paragraph (and made them in a more articulate way here), I have no evidence for the guess made in the first paragraph, and therefore should not have made it. I also crossed the line into an ‘ad hominem‘ attack in the words I chose to use on Facebook. I sincerely regret those words and apologise to the mayor and the two councillors concerned.

“We started the 905er Podcast because we wanted to contribute to a more balanced level of debate, based on a sound understanding of events and a willingness to see both sides of an argument. While we are not going to shy away from being critical when we believe it is warranted, it should always be within a context of fairness, balance and a basis on established facts. Even when critical, our writing and the comments we make on our podcast should never cross the line into personal attacks. I fell short of the standard we have set ourselves, and the standard expected of any responsible entity that claims to cover current affairs with journalistic standards.”

 

 

There are some very strong views being voiced by well-informed people on the release of the Integrity Commissioner’s report released last week.

Roland Tanner, who produces the 905er, a podcast aimed at the 905 market.

Set out below is what can only be called a rant.

Good on him. There are many others holding the same views

Return to the Front page

Buying or renting a house in Burlington - the numbers will not work for a lot of people.

By Pepper Parr

April 18th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

It is a sticky situation.

The cost of a house has sky rocketed.

The inventory of houses for sale is low.

Two groups are currently looking into the housing problem.

And a Housing Working group that was brought into being due to the persistent efforts of ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte.

And she is about to get a public spanking on Tuesday for telling the public about some of the things being said in Closed sessions of Council about property that is being redeveloped by public agencies to benefit the public.

Go figure.

Having said that, the city planners are doing some solid work; gathering the information on which to base the strategy that is needed to find a way to provide housing for the thousands of people who are going to move to Burlington in the next two decades.

Expect the work that City Council has approved on the housing file to become a major election issue. Will it get the Mayor re-elected? The people who will benefit have yet to move to the city.

There is the common ground established that housing is a basic human right, and there is a collective civic responsibility to ensure that the supply of housing available within a community can accommodate the varying needs of residents throughout their lifetime, including financial needs.

Working Group on Housing, made up of both volunteers and people steeped in the business of housing has met virtually for a number of months.

Burlington has initiated a project to develop an Innovative Housing Strategy that sets out policies, tools, identifies partnerships, and actions to address residents’ current and future housing needs. The consulting team of Dillon Consulting Limited (Dillon) and SHS Consulting (SHS) were retained by the City to carry out this work, in partnership with the City’s Housing Strategy Project team, Housing Strategy Working Group, and Housing Strategy Steering Committee.

Housing: what can Burlington do and how do they go about doing it.

While there has been a lot of effort and emphasis on improving housing opportunities in the City, this Housing Strategy project provides an opportunity for a focused approach. The principal objective is to develop an innovative Housing Strategy for the City of Burlington that sets out policies, tools, and actions to address residents’ housing needs, identifies opportunities for partnerships, and redefines Burlington’s role in meeting local housing needs, now and in the future.

What is the biggest issue?  Affordability or inventory?

There are many different ways of defining affordable housing. Definitions that exist in provincial laws, may differ from definitions used in federal housing programs. For many people, there is also a very personal definition of affordability based on their own income.

Affordable Housing

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) defines affordable housing as housing with a price for purchase or rent where households spend no more than 30 percent of their gross household income on housing.

In the case of ownership housing, the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) defines affordable housing as, the least expensive of:

  1. Housing for which the purchase price results in annual accommodation costs which do not exceed 30 percent of gross annual housing income for low and moderate income households; or
  2. Housing for which the purchase price is at least 10 percent below the average purchase price of a resale unit in the regional market area;

In the case of rental housing, the PPS defines affordable housing as, the least expensive of:

  1. A unit for which the rent does not exceed 30 percent of grow annual housing income for low and moderate income households; or
  2. A unit for which the rent is at or below the average market rent of a unit in the regional market area.

In Halton Region’s Official Plan, affordable housing is defined as:

“housing with a market price (or rent that is affordable to households of low and moderate income, spending no more than 30 percent of their gross income.

      1. a) Affordable rental housing should meet the demand of households at the low end, as described in Halton’s annual State of Housing Report, pursuant to Section 86(7). Such households would be able to afford at least three out of ten rental units on the market.
      2. b) Affordable ownership housing should meet the demand of households at the high end, as identified in Halton’s annual State of Housing Report. Such households would have sufficient income left, after housing expenses, to sustain the basic standard of living.”

Attainable Housing

While there is no universal definition of attainable housing, it is often used to refer to rental or ownership housing without any subsidies which is affordable to workforce households or households with moderate incomes. In the US, it is defined as non-subsidized, for-sale housing that is affordable to households with incomes between 80 and 120 percent of the area median income.

Using the Consumer Price Index (CPI), to bring the 2016 incomes to 2021 values, the estimated average household income in Burlington for 2021 is $159,083 and the estimated median household income is $124,154.

Based on research conducted as part of this report, findings indicate the following 2021 average ownership prices in Burlington:

This development at 2100 Brant sold out before the sales office was opened.

Single-detached: $1,398,357

Semi-detached: $901,963

Townhouse: $894,997

Condominium townhouse: $575,299

Condominium apartments: $575,299

This means that, within the context of Burlington, ownership options are only affordable to households earning $164,016 or more on an annual basis, unless they had a down payment greater than 5% or spent more than 30% of their income on housing costs.

With respect to rental tenure, the research conducted as part of this report indicates the following average monthly rents in the primary rental market in Burlington9:

    • Some of these units at the Burlington GO station will be rentals.

      Bachelor: $1,229

    • One bedroom: $1,577
    • Two bedroom: $1,641
    • Three+ bedroom: $1,658

This means that, within the context of Burlington, rental options within the primary rental market are only affordable to households earning $60,072 or more on an annual basis.  This is further complicated by the low vacancy rates for rental housing in the City, which has remained below 3% since 2010.

Within the Burlington Context, where the cost of all tenures of housing is high, there are very few “affordable” housing options for households within low and moderate income deciles when applying the Federal and Provincial government’s definition of “affordable”.

Given the City’s stated objective for the Housing Strategy to provide a toolkit with options to address housing needs across the entire housing continuum, the strategy will need to provide tools to address both housing “affordability” and “attainability” throughout Burlington to best position itself as an inclusive and complete community that provides housing options for all.

When “affordable housing” is used within the context of this report it is meant to encapsulate the definition of affordable as set out in the Halton Region Official Plan and does not mean government- assisted housing or subsidized housing.

These two developments; one at the Burlington GO station and the other in the east end are part of the inventory that will come on line at some point. The GO station development has most of the approvals it needs. What isn’t know – how much will the rents be?

Burlington’s role in housing.

Through the work completed to date, it was determined that the biggest impact the City of Burlington can make, as a lower-tier municipality, is to provide innovative solutions to address housing affordability and attainability for middle-income earners. Increasingly, middle-income households are struggling to find housing that is appropriate for their needs and income level in Burlington with the high cost of housing posing significant challenges for middle-income working households.

Providing support to these households insures that they can remain housed in Burlington.

It is in addressing the middle income needs where the City can make the biggest moves.

 

Return to the Front page

The Integrity Commissioner report that will be read out at the City Council meeting on Tuesday had its genesis way back in February.

By Pepper Parr

April 17th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

A reader corrected us on the matter of the Closed Meeting Investigator hired to review and report on the practices used in Burlington.

We watched the archived February 15th meeting of Council which you can look at yourself using the link below.

Mayor Meed Ward during the February 15 session of Council

What is especially interesting is the Mayor’s body language; the Stolte comment on how an

amendment had come forward and the explanation from the city manager on what was to happen.

The amendment that was put forward came from Councillor Nisan, there apparently wasn’t any notice given that there was going to be an amendment.  In commenting on his own amendment Nisan is clearly reading from prepared notes.

Aird & Berlis the law firm retained to serve as the Closed Meeting Investigator, is certainly a solid, if conservative group. They are not known for innovative solutions to issues – but they are sound. If there is even a hint that there are flaws in the practices in Burlington – it could be seen as time for the current City Solicitor to move on.

The Gazette has been criticized for the stand it takes on some senior members of the current administration.

Take the eight minutes and decide for yourself what is actually happening.

Put the lines below into your browser.

https://calendar.burlington.ca/?StartDate=02/15/2022&EndDate=02/15/2022&Calendar=City%20Meetings&Category=Council%20Meetings

That will get you to the calendar and the meeting of the 15th of February.

Scroll to the bottom of the calendar to  the line that reads:  Revised Agenda.

That will bring up the Agenda – scroll down to item 12g which is set out below.

Staff direction regarding closed meeting protocol (CSSRA-02-22) (SD-04-22)

Click on that and watch for the next 8 minutes.  You can quit when Councillors Kearns begins to ask about how the service provider (Aird & Berlis) was chosen.

Realize that at this point, February 15th, Nisan and Galbraith had already filed their complaint with the Integrity Commissioner – so the blood was in the water at this point.

The item on the agenda for Tuesday April 18th is set out below.  It will not be discussed in a Closed session.  Unfortunately, the time frames are such that there may not be any delegations.

If you are interested and have some comment that can add to what is taking place  – do delegate.

 

 

 

Return to the Front page

The crass, vile, political chicanery at city hall needs close public scrutiny in the way they handle a Code of Conduct matter

By Pepper Parr

April 16th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

While most of us enjoy the break from the day to day life we live, hoping that we are getting through the pandemic and that whatever the new normal is going to be that nice warm weather is included – there are civic issues that need close attention.

Earlier in the week the Integrity Commissioner released a report in which they stated that a city Councillor had breached the Council Code of Conduct and recommended that the Councillor be docked five days pay.

The report is lengthy. It sets out four items and decided that ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte had breached the Council Code of Conduct  on two of them.

Ward 1 Councillor Kelvin Galbraith

Ward 3 Councillor Rory Nisan

The Integrity Commissioner was responding to complaints filed by two other members of city council: Rory Nisan and Kelvin Galbraith.

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward is not a party to the complaint but is believed to have been very active in getting the complaint to the Integrity Commissioner.

Councillor Stolte does not deny doing what she is accused of doing. She published a statement the day the contents of the Integrity report were released saying that if her being docked five days’ pay was the price it took to get the issue of Closed sessions of Council on the table and part of a robust public discussion then so be it.

A robust public discussion is exactly what the city needs – there is no certainty that any such thing will take place.

The Mayor said on Thursday that she had yet to read the report and would do so on the weekend; Councillor Sharman said he too had yet to read the document.

Take those two statements with more than a grain of salt.

Councillors Nisan and Galbraith have not made themselves available for comment.

Councillors Kearns and Bentivegna have not made any comment.

Those close to what happens at city hall have known for some time how fractured this council has become. When Meed Ward was elected in 2018 the population was for the most part filled with hope that development would be reined in and towering residential buildings would be located away from the downtown core.

The Nautique condo development found a way to get around a transportation issue – shortly after shovels were in the ground and the crane was in place purchase agreements were pulled and higher prices put in place. It was the kind of development people feared would take place.

The developers wanted to build and sell condominiums close to the lake.

Five of the seven member council were new to municipal politics and have struggled to deal with the very significant issues.

Burlington is being forced by the provincial government to grow its population at a startling rate. The Burlington that many love as it is are having a difficult time accepting the construction of towers that rise 26 storeys across the street from a six storey city hall.

Some 40 development applications are before the Ontario Land Tribunal, a jurisdictional body where Burlington has not done very well.
The number of Closed sessions city council has held is the nub of the issue. Stolte is not the only member of Council who wants to see fewer

Closed sessions and only when they are absolutely necessary.
Burlington is the subject of an investigation by the provincial Investigator of Closed Meetings. There is no date for a report on that investigation.

In 2017 the Halton district School Board decided to close two of the city’s seven high schools. It was a divisive process. In the fullness of time the HDSB decided to declare the former Robert Bateman High school surplus – which meant it was able to sell the property.

Conceptually it is a great idea – winners everywhere – until Council decided to seal their lips and keep the public out of the picture.

There is a very tightly defined process for selling surplus school property. The city of Burlington turned out to be the only bidder for the property.

At the time Brock University was looking for a new home for its Faculty of Education. Suddenly there was a real synergy in play.

When matters of property are before city council they are usually discussed in a Closed session. A developer making an application to construct a large residential tower or a property that is going to have a hundred or some homes always involve zoning and Official Plan amendments. The city administration wants hold these discussions in private, as well they should. Thus the rationale for going into a Closed session.

The difference with the Bateman property is that all the players were public – none of them were asking for or seeking a zoning change or an amendment to the Official Plan for an organizational profit.

The interests of three public organizations (a school board, a university and a municipality) that serve the interest of the public (You and I) were being worked through.

To add to the discussions there was a very real concern about the amount of asbestos in the former Bateman high school, what the cost of its removal and who was going to pick up that cost.

The site is big, the Mayor wants it to be a public place, the school board wants to get rid of the property but rent back some of the space. Brock University wants to make the place home for the Faculty of Education. Councillor Stolte wants the public to know what all this is going to cost. .

Councillor Stolte felt that because these issues were important to the public at large the need for Closed Sessions was lessened and took the positioned that the greater good was more important. She never made any secret of her position.

The city’s legal department didn’t see it that way nor did the Mayor. Both wanted much more control over the issue

And so here we are in the midst of crass, vile, political chicanery.

It is time for the public to weigh in and let their member of Council know what they think and feel.

This is not something that should be allowed to slip by without a close public review.

Related news stories:

Integrity Commissioner’s report in full

Councillor Stolte Statement

The Closed Session issue has been around for a while

Return to the Front page

There are a lot of questions to be asked: are there going to be any answers from either Council or the Administration?

By Pepper Parr

April 14th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

OPINION

A matter of major significance is now going to be discussed in public at city council on Tuesday the 19th.

Getting it on the table has not been easy – there were far too many people at both the Council level and the administration level who wanted the Integrity Commissioner’s report discussed in a Closed Session of Council.

Ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte

Councillor Stolte, the subject of the Integrity report, has to be recognized for taking the high road and setting out her position and the why of what she did. There are numerous concerns.

How will Council handle the report? The Integrity Commissioner will present the document and be on hand to answer questions.

Will the Councillors ask any questions?

And there are a lot of questions to be asked.

Ward 3 Councillor Rory Nisan above and ward 1 Councillor Kelven Galbraith

Of the two council members who filed the report: who approached who? Did Nisan call Galbraith or was it vice versa? Realize that Councillor Nisan doesn’t want to leave his home – Covid19 fears.

Councillors are seldom at their office in city hall this past year – so there is no opportunity for the kind of casual conversation and the open exchange of views and collaboration that Stolte sees as vital.

There is concern over an email that Stolte sent to a constituent – how did Nisan and Galbraith get their hands on that email?

Who influenced who at City Hall? What role did the City Manager play?

What role did the City Clerk play? What was the level of collusion between the Mayor and the City manager ?

Will there be public delegations?

Who is going to ask the hard questions?

There is an investigation underway by the Investigator of Closed meetings about the practices used in Burlington.

Does that report not have a bearing on what has taken place?

The meeting on the 19th is scheduled as a virtual meeting – which is unfortunate.

The calendar doesn’t’ work and permit genuine public participation. City Hall is closed Friday and Monday. The public saw the report for the first time at 6:00 am this morning.

It will take time to digest and understand what the issue is – and there is an issue.

People don’t gather as much as they used to – the current Covid19 wave is impacting a lot of people. Councillor Sharman is reported to have become infected.

The concern that many have is that the Integrity report will be read into the record and no one will ask any questions – hoping that is Council and the administration go mute and that this will then all just go away.

Democracy doesn’t work that way.

Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette, an online newspaper that was formed in 2010 and is a member of the National Newsmedia Council.

Return to the Front page

The Cost of Accountability is Five Days’ Pay

By Shawna Stolte

April 14th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

On April 19, 2022 my colleagues on Burlington City Council will vote on recommendations of a Report by the Integrity Commissioner on my behaviour. It is their right to do so, and it is my right to provide my perspective on the public record.

I encourage Council to give serious consideration to the recommendations in this upcoming report, but I am disappointed by the choice made by Councillors Nisan and Galbraith to formally call my integrity into question instead of working collaboratively to resolve the issue.

A fractured divided Council that has let everyone down.

The word “integrity” is defined as “the practice of being honest and showing a consistent and uncompromising adherence to strong moral and ethical principles and values.”

I have tried to uphold the principle of integrity over the course of my first term of Council in every decision I have made, as well as a consistent and uncompromising adherence to the values of transparency and accountability as vital components of the democratic process.

I believe Burlington’s Council was elected in 2018 with a mandate for change and a promise of increased openness, honesty and transparency. Yet, the number of agenda items being moved into Closed/Confidential Council discussion and without providing meaningful information to the public about the general nature of the matter being considered, has increased during this term of Council.

Every one of my Council colleagues are aware of how concerned I have been over the last 18 months regarding the procedures by which Council matters are dealt with in Open vs Closed Session Meetings.

I have exerted considerable efforts over the past year, without success, working with my Council colleagues, our legal department and the City Clerk seeking support to establish and implement a Closed Meeting Protocol for Council. We need policies and updated procedures that adhere to the best practices set out by the Ombudsman of Ontario and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, and which remove any perception that Closed Meetings are used to hide information from the public.

It has been clearly defined in the Municipal Act, the Ombudsman of Ontario and leading case law that “simply put, it is insufficient to simply parrot the test of the statutory exception (e.g. ‘Confidential Update on a Legal Matter’) by simply re-stating it without adding additional context…as this fails to provide meaningful information to the public about the general nature of the matter being considered in closed session”.
Absent very clear protocols, I must find the right balance myself and I chose to share as much information as possible on issues where I strongly believed that important information was being inappropriately withheld from the public.

I was not secretive about the sharing of this information, but open and transparent regarding the reasons, that serve the public good, for sharing information. This fact is documented on the public record.

In response to my actions, Councillors Nisan and Galbraith expressed that they were satisfied with the status quo and saw no need for a Closed Meeting Protocol. Furthermore, they made clear their irritation at my approach to continually bringing this concern forward for resolution.

Instead of choosing to work with me and collaborate on resolving this critical issue Councillors Nisan and Galbraith chose instead to issue four complaints against me with the Integrity Commissioner in January of 2022. Ironically, the complaint itself was made secret, and I was forbidden from informing the public.

The Final Recommendation Report from the Integrity Commissioner was released on April 8, 2022 and will be part of the public agenda at Council on April 19, 2022.

I acknowledge that while attempting to highlight and force discussion on this important issue, the Integrity Commissioner has determined that I potentially crossed the line on two technicalities resulting in a recommendation to suspend five days of my pay.

Personally, the key points in this report state that “it is the obligation of the municipality to ensure that Council’s resolutions maximize transparency so far as possible” and that “Councillor Stolte’s position regarding the adequacy of the resolution for closed session meetings has some validity and the City should consider modifying its closed session resolutions to both quantify and disclose items that are to be given closed session treatment”.

Ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte

I applaud the vast majority of this report as it supports what I have been fighting for on behalf of our constituents. I am delighted that the Commissioners Report has vindicated my actions regarding the concerns I’ve expressed about our closed meeting protocols and practices and I urge my colleagues to adopt the recommended changes as to how Council conducts its business.

Ultimately, if five days salary is the price of finally having a mature conversation that results in Burlington Council adopting an effective Closed Meeting Protocol, then it is one I am happily willing to pay.

.

Return to the Front page

Integrity Commissioner determines that Councillor Stolte breached the Council Code of Conduct

By Staff

April 14th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Principles Integrity issued the following report.

A copy was given to Councillor Shawna Stolte. Stolte made this material available to the Gazette

Introductory Comments

[1] Principles Integrity was appointed the Integrity Commissioner for the City of Burlington in June of 2018. We also serve as Integrity Commissioner, and in some cases Closed Meeting Investigator, Lobbyist Registrar, and Municipal Ombudsman for over 40 Ontario municipalities as well as school boards and a police services board.

[2] Integrity Commissioners carry out a range of functions for municipalities (and their local boards). They can provide guidance in ensuring a robust ethical framework, suggesting content and commentary for codes of conduct and assisting in the development of other policies. They are available to conduct education and training for members of council and local boards, and perhaps most importantly, when a Member requests advice on their ethical responsibilities, the Integrity Commissioner’s response guides the Member and protects them against future complaints. Integrity Commissioners are also available to administrative leadership to guide policies and procedures which support good governance.

[3] Good governance, including proper closed session procedures, supports meaningful ethical compliance.

[4] Though it is not an Integrity Commissioner’s primary function, they also review allegations that a Member has fallen short of compliance with the municipality’s ethical framework and where appropriate they submit public reports on their findings, and make recommendations, including recommending sanctions, that council for the municipality may consider imposing in giving consideration to that report.

[5] When we deliver reports following an investigation our approach wherever possible is to provide tangible guidance for course correction, where appropriate, and improvement going forward.

The Complaint
[6] On January 30, 2022 we received a complaint filed by Councillors Galbraith and Nisan alleging that Councillor Stolte had, on several occasions, breached the confidentiality obligations under the City’s Code of Good Governance.

[7] In particular, it was alleged that:

• On December 6, 2021, at the Corporate Services, Strategy, Risk and Accountability Committee (CSSRA), the Councillor publicly stated “the reality is that the final cost will be well above $50M …”, referencing an actual dollar figure for the purchase and redevelopment of Robert Bateman High School, whereas all discussion of costs were confidential;

• At a Committee meeting on November 15, 2021, the Councillor made detailed reference to confidential information regarding parking and community amenity space, whereas all detailed discussions on those matters had been confidential;

• The Councillor must have disclosed the presence of asbestos in the school, a fact which had only been discussed in closed session, as evidenced by comments made on social media by a family relation who could only have learned of it from the Councillor, as all discussion of the presence of asbestos in the building had been confidential;

• The Councillor advised a constituent that a particular committee of adjustment decision was to be considered by a Committee on January 10, 2022 on the Confidential/Closed Agenda; the Item listed on the public Agenda was identified only as “Confidential Update on a Litigation Matter”.

Three of the four matters in one way or another related to a major initiative of the City of Burlington related to the Robert Bateman High School surplus school site.

Process Followed for the Investigation

[8] In conducting this investigation, Principles Integrity applied the principles of procedural fairness. This fair and balanced process includes the following elements:
• Reviewing the Complaint to determine whether it is within scope and jurisdiction and in the public interest to pursue, including giving consideration to whether the Complaint should be restated or narrowed, where this better reflects the public interest
• Notifying the Councillor of the Complaint and seeking her response
• Reviewing archived recordings of relevant meetings, agendas and minutes, reports, and other relevant documents

• Interviewing relevant witnesses including the complainants and the Respondent
• Providing the Councillor with an opportunity to review and provide comments regarding the draft findings of the Integrity Commissioner
• Making our findings and determinations by employing the ‘balance of probabilities standard’ (whether an event more likely occurred than not).

Background and Context

[9] Councillor Stolte has been a Member of Council since first elected in October 2018.

[10] She was one of five (5) first-time Members elected to Burlington Council in 2018.

[11] The City of Burlington has as part of its ethical framework a Code of Good Governance which is the policy touchstone underlying the assessments conducted in this report. The Code of Good Governance serves as the municipality’s code of conduct.

[12] The provision of the Code which is most relevant to the conduct alleged in the complaint is found in paragraph 14, which provides as follows:

14. We will hold in strict confidence all information concerning matters dealt with in Closed Council meetings, matters subject to solicitor client privilege, personal information, or information that is otherwise determined to be confidential.

[13] Highly relevant to our review are the provisions set out in section 239 of the Municipal Act, which requires that Council’s meetings be held in public, except in certain restricted circumstances.

Meetings open to public

239 (1) Except as provided in this section, all meetings shall be open to the public. 2001, c. 25, s. 239 (1).

Exceptions

(2) A meeting or part of a meeting may be closed to the public if the subject matter being considered is,

(a) the security of the property of the municipality or local board;

(b) personal matters about an identifiable individual, including municipal or local board employees;
(c) a proposed or pending acquisition or disposition of land by the municipality or local board;
(d) labour relations or employee negotiations;
(e) litigation or potential litigation, including matters before administrative tribunals, affecting the municipality or local board;
(f) advice that is subject to solicitor-client privilege, including communications necessary for that purpose;
(g) a matter in respect of which a council, board, committee or other body may hold a closed meeting under another Act;
(h) information explicitly supplied in confidence to the municipality or local board by Canada, a province or territory or a Crown agency of any of them;
(i) a trade secret or scientific, technical, commercial, financial or labour relations information, supplied in confidence to the municipality or local board, which, if disclosed, could reasonably be expected to prejudice significantly the competitive position or interfere significantly with the contractual or other negotiations of a person, group of persons, or organization;
(j) a trade secret or scientific, technical, commercial or financial information that belongs to the municipality or local board and has monetary value or potential monetary value; or
(k) a position, plan, procedure, criteria or instruction to be applied to any negotiations carried on or to be carried on by or on behalf of the municipality or local board. 2001, c. 25, s. 239 (2); 2017, c. 10, Sched. 1, s. 26.

[14] In order to meet in the absence of the public, section 239 of the Municipal Act requires as follows:

Resolution

(4) Before holding a meeting or part of a meeting that is to be closed to the public, a municipality or local board or committee or either of them shall state by resolution,

(a) the fact of the holding of the closed meeting and the general nature of the matter to be considered at the closed meeting;

[15] Councillor Stolte believes that the municipality’s practices in applying these provisions inappropriately constrain her ability to engage the public in some matters being considered by Council. She wants to see a less frequent utilization of closed session, particularly for matters she believes ought to be publicly deliberated.

[16] She perceives that, on occasion, closed session meetings are used to inappropriately obscure or block public knowledge and awareness of matters being considered.

[17] The Councillor asserts that she has attempted unsuccessfully to move the administration and her Council colleagues towards what she believes is a better standard for greater transparency.

[18] She challenged what she perceived as a paucity of information provided on the City’s Agendas regarding confidential/closed meetings, as lacking in appropriate transparency and falling short of established standards.

[19] Encountering resistance to more explicit identification of closed session items, she has taken it upon herself to review and compare the public meeting agendas of other Ontario municipalities.

[20] In attempting to apply due diligence, she also undertook her own a review of the Open Meeting Guidelines published by the Ontario Ombudsman in regard to issues of concern to her.

[21] Her survey of municipal practices and her understanding of the Ombudsman’s conclusions on best practices only served to reinforce her concern that the City’s practices were falling short.

[22] The Councillor advised during this investigation that she felt her push towards increased transparency was met with resistance by the administration and her colleagues on Council, which she found to be frustrating.

[23] She has conceded, during the course of this investigation, that in attempting to highlight the issue, and in an effort to force a discussion on the issue, she may have run afoul of the ‘confidentiality’ provisions of the Code.

[24] We note that, during the course of our investigation, Council has requested that their appointed Closed Meeting Investigator provide a report reviewing Council’s current practices regarding confidential/closed session meetings. It is not known at this time when, or if, such a review report is expected to be provided to Council and so we have provided our observations on the matter in this Report.

[25] For the reasons below, we find that for two of the four complaints the Councillor has contravened the Code provision regarding confidentiality. Whether or not justification exists for greater transparency, it is not the case that one member of Council can determine that information should be publicly disclosed before Council as a whole has taken a stance on the issue. Maintaining confidentiality around confidential information and closed session deliberations is a cardinal rule for members of council.

Closed Session Resolutions

[26] Governance of municipal councils and the conduct of council business is largely regulated and prescribed by legislation and by-law. Members of Council rely to a significant degree on the expertise and guidance of professional administrative staff.

[27] Council is obligated – subject to specific exceptions – to conduct its meetings in public. The rule, referred to as the ‘Open Meeting’ rule, has been set out above. The Open Meeting rule ensures transparency and allows the public the opportunity to monitor, influence and participate in decisions of its duly elected municipal council.

[28] In order to provide the public with notice of matters to be discussed in closed session, Council is required to provide, in public, sufficient information about the reason a matter will be dealt with in closed session. Subsection 239(4) expressly requires that the general nature of the matter to be in closed session form part of a closed session resolution which is adopted prior to Council meeting in the absence of the public.

[29] Even where a matter arises in the course of a public meeting which Council determines ought to be discussed confidentially, and which may properly be discussed in a closed session under the exceptions noted in section 239 (say to obtain legal advice), it is incumbent on Council to provide as much information regarding the nature of the matter to be dealt with in closed session by adopting the required resolution in public.

[30] In all cases – whether noted in advance on the public agenda or, where that is not possible, spontaneously resolving to move into closed during a public meeting – it is incumbent on a municipality to provide as much information regarding the nature of the matter to be dealt with in closed session.

[31] The context for this investigation into Councillor Stolte’s conduct arises in part around differing views on what constitutes sufficient information in the public agenda to meet the requirements of subsection 239(4).

[32] The leading practice which has evolved from caselaw and through guidance from the Ontario Ombudsman and adopted by municipal clerks and closed meeting investigators across the province is for municipalities to provide as much information as can be revealed about the matter or report, without undermining the very reason for dealing with the matter behind closed doors.

Analysis of Complaints:
Publicly stating dollar figure of Bateman High School Redevelopment Project

[33] The first portion of the complaint pertains to whether ‘information concerning matters dealt with in closed council meetings, matters subject to solicitor client privilege, personal information, or information that is otherwise determined to be confidential’, were held in strict confidence (see Rule No. 14 of the Code).

[34] At its meeting of December 6, 2021, the City’s Corporate Services, Strategy, Risk and Accountability Committee had on its agenda a confidential item described as follows:

5.4 Confidential real estate matter – Robert Bateman High School (L-32-21) beneath which appeared the following:
Note: This item will be discussed at 1 p.m. and will be the subject of a Special Council meeting immediately following the Corporate Services, Strategy, Risk and Accountability meeting.

Pursuant to Section 239(2)(c) of the Municipal Act, a proposed or pending acquisition or disposition of land by the municipality or local board.

[35] Following the in-camera session a public motion was presented on the item:

Submit a formal offer to purchase the Robert Bateman High School Site as outlined in confidential Legal Department Report L-32-21

The motion was duly moved.

[36] In comments to the motion Councillor Stolte said as follows:

Certainly in keeping in very good consideration that there was a long discussion held in confidential session, I would just like to comment that the only way that I can in good conscience justify this very large price tag to purchase Robert Bateman High School is to commit to developing the property in the manner in which the community expects us to as a fully developed community centre for the residents of the city.

To purchase Bateman and not develop it as a community centre just does not make sense to me. The reality is that the final cost will be well above 50 million dollars to see that vision realized. A lot of information has not been shared with the community, including how this purchase may impact the acquisition of other lands. I believe that information is critical to be able to have in open conversations as much as possible so that each and every one of us is genuinely able represent the interests of our constituents.

The only way that I can support this motion in regards to exploring conditions of an offer is after having great assurances that there will be much more information coming forward before a final decision will be made in March of 2022.

[37] Immediately upon Councillor Stolte concluding her remarks the Clerk reminded councillors to keep their comments ‘global.’

[38] The Mayor, in her remarks on the motion, began by saying that she would keep comments to what was in the public record.

[39] The Councillor readily admitted to publicly stating that the “final cost [for the Bateman project] will be well above $50 million dollars…”

[40] She states that the dollar figure of 50 million does not reflect any dollar amount ever discussed in closed session with respect to the purchase negotiations.

[41] Nevertheless, it is recognized that reference to a specific dollar amount, where all negotiations and related costs have only ever been discussed in closed session, would reasonably be understood by the public to reflect the actual costs discussed. This has the affect of leaving the public with an erroneous or mistaken impression that other members of Council would feel must be corrected.

[42] Those other members are however prevented from contradicting or correcting her statements without themselves breaching the confidentiality provisions of the Code. The misstating of information, purportedly discussed in closed session, therefore can be as inappropriate as stating actual factual information.

[43] We find that the Councillor’s statement, although not actually disclosing real dollar amounts discussed in closed session, is fairly perceived as revealing confidential information, risks misleading the public, and compromises the ability of any other member of Council to contradict or correct the information.

[44] The fact that the information does not reflect the specific actual dollar figure is not an answer which justifies the apparent breach. If such were the case, confidentiality of closed discussion could be breached with impunity simply by mis- stating facts and information subject to closed session deliberations.

[45] Accordingly we find that the Councillor’s reference to an actual dollar figure, where by implication the only source of that information is closed session, constitutes a contravention of the confidentiality provisions of the Code.

Referenced Community Amenity/Green Space Strategy from Closed Presentation

[46] The matter of the acquisition of the Robert Bateman School Site had been before the Environment, Infrastructure & Community Services Committee on November 15, 2021 and a public presentation was provided.

[47] During the meeting, the Councillor stated publicly:

In order for it to also be a wonderful opportunity in the broader sense to the community is that we would need to develop the community space. And I think that that is the only way we could go forward with this if we were committing to develop that space for the residents as well.

In order to do that this would be a very exciting yet very costly opportunity. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t do it but I don’t believe that we are being as open and transparent in giving as much detail as we should to the community when we talk about this.

I think that we do have information that would be helpful to make a broader decision. Decisions that could impact the green space, decisions that could impact other strategic acquisitions that we might want to look at down the road.

So I just think it’s a very big decision and we’re unfortunately under the gun to make a decision without having all the information that we need and that makes me really uncomfortable. It’s now how I would like to make this decision.

So as I stated last week I’m really on the fence on this one. While I love the idea of the project I feel very uncomfortable with the lack of information that we’re sharing.

[48] The public presentation provided background and context for the project, and did not focus on confidential matters relating to the real estate negotiations. Indeed, the Committee was advised by the City Manager of the need to recognize that some aspects of the project were confidential and could not be discussed in public.

[49] Given that the presentation was made in public and addressed at least in some measure the issue of park space/green space associated with the project, Councillor Stolte’s remarks did not give rise to a breach of Rule 14, even if that topic had at some previous point been the subject of closed session deliberations.

Disclosed Asbestos contamination as referenced by a family relation on social media

[50] The Councillor has denied being a source of information for a posting on social media by a family member which spoke to the presence of asbestos at the Bateman High School.

[51] She has advised that an eight-year old decommissioning report which is publicly available discloses the extensive degree of asbestos contamination at the school.

[52] It is apparent that any Burlington resident closely following developments surrounding the Bateman High School would likely be aware of asbestos issues at the property, and there is no reason to believe the Councillor was the source of that information.

[53] We find that the Councillor was not the source of the information referenced on social media about the asbestos contamination at the Bateman High School.

Disclosed to constituent that ‘Litigation Update’ Item pertained to deliberations about Appeal of Committee of Adjustment Decision regarding 3088 Balmoral Avenue

[54] The final allegation in the complaint is that Councillor Stolte advised a constituent that a particular committee of adjustment decision was to be considered by a Committee on January 10, 2022 on the Confidential/Closed Agenda; the Item listed on the public Agenda was identified only as “Confidential Update on a Litigation Matter”:

Just wanted to bring you up to speed on a new issue with [Address].

I am back in the office today to read my Agenda’s for next week’s Committee meetings to see that the status of the City’s Appeal of the Committee of Adjustment Decision has been included in our Confidential/Closed Agenda for Monday’s meeting.

I have reached out to our legal department as well as the City Clerk to dispute that this has thus far been a very open and public process and discussion and should not be dealt with in Closed session at this point. I am awaiting clarity but will continue to advocate that this item be moved to the Public agenda.

I know it is short notice but wanted to let you know in the hope that you might consider offering a short delegation before Committee on Monday January 10 to support the City’s position appealing the CoA decision. If delegating the morning of is not an option to you then a brief written delegation for Council’s consideration would help as well.

[55] The Councillor readily acknowledged that she emailed the constituent as alleged.

[56] She justifies her action by advising that:

• The matter at [Address] had been publicly discussed and part of the public process for (at the time) the past 9 months with the community being very actively engaged
• Her email, which was copied to all of Council, merely notified the constituent of the subject-matter so that the constituent could delegate the Committee on the matter
• She did not share any confidential information, the legal advice or staff recommendations and options, nor the outcome of discussions
• She believed she was merely implementing the intention of the Open Meeting rules which require that Council pass a resolution in public that includes meaningful information about the issue to be considered, and not merely rely on citing the exception.
• She has understood the advice of the Director of Legal Services to be that the simple identification of a municipal address of a property to be discussed in closed session is not a breach of confidentiality, but rather the best practice is to give as much information as possible before going into closed session.

[57] While we are sympathetic to the Councillor’s perspective, the unilateral decision to disclose the municipal address of the property under consideration at closed session was, on its face, a contravention of the confidentiality provisions of the Code.

We find that the Councillor, in emailing the constituent about matter, contravened the confidentiality provisions of the Code.

Observations:
[58] While there is no justification for a member of Council breaching the confidentiality of closed session by selectively revealing information which they believe is properly in the public realm or in the public interest to share, and while maintaining confidentiality must be recognized as a cardinal rule by members of Council, some of the concerns that the Councillor expressed in the course of this investigation bear closer scrutiny.

[59] The resolution required by section 239 of the Municipal Act to give public notice of the items to be considered in closed session is required to provide as much information as possible about the general nature of the matter, without undermining the reasons for going into closed.

[60] Simply put, it is insufficient to simply parrot the test of the statutory exception (e.g. ‘acquisition or disposition of land) by re-stating it without adding additional context.

[61] Where a municipal address or parties in a litigation can be publicly identified, that is a more appropriate description of the general nature of an item than simply stating ‘acquisition or disposition of land’ or ‘litigation matter’, which provide no information to the public about the matter to be considered.

[62] We note that on the CSSRA meeting agenda for January 10, 2022 there were 4 items identified identically as ‘Confidential Update on a Litigation Matter’, a generic label which failed to provide meaningful information to the public about the general nature of the matter being considered in closed session.

[63] The leading case on this issue is Farber v. City of Kingston1, in which a closed meeting was convened to discuss renaming a square to acknowledge a generous donation from a local family.

[64] The matter was identified only as ‘legal advice’ which, although properly a basis to convene in closed, failed to provide any meaningful information to the public about the matter being considered.

[65] In finding the information on the public agenda to be deficient, the Court of Appeal stated:

[18] … the appellant argues that the resolutions stating that Council will go into closed session to consider “legal matters” were insufficient to comply with s. 239(4). She argues that such a resolution falls short of stating “the general nature of the matter to be considered at the closed meeting.”

1 Farber v. Kingston (City) (2007) 31 M.P.L.R. (4th) 31, at paras. 18-21 (Ont. C.A.); [“Farber”].

[19] I agree. In the circumstances of this case, I do not think that the description “legal matters” is sufficient. In my view, the clear legislative purpose informing s. 239 is to maximize the transparency of municipal governance so far as that as possible in the circumstances. …
[20] …The notion of “the general nature of the matter to be considered” suggests more fidelity to transparent governance than that, while recognizing that a full description of the matter to be considered cannot be revealed to the public because of the very need to go into closed session.

[21] … the resolution to go into closed session should provide a general description of the issue to be discussed in a way that maximizes the information available to the public while not undermining the reason for excluding the public. Where the exception to the presumptive openness of Council meetings is that of privileged solicitor-client advice, there may be circumstances where the need for confidentiality encompasses even the information that such advice has been obtained on a specific issue. However, in this case no such suggestion is made. The broad issue to be discussed in closed session on April 5 and May 17 was privileged legal advice concerning the renaming of the Square. This triggered the exception in s. 239(2)(f). In the circumstances of this case, nothing has been put forward to suggest that the use of a general description such as this would impair any interest that the exception is designed to protect. At the very least, “legal matters” is inadequate to state the general nature of the matter to be considered at the closed meetings.

[66] The Ontario Ombudsman (and many municipal clerks) have endorsed this line of decision, primarily through a myriad of investigation reports and publication of Open Meeting Guidelines for municipal meetings which municipal administrative staff are encouraged to apply.

[67] While it is not possible to construct a hard and fast rule around precisely what must be disclosed in the public agenda, it is generally not sufficient to recite the exception or reference ‘litigation’ or ‘legal advice’ in a generic way, as this fails to meet the minimum requirement to provide the general nature of the matter to be considered.

[68] As articulated in a recent report from AMO’s Closed Meeting Investigator2:

There are certainly some instances where the very nature or particular sensitivity of a matter under consideration would allow for a less detailed description in a resolution. Additionally, there may be circumstances where the need for confidentiality encompasses even the fact that a matter is being discussed by Council where disclosure would impair any interest that the exception is designed to protect.

2 Closed Meeting Investigation Report, Aird & Berlis, May 11, 2021, City of Stratford

However, this does not give the City blanket permission to shield its closed meeting discussions behind generic resolutions. The City must engage in the delicate exercise of balancing openness and transparency, on the one hand, with protecting the City’s interests in the closed session item, on the other.
Generic resolutions as a default are simply not sufficient.

If the City is engaged in the re-negotiation of a collective agreement with municipal employees, Council might choose to rely on the exception for “labour relations or employee negotiations.” The identity of the bargaining unit and the very fact of collective bargaining taking place will be plain and obvious; the City’s willingness to make concessions on wages or hours of work, for example, might not be. In such a circumstance, there would be no prejudice to the City’s interest in protecting it’s bargaining position if its resolution to move into closed session stated such information. Simply reciting the exception for “labour relations” would not maximize transparency.

Report’s Recommendation included the following:

The City should consider the objectives of open and transparent local government when drafting such resolutions and seek to provide as much information as possible without negating or severely derogating from the very reason the matter is being considered in closed session.

[69] It is the obligation of the municipality to ensure that Council’s resolutions maximize transparency so far as possible.

[70] Councillor Stolte’s position regarding the adequacy of the resolution for closed session meetings has some validity and the City should consider modifying its closed session resolutions to both qualify and disclose the items that are to be given closed session treatment.

[71] With that said, she bears responsibility for the two breaches of Rule No. 14 which did occur.

Recommendations and Concluding Remarks:

[72] Maintaining confidentiality around closed session documents and information is a cardinal rule for all members of Council, and is one that is regularly referenced during orientation and training of newly-elected councillors, and reiterated repeatedly during the term.

[73] Indeed, the Province of Ontario requires only four mandatory provisions in a municipal Code of Conduct pursuant to Ontario Regulation 55/18, “Codes of Conduct – Prescribed Subject Matters”, with confidential information being one of them:

“1. For the purposes of section 223.2 of the Act, the following are the prescribed subject matters that a municipality is required to include in the codes of conduct for members of the council of the municipality and of its local boards:

1. Gifts, benefits and hospitality.
2. Respectful conduct, including conduct toward officers and employees of the municipality or the local board, as the case may be.
3. Confidential information.
4. Use of property of the municipality or of the local board, as the case may be.”

[74] An Integrity Commissioner’s investigation report is not simply the conclusion of a technical exercise to determine whether there has been a breach of codified standards of behaviour.

[75] As noted at the outset, we see as our highest objective in reporting out on an investigation to be the making of recommendations that serve the public interest.

[76] Disclosure of confidential information is the kind of transgression that attracts a monetary sanction because the act fundamentally undermines the trust required for Councils to function properly and for the public to maintain respect for Council’s adherence to ethical standards.

[77] In our view, the principle that members of council must avoid disclosing confidential information is an important one.

[78] On the other hand, whether or not justification exists for greater transparency, it is not the case that one member of Council can determine that information should be publicly disclosed before Council as a whole has taken a stance on the issue.

[79] As noted, the Councillor has recognized that she ran afoul of the ‘confidentiality’ provisions of the Code in attempting to highlight and force discussion on the issue.

[80] Maintaining confidentiality around confidential information and closed session deliberations is a cardinal rule for members of council. As such, some sanction would be warranted, to signify that such action is not acceptable.

[81] In light of the Councillor’s acknowledgement, in the course of our investigation, and we do not believe a significant penalty is warranted.

[82] An Integrity Commissioner’s recommendations may include a reprimand, appropriate remedial actions or a monetary sanction of up to 90-days suspension of pay. Taking into account all of the circumstances, we believe that a 5-day suspension of pay is warranted.

[83] We therefore recommend:

1. That Council pass the following resolution:

That having been found to have breached the City of Burlington’s Council Code of Conduct, Councillor Stolte’s pay be suspended for a period of 5 days.

[84] We wish to conclude by thanking those who participated in our investigation.

[85] We will be pleased to be in attendance when this report is considered to answer any questions.

Return to the Front page

Summer swimming and youth recreational program registration opens April 23

By Staff

April 14th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The City summer swimming lessons and youth recreational programs will open for online registration April 23.

All classes and programs are available for viewing now at www.burlington.ca/recreation. Non-Burlington residents can register April 29.

Swimming should be part if life for every child. There are programs to teach – take advantage of the opportunity – your child love you for it.

Burlington’s learn to swim program provides a full range of classes for swimmers of every skill level and age. Visit burlington.ca/swimming to find out more about registered swim and Aquatic Leadership programs. June lessons at Tansley Woods and Nelson Pool begin June 4 and the full summer session begins July 4.

Dates for adult summer program registration will be announced later in May.

Rec Connections
New Inclusion Program for Individuals with Disabilities ages 15-21

A new recreation and social program geared to teens living with a disability.

This course will use both indoor and outdoor program spaces. There will be themed weeks, outdoor adventures, crafts, physical activities and more. Make connections with your peers in your community in a fun and active manner. The Rec Connections program will run the weeks of July 18, 25, Aug. 2, and 8.

Just plain play

Park Play Program
Join City staff in your neighbourhood park for some simple fun and games. Staff are on-site to encourage participants to be active, social, and creative. This is not a day camp program, although registration is required to monitor and manage participation. All activities will occur outdoors, with the daily program cancelled and children sent home in situations of inclement weather.

Summer Camps
The Summer Camps team is excited to announce three new SNAP camp locations that will be available for registration on April 23.

• Orchard Park Public School
• Florence Meares Public School
• Maplehurst Public School

Limited spaces are still available in music and student theatre camps.

Assisted Registration
Residents who need extra support or do not have online access to register for programs, can call 905-335-7738 for staff-assisted telephone registrations.

The customer service team is available through email at liveandplay@burlington.ca or 905-335-7738, Monday to Friday 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and weekends 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

For more information on how to register online, visit burlington.ca/registration.

Recreation Fee Assistance
Recreation is for all, regardless of financial situation. Recreation Fee Assistance is funding made available to resident individuals or families who need help to pay for City of Burlington recreation programs. For more information or to apply, visit burlington.ca/feeassistance.

 

Return to the Front page

Integrity Commissioner has recommended the sanctioning of a member of City Council

By Pepper Parr

April 13th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Very early Wednesday morning the Gazette will publish a recommendation from the Integrity Commissioner in which they set out a case for sanctioning a member of City Council.

Stand By says the city motto – for how long one might ask?

The recommendation comes after a three month investigation when two other members of Council filed a complaint with the Integrity Commissioner.

The Councillor named in the report is believed to be preparing a Statement.

The recommendation from the Integrity Commissioner is to go to the City Council meeting on April 19th.

It is not know at this time if the report will be read in a Closes Session of Council.

The Integrity Commissioner is reported to have said that it was “their preference” to have the report not made public until it was actually before Council.

The City Clerk is reported to hold the same view.

The issue is related to how and when Council chooses to go into a closed session and what gets reported from the Closed Session.

The report is lengthy and sets out issues that deserve open and public debate.

Mayor Meed Ward has been involved in discussions with the City Manager on this issue.

 

Return to the Front page