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.

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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.

 

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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.

 

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What's open - what's closed during the holiday. City Hall closed Friday and Monday as well

By Staff

April 12th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Tables waiting for customers

City services and facilities will be closed for Good Friday, on Friday, April 15, and Easter Monday, on Monday, April 18.

A list of which City services and facilities are available on the Easter holiday weekend is set out below.

If you are out and about and in places where there are a lot of people – wear your mask.

The weather reports look good – a chance to get out and enjoy the city – restaurants are looking forward to welcoming their customers.

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Interview with Councillor reveals significant differences of opinion on just how they work to get things done

By Pepper Parr

April 11th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

We published a three part interview with ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte.

The earning curve was the steepest Stolte had ever experienced.

This has not been an easy council to interview. It has been difficult to get a clear sense as to how well they work together and the kind of leadership that has been available to the newcomers.

One said to us early in the term of office that he had been told “not to talk to you” – this one has always been easily swayed.

The five newcomers are certainly a mixed bag – each of them has struggled with the size of the job they got elected to – every one of them will tell you – if they are honest with themselves, that they are way in over their heads – but they work hard and do their best.

A situation has arisen that has the potential to tear this council apart. It should break in a few days; it is expected to be on the city council agenda for April 19th. It might be on the agenda as a Closed session item because it relates to the behavior of a person that we are choosing not to name at this point.

Councillors Stolte and Kearns tend to work together and support the positions each takes.

The collegiality that Councillor Stolte thought existed does not exist. Mayor Marianne Meed Ward has turned out to be a very divisive Mayor – who has not been able to create a council, made up of people new to the game, and turn them into independent operators who buy into the big picture and work as a team to end up with a city that is going to see massive population growth requiring literally hundreds of high rise towers.

Meed Ward has chosen the photo op and social media route. A woman who consistently talks up her background as a journalist has yet to hold an open press conference.

She favours situations, such as her perch at CHML where she is never pressed on serious issues or Cogeco where she has a program of her own.

Posing as a journalist is just plain phony – she knows better but up until recently Meed Ward has had a tribe of supporters who believe she can do no wrong.

Marianne Meed Ward didn’t do all that much to mentor the new members to Council

I was once a fan; she was a strong council member who really knew how to go for the juggler. She taught former Councillor and former Mayor Rick Goldring a tough lesson during the last meeting of that council.  She was the best choice for the city in 2018

There is a lot in what Shawna Stolte said during our interview – she was always careful to ensure that she didn’t talk about natters that were debated in Closed sessions – she did say that she has very strong views on the way the city chooses to slip into a Closed session.

Teaching the members of this council that they have an obligation to communicate with their constituents has not been easy. Most feel that their Newsletter is how they can speak to their constituents – the obligation is to open themselves up to media that can ask informed questions.

Stole has taken a first bold step. Her Father would be proud.

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.

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Councillor Stolte expands on what she thinks civic politics and public service is all about; some real surprises

By Pepper Parr

April 11th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

Part 3 of a 3 part interview.

As we prepared to bring the interview to an end we asked ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte what she would do differently if she were to serve a second term; what did she get right and what did she get wrong.  She was surprisingly direct in answering the question.

The debate that ended a 24 year career in municipal politics; Jack Dennison on the left with Shawna Stolte on the right during a debate at Nelson High School.

“I think I focused on what I ran on. I ran on the tree canopy protection,  on affordable housing.  I ran on engagement and a voice at  City Hall. I ran on improving public transport and I ran on services for seniors. A lot of other issues  have come up in the meantime, but I feel like I have stuck by what people chose to vote on me on.

“This is what I didn’t do right and this is a mistake I’m not going to make again. I did not learn how to use my system.

“It took me till halfway through the term to understand how to work well with my assistant and how to  be a 10.

Editor’s note: The following two paragraphs are highlighted – they are very relevant to the decision Mayor Meed Ward made  revise a Council meeting agenda

“There is no fault in how things worked out in assigning me an administrative assistant.  (City staff choose who a Council members assistant is going to be – there is no input from the Council member.) During my first week on the job my assistant was very open and said she didn’t want to be here. She said she had a one year contract. She said she wanted to work in the Clerk’s office doing election work. She said “that’s where I want to be. I don’t want to be an assistant but I was sent up here because it’s my home job and I plan to get out of here as soon as I can.”

“I appreciated the honesty, it was better than finding out all of a sudden. So within six months she was gone. I went through June, July, August, September and October, four months of not having an assistant . I was bounced around .  I did appreciate all the other assistants taking a turn helping me out but it left me with no ability to fully understand  the practices or procedures on my end. I then had a contract assistant for about five months before I got Nancy. She came in three weeks before the pandemic. It was a rough.

“Something else I didn’t know. I assumed work in the city was done in a collaborative way.

“The learning curve, the confidence in being able to handle that learning curve and being able to handle the level of responsibility and expectation of the role and expectation on myself in the role was immense.

“And things were coming at us at a fierce pace; all five of the newly elected were struggling.

“I really wanted to dive into the issues and into the best practices of the city. I think that’s a piece of work that has surprised me the most.

“Naively, I discovered how much work needed to be done on policies, practices and procedures.

“Especially with council – so much of my work had to be focused much more internally than I was expecting.

“Going into a second term I would like to do things on two levels: the personal things, the things that you aspire to – I think I can get this done.

“And then the bigger picture, the things that I really think are critical fundamental for the way the city grows, because we have huge changes..

Seven new towers will be built in three phases with a projected population of about 2500 people.

“The growth at the GO stations where we are going to build this city and add 25 to 30% in the way of new population. The growth is real.

“This community is in transition; it is growing and evolving so quickly. I do think council should be bigger. I would love to see some consideration given to a council that’s made up of Ward councillors and councillors at large. I had a meeting with the city manager and councillors from Thunder Bay where they have that model.

“I think a model of having councillors doing constituent work and having votes on major city issues is important but I also really believe strongly in the model of councillors at large who do not have a ward to oversee they more have a portfolio – perhaps two councillors at large one who has for an example of a portfolio of environment, public transportation, and planning, where they kind of focus like they’re the higher focus on bigger issues that are city wide.

“Because I do think, having worked with the other councillors there still this protectionism around a lot of little things.

“Regional representation can stay the way it is just add two City Councillors at large. I think that would take Council up to nine. I think whenever you have a group dynamics, the smaller the group, the more opportunity there is for stronger personalities to have a bigger impact on a smaller group. And I think that that is part of the challenge for the City Council. I think if there would be less opportunity for strong dynamics if there were two more councillors added in. And I think when you look at our fellow regional councils, they’re all 11 to 13 members.   I think going up to nine is reasonable.

“There’s a bigger picture that has stunned all of us.  The challenge for all of us is immense.

The proposal is for 40 storeys – it will be less than that – begging the question- is Brant and Lakeshore the place for this kind of building.

“The size of the developments that were coming forward; the determination as to what was going to happen at the intersection of Brant and Lakeshore where two huge towers were being proposed.

“The Planning department was overwhelmed – how were we to fully understand the long term implications?”

I once asked a council member I was having a conversation with about the vision for the city in the Strategic Plan.

What vision was the response.  There is no vision.  When I put this response to Stolte she responded:

“I think anytime you’ve got a new council coming in with a new city manager, that vision is going to be preliminary and will need a lot of tweaking.   I think this next term  hopefully with some returning members, –  oh my gosh, a whole new council again, would not be very helpful for the community. I don’t start the learning curve all over again.”

“I would like to improve public transportation, though from an environmental perspective, hopefully get more environmentally friendly transit,  to get people out of cars.  We need to tackle the environmental issues as well as the traffic issues that we’re dealing with.

“I want to land this housing strategy complete with immediate short term, medium term and long term action items. I want it to be actionable, come heck or high water. I am not going to be okay letting this housing strategy become a policy that gets stuck on a shelf or not implemented.

The public hasn’t had much in the way of opportunity to watch what the Working Group has done. The need to do everything by Zoom has been a problem.

“The Working Group on Housing is sending out messages left, right and center to staff about the expectations that will go to council. There are some pretty high expectations for the implementation of the housing strategy.

“One of the things  that I really want to continue to focus on is low rise residential construction guidelines. Right now it’s the Wild West out there.   There are no rules.  The contractors doing  low rise, residential  construction are not managed and it is the residents in these areas that are suffering.

“I have been working on this problem for two years trying to get some changes made. Cary Clark has been helping. He’s been the champion for it but has admitted to me that his authority to effect change is extremely limited, which I understand.  There are parts of the city where there is a lot of this work taking place with no low rise residential construction management in place.

“There are places in my ward where you have three, four, sometimes five, infill properties, private residential properties being bought, torn down and rebuilt.  There’s no guidelines  – which results in construction vehicles and porta potties out on the street and piles of debris.

“There are construction management rules for the bigger developments, not for infill projects  and it is awful for some of these residential streets.

“The problem is that there are six different bylaws that need to be amended.  There is a report coming from the Legal department in  April.  I finally put my foot down and said I need a summary of these bylaws from the legal department to hear what’s getting in our way. And what strategies and solutions are we going to implement in these bylaws so that we can actually get some of these construction guidelines in place because it’s awful for some of these families who are trying to live their quiet life and they’re surrounded by construction. That’s worse for them. Because they have it literally outside their bedroom window. Literally.”

Nothing about the antics from this lady.

I said that would be the last question but not quite.

What was the funniest thing funniest thing that happened in the first four years ?

“I can’t tell you. Off the record I might tell you some of the antics that took p[lace on the seventh floor of City Hall. We’ll leave it at that. Okay.”

The first four years have been a real ride for the five elected for the first time. They were new and there was nothing in the way of a support system for them, no one to mentor them.

They had to rely on what they could learn from the city manager, the man they made the decision to hire.

Nothing from us on those antics.

Part 1

Part 2

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Meed Ward will run again - does that mean Jane McKenna gets to be Regional Chair?

By Pepper Parr

April 11th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Marianne Meed Ward filing nomination papers while hubby captures the moment. The rules that will be enforced this election would not permit anything like this.

For those who thought Mayor Marianne Meed Ward might decide to run for the office of Regional Chair and take on Jane McKenna directly – we have to dash your hopes.

While she has not yet filed her nomination papers – no one can file until early May – Meed Ward has created a campaign committee. They met recently at the Legion with some people taking part via Zoom.

Our source points out that no money spent – it was just a meeting that included about 30 + people.

No names from us at this point – several were a surprise. There does not appear to be anyone from her first campaign.

Some bruised egos  for sure.

More in the fullness of time.

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An exclusive interview with Ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte on how she introduced meaningful citizen participation with a Working Group

By Pepper Parr

April 9th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The interview we had with Councillor Shawna Stolte was extensive At the end of part 1 she was elected and getting used to the job and realizing she faced the steepest learning curve of her life.

Being a city Councillor is all about reports; many of the agendas run over 200 pages.

Councillors Bentivegnia and Stolte during the first time Councillors were back in Chambers.

Does a Council member have any input to the reports?
“Not really,” said Stolte, ” It comes to you, and you can talk to staff about a report but once it is on the agenda it is part of the public record and can only be changed by a motion from a member of Council.

“But you can certainly have conversations with staff about amendments that you can bring forward and do some collaborative work with staff and other council members behind the scenes before it gets to committee.

“Staff will hesitate, say there are risks., we’re not sure, we don’t think this is a good idea –  When that happens it’s a whole new ballgame.”

Stolte had a clear sense as to the changes she feel are needed to make council meetings both more productive and truly engage the public.

Getting the idea through to staff was a challenge – but she persisted and eventually prevailed.. There is now a Working Group – the story on how it got to where it is – is both instructive and revealing.

While a Housing Strategy was part of the Strategic Plan and was made a focal point in what council wanted to do in this term of office it didn’t get much attention in the first years of this term.

It was the push from Stolte that resulted in the creation of a Working Group “primarily because of a push from my background – social work and housing development.”

“Staff were already planning a conversation about housing; it became a priority- few knew then just how big of a priority it was going to be.

The in force Official Plan

Given the interim control bylaw, the work being done on the Official Plan the Housing Strategy got put on the back-burner. It became quite evident every time a conversation was had that Council had to get a handle on housing – it was becoming a crisis.

“We had to figure out a way to get it back off the back burner during a period of time when the city had not yet reorganized the planning department.

They were overloaded, they were overwhelmed. They had too many assets on their plate. And putting the housing strategy forward looked like it was not going to happen in this term. “Come heck or high water” Stolte  wasn’t prepared to sit and do nothing.

Stolte understood all this – what she didn’t want to see staff beavering away with no public input while the process was taking place.

Stolte wanted a Working Group that would parallel what the city was going to be doing. The working Group would be drawn from people who volunteered.

“So I started pushing. There were numerous meetings and conversations with Heather MacDonald, the Director of Planning at the time; pushing and pushing and saying we need to get this this on.

“That took months of back and forth with myself and staff – helping them feel more comfortable about changes and not relinquishing control but understanding that they would maintain control over the appropriate piece but that they had to be willing to let residents have some control over this housing strategy and what it meant to the citizens of the city.

Heather MacDonald Executive Director Planning before she retired.

“Heather MacDonald at least had the wherewithal to say Okay, let’s get the consultants on board and working. I was saying I didn’t want this to be a situation where residents are informed about what the housing strategy is going to be – we needed to make sure that residents have a very strong voice right from the get go.

“That I was trying to implement or at least propose a model where there would be like a three ways tool with staff, consultants and residents working as a triad right from the beginning. That was met with a great deal of discomfort from staff and because they were anxious about losing control over the scope of work or losing control over the mandate or control over the recommendations coming out.

“I pointed out the success had with the Working Group and with to key staff” showing them that ” Your not losing control. It’s just going to be a different way.

We asked Stolte if the experience with the Working Group manifested itself anywhere else in the process and the other departments on any other issues?

“It’s starting to” said Stolte.  It is starting and it has been really  exciting. I did not know that Tim (City Manager) and the City Clerk and others were watching this housing strategy working group model, because it was a new model that we were using, because I had pushed to say that I was going to take the resident piece out of the whole process and I had a staff direction and a whole background piece ready to be part of a staff direction to create a task force a separate task force.  I was wanting to get the residents voice in place.  And it was literally the night before I was putting that forward that Staff said okay timeout, we will implement a version of your task force we understand that this will happen one way or the other. We don’t want it to be completely outside of what we’re doing. So we’ll bring it in and we’ll call it a working group.

Director of Community Planning Mark Simeoni is part of the Working Group on Housing Strategy

And then I had to fight to say it’s not going to be a citizen advisory committee. I don’t want these guys seeing a draft after the fact I want their voice right from the beginning. And so that started this new model of which I didn’t know that senior staff were watching to see how it was going to work.

And we have heard feedback now. It’s been nine months that we’ve been having these meetings, and we’ve heard feedback that a lot of senior management, the organization are seeing it as a model to move forward with that has been really successful. And the staff are comfortable knowing that they didn’t lose control the way they thought they would.

Stolte was a licensed real estate agent with a degree in social work; they are key parts of her DNA; they determine her agenda. People and housing were the top priorities.

The Planning department was doing its work putting in place the process, getting clear terms of reference, determining which staff members would be part of the initiative.

The Working Group has been meeting virtually – they are expected to move into live meetings soon.

The Working Group was created by Council; Stole, the Mayor and Councillor Sharman were on part of the Group that made Stolte the Chair
Public access to the Working Group meetings was limited and on more than one occasion media were excluded.

The first meeting of the Working Group that I sat in on was mind blowing. I heard the Director of Community Planning talk about the importance of Community using his personal experience. This seldom happens at committee meetings – Staff do not talk about their personal experiences – they are professionals.

I heard, and reported on the President of the West End Home Builders Association talk about affordable housing as a responsibility of the developers – he added “we are part of the solution but we are not THE solution, or words to that effect.

To me it was quite clear, some very, very solid stuff was coming out of the working group.

I asked Councillor Stolte: Where else do we do you want to this model being used in the city ?

Councillor Shawna Stolte – some far ranging changes have been put on the table. Will they take root – or will they kill the messenger?

“Any of these major initiatives we have; environmental; development; the review of the Strategic Plan; anything that is a priority for the community that needs to have that front facing voice.

“Another of those changes has to be how we do business in the city; the working group taught us how we can do business differently.

“It’s just having a citizen voice at the forefront, not as an afterthought at some point when a draft is basically already begun. It’s a form of engagement. That’s not the totality of engagement by any stretch.

“Now that the draft of the housing strategy has been released the Working Group is talking about engagement opportunities to allow the public to give feedback on this draft housing strategy.

“Staff were saying, Oh, we’re gonna do an online survey and we’re gonna have a zoom town call about it.

“I started saying, how about a park pop up? Like, let’s get a tent down and Spencer Smith Park and it was like, Oh, we’re not sure and I’m like, come on. Come on. We’re gonna have some music festival.

“Staff are kind of iffy on it, so I brought it up at the Working Group and they just ate it up. They were like, Oh, we have incentives. You can get businesses to get coffee. It was just flying. And I’m kind of looking at staff saying: See ?”

We asked Councillor Stolte – now that you are in the fourth year of your term – looking back what I didn’t you do right.

Part 1 of a series

Part 3 will be about what Stole thinks she got right, what she got wrong and what her agenda will be in the next election in October.

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There are solid reasons to be concerned about the Covid19 testing the government is not doing

By Staff

April 8th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The Beachway water treatment plant in Burlington is the largest in the Region

The Covid19 infection numbers for the province are not encouraging – infection reports are climbing and the number of children not in school is alarming.

The Boards of Education don’t have any central reporting – what we are hearing from readers is that – a lot of kids are not in class.

With province wide reporting gone for now municipalities are relying on waste water testing.

While the numbers are not high – the trend is in the wrong direction

 

Location of the waste water treatment plans where testing is done. The test results are rising in every location

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Stolte decides she wanted to be in politics - first she had to win an election. Part 1 of a series

By Pepper Parr

April 8th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The Gazette had an opportunity to do an extensive interview with ward 4 Council member Shawna Stolte.  The is the first of a series that cover the interview.

A section of this interview was not correct.  Changes have been made to the paragraph starting with:  “The day after we were sworn in…”

 

The fist step into the world of municipal politics for Shawna Stolte came about when she learned that the East Plains Road United Church was having problems and approached the city with an offer to sell them the property for $1.

In exchange for the helping to redevelop the property into a smaller sanctuary space, larger community space for brownies and guides and daycare and add some affordable housing for seniors.

The city said no, thank you. That’s not the business we are in and gave up the opportunity.

Shawna Stolte at one of her first council meetings – looking a little lost and confused. Rory Nisan, who won in ward 3 doesn’t look any more confident.

“That was the first time that I thought okay, wait a second” said Stolte.  ” We are missing huge opportunities here. And what the heck’s going on down there at the city hall? So I started to pay more attention to what was going on and started to get engaged in that conversation about there being city councillors who had been on council for a long time.

“I believe that you get in, you learn the job, you do some good work, and if you have that time clock ticking, you know that you’ve got the pressure to get stuff done.

“You don’t assume that you’ve got an extended period of time to wander along. I think if there’s no term limit, you start to think – yeah, if it takes five years for this to happen, it takes five years, whereas if you have term limits, you’re married to much more of a head space that you need to get this work done in a timely manner and move on and then let somebody else have a turn.

“Also, the opportunity for succession planning is lost if there is the assumption that this will be your final term going in.

Getting into the game:
“I had lunch with Marianne, she was the ward 2 Councillor then and told her I was thinking of running.  I said: “give me every reason why I shouldn’t do this;  try and talk me out of doing this. By the end of that dinner, I was convinced I was running

“She didn’t convince me – I just became convinced I could do a better job than the person I was planning to run against.  I began thinking about what my mandate would be and did some delegations on the private tree bylaw.

“I spent time with city councillors in other jurisdictions and asked them some really down to earth questions.  I had become part of the converted and believed that fresh voices and fresh perspectives might be really helpful for the City of Burlington.

The campaign:
“I’m not sure I actually ever felt that I was in over my head during the campaign, because I went into it knowing going up against a 24 year incumbent that I had about a 10% chance of winning and that’s actually a comfortable place to sit because I could run my campaign naturally and just go for it without worrying about whether I was going to win.

Ward 4 incumbent Jack Denison, on his way to an election defeat.

“I wasn’t at all sure I could win – but there was a day in the middle of August – I remember coming home and saying to my husband that I felt the tide turning. I had done just enough door knocking and was hearing from enough supportive constituents to realize that I actually could win.

“I don’t think Jack ever knew he was gonna lose. I know he thought that he was in trouble when I started to hear people say ‘we’re seeing Jack campaigning harder than he’s ever campaigned before’. That felt good because it made me realize that he knew there was some competition this time. But I don’t think he ever thought he could lose.

“He referred to me as the non issue

“When he refused to take part in the ECOB debate at Nelson high school but then showed up late Jack knew t he was in trouble.

 

Now you’re elected:
I pick my jaw up off the floor and felt a little sick with that imposter syndrome which clung to me during the first year in office.

I don’t remember a lot of the first year; the learning curve was so incredibly steep. It was probably the most intense learning I have ever done in my career.

They were a newly elected city council – five newcomers and two with eight years experience.

“You really don’t know what the hell you’re doing. You haven’t had a chance to read the procedural manual.

The day after the new council was sworn in 2018, they met in a closed session.  The Gazette was not aware that Council was meeting.

The public was aware that Marianne Meed Ward did not want James Ridge as her city manager.  Ridge knew that she didn’t want him and told the security guard that if Meed Ward won he was “toast”

Sure enough – when the new council came out of the closed session a statement was issued announcing that Ridge was history.

Stolte wasn’t prepared to talk about what was said during that  Closed session of council – she did talk about how she felt being part of such a major decision such as this one.

“None of us had any experience doing this. We had to trust the two returning council members (Meed Ward and Sharman) I think it was very helpful during the first year to have councillors who were kind of on opposite sides of the political spectrum.”

Getting settled in –
“Biggest surprise in the first six months ?

“I mistakenly thought and assumed that council would be having team meetings, sorting out some of the work we were gonna be doing. So finding out about quorum, which makes complete utter democratic sense, but the challenges of not being able to have those collaborative conversations about the issues was a challenge

A lot of listening in the first 18 months

“Understanding why and completely agreeing with why we cannot do that was probably what instructed me first and foremost. How are we supposed to get work done? Like, really? I’m trying to wrap my head around how the work of counsel gets done.

“The early move to more Workshops  helped in a big, big way. It has helped in that overcame some of the problems I was having but in a limited way, not as much as you’d like to think. Partly because the workshops are so scripted. We don’t get the opportunity to have that more organic conversation about things.

“The biggest surprise on the positive side ? I didn’t know that we were going to make any positive or negative decisions. I found myself saying: Wow. So I can do this

“The beauty and democracy of the flip side of being able to help effect change on such a big level. We were making decisions on issues that were a lot bigger than I was expecting to, you know, interim control by law; those huge issues and just knowing that I was in this position of representing residents of the city and helping to effect changes in a positive way.

“There’s a point where it just hits you – you’re like, wow, this is incredible, an incredible honour.  That’s how you feel when you’re representing people. It does feel like an honour. I think I would like to think that most elected officials with integrity would realize that and respect that it is an honour to be positioned to be making decisions on behalf of others.”

Part 2 will follow

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Robbery Investigation in Burlington - bandits threaten to taser anyone who gets in their way

By Staff

April 7th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The Halton Regional Police Service (HRPS) 3 District Criminal Investigations Bureau is investigating a robbery that took place at the Burlington Mall (located at 777 Guelph Line).

On April 6, 2022, at approximately 8:00 pm, three suspects entered the Rogers Wireless retail location inside the Burlington Mall and demanded cell phones while one suspect displayed a Conducted Energy Weapon (commonly referred to as a Taser).

This is ugly – these men were prepared to hurt people.

The suspects loaded garbage bags with approximately $200, 000 worth of phones and fled in a waiting vehicle driven by a fourth suspect.

The vehicle is a 2019 white Kia Sedona with Ontario licence plate CJWL 247. The vehicle was reported stolen out of York region.

No physical injuries to employees were reported to police.

Suspect 1: Male, black, with a slim build. He was wearing a black pullover hooded sweater with vertical white panel with the word “Reckless” embroidered on it. Also wearing a black baseball hat and white shoes.

Suspect 2: Male, black, with a slim build. He was wearing a black full zip hooded sweater with black track pants and white sunning shoes.

Suspect 3: Male, black, with a medium build. He was wearing a grey full zip hooded sweater with black pants and black high-top sneakers.

Anyone with information regarding this investigation is asked to contact the 3 District Criminal Investigations Bureau at 905-825-4777 ext. 2316.

Tips can also be submitted anonymously to Crime Stoppers. “See something? Hear something? Know something? Contact Crime Stoppers” at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS) or through the web at www.haltoncrimestoppers.ca.

Media Inquiries:

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Councillor Nisan did not take part in the hybrid session of Council - chose to participate from home

By Pepper Parr

April 6th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Another one of those picture being worth 1000 words story.

City Council met in the Council Chamber today for the first time in two years.

Every member of Council – except Councillor Nisan, was there along with the City Manager and the City Clerk

Some city staff were also in the Chamber.

 

 

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Receive up to $500 for a community grant through Love My Neighbourhood program

By Staff

April 5th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The City of Burlington’s Love My Neighbourhood grant program is back.

The city is prepared to fund people that organize events for their neighbours.

Residents or community groups can now apply for up to $500 to create a community event that promotes connections, strengthens relationships and builds support systems for neighbourhoods.

Community members can plan a one-time or weekly event. The events must be free and inclusive to the entire community within the specified area.

The Love My Neighbourhood program will also work with the applicants for road closure permits, park permits, indoor facility rentals and insurance.

To apply for a grant and to learn about what is eligible for funding, go to burlington.ca/neighbourhood. Applications are open now.

Chris Glenn, Director of Recreation, Community and Culture

Chris Glenn, Director of Recreation, Community and Culture points out that as we recover from the pandemic “we need to build our sense of community and connections with our neighbours. This program is designed to help remove some barriers and build stronger connections among neighbours and communities by putting people together and having fun.”

Links and Resources

www.burlington.ca/neighbourhood

 

 

 

 

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Covid19 outbreak at hospital declared over

By Staff

April 5th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Joseph Brant Hospital’s COVID-19 outbreak has been declared over in the Labour & Delivery area of Unit 2 North 600.

The outbreak was declared on March 25, 2022. In total, three healthcare workers contracted COVID-19. All appropriate actions were taken to ensure the safety of our patients, staff and physicians.

We thank our staff whose expertise and teamwork brought this outbreak to a close, and all our patients and their Essential Care Partners for their patience and understanding. Our thoughts are with those whose wellbeing may have been impacted during this outbreak.

Joseph Brant Hospital remains vigilant in following the Infection Prevention and Control safety measures in place to protect our patients, our staff and our physicians during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Burlington resident write PM - gets an answer that gets her nowhere.

By Staff

April 5th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Burlington resident Mozelle Cole wrote the Prime Minister.

She wanted to talk to him about the $150,000 pension and the $206,000 expense account that is paid to former Governor General Julie Payette.

Ms Cole thought that was wrong.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau follows Governor General Julie Payette who will read the Speech from the Throne He follows her.

She wrote:

I understand that Canada pays retired governor generals a hefty retirement pension ($150,000), and a post-retirement annual expense account of $206,000. Is this information correct?

If so, I don’t feel we, the tax payers, should be paying anyone not in employment an expense account.

Thank you, Mozelle Cole, > Burlington.

Ms Cole got a response: It read:

On behalf of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, I would like to thank you for writing regarding the former Governor General, The Right Honourable Julie Payette.

As you may know, there are laws that entitle former governors general to an annuity, as well as an expense account for office and travel expenditures. This program is administered entirely by the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General.

Thank you once again for writing.

Sincerely,  Jean-Luc Marion. Senior Manager, Prime Minister’s Correspondence Office of the Prime Minister

Ms Cole replied:

On behalf of my entire family and friends, I would like to thank you for taking the time to respond.

You are correct, I do know there are laws in place (which is why I wrote). I do not agree with the laws in place. What is my next step? Maybe you could forward this on to someone who can guide me. I feel taxpayers have a right to tweak the archaic laws in place.

Thank you, Mozelle Cole, Burlington, ON

Astronaut Julie Payette

Ms Cole will now probably get a Christmas card from the Prime Minister and his office will have alerted MP Karina Gould about the letter.

Julie Payette, a former member of the Canadian Space program who flew into Space. Sometime later she was appointed the Governor General of Canada. That didn’t work out very well – Ms Payette resigned as the Governor General before the end of her five year appointment.

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Waterfront Planning Study Completed: here is what they are recommending and why. On the Tuesday Council agenda

By Pepper Parr

April 4th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

A report that was going to need a couple of months to be completed by the consultant the city had hired was given a big push and – on Tuesday Council will be asked to receive the report and endorse the recommendation from The Planning Partnership

The Appendix A part of the 245 page document is where the meat on the bone is set out. We will publish that as a seperate article.

The 400 page addendum to the Standing Committee will be debated on Tuesday. – virtually

The white dotted line is the study area. The elephant in the room is the waterfront hotel site. What gets put on that property impact everything else.

Receive the “Waterfront Hotel Planning Study Planning Justification Report” dated March 23, 2022, prepared by The Planning Partnership Limited, E

Endorse in principle the Waterfront Hotel Planning Study, the recommended Preferred Concept Plan, site-specific draft Official Plan policies, directions for a future Zoning By- law amendment and site-specific Urban Design Guidelines as detailed in Appendix “A” to community planning department report PL-28-22; and

Consider the Waterfront Hotel Planning Study findings in Council’s consideration of the site-specific development applications for 2020 Lakeshore Road.

The consultants are saying – no more public engagement – we have heard all we need to hear – let’s just get on with it – or words to that effect.

The Mayor and Councillor Lisa Kearns bought into the Plan B objectives and became champions for it.

The Plan B people put a lot of pressure on the ward Councillor Lisa Kearns and the Mayor – those two bought into what Plan B was advocating, championed that point of view and ipso facto ( an inevitable result) a report comes popping out.

The city needed to close this poorly handled stage of downtown development.

What is particularly concerning is that the continued failures on the part of the Planning department took place when we had a Mayor who was going to bring some order to the way developments were handled.

One paragraph in the report, as dismal as it is, reflects what has been going on. It reads: Subsequently, the Waterfront Hotel Planning Study was placed on hold due to other various priorities in the Community Planning Department such as the new Official Plan process.

The decision came from the City Manager and Council went along with it.  No one asked what the down side risk was. We now know what that risk is.

One Councillor who didn’t want to be quoted said to me during a conversation: “What Vision” – this city doesn’t have a vision.

The PIER went trough its trial and tribulations. The city ended up with a tower that did nothing other than add to the price. It was supposed to house a wind turbine that would pay for the electricity used.

The building of The Pier went through a similar tortuous process. In that situation the city paid for The Pier twice and went through one of the biggest collection of insurance law suits this city has ever seen.

The purpose of the study was to provide a land use and urban design framework to inform site-specific policies to guide a future redevelopment of the Subject Site.

The quaint small village feel is hard to experience as you walk by the six level podium that has been proposed.

The problem with that approach was that the city took so long to get the study completed that the owner of the Waterfront Hotel got tired of waiting and filed a development application that will plunk two 40+ towers at the bottom of Brant Street and crowd the sidewalk of Lakeshore with the kind of structure you find on Bloor Street in Toronto.

The time line the city was faced with was a treacherous path. When the Community Planning, Regulation and Mobility Committee iinformed Council on January 11, 2022, that the anticipated timeline to complete the study was 16-17 weeks a wave of indigestion must have hit the tummies of every member of council. They came back with a Staff Direction:

They did it virtually – made sure that the Waterfront Study was going to be completed in time. Out went the 16 – 18 week. They had a couple of weeks to deliver.

Direct the Director of Community Planning to complete the Waterfront Hotel Study within the statutory time frame of processing the pending application related to the Waterfront Hotel (2020 Lakeshore Road) so as to inform the review of any development proposal on this site in accordance with the policies of the Official Plan.

The time frame was this: The developer had the right to appeal to the Ontario Land Tribunal for a decision because the city did not respond within the allotted 120days – in order to avoid such an appeal the city had to complete their review of the application before April 17th.
The city Planning department “refusal” report is to be heard at Council on the 12th.

An overview of the Study findings is summarized below:

This is the concept the consultants working on the Waterfront Hotel Study are putting forward based on the work they have been doing since 2017. The question is – Is this the best the city can do? And does it comply with the vision.

The recommended preferred concept (2022): 

has regard for matters of Provincial Interest, policy and legislation and has been designed with consideration for the intent of the applicable Regional and Local Municipal policies and guidelines;

reflects overall alignment with City’s in-force Official Plan (1997), the new Official Plan (2020), ROPA 48 and emerging context within the Study Area;

delivers a vibrant mix of uses that will reinforce and support the continuing evolution of the Downtown;

provides for a compact built form that is transit supportive, provides for a range of housing, supports intensification and provides for a range of uses

enhances the streetscape along Lakeshore Road unified with a common language of materials and design elements;

provides for public view corridors down Brant and John Streets to Lake Ontario;

provides for on-site parkland dedication to enhance public access to Spencer Smith Park and build upon an important landmark through high quality open space;

Proposed urban design guidelines will provide site-specific guidance related to the conditions and context of the site to implement the Vision and Principles established through the consultation process and subsequently endorsed in principle by Council in early 2018;

An Official Plan Amendment (OPA) to the in-force OP is required to implement the findings of this Study, and include site specific directions related to matters such as massing and scale, transportation and public open spaces; and,

A Zoning By-law Amendment (ZBA) will be required to implement the OPA. The Study recommends that a rezoning process take place in the future to consider the Preferred Concept (2022) and would also be supported by detailed technical studies.

The following sections of this report summarizes the recommended preferred concept and implementation tools.

The recommended preferred concept is based on the inputs and work completed in 2017 and 2018, feedback on the emerging preferred concept (2022) and consideration for the relevant policy drivers and changes since the Study paused in mid-2018. Section 6.0 of the Planning Justification Report (see Appendix “A”) provides a comprehensive overview of the preferred concept plan.

Highlights of the Recommended Preferred Concept/ Highlights of the preferred concept include:

Land Use / Built Form

• Building heights: 21 storeys for the west tower and 22 storeys for the east tower
• John Street public view corridor with a minimum width of 18 metres
• Stepping down of built form toward Lake Ontario
• 3-storey podium/street wall along Lakeshore Road
• Active at-grade uses like commercial, retail and restaurants
• Focus on a strong pedestrian relationship to the streets and public spaces

Public Realm

• Enhance Brant Street as a gateway to the Downtown, the Waterfront and the Waterfront Trail
• Enhance the entrance to Spencer Smith Park and the Brant Street public view corridor
• Additional public parkland identified on the west and south sides of the Subject Site:
o West side: 0.13 ha
o South side: 0.05 ha
o Total: 0.18 ha
• Provide a John Street public view corridor and inclusion of a privately-owned public space (POPS)
• Maintain existing trees along Lakeshore Road

Mobility and Access

• Remove existing vehicular access at the foot of Brant Street
• Site access for parking and loading from Elizabeth Street
• Active Transportation route along Lakeshore Road, including a painted buffered bike lane as identified in the City’s Cycling Master Plan
• No surface parking on site

Future Zoning By-law Amendment

A Zoning By-law Amendment (ZBA) will be required to implement the OPA. The Study recommends that a rezoning process take place in the future to consider the Preferred Concept. Furthermore, the Study provides that:

“A future rezoning process, supported by technical studies and further evaluation, would allow for flexibility to achieve an interesting built form that would better respond to the landmark nature of this site. This ZBA process would take place in the future and would advance additional engagement through the statutory public process. It would allow for the principles of this Study to be further advanced and explored through meaningful active engagement with the public and stakeholders of this project. Furthermore, a rezoning in the future would allow for community benefits to be leveraged through Section 37.” (or in accordance with alternative benefit charges).

Site-Specific Urban Design Guidelines

The Study recommends site-specific urban design guidelines that will apply to the development of the Subject Site.

When the two towers are in place the pressure to allow higher intensification on this part of Brant that is a two walk away in distance will be tremendous. The two towers remake the downtown – which is fine – if that it what you want.

The intent of the site-specific urban design guidelines is to augment and enhance the City existing urban design documents by providing site-specific guidance related to the conditions and context of the site. They will work together with the guidance provided in the City’s design documents to implement the Vision and Principles established through the Study’s consultation process phase and subsequently endorsed in principle by Council in June 2018.

The site-specific urban design guidelines are provided in Section 6.3 of the Study (Appendix “A”).
The recommended site-specific urban design guidelines provide guidance with regards to:

• Built Form (Building Placement; Building Height, Massing and Transition; Tower Separation; Podium Height; and Setbacks / Stepbacks);

• Access and Mobility; and

• Public Realm (John Street View Corridor; Spencer Smith Park; Lakeshore Road; and Elizabeth Street).

Staff Position on The Study’s Recommendations

Staff are supportive of the recommendations as outlined in the Study

Delivers a vibrant mix of uses that will reinforce and support the continuing evolution of the Downtown;

• Has regard for matters of Provincial, Regional and Local Municipal policies and guidelines;

• Includes tall mixed-use buildings with commercial uses at grade, and residential and/or hotel uses which address many Provincial, Regional objectives and aligns with the overall directions established by ROPA 48;

• Achieves the City’s vision as articulated in the in-force OP (1997) and considers the policy direction of the new OP (2020);

• Provides residents and jobs and public open spaces in this central location that will further support the creation of a complete community; and,

• Creates a special place by balancing significant new redevelopment with public amenities and accessible open spaces.

It is staff’s opinion the completion of the Study has been fulfilled with the delivery of The Planning Partnership’s Planning Justification Report.

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City seeks six local artists for small public art projects

By Staff

April 4th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Plains Road at Waterdown Road

The public art program is once again opening submissions for its annual Local Artist Program. The program commissions local artists to create a variety of small to medium scale artworks throughout the community. The City is inviting local artists to submit their design ideas that will be installed on traffic control signal boxes throughout the city later this year. Six artists will be commissioned to create a unique design that will be used to produce the utility box vinyl wraps.

This is a design only commission as the City of Burlington will be responsible for the fabrication and installation of the vinyl wraps. Burlington artists may create a new artwork concept for this project or reformat an existing artwork. Successful artists will be required to submit a high-resolution digital file of their artwork concept (assistance is available upon request).

Applicants must be a resident of Burlington, Ont.

For deadlines and more information on how to get application help and/or apply, please visit www.burlington.ca/publicart.

 

Timeline:

Deadline Activity
April 4 to 29 Application assistance available upon request
May 13 Application deadline
By June 3 Successful artists selected; enter into a contract with the City of Burlington.
June through July Project development: Artists work with Public Art staff to refine designs, finalize artwork concept and create digital artwork file.
August Installation and online project launch (date TBD)

Regal Road Bridge

 

Artwork Locations

Location Nearby Landmarks
New Street & Shoreacres Road Nelson Recreation Centre
New Street & Appleby Line Appleby Square
Lakeshore Road Joseph Brant Hospital (parking garage entrance)
Prospect Street & Pearson Street Tom Thomson Public School
Upper Middle Road & Cavendish Drive Near Kingsbridge Court
Walkers Line & Thomas Alton Boulevard Alton Village

 

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Will the city be able to get a refund? They didn't last very long

By Staff

April 1st, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Trouble in paradise.

Those $10,00 Rainbow crosswalks are not faring very well.

Take a look.

Drury Lane

Plains Road

Wonder if there is a warranty on the work. Wonder too if we can get our money back.

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High End Car Theft Ring Nabbed - all held for a bail hearing.

By Staff

April 1st, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Investigators from the Halton Regional Police Service – 1 District Criminal Investigations Bureau and Toronto Police Major Crime were involved in a month long multi-jurisdictional investigation dubbed “Project Raptor” resulting in the recovery of 20 stolen vehicles worth over $1.5 million. Four suspects were arrested as a result of their involvement in this organized auto theft ring.

Tools of the trade for high end car thieves.

It is alleged the suspects would gain entry to the vehicle through force allowing them access to the vehicle’s ‘On Board Diagnostic Port’ (OBD).  From there, the suspects utilized key programming devices to program a new key fob.  The thefts occurred across Halton, Peel and Toronto.

The vehicles targeted were newer model Jeeps and Ford F-150s.   It is believed that these vehicles were slated to be loaded into shipping containers to export them overseas to Middle Eastern countries.

On March 29, 2022 investigators arrested four persons involved in this auto theft ring and subsequently executed two residential search warrants.  Investigators seized several key fobs and electronic devices used to access the on-board diagnostics (see attached photo).

The following persons were arrested and charged:

Bawa Singh, (22) of Brampton has been charged with:

  • Theft of Motor Vehicle (10 counts)
  • Mischief Under $5000 (4 counts)
  • Breach of Recognizance (9 counts)
  • Possession of Auto Master Key
  • Possession of Property Obtained by Crime Over $5000

Nitin Gagneja, (21) of Brampton has been charged with:

  • Theft of Motor Vehicle (10 counts)
  • Possession of Break and Enter Tools (2 counts)
  • Mischief Under $5000 (4 counts)
  • Possession of Auto Master Key (3 counts)
  • Possession of Property Obtained by Crime Over $5000

Abu-Bakar Sheikh, (22) of Brampton has been charged with:

  • Theft of Motor Vehicle (9 counts)
  • Mischief Under $5000 (4 counts)
  • Breach of Recognizance (9 counts)
  • Possession of Auto Master Key

Attiq Ur Rehman, (22) of Mississauga has been charged with:

  • Theft of Motor Vehicle (4 counts)
  • Mischief Under $5000 (2 counts)
  • Breach of Recognizance (4 counts)
  • Possession of Auto Master Key

All accused were held in custody pending a bail hearing.

Anyone with information regarding this investigation is asked to contact Detective Phil Vandenbeukel of the 1 District Criminal Investigations Bureau at 905-825-4747 ext. 3407.

Tips can also be submitted anonymously to Crime Stoppers. “See something? Hear something? Know something? Contact Crime Stoppers” at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS) or through the web at www.haltoncrimestoppers.ca.

Police would like to remind residents of the following tips to help protect against these types of thefts:

  • Park your vehicle in a locked/secure garage, if possible.
  • Lock the onboard diagnostic port using a simple device (that can be purchased online) that blocks access to where thieves reprogram the vehicle’s key fob
  • Use a steering wheel locking device to deter theft
  • Invest in an aftermarket global positioning system (GPS) tracker as it may assist in recovery of the vehicle if it is stolen
  • When not in use, place vehicle key fob inside a radio frequency shielding bag/pouch to block cell signals
  • Consider purchasing a quality video surveillance system and ensure your cameras are properly placed and functioning for 24-hour use

 

 

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Is the Ford government already toast?

By Staff

April 1st, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

It’s their story and they are sticking to it.

The government is not going to impose any restriction as COVID cases surge

“It takes a worried worried man …”

The province is sticking to its reopening agenda despite hospitalizations increasing by 27 per cent in the last week and wastewater analysis pegging new daily cases at around 30,000.

What else is there to say?

The province is going to wait this one out – and hope that nothing breaks wide open in the next two months.

If the numbers do soar – this provincial government is toast.

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