Summer of 2021 had no real RibFest; no Sound of Music; no Canada celebration but an election no one wanted

By Ryan O’Dowd: Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

December 29th, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

The worst of the pandemic was over, for the time being, or so we thought – July was a month of a cultural boom for Burlington.

A dark cloud hung over Canada Day as the national zeitgeist remained contemplative over Canadian identity and its relationship to residential schools and a broader problematic history with Indigenous peoples.

Nevertheless, Burlington pressed onwards.  The Sound of Music put on a virtual show featuring some of our top local talent. It wasn’t the same as spending a weekend at a rapturous, muddy Spencer Smith Park enjoying the spectacle but the event was a solid effort to entertain Burlington in a safe, socially distanced way.

The Mayor and a city Councillor were featured in an online reading rendition of Dangerous Liaisons.

By the end of the previous month, online entertainment in Burlington consisted of City Staff and the Mayor starring in productions of Dangerous Liaisons and The Odd Couple. This reporter is sure they did a fine job but is equally as sure they were happy to see the professional entertainers back. The Sound of Music featured Indigenous speakers but as a Gazette contributor pointed out they didn’t showcase any Indigenous artists, a missed opportunity, all things considered.

Citizens Group continues with a long drawn out protest over plans for an enlargement of the Nelson quarry.

Education-based events came out of the Performing Arts Centre, which hosted a mid-July Musical Theatre Week. The Burlington Public Library added items to their lending program to encourage outdoor fun, including bikes, games, and hobby items (such as bird watching kits and archery sets).

The library was a great source of entertainment throughout the pandemic, seeing a 103% increase in eCheckouts of books (they also expanded their collection) after closing their doors. Brant Museum re-opened featuring a space exhibit. Elsewhere, the community was beginning to be able to organize again, a bedrock of a functional democracy.

CORE Burlington (Conserving our Rural Ecosystems) hosted their first event since the start of the pandemic to oppose Nelson Aggregate’s Mount Nemo quarry expansion application.

The City of Burlington invested $25,200 into the 2021 Neighbourhood Community Matching Fund recipients. The community investment went towards three community projects, focused on enhancing infrastructure amenities within parks, gardens, and buildings on public lands or on lands that are accessible to the public. The winners were Grow for Change Urban Farm Community Therapeutic Programs, The Orchard Community Garden Project, and Community Garden in Roseland.

City Council prepared to break for the summer but still had their share of business. They began work on the 2022 budget, more on this in the final quarter – an early figure included a city tax increase of 5.57%.

On July 6th Laura Boyd, Executive Director of Human Resources, gave a presentation to staff on the problems the City is facing to attract needed staff, and to keep the staff they had. Despite heading into summer break the City remained in a declared State of Emergency which put the day-to-day running of the city in the hands of the Emergency Control Group (ECG).  As a result, Council gave the city manager delegated authority to spend $250,000 without referring to the council before getting the cheque signed in case of an urgent matter, he just had to tell them how many times he spent $250,000.

On July 12th the City had to pony up $165,000 to get parking sensors in downtown Burlington that were accurate, this was a fix to a problem in the completion of a project allotted $525,000 in 2017. Gazette readers wondered if we needed sensors tabulating the number of cars in a parking lot and expressed frustration over the growing costs. The City of Burlington announced the appointment of Maciej Jurczyk as the City Auditor starting August 16, who, arriving at a tumultuous financial time, would surely have his work cut out for him.

The Rainbow Crosswalks were a story that destined to have a long run. Expect them to be an election issue at the end of the year we are going into.

Elsewhere, the Gazette continued to follow the rainbow crosswalks story, aside from the vote on location (right in front of the Halton Catholic School Board office), another story was brewing. The Gazette reported belief from observers that Marianne Meed Ward threw three of her council colleagues under the bus when they voted against the Mayor to have six additional rainbow crosswalks done as soon as possible, rather than the more fiscally prudent approach of adding one each year. The Mayor wanted to again raid reserve funds to pay for the additional six – Kearns, Stolte, and Sharman had no problem with the crosswalks – just not all at the same time. The Mayor tweeted out thanks to her councillors other than Kearns, Stolte, and Sharman, which some took as a suggestion they didn’t support the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, which was not the case.

As for regional growth plans, big problems for the city were on the horizon. That sentence is quite literal as big developments in downtown Burlington, begun under the former Major Transit Station Area and Urban Growth Center designations, looked impossible to stop. The Gazette congratulated the Mayor and Council on their achievement in shifting these designations to keep high-rises out of downtown Burlington but some of them were poised to be grandfathered in while the City’s Official Plan stalled. After all the fights, including some successful ones the City waged with the Region, downtown Burlington was fated to be forever changed. The City won but lost.

Halton Regional Police Services announced their use of the Brave App, designed to connect people at risk of overdose with the help they need: an ally they can talk to, a human supporter to help them stay safe, and digital monitoring technology to help them when they’re in danger. The app connects them with a community of overdose responders, and/or professional emergency first responders. The use of the app was in response to what they called an overdose crisis in the community.

Local wheelchair basket player Melanie Hawtin joined the Canadian Team representing Canada at the Tokyo 2021 Paralympics.

On July 20th , a local wheelchair basket player, Melanie Hawtin, was announced to join the Canadian Team representing Canada at the Tokyo 2021 Paralympics.

Rumblings of a federal election call began early in August. In preparation, the Green Party announced their candidate, a young man named Christian Cullis, on August 10th. On August 12th the Gazette began investigating rumours of a Burlington People’s Party candidate, who was revealed to be Michael Bator shortly thereafter.

On August 15th the Gazette reported on some conveniently timed Burlington investment announcements by MP and Cabinet Minister Karina Gould who used the Rock Garden in Hamilton to announce that the federal government had come up with $579, 000 from the Great Lakes Action Plan V – Great Lakes Sustainability Fund for the RBG’s Wetland Rehabilitation Program and the City of Burlington’s Grindstone Creek Erosion Control Planning. The RBG would be receiving $425,000 for their program, while the City will be receiving $154,000.

Ahead of the election call Gazette field reporters surveyed Burlingtonians about their feelings on the election, most felt it was unnecessary, irresponsible, even a dereliction of duty by the federal government in some cases.

Others shrugged it off, believing whoever was in power would make a similar gambit if they liked their chances to re-election. Nevertheless, the election was called on August 15th, that it was called at all would remain a defining election issue.

The Gazette began profiling the players, starting with every major party candidate in Burlington and spoke to those candidates who were interested. In August the Gazette profiled Gould, who championed the $10 a day child care program as the cause dearest to her (upon re-election she would be named Minister of Families, Children, and Social Development). NDP candidate, Nick Page, and the Green Party’s Cullis, shared similar visions of a more equitable society and saw emerging from the pandemic as the opportune moment to consider some foundational changes.

Page and Cullis were so closely aligned that when the NDP candidate pitched proportional representation his pitch was that the Green Party would have a bigger voice in influencing climate change. It was an example that had our editor run a piece with the question “huh?” in the headline. The Gazette’s fruitless efforts to speak to Conservative candidate, Emily Brown, were well documented. They had to be after the first piece on Brown sent readers into a tizzy.

Emily Brown, federal Conservative candidate for Burlington is ranked as a sharp shooter – missed the bulls-eye during the election.

Brown neglected to engage with the media herself so the Gazette dug into what information was available, at the heart of her platform was protecting gun owner’s rights. It was an issue Brown was extremely passionate about, she is an accomplished shooter and held several positions within local shooting groups. For whatever reason Brown supporters didn’t like this, a self-identified, core tenant of her campaign being highlighted, they objected greatly to any Brown article without any factual objections.

NDP sign defaced during the federal election.

Early in the campaign, Oakville/North Burlington NDP candidate Lenaee Dupuis had a lawn sign vandalized with the words “No Commies” spray-painted on it, which would prove to set a regrettable tone for the campaign. The race was afoot and would continue into September.

With City Hall off for the summer municipal affairs in Burlington went mostly quiet, but regional development disputes continued to pile up. Mayor Meed Ward had thus far succeeded – there are new Urban Growth Centre boundaries in place and once the Official Plan gets completely approved – it was in the hands of the Ministry of Housing and Municipal Affairs –all it had to do was get through the 40 some odd organizations appealing – to become the law of the land. But business at Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) moves glacially. The 40+ people and organizations appealing the adopted but not in force Official Plan wanted to see time frames and firm commitments from the City of Burlington and Region of Halton in order to bring the appeals to a conclusion.

Instead, proceedings got kicked further down the road when the city and region failed to provide a consolidated list of issues by the assigned deadline. The future of development in Burlington hung in the balance and it seemed like the OLT met every couple of months just to schedule their next meeting and break for lunch.

In other city news, staff would be required to be vaccinated. On August 24th an application was made for a holiday market on the Elgin promenade, with no word on who made the application, this story would develop as the year went on.

The walkway at Crawford Lake was a popular destination once people were able to get out.

For most of Burlington not too deeply entrenched in the mire of politicking, August was another promising month. Hassaan Basit, President, and CEO of Conservation Halton said that from January until August, their parks saw around 850,000 visitors, which is a 30 to 40 percent increase from last year. People were getting out in droves, more people were being vaccinated, more businesses were open, the comparatively rosy COVID-19 outlook in July continued in August, as opposed to the taking one step forward and two back we’d grown accustomed to.

The Gift of Giving Back operated an event different from what it was best known for. From its inaugural 2007 event up until 2019 the Gift of Giving Back would pack gymnasiums full of food bins with the help of community sports teams and students.

COVID-19 put a halt to their traditional food collection method in 2020, but they still found ways to contribute.

The Royal Botanical Gardens hosted an Enchanted Garden Tour, a full kilometer long, leading through the Rock Gardens and hosting six different stations for kids to learn about this year’s theme, the monarch butterfly. Kids clad in fairy wings as colourful as the monarch butterflies themselves were giddy on the tour. Burlington Artscape showed off local artists who lent their time to create paintings on leaf canvases sold in support of the Joseph Brant Hospital Foundation.

Respecting the social distancing rules was easier said than done at the August outdoor patio jazz event at the Performing Arts Centre

The Performing Art Center put on sold-out jazz shows on patios, not a computer screen, patios sat with real live people in the flesh.  Live shows were put on by Bling International at the pier. The live music events were in recognition and celebration of Black, African, Caribbean, Canadian appreciation month.

The federal election dominated much of September. The Gazette interviewed candidates across Burlington’s three constituencies and by the time ballots were cast most major party candidates had participated. Emerging issues among all candidates included COVID-19 recovery and vaccine passports, housing, cost of living, climate change, reconciliation with Indigenous communities, and that the election itself was taking place at all.

Environmental debates took place, which Conservative candidates in Burlington and Oakville/North Burlington opted to avoid causing latecomer Oakville/North Burlington Green Party candidate, Bruno Sousa, to slam their absences as “infuriating.”

As election night approached, Gazette reporters took to the streets to get a sense of the biggest issues on the public’s mind, there was much overlap with the candidates there. The majority of those surveyed still didn’t want an election to take place, but it had shrunk to a slight majority with nearly half of respondents split between being in favour of the election happening or not counting it among their priorities issue-wise. The Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights arrived in Burlington just before the election. In a note to their members, they said they were there so “voters can learn the truth about the Liberal party. The mainstream media will never give voters an honest overview of a future under more Liberal government.” It’s the kind of fringe language that might’ve done more harm than good but at this juncture, this kind of discourse had been a reality of the campaign.

Burlington MP Karina Gould wearing her campaign colours campaigned harder than she had ever campaigned before – and won – again. Same with van Koeverden, v and Pam Damoff. It was a clean sweep for the Liberals in the Burlington, Oakville and Milton ridings.

The ballots were cast, Gould, van Koeverden, and Damoff retained their seats in the Burlington ridings. Nationally the country ended up with a Liberal minority government.

What lingered was the hostility of it all. Several candidates called the campaign the nastiest they’d seen. The Gazette editor posted a similar reflection regarding bitterness in the election comment sections when the dust settled.

During this same month, Burlington’s Community Leaders had to release a statement speaking out against harmful messages, harassment, and misinformation targeted against our medical and healthcare professionals. It is behaviour as deplorable as it is misguided, front line workers do not make policy, and reflected the hostility that defined an ugly election season.

In less vitriolic election coverage news, three-quarters of a million students took part in a mock election, 5,478 schools across Canada participated and votes were cast in all 338 federal ridings. A good step in getting students acclimatized to the voting process.

If actually built – these two towers would be at what the developer called “ground zero” for Burlington. Towers were to be 35 and 30 storeys.

On September 8th a virtual Pre-Application meeting took place for two towers: a 30 storey and a 24 story on Lakeshore Road between Brant and Elizabeth Street. During the presentation, given by people representing the developer, David Faletta attempted to convince viewers that the old Urban Growth Centre boundary would apply.

The City approved the Holiday Market proposal to run between December 9th and 12th with little in the way of public input and mixed reaction from downtown retailers. What’s more, they seemed to have signed off on the market as an annual event.

Creeping towards normalcy, Ward 2 Councillor Lisa Kearns held her first in-person ward meeting since the beginning of the pandemic – eight people attended.  An additional 35 took part virtually.

September saw quintessential Burlington events like the Terry Fox Run at Spencer Smith Park. Team Casey’s Terry Fox Event followed suit, in honour of the late Casey Cosgrove, a man described as remarkable and an inspiring community champion, who too suffered from cancer. They played a baseball game wearing t-shirts with the following quote: “This disease will not take away my disability and wish to inspire,” Casey, 2017.

Rib-Fest returned with a drive-thru BBQ event at Burlington Centre, a Food Truck festival took place at Spencer Smith Park, the month was full of activities.

On September 30th Burlington hosted the Every Child Matters Truth and Reconciliation Day gathering at Spencer Smith Park. Organized by Amber Ruthart, a local Indigenous music studio owner, the event was informative, moving, and a celebration of Indigenous culture with song and dance.

“I hope that education continues and is not just a trend. Also, we hope to be doing more indigenous awareness social events in the future here in Burlington,” said Ruthart.

Speaking to the Gazette, Ruthart reiterated the need for reconciliation to be a constant consideration and not a trend. Event organizer Ruthart, said her native name translated into “loud voice,” her message was loud and clear.

 

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GOVAXX plans prove to be a bust - hopefully the registration procedures will improve.

By Staff

December 28th, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

 

It is going to be a bumpy ride.

The province announced that booster vaccinations were available and then didn’t prepare for the hundreds of people that would show uo.

Burlington Mayor Marianne Meed Ward was at the Burlington Centre apologizing for a mistake she didn’t make. The people who should have been apologizing were nowhere to be seen.

Mayhem at the Burlington Centre on Monday.

The province will scramble to put better procedures in place.

Other than the Mayor no one with any authority had anything to say.

CHCH television released a short video.

Click

MPP and Cabinet Minister Jane McKenna did not have any comment.

 

 

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Second quarter of 2021: restrictions and changes - but life went on and people continued to be people

By Ryan Dowd: Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

December 28th, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

2021 has been a year we are not going to forget quickly. We have learned that major changes are coming but we don’t know yet precisely what they will be. A look back at 2021 might give us a hint – it will certainly remind us of what worked and what didn’t.

Well into the year and things were not looking any better. Doug Ford’s April 1st announcement that the province would be entering yet another lockdown was no April Fool’s joke. In the throes of rising COVID-19 case counts, the promise of spring, inspired by vaccination distributions and loosening restrictions, was snatched away.

City manager Tim Commisso, heads up the Emergency Control Group that makes changes in service delivery and spending during a pandemic while at the same time keeping council fully informed.

On April 8th, the Gazette patted the City on the back for the job they’d done managing Burlington during the pandemic, writing “What is visible is how Staff have upped their game to meet demands that change by the day – at times by the hour.” Not everyone felt that way: by April 13th City Manager Tim Commisso had to ask the public to be kind and considerate to City staff doing their jobs and doing their best to serve the community.

President and CEO of Joseph Brant Hospital, Eric Vandewall, asked for public support in staying safe in a piece published in the Gazette on April 15th, the hospital was at 94% capacity, all non-urgent procedures had been postponed, Vandewall implored the public to follow guidelines.

For Burlington school boards it was back to online learning on April 12th. Ontario gave authority to police to ticket folks who left their home without a good reason and restricted outdoor activities, neither of these was well received: both exacerbated stress on Burlington and Region staff. Amid the backlash, the Halton Regional Police Service released a statement on April 17th explaining they would not be pulling people over at random.

On April 20th City Council had a Halton meeting, wrestling with the province’s controversial mandates and not finding much they could do. “We need your help,” said the Mayor, “to be patient; we are all tired, frustrated, and worried.” On April 22nd Municipal leaders in the Region of Halton called for sick pay for workers and a tightening definition of what is essential.

A year into the pandemic COVID-19 gloom continued to dominate the April news cycle, but by the month’s end Halton residents aged 50+ who couldn’t work from home had been approved to book their vaccination in early May.

Earlier in the month, the Gazette brought the exact lack of public engagement in budget building under scrutiny following an influx of cash poured into the city on April 9th, the federal government dropped $1.9 million while the province added its $1.6 million and the city will contribute $1.3 million for a total of $4.8 million all to be used to revitalize Civic Square including a grand entrance on the ground floor. There was very little in the way of public input.

In early April Halton Region asked residents to share feedback on how and where they wanted to see the community grow over the next thirty years. The Province’s Growth Plan required that Halton plan to accommodate 1.1 million people and 500,000 jobs by the year 2051. Halton Region currently had a population of 595,000.

Burlington was going to grow up and not out and much of the growth was going to be clustered around the GO stations. Plans for a seven tower development are going forward. .

Meanwhile on April 6th City Council outlined their growth plans that included a seven-tower development next to Burlington Go Station that would have a planned 2500 residents.  The zoning for the property did not have a height limit.  One way or another the development was poised to happen Councillor Kearns expressed excitement for it.

By month’s end, Regional Police Chief Stephen Tanner became the longest-serving Chief in the country.

The beginnings of an urban farm. Land was loaned to a group that grew produce donated to the Food Bank.

Elsewhere Burlington traditions continued to take different shapes due to the pandemic, Burlington Mundialization Committee coordinated a virtual celebration of spring, including a live photo stream of the Japanese cherry blossoms in Spencer Smith Park. The virtual Sakura Festival commemorated Burlington’s 32-year twin-city friendship with Itabashi, Japan.

On May 1st, the Gazette reported a Town Hall: Lisa Kearns for Burlington:  virtual event where the Ward 2 Councillor set out to tell Burlington why she should be the Liberal candidate in the next provincial election. The Gazette suggested Kearns was in the process of scaring off anyone else who would seek the nomination and throughout the month that looked to be the case. There were even reports Kearns was grooming a colleague to succeed her Ward 2 position.

By May 23rd there were reports of another candidate, days later on May 27th that candidate was revealed as Mariam Manaa, a young woman who cut her teeth working for Burlington MP Karina Gould and Oakville/North Burlington MP Pam Damoff.

Days later Andrea Grebenc, the Chair of the Halton District School Board, announced she too would seek the provincial Liberal nomination.  For a short period of time the race looked crowded, but Kearns promptly withdraw on the 28th. Kearns and Grebenc put out a joint statement singing one another’s praises. Gazette commenters wondered where Mariam Manaa fit into all of this, and why neither Kearns nor Grebenc mentioned her, in due time it proved to be an excellent question.

Three women went after the nomination for the provincial seat. Lisa Kearns above, Mariam Manaa to the right and Andrea Grebenc below sought the Liberal nomination.

As for day-to-day City Council happenings in May, spending fell under scrutiny. Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman wanted to shake up the way the city budget was prepared with a tighter unvarnished look at just what the departments are doing.

In a May 8th meeting, Ward 6 Councillor Angelo Bentivegna announced he didn’t want to be part of a tax and spend council. This followed a report on looking at different operating models for the Tyandaga Golf course, the model was tax-funded. Councillor Bentivegna argued that the spending would normally be part of the creation of a budget and setting the tax rate was instead being debated without input from the finance department. Bentivegna was the lone vote against the golf course funding, despite his colleagues’ assurances the golf course spending wouldn’t be reflected in taxes this year or the next, his point was at some point the public would be asked to pay for this.

Meanwhile, the community remained frustrated under pandemic conditions but there were some positive signs, by May 7th 42% of Halton residents had their first vaccination.  Ontario announced that outdoor recreational amenities could reopen if COVID measures are in place, beginning Saturday, May 22 at 12:01 a.m.

The story on the opening of the Farmers Market was more about social distancing than what was going to be offered for sale.

In May the Gazette photographed outdoor fun in the sun, children smiling brightly chasing an ice cream truck’s familiar jingle, families headed for the beach with towels and snacks, properly distanced lines to grab a hot dog at Easterbrooks, and couples listening to gentle breaking waves, rhythmic and soothing against the shore. The Farmers Market opened for the season on May 18th to a small but eager crowd.

Of course, there was bad news:  City Council went into a Closed Session on May 5th and cancelled their Park Ambassador program. The reports were that this was the result of a city employee harassed or injured by unhappy citizens. City staff member, Amber Rushton, alluded to civil unrest and anti-government movements while discussing the incident. It was truly a disturbing situation, and it seemed any efforts to police outdoor COVID safety protocols had been abandoned.

Chicken Little is expected to make appearances in the June provincial election

While all of Burlington continued to navigate their way through the endless pandemic MP Jane McKenna trivialized COVID-19. In a bizarre and tone-deaf comment, McKenna labelled members of the oppositions as “chicken littles” over COVID-19, accusing them of exaggerating the pandemic’s seriousness. However, it offered the Gazette the opportunity for a rare moment of levity amid pandemic news. The Gazette published McKenna’s comments alongside a rubber chicken on life support. That chicken was named “The Dirty Plucker” by Gazette readers.

“June is the Month of Play,” was the first message of the month from Mayor Marianne Meed Ward’s desk, after 14 months of on-and-off lockdown Burlingtonians could be forgiven for thinking they misread the release.  Burlington ran a Get Outside and Play Challenge all month where participants learned more about Burlington while completing activities.

On June 2nd Burlington came out of a stay-at-home order that had been in place since April. Ontario re-opened on July 11th, ahead of the re-opening the Gazette was asking the important questions, “Does this mean that one minute after midnight – between the end of Thursday and the beginning of Friday that I can be outside with my ten best friends quaffing an ale?”

School boards began discussing outdoor graduation ceremonies.  An expectation was established that students would return to classrooms in September. There were outdoor gatherings exceeding limits and parties that broke the rules that Mayor Meed Ward responded to. But the good was outweighing the bad in terms of progress in the COVID fight.

THIS is what a bottle and can drive is all about.

Amidst the sunnier circumstances, Burlington’s generosity was in fine form for charitable events in June. The Joseph Brant Hospital Foundation partnered with local businesses to raise funds for a hospital that the community needed to lean on more than ever before. The Neal Family bottle drive for the Food Bank and Compassion society had another strong outing. Julie Neal spoke to the Gazette about her role establishing the popular bottle drive, just three years after moving to Burlington, “Who am I? I’m just a nobody loving the community I now live in.” For the Food Bank, their gardens began to sprout, on June 1st there was lettuce, sage, and rhubarb to harvest along with the garlic greens and garlic heads that were planted last season. Aldershot’s Skyway Diner ran a food item collection for the bank all month, finding a way to help others despite being in the hard-hit hospitality industry. Burlington Green announced their city-wide Burlington clean-up was back on for its 11th year on June 17th.

On June 25th St Matthews Anglican Church won a business excellence award for their work in the not-for-profit sector for the work they do for the community, including hosting a weekly drive-through food-drive throughout the pandemic.

In June the community battle to keep the current Robert Bateman High school functioning at some level was won. At their June 2nd meeting, Halton District School Board trustees approved a plan to relocate Gary Allan Learning Centre to Robert Bateman High School.

Elsewhere the City of Burlington Council wanted more rainbow crosswalks, plus benches and banners, to show support for LGBTQIA+2S Community. The Catholic District School Board voted not to permit the flying of the rainbow flag at Catholic schools. As for the locations of Burlington’s new rainbow crosswalks:  The people voted to locate one right outside the Catholic Board offices.

Ryerson Public School was to get a new name.

Despite a more positive news month for Burlington, national and provincial news weighed heavily on all. The discoveries of mass graves at residential schools were felt throughout the country. For Burlington’s part the Halton District School Board voted to rename Ryerson Public School and the city voted to rename the adjacent park – both had originally been named after Egerton  Ryerson for his contributions to the Ontario education system.

On a Friday afternoon the Muslim community held their Call to Prayer in Spencer Smith Park. The Gazette published a handmade sign held up by a Muslim woman that spoke to the editor’s heart, it read:

“I love you. You’re probably thinking  you don’t even know me. But if people can hate for no reason I can love!”

On June 28th, the underestimated Mariam Manaa, a young Muslim woman, won the Provincial Liberal nomination.

Related news story:

The first quarter of 2021

 

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January to March of 2021 was hard - it didn't get any easier during the balance of the year

By Ryan O’Dowd: Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

December 27th, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The year started out with a sense of caution, within days the caution turned into a lockdown that would last for weeks.

It took some getting used to. Here is how Burlingtonians handled the first three months of 2021.
Life for so many in began in the same way in 2020, isolated and lonely. Lockdown had taken effect once more, Joseph Brant Hospital opened operation of their field unit tent early in the month and the Gazette monitored how and where the city of Burlington would eventually administer the vaccine.

Halton Regional Police Services Chief Tanner.

And so, the city of Burlington and the Region of Halton stayed inside, isolated and waited…with one notable exception: Police Chief Stephen Tanner.

On December 21st, Premier Ford announced a lock-down to take effect on Dec 26. On December 22nd, Police Chief Stephen Tanner asked the then Police Services Board Chair, Rob Burton, for permission to leave the jurisdiction to travel to Florida on a private matter. Burton gave permission. However, Burton did not advise the other members of the Police Services Board on what he had done.

On December 26th, Chief Tanner left for the United States. On December 26th, the province invoked a shutdown for 28 days.

There was considerable demand for the Chief to be fired. Oakville Mayor Rob Burton resigned as Chair of the board on January 11th but remained on the board.

Chief Tanner apologized for poor judgment in requesting the travel, and Burton lost his position as Police Services Board Chair for his poor judgment in granting it.

While some like Mayor Burton and Chief Tanner were in the news for all the wrong pandemic-related reasons, charities in Burlington were continuing to find creative ways to make the new normal work.

On January 22nd Ward 4 Councilor Shawna Stolte drove around Burlington to pick up donations left on porches and address the needs of the Food Bank. For their part, the Food Bank was servicing an all-time high of people in need and somehow holding it together.

Local food drives were working well.

Stolte’s plan was an early year example of the kind of innovative contactless donation that would run throughout 2021 organized by generous Burlington citizens.

Elsewhere, city council got off to a rocky start in 2021 or rather continued their rocky 2020 trajectory. Reports released on January 11th detailed how COVID-19 had impacted the municipal government: 196 people were laid off; 290 jobs had reduced hours; 68 people were asked to put in additional hours. Morale reached a low point.

The Operations draft budget for 2021 budget came in with a 4.99% tax raise, it was a number Mayor Meed Ward didn’t like the look of, so throughout the month, in a series of meetings, they tried to get that number down to a more palatable 3.99%.

Budget concerns were springing up as a result of pandemic losses. Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sherman made an ominous statement concerning transit losses.  “There is a serious concern about a million-dollar loss at transit that we have not been told about and there is another one coming.”

In the calendar year 2021 the city finance department  presented two budgets both of which included what they referred to as a COVID budget.

Municipal disappointments relating to development disagreements would become a growing theme through the year’s news.

Mayor Meed Ward setting up her computer for the broadcast of her remarks on the need to stay indoors and not congregate with others.

Rolling into the month of February the city remained in the grip of a low point of the COVID-19 pandemic.   A light began to reveal itself at the end of the tunnel: by the middle of the month the stay-at-home order for Halton had been lifted, although with restrictions in the red zone, which Halton was in, remained limiting. Vaccine centers were established, and Burlington looked forward to a post-pandemic oasis. Of course, the pandemic wasn’t over, and we know now the light at the end of the tunnel was but a slightly brighter ongoing tunnel.

On February 1st Burlington announced its COVID-19 Task Force and it was massive. Headed by Mayor Marianne Meed Ward the Task Force contained every name you’d guess may be on there and then some. Various leaders, decision-makers, and experts assembled to assist the hospital and health care workers with anticipated patient surges and broader community efforts with COVID-19 and pandemic recovery.

Mohawk Public school where classrooms had to be closed.

The Region of Halton saw its lockdown and Stay-at-Home orders lifted on February 16th – those eager to get out of the house found a heavy snowfall waiting for them. A day later the Gazette reported the first case of COVID-19 in a Burlington school – in Mohawk Public school where the classroom had been closed. Other schools in the Region reported cases as well. Dr. Hamidah Meghani, Halton Region Medical Officer of Health, warned of variants of concern and data that could lead to another lockdown.

On February 23rd inoculation locations were announced, Burlington prepared for the vaccine to be made available but just when that day would come remained unclear. Writers and commenters at the Gazette expressed their frustration with vaccine acquisition timelines.

People were frustrated.

The skyrocketing housing market was proving not to be a short term event. The Toronto Regional Real Estate Board Market Watch, was reporting average sale price for a home in Halton was $1,206,016, an increase of 17% from the previous year.

Most disturbing was the report of an uptick in domestic violence. In early February the Halton Regional Police Service reported that if the current trend continued, officers would attend more than 4,000 intimate partner violence incidents by the end of the year.

Early in 2021, it had become clear that the problems of 2020 would not be discarded with that year’s calendar.

Still, there was the promise of change on the horizon, and acts of generosity continued to be a bright spot of Burlington’s pandemic response.

The cultural sector offered impressive contributions to Black History Month. Several of Canada’s finest instrumental jazz musicians were online on February 10th thanks to a grant from the City of Burlington’s Community Support Fund, a program created to support Burlington artists during the pandemic.

Police cruiser decorated to reflect the concerns of the LGBQ community.

The Halton Regional Police Service and its Black Internal Support Network solicited the community’s help in the design and creation of a Black Heritage Police Cruiser.

Also falling under the matter of diversity education was the Halton District School Board’s (HDSB) release of a plan that included an Indigenous Perspective and Awareness area. They appointed Stephen Paquette to a position as the Board’s Indigenous Knowledge Guide and Engagement Advisor, Paquette would participate in Ryerson school renaming later in the year. The HDSB’s plan covered 2020-2024, one-quarter of the time frame had passed making the document, and the world changed as it was written so how much their priorities will have swayed on the document on a whole remains to be seen. But proper education on Indigenous history is always welcome and a lack thereof would come to the forefront of one 2021s defining stories later in the year.

On February 20th Regional Council announced they would make an application to the Federal Court of Canada to review the CN rail hub.

Following several closed meetings, City Council was working to bring a budget to the table with a more palatable tax increase than the 4.99% debated in January. Things were trending closer to Mayor Meed Ward’s vision; the city ended up with a  4.14% increase, which was the largest of her term to date.

Burlington city council had voted for a new Official Plan which almost immediately faced a list of appeals that climbed to 48 – this would be an ongoing story for the balance of the year.

Rolling into March there was news that those over the age of 80 could book their vaccination appointments on the 3rd of the month. At last.

By March 6th, 15,000 people aged 80+ had scheduled vaccination appointments. By the month’s end appointments were available to those aged 65+. More businesses got the go-ahead to open. The winter of our discontent seemed to be ending, not quite made glorious, as the old quote goes, but made something closer to manageable.

Burlington Centre opened for business.

Malls opened on March 8th to the highest provincial case count since early February;  over 1600 new infections, tempering the good news. On the final day of the month, Premier Doug Ford warned people not to make plans for Easter. The pandemic remained far from over.

Staff at city hall were surveyed on their well being and the results outlined an overwhelmed group. “Workload and expectations” were the top concern, accompanied by “unclear priorities,” and a “lack of breaks, inability led to disconnect, and work-life balance.”

Work-life balance concerns went all the way to the top of city hall with Mayor Meed Ward herself, who the Gazette reported on March 10th had ruffled some feathers by instructing her staff not to email her outside of 9 am to 5 pm.

Despite being overwhelmed, surveys from the staff gave the City a ringing endorsement at the March 3rd meeting, 75% of them believe somewhat or strongly the City had responded well to the changes impacting staff caused by COVID-19.

On March 9th city council hosted a Zoom meeting on the housing strategy they wanted to put in place as part of the Burlington Lands Partnership (BLP). The BLP’s founding, which unfolded late 2020 and throughout the first quarter of 2021, was due to widespread support for the city to take a greater strategic role in targeting municipal land development in Burlington.

The BLP positioned themselves to fill the void of a single entity with a mandate to realize the potential of emerging land development deals. The BLP suggested mutually beneficial partnerships with not-for-profits, developing communities, Halton Region, and the Provincial and Federal Governments. The BLP Steering Committee, poised to do much of the grunt work, was being established, seats on that committee were highly sought after by members of Council. As constructed, the final decision on any development will be made by city council.

There was concern over whether every idea would reach city council, or if such opportunity would only be afforded to ideas the Steering Committee felt had merit.

Young people were also plagued with lagging well being during the pandemic and the HDSB hosted two mental health and well-being information sessions for parents and guardians. There were components of pandemic-related stress among students, but this is an important conversation at any time.

In late March the HDSB aimed to set an example for the community by engaging in environmental learning activities on Earth Hour, March 26th.

Burlington was on its way to becoming experts at socially distanced events and March was rife with them. The Sound of Music, a staple of Burlington tradition, put on a different kind of show. On March 27th, Monster Truck played a Sound of Music Return to Live Series event from the Burlington Performing Arts Center, a ticketed live stream event.

The Burlington Arts and Culture Fund supported Aeris Körper’s PROSPECTS, a virtual contemporary dance routine followed by a discussion affording an innovative night to enjoy arts from home. And the Brant Museum announced the Around the Town Easter Egg Hunt that would take kids around significant Burlington heritage sites and allow them to enjoy time outside.

The Jefferson Salamander, which should be the city’s official mascot, made the news again as it headed for its traditional breeding ground.

The Parks and Recreation department opened registration for several programs. As a Gazette contributor at the time wryly observed, “Someone believes there is going to be a spring, followed by a summer during which the city Parks and Recreation department will offer the best program it can.”

And the City reminded everyone to be cautious of salamander mating season; they would be crossing Kings Rd. in heat. It was beginning to look like a normal Burlington spring.

The second quarter of the year will be published on Tuesday.

If readers want to dig in a little deeper on any one story – use the archives.  Enter the subject matter and you should get the full story.

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Walkins for vaccinations are no longer being accepted at clinics planned for Burlington, Oakville and Milton. Registrations must be done on line

By Pepper Parr

December 27th, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

 

There have been some monumental screw ups in setting up locations where people can get COVID19 vaccinations.  Thousands are reported to have lined up at locations where GOVAXX buses were located only to find that the demand far exceeded the supply.

The province has set up three clinics for Halton Region.  You must make an appointment.

Lindsay Di Tomasso, Acting Manager, Corporate Communications Halton Region, said yesterday.

We learned late this afternoon (Sunday)  that the Province will no longer be accepting walk-ins at their GOVAXX bus stops and must be booked through the provincial booking system or contact centre.

The Province this posted to social media late yesterday and are planning to send out a news release on this today (Monday).

There are three clinics planned in Halton over the coming days that are impacted:

Burlington Centre  – may be fully booked, appointments limited.
777 Guelph Line, Burlington, ON L7R 3N2

Monday, December 27
9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Oakville Place Shopping Centre  – book appointments starting 8 a.m. December 27 through Provincial booking system.
240 Leighland Ave., Oakville, ON L6H 3H6

         Tuesday, December 28

          9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Milton Mall book appointments starting 8 a.m. December 27 through Provincial booking system
55 Ontario St. South, Milton, ON L9T 2M3.

Tuesday, December 28
10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Book today at ontario.ca/bookvaccine or by calling 1-833-943-3900.

Many public officials have posted notices to promote walkins at these clinics and and expect many residents were likely planning to attend these.

Unfortunately we are hearing from the province that the Burlington clinic for tomorrow is now fully booked. We have updated the booking page with this information and will be retweeting the Province’s  post.

We can expect some frustrated residents who show up early Monday morning.

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What could a Commonwealth Games in Burlington look like? eSports is getting a close look

By Pepper Parr

December 26th, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

Part 3 of a 3 part feature on bringing the Commonwealth Games to the area.

Antonio Gomez Palacio was part of a delegation to a city Standing committee where the plans for bringing the 2030 Commonwealth Games were set out for public discussion.

Previously Louis Frapporti and Paul Paletta who is now President of Penta properties, owners of the land much of the Games activity would take place on, delegated.  Links to their  participation are set out below.

 

Thank you very much, Lou, (Louis Frapporti – Chair of Games Bid committee) and thanks to everybody.

We come into this very much from the perspective and the true belief that there is a tremendous opportunity through everything that we do to meaningfully improve the well being of community.

And as Lou described, this sense of greater purpose is what aligns the initiative that brings us all together, but ultimately is the guiding post that we’re using as we continue to move forward.

In doing this, we’ve also partnered with the Conference Board of Canada and building on a foundation of research that they’ve been doing for many, many years that culminated in 2018 on the publication of the community well-being framework, but has continued to be a huge part of the research, and has developed a series of evidence based indicators around how we can design and plan communities and environments and parks.

In a way that truly and meaningfully improves the well being of communities. The Conference Board through the Commonwealth Games will continue to be involved and refine and nuance with city input and from your own staff and your own community.

The indicators that we will be using so that we can continue to bring evidence into the entire planning and design process. And of course, City of Burlington already has a tremendous amount of really good thinking that we’re keenly aware of and we want to make sure is brought forward in everything that we’re doing. Your newly minted Official Plan and the work that is being done around major transit station areas and many of the initiatives the city are bringing forward and many of the priorities that you’re bringing forward.

So through the Commonwealth Games, we’re currently in the process of starting to identify and elicit interest in all of the different opportunities that may exist for specific sites, then use interventions, programming, all these kinds of things, which is where the very excitingly opportunities exist.

There’s an enormous amount here to unpack and we have no hope of having you fully understand the opportunity on a call of this length. So we’d be delighted to make ourselves available for independent or other discussions with you to explain further what it is that we have in mind. But the one point I would make is as you’re trying to understand what this means, is that we’re talking about a specific development site as part of a Commonwealth Games. In the very early stages of our work it was made very clear to us that bids had failed principally for a couple of reasons.

One, there was really insufficient private sector support. And number two, you had a small group of bid proponents or enthusiasts who created a bid without really consulting with the broader community and simply asked the broader community to accept or support their bid. What we felt in consultation with the Commonwealth Games Foundation (CGF) was that a way to differentiate the bid is not to start with what the bid people want, but to identify with communities that would be impacted by the bid want, and then to make that the bid and the way to do that and activate that necessarily depends on private sector,  land owners, private sector developers and other organizations to step up,

And there are three catalyst projects of which the King Road site would be one. The other is the downtown Hamilton redevelopment project and the third is a large redevelopment project in the city of Brampton.

Highway 403 was mistakenly labelled Highway 401.

So the question then becomes what is it we would wish to have here at present. The CGF has not finalized its sports program and very helpfully, they’ve indicated to us that they have considerable flexibility around the sports that are included.

We had initially thought that Burlington would be the site and home of lawn bowling in the initial bid relating to 2030. We’ve since moved profoundly beyond simply having lawn bowling in the city of Burlington to explore with you a variety of different opportunities that relate to sports and recreation, infrastructure and facilities.

Both discussions have already involved partnerships with post secondary institutions around the site. We’ve discussed and are having consultations with leading advanced manufacturing innovators who might be interested in being a part of this catalyst project. Of course, as Paul alluded to, we’re very focused on integrating innovative, thoughtful level affordable housing initiatives into the site and beyond as part of the accommodation programming for the games. But in creating housing inventory, that would be available as of 2030, and very notably creating really an internationally significant and thoughtful blending of the natural heritage in the region, to the development, recreation and sport. assets that we hope to create

Burlington as an International Centre for Gymnastics Excellence?

Among the opportunities open to us are discussions that I’m currently having with respect to a number of sport organizations, track and field in athletics is searching for new Canadian national home. And as Canada is interested in international home, there were a variety of organizations that would be very interested in gymnastics, for example, in creating a centre of excellence for facilities in the city of Burlington, both projects would absolutely require the support of the private sector in the support of senior levels of government, and should any of those projects be of interest to the city of Burlington, being potentially located in the King Road site or otherwise?

We’d be delighted to advance those conversations on your behalf with you with those sport organizations and senior levels of government as an element of the big but at all events. We’re not prescribing that you do anything in the city of Burlington we’re looking to commence a process that we call the framework in that exploring what might make most sense for the citizens in the community.

One of the most exciting opportunities that we have that we’ve been working on now with with Paul and others for the better part of a year and a half, is in partnership with academic institutions creating a new and innovative ecosystem in the digital economy centered on gaming, and all elements of gaming, graphic design, coding and  programming.

eSports is well entrenched amongst students – many parents have yet ti hear about it – including Burlington’s Mayor

And rather than creating a facility around the gaming, creating an ecosystem that collides all of the capacities, experiential learning, technical skills, training and private sector partners, as part of the development project at King road in the coming months.  Having engaged Deloitte and their national gaming practice consultancy practice, to provide us with modeling around this. We really look forward to carrying on that conversation with you and what might you say. Does eSports have anything to do with the Commonwealth Games?  The Commonwealth Games has announced its desire to integrate eSports and gaming into the Commonwealth Games as an element of those games as all of the major gaming properties are doing.

And we’ve decided to embrace this given what it means from a skills training and economic perspective as a key element of our work here around the 2030 bid.  And we see Burlington potentially as incredibly significant place that combine young people skills training experiential learning and economic investment in digital media or digital gaming as a potential element of this development.

So to conclude, we see the games is focused on sustainable development, wellness and well being as providing all of us with an opportunity to collaborate on attacking some of the biggest challenges of our time and doing it on the world stage, giving the city of Burlington  an opportunity to be seen by over 70 countries a billion and a half people and not just in 2030, but in the years leading up to it as the centre of activity around the delivery of something that’s internationally innovative in its approach to combining private sector development, a variety of new and different stakeholders to the return of the games 100 years after their birth.

 

Related news stories:

Burlington learns about plans for bringing Commonwealth Games to Hamilton/Burlington.

Paul Paletta now President of Penta Properties

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Promoting a waterfront that meets the needs and desires of the people who live in the city sounds like a good idea

By Pepper Parr

December 26th, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Trying for a quieter day,

Two stories – both development related, for Burlington is in full development mode.  With 40+ development applications either with, or on their way to, the Planning department and about the same number of appeals of the adopted but not yet legal Official Plan before the Ontario Land Tribunal – the year ahead is going to be 10 months of arm wrestling before there is a municipal election – and who knows who the winners will be at that level.

Ward 2 Councillor Lisa Kearns sent out a piece she put up on her Facebook page with a link to the Plan B Facebook page.

The Councillor feels restricted on just how supportive she can be about what the Plan B people would like to see done with the Waterfront Hotel site that is the object of a development proposal for a two tower development that will set a new height level for the downtown core – a 35 and a 30 storey tower.

Named 2020 Lakeshore, the site is owned by Vrancor the owners of Solid Gold, an adult entertainment location in Aldershot, and the former Ascot Motel to the immediate east of the Bridgewater development.

The development application submitted to the Planning Department has been described as incomplete.

The downtown core of the city would undergo a radical change if these two towers were built. Burlington as people know it today would disappear.

What Kearns has managed to do is give the Plan B some much needed exposure.  If what they have in mind is to gain any traction they need a lot more in the way of public support for something radically different than the two towers to be built.

How hard can a ward Councillor fight to prevent a development. They are limited in what they can say about a development that has not yet been presented to Council

In her Facebook page Kearns writes:

Are you passionate about Burlington’s Waterfront?

Can you lend your expertise & energy to a community group?

Here’s an opportunity to join a local growing movement to Add Your Voice To Help Save Burlington’s Heritage Waterfront.

Check out PLAN B.  Waterfront Hotel Redevelopment

PLAN B is a group of engaged Burlington volunteers solely focused on ensuring that any redevelopment of the Waterfront Hotel enhances the Brant Street gateway to Lake Ontario and extends Spencer Smith Park.  She includes a link to the Plan B Facebook page.

Related news stories:

Why Plan B is critical to saving what Burlington is

Citizens wanted input at the beginning – not after the planners have made their decision.

There are options and opportunities to be creative and serve the citizens and not the vested interests.

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GO getting ready to go electric- leads to 15 minute service

By Staff

December 23rd, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

 

There is no precedent for the GO Expansion program – it is a highly complex undertaking unlike anything before in Canada.

The largest and most complicated element of the program is the GO Expansion On-Corridor Works package, a single innovative, fully integrated contract to run more and better service. The winning team will design, build, operate, and maintain the new infrastructure and trains for 25 years, a massive, multibillion-dollar undertaking.

What does it take to completely overhaul a transit system, move people out of cars, and onto transit?

The people at GO Transit look at what the future could look like while looking over their shoulder at recent progress on the lines.

Pundits agree that frequent, convenient service is the top driver for ridership growth. Build it, and they will come, to steal a line from Field of Dreams.

GO Expansion aims to do exactly that – to provide a regional transit system so convenient, that the additional four million residents that will move to the region by 2041, will find taking the train a lot more convenient than driving a car.

It’s hard to contemplate what it may mean to GO Transit customers to see trains pulling into stations every 15 minutes or less, in either direction. The closest comparison is Toronto’s TTC subway system, where riders simply walk to the station, with no need to check the train schedule.

GO Transit – the commuter transit service – will be gone, transformed to the equivalent of a surface subway system for travel all day, every day, for any kind of trip.

GO Expansion includes adding over 200 km of new track, electrifying over 600 km of track, a new electric train fleet will combine to become the largest transit project in North America. (Metrolinx graphic)

The GO Expansion On-Corridor Works package — known as ‘OnCorr’ to those in the industry— is the central piece that builds on all the other parts of GO Expansion to make that vision a reality.

The successful proponent team will be responsible for delivering 15 minute or better, all-day service on our core lines. That means a train turning up every 15 minutes or less in each direction at every station between Union and Burlington on the Lakeshore West line, Union and Bramalea on the Kitchener line, Union and Bradford on the Barrie line, Union and Unionville on the Stouffville line, and Union and Oshawa on Lakeshore East.

To operate those service levels, safely and reliably, the successful proponent team will need to design and build the right improvements to GO’s infrastructure.

This includes implementing overhead electrification, upgrading train control systems, and expanding tracks and structures along the corridors to allow for 6,000 weekly train trips. These infrastructure improvements will complement the billions of dollars of GO Expansion Early Works projects already underway or complete, as well as planned work renovating existing stations, building new stations and extending the GO rail network to places like Bowmanville in the future.

The contract is in a multi-year procurement process, and the bids closed on Nov. 30.

An artist’s rendering of an electric GO train, subject to change. (Metrolinx image) They will be all electric, quieter, much easier on the environment

Two proponent teams, EnTransit and ONxpress Transportation Partners, have submitted their proposals.

Each team brings together international firms with extensive experience building and running frequent electric regional rail networks outside North America with local partners.

EnTransit
– Keolis Canada Inc.
– Keolis SA;SNC-Lavalin Constructors (Pacific) Inc.
– SNC-Lavalin Inc.
– SNC-Lavalin Operations & Maintenance Inc.
– SNCF Participations
– Hitachi Rail STS Canada Inc.
– Engie Transport CM Canada Inc.
– Eiffage Génie Civil

TSO ONxpress Transportation Partners
– Aecon Concessions, a division of Aecon Construction Group Inc.
– Aecon Infrastructure Management Inc.
– Aecon O&M, a division of Aecon Construction Group Inc.
– ALSTOM Transport Canada Inc.
– ALSTOM Holdings SA
– Deutsche Bahn International Operations GmbH
– Hatch Corporation
– FCC Construccion S.A.
– WSP Canada Inc.

Benefits of GO Expansion:

GO Expansion will provide a major new travel choice to customers and significantly increase transit ridership, cut trip times, and help manage congestion across the GTHA

Time savings (faster, more frequent, and reliable transit options throughout the region)

Congestion management (similar transit services throughout the world have been shown to slow the growth of road congestion)
Financial savings (transit fares typically cost less than owning and maintaining a vehicle)

Easier movement of people and goods to address estimated yearly congestion costs of up to $11 billion

What’s Next?

Over the next several months, Infrastructure Ontario and Metrolinx will evaluate the proposals.

Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario will announce the winning team in Spring 2022, and there will be a 24-month development phase after the contract is awarded, where Metrolinx and the successful proponent will work collaboratively on design, early investigations, schedule optimization, and key initial construction work.

Construction is expected to start in late 2022 or early 2023, subject to the successful proponent’s construction schedule.

 

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COVID19 certainly took a bite out of the Regional economy - not a lot of certainty over the rate of recovery

By Pepper Parr

December 22, 2015

BURLINGTON, ON

 

It is the kind of document that Burlington Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman has in the past said he “lusts after” It is data heavy

On December 21, Halton released results of the Halton COVID-19 Business Recovery Survey administered in November. The survey collected approximately 700 responses from Halton business owners on how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected operations and workplaces, and supports that businesses may need as they move toward reopening and recovery. The results indicated that the pandemic has had significant impacts on business revenues, financial liquidity, and has led to rising debt loads. Halton business owners identified supply chain disruptions, employee shortages and continuing economic uncertainty as the biggest challenges facing business recovery.

The data speaks for itself.  The disappointing aspect is that the really large employers appear to have taken a pass at the opportunity to respond.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Most recent Covid19 infections set out below - they are nothing to be proud of - they point to our negligence

By Staff

December 22, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Pictures are worth a thousand words – or so the saying goes.

The pictures tell us that the Covid19 variant is here amongst us – now!

The tools to protect ourselves are available.

We will know early in the New Year how well we did during the holidays

We have seen those rising numbers before. They will be back again if we do not take care of ourselves.

 

The 1320 number has not been seen in the Region for some time.

The numbers for the Region are above.

The 370 active cases is likely to grow.

The numbers for Burlington are above.

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Oakville produces a 1.5% 2022 budget: Burlington struggled to agree on a 4.95% increase increase

December 21, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

 

 

Kim Arnott who writes for the Oakville News reported that:

In its final budget before next October’s election, town council will limit the residential property tax increase to 1.5 per cent while putting money into initiatives to slow down traffic, fight off gypsy moths and increase loose leaf pick-up service.

Oakville’s 2022 budget got the final nod from town council during its Dec. 20 meeting.

“This budget is about being ready for our future,” said budget committee chair and Ward 6 councillor Tom Adams.

Along with expanding services and investing in community infrastructure, the budget will advance important infrastructure needs for growing areas of Oakville, he said.

 

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Holiday schedule - city hall

By Staff

December 21st, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Those who are actually working within City Hall will limp out of the building on the 24th and return on Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022. – hoping that things will be much different and much better.

Given the Covid infection numbers we are seeing (more than 3000 plus on Friday) the year we are going into could turn out to be very hard for a lot of people.

Here is what’s open and closed at the City of Burlington

Over the upcoming holiday season, City of Burlington administrative services will be closed between Friday, Dec. 24, 2021 and Monday, Jan. 3, 2022, re-opening on Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022.

For more information about which City services and facilities are available over the holidays, please see the summary below or visit burlington.ca.

*Important information regarding COVID-19: The information provided below is accurate as of Dec. 15, 2021. In the event of any changes made by the Province of Ontario to current COVID-19 public health measures, please visit burlington.ca/coronavirus for potential impacts to City services and programs.

Residents can stay informed about City news at www.burlington.ca/coronavirus and our social media channels: @cityburlington on Twitter, @cityburlington on Instagram and facebook.com/cityburlington

City Service Holiday Closure Information
Animal Services

 

While the Animal Shelter at 2424 Industrial St. remains closed to the public due to COVID-19, all animal services continue to be offered.

To report an animal control-related emergency, call 905-335-3030 or visit www.burlington.ca/animal.

Burlington Transit Burlington Transit will have the following schedules:

  • Friday, Dec. 24 – weekday schedule until approximately 8 p.m.
  • Saturday, Dec. 25 – modified holiday schedule
  • Sunday, Dec. 26 – holiday (Sunday) schedule
  • Monday, Dec. 27 to Friday, Dec. 31 – regular schedules
  • Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022 – modified holiday schedule.

Visit burlingtontransit.ca for full schedule information.

The Downtown Terminal at 430 John St., and Specialized Dispatch (Handi-Van) will be closed on Dec. 25, 2021 and Jan. 1, 2022. The Downtown Terminal will be open from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Dec. 24 and Dec. 28.

Schedules and specialized booking are available at burlingtontransit.ca. For real-time schedule information visit Google/Apple Maps or triplinx.ca.

City Hall The Service Burlington counter at City Hall (426 Brant St.), will close at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 23, 2021, and reopen on Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022 at 8:30 a.m.

Many service payments are available online at burlington.ca/onlineservices.

Halton Court Services – Provincial Offences Office Court administration counter services at 4085 Palladium Way will be closed on Friday, Dec. 24, re-opening Wednesday, Dec. 29 and then closed on Monday, Jan. 3, re-opening Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022.

With the exception of the December holiday closures, telephone payments are available at 905-637-1274, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday to Friday. All in-person services are available from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday. Many services are also available by email at burlingtoncourt@burlington.ca or online at Halton Court Services.

 Parking Free parking is available downtown, on the street, in municipal lots and in the parking garage on weekends and holidays, including Dec. 25, 26 and Jan. 1, 2022.

NOTE: The Waterfront parking lots (east and west) do not provide free parking on statutory holidays.

Recreation Programs and Facilities Winter Fest Camp for children aged four to 12 years old will run during the holiday season. This program is open to everyone and includes active time, games and crafts. Learn more and register at burlington.ca/schoolbreaks.

Tim Hortons free winter break swimming and skating – swims start on Dec. 19, and skates start Dec. 20. Pre-registration is required. For more information on dates and times and to register online, visit burlington.ca/dropinandplay.

Drop-in programs – pre-registration is required for drop-in swims, skates and more during the break, visit burlington.ca/dropinandplay.

Burlington Rotary Centennial Pond – open daily, ice conditions permitting, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. (closing at 5 p.m. on Dec. 24 and closed on Dec. 25). Visit burlington.ca/pond.

Holiday facility rentals are available for play and recreation for gyms, ice rinks and community rooms. Now accepting bookings for 60 or 90-minute rental slots until Jan. 2, 2022. Special holiday rates are in effect. For information and to book online visit burlington.ca/rentals.

Roads, Parks and Forestry Administrative office closed Friday, Dec. 24 to Monday, Jan. 3, re-opening Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022.

Essential, winter control and reduced parks maintenance services will be provided. For more information and updates on snow removal, please visit burlington.ca/snow.

As we prepare to leave 2021 we look back to see what we lost – what we do now and what will carry us through – each other.

My life-long friend Patti Stren, author of several children’s books, is handing out hugs.  Something you might want to consider.

 

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Inflation in a Time of COVID and Global Warming

By Ray Rivers

December 20th, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

 

COVID and climate change, not the federal deficit, is driving up prices in this country. Public health measures have led to global supply chain blockages and workplace interruptions. And 2021 has been the absolutely worst year for disastrous climate events, including forest fires, flooding and drought. Prairie grain harvests, for example, are reported to be 30-50% lower this year, which also impacts meat prices.

Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre in the House of Commons

So it’s unfortunate that Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre is peddling misinformation. He blames the high deficit and debt levels for the country’s current 4.7% increase in the price of an average basket of goods. He argues that it is because government debt has resulted in too much money being printed and circulated in the economy. But that is not what is happening.

To complicate his argument, Poilievre is demanding federal tax cuts, including the revenue neutral carbon tax, which will….put more money in people’s hands and further increase the deficit.

Poilievre is entitled to his opinion but no reputable economists support his thesis. Canada is actually doing better than most OECD nations when it comes to inflation and with an inflation rate a whole third lower than we’re seeing south of the border. Canada’s inflation has been hovering around 4.7% for the last couple of months, though nobody is discounting that it might climb a little higher before it declines again.

In any case,Ha good chunk of Canada’s economy is inflation proofed – our pensions, income tax deductions, etc. which have been indexed to the consumer price index (CPI). And our health and education programs are all publicly funded. So it’s mostly food and other consumables, some of which are waiting to unload at the ports or sitting in a barge adrift in Vancouver Harbour.

The Covid19 virus and the variant Omicron along with Climate Change are the structural changes we are going through right now.

And then there is housing. Housing prices have been rising for a while now. And while low interest rates, allowing more people to qualify for mortgages, are partly responsible, the real culprit is the extremely high rate of immigration. Canada’s immigration target is 400,000 new entrants a year, over 100,000 of those looking for housing in the GTA.

Some level of inflation is not unhealthy in a growing economy and/or one experiencing some measure of structural change. And structural changes is what we are going through right now, thanks to COVID and climate change. The federal government has a number of tools to slow down inflation should it get out of hand. These include tax increases, reducing government spending and transfers, import and export restrictions and controlling the interest rate.

The Finance Minister just renewed the Bank of Canada’s mandate, which includes exercising monetary policy to raise interest rates and attempt to bring inflation down to 2% or less. However, given the still shaky economic situation with an ongoing pandemic, nobody should expect the Bank to jack up rates, particularly for the current bout of price increases which reflect an economy very much in transition.

Higher interest rates will also raise the cost of the government borrowing to finance our debt and deficit. That will lead to increased deficits and possibly eliminate funding for other government programs. In the end higher rates suppress economy activity by reducing consumer demand. That will lead to higher unemployment which no government ever wants.

Raising interest rates would push Canada’s international exchange rate up as foreign investors up their Canadian investments to get the higher rates here. That would prompt exchange rate increases and impact Canada’s international competitiveness as our exports become relatively more expensive and imports relatively cheaper.

This is the situation Brian Mulroney found himself in the late 80’s as he attempted to quell inflation with monetary policy. We ended up with higher unemployment, deterioration in our terms of trade and creating the greatest accumulation of federal debt in Canada’s history – that is until the pandemic hit us.

Over-reacting to Canada’s modest inflation rate can be fraught with these potential complications. The Minister of Finance and Bank of Canada are betting that the supply chain blockages will be resolved and the price pressure will lessen. But given where we are with the pandemic rebounding energetically, and climate change throwing curve balls around every corner, nobody is in a hurry to raise interest rates or cut taxes. That is possibly except for Pierrre Poilievre who has no idea what he’s talking about.

Ray Rivers, a Gazette Contributing Editor,  writes regularly applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was once a candidate for provincial office in Burlington.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.   Ray has a post graduate degree in economics that he earned at the University of Ottawa.  Tweet @rayzrivers

Background links:

Pierre Poilievre –  National Debt –  Crop Failures –

Food Prices –   Inflation –   Fiscal Update

Actual Fiscal Update –   Home Prices –

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Outdoors is the safest place you can be - and the kids will love it.

By Staff

December 20th, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Snow on the ground – get ready for winter fun.

And watch the people at Parks, Recreation and Culture pivot once again to keep people active and staying healthy at the same time.

There are many opportunities for everyone to be active outside.

The information provided below is accurate as of Dec. 20, 2021. In the event of any changes made by the Province of Ontario to current COVID-19 public health measures, please visit burlington.ca/coronavirus for potential impacts to City services and programs.
Burlington Rotary Centennial Pond

Scheduled to open on Tuesday, Dec. 21.

The Burlington Rotary Centennial Pond at the waterfront in downtown Burlington is scheduled to open Tuesday, Dec. 21. The rink will be open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve and closed on Christmas Day. Registration is not required.

Residents are encouraged to call the ice conditions hotline, 905-335-7738, ext. 8587 before leaving their house, to make sure the Pond is open.

The skate lending program is back this season at the Burlington Rotary Centennial Pond and is available Friday, 5 to 10 p.m., Saturday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and during the school breaks, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

For more about the Pond’s features and rules, visit burlington.ca/pond.

Outdoor artificial rink
The artificial skating rink is open at the old tennis courts in Sherwood Forest Park, 5270 Fairview St. This rink is best suited for parents with young children and anyone learning to skate.

Neighbourhood Rinks
There are 15 Neighbourhood Rink locations available in City parks this year. The rinks will be open to the public and free to use once the weather is cold enough for the ice. City staff will install boards for the natural ice rinks that will be maintained by neighbourhood volunteer groups. Everyone is asked to respect the open/closed signs and stay off the ice when the rink is closed.

For more information on the Neighbourhood Rink program and locations, visit burlington.ca/neighbourhoodrink.

That was fun!

Tobogganing
The city has designated six areas in the city that are safe for tobogganing. They include:

• Brant Hills Park, southwest of the tennis courts, 2300 Duncaster Dr.
• Central Park on the hill northwest of the community garden, 2299 New St.
• LaSalle Park, east of the parking lot, 50 North Shore Blvd.
• Lowville Park on the hill at the southwest end of park, 6207 Lowville Park Rd.
• Nelson Park on the east side of park, north of the Centennial bike path, 4183 New St.
• Tyandaga Park at hole number four on the west slope, 1265 Tyandaga Park Dr.

To view designated tobogganing sites and tips for safe tobogganing, please visit burlington.ca/tobogganing.

Tim Hortons Free Swimming and Skating
Thanks to Tim Hortons, Burlington residents can enjoy another year of free swimming and skating this holiday season. View schedule and sign up, visit burlington.ca/dropinandplay.

Play Equipment Lending Library
If you need some play equipment or want to try something new without having to buy it, try the City’s Play Equipment Lending Library, including new glow-in-the-dark equipment which can be useful as the days get shorter. Pickup at Central Arena, 512 Drury Lane. To borrow, visit burlington.ca/playlending.

Imagine the golf course covered in snow – what a great place to hike.

Disc Golf and Hiking at Tyandaga Golf Course
Tyandaga Golf Course (1265 Tyandaga Park Dr.) is open for disc golf and hiking during the winter season and open from dawn until dusk.

Players need to bring their own discs.

Discs can also be borrowed through the Play Equipment Lending Library.

 

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The new Covid 19 rules impact Burlington - starting on Sunday

By Staff

December 18th, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The Province has announced that Ontario, including Halton Region and the City of Burlington, will be applying additional public health and workplace safety measures, including capacity and social gathering limits, beginning Sunday, Dec. 19 at 12:01 a.m.

These measures will help curb transmission and continue to safeguard Ontario’s hospital and ICU capacity as the province continues to rapidly accelerate its booster dose rollout.

Changes to recreation facilities capacities
While City of Burlington recreational programs, services and rentals will continue as planned, recreation facilities capacity will be reduced to 50 per cent for rentals, events and programs.

50% less starting Sunday

Rental and program participants must come to the facility dressed and ready for their activity and leave the facility promptly following the activity. As a result of the capacity restriction, change room and dressing room space is also limited to 50 per cent and may not be available.

All requirements for proof of vaccination, screening, masking and physical distancing remain in place.

Rental organizations who wish to cancel their rental bookings at this time can do so without penalty by emailing rentals@burlington.ca.

Registered participants of recreation programs affected by reduced capacity limits will be contacted directly by City staff. Individuals who wish to withdraw from a course or program will receive a full refund. They can contact customer service at liveandplay@burlington.ca or 905-335-7738 from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday to Friday and 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on weekends. For more information and holiday hours, please visit burlington.ca/servicehours.

 

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Province tightens everything - starting 12:01 a.m. on Sunday, December 19, 2021.

By Staff

December 17th, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Responding to the rising number of Covid19 infections and the rate at which the Omicron variant is replicating the province of Ontario released the following statement:

To further strengthen its response to Omicron and reduce opportunities for close contact as the province gets as many vaccines into arms as possible, Ontario is introducing a 50 per cent capacity limit in the following indoor public settings:

Restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments and strip clubs;

Personal care services;

Personal physical fitness trainers;

Retailers (including grocery stores and pharmacies);

Shopping malls;

Non-spectator areas of facilities used for sports and recreational fitness activities (e.g. gyms);

Indoor recreational amenities;

Indoor clubhouses at outdoor recreational amenities;

Tour and guide services; and

Photography studios and services; and

Marinas and boating clubs.

These limits do not apply to any portion of a business or place that is being used for a wedding, a funeral or a religious service, rite, or ceremony. Businesses or facilities will also need to post a sign stating the capacity limits that are permitted in the establishment.

To further reduce the spread of COVID-19 and the Omicron variant, additional protective measures are also being applied:

The number of patrons permitted to sit at a table will be limited to 10 people and patrons will be required to remain seated in restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments, meeting and event spaces and strip clubs.

Bars and restaurants, meeting and event spaces and strip clubs will be required to close by 11 p.m. Take out and delivery will be permitted beyond 11 p.m.

Dancing will not be allowed except for workers or performers.

Food and/or drink services will be prohibited at sporting events; concert venues, theatres and cinemas; casinos, bingo halls and other gaming establishments; and horse racing tracks, car racing tracks and other similar venues.

The sale of alcohol will be restricted after 10 p.m. and consumption of alcohol in businesses or settings after 11 p.m.

In addition, to mitigate COVID-19 transmission that can occur at informal social gatherings, the province is also reducing social gathering limits to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors.

These restrictions will come into effect on 12:01 a.m. on Sunday, December 19, 2021.

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An Apology isn't enough: a full, complete explanation how city Staff produced a newsletter with decisions that had not yet been made is required

By Pepper Parr

December 16th, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Delivered to citizens on the 14th with budget decisions that had not yet been made.

It was less than a fulsome apology and it does beg a number of questions:

Who wrote the article that appeared in City Talk?

Who signed off on the content ?

When did the material go to the printer and when did it get sent to the delivery people ?

All the possible answers suggest City Talk was in one level of production at least four days before it was delivered on the 14th – which suggest that the material was written on the 9th – the day the Budget Standing Committee passed a recommendation that went to Council.

Did the Mayor get her way again – at the expense of the City Manager ?

It also suggest that the Mayor was involved. There is precious little information coming out of the mouths of the other members of Council but it appears that they did not see what was being sent out.

The information sent to citizens was purely political – Staff have no business getting involved in the political drama that pervades the Council Chamber even though as a Council they don’t meet there anymore.

City Manager Tim Commisso

This is no small matter. Anne and Dave Marsden made the point when they wrote us to say: “We find it very difficult to understand why Burlington taxpayers seem to have no understanding of how serious an issue the City Talk issue is. “Correct Anticipation” and “Mountains out of Molehills” leaves one wondering what the Gazette has to do to expose things like this which should have the City up in arms!

How the City Manager let this one take place defies rational explanation.  He knows better.

 

Related news stories:

The City Talk Newsletter

The City Apology:

The recently issued copy of City Talk, which is managed by City staff, was inadvertently sent out and delivered earlier than anticipated. City communications to residents about Council services and initiatives, like the City budget are never sent out prior to formal City Council approval. As much as possible, City staff work on communication materials like City Talk in advance, however, information isn’t shared till approvals. We apologize for the error.

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Police Officer charged by SIU for Sexual Assault and Breach of Trust

By Staff

December 16th, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

 

It is one of the harder jobs a Chief of Police has to do – suspend one of his officers and ask the provincial Special Investigations Unit to investigate a a complaint.

Chief of Police Steve Tanner

In this case a Halton Regional Police Service Officer Charged by SIU with one count of Sexual Assault and one count of Breach of Trust.

Constable David Ardrey, a 14-year member of the Halton Regional Police Service has been charged in relation to an incident that occurred in September 2021.

At the time the Service became aware of the incident, Chief Tanner suspended the officer from active duty, and the SIU was notified and invoked their mandate.

As the matter is now before the courts, and as required by law, no further information can be provided by the Halton Regional Police Service at this time.

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Back and forth at a Council meeting - just to get to the point where they agree to take a half hour break.

By Pepper Parr

December 15th, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

 

To get a true sense as to how your City Council got to the point where they could approve the Operations budget for 2021 it helps if you can listen in.

We don’t have audio to pass along but our software does capture what is said (not all that well unfortunately, but it does give you a sense as to how things were going.

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward

The Mayor is in the Chair – the information in brackets is the time.

(38:23) Alrighty we are at the end of all of the individual items. So we are now back up to the budget as a whole. So we are at Item D having dealt with all of the amendments that were pulled. Perhaps we can get the revised amount it did change with that last vote. So we will need to if we need a recess. Let me know. Laurie, if or if you’ve got that number that we can insert into the revised recommendation on the board. As far as I know. Didn’t change.

The capital numbers did not change the operating main motion. The tax levy amount needs to be revised to 191, 550, 509. This brings the city’s portion of the tax impact of 4.62% and an overall impact of 2.87.

All right, so let’s get that up on the board. You know the number of clauses to vote on and we’ll take those individually.

Mayor: All right. I will read it into the record.

We have approved the 2022 operating budget including any budget amendments approved by the Corporate Services strategy, Risk and Accountability Budget Committee to be applied against the proposed net tax levy of $191,552,509, which as we heard delivers a tax impact city portion only a 4.62 and a region portion of 2.87

Overall, once you blend it with region and education, second approve the 2022 capital budget with a gross amount of 77,384,020 with a debenture requirement of $8,600,000 and the 2023 to 2031 Capital forecast with a gross amount of $752,172,369 with a debenture requirement of $38,975,000 as outlined in finance department.  As amended by the Corporate Services strategy, risk and accountability Budget Committee and approve that if the actual net assessment growth is different than the estimated 2.45% any increase in tax dollars generated from the city portion of assessment growth from the previous year be transferred to these tax rate stabilization reserve fund or any decrease in tax dollars generated from the city portion of assessment growth from the previous year. Is act 1997 and section five of the Ontario regulation 80 to 98. It is Council’s clear intention that the excess capacity provided by the above referenced works will be paid for by future development charges.

So I will pause for a moment I see our clerks hand in the air. Go ahead, Kevin.

Thank you, Mayor. We’re just wanting to confirm with council if they want to vote on everything clause by clause. So there are five clauses to this. This motion would you like to have it separated clause by clause or I understand that counsellor Bentivegna wanted capital that would be close to separated. We’re here to fulfill your needs. So just let us know.

Mayor:  All right. Well, certainly the first two have to be separated once we get to the second one. I will ask if there’s anything further to be separated out. Maybe we’ll handle that way. And then we’ll proceed sort of on the fly here. So we have oh, I just we just lost the screen. Are we going to get those motions back up, Kevin?

Clerk: Yeah, I think that we’re just separating them out for the vote. The screen that you see is what you’re voting on in the system. So if we have to separate things out, we have to redact them from the screen.

Mayor: So the first one up is the operating budget. Okay, so as amended and I will look to the board for questions and we will have to just pause momentarily to make sure that we tee up everyone’s time that they have left. And I I’ve been keeping some notes I hope our clerks have as well and the first person I have on the board is counsellor Stolte. Apparently you have four minutes left. Go ahead.

Ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte.

Stolte: Thank you, Mayor. I’m actually not going to comment. What I’m going to ask for is whether or not we could please take a recess. The last round of voting on those amendments that were pulled has dramatically changed the work that we did where we last ended up last week. And I personally need a few minutes to decide to figure out where I stand on support or not support the budget at this point. So not being put in a position of having to do that thinking on the fly. I would appreciate if we could recess for a few minutes.

Mayor: Absolutely. I’m prepared to recess so I do see some hands on the board. If you are speaking to the budget, let’s hold that if you are speaking to the recess counsellor Bentivegna –   did you want to speak to the request for a recess?

Bentivegna: I don’t have problem I will go. recess. I would like to see the the numbers on up so that not only we could see him that the residents can see what the new numbers are.

Mayor: You’re talking about the tax rate numbers. Okay, we will we will endeavour during the recess to get that included in what you have here. Counselor current speaking to the recess.

Ward 6 Councillor Angelo Bentivegna

: “Thank you very much. I am speaking to the recess in regards to inviting the clerk with an opportunity to speak around procedural options should the budget not pass we received some commentary and committee commentary carries through to council.

Mayor: Certainly and as chair, I will direct all questions to the appropriate Staff.  And Kevin I assume that would be you go ahead.

Clerk:
Oh, yes, council. So Through you, Mayor to the council. There are options. If the budget fails, then Council can then direct staff with with some direction and then we’d have to come back with a new budget. Or there can be an alternative moved at the same time. So there’s those are two options if the budget fails. At any point in this conversation if Council wishes to they could refer this back to staff with direction as well. So those are some of your options for today.

Mayor: Already, everyone clear on the options so we don’t have the four votes today we’re talking budget for a little longer. So I’m going to suggest given the significance of this vote and the the need for folks to have I think that we take a half hour break and come back at quarter to two so we will recess until 1:45 and come back and see where we’re at till three o’clock. Sorry. You want to go till three o’clock. Okay. Cancer. Galbraith has requested a recess until three I’m happy to. (41:57)

And at that point Council took a half hour break.

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Council passes a budget without letting the public see just how dysfunctional this tribe of seven actually is

By Pepper Parr

December 15th, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

OPINION

The spin masters at city hall are doing everything they can to put the best possible spin on the budget decisions that were made yesterday afternoon.

A media announcement declared: “ City Council approves 2022 budget: 2.87 per cent overall tax increase to maintain City services and infrastructure, and address continued impacts of the pandemic.”

The statement is true – it is a fact – however it isn’t the fact that matters most to you.

You want to know how much the city increased your taxes: THAT number is 4.62% over what the taxes were last year.

That 2.87% number is the result of combining the taxes you will pay to the Boards of Education and the taxes you pay to the Region. The city collects all those taxes from you.

This is not a good budget – not just because of the size of the increase. The Mayor said it was less than the current rate of inflation – which is also true.

The media release also said: “For example, homeowners with a home assessed at $500,000 would pay an additional $111.80 per year or $2.15 per week.

When was the last time you saw a house in Burlington assessed at $500,000? Houses are now in the $850,000 range with $1 million prices showing up regularly.

The spending that the city does is the number that matters to you. And that spending increased by 4.62% over last year.

Council did manage to reduce the size of the budget Staff had presented – but by less than 1%

The five year simulation suggests that we are looking at higher tax increases for a number of years.  The best Council could do was shave off less than 1% from the budget Staff gave them.

These are very tough times; everyone knows that. What we have a right to expect is straight up honest answers and information from the people we elect.  That seems to be in short supply these days.

It is unusual for municipal counsellors to increase taxes in an election year.

There were a number of way this Council could have gotten the increase into the 3.5% range.

Getting what she wanted proved to be out of the Mayor’s reach.

The problem was Mayor Meed Ward could not convince her council colleagues to see things her way – All, except for ward 6 Councillor Angelo Bentivegna, voted against this budget

Mayor Meed Ward called this “… a true collective effort of Council and staff in service of our community to deal with now needs and plan for our future.”

In truth it is the best this council could do given the level of acrimony between a majority of the council members and the Mayor.

Few are prepared to stand up to the Mayor and wrest the control she now has and ensure that the voices of the others are fairly heard. Councillors Stolte and Kearns need to stand up to the Mayor.

Ward 3 Councillor Rory Nisan chaired the Budget Committee: prevented Council members from moving motions on more than one occasion.

On just about every issue the Mayor has the full support of ward 1 Councillor Kelvin Galbraith and ward 3 Councillor Rory Nisan.

The balance of the other four tend to side with Councillor Sharman who was certainly doesn’t get credit for making sure this budget fully served the people of Burlington.

Galbraith is perhaps not aware of the election race he is going to face next October. There are people in ward 3 considering giving Nisan a run for that council seat.

Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman with his eye on the prize

As for the Mayor – you heard it here first – Former Mayor Rick Goldring will run for Mayor in 2022. There is a substantial group that are urging him to run again.  He is positioning himself for a run – whether he throws his hat in the ring – only time will tell.

Councillor Sharman will also run for Mayor and because Goldring will take votes away from Meed Ward – Paul Sharman could well be the Mayor of the city for the 2022 – 2025 term.

This terrible budget exercise can and should be seen as the beginning of the 2022 municipal election.

Before then however, there is a provincial election that will take place. There are some changes needed at that level as well.

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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