It’s a done deal – the city now knows what the hospital will do with the money we give them. Took a long time to get there.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON September 27, 2012    They didn’t kiss and make up but they did all sit at the same table and sign the same document and make nice.  Didn’t take long – maybe ten minutes to affix signatures to a document that had the hospital raising $60 million and the city coming up with $60 million out of the taxpayers’ pockets to build the city a new hospital.

It was sort of like one of those wedding receptions where no one really likes the guy their daughter married – but they are married now and you’re going to be the grandparents of the children they will have – so make the best of it.

JBMH Chair Stephen Friday on the left, along with Burlington Mayor Rick Goldring and hospital President Eric Vandewall sign the agreement that has the city putting up $60 million of taxpayers dollars and the hospital raising an additional $60 million for the expansion. Shovels will go in the ground soon.

This agreement was not easy to get down on paper.  While we were not privy to what the hospital did on their side – we don’t cover their meetings and they aren’t very good with press releases,  but the city was very public and very open.  They were prepared to raise taxes to pay for their share of the hospital expansion but they didn’t want the money raised going into a parking garage which is what the hospital had at first suggested.

It is at times astounding how the hospital cannot seem to get along with the city – they are both institutions there to serve the public and in the hospital’s case it is our personal health they are dealing with.

The hospital held a board meeting just before the agreement signing event. The Board members all arrived in the meeting room at about the same time but they didn’t seem to mingle all that well with the people on the city side.  There wasn’t any “frostiness” but there wasn’t the sense that these two institutions were about to do something really great and everyone in the city was going to benefit.

Mayor Goldring on the left with hospital chair Stephen Friday on the right, go back some time to the days when they both worked for the same financial management firm. They have an excellent personal relationship and, if this picture is any indication, we can expect smoother working relationships between the hospital and the city.

When the documents were signed and held up for the photographers to capture for eternity there was no round of applause.  The documents had to be signed and the city made the best of the situation.  Might have been better if the signing had been done at city hall.

The city will tell you in a heartbeat how much they have raised from the taxpayers but it isn’t easy to learn how much the hospital has raised.  One has to dig around to figure out just how much of the hospital portion of the $120 million total the city and the hospital has to raise is in the bank.   I didn’t hear anyone say how much the hospital had raised.

The Amazing Bed Race took in more than $100,000 last weekend and ran a two page full colour advertisement in a local newspaper to tell us about it.

There is the sense that the hospital and the city are not really in this together, which is both unfortunate and critical to the health of the community.

Stephen Friday, recently appointed Chair of the Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital has got to have the sharpest collection of neck ties in the city.

Burlington is at the beginning of a process that is going to see fundamental changes in the makeup of the community.  There are going to be more older people in the city and those people are going to need superb health care.  For those people to get that health care the city and the hospital administration need to be true partners working together tightly – they aren’t yet.

Should an ambulance have to come to my house to take me to a hospital I will croak the words “take me to Oakville” if I have to.  I don’t want to be at JBMH.

The hospital has a newly appointed Chair.  We don’t know much about Stephen Friday yet.  He has a good pedigree and wears great ties but can he control the President and change the culture of the place to one that has the hospital and the city working together for the betterment of everyone in the city?

We don’t know that yet.

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Mayor’s right hand man chooses to drive along a different road – resigns effective year end.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  September 25, 2012   Frank McKeown, Mayor Goldring’s right hand man and chief strategist will be leaving the Office of the Mayor and being replaced by Jackie Isada effective the end of the year.  These are two radically different people and will result in much more humour on the eighth floor.

Frank McKeown, on the left, was always one of the smartest people in the room, was a strong right hand for Mayor Goldring during his first year in office, is now leaving after serving the Mayor for two years. He is shown here with Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman.

McKeown is a thinker,  he is very strong at identifying a problem and putting together different scenarios that work their way into becoming solutions.  But Frank McKeown will never get a job as a stand-up comedian at Yuk Yuks.

Whereas Isada has a great sense of humour and is strong at the execution level – she gets things done and is a strong idea person.  A Newfoundlander, who followed her heart to Ontario and a person that loves people and works exceptionally well with just about anyone – she will be a significant addition to the Office of the Mayor.

City Manager Jeff Fielding can provide the Mayor with all the deep thinking he needs – the concern is that the political aspects of the job of being Mayor not be run over by the administrative side that Fielding handles.

McKeown and the Mayor go back a bit.  Frank worked with Goldring on his election campaign and has been invaluable for Goldring during his first year in office.  There were some exceptionally malicious and cruel remarks made by some staff at city hall who should have known better about how much the Mayor relied on McKeown.

McKeown did provide a level of understanding on issues that Goldring needed and became a second set of eyes and ears for the Mayor. Goldring’s choice of McKeown was a wise one at the time.  We predicted that McKeown would move on about six months ago – we were a little ahead of the news flow on that one.

Goldring announced the staffing change earlier and announced that McKeown will leave his position as chief of staff  at  the end of the year.  He will be replaced by Jackie Isada of the Burlington Economic Development Corp. (BEDC) taking over the role in January.

“I have had two positive and successful years working for Mayor Rick Goldring,” McKeown said. “I am now making more time for family and focusing on new opportunities.”

McKeown, an entrepreneur, technology buff and sports enthusiast, was an active fundraiser before he began his work with Mayor Goldring. In addition to being past president of the Burlington Old-timers Hockey Club, McKeown helped raise money for such groups as the Appleby Ice Centre ice users to offset the cost of adding ice pads to the city’s arena. He is on the board of the ROCK (Reach Out Centre for Kids) Foundation.

“I have enjoyed working with Frank and appreciate his insights and community-mindedness,” said Mayor Goldring. “I look forward to our ongoing friendship, and I know Frank will continue to add to the vibrancy of this city.”

During the development of the city’s Strategic Plan McKeown sat in on the vast majority of the meetings and began to be referred to as the “seventh” councillor.  His presence and the degree of involvement on his part was not always appreciated by some staff.

Jackie Isada will bring her wonderful Newfoundland chuckle and her ability to work with people to the Office of the Mayor. Rick Goldring may never be the same.

Isada, Manager of Marketing and Strategic Partnerships with the BEDC, will join the mayor’s team in January 2013.

“I am pleased to announce that Jackie will be joining my team,” said Mayor Goldring. “Jackie brings with her a new perspective and diverse skill set that includes economic development, marketing and event management. She is a strong communicator who has worked at the provincial and municipal levels of government and has a talent for forging relationships.”

Isada has a bachelor of arts degree in political science from Memorial University, is a member of the Economic Developers Association of Canada and is on the marketing awards committee for the Economic Developers Council of Ontario.

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Regional Chair, Burlington Mayor and coalition opposed to highway being built through Escarpment get ready for long battle.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON September 22, 2012.   The provincial government is getting close to the point where they will make some kind of decision on the recommendations that are expected very soon from the Ministry of Transportation (MOT) on what kind of a road might get built north of Dundas Road  – these are the people burrowing away over their tables drawing lines on maps to show where a new road through the Escarpment might go.

The Region and the city of Burlington are not at all keen on any kind of road going through the northern part of the city and they want to keep the pressure on the provincial government to just forget about the idea of a new highway – we don’t need it and we don’t want it, is the refrain from our part of the province.

The green arrow on the map was a shock to everyone opposed to any kind of road cutting through the Escarpment. That arrow motivated the community to realizing it might have a battle on its hands and resulted in the creation of SEHC – Stop the Escarpment Highway Coalition – a collection of 14 different community organizations.

During the municipal election in 2010 the Ministry of Municipal Affairs (MMA) sent a thick envelope to the Regional government saying they wanted some changes to the Region’s official plan that would add in some green arrows showing where a new highway might go.  That green arrow was a sharp punch to the solar plexus of the city as well as the Region.

THAT put the fat in the fire and resulted in a large public meeting at the Mainway arena where hundreds of people showed up to protest.

The province sort of blinked and backed off a bit – then there was the provincial election in May where everyone, except the truckers, said publicly that a highway should not be rammed through Mt. Nemo.

Those grey shaded areas represent the six option the Ministry of Transportation are putting forward. These will go to the Minister in the very near future. There will then be Public Information Centers set up for public input. The hope is that these aren’t snuck in on Friday afternoons a few weeks before Christmas. SEHC wants a full public discourse on this issue.

But those bureaucrats with the MOT, who work out of offices in St. Catharines, met with Region two months ago and offered up new plans – which didn’t have the green arrow that scared the daylights out of everyone.  This time they gave a range of optionssix of them – that ranged from widening highway 6 and connecting it more solidly to the 401,  to a road that would still cut across a significant swath of lower Burlington.  This is land that Burlington sees as close to sacred ground.  Run a highway through any part of the Escarpment and Burlington doesn’t have much of a reason for being – we might as well amalgamate with Oakville, or worse, with Mississauga.

This is an ongoing battle that Burlington has to continually wage.  If the citizens of the city ease up, if the Region slacks off or if Burlington’s city council decides ‘you know, it wouldn’t be that bad’,  there will be bulldozers out there in close to a flash, property values north of Dundas Road  will skyrocket and the streams and creeks that run into Lake Ontario and provide our water supply will be contaminated.

Councillor John Taylor, the longest serving member on Council and a tireless fighter to keep any kind of road from going through the Escarpment. Taylor knows this battle is going to last long after he is gone.

It is a battle that will last for as much as twenty years.  “We will be having this fight long after I’m gone” said Burlington Councillor John Taylor who is perhaps the most tireless fighter on city council when it comes to the Escarpment.

The last round in this three way fight was between the Region and the province when the MOT types appeared at a meeting with yet another map.  This one – shown below, suggests a number of places a highway could be built.  There were six options put before the Regional Council – the one Burlington wants to keep away from is the road that runs through a section of the city and just too close to Escarpment land for comfort.

The sign, that you see throughout the Escarpment represents the thinking of the 14 organizations that came together to form the Stop Escarpment Highway Coalition

While the regional government and the city of Burlington make the official protests – there is a coalition of 13 organizations (they recently approved a 14th) that formed as the Stop Escarpment Highway Coalition – have been tireless in their battle to ensure that the governments don’t sell everyone out.

SEHC has worked with Cogeco Cable on a two hour program that will air October 4th from 7 – 9 pm.  The first hour, unfortunately, will consist of talking heads giving prepared and already known positions.  What one shouldn’t expect is anything new or revealing unless something comes out of a meeting that Regional Chair Gary Carr and Burlington Mayor Rick Goldring expect to have with Minister of Transportation Bob Chiarelli sometime this week at Queen’s Park.

Carr and Goldring are sort of on call for a dash into Toronto to meet with the Minister of Transportation who can’t leave Toronto.  The provincial Liberals are a minority government and things are kind of tight and tense at Queen’s Park these days – so none of the Liberals are allowed to leave town.

Carr and Goldring are taking their positions to Toronto and will, once again, work the Minister over and ensure that he fully understands the feeling of both the Region and the City.

Then, on October 23rd  there will be a large community meeting at the Mainway Arena.  The city is going all out again on this one, with mail drops to every dwelling north of Dundas, supported with advertising in the local media.  With no hockey on television there should be a really solid turnout.

The politicians, along with SEHC, want to up the volume on the protest and ensure that Queen’s Park gets the message.

There is one sure way to block any highway and that is find a job that the government can offer Burlington’s MPP Jane McKenna.  That would open up her seat to a by-election during which the Liberals would promise to ensure that a highway is never, ever going to be built through the Escarpment – which would win them the election and give them a majority government (they are currently one seat short) and all would be well.  Oh – they tried that in Kitchener-Waterloo and it didn’t work there.  Maybe that’s not such a good idea.  Besides what would they offer McKenna and would she be smart enough to take it?

The last time there was a public meeting on the Escarpment, there was a sense of panic due to the province requiring a change in the Regional Official Plan that showed a road through the Escarpment no one had ever seen before.  That meeting brought out hundreds of people and resulted in the creation of SEHC – the Stop the Escarpment Highway Coalition.  They have become a very effective advocacy group for this issue and have managed to both keep the pressure on the politicians at every level and at the same time serve as a form for the exchange of ideas and information.

Two dates to keep in mind – watching the Cogeco Cable show on the 4th and getting out to the community meeting at Mainway arena on the 23th.  This is an issue that matters.


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Burlington students to take part in Regional Water Festival at Kelso Conservation – 4000 from Region expected to attend.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON  October 22, 2012  In the week we are going into more than 4,000 Halton students will spend a part of a day taking part in the seventh annual Halton Children’s Water Festival (HCWF) being held from September 25 to 28, 2012.

Students from grades two to five registered to participate in the festival taking place outdoors at the picturesque Kelso Conservation Area in Milton.

He really wants you to look at the bullfrog he is holding.

Students at the Festival will experience a unique opportunity to learn about water in a fun and interactive way at activity centres which cover Ontario curriculum requirements. New this year, French language activity centres will be piloted with grade five French Immersion students on Thursday, September 27.  The HCWF features nearly 60 activity centres that incorporate four main water related themes:

Kids + water = fun and noise – all part of the Halton Children’s Water Festival. A full day of fun at a cost of $5 per student.

“Since the Halton Children’s Water Festival began in 2006, more than 25,000 children have participated which shows the demand and interest for high quality environmental education in our community,” said Conservation Halton Chairman John Vice. ”The Festival’s success is due to the enthusiastic participation by volunteers, teachers and students backed by the commitment of partner organizations as well as tremendous support from individuals and businesses in the community.  We thank everyone who has participated and contributed to the Water Festival over the past seven years.”

The Festival is co-hosted by Conservation Halton and Halton Region in partnership with, the Halton District School Board, the Halton Catholic District School Board, the City of Burlington, the Town of Halton Hills, the Town of Milton, and the Town of Oakville.  This partnership has created a successful and financially sustainable water festival in Halton. Conservation Halton Chairman John Vice and Halton Regional Chair Gary Carr serve as the Festival’s honorary co-chairs.

It isn’t all classroom stuff – just look at the way this girl rounds the bale of hay. A winner for sure.

The Festival is a community partnership dependent on more than 150 volunteers each day to help with various activities. Halton high school students and community volunteers are once again generously offering their time and gaining experience in community outreach, public speaking, teaching and time management.

The Festival is offered to Halton schools at a cost of just $5 per child, which includes a full day at the Festival as well as transportation to and from the event. Schools seeking Ontario EcoSchools certification can count their attendance at the HCWF as a field trip in the Curriculum category.


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Burlington MPP McKenna lays it all out at a Chamber of Commerce breakfast. She was surprisingly candid.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, O N  September 18, 2012  Members of the Chamber of Commerce saw a different Jane McKenna last Friday morning when she met with business leaders to talk about what she has been doing at Queen’s Park on their behalf.

McKenna, Burlington’s MPP,  is very partisan; it’s in her nature.  Nothing wrong with that – she is a politician with an agenda and she has certainly grown since she was first nominated as the Progressive Conservative candidate for Burlington.  She knew next to nothing when she was nominated and her campaign committee, wisely, kept her in a bubble during the campaign.

The Jane McKenna we saw during the election campaign wore the right Tory blue pin stripe suit and was taught to be earnest and direct with people. The Jane MC Kenna we saw at the Chamber of Commerce breakfast had a grip on the numbers that mattered and was capable of being as angry as an opposition MPP is supposed to be.

But the Jane McKenna you see today is not the ‘didn’t know very much” that we saw six months ago.  McKenna has a very impressive grip on the numbers part of what’s going on at Queen’s Park.  It sounded as if she could give you a number on just about anything that was going on in the province.  How much had been spent on the cancellation of the hydro plant in Mississauga or how much had been spent on the cancellation of the hydro plant in Oakville as well? McKenna has those numbers at her fingertips.  Well not the Oakville numbers – and that has her getting ready to go after the Minister of Energy.

She did err a little on the size of the deficit – she threw out a $15 billion deficit number – when it is close to $13 billion.  McKenna argues that “we are broke”.  How broke?  She maintains we are spending $1.8 million more a day than we are taking in and that 20% of the money we spend is borrowed money”.  “It is bad” said McKenna and for a room filled with business people who know what it is to deal with a cash tight situation – McKenna was preaching to the converted.

McKenna wants to see an across the board pay cut to every civil servant.  She has no problem with what the province is doing to the teachers – she wants the same thing done to everyone.  I would assume that includes her own salary – which I’m pretty sure McKenna would say: Everyone means everyone.

The Ornge helicopter scandal has McKenna bursting with indignation

She railed at the 8.7% increase the MPAC people were given. (MPAC- Municipal Property Assessment Corporation – the people that determine the value of your home for tax purposes).  Some 150 people attended the breakfast event at the Burlington Golf and Country Club where McKenna was described as heavily involved in the community.  That was a bit of a stretch. What we appear to be seeing is a resume upgrade, which, if repeated often enough, will become truth.

Jane McKenna ran in one municipal election.  She did so at the request of a colleague and came in dead last.  She did run her own advertising sales agency and consulted for others on minor projects.

She did not intend to be a candidate for the Progressive Conservative nomination.  She was, at the time, the campaign manager for a person who was asked by the party to step aside as a candidate for the nomination.  Sometime after that candidate stepped aside, the PC association approached Jane McKenna, asked her to consider being the candidate  and she took advantage of the opportunity.  If you know Keith Strong – you know how that conversation went.

What we appear to be seeing is a Member of the provincial Legislature becoming exceptionally political – we don’t see this kind of political posturing from Mike Wallace the Conservative member of the House of Commons for Burlington.

Jane McKenna yuks it up with guests at the Joseph Brant hospital annual meeting. A few months earlier she couldn’t get in the place to attend a meeting with the Liberal Health Minister who was delivering cheques.

McKenna is creating a political persona of a politician that has a deep understanding of what the government is doing and where they are making their mistakes.  It will all be very political.  Is this something McKenna has decided to do on her own or is this something her handlers are creating?  Whichever, anyone who thought she would be a knock off in the next provincial election is in for a surprise.  We won’t see the fumbling that we saw at the Central High School debate.  McKenna is now much more confident and while she may not fully understand the issues and their longer term implications – she can and will throw numbers at you until your dizzy.

She nailed Chris Bentley, Minister of Energy for his failure to provide information to a Legislative committee last May. Secret documents on the cost of scrapping the Oakville power plant — located  in a Liberal riding,  — must be released, the Speaker of Ontario’s legislature ruled Thursday, the day before McKenna talked to the Chamber crowd.  Basically the Liberal Energy Minister was on the verge of a rare contempt of parliament censure for refusing to release the documents.

McKenna will pounce all over the Minister on this one – and she’s right.  The Liberals pulled a fast one during the provincial election – and got away with it.

They tried the same thing in Kitchener-Waterloo where they caused a by-election to be held after offering a nice plum to Elizabeth Witmer,  the sitting member, who was not very happy with PC leader Tim Hudak and was quite prepared to leave the Legislature.

Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty and his political advisers thought they could win the seat.  A win in Kitchener-Waterloo along with the all but guaranteed win in Vaughan and the Liberals would have the majority they didn’t win during the provincial election.  The New Democrats spoiled that plan and they won the seat.

McKenna told the Chamber breakfast that her party didn’t have a platform during the by-election.  That’s a pretty bold admission; refreshing.

McKenna does have PC leader Tim Hudak’s ear and she has some clout, partially because of her energy and drive.  McKenna told the breakfast meeting that when she got to Queen’s Park she was “shocked.  The process didn’t work. The Ornge hospital helicopter disaster and the $300 million loans the Health Minister didn’t know about”  “The shutting down of the two power plants.  Where does it stop?  I knew absolutely nothing about this stuff before I got to Queen’s Park”, she said.

McKenna wants much more transparency and accountability, which is easy to call for when you are in opposition.  How will McKenna handle things if she is part of a government and learns that that is the way government does things – you say nothing unless you have to and then you put out a press release late on the Friday afternoon of a long weekend.

Is McKenna going to be the fresh face of provincial politics?  Not in the next three years and if she is part of a government it will not be one led by Tim Hudak.  Is McKenna leadership material?  Not yet and a little too early to tell if she has real leadership within her.

McKenna talks about being big on “transparency”.  “Everything we do is on line” she told her office.  Sure, if you know the name of the document and you are aware it is actually on a web site.  McKenna doesn’t send out press releases from her office.  She will answer direct questions if you can get some face time with her.

When the city of Burlington used some “political protocol” nonsense to keep McKenna away from an event that had the Liberal member Ted McMeekin, the closest Cabinet Minister to Burlington, talking about the money the province put up for the Community Garden project – McKenna talked to Our Burlington and at the time didn’t fully understand why she was being “uninvited”. We did a small piece on the stupid position the city had taken.

McKenna, like her or not, is Burlington’s representative at Queen’s Park.  She got shut out of meeting when the Minister of Health was at the hospital talking about the funding JBMH eventually got from the province.

McKenna, has real “cahonies” when it comes to being brash and bold.  The woman knows no shame (that is meant as a compliment) when it comes to going after what she wants.

Politics is all about power.  With a majority in the Legislature a political party can do almost anything it wants.  The Tories aren’t in power but then neither are the Liberals.  The New Democrats were offering the people in Kitchener-Waterloo what they wanted and they ran a better campaign and  won the seat.

Jane McKenna is growing as a politician.  A little less stridency, more reflection and over time she could become a Charlotte Whitton – all the Tories that matter in this town will remember her – and nod approvingly.

Can McKenna make that transition.  It will be a challenge.

 

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Has the city politicized the Citizens Recognition Award process? Looks like they might have.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  September 13, 2012  We didn’t notice the appointment at first, the city has an awkward process of treating the names of people as confidential and making them public once they’ve been approved by Council.  The sheet of paper with the names on it gets handed out at the end of a meeting and at times they don’t have copies for everyone at the media table.  Whatever, I missed the list.

Burlington has a Committee that accepts nominations for Civic Recognition in a number of categories: Youth, the Arts, Senior of the year and Citizen of the year.  The award has been given since 1965; one of the nicer events the city holds.  The Civic Recognition Committee is comprised of 10 voting members, including: 6 citizens from the community, and four representatives from media and information agencies.

The event takes place, usually in May of each year .  It is the one event that we do not cover as media; we buy our ticket and sit in the room as citizens recognizing honouring those who have served the city.

Keith Strong – recruited Jane McKenna as the Progressive Conservative candidate for Burlington then helped manage her winning campaign. Strong appears to have gotten McKenna on to the Citizen’s Recognition Award committee as well.

This is a citizens event – it is not a political event.  But this time out the people who were placed on the committee that reviews the submissions and chooses the winner in each category has a distinct political flavour to it – and that isn’t good for the process which was to recognize people who have made Burlington a better city no matter what their political stripe.

Most people have a political persuasion – but they are not “politicians”.  They believe in an approach to government that is different than what others believe.

In October of 2010 the Clerks Department placed advertisements in the Update section of the Burlington Post seeking volunteers to fill vacancies on various local boards and citizen committees. In response to the advertisement, applications were received from a number of individuals expressing interest in the committees.

Part of the city’s Strategic Plan is to “engage citizens more effectively in City Council’s decision making processes”.  Through citizen committees and boards, Burlington residents are provided the opportunity to offer Council advice and recommendations on various matters and/or organize activities that strengthen the community’s connection to the municipality.

The selection process for the Burlington Civic Recognition Committee was undertaken in February, 2011. The interview team for the committee was comprised of Committee Chair and its Past Chair.  Staff from the Clerk’s Department also assisted with the process. The number of applicants this year did not exceed the number of available positions.

The interview team’s recommendation was based on the committee’s needs as well as the applicant’s knowledge of the role, relevant skills and experience, expressed dedication / commitment / time availability, and communication skills.

On February 24, 2011, the Council made the names for the Burlington Civic Recognition Committee public.  Each person is to serve for a term that expires December 31, 2013 or until their successor is appointed, which suggests the appointee could be there for a very long time.

Does a sitting politician belong on a Citizen’s recognition committee? Jane McKenna now sits on the Board that chooses those who are to be recognized based on the nominations sent in.

Lisa Boyko, Linda Cupido, Bob Hilton, Jane McKenna, Ann Coburn and Keith Strong were appointed.

Strong was the previous chair of the committee so he was re-appointed.

Jane McKenna was recruited as the Ontario Progressive Conservative candidate for Burlington by Keith Strong who was heavily involved in her campaign.  McKenna went on to win the seat during the provincial election.

A number of people who are recognized for their contribution to the city go on to serve in a political capacity.  That’s fine.  But to put a sitting politician on a committee that is there to recognize others adds a political strain to a process that is there to recognize people for what they have done – not for which political party they favour.

Staff at city hall should have seen this one for what it is – political manipulation.  We can do better than this.


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United Way campaign gets off to a great start – sets $7 million target. Ti-Cats win a great game during “kick-off” event..

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  September 17, 2012  If what football fans saw on Saturday at the Ivor Wynne Stadium in Hamilton is an example of what we might see during the 2012 United Way campaign – this is going to be one heck of an event.

During the game – which Hamilton won against the Edmonton Eskimos 51-8, the United Way campaign did their kick off and announced a target of $7 million of which $2 million is the Burlington portion.

City of Burlington Clerk’s department did a great job last year during the United Way campaign drive. Interesting to see what they do this year. Burlington campaign has a $2 million target

More than 20,000 fans took part in the kick off the 2012 United Way Campaign which got off to a roaring start as ArcelorMittal Dofasco President & CEO, Juergen Schachler and company Employee Donations Fund chair Larry Meyer announced a combined donation of $500,000. They presented a cheque on the field at halftime to Burlington Campaign Chair, Hon. Paddy Torsney and Hamilton Campaign Chair, Dr. Nick Bontis.

ArcelorMittal Dofasco extended an additional challenge to the community to step up for the United Way. The company and employees announced they would match an additional $50,000 for money raised through new workplace campaigns, new leadership donations of $1,000 or more, leadership donations that increase by a minimum of 10%, or donations that increase to the $1,000 level (the increased amount). The program is designed to inspire the people of Hamilton and Burlington to help build community strength by donating to the United Way.

With more than $1,134,732 already raised via corporate and individual contributions, the community has already begun to show their support for United Way. Of that total, the United Way family, (Board of Directors, Campaign Cabinets and staff) contributed $88,359.

Nick Bontis is chair of the United Way Campaign for Burlington and Greater Hamilton. He teaches at McMaster where his mile a minute delivery dazzles his students. Bontis dazzled an Economic Development luncheon earlier this year.

Nick Bontis of McMaster University fame found himself having to hand off quite a bit of the kickoff event to Paddy Torsney who is heading up the Burlington part of the campaign.  Bontis did some serious damage to one leg during a soccer game.  Don’t think that’s what they intended by “kick off”.

Torsney, who had never kicked a football in her life, got some tutoring and did a more than credible job at “getting some air” under the ball.  For the United Way campaign team they too feel there is some air underneath their efforts.

“We have a lot of younger people involved in the campaign this year”, said Torsney and ” we are going to put part of our focus on those smaller corporations in Burlington that don’t have an employee program”.

The Burlington team has two families involved in the campaign who both have twins – “they obviously now know how to manage their time – they will do great work for us” said Torsney.

Brian Ferguson of VM Ware is onboard as is Gayle Cruikshank of Food for Thought.  Kim Phillips, a city of Burlington General Manager is handling the campaign at city hall as well as the government sector.

Torsney, the one time Member of Parliament for Burlington wants to grow the $2 million target for Burlington by seeking additional leadership donours and getting into companies that currently don’t have a program that allows their staff to donate through a payroll program.

Deb Pickfield of ThinkSpot is heading up a unique “mystery night” event that will appeal to this community.

“Community investment is a longstanding tradition for our company and our employees,” says Juergen Schachler. “We know that continuing to build the strength of Hamilton and Burlington is an important part of being a business leader. For 100 years, the company and its employees have been a key pillar in the community. With our additional challenge, we are inviting others to step up to help the United Way as they continue to create change in our communities”.

Paddy Torsney heads up the Burlington side of the United Way campaign for 2012. Expect a call from her – soon.

Over 222,000 residents rely on United Way programs and services.  In the weeks ahead we will tell you more about the people and the services that are delivered because the donations are made.

United Way of Burlington and Greater Hamilton works to effect long-term changes that make a measurable difference in the community. When you donate to the United Way you are having a direct impact and are changing the lives of those in need in our community.


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Same old, same old for Burlington. Federal constituency boundaries to remain the same.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  August 28, 2012  If things stay the way they are going Burlington`s Marvelous Mike will not have to convince anyone new to vote for him in the next federal election.

Elections Canada is proposing that the boundary for the constituency of Burlington remain the same which means MP Mike Wallace will work the same fields he did last time out – he did rather well then; took 54% of the vote which was an increase from the 48.6% he got in 2008.

Boundaries for the riding of Burlington will stay the same. Oakville gets an additional seat and Halton gets bits and pieces chopped off.

A look at the voting results over the last 20 years shows Burlington to be a distinct Tory blue at the federal level.  Torsney was the first to bite into the lead they held all the way back to the 1979 Bill Kempling days.

At her very best Paddy Torsney got 46% of the vote.

Halton, the constituency to the North of Burlington will exchange some territory with Milton

Oakville will lose a small chunk in its northeastern section.  Hamilton has a number of changes but Burlington will stay the same.


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A planning tool that forgets people are part of the planning process. Section 37 – a missed opportunity.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINTON, ON May 28, 2011 – Burlington is one of a few cities that makes use of Section 37 of the Planning Act. Ottawa, Toronto and Markham use the provision which can be a very useful planning tool. In Burlington we are fortunate to have a planner who wrote the definitive text on the Ontario Municipal Board and a man who has served as a member of that Board. The significance of this is that most matters that go to the OMB are related to planning matters and to have a planner who knows the ins and outs of the OMB as well as the intent of the Board gives Burlington an intellectual advantage.

The way Section 37 of the Planning Act is implemented just might get a re-working in Burlington if Council members follow up on their comments.

The way Section 37 of the Planning Act is implemented just might get a re-working in Burlington if Council members follow up on their comments.

Section 37 of the Planning Act relates to situations where an Official Plan calls for a certain type of development. It could be single detached housing, row housing organized as a condominium or a high rise, inevitably the issue become one of density. How many units can you put in a piece of property ? The municipality’s Official Plan (OP) will set out what the density can be and the zoning on the piece of property will set out what kind of building can be built on the site.

There are occasions where a developer will approach a municipality with a proposal that exceeds what is set out in the OP, but after discussions with the Planning Department, agreement is reached that the proposal is “good planning” and meets both the immediate and long term needs of the city.

We had two instances of just that happening in Burlington very recently and both created significant opposition within their communities. One was a condominium development south of the Queensway and the other was the apartment/condominium development at Brock and Elgin. In both instances the city approved an amendment to the Official Plan to permit the development

Burlington is faced with a provincial requirement that we grow our population. The province tells us that is what we have to do and that is what we do. The provincial Places to Grow legislation requires Burlington to grow its population by 20,000 people over the next 20 years – that’s 1,000 new housing units every year.

Because the city no longer has very much “green space” to build large projects on they have to resort to intensification.

Developers see opportunities to take land that is being under utilized and they begin to assemble properties until they have an area large enough for the plans they have in mind.

In the Queensway area this resulted in a developer purchasing six properties that consisted of half an acre each. These lots were created at the end of WW II and known as Veterans Land Act properties. Once the land was assembled the developer asked for permission to build a 74 unit complex on the property and the local community was up in arms. That development eventually got cut back to 58 units but is still a significant bit of intensification – going from six homes to 58 on the same pieces of land.

In the Brock Elgin area the developer did an assembly and came to the city with a proposal to increase the density permitted in the Official Plan from 7 to 14 storeys. The community was aghast and argued against the development at two public meetings and a third meeting at a Council Committee and finally at a Council meeting. They were beaten back at every meeting.

In this instance the developer made a Section 37 proposal in which the city determines how much the value of the land the development is being built on is going to increase due to the development.

Note that the unit of measure here is the increase in ‘value of the land’ not the revenue and potential profit the developer expects to see. The city gets an appraisal of what the land was worth before the development and what the land will be worth after the development and then asks the developer to contribute half of the increase in value back to the city as community benefits.

In the Brock Elgin development the increase in the value of the land was deemed to be $1 million and the developer agreed to pay for community improvements worth $500,000.

This is seen as a way for a city to share in the gain that a developer earns when asking for and getting an amendment to an Official Plan. Sounds fair and is seen as a sound planning practice.

Where people in Burlington get really wound up is how the community benefits are determined. The Planning department does all that thinking – with not a peep from the community. Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward thinks this is wrong and fought vigorously to have the community involved in determining what the benefits should be.

She came close to getting her Council colleagues to look at what was being proposed then, to the surprise of just about everyone, they learned that if Council wanted to make any changes to the community benefits the matter had to be sent back to Committee.

Several Councillors believed that the amendment to the Official Plan and the applicable by law could be approved and the specific make up of the community benefits looked at later – wasn’t possible. The two had to be approved at the same time.

Section 37 of the Planning Act is a very sound and accepted planning tool. What Burlington hasn’t done is bring the community in on the process and get their input before deciding what to do.

Councillors Sharman and Taylor have said they want to see the community benefits issue handled much differently. We will be watching.

 

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The Shape Burlington report as presented to city council in 2010

backgrounder 100Shape Burlington logo

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

Mission Statement

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

Letter from the Co-Chairs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommendations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Communication: Empower people by overcoming the communications deficit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Belonging: Build a caring and inclusive community

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

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

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

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

Participation: Empower committees and community organizations that work for people

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

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

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

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

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

Youth: Reach out to the next generation

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

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

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

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

Governance: Define roles and responsibilities

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

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

Messages & Observations

Burlington is using traditional models in a new age

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

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

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

Everyone recognizes the need for improvement

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

The public wants more extensive change than City Hall does.

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

Many believe that City Hall is not listening

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

Citizen confidence in local democracy is declining

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

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

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

Good citizenship means citizen responsibility

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

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

Governance – size of Council

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

Service quality and process

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

Not au citizens feel included or respected

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

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

Staff reports and presentations

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

The need for more and better information

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

The need for more education

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

Importance of early citizen engagement

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

The need for meaningful dialogue

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

The influence of single-issue groups

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

More effective use of digital communications

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

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

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

The need to make more effective use of Citizens Advisory Committees

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

North versus South,new versus established

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

 

Excelence in government

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

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

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

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

Terms of Reference

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Purpose

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

Future Focus Seven: Excellence in government

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

Committee composition and organization

Committee Members: Maximum of 10

Administrative Support Departmental Resource Support External Resource

Recruitment and selection

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

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

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

Resources

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

Acknowledgements

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

Our citizen volunteers

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

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

Mayor Cam Jackson

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

The public

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

Council and City staff

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

Burlington Community Foundation

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

Community Development Halton

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

MASS LBP

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

Website (www.shapeburlington.ca)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Department Directors

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

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

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

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

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

• Better communicate the existing opportunities for engagement and consultation

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

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

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

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

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

Other Staff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Opportunities for improvement i dentified by staff include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clerks and Communications Department

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Planning Department

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

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

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

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

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

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

Opportunities for improvements identified by Planning Department staff are:

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

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

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

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

City Talk

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

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

News 100 redBy Staff

April 12, 2016

BURLINGTON, ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

wynne-at heritage dinner

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

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

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

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

1. The event is publicly disclosed before it occurs.

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

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

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

Wynne Kathleen - looking guilty gas plant hearing

Premier Wynne can be very convincing.

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

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

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

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

Fifth — reform of by-election donation rules.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

• Establish a single address authority in Ontario

• Eliminate the first blackout period for all elections, and

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

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

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

Ray Rivers on election funding.

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

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

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

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