It isn’t going to be Breakfast at Tiffany’s for Hudak Friday morning. Cold porridge and a no highway here demonstration.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON April 14, 2011 – The Stop Escarpment Highway Coalition (SEHC) will be serving Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak a reminder for breakfast at the Burlington Chamber of Commerce’s morning meeting this Friday. The SEHC is protesting Hudak’s promise to build the Niagara to GTA Highway (previously called the Mid-Peninsula Highway) from Fort Erie to North Burlington if elected Premier. Demonstrators will let him know that the highway is not wanted.

Hudak is attending a breakfast meeting for the Burlington Chamber of Commerce:

  • Friday, April 15, 2011
  • Protesters to attend from 7:15AM to 8:00AM
  • Breakfast to be served at 8:00AM
  • Waterfront Hotel
  • 2020 Lakeshore Road, Burlington, Ontario (at the foot of Brant St. at Lakeshore Rd.)

The Coalition is committed to ensuring there is no new highway ripped through the Niagara Escarpment, a national treasure and UNESCO reserve. They also want to highlight the importance of this issue for all Ontario taxpayers. “It may not be your backyard – but it’s your back pocket,” said Susan McMaster, Co-Chair of COPE. “Hudak is planning to spend billions of dollars for a highway that isn’t needed. That’s a cost we’ll all bear.”

That arrow is where they bureaucrats and planners wanted to ram a road through.  And that battle isn’t over yet.

That arrow is where they bureaucrats and planners wanted to ram a road through. And that battle isn’t over yet.

The highway got to be called the Green Arrow when it appeared on a provincial government map last October to the surprise of just about everyone. The community pulled together quite quickly with a voice that was loud enough to have the provincial government put a hold on the idea which at the time they said was just a concept.

For Hudak this issue has become the “apple of his eye” because he thinks he can earn more votes promoting the highway than we would if he were to oppose it. The Coalition which was conceived when Burlington Councillors Blair Lancaster and John Taylor held a public meting that saw more than 800 people in the Mainway Arena. Out of that came a list of people and organizations that almost immediately had signs out on the back roads of northern Burlington and then hours of time in meeting rooms creating an organization that pulled together a dozen different community groups with support from both the Region and the city.

Hudak is now up against a very well organized Coalition that has exceptionally sound support from the city of Burlington. While the candidates for the Burlington provincial seat are quite due to the federal election – you can bet the mortgage money that none of them will be with Hudak Friday morning. Support for the Green Arrow isn’t going to pull in votes in this city.

Signs like this were out on the back roads of Burlington days after the Coalition was formed.

Signs like this were out on the back roads of Burlington days after the Coalition was formed.

While keeping the pressure on Hudak The Stop Escarpment Highway Coalition people have not forgotten what the provincial government is doing. In March 2011 the Ministry of Transportation released the latest report on the status of the project. Public comment must be submitted by June 6, 2011. The report includes optimizing existing road networks, a new highway from Fort Erie to Welland and continued study on a highway commencing at the 403 in Ancaster and cutting through Flamborough on the way to toll highway 407 in North Burlington.

The coalition maintains that this would irreparably damage Niagara Escarpment, agricultural land and eco-systems along the way. The Coalition is currently canvassing Federal election candidates on their position on a National Transport Policy and intends to publish the results. Members believe this is needed to ensure rail transport options are given due consideration in the Niagara GTA project as well as overall sustainable transport planning.

The local provincial candidates are being canvassed as well for their views on the highway.

Finally, a real local issue. Should be fun.

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How do you tell the guy? “We need to move on”, “It’s over” “We can still be friends?” Women are asked to share their experiences.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON April 13, 2011 – This is supposed to be the election that is going to be dominated by social media. Everyone is tweeting or posting a message to their Facebook page and this is all supposed to keep us in the loop and know, to the last second, what’s going on. Ok, if you say so – I suppose.

All that ability to communicate with us is a step beyond the telemarketers interrupting dinner – but its happening so I guess we have to live with it. Right?

It isn’t all doom and gloom though – there are some funny things going on. The Raging Grannies have done a song that is available on You Tube. And Eric Williams of Hamilton has created a You Tube section with a feature that is titled: It’s over Steve!

The theme is of women who are talking to some man in their life and telling him that the relationship is over. Women will identify with this one – and some of it is really quite funny.

Williams’ take is asking women who have a camera attached to their computer to do a little piece on how they would end a relationship – in this case with Stephen Harper.

“They are just regular everyday Canadian women.  Strangers I recruited off the street after we setup our shot.  Basically I said, stare into the camera and break up with Steve in 60 seconds or less, just like you have before, or have seen in movies.    The girls did their own acting.” And now they are getting their 15 minutes of fame.

Williams is a communications student at McMaster University where he is doing two undergrad degrees and would like to see his effort go “viral” which in the world of the techies is like taking down all ten pins with one bowling ball – three times in a row. Big stuff.

Williams says he “is not affiliated with any political party and hasn’t  received funding from anyone.  We have big plans for future episodes to be released this week and throughout the election.

“The goal”, says Williams, “is to boost the female turnout on election day.  I’d like to see their turnout be at least 10% higher than the last election. Women are awesome at social networking and I think it’s gonna work.”

“We are having a great time making these! And adds: What an age we live in, eh? Can’t get much more Canadian than that. McLuhan would call it cool!.

You get viral when people see the item and pass it along to their friends – some of these things spread around the world in a matter of hours. Sort of like watching a “wave” at a hockey game.

The “It’s over Steve! Gets a little political at the end – we apologize for that. We pass it on in the spirit of good fun. If you happen to come across something on Ignatieff or Duceppe or Layton in a similar vein – pass them along. We need something to take for the assault on our senses during election campaigns.

 

 

Here you go:  Its Over Steve – Episode 1

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Salt with Pepper: So – who won? Won what? The federal election debate. Oh, that.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON April 13, 2011 Thousands of Canadians tuned into the federal election debate on television but I’m betting most of them didn’t stay for the full two hours. It got kinda boring, no it got very boring at times. Was there a winner? Yeah – Jack Layton actually won the debate – but he hasn’t a hope in Hades of winning the election and his health is such that he probably would not be able to finish the term were he to win.

But he did get off some of the best lines. Stephen Harper was the same, empty, bloodless person he has always been. The man just doesn’t emit any sense of empathy. Michael Ignatieff was OK – but if the sense that he needed a knockout punch to win – then he didn’t win because there was no knockout punch.

Gilles Duceppe was in there plugging away for Quebec’s interests. Odd that he could be part of the debate but the Greens were not given a place at the table. Elizabeth May is at least lively, focused and good at going for the juggler. However, five candidates would have been too many. Why does Duceppe take part in a debate for English Canadians – shouldn’t he be limited to just the French debate?

I watched the debate at two different locations – the Mike Wallace Conservative campaign office and at the Alyssa Brierley Liberal campaign office. Mike had the larger crowd – maybe 15% larger. He was also serving beer and wine. And the usual suspects were at his event. The Mike crowd were quite boisterous and guffawed like fans in a tavern watching a hockey game.

When Jack Layton sucker punched Ignatieff over his House of Commons attendance record one voice in the Wallace crowd hollered out: “Thanks for that Jack.” To the Wallace crowd it was all great sport and they felt their guy was more than holding his own. Mike himself was in fine form.

Try as Ignatieff might he was never able to make the point that the election was taking place because the government had been found in contempt of the House of Commons. That is a big deal and it will be part of the Harper legacy. Harper wouldn’t see it that way – he saw it all as “bickering” between political parties that was wasting everyone’s time – especially his.

It was interesting to note that while the two local campaign managers were roughly the same age and appeared to me to be good at what they do – the Liberal crowd was younger and much more engaged. The Wallace crowd was definitely older and reminded me of the people that were at one of the early Cam Jackson campaign for Mayor events. You didn’t get the sense that they were as aware or “with it” as the Liberal crowd.

The Liberals were quieter than the Tory’s. Alyssa Brierley was “tweeting” throughout the debate. There was the sense at the Liberal event that Iggy did OK – he didn’t make any monumental goofs, and he was certainly miles ahead of poor Stephane Dion. Ignatieff had been well briefed and knew his file and at times the passion in the man did come through but never with the vigor that was needed.

While election signs are not a particularly reliable measure of support for a candidate, there appear to be more of the red ones than the blue ones out there and a lot of the blue ones appear to be on commercial property rather than homes of people who can fill in a ballot. There are some of the orange ones and I’ve seen a few of the green ones as well.

Harper did more than hold his own. He was standing there taking on all comers and while the answers were acceptable, other than his explanation that there was no money to be saved on the new fighter jets he planned on buying – as he said they wouldn’t be spending a dime for another five years.

Did the country trust Harper anymore after the debate than they did before? I don’t think so – but the country is getting used to the guy. Will he get the majority he needs? Really hard to tell. Will there be a higher voter turn out ? Well make sure you vote and drag your neighbours along.

Will we end up with another minority? That could happen. My sense is that we will end up with another minority government – who will lead that government and will it have the confidence of the House? Big questions. But hey, we Canadians learned what “prorogation of the House” is all about so we can handle a confidence matter.

We’ve done all right with the last two minority governments. If Harper does not win a majority he’s toast and if Ignatieff does not form at least a minority, he too will be toast. And Layton’s health is such that this is probably his last election. So, we could see all three men off the federal stage 18 months from now. Duceppe? Oh he will still be there – he gets great deals for Quebec.

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No debating please – we are after all Burlingtonians – but polite questions would be nice.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON April 12, 2011 – The Burlington Chamber of Commerce wants its members to hear what all four candidates running for the federal seat in the House of Commons and have arranged for an all candidates event on Wednesday April 27th – 7:30 am with a continental breakfast to be followed by a Question and Answer session.

All candidates from the four major parties that have registered to run have confirmed their attendance at the meeting.  The meeting features a moderated question and answer session where attendees can ask questions of each of the candidates. Will the moderator let one candidate ask questions of another candidate – or is that too close to a debate?

Registration opens at 7:30am with a continental breakfast running till 8:00am. And the “games” run from 8:00 to 9:30am.  The meeting is free to Chamber members and costs $10.00 (includes HST) for non-members.  You must sign up in advance.

The event is sponsored by the Realtors Association of Hamilton-Burlington.

All four candidates are shown below.

 

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Much patting on the back as Council approves the operating budget for 2011. We are in a financial holding pattern.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON April 12, 2011 – It went down pretty quickly. After 18 hours of committee meetings city council passed the operating budget in pretty quick order and after thanking themselves and anyone else they could name it came to a recorded vote with Ward 1 councillor Rick Craven voting against the budget.

Councillors Taylor and Dennison were delighted to vote for a budget that they truly believed in even though both men said they realized it was a “holding budget” in place until the Strategic Plan for the city was determined.

Taylor said this was just the fourth budget he has voted for in the 12 budgets that have come before him.

Blair Lancaster said she wished the strategic Plan had been done first so that the budget could be aligned with the Strategic Plan but she too realized that a budget had to be struck this month.

Paul Sharman who is responsible for the move to come in with a much lower budget than last year said he saw this budget as an opportunity to show voters that we took them seriously when they told us on their doorsteps that the 45 and 5% increases each year of the last term of council was too much.

Sharman said the reserves look good. The debt load is pretty good. He was satisfied and believes that while 1% will be hard to do again – he didn’t think we will see the 4% and 5% numbers for awhile.

Marianne Meed Ward said no one got everything they wanted but everyone got something and described it as a transitional budget with continued fiscal restraint in the years ahead.

Mayor Goldring thanked the Executive Budget Committee meeting for the 90 hours they put in on the budget and then also thanked Councillor Sharman for the work he did in leading the Budget and Community Services Committee saying that your tax meetings were easier than mine” referring to the time when Goldring as a Councillor chaired the committee.

Goldring pointed out that the less than 1%` increase was the lowest in ten years with no substantive changes in the operation of the city. “We bought some time” said the Mayor. And for that he can thank a couple of lucky breaks that resulted in a $9.3 million surplus that Council had to play with.

Goldring did have an easier time than Sharman and also brought in budgets that were in the 4% and 5% range – more than the voters were prepared to swallow in 2011.

Councillor Craven didn’t smile very much during the council meeting as he voted against he budget.

Councillor Craven didn’t smile very much during the council meeting as he voted against he budget.

Odd man out on this budget was Councillor Craven who said he was shocked that staff had delayed hiring people which resulted in the $3 million saved as a result of “gapping”.

“Our job is not to find the lowest possible tax increase but to find the right tax level. “This budget he claimed does not align our resources with our needs and we are millions of dollars short in meeting the expectations of the community.”

Craven has disagreed with his fellow Councillors on a number of points. He thought it “shocking” that the city is going to open a new fire station without all the full time staff needed. Council decided to continue using overtime work to cover the requirement making fire Chief Shayne Mintz’s job that much more difficult.

“At a time when we want better communication with our Citizens” declared Craven “we have reduced the number of City Talk pages we are going to publish. City Talk is a publication that is inserted into a newspaper and posted to the city’s web site. It tells what Council members are doing and updates citizens on want the city is doing in the way of road closures and repairs.

Other than finally paying the Councillors the increase they had deferred for a number of years there were no changes to the operating budget. Mead Ward wanted $25,000 added to the budget for WiFi service at all the city’s facilities. When it became evident that there wasn’t support for the idea Mead Ward withdrew the request.

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Council members take a pay increase hit – for the third time. A lamb ate their lunch.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON April 12, 2011 – Joe Lamb didn’t need much time to get to his point. “You’ve all done a great job and the budget you have delivered” he told Council on Monday evening “is a good budget. BUT”, he said, “the two Councillor pay increases that are before you tonight were approved by a vote of 4-3. “I also see” said Lamb “that three of the four votes in favour were cast by rookie Councillors.”

“I am hoping that one of you will find the humility and show the leadership necessary to reverse this decision tonight. It is very difficult to have the troops follow when you are not willing to make the sacrifice yourself”.

And with that, Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward fell on her sword, changed her vote and the recommendation to increase council members pay was defeated.

Lamb however, completely missed the point but did manage to scare the pants off council members who are now in the embarrassing position of making the decision as to what they get paid, in their hands.

Burlington was smart enough a number of years ago to create a Citizens Committee that determined what the pay increases for Council members were to be – but rather than stick to the principal,, which was a good one, they ran for the hills when a single person stood before them and tried to embarrass them.

Joe Lamb uses 25 words to scare the pants off a majority of Council members as they scramble to get away from a Citizen Committee recommendation that sets out what they should be paid.  Not a lot of guts shown at Council on Monday night.

Joe Lamb uses 25 words to scare the pants off a majority of Council members as they scramble to get away from a Citizen Committee recommendation that sets out what they should be paid. Not a lot of guts shown at Council on Monday night.

Lamb who is a council member for Parry Sound where he lives part time now that he is retired, should have known better. Prior to knee capping the Council members Lamb did make a coupe of really good points. He congratulated council and said the budget they brought in for 2011 “looks fantastic and you are all to be congratulated”

“In my opinion your challenge in the next four years will relate to the cost of staffing and the replacing of an aging infrastructure. What is beneath the ground is sadly in need of investment.”

“Employee wages and excellent benefits and an incredible pension plan will continue to weigh heavily on your resources and we need to find innovative ways to address the ever increasing burden associated with this issue.”

After admonishing Council members for accepting a pay increase they had every right to take – they had after all deferred an increase they were entitled to for 2009 and deferred the increase they were entitled to for 2010 – and were now asking for what they had taken a pass on when times were really tough. Council had already done the right thing.

What Joe Lamb now needs to do is agree to sit on a committee that would put in place a procedure for paying our Council members what they deserve so that delegations like the one he made Monday night don’t get repeated..

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Finally, a permit has been approved and New City Park development can begin – again.

By Staff

Burlington, On – April 11, 2011 – Finally, the City of Burlington received  notice that the development permit conditionally  approved by the Niagara Escarpment Commission for New City Park in July 2010 has been approved by the province. Not everyone is happy with the decision but at least there is a decision and the project can now move forward.

It all started with the Pan Am Games.  Some don’t think we got very much of that pie.

It all started with the Pan Am Games. Some don’t think we got very much of that pie.

New City Park is a development of 165-acre (67-hectare) at the corner of Dundas Street and Kerns Road that began in May 2010. It as to be home of the Burlington part of the PanAm games but got tied up in a couple of bureaucratic knots.  When Burlington’s participation in the PanAm games fell apart

The Niagara Escarpment Commission issued a permit for phase one, on site grading works, in May 2010.  Construction on the play fields stopped in July 2010 when a citizen appeal for the phase two of the construction was filed with the NEC.

On Oct. 5, 2010, a Niagara Escarpment Hearing Office hearing was held to consider the appeal.  The hearing officer’s report and recommendations from that hearing were filed with the Ministry of Natural Resources in December 2010 for the minister’s review. The minister had the task of reviewing the recommendations of the Hearing Officer and making a decision on whether or not the development permit should be approved.

In a decision dated April 7, 2011, Natural Resources Minister Linda Jeffrey directed the NEC to issue a development permit allowing the city’s park development to resume. Preparation to resume construction will begin next week with full construction on site expected to resume in early May .

“When completed, New City Park will be the city’s largest park, offering a stunning view of the Niagara Escarpment and a variety of active and passive recreation options,” said Mayor Rick Goldring. “The province’s support of the NEC decision means the city can provide this much-needed park to the people of Burlington while making use of the previously approved stimulus money.”  The location of the park – on the Burlington-Hamilton border will make it more accesible to Hamilton people than those in Burlington

The city bought the lands for New City Park in 2002 in partnership with the Bruce Trail Association. In May 2009, the city applied for funding under the Canada-Ontario Infrastructure Program and was successful in getting $4.6 million in senior government funding for the first phase of the new park. This was matched by $2.3 million in city funding. Under that funding arrangement, work on phases receiving Stimulus Funding must be completed by October 2011. With al that money on the table there is going to be a lot of construction equipment re-shaping empty fields into public parkland.

Development of the park can now begin.  Going to be a bit of a rush to spend the Stimulus money before the bank closes
Development of the park can now begin. Going to be a bit of a rush to spend the Stimulus money before the bank closes

When completed, New City Park will include sports fields, playgrounds, trails, a pond/wetland, a pavilion, open space areas, natural areas and supporting amenities.

“The city has worked closely with the Niagara Escarpment Commission and the province at every stage of this project,” said Allan Magi, Burlington’s executive director of strategic corporate initiatives. “We are excited to resume the construction of this magnificent park which will result in much-needed additional recreation facilities for the citizens of Burlington as well as significant restoration and protection of the sensitive escarpment lands.”

The BIG issue for many is the use of synthetic turf on some of the soccer fields which some do not feel is all the environmentally friendly. The lack of serious public involvement was a concern to Burlington Green as well as Holton who has been very vocal with her views on the use of synthetic turf but her voice seemed to be facing a xxx

On its web site Burlington Green said it understood that “no other park of the 130 protected by the Niagara Escarpment Plan Open Space System (NEPOSS) has synthetic turf.   The park as part of the Niagara Escarpment is UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve designated which aims to “maintain, ensure, protect and preserve” the natural environment for future generations.” But that battle seems to have been lost at a time when the Burlington Youth Soccer Club takes the air out of one of its domes to replace the turf on one of its soccer fields. One of the issues about that synthetic turf replacement is what will be done with the synthetic turf that is no longer useful? Peter Summers told a council committee meeting that they are working with the turf manufacturers to determine how best to dispose of the synthetic material. That problem doesn’t yet have a solution that is both clear and satisfactory to everyone.

BurlingtonGreen’s position was that the city should not proceed with any additional artificial turf installations until more comprehensive research is conducted on the environmental, financial and health considerations of this product and that the findings be effectively communicated to the citizens of Burlington. That argument has been lost and Burlington is now going to have a number of park locations with artificial turf and the product may be approved for residential use in the city. Apparently there is just no stopping progress.

For Margaret Lindsay Holton, who has been consistently vocal on he way the park was being developed, the good news last Friday was that Spring has sprung!! For her the rest of the news was about as bad as it could get. “The decision is” an eco-disgrace”, she said. Many felt the argument at the appeal level (this stuff gets very confusing) was over the use of artificial turf but that turned out not to be the case. The issue for the hearing officer was about the proposed size of the parking lots and the size of the as-yet-unseen plan for the stadium. Given his recommendations, the Ministry of Natural Resources has made the decision that the Niagara Escarpment Commission could re-issue the Development Permit, provided certain new ‘conditions’ were met.

Margaret Lindsay Holton says: “the way is seemingly now clear for this noxious product to go in to the park without
a proper Environmental Impact Assessment.

According to Holton three fields of plastic grass are going into New City Park. Mayor Rick Goldring, who once ran as a Green Party candidate, feels that is wonderful and Alan Magi, Acting Executive Director Corporate Strategic Initiatives sees it as magnificent for the city

A tireless advocate for the environment, looses to synthetic turf in New City Park

A tireless advocate for the environment, looses to synthetic turf in New City Park

Holton, a rather forlorn comment says: “by the look of it, the two natural
playing fields that were proposed in future development will not be permitted now because the increased intensity of use afforded by the artificial turf will stress the carrying capacity of the park to the max. Great eh? No REAL grass playing fields at ALL.. All in all, Burlington will be the first park within the vaulted NEPOSS park system of 130 parks supposedly protected by the Greenbelt Act to get plastic grass.”

Holton adds: “But, for now, the MNR ‘decision’ of yesterday is final, as flawed as it now is. PanAm is getting their park to their design, in collusion with Burlington City ‘Corporate Strategic Planners’. The public, citizens of Burlington & local residents, per se, have had little to nothing to do with this final ‘PanAm’ design. And, as such, it is a solid slap in the face to all Burlington taxpayers. It is we who will pay and pay and pay for this PanAm plastic grass in perpetuity, not the local ‘soccer club’ , or the fleeting PanAm org who will decamp after one month of ‘tournament’ play on their fenced-in FIFA-2 certified artificial turf in 2015”

Holton is certainly passionate in her views. Is she right? Too early to tell, but synthetic turf is here.

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Coming in second isn’t in the play book Brierley reads from. A lot is going to depend on how her leader does on Tuesday.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON April 11, 2011 – She came out of the gate quickly. “My name” she said “is Alyssa Brierley, and I am thrilled to be here today to launch our campaign to win Burlington for the Liberal party on May 2”

Nominated by Paddy Torsney, the last Liberal to hold the federal seat in the House of Commons, Brierley says she was approached by people within the federal Liberal Party to run for the nomination and was then acclaimed when no one else chose to contest the nomination.

Brierley was introduced to the larger Liberal community at a Town Hall meeting in Hamilton and had her picture taken with the man she hopes will help her win the election in Burlington.

Brierley was introduced to the larger Liberal community at a Town Hall meeting in Hamilton and had her picture taken with the man she hopes will help her win the election in Burlington.

Then suddenly, there are those Liberal red lawn sign popping up faster than the Spring flowers. . And the campaign is off to a pretty fast start. So who is this woman and what is she going to do for Burlington? “People look to their elected representatives for inspiration and for solutions to the problems” said Brierley when nominated.

“In short, people look to their elected representatives for hope. I recognized that the political process is the key to change, and that by making smart choices, we could make a difference at home, across the country, and even in faraway places. I’ve devoted a lot of time and effort to the study of political science, economics and law because I wanted to equip myself with the tools to improve the lives of people in my community.

“But look where we are today. Mike Wallace, Stephen Harper and the Conservative government have completely changed the face of federal politics. In a short five years, Mr. Harper has turned federal politics away from a tool for strengthening our country and into a cynical, coldly strategic game. I can’t ever recall a time where the prime minister has so arrogantly manipulated our democratic processes for his own personal gain.”

“We see it time and again in the headlines: Parliament prorogued, important memos surreptitiously altered, Parliament lied to over and over, election laws ignored. The Conservatives have brought to federal politics an unprecedented culture of deceit and corruption. This is the only government in our nation’s history that has ever been found in contempt of Parliament.”

OK – so the lawyer with a PhD is going to run her campaign based on what the Conservatives have done to the country. So far we’ve not heard what she will do for Burlington.

Brierley planting yet another lawn sign.

Brierley planting yet another lawn sign."So who am I?" she asked rhetorically at her nomination. " I am an energetic, young woman with a multitude of experiences who is passionate about making a difference for the people of Burlington and Canada. My roots are in Burlington. It was in Burlington that I developed my passion for public service, and I am deeply indebted to this community for lighting this fire in me. :I have degrees in political science, economics and law. I'm also pursuing a PhD in political science focusing on global politics and international relations."All good stuff – but what will she do for Burlington? We don't know that yet nor do we know how the public will take to her – but there are a lot of those red lawn signs out there."But I'm not just a politico or an academic - I have also developed business insight through my work in both the public and private sectors, and through my work as a lawyer. I've worked in financial services and telecommunications, in corporate and commercial law and in the development of regulatory policy. At the same time I remain true to my commitment to the community through my volunteer work with low income individuals and newcomers to Canada."Campaign office was packed on opening day. Liberals greeting Liberals and getting their marching orders.

Ahh – the stuff of campaign speeches. Rouse the audience, get their blood going – that and a bit of marching music can sometimes win you an election. But it isn’t going to be quite that easy in Burlington this time around. The Liberal Party leader, Michael Ignatieff, is still a bit behind in the polls and we won’t have any real sense of who he is until the debate on Tuesday, April 12. If he comes out of that event a winner – then there will be a real race in this city for the seat in the House of Commons.

There will be a number of debates in the city; one being sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce on April 27th.

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They are getting – silver Porsche car-jacked north of Burlington.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON April 8, 2010 – The driver of a car saw flashing blue lights in his rear view mirror and pulled over at the intersection of Conservation Road and Twiss Road and was approached by a person he believed to be a police officer. Told to get out of the car the driver did so and the person with what was thought to be a police badge jumped into the silver 1999 Porsche 944 CV, black convertible top and drove off.

A person in the car that was thought to be a police car drove off behind the Porsche.

The stolen car was last seen southbound on Twiss Rd, south of Campbellville Road. The suspect vehicle fled the area northbound. The victim was not injured as a result of this incident.

Suspect #1 is described as a male, white, 35 years of age, 6′ 2″ tall, short haircut, a freshly cut chin strap beard and muscular build. He was wearing a long sleeved black shirt, jeans and produced a dull gold badge in a black leather holder hanging from a beaded chain.

Anyone with information on this or any other crime is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1 800 222-8477 (TIPS) or through the web at www.haltoncrimestoppers.com or by texting “Tip201” with your message to 274637 (crimes).

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Halton Board names new school after Citizen of the Year, the late John Boich.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON April 8, 2011 – It is a lovely school John. Pretty big too and construction is coming along just fine. There will be hundreds of kids flooding through the doors next September. I wonder how many of them will even know who the school was named after?

The late John Boich with a favourite neighbour.

The late John Boich with a favourite neighbour.

But, I know that your spirit will infuse the place and by the time they graduate they will understand what it is to be a citizen and to be engaged. They will have graduated and been “boiched” all at the same time.

It was a struggle though John to get your name on the building – it got a little political at the end (are you surprised at that?) and the decision came about when there was a tie vote at the Board and you name was drawn from a hat. You must have chuckled when you saw that happen Johnny Boy! Priya had organized the whole thing with three delegations on your behalf.

They are going to use all your names and call the school the John William Boich Public School. Arlene (she’s doing OK John) said the “whole ‘family’ was present and thrilled at the outcome. It was a nail-biter considering the politics that surround such an event, but we did it!”

Little did the Halton Board know that they would end up with your name on one of their schools. Makes you want to order another plate of sweet potato fries doesn’t it ?

John William Boich Public School will open in September.

John William Boich Public School will open in September.

Arlene met the new Principal and, according to her, “he seems to be a really good guy —a Serb too, if you can believe it! She knew you’d get a chuckle out of that too.

There was much partying at the Mohan’s afterward. Arlene is so happy — weepy too — because she knew how much you wanted this.

Take care fella.

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Wallace takes to the streets of Burlington – asking to be re-elected the House of Commons – for a third time.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON April 8, 2011 – Burlington MP, Mike Wallace is casually dressed and ready to do his door-to-door thing to get himself re-elected to the House of Commons. It’s an election Wallace didn’t think the country needed but he is cheerfully out there campaigning and always ready to tell you, should you ask, what he has done for Burlington.

Mike Wallace looking over the piles of literature that will get dropped off at every door in the riding.

Mike Wallace looking over the piles of literature that will get dropped off at every door in the riding.

Wallace isn’t the kind of guy who will tell you he hopes some day to become a member of the Cabinet. He’d be quite happy to sit on the Treasury Board but given that he doesn’t expect that to happen soon Mike talks about what he does do well and, in his words, gets things done for Burlington.

“I listen to people” explains Wallace and where I think I can help I build a case and take it to whoever makes the decision. Getting the then Minister of the Environment John Baird to Burlington and out on a boat to tour the Randall Reef area of Hamilton Harbour resulted in a cheque for $30 million to cover part of the cost of covering the contaminated site in Hamilton Harbour where tides and the water flow patterns have dumped years of toxic waste into a portion of the harbour that is now the second worst toxic waste site on the northern side of the Great Lakes. The only place worse is the Sydney, NS tar ponds.

The tar and toxic metals that gathered in Randall’s Reef were the result of run off from Shepherd’s creek in Hamilton and run off from the steel plants. Paying to put a cap over the waste and seal it for centuries is going to involve municipalities, the province, the federal government and the steel companies in Hamilton.

Wallace brings several perspectives to each request that comes across his desk. “Is it something I can actually do something about”, he explains. “Can I add some value to the request” he adds. “Sometimes there is an issue, like agriculture, that I don’t know much about so I direct people with agricultural issues to the appropriate person and will set up an appointment for them and then follow through on that appointment to make sure it takes place.”

Thirdly, the request has to fit within the “party perspective” adds Wallace. So if you want a stack of get out of jail free cards – Mike Wallace is not the man to approach.

Wallace sees his job as “bugging and begging” for funds that pay for projects in the community. “If there is a project that I can believe in and can make a case for it – I will become that projects champion.”

Mike Wallace loves maps that are covered with blue boxes.  He has seen maps that were covered with red boxes.

Mike Wallace loves maps that are covered with blue boxes. He has seen maps that were covered with red boxes.

“We have a bit of a reputation on Parliament Hill” says Wallace. When Bev Oda, a member of the Conservative Cabinet sees us coming she will duck away and say “here come the boys from Burlington” and on that level Wallace is relentless and knows no shame.

Wallace, who seems to enjoy canvassing door to door, says he hasn’t been hit with a purse yet or chased away from the door with a broom either. Could that be because he doesn’t mention the word “prorogation” or try to explain what “contempt of the House means”?

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Big time baseball comes to Burlington. League that develops players for the major leagues setting up in Burlington.


By Staff

The crack of the bat and all eyes follow the ball. Is it a pop fly or a bouncy grounder and did someone just slide into third base?

It is Spring time and that means baseball and for those who love the game – things in Burlington just got better. The Burlington Twins, formerly the Mississauga Twins have made Nelson Park their home turf and will play their first home game on Saturday, May 7th at 2:00 pm

The team schedule for this year is Thursday’s at 7:30 pm and Saturdays at 2:00 PM. Full schedule is available at https://www.mississaugatwins.ca/mt_calendar.shtml

The ball team is part of the Intercounty Baseball League announced today the franchise will move to the City of Burlington and will operate as the Burlington Twins with Nelson Park as their home field for the 2011 season.

Doug Kelcher and Scott Rogers will manage the team as General Manager and Assistant General Manager respectively.

Joining Elliott Kerr as part of the ownership group is local Burlington businessman Scott Robinson, COO of Burlington based Interior Design House, a fixture in the Burlington community for over 20 years and Backspin Marketing Group.

Season tickets for 17 home games will be available for only $75 (that’s just over $4.00 a game – great deal) so make sure you get yours today. Follow the Twins at www.burlingtontwins.com

The IBL was founded in 1919 with just four teams—Galt, Guelph, Stratford and Kitchener—and is the oldest amateur men’s league in Canada. During the early years, the league expanded to include the cities of London, Brantford, Preston and St. Thomas, Ontario. It was previously known as the Intercounty Major Baseball League and the Senior Intercounty Baseball League. The league has been home to a number of aspiring major league players, and the league has continually graduated players into the major league ranks each year. The league includes franchises in Toronto, Brantford, Barrie, London, Kitchener, Hamilton and Ottawa, who joined the league prior to the 2010 season.

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Budget making for Burlington takes longer than baby making. And there isn’t any “oh, how lovely” to a budget

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON April 5, 2011 – After sitting on a padded bench for three days, two of them back to back, Acting General Manager Finance Joan Ford’s comment that “it is that simple” when explaining how the city puts its budget together doesn’t seem to have the – ‘oh, I get it’ sense to it.

But, if you step back from the long, tiring, sometimes inane, sometimes funny sessions – it is quite simple. At least putting the budget together is simple – passing it and figuring out what goes and what stays – I don’t think even Ms Ford would say – “it’s that simple”.

Basically it works like this. There is a budget cycle, which for Burlington is ten months in duration and staff can look for that to change as they head into the 2012 budget cycle. Council is going to want this process squeezed down to five or six months – and with the same staffing compliment as well.

There was no “acting when Joan Ford took to the budget stage – nothing but consistently good delivery.

There was no “acting when Joan Ford took to the budget stage – nothing but consistently good delivery.

Each department gets its forms on-line and is asked to enter their data and back it goes to the finance office where all the numbers are pulled together. Frequently Ms Ford will ask a department to take another look at a number they’ve submitted and there is discussion around who is more right.

When Finance has all its numbers in, an analysis is done and it gets sent to the members of the Executive Budget Committee, which is the next level up and where the really sharp axes come out. That eight member committee is led by City Manager Roman Martiuk, and consists of the General Managers: Kim Phillips of Budget and Corporate Services and Scott Stewart of Community Services and Joan Ford of Finance. Add to that the Executive Directors: Allan Magi, Steve Zorbas and then stir in the Director of Human Resources Roy Male and a rotating Director, which this year is Clerk Angela Morgan, and you have the team that works with the guidance given it by city council to create a budget that manages the revenue needed to meet the expenses it takes to keep the city running.

Martiuk who chairs the EBC explains that they never vote but “we do work towards consensus and give every member of the team an opportunity to voice their opinions.”

“I seldom make rulings but I have had a situation, not with this city, where I was advised to tell council they were wrong. I ruled that council was never wrong and that ended that discussion”.

Martiuk explained that he discusses matters with council members on an ongoing basis and has all but immediate access to the mayor – both are on the same floor of city hall. Getting a budget position this year was complicated by a number of matters explains Martiuk. First our initial instructions were to come back with a budget that was in the 2.5% to 3.5% range – that was given to us by an out going council. Everyone thought that was a really big step forward at the time – the city had experienced 4% to 5% increases for the previous four years – so 2.5% looked really positive

“We worked up our numbers within those parameters”, explains Martiuk.. “Normally”, he adds, “we go back to council with a draft but that doesn’t happen during an election year “so we were left to work on our own, which we did.”

To add to the complexity was that a number of matters were producing very favourable results for the city over which staff had no control. The gas tax was going to be very good, the income from investments was also very good. Low snow removal costs in 2010 were a big help. “Normally”, said Martiuk, “there is good news and there is bad new but during the last half of 2010 it was basically all good news and we were working within a cost containment model which meant money was coming in a at better clip than usual and we were spending less.”

Martiuk agreed that the 2010 $9.3 million surplus is probably the biggest the city has ever experienced. We are not likely to see that situation again. Each department knows its financial position at the end of each month with an aggregate number available at the end of each quarter.

There was quite a bit of tension between staff and council members as they waded into the development of the budget. Much of that tension was the result of some rather startling comments made by first time council member Paul Sharman who brought a very brusque and direct style to his question of staff. His directness brought out the fiscal concerns that councillors Taylor and Dennison had been harbouring for years. With Sharman leading then there was a new tone to this council. It was sharper, more focused and tougher in its position of city hall staffing and payroll. Have the fattest surplus on record certainly helped but this council seems to have more political sensitivity and it is always aware that it hurts when it gets caught out.

 Once council votes on the budget and formally approves the tax levy for 2011 the EBC will meet to review how budget setting for 2011 went and then report to Council on any changes in the budget making procedure that should be made. Even before those changes get discussed and then put into place Joan Ford will be generating the documents that will report budget numbers for each department and Board every month as she tracks expenditures against revenue and looks for any variances that reveal a problem.

Ms Ford has to deal not only with the city departments but the Boards and Commissions as well. These include the Library Board, which this year had some really serious problems to contend with, the Burlington Performing Arts Centre which is going to draw down close to half a million every year for a number of years and will probably always need a transfusion line stuck into one of their veins.

The Tourism people, the Economic Development Corporation as well as the Burlington Art Centre need and get funds from the city. Some of them also have revenue sources of their own but all are seen as “members of the family” and they need their allowances.

The hospital is going to undergo a very substantial upgrade at some point in the not too distant future. The city is preparing for this by setting aside $1.2 million each year.

Every time you see that $ sign – make the sound – “kaching” – because money is going in or coming out of the budget that keeps the water running and the snow off the sidewalks.  

Ford, a Milton resident, has been with the city for much of her career and is currently the Acting Executive Director, Finance. She manages a team of people who have a really solid grip on what gets spent within every department and can spot changes the moment they appear. The Finance office is the first line of defense when it comes to cost constraint. There isn’t any of that “spend your budget or you lose it” within this finance department. Managers appear to have to justify every nickel with Ms Ford before she takes the numbers to the Executive Budget Committee where she has to defend them.

That’s the spending side of the Budget – there is also the revenue side.

First there are the taxes levied, then there is income from development charges which are shrinking because Burlington is approaching the “built out” stage of its development.

There is the gas tax that puts close to $5 million in the coffers. Then there is investment income – we earned $1.5 million on that last year. And of course that $3 million chunk of change that was the result of the “gapping” with our human resources that produced the much of the surplus that solved a lot of problems. That surplus was a gift to a council in its first year in office – they won’t have anything like that to work with next year.

All the back and forth with the numbers was done under the firm control of Joan Ford and her crew who work out of the Simms building across the street from city hall.

When the council budget committee is in session Ms Ford and a number of her trusty aids are in the chamber with her – each has a thick loose leaf binder and all kinds of briefing documents with them for reference. When a council member has a question one of the assistants or Ms Ford will pop out the answer – and they always have the answer in less than three seconds.

On the final day of budget deliberations at the committee level there is a computer in the chamber hooked up the computer that holds all the numbers – as a decision is made to approve an item it gets keyed in and the operator can tell council where they are in terms of balancing their budget.

The last items is always for an amount that rounds everything off. When that number is entered Ms Ford leans back, flashes a smile that is a large part smug and says – it’s really that simple.

We wish.

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Tax increase of less than 1%, staff levels frozen and pay increases held to about 2.75% Sharman feels he won.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON April 4, 2011 – Paul Sharman, the guy who fist put the 0% tax increase on the table, says he got what he wanted when the council budget committee settled on a tax increase of less than 1%. “Actually I got more than I wanted” claims Sharman, who then listed the achievements of this council as it crafted its first budget and brought in the lowest tax increase in more than 10 years on the fourth month of their first year in office.

  • We have complement control now said Sharman
  • We have reduced the city hall payroll from the four to five percent increases of the past few years to something in the 2.75% range.
  • We used some of the 2010 surplus to cover the cost of the 2011 contribution to the redevelopment of the Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital. Had we not done that we would have had to make the contribution out of the tax base.
  • A necessary contribution to OMERS, the employee pension plan was made from the surplus.

While these are all great achievements, much of it was possible due to a surplus of $9.3 million from last year which council used to send money to Joseph Brant Hospital and meet the pension fund obligations. Add into that the better than expected return ($1.5 million) on the investment portfolio and this council had a pretty hefty kitty of cash to work with.

Staff salary increase to be about 2.75%

Staff compliment to be frozen at 2011 level.

Part of  2010 surplus used to pay for hospital and staff pension

A large part of that surplus, (more than $3 million) was the result of “gapping”. When a job is created the city budgets for that job for the full 12 months even though the position may not have been filled for that period of time. The “gap” between when the job was open and when it was filled is what they call “gapping’. Neat little financial trick isn’t it? Do you run your household that way?

A council that got re-elected on a 2.5% tax increases delivers a budget with a less than 1% increases.

The less than 1% tax increase is a big step for this council. Ward 3 councillor John Taylor brought up an important point when he spoke of a day when he and Rick Goldring were campaigning on the same street. “I was at the doors talking about a 3.5%`tax increase and Rick was behind me saying the tax increase would likely be 2.5% increase” said Taylor.

Both men had served on the previous council and were working with a number that had been developed by the Cam Jackson council. What neither knew at the time was there was going to be a very significant surplus to work with. Which of course begs the question: Why didn’t council know there was going to be a surplus – surely they can add up numbers.

A step for this council is to implement a process whereby council knows what the city’s position is on a monthly basis. Everyone else works that way. Council had hints that there was going to be a very generous surplus but it took some digging on their part to get the actual number from city staff. It shouldn’t work that way. The seven members of council are the Board of Directors for the city corporation and staff has a responsibility to report to them. This is one you can email your council member on – demand better financial reporting.

This council worked very hard on the budget and in the process got much more control over what happens on the staffing side at city hall.

The staff complement is now frozen at whatever is set out in this new budget. If staff want to create a new position – they have to do so with the money they were given. In the past number of years an average of 18 people were added each year. It was getting out of control and your council wrestled that one down to a freeze on new staff additions.

The discussion on the budget covered three full days. For some reason the bright lights on the management side of the city feel that keeping everyone in the room for a session that runs from 9:30 to 3:30 is good management practice. Things get done partially because people are just work down. Senior staff members come and go during the day but every council member is almost glued to their seat. And then, most of them have constituency matters to deal with at the end of the day. Councillor Taylor wisely asked that next year they work in half day sessions. Wise request John Taylor.

Mayor Goldring prepares to lead the city into the creation of a strategic plan after the budget success.

Mayor Goldring prepares to lead the city into the creation of a strategic plan after the budget success.

With a really solid week of work behind them Sharman is going to do something he has never done before. “I am going dark for a week” he said and added “I am going to Aruba to scuba and will not have a single communications device with me.” We will certainly see a sun tanned Brit returning to Burlington – whether he will be able to function is another matter.

Sharman “goes dark” while in Aruba to scuba.  No contact with anyone but the fishes.

Sharman “goes dark” while in Aruba to scuba. No contact with anyone but the fishes.

For Mayor Rick Goldring this budget was “the most thorough process I have experienced and the longest budget session I have experienced.” Goldring saw it as very demanding but a process that produced the kind of tax increase the taxpayers had demanded. “And”, he added, “there is much more work to do.”

On the toughest day of the budget setting – a session which went from 9 am to 3:30 pm, Goldring then took part in a high school student speech contest. The next morning he did a breakfast with the Burlington Downtown Business Association. He is earning what we pay him – and we don’t pay him enough, not when you measure it against what senior staff are getting.

Once the core budget issues were settled – and those were (1) staffing compliment and just how much the civic bureaucracy was going to be allowed to grow, (2) what the staff salary hike was going to amount to and (3) how the 2010 surplus was going to be handled, council was then able to allocate the funds they had at their disposal. And they did have a lot to play with. More on that in a future story.

It was a good budget session. This council is now working together and doing their job. But there is still not real unanimity at the council table. Ward 1 councilor Rick Craven voted against the budget.

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Waterfront design competition stopped at Council budget committee. Meed Ward fails to deliver, Craven scuttles a good idea.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON April 4, 2011 – It was an idea that former Toronto Mayor David Crombie (The Tiny Perfect One) put to the Waterfront Advisory Committee. “Hold a design competition for your waterfront and make sure you get at least one oddball on the committee”, advised Crombie

Earlier in his session Crombie told the Advisory committee that Burlington was once a leader in the development of the Lake Ontario waterfront, but had fallen away from its leadership position.

Few smiles and fewer words from Craven at the Waterfront Advisory meeting which didn’t stop him from trying to scuttle the idea at the Budget meeting.

Few smiles and fewer words from Craven at the Waterfront Advisory meeting which didn’t stop him from trying to scuttle the idea at the Budget meeting.

His idea for a design competition gained some traction at the Waterfront Advisory level and Ward 2 council member Marianne Meed Ward took on the task of getting the $45,000. needed to hold the competition. Ward 1 councillor Rick Craven, who sits on the committee, said hardly a word at the Waterfront Committee meeting but had lots to say at the council Budget meeting where he did as much as he could to scuttle the idea.

After more than six months of seminars and briefing sessions the Waterfront Advisory committee finally got down to some real work and then went at that with a vengeance. Gary Scobie was given the task of running the Old Lakeshore Road sub-committee responsible for that little wedge of land that is south of the Old Lakeshore Road, none of which the city owns – except for the road itself which, if intelligently used, could impact all of the development that would take place in that area.

Scobie was the point man for the committee when it appeared before the council budget committee explaining what a design competition was; how good an idea it was and how it would work. Scobie was refreshingly open – not something you see all that often at council. He wanted to “work out of the box” and believed that while the properties in questions are held by 17 different owners the city does have what Crombie taught them was a “bully pit” that could be used to bring developers around to the point where the trade offs could be made.

The road is city property – development is going to have to take this account.  17 property owners will all have to come to the table.

The road is city property – development is going to have to take this account. 17 property owners will all have to come to the table.

With the property in the hands of 17 owners – no one developer is going to able to impose a view or an overall design on what is described as the “eastern gate to the downtown core” unless someone does an awful lot of very expensive property assembly.

The waterfront committee wanted to hold a design competition that would bring some exciting ideas to the surface and let the public have a look at what comes out of the competition. The property owners would be invited to become an integral part of the people meeting with the three design architect’s chosen to take part in the competition.

What Scobie didn’t really succeed in getting across to the council budget committee was that this was an experiment as much as anything, something to kick start some creative thinking about what to do with the waterfront area just east of Pearl Street. Meed Ward coached Scobie through a question and answer between the two of them designed to elicit the view point the Waterfront people wanted to get across – it didn’t quite work.

Waterfront walkway stops at this point – but could continue along the Old Lakeshore Road that city owns.  Design competition would bring out some ideas for the public to consider.

Waterfront walkway stops at this point – but could continue along the Old Lakeshore Road that city owns. Design competition would bring out some ideas for the public to consider.

That doesn’t mean the idea wasn’t a good one. This council just wasn’t prepared to give the Waterfront people $45,000. to go off and hold a design competition without a lot more information and a chance to buy into the idea.

When it looked as if the design completion has a ghost of a chance, Councillor Craven petulantly said that if the Waterfront got money for a design competition he wanted funds for a design competition for Plains Road in Aldershot. One would have thought Craven could have/should have made his views known at the Waterfront Committee level rather than sand bag his colleagues at the Budget level.

At the Waterfront Committee level it was clear that they were not fully aware of what they were going to run into at Council. The group didn’t take any of their thoughts to the city planner – who, they should have known, has to be a significant part of what they were setting out to do.

Nevertheless they soldiered forward and while the case they made wasn’t as detailed as it had to be they weren’t turned down flat. There is room for them to come back with a much more detailed and thoroughly researched proposal. They do have some friends on council.

Meed Ward had to eventually withdraw the request for funds – it wasn’t because the rest of council was against the idea – they just didn’t know enough to be able to support the request. Ward 3 councillor Taylor and Dennison of Ward 4 were very much onside – but they wanted more information. They weren’t about to put $45,000. into the hands of a committee without having a pretty clear idea as to what was going to happen with it.

Design competitions are used to bring new ideas to a city. The close to iconic Toronto city hall was the result of an international design competition and while Crombie will tell you it isn’t all that efficient a building it certainly changed the way the world saw Toronto.

Banks did some of the research on the cost of a Design Competition – it wasn’t all that deep.

Banks did some of the research on the cost of a Design Competition – it wasn’t all that deep.

A design competition seemed like a really good idea but the Waterfront committee didn’t take advantage of support available for them within city hall. The research on design competitions amounted to a couple of phone calls made by Sarah Banks. A contact within city hall explained that a competition with a $15,000. fee attached to it would get a firm who assigned a couple of architectural students to the project and maybe some drawings and that w

While Burlington has a good profile and our western waterfront is in desperate need of a major makeover the downtown core east of John Street presents a very significant opportunity and a major planning challenge. The Waterfront Advisory people deserve credit for getting an idea out of the committee level and before a council committee.

The architectural firms that take part in design competitions don’t make any money on these things, they tend to lose money, but the publicity and the potential for some work is usually worth the effort. If their design wins and it is picked up by the trade press they expand their profile – and that is what brings clients to their doors.

The Waterfront committee didn’t appear to be in touch with any of the several architectural magazines in Canada to get some background and create the opportunity for a story about their plans within the design community. An opportunity to showcase the city was lost by a committee that chose to work by itself and not do it right the first time.

Fortunately they have a chance to further develop their idea and bring it back to council. They need to work on their story and get one of the two city council representatives onside – or do what they can to get rid of him.

Scobie’s performance as a delegation to the Budget Committee earned him the chairmanship of the Waterfront Advisory when that job opens up.

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Secret slush fund used by all council members; un-audited and controlled by senior, senior staff member.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON April 1, 2011 – The investigative reporting team at Our Burlington has uncovered a slush fund at city hall that appears to be under control of a very senior staff member with what is believed to be collusion by all city council staff.

Meaning behind the code name of the secret slush fund is not yet clear.

Meaning behind the code name of the secret slush fund is not yet clear.

The code name given to this investigation – loaves and fishes, was the result of a tip from a very high source on the 8th floor of city hall.

Loaves and fishes is a fund used to pay for perks to council members and are doled out by the senior staff member, These funds are doled out on a regularly. Control of the account rests in the hands of a very senior city hall staff member. The account is not audited, in fact the auditor is probably not even aware of this secret account that appears no where in any of the city’s financial statement and cannot be found on the city web site.

The understanding is that the “ins and outs” on this account are kept in a locked desk drawer. There appears to be some correlation between this account and the council member payroll accounts. Details on the relationship between the loaves and fishes account and the payroll accounts is sketchy because there don’t appear to be any audited records on the loaves and fishes side.

The tip to our investigative team was given to us on Friday, April 1, 2011

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Artists going to have to get very creative to make $12,000 cover $65,000 in expenses.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON April 4, 2011 – They came in looking for $65,000. to stay alive, said they could settle for $40,000.and got $12,000.which isn’t going to take them very far. The request to have this pittance given to the organization was put forward by Ward 1 councillor Rick Craven, who represents the city on the Creative Burlington Board He also sits on the Burlington Performing Arts Centre Board. BPAC got their budget approved plus an additional one time grant for more than $250,000 to cover the cost of a web site, uniforms for ushers and a number of other items.

Creative Burlington started serving the community as Burlington Performing Arts but had to vacate that name when the Burlington Performing Arts Centre (BPAC) became real and so Executive Director Deb Tymstra renamed and re-branded the organization into Creative Burlington when she failed to land the job as Executive Director of the new arts organization.

The original Burlington Performance groups raised in excess of $60,000. for the Burlington Performing Arts Centre and may have made the very fist donation to that organization. But BPAC was able to create a much more powerful Board and went on to raise millions within the community.

Tymstra and her Board had to find another way to cover the costs of the three person staff and have funds to develop programs within the community. Become an Arts Council, get the city to fund us and be in a position to dole out grants from a fund given to them by the city and take out any bias or favouritism in grant giving that might result if politicians were to be deciding on grants amounts.

Tymstra has been a tireless supporter of the arts community. She did much of the trench digging work needed to give what is now the Burlington Performing Arts Centre the footing it needed to get started. It is fair to say that if the work Tymstra did had not been done – there would not be a BPAC today. Not that she’s getting much in the way of thanks for her hard work early in this century.

Today, her Creative Burlington is in tough, tough financial shape. Their Trillium Funding runs out in October and they are not able to go back to that well for additional funding so they had to come up with a new role for themselves

And that they did – but Council wasn’t buying what they were offering, even though the group had the support of former Mayor Walter Mulkewich, who not only wrote Council but stood before the committee.

Paul Mitchell, president of Creative Burlington explained they are “an arts services organization dedicated to celebrating, cultivating and supporting arts and culture in the city through initiatives, collaborations and partnerships. In short, we are Burlington’s arts council.”

And that was a bit of a stretch for the city’s Budget committee. Shaping Burlington, of which Mitchell is also a member, takes the same self appointed position, but that view wasn’t taken up by Council nor did it appear that staff were buying into it. The Executive Budget Committee turned down the request at their level because they felt the city did not have a policy about grants to community groups and without a policy council was just opening the floodgates and, as city manager Roman Martiuk put it, they will come flooding through.”

Mitchell wanted the Budget committee to reconsider the recommendation of the Executive Budget Committee which he said would “enable Creative Burlington to continue serving the community and to meet the needs identified in the City of Burlington’s 2006 Cultural Strategy and the 2008 Economic Impact Study of Culture in Burlington.”

Creative Burlington was after more than just the money needed to get through the next year. As Mitchell put it: “To be clear, this is not a one-time request but a first step in ensuring long-term investment in Burlington’s arts and culture community.” He was delegating to have Creative Burlington morph into the city’s Arts Council and be the arms length organization that would dispense grant money for the arts this group expected the city to dome up with. Mitchell wanted to take the whole problem off council’s hands and have Creative Burlington become the group that doled out the dollars.

“In our business plan”, explained Mitchell, “we outlined the services that arts councils provide. Briefly, they support the use of art to create welcoming, inviting, engaged communities. They support employment in the arts. They are a resource for the arts. They provide professional development for artists, networking, promotion of the arts, and cultural activities. They advocate for the arts community and they work with government to provide advice and create cultural policies.”

Recently installed as President, Mitchell brings years of experience as a newspaper executive and writer to the organization.

Recently installed as President, Mitchell brings years of experience as a newspaper executive and writer to the organization.

Mitchell put an Arts Council for Burlington in the context he needed to make his point.

“Some arts councils administer grants on behalf of their municipality. This arm’s length relationship between the City and the applicant provides non-partisan, fair and equitable funding for arts and culture requests. We hope that, one day, the City of Burlington will see the value in creating such an arrangement.”

Mitchell pointed out that there are 300 Arts Council in Canada and 30 in Ontario – and Creative Burlington wants to make that 31 by putting Burlington on the “have” list. He added that the Oakville Arts Council gets $77,500. from their council – and they are just a Town.

Now that the Budget committee knows what Creative Burlington wants Mitchell goes on to explain why the city should fund Creative Burlington? “Because the City of Burlington has very few internal resources to support arts and culture, beyond its physical facilities. Nor does it have the resources to implement its Cultural Strategy on its own.

“We are that resource. We are your arms-length organization that communicates with, cultivates, celebrates and supports arts and culture here. We are the means to cost effectively implement your Cultural Strategy.”

As pitches for funding go – this is about as bold as you can get. Mitchell went on: ” We have a plan, backed by 10 years experience as an organization. A business plan with objectives, actions and measurable outcomes. It is a plan for Burlington, and your investment will ensure that we will carry out that plan.

One Council member wondered aloud why Creative Burlington, the recipient of two Trillium Grants, had not been able to develop to the point where they were self sustaining with a range of programs in place.

Mitchell explained that Creative Burlington has a “full action plan. In it there are 17 actions and 51 secondary actions or activities to meet our strategic objectives. The Creative Burlington Board consists of: Paul Mitchell, Gord Langford, Michael Spinelli, Barbara Ramsay Orr, Fred Sweeney, Chris Paterson, Serena Lee, Harry Gelderman, Brad Hails, Rick Craven and Rainer Noack

“Our Executive Director recently met with school principals, Councillor Sharman and the Ward 5 trustees for the Boards of Education to discuss such an outreach program.”

“We are surveying our members to explore specific topics they require to further their arts businesses and the styles of networking that would appeal to them. We will seek partnerships with other arts organizations and the private sector to deliver these services. We will initiate networking opportunities and offer two to three workshops before next February, making sure we do not duplicate services or compete with other organizations.”

“All the items in our business plan” advised Mitchell, “have tangible measures for success. We are serious about the business we are in. We intend to meet the needs of this community and the people we serve. We are confident that we have the plan to do it.”

The problem is that to date Creative Burlington hasn’t “done it”. They exist in premises that are basically rent free. Membership is low, community involvement is light and community communications is hit and miss.

“Your investment”, explained Mitchell, “will send a message to the arts community. It will demonstrate that you are committed to supporting not only the facilities, but the people who make up and enjoy our arts community.”

The Creative Burlington community was a strong, perhaps the strongest, supporter in the early days of the struggle for a performing arts centre in Burlington and they would now like to see funds put into the people who are the bedrock of arts in a community.

“Your investment”, added Mitchell, “will show our corporate partners that you believe in the work we do and you join them in supporting us. It will demonstrate that you believe that arts and culture is an investment, not a luxury. It adds value to the community.”

Executive Director Tymstra has led the organization through a lot of  turmoil – now she fights for its survival.

Executive Director Tymstra has led the organization through a lot of turmoil – now she fights for its survival.

Few on council disagreed with the view that art was a part of the local economy and what make the city a place to want to live in. What they didn’t go along with was watching Creative Burlington decide that they should be the Arts Council this city needs.

As creativity goes – it was a fine piece of work. The stick handling was superb but the shot on goal was deflected.

“Without your support,” said Mitchell, “our Board of Directors will have to consider the value of our commitment and the future of the organization.”

Was the $12,000. they were offered an insult or a plea to hang in for the year while the city develops an arts funding policy and decides if it wants an Arts Council, and if it does, should Creative Burlington morph into such a Council. Or was it a hint that the nepotism with the organization has to be resolved. If Creative Burlington is to morph into an Arts Council it has to show that it can be scrupulously fair and never play favourites – something it isn’t doing with its staffing complement today.

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Sunshine and lollipops and throw in some roses. The cost of running the city.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON April 1, 2011 – The province of Ontario requires all publicly funded organizations to reveal the names of all those who are paid more than $100,000. a year.

The list was revealed the same day Council met with city staff in closed session to go over the payroll for the 2011 budget. The names of what are referred to as “the sunshine people” in Burlington are set out below.

There are a few names on the list that surprised me and a couple that aren’t on the list that I felt should have been on the list. The fire fighters have what appears to be a large number of “sunshine people.”

These numbers are for the 2010 – there will be increases in 2011.

he city says it has about 1000 FTE equivalents, which means full time equivalents. That would have close to 10% of the staff earning more than $100,000.

Council budget meetings are taking place to freeze that staff compliment at whatever they decide the 2011 number is going to be. There are reported to be a number of senior level retirements in this term. Based on the names below – I don’t see that many retirements.

 

 
Name Position Salary Taxable Benefit
ALLDRIDGE BRIAN  Platoon Chief       $115,960.19 $644.11
ANSELL DANIEL T. R.  Captain  $110,173.32 $595.64
ARMSTRONG PETER  Manager of Field Services  $144,577.00 $4,779.34
BAKOS MICHAEL  Captain  $108,014.30 $569.59
BARRY PHILIP  Captain  $105,990.53 $569.13
BAVOTA ANTHONY  Deputy Fire Chief  $123,536.06 $2,124.94
BAYLOR MARK  Captain  $109,594.49 $583.54
BAYNTON STEVE T.  Captain  $108,373.30 $585.73
BEATTY DAVID N.  Deputy Fire Chief  $128,411.27 $1,438.60
BENNETT RANDY  Manager of Info/Technology   $110,690.75 $637.89
BIELSKI BIANCA  Manager Develop/Planning  $129,068.29 $767.34
BIRCH CHARLES T.  Captain  $112,648.29 $585.73
CAUGHLIN DEBORAH  Man. Council Services  $100,296.04 $569.83
CIORUCH DAVID K.  Chief Fire Prevention Officer  $114,188.45 $662.98
COULSON ANN MARIE  :Manager Budgets  Policies  $121,251.84 $660.22
COVERT MARK  Manager Field Services  $110,390.29 $650.55
CRASS JOHN  Manager Traffic Services  $105,806.46 $614.07
DALGARNO DOUGLAS R.  Manager Design/Construct  $134,991.19 $5,114.98
DELOYDE LEO  General Man Develop/Infr $150,302.76 $5,997.45
DI PIETRO ITALO  Manager Infrastr/Data Man. $117,820.67 $678.84
DOWD TIMOTHY  Captain  $108,662.76 $582.01
EICHENBAUM TOOMAS  Dir Engineering  $161,058.76 $925.53
EVANS FRANCES  Manager Halton Court Serv. $103,193.20 $600.12
FORD JOAN  Deputy Treasurer  $145,139.84 $804.06
GLENN CHRISTOPHER  Man.Business Services  $119,231.57 $659.97
GLOBE DARREN  Captain  $105,259.54 $567.08
GOTTSCHLING FRED  Coordinator Site Engineering  $102,471.99 $599.16
GRISON GREGORY J.  Captain  $108,373.33 $585.73
HAYES DENNIS M.  Captain  $108,662.27 $582.01
HEBNER PETER B.  Captain  $112,609.83 $595.64
HURLEY BLAKE  Assistant City Solicitor  $124,702.03 $640.83
JACKSON CAM  Mayor/ Regional Councillor  $145,451.15 $1,421.89
JAMES MICHAEL  Training Officer – Fire  $100,223.77 $588.55
JONES SHEILA  City Auditor  $109,257.39 $644.35
JURK ROBERT  Senior Project Leader  $104,359.40 $600.64
KELL DONNA  Manager of Public Affairs  $106,024.52 $622.95
KELLY JOHN  Captain  $107,875.07 $586.08
KELLY PHILIP  Man Develop/Env and Trans  $111,861.38 $660.96
KOEVOETS MATT  District Supervisor  $100,668.92 $1,450.33
KRUSHELNICKI BRUCE  Director of Planning/ Building $157,104.07 $916.62
KUBOTA ERIKA  Assistant City Solicitor  $130,666.54 $662.46
LAING BRUCE K.  Captain  $108,373.33 $585.73
LASELVA JOHN  Sup Building Permits  $101,182.40 $585.72
LONG MARK  Captain  $107,544.32 $586.89
MACDONALD GARY F.  Captain  $110,173.33 $595.64
MACDOUELL ROBIN A.  Deputy Fire Chief  $155,645.20 $6,398.13
MACKAY MICHAEL J.  Captain  $110,173.34 $595.64
MAGI ALLAN  Ex Dir Corporate Strategic  $160,528.99 $943.41
MALE ROY E. Executive  Director Human Resources  $185,663.87 $1,008.01
MARTIUK ROMAN  City Manager  $214,859.60 $3,423.97
MCNAMARA MICHAEL J.  Captain  $113,731.46 $602.19
MINTZ SHAYNE  Fire Chief  $148,271.95 $6,507.63
MONTEITH ROSS A.  Platoon Chief  $112,644.06 $606.45
MORGAN ANGELA  City Clerk  $116,928.62 $683.84
MYERS PETER R.  Captain  $108,373.33 $587.65
NICHOLSON J. ALAN  Captain  $111,577.48 $591.68
O’REILLY SANDRA  Coordinator of Accounting  $101,498.92 $590.19
PEACHEY ROBERT  Man Parks Open Spaces  $109,885.51 $615.54
PHILLIPS KIMBERLEY  Gen Manager of Corp Serv $170,484.37 $1,005.30
REILLY PETER  Captain  $107,564.16 $582.01
ROBERTSON CATHARINE  Dir Roads-Parks Main  $132,664.11 $1,458.54
ROCK JEFFREY M.  Captain  $104,734.96 $582.01
ROTSMA BERNHARD  Fire Prevention Officer  $105,142.98 $595.64
SCHMIDT-SHOUKRI JASON Manager of Permit Services $126,377.36 $728.03
SHEA NICOL NANCY City  Solicitor  $161,275.08 $780.97
SHEPHERD DONNA Director of Transit  $173,820.54 $922.53
SHIELDS LISA Assistant  City Solicitor  $126,761.73 $647.08
SLACK CRAIG D.  Platoon Chief  $123,295.17 $662.98
SMITH CLINT  Platoon Chief  $124,386.06 $668.63
SMITHSON PAUL Manager of Planning/Policy  $114,700.81 $4,852.49
SPICER MIKE  Transit Manager  $116,629.98 $651.84
STEIGINGA RON  Manager of Realty Services  $115,664.71 $643.83
STEWART SCOTT  Gen ManCommunity Service  $191,150.30 $3,692.16
SWANCE JEFFREY W.  Captain  $110,226.64 $595.64
SWENOR CHRISTINE  Dir of Info Technology Serv  $150,309.38 $868.89
TWISS GREG  Firefighter  $100,822.06 $521.86
WEBER JEFF  Deputy Fire Chief $124,327.62 $8,174.62
WEIR KENNETH  Field Services Supervisor  $111,535.32 $541.50
WONG BETTY  Controller/Manager Fin Serv  $125,685.95 $729.58
WOODS DOUGLAS S.  Captain  $110,173.34 $595.64
YOUKHANA DAVID  Quality Control Coordinator  $103,404.24 $0.00
ZORBAS STEVE  Ex Director Finance  $180,772.72 $3,300.12
 

 

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It looks as if it’s on – but with these guys – you’re never sure.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON March 31, 2011 – Nobody particularly likes the guy, few trust him but he’s the front man for Mid Week Cycling Club and they are the sponsors chosen by the Canadian Cycling Association to hold a multi-day event in the Burlington community around Canada Day.

The planned elite cycling event planned for late June and Canada Day could still come crashing down – but there is now a contract in place.

The planned elite cycling event planned for late June and Canada Day could still come crashing down – but there is now a contract in place.

So, a council committee held their noses tightly and passed a Direction enabling Community Services Manager Scott Stewart to sign the agreement with Craig Fagan and the Mid Week Cycling Club to hold the six scheduled cycling races in Burlington.

Once again, Halton Regional Police Deputy Chief Bob Percy was on hand to get their concerns on the table and then tightened up the financial requirements considerably. The $115,000 it is going to cost to cover policing has to be in the hands of the police by noon of May 16, 2011 or the Halton Regional Policed Service will withdraw their support. That puts a squeeze on the Mid week people but bouncing a cheque made payable to the policed doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

This event has been a problem that created its own problems and Scott Stewart General Manager Community Services, has been stretched to the limit to make this happen. “This is how it goes and it shouldn’t go like this” was the way he summed up the working relationship with Mid Week. Ward 6 councillor Blair Lancaster didn’t have much faith in the financial capacity of the Mid Week people when they were before council last and she had even less this time. However, Ward 4 councillor Jack Dennison thought he had a better feel for the way athletes register for events. “The time frames are tight” he agreed, but “there is a pent up demand for this event – there are people waiting with baited breath to register but they can’t do so because Mid Week doesn’t have a contract with us.”

The cyclists, who move at up to 75 km an hour, are going to have to compete with people who want to pick strawberry’s on June 23 – should be fun.

The cyclists, who move at up to 75 km an hour, are going to have to compete with people who want to pick strawberry’s on June 23 – should be fun.

This key issue this time was the closure of Bell’s Line for the Time trials and the operation of the strawberry fields at Spring Ridge Farm on June 23rd, a prime strawberry picking day. They have an event that is expected to draw 1,800 cars that day – and police aren’t entirely sure how they are going to manage all that traffic.

Ward 1 councillor Marianne Meed Ward wanted to know why this concern had not been ironed out months ago. Ward told the meeting that “if this issue were being voted on tonight, I would not support it” – and she didn’t but enough council members did and the city is going to sign the agreement that appears to have more than enough clauses for the city to get out of the deal if they are not happy.

For Mid Week, the promoters, the signed contract is something they have been working towards for more than two years. With the contract signed, explained Craig Fagan, head of Mid Week, we can open up registration and registration fees will begin rolling in and Mid Week will have the funds in hand to give the Halton Regional Police a cheque for $115,000. by the middle of May – they hope

This seems to have been one of those chicken and egg situations. With a contract we can begin bringing in some revenue” explained Fagan while Ward 6 councillor Blair Lancaster said several times that she just didn’t believe Fagan’s organization had the financial capacity to make this happen.

Councillor Taylor took a more sanguine approach. “We have this unique topology” and this event is going to happen. “If it’s a bad experience we won’t do it again.”

Mid Week has their contract, registrations can begin, cash will flow – but the fear is that there will be yet another problem that should have been foreseen. Scott Stewart says we are covered legally and we won’t lose a dime.

Mid Week could look for a better front man for their organization.

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What’s next for us? A Walk of Fame perhaps? – I think we’d settle for a Pier.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON March 30, 2011 – This is really hard to believe but maybe they didn’t know about the “mistake on the Lake”. Whatever, Burlington is still seen as the third best place to live in Canada by MoneySense. This is the second time we have been given this award.

In a city press release we are told that “The City of Burlington is fortunate to have the Niagara Escarpment, a world-recognized natural feature, as well as Lake Ontario in our backyard,” said Mayor Rick Goldring. “We are a city with low crime, and high community engagement. Our citizens get involved and help make Burlington the beautiful city it is, and a great place to live, work and play.”

Could this be the third best place to live in Canada?

Could this be the third best place to live in Canada?

Burlington came in Ottawa-Gatineau and Victoria, BC and is the only GTA city to appear in the top 10. In 2010, Money Sense also named Burlington the third best city in Canada, up from fourth in 2009 and eighth in 2008.

“We keep getting better,” said Kyle Benham, Executive Director of the Burlington Economic Development Corporation. “Economies succeed based on the availability of a talented workforce. When you are one of the best places to live, it helps to attract and retain the work force needed for today and into the future.”

Money Sense measured 180 cities, up from 179 last year. To come up with the ranking, Money Sense gathered information on Census Metropolitan Areas (CMA) and Census Agglomeration areas that had a population of 10,000 or greater (and for which the required data was available). They then broke up the CMAs of Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Quebec City, Hamilton, St. Catharine’s-Niagara, Oshawa, Edmonton and Kitchener into their component cities of 50,000 or more in population.

Money Sense grades cities in categories that include:

  • Walk/Bike to Work: This represents the percentage of people who walked or took their bike to work.
  • Weather: Ideal volume of precipitation is considered to be 700 ml per year. Source: Environment Canada.
  • Air quality:  Data was from monitoring stations in or nearest to each city as reported by the National Air Pollution Surveillance Network.
  • Population growth: Higher creates problems, lower means less opportunities. Cities with negative growth received 0 points. 2006 figures from Statistics Canada.
  • Unemployment: 2010 data from Statistics Canada when provided and 2011 estimates derived from Canadian Demographics.
  • Housing: Average house average prices from reports and listings by MLS, Canadian Real Estate Association, and the Real Estate Boards of Toronto, Fraser Valley, Vancouver and Quebec. Time to buy was derived from average price divided by average 2011 estimated household income sourced from Canadian Demographics.
  • Household income: 2011 estimates as per Canadian Demographics.
  • Discretionary income: Discretionary household income as a percentage of total household income derived from 2011 estimates as per Canadian Demographics.
  • New cars: 2008-2010 model year vehicles as a percent of total vehicles as per Canadian Demographics.
  • Income taxes: Cities ranked (lower is better) according to the rate of combined federal and provincial (or territorial) income tax paid on a single person income of $50,000 as per www.taxtips.ca.
  • Sales taxes: Cities ranked (lower is better) according to the rate of provincial or territorial sales tax.
  • Crime: Violent crime rates, total crime rates per 100,000 people and crime severity rates for 2009 from the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics. (Lower is better in all three cases.)
  • Doctors: Number of general practice and specialist physicians per community provided by the Canadian Medical Association and converted to doctors per 1,000 people.
  • Health professionals: Percentage of people in each city who are employed in health occupations according to the 2006 census.
  • Transit: Based on the percentage of the workforce utilizing public transit according to the 2006 census.
  • Amenities: One point each for a hospital, university and college.
  • Culture: Based on the percentage of people employed in arts, culture, recreation and sports.

Not quite sure how many points we got for people taking transit to work – that doesn’t seem to fit with the conversations around transit at council committee meetings.

Now, if that Pier were built can you just imagine – we could have been THE best place to live in Canada – and what if the Ti-Cats had decided to call Aldershot home? We would have become just impossible to live with.

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