Alinea works at getting what it has wanted for some time - Employment Lands concerted to Multi Use- think residential

By Pepper Parr

December 7th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The land-use planning scandal that has rocked Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government has revealed how the province utilized all manner of regulatory tools to force more housing on cities and towns – removing land from the protected area known as the Greenbelt, expanding urban boundaries and issuing special decrees known as minister’s zoning orders.

But a Globe and Mail analysis has uncovered a fourth, less discussed mechanism: re-writng municipal Official Plans.

The Ford government imposed two dozen policy changes on the city of Hamilton and the regions of Halton, Peel and York by rewriting their official plans – documents that guide what gets built and where. It altered local planning decisions by, among other things, making lands zoned for commercial use available for housing and foisting greater height limits on residential buildings, documents show.

Steve Clark, then the province’s housing minister, oversaw last year’s revisions of the official plans, including the policy changes.

As Minister of Municipal Affairs he signed off on ROPA 49, a document that has been very kind to Burlington FIX THIS He has since resigned, and his successor, Paul Calandra, has pledged to reverse the revisions. He asked mayors in October to tell him by Thursday what changes they want to keep.

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward

Mayor Meed Ward will meet that deadline with the letter she is sending the Minister was recommended at a Standing Committee earlier this week.

Alexandru Cioban, a spokesman for Mr. Calandra, said municipalities are in the best position to understand the “unique needs and concerns of their communities.”

The documents the Globe and Mail dug out shed light on how directives from political staff converted just under 200 hectares of employment lands – areas set aside for commercial or industrial purposes – to residential use and rezoned small parcels to increase density and height limits.

Mr. Amato also met in October, 2022, with Lobbyist Nico FidaniDiker, a former aide to Premier DougFord, regarding another policy change to an official plan.

Sandwiched in between the GO line on the left and Hwy 403 on the right the property is probably the most valuable pice of land in th city. Zoned as Employment lands that was changed in Regional Official Plan Amendment (ROPA) 49.

Mr. Amato discussed “three or four properties in the Halton area” on behalf of Mr. Fidani-Diker’s client Penta Properties, now known as Alinea Group Holdings, the Integrity Commissioner’s report says.

Penta was seeking approvals to build housing on three of its properties in Burlington, including a 71.5-hectare swath of lands that the regional government had designated for employment and commercial purposes. Planning staff in Halton Region opposed the requests, citing concerns that reducing the supply of employment lands could jeopardize the city’s job-creation targets, according to the internal government records.

Mr. Clark’s office gave Penta the green light. Burlington councillors unanimously voted in November to retain the province’s changes.

The new Minister of Municipal Affairs wanted to give the Clark decision a second thought and asked foe their views.

Burlington Mayor Marianne Meed Ward said in an interview that she supports the province’s move to bypass the regional council .“If you look at the kind of communities we foresee for the future, it is about mixed use ,” she said. “It’s about being able to come out the door of your house or your condo and walk to a community centre, to a park, to retail and to have jobs close by.”

This wasn’t a position held two years ago but times change.

Mayor Meed Ward is in the process of letting the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing know that she supports the decision.  Her letter is appended below.

Dear Minister Calandra,

Thank you for the opportunity to provide input on Regional Official Plan Amendment 49. When these modifications were first announced, Burlington City Council unanimously endorsed them.

Our position remains the same, and council unanimously endorsed this letter at our committee meeting of Dec. 5. Specifically, Burlington City Council unanimously supports the following:

      • Maintaining the 2051 time horizon. The Burlington Official Plan, 2020, Targeted Realignment Exercise – Initial Work Plan and associated efforts will include technical study, planning analysis and engagement to clarify local growth Population and employment expectations are likely to be significantly higher than reflected in policy in Table 1 of the Halton Region Official Plan, as modified by the Minister.
      • Maintaining the addition of two new Urban Areas, specifically Eagle Heights and Bridgeview. The policies of the Regional Official Plan provide sufficient guidance to undertake appropriate processes to confirm the nature of development in these two
      • Maintaining the removal of the Employment Area overlay for Bronte Creek Meadows and 1200 King Road. Both areas are within the ROPA 38 Urban Boundary and may present key opportunities to explore and potentially leverage servicing priority through discussions with the Region of Halton.

The City of Burlington remains committed to meeting or exceeding our Housing Pledge of 29000 units, which council unanimously endorsed earlier this year. As noted in the City’s Housing Pledge, while there is sufficient land within our pre-ROPA 49 urban boundary to accommodate 29,000 housing units by 2031, the lands affected by the Minister’s changes to the Region’s urban structure provide near and longer term opportunities for the City to deliver on a number of Provincial, Regional and City objectives.

The City of Burlington will continue to work collaboratively with the respective ROPA 49 landowners and the public in advancing the City’s interests on these lands. Priority will be given to achieving the City’s community responsive growth management objectives and long-term community development goals related to achieving vibrant mixed-use neighbourhoods inclusive of the following elements as outlined in our May 25, 2023 letter:

          • economic benefits including future employment targets that increase future property assessment growth.
          • social benefits including affordable and attainable housing, public parks and greenspace and community facilities and amenities.
          • environmental benefits including climate mitigation and adaption, natural heritage preservation and enhanced integrated mobility.

Everyone deserves a safe and affordable place to call home. We look forward to working together with the Province of Ontario, the public, and the development community on innovative solutions and partnerships to increase attainable housing options for residents at every stage of life.

Sincerely,

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward City of Burlington

Related news story:

 

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Current City Manager Tim Commisso Started in the Finance Department When He First Began Working for the City

By Pepper Parr

December 7th,2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

During the budget debates City Manager Tim Commisso said on more than one occasion that Burlington had zero tax increases for a number of years, making the point that during those zero tax years there wasn’t enough money being applied to the upkeep of the infrastructure.

Councillor Paul Sharman frequently talks about the several million dollar infrastructure deficit. That deficit is so high that they city had to put a special tax levy in place that was dedicated to infrastructure upkeep.

We find it interesting that Commisso would blame a previous Mayor for not collecting enough in the way of taxes while working in the Finance department – where he would have known just what the problems were.

The size of the infrastructure deficit? It started growing during City Manager Tim Commisso was working in finance.

Would he not have advised the Mayor at the time that more money had to be allocated to infrastructure upkeep?

Our source has Tim Commisso starting out in the Finance Dept. “ I assume he was hired by Bob Carrington but I can’t remember when he started.  In the early 2000s after the retirement of Gary Goodman and the departure of Ed Sajecki to Mississauga.

“Commisso was successful in becoming one of three General Managers under Tim Dobbie (the other two being Bob Carrington and Leo DeLoyde).

“Tim’s General Manager responsibilities involved the Development Division (Planning, Engineering and Building).  Given his involvement in finance, this involved a steep learning curve which he was able to surmount in good time.”

Perhaps the culture in the municipal sector is – you don’t speak up.

A reader sent us the following information on the amount of time Tim Commisso spent with the city before he moved to Thunder Bay:

City of Burlington
15 yrs 8 mos
General Manager
Oct 1999 – Sep 2008 · 9 yrs

Deputy Treasurer
Feb 1993 – Oct 1999 · 6 yrs 9 mos

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A Little Poem that is Hard to Look At: 'We draw in our dreams, in our imaginations'

By Pepper Parr

December 6th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

We hear the news day in, day out.

How do we react to stuff like this?

Yesterday: A school where civilians were sheltering was bombed as Israel expanded its offensive in Khan Younis, the south’s largest city.

In Israel: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had a contentious meeting with families of hostages still held by Hamas, who accused him of not doing enough to return them.

We see the pictures of bodies wrapped in white cloth dozens of them. Our part of the world doesn’t have experiences like this; how do we react?

Gazans laying out the bodies readying for burial; a daily exercise that has seen more than 14,000 Gazans killed as the Israel Defence Force hunts the Hamas leadership.

Many in Canada protest strongly for the Palestinian community demanding that their rights be recognized while almost is as many demonstrate for the Israeli’s who believe they have a right to be in Gaza to totally destroy Hamas, the political group that has been running the form of government that exists in Gaza and the terrorist group that sent men into Israel and murdered at least 1400 Israelis and took more than 200 prisoners, many of them still in the hands of Hamas who are trading them for Hamas fighters who are being held in Israeli prisons.

A Canadian, currently working at a university in the UK, has worked in Palestine for a number of years.  Fluent in Arabic, she does a lot of translation from Arabic into English.

Set out below is some of her work:

 

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RONA Celebrating converted locations in Burlington

By Pepper Parr

December 6th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Whenever there is competition in any sector of the economy the consumers is the winner.

When Staples took over Office Depot it didn’t take long for Staples to forget about the needs and interests of the customers.

RONA will celebrate the Grand Opening of the newly converted locations in Burlington and Milton with “board cutting” ceremonies to mark the reopening of the new RONA+ stores. These events will present a unique photo opportunity with the store teams and members of RONA inc.’s leadership team, as well as participating elected officials.

U can see the photo op already – Mayor Meed Ward with hard hat and goggles running a Skill saw through a 2×4

The conversion of the former Lowe’s store to the brand-new RONA+ banner is part of a wider plan aimed at redefining how Canadians shop for home improvement and represents a significant local investment. Through this process, the company is looking to build on the strong legacy of the RONA brand and build momentum for this Canadian-operated household name.

There will be a new sign on the location by the time you get there.

While RONA took over Lowe’s – there are other strong competitors in this sector, 

From Thursday, December 7 to Monday, December 11, the RONA stores will offer the local community an array of special activities to celebrate the Grand Opening of the stores, including a big community event complete with kids’ workshops, food and entertainment on Saturday, December 9 and Sunday, December 10, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

RONA+ Burlington

What:             Board cutting ceremony of the new Burlington RONA+ store

When:            Thursday, December 7

10:30 a.m. – 11 a.m.

Who:              Paul Faulds, Store Manager, RONA+ Burlington

Marc Macdonald, Senior Vice President, Human Resources, RONA inc.

Ashutosh Rai, Community Engagement Manager, on behalf of MP Pam Damoff

Where:           3270 Harrison Crescent, Burlington

Grand Opening activities

  • Thursday, December 7, Friday, December 8 and Monday, December 11
  • Pro event in stores from 6 to 9 a.m.
    • Pro breakfast
    • Vendors in store to meet Pros
    • Free gifts for Pros (limited quantities)
  • Saturday, December 9 and Sunday, December 10

o   Family event in stores from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

  • Free food
  • Kids’ workshop
  • Raffle
    • Free bucket (first 200 customers)
    • $25 gift card with the purchase of $100 or more.
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So this is where things are with development in Burlington?

By Pepper Parr

December 6th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Dave Amborski, a professor at the Centre for Urban Research at Toronto Metropolitan University, formerly Ryerson.

Dave Amborski, a professor at the Centre for Urban Research at Toronto Ryerson delivered a lecture on the home building industry and how development finance works and ties into municipal finance.  He has graduate degrees in both economics and planning.  He teaches planning at Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly Ryerson, this is his 50th year. He started the Center for Urban Research and Land development.

We will publish the complete lecture once the transcription is complete.

Today we want to share the questions that Councillor Sharman asked.  The answers may surprise you – they surprised us.

Sharman dropped this one on Amborski:

Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman puts questions to a Toronto Metropolitan University lecturer.

We have this little conundrum. Here in Burlington we’ve committed to build 29,000 units or have built 29,000 units by 2031. And we look at our official plan and what we see is that we’re going to have 82% of the of our development in the future to be high density 12% to be mid rise, mid density and 6% to be low density. And we live in a world defined by how interest rates and were built out. Do you have any suggestions on how we might accomplish 29,000 units in the next 10 years?

Amborski: Well, I haven’t looked very carefully at your official plan and your boundaries. That mix seems wrong to me; having too much high rise and not enough ground associated here. The data should tell us something about what some of the issues are. But it would seem that you would need more ground associated homes to meet the needs of your of your community if people want to live here because that seems to be what people are looking for.

Sharman later said to Dave Amborski:

We have 41,000 units presently in our planning pipeline. We know, we believe, that none of them or a lot of them cannot be built because of the need for pre-sales which at this point are just not there. This is the first time Sharman has said this publicly.

Sharman also asked:

And that other question is with respect to affordable housing, because one of my one of my colleagues online is terribly keen on this.  We can’t figure out how to get affordable housing here in the province in a city where land is extremely valuable. And there’s no upper level government support because it’s not happening anymore and given what I’ve already told you about, you know, the mix of mix of development that’s in the plans.

 

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Ontario in Top Ten Ranking of Math Students. Report says 'student well-being and academic rigour often go together.'

By Pepper Parr

December 5th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

While Canadian teenagers score well on international math, reading and science tests — scores in all three subjects have declined over the past two decades, according to a new global ranking released Tuesday.

“While it is evident that some countries and economies are performing very well in education, the overall picture is more worrying,” wrote  Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, ( OECD) Director for Education and Skills Andreas Schleicher in a report about the PISA 2022 test, which focused on math.

“In more than two decades of global PISA tests, the OECD average score has not changed drastically between consecutive assessments. But this cycle saw an unprecedented drop in performance.”

OECD Director for Education and Skills Andreas Schleicher

In media interviews Schleicher said while COVID-19 played a role, the downward trend in some countries, including Canada, started before the pandemic. Factors include a general decline in perceived teacher support and the “extensive use of technology for leisure.”

This is the first large-scale study to collect data on student performance, well-being and equity since the pandemic-related disruptions resulted in school closures and the pivot to online learning. The tests also reveal how Canadian teens fared in each province. Ontarians performed above the national average in reading and science, but not math. Alberta was the only province to score above the national average in all three subjects.

Canada was above the OECD average in all subjects, ranking fourth in science and fifth in math and reading. When compared with all participants, Canada ranked in the top 10 in all subjects. Singapore was number one in all areas.

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce, who is the chair of the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada, said “overall, it’s a very positive reflection” of what’s going on in classrooms across the country.

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce.

Ontario, he added, is in the top 10 internationally, which shows the province’s back-to-basics strategy is working, along with investments in literacy and numeracy supports such as a math lead in every school board and early reading screening for primary schoolchildren starting in senior kindergarten.

“All of this, together, leads us to a better outcome,” Lecce said at Queen’s Park. “So it’s promising, but a recognition that we’ve got obviously more work to do to get these kids back on track.”

Although Canada ranked high, its scores have trended downward, as have other countries’ around the globe. Compared with 2012, the proportion of students here scoring below baseline proficiency (Level 2) increased by seven percentage points in math, seven percentage points in reading, and four percentage points in science.

“If you do not reverse that, it’s just going to continue,” warned Schleicher, pointing out that Finland took top spot in 2000 and everyone looked to it as a model education system. “Now, (Finland) is an average performer. They have been very complacent.”

Schleicher  added Canada could do better with “a curriculum that is more ambitious and has high expectations for students,” adding there has been a tendency in recent years to “sacrifice rigour” in order to please students. But he notes that “student well-being and academic rigour often go together.”

We have to just teach fewer things at greater depths,” he said. “In Canada, students often are good at the first layer of a problem, but they do not have the deep conceptual understanding” to get at the heart of a math problem.

Schleicher also recommended that teachers invest more time in their relationships with students so they feel supported. He was “surprised” that when kids switched to online learning due to school closures, just 13 per cent of Canadians reported being asked daily, by someone from the school, how they were feeling.

“That’s a striking number,” he said. “During the pandemic, caring for your students was perhaps even more important than giving them homework.”

Ontario students were out of class and learning online, about 27 weeks, which was more than many students around the world.

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Bonnie Crombie in the Legislature by Easter?

By Pepper Parr

December 5th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

“If a seat presented itself that was logical, of course I would seek that seat,” Bonnie Crombie told  Newstalk 1010 radio.


It hasn’t been announced yet – but expect to see Bonnie Crombie sitting in the Legislature making life difficult for Premier Doug Ford.

Which means we can expect to see her in the Legislature in the not too distant future. Which of the nine Liberal MPPs will give up their seat for Crombie shouldn’t be that hard to figure out.  Crombie is also reported to have said: “a local Liberal candidate has been selected.”

The Premier has a period of time within which he has to meet with the Lieutenant Governor and arrange to have a by- election held.

The by election lasts 28 days.

Could she be in the provincial Legislature by Easter?

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Thomson Outs Council on the Handling of the Consent Agenda

By Pepper Parr

December 4th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Jim Thompson was back before a Standing Committee to first remind them that when there are delegations speaking to a matter it cannot be on the Consent agenda.

Items on the Consent agenda are matters that the Clerk’s Office do not feel require debate.  Any member of Council can pull an item from the Consent agenda and have it up for debate.

Jim Thomson, appearing before the Standing Committee virtually.

Thomson, took part in the meeting virtually – he hasn’t appeared in Council chambers since the meeting during which he was escorted out the door.

Okay, good morning. First, why is CL 22 Dash 23 still on the consent agenda? I am delegating on it. So it doesn’t meet the no delegations requirement of section 35.1 of the procedure bylaw.

Secondly, let me say that I approve of the way the changes to the notification policy are shown in the document. The old language is struck through and the new language is clearly shown in place. This should be the standard for all changes to bylaws. This is 1990s word processing technology that the clerk’s office should have adopted a long time before now.

Thirdly, with regards to changes necessary due to the loss of the Burlington Post. I don’t believe that Burlington is unique in no longer having print media.  I saw nothing in the report that referenced other communities made in Burlington is expensive if other communities have already solved the problem. With specific regards to the Hamilton Spectator how many subscribers does it have in Burlington? Does it reach enough of the population to make it worthwhile placing ads in it?

Fourthly, I find it hard to believe that there are no climate implications to this change. For starters, there are going to be fewer dead trees. Going out all electronic means consuming more electricity. If we move everything to electricity, we’re going to have to have more clean energy electrics, more clean energy electric sources. This means more hydro or nuclear to increase the base-load coverage that makes up for the times when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow Lastly, I noted the engagement matters the public wasn’t consulted.

Personally, I get my media electronically, but there is a significant portion of the population that isn’t on the net and or preferred to get paper copies. With regards to the policy itself, does the municipal act allow waiving the public notice procedure other than for the urgent or emergency situations as defined in objective nine of the policy?

How is Council held accountable? How is the city manager held accountable? Was the city clerk held accountable?

To be clear, what are the consequences of failure of any of those names, that they do not meet the responsibilities under the policy or in fact violate the notification policy? Thank you for your time. Are there any questions or will they just be ignored as usual?

Committee Chair: Are there any questions for Jim Thompson? Seeing none, thank you for your delegation today Jim.

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A Solid Leadership Win - Now the Task of Getting a Seat in the Legislature and Putting Together a Campaign Team

By Pepper Parr

December 4th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

While 103,206 party members were eligible to vote across Ontario Nov. 25-26, only 22,827 actually bothered to cast ballots.

That is not a good number and something Bonnie Crombie is going to have to overcome is as she gets ready to take on the job fill time early in the New Year

The big job for Bonnie Crombie and the provincial Liberals will begin after the holidays.

The polling numbers, once she had the job in the bag were good – good enough?

Without her as leader, the Tories were at 42 per cent, the NDP at 24 per cent, the Liberals were at 23 per cent, and the Greens at seven per cent.

With Crombie, the Liberals jumped to 31 per cent, the Tories dropped to 39 per cent, the NDP slipped to 20 per cent and the Greens were at six per cent.

Crombie conceded the Liberals — who remain three seats short of official party status in the legislature and the additional funding and opportunities to ask questions of the government that come with it — face a daunting task with voters.

“Earning trust is a step-by-step process.”

Meanwhile Premier Doug Ford is going to have to get used to having questions put to him – something he hasn’t been very good at when it come to Bonnie Crombie.

During the leadership campaign, Crombie put forward a variety of policies she said would undo the damage of the Ford years, from bolstering the Greenbelt with a “water and food belt” of lands protected from development and clearing the surgical backlog from the COVID-19 pandemic without resorting to for-profit clinics.

Crombie won the leadership job – that was expected. Now she has to pull a political party that has a massive job ahead of it.

Calling climate change an “existential threat,” she pledged financial aid to help make homes emissions-free and resilient to threats caused by climate change, such as heavy rains and rising temperatures.

The new leader would also restore the role of a stand-alone environmental commissioner, which Ford scrapped in 2018, and repeal his controversial Bill 124 wage restraint legislation that capped most public sector workers to one per cent annual wage increases. A court found the law unconstitutional, but the PC government is appealing.

To improve health services, she unveiled a plan to pay personal support workers — who do the bulk of care for frail elderly residents in nursing homes, where there is high staff turnover — a minimum of $25 hourly and registered practical nurses at least $35.

She proposed a “bill of rights” for gig workers, indexing Ontario Works social assistance payments to inflation and doubling payouts under the Ontario Disability Support Plan, and to reinstate the basic income pilot project that Ford axed. As well, more rent controls would be phased in to give tenants increased protection.

Also on housing, Crombie would provide funding to municipalities for emergency rent banks to help tenants in crisis avoid eviction, levy a tax on vacant houses in urban areas and make it easier to convert vacant office buildings to mixed-use residential.

All good platform planks – but lurking behind is that 22,827 of the 103,206  eligible Liberals who were eligible to vote bothering to do so.

 

 

 

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Bonnie Crombie and the Right-of-Centre - She Gets It

 By Ray Rivers

December 4th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The Ontario Liberals held a party to celebrate the crowning of their new leader last Saturday.   Like the other political parties have done in their internal politics, the Liberals used a ranked ballot to ensure that the new leader would be a first or second choice of at least half of the delegates.

Ranked ballots lend themselves to electronic voting where once a voter’s choices are recorded on a computer spreadsheet, the outcome can be had with the flick of a switch in a matter of minutes.  But the Liberals wanted to have a party.   So instead of on-line voting, which had been discussed at one point, members had to show up at a polling station to cast their ballot.  And then the vote counting was by hand, a tedious affair of recounting the same ballots each round as the lowest scoring candidates were eliminated.

More than 1000 Liberals gathered at a Convention Centre to watch Bonnie Crombie win the Leadership on the third ballot.

Apparently the party executives had decided that a celebratory party was as important as the leadership election process itself.  And how else could they entice all those Ontario Liberals to gather together into one room when a simple press release announcing the results five minutes after the polling stations closed would suffice?  It would have been somewhat anti-climatic after such a long campaign.

Clearly the party wanted to add some suspense to the process, so the assembled crowd waited patiently for the results after each of the three rounds of counting at the Toronto Convention Centre.  It was nostalgic, hinting at the good old days of delegated conventions when backroom deal making by the candidates and their supporters was half the fun.   This exhausting process was all for show.  But then that is so much of what politics is about in the end – the show.

Bonnie Crombie: No stranger to winning

Suffice it to say that Mississauga Mayer, Bonnie Crombie, the front runner from day one, won handily over her three worthwhile opponents.  It took three ballots but the betting was on Bonnie.  And she is no stranger to winning.  The people of Mississauga have elected her mayor three times, each with a greater plurality than in the previous election.

Crombie defined herself in the very early days, saying she was a right-of-centre Liberal, even daring to suggest that Greenbelt boundaries could be adjusted to some extent.  That probably hurt her within the party but then she was speaking to appeal to the wider voting public.  And she learned from that misstep, and saw the light, as the leadership campaign wore on.  At the end she was singing from the same hymn book as the other candidates.

In any case, not all liberals are left-of-centre, however defined.  And not all policies lend themselves to easy labelling as right or left.  In today’s world the environment is seen as a left wing issue.  Yet protecting the environment is largely a matter of conservation, preventing its deterioration by restricting urban sprawl and polluting transportation, for example.

I have never understood why those who consider themselves conservatives object to efforts to reduce our carbon footprint and to preserve natural habitat and farm land.  One would expect conservation of the environment to be at the heart of sound conservative values?  Certainly it was during the leadership of former Tory leaders like John Robarts and Bill Davis.

And yet progressive conservative premier Ford’s plans to open up the Green Belt to urban sprawl and building highway 413 across some of Ontario’s best farm land stand in stark contrast.  His admission that he made a mistake came too late to save him.  His justification for these policies was shown to be pure unadulterated hog wash.   Breaking up the Greenbelt had nothing to do with building more affordable housing.

Wait for results of the RCMP investigation to know to what extent Ford committed any criminal acts.

And it wasn’t just the Greenbelt.  Ford issued a succession of ministerial orders running roughshod over the proper planning process of municipalities almost everywhere.  In too many cases it was about converting protected natural and farm land into more urban sprawl.   We should wait for results of the RCMP investigation to know to what extent Ford committed any criminal acts,  All the same, real conservatives must be shaking their heads.

The vast majority of Canadians understand that we have entered into a period of global heating, and yet federal delegates to a recent Conservative Party of Canada annual meeting refused to endorse former leader Erin O’Toole’s motion that climate change is real.  Mr. O’Toole paid the price for his efforts to bring the party into reality by being replaced as leader by another, in the all too long line of climate deniers running that party.

What could be a more conservative value that protecting the planet from the danger of overheating?  What could be more conservative than conserving the planet’s ecosystem for future generations?  Is this what we call right wing politics?

In that case it is no surprise that Bonnie Crombie never talked about being right-of-centre again.

She gets it.

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With the budget determined IT Staff will explain what they can do with the HR additions that have been approved.

By Pepper Parr

December 3rd, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

This item was placed as a Consent item on the Standing Committee Agenda – so it didn’t get discussed – unfortunately

Chad McDonald, Executive Director, Digital Service and Chief Information Officer was explaining to Council , before the budget was passed, that the city is committed to “reshaping its digital service delivery through strategic digital transformation that aligns seamlessly with our overarching business plans and goals.

Chad McDonald, Executive Director, Digital Service and Chief Information Officer.

“Our primary aim is to enhance the digital experiences of our citizens, businesses and visitors by offering intuitive services tailored to their needs. Internally, we’re driving towards more streamlined operations, aiming for efficiency and agility. With an eye in the future, we’re integrating sustainable environmentally conscious practices and tour operations as well.

“We’re on the brink of a profound shift for several core services. We’re not merely introducing new software, we are embarking on a comprehensive business transformation.

” The business transformation is set to re-calibrate our core functions of HR Finance, payroll and asset management into models of efficiency and effectiveness. The workday and cartographic platforms are instrumental of this change catalysts that will empower employees to work smarter, make better decisions and offer services that meet higher expectations of our community.

“However, this transformation is at a delicate juncture.

“Lacking experts to guide this process, we could encounter disruptions that reverberate throughout the organization.  What we are setting out to do is reshape the organizational culture to be more innovative, more efficient and more attuned to the needs of the public we serve. It is the people behind these tools, who will ensure that the step is not a misstep, but a leap into the future.

Chad MacDonald: “In conclusion, to bring this vision to fruition, we must embrace the full scope of the business transformation and the support it needs. “That’s it.”

“In conclusion, to bring this vision to fruition, we must embrace the full scope of the business transformation and the support it needs. Without it, we stand to lose more than we gain not just in terms of capital, but in growth, efficiency and the trust of those we serve.

“That’s it.”

It was a sound presentation, backed by the experience of a very talented information technology executive.

But a significant number of people didn’t buy the argument which is proving to be very expensive.

Today, Monday the 4th, Chad will be back before Council to elaborate on what he believes he has to do.

He managed to get some of the people he needs as part of the 2024 budget.

Now he has to set out for Council, and a leery eyed group of people who just do not like the growth in Information Technology staffing, how he proposes to proceed.

While those opposed to significant spending have yet to adjust themselves  to the tonne of money that is being spent (and Council is not being is as transparent is as it should be on this) a way has to be found to bring the public around to what well qualified staff are setting out to do.

Councillors are going to have to get off their high horses and help the public understand the needs – so fat they are failing.

The IT people describe what they are going to talk about is as: Update on Customer Centric Digital Architecture and CRM.

Some time ago, before Chad MacDonald was brought in as the Chief Information Officer (CIO) the city struggled to create a new Customer Relationship Management system (CRM) platform.

It didn’t work out very well and the roll out of what was in place was paused with Animal Services being the final department onboarded in June of 2023.

The contract with the current CRM vendor allows 5 one-year renewals. The City will renew the contract on a yearly basis until a new CRM platform is implemented.

Two streams of work are focused  on the planning phase of the Customer Centric Digital Architecture blueprint implementation and the CRM re-platforming respectively.

Staff have planned and are recommending undertaking the following two platforms as the priority in fiscal 2024:

Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM) platform;

Consolidated city portal and web form platform.

What they are going to make possible will be explained and debated later today.

 

 

 

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Burlington sets up Banking Arrangements with two Banks and gets a Sweet Discount on the Prime Rate which is currently 7.25% (Ouch)

By Pepper Parr

December 4th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

It is all just part of doing business.

Lines of credit are necessary, even for the City of Burlington.

The City now works with two banks: Scotiabank and the Royal Bank.

Borrowing arrangements with the Royal Bank provide the City with a $5,000,000 line of credit at the prime-lending rate minus 3/4%.

At the current time, prime stands at 7.20%. It has not been necessary to access this credit line during 2023 or prior years nor is it anticipated to be needed for 2024. The by-law is prepared to meet the requirements of the banks.

The City also has borrowing arrangements with Scotiabank to provide a credit facility for administering the City’s purchase card program. In 2023 the limit of this credit facility was $2,000,000.

In 2024 the City will be launching an Automated Commercial Card Program in partnership with Scotiabank. The new solution allows for the secure delivery of automated Visa card payments to suppliers. Benefits to the City include reduction of costs from a streamlined payment process, improved supplier management, and an increase in the purchase card rebate received from Scotiabank.

Suppliers will also benefit from accelerated payment and improved cash flow. Scotiabank requires an increased credit facility of up to $5,000,000 to administer this program in addition to our existing purchase card program. It is anticipated that this expanded credit facility will be paid off monthly in 2024 as had been done in 2023 and prior years. This borrowing agreement does not require a security agreement

 

 

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Halton District School Board hosts Human Rights Symposium on Monday, December 11

By Staff

December 3rd, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The Halton District School Board will host the fifth annual Human Rights Symposium on Monday, Dec. 11, 2023 to engage in vital conversations and challenge thinking.

The theme of this year’s event is Holistic Health: Our voices, our stories, our calls to action, and centres around holistic health (including physical, emotional, mental, spiritual and social) as a human right regardless of age, background or socio-economic status. This year the symposium has been designed by students for students.

The Human Rights Symposium will feature a speaking panel of students and will be a virtual event for HDSB students (Grade 7-12) and staff. Registration is not required and information on how to access the event will be shared with students and staff.

Throughout the week, students and staff are encouraged to share what they are learning on social media with the hashtag: #HDSBsymposium.

The HDSB Human Rights Symposium (Dec. 11, 2023) aligns with Human Rights Day on Dec. 10, which is observed annually to recognize the day on which the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. The principles originally enshrined in the Declaration are still relevant today.

Curtis Ennis, Director of Education for the HDSB explains: The Human Rights Symposium supports the HDSB’s Equity and Inclusion and Mental Health and Well-Being areas of focus in the HDSB Multi-Year Strategic Plan 2020-2024 and our Human Rights Equity Action & Accountability Plan: The Way Forward, The annual Human Rights Symposium unites diverse voices in a shared commitment to addressing common issues. It is a standing reminder of the value of coming together to engage in collaborative dialogue and collective action.”

Amy Collard

Amy Collard, Chair of the HDSB asks students and staff to to engage, question and reflect on our traditional thinking regarding health and well-being.”

 

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Bonnie Crombie chosen as leader of the Ontario Liberal Party

By Pepper Parr

December 2nd, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Bonnie Crombie takes the Liberal Leadership on the third ballot.

 

First ballot votes

 

 

Third ballot votes -with more than 50% Crombie became the leader.

 

Crombie gave a barn burner of a speech – making it very clear what she was setting out to get done. Nate Erskine-Smith and Yasir Naqiv were both federal members and will continue their work in Ottawa. Ted Shu will end up with something in whatever Cabinet Crombie forms should she defeat Doug Ford.

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Historic Casinos and Their Modern Appeal: A Fusion of Tradition and Innovation

By Lisa Clayton,

December 3rd, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Gambling has been in existence longer than many of us know. Visiting land-based casinos to play all sorts of fun games was all the rave. There was so much to look forward to, from dice to card games. This tradition is still prominent today, allowing players to experience high-risk and high-reward fun.

Some casinos that opened their doors back then still offer the best experiences you can expect. So, after a playing stint at Mr Bet, take some time to explore some of these land-based gambling houses for a unique blend of tradition and innovation. It’ll exceed your imagination, which we can guarantee. You couldn’t begin your adventure without a list of locations. So, let’s get started. We’ll turn the mystery around.

Casino di Venezia, Italy

The oldest casino still operating in modern times is Casino di Venezia, which overlooks the Grand Canal and is reminiscent of the Renaissance era. It was named Ridotto di San Moise (the private room of San Moise) when its doors first opened in 1638. It’s the prime location for the high-end life requiring formal dressing that has even its dealers serving in primped tuxedos. This Venice casino was once an opulent palace, Ca’ Vendramin Calergi, but it was refurbished into a casino after the original building was destroyed in the war.

Casino de Spa, Belgium

What began as a thermal bathhouse in the wake of the 18th century is now a major tourist attraction, pulling in guests with its luxurious offerings. Thanks to excellent maintenance, it has been tagged as one of the prettiest gambling houses in Europe. What was once a palace with a royal atmosphere is now a significant tourist site offering blackjack, poker, and roulette. You can even experience Evolution’s Dual Play Live Roulette from a live dealer studio right in this location.

Casino Wiesbaden, Germany

Let’s take our journey to the land of poets. Germany is home to some of the oldest casinos, including Wiesbaden in Kurhaus. Operations began in 1771 with an opulent design heavy on the neoclassical era. It’s not a huge casino by any means; it mainly offers classic table games and less than 200 slot machines. The thrills continue with bingo and poker. You can also try your luck at the different jackpots in the pit, like Lightning Link, and you may be one of the winners smiling home with a massive chunk of the 2.5 million euros they claim to pay out daily. The top side attraction is the Joker’s restaurant, the main dining venue that promises gastronomic delights.

Kurhaus Baden-Baden, Germany

1824 was another notable year in gambling history, welcoming the dawn of Baden-Baden, a magnificent gambling house designed by the famous architect Friedrich Weinbrenner. Like all other historic casinos, its design is reminiscent of significant buildings, in this case, the fantastic facilities of Greece. The Kurhaus is a prime location for lovers of antique and classic buildings reminiscent of old eras. Its interior is as elegant as you can imagine, adorned with chandeliers and intricate ceilings modern facilities lack.

The Grill is the on-site restaurant for Baden-Baden, catering to “beef lovers and gourmets” in an extravagant atmosphere reflecting the lifestyle of an aristocratic city. Nestled in a historic casino setting, this restaurant perfectly blends tradition and innovation.

Casino de Monte Carlo, Monaco

When Prince Charles III thought about generating income for his beloved Monaco through tourism, he had no idea that his brainchild would survive over a century and continue to bring in taxes to support his country. Casino de Monte Carlo opened its doors in 1865 with an exquisite architectural design inspired by the Belle Époque, offering stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea in all its glory. It was a sight to behold then, and it still is, attracting tourists from all over.

Luxury is unmatched at this gambling house that boasts opulence with beautiful interiors and lavish game tables. Side attractions you can expect include:

  • Top restaurants and lounge bars like Le Salon Rose, Le Train Bleu, Salle Europe, and Salle Blanche;
  • The beautiful opera theatre, Salle Garnier.

These attractions are the epitome of historic and modern fusion, giving you a glimpse into the past while maintaining the feel you’d expect from a top casino in the 21st century.

The Enduring Magic of Historic Casinos

It’s incredible what is possible when the call to evolve and adapt is heeded. Although historic, these gambling houses now have a modern feel, imbibing the more prominent features that luxurious casinos are known for. These casinos offer a fusion of tradition and innovation, and the contemporary gambling landscape is better for it. It’s your turn to explore the possibilities around you and evolve. Visit one of these locations and come with your stories. We await!

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Two members of Council made it necessary to debate the Mayor working on the 2025 and 2026 budgets before citizens could delegate

By Pepper Parr

December 2nd, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Delegating on the Staff Direction to the:

Chief Financial Officer to prepare the draft operating and capital budgets for 2025 and 2026 got taken got taken care of – people wanting to delegate to Council on the plans to include early work on the 2025 and 2026 budgets will get to appear before a Committee of the Whole in the new year.

Lydia Thomas on the left; Eric Stern on the right. Both provided some of the best advise they’ve heard this year.


Nothing on the date of the Committee of the Whole in January.  Burlington moved away from using the phrase Committee of the Whole and got into the habit of calling them workshops.

Same thing – same chair we believe.

Dan Chapman was blunt and very direct when he addressed Council; does he have more that he wants to say?

Vera Chapman is a data diver – she drilled down into the numbers that were available – how much attention Council paid will become evident when they meet in January as a Committee as a Whole to determine what they want to do with the initiative that had the Mayor getting involved in early stage planning for the 2025 and 2026 budgets.

The delay on the part of the Clerk’s Office and agenda management issues gives the group of people who have delegated so effectively the time to pull themselves together as a group to plan the assault this budget process needs.

Council is on the ropes on this one – which is where they need to be.

Related news story:

Two Councillors said no – let the public delegate first.

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Mayor's Drop In - not exactly a multitude but it did take place

By Pepper Parr

December 1st, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Mayor Meed Ward waiting in City Hall lobby for people who wanted to know more about the budget approved earlier in the week.

Short notice, so maybe that was the reason the number of people who took part in the Drop In Mayor Meed Ward held yesterday was very small.

In the photograph the Mayor posted on her Facebook page she is seated with her Chief of Staff sitting to her right and two unidentified people face her.

Mayor with a couple that took part in the Drop In on Thursday

Who are they and what did they have to say: we will never know.  All we do know is that the event took place and the Mayor now has another poster to add to her collection.

 

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Greens take the Kitchener seat - they now have two members in the provincial legislature

By Pepper Parr

December 1st, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

This is not good news on one level.

On another – it is very good news.

Aislinn Clancy  won the Kitchener Centre by-election yesterday. It was a seat the Liberal Party needed to win if they expect to convince the people of the province that they can defeat Doug Ford.

Having an additional Green Party member in the provincial Legislature is good news.  The Greens have never wavered from the environment as THE issue we face as a society.

Given we have a government that doesn’t really believe there is a climate disaster heading our way have another Green in place is good news.

The challenge is that the current government needs to be replaced or at least that is what a lot of people think.

Not all that many in Kitchener: just 27% of the voters turned out to elect the Green candidate, Aislinn Clancy  who won the Kitchener Centre by-election yesterday.

The new MPP gives the green party two official seats in the Ontario Legislature.

Kitchener residents didn’t buy into the Liberal story that they can defeat Doug Ford if elected.

Well they weren’t elected in Kitchener which suggests there may be some serious issues ahead that need to be resolved.

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Still some serious concerns with the budget: Mayor wanted Council to endorse her plans for 2025 and 2026 budgets - they chose not to

By Pepper Parr

December 1st, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

We are still on that budget.

Mayor Meed Ward’s original intention was to have Council endorse

Directing the Chief Financial Officer to prepare the draft operating and capital budgets for 2025 and 2026 whereby the city’s portion of the overall property tax increase is not to exceed 3.99% of which approximately:

    • 2.99% is for city services; and
    • 1% is for city infrastructure renewal funding;
    • and that the draft budgets be provided to the Mayor in preparation of the Mayor’s Proposed Budget in each year

but two Councillors wanted to ensure that the public had an opportunity to comment on the idea.

Sensing that she didn’t have the support she needed to proceed Meed Ward withdrew the 2025 and 2026 budget references and put the item on a future Council agenda.

The problem now is the item is not yet on the agenda for the series of meetings taking place next week.

In order to address Council delegators have to get their requests in before noon today.

Instead of working with the Clerk’s Office to get the agenda concerns taken care of Mayor Meed Ward chose to hold a drop in (on very short notice with no media notice) at City Hall on Thursday.  Mayor still has the cart before the horse on engagement with the public.

While all this is going on Eric Stern, one of the Aldershot citizens who delegated, wants people to fully understand what happened during the budget debates during November.

It is not a pretty picture.

Stern said that the “90s generation has called and they want their tax cuts back.

“We can’t go back in time, past mismanagement means future pain. It’s time for a zero-based budgeting approach. Every service, every position, “needs” have to be reviewed and “wants” eliminated. City Hall caused this mess – share the pain.”

Stern questions the hiring of somewhere between 50 and 90 new employees? “The province has a hiring freeze. Are Community gardens – volunteers, firefighters  what we can afford. Stern suggests expanding the existing volunteer force. Middle management? – promote internally. “Investing” in new hires does not improve reserve fund balances.

“City hall has created a world where “investment” means “spending”, “impacts” have to be doubled to understand increases, and Doug Ford “forced” the mayor to rush this process and limit citizen input. Ultimately we get a bill where the increase bears no relation to any of the information presented to us.

“Why is this so complex? ” asks Sterns. “Taxpayers trust city hall with OUR money. What has gone wrong? We are discussing $438 million dollars in spending, this is a major corporation, not an episode of Parks and Recreation.”

In the slides set out below Stern makes a number of very significant points where he believes the city failed to meet the Municipal Act – the provincial legislation that sets out the relationship between the province and the 400 municipalities in the province.  A couple of them are glaring.

Eric Stern delved into the data the city provided and came up with more questions and not enough in the way of an understanding how everything was going to be paid for – he could see a wave of tax increases coming and a community that he felt could not afford what the city wanted to do.

 

 

Stern presented slides that set out where he felt mistakes had been made. The budgeting process is complex but doesn’t have to be as bad as this. References were made to how much better the Oakville budget presentation is – changes are need said Stern along with several other delegations.

 

 

Stern pointed out where the data the Finance department didn’t make any sense.

 

 

Stern put together data with startling projections. City Manager Tim Commisso pointed out that for a nine year period there were 0 tax increases. Maintenance and planning for growth were not given the attention they deserved – now the city is playing catch up – and it is proving to be very expensive.

There is the sense that the process of putting a budget in place is not under control. The Mayor chose to use the Strong Powers that were available to her; that resulted in a rush to get the document completed and approved. Many citizens felt there was a rush that wasn’t necessary.

To add to the pace of things the city is now looking for a new City Manger. Tim Commisso announced a few weeks ago that he would not seek an extension of his contract.

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Darren Burke  develops AI Software: a Cost Effective Alternative to Clinical Trials Research & Testing Dietary Supplements

By Darren Burke

December 1st, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

A distinguished scientist and serial entrepreneur, is set to disrupt the world of sports science and nutrition with an innovative new AI software called VITAI. This cutting-edge technology promises to mimic human clinical trials research, predict outcomes, and transform the way individuals approach the marketing and use of dietary supplements. Dosages and combinations of ingredients can be quickly tested to determine expected results on muscle strength, exercise recovery, hormone levels, weight loss, and more.

The groundbreaking AI software, developed by Dr. Darren Burke and his team of experts, leverages the power of artificial intelligence, natural language processing (NLP), and machine learning to simulate complex clinical trials scenarios. Phase one developed for athletes, uses human physiological responses to predict how exercise interventions and supplement formulations would impact muscle strength, exercise recovery, hormone levels, weight loss and many more important variables.

Key Features of the AI Software:

Accurate Predictions: The software uses natural language processing (NLP), advanced algorithms and data analytics to provide highly accurate predictions of how different exercise and supplement interventions can affect specific outcomes in athletic populations.

Reduced Trial Costs and Time: By simulating clinical trials in silico, this innovative technology significantly reduces the time and costs associated with traditional human trials, making it more accessible to researchers, coaches, and athletes alike.

Data-Driven Insights: The software generates comprehensive insights and reports, personalized recommendations, enabling researchers and trainers to make data-driven decisions about exercise and supplement regimens.

The gap between scientific research and practical application is filled by people that look for the bigger picture. These people are called entrepreneurs – they do this every day.

Dr. Darren Burke, the mastermind behind this AI powered innovation, is a renowned exercise scientist and serial entrepreneur with a track record of pioneering advancements in the fields of sports science and nutrition. With this AI software, he aims to bridge the gap between scientific research and practical application, enabling athletes and fitness enthusiasts to optimize their performance and well-being, and most importantly make the right decisions with supplement purchases and usage.

“I am excited to introduce this game-changing AI software that will revolutionize the way we approach exercise, nutrition, and performance enhancement,” said Dr. Burke. “By providing a precise understanding of how various interventions impact the human body, we empower athletes and individuals to make informed choices to achieve their fitness goals efficiently.”

A well structured and balanced exercise program supplemented by nutrients has proven to be very effective.

As an example of the potential usages of this novel technology, Dr Burke and his team are launching the worlds 1st sports nutrition brand built using AI, called CIRCUT. It is a brand built for athletes – beginner, professional and retired and demonstrates the power of their AI to scour millions of peer-reviewed publications on the effect of natural products on athletic performance and build custom formulations to help other achieve similar results. The potential applications of Dr. Burke’s AI software extend beyond athletes to include the general population, and healthcare professionals seeking evidence-based guidance for their clients or patients. This technology promises to drive innovation in the health and wellness industry, offering new avenues for research and improved outcomes for consumers worldwide.

For media inquiries or further information about VITAI click HERE

For more information on Dr. Darren Burke, please contact him via his website at DrDarrenBurke.COM or via LinkedIn.

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