Council finalizes budget focused on essentials, front line services and preparing for growth

By Staff

November 29th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

In their media release the City communications department said: More information about the municipal budget process under Bill 3, the Strong Mayors, Building Homes Act, 2022, can be found on the Provincial website.

They got that part wron The Strong Mayor legislation that applied to Burlington is set out in Bill 39

A link to that Bill is set out below along with the regulations.  Bill 39 gave Mayor Meed Ward the authority to put forward a budget, which she did.  However, the Mayor was not required to put forward a budget – she chose to do so

At today’s Special Council Meeting, Burlington City Council finalized the 2024 budget. Next year’s budget is focused on essentials, front line services and preparing for growth.

The City’s portion of the overall tax increase is 4.99%. When blended with Halton Region’s forecasted increase and no change to the Boards of Education, this results in an overall tax increase of 6.68%. This translates to $57.53 increase per $100,000 of urban residential assessment.

The property tax bill is made up of three portions, the City of Burlington (50.5%), Halton Region (32.8%), and the Boards of Education (16.7%).

The 2024 budget has been broken down into three categories:

Essentials – This area covers projects and items the City of Burlington must address and/or have already committed to, such as cost of inflation, necessary capital projects and infrastructure renewal.

Frontline Service – This area covers enhanced services that directly improves the quality of life of Burlington residents.

Planning for Growth – This area plans for and prepares for the expected increase in population, our Community Investment Plan, and allow us to catch up and prepare for the future.

This was the first budget under the new provincially legislated Strong Mayor Powers. The Mayor proposed the budget for 2024. The budget was based on the 2024 Financial Needs and Multi-Year Forecast Reference Document prepared by staff earlier this year.

Council brought 62 changes through amendment motions to modify the budget. Of those amendments, 27 were adopted into the budget. These were presented at Committee meetings on Nov. 21 and 23 and the Special Council Meeting on Nov. 28. The budget was finalized at the Special Council Meeting on Nov. 28.

Key investments

  • Enhancing frontline service delivery with additional transit operators, firefighters, by-law licensing clerks and customer experience staff to respond to your concerns
  • Funding for 3 new community facilities – Skyway Community Centre, the newly renovated Mountainside pool and the former Robert Bateman High School
  • $88.6 million of capital investment in 2024 to keep our infrastructure assets like buildings, roads and parks in a state of good repair
  • Funding dedicated to future land and facility needs for our growing and changing community
  • Free all-day transit for Seniors
  • Support for our Community Planning Housing Initiative
  • Support to bring the city’s Information Technology (IT) infrastructure into the 21st century

Joint statement from Burlington Mayor Marianne Meed Ward and Deputy Mayor for Strategy and Budgets Paul Sharman

“We know these are difficult times for everyone with increased living and housing costs and Council had to make some difficult budget decisions. Working with each other and staff, while hearing from the community, we balanced the needs of the city with our current affordability crisis as best we could. At the end of the day, this is a Mayor and Council budget that focuses investments on essentials, frontline services and planning for future growth. It was created through a lot of hard work and learning through a new provincially-legislated budget process this year. It is our hope this budget sets us up for success in 2024 and for years to come in creating an inclusive, affordable, eco-friendly and caring community for all our neighbours. The 2024 Budget impacts people through the programs and services they receive every day in our city. Each time you have your road plowed, use a City park or trail, or cool off in a municipal pool or splash pad, you are using a City service and seeing your tax dollars at work. This budget continues to build on investments our community has asked for and needs and will only improve Burlington today and into the future.”

Burlington Chief Financial Officer, Joan Ford said: “The adoption of this budget gives much needed support to essential city projects, front line services and infrastructure. As this was our first time establishing a budget under the Strong Mayor Powers, I’m thankful for the work and dedication of City staff and the collaboration with the Mayor, Deputy Mayor for Strategy and Budgets and members of Council to support this new process.

Ford announced that the 2024 budget would be her last.

The City’s mission continues to be to balance the needs of all residents both today and in the future while maintaining the high quality of services that residents enjoy.”

In their media release the City communications department said: More information about the municipal budget process under Bill 3, the Strong Mayors, Building Homes Act, 2022, can be found on the Provincial website.

This is just plain not true.  The Strong Mayor legislation that applied to Burlington is set out in Bill 39

A link to that Bill is set out below along with the regulations.  Bill 39 gave Mayor Meed Ward the authority to put forward a budget, which she did.  However, the Mayor was not required to put forward a budget – she chose to do so.

Bill 3: Strong Mayors, Building Homes Act, 2022 Applies to Toronto and Ottawa
Bill 39: Better Municipal Governance Act, 2022    Applies to Burlington and other Ontario municipalities
O. Reg. 530/22 – Municipal Act

 

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Policy Options: How does Canada fix the housing crisis? Can the current 'housing hell' be reversed or is it just a headline priority ?

By David Jones

November 29th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

You aren’t going to get this kind of commentary from the newsletters that the two Burlington MP’s provide.

Policy Options, a think tank  produced the following which puts the housing situation in context and points to where the mistakes were made that got us into this mess.

Federal strategies must not inadvertently weaken provincial incentives to act, and they need to focus on housing that wouldn’t otherwise get built.

The federal government has announced considerable extra funding for housing in recent months: the GST rebate on construction of new rental units; the first beneficiaries of the $4-billion Housing Accelerator Fund; and additional low-cost financing through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (the CMHC).

These recent announcements constitute a switch in government strategy from ”demand-side” measures (such as support for first-time buyers) to ”supply-side” measures – a welcome development because the former have likely buoyed property prices without addressing underlying supply issues.

While there are still plenty of supply-side factors outside the federal government’s control – interest rates being chief among them – there are two issues that require federal attention: ensuring a genuine additional housing supply and encouraging provincial leadership in the field.

The need for “additionality”

Additionality (or “incrementality”) refers to the additional housing supply generated by new funding over and above what would have been built without the funding.

For government funding to be effective – and offer good value for money – it needs to deliver this additional housing and not just subsidize units that would have been built anyway. In the context of rising federal government spending, taxpayer value-for-money cannot be ignored.

The challenge for these new supply-side measures is that money isn’t the only constraint on housing supply. In particular, there are shortages in the construction labour force, as well as expensive regulatory barriers

The new federal incentives do not guarantee a genuine additional or substantial increase in the housing supply.

For example, both the GST rebate and the extra CMHC financing cover all new units constructed, not just those considered to be additional supply. While these initiatives could ease financial constraints for development, the risk is that the financial incentives aren’t specifically earmarked for additional units.

The Housing Accelerator Fund provides more incentives because it targets funding only for proposed additional housing.

Yet there are also risks with that approach. Because municipalities are tasked with projecting the hypothetical supply of new housing without funding, there is an incentive to “‘lowball” that number: the lower the hypothetical supply without funding, the greater the calculated additional supply, resulting in higher Housing Accelerator Fund contributions.

Ultimately, it is impossible to say precisely what the housing supply will be without Housing Accelerator Fund contributions and it will be a challenge for the CMHC to determine what is genuine additional supply. Several approaches can help with that.

Delivering additionality

First, the CMHC needs to scrutinize the hypothetical (without-funding) supply projections from municipalities before agreeing to provide Housing Accelerator Fund money. There should be strong evidence that money from the fund will generate additional housing over and above the basic supply.

Housing Accelerator Fund disbursements are currently running behind the original budgeted proposal. If political pressure mounts to release funding to municipalities, the CMHC must be vigilant to ensure value-for-money by delivering a genuine additional housing supply.

Second, under the terms for the fund, the CMHC will make staggered payments to municipalities contingent on those municipalities reporting progress in meeting additional supply. It would be detrimental for the CMHC to set too high a bar for reporting – because that might prove a disincentive to municipalities – but there must also be a credible threat that CHMC will withhold money in the case of under-delivery.

Third, additional housing supply can be encouraged through investment in other sectors. For example, in the U.S. the Department of Transportation gives higher scores in its transport grant funding assessments to jurisdictions with land-use policies that promote density.

One way to implement this in Canada would be for the Canada Infrastructure Bank to favour investments that directly or indirectly support housing supply. For example, the bank recently announced a $7.9-million loan for investment in water, electricity and broadband connections in Netmizaaggamig Nishnaabeg, a First Nation in Northern Ontario, intended to help provide the infrastructure needed for housing development.

The need for provincial leadership

Federal parties are increasingly seeking to demonstrate leadership on housing. The Liberal government has issued a raft of new policies (as noted above), while the Conservatives recently announced that reversing the current housing hell is a headline priority.

On the one hand, there is a good case for some federal engagement. Ottawa has greater spending power and holds some levers that influence the housing market, such as immigration.

But ultimately, the provinces are constitutionally responsible for housing. As federal parties seek to assert control over how housing issues should be solved, that is crowding out the role of the provinces – at least in terms of political accountability – and possibly also in policy initiatives.

Of course, provinces are actively engaged in many ways. For example, in 2022, Ontario issued its housing supply action plan, and more recently announced measures to increase housing for homeless populations and to speed up planning approvals.

But crowding out is still a real risk. Political and public accountability creates strong incentives for governments to act, and the current federal strategies are inadvertently weakening provincial incentives by absorbing much of the political pressure. That must change.

Facilitating provincial leadership

First, the federal government needs to take a more balanced and consistent approach with its strategy and communications. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently appeared to “flip flop” around the federal role in housing – initially saying it was primarily a provincial responsibility, but then quickly announcing a series of significant policies.

Admittedly, the media’s coverage of the prime minister’s statements exaggerated the degree to which this appeared inconsistent. For example, he also stated that “it’s not just the federal government that can solve this” and that housing is an area that the federal government “can and must help with.”

Nonetheless, communications could be clearer. Ultimately, the federal government needs to remain committed to improving the housing situation but must leave ample space for the provinces to lead.

Second, Canada could learn from positive examples of intergovernmental collaboration from abroad. In Australia, a National Housing Accord was recently signed to “align for the first time the efforts of all levels of government, institutional investors and the construction sector to help tackle the nation’s housing problem.”

Let’s stop calling it a housing crisis

Ottawa picked the dicey road to lower rents; Quebec is right not to follow

Advancing a Team Canada approach to housing

In Canada, there is an intergovernmental housing forum. But whereas the Australian accord presents a detailed and specific action plan, including clear commitments for national and sub-national governments, the outcome of the most recent Canadian forum was largely vague, with only this statement issued: “Ministers agreed to work together to better align supportive housing and homelessness programs and explore further solutions.”

Third, for existing policies, the federal government should at least encourage provincial partnership. This is well underway for the GST rebate because the provinces have been encouraged to follow suit. However, the accelerator fund omits the provinces by design; its funds flow directly from the CMHC to municipalities. Provinces need to be kept in the loop to ensure housing actions are co-ordinated.

Canada is in the throes of a housing crisis and it is no surprise that significant federal resources are being targeted to address this. But success requires genuine provincial leadership and the creation of housing that would not otherwise get built. As the political pressure mounts, cool heads are needed at the federal government to ensure that its schemes deliver value for money and avoid inadvertently crowding out provincial accountability.

David Jones is a policy analyst and economist. He is a fellow at the Canadian Centre for Health Economics, a Telus research fellow and is studying public policy at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, University of Toronto.

This article is part of a series called How does Canada fix the housing crisis?

 

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Good vs. Great: Top 3 Features of Canada’s Top Casinos

By Alice Long

November 29th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Two people, a lap top and a cell phone – gaming on different sites at the same time.

 

When it comes to entertainment, locals in Burlington have more than a few memorable activities at their fingertips. Between Toronto, Hamilton, and other neighbouring areas, there’s always a holiday, restaurant opening, or similar event on the horizon. In other words, it’s hard to get bored—even during the darker winter months.

But what about when Burlington locals choose to stay indoors? After all, not everyone is a social butterfly who enjoys scheduling all of their time with friends and family. It can be refreshing and rejuvenating to spend some time alone—and there are few better choices than passing the time alone than gaming.

For many Canadians, not just those in the greater Toronto and Hamilton area, casino games are a popular pastime. Compared to other countries, Canada has an open and vibrant virtual casino industry. That means that players have dozens of quality options to choose from when they decide to play a game of blackjack, roulette, or slots. Still, that doesn’t mean that every casino platform is built the same.

Let’s cover the top three features of Canada’s best online casinos.

Innovative Games, like Live Dealer Options

Let’s zero in on one of Canada’s most popular casinos, Wildz, to highlight what types of games Canadians should be seeking out. While every basic casino will offer table games like roulette and blackjack, only the most innovative platforms will focus on how these games are played. Live dealer games are relatively new casino games that use a live video link to stream a live dealer onto a remote player’s device.

Two people can enjoy gaming.

This live dealer experience adds a dash of realism and even a social dimension to gaming. As one of the most popular new trends in casinos, it should be a feature you look for in your next casino. Keep in mind that certain platforms will push live dealer games into new territory. Wildz, the same example from above, also offers live dealer games like Football Studio. This game, from Evolution, adds a brand-new twist to traditional titles and hasn’t been seen before—which means you won’t find it at many online casinos.

 A High-Value Loyalty Program

Some casino players mistakenly think that a loyalty program is only for those who play often. While loyalty programs are certainly geared to reward players who game more often, they deliver value to every single player. Whether or not you think that you’ll play blackjack or slots often, you can still learn about deals, bonuses, and other promotions when you sign up for a loyalty program.

In fact, some of the best casino providers on the market automatically sign-up players for loyalty programs. This makes it easier for casual players to start taking advantage of time-sensitive offers, holiday bonuses, and other deals that they wouldn’t normally hear about. If you’re unsure about a casino’s loyalty program, simply head to a trusted review platform such as Trustpilot—it’s often one of the features that reviewers zero in on.

 Jackpot Slots & Jackpot Games

Jackpot wins have in the past payed out in the millions.

A jackpot game is a slot that has maxed out its potential payout. (Though you’ll see ‘jackpot games’, these still refer to slots.) Usually, slot players are more focused on jackpots than blackjack or roulette fans, but if you ever plan on spinning the virtual wheel, it makes sense to register with casinos that offer these games. That’s because jackpot wins usually pay out in the millions.

Fixed jackpots are slots that include a fixed payout amount, meaning they will never venture higher than what developers set them at. Progressive jackpots, on the other hand, will continue to balloon in terms of their potential payout. That’s because the more players, the more the jackpot total grows with each bet. Some jackpots are ‘network jackpots’ and ‘local jackpots’, meaning the total payout grows according to local players or those within a virtual network.

 

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Chief Financial Officer Joan Ford tells council: 'This will be my last budget'

By Pepper Parr

November 28th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

It was going to happen at some point and I suppose it made sense to do so at the point where a very difficult budget was passed by City Council.

As the meeting was nearing the end City Manager Tim Commisso indicated that he wanted to say a few words – but a Council member asked, on a point of order, if that was appropriate.  Why a Council member who lives in one ward and represents a different ward would take such a position was beyond most council members.

Council was forced to hold a vote that required a three quarters of the council members to vote for it.  That passed and Commisso got to speak.

Joan Ford: Thinking through questions when Staff used to hold “budget bazaars”

He thanked Staff, was generous in his praise and said he wanted CFO Joan Ford to have the last word.

Joan, taking part virtually thanked her staff, naming each Team Leader and the individual staff members and then added: “this will be my last budget.”

I don’t know how man years Joan has been the CFO.  When I first met her she was in the Finance department.  The City had decided to part ways with the City Treasurer at the time and Joan was put in place, realizing very quickly that many of her staff we a lot smarter than she was.

Jeff Fielding was the city manager at the time and he worked with Joan to get her into a classroom and earn a designation that would qualify her more clearly for the job.

There was never any question is as to whether or not she could do the job – she was doing it.

I’ve forgotten how long it took for her to earn the designation, don’t recall what the designation was.  Do recall the conversations we have over how hard she was finding the studying.

There were evening classes and the once a month weekend session when her staff, several who were half her age,  would work with her on the assignments and get the course material completed.

When she had earned the designation she showed me the scroll that graduates are given.  It was rolled up with an elastic around it.

“When are you going to have it framed” I asked.  It looked is as if she wasn’t going to frame it and hang it up in her office.

I think Jeff Fielding arranged to have it framed and put up in her office.

Then Director of Finance Joan Ford.

Joan Ford has served Burlington very well.

Several of the delegations complained about the 775 page plus budget binder that was prepared this year.  Joan didn’t create that process – she did build on what came before her.

There will be significant changes made in the budget process – those tasks will be carried out by team Joan Ford mentored and grew.

Using the occasion to give Joan a Round of Applause the Mayor had to once again ask for a vote.

They never make it easy.

No word on exactly when Joan will leave her office – it is a well-earned retirement.

 

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Museum has Winter Break Camp - January 2 - 5: Sailing the Seven Seas

By Staff

November 28th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

Winter Break Camp | Jan. 2 – 5

Camp runs January 2 – 5, from 9am – 4pm at Joseph Brant Museum.

The cost is $55/day, or $200 for the week. Museum members receive 10% off. Camp is designed for children between 5 – 12 years old. The theme is “Sailing the Seven Seas”. Campers will venture to classical civilizations, the Viking era, and the Polynesian islands!

Program list:  Registration link below;

Click HERE to register

 

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Council is doing everything it can to stick to the Mayor's 4.99% number

By Pepper Parr

November 28th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

They aren’t there yet – lot of juggling numbers and looking for ways to spend providing they can fund the money – somewhere.

Lori Jivan the Budget guru reports.

This Council is doing what it can to send a message to the people who pay the taxes – it is going to take more than this to recover from the anger that excellent delegators made clear – change the way you create the budget.

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Stern thinks the Mayor has failed to properly present her budget to the public - intends the challenge Council a second time

By Pepper Parr

November 28th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Eric Stern’s last delegation raised the issue of whether the Mayor’s budget meets the Municipal Act requirements.

Eric Stern expects to delegate at City Council today. He might get a rough ride.

Stern contends that expecting citizens to map the changes stated in the mayor’s proposed budget into the table on page 728 of the staff budget requires hours of work and does not meet the OMA’s (Ontario Municipal Act) requirement to state estimated expenses. By making this so complex the city has denied citizens the opportunity to easily review the budget.

It is also apparent that the mayor did not propose a budget but merely listed some changes to the city’s budget.

“This raises the issue of risk that some clever cookie will file a judicial review that the city budget is “ultra vires” i.e. without authority. A matter that the Burlington Ombudsman can decide if asked.”

While proven to be wrong on how she has interpreted the Strong Mayor Powers she has Mayor Meed Ward is sticking to her guns.

Staff will merge the changes approved by council and issue an updated document and that will make the above sentence moot. I bet the updated document will be presented at the start of tomorrows meeting.

From what I have read the Ontario ombudsman will not repeal legislation that council has passed. Do we know if the Burlington Ombudsman has this power?

This has been the most challenged budget we have seen in the 12 years we have covered city council.

 

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Mayor sets out what the 2024 is going to be and advises what she plans for 2025 and 2026

By Pepper Parr

November 28th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The Mayor will be putting forward a Motion asking Council to:

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward will direct the CFO to draft operating and capital budgets for 2025 and 2026 as well.

Endorse a Mayoral Direction to the Chief Financial Officer for the 2025 and 2026 budget years as follows:

    • Direct 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 99% of which approximately:

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

Background to 2024 Budget:

Under new provincial legislation, the Strong Mayors, Building Homes Act, 2022, introduced Nov. 23, 2022, and extended on July 1, 2023 to all municipalities that had already committed to a housing pledge, including Burlington, which unanimously committed to a housing pledge in March 2023, Mayors are now required to submit a budget for council review.

This responsibility cannot be delegated. Council has 30 days to amend the Mayor’s budget; the Mayor has 10 days to veto any amendments, and the Council has 15 days to issue and overrides to the veto, by 2/3 majority. At the end of this process, the budget is deemed to be approved. For the 2024 budget council deliberations are expected to conclude after council Nov. 28, and council will vote on whether to end the 30-day review period. I will not be exercising the ability to issue a veto, and will instead be issuing a mayoral decision at the end of council’s deliberations to end the veto period.

Once that is signed the budget will be deemed approved.

If the Mayor does not fulfill this obligation of preparing a budget by February 1 of a budget year, council can begin budget preparations at that time. However, it is not in the city or the community’s interest to wait, as we would not be able to take advantage of early procurement or preferred pricing by tendering projects months earlier. Waiting would cost the city, and residents, more, and risk being able to find bidders for capital projects.

Thus, the Mayor will work with staff, council and the community to prepare a budget by year end preceding each budget year (with the exception of an election year).

Planning for Budget 2025 and 2026

In fulfilling the obligation under the legislation to present a budget, the Mayor can provide direction to staff to prepare a budget.

There are a number of people who believe Sharman provided a lot more than support to the Mayor for her budget. Some believe has was the guiding force behind what was done.

The Mayor does not need to seek council endorsement of any budget direction. However, she said: ” by way of this motion, I am doing so because of a continued commitment to collaborative and democratic team leadership and decision-making. I have consulted with and have the support of Councillor Paul Sharman, the Deputy Mayor of Strategy, Budgets, Process and Performance, in this approach and staff direction.”

As indicated, the Mayor will work closely with staff, council and the community to seek suggestions to improve the budget preparation and approval process and the manner in which we communicate the budget.

Direction for Tax Increase of 3.99%

“We are thus both seeking council’s endorsement for me to issue a Mayoral Direction to staff to prepare draft budgets such that the city’s portion of the overall tax increase is no more than 3.99%, including a separate dedicated infrastructure levy per year for the capital budget.

“Council has heard from thousands of residents during the 2024 budget deliberations, expressing concerns about affordability, inflation on basic items like groceries, and rising housing costs and interest rates. We have heard a range of perspectives about what the community would like us to do, from a zero tax rate increase or a tax cut, 3% tax increase up to 4 and 5% increase. We have also heard from residents supporting increased taxes. The GetInvolved budget survey commissioned by the city showed 55% of residents support a cut to services to maintain current taxes, or a cut to services to reduce taxes.

“Separately, the statistically valid community survey found that 57% of residents support increasing taxes to enhance services or to maintain services at current levels. This survey is considered an accurate predictor of the majority of Burlington residents, 95% of the time, within a range of 3% either way.

“Additionally, 91% of residents on the GetInvolved budget survey said that it was “somewhat important” or “important” to set aside funding to replace infrastructure, such as roads, to ensure they meet community needs now and into the future. The second part of the Mayor’s Direction responds to this feedback by separating out a dedicated infrastructure with a minimum 2% commitment each year.

“We must consider and balance all this input, as well as the long term financial sustainability of the city and all its services in preparing annual budgets, this one as well as future ones.

“We want residents to know we have heard them, and are working to respond to all the input we’ve received.

“The hope in providing this direction is to provide some predictability to staff and the community about future budgets, and respond to the request to keep the tax increases as low as possible.”

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Comments from those who have delegated against the way the city budget is being put together are beginning to add up

By Pepper Parr

November 27th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

There is a flicker to that flame that brought out a number of delegations that took Council to task on the way they were putting together the budget for 2024.

Vera Chapman, a recent delegator

Eric Stern, Dan Chapman, Lydia Thomas and Vera Chapman are new to the Council Chamber podium.  They are serving the citizens of the city exceptionally well.

We received a comment this morning that sets out what one of them thinks is wrong with the process and the way members of Council have found a way to become mute when it comes to how they behave when presented with the facts.

Said one of the delegators: “In terms of a “do over” on the budget I don’t know if that is a legislative requirement. I have to send my powerpoint in by noon today, someone will read it, notify the mayor, and then they will add an appendix to the budget book. The appendix will show revenue amounts by type of revenue and they will pass the budget. I don’t like this because they are hiding information from the public. Information that should have been available during the review process, but that is how this council operates. I don’t expect any change. Having the revenue by type in amounts will help with next year’s battle.

“The key point in MMWs twisted reasoning appears to be Burlington signed the housing pledge, therefor Burlington had to accept the strong mayor powers. So this needs to be refuted first.”

The Gazette has set out how the city managed to confuse the two pieces of legislation that were related to the creation of Strong Mayor Powers.  So far they have ignored the legislation.  An excerpt from that article is set out below.

Analysis of Regulatory Impact:

By amending this regulation, the strong mayor framework would apply to more municipalities. Currently the framework applies to two municipalities – the City of Toronto and City of Ottawa.

Local impacts will depend on how the heads of council (HOC) in designated municipalities choose to use these strong mayor powers and how the municipality will support the implementation of these powers and duties for the HOC.

There are no requirements in the regulations that would result in new administrative costs for municipalities. Municipalities may choose to update local processes and policies at any time, based on their local needs and circumstances.

Bill 3, sets out the Strong Mayor Powers for Toronto and Ottawa.

Bill 39 cover additional municipalities – includes Burlington

Bill 3: Strong Mayors, Building Homes Act, 2022
Bill 39: Better Municipal Governance Act, 2022   
O. Reg. 530/22 – Municipal Act

 

 

 

 

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Additional Notices of Motion to be presented to Council on Tuesday - expensive

 By Pepper Parr

November 27th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Councillor Paul Sharman: Rethinking

It appears the Councillor Sharman gave some second thought to the Notices of Motion he hastily withdrew during the marathon Standing Committee last week.

He is asking that several be put back in – what is that going to do to the 4.99% the Mayor had her heart set on.

Not much in the way of detail

Motion for Council to Consider:

 Add Burlington Digital Services, Manager of Experience Strategy and Design

$190,512.00 to 2024 budget (#30)

Reason:

All items if left not accommodated will result in the following: Digital transformation stagnation, workforce enablement challenges, service delivery inefficiencies, underutilized investments, security and compliance risks, impaired organizational performance, reduced engagement in service design and improvement, deterioration of employee experience, difficulty in adapting to technology changes, challenges in system maintenance and upgrades.

Approved as per form by the City Clerk,

Reviewed by the City Manager – In accordance with the Code of Good Governance, Council-Staff Relations Policy and an assessment of the internal capacity within the City to complete the work based on a specific target date (quarter/year).

Motion for Council to Consider:

 Add, Burlington Digital Services, Application Analyst Workday/EAMS, $ 136,391.00 to 2024 budget (#33).

Reason:

If left not accommodated will result in digital transformation stagnation, workforce enablement challenges, service delivery inefficiencies, underutilized investments, security and compliance risks, impaired organizational performance, reduced engagement in service design and improvement, deterioration of employee experience, difficulty in adapting to technology changes, challenges in system maintenance and upgrades.

Approved as per form by the City Clerk,

Reviewed by the City Manager – In accordance with the Code of Good Governance, Council-Staff Relations Policy and an assessment of the internal capacity within the City to complete the work based on a specific target date (quarter/year).

Motion for Council to Consider:

 Add human capital investment in stabilizing operations, Analyst – Compensation ,

$124,512.00 to 2024 budget (#43).

Reason:

This position is part of the Human Capital Investments in Stabilizing Operations investment to focus on improving the city’s capability and performance, and implementing the city’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion strategy and Corporate Learning and Development.

Approved as per form by the City Clerk,

Reviewed by the City Manager – In accordance with the Code of Good Governance, Council-Staff Relations Policy and an assessment of the internal capacity within the City to complete the work based on a specific target date (quarter/year).

Motion for Council to Consider:

 Add human capital investment in stabilizing operations, Manager Organizational Development , $157,373.00 to 2024 budget (#47).

Reason:

 This position is part of he Human Capital Investments in Stabilizing Operations investment to focus on improving the city’s capability and performance, and implementing the city’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion strategy and Corporate Learning and Development.

It was identified by staff as one of the top priority positions in response to Staff Direction (SD-37-23) requesting prioritization of new staff positions, released after the presentation of the Mayor’s Budget. See page 63 of the budget book for additional details.

Approved as per form by the City Clerk,

Reviewed by the City Manager – In accordance with the Code of Good Governance, Council-Staff Relations Policy and an assessment of the internal capacity within the City to complete the work based on a specific target date (quarter/year).

Motion for Council to Consider:

 Reduce $100,000.00 from “Multi-year Community Investment Funding (Report CM-03-22)” from the mayor’s budget.

Reason:

Recommend that a decision on the above 2024 budget provision be deferred until staff can formally investigate the development and application of new financing tools including those as outlined in recent BLP workshop held on Sept 18th in support of future community development and deliver attainable housing.

Approved as per form by the City Clerk,

Reviewed by the City Manager – In accordance with the Code of Good Governance, Council-Staff Relations Policy and an assessment of the internal capacity within the City to complete the work based on a specific target date (quarter/year).

Motion for Council to Consider:

 Add Operator – Recreation Services 4 PT roles converted to FT with a cost of $100,00 to the 2024 budget funded with a reallocation of the $100,000 base budget increase for Maintaining Recreational Assets as referenced in Appendix A of the Mayor’s Budget Report MO-02-23. This results in no tax increase.

Reason:

 Re-allocation of funds already accounted for in Mayor’s budget.

Approved as per form by the City Clerk,

Reviewed by the City Manager – In accordance with the Code of Good Governance, Council-Staff Relations Policy and an assessment of the internal capacity within the City to complete the work based on a specific target date (quarter/year).

The reasons given for a $136k plus add on are very telling.  Is that how bad it really is?  If left not accommodated will result in digital transformation stagnation, workforce enablement challenges, service delivery inefficiencies, underutilized investments, security and compliance risks, impaired organizational performance, reduced engagement in service design and improvement, deterioration of employee experience, difficulty in adapting to technology changes, challenges in system maintenance and upgrades.

 

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MGA points to the real issue for the Millcroft community

By Staff

November 27th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The Millcroft community seems to be split on just how their case should be presented to the Ontario Land Tribunal hearing scheduled for March 5th, 2024.  Between now and then there has been and will be on November 24 – Exchange of witness statements, summoned witness outlines, expert reports.
December 15 – Exchange of response to witness statements.

The March hearing is expected to last 9 days.

The two community groups have come to realize that they each see the issues through different lenses and despite repeated efforts have not managed to agree to take part in the Tribunal hearing is as a single entity.

The infrastructure that keep the storm water flowing to safe places will be disrupted if the proposed development takes place.

Millcroft Greenspace Alliance (MGA) points out that in order to speak to the issue, a technical expert must represent the case. MGA is arguing that they are the only group that has identified the potential flood risk the proposed development poses to existing homes both in Millcroft and south Burlington.

They are working with a storm water expert to present our case.

MAD, Millcroft Against Development wants a stop put to any development in the community.

There is a lot riding on this.  Some people are hoping that the Mayor’s attempt to convince the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing to issue a MZO (Municipal Zoning Order) that at the stroke of a pen would shut down any development; so fat there the Mayor hasn’t heard from the Minister.

 

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Apparently the city matters to the Globe and Mail - they ranked us #5 in the country

By Pepper Parr

November 26th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

I’ve always wondered why Burlington gets all wound up over a news article that ranks them is as one of the best places to live.

Do they need others to tell them?

A waterfront that is one of the best in the province.

A Globe and Mail Ranking Burlington came in 5th of Canada’s most livable cities. Victoria BC was the top city, followed by North Vancouver, Winnipeg, Regina and then Burlington, The survey ranked the cities on a variety of categories, including economy, housing, demographics, healthcare, safety, education, community, amenities, transportation and climate. Behind these broad categories were dozens of sub-categories. A total of 439 communities were assessed for the ranking.

Burlington scored in the top ten in the categories of:

  • Best for raising kids (9)
  • Best for midlife transitions (3)
  • And Best for newcomers (7)

Dig deeper HERE

Does it get any better than this?

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Bell didn't deliver but bowels certainly did - needed downtime

By Pepper Parr

November 26th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Internet went out early Saturday morning.

Tummy didn’t work all that well either.

So we are behind – will do what we can to get caught up.

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Burlington resident explains how budget was put together -proposes a two line procedure for paying your taxes

By Staff

November 24th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Eric Stern delegated to City Council during the budget debates.  We asked him if he would do a short piece on what he had to say about his experience in talking to City Council.

Here is what he had to say:

I’ve delegated (spoken) to council twice and I’m slowly learning the inner workings of the budget process.

This is my high-level summary:

1 – Use social media to repeat the simple message “4.99% budget impact.”

2 – Bury the details, where almost no one can find them, on page 728 of the budget book.

Page 728 shows a 13.7% spending increase.

3 – Wendy Fletcher, the citizen who created a Petition asking people to help STOP the Proposed 2024 Property Tax Increase, points out the city’s own survey shows the majority want services cut or maintained at the current level. No problem, release a new “statistically accurate” survey that shows people want tax increases. Release on a Friday just before an important, and public, Tuesday meeting. I haven’t been able to find the survey so there won’t be much public input but it does make for a great talking point for the mayor.

4 – Make a few tweaks to the budget so the council can say they listened to the public.

5 – Use the strong mayor powers to limit citizen input and force the city prepared budget through in 30 days. The strong mayor legislation allows the mayor to prepare a budget. Repeat another simple message over and over again, “Doug Ford forced me to present a budget.”

6 – Run a victory lap and start hiring somewhere between 50 and 90 new employees.

7 – Repeat next year. Why not, last year the city pulled off a 15.5 per cent municipal tax revenue increase and no one even noticed. Don’t believe me? Take a look at line 1 of your tax bills for 2022 and 2023.

Our mayor and council have been in power for so long they have forgotten who they represent. Public service organizations rarely have enough resources to do their jobs. Council, as our board of directors, is tasked with balancing insatiable need with what the community can afford.

We are heading towards a two-line tax return:

Line 1 – How much money did you make last year?

Line 2 – Send us the amount on line 1.

Dan Chapman delegated at city hall on Thursday November 23rd. Chapman was eloquent, intelligent and didn’t hold back his distaste with the increases. Have a listen.

 

 

 

 

 

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Proposed 2024 Budget will be reviewed at Special Meeting of Council - Stand By to watch how the Mayor uses the raw political power she has.

By Pepper Parr

November 24th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Tuesday, Nov. 28 at 9:30 a.m. – Review of proposed 2024 budget at Special Meeting of Council.

Key Budget Meeting Dates

Tuesday Nov 28 at 9:30 a.m. – Special Meeting of Burlington City Council

Council will review the Recommendation that came of out the two day meeting that went through the Motions put forward by members of Council.

The authority Mayor Meed Ward has under the Strong Mayor Powers can be used at this meeting.

Will this group be sending each other Christmas cards this year – even if the Mayor chooses to veto some of the decisions the six Councillors made?

The rules set out in Bill 36 are:

The head of council then has 10 days from the end of the council review period to veto any council amendment.

To veto a council amendment, the head of council must provide written documentation of the veto and rationale to each member of council and the municipal clerk on the day of the veto. Council then can override a head of council’s veto of a council amendment with a two-thirds majority vote, within a 15-day period, after the head of council’s veto period.

There are mechanisms in place to enable council and the head of council to shorten their respective review, veto and override periods. For example, council could pass a resolution to shorten their review and override period, and the head of council could provide written documentation to members of council and the municipal clerk to shorten the veto period.

At the end of this process, the resulting budget is adopted by the municipality.

A review of the chronology:

Mayor Meed Ward produced her proposed budget on October 30th.

After receiving the proposed budget from the head of council, council can amend the proposed budget by passing a resolution within a 30-day review period.

Members of Council produced 54 Notices of Motion setting out what each would like to see changed.  They were debated on November 21st and 23rd.   The result of those debates go to City Council on November 28th as a recommendation.

The Mayor does not have to accept the recommendations. She can veto anything but has to provide written notice to members of Council and the City Clerk

Tuesday, Dec. 12 at 9:30 a.m. – Meeting of Burlington City Council.

This is the meeting at which the Mayor advises Council that she has chosen to veto some of the Council recommendations.  That she can does not mean that she will.

If she does choose to veto she must provide written notice and explain why she chose to veto to the members of Council and the City Clerk.

Will the Mayor choose to use the veto power she has?

Council can override a head of council’s veto of a council amendment with a two-thirds majority vote.  That means at least 4 members of Council will have to vote against what the Mayor wanted to do.

This process is raw political power being used by a Mayor who can get very belligerent and nasty when she does not get her way.

Will Jim Thomson be allowed to attend the next Council meeting?

At the end of this process, the resulting budget is adopted by the municipality.

Not known yet is who will wipe up the blood on the floor of the Council chamber.  All we know is that the taxpayers will pay for the clean up.

And Jim Thomson will probably not be there to protest – they marched him out of the Council Chamber for protesting earlier in the week.  They may have chosen to ban him for two years.

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Cost of internet varies; Canada isn't the worst

By Staff

November 24th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Picodi Canada analyst team checked the price lists of 364 internet service providers in 85 countries worldwide and created a ranking of countries with the most and the least affordable internet access.

In this report, we included only offers with unlimited internet access without additional services such as TV or mobile plans.

Internet access is not going to get any cheaper – with four corporations dominating the market and public access to the internet.

The federal government continues to say they are going to do”something” – still waiting.

Where does Canada stand in the list of prices for access?

They are set out below.

Internet prices around the world

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Sustainable Development Committee and Animal Services hosting event to help people learn more about local wildlife

By Staff

November 24th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

City Manager Tim Commisso sat on a detailed report about the serious problem the city was dealing with WHEN.

City Manager sat on a report when the public needed some direction on a serious social problem.

He didn’t make the report available to members of Council – he just kept it to himself.  There was never an explanation.

In Burlington when you are the City Manager you can do what you want.

That crisis has passed.  We now have the Burlington Sustainable Development Advisory Committee and the City of Burlington’s Animal Services staff are hosting an information session to help people  learn about local wildlife and strategies to help you continue to live with the many animals that thrive in our city.

Topics to be covered include: the roles that wildlife play in cities, co-existing with wildlife in Burlington, and tips to reduce unwanted contact.

A question and answer period will follow.

  • Nov. 30, 2023
  • 7 p.m. start
  • Online via Zoom

Register in advance for the free online session. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email with information about joining the webinar.

Related news story:

City sits on report

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Fletcher delegates - puts population numbers and income data on the table

By Pepper Parr

November 23rd, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Wendy Fletcher finally got to address City Council.

She used a lot of number which Councillor Bentivegna asked to have sent to him: “I’m better with a piece of paper in front of me”

“The average income in Burlington is not as high as council believes. According to the 2021 Census by Stats Canada, there are only 17,355 people earning over 100K and 22,750 in the 60-100K range. That’s only 40,105 residents earning over 60K and some rent.  There are 40,000 seniors and most probably not making over 60K. Further, the average income was determined to be 42K, which is less than the Ontario average of 56-60K.

“Putting undue financial strain on taxpayers two years in a row to have money in the bank for an increase in assets that occurred from the stroke of a pen is not taking the taxpayers appetite for risk or willingness to pay, into consideration. Reassessment of the assets wasn’t required until 2028 making this premature. Robust support was directed to the DIR fund in 2023. While further funding would always be nice, it isn’t a necessity and its not supported by the economics which have changed considerably since the May report. This is a nice to have, not a need to have. By exercising some patience for interest rates and inflation to drop, and scrapping this tax increase for 2024, it would drop the current budget by 0.97%.

Doing so would say to taxpayers that this council is hearing them.

There wasn’t very much in the way of follow up questions from members of Council.

Fletcher had more to say – we will cover that in the days ahead

You can sign the petition HERE

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Name chosen for the high school that will become a community Centre: It will be called 'Robert Bateman Community Centre.'

By Staff

November 23, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

Bateman Naming Update

With the support of the Robert Bateman Naming Shortlist committee, the City is recommending to the Environment, Infrastructure and Community Services Committee (EICS) on Dec. 7 the name of Burlington’s newest community centre be “Robert Bateman Community Centre.”

Robert Bateman now lives in British Columbia.

When the submission deadline passed, a committee was formed to review the submissions and create a shortlist of names that aligned to the City’s naming policy and represented the community voice. This committee included representatives from the Advisory Committees of Heritage and Inclusion, City Council, the Indigenous Talking Circle, and City staff.

Survey results

  • 221 names were received.
  • 44 per cent were for Robert Bateman Community Centre (or a close variation).
  • Pinedale was the second-place name with three per cent of the submissions.

The consensus of the committee was that the community has already overwhelmingly chosen the name Robert Bateman Community Centre and it would be disingenuous to poll the community again or put a short list to a vote.

Next Steps

Staff will submit a report with the name recommendation and rationale to the Environment, Infrastructure, and Community Services Committee meeting Dec. 7 and to City Council on Dec. 12, 2023.

No word yet on where the new name will be placed.

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City part of the tax bill looks like it will be 4.88% - a hair lower than what Mayor Meed Ward proposed

By Pepper Parr

November 23, 2023

November 23, 2023

 

The Mayor said she would bring in a budget with the city portion of the total tax at 4.99%

After weeks of debate, two rambunctious meetings the Budget Standing Committee was able to bring it in at 4.88%

The public opposition was greater than I have seen it in the 12 years I have been covering budgets in Burlington.

It isn’t over yet – the Budget numbers are a recommendation from the Standing Committee – they go to Council on the 28th

This Council will see this as a win – there are a lot of people who won’t share that view.

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