Remembrance Service to take place at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum November 11th

By Staff

November 4th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

A Remembrance service will take place at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum honouring those who served our country with our special indoor Remembrance Day Service.

Saturday November 11, 2023

10:30 am – 11:30 am

The Museum offers limited seating with additional standing room, so it is best to arrive early. Doors open at 9 am.

Parking and admission are free  – donations to the museum are greatly appreciated.

Donations of non-perishable food are also being accepted for the Hamilton Food Share.

Can’t make it? The service can be viewed on CHCH-TV or streamed at chch.com/live.

Weather permitting, the Lancaster will perform a fly by for the service at 11:02 am.

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Wendy Fletcher finally gets her Petition in front of the public - it wasn't easy

By Pepper Parr

November 4th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

Wendy Fletcher is a reasonable, decent person.

I’ve yet to meet her but I want to take a minute and tell you a little about how her world has turned this past couple of weeks.

When she learned that the city was actually talking about a tax increase of more than 7% – that did it for her.

She wanted to say something so she put together a petition and set it up on a web site.  It’s still there but voting has closed.  There were 1950 votes.

To her surprise the responses began to roll in – she was at more than 1500 and decided she should delegate to City Council and let them know what a lot of people were unhappy about.

That’s when the bureaucracy began to make Ms Fletcher’s life confusing.

She wanted to speak to Council before they got too far along with the new budget process but the Clerk’s Office (they manage what gets to Council) was told that she couldn’t delegate on the 30th but she could delegate on the November 7th or the 14th.

That didn’t make a lot of sense to Ms Fletcher so she pushed some more and on November 2nd, when the Mayor formally introduced her budget the City Clerk read out the salient point, fast than you could say Jack Rabbit.

You won people said.  No I didn’t – my Petition isn’t on the city web site – and indeed it wasn’t.

A friend of Ms Fletcher’s reached out to City hall – not certain if that call made the different but the Wendy Fletcher Petition is now part of the record – where anyone and everyone can see it.

What may be Ms Fletcher’s final comment was: “It shouldn’t be this hard”

Indeed it shouldn’t but this is not the first time the City Clerk has gotten in the way of ensuring that a citizen is given the opportunity to address City Council.

During the 2022 municipal election Keith Demoe had registered to delegate and was told that he would not be accepted as a delegate.

Related news story.

Candidate told he could not delegate.

City Clerk denies a candidate the opportunity to delegate

 

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Did you know that from 2019 to 2022, the Burlington Food Bank has seen a staggering 94% increase in total visits?

By Lydia Thomas

November 3rd, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Lydia Thomas: we did not plan for food prices and utility costs and gas prices and mortgage rates to skyrocket.

Good afternoon Mayor Meed-Ward, Chair and Members of the Committee. My name is Lydia Thomas and I am a retired senior living on Filman place in Aldershot Burlington.

Did you know that from 2019 to 2022, the Burlington Food Bank has seen a staggering 94% increase in total visits? That is almost double over the last 4 years. And if that does not shock and motivate us to do better, let’s look at benchmarks – this 94% Burlington increase in Food bank visits is more than double that of Ontario (43%) and almost triple that of Canada (35%). (1)

And unlike other cities, the Burlington Food bank isn’t just supplying food to poor neighbourhoods. No, according to the Food Bank, Burlington is unique – because our poverty is well hidden and it is found in EVERY demographic. It is every age, every ethnicity, every gender and virtually every neighbourhood. (1) Cost increases including Burlington Property Tax increases are forcing most Burlington residents into financial instability and driving them to the food banks.

Seniors are one of our most vulnerable groups that need support and we are failing them. In 2022, there was a 312% increase in seniors visits to the Burlington Food Bank compared to 2018. Seniors are on a fixed income but living costs continue to climb. 1 And the solution to subsidize low income seniors with credits does not solve the problem. Why? Because in Burlington all residents including those with full time jobs are struggling to maintain their standard of living and stay in their homes. We are all being forced to tap into our savings or worse, the equity in our homes. It is assumed that because we have an income we are ok. Well, that is just not the case with these property tax increases.

I consider my family one of the lucky ones- we have a beautiful home and enough food such that we do not need to visit the Food Bank. But we are a senior’s family facing the same challenges. Our income has remained the same while costs have gone dramatically up. Our retirement plan that we meticulously laid out is out the window.

Why ? Because we did not plan for food prices and utility costs and gas prices and mortgage rates to skyrocket. We did not plan for our savings and investments to be eroded due to a slumping economy. And we certainly did not expect the city to kick us when we’re down by increasing our property taxes over 7% last year.

Hamilton supposedly has much higher property taxes than Burlington but I have a friend who’s residential home on Highland Rd. is 35% bigger and with a lot 4 times the size of mine and is only paying 6% more than we are which suggests to me that our MPAC assessments are elevated. (3)

Oakville is running their city on a property tax rate of 0.76 % vs our 0.86. (2) Last year their tax increase was 1.5% and 3.8% this year. Based on those Oakville figures, our 7% Burlington increase from last year should cover us off with no increases for the next 3 years. Why can’t we run our city on a 0.76% rate? What are they doing that we are not?

Instead, you are doubling down with another 6% increase this year. Is this the best that the City Council can do for the citizens of Burlington?

We the residents of Burlington deserve better. We ask that you hold every new spend proposal up against the face of employed Burlington residents and seniors that are visiting the Food Bank, that have homes that are becoming unaffordable.

Do we really need that sidewalk on Park Street right now? Why are we adding winter maintenance to 20 city parks this year when we have not had it in the past?

Lydia Thomas: Find ways to do more with less.

Do we really need 46 new hires? Do we need 8 people to help optimize new digital tools? Digital solutions are supposed to increase efficiencies not increase headcount. With my CPG background I suggest you consider training existing employees to become subject matter experts that can lead the implementation and be go to people for your staff vs. Hiring 3rd party resources that know nothing about your processes.

The point is : Find ways to do more with less.

Self Fund new initiatives. Utilize volunteers and redeploy resources.

Better utilize that 7% increase from last year and commit to a Zero tax rate increase for 2024.

Find a way or we will surely be seeing more homeless families and more neighbours and seniors visiting the Food Bank.

Is this really the vision that you have for Burlington?

Is this really the best that you, our elected officials can do for us?

Footnotes (Councillor Nisan’s questions):
1. 2022/2023. Burlington Foodbank Hunger Report https://www.burlingtonfoodbank.ca/wp-content/uploads/ 2023/03/Hunger-Report-2023_FINALWEB_SPREAD.pdf

2. 2023. WOWA report

3. Note that the effects of property taxes also depends on MPAC assessment timing and Parameters. It appears that ours favours higher property tax $’s when compared to Hamilton. This may be in part due to Burlington land values based on location and demand but the difference in value seems inordinately high. And once MPAC assessments occur this property increase will be a further shock to finances.

Post Note #1 to meeting
Councillor Nisan mentioned a survey where the majority say they are okay with an increase. The survey that I had said that I had seen was very different (see Attached). 39% want 0% increase and 31% are okay with 1-3 %. I would suggest that we do not know if most of the 31% prefer 1% over 3% but I would venture that is the case.

Post Note #2 to Meeting:
Councillor Sharman mentioned during the meeting follow up that efficiencies and redundancies have already been addressed. Respectfully, this job is never done. There is always more to be done and there are always more savings and redundancies. I know this from working 30 years at CPG companies and meeting tough budget cut mandates. (Saying no to old projects, cutting those that are important but not urgent and urgent but not important, etc.). Every company (or in this case, City) will say they have cut to the bone but surprisingly, when forced to find the $$ and efficiencies, it will be found. It is just a matter of hard choices.

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The next step on getting a budget approved - understanding just what it is they want to to do.

By Pepper Parr

November 3rd, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

There was a lot of buildup to what the Mayor was going to put forward in the way of a budget but at the end of the meeting the public didn’t know very much more about what the Mayor is proposing other than she has drawn a line in the sand with the number 4.99% on it.

That’s her number.

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward putting her budget before City Council.

The Mayor is presenting the budget as a collaborative effort with every member of Council onside – but we have yet to hear what the individual council members think.

The time line for getting the budget cast in stone and ready for the Finance department to send out tax bills is set out below:

Monday and Tuesday of next week – Nov. 6 and 7, 2023 – Council workshops
City staff will provide more details on the additional investments in the 2024 Financial Needs and Multi-Year Forecast Reference Document.

Nov. 7, 2023 –Budget Telephone Town Hall
Residents can join the call starting at 7 p.m. to ask questions about the 2024 proposed budget. The telephone town will be hosted by Mayor Meed Ward and run until 8:30 p.m.

Nov. 21 and 23, 2023 – Review of proposed Mayor’s 2024 budget at meeting of Corporate Services, Strategy, Risk and Accountability (CSSRA) committee, with Special Council meeting to follow.

Council members agree that this new budget process was confusing, a lot different than the way budgets were determined in the past.
Council is pressed for time and there really isn’t all that much in the way of opportunity for the average person to take part.

When documents are put before Council they have to first be read into the record.  Sometimes this is a Staff report and it is taken as a Receive and File.  They won’t be doing anything with the report other than to discuss it.

On other occasions the document is introduced by way of a motion which is what was done on Thursday.  It took a bit of word-smithing to get the document before the public.

The first draft of the motion was to:

Receive the Mayor’s Operating Budget with a proposed net tax levy amount of $243,400,298, and present the budget to the November 21st and November 23rd (if required) CSSRA Budget Committee for review and any amendments made by Council; and

Receive the Mayor’s 2024 Capital Budget with a gross amount of $88,556,830, a debenture requirement of $6,900,000, and the 2025-2033 capital forecast with a gross amount of $859,123,570, and a debenture requirement of $24,950,000 as outlined in the Financial Needs and Multi-Year Forecast as am mended by Council; and

Administer the debenture in the amount of $6,900,000 in 2024 as tax supported debt, and

Incorporate the 2024 financial needs and multi year overview and accompanying reference document into the Mayor’s 2024 budget, as amended and noted, and

Approve that any surplus or deficit resulting from a difference between the actual net assessment growth and the estimated 0.75 net assessment growth be transferred to/from the Tax Rate Stabilization Fund; and

Declare that, in accordance with sis, 5(1)5 of the Development Charges Act, 1997 and s. 5 of the Ontario Regulation 82/98, it is council’s clear intention that the excess capacity provided by the above – referenced works will be paid for by future development charges.

 

That version didn’t satisfy anyone, Treasurer Joan Ford had concerns -so they took a break and reworked the motion and came up with the following

Councillor Paul Sharman explaining that times were tough and Council was going to have to make some hard decisions.

Moved by Mayor Meed Ward
Seconded by Councillor Paul Sharman

The the following items a,b,c,d are subject to amendments made at the CSSRA Budget Committee November 21 and November 22 and associated Council meetings

Administer the debenture in the amount of $6,900,000 in 2024 as tax supported debt,and

Incorporate the 2024 financial needs and multi year overview and accompanying reference document into the Mayor’s 2024 budget, as amended and noted, and

Approve that any surplus or deficit resulting from a difference between the actual net assessment growth and the estimated 0.75 net assessment growth be transferred to/from the Tax Rate Stabilization Fund; and

Declare that, in accordance with sis, 5(1)5 of the Development Charges Act, 1997 and s. 5 of the Ontario Regulation 82/98, it is council’s clear intention that the excess capacity provided by the above – referenced works will be paid for by future development charges.

The motion vote was unanimous.

The one thing that is very clear is – they want to borrow $6.9 million and let future taxpayers pick up the cost.

Much more to say on just what this budget is about once we hear what Councillors have to say on Monday and Tuesday of next week.

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Auditor General to probe controversial scheme to redevelop Ontario Place

By Staff

November 3rd, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Geez – not another one.

The Auditor General announced that they will be probing the Ontario Place redevelopment.

Premier Doug Ford seated at Queen’s Park

The independent legislative officer confirmed Friday a value-for-money audit was under way into a controversial scheme to revamp the province’s waterfront park with a new spa and a relocated Ontario Science Centre.

NDP Leader Marit Stiles, who asked the Auditor General to probe the transfer of properties out of the Greenbelt.  The report revealed what is now known is as the Greenbelt scandal that has resulted in two Cabinet Ministers and at least two senior staff members lose their jobs.

Stiles said “People are frustrated with an affordability crisis, closing emergency rooms, overcrowded classrooms… and rather than help make life easier, Ford’s spa-obsessed Conservatives are blowing more than $650 million of public money on a private, luxury spa,”

“People know this is a bad deal for Ontario, and I’m confident the auditor general’s report will confirm that.”

Infrastructure Minister Kinga Surma, who has defended the project, was expected to respond later today.

The audit was requested by community groups opposed to the redevelopment, including Ontario Place For All.

An Austrian-based based company has a lease on the property where they want to build a $350-million water spa on the West Island of Ontario Place, but provincial taxpayers would be on the hook for a massive underground parking garage with 2,100 spaces.

Rendering of the proposed development.

 

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GO train transported livestock to the Royal Winter Fair

By Pepper Parr

November 3rd, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Leaving the GO train and heading into the downtown core of Toronto Kay behaved perfectly. Some of the passengers on the train were surprised.

The people who run the GO train service have partnered with the Royal Winter Fair to encourage people to attend the event that started today and runs through to next Sunday, the 12th.

For people riding the GO train into the City on Thursday there was a passenger that no one expected to see – Kay, a female sheep. No word on whether or not the animal paid for the ride.

Kay was no stranger to the Royal. She was there last year and won a prize. Her owners, sheep farmers located in Ridgetown which is halfway between London and Windsor found that she was very good with people around.

She took the GO train into the city and walked through Union Station out on to Front Street and made her way to the CNE grounds where she will have a stall of her own.

The pooper scooper followed “Kay” very closely as they walk through Union Station out to Front Street

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Lydia Thomas - please call

By Pepper Parr

November 2nd, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Lydia Thomas

Lydia Thomas delegated at City Council today.

We would love to talk to her.

Reach out Lydia – you made some important points and apparently have some ideas that you are prepared to share with Council. 

We would love to share them with the public.

Send us an email – publisher@bgzt.ca

 

 

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Citizen told not to make disparaging remarks about staff during a delegation - then has her petition presentation moved to a date after the Mayor presents her budget

By Pepper Parr

November 2nd, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

On Monday October 30th, Wendy Fletcher delegated to City Council virtually. 

Her delegation was about the budget that was being discussed by Council.  On the day she delegated Councillors were hearing what the City Treasurer had presented, which had been named the Needs document.  It wasn’t a budget per se, it was a document that set out in considerable detail (750 + pages) what she, as treasurer, believed the city was getting in terms of revenue and what the city was facing in the way of expenses.

The report delivered to Council on Monday October 30th.

The treasurer determined that a tax increase of 7.6% would be needed.

Mayors in Ontario were given stronger powers on July 1st and had the right to submit their own budget and make any staff changes they felt were necessary including firing the City Manager. Mayor Meed Ward has consistently said she did not have the right to delegate any of the Strong Mayors powers and that she was required to create a budget.

Ward 2 Councillor Lisa Kearns chastises a delegator during her presentation. As Deputy Mayor she oversees Citizen Participation.

Fletcher began to give the following delegation.  She was brusquely interrupted by the Standing Committee chair Lisa Kearns who objected to comments Fletcher was making about city Staff.

The Gazette has published below the complete delegation with the words Fletcher was told she could not use set out in red.

Fletcher had a Petition she wanted to present as part of her delegation but was not permitted to do so.

On Oct 31, 2023, the day after she delegated, Fletcher got an email from Arjoon (City Clerk) advising her that the petition she wanted to submit was moved to Nov 14, 2023. No reason was given. Fletcher commented: “Regardless of any reason he may conjure up subsequently, this refusal to allow me to participate and to refuse to allow my petition which was submitted well within the required timelines, to be included as part of the public record on the date of the council item it was objecting to, constitutes a violation of my rights as a taxpayer.”

What are Arjoon was doing was moving a citizens petition that opposed a budget the Mayor was presenting to a date after the Mayor had formally presented her budget.

Ms Fletcher maintains doing so “… is a deliberate move by the city to prevent taxpayers from knowing of its existence until all city participation in the budget has ceased as no one visiting the city’s website for the Nov 2 call or the Nov 7 meeting will have any knowledge of the material. It will be as if it doesn’t exist.   Further it is a deliberate move to disallow me to participate in this process, a right I am granted by law.

“By refusing to allow my petition to be on record until Nov 14, it also impinges on the rights of every person who signed the petition. As well it violates the rights of every property owner in the city of Burlington as you take away their right to make alternate decisions by withholding information from them.

“City council had no problem accepting a similar petition with respect to the potential development in Millcroft going so far as to include it in press releases. But a petition against the proposed property tax increase gets removed until a point that it’s past all public input?

“In addition to violating my rights on several levels, this move is unethical, lacks integrity and is massively oppressive. The City of Burlington claims they want city involvement. There are almost 2000 people saying they don’t want this tax increase. And city hall’s response is to silence them. That’s not taxpayer involvement. That’s dictatorship. Given the violation of my rights and your own policies, I have filed a complaint with the Ombudsman’s

“I want my petition marked as part of the public record for Nov 2 ,2023 as I was told it would be, and as is my right under law.”

The following is the delegation Wendy Fletcher gave on October 30th

The operating budget underwent a line-by-line review by the CFO and Service Leads. This review checked the operating budgets for reasonableness and adjusted where appropriate to find budget savings and reduce costs.  If this is true, maybe we need a new CFO. One who doesn’t need almost 8% increases to do her job. Ms. Joan Ford clearly didn’t read the budget survey results that overwhelmingly do not support these increases

Pg 33 of Financial Needs and Multi Year Forecasts uses BMA and a group average to try to say that Burlington taxes are lower than Oakville and Toronto. Just like many of the ways City Hall presents information to taxpayers, it is flawed, skewed data that’s manipulated to serve the city’s purpose. The fact is that Burlington residential taxes are significantly higher than both Oakville and Toronto. That information buried so the amount per 100,000 or the residential tax rate (RT) is not easily found. Other cities are upfront. Burlington is not. It is purposely deceitful. Both in these glorified presentations and on the City’s website.

Burlington’s residential urban rate is 0.00861442

Oakville’s is 0.760437% or 0.00760437

Toronto is 0.506079% or 0.00506079

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward

For the 2023 tax increase the city used the budget survey to support the tax increases. That they did so is unethical given they failed to properly inform. The city will deflect that the budget was available. But as indicated by your own data, only 57 people actually looked at the budget. For 2024, many of those who became aware of the tax increase only become aware because I told them. How is it that as a solitary citizen that I can reach more people than the Mayor or Council?  The city can’t use the survey for 2024 as 55% of residents want either taxes cut or services cut. Overwhelmingly they do not support further increases in property taxes.

In addition, in Appendix C of 2024 Budget Survy Results, when asked in Question 8, “As a resident of Burlington, what is the most important issue facing your community, that is, the one issue you feel should receive the greatest attention from your City Council and should be a priority in the 2024 budget”. An astonishing 211 responses out of 711 stated specifically that taxes need to be cut or minimally not raised with many making passionate pleas of the deleterious effects the high rates of tax are having on their ability to maintain their homes. Another 30 made reference to the high taxes by way of suggesting salaries and services need to be cut or that the cost of living was too high. This is 30% of all respondents directly stating taxes are too high. This number would be much higher if everyone taking the survey had been aware of the tax increase in the budget but they weren’t. Only 57/801 respondents read the budget which is only 7% of respondents. That makes the responses by those who didn’t know about the tax hike highly questionable as to their validity as they may have responded very differently had they known.

City Council in a virtual meeting. Delegate claims Mayor and Council and City Hall are deliberately attempting to keep information from taxpayers

As to the 57, that’s not even 1/2 % of the entire population. It says there is a vast lack of knowledge as to what’s going on at city hall with respect to raising our taxes by taxpayers. That’s the fault of this Mayor and Council and City Hall’s deliberate attempts to keep that information from taxpayers

Beyond this data, many many letters have been sent to the Mayor and Council by taxpayers who are upset or angry about these taxes. I know this because many of these people have reached out to me, several telling me their stories.

It’s clear Burlington taxpayers do not agree with the rate of taxation in this city and they most certainly do not support another tax hike of 7.82% or anywhere near it. They want taxes cut or a minimal increase of 3% of less. Indeed, I’ve taken polls that support this. I also have a petition against this tax hike and stating taxpayers will not agree to anything greater than 3%. As of 830am this morning that petition is at 1205 signatures. Whether Mayor Meed Ward is going to heed the taxpayers and refuse to raise taxes or minimally keep them below 3% remains to be seen. At some point Mayor Meed Ward stopped listening to taxpayers. I propose Burlington taxpayers should call for her resignation if she decides to ignore taxpayers and put this tax increase or anywhere near it, through.

The petition that Wendy Fletcher wants to present to City Council:

The City of Burlington raised property taxes by 7.52% in 2023. They have proposed another unprecedented increase of 7.82% for 2024. This is 15.34% over 2 years. From 2023-2027, this Mayor and Council are planning a total increase of 32% in property taxes.

We, the undersigned, do not agree to this proposed increase in property taxes for 2024. We, the undersigned do not agree to any property tax increase over 3%.

If you would like to sign the petition – you can do so HERE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mounties on the move - interviewing bureaucrats - politicians will have to wait for their turn

By Pepper Parr

November 2, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The Mounties have begun questioning officials at the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing over Premier Doug Ford’s $8.28-billion Greenbelt scandal.

Media reports have Housing Minister Paul Calandra telling reporters: ““They’ve not been in touch with me, but my understanding is they have been in touch with the ministry.”

As first disclosed by the Star, the RCMP’s Sensitive and International Investigations unit, the branch that probes political crime and corruption, is examining “allegations associated to the decision from the province of Ontario to open parts of the Greenbelt for development.”

NDP Leader Marit Stiles said “it’s clear that the premier can’t keep his story straight right now” so it is encouraging that “the RCMP are digging in now.”

“I just want answers for the people of Ontario. This has already pushed this government and the province off of the agenda of actually building the housing that we really need,” said Stiles.

“It’s a terrible, terrible situation, but we do need to get to the bottom of it and people in this government and the premier himself need to be held to account,” she said.

Media are reporting that “Ford has not yet been contacted by the police, but he has promised to co-operate with the investigation.”

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City Clerk moves a petition with 1740 names opposing the budget the Mayor proposes until after the budget is discussed

By Pepper Parr

November 1, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

Two pieces of information had to be corrected: the date on which the request to delegate was made and the number of names on the petition.

We received the following from Wendy Fletcher, a Burlington resident.

“On October 27, 2023, I filled out a delegation and submitted it to the clerks office. The delegation was to submit a petition in opposition to the budget. I spoke to Lisa Palmero shortly afterwards who advised me that the meeting on Oct 30 was the wrong one and that it was the Nov 2. 2023 Regular Council meeting that it needed to be presented at. She said I didn’t have to do anything, she would ensure it was attached. She said I could send in an updated signature list by noon Nov 1.”

The meeting at which Ms Fletcher wanted to speak was not a budget meeting – the rules are that the matter on which you wish to delegate has to take place at the proper meeting – dumb rule – but I didn’t create it. Budget matters get discussed at budget meetings.

Ms Fletcher continues:  “As per the city’s own rules of engagement, I am entitled to oppose a matter on an upcoming agenda. This is exactly what my intention was in making the delegation for Nov 2.  My intention was also for this petition to be part of the public record in opposition to the budget, at the time the budget was released.”

The link below set out the rules:

https://www.burlington.ca/en/council-and-city-administration/engaging-with-city-council.aspx

Ms Fletcher points to the section that concerns her.

“Petition titles will be listed in the minutes of the meeting, which are posted to the City’s website, and the full petition kept on file as part of the official public record. As part of the public record, petitions may also be distributed to other members of the public on request.”

She continues:

City Clerk – Kevin Arjoon

“On Oct 31, 2023, I was sent an email by Kevin Arjoon (City Clerk) stating my petition was moved to Nov 14, 2023. No reason was given. Regardless of any reason he may conjure up subsequently, this refusal to allow me to participate and to refuse to allow my petition which was submitted well within the required timelines, to be included as part of the public record on the date of the council item it was objecting to, constitutes a violation of my rights as a taxpayer.”

What are Arjoon was doing was moving a citizens opposition to a budget to a date after which the budget is being presented to city Council.  Mayor Meed Ward will be presenting her budget to a Council meeting during which she will explain what her budget is about and justify why she made the decisions she did.

Ms Fletcher continues: “It is a deliberate move by the city to prevent taxpayers from knowing of its existence until all city participation in the budget has ceased as no one visiting the city’s website for the Nov 2 call or the Nov 7 meeting will have any knowledge of the material. It will be as if it doesn’t exist.   Further it is a deliberate move to disallow me to participate in this process, a right I am granted by law.

“By refusing to allow my petition to be on record until Nov 14, it also impinges on the rights of every person who signed the petition. As well it violates the rights of every property owner in the city of Burlington as you take away their right to make alternate decisions by withholding information from them.

“City council had no problem accepting a similar petition with respect to the potential development in Millcroft going so far as to include it in press releases. But a petition against the proposed property tax increase gets removed until a point that it’s past all public input?

“In addition to violating my rights on several levels, this move is unethical, lacks integrity and is massively oppressive. The City of Burlington claims they want city involvement. There are almost 2000 people saying they don’t want this tax increase. And city hall’s response is to silence them. That’s not taxpayer involvement. That’s dictatorship. Given the violation of my rights and your own policies, I have filed a complaint with the Ombudsman’s

“I want my petition marked as part of the public record for Nov 2 ,2023 as I was told it would be, and as is my right under law.”

The Gazette has asked for a copy of the petition which we will publish in full when it is received.

For those who want to sign the petition you can do so HERE

 

 

 

 

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Will the Kitchener Centre by-election deliver bad news to Doug Ford?

By Pepper Parr

November 1st, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

At the end of the month we should have some sense as to how politically damaging the Greenbelt scandal has been to Premier Doug Ford.

Could it get any worse. Yup – it could.

The polls are still giving the Premier good news – they like him.

Will that change?  If it does change when will it become evident?

There is a by-election taking place for the Kitchener Centre seat where the New Democrat who held the seat resigned.  The Liberals would dearly love to win the seat. Is there enough interest in the Liberal Leadership race taking place to create a bit of a buzz for a Liberal candidate? 

Will Bonnie Crombie insert herself into the Kitchener Centre campaign?

She appears to be the leading candidate.  

Is the Premier listening intently or is he scowling

Will the Progressive Conservative candidate track well or will the voters in that riding use the by-election to tell the Premier “we were not pleased”.

Politics is about power – once you have it – you do everything you can to keep it.  Will Doug Ford at some point realize that he is going to have to take the fall (is as well he should) and let someone else lead the party.  Could Paul Calandra use the damage control job he has been doing quite well and leverage that into a leadership bid?

 

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Removing the HST taxes on rental homes is touted as a benefit - for who? Will it reduce the monthly rent for tenants?

By Staff

November 1st, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The provincial government shovels out about ten, sometimes more, announcements each day telling the public about a long term care home that is going to be built in Pefferlaw or about money being spent to improve internet service in rural Oxford County.

The removal of HST will apply to new purpose-built rental housing, such as apartment buildings, student housing and senior residences built specifically for long-term rental accommodation. The legislative reform is part of the federal and provincial government’s response to the ever-rising cost of residential housing in Canada and the corresponding lack of available affordable housing.

An announcement today on the plans to remove the full eight per cent provincial portion of the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) on qualifying new purpose-built rental housing in order to get more rental homes built across the province is significant.

The removal of the provincial portion of the HST would apply to new purpose-built rental housing such as apartment buildings, student housing and senior residences built specifically for long-term rental accommodation, that meet the criteria. The enhanced rebate would apply to qualifying projects that begin construction between September 14, 2023 and December 31, 2030, and complete construction by December 31, 2035.

Together, the provincial and federal actions would remove the full 13 per cent HST on qualifying new purpose-built rental housing in Ontario.

Currently, the Ontario HST New Residential Rental Property Rebate is equal to 75 per cent of the provincial portion of the HST paid, up to a maximum rebate of $24,000. The enhanced rebate would be equal to 100 per cent of the provincial portion of the HST, with no maximum rebate amount.

In the example of a two-bedroom rental unit valued at $500,000, the enhanced Ontario HST New Residential Rental Property Rebate would deliver $40,000 in provincial tax relief. When combined with the enhanced federal GST New Residential Rental Property Rebate, this would amount to $65,000 in tax relief.

To qualify for the enhanced HST New Residential Rental Property Rebate, new residential units must be in buildings with at least four private apartment units or 10 private rooms or suites, and have at least 90 per cent of residential units designated for long-term rental.

Some questions do come to mind.
Where will the savings be realized? At the developer level or at the tenant level.

And if at the developer level is there any oversight to ensure that the benefit is actually realized by the tenant.

We will do what we can to follow up on this.

 

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Any student from about grade 5 on with even a little curiosity should be given an opportunity to attend the Sound, Just Sound event at the Joseph Brant Museum.

By Staff

November 1st, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Any student from about grade 5 on with even a little curiosity should be given an opportunity to attend the Sound, Just Sound event at the Joseph Brant Museum.

Joseph Brant Museum is pleased to announce a new special exhibition opening. Sound, Just Sound, is a production of the Sherbrooke Museum of Nature and Science with the contribution of Heritage Canada and the Quebec Ministry of Culture and Communications.

Joseph Brant Museum

The exhibition will be on view from November 14, 2023 to March 30, 2024.

Any impact creates vibrations in the air that translates into sound. The impact of the wind on leaves, the air flowing from our lungs on our vocal cords, a door closing, the shuffle of ants moving, the electronic impulses of a bell. Sound waves are everywhere. This exhibition is an immersive experience. Visitors will experience sounds with all their senses.

See them, through high speed cameras and measuring devices; touch them, by playing with musical instruments and specialized acoustic materials; feel them, through the science of psychoacoustics.

“The exhibition is broken down into themes that examine the science of sound. There are interactive games and experiments that are fun for people of all ages” says Curator, Jessica Benjak-Waterous.

Visitors can also add a film screening to their Museum visit on select Saturday afternoons. “Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound” reveals the hidden power of sound in cinema, introduces us to the unsung heroes who create it, and features insights from legendary directors with whom they collaborate. The film will be showing on December 2, January 13, February 10, and March 2. The film begins at 1pm and is 1h 34min long. Learn more about this award winning film at makingwavesmovie.com.

Joseph Brant Museum is open Tuesdays – Saturdays, 10:00am to 4:00pm, Sound, Just Sound is included with the price of regular admission.

Museum admission prices:
Adult | $10
Child | $6
Senior/Student | $8
Family (up to to 2 adults and 4 children) | $30

Movies and the Museum prices:
Adult | $12
Child (age 3-12) | $10

To purchase a seat for the film screening and for more information on the special exhibition, please visit: museumsofburlington.ca.

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REVEL: The Ultimate Art Bash! A Night of Art, Food & Drink, Entertainment and Revelry

By Staff

November 1st, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Friday, November 17, 2023, the Art Gallery of Burlington (AGB)  presents REVEL: The Ultimate Art Bash! This “extraordinary” night of contemporary art, thrilling entertainment, and a unique culinary experience, set to captivate all of your senses.

Event Details

Date: Friday, November 17, 2023

Time: 7 pm – 12 am

Location: Art Gallery of Burlington

REVEL is set to redefine the boundaries of art and entertainment, offering an unforgettable experience that combines electrifying digital performances, mesmerizing DJ sets, and enchanting mystical encounters.

The event is hosted by Kimberly Calderbank, host of Community Cultures YourTV Halton, and partner of Burlington’s Yellow Robot Media & Design firm.

To elevate the revelry, REVEL will showcase immersive installations created by a stellar lineup of artists, including Omar Badrin, ORXSTRA (Alex McLeod and Tala Kamea), Tyler Matheson, Christopher Reid Flock, Diana Lynn VanderMuelen, and Stefana Fratila. These talented artists will bring their unique visions to life through sound, light, projections, and captivating live performances.

DJs and Musical Guests 

DJ Cindy AO will set the mood with a selection of chill tracks, while Luckystickz will breathe life into the Sybil Atteck exhibition, adding to the magic of the evening. The Shoreline Room will also become a dancefloor with music by DJ Grandmother Sago and DJ Sahra Suda.

Artist and Tarot Reader

Kiera (Kiki) Boult, local artist and Tarot reader.

Kiera (Kiki) Boult, local artist and Tarot reader will be reading futures for a select number of people in a rare and mystical experience.

Live Auction

Professional auctioneer Don Stewart will be auctioning off fabulous, priceless, and curated experiences for all to enjoy the best arts, culture and entertainment in the region.

Culinary Art with Local Star Chefs, Restaurants, Wineries and More

REV up those taste buds because both food and drinks are included with the cost of admission. The ticket includes a top-notch evening of exclusive dishes created by local chefs, including Chef Matteo from Spencer’s on the Waterfront, the Wandering Locavore, Vic Caterers & Bakery, Jonny Blonde, and Christy’s Gourmet Gifts. Mixed drinks, wine, beer and non-alcoholic cocktails will be provided by Arterra Wines Canada, Maverick Distillery, and Nickel Brook Brewing.

Tickets- $200 per person. Click HERE to order

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Councillor learns that developers need a 15% profit margin for a project to be viable

By Pepper Parr

November 1st, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

It was during a discussion about a new approach to issuing development permits that Ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte said to Michelle Diplock, Manager of Planning and Government Relations for the West End Home Builders’ Association: “I think you’re the right person for me to ask this question.

Ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte

“Given the fact you represent the building industry, so you’re not speaking for any developer in particular, but I tasked you to consider going back to have a conversation with the members of your association (WEHBA ) – now this is going to be a little bit inflammatory but I’m going to say anyway, – when you use the terms economic viability, or that this new bylaw may impact the ability for developers to provide housing and the way the city wants.  I think each of those terms needs to be followed with the extension of that sentence by saying economic viability based on the development industry’s present business model, or impact the ability to provide housing based on the development industry’s present business model.”

“My question is, do you think there is an appetite within the development community to work with the city within this bylaw, to collaborate so that if the development industry is looking to accommodate their business model, that they’d also be willing to look to amend their business model to make sure that Burlington is getting the housing it needs?”

Michelle Diplock is a Registered Professional Planner and the Manager of Planning and Government Relations for the West End Home Builders’ Association.

Diplock responded: “I think there’s two parts to your question. I think in terms of the baseline in terms of what a developer needs to build, and the profit margins that they are required to demonstrate to the banks and the financial institutions to proceed is a 15% requirement. So if a developer can’t prove they’re going to meet that 15% profit margin, they are not able to proceed with that development.

“And so they will consider kind of doing a different type of development or doing something somewhere else where they can meet that because if they cannot get the financing from the banks, and I think this is an increasingly important piece, as interest rates are going up, and as banks are kind of calling and saying like, how are you leveraged on what does your entire kind of company’s portfolio look like? That’s a really important piece.

“And so just acknowledging the fact that like, if the, if you’re going for private sector, new development, you need to be able to meet that 15% threshold on your pro forma or the numbers, like don’t work and nothing gets built. I think there is an appetite on behalf of the industry to work with the city to see how we might do kind of the piece of our business that is really to deliver market housing supply in a way that also supports a number of the city’s other objectives, as well.

“But I think right now, and in today’s current context, one of the primary objectives needs to be new housing supply to address our current kind of backlog of shortage and take the pressure off of the entire kind of housing continuum spectrum.”

Stolte replies – “Good, thank you. I appreciate that. I don’t know the building industry well enough to understand is there.

“Is it present practice or do you think there could be some room for a property owner were to own two properties, one of which was geographically located to accommodate luxury units therefore the potential for profit margin could be much higher than 15% and approach that as a package where on another property they may own that may be more suited more suitable on say a public transit route for more affordable or attainable housing.

“Do you see there being the possibility of approaching banks with a package arrangement where one property subsidizes the other so that everybody in Burlington gets access to housing that they can afford?

Michelle Diplock promoting Arbitrary Lines, a book that highlights the alarming problems with municipal zoning. Ms Diplock did not write the book.

Diplock: “So I’m going go off script – we were hosting a meeting this morning with a variety of nonprofits and for profit builders to discuss these challenges in Hamilton. And I think one of the biggest kind of barriers for the nonprofit and delivering the affordable housing side is they don’t have the money to do the initial kind of pieces to push forward projects like that.

“So they can’t approach a bank and ask for a loan if they don’t have that kind of collateral within their portfolio which nonprofits typically do not. I think there have been some examples of builders collaborating with nonprofit organizations, but I think it’s very difficult to do across different properties. So that is one, I guess, answer, I think.”

Stolte. Thank you for that. Really helpful.

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A Freedom of Information request has produced thousands of documents that are going to keep Doug Ford awake at night

By Pepper Parr

November 1st, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Back to that drip, drip, drip stuff.

Environmental Defence published a statement earlier today setting out a major concern.  The first paragraph below sets out the context – what caused them to make Freedom of Information requests.  The meat begins in the second paragraph. The reports that the RCMP have begun to make phone calls inviting people in for a conversation adds a little spice to what is taking place.

Drip, drip, drip – do read on.

In November 2022, the Ontario government announced that it would force through massive  expansions of urban boundaries in municipalities across the province, despite those municipalities having determined those expansions would be unhelpful and even counterproductive in boosting housing supply.  This includes expanding  Halton’s settlement boundary by more than 3,000 hectares, and expanding Hamilton’s city boundary by 2,200 hectares.. These expansions were done in addition to the land removals from the Greenbelt and similarly lacked a fact-based rationale as more than ample lands were already available for development to meet the province’s home building targets. In Hamilton, forced boundary expansions were even accompanied by a forced reduction in the minimum share of housing Hamilton’s Official Plan committed to add within existing settlement boundaries.

Ecojustice – on behalf of Environmental Defence – made four freedom of information requests for documents dealing with urban boundary and Greenbelt changes

In response, Ecojustice – on behalf of Environmental Defence – made four freedom of information requests for documents dealing with urban boundary and Greenbelt changes that occurred in late 2022. The groups have obtained four orders from the Information and Privacy Commissioner in relation to these requests as a result of appeals when the Ministry failed to respond.  Of the four requests, two have now resulted in partial releases.

Last week, just days before the release of official plan documents, the Ontario government announced that it was reversing its proposed changes to urban boundaries, and legislation was tabled to reverse the Greenbelt changes. These u-turns are necessary and welcome, but both the absence of any credible good faith reason for these boundary expansions and lack of transparency regarding how they were made raises serious and lingering concerns as to what influence real estate investors and sprawl developers have at the highest levels of government over our keystone land use planning policies.

Staff Ryan Amato, Chief of Staff to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark.

The partial release reveals the chaotic, developer-led process that did an end-run around the normal planning approval process and was driven by political staff in the  Minister’s office. The documents show that Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing’s Chief of Staff Ryan Amato directed senior ministry staff to keep their mouths shut about the changes and made clear that maps showing how some of the preferred developer properties had been moved forward needed to be provided to the Premier’s Office. All of these changes, which favoured particular developers, were rushed through without proper consideration of the impact on existing planned land uses, sensitive natural features, water or agriculture.

Many of the documents, including ones from September and early October, are redacted on the basis that they are Cabinet privileged, even though the Minister and the Premier have claimed under oath that they did not know about the changes until late October 2022.

These redaction’s call that timeline into question.

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Another opportunity to meet new people and learn more about community issues.

By Staff

October 31st, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

This is different.

The Burlington Performing Arts Centre has launched a new monthly after-work series of networking events, where we bring together the local business community to mingle and learn more about local charitable organizations.

Hosted by

COGECO in Support of United Way Halton & Hamilton

Wed Nov 15, 2023 at 5-7pm

BPAC Family Lobby

Click > Registration is FREE!

Catering, Door Prizes and Cash Bar.

 

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They went to the wedding reception and left with MZO's in their pockets

By Pepper Parr

October 31st, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Relentless describes the manner NDP Leader of the Opposition Marit Stiles is taking to the Greenbelt scandal and the Doug Ford government.

In the most recent NDP media rlease they open with the line: Come for the Ford Wedding and Stay for the MZOs and then add that Ford’s Conservatives issued as many Minister’s Zoning Orders (MZOs) to benefit just the guests at a single Ford family wedding reception as the previous government issued during its entire 15 years in power

“From the Greenbelt grab to forced urban boundary expansions to MZOs, Ford has a deeply troubling pattern of putting his friends ahead of everyone else,” said Stiles. “The Ford Conservatives are already under RCMP criminal investigation for the Greenbelt.

That does not look like a friendly glance from the Premier to Minister Calandra. Is the Premier feeling challenged?

“This is yet more evidence of sketchy land deals that show just how deep this corruption goes. ”

“The former Liberal government issued 18 MZOs between 2003 and 2018.

The Ford government issued 18 MZOs benefiting just the guests at Ford’s daughter’s wedding reception, which took place on September 25, 2022.

“How many times does this government have to get caught before Ontarians see some accountability?” asked Jeff Burch, NDP critic for Municipal Affairs. “With rumours of a further MZO review on the table, we have to wonder – what is Ford afraid of? What else is he trying to get ahead of?”

MZOs are a favourite tool in Ford’s preferential treatment system. They can dramatically increase the value of land with the stroke of a pen, and they often seem to be given out to Conservative Party donors, Ford friends…and Ford family wedding guests.

Who invites wealthy business people to a wedding reception for their daughter?

Apparently these developers got invited – they certainly didn’t crash the event.

They did show up with detailed information packages setting out which of their properties they would like to see being taken out of the Greenbelt where they were protected.

Financial donations to the couple are reported to have been part of their being invited to a Stag and Doe event; something to help them cover the cost of the wedding.  What – Dad didn’t have the wherewithal to pick up the tab?.

Mobsters do stuff like that

Premier Doug Ford with his daughter on her wedding day.

There is a photograph of the Premier dancing with his daughter who had just married a police office.

The scene of the crime happened to be the Pearle Spa that is located in the Bridgewater development in Burlington.

Very swish, very well run and very expensive.

The location is superb – you walk out into the court yard area and you have a great view of the Pier, the Skyway and everything in between.  Sunsets at this location are beautiful.

A bit of background for those who haven’t been following the hottest news story of the year

On Oct. 6, the Auditor General confirmed it is investigating the government’s use of MZOs, which have disproportionately benefited developers with personal, political or donor ties to Doug Ford and the Conservative Party.

The Provincial Integrity Commissioner and the Auditor General,  at the request of the Ontario NDP  launched investigations that have have already forced the Ford government to backtrack on its Greenbelt and Urban Boundary plans.  Housing Minister Paul Calandra has hinted that a review of MZOs might be next.

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Mayor releases her version of the budget - at this point she seems to have done a pretty good job.

By Pepper Parr

October 30th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Here is how she did it.

The Mayor submitted a budget that would reduce the city portion of the tax levy by more than 3 points.

In the three charts set out below the Mayor sets out what was part of the Financial Needs report in one column and shows what her budget amount would be and in a third column she shows the variance.

The numbers deserve some comment, however we are going to wait until the Mayor formally presents her budget to City Council – that will take place in Thursday November 2nd.

Roll your cursor over the image to get an enlarged version

Mayor Meed Ward was very fulsome when she commented on her budget which will be formally presented to Council on Thursday.”I do want to thank staff for all of the work and the thinking that has gone into this. This is not easy. These are not easy times and they are not easy decisions and I do appreciate that. What has been presented is a clearer picture of the city’s needs. And it is now up to council to determine how quickly we are able to address those. I also want to thank the Deputy Mayor of strategy, budgets, performance and process (Paul Sharman) who has been enormously helpful to me and and to the staff and to the team who has been sitting around the table with all of our deep discussions to try to understand and ask questions about this budget presented in a way that is clear to the community.

Mayor Marianne Ward

There are different ways to receive it – if you want to read all 700 and change pages it is online.

There are summary reports. The the presentation that we got today even is more summarized in terms of some of the challenges that we face and we will continue the collective way.

I know I’ve gotten many emails, I’m sure other members of council have. There has been a mix of we want more services.

We want you to you know things like snow clearing of paths to school so kids can walk which is in line with climate change. It’s in line with our mobility goals and so many other things. So, as noted, the legislation requires me to present a budget so from here on out all amendments will be to that budget, we will not be amending the staff financial needs.

The budget is on the agenda for the November 2 council meeting which is this Thursday. It will be formally presenting it at that time.  I believe that it’s really important to maintain as much collaboration on the budget as we can possibly get recognizing the legislation has changed things a bit. This will allow us as a council to come to ground on what we think our priorities are going forward how quickly we want to address certain things.

Councillor Paul Sharman

At the end of the day, this budget will not be the mayor’s budget. This budget will be the mayor and Council’s budget informed by what staff have shared with us. truly collaborative as all our budgets have been and informed by the detailed responses that we’ve seen from the public to date.

There will be opportunities for public comment on the online telephone town hall November 7, plus two more committee meetings that residents can delegate to and of course you can reach out to any one of us at any time. So with that I look forward to continued discussion and collaborating to come up with the best budget that we can in the circumstances that we are in.

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Laura Boyd, Executive Director Human Resources retires

By Pepper Parr

October 30th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Another senior staff member rides into a Retirement Sunset.

Laura Boyd who has been with the city for decades has retired.  The Communications staff didn’t release any notice – City Manager Tim Commisso just mentioned that there was an Acting Executive Director.

Laura Boyd

Boyd was not everyone’s cup of tea.  She bought into the Notices of Trespass that former City Manager James Ridge issued without the authority to do so.

Several years ago Boyd issued a strongly worded report on just how poorly the different departments were not working together all that well.

As news people the Gazette applauded that report.

Boyd did see the city into a staffing growth plan that was a challenge to manage.

There was a culture problem that we don’t think was all that well understood.  Some very good people left Burlington to work is municipalities that were very close by.

Hamilton got two that were doing fine work – they just found that the environment wasn’t what they were comfortable with.

There was an assistant city clerk that found future growth didn’t offer much promise.

City Manager Tim Commisso has made some superb staff selections – most are female and young.

Tim will be vacating the City Manager office early in January – Will the Mayor talk him into serving the city is as a consultant?

Every City Manager has a style of their own.  With the city in the midst of a rapid population growth for the next eight years – whoever Council chooses will have ideas of their own – unless Council chooses one of the Executive Directors to take on the job.  There is at least one that has the skill set – the chemistry with Council might not be what Council, especially the Mayor, is looking for.

Related news stories:

Boyd sticks to her numbers – keeps the staff compliment

HR Executive Director comments on culture at City Hall

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