Measles: If you were at any of the locations listed below on the dates shown you may have been exposed to measles.

By Staff

March 31, 2014,

BURLINGTON, ON.

There has been another outbreak of measles that has the capacity to impact people in Burlington.

Persons who have visited any of the following locations may have been exposed to measles:

Saturday, March 22, 2014:

The Queen’s Head (pub), 400 Brant Street, Burlington, 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Sunday, March 23, 2014:

Milestones Restaurant, 1200 Brant Street, Burlington, 7 p.m. to midnight

Wednesday, March 25 – Friday, March 27, 2014:

Joseph Brant Hospital, 1230 North Shore Blvd., Burlington

March 25, 7 p.m. to March 26, 9:30 a.m.

March 26, 3:30 p.m. to midnight

March 27, 11:15 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The Halton Region Health Department is following up individually with patients and individuals accompanying them who may have been exposed at Joseph Brant Hospital.

“Measles is preventable through immunization with two doses of measles vaccine,” stated Dr. Monir Taha, Halton Region Associate Medical Officer of Health. “Persons who have measles need to isolate themselves while they are ill and for four full days after the rash first appears. Always call ahead before going to a health care setting.”

Measles starts with cough, runny nose, red, watery eyes, and fever, and after about four days a rash begins on the face and moves down the body. There may be white spots inside the mouth. Measles spreads easily to persons who are not immune. Infants under one year of age, pregnant women, and persons with weakened immune systems can get very ill with measles. Complications of measles can include middle ear infections, pneumonia, croup, and inflammation of the brain. Learn more at www.halton.ca/measles.

If you think you may have measles and need to see a doctor, you must call ahead to the doctor’s office, walk-in clinic, or emergency department. This will allow health care staff to give you a mask to wear when you arrive and take you straight to a room in which you can be isolated. In a doctor’s office you may be given the last appointment of the day.

For more information, dial 311 or call the Halton Region Health Department at 905-825-6000, toll-free 1-866-442-5866 or visit www.halton.ca.

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They did that pretty quickly – upped the gas prices lickety split. An interim rate increase – do we really expect those rates to come down?

By Staff

March 29, 2104

BURLINGTON, ON.

The long, cold, snowy winter isn’t over yet – and we are going to pay for it for quite a while.

The Ontario Energy Board has approved a 40% hike in natural gas rates for Enbridge Gas Distribution customers that will take effect Tuesday, boosting the average residential customer’s annual bill by about $400 a year.

Enbridge filed its application for the increase March 12, interveners had until March 17, to get their comments in – the Energy Board handed down its decision March 29th to be effective April 1st.  Name someone you know who can get a doctor’s appointment that quickly?

You will look at that gas meter a little differently now – see it as a black sink hole.

The hike is the result of Enbridge running out of its negotiated supply of gas for the winter and having to go to the open market for further supplies.

Enbridge Gas Distribution’s gas supply charge will increase from 12.68 cents per cubic metre to 17.60.

The changes would result in an overall increase of about $33 a month over the next year, according to Enbridge.

Of this $33 a month, about $20 per month relates to costs associated with this past cold winter.

The other $13 relates to the projected forecast natural gas price, both of which will be reviewed again in three months as part of the normal regulatory process.

“Our interim rates take effect on April 1, but customers won’t feel the full impact of the increase right away,” stated a release from Enbridge.

“Virtually all natural gas providers have increased their prices because of increased demand and increased gas prices over this unusually cold winter.”

They do it because they can get away with it – and we are the fools for allowing it.

Do these guys not plan for situations like this?  In their media release they refer to the increase as an “interim rate” that takes place April fool’s.  Does that mean when the supply stabilizes they will negotiate better contracts and drop the rates?  Was having this happen on April Fool’s day a coincidence?

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Oakville MPP appointed to Cabinet – no room now for McMahon running for the Liberal seat in Burlington.

By Pepper Parr

March 29, 2014

BURLINGTON, ON.

Premier Wynne is going to take part in Ted McMeekin’ s nomination event in Hamilton on Sunday.  Ted is the member for Ancaster – Dundas – Flamborough – Westdale who has served as the stand in for Burlington when we need some help at Queen’s Park.

Ted McMeekin, on the right, supports Karmel Sakran during the 2011 election.  Sakran lost but McMeekin won and was returned to Cabinet when Wynne became Premier.

McMeekin has solid Burlington roots and one of those whose political pedigree goes all the way back to the days when Bobby Kennedy was running for office in the United States and McMeekin was one of the political junkies that did some of the door to door work to get him elected.

When Burlington was beavering away at getting the funding for the re-development of the Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital – that’s what it was called then – McMeekin was the go to guy.

He wasn’t’ a Cabinet Minister then – Sophia Aggelonitus had that plum but she lost to a New Democrat in 2011.  McMeekin however was always there for us.

Last week the MPP for Oakville, Kevin Flynn was made a Cabinet Minster and given the Labour portfolio  which means  Burlington is now bracketed by Cabinet ministers.

If you listen to the Burlington provincial Liberals they will tell you that Eleanor McMahon, the nominated candidate for the Liberals in the expected any day provincial election that she will become a member of Cabinet just as soon as she can get herself elected.

Eleanor McMahon, Lineal candidate for Burlington in the next provincial election.  Will that be a spring election?

As accomplished as Eleanor McMahon is – and she has a very impressive resume (much better than Kevin Flynn’s) there is no way that Halton is going to have two MPP’s and with Ted McMeekin a stone’s throw away that would put a lot of Cabinet clout in our part of the world.

Not going to happen.

That will mean a bit of a change in the way the Eleanor McMahon does her door to door campaigning and morale will slip a bit once the reality of the Flynn appointment sets in.

The ironic part of all this is that it was the cancellation of a gas-fired energy plant in Oakville that is causing Premier Wynne so much grief.  And that problem is not going to go away anywhere soon.

In September of 2009 the Ontario Power Authority accepted TransCanada’s bid to build a 900-megawatt natural gas-fired power generation plant in Oakville.  Oct. 7, 2010 the Ontario government announced the cancellation of that power plant.

October 6, 2011 the Liberals under Premier Dalton McGuinty hold on to their seat in Oakville.

Oct. 8, 2013,   Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk pegs cost of cancelling the Oakville gas plant at between $675 million and $815 million. Estimated total costs of cancelling both plants reaches the $1-billion mark.

Kathleen Wynne was a member of that government and sat at the Cabinet table – it is a stretch to say that she wasn’t fully aware.  It will be a struggle for Wynne to continue to form the government.  The budget that is scheduled for some time in the spring will tell the tale.  If the Liberals can give the New Democrats what they will demand for their budget support, Kathleen Wynne will live another day and have time to re-build the close to decimated support the Liberal government once had.

Given enough time she has a chance – unless of course there is yet another scandal.

Meanwhile the Burlington Liberals press on with a good candidate in a tough situation.

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Angelo Bentivegna will run in ward 6 – challenges Lancaster, critical of her air park involvement.

By Pepper Parr

March 27, 2014

BURLINGTON, ON.

They are sometimes called “issue” politicians; people who had an issue with city hall and fought back to make something happen and went on to serve their communities very well as city councillors.

 These “issue” politicians tend to have had some experience with local groups where they were one of the hundreds that serve in the trenches making thee wheels go round.

Angelo Bentivegna  expects to be a force if he is elected to city council.  His learning curve will be steep.

Angela Bentivegna is an issue politician.

An immigrant to this country, he arrived in 1957 and lived in Montreal, in a less than tony part of town, where he started working at the age of 14 selling newspapers at a nickel a copy outside the old CN yards.

He got a job after that in a restaurant, completed high school, where he met the woman he married and has been married since 1978. The two of them attended McGill University at the Faculty of Education; they both wanted to be teachers.

Bentivegna has been fortunate enough to find mentors; people who saw his capacity and his energy and developed his skills in the operation and management of different kinds of restaurants.  He managed restaurants, opened up new locations for the Victoria Station operation as well as Kelsey’s where he was the owner of a franchise.

Angelo Bentivegna tends to look people in the eye and listen carefully.

When Cara bought out all the Kelsey franchises – Angelo found himself with a decent cheque in his pocket and an opportunity to strike out on his own. “I always liked the idea of working for myself and this was the time in his life when he could do that.” He said.

The restaurant business was the one thing he knew very well; he knew everyone in that business, which he explains is “really a very small community.”

Angelo and his wife both graduated as teachers – she stayed in a classroom, he roamed North America for different restaurant organizations.  Angelo and Diane lived through all of the recessions – he can name every one of them.

With a strong restaurant management background getting into retail selling products that were a part restaurant business was a natural – they opened their first shop in 1991 on Fairview –and have been in that same plaza location ever since.

Bentivegna learned to roll with the changes in the retail world.  They started selling cooking utensils and as consumer demand shifted – they shifted.  Today the Mrs. B’s Gift House focuses on gift packages and biscotti baked daily.

In TEAR Diane, Angelo’s wife, thought there was something wrong with a consistent itch she had in her chest.   The Bentivegna’s  were fortunate – early detection resulted in surgery that rid Diane of the disease.   The family was grateful and wanted to do something for the community; they decided they would purchase a Digital Mammography Unit with Biopsy attachment  for the Joseph Brant hospital – price $450,000 which didn’t seem to deter the family.  They organized their event, sold tickets, found sponsors and thought things were going just fine when they ran into a brick wall at city hall.

If Angelo Bentivegna is elected to city council he will either have to get up very very early to make the biscotti – or this city will just have to go without.

Beauty and the Bistro, the name of the fund raising event, was set up so that every penny  went to the fund to pay for the Digital Mammography Unit with Biopsy attachment – nothing, not a dime, was paid to anyone.  Angelo scrounged support from everyone he knew and in the restaurant world – he knew everyone.  Ten restaurants were lined up to serve small portions of food at a gala event where the tickets were priced at $50 – “We wanted every to be able to afford to attend”, said B

He got a party tent supplier to help out, “borrowed 1200 glasses, table cloths – you name it and Angelo B found someone to ask to donate what was needed.The event was to take place at the Leggat automobile showroom on Fairview.  That location was not zoned to hold banquets, which B wasn’t aware of but didn’t see as a problem.

 The  Mercedes-Benz dealership on the North Service Road was used for two fund raising events so B didn’t think he had a problem.  That changed when he started trying to get some help at city hall. Angelo couldn’t believe what he was hearing – why not?

He recalls one day when he asked city hall receptionist if the Mayor was in – he wasn’t.  None of the councillors were in either but he did manage to get through to the administrative assistant for Councillor Craven and she said she would help.

City planner Bruce Krushelnicki learned of the problems and help Angelo work his way through the complex process of getting a change in the zoning for the Leggat site on Fairview.

It took an appearance before the Committee of Adjustment to get a minor variance and an appearance before city council to get a $420 fee waived.  Angelo B got his permits and the city got a new bylaw that meant no one else would have to go through the same hoops ever again.  Bylaw 2020-327 solves that problem 

Angelo found getting information and clear direction at city hall confusing and frustrating – he didn’t think it was supposed to be that hard and around last Christmas began to think in terms of running for a seat on city council and working towards bringing about a change.

People can expect to know just where Angelo Bentivegna will stand when there is an issue to be addressed.

Angelo Bentivegna  is certainly persistent.  While he apparently didn’t understand the rules and there may have been a touch of impatience when he was at the counter at city hall he kept at it and finally found someone who would help and eventually got what he needed for his charitable event.

In an early draft of the platform Angelo Bentivegna  is going to run on he says he is:

Passion, persistence, and productive, that’s who I am.

I listen…. We come up with a plan and we get to work.

I will have no excuses…and will admit when I need help.

I will commit 100% of my time as a full-time Councillor.

 Expect this from me:  One voice, one ward, our community, our great City….that is what I will embrace.

The challenges for ward 6 as Angelo Bentivegna sees them are:

The Airpark on Appleby Line.  He doesn’t have any plans as to what should be done with the property once the various court appeals have been heard.  He has begun to make inroads with the people who are directly impacted by the air park however B lives south of the 407/Dundas divide. 

Many feel that it is time for someone who actually lives in the rural part of the city to sit on city council but B thinks he can overcome that problem by reaching out and being available to people.  He is very critical of the practice Councillor Lancaster had of holding her ward events at the Air Park.

 Transit is a stated issue but there are no policy outlines as to what he thinks the solutions are nor does he define the problem.  The city’s aging population and the needs of our young families that need more programs for young children are subjects B wants to focus on – but nothing specific here either.

 Ensure that we save the lakefront but no suggestions as to what should happen to the Beachway.

 There isn’t a motherhood issue that Angelo B doesn’t touch on in his campaign outline.   “We need to protect where we live, work, play and how we grow in the future”, is the clarion call.

Angelo Bentivegna has had his share of recognition for his community work.  He was a finalist for the Business Excellence Award given by the Canadian Italian Business Professional Association.  “I lost out to Angelo Paletta and I can live with that said Bentivegna

He was recognized by the Chamber of Commerce and awarded the Mayor’s Community Business Service Award in 2011

Add to that the:

Chamber of Commerce award winner of Best Retail/Wholesale Business. -2001

President’s Award for Burlington City Rep Hockey Club – 1991

President’s Club Award – Victoria Station Restaurants – 1979

President McGill University Student Faculty of Education-1976

His most recent community initiative is Chair of “Beauty and the Bistro”, a community wide, three-year fundraising initiative to purchase a Digital Mammography Unit with Biopsy attachment for Joseph Brant Hospital.

Angelo is a member and supporter of the “Gift of Giving Back” the largest community initiated food drive in Canada led by  Jean Longfield one of the Directors of the Burlington City Rep Hockey Club.

Welcomed fans and guests during the OHL Memorial Cup 2011 twelve day event, managing and co-coordinating “Hockey House” activities from beginning to end at the Hershey Centre in Mississauga for the St. Mike’s Majors.

-Initial Charter Member of Lion’s Club Foundation for Guide Dogs in Oakville…’09

Burlington City Rep Hockey Club – Vice President… 94-present

Burlington Cougars Jr. A Hockey Club Executive 2001-2003

Burlington Tourism Supporter..08-present

Parent Council and later President of Notre Dame Catholic H.S. Parent Council 1991-2001

Created a WinterLude Fundraising Program for Notre Dame High School raising funds for computers and the library program 1991-2001.

Involved as Parent Liaison on Strategic Planning Committee with Halton Catholic District School Board 1991-2001.

Volunteer for the CIBC Run for The Cure Hamilton Burlington Chapter.

Angelo B appears to have touched all the bases – can he reach out far enough to touch the hearts of the people in ward 6. It should be an interesting race.  There is an additional candidate running in ward 6, Jim Curran with a fourth candidate expected to declare early in April.


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They did it again: Those 100 Women Who Care gave the Halton Women’s Place $5200.

By Pepper Parr

March 27, 2014

BURLINGTON, ON.

Someone suggested it might be called drive through charity and while that is an apt description – there is nothing passive about the way the 52 members of a group take out their cheque books to aid others – on the spot.  No committee meetings – they just up and do it.

 Last night the group, 100 Women Who Care,  met at Tansley Woods and in under an hour and a half heard Adrienne Gosse explain what the Burlington Humane Society was doing with the $3800 they were given in January, listened to short, short presentations and passed on $5200.

The general flow of the meeting is: introductions; ask for nominations; randomly pick three names,  listen to presentations by each of the nominees and then vote for the charity of choice for this meeting.

Out came the cheque books – “what’s the date today” and as fast as that $5200 went to the Halton Women’s Place.

Ballots are handed out – the chosen charity named and out came the cheque books. The Halton Women’s Place representative went home knowing they had $5200 more to work with.

There was no one talking minutes – they don’t have a secretary, there is no treasurer – they don’t handle the money – they are just the channel the cheques run through to get from the donor to the recipient.

They are called the 100 Women Who Care Burlington and it works.

The women who show up four times a year chit-chat the way women do and pay attention to what the speakers are saying.

Adrianne Gosse, shelter manager at the Burlington Humane Society telling the 100 Women Who Care what her organization did with he funds they were given.

Last night there was a presentation from the Burlington Big Brothers and Sisters, the Junior League and the Halton Women’s Shelter.  Each presentation was less than ten minutes.  Ballots were handed out, filled in, counted, the winner announced and the cheques written.  Not every member manages to get to the group meeting.  Those that don’t make it to the meeting get an email telling them who is being given funds and cheques are made out to that organization.   

The drive by charity comment came from someone who remarked on how simple and direct it all is.  Any member can fill in a nomination form on the spot, and assuming there is a person from the group nominated, they can speak and if the members present vote for that group they go home with the cheques in their purse.

Amazing – its just DONE!

Meagan and Pat, two of the 100 Women Who Care, tidy up before going home.

This is the second meeting the group has held – there are now 52 members.  Once they reach their objective of 100 members – they will meet four times a year and raise $40,000 that gets put into the community service sector of the city.

No fuss, not a lot of noise.  Just ordinary women meeting once a month, doing what they think is right because they are able to.

Do you want to join?  Check out their Facebook page, send a message to Laurel Hubber and you’re in.  She will tell you when the group meets – bring your cheque book.

Background links:

Support went to the dogs the first time.

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Fielding gives his opinion survey tool a test drive – the wheels didn’t fall off. He would like more people involved.

By Pepper Parr

March 27, 2014

BURLINGTON, ON.

The city will be taking its best minds and prettiest faces to Queen’s Park to tell our story and present our case for more support from the province.

Burlington is sort of like that bright child that doesn’t get into trouble, runs its operations well enough ad gets forgotten.  Burlington doesn’t do drama or crisis.  Everyone likes everyone Burlington – it is the greatest place to live – so what’s to worry?

There are problems – and the city wants the province to be more aware that we are here, have a great story to tell and when we have problems – we’d at least like Queen’s Park to be aware of them.

When the discussions were taking place about IKEA taking up residence on the North service Road between Guelph Line and Walkers Line city hall staff ran into all kinds of problems with the Ministry of Transportation over just when and how the QEW might get widened.  We wanted to know what the MoT could do for us in the way of help with the interchanges on Walkers Line and staff found that there wasn’t a lot of help coming in.

Burlington realized it didn’t have a presence in the minds of the decision makers at Queen’s Park so we decided to put together a team of people who would GO train it to Toronto and meet with the provincial government

If you haven’t asked to be part of this panel – don’t complain and say city hall doesn’t listen.

As part of the preparation for that event city manager Jeff Fielding used his most recent communications tool – Insight Burlington – to ask his panel of more than 500  people what they thought the city should talk to the provincial government about.

There were six questions – four related to transportation and two related to employment.

The computer application that has been developed is kind of slick.  The questions are set out on the left hand side of your computer monitor.  On the right there is a row of boxes – one under the other with the words 1st choice, 2nd choice – right through to the 6th choice.

All you had to do was drag the question on the left to a place on the right – which was how you ranked the questions – showing which you thought was the most important to the least important.

The only thing missing was an opportunity to put in thoughts that were your own.  There could have been a box to type in a comment or a question that could have been asked.

There are times when city hall staff would like public opinion quickly.  The Insight panel makes that possible.

The members of the panel got an email yesterday afternoon and were asked to click on a link that took them to the survey.  It took just two minutes to complete the survey. Sometime at the end of the day or early tomorrow Fielding will get a report from his team that will tell him what the community thought he should do.

It is quick, short and gives city administrators a very valid sample of what the community thinks.

The program that runs behind the questions gets an even distribution from each of the six wards, a balance of age, gender and income.  All that data will have been collected earlier when the members of the panel were put into the system

Fielding would like a bigger panel and he wishes the members of council has been more diligent in promoting the idea.  He believes that over time people will hear about the panel and want to become part of it.

Fielding would like a bigger panel and he wishes the members of council has been more diligent in promoting the idea.The beauty of this service is that the city is able to get opinions very quickly – and they don’t know who you are – they just know that you are of a certain age, which ward you live in, if you are a home owner or an apartment dweller.  The will know if you drive a car or are a transit user or both.  But they don’t know who YOU are.

If you would like to become part of the panel – log into the web site and answer the questions – remember – they don’t know who you are.  The data collected is not kept at city hall.  All they get are the results of the survey.

If you believe in a democracy and want to be of service to your community – became part of the panel.  Some people have mentioned that they applied and were told they were on a waiting list.  That would have been because there were too many people, say, of a certain age group which would skew the sample population.

While this is an extreme example: if 56% of the population is female but 80% of the people who applied were male – the results would not be reflective of the city.  So some of those male applicants would get put on a waiting list and when the number of female applicants in the same age grouping increased they would be added to the survey panel.

What is vital is that the sample be reflective of the city’s population.

It will be interesting to hear what the city got back in the way of rankings to the six questions that were asked.

Background links:

City to create an opinion  survey panel.

City recruiting panel members.

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Sharp eyes in Aldershot bring police to the scene of a house break-in.

By Staff

March 27, 2014

BURLINGTON, ON

On Wednesday March 26th  shortly before 11:00 am, a citizen reported seeing a suspicious white truck and a male going door-to-door along Teal Drive in Burlington.

 Police converged on the area and located a residence which had been broken into and a laptop was stolen.  A search of the area failed to turn up the white truck or suspect however the stolen laptop was located and appears to have been discarded by the suspect on Tanager Avenue.

 Several witnesses reported seeing the male running through numerous backyards and into the passenger seat of the white truck on Partridge Drive which then took off at a high rate of speed.

No description was obtained for the driver of the white truck however the suspect in the entry is described as a white male in his 20’s wearing a hat, navy blue and black puffy knee-length jacket, black pants and white running shoes.

 Police are seeking assistance from area residents who may have information and/or surveillance cameras which might assist in identifying the suspect and/or the suspect vehicle and its’ driver.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Detective Constable Mark Urie of the 3 District Criminal Investigations Bureau, Residential Crime Team at 905 825-4747 ext 2338.

Alternatively, anyone with information on this or any other crime can anonymously call Crime Stoppers at 1 800 222-TIPS(8477), through the web at www.haltoncrimestoppers.com or by texting ‘Tip201’ with your message to 274637(crimes).

Burlington is clearly a city with citizens who notice suspicious behaviour and report it to the police quickly.

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Elections: In the end, democracy is about representing the public will.

By Ray Rivers

March 26, 2014

BURLINGTON, ON.

If it aint broke dont fix it.  Canada is held up as a model for how to run elections – we are recognized as having the best electoral system anywhere – and 85% of Canadians also thought our last federal election was perfectly fair.  So why has the government introduced their so-called Fair Elections Act?  And why is this Bill getting panned/dumped on by just about everybody, including a national newspaper and some 150 political scientists around the world?

Raid on Conservative Party offices” Elections Canada wanted data.

For one thing the process is flawed. Everyone knows that the PM has been engaging in a war with Elections Canada – ever since they nailed him on his partys in-and-out funding scandal.  Why would anyone expect him to be impartial?  Shouldnt something as important as changing our electoral process be managed by an independent body, rather than at the whim of one of the political parties?  Why were there no consultations prior to introducing the Bill – not with the other political parties, not with the public and not even with Elections Canada, who might know a thing or two about elections?

Elections Canadas mandate currently includes encouraging more people to vote.  We understand that democracy works best when more citizens are involved.  But this Bill would diminish that objective and further suppress voting by removing vouching, which was used without issue by thousands of voters in the last election.  The government claims vouchingis problematic, and there may be better ways to assist those without adequate ID to secure their right to the ballot box.  But just excluding voters without adequate identification is throwing out the baby with the bath water.  And, critics say the minister proposing this change is wrong – hasnt done his homework. 

Not terrible numbers – but they should be higher – 70% across the country.

Some nations, like Australia, legally require their citizens to vote; why would we want to do anything to suppress voting, to discourage people from exercising their franchise?  If one wants to vote in Australia and isnt carrying the right identification they can just swear an oath and declare their right to get a ballot.  Further, shouldnt we be finding more inclusive ways of voting, like internet voting to facilitate and enable more of our youth to participate in the democratic process?  We do internet banking dont we?  Surely, we can manage the process of issuing secure pinnumbers.

For a number of years Canadas official political parties received direct public funding, the amount dependent on how well they had performed in the previous election.  This reduced the influence of money, and the power of wealthy contributors, in shaping government policy.  Germany, Sweden, Israel, Australia, Austria and Spain are among the growing number of countries with public funding, now representing over half of those with elected democracies.  US presidential candidates may elect for public finding.  And just to be clear, note that we subsidize political parties with the public purse anyway – through tax-deductible donations.

Mr. Harper, when leading his minority government, eliminated corporate and union funding and reduced the individual contribution limits to $1000, keeping his earlier election promise.  And it was relatively easy for him since the Conservatives are more effective at attracting individual donations than the other parties. Then, after gaining his majority, he cancelled the public funding program to solidify his private funding advantage.  And the new Bill would raise that individual donation limit by a whacking 50%.  The Bill, for some bizarre reason the government has difficulty explaining, also exempts political parties from spending limits for fund-raising activities.

The report had to be one of the most embarrassing for a democracy

For something labelled Fair Elections Act, the Bill fails to improve fairness in any meaningful way, such as giving Elections Canada the power to investigate political parties and compel testimony of those suspected of committing transgressions.  This limitation came to light with the Robocalls scandal, in which the Tories were also implicated.  To make it even more difficult for irregularities to be uncovered and those guilty penalized, the Bill shifts that responsibility to a partisan minister (attorney general), and muzzles the politically impartial Elections Canada which reports to Parliament as a whole.

And wouldnt something called Fair Elections deal with the unfairness of the first-past-the-post (FPP) system in our problematic multi-party environment – one that enables a PM winning less than 40% of the popular vote to rule the country at his/her pleasure for a full unfettered four years.  New Zealand, Germany and a host of other nations use a proportional electoral system, where some of the MPs are chosen FPP and the others appointed by the relevant political parties based on their share of the popular vote.  The results for these nations have been generally positive with less violent swings in public policy.

In the end, democracy is about representing the public will.The Green Party and NDP are big supporters of proportional representation.  The Liberals are promoting a preferential system that would ensure future governments are elected by at least half the voters.  Toronto city voters may use a similar system in this years mayoral election.  Voters would rank candidates, and the second and third choices of the lowest scoring candidates would get added to the highest scoring candidatestallies – until one has emerged with over 50% support.

It is about one person, one vote by an informed voter.

In the end, democracy is about representing the public will.  It is unfair to be subjected to the ideological whims of a political party, be it right or left-wing, which came to power with the support of less than half of the electors, let alone 38%.   Fixing that irregularly would be a worthwhile endeavour.  Otherwise, calling this Bill the Fair Elections Actis a huge misnomer.  It is nothing more than a crude attempt to break and handicap what seems to be working just fine.

Background links:

Fair Elections Act      Elections Canada       Implications      More Implications      Ranked Voting       Conservatives Muzzling

Elections Act      Critics      NDP Tour on Elections Act       Kill This Bill      Government Strikes Back     Voter Fraud    Real Problems

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Pot hole reporting goes electronic – no more calls to your city councillors; they will be happy campers.

By Staff

March 25, 2014

BURLINGTON, ON

You will soon no longer have to call your council member to complain about pot holes on your street.

New city service: located on the city website.

The city is currently testing a software application that will be on the city’s web site that will allow you to report a pot hole, get a confirmation that the report was received and then get a notice telling you the pot hole has been fixed.

AND you will be able to go to a map and see all the pot hole reports that have been submitted and what their status is.  That should be a very busy map.

Deb Caughlin, E-GOV project manager sat before the city’s Development and Infrastructure committee and explained how this website application (they call it a widget) was going to work – and then made the mistake of trying to go live on-line and show council members how cool this was.

The demo had clearly not been fully tested – it didn’t work but Caughlin assured council that the thing did work – it was currently in the testing phase.

Form you use on-line to report a pot hole.  Pretty simple.  When testing is complete you will be able to see the report you made on a map as well as get a notice that your report was received and then a report when it has been fixed. City reports that there have been 440 reports of pot holes made so far – all by telephone or email.

Burlington has made a significant commitment to pushing as much as possible in the way of city hall interaction on-line.  It is easier for the public and requires next to nothing in terms of day-to-day staff time.  The initiative is one the city bought – $16,000 for the initial year – less for following years.

The service can be modified to be used to report sign problems, street lights and traffic lights.

This is the report you get back just as soon as you send in your pot hole report.

What if a bunch of high school students decide they want to flood the system with prank reports – the system is designed to spot when excessive traffic is coming from a single computer – which will make it difficult for that senior who has nothing better to do than pester city hall while they do their civic thing.

There will be glitches – but it’s a neat idea.  Right now you can go to the graphic on the home page of the city website – click on the image and you get taken to the widget.

At this point all you can do is report a pot hole.  Staff expects to have the testing and staff training done by the end of the first week in April and go live shortly after that.

You are asked for an email address – if you don’t give one – you can’t get a notice that the pot hole has been fixed.

This is a sample of the kind of map that you can log into to see how your pot hole is being taken care of and also just how many there are being fixed and their status.  Users will be able to zoom in and zoom out of the map.  Playing with this should keep some people up very late.

We will let you know when the service is fully operational – meanwhile you can report pot holes now.

The service is being built to operate on Smart Phones as well.  The service SEE, CLICK,FIX  is being used in city’s across North America.  If you are in a city that has the service you will be able to report pot holes there as well.  We can’t wait to learn that Hamilton is using the service.  Mains Street west is brutal.

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Second bank robbery on Brant Street in the last three months; no weapons seen – no injuries.

By Staff

March 25, 2014

BURLINGTON, ON.

The Halton Regional Police Service is reaching out to the public to assist in identifying a suspect involved in a bank robbery.

Just after 10:30 am this morning, Tuesday March 25th, 2014, a lone male entered the CIBC Bank at  575 Brant Street  and demanded cash.

No weapons were seen on the suspect or observed by bank employees.  No one was injured.

The suspect was given a quantity of cash and he subsequently left the bank last seen walking northbound on Brant Street.

Suspected bank robber at the tellers wicket.  No one was injured – cash was taken.

Suspect Description:

Male, white
40 to 50 years of age
Approximately 5’10” to 5’11″”
Large build, 200 lbs
Wearing blue jeans and a black hoodie underneath a plaid coat, dark sunglasses and a black ski mask with a baseball cap.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Detective John Ophoven, 3 District Criminal Investigations Bureau at 905 825-4747 ext 2343

Bank robbery suspect captured on security camera walking towards the tellers.

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

This is the second bank robbery in Burlington within the last three months.  In January the Bank of Montreal was held up by a lone male bandit.  Police dogs were brought in but the scent was gone.  No arrest was made yet for that robbery.

Background links:

BMO on Brant Street robbed in January.

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Council having a tough time getting through all the reports: developer isn’t having a problem.

By Pepper Parr

March 25, 2014

BURLINGTON, ON

There was a lot of energy lost, a lot of huffing and puffing as well as a lot of sometimes silly back and forth taking place yesterday at city council.

The Official Plan review is producing document after document which some members of council are finding it hard to keep up with.

The Planning department had distributed copies of two very significant reports; one was the final Phase 2 of the Employment Lands study and the other was a Commercial Strategy Study, it came in two parts, Phase 2 and Phase 3 reports.

Consultants were on hand to take council through the documents and we will report on what they had to say in a follow up report. Several members of Council commented that “these were weighty documents” and they needed time to fully understand and appreciate what was in the documents – and the contents were significant.

The team developing the documents that the public gets to see as part of the Official Plan Review has not produced very much on their progress – they have been busy getting the documents ready  for distribution.

During the phase the planners are in they hope – and they do have their fingers crossed, to achieve the following.  Expect some slippage on the schedule – which is not necessarily a bad thing.

  • “Full Launch” of engagement strategy
  • Implement approved workplan
  • Engage on the collective vision for the city and potential directions
  • Gain deeper understanding of issues, questions and opportunities
  • Identify and assess emerging directions to inform policy development

Ward 3 Councillor John Taylor is all smiles here as he waves three reports that were given to council yesterday; he wasn’t all smiles when he fumed at the overload and the time he wasn’t being given to read and absorb the content. Other council members said they too needed more time.

Several council members were overwhelmed with the content and wanted more time to review the contents.  The problem is that the OPR team is running up against problems with the calendar.

Council members want more time to review the documents; they also want to meet in what they call a Workshop setting where they can ask the consultants all kinds of questions and do what in the recent past has proven to be some very solid interaction where members of council learn and fully understand what is in the consultant’s reports.

The Official Plan Review team has a huge task on their hands and they have to juggle a number of research projects at the same time and manage to find time for real public engagement. The above sets out the projects that all have to be eventually pulled together to create what will become the city’s official plan for the next five years.

Traditionally, staff transmits documents to council that are then in the public domain.  The Planning department then prepares its report on the consultant’s document and then that report – the one written by the planners – is debated at a council Standing Committee meeting.

This Council wants to change that approach.  They want to hold a workshop at which they discuss the consultant’s report with the consultants in an open session.  The Planning staff would take part in the workshop.

Then, after getting a sense of where the members of city council are going with their thinking – planning staff would write their reports that would include recommendations that council would debate and accept or reject.

The calendar and the time schedule that the OPR team have to work with is going to make this very tight.  And, there are some professional concerns.  The city has a well-paid and very qualified staff (those words came from the city planner – not me) and they have to be given the time to discuss and debate as planners what will work and what will not work for Burlington.  The consultants are people we hire, explained Bruce Krushelnicki and we accept or reject what they suggest.

There is a tremendous amount of work to be done and some very hard thinking as well.  These two reports are critical to how the city approaches its economic development.  And without a significant change in its economic development Burlington as a city has some very real problems.

While the city figures out how it wants to handle the reports the people over at Paletta, who own the biggest chunk of those employment lands know what they want to do.  In a letter sent to the city WHEN they said:

Paletta International Corporation (“PIC”), the owner of approximately  120 hectares of land located west of Burloak Drive between Upper Middle Road and Mainway, known as Bronte Creek Meadows (“BCM”).  BCM has a long history which is known to many Councilors and Staff.

In their letter PIC disagreed sharply with the direction the consultants reports were going and said that BCM is not “part of a strategic concentration of employment lands”.  

PCI said at that time, December 21, 201, that they were continuing to review some of the more technical aspects of the Draft Study but that “even at this early stage it is clear that the draft report is premised on a fatally flawed assumption; namely, that BCM is part of a strategic concentration of employment lands. In fact, BCM has no strategic locational advantages for employment purposes. It has no access to rail, no visibility to 400 series highways and relatively poor access to 400 series highways.

The document went on to say that PCI “has cooperated with the City in marketing the site for employment purposes for many years with no success.

As such, PIC does not support the conclusions of the Draft report in respect of BCM and will oppose any attempt to impose a secondary plan for employment uses on these lands. A secondary plan would be a waste of resources as the lands are not attractive for employment uses.  A secondary plan will not change that essential fact.

Also included in the information given to council was a second letter from Paletta dated March 24th, 2014 in which they said they had serious problems with the “methodology and conclusions” used by the consultants.  Clearly, Paletta had read the reports and figured out very quickly where there interests were being pinched.  Why is it that the Paletta people can read faster than those on city council?

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Just how much public input should there be in city hall decisions? Some think there should be more input than they have now.

By Pepper Parr

March 23, 2014

BURLINGTON, ON.

Point: Notices were mailed to all the people in the rural community about a meeting to consider the idea of a special cultural/heritage district, unfortunately they went out a couple of days after the event.  Turnout was less than expected.

Point: The city posts all kinds of detail on its website and develops stories encouraging people to consider running for public office – but, for reasons which were never made clear, they took down that portion of the web site that had all the financial returns from the 2010 municipal election.

The financial return is the document that sets out how much money each candidate raised, who the donours were and what the funds raised were spent on.  Vital information for anyone who decides they want to run against an incumbent.

The documents have since been put back up on the city website.  Why were they taken down and who made that decision?

Public input on the budget was limited to an overview and a workbook  people could make comments in.

Point:  The city holds a public meeting on the budget the finance department has prepared.  While there is just the one meeting held in the downtown core, it is well attended and staff are very attentive in answering questions.  There is talk of plans for additional public meetings in 2015 in the Dundas part of town now that the Alton campus is operational.

The city had very competent staff on hand at public sessions to answer questions – on decisions that had already been made.

Vanessa Warren, one of the people who led the public reaction to the dumping of landfill on the airpark site on Appleby Line, asked why the city was coming to the public with spending that was already decided on.  She wanted to know why the public wasn’t being asked how it wanted its money spent BEFORE decisions were made.

City manager Jeff Fielding, would dearly love to have feedback from the public on key issues and has devoted a significant part of the budget he has to run his office to a process that he hopes will give him almost instant access to a panel of people who can answers questions. The unfortunate part of this $100,000 + expense is that the public response has not been overwhelming – there were less than 500 people on the panel at last count.

It is a two-sided coin – the public wants information – well the more vocal part of the public wants more information, and the city is being moved in a direction where public input will be critical.  Getting to a point where what the public wants and what the city would like is the challenge for the city.

Back in 2010 the late John Boich and former Mayor Walter Mulkewich authored the Shape Burlington report in which they identified an “information deficit” in the city.  City hall didn’t take all that kindly to the report – a report on which they haven’t responded to all that well since its publication even though city council voted unanimously to support the document.

The Shape Burlington report said the city has an \"information deficit\"Boich and Mulkewich recommend that there be a Citizens charter – a document that sets out what every citizen can expect from the city.  There is such a document but you would be very hard pressed to find the thing on the web site and the “implementation plan” for that document has yet to be completed.

Would it be fair to say that the administration at city hall isn’t really behind the concept of a charter other than collecting data and then doing nothing with it?

There is a demographic divide at city hall – both within the administration and at the council level.  There are people in the planning department and over at finance who genuinely want the public to know what is being done and are eager to hear what people have to say.

The city manager certainly wants public input and is delighted when he meets people who can help him determine the public will.  However, getting all of his senior team onside has been and is continuing to be a challenge.

There is an item on a Standing Committee agenda somewhere in the works that will discuss the Community Engagement plans; this doesn’t appear to be a priority item but then real community engagement has never been a priority for this city. 

Two of the current city council members were on the Shape Burlington committee – one would think they would be chomping at the bit regularly to get some movement on the Citizen’s charter.  Both Councillors Blair Lancaster, ward 6 and Paul Sharman, ward 5 have said very little about this during their term of office.

It is going to take a city council with a younger, more committed demographic to bring about any change.

Both Councillors Blair Lancaster, ward 6 and Paul Sharman, ward 5 have said very little about this during their term of office.There are a few, precious few, on council who want to hear what their constituents think and treat those people who write out their delegation and trudge over to city hall and take the time to make their point of view known.  Yes, there are people whose delegations are  sometimes poorly prepared and on other occasions delivered in a less than respectful manner.  But there have been a number of excellent delegations that have resulted in a change.

On many occasions city council is hearing from people who are angry, mad and upset.  Their council is making decisions they don’t like about the place they call home.  Look at the 250+ people who were opposed to the building of a six storey apartment building on New Street – they just didn’t want to see that kind of change in their neighbourhood.  They said they could live with four storey but other than Councillor Meed Ward, who asked some very pointed questions and got mushy answers, no one explained why a four storey structure couldn’t be built.

The city did nothing to educate that public. Sure, public meetings were held but there was not very much that was educational about those events.  Usually a planner representing the interests of a developer is explaining what they have already decided to do.

Could the planning department not think in terms of putting in place a process whereby staff review an application and decide at that very early stage if some public education is necessary?  Then assemble a team of people who would put together an outline of all the up sides and down sides of the development – cover everything and prepare a public for the change coming their way.

Ken Greenberg, a noted planner was brought to Burlington as part of the Mayor’s Inspire series.  He explained how in Toronto developers first went to the community with their ideas and looked for buy in at that level before they put as much as a pencil to a piece of paper

In Toronto developers first went to the community with their ideas and looked for buy in at that level before they put as much as a pencil to a piece of paperGreenberg told the Burlington audience that this approach gave the developers a clear sense of what the community would tolerate and gave the community an opportunity to have their ideas seriously considered before anything went too far.

What Burlington is looking for is a way to move forward with developments and at the same time find a way to effectively communicate with the tax payers.  We’ve not managed to do that – so far.

But there is hope – the proposal to do something to further protect the rural part of Burlington plans on having very significant community involvement.  More about that proposal later.

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Advocate for preventing railway crossing deaths given a bigger platform by Miniter of Transport: Raitt to promote better safety.

By Pepper Parr

March 23, 2014

BURLINGTON, ON.

Denise Davy, a mother who lost a son in a railway crossing accident, became a tireless advocate for change and took her concern about the lack of safety barriers at railway crossings in Burlington to city council.  She managed to bring about changes – there are barriers now in a number of places where people foolishly scoot across railway tracks, including ward 4 councillor Jack Dennison who publicly set an example he showed be ashamed of – but apparently isn’t.

There is now a sturdy fence at this rail line.

Davy, a former Spectator reporter, who now runs a writing and editing business, took her cause to the Regional government; she took it to Mississauga and got invited to a Roundtable held by the Member of Parliament for Halton,  and also the Minister of Transport, Lisa Raitt.  Here was someone who could do something.

Davy understood that she was to be one of a number of people taking part in a discussion about safety features along the railway tracks.  She was amongst some pretty important people:

Attending were: His Worship, Gordon Krantz, Mayor of Milton; Andrew Siltala, Senior Manager, Economic Development, Town of Milton; Bill Mann, Chief Administrative Officer, Town of Milton; Jean Tierney, Senior Director, Corporate Safety and Security, VIA Rail Canada; Susan William, Regional General Manager, Central, VIA Rail Canada; Greg Percy, President, GO Transit; Paul Finnerty, Vice President, Operations, GO Transit; Michael Farkouh, Vice President, Safety and Sustainability, Canadian National Railway; John Orr, Vice President, Eastern Canada, Canadian National Railway; Randy Marsh, Manager, Community Relations, Canadian Pacific Railway; Andy Ash, Director, Dangerous Goods, Railway Association of Canada; Brad Davey, Executive Director, OntarioConnex; Eve Adams, Member of Parliament, Mississauga-Brampton South and a Representative from the Halton Police.

Simple message bearing a lot of the pain that results from a needless death at a place where rail tracks were easily cross.  No more at this crossing.

There wasn’t a hope in hades that Denise Davy would have ever been able to pull a group of people with the kind of clout this crowd had.  Davy saw herself as one of the group and was a little stunned when after a few words from Minister Raitt, she turned to Davy and gave her the floor.  It wasn’t what Davy was expecting but she dove into her story, her experience and explained for the hundredth time that education alone does not work – barriers have to be put up – and if those barriers are expensive then we have to find a way to pay for them.

She worked at dispelling the myth that most of the people who lose their lives on railway tracks are suicides – the people in the rail transportation business have words to describe them: deliberates and accidentals.  To Denise Davy they are all lives that were needlessly lost.

She points to the way the public safety people reacted to motorcycle people who used to drive without helmets – we passed laws requiring motorcycle people to wear helmets and we reduced deaths.  We are in the process of putting in stiffer penalties in place for those who text and think they can drive at the same time.   We learned she said that public education didn’t work in those situations and we know it doesn’t work to prevent rail crossing deaths.  If it is going to cost money – then we have to find that money.

There weren’t a lot of concrete suggestions thrown out by others; mainly they went around the room and talked about what they’re currently doing, which included everything from public education to putting educational campaigns in the schools.

A fence that cannot be easily climbed with a notice and a contact number for those under severe emotional stress is now in place at Drury Lane.  Now for the rest of the Region and then the rest of the province and then the rest of the country.

Davy said she listened and commented then said that the problem was clearly none of the things they were doing are working because people are still being killed.

Raitt proved to want to be more proactive than many expected. She made it absolutely clear according to Davy, that this is an issue for her, that she is concerned and glad that it was brought to her attention and said that it should be included with an overall review on rail safety. She is going to connect with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and Rail Association of Canada and get the conversation going on the issue with them as well.

She also wants to go big with something on rail safety week which is April 28. It was mentioned a few times by various people, that the area around the GTA has the highest number of accidents in Canada.

Raitt gave Davy a printout that listed 29 accidents and incidents in Burlington, Milton and Oakville between 2009 and 2013. The total for Halton for same period was 46.

The tragedy came right to the doorstep of the Friday Roundtable in Milton.  Passengers on the Lakeshore West GO line got the following message:  Due to a police investigation of a trespasser fatality at Clarkson, train service on your line is suspended between Port Credit and Clarkson until further notice.

Davy had not seen the message as she was preparing to drive from Burlington to Milton for the Roundtable.  “That is unreal. How many more people have to die before something is done!!! My heart is breaking reading this.”   All the pain, the grief, the sorrow and the hurt came flooding back and the realization that the anniversary of her son’s loss was less than a week away.

Trooper that she is, Davy attended the meeting and left with a platform created for her by the Minister of Transport to get the message out.  The matter of rail crossing safety was not on the agenda said the Minister – and added that “it is now”.

Denise Davy rests a little easier knowing that fences like this at places where rail lines were once easily crossed might eventually get put up across the province.

Raitt is planning something for the week of April 28th – Rail Safety week in Canada.  The rail car disaster in Lac Megantic is the high-profile event – but Denise Davy now has a platform she can work from.  She said after the Roundtable: “ I know change can’t come right away and the fact that I was given a platform to speak to such high level officials who are in a position to make change was a huge step forward.”

“The main thing” said Davy is “to watch where it goes from here. I am going to plan something for April 28 and told everyone in the room I would be open to working with any of them to do something on that date.”

Before Denise gets to April 28 – she first has to deal with March 27th.

Background links:

Single citizen get rail crossing safety improved.

Rail crossing deaths brought to attention of council.

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Another drug raid; three more drug trade types off the streets – for how long?

By Staff

March 21, 2014

BURLINGTON, ON.

In the early morning hours of March 21st 2014, The Halton Regional Police, Burlington Strategic Support Team (SST), concluded a drug trafficking investigation that resulted in three arrests and the execution of a Controlled Drugs and Substances Act search warrant at a Burlington residence

Seized as a result of the Investigation:

 323 grams of marihuana (approximately 11.39 ounces/ 0.71 pounds),
1/2 gram of Cocaine,

The drugs have an estimated street value of $2600.00.

The following persons have been charged:

Gary DEAN (22 yrs) of Brant Street in Burlington (Held for Bail)

  • Trafficking a controlled substance (marihuana)
  • Possession of a controlled substance (marihuana) for the Purpose of Trafficking
  • Possession of a controlled substance (Cocaine)
  • Breach of Probation
  • Breach of Recognizance

Colleen MCCAIG (24 yrs) of New Street in Burlington (Released on Promise to Appear in Milton Court on April 29th 2014)

  • Trafficking a controlled substance (marihuana)
  • Possession of a controlled substance (marihuana) for the Purpose of Trafficking
  • Possession of a controlled substance (Cocaine)

 James VAN VIEGEN (27 yrs) of East 42nd Street in Hamilton (Released on Promise to Appear in Milton Court on April 22nd 2014)

  • Possession of a controlled substance (marihuana) under 30 grams
  • Breach of Probation

Investigators remind the public to utilize Crime Stoppers to report any illegal drug, gun or gang activity at 1-800-222-TIPS(8477), through the web at www.haltoncrimestoppers.com or by texting “Tip201” with your message to 274637(crimes)

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Province proposes to limit salary increases for MPP’s until the budget is balanced – in 2019.

By Pepper Parr

March 21, 2014

BURLINGTON, ON.

The media release said the province was going to freeze MPP salaries until the provincial budget is balanced.  Sounded reasonable – but the news release didn’t say how much MPP’s are paid now nor did it make any mention of the allowances and perks they get.

The pay freeze, if it passes, would extend the current freeze on MPP salaries until the provincial budget is balanced in 2017-18. The MPP Salary Freeze Act would not allow pay increases to take effect until April 1, 2019, after the Public Accounts confirm a balanced budget.

Compensation costs account for over half of all Ontario government spending, either paid directly through the Ontario Public Service or as part of the government’s transfer payments to universities, hospitals and other public sector partners.

The government has identified the management of public sector compensation as an important part of its plan to control costs while also maintaining public services that families rely on like health care and education.  

In 2004, a salary freeze for MPPs was implemented from October 2003 until April 1, 2005.

The 2009 budget announced that MPP salaries would be frozen for one year beginning on April 1, 2009. That salary freeze was extended in the 2010 budget for two years and in the 2012 budget for an additional two years, bringing the total length of the current pay freeze to five years.

The media release makes no mention of any increase between April 2005 and 2009. It is the decision to be selective with the information that is given out that ticks off the public. The men and women who serve as MPP’s are entitled to a decent wage and a pension plan plus expenses that they incur when they do their jobs.

The Burlington MPP gets an allowance to pay for accommodation in Toronto for those evenings when the legislature runs late. It’s a 45 minute drive from Queen’s Park to Burlington – no need for the cost of an apartment to stay over. If a session runs really, really late – OK let the MPP get reimbursed for a hotel room – a moderately priced hotel room if you don’t mind.

We would love to know how often MPP Jane McKenna stays overnight in Toronto and how often members of her family use the apartment when they are in Toronto. Same goes for how often Ted Chudleigh, the Halton MPP stays in Toronto.

In 1996, the defined benefit pension plan for MPPs was wound up and members and beneficiaries were paid the value of the benefits earned to that date. MPPs now have a defined contribution pension plan.

Since 2009, Ontario has initiated compensation restraint measures for members of the Ontario public sector and broader public sector, and has indicated that compensation costs must be managed within Ontario’s existing fiscal framework.

Ontario public sector wage settlements continue to be below the average of private sector, municipal sector and federal public sector settlements.

Tax payers want a government that they see as people looking out for the interests of the public. We frequently hear people running for election say it is an honour to serve the pubic – that tends to stick in the throat when we read about the massive cost of WORD of shutting down the construction of two gas plants before the last election and then reading details of the amounts paid to consultants and law firms to handle the shut down and then learning that documents critical to an honest investigation of who did what when are no longer available – erased from hard drives on computers.

These politicians toss around the loss at more than $1 billion – a BILLION – most of us have to pause to figure out how many zeroes that is.

The current Premier seems like a decent hard-working woman; she is certainly out there working hard. But one could have, and many people said the same thing about former Premier Dalton McGuinty who resigned as Premier on really short notice.

We need government – and the people who do that work are entitled to good incomes. It is hard work and they are in the public eye almost every hour of every day.

We just want better value for the money we have to spend.

Burlington currently has its own little employee perk problem. City hall staff get free parking which comes in at about a quarter of a million a year. How many people get their parking paid for by their employer?

When ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward brought this up during the budget deliberations there wasn’t a line up of council members ready to support her position. The city manager said at the time that what Meed Ward had brought to council appeared to have merit. Jeff Fielding doesn’t use language like that lightly. Most of the Council members wanted to see a detailed report on what the city was required to do if in fact paid parking was a taxable benefit.  They all voted to have a report prepared – but there was not date set as to when that report would come back to council.

An opportunity to lead was missed – by ever one of the except for Councillor Meed Ward.  Councillors Craven, Taylor, Dennison, Sharma and Lancaster as well as the Mayor punted the ball back to staff – they very people who enjoy the benefit.  Anyone of the six could have said:  If this is a problem we need to fix it quickly.  Instead they put made sure the funds to pay for that free parking came out of the tax revenue account and into the parking revenue you account where it is then used to pay for the free parking.

The city finance department should have known if the benefit was taxable or not and brought a recommendation to council.

It’s exasperating.

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City approves six storey building on New Street despite 250+ objections. Future of Brock lands is a big question.

By Pepper Parr

March 20, 2014

BURLINGTON, ON.

Change is probably the hardest thing people find they have to do.

We like what we have and fail to realize that what we have is because someone made a change a long time ago. Normally intelligent people at times use arguments that are – well let’s see they are less than well founded – to make a point to prevent a change.

One of the more recent struggles city council faced Monday evening was the approving of the M project on New Street at Cumberland where plans for a six storey structure were approved on a 6-1 vote with Councillor Meed Ward voting against the project.

Those residents who opposed the project – and there were a lot of them;  250+ – do have the right to appeal the city’s decision to the Ontario Municipal Board which is where Ward 2 council member Marianne Meed Ward would like to see this go.

She urged her council colleagues to require the developer to come back with a structure that was four storeys in height which would have conformed to the rules as she understood them.

The underlying issue was intensification – we are going to grow, people are going to come to Burlington and there has to be a place for them to live.

The Maranatha project is not an inexpensive place to live.  While it does have an innovative “life lease” feature, its strong point is that it is a place for people who want to live in a particular community with a clear set of values now have a place to go.  In this instance it happens to be a Christian community that has provided housing for decades.

The developer first came to the city with an 8 storey application and later reduced that to seven storeys.  The massing was just too much for the residents.

Meed Ward argued for a four storey project – which would not have had to come to council.  The developers wanted eight storeys originally but dropped it to seven and then to six and came back with a project that has a lot less massing that the original design.

Councillor Dennison made the point that if the project was a four storey building the foot print would be much larger with much less green space and fewer trees.  The choices were – high and thin or low and fat.  Council went for the height.

From time to time much of what council does is on the mundane side but on occasion the public gets to see how they think and the values they work from.

There were a number of delegations; the one from the community brought nothing new to the argument other than a statement that Roseland Height Community Organization founder Brian Heagle prepared for the spokesperson to read.  One wonders why Heagle didn’t appear on his own behalf – he is not known for being shy.

Traffic congestion was brought up as a concern: Mayor Goldring told the delegation that staff reports indicate the project will add 30 cars to the morning traffic – less than a 3% increase and 50 cars to the evening traffic – less than 5% more. 

At a previous meeting objectors made mention of a 40 foot sink hole – that proved to be a two foot wide hole that was the result of utility lines beneath a road.

What was bothersome was the twisting of information – the spin put on facts and the way information was not fully researched.  Anup Ogale, spokesperson for the Roseland Heights Community Organization (RHCO) spoke of “opening the floodgates” for similar incompatible properties along New Street when a drive along that road reveals that there aren’t any properties left be assembled – no flood gates to be opened.

The six storey submission from the developer was the result of intense discussion with city hall planners.

That being said Ogale did make some solid points.  The issue was massing – there was from the RHCO point of view, too much building for that part of town.  That Burlington has to build was not their issue: where, how high and in what way: “there’s the rub” said Ogale.  He added that “you’re the gate keepers, to protect and enhance what our community wants and or needs …Tough decisions.”

“You’re the gate keepers, to protect and enhance what our community wants and or needs …Tough decisions.”“The developers” explained Ogale, “first proposed eight storeys.  That wouldn’t pass.  So the building was modified to 7 storey’s, now six. Start at 8 when a maximum of four is permitted.  Reach a compromise at 6.  With respect, this isn’t a poker game.  It’s not about who will blink first; 6 storeys is not a winning hand in any event.”

Burlington has an Official Plan said Ogale, “It is not called an Official suggestion.”  He added that it is vital to respect and uphold the Official Plan or people end up saying: “Why bother to fight this if Council won’t listen.”

His comments reflect a misunderstanding as to just what an Official Plan is and what it is expected to do.  The document is one the city has to revise every five years – Burlington is currently undergoing such a review now – they take more than a year to complete.

The Official Plan sets out a big picture vision of what the city wants to do.  The Burlington Official Plan has to comply with both the Regional Official Plan and the various Provincial Policy Statement.

An Official Plan is intended to be a dynamic document and it is subject to amendment.  Developers will come along with an idea and quietly go about assembling properties and then taking an idea to the planning department.

The planning department just doesn’t put a rubber stamp on every idea that comes to them.  The Maranatha project is an example of the city working with a developer to come back with a plan that has less massing and less density

There was a letter from the Sustainability Advisory Committee that had a lot of very useful information which unfortunately didn’t get to the planner for the developer in time for them to provide a response.  Council members didn’t get the document until earlier in the day.  The Sustainability Advisory Committee, one of the Mayor’s favourites, has been known for the quality of their work in the past. 

The Maranatha developers have been in the community for decades – they have run the “homes” project and determined the market for additional housing called for a bigger building.

However, Ed Fothergill planner for the developer of the project didn’t see much merit in the comments from the Sustainability Advisory Committee.  In his letter Fothergill said “he was surprised that these comments would come forward at this late date on an application which was deemed complete on December 20, 2012. Since September of 2012, there have been opportunities for input to the process either to the City or to myself or my client directly through the circulation of the application that took place in the beginning of 2013, at the public meeting that was held in June 2013, and any one of the three Open Houses that were organized by my client. During this time, we have not been contacted by the Sustainable Development Committee and only learned of their most recent submission through the offices of the Planning Department on Friday.”

Councillor Paul Sharman is the liaison person with the Sustainability Committee and he certainly knew the project was working its way through the system and that there was significant opposition to what was planned.  Perhaps the Councillor missed a couple of the Sustainability meetings.

Fothergill said: “We believe this lack of participation in the planning approval process is a serious omission and not representative of the normal fair and open planning process that is enjoyed by those who routinely do business with the City of Burlington.

“In addition,” said Fothergill,  “my client has gone above and beyond statutory requirements and have made themselves and members of their consulting team available to any group or individual to speak to any matter related to this project since our initial Open House of September 2012. It is disappointing to have a group such as this who have been given a very important mandate by the City to choose not to be a part of a very extensive and open process, but rather without notice to other parties, to come forward now, after the fact, when a Committee recommendation has already been made.”

“It is somewhat disrespectful of the planning process” added Fothergill who went on to say: ”We believe this process renders these comments inadmissible to any Ontario Municipal Board proceeding should the project have the misfortune of pursuing that route, and is of questionable value now to Council following a thorough review of the matter at Committee.”

We have great difficulty with many of the comments made in the submission.The process was not the only thing that bothered Fothergill. “We have great difficulty with many of the comments made in the submission” and added that “to be effective, it is very important that their work be focussed on the mandate provided. Once comments and positions begin to extend beyond one’s specific mandate, there are dangers in treading into areas that are best covered by others.”

It is said Fothergill “beyond the mandate of the Sustainable Development Committee, as we understand it, to speak to matters related to planning, servicing, or other technical issues where there is no specific expertise attributed to the Committee and where these matters are more appropriately dealt with by the preparation of technical support documents and the review of that material by other City departments, including the Planning Department, Engineering Department, and Traffic Department. This concern becomes evident in cases such as this where the position put forward to this Council by an advisory committee which has chosen not to be involved at all through the process, brings forward conclusions that are directly contrary to professional recommendations made by qualified staff in a variety of City departments.”

He added: “We believe that many of the comments in the letter illustrate the danger of exceeding the mandate of the Committee and of providing comments which may not have clear direction to Council.  These include the following:

“The Committee provides an opinion that the proposal is out of character with the neighbourhood without undertaking the kind of comprehensive analysis that was already completed by the Planning Department who presented the Development and Infrastructure Committee with a contrary position based on their careful and thorough assessment of the proposal within the context of established Official Plan policies.

“The Sustainable Development Committee notes that the area is not a designated intensification corridor and notes that the decision on approval of the application should be made with the guidance of a completed Neighbourhood Study. These two matters are not criteria to be considered in assessing the application, are not required by the Official Plan, and were not assessed by either myself as a planner for the proponent, or by planning staff. We believe that it is inappropriate for the Sustainable Development Committee to establish criteria on their own for the assessment of the application, particularly when the criteria have no policy basis, are unknown to the proponent and the planning staff, appear after the fact, and may not be consistent from project to project.”

“It is noted in the report” said Fothergill “that “as a City we have the habit of increasing building heights without fully understanding the impact on the neighbourhood”. This is not the experience we have found in our dealings with the City of Burlington. This statement we believe diminishes the amount and significance of work that was undertaken by staff with respect to their assessment of our application as well as numerous applications reviewed by staff and approved by Council. This statement may simply reflect the fact that the Committee may be unaware that this, and every development proposal that comes forward to a public meeting, undergoes a rigorous and thorough review, not only by the Planning Department, but other departments at the City. To suggest that decisions are being made … without fully understanding the implications, we believe, is not a true reflection of the quality of work undertaken by staff and the diligent way by which Council regularly makes decisions on development  applications.

To suggest that decisions are being made … without fully understanding the implications, we believe, is not a true reflection of the quality of work undertaken by staff and the diligent way by which Council regularly makes decisions on development  applications.Fothergill suggests there could perhaps be “some form of filter to review comments” from Advisory Committees to ensure they are within their mandate and not contradictory to the position of staff or departments who have the mandate and expertise to deal with technical issues.”

Councillor Sharman, who could have been a filter for the Sustainable committee, pitched a handful of soft questions to Ed Fothergill, planner for the developer, and sounded a little like a defence attorney in a criminal trial leading his witness.  When Sharman asked Fothergill if he was qualified and could he expand on his experience – Fothergill was a little flabbergasted – he has been in the planning business for so long that he may have forgotten when he started.  It all came across as a bit of a set up.

Mayor Goldring made a telling point when he said he was absolutely certain that at least some of the 250 people who signed a petition against the project would, in the fullness of time, choose to live in the project.

While the six storey building is not what the community wanted – of even more concern is what happens to the Brock lands at the rear of the project.

There was the argument that this type of project pushes the price of housing up – which no one in Burlington is going to lose much sleep over.  Meed Ward mentioned a developer who had approached her about a possible 14 story project and wanted her input and comment.

For Meed Ward to be able to say publicly that a developer had met with her to talk about a project that was going to look for more height puts a hobble on the pretty consistent comment that she is doing the city great harm and that no one wants to build in Burlington because of what she does to developers.

And she is tough on developers.  She asks some pretty blunt questions and ensured that Fothergill earned his fees earlier in the week when he began to explain why his client needed the height they were seeking.  Could this project not have been a four storey building se asked and when Fothergill gave her an answer she immediately shot back with “Why not?”  It has been sometime since a developer in Burlington has faced that kind of questioning.

Councillor Dennison pointed to the Bonnie Place project that has 11 and 16 storey structures and is literally blocks away from the Maranatha project.

Change does not come easily to established communities and planning is a complex business. Has the community learned anything from this project?  Has city council?

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Former Liberal has decided to seek the NDP nomination for Burlington; provincial election expected soon.

By Pepper Parr

March 20, 2015

BURLINGTON, ON.

The Burlington Liberals have their candidate chosen and she has been doing regular Saturday door to door canvases the past three weekends.

The Burlington Provincial NDP will be hosting a nomination meeting Tuesday, March 25th at the Burlington Seniors’ Centre (2285 New St.) at 7:15pm.

The sitting provincial MPP, Jane McKenna’s association has not announced a date on which they are going to re-nominate their candidate.

MPP Jane McKenna with the best job she has ever had will have to seek re-election when the expected provincial election is called in the Spring.

When McKenna goes to the polls it will not be with the same organization that did her peek-a-boo campaign in 2011.  There have been consistent rumblings of dis-satisfaction at the local riding level with the MPP.  However her star has risen with the party at Queen’s Park where she is said to be a favourite of Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak.  Other than a small stream of photo ops, Burlington hasn’t seen or heard all that much from McKenna.

The New democrats maintain: “It’s clear that in the next election Ontarians will have a choice between an entitled Liberal party that has betrayed the public trust, a Progressive Conservative party that lacks leadership and vision and a team of dedicated New Democrats who have already delivered tangible results in a minority house.” said Ryan Perera, president of the Burlington NDP.

One candidate, Jan Mowbray, has put forth her name at this time; Jan brings a wealth of experience in public administration and volunteerism in Halton.

Jan Mowbray, former Liberal has decided to run as a New Democrat in Burlington.

Mowbray, an experienced political operative, left the Liberal party “because there was no sign of change for the better.  More and more scandals popping up in the news, lack of oversight – think Hydro. The vulnerable sectors of our community continue to be impacted by policies that don’t address real problems. McGuinty in 2008 promised to reduce poverty by 25% in 5 years – it was referred to as 25/5. There was hope in the social sector. Five years later we were at 30% poverty. What could we have done with $2.1 billion?!”

“I know the issues, I know the people with 25 years of experience working as a volunteer in the social sector.  I have considerable legislative and electoral experience (2 terms on council; worked federal and provincial election campaigns); as my by-line states, I am committed to the community.” Said Mowbray

Mowbray was elected to the Milton town council in 2003 and then re-elected in 2006. She ran for the Regional seat that Milton has and lost to Colin Best in 2010.

Mowbray would seem to be a candidate for the Halton provincial but running against Ted Chudleigh is tantamount to suicide – Burlington was probably seen as a location where the New Democrats at least had a shot – not because the NDP is  all that strong in Burlington but because Progressive Conservative McKenna is so weak.

Liberal Eleanor McMahon has been out campaigning every weekend for the past three weeks.

While the Liberals have a strong candidate in Eleanor McMahon,  Mowbray will dump all over her citing the McGuinty sins.  Mowbray is a shoe in for the nomination – none of the usual NDP suspects appear to be up to the challenge.  Burlington might see itself with three women running for the provincial seat.

Although only members in good standing with the party are welcome to vote, any and all are welcome to come meet the Burlington NDP executive and the next provincial candidate for the NDP in Burlington.

All inquiries are welcome at burlingtonndp@hotmail.com or by contacting the riding association president, Ryan Perera at 647-402-5874.

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Another piece of the Taylor legacy to be decided upon: Public art for Mountainside Recreation Centre.

By Pepper Parr

March 20, 2014

BURLINGTON, ON

It will be part of his legacy, a project he has patiently nurtured and developed for his constituents. As it nears completion attention has to be paid to what there will be in terms of public art.

Currently  undergoing a major redevelopment the Mountainside Recreation Centre is slated to have some public art on the site.

John Taylor could not let the revamped Mountainside recreation Centre open without some public art.  Burlington has a contract in place with Cobalt Connect, a Hamilton based arts consulting group that oversaw the selection of the Spiral Stella that is in front of the Performing Arts Centre.

Cobalt Connects wants to receive Expressions of Interest from artists. The project has a budget of $20,000 and an April 29, 2014 deadline for the Expression of Interest

Mountainside is located at 2205 Mount Forest Drive, in Burlington. This competition is open to all Canadian artists.

Built in 1969 Mountainside Arena was the City of Burlington’s 4th public arena. Over the past several years, the Mountainside Recreation Centre has been undergoing a major transformation. The grounds have received numerous improvements and the recreation centre, including the arena and pool buildings, is now being redeveloped.

ZAS Architects are leading the site redevelopment and have been heavily influenced by the incredible grounds surrounding the facility. The sense of open space, wooded lots and the embrace of nature on the site have been reflected in the architecture.

The Mountainside Recreation Centre site is multifaceted and allows for many opportunities for public art. It is the intent of the Steering Committee to allow the selected artist time to fully explore the site and its uses prior to developing an artwork concept. As such, the nature of this public art opportunity is open-ended. The commissioned artwork can be in any medium and sited in a number of different locations throughout the property (interior and exterior spaces are available).

Ward 3 Councillor John Taylor will want to have his mitts all over who is on the committee that selects the artist chosen to do the public art for the Mountainside recreational centre.

An artwork proposal is not requested at this time. Applications will be reviewed on the basis of past work, professional qualifications, and experience. Short-listed artists will be required to participate in an interview with the Selection Committee to determine the finalist.

There are additional details at: www.burlingtonpublicart.com where you can download an application form.

Expression of Interest forms are due on or before Tuesday April 29, 2014 at 4:00 PM.

The Cobalt Connects contact is Kim Selman: (905) 548-0111; Mobile: (905) 515-9334; Email: kim@cobaltconnects.ca

Website: www.burlingtonpublicart.com

 

 

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Rivers: “trade deals have inadvertently contributed to the de-industrialization of Canada.”

By Ray Rivers

March 20, 2014

BURLINGTON, ON.

Another day, another free trade deal.  Canada has landed what is being called a big one, this time with South Korea.  Promoted by both Liberal and Conservative governments, these trade deals have inadvertently contributed to the de-industrialization of Canada. 

Recall the sound of doors closing and windows being shuttered as the ink was drying on our first trade deal, the Canada-US FTA.  Many of Ontarios small and medium manufacturing enterprises, acting like characters in a Steinbeck novel, packed up and moved to larger markets, a warmer climate and the lower wage rates south of the border.

Former Ontario premier, David Peterson, had predicted that a quarter of a million jobs would be lost to FTA, and indeed, unemployment in Ontario more than doubled as its manufacturing sector took the hit.  And then there was NAFTA.  The Economic Policy Institute, a research think-tank in the US, estimated that by 2010 NAFTA had lost 700,000 US jobs to Mexico.  It is worth recalling US presidential candidate Ross Perot and his famous prediction of a giant sucking sound, as American jobs rushed off to Mexico.

Free trade is just another economic theory.  Hypothetical notions of absolute and comparative advantage sound logical on paper.  But, the reality can be so different, particularly if the playing field is uneven, if your trading partners dont play fair.  South Korea is one of those nations which adjusts its exchange rates to make their exports competitive, and the nation employs a raft of non-tariff barriers to discourage its citizens from buying foreign goods. 

Cars being loaded on to ship for transportation to North America. with tariff removed many of those cars will come to Canada.

The Korean deal is being sold as offering greater access to the Korean market for Canadian beef and pork, but even the government accepts that Canadian manufacturing, and auto making in particular will be hit by this deal.  The US signed a trade deal, just last year, with South Korea (KORUS FTA) and their experience was that the US lost 40,000 jobs, and its historical trade surplus with Korea was turned into a substantial deficit.

Ford Motor Company, whose US parent had not initially objected to the KORUS FTA, pointed out this sad experience to the Canadian government just as we were putting the seal on our own trade deal.  The PMs response was a sharp rebuke to the manufacturing giant, accusing Ford of duplicity.  Ford is Canadas largest auto maker, employing about eight thousand people in Ontario and responsible for substantial spin-off employment, mainly in Ontario.  Currently about a half million Canadians are employed in the auto industry, with fully a third of those in manufacturing.  All Korean-made cars are imported into Canada.

Another potentially impacted auto-maker, Fiat-Chrysler, had been in discussions with the federal and provincial governments over financial support to help it expand its manufacturing operations in Ontario.  Last September Ford had been awarded $140 million in a similar move to help it upgrade its plants.  In fact the federal government maintains an open budget allocation just for this purpose.   And jurisdictions south of the border have long used grants and loans to attract auto companies and other large employers to their states.

Will beef actually get from Alberta to South Korea?

Before either the federal or provincial governments could officially respond, Ontarios provincial opposition leader, Tim Hudak, slammed any funding for Chrysler, calling it corporate welfare, extortion and ransom.  Both official levels of government were stunned and Chrysler immediately withdrew its request, claiming that it was not prepared to become a political football.  Mr. Hudak, who is fond of complaining about Ontario losing its industrial base and jobs, needs to reflect on his behaviour and how he has shown himself to be unfit for the job of premier of this province.  And his party needs to show him the door before the next provincial election, something a number of PC party members have already contemplated. 

There will be winners and losers from this South Korean trade deal.  While some beef and pork producers from Ontario and Quebec may see increased sales, most of the meat products will come from the west, primarily Alberta.  On the other hand, Ontario auto makers Ford, Chrysler and GM, will losHudak needs to reflect on his behaviour and how he has shown himself to be unfit for the job of premier of this province.e sales to even cheaper Hyundai and Kia models, depressing both employment and provincial incomes.

Why would the federal government be so keen on adding more jobs into Albertas booming economy and driving up inflationary pressure there?  And why are the feds OK with further depressing Ontarios economy – the latest entry into the economic have-notclub?  It makes no economic sense, something that Ford and the Ontario government have been saying.  And that is perhaps the reason this South Korean deal, which had been started a decade ago, had been left sitting on the shelf until now.

This is not only bad economic policy, it is patently unfair – unfair that a trade deal will benefit one province, one where the PM happens to reside, at the expense of another.  Watching Quebecs PQ government set the ground work for another sovereignty referendum, perhaps as early as next year, it is useful to reflect on what we tell Quebecers to expect by voting to stay in Canada.  If it is not fairness, then what?

 Background links:

Premier Peterson      US Korean Trade Pact      Free Trade and Jobs      Auto Sector Worries     Harper Slams Ford   Harper Takes on Ford

Hudak Slams Chrysler     Chrysler Backs Out

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It’s a hoax – get taken in and you could face a real mess of financial trouble.

By Pepper Parr

March 19, 2014

BURLINGTON, ON.

They are at it again.

The graphics on the email certainly look real enough.  Anyone doing business with the CIBC might well be fooled enough to click on the link that they say you need to use to ensure that your account card is not de-activated.

Looks official enough.  But this is a total and complete hoax.

It’s a hoax – we got the message – but we don’t have an account with CIBC.

There are some people who will respond to this – and they will give out personal details – that’s where the problem begins.

Are we not close to the point where there can be some form of policing to handle stuff like this?

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