A few more days to have an impact on how the city communicates with you; chance to save some trees and $50,000 a year as well.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  August 7, 2012  The city of Burlington publishes a magazine they call City Talk – they do that three times a year.

The city has the post office distribute the magazine to every home in the city – that costs a bit less than $20,000.

Based on our very limited research (sample of 75 people located in Wards 1,2 and 4) we found most people did not recall getting the magazine.  When shown a copy,  most have a vague recollection but don’t recall what they did with the publication.

Some – 32 of the 75 – kept the magazine until waste collection day and then threw it out.

The city has created a place on their web site asking you to tell them what you think.

Click and tell hem what you think.

The city wants to know if they should continue sending you their magazine three times a year. If you say no they will be able to save $50,000 a year If you say yes – they will have to cut down more trees.


We think the part (about 50%) of the magazine written by the members of Council is a total waste of time.  While somewhat informative the Council members do a better job with their web site newsletters.  Councillors Meed Ward and Craven have excellent newsletters.  Councillor Dennison is catching on.  Councillors Sharman, Lancaster and Taylor either don’t know how to get a newsletter out or don’t care all that much.

Councillor Taylor has such an excellent relationship with his constituents that he hardly needs a newsletter.

The communications game is changing on a monthly basis and the city struggles to keep up with the changes in the technology.  Citizen Committees are not allowed to create Facebook pages for the people that are interested in what they are doing.  If a committee wants to publish or publicize anything they have to work through a Clerk to get something on the city web site – where it is not always easy to find what you are looking for.

The city has made a commitment to upgrade its web site and has a specialist on staff to prepare for the implementation of new software that will eventually link city department reports to council meetings.  No date on when we are going to see that implemented.

Burlington is still stuck in the world of print – getting out of that kind of a rut is easier said than done.  You can help the city but telling them what you think of City Talk.

We asked the public affairs at city hall how the survey was going and if they would be releasing numbers when the survey ended.

Here was the response:

If we need to, we may have the survey open longer than Aug. 10. If so, we would let people know that it is being extended.  If we do not achieve high enough numbers, we will keep going until we do.

Help these people – do the survey and put them out of their misery


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Pixies congregate at Botanical Gardens to meet Mystical Creatures.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  August 6, 2012  I called them “pixies”: there were hundreds of them; they came from everywhere and had congregated on the grounds of the Hendrie Park at the Royal Botanical Gardens on a sunny summer holiday.

These “junior pixies” were settling in for a time to talk and whisper and plan on which Mystical Creature they would meet next.

They were there for the Enchanted Garden weekend and also to meet the Mystical Creatures that included Melody the Bird Song Fairy.

Poppy, Queen of the Faeries held court and listened to the wishes of all the pixies that came before her.

Flora the Flower Fairy was there as well but before a pixie could meet a Mystical Creature the pixie had to have their faces painted.  It helped if they had their pixie dresses on as well.

Poppy, the Queen of the Faeries was on hand and she met every pixie that came by her tent.

Oberon, the Dwarf King signed documents for all the pixies that passed by.

Oberon the Dwarf King signed a document for every pixie that stopped by his station as well.

One of the 15 Mystical Creatures the pixies got to meet with and learn all about the flowers, the trees, the Lilly pads and the caterpillars that are part of the Hendrie Park.

The 14 Elf`s, Fairy`s, Painter`s and Gnome`s were stationed about the garden so that the pixies could find them and learn what it was these Mystical Creatures were doing in the Garden.

All the flowers and plants and shrubs and trees were looking their very best.  The Enchanted Crab Apple Tree was actually behaving – not being crabby.

The Mystical Creatures live in the garden and take care of the plants, keep the flowers beautiful, the trees strong and the grasses tall.

Before the pixies could head out to meet the Mystical Creatures they had to have their faces painted so that the Mystical Creatures would know they were real pixies.

And the pixies roamed and romped around the grounds wearing their costumes and painted faces – there to delight everyone and to see what mischief they could find.

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General Sir Isaac Brock exhorts citizens to join the armed forces and beat back the Americans who had invaded Lower Canada.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  August 6, 2012  Marvelous Mike was there, asking – “did you get the cheque?” Mike delivers money from the federal government in Ottawa to the good people of Burlington, who in return put a check mark beside his name every four years or so, which sends him back to Ottawa so he can continue doing the same thing.  It’s a nice job.

With Marvelous Mike out of the way, Dave Vollick, the Town Crier who served as Master of Ceremonies for the John Brant Day at LaSalle Park, worked his way down the food chain from MP, to MPP, to Regional Chair to Mayor.  That’s what we pay these guys for – to come out and say hello.

As Vollick called up each of the dignitaries he sounded a bit like the ring  master at a wrestling match calling out the names of the participants.  Regional Chair Gary Carr asked if perhaps Vollick was available to the Region; Carr thought he would be useful in getting the Regional message out.

From the left, John Norton, Sir Isaac Brock and John Brant at the LaSalle Park Brant Day event. All three men played a very significant role in the War of 1812. While Brock lost his life at Queenston Height, Brant and Norton went on to play major roles in the growth of the native community.

With the dignitaries off the stage we got to hear from General Sir Isaac Brock and John, the son of Joseph Brant, both of whom were done as en-actors telling us a part of the story of the War of 1812 – which few in the area know all that much about.

That War was the first the new American republic declared on anyone anywhere – and they lost that war.  Since then, Canada and the United States have worked their differences out peacefully.

A smart bunch of people were hired to put together a series of events to tell the War of 1812 story and how Brock  worked with the aboriginal people to beat back the Americans.  Joseph Brant died in 1807 and wasn’t a part of this war but his son John served with Brock in many battles.

Protocol and discipline were what made the British troops the fighters they were. Here an officer takes the salute from his troops.

One of the difficulties Brock had while preparing for the war with the Americans,was finding enough volunteers and then training them properly.  He traveled between York (now called Toronto) and the Niagara Peninsula and passed through Burlington frequently.

Unlike the Americans we don’t do much work on our local history and can’t point to buildings and say “Brock slept there”.  We can point to the almost exact spot at Queenston Heights where Brock was felled by a bullet from a sniper.

Monday, at LaSalle Park, we heard one of the Proclamations Brock read out to the people of the area exhorting them to sign up and serve King and Country and beat back the Americans.

To commemorate that War and all the events that were part of it, a  Brock en-actor is doing a walk from York through to Port Dover over the balance of the week.

Different regiments that took part in the War of 1812 were on hand for the Brant Day event at LaSalle Park where Sir Isaac Brock met with John Brant and John Norton – all three were participants in the Queenton Heights battle where Brock lost his life.

There was a very solid crowd on hand for the event.  Probably more than 100 War of 1812 en-actors with their encampments and camp followers dressed in period costume.

Two things stood out for me.  We learned nothing about the various regiments that were on hand.  Who were the guys in the grey uniforms and what did they do?  And who were the guys in the red uniforms?  Were they the ones that stormed Queenston Heights with Brock?

There was a missed opportunity to get into some of the detail of those battles.  Where were these men recruited? What did they get paid?  The British were famous for their battle formations and their tight drills.  It would have been something to see these drills done out there on that field with a volley of musket fire and Generals barking out orders.

Instead we got to see the Burlington Teen Tour Band who were wise enough to take off their uniform jackets – it was a scorcher.

We saw very little of the native community this year – again.  The natives and the Museums of Burlington don’t have a very good working relationship.

A 7 year old aboriginal boy demonstrated using hoops at the Brant Day event at LaSalle Park

There was one young man, a 7 year old aboriginal, showing us where has was in his “hoop dance” training.  The adult with him beat out a sound from a small drum and called out a dance tune as the young lad did each of the routines.  I look forward to coming back in a year or so and seeing this young man in full warrior dress doing a superb hoop dance.

The day at LaSalle Park has been traditionally called Joseph Brant Day but this year it was named John Brant day and the focus was to be on his son and his relationship to Brock.  Other than a few words said by the John Brant en-actor we heard nothing and learned less from this young man.  Another opportunity missed.

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East end Burlington resident injured in home invasion; police asking for help.

 By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON  August 6, 2012  Just after 9:30pm, Sunday, an east end Burlington home was invaded by two males.

One of the two residents in the home at the time, heard a knock at the door, opened it and was immediately shoved aside as two males forced their way in to the house.

The two men then ran to a second occupant of the home, assaulted him and demanded cash and jewellery.

Upon receiving a small, as yet undetermined, amount of cash the two males fled the residence. The male resident of the home suffered minor injury and was taken to hospital. The female resident was attended to at the scene by Halton EMS.

The two male suspects are described as; white, approximately 30 years old and slim. They were wearing dark hoody style sweatshirts with the hood pulled up over their heads.

The Halton Police are asking for the public’s assistance in identifying these two males.

Anyone with information is asked to contact:

D/Cst Brad SImpson at (905) 825-4747 x2329,

D/Cst Phil Vandenbeukel at (905)825-4747 ext 2313,

The investigation is continuing by officers in the #3 District Criminal Investigation Bureau.


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Book store launches candidate for American Presidential election. Eh? Really!

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  August 4, 2012  It was billed as a bit of political theatre – in a bookstore.

What was Ian Elliott over at The Different Drummer up to now?

It was an election rally – sort of.  It was a book launch – sort of.

It was certainly a different play on US-Canadian election processes.

Brian Calvert co-author of  “America, but better”, told an audience that he was sitting with chums in Vancouver with his co-author, Chris Cannon, thinking about the American presidential election and commiserating over the qualities of the different candidates and said to Cannon:   “What America needs is more of us in their lives”.

They run their elections and we run ours.

Calvert wasn’t prepared to leave it at that.  “What, he wondered, if Canada ran as a candidate in the American election for president?”

It was a novel approach – could it work?  Canada would be the candidate

Bumper sticker for the Canada Party candidate in the US presidential elections. Launch of the political party took place in Burlington last week.

And that’s what Calvert’s book is all about.  Written in a light, meant to be a bit of a send up tone, not a word of which is to be taken seriously.  The kind of thing you would read parts of to friends or leave in the outhouse along with an old Eaton’s catalogue for those who find they need a place for some peace and quiet and personal contemplation.

There were definitely some upsides to the proposition and the opportunity for some fresh thinking.

In the introduction the two authors set out the why of what they want to do.

“Hello America, it’s us – Canada

“We’re you’re next door neighbour, and the paper thin border has done little to muffle the sound of your political anguish, so we are pursuing the only option left.  We want you to elect us the next President of the United States.”

“We had a chat with the rest of the world, and everyone agrees your addiction to dangerous, divisive politics has gotten out of hand, and you’re headed for an overdose.”

“We’re offering you the chance to kick back for a while and let a trusted friend cook your meals and fluff your pillow, giving you time to do some healing and generally reevaluate yourr place in the universe.  So this is not an invasion; it’s an intervention.”

“Why are we qualified to lead America?  Because we are America Jr., the little brother who has idolized you since we were baby colonies spitting up in Britain’s lap.  We’ve grown up together, tamed a frontier together, laughed, cried, bled, overeaten at Thanksgiving, and conquered outer space together.”

“We share the same spacious skies and amber waves of grain, the same purple mountain majesties, the same sea to the same shining sea .”

“Which is why it has been with great sadness, and more than a little nausea, that we have witnessed our American brothers and sisters betrayed over the past decade by privately owned politicians who have created franchises out of persecuting the dis-enfranchised, fetishized ignorance at the expense of reason, deprived citizens of their civil liberties in the name of a very profitable notion of security, and driven up tax payers debt to finance solid gold pockets to carry their other gold.”

“We have watched from a distance with the same horrified stare one might impart on a bus load of kittens being carried away by a tornado.  We have watched class warfare committed by classless bourgeoisie.  We have watched as huddled masses yearning to breathe free were told that it is un-American to huddle, mass, yearn or breathe.  We have watched, and for years have asked ourselves, “Isn’t someone going to help those poor folks!?”

“And then we realized: we are a somebody.  And we are not just an “outside the beltway” candidate, we are outside the border.  So we have written this book – translated from Canadian to American English – to explain our platform and convince you that you are better off getting an overhaul from an honest mechanic than being scrapped by China and sold for parts.”

Authors often refer to this table at the Different Drummer as the next best thing to an ATM – it’s the place readers come to have their books signed – which means a purchase has been made. What’s interesting to watch at the Different Drummer is how many people buy multiple copies.
Here Brian Calvert, co-author of America, but better.

That is what the book is about – They call it the Canada Party Manifesto.  The right to bear arms that the Americans are so in love with – it was the second amendment to their Constitution – gets easily solved.   The Americans can have all the weapons they want – they just can’t buy the ammunition – the Canada Party would outlaw bullets.  There – that’s that problem solved.

If the Canada Party were to win the election campaign and become the President of the United States – who would sit in the White Houses?  You, and you and you and you.  Each of us would get our 15 minutes of fame and be President of the United States for a really, really short period of time – that way we wouldn’t do too much damage.

Calvert was pretty sure he was on to something here and he convinced a publisher to produce his book and then convinced Ian Cameron at the Different Drummer  to hold the book launch.

You could buy a copy of the book – but more interesting – you got a bumper sticker instead of a bookmark as your take away.

Calvert expects that at some point he will be a guest on the Colbert Report where he will debate with Stephen Colbert on how Canada can help the Americans solve one of their more significant problems – finding a new President.

You heard about it first in Burlington, Ontario.

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One singe solitary girder arrived – we need 39 of the things. It was all all gussied up with a fresh coat of zinc galvanization.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  August 5th, 2012   I wasn’t in town on Friday, so I don’t know if the Burlington Teen Tour Band came marching down Brant Street to greet the flatbed truck that had the single girder and 95 additional parts that are going to be used to get us to the point where we are actually building a Pier.

I don’t know if the Mayor was on hand – I think he is in Newfoundland – talk about getting as far away from your problems as you can, but I digress.  The girder is there – the pictures tell that story.

It arrived Friday forenoon; the construction crew off loaded the steel and closed down for the weekend.

It arrived, quietly apparently on Friday before noon when everyone was thinking about getting away for the long weekend. But it is here and there is the promise of more to come real soon.

There is just the one girder  – not sure why just the one – was that all they had ready?   Hmmm.  The full story surrounding the delays in getting the steel we needed and then getting it through all the tests will have to wait for another time.  All that can be said today is that the whole truth and nothing but the truth wasn’t told.  We do have a problem with transparency in this city.

But let’s be positive.

More girders are expected next week.  We need a total of 39 of them to complete the Pier and sometime next week, once we have this holiday weekend behind us – the real world will present itself again and we will listen to what city hall has to say is the game plan this time.

The pathway  built to access the “instant beach” that has been created to the west of the pier, snuggled up against the Spencer Smith Park promenade, will be open and available for Michele Benoit to walk ashore, when she finishes her swim across Lake Ontario swim August 18th – that should be the first major event in which the Pier plays a part.

So that too is progress.

If the weather we are experiencing now holds through September and into the fall we just might be able to make up the time that was lost in the Spring and Summer.

City Hall has decided that we are to get Updates every three weeks instead of the scheduled every six weeks.  We should get an update whenever there is something the public should know.  It’s amazing that city hall will have relevant information sitting on their desks and keep it there until there is a scheduled Update.

But let’s stop carping and spend the summer evening wandering by the Pier and watching the girders being dropped into place and the bolts pulled in tightly.  When the crane arrives to lift the girders can we assume that it won’t fall over and have us starting all over – again.



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West Nile virus has worked its way to human beings – extra-precautions necessary.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  August 4, 2012   The West Nile virus has always been out there – it had just not been seen with human beings until last week when the Regional Health department was notified by Public Health Ontario of the first probable human cases of West Nike; one a female in her fifties in Burlington and a female in her thirties from Milton.

 “These first human cases of West Nile virus illness underscore the need to protect yourself from being bitten by mosquitoes,” said Dr. Monir Taha, Associate Medical Officer of Health for Halton Region. “This message is particularly important for older adults because they are at higher risk for more serious West Nile virus illness.”

In Halton, the months of highest risk for human WNV illness are August and September, however with the abnormally high temperatures the high risk period has started earlier.

Mosquitoes can transmit WNV to humans after becoming infected by feeding on the blood of birds carrying the virus. About 80% of people who become infected with WNV do not experience any illness, while about 20% will develop West Nile fever.

Less than 1% will develop inflammation of the brain or its lining, or a type of paralysis. Older adults and people with underlying illnesses should be particularly cautious as they are more likely to develop the illness. The following are steps that residents can take to protect themselves and their families from mosquitoes:

Cover up. Wear light-coloured, long-sleeved shirts and pants with tightly-woven fabric.

Avoid being outdoors from early evening to morning when mosquitoes are most active and likely to bite, as well as at any time in shady, wooded areas.

Reduce mosquito breeding sites around your home by getting rid of all water-filled containers and objects. Change the water in bird baths at least once per week.

Use an approved insect repellent, such as one containing DEET.

Click to see map showing the locations of standing water sites that have had larvicide applied.





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Whatever happened to ‘customer service’? New columnist weighs in with her experience. Do not mess with MLH

BURLINGTON, ON  August 3, 2012  When a company employee makes an obvious error, who should absorb the cost of that error – the company or the customer? This situation is all too common these days with the customer generally footing the bill for a company’s mistake. Whatever has happened to ‘customer service’?

On July 25th, at 3pm, I went into a ‘full service’ gas station in Burlington Ontario to get gas. The attendant, who I have dealt with over a number of years, said ‘how much?’ As per usual, I said “$20, and can you check all the fluids? Thanks.’. He nodded. I then opened the gas cap lock. He put the nozzle into the tank and walked up to the front of the car. I unlocked the hood from inside the car. He lifted it up and checked the oil, the power steering and the window washing liquid. He came around the corner of the car and said, ‘You need power steering and window washing fluid’. He then quickly switched off the gas. It had reached $61 dollars.

I got out of the car and went to the trunk. I retrieved my left-over stock of steering fluid and washer fluid and handed them to him. He said, ‘You owe $61 for the gas.” I looked at him, and said, ‘No I don’t.  I owe $20 for the gas that I ordered.” He stood holding the two bottles, unsure.  The nozzle was still in my car.

I took the two bottles from him, went under the hood and added the fluids myself. I then went into the manager’s office. A young man, the ‘new’ manager, was on the phone, so I waited. He put his hand over the receiver and gave me the ‘what’s up’ look.  I said, ‘I ordered $20 worth of gas, but the attendant, in error, filled it up to $61.” He gave the ‘one minute’ finger and went back to his call. I waited.

Twenty dollars was all our columnist Margaret Lindsay Holman was prepared to pay for the $20 worth of gas she ordered.
What would you have done?

As I had left my wallet on my car seat, I returned to the car to get it, and said, on route, to the attendant who was soon filling up another car, “I am prepared to pay $40 on a $20 order, but as it was your error, you have to absorb the difference.” He didn’t say anything, knowing full well he was in the wrong.

The young owner/manager came out a couple of minutes later and said to me, ‘You now have the gas in your car, so you have to pay for it.” I repeated, I only ordered $20 worth of gas, not $61 worth of gas. He said, ‘In principal, you have the gas, and you’ve got to pay for it.” I answered, “In principal, the customer ordered $20 worth of gas, not $61 worth of gas”. He said NO, ‘Pay Up’. I said NO. I’ll pay $40 only. He said NO, ‘Pay Up’/ I then said, NO, I did not order this gas, so siphon the extra out’. He said ‘Alright, move your car over to the garage’. This terse dialogue happened in a matter of nano-seconds.

I moved the car and waited to see what would happen next. The owner/manager disappeared into the garage bays.

An older guy came out and tried to argue that ‘everyone’ makes mistakes, and that a reasonable person would understand that and just pay the difference. I said I fully understand the mistake, and that I was willing to pay $40 on a $20 order, but that the attendant had to understand his mistake too.

This guy also said NO. He then took the car into a car bay.  I waited. Five minutes later he took the car out and parked it. He said this was going to take more time then he thought to calibrate the exact $41 extra of gas and that this whole business was going to cost them money. I said, yes, this wasted time was also costing me money. I stood by the car. Waiting. He went back into the garage.

Another five minutes passed. He came back out and said, would you settle on $50 for the gas?  I thought about it. We’d been at this for nearly a half hour, and it was clearly going to take that long again, so I said ok.  I gave him $50 cash and left the lot with $61 worth of gas on a $20 dollar gas order.

And yes, this is very much about the principal of the thing. Customer Service should mean something. I have been a frequent and, until now, very satisfied user of this garage. All has been fine to date with no complaints, and yet, with this error, I am supposed to absorb their mistake? I don’t think so. The likelihood that I will use this garage is very slim. I have no hard feelings toward the attendant himself, it was an honest mistake, and he knew he had made it. Where it went wrong is that his boss, the owner/manager, should have covered his error, instead of ‘forcing the issue’ back onto a regular paying customer.

Here’s the added conundrum. What if I only had a $20 bill in my wallet?  What then?

Should I be expected to go to the bank? Should I waste MY time to cover THEIR error?

I don’t think so.

Thoughts welcome.

Margaret Lindsay Holton is both an environmentalist and an acerbic social activist.  She is an artist of some renown and the designer of  a typeface.  She is also a photographer and the holder of opinions she will share with you in an instant.  Welcome her as an Our Burlington columnist who will appear once every two weeks.

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Courage, commitment and energy will propel Michele Benoit across Lake Ontario to raise funds for clean water in Africa.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  August 2, 2012  It takes a certain character, commitment and frame of mind to get up well before the sun rises each day and slip into the cold waters of Lake Ontario.

It takes time, energy and a certain focus to swim day after day while you build up your strength and your stamina as arm goes over arm pulling yourself forward through the water – sometimes against a tide that wants to take you in another direction.

A chase craft follows every foot of the way – watching every move while Michelle Benoit completes a 25 km swim on the old Welland canal with Christine Walker in the water pacing her.

Later this month – Michelle Benoit, a 42 year old nutritionist and personal trainer with a life’s worth of swimming experience, will put herself up against one of the harder challenges in the world of long distance swimmers.  She will leave Port Dalhousie the evening of Saturday the 17th of August and head for Burlington where she plans to land close to 18 hours later on the “instant” beach in the eastern end of Spencer Smith Park.

Our Burlington has been calling  it the  “instant beach”, since the day we saw it while on a tour of the pier construction site while looking for those lamp lights that had disappeared.  The beach was formed due to the way water swirls around the caissons and the land formation built as part of the pier, could well be named Benoit Beach honouring the crossing of the lake.

Toronto has a Marilyn Bell Park to commemorate her successful crossing of the lake; an opportunity here for the Mayor to put a bit of a positive spin on the problems that surround the pier.

Marilyn Bell in 1954 as she swan across Lake Ontario as a 16 year old.

Just over 65 people have managed to successfully swim across Lake Ontario since 1954 when Marilyn Bell, then a 16 year old, completed her swim in 20 hours and 55 minutes on September 8th and 9th.  50,000 Torontonians were on the shore to welcome her landing from her start in Youngstown, Ohio – can Burlington produce even 5,000 people.

Part of the team that follows every stroke: Brian Finlay, on the right,  a master long distance solo swimmer who has done the English Channel, serves at the key guide. Mike Schultz, drives out from his printing company in Toronto every time the boat is needed on the water.  The moment Benoit is out of the water Finlay checks her body temperature to make sure she is recovering from the swim.

Benoit had a magnificent crew working with her while she did the hours of training.  Christine Arsenault, Billie Johnson, Chris Chriswick and others were in the water pacing her through the nine hour day.

There isn’t a day that Benoit is not in the water doing stroke after stroke as she strives to keep her body in top physical form.

After more than nine hours in the water during an endurance swim on the Welland River, Benoit gobbles down a banana and enjoys a laugh with her crew.

Earlier in July she did a 25 km endurance test in the Welland River, a body of water that has both wind to deal with and strong currents.  She swam leg after leg as she piled up the kilometres with different pace swimmers joining her on the journey.  When she completed that endurance test she headed for the dock where she pulled herself up out of the water and sat shivering on the deck while her pacer heaved to hoist herself out of the water – but not quite hard enough and slipped back in.  That was a funny moment for the less than half of dozen people out to help during the test.

As a nutritionist Benoit knows how to care for her body and ensure that she is getting the protein she needs.  While she is just a slip of a thing she has amazing physical strength; but it is her strength of mind that carries her forward. For Benoit this swim is as much a personal calling as it is a swim across an unforgiving body of water.  She is not a “professional solo long distance swimmer.  She has a mission and that is to raise both money and awareness for what she sees as a tragic situation in Africa – Togo to be specific, where tens of thousands of children die every year because the water they drink and use is contaminated.

Benoit has partnered with Compassion Canada, an organization that can issue tax receipts and ensure that the donation goes to the project they were meant to support – water projects in Togo Africa.

While Compassion Canada serves as the organization that can accept funds, issue tax receipts and ensure they get where they were supposed to go – Benoit’s Waves for Water is her longer term project.

It is going to cost close to $20,000 to get the work done needed in Togo and that doesn’t deter this almost tiny woman with a smile that charms and energy that is infectious.

Benoit sees challenges as opportunities.  When she was completing her endurance swim in Lake Ontario a few weekends ago she had difficulty getting to the shore – not because she was tired or the waves were too high..  “We couldn’t  see the shore line – there were too many motor boats and Seadoos racing by.  They had no idea what we were doing but we knew what they were doing – getting in the way.”

When the solo swim across the lake is done Benoit will then begin working on the next phase of her mission – and that is to create a charity that will be called “Laps for Loonies” which will be held across the country – much like the Terry Fox run – to raise awareness about the problem with water in many African countries and to raise funds as well to build water solutions for these people.

Benoit chose to swim form Port Dalhousie to Burlington rather than the traditional Niagara to Toronto route. “Burlington is home and I wanted to land in the community where I am asking people to support an important project” explains Benoit.  She has partnered with Compassion Canada so that all funds donated go directly to the project in Africa.

What MIchele Benoit is setting out to do is a challenge but it is also poetic – her body is at one with nature as she strokes through the water – here she is working her way through a 25km swim with a pacer in the water with her – the sun on their bodies as they swim in unison.

After most of the day in the water Benoit shivers on the dock on the Welland River, waiting for blankets and for people to check her body temperature.

Benoit works part time for a health services company in Burlington and at the same time trying to breathe some life into her nutritional supplements business. “That’s something I may have to give up on” says Benoit, “I’ve been at that one for ten years and it may be one of those things that just wasn’t meant to be.”

Michele Benoit with her dog Buckley – he goes wherever she goes but he won’t be in Lake Ontario when she does her across the Lake swim. Expect him to be on hand when she comes ashore at Spencer Smith Park.

Financially – life is a challenge.  The swimming takes up all her time but the rent has to be paid and she has to eat so she works at something that fits in with her approach to life and her demanding schedule.

Throughout it all Benoit has her family supporting her emotionally as well as her dog Buckley, who misses her when she is out of the house but who is definitely not going to swim along beside her.

When Benoit comes ashore there will be a large crowd, maybe someone from the Mayor’s Office, television crews and all kinds of media.  There will also be an ambulance standing close by – a requirement if the swim was to be sanctioned and also a sign that solo swimmers are at significant personal risk.




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Is the older order being changed by the new order? Will Business in Burlington overtake the Chamber of Commerce?

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  August 2, 2012  Every organization goes through a process of social change.  The Boy Scouts are not what they once were.   The Legions are either ceasing to exist or have changed significantly.

Watching that process of change take place can be fascinating.

Burlington has watched a small group form and suddenly grow topsy turvey.  It got to the point where Mayor Goldring thought it significant enough to pay a visit.

Each meeting Brant Florist donates a bouquet – which James Burchill, founder of Business in Burlington is seen giving to Janet Cockburn

The group Business in Burlington was formed electronically and meets once a month, usually at the Waterfront Hotel, where they occupied part of one room and then found they needed all of the room and then the whole floor.

“We were at the point where more than 300 people were showing up for what was basically a networking event”, said James Burchill, a Burlington social media guru.

The participants were those people who don’t feel they fit into the Chamber of Commerce mould.  They are, for the most part, all independent operators, looking to expand their network.  The events are always packed; they last a bit longer than an hour and are always overbooked.

“People just go on line and tell me they are going to attend – and I then put the total on the web site” explained  Burchill, who developed the concept as an experiment that took on a life of its own.

There is now a Business in Oakville that is developing the same way.

People create what they need in terms of social organization.  Formal, top down organizations like the Chamber of Commerce, with a bureaucracy that has to be paid for,  results in membership fees that many smaller independents don’t feel they need.

“We don’t charge anything; people just show up.  If they want to buy a drink, they can buy a drink.  We don’t sell raffle tickets, we don’t hold an annual golf game and we don’t have political action groups – just people getting together to make connections and do business”, is the way Burchill explains the organization that has formed.

There are now 550 + people who attend and another 750 who are part of the network through LinkedIn, another social media. Combined the two are greater than the 1100 the Chamber boasts about.

Donnie on the left and Craig Denby on the right exchanging ideas – maybe Denby is trying to sell him that watch.   All part of Business in Burlington meetings at the Waterfront Hotel.

By linking together electronically and also being able to make direct contact, members of the BiB (Business in Burlington) get the benefits of both worlds – the older stodgy Chamber of Commerce model and the faster more direct channel.

With the electronic bulletin board they use, BiB members can asked questions and anyone who can help answers.

One woman needed T-shirts made up for a non-profit and asked if there was anyone in the network who could recommend a supplier.  Within half a day there were six responses, several from T-shirt suppliers, many from people who recommended a T-shirt supplier.

Of real interest was the recommendation for a supplier who had offered his services.  All within a working day.

That is one of the benefits of social networking – the ability to move quickly.

Burchill sees several opportunities to monetize his social experiment.  At future events members will be able to set up a table to display what they have to offer.  At most events there are door prizes.  There was a business card draw for the use of a very high end sports car provided by a car rental company.

It’s all sort of like the old saying: One hand washes the other until they both come clean.

Burchill is having the time of his life – he is at his core an educator and a writer who has learned to do things electronically that pull people together.  He handles the technology well and certainly know how to write copy that catches the attention of the reader.

“But it always comes down to people” explains Burchill. “not organizational structure, not social stature – just one person talking to another and exchanging ideas.


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You can swim anywhere you want on the Burlington waterfront – can’t do that in Oakville.

By Staff

The Halton Region Health Department monitors the water quality at public beaches throughout Halton and they are saying that based on July 31st monitoring.

If you live in Burlington – the Beaches are all safe. Oakville isn’t as lucky.

For the most recent information, the Health Department recommends that residents visit Halton Region’s website halton.ca/beaches before visiting Halton beaches. The following beaches are safe for swimming:

•       Burlington – Beachway Park

•       Halton Hills – Prospect Park Old Beach

•       Milton – Kelso Conservation Area

•       Oakville – Coronation Park East, Bronte Park Beach

The following beaches are unsafe for swimming:

•       Oakville – Coronation Park West

Now you know why Burlington is the second safest city in Canada.

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Doctors have learned how to spin the facts and manipulating public opinion from the politicians. Truth is they just want more of your money.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  August 1, 2012  According to a press release from the Ontario Medical Association – a lobby  that “represents the political, clinical and economic interests of the province’s medical profession.” , the provincial governments plan to unilaterally cut $1.1 billion in health programs and fees will force wait times for medical procedures to go up and patient access to care to go down. That is the clear message a panel of local doctors will deliver to concerned Burlington citizens tonight at a town hall meeting.

They don’t tell you where the Town Hall meeting is taking place nor do they tell you who the concerned doctors are.  The do provide quotes from a surgeon and a family physician.  No Burlington contacts for either doctor were provided.

“In its most recent annual report, the Burlington area local health integration network missed 12 of 14 performance benchmarks for patient care, including longer wait times for cataract surgery, hip and knee replacements, and MRI exams. Wait times for all four of these procedures increased from the previous year and, as a result of these cuts, could continue to increase. More than 21,000 physicians are being negatively affected by just the first round of the McGuinty government cuts, including the physicians who perform these tests and procedures.

By “negatively affected” the doctors mean they will not earn as much as they would like to earn.

What our doctors are paid is determined through honest, transparent negotiations between the provincial government and the Ontario Medical Association that represent the doctors. The OMA has begun using scare tactics to mislead the public – they can do better than that.

“In addition to longer waits and reduced access to care, the planned cuts will also mean patients who still don’t have a family doctor will either wait longer to find one or won’t be able to find one at all. Information recently released by the Ontario Medical Association reveals that more than 927,000 patients in Ontario, including 132,000 children, still do not have a family doctor, and the province is short more than 1,000 doctors. A recent Nanos Research survey shows 41 percent of Ontario’s doctors would consider moving to a more welcoming jurisdiction and 33 percent would consider retiring early if the government cuts continue.

The nice thing is that these doctors can afford to retire early.

The government is being fiscally prudent with both the teachers and the doctors in Ontario. They would of course like to earn more; teachers would like to be able to bank those sick days, doctors would like to see increases to their fee schedules.  But every dollar that a doctor or a teacher gets is a dollar that comes out of your pocket.

Dr. Ved Tandan, a surgeon says “Ontario doctors want to provide the best patient care possible. For my patients, wait times are already too long, but they are bound to get even longer if the cuts to health programs and fees are allowed to continue.”

Is Dr. Tandan saying he will not continue to manage the workload he has if he is not paid more?  Then we will bring in more doctors from other jurisdictions and have then take up the work load Dr. Tandan doesn’t want to handle

What he is saying is the family doctors will not be paid as much as they want to be paid.  What they are paid is something the doctors have to negotiate with the government.  Using scare tactics to sway  public opinion has been used by the medical profession  before, hopefully the public will see their comments for what they are.  They have little to do with your health and more to do with how big a piece of the pie the doctors get.



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Historic re-enactment between John Brant and General Sir Isaac Brock will take place at LaSalle Park Monday August 6th.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  July 31, 2012  August is always a great month for Burlington and things to do.  Along with the traditional, this year there will be a series of events that tie into the War of 1812 festivities and what that historical event meant to Burlington.

While Joseph Brant gets most of the historical attention in this city – having a museum with your name on it will do that – this year Brant’s son, John will be featured because of his relationship with General Sir Isaac Brock and the Battle of Queenston Heights.

John Brant will meet with Sir Isaac at the Annual Brant Day event held at LaSalle Park, Monday, August 6th; 10 am to 5 pm, as part of a re-enactment

Brant had seven children – Burlington Streets are named after two sons and a daughter – John, James and Elizabeth Street.  John became almost as heavily involved in native affairs as his Father was.  Joseph Brant was not alive during the Wars of 1812 – he died in 1807.

Three men who played critical roles in the War of 1812 – especially the Queenton Height battle. John Brant, son of Joseph Brant and John Norton along with General Sir Isaac Brock were part of the early War of 1812 battles

His son John took part in the battle at Queenston Heights where Brock lost his life.  John Norton, a young man who,  while born British, became a Mohawk and was tutored and guided by Joseph Brant will also be a part of the re-enactments

John Brant survived the battle at Queenston Heights and went on to become the first native to be elected to the Ontario Legislature and played a large role in the development of the Grand River reserve that his Father first negotiated with the British government.

The day will be rich with history and pageantry and the Brant family will be front and centre – not always something that happens at LaSalle Park during their annual Brant Day events. Along with the re-enactments, there will be a military skirmish, native culture interpretation, traditional artisans and much more.

The day after, Tuesday, August 7th, from  10 am to 2 pm,  at the Dundurn National Historic Site, Hamilton, Brock will  meet with David Beasley – historian and descendant of Burlington Heights landowner.

The Hamilton Military Museum and Dundurn Castle’s main floor and basement will be open for FREE self-guided tours. Live music with Muddy York and talks by David Beasley will happen during the day. Let the kids dress-up and be part of military drills or enjoy tours of the grounds and garden. Come out for this free day of festivities!

Burlington Heights and what are called the Burlington Races are the significant events as far as Burlington’s involvement in the War of 1812 is concerned.  There is a spot on the Heights where one can stand and see past the Skyway and into Burlington where several warship battles took place that many believe the War of 1812 was won by the British.

The War of 1812 was the first war the Americans declared on anyone – and they lost that one.  Not something the Americans are all that keen to admit.

The Brock Walk is a government of Ontario tourism sponsored event that brings our history to a level we can easily understand.  Burlington’s geography  actually played a large and very significant role in that war.

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They are out there again – trying to scam seniors of their savings. If the “bank inspector” calls – demand to see him at his office.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON July 31, 2012    The Bank Investigator Scam is back.  And as they usually do- they target vulnerable trusting seniors who have savings they need tucked away.  Some slickster wants to take that money from you and will call saying he is an Inspector with the bank and needs your help.

Tell him you’d love to help him and then ask which branch you can meet him or her at.  Then call the police.

The Halton Regional Police Service is warning seniors about a “Bank Investigator Scam”.  The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (formerly known as Phone Busters) recently reported over 100 complaints with reported losses to victims of 1/2 million dollars.

This scam is predominantly targeting female seniors and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre says that the fraudsters sometimes use the obituaries to obtain personal information about their potential victims.

Constable Wendy Moraghan works with seniors in the Region as the Elder Services Coordinator.  If you think there is something fishy about a phone call you get – call Wendy, she’s there to help.

The fraudsters contact seniors by phone advising that they require their assistance to catch a bank employee that “has been stealing money”.  The person is instructed to go to their bank and make a cash withdrawal, usually in 100 dollar bills, for amounts in the $5000.00 range.  The person is told not to tell the bank teller what they are doing because the teller may be involved.

When anyone asks you to to withdraw cash from your bank account and meet them in a parking lot – let them know you would prefer to meet in the parking lot of the police station and hang up.

The senior is instructed to place the cash in an envelope and meet the “investigator” in a nearby parking lot where the cash is turned over.  If successful the “investigator” attempts a further request for funds to ensure the investigation is a success.  On one occasion the “investigator” also asked if the senior had any cash at home because the employee had been handing out counterfeit money.

The senior turned over $6,000.00 in cash from her residence which the “investigator” confirmed was counterfeit by looking at the serial numbers.  The fraudsters will represent various different financial institutions.  The public is reminded that this is not the way banks operate.  If there is an investigation it is done by the police.

Police constable Wendy Moraghan (Elder Services Coordinator) with the Halton Regional Police Service is as far away as a telephone call – if you’re suspicious – give her a call -905-825-4777 ext. 5064   She’s a real sweetheart and will answer every question you  have – she’s there to help you.

Moraghan will tell you to never give out personal information on the telephone to anyone.  Constable Moraghan attends many seniors events in the Region.

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Positive West Nile virus mosquitoes found in Burlington.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON  July 30, 2012  Two samples of mosquitoes collected last week in Burlington have tested positive for West Nile virus (WNV), bringing the number of positive batches for Halton Region in 2012 to five. There have been two WNV positive batches in Oakville and one in Milton.

“Our surveillance program helps to show the distribution of West Nile virus positive mosquitoes in Halton Region,” said Dr. Monir Taha, Halton Region Associate Medical Officer of Health. “This season has already shown itself to have earlier than usual West Nile virus activity in mosquitoes”.

Transfer of the West Nile Virus is pretty simple – so are the precautions.

August and September are the usual months of highest risk for human illness. All Halton residents are asked to protect themselves from being bitten by mosquitoes and remove standing water where mosquitoes breed.”

Mosquitoes can transmit WNV to humans after becoming infected by feeding on the blood of birds carrying the virus. About 80% of people who become infected with WNV do not experience any illness, while about 20% will develop West Nile fever. Less than 1% will develop inflammation of the brain or its lining, or a type of paralysis. Older adults and people with underlying illnesses should be particularly cautious as they are more likely to develop the illness. The following are steps that residents can take to protect themselves and their families from mosquitoes:

Cover up. Wear light-coloured, long-sleeved shirts and pants with tightly-woven fabric.

Avoid being outdoors from early evening to morning when mosquitoes are most active and likely to bite, as well as at any time in shady, wooded areas.

Reduce mosquito breeding sites around your home by getting rid of all water-filled containers and objects. Change the water in bird baths at least once per week.

Use an approved insect repellent, such as one containing DEET.


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Cornerstone Drive house gutted in a fire that is now under investigation.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON  July 30, 2012   Someone isn’t satisfied with how or why a fire got started that totally gutted a house on Cornerstone Drive last Friday.

Resident in the immediate area had to vacate their homes for up to eight hours while fire fighters worked to bring the blaze under control.

The Office of the Ontario Fire Marshal and the Halton Regional Police Service are continuing their investigation into the cause of a fire that gutted a family residence at 4645 Cornerstone Drive, Burlington in the early morning hours of July 27th, 2012.

When there is not an immediate reason for a major fire – investigators from the Office of the Ontario Fire Marshall are brought in. Here an investigator goes through a premise with a fine tooth comb – they inevitably figure out where and why a fire started.

Access to the street was restricted for approximately eight hours to facilitate the safe entry and excavation of the fire scene. The neighbouring occupants were required to evacuate their homes during the investigation.

The structure is a total loss and requires demolition. Damage estimate is in excess of $500,000.

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Three lads from Burlington do a sterling performance of a complex Harold Pinter play. Expect to see more from Mischa Aravena

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, on   July 30, 2012  Every parent watches anxiously as their children step out onto the stage they will live their lives upon.  For the parents of Mischa and Mel Aravena, that stage was live and part of the Hamilton Fringe Festival that closed on Sunday.

Mel Aravena served as the director of a Harold Pinter play Betrayed, a complex piece that in its day changed the way theatre was done in London’s West End. Mischa Aravena played one of the two male lead roles and Tom Hick’s, their buddy who lives up the street served as co-director.

While Betrayal has endured and is done regularly, it is approached carefully, due to both its complexity and the close to exquisite timing the play calls for.  There is a consistent need throughout  the 90 minute production for those pauses that need to take place – if cut too short the moment is lost and if the pause runs too long the point is lost.

Brothers Mel and Mischa Aravena shift the set that was used in the Harold Pinter play Betrayed, put on as part of the Hamilton Fringe Festival. They did good.

Both Mischa Aravena, Chad Thurlow and Kayla Whelan who did the lion’s portion of the performance – we will get to the Venetian waiter later – did much more than credible jobs of handling the nuance and timing the play called for.

The play consisted of nine scenes which were not presented chronological and that made it a little difficult to follow for those who had never experienced a Pinter play before.

Done in a theatre in the round setting with a set that was sparse but cleverly done the three actors gave us a glimpse of what they bring to live theatre.

What I found, was that at the end of the play, I wasn’t thinking about the subject – betrayal – but I was thinking about the timing that I saw.  Those pauses were close to flawless, and that is not easily done.  The three actors were part of the same diminishing, soul destroying, trust trashing situation – each brought their own self-interest to their part – and each had their own unique way of handling the situations they faced.

It was a fine performance for each.  Thurlow who played the love interest to the wife of his squash playing friend  played by Mischa Aravena.  It was never clear if they ever actually played squash together.

Mischa Aravena plays one of two male lead roles in a Harold Pinter production that was part of the Hamilton Fringe event.

Emma, played by Kayla Whelan, had to adjust who she was, depending on which man she was talking to.  The switch back and forth between wife and lover was both demanding and complex – and done very well.

Aravena was able to evoke the pain of his wife’s betrayal,  the loss of the relationship with a friend and at the same time be himself.

It was a fine production that gave us a look at three young people honing their stage careers.  For their parents, it had to be a very satisfying evening.  In the past few months, Joey Edwardh,  Mother of Mischa and Mel, always had a handful of playbills in her bag which she would hand out to anyone and everyone she met.  She was shameless in the promotion of her boys and her boys left her with much pride and satisfaction.

Mel served as Director, which had to be demanding task, as he brought his acting team to the point where they both understood and felt the lines they were delivering.  The body movement, the inflection and those pauses – you had to have been there to appreciate them, were very well directed.  Watch for these three – we can expect to see more of them – perhaps on the stage of the Performing Arts Centre.

Why, one wonders, could there not be a joint Burlington-Hamilton Fringe Festival – something for the movers and shakers of this city to think about.

Now – to the Venetian waiter.  It was the bit part of bit parts to which Yehuda Fisher brought a touch that leavened the seriousness of the subject betrayal.  Parisian waiters are known for their sang froid, Venetians are apparently known for the time they need to get a cork out of a wine bottle.

The play was said to have been given a Canadian touch – I didn’t see or feel that.  What was evident was the reliance on alcohol to get through a conversation – of note was that neither Aravena or Thurlow ever reached for the Tanqueray gin that was on the always in sight bar – they seemed to favour whiskey – was that the Canadian content?

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Burlington athlete advances to Olympic semi-finals in back stroke. Sinead Russell shows her stuff

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON  July 29, 2012   Burlington has three native citizens in the 2012 Olympics..

Burlington’s Sinead Russell comes out of her start in fine form during the semi finals for backstroke event. (Photo courtesy Ian Macnicol/Swimming Canada

Sinead Russell advanced  to the semi-finals in the women’s 100 backstroke at the 2012 Olympic Games.

She will compete in the finals if she qualifies in Monday and Tuesday.


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Burlington man struck by westbound freight train in the Plains Road – Brant part of the city.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON  July 29, 2012  Early, early Saturday morning, the 28th – A Burlington man was struck by a freight train on the live rail tracks close to Plains Road West and Brant Street in Burlington.

Halton Regional Police were contacted by officers from CN Railways police to advise of an incident involving a westbound freight train.

Near a freight train at a railway crossing is a dangerous place to be. Burlington male struck by westbound freight at Plains Rd and Brant.

Police and paramedics attended at the scene, where a 23-year old Burlington male was found to have sustained multiple serious injuries.  The male was conveyed to Hamilton General Hospital, where his condition is described as critical.

Police will not be releasing the male’s details as family members are yet to be informed of the incident.

If you have any information relating to this accident please contact the Halton Regional Police  Collision Reconstruction Unit.

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Has the Mayor moved into election campaign mode ? It’s a little early isn’t it? – but we don`t set the political agenda.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  July 27, 2012  Municipal elections have fixed dates in Ontario and the tradition has been to get out on the campaign trail mid-summer and then ramp things up in the fall with the hard push in October with the ballots cast in December – but Burlington`s Mayor appears to have looked at his prospects and decided he needs an early start.

The next municipal election is not due until December 2014 – but some residents saw a piece in their mail box that looked like an election pamphlet to me.

The Mayor says he dropped by the house – I wasn’t home. Documents like this were dropped off at 500 homes – tough weather to be out going door to door.

The Mayor announces that he dropped by, but I wasn’t in, and he wants my opinion on key issues – which he sets out on side two of the printed piece.

While the envelope was convenient – the address on it is city hall. If this is pre-election material, and it could certainly be described as that, the postage costs has to be absorbed by the Mayor personally.

Included is an envelope I can use to reply to the small survey.  The return postage is pre-paid with the envelope going back to the city.

What would prompt the Mayor to do such a mailing  at this time?

Professional politicians – and that`s not an insult – make a point of keeping their ears, eyes and noses to the ground.  It is essential that they pick up every nuance possible and be aware of the different, competing interests so that they can look for ways to balance those interests and develop policies that grow the city.

Is Rick Goldring now a professional politician?  It would seem that way.  He was a one term ward Councillor and ran for Mayor because he couldn’t stand the job the Mayor at the time was doing.  He had no idea he would win, many people in the city didn’t really know the man.

What resulted in Goldring`s win was the level of distaste for Cam Jackson.  No one knew how deeply people felt about Jackson and the job he was doing.  A full understanding of the way this city works is revealed in any close study of the 2010 election results, especially when they are laid over Jackson`s provincial election results.

Politics is the art of the possible and while Goldring really didn’t know what was possible he did tap into a vein of Jackson resentment which got Goldring elected.

We then watched Goldring fit himself into the office of Mayor.  He is close to that half way stage of his first term  and has decided this is something he will do for some time.

Thus the mailing that was dropped off at a number of houses in the city.  We are told that 500 of the pieces shown in this article were printed up.  I’ve no idea why the Mayor dropped one off at my house – my guess is that he didn’t know where I lived.  Had I come to the door when he knocked I`m not sure which one of us would have been more surprised.  But I digress.

Mayor Goldring is clearly using the summer months to get a sharper sense of what the issues are and what the sensitive spots might be.

He asks about taxes, he wants to know what you think about the Strategic Plan (which I`m prepared to bet less than 500 people (outside city hall) have actually read.  Not a word about the Pier, not a mention about the Beachway development; nothing about the downtown core and what we can do with what we have.

He asks about our rural areas but not a word about the Performing Arts Centre which is not as flaw free as many would like to think.

These were the questions the Mayor wanted to ask me. We could have had an interesting conversation.

While this is just a survey, an attempt to get a sense of where people are coming from, the Mayor doesn’t appear to “champion” anything.  What does this Mayor actually stand for?   What is it that really matters to him?

During a Council debate he once said: This is not a hill I want to die on – clever phrase – but what hill is he prepared to die on?

Well, he didn’t want a casino in the city.  He was so strongly opposed to gambling that he directed the city manager to reply to the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation letter saying Burlington would take a pass on the opportunity to be considered as a Casino location and the opportunity to have slot machines in the city.

Many in the city would perhaps have seen merit in slot machines – didn’t matter.  The Mayor was not going to have any of that here.  It might have been more politic to have let people talk about the idea.  There was no public statement on this that we are aware of – don`t know if the Mayor sounded out his fellow Council members on his response either.

There was no mention of the Official Plan review in the survey and while there was a very small mention of transit and the Car Free Sundays the city held, transit didn’t get the kind of attention many in this city thinks it needs.

Does the survey suggest what the Mayor`s priorities are?   Probably too early to tell.

What the survey does tell us is that the Mayor is making sure he does his best to fully understand the lay of the political land he has to walk on.

Is “she”  likely to run against him?    She,  being Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward.  Not a chance – unless something with the Pier goes terribly wrong – and then she will pounce all over Rick Goldring.

Meed Ward has a loyal following that isn’t really understood by her fellow council members. They feel she is doing the city more harm than good. Not a view shared by all that many people outside city hall.
Would she be a good Mayor – could be.

Could she beat him ? – possible if he really screws up on the way he handles any problems with the pier.  And make no mistake, there are problems with the pier and there are problems with the city`s legal case.  Recall that the city sued the contractor for not completing the job.  If the contractor can show that the job couldn’t be done with the plans he was given – that paints a significantly different picture.

Meed Ward wants the job of Mayor so badly she can taste it – but she is smart enough to know when she doesn`t have a chance of winning; and political office is so attractive to her that she will not risk losing her ward seat to take a long shot at the office of mayor.

Meed Ward doesn`t have one `friend`on city council, which doesn`t bother her all that much.  She has an agenda – and it isn’t all that bad an agenda either.

Goldring on the other hand doesn`t have an enemy on council.  He is conciliatory by nature and prefers consensus and will go some distance to get that consensus – but he does have a limit.  Roman Martiuk, the former city manager, learned that the hard way.

It will take some very fancy footwork for the Mayor to step around the problems the pier construction and its legal case could become.   We don`t know if there is going to be a serious pier problem – but the possibility is certainly out there and you know the people who are close to the situation huddle with the Mayor and the city manager regularly  to get a grip on what is going on.

The Mayor hung on to his “official opening of the Pier during Sound of Music in 2013” for far too long.  That suggests a bit of a tin ear when it comes to politics.  His “quality over expediency” is a much better phrase for him to use as he speaks to people.

We don’t know yet how much of a hands on Mayor we have.  He wanted the city manager, Council decided to hire  and the two work well together.  Jeff  Fielding brings considerable depth in civic administration as well as tools that this city has not used in the past.  He will make Rick Goldring a better Mayor than he would be on his own.

The legal side of the pier situation is being handled by lawyers the city hired.  The lawyers on the other side are a bit tougher than the Toronto based fellows we hired.  Many thought this case was one that had to do with simple contract law – we hired you to do a job and you didn’t do it – pay us for the damage you caused.  It is turning out to be quite a bit more complex than that – the original contractor is claiming that the structure he was asked to build could not be built using the design he was given.

Contractors work from drawings they are given that have the seal of qualified and certified architects.  The problem with the pier seems to be with those drawings.  The original contractor is believed to be claiming that he had no control over the drawings.  When a contractor sees an architects seal on a set of drawings – he must assume they are valid and structurally possible.

The city hired the design people.  If they have a claim it is with the people who did the original design work.

Senior city staff continue to claim there were no changes to the specifications between those given to HSS and those used in the second tender that was awarded to Graham Infrastructure.  That may not be completely true – but that will come out in the discovery process which is close to wrapping up – at least for one of the parties.

Obstreperous at times, noisy as well and leans a little more to the right than the demographic in his ward appreciates. Has developed some core resistance within the public transit advocates who could do him serious harm come 2014. Sharman didn’t win in 2010 – he just got more votes than the other guys – there is a difference. And he hasn’t managed to consolidate the base that voted for him

After many efforts to gain public office Blair Lancaster now has to learn how to develop a real working relationship with her constituents – she’s not there yet.

At some point all this is going to come back to city council where we will see all kinds of posturing on the part of the politicians.  Councillors Taylor, Dennison and Craven were part of the Council that decided the pier was a good idea.  Councillors Sharman, Lancaster and Meed Ward were new and can`t have this one hung around their necks.  The Mayor was the Ward 5 Councillor when the first layer of problems came to the surface – but he wasn’t part of the crew that made the decision to build the pier.

Come the 2014 election – there is the distinct possibility that Dennison and Taylor will not run again.  Both have been in Council a long time; both are tired and a real mess might be something they will choose to avoid and take a well-earned retirement.

That could be a problem for Burlington. Dennison and Taylor have the best council experience.  Craven is a strong council member and the pier mess doesn`t seem to have done him any harm.  He has a solid base in Aldershot that probably cannot be damaged.

Councillor Sharman has several problems of his own on his hands.  The transit mess is to a large degree his doing.  Did we lose the Director of Transit because of the way Sharman treated her

Lancaster isn’t making the inroads she needs to make within her ward.  She certainly didn’t earn the Dutch vote with the way she handled the naming of a park for our twin city Apeldoorn, and many of the people in the Beaudoin school district didn’t come away with the sense that their council member really went to bat for them..

Lancaster could learn a lot from Craven on how to serve and woo a ward.  She will never do what Meed Ward does and she is going to need a strong identity with her ward if she is to win re-election in 2014.

When you look at the possibilities: Sharman and Lancaster could be in trouble.  Dennison and Taylor could accept their gold watches and ride off into retirement.  That leaves Craven and Meed Ward (no love lost between those two) and the Mayor who has a good working relationship with Craven but not much time for Meed Ward.

The Mayor is learning.  Has he learned enough?  Does he have the capacity to learn all that he has to learn?  One wag very close to the political scene in this city made the comment that “the Mayor hasn’t turned out to be what we thought he would become, but he is the best we have and we need to make the best of that”.

That’s probably the best that can be said at this point in time.


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