Community engagement doesn’t fully engage council during a workshop session the public was basically shut out of.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  July 2nd,  2012   The city got its first look at what the people behind the creation of a Community Engagement Charter (CEC) are thinking.  We saw a rough structure that spokesperson Chris Walker called “bones with no meat on it yet”.

The meeting was part of a council Workshop where no one  got very excited about the presentation being made.   This was the first chance council got to see what the CEC people have been doing for six months.  There wasn’t that much to show for their efforts.

The Community Engagement team didn't manage to engage council members at a Council Workshop - once council member didn't ask a single question. They Mayor had difficulty staying focused. The coffee didn't help.

The meeting had a quorum but not much more than that.  Councillors Taylor, Lancaster, Craven and Meed Ward were at the table.  Councillor Dennison was in the room but not at the table for an event which was held in the community at Tansley Woods. Councillor Sharman didn’t attend.  The Mayor was there but – well the picture tells that story.

Community Engagement Coordinator Christine Iamonaco introduced her team, which we learned consisted of 24 active participants; 86 people monitoring Basecamp, which is a web location that posts all the documents and the flow of information used by the Engagement Committee.  There were 50 people participating via the Basecamp set up.

That’s a total of less than 100 people who were attached to the team in some way.  Clearly Community Engagement hasn’t caught on fire in Burlington.  There were more media and politicians than there were public  at one of the community meetings in Ward 1.

One can’t blame Iamonaco for the turnout – the idea or belief that the city needed to improve the level of citizen engagement isn’t that wide spread.  No one cares – until there is an issue that impacts on them – then we get a turnout that fills an arena meeting room.

Let’s first take a look at what the Community Engagement Charter people want to see changed and then look at how things work in different parts of the city when there is a problem.

Members of the Community Engagement Team do a debrief after their Council Workshop session. Chris Walker is in the center.

They put forward a Vision Statement – these things can be atrocious and are at times just “happy talk” or an ideal that is so far from reality that they aren’t  taken as serious.  The Community Engagement Charter team put this forward in a vision statement.  They saw it as a Big Hairy Audacious Goal to “make Burlington the most engaged and connected community in Canada involving all generations, socio-economic and cultural groups”. No wonder the mayor was yawning.

What does that mean and how do you do that?  The Mission Statement, one step beneath the Vision ,  explained how this would  “…provide Burlington citizens, city council and city staff a plain language living document, that promotes active and meaningful citizen engagement in City of Burlington planning, policy-making and decision making processes.”  Whew!

The Charter the CEC people want to put in place will work from the Vision through the Mission statement and be truly unique because it will be “created by the community for the community with an implementation plan that aligns with the Strategic Plan, the Official Plan, e-government strategy and “operationalizes” the Community Engagement Charter.”  When the Charter is in place it will be reviewed annually for a period of time and then reviewed when the Strategic Plan is given a review.

And at this point I expect I’ve lost whatever readership there was for this story.

How did we get to where we are?

The city spends tens of thousands of dollars every year on advertising – and gets very little in the way of a return.  Everyone talks about how e-government is going to change everything for the better when we don’t know yet what the city is planning nor do we know what the community wants.

In his remarks Walker made a very good point on the Workshop setting not being open to any back and forth between the CEC team, the few members of the public in the room and the city council members.  It would have been interesting to watch what happened had Walker asked for a change in the format of the meeting and see how the Clerk and the council members reacted.

Everyone in the room had great expectations for “e-government”; a concept that has as many definitions as there are people using the term.  Burlington recently brought Brent Stanbury back on staff to get the “e-government” process up and going.  Stanbury has been given some direction by Budget and Corporate Services General Manager Kim Phillips but those have not been shared with the CEC team or the public in general.

The Community Engagement Charter team, began by looking at every example of community engagement they could find and produced a three inch binder with page upon page of background material.

Members of the public didn't get a chance to engage the council members on just what they wanted from a Community Engagement Charter.

They came to the conclusion that Burlington’s existing practices are good and there are opportunities for enhancements.  That’s not what the Shape Burlington report had to say when it was published.  Several of the people on the CEC team were core members of Shape Burlington and it’s offspring Shaping Burlington.  The fire would appear to have gone from the belly of the people who were there in the early days – back in April of 2010.

The framework they are working from emphasizes city council commitments and citizen responsibilities.  They want to identify existing best practices and include engagement guidance for city staff.

The team has identified commitments city council has made and wants to ensure those commitments are met, which  means some form of  ongoing monitoring of what happens at city hall.  Shaping Burlington has done very little in the way of monitoring  what gets done at both committee and council meetings.

Setting out citizen responsibilities is the kind of thing that gets taught at the dinner table.  Sort of like the Ten Commandments – I know what they are – maintaining them is my problem.  Everyone knows what their civic responsibility is – the first being to vote and with a current  34% range turnout – well we know which direction we want to go in on that one

The Charter that gets produced is going to be a 20 page document- that’s a relief.  A Citizens Responsibility Guide is a little presumptuous.  Bring Commitments to Life – that’s one that needs to be unpacked.

The Charter Team wants to start with the four commitments the city has already adopted:

citizen involvement;



and adherence to the public engagement continuum as set out in the IAP2 process the city has adopted.

The CEC team want the city to be open to new ideas – bit of a stretch there.  Politicians will always say they are open to new ideas – but that’s about it.

Early and broader notification – YES!

Customer service – city hall has some ideas they are working through – but they appear to be doing so in a room by themselves.  This is one where the CEC people could have a significant impact.

The Region of Halton has a citizens panel – they call it MVP – My Point of view.  Burlington would be well served if it had such a panel – say 150 people selected randomly that they communicated with electronically from time to time.  Every year they would renew the panel.

The CEC team could have, and still should,  get out and do some polling – get out and ask people what they think and feel – be as interactive as you want the people to be.  There is a tinge of the academic to much of what the CEC people are doing.  Democracy is a messy, down at the street level business – it is noisy, there is nothing polite about it.

Two of the city councillors were not at the table and one didn't ask a single question. Councillor Craven chose to be mute.

Democracy tries to ensure that everyone’s needs are fairly met and that the rule of law overrides everything.  Which is fine – but when your specific needs are being trampled upon (they closed off your street so that bicycles could drive up and down for a couple of hours) then it doesn’t appear all that democratic to you.

Two examples of what the city is doing to improve customer service are telling:  There will eventually be a single cash counter.  If you are there to pay a parking ticket and then buy a ticket for an event – you now get sent to different counters.  Centralizing this will make things much more convenient.  Good move.

Disseminating information: – there are some moves here that are troublesome.  The city is shoving everything out to their web site – but the web site is not easy to navigate and the search facility is not user friendly.  The city has brought back the person who created the internal COBNET used by staff to talk about things you are not supposed to read.  This is a level at which the CEC people want to lean very heavily.  Civil servants by nature don’t naturally share information.  Ask a question and they will ask you why you want the information.  That’s just the way they are built – but that doesn’t mean they have to stay that way.  This is what Shape Burlington meant by that information deficit.

In their deliberations the CEC people brought forward a definition that I’d forgotten I knew – community capacity, which is the capacity a community has to participate and the level at which a community participates in the growth and development of the community.

As the CEC team puts “meat on the bones” of the framework they have in place one hopes they will see opportunities to set in place ways to increase that community capacity.  This isn’t easy stuff to do but there are some pretty bright people within that 24 member active core group.

The CEC report suggested a pilot project to support neighbourhood development; experience shows those approaches don’t work.  People will agitate when they are upset.  People will organize when leadership appears.  Councillor Meed Ward created a community advisory committee that works – they don’t always agree with her but she is open and listens.  Craven has been doing it for some time in Ward 1.

Each of the council members has an organized relationship with their communities; some are better at it than others and each brings their personalities and their feel for their communities to this task.  The wiser municipal politicians will develop and maintain the strongest possible relationship with their community.  It’s the cheapest form of campaigning they are ever going to find and they get paid while they do it.

Meed Ward attached herself to the Save our Waterfront organization and used it to propel herself into office.  She made the pier her issue and is closely identified with what happens to that project.  In Burlington the level most people participate at is galas and fund raisers.  You could be out almost every weekend of the year at some event.  This city is very open to helping.

What it isn’t doing all that well is being a real meaningful part of the civic process – and a large part of that is because there has been no one pushing against the edge of the envelope.  Burlingtonians just accept that whatever is going on at city hall is OK; that whatever is going on at the hospital is fine when there are very real concerns at city hall – our transit problems, determining what kind of a city we are going to be 10 to 15 years out when we have more seniors that have to be taken care of and we don’t have plans or capacity to take care of them.

And the 90 + people that died at the hospital because the place wasn’t kept clean tells you what was going on over there.  Public institutions are a bit like children – they need constant watching.  You have to say – “no, don’t do that, please do this, I would prefer that you do that”.

There does come a time when your children get it and don’t have to be watched in quite the same way.  Your elected officials and civil servants have to be watched all the time.  Not because you can’t trust them – but because they don’t have any of their own skin in the game.

Let me expand on that.  The little guy who runs a shop on Brant Street or the car dealership on Fairview pays a lot of attention to the people who walk through their doors – because if those people don’t come back – those business people don’t eat quite as well.

The folks at city hall don’t have to be efficient; there is no incentive to be efficient – they don’t own the business. They will perform well if there is top notch senior level management  people in place setting the standard.  Burlington has not in the past been blessed with that level of talent at the city manager level.

This city just parted ways with a senior level manager because he wasn’t top notch.  Civic administration needs to be groomed and made professional; doing that calls for a leadership that demands professionalism.  A bylaw report got sent back recently to be “cleaned up” because it wasn’t good enough.  That has to happen more often.

A city manager will catch those things and if he or she is doing their job – there will be phone calls made.  In Burlington – if you work at city hall and you are doing your job – you get a little note from Jeff Fielding the city manager saying thank you.  If you work at city hall and you don’t get a note during the year – you might ask yourself if you are as professional as you should be.

The Check List idea was a good one.  The community could create a check list and then monitor the city’s progress and put the tick marks in the boxes and have them posted in a public place. (This is something Our Burlington will look into – we just might be able to do that.)

Early successes – here they were into stretching it mode.  The Mayor speaking at an Innovations in Public Consultation and Engagement conference can’t be described as an “early” win. Describing Burlington as a recognized engagement leader is self-serving at best.

This city is still stuck at describing ourselves at Canada’s # 2 Best city to live in.  Folks – that survey was a magazine circulation building exercise – something the people at Economic Development missed when they featured the #2 standing in a full page, full colour advertisement in a respected business.

The  26 people actively participating in the development of an Engagement Charter is just not a very impressive number and makes it hard to claim that there is large community involvement in this endeavour.  That is not meant to diminish or dismiss the work being done – but let’s be frank with what the CEC team has managed to get done in six months.

How does a community express it concerns?  How does a community take an active part in its development and growth?  The first step is having a public that knows what it is talking about and that means keeping them informed.

And that basically was what the Shape Burlington report was all about.  It said the city had an “information deficit” and that people didn’t know what was going on and that city hall made a lot of decisions without asking the public what they thought or felt.

The CEC team now takes the framework to the community.  They have some plans for an innovative approach to talking to the public on the downtown car free Sunday, July 15th.  They should certainly have a good crowd to work with.

More community engagement in September and then taking the Charter to the public for review in October.  In December it becomes a report to city council where the CEC would like to see the document approved as city policy and procedure.

Funding is always important: will the city commit real long term dollars to community engagement or will the final report the CEC people submit get the “receive and file” that this interim report got?

Don’t expect city hall to lead a review of whatever comes out of this process – it will be up to the community to push for what they want – that’s a lot of work for 26 people to do.  It has been done before however.



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Canada Day; new citizens, great weather – we didn’t see anyone who wasn’t having fun.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  July 2nd, 2012  Canada Day – 145 years out and Burlington celebrates the day with Ashley MacIsaac on stage doing what he does so well with his fiddle.  He then tried telling the citizens to do everything they can to ensure that the current prime minister isn’t in office on the 150th anniversary.  That appeal fell on deaf ears.

Homes on the Beachway left no doubt about what they were celebrating.

He was as good on his fiddle as he usually is – but he shouldn’t try to sing.

Spencer Smith Park filled up as the evening approached after a day when a crowd of new Canadians took to the stage one by one to be made “Canadians” with Citizenship Court Judge Frank Hayden swearing them all in and giving them his “being a Canadian” pep talk.

It was a wonderfully sunny day; crowds were out and the Beachway part of the city had hundreds of families out on the grass with hundreds of kids in the water.

If you didn't have a bright red T shirt - there was a booth you could buy one at.

Parking was close to impossible and the city had additional staff handing out parking tickets.  There was a subtle change in the uniforms the men were wearing – instead of the shirts with the By Law enforcement shoulder patches these men had Provincial Offences Enforcement, which meant they could give people tickets for provincial offences and not just parking – no drinking in public parks.

Families out on the grass - enjoying great weather and a day to remember.

It was interesting to note that the people on the Beachway tended to be large families that had hibachis and all the gear needed for a picnic.  Many were people of colour, dressed traditionally and while quiet were very friendly.  Soccer was the predominant sport but we did see one little tyke who had put together twigs for a camp fire in what any Scout master would have given him a badge for.  The child was being very well supervised, there was no chance that he was going to light a fire.

Police officer told us he was on "bikini patrol" and that he loved his job.

The Regional police had officers out on bicycles patrolling what we were told was a quiet day.

Her name was Jade - she just seemed to love the camera.

Captivated with the cell phone - this young man was having the time of his life.

The mood and the scene at The Joseph Brant Museum was quite different.  There was entertainment for the young people and displays to look over with plenty of shaded space to sit and eat more of that ice cream with fresh fruit than we perhaps should have.  Quite a different feel than that out on the Beachway.

The Canadiana Tent the city set up was both a smart thing to do and the best deal available on the waterfront during the weekend.  It was a place to sit and relax, for those who had been on their feet for several hours, the $20  price was worth every penny.  You got a meal, an alcoholic beverage, a cold drink, a Maple Leaf cookie and reasonably comfortable seats plus shade.  You can do that one again city hall.  And that extra drink you wanted was nicely priced – less than we paid for the same drink in Grimsby the day before.  You also got a small flag.

As dusk approached the waterfront filled up quickly for the fireworks.

The SeaDoo races around an obstacle course kept the air filled with the sounds of those roaring engines but no one seemed to mind.

It was just one of those pleasant sunny summer days – no doubt whatsoever that summer was here and staying for awhile.  A national holiday, celebration of the founding of the country.  Most born in the country Canadians take it all for granted; those who chose to come to this country knew what they were doing.  We can learn from them just how fortunate we are.

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Plan B appears to have worked – look for it every Friday in the parking lot behind Centro’s on John Street.

 By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  June 30, 2012  Friday was the first day for the new fresh produce market in the downtown core.   It was put together quickly; it was a little haphazard, it had a lemonade stand and there was value plus fresh vegetables all set out on the edge of a private parking lot steps away from a lush garden – it was Burlington’s latest downtown Farmer’s Market that will be known as Plan B.

Fresh from the farm, one of the selections at the Farmers Market that will be open every Friday from 11-2

Barry Imber had been thinking about the idea for more than a year and decided it was time to stop thinking and time to just do it.  And so there it was – the first of a planned program of having the market open every Friday from 11 – 2  and see what happens.

And they showed up.  There were no line ups but there was a steady flow of people inquiring about the cheeses, the fresh pork that was wrapped and in a cooler.  Those who are focused on “fresh from the farm” can place their orders by telephone (there will be a web site up soon where you can put in your order) and pick it up at the market on Friday.

For those of you who want a special cut of pork this is about as good as it is going to get.  Featherstone Farm hopes to cultivate a clientele within the downtown core that wants that extra freshness and a chance to talk to the people who run the farm.

The market is called Plan B, which is part of a different way of feeding people.  It is part of what is known as a CSA model  –  Community Shared Agriculture, that restores the link between the farmers and city dwellers.  Successful in Japan and Western Europe since 1965, CSA today operates on approximately 1000 farms in North America.

With traditional CSA , local households purchase subscription “shares” of the year’s harvest from a local organic farm. CSA “shareholders” pay for their produce at the beginning of the growing season, providing the necessary start-up capital for farmers to purchase seeds, supplies and soil amendments, eliminating their reliance on expensive bank loans and helping to pay for the real cost of food.

Lemonade stand with a great selection of potted plants as well. The place had a good family feel to it during the first Friday.

The market on John Street, right behind Centro Gardens isn’t going to be a traditional CSA, at least not yet.  For the immediate future people who live in the city will be able to slip over to a market that has fresh products, organically grown.

Where does the name Plan B come from and what does it mean – and who started it?  Three people, working on an urban gardening project in 1996, came up with the wild idea of starting their own organic CSA farm! They convinced Alvaro’s brother Rodrigo to join in and in the spring of 1997 Plan B Organic Farms was born!  ‘We thought the name “plan b” really conveyed our intention of providing our community with an “alternative” food source to foods produced through “conventional agriculture” aka plan a.  In 1998 we moved to our beautiful 50 acre sandy and rocky piece of land in Flamborough Ontario.  The first 5 years we worked the land by hand, learned that there was a lot to learn about growing vegetables, but with the support of family and the local community we made it work. We continue this work still with this mission in mind:

This means that we grow and source the best certified organic produce from 12 farms in Southern Ontario for your shares each week. For you, our shareholders, this means a greater variety of foods in your share each week from many of the best organic growers in the province!’

Plan B Organic Farms is a “multi-farm CSA”: Provides local farmers with an economically viable farm business;  Consumers gain access to affordable, fresh, & local organic foods; Consumers learn about what grows in Ontario and how to “eat seasonally”; Strengthens the local economy and builds community and less transportation and packaging makes for a healthier local environment.

Longer term, Barry Imber, the mind behind the Farmer's Market, has plans for dinner parties in this garden area right next to the market. Chinese lanterns, an Executive Chef preparing a meal using local fresh food. Sounds yummy.

The group grows and sources the best certified organic produce from 12 farms in Southern Ontario which  means a greater variety of foods from many of the best organic growers in the province!

It’s part of that 100 mile diet; everything you eat is produced within a 100 mile radius of where you live.

Burlington is a city with a significant rural element.  That land north of Dundas is good farm land.  Many see that location as the place to grow a lot of the food consumed in the city which comes down to fewer transport trucks bringing in lettuce and cucumbers from Mexico and creating a sustainable farm operation that isn’t part of the massive agribusiness approach we now have to feeding ourselves.

Will it work in Burlington?  The people behind Plan B have put more than 10 years of their lives into this and Barry Imber has been at it for a year.  Last Friday we saw the first short steps.  It will take time, it needs nurturing – but when you put that fresh asparagus on the table you know you did something right.



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New Regional police chief spent 16 formative years with the Halton Police service. Left to polish his resume and is now the top cop.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  June 29, 2012  Stephen J. Tanner will become the next chief of the Halton Regional Police Service.

For Tanner it is a bit of coming home.  He takes office on September 1, 2012.   Deputy Chief Andrew Fletcher will continue as Acting Chief during this transition period supported by Deputy Chief Bob Percy and Acting Deputy Chief Marty Power.

Earlier this month Tanner was elected President of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police (OACP) for a one year term.

Local boy leaves home; does well and returns to become the new sheriff. Gets a new uniform and a car with a siren. Steve Tanner is the new Halton Regional Service chief of police.

Chief Designate Tanner has an extensive record of leadership as Chief of Police in Kingston since November 2008, and Belleville Chief from January 2002 to November 2008.  Steve Tanner is no stranger to the Halton Region; he was born and raised in Oakville.

Following his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1982 (Science & Psychology) from the University of Guelph, Steve Tanner joined the Halton Regional Police Service as a Constable in Burlington.

Over his formative 16 years with Halton Police, his career progressed through a variety of operational and supervisory responsibilities leading to his promotion to Acting Staff Sergeant prior to his selection as the Deputy Chief of Police of the Guelph Police Service.  In March 2000, he was selected as Deputy Chief for the Belleville Police Service and in January 2002 he was appointed as their Chief.  In November 2008 he was appointed as Chief of Police of the Kingston Police Service.

The Burlington that Steve Tanner left in 1998 isn’t all that different to what he is coming back to – his pay cheque will be the biggest change for him

The Halton Regional Police Services Board is the governing body for the Halton Regional Police Service and is comprised of seven members.  The provincial appointees are: Bob Maich, Board Chair; Andrew Tyrrell, and Marion Yee; Randy Hammell, Vice-Chair, a citizen appointee made by Regional Council; Mayor Rob Burton, Regional Councillor and Mayor of Oakville; Rick Craven, Regional and Burlington Councillor; and Jeff Knoll, Regional and Oakville Councillor.  Oversight and financial accountability for the police service rests with the citizen based Police Services Board.


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Burlington community gets its chance to offer their design for the Beachway; more than 70 citizens participate.


By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  June 29, 2012  It was pretty close to the  best community engagement meeting this city has seen since hundreds of us gathered at the Mainway Arena December 2010 to let the province know we didn’t like what they had in the way of plans for the Escarpment.

The meeting at the Arts Centre last night was a little more limited in its scope but no less important for the near term and long term growth of the city.

The meeting had 70 people in the room, working over ten foot long sheets of paper with a detailed picture of the waterfront from the western edge of Spencer Smith Park to the canal that defines our border with Hamilton.

The waterfront on the Hamilton side of the canal is robust, busy; used by people and a fun place to be.  The Burlington side of the Beachway is a little on the desolate side with very little activity.

The young people get out there at night and howl with too much alcohol in their systems as they roam on the sands along the beach.  It is far from a safe place late at night many evenings.

Waterfront Advisory Committee chair Nick Leblovic debates with others during the Beachway Design Workshop. The Waterfront Committee is expected to put forward some views in the fall.

While the property belongs to the Conservation Authority, except for the close to 30 homes dotted through the stretch of land, it is managed as a park by the city.  It isn’t a park with anything in the way of program.  There is a concession stand that is open in the summer; there are washrooms the Regional Health department might want to have a look at some day.

The Pump House is there waiting for a new life and the Water Sewage Treatment plant on the north side of Lakeshore Road – undergoes a significant upgrade and some expansion.  The plans the Region has to shield the sewage treatment plant behind rows of trees when the construction work is done will improve the streetscape considerably.

But what is going to be in a part of the city that is now a kind of nature preserve, home to what the Region has referred to as a “dynamic beach” by which they mean sands that are constantly shifting and the base for some very significant flora.

It is not a people place right now.  It has a rag tag bit of a community made up of people who see the location as their home with a couple of speculators amongst them expecting to make a killing once development is allowed.

And that of course is the 800 pound gorilla of a word that sits there waiting for everyone to decide what to do with it.

Don’t expect to ever see anything that even hints of the word “new structure” south of the old railway embankment.  That is just not going to happen.  This isn’t Florida.  There is a small park, the Pump House will at some point get put to good public use, the Concession stand will be brought into the 21st century.

But there is more than that happening along the Beachway.  The Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital is re-orienting their site and will look out over the lake in a way they haven’t in the past.  A clutch of buildings that size will have a significant impact on the Beachway.  We don’t know yet what that impact is going to be – but there will be an impact.

Six to eight people gathered around each table and marked up maps and exchanged ideas with others. All the ideas and the data will get pulled into a report that will eventually get to city council and the Regional government.

Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Mead Ward wants to see “eyes on the street” which we take to mean she would like to see it as a place where people live and perhaps even work.

Ward 1 Councillor Rick Craven hasn’t revealed a position yet.  He did say, in a jocular tone, that he thought the Pump House would make an excellent official residence for the Ward Councillor.  The city needs quite a bit more in terms of leadership from the Councillor on this one.

Meed Ward takes the view that as a city Councillor she represents the direct interests of her constituents but sees herself as perfectly free to talk about ideas for any part of the city.  That approach doesn’t sit well with Craven – but as this council now knows – there is no stopping Meed Ward.  This is a bigger picture politician.

The Waterfront Advisory committee has decided it will lead from behind and is waiting to see what the report from last night’s meeting has to say.  They expect to have something to say in the fall.

The Manager of Council Committees services, Grant Bivol, has completed the first draft of his report on the effectiveness of the Waterfront committee.  The report has come back to Bivol for some revision and will get sent to council committee soon.  Waterfront Advisory may not be around to offer any advice come the fall.  And that would be regrettable.  The city needs a citizens committee to offer advice; the one in place now will probably not exist at the end of the year.

These homes between the Lakeshore Road and the QEW are privately owned.  Is there a future for this very small enclave.  Some home owners have invested significantly to improve their property.  Other buildings are left to languish. The community needs some leadership, if not from the Ward Councillor then from city council.

There is room for some development in the Omaha and Willow Streets part of the Beachway.  This would be a great part of the city for an arts community; a quiet enclave where artisans could do their work.  Small consulting firms would fit into this kind of environment as well.

Many of these homes back onto the old railway embankment – now known as the Waterfront Trail. Is there a future for these homes? Has either the city, the Region or the Conservation Authority made a point of listening to the view of these property owners? Have the property owners managed to make their case and delegate to the levels of government that determine what their property future might look like?

And what can be done with the houses that are on the south side of Lakeshore that back into the railway embankment?

The walking path has become the back yard for some of the houses along there; they are basically encroaching on public property.

The Thursday evening meeting was the third in a series that started with an event at the Waterfront Hotel where the home owners were out in force telling their story and getting very emotional in the process.  The second took place in Milton where maybe two people from the Milton community showed up.

Each of the ten tables set up on Thursday, had all the tools you needed to mark up the maps, write in comments, draw lines and argue a point of view.  There was a facilitator at each table taking notes that will get pulled together into a document the region will then use to prepare a draft recommendation that will go to the Regional Standing Committee that handles parks related matters and to all the municipalities.

The Conservation Authority will get involved – they do own the land that is not in private hands.

Senior Regional Planner Stirling Todd talks with Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward – each has their own agenda when it comes to the Master Plan for the Beachway.

During the past year and a half, the Region  has had their Senior Planner, Stirling Todd,  attending Burlington’s Waterfront Advisory and Access Committee.  On numerous occasions Todd has spoken of the dynamic beach and the threats it faces with the moving of sand.  This, along with flooding potential, was mentioned almost every time Todd spoke.  The Waterfront people and the Conservation Authority as well as the community in the Beachway,  wanted to know if the dynamic beach had in fact shifted – and it had, further out and not further in as Todd has consistently claimed.

Serious flooding during a 1970 storm got upgraded to a threat that made the whole area very unsafe were water to come roaring in over the railway embankment.   The community was told that the water would pool on the north side of the embankment and be a serious public hazard.

The Water Treatment plant lies in this same area but there is never any mention of the flooding impacting on that plant.  Imagine the mess if the sewage treatment plant was taken out of commission because of a flood?   Flooding is never mentioned when people talk of the Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital which is in that part of the Beachway.  The hospital is reported to be in the lowest part of the flood plain  but that hasn’t stopped them from rushing forward with plans to have shovels in the ground by the end of the year putting up a significant addition to the hospital.

People gathered at the more than 12 tables at the Arts Centre and worked through what they would like to see done in terms of a design for the Beachway Park. The facilitator never used the word community to describe the area that holds 30 homes. City General Manager Community Services Scott Stewart looked in on the conversations.

One gets the impression that the Region’s Senior Planner was being somewhat disingenuous with the people in the area that own property and using the dynamic beach and the flooding possibilities to scare the local residents who just want their community to remain.

The Region and the Conservation Authority do have an agenda; they just haven’t shown their hand yet.

The Workshop was led by a very able facilitator who used different language Thursday evening as he described the location.  Last night he consistently referred to the place as a “park”.  That was not a word he used as often during the first two public meetings he facilitated.

While the location is indeed a park, it is also a community and a part of the city that houses the sewage treatment plant and a large marshalling yard for Ministry of Transportation vehicles.  Using the word “park” all the time kind of precludes any other possibilities.  The Beachway has a rich history as a community; and it is a community today.

Laura and Glen Gillespie, two Beachway residents who are proud home owners were very vocal at the first community meeting.  Laura, a bright vivacious woman tends to get emotional when she talks about her home.  Both she and her husband can be disruptive and they are very direct.  This is where they live and they have the sense that they play no part in what is going to happen to them.  Many others in the community feel the same way – but they don’t state their concerns as directly as the Gillespie’s.

Glen and Laura Gillespie were greeted by the event facilitator when they arrived to register.

When they entered the meeting room last night the facilitator was right there beside them, almost like a police officer keeping an eye on a truant – he didn’t want the trouble makers getting out of hand and ruining his meeting.

Laura Gillespie points to a part of the Beachway that is important to her and her husband – it’s where her home is located. The Gillespie’s have been very vocal with their views and they speak for much of the Beachway community.

The Gillespie’s aren’t trouble makers – they are property owners who want informed answers to their questions.  They had hoped to be able to talk with their council member – he chose not to engage them and suggested they make an appointment to meet with him.

The Region has a policy of buying up every piece of property that came on the market but the formula they use for determining the price the Region/Conservation Authority will offer results in private interests buying up the properties.  Is there any land assembly taking place – hard to tell but most people don’t think so.

Parking seemed to be the biggest concern.  There is bus service into the area.

No one spoke all that passionately about putting the Freeman Station somewhere along the Beachway Park.

Councillor Jack Dennison and downtown resident and Waterfront Advisory Committee member Bob Wingfield talk through a viewpoint on the Beachway. Bob’s wife looks on.

Mark Gordon, a downtown core resident  reflected on the meetings that brought Spencer Smith Park into being and said the meeting that focused on the Beachway last night was not much different.  Gordon added that it took a long, long time for the citizen involvement to have any impact.  Spencer’s at the Waterfront restaurant was supposed to be a “family” restaurant – and it certainly isn’t that today.  Families get shuffled off into the lower level where they can buy candy from vending machines or hot dogs and hamburgers from a counter.  They are decent hamburgers however and the place is clean.

The Beachway – that magnificent stretch of sand that was once bordered on the north by a CN rail line and was once the location for very close to 300 homes that began as summer cottages and over time got upgraded to year round homes.

Most were on leases from CN Rail.  When the Conservation Authority took possession of the rail line and the land, the leases came with the land.  When the leases expired they weren’t renewed and one by one the houses were torn down.

Three of the six Burlington council members were in attendance; Meed Ward, Craven and Dennison, those with a significant interest in how that part of the city develops.  Mayor Goldring did not attend.

The city has yet to put forward an opinion and the Beachway isn’t a large part of the Official Plan Review.  It’s almost as if the Beachway isn’t something the city can do anything about or isn’t ready to come forward with an opinion and offer a sound sense of direction to the Region.

Every member of council will refer to that part of the city as the jewel in the city’s crown – but no one seems to want to polish the jewel and make it something worth showing off and making use of.

There have been plans for the Beachway  part of the city right back to the days when the former Mayor of Toronto David Crombie created the Waterfront Trail.  There was once going to be A Discovery Centre close to the canal but that went to Hamilton where it failed.

Former Toronto Mayor David  Crombie told the Waterfront Advisory Committee when he spoke to them that there was a time when Burlington was a leader in waterfront advocacy but that that was some time ago and is no longer the case today.

One of the Molinaro boys quietly listening to the conversation on how best to use the Beachway.

So – what does Burlington want to do with the Beachway?  Spencer Smith Park is well developed, heavily used and a splendid place to spend time – any time of the year.

There is a future for the Beachway as well  – but if the citizens have ideas, hopes or aspirations for that part of the city – they need to make their voices heard now, or the Conservation Authority and the Region’s Senior Planner will impose what they think we should have.

Along with the 70 people on the room toiling over maps and fervently discussing their ideas, there was at least one city developer quietly listening.





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It has become the crime of choice for many criminals – it is relatively easy and it happens because we don’t pay attention – identity theft..

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  June 29, 2012  Halton Regional Police have laid a total of 140 charges related to fraud and identity theft

Early in March 2012, the Regional Fraud Unit began an investigation that focused on a large amount of identity theft and account takeovers within the Halton and Toronto area.

Thieves see identity theft as easy - they see your identity as money in their pockets. Protect yourself.

The targeted group would commit identity thefts and attend financial institutions and get access a victims bank using identity they had stolen and then removing funds from an account.

The project culminated on June 27th with the arrest of three individuals and residential search warrants executed in both Milton and Toronto.  Police recovered an assortment of identity documents, false identifications, credit cards, computers, instruments of forgery and cash.

Police are in the process of contacting the victims of these identity thefts and the investigation is ongoing as police anticipate laying additional charges.

Charged are Christopher Corey DEWSBURY (31) and Camille DEWSBURY (30) of Milton and Shelley Marie BOIS (53) of Toronto.

The trio face over 140 criminal code charges relating to Fraud, Possession of Counterfeit Mark,  Possession of Identity Information and Conspiracy to Commit an Indictable Offence.  All are scheduled to appear in Milton Court on the 24th of July, 2012.

Anyone with information concerning this or any other crime is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1 800 222-TIPS(8477), through the web at or by texting “Tip201” with your message to 274637(crimes).

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Tickets now available for Jane Goodall event at BPAC September 19th – Quick sell out expected.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON – June 28, 2012 Tickets for the Jane Goodall presentation are now available at the Performing Arts Centre box office.  VIP tickets are priced at $125. Main Event tickets are $45 – add HST to those prices.

Jane Goodall will be in Burlington September 19th speaking at BPAC. Chimp is not expected to attend.

Acclaimed primatologist , environmentalist and United Nations Messenger of Peace,  Goodall will entertain with of stories from the field, her reflections on global conservation and hope for the future of the planet.

The VIP tickets include a cocktail reception and an opportunity to interact with Goodall personally.  This is a woman who took on the establishment and insisted that primates be protected and studied and did so at considerable personal risk.  While she is lauded and applauded today there was a time when the world didn’t have much time for Jane Goodall.

She is one of those people who lived her personal convictions and brought the world to a point where it saw the environment in a different light.  She made a difference.

During the Main Event Dr. Goodall will take questions from the audience.  She is both an amusing and at the same time a very forthright speaker; there is seldom any doubt as to what Jane Goodall thinks.

BurlingtonGreen has stretched this event and added a level of community involvement, for which they should be applauded.  The evening is going to include the recognition of six “eco-award” winners who will be chosen by the community.

Burlington citizens, schools, groups and businesses are being asked to submit nominations before August 27, 2012 highlighting their greening efforts. BurlingtonGreen president Ken Woodruff explains that “recognizing the positive contributions of our community in helping the planet locally is very important as it inspires others to get involved and take action as well.”

Details are available at: for event and ticket information and to complete a nomination form for a local eco-hero.

The Burlington Community Foundation and the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation have provided early level sponsorship for this event.  Additional sponsorship opportunities are available to support the event.  Contact or 905-466-2171

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Halton Police Services Board ready to announce a new chief on Friday. Choice is not from existing ranks.

REVISED June 29; 8:25 am

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  June 28, 2012  The Halton Regional Police Service has a new chief.  The Police Services Board made their decision this morning and will announce their choice on Friday.

To use police language, the announcement has to wait until the next of kin has been advised, which means the new chief has to advise the police service he is presently with, that he is on his way out.

We do know this:

A new uniform with the Halton Regional Police Service crest sewn on the shoulder will be made up soon for the new police chief to be announced Friday morning.

The choice is not current Deputy Chiefs Bob Percy nor is it Deputy Chief Andrew Fletcher.  Both are believed to have been in the running but the Board decided to bring in someone from outside the Halton Police Service.

However, the person being brought in is believed to have served with the Halton Police Service at some time in the past.

The Board used a firm of head hunters that had extensive experience with municipal and police force hires.

We know that the choice comes from a large reasonably local police service and that the name is one that will not surprise many people.

Former police chief Gary Crowley advised the Board WHEN that he wanted to retire.  Health issues had him operating at less than full capacity and while Crowley was well served by two seasoned deputy’s it was time for the Region to look for a new chief.

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Short notice – but a visit might be worth your while. Farmer’s Market on Brant – Friday 11-2.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON June 28, 2012  Friday’s from 11 – 2

Starting tomorrow, June 29th – the Plan B Organic Farm will open at the Centre Market – on Brant Street across from city hall and a dozen or so steps up the street.  The group is made up of a handful of exuberant local natural food vendors.  The theme is: small, local, natural food market.

Pork from Featherstone Farms will be available at Centro Market - this Friday 11-2

Featherstone Farmers from Lowville will be joining Centro Market with their local farm raised Heritage Pork and natural goats milk soaps.

The vendors list will grow – what is firm is the time and the location: every Friday – 11- 2

Both the city and Brant Street have been waiting for something like this.

The Centro Market focuses on directly connecting local growers and makers of natural and organic foods to people in their community — to share a healthy lifestyle.

If you’re a possible vendor shoot an email to:

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Is your bank account short a couple of thousand, has someone talked to you about the “Western Project” – call the police.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON  June 28, 2012  Halton Regional Police believe there might be other victims who got stung in a scam they have been investigating.

In September 2009, a man entered a financial institution in the City of Burlington and fraudulently acquired over $370,000 for purported legal fees associated to accessing an Estate Trust Fund.

As a result of a police investigation, the man was identified as Norman MAXWELL (58 yrs) of Hamilton and subsequently charged with Fraud Over $5000.

Further investigation has determined the accused has defrauded other unsuspecting victims through similar means, claiming to require money for legal expenses or other fees to gain access to various Estate Trust Funds or the ‘Western Project’ that are non-existent.

These requests for funds to help you get money from an estate pop up almost daily on the internet – and some of them can be convincing.  The golden rule here is that if it sounds to good to be true – it is usually because it isn’t true.

If in doubt ask a trusted advisor.  The police have a department that handles this kind of stuff.  Call them of you’re in doubt.

Police are asking anyone who believes they may have been victimized by the accused to contact Detective Constable Milenko Cimbur at 905 465-8958, Crime Stoppers at 1 800 222-TIPS(8477), through the web at or by texting “Tip201” with your message to 274637(crimes).

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Burlington’s Beachway south is still not safe for swimming. Map provides details.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON June 28, 2012  Halton Region beach water monitoring results says the water on the southern part of the Beachway is not safe for swimming.

Region says the water south of the boundary line is unsafe for swimming but that the water to the north is safe. How do they figure that out?

The following beaches are safe for swimming:

•       Milton – Kelso Conservation Area

•       Oakville – Coronation Park East, Coronation Park West, Bronte Park Beach

•       Halton Hills – Prospect Park Old Beach

•       Burlington – Beachway Park North

The following beaches are unsafe for swimming:

•       Burlington – Beachway Park South

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“Knick, knack, paddy whack – give the dog a bone.” Mayors tries to soothe the environmentalists.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON   June 28, 2012  The Mayor threw the environmental community a bone and hoped that would put an end to the howling.  And for a while it might – but not for long – there was no meat on that bone.

The issue had to do with the pier – again.

Working from the top of the graphic there is a beacon, that's the curved object. The turbine was supposed to sit atop the beacon with a shaft going down through the middle of the beacon. At the bottom of the beacon there is an observation deck with stairs leading down to the main deck of the pier. If the turbine is not going to be installed - then there is no reason for the beacon to be in place either. Cap it off at the observation deck.

The turbine that was to send a message to the world that passes by Burlington, those hundreds of thousands that drive over the Skyway bridge and would see the lights on at night and at some point learn those lights were powered by a turbine the city had put up and that they city wasn’t going to pay a light bill for that pier for at least 50 years.  Great message.

Then of course there is the not having to pay for the electricity.  That was said to come in at $3200 a year; and we all know that hydro rates are not going to remain static but assume for a second that they will remain static – $3200 x 50 years; that $160,000 we could have saved.  And we wouldn’t have to spend as much as a dime to save that money.

That turbine was paid for with a provincial government grant that Burlington Hydro got for the city.  The grant was for $100,000 which, based on the latest set of numbers was more than enough to pay for the purchase and installation of the turbine – assuming that the turbine didn’t require any design changes.  And that is not a question that has been fully answered yet.

The bone the Mayor gave the environmentalists was this:


Direct the Executive Director of Finance upon total project completion to transfer the value of the approved change order for the wind turbine element of the Brant Street Pier project to the Capital Purposes Reserve for renewable energy projects; and Direct the Executive Director of Corporate Strategic Initiatives to advise the Community Energy Plan Steering Committee that this reserve is in place for future consideration.

Make a note of that one – it is sure to become an election issue.  Note too, that all this is to get figured out at the total project completion stage.  That sort of kicks the day of reckoning pretty far forward doesn’t it ?

Don’t think the environmental community broke out the champagne over this one.




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The province will present their thinking on a Niagara GTA roadway to the Region July 4; event will be webcast.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  June 25, 2012   There is going to be an interesting provincial government presentation at the Regional Public Works Committee early in July.

The Regional people will finally have the provincial government on Regional turf  telling their story and answering questions on what their current provincial government thinking is on the Niagara GTA road the province wants to ram through a stretch of land from Kilbride down into Lowville in the northern part of the city.

It should be an interesting session.  Regional Chair Gary Carr sees it as interesting and important enough to stream live on the Halton Website.

This map sets out the area within which the province wants to create a new highway at some point in the future. The highway is referred to as the NGTA - Niagara to GTA road.

This issue has been lurking in the background for years .  The most recent shift in provincial policy came to light when the provincial government advised the Region of a change they wanted made in the Region’s Official Plan.  Many were stunned when they saw a map with a road coming into Burlington at the Kilbride area and stretching down into Lowville.  The document arrived in Burlington during the last municipal election.  At that time none of the candidates picked up on the letter from the province but it didn’t take them very long to get very vocal immediately after the election.

During the provincial election campaign Transportation Minister Wynne (on the right) came to town and was escorted by then Liberal candidate Karmel Sakran. Mayor Goldring listens to the Minister with a degree of skepticism - he wasn't buying her story.

When we got into the provincial election it was certainly an issue.  Nothing got resolved other than the Conservatives talking jobs and the Liberals and New Democrats talking environment – and Councillor John Taylor seeing the battle of his career rise before him.

Referred to as "the green arrow map" it showed in a little more detail just where the road, planned for the future was going to go and it shook the daylights out of the Halton Region and the municipalities within the Region.

Taylor has been telling anyone who will listen that the province started talking about what is now highway 407 back in 1972 – and while many protested then it didn’t make a difference – except for the developers who now had a chunk of land between Highway 5 – Dundas Road and the new 407 they could develop – and it didn’t take long for them to gobble up much of that land where the new Alton community now resides.

For the northern, rural part of Burlington to have any legitimacy development has to stop at the Highway 5/407 boundary.  Despite the existence of the zoning in place, the Executive Director of the city’s Economic Development Corporation thinks there could be “some development” on the northern side of 407, which he sees as prime location for companies that want signage that can be seen from the 407.

The land within the red border is land that became available for development when the rural border got pushed north of Dundas. The orange blob to the right is where the Evergreen community will be built. The new Alton community is in the centre with the light circle. All this land became available because the rural border got moved north. Should there ever be a highway north of the existing 407/Dundas boundary – imagine how such develop-able land will be created.

If there is ever a road built through the Escarpment lands, this will have the effect of moving the boundary between the suburban and rural parts of the city further north.  The moment that boundary  moves further north you will see development applications flooding the city and appeals made to change the way the Niagara  Escarpment Commission does business.

The “develop-able land”  created by the movement of the current boundary further north will put tremendous pressure on the politicians – by the developers – to open up that land for housing, prime property housing one might add.  The lure of the development charges to the city and the Region will be such that it will be very difficult, if not impossible over time, to prevent development.

And should that happen – you might as well just merge Burlington and Oakville into one municipality and save on the administration costs.

This fight is a fight to the finish for Burlington – and it has to be taken to the province and won at that level.

What Burlington needs is a solution similar to the one the province came up with in 1971 to put an end to the plans to build the Spadina Expressway in Toronto.  Bill Davis, the then Premier of Ontario, a real Progressive Conservative one might add,  blocked the development of the Spadina Expressway.   To ensure it never got another chance Davis, on his last day in office as Premier of Ontario, gave the city of Toronto a 1 metre (3.3 ft) wide strip of the land on the south side of Eglinton Ave. West at the Allen intersection, with a 99-year lease, blocking any possible extension to the south.  That was the stake through the heart that killed the Spadina Expressway forever.

Gary Car, Regional Chair, was once the Speaker of the provincial legislature, and while he wasn’t there when Bill Davis was Premier he knows how right Davis was.  Time for Gary Carr to do what Bill Davis did and come up with an idea as innovative and take it to the province and ask them to “make it so”.

Davis said in the Legislature, when he made the decision to give that strip of land to Toronto:

“If we are building a transportation system to serve the automobile, the Spadina Expressway would be a good place to start. But if we are building a transportation system to serve people, the Spadina Expressway is a good place to stop”

Change the words Spadina Expressway to NGTA highway and this will do the job for Burlington.  Make the author of the words Gary Carr and he will be forever remembered and lauded as a great politician and not just a hockey player.  Mind you, Carr was a pretty good hockey player; we just think he can do better.

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The first of West Nile virus tests in the Region show POSITIVE results in Oakville and Milton.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  June 26, 20112  West Nile virus positive mosquitoes have been found in Halton Region

Batches of mosquitoes collected last week in Oakville and Milton tested positive for West Nile virus (WNV). These are the first batches of positive mosquitoes found in Halton Region this year.

“Positive mosquitoes are a key indicator of the risk of human West Nile virus infection. This is the earliest we’ve found West Nile virus in Halton, which is likely due to the mild winter and very warm spring.

This is how the West Nile virus is transmitted..

“Typically we don’t see positives until late July or August,” said Dr. Bob Nosal, Halton Region Medical Officer of Health. “The reality this year may well be that the whole summer, not just late summer, will pose risk for human illness from West Nile virus.

“Our main message is that no matter where you live in Halton, protect yourself from mosquito bites, especially if you are an older adult or have underlying illness.”

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.

A map showing the locations of standing water sites that have had larvicide applied is available on the Health Department’s website.

To report standing water or for more information about West Nile virus, please dial 311 or call Halton Region at 905-825-6000, toll free 1-866-4HALTON (1-866-442-5866), TTY 905-827-9833 or e-mail



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Burlington retailers, restaurants and locations have an opportunity to take part in the War of 1812 commemorations.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  June 25, 2012  The War of 1812, The War of 1812, the War of 1812 – the one we won, the war that made this country what it is today.  Remember?   It can get a little tiring at times – all that history.

War of 1812 is not just a Stoney Creek event - lots of Burlington history involved as well

The people over at Tourism Burlington don’t see it that way though.  They see the War of 1812 as a three year long tourism opportunity and met recently at the Joseph Brant Museum to talk to retailers about just how many opportunities there were for restaurants, local attractions and those in the accommodation business.

Simone Babineau, Marketing coordinator for Tourism Burlington organized the event which, unfortunately, drew a very poor response from the people who stand to benefit most from this marketing opportunity.

Those that were on hand learned of the General Brock Walk and the numerous print material tie-ins that are available to the retail community.

All kinds of commercial opportunities for smart retailers - a special flavor of ice cream is one.

Hewitt’s Dairy of Hagersville saw the opportunity and created two new ice cream flavours that will be available at Denningers in Burlington later in July.

The Holiday Inn staff saw numerous opportunities and the restaurants in Burlington have created a luncheon special – priced at $18.12.  Local restaurants with $18.12 lunch menus can be found at: Click here

The marketing opportunities are significant but you have to get on board the train if you want to get to the destination.

The province has created a series of marketing Districts – Burlington is in the Hamilton/Halton/Brant district which is part of Western Corridor of the War of 1812.  In this part of the province Stoney Creek takes up most of the oxygen with their colourful re-enactment of the Battle of Stoney Creek.  And while there was no one marching through the streets of the city, Burlington Heights played perhaps the most significant role in the part of the war that took place on the western end of the waters of Lake Ontario.

Brock's Walk from Toronto to Niagara will be a significant part of the summer program.

The Museums of Burlington have jumped on board this one;  at Brant Day, August 5th at LaSalle Park, there will be a meeting of John Brant, son of Joseph Brant and Sir Isaac Brock at the event.

Tourism Burlington and the province’s “Heart of Ontario” group are all heavily involved in the development and promotion of this three year event.

There are opportunities here for the retail sector and wonderful, fun times to be had for the local and visiting public.

To fully appreciate the possible local tie ins – check out the Barn quilt tours.

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Corporate ladder at city hall getting lots of use these days. Mercanti moving to the seventh floor

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  June 25, 2012  Cindy Mercanti, who has worked in Community Services for almost three  years, where she was instrumental in reviewing and enhancing programs and processes within Parks and Recreation, has put her foot on the corporate ladder and is joining the General Managers office on a secondment until December 2013.

This position will make use of her operational skill set and take her out of an environment where people skills were vital.

Mercanti, was involved in getting the Alton community centre off the ground as well as working with the construction company building the North Burlington Skate Park that is part of the Norton Park across the street.

Cindy Mercanti is joining the General Managers office for a secondment that will last until December 2013. Here she looks over construction plans at the North Burlington Skate Park.

Mercanti, who was Manager of recreational Services at Parks and Recreation,  will be involved in the leadership team roll out of the deployment of performance measurement based on “results based accountability”,  and the implementation of business plans for all services.  Cindy Mercanti will be beginning her assignment June 25th.

Results based accountability is the approach city manager Jeff Fielding brought to Burlington.  The concept is considerably different than the approach taken previously and it means training senior staff just how it works and then having the concept work its way down into each department.

This operational side of city hall is where it is hoped Mercanti will excel, while others work on the people side of things at Parks and Recreation where relationships with the Seniors’ Centre are in the process of being repaired and grown.



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Her bus pass is being extended; she will be taking an active part in the transition to a new Transit Director.

Cut line revised August 3, 2012

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON   June 25, 2012   Donna Shepherd, Director of Transit, was quite prepared to ride off into the sunset but the city finds they need her skill set and understanding of how the bus system actually works and have asked Ms Shepherd to continue to work, part-time – three days each week, out of City Hall and the Transit Operations Centre for six months on select transit and corporate priority projects to assist the City in achieving its objectives.

Mike Spicer will be acting Director as of August 1st.  The city expects a new Director will be in place by year-end.

Donna Shepherd  joined the city  in 1975 and since that time she has served the City well in leading the City in various roles, her most recent being Director of Transit & Traffic over a 12 year period from 1998 and Director of Transit over the last 2 years.

Just where was the problems with transit?  Senior levels at city hall want Shepherd to stay and help through the transition to a new Director. Was  the relationship between the Council member and the Director part of the problem?

“ The really senior “poobahs” at city hall speak very positively and proudly of the contribution Shepherd made while running transit.  Her “contributions will continue to have an enduring and positive impact on the City in areas such as the expansion and renovation of the Transit Operations Centre, the introduction of Transit Priority Measures and traffic safety programs, the implementation of the downtown parking financial strategy, various continuous improvement systems and programs, the PRESTO fare card and Metrolinx Joint Vehicle and Inventory Procurement projects and the creation of innovative transit promotion and ridership growth strategies.”

Donna’s leadership in excellence in customer service will provide a strong foundation for Burlington Transit going forward.”  Sounds like a pretty strong reference letter to me.

What then was the problem at transit that brought Shepherd to the point where she decided she had had enough and was going to pack it in?  Sexism is a very distinct possibility, being bullied a bit could go into the mix as well

The senior people at city hall weren’t cheap in their praise:  General Manager Scott Stewart said: “On behalf of all staff and Council, I would like to thank Donna for her strong leadership and management in growing and operating the Burlington Transit system. She has provided persistent commitment to keeping Transit at the forefront of our discussions during the last decade as our City has grown almost to its limits. Council and senior staff truly appreciate the contributions that Donna has made over the years.

I think the city is going to have the steering wheel of a bus bronzed and presented to Donna at her retirement party.



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That inclusivity pump is going to need some priming – but there is water in that well. Front Yard BBQ’s are good for all of us.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  June 23, 21012  The Inclusivity Team did their best to show the city how to hold a Front Yard BBQ – it was a start.  The best thing about the poorly attended event was the attitude and enthusiasm of the team of people who want to make this happen.

Lead by Inclusivity Advisory Committee chair Joanne Matthews and city hall Committee Clerk Andrea Holland, the team has taken a good idea and struggled with time constraints and basically no budget to get the idea from their desks into the public consciousness.  Not an easy task.

At times there were more waste recycling bins than people at the Front Yard BBQ event held at city hall - but this was just a first step. The enthusiasm of the Inclusivity team will take them beyond this first step.

The turnout  at city hall was – well,  let’s say that at one point there were more waste containers than there were people.  They did make up 200 hamburgers and there were plenty to take home.

The Mayor made an appearance and a number of staff people came out of city hall to get in on the free lunch..

From here it is onto the next step which is to get groups of people in the city to decide they want to hold a Front Yard BBQ and maybe expand it into a Streetfest – with traffic blocked and everyone on the street invited to show up and meet a neighbour.

They’ve got a lot of rules around these things – can’t walk across the street with a beer in your hand; need a street closure permit in some place and you’ve got to call city hall to find out where a permit is needed.

It would make a lot more sense for the city to produce a map for each ward and tell people that for this day or couple of days you can close the street but you have to let the police know.  And then set out the main thoroughfares that cannot be closed.  Most people know what is possible.  City hall needs to be part of the making it possible.  Council members have a small community budget – why couldn’t they use some of those funds to pay for the permits needed to close a street?

The Inclusivity Team from left to right: Judy Hyland; Susan Biggs; Ancilla Ho-Young; Andrea Holland; Isabelle Ekoko; Joanna Matthews. They brought energy and enthusiasm to the project.

Then this idea, a good idea, needs a bit of help Dave Auger, who tweets on behalf of CMD- Community Media Burlington – suggested that the real estate agents might be recruited to help get this idea off the ground.  An agent could pick a part of town they have done well with as agents and give something back by offering to help coordinate and get things going..  M&M Meats was a sponsor at the city hall kick-off event – they might be convinced to offer deep discounts to groups that plan a street event.

It can be done and if you take the enthusiasm that Holland and Matthews bring to idea – a couple of years from now the Inclusivity Committee can look back and admire the change they were able to bring about.

This is something new for Burlington.  Most people tend to stay in their back yards, BBQ with their friends and family and,  if there is a pool enjoy the day with the sounds of kids screeching away as they splash.

Moving that BBQ to the front lawn isn’t all that easy for many – they have the gas line hard wired into the BBQ – the things don’t move.

Bur these are all small hurdles that can be overcome with the right kind of community enthusiasm.  And that for Burlington is part of the problem, perhaps its biggest problem.  We are not unfriendly people – but we have let the suburban life style shut us away from our neighbours.

We will be following this one and supporting it.

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Are we about to see a building boom? Will there be construction cranes seen on the skyline instead of just the hydro towers?

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  June 23, 2012  Shovels in the ground, cranes poking up into the skyline.   You see that in Hamilton but in Burlington?  We just might be seeing the beginning of a burst of growth in the commercial construction sector.  In the last ten years there has been very little significant commercial construction in the city.   Most of the construction has been residential but with “build out” approaching Burlington will not see another large housing project for some time.  Eagle Heights in the western part of the city is the next big one coming our way.  There is still some discussion as to what the Evergreen property at Tremaine and Dundas will eventually consist of – currently it is a mixed use development.

The re-development of the Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital re-development will begin before the end of the year.  City council will get to see site specific drawings that staff will have gone over – so look for a quick rubber stamp on that one.

The 22 storey structure that is due to be built on the waters edge will forever change the look of the city. For the better?

There are signs that the city might see some major construction in the downtown core.  The Seniors residence on Pine Street is well underway and if all goes according to plan work on what is now called Bridgewater  – the three building structure planned for the old Riviera Motel site, which is now closed, may finally get underway.

That site is permitted to have a 22 story building, a seven story hotel and another seven story building.

The owners of the property – Mayrose Tycon, have gone to Committee of Adjustment for a variance, one of which is to add an eighth floor to the hotel structure that will be used for administrative purposes.

The public pathway along the edge of the lake has been in place for a number of years but is still in the hands of the property owners.

The hotel portion of the project is slated to be ready for occupancy during the Pan Am games in 2015.  The plan is to have the Pier finished by that time as well.  The rest of the project will follow – it might be some time before we see the 22 story tower rose over the city.

It will all begin to be real when the wrecking ball slams into the sides of the old Riviera Motel.

A four-star hotel partner has been confirmed; the builder is still being finalized. The Riviera Hotel will be demolished in coordination with the start of construction.

The medical building on the right will go up first followed by the parking garage and then the apartment building. The residents in the Caroline John Streets part of town can expect disruption for some time.

Earlier this week at a Council meeting, committee staff brought back the application for a zoning change to the property bounded by Caroline, John, Elizabeth and Maria.  The locals refer to this one as the Tudor Project.   The development had a conditional zoning change subject to a bunch of provisions and an 18 month deadline to get them completed.  They failed to do so – that meant going back to the city and asking for a bit more time.

The city could have required the developer to go through the whole re-zoning exercise but given that staff would have come forward with the some recommendation and given that there wasn’t any significant objection coming from the community – it went through committee quite quickly.

Prior to the 2010 municipal election Marianne Meed Ward, then a citizen, delegated a number of times on her dissatisfaction with the street-scape and the height on the apartment building – but she wasn’t able to keep that flame burning and didn’t say very much at committee.

This city Council just wants to see development and were prepared to go along with the design and the street-scape.

At the council committee meeting Carriage Gate representative assured the city they were in compliance now and the committee agreed to go along with a new date.  The developer has requested a new lapsing date so the project can proceed. Councillor Meed Ward in her Ward newsletter explained that “the alternative would be to require a new rezoning application. Staff have recommended against that option, suggesting that it wouldn’t change anything – the project hasn’t changed, therefore the staff recommendation for approval would remain the same.”

This developer has had some difficulty in the past meeting the commitments they make – we shouldn’t expect a smooth ride on this one.

Low level, service and residential structures will make way for the Medica One structures. The downtown core is slowly changing.

The developer will start with the structure that will hold medical offices.  They currently own a few buildings in the city that already serves as offices for the medical profession so they have a tenant base they can draw upon.  The parking garage will probably follow and then the 17 storey apartment part of the project will follow.  The developer assured council that all was well – they said the same thing 18 months ago.

This one will bear close watching – the Planning Department has good people in place monitoring what gets done.

Council has also received confidential legal advice on this matter but this Council has yet to learn that just because it comes from the city solicitor, it doesn’t have to be squirreled away on yellow paper.  Our legal counsel has some growing to do in this regard.  The Freedom of Information Act can be used to pry information out of them.

The development picture then looks something like this for the balance of this year and through 2013

Hospital will be underway by the end of the year

The newly named Bridgewater three structure complex will get underway.

Medica One, being developed by the Carriage Gate Group, should get underway as well

And of course the poor pier..

Is that a boom?  By Burlington standards perhaps it is – it is certainly a start.

One interesting development in the Escarpment part of the city is an application to build a 20,000 square foot private residence.  That is a BIG house that will have an indoor pool, a gymnasium and a five car garage.  We understand the house is for the owner of Bond Construction.

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Does city hall make a difference? Do they do anything down there that the little guy can benefit from? Produce Planet didn’t think so.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  June 23, 2012  Alex Iabs can tell you that they do things that hurt the little guy.

Alex is the owner of a brand new produce store on Mount Forest that runs  west off Guelph Line.  It’s a small shop in one of those little strip plazas.  His store, Produce Planet, faces Guelph Line.

Alex is in his second month of business and things are going good  – so good that his larger corporate competitors are feeling a bit of a pinch.  Food Basics called the city’s by law enforcement department saying Produce Planet had put signs on public property; a no, no in Burlington.

Fresh fruit, some of it grown locally sold by a small independent grocer. Larger competitors complain to city about where he puts his signs.

By law enforcement called the store and explained the rules.  Iabs is an innovative marketer – so he hired students to walk up and down Guelph Line holding the signs – same impact but more cost to a guy who has to go up against Fortinos just a three minute drive away, Food Basics, a two minute drive away and No Frills which is about seven minutes away.

Going up against that kind of concentrated competition takes guts but  Produce Planet is still there and expects to be there for some time.

He picks up fresh produce at the Ontario Food Terminal in Mississauga and buys as much product as he can locally.   And it looks as if he can still stay in business using young students holding signs in the hot weather.  “They can last for about an hour” said Iabs.

Priced to sell - Produce Planet draws in new customers at the new store off Guelph Line

“When I got the call from the city saying the dozen or so signs I had on the side of the road were illegal”, adds Iabs, “there was an immediate drop in business and I had to tell three part time people that I could no longer employ them”.

Iabs who has a background as a produce manager with a large corporate store decided he wanted to try and work for himself.  The hours needed to run his own business are much longer but he has the satisfaction of seeing a response for his efforts. Produce Planet is open 8 to 8 – seven days a week.

“There were days when we had consistent line-ups at the cash register and that’s a good feeling”, said Iabs.

Robert, days away from finishing school and looking forward to entering high school in the fall earns $8 an hour holding up a sign.

He recently tried having flyers delivered door to door.  They went out a day or so ago and it’s too early to measure the results.  So in the meantime young Robert, who expect to enroll at M.M. Robinson in the fall to study drama and cooking, (that’s what’s called hedging your bets isn’t it?) will stand out in the hot sun for $8 an hour and hope to drive business to Produce Planet where the prices are lower and the produce as fresh as it can get.


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