Alternative Burlington launches technology pilot to accelerate permitting process for industrial-commercial buildings

By Pepper Parr

November 7th, 2023



Burlington is undertaking a pilot program to accelerate the permitting process for industrial-commercial buildings.

Burlington is the second city in Canada to use this technology to improve its permitting process and make it easier to build in Burlington. Burlington is also the first city in Canada to use the technology specifically for development on employment lands.

How it works

Using innovative AI-powered technology, the platform used in the pilot digitizes the rules in Burlington’s zoning bylaws, relating to industrial-commercial buildings. Once applicants have submitted a proposed design, the platform automatically evaluates the design’s compliance against the relevant rules. The solution checks to ensure requirements are met for things such as setbacks, heights, floor area ratios, landscape areas and parking ratios.

The digital tool also generates a comprehensive compliance report which is available to the applicant immediately. The report gives applicants a summary of which aspects of the design have passed or failed, as well as details about how the design complies with each zoning bylaw rule.

The AI-powered technology’s ability to review designs quickly and efficiently provides value to the City, customers, and staff, including:

  • Saved time, by reducing the number of manual exchanges between applicants and City staff
  • Allowing applicants to have immediate feedback on proposals and allowing for modifications prior to submission
  • Faster approvals and turnaround time on issuing building permits
  • Shortened design time
  • Higher quality of design submissions
  • Financial savings on the cost of multiple design revisions
  • Enhanced transparency about the City of Burlington’s development review process

The pilot began in late July and will conclude by the end of 2023. The objective of the pilot is to provide essential data on the value such a tool may provide for Burlington in accomplishing our stated organizational goals related to housing.

The platform can also be used to check design compliance on all forms of development. While this option is not currently part of the pilot, applicants can pick a specific site, upload their design to the platform and immediately see a 3D visualization which allows users to assess whether their design meets the rules.

Next steps after the pilot may include further pilots or a larger-scale roll out.

Chad MacDonald, Executive Director Digital Services and Chief Information Officer explains:  “This pilot is a significant step toward a more efficient, customer-centric building plan review process at the City. As technology continues to evolve, we want to harness the power of these digital tools to create tangible improvements for residents and businesses. The simple interface of this platform allows applicants to easily submit their application, get instantaneous results, and fine tune their design, making the approval process faster, easier, and cheaper.”





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Council gets taken through first day of what Staff maintains is essential if the city is to meet the public expectations

By Pepper Parr

November 7th, 2023



It was the start of a two day review of what Staff wanted City Council to hear as they worked their way towards what in the end would be a budget that the Mayor presented.
Ward 6 Councilor Angelo Bentivegna brought the meeting to order and turned it over to Executive Directror Sheila Jones who told Council there was a lot to get through and then turned the meeting over to City Manager Tim Commisso who said “I think today and tomorrow are very important sessions. This is the third iteration of coming to council to speak about needs and your decision making.

“It is not very often that we drop a 92 page, PowerPoint deck on you. I want to acknowledge the work that went into that. The entire Staff team worked on this and you will see a tighter integration with the budget. The other that is really important is alignment; when I speak about alignment it is more in the context of how do we align with strategic objectives, goals and operating objectives.

It is in this area that I see us really advancing. We’re not quite there yet, but I think at the end of the day how we set objectives and how those objectives guide your decision making in terms of resource allocation and budget are fundamental to us in terms of our strategic management.

Last week when we introduced the budget I unfortunately did not acknowledge John Ford’s leadership. I’m not sure what other municipalities are doing but I can tell you, Burlington is at the very forefront of it.

Burlington always does as good a job as any municipality in terms of how we’re moving forward. So thank you, Sheila. I’ll turn it back to you.

Executive Director Sheila Jones ran a tightly focused meeting and kept it ahead of schedule. A rare feat with this Council.

Jones who is all business asked the AV people to put up the first slide – there were 91 left and Jones made sure that there was no slippage.

Lauri Jivan Budget Coordinator

“In the past we have had Service Information approaches – in today and tomorrow’s session, you will see a shift in approach. You received the 2024 Financial Needs and Multi year Forecasts presented by our CFO Joan Ford, and our coordinator of budgets Lauri Jivan on October 30.

“You received the mayor’s budget on November 2.

“The session today and tomorrow are designed to be directly aligned to your decision making process not only for the 2024 budget, but for future years. A multi year approach means the decisions you make today will have a cumulative impact on the future operations of this city. What you will hear in the next two days is intended to augment the extensive information that was provided in the 2024 Financial Needs forecast.

“We are coming into these sessions on the assumption that you are familiar with the business cases and the other budget information . Today and tomorrow provides counsel with an opportunity to ask questions and better understand the complexity of the financial needs for 2024. We have aligned the key investment information to the 2020 to 2026 Burlington Vision to Focus (V2F) which you endorsed in principle this past October.

“For ease of reference we have included the business case number should you need to reference the 2024 Financial Needs book.

“As you can see, we have a very extensive schedule within each focus areas. We will go through a couple of presentations, then pause for questions from Council. Our time for questions is short. So I’m asking you to keep your questions focused on the information. Members of our leadership team are here to respond to your questions. I will do my best to keep us on track and on schedule.

“It will be a bit of a judgment call as the questions are asked to see what we can answer in these sessions; we may need to move on. So please understand if your question requires a more extensive answer you can submit your questions to me and we will work to get written responses to all of council by the end of this week.
“This morning you received an email from me with the responses to the two Staff Directions that were raised in committee last week. These will be on the table for discussion during our session tomorrow. So please get comfortable get your note paper ready get your to jot down your questions and as we go along because we will have quite an extensive day.

“Every year you as counsel make investments in our services to better our community, it is important to acknowledge these investments and more importantly, what outcomes those investments have achieved, along with provincial funding councils investment and support for our staff and community planning, building forestry, digital services, corporate strategy, engineering and corporate communications and engagement throughout 2023 resulted in a streamlined and improved pre building permit process, including the visibility of the process to applicants the results will telling a decrease in processing time from 17 weeks to five and a half weeks and 30% of applications being processed within two weeks or less.

“Through this work, our staff now have the knowledge and skill to look at their work in a different way through the continuous improvement lens. We literally taught our staff to fish. So that process improvements can continue.

“For example, in seeking out ways to improve the collection of development charges to provide applicants with better clarity of charges to be paid and saving processing time by conducting this work at the optimal time in the development approval process. We know the improvements will not stop there, but will continue councils multi year investment in transforming information technology to Burlington digital services has advanced our organization. Not only have we broadened our approach to technology to include functions supporting digital enterprise architecture, product delivery and decision support and human centered delivery.

“We have our first digital business strategy by creating and fostering awareness of our capabilities, our skills and technology utilization to deliver better customer outcomes.

“We have an actionable strategic planning framework and road-map for how to use digital technologies, staff empowerment, and culture change to fuel business outcomes. The transformation has significant impact on our organization and needs to continue so we can continue to increase our agility to keep pace with rapidly changing resident expectations and broader external environment.

“Councils multi year investment in creating a new bylaw compliance department has enabled the focus transition and stabilization of our existing board based approach to a proactive team based approach to bylaw review, enforcement and licensing. With the new director carry dive run in place. The transition is underway.

“With continued investment outlined over a four year timeline the end state is a centralized service department for bylaw enforcement, with officers training in multiple areas for efficient response to all areas. This approach will increase service hours provide capacity to respond to emergency issues, such as like taxis and coyotes and reduce the risk that issues will grow to unmanageable levels and support a comprehensive review and public consultation for all bylaws.

“Finally councils investment in coyote response strategy is related to the new department. The focused response has resulted in improved community communication and education of living with coyotes through the collaboration of animal services and corporate communications and engagement. The continued collaboration of Animal Services customer experience and Digital Services resulted in significantly improved reporting and tracking of coyote sightings to enable Animal Services to respond and serve the community.

“These are just some of the highlights barely scratching the surface of the results of the past year and of previous years investments

“Our organization like every organization faces risks, we are not immune. In fact, we are dealing with some of these macro risks today. We don’t need the World Economic Forum to tell us although they will confirm we are in a world dealing with the impact of climate change, as we see the continued need for investment in green infrastructure and changes in our behaviours to adopt. In dealing with the dark side of technology where bad actors use cyber and data security against us. Hence the need for increased awareness and heightened vigilance in preventing and detecting these threats in dealing with the aftershock of the pandemic, and its impact in several areas, in particular human capital.

“Following the pandemic, we saw an impact on supply chain where we see the increase in costs and timelines for delivery. As the world gets back to pre-pandemic times. We see the impact on consumer behaviour, where you will see and have seen adjustments to budgets to reflect the changes in our customers use of recreation programs transit and parking and on operational resilience as we become more agile in our service delivery.

“We are in a world dealing with digital disruption as we see ourselves become more active through our digital business strategy. We are dealing with regulatory and law changes in disruptions. We have become all too familiar with this in the recent months with the provincial government changes.
Finally we are dealing with the fallout from geopolitical events that may not happen are in our backyard, but they have an impact on us as an individuals, as a family, as colleagues and as a community.

“The macro risks are not the only risks we need to be concerned about. The aspirational goals set out in vision 2040 or 25 year strategic plan also face risks. The audit committee and council received the risk assessment in June of 2022 where we identified the top common risks. Each of these risks has a mitigation strategy.

“Your decisions in this budget will have implications not only for today, but for the future years to come. Not unlike the cumulative effect of zero tax increases for a period of eight years during the 1990s. All our efforts are needed to increase our confidence in achieving these aspirational goals.

At that point Jones introduced Sue Evfremidis, Acting Executive Director Human Resources – over to you Sue.

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Petition to keep taxes lower is still open - it is expected to surpass the original target

By Pepper Parr

November 7th, 2023



We have undertaken to report on just how the petition started by Wendy Fletcher was doing on a daily basis.

The target was 2500 – they are very close to that.

The Petition is going to remain active until the end of December.

Here is where the totals stood at 10:00 pm on November 6th, 2023

The Petition is still open.

If you decide you want to support pushing city council to lower the tax click HERE to sign the petition.

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Councillor zoning in on outstanding business licenses

By Pepper Parr

November 6th, 2023



In the municipal world it is not unusual to have licenses required to run a local business, tags for your dog and a license to own a bike.

A third of those holding business licenses are not current with their fees.

In Burlington the business sector has been a little laggard on staying current with their licenses.  Of the 11,000 businesses operating in the city some 350 are late (a polite way of putting it sending in their annual fee); the city wants to help them become current.

Angelo Bentivegna before he was elected to office.

The city also believes there could be hundreds who are not even aware that a license is required.

Ward 6 Councillor Bentivegna was once a bird dog in going after those that were not current.  He will be talking about that problem on Tuesday.


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Decisions already made - what they are costing taxpayers

By Pepper Parr

November 6th, 2023



A project that a Council falls in love with can on occasion come back to bit them.

Other project just don’t work out very well and result in serious cost over-runs – think the The Pier.

Set out below are projects Council has committed to and now have to deal with.




Each of these will have a story behind them.


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Two days of going over where the spending takes place and what the city has committed to in the past.

By Pepper Parr

November 6th, 2023



Council will meet today and on Tuesday to listen to staff explain the work that gets done on a day to day basis and what it costs.

The Mayor has organized a telephone Town Hall to listen to what residnets have to say Tuesday evening.

Later in the month Staff go through the Mayor’s Budget and, with what they will have learned on Monday and Tuesday decide what they want to keep and what they are prepared to take a pass on.

It is going to be an interesting exercise – the Mayor has drawn a line in the sand – no more than a 4.99% increase in the municipal share of the budget over last year.

The schedule for today is:

Who speaks when is set out – how long they talk is unknown. The current City council does tend to go on and on and on even with time limits in place.

Staffing has become an issue for a number of residents – some of the data they will get to look at will raise eyebrows.

The label for this graphic is: The Employee experience

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Assessing the risks when preparing a budget - Part 1 of a six part series

By Pepper Parr

November 6th, 2023


Risk assessment Part 1 of a 6 part series

When a Budget is prepared by Staff the risks involved in spending tax payers money or deciding not to spend tax payers money the risk has to be assessed.

There are within the Finance department people who have been doing this kind of work for a long time. Their approach to measuring the risk is based financial fundamentals and not what the political advantage or disadvantage might be.

The approach tends to be conservative, cautious

The City continues to closely monitor revenue sources and financial strategies to maintain financial sustainability as outlined in the objectives of the city’s long-term financial plan. There are a number of issues that the City will need to be mindful of in 2024 and future years.

Joan Ford, City Treasurer has led the crafting of the city budget for well over a decade. Maintaining adequate reserves is important to her – they were not meant to be played with.

These pressures include Economic Considerations which includes inflation, supply chain impacts and labour shortages in Ontario continue to pose an issue for municipalities.

Inflation – In September, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 3.8% on a year-over-year basis, down from a 4.0% gain in August. While inflation numbers are lower than those experienced in 2022, this reduction (disinflation) does not mean that prices will fall, it simply means that prices are
rising at a slower pace than the previous year.

The City is experiencing significant increasing costs for contracted services, utilities, software license fees and materials that place additional pressures on the budget. For 2024, these higher-than-average inflationary pressures are estimated to be $1,882,924.

Supply Chain – Many materials and supplies the city uses in construction activities are driven by market conditions and more recently significant price volatility and increased lead times during the COVID-19 pandemic. This results in the construction price index increasing higher than the
rate of inflation. From 2017 to the second quarter of 2023, the construction price of erecting non-residential buildings
was over 41% higher than in 2017, the year when the index base was set. This has had a significant impact on the City’s capital program.

Foreign Exchange – The City has a number of large purchases that are paid using United States (US) dollars such as fire trucks and software maintenance. The foreign exchange risk can cause large fluctuations in the market value of these goods at any time during the year given changing economic conditions.

Legislation limits the City in its ability to protect itself against this risk as it is restricted in the amount of US dollars it can purchase in advance and prohibited from entering into foreign exchange contracts.

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Petition to register opposition to the Mayor's budget is still open

By Pepper Parr

November 6th, 2023



Getting Council to listen to the people who pay the property taxes has proven difficult.

Wendy Fletcher started a petition and ran into problems with the City Clerk in getting it presented and shown on the city web site.

The Gazette understood that the petition was closed, meaning that it was no longer possible to add your signature.  We were misled – not deliberately.

The Petition is still open and will be open until the end of the year – by which time the budget, whatever it is going to be, should have been approved.

For those who still want to register their opposition – click HERE to add your name to the position.

There are currently 2173 signatures on the petition.  We will report on how the Petition is doing from time to time.

This is the Petition – but it IS NOT where you sign it. The link to the petition is shown in red above.


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Resident adds to the delegation she made to City Council

By Pepper Parr

November 5th, 2023



When Aldershot resident Lydia Thomas delegated at City Council earlier this week she ran out of time and wasn’t able to include all that she wanted to say in the five minutes allocated to her.  Ward 6 Councillor Angelo Bentivegna asked if she would send him the information.  Bentivegnia doesn’t share information with the Gazette.

Ms Thomas sent what Bentivegna and added some additional content

Some of the facts that were not part of the delegation Lydia Thomas  made due to the time limitation are set out below. She said: “I feel the public needs to be aware that:

Here is what Ms Thomas sent us.

Lydia Thomas

– 39% of people in the survey want 0% tax and 31% want 0-3% (likely most want the low end of that); this is very different than what councillor Nisan was stating

– how much did the city pay for renovations in the last 2 years and why do they want to spend more this year; this despite the fact that the offices are empty because of a hybrid work model which I also disagree with – they should be available in person to the residents they are serving 

Richmond Hill will have a 0% tax increase for the 2nd year running and still find a way to hire 16 firefighters and make significant infrastructure changes – maybe we should be asking them what they are doing. 

Meanwhile Burlington is planning the following further tax increases: 


Results from a city survey

– the fact that the city  hired over 100 + positions last year and want to hire 40 + more this year and it is not clear what all these roles responsibilities are or why they are needed now so urgently. 

-This supposedly represents $4M in new salaries (according to another delegation), –  they need to do more with less (cut headcount) and pass that $4M back to us all.

Would those over 65 prefer free bus transit (new city initiative) or a reduction in their property taxes?

Would we all rather have a reduction in property taxes or winter maintenance for 20 new park paths and parking lots

The City spent millions on digital efficiency tools which should result in reduced head count  but instead they want to adding 40 more people as per this year’s budget

They spent millions on salaries last year and have another increase of $5.674 million  planned for this yr (additional 4.04 m in salaries, 226K in health and dental, and 1.68 m in pension, employer contributions).

Remember the city has generous benefits package including pension so you’re not just paying for huge salaries. Over 10 m to salaries btw 2023 and this budget? The average salary in Ontario is 56K. At city hall its 104K. 

In 2022 Oakville paid about 1.5 m more in salaries than us but they also have about 500 more people. Oakville also paid about 19K less per person on average than we did. Also, Oakville spent 30% of their total revenue on salaries and wages whereas Burlington spent a whopping 55.7%, a 5% increase from 2021.

So we are spending 25.7% more on salaries for less people than Oakville is. Yet Mayor Meed  is claiming we aren’t paying enough and aren’t compatible with other municipalities. Mayor Meed Ward is being paid over $200 000. 

The Robert Bateman building investment was 2.937 million. Previously approved capital projects which includes Skyway and Mountainside ($3.84 Million). It includes more transit but what they don’t say is that’s also more salaries. 

They want to spend $ on refreshing the look of the CIVIC square.  Not necessary after they spent millions updating Burlington City Hall while most employees are working at home with the Hybrid model.   Note they never floated the idea of renovating City Hall by residents  last year so we never had a chance to provide our opinions.  We can stop this if we feel the money could be better spent elsewhere

– Burlington Food Bank stats show that our community is being hurt across all demographics and income levels due to financial instability (including these unaffordable property taxes) 

– quote some of the 711 comments from the survey of which 211 said that they wanted reduced taxes.

  – the fact that the 3 Mayor budget themes (Provide Essentials, Frontline Services, Planning for Growth) are too vague and do not align with what the residents have said that they want in their survey.  (Reduced traffic congestion, reduced property taxes and City Hall cost cutting) 

Results from a city survey

– the fact that the City’s recent budget survey results indicate that more people want services cut and property taxes decreased than they want them increased and yet they feel the need to grow for the 50 year future. The fact is we did not elect them for 50 years. That is not their job.  They need to be sensitive to the current economic climate and help residents keep their homes and stay out of the Foodbank lines. 

– some of the details of the proposal are missing and I would like to see more info regarding exactly how the new money will be used and what the new hires are needed for with facts and #’s to justify.   There is too much focus on the benefits and risks of not doing it rather than the exact details of what the money will be spent on or what exactly the new roles will be doing and why this is necessary. 

According to the people of Burlington in the recent survey, the #1 priority for City Council should be reducing taxes and yet they are doing the opposite.  

Here is a link to the survey:

Here is comment from Wendy Fletcher on Next Door regarding the results  

“As I read through the comments, the number one theme by far is taxes. You can see the results of that survey below. And if MMW can’t see just from the comments how people feel about the taxes then her position is wilful.”

So here are 3 things to do to save us all thousands of $’s and keep us in our homes:

  1. Give the mayor your feedback on November 7th 7-8:30 (virtual) 

** start calling at 6:45; keep trying and don’t give up because the lines will be busy

Phone number 1-800-785-1654.    – call in and if you agree, say:

“ My name is … and l not be voting for you if real tax increases are not kept below 3%”. 

I “if other cities can do it so can you.  Cut the fat or you will be voted out”. “I don’t agree with your budget.”

Keep your call short so others can say the same thing

  1. Attend your Ward Meetings and/or send an email make a phone call to your Ward Councillor saying something like : 

My name is …and l will not be voting for you if real tax increases are not kept below 3%”

In addition to anything else you want to say. 

Ward 1 Kevin Galbraith   Aldershot      Thurs Nov 16th 10:30 to noon  

Mapleview Mall Food court upper level near the elevator   Tel: 905-335-7777, ext. 7587
Ward 2 Lisa Kearns –  Central West

Tel: 905-335-7777, ext. 7588

Ward 3 Rory Nisan Nov 9 TBC- Brant Hills Community Centre

Tel: 905-335-7777, ext. 7459

Ward 4 Shawna Stole.

Tel: 905-335-7777, ext. 7531

Ward 5 Paul Sharman Orchard Millcroft    No meeting scheduled

Tel: 905-335-7777, ext. 7591

Ward 6 Angelo Bentivegna

Tel:905-335-7777 ext. 7592

Attend the Budget Council meeting on Nov. 21st and Nov. 23rd 9:30 am in the Council chambers at City Hall in person or join online  

The purpose of the meeting is to Review and approve the proposed 2024 Budget, including delegations from the public. You can attend to support or Include a delegation submission to say your piece.

Let your voices be heard!!    At a minimum email and make a phone call and then 

Please cut and paste and PASS this note on to 8 Burlington residents.  

It will take you 5 – 10 minutes maximum to make a few calls and emails.  

Without people making noise, Mayor Meed Ward will pass this budget and we will pay 32 % more in property taxes. 

The figures Lydia Thomas uses are hers.  This is an opinion piece to which we have added two pie charts from the Financial Needs report produced by the City Treasurer.

This data comes from the Financial Needs document prepared by the City Treasurer.

Related news story:

A delegation that raised a lot of questions and support from Gazette readers



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The full story of the death of Regan Russell on Friday, June 19th, 2020 at the gate to the Fearmans Pork plant in Burlington

By Staff

November 5th, 2023



Caution – this is very disturbing material.

Regan Russell, run over by a tractor trailer in June of 2020 at the gate to the Fearman Pork plant on Harvester Road.

The full story of what happened to Regan Russell on  Friday, June 19, 2020, when a tractor trailer ran her down as it was entering the Fearman pork processing plant on Harvester Road has never been told.  An investigation by the Toronto Star is very revealing and raises a lot of questions.

What is more disturbing is that the Judge never got to see or here what you are about to see.  The truck driver entered a plea  of guilty, was fined $2000. His driving was restricted to work hours for one year.

Click HERE for the film clips


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

By Staff

November 4th, 2023



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

Saturday November 11, 2023

10:30 am – 11:30 am

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

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

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

Can’t make it? The service can be viewed on CHCH-TV or streamed at

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

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

By Pepper Parr

November 4th, 2023


Wendy Fletcher is a reasonable, decent person.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related news story.

Candidate told he could not delegate.

City Clerk denies a candidate the opportunity to delegate


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

By Lydia Thomas

November 3rd, 2023



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lydia Thomas: Find ways to do more with less.

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

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

Self Fund new initiatives. Utilize volunteers and redeploy resources.

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

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

Is this really the vision that you have for Burlington?

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

Footnotes (Councillor Nisan’s questions):
1. 2022/2023. Burlington Foodbank Hunger Report 2023/03/Hunger-Report-2023_FINALWEB_SPREAD.pdf

2. 2023. WOWA report

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

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

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

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

By Pepper Parr

November 3rd, 2023



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

That’s her number.

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward putting her budget before City Council.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The first draft of the motion was to:

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Moved by Mayor Meed Ward
Seconded by Councillor Paul Sharman

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

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

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

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

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

The motion vote was unanimous.

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

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

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Auditor General to probe controversial scheme to redevelop Ontario Place

By Staff

November 3rd, 2023



Geez – not another one.

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

Premier Doug Ford seated at Queen’s Park

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rendering of the proposed development.


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GO train transported livestock to the Royal Winter Fair

By Pepper Parr

November 3rd, 2023



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

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

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

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

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

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

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Lydia Thomas - please call

By Pepper Parr

November 2nd, 2023



Lydia Thomas

Lydia Thomas delegated at City Council today.

We would love to talk to her.

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

We would love to share them with the public.

Send us an email –



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

By Pepper Parr

November 2nd, 2023



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

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

The report delivered to Council on Monday October 30th.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Burlington’s residential urban rate is 0.00861442

Oakville’s is 0.760437% or 0.00760437

Toronto is 0.506079% or 0.00506079

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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







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

By Pepper Parr

November 2, 2023



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Pepper Parr

November 1, 2023


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

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

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

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

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

The link below set out the rules:

Ms Fletcher points to the section that concerns her.

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

She continues:

City Clerk – Kevin Arjoon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





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