We see getting snow off the sidewalks quite a bit differently than we do getting snow off the roads.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON May 18, 2011 – Ward 1 Councillor Rick Craven will tell you that the one thing that will always get your phone ringing is snow on streets that have not been cleared. The only thing that does one better than that is sidewalks that have not been cleared of snow.

The importance of snow clearing was part of a list of ten items that are summarized below.

While the citizens of Burlington are basically happy with the service provided, clearing snow from the streets and roads is always at the top of their “importance” list.. Ward 1 and Ward 2 residents were more likely to show increased satisfaction with snow clearing when compared to those living in ward 6. Of course, the snow removal people have to deal with Councillors Meed Ward and Craven in wards 2 and 1 – and they fight for their constituents. In ward 6 mild mannered Blair Lancaster may not manage to get the response Craven and Meed Ward get.

How important is it to the residents of Burlington to have the snow cleared from the sidewalks? In 2011 28% saw it as extremely important, up from 24% in 2003

Very important rose from 48% in 2003 to 53% in 2011 It would seem evident that the rising seniors population places more emphasis on the importance of snow being cleared from the sidewalks.

When it comes to clearing snow from the roads the numbers shift a bit. Not only are the numbers different but there are significant differences in the views of men and women and then differences in how important getting snow off the roads is in each ward. Women, for the most part saw clearing the snow from the roads more important than men did.

The Quality of Service Survey was done for Burlington in 1998, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2008 and 2011. The data is based on a random and representative telephone survey of 752 residents over the age of 18 and is considered to be accurate to within plus or minus 3.6%, 19 times out of twenty. For the full survey CLICK HERE.

On balance people in Burlington are happy with the services provided them by the city.




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Huh! I didn’t know. Wonder why they didn’t want him, seemed like a nice enough guy.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON May 17, 2011 – Boy, when we screw it up, we really screw it up. I took a day off to get caught up on my television watching and well the bottom just fell out of the political world I was watching. Bad enough that the Liberals got creamed federally but to learn that others chose to fall on their sword before they even got nominated – that is something to behold.

In a piece on Karmel Sakran’s acclamation as the Liberal candidate for Burlington in the upcoming provincial election I mentioned that there were two men seeking the Progressive Conservative nomination in Burlington. WOW, was I ever wrong.

Rene Papin falls on sword.

Rene Papin falls on sword.

After running at least one half page full colour advertisement in a newspaper that will go un-named, Rene Papin posted the following to his web site:


Bert Radford
Burlington Progressive Conservative Association
Box 8007
Appleby Postal Outlet,
Burlington, ON,
L7L 6B1

Dear Bert Radford,

On the advice of a number of close advisors whom I believe to be well connected within the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, I am withdrawing my application for nomination as the Conservation candidate for the Burlington riding. I have been advised that my candidacy, at this time, does not fit the strategic direction of the Party, and that it would be in the best interests of the Party if I were to withdraw.

It has truly been an honour to have been considered as the candidate for the nomination, but I have always believed that the interests of the Party must come before those of the individual.

I therefore, respectfully withdraw my application for the nomination.


I missed that one. My apologies of the piece I wrote misled anyone.




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If you’re happy and you know it – clap your hands. And in Burlington – we appear to be clapping our hands.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON May 17, 2011 – Do we like where we live? We do. Are we happy with the services provided by the civic administration? Apparently so. The folks in Ward 4 would appear to be the happiest campers while those in Wards 1 and 2 are not as certain that Burlington is a second heaven.

This information is contained in a Quality of Service survey the city had done by a research firm in the Big Smoke to the east of us. This research work was first done in 1998 and repeated again in 2001, 2003, 2006 and 2008. The 2011 survey gives people who reads these reports a look at where the city is today and where it was in each of the years the survey was done.

The city wants to know if they are delivering on the promise when you put the cheque in the mail to pay your taxes. The research firm interviewed 752 people. It took on average 17 minutes to get answers to all the questions. The person answering the question had to be more than 18 years of age. The survey was done between April 4-11. Some over sampling was done to ensure that at least 125 people in each ward were interviewed.

Interesting data. In the next few days we will provide data and commentary. If you are a real data geek the full report is available at: Click here.

A difference of 10% in impression level is significant. Those who thought it was very good has been in a consistent decline while those whose impression was excellent has increased. The difference based on ward is quite telling.

How happy are we with the services provided by the city. Basically half of us are somewhat satisfied while the other half is very satisfied. No one is reported to be totally ticked off with the service.


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Burlington firefighters place well in auto extraction competition.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON, May 16, 2011 – On Saturday, May 14, the backyard of Burlington Fire Department’s headquarters was transformed into the scene of multiple car accidents as seven teams of firefighters from Ontario, the Maritimes and New York State competed in a high-intensity Vehicle Rescue Challenge.

Burlington Fire Department’s auto extrication team works to save a mock patient trapped inside a vehicle during one of the simulated scenarios in the annual Vehicle Rescue Challenge.  2011 BFD Team members are as follows: Mark Eales (Team Captain), Derek Baranowski, Chris Porter, (Medic), Jenny Blain, Ryan Head and Mike Carroll
Burlington Fire Department’s auto extrication team works to save a mock patient trapped inside a vehicle during one of the simulated scenarios in the annual Vehicle Rescue Challenge. 2011 BFD Team members are as follows: Mark Eales (Team Captain), Derek Baranowski, Chris Porter, (Medic), Jenny Blain, Ryan Head and Mike Carroll

Spectators gathered to watch as each team raced against the clock to complete a series of rescue scenarios and safely remove mock patients from inside the wrecked vehicles.

Fire departments enrolled in this year’s challenge included: Halifax and Enfield, Nova Scotia; Brampton; Mississauga; Chile and Brighton, New York; and Burlington.

“This event spotlights the skills of our city’s firefighters and their commitment to continuous learning,” said Fire Chief Shayne Mintz. “Putting our skills to the test through international competition will allow us to hone our expertise in motor-vehicle rescue so that we can better serve our community.”

This is the 27th year Burlington has participated in the challenge, and Burlington Fire has earned an international reputation as being one of the most respected departments in vehicle rescue. This year was no exception, the Burlington Fire Department came in second just behind Mississauga.

Top Medic Award went to Burlington Fire Department’s Chris Porter and Best Incident Commander was awarded to Trevor Shea of the Mississauga Fire Department.

“The Vehicle Rescue Challenge provides our community with an up-close look at how fire department personnel function as a team to perform vehicle rescues under intense pressure,” said Burlington’s auto extrication team captain Mark Eales. “Sometimes people forget that our jobs go far beyond firefighting. It’s competitions like this that demonstrate the expertise and teamwork that is vital in real vehicle rescues and saves lives on our streets and highways each year.”

The goal of the challenge is to help rescuers stay current with auto extrication practices and share ideas to improve life-saving techniques. The concept of the Vehicle Rescue Challenge originated at the Ontario Fire College in Gravenhurst, Ont., in 1984, with teams from across Ontario and the United States. Since then, this International event has grown to the point where regional and national competitions are held annually coast-to-coast in Canada and the United States and countries from Europe, as well as South Africa, Australia, New Zealand.



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Burlington Liberals acclaim their man – local lawyer Karmel Sakran wants the job as MPP.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON May 17, 2010 – More than 275 people packed the Seniors Centre in Burlington to see Karmel Sakran be acclaimed as the Liberal candidate in the October 6th provincial election.

With the federal election over the political junkies in the city can now focus on the provincial event. After that they are in for a long dry spell until 2014 when another municipal race takes place and, if feelings about the current council prevail – that event will be a snore.

A prominent Burlington lawyer and Chair of the city’s 2010-11 successful United Way campaign, Karmel Sakran is now the official Provincial Liberal candidate .

The small variety store the Sakran family operated on Ontario Street still serves the community.

The small variety store the Sakran family operated on Ontario Street still serves the community.

“Growing up in downtown Burlington on Ontario Street behind my late father’s little grocery store taught me the importance of community,” said 46-year-old Sakran, who arrived in Burlington at age 13. “From behind that counter, I saw how he treated people with friendship and respect and how they returned it in kind. It was a powerful message that will stay with me forever.”

Reflecting that early influence, Sakran has become well known in Burlington for his community involvement. A long-time Rotarian, former Regional Chair of the Halton Community Consultation Committees, he is a founding board member of The Carpenter Hospice.

Sakran is currently a member the Board of Governors at Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital since 2006 and member of its executive, chairing its Human Resource Policy and Compensation Committee. He is the board representative on the hospital’s Foundation Campaign Steering Committee whose target is to raise $60 million for much-needed capital re-development.

When it took a small amount to get the United Way over the top Sakran took out his cheque book while Timothy Brown and Len Lifchus, both of the United Way, looked on approvingly.

When it took a small amount to get the United Way over the top Sakran took out his cheque book while Timothy Brown and Len Lifchus, both of the United Way, looked on approvingly.

For Sakran, chairing Burlington’s United Way campaign, which raised a record $2.2 million this year, was an eye-opener. “People don’t typically think of Burlington as having citizens in need, but we do,” he says. “Many youth, families, and seniors benefit from the 44 social programs and services funded by the United Way.”

Seeking the Liberal nomination in Burlington is Sakran’s way of continuing to work for his community. Originally from Nazareth, Israel, of Christian Arab parents, he arrived in Canada at the age of 3 and moved to Burlington when he was 13. Sakran attended Central High School and later Assumption Secondary School, because “I didn’t make the football team at Central and at Assumption, I made the team”.

Sakran later attended the University of Windsor and, after graduating in law, articled for the Criminal Appeals Division of the Attorney General of Ontario in Toronto. He quickly returned to Burlington after being called to the bar.

“I always wanted to live and work in Burlington – that is where my heart is,” he said. “Burlington has been my home and my community for the past 34 years, and my goal is to win the nomination and then represent Burlington in the Ontario Legislature.”

For Sakran, “It’s time Burlington had a Liberal at Queen’s Park.” Conservatives have represented this riding for decades, he notes, adding that they have been less than effective in upholding Burlington’s unique heritage and its integral role as the hub between the GTA, Hamilton and Niagara Corridor.

“Burlington has a leadership role to play in what is happening around and inside its border and we can’t allow another four-year term to pass with us taking a spectator role. The Conservatives want to pave paradise with the mid-peninsula highway and, despite having a Conservative MPP for all this time, no provincial money has been secured for capital re-development of our hospital in the past 40 years.”

His social conscience also stretches beyond Canada’s borders. In 2009, he and two friends travelled to civil war-torn Sierra Leone to help two orphanages and a polio village. Since then, his small group continues to draw on local churches, service clubs and private donors for help, resulting in:

Shipping two large containers to Sierra Leone filled with tools, equipment, food and other essentials – not to mention hope.

Four Rotary clubs formed a steering committee to help develop 11 acres of land outside Freetown for a school, residences and playground for the orphan children, plus partnering with other agencies to establish a sustenance project to raise chickens and produce clean water.

Get ready to see a lot of this “official” photograph of Karmel Sakran

Get ready to see a lot of this “official” photograph of Karmel Sakran

Sakran also holds two annual Burlington fundraisers – one of which is the Wills and Powers of Attorney Event which has raised more than $55,000 for local charities since 2003. The other – a five-K run/one-K walk every Canada Day – raises health and wellness awareness, honours Canada’s Service men and women and raises funds for local charities.

A matrimonial lawyer in Burlington, Sakran recently founded Roseland Law Chambers, a group of seven sole-practitioner lawyers with wide experience across all aspects of the law. He is married and has 2 daughters; his youngest is 5 ½ years old.

The Progressive Conservatives have yet to nominate their candidate but Brian Heagle is said to be in the race and out there in the coffee shops making his case. Rene Papin chose to fall on his sword and withdraw from the race.


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Habitat doesn’t let the drizzle fizzle the re-launch of their ReStore on Appleby Line.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON May 14, 2011 – The Habitat for Humanity Halton ReStore did a “re-launch on Saturday and despite the drizzly weather small groups of people showed up and learned about a resource in the community they did not know about.

ReStore – like any other retail building supply store – great prices and no HST.  Can’t beat that.
ReStore – like any other retail building supply store – great prices and no HST. Can’t beat that.

The ReStore is a retail outlets that sells recycled construction material and building supplies that are donated to the store by contractors who salvaged the material or who had surplus material and supplies they donated. The Restore on Appleby Line is on of 62 spread out across Canada and is part of the Habitat for Humanity organization that builds homes for people who would normally never be able to afford a home of their own

The quality used and surplus building materials and other home-ware products at attractively reduced prices 40% to 75% off
the original cost are sold without HST being added. Kind of place you want to drop into before you head for the big box store in the Mall..

The proceeds from ReStore support the programs of Habitat for Humanity Halton in the community. All materials sold by ReStore were donated for that purpose. In addition to raising funds, ReStore helps the environment by diverting thousands of tons of usable materials away from landfills.

Habitat Halton was founded in 1999 by a group of individuals from Port Nelson United Church. The first chairman was Peter Fisher, a long time resident of Burlington. Initially, the group served just Burlington, however in July 2002; they became Habitat for Humanity Halton. They were granted charitable status in March 2000. To date, the group has built and sold eleven homes to hard-working, local families with mortgages structured so they can afford them. Five homes are in Burlington, two are in Acton, and four are in Georgetown. Currently Habitat Halton is building two homes in Oakville.

Father and daughter look over a door that was recycled and just might meet their requirement.  If it fits, the price will be right.  Little Miss Pig Tails however, wasn’t all that keen on the colour.
Father and daughter look over a door that was recycled and just might meet their requirement. If it fits, the price will be right. Little Miss Pig Tails however, wasn’t all that keen on the colour.

Everyone wins when either shopping at or donating to ReStore. The vision that drives Habitat is a world where everyone has a safe and decent place to live. The Mission behind what they do day to day is using their knowledge, skills, community relationships, volunteers and other resources to create and promote safe and affordable home ownership options with the aim of alleviating the cycle of poverty within our community.

The core values are Housing for All and Human Dignity for everyone. Habitat for Humanity Halton does this by partnerships with others.

Habitat believes that faith is lived through action. Building on their Christian foundation, they serve and work with people of all faiths and beliefs in a spirit of justice and compassion. They believe there is a role for everyone committed to their vision, mission and values and seek only to enrich the organization through diversity.

There are currently two homeownership opportunities. Habitat for Humanity Halton will have a one bedroom condominium in North Burlington that might make homeownership possible for someone.

Habitat in Halton is run by a ten member community Board chaired by Edward McMahon with Anne Swarbrick serving as the Executive Director

Koinonia Farms (a Christian community in the USA founded by Clarence Jordan) used the concept of building affordable houses as the basis for running their housing ministry. Multi-millionaires Millard and Linda Fuller served as volunteers and embraced Jordon’s concept of partnership housing, forming the basic model for Habitat:

  • Those in need of adequate shelter would work side-by-side with volunteers from all walks of life to build simple, decent houses;
  • These houses would be built with no profit added and no interest charged; and
  • The building would be financed by a revolving Fund for Humanity with the Fund’s money coming from the new homeowners’ house payments, donations and no interest loans provided by Supporters. These monies would, in turn, build even more Habitat houses.

In 1973, the Fullers decided to apply the Fund for Humanity concept in developing countries choosing the former country of Zaire to launch their house building program. In 1976, they returned to North America and chose Americus, Georgia as the headquarters for Habitat for Humanity International. In recent years, Habitat has grown to over 1600 affiliates in the US and Canada and is at work in over 90 countries around the world. To date Habitat for Humanity has built over 300,000 houses worldwide making Habitat the largest homebuilder in the world.

Executive Director Anne Swarbrick chats with customer during the re-launch of the ReStore on Appleby Line.
Executive Director Anne Swarbrick chats with customer during the re-launch of the ReStore on Appleby Line.

Habitat is a independent, non-profit, Christian housing program dedicated to the elimination of poverty housing by building homes in partnership with families in need. Families contribute hundreds of hours of sweat equity to the construction of their home and repay a long-term no-interest mortgage. Habitat for Humanity is not a giveaway program. We give families a “hand up, not a hand out.

Habitat is a partnership between volunteers, homeowners, churches, businesses and communities. In 1984 Habitat’s most famous volunteer, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, along with his wife, Rosalyn, participated in their first Habitat build project. Their personal involvement in Habitat’s ministry brought the organization national visibility and sparked interest in Habitat’s work.

Habitat for Humanity Canada (HFHC) was born in 1985, with the formation of the first Canadian affiliate in Winkler Manitoba. In early 1988 an HFHC national office was established, which is currently located in Waterloo, Ontario. HFHC now has over 73 approved affiliate organizations from coast to coast. To date, HFHC has built 2000 homes in Canada. As of January 2009, HFHC Foundation, the fundraising branch of the organization, is located in Toronto, Ontario.

The International headquarters is the “hub” of all of the Habitat’s activities and goings on. Do you want to build in Jamaica or another part of the world? For more information visit Habitat for Humanity International www.habitat.org

If this is something that interests you as a volunteer, call them; if this is something you think you can donate surplus material and supplies to, call them, if you think Habitat can help you find a decent home – call them The number is 905-637-4446.




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Bike check up for the kids and a helmet thrown in – you want to get there early to get in on this one.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON May 13, 2011 – Mark it on your calendar. Saturday May 28th at the Burlington Mall South Parking Lot – 9 am to noon – come early – get your bike safety checked FREE – get a Bike Helmet – FREE and lots more – sponsored in part by Burlington Neighbourhood Watch, Halton Regional Police Service, and Burlington Mall.


The event takes place in the south parking lot of the Burlington Mall

The event takes place in the south parking lot of the Burlington Mall



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That Pier – progress, good solid progress – but we’ve not settled with the bonding company yet.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON May 12, 2011 – There was another update on progress with the building of THE Pier at the foot of Brant Street. This time both the City Solicitor, Nancy Shea Nicol and the Director of Engineering, Tom Eichenbaum were on hand to answer questions. That expensive lawyer from the Big Smoke to the east of us was also on hand to advise and direct. This time he was carrying his smaller briefcase – think that was a good sign.

It looks a little rough today while it undergoes inspections and the drawings to complete the work are brought up to date – but the Pier is coming along just fine.  The city has control of this file now.

It looks a little rough today while it undergoes inspections and the drawings to complete the work are brought up to date – but the Pier is coming along just fine. The city has control of this file now.

Council, as they usually do on this file, went into closed session to talk behind closed doors about the latest from Zurich Insurance on where things stand with the submission they delivered to the city a number of weeks ago. The city is suing the insurance company for several million – asking them to pay up on the performance bond put up by Harm Schilthuis and Sons Ltd. to ensure that they would finish the job. Harm Schilthuis and Sons Ltd., the original contractor walked off the job last December and the city sued both the contractor, the company that designed the Pier and was overseeing the construction and the insurance company that provided the bond.

The City was handling the file rather poorly under the former Council but when the new team took to the horseshoe table in the Council Chambers a new attitude was evident. As well, a number of engineering types are no longer on the city payroll.

The legal stuff will take time but my sense is that the City will prevail and that there will be a settlement in the City’s favour when all is said and done. There is now a Project Management Team (PMT) in place which consists of a professional project management firm (Mettko) and a procurement consultant (Cassels Brock) – we’re not going to be buying any sub standard steel this time around. Recall that there was failure with some of the steel used for the deck of the Pier that failed when there was a concrete pour.

The city is on schedule to have half of the construction drawings ready by June 1. An inspection of the caissons and other parts that are under water has been done – the preliminary report says no problems at that level. The electrical room has been inspected and it is fine. The city is working with the supplier of the light fixtures to determine how to incorporate what has apparently already been purchased into the design.

The site was basically abandoned by the previous contractor, Harm Schilthuis and Sons Ltd. Last December. Working through various contractors, the city has had to go in and ensure that everything is as it should be.

With the drawings that will be available early in June Mettko will prepare an initial cost estimate and then go out to tender in July. Tenders will close in August and a decision made in September as to who the contractor that will build the Pier is going to be.

The Mayor might want to put the Burlington Teen Tour Band on notice that they will be needed Labour Day to March down Brant Street to celebrate the signing of a contract and as a dry run for the Official opening that is penciled in for sometime in June of 2013.

The submission from Zurich Insurance didn’t help when it arrived a number of weeks ago but if the smile on Tom Eichenbaum’s face when he left the closed session of Council Committee last night is any indication – things are going just fine.

The Pier is going to get built and it will open before the summer of 2013.





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If you’re into firemen and how they get people out of cars when there is an accident then we have a deal for you.

BURLINGTON, ON May 11, 2011 – Saturday, May 14, at the Burlington Fire Headquarters Station on Fairview St. fireman from Canada and the United States will take part in an exciting auto extrication competition.

Seven auto extrication teams with six members each will participate in the competition.

Fire Department teams currently enrolled are from Halifax and Enfield, Nova Scotia;

Brampton; Mississauga; Chili and Brighton, New York; and Burlington. The goal of the

challenge is to help rescuers stay current with auto extrication practices and share ideas

and techniques to improve life-saving techniques.

Burlington fire fighters will go up against fireman from Canada and the United States in an auto extraction competition.

Burlington fire fighters will go up against fireman from Canada and the United States in an auto extraction competition.

This event is open to the public. All are welcomed to attend. Food and beverages are available. Children under 12 years of age will receive a free hot dog. Saturday, May 14, 2011, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Headquarters Station, 1255 Fairview St., Burlington
Competition to be held at Training Complex at rear of station.



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Burlington is creating a Strategic Plan that will set out just what kind of a city it wants to be. Magi and Dwyer lead the process.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON May 6, 2011 – So, said the guy in the sales lot – you’re looking for a Strategic Plan – what kind of a budget do you have ?

Not all that much money and I need something that will last me at least four years.

How heavy duty will your driving be?

Not sure exactly, some of my travel will be very heavy duty will all kinds of passengers and many of them will have a lot of baggage – and then there will be those short runs to the LCBO. It will be a pretty solid mix.

Colour matter? Four door? Automatic transition? Sound system?

Probably blue – we’re a blue town. Four doors for sure and a hatch back – we are going to have people crawling in and out of the thing. Automatic would be nice – don’t need sound, there will be all kinds of talking going on.

If Burlington was buying a strategic plan from a sales lot that is how the conversation might go – but we are not going to buy a strategic plan we are going to build our plan with a level of community involvement that includes over 80 community groups and almost anyone else who has something to say.

The process is headed up by Allan Magi, Executive Director, Corporate Strategic Initiatives and Michelle Dwyer, coordinator of Corporate Strategic Initiatives. From now through to September they will be directing the effort that will have city hall staff, your Council and you the public figuring out and thinking through what the strategic plan for the city should be for the next four years.

With a Strategic Plan in place ( and we won’t have that until sometime in September) City Council can then begin to develop a budget for the remaining years of its term and move forward on each of the objectives set out in the Strategic Plan.

Council and senior staff members have been working through just how they want to create the Plan while Magi has been working on the relationship with the consultants and keeping in touch with Council members while Dwyer has been gathering data and getting input from staff. This, apparently is the first time staff have been as directly involved at input into a plan, said Dwyer and many appreciated being asked what they thought and felt the city should be doing in terms of the direction it will grow in. Dwyer pointed out that many staff members live in the city and they want to be able to comment both as citizens and employees who have an insight into what can and can’t get done. For Dwyer that realization was a pleasant surprise.


Much of the research and data gathering was done by Dwyer who came across an idea used in Edmonton that she thought could be used in Burlington equally well and that was a Work Book that people would download form the web site and complete.

Dwyer has been with the city for some time. She worked in Parks, the in Clerks and now with Community Strategic Initiatives. She was also the United Way associate for the city. Dwyer studied at Mohawk College.

Dwyer will tell you that this assignment is one of the most exciting she has worked on. She is getting an up close look at what the different departments see as the future of the city and at the same time working with stakeholder groups who have their own vision. Out of all these groups will come a Mission, Vision and Values statement and that, Dwyer will tell you, is a big deal.

Mayor Goldring mentioned the workbook at a Q&A held by the Chamber of Commerce and suggested that citizens gather with their neighbours in small groups and go through the Workbook. The idea didn’t exactly float but didn’t fall to the ground like a lead balloon either. It was a different approach, sort of like homework for the community, an idea that Dwyer came across in her research and convinced the Mayor to give it a try in Burlington – and it worked.. People downloaded the workbook, went through the document and sent them back to city hall. A number of people also did the one line survey that was put up.

The creation of the Strategic Plan is running on several levels. While Magi and Dwyer gather material, work with staff and then organize the more than 80 stakeholder groups in the city and arrange for presentations to Council, a group of Consultants hired by the city to take senior staff and council through the finer points of crafting a Strategic Plan. Just how do you create a Strategic plan anyway ? The plan that was in place for 2006 to 2010 had very little impact on the how the city grew and wasn’t much more than a collection of statements and a lot of nice pictures.

This Council didn’t want to make that mistake again but who knew just how to do this. The city didn’t have that level of expertise in house. The standard citizen Quality of Service survey was revised with input from both staff and Council – results of that work are in the review and analysis stage

Another phase is the community input, which is where community groups make presentations to city councillors. The first took place at the Burlington Arts Centre where seven groups presented. The second input session had 13 community groups telling Council what they think should be in the Strategic Plan. The community stakeholders resulted from a list sent to council for input – groups were added or deleted from the list.  Forty four key stakeholder groups  were asked to provide for council consideration three priorities they would like to see in the Strategic Plan. Some came forward with the “same old” but there were some interesting insights.

Allan Magi came to Burlington 20 years ago and expected to return to the consulting work he was doing – but hasn’t managed to do that. He explains that the Strategic Plan process he is leading will be the eighth Burlington has produced and that Burlington was one of the first municipalities to get into the process of creating a Strategic Plan.

Past plans have been less than inspiring and this Council wanted to do it differently and Magi was given the job of leading the process. “We first wanted to ensure that Council had ownership of this Plan” he explained. “We wanted the Plan to be more operational and to tie the first part of a 20 year plan to the term of office for the Council” In other words Magi was charged with coming up with a plan that was based on a 20 year vision

with clear objectives as to what would get done ion the next four years..

“There are huge intangibles in a Strategic Plan explained Magi. It is a Council’s vision that they drew from the citizens. We wanted ground level input and we wanted to cast our net as wide as possible. In the past the community input was somewhat limited and this Council didn’t want to make that mistake.

Magi was involved in the city portion of the Shape Burlington report that was the first document to put the city on a different path and has worked very closely with the Shaping Burlington people, who were the successor organization to the Shape group, that were commission by then Mayor Jackson to ask some fundamental questions as to just how the city worked and where the problems lay. Former Mayor Walter Mulkewich and the late John Boich co-chaired the Shape group and delivered a very significant document.

Magi came out of that process with a much different view of what the city wanted and is using much of what he learned to produce a Strategic Plan process that will build on what Shape Burlington taught us.

Magi learned that the city had to move much earlier on getting public input – “much, much earlier than it has in the past.” “We knew we needed more interaction but we weren’t completely sure how we would do that. We knew that we had to test ideas and try to anticipate the direction the process was going in to be sure we were on the right track.

A Strategic Plan can become a wish list and remain just that but this Council wanted a document that would have ideas and direction and be something that citizens saw as reflecting what they saw for their city. At the same time the objectives set out in the Plan had to deal with fiscal reality. Burlington is at the beginning of a shift into a different form of development. Gone are the days when there was “greenfield” development after “greenfield” that produced significant revenue from the development charges.

The city had to think in terms of making better use of what it has and that has meant quite a bit of infill development – and if the reaction to the rather small development in the Queensway community and the upcoming plans for a large apartment building at Brock and Ontario are any example – the infill process is going to be noisy and awkward.

There are challenges on several fronts. The city has frozen suburban development at the 407 and now faces the possibility of a new highway around Lowville and the Mt Nemo plateau which would have the all but immediate effect of moving the suburban development to that new road. Many feel this will be the end of the rural north for Burlington. Big, big community fight at that level – which saw one of the larger community demonstrations in front of a downtown hotel against any Niagara-GTA highway.

The city has to decide what it wants to do with its languishing western Beach and also what to do with the downtown core that isn’t living up to expectations. Understanding how we are going to manage the city for a growing seniors population and the challenge of bring high quality, high paying jobs, to a city that doesn’t have any Class A office space.

All these issues will, ideally, be reflected in the Strategic Plan that Allan Magi and Michelle Dwyer are stick handling through a very delicate process. Hovering over everything Magi and Dwyer di is the fiscal reality. Burlington managed to come in with a very small tax increase for 2011 – due to a very significant surplus from the previous year. The city may not be quite that fortunate next year and will have to teach its ratepayers how much what they want is going to cost.

Magi, who came to the city with an MBA tucked under his arm and a bit of consulting experience on his resume is now managing two consultants from a firm that has an international consulting practice who are helping Burlington put together a Strategic Plan that Magi would like to see, when it is completed, as one of the best any municipality in the country has produced. One wonders if Magi saw any of this coming the day he walked into a Human Resources office in Burlington for his first interview.

Magi has learned that there has to be more process and that while process takes time it does result in a more cohesive community. While this isn’t new territory for Magi it is stretching him and he seems to be having the time of his life on this assignment.

He came to the city to work in the engineering department, the moved over to water resources and on to Recreation and Parks and now he heads up the Corporate Strategic Initiatives and works closely with the KPMG consultants who were brought in to help staff and Council put in place the management tools and processes that will allow for the creation of a Strategic Plan.




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Turned out there wasn’t a fire but we walked down eight flights while in the middle of an interview on – Emergency Preparedness.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON May 3, 2011 – It turned out to be This is Emergency Preparedness month. Boring. Do you have the candles tucked away, do you have food for three days in the basement and do you have bottled water set aside and do you know where to run to, to grab those important documents and get out of the house in time?

Debbie Wade, 8th floor fire marshal at city hall cleared the floor and then followed the Mayor to street level.  Fire Marshall’s get to wear the hat – Debbie isn’t keen on it.

Debbie Wade, 8th floor fire marshal at city hall cleared the floor and then followed the Mayor to street level. Fire Marshall’s get to wear the hat – Debbie isn’t keen on it.

All of us have some of the stuff in place and I thought that given this is Emergency Preparation month We would do a story on what is not exactly an exciting news item.

It occurred to me to meet with the Mayor and ask how he decides if he should declare a State of Emergency and then just how does he do that. So there we were, sitting in the Mayors office. He had the Emergency Preparedness manual in his hands – it’s confidential – and he was explaining the procedures involved. Then the fire alarm began to ring. Frank McKeown, the Mayor’s right hand man stuck his head in the door and asked: “Pepper, did you do that?” “It wasn’t me”, I replied as the Mayor reached for his suit jacket and coat and headed out the door. I followed, notes in hand.

Everyone left in an orderly manner with the Mayor holding the door for Debbie Wade to go before him. “You first Mr. Mayor. I’m the Fire Marshall for this floor and I’m the last person to leave after I’ve checked to make sure the floor is empty.”

So we all trooped down the eight flights with the Mayor carrying his Emergency Preparedness Manual and an umbrella. We got down in just over four minutes and were clear of the building before the fire trucks arrived. So, we know that part of emergency planning works. The city does a dry run a couple of times each year. Each Fire Marshall has a back up and that is over seen by Ron Durocher.

Before we were so rudely interrupted Mayor Goldring was explaining how he, as Mayor, acts when there is a city level emergency. Previously I had asked McKeown what the procedure was for the Mayor when there was a major emergency and McKeown said that was one of the questions he and the Mayor asked each other the first hour they were in the eighth floor office of the Mayor at City Hall. They soon found the Manual with all the detailed instructions.

Shortly after asking the question the Fire Chief showed up with a copy of the Manual in his hands and took the Mayor through the steps he has to take if he decides to declare a State of Emergency and then went through the procedures. This Mayor was making sure he didn’t find himself where former Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman of Bad Boy fame found himself when he called in the army to clear snow from the streets on that city. This Mayor wasn’t about to make himself look like an idiot.

Burlington firefighter does his paper work for what turned out to be a non event when the fire alarms went off at city hall.

Burlington firefighter does his paper work for what turned out to be a non event when the fire alarms went off at city hall.

The back up office for command central is Room 247 at City Hall. If there is a major emergency the Mayor and other key staff assemble in that room and use communications equipment the fire department has in storage ready for instant use.

Later this month the Mayor and the Emergency Control Team will meet and do a day long exercise of running the city as if there were a major threat to the city and its citizens.

Asked what he thinks his job is when there is a major emergency Mayor Goldring said he” “tied to visualize what it might be that he had to deal with. I thought of the major derailment that took place in Mississauga in, what was it, 1979 – 80. What would an emergency look like and what would I do?”, he asked.

And then went on to say he saw his role as assuring the citizens that the problem was under control and that the right people were in place to deal with the emergency.

Mayor Goldring, out on the street in the rain with his staff while the fire alarm is checked.  The Mayor brought his emergency Measures Manual with him.

Mayor Goldring, out on the street in the rain with his staff while the fire alarm is checked. The Mayor brought his emergency Measures Manual with him.

I see my job as assuring and empathizing with people. I would be out on the street meeting with people and making sure the interests and the needs of the people were being taken care of.

There was no “I’m in charge here” in the words the Mayor used. “I would have manuals to work from and would ensure that what should be done is done.”

While the Mayor doesn’t pretend to be an expert on emergencies he does think about what could happen and appreciates that a lot of rail traffic goes through Burlington and that there are thousands of trucks on the QEW which runs right through town and that there are ships out there on the lake and all have the capacity to carry chemicals and liquids that are toxic and could be very dangerous if released.

So, the city appears to be in the hands of people who know what to do in the event of an emergency or a catastrophe. What about you? Are you at all ready – and what should you do today that would make you ready.

Literature and information on what to do in an emergency is set out at city hall.  Worth looking at if you’re in the building.

Literature and information on what to do in an emergency is set out at city hall. Worth looking at if you’re in the building.

One of the things you might consider is getting a back up card for your bank account and make out a list with the numbers of all the important things. Your Passport could be in a safe place and having a list of the numbers: Health Card, Driver’s License, critical names and telephone numbers.

There are a number of organizations that are there to help and your neighbours are the best resource you have. Know your neighbours well and let them know you. Society works when we take care of each other.

If you want to really do the job log into any of the following:

Red Cross: www.redcross.ca/storefront

They have an excellent emergency kit that is contained in a knapsack. Handy to have.

Where do natural disasters take place. Click here – all pretty close to home.



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Queensway community doesn’t like what a developer wants to do to them. Council doesn’t help much.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON April 29, 2011 – It started at 74 units to be built on property that consisted of six houses – the 74 was said to be acceptable based on good planning principles. The local community didn’t like it one bit and they got noisy.

Three houses that front on Queensway west of Guelph line wait for the wrecking ball and the creation of a development that will create 58 housing units in a community that has had nothing but small bungalows.

Three houses that front on Queensway west of Guelph line wait for the wrecking ball and the creation of a development that will create 58 housing units in a community that has had nothing but small bungalows.

That brought it down to 64 units – locals still weren’t happy. That brought it down to 58 units which is where it was left after a long council committee meeting that had Ward 4 Councillor Jack Dennison suggesting that maybe, just maybe, taking out two more units would make everyone happy – but he wasn’t able to get anyone to take him up on that idea. So the community is now battling a development of 6 semi detached units; 18 back to back townhouses and 34 standard townhouses.

Ward 1 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward was the proponent behind getting this project down to 40 units, which from her point of view was “perhaps acceptable” given that there were only six units on the property that was assembled for this development which is located south of the QEW and west of Guelph line; a part of the city that was originally developed as Veterans Act Lands, and like Aldershot, is a community where there are streets with no sidewalks.

It is an older part of the city with larger than normal lots where there is a clear sense of identity and mild resistance to change – at least to the kind of change that the proposed project will bring to the community. Most people saw the level of intensification this development was bringing about to be close to offensive however, it did meet with the zoning and official plan. This is a community that is a just a very short walk to the Burlington GO station, minutes to the QEW and a hop to a large Mall and a skip to a good supermarket. The only thing the community doesn’t have it a “big rock candy mountain”. Easy to understand why these people like their community just the way it is.

The roads in this community are narrower; 6-7metres with no side walks when the norm is in the 9 to 9.5 metre width. If sidewalks were put in the width of the road would decrease. Traffic flow is already a problem and 56 additional homes with a car and a half – well you can see where this is going.

What made this one a little difficult was that there were six properties being assembled for the development with those at the north end zoned a little differently than those at the south end. While planners understand theses intricacies – the average homeowner gets snowed under by this level of detail. All they want is for their community to remain much the same – even though most of the delegations – there were five of them, said they understood change was necessary – they just didn’t think this level of change was fair and good for their community.

Burlington is faced with pressure from a couple of sides. First the province has called for growth and intensification under the Places to Grow Plan. That is just a fact the city and its residents have to deal with. The small enclave of a community that is snuggled in west of Guelph line and south of the QEW is a classic example of what the province wanted to see changed. The lots were created in what is for the most part end of WWII bungalows on mature streets that don’t have sidewalks or sewers. Most of the lots are large by today’s standards; the six that were assembled for this development are large enough to have a very decent sized market garden in the back. You could play a football game in the yards that existed in the properties that were assembled.

The developers saw the opportunity and as one resident said at the Community Development Committee:
“If this project goes through there will be others” and indeed there will be others. Developers see the value and individual homeowners also see an opportunity to cash in and take away the value of really large lots.

So, the requirement to intensify is very real and developers are quick to spot the opportunities and exploit them. The building of homes is a large part of the local economy and more homes means more tax money collected. The location for this development is fabulous. One could walk to the GO station from this project and indeed it was suggested that this development was a perfect opportunity to create a protected bicycle lane that would be on the edge of the Queensway, allowing a rider to be at the GO station in 10 minutes. Provide decent bicycles lockers and the city will have taken a big step to putting its plan for more cycle use in place.

Burlington has a unique rural component that begins north of the 407 and extends to the northern edge of the municipality and includes the Mt Nemo plateau. If the city wants to maintain that rural community, and if you speak to people in Lowville and Kilbride there is no doubt that they want to keep the rural setting, then the development is going to have to take place south of the 407 and QEW – which brings us back to communities that face a development that everyone knows is going to significantly change the place they have chosen to live and raise their families.

This is the challenge that faces Burlington and one that adds wrinkles to the brow of Mayor Goldring. He can see a situation where there will be a battle in every community that undergoes social and development changes. He truly believes there is a better way to do this – but so far hasn’t come up with the formula needed.

“We were not informed about this amendment despite the fact that I had requested to be informed.”

Richard Szymczyk

However, as several people making delegations said: “We know change is coming and we accept that – but can the change be something that respects who we are, where we live and the life style we have created for ourselves.”

Is this the only way we know how to manage the growth that is going to take place? Is there not a better way for the developers to provide the housing that is needed and for the people who live in a community to have a significant say in the way the community is going to change? Is there a person or a group of people within the community that can pull people together and ask the city to provide some resources that will help the homeowners maintain the community they have and at the same time manage the growth?

Some Queensway residents have decided to let developers know they are “available” and put For Sale signs on their lawns.  Is the beginning of the end for a once quiet enclave that is going to go through a significant intensification?

Some Queensway residents have decided to let developers know they are “available” and put For Sale signs on their lawns. Is the beginning of the end for a once quiet enclave that is going to go through a significant intensification?

Or is taking the fight to the Ontario Municipal Board where a tribunal will listen to both sides and announce a decision that everyone will have to accept the only solution? And in the meantime confusion, disruption and a slow breakdown of the social fabric that created the community in the first place. Individuals will sell their homes, take the capital gain and look for a new place to live. Indeed that has already started

Richard Szymczyk, speaking on behalf of the Queensway Ratepayers, brought some focus to what was happening to the community when he said there were two fundamental issues before the committee: process and that of content. While content was a major issue, it was process that had the residents up in arms for they felt they had been short changed when it came to an opportunity to review what staff was proposing and that they were not fairly or adequately heard. “I take some issue”, said Szymczyk “with the fact that the document we have before us, outlines in great detail support for the intensification, but neglects to inform you about the very strong opposition made by those who will be most affected – the current residents.”

Szymczyk complains about the amount of time the community had to respond to a staff document (and this complaint is heard frequently) Szymczyk said “we have had access to the amendments for only a week and it is virtually impossible to organize a community meeting and develop a response. In that period of time. The way the game is played now, ratepayers have to use their spare time to respond to developers who are at times rapacious – and if asking for 74 units and accepting 58 isn’t rapacious then I don’t fully understand that word –and devote all their time to this profit making venture.

There is nothing wrong with profit but does it have to be at the expense of community? And by the way – just who is 1066834 Ontario Limited? They are a division of 967686 Ontario Inc and are located at 4305 Fairview avenue, Suite 216 right here in Burlington.

Szymczyk complains as well about a change in a zoning by law that allowed an increase of more than 30% in terms of density.” We were not informed about this amendment despite the fact that I had requested to be informed.” This complaint has been heard before as well and it appears that the city doesn’t go that “extra mile” for ratepayers and citizens but has a lot of time for developers who work at their projects full time.

It is a small matter of making allowances. For example, a number of people complained that they did not get notices. The City Planner, Bruce Krushelnicki takes great exception to hearing that he is not being fair for he is a very fair decent minded human being. But here is his dilemma. He is required under the Planning Act to advise people of changes by mail and an email address is not sufficient to meet the requirements of the Act. Fair enough – but surely it would be possible to create a list of the mailing addresses and at the same time maintain a list of email addresses and uses both to send out notices? And what’s with this requirement to send notices only to those people within a 120 metre radius? Surely the Planning department could look at its maps and be generous when creating the radius within which people have to be notified and make that radius large enough to cover people who are ‘likely’ to have an interest in the development being discussed. This is a small matter and one that could be undertaken by a progressive community. It is the Spirit of the law that matters rather than the Letter of the law.

Marianne Mead Ward, then a candidate said in her Oct 2010 Special Bulletin for Queensway Residents that City Council has “quietly changed the allowed densities for a controversial housing project in the Queensway neighbourhood –and not one city official or elected representative came clean when directly questioned at a public meeting.” There was an opportunity for Mead Ward, now the Council member for ward 2 to come clean at Committee meeting on April 18th and review for Council and the 40 plus people in the Council Chamber the sad history of this development application, but there was more comment from Ward 4 Councillors Jack Dennison than Mead Ward.

This has been a messy one from the start, complicated by a property assembly that has different zonings on different parts of the six lots involved. It is certainly an intensification, taking six lots and trying to plunk down 74 housing units which has been ratcheted down to 58 units – with the residents howling for 40 units. This is a difference of opinion that seems headed for the Ontario Municipal Board.

One of the six houses waiting for demolition in a neighbourhood that has been stable and secure sine the early 50’s

One of the six houses waiting for demolition in a neighbourhood that has been stable and secure sine the early 50’s

There was a zoning bylaw that called for 30 units on a hectare of property that could be taken to 50 units per hectare if underground parking was put in place. Underground parking was never part of the plan but that didn’t stop city council from putting through a zoning change that allowed for an increase from the 30 units per hectare to 40 units. These zoning changes took place during the summer and at a time when Mead Ward didn’t have an office at city hall. Now that she has – she is stuck with what is going to be painful from a community point of view and expensive for the city when it has to pay for the OMB hearing that appears to be a certainty if a ratepayers spokesperson is to be believed.

City planning staff are satisfied that the modified 58 unit proposal, which falls within the medium density housing range, is appropriate for and compatible with the surrounding neighbourhood. The developer doesn’t appear to want to go any further and so it will get one more round of debate at a city council meeting and then a final vote. Will anyone ask for a recorded vote on this one or would they rather all just hope they can hold their noses and get it done?





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The Shape Burlington report as presented to city council in 2010

backgrounder 100Shape Burlington logo

A report by the Mayor’s Citizen Advisory Committee on Civic Engagement – April 2010

Mission Statement

Through community consultation and research into best practices, to determine and recommend to the Mayor, Council, and citizenry, those methods the Committee feels will best enable citizens to become more engaged in their communities and empowered to effectively communicate their concerns to the government and other citizens, resulting in more timely citizen involvement in the decision making activities of local government

Letter from the Co-Chairs

Exceptional people do exceptional work. The people of Shape Burlington who put this report together are exceptional. They are eloquent representatives of the diversity of Burlington’s population as well as first-rate interviewers, facilitators, writers, and include a highly competent web master. All their time and personal expenses were contributed freely as caring and concerned Burlington citizens.

We thank you for volunteering and accepting our assignments without reservation. We congratulate all of you on a job well done.

We could not have developed this Report without the guidance and input of consultants Peter Macleod, Joslyn Trowbridge and Chris Ellis of MASS LBP.

We owe so much to Dr. Joey Edwardh and Ted Hildebrandt of Community Development Halton who provided the administrative services and expertise in community development.

We are honoured that Mayor Cam Jackson had confidence in our integrity and judgment to select a committee and to reach out to Burlington citizens for their views on better and more effective communication and involvement with City Council and Staff. We thank Mayor Jackson for this opportunity to serve our community. We believe we have fulfilled the terms of reference for this advisory committee.

For us, this has been a journey of discovery, which has reinforced our belief that we live in one of the finest communities in Canada.

This Report reflects accurately the views of those people who took the time and opportunity to share their opinions on how we might improve civic engagement and two-way communication with local government. City Council can honour these citizens by considering carefully each and every one of the recommendations. . . In our opinion, these eight (8) recommendations must all be implemented.

We understand that these recommendations will require City Hall and Burlington residents to re-think how local government communicates and interacts with the community in a more participatory and consensual mode. We believe the implementation of these recommendations will foster more informed deliberation, inspire greater confidence in local government, and build a more caring community.

John Boich, Co-Chair Walter Mulkewich, Co-Chair


Transforming the culture at City Hall – City Hall must reinvent itself.

As social, technological and demographic trends alter the face of every community, municipal governments are struggling to adapt their long-established practices to meet the challenges of an ever-evolving new world.

Burlington is experiencing a period of rapid growth and change. Citizens are more literate, more educated and more connected than ever before. They are also busier, more distracted and require more from those who represent them, develop the policies and provide the services in their community.

Formed at the request of the Mayor, Shape Burlington was given the freedom to act independently. We spent three months working with Burlington residents and City Hall staff and members of Council to learn more about how the City operates and how it engages with residents.

Shape Burlington is comprised of citizens who live in all areas of the city. They bring a broad mix of experience and expertise to their commitment. We were assisted in our research and procedures by MASS LBP, a public consultation company with expertise in citizen engagement and democratic innovation.

We investigated practices from communities around the world. Who is facing similar challenges? How are they doing it? What can we learn? What best practices are already being implemented, and how can Burlington create its own recommendations?

We conducted interviews with members of current Advisory Committees. We spoke with representatives of cultural and sports groups; representatives of the business community; citizen groups and high school students. We met with City staff at different levels from many different departments. We interviewed Department heads and managers, Councillors and the Mayor. And throughout, we met with many Burlington residents in public forums and listened to them via our website. Ail expressed their hopes for creating a better City and also their frustrations over how City Hail makes decisions or sometimes fails to listen.

Tasked with recording a broad spectrum of messages and observations, Shape Burlington has delineated 14 specific issues that were constant themes in our investigation. From this, we have identified eight recommendations that can help Burlington navigate the future.

Some are self-evident; some are bold. But all come from the people who live in and work for this City. They call for increased engagement and a dearer vision; for more communication to a recovery of trust; for a sense of belonging and more meaningful participation of all segments of our community.


Engagement: Transform the City Hall culture to promote active citizenship and civic engagement

Promoting active citizen engagement and meaningful public dialogue requires a culture shift at City Hall. A crucial first step is the development an Engagement Charter – a plain language policy document developed with public involvement that incorporates benchmarks and accountabilities, and describes the value, purpose and opportunities for citizens to influence city policies.

The charter would explain how to navigate City Hall and its services. It should stipulate best practices for various kinds of public consultation and affirm the city’s commitment to inform citizens and respond to their ideas and contributions. t would address the question of reaching out to a diverse population.

The charter would incorporate an early notification system to provide citizens and groups information about meetings, events and issues, and to allow reasonable amounts of
time to understand, discuss and develop positions before decisions are made. A guide for its development could be the Edmonton PublicInvolvement process.

Vision: Shift City Hall processes to greater involvement of all citizens in a shared vision of our city

Citizens should be more fully involved in preparing Burlington’s Strategic Plan after each municipal election. It is the single best time for them to influence the City’s long-term direction.

The 2011strategic planning process is an ideal opportunity to begin implementing the principles set out in this report. Citizens should be involved in writing the plan.In this way, they will participate in developing a vision statement for Burlington, set out with clear and measurable action plans that the community can buy into. Some participants could be chosen through citizen juries or random selection.

The strategic planning process and the municipal election itself should be linked explicitly in the minds of voters. n this way the election and the development of the strategic plan would be twinned democratic processes and act as the principal conduits through which the city renews and resets itself every four years.

Communication: Empower people by overcoming the communications deficit

The City should foster the development of an independent information service, including a web-based community news and information portal through start-up subsidies and encouraging community support.

In addition, the Communications Department at City Hall should be fundamentally transformed into a timely and reliable source of City information free of political bias. t is an essential step in providing more resources to foster information, education and continuous learning.

After a comprehensive review of diverse multimedia communications processes, the transformation would include a revamped and more frequent City Talk,webcasts of committee and Council meetings and a user-friendly, well-written website that incorporates the latest web2.0 and gov2.0 innovations to make government more accessible and interactive.

Members of Council are encouraged to develop their own communication vehicles that are separate from the corporate communications process.

A robust, independent professional media is essential in a functioning democracy. We encourage the local news outlets to develop the business and technological solutions that will allow them to reclaim their proper role in the community.

Trust: Improve the public’s trust and confidence in City government

Staff and members of Council should review their protocols and procedures for dealing
. with citizens to improve public trust,confidence and respect for citizens. This would include ongoing staff training programs and establishing cross-department and measurable
, customer service standards.

The delegation process should be overhauled so that is not an obscure or intimidating experience for citizens unfamiliar with City Hall or unaccustomed to public speaking. To make citizens feel more welcome, Council, staff and the public should work together to amend the Procedural Bylaw, develop a new manual and provide staff assistance to delegations as required.

To enhance transparency and access, Council could periodically hold its meetings in different geographical areas across the City, including libraries, community centres and schools where students could participate in the proceedings.

Belonging: Build a caring and inclusive community

The City should reach out to minorities, marginalized groups and all of Burlington’s geographical areas. This would include building greater social cohesion through strategic promotion of Burlington’s opportunities and celebrating each others’ success.

In partnership with the community, the City should establish a policy of inclusivity measurements to ensure that City policies, programs and services reflect our changing population. This includes the needs associated with changing population groups, such as seniors and people from diverse backgrounds, and the social, economic and cultural contributions of these groups. The goal is to forge a city where all participate in building the infrastructure for caring and the opportunities to belong.

As society moves faster and individuals become more mobile, creating a sense of place and marking important milestones become more significant. This can be accomplished through pageants and fairs, special occasions and events – a cycle of distinctive annual events that have widespread appeal and draw the community together.

An inclusive community is one that provides opportunities for the optimal well-being and healthy development of all children, youth and adults. All members of the community gain from social inclusion – those who are vulnerable for reasons of poverty, racism, or fear of difference – as well as the broader community that benefits when everyone is able to participate as a valued and contributing member of the community

Participation: Empower committees and community organizations that work for people

An Office of Engagement should be established to foster and implement recommendations contained in this report.

The Director of the Office, reporting to the City Manager, would implement the Engagement Charter, working with municipal departments to review their policies and design more effective forms of consultation and engagement. This would include a program to support different levels of.citizen access and providing meeting space for community/neighbourhood councils and other community-based groups organized around specific issues.

The Director should consider initiating discussions with community groups to develop a template for independent community or neighbourhood councils such as developed in Quebec City, Portland (Oregon) and Los Angeles.

The Director would provide support for Burlington’s Citizen Advisory Committees, important local institutions whose potential has not yet been fully realized because of variation in their

operation, constitution and purpose. Council needs to rethink the structure, responsibilities, standards and accountabilities of future advisory committees. One option is to establish committees that cut across different issue areas.

Youth: Reach out to the next generation

In cooperation with the school boards, Council should invest in meaningful initiatives at different grade levels. Members of Council and staff should be made available to speak to students in their schools.

A specific proposal is involvement in the Grade 10 Civics program, already in place.
Initial meetings with the Director of the Halton District School Board have produced enthusiastic interest in augmenting this program with a module that could be created with input from the City, the school boards and a committee with experience in both these fields.

Using their volunteer hours as currency, students should be brought into the planning process in ways that they help define: creating a website and social networks that allow them to engage with issues that are important to them: transit, sports facilities, bicycle paths, cultural events, festivals, environmental issues, education and diversity.

There is a genuine need, and value, to reach out to Burlington’s youth. Lifelong civic engagement begins here.

Governance: Define roles and responsibilities

A.governance review should be undertaken to clearly define and differentiate the roles and responsibilities of Council and staff.

Workshops, conducted after each election, would help ensure that Council members make effective decisions and spend their time appropriately and effectively at the policy-making level. They will also ensure that staff is empowered to do their job of administration, providing advice and implementing Council policies and decisions.

Messages & Observations

Burlington is using traditional models in a new age

The City of Burlington public involvement processes and methods of engaging the public for both decision- and policy-making are based on traditional models that belong to the past.

Significant social and demographic changes, population growth, increased urbanization, and new technology in the past 30+ years mean that changes in the modes of civic engagement  and communication between citizens and government are necessary to relate to a changing society. In recent years, a wide variety of innovations in civic engagement and democratic inclusion have been developed in municipalities and communities in Canada, U.S. and globally.

Burlington is not on the cutting edge of these developments to match its leading edge economy and above average literacy and education rates.

Everyone recognizes the need for improvement

There appears to be as a broad consensus among the public, City staff and members of Council that the processes of public involvement should be improved. However, there are many different viewpoints on what and how extensive these improvements should be.

The public wants more extensive change than City Hall does.

While staff and members of Council generally agree that improvements are needed, most believe that the City is doing a better job in communicating and promoting and civic engagement than does the public. Further, the public appears to favour greater changes than those suggested by Council or staff.

Many believe that City Hall is not listening

There is a broad consensus among representatives of citizens who deal with City Hall as well as the public at large that City Council and staff is not listening. Citizens want to see that their input is taken seriously and has a meaningful impact on outcomes.

Citizen confidence in local democracy is declining

There is a broad consensus that public confidence and trust of the City and its democratic processes have declined, especially in the past few years. Most members of Council agree.

Tomorrow’s major transformative issues will require a new form of leadership.
Burlington will face a number of significant transformative issues over the next decade: greater urbanization and intensification 1 the impact of build-out on taxes, an aging population, and the need to adjust services for seniors and youth, low income groups and those from diverse backgrounds.

These issues will require leadership at all levels of City Hall to enhance civic engagement.If there is not effective public involvement in the decisions and policy-making processes, the community could become even more distressingly polarized.

Good citizenship means citizen responsibility

Good citizenship is a two-way street Citizens have a responsibility to help make a better community and take part in decision and policy making in an appropriate manner and with mutual respect. The public involvement process should give citizens the greatest opportunities to exercise those responsibilities.

Issues Governance – the roles of Council and staff
Some citizens suggested that a lack of unified direction and leadership from City Council made it more difficult for staff members to do their job and, further, that staff members were not sufficiently empowered and trusted. Others suggested that staff had undue influence over Council and its decisions. These questions of leadership and respective roles are governance issues, but they have a significant impact on the ability of City Hall to establish a high level oftrust for effective public engagement. Some citizens suggested
that staff members are frustrating to deal with because they do not have a sense of Council’s direction or goals. The public has difficulty putting issues into their strategic context when they do not understand Council’s goals or feel Council’s directions do not represent a community consensus.

Governance – size of Council

There was a widespread view that the size of Council should be re-visited. Many citizens felt that Council members were too overburdened to make good policy decisions or be able to respond as well as they should to public demands for input and service. However, Council has been the same size for 13 years and it appears that only in the past few years has the concern about its size become a major factor. So are other factors at play? There were some suggestions that the issue is not so much size as one of establishing better standards, measurements, and process for accountability. There were some suggestions that Council members need not spend as much time on service issues and they should restrict their time and efforts to focus on policy directions and major issues, and show greater trust in City staff to do their job.

Service quality and process

Many citizens thought that the quality of service, response time and staff attitude has declined. Interestingly, several members of Council agreed. Citizens’ experience with City Hall is a major determinant in creating trust in municipal government and the democratic process. Citizens have a right to be well treated, as customers and as citizens. The City does not appear to have a clear quality service policy, although one is in early stages of development.

Not au citizens feel included or respected

Some citizens felt business groups and other organizations have a better relationship with City Hall than those involved in activities such as social justice and the environment They believe that the City should do more to reach out to all citizens and sectors of society.

A number of citizens said they felt intimidated and faced an adversarial attitude on the part of Council when they attended Council or committee meetings as delegates,

Staff reports and presentations

A specific suggestion, repeated several times, was that staff reports should, as olten as possible, include options for Council and public to consider so that there is a greater ability to evaluate the best possible direction. Further, the suggestion was made that staff presentations at public meetings should be dear, succinct and relevant to the audience.
And, the suggestion was made that the Chairs of public meetings, whether they are Councillors or staff, should be trained in conducting meetings.

The need for more and better information

While we live in an information-based society, communications about the local community, local government and local issues have declined. To have information is to have power.
The local information deficit is significant and is a major deterrent to public involvement. There was agreement among all participants that the decline of traditional media as a source of information and platform for debate is a major issue, Fewer professional journalists cover City Hail. Council and committee meetings are often unreported.
Compared to 15 years ago when Burlington had three newspapers and frequent radio and television coverage, fewer pages are devoted to City news and there is no radio or television coverage to speak of. Cable TV is still present but competes in a multi channel and multimedia universe. There was some feeling that the media often shows bias, City Talk received mixed reviews, with a large number of people perceiving it as more of a political document than an information provider. Citizens, especially those involved with
various organizations, expressed a desire to receive information before issues are discussed.

The need for more education

A common comment was that many residents do not understand City Hall’s procedures and policies and therefore require some basic education so they can navigate the system better and have more confidence to engage.

Importance of early citizen engagement

There was wide agreement among the public, Council and staff that it is important to involve citizens as early as possible in the decision-making process, especially for major issues. Citizens felt that they are consulted too late, after the staff report is already in a final or semifinal form. The timeline after a final report is publicly tabled is often only a few days before a committee meeting, leaving citizens little time to adequately prepare if they wish to express their views effectively.

The need for meaningful dialogue

Public information sessions and many public meetings do not allow citizens to become engaged in dialogue with each other to arrive at a consensus. We heard from some members of Council that meetings and processes where residents have dialogue and help frame solutions result in better buy-in because citizens feel they have had an impact.

The influence of single-issue groups

The influence of single-issue groups received mixed reviews. Some citizens considered them to be a major barrier to allowing the opinions of the large spread of citizens to be heard effectively. Several members of Council indicated that this was an issue. Other citizens believed single-issue groups are positive and effective.

More effective use of digital communications

Digital communication and new information technologies are enabling improved interactivity, information-sharing and collaboration as well as a range of social media services, wikis and biogs. They are substantially changing how we communicate and use information. With some exceptions, most people have access to this digital world, particularly young people whose civic involvement is so important. The City should be prepared for the next wave of wireless technology. The City’s website has come in for criticism because it is not user friendly and does not contain useful information. The City has not yet entered the web 2.0 stage. So the City’s proposed website revisions and social media considerations are timely. Some have suggested that web-based communication tools can complement and even replace many traditional meetings. Burlington’s knowledge base could be expanded by a Burlington Wikipedia, a repository of public-sourced information on a range of local subjects.

The importance of public involvement in major policy plans of the city

The Strategic Plan, Official Plan, Capital and Operating Budgets, the Parks and Recreation Master Plan and the Transit Plan are all policy blueprints. Typically, they are the most difficult for the public to provide critical input. There is a need to develop processes to obtain better and more effective public input at the earliest stages. Further, there was a strong feeling that the Strategic Plan does not include sufficiently specific and measurable goals to be effective.

The need to make more effective use of Citizens Advisory Committees

There is a public perception that the Citizen Advisory Committees are not listened to sufficiently. The City is not taking full advantage of this important resource.
Representatives of Advisory Councils have mixed reports on the effectiveness of their activities in terms of influencing City Council decisions and the community’s quality of life. A common issue is that the committees often have difficulty meeting timelines to provide advice.

North versus South,new versus established

It was noted that different geographical areas in the City, particularly new neighbourhoods in the northern and eastern areas, do not feel part of the Burlington community. Some residents of these areas may feel closer to neighbouring municipalities in terms of entertainment and shopping.


Excelence in government

One of the best measures of a city’s quality of life is the successful engagement of its citizens with their elected local government. This has been an ongoing issue for Burlington for many years. Citizen engagement is a broad and complex issue, which, ultimately, has its roots in the state of social cohesion in the community. One aspect of citizen engagement is the effectiveness of the communications between the local elected government and the citizens they serve,

In 1997, the City of Burlington hosted a citizens’ workshop on community-based government. Subsequently, City Council appointed a Citizens’ Community-Based Government Committee, which presented a report to City Council in October 1997 with recommendations to improve citizen engagement and communications. After 1997, City Council changed from seventeen elected members to a smaller size of seven members including the Mayor, all of who also served on Halton Regional Council. Other dramatic changes since 1997 include the diminished role of the local media, the use of digital and web based technology, and rapid population growth.

Mayor Cam Jackson has expressed his belief that the City’s communications with its citizens needs to be enhanced to achieve higher levels of awareness and civic engagement. Others have expressed similar concerns. Encouraging broader citizen engagement and improving the way local government communicates with its citizens is a commitment that should involve ongoing, two-way community dialogue. Mayor Jackson has announced the creation of a “Mayor’s Citizen Advisory Committee on Civic Engagement”.

He has asked respected community activists John Boich and Walter Mulkewich to co-chair the committee and select the committee members ensuring a broad range of representation, including gender equity, diversity and geographic representation from across the city. This committee will prepare a report for the Mayor. Their recommendations will be shared with the public and council. John Boich is the former Chair of the Rambo Creek Ratepayers Association, a local citizens group advocating for the citizens in the greater downtown area. Walter Mulkewich is a former Mayor of Burlington and was a member of the 1997 Community-Based Government Committee.

Terms of Reference

1. Review the 1997 report on Community-Based Government (Report of the Community­ Based government Committee,October 29, 1997; City File: 130) and other relevant information on citizen engagement.

2. Review civic engagement with local municipal government through research of current modes of communications between the City and its citizens, as well as the type and level of citizen engagement with the City through Advisory Committees and other means.

3. Develop a work plan, including a communications plan and a budget to meet the mandate of the committee.

4. Solicit information and ideas from members of City Council, City Staff, ratepayer and citizen groups, community organizations, high school students and the general public.

5. Review best practices in communication in the public and private sectors as well as civil society.

6. Consider the culture required to incubate and nurture the engagement of the public, in the public decision making process.

7. Hold focus groups in different areas of the City, which will include invited participants representing a broad cross section of Burlington life, as well as being open to the public.

8. Prepare a final report on its findings and recommendations by March 31,2010. This committee will present this report for the Mayor and share their recommendations with the public.


The Mayor’s Citizen Advisory Committee on Civic Engagement is established to move us closer to realizing our Future Focus Seven goals to be “customer focused where residents are part of City Council’s decision-making process” and “striving to keep residents informed and engaged so that all members of Burlington community have the opportunity to have their voices heard.” This Committee will provide ideas and recommendations that could be helpful to implement this Council’s approved goals and strategic actions of the Future Focus Seven strategic plan: ·

Future Focus Seven: Excellence in government

12.2 Engage citizens more effectively in city Council’s decision-maki ng processes by: 12.2.A Exploring every opportunity to raise awareness of city services through different forms of communications technology and offer additional opportunities for citizens to provide their views to council; and,
12.2.B Develop framework and protocol which council may consider for undertaking enhanced public consultation.

Committee composition and organization

Committee Members: Maximum of 10

Administrative Support Departmental Resource Support External Resource

Recruitment and selection

Voluntary, inclusive citizen representation ensuring balanced gender and geographic representation
Mayor’s staff As requested TBA

1. The Committee shall be selected by the Co-chairs.

2. The Committee shall be representative of the social and community fabric of Burlington. Citizens who have had active experience with City Hall as users of services or participants pertaining to City government will be an asset to the committee’s work.


This committee will be resourced through the Mayor’s office. City staff and Council are asked to be available to provide information and input to the Committee’s work, as requested by the Committee.


This Shape Burlington Report is only possible because of the huge commitment, hard work, and outstanding contributions of many people in a short period of time from November
2009 to April 2010. Therefore it is important to not only acknowledge them, but also thank them.

Our citizen volunteers

We thank an incredible group of committed citizens from every geographic area of Burlington representing the diversity of our population who attended many committee meetings and consultations with the public as well as doing individual research.

• The Co-Chairs: John Boich and Walter Mulkewich
• The Steering Committee: Doug Brown, Leslie Bullock,Amy Collard, Ken Edwards, Hussein Hamdani, Blair Lancaster, Paul Sharman, Lorraine Sommerfeld, John Searles
• Sub-Committees (Research, Communications, Community Dialogue, Writing): Marilyn Abraham, David Auger, Kale Black,Neil Bryson, David Conrath, Joey Edwardh, Larissa Fenn, Mark Gregory, Mark Henderson, Tim Lindsay, Paul Mitchell, Rennie Mohammed, Roland Tanner, Chris Walker.
• Other participants: A number of citizens were only able to attend some meetings. Carolyn Forbes, Kurt Koster, Anisa Mirza, John Morrison, Yaw Obeng, Karen Parmenter, Andy Rotsma, Judi Smith, Bob Wood, Ken Woodruff, Pat Wright.

Mayor Cam Jackson

The project was initiated by Mayor Cam Jackson who appointed the Co-Chairs and approved the Terms of Reference. We appreciate his support and commitment without input or interference from his office or City Hall, allowing our committee and report to be independent. We also appreciate his support by providing the resources of his office.
Finally, we appreciate the contribution from the Mayor’s Pride in Our Community Fund (within the Burlington Community Foundation) and financial support from the Mayor’s budget.

The public

We thank people in the Burlington community who responded to our request for input.
• Citizens who attended our three public roundtable workshops.
• Representatives of community organizations who attended three small group conversations
• Representatives of the City of Burlington Citizen Advisory Committees.
• Students at Corpus Christi and Central High Schools.
• Citizens who participated in our on-line survey and dialogue on our website.

Council and City staff

We thank all the members of Council and staff who gave us their time to openly share their experience, skill, knowledge, and vision.

Burlington Community Foundation

Shape Burlington is extremely thankful for the $15,000 grant received from the Burlington Community Foundation (BCF) through its Mayor’s Pride in Our Community Fund. This grant made it possible for Shape Burlington to enter into a partnership with Community Development Halton (CDH) and to engage MASS LBP as consultants to our project. We are also thankful for the interest shown by BCF in our process and for the input of representatives of BCF at several Shape Burlington meetings.

Community Development Halton

Community Development Halton (CDH) is a community-based organization providing Burlington with social planning and community development capability. We were pleased to have CDH as full partners as advisors and participants. CDH assisted the Co-Chairs in the supervision of our consultant, MASS LBP. Joey Edwardh, Executive Director, and Ted Hildebrandt, Director of Social Planning, participated in many of our Shape Burlington committee meetings and public conversations as well as being full participants in our Research Committee. We thank them for their knowledge and skills, as well as meeting space for several meetings.


MASS LBP is a new kind of company that works with visionary governments and organizations to deepen and improve their efforts to engage and consult with citizens. We were pleased to have Peter Macleod, Joslyn Trowbridge and Chris Ellis work with us throughout this project. MASS LBP helped establish a context and direction for our work plan and final report. They provided us with two important papers, a reflection paper on the trends in local democracy and an environmental scan of trends in innovation in civic engagement in local municipalities. They attended a number of meetings of our Committee and sub-committees, and they facilitated the conversations with City Staff and two of the public roundtables. They also helped facilitate our conversation with the representatives of the Citizen Advisory Committees. Finally, they summarized all our research, conversations, interviews, and meetings and gave us their analysis of the process and its findings to help us shape our final report.

Website (www.shapeburlington.ca)

We are grateful for the many hours of volunteer time of our Webmaster, Roland Tanner, who created and maintained the website. We also thank for the members of the Communication Committee who provided advice.

Three General Managers met with MASS LBP and the Shape Burlington Co-c.::hairs for a candid conversation on the role of citizens in municipal governance. The General Managers perceive a shift in municipal governance that is moving to a more upstream process of citizen engagement and public consultation, doing more engagement earlier in the policy making process. They see staff and Council working more cooperatively with citizens now than ever before, making an effort to be transparent and more open about the constraints facing the City and the changes that are in Burlington’s future. This shift to a more robust process of citizen engagement is still in its early stages, the General Managers say, and thus the implications are still ill defined. Nevertheless, they feel there is a consistent effort being made at City Hall to improve the public’s awareness of new cost containment policies and the impacts this has on the City’s services.

Internally, City Hall faces several challenges to engaging citizens more effectively. The first is a lack of clear measurement of which departments are working collaboratively. This is related to a lack of standards for public consultation and engagement across the departments – while some departments, such as Planning, must adhere to Provincial standards in notification and consultation, others do not. Not measuring what departments
are doing in terms of consultation, and not having best practices and standards to adhere to give the feeling, in the words of one General Manager, of being in a pinball machine, with many consultation activities happening across departments. Without the time and resources to benchmark engagement practices, effective public consultation will be harder.

Other internal challenges include the lack of diversity in City Hall staff, which detracts from the City accurately reflecting the growing cultural and linguistic diversity of Burlington’s community. This lack of diversity can present challenges for customer service and engagement activities. Finally, General Managers expressed concern over the formal rules of Standing Committees and delegations to Council meetings, which can prevent some citizens from communicating their views in a way that makes sense to them.

External challenges to effective public consultation and engagement identified by General Managers include the lack of public trust in democratic institutions and the high expectations and volume of demands placed by citizens on staff and elected officials. The lack of public trust makes positive messaging of the City’s activities difficult – General Managers feel that the public assumes staff is not very involved or caring and not on the public’s “side.” At the same time, citizens are demanding more from staff and elected officials, expecting quick turnaround times to their questions or concerns. These factors combine to make communication, messaging, and consultation resource-intensive.

Speaking about the process of public meetings in particular, General Managers identified two problems. First, they feel that citizens only come out to a meeting if they are upset or unhappy with a situation. This means that broad and inclusive representation is hard to achieve, as only vocal individuals with a stake in the outcome attend. It also compounds efforts to get high levels of participation in priority-setting and visioning meetings, as these meetings do not offer a point of contention for participants to engage on.

For example, consultation on the City’s budget traditionally sees low participation, but offers citizens the greatest opportunity to affect change for the future. Second, an increasingly mobile population means high turnover for neighbourhoods, and thus a different slate of participants show up at each public meeting. This erodes the consensus and knowledge
built through previous consultations, placing more constraints on moving forward through an issue during a series of consultations.

Based on these internal and external challenges, General Managers identified opportunities for improvement to the City’s public consultation and engagement practices. These opportunities are as follows:

• Set standards of engagement and consultation across departments and embed them as aspects of performance management to help change the culture at City Hall
o Look at best practices within City departments and establish corporate consistency
o Establish measurements and benchmarks to respond to citizens in an appropriate manner and time frame, especially when considering vocal groups and contentious issues
o Promote a culture in which staff recognize citizen knowledge as complementary to their own professional expertise
o Help the next Council term to look at expectations and roles around communication and engagement

• Work towards a “one window” service approach where all staff are ambassadors for all City programs and services to break down “professional silos”

• Improve communication with and messaging to citizens by:
o Being clear about expectations and how cost containment strategies will
affect programs and services
o Encourage broad conversations on the City’s future rather than just ‘hot button’ issues
o Use new technology better and begin a social media strategy to reach out to the public in a variety of ways

• Improve citizens’ knowledge of how city government works, potentially by offering educational sessions on and offline

Department Directors

MASS LBP and the Shape Burlington Co-Chairs met with seven department directors, representing the Traffic and Transit, Parks and Recreation, Roads and Parks Maintenance,
·Engineering, Corporate Strategic nitiatives, Finance and Environment departments. The Directors agreed that the rapid pace of technological change require their departments be able to adapt their modes of communication. n light of technological advancements, increased resources and staff time need to be dedicated to learning, using, and sharing new technologies. They noted that the main internal challenge lies in determining the priorities for devoting money and training time to keep pace with new technologies for internal and external communication.

When asked about their views on the role citizens have to play in municipal governance, City Directors felt that overall citizens are deeply engaged. This engagement contributes to high citizen expectations of interaction with Burlington municipal government, especially in comparison to other municipalities. Directors perceive pressure from citizens to provide increased transparency and accountability, and for government to present a sound rationale for its decision-making. The challenge in responding to that pressure lies in providing information that is succinct while using a convenient mechanism for input and feedback.

Directors note that their staff has trouble determining what and how much information they should provide to the public, as well as the amount of resources to dedicate to this task.
They also said that while certain segments of the population, particularly retired or older citizens and those who oppose an issue, can regularly attend and be vocal at public meetings, other demographics such as commuters and younger citizens with families are harder to get feedback from. However, the consistent positive responses to the City’s Quality of Services survey leads Directors to believe that the majority of citizens are satisfied with City Hall.

When asked what they thought was working well in terms of public consultation, Directors expressed pride in a “commitment to excellence in governance at the top” in City Hall culture, including engaging and consulting with citizens to incorporate citizen input into decision-making. Council was particularly praised for its efforts in this regard. Directors identified the ability to make materials such as reports available to citizens online as greatly facilitating City Hall’s ability to provide citizens with an abundance of real-time information. They were also pleased with the interest citizens demonstrated in providing feedback. As noted above, the Quality of Services Survey consistently results in a high rate of return and positive comments. Opportunities for interest groups and special focus groups to make presentations to Council also garner a high level of participation.

Building on these successes and responding to the challenges identified, Directors discussed opportunities to improve the City’s public consultation and citizen engagement activities.
These opportunities are as follows:

• Better communicate the existing opportunities for engagement and consultation

Use more web-based media to counteract the decline in local print media,  For example, use web-casting for sessions on the budget

@ Involve commuter citizens and those without young families/lack of time

Modify the Quality of Services survey to include more questions on engagement

® Consult citizens on improving the website to identify what types and how much information the public wants

Finally, the Directors expressed the need to communicate to citizens that their job, as staff, is to bring many different perspectives of an issue to the conversations that interest groups and citizens are involved in, but not to advocate for any particular perspective. Their challenge is to remain neutral during consultations and allow all options to stay on the table throughout the duration of public input, which can conflict with citizen demand for direction, guidance, and the elimination of unpopular options.

Other Staff

Thirteen staff, including Clerk’s department and communications staff, Councillors’ Assistants, customer service and accessibility coordinators, T and business staff and graphic designers, met with MASS LBP and Shape Burlington to discuss their perspective as frontline staff who communicate with Burlington residents often, if not daily. Many of the challenges they identified related to customer service and the transactions that occur between citizens and City Hall. nternally, staff recognized that they had limited capacity in serving citizens and other customers with different linguistic backgrounds, and that the elderly may not find their services accessible.

The counters on the first floor of City Hall are often the first point of contact for many citizens, and the staff recognized the need to constantly strive for improvement in customer service. n addition, staff identified difficulty in using plain, simple language to inform citizens about an issue. One participant remarked that some reports produced were even difficult for Councillors to understand.

On communications, staff felt that there was a lack of strategic and standard marketing across departments, and expressed concern that some official City communications looked like advertisements for Councillors, instead of focusing on City information and activities. Finally, staff echoed the concerns of General Managers and Directors that the formal rules for presenting to Council and the language used in Council meetings could alienate and discourage citizen participation.

External challenges to effective public consultation and engagement identified by staff included only receiving negative feedback from citizens and thus not being able to identify what staff was doing right, and the lack of initiative from citizens to inform themselves about the issues. Staff felt that they were doing a good job of getting information out to citizens, and expressed frustration when citizens emerged at the end of a public consultation process to claim they had not been informed. t is often too late to consider public input at the stage in which citizens start to provide input. This “not in my back yard” impetus for getting involved is frustrating to staff who feel that they have provided avenues for input early in the decision-making stage.

Finally, staff felt that there was a low level of awareness of the division of responsibilities between Federal,Provincial and Municipal levels of government, remarking that citizens often asked staff to change services that the City does not provide.

Other external challenges identified by staff echoed what we heard in conversations with General Managers and Directors, as well as in departments. The public perception that government employees do not work very hard, the need for staff to remain politically neutral throughout the consultation process, and the difficulty in engaging young citizens were mentioned as factors preventing effective engagement.

While staff felt that their role in customer service, particularly having a live answer switchboard, was making a positive impact on how citizens perceive municipal government, they were concerned that one “hot button” issue that receives negative press can be detrimental to citizens’ positive perceptions.

Opportunities for improvement i dentified by staff include:

• Break down issues to show how they impact citizens and localize meetings to increase engagement
o For example, show how the Official Plan or other planning/visioning documents can affect citizens

•Involve the public earlier on issues and keep them involved throughout the decision making process

• Mail and communication from the City should reflect City business and be politically neutral

• Citizen participation in Council meetings should be less formal,more modern and “real”

•Implement standards and training for customer service for frontline staff
o This is currently being reviewed

• Measure how departments are faring on customer service, implement a system for following-up with complaints

• Market the City better to increase a sense of pride, use strategic marketing

• Advertise outside of City facilities (we go to them instead of expecting citizens to come to us)

Clerks and Communications Department

We spoke with five Department staff responsible for community relations, council services, committee services and communications. This session addressed current practices to interact with and respond to citizens as well as the successes and challenges staff have experienced when connecting with citizens. The department faces several internal
11challenges to effective consultation and engagement. Citizens are demanding more
f information and expecting quicker response times. This places pressure on staff to balance
completing their daily tasks and core work while responding to this demand.

Taking on new staff and using new technology to increase department capacity is a potential solution, but these both take time and resources for training and management. Staff struggle with reporting back to the public on how public input will be used to make changes, and have difficulty communicating operational plans in plain language.
Communication costs, such as marketing, branding, and ensuring consistency across departments, can be high, and the public is usually at odds over this spending, as it competes with spending on core services. Thus staff face increased demand for clear, fast and effective communication, but there is a lack of public will to spend money to obtain this kind of communication.

The Clerks and Communications staff also identified the difficulty in staying neutral during public consultation on a contentious issue, and are often asked by citizens for information on the “best option”,which City staff cannot give. Finally, staff identified a “work squeeze” in the middle of a Council’s four year term, where pressure for results mounts as the lead­ up to the next election begins. They felt that the “City sees customers, but Council sees voters.”

A main external challenge Clerks and Communications staff face is “private sector demands” on the public sector. n the private sector, niche marketing, customized experience, and access to information and technology raise customer service expectations. These are often replicated in the expectations citizens place on elected officials and public servants.
However, the process by which the public sector gathers, interprets, and weighs competing demands and remains neutral and open to all opinions prevents them from offering customized services to each citizen. For example, many staff noted that citizens demand an unrealistic response time to emails (usually two hours). Many citizens send a second email if they do not receive a reply within two hours or so, placing demands on staff that staff simply cannot meet.

Other external challenges echo the conversations with other City staff – the public misconception that staff do not work hard or long hours, a changing audience at public meetings does not allow staff time to keep up with input and demand for changes to plans, and the lack of public awareness of the division of services between the City and the Province. Despite these difficulties, Clerks and Communications staff felt that they did provide excellent customer service and that considering the volume of requests, their response times were adequate. They pride themselves in working to be information providers and to get the right information to the right person, and hold their internal communications to a high standard. They identified the following opportunities for improvement:

• Need research that establishes:
o What does the public think of us?
o What information do you want to hear?
o How do you want to hear it?

• Consistent public notification and consultation process prior to the drafting of reports
o Find a best practice that works with the legislative requirements

• Dedicate more staff and more staff time to the Citizens’ Advisory Committees

• Expand the department’s arsenal of communication methods, including the use of social media and new information technologies

Planning Department

Six staff from the Planning Department responsible for Policy, Development, Planning, Site Plans and Urban Design met with MASS LBP and the Shape Burlington Co-Chairs to identify challenges their department faces when consulting with the public. They identified a shift in the planning and development field towards more public input and consultation, but noted that this takes time and resources to do effectively. The complicated nature of planning

presents staff with a significant challenge when communicating with the public. Specifically, documents and reports, such as the Official Plan, contain information that is imperative for citizens to understand, but are often written “by bureaucrats for bureaucrats.”

This makes it difficult for staff to help people make an informed contribution, and significant resources are required to communicate both the big picture vision associated with planning and the specific tradeoffs associated with a particular project. n particular, staff noted the lack of citizen understanding of the legislative requirements around city planning, which means citizens are asking to change plans that are not always up for negotiation.

Staff feels that the public is only engaged on a topic when it affects them personally, and that citizens do not understand nor respect the stages of consultation associated with planning. They noted that citizens have the greatest opportunity for input during the policy, visioning, and budgeting stages, but usually participate in public meetings that happen after these stages and are mostly meant to inform the public of what is happening. This results in frustration on both sides. Staff also find that citizens come to a public meeting misinformed, thus forcing time to be dedicated to educating and informing citizens on the project rather than providing input or feedback. n addition, the length of time between consultations presents a challenge, as neighbourhoods change and different people show up to different stages of the consultation.

This makes Planning Department staff feel as if they are “speaking to a parade” and erodes the knowledge and consensus built in previous public meetings. Staff also noted that participation rates in rural areas are low, contributing to uneven consultation across the city. Finally, staff felt that citizens are generally adverse to land-use change, and have difficulty communicating the demographic necessity of these changes for Burlington.

Despite these difficulties, the Planning Department prides themselves on their public engagement efforts, noting that they often go above and beyond the legislative requirements for consultation. They try to use public consultation activities as “teachable moments” to help educate the public on how the planning and development process works, and note that of 2000 Customer Service Questionnaires distributed last year, less than 2% had negative comments.

Opportunities for improvements identified by Planning Department staff are:

•Implement a more streamlined, continuous process of engagement that focuses on the positive implications of development

• Dedicate more staff and more time to innovations in public consultation

• Explore ways to cope with the changing audience in public meetings

• Fill in gaps left by the decline of the local media
o Use website to better communicate planning and development projects in a more timely manner

City Talk

The five conversations with City Hall Staff included a short discussion on City Talk, the City of Burlington’s corporate newsletter. Many staff agreed that the newsletter is in need of redesign, and that this is in fact underway (City Talk was previpusly outsourced and is now being brought back in house). They agree that City Talk is an important source of information for citizens who are not online, but feel that it has “lost its way” over the past few years. Staff would like to see City Talk include more information on what is happening in the City and less space devoted to Councillors’ activities. One staff member suggested a survey or inquiry into how the public uses City Talk and what they would like to see it contain.

Return to the Front page

The four give it their best shot but no one candidate moved anyone in the room. Back to the doorsteps for all of them.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON April 28, 2011 – Wow! Can these people every spend money. I lost track of just how many millions the four candidates for the federal seat of Burlington said they would spend on our behalf. A couple of time they even mentioned billions. They tossed off the numbers the way kids do when you’re teaching them how to play Monopoly.

Alyssa Brierley was there as the Liberal Candidate, David Laird there as the candidate for the New Democrats, Graham Mayberry as the candidate for the green Party and Mike Wallace as the sitting member for Burlington in the House of Commons and asking if the community would re-elect him. The candidate for the Marxist Leninist Party did not attend – a Chamber of Commerce meeting wouldn’t be seen as good ground to work for those who want a Socialist paradise. I wondered why a Marxists Leninist party would see Burlington as a place to run a candidate. Burlington ???, I asked when I first heard, had Randall Reef done that much damage to the water we drink?

Wallace lost a bit of weight during the campaign – one notch on his belt.  Will he notch another election?  This is Burlington.

Wallace lost a bit of weight during the campaign – one notch on his belt. Will he notch another election? This is Burlington.

During the all candidate event hosted by the Burlington Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by the Real Estate Association of Hamilton/Burlington, no one candidate moved the room any great distance. There were a couple of good shots gotten in by Brierley and Laird. Mike Wallace seemed to struggle a bit to keep up. Laird was the strongest speaker – he had his file down pat and delivered his opening comments without glancing at any notes whereas both Wallace and Brierley seemed to have to pause frequently to collect their thoughts. Had it been debate rather than the polite Q&A the Chamber of Commerce prefers, Laid would have led and been closely followed by Brierley. The thrust and cut of a debate is not where Wallace excels. Graham Mayberry was almost entertainment rather than an informative candidate.

The room of more than 150 people did like Brierley and they responded with a healthy laugh when Laird said that this was his “fifth” election and that he was at least “tenacious”. The Chamber had said “no walk-ins” but had you walked in you’d have found a seat.

The responses heard were based on the questions asked and while some were surely planted by the candidates it wasn’t that solid a business crowd.

Gave perhaps the best performance at the Chamber of Commerce All Candidate – if Burlington picks up on the national buzz for the NDP – he might – but this IS Burlington.

Gave perhaps the best performance at the Chamber of Commerce All Candidate – if Burlington picks up on the national buzz for the NDP – he might – but this IS Burlington.

Graham Mayberry of the Green Party seemed to mumble at times and said that he didn’t really have a position on income trusts but that he would certainly like to have one. Wallace made it very clear that the Conservatives weren’t going to bring those things back. Income trusts allowed corporations to change drastically how they were taxed and had gotten to the point where they were shaking the very foundation of our economic system and how the government collects taxes from the corporate sector.

On Afghanistan there was one stunning surprise. Everyone was for getting us out of that situation with. Laird didn’t think we should have gone in in the first pace, Wallace said that it is now a NATO issue and we will soon become Peace Keepers. Brierley had us out in July and Mayberry didn’t see us as being there much longer. But not a word from a single candidate on the more than 150 men and woman who died in that country for a mission that not too many Canadians felt all that strongly about. The Supreme Sacrifice didn’t even get a mention and the absolutely disgusting manner the federal government is treating those who have lost limbs and will be in wheel chairs for the rest of their lives wasn’t brought up. The Legion has some work to do on the Lest We Forget campaign.

Laird did get in one of those tried socialist lines about re-orienting away from our Imperial” ways.

Graham Mayberry was different.  He seemed to be having the time of his life and now knows that he wants an income trust.  There will be quite a few Green signs out there – this IS Burlington but there won’t be very many ballots

Graham Mayberry was different. He seemed to be having the time of his life and now knows that he wants an income trust. There will be quite a few Green signs out there – this IS Burlington but there won’t be very many ballots

The way the country is governed got covered pretty well. No one in the room stood up to applaud how well the House of Commons is run. Wallace explained that the difficulty would disappear if the Conservatives could just get a majority government, which Canadians clearly don’t want to give Stephen Harper. To his credit, Wallace didn’t drag out the canard about a “coalition” forming to become a government that wasn’t elected.

Brierley, the person at the table who best understands political science explained that Members of Parliament have to cooperate to get things done and that this isn’t the way the House of Commons works today. She got the first round of applause from the audience when she said “you earn a majority if you are honest with people” Laid just wanted the Prime Minister to stop lying.

In the last eight to ten days the New Democrats have surged forward in Quebec and appear to be taking away votes from the Bloc Quebecois, but do appreciate that what we are getting are the results of polls that are measuring a population that is going through significant change. The one thing we are learning is that they country does not like the way things have been going but isn’t clear on just who it wants to go with. Wallace touts the Conservative line that with a majority all this unsettling business would disappear – so just give us a majority to which Laird added – “I’d like a majority too and Mayberry piped in with “I guess it’s a bit of a long shot for us”.

The close to complete disgust from the Liberal, NDP and Green candidates over the government being found in contempt of the House of Commons was close to visceral. Brierley made the point that this was not a small matter and while Burlington is a conservative community one got the sense from those in the room that the community at large wasn’t proud of the way its government had behaved.

“We have a Prime Minister” declared Laird, “who manufactured his own defeat and then tries to convince us that it wasn’t all that serious. Contempt” declared Laird “is serious and then added that we have an economy that is going to get worse before it gets better” which was why he thought the NDP should form the next government.

Difficult to understand how a party with no experience running a national government and, experience they would rather forget running Ontario, now feels they can move in, take over and do a better job with the national economy.

Brierley brought some very positive energy to the campaign – was it enough?  She has the potential to be another Paddy Torsney which would be a plus for the House of Commons.

Brierley brought some very positive energy to the campaign – was it enough? She has the potential to be another Paddy Torsney which would be a plus for the House of Commons.

On the aboriginal issue Brierley pointed out that the Conservatives cancelled the Kelowna accord which had very real and significant benefits for the Aboriginal community. Of course they cancelled it – it wasn’t their policy. Wallace did point out that Prime Minister had apologized to the Aboriginal people on behalf of Canada for some very real and long standing grievances.

Wallace got his only round of applause when he mention the really poor House of Commons attendance on the part of Michael Ignatieff. Jack Layton was the person who laid that beating on Ignatieff during the English debate. That was probably the point at which the focus of this election began to shift although no one saw it coming. The New Democrats have become ecstatic on the social media and nationally there is talk of an orange wave – but that sense of change wasn’t evident at the Holiday Inn Wednesday morning. Pretty sure David Laird is not giving up his day job or looking for an apartment in Ottawa.

The economy continued to be the focus of many questions. Wallace stressed how good a job the Conservatives have done with the budget but made no mention of the size of the deficit they have created. It is an understandable deficit – the spending had to be done to keep the Canadian economy afloat while we weathered a recession that we did nothing to create and could do very little about. The recession was the result of pure greed on the part of people working within the American housing market that came close to shutting down a world economy.

Brierley made an attempt to point out that the Liberals left the Conservatives with a surplus, which was true but, as Laird pointed out the Liberals handled their fiscal difficulties by cutting back spending significantly and shoved a lot of the cost of delivering services on to the provinces.

Brierley pointed out that inflation is much higher than anyone is admitting and that there is potential for economic turmoil. And there will be economic turmoil if Laird’s wildest dream comes true and there is a minority NDP government.

The session ended with each candidate being asked what their three top priorities were for Burlington. For Wallace it was working with groups, the city and region.; to be more effective and to stay focused on the needs of the city’s seniors. He did admit that he had not done as much as he should have in getting local business into some of the federal assistance programs.

Mayberry of the Green party said he was still learning, that the Niagara GTA highway was an issue he wanted to be on top of and that the infrastructure needed a lot of attention.

Laird pinched a large part of the Green platform when he talked of making sure Burlington was Green and clean and that we develop programs that would result in the exporting of green technology. He didn’t say the NDP would nationalize the banks – so that was a step forward.

Brierley was a little weaker with her closing than many expected. She covered all the bases; balancing the budget, attention to fitness and the arts and a good mention of the Family Pack the Liberals developed for the election but there wasn’t the energy that many have come to expect from this young woman with so much promise.

Each candidate was given 90 seconds to sum up their position and Laird said there were serious problems that have not been identified. “I have shown” he said, “that I have earned your vote.” David Laird has certainly worked hard and did everything a candidate is supposed to do and did it all rather well – but this is Burlington and it may well be the last city in the country to elect a New democrat.

Wallace – well he was Mike. He said he’d done a good job and would like to be re-elected.

Brierley ran though what the Liberals would do, said she would listen and give Burlington better representation in Ottawa. If she ever gets to Ottawa she will no doubt be a very good Member of Parliament. Will she make it this time? Far too many variables out there for anyone to really call this one. Had Brierley had more time and had she put down some roots in the city – she would have been given a much different look. However, many of those who did look her over really liked what they saw.

Graham Mayberry said he was “having a blast”. Said he was “wide awake”, and that’s “not usual for me at this hour of the morning and then added: “It’s crazy but you can vote Green”.

Keith Hoey, President of the Chamber of Commerce for the past seven years, said the Chamber of Commerce has been sponsoring all candidate events for all three levels of government since ‘close to the beginning of time’. It appears to be a part of that layer of civility the Chamber wants to see in place to make the city a good place for business.




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Dumb thief – breaks into Tim Horton’s – leaves with just cash. Obviously not a Canadian.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON April 28, 2011 – Halton Regional Police Service are stumped in their investigation for the thief that broke into a Tim Horton’s and left without donuts. An unknown amount of cash was taken.

Some time after 2:30 a.m. on April 25th, a suspect as yet unknown to the police entered the closed Tim Horton’s located at 5353 Lakeshore Road.

Video surveillance revealed suspect attended (what does it mean to “attend” the rear of the building, and forced open the rear door to gain entry to the premise.  Once inside, the suspect forced open the doors to the main office (this was a determined man) and removed cash from the cash registers. The suspect then fled the premise through the rear west doors with an undisclosed amount of cash.

Suspect is described as a male, white, 6’0″ tall, heavy set. He was wearing a black ski mask, grey shirt with a back jacket over top, black gloves, grey sweat pants and black shoes. Pretty good description of a smash and grab artist who apparently doesn’t know what a maple dip donut is.

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




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That wonderful weather – every wondered why? Prof says hydrological resilience in dramatic decline. Huh!

By Staff and much thanks to CATCH

BURLINGTON, ON April 29, 2011 – As record-setting tornados rake the continent and floods hit the Canadian west and the US Midwest, a McMaster researcher is warning that poor local decisions will make global climate change much worse for Hamiltonians. In particular, Dr Mike Waddington says expansions to the urban area will exacerbate flooding problems that are already plaguing the city and leave Hamilton less able to respond to other climatic extremes.

Massive cloud formation that pulled itself into a funnel to wreck havoc on a community.  Awesome power.

Massive cloud formation that pulled itself into a funnel to wreck havoc on a community. Awesome power.

“Our hydrological resilience is in dramatic decline,” the associate director of the McMaster Centre for Climate Change told Tuesday’s annual general meeting of Environment Hamilton. “And what should the city of Hamilton do to mitigate that? You certainly wouldn’t be wanting to expand the urban boundary, in that we have ecosystems in this region which are providing very valuable ecosystem services.”

Waddington highlighted a string of catastrophic atmospheric trends that he contends suggest this is “the first time in the history of the world, thanks to science, that we can actually predict our demise”. He says a doubling of extreme heat days, intensifying precipitation, and more droughts will likely be among the local effects of climate change.

“The distribution of that precipitation is going to become a lot more extreme,” he predicted. “We’re going to go through periods of large drought, and then very large rainfall events. So we’re going to get a lot more of what we’ve seen in the last couple of years.”

Hamilton endured two 100-year storms in the summer of 2009 and over a dozen other extreme rain events since 2005 that have flooded homes and triggered compassionate grants from the city. Council decided earlier this month to battle the province over a 3000 acre future boundary addition in Elfrida, and last fall approved a 4500 acre expansion around the airport that remains under appeal.

The professor of geography and earth sciences is one of two dozen McMaster researchers studying climate change. His current work focuses on the increased risks of wildfires and their relationship to soil moisture. He pointed to the disastrous drought and resulting peat fires that killed an estimated 56,000 people in and around Moscow last summer as an example of what happens when bad local decisions are magnified by weather events. Prior to last summer’s record heat wave, forests around the city had been drained to improve their productivity.

“These were very poor forests in very wet environments, and they drained these ecosystems to make the trees grow better, and once they got very dry, they caught on fire and they wouldn’t stop.”

A similar “triple whammy” of land use change, climatic changes, and the El Nino weather system imposed an air quality disaster on Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia for months in 1997 in what came to be known as the Southeast Asian haze.

“It resulted from the draining of very large ecosystems for palm oil plantations and also for mega-rice projects under Suharto,” Waddington explained. “Emission from the fires in this region alone was equal to almost 40 percent of the annual fossil fuel emissions”.

It remains difficult for science to connect specific weather events to climate change, but it is simple physics that warmer temperatures increase the moisture holding capacity of the atmosphere and provide greater energy to storms. For example, the huge number of tornados devastating the US this month – and especially over the last two days – are being linked to an unusually warm Gulf of Mexico.

Storm chasers take huge risks to capture these images and give us a sense of all the energy that is swirling around.  Changes in our climate bring about  cloud formations like this.

Storm chasers take huge risks to capture these images and give us a sense of all the energy that is swirling around. Changes in our climate bring about cloud formations like this.

Last year set a global record for precipitation, and tied 2005 as the hottest since modern records began. Extreme flooding in Australia and Brazil earlier this year has been followed by current inundations in western Canada and along the Ohio, Missouri and Mississippi rivers.

It is all tied together isn’t it? What we do effects them and what they do effects us. Guess we all need to think about what we do.

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They want to what? Are you kidding, the contractor who walked off the job last year wants to come back?

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON April 21, 2011 – It was a pretty quiet Council committee evening. Interesting stuff which will get covered off in material we file later in the day. Started at 6:30 and everyone was a little grumpy come 10 pm when it looked like we were all going to get to go home.

Tom Eichenbaum was on hand to give an update on the Pier. I wondered why Tom, the senior engineer was giving the update and why this was being left to the very end of the meeting. There was so much good stuff happening with the Pier that I wasn’t ready for the Kaboom!
that made the council committee move into an In Camera session and I get ushered out of the room.

The road to nowhere just hit a speed bump.

The road to nowhere just hit a speed bump.

When Eichenbaum went to the Council table he had a very thick binder in his hands –well he’s an engineer and these guys always have thick binders of stuff in their hands. After explaining that Procurement Specialist Consulting had been put in place and the city was ready to issue a contract to Cassels Brock, a Toronto based firm with a fine reputation. They even named the two people from the firm that would be taking on the task. This was good news. Progress.

The engineering department interviewed six firms to provide project management services and settled on SMA/Mettko, the firm that is doing project management for the new fire station at Appleby Line and Upper Middle Road. This meant the city was going to be working with people they already knew. This was good news. Progress.

Morrison Hersfield was already in place as the Design Consultants. They advised early in April that the permit process was coming along just fine. When a new contractor is put in place everything has to go back almost to square one. New drawings have to be prepared, no one was prepared to rely on drawings from the original design team – they were the guys that provided a design that basically fell apart during a concrete pour.

Poor weather has delayed a structural inspection and the underwater inspection is scheduled to get done at the end of the month. The site survey has been completed. Appreciate that when the original contractor walked off the job the gates were locked and that was it – nothing was done other than to secure the site.

The drawings for the structural steel had commenced. This was good news. Progress.

Everything was coming along just fine and the Mayor was less apologetic about the Pier.

Then Eichenbaum casually mentioned that a document had been delivered to the Engineering with a proposal from the bonding company about a consortium that had been put together to complete the Pier – and that the consortium included the original contractor who had walked away from the job late last year. This was not good news. This was not progress.

Well it was one of those ‘slap me silly’ moments. Here we are doing just fine – going our own way after the original contractor walked off the job and the insurance company said they were not going to honour the performance bond the original contractor had put in place.

The city had ended its relationship with the original project management company and had all but completed the process of putting a new team in place to get the Pier built – and now this?

Eichenbaum was reporting that his staff had only been able to give the document a cursory look and would get into the details and do a full scale review and report back when they have been able to arrive at an opinion. Well, he has to do that. But I’ll bet my allowance that he also put in a call to the legal people to give them a heads up.

Heck we are in the process of suing Zurich Insurance for not paying the performance bond and we are suing the original contractor for walking off the job and we are suing the original contract managers for not doing their job. It took this council close to four months to get all the crap out of the way and get the city to the point where there was movement on the project. Now what?

Tom Eichenbaum wasn’t smiling when he left the Council Chamber and there were voices raised loud enough while Council was In Camera, that they could be heard in the foyer outside the chamber.

It was tough to read the faces of the seven council members when they moved back into open session. The Mayor did say to the Director of Communications that there wouldn’t be any big splashy event to celebrate the opening of the Pier.

This might be a bit of a set back and it may move the Grand Opening date back a bit – but this latest problem is not the fault of anyone on this council or within the Engineering department. They have all pulled together to clean up a real mess.

Imagine that you are dressed in your finest on Easter Sunday and you step outside the house and a robin flies overhead and does what most birds do then they fly – splat on your freshly cleaned suit. S… happens and you just have to clean it up and move on. But Burlington didn’t need this set back.

Let’s hope that the Mayor gets out in front of this one and doesn’t hide behind the advice of the lawyers. Just tell the public as much as you can about what are up against ands ask for their patience and support.



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Is it over? Nope – election is May 2nd but thousands of women are said to have ended their relationship with Steve. Sigh

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON April 18, 2011 – The objective was to have women outvote men by at least 10%. In the upcoming federal election. Eric Williams thought he had come up with a unique idea to get woman to vote by asking them to make a video of them telling Prime Minister Steven Harper that “It was Over” – they were ending their relationship with him.

Williams encouraged woman to do short videos on how they would tell ‘Steve’ it was over which he then strung together and posted as a video You Tube. And it worked – sort of. It’s cute but I don’t think it is going to b a game changer by any stretch of ones imagination.

Williams, a McMaster University students doing a degree in communications and history is certainly communicating but not making much history. There are three videos up with woman in different cities making videos and there is traffic to the You Tube site.

“The main video was at 34,000 when I started editing last night, and was at 41k when I came home this morning”, said Williams. He adds that the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

“The game has changed”, declares Williams.  “We have a chance to really shape this election by significantly increasing female voter turnout.  Major papers and TV are covering “It’s Over Steve” plus we just got endorsed by Margaret Atwood and several MPs.  . There are tons of stories

Williams claims Harper himself has to keep pretending like we don’t exist, no matter how huge this gets.  “He might pander more to women, or broadly criticize web politics, but he will never speak about us by name.  That’s how we are going to defeat him.  I hasten to add that I wish he and his family no ill will, especially Laureen Harper, who always comes across as a lovely person.

“Right now the political parties seem almost blind to us.  They aren’t really engage and they aren’t changing their message.  Once they realize how decisive women are going to be in this election, they’ll be tripping over themselves to win their support.  This truly is a golden opportunity for Canadian women.”

We just want women to think and talk together, and get out and vote.  It’s going to make for a better and more progressive Canada.  I really truly do believe this, and that’s why the campaign is the way it is.  It’s time for women to have a turn and decide for Canada

Check out the You Tube web site:




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It was love at first hearing, she was swept off her feet and sat in contented bliss while sweet sounds entered her ear.

By Pepper Parr – almost totally plagiarized from a Sarah Banks blog

BURLINGTON, ON April 18, 2011 – It’s no secret, I feel like somewhat of an outsider here in Burlington. On the rare occasion that I spot someone with the potential to be like-minded (I’ve got excellent radar in this regard), I have to get a hold of myself and rein in my inclination to exhibit bizarre gestures of desperation. “Hey there! You look like my kind. Open-minded, progressive thinker with an appreciation for sarcasm, sustainable development, humanity and CBC Radio. Wanna be friends?”

Christopher Hume. The man speaks my language. And then some. <br> Photo credit: Randy Risling
Christopher Hume. The man speaks my language. And then some.
Photo credit: Randy Risling

I had to exercise particular constraint this past Tuesday when I saw the wise and wonderful Christopher Hume speak at the Inspire Burlington speaker series hosted by Mayor Rick Goldring. I felt like he’d arrived on the mothership (in this case, the GO Train) and I was more than ready to be transported back to Planet Toronto with him.

In case you don’t know, Mr. Hume is the wry and outspoken architecture critic and urban affairs reporter for The Toronto Star. He knows what makes for a great city and he doesn’t hesitate to let you know when Toronto (or in this case, Burlington) isn’t making the grade.

As a relatively new Toronto transplant, I too have not held back in my criticisms of B-town. Occasionally, I sense I may have a few behind-the-scenes foes who don’t share my disdain and wish I would shut my trap.  So it was nice to have a little validation with Hume’s expert insight in the room.

Among his many observations, Hume feels the design of Burlington leaves much to be desired. “A lot of Burlington’s problems are design problems,” he said. He shared some less than impressive slides of forgettable intersections and nondescript streetscapes. He gave moderate credit to the dynamics of the stretch of Lakeshore Blvd occupied by Pepperwoods and Benny’s but was quick to note that the romance only lasted one block.

The important thing, he said, is not the height. “It’s how the building meets the street. Is it interesting? Is it engaging? It’s what’s happening at the street level.”

Early on in Hume’s presentation, he put it right out there for the 150+ crowd to chew on—”Burlington is run by the development industry.” I’m pretty sure I clapped the loudest. Right on, Hume. Tell it like is.

As a member of the Burlington Waterfront Access and Protection Advisory Committee, I’m especially interested in what goes on behind closed doors with city staff and the Robert Moses‘ of Burlington. Not surprisingly, I’m skeptical and have my doubts that the development deals being done in this town put the needs of residents first. But I’m also resolute in my desire to show that we (the lowly residents) have more power and influence than we may realize. And we’re entitled to it, to boot. But I digress. Back to my hero, Hume. One of his more gentle reflections was that “the buildings are the buildings but the important thing is what happens in between them.” In other words, the opportunity for urban vibrancy and life in general to occur is made possible by a combination of both organic goings-on of humanity and thoughtful long-term planning decisions.

There is a unique one-shot opportunity for Burlington to succeed in achieving this urban design magic, described above.  I would love to know what Hume’s thoughts are on the Old Lakeshore Road Precinct. Aside from hazard lands, the City owns none of this precious parcel on the downtown waterfront. It is owned by a combination of developers and individuals. Condos *will* be built there and we as citizens have an opportunity to influence what this prime chunk of land will evolve into.

It won’t be easy but it’s also not impossible.

The question now is: did she get his autograph?




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New form of social communication seen in Burlington. Demonstrators brave cold to talk to politicians wearing ear muffs.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON April 15, 2011 – I mentioned to the photographer who was taking pictures of the demonstration in front of the Waterfront Hotel on Lakeshore Road Friday morning that not very many people were honking their horns.

“Hey pal”, he responded, “this is Burlington and demonstrations are unheard of in this town.” But it was most certainly a demonstration and the more than 55 people from the Stop the Escarpment Highway Coalition wanted to make sure Tim Hudak, Leader of the Opposition at Queen’s Park knew how they felt about his view the the GTA xx highway was a good idea.

More than 50 demonstrators kept their banner stretched across the front of the Waterfront Hotel in Burlington Friday morning – asking the public to support their objective of keeping any kind of highway from running through the Escarpment

More than 50 demonstrators kept their banner stretched across the front of the Waterfront Hotel in Burlington Friday morning – asking the public to support their objective of keeping any kind of highway from running through the Escarpment

It was a cold windy morning but they were out there and they were noisy. Hudak took it all in stride as he entered the hotel to speak to the Progressive Conservative party faithful – but didn’t say a word about the demonstration. And, based on the comment made by those who wear blue instead of red inside the hotel – the demonstration fell on deaf ears. That didn’t stop the scurrilous comment that the demonstrators were being paid $80.00 at demonstrate. The Coalition wishes it had $80. to buy hot chocolate for the demonstrators. This group is about as grass roots as it gets. They represent 12 community organizations with some 7000 people on their mailing list.

Geoff Brock does a stand up piece for a television news camera during the demonstration against long range plans for a highway through the Niagara Escarpment.

Geoff Brock does a stand up piece for a television news camera during the demonstration against long range plans for a highway through the Niagara Escarpment.

But media is what these public demonstrations are all about and they certainly got coverage. The aim of the Coalition is to keep the issue in front of the public – one can expect to see more of this type of thing. Queen’s Park is a future stop for the people with the banner sign.

Meanwhile, inside the hotel a more than respectable crowd of Progressive Conservatives showed up with all the usual suspects on hand. Brian Heagle and Rene Papin, both declared candidates for the seat that Joyce Savoline has decided not to contest again, were on hand pressing the flesh. Ted Chudleigh and anyone else that wanted to get elected as well as the people that make a political party viable were on hand. Jimmy Tap was there was well – looking rather dapper in a well cut sports jacket. Gosh – even Cam Jackson was on hand and took a bow when called upon.

Tim Hudak, Leader of the Progressive Conservative opposition at Queen’s Park chats with Rene Papin before his pep talk to the party faithful at a breakfast meeting.  Papin is one of two declared candidates for the provincial nomination in Burlington.
Tim Hudak, Leader of the Progressive Conservative opposition at Queen’s Park chats with Rene Papin before his pep talk to the party faithful at a breakfast meeting. Papin is one of two declared candidates for the provincial nomination in Burlington.

Hudak didn’t speak for very long and there was nothing trenchant in the remarks he made. The Smart Meters (the Dalton McGuinty initiative to get people to use hydro power during off peak times) have to go and the LIN’s (Local Health Integration Networks) will get booted out of existence even faster if Hudak can form a government next October.

Hudak told his audience that he saw great hope for Conservatives federally based on the way he saw the election going. Mile Wallace, the federal MP for Burlington and up for election against a young Liberal doing much better than many expected, sure hopes Hudak is right.

And just to show that Hudak was a straight up kind of guy he announced that he would be out canvassing with Mike Wallace and with Ted Chudleigh and meeting with some of Burlington’s business leaders.



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