The Gazette will not publish on Easter Monday - the 18th.

By Staff

April 18th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The Gazette will not publish during the forenoon of  Easter Monday – the 18th.

We will be very active during the balance of the month.

 

A time to get out and reflect on the world we live in.

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The Integrity Commissioner report that will be read out at the City Council meeting on Tuesday had its genesis way back in February.

By Pepper Parr

April 17th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

A reader corrected us on the matter of the Closed Meeting Investigator hired to review and report on the practices used in Burlington.

We watched the archived February 15th meeting of Council which you can look at yourself using the link below.

Mayor Meed Ward during the February 15 session of Council

What is especially interesting is the Mayor’s body language; the Stolte comment on how an

amendment had come forward and the explanation from the city manager on what was to happen.

The amendment that was put forward came from Councillor Nisan, there apparently wasn’t any notice given that there was going to be an amendment.  In commenting on his own amendment Nisan is clearly reading from prepared notes.

Aird & Berlis the law firm retained to serve as the Closed Meeting Investigator, is certainly a solid, if conservative group. They are not known for innovative solutions to issues – but they are sound. If there is even a hint that there are flaws in the practices in Burlington – it could be seen as time for the current City Solicitor to move on.

The Gazette has been criticized for the stand it takes on some senior members of the current administration.

Take the eight minutes and decide for yourself what is actually happening.

Put the lines below into your browser.

https://calendar.burlington.ca/?StartDate=02/15/2022&EndDate=02/15/2022&Calendar=City%20Meetings&Category=Council%20Meetings

That will get you to the calendar and the meeting of the 15th of February.

Scroll to the bottom of the calendar to  the line that reads:  Revised Agenda.

That will bring up the Agenda – scroll down to item 12g which is set out below.

Staff direction regarding closed meeting protocol (CSSRA-02-22) (SD-04-22)

Click on that and watch for the next 8 minutes.  You can quit when Councillors Kearns begins to ask about how the service provider (Aird & Berlis) was chosen.

Realize that at this point, February 15th, Nisan and Galbraith had already filed their complaint with the Integrity Commissioner – so the blood was in the water at this point.

The item on the agenda for Tuesday April 18th is set out below.  It will not be discussed in a Closed session.  Unfortunately, the time frames are such that there may not be any delegations.

If you are interested and have some comment that can add to what is taking place  – do delegate.

 

 

 

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The crass, vile, political chicanery at city hall needs close public scrutiny in the way they handle a Code of Conduct matter

By Pepper Parr

April 16th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

While most of us enjoy the break from the day to day life we live, hoping that we are getting through the pandemic and that whatever the new normal is going to be that nice warm weather is included – there are civic issues that need close attention.

Earlier in the week the Integrity Commissioner released a report in which they stated that a city Councillor had breached the Council Code of Conduct and recommended that the Councillor be docked five days pay.

The report is lengthy. It sets out four items and decided that ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte had breached the Council Code of Conduct  on two of them.

Ward 1 Councillor Kelvin Galbraith

Ward 3 Councillor Rory Nisan

The Integrity Commissioner was responding to complaints filed by two other members of city council: Rory Nisan and Kelvin Galbraith.

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward is not a party to the complaint but is believed to have been very active in getting the complaint to the Integrity Commissioner.

Councillor Stolte does not deny doing what she is accused of doing. She published a statement the day the contents of the Integrity report were released saying that if her being docked five days’ pay was the price it took to get the issue of Closed sessions of Council on the table and part of a robust public discussion then so be it.

A robust public discussion is exactly what the city needs – there is no certainty that any such thing will take place.

The Mayor said on Thursday that she had yet to read the report and would do so on the weekend; Councillor Sharman said he too had yet to read the document.

Take those two statements with more than a grain of salt.

Councillors Nisan and Galbraith have not made themselves available for comment.

Councillors Kearns and Bentivegna have not made any comment.

Those close to what happens at city hall have known for some time how fractured this council has become. When Meed Ward was elected in 2018 the population was for the most part filled with hope that development would be reined in and towering residential buildings would be located away from the downtown core.

The Nautique condo development found a way to get around a transportation issue – shortly after shovels were in the ground and the crane was in place purchase agreements were pulled and higher prices put in place. It was the kind of development people feared would take place.

The developers wanted to build and sell condominiums close to the lake.

Five of the seven member council were new to municipal politics and have struggled to deal with the very significant issues.

Burlington is being forced by the provincial government to grow its population at a startling rate. The Burlington that many love as it is are having a difficult time accepting the construction of towers that rise 26 storeys across the street from a six storey city hall.

Some 40 development applications are before the Ontario Land Tribunal, a jurisdictional body where Burlington has not done very well.
The number of Closed sessions city council has held is the nub of the issue. Stolte is not the only member of Council who wants to see fewer

Closed sessions and only when they are absolutely necessary.
Burlington is the subject of an investigation by the provincial Investigator of Closed Meetings. There is no date for a report on that investigation.

In 2017 the Halton district School Board decided to close two of the city’s seven high schools. It was a divisive process. In the fullness of time the HDSB decided to declare the former Robert Bateman High school surplus – which meant it was able to sell the property.

Conceptually it is a great idea – winners everywhere – until Council decided to seal their lips and keep the public out of the picture.

There is a very tightly defined process for selling surplus school property. The city of Burlington turned out to be the only bidder for the property.

At the time Brock University was looking for a new home for its Faculty of Education. Suddenly there was a real synergy in play.

When matters of property are before city council they are usually discussed in a Closed session. A developer making an application to construct a large residential tower or a property that is going to have a hundred or some homes always involve zoning and Official Plan amendments. The city administration wants hold these discussions in private, as well they should. Thus the rationale for going into a Closed session.

The difference with the Bateman property is that all the players were public – none of them were asking for or seeking a zoning change or an amendment to the Official Plan for an organizational profit.

The interests of three public organizations (a school board, a university and a municipality) that serve the interest of the public (You and I) were being worked through.

To add to the discussions there was a very real concern about the amount of asbestos in the former Bateman high school, what the cost of its removal and who was going to pick up that cost.

The site is big, the Mayor wants it to be a public place, the school board wants to get rid of the property but rent back some of the space. Brock University wants to make the place home for the Faculty of Education. Councillor Stolte wants the public to know what all this is going to cost. .

Councillor Stolte felt that because these issues were important to the public at large the need for Closed Sessions was lessened and took the positioned that the greater good was more important. She never made any secret of her position.

The city’s legal department didn’t see it that way nor did the Mayor. Both wanted much more control over the issue

And so here we are in the midst of crass, vile, political chicanery.

It is time for the public to weigh in and let their member of Council know what they think and feel.

This is not something that should be allowed to slip by without a close public review.

Related news stories:

Integrity Commissioner’s report in full

Councillor Stolte Statement

The Closed Session issue has been around for a while

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Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.

By Staff
April 15th, 2022
BURLINGTON, ON

 

 

Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.

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The Gazette will not publish on Good Friday

By Staff

April 15th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The Gazette will not publish on Good Friday.

 

Yours to preserve and enjoy.

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Harry Voortman, dead at 89 - funeral on Thursday

Harry Voortman, a pillar in the community and a supporter of City Kids died at the age of 89.
He came to Canada around 1948 when the Russians were blockading Berlin.
He worked hard and he prospered.

The Gazette will be publishing an Appreciation later in the week.

CEO Andy Callahan said: “Harry was a true one-of-a-kind, and I know will be missed by many of our Voortman team members who knew him well over the years. Harry’s passion and presence, even though he had retired from managing the business day to day, was ever present in the stories of the Burlington team from the moment I first visited in October of 2019. Consistent was his passion for baking the highest quality products, delighting consumers with delicious, sweet treats, supporting the community and, above all, investing in and knowing the lives of the people who made the Voortman Baking Company so great.”

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There are a lot of questions to be asked: are there going to be any answers from either Council or the Administration?

By Pepper Parr

April 14th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

OPINION

A matter of major significance is now going to be discussed in public at city council on Tuesday the 19th.

Getting it on the table has not been easy – there were far too many people at both the Council level and the administration level who wanted the Integrity Commissioner’s report discussed in a Closed Session of Council.

Ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte

Councillor Stolte, the subject of the Integrity report, has to be recognized for taking the high road and setting out her position and the why of what she did. There are numerous concerns.

How will Council handle the report? The Integrity Commissioner will present the document and be on hand to answer questions.

Will the Councillors ask any questions?

And there are a lot of questions to be asked.

Ward 3 Councillor Rory Nisan above and ward 1 Councillor Kelven Galbraith

Of the two council members who filed the report: who approached who? Did Nisan call Galbraith or was it vice versa? Realize that Councillor Nisan doesn’t want to leave his home – Covid19 fears.

Councillors are seldom at their office in city hall this past year – so there is no opportunity for the kind of casual conversation and the open exchange of views and collaboration that Stolte sees as vital.

There is concern over an email that Stolte sent to a constituent – how did Nisan and Galbraith get their hands on that email?

Who influenced who at City Hall? What role did the City Manager play?

What role did the City Clerk play? What was the level of collusion between the Mayor and the City manager ?

Will there be public delegations?

Who is going to ask the hard questions?

There is an investigation underway by the Investigator of Closed meetings about the practices used in Burlington.

Does that report not have a bearing on what has taken place?

The meeting on the 19th is scheduled as a virtual meeting – which is unfortunate.

The calendar doesn’t’ work and permit genuine public participation. City Hall is closed Friday and Monday. The public saw the report for the first time at 6:00 am this morning.

It will take time to digest and understand what the issue is – and there is an issue.

People don’t gather as much as they used to – the current Covid19 wave is impacting a lot of people. Councillor Sharman is reported to have become infected.

The concern that many have is that the Integrity report will be read into the record and no one will ask any questions – hoping that is Council and the administration go mute and that this will then all just go away.

Democracy doesn’t work that way.

Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette, an online newspaper that was formed in 2010 and is a member of the National Newsmedia Council.

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Terry Caddo getting a grip on the reins at the Chamber of Commerce

By Pepper Parr

April 14th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Burlington’s Chamber of Commerce has gone through what might best be called leadership turmoil.

Keith Hooey retired after more than 20 years of excellent service.

He was replaced by Carla Nell who wasn’t able to replicate what Hooey had done. She retired.

Terry Caddo: An ability to spot a problem, recognize it for what it is and make the necessary course correction.

Terry Caddo was brought in to rebuild and redirect what has always been an organization with a strong vibrant membership.

Caddo is surprisingly self-effacing with a rich background in a number of sectors.

Raised in Thunder Bay he cleared high school went to the Lakehead University. Worked on the student newspaper. After graduation he scrimped and saved to buy a franchise that was going to be located in Cambridge Ontario.

Failing is one of the early lessons every business person has to experience. Terry Caddo had his early in his career.

With a wry smile Terry explained that Robin’s Donuts was a strong franchise with strength west of Winnipeg.

“When I got to Cambridge I saw Tim Hortons shops on almost every corner.” It was a tough lesson for Caddo.

Before buying a franchise Terry wrote for the Thunder Bay Chronicle Journal – quickly realized he was not really a writer.

Caddo has this ability to spot a problem, recognize it for what it is and make the necessary course correction.

He returned to the classroom to study sports marketing and worked at the Toronto Star on their sports events and sports marketing division.

He got involved in syndication work.

He worked at Ontario Place at re-branding with the focus on the park as a place to go to..

He worked with Rogers and eventually found himself at the Royal Botanical Gardens where he put winter programs in place and instituted the model trains exhibitions.

Setting a course for a post pandemic commercial environment is the top challenge.

He worked on the Canada Blooms event and tied it in with the Home Show – something that had not been done before.

It looked like an event that was loaded with potential – then the pandemic hit the world.

There is a pluckiness to Terry Caddo. He is what you see – not a front for an ego that is out of control.

He did what you have to do when you are asked to run an organization that needs one of those course corrections. He began meeting with the stakeholders, rebuilding the staff, letting the membership know that the ship is being righted.

With the tight focus on getting staff to work as a team Caddo also has to figure out what will a post pandemic Chamber of Commerce will look like.

Like most people who get a chance to look at the public space at the Bridgewater – he was amazed and was thinking about the potential for the location.

He supports the intensification and loves the number of opportunities for his kids to play soccer.

He is particularly proud of the way in which the Chamber responded to the need for testing supplies. His Chamber worked quickly to get it hands on a supply of Rapid Response testing kits and has made them available to more than 1100 companies that did more than 200,000 tests. There was a point where they just couldn’t keep up.

No raging ego with this man. Tends to look for solutions.

He worked with the other organizations that make up what is referred to as Team Burlington: Chamber of Commerce, Burlington Downtown Business Association and the Economic Development Corporation and created a web site that meets the needs of all of them to more than .

The Chamber has a Before 9 event on the 21st where Ron Foxcroft will talk about Winning in Business: people will get the full Foxcroft Monte.

The Chamber will release its Strategic Plan on the 27th.

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Integrity Commissioner determines that Councillor Stolte breached the Council Code of Conduct

By Staff

April 14th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Principles Integrity issued the following report.

A copy was given to Councillor Shawna Stolte. Stolte made this material available to the Gazette

Introductory Comments

[1] Principles Integrity was appointed the Integrity Commissioner for the City of Burlington in June of 2018. We also serve as Integrity Commissioner, and in some cases Closed Meeting Investigator, Lobbyist Registrar, and Municipal Ombudsman for over 40 Ontario municipalities as well as school boards and a police services board.

[2] Integrity Commissioners carry out a range of functions for municipalities (and their local boards). They can provide guidance in ensuring a robust ethical framework, suggesting content and commentary for codes of conduct and assisting in the development of other policies. They are available to conduct education and training for members of council and local boards, and perhaps most importantly, when a Member requests advice on their ethical responsibilities, the Integrity Commissioner’s response guides the Member and protects them against future complaints. Integrity Commissioners are also available to administrative leadership to guide policies and procedures which support good governance.

[3] Good governance, including proper closed session procedures, supports meaningful ethical compliance.

[4] Though it is not an Integrity Commissioner’s primary function, they also review allegations that a Member has fallen short of compliance with the municipality’s ethical framework and where appropriate they submit public reports on their findings, and make recommendations, including recommending sanctions, that council for the municipality may consider imposing in giving consideration to that report.

[5] When we deliver reports following an investigation our approach wherever possible is to provide tangible guidance for course correction, where appropriate, and improvement going forward.

The Complaint
[6] On January 30, 2022 we received a complaint filed by Councillors Galbraith and Nisan alleging that Councillor Stolte had, on several occasions, breached the confidentiality obligations under the City’s Code of Good Governance.

[7] In particular, it was alleged that:

• On December 6, 2021, at the Corporate Services, Strategy, Risk and Accountability Committee (CSSRA), the Councillor publicly stated “the reality is that the final cost will be well above $50M …”, referencing an actual dollar figure for the purchase and redevelopment of Robert Bateman High School, whereas all discussion of costs were confidential;

• At a Committee meeting on November 15, 2021, the Councillor made detailed reference to confidential information regarding parking and community amenity space, whereas all detailed discussions on those matters had been confidential;

• The Councillor must have disclosed the presence of asbestos in the school, a fact which had only been discussed in closed session, as evidenced by comments made on social media by a family relation who could only have learned of it from the Councillor, as all discussion of the presence of asbestos in the building had been confidential;

• The Councillor advised a constituent that a particular committee of adjustment decision was to be considered by a Committee on January 10, 2022 on the Confidential/Closed Agenda; the Item listed on the public Agenda was identified only as “Confidential Update on a Litigation Matter”.

Three of the four matters in one way or another related to a major initiative of the City of Burlington related to the Robert Bateman High School surplus school site.

Process Followed for the Investigation

[8] In conducting this investigation, Principles Integrity applied the principles of procedural fairness. This fair and balanced process includes the following elements:
• Reviewing the Complaint to determine whether it is within scope and jurisdiction and in the public interest to pursue, including giving consideration to whether the Complaint should be restated or narrowed, where this better reflects the public interest
• Notifying the Councillor of the Complaint and seeking her response
• Reviewing archived recordings of relevant meetings, agendas and minutes, reports, and other relevant documents

• Interviewing relevant witnesses including the complainants and the Respondent
• Providing the Councillor with an opportunity to review and provide comments regarding the draft findings of the Integrity Commissioner
• Making our findings and determinations by employing the ‘balance of probabilities standard’ (whether an event more likely occurred than not).

Background and Context

[9] Councillor Stolte has been a Member of Council since first elected in October 2018.

[10] She was one of five (5) first-time Members elected to Burlington Council in 2018.

[11] The City of Burlington has as part of its ethical framework a Code of Good Governance which is the policy touchstone underlying the assessments conducted in this report. The Code of Good Governance serves as the municipality’s code of conduct.

[12] The provision of the Code which is most relevant to the conduct alleged in the complaint is found in paragraph 14, which provides as follows:

14. We will hold in strict confidence all information concerning matters dealt with in Closed Council meetings, matters subject to solicitor client privilege, personal information, or information that is otherwise determined to be confidential.

[13] Highly relevant to our review are the provisions set out in section 239 of the Municipal Act, which requires that Council’s meetings be held in public, except in certain restricted circumstances.

Meetings open to public

239 (1) Except as provided in this section, all meetings shall be open to the public. 2001, c. 25, s. 239 (1).

Exceptions

(2) A meeting or part of a meeting may be closed to the public if the subject matter being considered is,

(a) the security of the property of the municipality or local board;

(b) personal matters about an identifiable individual, including municipal or local board employees;
(c) a proposed or pending acquisition or disposition of land by the municipality or local board;
(d) labour relations or employee negotiations;
(e) litigation or potential litigation, including matters before administrative tribunals, affecting the municipality or local board;
(f) advice that is subject to solicitor-client privilege, including communications necessary for that purpose;
(g) a matter in respect of which a council, board, committee or other body may hold a closed meeting under another Act;
(h) information explicitly supplied in confidence to the municipality or local board by Canada, a province or territory or a Crown agency of any of them;
(i) a trade secret or scientific, technical, commercial, financial or labour relations information, supplied in confidence to the municipality or local board, which, if disclosed, could reasonably be expected to prejudice significantly the competitive position or interfere significantly with the contractual or other negotiations of a person, group of persons, or organization;
(j) a trade secret or scientific, technical, commercial or financial information that belongs to the municipality or local board and has monetary value or potential monetary value; or
(k) a position, plan, procedure, criteria or instruction to be applied to any negotiations carried on or to be carried on by or on behalf of the municipality or local board. 2001, c. 25, s. 239 (2); 2017, c. 10, Sched. 1, s. 26.

[14] In order to meet in the absence of the public, section 239 of the Municipal Act requires as follows:

Resolution

(4) Before holding a meeting or part of a meeting that is to be closed to the public, a municipality or local board or committee or either of them shall state by resolution,

(a) the fact of the holding of the closed meeting and the general nature of the matter to be considered at the closed meeting;

[15] Councillor Stolte believes that the municipality’s practices in applying these provisions inappropriately constrain her ability to engage the public in some matters being considered by Council. She wants to see a less frequent utilization of closed session, particularly for matters she believes ought to be publicly deliberated.

[16] She perceives that, on occasion, closed session meetings are used to inappropriately obscure or block public knowledge and awareness of matters being considered.

[17] The Councillor asserts that she has attempted unsuccessfully to move the administration and her Council colleagues towards what she believes is a better standard for greater transparency.

[18] She challenged what she perceived as a paucity of information provided on the City’s Agendas regarding confidential/closed meetings, as lacking in appropriate transparency and falling short of established standards.

[19] Encountering resistance to more explicit identification of closed session items, she has taken it upon herself to review and compare the public meeting agendas of other Ontario municipalities.

[20] In attempting to apply due diligence, she also undertook her own a review of the Open Meeting Guidelines published by the Ontario Ombudsman in regard to issues of concern to her.

[21] Her survey of municipal practices and her understanding of the Ombudsman’s conclusions on best practices only served to reinforce her concern that the City’s practices were falling short.

[22] The Councillor advised during this investigation that she felt her push towards increased transparency was met with resistance by the administration and her colleagues on Council, which she found to be frustrating.

[23] She has conceded, during the course of this investigation, that in attempting to highlight the issue, and in an effort to force a discussion on the issue, she may have run afoul of the ‘confidentiality’ provisions of the Code.

[24] We note that, during the course of our investigation, Council has requested that their appointed Closed Meeting Investigator provide a report reviewing Council’s current practices regarding confidential/closed session meetings. It is not known at this time when, or if, such a review report is expected to be provided to Council and so we have provided our observations on the matter in this Report.

[25] For the reasons below, we find that for two of the four complaints the Councillor has contravened the Code provision regarding confidentiality. Whether or not justification exists for greater transparency, it is not the case that one member of Council can determine that information should be publicly disclosed before Council as a whole has taken a stance on the issue. Maintaining confidentiality around confidential information and closed session deliberations is a cardinal rule for members of council.

Closed Session Resolutions

[26] Governance of municipal councils and the conduct of council business is largely regulated and prescribed by legislation and by-law. Members of Council rely to a significant degree on the expertise and guidance of professional administrative staff.

[27] Council is obligated – subject to specific exceptions – to conduct its meetings in public. The rule, referred to as the ‘Open Meeting’ rule, has been set out above. The Open Meeting rule ensures transparency and allows the public the opportunity to monitor, influence and participate in decisions of its duly elected municipal council.

[28] In order to provide the public with notice of matters to be discussed in closed session, Council is required to provide, in public, sufficient information about the reason a matter will be dealt with in closed session. Subsection 239(4) expressly requires that the general nature of the matter to be in closed session form part of a closed session resolution which is adopted prior to Council meeting in the absence of the public.

[29] Even where a matter arises in the course of a public meeting which Council determines ought to be discussed confidentially, and which may properly be discussed in a closed session under the exceptions noted in section 239 (say to obtain legal advice), it is incumbent on Council to provide as much information regarding the nature of the matter to be dealt with in closed session by adopting the required resolution in public.

[30] In all cases – whether noted in advance on the public agenda or, where that is not possible, spontaneously resolving to move into closed during a public meeting – it is incumbent on a municipality to provide as much information regarding the nature of the matter to be dealt with in closed session.

[31] The context for this investigation into Councillor Stolte’s conduct arises in part around differing views on what constitutes sufficient information in the public agenda to meet the requirements of subsection 239(4).

[32] The leading practice which has evolved from caselaw and through guidance from the Ontario Ombudsman and adopted by municipal clerks and closed meeting investigators across the province is for municipalities to provide as much information as can be revealed about the matter or report, without undermining the very reason for dealing with the matter behind closed doors.

Analysis of Complaints:
Publicly stating dollar figure of Bateman High School Redevelopment Project

[33] The first portion of the complaint pertains to whether ‘information concerning matters dealt with in closed council meetings, matters subject to solicitor client privilege, personal information, or information that is otherwise determined to be confidential’, were held in strict confidence (see Rule No. 14 of the Code).

[34] At its meeting of December 6, 2021, the City’s Corporate Services, Strategy, Risk and Accountability Committee had on its agenda a confidential item described as follows:

5.4 Confidential real estate matter – Robert Bateman High School (L-32-21) beneath which appeared the following:
Note: This item will be discussed at 1 p.m. and will be the subject of a Special Council meeting immediately following the Corporate Services, Strategy, Risk and Accountability meeting.

Pursuant to Section 239(2)(c) of the Municipal Act, a proposed or pending acquisition or disposition of land by the municipality or local board.

[35] Following the in-camera session a public motion was presented on the item:

Submit a formal offer to purchase the Robert Bateman High School Site as outlined in confidential Legal Department Report L-32-21

The motion was duly moved.

[36] In comments to the motion Councillor Stolte said as follows:

Certainly in keeping in very good consideration that there was a long discussion held in confidential session, I would just like to comment that the only way that I can in good conscience justify this very large price tag to purchase Robert Bateman High School is to commit to developing the property in the manner in which the community expects us to as a fully developed community centre for the residents of the city.

To purchase Bateman and not develop it as a community centre just does not make sense to me. The reality is that the final cost will be well above 50 million dollars to see that vision realized. A lot of information has not been shared with the community, including how this purchase may impact the acquisition of other lands. I believe that information is critical to be able to have in open conversations as much as possible so that each and every one of us is genuinely able represent the interests of our constituents.

The only way that I can support this motion in regards to exploring conditions of an offer is after having great assurances that there will be much more information coming forward before a final decision will be made in March of 2022.

[37] Immediately upon Councillor Stolte concluding her remarks the Clerk reminded councillors to keep their comments ‘global.’

[38] The Mayor, in her remarks on the motion, began by saying that she would keep comments to what was in the public record.

[39] The Councillor readily admitted to publicly stating that the “final cost [for the Bateman project] will be well above $50 million dollars…”

[40] She states that the dollar figure of 50 million does not reflect any dollar amount ever discussed in closed session with respect to the purchase negotiations.

[41] Nevertheless, it is recognized that reference to a specific dollar amount, where all negotiations and related costs have only ever been discussed in closed session, would reasonably be understood by the public to reflect the actual costs discussed. This has the affect of leaving the public with an erroneous or mistaken impression that other members of Council would feel must be corrected.

[42] Those other members are however prevented from contradicting or correcting her statements without themselves breaching the confidentiality provisions of the Code. The misstating of information, purportedly discussed in closed session, therefore can be as inappropriate as stating actual factual information.

[43] We find that the Councillor’s statement, although not actually disclosing real dollar amounts discussed in closed session, is fairly perceived as revealing confidential information, risks misleading the public, and compromises the ability of any other member of Council to contradict or correct the information.

[44] The fact that the information does not reflect the specific actual dollar figure is not an answer which justifies the apparent breach. If such were the case, confidentiality of closed discussion could be breached with impunity simply by mis- stating facts and information subject to closed session deliberations.

[45] Accordingly we find that the Councillor’s reference to an actual dollar figure, where by implication the only source of that information is closed session, constitutes a contravention of the confidentiality provisions of the Code.

Referenced Community Amenity/Green Space Strategy from Closed Presentation

[46] The matter of the acquisition of the Robert Bateman School Site had been before the Environment, Infrastructure & Community Services Committee on November 15, 2021 and a public presentation was provided.

[47] During the meeting, the Councillor stated publicly:

In order for it to also be a wonderful opportunity in the broader sense to the community is that we would need to develop the community space. And I think that that is the only way we could go forward with this if we were committing to develop that space for the residents as well.

In order to do that this would be a very exciting yet very costly opportunity. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t do it but I don’t believe that we are being as open and transparent in giving as much detail as we should to the community when we talk about this.

I think that we do have information that would be helpful to make a broader decision. Decisions that could impact the green space, decisions that could impact other strategic acquisitions that we might want to look at down the road.

So I just think it’s a very big decision and we’re unfortunately under the gun to make a decision without having all the information that we need and that makes me really uncomfortable. It’s now how I would like to make this decision.

So as I stated last week I’m really on the fence on this one. While I love the idea of the project I feel very uncomfortable with the lack of information that we’re sharing.

[48] The public presentation provided background and context for the project, and did not focus on confidential matters relating to the real estate negotiations. Indeed, the Committee was advised by the City Manager of the need to recognize that some aspects of the project were confidential and could not be discussed in public.

[49] Given that the presentation was made in public and addressed at least in some measure the issue of park space/green space associated with the project, Councillor Stolte’s remarks did not give rise to a breach of Rule 14, even if that topic had at some previous point been the subject of closed session deliberations.

Disclosed Asbestos contamination as referenced by a family relation on social media

[50] The Councillor has denied being a source of information for a posting on social media by a family member which spoke to the presence of asbestos at the Bateman High School.

[51] She has advised that an eight-year old decommissioning report which is publicly available discloses the extensive degree of asbestos contamination at the school.

[52] It is apparent that any Burlington resident closely following developments surrounding the Bateman High School would likely be aware of asbestos issues at the property, and there is no reason to believe the Councillor was the source of that information.

[53] We find that the Councillor was not the source of the information referenced on social media about the asbestos contamination at the Bateman High School.

Disclosed to constituent that ‘Litigation Update’ Item pertained to deliberations about Appeal of Committee of Adjustment Decision regarding 3088 Balmoral Avenue

[54] The final allegation in the complaint is that Councillor Stolte advised a constituent that a particular committee of adjustment decision was to be considered by a Committee on January 10, 2022 on the Confidential/Closed Agenda; the Item listed on the public Agenda was identified only as “Confidential Update on a Litigation Matter”:

Just wanted to bring you up to speed on a new issue with [Address].

I am back in the office today to read my Agenda’s for next week’s Committee meetings to see that the status of the City’s Appeal of the Committee of Adjustment Decision has been included in our Confidential/Closed Agenda for Monday’s meeting.

I have reached out to our legal department as well as the City Clerk to dispute that this has thus far been a very open and public process and discussion and should not be dealt with in Closed session at this point. I am awaiting clarity but will continue to advocate that this item be moved to the Public agenda.

I know it is short notice but wanted to let you know in the hope that you might consider offering a short delegation before Committee on Monday January 10 to support the City’s position appealing the CoA decision. If delegating the morning of is not an option to you then a brief written delegation for Council’s consideration would help as well.

[55] The Councillor readily acknowledged that she emailed the constituent as alleged.

[56] She justifies her action by advising that:

• The matter at [Address] had been publicly discussed and part of the public process for (at the time) the past 9 months with the community being very actively engaged
• Her email, which was copied to all of Council, merely notified the constituent of the subject-matter so that the constituent could delegate the Committee on the matter
• She did not share any confidential information, the legal advice or staff recommendations and options, nor the outcome of discussions
• She believed she was merely implementing the intention of the Open Meeting rules which require that Council pass a resolution in public that includes meaningful information about the issue to be considered, and not merely rely on citing the exception.
• She has understood the advice of the Director of Legal Services to be that the simple identification of a municipal address of a property to be discussed in closed session is not a breach of confidentiality, but rather the best practice is to give as much information as possible before going into closed session.

[57] While we are sympathetic to the Councillor’s perspective, the unilateral decision to disclose the municipal address of the property under consideration at closed session was, on its face, a contravention of the confidentiality provisions of the Code.

We find that the Councillor, in emailing the constituent about matter, contravened the confidentiality provisions of the Code.

Observations:
[58] While there is no justification for a member of Council breaching the confidentiality of closed session by selectively revealing information which they believe is properly in the public realm or in the public interest to share, and while maintaining confidentiality must be recognized as a cardinal rule by members of Council, some of the concerns that the Councillor expressed in the course of this investigation bear closer scrutiny.

[59] The resolution required by section 239 of the Municipal Act to give public notice of the items to be considered in closed session is required to provide as much information as possible about the general nature of the matter, without undermining the reasons for going into closed.

[60] Simply put, it is insufficient to simply parrot the test of the statutory exception (e.g. ‘acquisition or disposition of land) by re-stating it without adding additional context.

[61] Where a municipal address or parties in a litigation can be publicly identified, that is a more appropriate description of the general nature of an item than simply stating ‘acquisition or disposition of land’ or ‘litigation matter’, which provide no information to the public about the matter to be considered.

[62] We note that on the CSSRA meeting agenda for January 10, 2022 there were 4 items identified identically as ‘Confidential Update on a Litigation Matter’, a generic label which failed to provide meaningful information to the public about the general nature of the matter being considered in closed session.

[63] The leading case on this issue is Farber v. City of Kingston1, in which a closed meeting was convened to discuss renaming a square to acknowledge a generous donation from a local family.

[64] The matter was identified only as ‘legal advice’ which, although properly a basis to convene in closed, failed to provide any meaningful information to the public about the matter being considered.

[65] In finding the information on the public agenda to be deficient, the Court of Appeal stated:

[18] … the appellant argues that the resolutions stating that Council will go into closed session to consider “legal matters” were insufficient to comply with s. 239(4). She argues that such a resolution falls short of stating “the general nature of the matter to be considered at the closed meeting.”

1 Farber v. Kingston (City) (2007) 31 M.P.L.R. (4th) 31, at paras. 18-21 (Ont. C.A.); [“Farber”].

[19] I agree. In the circumstances of this case, I do not think that the description “legal matters” is sufficient. In my view, the clear legislative purpose informing s. 239 is to maximize the transparency of municipal governance so far as that as possible in the circumstances. …
[20] …The notion of “the general nature of the matter to be considered” suggests more fidelity to transparent governance than that, while recognizing that a full description of the matter to be considered cannot be revealed to the public because of the very need to go into closed session.

[21] … the resolution to go into closed session should provide a general description of the issue to be discussed in a way that maximizes the information available to the public while not undermining the reason for excluding the public. Where the exception to the presumptive openness of Council meetings is that of privileged solicitor-client advice, there may be circumstances where the need for confidentiality encompasses even the information that such advice has been obtained on a specific issue. However, in this case no such suggestion is made. The broad issue to be discussed in closed session on April 5 and May 17 was privileged legal advice concerning the renaming of the Square. This triggered the exception in s. 239(2)(f). In the circumstances of this case, nothing has been put forward to suggest that the use of a general description such as this would impair any interest that the exception is designed to protect. At the very least, “legal matters” is inadequate to state the general nature of the matter to be considered at the closed meetings.

[66] The Ontario Ombudsman (and many municipal clerks) have endorsed this line of decision, primarily through a myriad of investigation reports and publication of Open Meeting Guidelines for municipal meetings which municipal administrative staff are encouraged to apply.

[67] While it is not possible to construct a hard and fast rule around precisely what must be disclosed in the public agenda, it is generally not sufficient to recite the exception or reference ‘litigation’ or ‘legal advice’ in a generic way, as this fails to meet the minimum requirement to provide the general nature of the matter to be considered.

[68] As articulated in a recent report from AMO’s Closed Meeting Investigator2:

There are certainly some instances where the very nature or particular sensitivity of a matter under consideration would allow for a less detailed description in a resolution. Additionally, there may be circumstances where the need for confidentiality encompasses even the fact that a matter is being discussed by Council where disclosure would impair any interest that the exception is designed to protect.

2 Closed Meeting Investigation Report, Aird & Berlis, May 11, 2021, City of Stratford

However, this does not give the City blanket permission to shield its closed meeting discussions behind generic resolutions. The City must engage in the delicate exercise of balancing openness and transparency, on the one hand, with protecting the City’s interests in the closed session item, on the other.
Generic resolutions as a default are simply not sufficient.

If the City is engaged in the re-negotiation of a collective agreement with municipal employees, Council might choose to rely on the exception for “labour relations or employee negotiations.” The identity of the bargaining unit and the very fact of collective bargaining taking place will be plain and obvious; the City’s willingness to make concessions on wages or hours of work, for example, might not be. In such a circumstance, there would be no prejudice to the City’s interest in protecting it’s bargaining position if its resolution to move into closed session stated such information. Simply reciting the exception for “labour relations” would not maximize transparency.

Report’s Recommendation included the following:

The City should consider the objectives of open and transparent local government when drafting such resolutions and seek to provide as much information as possible without negating or severely derogating from the very reason the matter is being considered in closed session.

[69] It is the obligation of the municipality to ensure that Council’s resolutions maximize transparency so far as possible.

[70] Councillor Stolte’s position regarding the adequacy of the resolution for closed session meetings has some validity and the City should consider modifying its closed session resolutions to both qualify and disclose the items that are to be given closed session treatment.

[71] With that said, she bears responsibility for the two breaches of Rule No. 14 which did occur.

Recommendations and Concluding Remarks:

[72] Maintaining confidentiality around closed session documents and information is a cardinal rule for all members of Council, and is one that is regularly referenced during orientation and training of newly-elected councillors, and reiterated repeatedly during the term.

[73] Indeed, the Province of Ontario requires only four mandatory provisions in a municipal Code of Conduct pursuant to Ontario Regulation 55/18, “Codes of Conduct – Prescribed Subject Matters”, with confidential information being one of them:

“1. For the purposes of section 223.2 of the Act, the following are the prescribed subject matters that a municipality is required to include in the codes of conduct for members of the council of the municipality and of its local boards:

1. Gifts, benefits and hospitality.
2. Respectful conduct, including conduct toward officers and employees of the municipality or the local board, as the case may be.
3. Confidential information.
4. Use of property of the municipality or of the local board, as the case may be.”

[74] An Integrity Commissioner’s investigation report is not simply the conclusion of a technical exercise to determine whether there has been a breach of codified standards of behaviour.

[75] As noted at the outset, we see as our highest objective in reporting out on an investigation to be the making of recommendations that serve the public interest.

[76] Disclosure of confidential information is the kind of transgression that attracts a monetary sanction because the act fundamentally undermines the trust required for Councils to function properly and for the public to maintain respect for Council’s adherence to ethical standards.

[77] In our view, the principle that members of council must avoid disclosing confidential information is an important one.

[78] On the other hand, whether or not justification exists for greater transparency, it is not the case that one member of Council can determine that information should be publicly disclosed before Council as a whole has taken a stance on the issue.

[79] As noted, the Councillor has recognized that she ran afoul of the ‘confidentiality’ provisions of the Code in attempting to highlight and force discussion on the issue.

[80] Maintaining confidentiality around confidential information and closed session deliberations is a cardinal rule for members of council. As such, some sanction would be warranted, to signify that such action is not acceptable.

[81] In light of the Councillor’s acknowledgement, in the course of our investigation, and we do not believe a significant penalty is warranted.

[82] An Integrity Commissioner’s recommendations may include a reprimand, appropriate remedial actions or a monetary sanction of up to 90-days suspension of pay. Taking into account all of the circumstances, we believe that a 5-day suspension of pay is warranted.

[83] We therefore recommend:

1. That Council pass the following resolution:

That having been found to have breached the City of Burlington’s Council Code of Conduct, Councillor Stolte’s pay be suspended for a period of 5 days.

[84] We wish to conclude by thanking those who participated in our investigation.

[85] We will be pleased to be in attendance when this report is considered to answer any questions.

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Summer swimming and youth recreational program registration opens April 23

By Staff

April 14th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The City summer swimming lessons and youth recreational programs will open for online registration April 23.

All classes and programs are available for viewing now at www.burlington.ca/recreation. Non-Burlington residents can register April 29.

Swimming should be part if life for every child. There are programs to teach – take advantage of the opportunity – your child love you for it.

Burlington’s learn to swim program provides a full range of classes for swimmers of every skill level and age. Visit burlington.ca/swimming to find out more about registered swim and Aquatic Leadership programs. June lessons at Tansley Woods and Nelson Pool begin June 4 and the full summer session begins July 4.

Dates for adult summer program registration will be announced later in May.

Rec Connections
New Inclusion Program for Individuals with Disabilities ages 15-21

A new recreation and social program geared to teens living with a disability.

This course will use both indoor and outdoor program spaces. There will be themed weeks, outdoor adventures, crafts, physical activities and more. Make connections with your peers in your community in a fun and active manner. The Rec Connections program will run the weeks of July 18, 25, Aug. 2, and 8.

Just plain play

Park Play Program
Join City staff in your neighbourhood park for some simple fun and games. Staff are on-site to encourage participants to be active, social, and creative. This is not a day camp program, although registration is required to monitor and manage participation. All activities will occur outdoors, with the daily program cancelled and children sent home in situations of inclement weather.

Summer Camps
The Summer Camps team is excited to announce three new SNAP camp locations that will be available for registration on April 23.

• Orchard Park Public School
• Florence Meares Public School
• Maplehurst Public School

Limited spaces are still available in music and student theatre camps.

Assisted Registration
Residents who need extra support or do not have online access to register for programs, can call 905-335-7738 for staff-assisted telephone registrations.

The customer service team is available through email at liveandplay@burlington.ca or 905-335-7738, Monday to Friday 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and weekends 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

For more information on how to register online, visit burlington.ca/registration.

Recreation Fee Assistance
Recreation is for all, regardless of financial situation. Recreation Fee Assistance is funding made available to resident individuals or families who need help to pay for City of Burlington recreation programs. For more information or to apply, visit burlington.ca/feeassistance.

 

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Halton District School Board studentswill be strong competitors at Robotics event.

By Pepper Parr

April 13, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Burlington high schools have always been strong competitors in the field of robotics.

Six robotics teams from the Halton District School Board (HDSB) will be competing at the FIRST Ontario Provincial Championship in Mississauga Thursday through Saturday (April 14-16).

The robot was taught how to throw that basketball. It was not drafted by the Raptors

Schools participating include Burlington Central School, M.M. Robinson High School, Garth Webb Secondary School and Georgetown District High School, each with one team, and Oakville Trafalgar High School with two teams.

Each HDSB team qualified for the provincial competition based on their results from taking part in regional competitions including those held at Humber College, Waterloo and York universities. This provincial competition is a qualifier for the World FIRST Robotic Championship held April 20-23 in Houston, Texas.

“Our Halton FIRST robotics teams worked extra hard this season coming out of lockdown, with tight timelines to build their robot in time to compete in their first qualifier at the beginning of March,” says Veronica Kleinsmith, Lead for the Specialist High Skills Major andPathways programs with the HDSB.

“All HDSB teams built impressive robots this year and three of our schools are ranked in the Top 6 in Ontario going into this provincial competition. Each team raises funds from community and business sponsors, designs a brand for their team, hones their teamwork skills, builds and finally programs their robots for a difficult field-game challenge.”

The students who take part in the robotics courses are amongst the smartest in the HDSB system.

Established in 2001, FIRST Robotics inspires young people to be leaders and innovators in science and technology by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills to inspire innovation and foster self-confidence, communication and leadership.

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Integrity Commissioner has recommended the sanctioning of a member of City Council

By Pepper Parr

April 13th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Very early Wednesday morning the Gazette will publish a recommendation from the Integrity Commissioner in which they set out a case for sanctioning a member of City Council.

Stand By says the city motto – for how long one might ask?

The recommendation comes after a three month investigation when two other members of Council filed a complaint with the Integrity Commissioner.

The Councillor named in the report is believed to be preparing a Statement.

The recommendation from the Integrity Commissioner is to go to the City Council meeting on April 19th.

It is not know at this time if the report will be read in a Closes Session of Council.

The Integrity Commissioner is reported to have said that it was “their preference” to have the report not made public until it was actually before Council.

The City Clerk is reported to hold the same view.

The issue is related to how and when Council chooses to go into a closed session and what gets reported from the Closed Session.

The report is lengthy and sets out issues that deserve open and public debate.

Mayor Meed Ward has been involved in discussions with the City Manager on this issue.

 

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Climate Earth Day Event Saturday, April 23 at Central Arena

By Staff

April 12th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The City, Burlington Hydro, BurlingtonGreen and Plug’n Drive are hosting Earth Day activities in the parking lot at Central Arena on Saturday, April 23 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Register for Tree Giveaway
The City of Burlington is giving away 200 trees. To receive a free four-to-five-foot tree, you must register in advance and have a vehicle able to safely transport the tree.

Registration opens April 13.

To register for a tree, go to Get Involved Burlington. Quantities and tree species are limited.

Meet Electric Vehicle Experts
The City and Burlington Hydro are sponsoring Plug’n Drive’s Mobile EV Education Trailer for four weeks at the arena starting April 23 until May 20, 2022.

Talk with experts and owners about driving an electric vehicle (EV).

Book an EV test drive in advance at plugndrive.ca/meet-burlington/. Test drive appointments are available Thursdays to Sundays starting April 23 until May 20, 2022.

Check Out BurlingtonGreen’s 12th Annual Clean Up Green Up

Learn about spring eco-opportunities. Giveaways at BurlingtonGreen’s tent will include free clean-up kits and free pollinator seed packets for the first 100 visitors.

More information about the Clean Up Green Up event can be found at burlingtongreen.org

 

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Tyandaga Golf Course opening Saturday, April 16

By Staff

April 12th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

Tyandaga Golf Course will open for the 2022 season on Saturday, April 16.

Tee times will be available starting at 7 a.m. each day and can be booked by calling the Pro Shop at 905-336-0005, ext. 2 or booking online at www.tyandagagolf.com. Members will be able to book 14 days in advance.

The course will be open for walking only until further notice, and staff will monitor course conditions each day.
For any questions regarding opening and the course, please contact email tyandaga@burlington.ca or call 905-336-0005.

About Tyandaga Golf Course
Located at 1265 Tyandaga Park Dr., Burlington, Tyandaga Golf Course is an 18-hole course with 4,852 metres of scenic terrain characterized by its natural waterways and broadleaf woods. The golf course offers memberships, tournaments, clinics, men’s and women’s league play, and in-season and off-season rentals. The course combines a perfect mix of urban convenience with rural beauty, natural waterways, contours and mature trees as well as dining and catered private or corporate events.

Book a tee time on line.
www.tyandagagolf.com

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What's open - what's closed during the holiday. City Hall closed Friday and Monday as well

By Staff

April 12th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Tables waiting for customers

City services and facilities will be closed for Good Friday, on Friday, April 15, and Easter Monday, on Monday, April 18.

A list of which City services and facilities are available on the Easter holiday weekend is set out below.

If you are out and about and in places where there are a lot of people – wear your mask.

The weather reports look good – a chance to get out and enjoy the city – restaurants are looking forward to welcoming their customers.

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School bus drivers with Covid19 infections means temporary service disruptions

By Staff

April 10th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Shortage of school-bus drivers amid pandemic continues to temporarily disrupt services

Halton Student Transportation Services (HSTS) is reminding families of the continued bus route disruptions due to the ongoing decrease of available drivers resulting from COVID-19 isolation requirements.

Lots of busses – not enough drivers.

“Every effort will be made to communicate cancellations as quickly as possible, but in many cases, we will have minimal notice as drivers continue to follow public health guidelines and minimize risk to students,” says David Colley, General Manager of Halton Student Transportation Services.

To stay informed about bus route cancellations, families can:

• Visit the Halton Student Transportation Service Alerts page for up-to-date route cancellations and delays
• Register for Delay/Cancellation email notifications via the HSTS Parent Portal
• For instant delay notifications, download the Delays App to your smartphone: BusPlanner Delay App

We understand the impact that this has on families and we thank you for your continued patience and understanding.

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Interview with Councillor reveals significant differences of opinion on just how they work to get things done

By Pepper Parr

April 11th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

We published a three part interview with ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte.

The earning curve was the steepest Stolte had ever experienced.

This has not been an easy council to interview. It has been difficult to get a clear sense as to how well they work together and the kind of leadership that has been available to the newcomers.

One said to us early in the term of office that he had been told “not to talk to you” – this one has always been easily swayed.

The five newcomers are certainly a mixed bag – each of them has struggled with the size of the job they got elected to – every one of them will tell you – if they are honest with themselves, that they are way in over their heads – but they work hard and do their best.

A situation has arisen that has the potential to tear this council apart. It should break in a few days; it is expected to be on the city council agenda for April 19th. It might be on the agenda as a Closed session item because it relates to the behavior of a person that we are choosing not to name at this point.

Councillors Stolte and Kearns tend to work together and support the positions each takes.

The collegiality that Councillor Stolte thought existed does not exist. Mayor Marianne Meed Ward has turned out to be a very divisive Mayor – who has not been able to create a council, made up of people new to the game, and turn them into independent operators who buy into the big picture and work as a team to end up with a city that is going to see massive population growth requiring literally hundreds of high rise towers.

Meed Ward has chosen the photo op and social media route. A woman who consistently talks up her background as a journalist has yet to hold an open press conference.

She favours situations, such as her perch at CHML where she is never pressed on serious issues or Cogeco where she has a program of her own.

Posing as a journalist is just plain phony – she knows better but up until recently Meed Ward has had a tribe of supporters who believe she can do no wrong.

Marianne Meed Ward didn’t do all that much to mentor the new members to Council

I was once a fan; she was a strong council member who really knew how to go for the juggler. She taught former Councillor and former Mayor Rick Goldring a tough lesson during the last meeting of that council.  She was the best choice for the city in 2018

There is a lot in what Shawna Stolte said during our interview – she was always careful to ensure that she didn’t talk about natters that were debated in Closed sessions – she did say that she has very strong views on the way the city chooses to slip into a Closed session.

Teaching the members of this council that they have an obligation to communicate with their constituents has not been easy. Most feel that their Newsletter is how they can speak to their constituents – the obligation is to open themselves up to media that can ask informed questions.

Stole has taken a first bold step. Her Father would be proud.

Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette, an online newspaper that was formed in 2010 and is a member of the National Newsmedia Council.

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Councillor Stolte expands on what she thinks civic politics and public service is all about; some real surprises

By Pepper Parr

April 11th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

Part 3 of a 3 part interview.

As we prepared to bring the interview to an end we asked ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte what she would do differently if she were to serve a second term; what did she get right and what did she get wrong.  She was surprisingly direct in answering the question.

The debate that ended a 24 year career in municipal politics; Jack Dennison on the left with Shawna Stolte on the right during a debate at Nelson High School.

“I think I focused on what I ran on. I ran on the tree canopy protection,  on affordable housing.  I ran on engagement and a voice at  City Hall. I ran on improving public transport and I ran on services for seniors. A lot of other issues  have come up in the meantime, but I feel like I have stuck by what people chose to vote on me on.

“This is what I didn’t do right and this is a mistake I’m not going to make again. I did not learn how to use my system.

“It took me till halfway through the term to understand how to work well with my assistant and how to how to be a 10.

“There is no fault in how things worked out in assigning me an administrative assistant.  (City staff choose who a Council members assistant is going to be – there is no input from the Council member.) During my first week on the job my assistant was very open and said she didn’t want to be here. She said she had a one year contract. She said she wanted to work in the Clerk’s office doing election work. She said “that’s where I want to be. I don’t want to be an assistant but I was sent up here because it’s my home job and I plan to get out of here as soon as I can.”

“I appreciated the honesty, it was better than finding out all of a sudden. So within six months she was gone. I went through June, July, August, September and October, four months of not having an assistant . I was bounced around .  I did appreciate all the other assistants taking a turn helping me out but it left me with no ability to fully understand  the practices or procedures on my end. I then had a contract assistant for about five months before I got Nancy. She came in three weeks before the pandemic. It was a rough.

“Something else I didn’t know. I assumed work in the city was done in a collaborative way.

“The learning curve, the confidence in being able to handle that learning curve and being able to handle the level of responsibility and expectation of the role and expectation on myself in the role was immense.

“And things were coming at us at a fierce pace; all five of the newly elected were struggling.

“I really wanted to dive into the issues and into the best practices of the city. I think that’s a piece of work that has surprised me the most.

“Naively, I discovered how much work needed to be done on policies, practices and procedures.

“Especially with council – so much of my work had to be focused much more internally than I was expecting.

“Going into a second term I would like to do things on two levels: the personal things, the things that you aspire to – I think I can get this done.

“And then the bigger picture, the things that I really think are critical fundamental for the way the city grows, because we have huge changes..

Seven new towers will be built in three phases with a projected population of about 2500 people.

“The growth at the GO stations where we are going to build this city and add 25 to 30% in the way of new population. The growth is real.

“This community is in transition; it is growing and evolving so quickly. I do think council should be bigger. I would love to see some consideration given to a council that’s made up of Ward councillors and councillors at large. I had a meeting with the city manager and councillors from Thunder Bay where they have that model.

“I think a model of having councillors doing constituent work and having votes on major city issues is important but I also really believe strongly in the model of councillors at large who do not have a ward to oversee they more have a portfolio – perhaps two councillors at large one who has for an example of a portfolio of environment, public transportation, and planning, where they kind of focus like they’re the higher focus on bigger issues that are city wide.

“Because I do think, having worked with the other councillors there still this protectionism around a lot of little things.

“Regional representation can stay the way it is just add two City Councillors at large. I think that would take Council up to nine. I think whenever you have a group dynamics, the smaller the group, the more opportunity there is for stronger personalities to have a bigger impact on a smaller group. And I think that that is part of the challenge for the City Council. I think if there would be less opportunity for strong dynamics if there were two more councillors added in. And I think when you look at our fellow regional councils, they’re all 11 to 13 members.   I think going up to nine is reasonable.

“There’s a bigger picture that has stunned all of us.  The challenge for all of us is immense.

The proposal is for 40 storeys – it will be less than that – begging the question- is Brant and Lakeshore the place for this kind of building.

“The size of the developments that were coming forward; the determination as to what was going to happen at the intersection of Brant and Lakeshore where two huge towers were being proposed.

“The Planning department was overwhelmed – how were we to fully understand the long term implications?”

I once asked a council member I was having a conversation with about the vision for the city in the Strategic Plan.

What vision was the response.  There is no vision.  When I put this response to Stolte she responded:

“I think anytime you’ve got a new council coming in with a new city manager, that vision is going to be preliminary and will need a lot of tweaking.   I think this next term  hopefully with some returning members, –  oh my gosh, a whole new council again, would not be very helpful for the community. I don’t start the learning curve all over again.”

“I would like to improve public transportation, though from an environmental perspective, hopefully get more environmentally friendly transit,  to get people out of cars.  We need to tackle the environmental issues as well as the traffic issues that we’re dealing with.

“I want to land this housing strategy complete with immediate short term, medium term and long term action items. I want it to be actionable, come heck or high water. I am not going to be okay letting this housing strategy become a policy that gets stuck on a shelf or not implemented.

The public hasn’t had much in the way of opportunity to watch what the Working Group has done. The need to do everything by Zoom has been a problem.

“The Working Group on Housing is sending out messages left, right and center to staff about the expectations that will go to council. There are some pretty high expectations for the implementation of the housing strategy.

“One of the things  that I really want to continue to focus on is low rise residential construction guidelines. Right now it’s the Wild West out there.   There are no rules.  The contractors doing  low rise, residential  construction are not managed and it is the residents in these areas that are suffering.

“I have been working on this problem for two years trying to get some changes made. Cary Clark has been helping. He’s been the champion for it but has admitted to me that his authority to effect change is extremely limited, which I understand.  There are parts of the city where there is a lot of this work taking place with no low rise residential construction management in place.

“There are places in my ward where you have three, four, sometimes five, infill properties, private residential properties being bought, torn down and rebuilt.  There’s no guidelines  – which results in construction vehicles and porta potties out on the street and piles of debris.

“There are construction management rules for the bigger developments, not for infill projects  and it is awful for some of these residential streets.

“The problem is that there are six different bylaws that need to be amended.  There is a report coming from the Legal department in  April.  I finally put my foot down and said I need a summary of these bylaws from the legal department to hear what’s getting in our way. And what strategies and solutions are we going to implement in these bylaws so that we can actually get some of these construction guidelines in place because it’s awful for some of these families who are trying to live their quiet life and they’re surrounded by construction. That’s worse for them. Because they have it literally outside their bedroom window. Literally.”

Nothing about the antics from this lady.

I said that would be the last question but not quite.

What was the funniest thing funniest thing that happened in the first four years ?

“I can’t tell you. Off the record I might tell you some of the antics that took p[lace on the seventh floor of City Hall. We’ll leave it at that. Okay.”

The first four years have been a real ride for the five elected for the first time. They were new and there was nothing in the way of a support system for them, no one to mentor them.

They had to rely on what they could learn from the city manager, the man they made the decision to hire.

Nothing from us on those antics.

Part 1

Part 2

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Meed Ward will run again - does that mean Jane McKenna gets to be Regional Chair?

By Pepper Parr

April 11th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Marianne Meed Ward filing nomination papers while hubby captures the moment. The rules that will be enforced this election would not permit anything like this.

For those who thought Mayor Marianne Meed Ward might decide to run for the office of Regional Chair and take on Jane McKenna directly – we have to dash your hopes.

While she has not yet filed her nomination papers – no one can file until early May – Meed Ward has created a campaign committee. They met recently at the Legion with some people taking part via Zoom.

Our source points out that no money spent – it was just a meeting that included about 30 + people.

No names from us at this point – several were a surprise. There does not appear to be anyone from her first campaign.

Some bruised egos  for sure.

More in the fullness of time.

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Female fox looking for her pups

By Staff
April 10th, 2022
BURLINGTON, ON
Local artiest, Helen Griffith, took these pictures of a fox in her back yard and made the following comments on her Facebook page:
Last week we had this beautiful fox in our backyard. I think it’s pups may have been removed from a neighbour’s yard and the fox seemed to be calling and looking for them the night before as well as in the morning. Such a sad sound to hear, but probably safer for all the local small pets.
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