Are We Waiting for a Miracle because we aren't very good at common sense ?

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

December 30th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Premier Ford started an online petition to persuade the federal government to enhance border control, presumably to tighten quarantine and restrict flights from COVID hotspots. It may be a little unorthodox for a province to start a public petition, but he must have felt it was necessary.

Our federal government has a less than stellar history when it comes to border control. Failure to act earlier by closing the border and enforcing quarantine was responsible for bringing the virus into our communities in the first place.

But today most of the infection comes via community transmission. Alberta has a pilot program in place to either test or quarantine arriving passengers at its airports. Their records show that less than 2% of all arrivals are testing as positive. Of course, if all arrivals properly quarantined none of this should be a problem. But we know people cheat, even in New Zealand and Australia where the military confines arriving passengers into mandatory quarantine in dedicated hotels.

So bravo Mr. Ford. But before Ford goes all ballistic and accuses the federal government of sloppy border control, he should look in his own backyard. Ontario’s winter surge of COVID cases is almost entirely the result of half-hearted provincial policies. Having declared victory too early, last summer, Ford’s administration has now allowed the virus to spread even further into workplaces, grocery stores and gradually into schools.

Ford OPEN for business

That lifting of the lock-down in March was probably not the Premier’s best decision.

Ford’s enthusiasm in reopening the economy, pretending Ontario was back to some kind of near-normal was folly. Opening bars and restaurants, gyms and churches and expanding the allowed size of private gatherings have all contributed to the degree of sickness we now find.

The mixed messages and ever changing rules of the government’s COVID public health restrictions were proof that the authorities had no plan, were making it up on the run or just muddling through. And then there is the unfortunate hypocrisy, as for example, when one of the government’s senior ministers holidays in the Caribbean while the Premier lectures the rest of us to stay at home.

If Ford actually had a plan it would be ‘waiting for a miracle’ – the vaccine. And even with that his people have fumbled at getting it out of the starting gate. Ontario has the lowest rate of inoculations among all provinces. And stopping inoculations over the holiday period, as if waiting for Santa to return to the North Pole, has not helped the government’s credibility. Not that COVID ever takes a break!

Ford’s effort to restart the economy too early has set this province back, rather than move us ahead. It has turned out to be a short term gain for a much longer and more severe pain. He is fortunate that the federal government has been shouldering the vast majority of the costs of this pandemic. But we know there is only one taxpayer in this federation at the end of the day.

Sadly there is some question as to whether the vaccines will even stop the epidemic or just keep us from getting sick. A scientist at the World Health Organization (WHO) has speculated that the virus may continue unabated to spread and mutate, perhaps to a variant which can evade the vaccine we’ve just taken and/or become even more deadly as happened with the Spanish Flu.

Halton has a very good student immunization rate - 93% of students are immunized.

The Teddy Bear makes it all bearable.

While we are waiting for our jab in the arm, shouldn’t our biggest effort be to eliminate the virus to (near) zero, the hard and proven way, as New Zealand and even China have done?

The truth is we really don’t know what these vaccines will accomplish, for how long they will protect and even whether there will be longer term undesirable consequences for those immunized. But assuming they do work as hoped, at current roll-out rates it may take close to a year to immunize enough people to allow us to safely get back to some kind of normal. By contrast New Zealand eliminated its viral contagion in seven weeks with an extensive and enforced stay-at-home lock down.

Mr. Ford’s current partial lockdown for 28 days, given the extent of infection transmission, particularly in the workplace, is not likely going to be enough. All of these half-hearted solutions have only led to COVID fatigue and rule breaking and ultimately to some kind of mental health crisis. And the task is not hopeless. Atlantic Canada has shown how it is possible to manage a contagion while the rest of the provinces have floundered.

In hindsight perhaps controlling this epidemic was too big a job to be left in the hands of the provincial governments and their health authorities. Perhaps the Prime Minister should have enacted the Emergency Act as he had offered to do at the outset of the crisis. After all, the feds are picking up the tab while we lock down and they could hardly have done a worse job with the miserable series of lock-downs. But then Mr. Ford might reasonably point out that the feds needed to have got their own house in order first – and he’d point to border control.

Rivers hand to faceRay Rivers writes from time to time about whatever is on his mind.  A former sheep farmer he has served as a federal bureaucrat for 25 years, ran for public office and lost. He was the founder of the first sustainability public interest group in Burlington.

 

Background links:

Ford’s Petition –   Ontario Vaccinations –   Acting Early

Ontario Mess –    Not Prepared –   Ontario Minister Holiday

WHO Scientist Doubts –    Alberta Airport Arrivals

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One nut case and one provincial cabinet minister who seem to think that the rules don't apply to them - great notes to end the year on

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

December 30th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

OPINION

An Ontario politician who has already been charged once for disobeying COVID-19 rules is blatantly breaking them again.

MPP Randy Hillier posted a photo on Twitter Sunday showing himself and 14 other people at what appears to be a holiday celebration. He used the hashtag “#nomorelockdowns” to accompany the photo, which shows disregard for Ontario’s public health guidelines.

In another tweet, he confirmed the photo was taken Dec. 27.

Ontario has been in a province wide lockdown since Dec. 26, put in place to combat the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus and ease the strain on the province’s health-care system.

Announcing the lockdown last week, Premier Doug Ford said it was a necessary measure to save hospitals from becoming overwhelmed in upcoming weeks. Currently, no indoor social gatherings are allowed, except for those with members of the same household.

Hillier Randy MPP

Randy Hillier, MPP for an Eastern Ontario riding had been expelled from the Tory Caucus, is still pushing back over the Covid rules.

Ontarians found guilty of hosting illegal private gatherings can face a fine ranging from $10,000 to $100,000, according to the Reopening Ontario Act.

In November, Hillier said on Twitter he was charged for his role organizing a large gathering at Queen’s Park in Toronto. He has opposed lockdowns and masks and has promoted a debunked pandemic conspiracy theory in the Ontario legislature.

Ford previously called the MPP “totally irresponsible” for the protest. The premier said he’s “never figured out” anti-maskers who believe COVID-19 is a hoax, saying, “this is a very serious virus we’re seeing … around the world, around our country.”

People on Twitter have called for Hillier to resign.

This comes after more than 40 local physicians signed an open letter to Hillier in December, fact-checking his incorrect claims about COVID-19.

“You are spreading misinformation that minimizes the seriousness of COVID-19 to support your personal anti- lockdown and anti-mask beliefs,” Dr. Jeanette Dietrich wrote.

“I urge the public to ignore you and heed the advice of trained health care professionals. Continue to practice social distancing, wear masks, and keep everyone safe.”

The above was picked up from Huffington Post Canada.

St Barts

Described as The Island for Billionaires St. Barts was the holiday destination for the province’s Minister of Finance while the rest of Ontario is under a month long lock down.

It gets worse. We learned today that the Ontario Minister of Finance, Rob Phillips,  had slipped out of the country early in December to the Caribbean island of St. Barts to celebrate the holidays in the sunny, sunny south.

Premier Ford, said he was not aware the Minister had left the county and ordered him to return immediately.

ROD pHILLIPS

Rod Phillips, was once the Minister of the Environment and moved into Finance. He was at one time the Chair of Post Media. His is going to have to get some media help to get out the mess he is in now.

The Minister did leave for his holiday, which had been planned sometime before the lock down was put in place.

While out of the country his staff was sending out tweets which implied that he was still in the country serving the public.

An example of really sick hypocrisy.

Durham Region, where Phillips’ constituency is located, entered into the “control” phase of Ontario’s tiered lockdown system in late November. Public health guidance for this phase says trips outside of the home “should only be for essential reasons.”

Tweets from Phillips’ official Twitter account reminded Ontarians on Christmas Eve to thank the “special heroes” making sacrifices during the pandemic.

“As we all make sacrifices this #Christmas, remember that some of our fellow citizens won’t even be home for Christmas dinner over Zoom,” the tweet reads.

“Thousands of front line heroes will be at work, looking out for us.”

stocks -

There was a time when Stocks were set up in public places where offenders against public morality formerly sat imprisoned, with their legs held fast beneath a heavy wooden yoke. It was never outlawed – just fell out of favour. Might be time to bring it back

Several photos of Phillips on public visits to small businesses and fundraisers were taken before his trip and were tweeted while he was abroad.

The only thing we haven’t heard from the Minister are the words “Let them eat cake”.

The Premier should think in terms of firing Phillips.

Dozens, perhaps hundreds of young people have had to cancel wedding plans because of the 10 person limit lock down requirement for gatherings of people.

With hundreds dying from Covid there are literally thousands who will not be able to attend funerals for the departed.

What I am looking for is a word stronger than ‘hypocrisy’. Putting Phillips in stocks on the lawn outside the Legislature might be an appropriate punishment.

The bigger damage is to the concept of public service which used to be something that was seen as noble. The giving of one’s self to serve the public, which is certainly what those thousands of hospital workers who care for those with COVID-19 are doing, gets trashed by people like Phillips.

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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Gazette reader claims governments no longer have the moral authority to tax

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

December 21st, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

OPINION

We are all in this together.

Is there a member of council who hasn’t used this phrase?

Perhaps Councillor Sharman.

A Gazette reader sent in a comment which we have edited for length and clarity.

His concern was what a tax increase next budget might look like. His view was that a 0% increase was necessary because there are hundreds, perhaps thousands who are not working because their jobs disappeared or because they have been infected with the Covid19 virus.

“ I think we have entered a new reality. The costs of this pandemic have overwhelmingly and been shouldered by the private sector–layoffs, reduced wages, business closures and bankruptcies, increased private debt.
Governments and their employees have largely been sheltered from the worst economic impacts of this pandemic; even before the pandemic, public sector workers were enjoying higher wages, benefits, and pensions than their private sector counterparts. In this environment, governments have no moral authority to go to workers in the private sector and raise their taxes further depressing their standard of living in order to maintain the incomes and benefits of workers in the public sector.

“It is clearly time for governments of all stripes, including the current free spenders on Brant Street, to start reducing their spending …”.

What about a 10% pay cut for the members of Council – the savings would be put into a fund that would be available to those retailers in the city who are taking it in the ear,

The 10% would apply to just the salary – not the gold plated pension or the benefits.

When compared to the council members in the other three Halton municipalities Burlington Councillors have a very sweet deal.

A 10% piece of the base salary would amount to $5000 each.  We are talking about just the city salary – our Councillor are also Regional Councillors and the source of the other half of their $100,000 a year pay cheque.

Such a gesture might restore some of the moral authority our reader thinks this council no longer has.

Can this be done – it wouldn’t be easy but it could be done.  There was a time when Marianne Meed Ward didn’t think free parking was a benefit she could accept and said she would return the value of that benefit to the city.

Not certain if the Meed Ward followed through on that every year she was a Council member.

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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Mayor works with police on a personal security plan

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

December 18th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Mayor said ” she has been in close contact with police and has a security plan.”

A little over-reaction perhaps?

The Gazette published an article yesterday about a group that announced it plans to do a citizen’s arrest as their way of protesting over the wearing of facial masks.

The group, Stand4THEE, created a web site, a Face Book page and an Instagram page.  Any nutcases can do the same thing.

The group did say in a note to the Gazette that a citizen arrest does not necessarily mean taking a person into custody. Their comment read: “It also should be noted that in order to exercise a citizen’s arrest, as per Bill C-26, the person being arrested does not need to be present.”

They might want to let the police know that.

Misguided? Most certainly. Perhaps we should have ignored them.

Was this important enough to call in the police? Does the Mayor think she is really at personal risk? Will we see a police officer in full SWAT level gear walking beside the Mayor for the next few days?

Meed Ward hands out frnt city hall

Mayor Meed Ward can usually be found at City Hall.

The mayor of Burlington says “she, and police, are taking precautions prior to a protest planned for Friday”, in which members of an anti-mask group claim they are attempting to place her under citizen’s arrest.

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward said she has been in close contact with police and has a security plan.

The CBC reports that the Mayor said: “I’ve taken appropriate measures to make sure that my safety is protected.”

She said police have told her there is “no reasonable grounds” for what the group is trying to do.

She said she supports people’s right to protest, and believes the group members will not attempt to use physical force based on their social media statements.

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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Majority of Canadians support a total shut down

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

December 16th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

OPINION

The leading edge of the second wave of Covid19 infections has hit.

2275 new cases in Ontario yesterday.

Hospitals advised to set aside 15% of their beds for Covid cases and we are still not in a total lock-down phase.

Doug Ford covid t shirt

Premier Doug Ford at one of his many media events.

The Premier of the province has just not been able to fully understand what it is he has to deal with.

His focus is on the pain the private sector will have to cope with were he to shut everything down.

He understands how the world of business works, the Tories see the world that way.

This is no longer about business – this is about survival and being responsible.

The Premier has said again and again he doesn’t want the damage from the virus to land on the backs of the hard working Canadians who have put everything they have into the businesses they operate.

There are thousands of people who have not survived the virus. They died.

There will be many commercial organizations that will not survive.

Those are hard facts we have to accept

A public opinion survey done by the Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies reports that majority of Canadians support a lock down; 65% of the respondents would like to see everything shut down except for the essentials – drinking a beer in a public place is not essential – if it is there are support groups that can help you.

The vaccine that everyone has been waiting for is now available. It will take some time to get it into the arms of everyone. We each have to wait until it is our turn to roll up our sleeves.

We will get through this.

In order to actually get through this – everything has to be shut down.

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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Too little too late: How does one say Merry Christmas after stealing it from you?

“Speaking with reporters during a regular briefing at city hall on Wednesday, [Toronto] Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa said that the recent increase in cases is a “concern” but is not altogether surprising in the context of the broader reopening of the economy.” (Chris Fox, CP24.com, August 26, 2020)

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

December 14th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

When I mention New Zealand’s success in eliminating COVID I am immediately lectured about it being a little island in the Pacific with a relatively small population. Canada may border the USA but we enacted essentially the same border restrictions as New Zealand. And as for being small, New Zealand’s population density is almost four times that of Canada and greater than Ontario’s.

nEW zEALAND - NO MASKS

Did Ontario miss a chance to do what New Zealand did. No one over there has to wear a mask.

Today New Zealand and its sister island in the Pacific, Australia, have eliminated COVID almost entirely. That means no transmission and no more deaths. In New Zealand it also means that masks are not required, even for public transit. Anyone can go to movies, concerts, bars and restaurants as if the pandemic never happened. And perhaps most importantly, they will get to enjoy having their loved ones around them at this special time of year.

Their success, according to the respected British public health journal ‘The Lancet’ lies in having a clear pandemic plan with a target of zero COVID infections. Quarantine requirements are strict and community spread has been eliminated. In the event of an imported infection they quickly and effectively test and trace and isolate. And were an infection to start to spread they are not afraid to undertake a complete lock down until it’s over. And significantly the government’s communication is clear and consistent.

Canada is a federation with shared responsibility for public health and the provinces have insisted on taking the lead in dealing with COVID. But one look at the extent and growing number of infections and deaths and it is clear they have messed up. New Zealand’s prime minister has offered advice to US president-elect Biden as he prepares to tackle COVID as his number one priority. Apparently our provincial premiers could use some as well.

flatening the curve

Ontario chose to flatten the curve. was that the best decision?

And the place to start would be our pandemic target, which was never zero transmission, let alone zero infection. Our pandemic policy is primarily focused on flattening the curve. We are willing to accommodates some level of the virus transmission providing the death rate isn’t too high and hospitals aren’t too full. That means that we will continue to experience these on-again and off-again quasi-lockdowns until, we all hope, the vaccine can give us ‘herd immunity’ so that the virus will disappear.

The problem is that hundreds of thousands more Canadians may get the infection in the interim; an unknown number will be afflicted with long term after effects; and hundreds, if not thousands, more will die. And the danger of hosting all of that virus in our community is that it might mutate to a more deadly form, as the 1918 Spanish Flu did, and possibly negate the effectiveness of our vaccines.

Doug Ford covid t shirt

This is not a happy man.

A glance at any Canadian newspaper will tell you how badly our provincial leaders and their chief medical people have failed us. Still they are not prepared to tolerate criticism, regardless how constructive. Alberta’s Kenny, with the worst infection rate in the country, and COVID soon to be the leading cause of death, calls it ‘Alberta bashing’, even when fellow Albertan’s complain. And Doug Ford labels his critics ‘arm chair quarterbacks’ even though they include some of the real-time front-line disease experts in the province.

Dr. Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer, dispassionately admits an average of 25 deaths a day in this province, a number which will be increasing as the virus skyrockets from just below 2000 per day to as many as 5000 per day. Hospitals and their ICUs are nearing capacity and surgeries are already being postponed. And Christmas has been effectively cancelled in the province. By any measure of public health this is a disaster.

As we get ready to roll up our sleeves here for a vaccine, which may not even last till the end of the pandemic, we find that New Zealand is in no hurry to vaccinate its population – they don’t need to.

From the beginning of the pandemic that country has lost 25 people to COVID, that is how many people die every day here in Ontario. Between now and Christmas there will be almost 200 fewer of us to see the holiday in this year.

For some bizarre reason Mr. Ford has been able to maintain his popularity despite such a miserable record. Though there won’t be much to celebrate for the rest of us this year, even as Zoom let’s us virtually speak to the family who won’t really be with us. And for the most vulnerable and/or those living alone this will be the worst Christmas ever. Hey, the truth is we’re all to blame for letting this outbreak get so bad, but Mr. Ford is supposed to be guiding us – he says he is there for all of us.

For now it is a soft lockdown for Burlington – the purgatory of the red zone, replete with its dozens of rules which seem to get changed every day as if just to confuse us. But still it’s too little and way too late. Somebody was sleeping at the switch again before this train of disease really got rolling. Now, what a mess! It’s little wonder that Ford is too embarrassed to even attend his daily COVID briefings anymore. Besides, how does one say Merry Christmas after stealing it from you?

Rivers hand to faceRay Rivers writes regularly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was once a candidate for provincial office in Burlington.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.   Ray has a post graduate degree in economics that he earned at the University of Ottawa.  Tweet @rayzrivers

 

Background links:

Opening Up Too Soon –    New Zealand –     Kenny Alberta Bashing

Ontario Lockdowns –     Ontario Deaths

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Eastern parts of the city see Santa in a Fire Truck

eventsgreen 100x100By Staff

December 13, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Those that got the message and were aware – came out in small groups.

Gibbons Dec 13 1

Families gathered on the streets with the older ones running alongside to keep up.

The traffic on Twitter was heavy – so the word was being passed around.

Santa was in town – making visits to different parts of the city.

Kudos to the Parka and Recreation people for making this happen.

Use of face masks was spotty.

But people did have fun.

If a picture is worth a thousand words – here is several thousand.

Gibbobs Mon with kids on a blanket

A little warmer and it could have been a picnic.

Gibbons Dec 13 Dad with child shoulder

That child had the best view on the street.

Gibbons dec 13 kids waving

Santa had quite a welcoming crew on this street.

 

 

Gibbons Sants in the truck - close up

The old Ho Ho man himself

Gibbons Santa waves back

The snow man waves to Santa as he passes by.

Gibbons Dec 13 Staff SAnta

The message that was there for everyone to read – Stay Safe – Follow the rules.

Photography was done by Denis Gibbons who recently wrote a piece on how he thought the Canadian teams in the National Hockey League should be organized for the next season

Worth reading.

Gibbons on bringing the game back home.

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Noted Burlington sports writer takes an amusing look at how NHL games should be played starting in January

sportsgold 100x100By DENIS GIBBONS

December 11, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Nothing good occurs during a pandemic, yet some of its side effects could bring positive changes.

The NHL, for instance, has decided to create an all-Canadian division for the 2020-21 season so that players do not have to cross the U.S. border, potentially leading to a spread of the COVID-19 virus.

The Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets will play only in their own group.

Stanley Cup BESTI’m suggesting they take things a step further and award the Stanley Cup to the champion of the Canadian division.

Only the goals scored by Canadian players should count, except those scored against Canadian goalies, which would not!

However, the goalies who surrendered those goals would issue a coupon entitling the shooter to one free penalty shot.

That shot, if successful, would count as a goal.

Canadian networks, alone, should have the rights to telecast the games. And to steal a page, in reverse, from Donald Trump’s notebook, commercials should promote just Canadian-made products.

Before the season starts in January, each of the seven Canadian clubs would be allowed to draft five Canadian-born players from the rosters of the other 24 American teams. In return, each American club losing a player would be compensated with their choice of either two Europeans or three Americans.

That is deemed to be fair market value, according to the results of the last two Olympics and last two World Cups of Hockey, all of which have been won by Canada.

The champagne, traditionally sipped out of the Cup, would be replaced by Canadian Club whiskey, for those who imbibe. Tee-totallers could use maple syrup harvested from a Canadian bush.

Let’s make this a genuine Canuck Stanley Cup final by having the final series played in Ottawa, the nation’s capital, where the Ottawa Silver Seven defeated the Dawson City Nuggets to win Lord Stanley’s mug in 1905.

Gibbons north bay nuggetsGibbons silver sevenMuch has been written about the 1905 Stanley Cup Challenge when the Silver Seven played host to the Nuggets, a team with no league that traveled 4,000 miles from the Yukon by dogsled, ship and train to compete for the Cup.

It took them a month and, naturally, exhausted, they suffered humiliating losses by scores of 9-2 and 23-2. One-eyed Frank McGee, who lost the use of his left eye during an amateur game for a local Canadian Pacific Railway team scored 14 goals for Ottawa in the second game.

Sadly, McGee was killed fighting during the First World War in France. He was among the original inductees of the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1945.

Since the Dey’s Rink, which hosted the 1905 games, no longer exists, I recommend the series be played in the ornate Aberdeen Pavilion, the steel and glass structure at Lansdowne Park that was the site of the 1904 Stanley Cup challenge, also won by the Ottawa Silver Seven.

The pavilion was designated a national historic site because it is the only large-scale exhibition building in Canada surviving from the 19th century.

There are plenty of good reasons to exclude American teams from competing for the Stanley Cup.

When the Cup first was awarded to the Montreal Hockey Club in 1893, it was designated for Canadian amateur teams only. That was 24 years before the NHL even began.

Professional clubs did not become eligible to compete for the Cup, which was donated by Canada’s Governor General at the time, Lord Stanley of Preston, until 1906.

Besides Lord Stanley, who was born in England, authorized the construction of an outdoor rink on the grounds of Rideau Hall and was a benefactor of the Ottawa Hockey Club.

Two of his sons, Arthur and Algernon, were teammates of James Creighton on the Rideau Rebels team.

It was Creighton who organized the first official indoor game of hockey at the Victoria Skating Rink in Montreal in 1875.

Lord Stanley’s daughter, Isobel, participated in the first recorded women’s ice hockey match, which took place on the Rideau rink on February 10, 1891.

This old blusterball welcomes the comments of all readers of The Burlington Gazette.

Denis Gibbons, a former editor of the Burlington Post has written frequently about hockey at both a local and international level.  He learned to speak Russian at McMaster University and served as a translator during several of the international contest.

Related news story:

He was once an alter boy

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What will the students bring home with them - and what will they take back to school?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

December 9th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

In a couple of weeks the kids will be coming home for the holidays.

I know of at least one student who expects to be on the plane on the 21st arriving from the Maritimes where the virus spread has been pretty limited relative to the rest of the country.

Her brother will be coming home from an Ontario university west of Burlington.

Christmas breakGiven the rules these students will be required to self-isolate for 14 days. Count them – December 21st + 14 days gets them to January 2nd or third.

What are the chances of that actually happening ? These are decent people in the process of becoming adults.

They come from good families with parents who are going to want them to do the right thing.

Checking in with friends, getting together for coffee because there is nowhere they are able to scoot off to for a drink is what you do when you are home from school.

This kind of getting caught up doesn’t get done on the telephone but it does get done.

Expecting the rules to be rigidly adhered to is a huge stretch; the outcome will be a rises in the number of infections both in every town in the province and in the communities to which these students return.

Something to think about.

virus data Dec 9

How much higher will that blue line go once the students return to the universities and colleges?

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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Most Profitable Industries in 2020

opinionred 100x100By Mildred Austria

December 2, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

What industries are some of the most profitable in 2020, and how are they achieving this? We took a closer look at three here!

The world of business is filled with so many interesting sectors nowadays, but there are still some that stand heads and shoulders above the rest. Let’s take a look at some of the most profitable industries operating this year.

PAID Money jar succesful bus 2020

Any of the three successful business choices we outline will put cash in that jar on the right.

 

Gaming
Without a doubt, gaming is proving to be one of the biggest industries of the moment. Brands like Mr Green as a prime example are leading the expansion of safe betting and casino options across the USA and Canada. What’s more, there has been a massive boom in e-sports growth.

It is slowly moving from being a niche hobby into a more mainstream business. With that will come bigger sponsorships and more opportunities for people in the industry. The marketplace has so far exceeded $1 billion and this is just set to get bigger. Top matches are also pulling in figures akin to major sports events like a FIFA World Cup Final.

Play Station 5 Sony

Play Station 5

Even in the wider industry there are massive strides forward being made. Sony is lining up to release the PlayStation 5. Though we currently have little idea about when this release will be, it will hopefully be as innovative a release as its previous incarnations. Gaming as a whole is on the rise. Though many dismiss it as “just playing games”, this then leads to them missing out on some of the incredible opportunities available in this exciting development in the gaming universe.

Software Development
As we move towards a world that becomes more and more reliant on technology, we are going to need more software developers to help us achieve our goals. There have been many moves to introduce coding and other digital-based skills to young children in the classroom, so they can begin to pick up things that might help them when they are ready to enter the workplace later in life.

software coder

Software coding skills are going to be in very high demand in the decade ahead.

Not only have there been calls for software that covers a variety of new tasks within a workplace or home, but there have also been calls to make many more multi-purpose software hubs. Business owners don’t want to transfer data between multiple programs to get the results they need. They want to be able to plug everything into the one portal, so that they can get back results that have already been parsed and analysed into a format they understand. Software developers are keen to meet these demands, and it makes for an incredibly profitable industry.

Property
With property prices holding or moving up, there is no better time to be involved in the real-estate business. In the Burlington area alone, sale prices are up 17% compared to the beginning of 2019. There are lots of opportunities at both ends of the market here. Developers who want to focus on the high-end, luxury market will find plenty of things to play with. There are always new property trends and new tech that you can introduce to the right property.

At the other end of the scale, you could choose to work in the affordable housing markets. There is and always will be a need for affordable property. This sector will help to create homes and houses for those who need them the most. Choosing to get involved with this area of the real estate sector is incredibly charitable, and it could result in some brilliant business dealings for anyone brave enough to try.

These are just three of the many industries proving to be profitable in 2020. No matter where you look, there is a way to make money in a sector. It will take a lot of hard work, and a great business idea, but it is more than possible.

Start thinking about a business you could launch in one of the above sectors now.

Ms Austria is a financial observer who has established a reputation for being able to spot growth trends in the Western world.

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Netflix sends a notice to it's Canadian subscribers

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

December 2, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

OPINION

I got the notice and if you are a Netflix subscriber, I assume you got one as well.

netflix logoJust what did it mean? They were telling us that they have created a new corporate structure to deal with their Canadian clients. Would that be a defensive move to protect them from the Canadian tax system.

That’s my take – what do you think?

Here is what the Netflix notice said:

We wanted to let you know about some updates to Netflix. These won’t affect your experience—continue watching your shows and movies as usual.

On January 1, 2021, your Netflix contracting company will change to Netflix, Inc.‎. This update will be made automatically, with no interruption to your current membership.

We periodically update our legal terms. Please take a moment to read the current Terms of Use and Privacy Statement.

The notice raised my eyebrows but perhaps that is just  my core suspicion showing.

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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Have we reached the 'enough is enough' on the cannabis stores in the city?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

November 30th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

OPINION

There are seven LCBO stores in Burlington.

An application for the 17th cannabis retail location has been received; 10 of the applications are operational, five are under review, two, plus the most recent, are out for community comment.

Municipalities were given the option to permit the setting up of retail cannabis stores or to take a pass and not permit cannabis retail locations.

Burlington chose to permit them: it was a 5-2 vote permitting, with Councillors Stolte and Bentivegna against.

The Mayor was a very strong supporter, at times sounding like an advocate.

The other four were inclined to go along.

The Town of  Oakville decided not to permit  cannabis stores.

Many take the view that the commercial locations will fail if there isn’t a customer base creating a demand.

There is certainly a demand for the product – but it isn’t from the people of Burlington.  The folks from Oakville drive over to patronize the Burlington locations.

I am not opposed to the sale of the product – it’s legal – let people buy it.  My concern is why does Burlington have to become the destination for people in communities that don’t have cannabis shops where they live?

We keep hearing the argument that there are those who need the product for medicinal purposes.

Is this what the people of Burlington believe reflects the values of their community?

Is there a point the city might not want to go beyond?

And can city council do anything to perhaps cap the number of locations?

We think it is a question that can and should be asked of City Council.

Are we at that enough is enough point?

Related news story:

Application for 17th cannabis store received by the provincial government.

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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One of those top level medical guys used the word 'precarious' to describe the Covid19 situation in Ontario

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

November 28th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

It isn’t the best of news.

Two COVID-19 outbreaks at the Joseph Brant hospital.

Climbing numbers within the city and additional deaths.

PHU Nov 27

Data at the close of November 27th.

Shops, supermarkets and hardware stores are pretty busy. I really wish the supermarket I go to would limit the number of people allowed in the store at the same time. Yes it slows things down but it keeps everyone safer.

The future availability of a vaccine doesn’t look all that promising. The predictions are that in Canada we will not see the bulk of the population completely vaccinated until December of 2021.

You can bet that the politicians at the federal and provincial levels will be deemed to be front line workers.  The people working in the hospitals have to be first.

Can we keep on going the way we have had to for another full year? There are some that can’t keep away from their favourite watering hole for more than a couple of weeks.

Canada doesn’t appear to have the manufacturing capacity to make the stuff and bottle it.

Flu shot line up

We had long line-ups for the annual flu shot. It will be much different with the vaccine is available.

We have manufacturing capacity for run of the mill annual flu shots – the vaccine for COVID-19 is a much more complex product requiring equipment we just don’t have.

Worrying for sure.

While going through the Saturday papers I read that the word “precarious” was used by Dr. David Williams to describe the situation we are in – not very reassuring.

And have you noticed that the top people at the federal level are beginning to equivocate somewhat ? Where are they when you really need them?

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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Very credible citizen points to some sloppy prevention practices at Jo Brant.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

November 24th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

OPINION

We received a comment recently from a reader that is very disturbing.

We have chosen not to identify the woman but can verify that she is very credible.

Here is what she had to say:

“I had an appointment last week at a nearby medical center. When I arrived, I was told to call the number posted on the door and wait in my car until someone came to find me.

“Once I was escorted inside, my mask was checked, my temperature was taken and I was led to the doctor’s office.  In contrast today, I went to Joseph Brant for a scheduled procedure.

“Entering through the north doors, I found people wandering in and out randomly. The question check was quick, no instructions were given as far as hand sanitizer and I was left to wander the hallways to find the location of the unit I was to visit.

“In my opinion, the hospital must do a better job of screening those who are required to visit this facility in these difficult times.”

The Joseph Brant Hospital has a regrettable history of sloppy prevention practices.  We thought the lesson had been learned.  Time for the hospital Board members to ask some hard and direct questions, and for the Medical Officer of health to visit and underline what this pandemic requires of the medical community.

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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An MPP that Chooses to Disagree with Doug Ford is usually moved to a corner seat in the back row of the Legislature

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

November 18th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

OPINION

Will we soon be known as the peacock province? A province of many colours, political ones that is.

Rumour is that there may be a new provincial party on the horizon, the Blue party. And why not? There is already a Green Party, Liberals have always been identified as reds and the NDP orange.

So what does this mean for the governing Doug Ford provincial Tories? They are supposed to be the blue party, claiming to be descendants from the former premier Bill Davis’ Big Blue Machine. Heck Mr. Ford even started turning our licence plates blue.

Belinda K - booted outof PC caucus

Cambridge MPP Belinda Karahalio

But Cambridge MPP Belinda Karahalios doesn’t think Ford’s crowd is blue enough. She was kicked out of Doug Ford’s caucus last July for refusing to support his Bill 195, the so-called emergency law on COVID. She knew this so-called emergency legislation was just a power grab by Ford so he could ram his retro agenda down our throats.

Being able to act without challenge is every tyrant’s dream. Not that I’d call our PM a tyrant, but Mr. Trudeau tried something similar in Ottawa, only to be stopped by an observant media and an wide-awake opposition party. Not so in Toronto. An Act to enact the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Re-sponse to COVID-19) Act, 2020 allows the government of Premier Doug Ford to extend or amend emergency orders a month at a time for up to two years without consulting the legislature.

For Karahalios this was an “unnecessary overreach” taking away “the legislature’s ability to vote on the use of extraordinary emergency powers on Ontarians for the next year… Bill 195 essentially silences every single Ontario MPP on the most important issue facing our legislature today”.

nurse-1950

A government that attempt to stiff nurses usually regrets the decision.

The Nurses Association (ONA) and other labour organizations are upset to say the least. The premier has given himself the power to override existing labour legislation and collective agreements. It is no secret that Mr. Ford regards organized labour as the enemy, but antagonizing Ontario’s front line work-ers in this time of the COVID epidemic is totally uncalled for. One might think that America’s Mr. Trump had shifted his residence into the premier’s office at Queen’s Park.

Well except that Karahlios doesn’t think Ford is far enough to the right. She thinks he’s not blue enough to represent real conservative-minded voters like her – claiming Ford has moved to the political left and is now in common territory with the other main Ontario parties. So one has to wonder what it takes to make one a real conservative.

Was it the deficit? Conservatives have long opposed budgetary deficits, except when they get into office, as was the case with former PM Mulroney. And even Mr. Harper ran record deficits during 2009-2011 period in an effort to stimulate a recessionary economy. So would it be fair to attack Mr. Ford’s record setting COVID deficit and use that to boot him out of the conservative club.

Fird money in your pocket

The issue for Doug Ford has always been money.

And surely Ford qualifies when it comes to tax cuts for the wealthiest, perhaps the most common of currencies among conservatives. His carefully camouflaged middle income tax cuts have turned out to be a Trojan horse, as predicted, and a bonanza for the wealthiest. The provincial Financial Accountability Office (FAO) has calculated that Doug Ford’s tax breaks are benefiting Ontario’s highest earners. “The top 20 per cent, with incomes over $123,400, are getting 43 per cent of tax benefits, including 75 per cent of deductions, which adds up to over $7 billion every year.”

When it comes to the environment the ultra conservative former PM, Mr. Harper, pulled Canada out of the international Kyoto agreement on climate change and pursued a fossil fuel agenda as Conservative PM. If that is real conservatism then Mr. Ford certainly qualifies as well, having mothballed almost all of Ontario’s emission reduction programs including renewable energy projects. Further he has sued the federal government over imposition of the national carbon tax.

And now the second shoe is dropping as he moves to further please the land development and other business lobbies who seem to have captured his attention. Ford’s most recent retro-legislative initiative, Bill 229, attacks the historical role of conservation authorities in land use planning, one of their primary purposes since their establishment back in 1946, by then PC Premier George Drew. What could be more conservative than conservation?

So it’s uncertain just where and how far Karahalios would like to see Mr. Ford go to prove he is a real conservative? He is already on a clear path to eliminate everything represented by the word progressive in Progressive Conservative. Ford has turned the clock back three or four decades in many regards and especially the environment. And that will create a headache for the next government which will have to clean up the mess.

Perhaps there is more to this story? After all it is no secret that Belinda’s husband, Jim Karahalios, a long time deep Tory, had tried on more than one occasion to become a party president for either/both the federal and provincial parties, only to be foiled by some kind of alleged intra-party conspiracy. It’s easy to see how that can make one bitter and twisted.

In fact he sued the federal party at one point and won. And of course, there is no better way to win friends and influence people than with a law suit. So perhaps this plan to hatch a new Blue party is a case of sour grapes, or even revenge to draw right wing voters away from Mr. Ford’s party. Splitting the right even more beyond the Heritage, Libertarian, Family Coalition fringe party platforms might be a more serious threat.

And unlike these two bit political efforts, the Blue’s would have a seat in the house (Cambridge) at least until the next election. And Jim, who was the creative genius behind ‘Axe the Tax’ anti-carbon tax campaign, presumably is qualified in Belinda’s mind and has the chops to help her lead her new Blue party.

It could happen. After all, Preston Manning’s Reform Party grew almost overnight to become Her Maj-esty’s Loyal Opposition after a lot of conservatives felt Kim Campbell wasn’t quite blue enough for them. It was an act of courage to stand apart from the familiar crowd of mindless desk-thumping seals at Queens Park and speak up when something stinks. And on that note she deserves a vote of appreciation.

Rivers hand to faceRay Rivers writes regularly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was once a candidate for provincial office in Burlington.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.   Ray has a post graduate degree in economics that he earned at the University of Ottawa.  Tweet @rayzrivers

 

 

Background links

Blue Party –    Nurses Association –   FAO –    Bill 229

 

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'You would be forgiven if you did not know what was going on'

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

November 16th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

OPINION

On a CBC radio program earlier today Melissa Lastman, a strategist with Enterprise Canada said:  She added later that many people feel “Nobody is telling us why”.

We are getting a lot in the way of numbers – nothing comforting in any of them.

1487 new cases in Ontario
538 for Toronto
88 active cases in Halton – 16 deaths in the Region.

Tiered Regional approachAnd we are now in a “red” code which the Mayor seems to be comfortable with as she struggles to breath some life into the hospitality sector.

She is pushing a big stone up a hill.

The virus is in the community – that is a fact. How far it gets to go is up to us.

We have a Premier who is loath to shut things down – it isn’t in the way he thinks or acts. He is a business person – the doors don’t get closed.

At a Standing Committee Council was focused on getting a little closer to normal and beginning to open up a little. There were some really good ideas and the mood of council was upbeat.

Then the move into a Red Control Zone.  Council and Staff didn’t seem to be fully aware of just what the numbers were really telling us.

ppe

The province today announced significant changes in the way PPE is sourced.

There is a bigger picture and a bigger responsibility that no one seems to fully understand or prepared to do all that much about.
At Council next week they will decide if the second round of $125,000 funding for PPE is to go forward.

There is now a very vigorous debate within the medical community. The province appears to be prepared with new infections just as long as there aren’t too many.

There is a new group of medical professionals who urge that a 0 growth rate be put in place and that we shut down as much as possible until that level is reached.

We need to do more to get this virus under control is the sentiment that is being heard.

long termcare 29 dead

A reported 29 deaths at this Long Term Care residence

No one at the political level is prepared to say that Christmas will be different – just how much is the big question.

The Canadian Medical Association has said that “we are very close to a tipping point”. This is a voice that needs to be heard.

Something that has to be said as well: We should be ashamed of what we have let happen in the long term care homes.

There is a report of one home in which 80% of the residents are infected.

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Covid19: New Region Restrictions not far enough or fast enough

opinionred 100x100By Andrew Drummond

November 15th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

On Nov 13, the Ford government announced that Halton region will be added to the list of regions in the “red” zone, effective Nov 16. After a Toronto Star story exposed that the government ignored health experts’ recommendations and amplified the requirements for inclusion to red restrictions by 4x, they announced a new set of guidelines that will include Halton into the most restrictive conditions that currently exist in Ontario.

Unfortunately, even these restrictions are too little to seriously impact the spread of COVID-19 within our community given the explosive increase in cases and positivity ratings during the last month. The best course of action would be for the government to fund a complete two week shut down of all non-essential businesses so that Halton and other communities have a chance to fight the spread of COVID-19. Without decisive action now, we will be forced into a second, lengthy lockdown that will threaten the economic recovery that our region has worked so hard to build.

Covid cases for the region

Regional Public Health data for November 11th

Over the week of Nov 5-11 Halton region had a rate of 54.9 confirmed COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents. The Region also has a positivity rate of 4.4%. These are alarming stats, and indicators that the current efforts in the Region are not sufficient to contain the spread of the virus. There is reason for concern however that the new measures to be implemented on Nov 16 will also be insufficient in stopping the spread. As an example, Peel region is currently under even more restrictive measures than what the “red” zone mandates and yet has seen its cases increase exponentially. People are fatigued with social gathering restrictions and will only follow guidelines if stringently enforced, not if they are merely recommendations.

Controlling the spread of COVID is essential to the health of our community. Beyond spread within the Burlington community, there is also a localized outbreak at Tansley Woods Retirement Home. To date 35 residents and 11 staff members have been infected with the virus. As of Nov 13, 7 of these residents have died. This is too terrible an impact within our community to ignore. Without quickly imposed strong measures in place, we risk further institutional outbreaks that will endanger our most vulnerable populations.

McKenna + Drummond

Andrew Drummond talking to Jane McKenna at an all candidates meeting during the last provincial election.

On October 24, Burlington MPP Jane McKenna co-authored a public letter to Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health referring to the minimal restrictions in place at that time. “These measures are working.” she said. This was completely untrue. We now know that holding back on necessary restrictions then allowed the virus to spread virtually unchecked within our community. It is critical that those mistakes not be repeated again. We need a stronger set of restrictions with rigid enforcement or we risk our region suffering the same fate as Peel with more than 400 cases every day.

The COVID pandemic has to date caused a massive amount of damage to the Burlington economy. Countless small and medium businesses in Burlington have struggled. Many have closed and many more have been forced to move. And throughout, there has been very little support from the provincial government. The federal government has offered a significant amount of support towards businesses and employees affected by the economic downturn. But the province has been hesitant to provide even meager additional supports. That has to end.

According to the Ontario government, 97% of direct support for COVID impacted people and businesses has come from the federal government with only 3% coming from Ontario itself (https://www.fao-on.org/en/Blog/Publications/fed-prov-response-2020). Ontario needs to step up and have a plan for the long term health of our economy. Preventing shutdowns now risking future COVID outbreaks is short-sighted. We need the government to actually support our businesses through the short term so they can rebound through what is to come.

Burlington, Halton, and Ontario need to beat this wave of COVID-19. Our community cannot afford another week or month of the indecisive wait and see approach from our leaders. But our small and medium businesses cannot afford to take this hit by themselves. The Ontario government must finally step up and give our business community the support that it needs to shut down in a controlled manner, before we are forced to do so in a panic.

Tiered Regional approach

Burlington is currently in the red zone – Control

The current measures do not go far enough. It is a continuation of the conflicting direction and expectation that most people will take additional measures on their own initiative. That is not good enough, we need better. Even the “red” zone guidelines are conflicting in their expectations. The strong recommendation is that no one leave their homes except for essential travel (work, school, etc.). However, there are guidelines set as to how house league sports are to conduct themselves (no games, practices only). Is house league sports really an essential activity worth risking our community’s health?

Why have guidelines for it if everyone is supposed to stay home except for essentials? Mall food courts are restricted to 10 seated guests. The food court at Mapleview almost certainly has to close under those restrictions. So where is the support for those businesses? Every recommendation from the government in the last three months has been politicized and constantly modified to the point that neither citizens nor businesses are sure what the exact advice is anymore.

These conflicts are only examples of the conflicted, unclear, and indecisive leadership shown by the government during this crisis. They are so invested in protecting businesses in the immediate short term that they can’t or won’t plan for what is necessary in the medium term. Burlington needs a decisive shut down in order to protect our community and to ensure that all of our efforts in the past six months were not in vain. Burlington has worked too hard for too long to suffer through more indecision and half measures. The time is now for decisive action to ensure that our community has a chance to build the recovery we need.

Andrew Drummond is a Burlington resident.  He was the NDP candidate during the last provincial election.

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How did Council and City Administration miss the Regional Health data?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

November 14th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

OPINION

City Council has a cycle of meetings for each month.

They hold Standing Committee meetings at which there is usually vigorous debate on Staff Reports.

Then a Council meeting at which the results of the debate get approved (or not approved) which results in a bylaw that governs what we can and can’t do.

Sheila Jones - in group

While supported by good staff – these are the brains and executive capacity that keep the Emergency Coordinating Group ahead of major problems.

We are currently in a mode of government where the real power is in the hands of the Emergency Control Group. (Council is involved, heavily involved, but the ECG does have the power to call the shots.)

The Emergency Control Group was the result of a decision made by the province that required every municipality to create an emergency control group.

Each month Council gets a “Service Re-design” report in which the ECG sets out program changes and modifications.

On Thursday Council heard a report from the Parks and Recreation Department on the Community Winter 2021 Opportunities for Recreation Services.

In the Executive Summary of the report, Staff said “…there is still a degree of uncertainty regarding the spread of COVID-19…”.

Tim-Commisso-finger-up-hard-eyesThere was no comment from the City Manager on just what that “degree of uncertainty” was; there was mention of the costs involved in the proposals that were put forward.

There were ideas and proposals for Outdoor Skating,  Holiday Skates, Holiday Activation, and Winter Activation all with numbers attached setting out what it would cost and require in the way of staffing resources.

The Parks and Recreation people were asked to get more solid numbers on the costs. I suspect the Parks and Recreation people were a little taken aback at just how keen council seemed to be with most of their ideas.

That was Thursday.

On Friday the Province had taken a harder look at the numbers and moved all of Halton into a Red Zone, effective Monday (why the delay?) with a clear threat for a tough lock down later in the week.

It seemed as if Burlington City Council and the senior city administration people and the provincial leadership were singing from different hymn books.

City Manager Tim Commisso has some very smart people working with him – he frequently refers to his lead person on just what the province is doing and keeping him up to date on what is coming out of the Regional Public Health office saying that he couldn’t do his job without that person.

So here we were with Burlington sailing ahead with what sounded like good plan for giving the public things to do – the Santa traveling about the city on a fire truck was particularly neat –an innovative way to make up for the cancellation of the Santa Claus parade.

I couldn’t reconcile what Burlington was setting out to do with what the Province did on Friday.

I decided to look at the Regional Public Health data – something I now wish I had done much earlier.

Gazette resources are limited and I just didn’t keep a close eye on the data.

It was a shocker – there is a link below to the piece we published earlier today on what we learned.

The rolling average for the Region is 50 new infections each day with a positivity rate of 5: that is not a sustainable number.  The hospital cannot manage those levels.

The concern is this: Did the city manager not know about the Regional data? Was that information not passed along to him?

Council in memory

No mention of the Regional Health data from this bunch on Thursday

Did members of Council stop looking at the Regional data? Not one of them made any mention of what the Region was telling anyone who took the time to visit their site.

Don’t expect anyone to say much about the eyes being taken off the ball – but hopefully we can expect a different tone at the meeting of City Council on the 23rd.

We could be in a total lock down by then.

Related news story

Regional data

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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Rivers calls the Provincial Budget An Exercise in Creative Writing

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

November 10th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The Ontario government released its latest budget last week, though you might have missed it given all the attention in the media about the US election. And you’d be excused for not reading it, given that it’s such a voluminous manuscript. Though if you like fiction there was a good amount of unashamedly creative writing about how quickly and effectively the Ford government sprang into action to tackle the coronavirus last spring.

Extendicare HAlton Hills

The Extendicare facility in HAlton Hills has received numerous notices from the government – but has been allowed to remain operational.

But there were no apologies for how poorly the province actually responded to the crisis in long term care (LTC) homes, in failing to stock adequate supplies of PPE (personal protection equipment) or how it is failing to protect all the students being sent into crowded classrooms this year. And there was no thanks given to the federal government for having to send in the army to save our LTC residents. And let’s not forget the federal cash subsidies which have kept us afloat.

Nov prov budget

Provincial budget being presented in the Legislature.

There are a lot of numbers which add up to give us Ontario’s largest deficit ever. Big business gets another huge break on electricity thanks to the taxpayers. And there is something novel, a staycation, to encourage people to travel around the province in 2021. How can that make sense when Mr. Ford keeps telling us to stay home, rather than go about spreading the virus?

So that may be great news if you own and rent out your lakefront cottage. For renters, if you can afford the two or three thousand for a week, you’ll be entitled to 20% of the rental price back with your income taxes. Rent is a consumable why not just drop the PST? And why provide an incentive at all, given that cottage rentals sold out like hot cakes last year in the midst of the pandemic?

Back to the US election, America’s four year bad dream is finally coming to an end as Joe Biden prepares to replace Donald Trump as America’s next commander-in-chief But the nightmare continues, at least for the majority of Americans who voted to change the channel. They are tired of watching the COVID death toll continue to rise coincident with ever increasing infection rates, and no end in sight despite vague optimistic promises from Trump about a vaccine supposedly just around the corner.

virus testing

Testing and tracing to control the spread of the virus can’t effectively be done at this stage of the contagion, even in most of Canada.

One can only hope that the pandemic can bring Americans together in more ways than it has divided them. Still with over 100,000 new cases a day and an exponential contagion which can accelerate by a factor of two or three, that will require hard medicine. Testing and tracing to control the spread of the virus can’t effectively be done at this stage of the contagion, even in most of Canada.

Hard medicine is what China and New Zealand and some other nations used to virtually eliminate their viral transmission. It’s called a lockdown. Keeping people from spreading the virus to each other worked because the contagion’s preferred transmission route is close personal contact and hanging out in closed areas where the viral load can concentrate.

The lockdown also was working for a while in Canada and even the USA. New York, once the hardest hit with graphic images of bodies being stored in refrigeration trucks, got the contagion under control and flattened the curve of infections. And so did Ontario and Alberta and even Quebec.

cafe crowd - no six feet here

Convincing people to stay at home just isn’t working.

But then we got impatient. Lobbied by those who had been shut down, our leaders bowed to the bar, restaurant and gym owners’ demands. And to appear even-handed the advisories allowed larger public gatherings – weddings, funerals and church services. So the epidemic naturally came back with a vengeance. Call it a second wave, it is really just a revival of the contagion our leaders did not allow to die off the first time.

There is no question that Ontario’s hospitality and entertainment industries have been hurt. But collectively they make up about 3% of the provincial GDP – 6% if we generously count the upstream and downstream economy. If the choice is between keeping the gyms and bars closed or filling the emergency rooms and morgues which should we choose?

Our numbers have yet to reach the levels we see in the USA, but wait for it. On Sunday Ontario reported over 1300 new cases. There have been 150 outbreaks in long-term care homes, nearly 1000 cases per day (7 day average) and the largest number of COVID-19 deaths in a single day. And Doug Ford has just loosened restrictions to the delight of the virus. Once our numbers parallel those in the USA does keeping the border closed even make sense?

So who is advising the Premier on this calamitous policy. He claims he is listening to his scientists. But they must not be talking to the medical experts on the front line like Dr. Irfan Dhalla, vice-president of physician quality at Unity Health in Toronto, who is also an associate professor at the University of Toronto and sits on provincial and federal committees related to the COVID-19 response. “It wouldn’t take much to put us on a path towards the kinds of outcomes we’re seeing in Belgium, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, many American states.”

Nov 9 COVID numbers ON

If this graph isn’t evidence enough – then we are in for a very hard winter.

It sure looks like all that pain we went through getting that curve flattened last spring was for nothing. Deja vu, again. And while it is up to all of us – we’re all in this together – we do expect leadership to navigate us all to safety. But at least we’ll get a tax break when we rent that summer cottage next year.

Rivers hand to faceRay Rivers writes regularly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was once a candidate for provincial office in Burlington.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.   Ray has a post graduate degree in economics that he earned at the University of Ottawa.  Tweet @rayzrivers

 Background links:

Ontario Budget –    More Budget –   Even More

Biggest Mistake –   Ford –     Virus Spread

Cottages –    School Infections

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Procedural bylaw matters - Clerk is setting out some adjustments

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

November 9th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

There was a bit of a rumbling and part of the earth that we know as Burlington may have moved just a bit.

The Clerk’s office released a report that will be discussed on Tuesday – changes to the Procedural Bylaw – the document that sets out the rule on how Council has to act.

Some good changes.

We have set out the report and added some editorial comment beneath many of the changes to give just what is being done some context.

In response to the committee review, the Clerk’s department has been working on expanding tools which enable residents to better interact with Council and in the Council process. The proposed amendments stem from an analysis of the committee review survey feedback, conducted in 2019. The survey comments indicated that the processes for communicating with Council were not apparent and that not having that information was a barrier to participation. Staff anticipate that these amendments will help to enhance communication for residents and Council, in creating rules and standards for Council correspondence, and petitions.

Additional amendments are proposed to align the By-law with legislation, and to create a timeline for when the public can reasonably expect when additional information is provided to Council and made available to public.

Addendum Timelines
At present, there is no timeline for how additional information is provided to Council or made available to the public. Staff are proposing to create a timeline for the release of additional meeting materials to ensure that both the Council and public have a reasonable expectation of when they will receive additional information. Staff will ensure that the addendum is posted not less than 24 hours before the hour for holding the meeting.

Finally – all too often addendum items have been added to the agenda at the last minute.

Should Council approve the proposed amendments, the additional items package will be renamed the revised addendum and that it be posted to the website for the public. Staff will ensure that the updated revised addendum is distributed to Council and posted to the City’s website not less than 12 hours before the meeting, to ensure that information is provided to the public.

Special Meetings
Current practice affords the Mayor or the City Manager to call a special meeting, the Clerk is then directed to petition Council to determine if there will be a quorum of Council present at the meeting. In review of the Municipal Act, S.O. 2001, c. 25 (the Act) section 240 the current procedure by-law provisions are incongruent with the Act.

Incongruent is putting it mildly

Council in memory

A majority of Council members could Call a Special meeting of Council. Good move – hobbles the Mayor who has been calling Special Council meetings at the drop of a hat.

The staff are recommending that the Procedure By-law be amended to align with the provisions outlined in the Act. This would allow the Mayor to call a special meeting, and they may be requested by a Council resolution to call a special meeting. In advance staff will poll Council to ensure that a quorum of Council is available before the meeting is called.

In addition, a proposed second clause to the special meeting section aligns with section 240 (b) of the Act. This would allow for the majority of members of Council to request a special meeting by petition. Upon receipt of the petition, the Clerk shall call the special Council meeting. This would allow for a majority of members of Council to request a special meeting.

We were not aware that the City Manager could call a Special Meeting of Council.  The Mayor has used the calling of Special meetings in a manner that this reporter has never seen before in 40 years of covering councils – they were being held at the rate of one a month.

Correspondence and Petitions
Currently, there are no provisions in the Procedure By-law that address how official correspondence, or a civic petition is received. According to the By-law, the only way to participate at a Council or at a standing committee is to do so as a delegation, this is echoed on the City’s website. The Clerk’s department currently allows for correspondence and has a provisional process in place for petitions but there are no resources that are publicly available. The proposed amendments set forth a detailed process and timelines which have been included in the accompanying amending by-law

In drafting the new sections, 42. Correspondence and 43. Petitions, staff have reviewed other procedural by-laws to better understand how other jurisdictions process these documents. Both correspondence and petitions will be handled in a similar fashion, with aligning deadlines. Staff have proposed that only petitions will be received at Council, as they will be ceremonially read into the record. If there are no additional motions regarding a petition or a piece of correspondence it will be received and filed.

It would be nice to see provision for one of the people behind a decision to be at the podium and able to answer questions from Council members.

Correspondence providing commentary on a matter that has been dealt with by Council will be received, circulated to members of Council, and filed, but will not appear on a minute record.

Correspondence that does not correspond to an agenda item, that is addressed to Council and received by the Clerk will be circulated. Petitions that do not correspond with an agenda item will be directed by the website to be sent to a member of Council, as it will require a sponsor. The member of Council who sponsors an item must submit a Municipal Officer’s report, outlining why the item was sponsored and the remedy sought. These items must abide by the deadlines regarding adding items of business on the agenda, the Wednesday, the week the agenda is published.

The requirement that a Petition be sponsored limits this tool.  If Council doesn’t want to hear what Petitioners have to say they could just be mute and ignore the Petition.  The Mayor should be appointed as the Sponsor of last resort or the Chair of the Standing Committee that will hear the petition

Administrative Changes
Staff are recommending the following administrative/housekeeping changes to the by- law.

Section Change
1.2 Italicize Name of Act
14.1 (c) Delete reference to “Citizen” in connection with citizen advisory committees
20.2 Capitalize the word Chair
27.3 Italicize Act name
41 Addition of Header – Public Participation
41.7 Deletion of incorrect references in Planning Act and correction
41.13 Deletion of incorrect section for delegations and correction

Strategy/process
The proposed amendments realign the Procedure By-law closer to legislation and with common meeting practices.

Options Considered
There are other areas in the current Procedure By-law that need review, these will be done over time and be brought back through subsequent amendment packages.

It would have been nice if these “other areas” were set out so that people could think about them and make comments to the Clerk.

Engagement Matters:
A public survey, hosted on the GetInvolvedBurlington.ca webpage open from April 30, 2019, through to June 7, 2019 received 385 respondents. The public survey posed questions to determine barriers to participation, advisory committee experience, and asked for suggestions to improve the system. This information was helpful in determining what services needed to be approved to enhance the overall experience for residents working with Council.

Kudos to the Clerk’s office for determining what services were needed to be approved to enhance the overall experience for residents

Should Council approve the procedure by-law amendments, supplemental materials will be created to help individuals navigate processes such as webpages and tip sheets.

Staff will work with Corporate Communications to ensure that public materials are reviewed to ensure that they are in plain language.

Conclusion:
Creating rules with respect to correspondence and petitions will help residents to understand what is involved and what they can expect. Rules and additional information will also work towards breaking down barriers, which will allow residents to more freely communicate and comment on agenda items that are before Council.

 

 

 

 

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