Troops on the border? Is he crazy? Probably

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

March 27th, 2020



With so much news coming at us from every direction – there are times when we might miss something or mis-interpret something.

From the left, John Norton, Sir Isaac Brock and John Brant at the LaSalle PArk Brant Day event. All three men played a very significant role in the War of 1812. while Brock lost his life t Queenston Height, Brant and Norton went on to play major roles in the growth of the native community.

Troops Canada might send to protect our border from Americans feeling COVID19 in New York

When I heard the piece about the President of the United States thinking of putting American troops along the border we share with the Americans my first thought was – that can’t be right.

Did Donald Trump think thousands of Canadians were going to head for the United States ?

If anyone wants to put troops on the border – it should be Canada.

Given what is in the process of hitting New York city – one can expect thousands to be getting in their cars with as much as they can pack in the trunk and heading for the border hoping we will let them in.

This is a crazy world. Hang tight.

Hold onSmileCouple of gems were sent to us yesterday.  Two residents, walking along Centennial Trail came across these painted stones.  Anyone know who put them there?

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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Provincial government releases list of essential services exemptions from what has to be shut down to stop the spread of COVID19

opinionred 100x100By Andrew Drummond

March 24th, 2020


There are those that believe that in the current crisis there is no room for opposition to the government. I disagree. We need to dispense with political games, but it is even more critical now that we question our government to ensure that they are pressured into taking the correct action to protect us all.

Nothing in the below article is a personal attack, but it is an articulation of how the government on Monday failed to take adequate steps to protect Ontario.

Monday afternoon, Premier Doug Ford made what was possibly his most statesmanlike address to the province promising a total shutdown of non-essential businesses in Ontario for the next two weeks as we all desperately try and “flatten the curve” of the COVID-19 epidemic.

Ford - dumb thoughtful

Ontario Premier Doug Ford

He genuinely seemed to empathize with the Ontario public and promised strong action to slow the spread of the virus. After the announcement, it was made clear that a list would be provided of what was considered essential later Monday evening. As has been the case for a number of announcements from this government, the details do not match the headlines.

Ontarians know that this fight is important. There are medical experts who have made the case that it is critical to both the safety of our elderly population and to the health of our economy that we slow the spread as soon as possible. Those arguments do not need to be repeated here. What is important to know from Monday’s announcement is how little is covered by this “shutdown”.

The government has listed 74(!) different categories of businesses that qualify as essential, many of which are written in incredibly vague language so that nearly any business except a wedding dress store would qualify. Below are some of the worst examples of exemptions to the “shutdown”.

Exemption #1: Businesses that supply other essential businesses or essential services with the support, supplies, systems or services, including processing, packaging, distribution, delivery and maintenance necessary to operate. (This is so vague to include pretty much any business that sells product to a grocery store. Is a makeup supply store really essential?)

Exemption #9: Businesses that supply office products and services, including providing computer products and related repair and maintenance services, for individuals working from home and for essential businesses (So the computer paper supply store is allowed to stay open, noting that there is a separate exemption [#14] to cover IT professionals).

Exemption #47: Businesses that provide products and services that support research activities. (This would make “essential” any company that has ever sold a product to a university).

Exemption #67: Land registration services, and real estate agent services and moving services (Considering Realtors an essential service is possibly the biggest example of how little the government cares for shutting anything down at all).

Exemption #70: Businesses that support the safe operations of residences and essential businesses (A retailer of floor rugs could for example easily make the case that they are supporting the safe operation of homes).

The government either cares about letting people stay home and be safe or they do not. There is not a middle ground to this. The COVID-19 is the greatest threat to Ontario in at least a generation and it demands strong action to fight it. The action announced today in Ontario is not the strong action that is required, nor does it match the action the Premier promised Monday afternoon. The 74(!) exemptions show that the government is trying to ensure as much business remains open as possible while pretending to take a hard line.

The most dangerous aspect of COVID-19 is that an infected person is extremely contagious for up to an entire week before they show any symptoms. As a result of the actions taken today by the Ontario government, many Ontarians will be going to non-essential work while contagious. While there they will infect their colleagues. Those colleagues will then go on to infect others and the disease will spread much more rapidly.

If Ontario took COVID-19 seriously and legitimately shut down every non-essential business, it is possible that we could come through this in a “best case” period of time, even though no one at this point knows what that is. But if the government insists on taking half measures and making speeches for the sake of appearances while shirking from taking the necessary steps to combat this, Ontario is going to be suffering through this crisis MUCH longer than it had to.

The complete list of exemptions can be found here

Andrew Drummond was the NDP candidate during the last provincial election.

Get Gaz yellow

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Rivers masks up for a food run - gets mistaken for a Ninja

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

March 23, 2020



It is frustrating, feeling helpless as we watch the daily roll out of pandemic numbers continue to rise, with no apparent end in sight. The PM and our provincial and federal health officials conduct these daily press conferences if only to confirm that indeed, each day is worse than the day before. If only we could keep more social distance between us and wash our hands more often….

We act as if we are strangers to a pandemic, even though we’ve lived with some lesser viral epidemics, like SARS. And then there was the Spanish Flu back in 1918. My grandmother in Manitoba lost half of her children to that flu.


Apparently a “must see” movie – it’s available on line.

But if you really want to get depressed you can watch the 2011 movie Contagion, which is scarily similar to what we are experiencing today – life imitating art. It should have been required watching for our health officials. Then perhaps they would have sounded the alarm bell earlier.

On Thursday I finally did a grocery run. I had decided the crowds at Costco last week would jeopardize social distancing, so avoided that. Besides, I wasn’t sure I’d cope watching all those folks filling the back of their pick up trucks with hand sanitizer and whatever else they could get their un-sanitized hands on.

But I was bored with staying around the house and there was absolutely nothing worth watching on TV except those depressing press conferences and the re-runs of Contagion. It is a lot quieter out there in the city now.

The supermarket parking lot was half empty and customer traffic light. I had masked up before entering the store, making me only one of two customers who took that precaution. The store clerks were mostly wearing gloves and were keen to wipe down the cart handles as you entered. And some of them actually managed a smile, though nobody can be too happy these days.

This Wuhan Virus, COVID 19, is a respiratory disease so is most likely transmitted via one’s mouth or nose – sneezing, coughing or even the spray of moisture droplets as someone speaks to you. So I am always going to wear a mask when I go out to shop, especially where there are queues like in a supermarket.

When it came to pay I noticed that the cashier was easily within my one metre social space, and I couldn’t help thinking how much more comfortable I’d be if she was wearing a mask as she spat out “will that be debit or credit”. No doubt she probably would be more comfortable too. I was thankful for my mask, but wished I’d worn glasses as well.

At the height of the epidemic in Wuhan everyone in public had to wear a mask or they’d be arrested. And that, in concert with the quarantine, brought China’s epidemic to heel. Of course Asian populations are used to seeing people wearing masks. It protects them from the overwhelming pollution coming from cars and trucks and industry there.


Columnist Rivers in costume?

Western attitudes are rooted in stereotypes. Bank robbers, bandits, ninjas and storm troopers all wear masks to hide their identities. And while the courts are sorting out whether a Muslim woman can say her citizenship oath under cover of a niqāb, one pretty much has to go bare-faced to work in Quebec’s public sector. Medical, dental and industrial/construction trades mainly use face masks to protect themselves.

There is a lot of mixed messaging originating from our health experts about whether the public should be wearing face masks to help contain this new virus. They’ll tell you that it’s more important in public health for the infected person to wear one – which doesn’t explain the doctor’s mask. And some experts will tell you that an improperly fitting mask provides improper protection, which they imply is worse than no protection at all.

But more than likely they know there won’t enough masks to go around if we all start wearing them. Especially if we are all wanting to use the disposable single-use version. Ventilators, masks, gloves and hand sterilizer are all in short supply, so much so that doctors have been approaching veterinarians to raid the cupboards.

Why didn’t our health authorities anticipate this back in January, when we still had lots of time? Same reason they didn’t call for a travel ban until the virus started to be transmitted within the community, I’m guessing. Likely this is one of those compromises in public policy. Act too early and be called a panic artist or act too late and be labeled as dithering.

bus driver safe

Bus driver is protected from the passengers.

But it’s not too late to call for everyone who serves the public to be wearing face protection. Nobody should catch this virus from a store clerk or bus driver. And you can’t practice social distancing for two or even one metre on crowded subway or bus. Fortunately some stores are installing plexiglass cashier shields to protect their customers.

Still, everyone needs to ensure that they’re neither infecting nor being infected. I’ll be proudly sporting a mask every time I go out, even if it means sterilizing and re-using my limited supply. Even if a mask won’t stop me being infected, it would show that I care about the health of all the people prepared to serve in these difficult times.

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:

Contagion –   Best and worst Cases –    Sleeping at the Switch

Masking –    Experts on Masks –    Supplies

More Supplies –    Dithering –     Better than a Mask?

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Our City Councillors seem to have parked themselves on the side lines, letting the Mayor do all the talking Do Something!

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

March 22, 2020



Premier Doug Ford has said time and again that he will do “Whatever it takes” and for the most part he has lived up to that statement.

As Premier he is looking pretty good. Confident, forthright; no flip flopping. Perhaps a little bragging about the province’s industrial might – but Ontario is the economic engine of the country. I can put up with Doug Ford’s briskness: no forced empathy from this guy.

We are in the midst of a crisis and Ford appears to be doing what needs to be done.

Meghani - Mar 19th

Regional Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Meghani – not a politician in sight as she addresses the public.

The Regional Medical Officer of Health (MoH) is learning to be less bureaucratic and explaining the decisions she has made. She is making the right decisions. She will be a stronger MoH when this crisis ends.

Burlington’s Mayor is doing her best – my own view is that her pleading for the public to be more sensible and responsible isn’t going to do the trick.

The Mayor declared a State of Emergency in the city. It isn’t clear to me just what kind of power she has to force people to do what needs to be done.

Large numbers of people were reported in Spencer Smith Park on Saturday, and at Mt Nemo – people who didn’t seem to know what “social distancing” is – if they did, they ignored the need to social distance.

Our City Councillors seem to have parked themselves on the side lines,  letting the Mayor do all the talking.

During the flood in 2013 then Councillors Sharman and Dennison went door to door asking people if they were all right. Hundreds had flooded basements.

sandwhich board person

Wearing sandwich boards might be a bit much for some of our Councillors – if they care about the people they represent they will get out there with them – at a socially acceptable distance of course

City Councillors can’t knock on doors with this crisis but surely they can summon some of the innovative ideas they used to get elected.

All we are seeing at this point is their repeating what the Mayor is saying – which is good as that keeps the message consistent.

The Mayor speaks for the city and to her credit she is doing a good job.

sandwhich board

How about each Councillor buying half a dozen signs – putting a clear message on them and setting them out in different places in their ward. Real Estate agents do it all the time.

The city Councillors represent the people in their wards and it is incumbent upon those Councillors to get out as much as they can – yes, at an acceptable social distance – and communicate.

They are basically sitting at home, collecting very good pay cheques and waiting this out.

Get out there and communicate. If they are stuck for ideas – try this: Spend some of the expense money you have and buy some sandwich boards – put a message on them and move them around the ward.

Do something!

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: social distancing sounds something an advertising executive would dream up

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

March 18, 2020



By any other name it’s a community mitigation strategy. But really, social distancing sounds something an advertising executive would dream up. Is it one or two or three meters, and does that mean we don’t need to wear a mask, not that there are any on the empty store shelves? How does one practice social distancing at the security check-in at the airport, or the checkout line at Costco, or at the dinner table in the nursing home?

The Chinese have suffered the onslaught of this COVID 19 coronavirus the most so far, shouldering the largest death rates and biggest blow to their economy, the second largest in the world. But their infection numbers have tumbled in recent days and now they claim most of the new cases are from people coming into China from somewhere else.

social distance - 4 sitting apart

This is what they mean by social distance – it works.

Was their apparent success in beating the virus into the ground due to social distancing? Well if that means forcing everyone, by law, to wear a mask in public. Or if all the cinemas and restaurants, etc. are to be shuttered. Or if all travel is banned as it was in Wuhan city and Hubei province.

wet market - dog

Those dogs are not being sold as a pets.

Wuhan was where the bug first appeared. It is believed to have mutated or skipped from some kind of disgusting piece of wildlife being sold in the ‘wet markets’ of Wuhan to those stupid enough to eat just about anything. It’s that archaic cultural thing. Rhino horn powder to get you excited and bat soup to help you find your way in the dark. But isn’t that what also gave us SARS a little over a decade ago.

The Chinese authorities have now permanently banned the sale of wildlife everywhere and they have expressed outrage that Mr. Trump has decided to name the disease after the place where it originated.

In apparent retaliation, one Chinese official has claimed that the US army had brought the disease to Wuhan. Russian trolls had also been making those claims, but the last time the American military was anywhere near Wuhan had to be just before Mao came to power. That would make it an incredibly long lived dormant virus.

wet market - meat

An example of cultural differences – this one just isn’t all that healthy.

Donald Trump has been accused of racism before and he is no stranger to the blame game. But for some reason China has just expelled some US journalists. Chinese authorities do have a nasty habit of hiding the truth so perhaps this is odious, and not just some kind of retaliation. They had muzzled their own scientists and social media during the early days of the outbreak, for example.

But back here in Canada we have finally done what our health experts said we shouldn’t ever do, that it would be counterproductive. We have banned travel, by airplanes anyway, and closed our borders to all but the Americans. Still it is worrisome that the degree of coronavirus infection in the US is not reliably known, and what numbers they do have are likely underestimates. So wait for it.

And now emergency laws are being enacted in each province to shut down any place anyone would want to go. That should keep us at home except for buying groceries and drugs, and maybe going to work. And then there is this social distancing.

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:

Social Distancing Meaning –   Travel restrictions

Trump’s China Virus –    China Wet Market

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Rivers: Is the US presidential election going to be a replay of 2016 ?

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

March 7th, 2020



Haven’t we seen this movie before? In the Tin Cup, Kevin Costner plays a talented golfer whose ego compels him to try the same impossible shot over and over again – until he loses. It’s a different game but the US Democratic Party appears headed for a replay of 2016, except this time with more of a duffer holding the club.

Barring an upswell of support for the lone democratic socialist in the race for president – it appears that the moderate Joe Biden has overtaken front running Bernie Sanders in delegates for the Democratic leadership convention in July and will become the standard bearer for that party. That could be an almost perfect repeat of 2016, where Bernie was summarily shown the door.

biden 2

Joe Biden – Thinking?

But at least Clinton, unlikeable as many found her, was cogent and could finish a sentence without stumbling into cognitive dissidence. Joe Biden has yet to prove that he can speak in anything resembling complete and coherent thoughts. Even the current president is, arguably, a better communicator. It will be so much entertainment watching these two statesmen of yesterday’s politics face-off in debate.

Bernie 1

Bernie Saunders: Doesn’t appear to be what the Democrats want.

Bernie calls himself a democratic socialist but his policies, like Canadian-style single payer health care are hardly revolutionary. Still, whether it is the language or just plain ignorance on the part of American voters, they can’t get their heads around government managed health insurance.

Perhaps they haven’t heard of Medicare, universal seniors’ health insurance, has been in place since the 60’s and spends $740 billion a year accounting for almost 4% of U.S. gross domestic product and over 15% of total US federal spending. They’d rather let the private insurance companies dictate how much medical care they get and where – and pay twice as much as the rest of the world for the privilege of having less accessible health care.

They don’t deserve Bernie, one might say – but it won’t matter anyway. He’s not likely to gain enough support from the party loyalists to become their standard bearer. They’ll never vote for a communist as Trump would, no doubt, have explained, given the chance.

Trump Donald

Donald Trump: He does manage stress well.

But he won’t have to since the odds are now that Biden will be the Dem’s candidate. And Trump might still likely win, despite his own record. He is the proverbial Mr. Teflon after all, and absolutely nothing he has done sticks to him, not even after being impeached. He learned long ago that the more outrageous you are the more people love you. And the bigger liar you can be the more they will believe you.

Almost half of Americans continue to support him, despite or perhaps, because of his antics. And his trump card will be Biden’s somewhat messy history in poor old ever-troubled Ukraine. Biden was implicated in the political maneuvering to remove a former prosecutor there. And his son bagged a whack of cash just to sit on the Board of a Ukrainian petroleum enterprise, a job for which he had no apparent qualification – other than being the US VP’s son.

It worked with Hillary – Benghazi and her improper emails – and Trump will ride this horse until nobody trusts Biden, despite his mostly impeccable political career. So if I were placing a bet today I’d put my money on Trump – as I did last time.

But eight months until November can be a long time in politics, especially in an era of the dreaded COVID 19. Already prognosticators are spouting dystopian scenarios, including a potential death toll in the millions and a dramatic economic crash. Tourism is already dying and those romantic ocean cruises are destined to become a quaint piece of ancient history.

Trump didn’t cause COVID-19, nor the recession which will accompany the pandemic. But his penchant for borrowing money to get tax cuts for the wealthy has led to a 50% increase in the size of the US deficit. And that will limit his ability to help finance any kind of recovery.

Joe with Barak golf

Joe Biden playing a game of golf with former President Barak Obama

Whether that nasty disease will register a difference in November, or even in July, when the Democrats stage their leadership convention, remains to be seen. But for the US president, who owns a couple of golf courses, he should appreciate that he is still in the rough and his second swing at winning the presidency may miss big time.

And as for the democrats, they’re looking for a mulligan, but may well be headed for the tin cup. They’re convinced they can hit a hole in one using the same swing as the last time – which ended up just getting them a big fat bogey.

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

Tin Cup –    Democrats –   Biden and Ukraine

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Could you please remove my last name and just call me xxxx. I am very frightened ...

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

March 6th, 2020



The frantic emails came in at 5:47 pm; then 5:55 pm and again at 6:04 pm

The writer was frightened – the person had written a comment in the Gazette on the Millcroft story and thought she had to provide her full name for authentication.

Her comment, which is published as Name Witheld said:

Where is this developers conscience? How much money is enough? For residents who have their life savings in their home, with respect Mr. developer, how do you sleep?

These are seniors, couples, families who invested in a dream. We live both on and off the golf course. We are not rich, we work hard because we love our community, our schools, and our greenspace.

Safety? Please do not hide behind this pathetic excuse. Sweet dreams, Mr. developer.

You have one hell of a fight coming your way!

The emails to us went:

I am a resident of Burlington who today wrote a Letter in response to the MAD story. I did not know that you would use my full name. Could you please remove my last name and just call me xxxx. I am very frightened as I’m alone with two kids right now. I did not intend for my full name to go out there. Please can you help me. It says it is being reviewed.

Minutes Later

Please do not use my name in the opinions column currently being moderated. I thought I had to put my full name just for you to authenticate. I am a scared mother of 2. Please either remove or change my name to xx.
Thank you! Please let me know ASAP


Hello I mistakenly used my full name in your editorial option section about Millcroft March 4.

Could you please remove the opinion or at least write me as xxx not my full name. I thought I had to leave my name for authentication. I did not want my last name used. Please help me.

Please understand I’m terrified.


Hello, I wrote an opinion on the mad article. My name is xxx xxx can you please not use my last name. I am a scared mother as it is. Please just call me Please. I’m going to lose sleep over this. I thought I had to put in my full name.
Thankyou… please either erase it or just use my name xxx.

Block b 42 view 2

The full colour is part of the housing stock Argo Development wants to add to the Millcroft community. The grey part is development that already exists.

We published the comment and find ourselves asking: what kind of a city is this – that a person would fear that they would be harmed for saying what they think.

The number one city in the country eh!

Related news story:

Scope and scale of the development

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Differing opinions on the current flood of appeals to the Official Plan amendments and the zoning bylaw

opiniongreen 100x100By Pepper Parr

March 4th, 2020



The Gazette prides itself on maintaining a comment section. It gives space to people who have no other way of voicing their concerns. Are they always right? Hell no – there are a couple that are close to certified crackpots who entertain if nothing else; see it as our comics section.

The current flood of appeals to the LPAT has arguments on both sides of the issue. The following are comments that deserve a wider audience – thus our decision to publish them as opinion pieces.

Albert Facenda

Albert Facenda, a small Burlington based developer

Albert Facenda responding to Gary and Graham:
Gary and Grahame. You are correct that in 2005/2006 council conceded the downtown to the wishes of the Province. I believe it was the Liberals at the time. Our Mayor ran as a Liberal in 2007. Do we have any evidence that she was opposed to these decisions at the time?

Is she protecting the citizens of Burlington from over development in the downtown core as you have pointed out? I think not.

Environmentalists created the Green Belt with their doom and gloom scenarios. The Greenbelt created the shortage of land, creating Intensification the “Build up not out philosophy.” I don’t like intensification. But I will tell you the town of Grimsby was voted 2nd to Burlington as the best City to live in category. Take a drive through there and you will see construction everywhere. I predict Grimsby will be #1 this year. One of the reasons would be that it is the place to raise your family for those who can’t afford to live in Burlington. Remember what the Mayor said: ”The Downtown is only1% of Burlington” a significant number according to her.

Muir glancing

Tom Muir, once described as “acerbic”

Tom Muir in reply to Anne and David Marsden.
The appeals will be made public in due course. That is how it works.
In any case, what would you folks do with all the details of all the appeals?

This is a huge number of appeals at once and I would think that this was in fact expected by the city, or at the least, not a surprise. Didn’t surprise me.

The quality of the appeals at this stage is largely irrelevant. They seek to change the entire approved development rights for likely the entire downtown and GO station planning areas to what the appellants want. They want more at any cost it seems – it’s that simple.

It is possible to appeal an entire OP and Zoning. This is not about specific applications and proposals. It’s a grab for the whole enchilada, a saturation bombing.

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The power of a place called home: Open Letter to the community

opinionviolet 100x100By Eric Doubt,

March 4th, 2020


If you change the name Halton Hills to Burlington this Open Letter could have been written for Burlington as well.

In the links to additional material there is a link to a Gazette article – someone in Halton Hills likes us.

During a recent Regional Council meeting one of the representatives from Halton Hills admitted that there was homelessness and people sleeping on park benches in her community.

The person on the park bench spends another winter night in the snowy, wet, subzero weather. Some people in our neighbourhood are helping and the authorities and agencies are fully aware and actively seeking solutions. Similarly, you may be aware of others who are homeless in your neighbourhoods.

Georgetown signThere is homelessness in Georgetown(1). Some of us are vaguely aware that there may be. Some of us may try to do something about it but find it hard to create change. Some of us get upset or become disappointed and frustrated with failed efforts and a few may try to do more or learn more. Some of us just walk by the bench and say it’s just too bad and it shouldn’t be and don’t know where to turn, so turn away.

There is homelessness all over the world – in all developing countries, as well as those countries with the highest standards of living. There (here) it’s a chronic social problem driven by many complex factors including economic and social inequality, apathy, discrimination, impacts of mental illness, family dysfunction, alcoholism and drug addiction. Despite many well-intended and well-resourced studies and valiant efforts, we can’t seem to cure or prevent it.

Somebody had to come up with a different approach. What if we provided homes for the homeless; how might that change the paradigm?

The good news is – it’s been studied, researched and tried and it works. Quality of life gradually improves including: addiction behaviour, health, state-of-mind, ambition and action towards education, self-improvement and a return to society as a full participating member. The research is there and the results are proof.

You have to love the Finns. Four of them, a social scientist, a doctor, a politician and a bishop devised the principle called “housing first” over a decade ago. When I first read about this, I was dumbstruck. This article (2), one of many, describes the initiative: “As in many countries, homelessness in Finland had long been tackled using a staircase model: you were supposed to move through different stages of temporary accommodation as you got your life back on track, with an apartment as the ultimate reward.

“We decided to make the housing unconditional. To say, look, you don’t need to solve your problems before you get a home. Instead, a home should be the secure foundation that makes it easier to solve your problems.” Finland now has the lowest rate of homelessness in the EU and is on the road to eradicating it.

Now, let’s bring it home – to Medicine Hat, Alberta. Watch your jaw drop. This western city has been blazing the trail toward functional zero chronic homelessness in Canada, having supported and housed 1166 homeless individuals since 2009. There are currently fewer than seven individuals not yet ‘at home’ in their community, today (3, 4)

A conceptually simple, concrete and sustainable solution, but it raises many issues of social and political will and resource allocation.

What if our community tried the same thing and became, like many other communities well on the road, an example of innovative, collaborative and successful social action? We did it on a smaller but very successful scale for our Beer Fest and the Canada Day flag competition and fly over.

It begins with individuals, – citizens, politicians, community and business leaders, who have the social consciousness and conscience, and the will to act and demonstrate leadership.

Let’s take a look around and challenge potential candidates. I believe an action force comprised of three powerful groups within our community could launch our own Halton Hills Homes First program and succeed. The partnership would consist of leadership from Mayor Rick Bonnette and our strong municipal council – human resources from a cooperative of local service organizations led by Habitat for Humanity – coupled with the experience and capacity of a major local developer prepared to give back.

If you Google ‘’housing first”, you will learn about the many pros and cons, failures and successes, frustrations and challenges and yes, critics, naysayers and deniers. But, you will also understand that it’s the best idea yet and that may convince you to have second thoughts next time you walk past that park bench in your neighbourhood.

Media links:

4file://localhost/. https/


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Is there a Regional plan in place should the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) reach pandemic proportions?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

March 1st, 2020



The coronavirus disease (COVID-19)  has been found in 47 countries.

We may be be close to declaring a pandemic, which is when a whole country or the world is infected.  China, Iran and Italy are struggling to control the spread of the disease. The disease is now being spread in the United States.

Ontario has now found 19 people who are infected.

There is much that is not yet known by this virus. It appears that most people do recover from an infection.

The damage to the economy has been significant; the New York Stock Exchange recorded the largest drop in its history.

Stock prices

Biggest one day drop of New York Stock Exchange prices in its history. “The game has changed with Italy and also with the new case in California,”

People have every reason to be concerned – deeply concerned.

Japan has closed all its schools.

It has been suggested that the Tokyo Olympics might be cancelled.

None of this is said to be alarmist – however we do have a serious problem on our hands.

Ontario learned a lot from the SARS outbreak – those lessons are serving us well.

The provincial Medical Officer of Health and the Ministry of Health has a constant flow of information – we are informed at the federal level and the provincial level.

We are not informed at the Regional level.

The disease is now in Canada.  It is being passed from person to person.  That does not mean the ravages of the 1918 Spanish flu is about to overcome us – but it does mean things have changed and public behavior has to change.

The public expects leadership from the people who we have put in place to lead.  The Medical Officer of Health is a critical part of protecting us.  Saying nothing is just not acceptable.

In the event that the virus gets completely out of control what does the average uninfected person do?

What does a person who suspects they might be infected do?

What does a person who is infected do?

If there are say 100 people in the Region infected – what do we do?

Is there a plan in place?

We have plans for people to use recreational centers when the weather is sub-zero and dangerous to be out in.

The public is advised when there is a West Nile virus concern – the Gazette publishes those notices regularly as we do with an outbreak of measles.


Dr. Hamidah Meghani, Halton’s Medical Officer of Heath.

The public has not heard a word from the Regional Medical Officer of Health on the COVID19 virus.

The public deserves better.

The Medical Officer of Health for the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health board told a local newspaper in that community that “It’s more of a communication event than a medical event for us.”

The communications advisors at the Region said the Medical Officer of Health had no comment when the Gazette asked for a comment.

Region alcohol

A report on Halton’s alcohol consumption took up more than 45 minutes during a Regional Council meeting

The Regional Medical Officer of Health did advise Regional Council recently  that Halton could well have a alcohol problem; the Regional rate of consumption is 5% higher than the provincial rate.

There is something wrong with the priorities.

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 on the Indigenous demonstrations and the coronavirus: put the focus on the real problem

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

February 26th, 2020



Justin Trudeau landed about right. After all, he couldn’t have ordered the RCMP to intervene in the non-violent blockades even if he’d wanted. Of course that won’t stop critics from attacking him. The NDP argued he should have met with the hereditary chiefs and further discouraged the police from moving in. And the Conservatives virtually demanded he invoke Canada’s emergency legislation and send in the army.

But after two weeks and with no sign of dialogue in the works, he told Canadians that enough is enough.  He was careful to distinguish between the dispute over the gas pipeline, which had ignited this conflict, and the other protestors with other complaints, primarily in Ontario and Quebec.

These other complaints might be about historical aboriginal injustice. Or perhaps it’s just some folks looking for a diversion from reading about the imminent threat of coronavirus, or maybe just a chance to get out of the house and do some good old fashioned civil disobedience.

Hereditary chiefs

The idea that Mohawks were defending the rights of the Wet’suwet’en all the way in B.C. is a stretch.

Given the history of indigenous peoples in Canada, the idea that Mohawks were defending the rights of the Wet’suwet’en all the way in B.C. is a stretch. And who were they supporting anyway, since not all the hereditary chiefs are opposed to the construction? In fact, a majority of Wet’suwet’en leaders support and have signed on to the pipeline.

So why were the tracks at Belleville blocked when the prime responsibility to resolve land issues around this pipeline resides with the B.C. government, not the feds and certainly nothing to do with Ontario? And even the RCMP in B.C. operate under contract with the province. So there is little that some guy in Ottawa is going to achieve by sticking his nose in.

Still, it is easy to understand why this Coastal GasLink pipeline is an affront to some of the Wet’suwet’en. The land is ‘unceded’, meaning the title is still undetermined, even though they have lived on it for centuries and consider it theirs. Then another affront came when opposing chiefs suggested another route for the pipe, only to be ignored.

And, of course, first nations are all about natural conservation and this project is all about hazardous fossil fuel development.

TMX pipeline

Gas pipe being laid.

The natural gas, methane, in the pipe will be shipped to overseas markets – so one might think there would be little environmental consequence to Canada or B.C. But methane is not the clean fuel that used to be advertised. Methane gas is as much as 70 times more powerful a greenhouse gas than CO2 depending on the time frame. And the production and transport of methane results in leaks, called fugitive emissions of the gas. The federal climate assessment puts fugitive gas emissions just under 10% of Canada’s total emissions.

Of course fugitive emissions, like any self respecting fugitive, tends to be a little hard to pin down, so we’re not sure how high they really are. It is estimated that between 1992 and 2012, fugitive methane emissions accounted for 7% of the world’s greenhouse gases. And it is estimated that the world annually loses $30 billion in fugitive gas emission value.

And the concern about the further development of fossil fuels is likely the reason why so many non-indigenous folks came out to join the protests and blockades. Their children will be thanking them when everyone reduces their carbon footprint. But it is a long way and a lot of burnt carbon to join the real blockade up in Wet’suwet’en country, so they need to protest here.

Mohawk demonstration Feb 26

Protesters blocking rail service

But protesting railroads everywhere is a really dumb idea. The railroads and even the rail companies have even less to do with the gas pipeline than the Mohawks do with the Wet’suwet’en. And even with those diesel guzzling train engines, rail travel is the most efficient way of moving goods and people. And that means rail travel makes for a smaller footprint than other transportation, excepting a bicycle or electric vehicle. So, for all those protestors who are just there to support their ancestral brothers and sisters and hopefully help kill another fossil fuel project, they need to rethink what they are doing.

It’s not the protesting but how these fine folks are protesting. The pipeline at issue carries only natural gas. But instead of attacking natural gas and the companies behind it, these rail line protests are hurting commuters and tourists and those who rely on rail for goods and services – and that eventually is too many of us.

Canadian acceptance of some kind of new deal with our aboriginal folks has never been more positive and with a compliant federal government more than eager to act. One can only wonder how those attitudes might shift should these blockades continue for any length of time – or this minority government fall.

Mohawk land back

The message from the Indigenous community – they want the land back.

And if you really want to make your protest meaningful, instead of creating havoc for commuters and others reliant on our rail systems, why not make the punishment fit the crime. Protest the use of natural gas. Call your gas company today and cancel your gas contract. Buy an electric heater to get you through the season until you can replace your furnace with a 90% carbon free heat pump.

And if you really want to be heard, sign onto your favourite social media and ask all your friends and family to also eliminate their gas bills and get rid of gas. And seriously, isn’t it better to be sitting at your iPad in the comfort of your home tweeting, or whatever, rather than freezing in the cold Ontario winter in the midst of shivering crowds and in the season of coronavirus?

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:

Protests –    Gas Emissions –     Train Protests

Reconciliation is Dead –     Emissions

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Mayor studying to earn a Chartered Director designation - doesn't reveal who is paying for the expensive course.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

February 25th, 2020



At a Standing Committee earlier in the month we thought we heard Mayor Marianne Meed Ward say that she was taking a course on governance. It was a passing comment.

We follow up with a note to the Mayors communications aide and asked where she was taking the course and who was paying for the course – they aren’t cheap.

Meed Ward with chain Sept 23-19

The Mayor is studying for the designation of Chartered Director.

Monday evening the Mayor said that she was studying for a Chartered Director designation. She made no other comment.

The Mayor’s communications aide told the Gazette earlier this month that: “This is being paid for privately and will have zero impact on the taxpayers of Burlington.”

Who is privately? If the Mayor is receiving a benefit for something directly related to her work the public has a right to know where the money for the benefit is coming from.

This is not to suggest that there is anything untoward going on.

Our view is that first: Congratulations to the Mayor for deciding to take the course – it is not an easy course – there are a lot of people who register, attend the classes but find that they haven’t don’t the work needed to be able to pass the examination.

Before being accepted into the course an assessment based on five key areas which are central to organizational direction and governance.

  • Vision, Purpose, Values and Ethics
  • Strategic Thinking and Stakeholder Management
  • Delegation to Management
  • Discharging your Duties as a Director and as a Competent Member of a Collective and Responsible Body
  • Exercising Effective and Accountable Leadership 

This is not an easy undertaking.

The Mayor may have been given a scholarship, who gave it to her?

Burlington is going to be better off with a Mayor who has the designation.

It would have been better for the city to have paid the fees. Sure a lot of people would have howled. Meed Ward will be a much better Mayor – she already is – due to what she has learned.

This is all a little awkward – being a public person means you are always in the public eye – usually because that is what successful politicians do for a living.

For the time being the public is going to have to accept that the Mayor is getting some valuable training that will benefit all of us which is paid for by – we don’t know who.

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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MP reflects on value of listening, even to a small minority, to reach common ground

opinionred 100x100By Staff

February 19th, 2020



AVK stroke

Milton MP Adam van Koeverden in a former occupation.

Adam van Koeverden, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth and to the Minister of Canadian Heritage (Sport,) is the Member of Parliament for Milton, which includes a large part of northern Burlington.

He spoke yesterday in the Emergency Debate related to the Indigenous community protests taking place.

He said:

Madam Speaker, I sat in relative awe of a lot of people today listening to a variety of statements and perspectives. Like a lot of things, that is what makes the House great: a lot of different perspectives and opinions.

However, there is a degree to which this issue and the people involved in the project are being co-opted to reinforce multiple political narratives. One thing that is clear is that this issue severely lacks consensus. I have heard tonight conflicting reports of support from locals as disparate as the opinions in the House.

pipeline protest feb 19

Protests across the country have impacted commercial operations and put in stark relief what the country is going to have to do to recognize and respect the rights of the Indigenous community.

We can certainly all agree, I hope, that a peaceful process and a resolution that results in no violence is in everyone’s best interests. However, the language that we have heard from the Leader of the Opposition is anything but peaceful, as he suggested that indigenous people “check their privilege”. The Leader of the Opposition doubled down on that statement today when he urged haste and force.

I am grateful that my colleagues on this side are able to learn from history and not repeat the mistakes of the past.

My question for my colleague refers to his prior role as parliamentary secretary and his important work on the Indigenous Languages Act. Could he elaborate on the value of listening, even to a small minority, to reach common ground, sometimes in the absence of consensus?

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Councillor gets a 'bum steer' from staff as she is learning to do her job.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

February 19th, 2020



During the very difficult meeting at which the Audit Committee discussed the report the auditor had prepared on what wasn’t working with the CRM system the city had decided to install, Ward 2 Councillor Lisa Kearns said she asked staff what she had to do to be a good city councillor.

Lisa Kearns Election Photo

Ward 2 Councillor Lisa Kearns. Wanted to be a good Councillor – staff didn’t help.

This was very shortly after she had been sworn in.

Kearns reported that the senior people she spoke with told her she should trust staff and work with them.

Staff mislead the new Councillor; whether knowingly is for them to determine.

What Staff should have said to the new city Councillor was:

Hold us accountable.

That began to happen Wednesday of last week when Lisa Kearns and Paul Sharman asked some very hard and pointed questions about what had gone wrong with the Customer Relations Management system.

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That plastic bottle that ends up in the ocean is ending up in the fish we eat.

News 100 greenBy Ray Rivers

February 14th, 2020



The baby boom generation has a lot to answer for. How many boomers can recall that epic 1967 movie, ‘The Graduate’. A young Dustin Hoffman was the dazed and aimless anti-hero stuck in a fractured picture of an overabundant American civilization looking for its next drug. And there it was, on the strength of advice from a well-intentioned guest. “Plastics… There’s a great future in plastics”.

plastic bio-degrading

Sifting through debris at a plastic bottle recycling plant has led to the unearthing of a plastic-munching microorganism that can break down polyethylene terephthalate (PET). The researchers who discovered the bacterium hope that it will provide a new way to recycle PET plastics by breaking them down into their building blocks.

Watching the news today it is hard to get beyond the threat to all of us posed by the Coronavirus, recently named COVID-19. A pandemic is an immediate, and acute threat and we are pretty sure that it will peak and then pass. Contrast that with the chronic challenges of global warming and something we’ve heard less about until recently, plastic pollution.

Micro plastic particles are omnipresent in our environment, the air we breathe and the food we ingest. We may not fully comprehend what that means, but it’s not good. Even in the most remote reaches of our oceans, fish now contain significant amounts of plastic in their bodies… and so do we when we eat them. And unlike the nasty COVID-9 virus, which will eventually be gone, the plastic pollution we have created will be with us for a very long time.

Who could have envisioned the potential impact of such a seemingly benign and inert product, developed to improve the state of our lives. Little more than a half century after our young graduate was turned-on to plastic we learn that there is now an island of plastic waste floating in the Pacific Ocean, three hundred kilometres wide and three times the size of France.

Back when they were filming the Graduate the biggest threat to our survival was the bomb and the Soviets. Whoever had thought of this bigger risk to our survival – big fossil fuel? Yes, the very people who are delivering rising sea levels, acidification and warming of the oceans, melting of the polar ice caps, and increased storms are also the same culprits who have given us plastics.

plastic in ocean

A huge belt of plastic photographed floating off the coast of the Caribbean island of Roatan, Honduras.

Plastic takes more than 400 years to degrade, and its production has doubled every 15 years. So unless we do something radical, by 2050 the oceans will contain more plastic waste than fish, ton for ton. Of the billions of metric tonnes of plastic that have been produced, fully 80% goes in the waste bins and over a third of that is ‘single use’ – used once and discarded.

Industry’s claim that plastic can be recycled is largely a myth, since less than 10% is actually recycled. In fact, half of all plastic manufactured becomes trash in less than a year. And eight million tonnes ends up in the ocean every year – the equivalent of five grocery bags of plastic trash for every foot of the planet’s ocean coastline.

The prime minister promised that if re-elected he would ban single use plastic starting next year, but the devil is in the details. To that end the government has just released a scientific assessment of the plastics problem. Besides the potential of government regulations, there is already some action afoot to deal with the problem.

Clearly the place to start is to avoid the use of plastic. To that end many grocery stores are no longer offering plastic bags at cash outs, though a good deal of everything in the stores still comes wrapped in layers of plastic film and sits on trays of single use styrofoam. Many restaurants have switched to paper rather than plastic straws, or just eliminated them entirely. And many customers are refusing to accept plastic bags, when offered, for the products they buy.

Then there are a number of environmental non-profit organizations taking the plastic in their own hands by starting to clean it up. One of these is a Vancouver outfit called Ocean Legacy Foundation. Started in 2014, this organization claims about 25 staff, most of whom are volunteers to clean up the plastic refuse which gets washed ashore on the west coast every day. Since 2015 Ocean Legacy has collected 170,000 pounds of waste plastic from Canada’s western shorelines.

Though not presently operational in the Great Lakes, Ocean Legacy is active in Costa Rica, Mexico and Panama. In addition to hands-on clean ups, the organization has structured a program of information, education and advocacy which they offer to help communities get involved on their own and on their own shorelines. They have received some funding from governments as well private entities, and they do accept online donations.


The damage plastics in ocean water are doing to the fish we eat.

As important as these voluntary clean up actions are, runaway plastic pollution is a problem that drastically needs government regulation. Some of the larger manufacturers of plastic film and other packaging would have you believe they maintain a cradle-to-grave responsible corporate policy, something which was in vogue a few years ago. Yet they are missing in action when it comes to cleaning up the mess they have inadvertently created, since virtually all plastic is created as a product of oil and gas mining.  So why are big oil and the plastic manufacturers missing in action when it comes to cleaning up the mess they are responsible for?

Canada has become a highly divided nation. There are those who live in oil producing provinces and then there are the rest of us. That was made evident in the last federal election. The only political party promoting big oil won almost every seat in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

There is a simmering conflict and an emerging political crisis at our doorstep. The political leaders of those oil producing provinces may not personally be in the pockets of the oil companies but they are there to do their bidding as the industry endeavors to extract that very last barrel of bitumen.

The fight will be between the legitimate right of a federal government to protect the health of its citizens and the right of the oil companies and their sub-national political allies to monetize that last grain of bitumen laden sand. And the consequences of failure may well be the kind of protest action we are seeing among indigenous folks today over pipelines.

Plastics may have played a big role in our economic lives over the last sixty years but it has left us with a poisonous legacy. And its future is no longer great, given the unintended consequences of its widespread adoption.

Background links

Draft Science Assessment –     Great PacificGarbage Patch –     Fish to Humans

Plastic Waste –    PM’s Promise –   Swimming Through Pacific Garbage

Ocean Legacy

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NDP candidate hammers the government - points out that Deputy Ministers have been given 14% increases over a 4 year period

opinionred 100x100By Andrew Drummond

February 5th, 2020



This week, across Halton region there will be three days of education disruption. The elementary teachers will be striking Monday and Thursday while their counterparts in the Secondary system will be striking Tuesday. The reasons for the strikes are many, but the attitude of the Minister of Education has been puzzling throughout. Despite the obvious false nature of many of his comments, the Minister has stuck to the talking point of this being entirely about compensation for teachers. It feels occasionally like the reason we are in such a mess with education in Ontario was that because Minister Lecce and Premier Ford hate teachers, they assumed that everyone hated teachers. Then, once they discovered that to be untrue, they had no backup plan to build a plan that would be palatable to the public.

Teachers elementary strike

Teachers take over the side walks across Halton.

Regardless of the reasons, Ontario is now in a state of distress regarding its education systems. For the first time in decades, every union representing educators is in a strike position. And for all the bluster with press releases and accusations, there are only three primary areas of contention between the two sides: class sizes, salaries, and mandatory e-learning. One of these, salaries, has some limited legitimacy as a contentious issue, but the other two are such terrible ideas that the government has been unable to even defend them effectively.

The biggest hole in the government’s plan is the planned implementation of mandatory e-learning. The government’s dictum for students graduating in 2024 and beyond (typically students in Grade 8 today) will be that in order to get a Secondary School Diploma, they will need to have earned 2 e-learning credits, meaning credits taken online rather than in a classroom. The government had previously intended to require 4 credits but reduced the decision in November after public outcry.

When asked to explain the rationale for this requirement, the government stated that mandatory e-learning will allow Ontario to be “a global leader of modern and digital education,”. Unfortunately, there is very little evidence to suggest that making e-learning mandatory will accomplish that goal. Five jurisdictions in North America (Michigan, Alabama, Florida, Arkansas, and Virginia) have experimented with 1 mandatory credit, but none of those programs has been successful with lowered passing rates from every data point available.

In reality, the government is just looking to cut more teaching positions. The e-learning courses would be offered with a teacher to student ratio of 35:1 which would be considerably higher than the in classroom 22.5:1 currently or even the 25:1 proposed. Of note, when e-learning was implemented in Alabama, it was done with LOWER teacher to student ratios in order to give students the best chance of success. If student success was truly the goal in Ontario, there would be additional resources to support the program. However, by presenting it as a reduction in teacher support it is clear that for Ontario, e-learning is only a mechanism to reduce the number of teachers.

Teachers Education workers

It it’s not just the teachers looking for an increase – educational works take to the picket lines.

The second major issue in negotiations is salary. The government’s talking points in this dispute revolve entirely around the strike being an issue of teacher compensation. Minister Lecce has stated repeatedly “We prioritize student investment over compensation.” The government has publicly offered the educators a salary increase of 1% per year for three years. The concern is that the inflation rate in Ontario is 2.3%. Therefore, a compensation increase of 1% is really a cut of 1.3% in purchasing power. The ask of the teachers matches most private sector companies. In the private sector, most offer their employees a minimum of a 2% increase every year as “Cost of Living” and performance dictates any increase beyond that. This is seen as necessary to retain talent, but the government is trying to restrain that expected increase for the teachers.

In November, the government also passed the “Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act” to mandate by law that teachers not be eligible for an increase greater than 1%. While not frequent in its talking points, the law is nevertheless used as part of the government’s case (though it is being challenged in court as unconstitutional). The hypocrisy though is that while the legislation would cap increases for teachers and nurses among others, there is a lengthy list of professions that are exempt including:

– OPP officers who won a 2.15% increase in an arbitrated settlement earlier this year
– Doctors, who won an arbitrated settlement to increase fees earlier this year
– Crown Attorneys, who are currently negotiating their next agreement
– Deputy Ministers, whose salary has increased by 14% across the past 4 years

A quick analysis of this list shows the government aggressively fighting wage increases for low earners, but allowing bigger increases for highly paid professions. Limiting compensation is an expected position for the government to take in a bargaining negotiation, but legislation to cap an increase below both inflation and other higher paid positions is not bargaining in good faith.

Teachers strike at Nelson

Teachers line the sidewalk outside Nelson high school.

The last of the primary demands from the government is the increase in secondary class sizes from a student:teacher ratio of 22:1 to a ratio of 25:1. This again, is a retreat from the government as the initial demanded ratio was 28:1. The government nonsensically states that this can be achieved with no teacher layoffs, though the layoffs in every board as a result of increasing to the 22.5:1 ratio in September 2019 shows this to be categorically untrue.

The additional frustrations of this government demand is the clear deception regarding no layoffs (simple math shows that 12% fewer teachers are needed at 25:1 rather than 22:1), but also that the government messaging continues to suggest they prioritize student resources over compensation. It begs the question, what resources are more important to students than their teachers? By essentially removing 1 out of 8 teaching positions, they are depriving students of the very resources they are trying to say they prioritize.

In short, it is clear that the government’s attempts to enforce mandatory e-learning are actually a cover to reduce the number of teaching positions. It is clear that the increase in class sizes will do nothing for student achievement, but will reduce the number of teaching positions. And, it is clear that the government intends to use whatever means necessary to reduce the compensation of whatever teachers remain after these cuts.

Teachers at Central with Horvath

Another photo op for the New Democratic leader. Andrea Horvath with teachers.

The government has an obvious hatred for teachers shown in the false and duplicitous nature of Minister Lecce’s public statements. The government is clearly forcing e-learning for the purpose of cutting teachers and classroom support. And the government mandated class size increases, while profitable, will degrade the quality of public education in Ontario. Is it for those reasons and others, that such an unprecedented number of parents, students, and community members have been joining teachers on the picket lines to help fight these cuts, and to fight for the education resources that Ontario’s students deserve.

Andrew Drummond HeadshotAndrew Drummond was the New Democrat candidate in the 2018 provincial election.  He placed second behind Jane McKenna who won the seat in a previous election. VOTES in the 2018 election were: 25,504 PC; 18,053 NDP; 15,515 Liberal; 2828 Green

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Mayor's tweet account runs amuck - is social media the best way for her to communicate effectively?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Staff

January 30th, 2020




The words were barely out of her mouth and then there they were – in the land of tweets.

These appeared in the Mayor’s tweet account during the Special City Council meeting that took place after her State of the City address earlier in the day.

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward had her Media and Digital Communications Specialist gathering what the Mayor had to say and sending them out to her twitter followers – the volume ranked right up there with the president of the United States – and look where THAT got THEM.
Here is a portion of the content.

Land Use cover• For clarity, any policies that reference growth in the MTSA’s should also include reference to the overall MTSA typology which differentiates the characteristics between downtown and the GO station MTSA’s

Direct the Executive Director of Community Planning, Regulation and Mobility to consider the following modification to the proposed Official Plan Amendment:

Approve the proposed Zoning Bylaw Amendment as amended attached in Appendix E (
) to supplementary staff memo dated Jan. 30, 2020 to community planning report PL-01-20; and

Approve the proposed Official Plan Amendment as amended attached in Appendix D (
) to supplementary staff memo dated Jan. 30, 2020 to community planning report PL-01-20; and

Mayor with Civic bling

As the Mayor speaks her words are captured and sent out as short tweet bursts of data.

Receive the Interim Control Bylaw Land Use Study report prepared by Dillon Consulting as amended and attached as Appendix B (
) to supplementary staff memo dated Jan. 30, 2020 to community planning department report PL-01-20; and

The motion on the floor for vote follows:
Deem that no further notice is required in respect of the proposed Zoning Bylaw Amendment in accordance with Sect. 34 (17) of the Planning Act concerning a change to a proposed bylaw made after the holding of the public meeting; and 1/8

“… This is merely another step we are taking in this process and we have a lot of miles still to go.” 5/5

“… We saw from the consultant’s report our downtown bus terminal doesn’t function as an MTSA like our Burlington GO station & it won’t, no matter how many transit upgrades occur. This is a transit-friendly council & we will continue improving transportation in our downtown. 4/5

“… That’s our next step, and the consultant’s report positions us with solid planning rationale for these conversations with the Region and Province… 3/5
“… These policies will help us better manage growth in the downtown. There is also an outstanding staff direction to review the appropriateness of the downtown’s Major Transit Station Area & Urban Growth Centre designations at the end of the ICBL/OP review studies…. 2/5

Mayor Meed Ward comments: “This is a really historic moment and I want to thank staff, Council, all members of our community and the consultant. This is a significant milestone for the City in getting a community vision for our downtown & controlling overdevelopment… 1/5

Here is a link to a copy of the ICBL Land Use Study done by Dillon Consulting and revised January 2020:

This is a classic example of what is wrong with the tweet world – no context,  just a collection of phrases thrown up into the air hoping they will land somewhere.

Responsible, public leadership meets with media regularly to answer not just questions but follow up questions and is available for clarification.  Burlington doesn’t have that level of municipal political leadership.

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 responds to chippy letter from MPP Jane McKenna - these two women don't seem to want to get along.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

January 28th, 2020



In the world of politics keeping clear communications paths is vital.

It means being nice nice to people you may not have a lot of time for.

A number of people have commented in the Gazette and asked: why doesn’t the city do whatever has to be done to move the boundaries of the Urban Growth Centre (UGC) which is a boundary the city must have – province says so. However, it appears where that boundary line is drawn is something the city can influence.

When the UGC was created Burlington either didn’t realize they could influence the boundaries or was satisfied with what the province handed down.

As you can see from the map below – that boundary covers all of lower Brant Street which many people don’t believe that’s where the city’s growth should take place.

Urban growth centre

The precincts that are shown are out of date.

The city council elected in 2018 took a much different view and made some tough decisions. They drafted and passed an Interim Control Bylaw which froze development within the UGB – which really upset the development community.

Council also decided to re-write parts of the adopted but not approved Official Plan. That process is close to complete.

Burlington MPP Jane McKenna has written the Mayor offering her services to help with anything the province needs to do. In her letter to the Mayor there were some less than parliamentary comments.  The two women have never really gotten along all that well.

Mayor Meed Ward responded to MPP McKenna in a letter dated January 13th.

It starts out politely enough.

Read on.

Dear MPP McKenna,

Thank you for your interest in the Official Plan Review matters detailed in my January 2020 newsletter. We’re honoured to count you among our readers and subscribers!

Meed Ward hands out frnt city hall

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward in front of city hall.

We’re gratified that you have found the information useful, as have so many of our residents, and that the newsletter has prompted further dialogue about issues in our city, which is one of its purposes.

Please allow me to take the opportunity afforded by your correspondence to summarize the journey we have been on, where we are at, and next steps in the process of reviewing our Official Plan and vision for downtown.

Our current Official Plan was created in 1997 and has been updated more than 100 times since. Our current plan has enabled the city to be recognized at the Best City in Canada, and the Best City to Raise A Family, as well as achieve – 12 years early – our city-wide population of 185,000 by 2031.

We are also well on our way to surpassing our population and growth densities for the downtown of 200 people or jobs by 2031.

Nevertheless, in 2016, the previous council chose to develop a new Official Plan rather than continue to update the existing one. That led to the 2018 Adopted Official Plan, which the current city council is in the process of revising to better respond to the community’s vision for our city, particularly downtown.

To support the review of both the current and the Adopted Official Plan, council initiated two studies in early 2019: the Scoped Re-examination of the Adopted Official Plan related to the downtown policies, and an Interim Control Bylaw to conduct a land use study to consider the role and function of the downtown bus terminal and the Burlington GO station on Fairview Street as major Transit Station Areas and as well to examine the planning structure, land mix and intensity for the lands identified in the study area.

That work kicked off last February, and the one-year Interim Control By-law expires March 5th of this year.

Given the MTSA and UGC currently exist in Regional and Provincial policy and did so at the time we began our review, our work to update our Official Plan was required to conform to the existing designations.

John Street bus terminal

The transit station on John Street, which was once up for demolition as a cost saving measure, is defined as a Major Transit Service Area.

Nevertheless, council and the community are keen to discuss the appropriateness of the designations. As a result, last year, council also directed staff to, at the conclusion of our studies, to review the designations for the MTSA and UGC downtown.

The ICBL land use study has just been completed, with the report released to council and the community in late December 2019. Discussion of this matter is happening at committee on January 14, 2020. The scoped re-examination of the Adopted Official Plan policies is expected to be completed and considered by council in April 2020. After completion of both studies, staff will report to council in May 2020 on any proposed changes to the Urban Growth Centre and Major Transit Station Area designations applicable to the Burlington’s downtown and the Burlington GO that could be recommended as a result of any proposed Official Plan and Zoning By-law amendments arising out of the studies.

Over the past year, the City has consulted with the Region on the status and process steps related to the ICBL land use study and the scoped re-examination of the Adopted Official Plan policies. The City will continue to work closely with the Region of Halton and the Province on any further changes that might be proposed regarding the Urban Growth Centre and Major Transit Station designations as the result of the report directed to be brought forward to Council following completion of the studies. It is expected that the process to seek any changes to provincial legislation will be complex. While a formal request to Province would ultimately be required, there would be several steps that would first need to be completed including reporting back to City and Regional Council for required approvals.

The sequencing of steps is to ensure that our discussion on all planning matters, including these designations, is grounded in good planning analysis, policy and principle. This will be particularly important should the City ultimately seek any amendments to the provincial Growth Plan.

No invite for the Burlington MPP - was this a mistake or is it petty politics.

Burlington MPP Jane McKenna was first elected to the provincial legislature in 2010 , lost the position to Eleanor McMahon in 2014 and regained the seat when she defeated McMahon in 2018.

We believe the analysis provided by both studies will be immensely helpful to the Province, Region and City of Burlington as we move into the next step of discussions together about the MTSA/UGC designations downtown.

We welcome and will need your involvement and assistance in this next step and appreciate the offer in your letter to work with myself, the city manager and council on these matters.

I look forward to the next step in this journey and am grateful for your continued assistance in these matters.

Signed The Mayor of Burlington.

When it comes to pecking orders – MPP’s trump Mayors. The city is required to work with the local MPP.  Meed Ward does not have the best of relationships with the current MPP nor did she have a particularly strong relationship with the former MPP, Eleanor McMahon.  Based on this observer’s experience the chemistry between the Mayor and the MPP’s just wasn’t there.

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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There are limits to what a Mayor is supposed to do internationally; three trips abroad is not what she was elected to do.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

January 23rd, 2020



How many times does the Mayor have to travel abroad to represent the city?

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward is the Mayor of a mid-sized city.

She is not yet the Premier of the province nor is she representing Burlington at a federal level.


Burlington Mayor Marianne Meed Ward with Richard Rohmer, Honorary Lieutenant General Richard Heath Rohmer OC CMM OOnt DFC CD QC), during the D-Day celebrations.

The trip to Normandy to celebrate the D-Day landings had merit.


Burlington’s Mayor leading a parade in Itabashi Japan.

The trip to Japan to celebrate the xx year relationship with the city of Itabashi was a little excessive; the trip to Apeldoorn in May is one of those “nice to have’s” the Mayor complained about when she was a citizen banging on the doors of the council chamber to be let in.

Being a Mayor with provincial pretensions calls for an ability to judge the difference between personal ambitions and the needs of the city you lead.

The plans for a side trip to France while she is in Holland can’t be justified no matter how hard you try.

Our Mayor is not listening to the genuine concerns of a lot of people.

She could be in the process of losing the connection she has to her base.

In October of 2018 Marianne Meed Ward was the best choice of what was available for the job of Mayor – her “tribe” expects her to grow into the job.

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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How many countries should Burlington twin with?

 SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

January 19th, 2020



Burlington has twinned itself with two cities: Itabashi in Japan and Appeldoorn in the Netherlands.

The relationship with each city is robust with delegations from Burlington going to Holland and Japan and delegations from those countries visiting Canada.

It is a satisfying relationship for everyone and the cost is minimal.

Storming the beach on D day

Canadian soldiers storming the beach of Normandy on D-Day

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward spent the 75th Anniversary of D-Day on Juno Beach in France. Prior to her leaving for the trip she learned about the very significant role Burlington plays in Courseulles-sur-Mer. The Juno Beach Centre was designed by an architect from Burlington and paid for with funds raised in Burlington.

The Mayor of  Courseulles-sur-Mer is reported to have asked Mayor Meed Ward if they could twin with Burlington. It sounded like a nice idea with much merit. Far too many Canadian men lost their lives storming the beaches of France on D-Day. It was the event that turned the tide of WWII. Twinning with Courseulles-sur-Mer  would be very fitting.

It raises the question, however, of just how many countries does Burlington want to twin with. There has to be a limit somewhere.

The Mundialization Committee is working through a number of ideas including the creation of a second category which would be a “friendship” relationship that would involve a lot less interaction and probably not include visits to France. (Link to that report below.)

The Mundialization Committee has not made any decisions; the Mayor is going to be in Holland for the 75th Anniversary of the end of the second world war and has plans to make a side trip to France to follow up on the idea.

I have a very serious concern over the creation of a “friendship” relationship with Courseulles-sur-Mer while we maintain a full blown boisterous relation with a city in Japan.

Canadians died on the beaches of France defending democracy.

Canadians died in the Pacific in a war we fought to bring an end to; a nation that attacked Pearl Harbour and wanted to conquer  America.

Perhaps the status of Itabashi could be downgraded to one of “friendship” and Courseulles-sur-Mer brought in as a twin.

It might be awkward from a diplomatic point of view but to put that small sea-side community whose beaches our men died on to defend democracy as a “friend” while Itabashi has a full blown twinning  relationship is just not right.

Juno Beach Centre

Juno Beach Centre at Courseulles-sur-Mer, a beach where many Canadian men died during the D-Day landings.

Canadian troops liberated Apeldoorn in World War Two; an event that is celebrated by both countries every November 11th.

Japan and Germany have come along way from being what they were in the 1940’s but we don’t celebrate the wars they started.

Related news story:

Council to decide how many locations around the world the city will twin with.

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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