An up close look at what took place at an LPAT meeting - scary.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

October 9th, 2019


The Gazette received the following from the city three days afrer the article appeared.

“I wanted to take the opportunity to provide a clarification to a recent article,

“The article includes a lengthy opinion in which the writer states that City staff had no responses or barely participated in the Local Planning Appeals Tribunal (LPAT) hearing for the proposed development on 92 Plains Road. However, neither the article itself or the opinion make clear that the hearing before the LPAT was a settlement hearing in which the City and the appellant were in agreement on the proposed development and the associated amendments to the City’s planning documents.

“In a settlement hearing, evidence must be provided to the Tribunal to support the settlement. This evidence typically is in the form of the expert opinion of a land use planner from one of the settling parties, as it was in this hearing. The other settling parties, such as the City in this case, do not call further duplicative evidence to support the settlement. It is in hearings where parties such as the City and a developer are not in agreement on the development proposal where the parties call their own witnesses to provide expert opinion, and cross examine opposing witnesses.

“It would be misleading to suggest that because the City did not have its planner provide an expert opinion that she did not act appropriately or that she did not represent the interest of Council’s decision to support the proposed settlement. Rather, the City’s legal counsel made submissions on the appropriateness of the settlement, including in the context of the in-force Official Plan. The LPAT hearing officer will consider the expert evidence provided, along with the submissions of the appellant, the City and the two participants to the hearing, and make a decision in the matter.

“The Notice of Settlement Hearing was also posted on our website, so residents could be aware of the hearing.”

If you have heard of LPAT; know what the acronym stands for – read on.

If you don’t – quit now.

LPAT is Local Planning Appeals Tribunal.

It is the level the developers and city can turn to when there is a difference over a development proposal.

Few of the people who follow this stuff have much that is positive to say about the tribunal.

A handful of people chose to sit in on an LPAT hearing at city hall recently.

Tom Muir, one of the types that keeps up to date on this stuff attended – here is what he had to say on what he saw and heard,

I want to provide you with a short briefing on my experience. I have provided you with extended notes and comments on this appeal evidence so I will stick to key points and, as it turned out, a long one page of 13 points.

1. The Lawyer representing the City, David Klacko, and the City Planner, Melissa Morgan, indicated to the LPAT Chair that they would not be presenting any testimony or evidence. Over all, from my perspective over the entire Hearing they might as well have not been there.

Plains Road 92

Architectural rendering

2. The Applicant lawyer and Planner disturbed me when they went straight to the adopted Official Plan as the first argument in the Policy Frame supporting the proposal (Item 12 of 112 in the Evidence Outline).

I was further disturbed when the City Lawyer and Planner said nothing at this time about this and as supposed professionals with obligations of disclosure, did not indicate that this adopted OP was not in the City Policy Frame for policy and thinking in this application.

It was only at the very end of the Hearing after all the testimony was done, did the City lawyer say about 20 words to indicate that the adopted OP was not in the City policy frame here, but that the proposal conformed with the in force OP.

3. This indicates that the City agreement with the proposed settlement included agreement that the adopted but not legal OP was on the Table and they agreed to let the applicant Planner use it right from the start – they had the evidence from the applicant lawyer and they had to have agreed to it in order to say they had a settlement. The applicant Planner used an anonymous authority to say that someone at City told him this was the City directions anyways so he used it.

4. This applicant Planner stated that the amendments requested conform with the general policy directions of the new draft Burlington Official Plan (EO 107). He also stated that this adopted OP conforms to the Halton Region Official Plan when this is patently false as the Region did not approve it on the grounds of non-conformity. The applicant lawyer tried to argue that the adopted OP is legal and can be used.

5. Overall, in this Planner testimony, there was a great deal of emphasis on the adopted OP in support of the application and settlement. In this testimony, given under oath, there was a total disregard and no mention for the “shall” or mandatory OP and Zoning policies specific to this site. City staff made no comments. There was no explanation or planning rationale provided for disregarding the “shall” provisions. City staff said nothing.

6. I was given 20 minutes to testify under oath and I raised a large number of issues from this previous testimony and from my own evidence. I will provide only a few of the key issues here. The City Lawyer did not cross examine my testimony.

6. There was applicant Planner disregard to compatibility policies with only 1 criteria mentioned (upper floor setbacks) out of the City policy number of 13. City staff said nothing.

7. Nothing was said or evidence provided about the City policies on intensification adjacent to existing low density neighborhoods. City staff said nothing.

8. There was no evidence or testimony about the City Policies around Urban Design and City Guidelines for Mixed Use and Residential Mid-Rise Buildings. City staff said nothing.

9. These policies are indicated by the City as policies subject to “shall” be done for all proposals. Nothing was said or done by either Party on these.

92 architect plan.

Site rendering.

10 The applicant Planner misleadingly wrote in EO item 10 (Subject; Surrounding Land Uses), and further stated under oath, that a “property at 105 Plains Rd received approval in 2013 for demolition (done) in order to construct a mixed use building, however, building permits for the mixed use building have not yet been issued. In addition, in oral, he stated that an 11 storey building was planned. This was not only misleading and untrue, but there is no such application in the City files.These statements were presented as I noted, as a surrounding land use and were taken by the Chair as a factual support for the 92 Plains proposal.
City staff said nothing to factually clarify the truth of the matter. I wrote the Planner yesterday asking for this information, which she should have, but I have not heard anything back.

11. The applicant Planner repeatedly (10 times; EO 11, 39, 54, 56, 62, 67, 72, 83, 99, 111i) and incorrectly stated, that the proposal at 92 Plains Rd was within 500 meters of the Go Train station, which is a MTSA, and therefore the site is in the Mobility Hub area having a 150 unit/ha target. He used this to repeatedly argue support for the proposal and this is misinformation used in a misleading way repeatedly.

This estimate of distance is important because of the MTSA target boundary, so I had two different distance estimates to dispute this in testimony. The first is an estimate from Google of 600 meters straight line, and a second is by car from parallel to the Go station building estimated straight down Waterdown Road to Plains RD corner light, which is about 650 meters. Note that these are straight line distances and nothing moves to the GO in a straight line from the site on 92 Plains Rd.

City staff said nothing to clarify.

12. In EO 86 the Planner rewrites the statement of the in force OP so as to remove the second of the “shall” policies wording and change it to “is intended to” with respect to maintaining the residential appearance and character of the property.
This is a frank and deliberate lie to falsify the policy statement wording. City staff said nothing.
In my view, this blows up the Planners credibility and trust. I would also cite my point 10 above.

13. In the written and spoken under oath testimony the applicant Planner committed a significant number of omissions of relevant evidence, states partial evidence resulting in misinformation, untruths such as above, fallacies such as non sequitors, false dilemmas, begging the question or circular arguments that have the conclusion wanted based in the premises, and others beyond this space.

Muir making a point

Tom Muir making a point at a community meeting.

I have written more here than I expected and there are many more points I could cover. I will also say that the City staff, and the applicant Planner, having professional and disclosure duties associated with the law and planning professions and oaths of office, could have helped me and the Hearing and Chair, with getting to the truth and the facts, but they chose to remain silent and not assist in this.

What was clearly wanted, and certainly delivered, was a set of OP and Zoning amendments that is custom made to fit the settlement proposal. What the real plan or truth is has nothing to do with it.

In conclusion, I will say again that this settlement will have implications and consequences as a precedent setting model for what is to be willingly enabled, permitted and allowed in Burlington. It will be carried into whatever size you want to think of everywhere.

This is where your new Plan is going. “Ye who enters here, abandon all hope.”

Tom Muir is an Aldershot resident who knows more about Development Charges and far more than anyone should know about development in the western end of the city.

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They've done it again - failed to communicate and left the public wondering what had happened.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

October 9th, 2019



Figure this one out.

There is a development proposed for some of the property on the land between Lakeshore Road and Old Lakeshore Road – referred to as the “football”

CORE rendering

The first of two 24+ storey structures planned for the “football”.

The development is controversial.

The city sent out a notice with the following note:

updated supporting documents
Application received – September 13, 2019

Then there is a list of the supporting documents.

Core site

The property to the right of the CORE development (outlined in blue) also has a 24+ development proposal,

• Arborist Report
• Architectural Plans
• Construction Management Plan
• Construction Management Plan 2
• Construction Management Plan 3
• Environmental Site Screening Checklist
• Functional Servicing and Stormwater Management Report
• Geotechnical Investigation
• Grading and Site Servicing
• Heritage Impact Statement
• Landscape Concept Plan
• Noise Impact Study
• Pedestrian Wind Study
• Phase I ESA
• Phase II ESA
• Planning Justification Report
• Reliance Letter
• Remediation Plan
• 7th Floor Amenity Plan
• Shoring and Excavation Plan
• Site Plan
• Sun Shadow Analysis
• Survey
• Transportation Impact Study
• Urban Design Brief
• Waste Management Plan

No mention of which document was updated or what part of the document was revised.

The Planner on the file, Melisa Morgan, will know what and where the updates are – could she not have shared this information?

This sort of thing happens again and again – and is accompanied by that bit of tripe that talks about an engaged city.

Related news stories:

CORE public presentation

Old Lakeshore Burlington Inc.  development.

There are other options.

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 Debate: Was this Dragon’s Den or the Cooking Show?

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

October 8th, 2019



Trudeau scheer

Just Trudeau and Andrew Scheer – they hammered away at each other. Neither managed to land a really hard punch.

There were fleeting discussions around some issues, but all anyone will remember is the storm of insults hurled by adults acting like children.

And it all started with Andrew Scheer using his opening speech to level insults, and stunning hyperbole, at the prime minister.

“He puts on a middle-class mask and then raises taxes on middle-class Canadians. Mr. Trudeau you are a phony and you are a fraud and you do not deserve to govern this country….”

The concept of a single national leaders forum to discuss policy in both official languages is a worthy goal. But the proof is in the execution and there was so much wrong with this so-called debate. There was way too much on the program plate to being with. And when one tries to do everything one seldom does anything well.

May Trudeau

Elizabeth May, Green Party leader held her own – was it enough to advance their number of members in the House.

For another thing there is no such thing as an ordinary undecided Canadian voter. And I’m getting really tired of seeing some random uninformed person pretending to represent me and asking a poorly constructed question to the leaders. That time would have been better utilized in the debate proper by the party leaders to actually explain their policies.

Then there were too many people involved for an effective debate. And while everyone wanted to be there, not everyone benefitted from that experience. Maxime Bernier, for example, might have stood a better chance of winning, at least his own seat, had he just stayed home. And what is a separatist party doing in a debate about national issues?

While the Greens, NDP, Bloc and the People’s Party all serve a useful function in our political system by bringing ideas to the table, there is no hope any of them will be forming government.

Max Jagmeet BLOC

Maxine Bernier on the left Yves-François Blanchet of the BLOC, center and Jagmeet Singh – they won’t form a government but they could determine who does govern.

And how is it fair that a party without official party status, and currently holding only a couple seats, like the Greens, Peoples or BLOC, get equal debate time with the Liberals or CPC which hold the vast majority of seats and popular support? Shouldn’t they have just mailed in their questions instead?

But it was the negativity which almost sent me off to bed for an early night. Real debates are supposed to be beyond insults and slander. And Scheer wasn’t the only one trying to brand his main opponent, though he was the worst. That is after all, the sum total of how the Conservatives are running their campaign this year. Almost half of everything (47%) coming out of mouths of the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) is negative and personal, and all of it aimed at Mr. Trudeau. And, despite Mr. Singh claiming the high moral ground, the NDP is almost as bad.

Oh sure, negative campaigns work. At least they did in the USA for Donald Trump, who falsely accused his opponent of being crooked, accompanied by a charming chant of ‘lock her up’. It was a lie but if you repeat a lie often enough people start to believe it. And though Trump lives in a glass house, none of the stones have ever bounced back to hit him – at least not yet.

And so it is with Mr. Scheer. He lied on his resume about being an insurance broker. He tried to hide his dual nationality. Doesn’t he break US law every time he crosses the border without his US passport? And he lies every time he talks about the federal carbon tax.


Andrew Scheer – he was better in the English language debate – French is not a language he is comfortable with.

Scheer has never taken responsibility for his actions. Unlike Trudeau who recognizes his mistakes, Scheer never apologized for misleading people with his fake resume, not his previous stand on LGBT rights, nor holding back on his citizenship. And how ironic to label Trudeau with ‘not as advertised’ and ‘can’t be trusted’.

There are serious policy differences between the two leading political entities in this country. Let’s have a serious debate about the future of fossil fuels and whether we need more pipelines and petroleum resource development.

Let’s discuss the merits of doing more of what we have always done or taking more drastic climate action. Let us address the still growing wealth and income gaps in this country. Let us resolve the importance of balancing the budget versus borrowing for investment in our human and physical capital, and growing the economy.

Maxime Bernier has invited Canadians to have an adult discussion on immigration and our refugee policy. Elizabeth May has demanded that we ban the internal combustion engine by 2030. Jagmeet Singh would like Canada to reopen the constitution and find a new accommodation for Quebec.

Mr. Scheer has promised to bring back a partisan Senate and Mr. Singh’s party has long called for its abolition.

What about defence policy and Canada’s contribution as it applies to NATO spending targets? There is discussion of a wealth tax and of raising the capital gains tax to 100%. What about China?

This week’s debate may have been good entertainment, though for me it was depressing. Government should be about policy and not just theatre. It is unclear if any one of the six party leaders ‘won’ in the so-called debate, but we all lost an opportunity to be better informed on the issues before us and what these characters would really do if we elect them PM.

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:

Five key moments

Two two mainline parties.

Where do they stand on taxes


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Staff reports missing from the Monday Committee of the Whole Agenda - no one seems to know why.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

October 7th, 2019



The Marsdens (Dave and Anne) were never in the business of making life easy for their elected officials.

It has cost them dearly. They have been treated with contempt, not permitted to talk to city staff and then barred from city hall as well as barred from Regional Council.

They are prickly.


Anne and David Marsden – delegating at city council.

They are now permitted to delegate at city hall; they appeared during the Provincial Review earlier this year at the Region.

This morning they were at the podium in Council Chambers pointing out an embarrassing situation.

The Agenda for the meeting this week had several problematic entries.

Several of the important items did not have a report attached which meant that anyone who wanted to know what the Agenda item was about was basically out of luck. All they had was a headline.

The Marsdens don’t take to that kind of behaviour and they stood at the podium and asked, first; why there were no reports attached to the Agenda item, and because one was of particular interest to them they wanted any discussion to be deferred to the November round of Standing Committee.

At one point it got rather testy when Ms Marsden made a statement that the chair wanted her to strike from the comments she had made.

That didn’t go down all that well with the Marsdens.

The issues for the Marsdens was that in order to delegate on a matter you had to register with the Clerk’s Office not later than the Friday before the scheduled meeting.

The following agenda items had no report attached to them.

Infrastructure Funding CM 22-18

Note: This item will be distributed under separate cover.

City Wide Private Tree bylaw Implementation RPF 15-19

Note: This item will be distributed under separate cover.

2020 Calendar of meetings for Council and Standing Committees. CL 16-19

Note: This item will be distributed under separate cover.

The private tree bylaw issue was extremely divisive; there were a lot of harsh words said at several of the meetings.  How city hall thought they could actually get away with something like this is astounding.

Not sure which is worse – that it was deliberate or a stupid administrative error.

Without knowing much about the report that was going to be debated – the Marsdens didn’t feel they could delegate. They did manage to scoot down to city hall late on the Friday and get a copy of the report – which when they saw the details they were very certain that they would be delegating.

How do things like this happen? Who lets an Agenda like this get sent out? The city Clerk is responsible for the Agenda – but the city manager signs off on everything.


Is there something about his building that prevents the left hands of those who work there from knowing what the right hand is doing?

There wasn’t much in the way of an explanation – other than a media release sent out by the city later in the day saying they were “Making it easier for residents to find information about development applications, construction and road restrictions.”

On a separate matter Heather MacDonald, Executive Director of Community Planning, Regulation and Mobility said: “We understand that at any given time, there can be a lot of activity happening in the city and it’s not always easy to know where to go to learn more information.”

Something isn’t right here.

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The Provincial Review report is believed to be in the Minister's hands - when will the public get to read it? Ever?

opinionred 100x100Blair Smith and Lynn Crosby

October 7th, 2019


“If you judge from appearances here,’ replied Madame de Chartres, ‘you will be often mistaken; what appears is seldom the truth.”
Madame de La Fayette, The Princesse de Clèves

Or to paraphrase in modern idiom, “what you see may not be what you get.” Appearances are deceptive, particularly when there is an intent to mask what is planned.

For months now WeLoveBurlington has been warning the citizens of Burlington and Halton of the potential dangers of regional government amalgamation. We have talked about the possible MegaCity of Halton, the flawed process of the regional government review, the history of the reviewers, the comforting ‘party line’ assurances of our elected representatives and the broken consultation record of our current provincial government.

We love logoWe have attempted to be fair, accurate and non-partisan. We have posted links to numerous articles, several by noted conservative analysts, that all have a common message – municipal amalgamation is seldom successful. Most frequently, it results in higher taxes, greater municipal debt, reduced services, increased cost of government and loss of local voice.

One of our Burlington MPPs has claimed categorically that there will be no amalgamation of any of the municipalities in Halton; another Oakville MPP has cited MegaCity warnings as “false and misleading”. So, where does the truth fall? Let’s examine one possibility – that external appearances may remain much the same but the truth will be a dramatically restructured region under the covers.

Once “the report” is made public in late Fall/early Winter – and we see no reason why it shouldn’t be – what might it contain? Here is one of many possible scenarios. Perhaps the review will leave the existing Halton Council structures much the same – both in name and in number. Burlington, Oakville, Milton and Halton Hills will remain with their existing contingent of councilors and mayors. They will continue to hold meetings, set budgets (within certain parameters) and develop plans responding to constituent needs and operational priorities.


Is this a case of – what you see is what you get – or are appearances really deceiving?

In other words, the local identity will still be the local identity – at least in appearance. But will the program, policy and operational frameworks be the same? Suppose that instead of ‘amalgamation’ we have ‘consolidation’ using a model that is quite common and in extensive use within the provincial government; that of the “cluster” or centre-satellite.

Within this scenario policy, program development and administrative control are exercised at the “centre”; local service operations by the ‘municipality’. So, it is likely that all remaining emergency services (health, fire and police in total) will be consolidated at the regional level. So too will transit have a regional scope rather than local presence with much tighter integration with integrated ticketing (Presto farecard) and centralized scheduling/operations. Purchasing would be done regionally, using developed vendors-of-record or accessing provincial agreements and local fleet management would be a thing of the past.

Could there be economies of scale and efficiencies realized? Possibly, if done well but the increase in the regional bureaucracy will be extensive and the local municipalities will likely maintain much the same staffing. There will also be local Information technology, legal, finance, human resource and Clerk functions but they will report to senior portfolio executives on the Regional level and it will be the latter, sitting as an Executive Committee, who will set policy frameworks, strategic directions and operational program components. In fairness, there could still be benefits achieved that might mitigate the remove of local service provision to a more distant governance structure.

However, it becomes increasingly more problematic as more and more functions, thus power and control, are vested in the regional centre with probable loss of sensitivity to local service issues and environment.

The death knell of local voice, local expression and local direction would be the regional consolidation of municipal land planning, development and management functions. This is the prize that, arguably, is the animus behind the whole review exercise; the jewel teasingly revealed by tentative provincial forays into the protected green-belt and then openly burnished by Bill 108.

WeLoveBurlington has, from the onset, stressed the interconnection between the regional governance review, Bill 108 and the proposed restructuring of land development mediation/arbitration functions – from OMB to LPAT to RPAT?? Indeed, for at least eight years, Burlington has been caught in the vise-grip of provincial intensification targets, bureaucratic indifference, private sector self-interest and an arrogant, entitled Council. Much of the damage has unfortunately been done and is beyond recall but the people’s voice – clearly heard last October 22nd – needs to resonate again and loudly.

Is this outcome conjecture? Yes, but it’s also a reasoned and very possible direction. It would leave only the shell of local authority to mask a consolidated, centralized and distanced governance at the region, a MegaCity in everything but name. Whether ultimately fantasy or foresight, WeLoveBurlington will provide an unbiased and balanced assessment of the change. Even if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, we’ll still let citizens know if they’ve actually been given a turkey.

Question for Burlington Federal Candidates
We have submitted the following question to the candidates representing Burlington in the upcoming federal election. We will post any replies that we receive.

Recognizing that municipalities are the creatures of the provincial government and almost totally under provincial control, what could you do, as Burlington’s federal government representative, to ensure that the City retains a strong identity with a resonant local voice?

Fenn and Seiling

Michael Fenn and Robert Seiling did the Provincial Review; Fenn was once the city manager of Burlington.

Regional Review Report Received by Minister

The CBC reported last week that the regional review report has been in Minister Steve Clark’s hands since September 20.

The article states: “Clark said he would take his time with the report before he presents the findings to his cabinet colleagues as “confidential advice” and before deciding whether to make the details public.

Related news stories.

Provincial Review: The issue

What the Lovelies had to say.

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Rivers on the Premier Débat en Français


Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

October 3rd, 2019



The Bloc leader, Yves-François Blanchet, was in good form, making his points as the leader of the resurgent Quebec federal, but separatist, party. It has to be an appealing option for Quebecers – a political party dedicated solely to protecting their interests in Parliament. And their end goal is ‘Quebexit’ (Quebec exit). After all, as Mr. Scheer pointed out, thanks to Mr. Harper Quebec already can claim ‘nation’ status.

All fr lang candidates Oct 2

Five candidates took part in a French language debate:  Yves-François Blanchet, for the BLOC Quebec, Andrew Sheer for the Conservatives, journalist Pierre Bruneau, Justin Trudeau for the Liberals and Jagmeet Singh for the New Democrats.

Justin Trudeau was reserved, calm and collected even when when he was bombarded by personal attacks and cut off in mid-sentence by both Singh and Scheer. He chose to patiently bide his time even if it did reduce his speaking time. And he chose to ignore cheap shots by Sheer over costumes, his passion for canoeing or about about having two planes, which he also used during the 2015 election. Indeed, unlike Scheer, he did buy emission credits for his travel.


Jagmeet Singh with some of his supporters.

Jagmeet Singh spoke well, at least until he started into his well-worn rant about the rich and poor. In the process he took personal shots at Trudeau, calling him rich. In fact Justin inherited a little over a million dollars when his father died – about the value of a nice bungalow in Toronto. And it’s not as if Singh, a lawyer, was ever poor. His father, a successful psychiatrist, put him through a private American high school which charges US $31,260 annual tuition. He is known to wear tailor-made expensive suits, owns a couple of Rolex watches and chooses to ride a high end bicycle.


Andrew Scheer, leader of the Conservative Party.

Almost every time Trudeau was given the podium, Andrew Scheer would butt in to interrupt him in broken French. And it was painful watching Scheer stumble with a language he never will be able to speak fluently. While Scheer’s French comprehension seemed pretty good, his ability to express himself was abysmal. For someone who grew up in mostly bilingual Ottawa, attended French immersion classes, and would have had free language training as an MP, that is inexcusable.

Scheer has been a federal MP for 15 years, since 2004, and House speaker from 2011 till 2015. Watching him stumble on the podium was embarrassing for everyone. Finally Mr. Blanchet helped him out by translating his so-called win-win strategy as just an ‘oil pipeline’. And even Singh got frustrated as Scheer fumbled trying to translate the Anglicism win-win into French.

But language aside it was what he was saying that differentiated him from the other candidates/party leaders. When Trudeau asked him directly, he refused to endorse a woman’s right to choose. Though the next day he said he is pro-life, what ever that means. We are all pro-life, but he is anti-choice.

His climate change dream plan amounts to a bunch of hypothetical schemes and a recycled home energy retro-fit program. And his plan to cancel the carbon tax seemed so out of context, especially given his refusal to acknowledge the carbon tax-rebate. Scheer re-iterated the false-hood that a carbon tax doesn’t work.

But where he really ran into trouble was his big win-win job creation project – an oil pipeline across Quebec. That is never going to fly in today’s Quebec. They understand that the gasoline car is on the way out, to be replaced by the EV In fact, if Scheer had checked he would have found out that Quebecers buy more EV’s per capita than folks anywhere else in the country.


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau seeking a second term of office.

Inevitably Trudeau was also challenged for his government’s apparent hypocrisy in purchasing the TMX pipeline and his plans to more than double capacity. Perhaps explaining that he was using federal money to protect Alberta’s oil industry would have been unwise, given where he was speaking? Instead he defended the purchase on the basis that profits from the pipeline will be dedicated to fund national renewable energy projects.

TVA, the French language network hosting the debate, has broad coverage through out Quebec, particularly in the area outside of Montreal. This is territory traditionally friendly to the Conservatives. So it was important for the Tories to hang onto their ridings here. But this was also an opportunity for the Bloc, NDP and Liberals to try to take some of these ridings away.

And the truth is that Mr.Scheer had a really bad night. It was the toxic combination of what he said as well as how he said it. Scheer’s main platform is about a national energy corridor which includes an oil pipeline. There is no social acceptability for that kind of initiative in this province. Quebecers care deeply about climate change and the environment so the last thing they want is another oil pipeline.

Bloc leader

Yves-François Blanchet, leader of the BLOC. was clearly the winner

There is another French language debate, so one shouldn’t count Mr. Scheer out of the race just yet. Berlitz can work miracles they say. But, language aside, he has his work cut out on policy development if he wants to inch his way into the hearts of Quebecers.

Blanchet was clearly a winner and Trudeau held his own. Singh performed well, but it remains to be seen whether Quebecers will opt for retaining the remaining NDP seats in the face of a mostly like-minded Bloc that is committed solely to their provincial interests. And for a land which recently enacted a law outlawing public servants wearing religious symbols, Mr. Singh has a huge uphill climb to convince them that he should be the top public servant of the country.

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

Sheer Face to Face 

BC Carbon Tax –       Liberal Planes –      Singh and Wealth –     Scheer Anti-Choice

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ECoB brings the federal election candidates to your living room.

federal election 2019By Staff

October 2, 2019



ECoB – the grass roots organization that gave Burlington the best look at the candidates in the municipal election has come up with an interesting approach to giving the public a look at what the federal election candidates have to say.

ECOB logoECoB, formed in 2017 , are the Engaged Citizens of Burlington. They have a small group in every ward in the city with a membership of 600 people. Anyone can become a member.

Producing videos like this takes hundreds of volunteer hours and needs money too. If you like what ECoB is doing, please consider donating to ECoB and becoming a paid member (it’s just $10 a year).

The organization is doing two minute videos of the candidates, well at least those that accept the offer to take part.

So far there has been one video each from the New Democrats, the Liberals and the Greens.

The idea was to produce short videos on the one subject. The same question is put to every candidate. The location is always the same at the Burlington Baptist Church on New Street.

Jennifer Olchowy, a member of the ECoB executive reads a prepared introduction about the candidate, introduces the candidate who then speaks for one minute.

The best way to appreciate and understand what ECoB is doing is to watch the videos.

The Gazette will be publishing everything produce and will archive the material as well.

October 1st

Liberal candidate Karina Gould

Green Candidate Gareth Williams

New Democrat Lenaee Dupuis

The Conservative candidate declined to take part.

ECoB did not hear from the Peoples Party of Canada candidate.


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What if the voters return a Tory Minority government

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

October 1st, 2019



The latest polls are telling us that unless things change we are heading for a minority situation after the polls close election day, with neither major party winning the magic number of 170 seats.

And that will almost certainly leave either the Liberals or the Conservatives looking for support among the smaller parties.

Mace leaves the House

The Sergeant at Arms carries the Mace out of the House of Commons signifying that it is no longer in session.

The options include a formalized coalition as the Liberals, NDP and Bloc had proposed back in December 2008. At that time the opposition parties were upset that the governing minority Tories didn’t have a fiscal plan to protect Canadians from the evolving global recession. Facing an imminent non-confidence motion Harper convinced the governor general to prorogue Parliament.

Once Parliament resumed he over-compensated for his near blunder by running up the largest deficit in the nation’s history, much of it wasted on frill spending for the G7 meeting in Toronto. With that, the coalition dissolved and Harper dutifully paid closer attention to opposition demands, at least until he won a majority in 2011.

The legal community was divided about the legitimacy of shutting down parliament in the face of a non-confidence vote just to avoid Harper’s almost certain defeat. British PM Boris Johnson recently tried to use the same tactic to shut down the British Parliament. In this case though, the British Supreme Court unanimously overturned his prorogation, citing that it was an affront to democracy.

After an election the party with the most seats can claim the right to form government, even without a formal coalition. Lester Pearson is seen by many as one of our best PMs though he never had the luxury of a majority of seats, nor a formal arrangement with any of the opposition. Notably he delivered universal health care and the Canadian flag. His approach was to find common ground on matters of policy in order to avoid losing the confidence of the house.

Pierre Trudeau and Stephen Harper for the most part followed that leadership model. Joe Clark, on the other hand, was inflexible and uncompromising, which accounted for his relatively short time in office. He was defeated on a budget in the House, and ultimately by the Canadian voters at the ensuing election.

Sheer loves oil and gas

Pipelines are dear to his heart.

Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives are currently leading in some polls, so the question is what happens if they get the most seats but not enough for a majority. Some of Scheer’s main policies involve building a trans-national oil pipeline, scrapping the current environmental assessment process, cancelling the carbon tax and rolling back other climate action initiatives.

Only his former colleague and opponent for the Conservative leadership, Maxime Bernier, and his ultra-right People’s Party would be on-side with those kinds of reactionary policies. Bernier is, after all, one of the last great climate deniers. And he has positioned himself so far to the right that the only seat his party may be able to win is in western Canada, the home to so many other real dinosaurs. That is unless Rob Ford’s widow surprises us all in Etobicoke. And we should have learned never to underestimate the Ford nation.

Scheer pointing at self

The country doesn’t know this man all hat well. This election campaign is making him much more visible to people of every political persuasion.

Scheer’s recently unveiled environment plan, which he labels as the best climate action plan, has been estimated to actually increase rather than reduce emissions by 2030, Canada’s target year under the Paris climate agreement. While there is independent analysis which shows the Liberal plan is likely to miss the 2030 target, it will at least reduce emissions.

Mr. Scheer’s claim made in the same breath that he attacks Mr. Trudeau, for likely missing the target, is more than duplicitous – a case of ‘talking rather than walking’, and following the lead of Tory provincial governments in Alberta and Ontario. Mr. Ford, for example, is increasing speed limits on its multi-lane highways which will lead to increased fuel use and auto emissions of at least 10%.

Bloc Q logo

The Bloc is still a strong political force in Quebec.

There is no social acceptability for an oil pipeline in Quebec, so Mr.Scheer won’t find any support among the separatist Bloc Quebecois, the provincial-only federal political party which is rising in the polls again in Quebec. Bloc policies for the most part are similar to those of the NDP, without a lot of the separatist rhetoric.

But even on separatism, it is no secret that Quebecers switched their votes en mass from the Bloc to the NDP once Jack Layton defied the Supreme Court and promised Quebecers, were he the prime minster, they could separate on a vote of 51%. And Jagmeet Singh has learned well from the master, stirring the pot with fresh foolish promises for a new federal deal and a more independent Quebec.

Singh - blue turban

Jagmeet Singh doesn’t have a lot of room for any political maneuvering.

Singh, in the short time he has been leader of the NDP, has proven every bit as opportunistic as Layton was. He is talking out of both sides of his mouth on TMX and the B.C. LNG project, approved and subsidized by both the feds and the province. Still, both he and Green Party leader Elizabeth May would have a membership revolt were they to support Scheer’s plans.


Green Party leader Elizabeth could end of holding the balance of power.

And without that support Scheer would have to go it alone, hoping the Liberals would support him on some issues. But Scheer has been particularly nasty when it comes to Mr. Trudeau, even in the pre-campaign period, so if there is some support it won’t be out of love. Scheer would need to try a little tenderness when it comes to his main opponent.

TMX pipeline

If you live in Alberta – this pipeline is the path to prosperity.

One Alberta news media is pleading for a majority government by either main party, amid the fear that the TMX pipeline may be cancelled as a ransom demand by third parties in a minority government. The parties on the right can count on about a third of the all the votes, another third will likely go to the Liberals and the remainder will be held by the smaller left leaning parties.

The stronger the support for the third parties, the greater the chance that Mr. Scheer will able to slip up the middle and win a majority government, much as Ontario premier Doug Ford did last year. But the reality is that unless Andrew Scheer breaks through the 170 seat barrier he might as well trash most of his party’s platform. He will not be able to implement it in whole, nor even most of its components. Trying to do that would doom him to the fate suffered by Joe Clark – a short lived term in office followed by another election.

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:

Election Tipping Points – Political Coalition –

Maxime Bernier

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Can the development proposals planned for the 'football' be stopped?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

September 30th, 2019



In from the east

The view of the as yet unnamed tower as you drive into Burlington from the east.

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward left the meeting before it ended. A presentation was being made by Old Lakeshore Burlington Inc. who were explaining what their development proposal idea was for the property at the east end of where Old Lakeshore Road and Lakeshore Road was going to look like; she had heard all she needed.

A part of the city that she used as the rallying cry for her election to city council in 2010 was about to be turned into something similar to what Toronto did to the land south of the Gardner Expressway and Lake Ontario. It was not what she had in mind for her city.

SOW images for fottball

This was the limit Marianne Meed Ward was calling for in the 2010 election.

The provincial government approach to development changed when Doug Ford came into office, the massive change in what LPAT (Local Planning Authority Tribunal) was going to do for the municipal sector wasn’t helping.

Was there a way out of or around what was heading our way?

There might be.

At this risk of using a phrase that didn’t actually resonate in Burlington – it is time to be bold. Let’s try – “Daring to be a Daniel” instead.

There is in the municipal world a number of tools that can be put to very good use – but it does require some creativity.

Russian nesting dolls

A doll within a doll – a planning tool within a planning tool.

I spoke to a number of people about what the city is up against and got some solid feedback. One resident, long in the tooth and the holder of much wisdom and experience in matters related to planning, suggested the approach the city could take is a little like those Russian nesting dolls.

All these planning and land management tools can be made to fit into each.  It takes very tight strategic thinking and you’re going to need a lot of that high priced legal talent to make it all happen – but they experts we spoke to told us it could perhaps be done.

Is it worth the risk to take a shot at it?

Site overview - aerial

The developer sees the 26 storey tower as the eastern gateway to the city – it’s impressive. Is it the best thing for the city?

There is currently an Interim Control Bylaw in place for the Urban Growth Centre. It has about eight months left in the first year it is going to be in place. The city could extend that bylaw for a second year.

The Chief Planner Heather MacDonald has a team of consultants working with her on what the city might do in terms of the kinds of development that will be permissible.

What is permitted

The A and B properties are in what is called the “football”

The “football” is within that Urban Growth boundary – so nothing is going very far until that interim bylaw is lifted.

What I learned in my talks with a number of people is this:

The review of the adopted – but not yet passed by city council Official Plan, could designate certain lands as having a special interest for the city in terms of the long range development.

They could put what is known as an H designation – a HOLD on what gets done with a piece of property.

With that hold in place the city has time to re-think where it wants to go.

Burlington has had relatively large community protest groups in the past. The Save our Waterfront group had more than 1000 members - did it achieve anything other than getting its founder elected to city hall? Here one of the masters of public involvement, former Toronto Mayor David Crombie talks with current SOW presisdent.

Former Toronto Mayor David Crombie talking to Mike xxx, who at the time was President of the Save our Waterfront group that had 1000 members,

With that time available Burlington can then form a group that studies the potential for the “football”; former Mayor David Crombie suggested to the Waterfront Advisory Committee that was in place at the time that they do just that. He added that putting a couple of “oddballs” on such a committee is always a good idea.

I learned that there is also a Community Improvement section in the Municipal Act – it is sometimes referred to as a Community Development Plan.

That part of the Act could be used to put together a plan that had wide wide stakeholder involvement.  These plans, I was told, give a municipality a tremendous amount of power and scope – they are in effect putting the needs and interests of the citizens first.

Right now the Planning department is dealing with a development application, which they have to accept and issue a report on.  They don’t have anything to compare it to – something that might be better for the city.

If the buy in from the public was high enough the city could move to expropriate all the land within the “football” and float a bond to pay for it.

If the Mayor wanted to get really creative she could look for a way to create a bond that the average citizen could units of.

Meed ward looking askance

Does the Mayor think there is a way out of what the developers have told us they want to do with the football? Will the Mayor manage to toss it back to them and expropriate the land.

Meed Ward is staring at a couple of developments that will put 26 storey condominiums on land she believes should not be any higher than 12 storeys.

LPAT will not let that happen – the developers know they will win at that level.

There just might be a way to do something truly stunning for the city.


All of this was close to given away to the owners of properties that abutted the waterfront.

That terrible loss the city suffered when lake front land between Market and St. Paul was sold for a pittance can’t be reversed – but amends could be made for that loss.

Emma’s Back Porch and the Water Street Cookery could be part of something truly unique.

All it takes is takes innovation, creativity and courage.

We are far from experts in this field. But we do believe that citizens will stand up for themselves when the leadership they want leads.

The 2006, 2010 and the 2014 city council’s didn’t lead.  Mayor Meed Ward has made it clear things will be done differently – how much differently.

Let’s see where the Gazette’s active comment people have to say.

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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Does the public have any idea what is being proposed for the south east core and is city council just going to let it happen?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

September 26th, 2019



There is a meeting taking place this evening at the Central Arena, on Drury Lane road, across the street from the YMCA.

Lakeshore Inc

The public will get a look at what the developer wants to do with the southern end of the “football” the land between Lakeshore Road and Old Lakeshore Road.

It is a pre-consultation meeting, a non-statutory meeting to obtain community input on all of these elements prior to the submission of an application. Planning staff will be in attendance to provide information on the development application review process and next steps. The owner and consultant team representatives will also be in attendance to listen and collect ideas and input from the community.

Old Lakeshore Burlington Inc. is the owner of lands located at 2107-2119 Old Lakeshore Road. The City’s current policies provide for the potential development of a tall building of up to 12 storeys on these lands. The owner is currently considering the redevelopment of the lands with a mixed-use tall building of up to 26 storeys.

This is the way development takes place in Burlington.


The properties the CORE development group want to put 26 storeys on.

A number of months ago there was another such pre-consultation public meeting. This one was at the Art Gallery. It went through the same process; there weren’t a lot of people in that room with much in the way of appetite for the development. The developer in that case was the CORE group.

When the Gazette asked for a copy of the presentation made by the developer – they promised to send it along the next day, we are still waiting for that one.

model 3 d 0f the site

A 3D model of what the south eastern core of the city would look like if the CORE development on the table is approved and built. Another developer wants to build a high rise at the eastern end of the Lakeshore and Old Lakeshore intersection.

Both developments, the CORE development and the Old Lakeshore Burlington development, are in the same part of town – what is sometimes referred to as the “football” – referring to the shape of the property that exists between Old Lakeshore Road and Lakeshore Road.

If there was ever an occasion for Mayor Goldring to seek the opinions of others on the Beachway PArk - now is the time to do it and on Wednesday he will have an opportunity to listen to one of the best minds there is on waterfront development. Former Toronto Mayor met with MAyor Gildring at a Waterfronty Advisory meeting a number of years ago. Time for another chat.

Former Mayor Rick Goldring sits beside former Toronto Mayor David Crombie to listen to members of the Waterfront Advisory Committee.

A number of years ago, when there was a Waterfront Advisory Committee chaired then by Nick Leblovic they invited former Toronto Mayor David Crombie to talk to them about how development can be managed so that the wishes and the will of the public are at least heard. Crombie at the time said: You need to put together a committee and ensure that you have a couple of oddballs at the table – they are the people that pop out the interesting ideas.

Then Mayor Goldring sat in on that meeting; nothing ever came of the idea. Sometime later the Waterfront Advisory was put to rest.

Any development ideas were going to come from the development community. And that is what we are looking at today.

The very significant sized developments that abut each other on what is now the most valuable developed land near the lake, across from Emma’s Back Porch and a football field length away from the Bridgewater development which appears stalled.

There is no public protesting; there is no group formed to suggest that this is not the way this part of the city should be developed.

Other than saying the city doesn’t want this type of growth in this part of the city Mayor Meed Ward hasn’t said very much.


All the land within the red outline was public. The city went along with the sale of the pieces in the middle that abutted houses – they kept the piece of land at each end and turned them into Windows on the Lake. A Crown Jewel had been sold.

Burlington lost the opportunity to keep a large part of the waterfront in public hands when it went along with the sale of that land between Market and St. Paul.

Meed Ward, as a Councillor fought a valiant battle to maintain ownership of that property – despite her efforts then, Crown Jewels were sold for a pittance and the province got most of the money.
George Santayana, a noted philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist who once appeared on the cover of Time magazine wrote that: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

It is going to take a lot more than people who attend the meeting this evening saying this is not what the city wants – it is going to take real leadership – not from just the Mayor but from every member of council.

Full council

This is the crowd that is going to have to step up, get creative, be bold and find a better way to develop the land in the “football”.

Time for the newbies to step up to the plate – let’s see what you are made of.

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 tilting at windmills

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

September 26th, 2019


“But if you can look past the anecdotal evidence — a hard feat for everyone, no doubt — you’ll find an economy performing pretty well. And in a world full of turmoil and trouble, pretty well is pretty good.” (Peter Armstrong, Senior Business Reporter CBC)

The folks that gave us Doug Ford are at it again. Like the fabled Don Quixote thrusting his lance at imaginary enemies, we hear the NDP and Conservatives complaining about the lack of economic progress over the last four years.

The facts are:

1. Gross disposable personal income in Canada reached an all time high this year;
2. Inflation is almost negligible mainly hovering at less than 2%;
3. Unemployment is at a four decade low;
4. The median after-tax income for 2017, $59,800, was the highest in Canadian history;
5. The number of millionaires continues to grow; and
6. Almost 900,000 Canadians were lifted beyond the poverty line between 2015 and 2017, the greatest ever reduction of poverty in the country’s history.

This last statistic is most noteworthy as the Liberal government exceeded its own goal of reducing poverty by 20% by 2020. This reduced the percentage of people living below the poverty line to less than 10% for the first time in our country’s history. 52,000 single seniors were brought out of poverty.

This was a remarkable feat given that the economy had been teetering on recession when Trudeau took over as P.M. Increasing the progressiveness of our income tax system and choosing to invest in both structural and social programs has paid off. Canada’s economy, despite some trade challenges, such as US steel and aluminum tariffs, uncertainty over a new NAFTA, the continued depression of oil prices, and China’s banning meat and soybean imports, has continued to propel forward.

Trudeau 2015

The public loved the name, they loved the image and he campaigned very well. The question now is: did he deliver on the promise and what are the options for voters.

Much of this growth was accomplished only because our government borrowed money to finance its programs rather than levy new taxes or do nothing at all. Canada’s deficits have become the tools which allowed us to achieve our economic progress. But, of course, Mr. Trudeau’s 2015 election promise of eliminating the deficit by this year is unrealized- lost in the inevitable trade off.

And yet despite large deficits, not only has the economy progressed but the economic significance of the deficits has diminished. Canada’s total debt as a percentage of its gross domestic product has been declining. And that, for anyone who understands debt financing in business, is the most important metric. Our economic growth more than pays for the debt financing.

Mulcair and Harper

The country had tired of Harper and didn’t believe that Mulcair could run, never mind form a government.

It was an unusual campaign promise last election. Contrasted with the NDP and Tory promises of balanced budgets, Mr.Trudeau argued that, given this period of low interest rates, now was the time to invest in Canada’s economy and enhancing its structural and social infrastructure – building for the future while money is still cheap.

And clearly it worked, propelling the country which had been teetering on recession during the last Harper year, to a pathway of solid growth and prosperity. In the end this has been a truly enviable record of economic achievement. Also, since most of the money borrowed is from Canadians, we are reasonably insulated from the vagaries of international currency manipulation.

But despite the best political wisdom, a restored and booming economy won’t ensure a government’s re-election. Otherwise how does one explain what happened in Ontario in 2018?

The opposition PCs made the election about hydro rates and the deficit, detracting from the province’s economic recovery and virtual boom.

Don Quiote

Don Quixote thrusting his lance at imaginary enemies.

Mr. Ford inflated his estimated deficit numbers to scare the public into thinking the bailiff was at the door. It is the same bogey man Mr. Scheer is using in the federal election, although like Mr. Ford, he has no intention of deficit elimination. And as for hydro rates – it’s just another broken promise.

But just like Cervantes’ anti-hero these hapless politicians are also tilting at windmills – pointing at problems which don’t really exist.

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:

Don Quixote –    Millionaires –    Lowest Poverty Rate

Social Development –     Cost of Living –     Disposable Income

Labour Productivity

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Reflections on the new organizational chart at city hall.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

September 26th, 2019



A number of weeks ago the Gazette had an email conversation with city manager Tim Commisso who wrote about some of the changes that would be taking place at city hall.

He mentioned at the time that he had 17 direct reports and that he wanted to reduce those considerably so that he could concentrate on the development of a strategy that would fill the direction he was given by council back in February.

Yesterday Commisso put his plan on the table during a closed session of council. The new organizational structure was adopted by Council during the closed session – the public got word of it when they put out a media release. We have absolutely no idea what council thought of the plan – did they ask for changes? Was there a vigorous debate?

The plan looks to be solid. The Gazette learned from a former senior staff member that it was a “plan that should work”.

Laura Boyd

Director of Human Resources Laura Boyd

We asked Commisso if the Burlington Leadership Team would continue to operate; recall the Director of Human Resources Laura Boyd wrote in her exceptionally revealing report to council back in July said:

“When the results were further analyzed, it became apparent that communication within the organization diminishes between hierarchical levels.

“Specifically, between the Burlington Leadership Team and the Supervisors/Manager level and then between the Supervisors/Managers level and their direct reports.”

Commisso told us that the “city’s internal leadership/strategic management structure will still encompass: Exec Directors, Directors (Department Heads) and City Mgr. BLT will meet weekly and provide strategic management oversight on day to day City service delivery, review of upcoming Council reports, implementation of Council V2F work plan and other corporate projects. BLT also deals with city policies and procedures, budget development, ongoing council/ staff relations.

He added that “The Strategy and Risk Team (SRT) will meet biweekly and will focus at a more detailed level on corporate strategy execution and related risk mitigation and also reporting on same to Council on a regular basis. SRT is a new leadership team comprised of Exec Directors and City Mgr. SRT will also focus on corporate wide business processes such as customer service, health and safety.

Commisso said “This approach is a best practice for municipal and public sector governance” and added that “We will need to align the new structure with Council’s standing committees and are working on a report to Council on that for Oct.

Org chart 2019The Gazette wondered aloud during a telephone conversation earlier today if this organizational change was not a consolidation of power in the city manager’s office. Commisso doesn’t see it that way. He did reduce the number of direct reports from 17 to 12 and admits that even twelve is a little on the high side.

One of the problems Commisso has is the quality of his bench strength – there are a number of senior people not exactly pulling their weight – at the same time there are a significant number of young people who have done well but find it difficult to see Burlington as a place where they can grow meaningful careers – there have been four city managers in a six year period.

You build a team by ensuring that management stability is in place and that it is going to be there for some time and that there will be opportunities for professional growth.

Getting the new organization in place has been a huge task for Tim Commisso; he loved doing the work – says he loves the city.  He’s not a talkative man – without ever having had an opportunity to sit opposite the man it’s difficult to get the measure of him.

Our conversation with him on Wednesday was short – he was swamped.

We wanted to ask: Is this just round one of the blood letting at the staff level.  It would have been inappropriate of him to respond but the question remains.  Many of the keen observers of city hall matter don’t feel the job has been completed.

Strategy is just one part of what Commisso believes has to be put in place.  The other is a change in the culture – that one is going to take years – it will have to start soon for staff to buy into it and then years to make changes and make them stick.

Can MacDonald and Magi instill a different more meaningful sense of confidence in staff?  Does Human Resources have a handle on just what the problems are and perhaps some solutions as to how to give the place a shot of something?

The Gazette recalls a citizen who once worked at city hall in a very senior job where he was right in the thick of it all.  He gave some thought to running for office – actually came close to deciding he would and then decided that it was “too toxic” (his words) and left the public office job to others.

While Commisso can perhaps pull rabbits out of hats (that is not a skill set he lays any claim to) he has to cope with a city council that does not yet have a full year under its belt.

Meed Ward with chain Sept 23-19

Mayor Meed Ward fully understands the power she has when she wears the Chain of Office. Can her colleagues restrain her? They have done just that a few times.

He has to deal with a Mayor who has an agenda and she is certainly pushing that agenda.  If he doesn’t have a real concern over how reserve accounts are handled – then he should have.  He needs to find a way to counsel the Mayor and educate the newer council members on why we have reserves and the way they should be handled.  All five of the newbies have turned to the city manager for advice and direction – when their job is to hold the man they are turning to accountable.

Commisso didn’t think that was a problem.  The governance people we spoke to told us that it was a serious problem and that Commisso was walking on this ice.

The mention that Burlington is one of the best places to work just isn’t true. The chaos is disturbing.

With Heather MacDonald and Allan Magi serving now as the management level directly beneath the city manager there is a line of authority and direction that has been missing for some time.

Blair Smith talking to planner Heaher MacDonald

Heather MacDonald, now one of the two leaders working with the city manager to make it all come together in conversation with a citizen at a public meeting.

It is going to take a bit of time for the two to get the hang of the job.  MacDonald came to Burlington a relatively short time ago to serve as the Planning Director and now finds herself as responsible for the effective administration of a much bigger plate. She was doing just fine with the Planning problems; the Interim Control Bylaw was hers to oversee as well as the re-writing of the Approved Official Plan.

Behind all that there is the pile of development applications that are going to flood the city when the Interim Bylaw gets lifted. There is a lot of work on that table.

Two new positions have been created:
Customer Experience Manager-Business Development
Executive Director of Strategy, Risk and Accountability

They will both be posted on the city’s web site and be open to outsiders.

Commisso alone

City manager Tom Commisso is often the only senior administrative person at council meetings. He says what he has to say in relatively few words.

Commisso believes they are both critical – it will be interesting to see the job description when it is posted. The use of the word ‘accountability’ raised an eyebrow- just what does the city mean when they say ‘accountability’.

This is something we will return to once we see the job posting.

Related news stories:

Director of Human Resources lays it all out on the table.

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Local newspaper gets attention it didn't want; parent company sends out a survey asking people where they get their news.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

September 25th, 2019



Well, local newspapers are making the news.

An avid Gazette reader popped us a note about a survey she was sent by the Toronto Star asking about how and where she got her local news.

The Burlington Post is owned by MetroMedia a subsidiary of the Toronto Star.

The Post got its name in the paper earlier in the week when the Mayor hammered them for getting a story totally wrong. The reporter who wrote the piece was sitting in council chambers at the time. Ouch!

Here is what the survey looked like.

star survey

The reader who sent the survey to us had this to say about the Post: Unfortunately the Burlington Post no longer has any purpose other than holding advertising flyers. Long ago they abandoned any sort of credible reporting and won’t ever say anything remotely controversial, seem to be a place for our elected officials to get free advertising, and they don’t allow or print contrary opinions, or even anything newsworthy. When they covered the 2018 municipal election debate and failed to mention that our current mayor at the time was roundly booed by the audience, we knew they were not a credible news source. I’m glad we have the Burlington Gazette online.

The Post at one time was published three times a week- then cut back to twice a week and now it is on the streets just once a week.  When it was published twice a week the price was $1. When the dropped to twice a week – the price went up to $2.

Everyone has their favourite newspaper. The Globe and Mail plus the Sunday New York Times work for me.

Cities the size of Burlington rely on local newspapers to tell the local story. The Gazette has been doing this for nine years – and despite a myriad of legal problems with the city we expect to be here for some time to come.

We don’t always get it right and we have been brought before the association we belong to and told to do a better job. The results of those decisions are public.

The saving grace was that the Mayor didn’t whack us in public.

There was a point where former Mayor Rick Goldring thought we were the best thing since sliced bread and had nice things to say about us. Check the video.

Foot 4

Those are porcupine quills in his snout – wasn’t a happy puppy for the day.

There was a time when there was a full sized broadsheet newspaper in Burlington.  It was folded and made part of the Spectator.

One of my bigger jobs is to think in terms of monetizing the paper and then looking for people who can do some of the day to day work.

I’d like to spend more time at home taking care of the lady in my life and trying to teach the dog to keep away from the porcupines. He’s cute but not very bright – this is the second time he got his snout full of porcupine quills.

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 Prime Minister: 'That’ll Teach Him for Browning Around'


Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

September 20th, 2019



After the release of an old photo showing our prime minister dressed up for an Arabian Nights gala at the high school where he taught classes back then, there is only one question on everyone’s mind. Who is the real Justin Trudeau? Is he, indeed, the son of our most celebrated PM, Pierre, or is Justin really Aladdin? Not to start any rumours, but how many of us really knew what went on during those days of Trudeau-mania?

If so why didn’t he use his magic carpet to fly off to chum with his daddy’s old buddy, the Aga Khan, instead of relying on Mr. Khan’s hospitality, and thereby ticking off the ethics commissioner? And when it came to governance, why didn’t he just use his magic lamp on Jodi and Jane – to wish them away instead of suffering through that messy Justice Committee hearing business?

Trudeay blackface

It did happen; he did apologize: now let’s see how he bears up during the rest of the campaign.

But seriously, in today’s world, it doesn’t matter why you do, or did what you did, it only matters that you did it. And historical mistakes are still mistakes. Political parties vet candidates for office; investigating what they had done in their past which might damage them and hurt their chances in the voters’ eyes.

Someone with a criminal record, for example, would likely be rejected by most parties, notwithstanding that they’ve already paid the price of their crime to society. Wearing blackface is not a criminal offence and it may not have been intended to mock or insult. But it is still considered incorrect, since its origins are based on racism.

At one time black performers were excluded from performing before non-black crowds. So white performers emulated them, quite often making them an object of ridicule for entertainment. It wasn’t the Ku Klux Klan and it may have been an America a generation or two ago, but the hurt still continues.

Political correctness is important in politics, almost regardless that the intention may not be to mock, hurt or offend. One needs to be sensitive to the feelings of others.

Mr. Trudeau as PM has been a strong advocate of human and civil rights. And that is perhaps why the revelations of these skeletons from his past, innocent as they may have seemed at the time, are still hurtful, indeed shocking to all of us. And it’s true that he set himself up for the repercussions of this latest outcry – the bigger you are the harder you fall.

Mr. Trudeau recently pulled a candidate’s nomination for comments he made which were considered anti-Semitic. He has attacked Mr. Scheer for his party’s links to apparent white supremacists. He has suggested he might intervene in the Quebec law which bans wearing cultural paraphernalia in the broader public service. And he has attacked Maxine Bernier for his position on immigration as racially motivated.

The revelations of at least three situations in his own distant past, where he wore dark makeup in performances, are shocking for a man with that kind of profile and record. He has fallen off his high horse, tumbled off the pedestal upon which he had lifted himself.

Trudeau -facing the music

Trudeau -facing the music

But he has apologized for his past actions and asked/begged, forgiveness from the Canadian people. He admits that what he did was racist, though he wasn’t aware of its significance when he did it. The media interviewed people on the street and the reaction was fairly muted. Twenty years is a long time ago after all, and who doesn’t have something in their closet that they’d rather not let out?

But Trudeau’s political opponents are making political hay – and that is all fair in the game we’re in, barely a month from the election. We have come to expect a lot of our prime ministers, not only how they run our government but also who they really are. Does the public really believe that their PM is a racist? After all, wasn’t it his father who gave us multiculturalism in the first place?


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:

Brown Face in Vancouver –   Origins of Blackface

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Rivers on the first federal election debate: the winner was the guy who wasn't in the room.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

September 13th, 2019



It was an impressive demonstration of candidates expressing themselves in clear unequivocal terms on the broad range of issues before the public. At least one of the candidates was so eloquent, and spoke with such passion from the heart, it seemed as if it had been beautifully scripted in advance.

That was the debate for candidates wanting to become the next US Democratic president. The CTV/MacLeans Canadian leader’s debate, that same evening, was something else. The consensus of the pundits was that the winner was the only major leader who wasn’t there, Justin Trudeau. He was at an election campaign event in Edmonton, at a riding he is hoping to take away from the NDP incumbent.

Denaters Sept 13-19

Elizabeth May, Andrew Scheer and Jagmeet Singh debate the issues without Prime Minister Trudeau.

It might have been the antiseptic-white hospital setting or the way in which the studio lights con-tinuously featured in the images. And Paul Wells, who moderated, really should stick to his day job as a columnist for MacLeans. Ill at ease in that forum he fumbled with the questions and failed to control the debate as candidates drifted off topic and squabbled among themselves. Then there was the empty podium, which the organizers obviously thought cute, but just stood out like a sore thumb making their event look even more awkward.

The candidates, and Scheer in particular, used the venue to attack the absent PM. But if that was his objective it rang pretty hollow, as he himself came under criticism for falling back on discredited Harper era positions. Still, unsurprisingly all three leaders used the opportunity to gang up on Trudeau when the issue of SNC prosecution came up.

The Globe and Mail is at it again, reporting that former Attorney General, Jodi Wilson-Raybould, now running as an independent, had been interviewed again by the RCMP. Clearly Scheer, raising this matter, was hoping to make it Trudeau’s Hillary Clinton moment? An eleventh hour FBI investigation into Clinton’s personal email account cast sufficient doubt among Democratic voters that they allowed Trump to slip ahead and win the election.

Perhaps because expectations of his performance were low, Jagmeet Singh appeared to do reasonably well. His comments typically cited personal anecdotes of mothers with children in their arms or at their feet fretting over the high costs of prescriptions and the perils of climate change. Or he just fell into making broad generalities about policies, raising the question of his actual knowledge of those issues. But mostly he just resorted to the time-honoured and tiresome language of class struggles – the rich versus the poor.

Elizabeth May just failed to impress, especially as there is such expectation of her soaring to replace the NDP as Canada’s third party. She rode the middle ground in some cases, as for example in holding the line on expanding Canada’s universal health care system. And yet she went extreme in others, such as claiming she’d end the major B.C. LNG export project. She often seemed to be riding the fence between agreeing on many issues with both Scheer or Trudeau, perhaps hoping to draw votes from one and the other.

May kept referencing the danger of exceeding an increase of 1.5 C in global temperature, as if it were something Canada could do on its own. She also harped on about setting tougher targets as if that alone would achieve results.

An interesting exchange occurred when Andrew Scheer picked up on her promise to achieve zero carbon emissions for all households in Canada. Scheer has promised to restart the former Chretien home efficiency program that his party had cancelled shortly after gaining power back in 2006.

While Trudeau was somewhere else, it almost seemed that Scheer would have liked to join him. Ill at ease, he stood between the other two leaders like a block of wood, never breaking a smile. Speaking without passion and in generalities that rivaled the other two leaders, it was hard to imagine him as prime ministerial.

He boasted that he has the best climate action plan, but provided only aspirational detail as to how it would achieve that goal. Scheer’s climate plan has been panned by even the Globe and Mail and attacked by economists as leading to increased rather than reduced emissions. And his constant reference to expansion of resource industries, echoed back to Stephen Harper’s fixation on oil and gas exports and his disregard for the environment.

Though Scheer at one point had indicated he would not be eliminating the federal deficit, he has apparently had a change of heart as he is now promising to do so over an election cycle. Still his promises to balance the budget, cut taxes and continue health and other spending priorities sounds a lot like the impossible dream – the one Doug Ford had also promised in Ontario’s last election.

And Scheer has to be skating on thin ice, virtually accusing Trudeau of illegality in the SNC caper, when even the former attorney general said that was not the case. It is all too reminiscent of Mr. Ford accusing former premier Wynne of corruption. If Mr. Scheer really wanted to distance himself from the troubled Ontario premier he could start by changing the channel on that kind of language which smacks of desperation.

All things considered, this debate was a useful exercise in that it provided a venue for the opposition parties to expose their platforms and address what they would do differently were they to win the top honours. That would have been instructive for the viewers had there been more focus on platform detail. And it would have been useful to see exactly how the Greens and NDP differ as they struggle for 3rd place in Canadian politics.

Federal debate Sept 13 No Liberal

Jagmeet Singh, a,no show Liberal leader, Andrew Scheer and Elizabeth May.

The Liberals are now in power and despite any promises they make during the campaign will and should be running largely on their record. So Mr. Trudeau’s absence in this side-debate is less critical from that perspective. He will come before the public in the official election commission debate in early October, in addition to a special Quebec TV debate.

The Bloc Quebecois is a Quebec-only party, but Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party is national,
with candidates slated for all ridings in the country. Given that Mr. Trudeau had indicated well in advance that he would be a no-show, it is curious why Mr. Bernier wasn’t invited to fill the empty podium, or even why he wasn’t invited in the first place. It would have been instructive for prospective voters to see what Mr. Bernier, who came within a whisper of becoming Conservative leader would do were he to become PM.

Rivers hand to faceRay Rivers writes weekly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was a candidate for provincial office in Burlington where he ran against Cam Jackson in 1995, the year Mike Harris and the Common Sense Revolution swept the province. He developed the current policy process for the Ontario Liberal Party.

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Jim Young on alternatives to Local Planning Appeal Tribunal.

opinionred 100x100By Jim Young

September 12th, 2019



Burlington City Council wants to eliminate LPAT (Local Planning Appeals Tribunals), formerly the OMB (Ontario Municipal Board). This matters because in Ontario, appeals to the LPAT/OMB undermine the ability of municipalities to reconcile growth targets with resident wishes. Appeals also cost municipalities, the province and developers massive amounts of money every year in delays and legal costs.

First, some history of LPAT/OMB and “As of Right Zoning”, the concept that governs land use planning in most Canadian cities.

The OMB was created in 1906 as the Ontario Railway and Municipal Board to expropriate land for the expansion of Ontario’s rail network. Renamed the OMB in 1936, it was revised again in 2009/10 as part of Environment and Land Tribunals Ontario. Given its genesis in land expropriation, it is little surprise it was perceived as a developer friendly body where builders could have unfavourable municipal planning decisions overturned.

Formed in 2018 to redress perceived OMB bias, LPAT was, supposedly, a more resident friendly land use appeals body. However, with the same provincial adjudicators and planning act rules, there was nothing “local” in Local Planning Appeals Tribunals.

In 2019, with little case history or jurisprudence, LPAT was drastically revised under Ontario’s More Homes More Choice Act (Bill 108), reviving the old OMB disguised under the friendlier sounding LPAT name.

It is worth noting that no other province or territory in Canada has a similar body adjudicating municipal land use planning or developer/resident disputes. Land use planning in most Canadian and North American municipalities is regulated and operates under a planning concept known as: “As-Of-Right Zoning.”

Prior the introduction of zoning in the 1920s, land-use regulation was hit or miss, planning occurred on a case by case basis. Some areas had use, height and density limits, others didn’t. Rules differed from area to area with no cohesive plan clarifying what could or could not be built. Decisions were subject to suspicion of corruption and influence by developers. Residents never knew what might be built next door to them in the future.

To resolve these conflicts a new concept for regulating urban land use was developed: “As-of-Right Zoning”. Municipalities were delineated as zones, subject to appropriate use and density rules as laid out in a city’s official plan. If developers stayed inside the zoning rules within that plan, they could build without further regulatory interference “as-of-right”. This provided certainty about what could be built and where. Developers avoided delays, unforeseen bylaws or messy public hearings which all added to the cost of housing. For residents, it meant no surprise strip clubs or bingo parlours next door.

Meanwhile in Ontario, the ability to appeal municipal land use plans and win at LPAT/OMB tribunals meant the final say on planning and zoning amendments remained firmly with developers. It forced municipalities to return to ad-hoc, project by project land use planning with all the concurrent legal costs and the knock on effect on housing affordability. It is understandable that municipalities, who shoulder responsibility for land use planning and have a better finger on the community pulse, resent the intrusion of LPAT/OMB and would like it rescinded, especially given the greater powers granted in Bill 108.

Critics worry that in the absence of an LPAT/OMB appeals process, who will adjudicate what constitutes reasonable development as opposed to NIMBYism from local residents? Won’t rescinding LPAT/OMB leave all parties without a means of conflict resolution? I suggest not necessarily.

Burlington already has three citizen advisory committees providing advice on land use planning. The Committee of Adjustment; appointed by Council considers applications for minor bylaw variances, land divisions and small project planning permissions.

Burlington’s Urban Development Advisory, a group of local planning, architectural, engineering professionals, provides impartial guidance to city and developers’ planning staffs on contentious land use and zoning bylaw amendments. The Sustainable Development Advisory advises council and developers on the economic costs and benefits of sustainability in land use and building designs.

If the province is serious about reducing costs and, given Burlington’s commitment to reasonable growth and density, might we adjudicate land use planning conflicts via a combination of these existing committees?

If we increase developer and citizen participation on them we could create an effective and truly local planning reconciliation system to address the legitimate concerns of all parties.

Replacing LPAT in this manner would avoid duplication, eliminate delays (often years), reduce legal costs for developers, municipalities and the province while improving housing affordability and keeping taxes down. All worthwhile planning objectives.

Jim Young 2Jim Young is a frequent opinion writer for the Gazette. He has delivered some of the finest delegations to city council – seldom acted upon but important nevertheless for they are then on the record. Search the Gazette under Jim Young

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Foxcroft the subject of a TiCat video - Oskee Wee Wee

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

September 12th, 2019



They all love him – and with much reason.

Foxcroft chasing ball

Ron Foxcroft on his private basketball court.

Ron Foxcroft has done much for Burlington and Hamilton.

He was made a Member of the Order of Canada last week and everyone wants him to know that they are pleased as punch.

Foxcroft is wearing a smile a mile wide – and asking the Tiger Cats who put together the video below not to blow the Grey Cup game that should bring the cup to the city.

The video: Quite funny in places.

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By law officers are reported to be tearing out naturalized gardens they once said were in compliance.

News 100 greenBy Doreen Nicoll

September 9th,2019


Part 1 of a 2 part story.

August 15th, I published an article about Antheia, a long-time homeowner in Burlington who has been maintaining a naturalized area in her front yard since 2015. The City of Burlington has repeatedly told Antheia she is in violation of City by-laws despite the by-laws allowing for naturalized areas. According to Antheia, “Every year they mischaracterize my naturalized area as a lawn and demand that I cut everything down to less than 8 inches/20 centimetres or they will come and do it themselves and charge me.”

After discussions with the by-Law supervisor in July 2019, Antheia was assured her property was being maintained as a naturalized area and was in fact in compliance. One month later, after allegedly receiving many complaints from neighbours, the City sent Antheia a letter demanding she cut everything – all the same plants that were in her yard when the City deemed it in compliance – to less than 8 inches/20 centimetres. She had until August 20th to comply.

On August 16th while Antheia was exploring options to save her plants, the City cut six feet of her naturalized garden to less than an inch/2.5 cm in height. No plants were spared and the devastated milkweed were carted away to be composted undoubtably with Monarch eggs or caterpillars clinging to leaves and stalks.

August 18th, I published the story of Paul Raun and his garden. Three-quarters of Raun’s front yard has been naturalized and is home to over 23 kinds of wildflowers, 12 types of shrubs and vines, three varieties of wild grasses, a sycamore and a redbud tree.

GARDEN Paul Raun

Paul Raun’s garden. Has been told it is in compliance – worried that it will be torn up nevertheless.

Raun purchased his wildflowers from reputable, and qualified, nurseries who specialise in indigenous plants. But, on August 14th, Raun received notice that he was in violation of By-Law 59-2018 which states grass and ground cover must be cut to a height less than eight inches or 20 cm. He had seven days to comply.

Raun made many attempts to speak with the by-law officer, but finally heard from her the day after the article went online. Arrangements were made for two by-law officers to attend Raun’s garden on August 21st to confirm which plants constituted weeds under the by-law.

After learning about what happened to Antheia’s garden Raun took two days off work to keep an eye on his plants.

Not surprisingly, not one of Raun’s plants was considered a weed.

The by-law officers did voice concerns over a vine growing along the side of the yard and some cypress trees growing along the property line. Both the vine and the cypress trees belonged to Paul’s neighbour. No action was taken regarding these two violations.

In his backyard, Raun was asked to move rose bush and tree trimmings further away from his house and to cover them with soil. He complied with this request. According to Raun, “With respect to the wood pile, it consists of branches from a dead rose bush that had grown along the side of our back deck as well as low-hanging branches that I trimmed off a redbud tree. The by-law officer suggested that I bury it just in case a neighbour complained about it.”

Raun says, “With respect to the discrepancy between the original order and the subsequent positive evaluation that by-law officers Ibrahim and Natalie gave our native plants garden, it may have had to do with Natalie’s lack of knowledge about plants.”
“With respect to the need for a more detailed bylaw related to naturalised gardens, it is crucial to spell out the grounds on which one could have a wood pile consisting of cut branches and how far away it would have to be away from neighbouring dwellings, in addressing the issue of harbouring creatures at odds with the interior of one’s dwelling.”

Raun also believes, “With further respect, the rule for a two-feet buffer along property boundaries needs refining to consider a variety of potential scenarios. The officers raised no complaint about the wild grapevine growing along our southern fence along with wildflowers and wild prairie grasses spreading right up to it without a two-foot buffer. Why is it acceptable to have a fence running along a property line but not a row of shrubs to which any wild-flowers or tall grasses can run up, albeit kept a tiny bit back?”

Both these situations, and many more across the city, are prime examples of the current by-law being used by neighbours to harass and bully individuals embracing ecological landscaping into complying with the untenable and unsustainable grass monoculture sprinkled with a few continuously flowering hybrid mainstays that still permeates the conservative, eco-unfriendly city of Burlington, Ontario.

Doreen Nicol - Raise the HammerDoreen Nicoll is a Burlington resident who is, if anything, outspoken.  She is a feminist, an environmentalist, a free lance writer, teacher and social activist  and member of several community organizations working diligently to end poverty, hunger and gendered violence.


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Mayor unable to find a restaurant in Burlington to treat her brother to oysters on the half shell.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

September 6th, 2019



It takes a certain kind of person to run for public office. And should they get elected it takes a certain kind of person to succeed at the job.

That job isn’t about them – it is about the people they serve.

In clerical circles – priests and minister, pastors and rabbis use the phrase: a calling; they feel called to do the work they do.

We seldom see that kind of language in political circles. Politics is about power.

That power belongs to the voters who give it to the people they elect who they trust to serve the public’s interests.

The public looks for wisdom and good judgement.

It was surprising then to see a photograph of Her Worship Mayor Meed Ward sharing oysters on the half shell with her brother, who happened to be in town, at what looked like a very swishy restaurant near the water – sailboats in the background.
Family is said to be everything – unless of course it is totally dysfunctional – but I digress.

MMW with brother - Oakville

Oysters on the half shell – a favourite Meed Ward delicacy shared with her brother at an Oakville restaurant.

Some might ask – especially those in the hospitality business – why the Mayor didn’t take her brother to a Burlington restaurant. Spencers is the equivalent to anything Oakville has. Others have the same ranking.

Many of the people who run restaurants supported the Mayor in her bid to become Mayor. This must be just a little galling.

We are not arguing that the Mayor should only ever be seen in a restaurant in Burlington. What we do want to suggest is that when she publishes pictures of herself on her Facebook page – it would be politically smart to make sure that the background is a Burlington skyline. They don’t call these things photo ops for nothing.

Council will be in full bloom next week; thick agendas will sit in front of them and some serious recommendations will get passed on to city council later in the month. No word yet on who the Mayor is bringing into her office to replace the staff member who decided she liked greener, more digestible grass.

The Mayor pinched the assistant to the ward 4 Councillor who now has to rely on the other assistants for the support she needs.

Word is that it could be as much as a month before the staff problem is resolved. Is Mayor Meed Ward running into the same problem Mayor Goldring had – not being able to find good people she can work with to carry out one of the toughest jobs in the city.

The staff member she pinched is as good as they get – Meed Ward should have kept her when she was he assistant as a Council member.

The job calls for wisdom and judgement – which seems to be missing at the moment.

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: A carbon tax is the only tool governments have to reduce the amount of carbon in the environment.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

September 4th, 2019



Canada’s19th prime minister, the Right Honourable Kim Campbell, has always told it as she sees it. Who else, during the ’93 election, would have promised her electors continued high unemployment and deficits when they would have preferred prosperity and fiscal discipline. Or who else would be reported as saying, in a nutshell, that an election is no time to discuss important issues.


Kim Campbell was rooting for Hurricane Dorion to make a direct hit on Mar a Largo, Trump’s Florida golf course and estate.

She was understandably disgusted after US President Trump extended his war on planet earth by rolling back some 80 plus Obama era regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). So she tweeted that she was rooting for Hurricane Dorion to make a direct hit on Mar a Largo, Trump’s Florida golf course and estate. Of course, she immediately retracted and apologized, as persons of some significance are expected to do.

But she had only said what so many people who care about the future of this planet were thinking. Bring on retributive justice for one of the two global political leaders most bent on depriving future generations of the planet we know and love. And every person who cares about what is happening to our climate should feel her anger.

The latest roll back concerns fugitive methane emissions. Methane, identified commercially as natural gas, is a greenhouse pollutant which is more than 25 times as potent as CO2. And here even the industry is ahead of Trump, as BP, for one, has criticized this roll back as damaging to the reputation of an industry trying to show how ‘clean’ it can be. The amount of leakage in the production and use of natural gas is frightening. But leaving industry to govern itself has worked out about as well as asking the fox to manage the hen house.

Trump has championed coal, erroneously calling it clean since it still accounts for two thirds of America’s electrical utility GHG emissions. But he is losing that campaign regardless, as the industry is rapidly converting to gas and renewables, which are now far cheaper in addition to being cleaner. This is pretty much the same strategy the Ontario Liberals pioneered as they phased out coal and replaced it with renewables. And natural gas is there as a back up for peaking or when the wind doesn’t blow and sun doesn’t shine.

trucks on highway

If you drive the 400 series highway – any highway for that matter – you know the trucks rule the road.

Transportation accounts for almost a third of GHG emissions in America. And the USA is the second largest carbon emitter in the world, after China, so it is a critical issue. Trump’s roll back of Obama’s regulations for auto emissions is seriously wrong, and even the auto industry is opposed. Many auto companies are signing agreements with California and other states to continue making efficiency improvements.

Between 1999 and 2007 Canadian private vehicle emissions rose by 35%, almost twice the rate of population growth. Obama’s auto efficiency rules would have also applied to Canada and would have helped slow down emissions from the fossil fueled autos still selling like hot cakes – but even those new rules would not put a stop to GHG pollution.

It’s too little too late. The UN has suggested that there are only twelve years until a tipping point, a point of no return from dramatic change, is reached. So fine tuning the fuel economy for the gas engine is little more than the proverbial re-arranging of deck chairs on the Titanic.

Carbon tax - Canada France over 5 years.

France’s plight illustrates a conundrum: how do political leaders introduce policies that will do long-term good for the environment without inflicting extra costs on voters that may damage their chances of re-election? They raised the price of gas and the public rioted.

And a carbon tax at $20 or even $50 is not enough, on its own, to get people out of their gas guzzlers either. But the carbon tax and the federal electric vehicle (EV) rebate are the only tools in the transportation tool box, short of shutting down the roads and/or killing the economy. From comments to my column last week it was pretty clear that nobody wants road tolls, let alone shutting down the roads. So it’s got to be the carbon tax.

The Conservatives are the only major political party that is promising to cancel the carbon tax but is not offering an alternative policy for auto GHG emissions. They claim that the tax is hurting the poor folks. Which it clearly isn’t since 90 percent of the money is returned directly to tax payers as a credit on their income taxes. They get the tax credit even if they don’t have to pay any taxes.

So Andrew Scheer, Doug Ford and all the other conservative premiers are lying to us, by omission at the very least.

The poorest struggling or working class families are getting more back than they have to pay to fill their tanks and run their furnaces, on average.

In fact it is the wealthy that are affected most by the carbon tax. And as one can imagine the wealthiest 20% have more and fancier motor toys than those in the lower income classes. So the rich emit almost twice as much per capita as the lowest income Canadians. So exactly who are the ordinary folks that each of the political parties are aiming their pitches?

Kim Campbell H&S no blouse - robe

Kim Campbell was a Progressive Conservative who said what she thought.

Kim Campbell was a Progressive Conservative premier. But today’s Conservative party was taken over by the reform wing led by Stephen Harper and now Andrew Scheer. Campbell may not have been a social reformer, but as a member of Brian Mulroney’s cabinet she got to understand the environment. And so today’s Conservative party is not her party.

As a footnote on carbon taxes, we see Mr. Ford has filed an appeal to the Supreme Court. He has already squandered an estimated $30 million dollars when any thinking person could have told him he’d lose the court challenge. Perhaps nobody in his cabinet was willing to tell the emperor the truth about his new clothes. So what’s a few more million.

And to bring his point home, somewhat as Joseph Stalin could be expected to do, Ford is forcing every gas station owner in the province to slather his carbon tax propaganda on their pumps, or face a whacking $10,000 per day fine. That does seem a bit drastic for a province which Ford barely a year ago proclaimed to be finally open for business.

Gas tax sticker

Ford is forcing every gas station owner in the province to post a carbon tax message on their pumps.

And the poster is misleading on at least three counts. First, the scale of the sticker may accurately represent the amount of the tax, but not the impact of a 4.4 cent tax on the total cost of a litre of gasoline – which is what really matters. Second the sticker makes no mention that the tax is revenue neutral and fully 90% comes back in their income taxes.

Finally if the gas pumps are to provide useful information to consumers, what could be more useful than helping them understand the full impact of the gasoline they are buying and using, rather than just the carbon tax on it.

Sweden has recently adopted a policy to do just that. Much as society has placed full disclosure information on cigarette packages, gas pumps need to inform users about the myriad of health issues associated with petroleum and how that impacts health care costs. And then there is climate change.

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:

Kim’s Mar-a-Lar –   Kim Campbe ll Bio –    Methane Regulations

Auto Rule Roll Back –   Canadian Auto Emissions –    Carbon Tax Fight

Warning Labels

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