'Just watch me' said Kimberly Calderbank

By Kimberly Calderbank

July 21st, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

Lifted from the Kimberly Calderbank LinkedIn page

Everyone has an opinion.

BUT, why let the opinions of others deny you a life that will make history?

What are YOU holding back on because you are afraid of what other people will think, say, react?

Do you know how often I hear people say, “But what about…?” WHO CARES!

I am 100 percent guilty of always wanting to people please, always wanting to be sure I have taken everyone’s opinions and thoughts into consideration.

The other day, a gentleman said to me “…it’s been a while… what are you doing with your life…?”

WHOA… at that moment I felt small… I felt I had been playing small… he had expected a BIG answer, and I didn’t have one. His opinion of me shifted, and that mattered…all those other opinions had held me back, but this one pushed me forward.

For the past 4 years, I have been building quietly a plan, working on my purpose, and pulling together what I feel will be my legacy.
TODAY I acted on it. I brought in my first investor. My first believer in my plan if you will.

Mark it down, TODAY is the day that I stopped letting the opinions of others stop me, I let the positive in, and I put my first step forward in a life that WILL MAKE HISTORY (big and lofty, but just watch me).

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Is there another candidate for the Office of Mayor in the wind? Could be

By Pepper Parr

July 14th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

OPINION

It is rare, exceedingly rare for a person with little political experience to run for the office of Mayor and win – but it does and has happened.

Will this piece of Burlington bling be placed on a different neck before the end of the year ?

Burlington’s race for the office of Mayor is seen by many as a walk in the park for Marianne Meed Ward.

That could change – there is a potential candidate that could be preparing for a run.

If it takes place it will be well funded – and it will not be a pro-developer candidate.

This individual is young, successful in the commercial world and very well connected in the administrative world.

The Gazette has spoken to a number of people, some of them called us, asking what we knew.

There are some very prominent people who want nothing but the best for the city who have come to the conclusion that Meed Ward is not up to the job that has to be done.

This is not the place to set out where Meed Ward has fallen short – this is the time to look around and ask – can we do better than this. ?

We can

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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Opinion writer finds fault with Canada’s legal system

By Connor Fraser,

July 6th,  2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

These last few weeks I have been unusually tired. Initially, I suspected that a combination of tough assignments at work and the warm weather were doing me in. However, a string of recent crimes and developments in high-profile cases have truly taken my breath away, to the point where I am ashamed to call myself Canadian. Happy belated Canada Day, I guess.

Accident scene in Vaughan where three children and a grandfather lost their lives

A few weeks ago, Edward Neville-Lake took his own life, 7 years after his 3 children and father-in-law were killed by Marco Muzzo at a Vaughan intersection. Muzzo – who was initially sentenced to 10 years in prison (despite having admitted to driving drunk in the past a handful of times) is now a full parolee, with no driving restrictions.

Back in May, Brady Robertson, 21, who killed a woman and her three daughters in a horrific crash in Brampton in 2020, was sentenced to 17 years in prison. Considering time served, Robertson will be released in just over 14 years. With our country’s disturbing affinity for early parolees, my money says he’ll be out in less than 7.

And this notwithstanding the fact that Robertson had the gall to appeal the government’s limit of THC concentration as “arbitrary” – despite himself having a THC concentration of 8 times the legal limit during the crash.

More recently, in its decision R v. Bissonnette, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down a Harper-era law allowing judges to stack parole ineligibility periods for multiple murders, alleging that such a punishment violates Section 12 of the Canadian Charter of Rights & Freedoms, which protects against “cruel & unusual punishment.”

In a country which prides itself for having a justice system designed to protect minority rights, these cases stand out for their egregious disregard for the rights of an oft-forgotten minority – victims. I cannot imagine the pain of the Neville-Lake family, who now live with the possibility of publicly encountering Mr. Muzzo. Were the roughly 4.5 years Muzzo (of his 10 year sentence) spent behind bars proportional to the damage he caused? Was the 10 year sentence?

Marco Muzzo

Perhaps more distasteful is knowing that Mr. Muzzo has also regained the privilege to legally drive a car. Sentences for drunk driving are no longer a deterrent and should be stepped up dramatically. For starters, I would advocate for a lifetime ban on driving for anyone caught behind the wheel with alcohol or THC concentrations above the legal limit.

The Supreme Court’s R. v. Bissonnette decision is a poster-child for how our justice system has been hijacked by an out of touch minority of jurists and academics. The decision is riddled with self-serving language that renders it nothing more than a pathetic monograph in defence of the most hardened criminals.

The justices write “For offenders who are sentenced to imprisonment for life without a realistic possibility of parole, the feeling of leading a monotonous, futile existence in isolation from their loved ones and from the outside world is very hard to tolerate. Some of them prefer to put an end to their lives rather than die slowly and endure suffering that seems endless to them (paragraph 97).”

Oh, I’m desperately sorry if some prisoners feel their predicament is “hard to tolerate.” Shouldn’t that be an intended result, to enforce upon prisoners a “monotonous, futile existence” that is “hard to tolerate”?

At its core, the court argued that because stacking parole ineligibility can completely eradicate a prisoner’s chance for re-integration, it violates human dignity and is incompatible with the principles of fundamental justice. Even if barely, the door to redemption should always remain open. Moreover, the court positioned its ruling as one “not about the value of each human life, but rather about the limits on the state’s power to punish offenders, which, in a society founded on the rule of law, must be exercised in a manner consistent with the Constitution (paragraph 142).”

Philosophically, I cannot agree with the court’s judgement. The concept of justice is fluid, subjective, and open to widely varying interpretations, none of which are inherently wrong. Despite what anyone might tell you, there is no such thing as “universal” or “fundamental” principles. In the United States, for example, many regions continue to apply the death penalty. Given that the United States is the among the world’s most enduring democratic societies, founded upon the rule of law, it would be hard to pinpoint what “fundamental justice” actually means when their methods of dealing with multiple murderers are so vastly different from our own.

So let us not blindly accept the narrative that there is some universal, invisible force preventing Canada from, under very specific and carefully considered circumstances, guaranteeing that a dangerous criminal will spend their entire life behind bars with no chance at redemption. To anchor the verdict, the court cited the maximum sentencing possible in a host of European “peer” countries, none of which exceeds 30 years. Regardless of what pathway others have chosen, Canada is not obligated to follow. Perhaps the prevailing narrative should be that these European countries have erred, and the law existing in Canada before May 27, 2022 was in fact more “just” according to the views of Canadians.

Which arrives at my second and final disagreement, specifically with the notion that there was ever a need, through this case, to place “limits on the state’s power to punish offenders.” The original law enabling stacked parole ineligibility was advanced by a democratically elected, Conservative majority government. The government’s lawyers in R. v. Bissonnette advocated upholding that same law, and were acting on behalf of a democratically elected, Liberal minority government. With such clear and bipartisan support, I hardly concur that any government abuse of power was amok. This is the will of the people today, from which a uniquely Canadian notion of justice should flow.

The current mess we have gotten ourselves into will not be easy to rectify given the importance our legal system places upon precedence. The Charter of Rights & Freedoms is a vital document, but one which leaves the door too far open to an ultra-lenient interpretation of the rights that criminals ought to have. A mere “slap on the wrist” for killing four people while driving drunk, or even the chance at being released into society after shooting up a mosque, is inappropriate.

Connor was born in Hamilton in 1997, is a long-time resident of Aldershot.

In 2020, Connor completed undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto, with a B.A.Sc. in Engineering Science and a major in Electrical and Computer Engineering.

 Between 2018 and 2019, he worked as a member of the technology development team at Microchip Corporation (North San Jose, California) where he contributed to the design of computer memory for FPGA chips. During the summer of 2013, 2015 and 2017, Connor lived in Quebec thanks to support from the YMCA Student Work Summer Exchange, and the Explore Program and is decently proficient in spoken French.

Connor has returned to U of T to enrol in the dual Master of Global Affairs and Master of Business Administration program.

 

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What will Doug do first? Didn't take long to find out. Took care of his people

By Pepper Parr

June 27th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

OPINION

A few days after the re-election of Doug Ford as Premier of the province we suggested that we would know within 60 to 90 days what kind of a Premier he was going to be this second time around.

It didn’t take anywhere near that long.

On the day he was sworn in by the Lt Governor he then had his Cabinet sworn in – that included his nephew (his sisters son) Michael Ford as Minister of Culture and Tourism.

Doug Ford was a proud man as he shook the hand of Michael Ford, his nephew, the day he was sworn in as a Cabinet Minister

Doug Ford was a very proud man when he shook Michael’s had effusively.

What the public was seeing was a naked act of nepotism.

Family matters and the Ford family has had its share of grief.  Some good news would be welcome and adding to the list of political achievers would be a welcome change.

Rob Ford wasn’t able to handle the job of being Mayor of Toronto – his early death was a blow to the way the family saw itself.

Michael Ford got himself a seat on the Toronto District School Board – we didn’t see much, if anything, in the way of achievement or change in the way schools were administered.

Ok – it takes time to get the hang of public service. The opportunity to take the council seat for the community opened itself up and because the Ford family owned the fealty of that community he was a shoe in.

Nor much in the way of achievement on city council – no one every described the young man as a comer – someone to be watched.

Did anyone ever suggest spending some time in a gym to the young mam?

Michael Ford dismissed any suggestion that nepotism played a role in his appointment, saying he has served on the school board and council in one of the city’s most diverse areas.

His decision to run for the provincial seat was no surprise.  It was an opportunity and the young man took it.

For his uncle to make the decision to put his nephew in Cabinet was a stunner.  Give him a year to find his way and then make him a parliamentary secretary and see how he handles the job would have been acceptable.

But to drop him into Cabinet where the best he can expect is a divisiveness from those Cabinet members who have both the smarts and the cahoneys to perform well in very hard jobs.  That along with the protection of his uncle

Ford has made it clear – he is going to take care of his people – all they have to do is call – and they will be calling.

Learning to defend a government is something Natalie Pierre is going to have to get used to.

What is this going to mean to Burlington?  Think the Escarpment – especially the space between the urban boundary – the Dundas – Hwy 407 line and Side Road 1.

Will the newly elected MPP Natalie Pierre be able to convince the Premier that permitting any development north of the urban boundary is a mistake?

She will be alongside Michael Ford learning the ropes.  What little the public has seen of the woman is just not enough to have an understanding of what she might be capable of.

The days ahead for the city could be dark days indeed.

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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And now we would like your opinion - new polling feature in the Gazette

By Pepper Parr

June 24th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Another way for the public to express their views of what happens in Burlington.

The Gazette has created a poll that will run frequently – asking readers for their views on matters of public interest and concern.

The first was published yesterday asking people if they felt the Mayor owed Councillor Stolte an apology for the way she attempted to force the Councillor to read out an apology.

The polling questions will be inserted into stories that are relevant and related.

This is a bit of an experiment on our part – let’s see how it goes.

Related news:

The kafuffle at city Council on Tuesday

Mayor presses councillor to apologize.

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What political future awaits the citizens of Burlington?

By Pepper Parr

June 12th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

OPINION

If Paul Sharman does not wander down to city hall before August 19th, Marianne Meed Ward will be returned as Mayor in the October election.

Mayoralty candidate Annn Marsden will surprise people with the number of votes she gets but she will not be the Mayor.

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward

Paul Sharman, Councillor

Anne Marsden

Sharman certainly likes the idea of being Mayor and it would be one heck of a way to end a political career. But Paul Sharman is cautious, especially when it relates directly to his personal interests.

He has to decide if he wants to watch Meed Ward whittle away some of the gains that have taken place.

He has a vision for the city but isn’t yet at the point where he can advocate for and speak to that vision. It probably has some rough edges yet.

The challenge for Paul Sharman is deciding what kind of a mark he wants to make before his political career comes to an end.

Will he go for the brass ring and be known as someone who took a risk and made Burlington a different and better place ?

Or will he settle for having been a four term council member and retiring – to what?

There is a lot riding on the decision Sharman makes.

There are three other members of the current council that harbour dreams of becoming Mayor – a lot of growing left to be done for all three – a meeting with a guidance counsellor in the near future for at least one

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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City manager suggests delegation on fire services not get into operations

By Pepper Parr

June 10th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

OPINION

The city manager sits in on every Standing Committee meeting as well as Council meetings.

The City manager is the only person that Council hires.  The city manager runs the administrative side of the city delegating the authority he got from Council to his team.

Members of Council chair the Standing Committees – as Chair they make decisions on how the procedural manual is to be interpreted and remind speakers if they have run out of time or if they are wandering from the subject matter.

Earlier this week, for the first time in the ten years I have been covering city council Tim Commisso, the City Manager caught the eye of the Chair  and said the following.

City manager Tim Commisso at Standing Committee earlier this week.

“I think it’s one of the things we’re very fortunate yo have which is a great relationship with the Chief,  but I would just caution council, I don’t know if it’s fair for the delegation to be talking in depth about operations.

I’d be honest with you, I think certainly perspective on NFPA. You know, and that I just think you’re going to hear from the on the presentation on the master plan in front of the chief.

So I just suggest that the in depth nature of fire operations and I know, Mr. Vanderlelie is more than capable of speaking about it, but I think it’s really questions that are directed, I think in conjunction with the Master Fire Plan.

Finally, the other thing that raises and it’s a very good point is the growth intensification comes with certainly a set of questions is whether we need to be in a position to fund something like a new station downtown in advance or once we see that growth in the tech space so I just I would just suggest it through the chair. The questions really don’t focus on operations so much.

Thank you.”

For the City Manager to suggest that a Fire Service Captain should not delve into operations when he was specifically asked by a Council member to do just that is a bit more than surprising.

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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Is Mayor Meed Ward considering a run for the office of Regional Chair ?

By Pepper Parr

June 5th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

With the Ontario election over and Doug Ford in place until 2026, running the province with little in the way of an opposition party, our eyes turn to the municipal election in October.

Look for a move on the part of Councillor Sharman to indicate that he will run for the office of Mayor.

Jane McKenna, MPP when the photo was taken, at a Freeman Station event with a friend.

A comment made, at a Joseph Brant Museum event last week, by someone who would know, that Mayor Meed Ward might consider (is considering) running for the office of Regional Chair where she would be running against Jane McKenna who gave up her seat at Queen’s Park to run for the office that Gary Carr doesn’t appear to want any more.

Carr moved from Milton into downtown Burlington recently.

Meed Ward has let the very strong support she had when she became mayor dwindle away; it will take more than we think this Mayor has to pull that support back.

Meed Ward has changed the way municipal government works in Burlington – too many, the changes were not all that beneficial.

The biggest thing Meed Ward brought was hope – and then she dashed that hope by making herself the focal point.

As a Councillor for ward 2 between 2010 and 2014 Marianne Med Ward made a significant difference – she brought hope to the hearts of those who wanted to keep the Burlington they had.

Politics is both an art and a science. The better politicians have a strong survival instinct – Meed Ward may have figured out that her political life can be extended by moving to the Regional level and then on to the provincial level where she has always wanted to end up.

 

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Stephen White sets out what went right and what went wrong.

By Stephen White

June 3rd, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

OPINION

Compare the 2022 provincial election results in Burlington with those of 2018 and some interesting trends emerge.

In 2018, the PC’s won 25,500 votes, and 40% of the vote. This time around they won roughly 22,200 votes and 42.5% of the vote. However, the Liberals went from 15,000 votes to roughly 15,400 votes and garnered less than 30% of the vote. The NDP vote totally collapsed. They went from 18,000 votes in 2018 to just over 9,200, and 28% of the popular vote to 17.6%. 63,737 residents voted in Burlington in 2018. I would be interested to see what the final tally is this time round.

The key messages:

1) a lot of residents didn’t bother to vote. I went by two polling stations during the day at schools and there was little traffic.

2) the private sector union vote went solidly PC. Witness the gains in Windsor, Hamilton and Brampton.

3) electors haven’t forgotten, or forgiven, the Liberals for the mess created by Kathleen Wynne.

4) the NDP is increasingly tied to special interests and public sector unions. They have continually failed to make inroads with moderate voters who don’t like and don’t support their policies or style. Even with a superlative local candidate like Andrew Drummond they couldn’t hold their vote.

5) given the lack of viable alternatives offered by either the Liberals or NDP the electorate opted for the status quo.

The Liberals need to find a much better leader, and not one tied to the Wynne government’s sorry legacy. They also need smarter policies, not $1 a day transit fares that are untethered to reality and amount to little more than half-baked promises.

The NDP need to hit the re-set button and hard. WOKE messaging, critical race theory, EDI “happy talk” and “word salads” don’t resonate with voters who want practical policies and viable alternatives. That’s why they lost the private sector union vote. Jobs matter.

As for the PCs, they really need to engage their base and start listening to the public. Add the residents who didn’t vote, supporters like me who parked their vote with New Blue, and the potential of two new energized leaders by the time 2026 rolls around, and the future isn’t entirely smooth sailing.

Stephen White is a life long resident of Burlington who teaches at Sheridan College and consults in the Human Resources sector

 

 

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Some additional comment on the public meeting on the Bateman matter

By Pepper Parr

May 31st, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The reader who has asked, for good reasons, to be left as an anonymous writer explains why the City Manager is fronting the Public Information meeting this evening.

There is still very little information from the city Communications department other than that the event is taking place and here is how you can take part.

A big site with loads of potential has become a big problem

The reason why Tim Commisso, city Manager, will host the upcoming Community Updates tomorrow is due to the need to follow the City’s governance processes.

In the case of the Bateman situation, the City under the direction of the City Manager must present what recommendations may be considered for the elected City Council for approval.

What will the City manager put on the table this evening?

That would require a written report that citizens could read and form opinions. There is no written report.

In other words, the City negotiates to derive their recommendations but can’t approve their recommendations. City Council must ensure public input is received prior to making any approval decision associated with the recommendation from City staff. The known exception relates to legal matters associated which typically have already been made but are now appealed to a higher authority or which were not made in a timely fashion as dictated by published guidelines issued by the higher authority.

In our case, City Council has yet to receive a recommendation from City staff. As such City staff may present what has been received and to seek public feedback on the same. Any decision sought from City Council is unlikely to be made prior the end of session in mid-July and instead be postponed until after the Municipal election in October by the newly elected City Council.

The same goes for HDSB matters. The Director of Education presents recommendations for the elected Board of Trustees approval. In other words, the HDSB staff under the Director negotiates to derive their recommendations, but can’t approve their recommendations.

To do otherwise opens the doors to a conflict of interest. The elected members guard the purse and ensure that the rules of governance are followed.

It is up to each member of the public to be vigilant to ensure that changes to any rules of governance do not negatively compromise the public as a result of proposed recommendations made by the HDSB, the City or the Province.

The Municipal electorate has to be satisfied as to the steps already been taken by City staff on a matter which enhances the City delivery of services to the community in a cost effective manner. Likewise, the HDSB electorate has to be satisfied as to the steps already taken which enhances the delivery of education services in a cost effective manner.

This meeting is taking place because there has been so much blow back from citizens; something had to be done – so the City Manager is going to explain what has and what he expect will take place.

At the risk of being rude – the people of Burlington can read – provide a detailed report on what the options are, what the expenses are and what the long term contribution to the city will be.

Then let Council get input from staff and then make a decision.

The problem with this, a traditional and accepted practice in the municipal world, is that this project has become something several members of Council want and they are going to do everything possible in order to show what they are capable of.

What they are capable of is the mess the public is looking at.

The event this evening is being recorded and we are told will be available for view “soon” after the meeting.

The meeting details are:

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Either Miriam Manaa or Andrew Drummond should be elected for the constituency of Burlington

By Pepper Parr

May 30th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

Editorial Opinion

The public has listened to what the politicians have had to say since May 3rd.

It is now time for the voters to decide what they want in the way of political leadership.

The Gazette has watched the candidates for some time; years in the case of Andrew Drummond, about a year and a half for Miriam Manaa and about three months for Natalie Pierre.

It is our view that Ontario needs a Premier over whom there is some ongoing control and we advocate for a minority government. It is clear that the Progressive Conservatism have a strong lead provincially and will form the next government.

The Gazette believes that either Liberal Miriam Manaa or New Democrat Andrew Drummond would serve the public well.

Liberal candidate Miriam Manaa

Manaa has some experience working with elected members – those who belittle her work experience do not understand just what elected officials do. Manaa was not at a desk licking envelopes; she was doing case work and working closely with a Member of Parliament in the House of Commons.

Drummond is a stronger policy person than Manaa and he has a significant amount of experience in a very competitive industry.

If elected Manaa would bring some of the Burlington diversity to the legislature.

Andrew Drummond candidate for the New Democratic Party

If elected Drummond would bring strong policy chops to the job.

Both would serve the people in the Burlington constituency well once they settle in.

As impressed as we were with Natalie Pierre, the Progressive Conservatives have not earned the right to have their candidate sent to Queen’s Park.

Natalie Pierre, Progressive Conservative candidate

We see it as unfortunate that a political party would flout the traditional practice of putting their candidates before the public and listening to what they have to say,

The public never had the chance to learn more about the woman. They appear to have taken the position that the PCs have it in the bag and the public de damned.

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Young columnist not impressed with the way politics is done in Burlington

By Pepper Parr

May 30th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

We are fortunate to have a young person writing a column for us.

Connor Fraser, a graduate student at the University of Toronto writes once a month (weèd like more)

He has been tasked with writing on subject and doing his best to reflect the views of his demographic and his peers.

In the past he has written about his chances of actually being able to buy a house when he reaches that stage in his life.

His next column is due after the provincial election.

In going over what he has planned he made the following comments about the provincial election and the way Burlington has handled it.

“Regarding the race in Burlington, I think the PC will likely win but I’m disappointed by the character of the campaigns, especially the candidate selection process held by each party.

“Not much transparency or opportunity for debate within the Liberal nomination race, and zero within PC. No chance for the Liberal nominees to debate each other beyond a pre-written, 5 min speech.

“There should have been more debates, too. Only one chamber of commerce debate – which was more of a Q&A session from what I heard. What about a good old fashioned debate, I think the people of Burlington deserve a few different events/venues to observe the major issues being dissected.

“Overall, a very sad, tired looking affair.”

A little more about this young man.

Connor Fraser

Connor was born in Hamilton in 1997, is a long-time resident of Aldershot. He attended Waterdown Montessori School, Glenview Public School, Burlington Christian Academy and Aldershot High School, graduating in 2015. Passionate about the issues facing Burlington, Connor has volunteered for several local organizations and advocated to municipal leaders on building transit oriented, walkable communities. His career goal is to help Burlington – and Canada – navigate the challenges of transitioning towards a just and inclusive low-energy economy.

 In 2020, Connor completed undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto, with a B.A.Sc. in Engineering Science and a major in Electrical and Computer Engineering.

 Between 2018 and 2019, he worked as a member of the technology development team at Microchip Corporation (North San Jose, California) where he contributed to the design of computer memory for FPGA chips. While pursuing engineering studies, Connor volunteered for the U of T Human Powered Vehicles Design Team as a machinist and led the design of a rollover detection system for high-speed tricycles. During the summer of 2013, 2015 and 2017, Connor lived in Quebec thanks to support from the YMCA Student Work Summer Exchange, and the Explore Program and is decently proficient in spoken French.

 Connor has returned to U of T to enrol in the dual Master of Global Affairs and Master of Business Administration program.

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Rivers concludes that Ford will glide back as Premier - the public seems to want the devil they know

By Ray Rivers

May 28th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Ontario’s election is more about us, the voters, than the political leadership candidates or their parties.  The pandemic, which is not over yet; the vicious war raging in Ukraine; home affordability and rising gasoline prices at the pumps; another mass shooting and the impending illegality of a woman’s choice to family planning south of the border are uncertainties weighing on the electors before they even enter the voting booth.

Doug Ford: Rivers thinks he is going to get it done

And when we are overloaded with anxiety we most often choose the devil we know to lead us again, as the expression goes.  So it should be no surprise that the polls have Doug Ford’s PCs winning a majority of the seats to form the government for the next four years.  One would think that Mr. Ford’s significant lead in popular support is a testament to his governance since the last election.

But after objectively reviewing his record, as I have in previous columns, that would be a hard case to make.   Perhaps it is Ford’s competition for the job of premier that helps him stand out by contrast.  Liberal leader Steven Del Duca is still an unknown quantity, even after those years as a cabinet minister, and has failed to distinguish himself in this race. The Liberal’s second place standing in the polls likely has more to do with them than their leader.  They are, after all, the natural alternative governing party to the PCs, and the one voters will likely turn to when disaffection sets in with the current crowd ruling the roost at Queen’s Park.

Stephen Del Duca: a bit of a policy wonk who has yet to really connect with the public

And at least on one issue Del Duca and his NDP counterpart are at the other end of the spectrum from Ford.  That is when it comes to climate change.  If one discounts the unlikely scenario of Mr. Putin starting a nuclear war, global warming is the most critical existential crisis we will see in our lifetimes.  And that is not a scare tactic.  We are already experiencing the horrible consequences of global warming and we know it’ll only get worse.

We have seen Mr. Ford kill clean renewable energy projects by the hundreds simply because he doesn’t like wind and solar generation.  Ironically that has led to a potential shortfall in electricity generating capacity and is threatening the prized $2.5 B investment LG had been planning for a battery production facility in Windsor.  So much for Ontario being open for business.

Better the devil you know

Then there was the fight against the carbon tax and the lowering of Ontario’s climate goals, which, regardless, are unlikely to be met.   But most telling was the recent court case over this government’s climate policies by some young plaintiffs.  Future generations will be most affected after all.  Unbelievably, Ford’s witnesses tried to argue that climate change is just a hoax, and the case should be dismissed on those grounds.  That is very telling of Mr. Ford and where he can be expected to lead this province once he is re-elected.

After a crisis, as we’ve experienced with the pandemic, electors sometimes look for a fresh face.  But sometimes they prefer to stick with what they know, a kind of don’t rock the boat phenomenon.  That is what Ontario voters will be doing on election day this week, barring a miracle.  Mr. Ford represents the safe choice in their minds, the conservative voice of stability and steady as she goes.

Andrea Horwath – a safer conservative choice?

And yet of all the parties, the NDP and Andrea Horwath might more appropriately be seen as the safe choice – the conservative option.  She and her party have crafted their platform over a number of years, and while they have included some bold ideas, such as eliminating for-profit long term care, most policies are seasoned and reasoned.    Currently polling in third place, the NDP is still expected to form the official opposition thanks to voting splits.

Mr. Ford knows he’s going to win so he’s playing it safe.  He’s presumably instructed PC candidates to skip the all-candidate debates, where they might actually stumble and tell voters what they really think about abortion, gun control, private education, vaccination and masking – it’s all about ‘hear no evil, believe no evil’.  But what is amazing is how tolerant voters are in accepting that situation.

Are the most conservative among us comfortable voting for a candidate who has been velcro-lipped, and a party which has shared so little of where it is going over the next four years?   If Justin Trudeau tried to do this, there would be howls from the media, and everyone would be labelling him ‘arrogant’.

 

 

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What will the province look like on Friday June 3rd

By Pepper Parr

May 27th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

What will the province look like on Friday June 3rd?

Put a different way – How bad could it be?

Has Doug Ford changed? And if he has – how much? Building the 413 is not a change – its the same old Doug.

Province wide the polls say that Doug Ford will be returned as Premier.

Who will form the Opposition?

The polls again suggest that the New Democrats will continue to be the Opposition

What the polls are also telling us is that Steve Del Duca may not win his own seat.

Wishful thinking?

The New Democrats will be deeply disappointed about not being able to form a government and will need to think about their leadership.

Leadership for the Liberals will have to come out of whatever they have in the way of members sitting in the Legislature.

There is a better than even chance that Del Duca will lose his seat.

Will this happen?

Polls are never accurate – but they are an indicator.

The challenge for the people of Ontario is to find some way to limit how much damage Doug Ford can do.  A Progressive Conservative government would serve Ontario well.

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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City council nominations now less than a trickle - look for more after the provincial election

By Pepper Parr

May 26th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

OPINION

Is there another hat about to be thrown into the ring for the ward 2 Council seat?   And is there a third candidate waiting until after the provincial election?

Sabrina Alcala – a teacher at Central High School is rumoured to be thinking about ward 2 being better than a classroom.

What is Councillor Nisan up to?

Ms Alcala was involved in the Rory Nisan campaign in 2018 . No love lost between Nisan and Kearns. Is Alcala a ghost candidate? Wonder what that is all about.  Political hanky panky?

We are seeing something similar in ward 4 where Tony Brecknock has filed nomination papers for the ward seat held by Shawna Stolte.

Brecknock and Nisan go back some distance.

Councillor Stolte will not be sending Nisan a Christmas card.

There are a lot of hard feelings floating around the seventh floor of city hall where all the Councillors have an office and an administrative assistant.  Mayor Meed Ward gets the credit for creating some of the divisiveness and a knock for not working out the differences with Council members and creating a stronger team where differences are respected.

First day for nominations attracted five of the seven members of Council – Stolte and Sharman were the exceptions.

Sharman filed his papers on the 6th.

Between now and the provincial election don’t expect much in the way of new nominations. Look for something from Stolte once the next report from the Investigator of CLOSED meetings of Council is turned in; expected early in June .

Ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte

Their first report from the Investigator, determined that the four occasions  Council went into a CLOSED session that were suspect by some, met the letter of the law. During the meeting there was some suggestion that the spirit of the law was not being met.

And that of course is the issue – while Stolte knew she was wrong in what she did – she does not believe she was wrong with what she was trying to do.

Council and the Office of the Clerk have improved significantly on how they report when they come out of a CLOSED session, which was the point Stolte wanted to make.

Councillor Galbraith, was one of the two that filed complaints with the Integrity Commissioner, has been trying very hard to make amends with Councillor Stolte.

It was a council with five new members that the public trusted; the best they have been able to do is squabble and create two groupings that are unable to cooperate fully. Mayor says it ain’t so.

What is most disappointing is how a Council that brought so much promise and hope to the business of the city has become petty, two faced, disingenuous and something of a disappointment to many.

Burlington is facing some very tough issues, the provincial policy that requires the city to grow has stretched everything including the leadership ability of Council and the leadership within the Planning department.

Each red dot is a development application that is somewhere in the process of getting approval. The vast majority are high rise buildings that require much more time and expertise for the planners to bring forward a recommendation.

The changes in senior staff in the Planning department have left that group of people, who have had to work very hard to keep up with the flow of new development applications, close to leaderless.

The developers are taking cases to the Ontario Land Tribunal before there is even a recommendation from the planners.

This very poor ethical behaviour is not being done by all the developers – but enough of them to really gum up the works.

There is a tonne of money to be made; it has drawn experienced developers into the Burlington market.

The opportunity to create a city that maintains its character is being chipped away little by little.

More is needed in the way of leadership from the office of the city manager and that of the Mayor.

Burlington has been and could be better than this.

 

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Rivers on the debate: Ford doesn’t have a platform; doesn’t need one. Winning at this point

By Ray Rivers

May 23rd, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

OPINION

The Ontario leaders election debate took place this past week. And the undisputed winner was the party which, if people were listening, should do a lot better than they ever have – but probably won’t. The Green Party’s Mike Schreiner was eloquent, articulate, passionate and to the point, and challenged the front runner, Doug Ford, as the other opposition leaders only wish they could have done.

Andrea Horwath – working the crowd

Andrea Horwath did herself no favours talking over-the-top of the other leaders. And when it was her turn to speak, mostly avoided the question while recounting tales of meeting people on the street – accounts which are probably just scripted fiction. And when she finally got to the point of a question, used the opportunity to attack the wrong enemy, her Liberal opponent.

It was clear Horwath was still fighting Kathleen Wynne and the 2018 election. She looked desperate and caused Mr. Del Duca to note that every time she attacked him, Doug Ford would smile. There is little light between the policies of the three left-of-centre opposition parties, so if they really care about those issues, their natural political opponent is the Tory in the house.

Del Duca was calm and factual but somewhat robotic as he kept getting gut punched by Doug Ford

Del Duca was calm and factual but somewhat robotic as he kept getting gut punched by Doug Ford and his notebook of imaginary numbers. Del Duca was a little plastic, but at least he didn’t tirade. It’s not clear how the debate will affect his party’s standing, but without a knock out and/or Ford knocking himself out, it’s a long shot for any of these opposition politicians.

Ford probably could have skipped the debate, he’s so far ahead in the polls. But he showed up with his notebook. Candidates had been asked not to bring notes, but Ford is the front runner and he is the Premier, so he can do as he pleases.  Ford appeared calm throughout, even when attacked; exuding positivity and optimism, confident that he was on the right track even if it was a railway built in the 50’s and 60’s.

The moderation at TVO studios could have been better. Steve Paikin warned that he would shut off microphones if the contestants misbehaved. But he never followed through on his threat, even when it seemed chaos was at the door. Besides, the confrontational debate format, itself, is partly to blame for encouraging over-talking. Finally, the studio venue clearly hadn’t been COVID-proofed, since two of the debaters tested positive immediately afterwards.

Ford is running on his record

Ford is running on his record as incumbents typically do. So what is that record? It’s not unfair to say that of all the candidates running in 2018 Mr. Ford was not the most qualified. His ‘bull-in-the-china-shop’ gambit at the start of his reign disclosed a clear lack of understanding of the roles of the province and federal government, not to mention the energy and climate files.

He came out of the gate, and without a shred of evidence, accused Wynne of corruption and fiddling the books. So he set up an elaborate audit to find out the real numbers. And the real numbers were pretty much what Wynne had presented except for where she disagreed with the provincial auditor general (AG) on a couple of points. It was all show and an embarrassing waste of time and money. Why didn’t someone in his entourage tell him that the independent AG was mandated to review the provincial books prior to each election, so he wouldn’t have to do it?

Ford’s early government was highly visceral, he governed from his gut with bearings set to his ideological predisposition. He declared war on Toronto City Hall, his old stomping grounds. He went after the Liberal federal government, unions (teachers and nurses in particular) and just about everything environmental. And his nihilist environmental attitude rang up a costly sum. According to a study by Environmental Defence his dismantling of climate change policies has cost taxpayers of this province over $10 billion since the 2018 election.

Most of those financial impacts included the loss of expected income from the greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program, Ontario’s alternative to the carbon tax. But there were real damage payments made, including $30 million to the giant US based Koch brothers. Then he wasted $30 million foolishly fighting the federal government over the carbon tax in the courts. And, while claiming he was saving hydro rate payers money by cancelling renewable energy contracts, actually cost us all almost a half of a billion dollars. Heck, even Tesla received $125,000 in legal compensation.

Ford acted too slowly with respect to measures that would stop viral transmission.

Ford’s early polling numbers dropped like a power line in an ice storm, reflecting his dismal performance in his first years as Premier. But Ontario rallied to its premier when the pandemic scared us all, and Ford and the prime minister were our solace during those early stressful days. Ford makes much of his fight to get personal protection equipment (PPE) supplies into Ontario, and the failure of the previous Liberal government to maintain inventories. But that doesn’t explain why his government had left those inventories empty during the first two years of his premiership.

Ford acted too slowly with respect to measures that would stop viral transmission and save lives in long term care (LTC). Although he inherited a troubled long term care program, the decision to have his ministry forego spot inspections of facilities just made the problem worse. And instead of actually implementing his ‘iron ring’ he allowed LTC staff to float among various facilities for way too long, inadvertently spreading the virus. His failures in LTC finally became apparent when he had to ask the federal government to send in the army.

Ford has a habit of repeating his mistakes

Ford on several occasions ignored the advice of the provincial science table and dropped restrictions prematurely or failed to tighten them early enough, thereby contributing to another wave. His refusal to re-instate the sick leave provision of the former government meant that workers would continue to show up at their jobs sick and spread the disease. And Ford had a habit of repeating his mistake – jumping the gun rather than waiting for lower and safer infection transmission rates before removing social distancing restrictions.

Each new case of COVID represented an additional cost to society, manifest in hospital and other health care expenses, lost income for those affected, lost economic productivity, and the very real personal costs of sickness, and sometimes death. Most of the financial costs were picked up by the federal government, but as we know there really is only one taxpayer.

Mr. Ford is proud of the jobs in new electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing he will be bringing to Ontario. That is a huge accomplishment, but these investments are also federally funded and likely would have been brought forward regardless which political party was in power in Ontario. And it is remarkable that Ontario has been able to attract EV production when Ford had been so hostile to the sector, killing the EV purchase grants, tearing out GO parking lot charging stations, and cancelling requirements for EV charging in buildings.

The promise of extracting valuable metals and rare earths from the so-called ring of fire, clearly helped attract a new battery manufacturing facility. But the province has still not built the road or rail connections it had promised back during the 2018 election. And, more recently, issues are looming around electricity supply for those industries.

Ford’s government is big on replacing renewable energy with natural gas, even as the rest of the world is trying to stop using gas. He spent $3 billion buying gas powered electricity plants which will almost ensure that the province will miss its climate change goals and drag Canada’s effort down with it. Natural gas is more destructive as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and yet Mr. Ford has doubled gas use for electricity over his term in office.

Even though we are still kind-of in the pandemic, we’d all like to think it was a lifetime ago. And Ford’s earlier antics are even further away in our minds. So the number one election issue is something called affordability. There is no precise economic definition for affordability but that doesn’t matter to someone filling their tank, paying their mortgage or looking to buy meat at the grocers.

A public wish and a badly needed solution – what will a new government be able to deliver?

And polls show that when it comes to affordability, the word in Ontario can be abbreviated to just plain FORD – even if he is paying you with your own and your children’s money. He talks a good story about lower gas and electricity prices. And didn’t he just return all the money you paid in licence fees? So Mr. Ford is projected to win with as much as a 10 seat majority.

That could still change if strategic voting comes to pass but there is little sign of that happening this election. Both main opposition leaders know they’ll lose, but they’d rather lose than be nice to each other. So they’ll both be running for second place rather than first.

Premier Ford – happy at this point.

And the big truth is that both Horwath and Del Duca blew their chances to impress the voters at the leaders’ debate. Horwath’s platform is stale and Del Duca’s piece meal. And Ford, just like the first time he ran, doesn’t even have a platform. But he doesn’t need one because the opposition parties are playing Ford’s game, almost aping the big man, but not topping his non-campaign promises of affordability and the good life, as he smiles on.

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Rivers still sees this election as Doug Ford's to lose.

By Ray Rivers

May 16th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

OPINION

Mike Schreiner – Green Party

There were a couple of political debates this past week. The four main party leaders met in North Bay to stake out their promises for northern Ontario. And there were no surprises, nobody fell on their face, and despite the odd jab there were no knock-out punches. If I had to pick a debate winner it would have been Green Party leader Mike Schreiner – methodical, pointed, passionate and considered – it is a shame he wasn’t leading a party with a better chance of winning seats.

On the topic of debates, I also tuned into the federal Conservative leadership debate. It was fun, a kind of cross between a political blood-fest and a gong show. The game show host, also known as moderator, had a lot of fun tossing out hoops for the contestants to step through.

But the contest is really Poilievre vs the Charest/Brown tag team.

And if ever there was a need for fact checking, it is the stuff that the eloquent Mr. Poilievre is spouting. For example, he seems to have discovered a ‘new economics’ which no reputable economist can agree with. To be sure he speaks with conviction and sounds credible – but it mostly is rubbish. Still, if you say a lie often enough, some people will believe it.

And if you were looking for how these wannabe leaders were going to handle climate change that was the wrong channel to watch. Even Jean Charest, my former boss when he was Canada’s minister of the environment in the Mulroney government, didn’t spend anytime on the topic.

And I know he understands the science – I had written a few of his speeches and briefing notes.

The Ontario leaders’ debate was set in the north, a geographical construct which has been afflicted with climate change induced forest-fires and floods. Yet, I had to listen hard to hear mention of… let alone any promises to mitigate climate change. True enough, the opposition parties talked about Increased public transportation and support for electric vehicles (EV). But there was little from the governing Tory leader, other than boasting about some new investment for manufacturing EVs.

Doug Ford – Premier of the province pointing to what he saw as positive Covid19 numbers,

Mr. Ford renewed his promise for a road to the ring of fire and its precious metals. But even as he was bragging about landing a $5 billion lithium car battery plant to Windsor, the company was contemplating cancelling for lack of an assurance of electric power. Following the debate Ford promised a billion dollar new electricity line to Windsor from somewhere. Perhaps he shouldn’t have cancelled all those renewable energy projects.

The Green Party delivered their detailed party platform this week, promising a whacking $65 billion in new spending to transition the province to a “new climate economy”. It’s easy to make promises if you’ll never have to deliver. The party also has plans to make the province’s top doctor independent, to provide more affordable housing and a spattering of other social policies. The party would reinstate the environmental commissioner, a position which Mr. Ford axed early in his administration. And to that end Dianne Saxe, the last commissioner, is running for the Greens in the Toronto riding of University–Rosedale.

Steven Del Duca hoping to revive the Liberal Party fortunes

The Liberals released their platform earlier in the week with some interesting sound bites primarily intended for the ear of those struggling McDonalds-frequenting working class folks. After all, if buck-a-beer got Ford elected…. Del Duca plans to raise the HST exemption, or at least the provincial portion, on fast foods up to $20. He will also offer $1 a ride transit across the province for a limited time and will take the $10 billion the Tories have allocated for Hwy 413 and spend it on renovating schools. He would cap all class sizes to a maximum of 20 students and hire a bunch of teachers to make that happen. Like the other opposition parties the Liberals would end for-profit private long term care and guarantee all workers 10 sick days a year as well some kind of employee benefit package.

The NDP were the first party to actually lay out a complete policy platform and their plans dive deep into what they consider has been broken in the province since they last were in government. So rent control is back with a vengeance. Horwath is promising equity in auto insurance rates and to speed up implementation of the new child care agreement. Her party would be adding more renewable energy, fixing long term and other health care, and even speeding up development of the ‘ring of fire’. The NDP detailed election platform is only a little easier to read than War and Peace, which means that most voters will not bother. Still in the small print on page 85 there is a promise to “create a Mixed Member Proportional Voting system”.

Andrea Horwath _leader of the New Democrats

The Tories consider their last budget, implementation of which was deferred until after the election, as their policy platform – that and odd sporadic announcements they’ll make throughout the campaign to keep/bring voters in their camp. And given that their poll numbers haven’t moved much since they called the vote, they’re probably safe in doing that. Ford’s main promises include more privately operated long term beds, more highways and more auto manufacturing in the province.

The Ford nation is headed for another strong majority if the polls are right. So, Mr. Ford couldn’t be blamed for spending these nice warm days till election day at his cottage, confident he’s got it in the bag. Not that I am saying he’s doing, that mind you. And, of course, that could all change with the final leaders’ debate this Monday night. But I wouldn’t bet the farm on that.

With a candidate in every riding this new party is doing surprisingly well – they could eat away at some of the PC core vote

Then there are the other two even more right wing parties, Jim and Belinda Karahalios’ ‘New Blue’ and Derek Sloan’s ‘Ontario Party’. Together their polling is close to that of the Green Party, so they could be a insignificant factor if the radical/reactionary conservatives shift their support away from the Tories to the ‘real’ right wing. Still these are fledgling political outfits and it’ll be amazing if they end with more than the one seat each they have today. But nobody should forget the success of the Reform Party.

One of these four will be Premier – could it be a government with just a minority of seats in the legislature?

On the other side of the ideological aisle the Liberals, NDP and Greens all compete for pretty much the same political base but each with their own fine tuned refinements. And with three parties on the left and three on the right, perhaps it is time to consider proportional representation after all. But you’d have to vote for the NDP or Greens to see that happen this election. In any case it is unfortunate that these new ‘bluer than Ford’ parties have not been invited to all the electoral debates during this election. They are putting a lot of effort and money into winning hearts and souls of the voters and we should be able to hear what they are proposing even if they are new to the political game.

Ray Rivers is a retired federal civil servant who has been politically active in the Burlington community.  He has a degree in economics and has been writing a column for the Gazette for the past seven years.  when the election is over he will return to writing his second book

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Two of Aldershot's best go up against Oakville Mayor Rob Burton

By Staff

May 16th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Tom Muir, a committed advocate for stronger public voices at the planning table sent a note to Oakville Mayor Rob Burton on planning matters.  Burton responded saying:

Tom, all four parties with seats in the Legislature have embraced in their platforms the call for a million and a half new housing units over the next ten years, effectively double or triple what has been planned and financed out to 2031. One might expect significant changes to urban planning processes in the name of the supposed need for haste.

Greg Woodruff, an Aldershot resident who has run, unsuccessfully for both Regional Chair and Mayor of Burlington responded to Burton:

Hello Rob,
Whatever “changes” you imagine in the urban planning process – if you imagine required infinite growth on the same land area …

If your entire city was of single family houses, then knock them down for duplexes.

If your entire city was duplexes, then knock them down for 4 floor apartments.

If your entire city was 4 floor apartments, then knock them down for 12 stores.

And if your entire city was 12 story apartments, knock them down for 50 stores.

Instead of all that building and knocking down – why not jump to the 50 story buildings?

Why can there be no reasonable or nuanced building? Because if you concede infinite sustainable growth – every single location’s destiny is a building as high as technology allows.

And once you conceded that – there is no sensible limit to the building in any one location.

In his comment Mayor Rob Burton, BA, MS, signed off as Head of Council & CEO.

I thought the city manager was the CEO – with authority delegated to him by Council. Am I wrong?

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Burlington Chamber of Commerce seems to have forgotten the reason for having democratically elected legislators

By Pepper Parr

May 15th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

In an earlier news report we asked: Why did the Burlington Chamber of Commerce decide the Burlington candidate for the New Blue Party would not be permitted to take part in the Chamber’s Question and Answer session on May 19th?

We now know why.

They were told that they did not poll at least 5% of the vote in the last election.  True – they didn’t exist in the last election.

They do not have a member sitting in the Legislature – not completely true.  The New Party is represented in the Legislature by Belinda Karahalios  who was at one point a member of the Progressive Conservative Party.

Belinda Karahalios was elected as the MPP for Cambridge.  In July of 2020 she was expelled from the PC caucus after she voted against Bill 195.

The bill was in its third reading, and would allow the government of Premier Doug Ford to extend or amend some emergency orders a month at a time for up to two years without consulting the legislature.

When she was booted out of the PC party,  Karahalios crossed the floor of the Legislature and declared herself a member representing the New Blue Party.   Crossing the floor is nothing knew – it happens federally and provincially.

The spirit of a democratic  society is to accept a party that is representative of the community; the New Blue party has 124 people nominated and running election campaigns across the province.  To put it more bluntly – the New Blue have a candidate running in every riding in the province as do the New Democrats and the Progressive Conservatives.  The Liberal Party has 122 candidates.

Allison McKenzie: New Blue candidate for Burlington,

The Burlington Chamber of Commerce needs to take another hard look at the decision they have made and welcome Allison McKenzie, candidate as the candidate for the New Blue Party in Burlington.

Personally, I am not a fan of the party and most of the positions they have taken.

I am a fan and a strong believer in fairness and openness.  The New Blue belong at the table.

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 makes an early election call - leaves some, but not much, room for an upset. Four more years for Doug

By Ray Rivers

May 9th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

OPINION

When the results are all tabulated sometime after June 2nd, Doug Ford will be back in power as Premier according to today’s poll numbers.

The 2022 election has just begun but already the consensus is that it’s Ford’s to lose. Mr. Ford has travelled a long and rocky road since he first became premier. Still while things look good now for his reelection, as others have found, in politics anything can happen.

Poll positions the day the election started.

Ford’s popularity dropped like a stone almost right after his 2018 election victory. His personal vendetta against Toronto city council, arbitrarily slashing their representation was petty and abusive. His cancellation of renewable energy and other environmental initiatives were irrational and costly. His war against teachers was mean and retrogressive. And his failed campaign against the revenue-neutral carbon tax was a complete waste of energy and tax payers’ money.

Ford took the limelight in briefing Ontario about what needed to be done during the pandemic,

The arrival of COVID saved Ford’s premiership. He took the limelight in briefing Ontario about what needed to be done during the pandemic, though he misplayed his hand on at least a couple occasions.  Other premiers, like Alberta’s Jason Kenny, made Ford look good. And the pandemic forced Ford to work cooperatively with the federal government which ended up serving both of their interests. After all, the feds did the heavy lifting – provided the vaccines and massive subsidies to just about everyone. That federal support was largely responsible for keeping the province from falling into a huge deficit which would have made today’s economic recovery difficult.

Ontario’s jobless rate has fallen to 5.3%, even below what it was pre-pandemic. Strong economic growth is a good thing for a governing party at election time. And further driving that growth is the massive near $20 billion provincial deficit forecast for this year. It seems that Ford’s earlier preoccupation with deficit has been put on hold, or forgotten, these days. Still, with a bit of luck and good management he’ll be able to claim that the province in on track to balance its budget in a only a couple years from now.

Incumbency, particularly during the pandemic has been working for governments facing re-election. And the pandemic is not yet over. Besides voters tend to reward first term governments with a second term, unless they have been really bad to them. And you can’t be all bad when you’re handing out gifts, even if that means bribing people by giving them back their own money – cutting gas taxes and eliminating license plate fees. What’s not to like about getting back two year’s worth of licence fees?

Andrea Horwath: the fourth and probably the last time,

As for Ford’s opponents. Andrea Horwath is leading her party for the fourth and probably the last time, and it’s not apparent that she’s learned much from her previous losing campaigns. Her most recent attack ads, especially at her Liberal opponent, appear desperate. Clearly she’s just trying to hang on to those Liberal voters who supported her last time. But attack ads are more likely to turn them away.

And attack ads don’t replace a solid policy platform. In fact her policy cupboard is pretty scant and so yesterday,  implementing two of her main planks, universal dental and pharmacare, will be redundant and probably a waste of money since the federal government is planning its own nation-wide programs before long. And her performance as opposition leader was barely noticed. She may be the most trusted political leader in Canada but she has been one of the least vocal opposition leaders over the last four years.

Stephen Del Duca; a relative unknown with a swimming pool problem

Stephen Del Duca is a relative unknown for most people. Having held a couple of ministerial posts under the Wynne government he lost his own seat in the last election and now leads a party which doesn’t even hold party status in the legislature – leading it from outside of the legislature. And he did himself no favour when he got into hot water with local authorities over building his backyard swimming pool. But unlike Horwath he has been taking political risks with his ongoing stream of policy pronouncements – though some, like re-introducing Grade 13, do not appear to have been well vetted.

Del Duca is a fighter In the game of politics, and he is willing to take risks which might get the public’s attention, for better or worse. Still, for an aspiring politician any news is good news. He provides a sharp contrast to the more cautious Horwath, something his rising poll numbers are beginning to reflect. Whatever he’s doing seems to be working.

Green Party leader Mike Schreiner has been an effective and rational voice at Queen’s Park but nobody will put money on the Green Party winning anything but Mr. Schreiner’s own seat after the dust settles for June 2nd. The Green’s mainstay is protecting the environment, including climate change mitigation, but the other two opposition parties also claim that as one of their priorities. And that provides an alternative to Doug Ford’s conservatives, who have shown little regard for things environmental, climate change in particular.

The opposition parties all support carbon taxation of some sort, and Horwath has even mused about bringing back the emissions cap and trade program which Ford killed almost immediately after winning last time. They support subsidies for electric vehicles to make them more price competitive, so new car buyers will make the shift away from gas guzzlers. And for some reason education and health care have also become right/left issues, with the opposition parties wanting to see smaller class sizes in schools and the end of private, for-profit, long term care.

The highway Doug Ford will build if he wins – because the Progressive Conservatives don’t think climate change is not a winning issue.

Everybody is promising more affordable housing. But only Ford’s plan has some detail and that involves ramping up urban sprawl into the rural landscape in the GTA. Ford clearly sees the Greenbelt as a land reserve just waiting for new development, rather than a natural endowment for future generations. Consequently it should be no surprise that his proposed new highways projects would run through a good part of the Greenbelt.

As the campaign kicks off, the PCs with 35-40% of Ontario voters backing them, are almost 10 percentage points ahead of the second place Liberals. And when translated to seats that should produce a solid majority for Mr. Ford.

That means that the three main opposition parties will be competing for almost 60% of decided voters. Should the Tories stumble enough to lose that majority seat count, either the Liberals or NDP might be asked to form a minority government. But none of the opposition parties are interested in supporting a Ford minority.

Although there is always someone saying it’s time to unite the left, personalities and tribal party loyalty never allows that to happen. Horwath hopes that her attack ads against Del Duca might give her the edge. But this could backfire since attack ads often say more about the attacker than the victim. Besides all the NDP supporters I know would prefer to win by promoting what they stand for, and not just attacking the the other candidate. More more like Gandhi and less like Putin.

And if Del Duca were to respond to those ads in kind, the anti-Ford crowd might well decide that neither party deserves their support, and just stay home on voting day. And that would ensure another four years for Mr. Ford and his Progressive Conservatives.

Ray Rivers will be with us every Monday until May 30th.

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