Former school board trustee official challenges current trustees to do what is right or follow a 'lame duck' Premier

By Peggy Russell

March 13th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Public School Board Trustees in the Province of Ontario have less than a week to make a very big decision regarding their responsibility to the students and staff and, by extension, the welfare of their communities, with the responsibility they were charged with when elected.

Peggy Russell

Do they follow the direction of the Premier of this Province or do they follow the advice of the experts represented through the Ontario Children’s Health Coalition’s Statement of March 9, 2022?

The Ontario Children’s Health Coalition states: “Masks remain an important layer of protection as the pandemic continues and may be needed in communities with low vaccination rates and where there is a surge in cases. Masks also protect those most vulnerable, including high-risk, immunocompromised and fragile children.”

Trustees in the Province of Ontario have a definitive Role in which, “they must weigh what is in the best interests of the whole education system” which they are duly elected to represent.
This will be the true test of elected Trustees relevancy; there is no hedging around this one.

Either they listen to the experts from the Ontario Children’s Health Coalition or, if they do not, they should be prepared for the potential legal ramifications, not just as a Board, but as individuals who could be named in Legal Actions for not following the advice of the experts from the Ontario Children’s Health Coalition.

Currently Trustees have been advised that legally, they must abide by Public Health Orders. My question is: Are those Orders in the best interest of our collective society or that of special interest groups and some sectors of industry?

Then there is the moral obligation to the children, families/guardians, of the students they serve: to ensure that each and every student, no matter their health status, is provided the same opportunity to learn in a safe classroom environment.

Do Trustees understand that this indeed is their Alamo?

Either they listen to the experts from the Ontario Children’s Health Coalition and do what is right or they follow a “lame duck” Premier who is seeking re-election and the Orders of Ontario Public Health Units who serve at the pleasure of the Premier and their government. Which will it be?

Trustees in Ontario must be prepared to legally challenge the Province, Ministry of Education and, where applicable, Ontario Public Health Units. Trustees need to understand what is truly at stake at this moment or they risk becoming irrelevant.

 

Peggy Russell is a past Vice-Chair of the Halton District School Board. and was a Director of the Ontario Public School Board Association for eight years.

 

 

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Who is the writer - and why would they want to write under different names?

By Pepper Parr

March 12th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Who do we hear from when a comment is made?

We put our name on everything we write – no fake names and we expect people who comment to do the same thing.

We recently came across a situation where there were two names, often saying basically the same thing.

We did reach out to talk to one of them, Mary Hill, to get some clarification. We did ask for a phone number, didn’t get one but the answers she gave us to the questions we asked were satisfactory.

Using your real name is usually a good idea.

Then we noticed this:
Maggie Riley
margaret.riley070272@gmail.com

Mary Hill
maryhill25091962@gmail.com

What’s your problem? you might ask. When all the data we have is available we have the following:

Maggie Riley
margaret.riley070272@gmail.com
70.49.45.202

Mary Hill
maryhill25091962@gmail.com
70.49.45.202

The IP (Internet Protocol) addresses are the same – Maggie Riley and Mary Hill would appear to be the same person.

That’s not the way the game is played.

We will no longer publish comments from either name until there is clarification as to just who is the author of the comments.

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Social media causing serious harms; should be carefully regulated

By Connor Fraser

March 11th,, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that how we interact with the internet, and social media in particular, is disastrous from a health perspective.

Firstly, several studies have noted the link between social media use and depression. A 2018 study released in the Journal of Cyberpsychology, Behaviour and Social Networking demonstrated that every one-point increase in passive social-media use was associated with a 33% increase in depressive symptoms.

Secondly, many have identified links between social media use and reduced memory and attention. Research published by the Gerontological Society of America reported that “on days when social media use was high, individuals reported more memory failures” and furthermore that “higher previous-day social media-use was associated with more memory failures on the subsequent day.” The researchers hypothesize that a key mechanism for memory failures is attentional disengagement, whereby “individuals using social media are less engaged in real-world activities…and may not encode these events and experiences as deeply as they would otherwise.”

Late in 2021, Facebook made headlines by announcing it would re-brand itself as ‘Meta’ signalling CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s intention to play a key role in developing the ‘Metaverse’: The next generation of the internet, enabled by technologies such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). Instead of clicking on webpages and newsfeeds, users will eventually navigate a digital world similar to the physical world, complete with their own avatars, and digital property such as clothing and land.

Imagine a world where a significant number of people live within a tightly controlled digital experience, rarely going outside or interacting with their neighbours. Companies such as Meta and Microsoft are betting big on people spending a lifetime online. But regardless of how scary this potential future looks like, many (particularly young people) are already living in a pseudo-metaverse.

For example, a 2019 article reported that children under age 14 spent nearly twice as long with their tech devices per day as they do with their families. These transformations are having profound impacts on our memories, and ability to pay attention and focus – which has serious implications for the future productivity of our economy, democracy and ability to confront life’s challenges. I argue that social media is already causing serious harms to society – and should be carefully regulated if we hope to prevent these harms and stop the ‘Metaverse’ from magnifying them to a terrifying level.

Consider that an incredible amount of resources have been dedicated towards designing social media and metaverse technologies to be maximally addictive. Former engineers at Google and Meta admit that their apps exploit the same psychological susceptibilities that makes gambling so compulsive, such as variable rewards. Faced to confront the latest techniques in psychology and advanced machine-learning algorithms, it’s no wonder why many find themselves continually attached to their phones – it’s not your fault!

Neither is it uniquely the fault of social media companies, who to my knowledge have not been accused of breaking government laws and regulations in any major way. The role of the firm has always been to generate profits for shareholders – and implicitly value for their customers. Contrastingly, it is the role of the government to identify activities that generate negative externalities and positive externalities – and regulate those activities which produce negative externalities (such as pollution) and fund those activities which produce positive externalities (such as public education).

The current relationship with social media is such that people receive an onslaught of messages from numerous platforms and numerous devices, and find themselves very quickly “toggling” between tasks, unable to consistently focus on any one task for greater than 3 minutes, on average. This toggling is rapidly eroding the capacity for long-term, strategic focus – precisely the tools that people need to set goals and achieve anything meaningful in life.

It is worth noting that social media is not entirely bad, and there are positive aspects to these technologies. For example, in a report commissioned by PEW research, many teens reported that access to social media played an important role in overcoming difficult life experiences. These benefits were magnified for vulnerable populations, such as youth from households with annual incomes less than $30,000 – suggesting that social media offered critical support group that wouldn’t have otherwise been available or affordable.

Moreover, the majority of teens responded that social media enables them to spend time with their friends on a daily basis, through free messaging and video chatting features. During the pandemic, these services have undeniably played an outsized role in enabling people to remain in touch while in-person opportunities were limited. Additionally, some have argued that powerful social media algorithms provide a great service by connecting people with products that are optimally tailored to their needs. To cite one example, last year I received a Spotify advertisement for the language program “Learn French by Podcast” which I subsequently subscribed to and got a huge amount of value from.

While it is clear that social media has benefits to offer when used appropriately, I think it is important to recognize that certain use patterns can be incredibly destructive – especially when people turn to aimless scrolling and passive searching for instant validation. To prevent harms from further accumulating amongst young people, and also to prevent these harms from accelerating as the metaverse becomes more potent, the government must develop an action plan to leave people in control of their relationship with social media.

Any action plan should focus on increasing healthy behaviour and preventing harmful behaviour. One strategy might include imposing regulations on tech giants that make it mandatory for all apps to periodically (i.e. once per month) provide users with a “time-spent” report, remind them about healthy-use habits, and remind them of in-app features that exist to turn-off notifications and block content. Another strategy might include devoting greater government resources to educate citizens about the circumstances under which social media use is harmful. Integrating compulsory modules into the elementary and high-school curriculum about healthy social media practices would be a good start.

Two final points to add. In order to proceed with meaningful action, more academic research of much greater rigour, needs to be conducted. The study cited above from the Journal of Cyberpsychology, Behaviour and Social Networking made use of an online survey where participants answered subjective questions about their experience with social media and any subsequent feelings of depression. This is hardly sufficient evidence, nor the type of decisive evidence I would want to have in my arsenal to push back against big tech. The calibre of academic scholarship in this field needs to improve dramatically in order to provide a clear rational for action that will find sustainable support amongst the majority of citizens.

Finally, I wonder if there is an appetite to explore different business models. One of my professors at the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy, Daniel Breznitz, once commented that “if you’re not paying for a service, you’re a product, not the customer.” In the world of Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, users pay no subscription fees and should therefore think of themselves as “products”.

In order to generate revenues, these business models must create value for their actual customers (i.e. advertisers) by keeping us online for as long as possible. Altering the model by introducing a subscription fee could allow companies to generate value for users as their primary customers, and perhaps abandon the need to aggressively target us with manipulative techniques.

Regardless of what action the government decides to take, this file requires some movement, and I’m shocked that Canadians have received limited leadership from elected officials until now. With continued complacency we are sleepwalking into a future health and economic crisis of titanic proportions.

Born in Hamilton, raised in Aldershot, Connor Fraser attended Waterdown Montessori School, Glenview Public School, Burlington Christian Academy and Aldershot High School. He earned a BASc. in Engineering Science and a major in Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Toronto.  He then  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.

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 & is decently proficient in spoken French. 

He is currently enrolled in the dual Master of Global Affairs and Master of Business Administration program and is concurrently a CFA Level 2 candidate. He is a Senior Producer with “Beyond the Headlines”, a weekly public affairs radio show that airs on CIUT 89.5FM

 

 

 

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Burlington Councillor Paul Sharman along with several Oakville Council members bark back at Metrolinx: 'Meet your commitment build the grade separations'

By Staff

March10th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

When Metrolinx advised the Town of Oakville and the city of Burlington that they would  not be able to proceed with the planned construction of grade separations  – they surely didn’t think that was going to be the end of it.

Burlington ward 5 Councillor took the lead on this and, working with Oakville council member issued a statement making it clear that a delay was not on for their communities.

The Town of Oakville and City of Burlington received updates from Metrolinx (the Province’s Agency for coordinating and integration transportation in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area) on the Burloak and Kerr Street Grade Separations.

Life today at the Burloak crossing.

 

 

This was the promise – when the price ballooned Metrolinx wanted to back out. The local municipal Councillors aren’t on for that decision.

Metrolinx indicated it could no longer meet its commitment to the costs agreed to by all parties involved for both the Burloak and Kerr Separations and that the Kerr Street underpass would be deferred with no future timeline. ” These changes to our agreements with the Provincial agency are unacceptable to us.”

Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman – isn’t prepared to accept the Metrolinx decision.

Grade separations not only ease congestion, they are pivotal to the health and safety of our community for vehicles and pedestrians and ensure rail transportation moves unimpeded across the Lakeshore West Line.  As representatives in areas directly impacted by these railway crossings, we hear daily about delays, safety issues and concerns from our residents.  We are determined to ensure the Province and Metrolinx fulfill their commitments to the residents in our neighbourhoods and the Halton community at large.

The Metrolinx LAkeshore West line is schedule to offer 15 minute service – vehicles will never get to cross the tracks under those conditions.

“We are calling on all Halton MPPs to work to ensure the government’s commitments to the construction of both grade separations move forward and that they do so immediately and at the costs agreed to with the Municipalities in 2018.  Now is not the time to put critical infrastructure on the back burner.  With the Province mandating growth throughout our communities, we in good conscious cannot continue to fulfill the Province’s demands of added population without safety being put firs.” said Sharman

“Movement throughout our Region relies on critically integrated corridors and the infrastructure to move those vehicles, pedestrians and transit safely and quickly.  This is more than a step backwards; the Government has slammed the car in reverse.  We are calling on all residents who have a stake in this infrastructure getting built to contact your MPP and let them know that these delays, deferrals and cost overruns are unacceptable.”

Provincial members:

Stephen Crawford (Oakville) – stephen.crawford@pc.ola.org

Parm Gill (Milton) – parm.gill@pc.ola.org

Jane McKenna (Burlington) – jane.mckenna@pc.ola.org

Effie Triantafilopoulos (Oakville North-Burlington) – effie.triantafilopoulos@pc.ola.org

 

Signed:

Sean O’Meara                                                                                           Beth Robertson

Regional & Town Councillor Ward 1                                                         Town Councillor Ward 1

Cathy Duddeck                                                                                         Ray Chisholm

Regional & Town Councillor Ward 2                                                         Town Councillor Ward 2

Paul Sharman

City of Burlington Council Ward 5

There is an interesting omission: Burlington’s Mayor Marianne Meed Ward is not a signatore to the statement.  She was all over television reports in the decision

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Why were access fees waived - the public didn't see a dime of the savings - money went to telephone company

By Staff

March 7th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

On March 3 a city Standing Committee approved a report that  waived permit fees in the amount of $33,800. for improved internet services for north Burlington.

This is basically how accessible internet access will be.

The improved service in north Burlington is a very important need to those residents. These improvements are being funded by the federal and provincial governments. They did not request municipal assistance or funding.

A Burlington resident has a problem with the decision pointing out that on January 25 2022 the city held an information session for this work. I attended.

The two contractors (Bell Canada and Internet Access Solutions) have not formally requested any financial assistance from the city. The contractors have been working to obtain permits from the City, Region, and Conservation Halton.

Fibre optic cable is being laid all over north Burlington giving the residents much needed internet access.

A  Burlington resident who asks not to be identified thinks “the Mayor/council appear to want some credit for the improved internet access. Must be an election  year.”

“The $33,800 given away is monies that we the taxpayer will have to make up in the 2023 current budget from tax dollars. ( Sounds like Rob Ford and the license plates) This expenditure should have been accounted for in the 2022 current budget if council wanted to participate.

“Sounds like bonusing to me.

“Do not blame the contractors for…. getting something for nothing.”

The question here is:  Why are the taxpayers waiving fees that would have been paid by Bell Canada and Internet Access Solutions, the two companies installing hi-speed broadband service in rural Burlington.

 

 

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Statesman like, and straight spoken, but with a common touch, he was very popular, earned respect, and was always the affable gentleman.

By Joan Little

March 4th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Walter Mulkewich , former mayor of Burlington, died Monday, leaving our city with a big hole in its heart.

I first met Walter around 1970. I knew him by reputation – all good. He was known as a solid individual, forward thinking, and well educated – a former Oakville high school teacher of history and geography, and later a business man. He had been active in the community and his church, taking on the tough jobs, and getting them done. He’d also run for the NDP, faring very respectably in Tory blue Burlington.

Much credit goes to his late wife, Bev, whom he met at the age of 16, They were childhood sweethearts who became soul mates, both with strong character, both exceedingly smart and capable – adventurous, even. Their three daughters – Sharie, Jane and Miriam were close knit, and each has excelled in her world.

They loved traveling, the outdoors, and adventurous trips. That started early. Bev and Walter had talked about seeing northen areas, and in 1968 he accepted a one-year teaching assignment in Inuvik, in the Arctic.

When I was elected in Ward 2 in 1973, I didn’t know them, but knew of them. A year or two later, I met Walter, was impressed, and urged him to run for council, but suspect he’d already thought of it. In those days it was a part-time job. I think the salary was $5,200 a year, plus about the same amount extra if you sought the city/regional seat – hardly a big money-maker!

In 1976, he won in Ward 1, defeating an incumbent. He had a commanding, yet gentle presence, and was a great orator, always in the vanguard of thinking. In those pre-internet days nomination day was exciting. City staff used to mount easels in the Brant Street City Hall window, and post and update candidate lists. Traditionally candidates gathered there at 4:00 to see who was running, and where (because some registered at the last minute). We two couples sometimes stayed downtown for a convivial dinner afterwards.

My husband Lloyd Allingham died suddenly in 1978, and Walter was the first colleague on our doorstep. I remarried in 1981, and the couples friendship resumed. After I retired from council in 1988, Walter frequently dropped in on his way home from City Hall.

Walter Mulkewich with Stephen Lewis – both gifted orators.

There’s a story connected with his 1985 re-election. Local Tories persuaded George Harrington to run against him. (George was Mayor when I was elected, but defeated in 1976 by Burlington’s first woman mayor, Mary Munro). You have to know the city’s culture of that time – predominately Tory, predominately male. But Walter surprised all, retaining his seat with 78 per cent of the vote! The ‘Old Boys’ network was losing ground.

In 1991 Roly Bird announced that he wouldn’t seek re-election. Walter considered Roly a friend, and wouldn’t run against him, but this changed things. Walter stopped by to say he was contemplating running for Mayor. Would we help? We both offered to do anything needed.

He asked me to be campaign manager. I told him I lacked real campaign experience, so was hesitant. (I’d only run two campaigns in my 15 years, the rest were acclamations). He said he’d guide me, and assembled a crackerjack team, garnering support far and wide. Working with so many talented people with the same mission was stimulating. When asked today what I think my biggest contribution to the city was, it was helping elect the city’s best mayor!

Bev was his biggest supporter, and it was a joy to watch them in those nail-biting days – one day optimistic, the next worried. Two noteworthy opponents – one a councillor – were both Conservatives in Tory Burlington, but Walter won. His campaign was based on two principles: environmental protection and fiscal accountability. As expected, his opponents used the “NDP socialist” strategy, but by then he’d been on council 15 years, and proven his mettle.

Statesmanlike, and straight spoken, but with a common touch, he was very popular, earned respect, and was always the affable gentleman. Non partisan, he was admired by colleagues and staff, many of whom became lasting friends. He established the first seniors’ advisory committee.

Very thoughtful, he researched issues and new ideas thoroughly. When he met with developers, there was always a staff member present.

Why did he want the mayor’s job? Garbage! Halton Region had been looking for a landfill site for years – a very costly exercise that required looking at the entire region, then eliminating areas for different factors, like transportation, location, water table, agricultural capability, etc.

Regional staff finally recommended a preferred site – Site A on North Service Road, with Site F (on Tremaine Road in Milton) the runner-up.

The Burlington contingent on Regional council was able to convince a majority of colleagues to support them. This would go to a hearing. If we lost, we’d be back to square one, with no site.

Meantime Halton’s garbage was being shipped to New York State. How long would that last? For the minor cost difference, better to take both sites to the hearing.

Walter had led an environmental committee examining issues on Site A, and was convinced it posed more environmental problems than Site F. He was proven right. Site F (the current site) was found to be superior.

He won reelection as mayor handily in 1994, but in 1997 dropped by with bad news. He’d been diagnosed with Leukemia, and advised not to run. And things worsened. Bev was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and deteriorated quickly until her untimely death in 1998, which devastated him.

In 2015 he wrote an autobiographical book, primarily for family. It was never available publicly, so I treasure my copy. It begins when his parents emigrated from Byelorussia, and farmed near Waterford. He was born in 1940, met Bev in 1956, and began their life journeys.

His girls held a 75th birthday party for him. By then my husband had died and I was delighted that former councillor Linda Pugsley, her husband Stewart and I were invited – the only ‘political’ guests. Linda, Walter and I were part of a small group who, until Covid, met monthly for lunch to discuss current affairs.

Walter sold their lovely Aldershot home last year, moved to a retirement home, and I saw a change in him. This is a huge loss for the city. Would-be candidates will miss him too, because many, many sought his advice on how to be an effective candidate and councillor. While I’ve lost a good friend, Burlington has lost a great ambassador.

The funeral is scheduled, (by invitation only because of Covid) on Monday at 10:00, with visitation Sunday. Arrangements are by Smith’s Funeral Home on Brant Street.

 

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Government shuffling the deck; dealing themselves a better hand

By Pepper Parr

March 2, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

OPINION

Three months from now we will be marking our ballots and choosing who we want to lead us in Ontario going forward.

The Ford government is sitting at Queen’s Park passing legislation.  Yesterday we learned that there was a section in a piece of legislation that forgave a significant fine the Premier was required to pay for not getting a budget before the public by a specific date.

The government has delayed publishing the budget which was due March 31st.  The new date is sometime in late April

We learn today that the government announced an advertising program that will focus on how well the economy is doing.

While important, critically important the province is slowly coming out of pandemic driven restrictions that has ticket sales of Raptors games at the Scotiabank Arena  close to sold out.

People need some relief.

World news is horrific; we are in the middle of something that doesn’t impact on most of us – but the news we read about what is happening in Ukraine is going to impact every one of us in the very near future.

Premier Ford in the Legislature

Inflation is beginning to play havoc on what happens to us daily.   Have you been to the supermarket; have you looked at the price of a good steak ?

Supply chain issues are still not resolved

With all this going on we have a provincial government shuffling the cards and dealing themselves a stronger hand.

Keep an eye on the rascals.

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 steps away from the keyboard; Connor Fraser will write a column on what his demographic thinks

By Pepper Parr

March 2, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

We bid our Contributing Editor and long-time columnist Ray Rivers adieu and hope that he travels well.

Ray Rivers has been with the Gazette for at least eight years during which time he wrote an opinion column from a small L liberal perspective. He developed a following that kept him one his toes.  He also developed within the community, a better understanding on just what an opinion piece is.  There are some who still resent some of the stand Ray took.

Ray Rivers – who won the best that Trump would win`. I’ve been buying him good Scotch ever since.

It was my pleasure to stand behind him and support him every step he took.

He made a point of providing background links to support the positions he had taken.

In the years I have worked with Ray he became a friend, a colleague – someone who made my life bigger than it was before I met him at an event and knew before he knew that he would make a fine columnist.

We will hear from Ray again – right now he takes a break as he does his best to cope with the situation in Ukraine.  Ray covered a Canadian Army training camp while he was in  Ukraine and delivered a couple of hundred Canadian flag lapel pins made a number of friends as well.  Their safety is now top of mind for him.

Ray cannot be replaced; his time with us taught our readers that there is a place for opinions in a local on-line newspaper.

which brought me to Connor Fraser, a young man I met

A number of years ago I met Connor Fraser just before he left for the University of Toronto.  I fully expected the young man to do very well.

Set out below is some detail on just how well he has done.

Connor will write a column once a month, he wanted to be more frequent but it takes time to get into the habit of writing regularly – so once a week for now.

His first column will be on social media.

Connor was born in Hamilton in 1997, 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.

Connor Fraser

In 2020, Connor completed undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto, with a BASc. 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 and is concurrently a Certified Financial Analyst Level 2 candidate.

He is a Senior Producer with “Beyond the Headlines”, a weekly public affairs radio show that airs on CIUT 89.5FM every Monday (October – April) between 11am and 12pm. CJUT is the student run radio station at the University of Toronto.

Connor describes himself as an integrative thinker who enjoys observing parallelisms within and between various subjects such as science & engineering, finance, psychology and international relations. In his free time, Connor enjoys throwing boomerangs, playing tennis, and hanging out with his amazing sister.

You’re going to like this guy.

 

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Marsden learns to fiddle with numbers to create an impression that she can win when she runs for Mayor in October.

By Pepper Parr

February 27th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

OPINION

Some facts:

Municipal election results for Mayor of Burlington

Rick Goldring won with 21,797 votes. Goldring defeated Cam Jackson and Marianne Meed Ward ran and  as a Councillor and won in ward 2.  Anne Marsden was not a candidate in the 2010 election.

In 2014 Rick Goldring ran for re-election and won with 23,360 votes.

Anne Marsden delegating at Burlington city council with her husband David

Anne Marsden ran and got 3,043 votes.

In 2018 Marianne Meed Ward ran for Mayor and defeated Rick Goldring.

Meed Ward – 23,360 votes

Goldring – 16,781 votes

Anne Marsden ran against Gary Carr for Regional  Chair

Gary Carr – 79,775 votes

Anne Marsden – 41,136 votes

The data above is all a matter of public record on either the city of Burlington web site or the Region of Halton web site.

On February 24th, Anne Marsden released the information set out below.

Marsden does not provide dates for the votes she lists.  The amounts spent are a matter of public record.

The Goldring data is for the 2018 municipal election as is the data for Meed Ward.

The Marsden number represent the number of votes she got from the voters of Burlington who chose her as Regional Chair in 2018.

The data Marsden provides appears to be intended to convince people that Marsden is a credible candidate and can pull in a lot of votes without spending very much money.

We believe the numbers are misleading and were intended to mislead.

Anne Marsden has positioned herself as a person who hews to the truth and argues vociferously that she has the facts and that she is right.

She has on occasion done a good job of digging out facts – especially with the C. difficile outbreak at the Joseph Brant Hospital in 2009.

The virus overran the hospital from May 2006 to December 2007- the information was not released until 2009.

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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Doug Ford on the pandemic: '“The world’s done with it.'

By Pepper Parr

February 17th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

OPINION

Yesterday Premier Doug Ford said: he’s “eager to get these mandates moving.”

It has always been about business for Doug Ford.

“I hate as a government telling anyone what to do. We’ve just got to get moving forward and get out of this and protect the jobs,” Mr. Ford said at a manufacturing announcement in Hamilton.

“The world’s done with it, so let’s just move forward.”

The government intends to fully lift capacity limits on businesses and social gatherings on March 1. Its vaccine-certificate policy – which requires certain businesses only admit vaccinated patrons – is set to end the same day.

Mr. Ford said Tuesday that he was “never sold” on the proof-of-vaccination policy, but that he  introduced it on the advice of the province’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Kieran Moore.

“Dr. Moore’s phenomenal, but you know something, he’s reasonable, too. He’s reasonable, he gets it, he understands the economy,” Mr. Ford said. “Thank God, on March 1, we’re moving forward out of this … I just can’t wait.”

And there you have a Premier doing a Class A hissy fit in public.  The 1500 plus new infections Ontario is experiencing each day is a clear sign that we are not “done with it” yet.

Apparently his heart was never in the fight to conquer.

The comments made by the Premier are so irresponsible.  He has never understood that it really isn’t all about jobs – it is about the health of the people he serves. The thousands of deaths recorded so far are a testament on just how serious this has been.

There is hope however, early in June the people of the province can decide with their votes if they are done with Doug Ford.

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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Election sign bylaws and a review of Closed Session meetings: will there be a change in the way the public is treated?

By Pepper Parr

February 2nd, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

OPINION

City staff and Councilors are getting prepared for the fall municipal election.

Two items on the council agenda today are reviewing the election sign by-law and a Staff Direction for the City \Manager to include in a March report a review of the city’s closed session meeting policies and procedures and report back on options and recommendations to ensure the development of updated best practices.

How does on prevent this kind of clutter? You don’t – they are a foundational part of the democratic process.

Let’s take the election signs issue.  Several members of Council would ban election signs completely; they already  have the name recognition they need.

For those looking for a way to gain some name recognition signs on lawns are critical.

It will be interesting to see how Council reacts to what is put on the table.

As for Closed sessions of council there is nothing but shame for this Council; they have held more closed sessions in this term that in any other in the past decade.

Admittedly, there are development issues, especially those related to Ontario Land Tribunal matters that have to be in closed.

The City Manager has advised of his intent to bring forward a report to the March 2002 CSSRA meeting regarding enhancing the alignment and effectiveness of the City of Burlington’s governance related business processes, practices and policies.

The impetus for the report is tied to the need to issue a new RFP for the upcoming renewal of the five-year contract for the City’s independent Integrity Commissioner.

There have been issues raised over the past 12 months in regard to the procedures and processes by which matters before Council are dealt with in Open versus Closed Session Meetings which have substantiated the timely need to review, update and properly define these best practices and procedures and to utilize the findings from this
assessment to support the development of an updated Closed Meeting Protocol.

When Council meetings resume normal operations will we see as much of this?

It will be interesting to learn just what the City Manager thinks a best practice is.

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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Let them Truckers Roll - if they can afford the gas prices they can drive all day

By Ray Rivers

February 2nd, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

It was 10 pm on December 3, 1973 when a 37 year old trucker from Kansas, with the CB handle ‘River Rat’, was on a regular meat products haul but found himself running out of diesel fuel. So he stopped his vehicle on Pennsylvania I-80, picked up his mic and told the world that he’d had enough with high fuel prices, limited/rationed supply and a 55 mph speed limit.

Having stopped the traffic on that highway, it wasn’t long till truckers everywhere in America joined his protest. Then came the song (see link below) and then a movie. This was a movement and these truckers were folk heroes. So the organizers of today’s Freedom Convoy would very much like to re-channel that sentiment. After all, America had been stuck in an energy crisis which was, in some ways, not unlike the public health crisis we’re facing today.

The truckers have absolutely no idea what this woman does: She is the Governor General of Canada – a wise person doing what is a ceremonial role for the most part.

But that is where the similarity ends. That 70’s convoy was a spontaneous act of civil disobedience. The convoy sitting in Ottawa is a premeditated act of attempted sedition. They are threatening to somehow get the Governor General (GG) and head of the Senate to sign a Memorandum of Understanding which will dissolve Parliament and wipe out an entire suite of federal and provincial laws and regulations. They would replace an elected government with the appointed Senate and GG and themselves – Canada Unity.

Canada Unity, the primary organization responsible, is a rebranding of United We Roll, also called Canada’s yellow vests. In 2019 they rolled into Ottawa to demand more oil pipelines for Alberta. Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, perhaps at the urging of his campaign manager, a former Rebel magazine executive, met with them. And even back then they were a pretty unsavoury group.

Supporting organizations today include Soldiers of Odin, the Diagolon network and the Plaid Army. The web site ‘antihate,ca’ identifies some of these associates as neo-Nazis, holocaust deniers, and just plain good old racists. Somewhere in the mix are the western separatists and a lot of folk who don’t actually drive trucks.

The pretence for the convoy idea makes no sense. It wouldn’t matter if Canada waived its border vaccine mandate, since the US has the same requirement. And, seriously, since 90% of truckers are already vaccinated and their very own truckers associations disapprove of this protest, it’s hard to believe that the vaccine mandate is anything but a false flag. Clearly something else is driving this movement.

It is unclear how Canada Unity assumes they can get the Governor-General and leader of the Senate to sign this memorandum of understanding without applying some kind of coercion. At least one of their crowd has hinted at doing what happened at the Capital Building in Washington last year. So the RCMP are on alert.

Prime Minister Trudeau is isolating following contact with someone testing positive for COVID. And that is a convenient cover for what we’d normally call hiding. He is no doubt sequestered by the Mounties much as the legislators in DC ended up in January a year ago. But Erin O’Toole is promising to meet with this anti crowd.

O’Toole has little choice. He is under attack for caving in on the carbon tax and flip flopping on so much else during the last election, and needs to show that he too can cater to the right wing extremists. As a former military officer, it is hard to believe he relishes the meeting, however.

Pierre Poilievre, the current pretender to the Conservative throne,

Pierre Poilievre, the current pretender to the throne, is nipping at his ankles, trying to impress the rightwing zealots in the Conservative caucus that he’s the heir apparent. He does indeed have an incredible talent when it comes to stringing together meaningless phrases like ‘vaccination vendetta.’

And Poilievre is also really good at promoting alternate facts, such as the fake images of empty grocery shelves his cabal of radicals posted on social media, despite the photos originating somewhere in Britain. Barely two weeks into the vaccine mandate, he posts…“Trudeau’s vaccine vendetta is emptying grocery shelves and ballooning food prices.”

Poilievre either doesn’t know the real reasons that have dogged the supply chains or he is being dishonest. Has he forgotten that we first ran out of toilet paper in March 2020? That was almost two years before the trucker’s vaccine mandate came into effect.

Metro stores president and CEO Eric La Flèche said the biggest problem has been absenteeism, with workers throughout the supply chain falling sick with COVID-19 or having to self-isolate. Further, it was noted that almost 100,000 trucks crossed the border the week after the mandate came into effect – about the same as usual for that time of year.

There was a time when the biggest reason to vote for a candidate was their honesty. Clearly times have changed. What do we call someone who is prepared to peddle misinformation and cavort with potential terrorists just to get headlines? One can only hope it’s not ‘prime minister’.

One of the convoy leaders, Mr. Steenburg is a real trucker. And he is proud of his TikTok page which is filled with videos promoting conspiracy theories about COVID-19 vaccines, pandemic denialism and videos promoting fictional war-crimes trials for those responsible for vaccine mandates. But he claims he’s keeping an eye out for trouble makers.

Steenburg claims that this movement has raised $7.5 million in donations collected through GoFundMe. Clearly that didn’t all come from NDP leader Jagmeet Singh’s family, though his brother-in-law was a big donor. Mr. Singh has condemned the protest. And it is unclear whether all that money has yet been released to pay the protesters for fuel, food and accommodation, and those monstrous Canada flags.

Parliament is not in session, the prime minister is not in Ottawa and MPs have been told to stay away. So nothing exciting may take place, and with a bit of luck they’ll go home in peace.

Peaceful protesting is part of our democratic tradition, but did they really have to bring those humongous trucks? This convoy driving from BC to Ottawa and idling their engines all night, just to keep warm through the coldest nights of the year, may have single handedly generated enough carbon to keep Canada from meeting it’s Paris climate targets. Why didn’t they just take the train?

There may be a song and movie about the Freedom Convoy, but probably only if the leaders of this protest really do go ahead with their attempt at a coup d’état. They haven’t come to Ottawa just for the drive. But Parliament is not in session, the prime minister is not in Ottawa and MPs have been told to stay away. So nothing exciting may take place, and with a bit of luck they’ll go home in peace.

In a tweet Mr. O’Toole said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberals want to “smear and demonize” truckers. It appears the convoy leaders have already done that to themselves and to the Conservative party members who support them.

Ray Rivers, a Gazette Contributing Editor,  writes regularly 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:

Trump Jr. –

Convoy Song’73 Convoy –     BS on Supply

Poilievre Tweet –   Tories Promote Convoy –

Convoy More Dangerous –

Trucker HateEmpty Shelves Story –    Fake Photo of Empty Shelves

Canada Unity –    ANTIHATE.ca

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The forthcoming provincial election needs some hard thinking - I like the look of a minority goverment

By Pepper Parr

January 31st, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

OPINION

During her State of the City address on Thursday the Mayor would not declare that she is going to run for office again – she said she would declare in May (why the wait) but added that she loved the job.

A majority of the current council have indicated that they will run again; there are a couple that should re-think that decision.

But before we get our heads around deciding whether or not members of the current city council deserve to be re-elected we have to make some decisions on the current provincial government.

Do we re-elect Doug Ford? Personally I wouldn’t. In my view the smartest thing we can do, if we must, is return the Conservatives as a minority government.

I’ve not been impressed with the way Ford has handled the pandemic and his Highway 13 plans would be a disaster.
Doug Ford is a business man – that is what he understands – even if he isn’t all that good at it.
He once made the comment that he “detests” closing down the commercial sector – but that is what had to be done to limit the new Omicron variant from spreading.

Many had taken the position that this most recent variant wasn’t all that bad – failing to realize that more people died of Covid19 during January of this year than at any other time during this now two year pandemic – save one month.
We had children who were being infected.

On Thursday we had genuine nut cases lining the overpasses along major highways cheering on the Freedom Convoy – truckers who said vaccination mandate did not respect their rights; forgetting that not being vaccinated infringed on the rights of others.

There they were – by the hundreds at overpasses across the GTA. Which part of the solution to bringing the pandemic to an end didn’t they understand? And which part of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms do they not understand?

The rank stupidity and level of ignorance is stunning; the crowds that cheered on the truckers to be so uninformed is disturbing – and dangerous. Those who drive a truck for a living have the right to refuse to be vaccinated – but unless they are vaccinated they can’t drive a truck across the Canada \US border.

There are people at city hall who have been told they cannot report for work if they are not vaccinated.
I’ve never had the feeling that this provincial government has a solid grip on the pandemic. The way they have jerked parents with children in school is a real shame.

I am of the belief that Andrea Horvath, the NDP leader would have difficulty forming a government in the very unlikely event that she won a majority.

And Stephen Del Duca has just not inspired me – he is trying to create a profile and get some traction. I like the look of John Fraser, the current Liberal leader in the legislature.

I think the provincial Liberals need a major conference at which they could flesh out just who they are and what their policies will be. Until they do something to let the public know what they will do differently they are wandering in the political wilderness.

Times have changed. The pandemic has brought a lot of the changes to the surface.

One of the issues governments have failed to effectively address is homelessness and Long Term Care.

Housing that is affordable; solving the homeless problem; get a grip on what oxycodin is doing to people – the number who die of this drug when they overdose has to be curtailed.

Learning how we as a society take care of the elderly and ensure that their “golden years” have dignity and the services they need. The long term care problems are far from resolution.

Mental Health – a new health issue brought on by the pandemic with no programs that can come close to meeting the need. More importantly – understanding the need.

Re-thinking the way we are educating our young people. Is what we are doing now the best we can do?

How we allocate the tax money collected needs a much bigger deep think – and it is the public that will have to do that thinking – don’t trust the politicians to do it for you.

With a provincial election less than six months away – it is time to move beyond partisan positions and think about what we as a society need at every level and then decide how we are going to make it happen.

Burlington is going to have three candidates that are very very different.

While canvassing a neighbourhood Manaa found herself on the doorstep of NDP candidate Andrew Drummond. He took the literature but did not invite her in for coffee.

Andrew Drummond, the NDP candidate, is at that point in his political career where he has to do much better or look for a different career choice.

Manaa gained some valuable experience working as a volunteer with Oakville North Burlington Liberal Pam Damoff and Burlington MP, Cabinet Minister Karina Gould.

Mariam Manaa, a young Muslim women about whom we don’t know enough – the question with this candidate (she is running as a Liberal) is this: Are there enough Muslims to give this candidate the support she needs and are there enough voters in Burlington who can get beyond any level of racism they might have to elect her to office?

The current MPP, Jane McKenna will come out of hiding at some point. Don’t expect her to have very much to say – hopefully she will give up on that really stupid speech she made in the legislature that the pandemic was over-rated.

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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Keenleyside reports on state of affairs at Freeman Station

By Ed Keenleyside, President Friends of Freeman Station
January31st, 2022
BURLINGTON, ON
A Report to All FOFS Directors and Members at Large
We’ve been closed for a variety of reasons: normal winter shut down; Covid-19 restrictions and accumulation of snow effectively eliminating parking at Freeman station. In spite of this a few projects continue to move along, and a couple of new projects have begun.

Ed Keenlyside, on the right, explaining a project to a citizen at a community meeting.

First of all, re: the restoration of the caboose… Before the cold and the snow closed down operations Ken Brooks and his dedicated team of experts replaced the windows in the cupola after reattaching it to the main frame. Simultaneously the station’s electrical system is being
extended to the rolling stock and ultimately to the three shipping containers at the back of the property. In preparation for next spring, tongue & groove lumber is being stockpiled in the station half has already been primed and painted and the remainder is being prepared as we speak.

Meanwhile inside our long-awaited video wall, which acts as a backdrop for the diorama, is nearing completion. Following closely behind, will be the installation of an a/v link from the basement to the waiting room to provide a visual connection for those people unable to use
the stairs. Both of these projects are being completed thanks to the generosity of the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

This is what they started out with – Sitting on some “cribbing” with a sign badly in need of several coats of paint, the Freeman Station gets ready for its big move.

Now that we have completed the restoration of the station (in record time, I might add) it is time to look at an important component of the station that needs updating. That is our website. We have struggled to find a person who has the time and knowledge to manage this
valuable communication and fundraising tool. Over the years items have been added which had a temporary importance but which were never removed. One of the most common comments is that our website could be more user friendly. Well, work is now underway to
remedy that concern. The original company in St. Catharines has been contacted about resurrecting the site. With the pandemic lock-down, there are no visitors and thus virtually no donations. Therefore the sooner the website is fixed so that it encourages donations and
makes it super easy to donate, the better.

Settled in the new home – the task now was to complete the refurbishing and make it a destination for railways buffs.

On the fundraising side of our corporation, I am proud to tell you that due to your generosity, we had a successful campaign this fall. As they say on PBS “THANK YOU!” In addition, I have recently received good news from the federal government. Our application for a $10,000 grant has been approved and those funds will be soon deposited in our account. Being a 100% volunteer organization, we depend heavily on visitors for most of our donations. Since we have virtually been closed for two years, that has put quite a strain on our bottom line.

Another new project is just getting started, and this is a review of our By-Laws. Last October 2021 the Ontario Not-For-Profit Act was enacted. All corporations, like ours, must ensure their by-laws conform to these new regulations. Thankfully, all corporations have been allowed time to make any necessary adjustments.

One more aspect of our heritage train station is to complete an accurate inventory of all items we own. Since we are a small museum, we are unable to store unused items, and we have only limited space to display other items. This has led to the establishment of a Collections Policy and a Collections Committee. This group is headed up by the hard-working Dave Ellis.

Currently they have spread out a large number of tools and other items at the station. Some of these will go into the eventual FOFS workshop in one of the three containers at the back of the property. Other items that are not needed will be sold or disposed of. The remaining items will then be properly identified and added to a comprehensive FOFS inventory.

The year 2022 also marks another milestone in the FOFS history. At the end of the year our land-use agreement with the Solenis Chemical Company will expire.

Contact has already been made with their manager in order to facilitate an extension of that contract. We are fortunate to be a partner with the city and Solenis in maintaining and operating this valuable heritage site for future generations. With the City of Burlington owning the building and Solenis owning the land we are indeed in good hands.

The pandemic has been a real challenge to your Board of Directors as well as the community we serve. The immediate future is uncertain from a health and safety point of view. We have been very careful with Covid restrictions, and so far, it has paid off. We will continue to make your health and safety our number one priority.

Please continue to support this wonderful architectural gem that has undergone a miraculous transformation in a few short years. From a utilitarian train station built in 1906 for less than $2,000, it has cost many times that amount to bring this historic piece of Freeman and
Burlington history back to life.

Please continue your support and encourage your friends to become FOFS members.

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Rivers: Which is it - Blaming the Victims or Passing the Buck

 By Ray Rivers

January 28th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

“This is a struggle between democracy and authoritarianism. This is a direct challenge to the rules-based international order and an attempt to replace it with a world in which might makes right, and where the great powers, the nuclear-armed powers, have the authority to redraw the borders, dictate the foreign policies, and even rewrite the constitutions of sovereign democracies whose only fault is that they are smaller and their militaries are not as powerful.” (Remarks by the Deputy Prime Minister about Canada’s support for Ukraine, Jan 26, 2022)

 One would think that Prime Minister Trudeau would be trying to appeal to people living in the western provinces, rather than deliberately offending them.   Winding down the oil and gas sector to achieve net neutral carbon levels is bad enough.  But Trudeau has no choice.  It was clear from the last two elections that Canadians are demanding action to combat climate change.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

So why would he then decide to offend Canadians of Ukrainian heritage, two thirds of whom also live in the west?  That is what he has done by thumbing his nose at a plea by the Ukrainian government to provide them with defensive weapons.  We know there is a multi-million dollar cache of anti-tank and small weapons, which had originally been destined for the Kurds in Iraq, just sitting in a warehouse taking up space.

That supply would be ever so welcome and it would cost Canadian taxpayers nothing, since we’d already paid for them back in 2014.  Some training might be needed, but Canada has 200 trainers already in place, and more coming, for exactly that purpose.  Ukraine is outgunned by its larger aggressive neighbour who has previously invaded and annexed part of the country and has now amassed over a hundred thousand troops on the border as it threatens to do more of the same.

And this isn’t Ukraine’s first rodeo with Canada when it comes to weapons supply.  Shortly after the 2014 Russian invasion, while Stephen Harper was PM and Jason Kenny Minister of National Defence, a large quantity of surplus defensive weapons were being considered for shipment to Ukraine.  However, the Harper government decided in the end to destroy the weapons instead.

Deputy PM and Finance Minister, Chrystia Freeland.

Trudeau’s deputy PM and Finance Minister, Chrystia Freeland, a westerner, has some Ukrainian heritage.  As a strong advocate for Ukraine she was actually banned from visiting Russia several years ago.  One would expect her, of all people, to respect the wishes of the majority of Canadians, let alone those of Ukrainian heritage, and send the darn weapons they need and are asking for.

But in the end the Canadian government just said no.  Canada is proud to send more of those night goggles, a big loan and, probably, body bags for the inevitable casualties if and when the Russians do invade.  Freeland said “Ukraine is on the front lines of that struggle and that is why Canada is standing with Ukraine.”  But this Canadian government is actually leaving them on the front line to face death alone and unarmed.

Perhaps this is a moral issue for the PM.  Like the German government, perhaps Mr. Trudeau doesn’t believe in sending weapons into conflict zones.  So he refuses to send defensive weapons which would enable a democratic nation to fend off an autocratic aggressor. But somehow it is OK for Canada to send armoured vehicles and sniper rifles to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a brutal autocratic monarchy, which has killed over a quarter million folks including it’s own people.

In 1939 Russia attacked Finland with the goal of annexing it.  They sent over 21 divisions totalling 450,000 troops and tanks, and they bombed the cities.  Finland was totally unprepared.  Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov told the international community that they were just dropping food baskets – Molotov food baskets.   So the Finns developed their own weapons made from Finnish alcohol with a flaming wick and called them Molotov cocktails.

The Finns lost some land (10%) which became part of Russia but they beat the Russians back with a highly successful insurgent warfare and against all odds.  That is what Ukraine would have to do should Russia decide to invade again, given the imbalance in lethal weapons.  To that end some fellow eastern European nations, the UK and USA are sending anti-tank weapons — but not Canada.

Vladimir Putin, as a former KGB agent,

Russian tanks – probably the biggest tank force in the world

Vladimir Putin, as a former KGB agent, is a student of history.  Perhaps the only reason he hasn’t yet invaded Ukraine is because he fears the same kind of response which Stalin faced in Finland; and Hitler and Napoleon in Russia; and every occupier since the beginning of time in Afghanistan.  Even if Russia’s military broke through to Kyiv, Putin knows his chances of holding it would be limited, given how unpopular he has become among the local populace.

Defensive weapons would make it harder to invade and occupy Ukraine.  And that would minimize casualties.   But Mr. Trudeau is talking in abstract terms about imposing some kind of as yet undefined sanctions once Russia invades.   But someone should have told him that sanctions have only rarely worked, and never with Russia.  Russia still occupies Crimea and still is fighting Ukrainians through its proxies in Donbas, despite sanctions.

Mr. Trudeau is calling for a peaceful solution – a diplomatic solution.  That is almost exactly what Neville Chamberlain told the British people.  Peace in our time – we just need to let Putin have Ukraine, I guess.   Mr. Trudeau hasn’t said that in those words but he must understand that Putin has no intention of stopping.

If Russia invades, as the Americans and Brits expect it will, and we have failed to provide arms to help the Ukrainians defend themselves, there will be political blood on the floor in Ottawa, as well as real human blood on the streets of Kyiv. And nobody should expect any self-respecting Ukrainian Canadian to ever vote Liberal again.

Ray Rivers, a Gazette Contributing Editor,  writes regularly 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:

Freeland remarks –    Delusions –    Arms Cache

Finland’s Winter War –    LAVs Killing Saudi

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State of the City: Mayor Meed Ward sets out what she and her council did and where the growth will take place in 2022

2022 Mayor’s State of the City:

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward
State of the City 2022
January 27, 2022
Full Speech Transcript

Welcome everyone and thank you for joining us today for the 2022 State of the City address.

While I was genuinely looking forward to being together in person this year, I am grateful we could come together virtually and safely as we deal with the constant shift and flexibility required in these unique times we live in.

The Burlington Chamber of Commerce has once again found a way to carry on this local tradition and allowed me the opportunity to share important information with our community about where we are at and where we are going here in the great City of Burlington.

I want to thank the Chamber and today’s sponsors for bringing this event to life and for making it free to everyone this year. It takes a lot of hard work behind the scenes and I know our entire community appreciates it. Thank you.

I also want to note that today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day and in honour of that, our Burlington Pier will be lit yellow to make this important day one of reflection and remembrance.

THE YEAR 2022

Focusing for a moment on the year that just passed and the many challenges we have collectively faced both here in Burlington and around the world, it is tremendously important to take the time to appreciate those who kept us safe, healthy and supported.

Our essential workers in healthcare, police, fire and emergency services, long-term care, education and front-line retail who we could not have survived without.

Our generous and compassionate community support groups, such as food banks and mental health resources, and the volunteers and donors who keep them going.

The public servants and city staff who not only kept plowing snowy roads and maintaining busy parks but also launched and ran extremely successful vaccination clinics.

Business owners across the city who demonstrated remarkable resilience and flexibility in the face of a constantly shifting landscape and all the residents who did everything they could to shop local and help keep them going.

And our city partners who never rested in finding ways to support our business community with advocacy, funding, personal protection equipment (PPE) and rapid tests, such as the Chamber, Burlington Economic Development and our local BIAs.

I often say one of the silver linings of the past two years has been seeing the way people and organizations have come together and collaborated like never before with the shared goal of supporting our community. The strength of these relationships will carry forward for many years and we are absolutely a better city for it.

One of the most important things we can do right now is focus on the good – and gratitude is a big part of that. Never underestimate how much a simple text or email with a few kind words could mean right now. It makes all the difference and I speak from a lot of personal experience here.

So, as we embark further into 2022, I encourage everyone to take the time each day to recognize the people who are filling our buckets with positive energy and good ideas, with notes of kindness and support, and with the hard work and flexibility that continue to help get us through difficult times.

AGENDA FOR SOTC ADDRESS

Burlington City Council – including myself as Mayor – had an ambitious to-do list when we took office more than three years ago. Working closely with city leadership and staff, we hit the ground running in 2019 and — despite a global pandemic — the business of the city has forged ahead.

I want to give you an update on where we are at in delivering on those commitments. I want to note that as I speak to that and share some photos of what we have done throughout this term so far, if you see any photos where we are close together and unmasked, be assured that those were taken early in the term as council and I have been very cognizant of all the pandemic protocols that have evolved since March 2020.

As is often the case, many new priorities also came to light since we took office, and I will fill you in on how those that have been incorporated into our mandate.

And as we approach the fourth year of this term, I want to share where we are headed looking forward. Brighter days and exciting projects are ahead as we support the continued evolution of this amazing city.

GROWTH IN BURLINGTON

In 2018, our community made it clear that their No. 1 concern was ensuring growth was better managed in Burlington. People wanted us to put a stop to the excessive heights and density of new buildings that were being approved — especially in our downtown core — and preserve the history, character and small-town feel that makes our city so wonderful. People told us they wanted greenspaces protected – and more of them created with new builds – that transit needed to be prioritized to help mitigate growing traffic congestion, and that neighborhood amenities and community centres had to be a priority.

Council and I heard these voices loud and clear and committed to better manage the trend we were seeing in overdevelopment going forward. And I want to very clearly say that mitigating overdevelopment and working towards responsible development are not the same thing as being “anti-development”.

I know there are some folks who wish we didn’t have to grow much at all and I want to talk a little bit about that.

In the past few years, I find more and more people I talk aren’t fully aware that Burlington and Halton do need to keep growing for the benefit of our city and region.

The Province of Ontario sets growth targets for each municipality – these are mandatory growth targets – and we will be expected to accommodate more than 70,000 new people in the next 30 years. That’s a lot of people. Our neighbours in Oakville and Milton are expected to take even more than that.

And why wouldn’t people want to live here? Burlington is an amazing place to work and play, and it is no surprise people continue to want to come here and raise a family. I know many of us also want our grown children to be able to afford to stay here and build their own families here too.

So we will grow – but the bottom line is as our city continues to evolve, future growth and development in the City of Burlington will happen in the right places and at the right scales to better reflect the vision of the community — and this change is the success I am most proud of in this term of council.

RIGHT PLACE. RIGHT SCALE. RIGHT VISION.

The way we are achieving this is two-fold.

One way has been to update our Official Plan to better reflect the ways we want to grow, and that includes heights and densities, and amenities and greenspace — and the other has been to remove a key obstacle that was consistently allowing overdevelopment to continue unabated by provincial land tribunal decisions and that was to adjust our Major Transit Station Area (MTSA) and Urban Growth Centre (UGC) designations and put them where they truly belong: near mass transit.

Council and I wasted no time after taking office and enacted an Interim Control Bylaw in early 2019 to pause development while the appropriate work could be done to assess the role and function of the downtown John Street bus terminal and the Burlington GO station on Fairview Street as Major Transit Station Areas, examine the planning structure, land-use mix and intensity for the lands identified in the study area, and update the Official Plan and Zoning bylaw regulations as needed for the lands identified in the study area.

After this work was dutifully completed by staff and in concert with external consultants, and with many opportunities for public input and feedback, we proposed and were successful in obtaining approval by the Province to adjust the boundaries of the MTSA and UGC away from the downtown and focus on the Burlington GO station. This change was solidified in writing by the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing in November of 2021. That was something that had never been done before by any municipality.

While a handful of developments already in the appeal process will still require us to fight for the community’s vision at the Ontario Lands Tribunal (OLT), going forward we will be able to avoid the tribunal’s pattern in past decisions of using the MTSA and UGC to further justify excessive height and density in our downtown core.

We have many thoughtful and innovative developers who want to help us in these goals and I have spoken with many of them throughout this term of council, such as at monthly meetings with the BILD leadership team, through speaking engagements, such as the Urban Land Institute, and through 1:1 meetings with developers. We are finding ways to work together to help our community grow while still respecting the community’s vision and we will continue to do so.

City Council this term also supported establishing the Burlington Lands Partnership (BLP) as a new organizational structure with key priorities to:

  • maximize business development opportunities and advance future economic growth and job creation;
  • implement major city building projects that enhance the quality of life for all citizens; and
  • deliver an increased supply of affordable housing through proactive long-term strategies and innovative partnerships.

The BLP has already advanced the due diligence to inform the offer to purchase Robert Bateman High School and created a strategic partnership opportunity filter to be used as an analytical tool focused on due diligence to ensure consistency and rigor in evaluating opportunities for land development and partnerships in the future.

STRATEGIC GROWTH

In the past three years, we have remained a growing city, we have just been getting more strategic about it:

  • We currently have 68 active major development applications at different stages of review in our system as you can see on this development tracking map that is available on the City’s website;
  • To keep up with demand, we have already added 15+ staff to our planning and building teams to help manage that growth and help applicants get to ‘yes’ or ‘no’ much faster;
  • In 2021, we saw 1,539 building permits issued, including 69 industrial, 155 commercial, 68 single-detached dwellings, 41 townhouses and 23 apartments and condo projects; and
  • 543 new dwelling units were created here in Burlington and all this development is a staggering $468 million in construction value here in our city.

Our new Official Plan for Burlington – and our Regional Official Plan Amendment (ROPA 48) with fellow Halton partners (Oakville, Milton and Halton Hills), who have been amazing collaborators — will work to help us build complete communities and neighborhoods that accommodate growth in ways that protect established neighborhoods, create parks and greenspace to engage and thrive in, and reduce the need for cars through proximity to transit, bike and walking paths, and new community amenities.

I’m so incredibly proud of the work all our staff and council have done to get us to this point and I’m excited to see Burlington’s growth and evolution continue in ways that honour our history, preserve what we hold dear, and accommodate innovative and well-suited development for generations to come.

BUSINESS GROWTH

Despite an incredibly challenging landscape since March 2020, due to the pandemic, especially in our restaurant and service sectors, we have also seen many local businesses continue to grow and thrive — and new ones locate their businesses here in Burlington.

More than 3,000 new jobs have been created in our city so far this term (1,573 in 2019; 843 in 2020; and 849 in 2021 = 3,265 total).

When it comes to new businesses and company expansions, 220 have happened this term (100 in 2019; 55 in 2020; and 65 in 2021 = 220 total), including Tandia Financial Credit Union’s global head office; Endress & Hauser began building their new $28 million, 47,000 sq. ft. customer experience centre; Deloitte’s 36,000 sq. ft. expansion, and MNP and Aslan Technologies’ each moving forward with 20,000 sq. ft. expansions.

Brock University will be moving a campus here to our city and finally bringing our first undergraduate post-secondary education campus to Burlington (Note: DeGroote is a graduate level program – MBA and Executive Level programs only – part of McMaster) – I am excited to see how this unfolds and creates opportunities for students as well as local businesses. My work continues with this sector to attract additional post-secondary institutions.

For our rural residents and businesses, I am happy to say we are supporting (through a third-party provider) essential high-speed Internet network installation in 2022 with some funding support secured from the federal government, as well.

The Red Tape Red Carpet initiative of 2019 partnering with local business owners to identify obstacles to relocation and growth here and creating 22 actionables to implement to make things easier, including the ability to submit development applications in digital format and the creation of a new business development liaison position at City Hall to help shepherd applicants through complex projects, and the in-progress creation of a one-window service centre on the main floor of City Hall and construction for that is getting ready to start next week!

FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY

Constituents and businesses repeatedly expressed concern they wanted a Mayor and Council who would be fiscally-responsible, keep taxes low, and ensure every dollar was spent wisely at the City.

Cities that are experiencing growth like Burlington and much of the GTA suffer increased tax pressures, as we saw in Milton, who is growing even faster than we are, with their 9% tax increase in 2019. Growth does not pay for itself, especially in the short-term. Before new taxpayers can start contributing, we have to build roads, sewers, sidewalks, parks and infrastructure.

Our community has high expectations for the levels of service we provide, as they should. This is one of the best cities in Canada to live in and our ability to deliver on essential services for our residents and businesses has to remain high.

It is important to mention the pandemic has considerably hurt the revenues of all municipalities as revenue-generating areas, such as transit and recreation programs, all saw huge declines through repeated lockdowns. Even with additional support from other levels of government, the losses were substantial.

Despite these pressures, we have continued to invest in our city and infrastructure and there have been many improvements that benefit every corner of Burlington thanks to council and staff:

BUDGET & TAXES

When comparing ourselves to other Halton municipalities, such as Oakville, Milton and Halton Hills, along with other nearby cities, like Mississauga and Hamilton, Burlington’s tax increases are reasonable and on par. They were slightly higher than the average in 2021, but in 2020 and 2019, they were slightly lower.

When looking around the province, it is useful to consider how much a homeowner pays in taxes as a percent of their home value. Here in Burlington, we have one of the lowest rates in the entire province, coming in at just 0.779% and now at 0.008% for 2022.

Our present council has maintained similarly low tax increases in our term than the previous mayor and council, who did not have a pandemic to content with nor the associated lost revenues. The two terms preceding us saw average increases in the city portion each year of 3.84%, including three years with increases over 4% and as high as 4.5%. This term of council has so far seen an average of 3.90%, including a 2.99% increase in 2019 that was the lowest increase residents had seen in 9 years.

Looking back as far as 2011, there has not been a year where the city portion of the tax increase has been lower than inflation. It is always higher. Except for this year – 2022. Inflation is well above 4% (according to the Bank of Canada) and our tax increase is 3.90%.

When combined with Region/Education, the number gets even lower. The previous mayor and council only achieved a combined tax increase lower than inflation once in two terms. We have already achieved this three times in just one term.

The 2022 budget is focused on maintaining and enhancing city services, ensuring the city’s assets are in a state of good repair, and addressing the continued impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Burlington has established our own self-imposed debt policy limit that is half the provincial limit, at 12.5%. The city’s current limit is as at 9.3%. The Region of Halton issues debt on behalf of the local municipalities, and we continue to enjoy the Region’s AAA credit rating.

CITY’S 2021 COMMUNITY SURVEY RESULTS

Moving on to high-service levels — since 1998, the City of Burlington has regularly conducted a community survey to uncover resident satisfaction. The surveys typically happen every 2-4 years, with the most recent surveys being in 2015, 2019 and 2021. The statically-valid survey provides an important opportunity for benchmarking and to monitor progress of community measures over time. This time, for the 2021 Community Survey, 755 Burlington residents were randomly selected and interviewed using either a residential landline or cell phone number.

Overall, I’m thrilled to report the results of the survey were highly positive.

There was a rating of 95% satisfaction with the overall quality of services in the City of Burlington. This rating was an increase from 2019 and is equal to the highest satisfaction rate compared to any of the previous measurements of resident satisfaction in the last 13 years. And to get that result during the pandemic is all the more remarkable.

Services that were identified as strengths included: Fire Services, parks, sports fields, trails, festivals and events.

Of the surveyed respondents, 71% said they would support a tax increase to maintain current service levels.

Gains were made in all areas of community engagement, including having enough opportunities to provide input, the City’s ability to engage with residents, being welcoming to public opinion in decision-making, using public input in decision making and decisions made reflect the voice of the majority of residents. There were sharp increases in these areas in 2019, compared to 2015, and 2021 continues to see positive growth.

There was substantial growth of 34% of those indicating they now currently find out about city programs, services and initiatives from their ward councillor or mayor and I’m really proud that our communications have added value to our community.

When asked the open-ended question, “What is the one issue you feel should receive the greatest attention from your Mayor and members of Council?”, the most frequent responses were around growth, especially in the downtown, related to high-rises, and the implications it might have on traffic congestion/traffic lights and transportation. This was followed by affordable housing, economic development and infrastructure.

Other common issues included parks/nature/paths, public transportation, the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, as well as parking management, bylaw enforcement and transit service.

THE ENVIRONMENT

During the last campaign and throughout this term, residents consistently and emphatically asked us to address the global climate crisis at a local level by protecting greenspace, trees and rural farmland, mitigating flood risk, and reducing our carbon footprint.

One of the first things this council did upon taking office was declare a Climate Emergency. What that means is that all the decisions we make are done through a climate impact lens. Whether it’s how we allocate our annual budget or the types of infrastructure we choose to build, the protection and preservation of our environment is always a driving force.

What that looks like in practice are things like the community-based Climate Action Plan that was approved at Council in April of 2020. The plan includes seven key program areas to help the community transition away from the use of fossil fuels, particularly for buildings and transportation.

Council’s workplan From Vision to Focus supports the Strategic Plan targets for city operations to be net carbon neutral by 2040 and to work towards being a net carbon neutral community.

Staff are actively involved in partnerships with the Bay Area Climate Change Office and Council, and the Halton Climate Collective.

We have partnered with the Centre for Climate Change Management at Mohawk College to develop a home energy efficiency retrofit (HERO) program that will work to reduce household carbon emissions.

We have committed to reducing the GHG emissions from City operations overall by 21% by 2024 and 100% by 2040.

We’re using renewable energy at City facilities, including solar, such as a solar wall at Fire Station No. 8, and leasing roof space for solar generation at Mainway Arena, Transit and Roads, Parks and Forestry buildings.

Work on Burlington’s Integrated Mobility Plan is now underway. The plan will be built around eight pillars that, when implemented, will result in a new era of transportation that:

  • Provides a wide range of options for getting around regardless of age, means or ability, including walking, cycling, public transit and automobiles; and
  • Uses compact modes of travel like buses, bicycles and walking to efficiently move larger number of people.

We invested an additional $100,000 in annual tree planting and protection in/since our 2019 budget to contribute to the health of our tree canopy and help mitigate the loss of trees we have seen due to the Emerald Ash Borer

We launched and are continuing to evolve the private tree bylaw to protect against unnecessary removal of large older trees or requiring fees to replace them – will be reviewing the fee structure in March, as well as the process to make it more streamlined and ensure it is not unreasonably punitive.

We established the Aldershot Quarry Community Liaison Committee to create an ongoing dialogue with transparency and environmental accountability between one of our local quarries and the city and nearby residents.

We approved a resolution that we will not open the Greenbelt for development or compromise public safety protections by setting aside the Clean Water Act, as permitted in the Province’s proposed Bill 66 Open for Business legislation. After hearing voices from across Ontario, the Province eliminated the ability to bypass legislation from the bill.

Just last month, we were notified the City of Burlington has been approved for $200,000 we applied for from the Green Municipal Fund for the initiative: City of Burlington Zero Carbon Feasibility Studies for Four City Buildings.

As a member of the Conservation Halton board, we successfully pushed back on egregious changes the Province wanted to make to strip Conservation Authorities of their power and compromise some of their revenue generating services.

Prior to COP26 in Glasgow, the City also signed on to participate in the Race to Reduce campaign recognizing the City’s target to become a net carbon zero community by 2050.

And the City is working in collaboration with a number of staff and community stakeholders to develop Climate Resilient Burlington: A Plan for Adapting to Warmer, Wetter and Wilder Weather, expected to be completed and presented to City Council later this year.

MITIGATING TRAFFIC ISSUES

With a growing city that attracts new residents and businesses, traffic congestion is an issue that council consistently hears about from our residents. We know traffic flow on major streets is a concern, as is parking and noise from loud vehicles all across the city.

Burlington City Council approved a refreshed version of the 2016 Strategic Plan in May 2021. This version keeps the strategic directions consistent. They are A City that Grows, A City that Moves, A Healthy and Greener City and An Engaging City.

To support a city that moves, we know new development needs to be focused close to major transit, that is something our successful work to move our MTSA and UGC near the GO Stations has supported.

We also know new developments, particularly high-rises, require planning that builds complete communities around them, and that means parks, community spaces, shops and amenities that don’t require getting in your car. All our work on our Official Plan and Regional Official Plan recognizes this goal and supports these types of builds going forward.

We approved free transit for children under 12 and seniors at off-peak hours Monday to Friday (Council recently made the pilot seniors’ program permanent), and free transit for low income residents who qualify for the Region’s SPLIT subsidized transit pass. Free student transit is also on the table for next term of council. We also added more buses and drivers for conventional transit, and an additional bus and driver for Handivan service to increase frequency on main routes to better align with 15-minute GO service and respond to increased demand.

Parking concerns evolved after the pandemic began with extended residential street parking becoming more essential as people worked from home, and different needs surfacing downtown where shoppers needed to do quick curbside pickups from their favourite stores. The city responded effectively by flexing the rules around both in order to better support residents and businesses across the city, and offering periods of free parking at the pandemic’s onset as well.

Traffic noise is an ongoing issue we are tackling with our partners at the Halton Regional Police Service. Their aptly named “Project Noisemaker” has used proactive enforcement and in 2020 alone the campaign saw more than 1,420 charges laid for things like having no muffler or making unnecessary noise.

We are looking at adding two Level 2 chargers and one Level 3 charger to downtown municipal lots. These are the two highest level chargers in terms of speed and will complement the existing 12 chargers we already have in the downtown which accommodate up to 24 electric vehicles. One is included in the Elgin promenade project in Lot 1 with the other two locations planned for Lot 8 and Lot 5.

Our parking sensor project is ongoing with plans to complete installations in all downtown lots by the end of 2022. The sensors will be integrated with existing lot signage to accurately display and update parking lot numbers and the amount of available spaces. More importantly, the data collected from the sensors can be utilized to inform strategy on parking requirements for new and pending construction projects. The information provided by this system will enable us to work more strategically with developers and advocate for better parking planning when new construction developments are proposed in the downtown.

Last year, Council approved 40 km/h speed limits in 13 neighbourhoods throughout the city with a focus on improving road safety in residential areas, where our most vulnerable road users are.

The city also implemented technology to better monitor traffic flow and travel times along its major corridors allowing for improved identification and response to unexpected traffic congestion.

And finally, the City is nearing completion of the development of the Integrated Mobility Plan (IMP), our 30-year transportation plan, that looks to how people will move now and into the future. The plan is heavily rooted in public consultation and we have relied on the vision and values of the community to shape an integrated mobility network that focuses on sustainability and equity, placing greater reliance on enhanced levels of transit and active transportation. This is the first-ever transportation plan for the City, and we are one of the first Ontario municipalities to apply an integrated lens to our mobility planning approach.  The IMP will be complete this summer.

So, a lot of great work being done by teams here at the City to get us moving more smoothly and keep us moving.

RESPECT AT CITY HALL

Residents throughout Burlington raised concerns for many years of not feeling heard, respected or welcome at city hall. They identified a combative, unprofessional atmosphere where they didn’t feel comfortable coming forward with concerns and ideas. They told us on the campaign trail that they expected better and this Council promised to deliver that.

We know politics means debate. It means fighting for the wants and needs of constituents. And throughout our community, not all constituents agree – so not all councillors will agree either. And that’s ok. Respectful debate is the cornerstone of democracy. We bring forth motions, we listen to the facts, we debate their merit and then we vote. We don’t need to agree, but at the end of the day, we do need to work together for the best interests of our community, and we need each person who interacts with council or city staff to feel valued, included and heard.

Since we took office in December 2018, this council has been busy. We have collectively seen more than 1,000 motions brought before us at council through the past three years — 1,022 to be exact —  and we have passed 1,006 of them – that’s 98%! Of those that passed, 91% were passed unanimously. That is proof positive that we have a council that is consistently aligned and works together to make things happen in our community.

I was also thrilled to see in the Community Survey that I mentioned a few slides back that we got an 84% performance rating for council decision-making in an open, accountable, transparent local government!

One of the best emails I got back in early 2019 was from a constituent who commented:

“The difference in how council, committees and staff work together is palpable at city hall and throughout the city. Citizens at city hall and council meetings are not only respected but are heeded. Thank you to council and staff for listening and adapting to a whole new mindset so quickly and graciously.”

One of the things I wanted to introduce when I became Mayor was to offer something new in the form of monthly 1:1’s with myself and each councillor to ensure we could connect on issues big and small, discuss ward-specific challenges and ideas, and learn what one another were working on to identify places we could work better together.

That is how projects have come about where we worked together towards shared goals or leveraged each other’s expertise, such as Councillor Kelvin Galbraith co-chairing the Red Tape Red Carpet initiative and joining the Aldershot Quarry Community Liaison Committee, Councillor Rory Nisan joining the Mayor’s Millennial Advisory Committee meetings, or Councillors Lisa Kearns and Angelo Bentivegna joining the Burlington COVID-19 Task Force – just to name a few.

Many joint meetings with constituents and community groups have happened with myself and councillors, we have done many joint newsletters regarding the proposed Millcroft development (with Councillor Bentivegna) and the Nelson Quarry (with Councillor Nisan), had a drop-in booth at the Burlington Farmer’s Market with Councillor Shawna Stolte, and put forward many joint motions at council including:

  • The 2020 COVID-19 Mask Mandate with Councillor Stolte and myself;
  • The $900K decrease to the Dec 9 budget with Councillor Stolte;
  • 2 motions related to the Official Plan with Councillor Kearns and myself;
  • Councillor Paul Sharman’s initiative to improve the budget process; and
  • Councillor Sharman’s initiative to revise the private tree bylaw that I have been happy to collaborate on.

I also revised the process for appointing annual Committee Chairs and Vice Chairs to ensure that all councillors have an equal opportunity to be chairs and take on leadership roles throughout the term.

I am proud of how this council has evolved in its first term together, many of whom were new to the role and certainly rose to the occasion during a challenging global pandemic. I see how they each share their unique strengths, experience and knowledge with one another, and how they listen to and engage with their wards. Politics in a pandemic has not been easy, and I am impressed by each of them for the resolve and resilience they have shown.

All six councillors have joined me this past year on the Burlington Matters show on YourTV Halton to highlight amazing community organizations in their wards, and I appreciate the many, many events we have all come together to attend this term, from key to the city ceremonies to flag raisings to tours of rural Burlington to indigenous community celebrations. They consistently show up for our community and I know we are united in our goal to make every person feel welcome and appreciated here.

FROM YOUR COUNCILLORS

This is a great time to share a bit of insight from each councillor with you as we look at successes and learnings so far in this term.

When I asked Councillor Kelvin Galbraith about successes that have happened in Ward 1, there were a lot that came to mind. He said that his advocacy work for the business community would be his first choice and I have to agree there.  From the Red Tape Red Carpet experience to the Burlington Economic Recovery Network advocacy work to upper levels of government, he has really etched out his place on this council as a voice for the business community. He conveyed that he is very comfortable in this role and loves everything small business as his entire career has been in self-employment and entrepreneurship. His biggest learning from our community has been how caring and giving our local Ward 1 residents can be. The St. Matthew on the Plains church group that formed organically to collect food and other donations on a regular basis when the pandemic started to help those in need is a great example of a community that cares. In addition, Partnering Aldershot is a community liaison group the has many partners, with most of them being volunteers that have formed groups to assist people with anything they need.  There is need everywhere, but from what he has seen, the Ward 1 community has responded and he is very proud to be a part of it. Looking forward he told me he is focused on completion of the MTSA work with staff as this is one of the main drivers of economic and residential growth in Ward 1.  It is very important that we get this work completed prior to many more applications being submitted.  We want these communities to be complete communities with Residential, Retail and employment all within the MTSAs. West Aldershot is in need of more retail, and food operations so we need to complete the work that requires this type of mixed use in all new applications and developments.

Ward 2 Councillor Lisa Kearns is most proud of continuing an engaged community voice that is at the forefront of decision-making. Together she and the Ward 2 community has made many improvements that have improved the quality of life here, including large infrastructure investments, funding for businesses, traffic safety, the Urban Farm, and many local events. Her biggest learning thus far has been that Ward 2 is compassionate and resilient, and truly a community that cares for each other. Looking ahead she is focused on recovery and rebuilding of our local business community and improving control over growth management.

Councillor Rory Nisan is deservedly proud to have brought an engaging new splash pad into Ward 3 – the first one in the area. While the pandemic delayed its implementation until last year, when it was ready last summer, he expected to see kids having fun on hot days as you’d imagine – but what he didn’t expect was that the area would become a highly used social space where families would spend the whole day under a tree, bring their lunch and meet up with friends. The splash pad has become a beloved community hub that was not there before and filled a well-timed need as we all seek to come together more often outdoors. Councillor Nisan told me his biggest learning this term has been how important communication is to the community. He noted, they raise their concerns and they will listen to your response and it has been a pleasure for him to problem-solve with constituents. The year ahead for Ward 3 will see some long-awaited playground renovations and progress on the quarry application: the most important issue for many of his constituents.

Ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte has found her role as Chair of the Housing Strategy Working Group to be the most challenging and rewarding work undertaken thus far this term of Council.  The financial security of property values in Burlington is a comfort for many, but for our community to remain stable and healthy it is critical for us to continue to create opportunities for reasonably attainable housing for the youth, families and seniors of our community and Councillor Stolte is tremendously proud of the continued hard work being done by the Housing Strategy Working Group to this end. In addition, Councillor Stolte said she would like to take the opportunity to highlight the incredible learning she has gained from her work with newly developed neighbourhood groups such as the Shoreacres ACT Group.  The support from this group of engaged citizens for their fellow neighbours, as well as their incredible advocacy for issues in their community has been truly inspiring and Councillor Stolte looks forward in 2022 to encouraging and supporting even more neighbourhood groups around Ward 4.

Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman is rightfully proud of his work with PACE – the Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly –and their efforts to keep older adults out of hospital and long-term care homes for as long as possible at the same time as improving their quality of life. His work was recently spotlighted on CBC’s The National, showcasing this program and the Burlington pilot site at the Halton Community Housing 410 John Street community.  PACE provides 360 degree wrap-around integrated services and social programing where people live. It includes re-configured community spaces, for social engagement as well as service and primary care providers, all to keeps older adults healthier, improve their quality of life and welfare. With our growing population of older adults and the pandemic impact we know our healthcare system and LTC capacity are becoming overloaded, which will only get worse as the number of community members aged 75-yrs and older doubles in the next 20 years. This work has never been timelier and more important as it enters the critical scaling up stage so that all of us can hope for a brighter future. Amazing work by Councillor Sharman.

Ward 6 Councillor Angelo Bentivegna has worked diligently through no less than 36 meetings so far with stakeholders to help keep things moving and secure the Federal funding needed to provide long-awaited rural broadband, a journey that began in 2019 and only became more urgent due to the pandemic – and we anticipate that installation to be complete this summer. He is proud to have witnessed countless acts of kindness throughout his ward in recent years from Friday porch pick-up food drives to coat donations from local restaurants to the Salvation Army to the Music in the Streets concerts in ward 6 neighbourhoods and how neighbours have truly gotten to know each other better in these challenging times. Going forward he is focused on working with city staff to support more of these local events and small street festivals and continue supporting positive community engagement.

Our city is very fortunate to have these six committed council members on their side, working hard to ensure Burlington is strong, healthy and vibrant for everyone who lives, works and plays here.

FROM YOUR CITY MANAGER

We continue to have an experienced City Manager at the City of Burlington who is committed to collaboration and truly exemplifies integrity in Tim Commisso.

Tim and his leadership team have led city staff through this challenging pandemic and done an amazing job in keeping essential services like transit, roads and park work going while adapting to evolving pandemic guidelines and handling exponential growth in areas like building permits.

I asked Tim what the biggest accomplishment he is most proud of since stepping into this role in 2019 and he said that in his three years since returning to Burlington as City Manager and his 10th year as a City Manager overall, he is most proud of the meaningful and measurable work completed collectively by City Council and staff.  He feels very privileged to serve such a passionate and dedicated City Council whose No. 1 focus is protecting and enhancing what we most enjoy about our wonderful community.

The recent 2021 Community Survey results that I mentioned earlier says a lot for Tim. He was most impressed that: 89% rated Burlington as the Best Place to Live Overall and we had a 94% satisfaction rating with the COVID 19 City Emergency Response Overall. Across the board, Tim noted the results overall are the best since the City started conducting the community attitudes survey approximately 25 years ago and he is particularly proud of the satisfaction rating related to our COVID emergency response that is now approaching 2 years of sustained effort and commitment by both Council and staff… he calls it “living over the department store.”

He continues to be inspired by the passion of community members to see Burlington prosper and advance while preserving what is special and unique about the City – its PEOPLE (that was the No. 1 reference in the community survey Word Cloud). One focus area in particular that he is excited about is the important role the City needs to play in advancing our collective understanding and actions towards achieving reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

Looking forward in 2022, across many strategic and operational priority areas, Tim pointed out that Council and staff has another extremely “full plate” of workload items. His No. 1 priority as City Manager will remain the same…to ensure every day that City staff provide the best possible advice, including report options and recommendations, to allow Council to make the best possible decisions in the interest of the community.

EQUITY, DIVERSITY & INCLUSION

Back to our deliverables and moving along in our agenda to issues that rose up and became essential to address as we moved through our term.

Equity, diversity and inclusion became an issue that needed ongoing attention and care. We saw the Black Lives Matter movement accelerate after the devastating death of George Floyd in the U.S and troubling deaths of minorities here in Canada involving police as well. We saw innocent Muslim lives taken in a senseless attack in London, Ontario. We saw the discoveries of thousands of unmarked graves of Indigenous children at residential schools across Canada. We saw a lot of pain and division. And we did what we could to help.

We continued our work to expand our rainbow crosswalk initiative and selected 3 new locations for the next ones to come.

We supported an art installation in support of Black Lives Matter outside of City Hall shortly after the local protest walk here in Burlington in spring of 2020. I hosted two of the organizers on my Burlington Matters show shortly after to talk more deeply about the issues they faced growing up black in our city.

Our art fund supported the Promenade of Pain REDress project to highlight missing and murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

We supported a public prayer event to support our Muslim community after the London attacks and saw hundreds of people come together in unity at Spencer Smith Park.

We lowered our flags after the unmarked graves were found at residential schools and supported the Hope for Healing art installation at civic square and Spencer Smith Park to express our shared grief, and we saw thousands turn out for the first Day of Truth and Reconciliation event this past September, including staff who are now given that day off work to spend time remembering and reflecting. We worked with the community to change the name of Ryerson Park to Sweetgrass Park.

Council unanimously signed the Halton Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Charter, committing to understanding diversity through the lens of allyship and embracing inclusion through acceptance of all residents in Halton and subsequently updated our sponsorship and naming policies to ensure they reflect that commitment.

PANDEMIC RESPONSE & RECOVERY

And how can I not mention the biggest initiative at all that we didn’t see coming – a global pandemic.

Our city – our staff – our council – our healthcare and essential workers – our teachers – our community support organizations – our government partners – and every resident and business here – all came together in this extraordinary and challenging time.

Burlington was the first municipality in Halton to declare a State of Emergency and start the work that needed to be done. We met daily for months to address urgent and evolving communication needs for our community, make timely decisions to keep people safe, and partner with people and organizations all over the city to get help to those in need.

The Burlington COVID-19 task force met regularly – 24 times now and counting – and brought together political leaders, city leadership, councillors, our hospital, food banks, business supports, hydro, library, and so many more to identify needs and come together to meet them.

All Halton Mayors and our Regional Chair began meeting biweekly to share information and coordinate our response.

The city waived fees for restaurant patios and worked to accelerate the sidewalk patio approval process.

We delayed property tax payments without penalty for our residents during the initial lockdown which cost the city $625K in revenue that stayed in people’s pockets.

The City and TEAM Burlington joined Burlington Economic Development, our Chamber of Commerce, and by forming the Burlington Economic Recovery Network to support the unique challenges our local businesses faced.

The Digital Main Street Program launched and supported hundreds of businesses pivot to online sales.

With $240,000 in support approved by city council, the Burlington Safe Restart Grant program – the first of its kind at the municipal level – helped more than 150 local businesses purchase PPE and make renovations to make their spaces safer to reopen.

TEAM Burlington also provides free rapid antigen screening tests for workplaces to help them keep their staff and customers safe and healthy.

And most importantly we partnered with our healthcare agencies across Halton Region to roll out a hugely successful vaccination program that is ongoing and evolving weekly.

We are now working towards a world where we are living with covid rather than living in lockdown.

RAISING BURLINGTON’S PROFILE

Many initiatives and relationships have taken shape and been strengthened this term that has elevated our profile locally as well as internationally.

Canadian and International journalists and fellow governments from as far away as Ghana and Korea have reached out to ask about how we do things well here in Burlington and learn from our best practices, from our COVID-19 task force to the Red Tape Red Carpet initiative to our festivals and events and our parking management programs.

I have had the privilege of speaking to audiences at the Urban Land Institute here in the GTA, at the Smart Cities Connect conference in Colorado, the Toronto Chamber of Commerce and countless local groups like our Rotary and PROBUS Clubs as well as school groups, model UN challenges and girl guides.

I am honoured to sit on the boards of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) Large Urban Caucus, the rural mayors of the Top Aggregate Producing Municipalities of Ontario (TAPMO), the Small Urban GTHA Mayors, and contribute to the great work being done from the Ontario Big City Mayors (OBCM) caucus including hosting our in-person fall meeting last October. Councillor Nisan sits on the board of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) as well. Sitting at these tables ensures Burlington has a strong voice in the decisions being made that affect our community.

Advocacy work we have done through these groups has focused on topics from COVID-19 recovery funding to opposing Bill 21 in Quebec to securing more support for mental health and addictions, affordable childcare and successfully avoiding provincial budget cuts. We are most effective when we all work together and our relationships with our municipal peers have never been stronger.

Each member of council and many staff and members of the city’s leadership team also sit on countless boards and provide support and volunteer work at many charities throughout our city and this work has only intensified throughout the pandemic. It is so inspiring to be surrounded by people who are so giving of their time and energy, and committed to bettering our community and our reputation.

COMMUNITY AMENITIES

On to the last part of our agenda: Looking forward. We have exciting priorities ahead for 2022 and beyond.

One of the best things about Burlington is how active and engaged our residents are. Our sports teams are competitive and plentiful across every age group. Our arts and culture groups create music, ceramics, paintings and sculptures across the city and in classes and workshops. Our seniors gather throughout community centers and public spaces to connect, exercise and volunteer. Our libraries are brimming with avid readers and curious learners. Rotary and Probus clubs meet regularly to share ideas and intellect. Religious groups hold services and celebrations that inspire and illuminate. Our parks are full of picnics and public events through every season.

With this passion and participation comes a constant need for the spaces and places we can come together. And after the challenges of the past two years, we all know how vital this is to our physical, mental and emotional well-being.

That’s why one of my main priorities looking ahead will be to focus on creating more community spaces and amenities to bring us together. And we’ve already gotten started.

By entering a process to purchase Robert Bateman High School, we have started a journey to repurpose 212,000 square feet of space in the east end of our city, near established neighborhoods, schools and transit. We have seen how amazing this type of project can be with the QEPCCC in Oakville having been created out of a prior high school and now seeing hundreds of thousands of users per year in their woodshops, ceramics studios, performance and recording centers and public pool. With plans to potentially have Brock University expand part of their campus there, along with our TechPlace innovation hub and expand and relocate the Appleby branch of our public library network, this will be an exciting and engaging place for our entire community.

Our No. 1 priority for funding from upper-level government partners is the Skyway Community Centre and Park Reconstruction Project to expand the ice pad using more environmentally friendly materials, have warm and cold spectator seating with accessibility, create multi-use program space, add change rooms with showers/washrooms, install a walking track, and utilize a low carbon design.

We know we need to build more complete communities with engaging city amenities around all our Go Stations and we are prioritizing that while also creating a policy through the Burlington Lands Partnership to buy and repurpose all closed school sites for future community uses.

There is a lot ahead for our city and the people who live, work and play here – so please keep watching my news feeds and the city channels as well because there are exciting announcements happening often and lots of good news to share.

AFFORDABLE, ATTAINABLE HOUSING

We know that housing affordability is one of the biggest issues facing urban communities across Canada and especially in the GTA. The Canadian Real Estate Association says 2021 was the busiest year ever for Canada’s housing market, with average selling prices climbing 18% across the country.

In Burlington, the average price for a single family dwelling went from $892K in January of 2020 to over $1.3M by the end of 2021.

It is clear that prices are out of reach for many families, not to mention the next generation of home buyers – our children. The creation of attainable housing is a goal that we work toward with our partners at Halton Region – who oversee assisted and attainable housing in Burlington, Oakville, Halton Hills and Milton – as well as with our provincial and federal governments, who provide needed funding and related legislation to help make housing more affordable across the board.

We have taken the following steps to address this issue at the municipal level:

  • Burlington finally got its first homeless shelter for women and families;
  • Halton Region has created 1,005 new assisted housing opportunities since 2014 and progress continues. 92 new assisted housing opportunities were delivered in 2021 with a total investment of $15.0 million – $7.1 million funded by the Region and $7.9 million funded by the Provincial and Federal governments;
  • Halton Region is well positioned to deliver a mix of up to 600 units of purpose built rental and assisted rental housing opportunities through both capital and operational programs between 2021 and 2031, if support from senior levels of government is made available;
  • Burlington supported the Habitat for Humanity build on Queensway Drive in support of helping families ladder up into private home ownership;
  • In November of 2021, Regional Council approved a Portfolio Approach to Achieving Comprehensive Housing Strategy Objectives + the Regional Chair wrote to the Federal Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion as well as the Provincial Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing requesting federal funding for Halton Region’s housing portfolio in order to deliver new assisted housing projects in Halton Region;
  • The City of Burlington is creating a Housing Strategy to give current and future residents more housing options across our city. In January 2021, City Council endorsed the Burlington Housing Strategy Terms of Reference, directing staff to start work on the Housing Strategy – an opportunity to develop creative and innovative solutions for housing issues in Burlington that will build on and support the Region’s Housing Strategy;
  • Council approved the Housing Needs & Opportunities Report last month which acknowledges that we consider housing a basic human right and that there is a collective responsibility to ensure that the supply of housing in a community can accommodate the varying needs of residents throughout their lifetime, including financial needs. The report also outlines policies, tools, identifies partnerships, and actions to address residents’ current and future housing needs such as authorizing inclusionary zoning or expanding permissions for where shared housing can be located;
  • And just last week I joined the Premier, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and fellow mayors from across Ontario at the Provincial Housing Summit where we agreed that for significant progress to be made, federal, provincial and municipal governments must thoroughly explore all options and use economic levers, like tax, spending and regulatory powers we well as work together to review parts of the process that could be improved such as approval timelines, streamlining processes and data collection. We plan to take full advantage of the recently announced Streamline Development Approval Fund to help us modernize, streamline and accelerate processes for managing and approving housing applications and providing status updates including getting more of those processes online and digitally-friendly.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

With Superbowl LVI just a few short weeks away, I am reminded of this quote from legendary football coach Vince Lombardi:

“Individual commitment to a group effort — that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”

The past few years have been a group effort beyond what we ever could have imagined and we are fortunate to have so many superstars on the field playing for our team as you’ve heard here today.

I’ll leave you today with my heartfelt gratitude for all the ways each of you have contributed to making our city the resilient, healthy place we know and love.

Your engagement with the issues that matter, your involvement in volunteering and donating your time and money to local charities, your flexibility and resilience as healthcare workers, teachers, front line staff and business owners – all of it has added up to keeping Burlington going strong.

We will continue to recover, grow and thrive together in Burlington by staying true to the values of hard work, collaboration and kindness in the year ahead.

Thank you.

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The Mayor shows she can handle a curve ball - and come back with feisty answers

By Pepper Parr

January 27th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Delivering the Annual State of the City address is an opportunity for the  Mayor to tell the citizens of the city what has been achieved and to set out how the year went from her perspective.

It’s a significant event – serious and quite political and very polite.

But this year there was some fun as well.

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward delivering her 4th State of the City address wearing the Chain of Office – something she didn’t wear previously.

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward mentioned how the address would go and added: “They’ve given me about 40 minutes and I’ll try to stick to that. We have a lot to talk about and a lot to share. And you won’t want to miss the rapid fire q&a. That’s all questions. I have no idea what they’re going to ask me what Tim’s gonna ask me is always got a few curveballs in there. So stick around for that too”.

At the close of the 45 minute address Tim Caddigan, Senior Director, YourTV and Community Relations took over the podium. He had a bunch of questions from the audience that was virtual (which we will follow up on).  The fun part was the rapid fire session.

Read how it went.

Tim now for the rapid fire so no okay is your favorite so I’ve 20 questions for you run through them fairly quickly. What was the last film you saw?

Mayor: Oh, wow. Come back to me on that one.

Tim: Okay. When the sound of music comes roaring back, what band would you like to see featured?

Mayor: Well, I know Suzy nail is going to be there. And I know finger 11 is going to be there to have our awesome Burlington band. So I’m very excited about that.

Tim: What is the first social event you look forward to post pandemic

Mayor: getting together with my team more often? And you know, oysters and martinis at my favorite restaurants. But that’ll happen on Monday. Actually, we were 50% capacity, which is awesome.

Tim: If you could travel to any point in time, what period would that be?

Mayor: March 2019 and 2020 and no pandemic? That’s what I would do.

Tim: This is a double barreled question: what bores you.

Mayor: Well, people who are rude,

Tim: what excites you?

Mayor: The people in our community who do amazing things.

Tim: If you could we’re here at the BPAC  pack. If you could bring one app to the Burlington Performing Arts Center, what would it be?

Mayor: Walk off their choice?

Tim: Have you taken up any new activities during the pandemic?

Mayor: Not that I can mention. I’m doing well. I’m doing a lot more hiking outside which is awesome and and that’s actually how I get some of my social interaction in my team and my friends and I we go for hikes so it’s safe.

Tim: If you could accomplish one thing for Burlington this year. What would it be?

Mayor: Getting affordable housing so people can continue to live here.

Tim: What is the first app that you access on any given day?

Mayor:  Oh boy is Wordle and up. I get that every morning with my son it’s a great way to get my brain going. Better, you know Instacart kept my groceries delivered.

Tim: Toughest thing you accomplished or faced in 2021.

Mayor: Getting the urban growth center in the major transit station area moved we had many behind the scenes meeting with ministry staff, the minister himself our MPP it was touch and go for a very long time and and we finally brought it home which was great.

Tim: What’s one thing you would like? To improve upon?

Mayor: Well, you know what, just being better at getting our businesses to yes faster. We have work to do there.

Tim: On a scale of one to 10 How much do you like rapid fire questions? tag on a scale of one to 10 how fonder you have zoom meetings?

Mayor: Well, they’re, they’re handy, but I really do prefer in person meetings if you’ve got back to back and you need to get a lot done, but nothing replaces being face to face.  There is something about spending your weekend sweatpants however, wearing nice shoes today.

Tim: What do you think will be the greatest biggest change for Burlington, five years from now?

Mayor: How we’re going to accommodate growth? You know, I given our experience of blowing past our numbers for 2031 12 years early. That could happen with 2051 We need to manage it. Well. We need to make sure everyone’s welcome. We need affordable housing strategy, which we’re working on. And we need to make sure that the parks and the community amenities the social infrastructure keeps up because that’s what that’s what creates the angst if we don’t have that and we have population growth where we’re not serving our community. I

Tim: think of all politicians who have had to step up during the pandemic. Is there one Ontario mayor that you’ve admired throughout the pandemic?

Mayor: Oh, there are many, many I may want to get one off to give a shout out to: Jeff Lehmann in Barry who’s the chair of our Ontario Big City Mayor’s caucus. He’s been just outstanding in our advocacy and hurting 29 mayor’s which is like herding cats but getting us on the same page with some of our advocacy has been awesome. If

Tim: you’re a fan of Wordle this might be appropriate. What’s your favorite word?

Mayor: Kindness

Tim: that doesn’t go with five letters. Yesterday’s word was whack. I don’t know.  It was a lucky guess for me is there are certain word you start with every day.

Mayor: Oh, we my son and I do it together. So we pick very off color words to start with. It seems to be a good strategy though.

Tim: What’s your favorite month and why?

Mayor: October because that’s when I got married to my awesome husband who is watching I know from our couch. We celebrated 28 years of marriage which makes me feel super old. Our kids are in their 20s and I love my life. I love the people in my life and I love what I do.

Tim: Congratulations. Thank you. Thank you for doing that.

Mayor: Thank you. Yeah, that was okay. If I remember the movie that I don’t know the name. I’m sorry. I just remember for you to check out I think it’s called the Perseids Canadian production and it’s about –  it has Christopher Walker in it. Just discovered it out of the blue a couple of weeks ago. Great movie and Canadian.  Wow, actually North Country. That’s the name I wanted – Charlie’s there on about women fighting for their rights to be recognized and no harassment. So a bit of a theme there.

 

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HST on Covid testing - Why? Reader says it's a rip off

By Pepper Parr

January 26th, 2022

BURLINGTON,ON

 

A reader we hear from often was a little on the grouchy side yesterday.

He suggested that we ask the Liberals who represent Burlington in the House of Commons why why Canadians are being ripped off by paying HST on this compulsory Covid19 PCR  tests.

Looks like 2 tier medical testing to me he adds

Indeed has the old codger got a point?.

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Rivers on a different Ukraine - a first hand on the ground reflection

By Ray Rivers

January 22, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

A number of years ago Ray Rivers was visiting Ukraine to get a better sense of a country to which he was culturally attached.  At the time we arranged for him to meet with Canadian troops who were training a Ukrainian army unit.

I visited Ukraine a couple of times after the Russian invasion in 2014.  The second time, in 2017, my wife and I volunteered to teach in their school system for about a month.  We were part of a multinational effort, called Go Camp, involving some 1100 volunteers from 75 countries to share our language and culture with young Ukrainian students.

I taught some French, music and drama, and before I left gifted my guitar to a promising young music student.  Burlington’s MP (Hon) Karina Gould’s office had passed along some Canadian lapel flag pins which were well received by the students.  We were billeted by the parents and literally became part of their families, struggling with the language but sharing meals and laughs and stories of who we are.

We asked, at every appropriate occasion, about the situation in the country.  What did they think about the war and Ukraine’s future relationship with Russia?  They were reluctant to open up but mostly they said they didn’t know.  They didn’t understand what Putin wanted and why he was attacking their country.  And they really didn’t want to talk about the conflict, especially those who had fled from the war zone in the Russian occupied Donbas.

It was as if they were ashamed and embarrassed – unsure if they were to blame in some small way – perhaps their nation had moved too quickly to expand its horizons, promote a market economy, embrace democracy and adopt other western ideals.  Almost like a battered spouse or victim of bullying would react, they couldn’t wait for the topic to change.  It hurt too much to talk about it.

Not everyone was happy with their government, their leaders and all the corruption that had been going on.  Still, nobody said that they’d rather be Russian, even if the government pensions were higher there, as we were told by one woman, a retired school principal now cleaning classrooms to supplement her retirement income.  And there were a number of bright young people hoping for a visa to come to Canada to live, and, more often than not, being rejected.

There is still a good deal of attachment to Russia – a doctor who worked weekdays at a hospital in Moscow and came home on the weekends – a young woman completing her advanced degree in petroleum engineering at a Moscow technical college.  It is more difficult for them to commute now since no flights are allowed between the two nations.  And while many people still use the Russian language, it’s more common among the older crowd who are used to saying ‘Da’ instead of ‘Tak’ for yes, but nobody seems to mind.

Ukraine citizens protesting the high levels of corruption in their country.

Ukrainians thought they knew what they wanted when they declared their independence along with those other Soviet republics and satellites when the USSR disintegrated.  Ukraine was so eager on being a model of peacefulness that it gave up its nuclear arsenal, the third largest in the world.  In return the US, UK and Russia signed the Budapest Memorandum which guaranteed Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

Or so they thought.  But when Russia invaded and annexed Crimea, the other signatories just shrugged their shoulders.  President Obama, who’d been given a Nobel peace prize, was quick off the mark to say what he wouldn’t do.   He wouldn’t try to stop Russia – wouldn’t send defensive weapons to help Ukraine.  And with that he gave license and argument for every wanna-be nuclear power – the only way to guarantee your defence is with a nuke in your backyard.

When it comes to defence, good fences make good neighbours.  And if your neighbour is a bully then you needed to be ready for him/her.  So Ukraine called on its wannabe European partners, and potential future NATO allies, for help.   Canada, with the world’s second largest Ukrainian diaspora, sent a couple hundred military trainers, gave the country some night vision goggles and a couple hundred million dollars in development assistance.

Mr. Trudeau says he’s only thinking of sending over what Kyiv really wants, some high tech defensive weapons that could help stop Russia’s vast assembly of tanks and planes.  Perhaps he alone understands Mr. Putin’s mind allowing the argument… that a poorly armed Ukraine will better deter a Russian invasion than one appropriately outfitted with high tech armament to fight off an invasion.

Foreign Minister Melanie Joly meets Canadian soldiers. There are currently about 200 Canadian Armed Forces members in Ukraine as part of an international training mission to help improve Ukrainian soldiers’ combat skills.

My publisher had organized for me to visit the military base where Canadian instructors are training Ukrainian soldiers.  There was not much joy around.  This is, after all, a conflict with no apparent end in sight and a lot of death and suffering in the meantime.  Putin has the overwhelming upper hand.  We were told that taking pictures of the snipers training was forbidden since, with Russian agents still active, that could make the recruits targets.

Known as Kievan Rus or Ruthenia, Ukraine was the largest country in Europe in the 11th century.  But the invaders over all the intervening years have done their best to create one jigsaw puzzle or another.  Mongols, Ottoman Turks, Swedes, Polish, Lithuanians, Austro-Hungarians, and the Russians all have had a crack at occupying Ukraine – or some part of it.  One of the current day ironies is that it was Ukrainian migrants who first left Kyiv to found Moscow and Russia.

Putin has been pretty clear about what he’d like – a return to the glorious days of the Soviet Union, presumably pre-Afghanistan invasion.  Humiliated by the break up of the USSR, he is determined to wreak a kind of vengeance by humiliating the USA, breaking up the EU and destroying NATO.  He wants to be back in the USSR.  And he wants to take Ukraine, formerly one of the most populous and productive republics in the union, with him.

Russia has twice as many troops in uniform (280,000) as Ukraine, and a very modernized military machine, including nuclear weapons.  But what would be the point of nuking the heck out of Ukraine if it is be included the new USSR?  And though Ukraine is out-soldiered and out-gunned, it has developed a civil defence organization numbering some 300,000.  So while a blitz invasion might get Russia well into the heart of Ukraine it’ll have trouble holding onto it.

The folks we met while over there understood that Russia might invade their homeland, but despite all the pessimism they were resolved that that would not be the end of it. According to a recent survey up to a third of the population of 44 million are prepared to pick up a firearm and join the fight for their country.

Perhaps what I took for traces of sadness in their smiles was just plain tiredness – tired of just another autocrat trying to crush their new-found freedom.  Tired of conflict.  But then again, perhaps they also understand that this conflict is bigger than Ukraine.  Because on the other side of the world President Xi is preparing his own invasion plans to put an end to another democracy, this time on the island of Taiwan.

Ray Rivers, a Gazette Contributing Editor,  writes regularly 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

Go Camp –    What Does Putin Want –      Putin

Ukraine History –    Budapest Memorandum

 US Naive –     Trudeau Waffles –    More Waffle

Biden Must Stand Up

 

 

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Once again Premier Ford got it wrong

By Pepper Parr

January 21st, 2022

BURLINGTON, 0N

 

Ontario today reported 4,114 COVID-19 hospitalizations, 590 in the ICU and 64 deaths; is this what the Minister of Health meant by a “glimmer of hope”?

Yesterday Premier Doug Ford announced when and how he would open up the province and return to normal business.

January 31st

restrictions would be reduced.

February 21st restrictions would be reduced even further.

March 14th  restrictions would disappear.

Setting out information like this might be good politics but it is bad public health practice.

Once again the Premier got it wrong.

What he needed to say was that when hospitalizations are at ??? and ICU patients are at ??? THEN restrictions will be lowered.

It is decisions made by individuals that will bring down the number of people infected and the number of hospitalizations.

Stop the bromides Mr. Premier.  Let people take responsibility and when the data indicates that people are being responsible, then lift the restrictions.  I, too, want to go out to a restaurant for dinner – but I don’t want to compromise my health.

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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