Cellphone Restriction in Classrooms to Take Effect this Year

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

August 29th, 2019



The question that comes to mind is – what took so long?

Ontario’s Minister of Education announced plans to move forward with restricting the use of cellphones and other personal mobile devices in classrooms beginning November 4, 2019.

student on cell phoneThe restriction applies to instructional time at school, however, exceptions will be made if cellphones are required for health and medical purposes, to support special education needs, or for educational purposes as directed by an educator.

During the consultation on education reform in fall 2018, 97 per cent of parents, students and teachers who participated said that cellphone use should be restricted in some way.

In response to this feedback, the Provincial Code of Conduct has been updated to include this restriction. It sets clear standards of behaviour and requires that all school boards ensure their own codes of conduct are up to date and consistent with requirements.

“When in class, students should be focused on their studies, not their social media,” said Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education. “That’s why we are restricting cellphones and other personal mobile devices in the classroom, while making sure technology is available to help students achieve success in the digital economy and modern workforce.”


To ensure that parents and guardians are clear on the new guidelines, including the exceptions, the following resources are available:

• Parents’ Guide to the Provincial Code of Conduct

• Cellphones and Other Personal Mobile Devices in Schools – Questions and Answers for Parents and Guardians.

In our travels as journalists we have, on far too many occasions, watched students chit chat with each other during a classroom presentation.

There are occasions when a cell phone is a useful tool and should be permitted in a classroom.

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Rivers: economist in him wants road tolls; he is looking for a politician to lead that charge..

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

August 29th, 2019



There is only one way to describe the experience of driving back from northern Ontario on a long Ontario weekend.

Overwhelming traffic and grid lock! Much like the rest of the free highways around the province, and the GTA in particular most days.

HOT lanes

Pay a fee and you can ride in that left hand lane.

So the economist in me wants to cry out road tolls. That’s right. Not only would the cost of tolls ration demand, but the tolls would also raise much needed cash for governments all drowning in deficit financing. That does mean that rich folks could afford to take the highway more often than the poor – and unless there are reasonable options to driving that will get the equity folks all upset.

In fact everyone seems to get upset. Nobody likes toll roads, even if, like the 407, they are relatively painless – get a transponder and the cost goes on your monthly visa bill. And talk about success, that highway is now worth over $30 billion, ten times the value Mike Harris got for it twenty years ago.

When Toronto’s city council wanted to impose some road tolls to help with city finances the Liberal provincial government feared a public backlash in the upcoming election, so nixed it. As it turns out that would hardly have hurt them in their election fortunes.

weekend traffic

Weekend traffic

In fact only the Green Party has had the courage to advocate road tolls. The other parties would no more dare to promise tolls, than they would photo radar or another long gun registry. The Wynne Liberals did, however, initiate tolls for driver-only cars using high occupancy lanes (HOV) – thus making them high occupancy or toll (HOT) lanes.

So what are our federal politicians promising to do about cars and congestion as we head to the polls in October to vote for them? The Harper Conservatives had launched a national multi-government infrastructure program as the centre piece of their effort to pull Canada out of the 2008 recession. That effort has been criticized for leaving too much money on the table – more ‘much-ado’ than actually ‘doing’.

As part of their 2015 election campaign the Trudeau Liberals had promised a massive nearly $200 billion, 10 year infrastructure program – increasing Canada’s infrastructure by roughly 20%. But like the Tories before them, they have found it difficult to spend as planned. The money needs to be initiated through application from the responsible jurisdictions and that takes two or more to tango.

One might recall the squabble between the Premier and the PM over the Bombardier transit car layoffs in Thunder Bay. It turns out that Mr. Ford had dropped the ball and failed to apply for the infrastructure money which might have kept the company and its employees working.

construction workers

Tolls would pay for infrastructure – which would create jobs.

Infrastructure investment is credited with creating over 547,000 jobs in 2017 alone. And job creation was the primary motivation behind the Liberal infrastructure program. Though fewer jobs were actually created than planned, it all helped move Canada to a four decade low rate of unemployment, and away from impending recession as Trudeau came to power.

Roads are high on the list for funding, getting almost a quarter of all that infrastructure money. Of course we can all see that money at work as we navigate our way through construction season. But you don’t have to be in a corn field in Iowa to know that if you build it they will come – no sooner do we finish a new road then it is congested with cars again.

There are an ever increasing number of trucks on the road and some of the blame goes to the wasteful industrial practice of just-in-time parts delivery, where trucks essentially become warehouses on wheels. Then there is the new trend of on-line shopping with free truck delivery to your door.

Bernier immigrant sign

No immigration – no traffic congestion.

And where do all the cars come from? On going urban sprawl necessitates car ownership and private vehicle commuting. Maxime Bernier would blame congestion on too much immigration. But nobody is listening to him, preferring to label him and his party as racists and keeping that party at the bottom of the polls.

Between 2011 and 2016, almost 30 per cent of immigrants to this country, some 356,930 people, settled in the Toronto census area. Even if only one in four acquired and drives a car that is still almost a hundred thousand cars we’ve added to Toronto area roads during those Harper/Trudeau years.

Elections are a perfect time for trying out new ideas. Kathleen Wynne promised to build some long needed high speed rail in southern Ontario had she won the last election. It is not clear how many drivers would have left their cars at home and shaved a four-plus-hour commute in rush hour down to 73 minutes – but at least they would have been given the option.

The federal government has played a huge role in facilitating the development of transportation in this country, the railways and highways and even pipelines. Isn’t it time for one of the political leaders to come out swinging with a better idea about resolving our road congestion?

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


Background links:

National Infrastructure –    More Infrastructure –    Even More Infrastructure –    Free Highways

Canadian Immigration –    Toronto Immigration –    High Speed Rail

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There is a better than even chance that the Ford government will strip citizens of effective political representation next year.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

August 21st, 2019



They gather every year for an annual conference – an event that lets the municipal sector talk to the provincial ministers about what’s coming down the pipe.

In Ontario the municipalities are creatures of the province; their names and their boundaries can be changed at the whim of the Premier.

The province has made it very clear that they want to reduce the $11 billion debt that the Liberals left when they were basically wiped out electorally by the Progressive Conservatives.

When that last happened we all thought Mike Harris was a disaster – now we get to see Doug Ford up close and in person and we learn what a disaster really is.

Steve Clark Minister of Muni affairs Ontario

Minister Clark.

Steve Clark, the Minister of Municipalities spoke at the AMO conference to talk about what he had in mind. He spoke the day after the Premier who made it clear that there were major cuts coming, what the province was going to pay for and what the municipalities were going to have to come up with.

It looked as if the Premier was going to find the money to pay down the provincial debt by forcing the municipalities to pick up more of the freight for the services they deliver.

Moody’s debt rating service said they thought the damage would amount to a $2 billion hit to the municipal sector.

Clark sugar coated everything his Ministry was going to do – it sounded like sunshine and lollipop pops or a verse from The Big Rock Candy Mountain.

It wasn’t until the very end of his speech that we got to see the sleeper – amalgamation is going to take place despite what Burlington’s MPP said.

Clark said: “At last year’s conference, I announced we would be reviewing the regional government system. It’s been in place for almost 50 years — and we wanted local input on how to improve governance, decision-making and service delivery.

Fenn Michael 2

Michael Fenn

“I’ve been unequivocal from day one and stated throughout the review — we have no preconceived outcomes” and added that “Ken Seiling and Michael Fenn are finalizing their recommendations — over 8,500 submissions and close to 100 in-person presentations were received — an overwhelming response — and I look forward to receiving their report.

“I’ll have more to say this fall. For now, I want to thank everyone who participated.”

Not so fast Minister.


Ken Seiling

When Seiling and Fenn were at Halton Region listening to delegations they mentioned that the event was their last stop and that they were ready to distill what they had heard into a report they would give the Minister by the end of July.

The concern for many at the Halton event was – would the report be made public. Seiling pointed out that they had been asked to do the work by the Minister and that the report would be given to the Minister – he would decide if and when it was to be made public.

There were delegations on how well the Region of Halton operated.  Ken Seilling challenged an Oakville delegation that suggested the financial impact was going to be severe if there was any kind of amalgamation in Halton.

At the end of July we heard that the report would not be released until after the federal election.

2018 Council

This Regional Council consists of ward representatives plus the Mayor from each municipality. Far too many people for Doug Ford’s liking.

Yesterday we learned that it will not be on the table until next year.

Most people believe the report has been completed; that the Minister has read it and decided what the government  will be doing.

It will have been discussed at Cabinet and there may well be bureaucrats creating new maps.

Halton map cropped

Will these municipalities get down graded to being a ward in a city?

Will Halton and it’s four municipalities be organized into something called the City of Halton? Far too early to know – what we do know is that Premier Ford is not shy when it comes to downsizing local government.

When he was in Oakville speaking to the Chambers of Commerce from the four municipalities, he was recognizing people in the audience. As he was reading out the names of those from Oakville he paused and said: “Boy, you’ve got a lot of people on that council.” The feeling that rippled across the Burlington Convention Centre was palpable.

Doug Ford thinks a Board of 7 to 9 people is what corporations need and he sees municipalities as corporate structures. Having people at the table who can effectively represent a community is not the role Ford sees for a politician.

His approach is to do it all himself. At that same event he read out his cell number and said ‘you can call me anytime’.

Doug Ford does not understand local politics, doesn’t respect the needs of communities at the grass roots level.

Expect the worst and hope that the very real representation problems in the Niagara Region get the attention they need and that Halton is left alone.

The Gazette got some comments from a former Ontario civil servant who served in several ministries who told us that he “would be very surprised if Clark has not been thoroughly briefed on what the report contains and its main recommendations. “

Our source added that he would “not be the least surprised if there was not some attempt to shape the main recommendations and right from the beginning of the process.

Steve Clark H&S

Minister of Municipalities Steve Clark: Already fully briefed?

“Ministers never “receive” anything that they’ve formally commissioned until they’re ready. They are briefed at regular intervals so that there are ‘no surprises and the final report is an anti-climax at best.

“Well in advance of the formal transmission of the Fenn/Seiling report a fulsome communications strategy will have been developed, ready for precise deployment like the Normandy invasion.”

That invasion of citizen rights looks as if it is going to take place sometime early in the New Year.

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.

Related new stories:

We Love Burlington delegates

Background on the Provincial Review of Regional governments

Edwardh describes Provincial Review as very limited


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Steward of Sheldon Creek supports social activist who told the story about by law abuses.

opiniongreen 100x100By Vince Fiorito

August 20th, 2019



I agree with Doreen Nicol’s recent Burlington Gazette article.

City policy appears to harass people doing their part to fight climate change, the biodiversity crisis and environmental toxification problems.

Not only do Burlington’s current property standard by-laws appear to conflict with City Council’s recent climate change emergency declaration, they may also conflict with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as the Species At Risk Act.

Imagine if Canada’s Group of Seven artists were held to the same standards as Burlington’s property standard bylaw, and they could only paint landscapes that were dominated by neatly mowed lawns.

Grp 7 art

Landscape design, like painting, is an art form, which is protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

purple flower - skyscraper

World class examples of native species based landscape designs, that would violate Burlington’s current property standards by-laws.

Burlington’s by-laws and policies currently empower people who don’t understand or deny the existence of serious environmental problems. These people will pressure untrained city staff to mow what appears to them to be weedy unkempt looking lawns. Burlington residents shouldn’t have to fight with the city to be responsible stewards of the Earth. Some of them will inevitably take the city to court and seek damages and compensation.

butterfly on plant

Urban monarch butterfly

If city staff fail to recognize habitat for endangered species (Milkweed for Monarch Butterflies or New Jersey Tea for Mottled Duskywing Butterfly),then their actions could violate the Species At Risk Act and the city could risk fines up to $1,000,000

Also, modernizing and upgrading city property standards policies and by-laws, should include solutions to long term neglected environmental problems.

City policies and by-laws must encourage and assist property owners to clean up old dumpsites ASAP, like this one contaminated with old pesticide and petrochemical containers behind Creek Way in The Orchard.

garbage in creek

Located next to Sheldon Creek along the South Service Road, between Appleby and Burloak.

abandoned construction site

Current City property standards also ignore dangerous derelict buildings.

City property standards allow local businesses to dump industrial effluent into our watersheds with impunity. The above has been reported repeatedly to all levels of government, and is legal. Residents living down stream from environmental problems must have a right to know.

They should not have to use the Freedom of Information Act to access information that the city be collecting and sharing. Ignorance isn’t bliss for children playing or fishing downstream.

salmon 1 horizontal

Rainbow Trout caught 200M downstream from the Harvester storm sewer

salmon 2 vertical

Chinook Salmon aught in Sheldon Creek near New Street – about 1km downstream from Harvester sewer.

sewer pipe with grate

Harvester storm sewer

Burlington must modernize and upgrade city policies to solve climate change, the biodiversity crisis and environmental toxification problems.

The city must have policies to inform residents of reported problems that may affect them and pressures property owners to remediate serious environmental problem or face punitive measures.

Burlington must protect and create habitat for the Halton region’s 48 endangered species, manage the health and improve the vitality of the city’s ravines and wildlife corridor system, give Burlington residents a “Right to Know” about local environmental problems and make polluters pay to clean up their messes.

This issue is an opportunity for city council and Burlington residents to treat the climate change emergency as an emergency.

No one should have to fight with the city to prevent future generations from inheriting a resource depleted dying planet.

Vince FitorioVince Fiorito is a Burlington Resident and Founder of Friends of Sheldon Creek.  He has also been named the Steward of Sheldon Creek by Conservation Halton.

Related news stories.

Activist points to significant by law abuse issues.

Resident wins argument over milk wood in her garden.

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City is pushing hard to get people to think about what they want their city to look like - speak now rather than complain in a couple of years.

News 100 redBy Staff

August 16th, 2019



City hall is reminding people that there are public engagement opportunities now underway to help shape the adopted Official Plan policies that will guide development in the downtown core.

They want to know what matters most to you about downtown Burlington.

Their hope is that they (the planners) can work to gather public feedback about the downtown policies in Burlington’s adopted Official Plan. The process begins with a series of pop-up events. Additional public engagement opportunities to share ideas that will help refine and improve the downtown policies include two Citizen Action Labs taking place on Thursday, Aug. 22 and an online survey available at www.getinvolvedburlington.ca

All four buildings are within a five minute walk of each other.  These are basically done deals with others in the planning stage.  If this is what you want – say so – If this isn’t what you want speak up.


The Nautique – shovels will be in the ground within months and take close to three years to complete.

421 Brant

Due to go up across the street from city hall.

Brant looking north - Kellys

Approved for 17 floors – developer wants 26 – has appealed. To go up opposite city hall as well.


Completion has stalled – they need another year to complete the job.

Pop up Events
City staff will be visiting a variety of locations and events throughout the community to talk with residents and identify what is most important to them about downtown Burlington.  They really want to hear what the average person thinks.  During the October municipal election people complained that city hall wasn’t listening.  They are listening now.  Let them hear what you have to say.

Pop-up Dates and Locations

Friday, Aug. 16 Burlington Farmer’s Market, 777 Guelph Line 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Saturday, Aug. 17 Spencer Smith Park (playground), 1400 Lakeshore Rd.

Tansley Woods Library, 1996 Itabashi Way
11 a.m. to 1 p.m. & 2 to 4 p.m.

Sunday, Aug. 18 Burlington Performing Arts Centre, 440 Locust St.

As they get a little older - they are ready for bigger challenges. This group works there way through a children's obstacle course.

Children’s Festival will be taking place on the weekend – planners will be out in force asking for your opinion.

Children’s Festival, Spencer Smith Park, 1400 Lakeshore Rd

Central Park (bandshell), 2299 New St.
11 a.m. to 12 p.m. & 7 to 7:30 p.m.

Monday, Aug. 19 Alton Library at Haber Community Centre, 3040 Tim Dobbie Dr.
5:30 to 7 p.m.

Tuesday, Aug. 20 Appleby Arena, 1201 Appleby Line

Brant Hills Library, 2255 Brant St.
12:30 to 2 p.m. & 6 to 8 p.m.

Wednesday, Aug. 21
Brant Hills Library, 2255 Brant St. 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Saturday, Aug. 24 Burlington Farmer’s Market, 777 Guelph Line

Aldershot Farmer’s Market, 484 Plains Rd. E. 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Citizen Action Labs – Taking a Closer Look at the Downtown
At these public meetings, participants will work in small groups to discuss and identify what is most important to them about downtown Burlington.

Thursday, Aug. 22
1 to 3 p.m. or  7 to 9 p.m.
Art Gallery of Burlington, 1333 Lakeshore Rd.

Online Survey
An online survey will be available until Aug. 30 at www.getinvolvedburlington.ca to share input about what matters most about downtown Burlington.

Feedback gathered from all the public engagement activities will be used to inform the creation of two concepts of what the downtown could look like in the future. These concepts will be shared with the public in the fall for review and further input.

Visit www.GetInvolvedBurlington.ca to learn more about the re-examination of the downtown policies in the adopted Official Plan and upcoming engagement opportunities.

ECOB logoNot everyone sees the process city hall is using to gather feedback as the best there is. ECoB Engaged Citizens of Burlington, the group that organized the public debates in every ward that was to a considerable degree responsible for the changes at city council have written the planners with their concerns.

1. The Feedback summary of comment and advice received during the pre-engagement process includes a broadly fair summary of comments provided by ECoB during our meeting with the planning department.

2. Our impression in meeting with the Planning Department staff was of a good faith intention to carry out a better engagement process during the Official Plan Review than has been made in the past. ECoB welcomes the growing recognition of effective and genuine engagement in city decision-making processes. ECoB welcomes the opportunity to take part.

3. ‘Doing engagement right’ is a difficult, time-consuming and potentially costly process. It is important to recognize at the outset that the extremely restricted timescales will of necessity create an imperfect engagement process. While the OP Review provides an opportunity for limited additional input from residents over what was received in the initial ‘Grow Bold’ process, it will still be far short of what we would consider the ideal engagement process for a new Official Plan. We believe it is better to recognize these shortcomings now than to argue that a comprehensive engagement process can be carried out in the time available. This observation may be valuable in future engagement initiatives and the ongoing review of advisory committees and engagement in general.

4. The feedback received has been made anonymous in the summary sent to us. We believe it would in fact be advantageous to know which comments came from which groups and individuals. Purely as an example, one can guess that the stipulation that the Engagement Charter be referenced frequently came from the ChAT team. Likewise, there was contrasting advice on ‘pop-up’ engagement processes. Knowing who gave this advice might clarify why there is a discrepancy in opinion. The source of advice is highly relevant in assessing the value of feedback received, and for those attempting to understand how the engagement plan was formed. We believe there is no reason why the names and affiliations of all people consulted could not be included, in the interests of openness and transparency.

5. The pre-engagement process primarily involved receiving advice from advisory committees of various sorts. Only two organizations (ECoB and the Hamilton-Halton Home Builders Assoc.) are fully independent of City Hall. It would further clarify to know who, if any individuals were consulted and to ascertain their independence. ECoB’s position is that the current make-up and selection processes for advisory committees is in urgent need for reform, as recommended by the Shape Burlington Report in 2010, but not implemented. Ironically, most advisory committees, including ChAT, do not regularly interact with the public. There is a perception of a lack of transparency in the selection of citizen volunteers and the operations of the ChAT group. With the greatest of respect for the volunteers on the committees, some of whom are also ECoB members, these longstanding procedural problems weaken the validity of advice received.

6. Having consulted with our members and executive over the last week, there is certainly still concern among our membership that the engagement process will remain too superficial. As we stated during our meeting, we strongly encourage the planning department to ‘be bold’ with the engagement that it conducts to go beyond conventional methods. This should include acknowledgement of and clearly stated attempts to reach:

◦ People from all age groups. Meetings with school-age children a year or so from adulthood are easy and quick to arrange through civics classes and may provide a different but important perspective. The same goes for seniors groups (albeit seniors are traditionally well represented in ‘volunteered feedback’), but also commuters and young families. ‘Pop- up’ events may be most valuable if held, for instance, at ice-rinks or venues where young families take children to participate in sport, as well as malls and supermarkets.

◦ People of different ethnicities. Reaching out to local religious and cultural organizations can be an easy way to ensure people of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds are included.

◦ People of different income groups. Again, religious organizations and local and regional non-profits can advise on the many events and gatherings organized for people on low incomes.

Unless attempts to meet and address these groups are explicitly mentioned in the engagement plan, they are highly likely to be overlooked.

7. We mentioned during our meeting, but it is not included in the summary, the possibility of using local organizations to help with engagement. This would need to be done in a way such that the volunteer groups could not influence the information collected. Such groups could assist with delivery and collection of questionnaires, or explaining the engagement process to people who would traditionally not participate.

8. We did not mention at our meeting but would like to add the suggestion of an important education component to assist residents with learning about the planning process. A fear of a lack of knowledge is a major barrier to people participating in engagement activities. Such a program was provided for new councillors in 2018 – it could be adapted for the public. While the most frequently engaged residents become aware of the complexity of the issues at hand, other residents are naturally less well-informed. This can lead to unrealistic impressions of what is feasible in the provincial and regional planning context and to repetitive and time consuming covering of the same ground. This is where a prominent educational component, presented as separate educational meetings, plus a website and/or documentation, would be of value to both planning staffs and citizens.

9. Re: “Trade-offs and options – Avoid oversimplifying discussion to height alone”
By contrast lack of background information or education must not invalidate resident opinions. This phrase copied above embodies some of the problems that frequently arise when institutions undertake engagement. It is imperative that when questions are asked of residents, they are not asked in ways that lead to institutionally-desired responses. An example of such a ‘trade-off’ question is: “Would you be willing to accept additional height in return for a medical facility included in a development”. Height is a huge issue for many residents, and that opinion has to be recognised and acknowledged alongside all others, regardless of how problematic it is marry that desire with the current provincial planning context.

“Maintaining low-rise to mid-rise character”, or “lower heights in downtown”, are perfectly valid desires for a residents to have, and residents should neither be patronized to by an inference that they “don’t understand”, nor should their opinions be hidden by using engagement processes which lead to minimizing widely held opinions.

In summary – it is the purpose of engagement to find out what residents and other ‘stakeholders’ want, and then to see how the OP Review can best satisfy those desires within the context of the in force provincial and regional planning frameworks. It is not the job of engagement to shape opinion in ways which may appear more convenient.

10. Some of the most ‘scientifically’ valid and innovative methods of engagement available are being ruled out by time and budget. While time is certainly an issue, we would urge the City to consider an increased budget if it allows engagement at a scale, and of a validity, that has not been achieved before. The key objective must be to reach a representative sample of the vast majority of residents who, for entirely valid reasons, do not take participate in conventional engagement opportunities. We feel dollars spent at this stage will save expenses and points of conflict at a later date if an OP is put together that residents can broadly support.

The summary of pre-engagement gives a reasonable reflection of the advice we provided at our meeting with the Planning Department, and we have noted some items which we think could have been included. We do have concerns that some of the same processes which failed citizens in previous OP engagement efforts are likely to be repeated. Nevertheless, we believe the Planning Department is moving in a better direction with regard to engagement. Cognizant of the shortcomings of previous engagement exercises, we would like to see additional weight given to engagement methods by which “the city goes out to residents ”and not “residents coming to the city” thereby reaching out in as representative a manner as a manner as possible to the entire population.

While the timelines are extremely short, we still believe the City should set ambitious engagement objectives. If doing so demands additional budget, we believe the City Manager and Council should make the funds available urgently to ‘do engagement right’.

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Very little development money dumped into ward 3 - some lackluster candidates who chose not to file financial returns.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

August 14th, 2019



Continuing with our series on the amount of money that was raised and spent during the October municipal election.

We covered ward 4 last time, today we take a closer look at ward 3 where Rory Nisan came out the winner against four other candidates.

John Taylor was the 25 year plus incumbent who chose to retire which opened up the field for anyone who thought they could win.

Candidates were given an amount they could spend; that amount was determined by the number of eligible voters in the ward.

In the data set out below the TCI is the total dollar amount brought in by each campaign. The TAE is the TCI minus  any applicable expenses. It is the total applicable expenditures or the total expenditures that apply to the Total Spending Limit and must be less that the Total Spending Limit. We then took the TAE and calculated it as a % of the TSL (also called “The General Spending Limit). So if someone had a TAE of $7 and the TSL/GSL was $10, then they spent 70% of the allowable campaign limit.

Total expenditure headings

ward 3 spends


Gareth Williams

Gareth Williams

Lisa Cooper 2

Lisa Cooper, a third time out candidate, she wasn’t able to break through and win.

Rory Nisan

Rory Nisan took the seat and within a month there were concerns about how he was handling some issues and had to face an Election Compliance audit.




In the list of donours to each campaign funds that came from known developers are show in yellow.
The Nisan donours were:

Nisan source

The Williams donours were:

Williams source

Cooper self-financed her campaign, raised $168.00 and spent $3,419.86

Kinsey Schurm self financed his campaign and spent $2,910.55

Peter Rusin and Darcy Hutzel failed to file election campaign financial returns.

The issue in the ward today is the plans the Nelson Quarry announced to turn the quarry into a park once it is totally mined out.  The ward is a middle class/working class community that just wants to have the road plowed and the recreational services as up to date as in every other ward.

Ward 3 png

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You know what the issue is with this world. Everyone wants a magical solution to their problem, and everyone refuses to believe in magic.

News 100 redBy Staff

August 13th, 2019



One of the beauties of an on line newspaper is the opportunity to look at the back and forth in communication between two people.

In what follows we give you a look at how David Barker’s electronic conversation with Burlington MPP Jane McKenna went.

Alice for BarkerBarker, a Lakeshore Road resident, takes issue with Jane McKenna’s position on affordable housing. She basically sticks as close as possible to the Ford government position- something Jane has always done. She knew the lines to the Tim Hudak position on significant issues better than Tim Hudak did when he was PC party leader.

Have a listen to how McKenna digs a hole and then looks for ways to dig down even deeper.

David Barker to Jane McKenna June 22nd, 2019
On Sat., Jun. 22, 2019, 11:25 a.m. Barker wrote:

Ms McKenna in your statement directed towards the We Love Burlington group, published in the Burlington Gazette, you state “Our estimates from the Ministry of the Attorney General show that over 100,000 housing units are caught up in legacy cases at the tribunal. That’s 100,000 desperately needed homes that can’t get built – or three years worth of construction in Ontario waiting for approval….” By making this statement, Ms McKenna, you imply that you would expect all 100,000 units that await review by LPAT would gain its approval.

Maybe you did not mean to imply that. But your statement reflects exactly the public’s perception of just what is wrong with LPAT (and before it OMB). The perception is that the unelected, unrepresentative body seems to invariably side with the developer’s position, completely ignoring the municipality’s official plan and the desires of the local residents.

Please can you provide any justification as to why the Province of Ontario should even have an unelected, unrepresentative body to pass judgement on how a municipality manages its development. As far as I am aware no other Canadian Province has such a body. I assume in those other Provinces the developer’s recourse is to a non-political court system. Should that not also be the recourse here in Ontario?

Surely if a municipality has an official plan that has been accepted and approved by its region (and by implication the Province) why should that municipality then be second guessed by an unelected, unrepresentative political body. If a developer’s proposal does not comply with the requirements of the municipality’s (Region/ Province approved) official plan, then surely the developer should not expect municipal plan approval until it does conform.

My understanding is the official plan in effect in Burlington dates back to 2008. That means the official plan has been in effect for ten years NOT twenty five years as you contend. That 2008 official plan, although soon to be superceded by an updated official plan, does in fact remain compliant with regional and Provincial requirements. As such it should be respected by all, including developers, the Province and LPAT.

Ms McKenna you are right to champion the need to increase the supply of affordable housing, both rental and owned. I believe you will find allies for that goal at the Region, at Burlington City Council and in the community. However, the high rise condo developments proposed for downtown Burlington do not in any meaningful way address affordable housing. The price point of the proposed condos are way outside the affordability of first time home buyers. Further the monthly rental cost of those units being bought by investors for the rental market is also likely to be well beyond the budgets of the twenty somethings who look for affordable rental accommodation. So for you, Ms McKenna, to in any way imply that the developers proposals for downtown Burlington high rises address affordable housing is completely disingenuous on your part.

Please, Ms McKenna would you temper your standing up and defending the bullying Ford government, of which you are a part, with more standing up and advocating for the desires and positions of your constituents who elected you to represent them. Those views are clearly and accurately expressed and advocated by the City of Burlington Council.

I dare you to publish on your website this opposing view to your statement. But I doubt you are either brave enough or confident enough to do that.

Barker to McKenna June 30th.
I’m looking forward to your response to my emailed message below.

McKenna to Barker August 7th.
Mr. Barker,
Every community in Ontario is unique. But no matter where you go, one thing is the same – people are looking for housing that meets their needs and their budget.

Here in Burlington, the cost of buying a home is becoming out of reach for many and affordable rentals are too hard to find. In addition, the high cost of housing is making it harder to attract investment and create jobs.

According to 2017 projections by Ontario’s Ministry of Finance, Halton Region will grow by 56.2 percent over the next 22 years – making Halton the fastest-growing area in the GTHA. That’s why we need to get the housing supply right – the right housing, in the right place, at the right time in the most efficient way.

Provincial growth plans have determined land use patterns for over a century. Regional and Municipal Official Plans align to provincial policy and are used in planning local communities.

Ontario is not the only province that handles appeals involving municipal planning decisions with a Tribunal. Like Ontario, Alberta is also home to some of the fastest growing cities in Canada; they also handle municipal planning with a tribunal.

The tribunal exists because people don’t always agree on how their communities should develop or change. Disputes often arise over land use planning issues, such as where industry is located, where roads and transit are built, protecting environmentally sensitive lands and managing overall development. When people are unable to resolve their differences on planning issues or have disputes with their municipal council, the LPAT provides a forum to resolve those disputes.

Recently, Halton Regional Council passed a motion calling on the government to eliminate the LPAT. Unfortunately, this is not an option as it would remove the ability for residents to appeal Council decisions outside the courts. Relying on our over-burdened court system would increase costs, delay decision making and hinder people’s ability to settle planning disputes.

Our government’s recent decision to appoint 11 new adjudicators to the LPAT will speed-up decision making to address the 2 to 3-year backlog of appeals.

As Burlington works to create a new Official Plan, our Mayor and Council continue to receive expert advice from local and provincial planning staff. That’s why I’m confident that by mid-2020, under a new Official Plan, the number of appeals will be reduced, with the LPAT playing an important role in ensuring critical checks and balances are in place.
Best regards,

Barker gets back to McKenna before the end of the day on August 7th.

Thank you for your email below. Its contents do raise further questions in my mind, which you might be able to answer or comment upon.
I totally agree with you that so much more needs to be done to provide the “affordable” housing that is needed for the less well off in our society. The main hurdle to achieving that goal is that it does not make commercial or economic sense for developers to create affordable housing when ROI is so much better with condos and single family homes. Ontario should look to other jurisdictions outside of Canada where local, regional and central governments provide the affordable housing stocks. It is nonsense and folly to believe the private sector will step up. Doug Ford, the Premier for the People” surely would want to champion a Housing for the People initiative funded through the three levels of government.

I would hazard a guess that of the 100,000 units you have cited as being held up at OMB/LPAT less than 5% would relate to applications for affordable housing developments. Perhaps you have a supportable number for this?
Those applications for multi unit developments in Burlington tied up at OMB/LPAT, I am confident are all for $500,000+ condos or similar price point developments. Not for affordable housing.

Tying the affordable housing issue to the purpose or need for an OMB/LPAT body is not appropriate or valid.

You say, once Burlington, or any other municipality, gets its OP compliant with Provincial requirements the number of instances of appeals being accepted for adjudication by LPAT will be substantially reduced. That being the case why could a dedicated Property Planning Court not be created to deal with the appeals.

Surely it is better to have an independent judiciary act as the arbiter rather than an unelected body of political or patronage appointees, who likely have no connection to the municipality. If a separate Property Planning Court is a no go, then why not have a requirement that the LPAT tribunal members must be resident in the municipality from which the matter emanates.

You cite cost as being an insurmountable hurdle that rules out the use of the courts as a viable place to settle disputes. The cost to appeal a municipality’s decision to LPAT likely puts an appeal out of the financial wherewithal of individual residents. Lawyers, planning consultants and other expert type witnesses are required, all costing a pretty penny. Developers have deep pockets. Individuals do not. A “small claims court” type model for a Property Planning focused court should be the way to go.

You have cited Alberta as another province with an LPAT type system. So perhaps you can elaborate as to how other provinces deal with planning disagreements. What happens in say BC, Quebec, Nova Scotia. Can Ontario not learn anything from those provinces?
You mention Halton recently passed a resolution calling for the end of LPAT. The regional and city council’s were more recently elected to office than were MPPs. Your words come across like those of an overly protective or controlling mother telling her child “no, don’t bother your pretty little head with that, Mommy knows what’s best”.

Might I suggest in the next month or so you host a constituency meeting on this subject so that you can hear directly from your constituents on this subject.
David Barker

Jane gets back to Barker on August 12th
Mr. Barker,
Thank you for your follow up email including your suggestions.
Best regards,

Barker gets back to Jane – he is like a dog with a bone and he isn’t letting go.

You are most welcome.

Mad Hatter for BarkerWill you be offering your thoughts or comments as to those suggestions:-

* a “small claims” model type court for municipal property planning disputes be set up to replace LPAT.
* an LPAT tribunal be comprised only of citizens resident in the municipality from which the matter emanates.

* you hold a townhall meeting within the next couple of months to have an open discussion on this matter, which is of immensely high interest to your constituents.
* have the Province and municipalities come together to finance, construct, hold and manage a stock of affordable housing.

I look forward to hearing from you.
David Barker

Blair Smith, a citizen’s advocate adds his two cents:
If the Government really wanted to increase affordable housing then it would act as responsible governments do – as stewards of the public trust – and mandate that developers do much, much more to provide housing that applies. If you leave it to the private sector with incentive programs and self-regulating regimens then your last name may be Wynn. Government is intended to fill the gap where private sector and self-interest will not go. Not a difficult concept.

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Incomplete rules and regulations that are a part of Bill 108 look like a disaster in the making.

News 100 blackBy Staff

August 13th, 2019



Our friends across the Bay in Hamilton have published a newsletter that has to be shared.

Citizens at City Hall (CATCH) comment on Bill 108 and the degree to which it is going to gut the way planners within municipalities have to deal with development applications.

CATCH said:

Additional though still incomplete information has come from the province about massive changes being made to rules on planning, community benefit agreements, parkland funding and development charges. Described as “welfare for developers”, the More Homes, More Choice Act appears to mean more subsidies from property taxpayers and an abandonment of the claim that growth pays for itself.

Aerial view - skyway bridge

The good citizens of Hamilton have looked at Bill 108 -and they don’t like what they see. The view will be the same from this side of the Bay.

The stated objective of the legislation is to lower housing costs. It eliminates growth fees for services such as libraries, recreational facilities, parkland development and social housing. These make up about a quarter of the development charges currently collected in Hamilton from developers to offset some of the costs of new growth.

Some of these revenue losses could be recovered with modified Community Benefits Charges that are included in the legislation. These replace existing “section 37” collections whereby cities bargain with developers who want to exceed approved building sizes and densities and in return obtain various community benefits.

But the modified community benefits charge will be capped by the province at a rate that has still not been released so there is no certainty that the financial result will be equivalent to that obtained by the existing two growth funding mechanisms. And if a city utilizes this community benefits charge it will be forced to abandon collection of parkland dedication fees – a long-standing method of ensuring sufficient land for parks.

Currently the parkland dedication fee – which has been in effect since the early 1970s – requires developers to provide land or monies based on the number of new residents in the growth area. Now it will be set irrespective of how dense the development.

Toronto staff have calculated that for one new apartment tower the new rules will mean an 80 percent drop in parkland paid by the developer. In another situation, the park area falls from nearly four square metres per resident down to half a square metre.

Central Park - play area

Developers will finance the same amount of parkland for a 48-storey building as for a four-storey one.

This flies in the face of both provincial and local commitments to encourage higher densities, especially along major transit lines like the LRT. Instead the municipality will be penalized for more concentrated residential development and the developers will finance the same amount of parkland for a 48-storey building as for a four-storey one.

Other changes in the legislation drastically shorten the time allocated to cities to respond to development proposals. For example, the timelines for an official plan amendment drop from 210 days to 120. Local planners contend these make proper review and public consultation virtually impossible and will mean many more appeals to the provincial planning tribunal.

All of these changes are likely to leave existing taxpayers shouldering more of the costs of growth. As Hamilton’s chief planner Steve Robichaud warned in June: “There’s a big shift in terms of who pays for growth and how that balances and they’ve taken the costs off the developer and they’re shifting some of those costs onto the municipality.”

While the new rules are purported to lower housing costs, they don’t include any way to ensure this. “It is unlikely that they will positively impact housing affordability,” argue Toronto planners, “as Bill 108 does not provide for any mechanisms to ensure that reduced development costs are passed through to future home buyers and renters.”

Bill 108

The developers may have been given even more than the keys to the city.

The Ford government rushed through the legislation without details between May 1 and June 6, leaving municipalities scrambling to even provide comments on changes that could not be properly evaluated. Now Queen’s Park has extended the confusion with incomplete draft regulations and schedules.

“The province has not posted an actual draft regulation, but rather has posted a notice of intent to issue a regulation”, notes Hamilton staff.

“The regulations … have been provided in general terms and the full impact of the proposal is not capable of being fully understood and assessed without the official language that will appear as written in the regulation.”

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What does one do with a City Clerk who treats a totally unacceptable breach of the election rules as a learning experience?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

August 12th, 2019



Earlier today the Gazette published an article on some problems that were brought to the public’s attention by Blair Smith and Lynn Crosby.

The problems they discovered after an exhaustive analysis of the data that was submitted to the City Clerk by each candidate brought some very disturbing matters to the surface.

Small administrative errors and typos happen. But when significant amounts of data just don’t appear a full public understanding of who contributed what to whom is no longer possible.

What makes the democratic system we have the success it is – is that we all abide by the laws in place and everything is transparent.

If the numbers aren’t available transparency isn’t possible. And once those who set out to game the system become aware that they can hide where their campaign election money came from, just imagine what can happen.

In a series that will follow in the Gazette in the weeks ahead we list who got what from whom and do our best to identify known developer interests.

Does receiving campaign funds from a developer mean that a candidate has compromised themselves – no but – know that developers are in business and they use their money to enhance their business interests.

Brant looking north - Kellys

Two of the four buildings are done deals – two are working their way through the approval process. Did election campaign funding make them possible?

high profile 421

Done deal


Done deal

Pearl and Lakeshore

Looking for approval.

The public depends upon the bureaucracy to protect their interests, to ensure that the data they get has been fully reviewed and meets the criteria.

How Mike Wallace got away with filing a return that did not have critical dates in his report is not just an oversight. It is sloppy administration done by people who don’t understand or appreciate that accuracy is important.

Are the results of the election in question? No.

The vote count was pretty decisive. The Office of Mayor was not won by money – it was won by a person who heard and responded to the cries of the people who pay attention to civic matters.

The disappointment is that less than 40% of the people who had the right to vote actually cast a ballot.

Mayor Meed Ward was not as unequivocal as she could have been on this matter; she has certainly had her issues with the way this Clerk has handled a number of matters in the past.

The comments made by the Clerk that this was a learning experience cannot be accepted. The position of Clerk in municipalities is significant; for example a bylaw is not in force until both the Mayor and the Clerk sign the document.

Smith and Crosby argue that the Clerk’s behaviour is “a completely unacceptable contravention of information practice and protocol, particularly for one entrusted with maintaining the integrity of the official record.”

It is up to Tim Commisso, City manager to decide what to do next, if anything. What he decides to do will say a lot about the kind of City Manager he is going to be.

There was a situation a number of years ago when the then Director of Planning, Bruce Krushelnicki, sitting at the Council table, advised council that a very senior member of his staff would no longer be in the employment of the city. He walked the individual back to his office; that was the last we saw of him.

Strong managers take strong action when it is necessary, providing they have just reasons for doing so.

Related news story:

Clerk revises public record – considered a no no.


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: Gets a taste of what the federal election in October might be like - grants and photo ops.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

August 8th, 2019



 This is an election year and politicians show up at every chance they get.


From the left: Oakville North Burlington MP, Pam Damoff, Burlington MP Karina Gould who is also the Minister of Democratic Institutions and Minister of the Environment Catherine McKenna, They were at the Canada Centre for Inland Waters – there is a freighter sailing past them in the background.

So Liberal MP’s from Burlington, Oakville and Hamilton East-Stoney Creek were along for the ride when Canada’s Environment Minister Catherine McKenna did a presser at the Canada Centre for Inland Waters (CCIW). It was Karina Gould’s home turf so she moderated.

And fiscal conservatives might have been relieved that it was only a little over a million dollars being awarded for essentially low-level environmental clean up projects stretching over the next three years. It’s chump change, though the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, which had scored two projects under the federal Great Lakes protection initiative, was out in force to thank the minister for her/our largesse.

CCIW 4 Minister

Catherine McKenna – Minister of the Environment.

The announcement took place upon the broken pavement out the back of CCIW, which houses the world renowned National Water Research Institute (NWRI). I had spent a lot of time working in that building and it seemed little has changed over the two decades since I’d left. It was great to see so many of my former colleagues still slaving over a hot test tube.

One of the primary purposes of NWRI at its inception back in the ‘70s was to rid the Great Lakes of those nasty algal blooms which choke all the life out of the waters. And there had been progress, and for a while it looked like we had won that battle. But climate change has opened up a whole new challenge. Rain storms bringing nutrient-rich soil from well-fertilized farms and sloppy urban development have combined with warmer water to facilitate renewed algal growth.

Seriously, a million dollars is a pretty modest amount of money, given the three billion dollars the federal and other governments are giving the fossil fuel industry to continue generating greenhouse gas emissions.  But every action helps and these projects, restoring habitat and cleaning up the shoreline certainly will help.

And, of course, the feds have more arrows in their quiver. So Minister McKenna wasted no time chastising the Conservative provincial premiers who are wasting tax payer money on court challenges over the carbon tax.

But as I said it was a pre-campaign election event.

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

Background links:

Canada Centre for Inland Waters



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Paying to Poison the Planet

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

August 6th, 2019



Ever since I can remember environmentalists have been demanding an end to government subsidies for the oil and gas sectors. And ever since I can remember governments have been ignoring the issue, or have been in denial. And those not in denial keep making promises to end the flow of cash to the energy giants, but never actually do.

sustainable for who

Sustainable for who?

Canada by everyone’s calculations leads the G7 when it comes to doling out cash to the fossil fuel industry. And while the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) puts the direct value of Canadian generosity to big fossil at $3.3 billion per year, the International Monetary Fund calls it more like $50 billion after all the externalities are included.

Mr. Trudeau, recognizing the inappropriateness of these subsidies, and echoing long standing Liberal policy, promised during the last federal election that he would eliminate this gravy train. Then he made a similar promise when his government purchased the TransMountain (TMX) pipeline. The NDP, like the Liberals, utter wishful thoughts on the matter, but the national reality just won’t let that happen – at least not yet.

Canada’s is a diverse economy, and three or four provinces rely heavily on the oil and gas sector for their standard of living. And demand for petroleum is still strong. So ending the subsidies would appear as an attack on those provinces and the national economy. Besides there is still some small chance that the Liberals or NDP might win some seats in the prairies.

The Greens are probably the only party which could be counted on to end the freeload, though the probability of them becoming government in the near future is pretty slim – so it’s an easy promise to make. Maxime Bernier’s fledgling People’s Party shuns all subsidies and has criticized the most recent federal gift to the oil execs. But then given current polling he has even a lesser chance of forming government than the Greens, let alone keeping his own seat.

Sheer loves oil and gas

The sign says it all.

Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives are the outliers. Despite criticism of Trudeau on the latest handout to the industry, nobody should doubt where Scheer stands. He represents oil producing Saskatchewan, after all, and like his former boss, Alberta’s Harper, can be counted on to do the bidding of the oil giants.

In fact his recent policy paper on climate change and the environment would see even more subsidies go out to fossil fuel firms presumably looking for cleaner ways of burning even more fossil fuels. He stands shoulder to shoulder with big oil, regurgitating their positions on the new fuel standard and environmental assessment. And his opposition to the carbon tax is all about protecting the oil producers.

But if climate change is the most important issue facing humanity this century, then fossil fuels will have to go, and fossil fuel companies will have to shut down eventually. And alternatives need to be available and put on an even footing financially. According to the IISD, globally, the fossil fuel fellows get four times as much in handouts ($400 billon) as does the worldwide renewable energy sector.

Bernier is dead wrong. Subsidies are an essential part of modern government. They are as essential as fair taxation. If government’s role in society is to provide leadership then it must use all of its tools to tip the scales and nudge us in the right direction. For example, the recently announced federal electric vehicle rebate program helps to level the costs of purchasing a non-polluting vehicle.

Smokestacks Hamilton

The Hamilton skyline on a difficult day.

Subsidies to the oil industry are wrong headed and must and will end. Otherwise how do we move society off oil and gas and onto cleaner electric or hydrogen. The federal carbon tax is expected to raise $2.3 billion this year, all of which will be returned to the public. And that is still at least a billion shy of what the Canadian taxpayers are giving to the oil companies, so they can compensate their oil exec’s with fat salaries, bonuses and stock options. And their product is the poison changing our climate.

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


Background links:

Subsidies for Fossil Fuels –    More Subsidies –    Canadian Subsidies –    Highest Subsidizes in G7

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City is looking for some input on Leash-Free parts of the city.

News 100 yellowBy Staff

August 1st, 2019



The woof woofs need more room to run around.


Dogs off leash in Central Park - if you have an opinion - speak up

Dogs off leash in Central Park – if you have an opinion – speak up

The City of Burlington is looking for feedback on the City’s current Leash-Free Area Criteria.

Residents are encouraged to visit getinvolvedburlington.ca/leashfree to review the criteria and provide the City with feedback and suggestions.

The City currently has three public Leash-Free Areas:

• Roly Bird Park (2203 Industrial St.)
• Norton Park (4275 Dundas St.)
• Bayview Park (1800 King Rd.)

With feedback from residents, staff will report back to City Council by the end of this year.


The current Council-approved criteria, described below, is used when the public expresses interest in requesting a new Leash-Free Area.

The survey is looking for resident feedback on the criteria along with any suggestions on the criteria that residents may have.

Current Criteria for Creating a Leash-Free Area

• Parks must be within City of Burlington boundaries
• Leash-Free Area must be at least 0.3 hectares (30 metres x 30 metres)
• All Leash-Free Parks must be enclosed with permanent fencing, which the City will provide as part of the budget process
• An assessment will be made to whether parking will be required at a proposed leash-free site, based on the size of the Leash-Free site, location and any disruption to park function.
• A significant barrier must exist between Leash-Free Areas and children’s playgrounds, splash pads, sports fields, waterfront, cemeteries and residential housing.
• Leash-Free Areas cannot be located beside schools or in the City’s waterfront parks
• Area must be accessible to the public for year-round use
“Leash-Free Areas are great amenities in our parks. They encourage play and socialization for all. We also know there are challenges when developing new Leash-Free Areas, and with the general operation of them.

The city asking you what you think – they want some help shaping the Leash-Free future.”

Ideas, opinions what works and what doesn’t work as well as what could work..  Is the current criteria the right criteria?

Speak up!


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If the Economic Development Corporation is wrapped up - what does that do to TechPlace and the hefty lease they signed?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

July 30th, 2019



What started out as a comment made at the annual Chamber of Commerce State of the City address given by newly elected Mayor Marianne Meed Ward may become a rather impressive Trojan Horse.

Red tape red carpet

Was this initiative a brilliant Trojan Horse?

The Mayor made mention of a committee she was setting up – to be called the Red Tape – Red Carpet (RTRC) initiative during which she, along with her colleague ward 1 city Councillor Kelven Galbraith, were to listen to various groups in the city about their concerns with city hall and the help they needed to grow their businesses.

Lurking in the background was a consistent complaint on the part of the developers and a number of businesses that had found it was very difficult to get anything through city hall in a reasonable amount of time

The RTRC team met with

Rural Business Focus Group, Development and Real Estate Industry Focus Group, Large Business and Manufacturers Focus Group, City Staff and Partner Organization Focus Group, Small Business Focus Group and heard what expected – the departments don’t talk to each other- the agencies (Fire, Education, Region, Conservation) are brought into the picture one at a time.

While Meed Ward was meeting with the various groups – all of which were closed to media – a consistent trait we have noticed from a Mayor who touts her 22 years as a journalist with a high regard for the role the media plays, the Burlington Economic Development Corporation was in the process of looking for a new Executive Director. Anita Cassidy has been serving as the Acting Executive Director for more than a year.

Her predecessor, Frank McKeown, who was at one point Mayor Goldring’s Chief of Staff and went on to run the BEDC, fully understood what the job was – keep the business we have and find new ones – he was just never able to land a really big one.

McKeown thought he was going to be able to put together a partnership with a German consulting group that wanted to get into the North American market. McKeown had his eye on a partnership with McMaster’s DeGroote School of Business and the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering – it didn’t work out – the Germans chose Hamilton instead,

Frank McKeown and Mayor Meed Ward never broke bread together – they had strong differences of opinion on what economic development was all about.

Frank McKeough, former Chief of Staff to MAyor Rick Goldring asked about how politicians can handle complex issues when voters tend not to be informed and don't have the background needed to arrive at decisions.

Frank McKeown, asking about how politicians can handle complex issues when voters tend not to be informed and don’t have the background needed to arrive at decisions.

Some think that McKeown resigned as head of BEDC when he could see that Meed Ward was going to be the next Mayor. McKeown always did have a good eye for figuring out which was the wind was blowing and whose sails it was going to fill.

While he ran BEDC, McKeown created TechPlace – a location where small start-ups could move in for a period of time and find their footing and then move out of TechPlace and set up shop in Burlington and grow as a new business opportunity for the city.

During this mix of events Mayor Meed Ward got invited to take part in a “Tale of Two Cities” with Oakville Mayor Rob Burton who explained to a good audience at the Performing Arts Centre that economic development should be an in house operation.

There are dozens of business people with tonnes of experience in drawing new business to a municipality that will tell you it is nuts to put that kind of an operation in city hall. Views are clearly divided on that issue.

At roughly the same time Burlington learns that L3Wescam is going to move out of the space they are in on the North Service Road to a new site in Waterdown. The Mayor was caught off guard and had to scramble to put a decent spin on the news.

L3WEscam Burlington location

L3Wescam will be leaving these premises for a new purpose built location in Waterdown.

It isn’t clear if Hamilton had gotten to L3Wescam and found them a deal they couldn’t refuse; they did that with International Harvester who were all set to move their parts distribution operation from Burlington to Mississauga – then they got a great deal from Hamilton and a time frame that worked for them.

The new Mayor had ideas of her own – she had begun toying with the idea of creating an MDC – Municipal Development Corporation that would be an in-house operation. In the material she prepared she went so far as to describe the job the Chief Development Officer of such an organization would be doing.

“Establish a position at City Hall to act as our Chief of Business Development, serving as a primary outreach for attracting new businesses to Burlington, overseeing and expediting applications through the system and reporting progress and obstacles regularly to City Council and the City Manager

During the July 15th Council meeting- the last one until September the Mayor asked her colleagues to support her idea and move it forward – the support she needed wasn’t there – council deferred the matter to the September meeting when the consultant’s report on the future of BEDC was in hand.

Anita Cassidy

Anita Cassidy finds herself facing an uncertain future over decisions she didn’t make.

One wonders what Anita Cassidy was thinking as she watched this parade of events pass her by.

The city, which provides most of the BEDC budget is current having a study done on what their role should be. As Mayor, Meed Ward sits on the BEDC Board.

Economic Development is critical to the growth of a municipality – some do it very effectively – Welland Ontario is a great example. Others slip and slide around and lose opportunities that they didn’t even see.

The business of attracting a corporation to move to town is really a networking game – you need someone who knows the players, plays a decent game of golf and has a great story to tell.

Burlington has the elements of a great story – parts of which are buried because their value is not perceived.

What isn’t clear yet is whether or not Mayor Meed Ward has the capacity to listen and to surround herself with people who she trusts and will rely upon when it comes to the complex process of how decisions are made. The jury is out on that one – and when it does return it might well be a hung jury.

There is one final irritant – a fly in the soup if you will.

Tech Place has just under five years left on a lease that has a sliding scale of rent increases. In the final full year of the lease rent will be a combination of net rent and additional rent for a total of $301,877 in the 6th year. That is a big nut to crack in anyone’s language.

TechPlace is a program of the BEDC, it has a staff of 1.5 people and an average annual contribution from BEDC’s core budget of approximately $220,000 per year.

Gross rent over the 6-year contract varies from $24,000 in year 1 to an annual cost of $301,000 in the final year.
There is basically nothing in the way of a revenue stream and while there are some bright spots in the Tech Place story it isn’t enough to cover the rent or justify the expense.

In material from BEDC we learn that “TechPlace is a one-stop destination for new and growing technology companies. TechPlace was established to support Burlington’s Strategic Plan 2015 – 2040 that calls for “Innovative, entrepreneurial businesses have settled or developed in Burlington. The city has helped create the technological support, business supports, infrastructure and educational environment to attract start-ups and growing businesses” and to “Create and invest in a system that supports the start-up and growth of businesses, innovation hubs and entrepreneurship.

“Following best in class ecosystem research and stakeholder engagement conducted in 2017 a clear need to have a physical space to build a successful entrepreneurial ecosystem in Burlington was identified to create connectivity, vibrancy and tell our entrepreneurial story. Burlington Economic Development Corporation became the change champion and opened TechPlace to accomplish the City of Burlington Strategic Plan in a way that was aligned with community need and stakeholder input.”

Angelo B

Angelo Bentivegna wanted more information on that Tech Place lease.

This is the kind of language developers trot out when defending applications.  No one appears to have asked the hard question: How are we going to pay rent of $300,000 in the last year?  Ward 6 Councillor Angelo Bentivegna kept asking questions about that lease – bless him for that – no one else was.

“TechPlace is focused on supporting the scale up and growth of high potential companies through its Launch Pad program and a host of wrap around services delivered through partners such as Haltech, Angel One, Mentorworks, Mohawk College, McMaster University and Halton Region Global Business Centre.

“In addition, BEDC has created a “Soft Landing” program to use as a unique business attraction tool that allows companies considering a location in the west GTA to establish a footprint in Burlington and begin operations while BEDC supports their long term business relocation to Burlington through its traditional business support services.”
There is some pretty fancy language in the BEDC material – the results, while interesting, are not going to do much in the way of changing the makeup of the commercial sector in the city.

Tech place logoSince TechPlace launched in 2017 it has hosted over 10,000 visitors, 200 events, attracted 13 LaunchPad companies, creating a strong business attraction brand and value proposition for Burlington. Results since inception are:

Total LaunchPads -13
Total LaunchPads from outside of Burlington – 10 of 13 Graduates – 7
Graduates that stayed in Burlington – 5 of 7

The BEDC material adds: “There have been a number of recent changes to the local start-up support ecosystem including the launch of Nuvo Network and the review of the Regional Innovation Centre model by the provincial government including Haltech.

“This creates opportunities for reviewing TechPlace’s operating model and determining whether BEDC delivering TechPlace activities directly or spinning off the activities to a partner can create the same benefits for Burlington with a different operating and financial model.”

“As part of the overall BEDC review, it is worth reviewing the efficiency, effectiveness and optimal structure and mandate of TechPlace to determine the pros and cons of retaining it as part of BEDC or spinning it off to an independent provider. The review would include a cost-benefit analysis of the current investment in TechPlace and what it produces in business attraction, versus other strategies for business attraction (e.g., dedicated staff) that don’t rely as heavily on physical space.”

This amounts to Corporate Spin on a situation that is unraveling quickly.

Is the BEDC signalling that Tech Place has not panned out the way they had hoped and that it is time to bail out?

Ward 1 Councillor Kelven Galbraith was taken on a tour of the McMaster Innovation Park and had this to say: “It was amazing to see the business success stories that have emerged from the park and the continued investment into their facilities and operations.

‘The City of Burlington and Burlington Economic Development Corporation (BEDC) looks forward to a great business relationship with the McMaster Innovation Park in the future”. That train may have already left the station.

Meed ward looking askance

Mayor Meed Ward has a strategy and a long term objective – don’t get in the way.

The Mayor wasn’t all that interested in waiting for the result of the BEDC review – she had a job description in her hand for the person who is going to bring some life to attracting new enterprises to the city – all she needed was three of the six votes from her colleagues – they weren’t forthcoming.

Tech Place was seen by former Mayor Rick Goldring as one of his success stories – he really wanted it to work.

Wanting just isn’t enough – is it? The city just might have to suck up that rent cost and look for someone who will take over the lease.

Sean Saulnier over at NUVO One isn’t likely to be the white horse the city needs.

The financial reckoning will take place and a new story line will be spun out of city hall. Burlington learned to leave well enough alone when the New Street Diet proved to be a dismal failure. Are we about to repeat that performance?

Don’t expect to see much in the way of transparency in what happens next – and give up on the idea of holding anyone accountable.

Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette, an online newspaper that was formed in 2010 and is a member of the National Newsmedia Council.

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Is Most Public Engagement Worthless ? Some interesting views on how we engage the public.

News 100 yellowBy Staff

July 30th, 2019



A devoted Gazette reader popped us a note. “You might want to read this over and perhaps share it.” The article, which is rather long, is on the value (or lack thereof) of public engagement.

Ruben Anderson wrote the piece on August 6, 2018. He mentions an article with the headline – “Most Public Engagement is Worthless” which he said grabbed his attention.

That article launched Anderson’s thoughts.

“I think most public engagement is beyond worthless. I think it actually corrodes the relationships we need in order to build a strong town. Most public engagement, as it is currently conducted, makes our cities worse places.


Finance department staff explaining a part of a budget during a public forum.

“Does this mean that I am saying we should abandon public engagement? Most definitely not. But I think we need to understand behavior, relationships, and expertise a lot better if we are going to do good with our consultation efforts instead of harm. Public engagement needs to be done well, because it would be better to do nothing at all than to corrode the public’s trust in City Hall and in each other.

Let me tell you a story.

I was working for the City of Vancouver’s Sustainability Group and was assigned to a large urban planning process. Consultation was said to be critical, necessary, jugular—and so we dog-and-ponied with our flip charts and sticky notes and dotmocracy.

We asked people the question, “How could Vancouver be more sustainable?”

Solar Panels! they told us. Windmills! Plant trees! Ban plastic bags! Ride bikes!

Golly. Solar panels?

Here I am working in a Sustainability Department and I never thought of solar panels. How could I have missed that? Solar panels! And bikes? Wow. Just wow. What a fool I was! My eyes are opened!

What I am trying to describe here is how terribly insulting this process was to everybody involved.

We had asked a question that could produce nothing but disrespect for the experts who have dedicated their education and careers to reducing environmental impact. Of course we knew about solar panels.

And we had asked a question that the members of the general public were not equipped to answer, because they aren’t experts. There are some good reasons why solar panels are not installed faster—it is almost always a better idea to insulate your home, weatherstrip and draught-proof first. You reduce your own energy demand before you put on solar panels.

Jennifer Johnson on the rleft listening to a residents ideas at Lakeside Plaza visioning

Jennifer Johnson on the left listening to a residents ideas at Lakeside Plaza visioning exercise.

When the report and recommendations come out, the public sees nothing that resembles what they asked for—they wanted solar panels and they got weatherstripping. They too feel disrespected. They gave their irreplaceable time, hours from their one and only life, and look what they got.

They had to give something up in order to come to the consultation, and nothing good came of their time because they weren’t asked questions they could meaningfully contribute to answering.

This is not how you build a trusting relationship: a strong foundation on which to work together. This is how you corrode trust.

Another story: the city I now live in, Victoria, BC, recently began installing “all ages and abilities” bike lanes after a significant consultation period. At a couple of the consultations, big maps were laid out so people could draw where they thought bike routes should go.

If you’re having the public draw bike lanes, think about why. What expertise do they have that your bike planners don’t?


Does the clearly coloured bike lane make it safer? Only if car drivers are aware of why the colouring is in place.

To be quite blunt, if your bicycle transportation planner does not have a very clear idea what routes would balance geography, access, cost, safety, behavior change, etc. then they are incompetent and should be fired.

If your planner is not incompetent, then they are probably well-read on the past couple of decades of practical experimentation with bike infrastructure. They probably know the current best thinking on the sorts of places bike lanes should connect and serve. They have probably seen a hundred examples of creative solutions to integrating bikes into cities. They have been paid by the city to learn these things, and probably have done a bunch more research on their own because they are transportation geeks.

So the public was asked to come in and draw routes. The public doesn’t know anything about how many dollars per kilometer each option costs. They don’t know about lane widths, and how wide the city right-of-way is. They know nothing about other things that may be important, like planned changes in sidewalks, utilities, and developments.

We ask people who have none of the education, experience or knowledge needed to make proper decisions to come in and draw routes, and we ask the City staff to sit there and be polite at the ridiculousness that pours out. Can you imagine how the staff feel about giving up their evening with their family, after a day’s work, to go be polite to people who are unaware of virtually all the limiting factors?

And so the public input is ignored, which in this case is the right thing, and the public feels abused, disrespected, undervalued and duped, which also seems like the logical outcome of the consultation.

What Are We Trying to Do?

I really mean this question. What are we trying to do when we do public engagement?

Why are all these people in this room? What are we trying to accomplish? Before we gather people for public consultation, we need to be clear and honest about what we are trying to do. Then, if consultation is the right solution, we can design a process to fill that need.

Are we trying to get ideas?

Our culture loves Ideas! We have Idea Jams! Idea City! TED Talks!

Bob Wingfield, a long time Burlington resident

Bob Wingfield, a long time Burlington resident differing with former ward 4 Councillor Jack Dennison.

Lack of ideas is almost never the problem, as I have argued elsewhere. The problems we face are usually a lack of social cohesion or a lack of money—and a lack of money often also indicates a lack of social cohesion; not enough people care about the project to tolerate a tax increase to pay for it.

Even if we did need more ideas, consultation doesn’t work to generate them. I have a degree in Industrial Design, so I actually took classes in generating ideas. As a working designer I had to constantly generate new ideas. I can tell you, there is not much of a worse way to generate ideas than to put a bunch of strangers with competing interests who are untrained in brainstorming techniques into a room for three hours.

Are we trying to build social license?

Superficial exercises like dot-voting often fail to respect and take advantage of the expertise of either professionals or the public, and leave both feeling insulted. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

Maybe. One of the knee-jerk responses every planner is familiar with is “There was no consultation.” So, putting out a plate of stale cookies and setting up a sad dot-voting exercise neuters that response. Maybe there was nothing consultative about it, but the sign in the hall said “Public Consultation This Way,” so I guess there must have been a consultation.

Bringing many people with different goals together behind one project is quite a big task. Clearly a real program to build social license would take a lot more time and care than your average public meeting. Planners know how to hold value-based discussions, but I don’t know that I have ever seen them use that skill in the processes I have been involved in.

If you need to build social license, maybe you should throw street parties; have a barbecue.

Are we trying to acknowledge people?

I have come to think that engagement tries to acknowledge the public’s plaintive cry, “Don’t forget me.” I think people often don’t need to win; they just don’t want to be forgotten. But as I described above, the outcomes of our processes sure look like they were forgotten.

I wonder what it would be like if the design team went through the plan inch by inch, narrating the compromises, costs and failures, the choices they made, and the specific comments from participants. “Albert and Ruth, who live in Fairfield, are concerned that we expand the songbird habitat. We did that by specifying different landscaping from the typical pom-pom tree and grass lawn. The west side is a native plant garden, intended to be wild and seldom entered by people.”

Are we trying to let off steam?

Issues sometimes get contentious, and letting people vent and feel heard seems like a valid goal—it is just that our public meetings often seem to do the opposite. They actually increase tension instead of releasing it. How could we vent most effectively? Could we play dodgeball? I mean literal dodgeball, where we try to smoke the people we disagree with as hard as we can with a fast-moving ball.

I understand that dodgeball does not resolve what we think of as city planning issues—but neither does the current model of public consultation. And the current model often increases tension between parties, whereas at least dodgeball would dissipate some of it. So there is a very real, serious case to be made that dodgeball would produce better outcomes from our consultations than any amount of sticky notes and dotmocracy ever will.

That is a sad commentary.

Misplaced Expertise

It is clear the public is dissatisfied with much public engagement, and do not feel they were actually listened to.

In the Facebook comments on Chuck’s article, Nancy Graham said “A lot of [consultation] is simply for show and to pretend you are being heard when the leaders have already decided the results they want.”

Transit - unhappy customer

An unhappy transit user letting Director of Transportation and former Mayor Rick Goldring know what he thinks.

Why would leaders do what they want? Sure, maybe for self-interest and personal profit in some cases. But perhaps it’s generally because they think they know better and are trying to make the world a better place. This belief is not unfounded; presumably, they have years of education and on-the-job experience and privileged knowledge of the tricky terrain of this particular troubling issue.

Expertise is unfashionable right now, partly because our society is not very good at understanding who is expert at what, so we give too much power to some people and not enough power to others.

One of the most enduringly popular Strong Towns articles is Chuck’s Confessions of a Recovering Engineer, in which he lambasts his younger self and his former profession in rich detail. He describes how he would arrogantly ruin neighborhoods and destroy streets, thanks to his confidence that his asphalt was for the better. He was the expert.

He was an expert in engineering, who ruined the place. Citizens were promised something better, but what they got was something worse.

And most of our cities have many Chuck 1.0s. Many of us live in cities that were impaled with freeways through the core. We travel on streets that are unsafe by design. The sense of place does not show up in engineering standards manuals.

And yet it would be silly to break out the dotmocracy to specify how to repave a road. It doesn’t matter how you feel about finely crushed rock compacted in the base layer; it matters how it performs with vehicles on it.

Engineers should be expert in the strength of materials and construction methods. They are in no way expert in human behavior, nor are they experts in public opinion. They should not be making political decisions or urban design decisions.

The engineer’s role, which has grown to have so much influence in so many cities, should really be quite technical and fairly powerless. They should have the job of implementing decisions made by others, and within that, their expertise for materials and construction should be completely respected. They are the experts at that.

Sadly, we don’t see residents as experts. This is a critical and corrosive mistake. Of course, they certainly are not experts in how to reduce greenhouse gases, or pave roads, or pick bike routes. They should not be picking beams for a bridge.

But citizens of a city do know how the built environment makes them feel, and how they would like to feel.

They are experts in how increasing taxes will stress them out. They are experts in hidden secrets of their streets and alleys. They are experts in the amenities they want for themselves and their family. They are the only experts.

Their expertise should be respected.

Beachway residents looking at early maps

Beachway residents looking at early maps

“We should only consult with residents when they are the ones that can best answer the question at hand. But in those moments, they should be treated as the experts they are.”

One of the most impactful examples of this I have seen comes from when Oregon had single-payer medicine and was trying to ensure tax dollars were spent most effectively. Experts rated every medical procedure and pharmaceutical by its cost and the quality of life it gave, then ranked them from best to worst. Right up at the top was treatment for pneumonia, and at the bottom was life support for babies born without a brain.

And then they added up the medical costs and the current tax revenue, and drew a line on the list where the tax dollars ran out.

Medical experts made the list of treatments. And then residents—experts in the impact of sickness on their family and community, and experts in their personal budget—got to decide what should be covered.

Essentially, the public got to choose how many people would die. Would you like to cover more procedures? Simple, just pay more taxes. Should we spend one million dollars per year keeping an 80 year-old alive? Nope.

And so the line is adjusted.

What Chuck describes in “Confessions of a Recovering Engineer” is that the choice of how many shall die on our roads has been delegated to engineers, who prioritize speed over life. That is wrong. Engineers are not qualified to make that choice. Only the citizens are experts in how many funerals they would like to attend each year, and how much tax they are able or want to pay—and it turns out they prioritize safety over speed.

So far I have talked about engineer experts and resident experts. But in his latest article, Chuck also talked a lot about design, referencing Steve Jobs. In fact, commenter Kevin Adam noted the similarities between Chuck’s article and corporate Design Thinking.

As I mentioned, I have a degree in design and worked as a product designer—so naturally I think design is incredibly important. Designers bring a different expertise to the equation that residents and engineers typically don’t have.

The old joke about the iPhone is that if you asked people what they wanted in a telephone, they would have said, “Longer cords.” That is the product of a worthless consultation.

So to avoid that, Chuck says, “get on with the hard work of iteratively building a successful city. That work is a simple, four-step process:”

Humbly observe where people in the community struggle.

Ask the question: What is the next smallest thing we can do right now to address that struggle?

Do that thing. Do it right now.


Let me reframe this list as a design process.

1. Humbly observe where people in the community struggle.

Almost every word here is pure gold so I am going to break it down.


Arrogant, rock-star designers may be fine for chairs or blenders, but as I have already said, only the residents are experts on living in their city. To get good outcomes, the designer must approach with humility, in service of the city and its people.


Asking people what they want is often very ineffective. Most people aren’t trained to imagine seemingly impossible things, like a stylish supercomputer that fits in your pocket.

Good public opinion pollsters have to distill opinions out using oblique questions and the discernment that comes with years of experience. Angus McAllister, CEO of McAllister Opinion Research, said, “Most consultation and opinion research is like eating a Big Mac—empty, unhealthy and dissatisfying.

Humans are poor at noticing the drivers of our own behavior. We often behave for one reason, and then seek an explanation for why we acted that way. Typically we just pick something reasonable-sounding even if it is totally unrelated.

For example, if you ask someone why they come to a certain café, they may respond that it has lots of parking. So, if you remove the parking and they keep coming, you know parking is a post hoc rationalization. In fact, they like the way the light falls on the patio, or the service, or the smell reminds them of their grandparents’ kitchen.

Changing the parking is a design prototype. Nothing happens? Change it back and do something different. It is not just whole projects that need to be iterative; the stages within a project also benefit from iteration.

So good designers have to ask lots of careful questions, but observing behavior is critical. You can ask people what route they walk, but when you observe the paths worn through the grass, you have real data.

…where people in the community struggle.

We hold up Gods of Technology like Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg, but they are solving their own problems—rich tech bro problems. They don’t care about sidewalks or corner stores; they have driverless cars and drone delivery!

2. Ask the question: What is the next smallest thing we can do right now to address that struggle?

A Strong Towns principle is that it is less risky to make many small bets than one huge gamble. It is also often strategic, because it is much easier to get permission to do a small thing.

From a design perspective, it is easier to manufacture a spoon than it is to build a kitchen mixer with hundreds of parts—but both can whip up a cake.

3. Do that thing. Do it right now.

Actually, before you do the thing, I would like to add one more step.

2b. From a design perspective, it would sure be awesome if you would collect some data first, to test your Theory of Change.

Here are some Theories of Change:

If we paint a bike lane here, more people will ride bikes.

If we narrow this road, cars will drive slower.

If we widen this highway, we will eliminate congestion.

So, when we plan our interventions, we are using a Theory of Change—whether we have stated it or not—and it is important to collect data to test your Theory of Change.

Collecting data can be very tricky. For example, if you stripe a bike lane, you may see more bikes on that road. Are they new cyclists, or did the same old cyclists just change routes? If your goal is more cyclists, that matters.

So, collect data that will actually test your Theory of Change. As far as I am concerned, the number of hits on your website is generally useless data. We want to count real world change.

3. NOW you do the thing.

Do the thing, then observe. What actually happens in the real world? What do people do—not what do they say, what do they do? Do they drive slower, ride more, shop locally, add a basement suite, plant a tree—whatever. What do they do?

This lesson is one of my favorite from design school. What people do is the only measure that matters. My teacher said, “The users tell you what your design is.”

Pathway - city bench

Did the public have any input in the design of this bench. Did the people who approved the design every sit on the bench?

Imagine you have designed an amazing bench—but nobody sits on it. The skateboarders, however, love it.

Well, then you have not designed a bench, you have designed a skate feature. It doesn’t matter what you think you are designing, it matters how people use it.

I hope you find this to be liberating. If you are struggling with a doorknob, or a toaster, or a sound system or your car’s windshield wipers, it is not your fault, it is just bad design. Bask in this insight while you scroll through Gracen Johnson’s sad collection of design failures, #PlacesIDontWantToSit.

So collect the data, and compare it to your Theory of Change. Did it work, or is your theory garbage? If it is garbage, it is a relief you only made a small bet.

4. Repeat.

“Good designers have to ask lots of careful questions, but observing behavior is critical. You can ask people what route they walk, but when you observe the paths worn through the grass, you have real data.”

Collect data and observe the results, because it is a drag to keep repeating the same mistake over and over again. Watch what works, and repeat that.

Now, in this list, consultation just disappears, and I think that is a bit hasty. I think the design experts should humbly observe where the community is struggling—but where do you start observing?

Unhappy parent

Blowing off steam – certainly not communicating.

This is when you ask the experts. Consultation can map hot spots. Consultation can prioritize which hot spots to address first. If you need to know how it feels to live in a city, where the friction points are, and what is most beloved and cherished, residents are the only experts. Design a consultation to harvest their expertise, and then act on what they give you.

Consultation is a very small part of the overall process, but can be useful and important.

We need to be more aware of different kinds of expertise, and who has it. Each expert—engineer, resident, or designer—only specializes in a narrow field, and we mustn’t ask them to do each other’s jobs.

Otherwise, we disrespect everybody involved, and we corrode goodwill and trust on all sides.

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Rivers: Expecting an Election Campaign and We Get A Food Fight


Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

July 26th, 2019


“Chocolate milk saved my son’s life” – Andrew Scheer

No that wasn’t the latest idiotic outburst from America’s Donald Trump. This is a serious comment from the political leader currently ahead in the polls going into Canada’s next election. Andrew Scheer is shunning the evidence provided by Canada’s leading health scientists and dieticians and shamelessly catering to the dairy and meat producing industry.


“Chocolate milk saved my son’s life” – Andrew Scheer

Deja vu? You bet! This behaviour should hardly be surprising, coming from someone who was a member of Stephan Harper’s ideologically-driven government. Science and knowledge were considered a potential threat to their lifestyle, or at least their ideology. So show me no evil… Didn’t Harper eliminate the long form census and muzzle government climate scientists?

The Canada Food Guide, which first appeared in 1977, is an integral component of Canada’s universal health care system. As we know, diet and exercise play a huge role in determining the state of our health. And in a publicly funded health care system with limited resources, it just makes sense, economically and holistically, to eat well in order to avoid problems that may land you in the doctor’s office or the hospital.

Former versions of the guide had been criticized by some health professionals as just another piece of advertising for the animal food industries, and thus misleading, inaccurate and past its best before date. A decade later and with a different government at the helm, the new guide has attempted to finally address that criticism.

fat kids

Obesity, especially in children, is a major public health issue.

Meat and diary are still there but meat is now, along with nuts and legumes, just a source of protein. And water is favoured over milk as the drink of choice. As we know, not everyone can tolerate lactose and not all adults can metabolize milk, which questions its value as the best dietary source of calcium. And haven’t a number of dairy products, including the chocolate milk Scheer feeds his children, been linked to the rising levels of obesity and diabetes in our society?

It is understandable that representing a riding in Saskatchewan, a province where agriculture along with oil and potash make up the economy of the province, that Andrew Scheer would feel compelled to defend farm interests. But not all farmers are dependent on animal husbandry and there are always other agricultural production options for those who currently are.

Scheer has been taken to task for claiming that ideology and not science was behind developing the new food guide. Having only ever been a politician, except for a brief stint selling life insurance, how would he possibly know that? And in fact he doesn’t – he has it wrong. It is he who is the ideologue.

canada-new-food-guide-2019The new Canada Food Guide is a science-based document which has been extensively researched and was crafted following wide ranging consultations across our society. It has taken a decade for the officials responsible to muster the courage to come forward, break with tradition, and tell it like it is. The guide is signalling that it’s time to cut back on meat and milk and salt and sugar… and fast food.

Something is unhealthy in the state of Canada… and it’s our eating habits. If our reliance on fast food and excessive meat and dairy is normal, then our rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer must be too. If we want to change the outcomes we need to change the inputs, what and how we eat.

To that end the guide promotes cooking at home rather than the ever growing practices of eating out and ordering in. Nothing could be more traditional than that, especially for a staunch ideological conservative like Mr. Scheer.

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

Background links:

Fact Checking Scheer –   Misinformation –   Canada’s Food Guide

Food Guide Explained –   Industry Concerns –   Scheer and Bias

Milk and Calcium

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Find a way to recruit the right people and then give them reasons to come to work with all their energy and creativity.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

July 25th, 2019



My friend Vince Fiorito, one of the best environmental advocates Burlington has, taught me that there is nothing that comes before the environment – not jobs, not the bank rate, not even who we elect as Prime Minister – without an environment that meets our needs – nothing else matters.

And, he adds, that environment is something we play a very large part in creating;  given the climate changes we are going through now – it is clear that we have not done a very good job with some thinking that we are never going to be able to recover if we don’t do what has to be done before it is too late.  The planet will go through another stage of extinctions. We have had three so far – the planet survived the creatures on it didn’t.

This time WE are the creatures on this planet.

That lesson – that the environment comes before everything, taught me something – that in every situation, organization or endeavour there are things that have to come first.

After publishing a report on the risks Burlington faces with its labour force the Fiorito lesson struck me.

The only thing that matters at city hall are the people who enter the buildings every day to work for the people that pay them.

Unfortunately those people do not seem to be able to pull together very well. And we aren’t paying them what other municipalities are prepared to pay them.

Laura Boyd 2

Director of Human Resources Laura Boyd

In her report to city council Director of Human Resources Laura Boyd spoke of some of the feedback her department had received and added that:

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

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

No wonder we are in the mess we are in.

My question was: How long has Boyd known this? Did she send her message up the food chain to the city manager at the time? Did she alert the Mayor?

The Gazette has listened to Ms Boyd report to city council in the past – we never heard before what she had to say earlier this month.

Staff is what counts. It is their energy, their creativity and their willingness to put in that extra effort that makes a city work.

They aren’t putting in the energy apparently, partly because they are not being paid as well as their peers in other municipalities.

Have you ever seen a city staff member wearing a T shirt with the city logo?  Not much pride in working for the city of Burlington.

In the past few days we have seen comments from people who once worked for the city. Some comments could be sour grapes. We’ve noticed that many of the people we got to know are no longer with the city.

A major change in the culture of the city’s work force and the way they are recognized is needed. That falls on the desk of the city manager.

Laura Boyd

Laura Boyd – Has worked in one city department during her 29 year career.

If we have the numbers right Ms Boyd has been with the city for 29 years – which suggests getting close if not eligible for retirement. All her work experience is with the one department – Human Resources – that too might be part of the problem.

In her report to Council Ms Boyd reports that something close to 20% of the leadership positions will see retirements in the near future.

That gives the city manager some room to find the people that are needed to bring the ship of state around and find more favourable winds to move it forward.

Related news story.

Troops are not happy.
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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Burlington let a good one get away - Guelph made him their top dog.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

July 23rd, 2019



In his 33 years of puddle jumping Scott Stewart went from Peel Region to Mississauga, to Brampton, then Hamilton,  then Burlington, and on to Guelph where they appointed him the Chief Administrative Officer – a job that eluded him for far too long in Burlington.

General Manager Scott Stewart with Deb Franke of AJ Braun and Craig Stevens discuss the welding of beams for the Pier. The progress schedule is top of mind for all three. One of the beams being welded is shown.

General Manager Scott Stewart with Deb Franke of AJ Braun and Craig Stevens discuss the welding of beams for the Pier. Stewart was the General Manager who pulled together the team that ensured the city got it right the second time around.

Scott was always a hands on leader. He would spot talent that others didn’t see and grow it, groom it and nurture that talent to the point where it could lead.

Burlington’s city council turned Scott Stewart down twice – he took the hint and went north to Guelph – a city he likes, partly because they own a railway line that Stewart had turned into a competitive advantage for the city.

Stewart Scott blue sweater - more face

Stewart will wear the sweater to the office the day the Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup.

Leadership positions within the municipal sector are attained by moving from location to location – taking the experience gained at one and applying it at another. Burlington lost an opportunity when it chose James Ridge over Scott Stewart – look where that got us. Well, it did rid the city of an under-performing council.

As the Chief Administrative Officer Stewart just might have to move from Burlington, a city where he has deep roots.

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: Premiers write Prime Minister 'impertinent' letters.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

July 14th, 2019


Canada is a federation of provinces but the provincial premiers do not elect the federal government – the people of Canada do. So it was, at best, inappropriate and, at worst, an outrage that Canada’s sub-national leaders concluded their most recent Council of the Federation (COF) meeting in school-child fashion, by writing letters to the country’s federal political leaders.

Provincial flagsThese impertinent letters each contain eight questions covering: economic competitiveness; skills training; immigration; healthcare; climate change; the Arctic; indigenous reconciliation; and federalism. Interestingly Maxime Bernier and his People’s Party didn’t get a letter. Was that an oversight or because a vote for Bernier would end up as a vote for the centre-left parties?

When Mr. Trudeau came into office the majority of the provincial/territorial leaders were progressives and all but one supported carbon pricing. Only four years later B.C., Quebec and a couple east coast provinces are all that are left in that category. And so this COF had the distinct aura of a conspiracy by the right-of-centre provincial leaders to get rid of Trudeau, the interventionist PM.

Moe Sask

Premier Moe of Saskatchewan.

There was the eternal musing about reducing restrictions on interprovincial trade. Then, as expected, COF host, Premier Moe of Saskatchewan, found his nerve and addressed the elephant in the room. He wanted Quebec to sign onto Andrew Scheer and Jason Kenny’s dream of a transnational oil highway. But Quebec’s François Legault wasn’t going to be goaded into allowing an oil pipeline through his province.

And even Kenny’s argument that Quebec’s equalization payments come from Alberta’s oil revenues, failed to move him. Unlike Kenny and Moe, Legault understands that there is no long term future for oil, and consequently no social acceptability, as he put it, for an environmentally risky pipeline. After all Quebec is currently Canada’s leading jurisdiction when it comes to the environment.

Legault PQ

Quebec Premier François Legault

Manitoba’s Brian Pallister challenged Quebec on its cultural symbols legislation. But again it was a waste of time. Quebecers are committed to a culturally neutral public service – so leave your religion at the door if you want to work for the people in that province. Given earlier discussions of the constitutional division of powers and provincial rights, this was, at best, an inappropriate intrusion into another province’s social policy.

There were reports that the premiers ended on a note of unity. But that was hardly the tone Jason Kenny echoed as he went on at length to, once again, threaten secession. “The level of frustration and alienation that exists in Alberta right now towards Ottawa and the federation is, I believe, at its highest level, certainly in our country’s modern history.”

Seriously? Where does he think landlocked Alberta would go? Does Kenny really believe that Alberta would be able to move its bitumen any easier through B.C. if it were a separate country? He really doesn’t get it. In any case Trans Mountain is almost certainly the last interprovincial oil pipeline to be built in Canada regardless which political party holds power after October. He should be thankful.

The western premiers had already pretty much exhausted their discussion on the evils of the federally imposed carbon tax. But with two courts deciding in favour of the federal government, and the Supreme Court likely to go the same way, it will take an election of Mr. Scheer or Mr. Bernier to get rid of this regulatory instrument. Besides not all provinces disagree with carbon pricing so the issue didn’t get the profile some premiers would have liked.

But Quebec is on-side with the Tory ideological struggle against the federal carbon tax. Quebec is exempted from the federal carbon tax, given its California-linked cap-and-trade program, exactly as Ontario had been before the Ford government killed it. So Legault’s position is parochial – solely about minimizing the potential role of the federal government and its policies in Quebec. And in that Quebec has become an odd bedfellow to its Tory-led provincial counterparts.

Quebec based Bombardier’s impending layoff of over 500 workers in Thunder Bay provoked calls for the federal government to get the US government to drop its Buy American policy on federal contracts and grant funding. Seriously? Good luck with that in Trump’s America. And it’s not like Canada doesn’t have its own domestic content rules in areas like media broadcasting (Can Com).

The Ford government is on the defensive over Bombardier. There might have been additional orders for rail cars if only the province had got its act together and got its paperwork for federal co-funding together. Of course Bombardier has developed an unfortunate reputation when it comes to management and government handouts. So who knows? Perhaps the company is just playing politics…or even economic blackmail.

Nen in white hats

Jeans, white Stetsons and cowboy boots were the rig of the day for some of the Premiers.

Climate change is one of the questions the premiers asked in their letters to the federal party leaders. And this one was a trick question because the answer is found in the preamble. “Provinces and territories are implementing climate action policies that make sense in regard to their distinct needs and priorities.” In other words don’t impose anything like a carbon tax on Canadians in our province or territory.

But mind-your-own-business is not going to cut it. Canada is on the hook to meet its Paris global commitment and, if Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta are examples, leaving it to the provinces will only result in failure. Pretty much the way this latest Council of the Federation ended.


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

Background links:

Politics, premiers, pipelines and religious symbols

Kenney tells premiers’ meeting national unity still threatened


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Globe & Mail: The secret to lower housing prices? It’s all in the zoning

opinionred 100x100


July 13th, 2019



Globe and Mail editorial has a viewpoint on both the character and built form of a community that sheds some light on what Burlington faces. Several words have been set in bold by the Gazette.

g&m LOGOThe defining feature of North American cities is the single-family detached home. It is the least efficient way to house people, yet municipal zoning laws have historically served to ensure its primacy.

It’s time for change – and urgently so. The cost of housing in Vancouver and Toronto is stratospheric, and even in more affordable cities like Calgary, Ottawa and Montreal, it is way more expensive than a generation ago.

Expensive housing hinders economic growth. Cities are the engines of the economy but are increasingly inaccessible, and the financial challenge of moving to Canada’s biggest cities, to study or to pursue a career, is daunting.

The high cost of housing also leaves a generation of young Canadians facing the prospect of a lifetime of renting, never able to build equity, or shouldering a worrisome amount of mortgage debt that will take decades to pay off.

There are many factors at play – British Columbia has done much to address the issue of foreign speculators – but the core problem is the allocation of land. Our zoning is forcing cities to expand endlessly outward, by preventing them from building up.

Alton Village is not a cheap place to live - it is also sassy and brassy - these people worked hard to be able to live in this community and they are going to make the city a different place.

Alton Village

The bulk of municipal land zoned for housing – at least two-thirds of it in many cities – is reserved for detached homes, while multiunit housing is restricted to small designated areas, generally in the city core but often far beyond or on abandoned industrial lands. That leaves the supply of housing artificially limited, particularly in areas near transit lines and city centres.

Meanwhile, owners of detached homes, who have the ear of elected officials, argue the so-called character of their neighbourhoods must not be disturbed. The long-standing status quo serves them well, effectively enriching them through government policy.

But the argument about character is a smokescreen. Where there is a neighbourhood of single-family homes, there was once a forest or a field. No one mourns the lost character of what had been there before. Character is wielded as a weapon against change. As Globe and Mail architecture critic Alex Bozikovic put it in June, “’Character’ means exclusion.”

There is an answer. It’s called the missing middle: small-scale, multiunit housing, from duplexes and triplexes to mid-rise apartment buildings. The missing middle is not a fix-all, but it is an essential step forward.

Minneapolis is a beacon of possible change. Last December, city council passed a plan that ended the dominion of single-family zoning. It is regarded as the first of its kind in the United States, but it’s hardly radical. Where a single house was previously permitted, a building with three units, a triplex, is now allowed. The rallying cry has been “Neighbors for More Neighbors.”

Oregon was the next to move. State legislators in late June passed a bill that will remake single-family zoning to allow fourplexes in cities of more than 25,000 people, and throughout the Portland region.

In Canada, the prospect of change is depressingly dim. In the City of Vancouver, a one-year trial allows applications for duplexes in single-detached zones. This is in a region where the typical house costs $1.4-million and median annual household income is $73,000. Meanwhile, city council is ponderously debating whether to get work started on a new citywide plan that will take three years to complete.

This is the opposite of urgency.

In Toronto, the story isn’t much better. The province in June approved new rules for downtown and midtown Toronto, after reworking plans the city had submitted, but the geographic reach of change is limited. There is no serious talk of rezoning what’s dubbed the “yellow belt” – the 70 per cent of available land limited to single-family homes.

The moves in Minneapolis and Oregon are interesting, but modest compared with what is needed in Vancouver and Toronto. Small apartment buildings – of three, four or five storeys – would go a long way. Then there are important questions about low-income housing and rental housing. And there’s the issue of how cities should benefit from increases in land values sparked by zoning changes.

But first we need some political will. There are 10 million Canadians between the ages of 20 to 40, the time of life when people make a first foray into home ownership. Canada’s zoning rules are antiquated. They should be rewritten to serve the present, not the past.

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Council adjourns after four days of hard work that produces major recommendations - public might like some time to review them before making it all final.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

June 12th, 2019


At a few minutes before 4:00 pm yesterday afternoon Council adjourned and will meet again on the 15th to approve (or not approve) all the reports that were debated.

It has been a mammoth session for this crowd.

On Monday they went from 9:30 am to 10 pm
On Tuesday they went from 9:30 am to 10 pm
On Wednesday they went from 12:30 to 10 pm (the forenoon was spent at a Regional Council meeting
On Thursday they convened at 12:30 and adjourned at 4:00 pm

In June Council revised their working schedule and had Standing Committee meetings start at 9:30 am instead of the standard 1:00 pm start.

The work load and the amount of time to read, think about the reports, discuss them with constituents and then stay at a desk for those lengths of time is going above and beyond.

This is a determined bunch of people – Mayor Meed Ward is right in her element – she is just loving it. Others however, are wondering if this is the best way to run a municipal government.

Angelo B

Bentivegna – “Agenda just keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger.”

Ward 6 Councillor Angelo Bentivegna said that the agendas are “getting bigger and bigger and bigger” and keeping up is a challenge for both Bentivegna and several others.

We are seeing some quality work being done and we are also seeing some shifting as to where the decision making is actually being done.

City manager Tim Commisso has adopted a style that has him commenting on a matter rather than leading the discussion.

When council was in the process of determining what they needed in the way of a city manager the Gazette suggested someone with depth and experience who wasn’t necessarily going to be around for ten years or, someone younger who was ready for the kind of challenge Burlington is and could put in the time to rebuild the ranks and develop a different culture.

Commisso – doesn’t say much, tends to lean into his chair and listen. Doesn’t pick up his cell phone that often and rarely speaks at any length. The only time the Gazette saw him fussed at all was when it looked as if council was going to empty all the cookie jars (known as reserve funds) and leave him and the Treasurer to figure out what to do when there was a real crisis.

Commisso stare

The Commisso stare.

Our view of Commisso’ s approach is not intended to suggest he is slack or not paying attention. When he becomes aware that a staffer is not really answering the questions adequately they get what can only be called ‘the Commisso stare’. At one point he chose to lean forward and point to a document to direct the staffer – who we understand might be leaving the position he holds.

Commisso is fully engaged – but he is not immersed the way former city managers tended to behave. He is prudent – he will spend when he has to but he doesn’t reach for the wallet all that quickly.

Too early to tell, but he likes the people he is leading, and make no mistake, Commisso is leading. He serves at the will of council and this council is very happy to have him lead them – certainly at this stage of their political careers.

The round of Standing Committee meetings this council just completed some vitally important recommendations that will go to council Monday evening.

The downside to all this is that there is not much time for the public to be aware of what was done and then time to reflect and discuss with their neighbours what is being recommended.  The agenda itself is five pages long.

This approach is not what one would describe as “fully engaging the public”. Given the recommendations coming forward there is no obvious reason why the council meeting could not have been held on the 22nd or the 29th. We asked the Office of the Mayor for comment – our contact is away until Monday.

Are they that anxious to get started on their vacations? which by the way they deserve, but let’s complete the work and then start the vacations.

Parr wearing T-shirtSalt 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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