Rivers on the Premier Débat en Français

 

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

October 3rd, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

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

All fr lang candidates Oct 2

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

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

Jagmeet

Jagmeet Singh with some of his supporters.

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

sheer

Andrew Scheer, leader of the Conservative Party.

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

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

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

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

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

Trudeau

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau seeking a second term of office.

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

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

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

Bloc leader

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

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

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

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

Background links

Sheer Face to Face 

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

Return to the Front page

ECoB brings the federal election candidates to your living room.

federal election 2019By Staff

October 2, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 1st

Liberal candidate Karina Gould

Green Candidate Gareth Williams

New Democrat Lenaee Dupuis

The Conservative candidate declined to take part.

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

 

Return to the Front page

What if the voters return a Tory Minority government

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

October 1st, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

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

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

Mace leaves the House

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sheer loves oil and gas

Pipelines are dear to his heart.

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

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

Scheer pointing at self

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

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

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

Bloc Q logo

The Bloc is still a strong political force in Quebec.

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

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

Singh - blue turban

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

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

elizabeth-may

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

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

TMX pipeline

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

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

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

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

Background links:

Election Tipping Points – Political Coalition –

Maxime Bernier

Return to the Front page

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

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

September 30th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

In from the east

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

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

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

SOW images for fottball

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

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

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

There might be.

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

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

Russian nesting dolls

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

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

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

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

Site overview - aerial

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

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

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

What is permitted

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meed ward looking askance

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

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

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

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

Market-Lakeshore-foot-of-St-Paul-looking-west3-1024x6821

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

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

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

All it takes is takes innovation, creativity and courage.

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

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

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

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

Return to the Front page

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

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

September 26th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

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

Lakeshore Inc

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

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

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

This is the way development takes place in Burlington.

CORE

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

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

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

model 3 d 0f the site

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Market-water-street-lots-Ziegler-drawing

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

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

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

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

Full council

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

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

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

 

Return to the Front page

Rivers on tilting at windmills

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

September 26th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

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

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

The facts are:

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

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

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

Trudeau 2015

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

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

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

Mulcair and Harper

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

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

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

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

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

Don Quiote

Don Quixote thrusting his lance at imaginary enemies.

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

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

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

 

Background links:

Don Quixote –    Millionaires –    Lowest Poverty Rate

Social Development –     Cost of Living –     Disposable Income

Labour Productivity

Return to the Front page

Reflections on the new organizational chart at city hall.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

September 26th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

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

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

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

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

Laura Boyd

Director of Human Resources Laura Boyd

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meed Ward with chain Sept 23-19

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

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

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

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

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

Blair Smith talking to planner Heaher MacDonald

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

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

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

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

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

Commisso alone

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

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

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

Related news stories:

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

Return to the Front page

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

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

September 25th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Well, local newspapers are making the news.

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

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

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

Here is what the survey looked like.

star survey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Foot 4

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

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

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

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

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

Return to the Front page

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

 

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

September 20th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

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

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

Trudeay blackface

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trudeau -facing the music

Trudeau -facing the music

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

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

 

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

 

Background links:

Brown Face in Vancouver –   Origins of Blackface

Return to the Front page

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

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

September 13th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

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

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

Denaters Sept 13-19

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Federal debate Sept 13 No Liberal

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

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

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

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

Return to the Front page

Jim Young on alternatives to Local Planning Appeal Tribunal.

opinionred 100x100By Jim Young

September 12th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Return to the Front page

Foxcroft the subject of a TiCat video - Oskee Wee Wee

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

September 12th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

They all love him – and with much reason.

Foxcroft chasing ball

Ron Foxcroft on his private basketball court.

Ron Foxcroft has done much for Burlington and Hamilton.

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

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

The video: Quite funny in places.

Return to the Front page

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

News 100 greenBy Doreen Nicoll

September 9th,2019

BURLINGTON, ON

Part 1 of a 2 part story.

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

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

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

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

GARDEN Paul Raun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Return to the Front page

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

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

September 6th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

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

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

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

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

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

The public looks for wisdom and good judgement.

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

MMW with brother - Oakville

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Return to the Front page

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

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

September 4th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

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

kim-campbell-hs

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

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

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

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

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

trucks on highway

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

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

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

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

Carbon tax - Canada France over 5 years.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kim Campbell H&S no blouse - robe

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

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

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

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

Gas tax sticker

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

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

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

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

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

 

Background links:

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

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

Warning Labels

Return to the Front page

Cellphone Restriction in Classrooms to Take Effect this Year

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

August 29th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

OPINION

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.”

Amen!

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.

Return to the Front page

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

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

August 29th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

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

Return to the Front page

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

BURLINGTON, ON

 

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.

Seiling-Ken-2-768x1006

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

 

Return to the Front page

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

opiniongreen 100x100By Vince Fiorito

August 20th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

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.

Return to the Front page

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

BURLINGTON, ON

 

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.

nautique-elevation-from-city-july-2016

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.

Details

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.

Conclusion
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’.

Return to the Front page