Regional government review: strikingly limited in scope and time frame for a governance review impacting 5.4 million Ontarians

opinionred 100x100By Joey Edwardh

April 9th, 2019



On March 13, quietly, almost silently, local democracy in Ontario receded further into history. The Ontario government’s Special Advisers on Regional Government in Ontario announced an open consultation on their deliberations to review governance, decision-making and service delivery in eight two-tiered regional governments along with Simcoe County. They will report to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing by the summer.

The “open consultation” amounts to six weeks via an online survey and submission of briefs within that period as well. This is strikingly limited in scope and time frame for a governance review impacting 5.4 million Ontarians living in 82 municipal jurisdictions across the province.

It has been 50 years since the regional government system in Ontario was put in place. It is worth noting that it was done with careful and deliberate action over a 10-year period from 1965 to 1975. The Regional Government of Hamilton-Wentworth was one of the last created in 1974. Sure, at that time there was much political and community resistance to the merging of many towns and cities into larger municipalities within a regional structure. But, the process allowed for the time, energy and accessibility for all voices to be expressed, even if not everyone was satisfied with the outcome.

When all the smaller municipalities in Hamilton-Wentworth were amalgamated into the City of Hamilton in 2001, there was resistance from the smaller suburban communities to the loss of their local governments.

Even the provincially imposed and highly controversial amalgamations in Hamilton and Toronto were announced by the Harris Government more than a year before being implemented, a time frame that allowed local councils in Metro Toronto to conduct the polling of their own residents via plebiscites (76 per cent opposed) and community mobilization through Citizens for Local Democracy.

We have seen, however, today’s provincial government acting unilaterally and undemocratically with its interference in the 2018 municipal election in Toronto by cutting the ward system by half in midcampaign. Other policy initiatives in health and education are also getting short shrift when it comes to public input.

Clearly, this regional government review is only giving lip service to public consultation. All reports indicate that the special advisers themselves, Michael Fenn and Ken Seiling, are highly respected, knowledgeable and experienced in regional government. And, they have been holding private meetings for several months for input from selected municipal officials and “stakeholders,” read the business community. The offer of a mere six weeks for input from the general public via an online survey that assumes familiarity with what each of the existing two tiers of regional government actually do will be an exercise in futility.

If this were a serious government initiative with an honest wish for public input and ideas on how to structure effective and efficient local democracy, it would give the special advisers terms of reference that would allow them to hold open public consultations in all the affected communities over a reasonable period of time, at least through this calendar year, before issuing a report. Instead, it is clear that the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing is just looking to check the “public consultation” box on his path to imposing predetermined plans for creating larger single-tier municipalities, regardless of the implications for local voice in decision-making.

Finally, another opportunity is missed in this review. Restructuring for better governance and decision-making should be more than just about the number of elected officials and how they are organized into smaller or larger municipal bodies. Local democracy should also be about how community members can actively participate in the democratic process beyond just elections in ways that are recognized and seriously considered by elected representatives in their decision-making. The narrow scope of the current review precludes that discussion and denies a chance for civic engagement and affirmation of core democratic values and principles.

There is little hope that the special advisers will produce any recommendations that will deter the government from doing what it intends to do anyway. It will be up to citizens and community groups to organize and build political support for the kind of local democracy they want.

Edwardh-JoeyJoey Edwardh is the Executive Director of Community Development Halton.


Return to the Front page

Completion of the five tower Paradigm development on Fairview impacted by Interim Control bylaw.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

April 4th, 2019



They are sometimes referred to as “unintended consequences” and that appears to be the kind of hole that the very successful Molinaro development on Fairview next to the Burlington GO station has fallen into.

Paradigm from the west Nov 2017

Towers 1 and 2 when they were under construction.

The development is going to be a five story project with building 1, 2 and 3 clearly visible on the city’s skyline.

The structures are bold and have been selling very well.

The development was planned as one that would be completed in phases.
The company is now ready to begin the final phase – the last two building that will front on Fairview.

When the Interim control bylaw was dropped on the development community with no notice everyone assumed the Molinaro project would not be included. They were well past the site plan approval stage which was the cut off stage.

Ed Fothergill, the planning consultant who spoke for the firm on Tuesday, explained that complex projects that are approved in principle go through several site plan approvals – partly because as a project is built some things change – mostly minor in nature but the kind of thing for which approvals are required.

paradigm layout

Layout of the five tower Paradigm project on Fairview.

The size, nature and scope of the Paradigm project meant there would be several site plan approvals. One would like to believe that the intention was not to shut down everything that moved on a construction site in the Urban Growth Centre while the city figured out just what it wanted to see done with the land within those boundaries.

The Paradigm has been described as the largest residential property development the city has ever done and may well be the largest for a some time.

When it was first taken to the public the Molinaro’s met with the area residents; they listened carefully and went back to the drawing boards and made some significant changes.

As developers they have set the standard for listening to the public.

Because of the way the development was structured the approval of the site plan for the last two buildings was on hold – there weren’t any problems with the development – it was always understood that there were to be five towers and that the site plan approval for the final two towers would get taken care of when the company was ready to begin construction.

paradigm crash wall

A massive concrete barrier had to be built between the development and the GO train tracks.

Much of the infrastructure for the final two towers is already in place – that work was done when the three towers on the north side was being done.

But – the Interim Control bylaw is clear – if the site plan of a project has not been approved the project cannot go forward.

The ICBL was put in place for very good reasons – no one fully understood what this would do to the Molinaro’s.

Mayor Meed Ward didn’t have all that much to say about the implications on the Molinaro’s at the Standing Committee meeting yesterday afternoon and there wasn’t a word from Lisa Kearns, the ward council member.

Ward 1 Councillor Kelvin Galbraith made it very clear that he understood what was happening and that he would do everything he could to correct the situation.

The Molinaro’s are getting ready to put together the marketing plan for the last two towers and expected to be able to begin work on those two towers next year.

paradigm marketing piece

Marketing campaigns don’t get written on the back of an envelope over a weekend.

Marketing plans don’t get put together on a weekend. They are carefully crafted using the most recent data to ensure that the product they are going to market meets the needs of those buying condominium units.

There are additional issues. The actual registration of the condominium units gets held up as well.

City planner Heather MacDonald didn’t appear to be all that sympathetic to the problem.

The new city council had very solid reasons for putting a pause on the rate at which developments were flooding into city hall.

The Councillor for ward 2 said she has had conversations with people who are thinking in terms of towers that are in the 50 storey range – and along the GO station mobility hub this kind of intensification might make sense.

Burlington was seen as the place to make a killing in development; firms with cash and the kind of in-house expertise needed to put projects together quickly couldn’t get to the city fast enough.

The Molinaro’s aren’t a Toronto based operation – they built most of what we have on Lakeshore Road and have plans in the works for developments on Brant street north of Prospect where many felt high rise construction should take place.

There is a solution to the Paradigm predicament – the brain power in the Planning can find it. It may include an exemption.

Return to the Front page

Rivers: More on SNC Lavalin - 'And that will be the last word on that.'

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

April 1st, 2019



wernick umm

Former Clerk of the Privy Council – Michael Wernick chose to resign.

Former Justice Minister and Attorney General (AG) Jody Wilson-Raybould (JWR) has given us her last word on the SNC matter. Along with a final memo, she has forwarded a secretly recorded telephone conversation with the Clerk of the Privy Council, Michael Wernick, whom she accuses of pressuring her.

In addition, she offered relevant emails and text messages for the Justice Committee, regardless that they had already concluded their deliberations on this matter. The text message, from her former chief of staff notes that former PM Brian Mulroney had once strong armed his then AG, Kim Campbell, to intervene in a legal case.

Rather than just complain about ‘being pressured’ Campbell did intervene, then went on to become PM herself. That choice might have been instructive for JWR had she been considering running for the PM’s job, as some have suggested. Except that Trudeau had never directed her to intervene.

JWR looking right

Jodi Wilson Raybould – consistent and persistent – is there an end game?

Experts will debate the ethics of the former AG secretly recording a conversation with her client (link is below). But the good news, at least for Mr. Wernick, is that there was not even a veiled threat in that conversation. There was an exchange of views and JWR can be heard warning Wernick, but neither party even raised their voices and they both concluded amicably.

One wonders why JWR returned the call in the first place, given that she had been anticipating what Wernick wanted to say. And why did she talk for 17 minutes rather than just hang up at the very mention of SNC? There was nothing he could have said that was going to change her mind.

There has been speculation about whether the AG herself had been the source of the leak to original Globe and Mail article on this issue. JWR has now clarified that it wasn’t her. So who did leak the story? And was it the same person who then followed up, just this past week, with the story about the PM and his AG wrangling over the choice of chief justice for the Supreme Court.

JWR Trudeau

There was so much hope and promise.

Now that JWR has indicated there is nothing more to say, one wonders what else Jane Philpott has to add. It was only a few days ago that she explained to Maclean’s Magazine that “there’s much more to the story that needs to be told”. And so the question is why she isn’t telling it. Constitutional experts and even the PM have said that she could do so under parliamentary privilege.

When the Globe released this story the PM and his staff seemed to be dumb-struck, caught off guard. It was as if the paper had not bothered to contact them to authenticate the facts in its rush to release a juicy story. And if the goal was to stir the pot, the article certainly did that.

On the up side, Canadians are now thoroughly versed in the Shawcross principle, and have a healthy appreciation of Quebec based icon SNC Lavalin and its corrupt past.

Wernick snirh 1

The expression says sit all.

But this exercise has not been consequence-free. Two Cabinet ministers have resigned, one Liberal MP has left the caucus, The PM has lost his principal secretary and Clerk of the Privy Council (essentially his deputy minister). The Liberal’s popularity has plummeted and attention to other matters, like the budget, have taken a backseat.

Internationally, Canada’s reputation has been tarnished, with the OECD even issuing a statement of concern. And two very significant ongoing court cases, Mark Norman and Huawei, may have been made more complicated over what is essentially a tempest in a tea pot.

Even the opposition parties have suffered. Andrew Scheer has performed poorly, foolishly demanding the PM’s resignation and brashly inviting the RCMP to investigate. His child-like antics in the House of Commons should have made responsible Tories wish they’d elected the more competent Lisa Raitt as their leader.

Of course the indigenous community has lost a champion or two at the Cabinet table. And if that sets back reconciliation, then we all have lost. JWR or Philpott are unlikely to be able to represent their preferred Liberal party in the upcoming election, – bitterness on all sides will remain.

SNC might get their DPA (deferred prosecution agreement) anyway, or the charges might just get thrown out by a judge, as has happened before with SNC. Judges dislike cases like this one which has taken so long for the public prosecutor and RCMP to get their act together.

And in any case, the decision to grant a DPA can be made any time before a final verdict is declared. So we might see a DPA offered by the next Liberal or Conservative government, or even the one after that.


The Gadafi yacht – Reported to have cost $160 million – paid for by SNC Lavalin

The crimes being prosecuted go back almost two decades. The charges are four years old and the likely court proceedings could easily take another four years. This is the first such case being prosecuted in Canada’s history, but that hardly excuses the delays. And SNC was not the only company paying bribes to the Gaddafi clan, so should we expect more?

The USA is primarily responsible for the OECD focusing on international corruption, in part to ensure that US companies get a competitive chance at international projects. And US companies have not been slouches when it comes to bribery. So the US has led, and even the UK, France and Australia are way ahead of Canada in setting tough compliance regimes against domestic companies bribing to get foreign business.

But all of these countries rely on a DPA instrument to punish almost 80% of their corporate bribery perpetrators. In fact an estimated 96% of US prosecutions end up there. The reality is that SNC Lavalin would have a better fighting chance of being appropriately punished for its past misbehaviour were it located in the USA. And given the mess we’re in now that may very well be where it ends up. And that will be the last word on that.

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.


Background links:

Kim Campbell Pressured –    JWR Voice Recording –    About Recording

No Heroes –     Why Not DPA –    Philpott’s More to the Story

Speaking Out –     Trudeau Never Briefed –    Shawcross

Return to the Front page

Rivers on solving the cost of education: Cutting the herd reduces the feed bill.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

March 28th, 2109


“When students are currently preparing to go off to post-secondary education, we’re hearing from professors and employers alike that they’re lacking coping skills and they’re lacking resiliency….By increasing class sizes in high school, we’re preparing them for the reality of post-secondary as well as the world of work.” (Hon. Lisa Thompson MMP, Ontario Minister of Education – CBC Radio’s Metro Morning).

When it came to appointing Ontario’s new minister of education Mr. Ford had a problem – too many farmers and not enough educators. So Ernie Hardeman got the agriculture ministry. After all he’d been there before, back in the Harris days.

That left Ford with a problem called Lisa Thompson. He could have just left her on the backbench but perhaps the romantic notion of a goat farmer herding those gruff teachers amused him. In addition, Thompson has a certificate in agricultural leadership, so who better to shepherd the province’s kids.

Besides, having scant knowledge of Ontario’s education system might be an advantage. Ontario’s educators would never make the mistake of assuming she’s one of them. And she’d have no reason to feel any collegiality towards them. In addition, having that kind of barrier between knowledgeable teachers and a blissfully ignorant minister, about to shred their future, is probably a good thing. At least from Mr. Ford’s view point.

Her marching orders from the Premier were to chop a billion dollars or so from the provincial education budget. So she followed her instincts and did what she would have done on the farm whenever the budget got tight. It’s obvious. Cutting the herd reduces the feed bill.

86However, the fact is that more teachers and smaller classrooms have transformed Ontario’s education system. Graduation rates have skyrocketed from 68 percent at the end of the Harris/Eves government to over 86 percent today. That is a jump of 18 percentage points in the fifteen years the Liberal government policy of smaller classrooms had been in place.

Even the Fraser Institute, the go to place for your Tory Bible, hasn’t tried to minimize that statistic. They do quibble otherwise about test results, arguably cherry picking their examples. But even they don’t quibble that graduation better prepares our youth for their next step in life.

The Liberals increased education spending by about $6 billion over their time in office. After adjusting for inflation that is less than a couple billion dollars. That was the price Ontario paid for full day kindergarten and to achieve graduation rates approaching 90%. And does anyone, other than the government, argue that early education and completing graduation make for less resilient youth entering the workplace?

Lisa Thompson really needs to go back to class if she wants to understand her portfolio. A simple google search would have unambiguously shown her that the only association between resilience/coping skills and class size is that smaller is always better. Not the other way around.

So she made it up. Those “professors and employers” were fictional, or they, like her, are blessed with a keen ability to shovel goat manure.  It’s dishonest at best, and how can we expect our children to grow up to be ethical, with that kind of role model at the highest level of their education system?

Lisa Thompson is supposed to be the minister of education, not the minister of propaganda.

Grade 9 math

The grade rates are good for students on the academic side – barely acceptable for the applied level.

The billion dollars Ford is after in education pales when weighed against the near $900 billion GDP economy of this province. And that GDP is driven by its human capital. There may not be benefit-cost studies which demonstrate the added contribution to our economy from smaller classes in high school, but it’s not zero. And it’s not negative as the minister would have you believe.

Teachers would rather walk on broken glass than think back on the good old Mike Harris years. How well they’d recall another unqualified education minister, a grade 11 drop out, who deliberately created a crisis and then started a war. And that war between teachers and parents and the Harris/ Eves government lasted until the bums were finally booted from office. Nobody is asking for its replay.

Lisa Thompson stepped in it, as they say down on the farm, when she shot her mouth off about something she clearly knows nothing about. Perhaps it’s time she moved on to something she does understand.

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:

Class Sizes –     Resilience –    Lisa Thompson

Smaller Classes –     Graduation Rates –     Fraser Institute

Return to the Front page

Rivers: Is extra billing for health care services and opening the door to two-tier health care on the way?

“The legislation is being implemented before parliamentary debate has even concluded and prior to any public hearings. The government created the Super Agency. It held its first secret meeting. The government dissolved the Boards of 20 existing agencies.

Yet the legislation has not even passed. Not only this but all public input and procedural protections that existed in previous legislation have been removed from this legislation which has been subject to no public consultation process prior to drafting.”
(March 18, 2019 – Natalie Mehra, Executive Director – Ontario Health Coalition)

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

March 22, 2019



I know what you’re thinking. If it worked for garbage why not provincial health care? Right?

Premier Ford’s younger brother Rob’s claim to his fame, besides his crazy antics which put Toronto on the front pages everywhere, was privatizing a part of Toronto’s garbage collection system to save money.

Ford waving

Bye bye local health care oversight.

So why not use the same tried and true formula with health care? Of course there is already substantial private sector involvement in Ontario’s health system, such as long term care, blood labs, and most doctors. Still, the opposition at Queen’s Park is convinced Doug’s plan is more privatization.

And that might account for why Ford and his team are busy willy-nilly disassembling and dismembering Ontario’s entire health-care apparatus. That and because those damned Liberals designed and implemented the system. Cripple the organization, create a crisis, then call in the consultants from south of the border to clean up the mess.

And they’ll tell you the other kind of privatization is the answer. That would be the kind that violates the Canada Health Act – extra billing for health care services and opening the door to two-tier health care. After all Mr. Ford seems to enjoy giving his middle finger to the feds when it comes to national programs.

The problem is we don’t know. And Ford is not telling. That might be because he doesn’t even know. Perhaps he hasn’t had time to put it all together, given it’s only half a year since the election, and re-inventing health care is not something you do in an afternoon. Then it could be the advice he’s getting from his crony, the guy with nearly a half-million dollar sole-source consulting contract, his old friend Dr Rueben Devlin.

Ford big grin

And how are we liking this government so far? Are we paying attention?

Christine Elliot - Super Health

Christine Elliott – Minister of Health

What we do know is that a super agency has been created, and everything is to be managed and controlled out of this super agency. Think of the irony, Ford the Marxist-hater building a Soviet-style centralized bureaucracy. Just about everything, including the world renowned Cancer Care Ontario has now been merged and lumped into this one oversized box.

The government has shut down the 14 local integration networks, the LHINs, which managed and allocated half of the provincial $60 billion budget among the competing demands from hospitals, long term and home care agencies. They will get their local budgets dictated from Toronto now.

There is mention of 30 or 50 voluntary regional health teams somewhere in the future to partly replace the LHINs. But it is anyone’s guess how they would work, given their limited roles. And it is hard to imagine how 30 administration units would be less costly than the 14 that have just been eliminated.

balls in the air

If the government drops a ball – who gets hurt?

No question there are a lot of balls in the air. And they’re going to stay up there for at least another three years according to Christine Elliott, the health minister. In the meantime, I guess it’s muddle through, the squeaky wheel gets the bed pan, and before you know it’ll be time to re-invent the system. That would take us to the next election and perhaps the next government.

‘Create a crisis’ was the marching song of the last PC government in Ontario. And it sure looks like create-a-crisis Mike is back in town, and back in charge, at least in spirit. Harris presided over the worst health care this province ever experienced. The longest hospital wait times in the country; cardiac patients literally dying in hospital corridors waiting for surgery; and cancer patients being bussed to Buffalo and Detroit for treatment.

According to the provincial auditor Harris’ restructuring efforts from 1996 to 2000, intended to bring common sense to the provincial health system, cost $3.9 billion mainly to lay off nurses and staff, close down local services, then rebuild them elsewhere. And his system savings amounted to only $800 million, leaving all of us in the hole.

We should be concerned and maybe even panicked at what is going on now, at how rapidly these changes are happening, at how little analysis has been undertaken, and at how little consultation has taken place. Even the official opposition seems overwhelmed, gob smacked or just sleeping. There have been no public hearings on any of these proposed changes or on the changes yet to come.

Ford staring

Rivers on Ford: “That might be because he doesn’t even know. Perhaps he hasn’t had time to put it all together, given it’s only half a year since the election…”,

There is no provincial program more important than health care. And that is particularly true for senior Ontario residents – those most in need of its services. It is the largest public expenditure item using up 40 cents of every tax dollar.

During the election campaign Ford bragged about how he was going to fix hallway healthcare by adding hospital and long term care beds. So far we haven’t heard of him doing any of that. Instead he is acting like God, creating a new universe of health care delivery out of the ruins of the one he is dismantling.

Mr. Ford may think he is inventing the wheel, but unless he is a miracle worker, he is just fixing what isn’t broken. He inherited a system with the shortest wait times and lowest costs of delivery per person in the country. He’d better not trash it.

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:

Ontario Health Coalition –    Elliott –    Toronto Garbage

Super Agency –     Regional Teams –      Cancer Care

A Sick Feeling –     Privatization –   Two Tier

Social Assistance –    Grifter Government –    No Consultation

Return to the Front page

Rivers: It is an election budget.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

March 20th, 2019



This was unquestionably an election-year budget, with lots of little goodies sprinkled about for most Canadians. And it is costly with a still hefty on-going deficit. But is it too costly?

Newly minted People’s Party leader Maxime Bernier said it was “… irresponsible …because it’ll be future generations that will have to pay for it. They want to buy votes and that’s not the way to do politics — with people’s money.”

Trudeau Moreau

They want you to buy this book.

Mr. Morneau would probably argue the opposite. That is what government is all about – using our collective wealth for the betterment of us all. He claimed that his choice to deficit spend when interest rates were low, and even during good times, has resulted in a much healthier economy than when the Liberals replaced the Tories almost four years ago.

And the country now has the lowest unemployment rate in forty years. Management of the economy, or luck, has also resulted in a spectacular increase in the revenues flowing into government, to quote bank economists.

The government takes a longer term approach to debt management, targeting its debt performance as a percentage of GDP. And the ratio is declining according to the budget forecasts. Canada’s debt, unlike other nations in the G7, is largely held by Canadians, reducing the risk of foreign influence in our domestic economy.

New spending programs in the budget may seem like crumbs to neophyte NDP leader Jagmeet Singh. But every budget is a balancing act and this budget is very much about further support for the middle class and young starter families in particular. This is consistent with the strategy the Trudeau government has adopted since first coming to office.

They are offering a $5000 consumer rebate on electric car (EV) purchases and an immediate capital write-off for businesses purchasing EVs. That is the glove on the hand of the national carbon tax, providing an option to reduce the impact of the upcoming carbon tax, and freeing up annual carbon tax rebates for other purposes. There is a $45,000 limit on the vehicle value which should encourage auto makers to get more affordable EVs into the market place.

Nobody should argue about more money being allocated to municipalities for infrastructure. And who would quarrel with greater assistance for indigenous child welfare and indigenous drinking water improvements?

Nor should anyone quibble with more resources to protect our election systems from cyber threats. There is even more money for the RCMP and for the public prosecutor, the one who declined to exercise the SNC remediation agreement.

Jagmeet - scheer - trudeau

Andrew Scheer, Jagmeet Singh or Justin Trudeau – one of them will be Prime Minister. Will that person lead a minority government?

The government is taking first steps towards a national pharmacare program and developing a program to provide support to Canada’s beleaguered media industry and its fledgling digital information platforms. Details are still somewhat vague but one can see echoes of Justin’s father, and how he enabled Canada to become a major player in the global entertainment industry.

On the other shoe of climate change, there will be more money for emergency natural disaster relief. And given what has just taken place in New Zealand, the government will be allocating resources to protect community gathering places from hate crimes.

This is an election year budget and the message is ‘steady-as-she-goes’ but with some new seeding of the bare spots. The federal budget ended up overshadowing another election year event – an Alberta throne speech followed by an announcement of an election date. The NDP’s Rachel Notley is in the fight of her life against United Conservative party’s Jason Kenny, who has been implicated in some messy election corruption of late.

Notley is promising more industrial diversification to ready the economy for the day when oil will no longer be its mainstay. Kenny wants to turn the clock back to when oil was king, cancelling the carbon tax and cutting taxes for corporations and the wealthy.

Kenny and his Ontario buddy Mr. Ford define right wing politics in this country. Maxime Bernier is probably well intentioned, but a bit of an amusement as he gropes to find his way around the religion of Libertarianism. And he is still pretty much alone, though with aspirations to convert more tribal Conservatives over to his camp. And Preston Manning would be his model.

Mr. Scheer, on the other hand is turning out to be an embarrassment to the great, and even not so great, Tories who came before him. He is doing himself no favours banging on about SNC and treating Jody Wilson-Raybould as if she were a fellow Tory instead of a committed Liberal.

Sometimes one has to wake up smell the coffee and recognize reality.

Empty opp bench

During delivery of the budget speech the heckling was so intense that Morneau could not be heard – the the Conservatives cleared the opposition benches and left the House.

His antics in the House of Commons during the budget presentation, which again failed, sum up why his personal popularity as a leader pales behind that of the PM. Railing on like a angry person, sending letters to the RCMP, calling on the PM to resign, etc. won’t convince Canadians that he’d make a good PM. Clowning can be amusing, and annoying, but it won’t get him into the PM’s office.

As we head into the 2019 election, it would be fair to ask where Scheer stands on the issues that really matter to Canadians and where is his platform. It has been over a year since he promised to deliver a climate change action plan as an alternative to the federal carbon tax. Isn’t it about time he put his money where his mouth is, or let somebody more competent take on the job of party leader?

Surely one would expect the leader of the official opposition to be in the Commons chamber to listen to the annual budget being presented. It’s more than just being polite. Instead Scheer was hiding in the halls, playing politics.

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.


Background links:

Deficits –   Budget –    Scheer Disruption–    More Budget

Return to the Front page

Rivers: Environmental change; we are all in this together.


Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

March 14th, 2019


“The governments of Alberta and Canada are close to getting it right on tackling carbon emissions…” Janet Annesley, senior vice-president, Husky Energy

Canada’s environment minister, Catherine McKenna, was back in her home town. She took time from a busy schedule of meetings, including Hamilton’s mayor and the steel industry, to shake hands and meet with some supporters at Hamilton’s Innovation Centre.

McKenna Catharine

Environment Minister, Catherine McKenna,

She expressed confidence that the court challenges over federal carbon pricing by Saskatchewan, last month, and Ontario, next month, will be settled in favour of the federal government. The other Conservative-led provinces of Manitoba and New Brunswick are also backing Ontario’s fight against the federal program.

Alberta’s Jason Kenny has promised to join them and to kill his province’s existing carbon tax should he win the upcoming provincial election there, expected to be announced soon. But Kenny is out of touch. Eliminating the carbon tax would put him markedly at odds with his province’s biggest industry.

Canada’s big oil got floor time at CERAWeek, a conference in Houston sometimes dubbed the Super Bowl of the world’s energy sector. And when they got to the podium they congratulated the Alberta and federal governments on their adoption of carbon taxation. Addressing 4000 delegates from over 70 countries, Janet Annesley and other senior executives were unambiguous.

International investors, even in the oil industry, favour a carbon tax. So what is it that our own Doug Ford, Alberta’s Kenny and the federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer don’t get? Are they just stuck in the past? Or are they just playing partisanship, hoping for one of those wedge issues?

Sadly that is the flavour of opposition politics today, especially by the Conservative camp. Just look at the socially destructive vitriol being discharged over the so-called SNC Lavalin affair. There is no Lavalin affair. The company is going to trial. And even if the attorney general (AG) had decided to instruct the prosecutor to elect a remediation agreement, it would still have been a legal outcome. Please follow the link below titled ‘Hypocrisy’.

Counting angels on the head of a pin gets tiresome eventually. As we move towards that October federal election date there are real issues which deserve discussion. For example, 2018 wrapped up with an economic rate of growth three times as high as when Trudeau first came into office. Unemployment is at its lowest level in an entire generation.

Manufacturing, despite the walloping US steel and aluminum tariffs, is again leading our growth. Consumer confidence is high again, in part thanks to the tax cuts for middle class Canadians and despite threats about carbon pricing by Ontario’s premier. But there is an expectation that the boom may be nearing an end and our growth rate will be declining. What corrective policies should we now be expecting, and what does that mean for deficits ad our rising national debt?

Ontario and Quebec have been the biggest beneficiaries from the Liberals stimulating our economy, but even Alberta has come back somewhat. Still Alberta is landlocked and its failure to productively engage with its provincial partners, primarily in BC and Quebec, are mitigating against its desire to move more oil to overseas markets. What can be done to further assist that province?

Oil futures will never be as bright as they had been in oil’s history. And the oil industry gets that. They know that the federal approval for, and its ultimate acquisition of, the Trans Mountain pipeline was in recognition of Alberta embracing carbon taxation. That policy enabled Canada to sign onto the international Paris climate agreement.

We’re in this together – climate change knows no regional nor national boundaries. Once considered an enemy, Alberta’s NDP premier has shown herself to be a good friend to the oil producing sector. And her carbon tax helps unite rather than divide. That is as true within the province as it should be within the country.

As the Husky oil executives put it at the Houston conference, “The nice thing about the current policy is that it is deemed equivalent from the federal government,” “We would like to see policy that is recognized nationally, and ideally at the international level, in order to support our trade diversification and pipeline goals.”

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.


Background links:

Carbon Tax –    Notley’s Oil Patch –    

Unemployment –     Hypocrisy

Return to the Front page

Braithwaite: What I learned from magnetic stones: force and resistance.

opinionviolet 100x100By Alison Braithwaite

March 14th, 2019



I have these beautiful black, flat, polished stones that are magnetic. I believe it is called hematite. I love how they feel in my hand and I love that they are magnetic.

When I hold them I feel grounded.

Then I noticed something. I was playing with two of the stones the other day and I noticed something interesting. I was playing with their resistance.

You know how when you bring two magnets together the wrong way, you can feel the strength of their resistance? No matter how hard you push them together they resist.

Braithwaite UnearthedIf you push them past a certain point the magnetic forces them to either side of each other.

And you know how when you flip the magnets the other way there is a strong force that instantly brings the magnets together.

What I noticed was that as a certain point the force that brings the stones careening together and the force of resistance that repels the stones feels the same.

I found this so fascinating.

Immediately, I thought of how this applies to life; how it applies to dealing with difficult situations.

We have all likely felt that resistance when we are pushing forward to achieve something. That moment when we think this is too hard, it’s taking too much effort, why can’t I get past this point, why don’t they understand what I am trying to do.

Then one magic step forward and everything opens up and starts to happen so fast and with so much ease.

And then there’s the other situation…

force and resistence - magnets

Force and resistance – shows with magnets – in life as well?

The situation where we keep pushing and pushing and the harder we push the more we are flung onto a different path. It can be exhausting.

If you find yourself constantly pushing with nothing to show for yourself
1. Take a moment to notice what’s happening.
2. Pause.
3. Assess the situation.
Ask yourself some questions

How long have you been striving in this situation?

• Sometimes we push ourselves too hard to change a situation or achieve a goal. We are so focused on pushing forward that we lose perspective and exhaust ourselves.
How are you physically, mentally and emotionally feeling?

• Sometimes we don’t pay attention to ourselves and how we feel. Yet we have this inner wisdom that knows exactly what our next step should be and that answer may be rest, regroup, think again.
What is the next right step?

• What is the next right step for you, not just for the situation? You are just as important as the situation.
Are you about to take the same step?

• Sometimes we do the same thing over and over again and expect something different. In order to come together, one of the hematite stones needs to be flipped right over and then instantly they are drawn together.
How can you flip yourself, your thinking, your beliefs and perspectives?

• What stories are you telling yourself about the goal, the situation and the people involved?

• What stories are you telling yourself about your abilities, your determination, your state of mind?

• How can you flip yourself, see things from a new and energizing perspective?

• What would it be like to create the opposite story, take on the opposite belief, talk to someone about where you are that you have never spoken to and in fact maybe avoided to get their perspective on things?

• Is there something that you need to accept about the situation or the people involved in order to realign yourself to who you are?
How can you flip the situation?

• This one might be a bit tougher to unearth. It means looking at the situation, the people involved, the beliefs that they hold, the stories they are telling themselves about the situation from as many perspectives that you can. What can you do to shift their perspectives, their stories, their beliefs? If you try to do it by force you will exhaust yourself.

• Somewhere in all of this is a point of leverage, where one person involves shifts and with that, the whole situation flips. And your story is key. There is something in your past experience that is key to what you believe. How can you tell your story or help someone experience what you have so that light bulb goes off inside them and their understanding flips?

Is it time to actually follow the other path?

• Don’t’ get fooled into believing the resistance you are feeling can just be pushed through.

• When you bring two magnets together and they resist, one gets thrown to the side, displaced, oriented differently. Perhaps it might be easier to follow the path in the direction you are being thrown. Just maybe things will open up for you if you walk that way.
Next steps:
1. Make a decision.
2. Take action.
3. Monitor the action and how you are feeling.
4. Adapt your approach. (So you feel like yourself).

Welcome into and expect ease and grace in your life. You and life will be so much more amazing if you do.

You can follow Alison HERE.

BraithwaiteAlison Braithwaite spent years in the corporate world – environmental services.  She was a member of the executive team of a North American wide aggregate, emulsion and environmental company where she was responsible for environmental performance and sustainability.  Braithwaite has a Master of Arts in Leadership and a Graduate Certificate in Executive Coaching both from Royal Roads University in Victoria, British Columbia.


Return to the Front page

Rivers: It would be a truly sad turnaround were the corollary for this unfortunate saga to be that the former AG has to face criminal charges herself.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

March 8th, 2019



This tempest in a tea pot has turned out to be less about SNC and more about the PM and his inadequate management of his Cabinet. What was reported initially as political interference, wasn’t. The matter was really about a breakdown in communications and trust between the former Attorney General (AG) and her boss, the PM. And clearly, other ministers also have issues with his management style.

Jody-Wilson-Raybould in media crowd

Not the kind of attention she was looking for.

It is clear that, in his eyes, the former AG was not doing her job diligently. So whatever the excuse, he needed to move her to another position or out of Cabinet entirely. Three and a half years is more than the average time for a Cabinet minister in any case, and clearly too long for Jody Wilson-Raybould (JWR). She apparently thought she had an entitlement – to serve at her own whim and not that of the PM. But perhaps he should have been more frank with her.


Reflective …

Trudeau bears much of the responsibility – it is his Cabinet after all. He began his government by declaring ministers would have more autonomy than had been the case since his father first centralized power and control in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and Privy Council Office (PCO). But even so, his ministers should never have lost sight of who was the boss, under whose pleasure they serve, who appoints and/or shuffles them, and who calls the shots.

On SNC Trudeau wasn’t satisfied that all of the options, and the implications of each, had been exhausted. He was concerned that due diligence hadn’t been done, particularly in the case of the new law concerning remediation agreements (DPA). Nobody should argue that it is inappropriate for the CEO of Canada Inc. to be saying – let’s just make sure.

Jody - glare


Clearly JWR took that personally, got annoyed and internalized her resentment at being challenged. There is no non-verbal paper trail that she ever took the professional step of communicating her frustration to her management.

Regarding SNC, they have been charged with bribing Libyan officials $48 million for construction contracts including building a prison. But it was another Canadian company whose bribe to the Gaddafi clan made SNC’s corruption in Libya look like chump change. Petro-Canada paid a whacking billion dollar bribe to get access to offshore oil fields.

The opposition parties claim with outrage that SNC’s money went to buy sexual services for the Gaddafi family. Yet Petro-Canada’s money enabled the Colonel to compensate victims of the terrorist bombing of an airline over Lockerbie Scotland, which he had masterminded. And it is interesting that Montreal based SNC, and not Calgary based Petro-Can, became the priority for corruption investigation and prosecution during those last Harper years.

This story came to life with leaked Cabinet-level information, something which would normally be a criminal offence. The recent Mark Norman prosecution, in progress, is an example of what can happen to those who breach Cabinet secrecy. It is questionable whether the PM or his new AG will ask the prosecutor and RCMP to investigate should they determine the Globe story to also be worth prosecuting.

Trudeay and Jodi

At the beginning …

Still the most obvious direct or indirect source for that Globe and Mail story, of course, would have to be the former AG herself, particularly given the amount of detailed information. It would be a truly sad turnaround were the corollary for this unfortunate saga to be that the former AG has to face criminal charges herself.

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:

Cabinet Solidarity –     Libya Bribes –     Petro-Canada –     More Libya

SNC –     Mark Norman

Return to the Front page

Freeze on development for one year in the downtown core is now in place.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

March 6th, 2019



At a Special meeting of Council, on March 5, 2019, Burlington City Council voted in favour (on a 5-1 vote with Councillor Sharman absent) for a staff report recommending an Interim Control Bylaw (ICBL). The ICBL temporarily restricts the development of lands within a study area for a period of one year, with a possible extension of a second year.

The lands in the study area include the Downtown Urban Growth Centre (UGC) and lands in proximity to the Burlington GO Station.

During the one-year “freeze” on development in the study area, the City will complete a land-use study to:
• Assess the role and function of the downtown bus terminal and the Burlington GO station on Fairview Street as Major Transit Station Areas
• Examine the planning structure, land use mix and intensity for the lands identified in the study area
• Update the Official Plan and Zoning bylaw regulations as needed for the lands identified in the study area.

ICB lands tighter

Northern portion of the lands subject to the Interim Control Bylaw

ICB lands tighter #2

Southern portion of the lands subject to the Interim Control bylaw.

The recommendation to implement an ICBL was brought forward by City staff in response to two primary concerns:

1. Growth pressures that continue to emerge for the lands in the study area
City staff are aware of multiple pending developments in the application review stage where the proposed intensities are significantly higher than those anticipated by the Official Plan. In addition, there are many other expressions of development interest and land assemblies taking place in the downtown Urban Growth Centre and in proximity to the Burlington GO station where the intensities being considered are substantially larger than what is proposed in the current Official Plan or the 2018 adopted Official Plan which is currently under review.

2. The role and function of the John Street Bus Terminal as a Major Transit Station Area (MTSA)
The John Street Bus Terminal is identified as a MTSA in the Province’s 2017 Growth Plan. Its designation as a MTSA was relied upon by the Ontario Municipal Board in its decision to allow a 26-storey development at 374 Martha St, citing that as a MTSA, the terminal could support intensities well in excess of those contained in the Official Plan. The terminal’s capacity to absorb the transit impacts of significant growth plays a critical role in shaping the mix of land uses and transit development within the downtown UGC.
That’s the official line from the city. It was quite a bit more complex than that.

What isn’t at all clear yet is – where did the initiative for this move come from? Things like this don’t just fall off the back of a truck. Someone at some point a number of months ago came up with the idea of a freeze on development.

Telier + MacDonald

Director of City Building Heather MacDonald with Jamie Tellier who served as Acting Director while MacDonald was on a leave of absence. MacDonald did all the heavy lifting during the Standing Committee.

Heather MacDonald, the Director of City Building, the Chief Planner, has been away on a pre-planned leave of absence of about two weeks.

The city retained Gowlings, a top line legal firm to provide them with legal counsel on the decision.

The interim city manager has been in place for a couple of months.

Who did the deep thinking? Who thought through the ramifications? Who took a long look at the possible unintended consequences?

And why did the Mayor ask: “What’s the rush”.

Let’s look at those unintended consequences. For anyone, that includes the owner of a single dwelling who might want to build a deck at the back of their property: nyat – nada – nope. You won’t be able to do that.
You can ask for an exemption – it wasn’t clear during the Standing Committee that you will actually be able to get one.

Amica development rendering

Amica had its plans for this massive development put on hold for at least a year. There will be some grief for a number of people involved in this development.

Amica, the retirement home operator who have plans for a major development before the city to build a mammoth development on North Shore Blvd at the ramp to the 403, learned that they are within the boundary and that they are not exempt. They have a deal in place with the individual owners of a large co-op, to buy all the units. That sale may not get completed. The delegation from Amica chose to be a little tight lipped when it came to details.

As for the study itself – there are going to be two of them – both running parallel. One – the ‘land study’ which starts tomorrow, if it hasn’t already started, the other is the work leading up to the next version of the Official Plan that the City Building department is working one. One is said to be “informing” the other; a new phrase we are going to hear often.

The Standing Committee heard that there are several “first steps” that will get underway on Wednesday. The terms of reference have to be set out and the possible sole source consultants that will be brought in to do much of the work for the city. This will be a large contract – $100,000 appears to be the starting number.

There are only so many consulting firms that can take on a job of this magnitude – there are a number of firms the city might want to steer clear of – no hint at this point on who might be chosen.

The interim city manager, the deputy city manager and the Director of City Building would be the people who would make the decision – they may have already decided who they want to go with.

No mention was made of any request for a proposal.

Ward 6 Councillor Angelo Bentivegna asked what impact the freeze would have on Committee of Adjustment decisions. That committee won’t be able to make any decisions – a freeze will be in place.

The rules that govern Interim Control Bylaws allow the city to lift the freeze at any time. It also limits the freeze to a one year period with a possible extension of a second year and a possible extension for a third year.

MacDonald said that exemptions could be made but that would have to come before Council. She added that she did not recommend changing the boundaries of the study. Once the word was out everyone appeared to want the boundary changed.

What became clear was that the OMB decision made on the ADI development on Lakeshore at Martha was what prompted the decision to go the Interim Control Bylaw route. The city lost that argument before the OMB, in part because ADI’s lawyers argued that the existence of a Downtown mobility hub allowed for the height they were asking for.

Transit terminal - John Street

The center of the Downtown Mobility hub.

That hub gets referred to as a terminal isn’t much more than a place where you can buy tickets and keep out of the cold. It has taken on an almost mythical force that a developer turned into a winning argument before the OMB.

The Planning department was blind-sided by the developer and the city is paying a price for the failure to be fully prepared.

That decision sent a signal to the development community that Burlington was more than open for business. The development proposals were coming in at an alarming pace – far more than the City Building department could handle. (They should have stayed with the former department title: Planning department.)

Thus the decision to put a freeze in place.

An oddity that came to the surface was that the city still has to accept development proposals. They still have to hold pre-consult meetings with developers and give them the list of the reports they will have to provide. A development application, even with the freeze in place, can go as far as the Statutory Public Meeting phase – the Planning Act requires that.

There was a concern expressed that the clock will still be ticking and that the city will get dinged by developer and taken to the LPAT (Local Planning Act Tribunal) for not meeting the 210 time frame within which to make a decision on a development application.

Heather MacDonald said that it was the view of the Planning department, supported by a legal opinion, that LPAT would dismiss any such application.

A large part of the pause the city wants to take with the freeze in place is to determine just what the future of the terminal on John Street is. At one point the Transit people wanted to shut it down and move ticket sales into city hall. That idea got squelched.

Bridgewater from the west - higher elevation

Bridgewater as seen from the lake.

Ward 2 Councillor Lisa Kerns said she would support the Staff Recommendation because it was clear that the City Building department was overwhelmed and had lost control of the planning process. She said that at one point the Bridgewater development was the city’s legacy project – at 22 stories it is being dwarfed by some of the newer development proposals.

The question as to what happens to the development fees that have been paid wasn’t really answered. Nor was there any clear direction on what happens to those developments that were past the Statutory meeting point. It would appear that they are frozen at whatever point they happen to be at.

The value that has been placed on properties adjacent to large proposed developments has shot sky high. Councillor Kearns said some residents are seeing tax bills that have doubled.

Kelvin Angelo MMW

Councillor Galbraith didn’t like the look of the ICBL, voted no – Councillor Bentivegna and the Mayor voted for it.

It all came down to a 5-1 vote for the Staff recommendation with Ward 1 Councillor Kelvin Galbraith voting against and Councillor Sharman absent for the second day in a row.

With the vote at the Standing Committee in place; they adjourned, turned themselves into a city council meeting and voted for the freeze then passed the necessary bylaw.  It was a recorded vote with each Councillor having to stand and declare their vote – something new to the five newbies.  Meed Ward told Galbraith to get used to being the lone dissenter – she had to do it for years.

Zap – everything was frozen.

Now we watch for the unintended consequences. This is a draconian bylaw that seemed to be necessary. Let’s get it right in as short a time frame as possible.

Will Burlington, this time next year, be “one of Canada’s best and most livable cities, a place where people, nature and business thrive”. Stay tuned.

Related links:

Is the Downtown Mobility hub the result of a clerical error

Scobie on that Downtown Mobility hub

Return to the Front page

The community needs the regional government to invest in enough subsidized housing to reduce wait times for women at risk that can be measured in weeks - not years.

opinionred 100x100By Andrew Drummond

March 4th,  2019


HWP - City Council (2)

From the left: Councillor Bentivegna, Mayor Meed Ward, Councillors Paul Sharman and Lisa Kearns


Halton Women’s Place held their annual fundraiser gala recently. It was a delightful affair with 413 attendees including politicians of all levels and parties. Part of the event was a live auction where one of the “items” being auctioned off was an evening party with a number of gentlemen from the Oakville Fire Department. It was a touching gesture (which raised $3,000) and was a wonderful way for the department to give back to the community.

However, as the department’s spokesperson took the stage to extol others to bid on them, he told the crowd about some startling statistics about Halton Women’s Place and the work that they do and the constraints that they work under. The most alarming statistic was that the shelter only has 52 beds and that as a temporary shelter, the majority of their residents are being transitioned to a full time, safe housing. This process used to take six to eight weeks, but now can take up to six to eight MONTHS.

There is such a lack of affordable housing in Halton region that a woman fleeing violence with her children can wait up to eight months in a shelter.

HWP - GraphWithin the HWP annual reports, an even more troubling trend appears. In 2014, the shelter housed 270 women and 211 children for some period of time over the year. The report also noted that “766 women did not receive shelter due to capacity”. In 2014, the shelter only was able to serve 39% of the need in the region. Compared to 2018 however, 2014’s 39% was a success. As a result of the reduced availability of safe, affordable housing in Halton, in 2018, HWP was only able to serve 173 women and 183 children. They no longer list the number of women turned away in the annual report, but only being able to assist 74% of their 2014 number cannot be a good sign.

There are two critical issues then, which need to be addressed for our community to be able to successfully assist women fleeing violence and abuse. First need Halton Women’s Place needs a stable source of funding.

Second Halton Region needs to ensure there is adequate housing for women to transition into. From the chart below, over the last 5 years, the level of funding from government sources has increased at less than the rate of inflation (8.2% total). As a result, HWP has increasingly relied on private funds to make up the gap in funding.

Fortunately for the shelter, the public has responded (+45.4% over 5 years), but raising private money is time consuming and unpredictable and forces HWP to devote its efforts away from its primary focus – helping abused women.

The second critical issue to alleviate the pressure on HWP is to increase the availability of subsidized housing across Halton Region. On the Region of Halton website for subsidized housing, there is an ominous note about wait times for subsidized housing.

“It is not possible to provide a specific wait time. Criteria used to place individuals and families changes regularly. Halton Region must follow provincial government regulations, which means the date on your application is not the only information used for placement on our wait list. The waiting time can sometimes take several years for units highest in demand…”

Finding affordable housing can take years. Hundreds of women fleeing violence are turned away from shelters in our region because of overlong wait times for safe, subsidized housing. This is simply not acceptable.
Turning battered women away is one part of the issue, but the longer wait times also have an impact on the women who do get into the shelters. One of the most important things these women need at this time is stability. They and their children are rebuilding a life, and the months they have to wait to start it is a significant strain on everyone. Permanency is a requirement for building a stable new life.

In its recent 2019 budget, the Region of Halton proposed a 1.9% tax increase for regional services. Regional Chair Gary Carr has taken to social media repeatedly to boast of “delivering an average property tax increase of 0.7% for Regional Services from 2007 to 2018, while maintaining or enhancing core services.” All of these increases fall below the rate of inflation. In other words, overall, Halton is collecting less tax to provide services and the end result has been, wait times for subsidized housing increasing year over year.

HWP - Room Shot (2)

Community level support was evident. Can’t say that much for the support from the Regional government.

The question is then, why is sufficient safe, affordable housing for our community’s most vulnerable people not considered a “core service”? There is clear evidence that the region is providing far less than what is required by its citizens and yet tax increases are still being kept below the rates of inflation. There is hope however, in 2018 Burlington elected a slate of progressive city councillors that are determined to work to support the more vulnerable among us.

But the effort needs to come from all levels of government. Our community needs the provincial government to increase shelter funding to at least the level of inflation. Our community needs the regional government to invest in enough subsidized housing that the wait times can be measured in weeks and not years. And our community needs the city to live up to its commitment to its most vulnerable.

In 2017 in Halton there were 3,156 police calls for domestic violence. And in Halton we only have 52 shelter beds for the women who made those calls.

Return to the Front page

Truth to Power - A Requiem for Indigenous Reconciliation? Did she throw the baby out with the bathwater?

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

March 2nd, 2019



If I’d been prime minster of this great land I might have done some things differently. For starters I would have kept my promise to bury the undemocratic first-past-the-post electoral system. Preferential balloting for 2019, then an information campaign leading to a referendum on proportional representation as was recommended in the last parliamentary committee on electoral reform.

I would have applied the carbon tax universally across Canada and used the proceeds to remove the HST (federal portion) on electric vehicles, electric heating and appliances, and to help defer the costs of provincial renewable energy production.

And I wouldn’t have shuffled Jody Wilson-Raybould (JWR). She is a formidable force to reckon with, as anyone watching her carefully crafted testimony before the Justice Committee last week could see. She spoke straight-up and convincingly from detailed notes, though some of the most damning quotations were only from secondary sources.

JWR testifying

Jody Wilson-Raybould: She spoke straight-up and convincingly

She said that nothing which had transpired was illegal. She had never been directed against her will, and while she sensed what she called ‘veiled threats’, no one had actually threatened her with anything. She simply got annoyed after some 11 people had asked or urged her to reconsider her position. Then she was shuffled to a different Cabinet position, but she could not talk about that. It was covered by Cabinet confidentiality.

So she spoke her ‘truth to power’, which according to Wikipedia is “a non-violent political tactic, employed by dissidents against the received wisdom or propaganda of governments they regard as oppressive, authoritarian or an ideocracy.” Is that really how Jody Wilson-Raybould saw the government she had been such a big part of for the last three and half years? And was that the political party of which she still wants to remain a member?

scheer mute

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer and his nodding fellow Tories.

The Commons Justice Committee will not resolve anything substantive against the PM, it has a Liberal majority after all. The Ethics Commissioner will not find that Mr. Trudeau’s actions were intended to benefit him personally. And the RCMP will ignore the idiotic request by Conservative leader Andrew Scheer and his nodding fellow Tories.

JWR, or Puglaas as she is considered in her native culture, will be expelled from the Liberal caucus at an appropriate time and may return to her earlier work as regional chief of her first nation. Or having had a taste of partisan politics may look to join one of the other parties.

Either of the other major parties would likely welcome her. She might be more comfortable, though, with the NDP, and Jagmeet Singh would, no doubt, embrace her. Though, despite his recent victory in Burnaby South, some of the NDP membership might wish it were her rather than him as leader.

Justin Trudeau recruited JWR. There was history between their fathers. And though she never actually served in a specific Cabinet role related to her aboriginal background, he must have seen her assisting with his goal of achieving indigenous reconciliation. We know that she was at least marginally engaged in that issue. The Clerk of the Privy Council mentioned that there was some friction between her and other ministers on that file.


Reconciliation is more than making amends for the residential schools fiasco.

Reconciliation is a complicated matter and evades a single or simple definition. But it is more than making amends for the residential schools fiasco. Trudeau had been hoping we would finally get beyond the 1867 Indian Act – the most discriminatory piece of legislation in Canadian history, if we ignore what happened with WWII Japanese –  Canadian interment. With JWR out of the picture, reconciliation is likely to be on the back burner until after the election, or perhaps even longer if Andrew Scheer becomes the next PM and follows Stephen Harper’s approach.

It would be interesting to see a poll on how Canadians feel about SNC Lavalin and whether it should have to go to court or be allowed to plea bargain it’s way out of its two decade old corporate bribery charge, in otherwise corrupt Libya.

JWR decided to support the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and force SNC to run the gauntlet of a trial. She must have known that her party, and likely those on the other side as well, would have preferred to see a remediation agreement – the way this kind of crime is handled just about everywhere else.

But she chose a red line – a hill to fight for and hold. And she may have won the battle. The PM cannot possibly get his new AG to override the DPP after somebody leaked this story to the Globe and Mail, and all that has transpired since.

But somebody else needs to ask who leaked what appears to be Cabinet confidential information. They would likely be in violation of section 38 of the Canada Evidence Act given that you’d have to be there to get this kind of detail. So perhaps it wasn’t the whole Truth to the power that we heard.

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.

Background links:

SNC Deal –     Truth to Power –     Indigenous File

Reconciliation –     Cabinet Confidence

Return to the Front page

Mayor has her finger prints all over the 2019 budget - she will deliver on the promise.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

February 27th, 2019



As city council works its way through the 2019 budget, determined, it would appear, to come in with a tax increase of not more than2.99% over what they dinged the public for last year, a number of things become evident.

The Mayor is front and center on this budget.

Reserves are not just money that is kept for a rainy day

And a new expense doesn’t just get added to the base budget where Mayor Marianne Meed Ward believes it gets forgotten.

Mayor Meed Ward

No doubt about who is steering the direction the 2019 budget is going in – Mayor Med Ward is very hands on.

Mayor Meed Ward is all over this budget; she speaks on every item, listens carefully to staff and will adjust her thinking when she hears a good argument.

She is keeping staff on their toes – and letting the Finance department know that she, the Mayor, doesn’t see those reserves as sacrosanct.

Municipalities are not allowed to show a deficit. They rely on reserves when income doesn’t match expenses.

When it looks as if there isn’t going to be enough revenue the municipality will borrow. Debt for Burlington is set at not more than 15% of revenue which is defined as what can be collected through property taxes.

In the municipal world they never know what is going to hit them next: a flood, an ice storm or a winter when snowfall exceeds what was expected – and with climate change the word “expected” isn’t something that makes sense anymore.

During the current budget discussions Meed Ward made it clear that asking her to go along with the addition of staff isn’t a given.

The Joseph Brant Museum people made a request for staff needed to operate the museum expansion expected to open around July of this year.

Any new people were going to be needed on an ongoing basis going forward – it would make sense to add those costs to the base budget – no?

Meed Ward didn’t see it quite that way. She was prepared to go along with new staff costs on a one time basis and have the museum staff return the following year and let council know how they had done in terms of revenue. She wanted the museum people to know that she expected the museum to earn at least a part of their keep.

It would be a little on the harsh side to say that the Mayor was being hard nosed – but she is certainly not being a push over. If Burlington’s bureaucrats want public money for their operations – they are going to have to show this council that they are going to put the funds to good use and bring back as much as they can as a return.

House view west

Joseph Brant Museum – undergoing a rebuild – scheduled to open in July, will look a lot different.

There was a staff Direction included for the Executive Director of the Museum that set out what was expected of her – Barb Teatero had left the meeting before that document got read into the record.

The Mayor is working with five people who are new to the world of municipal finance. One would hope that much of this new approach to financing city operations rubs off on these new Councillors – Meed Ward isn’t going to be Mayor for life. Our guess – two terms and she will be off for bigger things.

Shawna looking lost

Councillor Stolte on the right with Councillor Nisan during budget discussions.

When determining who the Standing Committee Chairs would be, Meed Ward didn’t have much to pick from. Ward 4 Councillor Stolte struggles at times with the numbers side of things, Ward 6 Councillor Angelo Bentivegna doesn’t always fully grasp what the issue is, Ward 3 Councillor Rory Nisan seems to want to align himself with ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman but also wants to go out on his own – he just isn’t sure quite where that is.

Angelo + Kelvin

Ward 1 Councillor Kelvin Galbraith explaining a point to ward 6 Councillor Angelo Bentivegna.

Ward 1 Councillor Kelvin Galbraith certainly understands the numbers – at times he seems positively amazed at what goes on in the world of municipal finance.

Kearns - office art

Ward 2 Councillor with art by a local painter in her office that has a lot of non issue furniture as well.

Ward 2 Councillor Lisa Kearns has a sound understanding of what she has to do and has surprised many with the way she handles herself. She has the most developed sense of humour on this council and doesn’t let anything on the numbers side get past her –at least not so far.

As for Councillor Sharman, ward 5, he appears to suffer some indigestion when he sees the way Mayor Meed Ward drains funds from the surplus accounts.

Return to the Front page

The Voters Have Spoken - but the Future Awaits

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

February 26th,2019



After the dust had settled on the three by-elections, the Liberals came out one seat ahead. It was the one they used to own – in Outremont, Quebec. The Tories cleaned up in York-Simcoe to nobody’s surprise. But the prize was in Burnaby South where NDP leader Jagmeet Singh easily won, confounding the pundits, though it was a seat previously held by his party.

Jagmeet elected

Jagmeet Singh now has a seat in the House of Commons; now the hard part for him begins.

Political analysts will struggle trying to dissect Singh’s victory in that ethnically diverse riding of Burnaby South. The Liberals placed second, ahead of the Conservatives but well below where they might have been thanks to some unfavourable headlines. To begin with their initial candidate had to resign after making racist comments. She’d argued that her chances of winning were good since more voters were of Chinese origin, like her, than Indian (Sikh), like Singh.

The Liberals rushed to replace her but clearly had lost valuable campaign time and ended up with a parachute candidate. In fact, Singh was the only candidate from a major party who actually lived in the riding, having moved there from Ontario. He had campaigned hard for this win, as if his future depended on it. And it did.

Party leaders are rarely defeated, perhaps in the spirit of fair play among voters. But the odds were out on Singh. Some committed Conservative and Liberal voters may have decided to stay home just to give Singh a chance. Still with an overall turnout of 30%, this was a more representative poll than either of the other two by-elections that night. But perhaps it was the weather helping the turnout – always kinder to voters in La La land.

It is no secret that Liberals had been musing whether their chances in the next election would actually be better with Mr. Singh sitting in Parliament or the NDP scrambling for a new leader. But then scrambling for a new leader didn’t hurt the Ontario Tories last election. And it’s also no secret that some in his own party were having misgivings about their last choice for NDP leader. They were not so quietly saying that there would be no second chance if Singh lost.

But there may have been other factors. For example, the provincial NDP is locked in a legal and political fight with Alberta’s NDP and the Trudeau government over the Trans Mountain pipeline, and Singh’s own objections to the pipeline, and the oil sands in general, no doubt played a role in his victory. Burnaby is the terminus of the pipeline and potential bitumen spills and enhanced tanker traffic are real concerns.

The NDP and Greens were alone in this opposition to more oil, but the absence of a Green Party candidate meant that Singh got all of those anti-pipeline votes as well. And on the topic of vote splitting, Maxime Bernier’s new People’s Party made a decent first showing in this riding, getting a third of the right-wing vote, and holding the real Conservatives back from getting to second place. But then the wild west is where the more libertarian/reform minded parties tend to do well, so that should not have been too surprising.

Jody - glare

Jody Wilson Raybould – probably not a woman you want to argue with.

The Liberals were also undoubtably hurt by the Wilson-Raybould/SNC Lavalin issue. The riding of the former Attorney General (AG) is just down the hall from Burnaby. Sometimes the mere mention of a scandal is enough to sideline any politician. And Trudeau and the Liberal brand have already been damaged, tarnished by allegations of political interference in favour of the Quebec based industrial giant, SNC Lavalin.

Nothing happened! Lavalin is going to court to face the music. But the mere fact that the PM or one of his staff or his senior bureaucrat may have spoken to the AG about this matter is being referred to as pressure. And this is where it gets crazy. Because the AG is just another Liberal politician and a fellow Cabinet minister, and would have been expected to discuss the SNC case with her colleagues in that capacity. But was she pressured?

Jody Wilson-Raybould is a very accomplished person with an extensive and impressive resume. She was a BC provincial crown attorney, land claims negotiator and Regional Chief of the BC Assembly of First Nations. Recruited into the Liberal family as late as 2013 by Mr. Trudeau she was appointed Minister of Justice and Attorney General following the 2015. election. There is an historical connection between Justin and Jody, since their fathers had tangled in discussions leading to Canada’s constitution.

Wilson-Raybould is to testify before the Commons Justice Committee this week, so that everyone may find out what her ‘truth’, as she calls it, really is. Mr. Trudeau, for his part, has not addressed why he chose to demote her just months away from the next election. She had completed a milestones report of the many accomplishments during her three years as AG, which included legislation on marijuana, medially assisted dying and impaired driving legislation.

Jody-Wilson-Raybould in media crowd

Jody Wilson Raybould: Handles media well, doesn’t appear to do selfies.

There are some who would detract as to how well she had served her time as AG. But she also has a lot of followers, particularly since she resigned from the Trudeau Cabinet. Wilson-Raybould has stated that she is a Liberal and plans to run in the next election. So one has to ask why she is doing this. Why is she creating a crisis that might well sink any hope of the Liberals retaining government and Mr. Trudeau continuing as Prime Minister?

But perhaps that is the plan. Jody’s father once told Pierre Trudeau that he wanted one of his daughters to become PM. Perhaps once Justin has been defeated she’ll take over.

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 Results –    Trans Mountain –     Jody Wilson- Raybould

Return to the Front page

Application has been made for a retail cannabis operation on Fairview, east of Walkers Line.

News 100 redBy Staff

February 26th, 2019



An application for a retail cannabis store in Burlington has been received by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario. Written comments due by March 6

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (ACGO) has received an application for a retail cannabis store in Burlington at 103-4031 Fairview St.

Cannabis location

Proposed location for a retail cannabis operation. On Fairview east of Walkers Line.

Written comments about the proposed location at 103-4031 Fairview St. will be received by the AGCO until March 6, 2019 and may be submitted online at The AGCO will accept submissions from:

• A resident of the municipality in which the proposed store is located
• The municipality representing the area in which the proposed store is located and/or its upper-tier municipality.

Comments submitted to the AGCO should relate to the following matters of public interest:

• Protecting public health and safety
• Protecting youth and restricting their access to cannabis
• Preventing illicit activities in relation to cannabis.

After March 6, the AGCO will consider all written comments and available information to decide whether the application for the proposed store location will be approved.

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward has been an advocate for retail cannabis operations. During the election campaign she said she was surprised at the resistance to retail locations in the city.

When it came to a vote at city council Councillors Shawna Stolte, Ward 4 and ward 6 Councillor Angelo Bentevegna voted to not have retail outlets.


Mayor Meed Ward supports the opening of a retail cannabis site: two of the six Councillors were not n side with her.

The Mayor said: “This is the kind of location where it is appropriate for accommodating retail cannabis stores in our city. It is more than 150 metres from any school or any of the other locations of particular concern, including parks, pools, arenas, libraries or recreation centres. And it is also along transit routes and near the QEW/Hwy. 403.

She added that the city “won’t be submitting comments to the AGCO on this application given its suitability. The public can submit their comments by March 6 to the AGCO’s website. Burlington City Council is in the process of creating a task force to develop a set of standard comments we would provide to the AGCO, when applications come forward, that reflect community perspectives on where these should be located.”

Meed Ward has been appointed as one of four members of a working group at the Large Urban Mayor’s Caucus of Ontario (LUMCO), part of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, that will work to develop similar guidelines for suitable locations. The working group includes mayors of two municipalities that opted in and two that opted out of allowing cannabis retail stores, recognizing that our concerns are similar. The guidelines we create will be shared with the AGCO and our municipalities.

Return to the Front page

What Buildings, Cars and Trees Have in Common

opiniongreen 100x100By Jim Feilders

February 25th, 2019


Building height and tree removal are like car speed.

There is no maximum.

After a certain point you pay for it in the form of a fine.

The higher the building, the more you pay the government.

The more trees removed, the more you pay the government.

The more you speed, the more you pay the government.

The Planning Act of Ontario has what is known as a Section 37 which allows a developer to offer a benefit to a municipality for additional height. There is no specific rate for the size of the benefit and the additional height permitted.

Section 37 Benefits
Burlington heights1 to 5 storeys over the limit, XXX per floor
6 to 10 storeys over the limit, XXX per floor
11 to 20 storeys over the limit, $26,316 per floor*
21 to 30 storeys over the limit, XXX per floor
30+ storeys over the limit, XXX per floor

The Highway Traffic Act of Ontario sets out what it is going to cost when you exceed the speed limits.

Speeding fines1-19 km/h over the speed limit is a $2.50/km speeding fine.
20-29 km/h over the speed limit is a $3.75/km speeding fine.
30-49 km/h over the speed limit is a $6.00/km speeding fine.
50+ km/h over the speed limit comes with a court decided fine.

Burlington Roseland Pilot Private Tree Bylaw set out what it will cost to remove trees of a specific size

Tree removal size30 to 50 cm, $1400 per tree removed
Over 50 cm, $2100 per tree removed
Specialty and boundary trees, see details

That is the Law

If nothing is done, exit signs on the QEW coming from Hamilton might well say:

Next Exit Burlington Downtown, Brant Street
Tall Buildings
Narrow Streets
No Sun
No Trees
No Oxygen
No Beach
No Parks
No Parking
No Transit (call Uber)
No Grocery Stores
No Community Gardens

Next Exit Burlington GO Station Mobility Hub, Guelph Line

No Development for 20 Years

Next Exit Oakville Downtown, Trafalgar Road

Low Rise Buildings
Wide Tree Lined Streets
Waterfront Park
Community Parks
Public Transit
Grocery Stores
Community Gardens
Boating, Swimming, Museums, Shopping, Libraries

Developers Proceed to GO Station Intensification Area

What can be done to create a vibrant Burlington downtown?

Community benefits increased to $500,000 per floor to pay for infrastructure, affordable housing and sustainable development.

City wide private tree bylaw requiring equivalent caliper diameter replacement on site, with no cash in lieu (same as Site Plan Application Guidelines Section 9).

Rezone employment lands for mixed use with minimum job criteria.

Rezone religious institution blocks for mixed use with minimum affordable housing criteria.

Enforce Sustainable Building and Development Guidelines by passing net zero energy/net zero carbon/net zero waste building bylaw.

Feolders-with-unit-300x266Jim Feilders is an engineer by training and an environmentalist by choice.  He drives a hybrid car, heat and air conditions his house at a cost of of approximately $375 a year. The views expressed here are solely his  own and not necessarily those of the various organizations with which he is associated.


Return to the Front page

Rivers: Is Trudeau in Trouble - Or is This Just Fake News?


Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

February 23RD, 2019


It is bizarre that it has got this far and has gone on for this long.

Recognized as Canada’s national newspaper, though only second by circulation, the highly respected Globe and Mail has created a political scandal out of apparently thin air. The paper has relied on unsupported allegations to make its case that there has been political interference in the administration of federal legal proceedings against SNC Lavalin.

Raybould + PM

The good days when the Prime Minister appointed Jody Wilson Raybould Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

It may have been only a couple of weeks since the Globe’s story hit the pavement but somebody needs to start tallying up the costs for this story, which has grown a lot of legs but no teeth. Already the former Attorney General, Jody Wilson-Raybould and the PM’s Principal Secretary, Gerald Butts, have both resigned. The Commons Justice Committee has had to start special hearings and the Ethics Commissioner has been called in. Lavalin has suffered its first financial loss in six years and its shares are plummeting.

Then there is all the ink that has been spilled over what more and more appears to be the Globe’s non-story. The PM has been consistent. He said the Globe was wrong on day one. Then he followed up emphatically stating that neither he nor his office gave the former AG or her staff direction on the file – in fact reiterating that he had instructed her that the decision to intercede on SNC was hers and hers alone.

The Clerk of the Privy Council, the most senior bureaucrat in Ottawa has identified three critical meetings, where Wilson-Raybould might have felt there had been pressure, including one with him, one between Butts and her senior assistant, and one she had had with the PM back in September, which started out as a meeting on the indigenous file.

Lyndon pressure

President knew how to apply pressure to the members of Congress.

Now the Globe has modified their story from allegations of political interference to somebody pressuring the AG. Pressure? What else does one expect in political life but pressure? Going for that nomination, running an election campaign, debating other candidates, being on call by constituents once elected, standing up in the House, attacking and being attacked. I’m sorry but if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen.

In the matter of SNC, Canadians should expect that our politicians would look long and hard at options to, essentially, putting a Canadian icon, Lavalin, out of business for something a handful of former executives did almost two decades ago, in a land so far away and as corrupt as Libya. Imagine the pressure the over 8,000 Canadian SNC employees will feel if their company shuts down or is sold to a foreign entity, as had happened with Alcan and Rona.

Of course Lavalin might win its court case. But is the cost of prosecuting worth it, when a modern legal disciplinary alternative to lengthy and costly trials for these kinds of white collar crimes exists?

The elected government makes the laws and the prosecutor applies them, but even in TV’s Law and Order there is ample discussion among the parties about the best way to prosecute, and when to accept plea bargains.

Raybould + pm after demotion

She was no longer the Minister of Justice.

The former AG is set to address the Justice Committee early this coming week so we might finally all understand what she means by pressure – assuming those are her words. But even if she felt there was pressure and that others were being insensitive – it obviously wasn’t the pressure that forced her to resign. She resigned well after being shuffled out of the AG’s office.

What goes on in the PM’s Cabinet room is top secret and Cabinet solidarity is at the heart of our governance system. Breaking confidentiality has serious consequences as two federal officials are finding out for allegedly leaking details on shipbuilding contracts. So where did the Globe and Mail get their information? And if it was from the former AG, or anyone Wilson-Raybould had communicated with, wouldn’t that make a mockery of her current protestations about attorney-client privilege?

The PM has told us that he shuffled Jody Wilson-Raybould out of the AG’s office for a number of reasons. Wilson-Raybould understood that being minister of aboriginal affairs would have been an inappropriate appointment for her, given her background. But there are also a number of legal issues coming forward which affect the indigenous communities, including self-government, first nations reconciliation and the Trans Mountain pipeline. Any one of these might find her in a potential conflict of interest situation as Canada’s AG.

printing press

Are newspapers in place to make news as well as report it?

The role of newspapers is typically to report the news, not to make it. The Globe has decided on the latter in this case. Perhaps the Globe’s editors were just trying to liven up or balance out the federal political scene. Perhaps they wanted to sell more papers. Or perhaps they were hoping to influence the outcome of the next election with a story replete with unsupported innuendo.

Unless the former AG reveals something earth-shattering with her testimony at the Justice Committee, this will be a sad mark on the pages of the Globe. Trudeau has clearly been affected by all the commotion, losing his friend and chief organizer Butts in the process. Trudeau came to office embracing feminism and an obligation to lift Canada’s indigenous people beyond their current state.

In Jody Wilson-Raybould he, no doubt, saw the embodiment of that ambition. He recruited her, brought her into federal politics, and placed her in one of the most senior appointments in his cabinet. It is no wonder that he seems hurt and unhappy.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau takes a selfie as he greets the crowd outside Rideau Hall after being sworn in as Canada's 23rd Prime Minister in Ottawa, Ontario, November 4, 2015. AFP PHOTO/ GEOFF ROBINS (Photo credit should read GEOFF ROBINS/AFP/Getty Images)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau takes a selfie.

The PM is responsible for appointing and shuffling cabinet ministers at his discretion, and they serve at his pleasure. Trudeau has delegated more authority to his ministers than any PM since his father. That he would be accused of overriding, directing, influencing or pressuring a minister of his Cabinet, and the Attorney General in particular, must indeed be a bitter pill for him to swallow.

And with all the accusations by the G&M, opposition calls to bring in the RCMP, pundits demanding the PM resign, is there little wonder that the smile has departed from even this PM’s face. So anyone wanting a selfie might want to keep that thought until the Globe and Mail prints a retraction of the story.

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.

Background links:

Justice Committee Analysis –     PM’s Discretion

Wilson- Raybould –     More Reasons Why –    SNC Legal Options

Shawcross Rule –    Wilson-Raybould Future –   

Understanding Jody –     Butts

Indigenous Issues –    Cabinet Secrets

Return to the Front page

29 Storey Pearl and Lakeshore Proposal Ignores Entire Planning Context


opinionviolet 100x100By Roland Tanner

February 23, 2019



If the new 29 storey proposal for Lakeshore and Pearl is ultimately approved at the Local Planning Appeals Tribunal (LPAT), and forced on Burlington in a form anything like this first proposal, ECoB Engaged Citizens of Burlington, believes we are seeing an Ontario-wide collapse in the ability of municipalities to govern their own planning and development.

The public meeting held for the Carriage Gate development at 2069-2079 Lakeshore Road and 383-385 Pearl Street on January 29th was one of the most heated yet held in Burlington. Over two hours, residents at a packed Art Gallery of Burlington submitted the numerous objections and reservations they had with the proposed 29 storey development. No citizen spoke in favour of the development.

While ECoB continues to stress that it does not oppose reasonable development or intensification, it absolutely believes developers have an obligation to work within the in-force and provincially-approved planning context established by democratically elected councils.

Residents have recently expressed their preferences in unambiguous terms about over-development in downtown. It is therefore dismaying to see proposals coming to City Hall at a rapid rate which don’t just exceed planning maximums, but completely ignore the entire planning context that Council has established over the last decade and a half.

Pearl and LakeshoreThis new proposal from Carriage Gate (the developer behind the 421 Brant St development which led to the creation of ECoB) suggests a level of massing, setbacks and overall height that massively exceeds both the in force Official Plan and the ‘Grow Bold’ Official Plan introduced by the last council. Regardless of one’s opinions at the 2018 municipal election, this development completely disregards all attempts by Council to moderate development downtown.

Here are just some of the concerns raised by residents, which, according to how the planning process is intended to work, should be addressed before this proposal comes to council for approval.

Increase on already excessive ground-level windspeeds on Lakeshore/Pearl
Loss of commercial space.
Lack of justification for exceeding proposed Official Plan by 12 storeys.
Traffic impact.
Dramatically lower parking provision than required by by-laws.
Need for City Planning Department to respond in time on all applications to avoid automatic appeals.
Practicalities of reversing delivery and garbage trucks.
Lack of respect for residents in proposals which ignore all City Planning objectives and maximums.
Need for 3-D models
Need for any Chapter 37 benefits to be honoured and not reneged on.
Possibility of impact of failure to provide Chapter 37 benefits promised on other developments.

Pearl Street Cafe was a recent Carnacelli property acquisition - part of a small land assembly that reaches down to Lakeshore Road.

Pearl Street Cafe was a recent Carnacelli property acquisition – part of a small land assembly that reaches down to Lakeshore Road.

ECoB believes this proposal is the most obvious case yet of over-development in downtown Burlington. While we hope, and aspire, to work collaboratively with developers to make their proposals align better with residents’ objectives, there seems little way in which this development, even if scaled dramatically back, would reflect the democratically expressed preferences of the residents of Burlington.

We believe this development is likely to be a test case, not just for the new council, but for the role of municipalities and local democracy in Ontario. The outcome will tell us much about the power of municipalities versus the power of developers to demand, and receive, approval for developments which bear no relation to legally adopted and provincially endorsed Official Plans.

Roland Tanner is an academic, a community activist, a member of the Shape Burlington Report committee and a candidate in the last municipal election. He is also vice chair of ECoB and has a very dry sense of humour

Return to the Front page

City staff at Seniors' Centre continue to make life difficult for the membership.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

February 22nd, 2019



The Gazette keeps hearing about problems at the Seniors’ Centre on New Street. For the most part they are small niggling little issues but when collected together they suggest there is a deeper issue.

Seniors sign

Seniors’ Centre staff showing their concern for the comfort and safety of people who use the facility.

Do the staff really care about the people they are supposed to be serving?

These are seniors; the people who have paid their dues and have the right to quality time and more than just a measure of dignity.

The week was registration week – the Gazette published a news report on some of the problems that were being experienced with the registration process and the impact a change in the way programs are paid for was having on some people.

Earlier today we were sent a photograph of a sign that had been set up outside the entrance door advising: For your comfort and safety please do not line up outdoors.

The doors should be opened as early as possible so that the seniors can be both safe and comfortable.

There is a care taker in the building – he could unlock the doors and people could wait in the auditorium.

People get to the Centre as early as possible so they can obtain a number and be in the registration line based on the number they hold.  These people want to take courses – many of them that are exercise classes.  They want to remain healthy and active – but the staff seem to want them to stand out in the cold.

Burlington is a city that talks about the way it cares for its citizens but refuses to open the doors to a public building so that older people can get inside and stay out of the chilly if not downright cold weather.

What is wrong with these people?

Related news story:

Empathy appears to be in short supply as Seniors’ Centre

Return to the Front page

The political assassination of Patrick Brown: a perfect trifecta: mutineer-minded staff, a treacherous caucus and a damning news story.


“First I want to say these allegations are false. Categorically untrue. Every one of them.” (Patrick Brown, CTV News- January 24, 2019)

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

February 20th, 2019


Part 4 of a four part article


Patrick Brown is made leader of the Progressive Party.

Sir Isaac Newton taught us that what goes up must come down. But that doesn’t always mean the faster you climb up the political ladder the faster you’ll tumble down. Though it did for Patrick Brown, if being ‘down’ includes ending up as mayor of the sizeable city of Brampton, instead of premier.

Over a year has passed now since Brown was forced out as Ontario PC leader. And if, as he contends, this was a political assassination by his own party, the question is why nobody but me is talking about it. The entire issue has virtually disappeared from the mainstream news. Perhaps it’s because the PCs are able to do a better job of changing the message than their Liberal colleagues. So maybe we’ve got this pro-liberal media bias thing wrong.

Just look at how a single speculative allegation in the Globe and Mail, about the prime minister’s office and the federal Attorney General (AG), has led to resignations, including that of the second most powerful person in Justin Trudeau’s government – Gerald Butts.

News is what’s in the newspapers. But there is zero evidence that anything illegal or even improper happened. Denials abound of direction-given and pressure-applied to the AG, and SNC is still going to court rather than getting its plea bargain. The only story here is how the media and opposition parties are colluding to ruin Trudeau’s chances in the upcoming election.

Brown hounded out of Queen's Park

Brown being chased by media after announcing his resignation as leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.

There are troubling similarities with regard to the CTV report which ended Brown’s leadership of the Ontario Progressive Conservative party. The allegations that Brown, the teetotaler, had plied an under aged girl with booze for sex were false on at least a couple of counts. For one thing the girl wasn’t underage and she admitted that the sex had been consensual. It was an inaccurate story which the network retracted, amended, and corrected; and over which Brown is now suing them for eight million big ones.

If this wasn’t a total conspiracy it sure looked, smelled and behaved like it. No sooner had the CTV story broken than Brown’s key caucus members convened for a conference call, without Brown. And when Brown finally got wind of the call and joined in, they had one message for him – just resign and now. They weren’t interested in his side or the story. They had the smoking gun so who needed to wait for the finger prints to come back from the lab.

Then there were the staff resignations, almost on cue in a perfectly orchestrated pincer movement – the perfect trifecta for an almost instantaneous bring down. His three top advisors led the stampede with…“Earlier today, all three of us became aware of allegations about Patrick Brown. After speaking with him, our advice was that he should resign as Ontario PC Party leader. He did not accept that advice.”

alykhan-velshiAlykhan Velshi, Brown’s chief of staff is a brilliant 30-something lawyer and policy analyst with credentials from the London School of Economics. He spent his formative years developing his skills as a neoconservative, first at the American Enterprise Institute and the Foundation for the Defence of Democracies, then as a political operative in the government of former PM Stephen Harper.

Velshi has an impressive political resume, working in Harper’s office and also advising ministers John Baird and Jason Kenny. In fact Brown had hired him on the strength of his time with Kenny. And Brown should have known that was going to be trouble. Kenny, the ultra-conservative, and Brown, the political centrist, never saw eye to eye, particularly after Kenny virtually blackmailed the MP Brown into voting against his will on an issue.

And Velshi is as far right wing politically as Brown is firmly in the center of today’s political world. Velshi had been responsible for developing the Tory opposition strategy to Liberal leader Stephane Dion’s ‘Green Tax Shift’ carbon tax proposal back in the mid 2000’s. How was he now supposed to get behind Brown’s policy of implementing a comparable carbon tax?

But Velshi swore up and down that he was on-side with fighting climate change and a carbon tax. That would have been a 180 degree turnaround from his earlier days peddling fellow ultra rightist Ezra Levant’s oxymoronic notion of ‘ethical oil’. But he was not the only obviously disingenuous Tory signing onto Brown’s policies.

Brown PG-cover-1-227x300In fact almost all of caucus officially supported Brown’s ‘People’s Guarantee” which was endorsed at the party’s November 2017 policy conference. Though Velshi’s previous mentor, Albertan Jason Kenny, stormed out of the conference once he realized that a carbon tax was one of those policies.

There is no more reasonable explanation for what happened to Brown than the way he himself penned it in his book. If it wasn’t a set up, then we’ve all been watching too much TV, or too little. This was a perfect trifecta: mutineer-minded staff, a treacherous caucus and a damning news story.

Almost immediately after the CTV report Brown became a toxic commodity – an outcast ironically from the very party he had restored out of the ruins left him by former leader Tim Hudak. Brown was eventually evicted from caucus, disallowed candidacy to run again as MPP, and even refused the opportunity to run for Chair of Peel Region after Ford cancelled that election. Kathleen Wynne had been treated better.

Brown’s book may help identify the ‘how and why’, but it might take another book to identify the ‘who’ – who were the actual manipulators of this conspiracy. Doug Ford ended up the big winner  – he wasn’t even in caucus back then. Carolyn Mulroney picked up some of his staff, but lost her bid anyway in the leadership campaign. And pretenders to the throne, Vic Fedeli and Christine Elliott, were left just out of the winners circle once again.

Brown’s former chief man Alykhan got his old job back working for interim leader, Vic Fedeli, until the provincial election when he got himself sweet-hearted into a plum job at Ontario Power Generation. Except that, in a puzzling move, Ford’s own chief of staff indirectly fired Alykhan before he’d even sat down at his new desk.

Perhaps, like the Mafia, the Ontario PCs like to bury the bodies of their worn out operatives themselves. And on that count , despite the law suits, this whole affair was just an internal thing, a PC family matter.

Maybe that is the real reason why it’s not in the news anymore?

Background material:

Brown Denial –     Insane Month –    Brown Defence Statement

Brown’s Book –      Ethical Oil –     Alykhan Velshi

Fired from OPG


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.

Previous parts of the four part article.

The political take down of Patrick Brown – Part 1

Rivers on Patrick Brown – He said – she said – Part 2

Rivers on Patrick Brown – Part 3


Return to the Front page