Rivers: Raising fears over deficits is beginning to look like a political tool.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

May 9th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

My conservative friends are forever lecturing me that governments should always run a balanced budget and avoid debt like the plague. But then they also tell me that government should operate like a business or a household. So which is it?

The average family today, particularly those starting out, finance their biggest expenses: their home, automobiles and major appliances. The choice often is to buy on credit to replace a major appliance or automobile, or face even higher operating and maintenance costs when the item becomes totally cost-ineffective. So personal debt is a fact in our lives – and thus all those annoying commercials for Credit Karma.

interest ratesModern business also runs on credit for just about everything they need. In fact the level of corporate debt continues to increase – and why not? When interest rates are low, below the potential rate of return of new investments, time is right to invest and grow their markets and build their capacity to better meet increased demand. The ability to afford and to manage debt is what matters, not the absolute amount.

As with business and your average household, it is an outdated economic notion that government should always have to balance income and cash outflow in the short term. During the last federal election the two leading parties were promising balanced budgets which would have necessitated more economic austerity and pushed the economy deeper toward recession and greater unemployment.

So the voters opted for the party with a positive program to take advantage of low interest rates to expand the economy. And sure enough Canada’s economy responded with higher levels of growth, lower unemployment and the best performance in the G7. Given the economic success of that policy, Canada is in less danger of losing its triple A credit rating regardless of its deficit spending.

In fact our ability to afford debt is the best it has been since 1981, and the debt to GDP ratio is projected to continue to decline even as the government maintains relatively high annual deficits. That is because, much like a householder’s credit rating, it is not the absolute size of the deficit or debt that matters but its relationship to income and wealth.

The latest big thing in economics is called Modern Monetary Theory (MMT). It may help explain why Donald Trump can run-up debt like a drunken sailor with his head stuck in a barrel full of rum – and the US economy doesn’t capsize.

MMT says that a government which prints its own currency can almost spend till the cows come home – providing inflation is kept penned up in the barnyard. That is particularly the case if the debt is largely held domestically, which has been the case in Canada.

federal deficits

The data isn’t all that current – but it does show how often the federal government ran a deficit.

Perhaps the New Democrat or Green parties will go out on the limb as far as advocating a Canadian green new deal in our federal election this October. That would be gutsy given the controversy surrounding the proposal in the US, even among Democrats. And it is a full year before the concept will be tested on the US voting public.

But we shouldn’t expect to see the Liberals back away from their rather more modest spending plans. They are unlikely to knee jerk to austerity because some of yesterday’s voters and the conservative opposition parties still harbour a hollow and dated notion of always paying your way with what you are carrying in your pant’s pocket.

Today’s interest rates are the lowest in a couple of generations and investing now to build capacity, enhance incomes and reduce unemployment is a wise option for our national government. It might also be the best time to expand those social programs in which economies of scale end up costing society less even if it costs government more.

Programs like pharmacare or mitigating climate change come to mind. That kind of investing is exactly what a smart household or business would do. Would our children’s children really value a fiscal debt-free inheritance over one with the kind of environmental deficit we are heading towards?

This coming election can be expected to see fixated discussion, ad nauseum, about the size of Canada’s deficits and debt. Alarmists on the opposition benches will promise another imaginary fiscal balance should they get elected. But in the end, the math is simple. Budgetary deficits are a consequence of either too much spending or too little taxation. And financing, be it in business, the home, or government, is a just bridge over troubled waters.

soak the rich - taxes

There are always strong and opposing views when it comes to taxation.

Finally, it is a rare moment when any of today’s ‘arm chair economists’ will even mention increasing taxation – the price of government services. And since there are important economic consequences associated with all fiscal levers, their hesitancy is warranted.

Still if government is supposed to be a business, shouldn’t it try to operate like one?

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:

Household Debt

 Business Debt

 Modern Monetary Theory

 Green New Deal

Return to the Front page

Who knew? Phillip has known for years and the people who have property backing onto Tuck Creek south of Spruce might want to know as well.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

April 26, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The Gazette has run a comments section since the day we started up.

There are some people who abuse the privilege – there are some who think writing comments in the Gazette is a God given right.

There are a number of people, far too many if I do say so myself, who see the comments as irresponsible and not really serving any purpose.

There are others who comment frequently and add significantly to the body of information we use to make decisions.

We got a comment from Phillip Wooster this morning that we want to share.

He was responding to a comment made by another reader who had commented on the decision city council made to declare a Climate Emergency.

Let Phillip tell you what he learned.

I can attest about your comment about building in a flood plain. In 1979, while I was considering buying a house backing onto Tuck Creek, I had a choice between one north of Spruce on Regal Road and another south of Spruce. I happened to have a chance meeting with a farmer who had owned property at Lakeshore and Pine Cove in the 1950’s. He told me to buy south of Spruce–when I asked why, he told me that north of Spruce was a flood plain. In 1954, Hurricane Hazel turned the area into a lake; he said if there was another such weather event, the same thing would happen. And in 2014, guess where the flooding occurred. WHO KNEW????

Flooding Tuck_Creek_1

Tuck Creek

There are few real estate agents in town who will tell you what Phillip has known for years.

Thank you Phillip.

Salt with Pepper is the opinions, reflections,musings and observations of the Gazette Publisher

Return to the Front page

It was in the movie Cool Hand Luke that we first heard the phrase: 'What we have here is a failure to communicate'.

opinionred 100x100By Pepper Parr

April 23rd, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Two people who were heavily involved in the campaign to elect Marianne Meed Ward, the Mayor of Burlington, have come out with strong statements on the new Customer Relations Management system the city is in the process of adopting.
A third citizen has commented on just how unfriendly the city hall atrium is.

There is something amiss here.

Burlington flag from Lt Gov office

The crest would at least add some colour to a dull boring looking council chamber.

The woman who is now Mayor has been a citizen’s champion from the day she first stood at the podium in city hall to delegate. That “new – re-modeled” council chamber is even less friendly than the atrium. If there was ever a bland space made up of dull grays the council chamber would be it. Having a copy of the city crest made up and put up on the space beside the name Burlington, would do something for the chamber.

The podium that can be raised for people of different heights was a good idea – but when the seating area for the members of council was lowered it meant that people in the audience could not see all that well.

Council chamber - new look

This is what bland looks like.

The design of the new chamber is a botched job – reportedly carried out by the Clerk’s office with no public input.

Blair Smith, a person with considerable experience in the running of government services, having served as an Assistant Deputy Minister with the Ontario government said in a Gazette comment that:

“There is nothing inherently wrong in a Customer Relations Management System” wrote Smith,  “but it needs to be coupled with a customer service philosophy that permeates through the organization and gives staff energy and focus.

“CRM can make operations more efficient if used properly but it can never replace personal contact and commitment; it was never intended to be a replacement. The City of Burlington needs to ‘open up’. It needs clear and understandable program descriptions with accountable staff identified and contact information clearly displayed. Accountability and visibility go hand in hand. It needs performance dashboards with metrics that are measurable to report on commitments and progress against plan.

Blair Smith talking to planner Heaher MacDonald

Blair Smith in conversation with Director of Planning Heather MacDonald

“It needs transparent citizen engagement instruments so that the public actually contributes to decision-making and can see how operational and strategic directions evolved. And to ensure that the process is not merely cosmetic, it needs a comprehensive customer service program with an executive lead and performance metrics that are in every staff contract and commitment.

“There are established and successful models for true Customer Service Management in operation in other municipalities and levels of government. Seek them out, adapt and adopt them.”

Meed Ward as a delegation

Transparency was her trademark – which looks a little faded these days.

The Gazette thinks Smith is dead on. We all thought that what Smith had to say is what Meed Ward thinks; it is certainly what we have heard in all her public remarks, right back to the days when she would walk backwards as she spoke into a camera explaining what was wrong with the thinking about the pier and that piece of property between Lakeshore Road and Old Lakeshore Road.

Lynn Crosby

Lynn Crosby; one of the front line workers in the drive to keep Central High School open and a trooper in the Meed Ward campaign.

Lynn Crosby, who worked tirelessly on the Meed Ward campaign, running the office they had on Brant Street is “betting this is a system created by staff and was not something the new council or Mayor created. This would beg the question of why staff members might want to vet emails that come in and also begs the question of whether all emails that come in are actually forwarded to the appropriate person, and if so, are they forwarded in a timely manner – i.e., same day – or not.”

Crosby is also no fan of the “big Security desk that greets visitors to city hall” and adds that “it is not exactly welcoming”

“I think it’s early days with the new council and there’s lots of work to be done on making changes to how the city communicates with the citizens and what the tone is. It can be done.

“Looking at this system should be a priority because transparency and ease of communicating with the mayor, council and staff members should be easy to implement.”

Crosby also asks: “Where is the staff directory naming all individuals in key positions with clear contact information?”

When Kim Phillips was a General Manager with the city she was against such a directory. She didn’t want the public “pestering staff”.

Smith and Crosby are pushing in the right direction – we think they had hoped the Mayor would be leading in that direction.

Return to the Front page

Critical decisions to be made by council this week.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

April 23, 2109

BURLINGTON, ON

 

This evening council will meet to put the rubber stamp and the required signatures on the documents that rule the way we live in this city.

The Interim Control bylaw that halts all development in the Urban Growth centre of the city will be made law. It is a brutal piece of legislation that will cause significant financial stress for at least one developer and dash the hopes of another for the immediate term.

The Paradigm development on Fairview between Brant and Guelph next to the GO station which has three of the five towers in place needed a site plan approval before they could begin construction on the final two towers. The ICBL prevents that site plan from being approved.

Paradigm -3 from front

Phases 1,2 and 3 of the five tower development. Phases 4 and 5 are being delayed due to the ICBL council will approve this evening.

The Paradigm was the type of development that created the kind of housing the city needed to reach the residential targets set for the city by the province.

Due to a complicated set of agreements that were part of the purchase of the land the Paradigm is being built on the registration of the condominiums is impacted.

The Amica proposal for a large retirement home development on North Shore Blvd never did have much traction with this council. Their representative will be at council this evening pleading for an exemption to the ICBL – short of a total reversal of their position that plea is likely to fall on deaf ears.

However politics being what it is – one never knows what will get decided.

There is a Special meeting of city council the day after – it will be closed to the public so that council members can discuss freely what they have in mind in the way of a new city manager.

Special council meetingThe job is critical – if they get this right – there is a better than even chance that the mandate this council was given is one they can deliver on.

There are many who knew the city manager had to be replaced; others who think that a wholesale clean out is needed – from the City Solicitor; the Clerk, the Deputy city manager and at least one of the Directors – perhaps two of them.

Finding a City Manager that understands what council wants and what they believe they need is going to be the challenge.

Meed ward election night 1

The second step of the Meed Ward political ladder: Mayor of Burlington

Hiring talent that can lead and understand is not easy – expecting a team made up of people who have no experience doing this is asking for more than they can deliver.
Will this council choose and be able to find someone who can advise and direct them?

Franks Towes made a comment during his recent delegation on the Lakeshore Village Plaza development. “You are the gatekeepers” he said. Indeed they are – what they bring through those gates is what will determine what kind of a Burlington we have going forward.

It will determine as well just what kind of a politician Marianne Meed Ward will be – serving as Mayor is just part of the ladder she will climb.

Salt with Pepper is the opinions, reflections,musings and observations of the Gazette Publisher

Return to the Front page

Every bus rider has their own story. Part 2

opinionviolet 100x100By Lawson Hunter

April 20th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Lawson Hunter is an observer; people watching is a hobby.  He chose to watch people who ride buses – this is part 2 of his experience.

bus - reading from screen

This is not a distracted driving offence.

Yes there are a lot of interesting people that ride the bus, each with their own story about how and why they take transit. I don’t usually plunk myself beside people and strike up a conversation. I tend to sit and read or look out the window, but I wanted to learn more about my fellow passengers so I spent a few days riding on a number of buses throughout the city. I gathered up my courage and introduced myself as a writer doing a story about people like – us.

Many, many years ago, when I was a high school student, in another city, I didn’t have much choice when it came to getting around town. It was either the bus or walk. Things have changed a bit since then but judging by the number of students I see riding the bus each day, it’s still a fact of life and no one seems to be too upset about it.

Bus-Drivers-Rule-Running-for-the-bus

Running for the bus.

Sometimes I took the bus to get to my part-time, after school job. That was a bit more stressful because I had to get to work on time – or else. I never did find out what “or else” was. I was pretty good at figuring out the schedule and the bus usually arrived on time. Finishing work late, however, meant that I would miss the last bus and have to walk home.

I was reminded of those days when I chanced upon Fatima on bus no. 87. She was on her way to work at one of the stores at the Power Centre on Brant street. Number 87 is the bus that runs along North Service Road and into parts of Tyandaga. It’s a weird little run – 6am until 9am and then 3pm until 6pm (approx.). It’s one of the ‘employment’ routes that service a particular area around ‘peak’ work hours.

I asked Fatima, politely, how she got home since the bus would not run around normal closing hours. “My Mom picks me up,” Fatima said. “Good,” I replied.

I continued on no. 87 and watched as a hoard of cars pulled into the parking lots of two private schools along North Service Road. I got off at the Aldershot GO station, took the train to Appleby glad with the fact that my Presto Card handled all the transfers seamlessly.

Bus station 1

City staff applauding the roll out of a new bus.

Then I traveled up to the Alton area. Specifically, I jumped off at the 407 carpool parking lot to watch a few buses come and go. Pretty thin ridership, but then it wasn’t quite time for commuters arriving via the handful of GO buses that stop there. I then saw Bill. I didn’t catch him coming off a bus so as I approached him I asked where he was coming from. He mentioned that he was actually dropped off by one of his work colleagues at the Region of Peel in Brampton. “They encourage carpooling at the Region,” Bill stated. “I get dropped off here and the rest of the group carries on along Dundas Street (Hwy 5).”

Bill then explained that he usually catches a city bus (it could have been 6, 11, 25, 3A or 5A) and goes to the gym, to workout, before he continues, via bus, to his home. Sounded pretty good to me.

Haber name in sign

Haber, a destination for students using transit.

I decided to head back down to Appleby GO and chose the no. 11 bus. That took me past the Haber Recreation Centre and Dr. Frank J. Hayden Secondary School. The bus stopped long enough for a few students to get on board. It was after school hours, I guessed by the carrying cases they had. Musical instruments maybe. But the word ‘Badminton’ on the side of the case gave it away what they were up to.

A few minutes later, Brenda, got on the bus. “Why are you taking the bus?” I asked.  “Had a car accident,” Brenda replied. “I have to wait two weeks for it to get repaired and there wasn’t a rental car provided.” As we got closer to Fairview Street, Brenda said goodbye and got off the bus to make her transfer.

As Brenda got off, Graham got on the bus. He’s saving his money so that he can take a driver’s course and get his licence. Even then he noted, “I’ll still have to take the bus until I get my full G2 licence.” As we pulled into the GO station I lost track of where Graham headed next.

Tatyana, who works in Mississauga, got off the GO train at Appleby and was on her way to catch the no. 10 bus. Well dressed, with a professional satchel on her hip – containing a laptop I guessed, Tatyana stopped long enough to tell me that she could have taken 4, 10 or 20 but the no. 4 bus ends at 6:30 so she doesn’t catch that often. “By the time I get off the train all I want to do is sit back and let someone else drive me home,” Tatyana exclaimed. Then she dashed off and onto her bus.

Haber and Associates have been aggressive advertisers using the space on city buses for public exposure.

John Street terminal.

On a different day, at the John Street Burlington Transit depot I met an older lady. She didn’t want to give me her name but, like everyone else I met during this adventure, she had no qualms about chatting, briefly, about riding on Burlington Transit. “I prefer to walk,” she said. “But I can only walk so far and then I get tired. That’s when I wait for the next bus.” Good for you I thought.

When asked where she was headed she told me “Walmart”. “I go up there to buy groceries and such, but just one or two bags at a time,” she explained. I asked her which bus went up Brant Street. “Two or Three,” she replied. “They changed it a while ago. I’m not sure.” I told her I would ask at the kiosk on John St.

My final ‘victim’ was Lacey. Lacey works at Tim Horton’s and needs to get to work most days by 6am. “There’s not a lot of people on the bus at that time,” noted Lacy. She relies on the bus even though, in a pinch she could walk the distance.

“Not much fun in the winter,” I suggested.

“No,” she replied. “That’s why I’m grateful there is a bus. But,” she hesitated, “there could be a schedule, maybe electric, at the stop to let us know if and when the bus will arrive.”

I think about that and other things that would make me take the bus more often. I admit, I’m an occasional bus rider these days. I don’t ‘need’ to take the bus but when I do I feel a little more ‘connected’. More so than with others that drive past me. Sure, there could be more buses, more frequent departures, more routes, and softer seats, free wi-fi on the bus, maybe even more room for parcels or groceries.

It’s a chicken and egg thing. Would more riders mean better service, or vice versa? If more ‘gas tax’ money was spent on transit improvements rather than potholes, red light cameras, or parking lots would I be happier taking the bus? I’ve observed that everyone has an opinion about the money the City spends on public transit, for sure.

Bfast 2018 forum

A public meeting on transit problems.

I’d be happy to hear what others would like to see happen to our transit system because public transit is not going away. It’s needed more now than ever – to move more people and get fewer cars on the road – to provide an alternative to the wasteful fact that most cars sit, parked somewhere 20+ hours a day – and to help combat climate change.

What do you think?

Lawson Hunter can be reached at:  lawson@cogeco.ca

Part 1 of On the buses,

Return to the Front page

Rivers: The meek are never going to inherit the earth. Ask Rachel Notley.

Rivers 100x100By Staff

April 17th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Ray Rivers is on a short sabbatical, taking some time to think about the significantly different political landscape in Ontario and now Alberta and wonder what impact that will have on the federal elections in October.

Cathedral spain Santiagp

Basílica de Santiago

Rivers made mention of a walking trip he had done in Spain where that part of the world is full up with churches – “a testimony to how religion helped keep people in poverty while building monuments to the organization in charge of their lives. Truth is that the meek were never going to inherit the earth – ask Rachel Notley.”

Ray may well have a lot to say about the election in Alberta.

rivers-on-guitarRay 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

Return to the Front page

Transit as a lifestyle - one man's experience.

opinionviolet 100x100By Lawson Hunter

April 16th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

Part 1 of 2  Lawson Hunter approached us a number of weeks ago asking if we might be interested in publishing the experiences he has as he rides the Burlington Transit system. He doesn’t offer any solutions to the problems that exist; all we get are his observations on how transit works for some people. Enjoy and expect some interesting feedback from readers on this one.

Sitting two seats in front of me on the bus a woman was talking, loudly, on her phone. I didn’t recognize the language but it was fascinating none the less. She was speaking non-stop, so that the person on the other end of the conversation couldn’t get a word in edge-wise. And though it might have annoyed a few of my fellow passengers, I revelled in the fact that ‘where else in the world could I experience this cultural phenomenon?’

I enjoyed the fact that this woman, perhaps a recent immigrant, felt comfortable enough amidst strangers to talk so… did I mention – loudly. Was this any different than listening to a bunch of students chatting and giggling with the energy that comes after a day at school? Or two people in the midst of a heated argument?

If you’re a bit of a people-watcher, like I am, sitting on a bus is the place to be.

Old, young, affluent or otherwise, riding on the bus has an equalizing affect. We’re all along for the ride, trusting the expertise of some unnamed driver. The maddening pace of rush hour traffic has no effect on our psyches. Some turn to books, or ever-present cell phones, or keeping a brood of children in line and quiet. Me, I like to witness the exchange between fellow travellers. Taking the bus gives me the chance to experience life up close while watching the city slowly unfold outside the windows.

aldershot-go-station-traffic

Aldershot GO was part of the trip.

One day I’ll be on the bus along with, say, Nolan and Lana and their two little children in a double-stroller. They came to Canada from the Congo. They’re travelling from Hamilton to Waterdown via the No. 1 bus. Wait! They’re Hamilton residents but they need a Burlington bus to connect them with downtown services and their home. Almost every day they, and their kids, travel using a Hamilton bus to get to the Aldershot GO station, then Burlington Transit drops them off at King and James, and then they make the return trip. “So much better than our country,” Nolan exclaims. And I got to practice my rusty French for a bit – before we (I) gave up.

At the other end of the city, I noticed a handful of people jumping off an Oakville Transit bus rushing to catch the GO train at Aldershot station – heading for the Blue Jay game vs. Boston. I’ll let you guess how I knew they were Blue Jay fans. Again, wait! It’s easier to go from parts of Oakville into Burlington to catch the train. “The cars are empty,” shouts one fan as she runs past me, “at this time of day. They’ll be full at the Oakville station.” Ahh. So there is some strategy when taking transit.

“I can take more than one bus to get home,” notes Jack who lives not too far from Appleby GO. He works ‘downtown’ (Toronto, but wouldn’t get into specifics). His wife has the family’s one car. Jack sees no need to buy a second car “just to drive six kilometres and then park it all day” or worse drive into Toronto and pay for parking all day.

appleby-go-station

Some can’t live without a car – others know they will never need a driver’s license.

Sitting next to Jack on the bench waiting for No. 80 is Nick. His job is, “on the other side of the (Appleby) tracks. I just walk under the tunnel to catch the bus”. Nick, who works in IT, doesn’t think he’ll ever own a car. He doesn’t even have a driver’s license.

But not everyone on the bus has the option of owning a car. Students like Liam and Liam, I’m not kidding, take the bus to school every day. Liam (1) complains, ever so slightly, that when he went to Central’s elementary school, the School Board arranged a school bus to pick him up. Each school year, approximately 33,000 students who attend 150 public and Catholic schools across Burlington, Halton Hills, Milton, and Oakville rely on school bus transportation to and from school.

Now that he’s in Secondary School, Liam has to pay to ride the civic bus – albeit the School Board subsidizes students’ fares. Liam (2) notes that his parents pay for his monthly bus pass. Both Liams claim that if they were involved in extracurricular activities, their parents would probably pick them up. “The bus is okay,” said Liam, “but it could be cheaper”. That would be, again, up to the School Board that has a limit on bus travel of greater than 3.2 km between school and home.

Uber taxi

Uber and Lyft are now part of the transit ecology – both are now public corporation’s as well.

I caught up with Nancy, who works in downtown Burlington, and takes the No. 3 or 10 bus almost every day due to the fact that she is visually impaired and can’t drive. She mentions that the signage could be larger. “Connections are always a challenge,” Nancy observes. It’s a common complaint for any transit service in North America.

“If I have to go anywhere other than between work and home, I might consider Uber,” says Nancy. She also comments that Burlington Transit seems to be constantly modifying routes or schedules. “They say it’s to make improvements but I think it’s just to make it more convenient for drivers.” When I ask if she is planning to attend any of the public meetings set out to discuss transit issues, Nancy admits that she was unaware that they were actually taking place on the day we met.

I’ve long ago realized that public transit is not about getting about in a speedy manner. Taking the bus is a different lifestyle for sure. It takes longer but don’t we often hear experts tell us to ‘slow down and enjoy the journey’? I can’t do that when I’m concentrating on the other crazy drivers that blast along the roadway as if they were the only person on the road. For me, the bus gives me the time to slow down, maybe read a book, write a story, notice that Spring is finally here, or let me do a bit of people watching.

Return to the Front page

Finding the new city manager - not as easy as some think; keeping the interim is not the solution

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

April 12th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

UPDATE: The Gazette asked the Mayor for some comment yesterday – her media specialist got back to us two hours after the story was first published with: The City of Burlington will be releasing information to the media regarding the city manager recruitment shortly.

When the city announced just before Christmas that Tim Commisso would serve as the Interim City Manager for a six month period while the search for a new city manager was found, determining just what the city needed in the way of a new city manager should have become one of the top three priorities.

The Gazette learned from a reliable source in the municipal sector that the Commisso contract had provision for an additional three months.

We are now into the fourth month of that interim position. A number of weeks ago the Gazette noticed that the title Commisso was using changed from Interim to Acting. Shortly after it reverted to interim.

Word the Gazette is picking up is that there is a movement among some members of Council to make that short term job into a long term job.

A number of Councillors see Commisso as their ”mentor”; someone they can take their troubles and concerns to.

When Roman Martiuk was city manager he would frequently use the phrase: “I serve at the will of council”; a phrase that the five new members of council might want to get comfortable with.

It is no secret that Marianne Meed Ward did not have a good working relationship with former city manager James Ridge. The first thing she did once she was sworn in was to call a Council meeting and dismiss Ridge; he left city hall the same day.

Shortly after Commisso was hired to serve as an interim city manager.

MaryLou Tanner Cogeco 2018 direct

Deputy city manager Mary Lou Tanner

The city does have a Deputy City Manager – there was little doubt in the minds of those who pay attention to what happens at city hall that Mary Lou Tanner would not be given the keys to the city manager’s office.

There are people in this city working diligently to have her removed from the position she holds.

There was concern in the minds of many that this council did not have the experience or depth in business to hire someone for a job that managed a staff of about 1000 and a budget of $123 million on the operating side.

The only member of council with any real experience in hiring at a corporate level is Paul Sharman. That experience didn’t include hiring someone for the top job.

The others have never run anything with more than three people.

Sharman

Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman

Determining just what is needed in the way of a corporate leader is not a simple matter. The municipal sector is a relatively small community – a couple of hundred people lead the major municipalities – that in essence is the talent pool that can be drawn from.

We know what the majority of the members of city council voted for.

We have some idea as to what their values are but we don’t yet know what they individually and collectively want in the way of a city manager.

Will there be a council workshop that will allow delegations at which this council sets out what they want in the way of a city manager and what they want that person to do?

If this mayor, Marianne Meed Ward, and this council are full supporters of an open and fully engaged municipal government then let the process of choosing the next city manager be open and the public fully engaged.

Once the want has been fully explored publicly, members of council will have heard what the public wants and the public will know what the members of council think they need in the way of a city manager to run the administrative side of the city – then the process of hiring a human resources recruiting firm can begin.

Because all this is public, you can be certain the Gazette will publish everything that is said. Anyone interested in the job will know what they are walking into and just how big the opportunity is.

We believe there are municipal administrators that want to run a city that is open for business and ready to listen to the wishes of the people who pay the taxes.

Search firms are usually engaged to beat the bushes and see who is looking and who might be interviewed. Any city manager worth the title keeps in touch with at least one head hunter to see what there is in the way of opportunities out there.

Ridge and Chris Murray - city managers

Former Hamilton city manager Chris Murray found a new home in Toronto; we do not know yet where James Ridge is going to land.

Hamilton had a great city manager in Chris Murray. When Toronto needed a new city manager they hired him and Hamilton did what Mayor Meed Ward would love to do – hire a female city manager. Meed Ward will be quick to remind us that she wants the best person available for the job – but if that person happens to female … well.

The change in city manager in Hamilton brought to the surface staff people in Hamilton city hall who were bucking for promotion. There might be someone worth looking at in the list of people who didn’t make the grade.

Determining who should be the next city manager is a critically important task for Burlington. Filling that part of their mandate is not going to be easy but these are, for the most part, people of good will. They can be taught the fundamentals of hiring people, as long as they are not led by people who have their own agendas.

Burlington’s Director of Human Resources does not appear to have anything in the way of a professional designation.

When the Gazette asked if there was a designation we were asked why we wanted to know. We responded that that was not a fair question. Our contact followed up with:

The recognized professional association for Human Resources Professionals in Ontario is the HRPA. The requirements are listed on their website. There are three levels of certification: CHRP (i.e. Certified Human Resources Professional; Certified Human Resources Leader; Certified Human Resources Executive).

The full answer we had every right to expect from the city was either a yes or a no, and if a yes – where does the designation come from?

Kwab Ako-AdjeiSenior Manager, Government Relations & Strategic Communications asked us: “And what is the context that you’re looking for this info?”

Ako-Adjei works out of the City Manager’s Office.  They are keeping a tight grip on the information we requested.

We have concluded that the Director of Human Resources does not have a designation and the city doesn’t want that information to be public.

City council on innauguration Dec 3rd - 2018

This team is what the public wanted – now they have to hire the best person they can find to run city hall. That isn’t a job any of them are qualified to do.

The team that sits around the council table now does not have the experience or the competence to hire for the position of city manager. This is not a reflection on their skills, it is a comment on the experience they bring to the table and the resources available to them.

The first step should be for this council is to determine individually what they want to see in the way of a city manager. They need to be led through a disciplined approach to determining what they want and why.

Tim Commisso 2 smile

The intention was to bring Tim Commisso in until council had a chance in prepare and interview for their choice for a city manager. They should stick to that intention.

What this council should not be doing is deciding they like the guy in place and will choose him as their city manager.  Council has a responsibility to do their job and ensure that the job is advertised and that diligent efforts are made to ensure that the best person available is hired.

Will there be a council workshop that allow delegations at which this council sets out what they want in the way of a city manager and what they want that person to do?

When the city finds that person he or she can build the team that will make Burlington a truly great place to live.

The provincial government may decide that there should be just one level of government and rename Halton – but they aren’t going to rename Burlington and they aren’t going to change the values of the people of Burlington.

There is a lot of work to get done – and not a lot of time.

Commisso alone

Tim Commisso, Burlington’s Interim city manager.

Tim Commisso was brought in to serve in an interim capacity for a six-month period. Let’s not find ourselves asking him to stay longer keeping him from a well-earned retirement.

Salt with Pepper are the views, opinions and observations of the Gazette publisher.

Return to the Front page

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

BURLINGTON, ON

 

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

BURLINGTON, ON

 

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

BURLINGTON, ON

 

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.

GADAFI BOAT

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

BURLINGTON, ON

“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

BURLINGTON, ON

 

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

BURLINGTON, ON

 

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

BURLINGTON, ON

“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

BURLINGTON, ON

 

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.

Testimonials

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

BURLINGTON, ON

 

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.

trudeau-press-conference-snc-lavalin

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

Affronted?

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

BURLINGTON, ON

 

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

 BURLINGTON, ON

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

BURLINGTON, ON

 

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

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