Rivers; his 19 predictions for 2019 - personally he plans to hibernate.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

December 27, 2018



There is no reason to be generally optimistic about the prospects for the upcoming year. Near the end of its business cycle, all major economies will face recession and rising unemployment. However the EU will avoid the worst of the global recession as it invests heavily in its armaments industries and builds up its armed forces. But the UK will be plunged into a major economic decline.

The drums of war will echo around the world as the global order further deteriorates and Russia and China flex their muscles while America continues to turn inward, rejecting its former role as peace maker and global leader on the environment, humanity and human rights issues. The world’s carbon footprint will continue to expand as will the evidence of its related effects and consequences.

Drums of war

The planet proclaimed a new world order once the old Soviet Union collapsed at the end of the 1980’s and for a split second in the entire history of humanity there seemed to be a chance of long lasting peace. Even those in the lowest economic and social status saw some glimmer of hope that things might get better.

That brief moment is over as nationalism and militarism have come to the fore and now are on the rise. Humans are never satisfied when they should be – Russian and Chinese economic booms have led to their determination to get even larger in size, restrict even more the freedom for their people and pick on those around them least able to defend themselves.

I have no crystal ball but given the overall scenario above these are my predictions:

1. Donald Trump will resign the US presidency in return for immunity from prosecution for all federal offence’s committed by him and his family. His wall on Mexico’s border will not be completed. He will declare personal bankruptcy (again) but he will be welcomed as a hero in Moscow. He will move to Moscow to avoid criminal prosecution by New York state authorities and while there will start work on Moscow’s Trump Tower. He will also open another McDonald’s franchise there while housed at Putin’s expense in a condominium next door to exiled former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych.

2. If the courts reject the Canadian federal government’s authority to impose a carbon tax selectively on those provinces which won’t, the federal government will almost immediately announce a new even more aggressive universal national revenue-neutral carbon tax. Rebate cheques will be issued to all Canadians prior to the upcoming federal election. Opposition Conservatives will call this a vote-buying tactic and Quebec will threaten to leave confederation.

transcan pipeline ready togo in

The pipe line we own – may not get completed in2019

3. British  Columbia will lose its court reference over jurisdiction regarding the Trans Mountain pipeline. Consultations will have satisfactorily concluded with the objecting indigenous tribes over the pipeline’s construction allowing shovels in the ground in advance of Alberta’s provincial election. Regardless, Jason Kenny will win the Alberta election and axe the Alberta carbon tax.

4. China will release the Canadians it is holding hostage but only after the courts have rejected extradition of the Huawei executive being held in Canada, freeing her to return to China. Canada will issue a travel advisory for China and will impose selected tariffs on Chinese electronics, including a ban on Huawei. Sanctions will also be applied on all Chinese economic activities including investment by that country in Canada.

5. Ontario’s Premier Ford will eliminate Ontario’s two-tier government, amalgamating regional municipalities into new single tier cities and further reducing the number of locally elected politicians. Ford will also privatize the LCBO and end the requirement and funding for the beer stores to recycle beer and alcohol containers – leaving that task to residents through their municipal blue box programs. Ontario will see a first planned development into what had been Ontario’s Greenbelt.

6. There will be intense forest fire activity around the world including Russia, China and North America. Ontario’s woodlands will be especially hard hit. Rain events and hurricanes and other weather disturbances will continue their destructive trend with increased hurricane activity in tropical zones. The US will be hit a number of times once again.

7. Global agriculture will decline even as the world’s population maintains its upward trend. Brazil will move to further clear its tropical forests to accommodate more housing, industries and agriculture. Canada’s prairie provinces will record lower than average harvests of cereal grains. Grain and other agricultural commodities will become relatively more valuable.

Coal fired in Texas - 2020

Coal fired power plant in Texas -due to close in 2020

8. The International Panel on Climate Change will make even more dire predictions. Regardless Brazil, Russia and Australia will join the USA in withdrawing from the Paris agreement. China and India will assume leadership roles in combatting global warming, promising to ban all new coal fired power plants and to phase our existing ones.

9. Russian and Ukrainian military will face off and Ukraine will regain more of its Russian occupied territory in the east of the country, including possibly the city of Donetsk. Ukraine’s general election will be placed on hold for one year as martial law is reintroduced. Crimea will remain under Russia control but the bridge link to Crimea will be badly damaged and virtually destroyed, halting all traffic. The US and EU will talk about imposing more sanctions on Russia.

10. Britain will end up with a no-deal divorce from the EU. The Tories will win another election as the troubled Labour Party and it’s leader are rejected. The UK will seek to join the TPP as its unemployment rate doubles. Northern Ireland will hold a snap referendum on joining the southern part of the island. Scotland will plan for a second independence referendum.

Nato11. The remaining EU states will strengthen their union, with a commitment for a tough immigration policy and secure borders, universal adoption of the Euro, and a common monetary and fiscal policy. They will move forward with the amalgamation of military forces into a pan-European military, driven in part by Russian aggression and the loss of US interest in NATO. Hungary, Poland and Austria will get in line with the rest of the EU.

12. Turkey will invade and occupy most of the Syrian territory now controlled by the Kurdish people. Israel will assist Kurdish fighters, which will bring it into more conflict with Turkey. Nevertheless the Kurdish population will be decimated by the Turkish armed forces.

13. Russian anti-aircraft missiles will shoot down Israeli war planes over Syria putting the two nations into a near state of war. Israel will undertake a major invasion beyond the Golan Heights occupying more Syrian territory and will conduct a scorched earth campaign against Hezbollah in Lebanon even though that conflict will end in a stalemate.

14. Oil prices will rebound amid global conflicts and the renewed sanctions on Iran by the US. Saudi Arabia will continue its aggression in Yemen and Canada will halt export licenses for light armoured vehicles without actually cancelling the iron-clad contract previously signed by the Harper government.

15. North Korea and America will start to threaten one another again as Mike Pence takes over the presidency and US-China relations further sour. The US will start to withdraw it troops from South Korea as relations between the US and South Korea deteriorate. Japan, in response to the US withdrawal will significantly expand its military forces and amend its constitution to that effect. It will possibly withdraw from the nuclear proliferation treaty and start to develop it’s own nuclear weapons, joining Brazil, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Ukraine in also considering the pursuit of the nuclear option.

16. The global economy will slow down as we pass the turning point in our international business cycle with the US heading for another major recession amid stock markets crashing. The US budgetary deficit will be of particular concern to investors as inflation, thanks to US trade policies, rises to levels unseen since the early nineties. Canada’s growth rate will fall by half and the deficit will once again become a major campaign issue for the opposition parties in advance of the October national vote,

GM site - Oshawa

Hope for the GM site in Oshawa?

17. The federal government, and possibly Bombardier and Magna will come together to jointly buy the GM facility in Oshawa and start producing electric vehicles (EVs) initially for the Canadian market. GM will announce plans to build a new EV facility in Quebec, moving most of its operations out of Ontario, given the provincial government’s cancellation of EV incentives. The federal government will announce plans to drop the HST on EVs, working with provinces to also reduce their sales taxes on EVs as well. Ontario will reject the federal proposal and maintain its PST at existing levels, though it may offer to invest in the former GM plant.

18. There will be a surprising surge in support for the newly formed People’s Party and its leader, Maxime Bernier, among more libertarian conservatives. Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives will move further to the right, including a call to reopen the abortion issue in Canada thus offending many Conservative supporters. Thanks to the split among the right-minded voters Canadians will re-elect Justin Trudeau in the October federal election. Support for the NDP will decline to its lowest in over a generation and the party will call for a leadership review.

Rivers hand to face

After writing dour predictions for 2019 Ray Rivers will hibernate and wish you all A Happy New Year – Bonne année

19. The Burlington Gazette will triple its current readership and expand into the Oakville, Halton Hills and Milton communities, becoming the popular voice of Halton. I will continue to contribute so that readers may engage in this vital component of our democracy – debate.

I just hope that 2020 will be better. Personally I plan to hibernate for most of 2019, only coming out to write this column, vote and grab a glass of single malt. I suggest you do the same.

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Rivers on Patrick Brown Part Two - He said, She said

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

December 22, 2018



“Sexual misconduct is an umbrella term for any misconduct of a sexual nature that is of lesser offence than felony sexual assault (such as rape and molestation)…” (Wikipedia)

The allegations against Patrick Brown by two women, who remain anonymous, do not involve criminal charges. Though one of the women, who had worked in his federal constituency office, is calling her ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’ encounter a sexual assault, He apparently tried to kiss her.

Patrick Brown Looking sideways

A younger but still very wary young Patrick Brown.

Brown’s accusers are claiming ‘sexual misconduct’, a non-legal construct, but the core essence of the #MeToo movement. The purpose is to bring some measure of accountability for the untold sexually motivated actions not covered by criminal law. These accusations have cost Patrick Brown his job as Ontario PC leader and with that most likely the premiership of the province.

In response Brown has levied a multi-million dollar defamation suit against the CTV news network responsible for the investigation and for breaking the story of the allegations against him. Rumours that Brown had apologized to and paid-off one of the accusers in the past may have prompted this investigation, but Brown denies that he paid anyone off. So we’ll have to see what the trial brings.

As for the other accuser she claimed she was still in high school at the time of the alleged incident and that Brown and a mutual friend picked her up at a bar and drove her back to Brown’s house. When the datelines didn’t match up with Brown’s timelines she changed them, which also made her a year older and of legal drinking age.

She also got the identity of the friend wrong. But the gist of the allegation is that Brown offered her a tour of the house and when they got to the bedroom he allegedly asked her to perform oral sex. She consented briefly before deciding that the act didn’t suit her taste.

Brown, in his book, has suggested that there was a conspiracy against him which led to these women coming forward. He flew up the pole the theory that Kathleen Wynne and her Liberals had a motive to try to do him in. Indeed his poll numbers were stellar, he’d built up an impressive war chest and membership list, and had won the last several provincial by-elections.

Brown PG-cover-1-227x300

Cover of the election campaign magazine that set out Brown’s platform. It was the kind of thing even Liberals would like.

Brown had come off a very successful policy conference with a platform that would appeal even to Liberals who’d grown tired of their own leader. Taking him out mere months before the June election would have thrown the Tories into confusion, one might think, giving his main opponent a badly needed edge.

But while Wynne may have had the motive, did she or her party have the wherewith-all? If, as many conservatives hold, that the CBC is slightly to the left of centre, CTV (Conservative TV) is clearly to the right. It is questionable that Wynne would have had much influence with that network. And to suggest she had done this covertly when she had trouble cobbling together an effective election campaign is a major stretch.

Brown also mused that it might be the Russians. Russia is getting blamed for a lot these days and for good reason. There is concern that Russia is planning to intercede in Canada’s federal elections next year, though it’s questionable who they might want to help. But if so why not practice on Canada’s largest province by taking out the premier-in-waiting. And they are effective – they did give us Donald Trump.

There is so much intrigue I can hardly wait for the movie… and the trial. Of course it could also have been his own party that turned on him, the many disaffected traditional PCs. Perhaps they were trying to send their leader a message about the Liberal sex education curriculum he’d endorsed.

Brown hounded out of Queen's Park

Patrick Brown being hounded out of the provincial legislature by media after his press conference announcing hes resigning as leader of the Progressive Conservative party.

Brown has demanded that the accusers report their complaints to the police if they are sincere. But Brown studied law and he knows that ‘put up or shut up’ no longer works in the era of #MeToo. These are not criminal offences or he might be fighting for his dignity from the big house.

Those female accusers might have been paid to voice these accusations. Or they might just be scorned women who want to get back at that SOB who tried, or didn’t try, to get into their pants. Or they might just be ordinary people who cared enough about the future to try to prevent the man they believe is synonymous with sexual misconduct from becoming premier of this province.

Takedown coverAnd the beauty of #MeToo is that it empowers us to accuse without having to fully account, to prove our allegations or even identify ourselves. These accusers may be right that Mr. Brown is unfit to govern the highest office in the province because of what they consider his proclivity for sexual misconduct. But what if they are wrong? Where is Patrick Brown’s MeToo moment.

To be continued…..

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:

#MeToo –      More #MeToo –      Sexual Misconduct

CTV –      Doubts about Accusations –     Sexual Allegations

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Rivers on The China Caper: the extradition request sounds like a political move rather than a technical legal matter.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

December 18th, 2018



It is a bit of a mess.

Does anyone think Donald Trump had deliberately engineered this incident to get at both China and Canada? Is this part of his America First vision, to reduce America’s trade with its two largest partners? Or has he done us a big favour with this wake-up call?

I’m not a lawyer but it’s my understanding that terms of our extradition arrangement with the US requires some kind of common rules/laws between the nations. In this case Huawei executive Ms. Meng is charged with violating US sanctions on Iran now that the US has pulled out of the Obama-negotiated Iran nuclear agreement.


Those smiles didn’t last very long. This is what a trade war looks like. Donald Trump with Chinese leader -xi-jinping shaking hands.

But Canada supports the deal and doesn’t observe those specific sanctions. So I’d bet a dollar that the judge hearing this case will rule in favour of Ms. Meng.

Furthermore, since this is supposed to be a matter of law, the recent intervention, by Trump tweet, about the relevance of this case to US-China trade negotiations has jeopardized the US position and its legal case. The Donald has made his demand for extradition sound like a political move rather than a technical legal matter. So let me double up on that bet.

And the judge presiding over this case might want to note how few US prosecutions for even more severe corporate crimes stateside land American executives in the big house. In most cases the corporation gets fined and the CEO goes off to break the law another day.

If I’m right we might expect Ms. Meng to be on the next flight to Beijing – if only the Chinese government had kept their cool. But something about this being a matter only for the courts fell on deaf ears in that virtual dictatorship where everything is political. Their plan was to play a little tit-for-tat, detaining a couple of Canadian nationals in an attempt to strong arm the Canadian government into releasing Ms. Meng without a trial. So now were she to be released it will appear to all the world that Canada caved in to Chinese blackmail.

This is the last thing that Mr. Trudeau needs right now as he is preparing his campaign for re-election next fall. He is already facing legal challenges from four provinces and the opposition leader on the federal carbon tax. Albertan political leaders and journalists are giving him grief over the stoppage of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and threatening a movement for Alberta’s separatism, as idiotic as that sounds. The NAFTA 2, aka USMCA, is still awaiting confirmation in both Canada and the USA and Trumps tariffs on steel and aluminum are still in place.


The body language tells it all. Ms Meng, the Chief Financial Officer of a very powerful Chinese telecommunication giant being directed by a security officer who is paid to watch her every move while she is out on bail awaiting an extradition hearing.

With Canada seriously in the running for a UN Security Council seat this time, Mr. Trudeau is under enormous pressure to demonstrate strength to resolve this situation. And there are a number of tools available to the federal government should this matter not be resolved appropriately. Whether Ms. Meng is extradited or not Canada should demand that the hostages being held in China are released and an apology for their detention is provided. Further, the return of more normal relations should include a commitment to refrain from future hostage taking by authorities there.

Unless that happens:

1. Canada could require Chinese tourists to meet the compulsory visa requirements China requires of us;

2. We might want to review our immigration policies regarding China; and

3. Since Canada exports only between a third and a quarter of what it imports from China we could restrict imports through higher tariffs. Applying import tariffs in line with those of the US would send a strong message of our displeasure. It would also possibly sooth over any American complaints over our handling of this problematic extradition process.

It is a rare moment when Donald Trump deserves being paraphrased, but his comments on trade – that the US should not continue to have a massive and on-going trade deficit with China – is food for thought. The sheer volume of imports of low value Asian made junk that fills the shelves at Walmart, Canadian Tire and the Dollar Stores here poses an environmental as well an economic problem for this country.

China generates almost a third of global greenhouse gas emissions, more that twenty times what Canada generates and almost double the US levels. And our consumption of all those imported goods paints us as an enabler despite our efforts to be seen as one of the good guys.

China human rightsBesides Canada’s biggest free trader, Mr. Trudeau, spent valuable political capital a little while ago trying to cement a formal (free) trading arrangement with that giant Asian economy. But Canada was rebuffed because of demands concerning human rights issues, the same kind of demands we also took to the table in the CETA (Europe), Trans Pacific and USMCA negotiations. China is clear that it has no intention of altering its human rights policies.

Finally, China has been manipulating its currency for decades, undervaluing it so its products would be more price competitive on global markets. Now that the Mr. Trump has diminished the value of the World Trade Organization it’s pretty much a bun fight out there. Which means any Chinese complaints over new trade barriers will be as meaningless as complaints about it’s currency manipulation have been.

Of course there would be impacts to the Canadian economy from imposing new tariffs. Exporters of raw materials and consumers of cheap Chinese goods will likely be affected in their pocket books. But in the end that may be a small price to pay to maintain our sovereignty and our dignity.

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:

China Snatches –     Huawei –     US Support

US Extradition –     Canada in the Middle –     China and Climate Change

China Free Trade Agreement –     Global Emissions

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We are bereft of good solid political leadership.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

December 17th, 2018



For those who follow things political the game the province played last Friday will be familiar.

When it is bad news – governments wait until late on Friday and issue a media release.

The only thing missing from this sleazy act on the part of the Ford government was they didn’t wait for a long weekend. The classic hide the bad news play is issuing a press release on the Friday of a long weekend.
There is a lack of moral honesty with this government.

Doug Ford finger pointing

Doug Ford: Do you have the feeling he is about to sell you a used car?

The release of legislation that would permit development in parts of the Green Belt; the announcement of a close family friend who is patently not qualified for the job, as the next Commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police and then learning that someone changed the qualifications and experience to apply for the job were changed..

The Premier wants to choose just who will be part of his personal security detail – and then asking that a modified van be purchased and outfitted for the Premier who is not exactly a small man – he does have a certain girth to him – hide the cost in one of the Provincial Police Budgets..

It is beginning to look so underhanded. There are some local convenience stores where we had to tell our children to count the change they are given when they make a purchase.

This province once had leaders that were nationally recognized statesman.

John Robarts - one of the best Premiers the province ever had: knew how to balance a budget.

John Robarts – one of the best Premiers the province ever had. He was not just a politician but a statesman as well.

Bill Davis had problems learning how to balance a budget; never really did learn.

Bill Davis provided solid reliable government. Hard to recall any scandal on his watch.

Think John Robarts, Bill Davis and George Drew. These were honourable men who led the province so well that we prospered.

Doug Ford seems to be channeling Michael Hepburn; yes he was a Liberal. No one political party owns the right to mislead the public – they are all complicit.

We deserve better. However we have only ourselves to blame.

Kathleen Wynne deserved to lose. She had lost the respect and confidence of the electors. The Liberals should have looked for a new leader 18 months before the election and revamped their platform. They were spending money like drunken sailors.

The province wasn’t ready for another New Democratic government and the public just didn’t have a strong enough belief that Andrea Horwath could form a government and lead the province.

We are bereft of good solid political leadership.

Vic clapping in Ford face

Is the Premier being well served by the Cabinet he has chosen? Minister of Finance Vic F xxx

Doug Ford had the opportunity to grow away from a troubled, suspect youth; he appears to be letting the worst of those personality traits rule his thinking.

We are all going to pay a high price for the decisions we made last June. We all thought this kind of thing was happening just south of us. It’s happening here.

Public pressure did force the Premier to delay the swearing in of a new Police Commissioner – the Ford government does have the capacity to react.

The public just has to keep the pressure up – heck we might even manage to make a good Premier out of the man.

Pepper - Gazette shirt - no smileSalt with Pepper reflects the opinions, observations and musings of the publisher of the Gazette, an on-line newspaper that is in its 8th year of as a news source in Burlington and is a member of the National Newsmedia Council.

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A renowned editor comments on how on-line publishing is impacting the way news is delivered and how readers get to shape the content.

background 100By Pepper Parr

December 16th, 2018



Simon Houpt, a Globe and Mail columnist, interviewed Alan Rusbridger, former editor of the Guardian, a British newspaper that has a very strong on-line presence. Their reporting on news world wide is superb; their coverage of the American President is frequently better than the major American dailies – including the New York Times.

The Gazette is certainly not in the same league as the Guardian but we do aspire to, on a local level, do what they do internationally.

Edward Snowden, WikiLeaks, the News of the World phone hacking scandal: Readers around the world know these as some of the greatest hits published by the Guardian during Alan Rusbridger’s 20 years as editor. But he also oversaw – in the teeth of calamitous economic disruption and hundreds of millions of pounds in losses – the paper’s galloping expansion into a news operation serving millions of readers around the globe. He was in Toronto recently for a discussion sponsored by the Canadian Journalism Foundation, reflecting on his career and his new book Breaking News: The Remaking of Journalism and Why It Matters Now.

What follows is a Q&A the Globe and Mail published over the weekend. It is worth a read to understand where journalism is.

Simon Houpt 1

Simon Houpt

Simon Houpt (SH) You stepped down in 2015. How does it feel to no longer be in the thick of things?

Alan Rusbridger (AR) It took about 18 months for the adrenalin in the system [to subside]. It’s only when you stop that you realize, it’s not normal to have a knot in the stomach, waking up at 3 in the morning, thinking, “Did I get that fact right, did I double-check that?” That business of getting out of bed every morning and working till midnight, and feeling responsible for stuff we publish around the globe, around the clock – I’m quite relieved not to be doing that. Fun though it was at the time. Twenty years is a long time.

SH Before we proceed any further, I should ask: The Guardian, of course, remains free for online readers. Do you think we should charge for this article?

Bridger 3

Alan Rusbridger

AR Well, I don’t feel it’s for me to lecture anybody else on their business model. If the only way of making stuff pay is to hide it behind a paywall, then you have to do it. But there are downsides to that: You get a highly informed elite who are able to pay for news, and you are taking yourself off the playing field where, to a degree never before in history, information is circulating. I should preface all of this by saying we’re five minutes into a gigantic revolution and almost everything we say today will look silly in 10 years’ time.

SH Your position seems to be that we should think of journalism in the same way as many European countries – and Canada, too – regard the arts, such as TV, film and music. These activities are often subsidized because there’s an understanding that the market can’t pay the full costs, yet they’re part of the lifeblood of a culture, something that a nation needs for self-determination.

AR Yes. I completely believe that. My worry is that the classical link between journalism’s ability to make people well-informed and how that created a better society – because well-informed citizens vote for better people – is fading quite quickly. So there’s an awful lot of education and rebuilding to do to get people to realize that we can do that. The good news is, I think people are waking up to that. The bad news is, there’s such terrible levels of trust in journalists and most journalists don’t seem very interested in that.

SH You believe there’s an arrogance there.

AR Almost worse than that. “We’re journalists. Nobody loves us, we don’t care.”

SH One of your prescriptions is what you call “open journalism,” in which a community helps shape reporting through intense feedback. Given some of the developments we’ve seen over the past few years – including the growth of bad actors spreading misinformation and capitalizing on naive openness – do you believe you were too utopian in your embrace of openness?

AR I think it’s too early to say that that is a utopian dream. I know journalists generally don’t agree with this, but I think the experiments I see, in which journalists ask those willing to talk to them, can produce much better journalism.

SH That can require bravery and humility, to really open up the reporting process and acknowledge that we journalists may not know as much as we should. How much of a challenge is that cultural shift?

AR It’s a huge shift. But journalists got Brexit wrong, they got Trump wrong, they got the last [British] general election wrong – they’re sort of blundering around in a world that they can’t really understand at the moment.

SH At the same time, the economic model is collapsing. Here in Canada, the federal government just proposed a series of funding initiatives, including one to provide tax credits to organizations whose eligibility – and this was especially concerning for some critics – would be determined by an industry panel. If you had, say, $100-million a year, how would you determine the recipients?

AR I think the way I would do it is to go out [and ask], What is it that people feel they need to know about their community? Do we want somebody covering courts? Do we want somebody covering police? Do we want somebody scrutinizing planning and education? Do we want somebody sitting in council chambers?

SH Do you believe people know what they want? Clickbait might suggest otherwise.

AR Yeah, they do. It may be that it rarely occurs to anybody to ask them. Maybe there’s an enterprising court reporting service that would have 10 reporters in city courts, and you could price that, and then we could say to them: “But you have to make all that reporting available for The Globe and Mail.”

Simon Houpt 2

Simon Houpt

SH You write ambivalently about the BBC: both as a “lighthouse,” as a public good, but also resentfully because of its size. How do you feel it should be regarded?

AR Overwhelmingly, treasured. When I look at America, I would shudder at the thought of Fox News coming in and replacing the BBC, which is I’m sure what the Murdoch company would like.

SH Are you concerned about the BBC’s economic effect on the industry landscape?

AR There’s no meaningful public broadcasting in America, but their media are in just as much trouble. So it’s a terribly easy argument to say, they’re spoiling our business. I think the business problem is bigger than the BBC or bigger than Facebook or bigger than Google. But I do think you need to watch them. I mean, the BBC at one point was sort of moving into glossy magazine publication. So I think it’s right to jump on them if they’re exceeding their brief.

SH Some publishers in Canada attack CBC for being on the internet.

AR Yeah. I don’t agree with that.

SH You began at the Guardian in 1979 and have had a front-row seat to extraordinary change. What do you think is more of a threat: the disruption to the industry’s economic models or the increasing tribalism of our culture?

Bridger 2

Alan Rusbridger

AR I think it’s all of a piece, really. There’s a terrible flight from complexity. So we all want simple messages, we worked out that fear sells, emotion works. A little bit of that is fine. But if that becomes the sort of operating system of your news organization, then you will create politicians who do that. If you’re rewarding them and their kind of politics, [that leads to] the kind of populist leaders that we’ve got now.

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What kind of a city manager does Burlington need now?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

December 12th, 2018



The chatter amongst those who are worth a second look by Burlington’s city council as they search for a new city manager is revealing.

Several, who would not agree to talk if we named them, wonder if the civic administration can be revived. Total bedlam was the word one possible candidate who assured his colleagues that he would not be applying.

Ridge and Chris Murray - city managers

James Ridge with former Hamilton city manager Chris Murray. Both men moved on; one of his own accord, the other was asked to leave.

Both Hamilton and Burlington are looking for new city managers. Few, if any, possible candidates will apply for both.

What does Burlington need and does what the city needs exist was the question we put to the seven people we talked to.

It doesn’t need someone who has an agenda and knows exactly what the city needs said one.

It does need someone who has already made their mark as a city manager and is ready to take on a task that requires s basically a complete re-build.

Ideally you want someone who can spot talent within the organization and grow it said another who added that it has to be “Someone who can listen and then nurture the talent or know where to look for the talent that will be needed to replace some of the key people that need to move on.”

The answer a candidate should be able to give to the question: What do you want to achieve while you are with us is: Find my replacement.

Holding hands

These seven people will decide who the next city manager should be. If they get it right a lot of the current city hall screw ups can be brought to an end.

Burlington has a new council and they are going to need help in refining the political aspirations each of them brought to the public office they now hold.

They need administrative leadership that can begin the healing of the wounds mid-level staff are working through. Parts of the organization is almost like a zoo totally out of control.

A command and control style will not work.

The new city manager has to have the confidence of the elected members – and if that confidence doesn’t exist – they should walk.

There are some organizational changes that should at least be considered. Move the Economic Development Corporation into the Planning department. Economic development is currently in the hands of a group of Hamilton lawyers.

Strategic Plan Workbook

Traditionally Strategic Plans have been for a period of four years.


The Strategic Plan grew to a 25 year plan. There wasn’t much in the way of a vigorous public debate on whether or not this was a good idea.

Does the Strategic Plan that was foisted on the city by the consulting firm the city hired and the aspirations former city manager James Ridge had still make sense?  Traditionally a Strategic Plan is the agenda for a specific council and were four year documents.  Ridge grew that four years to 25 and then attached the Grow Bold concept to it.

Does this council now send the document to the recycle file ?  This council is going to be far too busy to get wrapped up in the long process of re-writing a Strategic Plan.  There are much bigger fish to fry.

The new city manager should have more than just some depth of understanding of how Queen’s Park works – he (or she) needs to be able to counsel and advise the Mayor on how to get the province to work for the city and not be at the mercy of a Premier that tends to act abruptly and really doesn’t know what a conflict of interest is and where he can legitimately exert his authority. The man just cannot be trusted.

Pandoras box

Opening a Pandora’s Box is a process that generates many complicated problems as the result of unwise interference in something.

These are perilous times for the municipal world. It is clear to many who watch the sector that there is going to be more in the way of consolidation. Former Mayor Rick Goldring certainly opened a Pandora ’s Box when he suggested Burlington should annex parts of Waterdown.

In one of his statements former city manager James Ridge spoke of Burlington’s “enviable” reputation as a great city. One can only gulp when reading that statement and looking at the serious problems surrounding the 2100 Brant development that is fraught with serious issues that smack of a total disregard for the public engagement process.

The Mayor has yet to say who will serve as the interim city manager. One would have thought that the Deputy City Manager would almost automatically assume that role. Any suggestions as to why that hasn’t happened?

Mayor Meed Ward was wise to ask her council to think about they think the city should be looking for and what they, individually, want to see put in place to carry out the mandate they have.

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

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The Political Takedown of Patrick Brown - Part One

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

December 11th, 2018



It’s not a Shakespearean plot. Though old William would have found it worthy. The story of an ambitious young man climbing up the political ladder to the top of his organization, only to be stabbed in the back by his compatriots. Oh wait a minute, that sounds familiar!

Takedown cover

Patrick Brown was not going to slink away – he wrote a book about what happened – and then went off to get elected as Mayor of Brampton.

Patrick Brown paid a heavy price for advancing his political philosophy with the Ontario PCs, while those about him were into the darker side of social and environmental politics. He labels himself a progressive or red Tory. His heroes and mentors are Bill Davis, Jean Charest and Brian Mulroney, probably in that order. He had been born into a political family and politics was his life’s aspiration.

He seized the opportunity to get elected into Stephen Harper’s first minority government but was uncomfortable voting the party line on issues like opposing same-sex marriage and reopening the abortion debate, though he did anyway. But his reticence was obviously noticed and so he never made it to the front line of the Harper team, but was relegated to the back benches.

I know this because it is in his book titled ‘Takedown’. Tired of taking abuse from his own party which was moving even further to the right, Brown sought the leadership of the Ontario PCs.

Christine Elliot was the heir apparent, the favourite establishment candidate. But even after the three other establishment candidates had dropped out, she couldn’t muster enough voting members to defeat Brown’s well organized campaign.

Brown with members of Asian community

Brown included the south east Asian community in a way they had not been included in the past by the provincial Tories. It paid off for him

As an MP Brown had used his position to cultivate friendships with the Tamil, Indian, and Muslim ethnic communities. His reward was their support when he ran for leader of the provincial party, and afterwards when, as leader, he grew the provincial party’s membership from 10,000 to well over 100,000. As leader Brown also eliminated the party’s seven million dollar debt and stashed another four million aside for the 2018 election war chest.

But it was inevitable. He was the newbie with no history or buddies in the provincial party and he had stolen the leadership from the chosen one. And what may have seemed like a gentle breeze of resistance from the party stalwarts on his way up the pecking order would eventually turn into a powerful headwind pushing him rapidly back down.

He really should have read Julius Caesar. What probably sealed his fate was the party’s policy conference where all of Brown’s platform ideas got molded into his People’s Guarantee. It was a very comprehensive platform and he earned the wrath of the religious right by confirming that the sex-ed program brought in by the Liberals would stay in place.

Brown cultivates the LGBT community

Brown cultivates the LGBT community

Then he added insult to injury by promising to replace the provincial cap and trade program with a revenue neutral carbon tax which would be used to finance income tax cuts. That this also met the criteria for Mr.Trudeau’s mandated carbon pricing infuriated the party elders who also like to keep at least one eye on federal politics.

By early January this year it was becoming apparent that the Wynne Liberals were heading for a major defeat and that a PC majority was almost a given. That would mean that this red Tory, Brown, would be in power for at least the next four years and possibly eight. And since Brown had consented to continue much of Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal program there had be consternation among the old guard about where this grand old party was heading.

Except for his promises of ending the Green Energy Act and making tax cuts Brown might have been just another Liberal dressed in blue clothing. This was not the path that conservative oriented parties everywhere were going. So a revolt was no doubt in the works. And it had to happen before he ran and won the upcoming provincial election in June of this year. We’ll discuss how it all seemed to go wrong for Brown in the next part of this series.

To be continued…….

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


Background links:

Brown –      Brown’s Book

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City hall staff: There is the possibility that some of the really good ones will be gone. It will be our loss.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

December 7th, 2018



It has been a tumultuous week for the city – and for the staff at city hall.

city hall with flag poles

If there is a morale meter at city hall it isn’t giving a very high rating these days.

The City manager left the building on Tuesday, no word yet on who the interim city manager is going to be.

There is a Deputy city manager in place so things won’t spin out of control.

There are people in the city delighted with the dismissal of the city manager; they have hopes that there will be a few more dismissals in the not too distant future.

While all this takes place there’s serious damage being done to the mid-level people who do all the grunt work.

Burlington has a number of superb staffers, I could name more than 100 people, that I have worked with, talked to that are sincere, professional and very good at their jobs. They are career civil servants who work hard to manage hard issues.

One has to wonder how many are polishing their resumes and looking around for a better place to work. There are a lot of benefits to working in the municipal sector; the money is good, the benefits terrific and the pension grand.

And those things matter but that isn’t why the really good people get up every morning, go out the door and take on the tasks they have to deal with.

Burlington has some real issues that are complex and won’t yield to a simple answer.

The really good men and woman are well aware of the problems and they are more than capable of finding solutions. With a few exceptions they have not been well led. They do deserve better.

They will sign out at city hall this afternoon, head home to their families and wonder just where things at city hall are going to be six months from now.

There is the possibility that some of the really good ones will be gone; some into the private sector others with a different municipality. It will be our loss.

Pepper - Gazette shirt - no smileSalt with Pepper is an opinion column reflecting the observations and musings of the publisher of the Gazette, an on-line newspaper that is in its 8th year as a news source in Burlington and is a member of the National Newsmedia Council.

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Rivers: Only a fool should want to put more money into expansion of the oil sands.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

December 7th, 2018



Our American neighbours tend to see Canada as that socialist state on their northern border. We do have single-payer health care in each province and there is a national broadcaster partially funded by the federal government. But we are a lot less socialist than we used to be back when our federal government used to run a national railway, our biggest airline and our very own oil company, Petro-Canada.

Transmountain pipelineToday Canadian governments of all political persuasion agree that oil production is best left to the private sector. Except, we don’t leave it alone. Federal and provincial governments annually subsidize the oil sector by almost three and a half billion dollars – just under a hundred dollars for every man woman and child in the country. And that doesn’t include Mr. Trudeau’s recent purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline.

Of course the governments spend tax dollars on a lot of things, like defence, education and health care, but mostly for services which are not for-profit. But business is supposed to be business, and no commodity is more market oriented than oil – just watch the daily fluctuation at the gas pumps. And note that, with annual profits into the billions, PetroCan and its partner Suncor are one of the biggest items on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

But the markets are telling us that the cost of producing oil in Alberta exceeds the value of that resource in the marketplace. Of course there is a glut of the stuff globally today and it’s now a buyers’ market. But while the best quality crude has dropped to as much as a third of its peak value of only a couple of years ago, oil sands bitumen is bottoming out at $10 a barrel.

rail tanker cars 2

Leasing rail cars – a lot of them are made in Hamilton.

And even though a new pipeline or another 7000 rail cars would help move that oil to Asian markets where the price might be better, it’s still low quality oil and some of the most expensive to produce. So neither another pipeline nor more rail cars make economic sense as an investment. If they did wouldn’t industry have already taken care of that? In fact wasn’t lack of profitability behind Kinder Morgan blackmailing the federal government into buying its old pipeline.

Mr. Trudeau had no choice, politically, you might say but to buy that last pipe dream politicians east of the Rockies sleep on. He had to be seen helping an Alberta whose premier had embraced a carbon tax, among other things. Rachel Notley is acquiring some 7000 new rail cars for the same political reason. It’s something we call corporate welfare.

There is panic in the oil patch. So Notley, acting on a proposal from the non-socialist opposition parties, is also intervening in the market by winding down oil production, hoping for a better match with market demand and improved oil prices. It is probably a political set-up, staged by her opponents, hoping she’ll pay a price at the polls come next year’s provincial election. Then the odds are against her anyway.

zero emmission car

Only zero emitting cars will be sold in B.C. after 2040.

But the odds are also against the oil sands enduring. General Motors just closed its largest assembly plant in Canada, in Oshawa, claiming it’s crossed over to building electric vehicles. And that is a common theme by auto execs everywhere as they enter the growing movement to end the reign of guzzler. Only zero emitting cars will be sold in B.C. after 2040.

Long the target of the greenies everywhere, Barclays Bank shareholders have now demanded it pull its investments out of the ‘tar sands’. The plastics industry, the other main user of petroleum, is also under attack, particularly for single uses and packaging . There is this island of waste plastic the size of France in the middle of the Pacific ocean. And even in our once pristine Great Lakes plastic residue can be found in just about every fish species.

Of course prices will go up again before they go down again, and so on. Then, there are still millions of gasoline powered cars, gas heating appliances and so on. So the petroleum industry will not disappear over night, nor forever, as has Quebec’s deadly asbestos industry. But only a fool should want to put more money into expansion of the oil sands.

And guess what? The carbon tax is not to blame for the current crisis. Though Alberta has one, which is even more progressive that the one the feds will be implementing in most of the rest of Canada early next year. But then Rachel Notley gets it – unlike her fellow premiers immediately to the east of her. Besides she’s seen how Canada’s first carbon tax has worked out for her neighbour just across the Rockies.

BC has had its carbon tax for a decade now. But it hasn’t stifling the economy as Ontario’s Mr. Ford would mislead all the people of his own province. Quite the contrary, because or in spite of its carbon tax B.C.’s economy has been growing at a rate of 3.5% for the last four years. And the federal carbon tax is modeled on the one that pioneered in Lotus Land. Imagine what it might do for Ontario’s economy Mr. Ford!

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:

Alberta Oil Crisis –      Canada’s Fossil Fuel Subsidies –      Buying Rail Cars

Oil Cuts –      Plastic Bags –      Pipelines?

Barclays –      BC Zero Emissions

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Now Meed Ward has a target on her back. Really?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

December 4th, 2018



A reader wrote:

Okay, here we go.

Now Meed Ward has a target on her back.

She didn’t give the elected Councillors a chance to speak?

My guess is that they begged her for more time so that they hone their skills as speakers.

But hey- that wouldn’t give newspapers a chance to shoot down a really wonderful new mayor who should be lauded for her intelligence, empathy and generosity of spirit.

How about giving her a break!!

Mayor Meed Ward does not want any breaks.  She would be offended if you offered her any.

I didn’t hear the Justice who swore them in suggest we give them a break. I heard just the opposite. Justice Quinn said to the audience and to the new council.  These people are going to hold you account.   He didn’t say ‘Hold them accountable but give them a couple of weeks to get the feel of the job.’

In a couple of week this council will be going through the budget – and if I heard the Mayor correctly she wants to keep the tax increase well below the 4% we have seen for the past seven years.

These people have known from the get go that they have a big job in front of them. They all worked hard to get elected – they wanted the job.

No breaks. Burlington citizens did that in 2014 and look at what that council did for you?

What this writer has forgotten is that a democracy has the elected and the electors – and both have to do their work if a democracy is going to work.

The 2010 Council learned they could get away with a lot and several of them trampled all over delegators.

Your job dear reader is to hold their feet to the flames. No breaks.

Imagine if you did give them a break? That would perhaps encourage some of them to ask for “a little more time” and before you know it they are getting away with it.

You throw them in the deep end – they will learn to swim very quickly.

Council without mayor

Council members getting ready to read their Declarations of Office. The Gazette didn’t hear them asking for a break.

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The old order changes ....

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

December 3rd, 2018



The old order changeth.

This evening a new city council will be sworn in: five of the seven member council will not be returning – two retired and three were defeated.

Burlington City Council Group

Just two left standing

We can’t find anyone who remembers seeing anything like this in Burlington’s history.

The Mayor was defeated, replaced by ward 2 city Councillor Marianne Meed Ward.

Councillors Dennison and Lancaster were also defeated.

Councillors Craven and Taylor retired.

Two issues dominated the election: the approving of an Official Plan that did not have wide public support and the demand for a change in the way city council engaged the public – failed to effectively respect people who delegated at city council is a better way to put it – and the lack of acceptable public engagement.

The distance between council and staff and the public made itself painfully evident in the remarks made at the final meeting of the current city council when Deputy city manager Mary Lou Tanner commented on the outgoing council and its working relationship with Staff.

City Manager James Ridge was absent.

Tanner spoke of the excellent, professional way that Staff and Council were able to work together. Saying a strong positive relationship existed doesn’t mean it did.

Plains Road; an old suburban highway transitions into a vibrant urban main street.

Plains Road; an old suburban highway transitions into a vibrant urban main street.

The contribution made by Councillors Craven and Taylor deserve comment: Plains Road is a different place today than it was when Rick Craven was first elected. And the developments taking place in the community are an improvement over what was in place when he got there.

Craven didn’t have the best of relationships with sectors of his ward; the Beachway people wish he had never been elected. A number of people don’t think he understood the mix that was needed along Plans Road.
He could never come to terms with Marianne Meed Ward who ran against him in ward 1 – he prevailed and Meed Ward moved into ward 2.

There is the suggestion that Rick Craven just could not live with the idea that he would have to work with Meed Ward on her terms. Some have suggested that is a large part of why he chose not to run for another term. Had he run he would have taken more than 50% of the votes.

The piece that he wrote and made public about Meed Ward was regrettable.

Councillor Craven may have felt his McMAster jacket would ward off some negative comment. Don't think it did - every member of Council had their ears bent by the 125 people who showed up at the Mainway Arena SAturday afternoon.

Councillor Craven may have felt his McMaster jacket would ward off some negative comment.

There will be more tall buildings but nothing any higher than the Drewlo Development that lost its building permit for a period of time when the played fast and loose with the development that had been approved.
Developers found they could work with Rick Craven. Did he compromise himself in doing so. One would be very hard pressed to point to anything that was just plain wrong in the ward.

Craven was tireless in his efforts to make sure that Aldershot was not forgotten. He has superb relationships with Staff.

He was the best chair of a Standing Committee this city has seen in some time. Yes, he was abrupt even dismissive at times but he kept the agenda going.

Publicly there was nothing touchy feely about Tick Craven. All business.

Privately he could be a funny.

More candidate than Craven could manage? Sandra Pupatello on a trip through town looking for local support for her Liberal leadership bid. Craven was prepared to let the party romance him.

More candidate than Craven could manage? Sandra Pupatello on a trip through town looking for local support for her Liberal leadership bid. Craven was prepared to let the party romance him.

He once told this reporter as we sat outside the Council Chamber at Conservation Halton that he had thought about running for Mayor.

He took a serious look at running for the provincial seat as a Liberal. Sandra Pupatello was a little too much for his taste.

Craven was usually able to take the long view and see the bigger picture – where he fell short was in explaining that bigger picture to people.

Craven is now, officially, a senior citizen. He isn’t going to sit at home and read old city council agendas. He will be a valued observer and hopefully he will tune in with comments from time to time.

There has been word that he will join one of the development organizations in the province.


Taylor was always a careful listener

John Taylor, the Dean of City Council, found that the job was getting harder and harder to do. Keeping up was proving difficult and he had the strength to realize that it was time to move on. For John Taylor the moving on is not going to be as smooth.

He will miss the people at city hall; his job as a Councillor was his life.

He was one of the true liberal voices on council and always went more than the last mile to solve a problem for a constituent.

He was probably working the telephones in the forenoon while his assistant packed up his papers for him.

Taylor wants to stay involved, has his eye on a specific appointment that he will get.

Waterfront hotel Taylor

If the public was in the room – so was John Taylor – listening carefully.

He has a huge store of knowledge, he was there when the big decisions were made.

He could be cranky at times but for the most part he was genial, available and he cared.

He worked for the rural people in the North West side of the city. The provincial plans for a highway that would run through Kilbride and Lowville was not going to happen while John was the ward 3 council member.

He was the rural voice on council. His constituents loved him; community meetings in his ward were more like family get togethers.

The three members of council that were defeated at the ballot box had failed to connect with the public. Rick Goldring just didn’t hear what the vocal groups had to say. He will never be forgiven for selling that part of the waterfront between Market and St. Paul Street.

Dennison - second house

The house on the right was built when Jack Dennison to an appeal to a Committee of Adjustment decision to the Ontario Municipal Board and won.

Blair Lancaster should perhaps not have run; health issues were making it difficult for her to do the job.

Jack Dennison was able to stay in office because the number of voters on the ballot allowed him to split the vote. This time there was just the one candidate running against him and she did very well.

The house that Dennison built on the severed piece of the Lakeshore Road is up for sale; the house next door with the historical designation has been rented.

In his closing remarks Dennison said: “See you around”. Wonder where he will live?

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Ontario’s Climate Change Plan: Much Ado About Nothing

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

November 30th, 2018



Almost every aspect of Rod Phillips’, Ontario’s environment minister’s, climate change plan is something we’ve already done or are doing. In short it’s yesterday’s news.

For decades the federal and provincial governments, and other semi-government agencies have been doing exactly what the province is calling new; working with the private sector on developing performance standards and cleaner technologies. It was the McGuinty government which first introduced regulations adding corn-based ethanol to gasoline.

Titanic chairsBut we have all heard the alarm bells. The people who actually understand global warming are imploring governments everywhere to heed the urgency of taking action. In that regard this ‘new’ Ontario climate action plan is akin to the proverbial rearranging of deck chairs on the Titanic. Improved seating may allow a better view of the icebergs floating ahead of the ship but won’t stop the collision.

The problem today is less about how cleanly we extract energy from fossil fuels, it’s that we continue to use fossil fuels at all when cleaner alternatives abound. Mr. Phillips likes to use the example of how Ontario reduced its emissions by 22 percent from 2005, as if he were the Liberal environment minister back then.

But that reduction came about because we stopped burning coal to produce electricity, not because we improved the efficiency of the scrubbers. And to add insult to injury for the lonely scattering of Liberals in the back benches, Mr Phillips is also claiming credit that today Ontario’s electricity system is mostly carbon free. Yet scarcely half a year ago he and his boss, Mr. Ford, called it a ‘mess’.

This plan has no legs, no heart and no teeth. There are no details or any kind, only a set of best intentions. By focusing primarily on industry, the government is dismissing all of the actions all the rest of the people can do to reduce their carbon footprint. And the $400 million carbon trust fund is more than a drop in an ocean, but it is hardly adequate if one were serious about significantly reducing carbon emissions through technological change.


It is a program that worked for everyone.

Ontario is following Australia’s lead in abandoning emissions trading and carbon pricing and hoping that technology will save it. But the low hanging fruit has been already been harvested. And like Australia, Ontario will miss it’s Paris agreement related emissions target. But even more importantly, we will have lost the momentum which made us the most successful jurisdiction in Canada when it came to reducing our carbon footprint.

There is an irony when the minister muses about possibly imposing financial penalties (fines) on large emitters, for those companies still operating in the province. But how is a financial penalty for generating carbon emissions not some kind of carbon tax by a different name? Won’t the cost of those fines not get passed down to consumers and families?

Cap and trade was an industry friendly approach to lowering emissions. It treated emitting industries as partners in solving the climate change problem. The Ford government is threatening instead to criminalize our industrial enterprises. That is if it is serious about going back to the old command and control approach, involving fines and courts and maybe even prison time. So much for the province being ‘open for business’.

corn driven ethanol

Ethanol: a policy that Ontario is looking to rekindle and expand despite the fact that recent evidence shows it is bad for the environment and even worse for the climate.

Bio-fuels like corn and firewood are considered renewable resources. When they grow they absorb CO2 even though burning them ultimately releases it. That was the rationale for adding corn-derived ethanol into gasoline introduced over a decade ago by the McGuinty government. That is a policy that Ontario is looking to rekindle and expand despite the fact that recent evidence shows it is bad for the environment and even worse for the climate.

At best this plan is one of those motherhood/fatherhood concept papers. It begs for description by cliches. It could have been worse. It’s really is too little too late. Nobody should have been expecting much given where Mr. Ford was coming from, so at least we weren’t disappointed.

The truth is we have seen this movie before though it seemed fresh yesteryear when Doc and Marty took us ‘back to the future’. And at least they weren’t travelling in a gas guzzler running on ethanol.

If the Ford Government was looking to provoke the federal government into bringing its carbon tax into Ontario, it couldn’t have done a better job than with this sad package of old ideas stolen from the days when global warming was still just another academic research topic.

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:

Ford Climate Change Plan –      More CC Plan –      Even More CC Plan

Ethanol –      Clean Technology –      Australian Approach

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Another one of those win - win - win ideas that Jim Young believes can actually be achieved in the first 100 days of the new city council.

100 daysThe Gazette invited readers to tell the city council that will be sworn in next Monday what they felt were the more important issues that could be acted upon in the first 100 days of four year term.  So far there have been some very good ideas; there are also some ideas that suggest the writer was not all that well informed.

Jim Young, an Aldershot resident involved in the early stages of the Engaged Citizens of Burlington (ECoB) initiative has also been a member of the Burlington Seniors Advisory Committee that has been advocating for a better transit deal for seniors.

By Jim Young
November 30th, 2018

In a previous Op Ed for The Gazette on the “First Hundred Days” I asked for patience and realistic expectations from a new council. Most of the issues that gave rise to the electoral shake up at Burlington City Council are simply too big and complex to expect them to be resolved in the first hundred days.

The “Adopted” Official Plan, Changes to The Downtown Mobility Hub and the missing Transit and Parking Plans all require significant work by staff and review and reconsideration by council. They may also require Regional approval and compliance with Provincial Legislation. So while work on these gets underway in the first hundred days, don’t expect quick results on these portfolios. Given the last fiasco on the OP, we should be demanding that council and staff take appropriate time to seek our input and get the OP right this time.

However one immediately winning issue that can be achieved as a simple 2019 Budget Amendment, is “Free Transit for Seniors during Off Peak Hours” (10.00 to 2.30 Monday to Friday). An idea whose time has surely come.

This was originally proposed by Burlington Seniors Advisory Committee in 2016 for the 2017 budget and defeated by 6 votes to 1. The idea is detailed in BSAC Position Paper “Improving Transit for Seniors Improves Transit for Everybody” and has since been adopted by Burlington for Accessible Sustainable Transit (BfAST) who support the idea and for other disadvantaged groups and as part of a more comprehensive Long Term Transit Plan.

Sue Connor with Jim Young

Jim Young with Director of Transit Sue Connor.

In the BfAST 2018 election All Candidate Transit Survey, all six Councillors elect and Mayor elect indicated support for the idea. Some wholeheartedly, some with qualification, suggesting it might be expanded to other disadvantaged groups.

The buses already run empty during those off-peak hours so the only cost is an amount of lost revenue and that is not overwhelming. Based on figures supplied by Burlington Transit in 2016 I calculated it might cost between $48,500 per year and $72,750 depending on the rate of uptake. The previous Director of Transit agreed the cost for a one year trial would be less than $100,000. In an email to me his biggest concern was that any trial would prove so popular, it would be difficult to repeal. It is less than one half of one percent of the city transit budget.

It is possible that provincial funding for transit, a complex formula based on ridership (not revenue) might increase enough to offset any loss of revenue.

Perhaps Transit Director, Sue Connor, who has won the respect of city staff and transit advocates equally, can provide updated figures for the cost, the potential Provincial funding increases and whether there might be an overall gain for Burlington Transit.

As well as filling our mostly empty, off-peak buses the “Improving Transit Paper” details the impact of: Reducing Traffic Congestion, Improving Road Safety, Reducing C02 Emissions, Providing a Dignified Alternative for drivers who lose their Drivers License to age related issues. It also outlines some economic benefits for the city and local businesses and the health benefits to seniors who suffer from social isolation.

Bfast 2018 forum

Bfast events that bring citizens up to date on transit events are always well attended. Might they be heard by the new city council as well?

So come on Mme. Mayor and Brand New Councillors. What are you waiting for? This will help Fill the Buses, Reduce Traffic Congestion, Improve Road Safety, Provide Economic Benefit for Local Retailers and help improve the Health and Well being of our Seniors; all of which I’m sure were on your platforms.

This is a win – win – win for Council, for Burlington Transit and for Seniors. It is also an opportunity to demonstrate that our new council listens to our citizens and delivers on its election platforms and positions.

Related news story:

Seniors Advisory committee request for a pilot project doesn’t get past a Standing Committee

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Rivers: GM decides to give up on Ontario - have they stopped making mistakes or is this move just another one?

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

November 29th, 2018



It is nothing short of dishonest for federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer to blame the announced closing of General Motors (GM) operations in Oshawa next year on a federal carbon tax – which has yet to be implemented. It is equally dishonest for the Ontario premier to be running around blaming everything on the policies of the previous Liberal government.

Open for business sign at border

One of the bigger business operations in the province had decided to leave. There was nothing the province could do to keep them.

GM was clear that this was a corporate-wide restructure which is closing at least one plant in Canada and several more in the USA. It has to do with excess production capacity for gas guzzlers and the company’s failure to adjust to changing markets. And nothing Mr. Ford could offer, be it lower taxes, lower electricity rates, fewer labour regulations or a cash grant, would make the company change its mind. Ford was told definitively by GM’s management, as they hung up the phone – ‘the ship has left the dock’.

The traditional big three North American auto giants, and GM in particular, are chronic slow learners and always late to the game. The first electric car was invented by a Hungarian dude back in the early 1800s, over half a decade before Mr. Benz patented the first gas guzzler. By the turn of the century there were almost twice as many electric as petroleum vehicles on the road in America. But cleanliness, simplicity of operation and fast acceleration eventually lost out to the increased range and the lower costs of the more complicated Model T.

GM is not fondly remembered for its own history with electricity. In response to California’s emerging tough fuel and emissions standards in the 1990s, the company piloted the EV1 project. Everybody who drove one loved the car but for some suspicious reason GM killed the project and destroyed the cars anyway.

Two decades later, to compete with the Prius hybrid, the Chevy Volt, a miserable compromise of inadequate battery range and an inefficient on-board gasoline charging system, showed up. Its ultimate demise this coming year will result in few tears. Only last year GM finally got the memo and produced the all-electric Chevy Bolt with a battery range into Tesla territory. These cars are built in Michigan and their batteries in Korea.

Oshawa assembly plant

Neither our governments nor the company saw the writing on the wall – that doing the same things will give you the same result.

It was barely a decade ago when, as GM nearly folded-up camp, it came cap-in-hand to the Canadian and US federal and sub-national governments, begging for a handout to ride out the GW Bush recession. Canada and Ontario wasted no time asking how much, and we ended up with a combination of loans and equity totaling almost $14 billion.

The US set specific environmental conditions before issuing the lending instruments and ultimately got all of its money back and then some. The Harper government sold off our equity early in order to present a balanced budget for the 2015 election, and ended up losing $3.5 billion as a result.

In addition there was apparently a billion dollars which had been signed over to a GM entity which no longer exists. There was some kind of ‘old GM’, as opposed to a “new GM“ and the new one isn’t about to pay the money back. This for a company which earned over six billion in profits last year.

Cars are like a narcotic. If GM is a junkie then our governments are the the enablers, feeding its habits and ignoring the consequences. Neither our governments nor the company saw the writing on the wall – that doing the same things will give you the same result. Instead of sending the company to rehab, the governments just benignly encouraged GM to keep doing business as usual – making the same old cars – the same old mistakes.

GM claims the 60 year old Oshawa plant is unsuitable for production of the new generation of EVs and autonomous diving cars. Indeed the facility may be old but isn’t a car a car? Auto companies regularly run different models on the same assembly line. GM is doing that now, building trucks on a line formerly used for sedans.

And why have we all been blindsided by this closure announcement? The company has a contract with its labour union which extends beyond the planned closure date, surely the union should have been consulted. The union president is convinced GM is on a path to also close the other two factories it operates in Canada. What does that hold for the security of pension and benefit obligations?

Leggat old adv

The Leggat family have been in the car retailing business for a long long time.

GM was once Canada’s largest auto maker. Does its executive brain trust think there will be any remaining buyer loyalty after this caper? Once the dust has settled GM might as well take their dealership operations with it if it closes the door on Canadian production. The union boss, Jerry Dias, wants Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Trump to impose a 40% tariff on GM cars built in Mexico and China. That would teach it a lesson Dias says.

We know little of GM’s corporate decision making process, but perhaps somebody should have listened when it warned that Donald Trump’s recent tariffs would end up in a smaller GM. Trump’s reaction to the US plant closures, threatening to remove the federal subsidies for buyers of GM EVs, is as wrong headed as his tariffs were. Those EVs are currently built in America, after all.

GM claims that it has seen the light, joining Ford Motors, Volkswagen and others in shifting from gasoline to EV production. Once upon a time, six months ago, Ontario buyers used to get a provincial incentive for new EVs, as buyers do in several other jurisdictions across Canada and throughout the USA. And a carbon tax raising the cost of gasoline would encourage more car buyers to join the EV crowd. These policies are consistent with the direction the new GM is heading.

Scheer and Ford

Leader of the federal opposition Andrew Scheer with Ontario Premier Doug Ford. Note the picture to the left of former Toronto Mayor the late Rob Ford

But it doesn’t sound like retaining those Wynne government pro-EV policies would have kept the Oshawa plant open any more than Mr. Ford’s killing them did.  Scheer and Ford need to take a step back and re-examine their own policies before they heap unwarranted blame on their political opponents.

Pointing fingers and slinging mud are unhelpful at this time. And putting up signs saying ‘Ontario is open for business’ is a waste of time when the business model the government is using dates back at least thirty years. Like the evolution of the automobile its past time to move into the 21st century.

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:

Who Killed the Electric –      History of the Electric Car –      GM Trade Unertainty

Open for Business –      Trump’s unintended Consequences –      Trump Tariffs

Bailouts Don’t Work

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Bryce Lee: Wants more than any city council could get done in its first 100 days; doesn't think the new Mayor will last more than one term.

100 daysThe Gazette has invited residents for their thoughts on what the new city might try to achieve in its first 100 days.  A lot of wishful thinking and some misunderstanding of how the city actually works.  Interesting comments.


By Bryce Lee
November 28th, 2018

Have often thought the ward boundaries should shift, to accommodate two extra councillors account some wards are geographically larger than others. Even the load so to speak.

No more structures blocking the view of Lake Ontario.

The lake is perhaps the greatest asset this City has, do not lose it to developers!

No more fancy homes on Lakeshore east to Guelph Line.

The issue is the portion shown as parkette. The city had three options: keep the land and develop it as a parkette, lease the land to adjoining property owners until the city decides on its long term use or sell the land. The want to sell it.

The issue is the portion shown as parkette. The city had three options: keep the land and develop it as a parkette, lease the land to adjoining property owners until the city decides on its long term use or sell the land. The city sold it.

Over a long time that entire area should become a linear park. Selling those lots on Lakeshore Road between Market and St Paul to home owners was stupid and short sighted.

Let the council delegations be heard, good amplification is required; citizens must not be ignored. They voted the current Councillors in; they can just as easily be voted out in four years!

421 Brant

Approved – all but impossible to change the decision

Looking north from Queens Head

Developer is expected to appeal the council decision to keep the structure to 17 storeys – developer wants 24 – same as the approved building across the street.

As to the planned monstrosities opposite the current city hall and elsewhere; the so-called Official Plan needs to be reviewed. Such tall buildings should be fronting the edge of Metrolinx railway line, not in the downtown area. Keep the downtown building height to six stories, set back from the new wider sidewalks.

Have affordable shops on perhaps the ground floor or even the second floor.

Motorized vehicle parking should be at the rear of said structures or below level; 1.5 vehicles per household please. Employees should also be afforded parking, below street level.

Traffic barriers in place on LAkeshore for the Car Free Sunday last year were expensive and not really used. The event was poorly attended.

We are an automobile based society

We are an automobile based society regardless of the method of propulsion; make charging stations available payable by bank card. The car park with Elizabeth on the east and John Street on the west should be a many level parking garage with retail shops and professional offices on the ground floor and second level, shops to be fronted on the streets mentioned above.

Maintain, if possible, the residential areas of old Burlington below Ghent Avenue; homes constructed post WWII, and occupied for the most part by baby boomers.

Keeping those aforementioned residences allows residents to walk to most locations; The Brant Street No Frills plaza needs to be retained; grocery outlets are few and far between in this City unless one has suitable transportation.

City sponsored transportation should have free Sundays and free all the time to seniors.
Ensure all of the provincial subsidy is used; smaller electric powered (solar?) buses with frequent service is required.

And if the current Provincial Premier wants to merge Oakville and Burlington to Hamilton, tell him he too could be voted out of office, sooner than later!

Meed ward election night 1

Mayor Elect Marianne Meed Ward

My own thoughts on Meed-Ward: she will be a one term mayor, as were the two previous female mayors of Burlington.

She was wonderful as a Councillor however a mayor requires a whole different mindset.  She will stumble and in four years be out of office.

As for the other newly elected Councillors; being a ward Councillor requires time; time far beyond what the incumbents know. A Councillor is a 7/24/365 job; no rest during the four years; while  elected.

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Scobie wants to see respect in play at the city council table and a reversal of a rush to pass a flawed Official Plan.

opinionred 100x100By Gary Scobie

November 25th, 2018



There are two major issues need repair at City Hall.

First up is respect. That would encompass respect by members of Council for one another as well as respect by Council for citizens that come to City Hall to delegate their concerns. It is not a small matter to appear at Council with a prepared delegation text. It takes time and thought to prepare an argument for or against a motion and hopefully allow a better solution if there is one. The standard “Thank you for coming” response is quite a de-motivator for most citizens to ever think of appearing a second time.
I’m hoping a near total refresh of Council will start off respecting themselves and others. Citizens will be watching.

Second up is the attitude by the current Council (henceforth referred to as the old Council) of eight years that the Province alone is to blame for the over-intensification of downtown Burlington. No, the Province didn’t mandate 20 plus storey high rises on Brant and Martha Streets. The Council of 2005 accepted without a whimper the designations of Urban Growth Centre and Anchor Mobility Hub downtown. They both designate density targets within these overlapping zones, but not height. It was the developers, the Planning Department and in end the old Council that translated density over an area into one-off high rise buildings that each over-intensified the lot they sat on. It was and is the cumulative affect of adding tall buildings, without adequate parking, expanded roadways or inviting transit that will clog our streets for decades to come if it is unchecked by the new Council.

The old Council looked at the downtown as an infill area to intensify beyond targets, beyond our current Official Plan and against the wishes of the current residents. The Planning Department aided and abetted. The developers cheered. Building only for future residents without keeping in mind current residents is not a recipe for success, especially if future residents realize what a transportation-restrictive neighbourhood they have bought into to now become current residents.

The rush to pass a flawed Official Plan before the election put the icing on the cake for over-intensification. Most of the new Council ran on platforms against the new Official Plan over-development.

The new Council can talk to the Province about the two designations, can talk to the Region about the Official Plan and can talk to (and hopefully listen to this time) citizens who will accept moderate intensification and no more.

It may take longer than 100 days, but these are the issues that I would like the new Council to tackle.

Gary ScobieGary Scobie is a ward 3 resident who has delegated and usually gave more than he got from a Council that didn’t have much time for him He has served on Advisory Committees and has been active citizen by any standard.  In this photograph he is seen delegating before city council.

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Drummond: Doug Ford legislation takes away benefits from minimum wage earners.

opinionred 100x100By Andrew Drummond

November 24th, 2018



On Nov 21, the Ontario Government led by Doug Ford passed Bill 47, the so-called “Making Ontario Open For Business Act”, which cuts a number of worker protections in Ontario. It specifically:

– Allows an employer to force an employee to get a sick note if they take an unpaid sick day. It also allows the employer to force an employee to get a doctor’s note to explain a leave day taken to care for an ill family member

– Repeals the inclusion of step-brothers, step-sisters, uncles, aunts, nephews, and nieces as people for whom you can take family leave or bereavement.

– Repeals the section of the Employment Standards Act that requires employees be paid equally for doing the same work

– Repeals the minimum wage increase scheduled for January 1, 2019

– Repeals any entitlement for employees to paid sick leave

The stated purpose of this Act is to increase Ontario’s competitiveness to attract and keep business. Premier Ford stated “Businesses tell us that job growth starts with cutting the burdensome, job-killing red tape that drives investment and jobs out of Ontario.” However, the question needs to be asked: If Ontario business is prospering so well, why do we need these changes that will fall most heavily on the backs of low income workers? From January to September 2018, Ontario has gained 122,700 jobs. Ontario’s unemployment level in 2018 has hit its lowest level since 2000. Why then do we need to hurt working people to give the corporate sector more money?

As detailed in an article in the Gazette in October, the minimum wage increase to $15/hr did not need to be halted. Burlington businesses have coped well with the increase to $14/hr and many of the minimum wage employers we have in this city are thriving with new ones opening all the time. There is no crisis in Burlington that required this draconian action.

Another key article of the Act is to remove an employee’s entitlement to 2 paid leave days a year. The Retail Council of Canada pushed Ford to do this with evidence such as “One employer noted that, as of August 31, 2018 (66% of the way through the year, calendar-wise), 57% of the yearly paid PEL eligibility had already been used by employees.” So the argument is essentially that because people are using most of their sick days they shouldn’t have them. How does that make sense? People get sick. People have sick children to care for. Ensuring that a low income mother doesn’t suffer financially for being ill seems like it should be in everyone’s interest.

Beyond stripping the two paid leave days, the government has also moved to restrict people’s ability to take UNPAID leave. Now for any leave (bereavement, Caring for an ill family member, personal illness) an employer can demand proof that the leave was required (i.e. a doctor’s note). The Canadian Medical Association among others has attacked this portion of the bill. Dr. Gigi Osler, president of the CMA pointed out “Requiring sick notes can introduce unnecessary public health risks; patients who would have otherwise stayed home may spread viruses or infection while out to get a sick note,”

Also, consider the local impact. There are only 9 walk-in clinics in Burlington and the majority of those close by 7pm with limited weekend hours. During the day, wait times can exceed 2 hours as the clinics are overloaded with people who actually need care and not just a note. Adding new people unnecessarily to those lines will hurt everyone in the city and reduce the impact of health care services across Burlington.

Then there is the cost. A doctor’s note for illness usually costs between $20-$30 at a walk-in clinic. The people Bill 47 is targeted at are workers at or around minimum wage. They typically cannot afford the loss of income with taking an unpaid day off. Now under the new legislation they will need to not only forgo that day’s wages, but if their employer demands a note, they will actually have to pay to be sick. This is not the way to help people on low incomes.

The last provision that will cause considerable hardship is repealing the requirement that people be paid equally for the same work. The RCC argues “While this sounds fine in theory, these provisions have thrown off numerous issues. The first of these is that there are very significant cost implications for retailers.”

Retailers will need to absorb a cost for paying their part time workers the same as their full time ones however, there needs to be consideration for what is fair. People should be paid for what work they are doing, and the existing rules still allowed different pay by seniority. The previous law was only protecting employees from being underpaid by arbitrary means.

In January of this year, labour law came into effect that significantly improved the lives of low income workers in Ontario. Over the time it was in place, Ontario gained large numbers of jobs and our economy is currently incredibly strong with record lows in unemployment. Despite that the Ford government felt it is necessary to change the laws in the hopes to drive job growth. In Burlington it’s clear that companies providing low wage jobs were not in crisis.

So, the question has to be asked again: Why do we need to hurt working people to give the corporate sector more money?

Andrew Drummond HeadshotAndrew Drummond was the New Democratic candidate for the Burlington seat in the provincial legislature last June when Doug Ford was made Premier and Jane McKenna was elected in Burlington.


Related news story:

Minimum wage earners  lost $1750.

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Rivers: Tight integration with the American economy run by a President we can't trust requires tough decisions.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

November 24th, 2018



The only similarity between the federal economic statement and the one Ontario announced last week was that neither has a plan to deal with their growing deficits. Canada’s debt as a percentage of its GDP is the second lowest among G7 countries – higher than Germany but lower than the USA and less than half of Japan’s numbers.

Canadian money concept

We cant just print the money we need.

Despite all the alarm-ism during the last election, Ontario’s debt compared to its GDP is quite a bit lower than that of our national government. But unlike a provinces, which can only control its levels of taxation and spending, the federal government also controls and/or influences interest rates, currency exchange rates and the money supply, including printing our money.

When Donald Trump cut US business taxes Canada had to respond or run the risk of watching new business investment move to larger markets south of the border. Canada has long had lower effective corporate taxation rates than the USA but that competitive advantage has now mostly vanished. And cutting corporate taxes to restore that advantage would have added tens of billions more to the deficit, making it a non-starter.

Trump tough glance

“America was no longer the fair-minded economic partner we had come to know.”

But it was really Trump’s trade policies that made our government sit up and take notice. America was no longer the fair-minded economic partner we had come to know. The painful process of renewing NAFTA, the unwarranted and costly tariffs on steel and aluminum, and the US role in slashing the price of Alberta oil required a new strategy – one of trade diversification.

For those who lived through the government of the first Trudeau this is a bout of deja vu. Pierre, faced with an unfriendly Nixon administration, developed what was called the ‘Third Option’ – hoping to diversify our dependency on trade away from the US. The Third Option, which also gave us our domestic metric system, largely failed as a trade strategy.

Britain was joining Europe which was itself pre-occupied resolving internal trade barriers, Japan was struggling with its identity as an emerging economic powerhouse, and China turned the tables on us making us trade-subservient to them. Then Richard and Pierre were replaced by Ronnie and Brian who bonded beautifully, and they buried what was left of the third option. Canada and US agreed to lower trade barriers in a process that eventually included Mexico in NAFTA, and the rest is history.

Can - USA economies

We are so tightly integrated to the American economy that it would be very difficult – if possible – to lessen that integration.

So today we are even more closely integrated into the US economy with three quarters of our exports and a third of our GDP tied to US markets. After all it is so much simpler to just load a truck and drive it across the border than to be bothered shipping overseas to foreigners. We share a common culture and language (except for Quebec), and the US is a prime travel destination for Canadians looking to escape the cold, making us sometimes more American than the Americans.

But we do pay a price when it comes to national identity, and in the end we can find ourselves alone, being bullied by our major economic partner who thinks it has found its own third or fourth option – the nationalist cry of America First. We have since negotiated a number of other so-called free trade agreements, most importantly with Europe (CETA) and also Asia and the Antipodes (CPTPP,) so it is time we put our money where our mouths are on trade diversification.

But it will take some money to restructure our economy onto more of an export footing. The goal of boosting Canada’s overseas exports by 50 per cent by 2025, will not be met just by accelerated depreciation, but it is a good start. And the business community, manufacturing in particular, is besides itself with praise of this mini-budget. For once they are not complaining about a growing budgetary deficit.

Increased manufacturing would enable Canada to better diversify its exports beyond our current raw materials mix, and may also lead to greater import substitution – though that is not the stated goal. Almost as a footnote, companies investing in clean energy production also get this break.

And just to be fair, other businesses will also be entitled to an accelerated depreciation though at a lower rate. Depreciation rates will be raised from four to twelve percent for a pipeline company, for example. And where is our pipeline is the lament of the Alberta oil industry and its government?

oil tank cars

The Alberta government wants the federal government to help pay for oil tankers – Ottawa hasn’t said yes to that request.

They were disappointed that the federal government didn’t pamper them by supporting the price of oil in this budget, or offer to pay for more rail cars – after it had already bought a pipeline company. Perhaps Mr. Trudeau was concerned that he’d be accused of starting a national energy program? And besides how could he reconcile a subsidy for oil when the government is imposing a carbon tax?

The federal government is also planning to redirect and speed up some of its planned funding for the national infrastructure program into marine ports, roads and railways to expedite overseas trading opportunities. And yes this throws last election’s deficit targets into the toilet not that Mr. Trudeau was on the road to balance the budget next year anyway.

There is no guarantee even if Trump is defeated in the next federal election that Democrats would not be just as protective when it come to trade. In fact there have already been rumblings from the new Congress-elect that they will want to re-examine USMCA. One has only to recall how the Canada-friendly Obama administration implemented a “Buy American” clause in the US stimulus package as he undertook to fight the 2008/2009 recession.

Conventional wisdom is that you run a deficit in a recession and a surplus in good times. The Liberals are making the case that, given the deficits in our economic infrastructure, there is no better time to invest than when the economy is booming and the money is rolling in. After all, how prudent would it be to balance our federal budget for the short run only to forego investing to make our economy viable for the longer run?

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:

Countries by Debt –     Fall Economic Statement –     Canada’s Economy

Business Reaction –     Third Option –     50% Export Growth

Manufacturers Happy –     Will it Work

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Can the residents of this city make a Mayor out of Marianne Meed Ward or will she become a one term wonder?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

November 22, 2019



In December of 2014, the city council that was first elected in 2010 sat behind a table on the stage of the Performing Arts Centre waiting to be sworn in. his was the first time the swearing in ceremony took place at that venue.

Trumpeters from the Burlington Teen Tour Band were in the gallery to the left of the stage; the sound of blaring trumpets heralded the event.

While the council being sworn on December 2014 was a repeat of what residents elected in 2010 there was still some electricity in the air.

As each member of Council was announced, after they had been sworn in, the applause for Marianne Meed Ward was just that much louder, lasted just that much longer than the applause for anyone else on that stage. If two people had stood up and shouted “bravo” and clapped loudly I swear she would have gotten a standing ovation.

Meed ward election night 1

Mayor Elect Marianne Med Ward at the Polish Hall on election night

Mayor Goldring may not have recognized what was going on but the 2018 election campaign had begun.
On Monday, December 3rd, Meed Ward will be recognized as Mayor and the trumpets will blare. The Meed Ward supporters will see this as the beginning of a new dawn.

It is far too early to tell if Marianne Meed Ward is going to grow into a great Mayor. There are still a lot of people out there that do not wish her well.

She is going to have to work with five people who have never served on anything that has had input into city policy considerations. Angelo Beneventigna is familiar with a lot of the people at city hall and has more in the way of understanding as to how the city works than most of the others.

What Beneventigna has to figure out and realize is that he wasn’t elected to be a “friend” of those who handle the day to affairs of the city but to assure that they are always accountable to council and to the wider public they serve.

Meed Ward will be something of a den mother for the first 18 months.

Paul Sharman, a man that Rick Goldring once said was the best strategic thinker he has ever met, will be sitting on the same stage.

Councillor Shar,man with his back to the camera debates with Councillor Meed Ward during Strategy Planning sessions. Both are strong contributors to Council and Committee meetings

Councillor Sharman with his back to the camera debates with Councillor Meed Ward during the 2011 Strategy Planning sessions.

Sharman will be the odd man out on this council. He brings a reputation for abrasiveness and a tendency to be abrupt with people. He is more comfortable getting his own way.

When he became BFF (Best Friends Forever) with Councillor Craven there was little hope of there being much in the way of collaboration. Sharman consistently referred to Meed Ward’s “ideology” which wasn’t one he shared. He was more comfortable with his own. The Gazette began to refer to Sharman as “Mr. Data”; he always wanted more data. Over time we realized that the request for more data meant that Sharman didn’t have to make a decision.

Goldring saw Sharman as the best strategic thinker he had ever met – We won’t test the veracity of that statement. However, Paul Sharman does come at what he does from a strategic perspective.


Intense to the point of making delegations uncomfortable ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman does know how to drill down into the data and look for results.

In 2010, to the surprise of many and shock to others, he fist nominated himself for Mayor. When Rick Goldring filed nomination papers for the office of Mayor, Sharman muffled his ambitions, withdrew the nomination for Mayor and nomination himself for the ward 5 council seat that Goldring was vacating.

Meed Ward needs Paul Sharman to get through the first 18 months. He is the only person on the new Council that can get a budget passed. He might even manage to somehow produce a budget with a 0% increase. There are hundreds of thousands of dollars in city reserve accounts; – Sharman knows those accounts better than any of the newbies..

Could he find a way to loosen up some of that money?

The option the LaSalle PArk MArina Association hopes is chosen through the Environmental Assessment due MArch 2013.

Funds to pay for the break water barrier were found – all the city had to do was raid the Hydro Reserve fund.

If the outgoing council could find a way to use $4 million plus that was in the Hydro Reserve find for the breakwater facility at the LaSalle Park Marina – Paul Sharman can find a way to wiggle some funds out of other reserve accounts.  This of course will drive the Director of Finance bananas – that department likes nice thick reserves earning solid interest for the city.

Many people are watching how Meed Ward handles herself in the first 18 months. The people she took political power from are quite willing to see her fall on her face.

The pressure will be immense, which will be nothing new to Meed Ward. The current council has bullied and harassed this woman for the past eight years. Some of the behaviour bordered on the kind of thing you report to authorities that can take corrective action and ensure that there is due process.

Her council colleagues were not the only level that harassed Meed Ward; the failures in the Clerk’s department are legion.

Meed Ward tried hard to establish a good working relationship with Mary Lou Tanner when she was first appointed as the Director of Planning. Her efforts didn’t take.

In the months ahead, expect Councillor Sharman to go into his “smarmy” mode and do his best to charm the newcomers. He has reached out to all of them.

He will sit and wait patiently and should Meed Ward not be up to the job she has taken on – Paul Sharman will try to convince the city that he can do the job – for he was the best strategic thinker Rick Goldring had ever met.

Red jacket at city hall

The mandate is thin – the hope runs very deep.

Meed Ward’s mandate is thin. However, she has the goodwill and high hopes of many of the people who want to see the core values that are Burlington be recognized, kept and built upon.

Too early to tell if the battle lines for the 2022 election are drawn.

For her fans, and her supporters – stop lauding and convincing yourselves she can walk on water.  What Marianne Meed Ward needs is to be held accountable day in and day out.

In 2014 she asked people to trust her – they did and she changed the way the city operates.

She will need that trust going forward.

Related news stories:

The day city council beat up Marianne Meed Ward

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A financial update that forgot about the environment - without it, nothing else matters.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

November 20th, 2018



They’re calling it an ‘economic outlook and fiscal review’. After all it’s been less than six months since Ford rode his big blue machine into the premier’s office. But it’s clear from this economic statement that his team hasn’t yet sorted out all its priorities, even as the brain trust tries to deliver on some of the promises from the election campaign.

The deficit was just one of Ford’s prime promises, and the PC’s s have managed to wrestle it down by a whacking half billion dollars to a mere $14.5 billion. Of course the deficit would be even lower had Ford just accepted the auditor general’s estimate rather than creating his own numbers. But it makes better politics if you can claim you inherited a huge deficit.

And what we are seeing of the accounting is a little confusing because Ford’s finance minister, Vic Fedeli, insists that they actually saved the taxpayers over three billion dollars. He is obviously referring to the price of the environmental programs his government killed. But getting rid of ‘cap and trade’ also killed the goose that laid the golden egg which funded those green initiatives.

Money in your pocket

The statement is pretty clear. Is it the direction the Ontario economy should be going in?

Conservatives are about nothing if not cutting taxes. And Ford, true to his word, has run up half billion dollars of new debt by providing a tax credit for those earning less than $30,000. This credit, called LIFT, is being sold as an alternative to allowing the minimum wage to rise to $15. But nobody is buying that since two thirds of workers in that income range already don’t pay any taxes. And allowing minimum wages to rise wouldn’t have increased the deficit.

He is also dabbling in trickle down economics by killing the income surtax for the wealthiest in Ontario – those earning more than $300,000. Tax cuts at the top and bottom mean that the middle class will need to make up the difference eventually – subsidizing everyone else.

And while the government may take credit for a four cent gas pump price drop, that should be kept in context. Market forces alone have reduced prices by over 25 cents from earlier this year, and those forces may just as easily reverse direction into the future. And then an imminent federal carbon tax will cost at least another four more cents.


A program that will last less than a year. Very tough on those that lose the benefit.

Perhaps the biggest cost saving in this mini-budget actually comes from dropping the universality of the ‘OHIP plus’ drug plan, excluding those with an existing private health plan. Clearly this was something the previous Liberal government could have done and it is a good example of the kind of efficiency Ford had presumably been talking about. Education spending appears to not have been touched and health spending has increased ever so slightly, helping Ford keep his promise of providing more beds.

The government is taking heat for terminating three oversight agencies which monitored francophone rights, child care and the environment. Despite promises to continue to deliver this oversight through the auditor general or ombudsman offices, it is unlikely the Environmental Bill of Rights will survive. And there is a double whammy for Franco-Ontario residents as a French language university proposed for Toronto is also canned. That is on top of the three satellite university campuses Ford has already chopped.

Government employees and civil servants take part in a demonstration against the Spanish government's latest austerity measures, in the center of Madrid, on November 16, 2012. Spain announced on November 15, 2012 it has moved into a second year of a job-killing recession, a day after millions joined anti-austerity strikes and vast protests. AFP PHOTO/DOMINIQUE FAGET (Photo credit should read DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images)

Is never cutting costs good financial stewardship?

Overall this mini-budget is about austerity as the government looks into the nooks and crannies of its programs to save some tax payer dollars. Of course much of those saving will end up funding the PCs own priorities, like the tax cuts and the senseless fight with the federal government over the carbon tax – which legal experts expect them to lose. A hiring freeze has also helped keep the cost of government down, although Ontario already had the lowest provincial public sector costs per capita in Canada.

And the overall effect of the budget will be contractionary at a time when Ontario is likely nearing the end of its economic boom cycle. Cutting the renewable energy and energy retro-fit programs, formerly a key growth area, will hurt all the working people that Ford keeps promising to help. Trickle down tax cuts for the rich never pay for themselves in increased economic activity and serve more as drain than an economic pump. Finally, the lower income tax cuts pale compared to the economic spending power of a $15 minimum wage for those who spend everything they earn.

But, Ford did deliver on his Buck a Beer promise – sort of.

If this budget was intended to stimulate growth and employment it is a failure. And despite the rhetoric and hype, Ford is pretty much retaining most of the previous government’s initiatives, even if that means turning what he called a Liberal mess into a PC mess.

Except when it comes to the environment! The often promised new climate change plan is nowhere in evidence and if it ever does arrive may likely surface as a piece of tokenism – like a page from the former Harper federal government’s playbook on the environment. But we should remain optimistic.

Climate change fire

Catastrophic fires in California are now an annual thing.

Climate change waves

Flooding on the east coasts and hurricanes that demolish communities are now part of the hurricane season.

For a budget which does so little, especially even it comes to the deficit, its pictorial presentation as a comic book almost seems appropriate. But there are serious issues facing the province and one of the most critical is nowhere to be seen, not even in the closing statement… “We gladly tighten our own belts now, knowing that it will provide this generation and future ones with the secure, prosperous future they deserve.”

What good is it to balance the books when the very planet our lives and livelihood depend on is in peril?

Notably absent from Ford’s mini-budget is any attempt to mitigate the province’s contribution to global warming. That is no less serious a public concern than the debt, especially for Ontario’s youth. But at least we can take comfort from the immediate extension of liquor store hours and the upcoming whacky weed stores next year.

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:

Mini-Budget –     Cutting Oversight –    More Cutting

Even More Cuts –     Environmental Commissioner

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