Mayor Meed Ward will address the Chamber of Commerce and give a State of the City report.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

January 16th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

When a significant change in government takes place the new leader has a very short period of time to get a firm grip on the levers of power and put their stamp in the direction they want to take.

Burlington has a tradition of the Mayor giving an address to the business elite at a Chamber of Commerce event in January of each year. They are usually well attended.

State of the city 2019

The Mayor will be speaking to the business community which in the past has not always been the sector from which Meed Ward draws her support. Growth is the rallying cry from the Chamber of Commerce set. Growth for sure Mayor Meed Ward will say and add that the growth has to be responsible and responsive and not serve the interests of just on part of the population.

It will be interesting to see what tack Mayor Meed Ward takes as she addresses the Chamber crowd at the end of the month. She will not be speaking to the converted.

She will be listened to very closely.

During the past eight years the Gazette has published seven of the State of the City addresses given by former Mayor Rick Goldring who was politely heard. They are all on line.

The standing ovations were usually given to someone else who was recognized.

One can assume that Mayor Meed Ward has at least a first draft of what she wants to say to the business/commercial community.

The members of the Chamber of Commerce will be listening raptly to what Meed Ward has to say. Her supporters think they know what she is all about. They have some surprises coming their way. The Gazette is beginning to learn more about the process Mayor Meed Ward used to staff her office; some hearts were broken along the way.

The business community looks at things quite a bit differently. Meed Ward is going to have to convince them that she understands their language and can communicate with them effectively and meet their needs as well.

Meed ward election night 1

Marianne Meed Ward: The reward for ten years of serving and campaigning – an election victory.

Meed Ward refers to her 22 years as a journalist whenever she is outlining the road she has travelled. It is more correct to say that she has spent 22 years in media which is not the same thing as what journalists do.

We will all learn more about how she will actually operate and how she will handle the issues that land on her desk.

This will be her biggest selling job ever since she had that Chain of Office placed around her neck.

Salt with Pepper is the musing, opinions and reflections of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette.

Return to the Front page

Roland Tanner: the election was a referendum on the future of urban intensification.

opinionred 100x100By Roland Tanner

January 15th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

Originally published on January 9th in Raise the Hammer.

Burlington’s and Hamilton’s municipal elections had one thing in common: they were both, unusually for municipal politics, heated and divisive affairs that pitched mayoral and concil candidates against each other with fundamentally different points of view.

In Hamilton it was a referendum on light rail transit (LRT), convincingly won by incumbent Fred Eisenberger.

In Burlington it was a referendum on the future of urban intensification ordered since the Places to Grow Act in 2005. The result was an overwhelming victory for Marianne Meed Ward, formerly the Councillor for downtown Ward 2, who has campaigned for ten years against downtown and citywide ‘over-intensification’, especially with regard to high-rise buildings.

dfer

Marianne Meed Ward: She was often a lone voice pleading for better municipal government.

Until the election, she was a lone voice on council, and one whose council colleagues viewed her with often vitriolic animosity. With almost a complete sweep of Councillors, with the exception of one re-elected incumbent, the new council is one seemingly aligned with Marianne Meed Ward’s agenda to control intensification.

In both cases, therefore, the elections have been portrayed as a battle between progressive urbanists – pro-transit, pro-intensification, pro-walkable communities – against regressive and entitled suburban interests fundamentally opposed to healthy modern cities. Both elections can be painted as NIMBY referendums.

Burlington aerial

‘Residents treasure downtown as a special area characterized by unique stores and a low to medium-rise character with a high proportion of historic buildings. They like the already walkable streets which are narrow and ‘car unfriendly’ by North American standards.’

In Hamilton, the story goes, the urbanists won, while in Burlington a reactionary, car-centric and selfish aging population elected a populist leader promising the impossible – to stop Burlington’s urban intensification contrary to provincial law, meanwhile denying pro-urbanist Millennials an affordable place to live.

So is this perception correct? Did the bad guys win in Burlington, or is the truth more complex?

Progressive New Council

lawn_sign_engaged_burlington_height_is_not_a_solution

Lawn sign opposing tall buildings in downtown Burlington (RTH file photo)

I was one of the candidates in the election, coming second to Lisa Kearns in Burlington’s downtown Ward 2. I would certainly call myself an urbanist – pro-transit, pro-walkable communities, pro-intensification, anti-car-centric planning and anti-urban sprawl. It was therefore surprising to find myself cast on the ‘wrong’ side of the urbanist debate and accused of selling out to NIMBYs.

Both Lisa Kearns and I campaigned in favour of controlling intensification, and especially controlling height in Burlington’s downtown, protecting an area that residents from across the city perceive as both special and fragile.

It was testament to the extent to which voters shared that perspective that we came first and second respectively, without any risk of splitting the vote and allowing a candidate aligned with incumbent mayor Rick Goldring to win.

Consider the following. Most of the incumbents in Burlington who were just voted out or retired had consistently voted against transit funding, some for decades, and in fact voted for a disastrous cut to transit funding eight years ago, which caused a dramatic fall in ridership.

Sharman

Paul Sharman – made it back to city council where he is now a lone voice for a different way of governing.

Paul Sharman, the one incumbent to keep his job, first became involved in municipal activism because of his opposition to a bus route outside his home.

All the incumbents were highly conservative, and mostly also Conservative. In contrast, every single one of the new Councillors, and Marianne Meed Ward, is on the record favouring better transit in Burlington. Burlington may finally have a council that believes in, and is willing to fund, the transit system it needs.

Goldring Advocating Sprawl

Meanwhile, Rick Goldring, the supposed defender of urbanism, intensification, and the Greenbelt, suddenly suggested mid-campaign that Burlington should annex Waterdown from Hamilton, a suggestion which Mayor Eisenberger countered with some panache.

Goldring’s logic was the ludicrous position that annexing Waterdown would take pressure off downtown development by allowing Burlington to develop greenfield sites. All of a sudden, Burlington’s supposedly urbanist mayor, who had invited Brent Toderian to speak and employed a former high-ranking Vancouver City Planner as his city manager, was advocating sprawl.

It was a suggestion as counterproductive as it was confusing. Furthermore, Goldring sought to throw the previous provincial government, and his former provincial counterpart, under the bus at every opportunity. It was suddenly all the Liberals’ fault – forcing intensification on him against his better judgement.

A new PC government and PC MPP, according to Goldring, opened up the opportunity for working with the province to ‘fix’ Places to Grow. We can all guess what that ‘fix’ would look like.

Marianne Meed Ward, as far as I am aware, has never criticized Places to Grow, or intensification, which she campaigned for as an Ontario Liberal candidate in the 2007 provincial election. She is on the record as consistently supporting better transit.

She stated in her inaugural speech that she would never support any development of Greenbelt land, a particularly welcome statement given the provincial government announced it would allow cities to build new businesses on the Greenbelt the same week.

Don’t get me wrong: I have had disagreements with Marianne Meed Ward over the years, and there are policy areas about which I wish she were more enthusiastic. But I do not see the evidence that she, or most of the new council, is opposed to a modern, healthy city. The facts simply do not support the position that anti-urbanist candidates won.

Residents Accept Growth, Cherish Downtown

And what of the voters, the supposedly selfish NIMBYs who want Burlington not to change and to force young Burlingtonians away?

I’m biased, but I believe I and my team knocked on more doors in Ward 2 than any other candidate. What I found at the doors was people who, yes, were overwhelmingly concerned about the scale of downtown development, particularly in a small area around south Brant Street and Lakeshore Road.

That was as true of young and old residents, the wealthy and those on lower incomes, private home owners and those in apartments and housing co-ops. There was no Boomer/Millennial split.

And when I say ‘overwhelmingly’ I mean ‘overwhelmingly’. When asked for their concerns, between 80 to 90 percent of people mentioned downtown development unprompted.

But literally 100 percent of the people I met loved their city – what an amazing statistic! They loved it but feared that the things that made it special were under threat.

They accepted that Burlington had to grow and that more people were going to move here. They were willing to see change. Most were even willing to see some more high-rises if they were done in appropriate areas – namely mobility hubs connected to Go Transit. In other words, they were willing to accept exactly what the province has been encouraging cities to do for over a decade.

Residents treasure downtown as a special area characterized by unique stores and a low to medium-rise character with a high proportion of historic buildings. They like the already walkable streets which are narrow and ‘car unfriendly’ by North American standards.

They appreciate too, that downtown can be better. There is too much space wasted on surface level parking which could become residential or commercial. There are many buildings which are neither historic nor attractive, where nobody would oppose good development – just not high-rise.

They want better transit – strongly – and appreciate that better transit is in everybody’s interest. Almost as strongly, they want more affordable housing, and dispute that high-rise condo development is doing anything for affordability. At $700,000 for a new studio condo downtown, I tend to agree.

Missing Middle

Does this sound like a NIMBY revolution to you? The only distinction between residents and Burlington’s planning department is that the residents I spoke to want a human scale in development, especially when building in established and loved neighbourhoods. They want the city that exists post intensification still to be recognizably the city that existed before – just bigger, and better.

Change is fine, they kept telling me, but it shouldn’t overwhelm the existing built environment. That is a position entirely consistent with the best urbanist principles. Urbanism has never been about ‘high-rise or bust’. It is about complete communities, with high density at a human scale.

Brent Toderian, the high priest of Canadian urbanism, makes the point constantly – it is the ‘missing middle’ we should be seeking most of all. Mid-rise development makes European cities what they are, and some of the most successful models of what urbanism seeks are famous for their lack of high rise development – Edinburgh, Copenhagen, central Paris, or a thousand other European cities.

The ‘missing middle’ is entirely appropriate as a means to allow more people to live in downtown Burlington. The mistake in Burlington has been the wish by developers, which was welcomed and endorsed by the council and then further reinforced by the OMB, to treat downtown like a greenfield site where residents interests don’t count and only maximizing height makes sense.

It wouldn’t happen in those European cities, and it shouldn’t happen here.

Decade’s Worth of Resentment

burlington_public_library_building_plains_road_and_kingsway_aldershotThis refusal to take residents’ reasonable opinions into account built up a decade’s-worth of resentment which almost swept the field on October 22. Seldom can a municipal election have stirred such strong feelings – strong enough that a council inaugural meeting had to be held in a sold out Burlington Performing Arts Centre, and some ward debates attracted over 400 people.

Other cities, and the provincial parties, would do well to learn from Burlington’s lesson. But they need to take the right message. Contrary to myth, the message is a good one for urbanists if we listen carefully to what is being said.

High-density cities built without resident input and careful engagement, and which overwhelm already successful urban environments with buildings residents hate, will repeat the mistakes of urban planners from the urban renewal era. We need to be careful to avoid adopting the same ‘we know best’ arrogance as those who drove highways through downtowns and advocated for suburban sprawl and car-centric planning.

The failure of urban planning, again and again, has been to ignore the people who actually live in the place being planned, and to claim residents don’t know what’s good for them. It’s these sweeping generalizations that allow us to use slurs like ‘NIMBY’, which are counterproductive, reductive and reflect a refusal to try to understand someone else’s point of view.

Tanner standing

Roland Tanner

The result has too-often been well-intentioned innovation implemented badly. But if cities like Burlington can truly learn to listen to residents’ voices, and to work hand in hand with citizens in building a better city together, perhaps they can be a model for a better way forward.

Roland Tanner lives and works in Burlington, where he has been a community volunteer for municipal and provincial causes for over a decade. You can visit his website.

Return to the Front page

Are residents seeing a change in the way city staff are relating to residents? Some think so.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

January 7th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Change in an organization isn’t always immediately evident. The Gazette is getting feedback from its readers on the changes people, who in the past have been very critical of the way they get treated at city hall, are now telling us that Staff are reaching out to them.

“I don’t seem to have to chase people to get information” said one resident. Another mentioned that she was approached by staff in the Clerks office and asked to take part in a committee. “I didn’t know the staffer but she seemed to know who I was” said the resident.

Word is that a committee is being formed to look at the appointments made to the various advisory committees and how they should operate.

Councillor TAylor works at listening to home owners who don't like the city's historical recognition policies.

Former city Councillor John Taylor works at listening to home owners who don’t like the city’s historical recognition policies.

There are a number of people who don’t have much time for the Advisory committee process used in Burlington.

“They tend to be controlled by the council member who sits in on the meeting and serves as liaison to council” was the way one resident described them.

When Gazette staff used to sit in on the meetings it was evident to us that the member of Council had far more influence than the citizen members.

There are those in Burlington who would like to see city staff less involved in the selection of people who serve on committees.

What we appear to be seeing at city hall is a small, subtle change. One needs to do everything possible to encourage that direction they appear to be going in.

Jim YoungJim Young has been very vocal about what he calls a “useless” approach to the creation of Advisory committees and how they get put to work. He has some pretty unflattering experiences with the way the Seniors Advisory committee that he sat on was close to man-handled by Councillors Craven and Sharman.

Craven has moved into the retirement phase of his municipal council career – Sharman is still there but, from what we can see so far – his is a much muted voice.

Leopards apparently can change their spots.

Progress? One can only hope.

Salt 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.

Return to the Front page

The resident, the black Honda and the Regional Police budget.

News 100 redBy Rob Narejko

December 31st, 2018

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The temperature was minus 2, crisp, not cold. The sun was shining brightly in a clear blue sky. I decided to walk 1km to the local gym’ an enjoyable way to start my day. It would keep me off the detested treadmill. I slung my gym bag over my shoulder and started my walk.

As I headed east on Millcroft Park Drive, I started to cross Country Club Drive at 8:18 AM. There were no cars at the four way stop, but a black SUV was approaching the intersection, heading west on Millcroft Park Drive.

The SUV stopped at the intersection as I was two  or three  steps across Country Club. The SUV turned south on Country Club, heading right towards me.

frosted car window

Failing to clean the snow or frost from the window is a Highway Traffic Offense.

I looked towards the driver, but couldn’t see who was driving, or even if there was anyone in the vehicle, driver or passenger. The inside of the vehicle was totally dark. Not only were the windows blacked out, they were frosted over. The side windows were 100% covered in frost. Only the bottom one-quarter, maybe one-third, if I’m being generous, of the front window was clear of frost. The clear section was most likely from the car heater. The driver hadn’t bothered to scrape the frost from any of his or her windows!

I literally had to spin out of the way of the vehicle, like a bullfighter avoiding the horns of the bull. In this case, a 4,220 pound Honda Pilot SUV black bull with license plate starting with CCCW. I didn’t note the 3 numbers of the plate.

Honda Pilot SUV

A 4000 pound lethal weapon.

I was upset, to say the least, yelling at the driver to watch where they were driving while I angrily waved my arms. The SUV went slowly down the road. I thought the driver would stop and apologize for almost hitting me, but he just kept rolling away. I’m sure the driver was totally unaware that I was even in the intersection. If I couldn’t see the driver, could the driver see me?

Being severely annoyed, I called Halton Regional Police Services (HRPS) and relayed my experience to the operator. She told me I could go online to report the incident.

When I told the person I only had the first 4 characters of the license plate, she said the Police could do nothing. I needed to have the entire license plate in order to send an officer by to speak with the driver. In my state of anxiety, I was only able to capture a portion of the vital information. In other words, the HRPS was  telling me complete information is required for the police to act. No effort is to be expanded by the police to track down what many would consider to be assault with a lethal 4,000 pound weapon.

That was a major disappointment. I wanted someone to speak to this driver. If I had not reacted quickly, I could have been injured or worse. Millcroft is a neighbourhood of people of all ages. Moms with strollers, young school age kids, and also a lot of older people walk the neighbourhood. Not all are attuned to their environment, or have the mental or physical ability to react quickly to a car being driven at them. Who would think, on a clear, bright, sunny morning, that a vehicle would be driven at a person crossing the road with the right of way. It definitely felt like an assault.

Narejko Rob-with-bikesAfter my workout, I walked home, able to enjoy the sun and relative warmth without incident, thankfully. But as I was walking, I kept thinking about all the items in the prior paragraph. And I was asking myself questions about the HRPS.

I know they are well funded. With a 3.5% increase over 2018, the 2019 HRPS budget will be $155.4 million.

HRPS crest

The police services budget has exceeded inflation for most of the past decade.

A quick scan of the budget shows heavy investment in information and communications technologies. Some of the items are:
● Upgrade/replace front-line technology tools
● Research/implement efficient digital storage
● Deploy a separate LTE wireless network for first responders ($1.2M)
● Network Server replacements ($153k)
● Technology replacements ($362k, including $150k for a call manager upgrade for the 911 call centre)
● the acquisition/construction of a new tactical response vehicle ($450k)

Two mobile commands

TRV are also known as Mobile Command vehicles.

I don’t know exactly what a tactical response vehicle (TRV) is, but it’s not an inexpensive item. I am sure we, the citizens who pay the taxes that pay for the TRV, are getting good value from the HRPS for our $450k.

I also know the HRPS has Automated License Plate Readers (ALPRs), high speed computer controlled camera systems that capture all license plates that come into view. They capture the location, date and time of the vehicle as it passes the camera. All the data, including photos of the vehicle, it’s driver and passengers, are uploaded to a central server. This information, over time, can paint a picture of where you drive, where you go to church, where you shop, who your doctor is and many more facets of your life. The system captures the data, regardless of whether you are a law abiding citizen or a . If your car has a license plate, and all cars have license plates, you and your activities can and are stored in the database.

Halton taxpayers are a generous group and there is no lack of funding for police services in Halton. HRPS has increased its budget every year for the past 6 years, and probably longer. 2019 – 3.5% / 2018 – 3.5% / 2017 – 3.7% / 2016 – 1.9% / 2015 – couldn’t find / 2014 – 3.6%). In 2016, HRPS was budgeted $139.7M. From 2016 to 2019, that is an increase of $15.7M in 4 years. Or an increase of greater than 11% in 4 years. No shortage of funding.

Maybe, however, there could be an allocation somewhere in that $155.4M budget for something that would be a great enhancement to the services that the HRPS offers. Maybe HRPS could find it in their budget to pay for software that would more directly help the citizens by making their everyday interactions with HRPS more satisfactory. A TRV may be used on occasion, but I am sure there are many more scenarios, similar to mine, occurring everyday, that could be addressed to make the roads safer.

That information alone would narrow down the search area to a homeowner in Millcroft. Having an IT background, the ability to do a search on a partial set of information sounds extremely simple, almost painfully simple. The data already resides in the MTO (Ministry of Transportation) database. I know the police access the MTO data. Sounds straightforward, but there must be complexities that go beyond my understanding.

ALPR

ALPR is a very efficient data collection service.

The ALPR technology, on the other hand, is quite sophisticated. But it must be easier than having the ability to do a partial search on a license plate, with 4 of the seven characters, the make, model and colour of the vehicle as well as the general vicinity of where the vehicle’s owner lives.

Let’s assume you have access to the data. The vehicle has a built-in GPS. The driver (most certainly) has a smart-phone, also equipped with a GPS. Pull the information from both devices and you have the location, date and time of the driver and vehicle being at that intersection.

I get this information from my own phone. Google knows where I have been. How long it took me to get from start to destination. How long I spent at the gym. Where I stopped and for how long. Easily accessible information.

You may say this is a waste of time and a waste of limited resources. No one was hurt. Move on. I agree, to a point.

If people are allowed to get away with sloppy driving habits, they will eventually take more risks and not improve their behaviour. Sloppy driving habits could lead to life altering consequences for a future victim, the perpetrator and their respective families. I can’t imagine the pain of knowing that a person would have the ability to walk, run, bike or otherwise enjoy a life of full mobility, if only I had taken two minutes from my day to scrape the ice from my windows.

If you drive your vehicle without the ability to see down the road, this isn’t an accident. This is willful neglect.

To the driver of the black Honda Pilot, license CCCW who lives east of Country Club Drive in Millcroft, I’m keeping my eyes open for you and so should everyone else.

And clear your windshield!

Return to the Front page

President Trump doesn't beleive the climate change arguments; Premier Ford doesn't buy into the need for a carbon tax; Canadian Minister of the Environment says changes are being made while the United Nations tells us we have 11 years left to get it right.

News 100 greenBy Staff

December 30th, 2018

BURLINGTON, ON

 

In a media release from Queen’s Park the Ministry of the |Environment said: “Ontario’s Government for the People is gaining support across Canada in its fight against the federal government’s unconstitutional carbon tax. In addition to the Province of Saskatchewan, the Province of New Brunswick has now also joined Ontario’s challenge to the federal government’s Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act, which is an unconstitutional, disguised tax.

“The federal carbon tax will eliminate jobs and make life more difficult for families, seniors and everyone who works hard to get ahead in Ontario and across our country,” said Premier Doug Ford. “We are on the front lines of this fight because the costs for people and communities are simply unacceptable, whether in Ontario, in Saskatchewan, in New Brunswick or everywhere people are bracing for this new tax.”

Ford and Mulroney

Ontario now has a government that doesn’t see environmental issues the way the federal government does.

“Canadians across the country are calling on the federal government to eliminate the unconstitutional carbon tax and let the provinces decide how best to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

“Ontario has already intervened in the reference case Saskatchewan has launched to its Court of Appeal.
“We are thankful for the support of Premier Ford and Premier Higgs, and the people of Ontario and New Brunswick, for intervening in our case against this unconstitutional and harmful federally imposed carbon tax,” said Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe. “Premier Ford and Minister Mulroney have shown great leadership in introducing a constitutional challenge against this job killing carbon tax, and Saskatchewan is proud to stand with the people of Ontario in this fight. The federal government should respect the court process by delaying the imposition of this harmful and job-killing tax until the courts have rendered a final decision.”

New Brunswick has intervened in the reference case in Saskatchewan as well and has now joined Ontario’s challenge.

“The Province of New Brunswick is on track to meet and exceed carbon emission reduction targets by 2030. We believe the federal government’s carbon tax unfairly targets our business and is too heavy a financial burden for ordinary New Brunswickers and Canadians alike,” said New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs. “That is why we have made good on our promise to join Saskatchewan and Ontario in court to fight a federally imposed carbon tax.”

“While our plan sets out a clear path as to how Ontario will achieve our share of the Paris targets, the federal government demonstrated yesterday that they do not.

trudeau-carbon-tax-20181023

There is a fundamental difference between what the province of Ontario wants to do on managing the amount of carbon in the environment and what the federal government wants to see done.

“Ontario is doing its share to address climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions; our families, workers and businesses have already made significant sacrifices to get here, and there is no justification to punish them further with a carbon tax,” said Rod Phillips, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks. “With our environment plan, Ontario will continue to protect the environment while respecting taxpayers.”

The federal Minister of the Environment took a different tack saying: “Today demonstrates that multi-lateralism works to tackle a clear global problem—climate change. Three years ago almost to the day, some 200 countries came together to land an ambitious Paris Agreement. Over the last few weeks, the world gathered once again in Katowice, Poland, for the 24th Conference of the Parties (COP24) where our team worked hard throughout the negotiations to find common ground between developed and developing countries.

“I am pleased countries around the world came together to agree to rules for transparently reporting how all countries are fulfilling their commitments to reduce emissions and tackle climate change. To increase our ambition for climate action, we need clear and transparent rules.

“Canada also played a leading role in laying the groundwork for a global carbon market, to help mobilize the billions of dollars of investments needed to tackle climate change. We were pleased with the outcome although more work remains over the next year to finalize the guidelines for international trading. Recognizing the global momentum on pricing pollution, Canada took part in the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition, encouraging all countries around the world to use the most cost-effective tool to reduce emissions.

McKenna Poland

Catherine McKenna, lower left, at the UN Conference on Climate Change in Poland

“At COP24, Canada and the United Kingdom celebrated the first anniversary of the Powering Past Coal Alliance—founded by both countries—which now has 80 members including Israel, Scotland, Senegal, Melbourne and Sydney, and ScottishPower. We also pledged $275 million to the World Bank to help more countries around the world power past coal and move toward clean and renewable energy. We know that to achieve the Paris Agreement targets, every country needs to phase out coal and ensure a Just Transition for workers and communities. People must be at the centre of climate policies.

“Canada helped advance the work of the Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform, with Indigenous representatives from Canada and around the world. To further this work, we will be supporting an Indigenous representative in the UN Climate Change secretariat.

“By bringing together not only governments, but also stakeholders, organizations, businesses, Indigenous partners, and civil society, COP24 demonstrated the world’s shared commitment to fight climate change. As we move toward a more sustainable economy in our common fight against climate change, we can ensure good jobs and healthy, resilient communities for our people.”

Climate change demonstrations

We will need more than demonstrations to bring about the changes in behavior that are needed.

Prior to the opening of the COP24 conference the United Nations issued one of the starkest warnings yet of the catastrophic threat posed by climate change, nations gathered in Poland on Sunday to chart a way for mankind to avert runaway global warming.

The COP24 climate summit comes at a crucial juncture in the battle to rein in the effects of our heating planet.

The smaller, poorer nations that will bare the devastating brunt of climate change are pushing for richer states to make good on the promises they made in the 2015 Paris agreement.

Three years ago countries committed to limit global temperature rises to well below two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), and to the safer cap of 1.5C if at all possible.

1.5 to 2c

Getting from 1.5 to 2 degrees centigrade

But with only a single degree Celsius of warming so far, the world has already seen a crescendo of deadly wildfires, heatwaves and hurricanes made more destructive by rising seas.

UN General Assembly president Maria Espinosa told AFP that mankind was “in danger of disappearing” if climate change was allowed to progress at its current rate.

“We need to act urgently, and with audacity. Be ambitious, but also responsible for the future generations,” she added.

In a rare intervention, presidents of previous UN climate summits issued a joint statement as the talks got under way, calling on states to take “decisive action… to tackle these urgent threats”.

“The impacts of climate change are increasingly hard to ignore,” said the statement, a copy of which was obtained by AFP. “We require deep transformations of our economies and societies.”

At the COP24 climate talks, nations must agree to a rule book palatable to all 183 states who have ratified the Paris deal.

The road to a final rule book is far from smooth: the dust is still settling from US President Donald Trump’s decision to ditch the Paris accord.

G20 leaders on Saturday wrapped up their summit by declaring the Paris Agreement “irreversible”.

But it said the United States “reiterates its decision to withdraw” from the landmark accord.

The UN negotiations got off to a chaotic start in the Polish mining city of Katowice Sunday, with the opening session delayed nearly three hours by a series of last-ditch submissions.

A string of major climate reports have cast doubt over the entire process, suggesting the Paris goals fall well short of what is needed.

Data doesn’t lie

Just last week, the UN’s environment programme said the voluntary national contributions agreed in Paris would have to triple if the world was to cap global warming below 2C.

For 1.5C, they must increase fivefold.

While the data are clear, a global political consensus over how to tackle climate change remains elusive.

“Katowice may show us if there will be any domino effect” following the US withdrawal, said Laurence Tubiana, CEO of the European Climate Foundation and a main architect of the Paris deal.

Brazil’s strongman president-elect Jair Bolsonaro, for one, has promised to follow the American lead during his campaign.

Many countries are already dealing with the droughts, higher seas and catastrophic storms climate change is exacerbating.

“A failure to act now risks pushing us beyond a point of no return with catastrophic consequences for life as we know it,” said Amjad Abdulla, chief negotiator for the Alliance of Small Island States, of the UN talks.

A key issue up for debate is how the fight against climate change is funded, with developed and developing nations still world’s apart in their demands.

no time to waste -belgium-climate-demonstration

The world has to get this right in the next decade.

Poorer nations argue that rich countries, which are responsible for the vast majority of historic carbon emissions, must help others to fund climate action.

“Developed nations led by the US will want to ignore their historic responsibilities and will say the world has changed,” said Meena Ramam, from the Third World Network advocacy group.  “The question really is: how do you ensure that ambitious actions are done in an equitable way?”

If the world doesn’t get this right in the next decade – future generations are going to have to live in a world regularly racked by weather the likes of which we are only beginning to see.

Return to the Front page

Speak wisely, act wisely and that wisdom will trickle down to the people you are there to serve.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

December 28th, 2018

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Stu Parr, who is not a relative nor a friend – we’ve never met; made a very cogent point in a comment he posted on the Gazette.

He was responding to another reader over the direction he thought the current municipal council might take and said:

“However, if they do see the “light of day” it will probably be a Facebook posting followed by several twitter and Instagram feeds.

“Governance by social media seems to be the rule of the day. One often wonders the depth of what lies beneath.”

Parr is a little too close to the truth for comfort. The photo op is being replaced by heavy use of social media.

Twitter logoOur hope here at the Gazette is that we will get more than a picture, more than 140, or 280 Twitter characters if they went for the upgrade.

We would like to see comments with some depth and ideas that were part of the promise when the city all but cleaned out the 2014-2018 city council.

The voter turnout was disappointing, the mandate this council has is not as deep as it could have been. Did people not care? Did they not know what the issues were ?

Given the scope of what the issues were that turnout should have been in excess of 55% – something Burlington has never done in the past.

facebook-logoPhoto ops, Facebook mentions, tweets and Instagram’s are not going to educate people. There is a guy to the south of us who uses tweets like oxygen to keep himself alive – and look where that has gotten them.

The previous city council felt that if the kept making puff-ball statements (remember when we were the best mid-sized city in the country) over time they would be seen as true – until the facts – or a ballot box told them otherwise.

Speak wisely, act wisely and that wisdom will trickle down to the people you are there to serve.

Return to the Front page

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

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

December 27, 2018

BURLINGTON, ON

 

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.

Return to the Front page

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

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

December 22, 2018

BURLINGTON, ON

 

“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

Return to the Front page

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

BURLINGTON, ON

 

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.

donald-trump-xi-jinping-handshake

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.

meng-wanzhou

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

Return to the Front page

We are bereft of good solid political leadership.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

December 17th, 2018

BURLINGTON, ON

 

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.

Return to the Front page

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

BURLINGTON, ON

 

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.

Return to the Front page

What kind of a city manager does Burlington need now?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

December 12th, 2018

BURLINGTON, ON

 

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.

strat-plan-logo-25-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.

Return to the Front page

The Political Takedown of Patrick Brown - Part One

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

December 11th, 2018

BURLINGTON, ON

 

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

Return to the Front page

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

BURLINGTON, ON

 

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.

Return to the Front page

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

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

December 7th, 2018

BURLINGTON, ON

 

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

Return to the Front page

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

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

December 4th, 2018

BURLINGTON, ON

 

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.

Return to the Front page

The old order changes ....

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

December 3rd, 2018

BURLINGTON, ON

 

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.

dfrt

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?

Return to the Front page

Ontario’s Climate Change Plan: Much Ado About Nothing

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

November 30th, 2018

BURLINGTON, ON

 

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.

cap_and_trade

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

Return to the Front page

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
BURLINGTON, ON

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
.

Return to the Front page

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

BURLINGTON, ON

 

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

Return to the Front page