When expensive political campaign strategists are brought in you know the candidate is getting close to the bone

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

August 30th, 2018



It’s a story that isn’t going to go away and the telephone election polling being done doesn’t appear to be stopping.

Campaign Research appears to have revised the questions they are asking the people they call in Burlington which suggests that the client is still intent on attempting to collect some information and at the same time using historical information out of context to hammer the reputation Mayoralty candidate Marianne Meed Ward’s reputation,

Meed Ward worked for a number of years as a columnist for the Toronto Sun. Anyone who wants to put a specific spin on what another person who writes for the public won’t find it difficult to do a really good smear job on them. Columnists have opinions – that’s why they are hired. Some are provocative, others entertaining. We all have our favourites.

I usually can’t wait to read what Maureen Dowd has to say in the New York Times and there is certainly a colourful background story on her.

Looking north from Queens Head

There is a lot of money riding on this development. They want what the guy across the street has in terms of height. This rendering is on Brant from the Queen’s Head looking north.

What Burlington is seeing is this – significant financial interests don’t like the impact Meed Ward is having on the rate and kind of development the city is experiencing.

Meed Ward, often described as a populist (I’ve never understood what’s wrong with being a populist) can be very blunt and direct. She has an agenda – as a politician she is supposed to have an agenda.

For some politicians their agenda is for the ward they represent. Meed Ward has always seen the city and the Region as her agenda and a city that meets the needs of the people who live here as she understands them.

She is described as well as “divisive” – that she isn’t a team player. She has chosen not to work with the current political team at city hall because she thinks they are dead wrong and she has a level of support that suggests she just might be right.

That she has the support of a large sector of the city impacts what the developers are going to get away with. Development is now all about money.

There was a time when developers cared about the communities they were building – that day has come and gone. It is now about how much you can make and keep.

The number of new developers who are new to Burlington is significant. They see a market in which they can get just about anything they want – and they are either buying up properties or getting options to buy.
Residents see opportunities to make a bundle on selling their homes – everyone wins.

Meed Ward sees it differently.


Quiet streets with good homes – the Burlington many people want to defend and they believe Meed Ward is the person who will deliver for them.

She believes that the city is where people live and the quality of life they have experienced can continue as long as there is some level of control over the growth that is taking place.

There are numbers being put out saying that the city has to grow by a certain number of homes and jobs – it doesn’t look as if anyone knows what the 30+ development applications that are said to be working their way through the Planning department will amount to.

Which brings us back to the telephone survey that has been taking place and is still underway.
Someone wants to know just where the political support is in this city. There are three serious candidates (the fourth needs to get another hobby). Each offers very clear choices.

MMW benefit graphic

Meed Ward has always been a different campaign. She ruffles the feathers of her colleagues on city council; asks more questions than all the others combined and truly believes that the people she represent deserve a better form of local government.

The Meed Ward choice threatens the interests of people with a lot of money who don’t want to lose the opportunities they see in Burlington.

So they do some research and in the process do whatever they can to besmirch the reputation of one of the candidates by bringing up stuff she wrote more than a decade ago and then putting it in a different context.

It’s sort of like asking a man if he is still beating his wife. The answer to the question isn’t the issue – it is the question that is all wrong.

That’s what applies to what it taking place now and people in Burlington need to see the situation for what it is.

This business about being divisive is just another way of saying Meed Ward asks questions that make me uncomfortable – and that she does. That’s what her job is and she appears to be doing it quite well – too well for some people.

Goldring doing CBC interview

Mayor Rick Goldring being interviewed by CBC

The CBC radio office in Hamilton has done a good job of digging out a large part of the story. (We would love to have the resources they have.) They got a statement from the Mayor – he appears to have chosen not to release a statement to all media. Goldring, who is running for re-election against Meed Ward, said he had nothing to do with the poll. “It was definitely not me. It’s certainly not my style.”

In the CBC report Councillor Marianne Meed Ward says she first received word from residents on Sunday afternoon she was being mentioned in a telephone survey conducted by Toronto-based consulting firm Campaign Research — which counts controversial conservative political strategist Nick Kouvalis as one of its heads.

Meed Ward called the statements made about her “untrue, inflammatory and defamatory.” Campaign Research denies that. “This is heinous and it needs to stop,” Meed Ward said.

Sue Connor with Jim Young

Jim Young at a transit meeting.

Burlington resident Jim Young told said he received a call Monday afternoon.  “It started off like a fairly regular political poll, he said, “consisting of rating candidates on a scale of one to 10, and indicating how certain he was that he would support a particular candidate.”

Young said that he planned to vote for Meed Ward and then the tone of the questions the person was asking changed.

“At that point, the questions became very strange,” Young said. The woman conducting the poll said she was going to give several statements about Meed Ward, and instructed Young to indicate on a scale of one to 10 how likely he was to change his vote because of them.

The questions asked, which don’t deserve repeating, were in Jim Young’s words “seemed like character assassination.”

Young wanted to complain about the questions being asked and was told that the survey was being done by Campaign Research and was offered a telephone number in case he wanted to complain.
Young said he called the number, and got an automated recording for Campaign Research.

Campaign Research denies survey was defamatory

In an email, Campaign Research Principal Richard Ciano said the company will not “disclose, discuss, confirm, or deny the existence of any matter relating to who its clients are, or may be, or any work Campaign Research Inc. may perform on behalf of its clients unless specifically required to do so by law, or unless specifically directed to do so by our clients.”

Nick of Campaign Research

Nick Kouvalis, a campaign strategist with a reputation os his own that he uses to drum up business from people who want deep background on public office candidates.

Legal counsel for Campaign Research said, “We vehemently contest your characterization of the subject statements as ‘defamatory’.”

He also said the poll was conducted for “another market research firm, whose identity we cannot disclose due to confidentiality.”

A bunch of guys just taking care of business – see them for what they are.

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

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Greg Woodruff - This, as far as I can see, has not worked anywhere on the planet.

opinionviolet 100x100By Greg Woodruff

August 30th, 2018



In 2014 I was going around saying Burlington’s transit strategy is no more complicated than “Walk, Bike or stay home.” I figured that would make others explain what the transit strategy actually was. No luck on that count 4 years later we have – absolutely nothing. The upside is the website didn’t need any adjusting for the 2018 campaign. The downside being I live here.

The transit strategy when it finally arrives I suspect it will be full of city math. Where 2+2 doesn’t equal 4, because 2 of those people will stay home for no explicable reason.

I once said to a City staff member at a meeting that; “There is no realistic way you can get 100,000 more people into Burlington.” I fear they took the comment as a dare because. The “Grow Bold” plan puts at least 100,000 people in Burlington.

Realty time. All these high-rise buildings sit atop massive parking lots – all these people are bringing cars. Maybe they are not bringing two cars like traditional suburbs, but they still bring cars. How if
100,000 plus people are coming are we not going to cross the James Ridge
50,000 car doomsday line? The math just doesn’t add up.

Never fear though this problem will be solved by the “New Burlingtonian” who for some reason buys a car but never uses it. Yes, they made sure to get a parking space and bought the car, but it never goes anywhere. Existing residents will find hours of new time for walking, biking and bussing.

As you can imagine, running for office, you end up talking to a lot of people. I’ve never run into one person who is planning to modify there life to fit this new paradigm; Not one.

So the manifestation of everyone going about their busy lives; getting groceries, getting the kids to soccer, visiting friends or going to work – is that the road system will keep becoming an ever greater waste of time.

Don’t worry say transit experts; at some point, driving will waste so much time – people will give up on it. They drive less – fewer cars on road – problem solved. The math is solved not by making the numbers add up, but by changing the definition of two. Changing how much and how people are expected to travel.

This as far as I can see has not worked anywhere on the planet. What you discover is that those people who bought parking spaces and cars – use them. Though the road system gets ever more painful – it’s not more painful than trying to walk home with a case of canned tomatoes.

I might have to modify my line  for the 2018 campaign to:  “Walk, Bike, stay home or waste incredible amounts of time and gas”.

Related new article:

Transportation study: A draft is sitting on a desk somewhere in city hall.

Greg WoodruffGreg Woodruff is a candidate for Mayor in Burlington.  He ran as a candidate for Chair of the Halton Regional Council.  Woodruff lives in Aldershot.

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Transportation study: A draft is sitting on a desk somewhere in city hall.

News 100 redBy Staff

August 29th, 2018



City hall is telling citizens that over the next 25 years, Burlington is going to grow in its urban areas.

“With 193,000 people expected to live in Burlington by 2031, the city is planning for future population growth including how people will move through the city.

“Over the last 30 years, Burlington’s transportation network has accommodated growth by building more roadways. This strategy is no longer sustainable. The city does not have the space to build new roadways and the financial cost to maintain a larger network of roads is significant.

“A 21st century city is built around a different transportation model, one designed to provide people of all ages and abilities with more travel choices for things like walking, cycling and transit.

“Go Bold is Burlington’s Transportation Plan. The plan is built around eight new directions for the City of Burlington. When implemented, these directions will result in a new era of transportation.

In a Transportation study that seems to be talking ages to make it to a city council Sanding Committee the department explains that eight New Directions are being worked on.

The study will provide a wide range of options for getting around regardless of age, means or ability, including walking, cycling, public transit and automobiles

Uses compact modes of travel like buses, bicycles and walking to efficiently move larger number of people

Is well connected to transportation systems in surrounding regions

Offers fast, reliable and more frequent transit

Features improved facilities and safety for cyclists and pedestrians


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

Fully Align Land Use and Transportation

Ensure all land use and transportation decisions made at City Hall, from policy-making to budgeting, are integrated and support walking, biking, transit.




Re-think streets

There was a time when LAkeshore was known as Water Street and traffic was a little slower. But Burlington isn't a sleepy little town anymore - traffic has toi be controlled.

There was a time when Lakeshore was known as Water Street and traffic was a little slower. But Burlington isn’t a sleepy little town anymore – traffic has to be controlled.

Rethink Streets

Creating more travel options for the community means thinking differently about how our city streets look and function. One of the ways to allow for more travel choice is to create complete streets. These are streets that are designed to be safe, comfortable and efficient for people of every age and ability including pedestrians, cyclists, transit users and drivers. They also easily connect people to the places they live, work and play.

In rural areas we, envision the potential for rural roads to serve more than just automobiles, but instead as key pieces of infrastructure that improve community interconnectivity and social interaction.


Prioritize choices

Lot of traffic lights at big pole

Reprioritize Mobility Choices

Reprioritize decision making at City Hall to support the creation of new facilities for walking, biking, transit that can compete with the automobile.





New street - being rebuilt

New Street when the Road Diet was thought to be a good idea.

No new street capacityNo New Street Capacity

Land use intensification with further auto-oriented design will only result in continued auto-dependency, expensive infrastructure and overall traffic failure. Understanding that as the city grows, expanded mobility will be achieved by investing in walking, biking, and transit instead of building new roadways.




Walking more enjoyableSnow on street - lady - walkerMake Walking More Enjoyable

Walking is the foundation of the transportation system. Design streets that are safe, vibrant, active and easy to navigate.






Biking more enjoyableCycling in BurlingtonMake Biking More Enjoyable

Design streets with biking infrastructure that provides a safe, well connected system throughout the city. In the rural areas, encourage development of biking opportunities over time with infrastructure where strategically appropriate.




Public transit more enjoyableBfast poster with BG logoMake Public Transit Enjoyable

Implement significant and strategic improvements to transit in order to improve experience and increase ridership. The result is a transit network that offers quick, reliable and more frequent transit service.





Transit - Vito Tolone

Vito Tolone – Director of Transportation

Walk the talk folow thru“Walk the Talk” in the Follow Through

Dedicate energy and attention to ensuring the actions identified in GoBold are implemented. Align decision making and budgeting to support the new mobility hierarchy.





Phony baloney according to ward 2 city council candidate Lisa Kearns. She explained to a small audience last week that the problem with all these studies is that they are never related to each other.

Her example was the traffic study done for the now approved development on the NE corner of Brant and James, directly across from city hall makes no mention of the traffic study done for the development Reserve Properties wants to put up on the SE corner of that intersection.

Kearns at podium

Lisa Kearns before she announced her decision to run for the ward 2 city council seat.

According to Kearns it makes no sense to look at the traffic projection studies independently.

There is a report on traffic impacts attached to every application – the problem is that the cumulative impact of the developments never appears in the reports and so far the public hasn’t seen anything from the Transportation department on just what that cumulative impact is going to look like.

The people who live in the downtown core don’t need a study to know what the impact is going to be – they experience it every time they drive in the downtown core.

Using her whimsical, straight to the point style Lisa Kearns got it right: phony baloney indeed.

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A strong, direct statement on what one citizen feels is wrong with city hall as people begin to think about who the next city Councillors should be.

opinionred 100x100By Stephen White

August 28th, 2018



The Burlington Community Engagement Charter is not the Ten Commandments, and the last time I checked James Ridge was not Moses. Uttering a collection of sanctimonious pronouncements and expecting that suddenly things will change for the better or be done differently is not only naive but is foolhardy and absurd in the extreme.

Real engagement is not about a slick website with colourful pictures, or pretty PowerPoint presentations, or holding public meetings feigning interest while citizens rail on about the latest development proposal desecrating neighbourhoods. It is about real communication based on a respect for and an appreciation of the benefits that come from joint problem-solving, articulation of divergent viewpoints, and the search for viable solutions. Most importantly, it is a dialogue and sharing amongst equals.

The city holds budget review meetings that draw 50 people sometimes - seldom more. Putting questions about the budget on line and letting a panel of 5,000 people respond would give city hall a much bigger picture. They may not like the response they get - then what do they do?

Citizens at a budget meeting, reviewing a budget that has already been decided on. White wants that to change to a process that involves public input before the budget is cast in stone.

What we have in Burlington is a power imbalance that works for the benefit of a few against the interests of many. We have a Mayor who has really proven powerless to lead over the past four years, and who keeps trying to appease everyone with platitudes but really ends up pleasing no one. We have a Council who, despite multiple appeals and admonitions to the contrary over the past two years. has pushed their bloody-minded OP and Mobility Hubs agenda over the objections and against the wishes of residents.

All of this has played out against a backdrop of the business community, supported by the Chamber of Commerce and developers, who keep telling us, figuratively at least, to just shut up and drink the Kool-Aid, and whose grandiose promises extolling the virtues of development are over hyped while the negative externalities (e.g. traffic congestion, too few parking spaces, lack of green spaces, etc.) are dramatically under-reported. And watching it all from the sidelines are municipal public servants whose contribution to this circus performance is to continually prattle on about how we all need to “Grow Bold” and “intensify” while producing copious amounts of communications drivel intended to mollify an increasingly militant and wearisome public, all done in the name of “engagement”.

We can change our Mayor, and we change our Council, but those actions, in and of themselves, will not yield change post October 22nd. What we really need to change is the process and the players who manage it.

Beachway meeting April7-15 full house

Citizens gather for a public meeting on what should be done with private homes in the Beachway. Their views were not included in the final decision. The Region will buy every house when it comes on the market.

Consultation and dialogue needs to occur from the outset, not as an afterthought. We need dedicated resources at City Hall, not aligned with developers, who will aid citizens and support neighbourhoods when mounting objections to development proposals. We need City Hall support to create and sustain neighbourhood and ratepayers’ associations as a non-elected counter-veiling force to challenge developers and as a conduit to meaningful citizen engagement.

We need advisory panels whose members are reflective of the community, and not populated with special interest advocates. We need to build in the concept of engagement and communication into every business process that is conducted municipally, and not just some pious Engagement Charter that gets framed and hung on a wall somewhere and is essentially meaningless.

CHAT group photo

Members of ChAT – the Charter Action Team responsible for ensuring that the Engagement Charter is actually complied with.

Those who manage the process need to be evaluated and held accountable on how well they actually do it.

And finally, we need to open up a serious discussion around the continued employment of several municipal public servants whose past derisive comments and behaviour don’t exactly connote with the concept of “engagement”.

Related news story.

The Engagement Charter.

The Shape Burlington Report

Stephen White is a Burlington resident who lives on the east side of the city.  He comments from time to time on how well the city is run.

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We will keep you informed. We will implement what you decide. It's all in a promise the city made to you.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

August 23rd, 2018



Is it deliberate?

Or is it from an organization that is now so dysfunctional that the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.

We published an opinion piece by ward 2 city council candidate Roland Tanner who wrote about a meting that was very poorly promoted, pointing out that even the ward Councillor and candidate for Mayor didn’t know about it.

We did a follow up piece on how a public meeting on such a critical matter could be so poorly promoted. We kept coming across the Get Involved part of the city web site.

CHAT group photo

Those who know or should know how to communicate effectively: Back row, left  Kwab Ako-Adjei, Senior Manager of Government Relations and Strategic Communications,. Bottom row, centre Donna Kell, Manager of Public Affairs and to her left city manager James Ridge. They would have signed off on the ChAT report.

While we were reading up on Getting Involved we came across ChAT – an interesting group that, in their group photograph, has several city staff in the group – including Kwab Ako-Adjei, Senior Manager of Government Relations and city manager James Ridge.

In April 2013, Burlington City Council approved the first Burlington Community Engagement Charter. The Charter was created by citizens with support from staff. It is an agreement between and among Burlington City Council and the community concerning citizen engagement with City government and establishes the commitments, responsibilities and fundamental concepts of this relationship.

Ako-Adjei and Ridge surely know something about communicating.

ChAT had their most recent annual report on the web site.

Some excerpts from that document

1. Ensure notification is as widespread as possible:

a. Use communication tools that include City of Burlington website, local print media, online digital communication, direct delivery and social media.
b. Reach out to groups/individuals that may be affected by proposed developments, policies, initiatives, studies and municipal projects.
c. Create and develop partnerships that will help reach out to citizens.
d. Ensure that communication plans include early and widespread notifications.
e. Where appropriate, provide progress and/or completion notices.

2. Ensure notification is given early enough so that the citizens may be fully engaged:

a. Set up and maintain a way for citizens and groups to subscribe or sign up for early notification through email, social media or other means.
b. Advise the public of proposed developments, policies, meetings and major projects as soon as possible. For major projects and public meetings, at least two weeks notice to the public is expected. Exceptions will be made in emergency situations where less than two weeks notice will apply.

3. Support staff in providing early and widespread notification so that it becomes part of the corporate culture:

a. Provide staff training in effective public engagement practices through workshops and e-learning opportunities.

4. Collaborate with citizens and partners in empowering citizens through different means of communicating:

a. Use existing resources in the community to help to provide information as soon as possible.
b. Develop and use networks for information sharing of contacts.

5. Clearly communicate meeting dates and deadlines:

a. Schedule public meetings to take place early and with opportunities for public input into decision- making.
b. Create a central point on the City’s website where all dates are available.
c. Ensure dates are reflected on City project pages on the website.
d. Include dates in all relevant communication materials.

CHAT promise to the public graphic

Is this happening?

It is so immoral for a city to publish statements like this and then fail miserably to deliver on the promise.

The people who work at city hall want to be seen as professionals – and they should be. But there is nothing professional about how that public meeting Wednesday night came into being.

Burlington once had a city manager who made mistakes – and he had the decency to apologize publicly for the mistakes he made.

And he wasn’t crass enough to define his mistakes as a “learning opportunity”.

Related opinion and news stories:

Roland Tanner opinion piece

Public meeting that failed.

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Planners looking for public input - too little too late says ward 2 candidate.

opinionviolet 100x100By Roland Tanner

August 22nd, 2018



The City is holding two drop-in open houses for residents to learn more about the mid-rise building guidelines currently being developed.

A mid rise building is defined as any building between five and eleven stories high. The guidelines will be presented to Council on November (after the election, but before the new Council takes office).

1. Take the online survey

2. Attend the open houses

Wednesday, August 22nd from 6pm to 8pm at the Art Gallery of Burlington

Thursday, August 30th from 1:30pm to 3:30pm at the Art Gallery of Burlington

The city advises that “your input will be used to help create the guidelines that will be presented to Burlington City Council in November 2018”.

Mid rise example Tanner

An example of a mid-rise structure

How this affects you

The city guidelines that are adopted will have a large effect on all future development that fall within the ‘mid-rise’ heights. For instance, the tall building guidelines agreed in 2017 set out certain required features for any tall buildings which are planned. These include things like road setbacks, public accessible areas and architectural features. In theory, the guidelines should ensure that new buildings which fall within their remit are designed appropriately and fit well within and transition to the neighbourhoods where they are planned.

Public engagement – too little, too late

As is so often the case, it appears that public engagement on these design guidelines are happening late, at a time of year when many people are away, and with relatively little notice. Residents are being asked to provide informed feedback on design criteria which will have already been planned and considered for many months by city staff and/or consultants.

I feel it is unlikely that bringing in citizens at a stage when so much work has already been done is likely to enable any significant discussion of the guidelines which will result in meaningful adjustment of the guidelines. The decision will be made by council before most residents have even become aware that the guidelines are under discussion. To my knowledge, there has been very little publicity of the public meetings until this week.

What could have happened:

Public meetings at the start of the staff process of drafting design guidelines.
Based on public meeting initial feedback, creation of a short-term citizen-staff committee to research and explore design guideline possibilities.

Citizen committee empowered to reach out and engage further with residents by a range of methods and ensure voices of entire community are heard from all demographic areas, communicate, liaise and interview staff.

Citizen recommendations included as integral part of staff draft guidelines which are then presented to further meetings, via questionnaires, advertised in local media.

Final adjustments made to draft guidelines.
Council considers guidelines which have been developed by staff and residents in a collaborative process.

What’s worse that no engagement? Engagement done badly

I believe that the current City engagement methods actually do more harm than good. By holding ineffective ‘engagement’ sessions where citizens can do little more than provide extremely minimal feedback, late in the process, citizens end up feeling more rather than less resentful of the decision-making process. Not only are they being ignored, but they’ve given up an evening of their lives to be ignored less efficiently. Bad engagement, in many ways, is worse than no engagement at all.

If we are going to ask citizens for their opinions, it’s essential that it happens in a way that those opinions are heard, respected, and built into the development of plans and guidelines from the very outset.

Nevertheless, I encourage all Ward 2 residents to attend the open houses and complete the online survey if you have the time available.

Roland TannerRoland Tanner is a candidate for the ward 2 city council seat.  He was a member of the Shape Burlington report that was adopted by city council unanimously – then never acted upon.

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Drummond on the new provincial government - How are they doing so far?

opinionred 100x100By Andrew Drummond

August 20th, 2018



Last Tuesday, the Doug Ford government’s first legislative session came to a close. It was clear from the outset of the session that Ford wanted to accomplish much and was willing to endure widespread public opposition to do it. However, it was also abundantly clear throughout the session that the government was being run top down from the Premier’s office and Ford’s ministers were frequently unprepared to discuss government policy until they had been briefed, even when it was regarding decisions within their own department.

Tory Education Minister Lisa Thomson

Education Minister Lisa Thomson: Old sex ed program to be used.

One of the areas that has been the source of the most confusion has been the Ministry of Education and Minister Lisa Thompson. One of the government’s first acts was to announce that they would be removing the current curriculum for Health and Phys Ed (colloquially known as Sex Ed) and replace it with the 1998 version from Mike Harris’ government. This decision was immediately met with near universal condemnation, as the 20-year-old curriculum does not cover topics such as cyberbullying, consent, sexting, or same-sex relationships.

The government’s reaction showed how unprepared they were for this decision. They have flip flopped four or five times, and eventually Minister Thompson ran from reporters rather than be forced to give further non-answers to what the government’s plans are. To this point, the government still has not communicated to school boards what the expectations are, and the Elementary Teacher’s Federation as well as many school boards have announced that they will continue teaching the existing curriculum.

The debate on what the curriculum should include notwithstanding, it is the chaos and lack of direction from the government that is most troubling. Minister Thompson seems to not have any idea why she is changing the curriculum, what she is changing it to, or how to implement such a change. Students in Halton are now going to be at risk of losing valuable lessons that have been recommended by police, health professionals, and social workers because the government is dysfunctional enough on this file to ensure no one knows what to do.

Another important area of education is school repair. During the election campaign, it was identified by the group Fix Our Schools that Ontario had $15.9 billion in overdue school repairs. Many Conservative MPPs signed a pledge to address this. The pledge specifically commits the MPP to “Support the provision of adequate, stable funding needed to ensure that by 2022 all Ontario schools meet this “State of Good Repair Standard”.” Burlington MPP Jane McKenna and Minister Thompson signed the pledge (it is worth noting that Effie Triantafilopoulos did not). One of the government’s early actions was to announce the cancellation of the Cap and Trade program, one part of which included $100 million in school repair funding annually. In response to the public uproar on this, Minister Thompson announced 3 days later the program would be reviewed before being cancelled, but has not commented further in the month since.

Following through on this pledge is critical for Halton, which on its own has hundreds of millions in needed repairs. But it is important from a different perspective as well. Citizens are cynical about politics. Many believe that politicians will say anything to get elected and then only act in their own best interest once in power. We need to all fight that assumption. But it starts with the ones who were elected on June 7th. They need to follow through on their word. If Jane McKenna signed a pledge, she needs to act on it. Even if she is not strong enough within the government benches to accomplish change, she needs to stand up and say she is trying. Or stand up and say anything. Silence makes you complicit in the deceit.

Tory buck a beer

Buck a Beer program gets announced – few craft brewers sign on.

Another of the flagship promises of the government was to lower the regulations on the minimum price of beer from $1.25 a bottle to $1. This was a very popular promise from Ford on the hustings, but another that was short-sighted in practice. The first point that the Conservatives failed to consider was that although the current mandated minimum price is $1.25 a bottle, no beer in Ontario was actually selling at that price. The lowest price for 24 bottles of beer is currently $35.50 at the Beer Store (or $1.48/bottle). If no beer company could afford to sell at $1.25 why would they at $1?

To avoid the PR problem that it would cause, Ford lined up a single brewery in Prince Edward County to commit to selling beer for $1 (despite their current cheapest beer selling for $2.95). He also offered the “Buck-a-Beer Challenge” to breweries where they would be given priority marketing spaces at the LCBO free of charge in exchange for lowering their beer price. To date, I am not aware of any other brewery taking him up on it. Buck-a-Beer by itself is a relatively minor issue, but it again showed a government not ready for governing and making poor decisions without forethought.

When Finance Minister Vic Fideli said on radio that the government needed to get Buck-a-Beer in place for the Labour Day long weekend so they could then focus on other priorities, it reinforced the image of a government that is out of touch with the things that people actually need. This was followed up with local opposition from nearly every craft brewery in Ontario. Burlington’s own Nickel Brook Brewery put out the following statement:

“Nickel Brook will not take part in the proposed “buck a beer” plan. We’ve always been about quality & don’t aim to change that now, or ever. We have no intention in joining a race to the bottom. We stand with our fellow craft brewers in opposing this gimmick by Ford.”

Tory Staffers applauding

Tory staffers paid to clap during media events to drown out questions from reporters.

All of these decisions have been hasty and ill conceived. There has also been a variety of “Trump-style” attempts to control or discredit the media. Throughout August, the Ford government sent paid government staffers to Ministerial press conferences to loudly applaud and drown out reporter’s questions. They have also used government money to construct “Ontario News Now” in order to produce their own news-type content. Possibly the worst example of this was Minister Lisa McLeod claiming that the Toronto Star was reporting “Fake News” when they pressed her on the Conservative pledge to see through the Basic Income Pilot. Minister McLeod has since apologized, but all of these actions show a dangerous disregard for the public and media as necessary in democratic government. It also will ring hollow any claims the Conservatives make regarding a lack of government funds. If staffers can be paid to stand around and clap, surely there is enough money to fund the programs we need? Actors were hired to be at a location to applaud when the Premier was giving a speech.

The Basic Income pledge again shows a troubling lack of influence and honesty from our local MPP. Jane McKenna stated clearly during the election campaign that she and her government would see the Basic Income Pilot through to completion. However, her government announced within a month of taking office that it was cancelling the program. Again, there are many, many reasons to want to see this program through to completion. The data collected would be invaluable to anti-poverty strategies for a generation. But, Minister McLeod cancelled the program for ideological reasons. “It really is a disincentive to get people back on track,” she said of the cancellation.


Burlington MPP Jane McKenna in campaign mode.

Which means that the government is making an ideological decision that our MPP disagrees with (unless she was being disingenuous during the campaign, which would be worse) and she is unwilling or lacking the strength to say anything about it. Twice in the first month of this government, Ford has taken actions that directly contradict Jane McKenna’s public promises. Twice, Ms. McKenna has said nothing to defend herself or residents of Burlington.

The Ford government was elected to bring a certain kind of change to Ontario. And Jane McKenna was elected to fulfill her promises to the people of Burlington. Two months since their election and their actions do not live up to this obligation. So far, all Burlington has seen is a government that will accept crumbling schools when students return in September. Burlington has seen a government that is hurting the most vulnerable in our society because they have ideological problems with helping them. Burlington has seen a government rush to get cheap beer out in time for a holiday and say they will focus on other issues later. Burlington did not deserve this kind of change.

Andrew Drummond HeadshotAndrew Drummond was the NDP candidate for Burlington in the last provincial election.

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Public school board trustee candidates just as important as those who want to be members of city council

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

August 20th, 2018



The election that will decide who the Mayor of Burlington will be for the 2018 – 2021 term of office is attracting a lot of attention. The high profile offices usually get a lot of attention when an incumbent just might be getting the boot.

Burlingtonians have two very different choices if they decide that current Mayor Rick Goldring has done his bit. Ward 2 city Councillor Marianne Meed Ward has her hat in the ring and former city Councillor and Member of Parliament Mike Wallace are candidates for Mayor. Aldershot resident Greg Woodruff has also announced his candidacy.

While those top spots are important – the critical level of municipal government for households with children is our school board which is Regional in nature.

The Board that is seeking re-election is the Board that voted to close two of the city’s seven high schools when it was not crystal clear that those schools had to be closed.

t-shirts-central-strongThe school closings are what the Board administration wanted. The Director of Education changed his position once he had compelling data from Central high school parents. It isn’t clear why the Board staff did not spot what Central parents discovered.

Because of the doubt the Board trustees did have the option of voting to not close any of the high schools at the time and to wait for a few years to see just what high school enrollment was going to be.

The very significant intensification Burlington is going through makes it clear that we are going to see more people living in Burlington. Some of those people will be families and some of those families will have children and some of those children will be high school students.

In the process of closing Robert Bateman and the Lester B. Pearson High schools the trustees did two things that have done almost irreparable harm to the community. Bateman had a Community Pathways Program that provided an essential educational program for students that deserve as much opportunity as any other student.

Moving the program to Nelson is filled with problems.

Few, other than the parents who had children in the program, knew about the vital role CPP played in the lives of disadvantaged students.

Bateman - crowd scene with BullOn the several student events that the Gazette covered at the school we didn’t hear a word about CPP; but as the PAR process rolled out it became clear that the program was essential for a group of families.

PAR HDSB Parents at BatemanWhen the decision to close Bateman was announced those parents erupted as well they should have. Had they made their case earlier in the process a different outcome might have been possible.

The Central high school parents did their homework and pointed out how expensive (never mind how disruptive to student life) it was going to be to bus their students. The Board looked at the numbers Central provided and agreed and took Central off the close list.

They then put Bateman on the list; their response was to claim the Central parents had “thrown them under the bus”.

The closing of Bateman has been pushed back two years.

Collard Amy

Ward 5 Halton District School Board trustee Any Collard

With nominations closed – parents now know who has come forward to serve at the Board of Education level. There are a couple of bright spots. The acclamation of Amy Collard in ward 5 assures the public that there will be at least one strong voice coming from Burlington.

Diane Miller Admin review delegation

Parent Diane Miller delegating to Administrative Review Facilitator Margaret Wilson.

The entry of Diane Miller for the ward 3 seat is good news. Ms Miller made a very strong delegation to Margaret Wilson, the Facilitator appointed by the province to carry out an Administrative Review of the process used by the Halton District school Board to arrive at it’s decision to close two of the city’s seven high schools: Lester B.Pearson and Robert Bateman. Ms Wilson found for the Board of Education saying there was nothing fundamentally wrong with the process that was used.

Her public report said: “Based on my review and consultations, I conclude that, while there were violations of the Board PAR Policy, they were such that they had no material effect on either the deliberations of the PARC or on the final decisions of the Board.”

One wonders what the Board administration would have to do to draw a different response from the Facilitator.

Jason BartlettJason Bartlett, who is running for the Ward 1 and 2 seat is an active participant of the Special Education parents group and can be expected to advocate for the parents with children that have special needs. Those children need all the advocacy they can get

One can only wish that those parents had been more active during that period of time when the decision to close Bateman was made.
One hopes that the debate for the school board trustees can hear sound arguments and strong positions from the trustees and do away with that “we were thrown under the bus” claim by Bateman parents.
There is the potential to elect trustees that can do the job they are elected to do.

This is the time for voters to look over the candidates and ensure that the direction the school board takes is sound and meets the needs of the children that will be heading back to school in a couple of weeks.

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

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Rivers: Driving Dangerously - Tanks, Teslas and Tweets.



Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

August 17th, 2018


“Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaida, the Taliban, LeT and other terrorist groups… Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.” (Hillary Clinton)

Word is out that Elon Musk has an offer he can’t refuse from the Saudis, to help him take back Tesla from all those critical public share holders. The question is why. Is it possible that Allah had bestowed an enormous endowment of battery quality lithium in the Arabian desert, as well as all that petroleum.

Rivers Musk

Elon Musk

One suspects Saudi King Salman must be up to something fishy. Otherwise why would a nation whose economy virtually runs on oil be buying into an electric car company? Perhaps the kingdom, sees Tesla as a threat to the gas guzzlers and is planning to buy it up only to shut it down – sort of like what US Steel did to Stelco. But why spend good cash buying a money losing car company. Odds are good it’ll go bankrupt all on its own.

If they can be taken at their word, this foray in buying an auto company may be just the start. They’ll still have ready cash available in their two-plus trillion heritage fund – enough to buy other perennial money losing auto companies like Chrysler. Or perhaps there is a deeper method behind this seeming madness.

Rivers Tesla cockpit

Cockpit of a Tesla electic car

How much simpler life would be for the misogynous state if the new Saudi Teslas could be engineered somehow so that only males could operate them. After all Elon Musk is a genius. Tesla pioneered autonomous drive as well as battery power. How difficult could it be to differentiate between males and females, and everything in between? Wouldn’t that bring a whole new slant to the term intelligent drive?

What then would be the point of those female protesters demanding equal rights to drive when they are not gender-capable of doing so anyway? Women in Saudi Arabia have finally and grudgingly been given the right to drive, provided they are accompanied by a male and/or have submitted an acceptable flight plan to a male relative or guardian. Hardly what we’d call freedom, but then that is Arabia.

Rivers Raif

Protesters demanding the release of Raif Bedawi; his wife is now a Canadian citizen

Human rights are subservient to male rights in this backward sexist monarchy and all rights are subservient to the wishes of the royal family. Back almost a decade ago Saudi authorities apprehended an independent humanitarian blogger, Raif Bedawi, for having the gumption to write on the internet about something we call freedom of speech.

For that heinous act he was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1000 lashes to be administered at the rate of 50 a week.

The Harper government and its foreign minister Baird roundly criticized the Saudis back then, trying to influence them through diplomacy and even twitter. But since then Bedawi’s wife has managed to flee to Canada and become a citizen. So when Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s foreign minister, out of desperation and as duty to a Canadian citizen, tweeted to the Saudi government that they should immediately release Mrs. Bedawi’s husband and the other imprisoned peaceful protesters, all hell broke loose and the rest is modern history.

The Saudi will accept nothing less than an apology for calling them out for exactly what they are. But Trudeau is not going to apologize for speaking out on women’s human rights, even if the Conservative opposition members, who have apparently forgotten what they did as government, are now making sounds like they think he should. After all he is the feminist PM of Canada.

And Canada is not going to play tit-for-tat trade. Our $15 billion contract to export armoured cars is wrong on several counts but $15 billion is a lot of money and jobs, and besides if we cancelled, General Dynamics would just transfer production from their Ontario plant to someplace else. Morality has never been an insurmountable issue when it comes to selling weapons for the Americans, Brits or French either.

Rivers Freeland + prince

The Crown Prince wants Canada to apologize for the tweet Chrystia Freeland sent.

It is embarrassing that over the thirty years since Trudeau the elder promised a national energy policy, we’re still importing oil from Arabia.

Perhaps once the jurisdictional matter with B.C. is resolved we will move forward on the Energy-East pipeline. Or we could start making more electric cars – like Tesla is doing.

And then there are some 800 Saudi medical students who’ve been told by their homeland to pack up and go home. Sure we’ll lose the money they bring with them, but that is about the best news ever for young Canadian medical graduates still waiting for a resident position.

Most concerting in this unfortunate tussle though was the image released by a group of Saudi whacko nationalists portraying an Air Canada plane heading for collision with our CN tower. There was a retraction and apology, but nobody thinks threatening another nation with the kind of terror we saw on 9/11 is at all funny. And, of course, 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers were Saudi nationalists, as indeed was bin Laden

Rivers LAV-700-icon

We manufacture them in London, Ontario ship them to Saudi Arabia

So this little tempest over a tweet will become a game of ‘who blinks first’. Or like a game of road chicken, American Graffiti style, except the Saudi’s are racing at us with their new Tesla and Canada is driving one of those General Dynamics tanks. And our foreign minister, a woman, is doing the driving.

Background links:

Saudi Arabia –    Tesla Sale –    Saudi Driving Ban

Women Protesters–    Freeland Tweet –    Saudi Medics –    Saudi 9-11 pic


Rivers hand to face

Ray 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.     Tweet @rayzrivers



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Macbeth as a murderous conspiracy: Copp and his cast make it work.

artsblue 100x100By Pepper Parr

August 16th, 2018



Trevor Copp’s interpretation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth is not the way we heard the play in high school.

It is however a production well worth watching.

2018 audience

Summer outdoor theatre at its best.

There are some exceptionally good performances.

Lady Macbeth and Macbeth

Lady Macbeth arguing with Macbeth

Alma Sarai did a wonderful job as Lady Macbeth – the depth of her “out out” scene and the way in which she carried Macbeth off the stage in her arms was pure poetry and a demonstration of physical strength as well. DeSousa-Coelho who played Macbeth is not a man of small stature.

Copp has a core of experienced cast members that have ben a part of the RBG program for the past three years. My personal preference would have been to see Mika Hannigan as Macbeth – however Shawn DeSouza-Coelho did good work dealing with the mental emotional torment Macbeth was going through.

Kaylyn Valdez-Scott as was very good as Lady Macduff; she was a bright light to keep an eye on.

One could bank on the Banquo performance given by Jesse Horvath.

The murders - offing Duncan

Macbeth dispatches Duncan

Zach Parsons played Macduff and Malcolm very well.

Claudia Spadafora did a nice Ross – what we’ve not experienced with her before was the quality of her singing voice. It was a pleasant surprise .

The murderers reminded one of the way the Sûreté du Québec, that province’s provincial police service, has behaved in the past. It was sometimes hard to tell the difference in Quebec between the criminals and the police.

The choreography was the typical Copps work – he understands movement; the scene in which the murderers formed a chain of people stabbing one of their victims was brilliant.

Copp had a merry band of murders on stage who were very comfortable thrusting knives into almost anyone at hand or putting pistols to the heads of those they had to deal with and pulling the trigger. I lost count of just how many people were “offed” on that outdoor stage.

This second performance of the three week run went well; it was humid.

Outdoor theatre means coping with the weather – which is now climate in a constant state of change.

band of murderers

Some of the murderers having a drink after work.

The closing scene before intermission and the and the opening scene in the second half had everyone on the stage and involved in an operating room that was part Abu Ghraib and what we used to do at summer camp skits. Electric drills, tools that defied ones imagination were all part of a gruesome scene.

Hannigan dryly commented to Lady Macbeth that he was unable to help Macbeth: “he is beyond my practice”; this after he had taken every tool imaginable to “fix” Macbeth.

For those who make room for Shakespeare in their entertainment choices it is the language the draws us back again and again.

“Resolve thyself” … “filty witness” … the “bell that invites me” … “almost at odds with the morning”. There were people in the audience mouthing the words being said on the stage. “Let us make medicine of our revenge.”

Couple reading - flashlight

Reading a script during an intermission.

One patron said after the performance that “it took me a bit to get into it but I soon found myself feeling very emotional.

During the intermission one couple, using a flashlight to read a script they had were debating the wording and thoroughly enjoying themselves.

The play runs again on Friday and then Monday to Friday the week of the 20th and the week of the 27th.

There are no performances on Saturday or Sunday.



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Ward 2 candidate maintains the inability to defend its own zoning downtown is a creation of the City, not the province.

opinionred 100x100By Roland Tanner

August 14th, 2018



The residents of Ward 2 are now left hoping that one development they don’t want wins out over another they want even less.

Mayor with Reveniue Project developer

President of Reserve Properties chats up the Mayor at a public meeting reviewing the development.

Reserve Properties, the development company behind the proposed 409 Brant Street development, has filed an appeal to the Local Planning Appeals Tribunal (LPAT, formerly the OMB) seeking 24 storeys instead of the 17 storeys Council voted for at their last meeting.

The appeal comes as no surprise. Reserve Properties has repeatedly stated, initially in a response to a question I made on May 1st at the public meeting at the Lions’ Club, their justification for 24 stories is based primarily on the fact the neighbouring development was given 24 stories by vote of Council in the Fall of 2017. They made clear at Council that they did not believe 17 storeys was an ‘optimized’ intensification of the property, based on an argument derived from a single sentence in the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GPGGH).

All Council’s attempts at appeasement of developers, in the hope for some moderation and respect for the City’s new (but not yet in force) Official Plan have come to naught.

high profile 421

The city approved this development …

From Civic Square

The proponents of the development on the right want the same height as the development on the left – which the city has already approved. It isn’t quite that simple.

The developers are doing their job. While we can certainly wish for a more respectful dialogue between developers and the community, which would take into account the community’s desires, they are under no obligation to respect the residents of Ward 2. They are within their rights to appeal. It is supposed to be Council’s job, above all others, to defend and represent the interests of residents, but over the last decade they appear to have largely abrogated that responsibility.

The question is now how the newly formed LPAT interprets whether the City is meeting the provincial objectives for intensification under the GPGGH. If it can be successfully argued by the City that 17 storeys meets the objectives of the GPGGH, then the 17 storeys will be upheld.

Site - south of 421

Red square is the location of the approved project – the black one is the development that has been taken to LTAP on appeal.

Residents must now wait to see which of the two wildly unpopular options will be supported by LPAT. In one way the developer’s arguments are correct – the practical difference between a 17 storey tower and a 24 storey tower is not that great. They’re both too big for the site, and run calamitously counter to the clearly expressed desires of residents for development on Brant Street. There is no ‘good’ result to be had for citizens at LPAT with this appeal, just an official judgement on ‘bad’ or ‘worse’.

This crisis in the ability of the City to defend its own zoning downtown is a creation of the City, not the province. This development and the subsequent appeal would not be happening in downtown Oakville. The City chose to designate downtown for intensification, and the City chose to designate downtown as a Transit Hub, placing twice the number of intensification areas in Ward 2 of any other ward, and more than the whole of North Burlington.

Bus roites - 1st design

Those thin red dotted lines represent different bus routes that will transfer passengers at the downtown terminal.

This despite the fact that transit connections in downtown are far from adequate. We are now faced with being unable to control intensification because of the lack of care that was taken to protect downtown zoning within the Official Plan and zoning since the Places to Grow Act. Blaming the Province, the OMB or the LPAT is a smokescreen to hide the calamitous decisions that have been made with regard to downtown at City Hall, and the too-late, likely ineffective, attempts under the new OP to control development by re-zoning downtown in an attempt to appease developers into being more moderate in their demands.

The next Council, even if composed of Councillors far more sympathetic to moderation downtown than the current one, will be faced with a difficult struggle to undo the decisions that have been made.

The battle is just beginning for growth done right in Burlington.

Tanner croppedRoland Tanner is an historian by profession and a candidate for the ward 2 city council seat.  He was a member of the group that produced the Shape Burlington report; a document that council endorsed unanimously then forgot that it existed.

Related news story:

Why the Carriage Gate development opposite city hall was approved.

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Wallace sets out his platform - some surprises - his 'Let's Talk' approach looks like a one way conversation at this point.

council 100x100By Pepper Parr

August 4th, 2018



It is both a quiet time and a very hectic time for those who are running for public office.

Many of those running for the first time are out on the streets, knocking on doors and asking for support.

Most have their web sites in place and are developing their election teams.

There will be a lot more use of social media this time around.

Prime Minister checks out the product at Ecysynthetix. Company CEO John van Leeuwen is on the left

Mike Wallace was part of the Harper government. Former Prime Minister checks out the product at Ecosynthetix. Company CEO John van Leeuwen is on the left

Mike Wallace has decided to hold “Let’s talk” sessions that he broadcast over the internet on how own YouTube channel.

He has done three so far and can be expected to do more.

Burlington's MP Mike Wallace takes questions during the Chamber of Commerce xxxBBQ. Suggests that too much time is being spent on the Mike Duffy matter

Burlington’s MP Mike Wallace takes questions during the Chamber of Commerce BBQ.



The use of videos is a one way conversation but it at least gives the public a chance to learn what the candidate stands for and plans to do.

Wallace makes it very clear that as Mayor he is going to lead and not sit behind a desk.

Part of his focus is on the young people who he calls millennial’s. He wants them to be able to live in homes they can afford in Burlington and work at jobs that exist in Burlington.

One really interesting idea that he put forward was to have those millennials working with the planners. Interesting idea – it will be equally interesting to see how the planners take to that idea.

Wallace is clear on the current phase of building condominiums on every corner that can be found: “Expensive condos are not the answer.”

Wallace also tackles transit. He points out that the city has a $10 million transit system that isn’t working.

He wants to give the Director of Transit the tools she needs to get the job done.

Burlington Transit getting new buses - to deliver less service.

Don’t expect to see a lot of those 40 foot buses joining the fleet.

Wallace wants the buses to be more attractive and cost efficient. He thinks that those 40 foot busses may be a thing of the past.

Wallace feels that the city missed the boat on transit and points to the major changes taking place in getting people from one location to another. Uber and driver less vehicles are in the future adds Wallace.
Wallace is quick to tell people that he doesn’t have the answers but he is committed to the idea of looking for the answers and coming up with a reasonable priced and perhaps an on demand transit service.

Why is he running for Mayor?

The answer to that question has several layers of complexity.

Wallace conceding

The night he lost his seat as a Member of Parliament – he conceded to Karina Gould with dignity and respect.

One – he wants the job. Wallace has been a political creature for most of his adult life. He has served as a member of council and the Member of Parliament for Burlington.

While an MP Mike delivered. It wasn’t something he talked about all that much but the list of things he delivered is impressive.

The Gazette had to ask Wallace for that list several times.

He has a soft spot for history – if you have a project that has an historical angle – Mike Wallace is the guy you want to talk to

He lists the issues that need attention.

Intensification – and not just in the downtown core.

Traffic congestion. He will tell you that private cars are not going to be going away anytime soon.

The demographics of the city bother Wallace – the city cannot be sustainable with just senior citizens –

Mike Wallace has probably never run as hard in his life. Valiant effort but the Overtakers laid the Wallace team to rest.

Mike Wallace running as part of a team in the hospital bed race.

Wallace wants those young people living in the city and working in the city.

Development concerns him. We need it – but where and in what form?

Is Mike Wallace a friend of the developers?

Hard to tell.

His biggest idea so far, the creation of a Liberty Village in Burlington is going to need a large piece of land and there are just a few in the city and they are owned by a developer.

Can Mike Wallace work with developers and not be co-opted by them?

Is he tough enough to set a direction for the city and create a city council that works in unison?

He realizes now that the city needs a bigger city council and suggests that having 8 wards and a Mayor for a city council of nine might be what will serve the city best.

ROTARY Wallace with a bucket

Wallace was at the Rib Fest holding a bucket collecting cash for flood victims in 2014

Wallace isn’t telling the people he wants to vote for him that he has all the answers and this is the direction the city has to go in.

But he is quick to tell you that the direction it is going now isn’t working.

We are still in the early days.

Wallace election car

Part of the Wallace campaign – a car with a wrap – Like Mike.

There will be more for Mike Wallace to say.

Pay attention: he wants the job and he has assembled a team that has the capacity to pull it off.

The people that matter are the people who live in this city.

Wallace will officially open his campaign office on August 18th. It will be on Fairview close to Appleby Line.

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Meed Ward sets out her plans for managing future floods - will put the Waterfront Advisory Committee back in business.

background 100By Staff

August 3rd, 2018




Data from radar tells the story of where the rain fell and how extensive it was.

It was this weekend four years ago that the rain began in the early mid-afternoon – and just didn’t stop.

Mayoralty candidate Marianne Meed Ward sums up her view of one of the most expensive natural disasters to hit the city.

As we approach the four-year anniversary of the Burlington flood on August 4, 2014, it’s an appropriate time to take stock of what’s been done, and how far we still need to go.

What’s happened so far:
The city increased spending on Stormwater infrastructure by $20 million over 10 years to reduce water flow blockages, for example larger creek culverts and creek channel improvements. That only slightly accelerates what we would have been doing, and primarily addresses flood effects, not root causes.

The post-flood report released in phases in 2015 and 2017 contained fifteen key recommendations, most of which are ongoing or just started.

Basement flooded BSB Coalition

Hundreds of basements were flooding – damage was in the millions.

A grant program was established to assist homeowners with disconnection of foundation drains from the sewer system, and installation of back flow valves and sump pumps. While helpful, this addresses leaves flood mitigation to the individual homeowner.

The home inspection program to identify flood entry areas offered in partnership with University of Waterloo and the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation has seen only 92 participants. This also leaves responsibility for flooding on the homeowner.

Go trains flooded

Extensive rain is going to be part of the new climate. These are not one offs.

We must do better. We can’t assume severe weather is a “one-off.”
According to a Globe and Mail editorial in May 2017, “Flooding is the most costly hazard in terms of urban property damage, and has surpassed fire and theft as the principle source of property insurance claims.”
Insured damages associated with the Burlington flood alone are estimated to be in excess of $90 million with many people under- or un-insured.

A plan that addresses root causes
We need a plan to be prepared for flooding that deals with root causes, more than effects. We also need to treat our trees, greenspace, creeks and waterfront as valuable resources that have a role to play in Stormwater management and reducing flood risk.

We must take a more integrated, city-wide (not individual homeowner) approach to managing storm water and reducing flood risk. The current approach that’s largely focused on increasing the capacity of Stormwater systems is limited – and this runoff goes directly into our creeks and lake, a prime source of drinking water. We need to adopt new tools and approaches.

Responsible growth, retaining water at source, restoring a citizen’s voice on the waterfront:

There are two key actions we can take: approve responsible growth, not over-development; and retain water at source through low-impact development.

We also need to restore a citizen’s voice on waterfront issues, and expand the mandate to include Stormwater runoff into our lake.

Flood - Meed Ward with Peter Hodgeson + T shirt

Meed Ward out doing her bit for those hammered by the storm Here she talks with Peter Hodgeson, the retired police officer who headed up the Red Cross work in the community.

As your mayor I will support measures to reduce flooding causes, and effects at the city level by:
Advocating responsible growth, not over-development.

The 2018 Conservation Halton Watershed Report Card grades Burlington an F for “poor” or “very poor” for its surface water quality, forest conditions (our tree canopy) and the amount of our paved and hard surfaces.

Hard surfaces increase the amount of water run-off and flooding. These ratings are exactly the same as the Watershed Report Card published in 2013.

We can reduce runoff by reducing hard surfaces and adding greespace through measures to:

Create more building setbacks, ending lot-line to lot-line hard surface coverage

Set minimum parkland access standards, which don’t currently exist

Set tree canopy targets, which don’t currently exist

Trees, parkland and greenspace around buildings provide natural ways to absorb stormwater before it ends up in creeks and Stormwater pipes.

Keeping water at source through low-impact development

Flood Fairview plaza

A strip mall parking lot on Fairview.

The city’s Sustainable Development guidelines on low impact development are voluntary, with the incentive of an award. We need stronger incentives, in partnership with grant programs at other levels of government. And we need to lead in terms of our own infrastructure. Leading low-impact development includes measures like:

Naturalized area in parking lots
Water absorbing sidewalks and traffic medians
Larger courtyards in new developments
Effectively treating run-off that goes into our lakes to reduce pollution entering our waterfront
Reasonable incentives for the private sector to reconfigure the paved footprint of developments to allow more water to either be stored or go directly into the ground

Restore Waterfront Advisory Committee
Finally, we need to restore a citizen’s voice on issues that affect our waterfront and watershed. Stormwater not contained at source through low-impact development currently flows with all its potential pollutants into our waterfront, including beside public areas such as Spencer Smith Park’s sand beach.

Gary Scobie, far right, was a member of the Waterfront Access and Protection Advisory Committee which was sunset by the city last December. Scobie went on to sit on the Ad Hoc Waterfront Committee.

Gary Scobie, far right, was a member of the Waterfront Access and Protection Advisory Committee which was sunset by the city.  Nick Leblovic, chair of the committee is on the left.

This mayor and council promised the Waterfront Access and Protection Advisory Committee in the 2010 election, then quietly axed the committee in a 6-1 vote two years later.

That isn’t entirely true.  The Waterfront Advisory Committer was a Cam Jackson committee.  The chair of the committee was quite ineffective and the city decided to bring it to an end,

I will reinstate the citizen’s Waterfront Advisory Committee, and expand the mandate to include water quality, creeks and Stormwater runoff into lakes. I will also restore the city’s relationship with the Waterfront Trail organization and oppose any sale of city-owned waterfront property (this mayor and council voted 6-1 to sell waterfront property between Market and St. Paul St to private homeowners).

FLOOD man walking in water Harvester Road sign

False modesty and a flooded car

Action on flood risk
As your mayor, I will ensure that we prepare for the future with a comprehensive plan for storm water management, in partnership with residents, other levels of government, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the McMaster Centre for Climate Change and the development industry. We’ll develop a city-wide approach that addresses causes, not just effects at the home-owner level.

We need to treat our trees, parks, greenspaces, creeks and Lake Ontario as invaluable green infrastructure, and protect and increase these resources. We need to restore a citizen’s voice on our waterfront.

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Ford government uses tax dollars to fund their own media operation - Ford Nation all over again

“Taxpayer money should never be used for partisan purposes….If politicians want to self-promote, go out and raise money. Don’t use money that could otherwise be spent improving hospitals or fixing bridges to tell voters how awesome you are.”

Christine Van Geyn, Canadian Taxpayers Foundation.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

August 3rd, 2018



Just this week Ontario’s new Conservative government kicked off its own news channel hidden in the tax-payer funded Caucus Services mine-field of bureaucracy. That allows the Ford crowd to skirt disclosure and advertising rules introduced by the McGuinty government, a decade and a half ago, specifically to prevent government from engaging in this kind of partisan advertising.

McGuinty’s regulation had been an election promise at the time to prohibit whatever political party was in power from using tax-payer money to produce, what is for them essentially, free political advertising – something the previous Harris/Eves government had been doing with gay abandon.

Ford PCs

They probably thought it was a good idea at the time.

Ontario News Now is a page out of former Conservative PM Harper’s attempt to control the sound bites which ultimately end up on social media, including Google, where so many people now get their information of what is going on. Except Harper, who apparently dreaded showing up before reporters, didn’t actually bill his 24/Seven YouTube show as news, but rather just another vehicle to get his political message out.

Still it was prepared by Harper’s staff at public expense and its purpose was to avoid Harper having to attend regular media briefings and answer reporters’ questions. The entire program was scrapped soon after Justin Trudeau took over as PM.

This latest attempt by Ford to control the message is, for him, a natural follow-through after the apparent success of Ford Nation Live. That election gimmick enabled him to get his message out to social mediawithout having to defend his positions.

Critical questioning is the time honoured procedure of holding politicians’ feet to the fire when they make claims and brag about their accomplishments, and especially when they are avoiding any mention of the downsides of their efforts.

And Ford used his North Korea styled broadcast to brag about a number of events he had attended in his brief time as premier, and the promises he has met. But he should have lost us all when he bragged about having already reduced gasoline pump prices by ten cents. We all know that is a baseless fib at best, easily verified by a quick glance at the pixel boards of any service station. So it may be a new news channel but it’s also got fake news content – those alternate facts.

His first audience was estimated to be in the thousands and delivered to all kinds of social media including twitter, the outlet of choice for the US president. Still @OntarioNewsNow had a following of over two thousand early into its first week of operations.

As expected much of the traditional media have panned this effort. They don’t like somebody else doing their jobs for them – or at least the easy part. And so references to Ford as our ‘Dear Leader’ are just starting to appear in the legitimate news media, and one Globe and Mail writer boldly summed it up as…” Hiding behind home videos and canned applause this early in his mandate suggests insecurity and fear, as if the Premier doesn’t actually have the courage of his convictions.”

Ontario New NowSadly, not all of our traditional media have yet woken up to what’s happening. Mr. Ford’s cheerleading journals, the Toronto Sun and the National Post must have hidden and/or buried the news of the unveiling of this Ford government initiative. But perhaps it’s just that these are early days. And besides, Ontario News Now isn’t really news, is it? It’s just another blatant attempt at political propaganda.

But taking the production of news away from our traditional news outlets, socializing and nationalizing the business of news is a dangerous step for a society committed to openness and democracy. After all, once we lose our independent media outlets can our other freedoms be far behind? And at what price do we take these freedoms for granted.

As a friend of mine once remarked… “It is amazing, in looking at the sweep of history, how much effort, blood and money has been devoted to liberating states from autocratic rule to democracies and how easily some of us who have enjoyed the benefits that our ancestors struggled to achieve are so willing to throw it away.”

Doug Ford with wife

Doug Ford with an admirer – his wife. Said to be a Hamilton girl.

Perhaps Ford was not actually trying to undercut and further diminish the role of our traditional media as honest brokers of the news. And perhaps he genuinely wanted his own TV show so Ontario taxpayers would see where their money is being spent.

But given Ontario’s massive debt load and Ford’s promise to cut waste and unnecessary spending, the creation of a provincially operated so-called news channel is an insult to all of the public and those folks who voted for him in particular. Or do they really believe this is how the new government for all the people puts your hard earned tax-dollars to work for you?

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.     Tweet @rayzrivers



Background links:   Korea Comes to Queens Park –    Ford Undermines Democracy

Ford’s Insecurity –    Tweet Away

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Views on how we got to # 31 on a list that once said we were the greatest.

News 100 yellowBy Pepper Parr

August 3rd, 2018



This story is beginning to look like the New Street Road Diet – that one just went on and on.  The massive drop in Burlington’s ranking in the annual Best Place to Live report was really small potatoes as issues go.  But the public is reacting in a less than positive way.

Earlier this week Colin Gribbons, and advocate for better transit service said he “looks forward to the hemming and hawing as most of the current members of Council try to explain this one away.”

2018 banner

Burlington didn’t make the top ten – the city was ranked # 31 after years of being at the top.

Tanner standing

Roland Tanner

Yesterday Roland Tanner, a candidate for the ward 2 city council seat asked: What does that MoneySense Best City ranking for Burlington actually mean for citizens? And then answered the question: “ Almost nothing. A delve into the statistics shows we shouldn’t have trusted the ranking before, and shouldn’t trust it now.”

Lynne Crosby, one of the very active parent participants in the high school closing debates chimed with this insight:

“The interesting part here isn’t so much the drop in the standings but the Mayor’s and City’s response to the drop in the standings. The current mayor tweeted: “New methodology means we lost points this year due to our modest growth compared to other cities growing at a faster rate.”

PARC anxious parent

Lynne Crosby

“Well, actually no. The MoneySense report said: “While it’s true fast-growing cities can face challenges, we believe those difficulties can be absorbed and addressed if local leaders are effective….If the municipality is doing a bad job of handling that growth, it’s likely to be reflected in other areas of the ranking.”

Crosby points out that “Growth is also ranked 8th out of 10 in order of importance. And that is growth with the caveat that it is managed well. The criteria that is 8th out of 10 would not cause us to plummet down to #31.

The high-ranked cities were touted for various reasons by MoneySense, but growth wasn’t one of them.

“There are lots of intangible qualities that make a city a great place to live that can’t be measured. But we believe there are plenty of important characteristics that can be captured by hard data. A liveable city should be prosperous, but affordable. Safe, yet easy to get around. And it should have the type of weather that draws you outdoors.”
Crosby goes on to say: “Then we have our neighbouring community on the lake, Oakville. The City that told the Province: No, we won’t have an urban growth centre in the downtown. The City with the downtown that Councillor Lancaster called “desolate” at a recent council meeting. The #1 ranked city.

“Oakville Mayor Rob Burton has as the header on his Facebook page a graphic touting the fact that in his terms he has controlled growth, and slowed it down as compared to the previous mayor. From MoneySense:


Small town feel and no urban growth in their downtown core.

“Burton says the key to Oakville’s success is maintaining a small-town sense of community, even as the city’s population breaks 200,000. In fact, the municipality’s official name stubbornly remains “the Town of Oakville,” something Burton doesn’t see any reason to change.

“Oakville is a city that calls itself a town and acts like a village,” he says. “Oakville as a community is determined to maintain that town vibe.”

Greg Woodruff, a candidate for Burlington’s Mayor hopped on this one saying:

“First off the whole Money Sense idea is somewhat silly. No “best” place to live exists. People are different and with different tastes, it means everyone’s “best” place is different. However, the fall in rankings can be used to shed light on our current problems. We don’t have any clear agreement of what “best” even is.

“The basic problem is that what the majority of residents think is “best” and what the planning staff and Council thinks is “best” are in direct opposition. If you rely on the “expert” opinion of the day Burlington has too little modern art, hi-density apartment buildings and has far too many lanes of traffic, parking spots and well kept single family houses.

Portal along Elgin promenade

The city has a “portal” in what used to be a parking lot.

“Now I realize to the average person in Burlington going about their lives this comes as quite a shock. However, that’s what the New Street road diet is – an attempt to remove some of those “burdensome” lanes of traffic. That’s why we removed downtown parking for modern art. Because in the minds of some; “best” is modern art and if people don’t come downtown and businesses close – who cares – we got the “Portal” to stare into. That’s why all the hi-rises, because they are the “best” way to hold the most people. And the most people is “best”.

“What made Burlington “best” to local residents was the feeling of a smaller green place with all the amenities, shops and stores we wanted just a couple of minutes away. You could trade a longer commute for a nicer house here with a lawn for your kids to run on. It’s a great place to raise a family. It’s safe, it’s clean, it’s on the water, it’s got low taxes, nice parks – it’s an easy living city. Previous councils implemented a great version of suburban living and the people who settled here agreed.

Greg Woodruff

Candidate for Mayor Greg Woodruff

“The fault for all this is entirely ours. We took the entire thing for granted. We didn’t form community groups. We didn’t demand concrete plans from elected officials. We didn’t comprehend that the government was capable of planning against our wishes. We didn’t give our local candidates $50 at election time. And we didn’t even vote.

“We need a clear plan to break from the over-development – my plan is a 6-floor residential limit. We need a clear plan to control over spending – my plan is tax increases no greater than inflation. We need a clear plan to reduce our traffic congestion – my plan is light synchronization and some extra region supplied HOV lanes.

“Whoever you are going to vote for – challenge them – what their idea of “best” is? What are the specific plans to bring it about on earth. If we don’t the yearly in Money Sense rankings are going to be the least of our problems. Though maybe we can all walk 60 minutes in the shadow of hi-rises beside gridlock traffic and stare at the latest art project.”

2018 listing

Burlington didn’t make the top ten in the 2018 MoneySense rankings – the city placed #31

Mike Wallace chose to be less verbose saying: “Burlington has dropped 21 places nationally in Money Sense Magazine’s annual ranking of the best places to live in Canada. We now are ranked behind all the other communities in our Region of Halton.

Wallace election car

Mike Wallace: Is he hitch hiking or is he going to drive the car – and will it get him to city hall?

“If the current Council can take credit for the past rankings they must take responsibility for the current results. October 22nd is your time to make better choices for the city.”

It will take master politicians at city hall to find a way to back out of this one. Councillor Craven and Taylor aren’t running again. They Mayor has said what he has to say. Councillors Sharman, Dennison and Lancaster may add some comment. It could well become a burning tire that members of the current city council have to wear around their necks.

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Meed Ward: We are at a tipping point and at a Crossroads –and we have to work harder.

opinionviolet 100x100By Staff

August 2nd, 2018



We thought we had ended the commenting on the drop in Burlington’s MoneySense magazine ranking.

Mayoralty candidate Marianne Meed Ward put out a stinging statement on her community web site and managed to turn the remarks into a campaign statement. She is running for Mayor.

The following is from Meed Ward:

Insight & Analysis — MoneySense magazine has just released their list of Canada’s Best Places to Live for 2018, and Burlington has dropped again for the third year in a row, down to #31 overall out of a list of 415 cities across Canada.

Last year we came in at #9 overall, and in 2016 we ranked in the #2 spot.

Looking only at mid-size cities, Burlington is the sixth best “mid-sized city” in which to live in Canada, down from the number one spot.

So why the big drop?

Here’s a summary of the rankings, what’s different, and some thoughts on what we need to improve to make our community better for all residents.

rank city

Burlington 2018

What’s different:
The number of cities ranked for comparison fluctuates. The survey in 2016 had 219 cities in their ranking. That year we ranked second overall. Last year, 417 cities were ranked, and we dropped to ninth overall. A similar number of cities are ranked this year (415), but we dropped to #31.

There have also been some changes to the category components and weightings versus previous years, making it hard to do a pure “apples to apples” comparison with our previous years’ results.

Median wait times for medical procedures is now in the mix, for example.

The method for tracking population growth has changed, so cities earn more points the faster they are growing, versus the former method of counting a city’s growth rate related to the national average. However growth is ranked 8 out of 10 in importance and weighting, with other factors like wealth, affordability, health care and weather still considered more important.

MoneySense considers population growth an advantage, as it assumes that if more people want to live in a city, it’s a positive reflection on that location overall.

However, they included an important caveat that growth must be properly managed.

Stated MoneySense: “While it’s true fast-growing cities can face challenges, we believe those difficulties can be absorbed and addressed if local leaders are effective….If the municipality is doing a bad job of handling that growth, it’s likely to be reflected in other areas of the ranking.”

Criteria and weighting
There are 10 categories the rankings consider. They are listed below in the order that they have the most weight and therefore importance (according to MoneySense):

Wealth & Economy (including employment rate & average household income)
Affordability (of housing/rental units)
Access to health care (# of doctors, specialists, and procedure wait-times)
Weather (less rain = better)
Commute (more points for the % of people who walk, bike or take transit to work)
Crime (the lower the crime rate, the better)
Taxes (including provincial sales tax and property tax)
Population growth (growth is good – if managed properly)
Culture (% of people working in arts, culture & recreation + engagement in community)
Amenities (restaurants, bars, and reasonable access to theatres, airports & universities)

We need to do better
Changes to the criteria aside, it’s hard to argue that we have taken a big hit in our ranking. Our city, including our current mayor, has often referred to this ranking as a source of pride over the years, whether to attract new businesses or encourage new residents and festivals to come here.

While we are all still very proud of the wonderful city we live in, it’s worth taking stock of what pushed us out of the top 10 all the way to #31 this year, and think about what we could do better. We want to move in a direction that gets us back where we belong.

My Take and My Plan to make Burlington better
Ranking lists are limited in value by what they measure and the weight given to each. However, when we trumpet that we’re Canada’s best mid-sized city, it can create complacency where we rest on our laurels and take things for granted, instead of driving to improve the quality of life for all our residents.

We’re clearly at a tipping point with this sudden drop, and instead of making excuses, we need to take positive action to ensure we’re focused on the things that are important to making our city thrive.

With the recent decisions by the current mayor and council approving overdevelopment, we’re headed for congestion, lack of housing affordability and lost greenspace.

We’re at a crossroads, and we now have to work harder to protect the city we love.


There are over-developments proposed or approved across the city. Meed Ward believes the Lakeshore Road development in the east end is one of them.

Our top priority must be managing our growth better, avoiding the over-intensification of recent decisions by this mayor and council, for example the 18 storey building across from City Hall, and up to 30 more high-rises downtown in the new Official Plan. There are over-developments proposed or approved across the city, from townhouses at 2100 Brant St., Dynes Road, and Georgina Court, to high-rises in Alton, at Appleby Mall, Lakeside Plaza and Plains Road. Residents support scaled back projects, but we’re getting over-development.

You want a voice in shaping development in our city, but residents have been tuned out and ignored as NIMBYs (Not In My Back Yard) who just don’t understand planning.

We have to get growth right, which includes amending the new Official Plan to scale back over intensification, and sticking closely to the existing Official Plan with new applications.

We also must ensure that as we grow and change, we retain our small-town feel, community character and quality of life, not detract from it. That means we protect and enhance our community amenities, like parks, community centres, and seniors programming; protect and add trees, trails and green space; improve traffic flow and light synchronization with emerging technologies; protect and add to rental housing; use planning tools to add affordable housing, and make job attraction a priority to reduce commute times and allow more of our residents to work in Burlington.

SSPK looking east Pier bkgrnd

Meed Wards wants to keep the small town open space feel the city has going for it.

Read more about my plans for managing Burlington’s growth in a responsible way, for protecting the character of our neighborhoods and downtown, for making it easier to do business here, for improving the effectiveness of City Hall, for restoring respect for residents, and for ensuring we have the amenities and greenspace we need for our young people, seniors and families to thrive and live healthy lives.

Visit my website and explore my vision, my plan, and how you can get involved: mariannemeedward.ca.

We know Burlington is one of Canada’s Best Places to Live. Let’s get the leadership we need to put us back on top where we belong. Vote for change on October 22nd, for the mayor who will put residents first.

No word from Mike Wallace, Rick Goldring or Greg Woodruff on the change in the MoneySense magazine ranking.

The Gazette has always seen the ranking as a readership promotion campaign on behalf of the magazine that has a circulation in excess of 110,000

Former Mayor Cam Jackson took the things seriously. He didn’t like the way Burlington was lumped in with Hamilton, talked to the magazine’s editors and out of that came a Burlington specific ranking that city hall fell in love with.

That romance seems to have come to an end.

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Senior staff at city hall claim they 'have created and maintained a livable, thriving city where people and businesses want to be' and being ranked # 31 doesn't really matter

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

August 1st, 2018



Collin Gribbons, a Burlington resident with significant depth in public transit matters, wrote in to say he “looks forward to the hemming and hawing as most of the current members of Council try to explain this one away.”

Gribbens Collin A Bfast

Collin Gribbons

Gribbons was commenting on the significant change in Burlington’s position on the MoneySense magazine listing of the best places to live in Canada.

For a number of years Burlington ranked at the very top – then there was a sudden drop from # 1 to # 31 – which is precipitous by any standard.

The “hemming and hawing” Gribbons was expecting came from Kwab Ako-Adjei, Senior Manager Government Relations & Strategic Communications who said: “We are fortunate to have beautiful natural features, rural area, escarpment and lake, but also have created and maintained a livable, thriving city where people and businesses want to be. Out of 415 cities and towns Burlington ranked as the sixth best mid-sized city and fourth best place in Canada in which to retire; Burlington scores very well.

“We also noticed that the new methodology is rewarding growth in mid-size communities, many fast-growing municipalities have jumped to the top of the list.”

Gribbons in his comments to the Gazette did point out that “The rankings were always skewed by things that didn’t really make a city a good place to live. For example, MoneySense awarded points based on how many cars a family had (the more the better), how old they were (under three years = good) and average incomes (higher=better).

“None of these have much to do with the overall quality of life in a city for the average working stiff. Maybe this year they’ve changed their scoring system to put more emphasis on things like walkability (very poor outside of downtown), the availability of transit and City spending on things that actually help people, as opposed to pouring millions into a marina that will serve only 100 or so boaters.

“Perhaps they even took into account the way Council completely ignored anyone who opposed the way developers are taking over city planning.”

The differences of opinion on why the drop in the rankings took place and what they mean could go on forever – Burlington tends to hang on to some issues like an old dog with a bone.

The ranking were editorial fluff from a magazine that wants to grow its readership. We can put this one to rest now.

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Ontario Premier Doug Ford gets recognized by American media in record time.

background 100By Staff

July 30th, 2018



This is just too good not to share.

It is an opinion piece from the Washington Post on our beloved Premier Doug Ford.

His brother, the late Rob Ford had to get really silly before the Americans recognized him.

Big brother Doug got recognized before he had served a full month as Premier.

Read on – the opinion was written by David Moscrop, s a Canadian political commentator.

To look at him, you would not think that Ontario Premier Doug Ford was a warrior. He always seems to have a smile on this face. Or at least a grin. He seems to be pointing all the time — as though he sees you. On first glance, he disarms you. He comes off more Augustus Gloop than Caesar Augustus.

But then he speaks. A casual “folks … ” heralds the arrival of the culture warrior, with his weapons of plain-spokenness, ad hoc social conservatism and “common sense” prepared and drawn for battle. The moralizer with a morally questionable past is there to fight for what is right and just and decent and true.

Ford on QP stairway

Premier Doug Ford at Queen’s Park

For Ontarians who are used to a mellower, traditional right-wing touch, Ford appears as a 40-cents-on-the-dollar version of Donald Trump. And ahead of his election win in June, rough and ready comparisons of the leader of the Progressive Conservatives to the U.S. president were in oversupply, as were ripostes lambasting the characterization as an overreaction. But what each side missed then, and what was more clearly revealed in the first weeks of the new government, is that what Ford’s brand of governance shares with Trump is a right-wing model of decades-old vintage.

In America in the 1960s and ’70s, as those who were on the outside started to make their way inside. The Rules, which had held a subtle social authoritarianism and sense of order — backed by religious, class, gender and racial oppression — began to be torn up. For a brief time, the liberal political consensus coexisted with an emerging social and cultural space dedicated to inclusion and liberation. But as progressivism grew in America, so did a counter-movement, something you could awkwardly but accurately label a counter-counter-movement. Force and reaction. And overreaction.

The Republican Richard M. Nixon would be the last right-wing liberal president. After him, conservative culture warriors began their work in earnest. William F. Buckley, founder of National Review and conservative stalwart, who had shaped American conservatism for years, found his influence waning as a new brand of populist, sometimes folksy cultural politics replaced his elitist libertarianism. It was as though he was being poisoned by his own children.

Along came the reincarnated New Right and Ronald Reagan, Terry Dolan, Phyllis Schlafly, Pat Buchanan, Robert Novak, William Bennett and eventually a mutant pastiche generation of George W. Bush, Ann Coulter, Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck and their acolytes. From the 1970s through to Trump, right-left polarization in America grew, the religious right rose, politics turned to city vs. country, and policy was a clash of values designed to leverage anger and frustration for political ends. Where you stood on race, drugs, abortion, school prayer, textbooks, guns, gay rights, immigration and political correctness would reveal not only who you were on the political spectrum but also whether you were good or evil.

Wittingly or otherwise, Ford has declared a culture war in Ontario. During the campaign, he launched predictable volleys. He opposed supervised injection sites for heroin addicts. He railed against elites. He praised police services and vowed to restore law and order.

After his victory, he spent his first days covering considerable symbolic and substantive terrain by moving fast and breaking things. At his swearing-in ceremony, he offered only a Christian prayer and skipped the emerging (but already widespread) norm of making an Indigenous land acknowledgement. He made a point of playing the now-unofficial version of the national anthem, “O Canada,” singing “In all thy sons command” instead of the new and inclusive “In all of us command.”

On the legislative and policy front, he moved immediately to remove environmental protections, proposing to scrap green programs and the province’s cap-and-trade scheme designed to tackle carbon emissions. Immediately after this, his minister for children, community and social services stood in front of a lectern adorned by the seal of the province and announced that Ontario was done cooperating with the federal government on resettling asylum seekers, just as the number of claimants crossing between ports of entry into Canada has risen in light of Trump’s election and fears about how they would be treated in the United States.

Next was sex education. The Ford government looked back to the good ol’ days of 1998, restoring a curriculum designed before same-sex marriage was legal in Canada and consent was not considered an issue worth discussing. Later, after a recent spike in violence in Toronto linked to concerns about mental health, the premier signaled his intent to send some of the province’s mental-health funds to the police.

Marinated in plain-spoken, folksy “common sense,” and drawing on an American playbook, Ford has brought a dangerous populist politics of cultural resentment and revenge to Ontario. We can expect outrage and self-righteousness. Regression and oppression. A slip back to an imagined never-time of cultural rigidity and economic retrenchment. And this at the moment when inclusiveness, environmental responsibility and a commitment to decent deliberative politics are needed to advance a just and pluralist democracy.

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63 people running for office in Burlington - largest number the city has seen in years. Good news?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

July 30th, 2018


We erred – there are four people running for Mayor.  This story has been corrected.  The number is still 63

Nominations closed at city hall Friday afternoon.

There are 63 candidates running for city council seats, Board of Education seats, both Catholic and Public.

There is also a race for the Regional Chair.

There is one acclamation.

Ward 1 has 11 nominations, ward 2 has 6 and ward 3 has 5.

The only straight one on one battle is in ward 4 where Shawna Stolte is taking on 25 year + incumbent Jack Dennison who has a battle on his hands this time.

Four people are running for Mayor.

Two of the seven Burlington Council members have resigned: Rick Craven in ward 1 and John Taylor in ward 3.

There are 13 people running for seats on the Halton District Catholic School Board where there are some fundamental questions to be worked through.

The Halton District School Board has challengers for three of the four Burlington seats on the 11 member board. Amy Collard has been acclaimed in ward 5 once again. The residents in ward 5 know when they have a good thing going for them.

Expect to see the school board issues made part of the municipal election; the parents at Bateman appear to be getting ready to blame the closing of Bateman high school on ward 2 city Councillor Marianne Meed Ward when it was the school board trustees who made that decision.

The October election looks as if it is going to be messy with development being the biggest issue. A project in the east end of the city that wants to put 11 buildings in the old Lakeshore Plaza site, now named Lakeshore Village Plaza, will bring out those that want Burlington to remain what it has been for some time. Those who don’t want to kind of development that is being brought forward by the developers use the phrase “responsible development”.

It will be up to the new city council to determine just what is responsible development is.

With four candidates running for Mayor the choices are not going to be easy. Meed Ward at some time has to put forward a really clear position on just what she thinks the city should have in the way of a development plan going forward; the Mayor, Rik Goldring has to stop saying that the tax increases are in line with inflation – they are not. He is fudging the numbers to his advantage.

Mike Wallace has to begin to say more about what he would look for as Mayor. So far we know that he now realizes the city needs a larger city council. – the reason we have just the six members of council is because of a motion Wallace brought years ago that reduced the 17 then to the six now.

Wallace has talked about a “Liberty Village” for Burlington. Interpreted that is about land development – which developer are we talking about here – there isn’t all that much land available.

We aren’t hearing anything from Wallace on the downtown development.

Greg Woodruff has to do more than have a Facebook page.

When 63 people run for public office you know that there are a lot of people very unhappy with the way things have been done the past eight years.

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Premier Ford: 'the vengeful little ‘man of all the people’ with a healthy disrespect for democracy.


Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

July 29th, 2018


“I stand with Mayor Tory… that is a direct affront on democracy… That is tin pot dictator stuff.” (Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi – Friday July 27, 2018))

Is anyone really surprised? Doug Ford is showing his real colours – the vengeful little ‘man of all the people’ with a healthy disrespect for democracy, the political process, and the people within it. Friday was the last day for municipal nominations and without any public discussion or forewarning, King Ford decided to cut the size of Toronto’s city council by almost 50%. Of course this caught everyone by surprise, and especially those candidates who had already submitted their nomination papers for wards which now no longer exist.

doug-ford hard face

Ontario Premier Doug Ford

Ford apparently has the power to do pretty much what he wants. But everyone is asking why this wasn’t part of the PC election campaign. Its’ common knowledge that he and his late brother, the former mayor, had long harboured an ambition to punish City Council, and/or its mayor. After all Mayor Tory beat Ford in the last election.

Still if that was in the cards, why didn’t Ford nation mention the intention to downsize City Hall during the campaign. Our new Mr. ‘Create-a-Crisis’ is also cancelling elections for regional chair in Peel, in an attempt to contain former PC leader Patrick Brown, who was in the running. After all, once Brown wins his defamation law suit against CTV, he’ll be coming after Ford.

So Mr. ‘Wreck-it-Ralph’ is on the move. At least everyone understood from what existed of his piecemeal campaign that Ford was going to kill the province’s market-based climate change plan, scrap sex-education in schools and shut down Ontario’s renewable energy programs. It was an incredibly wrong-headed, in fact bone-headed, set of promises, if for no other reason than Ford and his team had yet to invent plausible alternatives to these purposeful policies.

Now Ontario taxpayers will be subjected to a long, divisive and costly legal battle with the federal government, which will implement it’s own carbon tax here this year. And that will be more costly than the one Ford has just cancelled. And nobody with half a brain expects the courts to side with Ford, particularly as how the feds will be returning all of the money collected back to Ontario’s households.

Schools will go back to teaching a 1998 version of sex-education, which predates the emergence of the real dangers of sexual predation on the internet, gender issues and the topic of consent, as an eleventh-hour stop gap promise to Wreck-it Ralph’s party’s religious-right wing. In the end, of course, the government will likely just repackage the current sex-ed curriculum and re-implement it. After all, education is neither liberal nor conservative – it is just education. And this poly-boo-hoo over sex-ed was just about winning the election.


A smog day in Toronto – most people thought these were a thing of the past – are there smog days ahead of us?

And ending the expansion of our renewable energy systems will condemn us to even greater reliance on climate-changing natural gas, and/or a return to imports of US coal fired electricity to meet Ontario’s emerging need for electricity. Importing US power in US dollars will be costly, though the biggest price will be deteriorating air quality, as we possibly move back to the era of smog days. Note that there were no smog days in the last year (2015) of phasing out coal burning compared to 53 a decade earlier.

Ford’s claim that he’ll be saving Ontario families $260 or so by killing cap and trade is as laughable as his assertion that it’ll only cost $5 million to do so. Has anyone seen buck-a-bottle beer yet or noticed that the pump prices have fallen by anything like the dime he promised? I’m looking forward to my 20% income tax rebate and another 12% off my hydro bill.

Ford with Tory

Toronto Mayor John Tory on the left in conversation with Ontario Premier Doug Ford.

He says he’s gutting TO’s city hall, making Toronto the most under represented city in Ontario, in order to save the city $25 million dollars. But the city will need to hire more staff to deal with the additional demand of now twice as many residents per Councillor. And that means that the costs will likely increase. And while we understand Ford’s disregard for Toronto’s politicians, does he really want to replace them with more bureaucrats? Doesn’t this remind everyone of how Mike Harris forced amalgamation on Toronto to supposedly save taxpayers money?

It’s easier to tear down than to build up again. And while Ford told us a bit about what he would be doing, he kept secret all the other plans he must have had, like reducing democracy in Toronto. Perhaps he hadn’t been warned by his entourage about how the public might react to such a draconian measure? Or perhaps downsizing was just a spontaneous thought that hit him when he read that municipal office nominations were closing on Friday?

Smog minimize use

The sign says it all.

Ford came to his position as party leader in a hurry and Ontario voters, at least 40% of them, were also in an almost inexplicable hurry to get rid of the Liberals. So Ontario voters might have been a little hasty. And there is little comfort for those who ignore those time-worn adages like haste makes waste, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, and you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. The truth is that when you put garbage in a refrigerator it won’t take long until the fridge begins to smell like a garbage can.

And speaking of garbage, that was one of Ontario’s new premier’s claims to fame. As one-time Councillor he and his bro, Mayor Rob, dragged the rest of Toronto’s Council, fighting and screaming, into privatizing garbage collection. Oh, and there’s another adage which applies to the last provincial election: ‘garbage in… garbage out’.

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.     Tweet @rayzrivers



Background links:

Ford on Carbon Tax –    Carbon Taxes –    Climate Change

Ford’s Toronto –    More Toronto –    Smog Days –    Ford’s Powers

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