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:

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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Why do people delegating at city hall feel they have to thank council members for listening to them?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

July 25th, 2018



At the start of almost every delegation made to city council the words: “Thank you to Council and Staff for hearing my delegation.”

It is my view that the council and staff should be thanking the delegator for taking the time to prepare their remarks and speak publicly to those elected to office. Many members of Council do say – Thank you for coming – and then stop listening. Rarely do the members of council say – That’s a good idea – I will ask staff to make it happen.

Gary Scobie

Gary Scobie- a frequent delegator

Jim Young A

Jim Young, one of the best delegators city council gets to hear.

Language determines the direction a conversation takes. If a delegator appears as a supplicant members of Council will treat them as supplicants.

Burlington’s city council has treated the public as supplicants during the period of time Cam Jackson was Mayor and for the two terms Rick Goldring has been Mayor.

The public lets them do this and the civic leadership in the past has been content to let it continue.

It is going to take a Mayor that fully understands and commits to the belief that the voters are supreme on the day they cast their ballots and that they matter every day of a term of office.

The Gazette has listened to well over 100 delegations – some are exceptionally well prepared – others could have used more work but every delegation was an important part of the democratic process that has to be respected by the elected to office.

The current Procedural bylaw needs a revision; it limits how a delegator can address council and basically prevents a delegator from addressing staff in a formal setting unless the chair lets that kind of interaction take place.

Burlington has a city manager who believes his role is to protect his staff. He has been recorded as saying that he is passionate about protecting his staff.

On far too many occasions the Chair of a council meeting, the Mayor is the worst offender, insist that there be no clapping or applause when a delegator has finished their presentation. The Mayor however has no problem letting the public applaud when he is handing out certificates of merit.

The public process is a large part of the heart of a community. It needs to be allowed to swell and be proud and to express sadness and disappointment.

Wallace conceding

Candidate for Mayor – Mike Wallace

Goldring campaign picture

Seeking re-election to a third term Rick Goldring

Citizens of Burlington will decide between three candidates in October. The number of new people running for office makes it evident that people want to see changes.  Nominations close on Friday.

Use the summer to think about what you want and then determine who best meets your wishes.

Meed Ward winsome

Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward running for Mayor

Greg Woodruff

Greg Woodruff wants to be Mayor

Municipal government in Canada is not political party based. Hopefully both the Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives will not hop on the wagon being pulled by a candidate for Mayor.

The New Democrats and the Greens have their followings as well.

Candidates have to be judged on their merits and being a Liberal or a Progressive Conservative is not necessarily meritorious.

Salt with Pepper is an opinion column reflecting the thoughts, opinions, observations and musing of the Gazette publisher.

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Greg Woodruff: 'How do we get back to a good policy that respects the wishes of people who live here now?'

opinionred 100x100By Greg Woodruff

July 20, 2018



People in Burlington are going to have to decide if they are seriously interested in changing the current direction of this city or not. Are we just going to express anger or change the direction of the city? A Burlington filled with 11 story buildings is not practically different than 17 story or 23 stories. From the base of these buildings in the tight “trenches” that emerge you are not going to have any idea how high the buildings are. The lower heights are preferable, but they don’t make the city fundamentally different.

Many candidates are selling nothing substantial in the way of change. Slightly-less high does not represent a different destination for the city.

The policy of hi-rises everywhere is entrenched in the new official plan with the Region. It’s not amendable by Burlington City Council while it is with Halton Region (I checked). And it can also be approved by the Region with no further input from us (again I checked). The next Council will almost certainly inherit it as an in-force document along with 421 Brant and 409 Brant in an approved state at 18 stories. 421 is totally approved at 23 stories with all appeals expired. Unless the would-be Councilor has mastered mind control or time travel we need policies that affect a drastic change of course.

high profile 421

Brant and James – a done deal.


Lakeshore and Martha -under an Administrative Review.

Jeweller after

409 Brant – approved at 17 – expected to go to LPAT

I do not like this direction. I’ve opposed it on multiple fronts and have for five years plus. However, I wish the plan to oppose it to be based in reality. Complaining about buildings one by one is useless. Modifying the buildings by some number of floors is does not take us to a different place. Vilifying the existing council as “out of touch” accomplishes nothing. What is the actual practical plan to change this direction? Just electing different people to the council will not do it, because the direction will be firmly entrenched. What rules need changing and how?

Bridgewater CROPPED

Bridgewater and Lakeshore and Elizabeth

Brant lakeshore - Molinaro b

Lakeshore and Brant – just a concept at this point.

We can not have would be Councillors going around and saying “People in Burlington are all for intensification, but this specific building is too much.” “I don’t like this” is not an operational policy. “We don’t want over-development” is not an operation policy. “I love Burlington” is not an operational policy. The Council makes policy. What exactly is the policy you propose?

With no plan of action, all we will get from the next Council is what we are getting now; “You think this building is bad, you should have seen it before.” The candidates are just taking “over-development” and making it “slightly-less overdeveloped.” Things that are “less bad” are not “good.” Taking a terrible direction and making it less terrible is nothing I’m excited about. Official-Plan-Binder_Image

What this all comes down to is the next Council willing to modify the heights in the New Official Plan down and how much. This is going to be an unbelievably hard slog – with multiple groups bitterly against this. It’s going to require the Region and Province to play along.

I don’t see how this is possible unless local candidates win on a mandate. You need to scare politicians at the Regional and Halton level that voter reaction on this issue is so great that it’s “tough political moves” or “extinction” at the ballot box. Nothing else will change the direction of development in Burlington.

People in Burlington are angry – you should be. But don’t let candidates ride that anger. It’s not going to get us to a policy that changes the direction of the city. All it will get is a new crop of faces making excuses. As it turns out; the municipality does operate under restrictions set out by the Province. You have to strategically work the framework, which will not respond to protests of love or anger.

“This building is too much” is not a mandate, policy or anything that helps. Neither is demonizing the existing Councilors. Ask your candidates “What exactly is the policy you propose?” If they don’t know now, don’t expect them to have any idea of what to do later.

Greg Woodruff

Greg Woodruff

Greg Woodruff is an Aldershot resident who is running for the Office of Mayor.  He has in the past run for the office of Chair of the Region of Halton.  Professionally Woodruff toils in the world of information technology.

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Ray Rivers has gone fishing - back in a couple of weeks.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

July 21st, 2018



Ray has gone fishing.

He will be back soon – he doesn’t really catch very many fish.

Rivers goes fishing NZ - Jan 2015Give him a week – maybe two and he will be back at his keyboard explaining a government policy, giving us background and insights.

The change of government at the provincial level has Rivers pulling back and wondering if we are on our way to the days of Mike Harris. Thinking about just how big the provincial deficit is and how the Liberals will reinvent themselves and wondering as well just how efficient a Leader of the Opposition Andrea Horwath will be.

rivers-on-guitarGreat times for a political pundit – and given that Rivers couldn’t hook a fish if his dinner depended on it – expect him back soon.

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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Michael Jones: This can be taken as a rant of sorts, it is frustrating and heart breaking to see the direction this downtown is going.

opinionred 100x100By Michael Jones

July 20th, 2018



The current City Council has managed to isolate and frustrate the people of Burlington like no other group I have encountered. Unless it is a feel-good moment of a ceremony they continue to leave us disappointed. I really try to find the positive’s, but this group leaves us arm folded and shaking our collective heads. (and told to be quiet) The decisions this group has made are full of contradictory statements and lack foresight.

Burlington has had relatively large community protest groups in the past. The Save our Waterfront group had more than 1000 members - did it achieve anything other than getting its founder elected to city hall? Here one of the masters of public involvement, former Toronto Mayor David Crombie talks with current SOW presisdent.

Michael Jones in conversation with former Toronto Mayor David Crombie who was speaking to the now defunct Waterfront Advisory Committee. At the time Jones was president of Save our Waterfront, a group that at one point had more than 1000 members.

I delegated at the council meeting against the 421-431 Brant Street development. I decided to abstain from delegating on July 10th and July 17th against the 409 Brant as a candidate for Ward 2 but attended as a member of the community. Delegating to Council is like talking to a brick wall that refuses to listen to logic, real statistics and the desire of the people of Burlington. I was in the council chambers listening to each of the councilors “logic” on why they voted the way they did. In a time when facts are forever doubted this group has not done their job in providing the facts we deserve. They also spoke down and minimized the thoughts of the knowledgeable people that did delegate.

The Council seems confused in their own direction when a decision was to be made. They were asking questions that I would think would be asked well in advance of such an important day that impacts the City forever.

• Can we get a third party traffic study? was asked by Council to City Staff as the traffic study completed is widely believed not to address all the developments combined. They then proceeded to vote on buildings that will increase traffic in an area that already faces gridlock without a proper traffic study already being done.

• City staff was asked, “Can we have a pause to re consider or delay the building developments?” They are asking this the day of the vote! Try asking that of a boss or professor, the day of the exam. Didn’t work then doesn’t work now. If in doubt how can they move forward confidently. Go BOLD they say. A Bold decision would be to stand with the people.

After discussions with people across the city many weren’t aware this Council meeting was taking place or the importance of it:


The price ranges for the Nautique are all over the map. They advertise the top ten floors as having units that go for $1 million

• Paul Sharman gave us a history lesson on where he has lived over the course of his life. He proceeded to give us false numbers on the upper 1 % of wage earners throughout downtown. I for one are far from the 1 % neither are my surrounding neighbours. He stated these buildings will provide affordable housing, he was unable to back these figures up as the condominiums have not even been advertised for sale. For example, the ADI development at Lakeshore and Martha originally had a sign stating condo’s for $250 000.00, this has now been changed to $800 000.00. The sign has so many new increase price tag layers, it may fall over. Not so affordable Councilor Sharman.

• Mayor Goldring had asked City Staff in detail about taking a “Pause” on this development and further developments. He then proceeded to Vote for the development, if you are wanting a moment of clarity normally people don’t dive in.

• Lancaster gave us a firsthand example of her business losing money because of the building of the Performing Arts Centre and moving from the downtown core. She flippantly suggests business’s need to come and go as she has done with her business. What kind of message are we sending to hard working people often investing their life savings on a dream of succeeding in the downtown. Lancaster and Craven seem to believe Kelly’s Bake Shop will set up somewhere else in Burlington. This is far from guaranteed and why would she? My coworkers in my Mississauga office drive from Toronto and Mississauga for her quality bake good. I for one will miss my New Year’s Tradition of Blossom City Chinese Food.

• Taylor leaned on Rick Craven like a crutch clinging to the Places to Grow Act, without providing facts or numbers. The original Official Plan met the numbers for intensification. The City won’t get a special certificate from the Province of Ontario for creating a skyline mirroring that of Toronto across the lake.

Rendering with Bake Shop

The building that houses Kelly’s Bake Shoppe is shown in the lower right corner. The structure may remain – but there is no guarantee that the Bake Shoppe will be inside whatever is kept to show that the city actually has some heritage.

• Jack Dennison did not support the motion for 409 Brant St, but his vision does not bode well for downtown, he detailed his vision on this property of a 14 storey building with escalators. This has been tried before at both Upper Canada Place 460 Brant Street and 760 Brant Street. Neither of these locations offer an inviting street level and have had limited success in occupancy over the years and none to the longevity of Blossom City Chinese Food and the success of Kelly’s Bake Shoppe.

• The ongoing Craven vs Meed Ward opposing views, I do support healthy debate and opposite viewpoints but all decisions need to be based on facts. Marianne Meed Ward presented a detailed list of reasons why this building does not need to be built and were presented in a logical manner. Craven could only raise his voice stating “it is the Law”, this does not provide the citizens the true details on this development excessive goals.

After sitting frustrated through many Council meetings, we need something greater than a “Pause” button, we need to press “Stop”.

Jack Dennison asked Kelly of Kelly’s Bake Shop .”how do you do so well at marketing and communication?” I hope the City Staff listened to her answer. “Passion and love, not schooling just love of what she is doing” Communication is a 2-way street and as a candidate for Ward 2, this is what I believe needs to be changed at City Hall. The people have shown and voiced their love and passion for the City and this Council turned its back on what is important to the citizens.

Hopefully this October our new Council can serve the people of Burlington as they deserve, we have invested our money and our families in this City. Burlington Citizens need to feel their voice is heard, all the good hard working, educated and prepared people who delegated were not listened to. This opinion piece can be taken as a rant of sorts, but it is frustrating and heart breaking to see the direction this downtown is going.

Michael Jones is a downtown resident and a candidate for the ward 2 city council seat

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Mayor's campaign manager clarifies the highlighted statement in the second version of a Newsletter - sort of.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

July 19th, 2018



David Vandenburg contacted the Gazette to clarify why a second version of the mayor’s newsletter went out earlier this week.

The Mayor said, according to his campaign manager, that the downtown Councillor contacted the Mayor’s Office with the request for correction, which he then provided. Apparently the Mayor “didn’t want to mislead readers by not highlighting the part that was corrected.”


David Vandenburg announcing that he is going to manage Mayor Goldring’s re-election campaign.

Vandenburg added that as the “lead representative of council, any Mayor should keep residents informed on votes and what other Councillors were looking for, it wasn’t a political shot. Which is why the Mayor referred to Councillor Dennison’s wishes for the site as well.

“It was a minor error in the first one that was simply requested to be changed by a colleague, which was done and highlighted.”

Vandenberg said he was “clarifying the reason why the part was highlighted in the second version was because the first newsletter went out only saying MMW put forward a motion for 11 stories. She asked for it to be changed to 3-11 stories, which the Mayor did and highlighted it so readers understood the correction in the newsletter.

“MMW asked for the change and he did it for her and to clarify to the public, not a shot at her. She asked for the change.”

I’m confused.

Here are the two version of the paragraph in the Newsletter:

Unhighlighted comment

The paragraph as it appeared in the first version of the newsletter on the Tuesday.

Highlighted comment RG

The second version of the paragraph as it appeared in the second version. All the Mayor had to do was say that he was asked the make a correction. Now we know. Awkward!


It all comes across as a little confusing – kind of like the New Street Road Diet. Do it right the first time and don’t slip and slide explaining something that was pretty simple.

Why couldn’t the Mayor have said something like: I was asked to make the following correction by the ward Councillor – then make the correction.

Salt with Pepper is an opinion column reflecting the thoughts, opinions, observations and musing of the Gazette publisher.

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Mayor crosses an ethical line in his bid to get re-elected.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

July 19th, 2018



How does the Mayor get to use his Report to the citizens as part of his campaign to get re-elected as Mayor?

Mayors Update heading

The Mayor is given space on the city web site to report to the citizens of the city on decisions he makes and why he made them. Mayor Goldring’s practice has been to produce a report at least once a a month.


The Mayor is expected to use various media to speak to the public about decisions he has made and why he voted the way he did.

Nothing wrong with that – it is part of the job of being Mayor.

However, when his Updates are used to advance his electoral campaign he is stepping outside the lines.

In the most recent Update the Mayor chose to highlight part of his remarks in yellow in which he set out what one of his competitors for the Office of Mayor had said she wanted to see accepted in terms of height for a controversial downtown development.

The Mayor can and will campaign for re-election.  He will discuss what he has done and what his competitors are doing on the campaign trail and in debates.

It is not appropriate for him to use media space given to him by the city to take a swipe at another candidate.

Highlighted comment RG

The Mayor highlighted the views of a council member in yellow marker.



What makes this particularly tacky is that the Mayor published his update on Tuesday at 4:37 pm in which the words about Meed Ward were not highlighted in yellow.

Unhighlighted comment

He republished his Update on Wednesday at 6:03 pm – that is the version that has the highlighting.

It is actions like this that make election campaigns dirty.

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Are they having any fun at city hall?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

July 18th, 2018



We just might be hearing the phrase “Common Sense Coalition” when the municipal election gets more active .

There are candidates who are getting together and talking about identifying themselves as a coalition where they will have a statement they all endorse that is city wide.

The individual candidates will then have issues they want to identify and work with within their own wards.

The people behind this idea point out that there is nothing partisan about what they want to do. “We are just candidates for public office that want to tell the public that we can work together and avoid the rancor that exists on the council we have now.”

One of the concerns the Gazette hears again and again is the lack of civility at council meetings. There are some very very poor relationships between some council members. There are two that just will not let up – they go at each other as if there were working on a long standing family feud.

PAcked meeting

Citizens standing for the National Anthem at the start of a council meeting. Twelve people delegated – not many smiles from even one of them.

We hear from people who have delegated at council and say that they will never do that again. They felt they were humiliated and not respected. Some people don’t have experience delegating and they are nervous, lose their train of thought and then wander off from the issue.

There is the sense that the delegator and the council member come across as combatants – the council members don’t come across as leaders.

Frequently a council member challenges a delegator in a dismissive diminishing manner.

There is rarely the sense that they are all in the room to achieve the same goal.

On Monday there were people delegating and talking about how well their community worked for them. They were the personification of that phrase city hall trots out with every media release: Burlington is one of Canada’s best and most livable cities, a place where people, nature and business thrive.   A comment from a Georgian Court reader went like this:  “Our city counselors totally let us down, and in the process were disrespectful. I have lost all faith and confidence in our city government”.

walter mulkewich

Walter Mulkewich


Rob MacIsaac

When we meet with people we ask: Who is the best Mayor the city had in the past? Rob MacIsaac   and Walter Mulkewich are always at the top of the list. “Rob was always informed, knew what he was talking about and was a pleasure to work with” was the way one citizen described a past Mayor.

During a conversation with someone who knows MacIsaac  well told us that he was at an event with MacIsaac recently and asked him which of the several jobs he has had in the past did he like the most. We were told that MacIsaac said he had fund while he was Mayor.

One seldom gets the sense that anyone is having any fun at city hall. The planners are almost under siege. They are over worked – the development applications arrive almost daily.

TrampolineAt times the work for the planners is both exciting and challenging but the pace is relentless and fatigue sets in.

City Council is off for the month of August – the planners aren’t going to have that luxury.

Perhaps Parks and Recreation could put on an event for the Planning department – let them all hop onto a trampoline and just have fun.

How about the City Manager on a trampoline?  That might be asking for too much!

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

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Roland Tanner: 'Developer's argument for a Brant Street development is very far from one that Council should endorse. And it went unchallenged.'

opinionred 100x100By Roland Tanner

July 17,2018



Before I begin I just want to recognize the futility of the exercise we are engaged in tonight. I doubt very much that there is anybody in this room who has not made up their mind about this development.

Delegations will be read, and votes will be cast, but the former will have no impact on the latter. I honestly don’t say that as a criticism, I simply say it as a matter of fact. Whatever happens at the election this year, let’s all please commit, citizens, Council, City Staff, to find a better way of doing this in the future. A way that finally gets all sides talking and listening together. Win or lose, I promise I’ll be willing to help.

Moving on. Last week we heard the argument that it is the Province, and the new Provincial Growth Plan, that is forcing the city to accept 17 storeys or more, on this location.

There are two reasons why I believe that argument is incorrect.

First, the Special Planning Area in the Brant Street Precinct is zoned for 17 storeys by the new Official Plan for one reason and one reason only. By allowing greater height, the City is seeking to trade developers for an enhanced public space near City Hall to augment the current civic square. That objective has nothing to do with the Province, or with the Places to Grow Act, or the Growth Plan.

But for that objective, 409 Brant street and associated lots would be zoned for a maximum of 11 storeys with a 45 degree setback from Brant to John St, along with the rest of the Brant St precinct. That lower height, by the City’s own argument, not mine, is a defensible level of intensification under the Growth Plan.

I reiterate. That is the City’s position, and the City’s argument, not mine.

Second. The delegation on behalf of the developer last week by Mr Bronskill made a novel legal argument, and one which has yet to be tested at the LPAT. That legal argument was that the wording of Provincial Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe obliges cities to ‘optimize’ intensification on any lot. The developer is entitled to their opinion, but I will argue that Mr Bronskill’s argument is very far from one that Council should endorse. And yet his argument went unchallenged.

In fact the Provincial Growth Plan uses the word ‘Optimize’ exactly ONE TIME with regard to intensification. I will quote the sentence in full.

“It is important to optimize the use of the existing urban land supply as well as the existing building and housing stock to avoid further over designating land for future urban development.”

This sentence is almost identical to the 2006 Growth Plan. It differs only in the addition of nine words ‘as well as the existing building and housing stock’.

In other words there is clearly no intent whatsoever to cause a wholesale reinterpretation of what is permitted for intensification on any single assembly of land. Instead we still have only the standard requirement for Intensification which has been in place since the Places to Grow Act.

So, having dispensed with those two arguments that the height of 409 Brant Street is not in the City’s control, what are we left with?

We are left with an area which has been zoned by the City at 17 storeys, but could equally have been zoned for 3 to 11, with a 45 degree setback. The City’s own logic, not my logic, argues that a lower height is a defensible position to take to any future appeal at the LPAT. I am not cynically arguing what I think residents want to hear, I am arguing from the City’s own position used in the creation of the new Official Plan.

The City has the power. It should also have the will. I ask again: please reject the staff recommendation, and consider removing the lands under discussion from the Special Planning Area and zoning them according to remainder of the Brant Street Precinct.

Tanner cropped

Roland Tanner

Roland Tanner is a candidate for the ward 2 seat on city council.  He is a history scholar and one of the very few candidates for council seats to speak out and delegate.

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McKeown brought in as a strategist on the Goldring re-election campaign team.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

July 15th, 2018



A source that does have a vested interest in the outcome of the municipal election in October advised us yesterday that he can confirm Frank McKeown, the recently retired executive Director of the Economic Development Corporation, has taken on the task of being chief strategist for current Mayor Rick Golding who is seeking a third term.

Frank McKeough, former Chief of Staff to MAyor Rick Goldring asked about how politicians can handle complex issues when voters tend not to be informed and don't have the background needed to arrive at decisions.

Frank McKeown.

McKeown was once the Chief of Staff during the first two years of Goldring’s first term, 2010 to 2014 and is  believed to have been the person who wrote the several position papers that Goldring issued during the 2010 election. They were good papers and set out issues the Mayor was able to deliver on.

The creation of Tech Place was a Goldring initiative in the 2010 election. After leaving the Mayor’s office McKeown was appointed the Executive Director of the Economic Development Corporation where he did the grunt work that got Tech Place on the map.

His initial objective was to work with the McMaster De Groote School of Business and create a partnership with the German Fraunhofer Group and establish a Centre at De Groote; that didn’t work out. The German group partnered with the Innovation Centre in Hamilton.

TechPlace, where the tech community connects, develops and grows, has worked out. There are now a reported seven “clients” working out of the offices on the North Service Road in the east end of the city.

Goldring’s re-election campaign is being managed by David Vandenburg. At one point there was the hint that Martin van Zon of Burlington based Interkom Smart Marketing  would be playing a large role in the campaign. That idea didn’t go very far.

Rock at Kick Off - crowd

Mayor Rick Goldring at his campaign kick off.

The chatter amongst those that follow the election is that Golding is not holding his own and that Mike Wallace, with very little in the way of public comment on significant development matters, is doing better than many expected.

There is nothing to substantiate that view but bringing McKeown on at this point in the campaign suggests that a Goldring feels he needs some bench strength.

McKeown has never been a fan of the approach ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward takes to development in the downtown core.

On the occasions when McKeown has delegated at city council his body language and the responses he gives Meed Ward to many of her questions speaks volumes. There has never been a good working relationship between those two.

There was a point in 2013 when McKeown was giving serious thought to a run at the Mayor’s job. His decision not to enter the political arena at the time was that he felt the morale at city hall was toxic.

Frank McKeown, then the Mayors Chief of Staff explains a concept to Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman. McKeown was described as the 7th council member during the Strategic Plan sessions.

Frank McKeown explains a concept to Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman. McKeown was described as the 7th council member during the 2011Strategic Plan sessions.

McKeown is a team player; quiet, soft spoken with the capacity to deliver. McKeown doesn’t have to work another day of his life. He is in that fortunate position of being able to decide what he wants to do and nothing is Ok with him rather than taking on a useless task.

His relationship with Goldring is not all that clear. You can bet that McKeown didn’t volunteer to serve as the lead strategist – my guess is that he got a phone call and rather than see either Meed Ward or Wallace be elected as Mayor he joined Goldring’s team.

McKeown is direct, he thinks things through and when he has questions or concerns he gets out of the office and looks into situations himself.  He has few pretensions; he’s the kind of guy who can be in a room and you never know he is there.

Meed Ward winsome

Ward 2 city Councillor Mary Anne Meed Ward is a candidate for the Office of Mayor in the October election

Both Meed Ward and Wallace will know that there is now some weight on the Goldring bench; the concerns all three candidates have with the performances coming out of the Planning department will be high on the campaign strategy agenda for Goldring.

Will having McKeown be enough to shore up the Golding position?  There is more than enough time to fix whatever flaws there might be in the Goldring team.

Mike in full campaign mode

Mike Wallace in full campaign mode.

Wallace has much more bench strength than many realize.

Meed Ward desperately needs some bench strength on the realities of real estate development.

The city now has a public that is unhappy, somewhat confused and determined to do as much as they can to bring about a change.

Frank McKeown, Mayor's Chief of Staff, attempts to fix the clock in Council Chambers. There are things that perhaps need fixing on the eighth floor.

Frank McKeown attempts to fix the clock in Council Chambers. He is a detail type – get it right and keep it on time.

McKeown is the kind of strategist who not only knows that you get in front of the parade and lead; he can be expected to come up with ideas and directions to slow down the pace of the parade and get the band to play a different tune.

Goldring opens his campaign office early in August – he announced it will be in the Plaza on Guelph Line at New Street – next to the Tim Hortons shop. They got that part right.

There is more than enough time to fix whatever flaws there might be in the Goldring team.

Wallace has much more bench strength than many realize.

Meed Ward desperately needs some bench strength on the realities of real estate development.

Salt with Pepper is an opinion column reflecting the view, musings and observations of the Gazette publisher.

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A totally cock-a-mammy idea from people that should know better. Get a grip on reality folks.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

July 13th, 2018



A candidate for one of the city council seats sent us a proposal that had come to his attention via ECoB: Engaged Citizens of Burlington that he felt council should consider.

The proposal is to use some of the community benefit money that would be a part of the process if the 409 project proceeds to move the Kelly’s Bake Shop from its current Brant street location to an empty city lot at John and Caroline, allowing Kelly’s Bake Shoppe to remain in the downtown core.

Ford + two others at Kellys

Kelly’s Bake Shop has become a destination for many. A condo development threatens the existence of the buisness.

While the sentiment is nice – this idea is fraught with problems.

First, John Street north of Caroline is not actually a street – it is a lane way and there might be issues over what can be built on a lane way.

Second, City Manager James Ridge brought to council’s attention that any rental the city might do would have to be at market rates – the Municipal Act requires him to do that.

Third, should the city be in the business of favouring a specific commercial operation? This is not the purpose of municipal governments. It opens the door for all kinds of cronyism – and if Ridge is against anything, his stomach would turn if he saw that happening on his watch.

The desire to do something for the cupcake store is based on an emotional concern – that’s not what city hall is about.

Kellys - her with cup cakes-edit

Kelly Child’s is a very talented marketer – trying to convince a city to give her special treatment.

It is the Gazette’s understanding that Kelly Child’s has yet to meet with the Economic Development Corporation; that organization is in place to work with commercial operations that need help.

What Kelly Child’s has done is play the “crying in public” card for sympathy and support.  This is a business situation and we are talking about public money – be very careful.

The candidate said he has “spoken to Kelly Childs and confirmed that this is a proposal she would be happy to consider.”

I’ll bet she would be happy to consider the proposal.

The candidate, who we have deliberately not identified; (we don’t want to embarrass him any more than he has embarrassed himself by promoting a totally cock-a-mammy idea), said he “believes this is an excellent and inventive idea worthy of full and urgent examination by Council and Staff, and I will be supporting that examination.

John looking south - empty lot

John Street at Caroline looking south – a proposed new location for Kelly’s Bake Shop. The building on the property has been demolished

“Kelly’s Bake Shoppe is a Burlington success story that may become a Canada-wide and international success story. Burlington should do everything it can both to protect the heritage property and recognise the tenant’s special contribution to the downtown.

“I believe that this is a proposal well worth getting out to your readers today.”

Hmmm … is this what we want on city council?

Salt with Pepper is a column reflecting the opinions, views, observations and musings of the Gazette publisher.

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Rivers: 'Canada’s position on military spending is untenable.'

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

July 13th, 2018



“What good is NATO if Germany is paying Russia billions of dollars for gas and energy?” (Donald Trump July 11, 2018)

It’s not often that the US president is right but Trump’s argument here is pretty solid. His European bloc allies are still living in the ’90’s when Russia was (maybe) one of the good guys. So when Russia was invading Ukraine, France and Germany, the two strongest mainland powers just watched in dismay. Only after a Malaysian air flight carrying some two hundred European civilians was blown out of the sky by a Russian missile did they impose some economic sanctions on the aggressor.

Putin and trump

Does anyone trust either of them?

Perhaps the US president is just trash talking Russia to quash criticism of his summit next week with Mr. Putin. But to his point, even after Russia invaded Georgia Germany was still training Russian soldiers, and the French were building two of the largest helicopter carriers ever for Mr. Putin. Still, Germany’s leader, Merkel, claims she doesn’t need any lectures on the evils of Russian occupation, having been raised in East Germany.

The other shoe Trump dropped on his breeze through Brussels was about the disproportional commitment to national defence by his NATO partners. Canada’s position on military spending is untenable. We did agree to commit more money into our military, we need to bite the bullet. And yes, so long as the US military can be relied upon to respond to any violation of our sovereignty under NATO, Mr. Trudeau can be smug about our need to spend more on our own defence.

And it’s not that Canada shouldn’t be enhancing its defensive capabilities, certainly when it comes to that sparsely populated part of our geography facing the Russian bear. Defence of our interests in the north will become more critical as the ice continues to recede with climate change, facilitating greater international navigation. And the best argument for meeting our 2% commitment may be to get the Donald off our back.

The PM boasting about how we’ve had a role in every NATO mission doesn’t buy him any credit with the US president. And seriously, one has to ask about the merit of some these NATO adventures the US has pushed us into. What does Afghanistan have to do with the defence of the North Atlantic? And if NATO is supposed to be strictly defensive, what were we all doing bombing Gaddafi in Libya?

Russian ice breaker North pole

Russian ice breaker at the North pole.

Has NATO so outlived its original purpose – its usefulness and rationale – that it has to go looking for fights? Perhaps Trump is right – it’s time to pack it in. Why did NATO bomb Serbia in response to its military aggression in Bosnia, but not Russia for its aggression in Ukraine?

To be clear the US maintains a large military establishment with bases and troops in many places, largely of its own volition and mostly to defend its own interests. A Russian annexation of much of western Europe, for example, would weaken US economic and political influence even more so than when the Soviet Union controlled only eastern Europe – the cold war. And that would hurt the US more than any kind of America First would ever compensate for.

So it’s all about managing potential strategic threats to America. And Trump either doesn’t get that or is talking through his fake hairdo when he makes the argument that America is defending Europe and Canada. America is only, after all, defending America. But America’s boss is less than happy with its partners. Perhaps that is because their governments are largely run by weak democratic leaders in his eyes, unlike his tyrannical heroes running China and Russia.

America First in all things but starting with trade. There must be enough economists in the US who if stacked end-to-end would reach to the moon. And they are all of one mind except for the man advising the president on trade. The US economy would only be smaller without trade and immigration, After all the dust has settled on all the tariffs and other trade and immigration barriers, US GDP and the US standard of living will be lower, not higher.

Work being done on tanks at the General Dynamics Land Systems Joint Systems Manufacturing Center in Lima, Ohio. NOT BLADE PHOTO handout from General Dynamics

It takes some Canadian steel to manufacture these tanks in Lima, Ohio.

But Trump doesn’t need to hear from the elitists. You need steel for tanks and aluminum for jet fighters. And in Trump’s world America will never be secure until and unless it controls every aspect of its economy and doesn’t have to rely on trade with the rest of the world. That is also his point about Germany and Russian gas.

But cutting trade and possibly military relations with America’s closest neighbours will only push Canada into a closer relationship with Europe. It’s just across the pond so why wouldn’t Canadian snowbirds think about moving their winter homes to Spain and southern Italy, instead of a Florida soon to be under water anyway.

As for Trump’s musing about leaving NATO? How comfortable would the next American president be with a nuclear armed (non-US) NATO sitting on her Canadian border? Trump sure says some of the darnedest things.

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:

Trump and Germany –     Trump and NATO –     NATO Spending

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Mayor Goldring sets out why he voted for a 17 storey condominium opposite city hall

opinionred 100x100By Pepper Parr

July 12th, 2018



Minutes before city council, meeting as a committee, voted on a Planning Staff recommendation to approve a modified version of an application to develop the east side of Brant Street south of James to the parking late next to Kelly’s Bake Shop.

The vote was 6-1 to accept the Staff Recommendation which goes to city council on July 16th for a final vote.

The time between a July 11th committee meeting and July 16th meeting for final vote is precious little time for the public to come to terms with the decision that has been made.

Before the vote Mayor Goldring read some notes he had prepared on why he was for voting for the Staff recommendation, what his concerns were and what he expects from the development industry.

“This is the first downtown planning proposal to be considered following the Council adoption of the new Official Plan in April.

“While the new Official Plan policies are only informative, they are important in that they provide Council’s vision for development with new growth framework which affects the downtown.

Site - south of 421

The red square is the location of an approved 23 storey structure; the black square is where a developer want to build a 22 storey building – council committee has approved a 17 building.

“The Plan was developed with intensification framework that highlights the importance of the Downtown Urban Growth Centre. The downtown is desirable and people want to live here and enjoy all that it has to offer. This is something we should all be proud of.

“It has been my view for sometime that I am confident that the Council-adopted Official Plan will bring greater certainty to planning outcomes. In doing so, we can address the frustration expressed by many residents that planning decisions should not be inconsistent with our Official Plan. This report moves us in that direction.

“November 1st Committee when we considered the proposal for 23 storeys at 421 Brant Street. In that case, I was unequivocal in my opposition based on some key points:

the conflict with the policy directions for this Special Policy Area which contained a 17 storey height limit.

I heard from many residents who told me the height was much too high for this area of Brant Street.

My concern for the possible precedent that it may create for this property at 409 Brant Street; and,

My opinion that a building height up to 17 storeys would be more appropriate.

“The applications from Reserve for a 23 storey building plus 1 storey amenity created similar concerns for me.

“The neighbourhood meeting on May 1, 2018 at the Lion’s Club confirmed that many residents shared the same view that the proposal would create considerable negative impacts on the downtown.

Looking north from Queens Head

A rendering of the 22 storey structure the developer has applied for from the Queen’s Head. Council has approved a 17 storey structure that goes to council next week

“So I am pleased that we have a modified recommendation in this report that rejects a proposal that contains excessive height and density in consideration of the Brant Main Street Precinct Special Planning Area Policies contained in the adopted Official Plan.

“There are a number of desirable features that have been addressed in the recommendation: the building respects land use compatibility, there will be high quality public realm improvements, and the recommendation complies with the Tall Building Guidelines, including maximum floor plates. And, staff advise that the technical 18th floor will not impact the overall massing of the building.

“I am also pleased that Heritage conservation is being addressed with Heritage staff advising that 401 Brant and 444 John Street are worthy of designation and being preserved. The report sets out a plan to make this happen and I support the use of a holding zone provision that is being proposed.

“I will be supporting staff’s recommendation. I am satisfied that it is responsive to the policy decisions that this Council recently made through the adopted Official Plan. The modified approval for 17 storeys is in line with the Council approved vision in the Plan and it responds to the objections to the proposed 23 storeys that were heard from many residents in response to the Reserve initial proposal.

“I do want to emphasize how important I think it is for us to achieve good building design.

Goldring with bike

Mayor Rick Goldring on his bike.

“It is my opinion that the importance of developers building high quality and well-designed buildings in Burlington has never been more important. This comes at a time as our new Official Plan advances to an approval point at the Region and our City faces greater intensification interest.

“Our message to developers must be that they are expected to conform to our policies, adhere to design guidelines and be responsive to the recommendations of our new Urban Design Panel.

“We need to create interesting and beautiful design that will enhance the downtown and continually make our public spaces and streets more attractive for our residents.”

The Mayor refers to the city planners, the Urban Design Panel, the Official Plan, the importance of the Downtown Urban Growth Centre but not a word saying he believes the development represents the wishes and aspirations of the residents.  His comments certainly didn’t represent the views of those who chose to delegate to city council saying this is not what they want for their city.

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