Rivers isn't betting on NAFTA being in place for much longer.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

June 16th, 2018



A trade war between Canada and the USA is already here but according to at least one columnist help could be on the way. Apparently Kim Jung Un has offered his good offices to host peace talks between Canadian PM Trudeau and the US president. Kim was considered the evilest of evil until US president Donald Trump announced that he is a good guy after all, funny and strong, and someone who loves his starving oppressed people and is loved in turn.


Kim Jung Un with Donald Trump

Donald Trump wants to be known as a man of his word and true to his election promises. So he’s tearing up NAFTA through a series of small injuries – the ‘worst treaty yet’ along with the Paris Climate agreement and the Iran Nuclear deal. And Canada and Mexico are just chump change, small game in the foreground of his grander gun sights. Because America First is going to change the world – burying the notion of freer global trade big league, and bringing an end to globalization.

Trump and the latest incarnation of his inner cabinet are convinced that trade is only good when America exports more than it imports – the emperor’s new clothes. They’ve seen the equation used in standard economics text books and know that gross domestic product equals domestic consumption plus investment plus net exports. So all exports are good and all imports are bad. The Donald would know this too because he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in economics back in the ’60’s.

Of course the economics of trade is far more complicated than that, since, for example imported investment capital is far more valuable to an economy than imported consumer products. But complexities like that and philosophical theories like comparative advantage are the kinds of details that the bloody ‘elites’ like to toss around to show how smart they are. And by elites the Trumpeters mean anyone with more than a passing knowledge of anything besides… real estate deals. After all, it was the anti-elite crowd who elected him.


American President is known to chow down on junk food – McDonalds being a favourite.

Trump probably sees Canadian prime minster Trudeau as one of those elites. Though Trudeau, like Trump, hadn’t made it to Harvard his father did briefly. But Justin has that aura anyway, the stuff that elites are supposed to be made of – civility and culture, politeness and courtesy, and political diplomacy. He is so unlike the in-your-face, tweet-prone, American Big Mac – the US president. They do have drama in common – Trudeau as a teacher and Trump playing his best real life Willy Loman character from Arthur Miller’s classic, The Death of a Salesman.

Canada will not forfeit supply management for its dairy industry because Canadians know it is more sustainable than the American alternative of market distorting subsidies. The evidence is clear. We have stability and they have over-production and market chaos. Then they expect us to absorb their excess dairy products. Supply management is something which all Canadian political parties fully endorse, a policy initiated by Justin’s father almost half a century ago.


Canada has supply management in place which gives us price stability; the Americans have over-production and market chaos.

And it’s not like Trump cares a drop about the mainline dairy industry. He doesn’t even drink the stuff – he’s a raw milk guy. So why would he care about the conventional dairy folks wanting to dump their millions of gallons of subsidized milk in Canada, instead of their plowed fields? No, dairy is just a pretext for battle, and another nail in the NAFTA coffin.

If I were a betting man I’d put my money on NAFTA being relegated to the history books at least for rest of this generation. The new and substantial tariffs Trump is planning for the auto industry will be the coup de gras. Of course Canada’s foreign minister is hoping to seduce the US congressional types with her charm offensive, but the odds are not in her favour. The Republican Party is the party of Trump now, and he won’t be charmed.

This is a job for our own big guy, the PM. Some might think the emerging problem between the two men is lack of respect. Trump had said nice things about Trudeau in their earlier days, but then he also slobbered all over China’s leader Mr. Xi before slapping him with $50 billion dollars of tariffs. Despite their names both beginning with the letter T, they are different, One is old and messy the other young and fit, one opens the door for women to get catch up, the other just lusts over them.

And one is a true liberal while the other is neither that nor conservative – just a thug. Canada is a smaller economy and nation, and heavily dependent on the US for its trade and arguably its defence. So Trump’s ‘weak’ and ‘meek’ and ‘mild’ comments are likely more about the nation and not just its leader. One believes in climate change, the other believes in coal.

Justin as a boxer

Trudeau showing some real strength.

Maybe it’s time for Mr. Trudeau to take a lesson from North Korea’s Kim and show some real strength. Perhaps he should bring in the TV camera’s and show off a newly installed big red button on his office desk. Justin should then brag about how much bigger it is than the one in the oval office, and that pressing it would release a barrage of nuclear missiles aimed at the White House, Mar-a-Lago and Trump Towers everywhere. But he’d be happy to meet in Singapore for a nuclear summit.

Of course none of that would be true. Canada hasn’t had a nuclear missile on its soil since former PM Diefenbaker sent the Bomarc’s back stateside in the sixties. But then when has telling the truth ever been important to America’s liar-in-chief, Mr. Fake News south of the border?

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:

Kim’s Offer –   Trump and Trade –   Drama –  

Freeland goes to Washington –   Emperor’s New Clothes –  

Raw Milk

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Jane McKenna returns to Queen's Park - this time as a member of a government.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

June 9th, 2018



It was a resounding win.

Given the chaos that Doug Ford faced when he was made leader of the party his win can only be described as incredible.

The people who voted wanted a change and this has certainly been a change.

The voter turnout is reported to have been 58%, the highest the province has seen in 20 years.  One canno argue with results like that.

The voters made decisions and the joy in the various halls where the celebrations took place echoed what people wanted.


Jane McKenna will become the MPP for Burlington, this time as the member of a government.

Burlington is now back to being a blue city. Jane McKenna is once again a member of the provincial legislature and this time she is a member of the government. Whatever Ms McKenna has in the way of ideas and aspirations can now come to the surface.

Time will tell what kind of a contribution she is going to make.

Today, she is to be congratulated for her win.

Eleanor McMahon now ends her career as a politician.

The city did see two very good new candidates: Alvin Tedjo brought a fresh approach for the Liberals and Andrew Drummond was a welcome surprise for the New Democrats. One hopes they stick around.

Time to move on and get on with the business of creating a new government and getting used to the idea that the change the voters wanted has begun.

Will the change we saw take place last night be repeated in October at city hall?  And if they are will they be as resounding?

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

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Mike Wallace - running for Mayor, has a thick hide and wants to referee high school football when he retires.


News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

June 9th, 2018



Today it is Mike Wallace’s turn to take the drive for a cup of coffee with James Burchill in his Smart Car.

These 15 minute or so drives and the conversation that takes place or so revealing. Run side by side with the conversation that Burchill did with Rick Goldring a number of weeks ago the differences in style and approach to issues are telling.

The beauty of having these on line is that you can go back and listen to what is said again and again. In the Mike Wallace we learn that his most favourite past time is watching football – any kind of football; pro levels, college and even high school. Wallace revealed that he would like to referee high school football when he retires.

All 15 minutes are viewable here.

The drive Burchill took with Rick Goldring can be seen HERE

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Doug Ford: How he performs in this new job affects us all.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

June 8th, 2018



It was never in doubt. Actually the PCs started winning the Ontario election two years ago when Ontario got bored with the Liberals and their leader and turned to the PC’s as their preferred agent of change. So this was probably the most predictable election in the province’s history. And around 40% of the 59% of eligible voters who turned up to vote gave Doug Ford the leash, allowing him to lead Ontario into a new direction. ‘Help is here’ and ‘a new day has dawned’, the province has voted to be ‘turned around’ and become ‘prosperous’ as the slogans go.

Ford wicked smileBut beyond the slogans there is little sign of how we get to that bright new day being promised. As the campaign evolved I became more negative about Mr. Ford, worried about his lack of experience in government and his knowledge of the issues as well as his ability to work with others and provide leadership. But the people have spoken and I hope my fears will prove unfounded and Mr. Ford will do the job so many Ontario voters trusted him to do.

Ontario has a special place in Canada. As the most populous province, we have a particular leadership role, one Ontario has always played, particularly in keeping the country together given its historical relationship with Quebec. It would be helpful in that regard if Mr. Ford would become competent enough to utter at least a few phrases of Canada’s other official language.

We watch the friction between B.C. and Alberta, as each jurisdiction focuses on it’s own needs/wants at the expense of the other, and see how communication has broken down even when they both speak the same language. Parochialism is a destructive force for a union when the greater good is sacrificed for political interest.

Mr. Ford’s first task after assembling a cabinet, which should not be hard given the number of experienced and talented people newly (re)elected, is to bring in a budget. As we recall he had made the most expensive promises of all on the campaign trail, but was alone in not having presented a fully costed platform. That will give him a perfect opportunity to be virtually unconstrained in drafting his first budget, arguably the most important of his electoral term and the one which will ultimately define him.

Ford with documents

Doug Ford – now he needs to come up with a budget.

The Tories had promised to do little on the environmental file except clean up litter. In fact they have committed to dismantle climate change measures put in place by the previous government, including the cap and trade carbon tax, the green Ontario incentives and the renewable energy contracts. One can only hope that this there are enough progressives in Mr. Ford’s caucus to move him beyond this kind of regressive positioning. It is of some small comfort in that light that Ontario has elected its first Green Party MMP – from the once Royal City of Guelph.

Of course we all wish Mr. Ford success and offer our support. How he performs this new job affects us all and may very well impact his ambition to one day become the prime minister of this wonderful nation, or at least be re-elected. Despite all the campaign misinformation, he inherits a province with a near full employment economy, an impressive environmental record and the most progressive slate of social support programs in our history. Mr. Ford also inherits the ‘largest subnational debt’ in the world – one he has promised to do something about.

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

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The government we have this morning is not the government we are going to have tomorrow morning. That is a decision you are going to make today.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

June 7th, 2018



Now it is all in your hands.

Remembrance Day wreaths - dozens at cenotaph

We paid for this right with the lives of many of our sons and fathers – and some of our sisters and mothers as well.

The right we have to choose who governs us has been expensive. We paid for this right with the lives of many of our sons and fathers – and some of our sisters and mothers as well.

They are depending on us to make wise choices; to not let our emotions or ideologies get in the way of important decisions.

The government we have this morning is not the government we are going to have tomorrow morning. The government we had lost the right to govern because they failed to listen and to understand what it is we wanted.

We may not have been all that clear on letting them know just what it is we do want.

The people who put a mark on a ballot are never wrong.

Just make sure that you are one of the people putting a mark on a ballot. Think hard and go with what you believe is best for the society you are the most important part of.

Going forward you get to decide what you think is best for all of us.

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

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Doug Ford: He lacks the education, experience, integrity and acumen to lead this province into better days. And he has the track record to prove it.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

June 5th, 2018



I have a friend who claims that he learned everything he knows from watching cops and robbers on the big screen and his giant home TV. He was raised on Al Capone, Billy the Kid, and Bonnie and Clyde. And later he fell in love with the Sopranos. There was something about drugs and labour unions and waste management that were compelling and telling. So what about the politicians wanting your vote come June 7?


Former US president Richard Nixon – forgot to turn the tape recorder off.

My friend’s political heroes are the anti-christ, the ones with the chutzpah to pretend they’re there for the every person but are really there for themselves. They’ve never seen a law they weren’t afraid to break or ignore. Richard Nixon is a favourite, and of course Donald Trump, our own Brian Mulroney with his Karl Heinz dealings… and Rob Ford of course. So how, I asked, do the candidates for Ontario’s highest office rate?

Andrea thumb up

Horwath: she doesn’t look like she’d ever use a bat except to play ball.

Andrea Horwath gets D minus. Running neck-in-neck for first place in the upcoming election she hails direct from Ontario’s crime capital, Hamilton. She was a student of labour policy before becoming a Hamilton councillor and chairing a city solid waste management committee, which sounds kind of suspicious, though nobody has seen a baseball bat in her locker. Perhaps that’s because she leads a pro-union labour party, or perhaps because she doesn’t look like she’d ever use a bat except to play ball.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne speaks at the hearings into the gas plant cancellations at Queen's Park in Toronto on December 3, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne speaks at the hearings into the gas plant cancellations at Queen’s Park in Toronto.

Kathleen Wynne gets a D. She is more of a historical character at this point having announced that she is giving up the race to lead the province. But even though she is the fifth longest serving premier she has failed in all that time to have engaged in any notable criminal wrong-doing. There must have been an opportunity when she saved the horse racing industry from her predecessor’s knife – but nothing.

Oh sure she has a book-keeping disagreement with the provincial auditor general on a couple of issues, and one of her staff had been falsely accused of political bribery in a by-election – proven to be sour grapes. And she must have been at the Cabinet table when Dalton McGuinty decided to play politics with electricity file. But there is no smoking gun of corruption, no payola, nor any blood on her hands.

Her biggest crime is in the debt load she leaves future generations, two thirds of which represents investment in new transportation – an investment they will also inherit. And of course this is money we largely owe ourselves. It would be a more serious issue were the economy, the strongest it’s been in thirty years, unable to accommodate financing this investment and not spooking the bond raters.

Doug Ford gets an A +. His drug dealing days as reported by the Globe and Mail go pretty far back. And who didn’t do something stupid, criminal, dangerous and mind blowing when they were young? And who wouldn’t break the municipal code of conduct once elected to city council, according to the city’s integrity commissioner. Is it really a conflict of interest to help your friends to the taxpayers money just because they‘re also your clients.

Ford Doug

Has a close family member who was a mayor of a big city until he had to go into rehab for addiction to crack cocaine and booze.

I mean who among us doesn’t have a close family member who was a mayor of a big city until he had to go into rehab for addiction to crack cocaine and booze. And why should Doug take the blame for being his brother’s keeper? Except he was in so many ways. They were close, coaching him, occupying the mayor’s office when Rob was off on a binge, and being there in times of family crisis, which usually involved illegal drugs and sometimes even a hand gun.

The Fords were a close family so it’s all a bit of shock that Doug is being sued by Rob’s widow. She claims that Doug effectively stole her inheritance and that of her children – Rob’s 20% share in Deco labels, the company his father had started. Doug and his brother Randy had taken the shares in trust, breached that trust, and squandered the money on losing business ventures and fat salaries and bonuses for themselves – or something like that.

But the bottom line is the bottom line according to Rob Ford’s widow in her claim against Doug and his brother Randy. “Breach of trust, conspiracy and “negligent mismanagement” of the family business, Deco Labels, in the Superior Court statement of claim that seeks damages of more than $16 million” (Toronto Sun).

“Neither Doug Ford nor Randy Ford have the education and business ability to justify their employment as senior officers of Deco,” she (Renata Ford) alleges, adding that they carried out numerous “ill-advised acquisitions” of businesses and assets in New Jersey, Chicago and Ohio.” (Toronto Star).

Doug Ford says help is on the way – he claims he is going to turn this province around. But with a near full employment economy the question is whether Ontario’s economic progress can be sustained under a premier with such an unfortunate business record. Kathleen Wynne may not connect well with Ontario voters but she has helped us live in good times and perhaps at the end of the day we’ll judge that she may have been premature taking herself out of the race.

Doug Ford finger pointing

And he has the record to prove it.

My dystopia-loving friend may be cheering for Doug Ford, but we voters in this province need to have a sober second thought before we head into the ballot booth. Mr. Ford is ill equipped for the job of premier. He lacks the education, experience, integrity and acumen to lead this province into better days. And he has the track record to prove it.

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


Background links:

Doug At Deco –   Councillor Doug –   Wiki on Deco

More Deco –   Law Suit –   More Law Suit

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McKenna: She wants back in; the allure of public office is something she just cannot resist.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

June 4th, 2018



Will Burlington send Jane McKenna back to Queen’s Park or will she get there because a majority of the people who vote on Thursday want Doug Ford to lead the province?

MPP Jane McKenna with the best job she has ever had will have to seek re-election when the expected provincial election is called in the Spring.

Jane McKenna once told the Gazette hat her Father told her to have one really good suit and wear it often – that will get you the best job you will ever have.

In the event that Jane McKenna gets sworn in as a Member of the Legislature for a second time what might she do on a second occasion that she was not able to do during her first trip – she did tell the Canadian Federation of University Woman (CFUW) audience at Central High School that she was sitting as an Opposition member and wasn’t able to do very much.

Does that mean that if she sits in the Legislature as a member of an opposition the citizens of Burlington can expect another lack lustre performance?

Watching Ms McKenna for four years as a Member of the opposition we are hard pressed to recall anything she did.


McKenna speaking to the Burlington Progressive Association.

Our recollection is that she chose to become what can be best described as a Progressive Conservative power groupy. Being attached to or near people elected to office seemed to be an end in itself for Mc McKenna. We never had the impression that Ms McKenna actually knew what she was doing.

She was given different roles by then Leader of the Opposition Tim Hudak who, in the fullness of time, came to the conclusion that he could better serve in the private sector and left government to be was replaced by Patrick Brown which required Ms McKenna to re-align and attach herself to the new leader.

During the four year hiatus that Ms Mc McKenna spent outside government our understanding is that she served as a lobbyist for the nuclear power industry. It isn’t possible to confirm whether or not Mc McKenna served in that capacity – she made no mention of that work during the CFUW debate.

What we did hear from Ms McKenna was a regurgitation of the Doug Ford plan for the province. In this capacity Ms McKenna did the same sterling job she did when she explained the Tim Hudak platform promising to create a million jobs and to reduce the public service by 100,000 jobs through attrition – resulting in his math being challenged by the other parties and various analysts.


McKenna at the Central High school fund raiser.

In September of 2012, after listening to McKenna address the Chamber of Commerce, the Gazette said:
“Jane McKenna is growing as a politician. A little less stridency, more reflection and over time she could become a Charlotte Whitton – all the Tories that matter in this town will remember her – and nod approvingly. Can McKenna make that transition?. It will be a challenge.”

It proved to be a challenge she was unable to overcome – but she is back. The allure of public office is something she just cannot resist.

In her first election McKenna defeated Karmel Sakran.   She was then defeated by Eleanor McMahon who she now faces in 2018 – along with a much stronger NDP candidate.


Different times – different look. The 2018 campaign.

The two McKenna nominations had a tinge of discord about the.  The first in 2011was a 15 minute affair; the second in 2017  was mired by controversy and doubt that led a number of people to walk away from the association.

There was a time when Ontario had sound stable government led by John Robarts and Bill Davis, who might have been bland but the province prospered and there was stable government without the histrionics.

What have we done to deserve the current Progressive offering?


Background links:

The first nomination for Jane McKenna

The second nomination for Jane McKenna

Search boxFor a deeper look at how McKenna has served the community use the search box at the top right of the front page.

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

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One of the best political campaigners in the city may go down to defeat on Thursday.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

June 4th, 2018



She was chosen as the candidate for Burlington by the Premier.

McMahon - First public as Minister

Eleanor McMahon at her first public event after being appointed to Cabinet

She was made a Cabinet member in June of 2016 and served on the Treasury Board and went on to serve as the President of the Treasury Board.

She is one of the best political campaigners in the city.

She is loquacious, tries hard to be open and accessible; doesn’t always succeed.

There are many that are unhappy with the way she served; parents with children at Lester B. Pearson and Bateman high school felt she could have done much more to help them keep their schools open.

The Tyandaga Environmental Coalition felt she never fully understand what was being done to them.

On the plus side McMahon delivered in spades to the arts community and she came through for the transformation of the Brant Museum.

McMahon had an ability to connect almost immediately with the seniors’ community.

McMahon GO bilevel announcement

As a Cabinet Minister McMahon spent a lot of time delivering announcements. Building a strong base within the community got a bit lost in the photo ops.

Early in her political career she was one of those who took the Burlington case for financial support for the August 2014 flood victims to Cabinet – she wasn’t a Cabinet member at the time. The province initially said no – funding was not going to be available. McMahon, with huge gobs of support from then Minister of Housing, Ted McMeekin, Burlington got a matching funds deal with the province.

The city needed access to a computer platform that could be used to collect donations – McMahon worked the phones and leaned on her United Way contacts to convince them to let the Burlington Foundation use the United Way computer platform to collect funds. The donations were vital if the provincial matching funds were going to be available.

That kind of back channel contact is priceless in the world of local politics. McMahon usually knew who to call and when she was confident – she would pick up the telephone.

She wasn’t always as confident as she could have been.

McMahon is fluently bilingual and had a command of indigenous languages. She was a quick study when it came to policy- but tended to get lost when it came to the mechanics of problems.


The city doesn’t have anyone near her equal as a campaigner. People took to her and believed she understood them.

When elections get tight those who have strong community support can overcome a sweep that overturns a government.  McMahon wasn’t able to get to that point during her first term – which may prove to be her only term. Politicians get returned to office when they deliver for their constituents.

Did McMahon fail to deliver? Did she have enough time to create a depth of support that was strong enough to withstand waves of discontent of a government she was part of ?

It doesn’t look as if her on the ground support is going to be there for her.

One seldom, if ever, heard McMahon take her party and the government she was part of to task. She may have done that inside Cabinet meetings – we will never know.

McMahon at BMO wondering when the provincial money is going to arrive

Few are fully aware of how big a role McMahon played in getting Burlington the funding it needed after the August 2014 flood. McMahon doing a photo op at a bank that came through with a big cheque.

To be a responsible critic one has to be both seen and heard

She was a very strong supporter of the women’s issues and inclusivity. She fully understood how the wheels of government and the arm’s length organizations worked.

She wasn’t seen as a risk taker and seldom spent the limited political capital she had fighting an unpopular issue.

She had one of those plus plus personalities but didn’t seem to be able to stretch it to cover those situations where she was in awkward or uncomfortable situations.

Single when she was elected – she lost her husband in a tragic road accident involving a driver who should never have been behind the wheel of a vehicle, McMahon had a large strong supportive family that got her through the harder days. She was the last of a seven children.  The loss of her husband marked McMahon for life and became a focal point for much of her community service.

McMahon had the capacity to meet with groups and almost instantly recognize what the need was and then pick up the phone and get something going.

Politics is often referred to as a blood sport – having ones hands on the levers of power has always been the objective. With those levers much could be achieved.

That opportunity going forward may be lost.

Salt with Pepper is the opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette.

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Preparing for what will be a defining provincial election; what the candidates are saying.

News 100 blueBy Staff

June 3rd, 2018



It is an election that is going to define the province for at least a decade.

How is it playing out in Burlington where there are three constituencies. Some north Burlington residents, particularly those in Lowville and Kilbride, are in the Milton provincial electoral district, while some living in the northeastern area of the city will be in the new Oakville North-Burlington riding.

In Burlington there are 5 candidates; Liberal Eleanor McMahon, PC Jane McKenna, NDP Andrew Drummond, Green Party Vince Fiorito, and Libertarian Jim Gilchrist

In Oakville Burlington North there are six candidates: Frank DeLuca, Trillium Party; Charles Zach, Libertarian Party; Marianne Workman, Green Party; Saima Zaidi, NDP and Alvin Tedjo, Liberal. The riding was created by the province in 2015

In Milton, which covers the northern part of the city there are  four candidates: Brendan Smyth -NDP, Indira Naidoo-Harris -Liberal, Eleanor Hayward -Green and Parm Gill- PC

The NDP are in a place they have never been in before in Burlington – 2nd

They sent the following out to their supporters and media.

E-5. FIVE DAYS LEFT. So many contacts made, so many people who have expressed support for us. I have been working on NDP campaigns since 1999, and I have never felt like this. We were joking on Wednesday as we canvassed the area around Longmoor that this must be what it feels like to canvass in Hamilton. You can really feel that the people of this city are behind us and believe that we can win.

Drummon in campagn office

NDP candidate Andrew Drummond

And then beyond that, the Liberals essentially conceding the election here gives us an unprecedented opportunity. We were already in at least second place because of the work that we have done, but this really gives us a chance to get over the hump and win this riding.

I again want to thank everyone for everything that they have done for this campaign. I have had a ton of people support me at the doors. I have had so many of you show up to help make phone calls. So many people who generously donated to the campaign. So many of you who helped put up signs. So many of you who came and knocked on doors with me. It has all been very appreciated, and it is because of all of you that we are as close as we are in Burlington.

We are so close to an NDP win in Burlington. Please join me for any time that you can in the next 3 days of the campaign. Even a single hour is appreciated tremendously. We have to do everything we can to get out our message.
Sincerely, Andrew Drummond

The Liberals see the campaign a little bit differently.

Eleanor McMahon sent the following to her supporters and the media:

Courage comes in all shapes and sizes, and we need the greatest courage when things aren’t going how we hoped. Today Premier Kathleen Wynne showed us the courage, character and fundamental decency that Ontario Liberals know make her such a wonderful leader for our province and party.

McMahon with Wynne

Eleanor McMahon with Premier Kathleen Wynne

Today our leader acknowledged that, sadly, after 15 years of incredible progress by Liberal governments and thousands of achievements of which we can be justly proud, she will not be leading us as Ontario’s premier after Thursday’s election.

That’s democracy, and we shall respect and honour the decision of Ontarians, whatever it may be.

What does this mean in Burlington? We can still stop Doug Ford in Burlington
The battle for Burlington is far from over.
1. We know that most Burlingtonians always vote against the Conservative choice.
2. We know the NDP can’t win here.
3. We know only the Ontario Liberals can beat the PCs in Burlington.
4. We know most Burlingtonians don’t want Doug.

We must do everything we can locally to stop a Doug Ford majority.

Eleanor McMahon

Effie signWhere are the Progressive Conservatives in all this? Nothing from the Jane McKenna campaign. But we did get a short video clip on the Oakville Burlington North campaign where Progressive Conservative candidate Effie Triantafilopoulos made an astonishing statement.

In her own words in a public setting Triantafilopoulos said.


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Canada buys a pipe line - Rivers buys his first EV - thinks the feds paid too much for the pipe line while he is saving a bundle on gas.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

June 1, 2018



I got an EV (electric vehicle) earlier this year. It is really quiet and really fast. No more oil spills on the driveway, no more stinking exhaust fumes nor visits to drive clean, and no more oil change stickers plastered on my windshield. And best of all I now just smile when I pass gas stations with their pixel boards displaying those ever escalating pump prices. I feed my EV on a diet of electrons from the comfort of my garage every evening. So I can say thanks but no thanks to Doug Ford and his maybe ten cent gas price cut.

There are thousands of small solar panel installations like this across the province - they work very well and in many cases provide revenue for the owners.

There are thousands of small solar panel installations like this across the province – they work very well and in many cases provide revenue for the owners.

The oil industry is dirty and toxic and otherwise environmentally destructive. And the oil sands are arguably the worst example of all that. So I’m one of those who has always been in favour of ending the subsidies for that sector – or at least offering the same level of subsidy for greener energy sources, like wind and solar – to level the playing field and encourage the transition to green. Canada is the fifth or sixth largest oil and gas producer in the world but we’re also the seventh biggest in wind power.

Despite government promises to the contrary, the oil industry still feeds at the public trough to the tune of over $3 billion dollars a year. So I wasn’t really surprised when the federal government announced it was buying up the Trans Mountain pipeline from Texas based Kinder Morgan (KM). KM is the son of Enron, the notorious and scandal plagued energy trading company which was once the fifth largest corporation in the US, and which became the largest bankruptcy in US history ($74 B) sending its CEO to prison for fraud.

Critics of the Finance Minster abound on this topic, as on everything else. Those opposed to oil sands and pipelines, like the Green Party, Neil Young, Al Gore and just about every environmental group, could be heard screaming out ‘climate change’ so loudly I could hear them even in the quiet of my EV. And many of those who support the pipeline, as does the opposition federal conservative leader, still found fault, complaining that the feds had paid too much, or they shouldn’t have had to pay at all.

SLUG: ph-cyclists DATE: April 15, 2010 NEG NUMBER: 213218 LOCATION: Constitution Avenue, NW at New Jersey and 6th streets intersections. PHOTOGRAPHER: GERALD MARTINEAU, for TWP CAPTION: We photograph morning rush hour bicycle commuters amidst traffic on Constitution Avenue, NW. Photo shot at Constutution Ave, NW. and 6th Street. StaffPhoto imported to Merlin on Thu Apr 15 11:19:04 2010

There is this huge inventory of gasoline and diesel powered cars that are going to need fuel.

$4.5 billion is a lot of money. And then there will be at least another seven or eight billion more to complete the twinning and actually get the diluted bitumen moving. But finance minister Morneau is confident that the project is economically viable – after all the global demand for oil has been increasing almost every year and is likely to continue to do so into the near future. There is this huge inventory of gasoline and diesel powered cars which we’ve acquired over the years, and still more being sold as we speak.

Too bad Mr. Harper isn’t in the House to quell the ranks of his party by explaining why he bought into the Hibernia offshore oil project when it was failing, or why he decided to invest heavily into GM and Chrysler when they were heading for receivership. And what about Bill Davis and Pierre Trudeau buying into Suncor and saving Peter Lougheed’s sorry butt after Atlantic Richfield pulled out of the oil sands? And didn’t Pierre also create PetroCan? And none of this bankrupted the nation. Besides, it’s only right that Justin should try to save the industry his father helped build.

Like the railways and Trans Canada highways It is what Canadian governments since confederation have always done. And while many Albertans will always hate the Liberals because of something in the 80’s called the National Energy Program, at least the the political leader with the most at stake right now, Alberta premier Notley, doesn’t. She praised the move and offered to back up the deal with a couple billion dollars from her own treasury.

Pipeline -Transmountain

Close to 100,000 people work in the oil and gas extraction business

There are almost a hundred thousand Canadians involved in the oil and gas extraction business and most of those are in Alberta. But while this is a very important sector for Alberta, it is also essential today for the country as a whole. And without pipelines to convey the disgusting black gold to foreign markets offshore we are left with the railways and selling to and through the Americans, who are becoming more self-sufficient in petroleum products every year. Without the pipelines we are told that leaves about $15 billion off the table for us.

The Trudeau government’s intervention is a lifeline for the Alberta leader. And why not? For one thing she isn’t a Tory so she won’t be insulting him the way Alberta’s opposition leader Jason Kenny recently did. For another Notley gets climate change and wants to do something about it. Kenny doesn’t, much as Saskatchewan’s Scott Moe and Ontario’s Doug Ford don’t.

Notley, like the PM understands that while she must serve today’s market demands with her provinces petroleum products she needs to be thinking ahead to tomorrows markets. Which is why she introduced a carbon tax, and is diversifying Alberta’s economy, and moving the province’s electricity system off coal, as Ontario has done. For that is the future that we all should look to – the day when we will be driving electric cars and breathing cleaner air.

Rivers hand to face

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

 Background links:

Crude Oil Demand –    Fossil Fuel Subsidies –     Renewables

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Burlington resident asks provincial premier candidates : How do you plan to pay for the plans you have?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

May 28th, 2018



How many people in Burlington watched the last debate before the provincial election on June 7th? Who knows?

The election result is certainly going to be pivotal for the province. The choice is not an easy one. The Liberals have more than worn out their welcome.

debate audience May 27

Small audience – significant debate, which no one actually won. Burlington resident puts the question to the candidates.

Doug Ford doesn’t appear to be holding on to the massive support he had when the race started. It was hard to see anything new in his message Sunday evening – he stuck to a script that was a combination of being simplistic and fear mongering.

Andrea Horwath was strong and stood up well to both Kathleen Wynne and Doug Ford.

There is a risk with voting in a New Democratic government – we have been down that road before as Ford put it. However, it would appear that not as many people want to go down the road Ford is urging us to do with his simplistic statements. He seems to have become as good as Wynne became with the spending.

Martin Badger

Martin Badger – Burlington resident.

The bright spot – the first question asked by members of the public who made up the debate audience came from Martin Badger, a 19 year old Burlington resident voting for the first time who asked: How do you plan to pay for the plans you have?

He got good answers. Was he satisfied with the answers?

That’s the question people across the province are going to ask themselves – which of the three political parties do you think can solve the problems?

Tough question!

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A first anniversary for the Arts and Cultural Council of Burlington

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

May 27th, 2018



A request – it was actually more like a plea, from Trevor Copp more than five years ago for changes in the way culture is seen as part of the fabric of the city and the way it was funded, has developed some roots.

ACCOB, – Arts & Culture Council of Burlington, was formed, studies were done on what the public wanted in the way of culture and how that public was interacting with the cultural offerings.

Teresa Seaton, organizer of the Art in Action Tour, thinks through a response at one of the Cultural Action Plan sessions. She is one of 250 people organized as an Arts and Culture Collective in Burlington.

Teresa Seaton, organizer of the Art in Action Tour, thinks through a response at one of the Cultural Action Plan sessions. She is one of 250 people organized as an Arts and Culture Collective in Burlington.

Money was put into surveys and the development of a Cultural Action Plan.

The manager of cultural services was taken out of the Parks and Recreation department and tucked under the wing of one of the General Managers the city had at the time.

The city's cultural planner is all the arts community has at this point. There is some cultural mapping being done - which is useful in itself but won't do all that much to build the tremendous potential culture has in this city. Angela Papariza will use her well developed culture background and training to work with people like Trevor Copp - not likely to see much more in 2014.

Angela Paparizo in conversation with Trevor Copp during the unveiling of the Spiral Stella outside the Performing Arts Centre.

When a new Director of Planning was brought in – Culture got put into her job description.

The Arts were getting attention and a little bit of money and there were some interesting initiatives that had been in place for some time. The Art Studio Tour done each fall continues, they give a scholarship each year.

The AGB offers solid programs for children; the school board has hundreds of students in music classes, the art that we see from the elementary schools shows some promise.

But Burlington as an arts destination – not yet.

Sound of Music draws thousands as does Rib Fest.

The Performing Arts Centre has become a stop along the way for many of the touring shows.

Showtime AGB with people

Everyone wanted their picture taken with the Walt Rickli sculpture – then it was taken out of the Courtyard, put n storage where it appears to remain.

The Art Gallery took possession of a fine piece of sculpture that came out of the Walt Rickli Studio then was quickly put it in storage with a comment that a suitable location had yet to be determined. The funds that brought the Rickli sculpture to the AGB resulted in the Courtyard being named the Dan Lawrie Family Courtyard.

The Lowville Festival was created – they are now in their fourth year. It is an idea that has yet to find is place.
Trevor Copp put together a very successful and popular outdoor Shakespearian Festival at the RGB Rock Garden that has a following but has yet to achieve consistent success.

ACCOB was able to get the city to put real dollars on the table and to convince the city that ACCOB would play a significant role in how some of the public money was used.

There is now a BPAC / ACCOB Community Studio Theatre Initiative – a new funding opportunity for community artists and arts & culture organizations to help offset the costs associated with renting The Centre’s Community Studio Theatre.

Funds for this new initiative are raised through the Burlington Performing Arts Centre’s Annual Festival of Trees, the first of which took place in November and December 2017. Funds raised will be used to cover the base rent of the BPAC Community Studio Theatre for 4 days in 2018.

Burlington has a number of artists who work quietly and as effectively as they can on their own – looking for opportunities to promote themselves and from time to time sell a piece of their work.

The city does have groups that found their footing and have gone on to fame: The Spoons and Walk off the Earth are two examples. There are others.

Somewhere out there the leadership that is needed to galvanize a community, influence both a city administration and those elected to office that the arts are more than a nice to have, has yet to surface. A vibrant arts community is an economic force – the arts draw traffic.

Right now the city has a collection of silos – each with their own plan and agenda

The Tourism people have not yet found an effective way to promote the arts effectively.


Rendering of the Transformed Joseph Brant Museum site.

What impact the transformation of the Joseph Brant Museum is going to have is an unknown at this point in time. The museum board has said little – not even a “great things are to come” statement. The confidence needed to believe that great things are possible is not part of the way the city sees itself at this point in time. It will need direction that the Museums of Burlington have yet to experience. Could the transformed museum be the catalyst that is needed?

Only time will tell us that.

For the time being – celebrate that ACCOB can celebrate a first anniversary.

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

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It comes down to personalities and who you believe - and right now Andrea is leading on those counts.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

May 25th, 2018



“They said, ‘Doug Ford came to our house, signed me up and paid,’” said Eastwood. “It is a swipe against democracy when you can just come in and buy memberships and then put people in, give people a (PIN number) and tell them, ‘This is who you’re voting for.’” (National Post – May 23, 2018)

At the midway point in Ontario’s election the Liberals are heading for the backbench despite the conventional wisdom that governments don’t get voted out when the economy is strong. Still it makes one wonder because a quick look at what the party leaders are promising shows precious little variance among them. They are all running deficits, for example. And why does everyone seem to dislike Kathleen Wynne?

Horwath - shrug

She was short a billion on the first draft of her budget – fessed up to the error and moved on. The public went along with her.

Mr. Ford would kill Ontario’s carbon tax and the NDP would buy back Hydro One eventually. Other than that, the differences are generally more of a degree unless one reads much further between the lines. The NDP is the only party to actually have a proper platform at this stage, notwithstanding that it originally came with a billion plus dollar hole in it.

The Liberals are running on the record and their spring budget, which was loaded with at least as many social goodies as the NDP. And Doug Ford, the instant party leader with barely three months under his belt is shooting from the hip – promising everything to everybody yet saying he’ll wait until he sees the books. And if he looked he’d see that the books are already there – they have never been more transparent.


A believable factor has crept into the Ford campaign. Can he get back?

Ford’s accumulated spending and tax cuts swamp the deficit plans of the other two parties yet he is the only one promising to eliminate the deficit as early as his second year in power. Estimates of his ever-springing promises run as high as $16 billion more than the other party leaders combined. But while promising to spend money like the proverbial drunken sailor he is also promising as yet undetermined ‘efficiency’ cuts of some $6 billion in his first year.

So it is little wonder that his credibility is tumbling, almost as fast as his poll numbers. The only way he could deliver on his promises is if he wore a cape and changed in a phone booth – whatever that is. The polls were predicting a Tory majority government almost two years ago, even before former leader Patrick Brown brought down his red-Tory campaign platform.

They kept getting better even after Brown was unceremoniously dumped because of some sexual allegations, and replaced with the unlikely, and mostly unliked, Ford. But then Ford started talking and suddenly it hit people – this man could be our next premier.

We all know that Doug’s brother, the late Mayor Rob, was a lovable clown and his almost daily antics made international headlines. Suddenly Toronto became famous and on every evening talk show which prompted our ever-jealous neighbours to act. They were not about to play second fiddle when it came to buffoonery. Toronto was having way too much fun and so they elected Donald Trump – Rob Ford without the crack.

But Doug is not his brother, even though they were close and Doug played alter ego for his younger brother while he was mayor. In fact Doug seems way too serious, almost humourless or perhaps just scared shirtless, finding his ambition has taken him out of his depth and into the deep end of the pool wearing only cement shoes.

Ford scowl - cropped

Parts of the background that have never been fully explained.

His tough straight-shooting talk sounds like a carryover from earlier days when he was alleged to be a drug dealing boss, accusations which he has never properly refuted. Or it may be a reflection of a man who would do anything to win, promise anything and break the rules to get his way, as in Ford’s recent vote-buying scandal.

This election will come down to personalities. Wynne can’t shake the image of a cold and distant demeanour, and rightfully or not people are tired of her governance and want a change. Mr. Ford might be a nice fellow, his mother adores him, but then mothers always do. But he is an unknown commodity in this area and his almost Soprano-like family history raises real questions about his integrity, ethics, morality and respect for the rule of law.

Andrea Horwath has the warmest presence of any of the leaders. Her honest and forthright response to the math error in her original platform has won her points, even as it hurt her measure of competence. And in this election style and trust have become the most important factors and, for a public raised in the age of television, personality wins every time.

Few people thought the NDP would ever come this close to winning in Ontario after the Bob Rae experience. But younger voters have forgotten that episode and Rachael Notley’s win in mostly hostile Alberta, and her respectable performance to date, should give the NDP hope. Of course BC’s Horgan and federal party leader Mr. Singh do Horwath no favours in their dogged determination to undermine Canada’s constitutional peace.

Andrea_Horwath 2

Andrea Horwath – looking and sounding a lot more positive.

And the centre-left Liberal/NDP split makes it a challenge for Horwath to win without significant strategic voting. So Ford is still the favourite, leaving Ontario voters to decide whether they want to see Horwath or Ford in their own faces every time they turn on the evening news. The televised debate this Sunday evening will be worth watching. This has suddenly become a much more interesting race than when it started out.

Poll as of 25th

Wow! Few thought the polling results would look anything like this when the election was called two weeks ago.














Rivers hand to face


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


Background links:

Ford Buying Membership Votes –   NDP Making Gains –   Election Promises

Deficits –     Tories Tied


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Was the turning lane for Dynes on New Street eliminated? One horrific accident already.

News 100 yellowBy Staff

May 24th, 2018



Stephen Warner has one final comment about the New Street “bike lane debacle”.

“The city did not return it to the way it was before the botched experiment. Somehow they have eliminated a turning lane for Dynes, which has resulted in one horrific accident already, and a close call for me.

Bike lanes - New street

The old lane design is on the left. The Road Diet design is on the right. That got scrapped but when the lane designed was re-worked they seem o have left out the left hand turn lane at Dynes Street.

“As people sit in the left thru lane on New waiting to turn north on Dynes, cars speed eastbound, seemingly oblivious to cars signaling to turn.

“I’m pretty sure there used to be a turning lane before the bike lane was added at Dynes.

It was there with the bike lanes. It looks like they increased the boulevard on each side of New Street and widened the lanes slightly during the reconstruction losing the turning lane when the road was returned to two lanes each way.”

Some news items just go on and on.

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Rivers: Does it really matter how high the fiscal debt goes once we’ve destroyed our way of life here?

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

May 21st, 2018



Mr. Ford says he’ll cut the gas taxes at the pump by 5.7 cents? And perhaps the oil companies will reduce the price of gas after he kills the cap-and-trade carbon program, maybe giving him the ten cents he’s promising to deliver. That may sound pretty good but I already get three cents off just for using my credit card at Petro-Canada stations. And then there’s another 5-10 cents off when I use my Petro-Points.


It’s just the old shell game, playing pennies, taking from transit and giving to the auto crowd, robbing the mayors to pay the Premier.

And big deal, I saved all of $1.47 on my last fill up. Oh, and to fund this promise Mr. Ford will be cutting the gas tax transfers the province gives municipalities for public transit – some billion dollars or so – meaning it’ll cost you more for that next bus ride. It’s just the old shell game, playing pennies, taking from transit and giving to the auto crowd, robbing the mayors to pay the Premier.

But it’s the climate change stupid! National geographic has reported that the last two decades have been the hottest in over 400 years. The earth has had the warmest consecutive 400 months of record high temperatures. And the accumulation of carbon in the atmosphere is higher than it has been for almost a million years.

Don’t believe the statistics? Look at the melting polar ice caps and glaciers, the world’s declining coral reefs, the rate at which desertification is happening and the rate at which species are becoming extinct, including the polar bear, sooner than later. Look at the weird winter we just had and the near hurricane strength freak windstorm a couple weeks ago, which took several lives and kept parts of Burlington in the dark for over three days.

Climate change - polar bears on flows

Evidence based decision making – what does one do if they don’t like the evidence.

Higher gasoline prices are economic disincentives – they encourage people to shift to less polluting transportation, like hybrid cars, electric vehicles (EV) and public transportation and to reduce their carbon emissions. And incentives are needed beyond the pump. Ontario’s cap-and-trade system forces all large emitters to reduce their emissions to become more competitive.

Subsidies and rebates on home insulation and efficient windows help reduce energy use and save the consumer money as well as reducing greenhouse gases. And the development of renewable electricity is critical to replace coal and other fossil fuels as Ontario has done in shutting down the largest point source of carbon emissions in Canada.

The value/cost of Mr. Ford’s election promises dwarf those of the other two main parties. Yet, Mr. Ford has been the strongest critic of the current government for not balancing its budget sooner and reducing Ontario’s public debt. Indeed, there are a number of good reasons to knock down the size of our fiscal debt. But most folks end up arguing that it is about fairness. “How moral is it to bequeath the next generation a whacking big financial bill?”

student demonstration

Our youth are not marching about, nor protesting, Ontario’s relatively high debt levels.

Young people can and do speak for themselves when it matters. When I was young we marched for civil rights and against the Vietnam war and nuclear weapons. After the last recession (2008) our youth led the protests over financial power and misuse of that power by Wall and Bay streets. More recently high school students have marched across the USA to protest the obscene number of school shootings. In the UK those who were too young to vote against Brexit feel cheated by the outcome and are demanding a new referendum.

But our youth are not marching about, nor protesting, Ontario’s relatively high debt levels. Perhaps they understand that incurring debt after the last recession was the price we had to pay for Ontario to get back on its feet, achieving the lowest unemployment in nearly two decades and the strongest economic growth in the G7.

Perhaps they appreciate that debt helped finance the free tuition, youth pharmacare, and extra costs for early education which will better prepare Ontario’s youth for the future. And they no doubt can grasp that much of this debt has gone towards investing in transportation and other capital infrastructure which they will also inherit.

Perhaps they understand that the debt is only money after all – and if we really wanted to, we could eventually pay it down much as we did the large stranded $40 billion Ontario Hydro debt. And perhaps they understand that we could have paid off those annual deficits except for the recurring chant of ‘more tax cuts’ by those best positioned to pay them.

Indeed If we asked them, our youth would likely hone in on what they are most concerned about – their most important inheritance – the state of health of the planet we live on. Even though the climate experts can’t predict the fate of the planet with absolute certainty they are warning about higher ocean levels, loss of species, more severe storms, droughts and flooding as strong possibilities. And the list of potential benefits is extremely short.

sunrise + youth

Whatever we do today – it will be in their hand tomorrow.

And so it is unsurprising that youth would be more concerned about this starship earth, rather than balancing the budget and eliminating the debt. Does it really matter how high the fiscal debt goes once we’ve destroyed our way of life here? For this reason, youth tend to dominate the membership of political entities, like the Green Party, which are unequivocal in their demands to protect the environment and mitigate climate changes as best we can.

One provincial MPP recently proposed that we lower the voting age to 16. After all, those 16 year olds have more at stake, come election time, than any 50 or 60 year old. It’s just mathematics – they will be around longer and policies like those affecting the environment, education and even the fiscal debt will affect them more than it will the elderly. And they are unlikely to be bribed, nor to sell their vote to Mr. Ford for the couple of lousy bucks he’s offering them at the gas pumps.

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:

Ten Cents Maybe –   Ontario Gas Tax –   Highest Carbon

Highest Warming –   Monthly Warming –   16 Year Old Voting

Green Party

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Transparency and accountability could not be found during a Board of Education meeting.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

May 17th, 2018



Be it resolved that the Halton District School Board approve the resolutions from Private Session, May 2, 2018, respecting Property Matters. The motion was carried unanimously.

These motions are not unusual – they usually have to do with the purchase or sale of property for a school site.

The following day the Board of Education issued a media release advising that the Board had entered into a leasing agreement with the Halton Catholic District School Board for the about to be closed Lester B. Pearson High School.

The motion made in a closed session of the HDSB was suddenly a much different story.

The closing of the Lester B. Pearson High school was a very contentious decision that has the likelihood of at least two trustees losing their seats in the October election.

What is galling is the way the trustees handled the matter. They all had an opportunity to make a comment – none took the opportunity.

Miller in a huddle with Grebenc

School board chair Andrea Grebenc conferring with Director of Education Stuart Miller.

Chair Andrea Grebenc had an opportunity to explain to the public how the opportunity to lease a building the school board was not going to be using came about.

Stuart Miller, the Director of Education, who is a very hands on person, had an opportunity to take the public through the time line and use the opportunity to settle a very upset community.

Board staff are working very hard, so far successfully, to integrate the Pearson high school students into M. M. Robinson high school. Something like this takes people back to a decision that was very very hard for them to accept.

There are those in the community who are convinced the leasing deal was always in place – they two school boards were just waiting for the dust to settle before the papers were signed.

What is missing in all this is true transparency, true accountability.

Chair Grebenc had a responsibility to speak to the public – be candid, look directly into the camera during the web caste and explain the full story to the public.

The Director of Education had a responsibility to give the public all the details.

Based on what the Gazette has been able to learn – there was nothing to hide. The Catholic board needed some space for their Assumption high school students while their high schools was being renovated.

Why this Board and the Director of Education chose to let it slide by and hope no one noticed is troubling.

That not one trustee chose to say a word suggests collusion between the trustees and the Director to dummy up and say nothing.

The public deserves better. These trustees should be ashamed.

It really is all about trust – the Halton District School Board trustees betrayed the people they asked to vote them into office.

trustees 2018

Halton District School Board in session.

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

Related news story.


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Trustee: Why did the Ministry insist on utilizing public meetings during the an accommodation review when emotions are potentially high.

opinionandcommentBy Tracy Ehl Harris

May 16th, 2018



In the spring of 2017, the Ministry of Education placed a moratorium on any new Pupil Accommodation Reviews in the province until such time as they could consult with stakeholders and update the existing Pupil Accommodation Review Guideline (PARG, released March 2015).

After two rounds of consultation in the fall of 2017 and winter of 2018, the Ministry released the updated PARG in April 2018. Boards must now develop/revise their own Pupil Accommodation Review (PAR) policies to be in conformance with the new PARG. At the heart of the policy, is serving students in the best and most effective way possible.

Boards undertake annual pupil accommodation planning processes (in the HDSB this is called the Long Term Accommodation Process, LTAP, and it is available each spring) that identify growth, decline and status quo scenarios for each school, area, and the district as a whole. Through the LTAP, each year existing and foreseeable pupil accommodation issues are highlighted, and community consultation is undertaken. Potential Pupil Accommodation Reviews (PARs) are also identified. These reviews must follow the PARG established by the Ministry, and the Board’s own PAR policy.

HDSB Trustees provided comments to the Ministry during the consultation timelines noted above for the new PARG. I want to highlight three concerns related to the new PARG:

1) A PAR is initiated by the submission by staff and approval by the Board of Trustees of an initial staff report identifying the accommodation challenge to be addressed and the scope of the review, among other things. In the 2015 version of the PARG, the initial staff report to the Board of Trustees was to contain a recommended scenario (that is a preference for solving the identified accommodation challenge). In the 2018 PARG update, this changed. The initial staff report is now to contain a recommended scenario and at least two alternative scenarios.

PARC with options on the walls

Members of a Halton District School Board PARC meeting.

This new approach likely does not solve the issue associated with publishing a preferred option (and alternatives) at the start of a PAR process. Boards ask communities to provide their best wisdom and guidance on how to solve a specific accommodation problem. It is very difficult to engage in a problem-solving exercise when it appears that there is already a predisposition for a preferred solution(s). Some school communities may feel attacked, while others may feel that the issue doesn’t involve them.

Processes start in a trust deficit and it is very hard to recover. Why aren’t Boards given the choice about whether a preferred scenario and alternatives are appropriate for their context? Ideally, proponents would be encouraged to start a PAR process just where the LTAP leaves off, with a report about a specific accommodation challenge and the related implications and then move to consider possible viable solutions in a consultative manner.

2) “School boards are required to consult with local communities prior to adopting or subsequently amending their pupil accommodation review policies.” (Section IV of the new PARG) One critical factor in engaging communities is that there is the opportunity to build and/or sustain a trust relationship. This can be fostered by appropriate consultation and communication. In section IV, the broad term “consult” is utilized, appropriately giving boards the latitude to utilize consultation methods that best suit the community audience and can garner meaningful input that supports trust building and good, local decision making. In Section X it is stated that ”the school board must arrange to hold a minimum of three public meetings for broader community consultation on the initial staff report.” It also states that “in addition to the required public meetings, school boards may use other methods to solicit community feedback.”

Why, during an accommodation review when emotions are potentially high given that specific scenarios are being considered, does the Ministry insist on utilizing “public meetings.” This is but one method, and it may or may not be the most appropriate one.

This is a dated and limited construct of what consultation can and should be. The International Association for Public Participation states, “public meetings are often selected when another approach might work better.” Further, they say, “public meetings can escalate out of control if emotions are high.” Predictably, this is what happens when people are discussing education in general, and specifically as it relates to one’s children and the schools they attend.

HDSB Parents at PARC 1 Jan 26-17

Parents at a public PAR meeting.

This narrow construct (i.e public meetings) can be a hindrance to meaningful consultation and the eventual outcomes. Again, why can’t boards choose the type of consultation that is most appropriate for their context and the needs of the communities they serve?

3) There appears to be a lack of clarity and consistency regarding roles of various parties throughout the PARG. For example, Section XI, states “School boards will determine how best to involve secondary school students in the pupil accommodation review process”.

This section and others seem to be silent in terms of engaging staff. Section XII which speaks to transition planning does not mention students but does mention parents/guardians and staff. These inconsistencies could be cleared up by identifying all stakeholders prior to the beginning of the process and identifying how they will be engaged in meaningful ways.

Further, there is lack of clarity around membership and functioning of the PAR Committee members. For example, Ministry expectations are unclear about what is meant when a Trustee is an ad hoc member of this committee.

Here is a summary of next steps provided by the Ministry.

“To ensure consistency in pupil accommodation reviews across school boards, the Ministry of Education will work with education and municipal stakeholders and partner ministries over the coming months to develop supports such as templates to assist boards. This includes templates for the initial staff report and the economic impact assessment.

The ministry will aim to release these supports by fall 2018. While these supports are being developed, there will continue to be no new pupil accommodation reviews, unless they are required to support a joint-use school initiative between two coterminous school boards

PAR processes can be difficult under the best of conditions. Perhaps these supports/templates will assist Boards in supporting students in effective and efficient ways. The PARG states that “School boards are responsible for managing their school capital assets in an effective manner. They must respond to changing demographics and program needs while being cognizant of the impacts of their decisions on student programming and well-being, school board resources and the local community.” Boards should have the right balance of prescription from the Ministry and latitude to run strong context specific processes, AND students should be the focus and at the heart of everything.

The source document is: www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/policyfunding/reviewGuide.html)

Tracey-Ehl-2-x150Tracy Ehl Harris is a Halton District School Board trustee for Oakville and is the current vice-chair of the Board. Tracey is a registered professional planner, certified master public participation practitioner and certified professional facilitator.

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Rivers: Do the Hydro One board members have a secret wish to help Doug Ford’s campaign?

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

May 16th, 2018



The Liberals were trailing in third place so their chances of recovering were pretty remote anyway. And now the part time directors of the board of Hydro One have announced that they’ll be treating themselves to an extra $25,000 raise – on top of their $160,000 casual pay. And their timing is impeccable, doing this mid-way through the provincial election campaign. Didn’t the Premier hand pick the Board? Et Tu Brute?

Do the board members have a secret wish to help Doug Ford’s campaign, the man who has promised to fire them as soon as he wins the election? Do these directors just want to say thanks by kicking Kathleen Wynne where it hurts, as her reward for appointing them to such lucrative positions? Or are they just plain suicidal?

Wynne arm raised

Fighting for the team – which appears to include the Hydro One directors?

And for poor Kathleen, this effectively brings an end to any hope she and her Liberals had of winning the Election June 7th. Damned electricity file! It was that file, after all, which helped the Liberals oust the hapless Ernie Eves. And that same file subsequently took out Dalton McGuinty when he got caught playing politics with gas plants. And now it’s Wynne’s turn.

This greedy decision by the Board to increase the size of the trough they wallow in can only become the icing on the cake for Ms. Wynne’s retirement party. The irony is that privatization has made Hydro One more of a political football than it was in its old life as a crown corporation. And that takes us back to the Harris’ decision to break up Ontario Hydro in the first place and McGuinty’s decision to try to make it work rather than unscramble the messy omelette.

Eleanor Clithero

Clitheroe getting a reported $25,000 per month pension – a very generous pension settlement when they fired her.)

So while Mr. Ford is making much of this Hydro One malady he would do well to recall that the situation today is a consequence of his own PC party’s misadventure. He would no doubt like us to forget that his party established the original Hydro One board structure. And he’ll never mention its first CEO, Eleanor Clitheroe, Ontario’s truly strange ‘two million dollar woman’ who extracted a very generous pension settlement ($25,000 per month) when she also had to be fired. Little wonder our hydro rates are so high.

The PC’s under Harris/Eves had always intended to privatize Hydro One, and even today Ford will not commit to taking back control of the corporation. He just wants to fire the Board and replace it with his own cronies. What are the chances we can expect to see this scenario replay itself were Ford to become Premier.

And just when it seems nothing could be worse news for our embattled premier, the provincial Financial Accounting Office (FAO) has just come in with an assessment. They claim that the province’s overall debt would be lower if the Wynne government had simply borrowed money for new infrastructure rather than selling off 53% of Hydro One – the nominal rationale for the sale.

Towers in Toronto

Hydro has been always been a problem file.

It’s a bit of a mess, but then Hydro has been always been a problem file, running up over $40 billion in debt going back to the Robarts and Davis years. Of course Hydro really lost it’s way during the Bob Rae period when Maurice Strong thought to change it’s main purpose to delivery of environmental policy. Mike Harris was determined to break it up only to discover the $40 billion gap between its assets and liabilities. But we’ve finally paid off the tab.

McGuinty believed in Harris’ dream and was convinced that he could replace coal with renewable energy by harnessing the economics of the private sector. Rather than go into debt to finance the conversion from dirty coal he issued contracts to independent energy generators, giving them long term contracts guaranteeing purchases of electricity in exchange for them investing their own private capital.


Is blowing smoke when he says he’ll tear up the contracts?

Ford is blowing smoke when he says he’ll tear up the contracts. But even if he could, how would he keep the lights on when the private sector contractors shut down? Would Ontario end up having to buy its energy, including from dirty coal, from its neighbours, while our industry sits idle. Or would he nationalize all energy production?

Speaking of socialism it turns out that one of these Hydro One board members is a former NDP MPP and member of Bob Rae’s Cabinet, Francis Lankin. In addition to filling her face at board meetings she is also double dipping as one of those Trudeau appointed independent senators in Ottawa. It seems even socialists will hop on the gravy train if it avails itself, to borrow a term from Mr. Ford’s late brother.

And the NDP’s Andrea Horwath has promised to buy back and de-privatize Hydro One. This is something which may prove costly, but necessary, as Ontario tries to move beyond its jaded experience of private sector delivery of electricity. But Horwath too needs to be careful as she treads among the ever fragrant meadow muffins on this file.

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:

Hydro One Pay –   Liberal Response –    Financial Accounting Office

Hydro One –   Hydro One Board

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Fresh faces and new blood are part of the campaign to elect the next city council.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

May 14th, 2018



We do politics differently in Burlington.

Somewhere along the way the Tory’s in Burlington came to the conclusion that the Gazette was a Liberal newspaper and decided that they would not keep us aware of their events.

We are frequently able to dig up some of what they are doing. We hear from the other political parties.

This “shyness” on the part of some of those elected to office is disturbing.

The politicians seem to feel that we are supposed to write nice thing about them – and on many occasions a piece of reporting does put the politician in a positive light.

At the municipal level we used to meet for lunch on occasion with several of the members of council. We have done tours of a ward with Council members. When the news is critical or points out a short-coming – the lip curls.

The Mayor decided some time ago that the Gazette is biased and unfair. We didn’t hear that from Rick Goldring during his first term of office. His 59 second comment on how good a job the Gazette was doing was a little embarrassing. The comments were made during Goldring’s first term. He had a change of mind during his second term. In the world of politics the relationship with media is often fractious. Rather than invite media into their office and talk through the concern – in Burlington they decide that you’re biased.

The politicians and many of the civil servants don’t understand media and the role it plays. Behind that is the lack of an understanding of what their own role really is – they are there to serve. It is an honourable profession – many – not all, fail to honour the work they do and they diminish themselves in the process.

We are all accountable.

The Gazette gets it in the ear from readers and we publish what they say. We are members of the National NewsMedia Council – we pay an annual fee to that organization – it amounts to more than my monthly rent – and when someone takes a complaint to the Council we are required to respond and if the Council comes to the conclusion we made a mistake and were wrong we have to publish that finding. They are in the archives.

When Mike Wallace was the Member of Parliament he got very upset with the articles we wrote when he was mismanaging the flow of information at a parliamentary committee. Politics is the art of the possible between competing interests. The role of the politician is to listen, and ensure that the interests of the public are heard, understood and acted upon.

Recently we have heard politicians say that they are not hearing from the “majority” – they seem to feel that if they don’t hear from half the population then those who do speak up are just cranks who don’t like the idea of change – the nimby’s.

Flood Goldring with chain of office

The Mayor wasn’t comfortable enough with the Chain of Office to wear i outside th Council Chamber during his first term. He wore it for a TV interview in his second term.

Early in his first term of office we recall a conversation with the Mayor and how people interacted with him in a supermarket or on the street – he was surprised that they saw him as someone special. A Mayor is the Chief Magistrate – what people are responding to is the office of the Mayor and the role a Mayor plays. The fact that it is Rick Golding is not the issue.

The public expects their Mayor to lead and to be seen as a leader.

The tension between Councillors Meed Ward and Craven is close to measurable, Neither has ever been a fan of the other and on Monday evening the feelings got spilled onto the horseshoe of the Council chamber

The tension between Councillors Meed Ward and Craven is close to measurable, Neither has ever been a fan of the other.

We have heard members of the current city council squabble like children over whether or not the Councillor for ward 2 can involve herself in anything that takes place in ward 1. Every member of the Burlington city council is also a member of Regional council where they represent the city – not just a ward.

During the working through the 2010 Strategic Plan I was approached by a member of council – no need to embarrass the member at this point, who said “You should do something about Meed Ward”. I was stunned – did this member really think the role of media was to go gunning for a member of council?

The job is to report on what city council does and to hold them accountable and to put what they say and do in context and to remind them what they had said previously.

The Gazette also provides a forum for anyone to make a comment on a specific news story. Some of the comments don’t get published – I am constantly surprised at how nasty some people choose to be. Our experience has been that the really nasty ones come from an email address that cannot be verified.

Jim Young answering RG

Jim Young

Gary Scobie

Gary Scobie

We have been very proud to have been able to publish the delegations made by Jim Young and Gary Scobie and Dee Dee Davies; less proud when we were required to publish situations where we were wrong.

Saying we are exceptionally under-resourced may be true but I isn’t an excuse.

Many of the politicians in this city seem to feel that media is in place to publish what they write and not ask any questions. Who taught them that?

City Council talks about transparency and accountability and seem to feel that if they say they are accountable and transparent – then they are. When more than 30 people delegate on an issue that argument gets shot full of holes and the wind is taken out of the sails.

While the provincial election is taking up most of the oxygen and attention it is worth noting that there are now four new candidates under 40 and a fifth expected later this week.

Two of the incumbents have chosen to retire.

There is a change in the air – new blood and fresh faces.

Salt with Pepper is a column of opinion, reflection, observation and musings of the Gazette Publisher.

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Rivers: What the debate really needed was a director to bring order to the chaotic muddle.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

May 11th, 2018



“I guess we’ve come to expect that everything about Ford is fake,” she said. “The stories are fake, his facts are fake and now we know his supporters are fake.” (Deb Matthews – Liberal campaign co-chair)

Matthews was commenting on reports that Doug Ford’s team had hired actors to sit in the audience and cheer for him at the City TV leaders’ debate earlier this week, the first such head-to-head of the campaign.

Ford actors

The actors

Though, rather than actors, what the event really needed was a director to bring order to the chaotic muddle the TV station had the nerve to call a debate. For one thing the leaders were forced to stand for the entire time, looking awkward and uncomfortable and…sad. It was absolutely the worst format for a debate. In that formation the loudest and most persistent eventually overcomes the others – as if that kind of behaviour is what we most desire in a premier.

Horwath and Ford mostly talked in general platitudes and Wynne kept getting into the weeds – an occupational hazard when one actually understands the files. The leaders were then scored for their performance by instant phone-in polls, which no doubt were also populated by another lot of actors from each of the three parties. And what with the street interviews and backgrounders and endless number of moderators, it was a bun fight to behold.

Ford is the clear front runner in the polls, which has nothing to do with his policies or even his qualifications for the job. His alternate facts on the state of the economy and unemployed are just plain inaccurate – lies, or worse, ignorance. And his rationale for another tax cut makes absolutely no sense given a recent report by the OECD indicating that Canadians actually pay lower taxes than Americans.

PC Leader Doug Ford faced a barrage of questions from Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath in Monday's CityNews debate in Toronto.

PC Leader Doug Ford faced a barrage of questions from Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath in Monday’s CityNews debate in Toronto.

Ford has locked onto a couple of wedge issues which are working for him, such as the outrageous salary paid to the chair of Hydro One – “the six million dollar man”. But Ford’s unproven allegations about the Liberals rewarding their friends and unfounded claims of corruption are unworthy of someone wanting to be Premier. This kind of politicking will only reinforce the comparison Kathleen Wynne is trying to make between Doug Ford and Donald Trump.

Ford has also accused the Liberals of cooking the books, and has found an ally in Ontario’s overzealous auditor general (AG). Her’s is a complicated, arcane argument, that the surplus money the province holds in pension assets should not be counted in order to make the budget appear balanced. Her position is untenable, however, given that she and previous AG’s had accepted that way of accounting in the past. And it begs the question of whether she would still feel that way if the pension account were in deficit, thus creating a provincial deficit.

Ford wicked smile

Doug Ford

But Ford is on solid ground attacking the size of Ontario’s growing debt, particularly as the latest provincial budget just serves to increase the debt. Of course his piety on this matter is compromised, actually shot to hell, when he acknowledges that his promises will also increase the provincial debt. In fact his promises ring in around $16 billion, more than either of the other two. Added to that, Ford’s proposed cancelation of Ontario’s cap and trade carbon tax would add another $2 billion or so in lost revenue.

Ford might have more credibility were he equipped with a fully costed campaign plan. He could always fall back on the one his party had approved last November, when Patrick Brown was still leader. Instead, we find him just alluding to the billions he plans to throw into the very areas where he also plans to make undisclosed ‘efficiency’ cuts of some 4% (~ $6 billion) from the budget.

Presumably one can always find efficiencies in a budget the size of Ontario’s. Yet as Wynne tried to point out before being drowned out – actually talked over – by the other candidates, Ontario’s government has the lowest per capita cost of any in Canada. That would make Ontario already the most efficient in the country. And does anyone believe Ford’s claim to be able to cut costs without eliminating jobs and laying off the civil servants whose programs get axed.

Andrea thumb up

Andrea Horwath

NDP leader Horwath gave the warmest and most sincere TV performance, but she failed to make any clear winning points, leaving the question of how she differs from the current premier up in the air. That shortcoming was partly a casualty of the format, in which policy questions were allocated a mere 45 seconds.

The Premier was even more challenged trying to sum up 15 years in a 45 second commercial sound bite. And after 15 years in office people need to understand the rationale for policies like renewable energy, cap and trade carbon taxes, the Green Belt, measures taken to help lower housing prices across the GTA and so much more.

If Wynne loses this election, which looks inevitable at this point, it will be less about what she and her party have done than her failure to explain it. Wynne is clearly the most intellectual of the leaders. Yet egg heads tend to get caught up in the details and miss the big picture. Populists resonate better with the public. And in the war of style over substance, style usually wins.

wynne red glasses

Kathleen Wynne

There will be more opportunities for debate among these pretenders to the throne, hopefully in a more traditional debate format. That would give Andrea Horwath more opportunity to explain the math and strategies behind her campaign policies. It would allow Mr. Ford to become more confident in front of the cameras and to get a handle on the files he needs to better understand in order to win a debate, let alone govern the province. And it would offer Kathleen Wynne more time to better account for her party’s record and why.

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’s Actors –    Lower Taxes in Canada –    Coyne on Ford –     McParland on Ford

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