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

BURLINGTON, ON

 

“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.

Doug-Ford-Campaign-3

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

xx

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

BURLINGTON, ON

 

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

BURLINGTON, ON

 

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.

shell-game_5

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

BURLINGTON, ON

 

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

BURLINGTON, ON

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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

BURLINGTON, ON

 

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.

Ford-looking-direct

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

BURLINGTON, ON

 

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

BURLINGTON, ON

 

“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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Word is that Councillor Craven will retire from municipal politics; Gazette reader points to an email.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

May 10th, 2018]

BURLINGTON, ON

 

We have probably seen all we are going to see in the way of significant nominations to both the Board of Education and City Council.

At the Council level, except for ward 1 Councillor Rick Craven, all have filed nomination papers.

At the school board level there are nominations for each of the four seats, except for the ward 1& 2 School Board trustee seat.

Many expected the incumbent, Leah Reynolds to run for the ward 2 City Council seat but she hasn’t made a move yet. Reynolds is believed to be Marianne Meed Ward’s choice but the quality of the candidates already nominated in ward 2 might be a little more than Reynolds could overcome. Smart move on her part.

Amy Collard could be acclaimed again. A plus for the people of ward 5.

He loves his Ward, he knows his constituents and their needs. Is there life beyond city hall for Rick Craven?

He loves his Ward, he knows his constituents and their needs. Is there life beyond city hall for Rick Craven?

There are rumblings and rumours that ward 1 Councillor Rick Craven may cash in his chips and join his wife in retirement.

Judy BIA

Judy Worsely: Is she being set up as the candidate for the ward 1 city council seat?

Many have noticed that he is giving Judy Worsely, a faithful ally, and the Executive Director of the Aldershot Business Improvement Area opportunities to speak. Ms Worsley was delegating at city hall earlier today on the LaSalle Park Marina matter.

Worsley was a third place finisher for the Ward 1& 2 HDSB trustee sea.

One Gazette reader asked: “If he is not running, why is he not saying so? I speculate he’s delaying so as to keep other challengers from organizing, clearing the path for Judy.”

Craven with gavel and papers

While he could be chippy at times he was without doubt the best Committee chair this council had and knew the Procedural bylaw better than anyone else.

Another sent us a note moments ago saying: “Rick Craven has told his friends by email that he is retiring.” And added YAHOO!

That will certainly shake things up in ward 1 where there hasn’t been a really credible candidate come forward.

There are several who have been encouraged to run for the Council seat but no one has made that trip to the Clerk’s office.

Salt with Pepper is a column of opinion, reflection and observations of event in Burlington.

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Why didn't the public school board trustees ensure that the Pearson high school parents know the full story behind the leasing of their school?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

May 4, 2018

BURLINGTON, ON

 

There is absolutely nothing wrong with leasing out a school that is empty and not being used.

What is wrong is not telling the public what you have done.

The Halton District School Board leased the Lester B. Pearson high school to the Halton Catholic District School Board.

Pearson high school is schedule for closure in June of 2017 due to poor enrollment.

The parents at Pearson high school didn’t agree with that decision and argued vociferously that there school could be kept open if the Board kept the elementary feeder  schools in place.

Delegation May 8 HDSB

Pearson high school parents at a Board of Education meeting – they did everything they could to keep their school open.

The trustees didn’t see it that way and voted to close the school and have the Pearson students begin attending M.M. Robinson high school in September of 2018.

Merging the two student populations has not been an easy task. How well that merging is going to work will be known in September when the former Pearson students begin showing up at M.M. Robinson in September.

Some of the parents at Pearson have always felt there was some other reason for closing their school. Those suspicions were given some validity when the Board of Education, without any public discussion, met in a closed session to decide to lease the school the Catholic Board.

Some questions:

Who called who?

Did the Public school board call the Catholic school Board or was it the other way around?

When did the discussions about a leasing possibility take place?

The when is critical – and that may be the reason for the HDSB handling this matter in private session.

It is understood that the Catholic school board wants to do some major renovations to one of their high schools – Assumption, and that they wanted to close their school while the work was being done. Nothing wrong with that.

But did the Catholic School Board talk to the Public School Board before the trustees had made a decision to close Pearson?

Did the availability of an opportunity to lease the school have any influence on the decision to close Pearson?

And why is the public learning about this now?

At the May 2nd meeting of the HDSB, vice chair Ehl Harris read into the record two resolutions that were passed in the private session to:

Approve the resolutions from private session respecting property matters.

Ehl Harris moved the motion, Oakville trustee Kelly Amos quickly seconded the motion. There was a bit of confusion whether trustee Papin wanted to be the seconder of the motion (Pearson high school is in her ward)

Board Chair Grebenc said to trustee Papin “You don’t actually want to speak do you?”

Miller while motion being read May 2-18

Director of Education Stuart Miller during the vote to approve resolutions made in a closed session of the Board of Education.

When it was clear that Papin didn’t want to speak – she just wanted to be the seconder of the motion, the chair then asked if anyone else wanted to speak.

Not a word from anyone.

They voted and that was that – Pearson is leased to the Catholic Board for a year.

Everything was going according to whatever plan was hatched in the private session- this Board of trustees was going to make sure they stayed on script.

Get the resolutions on the record as quickly and as quietly as you can and move on.

There is no surer way to lose the trust of the public than to try to fool or hood wink them; and without public trust there can be no growth and without growth the students who enter those schools lose and cynicism takes over.

Why did Stuart Miller not tell the public how the opportunity to lease a school he no longer needed to another school Board came about?

Burlington has a community that just doesn’t trust it’s school board trustees. And there is, on the surface, very good reason not to trust them.

This story isn’t over.

Related news story.

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30,000 hospital beds over the next decade - really? There were 35,194 acute-care beds in 1990.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

May 3rd, 2018

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Although Doug Ford has slipped a tad in the polls he is still very much in majority territory. So what would a Ford government mean for the health of our health system. Ford claims he’ll add 30,000 hospital beds over the next decade – two and half terms in office.

How does anyone come up with a figure like that? I guess if you want people to believe something you make it sound spectacular. I’m not saying he won’t or doesn’t intend to live up to that promise of creating more beds and bed spaces. But does he even know how many beds are in service today?

Hospital-Beds-MarketThe Ontario Hospital Association likes to share a wealth of statistics with its clients. There are 145 hospitals in the province, employing 200,000 people. They do over 350,000 in-patient surgeries and 1.2 million out-patient surgeries and treat 6.3 million emergency patient visits each year. But nobody is saying anything about how many beds are in service. That may be because the number of beds is only one, and not the best measure of how a health care system is performing.

Aren’t doctors telling patients these days that they need to avoid staying in a hospital any longer than absolutely necessary – that the last place you want to be when you’re sick is in a hospital bed if you can avoid it. These places are crawling with infections with scary sounding names like strep and MRSA. There are horror stories of some patients coming home sicker than when they went in.

It’s everywhere yet our healthcare system generally does a good job. Oh sure health care, especially among seniors, is such a common topic that when you ask ten people about the quality of delivery you’ll get eleven different opinions, depending on the day. But a recent Conference Board study of health care systems overall among 30 global jurisdictions places Ontario seventh.

platypus

Perhaps Australia gets help from the lowly (duck billed) platypus, the milk of which research indicates may have properties that protect against infections.

Only B.C. which placed third, scored better among Canadian jurisdictions. Ontario scored better than the Canadian average and beat all but four European nations each of which spend considerably more than we do, and Australia. Perhaps Australia gets help from the lowly (duck billed) platypus, the milk of which research indicates may have properties that protect against infections resistant to antibiotics (MSRA).

Moreover, according to the Fraser Institute, Ontario has the lowest hospital wait times in the country, almost a third less than New Brunswick. And yes, those times have increased since 1993, as have all of those in Canada, but so have the demands of an aging population.

we

Former Premier of Ontario Mike Harris

1993 was only two years before Mike Harris’ Common Sense Revolution in which Harris promised to leave health care untouched by his cost-cutting surgical knife. But that wasn’t what happened. As he closed hospitals and cut staff, wait times grew to the highest in Canada. It is not an exaggeration to say that some patients were literally dying in the corridors waiting to get into heart surgery, Others had to be transported to the USA for radiotherapy or an MRI, as we recall.

Back then Globe and Mail columnist John Ibbitson went through journalistic perdition trying to get the Harris government to simply tell him the number of operable hospital beds. It turns out that there had been 35,194 acute-care hospital beds in Ontario in 1990.

But a decade later, after only five years into Harris’ revolution, bed numbers had fallen to 21,805, a decline of 38 per cent. “Chronic-care beds declined by 32 per cent over the decade, from 11,436 to 7,787. During that time, Ontario’s population grew by 1.3 million (9 per cent) and its mean age increased by a year and a half, to 36.9 years”.

So it may be a little hard to take Doug Ford seriously with his 30,000 bed promise, while also hearing him promise to bring back Harris-like cuts of overall government spending by six billion dollars. Everybody knows that when it comes to cutting, the most vulnerable area and biggest target is health care. We’ve seen this movie before.

Ontario has the best health care system in Canada given the reviews on overall quality and wait times. But it is also the most efficient in Canada with the lowest per capita cost in the country. It could always be better of course, but it could also be a lot worse.

Ford Doug

Doug Ford – wants to be the next Premier of Ontario

Doug Ford may well become our next premier. But before he wins the support of Ontario voters he needs to do more than just pick a number (30,000 beds) out of the air. The truth is that the Liberals have done a good job in restoring and managing the health care system over the last decade and a half. In fact, the full implementation of pharmacare and other provisions presented in the last budget will make it even better.

Ford needs to convince the province’s voters, particularly its senior citizens and parents of young children who are the heaviest users of our health care system, that he can do at least as well. He needs to convince us that he is not going to pull another Mike Harris on us.

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 Leading Polls –   Conference Board Report –    Frazer Institute Report

Spending Pre Capita –    International Health Costs –    Hospital Details

Ford Promises –    Ibbitson

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Doug Ford: He just might be trainable.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

May 2nd, 2018

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Well that didn’t take very long.

After a couple of videos that had Doug Ford, who is running for the office of Premier of Ontario, explaining to unidentified groups what he was prepared to do with Greenbelt lands – the public reaction was close to fierce.

Within a day he back tracked – and that idea was off the table.

Ford scowl - cropped

Doug Ford – running for the Office of Premier. Learned to back track on his Greenbelt ideas.

He appears to be trainable and needs to be watched.

The Ford comments did flush out of the bushes a couple of the local developers with their view that they looked forward to building affordable housing in the Greenbelt.

The Greenbelt in rural Burlington is not the place where affordable housing is going to be built. Affordable housing has to be close to transit.

Halton Region doesn’t have a coherent affordable housing policy. The city of Burlington isn’t in the affordable housing business – that is a Regional responsibility.

The Region is at least half a decade behind creating the much needed affordable housing policy and working with the four municipalities that make up the Region.

Our Regional Councillors will do almost anything for a photo-op; this time they are showing you the new 2 gallon blue boxes.

Regional Council does photo-ops very well. Not doing quite as well with the development of an Affordable Housing policy.

A lot of work to be done on this file. Burlington’s current crop of politicians need to press the Region to come up with a policy – taking some ideas to the Region wouldn’t hurt but that isn’t going get done by those in office today.

The city is now into full election mode – citizens want to watch and listen carefully to what those seeking your vote have to say.

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ECoB points out that 'informing is not engagement' and urges citizens to elect the city council they deserve..

News 100 redBy Jim Young, Chair – EcoB

April 29th. 2018

BURLINGTON, ON

 

It is said that “In a democracy, people get the kind of government they deserve”. We believe Burlington deserves better than this.

On Thursday, ignoring the highest number of delegations in its history and some of the best detailed critiques by citizens from every corner of the city and rural areas; Burlington City Council passed its contentious new Official Plan (OP).

421 Brant

Directly opposite city hall on the north side of James street – 23 storey tower, with a proposed tower to the south. Height for that tower – yet to be determined.

While opposition focused on the downtown, widely viewed as belonging to everyone, there was equal concern about over intensification in individual residential communities. The plan, seven years in the making, was seen by most as too developer friendly, too much in thrall to the province and the region and too often dismissive of local concerns.

Transit terminal - John Street

A bus terminal and ticket vending site that was once going to be closed got upgraded to mobility hub.

Putting aside the fears of over intensification in the downtown, the failure to consider more balanced approaches to intensification, the fact that Burlington is already meeting its intensification goals and the ridiculous notion that the John St. bus stop is a “Downtown Mobility Hub”, then the missing details like the definitions of site specific height limits for some precincts, particularly around the Mobility Hubs and the absence of supporting Transit and Parking plans; the greatest point of contention was always the feeling that citizen input was ignored.

Crowd

A packed public meeting at city hall

The city claims that engagement on the OP was above and beyond but who gets to define “Real Engagement”? In a seven year planning process the city only started to hold information sessions in late 2017 in the unseemly rush to make the downtown a Mobility Hub and therefore an Urban Growth Centre. Only after citizen anger brought ECoB (Engaged Citizens of Burlington) into being did the city even start to pay attention. ECoB position is that this was always too little, too late and that informing is not engagement.

Numerous meetings with Planning and Communication staff failed to move them on the major issues of importance to citizens. Councillors Craven, Taylor, Dennison and Lancaster declined to discuss the OP or the process. The Mayor and Councillor Sharman met with us but had difficulty accepting any vision of engagement other than the staff line that “Information is Engagement”. Only Councillor Meed Ward encouraged greater citizen engagement and her motions at council reflected this.

Rick Craven

Councillor Rick Craven – wasn’t available to meet with ECoB

John Taylor - hand up

Councillor John Taylor wasn’t available to meet with ECoB

Ward 4 Councillor Jack Dennison always has an eye open for an economic opportunity - sees a great one for the city: sell the golf course.

Councillor Jack Dennison wasn’t able to meet with ECoB

Lancaster on bullying

Councillor Blair Lancaster wasn’t able to meet with ECoB

In the final analysis this is another bad plan finalized much too quickly after 7 years of stagnating on staff desks, in an attempt to prevent it from becoming an election issue. It will still be too easy for developers to get sidestepping amendments and it may even favour developers at the newly created Land Planning xxx Tribunal (LPAT) more than the old OP if that had remained in place. Burlington will continue to evolve with much needed resident input. Make this an election issue, change can happen with a new Council.

Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of this, too often, rancorous debate was the self-congratulatory back slapping and high fiving by council on Thursday when they finally approved the new Official Plan. It felt like a council gloating on a victory over its citizens.

Although Council adopted this Official Plan, it requires Regional approval. Staff will be pushing their plan through the Region with additional amendments and the studies that have yet to be completed. Residents will still have the opportunity to demand changes. Until the Region accepts this OP the current OP remains in effect.

ballot box

October 22nd is municipal election day in Burlington

A new Council can overturn this Official Plan and residents get to choose who fills those council positions in the coming election. You can support candidates of your choice, who reflect your views and work to get them elected in October.

If “The purpose of debate is not to win but to make progress,” then ECoB will continue to seek progress from this debate. If any good is to come from this, it should be in the form of improved citizen engagement; despite the city’s claims, there is much room for improvement.

ECoB will explore all options, and continue to reach out to City Council, Communication and Management Staff. A start point for that outreach might well be the long ignored 2011 council report “Shape Burlington”, which uncannily predicts the present citizen engagement issues.

Shape Burlington Report.

 

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Was it legal? They think it is and no one is going to challenge them on the matter.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

April 29th, 2018

BURLINGTON, ON

 

I’m reading about the vote on the OP; was the Special meeting of Council made known to the public?; asked a loyal Gazette reader.

Well it was and it wasn’t made known to the public that a public meeting was to take place? Could it be null and void? asked our reader.

Probably not.

Here is what happened. Our source is ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward and the procedural bylaw.
Meed Ward advises that: “The process to set a special council meeting is to poll council members. This was done weeks ago electronically by e-vote; I did not support it but enough of council did.

“The special council meeting was duly scheduled and advertised as being “immediately after the committee meeting” – so no clear start time.

“As it turned out, committee extended to Thursday morning – that hadn’t been scheduled, just the Wednesday session. Then the special council meeting was to follow.

“So, residents didn’t know about either the committee meeting extending to Thursday or the special council afterward unless they were in attendance or watching the live feed (the video of the meetings is not posted till a day or two later).

Meed Ward H&S

Councillor Meed Ward – did not support holding a Special Meeting of Council immediately after a Standing Committee meeting.

Meed Ward said she “ didn’t have the Thursday extended committee meeting time booked in my calendar. It was scheduled late afternoon on Wednesday.”

“Technically, one could argue the process to call the special council meeting was followed, but it left the public shut out.

Meed Ward said she “ tried to bring a motion to council to refer the council meeting to Monday, a scheduled committee meeting time, but could not get a seconder in advance to put it on the floor.”
Mayor Goldring always make a point of telling the watching audience how many hours each Standing Committee spent and he explains how many bylaws were passed.

On a critical thing like public engagement on the most important piece of legislation this council has passed (technically all they did was approve it) the public was shut out.  Deliberately?

It would have been a small matter for anyone with a real sense democracy to have explained to the audience that was in council chambers and those watching the web cast that a motion to waive the required time between the calling of a council meeting and the holding of that meeting had been waived. It was done electronically directly between the Mayor and the members of council – the public didn’t get to see the vote take place.

Not sure how legal that is – matters not; there isn’t a lawyer in town prepared to hustle up to the County Court and ask for a ruling.

Comm-Eng-June-12-Mayor-bored-835x1024

Mayor Goldring at a community engagement meeting.

As for the Mayor and that Special Council meeting – he was too busy handing out proclamations – some of those who were to be given their proclamation didn’t bother to show up.

Let’s see what the readers think.

Meed War’s closing comment on this was: “Not a great day for democracy. Calling out the small number of residents in attendance that morning added insult to injury. If this had been held at the regular council meeting in May, or even at the scheduled committee meeting on Monday, April 30 residents would have filled the room and the podium – because they would have known it was coming and could plan to be there.”

Crowd

Mayor Goldring handed out Proclamations during a council meeting with a packed council chamber c

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Dennison comments on the approved Official Plan

News 100 blueBy Jack Dennison, Ward 4 Councillor

April 28th, 2018

BURLINGTON, ON

Burlington city council heaved a sigh of relief Thursday afternoon and approved an Official Plan. The 400 page document now goes to Regional Council where it will be debated again, perhaps revised and sent back to Burlington.  The Gazette has asked each member of council for a copy of the remarks they made after the Official Plan had been approved. Comments made by Jack Dennison, ward 4  council member. are set out below.

I recognize the desperate need to get our new Official Plan approved so that we are more in line with the Provincial Policy statements on growth and intensification. Our current Official Plan and Zoning By-laws are out of line with those Provincial plans. We the city should be able to successfully defend our new official plan heights and densities, where we were unsuccessful with 374 Martha/ADI/Nautique.

wefrt

Councillor Jack Dennison at a Strategic Planing meeting at LaSalle Park.

That said, I still have difficulty with the proposed Official Plan where entire city blocks downtown have an Official Plan height of 17 storeys or less. Every property owner thinks their property can be developed to that height without consideration for variety of heights.

To solve this problem, we have to be site specific for tall buildings and shorter variety heights. This would allow movement within the blocks to create variety.

We need to:

• In the Downtown Core Precinct, identify that not every site will be suitable to accommodate a tall building and that design guidelines and the Zoning By-law will establish the minimum criteria which may accommodate different forms of buildings.

• Incorporate an effective transition between development within the Upper Brant Precinct and adjacent low density residential.

• Develop policies that will ensure that the conservation of existing heritage buildings is a priority by retaining heritage buildings on site; and ensuring new development must be compatible with adjacent cultural heritage resources.

• Consider implementing a phasing plan for development which could have significant adverse impact on the downtown infrastructure including the road network affecting motorists and/or pedestrians.

• And earlier we modified the 17 storeys to 12 storeys up to 17 based on additional public parking and employment spaces in the Downtown area, and increased the setback between tall buildings to 30 metres, and we do still have area specific plans and zoning bylaws through which we can continue to shape our community including our downtown.

Further, I want the OP and zoning bylaws to be in lock step and we aggressively defend the new OP and Zoning.

We do not want walls of buildings on our primary roads, Lakeshore, Brant and throughout our downtown.

Dennison announcing

Jack Dennison the day he announced the sale of Cedar Springs.

But as I already said, I feel I have no choice but to support the approval of the proposed Official Plan which has been substantially modified through the excellent input from many constituents, including ECOB as well as the Council and staff as a team with the residents – This has been a 7 year process that we had to complete. Thank you to staff for their willingness to listen and amend where they could. We are #1 and we will continue to be #1.

I totally disagree with the east side of Brant Street north of Blairholm Avenue having heights of 7 – 25 storeys, immediately adjacent to single-family residential.

The west side of north Brant is proposed at 10-25 storeys but at least has a 3-storey podium next to Brant: with review in 10 years re: additional capacity to add more tall buildings.

Dennison graph on OP

 

39 proposed by OP team is more than 4 times present and approved.

26 proposed by Jack is less than 3 times present and approved.

Further I want the OP and zoning bylaws to be in lock step and we aggressively defend the new OP and Zoning.

The specific blocks I take issue with include:

1. Gore Variety: instead of 17, 6 and 3 ; have 6, 8 and 3.

2. 421 Brant Street North to Birch Avenue: instead of 3,6,8 and 11 ; have a variety of 3, 6, 8 and 11 with only every second block having an 11-storey building.

409 Brant image

Revenue Properties proposal for the former Elizabeth Interiors location.

3. 409 Brant Street (Elizabeth Interiors): instead of 3 to 17, have a maximum of 3 to 14 storeys and certainly not 24 storeys.

4. Esso Station at Locust and Lakeshore Road: specify 17 storeys at the back by the Parking Garage and 3 storeys at Lakeshore Road.

5. Modify the block at the northwest corner of James and Elizabeth have a maximum height of 8 storeys like City Hall, not 17 storeys.

6. Modify the block on the south side of Caroline Street between Brant and Locust to have a podium of 3 storeys and not exceed 6 storeys instead of 11 storeys.

John - No frills - laneway

No Frills Plaza

7. Modify No Frills plaza to have a maximum height of 14 storeys, not 17, and the Brant Street building to not exceed 4 storeys instead of 6.

8. Modify the Leggat property to have a maximum height of 14 storeys, not 17, and a maximum at Brant Street of 4 storeys, not 6.

We do not want walls of building on our primary roads, Lakeshore, Brant and throughout our downtown.

But as I already said, I have no choice but to support the approval of the proposed Official Plan.

Dennison closed his comments with the observation that there were only four members of the public in the Council chamber.  That was because for the most part the public did not know exactly when the special meeting of Council was to take place.

 

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Lancaster's comment on the approval of the Official Plan

News 100 blueBy Blair Lancaster

April 28th, 2018

BURLINGTON, ON

Burlington city council heaved a sigh of relief Thursday afternoon and approved an Official Plan. The 400 page document now goes to Regional Council where it will be debated again, perhaps revised and sent back to Burlington.  The Gazette has asked each member of council for a copy of the remarks they made after the Official Plan had been approved. Comments made by Blair Lancaster for Ward 6 are set out below.

The Official Plan will lead our City into a time of prosperity, sustainability and affordability while ensuring our city will continue on its current healthy, vibrant and livable path.

Councillor Blair Lancaster" not a big fan of public meetings.

Councillor Blair Lancaster

In fact, this plan will create over 3,500 jobs, which is important to residents of Burlington. The majority of this growth will occur around mobility hubs and in the downtown. It also addresses the fact that over the next decade, we will be receiving over 1,800 residents per year (most of them being new immigrants). This plan also looks to address the challenges of future generations, the millennial and their families.

This being said, different points of view have caused significant changes to the Official Plan as residents and stakeholders asked some very difficult questions. This caused us to pause and re-think the plan at every stage. I want to thank the residents and stakeholders who also have invested countless number of hours into the process.

The community engagement on this plan has been unprecedented reaching every ward. I want to congratulate our professional staff team who have stick handled all of the input from residents, council, and stakeholders. I shutter to think of the number of hours that we have all dedicated to this important initiative. It has touched every department from planning, legal, transportation, clerks, recreation, capital works, and more.

This plan was not only informed by residents and stakeholders but also by many other plans that we are legally required to conform to, such as The Niagara Escarpment Plan, The Green Belt Plan, Places to Grow, and new Provincial Policies. The existing Official Plan was out-of-date and does not comply with new provincial legislation and therefore was not defensible.

Blair Lancaster brings a soft approach to Council. Doesn't speak nearly as much as the other members. To early to tell if she is effective as the constituent level.

Councillor Blair Lancaster

The Official Plan document is a high level document that uses blobs on a map to indicate what might be possible. I emphasize what MIGHT be possible because we have just established a vision and now the work will begin to define more closely what is possible and what will be compatible on each site. The exciting part is that the work has just begun, as we now move into more detailed plans that will address important issues, like a housing strategy, and transportation plans.

Additionally, the plan we have just adopted at Council must be approved by the Region of Halton before it will be in effect. This will take approximately 210 days. The approval process is not automatic and City of Burlington Council must prepare a strategy to fight for many of the changes that are outlined in the new Official Plan.

The changes in this plan represent leading practices that look into the future and the fact that our economic development plan, strategic plan, and the new Official Plan all work together establishing a future that embodies affordable, sustainable and slow growth. Looking into the future takes leadership and a willingness to make decisions that are good for the long term even though they maybe disruptive today. This plan is bold but rational, and most importantly defensible.

www.burlington.ca/newop

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Rivers: what role will education play in the provincial election? Think about the graduation rates.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

April 27th, 2018

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The Liberals have been in power now for a decade and half, even though Kathleen Wynne has been premier for less than half that time. But people are saying it’s time to change, time for a change. They’re tired of the Liberals.

Doug Ford

Doug Ford

Doesn’t everything need to change at some point – it all eventually gets old and tired and needs to be replaced. It’s called transition and life – it’s normal, right? ‘Choose Change’ was the slogan Dalton McGuinty used when he whomped the tired old Ernie Eves Tories back in 2003 with an impressive 46% of the popular vote. That is the ballpark that Mr. Ford now finds himself in as he prepares to take over the reins of Ontario’s provincial government – the pre-emptive premier.

And there are so many reasons to give Premier Wynne the boot. Take education. Did you know that not every student who enters into secondary school graduates from it. Only 86.5 % of adolescents end up with a school leaving certificate in this province. Places like Ukraine actually score over 100% on some of their graduation statistics, though that may just be old Soviet-style statistics still at play.

86%Of course 86% is better than 69% , which was the graduation rate Ontario used to be so proud of back in the days when Mike Harris was in power. But a lot of things have changed. Ontario now has an early education program with universal junior kindergarten, so those little rug-rats can get into the learning mode earlier – something which will benefit them later in life all the experts agree. Although it’s a bit of a stretch to credit our improved graduation rate entirely to the relatively few early educated represented in this statistic.

xxx

Early education

Early education – for two-and-a-half year olds will mean a sea change to the notion of day care and child minding.

The latest Liberal budget would see children as young as two and a half be eligible for free, presumably, Montessori-style early education. Free early education for two-and-a-half year olds will mean a sea change to the notion of day care and child minding. Even the early educators themselves will need to be better educated. A big bonus is the extra pocket money saved by working moms and dads struggling to keep their financial heads above water.

Labour peace may also be a factor that has influenced this double digit climb in graduation from Ontario’s high schools. The last major teacher strike was back in 1997. It’s possible that happy teachers make better teachers and more motivated students. And it’s also possible that the stress of labour-government infighting took its toll on the desire of students to stay in school back then. After all, if your government has no respect for teachers…well… And Mike Harris and ‘create-a-crisis’ John Snobelen, having dropped out of university and high school respectively, may not have been the best role models in those dark days of the nineties.

Perhaps tuition-free university for those in financial need also has had an impact. Students who may have once thought…”what’s the point of finishing school, I can’t afford to go on to higher education anyway”… may have found new motivation to succeed. Apparently 235,000 students have benefited from free higher education, including 10,000 single mothers.

86.5% is just above the Canadian average in high school graduation rates, with only Nova Scotia and PEI slightly ahead of Ontario. Those provinces are also governed by Liberals, but then so is Quebec which is quite a way down the list. The gospel is that an improvement in Ontario’s education outcomes will lead to a more productive economy and more prosperous population. That will be critical as the province faces its future.

sex edThere has been a lot of talk about removing sex-education from the elementary school curriculum. It takes time away from other topics, like Lego or computers. Shouldn’t it be left to the parents to talk about something so sensitive? And hadn’t these children’s parents eventually figured it out on their own anyway, one way or the other. After all, it’s as natural as having a healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise. Your body will tell you what to do – right?

Sexual relationships are one of the most significant aspects of a young teenager’s development. So will getting the basics right help students better get on with/over with sex and leave more time and effort for concentration on their studies? The issue is a muddy pool teeming with education psychologists and the religious moralists each eating the other for lunch.

But teen pregnancies, which can increase school drop out rates, are on the rise in Canada and there is still inconclusive evidence that early sex-ed alone mitigates that effect – despite the logic of it all. Economics and economic opportunities seem to play a larger role in this matter, and fortunately for any new government today’s Ontario’s economy is booming. But perhaps even more importantly, young people, who don’t usually have a lot of pocket money, are now entitled to free pharmacare, so at least they can afford prevention.

We desire higher grad rates because that should deliver a more productive economy and a more prosperous society. And a better educated population should be expected to make better decisions, especially when it comes to election issues and elections. Many of those new grads will be eligible to vote or at least in a position to influence how their friends and family vote. And that may help determine whether there is a new Ford government which will have the choice of lifting the province’s grad rate closer to 100%, or letting it fall back towards the 68% the last time the Tories were in power.

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:

High School Graduation –    Teacher Strikes –    Disparity in Grad RatesTeen Pregnancies

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The new Official Plan, without Transit and Transportation Plans will only be a shell of a document .

opinionandcommentBy Gary Scobie

April 25th, 2018

BURLINGTON, ON

 

I want to apologize for some wrong information I presented earlier to Council. I stated that both Downtown Burlington and the Burlington GO Station were Urban Growth Centres assigned by the Province.

I have been corrected by Planning staff and I thank them for this. Only the Downtown has an Urban Growth Centre designation, much like downtowns in other cities. Oakville did move their Growth Centre to the Mid-town Trafalgar GO Station.

We need to do the same in Burlington.

There is a rush to replace our Official Plan with a new one. There is also the feeling that the new Local Planning Appeal Tribunal, or LPAT, along with a new OP will help us gain control of our downtown redevelopment. Unfortunately this is not the case.

Gary Scobie

Gary Scobie

Developers are opportunistic. They see a current situation of a very flexible and malleable OP along with the protection of Urban Growth Centre and Mobility Hub designations for the downtown as guaranteeing the height they want to build over many blocks of the downtown. They are absolutely correct in their assessment.

The designations provide no height limits whatsoever on buildings.

They provide minimum resident and job standards only, which the developers capitalize on with their arguments for continued height growth and proliferation of tall buildings downtown, against resident wishes.

The new Official Plan, without Transit and Transportation Plans will only be a shell of a document when it comes to protecting the downtown from over-intensification. Packing many people in a small geographic area of Burlington without a way for them to better move to the GO Station will not solve any problem of the downtown, only worsen the congestion problem.

The ideas of many precincts in the new Official Plan, each hand-picked for certain heights is the gift to developers that just keeps on giving. Developers know that their one-off projects in one location each time only need justification for that certain location.

The City must defend every precinct they have set up with complete, detailed proper justifications unique for each one. These they do not have. Developers need only point to the Urban Growth Centre and Mobility Hub minimum growth targets and other nearby buildings already approved or constructed, even in neighbouring precincts, as justification for height beyond what the City wants. The City will get no help from the Province in defending their new Official Plan as long as the twin designations

loom above us, just as the twin gateway buildings will soon loom above us at the James and Brant corner.

werv

A bus terminal has grown to become a Mobility hub.

We are currently stuck with a pretend Mobility Hub in the Downtown. We have a Council that says it cares about the downtown redevelopment, yet approves inappropriate height on Brant Street and cannot present a valid case to the OMB to stop inappropriate height on Lakeshore Road. The over-arching demand of high density through proliferation of high buildings in the downtown is guaranteed to continue as long the Province has the hammer over our heads. Everything we do downtown in the future is governed by these intensification demands placed by the Province through the twin designations. The LPAT rules acknowledge this and the multi-precinct approach in the new Official Plan will lead to undefendable reasoning against the
precedents already set and the lack of justifications to stop tall buildings where developers desire them.

Urban growth centre boundary

Urban Growth Centre boundary

We have only one defence available to regain control of our downtown for sensible, controllable growth. That is to petition the Province to remove the Mobility Hub designation from the Downtown and to move the Urban Growth Centre designation from the Downtown to the Burlington GO Station.

You can’t do that effectively if you are passing a shell of a new Official Plan at the same time. You need to at least keep the current Official Plan in place as an example of our attempt to manage growth downtown in a gentler manner while you argue our case to the Province for removing the high intensification rules from the downtown.

Will you show the citizens in this meaningful way that you do care about our downtown and what it is to become and set this new Official Plan aside while you pursue a better avenue to protect our downtown from the over-intensification that is currently heading toward us like a freight train that will come off the rails?

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David McKay: Time to approve it and get on with the business of doing as much as we can to make it work .

opinionandcommentBy David McKay

April 25th, 2018

BURLINGTON, ON

David McKay taught science to many of the people who help run the city.  Now retired from classrooms – he appeared before city council to put some of the city’s history in perspective.

I appreciate you taking yet another round of delegations on this matter. My comments will be
made from the perspective of someone who has been involved as a citizen with planning issues
in Burlington for some fifteen years, as a member of city advisory committees, community groups and as an individual. I have followed and on occasion participated in the development of this plan for seven years as it followed a windy and sometimes unpredictable road.

One cannot of course, comment on the entire plan, and I shall confine my remarks to three aspects:

Official-Plan-Binder_ImageFirst, I must commend council and staff for realizing and accepting that so much had happened and was happening since the completion of the previous plan that amendments alone would not suffice, and for having the courage and commitment to build an entirely new plan.

The process of developing this ambitious document included an extensive amount of citizen
engagement with numerous public meetings on various aspects of the plan and finally on the
document as a whole; with frequent opportunities to appear before committee or council.

While some of these events were not entirely amicable, there was opportunity to comment
or suggest and these meetings did result in alterations to the final plan. The amount of time
given to the engagement process and numerous revisions and rewrites of parts of the plan
were much greater that had occurred during the development of previous plans.

Secondly I would comment on a specific part of the new plan which is indicative of a realization that our City is big enough and varied enough that different areas need different treatment in a City Wide Planning Document. My community was involved in the “Neighbourhood Character Study” which resulted in specific planning requirements and control by-laws for particular communities with a particular history and particular needs. This was achieved through an extensive consultative process between city staff , neighbourhood associations, outside consultants and individual residents. The process was lengthy, challenging, and at times frustrating but in the end it brought positive results for all parties involved. There are other areas of the plan which reflect this type of community based planning.

Finally I wish to give “my take” on a portion of the plan which has been the focus of much of the recent discussions – The Downtown Transportation Hub. To fully evaluate this part of the Official Plan it is necessary to know and understand how we got to where we are at present.

It began, really, with the Provincial Greenbelt Plan, developed in the middle of the previous decade by a Group headed by our then mayor, Rob McIsaac. This plan, while needed and beneficial in its curbing of urban sprawl, had a profound and immediate effect on our City as virtually all of its undeveloped land (about 50% of our area) became part of the Greenbelt or the Niagara Escarpment Lands and Alton became our last subdivision.

Click to view report

Then of course came “Places to Grow” – a detailed outlining of where the millions of new residents of the “Greater Golden Horseshoe” were to be accommodated over the next 20 years. Municipalities were not given any say in this allotment, and Burlington received its quota of new residents to be accommodated; and this would be need to be through “infill”.

In addition, the municipality had to establish a “designated growth area” where the number of jobs and residents per hectare would be the highest. Burlington chose to designate its downtown as this growth area. Here, Mr. Chair, is exhibit A from an event held almost 10 years ago. The Mayor’s Downtown Summit was a daylong event that brought together council, staff, invited speakers and interested citizens to talk about how the requirements of the designated area could be met within a downtown area of limited size, surrounded on three sides by residential communities. One conclusion at least was clear – growth would be vertical, not horizontal as is true in the core of any City. The questions were how high and how often.

The implementation of Places to Grow went relatively smoothly for some years – high rise buildings were erected on the north side of Lakeshore, with one now being built on the south. Existing high rises on Elgin and Ontario were joined by the Strata on Maple and another high rise on Brock and the Berkeley on John St. is now well underway. In the main the heights of these buildings were peacefully negotiated and put the city well on the way meeting its targets.

Two recent events have created challenges for the City and suddenly made citizens aware of just how much growth others would like to thrust upon us. First the direct appeal to the OMB of the proposed building at Martha and Lakeshore where a height far beyond that planned by the city was requested; and to the astonishment and dismay of almost all of us it was granted. Clearly the OMB continues to worship at the Altar of the Provincial Policy statement, whose nautique-elevation-from-city-july-2016mantra is “Intensification above all”. Second, the deadline for OMB referrals to be heard under the ‘old’ system brought forward a raft of applications by companies, some of whom did not have a clear idea of just what they were going to do, but didn’t want to deal with the new system. Visualizing all that infill in an around our core is quite unsettling.

So what to do? Certainly the growth that has taken place and will take place in the core is significant and will change the tenor and tone of our downtown streetscape. We do not need all the proposed structures to meet the Places to Grow requirements; indeed there are not enough prospective downtown condominium owners to fill them all if they were to be built.

Burlington did not ask for the Federal Government to add four million immigrants to the Greater Golden Horseshoe area; Burlington did not ask for growth quotas: Burlington did not ask for an unending supply of developers with deep pockets who all think that they can make a good profit out from yet another condo tower; Burlington did not ask for an outside arbitrator who seems wedded to intensification regardless….But that’s what we got.

We are seven years into formulation of this plan and have included as much input from as many people as possible. There are no clear alternatives to its proposed directions. It is time to approve it and get on with the business of doing as much as we can to make it work .

 

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ECoB - We need to call a truce. We have tried everything possible to bring a sense of balance, to bring a better vision, to bring a complete plan and we are exhausted.

opinionandcommentBy Lisa Kearns

April 25th, 2018

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Engaged Citizens of Burlington (ECoB) is a not for profit group working towards a better Burlington for generations to come.

Kearns direct smile

Lisa Kearns – part of the ECoB leadership team. Is there more than ECoB in her future?

Working within the civic process, we are particularly concerned with issues of planning and development. The group is energized to bring voices and action to challenges that will affect the quality of life today and in the future, we are advocates for good planning across the entire City.

In the months from inception, ECoB has held an open meeting, a rally, a municipal elections workshop, hand delivered thousands of flyers, displayed hundreds of lawn signs, received press, appeared on community television and radio, grown our social media base, inspired a record number of delegations, met with provincial and municipal elected officials, city planning, business owners, developers and most importantly residents.

We have reflected on our position on the matters contained in the Draft Official Plan and truly reflect to objectively determine if we are the outliers, to see if were the radicals, to see if there was any truth to the tactics used to silence us. And here’s the thing, we are not. What we are – are concerned residents and now we are engaged.

From fragmented pockets across the city have woven together to tell the same story – we are not against growth – we are against excessive intensification and loss of community. The same Provincial Policy Statements are used in every development justification report and the same committee and council allow the most obtuse interpretation of these guidelines to promote efficient land use and development patterns. The same policies that govern Toronto and Mississauga have only one safety net in place and that is our Municipal Official Plan. That is why today is so important.

In previous delegations, residents and ECoB have set out specific areas for reconsideration. We asked to have the bar set higher – in the spirit of vibrancy to increase the uses in the Brant Main Precinct, we were successful in receiving a “should” contain three uses in the three storey podiums that extinguish our unique downtown retail. We talked about employment land designations and the ability to keep the door open for future considerations, we saw uproar that ensued from our agricultural friends.

Kearns at podium

Kearns at the podium during the ECoB candidates meeting.

We know you are aware there is a deficiency here and that is why the City has actively taken steps to ignore and deduce the consistent wave of pushing into this process.

The number of drafts that have come out, the inability to build a model that neighbourhood kids could complete, the inadvertent scheduling conflicts, the refusal to meet by some Councillors, the letter from the City Manager to silence instead of collaborate, thrown out petitions, NIMBY lawn signs in every ward, minutes of grow bold videos that hardly scratch the surface #growbold, #goodplanningmatters, and the most stinging “just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean it isn’t good planning”.

Right down to the special meeting of Council scheduled directly after this Committee meeting – how is anything from the 30+ delegations today going to receive due process and influence the vote tomorrow?

And aren’t quite done. There is still the Transit Plan, the Transportation Plan, the Mobility Hub Plan, the secondary phase of the Downtown Area Specific Plan. The challenges are still ahead and if we cannot all be on the same page with the most important City document, we most certainly will be challenged in the phases that shape our future.

Here’s the thing, planning is suggestive and without doubt a challenging task and profession. While we know that we’ve been a pain we also want you to know that we do respect the work that has been done and hope that if anything, this pressure will give you more support to create a plan that is built exclusively for our great city.

We need to call a truce.

ECoB Dec 13 #2

ECoB’s first large community meeting – they had traction and a following.

We are not against growth, we are not against change. But we are against it done poorly, done in a way that contravenes protection of established neighbourhoods, a way that cannot audit the 5% growth, cannot protect our own green space, and in a way that will ebb and flow as supporting plans come forward. We have asked for a complete vision and are no where close.

We are asking for help because it is not Ok to extend permissions for 18+ stories abutting low density residential, it is not Ok to allow in-congruent infill, it is not Ok to allow hundreds of town homes that double the density permissions, it is not Ok to push residents in Alton village, Pinedale, Bluewater/ Avondale, Dynes, Aldershot and more to the very edge – where the only option is seeking relief from the municipal tribunal.

It is not Ok to leave every resident wondering when they are going to have to become experts in the planning process that they have entrusted to those before us. Let’s make sure that the balance in in our favour now.

The province has mandated growth, we recognize that there needs to be growth, but is it councils responsibility to protect community. The question is does any of this document actually enforce a successful and complete community. We need the Committee to insist that amenities are included not just residential. It is about quality of life and not quantity of people. We seem to be more focused on getting people out of the city instead of keeping people in the city – embedded into their communities through a live, work and play approach.

We have tried everything possible to bring a sense of balance, to bring a better vision, to bring a complete plan and we are exhausted. We have asked, does the city want to fight with the residents or against the residents, only you can decide with the vote today.

And so, with the last chance to address this Draft Official Plan today we ask you to let down your guard, let us in, and really hear your residents. We continually hear Staff ask – “is this plan defensible”, and yet the bigger question is “is this plan accountable?”.

This is the last chance to be accountable to residents today and residents in the future.

Lisa Kearns is a downtown Burlington resident who has been instrumental in creating ECoB – Engaged Citizens of Burlington.

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