Rivers: Don't let anyone tell you Doug Ford is stupid

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

April 5th, 2018



”So, just think: a family of five will be paying $1,000 more in new taxes,” he told the news conference. “We know that they’ve increased the taxes $200,”…”Times five is $1,000”. (Doug Ford at his post budget news conference)

Yeah – maybe if Ford’s hypothetical five family members, including the children, each earned at least $130,000. Then the household income would be at least $650,000. Not your traditional 5 person family. He was clearly grasping to make a point on which he obviously hadn’t given (enough/any) thought.

Ford looking direct

Doug Ford – Progressive Conservative candidate for Premier of Ontario

We all mistakes and we could give Mr. Ford a mulligan, being the newbie running for that top provincial job. But it is worrisome for a potential premier to stumble on something so simple. We expect the CEO of Ontario Inc. to be good at thinking on his/her feet. And just as importantly to be able to sort through the weeds and grasp complex solutions to complex matters. But we haven’t seen that option yet on our latest model Ford.

So it’s not surprising that he has little patience for the sophistication and intricacies of Ontario’s cap and trade climate change program, now in its second year of operation. Of course supporting any climate change initiative requires a belief in global warming and a determination to do something about it. Ford has mused positively on the former but has shown little interest in the latter.

Ford with documents

For a man not big of documents and reports – this would have been a challenge.

In December 2016, the Government of Canada and provinces making up over 80% of the Canadian population signed onto the ‘Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change’. Under the plan, each province has to implement carbon taxes of $10 per tonne in 2018, rising by $10 each year thereafter until 2022. If a province doesn’t implement a carbon tax the federal government will do it for them, collect the revenue and return it to the province in some, as yet undefined, form.

Saskatchewan is the only province which has refused to join so far. A province can opt for an explicit carbon tax/levy as B.C. and Alberta have done, or a cap and trade program as Ontario and Quebec have undertaken. The argument for cap and trade is that it ensures the targets are met, it is more efficient and less costly for the final consumers and it is much more business friendly. But it is more complex to administer and needs a large enough allowance market to function effectively.

Large greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters have to buy annual GHG allowances – a license to release a tonne of CO2. The number of allowances provincially available depends on the national targets, established by the Harper government, back when they were in power, and adopted by the Liberals since. The number of allowances declines over the years consistent with the GHG emissions targets.

The revenue from the sale of allowances goes into a green fund which homeowners and businesses can then use to partially pay for beefing up their attic insulation, installing more efficient windows, and so on. Of course that revenue from allowance sales could be re-directed anywhere. B.C. channels revenue from its carbon tax back in reduced income tax points and Alberta does a little of both – income tax cuts and funds for more greening.

When the PC’s were led by Patrick Brown he wanted to scrap cap and trade and implement the federally prescribed and more lavish carbon tax worth about $4 billion in its first year. That was primarily because Brown planned to recycle the cash he would collect into his promised 22% income tax cuts for the middle class.

But Ford wants nothing to do with any darn carbon tax and promises to also scrap cap and trade. Further, he has threatened to sue the federal government if they even think about carbon taxing in Ontario.

Ford scowl - cropped

Doug Ford: don’t let anyone tell you he is stupid.

Of course Ford may just be playing coy. After all there isn’t a snowball’s chance in a tar pond that the three amigos on the right: Ford, Sask. premier Scott Moe, and federal Conservative leader Scheer would win such a law suit. And that means the federal government will have to implement its own carbon tax in Ontario and likely turn the money over to the province.

So Ford may not be good with numbers or stun us with quick thinking on his feet, but don’t let anyone tell you he is stupid. Quite the contrary, even after his lawsuit flunks the legal smell test, he can still claim to have resisted and fought the feds on the carbon tax. And if he plays his cards right, he’ll also have the $4 billion in cash he needs to make his promised tax cuts while almost balancing the budget.



Rivers hand to faceRay Rivers writes weekly 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


Survey will close April 6th – takes two minutes to complate.

Background links:

Ford’s Fumble –    Ford – a Puzzle –     Carbon Taxes

Cap and Trade –    Green Fund

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Jim Young: When was the last time you heard a Citizens Advisory Committee delegate in opposition to a Staff recommendation?

opinionandcommentBy Jim Young

April 4th, 2018



At this meeting the Committee of the Whole will receive a staff report on Citizen Engagement.

As a group who work to improve engagement with citizens, Engaged Citizens of Burlington welcome that effort and would like nothing more than to be involved on behalf of citizens in the development of that engagement effort.

Jim Young April 2018 looking

Jim Young: “city does not engage them in ways they would like to be engaged”

We are very aware that our city works hard to communicate. It devotes resources, people, time and money on that effort. Yet, our interactions with citizens suggest a widespread feeling that our city does not engage them in ways they would like to be engaged. Like ships that pass in the night we never seem to see each other and when we do, too often it is when we collide.

When that happens Council and Staff always seem disappointed, and bewildered, that this communication/engagement, despite your best intentions, fails and the city/citizen engagement gap is brought to your attention.

But the very fact that ECoB exists suggests that there is a gap between yours and our perception of communication and engagement, and that there is a wide range and significant number of citizens who feel their voices are not heard, that their fears and concerns for their city go unheeded, and this in a city which believes it is communicating so well.

Even by the standards of your own policy on “Public Participation and Engagement”, which strives to meet International Association for Public Participation standards of engagement. Those standards range from Inform, Consult, Involve, Collaborate and Empower. On most issues you inform very well; consult or involve all too rarely and usually too late in the process to have any meaningful impact, and, at the risk of offending, we never feel that level of collaboration which might make empowerment of citizens an achievable reality.

So how can it be that a city that boasts 8 Citizen Advisory Committees, with more to come, so often gives its citizens the impression that no-one is paying attention to them?

There is a widespread feeling that much of the city’s engagement effort is geared towards ticking the “Engagement Boxes” where needed to speed regulatory processes through Staff to Council rather than real engagement and dialog with citizens. ECoB think this is reflected above in the suggestion that your efforts to inform are much more successful than any serious attempt to consult, involve, collaborate or empower.

Jim Young answering RG

Jim Young: telling city council of a “a well-meaning attempt to improve Citizen Engagement”

As an example, here we are four years into the creation of an Engagement Charter process that was started in 2013 and adopted by council in April 2014 and ECoB is lobbying for Citizen Engagement in this process. Do Council and Staff begin to see why ECoB has issues with the engagement process when a well-meaning attempt to improve Citizen Engagement is already four years in the making with little or no Citizen Engagement in that process?

The report suggests that future engagement in the process will come from Citizen Advisory Committees which in ECoB’s opinion may be part of a tired engagement model that has never really worked as well as the city might have hoped.

While well intended and filled by well-meaning citizens, the way Citizen Advisory Committees are constituted and their operating guidelines leave them too readily influenced by Council Members and Committee Staff assigned to them. With a few exceptions they have not been the engagement vehicle we would like them to be.
Among various advocacy groups in the city and even within your own Citizens Advisory Committees there is a widespread feeling that Advisory Committees have become a simple extension of the city departments rather than independent advisors to council. That when a staff recommendation is supported by its appropriate Citizens advisory committee, Council are really just receiving a well manipulated repetition of the staff recommendation echoed by The Citizen Advisory.

If Councillors are not aware of this, just ask yourselves: When was the last time you heard a Citizens Advisory Committee delegate in opposition to a Staff recommendation?

It is no coincidence that most of the Citizens Advisory Committees have parallel, non-city sponsored advocacy groups. ITAC has BfAST, BSAC has BSCInc. And the work of the various Downtown Heritage, Parking and Sustainable Development Committees is paralleled by independent citizen groups from Alton Village to Brant Hills to Tyandaga. From Appleby Village to Roselandto Downtown to Aldershot,

These advocacy groups are often made up of former members of Citizen Advisory Committees who found those citizens advisories ineffective and who now advocate for their various city wide interests where they feel they are more likely to be heard and with greater impact.

ECoB currently works with at least 11 area and ward specific groups and at least another 5 City wide advocacy groups. These 16 groups are Engaged Citizens whose voices will not be heard in the New Engagement Charter.

If Council and staff are happy with the present communication and engagement model, if you really feel you are reaching citizens and that their voices are being heard, then probably nothing can be done. Local and city wide groups will continue to be frustrated and angered and will tie up your time and effort in the kind of oppositional engagement that model creates.

Jim Young with Kell in background

Jim Young, addressing city council. Manager of Communications Donna Kell sits in the audience.

If however, you feel, as we do, that communication and engagement can be improved for the benefit of Council, Staff and Citizens, and the fact that you are receiving reports from staff on Improving engagement suggests you may actually feel that way, Engaged Citizens of Burlington has already reached out to Communication Managers with the City Manager’s Office to explore how we might close that Engagement /Communication Gap which exists more often than either of us might like.

I am here tonight on behalf of Engaged citizens of Burlington to seek Council and Staff support for the inclusion of ECoB in that engagement process. The E in ECoB is for Engagement, it is not for Enraged and certainly not for Enemy.


The readership survey closes April 6th.

Thank you council and staff for your time and your work on behalf of our city. Thank you citizens for your support and for allowing us to be you voice, Engaged Citizens of Burlington look forward to continuing, meaningful engagement with all of you.

Jim Young is one of  the Engaged Citizens of Burlington.

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What happens when two English guys hang out in a Smart car and listen to Queen?

eventsblue 100x100By Pepper Parr

April 3rd, 2018



James Burchill has a style that is unique. Basically he is a communicator and has come up with a format that he calls Smart Car Coffee Confidential. He takes people out for a drive in his little Smart Car and has a conversation – stopping along the way for a cup of takeout coffee.

He has interviewed VIP’s, sports people, people who do the darndiest things for a living.

Burchill, besides being a shameless self-promoter, is a Brit – something he is quietly proud about.

Burchill + Queen

Two Brits – watch for what they do during a Coffee Confidential on Friday.

In a forthcoming Coffee Confidential he is out with Paul Coppcut, who toils away at “personal brand development”. What makes this video such a hoot is that the two of them are nutso about Queen. Not THE Queen but the musical royalty Queen.

The two of them sit in the car shaking their heads like a couple of bobble head dolls yucking it up.
Burchill asks: “What happens when two English guys hang out in a Smart car and listen to Queen?”  Then you get to see what two English guys can do when the music gets to them.

A short short clip of just what these two Brits do when the music is turned on is RIGHT HERE. The full Coffee Confidential will run on Friday.

Brighten up your day – supposed to rain later this afternoon and this evening.

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Is a 'clerical' error going to turn a small downtown parking lot into a Mobility Hub?

opinionandcommentBy Pepper Parr

April 3rd, 2018



Transit is an issue that Burlington city council has difficulty with. It wasn’t always that way. Doug Brown, the best informed Burlington citizen when it comes to transit, will tell you of the time that bus service to the one GO station Burlington had was free. It was something city hall bragged about. It was so popular that the city eventually put a price on the service and that changed the usage.

Doug Brown, chair of Bfast, wants to see a bus schedule with routes that work for people and not the current bus route set up in place. It doesn't work claims Brown.

Doug Brown, one of the Bfast founders is getting ready for the 4th Annual Transit Forum.

If you get Doug going on transit, and that isn’t very hard to do, he will tell you of the days when the city’s transit service was something to be proud of.

Gary Scobie is another Burlington resident who, not unlike Doug Brown, does his homework and asks questions and digs away until he gets answers,

Scobie delegated to city Council in March to talk about transit the plans to turn a very small parking lot between Brant and John Street that has a small transit terminal siting at the edge of the lot that has been under a construction upgrade doe a number of months.

The parking lot will have fewer spaces than it had previously and it will be one of the links in what the city will come to know as the Elgin promenade that will cut right across the city and allow people to walk or ride a bike on a safe path that will be illuminated and have plenty of places where you can sit and just relax.

That promenade and transit use and the mobility hubs the city is working on as the place in the city where development is expected to take place all come together.

The city Council meeting last March was the occasion where Scobie set out to explain to the city that a mistake had been made by the province and that the city was making a decision based on the mistake. He wanted city Council to see the error.

Scobie said:

I live in Ward 3 and my Burlington includes the downtown.

I did some further research on the Downtown Mobility Hub and found out this mobility hub is based on a clerical error. Well, I may be exaggerating a bit. If you check out the screen image of the Metrolinx December 2015 Profile, note that the second paragraph begins “Downtown Burlington is identified as an Anchor Hub in the GTHA and includes the Burlington GO Station on the Lakeshore West Line.

Gary Scobie

Gary Scobie

That last phrase confused and disturbed me. How could one Mobility Hub (a junior partner Anchor Hub) include another Mobility Hub (the Burlington GO Station) that is over 2 kilometres away?

Their 800 metre catchment areas don’t even touch. I could find no other pair of Metrolinx Mobility Hubs that are close to each other in municipalities outside Toronto (ie. Hamilton, Newmarket and Mississauga) that claimed one Mobility Hub included the other one of the pair.

I contacted Metrolinx and asked “Is this a mistake?” My contact felt it must be and someone must have accidentally done a cut-and-paste error and inserted it by mistake over two years ago. Funny, no one caught it until I mentioned it. Was it a mistake, or done with some purpose in mind? The phrase did not appear in the 2012 version of the Profile.

It took about three weeks for a full Metrolinx investigation to report back to me that yes indeed it was a mistake, but that it shouldn’t change the Mobility Hub’s legitimacy.

I beg to differ – our Downtown Mobility Hub does not have Rapid transit and barely integrates with Regional Express Rail. The Bus Kiosk on John Street can barely hold 20 people, let alone an actual bus. Attaching the GO Station to it might have given it, in some eyes, the only chance at legitimacy it could ever have.

A week ago, I requested that Metrolinx do three things:

1. Notify the City that no, the Downtown Anchor Mobility Hub does not include the GO Station,

2. Remove the offending text from the 2015 Profile and

3. Make sure it doesn’t reappear in the 2018 version coming out soon.

No response yet, but I understand these things take time. I’ll wait patiently.

Site rendering

This site rendering of the upgrade being done to the downtown parking lot between Brant and John Streets tells a lot more than you might expect. Running through the middle is part of the Elgin promenade pathway – one of the smarter things the city has done

I am still waiting in anticipation to see the coming transit plan that will have to show a dedicated light rail transit line going up John Street and then bulldozed through residential neighbourhoods to the GO Station, or else the subway that will take the same route underground. Nothing short of this will legitimize the Downtown Mobility Hub.

The Urban Growth Centre and Mobility Hub designations that Council accepted in 2006 are now leading to uncontrollable intensification and height in the downtown. They contain no height limits. The OMB acceptance of the 26 storey condo at 374 Martha Street has set a precedent that will only be used again and again by developers to gain further height along Lakeshore Road and up Brant and adjacent streets.

Council’s enthusiastic acceptance of a 23 storey condo across from our City Hall, beyond its own planned height, leaves us embarrassingly with little chance of appeal of the OMB decision.

The developers’ lawyers know this and so should we. We have no case under these current designations.

downtown mobility hub

Is it a parking lot that has been given an upgrade or is it an anchor that is part of a Mobility Hub?

Our only option now to exert any future control of height and density downtown is to ask the Province to remove these designations from the downtown and place them at the three GO Stations, living up to our commitment for 2031 and coming 2041 growth targets.

Last time I made this request, I was met with stony silence. One of you on Council must bring back Councillor Meed Ward’s motion to save our downtown, not from gentle change, but from this massive change that is coming.


The readership survey will close April 6th

The practice at city Council is for a delegator to stay at the podium to answer questions that any Councillor might have. Scobie has done this before and in the past he has given the members of Council a good run for their money.

There were questions – one from Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward and two from Ward 4 Councillor Jack Dennison.  Scobie added in a comment he made several days after his delegation that his “new information was not what the broad Council wanted to hear.  They embrace the over-intensification of the downtown instead of questioning it.  They don’t want to hear of getting us out from under the Province’s mandate.  It remains their best and only excuse.”

Gary Scobie and Doug Brown are long time residents of Burlington who have been tireless advocates for sensible growth and a city council that hears what the voters have to say.

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An Apology Too Far: there comes a point where another apology is meaningless.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

April 1st, 2018



Canadians are known throughout the universe as ‘the great apologists”. We apologize at the drop of the proverbial hat, even when we’re not at fault. And true to form our fearless leader, Mr. Trudeau, with a mighty hug befitting a grizzly bear, confessed that he was “really sorry” about something a British colonial government did seven years before British Columbia became a part of Canada, and three years before Canada even existed.

Trudea in India - clothing

A fashion show or a political statement.

It’s not like there weren’t other more relevant things he could have apologized for; like the conflict of interest around that unfortunate holiday he took with the Aga Khan, or the more recent fashion parade he gave the world while in India. And he should really have apologized to Canadians for giving a confessed and convicted child terrorist a whacking $10 million dollars just because he objected to spending quality time in the big house we call GITMO.

The trial and hanging of the six Tsilhqot’in chiefs in 1864 is a complicated matter. The band claims they were at war with Britain at the time. But does that justify killing 14 colonialists? Though one can appreciate the argument about their chiefs showing up for peace talks – to try to resolve the issues and end the war – only to get arrested, tried and become the subject of a hanging party instead.

But stuff happens and that was a long time ago. And if they were at war with the Brits was there any question who would win? To the winner goes the proceeds and all that. Spare the rod and spoil the savage. There were some countervailing claims of the other savage, the white man, spreading a smallpox contagion. And there were accusations of sexual assaults by the colonialists. But revenge, it seems, won the day.

And much of the land in question has now been returned to its original inhabitants. A 2014 Supreme Court ruling awarded over 1700 square kilometres to the 5000 member strong Tsilhqot’in nation. That’s a third of a square kilometre for every man woman and child, though the chiefs say they want more.

But that ruling has meant the B.C. government had to kiss and make up with the band. And so then it was Trudeau’s turn and here we are. Indeed our indigenous brothers are quick learners when it comes to the art of the deal.

They call themselves a nation – with the exact same powers as the federal and provincial governments. How can there be a sovereign nation within a sovereign nation? When that was happening in South Africa we called it apartheid. Isn’t that the root cause of all that bloodshed between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Will the Tsilhqot’in seek recognition from the UN next and issue their own passports as well? How will the Canadian government respond when the Tsilhqot’in nation sets up foreign diplomatic offices in Moscow and North Korea and purchases modern S-400 anti-aircraft weapons for its defence against… Canada? I thought we were all Canadian. Should we expect a ‘Tsilh-exit’ referendum someday soon?


Former Prime Minister apologizing to members of a First Nation in the House of Commons.

There have been occasions when apologies were perfectly appropriate. For example Stephen Harper’s apology for the government’s disastrous program of residential schooling for our indigenous youth. After all that was a federal program, well intentioned or not, which went truly sour.

Perhaps our PM should save his next apology for something more appropriate.

How about the outdated Indian Act which has perpetuated discrimination of first nations since it was enacted by our own government shortly after confederation? And can anyone doubt the contribution of the Indian Act to the poor living conditions on so many reserves and the infamy of our missing and murdered indigenous women.

This seems one apology too far for Mr. Trudeau. On whose authority does Mr. Trudeau claim to exonerate the six legally executed chiefs in 1864? My grandparents hadn’t even come to this country until after the 1900’s. He certainly doesn’t speak for me.

Apologizing may be good therapy and an apology is only a bunch of words. And while sticks and stones…words will never hurt me. But there comes a point where another apology becomes just another piece of meaningless garble when we do it all the time.

Rivers hand to faceRay Rivers writes weekly 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:

So Sorry –    Tsilhqot’in –     Loose lips sink ships


The readership survey will close April 6th, 2018



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Having the courage of your convictions.

News 100 blackBy Pepper Parr

March 31st, 2018



Maintaining the commentary section of an online newspaper takes up a lot of time.

We become liable for anything that is defamatory. There are a number of people that we have, from time to time, had to caution. There are three that have been invited to find some other place to make their comments.
We test each email address that is used by the person commenting. From time to time we get this kind of message:

This is the mail system at host homiemail-a31.g.dreamhost.com.

I’m sorry to have to inform you that your message could not be delivered to one or more recipients. It’s attached below.

If you are a current customer of DreamHost, please contact our technical support team here  https://panel.dreamhost.com/support

If you are not a customer please use our contact form at.

If you do so, please include this email in your support ticket. You can delete your own text from the attached returned message.

DreamHost Email Support
<Pdersum@hotmail.com>: host hotmail-com.olc.protection.outlook.com[] said: 550 5.5.0 Requested action not taken: mailbox unavailable. (in reply to RCPT TO command)

The email address was phony.

Here is what someone out there wanted to have published:

Always dumbfounded by such ridiculous commentary. Yes I mean from you William, Phillip and Penny. Your commentary is shameful. City staff and senior citizen volunteers receive an award for improving our community and the comments posted are so negative and hurtful. What have any of you done to make our city any better? Let’s celebrate our collective accomplishments and not be so quick to critisize hard working folks, especially senior volunteers! Great job City Staff and the Seniors Volunteer committee.


You actually wrote that?

We are dumbfounded – how stupid can you get. In saying what you had to say Patrick you did what you claimed others were doing; diminishing the really solid city staff – and there are many solid people working for the city. You reflect rather poorly on the people of the city. Shame on you.

We put our name on most of what we write. It would be nice to see you have the courage of your convictions.

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Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.

‘Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews’.

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”

Luke 23:34

Jesus on the cross

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”

Luke 23:34

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Gazette has been around for seven years - started out as Our Burlington - When do people read the Gazette?

News 100 yellowBy Pepper Parr

March 29th, 2018



The Gazette is now in its seventh year of publication.

We first hit the streets, via the Internet, in October of 2010 – that was an election year.

For a short period of time we were known as Our Burlington – I didn’t choose the name.

The paper came out of a friendship with the late John Boich who was working with a number of people on creating a better way to deliver local news. In the early stages the people behind that initiative were thinking in terms of getting low frequency radio license – that wasn’t something I was interested in.

The Shape Burlington report had just been published – Boich and former Mayor Walter Mulkewich were the authors of hat report which, in part said:

Engagement: Transform the City Hall culture to promote active citizenship and civic engagement

Promoting active citizen engagement and meaningful public dialogue requires a culture shift at City Hall. A crucial first step is the development an Engagement Charter – a plain language policy document developed with public involvement that incorporates benchmarks and accountabilities, and describes the value, purpose and opportunities for citizens to influence city policies.

The charter would explain how to navigate City Hall and its services. It should stipulate best practices for various kinds of public consultation and affirm the city’s commitment to inform citizens and respond to their ideas and contributions. t would address the question of reaching out to a diverse population.

The charter would incorporate an early notification system to provide citizens and groups information about meetings, events and issues, and to allow reasonable amounts of time to understand, discuss and develop positions before decisions are made.

I managed to convince Boich that a newspaper on line was the route to go – the Executive Director of the non-profit he had set up wasn’t a newspaper person. Boich asked me if I would put together a business plan –

I did – and he said – great – make it happen.

And that was how Our Burlington came to be.

I soon realized that “Our Burlington” was not a fit name for a newspaper and chose the name Gazette for two reasons: Burlington once had a print newspaper called the Gazette and the first photograph I had published as a boy 12 was on the front page of the Montreal Gazette – I also delivered that newspaper as a boy.

When I started the Burlington Gazette I was pretty sure the editorial model I had in mind would work – but it needed to be tried to be certain. The model works.

We have had our ups and downs but the readership growth has been consistent; not massive but consistently incremental.

So who reads the Gazette?

As many readers know we are in the midst of running a readership survey. The practice going forward will be to do a new survey every month – shorter next time; three maybe four questions.

Here is what we can tell you about when the Gazette is read:

Gazette readers story

Just over 40% of our readers are daily readers. We notice that during the winter a decent number of “snowbirders” read us from the United States – we don’t know which state they are reading from – just US of A.

There is more in the way of readership from Hamilton and Toronto than we expected.

survey04The data show in the graph above is “raw” in that we don’t tell you which ward those readers live in.  we will include that data in the full report which we will publish when the survey is  closed.  We wanted the survey open for at least 15 days.  The Sunday readership is always quite high and we want to keep it open beyond the Easter holiday.


Related news stories:

The Shape Report

The city’s Community Engagement Charter

Why the Gazette?

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City administration demands that a Gazette column be taken down; leaving it up will damage the city’s reputation because according to the city we are making things up and telling lies.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

March 29th, 2018



Our relationship with the city administration is not all that good.

The city has a Senior Manager, Government Relations & Strategic Communications who wrote us recently saying:

“…  Yet again you have written another article which is completely false and damaging to Planning staff’s reputation.

You are blatantly accusing city staff of lying and making things up about developments in the city. The rendering in question was developed for the city by an outside consulting firm at the request of Council who wanted to know what different sites could develop as. There was discussion of this at committee around the public sidewalk width/heritage building trade-offs and the like.

The owners of the property were and are well aware of the renderings and have not raised any issues with the city. Anything else you say to the contrary is not true or accurate.

This is an article that we demand in the strongest terms be taken down; leaving it up will continue to do damage to the city’s reputation because according to the article we are making things up and telling lies.

This continues a pattern of known false articles you have written about the city.

Some facts: We did publish an article about a rendering of a building on a site on the north east corner of Brant and Lakeshore Road.

We talked directly to two of the principles who said they were unaware of the rendering and did not give anyone permission to have a rendering done. They weren’t asked for permission.

We did not identify the principles – developers don’t like to find themselves in messy situations with anyone at city hall – it just isn’t good for business.

We did not say that anyone at city hall was lying. We made reference to the President of the United States and the number lies he tells and wondered if that habit had migrated north.

There is nothing the Gazette can do to improve the city’s reputation. They own it and what they do with it is up to them.

What we do know is that a number of people do not feel the city administration is hearing what they have to say. The Gazette offers a forum where people can comment on news stories we write.

The piece we wrote on the architectural rendering can be found HERE

There are times when we make mistakes. We correct those mistakes.  There are no mistakes in the article.

What the comments made by the Senior Manager, Government Relations & Strategic Communications reveal is that we have an administration that bullies, threatens and cajoles.  The City Manager did just that with ECoB when they threatened them with legal action.

Engaged Citizens of Burlington (ECoB) To Whom it May Concern:

James Ridge - looking right

James Ridge – Burlington City Manager

On your website, in the area of letter writing campaign, you set out questions to be asked of the letter recipients. Among them is:

How can staff in the planning department be pushing these amendments when they know that they are not following The Professional Code of Practice of the Ontario Planners Institute which requires members to serve the public “to provide full, clear and accurate information on planning matters to decision makers and members of the public”?

This directly alleges that City staff have committed professional misconduct, and is categorically untrue. Staff have met or exceeded all requirements of their professional codes of practice, and have far exceeded the requirements of the planning act and other legislation in terms of consultation and provision of information. The fact you don’t like their recommendations does not mean they have acted unprofessionally.

I would like an immediate removal of these comments from your site, and an apology, or I will take all necessary steps to hold you accountable for these defamatory comments.

James Ridge City Manager

ECoB took the comments off their web site but took a pass on the opportunity to apologize.

There are times when the public makes mistakes and elects a city council that has a tin ear. That kind of mistake can be corrected during a municipal election.

Salt with Pepper is a column reflecting the opinions, musings and reflections of the Publisher of the Gazette.



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City appears to have a vision for the corner of Lakeshore Road and Brant - owner of the land knows nothing about the rendering.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

March 20th, 2018



It was a very nice drawing. Architects and planner call them renderings. They are used by the real estate agents selling property and frequently they don’t reflect what the end product is going to look like.

The Gazette has used the drawings on a number of occasions.

Brant lakeshore - Molinaro b

A rendering out of the fertile mind of someone in the city’s planning department? It didn’t come from the developer that owns the land. Corner of Lakeshore Road and Brant Street.

We were both surprised and a little stunned when we learned that while the property at the north east corner of Brant and Lakeshore is owned by the Molinaro Group – the rendering wasn’t produced by the Molinaro’s.

What? – you might ask.

Apparently the city planning department didn’t ask the Molinaro people for permission to put together a rendering – they just did it.

During a recent city council meeting there was considerable discussion on how high a building on that site should be? The debate had the height swinging from 23 then down to 17 then down to 15 and then down to 12 and then back up to 17.

The Molinaro Group owns the land but they say they haven’t even decided who the architect on the project might be.

Brant lakeshore - Molinaro rendering a

The rendering that reflects the thinking of the planning department – the owner of the property knows nothing about it and didn’t authorize it creation or use.

They are busy completing the Paradigm on Fairview and getting ready to start work on Brock 2 and continuing their discussions with the planners on their Brant/Ghent development that is working its way through the planning department.

When that fellow to the south of us (the American President) told some of his supporters that he just made up the international trade figures he gave to our Prime Minister we shrugged – that what he does; tells lies because he doesn’t know what the truth is.

survey04Has that habit worked its way across the border and into the Burlington Planning department?

Just asking.

Salt with Pepper are the opinions, musings and reflections of the Publisher of the Burlington Gazette

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Rivers on the PC leadership choice: When you turned your clock back did you take it to the 50's?



Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

March 12th, 2018


“Now let it work. Mischief, thou art afoot. Take thou what course thou wilt.”
( William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar)

Even though Doug Ford claims to have been brother Rob’s brain, advising him daily as Rob ran the city of Toronto, I keep coming across articles which refer to Doug as stupid.

Perhaps people are being prejudiced, swayed by his appearance, a likeness to that high school bully which we all had to confront or accommodate. You know the tough guy who always struggled with his grades, had trouble attracting the right girl for some reason, and who always spoke in monosyllabic superlatives.

Doug Ford finger pointing

Doug Ford – expect to see a lot of him in the next 90 days.

Yet it is possible that this so-called ‘dummy’ has just pulled off the biggest coup in Ontario’s political history, thereby lifting himself to the top of the roost in the respected party of John Robarts, Bill Davis, and Mike Harris. If true this would have been a plot to equal the best scripted by that genius Shakespeare.

The story starts in the aftermath of the 2014 election. The Tories had been devastated by their loss and vowed never again as they licked their wounds. They needed a change of direction and a leader to take them in that direction. Enter Patrick Brown, someone with no apparent dirty laundry, no enemies and no friends in provincial politics, but with the kind of credentials one earns hanging around Stephen Harper’s backbench.


Patrick Brown gaining the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party.

He had a vision – a pathway to victory – growing the party membership, filling the war chest, and creating a platform which had something for everyone in Ontario. It was close enough to the status quo to appeal to left leaning Tories and right thinking Liberals alike. And the people responded in numbers large enough to promise a landslide if the polls could deliver for him. True enough, the party’s popularity wasn’t all his doing, but he was at the helm and the PCs were headed for a victory not seen since Mike Harris.

But things didn’t work out that way for our young hero. The right wing of the party establishment violently disapproved of the newly adopted platform’s policies, which appeared to be carbon copies of those of the stinking Liberals they wanted to replace. Why would the public want to change horses when the one they were on is already going in the right direction. And how could anyone take the PC’s seriously when they were parading themselves as nothing more than blue Liberals.

The right wing establishment must have been AWOL, or fast asleep, when the party membership unanimously approved Brown’s platform just last November. But clearly there was a sense that Brown didn’t deserve to lead, hadn’t been in the trenches, and must have pulled a fast one to slip by Christine Elliott in the leadership vote.

pc-leadership- ontario debate-20180228

It came down to these four – what happened in the back rooms can only be imagined.

This upstart had offered himself up as another social conservative but now was behaving like it was his personal party and he and it had undergone a metamorphosis from red neck to red Tory.

Doug Ford had trumpeted his ambition to one day be the leader of this land – Canada. Ambition is a powerful motivator, especially for a man trying to live up to all that he believed his father could have been. It was Ford’s time, if only he could get rid of Brown. Elliott wanted revenge and Mulroney was simply Mulroney – owed the title by divine providence. If the young Brown got in he might remain premier for a decade or more, and then the time might have passed for these pretenders to the throne.

The flash point in Brown’s platform was his acceptance of the provincial sex-education curriculum. At least it was for Tanya Granic Allen whose extreme religious persuasion propelled her directly onto the war path against Brown. She was not going to stand for it – after all she hadn’t seen the word ‘love’ in the sex-ed program.

Brown may have been gaining popularity among the people but was losing respect in the minds of his peers and the old Harris guard – the right wing of the party. They have always been clear that less government is better government. Tax cuts are good and regulations bad. The primary role of the provincial government is to stop social creep, especially when it comes to matters of sex.

Patrick Brown resigning

Patrick Brown resigning.

So is it possible that these unlikely wannabe leaders, and a few more of the party’s neocon class, teamed up, conspired to bring down the new king, figuratively, as Julius Caesar’s stalwart’s had taken him down. A couple of shaky accusations of inappropriate sexual behaviour, some innuendo about fake membership numbers and some suggestion of financial irregularity – that Brown was pilfering funds from the PC trust fund – would be enough to smear him. Then he’d have to resign and one of their kind would take over.

Of course this is all hypothetical and in this hypothesis it’s possible that only one or two of the candidates may have been aware of the planned political assassination of Brown but it is inconceivable that the others wouldn’t have been able to figure it out. The chief protagonist may not even have been one of the candidates. But if this story is accurate there was a plan to win and Ford won.

And the party echelon had to be eager to rid themselves of a leader bent on a mission to forever shift the party to the centre of the political spectrum and betray those who are have spent their lives arguing right from left. So somebody got to Brown’s old girl friends and then Randy Hillier complied a list of wild accusations and the party was ready to perform political assassination as Brown whimpered ‘et tu Brute?’.

Oh what a tangled web we weave. It wasn’t long before the fangs came out as our lovely snakes engaged in tribal cannibalism. Ford, jumped in feet first calling Elliot his friend, even as he ripped into her over her flip flops and her government job. He was, after all, the only fellow who had demonstrated real leadership – the first to hit the road and set the pace – trashing the carbon tax promise and attacking the morality of allowing teachers to explain sex to students.

That is what likely drew in co-conspirator Tanya, an eleventh hour entry into the pack. She was there to eat into the female vote so Ford would have a better chance of slithering past Elliott. And she did and he did. And ironically Ford, hardly a pinnacle of godly behaviour in his earlier street life, entered into an unholy alliance with Allen. Her reward was that damned sex ed thing, and ending renewable energy and maybe opening the debate on abortion again – from his pulpit as leader of Canada’s most populist province

Conspiracy theories book cover

Their will be more than one book written on “what really happened” – will we ever know?

Conspiracy theories come along all the time about one thing or another. Still there is no other logical explanation for the rapid demise of an elected leader only a few months before an election. There is no rational for the almost panic-like urgency to replace him. And what else explains the chaos that has ensued and will no doubt continue for some time.

If not a conspiracy the only other explanation is sheer incompetence. If a party can’t manage itself choosing a leader does anyone believe it can manage the affairs of the province?

Conspiracy or incompetence, take your pick.  Either way the people of Ontario deserve better.

Rivers hand to faceRay Rivers writes weekly 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- Elliot –    Detailed Results –     More Leadership

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Politicians aren't what they used to be - Robarts and Davis delivered in their day.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

March 10th, 2018



As publisher it is no secret that I am a Liberal but that does not mean the Gazette is a Liberal newspaper.

John Robarts - one of the best Premiers the province ever had: knew how to balance a budget.

John Robarts – one of the best Premiers the province ever had: knew how to balance a budget.

The first political event I attended in Ontario was in 1967 while I was at university. I watched a debate between John Robarts and Robert Nixon at the Grand Theatre on Princes Street and turned to my friend and said “Robarts is a very impressive candidate”; he went on to win his eighth election to remain one of the best Premiers the province has had. He was more than the leader of a party and the Premier of the Province, he was also an outstanding Statesman. His Confederation of Tomorrow Conference was about two things: leadership and dialogue.

He was replaced by Bill Davies as Premier. Davis was a little on the bland side but he represented what the province was at that time. The changes he made to the province’s education system is something we are still benefiting from today.

Bill Davis had problems learning how to balance a budget; never really did learn.

Bill Davis had problems learning how to balance a budget; never really did learn.

His brilliant decision to cede a couple of metres of the Spadina Expressway stopped that road driving into the center of Toronto.

Ontario had good government – we were all well served. Think really hard to recall anything that either man did to embarrass the province.

Fast forward to David Petersen. A Liberal; how did he compare with Robarts or Davis ? – not all that good.

From a purely Conservative political perspective – Doug Ford is just not cut from the same cloth that Robarts and Davis came from.

To be completely honest Dalton McGuinty wasn’t cut from the same cloth either.

Wynne Kathleen - looking guilty gas plant hearing

Kathleen Ford will have to give the performance of her political career to win this one. The choice for the public is crystal clear.

Too early to say anything as definitive for Wynne. She realized that Canadians had to save more for their pension years; her push to create a pension fund for Ontario forced the federal government to change the Canada Pension Plan. She was willing to abandon her proposal to create a provincial pension plan when the federal government went along with a deal to make improvements to the Canada Pension Plan.

The way Wynne bird dogged Stephen Harper into meeting with her was impressive. How does the leader of a federal government ignore meeting with the Premier of the biggest province in the country.

Let’s be clear however – Ms Wynne has some explaining to do – how she hopes to get away with presenting yet another deficit budget at the end of the month is a stretch.

Ford Doug

Will Doug Ford be the next Premier of the province?

The point here is – what has happened to the quality of the men and women who put themselves forward as leaders?

The results of the Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership are now official- Doug Ford will lead the Progressive Conservatives in the June election

A John Robarts he ain’t. He has a lot to explain. Has he ever said anything contrite about the much reported drug dealing he was involved in? We don’t believe he has ever said he did not deal drugs.

We hear much about the business successes – the family labeling business is not something he is involved in on a daily basis. He benefits from the profits.

Our issue is not that he is a Conservative – it is that he is Doug Ford.

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Rivers has things to say about how Doug Ford won the Progressive Conservative party leadership

News 100 redBy Staff

March 10th, 2018



Ray Rivers, our political columnist, plays a guitar in a small band and from time to time takes to the stage.

He and I were in pretty much constant contact during the afternoon watching the CBC’s excellent election coverage of the Progressive Conservative leadership contest.

For political junkies it was pure oxygen.

Rivers had to get to the theatre in Oakville where he has a part in a play before he could write his column.

The play, Dead Men Don’t Itch, is nearing the end of its four – day run. There is a Matinee on Sunday – show up and he will autograph your program for you.

Rivers Dead Men

Rivers performs on stage on a ‘noir’ comedy.

His column should be up for you on Sunday – assuming Ray remembers to set his clock ahead one hour.

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TRANSIT: Without a commitment to Transit, and the will to fund it properly, little wonder transit in Burlington is where it is today.

opinionandcommentBy James Smith

March 10th, 2018



It’s very refreshing to see both a City Manager and a Transit Director with a commitment to Transit after decades of administrative incompetence and political dogmatic undermining of the file. While competent management is welcome it will take citizens committed to having new civic leadership with some vision and spine this fall to really improve transit.

Perhaps if folks decided it was time for most of the tired old fogeys on city council to retire; real change might come to transit in Burlington. Hope springs eternal for competent civic leadership, but history is a cruel master.

Bfast Transit group logo

Burlington’s Friend and Supporters of Transit has been a consistent and positive voice for better transit. They did more to make the issue public than the Transit service did.

The challenge for all cities right now on the transit file is confronting the big lie of “doing more with less” that has become gospel. Municipal councils will claim to keep their taxes to the rate of inflation. Sounds good, nobody wants to pay more taxes, but the largest single budget envelope under municipal control, police budgets, continue to expand. The obvious result is every other item faces a cut to service as other wages, fuel and capital costs continue to rise.

Without a commitment to Transit, and the will to fund it properly, little wonder transit in Burlington is where it is today. Burlington has dishonestly claimed for years that it has “kept taxes low”, while seeming true on the surface this is the result of Burlington getting a free ride from the Region’s budget take of massive, one time, development charges from the rest of Halton. These development charges continue to pay for services in Burlington keeping tax increases artificially low.

Cities such as Burlington could potentially be entering into a very dark period, not just for transit but for all city services. There is a very real chance the Conservatives may come to power at Queen’s Park. There’s no coincidence that a lost decade of transit in Ontario was the direct result of the hit transit took during the Harris/Eves administration. Provincially it has taken more than a decade to fix many files that were cut or ignored during that time, this is especially true in the case of transit. Part of the likely Conservative agenda is the big lie that “tax cuts will spark the economy”.

So read this as Conservatives cutting funding for many programmes, will transit escape the knife? Look at their leadership hopefuls and their track record.

Spicer + Ridge

City manager James Ridge with former Director of Transit Mike Spicer at an event organized by citizen transit advocates. Spicer resigned as Director not that long after this picture was taken.

In the past few years, Ontario has had a government that’s at least has claimed to have been committed to transit and has gotten the province back in the game. Given Burlington Transit has just managed to kept the lights on under this regime it begs the question: How bad will it get for transit with a Provincial administration that doesn’t have this commitment to Transit? How bad will it get for transit if we have a provincial government that denies the validity of climate change science?

How bad will it get for transit with provincial leadership hopefuls who think of transit as the enemy of drivers? Given the city of Burlington’s track record on transit, and the potential of a conservative provincial government, I suspect that the light seen from the new city manager and new transit management at the city of Burlington is that of an oncoming freight train; no passengers allowed.

jamessmith(James is an award winning Contract Designer, Past member of BFAST, Co-author of the 2014 Western GTA Move Taskforce Report, and Former President of Friends of Freeman Station. James Smith and his wife were 27 year residents of Burlington and now make their home in Guelph.) Smith ran in the 2014 municipal election against Paul Sharman

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Is anyone listening to anyone else?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

March 9, 2018



“Why don’t you write about what the developers have to say on the growth that is taking place in this city” said a usually reliable source within the corporations that do the building and take the financial risks.

We responded with: The developers tend to be media shy, they don’t think they are going to get a break and their skill set usually doesn’t include much in the way of media savvy.

They build, they know what the rules of the development game are; they understand, in a way that few citizens do, just what the requirements are from the province, the region and the city planning department.

Brant lakeshore - Molinaro b

The height for a future tower went from 22 to 17 then to 15 and then back to 17 at a Committee meeting. It will get settled at the April 4th council meeting when the Planning department hopes to get the Official Plan they have written approved.

There is a property in the downtown core that had a 22 storey height designation, then in a single meeting it went down to 17 because a member of council had said he would clip the height in that part of the city because he had gone along with more height than many expected in another part of the city.

At the same meeting another member of council wanted to clip an additional two storeys off the building.

Developers wonder why they get treated this way.

Our source said the development community can’t have a balanced conversation with groups that don’t want to accept the fact that the city has been told its population must grow.

The developers don’t make the rules. Yes, they do look for ways around the rules – isn’t that what everyone does? When you are filing your tax return – don’t you take advantage of every deduction possible? If you got caught driving too fast and find yourself in a court room – do you not look for a lawyer who can ‘get you off’?

The difficulty the development community has is they haven’t managed to create an image of what they do?

Are they just out there to make a killing financially? Some are.

Are they there to create great communities? Is that there role in society? What do we expect of developers and is our expectation realistic?

Nick Carnacelli

Nick Carnacelli of Carriage Gate

Listen to Nick Carnacelli of Carriage Gate and ask him how he felt when he walked across the street to city hall with a cheque for more than $3 million and at that point he had nothing on the way pf permissions to build anything.

To Grow Bold all the players have to collaborate. That means the politicians have to play their part which isn’t to represent the interests of the developers but to represent the interests of their constituents – the people that elected them.

Those politicians have to hold the Planning department accountable and be prepared to send them back to their desks and re-think the recommendations they are sending the politicians.

Citizens have to inform themselves – understand what is happening and to hold the men and women they elect accountable.

The Planners have to up their game. The Mayor has said every opportunity he gets that the city has run out of space for the traditional single family dwelling with a back yard big enough for a swimming pool. We’ve know this for some time.

Has the city Planning department been grown to the point where it can handle and cope with the need to now deal with high rise developments?  The rate at which development applications are being submitted is swamping the department.

Has the city done any polling to find out just what the people of the city think and feel about growth and where it should take place. If they ever do, or have done, any polling let us hope that they bring in outside third party pollsters and not rely on their in-house questionnaires that don’t reach all that much in the way of population.

The city is at a very critical point in its growth.

The development community has to be more open – it needs to get its story out and defend what they are doing.

There is the chance to get it right – but only if all the players are at the table and only if the level of transparency is higher than it has been so far.

Troubling times ahead, cloudy skies with a silver lining in there somewhere.

Salt with Pepper are the opinions of the Gazette publisher.

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If you can't change the culture and you can’t change the behaviour then the only real option is to change the players. City manager and the Mayor are the lead players.

opinionandcommentBy Stephen White

March 8, 2018



Admittedly I’m not a big fan of the City Manager’s style, but James Ridge isn’t the only problem or the biggest one.

Continuity and consistency is the hallmark of a good organization. If the City of Burlington were a publicly corporation, and that corporation had gone through four CEO’s in six years, someone on the Board of Directors would be asking the inevitable question: why?


City manager Jeff Fielding: About to put his stamp on the way the city has to be run.

Jeff Fielding got an offer he couldn’t refuse – Calgary; the city with one of the smartest Mayor’s in the country.

Roman Martiukformer Burlington City Manager, was often described as someone who thought he was the smartest man in the room - quite often he was and many people couldn't deal with that.

Roman Martiuk a former Burlington City Manager was given a one way ticket out of town.

Patrick Moyle

Pat Moyle came to town to do a job, got it done and went south – it was getting cold.

Turnover is usually indicative of a much broader problem. That, in itself, presupposes an investigation, and truthfully, that is best conducted by a neutral third party who, ideally, would probe for reasons, issues, concerns as well as solutions.

Based on what I have seen a big part of the problem at City Hall comes down to a lack of alignment, a lack of genuine engagement, and a dysfunctional corporate culture. You have a Mayor and a City Manager who, frankly, have a vision that does not strongly resonate with many citizens. Public trust is seriously lacking.

You have a Council with a very broad array of personalities and personal agendas, many of whom have been on Council way too long, are seriously disconnected from mainstream opinion, and often appear to be mouthpieces for special interest groups.

You have a Planning Department spearheading a major initiative that, to put it kindly, has gone seriously awry.

Grow bold - front doorFinally, you have an electorate that is growing increasingly militant and is uncomfortable with not just the vision ( OP, intensification, Mobility Hubs) but with a perceived lack of receptivity and understanding from both elected and appointed officials.

This is not a good dynamic, and it does not bode favourably for those at City Hall. If you can’t change the culture and you can’t change the behaviour then the only real option is to change the players. Since the Mayor and the City Manager set the tone for the organization that’s usually the place to start.

Stephen White is a Human Resources specialist with experience in the finance sector – banking and the civil service – provincial. He is a resident of Burlington.



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''I will tell you an interesting story'' wrote a reader.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

March 7th, 2018



Got another note from another Gazette reader.

“I will tell you an interesting story” he said. “I was on my way into a conference yesterday in the Big Smoke. Went in by GO Train with a colleague who also lives in Burlington. We got into a discussion about the municipal election. This person isn’t particularly political, but what surprised me was how incredibly knowledgeable she was on the election, how well-versed she was about downtown redevelopment, and how passionate she felt about what was happening to the downtown.

City Clock angle looking north on Brant

The Burlington that people like – at least that is what the Gazette is hearing.

“As we travelled between Mimico and the CNE Station we were both aghast at the proliferation of high rises condos. All had the same look, feel and style as what is proposed for downtown Burlington. What stood out for both of us was when we saw a mid-sized building and how unique these seemed. They also seemed to fit into the character of the neighbourhood much better.

Brant lakeshore - Molinaro rendering a

A development idea for the south end of Brant at Lakeshore. Those two towers on the left would be opposite city hall.

“Coming home I picked up my car at a GO station and drove past Speers and Kerr Street area on Oakville. I grew up about a mile away from this location. The new condos across from the mall south of the railway tracks look overwhelming. I was astounded by how they dwarfed everything around them. Then I looked at the lower level of the complex. Two proposed businesses are both hairdressing salons…in the same complex no less. Bizarre. Didn’t see a grocery store, or a mom and pop store, anywhere.”

Our reader didn’t seem too happy with what was being developed. Change is never easy to accept.

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Improved transit service will require a political commitment for increased funding.

opinionandcommentBy Doug Brown

March 7th, 2018



The transit survey is not a bad idea – but is a very minor item when so much more is needed.

I believe that the City Manager and new Transit Director are committed to improving transit. However, this will require a political commitment for increased long-term transit funding. Will this be possible given that our council that has consistently cut transit and the City now spends less than one half of the GTA per capita average on transit?


Doug Brown, a relentless advocate for better transit funding is never happier than when he sees a bus – two buses produces a smile.

The analysis that James Ridge, Sue Connor and Colm Lynn presented to Council on September 7, 2017 made a very compelling case for immediate money to bring the transit system up to labour standards and provide better safety and reliability. For the first time in recent years, this council listened and approved the emergency funding.

During his September 7 presentation to council, the City Manager made clear that the emergency funding would still leave Burlington with “a crappy system” i.e. with low service levels and long wait times – but at least it would run on time and within provincial labour standards.

So what is really needed now is a comprehensive transportation study that will look at all aspects of transportation, roads, cars, transit, walking, cycling, parking, and development. This study should develop alternative options and evaluate the alternatives against economic, social and environmental criteria. Unfortunately, this is not happening as plans for transit, roads, parking, and cycling continue to be developed separately.

The City must begin to look at the cost of transit with regard to all the benefits that a robust transit system would provide – i.e. large savings in road and parking expenditures; improved air quality; improved road safety; improved social accessibility and equity; and savings in private automobile costs.

The economic benefits of transit have been documented in a number of Canadian studies. A national study of the economic benefits of transit concluded that municipalities could make no better investment than in transit with “a rate of return of at least 12% if not more.” A recent study in Hamilton showed significant economic benefits from transit investments, while in Waterloo Region, their transportation plan determined that a transit-oriented scenario would provide more economic, social, and environmental benefits than the car-oriented scenario.

The financial case for better transit has been clearly demonstrated. The question is not whether we can afford better transit, but whether we can afford not to invest more in transit.

Will “Canada’s Best Mid-Sized City” continue to have a “crappy” transit system or will we build a good transit system to provide accessibility for all our citizens, and make the City truly a liveable, walkable, community.

Doug Brown has been a transit advocate for decades and is a founding member of Bfast: Burlington for Accessible Sustainable Transit

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Rivers: Health care in Ontario - is it meeting the needs? Would a different government make it better?

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

March 5th, 2018



Keeping ourselves healthy is important. Part of that involves getting well again should we get sick. Enter single payer health insurance – the only efficient way to deliver health care. John Robarts gave us OHIP back in the late sixties with a little help from the federal government. Then Bill Davis added a senior’s drug plan in 1972.

ohipplusLast year the Kathleen Wynne government introduced OHIP+, a pharmacare program to ensure that no child got left behind because of affordability. And that perhaps prompted the federal Liberals to decide the time was right for a national universal plan. In any case it was an obvious choice for Mr. Trudeau to ask Ontario’s health minister, Eric Hoskins, to head up a consultative process with the provinces, territories, health experts and communities on how best to proceed.

Canadians have one of the better health care systems anywhere, and it will only get better with the addition of a single payer drug plan. Oh sure Americans like to talk about our waiting lists for elective surgery, but at least all residents here have access to care. And if we were to double our health budget, the equivalent of what Americans pay per capita, those waiting lines would be a lot shorter. But most importantly, we sail past the US when it comes to health outcomes. We have lower infant mortality, are generally healthier and we outlive them.

Coal fired generating plant - Nanticoke

The last coal fired generating plant in Ontario

The Liberal government in Ontario started to phase out dirty coal electricity plants soon after coming to power in the early 2000s. Between 2006 and 2015 smog-causing nitrogen dioxide emissions dropped by 32 per cent, sulphur dioxide by 48 per cent, carbon monoxide by 53 per cent, and fine particulate matter by 25 per cent. Despite population growth and an increase in the number of motor vehicles on Ontario’s roadways, the air above our cities, like Toronto, is cleaner than we’ve seen in our lifetimes.

According to the Ministry of Environment…“There were no smog advisories issued in 2015, compared with 2005 when there were 53 smog days. Based on the Air Quality Health Index, the province’s air quality was rated in the low risk category for 90 per cent of the year in 2015.”

And Ontario’s carbon ‘cap-and-trade’ system, which started last year, will continue to deliver that kind of good news.

The province estimates that improved air quality is saving over $4 billion annually in health care costs. But then the provincial auditor general estimates that moving to green energy has cost almost forty billion over the past decade or so. That would be a wash – except that these are all mostly hypothetical numbers, the kind accountants and economists like to fiddle with as they make their political arguments. What matters most is whether our quality of life has improved and whether we can afford this improvement in air quality in the face of increases we’ve seen in the cost of hydro.

smoking - public place

Smoking in public is getting harder and harder to do – unfortunately it is the younger people taking up the habit.

The Liberal government also fought an uphill battle banning smoking in public places and restricting toxic lawn pesticides. We all understand the health benefits of not smoking, though pesticides are less well understood when it comes to their relationship to diseases like asthma and cancer. But a recent Conference Board report recognizes Ontario with the lowest rate of respiratory mortality in Canada, despite having the most concentrated population.

OHIP+ is estimated to cost roughly half a billion dollars a year. And the province claims to be running a balanced budget even without the kind of without additional federal finding we might expect coming out of the new federal initiative. The provincial NDP have yet to release their election platform though Andrea Horwath, supportive of OHIP+, has mused about implementing a universal program.

None of the PC leadership contenders have committed to continuing the OHIP+ program, let alone any expansion of it. The platform passed by the party last November does speak to continuation of the Liberal initiated program, but the candidates have been careful to avoid adopting a platform which also contains plans for a $4 billion dollar carbon tax.

That is troubling on a number of fronts, particularly since at least a couple of the candidates have talked about also killing the cap-and-trade program which reduces other air borne pollutants associated with the combustion of fossil fuels in addition to CO2. In fact the preoccupation of the these candidates is with the conflicting goals of tax cuts and debt reduction.


The current cap and trade CO2 emissions program pumps tens of millions into the provincial economy. If cancelled where would funds for health care come from?

And that means that money will need to be found elsewhere to satisfy these goals, most likely in the most expensive part of the budget – health care. There already was a financial hole in the Patrick Brown platform – right smack dab in health care. So it would not be unrealistic to expect Ontario to opt out of any national universal pharmacare program should the PC’s win the election later this year, and maybe even shelve OHIP+.

It’s politics too, as we witnessed by the confrontational attitudes permeating the last PC candidates debate. Why would a Tory government in Ontario agree to anything a Liberal federal government wants to do. Even if, in the case of a carbon tax, the money stays in the province. In Brown’s platform the money would have been returned in lower income tax rates for the middle classes – revenue neutral.


The Harris government took millions and millions out of education and health care – it took decades to restore those services.

We have seen this movie before. It was the late ‘90s and Ontario took Mike Harris at his word, having come to office with a promise not to touch health care, and then desperately looking at the health budget to pay for his income tax cuts. He closed hospitals, fired nurses, and threw the entire system into chaos.

Ontario moved to the back of the line in health care, owning the longest surgery wait times in Canada. Gurneys stacked up in hospital corridors as we watched our loved ones suffer in despair. Heart patients were literally dying waiting for surgery and cancer patients had to be bused to Buffalo for radiation treatment. Let us never go back to those days.

Rivers hand to faceRay Rivers writes weekly 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:


Health Report Card –    Canada’s Rank –    Cost Effective Care

OHIP+ Details –    Hoskins –    Ontario’s Plans –    Conference Board

Ontario Climate Change –    Canada vs USA –   OHIP+

Ontario’s Cap and Trade

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Mayor Goldring uses the Spectator to tell Burlingtonians his take on the new Official Plan. Does not publish the opinion on his blog.

opinionandcommentBy Staff

March 4th, 2018



In an opinion piece published in the Saturday Hamilton Spectator, Mayor Rick Goldring said:

“The City of Burlington has had many Official Plans, but none have received as much attention as our current draft Plan that council is set to adopt in April.”

The Spectator has very limited circulation in Burlington. The Mayor has yet to post the opinion to his blog

The opinion piece set out below:

Flood Goldring with chain of office

Mayor Goldring speaking to media during the 2014 flood. It was the first time we saw the Mayor wear his Chain of Office outside the Council Chamber,

“City building is constantly evolving, and we all want our city to grow thoughtfully and carefully” said the Mayor who went on to say that “ City Council is no different.”

“As mayor, I certainly want what is best for the entire community. I hear from residents that they want a more vibrant downtown and are supportive of the protection of our rural lands and those who are concerned about the future of our city.

421 Brant

The high rise was approved by city council on a 5-2 with the Mayor and Councillor Meed Ward voting against the project.

“This was most apparent when late last year City Council approved a 23-storey building across from City Hall at 421 Brant St. I voted against this development for three reasons; it is the wrong location for a 23-storey building, where the adjacent roads are narrow, this approval would lead to similar requests for similar height, and from a policy perspective, this was inconsistent with the proposed 17-storey limit identified in the City’s earlier draft Downtown Precinct Plan.

“While residents are trying to digest this decision, we were recently informed of the decision by the Ontario Municipal Board to approve the ADI development at Lakeshore Road and Martha Street. The board sided with the proponent on a proposed 26-storey high-rise plan. Again, in my opinion, this is the wrong location for the height of the building, and I am very disappointed that the OMB did not prefer a height that was comparable or lower to those in this area.

“It is more important than ever that we approve our new Official Plan. The city’s current Official Plan is out of date and doesn’t conform to provincial policy which is one of the significant reasons why the OMB did not agree with the city’s opposition to ADI’s 26-storey proposal. Clearly, our current Official Plan is unacceptable in planning for an Urban Growth Centre.

Rendering with Bake Shop

409 Brant is on the south side of James street – across from city hall. They have tucked two “historical” properties on the south end – next to what will become the Downtown mobility hub to give the application some credibility.

“With two tall buildings recently approved in the downtown, I understand why residents feel anxious about what is going to happen in the future. I disagree with the decisions to allow the 23 and 26-storey downtown buildings. However, I am supportive of well-planned and justified intensification in appropriately targeted areas of our city.

“Burlington is not an island unto itself. We are part of the Greater Hamilton Toronto Area that currently has 7 million people and will grow to 10 million within 23 years primarily because 40 to 50 per cent of newcomers to Canada want to live in this area. We must accommodate our share of growth.

“We also need to be realistic and acknowledge that Burlington is a highly desirable place to live with an amazing waterfront and rural areas that includes the Niagara Escarpment, great neighbourhoods, wonderful festivals and events that contribute to the creation of an inclusive and caring community. In addition, interest rates are low, undeveloped land supply is depleted, and single family house prices are high. This has made condominium apartments an attractive housing form to all demographics for different reasons.

“It is simply not true that we will have tall buildings at every corner of our downtown. It would be wonderful to protect our downtown and limit growth to exclusively low-rise buildings, but this approach is simply not realistic. By only allowing low-rise buildings, we are making downtown very exclusive to those that have significant wealth.”

“After listening and considering input from residents, Burlington City council made many important amendments to the proposed new Official Plan. We reduced permitted heights and increased building separations, and heritage building preservation is addressed.

“Once the high-level vision of our new Official Plan is approved, we can get to work completing the details to be included in area specific plans. City staff is currently working on new transportation, transit, cycling and parking plans. We will dramatically improve our transit system to provide reliable and frequent service along our key areas, including our GO stations.

Goldring - Christmas picture

The photograph was provided by the Office of the Mayor – it was used for his 2015 Christmas card.

“I am confident that Burlington will successfully evolve to meet our growing population and economic needs. We will be champions for great design and continue to give careful attention to all the important city building details that have made Burlington the city we are so proud of. We need to plan for our children and grandchildren so that Burlington is an inclusive, environmentally and fiscally sustainable city for generations to come.”




Related articles:
Meed Ward on why the draft Official Plan needs more time before it is approved.
Jack Dennison on why he is going to vote for the draft – with some changes.

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