Changes in a transit policy that has failed residents for more than a decade could be in the wind. Bfast Forum Saturday could be where some of the needed change takes place.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

April 17th, 2018



Stephanie Mah was completing a Master of Planning in Urban Development at Ryerson University and chose a Ride for Free program that had been initiated by Oakville Transit in Oakvlle Ontario.

In her Masters Thesis she said the “research investigated the Ride for Free Public Transportation program for seniors in Oakville, to understand their travel behaviour and  to understand their perspectives towards taking public transportation.

While 63% of seniors in Oakville said that the Ride for Free Transit Program did not impact their travel behaviour, 37% said that it increased their public transit use. The most popular reason for seniors to use public transportation was taking it by themselves.

Some interview respondents said that they used public transportation because they would not have to ask others for rides or they did not have access to a car. Seniors suggested that more education of how to use the bus and transfer could increase senior ridership. This research may aid other municipalities considering similar programs, which could help to sustain the independent mobility of seniors.

Jim Young who was a member of the Burlington Seniors Advisory Committee, a group that advises city council on matters related to seniors, took the Mah research and prepared a proposal that he then took before city council as a delegation.

He proposed putting seniors on the mostly empty buses on Monday’s as a major first step to improving life and health for seniors. “It will help the city to achieve its transit utilization goals at a cost that is much less than the revenue loss” said Young who argued that allowing seniors to ride the buses during off peak hours will have a positive effect on the economy and well-being of the entire city.

Jim Young

Jim Young delegating to city council.

In his delegation Young added: “Discussion of this topic tends to return to the issues of cost and why a program only seniors and Split Passes users in need. The cost to put seniors on off peak buses from 10.00 am to 3.00 pm is the loss of revenue from present seniors fare during those hours. It amounts to between $48,500.00 per year and $72,750.00 depending on the rate of uptake.

“This is less than the amount of one senior’s lifetime city tax contributions. It is 1/10th of 1% of all taxes paid annually by Burlington Seniors. It is ¾ of 1% of Burlington Transit operating budget.

The subsidy from federal and provincial gas taxes works out to approximately $0.69c per passenger journey for Burlington. In 2015 Burlington seniors made 191,000 journeys. If free transit for seniors caused a 50% increase in ridership the increase in gas tax funding would amount to $66,000.00 which means that the free transit plan for seniors could pay for itself if properly implemented and utilized.”

Transit - Oakville data

Data from the Oakville 13 week Free Monday transit pilot program.

In her thesis Mah reported that survey results suggest that most seniors drive to participate in day-to-day activities and only a small proportion take transit. The survey found that most seniors in Oakville relied on the automobile as their main mode of transportation with 43.5% of seniors stating that they used the car at least five times or more a week and 34.5% of seniors stating that they never used public transportation. The pattern is similar to what has been reported in other studies. A high percentage of seniors (67.8%) had access to a car as a driver, and 60.3% had access to a car as a passenger.

Oakville implemented a 13-week “Free Transit for Seniors” Pilot Program for seniors over 65 allowing for free travel at no cost on Mondays. The Pilot Program results reported that senior ridership increased by 578% or by 12,917 trips on the same Mondays in 2011 (shows the dramatic increase of senior trips over the course of 13 Mondays from 2007 to 2012 (Oakville Transit, 2012) highlighting the positive impact of free transportation on senior ridership.

Young wanted the city of Burlington to pilot the Free Monday concept. Council did not take up the idea. The debate over possible Free Monday transit took place at the same time Burlington prepared to spend more than $200,000 on a pilot project to add bike lanes on new street and reduce vehicle traffic to just two lanes.
The Road Diet pilot was as close to a municipal disaster as one could get – except for the cost of the Pier.

Transit - group in breakouit

Transit users at Breakout sessions at 3rd annual Transit Forum.

Bfast is holding their 4th Annual Transit Forum at a time when transit is getting more attention, a little more money and now has a Director of Transit who brings real transit experience and a well-earned reputation for growing transit services to meet public needs.

Hopefully the Oakville experience and the change in attitude towards transit will give the Oakville idea and the Jim Young proposal a second listen.

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

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Resident worries that 'exceptions' in the draft Official Plan will become the rule and that single family neighbourhoods will be at risk to unwanted intensification.

opinionandcommentBy Tom Muir

April 16th, 2018



I have been wondering about what has happened to the issues and motions raised by Councillor Meed Ward about clauses in the draft Official Plan (OP) that appear to open low density, single family neighborhoods all over the city to intensification despite repeated assurances to the contrary.

This OP process, and development applications and approvals, has seemingly endless findings, not to mention actions, revealing deviations from what residents have been told will be, and not be, permitted.

The Mayor, Ward Councillors Craven, Sharman, Dennison, Taylor, Lancaster, and Meed Ward of course, Planning Director Tanner (now Deputy city manager) City Manager Ridge, have over and over, in numerous forums, assured residents that existing single family, low density residential neighborhoods are protected from intensification under the proposed new Official Plan. And that only 5% of the city would be affected.

St lukes emerald precinct 1

Residents worry that exception in the draft Official Plan might allow for a level of intensification in their community they don’t want.

I have heard this so many times that with this revelation about these clauses, and that there has been no explanation from the Planners and City about these issues, I have lost trust in this process. It seems like you can’t believe anything we are told.

Councillor Craven has told me and other residents, at his Ward 1 meetings, that low density family neighborhoods are protected more times than I can count.

Will Craven support a Meed Ward motion to strike the relevant clause(s) from the OPs?

I think that overall, clauses that permit this intensification in single family, low density neighborhoods are in both the existing and proposed OPs .At first these permissions were reported as a change and addition only in the proposed OP, compared to the existing OP.

I believe that when fact-checked, the truth of the matter was reported as pertaining to both.

How was this missed by planning in the first place? This oversight, just makes the point even more glaring.

How can this be despite all the assurances that these neighborhoods were protected – that residents have been repeatedly told this will not be allowed to happen

St lukes emerals precinct 2

What would intensification do to streets like this?

Official-Plan-Binder_ImageI am requesting that you provide answers to the following questions;

1. How many “Notwithstanding” sections, that can act as backdoor, or default, loopholes are there in the draft proposed OP, and in the existing OP? These can override the general rules and permissions, and void the OP intent.

2. How many “Site Specific – Exception” permissions, that allow for variances from permitted OP and zoning specifications are there?

I noted this concern in my last submission on the OP to Committee.

In my review of development applications, particularly for Plains Rd. in Aldershot, I see that the “Site Specific – Exception” clause has been applied several times to try and justify a number of significant variances. The most recent include the Solid Gold and the Home Hardware – Bingo site applications. There are others.
Someone needs to do a Word search of the OPs to look for these two terms.

Better yet, the City Manager, Deputy City Manager, Planning Department Director, and the Mayor, as owners of what appears to me to be this inconsistency between words and actions, must direct the Planners to do this Word search and make public the extent to which these two terms of permissions exist in both OPs, and the extent that these permissions can undermine the promises of protection repeatedly made to existing single family, low density neighborhoods.

This is something I believe to be the responsibility of Planning to provide as part of their professional duties to provide the public and Council with all the information relevant to the OP debate and decision-making.

I look forward to your prompt reply, answers and explanation.

Muir with pen in handTom Muir is an Aldershot resident who has been a frequent critic of both the process and content of the draft Official Plan.

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Rivers on the budget

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

April 13th, 2018



After finally balancing the budget why are the Liberals now taking us back into the red? The liberal bible on economy was written by the English economist John Maynard Keynes, widely quoted as one who prescribed borrowing (run a deficit) in a recession and pay it back (run a surplus) in a boom.

Ontario was in a bad way following the 2008 market collapse, so borrowing to restart the economy was essential. And the medicine worked and today the Liberals can take pride in having delivered the lowest unemployment rate in almost two decades and a growth rate second to none among G7 economies. And they got to a balanced budget two years in a row.

ONdebt_chart 1


So what is with this projected deficit in their latest budget? And why a list of public goodies including:

1. Continued free university for students in need;
2. Full pharmacare for youth and now seniors;
3. Free preschool for two and a half year olds;
3. Money for hospitals to reduce wait times;
4 Dental and drug care for those who can’t afford it;
5. More senior places; and
6. More transportation including a high speedToronto/ Windsor link.

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.

This is a huge social contract, second in history only to John Robarts introducing OHIP. And if a single payer system works for OHIP, providing low cost health care, the argument goes that pharmacare, pre-school and other social programs would work that way as well. After all you pay for these services one way or another if you or your loved ones use them.

Skeptics say the Premier is just buying votes with the voters’ own money. That would be a valid perspective for a libertarian – those who hold that government should be as small as possible, the cost of government and taxes as low as possible and everyone fend for themselves – the so-called right wing perspective.

So this upcoming provincial election will be a contest of ideologies. Doug Ford having upturned Patrick Brown’s red Tory vision and now campaigning to wind back government, slash social, health care and environmental programs… and spending. Meanwhile the Liberals and NDP will be promising to further expand the social safety net.

Most Ontario voters are modern progressives who appreciate the way our society has evolved and how we help each other, even if we occasionally grumble about getting the short end of the stick. In our first-past-the-post electoral system with two centre-left parties competing for the largest portion of the vote, the single party on the right can slip up the middle to win a majority of seats.

Tim Hudak - with flagTo avoid this from happening the Liberals have typically relied on strategic voting, whereby solid NDP supporters vote Liberal just to keep the Tories from winning. And their biggest asset is an extreme right wing leader, like Tim Hudak in the previous election – and possibly Doug Ford in this one.

Of course the strategic voting could go the other way, particularly as the Liberals have been in power for almost two decades and their leader is facing a combination of general voter fatigue and discontent over her style. She needs to outflank the NDP, and has obviously anticipated that their election platform would also encompass a package of rich election promises. Ergo the 2018/2019 budget.

It’s the same playbook Mr. Trudeau used in his last campaign. While the Tories and even the NDP had been promising restraint and perhaps a balanced budget, Trudeau promised more deficits. His rationale was that, given low interest rates, there was no time like the present to invest in the economy. The public bought his argument, Trudeau won the election and today Canada’s economy, that was tottering on recession under Harper, has been turned around.

Wynne, like Trudeau, has also meddled with income taxes, slightly increasing what the wealthy have to pay and reducing them for the lower classes.  Trudeau had hoped the result would stimulate the economy and shift more of the tax burden to those best able to pay, which it has.

But re-balancing tax points at the federal or provincial level will not pay for new government expenditures.  And as Keynes would tell you were he here, greater spending in a full employment economy carries the danger of inflation – akin to pouring gasoline on a fire.  As we know, where there is inflation, higher interest rates to carry the debt cannot be far away.  So Wynne needs to seriously consider increasing taxes to pay for her new programs.


Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne

Former PC leader Patrick Brown had proposed funding his package of goodies by applying a retail carbon tax, as Alberta and B.C. have done.  Of course that notion has now been retired to the dustbin of PC history, in  exchange for drastic program cuts.   An additional carbon tax would further stimulate Ontario’s renewable energy sector, reduce inflationary pressure and pay for the expanded social services in Wynn’s budget.

Even in an election year we need to pay the piper or suffer the consequences of an outstanding liability.  And that means raising the money now rather than just leaving more debt for our children.  Pay as you go is a gutsy move for any politician, even if it means being labelled as just another ’tax and spend Liberal’.

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:

Ontario Budget –   More Budget –    Ontario Debt

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Resident takes a dim view of the community benefits proposed by the developer and agreed to by the Planning department.

opinionandcommentBy Gary Parker

April 13th, 2018



In preparing to delegate on this issue I carefully read section 1.8 of the new OP which covers Community Benefits. I could find little in that document that exactly fits the agreement you’re being asked to approve tonight.

However the verbiage in this section is vague enough to allow for a wide scope of interpretations. In fact you could interpret the wording in this section in a way that would qualify even the most obscure contribution as an indirect benefit and that appears to be what has happened here.

421 Brant

The development has been voted on – 5-2 for the 23 storey tower opposite city hall. Residents are now gulping at the benefit package to the city for all the additional height.

Despite that ambiguity the underlying concept that the benefits should be proportional to the added height or density is made very clear. It’s also clear that the monetary value assigned to indirect benefits should reflect their real contribution to the community. It is in this area that I see major faults in this proposal.

To determine a rough estimate of what should be offered to the citizens of Burlington I used Mayor Goldring’s approved amendment to the new OP that stipulates 8 additional parking spaces or 190 sq. metres of commercial space per floor of height beyond the ‘as of right’ limit – in this case 17 storeys. How that applies to this already approved development is not clear to me but a calculation based on that formula using Carriage Gate’s own estimate of a $50,000 valuation per parking space tells us that the developer should be liable to provide over 2 million dollars in public benefits.

No exact dollar figure is available for the alternative of commercial space but based on land economics and the per storey formula, the value associated with that option is certainly close to a million dollars. The package of community benefits claimed in the document to be voted on totals 1,775,000 dollars.

That amount would represent a fair compromise if all the benefits claimed were properly priced, but in my opinion, they’re not. In fact a reasonable accounting of the benefits in the listing amounts to only $500,000, more than a million dollars less than what’s being claimed. So let’s look at what our planning department has agreed to for this benefit package:

To assist with affordable housing, a discount of $300,000 to be used against the purchase price of up to 10 dwelling units within the subject development, or an equivalent cash contribution to the city.

While we would prefer to see a real community benefit equivalent to any amount of cash, this is at least a measurable benefit assuming of course, we take the cash. Interestingly this concession by Carriage Gate represents the same amount it paid in lieu of meeting its commitments on its Berkeley development.

One (1) publicly accessible car share parking space (indirect non-cash benefit assessed at
$50,000) and a car-share vehicle for a minimum of two years (assessed at $50,000)

What possible benefit does the community at large derive from this one vehicle and its parking space? If it represents a benefit at all that benefit is being provided not for the public, but for the eventual residents of this building?   The $100,000 assessed in this category should not be recognized.

UW crowd at civic square

Civic Square

$50,000 contribution towards the future expansion of Civic Square

Is this potential expansion a reference to the next point which describes the set back at the north east corner of Brant and James? We need to be told specifically how this expansion is to happen in order to assess whether this money really qualifies as even an indirect CB.

And while on the subject of the contribution the set back and its purported enhancement of the civic square is to provide I draw to your attention to the architectural rendering of the Carriage Gate building and surrounding area. Appreciating that these renderings are by nature glorified versions of the eventual reality, this one is particularly flattering to the project.

Where’s The Traffic?
Presented as it is, it conveys the impression that our civic square extends to the local horizon at the base of the Carriage Gate tower.

Unless we’re planning to deny vehicle access to this busy intersection the reality is that there is no real  connection between these two spaces other than on the few days Brant Street is completely shut down.
◦ public access easement for lands located at the northeast corner of Brant Street and James Streets, the minimum dimensions of which are in the form of a triangle measured at 16m by 16m (128m2) (indirect community benefit assessed at $75,000)

This project was approved by city council in large part because of this very easement. Its inclusion was part of the ‘lesser evil’ rational our planning department used to recommend that approval. Now we are being asked to include it as a community benefit? The $75,000 assessed here should be removed.

Eight (8) visitor parking spaces (indirect community benefit assessed at $400,000)

The ratio for parking per unit in this building is already constrained so competition for these 8 spots will be intense. I would suggest that the approval for 23 stories would never have been granted if the developer had indicated it would not provide sufficient visitor parking spaces.

My own research indicates that, at least in the world of rental apartments, noise complaints are the most numerous followed by the issue of the building’s residents parking in already limited visitor spaces. This is to be a condominium complex but can we not expect the same scenario here?

To suggest that providing 8 visitor parking spots for 8 people from our community of over 180,000 residents that might be available if they ever chose to visit here and value that access as an indirect benefit to our community valued at $400,000 makes absolutely no sense!

Remembrance Day wreaths - dozens at cenotaph

Remembrance Day wreaths at the cenotaph.

Increased building setbacks, including widened sidewalks on Brant Street, James Street, and John Street, and view corridors on Brant Street and James Street to City Hall and the Cenotaph (indirect community benefit assessed at $250,000)

Again, these are factors that have already made their contributions in the context of why a 23 storey building was approved on this site. How many times does a developer get credit for committing to the same thing? This $250,000 of indirect benefits should be removed.

$150,000 towards the public art reserve fund to be used within the publicly accessibly privately owned easement area referred to above and/or in the future Civic Square expansion

This benefit potentially benefits both parties. Therefore only 50% of the donation should be allowed at least until we know where this piece of art will be located.

Implement green technology and sustainable architecture elements into the subject property in accordance with either LEED certification standards and/or compliance with the City’s Sustainable Building and Development guidelines (indirect community benefit assessed at $300,000)

How is being ‘in compliance’ with established standards a community benefit. Once again, the use of green technology for this building was sold to city council as part of the approval process and does not fit the definition of a community benefit. This represents another $300,000 that should be eliminated based on a true assessment of its contribution.

Implement City of Burlington Streetscape Guidelines Standards within the Brant Street, James Street, and John Street public realm areas, including the expanded building setback areas at- grade and the publicly accessible open space easement area outlined above (assessed at $150,000).

Here again we are asked to see conformance with guidelines and creating set backs that were already committed to as additions to what was expected of this development. Another $150,000 of dubious benefits to be removed.

I was in attendance the night city council approved this development. I came away from that meeting with a clear understanding that the approval granted was subject to the provision by the developer of appropriate community benefits beyond what we had been presented with in the rational for approval. In this delegation my aim is to point out to you that most of what you’re now being asked to approve was already recognized as part of the approval process.

There’s is little on offer here by way of direct community benefits and the monetary values assigned to the questionable indirect benefits are grossly inflated. These monies were obviously added in order to meet the percentage value required by the ‘uplift’ formula regardless of their merit!

I would also point out that those championing the Reserve Properties proposal that seeks approval largely based on what was accepted at 421 Brant, will be closely watching this process. If the at best dubious benefits and inflated valuations included in this document are accepted I would suggest you can expect to see them duplicated in the future.

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There are direc benefits and there are indirect benefits - the most direct benefit available to voters is the ballot box.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

April 12th, 2018



Mayor Rick Goldring used his blog to comment and explain a Staff Report on the proposed Section 37 Community Benefits for 421 Brant Street.


Mayor Rick Goldring explains the Section 37 deal the city is getting ready to give Carriage Gate.

The Mayor puts his comments in context saying: On November 13, 2017, Council approved applications to amend the Official Plan and Zoning By-law, as modified by staff, to permit a mixed-use development with a height up to 23 storeys at the north-east corner of Brant and James Street across from City Hall.

He adds that he “did not support the approval as I believe the height is excessive for this location.”
Section 37 of the Planning Act is a planning tool which allows municipalities to accept “community benefits” when granting increased density and/or height through a change in zoning or official plan policy.

He then explains that there are direct and indirect community benefits. For many this will be the first time they have heard of that distinction.

A direct community benefit is a monetary contribution.

An indirect community benefit has a public interest but doesn’t involve a direct monetary contribution.

The direct benefits listed below have been negotiated under Section 37 by Planning staff. The indirect benefits were identified as part of the development proposal outlined in the November Planning report in support of the approved 23 storey development.

Here is the list of community benefits that Planning staff are recommending for approval: Three are direct and six are indirect.

Sweet! For who?  The city needs a better negotiator – and having at least something in the way of public participation in this process is a must.

A smart developer would have gone out to the community asking for ideas.

• To assist in the pursuit of long-term affordable housing, the Developer agrees to a discount of $300,000 to be used against the purchase price of up to 10 dwelling units within the subject development, or in the event that a purchase(s) is/are not to occur within the subject development, the Developer agrees to provide the City with a cash contribution of $300,000 prior to condominium registration. [Direct benefit]

• The Developer agrees to provide a direct community benefit of $150,000 towards the public art reserve fund to be used within the publicly accessible privately owned easement area referred to in subsection (v) and/or in the future Civic Square expansion area. [Direct benefit]

• The Developer agrees to provide a direct community benefit of a $50,000 contribution towards the future expansion of Civic Square. [Direct benefit]

• The Developer agrees to provide one (1) publicly accessible car share parking space (indirect community benefit assessed at $50,000) and contribute to the City’s emerging car-share network by accommodating a car-share vehicle for a minimum of two years starting from the first occupancy (indirect community benefit assessed at $50,000), or equivalent.

This might be of some benefit to the people who will live in the building – what about the rest of the people?

• The Developer agrees to provide public access by way of an easement to be registered on title for lands located at the northeast corner of Brant Street and James Streets, the minimum dimensions of which are in the form of a triangle measured at 16m by 16m (an indirect community benefit assessed at $75,000).

Opening up some space is nice – this one sounds more like a direct benefit – could perhaps be a location for an imaginative Pop Up

• The Developer agrees to provide eight (8) visitor parking spaces (indirect community benefit accessed at $400,000).

Great if you are visiting people who live in the building – great sales feature as well.

Remembered, respected

Remembered, respected

• The Developer agrees, and it is enshrined within the amending zoning by-law, that increased building setbacks, including widened sidewalks on Brant Street, James Street, and John Street, and view corridors on Brant Street and James Street to City Hall and the Cenotaph (indirect community benefit accessed at $250,000).

How did this get valued at a quarter of a million dollars?

• The Developer agrees to implement green technology and sustainable architecture elements into the subject property in accordance with either LEED certification standards and/or compliance with the City’s Sustainable Building and Development guidelines (indirect community benefit accessed at $300,000).

Nice for the environment – should be standard on every new building put up in the city.  Not a benefit – a given

• The Developer agrees to implement City of Burlington Streetscape Guidelines Standards within the Brant Street, James Street, and John Street public realm areas, including the expanded building setback areas at-grade and the publicly accessible open space easement area outlined in (v) above (an indirect community benefit accessed at $150,000).

How did the value get determined?  Doesn’t appear as if there was anyone in the room his was negotiated in to speak up for the people.

A government that speaks for the interests of the tax payers would be nice.  Ballot boxes are nicer.

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


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Is there going to be a real election in October and not just a return of all seven incumbents.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

April 11th, 2018



Why now?

And why in the wilds of Aldershot?

MMW speaking Ap 11

Meed Ward announcing her running for the office of Mayor.

Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward announced today that she was going to run for the office of Mayor.

No surprise there – she has been working towards the job since her first successful run in ward 2 in 2010.

She said in an interview that she announced today so that anyone thinking of running for the ward 2 council seat would have some time to get their papers in order and be able to march into city hall on May 1st and file their nomination papers.

Michael Jones, a ward 2 resident, has said he would run for the seat just as soon as he was certain Meed Ward would not be running.

MMW and Leah Reynolds

Marianne Meed Ward and Leah Reynolds

Ward 1 and 2 school board trustee Leah Reynolds has been seen by some as the heir apparent for the city council seat. When asked recently what her plans were as a trustee Reynolds said she wasn’t prepared to make any comment at the time.

There is a third possible candidate that is keeping her powder dry – but the signs the Gazette is seeing suggest she will run.

There are two credible candidates for the ward 3 seat and a ‘wanna be’ that has run in at least four elections.

There are hints that incumbent John Taylor will resign.

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.

Ward 4 Councillor Jack Dennison

There is now a candidate ready to give ward 4 Councillor Jack Dennison a good run for his money. Expect an announcement on that in a day or two.

No one yet in ward 5, a “possible” in ward 1.

Ken White has said he will run for the ward 6 seat against incumbent Blair Lancaster.

Will it be a different city council on the 23rd of October?

We thought it was going to be difference in 2014 and they all got re-elected, so we too will keep our powder dry.

Why announce in Aldershot?  Meed Ward claims an attachment to the community; her children went to elementary school in Aldershot and she said she felt that Clearview Street was a near perfect example of what is wrong with the changes that are taking place in the city.  The announcement was made on the street

There might also be some truth that she chose ward 1 to rub it in Rick Craven, the ward Councillor – no love lost between those two.

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

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There are some school board trustees who are at risk in the October municipal. election

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

April 10th, 2018



Of the eleven Halton District School Board trustees, four are elected by the public school supporters in Burlington.

Two of the four are at risk.

Trustees Andrea Grebenc and Leah Reynolds have said they were not prepared to make any comment on their election plans at this point in time.

The Gazette did not get a response from Papin.

Miller in a huddle with Grebenc

Trustee Andrea Grebenc talking to Director of Education Stuart Miller.

Grebenc, who is now chair of the school board, is not likely to be forgiven by the Pearson high school crown for her vote to close the school. She is proving to be a chair with growth potential and a much needed different level of energy.

We will find out if she has the political smarts to come to terms with some very unhappy constituents once the campaign gets underway.  She does have her work cut out out for her

Richelle Papin

Trustee Papin

Richelle Papin has not managed to win the favour of the ward 4 school parents. The fit as a trustee just wasn’t all that good. She may choose not to run again.

Reynolds was seen as the heir apparent for the ward 2 city council seat when (not if – when) Councillor Meed Ward announces she is running for the office of Mayor. The Reynolds star has dimmed recently. If she chooses to run for the city council seat when it becomes available the people in the ward may choose to reward her for the work she did to keep Central high school off the closing list.

MMW + Leah Reynolds

Ward 2 Councillor Meed Ward with Leah Reynolds at Meed Ward’s 2014 election announcement meeting. Reynolds went on to ge elected the trustee for the ward.

She would be re-elected as a school board if that is where she chose to remain – which is probably in her best interests.

There is a much stronger woman that is likely to run for the city council seat – she hasn’t declared yet – and no we are not going to say who it is other than that she could serve the people of the ward and the city rather well

The one star trustee has been Amy Collard from ward 5 – she has been a bulldog in the way she has held the Director of Education accountable. She has been acclaimed each time she ran as a school board trustee.

Collard and Miller

Ward 5 trustee Amy Collard giving the Director of Education a very hard look during the debates on closing high schools in Burlington.

She has expressed some interest in city council – she would certainly give the incumbent Paul Sharman a run for his money.

There are a couple of trustees from the other municipalities in the District that could consider retirement.

All the action isn’t at city hall.

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

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Does a British accent increase the price of a presentation? Find out.


The readership survey will close Friday – at midnight. Takes two minutes to complete.

News 100 yellowBy Pepper Parr

April 6th, 2018



What happens when a couple of “toffs” who both have British accents talk to each other?

You have to watch these two and wonder what music can do to grown men.

Once they get past the music – Paul Copcutt, a personal brand consultant, has a really interesting conversation with James Burchill during one of those Coffee Confidential interviews that Burchill does while tootling about the city in his Smart Car.

Interesting to hear them talk about how they use their accent to leverage their presentations.

Copcutt talks about what a brand is and what it isn’t and Burchill is merciless when he describes how he evaluates the marketing efforts of some corporations. Withering – but very true.

Copcutt throws in a nice little discount for his service near the end of the interview.

Burchill has been doing these interviews for a number of months; worth tuning into.


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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

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

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
<>: host[] 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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