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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Meed Ward sets out her position on the draft Official Plan that is being debated at city hall. Dennison is the only other Councillor to make public comments.

opinionandcommentBy Marianne Meed Ward
Councillor Ward 2
March 4th, 2018


At Planning and Development Committee (P&D) I brought two motions, both lost: one to add the downtown and GO station mobility hubs to innovation districts (currently there is only one innovation district in the OP – the DeGroote School of Business); the second to conduct character area studies for the St. Luke’s and Emerald precincts, as requested by delegates to the P&D meeting. I will be asking for recorded votes on both these items at the March 19 council meeting, and encourage residents to come and speak to them.

St Likes-Emerald precinct

The St Luke’s and the Emerald precincts – on either sode of Brant street are solid residential neighbourhoods consisting of single detached homes with good set backs.

At P&D I also asked for additional information on Clause 8.3.3(1)(b) which will permit townhouses and walk-up apartments in all residential low-density single family neighbourhoods. This in spite of the assurances that growth will not be directed to stable neighbourhoods. If that clause stays in, every neighbourhood in the city is affected.

We will be getting additional information on this clause in advance of the March 19 Council meeting, and I will be preparing to bring a motion to strike that clause from the plan.

Any changes made at the March 19 Council meeting, will be included in the final version of the Official Plan when it comes to Committee April 4 and Council April 23 for final adoption. Residents can attend and register to speak at all three meetings (March 19 council, April 4 committee and April 23 council).

Mobility hubs

It’s worth noting that the three GO station Mobility Hubs are not ready for inclusion in this Plan – yet they will dramatically impact growth in the city: bringing 27,200 people to the Aldershot GO, 22,000 residents to the Burlington GO, and 20,000 residents to the Appleby GO stations. These areas have been under study much longer than the downtown.


Pete Ward recording his wife Marianne filing her nomination papers for the 2014 election. The city clerk advised the Gazette that we were not permitted to take “political” pictures in city hall during an election period.

So why the rush for adoption of the downtown plan? Why adopt an incomplete Plan where major growth areas aren’t included? In addition, delegates to Committee expressed concern that the plan for the GO stations and downtown are just about building buildings, not about building all the community services these new residents need, for example community centres and parks. In response, the city manager suggested that weekly meetings with developers will address that.

For these and other reasons, I don’t support this Official Plan and will continue to work for changes.

Meed Ward made the following comments at the February 28th P&D Committee meeting. Motions approved at the P&D meeting go to a City Council on Monday March 19th.

“I don’t think this Plan is the best we can do for the best mid-sized city in Canada. It’s not visionary. Members of our community, DeeDee Davies in particular, but many others, are challenging us to build community; what we’re looking at in this Plan is building vertical sprawl, and the community hasn’t even weighed in on the Mobility Hubs which will have even more height and density. I suspect that there will be a similar conversation when those three plans come forward as we have had for the downtown.

“Meetings with developers are not going to deliver us the community services and amenities we need in all of those areas including parkland to truly build communities and not just build buildings.

“I am not persuaded at all that adopting this plan in April is going to save us from OMB or Local Planning Appeal Tribunal appeals, and the reason for that is the Adi decision. That decision was argued almost entirely on the basis of what the new LPAT rules are. The new rules require you to conform to provincial policy, and the entire ruling essentially said that the 26-storey building conformed and therefore it was okay.

“That was a wake-up call, that the LPAT is not going to save us and I don’t think us adopting 17 storeys in the downtown core is going to hold at 17 storeys, given that decision.

“The other wake-up call with the OMB ruling was that even though alternative heights were offered – the city offered 11 storeys, another party to the hearings offered 16 – the vice-chair said there was no planning justification for those heights. There was nothing to justify why those were better than 26. And so, in the absence of justification for those heights, she went with 26 because the applicants made a case for it.

“And when I hear delegates coming in front of us saying there’s no planning justification reports of the type that you would see at a hearing that would justify why now all of a sudden we jump to 12 or 11 or 21 or 17 storeys, we are going to be in exactly that same position at LPAT as we were with Adi.

Ward 2 Councillor MArianne Meed Ward made her presence known to Council well before her election to office, the city knew what they were getting and she has delivered on that promise.

Marianne Meed Ward made her presence known to Council as a consistent and persistent delegator. The ward 2 residents knew what they were getting when they first elected her in 2010.

“The studies that have been done for the downtown were not planning justification reports that would justify those heights and densities.

“So I am not persuaded that adopting this plan will protect us from appeals, and that we will win those appeals at the new Local Planning Appeal Tribunal.

“I think we need to slow this process down and get all of our studies in place because those will provide the justification that we need to defend this plan. And until we get those, we’ll not be able to do it.”

Related article:

Councillor Dennison tells why he believes the city needs the draft official plan.


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Burlington BEST nominations extended one week - Jim Young, Deedee Davies and Gary Scobie deserve to be nominated.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Staff

March 1st, 2018



This seems to happen every year – the date for submitting nominations for Burlington’s BEST gets extended.
We never know if there haven’t been enough in the way of nominations or if people need more time to get the paper work done.

If more time is needed – be in touch with the Clerk – she is very good at helping people get all the documentation in place.

If you haven’t thought about who you would want to nominate – look no further that the people who delegated at city council for a slow down on the rate at which the city is proceeding with adoption of th draft Official Plan.

The delegations done by Jim Young, Deedee Davies and Gary Scobie are amongst some of the best we have heard.  These people don’t have an axe to grind – they are informed and speak intelligently and with passion about the city they live in and care about.

The are the E in the word engagement.

They understand that what happens to the downtown core impacts everyone.

2017 Best winners

The 2017 Burlington BEST

The city announced that those wishing to nominate a fellow resident for a Burlington’s Best Award can now do so until Wednesday, March 7, 2018. The original deadline has been extended by seven days.

There are eight award categories:

Citizen of the year
A person whose volunteer activity has made a significant and sustained contribution to the vibrancy and wellbeing of the Burlington community in 2017.

Junior Citizen of the year
A high school student, 18 years or younger who has made a significant contribution to the Burlington community in 2017.

Senior Person of the year
A person, 55 years or older, who has made a significant contribution to the Burlington community and advocated on behalf of seniors in 2017.

Environmental Award
An individual or group that improved and/or protects Burlington’s environment in 2017.

Arts Person of the Year
An individual who has contributed to the arts in Burlington as an artist, patron or advocate including but not limited to, visual arts, media arts, musical arts, performing arts and literary arts in 2017.

Community Service Award
An individual or group whose volunteer activity has contributed to the betterment of the Burlington community in 2017.

Heritage Award
An individual or group who has demonstrated a commitment to the preservation of Burlington’s heritage, and has volunteered their time in an effort to support the preservation of Burlington’s heritage in 2017.

Accessibility Award
An individual, organization or business that has made significant contributions to increase access and participation of people with disabilities in the Burlington Community in 2017.

Jim Young for Senior; Deedee Davies for Citizen and Gary Scobie for Community service.  Just an opinion.

Salt with Pepper is an opinion column written by the Publisher of the Burlington Gazette.


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Rivers suggests there is a pot calling the kettle black on the matter of corruption at the Tory debate for a new leader.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

March 1st, 2018



Rivers suggests there is a pot calling the kettle black on the matter of corruption at the Tory debate for a new leader.

The candidates for the Ontario PC party called the Wynne government corrupt at their first debate and again at the last one this week. When they accused the Liberals of corruption they offered only innuendo to substantiate to those accusations for a Liberal party which has been in power now for a decade and a half.

Tanya Granic Allen

Tanya Granic Allen – best debater but needs more than one issue.

And then Tanya Granic Allen, gave the term real substance as she turned on her own political party, citing why both the PC party and its former leader Patrick Brown were corrupt. Doug Ford raised his concern that there might have been ballot stuffing at one of the nomination meetings he’d attended. And if faking memberships and financial wrong doing is what Patrick Brown had been doing for personal gain or to win the PC leadership, that too would certainly qualify as corruption.

Allen went further, accusing each of the other candidates of doing nothing to stop Brown – alluding complicity, turning the other way, and letting him get away with it. And then she wondered where they had been when Brown had developed a platform, at least some of which they have all rejected a mere three months following its formal acceptance by her party. And where was she?

There was something surreal about this exhibition as the candidates responded to the debate questions emanating from the party membership. For example, everyone complained about the size of the provincial debt, even though they are all planning to run sizeable deficits for at least their first couple of years. And none of them seemed to understand that the province had already balanced its budget, at least as far as official accounts go.

Green house gasses A

All four candidates would dump the mandated national carbon tax and take the federal government to court.

They argued to a person that they’d defy the mandated national carbon tax and would take the federal government to court, as only Saskatchewan has suggested among all other jurisdictions. They all agreed that our climate was changing but nobody had a serious plan to do anything about it. And Ford was vehement that he’d scrap Ontario’s existing cap and trade system which the Trudeau government has accepted as an alternative to a carbon tax.

Allen complained about the high cost of electricity, laying the blame entirely on renewable energy and promising to “rip wind turbines out of the ground” and tear up the green energy contracts. She said she’d read a Fraser Institute report which had convinced her she could do this without encountering any legal or financial recourse. That naive notion was challenged by Christine Elliott, a lawyer by training and former MPP, pointing out that such an action would end up costing even more.

Elliott PC

Christine Elliott, a lawyer by training and former MPP.

A question about the possibility of combining Ontario’s public and separate school systems was met with a big a big negatory (neg-a-Tory) response by everyone by everyone. And Elliott then embarrassed herself by making an unfortunate reference to former leader John Tory’s election loss – which has been attributed to an election promise to fund more, not fewer, separate schools.

Caroline Mulroney - arms crossed

Caroline Mulroney – faltering?

Caroline Mulroney was the lone voice opposed to scrapping the three year old sex-ed curriculum. Mulroney is running third and that is probably where she deserves to be. She may be polished, poised, well spoken, and have a political name, but she suffers from an obvious lack of familiarity with the province and Ontario’s bread and butter issues. She mostly rattled off theory and platitudes, or quoted from the PC platform which the other candidates have largely discarded.

Doug Ford was pointed and cogent for the most part. He made an oblique appeal to the male crowd by claiming that ‘# me too’ was as important for men as for women. But he looked flustered and grumbled when the moderator had to cut him off for taking too long to make his closing remarks.

Ford Doug

Ford made big points taking on Elliott

Ford made big points taking on Elliott about what he saw as her flip-flopping on sex ed and carbon taxes, though she refuted both. And he stuck it to her about working for the Liberal government as its $220,000 per year patient ombudsman. She swung back that she’d been hired by an independent panel, but nobody was buying that smoke. Elliott was a much more confident candidate this debate than before and she should be since she is now roughly tied with Doug Ford for first place.

Watching Tanya Granic Allen was an uplifting experience. She communicates better than all of the other candidates put together – but it is what comes out of her mouth. But then she is really just a fringe one-issue candidate, and fittingly trailing the others in recent polls.

Voting for members starts this Friday and the results of the preferential ballot will be known March 10. Preferential (ranked) ballots can be unpredictable since in a tight race so much depends on second and third choices And nobody knows who’ll receive the votes which might have otherwise gone to Patrick Brown, should his folks vote at all. If the numbers can be believed, there are over a hundred thousand new members which he brought into the party.

Patrick Brown resigning

With supposedly more vote than anyone else in the leadership race but no longer a candidate – the big question is – where are those votes going to go?

But if those Brown supporters do vote, you can be sure it won’t be for Tanya Granic Allen. Her aspersions of party corruption have smeared them as well as their former leader. Brown was not at the debate to defend himself, having dropped out of the race only a couple days earlier.

But, as was obvious to the viewers, the ghost of Patrick Brown was alive and well and he was certainly there, if only in spirit. Even in absentia he was forced to absorb the slings and arrows of this 11th hour coup by his ambitious competitors for the job of party leader. And the repeated references to his presumed wrong doings helped to remind voters about that old adage of pots and kettles. For a party, once known for the professionalism of its Big Blue Machine, this debate was a shameful exhibition of political naivety and cannibalism.

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:

PC Leader’s Debate –   PC Leaders Polling –    Reality or Fiction

Mulroney Walks Away –    Brown is Better Off


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Is immigration the answer: '300,000 new immigrants and half of them are coming to southern Ontario'.

opinionandcommentBy Joseph A. Gaetan

March 1st, 2018


The opinion set out below is one of a series of opinions given to city council during the debate on the status of the draft Official plan.  Links to the other opinions are set out at the bottom of this opinion.

Mr. Chairman, Mr. Mayor, Councilors, staff, fellow citizens, I would like to base my comment today on some of the reasons that were given by council prior to their votes on the Official Plan changes, that took place during the council meeting of January 29 ,2018. As a matter of context, I appeared before you on the matter of the Official Plan on January 23.2018.

I then attended the council meeting of January 29, 2018. What I heard on January 29th was a mixture of rationalizations, opinions, historical anecdotes, and some data. For the record, I do not live in downtown Burlington.

The first comment has to do with Immigration and the statement that, “The federal government is letting in 300,000 new immigrants and half of them are coming to southern Ontario”.

Syrians arriving in Canada

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcoming Syrians to Canada

Population Growth is something our country desperately needs, and immigration is one component of Population Growth. The Stats Canada formula for Population Growth = (natural increase where NI =births-deaths) + (migratory increase where MI =immigration-emigration).

Immigration is not news, according to Statistic Canada our normal immigration since the 90’s has been in the order of 235,000 per year. The Canadian immigration plan going forward sees that going as high as 340,000 by 2020. Compare that to the fact that in 1913, 400,000 immigrants came to Canada at a time when our population was a mere 7 million.

So, while immigration is important to us as a country, Stats Canada states the “observed” growth from 2001 to 2011 was 1.11%, with the “projected” growth for 2011 to 2021 to be in the area of 1.07 %, dropping thereafter to .72% by 2061. That is a serious problem.

Gaeten stats chartWhy? If we compare those projections to the period between 1951 to 1961, population growth during that decade was far greater at 2.67 %, where natural growth was 1.87% and migratory growth was .79%. So, while we seem to be experiencing population growth in this area, the reasons for that have little to do with immigration alone.

The real problem this country and this province will face as we approach 2061 is that the natural increase (births minus deaths) component of population growth will drop to .42 % with the migratory component dropping to .64%. So, Canada is struggling to replace itself and I think we are pinning a lot of hope on a balloon that may burst and that would have dire consequences for Canada, Ontario and Burlington. With that in mind I would like to suggest we take a more conservative approach to our OP and our downtown which includes taking a step back for a few months.

The second comment was “we need assessment now”. The member did not elaborate on what that entailed. Did that mean Burlington will struggle going forward to contain tax increases? Or, did that mean that units that sell at $2 million each, is an easier way to meet our future assessment/spending needs? An answer to that question would be helpful.

John - No frills - laneway

No-frills” is more than a grocery store, it is a meeting place, it is a place where locals meet and chat and laugh in the aisles.

Here is what I do know, both the developers and city win under a scenario where 20 plus storeys developments are built and where penthouse floors sell for between $4 and $8 million per storey. But who and what we lose is the question that is not answered under the OP. For example, under this plan, do we stand to lose the “no frills” grocery store, or Centro for example? No-frills” is more than a grocery store, it is a meeting place, it is a place where locals meet and chat and laugh in the aisles, it has energy and vitality, something that you will not find in the two other grocery stores that people will be forced to shop at if it disappears and no words contained in the OP, such as there will be a grocery presence, will replace what is lost.

The third comment was, “downtown has to take its share too”. The downtown in recent years has shouldered its share of density and when asked the downtown residents and opponents of the OP seem willing to continue take its fair share of growth. Perhaps what is at issue then, is the definition of “its share”? It seems that what that means under the proposed OP, is we will have 23 and 24 storey buildings across from city hall and 17 storey buildings sprinkled elsewhere.

I don’t live in the downtown, but I do believe the pushback you are getting is genuine, grassroots and is not about to go away anytime soon, and not because people are angry, but because the stakes are too high to be ignored.

What I also heard was this plan means “100-170 people will be coming into the downtown on annual basis”. I don’t believe the increase in population growth is the issue, the change in height permissions and the number of tall building is the issue.

I would like to finish with a statement that we can all agree upon and that is “we have to make this decision based on 195,000”. I am here as one of the 195,000 and I would like to see the OP delayed in order to remove the Mobility Hub designation and what that means to the future of Burlington. Finally I heard “deferring challenging and contentious issue is not leadership” and that may be the case, but leadership is also having the willingness to taking a second look at an issue and then having the fortitude to change your mind.

Joseph Gaetan is a retired Burlington resident who lives in the highest condominoum in the city.  He comments in the Gazette frequently.

Related comment and opinion:

Opinion: Jim Young
Opinion: Gary Scobie
Opinion: Lisa Kearns
Opinion Deedee Davies
Opinion:  Jim Barnes


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Deedee Davies: my perception is that you have lost control of our downtown on us.

opinionandcommentBy Deedee Davies

February 27th, 2018


This is one of a series on delegations that were made at a Statutory public meeting on the draft Official Plan now being prepared by staff and debated at council.

Thank you for this opportunity to stand before you and share my thoughts on the latest version of the Plan.

I was not going to come. After you approved the application for 421-431 Brant St at James I was disillusioned by the Planning staff and most of my elected officials. When the 24 storey application arrived a few weeks ago for the other corner I experienced an ‘I told you so moment”. And then when OMB approved the Adi development at Martha and Lakeshore, in part because the city was not averse to height, I threw up my hands in despair – as my perception is that you have lost control of our downtown on us.

Waterfront hotel Taylor

Deedee Davies at a Waterfront Hotel redevelopment meeting with Linda Davies, (no relative on the right) and Councillor John Taylor.

So why am I here? This is YOUR last chance to get it right. If you screw up this opportunity, there is no going back. Downtown will be ruined FOREVER. I am here because I want to tell you what’s missing from the Plan to protect the downtown Burlington I use and love. I know we have to intensify.

However, I feel this Plan is not going to give us what we need. I will lay out my reasons for this concern. I’m hoping my speaking here can lead to improvements. My views are shared by so many other people who are not speaking here tonight. Please don’t let me and them down.


The Ontario Municipal Board made the 26 storey Nautique the new standard for the developers.

I am not going to go on about the heights in the various precincts. I believe they are all much too generous. It will destroy the feel of our downtown, and they are unnecessary for us to meet any of our targets. I’ve said it all before so I am not going to repeat it tonight.

First off, I want to tell you that I read the entire new draft OP. Yes from cover to cover.

Rahoon Perian Eatery in the Village Square won for the Best Overall Display for 2011.

Someone somewhere said that a high rise would be dripped into the middle of Village Square – that got squashed during the council/staff meeting on Wednesday. However, there was a time when the ADI group tried to buy the Village Square from the XX interest. They weren’t able to put a deal together.

I would like to thank you for removing the tower from the centre of Village Square and also for removing the Cannery designation from the NE corner of Brant and Lakeshore.

Chapter 1 talks about the desire to achieve a complete community. This is what I want to focus on tonight. These would include all the amenities needed for residents in the downtown to live, work, and play here. It includes parks, recreational facilities, offices, medical services, daycare, seniors gathering areas, youth gathering areas, and a mix of housing, etc. After reading the entire document, and in particular Chapter 3 on Complete Communities, and then comparing it to the buildings that are coming into our downtown, I don’t see how the two can be reconciled.

If the future means everyone living in towers, how can we replicate the living experiences of what people currently enjoy in neighbourhoods? We need developers in Burlington to include amenity spaces for basketball courts, tennis courts, road hockey rooms, just like they are doing in Toronto, in the latest towers being built there. They also need to build community garden spaces on the sunny side patios or roofs so residents can grow their own vegetables. We need some creativity about what we are expecting from the developers. We know we are going to get the “smooth jazz” pool, bar, and lounge that every developer includes for their hipster clientele. Challenge them to Grow Bold in their design. I spent 35 years in the Federal Government dealing with contractors. I know the games they play. They bargain hard for what they were going to give you anyway, just so you feel like you won something, when in fact you lost, because you gave away more than what you would have got if you hadn’t blinked first.

In Chapter 2 under Population and Employment Distribution, Table 1 shows a population in 2031 of 193,000 of which we are not far off. It also shows an employment target of 106,000 for which we are further off. Why are we focusing so much on residential instead of putting in place policies that will attract employment to our downtown? For a Complete Community, how can we get the Daycare centres, the hardware stores, grocery stores, entertainment venues, that we will need to satisfy the activities of the residents? How can we tailor our specifications so that developers will include these spaces in the towers they propose building? Currently, we are lucky to get one floor of office. The condos will come without trying as they are cheap to build.

As an example in the Chapter 3 Policies you only state you will examine opportunities for partnerships to increase the supply of affordable housing. Why not include a standard of one unit for each additional floor of height granted above what the current zoning is that must be provided to the Region as part of the Community Benefits – similar to what you included for public parking and office space.

Also in Chapter 3 Parks and Open Spaces are addressed. It even states an objective of ensuring an adequate and equitable supply are available throughout the city. And yet Lions Park is showing a designation of half St Luke’s/Emerald Neighbourhood Precinct and half Downtown Core Precinct. That would mean that the neighbourhood could lose the park and potentially gain 2.5 storey and 17 storey buildings. Why is it not protected under the Downtown Parks and Promenades Precinct?

With all the intensity planned for the Downtown Core Precinct, I am surprised there is still no mention of a new park south of James and north of Lakeshore on the east side of Brant. There will be thousands of people moving into this area. If we are looking for Complete Communities, where is the park for this community? Any family in this area would need to cross a major road to reach an existing park. Are the children to play on the new promenade?

In Chapter 6 on Infrastructure and Transportation, it talked about Active Transport for pedestrians and cyclists with such measures as wide sidewalks and barriers to protect cyclists. These are important in our crowded downtown streets. We can’t make the roads narrower to achieve this so we need greater setbacks for the buildings. I didn’t see this proposed anywhere.

Couriers parking

Couriers are going to need places to park when they are making deliveries, taxis will have to park somewhere while waiting for their passengers to arrive.

Chapter 6 also covered Goods Movement. This is critical in our intensified downtown if we want it to function well as we already have problems with most buildings built to their property lines. There are no places for couriers to deliver packages, moving vans to move residents, delivery vans to deliver goods, pick up and drop off places for visitors coming for residents, trades people to make repairs to units, taxis to wait for their fares to arrive. Are they all to double park on the active roadway lanes?

These issues must be dealt with clearly and effectively in our Plan and not left to developers to provide these necessities, out of the goodness of their hearts.

In Chapter 7 under Design Excellence I read all the “Shalls” and was left with the impression we don’t need to award extra height for much if developers complied with all our design excellence standards. Unless these are only our wish list that we get with Section 37. It should be mandatory for buildings to be built to these standards. This is Burlington, folks. Don’t sell yourself short by thinking no one will develop here if you ask for too much. They will come and they will build. Just be clear and firm on everything you want. Don’t give it away. It is too precious.

In Chapter 8 on the Downtown Urban Centre, one of the objectives is to conserve cultural heritage resources and maintain character defining areas. The most significant aspect of our downtown, other than its waterfront and unique shops is the heritage look and eclectic feel of our downtown streets. Yet I don’t see this anywhere in the document. Our shop fronts are unique. There are many heritage buildings that are not yet designated.

City Clock angle looking north on Brant

Just a “dumpy” little town that doesn’t make the best economic use of the land.

Contrast this with developers who want to create their landmark glass towers. Mr. Carnicelli referred to Brant Street as dumpy when we were speaking out about losing the character of Brant Street with new development so you can see they are not going to protect or recreate this aspect. It is up to city planners and Council to embed this in our OP. We can have new heritage look and feel built with the new construction coming.

In the section on the Downtown Core Precinct is states that one additional storey will be granted for every 150 sq metres of dedicated office floor space and every 8 underground parking spaces dedicated for public use. So if they build 150 metres of office space they get an additional 750 metres of residential. These standards are much too generous for what we get in return. Please make it fairer to the city.

In Chapter 8 you also address downtown parking. It says the city will explore opportunities for public private partnerships to expand the supply of public parking. How about just putting it right in the requirements that X number of parking spaces must be provided for public use in relation to the amount of commercial space they have at ground level. End of discussion.

In the explanation of Community Benefits in Chapter 12 you talk about giving extra height, density, or intensity for providing what should be standard in any development proposed for our downtown. A sustainable building? Come on. It doesn’t cost extra to do this stuff any more. It saves money down the road in operations – but then developers don’t care about that stuff because they don’t operate these Goliath’s after they build them. A floor of office – our standards already state some buildings need three uses while others only need two. Make them all three purpose and get something useful for your Section 37 instead.

I’m about out of time, so I hope my thoughts will encourage you to take a bolder stance on what we need to have in our OP to have a better downtown. Please don’t rush this through approval. The Region won’t be considering it until 2019. Take the time to get it right. Thank you for listening.

Related comment and opinion:

Opinion: Jim Young
Opinion: Gary Scobie
Opinion: Lisa Kearns
Opinion:  Jim Barnes

Deedee Davies chaired a Waterfront Watchdog committee for a number of years.  She kept a close eye on who was doing what and held public meetings to keep people up to date.  Should be seen as one of Burlington’s BEST

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Lisa Kearns: We need a complete strategy and we need it before this is voted into law.

opinionandcommentBy Lisa Kearns

February 28th, 2018



Engaged Citizens of Burlington (ECoB) is a not for profit group working towards a better Burlington for generations to come. Working within the civic process, we are particularly concerned with issues of planning and development. The group is energized to bring voices and action to challenges that will affect the quality of life today and in the future, we are advocates for good planning across the entire City.

ECOB Dec 13 #3

ECoB organized the first public meeting and found that they were providing a form for the public to say what they wanted to day.

In the three months from inception, ECoB has held an open meeting, a rally, a municipal elections workshop, hand delivered thousands of flyers, displayed hundreds of lawn signs, received press in no less than four publications, appeared on community television and radio, grown our social media base, delegated, met with provincial and municipal elected officials, city planning, business owners, developers and most importantly residents. The message is clear each time – we can build a better Burlington.

The delegation for PB-14-18 will focus on four matters: ECoB Requests, Public Engagement, Planning & Smart Growth and the vision for Downtown.

As we have listened to and learned from our members, we are using the Engaged Citizens voice to ask Committee to direct Staff to include the following points in the final draft to Council. These can be read, but I wish to highlight a few:

Kearns direct smile

Lisa Kearns

Official Plan is an Election Issue. ECoB questioned the rush for intensification and the tools available to keep it in control. The mayor responded with: “the need for an Official Plan to bring clear expectations to Burlington’s planning – this is what residents have been telling us”. The Mayor states that delaying the Official Plan approval would only create more instances where unexpected outcomes can occur, similar to the reaction which led to the decision at 421 Brant Street.

They mayor further states that the current council has the critical knowledge and understanding of the draft Official Plan and Strategic Plan and that it’s important that they complete this critical work. The question begs to be asked – is this in fact the best council to implement the draft Official Plan? Our trust in this council has been broken the moment 23 storeys was approved at Brant and James – this is why the official plan is an election issue.

A record number of delegations and written submissions indicate the need for a further analysis, peer review, a 3D model, character studies, and audits on the Draft Official Plan. There is little consensus by various stakeholder groups on the adoption of the plan as drafted. It is time to look to an independent third party to provide advice to council on the review and update of the Official Plan – deliverables would include the scope of work outlined in the 2009 Whitby OP peer review.



Public Engagement.
We are told the official plan project captures a significant amount of public engagement since 2012. If so, then how can we be in a place where there is a strong citizen backlash to the draft official plan? If we look to the Engagement Charter, would committee support a rating of “empower”? I refer to the last ECoB delegation: This is too little time for residents to review, analyze and understand this new material – and in response – this is too limited a time for staff and committee to review comments and respond appropriately. Would this be considered an indicator of good planning?

The main source of frustration is the Downtown Precinct Plan – already voted on and brought forward in September, was this the vision for downtown all along and residents were only let in at the last minute.

You have embarrassed and silenced residents presenting a 1400 signature petition, the continued decisions to force excessive height and drive a perfunctory timeline despite citizen opposition tells your constituents that they will simply be informed.

The surveys completed are clear on the allocations for height. Have new surveys been conducted on the draft plan and the locations where height has been identified? We would believe that is a logical follow up once conceptual videos have moved closer into reality.

Is the information presented transparent and accurate? We would have to disagree. It is highly challenging to understand the lines between mobility hubs and the official plan. Renderings are available under one and not the other. This example shows the height of the Brant & James intersection far lower than supported. Are we being misled? With less than a handful of visuals for the future of our downtown, shouldn’t these at least be accurate?

Kearns at podiumThis is not an isolated example, two months before the ADI OMB decision the Bay Observer, published “The Best of Burlington” with content from Burlington and showcased the 26 storey building as a fixture of the waterfront. This is not our waterfront.

And again, the lack of transparency at the Official Plan Open Houses this month. The precinct Plan highlights on the screen had to be asked for at each of the three sessions, these are an outcome from a meeting with ECOB and Planning Staff. Most importantly, why were these never available in the fall?

Land Use Designation:
The numbers before you have been held steadfast by committee – in November we asked for an assessment or audit of how much of the proposed employment and growth uses would be met by the three mobility hubs, not the anchor hub. We were told that there are 1-3 new tall buildings every 10 years. If this is what Planning truly believes, then we are in trouble. There has been a significant uptick in applications, if these cannot be processed within the required time, we will see many more developments than projected. Most of the lands for build out are already unencumbered and Burlington is being sold off before permits are in hand.

We need to look at this growth and be certain that the current designations are not closing the door to smart and optimal growth – and more importantly, that the parts of the city that are working aren’t destroyed. We have a vibrant downtown and growth can also be absorbed through re-designation, deferral or special planning areas in supporting parts of the City. To showcase this, and further to the Burlington Green deputation this afternoon, here is an opportunity to create a complete community near amenities, 1200 m from a mobility hub and close to highway infrastructure – the current lands are employment and as we also heard with Penta this morning these lands need collaboration with the province to ensure that maximum community benefit can be derived from underutilized lands.

Downtown Burlington Brant north from CH

This is a view of Burlington that will not exist in five years.

Vision for Downtown.
Downtown visitors and residents can feel the character of Brant Street, there is a true sense of community, an ethos, a culture and a high quality of life. The people who have worked to build a downtown, a strong downtown community and put Burlington on the map deserve a commitment from the City and Planning that the draft before us will replace this gem with concrete jungle. These corridors do not reflect the character of Brant Street.

ECoB has been asked, what would you like to see? While we have this answer we still strongly believe that the supporting plans should come forward with the official plan.

We have worked across the country with planning departments and compiled some of the best streets in Canada – especially those with a waterfront. The following slides showcase a balance in height and maintaining a more appropriate low density human scale.

Here is a report by Director of Planning Services for the city of Barrie dated June 2013 talking about the height review & tall building principles. They had decided to stick with the principles of the original 1989 height review study “based on the need to balance population growth pressures with the desire to appropriately manage built-form, while protecting the public interests of the city”. A tall building is anything over 3 storeys – any more than that is for maximized profit.

What can we do before it is too late? Recognize vibrancy and the human scale, support evolution through natural redevelopment that is compatible with the neighbourhood, and to champion the mix of older, smaller buildings to support greater levels of positive economic and social activity rather than areas dominated by newer, larger buildings.ECoB req #1

ECoB 2How can we do it? We need a character study for Brant Street and the established neighbour-hoods. We need a peer review on the downtown urban growth area to prevent the risk of excessive build out and intensification – we need to protect the view corridor to the lake and take a balanced and objective approach support a mix of population diversity and the mix of uses that continue to grow the culture of live, work and play in downtown Burlington.

We can do this together when the citizens are empowered within the civic process and Committee and Council listen and engage. We need a complete strategy and we need it before this is voted into law.

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Jim Barnett: This should not be an election issue. It should be a get it right issue. There is still time if you have the will.

opinionandcommentBy Jim Barnett

February 28th, 2018



In past delegations I have pointed out the many shortfalls of the current draft proposal, in particular to the lack of measurable specifics. I have shown that the proposal is an essay on urban planning and it is not a plan on which Burlington can move forward.

The good news is that at a recent council meeting they finally put a number on maximum building height. Seventeen stories. And this can only be achieved with the provision of commercial space, open parking and heritage preservation. Otherwise the maximum is 12 stories!! My question to the mayor” is 17 the max or can staff find “other community benefits” through negation with the developers to increase the height again?” Does 17 stories mean 17 stories max?

This is what happened with the old operating plan. Every development was massaged to give the developers what they wanted. These changes were then used to justify additional changes on other properties and building heights on Maple and Lakeshore rocked skyward, each time setting a new precedent. Soon these ad hoc changes allowed the OMB to rule in favour of the developers and we lost control. Now the planers want to rush us into the new plan saying the current operating plan is not serving us well. They are right, but they are right because they have strayed from the current plan so often that it as emasculated it. Question to the Mayor. What guarantees are you going to write into the plan to make sure that provisions in the new plan cannot be negotiated away by the planning department?


Nautique: The ADI Group development that the city didn’t want – the OMB saw it differently and approved 26 storeys.

In a recent press release ADI has receive approval for 26 stories on Lakeshore. The mayor expressed his regrets and at the same time praised the planning department for all their hard work on the file. How can a department be praised when the results of their efforts are so detrimental to the future of the city?

The downtown is not a mobility hub. The planning there should be quite different from the Mobility Hubs on the Go Train Line. When will this happen?

Question to Councillor Lancaster. You have spoken extensively for the need of affordable housing in the downtown area. What is your definition of affordable housing and how will you deliver the units needed in the down town?

For the mobility hubs and the downtown to be walk able there needs to be grocery stores. Through you Mr. chair, what have the planners done to make sure people can walk to get their groceries in these areas?

Recently a number of council members have said that the proposed plan is not just for now but for 50 maybe 70 years out. This is a classic miss direction to keep us from the important decisions that will effect the next 10 years. We should not let them get away with it. Fifty years from now we may not have enough low cost energy to air condition or heat the 25 story buildings or run the elevators. Lets use our ingenuity to get the near term right.

In my opinion the people of Burlington do not want our downtown to look like Mississauga!!! From what I can read over 90 percent of the citizens do not what our down town to look like Mississaugas. To the Mayor, What steps are you prepared to take to make sure the new operating plan reflects the desires of the people you represent?

The time line is confusing. The city has to do its work then the Region has to incorporate it into their plans which could get changed by provincial edits and directional changes. This could take two or three years and be out of date before the ink is dry. Under these uncertain condition I suggest we just proceed with what is best for us allowing for modest growth.

Underway - too muchFor a city to grow it needs a transportation plan, integral to this in a modern city is a transit plan. So far the current draft has little on how the peoples need to move around will be satisfied and to say this will be worked out after the buildings are built is classic putting the cart before the horse and for a city the ultimate in poor planning. We do not need more Appleby Lines.

Reverse town hall 1

Jim Barnett, on the right, at the Mayor’s Reverse Town Hall meeting.

We do not need more Lakeshore Roads between Martha and Maple.

This should not be an election issue. It should be a get it right issue. There is still time if you have the will.

Related comment and opinion:

Opinion: Jim Young
Opinion: Gary Scobie
Opinion: Lisa Kearns
Opinion Deedee Davies


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Gary Scobie: Council got us into this. Now Council has to get us out.

opinionandcommentBy Gary Scobie

February 28th,2018




City council didn’t want the development but failed to respond to the application within the required time frame so the developer took his application to the Ontario Municipal Board where it was approved.

I live in Ward 3 and I am here to speak against the approval of the proposed Official Plan. Two weeks ago, I received the OMB Vice-Chair’s report that approved the appeal by Adi Corporation to build a 26 storey condo at 374 Martha Street at the corner of Lakeshore Road. If ever there was a proper time to use the phrase “this changes everything”, it was that day.

It was a stunning reminder of the Province’s power to force us to shape up and face up to the massive intensification of our downtown that comes with the territory of being designated as an Anchor Mobility Hub and Urban Growth Centre.

Our current Official Plan, passed in October 2006 by our Council of seven, with three of our current Councillors there at the time, was supposed to be in compliance with the Growth Plan of the province. But alas, we learned that it has not been kept compliant over the years since. It is so far out of compliance that it was disregarded in the appeal. Our City team of Council and planning and legal experts did not even submit as evidence our proposed Official Plan wordings for the site that might have resulted in some compromise in height. Instead, OMB Vice-Chair Schiller pointed out that the City had no legal right to stop the 26 storey condo.

Gary Scobie

Gary Scobie, a frequent delegator at city hall.

I have to ask, what was Council expecting in 2006 when it embraced, on behalf of all citizens, the Urban Growth Centre designation for our downtown? Did they imagine the coming massive re-build of lower Brant Street and its adjacent streets?

Did they imagine 20 plus storey buildings at most intersections and the eventual almost complete destruction of the two storey nature of our historic downtown? I simply can’t believe that they did.
Yet three Councillors from that long ago Council sit here today and I’d invite them to explain to citizens if this indeed was their plan for our downtown.

It is now quite obvious to me that the Town of Oakville was very prescient in 2005 in their assessment of the loss of control that would come if they accepted a Downtown Urban Growth Centre designation. Their Council rejected it and convinced the Province that the intensification demanded would come elsewhere in their town. If only our Council had done the same.

We the citizens are now being asked to trust this Council and the Planning Department, the ones that couldn’t keep our Official Plan compliant, to endorse a new Official Plan that has heights above what we want and that has already been pierced by an approved 23 storey condo across from City Hall and now an approved 26 storey condo right at the lake and in the most southern and eastern point of our Downtown Core Precinct. It was presented by the developer as a Gateway to the Downtown.

Yes indeed, it certainly will be that and much more. It will be a lasting reminder of our hubris. It will be the precedent at the lake, the building to surpass in height by many future buildings. It will represent the low height that Council and the planners promised us by the lake, rising ever higher up Brant Street to the other Mobility Hub that is the Burlington GO Station.

Citizens can only imagine and envision heights of 30 plus storeys going up Brant Street, culminating in not 30 but likely 40 plus storey heights near the GO Station.

Underway - too muchWe are asked to trust Council and the Planning Department that in approving an Official Plan for all of Burlington, without the three other Mobility Hubs, without a transportation plan and without a transit plan, that they will just get it right on all of these important missing pieces when the time comes to add them. And that the OP rules will be enforceable.

I’m afraid we just can’t trust you to do that. Now that the one entity that is really in charge of intensification throughout Burlington, the Province, has spoken and told us that they have control of our Growth Centres, not just in the downtown, but also at our GO Stations, we have no alternative but to try to at least save our downtown from becoming a forest of 20 to 30 storey highrises.

The only way that this can happen is for one of you to introduce a motion to Council to request that the Province consider the 69,000 people and jobs that are planned to be added at the GO Station Mobility Hubs as our ample contribution to the intensification of Burlington as a whole and free our downtown from this crippling intensification that will come from the Urban Growth Centre and Anchor Mobility Hub designations.

You have, in good conscience, no other choice than to take this route. Council got us into this. Now I request Council to get us out.

You simply agree to contact the Province to try to save our downtown by recovering the control of downtown re-development that was surrendered in 2006.

Do not move forward with the Official Plan approval until you add plans for the critical missing parts and have exhausted every possible avenue of request with the Province to remove the downtown from this planned over-development. I think that you can succeed, but at a minimum, you surely must try.


Gary Scobie was a member of the Waterfront Advisory Committee. He is seen here, second from the left.

If you fail us in this, downtown citizens must prepare to endure ten to twenty years of construction noise, congestion, dust and dirt as tall buildings rise from foundations deep underground seemingly from every corner on Brant and adjacent streets. And the end result of this over-build will not make us the envy of other cities, will not make our downtown more livable and will not preserve our title as the best mid-size city in Canada.

Remember, from out in the lake a skyline of tall buildings jutting into the air may look good on a postcard, but for the people who actually have to live there, who have to live without rapid transit to the GO Station, with traffic congestion of intensification, without any feel of historic two storey Brant Street and its unique, independent shops, without enough parking for residents, let alone visitors to the downtown, with tall buildings everywhere they look, with wind and shadows everywhere they walk, there will be little pleasure other than looking at the lake from their window if they paid enough money for that view and wondering, was it really worth the view after all and perhaps pondering, what were they thinking when they approved this metropolis of Burlington.

Gary Scobie is a long time Burlington resident who frequently comments on how city hall works.

Related comment and opinion:

Jim Young tells Council it has failed to failed to inform, consult, involve, collaborate or empower the citizens.

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The ward 3 situation: five prospective candidates will split the vote and keep the incumbent in office.

council 100x100By Pepper Parr

February 24th, 2018



Steven White

Stephen White

Steven White, a ward 5 resident, stood at the ECoB Candidate Workshop Thursday evening and asked if some time could be found for the prospective candidates in the different wards to get together and work through their differences.

White said that the prospective candidates could look at their individual strengths and determine which candidate had the best chance of taking the council seat away from the incumbent.

Ward 3 is one of those classic situations where there are, at this point in time, five prospective candidates plus John Taylor the incumbent.

Two of the five, ran in the 2014 election. Lisa Cooper is in the race for the third or fourth time and has some name recognition; not much more than that. However she did take almost 26% of the vote.

Jeff Brooks was in the race for the first time in 2014. He never fully understood just what the job was but he did take 15% of the vote.

rory shot

Rory Nisan

Gareth Williams

Gareth Williams

The other three are all young. Two, Rory Nisan and Gareth Williams would make good members of Council.

Both have accomplished much at this point in their lives.


Mike Quackenbush

The third Quackenbush is likeable enough but probably not up to the rigorous demands of a city councillor.

John Taylor, the incumbent has served the city well for the more than 25 years he has been a member of Council. He is the Dean of a city council that has frequently treated Taylor rather shabbily. The ravages of time have caught up with Taylor and there are parts of the job he is no longer able to do.

Actors, politicians and the sports community look for that time when they are at the top of their game and find an opportunity to leave the stage. There is an opportunity for Taylor to look at the five prospective candidates and sign the nomination papers for one of them and then work closely with that person during their first two years on office.

The room at the Tansley Woods Community Centre was made up of people who wanted to get elected along with their supporters and those who had been elected and believed change was needed at city hall; they had the experience to tell prospective candidates what they had to do to win. The message was simple – get out there and knock on doors, identify your support and the get out the vote on Election Day.

Other than talking amongst their supporters we doubt that any of the candidates have been out on the streets of their community knocking on doors and looking for support.

Carr - Leblovic - Thoem

Mark Carr, Diane Leblovic and Peter Thoem had some solid advice for prospective candidates. Were they listened to?

During the two hour ECoB sponsored Candidate Workshop seasoned and weathered politicians Mark Carr andDiane Leblovic laid it out pretty clearly – determine which of the prospective candidates has the best chance of winning and put your energy behind that candidate.

Peter Thoem, a one term member of council for ward 2, explained to prospective candidates that the job is a lot harder than they imagine. “The number of reports you will be given are complex and you don’t have anywhere near the time to read and absorb the documents, form an opinion and get input from the people you represent” he said.

Kearns direct smile

Lisa Kearns

Lisa Kearns, part of the ECoB leadership team, told the prospective candidates that one of the things they could do as members of council was change the way information gets to them.

Narrowing the field in ward 3 to a single candidate who can take on the incumbent will call for a selfless act on the part of four of the five names out there now. It takes depth of character and the strength to put the community before oneself.

Related news story:

Who got the votes in the 2014 election.

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The problems in Canada - with BC moving in on federal jurisdiction and Alberta putting a cork in the wine bottles India was supposed to be a slam dunk. Justin did get dunked.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

February 23rd, 2018



Come next year’s federal election Mr. Trudeau will be making a list of promises. Top of that list should be never taking another family holiday outside of Canada.

Rivers 23 - Trudeau family

The Trudeau family in India.

Oh sure, he is just doing what his father did, hauling the wife and kids along to see the sights, mixing with the locals and appropriating their traditional wear. It’s the classic Canadian charm offensive.

But the PM’s trip to India became way too offensive when he inadvertently brought along a convicted Sikh terrorist to an official function. Hello, how on earth could this character evade the PM’s security detail and end up in a photo-op with the PM’s wife? And what is it with this Sikh thing.

Rivers - Gregoire with convicted Sikh

Jaspal Atwal was convicted of attempting to murder Malkiat Singh Sidhu three decades ago. Here he is shown with the Prime Minister’s wife, Sophie Gregoire while on a tour in India.

Sikhs make up a solid political block in places like Surrey B.C. and Brampton. But we are all Canadians first, something the PM and the novice NDP leader, Jagmeet Singh need to remember as they watch over all these potential multi-cultural divides. Singh has been known to waffle on the Air India bombing (a couple of decades ago) and Sikh terrorism generally.

And all politicians need to take a deep breath before musing on the recent decision of the Quebec court of appeal to uphold the ban on Sikh ceremonial daggers (Kirpans). As in everything, there are limits to what can be stuffed under the umbrella of religious freedom. One only has to look south of the border where the NRA (National Rifle Association) is preaching that ownership of assault rifles is now God’s will, and

The PM did get to announce a billion dollar trade deal and did finally have an official meeting with the Indian PM, which apparently went well. But this was anything but the well organized state-to-state courtship it was intended to be with the world’s fourth largest economy and largest democracy. Nobody was singing ‘When Irish Eyes are Smiling’. Unlike his ill-conceived trip to visit the Aga Khan a Christmas ago, at least there were no major personal conflicts.

But somebody needs to figure out why one of his MP’s would set him up by inviting along a former terrorist, and how this character actually got through Indian immigration in the first place. And the PM would do well to ensure his official travel is more necessary than just nice. Most pundits are still wondering why Trudeau took that trip at all and whether he was even invited.

And it’s not that his presence wasn’t requested back home as Alberta and B.C. went at it over oil and wine. B.C.’s new premier Horgan, governing with an NDP/Green Party coalition sparked the conflict with his eastern neighbour. Obviously he was getting grief from the Greens for approving the environmentally destructive Site C massive hydro project, opposed by farmers, indigenous communities and the usual crowd of environmentalists.

So to appease his coaltion partner, Horgan announced he was going to slow down or stop the Kinder Morgan pipeline which Alberta desperately needs to keep its oil sands operations competitive, and to get the product to markets. Alberta’s premier Notley then took on her fellow NDP’er by banning BC wine in her province.

Rivers 23 Notley fingers pointing

When my oil goes THAT way – your wine can come THIS way. Rachel Notley, Premier of Alberta.

And in a most ironic moment for both of these governments, Notley also cancelled a power purchase agreement from B.C.’s Site C which would have helped Alberta get off coal-fired electricity. That was a key component of helping the province meet its carbon emissions targets – something very near and dear to every Green Party member’s heart, and the key to winning federal approval for the pipeline in the first place.

Make no mistake that this was pure politics on the part of the new B.C. premier. He might have been hoping that by showing strength he’d win a timely by-election to replace former premier Clark – which he didn’t. Though nothing raises a political leader’s poll count better that going to war; even if it’s only a war over oil and wine. And then there was this thing about mollifying his Green Party partner and keeping the coalition together.

But everyone knows that the inter-provincial pipelines fall largely under federal jurisdiction and the feds had already green-lit Kinder Morgan. And that was Notley’s point as she pleaded for the PM to shut down Horgan. Perhaps he was too busy picking his wardrobe for the India visit but he had little to say about the matter – other than the obvious.

Alberta is the biggest export market for B.C. wines, and Albertans love their wines. So it didn’t take much for Notley to drop the ban and let the wine flow once Horgan announced he was not going to shut down Kinder Morgan. Rather he was going to ask the courts about the limits of his authority. A case of much-ado-about-nothing in the end, though Notley comes out a hero and Albertans get to savour their favourite wines again.

It is pure speculation whether this issue would have been better solved had the PM barged in and demanded Horgan put his guns back in their holsters. In hindsight, whether intentional or not, Trudeau’s calm and low profile approach – letting the situation evolve pretty much on its own or behind the scenes with his officials – was the best thing he could have done. And that also makes him a winner in this. Now about that trip to India?

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:

India Trip –   Kirpans –     Jagmeet

NRA and God –     Blessing the AR-15 –     B.C. Challenges

B.C. Wine –     Site C –     Pipeline Tensions

A Way Forward –     Test for Trudeau

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Assuming the Liberals win the provincial election in June (and that certainly isn't a given) how long do you expect Katherine Wynne to remain as leader?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

February 19th, 2018



The public got a first look at the four people who want to lead a provincial Progressive Conservative government.

Elliott PC

Christine Elliott

Christine Elliot a former member of the Legislature who lost her run for the leadership twice.

Ford Doug

Doug Ford

Doug Ford who wants to do for the province what his brother did for the city of Toronto.

Caroline Mulroney who started out running for a seat in the York constituency, where she was acclaimed as the candidate. The Gazette has always believed that Caroline Mulroney was setting herself up to replace Patrick Brown as the leader of the party.


Caroline Mulroney

Little did she know that Patrick would self-destruct in the way he did which gave Mulroney the opening she thought she would have to wait for.

And little did she know that Brown would have his Lazarus moment and rise from the politically dead to have a seat at the debate table.

Tanya Granic Allen

Tanya Granic Allen

Then there was Tanya , a gutsy young lady who proved to be the brightest voice during the TVO debate. She kept being identified as a single issue candidate: she wants changes made in the provincial sex education curriculum, – but she had just as much to say about the rot in the PC party.

Of the four Granic Allen is the one that would give Premier Wynne a run for her money.

Patrick Brown resigning

Patrick Brown resigning as Leader of the Opposition. He has since filed nomination papers as a candidate for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative party. It is confusing.

The day after these four debated on TVO, Patrick Brown filed his nomination papers and is waiting for the Progressive Conservative party to sign off on his nomination. How they do that after booting Brown from the PC caucus is something they will have to figure out.

The Progressive Conservatives are looking for a leader and trying to find a vision, a direction they can sell to the public.

Everyone is assuming that the Liberals have all these things – and indeed they do have a formidable leader with a very clear message. They also have terrible polling results but the Liberals are tight and they have solid campaign depth.

However, should the Liberals win the provincial election in June – just how long do you expect Kathleen  Wynne to remain as leader?

wynne-at heritage dinner

Kathleen Wynne: Will she stay on the stage if she wins the provincial election in June?

She has fought the good fight and she has weathered some storms – will she want to serve another four year term as leader of the Liberal party?

And how many of the younger members of her Cabinet are going to want to continue to wait for their chance to grab that brass ring?

There are at least four that will want to jump in.

Ontario is not looking at just a new Progressive Conservative leader – it is looking at a sea change in the demographic that is going to lead the province.

Interesting and confusing times ahead.

Salt with Pepper reflects the views, observations and opinions of the Gazette Publisher.

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Rivers: The First Debate PC was a snooze; with Patrick Brown back in the race the second could well be a circus.

Rivers 100x100Ray Rivers

February 18th, 2018



It is hardly the greatest show on earth. No, not the Barnum and Bailey show which retired last year. It’s that other circus called the Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership contest. And so far it’s a long way from being entertaining, as anyone watching the first four declared candidates square off for an all-candidates debate on TVO’s The Agenda would have to agree.

Patrick Brown resigning

Patrick Brown resigning

But perhaps the campaign will get more exciting now that a fifth candidate, former leader Patrick Brown, in the running. Brown is making noises like he was set-up, and he is determined to clear his name from the sexual allegations which forced his resignation in the first place. He points to holes which are already starting to appear in both of the allegations against him.

The first of two TVO debates was among the sleepiest debates of all time. It would have been much better theatre had Brown been there to counter all the slings and arrows… and mud being tossed his way.

Tanya Granic Allen

Tanya Granic Allen

The latest candidate, before Brown’s re-entry, an angry, ardent, young woman by the name of Tanya Granic Allen, rubbished him for not promising to get rid of the provincial sex-ed curriculum. She also tore into Christine Elliott for not defeating the Liberal ban on the questionable practice of gay sexual conversion therapy.

Granic Allen declared that the recently member-approved election platform called the People’s Guarantee, is now dead – but gave no indication of what would take its place going into an election a little over three months from now. And she grumbled about the last leadership and how the membership lists were rigged. Despite the PCs being well funded and more popular than before he became leader, she accused Brown of destroying the party.

The other three candidates Doug Ford, Caroline Mulroney and Christine Elliott were less committal on the platform, stressing that only the carbon tax was dead, as far as they were concerned and that they would take the federal government to court on this. They also agreed that they’d have to run a deficit to pay for their promised 22% income tax cut, though Elliot was convinced there were saving to be had somewhere.

Elliott PC

Christine Elliott

Elliott, a former provincial politician turned civil servant (patient ombudsman) was particularly disappointing in her performance. She had trouble identifying almost any of the issues facing the province, let alone how she would better deal with them. That can happen to politicians once removed from political office – John Turner in the 80s comes to mind. She lost out twice in seeking the leadership so perhaps she was just being guarded about another defeat, or tired of it all.

Mulroney also seemed painfully ignorant of what the job entailed and unable to identify issues, though at least she wouldn’t kill sex-ed, or the minimum wage. She would just figure it all out once she’d looked at the budget line-by-line. One could ask why she hadn’t done that before this debate. Though well composed and calm most of the time she occasionally had that deer-in-the-headlights look about her.

Her lack of depth is likely a consequence of being such a relative newcomer to Ontario politics and Ontario. After all she lived so much of her life in Montreal or the USA, where she also holds  citizenship. It was hard not to want to paraphrase Stephen Harper’s quip about his rival Ignatieff – she didn’t come back for us.

Doug Ford

Doug Ford

Doug Ford was remarkably reserved, given his reputation. He kept going back to his own and mostly irrelevant experience as a Toronto Councillor, supporting contracted garbage services which arguably saved a billion dollars for the tax payers. He said he’d pare back the layers of bureaucracy and the Green Energy Act in particular. When asked to be more specific he mentioned the grade six math scores and said that sex-ed was to blame.

This is still relatively early in the leadership process since nominations had just closed on Friday. But the winning candidate will be announced March 10th, so there isn’t much time for these characters to whip themselves into shape for the next leadership debate at the end of February. Membership sales also closed on the 16th and it will be interesting to see how many supporters of these candidates have been added to the lists.

Brown back in the race

Brown back in the race

Winners are rarely made by a debate. With Brown back in the race, assuming his nomination is approved, all bets are off. He, no doubt, is counting on those loyal supporters who picked him in the first place coming back to support him. Brown, having been the principle author of the platform would at least have a much better handle on the issues facing the province than any of his competition.

All of the candidates, in particular Mulroney, talked of the need to be different from the status quo. Change the government just to get rid of Kathleen Wynne. But then it would be helpful to know what they would do better – and there was little sign of that from any of these hopefuls. One only has to look south of the border to see how well change for the sake of change is working there.

PC Four candidates

The four candidates in the first debate will be joined by Patrick Brown in the second debate.

The leadership ballot will allow members to rank the candidates in order of preference. So expect to see Elliot and Mulroney gang up so that they are each other’s first and second choices. We should expect Ford to mobilize his Ford Nation political organization to get every ultra-conservative marking him as the only candidate. That angry young Allen woman is destined for last spot, given her scary demeanour alone. With Brown back in the race, he might just win again.

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:

PC Eat Itself –     Brown is Back –     Brown’s Allegations

TVO Debate –     More Debate –     Even More Debate

Caroline Mulroney –     Christine Elliott –    

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