Rivers on the Progressive Conservative leadership race: 'Beware of the Doug'

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

February 2nd, 2018



What could be more conservative than Doug Ford announcing his candidacy for the leadership of the provincial party, live and direct from his mother’s basement? It’s called family values and if the Fords are anything, they are family. Doug’s father, also a Doug, was an MPP under the great Mike Harris, so Doug Jr. comes to his politics honestly.

Doug Ford

Doug Ford in his mother’s basement announcing his candidacy

Much as Justin Trudeau did, Mr. Ford is seeking to fulfill his destiny, ascending to the lofty political top rung which is his divine right. The divine right of the political elites. This is not new – it is how we practice what we like to call western democracy.


Ivanka Trump – Rivers sees her as a future US presidential candidate

South of the border there are the Bush boys, Ron and Rand Paul, the Kennedy clan and now the Donald Drumpf dynasty with Ivanka Trump lining up to become the first woman president of that country.

Back in the great white north we made Paul Martin’s son, also Paul, our 21st PM. Jack Layton’s great-granduncle, William Steeves, was a Father of Confederation. His grandfather Gilbert was a Quebec cabinet minister, his father Robert was a federal cabinet minister, his son Mike is a Toronto Councillor and his widow, Olivia Chow, was a companion MP and an also-ran just behind Doug Ford in the last election for mayor of Canada’s largest city.

Dominic Leblanc followed his father Romeo into the federal House. Then there is John Clement and his stepson Tony. Joe and his son Robert Ghiz were PEI premiers. Quebec’s premiering Daniel Johnson was succeeded by sons, Pierre-Marc and Daniel. Of course there was David and Stephen Lewis; James and Peter Lougheed; Elmer and Peter MacKay; Ernest and Preston Manning; Harry and Robert Nixon; Grant and Rachel Notley; and Jim, David and Tim Peterson, and their sister Deb Matthews.

Elliott PC

Christine Elliot, came in second when Patrick Brown won the PC leadership.

More relevant to the PC leadership race there was the husband and wife team of Jim Flaherty and Christine Elliot. Elliot got her comeuppance running for leadership last time and was beaten by the now disgraced Patrick Brown – though there is still suspicion about how he won. And while the particulars of Brown’s departure are still pretty much of a mystery, it’s looking more and more like an inside job. Somebody or a lot of somebodies wanted him out.

No sooner had Brown left the building but his party president Rick Dykstra was also shown the door – something to do with sexual misadventures during his time with the federal party. And that has dragged the federal Tories into this mess as well.


Caroline Mulroney – no political experience; with a name like that does she need it?

Caroline Mulroney is at least a new face. And the sins of the father are not necessarily those of the daughter. But anyone who read Stevie Cameron’s ‘On The Take’ will be swallowing hard before voting for her just because of that name. Mulroney may have been a success in the business world but she can’t help but come across as an opportunistic carpet bagger, and hardly the savior to restore respectability to a party heavily mired in scandal and in-fighting.

Doug Ford was the first candidate out of the gate. Despite his own royal blood, he claims to want to represent the real Tories, the grass roots crowd – as opposed to the elites. But it really depends on how one defines elites. He may not be the brightest star in Tory heaven but nobody should count him out. He ran a close second to John Tory in the last mayoralty race, losing by only 60,000 votes in a very competitive race.

His brother Rob was loved by his followers and Doug was his puppet master, except for the crazy drug and alcohol-induced incidents, which Rob needed no help in orchestrating all on his own. So Doug can count on the full support of ‘Ford Nation’ in this race. And he knows a thing or two about business, successfully operating and expanding the label company his father started and bequeathed him.

And his entrepreneurial acumen runs deep into his more youthful days when he was reportedly a major player in Toronto’s drug scene. And that is exactly the kind of experience this province needs as it prepares to introduce legalized marijuana to the public. He might even still have his list of contacts and suppliers, who knows? He has been accused of hanging out with some pretty unsavoury criminal characters as well – hey but friends are friends.

Ford continues to deny this part of his history despite all the evidence the media has uncovered about his past as a hash supplier, and we’re not talking corned beef. But today Doug, like his brother before him, preaches law and order, tough love for all the criminals and crooks. He comes from the Mike Harris school of cutting taxes for the wealthy, privatizing public services, gutting social services, and cutting red tape.

Elliot and Mulroney have just announced they too are in the race. There may be a couple more wannabe’s announcing before the February 16th deadline and that will make it an even more interesting and exciting donkey race. But the voting will be by over before March 10th when the new PC leader will be announced.

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

When the Tories have figured out who is going to lead them in the June 7th provincial election – this is the candidate they are going to have to beat.

Ford has also announced that he is dropping his bid to run again in this year’s municipal elections against John Tory. And that makes sense since running against Tory, a former leader of the Ontario Tory party – and with a name like that to boot – would be strategically unwise. He doesn’t need to alienate any more conservatives than he already has.

Even so, it’s unlikely John Tory will be doing much to support him in the leadership race or even in the provincial election should he become leader. Hearing how Ford had announced his candidacy, Tory couldn’t resist quipping that he’d love to follow the Ford method of announcing his own candidacy, but his Mom lives in an apartment.

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:

Canadian Political Families –   Doug Ford –    Dykstra

On the Take –    More Ford –    Even More Ford

Even More of Ford –    Ford Family History –    Defence of Ford’s History

Ford’s Basement

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Rick Goldring’s road to good intentions.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

February 1, 2018



The Gazette has published the full State of the City address the Mayor gave to the city’s business leaders. We did so for the record – the document is there for anyone who wants to search the archives.

During the address the Mayor touched on several topics that are sensitive and disturbing to many residents – especially those in the downtown core.

Mayor Goldring said:

“Building a beautiful and vibrant Burlington is a never-ending marathon. There are always many hurdles to cross as the city will be around much longer than any of us.

Public Engagement is a critical piece of the decision making process for municipalities.

Goldring reverse town hall

Mayor during his Reverse Town Hall meeting – it was a bold move and it was clear that he did hear what the residents had to say.

The City of Burlington was named the Organization of the Year by the International Association for Public Participation for applying the “Community Engagement Charter” adopted in 2013. It recognizes our mandate to consult and engage with residents in all matters.

As one judge put it “Employees now ask how to engage — not whether we should or not”.

As I look forward to our continued progress with public engagement, I am inspired by a 2017 lecture given by Bret Stephens of the New York Times to the Lowy Institute in Sydney, Australia titled ‘The Dying Art of Disagreement’.

He suggests that we may be failing in how we deal with disagreement and that disagreement is critical to a decent society.

I want residents to know that Council recognizes the importance of accommodating differences on the many issues that we face as a city. The view is shared that “every great idea is really just a spectacular disagreement with some other great idea.”

To be successful, I am drawn to some simple advice from Bret Stephens of the New York Times that reads

“To disagree well you must first understand well. You have to read deeply, listen carefully, and watch closely. You need to grant people with alternate views moral respect; give people the intellectual benefit of the doubt; have sympathy for people’s motives and participate emphatically with a different line of reasoning. And you need to allow for the possibility that you might yet be persuaded by what has been said.”

We will continue to develop and improve how we connect with residents and engage our community and support discussions around issues with strongly held viewpoints – that is democracy.

The Gazette has followed the growth, and the lack of it on occasion, of Rick Goldring. The quote he refers to is something we dearly wish he has used during his Reverse Town Hall and when he was trying to get the audience listening to council debate the changes that will be part of the new Official Plan that has many very disturbed.

Goldring at Inspire April 2015 - hand outWe have seen this before in our Mayor – he comes across something that appeals to him and makes mention of it but he doesn’t seem to absorb what he has read.

There are a couple of thousand people who will scoff when the Mayor says he listens.

He means well – he truly does but that proverbial road to hell is paved with good intentions.

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

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Rick Golding's eighth State of the City address to Burlington's business leaders.

News 100 yellowBy Rick Goldring

February 1st, 2018


The Gazette has published all but one of the eight State of the City addresses. Links to those addresses are set out at the end of this unedited address.


The ward four debate gave Rick Goldring a lot to think about - he was never challenged like this when he ran for the office of Mayor in 2010

Rick Goldring during a 2014 election debate.

Good morning everyone. I would like to offer a warm welcome to the annual Mayor’s State of the City Address.

Thank you all very much for joining me this morning. It means a lot to have so many people here.

I would like to recognize the Burlington Chamber of Commerce for hosting this event, as they have done for many decades.

In particular, thank you to Keith Hoey and his team, Marty Staz and the board of directors, along with the volunteers and membership. Together, you facilitate many different programs and events throughout the year that helps bring the community together and build relationships that are essential to the prosperity of business in Burlington.

And thank you to all of today’s sponsors.

Congratulations to Bell for another successful “Bell Let’s Talk Day”. Your efforts since 2010 are making a significant impact in de-stigmatizing mental illness.

Before I commence my remarks, I do want to comment on the format this year.

In preparation for this year’s state of the city address, I took a look at last year’s event and watched and listened to myself for the full 45 minute speech. That was very hard work. My team and I decided to break up the long winded 45 minute speech by shortening the formal speech and then breaking into an interview with Tim Caddigan, Senior Director of Programming from Cogeco asking me some questions which will include questions from a few of you who are here this morning.

You all have a question card at your table. If you could please use it to write down your questions; there will be staff going around collecting these cards right after my speech, during a video presentation.

My colleagues from Burlington City Council are with us today. I am proud to work alongside these men and women who are deeply committed to our city.

Please welcome councillors Rick Craven, Marianne Meed Ward, John Taylor, Jack Dennison, Paul Sharman and Blair Lancaster.

Our City Manager James Ridge is here, along with many staff from the city today. I am proud of the dedicated, competent and caring staff working effectively every day to make this city the best it can be.

I am very pleased to welcome our regional Chair Gary Carr, Oakville Mayor Rob Burton, Halton Hills Mayor Rick Bonnette and Milton Mayor Gord Krantz. It is great working with you as we build strong communities and a prosperous region at Halton Regional Council.

It is a privilege and an honour to serve as Mayor of Burlington.

Each day I reflect on how grateful I am for everything that I have in my life. I am thankful for the education I have had growing up in Burlington.

I am thankful for my family, especially my wife Cheryl who is here with me this morning.

I firmly believe that we should all be grateful for where we live, whether it is Burlington, Oakville, Milton, Halton Hills or Hamilton. These are all great communities.

Now I have been inclusive and respectful of our neighbouring municipalities, I am going to focus on Burlington!

Best Mid-Sized City in Canada

If you haven’t heard, MoneySense Magazine has recognized Burlington as the best mid-sized city in Canada five years in a row.

We are the safest region in Canada. Burlington alone saw a thirty-one percent drop in crime over the last five years.

We have a healthy and resilient economy. Last year, our city added over twelve hundred jobs, an increase of eighty-eight percent year over year.

We continue to maintain a higher than average percentage of jobs to population ratio. We have the highest ratio in Halton Region, even higher than Waterloo Region or the cities of Markham, Brantford and Hamilton.

A significant number of Burlington families are financially stable.The latest census data shows that Burlington has an average household income that is twenty-five percent greater than the provincial average.

Our unemployment rate nationally is lowest it has been in forty years at five-point-seven- per cent and our local unemployment rate is a percent below that at four-point-six per cent.

Our residents are well educated. Seventy-three per cent of us have post-secondary education and the average rate of residents holding a University degree in Burlington is higher than the provincial average.

We live longer. The life expectancy in Halton Region is about seven to eight per cent longer than that of provincial average. We don’t just live longer; we live longer with lower incidences of morbidity – the incidence of disease and illness – than the provincial average.

The percentage of Burlington residents whose income is below the Low-Income threshold is five-point seven per cent versus the province as a whole at nine-point-eight per cent.

Despite the fact that Burlington is flourishing overall we need to recognize that there are people in our community who are struggling. No city is immune to social issues like mental illness, addiction, accessibility, isolation, women and children abuse, unemployment, underemployment and poverty, including some of our youth and seniors and many others.

We are fortunate that in addition to the great work being done through Halton Social Services and Housing, there are not-for-profit agencies, service clubs and faith communities that reach out and fill some of the voids.

Burlington Economic Development Corporation

In 2017, we saw significant growth in Burlington’s economy. On top of adding over twelve hundred jobs, we saw a significant reduction in the Burlington Office vacancy rate.

Some of the new companies we welcomed to Burlington include Amec Foster Wheeler, an international energy and industrial company, A-Z-X sport, a promotional products manufacturer and distributor and Cardon Rehab, an innovator in the physical therapy equipment business.

2017 was a year of expanding the supports available to support businesses to innovate and grow in Burlington.

Crossroads Media Centre is an example of this, it was recently acquired by a private investor. In the coming months, the Centre will transform to become a multi-use facility offering state-of-the-art television studios and digital media facilities.

The Halton Hive, Burlington’s first co-working space and business centre for entrepreneurs, startups, and digital content creators, has relocated to the Centre and will be integral to the re-imagining of the space and the growth of a vibrant community of complementary businesses. This is an exciting development for Burlington and Halton Region, with more announcements to follow soon.

Last year, when I stood before you for the 2017 State Of The City address, I announced the signing of a lease for Burlington’s Innovation Centre, TechPlace just around the corner at 5500 North Service Road and a few months later in June, the doors were open, and they were in business.

Today, I’m excited to tell you how TechPlace has thrived beyond our expectations.

First, I want to share with you how TechPlace came to be. In a 2016 report, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce identified a critical gap in Canada’s business growth strategy. Forty per cent of new jobs in Canada come from companies less than five years old, but they failed short of growing into large organizations.

It was clear that in Burlington we needed to do our part by nurturing innovation and entrepreneurship. Not just in Burlington but the GTA west region leveraging relationships within Halton and Hamilton. After all, the business community does not look at municipal boundaries, they look at regional markets.

Today, TechPlace is operating at full capacity with businesses on a waitlist.

Innovative technology companies from Dubai, Finland, Kitchener-Waterloo, Mississauga and Burlington have been accepted into TechPlace’s Launch Pad program and are thriving in their new environment.

For example, in October, representatives from BEDC met with a company named Orfer – A leading robotics manufacturing and robot automation company based out of Finland. Orfer was looking to establish a North American headquarters, and the company had met with many municipalities across the GTHA. After just one meeting with the BEDC team, Orfer decided TechPlace was the new home for their soft landing. And Burlington is the place for their new North American headquarters.

Service Path is yet another success story. This company helps organizations automate their sales processes and reduce the time to quote for complex services. This industry that didn’t exist ten years ago is now a forty-two billion dollar industry. Since settling into TechPlace, the company has hired more staff and is looking to expand within Burlington.

This is precisely the kind of activity we anticipated. Fostering new partnerships within the startup ecosystem and creating a destination for new and growing technology companies to tap into new ideas provides opportunities to network and collaborate.

I want to congratulate everyone at the BEDC for the success of TechPlace. TechPlace is helping to put Burlington and the whole GTA west on the map as a centre for entrepreneurship and innovation.

The BEDC has also been working with key stakeholders to make sure that we have the land we need to attract businesses to Burlington.

In order to support the City’s strategic plan to be a City that Grows, Burlington must make the shift from Greenfield development to redevelopment, intensification and the creation of mixed-use amenity rich employment hubs that meet the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s employers.

We have over one million square feet of land in the development pipeline that will head to the market.

This means one million square feet of land, ready for new industrial, commercial and institutional spaces in Burlington. Having these spaces ready for businesses looking to locate, expand or start-up in Burlington is an important value-add, to the site selection process.

To attract innovative and prosperous businesses and people to our city, the focus will be on developing and leveraging a strong brand that positions Burlington as a highly attractive business location and a place to call home.

Evolving City

Burlington City Council is in the process of finalizing a new Official Plan for the City that is set to see approval in the spring.

There is nothing simple or easy about where we are as a city.

When you pave over farmer’s fields for suburban sprawl; it is relatively easy to take out a piece of paper and plan where roads, parks, schools, retail stores and homes are built. I contrast that with the redevelopment of existing underutilized areas.

Our draft plan outlines the areas where we will grow.

Fifty per cent of Burlington’s one-hundred and eighty-five square kilometres is protected from development. This area includes much of North Aldershot and the area north of the Dundas – 407 corridor that includes Mount Nemo, Kilbride and Lowville. The vast majority of people we talk to want to keep it that way.

Thirty-four per cent of our city is traditional neighbourhoods and it is critically important that we maintain the character and integrity of those neighbourhoods.

Eleven per cent of the city is our employment lands primarily around the QEW-403 corridor. These lands are crucial to our current and future economy and work force providing a variety of career opportunities for Burlington residents.

The remaining five per cent of the city includes the areas around our three GO Stations and our downtown. These are identified for most of the increased population and corresponding job growth.

After decades of Greenfield development of traditional single-family home neighbourhoods, we are now in essence built out.

This is reflected in the 2016 census data that shows Burlington having the lowest population growth in over fifty years.

Between 2011 and 2016, we grew from 176,000 people to 183,000, which works out to an annual growth rate of around point-eight per cent and the vast majority of this increase occurred in the North East part of the city. Excluding this area of the city, our annual growth rate is only point four per cent.

We know that most cities grow over time – this is just natural – but the question is often asked. “How much should we grow by?”

The Conference Board of Canada states a growth rate of one-point-one per cent is optimal and suggests a higher rate if there is a disproportionate seniors’ population.

Why will Burlington’s population increase?

Some of the reason for this is that we are mandated to grow by the province. We know that primarily because of immigration, the population of the GTHA will grow from seven million to ten million people by 2041.

We know that Halton Region will grow from 550,000 people to one million. While Burlington’s 2031 target is quite modest, the 2041 target will be defined in 2019 at Halton Region.

Our Proposed New Official Plan is for the next twenty-five years and beyond.

A stable and growing economy requires a core working age population. Communities with no growth cannot sustain a strong economy as the workforce ages.

Canada is addressing declining birthrates through immigration, and cities must also grow their population to remain economically vital and sustainable. Too little growth constrains the economy; too rapid growth stresses services and infrastructure.

We need to continue to create as much variety in our housing stock as possible and housing will take on different forms that are no longer the traditional detached dwelling.

We will provide opportunities for ageing baby boomers to downsize. It’s critical that the housing supply is increased – to improve affordability for younger residents and so that families are not priced out of our traditional and new neighbourhoods.

Without reasonable growth in our housing stock, real estate prices will increase even more than they are currently and the pressure on school enrollment will be unabated.

Our vision for the areas around our three GO Stations will provide Burlington residents with the benefits of walkable neighbourhoods.

The Aldershot Mobility Hub area is already seeing development. As more people move into the area, there will be an increase in jobs, amenities, stores, restaurants and pubs that everybody can find value from.

And this growth can help lead to that grocery store in the west end that many people have been asking for.

Residents will have access to all day fifteen-minute GO Train Service within seven years and sooner than that we will see fifteen-minutes all-day service provided by Burlington Transit along the Plains Road and Fairview Street Corridor.

And with more people living in the downtown, current businesses will thrive and new businesses such as stores, restaurants and other services will be attracted to move to the downtown.

When I ask people what they like about living or working in the downtown; invariably the answer is “You can walk everywhere.”

You can walk along our waterfront, to the Burlington Performing Art Centre, to the Art Gallery of Burlington and to the new Joseph Brant Museum when it opens as well as to stores, restaurants and cafes.

It’s exciting to think that new developments will have car share and bike share programs. This will result in some residents making the shift and choosing not to have a car or reducing multiple car ownership because they can walk, cycle or take transit for the vast majority of their trips. And, if needed, they can use the car share program for long distance trips or to make larger purchases that don’t happen on a regular basis.

This type of lifestyle is healthier and reduces the carbon footprint. We know this isn’t a lifestyle that will work for everyone, but in time, it will be desirable to many.

Deciding how Burlington will evolve isn’t just about new buildings and where they will go.

We are making an improved commitment to ensure that new development will be architecturally attractive and unique, with a great feel for pedestrians on the street. By doing this, we will be proud of how our city looks and continues to grow.

A publication titled “Intensification: what it is and what it promises” on Neptis Foundation website said this about intensification.

“Intensification is promoted as a way to achieve several benefits.

First, if population growth can be accommodated at higher densities, or within existing urban areas, or both, less Greenfield land will be required for new housing.

Second, research shows that when density increases beyond a certain level, automobile use declines in favour of transit, walking and cycling.

Third, where surplus infrastructure capacity exists in urbanized areas, adding more people to these areas make more efficient use of public urban infrastructure such as water and sewer pipes, as well as soft infrastructures including schools and social services.

In short, development in already urbanized areas plays to the city’s strengths rather than spreading its resources over an ever-wider territory.”

Public Engagement

Building a beautiful and vibrant Burlington is a never-ending marathon. There are always many hurdles to cross as the city will be around much longer than any of us.

Public Engagement is a critical piece of the decision making process for municipalities.

The City of Burlington was named the Organization of the Year by the International Association for Public Participation for applying the “Community Engagement Charter” adopted in 2013. It recognizes our mandate to consult and engage with residents in all matters.

As one judge put it “Employees now ask how to engage — not whether we should or not”.

As I look forward to our continued progress with public engagement, I am inspired by a 2017 lecture given by Bret Stephens of the New York Times to the Lowy Institute in Sydney, Australia titled ‘The Dying Art of Disagreement’.

He suggests that we may be failing in how we deal with disagreement and that disagreement is critical to a decent society.

I want residents to know that Council recognizes the importance of accommodating differences on the many issues that we face as a city. The view is shared that “every great idea is really just a spectacular disagreement with some other great idea.”

To be successful, I am drawn to some simple advice from Bret Stephens of the New York Times that reads

“To disagree well you must first understand well. You have to read deeply, listen carefully, and watch closely. You need to grant people with alternate views moral respect; give people the intellectual benefit of the doubt; have sympathy for people’s motives and participate emphatically with a different line of reasoning. And you need to allow for the possibility that you might yet be persuaded by what has been said.”

We will continue to develop and improve how we connect with residents and engage our community and support discussions around issues with strongly held viewpoints – that is democracy.


In order to build a great city, you need to have great support and great partnerships.

We are fortunate to have that with our federal and provincial representatives.

Last year, we received over eleven million dollars from the Federal and Provincial governments through funding applications for various city projects.

Six million dollars of that was for the Joseph Brant Museum Expansion, which allowed us to break ground for the work that has begun this winter.

Once completed, the museum will expand from the current five thousand square feet to seventeen thousand square feet of barrier free space for gallery displays, interactive programming, the storage of collections and community outreach.

It will also become a destination and a beautiful addition to our waterfront.

We also partnered with the Province of Ontario, the City of Hamilton, Mohawk College and Sustainable Hamilton Burlington to launch the Centre for Climate Change Management at Mohawk College last year.

The centre is the first of its kind at an Ontario college and will help accelerate the region’s transition to a low-carbon economy and support Burlington’s Community Energy Plan, which has already made a significant impact in reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

The partnerships we build with our neighbouring cities and the different orders of government are crucial to the success of Burlington.

As Helen Keller said, “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much”

Connected City

I mentioned earlier that Halton residents have a higher life expectancy than the rest of the province and the country.

I believe a major contributing factor is the opportunities in Burlington to be mentally and physically active, to be engaged and to build relationships that result in a sense of belonging within our community.

2017 was a banner year for community building and togetherness in Burlington.

In celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday, the city initiated a goal of reaching one-hundred and fifty Love My Hood events. The program was designed to build a healthier Burlington by engaging and empowering residents to come together and host events celebrating their neighbourhoods.

I’m happy to say we surpassed our goal of one-hundred and fifty with one-hundred and fifty-eight Love My Hood events.

This initiative attracted residents of all ages. We had a fourteen-year-old boy who hosted a block party that brought one-hundred neighbours together.

You’re never too young to make an impact and initiate change in our city. Last summer, we opened up a brand new playground at the Bolus Parkette in the Aldershot community.This park was designed by local kids and built by the community members. The playground has created a place for culture and community activities to thrive and has provided a positive sense of place, inclusivity and community.

A special thanks to the McNally Foundation for their tremendous financial support not just for the playground but also the journey that got us there.

In August last year, the new Michael Lee Chin and family patient tower opened which is a major milestone in the redevelopment of Joseph Brant Hospital. The renovations to the original tower of the hospital will continue this year.

This past November, Burlington’s Carpenter Hospice broke ground on a significant capital redevelopment that will see the construction of a new state-of-the-art resident wing and a new wellness outreach centre that will extend the Carpenter Hospice care into the community.

I am proud to say that I am the Honorary Chair of the capital campaign for the Carpenter Hospice’s Making Room Redevelopment Project.

Thanks to the generous contributions from donors over the last decade, Carpenter Hospice has over three million dollars saved, and now it’s up to us, the community, to raise three million dollars more to reach the goal of six million.

I know I can count on the support and generosity of residents and businesses in our city to make this happen because when there is a need, our community comes together like no other.

Ladies and gentleman, these are just some of the reasons why Burlington continues to be the best mid-sized city in Canada.

This concludes my formal remarks. While Tim Caddigan and I get comfortable on the chairs, please turn your attention to the video.


Previous State of the City addresses:

State of the City 2011
State of the City 2012
State of the City 2013
State of the city 2015

State of the City 2016

State of the City 2017

The Gazette has published all but one of the eight State of the City addresses. 

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OPINION: Not a hope of replacing this city council unless people step up and run for office.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

January 31st, 2018


Being heard or getting a new council

A Gazette reader commented:

“In a democracy the number of votes really count. If people want the Official Plan then the councilors who feel it is a good thing will be voted in again.

“If people don’t want the Official Plan and are dead set against changing Burlington into another Mississauga, Toronto, etc., then they will not be voted in again and we’ll see what a new group of councillors come up with.

“It will all be in the hands of the voters.”

True – but not completely true.

council 100x100The number of votes does count – providing there is a choice of candidates.

Nominations don’t open until May 1st but Mayor Goldring and Mike Wallace have made it known that they are both going after the same job.

Incumbents have such an advantage especially those who have been sitting on council for more than 15 years.

Anyone expecting to be elected has to begin to develop a profile – and that isn’t hard to do – you aren’t allowed to spend any money but meeting people is not hard to do.

Votes count – when there is a clear choice.

If good candidates don’t come forward and make a choice possible the current council will get returned – the people of Burlington let that happen in 2014. The writing was on the wall in a close reading of the Strategic Plan.

Salt with Pepper are the opinions of the Publisher of the Burlington Gazette.

Strategic Plan

How many votes did the current council get

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Gaetan gives his take on that 'as expected' city council vote.

opinionandcommentBy Joe Gaetan

January 31st, 2018



Goldring - Christmas picture

Mayor Rick Goldring as he appeared on a Christmas card.

“The Vote is as expected”, said Mayor Goldring affirming that the Official Plan will not be delayed until after the fall election. The Mayor’s words underscored the vote of six members of council not to defer the adoption of a new plan.

The lone vote to defer the plan was cast by Councillor Marianne Meed Ward. But before that, all council members had an opportunity to say why they voted “as expected”; here is my take on what was said.

As a Standing Committee chair, Ward 1 Councillor Rick Craven is as good as it gets. Handling delegations and accepting the ideas of other people - not as good. But he wins elections.

Ward 1 Councillor Rick Craven

Councillor Rick Craven was adamant in his belief that 34 out of 35 delegators, or in his words the “200 angry people” who were opposed to the Official Plan were not going to sway him because he cares and does listen, and that the Burlington downtown has to take its share of intensification. During the 2014 election 4,772 voters gave Mr. Craven the right to vote as he did.

Councillor Lancaster listens carefully and tends to be cautious; still in a 'learning mode'.

Ward 6 Councillor Blair Lancaster.

Councillor Blair Lancaster also made the point that she cares and listens and took the time to ponder her decision, but that council sets the policy which is what they were elected to do. During the 2014 election 2,087 voters gave her the right to vote as she did.

Intense to the point of making delegations uncomfortable ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman does know how to drill down into the data and look for results.

Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman

Councillor Paul Sharman said the vote was not about today but about our city 50-70 years from now, he also stated we are kidding ourselves about affordable housing and that he was looking forward to running on this issue in the fall election. During the 2014 election 3,935 votes gave Mr. Sharman the right to vote as he did.

Dennison announcing

Jack Dennison Councillor Ward 4

Council Jack Dennison stated we need the “assessment growth” (aka taxation revenue), there was “no news in this Official Plan”, that they had to vote as they did and not because “of the 200-people” standing in front of us. During the 2014 election 5,401 voters gave Mr. Dennison the right to vote the way he did.

The Dean of Burlington Council members, Ward 3 Councillor John Taylor fights for what he beleives in. One of the things he wants is more openess and more transparency. He didn't get it this time out.

The Dean of Burlington Council, Ward 3 Councillor John Taylor

Councillor John Taylor opined on the fact Burlington has run out of greenspace, that we need to grow as a city and that we need to start intensifying south of the QEW. During the 2014 election 2,977 voters gave him the right to vote a she did.

Meed Ward H&S

Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward, cast the lone vote to defer the adoption of a new Official Plan April 4th.

Councillor Meed Ward made several attempts to sway the vote, asking council to put the Official Plan “to a test of democracy”, that citizens had been given little time to review parts of the plan, that citizens only learned about some aspects of the plan in November, that the changes were not minor. During the 2014 election 4,654 voters gave Ms. Meed Ward the right to vote as she did.

Mayor Goldring stated he did not believe there is any benefit to deferring the OP, that there had been tremendous dialogue and good discussion on the  Official Plan  and that OP’s were never perfect, that there was no benefit to deferring, as it would not represent leadership and that council had to finish what it started.

During the 2014, 36,237 voters gave Mr. Goldring the right to vote as he did.

According to Deputy City Manager, Mary Lou Tanner, the citizens have four more opportunities to weigh in on the Official Plan, not that it will make much difference where our downtown is concerned. Why? The fate and future of the downtown was sealed on Monday January 25 by the “Expected vote”.

It appears that the majority of council believe, the voices of 35 delegators have no weight in this matter, are not representative of the majority of Burlington voters, and that they were fairly elected to vote as they did on this and other matters that come before council.

Joseph GaetanJoe Gaetan attended and delegated at the meeting of January 23,2018, and attended the Council meeting of January 29,2018. While a resident of Ward 2 in a Tall Building, he does not live downtown.

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Using taxpayer money to promote a pet project.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

January 29th, 2018



The federal government runs a program called Canada Summer Jobs, an effort to assist unemployed students get summer work and income. This program, which has been going for a while, is largely administered locally through the MPs’ offices on the basis of some fairly open-ended funding criteria.

Over last five Harper years about $3.5 million dollars were handed out to anti-abortion groups, such as Campaign Life Coalition and the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform (CCBR).

Abortion truck

In Calgary, Canada, there is a pro-life group, The Canadian Centre For Bio Ethical Reform, that drives around a truck with the images of a post-abortion fetus on the side.

The latter, CCBR, is best known for distributing obscene and disgusting images and literature in the hope that the visceral images would shock Canadians and convert them to support ending a woman’s right to choose. The federal money paid for household leaflet drops and obscene posters placed on the sides of city buses in the organization’s base town of Calgary.

Canadian policy is very clear on this matter. The criminal code has only always defined life as beginning at birth, not at conception nor when one forgets to purchase a package of condoms for a romantic evening. Still, ever since former PM Kim Campbell ended the national debate on abortion almost a quarter century ago, there has been an ongoing campaign among the folks who aren’t happy with the status quo. But while these dissidents have continued their campaigns unabated, the rest of the country has grown to become overwhelmingly supportive of the right to choose, particularly among those women in their child bearing years.

Harper in chair - Star photo

Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Stephen Harper may have personally been opposed to a woman’s right to choose, and he did cancel funding for Canadian organizations providing family planning in developing nations. Yet, even he resisted re-opening the abortion issue in this country, in fact actively discouraging the zealots in his caucus from bringing the subject up.

Last year the Trudeau government refused to allow these anti-choice organizations to use federal money to distribute their propaganda. And this year (2018) the government has firmed that up with specific criteria – “The government recognizes that women’s rights are human rights. This includes sexual and reproductive rights — and the right to access safe and legal abortions. These rights are at the core of the Government of Canada’s foreign and domestic policies.”

Abortion Trudeau positionAs expected the government has come under fire from the anti-abortion crowd claiming their constitutional right to freedom of expression and/or freedom of religion is being violated. But of course that is nonsense. They are welcome to express themselves but just not on the taxpayer’s nickel.

And abortion is not a religious matter. The term doesn’t even appear in any of the scriptures. Quite likely creationist evangelists just missed this little piece from their favourite book. Genesis 2:7 (New International Version) – Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. Life begins at birth.

Neither the pronouncements of the Catholic Church on this subject, nor the chattering of the disparate evangelicals makes this a matter of conscience except for those directly involved – the woman and her doctor. And while the Prime Minister has been unequivocal in his protection for the rights of women, that is not the case for his primary opponent, federal Tory leader Andrew Scheer. Scheer has not been supportive of the right to choose, and he would reverse the government’s decision and allow anti-abortionist groups to use federal money to promote their cause.

Scheer shared a place in Harper’s caucus with the prominent former MP, Patrick Brown. Brown also represented the so-called religious-right, and the wedge issues of opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion. But then after winning the leadership of the Ontario PCs, Brown had an epiphany and disowned his past political life. He grew the party’s membership, put together a progressive popular platform, and brought his poll numbers up into the majority range.

Patrick Brown resigning

Patrick Brown giving a press conference hours before he resigned as Leader of the Provincial Opposition.

Unfortunately the other side of his past political life came back to bite him when two women he knew back in his MP days came to cry out about sexual impropriety. If the claims are true wouldn’t that be the height of religious hypocrisy – claiming piety but acting like pig?

There are a couple of wild conspiracy theories to Brown-gate. Suspicion is high that the release of these stories was orchestrated by his own party or someone influential in it. One rationale is that the Mulroney camp wanted to get Brown out of the way when it seems like the summer election is in the bag for the PCs. If Brown wins he might get two or three terms before Caroline Mulroney gets a crack at it.

Then there is the revenge theory. The right wing of the party was unhappy with Brown for having walked back his commitment to those so-called religious-right wedge issues and they staged the confessions in the hope of forcing him out and installing a more conventional conservative leader. The only thing for sure at this point is that the party, which only a breath ago had been measuring the Premier’s office for new blue furniture, is now living in much more exciting times.

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:

Harper’s Charity Audits –     Summer Jobs Program –

Life Begins –

Boston Globe –

Canada’s Catholic Church –

Abortion Poll – 

Harper’s Cuts – 

Freedom of Religion –

Evangelicalism –

More Evangelicals –

Summer Jobs – 

Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform –

Scheer on Summer Jobs –

PC’s in disarray –

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Rivers opines on what the fall out might be from the Patrick Brown resignation.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

January 25, 2018



Damn I hate when that happens. Now I owe my publisher, a bottle of single malt over who’ll win the election this year. But I won’t give it to him until election night, just in case Brown manages to defy gravity and bounce back.

We don’t know anything about the allegations of sexual misconduct which have led to this yet, though that detail seems irrelevant at this point. Everyone is innocent until proven guilty, here in Canada. But it is pretty incriminating when virtually all of his office staff had resigned because he initially wouldn’t – though he has now. No doubt we’ll be getting the tabloid details in weeks to come, but it sure looks like he and his political career are toast.

Patrick Brown resigning

Patrick Brown – former leader of the Progressive Conservative party in Ontario

The Ontario PCs will have a major test before them to appoint a new leader and determine if they move away from the platform Brown had assembled. Despite Liberal accusations that he was playing stealth with his carving knife, this was one of the most progressive and middle-of-the-road Tory platforms in over a generation.

Given that most Ontario voters still had no idea who Patrick Brown was, this gives the PCs a chance to grab the limelight in Ontario politics and introduce a new leader. And depending on their choice that may more than compensate politically for having to shed Brown when the polls looked so good for them. So this may not be the gift for the Liberals that some pundits might speculate it is for them.

Still, this has to be a huge personal defeat for Brown who had spent his entire life up to now priming himself for political leadership. If the facts prevail against him in this case, that will be another huge lesson for everyone, and especially males with a penchant for whatever it was he did that led to this.

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:

Patrick Brown resigns.

There was someone waiting in the wings – she never expected to become the leadership this way.

Publisher’s note:  Whenever Rivers has to pay up on his wager debts he invites me to his home and we seem to consume all of the bet that I won.


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All kinds of shenanigans at city hall - where is all this coming from?

News 100 redBy Staff

January 25th, 2017



It was an interesting start to a significant meeting on the direction growth in the city of Burlington is going to take.

Ward 2 Councillor set out in her Facebook page what took place.

At the beginning of the meeting I discussed the lack of respect in the proceedings and called on all of us to set a higher standard. We may disagree, but need to be respectful. There’s no place for name calling, false allegations and the like.

My full opening statement on a Point of Privilege is here:

I would like to raise a point of privilege before we begin.

My goal in raising this is to ask all of us to commit to respectful dialogue.

Meed Ward H&S

Councillor Meed Ward raises a Point of Privilege at council meeting.

Point of privilege is used “when a member wants to draw attention to a matter that affects the integrity, character or reputation of an individual/group”

· Last night a delegate say planning staff should be fired; it’s not the first time our staff have been unjustly criticized publicly; I hope it will be the last.

· Another delegate said residents are NIMBYs, motivated only by self interest

· The same delegate said my motions were “political interference” a serious allegation – he chose to criticize the woman who is bringing motions, but had no similar criticism for my male colleague who is also bringing motions – some of which are similar to mine.

· Finally, a 14-page memo has been submitted to the public record from Mr. Mark Bales from Carriage Gate Homes, we all got a copy Monday. Mr. Bales has never spoken to me about my views about the OP or the downtown, and yet in his memo he presumes to know my motives, calls into question my integrity and character, and makes allegations with no evidence.

* and the Burlington Post being told they are “not a real newspaper.”

All of this has to stop. None of this is helpful to our discussions.

Like many women who have been subjected to personal attacks for having an opinion, and saying it out loud, I have mostly ignored these things in the past, assuming they’re simply part of being in public service. I can take it – I have a tough skin – 22 years as a journalist and 7 in elected office does that.

But I’ve realized this isn’t about me; it’s about all of us and the culture and example we’re setting. So it’s time to speak up.

When people see others exposed to personal attacks, it discourages them from participating in the community conversation. And we lose that input. I know people who will not stand at that podium because of the way they have been treated.

When personal attacks go unaddressed, it sends the message that these are okay. They are not. We can’t have one standard for people we agree with – letting their comments go unchecked – and another for those we don’t.

It’s time for this to stop.

So, I am asking that we all – everyone around this horseshoe and all members of the community – commit ourselves to a higher standard of respectful dialogue and mutual respect.

This is in keeping with our Engagement Charter, and referred to in the draft OP Chapter 11: “Mutual respect for citizens, staff and members of City Council is the basis for the development of constructive relationships and successful citizen engagement.”

We may disagree about many things today and going forward; I expect we will. But let’s commit ourselves to this: let’s assume that each one of us around this table and in the community wants the best for the future of our city, even as we have different perspectives about how to get there. Let’s allow for that difference, and maintain mutual respect.

News anal BLACKThe delegate who made the comment about residents being NIMBYs who are motivated only by self interest deserves a closer look.

Glenn WellingsGlenn Wellings is a planner by profession who works for clients in the municipal sector.  He was the last delegator to speak and was one of the three that was supportive of the plans and ideas that had been put forward by the planning department.

Who chooses the order at which delegators speak?  That decision would be made by people in the Clerk’s Office.  Are speaking slots determined by the date at which the request to delegate are received by the Clerk’s office?

Can people ask to be allowed to speak at a particular point?  People who cannot get to a day time meeting will ask to be heard in the evening.

Wellings didn’t add much to the information Council was given.  The Gazette learned that Wellings, representing a client in Halton Hills, had urged the public to participate in the public dialogue – but he did something quite different in Burlington.

Wellings Planning Consultants Inc. lists the following as clients:

  • Township of Amaranth
  • Township of East Garafraxa
  • Town of Grimsby
  • Regional Municipality of  Halton
  • City of Hamilton
  • Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board
  • County of Hastings
  • Town of Milton
  • Regional Municipality of Niagara
  • Town of Oakville

He was doing what his client wanted in Halton Hills.  Did Wellings have a client he was representing in Burlington? He didn’t say he was representing anyone; neither did he say that he has a relative working at city hall.  Nothing wrong with that.  The relative worked in Human Resources.

The relative did at one point work in Planning where the responsibility was related to the development of the downtown core.  The relative did some very good early work on the background related to future changes of the Waterfront Hotel.

What the Gazette was surprised to learn was that in January the relative was transferred from Human Resources to the Office of the City Manager where all the strategizing is being done on getting the draft version of the Official Plan approved by city council.

Wellings could have given full disclosure and told Council about the relative that worked for the city.

Related news story.

Wellings urges citizens in Halton Hills to get out and support a development; in Burlington citizens are NIMBY’s – concerned only about their self interest.

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Rory Nisan: This should be #OurDecision.

opinionandcommentBy Rory Nisan

January 23rd, 2018



After writing my article “Emerging Democratic Issues at City Hall” on December 21, I hoped for more respect for the views of Burlington citizens and, more generally, a more transparent attitude from the City as it enters a critical time in its development. Time will tell, yet there have been numerous developments in recent weeks that continue to give cause for concern for the state of our city from a democratic perspective. Here are four:

(1) The letter from City Manager James Ridge to EcoB:

Ridge quote

While within his right to send a toughly worded letter threatening legal action related to a couple of political lines on a website, Mr. Ridge would benefit from using more honey and less vinegar. He could have invited ECoB for a meeting to discuss his concerns and to hear from ECoB also. It would be entirely proper and reasonable for the City Manager to reach out to a community group and meet with them and hear their concerns.

Instead, he used the threat of employing taxpayer money to sue the taxpayers themselves. Would expensive litigation have benefited the City, the taxpayers or ECoB? In fact, the only beneficiaries would have been the lawyers. ECoB could have called his bluff but took the high road and removed the supposedly offensive language from their website without delay.

Mr. Ridge should seek out the high road also.

(2) #GetTheFacts
A social media campaign is underway from the City of Burlington, using the hashtag GetTheFacts to make posts on Facebook supporting the draft official plan. Having worked in strategic communications myself, I can see the hallmarks of a deliberate intent to change citizens’ views about the downtown hub especially.

What is wrong with the city promoting its own plan? If it were an agreed upon, final document, there would be no problem.

However, this plan is anything but official. City Council has not voted, yet the unelected communications arm of the city is promoting the plan in order to sway the public’s opinion and that of city councillors, and is using taxpayer funds to do so by paying the salary of the communications staff.

If you don’t believe there is a strong bias, take a look at this post, which states that “higher density developments are located near the Burlington GO station away from the downtown core” when the proposal for the downtown includes permission for 17-story buildings. If 17 stories isn’t high density in Burlington, I don’t know what is. #GetTheFacts is the hashtag but these sound more like alternative facts.

Ask Grow Bold

This campaign should stop immediately; the City needs to get out of the way and allow the democratic process to unfold.

The city has no business influencing anyone about plans that are not approved. This is textbook anti-democratic.

This is almost certainly not the case of a rogue social media specialist. These deliberate strategies are typically thought through and assigned at senior levels. I have found the social media team at the city to be second-to-none in professionalism and providing information to the public.

This campaign should stop immediately; the City needs to get out of the way and allow the democratic process to unfold.

(3) $278,970
We learned recently that Mary Lou Tanner has been promoted to Deputy City Manager. A new position was created, and Ms. Tanner won an internal competition to be named to the role.


Former Director of Planning Mary Lou Tanner was appointed Deputy City Manager.

The City Manager should feel free to re-organize as he sees fit, but he asked for new money to pay for the position, instead of making the internal sacrifices necessary to have a new senior executive role.

Councillor Meed Ward put forward a motion asking that the new salary be included within the existing corporate management human resources budget but it failed at committee.

How much is a Deputy City Manager paid? Her exact salary isn’t known but once CPP, EI, benefits and other costs are added up, the new position will cost the taxpayer $278,970.

Is that good value for money? What else could the city do with that kind of cash? Here is one hypothetical example of many: the cost of a pilot project in Oakville in 2011 allowing seniors to ride free one day per week was estimated to be $45,200 per year and increased ridership on Mondays during the pilot by 578%. A rough, back-of-the-napkin calculation would indicate that we could allow seniors to ride free six days per week for less than the cost of the new Deputy City Manager.

Here is another idea. The $278,970 could be divided into four salaries of $69,742 to hire some top-notch staff to create a unit dedicated to improving the level of consultation and dialogue with taxpayers, building on best practices and ensuring that citizens’ view are heard at the highest levels and fully considered.

(4) Timing of the Reverse Town Hall
The Reverse Town Hall was a good initiative — an example of what Burlington needs in more supply. However, it was set at the last minute and on the same evening as a critical meeting for ECoB.

A charitable view of this would be that it was an unfortunate coincidence of timing.

A less charitable view would be that there was an attempt to undermine attendance at ECoB’s meeting by forcing people to pick between engagement sessions.

Goldring reverse town hall

Mayor explains what he heard at his Reverse Town Hall

As an optimist, and giving the benefit of the doubt, I prefer the former view. However, even that scenario would indicate an unfortunate lack of consideration of the political calendar in Burlington. More careful attention should be taken in the future, and if the City were taking a more inclusive approach to an important citizen-based committee, this error would not have occurred as outreach to ECoB at the same time as this event would have been on someone’s calendar.

Several of these four issues are connected in some manner, and they all concern democratic practice at City Hall. In an election year, I hope we can aspire to do better.

Councillors and the Mayor were given a mandate to govern in 2014. However, that mandate is not a carte blanche. They must return to the citizens regularly to check the pulse and ensure they are not outstripping their license to govern.

The Mayor taking questions at his State of the City Address is the right thing to do (though $45 tickets makes it very difficult for low- or fixed income individuals to be able to afford to attend and ask questions), as was the (unfortunately timed) Reverse Town Hall. Whenever an elected official puts themselves in the hot seat and takes un-moderated questions it is a positive development.

However, this City Council does not have a mandate to undertake the major changes envisioned in the updated Official Plan. A change of this magnitude needs to be put to the voters, if not as a referendum, then as an important element of an election’s discourse. Luckily, the 2018 election is right around the corner so it would be no trouble at all to delay a decision a few months.

A good and necessary first step was taken when the decision on the new Official Plan was delayed to April to allow more consultation. Going into important debates this week, we need more of this kind of reflection of the will of Burlingtonians.

To put it in social media terms, this should be #OurDecision.

rory shotRory Nisan is a long-time Burlington resident and Lester B. Pearson High School alumnus. He has been an active member of the Save Pearson community organization.


Related content:

Nisan on Emerging Democratic Issues at City Hall

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The fight to make the approving of an Official Plan an election issue.

background 100By Staff

January 23, 2018



There is probably a large part of the city that either doesn’t even know what is going on at city hall or are totally confused over what is taking place.

The Planning department has presented a number of very significant changes to city council – and city council has gone along with them.

Municipalities are required to review their Official Plan every five years. Burlington is in the midst of that process and there are a lot of people who don’t like what they see in the plan so far and are aghast at the speed with which the document is being approved.

It was originally to be completed by the end of January. That date got pushed forward to April.

The changes are so significant that some people, an admittedly small group, want the Official Plan made an election issue. That election is to take place late in October of this year.

Goldring reverse town hall

Mayor did a Reverse Town Hall.

The Mayor got concerned enough to hold a Reverse Town Hall where he listen to 100 + people who made it very clear to him that they were not happy campers. He was hearing seniors tell him that he has betrayed their trust. Not words any Mayor wants to hear heading into an election.

Wallace and Gould

When Karina Gould took the Burlington House of Commons seat Wallace decided he could serve as Mayor of the city.

Mike Wallace a five term former city Councillor who went on to become the Member of Parliament, got beaten by Karina Gould which sent Wallace back to square one, said in his campaign announcement on Monday that the QEW divide in Burlington has to be overcome.

It is almost as if there were two cities.

Every viable city needs a core; Burlington has one but the recommendations coming out of city hall and being approved by city council are seen as extreme by some. A 23 storey tower opposite city hall is too much for some people who don’t think this city council has a mandate to foist that level of development on the citizens.

That first tower is just the beginning – the city is reported to have 22 new applications for high rise buildings that are working their way through the Planning department.
City council is literally under attack and reeling from the assaults coming from a small organization known as ECoB – Engaged Citizens of Burlington. The group claims they knew they were making headway when the city manager threatened them with legal action over some of the wording on their web site.

SaveOurWaterfront- Meed ward

Marianne Meed Ward rode the Save Our Waterfront movement all the way to city hall – can the Official Plan put her in the Mayor’s seat?

The Mayor is reported to have announced that the decisions being made about how development will be done on the downtown core have been moved forward to sometime in June. ECoB is pushing to have all this stuff made dependent on the election outcome.
Downtown ward 2 councillor Marianne Med Ward is very vocal about what she thinks is all wrong about what is taking place and she plans to present a number of motions at city council – one which is to put the approval of the city Official Plan on hold until the municipal election has taken place.

The developers have convinced themselves that what Meed Ward wants will be the end of Burlington.

Meed Ward has not announced that she is running for the Office of Mayor

In her Newsletter, which is widely read in every city ward she recently said:

421 Brant“Ever since council approved (5-2) the 23 storey building at the North East corner of Brant & James, people have become more aware of the proposed changes in the new Official Plan to the downtown, and elsewhere in the city including the neighbourhoods surrounding the Aldershot, Burlington and Appleby GO stations.

“I have heard from residents across the city, and the majority have said they aren’t happy with the proposed changes, especially for the downtown, and the entire Official Plan process seems rushed. They are asking for more time to review the most recent draft Official Plan and revised downtown policies (released in November), the track changes, comments and supporting documents, as well as additional analysis and mapping for the downtown released in mid-January 2018 – all of which is more than 2000 pages.

“Though the Official Plan began in 2011, it started as an update, and the downtown was not included in the scope. On Oct. 31, 2016, the project changed from an update to a rewrite of the Official Plan. The first draft of the Official Plan was released in April 2017. The downtown policies were not ready. The new downtown policies were first released in September 2017, with a revised draft in November. The revised draft Official Plan was also released in November. The mobility hubs were discussed at committee for the first time in December.

“So, we’ve had less than three months to digest and make the best decisions for the downtown, the mobility hubs and the city.
“We need to give ourselves and the community more time to make the right decision for our city. Residents also want to put the Official Plan to the test of democracy by postponing approval till after the October municipal election and asking candidates to campaign on the OP.

“There is no need to rush. Municipalities are required to review our Official Plan every five years, but there is no deadline for completion. We’ve been at our OP for six years without penalty, so what’s a few more months? City business has continued throughout the review, receiving and processing development applications. Nothing stops while we work to get it right.”

You can see where this is going and for parents who are busy getting the kids out to hockey games or wondering just what the teenagers are doing – an Official Plan is not top of mind.

Tell them that it is important and they will agree and add that that is what they have a city council for – to do the right thing.

Most of the people involved in the protesting say – that’s the problem – they aren’t doing the right thing.

The council meeting Tuesday night is going run late.

What is astonishingly remarkable – the public is hearing nothing from the other five members of Council.  The Mayor is vocal – he is running hard to keep his job.

Note a word so far from the other five members of council.

Taylor John slight side view

John Taylor – Dean of the city council with 25+ years of service.

Dennison announcing

Jack Dennison has served for more than 20 years.

Councillors Sharman and Lancaster - both first term members. Will they both be returned?

Councillors Sharman and Lancaster were both elected in 2010 and returned in 2014.

Councillor Craven could make ammends and spearhead a drive to get the Freeman Station located in Spencer Smith Park where it belongs. That would mean getting along with Councillor Meed Ward. Can Craven get beyond his problems with Meed Ward and see the greater good for the city?

Councillor Craven has served for more than a dozen years.

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Rivers asks: What is our country’s readiness to face the unthinkable?

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

January 22, 2018



It’s 8 am on a sunny Saturday morning and you’ve received a message on your phone, also blaring on radio and TV, that there is a missile of unknown origin coming your way and you need to seek immediate shelter. That is the kind of terror that people living in Hawaii recently experienced. That it was a mistake this time, a technical error, doesn’t make it any less gut wrenching. In fact that incident begs the question about our country’s readiness to face the unthinkable.

ban the bombThere is a no-brainer – ban the bomb – but that’s not going to happen because it’d have to be global. Singing Kumbaya from the universal planetary hymn book just won’t cut it, and neither will hope and prayer. But then who would want to do this to us? Canada has no international enemies, right, except maybe ISIS or the Taliban? We are otherwise at peace.

And if peace ain’t enough, there are some of those anti-missile defence systems. Shooting down your enemy’s missiles is almost as old an idea as the missiles themselves, going back to Germany’s V1s and V2s. The Russians now have more modern ABMs, so does Israel, China, India and the USA of course.

There used to be an international treaty banning the development of anti-ballistic missile systems (ABM). But then GW Bush tore it up and in the process empowered/emboldened one very paranoid former KGB agent by the name of Vladimir Putin. And the Russians responded by tearing up the treaty limiting multiple warheads (MIRV). MIRV missiles with ten to fifteen individually targeted warheads are real hard to find and get and the latest Russian technology makes these warheads even harder to take out.

All of this kind of talk takes us back to the cold war option of mutually-assured-destruction. Unless one can guarantee there are enough accurate ABMs to take out all the incoming nukes it’s back to the Doomsday scenarios, fallout and bomb-proof shelters, as they have retained and restored in Moscow.

Star Wars graphic

An illustration of how the Star Wars technology was going to save everyone.

Of course Ronald Reagan who was fond of Star Wars, got a lot of laughs, but back in 2005 Bush Junior tried to involve Canada in its military’s efforts at developing a fleet of North American ABMs. Despite years of testing and development and more money handed to the military-industrial complex than anyone can imagine, performance is still less than perfect. And perfect is what is needed if you are to prevent a multi-megaton nuclear missile from cleaning up your neighbourhood, giving new meaning to the term urban renewal.

Give peace a chancePeriodic test failures provide little comfort that these systems with highfalutin names like THAAD and Aegis would actually do the job. We can tell by the near panic we hear from the man in the White House every time his favourite Rocket Man over there fires off one of his new toys. They certainly couldn’t stop North Korea’s launches over Japan with their ABMs. What makes anyone think these systems could really stop the big one should it ever be coming to a location near you?

Paul Martin, clinging to power with a slim minority government and facing opposition from the Bloc and NDP, told Bush a big negatory back in 2015. Canada would not be in. And seriously, if there were four nuclear ICBMs headed to North America targeting Settle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Vancouver – and a Canada/US missile defence system could only intercept three of them – which city would get the short straw?

But some issues never go away. Media folk, perhaps prompted by US defence contractors, raised the topic again last week as Canada co-hosted an international summit on North Korea’s nukes, out in our own la la land, Vancouver. The purpose was to discuss enforcing sanctions on Kim’s little ole’ republic ahead of any negotiations, or something like that. And being the gracious hosts we are, we handed over some chump change (~$3 million) to the cash-starved US to continue to monitor the Russians and Chinese as they breach the UN sanctions.

Of course the hermit dictatorship wasn’t invited and neither of its two influential neighbours China and Russia attended either. So neither of those nations were able to explain why they violate the very sanctions they committed to when they voted for them. There were also suggestions that this would demonstrate to the often belligerent US president that negotiations, rather than the bully-pulpit, or worse, might be more effective. But Trump couldn’t attend, perhaps needing to get some exercise and attend to his putter… or doctor.


Thew people that mattered weren’t in the picture.

There were speeches by foreign ministers from some 20 countries apparently, but only Japan and the US really mattered and neither of those had anything new to add. I’m glad I didn’t attend, well actually I wasn’t invited. But had I been, I would rather have headed for a couple days of something more stimulating up at Whistler. Though at least Vancouver’s weather was a little warmer for a boondoggle than Ottawa’s or Burlington’s, but still too cold for those used to Mar-a-Lago.

But the good news was that this so-called summit had no sooner begun then it was upstaged by serious diplomatic events happening on the Korean peninsula. After a phone call and series of meetings North and South Korea have agreed on a joint athletics team for the 2018 winter games in Pyeong Chang (S. Korea) early next month. And they are talking about other stuff too – so who knows maybe they’ll be restarting peace talks? We’ve seen this movie before but perhaps the ending will be different this time.

Of course Trump is taking credit for this new dialogue, and it is not inconceivable that his fire and fury may have actually helped. But the peace prize, if there is one, will have to go to South Korea’s recently elected pacifist president Moon Jae-In – who came into office promising dialogue. And if that means Kim will ultimately be retiring his nukes, then we here, next door to his real nemesis, will be able to sleep soundly again. And that might put to rest any talk of rushing to pour real Canadian cash into an American ABM system, which has yet to prove its reliability.

Missile testing

The missiles are tested and shipped to almost anyone who can pay for them.

Fellow NATO partners Turkey and Greece have recently purchased Russian-made S series anti-missile/aircraft systems. France has developed its own system. And we in Canada have a defence co-operation treaty and a free trade agreement with Ukraine, which had built many of the former Soviet systems, including those massive SS-24 nukes with 10 warheads, back in the day. Under attack from its more technically advanced neighbour now, this eastern European nation is actively seeking partners to help fast track development of its former missile and missile defence industries.

Perhaps we need to be looking longer and further afield if a missile defence system becomes a priority for this country and peace is no longer the answer. After all, there is merit in that the old adage that good fences make better neighbours. Just ask the Ukrainians.

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:

Hawaii Missile Alert –  Canada and US ABM –  More Canada ABM –   Nightmare Scenario –   Joint Attack Preparation –   NK Summit –   ABM Tech –   Korea Talks –   Vancouver Summit –    Olympics –    Vancouver Summit

Canada Contributes –    American ABMs –    American ABMs Failures

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A large part of the public has taken back the power they gave the people they elected to office

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

January 21st, 2018



Burlington is going through an experience it hasn’t had for some time.

They have taken back the power they gave the people they elected to office because those people have not exercised that power effectively or efficiently.

One speaker at the Mayor’s Reverse Town Hall told the Mayor that “You have lost our trust.”
Democracy is a delicate process, it needs constant care and attention which, unfortunately, many citizens have failed to provide.

council with term datesPoliticians have to be held accountable – and not just during elections. Every member of the current council was re-elected in 2014 – they took that as a signal that they could continue doing what they had done the previous four years. That is the message the taxpayers sent.

And the voters in Burlington may well be sending a similar signal again.

Can you name people who are putting their names forward as candidates? The Gazette is aware of two young men who are planning to run for Council seats – unfortunately both are in the same ward so all the city will get is one of the two. Both would be welcome additions to council.

The Gazette has met with close to a dozen people encouraging them to run for office. In several cases they would earn more than what they are currently earning.

There is something noble about being chosen by your peers to represent and preserve what the city they have chosen to live in has going for itself.

There are conditions to being asked to serve; like being invited to dinner – you are expected to leave at some point. The current Council has two members who need to move on and recognize that fresh minds are needed.

When ending a career in civic service the idea is to get out at a high point.

Those who have been Councillors for a long time will not be motivated to move on if they don’t see younger, fresher faces biting at their ankles.

In the past we have seen people put their names forward who were not ready for public office and brought little in the way of wisdom or experienced to the table. There was at least one that got elected in 2010 that met that condition.

The new election rules – pushing back the nomination date to May 1 from January 1 makes it a little harder to create a profile or get known – but it can be done.

If a candidate cannot raise a team to get themselves elected to office then they are not ready for office.
There is a public waiting for good candidates to come forward.

Marianne Meed Ward delegated so often at city council in 2008, 2009 and 2010 that she became a known entity and got behind an issue that mattered to people.

The current Mayor wants to serve a third term, a former city Councillor and former Member of Parliament wants back in and will announce formally on Tuesday that he will run for the office of Mayor.

city hall with flag poles

The seat of government – yards away from the Cenotaph that recognizes those who lost their lives defending the democracy that gets practiced at city. There is an obligation to honour and respect their sacrifice.

There is an Aldershot resident who ran for the Chairmanship of Regional Council in 2014 with absolutely no experience in municipal government who has now convinced himself that on the basis of the votes he got in 2014 he can get elected as Mayor of Burlington. There is a line in that poem: Twas the night before Christmas – “While visions of sugar plums danc’d in their heads” – the words were intended for children but an adult seems to have taken them on.

We get asked regularly “Is she going to run? Is she going to run?

Did God make little green apples?

Of course Meed Ward is going to run – she is being very strategic on choosing when she announces.

The question that follows is – who will run for the ward 2 seat? And is it possible for Meed Ward to end up with a council that will have 4-3 votes for motions.

The city didn’t like it all that much when Cam Jackson’s council produces a lot of those 4-3 votes and look where replacing Jackson got us. But that is another story.

Salt with Pepper is an opinion column written from time to time by the publisher of the Gazette

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The Official Plan being developed is the bedrock on which future growth is being based - let it be the core issue in the October 2018 election.

opinionandcommentBy Jim Young

January 20th, 2018



Yielding to intensive lobbying, delegation and protests from Citizens Groups, Local Businesses and even from Building Developers, Burlington City Council and Staff have pushed the schedule for passing their revamped “Official Plan.” Back to April 2018.

The original December 2017 schedule for Burlington’s most important planning document for the next several decades, was being rushed in order to have the plan adopted before it could become a 2018 election issue. On Tuesday January 23, council will discuss final implementation dates for that plan.

The question now becomes: Will that final vote by council in April still allow Councillors to avoid electoral accountability in next year’s election?

Official-Plan-Binder_ImageThis New Official Plan is important enough to be a major issue in that upcoming election so those same community groups are now saying very loudly that accountability to citizens can only be served by moving the decision back until a new council is elected. Instead of rushing to avoid electoral accountability, we should spend the time finalizing a Plan that serves all of our city and let the election be a referendum on the plan.

That New Official Plan must be based on the Mobility Hub, Transit and Cycling Plans, which have been promised but not yet completed, begging the question: “How do you build an overarching plan when the building block plans are not yet in place?” These should all be developed and put in place first, with real input from Citizen, Retail and Commercial Groups and with real engagement; not the pseudo consultation that has taken place to date,.

Mobility hub + graphic

The Official Plan will rely on and be informed by the Transit plan, the Transportation plan and the finalization of the Mobility hubs. Citizens want council to wait until the other studies are completed before making the Official Plan final.

The New Official Plan proposes a radical change to our city. It contemplates massive increases in population, allowing hi-rises on traditional downtown retail and commercial sites with no allowance for preserving the quality of life for residents. The city would have us believe that any negative effects of the Plan will be addressed by Mobility Hub, Transit and Cycling Plans which, as previously stated, are not even in place yet.

As our city moves forward with the revised schedule for its Official Plan, citizens ask our city;

Jim Young A

Jim Young, a frequent delegator at city council.

1. Please do not close off further citizen input and delegation. The legalities of the Official Plan approval process demand citizen input. To date that input has at best been directed by staff rather than real participation by those citizens directly impacted. The best and most attention grabbing ideas so far have come from engaged and active citizens groups, small businesses even city developers and not from the Pseudo Involvement so far undertaken by the city. Let staff and council use this time and this groundswell of engagement to seek real input to improve and perfect the plan.

2. Having accepted that the timeline for the New Official Plan was indeed flawed and reacted appropriately by revising that timeline, we ask that the decision on the zoning amendment for 421/423 Brant Street be revisited and any revisions of that zoning be included as an integral part of the fresh review of the New Official Plan. The parallels between the two issues, Intensification in General, and Specific Downtown Zoning are so similar it seems logical to consider one as part of the other bigger issue.

Jim Young

Jim Young speaking up for his community.

3. Citizens accept that council are elected and staff employed to provide the best possible planning for our city’s future. We will not always agree on what that planning may look like so we rely on two things to limit city power in such disagreements.

First: The professionalism and qualification of city staff to provide guidance to council.

Second: The underlying accountability that our representative democracy gives us to hold our elected officials to.

So we ask again: Why the rush to pass this Plan? If it truly is the basis on which our city will be built over the coming decades, and if our city fathers truly believe in the plan they have created, why not let council make this New Official Plan the core issue in the 2018 election? Why not let the people speak?

Be assured that citizen groups are paying very careful attention to this issue and council’s responses to their voices. A failure to listen to your citizens now will not go unnoticed in October.

Jim YoungJim Young is one of the founding members of ECoB –  Engaged Citizens of Burlington. He lives in Aldershot.



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Mayor holds a Reverse Town Hall meeting while ECoB meets to train people how to get city hall to listen

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

January 18th, 2018



The Engaged Citizens of Burlington, a newly formed group working towards a better Burlington for generations to come is particularly concerned with issues of planning and development.

They operate online and through community meetings to help build awareness on issues affecting Burlington residents and the community as a whole.

ECoB noticeThe group planned a Workshop for volunteers that takes place this evening.

Unfortunately, the Office of the Mayor planned an event at the same time and while ECoB said they “applaud the Mayor for taking time to listen to the public” they did think that the Mayor’s office should have been aware of the meeting they had planned and been able to avoid a conflict.

Goldring defends turf 2

Rick Goldring during a 2014 election debate when two lightweight candidates went up against him. The 2018 election is going to be a lot different. Former Mayor Mike Wallace has thrown his hat into the ring – others are expected to follow.

ECoB said they were under the impression that the January 23rd City Planning and Development Meeting was the time for the Mayor to listen to the public.

Matters got a little difficult for ECoB when the city manager sent them a letter threatening legal action if they did not remove some comments about the city planning department from their web site.

It’s all getting a little messy – there must be something in the water the people at city hall are drinking.

ECob is going ahead with their meeting.

The Mayor is going ahead with his Reverse Town Hall meeting.

They will all be at city hall on January 23rd for a critical Planning and Development meeting.


Mike Wallace with Connie Smith.

The day before – January 22nd, Mike Wallace a former city Councillor and former MP for Burlington will stand up in Civic Square and formally announce his intention to run for the Office of Mayor.

Suddenly everything comes into focus!

Salt with Pepper is an opinion column published from time to time.

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Citizen Advisory group on the waterfront ceases operation.

News 100 blueBy Deedee Davies

January 17th, 2018



I am saddened to be writing to let you know that the citizens-led volunteer group, Burlington Waterfront, has shut down its operations. I had to step down as Chair of this group to focus more personal time and energy on providing elder support. With our executive members already also deeply involved in the complementary advocacy efforts with other groups to protect our waterfront lands and downtown from unnecessary overdevelopment, none of them were able to take on this role.

Waterfront hotel Taylor

Deedee Davies on the left with Councillor John Taylor and Realtor Linda Davies – the two women are not related.

We encourage you to stay involved in protecting public access to our waterfront. Writing to all the Councillors and Mayor with your views on issues is a good start. Mayor@burlington.ca; Ward 1 rick.crave@burlington.ca; Ward 2 marianne.meedward@burlington.ca; Ward 3 john.taylor@burlington.ca; Ward 4 jack.dennison@burlington.ca; Ward 5 paul.sharman@burlington.ca; and Ward 6 blair.lancaster@burlington.ca

As well, there are several advocacy groups operating where you can offer your support, expertise, time, or effort.

Plan B rendering

Plan B, a group of downtown residents, want to ensure that the public has better access and sight lines to the waterfront and the pier. They want to be “at the table? when the redevelopment of the Waterfront Hotel takes place.

Plan B is working with the city planners to develop a better plan than the city’s preferred concept for the redevelopment of the Waterfront Hotel lands at the foot of Brant Street. The draft city plan called for two towers of up to 25 and 18 storeys and a large 4 storey podium all on the waterfront side of Lakeshore Road. You can join Plan B in their efforts by getting involved through their Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/PlanBwaterfrontHotelRedevelopment/

ECoB (Engaged Citizens of Burlington) is “fighting City Hall” to have overturned the recent approval by City Council for a 23 storey condominium on the north-east corner of Brant and James Streets. This is the proverbial “straw that breaks the camel’s back” and would permit a flood of 20 something storey condominiums into our downtown and line Brant Street from the waterfront up. In fact, city planners already envisage (and are trying to put approval for it in the Official Plan) a 22 storey condo being built at the NE corner of Brant and Lakeshore Road, where the old bank building, now a falafel restaurant is located. This would be directly across from the proposed 22 storey replacement for the Waterfront Hotel and the 22 storey Bridgewater Development already under construction.

This not-for-profit group of citizens are also proposing to delay approval of the Burlington New Official Plan that regulates land use for the next decade so that citizens have proper opportunity to learn about and comment on the sweeping changes being proposed for some neighbourhoods. Find out more on how you can get involved at www.engagedburlington.ca, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ecoburlington/ and on Twitter at Twitter.com/EngagedCoB or email them at info@engagedburlington.ca .

Meed Ward with Mayor Goldring: she is more comfortable with herself as a speaker.

Meed Ward with Mayor Goldring: she is more comfortable with herself as a speaker.

Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward who represents the downtown is working tirelessly to try and stop these irreversible events from occurring. She has brought to light new information on the Downtown Mobility Hub and a discrepancy between city and provincial intensification boundaries that could be game changers.

Please read her latest Ward 2 newsletter at www.ward2news.ca or follow on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/ward2burlington/ or on Twitter at @MarianneMeedWard to learn more. If you care, please get involved, particularly if you are not from Ward 2.

Burlington Green Environmental Organization believes the City of Burlington is missing a huge opportunity to preserve and add green spaces to the downtown as they finalize the Official Plan. With all the condominiums planned for the core, there are not any park spaces planned for south of James, east of Brant and north of Lakeshore. Where will the children of families living in this neighbourhood play? You can learn more at www.burlingtongreen.org under the Local Issues /Preserve Greenspace tab, or follow them at www.facebook.com/Burlington.green.environment/

Burlington Core Residents is a forum for residents to stay current on the latest news and developments in the Burlington downtown area. Their email address is coreresidents@gmail.com, or follow them at www.facebook.com/coreresidents/


The developer wants to intensify this property.

First Urban Inc is appealing the city’s refusal of rezoning for 143 Blue Water Place and 105 Avondale Court (between Walkers and Appleby Lines south of Lakeshore Road). It will be going to an OMB Hearing at City Hall beginning May 14, 2018 at 10:00. The City and citizens are trying to prevent a development of 35 three storey townhouses and 4 semi-detached units from being built on the waterfront where currently there exist two homes. This development is inappropriate at this location for so many reasons. An association was formed to help the city fight this proposed development. They are called Burlington Lakeshore Residents Association. Their chair, Ben King will be an official Party with legal standing to the OMB Hearings. To become involved, please write to them at lakeshoreresidents@outlook.com or check out their website at www.lakeshoreresidents.com.

All is not going to stay quiet on this waterfront. A city council member, Marianne Meed Ward has created a citizens advisory committee on the waterfront that is going to take a holistic look at what is best for the city.

When the city sunset the Waterfront Advisory committee that a former member had set up the Council member for the ward, Marianne Meed Ward, created a citizens advisory committee that would “take a holistic look at what is best for the city”.

On behalf of the executive of Burlington Waterfront, I would like to thank you for your interest and efforts in protecting public access to our waterfront and encourage you to continue making Burlington a great city with a great waterfront by staying engaged. And please take time to enjoy our beautiful waterfront, in every season – it is a jewel.

If there was ever an occasion for Mayor Goldring to seek the opinions of others on the Beachway PArk - now is the time to do it and on Wednesday he will have an opportunity to listen to one of the best minds there is on waterfront development. Former Toronto Mayor met with MAyor Gildring at a Waterfronty Advisory meeting a number of years ago. Time for another chat.

Former Toronto Mayor David Crombie was a guest at a Waterfront Advisory Committee where he urged Mayor Goldring to listen to what the citizens of the city.

Editor’s note:  The Waterfront group that has ceased operating had an interesting history.  It was what was left of the Waterfront Advisory Committee that was formed by former Mayor Cam Jackson.  The city sunset that committee.  Both Mayor Golding and Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward said they would form committees to take up the work that both felt needed to be done.

The Mayor did nothing – Meed Ward decided to serve as an advisor to the group she was going to form.  While serving as Chair of the committee Davies worked tirelessly and brought interesting information to the public.  Think Deedee Davies when you think about who should be nominated as one of Burlington’s Best.

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Were social license or civic space part of the decision to close two Burlington high schools ?

opinionandcommentBy Rory Nisan

January 14th, 2018



What is democracy?

Is it a single act, an election every four years?

Certainly, that is one part of democracy, an essential but not sufficient component. Without the ability to have the final word on our leadership through a free and fair vote, and the ability to do so in a human rights-based system, with freedoms of association and expression, we do not have democracy.

However, a vote every four years does not guarantee that leaders will listen to their constituents in the long gaps between elections.

Is democracy a decision made by an elected representative?

Trustees - fill board +

Halton District School Board trustees in session

When that person is balancing the values and interests of their constituents, the sum total of decisions is certainly an important aspect of democracy.

Yet, individual decisions by representatives can nevertheless be anti-democratic if they are taken for other reasons, such as payback to political, union, private or corporate interests who have funded their campaign, or to further professional goals (promotion, a future private sector career, fear of disagreeing with a senior bureaucrat).

Is democracy the social licence given to leaders from civil society?

Licences carry responsibilities to be maintained. They are only given when tests are passed. They can be revoked. Social licence is critical to democracy.

Is democracy a function of civic space?

When a society has the room it needs to engage in decisions that affect it — and it fills that space with collective action, we have the strongest democracies.

As far as the decision to close Pearson and Bateman High School is concerned, we do not believe that civic space was respected; nor was any social licence given to trustees to make that decision. We were then let down a second time by an Administrative Review process that supported the decision of the trustees despite noting several flaws in the process. We expected a better outcome based on the consultations we had with the facilitator and the numerous violations of policy we had uncovered.

Miller Diane addressing Wilson HDSB

Administrative Review Facilitator Margaret Wilson listening to Diane Miller.

Yet, while there are errors and omissions in the Administrative Review report, our battle was never with the facilitator, because the true letdown was a Program and Accommodation Review (PAR) that was so deeply flawed that the Premier had to put a halt to all PARs shortly after ours was completed.

Second, the original sin was committed by trustees who voted against our schools in the first place; they did so against strong evidence as well as the wishes of a clear majority of constituents. And we cannot forget one trustee whose failure of leadership all but ensured the closure of Pearson High School.

The community will bear the consequences of these errors for years to come, and the “divide and conquer” approach to community engagement of the Halton District School Board and the PAR process has left the Burlington community divided.

Has democracy failed us?

It has been said that democracy is the worst system of government, except for all of the other ones, and we certainly feel that way at the moment.

Still, we need to expand our horizons in reflecting on this encounter with democracy, politics, interests and values. Because while Burlington is going to be worse off as a result of the school closures, we have made strides in improving democracy as well as local and provincial governance as a result of the actions taken.

We stood up for what we believed in and proved that decisions in Burlington and Halton cannot be taken lightly in the future. We did so by protesting in the middle of winter, by putting up signs and getting signatures, and so many other activities to get our voices heard. We will also make sure that future decisions are better made, by supporting candidates for trustees later this year who understand the foolishness of the decisions taken, who will actually read our emails and who have the analytical and leadership skills that our community deserves.

rory shot

Rory Nisan

We engaged the province in our fight, pulling no punches in confronting Premier Wynne with our plight. She took notice, as did Education Minister Hunter, as did MPP McMahon. As a result of our tireless conviction, and that of other citizen groups around the province, Wynne put a hold on all PAR processes, thereby admitting that they have failed Ontarians. It was too late for our schools because our PAR process had concluded, but it may save many others.

Furthermore, Leader of the Official Opposition Patrick Brown has promised to stop all school closures should he be elected on June 7, in part because of our advocacy, meaning our collective efforts could have an even bigger impact across the province.

We also exposed the flaws in the decision and in the process, so when a new system of reviewing schools is developed they will have a “worst practice”, which has been carefully documented by our teams, upon which to draw.

Importantly, we also learned how to advocate for our community: how to push our objectives in the media, how to go door-to-door for signatures, how to build momentum, how to convince people to get involved. These democracy skills are ours to keep.

And finally, we gained enthusiasm. We will not go home. We will continue to advocate for Burlington’s children when they are confronted with bad ideas from un- elected bureaucrats who have forgotten that they were not elected, or from elected representatives who have forgotten how to represent.

Several years down the road, when the Director of Education has moved on to a new position, and most or all of the trustees have been voted out or retired, we will still be in Burlington, fighting for our kids.

And by holding our elected officials’ feet to the fire and never giving up on what we believe in, we will be agents of change, and create a better Burlington.

rory closeupRory Nisan is a long-time Burlington resident and Lester B. Pearson High School alumnus. He has been an active member of the Save Pearson community organization, serves on the City of Burlington’s Mundialization Committee, and is co-creator and co-organizer of the One Burlington Festival, which brings together Burlingtonians of different faiths and cultures.








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Rivers: Humans pass wind an estimated twenty times a day on a good day.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

January 13, 2018



FART. Not a word you would have seen in print only a couple decades ago. Four letter words were once taboo – LOVE excepted. But today they are as common as crows, showing up everywhere; print media, television, movies, school playgrounds and sometimes even at the family dinner table. And when the leader of the free world uses language like “shithole countries” – well what the heck!

farting couple rivers

He seems rather pleased with himself!

Humans pass wind an estimated twenty times a day on a good day. Of course that can vary with weight and exercise and health… and diet. We know it’s beans, beans, beans. But it’s also broccoli, cabbage, onions, garlic, beer and meat.

Aesthetics aside the real problem with off-gassing is the contribution it makes to our changing climate. It’s the methane gas generated in the intestines during digestion which is the culprit. And methane, as we know, is a far more potent greenhouse gas than the carbon dioxide we always talk about.

It’s true that beans are a much more potent flatulent than meat. Yet it’s where these foods come from that really puts that statement on its head. Cattle and sheep are ruminants, they have four stomachs and regurgitate their food (chewing their cud) which leads to massive gas production.


Do the math – 500 litres of methane gas per day x how many cows?

One study estimated that a cow generates up to 500 litres of methane gas per day. With almost seven million cows in Canada, that is a heck of a lot of gas. An article in the Atlantic estimated that meat consumption accounts for more than a third of all US greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). And if all meat were banned tomorrow, the US would be in the home stretch, fully three quarters of the way there, to meeting its Obama-era 2020 emissions reduction goal – without doing a single thing more.

But that is not likely to happen in a USA where its president goes to bed hugging a cheeseburger instead of his wife. America is blessed with Trump, the climate change denier, who has worked hard to transform the once proud USA from world leader to rogue nation. And nothing was more rogue than thumbing his nose at the rest of the world and the planet and pulling out of the Paris climate agreement.

TRump burger

Trump with his burger and fries.

Trump may be part of the problem but he is hardly the cause. Meat consumption has been increasing globally, a response to rising national incomes and the extension of western culinary customs. Global meat consumption grew by FIVE times between 1992 and 2016. Even in India, where a third of the population claim to be Hindu or Jain vegetarian, meat consumption has been growing faster than a raging Brahman bull.

Perhaps it’s a presidential thing as former US president Bill Clinton was also an infamous hamburger hog, until he finally needed bypass surgery – and the meadow muffin hit him smack in the face. Trump is so passionate about his meat that he’s been known to throw away the buns so he can get right at the beef. In fact he forced his Japanese hosts to change their traditional sushi dinner menu to hamburgers for his recent state visit.

And besides climate change, meat is also a contributing factor for obesity, diabetes, cancer, soil degradation, high water consumption and deforestation. And lest we forget, milk also comes from that big brown moo-moo. Yet, it is inconceivable that any liberal democracy would adopt a policy to outright ban farm animal production or meat and dairy consumption.

But we might tax it! That is exactly what many organizations are calling for, including those claiming an authority to lobby for human health and animal welfare. They want a sin tax on meat, just like what we have for tobacco and alcohol, carbon, and pretty soon marijuana. Increasing the cost would encourage consideration of alternatives in our diet. A salad and single-malt scotch instead of meat and milk works for me.

Back in 2003 New Zealand floated the notion of taxing its 100,000 plus farmers with a hefty but inappropriately named ‘fart tax’ – a misnomer since cows actually belch more than fart. Animal rearing is responsible for as much as half of all of that island nation’s GHG emissions. And of course, the farmers continue to protest that such a tax would imperil their international competitiveness and crash their economy.

However, taxing meat at the production stage does more than raise cash. Clearly more research needs to be funded into developing less gas-causing animal diets, and other technology, until we find that perfectly toot-less moo-moo. But an emissions tax would also encourage greater adoption of that technology, even by today’s more conventionally-minded farmers.

And there is complementary research on the consumer front, including at least one Franken-science laboratory which has developed a synthetic something-or-other in a petrie glass. It’s not a soy-burger, but rather, something which apparently looks and tastes like Harvey’s ‘a beautiful thing’. And no animals are being harmed in the process. But at a cost of $300,000 per burger, the Ontario minimum wage would have to increase well beyond $14 before McDonald’s starts to worry about sales of its Big Mac.

cow face

Apparently – I am the problem.

Taxes have a way of forcing technology and changing habits. Cigarettes are a case in point. Keeping them hidden and banning them from public spaces helps, available vapour E-cigs probably help as well, but higher prices are the real kicker, forcing sales to continue their downward tumble.

Who knows? One day hamburgers may be banned from bars and other public places as well. And perhaps those gassy beans will be next on the list of controlled substances. And maybe one day we’ll hear that the US president prefers settling down with a Franken burger next to him at bedtime.


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:

“Shithole” –   Passing Gas Etiquette –   Farting –  Trump’s Big Mac

More Burgers –   Meat Tax –   More meat –   Beans vs Meat

Indian Meat –   Cow Farts –   NZ Fart Tax –   More NZ

Meat Tax –   More Meat Tax –   Franken Burgers –   Profanity

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Rivers, with tongue in cheek, predicts for 2018.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

January 6th, 2018



2018 is going to be a year of surprises.

On the international front, America’s Supreme Leader will visit North Korea. After an inspection of Kim’s ‘goose-stepping’ million-man army, he will dine with the North Korean leader over a meal of Kimchi and Korean-style barbecued Rottweiler – a meal, as Kim will say, befits the lead running dogs of communism and capitalism.

Kim red button

Who has the biggest red button?

Following the state dinner Trump and Kim will discuss plans for nuclear cooperation and reunification of the Koreas, in addition to comparing the size of their respective nuclear buttons. Trump will return home a self-described hero for bringing peace to the Korean Peninsula, though he will have to be admitted to hospital almost immediately for medical attention related to an acute case of intestinal parasites.

But his successful visit will be instrumental in allowing the Republicans to win the mid-term elections and continue their best efforts at eliminating taxes on the wealthy and ending publicly supported health care. Most pundits will attribute the GOP victory to the campaign promise of tearing up NAFTA as the best way to make America great again – keeping American jobs out of Canada and Mexico and bringing them back to the USA and China.

On another front President Trump will decide to completely end all military activity in Afghanistan. The US diplomatic break with Pakistan and a dramatic upturn in al Qaeda, ISIS and Taliban military victories, coupled to general public disillusionment with America’s longest war, will be cited as the primary reasons for the US withdrawing from this region. Trump will tweet that his decision is consistent with history – citing the Russians and British who also left the country with their tails between their legs.


Between the two of them, Horwath and Brown, they form the next government.

Ontario voters will surprise even themselves by electing an NDP minority government which will be supported by the Green Party, having elected its first Ontario MPP candidate ever. Patrick Brown will place a close second to NDP leader Horwath. Still his party’s rank and file will demand his resignation blaming him for running a campaign borrowed almost entirely from the Liberals. Brown will step down, making way for ‘heir apparent’ Caroline Mulroney to lead the provincial party. Karl Heinz Schreiber, having just been released from a German prison, will offer to help her with fund raising, much as he tried to help her father.

The Liberals will attribute their election loss to their decision to increase the minimum wage. The NDP which had also supported the wage increase will attribute their own victory to the promise to nationalize all Ontario franchises of Tim Hortons in the public interest, and to unionize its workers under CUPE, which also represents the garbage workers. US based ‘Restaurant Brands’ which had owned Tims, as well as Burger King and Popeye, will plead unsuccessfully for a ruling under the defunct NAFTA. “Tim Hortons is the hole in the donut that nourishes the lives of all Ontarians” Horwath will be quoted as saying.

male drag actorMale actors and directors of theatre and film in Ontario have formed an association to support them against what they call the mischievous accusations of sexual misconduct running amok throughout the industry. Called the “# Fork You Too” these actors will announce their refusal to engage in any intimate scenes with female actors and demand that all female roles now be played by men in drag, as they were in Shakespeare’s day. This will cause great consternation in the entertainment industry, particularly among those engaged in the pornography sector.

Most of Canada experienced its coldest winter in decades in early 2018. In response the federal Minister of the Environment has announced the decision of the government to join the US and withdraw from the Paris Climate Change agreement. Despite accusations by David Suzuki that the government is confusing weather for climate, the PM will defend this position, at the opening of a new tar-sands plant in Alberta, noting, “It is clear that our efforts to mitigate global warming have succeeded in bringing us back into the cold,”

So there you have it folks. Recall that last year I just about nailed it… well the Keystone XL pipeline prediction anyway. And recall that it was in this column where you read it first, in 2016 – I predicted Donald Trump would be elected president.

Happy New Year. May we all live in interesting times, even without the surprises predicted above.

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 a candidate for provincial office in Burlington in 1995.  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:

Dog Meat –  More Dog Meat –   Other Predictions

Tims –  Tim Hortons –   Rivers 2017 Predictions

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'I can do something about that' didn't make it to the PARC meetings; a failure in leadership.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

January 4th, 2018



In the not too distant future Burlingtonians will learn what the provincially appointed Administration Review facilitator Margaret Wilson has to say about the Program Accommodation Review process that was used to close two of Burlington’s seven high schools.

How did this city get to this messy place?

The Gazette believes a large part of the reason was Marianne Meed Ward’s failure to lead.

How did a natural leader fail to lead when it really mattered?

SaveOurWaterfront- Meed ward

Meed Ward is a very astute politician – she chooses and issue and sticks with it asking people not just to vote for her but to trust her telling people: “I can do something about that”.

I have watched Marianne Meed Ward develop as a politician since 2010. I sat in on a few of her early 2010 election campaign meetings. I was given an opportunity to be part of the team that was going to run her election.


Marianne Meed Ward delegating as a citizen – before she had been elected to city Council.

I have watched Meed Ward appear before council as a citizen delegate; she was tireless, deliberate, focused and consistent.

When she was elected I watched her begin the process of bringing city council around to a better way of operating. Her colleagues did not make it easy.

During the period of time after a car accident that resulted in a concussion that Meed Ward was not fully aware of, I watched her struggle through a city council meeting and then drove her home – it wasn’t that she couldn’t walk – she knew she shouldn’t.

That same evening all the members of city council were being entertained for a holiday event at the home of a Council member whose application for a property severance had been denied by the Committee of adjustment. The decision was appealed to the OMB at considerable cost to the city.

Meed Ward said she had not been invited to the event.

Visual - city council full

Councillor Meed Ward has always wanted what council does to be on the record. She makes her colleagues stand up and be counted – and they don’t like it one bit.

I vividly recall watching Meed Ward put her colleagues through five recorded votes at a city Council meeting. The Councillor closest to her philosophically, John Taylor, sat there rolling his eyeballs. Meed Ward wasn’t budging one inch; she wanted those Councillors to be on the record.

I watched Meed Ward mature as a politician. She has been described by some as divisive – and to some degree she was – but not to the majority of the people in her ward. They believed she could walk on water.

Meed Ward held frequent ward meetings. I recall one during which she blurted out that she “loved her job” and she did.

During her first few months in office she got a call from a constituent about some garbage on the street – Meed Ward drove out with her van and picked up the garbage.

During her first six months as a city Councillor the City Clerk had to point out to her that she had used up her postage budget. She used up much of her coffee and donuts budget well before the end of the fiscal year. Her job was to send out information and meet with people, which she did.

Often, whenever ward 1 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward appears at events with the Mayor she sounds more "mayoral" than the man who wears the chain of office.

Ward 2 Councillor Meed Ward has had her eye on the job of Mayor from the day she filed her first set of nominations papers. The public should get a chance to decide if she is what the city needs next October.

She told her colleagues that that they should be paying for their parking – and that city staff should pay for their parking as well. Council didn’t agree with her – that didn’t faze Meed Ward – she said she was going to remit to the city the value of the free parking she was getting.

During the first election in 2010 Meed Ward had made it clear that she wanted at some point to be the Mayor.
She decided in 2014 that her children needed her at home and so she ran again in ward 2 and was handily re-elected.

With the 2018 municipal election in October expect to see Meed Ward running against the current Mayor.

The Gazette doesn’t agree with everything Meed Ward does but she is much, much closer to what a politician people in Burlington want to see representing them.

Meed WArd at PARC

Ward 2 city Councillor and Central high school parent Marianne Meed Ward at a school board PARC meeting.

Which gets me to the point of all this: Where were those leadership skills when it came to Meed Ward’s service as a member of the Program Accommodation Review Committee (PARC)?

That group of fourteen people was desperate for some leadership. Meed Ward could have given the group a strong sense of what needed to be done.

What went wrong?

PARC with options on the walls

PARC members deliberating with options on the walls

The members of the PARC certainly knew who she was. There was some concern expressed over a member of city council taking part in a Board of Education matter.

The Gazette didn’t have a problem with Mead Ward taking on the assignment. The Central high school parents asked her to represent them and given that she had a child attending the school she qualified.

We believed that Meed Ward knew the difference between the two roles she was playing. She was doing what the Mayor should have done. Mayor Goldring took the weasel position of sending his city manager to the PARC – James Ridge displayed a significant lack of knowledge when he said the school board should not sell any school property. Once a property is declared surplus the Boards of Education are required to sell property.

It was pretty clear by the second formal PARC meeting that they were stumbling. While the Board of Education Superintendent who was tasked with running the PARC had a lot of rules that he imposed those 14 people were bound by any of them. They had no input in the creation of the rules and began to realize that they were being manipulated.

To this day I don’t understand why someone: Steve Cussens , Steve Armstrong, Lisa Bull or Cheryl De Lugt – anyone, didn’t invite everyone over for a BBQ and have a frank and open discussion. The opportunity was there – they didn’t take it.

Central and MM question at PARC Feb 9

PARC members ranking the various school closing options that were put in front of them.

Without the leadership that was needed the best the 14 PARC representatives could do was protect the school they were representing.

The chance to take the high road was missed. They ended up hurling invectives at each other. The Bateman people panicked when they saw their school as marked for closure and claimed the Central parents had thrown them under the bus.

Whatever opportunity there was for a consensus was lost; the people power Meed Ward talks about wasn’t seen at any of the PARC meetings.

There is a phrase that Meed Ward uses when she talks about why she got into public service: “What inspired me to seek public office in the first place – “I can do something about that!” And she certainly does something as a city Councillor.

She just didn’t follow that direction as a PARC member.

There was from the very beginning an option that would have solved the immediate problem; options was #7 – do nothing, don’t close any of the high schools. The option wasn’t worded all that well and had a bit of a battle to remain on the list.

Some PARC members thought such an option voided the whole purpose of the PAR process while others felt very strongly that the public had the right to voice an opinion on whether or not they wanted any of their high schools closed.

Mead Ward chose not to take that option and run with it using her formidable skills to rally the other 13 people to that position.

The PARC could have, indeed the Gazette believes they should have, arrived at a consensus – option # 7 was there for them.

MMW typing

PARC member Marianne Meed Ward directing school board trustee Leah Reynolds on how to vote during some of the procedural issues.

The best Meed Ward was able to do in terms of leadership came after the PARC had been disbanded was to send a text message to a trustee with directions on how to vote, while the trustees were deliberating before the final vote to close two high schools.

MMW message to Reynolds

A parent took a photo of Meed Ward’s iPad screen during a school board meeting that clearly showed she was instructing Reynolds. In one line, Meed Ward wrote; “DON’T VOTE IN FAVOR” and in another, “Do not uphold the Chair’s ruling.”

It was not Meed Ward’s finest hour. Many people expected better.

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


Related content:
If there was ever a time when real leadership was needed the above this was it; the PARC infighting was getting dirty.

Meed Ward had to decide how she wanted to position herself once the Director of Education released the final report.

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Gazette reader takes issue with an interview given by the new Deputy city manager.

opinionandcommentBy Stephen White

January 4th, 2018



It was an interesting news story – the former Director of Planning doing a sit down interview with Colleen Podesta, a real estate agent. What could have looked like a fluff type interview by someone with a vested interest in the decisions the Director of Planning makes turned out to be something quite a bit different. Mary Lou Tanner, who is now the Deputy city manager explained that “granny flats” were possible in Burlington.

Tanner with Colleen Podesta

Colleen DePodesta, a Re/Max Escarpment real estate agent with Deputy city manager Mary Lou Tanner during an interview in the Atrium at city hall

The full interview can be seen at: Click here.

Stephen White didn’t see the interview that way.

He sent the Gazette some very pointed comments which were significant enough to be upgraded to an Opinion piece.

Here is what White had to say:

First question: since when were “granny flats” under consideration as an affordable housing option in Burlington?

Second question: since when do municipal public servants express public policy that, at least as far as I know, hasn’t been officially endorsed or sanctioned by Council?

Third question: why are local real estate agents interviewing municipal public servants for a promotional video that will be hosted on Ms. DePodestga’s website to advertise and promote the services of her business?

Fourth question: if a municipal public servant is supposed to maintain an arm’s length relationship with developers, real estate agents, etc., while ensuring a high degree of impartiality and objectivity in the process, why is she appearing in a featured interview? If she were being interviewed at a convention or broader public forum by a news agency that is one thing, but appearing in an exclusive interview for one business creates the impression of endorsement.

Fifth question: As per the City of Burlington’s policy on Media Relations, dated Wednesday December 24, 2014, Corp. Comm. -3-05, it states:

The Public Affairs department, which publishes City Talk, is run by Donna Kell, Manager Public Affairs. She directs a staff of 2.5 people plus a summer intern.

Donna Kell, Manager Public Affairs.

“The City of Burlington will designate corporate media spokespersons based on their accountability and responsibility. Corporate media relations spokespersons will function as the primary contacts with the media”.

Why wasn’t the Communications Manager the spokesperson on this issue.

Aside from the messaging the optics of this really stinks!


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