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.








Return to the Front page

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

Return to the Front page

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

Return to the Front page

'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.

Return to the Front page

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!


Return to the Front page

Mobility hubs and precincts - the evolution of a city as the planners see it. Some of the public want a seat at that table.

News 100 yellowBy Pepper Parr

January 3, 2018


Precincts and Mobility Hubs is a series of editorial features on what the planners have in mind as they develop ideas and concept for a bigger Burlington.

A report was presented to a city Standing Committee last September and approved by council on October 10th, 2017.

News anal REDIt was one of those foundational reports upon which much is built – it sets out how the planners see the core of the city developing; the core is like the root of a tree – everything comes from those roots.

The 27 page document set out the Downtown Mobility Hub draft new Precinct Plan and key land use policy directions. The draft is a key input into the creation of the Area Specific Plan for Downtown Burlington.

Burlington aerial

What will this picture look like in ten to fifteen years?

By undertaking secondary plans or Area Specific Plans (ASPs) for Burlington’s Mobility Hubs, the City continues to implement the objectives of the Strategic Plan and Official Plan to direct intensification, achieve transit-supportive densities and develop pedestrian and transit-oriented mixed use areas in the downtown Urban Growth Centre and at the City’s key major transit station areas – the GO Stations. The Downtown Mobility Hub draft new Precinct Plan supports the 2015-2040 Strategic Plan objectives.

In 2014, the City, along with consultants from Brook McIlroy, completed the Mobility Hubs Opportunities and Constraints Study, which provided a high-level analysis of each of the City’s Mobility Hubs and informed the development of the study areas for future Area Specific Planning work to be done in each of the Mobility Hubs.

In July 2016, Burlington City Council approved staff report which outlined a work plan, allocation of staff resources and required funding to simultaneously develop four ASPs, one for each of Burlington’s Mobility Hubs. The project was approved with unanimous City Council support and expeditious timelines that will culminate in the delivery of all four ASPs to City Council no later than June 2018.

In April 2017, the Mobility Hubs Team initiated the study publicly with a launch party followed by the beginning of a comprehensive public consultation program around the future vision for each of the Mobility Hubs.

In addition to achieving City Council’s objectives for intensification and growth, the Mobility Hub ASPs will also support the objectives of Metrolinx’s The Big Move, including the development of Regional Express Rail (RER) service, through the creation of complete communities with transit-supportive densities, as identified through the Province’s Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe and in the Region of Halton’s Official Plan (2017).

There was a time when a much larger bus termial existed 25 yards to the left of this small terminal onm John Street - it was where people met. There were fewer cars, Burlington didn't have the wealth then that it has now. We were a smaller city, as much rural as suburban. The times have changed and transit now needs to change as well.

It’s now just a place to refill your Presto pass and keep warm on the colder days. Think of it as an Anchor Mobility Hub – that’s what the planners are now calling the site.

Schedule 1 of The Big Move recognizes two Mobility Hubs in Burlington: the Downtown Mobility Hub is identified as an Anchor Mobility Hub and the Burlington GO Mobility Hub is identified as a Gateway Hub. In the City’s draft New Official Plan, all three GO Stations and the downtown are identified as Mobility Hubs and as areas of strategic importance to accommodate the City’s future growth. Through this growth strategy, the City is also protecting the stable residential neighbourhoods.

The Downtown Mobility Hub draft New Precinct Plan and key land use policy directions will be considered by Council with the draft New Official Plan later this fall. The Downtown Mobility Hub Study remains on target, with the delivery of the ASP for the Downtown Mobility Hub planned for June 2018. Following the approval of the ASPs in June 2018, work on the implementation of the ASPs will commence.

Time line

Time line the Planning department expects to work within. All this takes place with an interim Planner while the former planner, now the Deputy City Manager stays focused on the completion of the draft Official Plan,

The Gazette will report on 12 precinct plans – setting out a map of each and the Draft Intention Statement the planners have for each.

421 Brant

Looming over everything is the 421 Brant development that was approved by city council on a 5-2. A citizens group wants to appeal the decision.

Downtown Mobility Hub Precinct Plan
Parks and Promenade Precinct Plan
Brant Main Street Precinct
Bates Precinct
Public Service Precinct
St Lukes/Emerald Precinct
Cannery Precinct
Upper Brant Precinct
Downtown Core Precinct
Old Lakeshore Precinct
Mid Rise Residential Precinct
Tall Residential Precinct
Downtown Residential Mobility Area Specific Plan

The Mobility Hubs project is funded through the Operating Budget from 2017-2019.
Something missing here

The draft New Precinct Plan for the Downtown Mobility Hub achieves key important city- building objectives including: the establishment of a public realm precinct that includes new and enhanced public parks and promenades; the conservation of existing historic streetscapes; the provision of sites for future community and public services; the concentration of tall buildings in proximity to higher order public transit (Burlington GO); the establishment of height peaks and built form transitions; and the provision of development permissions that will attract future population and job growth to the downtown.

The Gazette intends to have as much information as possible in the hands of the public before the critical January 23rd meeting that has Urban growth center, heights, and key re-development sites on the agenda.

There was an interesting interview with the Deputy city manager on affordable housing – worth watching

Return to the Front page

New Deputy city manager does a sit down interview with a real estate agent - some interesting comments were made.

News 100 redBy Staff

January 3rd, 2018



The video runs for just over four minutes – you come away with a sense as to part of the direction Mary Lou Tanner had as the former Director Planning for the city and what she expects she will be doing as the newly minted Deputy City Manager.

The interview was done by Colleen DePodestga of Remax Escarpment Real Estate.

During the interview we learned that “Granny flats” are going to be (are?) legal in Burlington. When asked how millennials can get to live in Burlington Tanner said … well it is all in the video – worth listening to.

It is all here.


Return to the Front page

In an Open letter to city Council Aldershot resident wants a slow down on the Official Plan - a radical irreversible experiment.

opinionandcommentBy Greg Woodruff

January 2nd, 2018



Staff have recently announced a new schedule for passing the revamped “Official Plan.” The staff proposed timing is completely unacceptable. This new Official Plan represents a radical change to the city. It contemplates eventually increasing the population by hundreds of thousands of people, allowing hi-rises on thousands of properties with no notification to adjacent owners, removing traditional commercial sites everywhere, making completely unknown modifications to transit and imposing completely unknown costs for it all.

Placing the vote on a decades long plan in April, just one month before the 2018 election season starts in May, seems to deliberately avoid democratic input. Even if the timing is quite innocent, the appearance of impropriety alone demands that the vote be moved off to the next elected council. Staff should spend the next months finalizing a completed Official Plan, completed Mobility Hub plan, and completed Transit Master Plan, with costs. Then we can all have an election on the merits of all of these plans, and costs, and move forward with a mandate and the understanding of the population.

The new plan contains no mechanism to preserve the quality of life for residents; each day seems to have less tree cover, less greenery, fewer local services, more people, more pollution and more time wasted traveling around a congested city. These negative effects are imagined to be offset by a plan for a massive switch to non-vehicular transportation that will be discovered in the future, but has not been presented or costed today. It treats existing citizen’s investment in their property, travel patterns and the lives they have built in Burlington as an inconvenience to be swept away. That theoretical efficiencies in energy consumption or land use might occur on a planning spreadsheet is not sufficient justification to draft 185,000 taxpayers into a radical irreversible experiment.

Additionally, the possible closing of citizen delegations before upcoming official plan votes looks equally bad.

ScheduleCThe effects of the rules and definitions in the new Official Plan requires detailed study, and the public needs much more time to provide proper feedback to council. As one quick example – at first the coloured map (Schedule C) shows pink for “Neighbourhood Centre”, and would seem to protect those traditional commercial sites. This is until you realize that the “Neighbourhood Centre” designation requires re-development to “To ensure the in-filling of surface parking lots (”

NebirohoodDesignations Some of the rules attempt to distort the free market further and remove surface parking in exchange for allowing 12 story buildings on the site. It’s completely unclear what replaces all these traditional commercial sites, or how the commodities of living are to be acquired.

MixedUsageCommericalCenterIt seems as if the current population is to just blindly begin these changes then endure whatever local fallout occurs.

Though Councillors have a provincial direction to review and update the plan with staff, they certainly have no requirement to pass the plan in the current term. Population targets are set out at 2031, which leaves a decade or more before any tisk-tisking might even come from the Province. The current time line is simply not imposed by the Province. However, using this as a pretext again makes it seems like the real purpose of the timing is to remove the discomfort of Councillors and staff having to defend something they suspect voters are unlikely to support.

There is far too much focus on intensification for population numbers alone, and too little on positive intensification to enrich our communities. A focus is needed on quality of life, not the quantity of people. If the plan is worth voting for now, then it should be easy to get re-elected promoting it.


Are they prepared to stake their council seats on the Official Plan that is being proposed?

If members of Council don’t think they can get re-elected supporting it, then they should not vote for it now. It’s that simple. Changes this radical require a mandate, and this Council can help more than ever by making sure it exists for the next Council.

Please help everyone now by defending the people’s impression of our democracy which has placed Council in a position of trust.

Greg WoodruffGreg Woodruff is an Aldershot resident who ran for the office of Regional Chair in the 2014 municipal election.  He delegates frequently at city council.

Return to the Front page

Rory Nisan: 2018 - it is not enough to hope from the comforts of the couch.

opinionandcommentBy Rory Nisan

January 2nd, 2018



“May you live in interesting times” — an English expression commonly attributed as a Chinese curse, and an appropriate characterization of the situation in Burlington at the beginning of 2018.

LBP cardWithout a doubt, 2017 was a year of some turmoil in our community. Two of our schools are on the chopping block and the campaign of the Halton District School Board to close schools come hell or high water has without a doubt been a source of civil conflict in our community.

And more recently, Burlingtonians have contended with drastic proposed changes to the city’s official plan, causing outrage among many (and satisfaction for others) as Burlington feels the effects of development agendas.

For those who are engaged on these issues, we enter 2018 with some trepidation. Will the approval of 421 Brant street stand? Will more proposals for sky scrapers at the bottom of Brant street come forward?

Will the 5-2 vote on the Brant street building be mirrored by a 5-2 vote in favour of the new Official Plan?

Miller Diane addressing Wilson HDSB

Margaret Wilson listening to a delegation during the Accommodation Review of the HDSB decision to close two high schools.

Similarly, what will Margaret Wilson’s Accommodation Review of the HDSB Trustees’ decision to close Pearson and Bateman high schools contain?

As easy as it would be to be fearful for the future, I see many reasons to be optimistic. We are busy people: families, commuters and active retirees, among others. We could be forgiven for not always having our fingers on the pulse of local politics. After all, Burlington is one of the best cities in which to live in Canada.

I am truly impressed at how many stood up for what we believe in this year. I have been most active with the Save Pearson team and many of us were not engaged between elections prior to this issue coming forward.

That has all changed.

Now, moms and dads, alumni and grandparents are working together towards common aims. There are bonds forming, political and social, that will carry us into 2018.

We are seeing Burlingtonians coming together across cultural lines as well. Burlington is changing fast — it has never been as diverse. We could either become more inclusive, or more exclusive — neutrality is tantamount to giving permission for xenophobia to creep into our society. After the Mosque attack on 29 January 2017 in Quebec, we organized a vigil for the victims at city hall. The hundreds of people who attended and signed the condolence book were proof that Burlingtonians want and will take action towards a more inclusive city.

After that, we wanted a more happy occasion to celebrate inclusion and diversity, and so with the support of a dozen faith groups we pulled together the first-ever One Burlington Festival. We celebrated our different cultures and faiths with food, music, dancing and games on 22 August. I am excited to help make it an annual event with another One Burlington Festival in August 2018.

Finally, membership on the City of Burlington’s Mundialization Committee has afforded me the chance to meet several younger Burlington residents. I was never anywhere near as engaged as they are in their high schools years. It has been gratifying to mentor some of the younger members of UN Subcommittee in particular. They are truly impressive and now, at 35 years old, I am finally understanding why it is often said that youth are the future. I aspire to be as focused and determined to be an agent of change as these students.

2018The next 12 months promise plenty of excitement. First, in June we will have a provincial election, which will bring fevered campaigning through the spring. Then, Burlington will hold its municipal election on 22 October along with the rest of Ontario. This one looks like it’s going to be interesting, with multiple competitive candidates for the Mayorship, and a strong probability that city council will not be fully re-elected as it was in 2014.

What I will look for in 2018 is how Burlingtonians will build on the actions taken this year to fight for the city we want, with the schools we want, the downtown we want, and the roads and transportation we want, all coming together to build a city fit for purpose in 2020. I am hoping that a 2020 vision emerges through citizens’ engagement and that the upcoming elections unify Burlington rather than divide us, and put us on a path towards the kind of city we deserve.

Of course, it is not enough to hope from the comforts of the couch. It is critical to take action to be a part of the change that one wants to see, and that is what I will do.

Will you?

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.


Return to the Front page

A look at how the June provincial election might play out in Burlington.

News 100 redBy Staff

January 1st, 2018



In our business we get media releases from city hall, from the Region, from the provincial government and from the federal government. Plus dozens of commercial organizations who want a mention. Nice to know that they think we matter.

The number coming in daily from the province tells you that something is up – and of course the expected election in less than six months means the media releases get cranked out for just about anything.

News anal BLUEThere were two media releases today, that are not news but, point out to two changes the province has put in place that make sense in their own right and are examples of good government policy – they were the increase in the minimum wage to $14 an hour and a better deal for the minimum wage workers in terms of the time they can take off for sick days and personal matters.

The hospitality sector has been crying poor over paying the people who take our orders and serve us our food a decent wage. Their hope was that our gratuities would make the job worthwhile.

ohipplusThe other is described as OHIP plus which gives people under 25 all kinds of pharmaceuticals free of charge.

There was a new story of a university student who had to come up with $500 a month to cover the cost of her medications. There is one vote the Liberals can count on.

Both new programs appeal to and were aimed at a demographic that has not been known for its engagement in things political.

Will these two offerings make a difference to the Liberal party’s fortunes? They are said to be behind the Progressive Conservative opposition in the popularity polls.

McMahon - First public as Minister

Burlington MPP Eleanor McMahon

With the festive season behind us – expect to see a lot more election advertising and much more from the candidates. In Burlington the sitting MPP Eleanor McMahon, who is also a member of Cabinet and sits on the Treasury Board as well, will be on your doorstep. She is an accomplished campaigner – expect her to hold her seat.

While she should hold her seat she may return to Queen’s Park as a back bencher.


Jane McKenna, Progressive Conservative candidate for Burlington in the June provincial election.

The Progressive Conservatives brought Jane McKenna back after her loss to McMahon in YEAR. McKenna’s campaign is being run by former Member of Parliament Mike Wallace who has his hat in the ring for the job of Mayor.

They might have been better off running Wallace as the candidate for the provincial seat.

Vince smiling - head cocked

Vince Fiorito – Green candidate in the 2014 provincial election – is expected to run as a candidate again.

The New Democrats have yet to name a candidate. Vince Fioroto is reported to have agreed to run as the Green candidate. This time around he might actually campaign in Burlington – last time he spent much of his time in Guelph where the Greens thought they actually had a chance of winning that seat.

Burlington is represented by three people in the provincial legislature – the constituencies are: Burlington, Milton (covers the northern part of Burlington and Oakville North Burlington.  Editorial on those constituencies will follow.


Return to the Front page

In the matter of trust - this city council isn't doing all that well.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

January 1st, 2018



It always come down to a matter of trust.

Do you trust the person you are working with?

Do you trust the mechanic to fix your car?

Do you trust the grocer to sell you food that has not passed its best before date?

Trust doesn’t seem to go as far these days does it?

Learning that the largest supermarket operator in the country has been involved in the fixing of bread prices for more than ten years was a bit of a jolt. Many were stunned when they learned that Volkswagen was playing with the emission test results.

Hundreds of Ontario investors are out a lot of money because of foul play on the part of shady financial operators. These people wonder why the Ontario Securities Commission isn’t doing more to right the wrongs.

council with term dates

Thousands of Burlingtonians are close to furious with what they believe their elected officials seem prepared to let take place in terms of growth in the downtown core which they feel will destroy the city they love and live in.

Those same people question who the bureaucrats are working for and why recommendations they don’t believe reflect what the citizens want are sent to city council.

In 2010 the citizens of the city decided they didn’t like the way the then Mayor, Cam Jackson was doing his job and they turfed him. They elected a council that was quite a bit different led by a new Mayor they trusted.

Hold over Councillors Taylor, Dennison and Craven were re-elected. The sense was that Councillors Meed Ward, Lancaster and Sharman and a new Mayor was enough to change the way things were being done.

The electorate was satisfied enough to re-elect all seven members of city council which then let the bureaucrats foist a tag line on them that said:

Burlington is one of Canada’s best and most livable cities, a place where people, nature and business thrive.

The problem with the tag line is that it isn’t true – the “best city” part comes from a magazine that runs a poll each year and they declared the city was the “best”. The citizens of the city didn’t come to that conclusion – a publisher somewhere made that statement and the bureaucrats fell in love with it.

Far too many of the citizens are disagreeing with that statement – the trust that needs to be there is no longer in place.

A rapt audience listened to an overview of the 2014 budget. What they have yet to have explained to them is the desperate situation the city will be in ten years from now if something isn't done in the next few years to figure out how we are going to pay for the maintenance of the roads we have.

A rapt audience listened to an overview of a city budget.

Make no mistake however that tens of thousands of the people that live in Burlington love their city – the way it is. They are not opposed to change but they want to be involved in the decisions that are made and when they speak they want to be heard.

When a group of well-meaning people take the time to gather names on a petition they don’t want to be belittled and denigrated by a member of council who suggest the names gathered are suspect.

Dennis Monte at Council

Monte Dennis delegating at city council.

Vanessa Warren

Vanessa Warren delegating at city council.

People who don’t have much experience speaking to others don’t want to feel inadequate when they have finished their delegation and are not asked a single question.

Gary Scobie

Gary Scobie delegating at city council

Jim Young A

Jim Young delegating at city council

Burlington is fortunate to have some very accomplished people who address council; this writer cannot remember a single situation where an idea put forward by a citizen has been taken up by council. With the exception of Councillor Meed Ward, none of the others offer to get back to the speaker and follow up. They may do so – but they aren’t seen to do so.

It is a trust issue which this council does not appear to hear or even understand.

Staff at Council meeting Nov 30 - 2017

The quality of the image is terrible – the city has chosen not to invest in cameras that will produce a decent image. These are the messengers.

Trustees - Sams - Reynolds - Collard

By way of example – the images from Board of Education meetings are clear – and their vote recording system actually works.

Much of what city council is given in the way of staff reports infuriates intelligent, informed people who expect better. City managers serve at the will of council and they take their direction from Council. The bureaucrats are just the messengers – look to the people the bureaucrats serve for the kind of direction you want – and then press on to ensure that your message is heard.

And good luck – very few new faces wanting to become city council members have come forward.  We are aware of two – need more than that. Four of the incumbents might not even be challenged.

Blame yourselves for what you have.

Salt with Pepper is an opinion column written by Pepper Parr, the publisher of the Gazette.

Return to the Front page

Rivers: Coming Ontario provincial election is said to be Brown's to lose.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

January 1st, 2018



patrick-brown smiling

Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown is said to be leading in the polls – will that lead hold?

It’s Patrick’s Brown’s election to lose according to the pollsters surveying Ontario’s political landscape in advance of the 2018 vote. Of course the only poll that counts is the one on Election Day but his PC party has been topping the Liberals for the last two years. Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals are mired in second place, tied with the other centre-left party, the NDP, led by veteran Andrea Horwath.


Premier Wynne runs a job training course for MAyor and NAME, gYPTECH

Premier Wynne has been to Burlington on numerous occasions. Anyone who will flip racks fo ribs has got to care about what happens in this city. Will this city be part of the province that returns her to office later this year?

Wynne is generally seen as unpopular though it is hard to understand what she has done which might have offended the public. Horwath, on the other hand is more popular though still perceived as an unknown. Even after leading her party since 2009, and with a couple of elections more under her belt than her opponents, she and her party have failed to connect with the voters.

Patrick Brown is a breath of fresh air for a political party that has a history of too often catering to its socially divisive extreme right wing. He flew on that wing himself not so long ago, but obviously has found the other one and put together a balanced platform that, with a couple of exceptions, pretty much looks like what the other two leaders have been promising. The biggest question is whether he really means it.

Paint it any colour you like Ontario is moving smartly on a solid track and that means its Premier, Wynne, has been doing the right things – or at least most thing right. The budget has been balanced, electricity rates have been scaled back, unemployment levels are way down and the economy is booming. Wynne can also take credit for the expansion of the Canada Pension Plan as well as inflation-proofing and increasing Ontario’s minimum wage laws – measures intended to help address the needs of those who are victim to our ever growing income gap.

There is also good news for those eligible for free tuition and Pharma- care. But the electricity file has been a sore point for the Liberals, though in truth it has been that way for governments going back to at least Bob Rae. And thanks to Mike Harris and Dalton McGuinty there has been a huge transition in the province’s energy business including a greater role for the private sector and a revolution in how electricity is generated.

Coal fired generation

Coal-fired electricity is a thing of the past. Few remember just how significant the changes to the provinces electricity supply system have been.

To be sure, none of the parties will be bringing back coal-fired electricity nor resurrecting Ontario Hydro. There is, in fact, little disagreement on the fundamentals. It’s only on the edges that the parties are staking out territory. Brown has promised to somehow re-negotiate the iron-clad energy supply contracts downwards and put a stop to expansion of the electricity system. It’s true that today’s hydro bills include payments for electrons which gets delivered whether they are needed or not.

But the world is changing so fast that within a few years most automakers will finally be producing electric vehicles (EV) in quantities to rival and even exceed the gas guzzlers. And that will mean a rapid increase in electricity demand as gasoline stations start to disappear, becoming as rare as Blockbuster video stores and hen’s teeth. And then charging your EV at home overnight will cost you a lot more if Brown eliminates smart meters as he is also promising to do.

Smart electricity meter

The Smart Meters are apparently not smart enough for Patrick Brown,

Climate change is being caused primarily by the greenhouse gases (GHGs) generated by fossil fuels. Ontario became the first jurisdiction to get rid of its coal-fired energy plants, one of which had been the largest point source of GHGs in Canada. Recently the federal government has mandated carbon pricing, a carbon tax, across the country to shift demand away from fossil fuels.

Ontario and Quebec have decided to meet that mandate through a ‘cap and trade program’ where GHGs would be capped and major players, e.g. oil companies, would have to buy quotas. Some of the costs of those quotas would be passed along to consumers when they fill their tanks, but the total cost of ‘cap and trade’ is generally less for an economy than a carbon tax.

That fine point is lost on Brown who would get rid of cap and trade and apply a flat carbon tax as Alberta and B.C. do. And like B.C. he would make it revenue-neutral, targeting income tax reductions for the middle class, thereby also making it mildly redistributive as well. Yet claims of over 20% in tax cuts will need to be weighed against the much higher prices for home heating and cooking fuels, public transportation and of course what you pay at the pump.

By definition revenue-neutral is like moving money from one pocket to another. But at least a carbon tax is an easier concept to understand and more directly consistent with the federal mandate. Of course to be effective the tax will have to be significant and ever increasing – and it will be. But as carbon use and carbon tax revenue decline, will the tax cuts that it funds also diminish?

Andrea Horwath

Andrea Horwath leader of the New Democratic party – will Burlington have an NDP candidate for 2018? Who?

Horwath has complained about smart meters as well, and has mused about buying back Hydro One shares but has yet to release her full party platform. And if history is any judge the NDP policies will be a twist, a nuance, on the ones the Liberals already have borrowed form the NDP – or stolen as the NDP regularly accuse.

All of this seems to indicate a kind of humdrum, big yawn of an election muddle. It may all depend on how badly people want to change, how bored or unimpressed they are with the Liberals and their leader after a decade and a half, despite the good times. It would be naive to ignore the age and gender of leaders as factors voters consider, though style and campaign performance will probably be the final determinants. And of course the party stalwarts will be voting the party line.

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:

Forum Poll –   Wynne –    Horwath

Ontario’s Cap and Trade –   Cap and Trade vs Carbon Tax –   Smart Meters

Return to the Front page

The wonderful mind of consultant Brent Toderian

News 100 yellowBy Staff

December 29th, 2017



It has been a couple of years since the city invited Brent Toderian into town to advise the city manager and the Director of Planning on the steps to take to turn Burlington into the city he thought everyone wanted it to be.

Toderian Brent - blue shirt

Brent Toderian

Toderian is beloved by much of the planning department – that sentiment didn’t manage to spread to the citizens of the city. On balance – views are mixed.

This is not an occasion to dig deep into the impact Toderian is having on the city but it is an opportunity to get a look at the thinking he does from time to time.

It might help to understand where some of the core thinking within transportation is coming from.


Return to the Front page

America as we knew it is no more; Canada still trying to figure how out to spread our sunny ways around the world - one selfie at a time?

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

December 25th, 2017



No discussion of the highlights of 2017 would be complete without mention of the Donald Trump effect. Despite great resistance by just about everyone, Trump has been largely successful in re-positioning the US globally and within. For example America has forever lost its time honoured reputation as the great global melting pot. Muslims and Latinos, in particular, are no longer welcome to Trump’s land of “America First”.

UN vote 129-8

United Nations held emergency General Assembly session Thursday over Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital Member nations voted 128-9 with 35 abstentions on a resolution regretting ‘recent decisions concerning the status of Jerusalem. Canada abstained.

By isolating itself from the rest of the world on issues including preserving the planet’s climate and Middle East politics, Trump’s America has been refreshingly liberating – unleashing former reliable partners which once looked to America for direction and leadership. Last week’s UN motion opposing Trumps’ decision to locate his embassy in Jerusalem was a case in point. Despite his administration’s threats to cut off aid to those voting for the motion, he lost overwhelmingly. Indeed his threats likely only served to mobilize many still sitting on the fence.

Tillerson and Frieland in Ottawa

Minister of Global Affairs Chrystia” Freeland and US Secretary of State, Tillerson at a meeting in Ottawa last week.

But Canada was not one of those. There is no question that Mr. Trudeau damaged his international rock star reputation, and may have lost us another chance to get on the Security Council, by abstaining. Earlier this week the US Secretary of State, Tillerson, flew up to Ottawa, presumably to make sure Canada toed the line and didn’t vote against its big neighbour.

One should wonder what price Canada charged for compromising our integrity and political independence. Perhaps Trump won’t be tearing up NAFTA after all now. But wait didn’t the US trade junta just reduce the countervail duties payable, on those Bombardier airplanes which Delta had purchased, from a whacking 299% down to a more reasonable 292%? Is that all we got – seven percentage points?

Trudeau breezed into office with almost impossible expectations and it should not be surprising that we’d be witnessing the inevitable climb down. Sure there was the dream, which became a broken promise, that he’d reform our system of governance to make it more representative. And then he stumbled on another promise, this time about tax reform.

AJAX -- Liberal leader Justin Trudeau gave a press conference at a home in Ajax Monday morning, while on the campaign trail. August 17, 2015

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau on the campaign trail promising real change for the middle class.

Trudeau may genuinely be fighting for the middle class but nobody sees him as one of them. Everyone knows he has family money and rich friends living on tropical islands in the ocean somewhere. So targeting those who are actually middle class for tax avoidance by merely ‘income spreading’ – well no wonder he and his financially well-endowed finance minster ended up with bloody noses.

Chances are the PM’ll be staying home this Christmas after all the fuss over his last Christmas holiday with the Aga Khan. And besides he already got to play a generous and obviously confused Santa Claus this year, giving $10 million to a convicted terrorist – instead of that proverbial lump of coal for the naughty.

Still Canada’s economy is booming and even Alberta is bouncing back. In fact Alberta and Ontario are leading the country in growth. And much of that credit has to go to our federal government, and of course the lower Canadian dollar. Still trade issues threaten to cloud those big blue economic skies – NAFTA of course. And we’re without any possible trade deal with China. Mr. Trudeau apparently couldn’t get the right terms – better no deal than a bad one.

Mr. Trudeau has been rewarded for his stewardship of the economy by scoring two by-election converts, the most recent in B.C.. Though polling generally shows his party running pretty much neck-in-neck with the Tories and their new leader Andrew Scheer. But interestingly neither Scheer nor the NDP’s Mr. Singh got a bounce in the polls following their leadership victories.

Canada and the Middle East

Canada is respected and listened to in the Middle East.

We always live in interesting times and the next year will be particularly challenging for our federal government. For example, how do we respond when Mr. Trump offers us a new free trade pact, one without Mexico? Assuming war with North Korea is inevitable, would it be prudent or provocative to join the US in a continental anti-missile shield? Given our warm relations with Israel and the US what will be our position should they preemptively attack Iran, Syria and perhaps other middle-eastern nations?

Next week we’ll look at the provincial picture.

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:

Liberal Popularity –   Trudeau’s Bahama Christmas –    Khadr

Return to the Front page

Holiday transit schedule released - walk or take a taxi on Christmas and New Year's Day.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

December 21st, 2017


Every media document the city sends out and many of the reports that come out of city hall have the tag line:

Burlington is one of Canada’s best and most livable cities,
a place where people, nature and business thrive.

It’s the kind of thing George Orwell wrote about in “1984” – the rule seems to be that if you say it often enough it becomes true. Did the person at city hall who wrote the line believe it? It was probably done by a committee with the final version being signed off on by the city manager.

For those who rely on public transit there must be a very cruel irony –there will be no transit service on either Christmas Day or New Year’s Day.

The holiday transit schedule is set out below.

Transit - holiday service

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

Return to the Front page

Rory Nisan on Emerging Democratic Issues at City Hall

opinionandcommentBy Rory Nisan

December 21st, 2017



There has been a disconcerting trend at city hall where language is being used as a tool to manufacture consent. The most concerning has been the use of the word “emerging”. This was used during the recent waterfront development consultations (emerging preferred concept), as well as in reference to the city’s official plan (emerging vision).

city hall with flag poles

Can the democratic process flourish at city hall?

What is wrong with emerging concepts and emerging visions? The problem is that neither has been voted on by the duly elected representatives of the city. Planning staff, or even the city manager cannot state that anything is “emerging” until it has been democratically decided. By doing so, they are undermining the all-important democratic process, and this can lead to citizens being led to believe that decisions have been made long before they have been.

Do city planners see themselves in the driver’s seat, with city Councillors and the mayor also in the car, and the city’s citizens running behind, trying to catch up?

To extend the metaphor, in a well-functioning democracy the elected representatives may be in the driver’s seat, but with citizens sitting shotgun, holding the map and able to pick new drivers at regular intervals.

Planning staff should promise  city council not undermine democratic space by using misleading language regarding unapproved plans in the future.

Unfortunately, the lack of understanding of democratic principles in some offices of city hall extends to members of city council. Councillor Paul Sharman, in his recent blog post, made clear that he doesn’t understand a second fundamental principle of democracy: it is about much more than elections.

Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman is usually very direct, tends to want to see data that is verifiable and expects to get his way.

Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman talked down to his constituents when he said, “The issues are quite complex.”

Regarding 421-431 Brant street, Councillor Sharman could have demonstrated that he was listening to Burlingtonians and reflecting their concerns at city hall. Instead, Councillor Sharman talked down to his constituents when he said, “The issues are quite complex. Council was elected to understand all the issues and to figure how to address concerns of the entire population.”

Issues are complex. Water is wet.
It is impossible to address the concerns of “the entire population” because it is impossible to know the views of everyone in the city. Instead, council is expected to listen to constituents because those who speak up have the greatest investment in the issue at hand. Council must at a minimum balance those concerns with a broader perspective. One cannot simply dismiss concerns raised as not representing the entire population. Nor can one use “NIMBY” as a rhetorical device to put down anyone who does not want a high rise downtown on Brant street.

Councillor Dennison employed a similar argument in dismissing a petition with over 1000 signatures related to the development at 421-431 Brant, saying that he had to represent the views of all Burlingtonians, not 1000.

Dennison announcing

Ward 4 city Councillor Jack Dennison – has yet to see a citizen petition that cannot be dismissed easily.

Petitions are at the core of democratic action, so important that they can be registered in parliaments around the world. They are a demonstration of whether social licence is given to politicians to proceed. They cannot be dismissed so easily. In this case, there is so little support for 421-431 Brant street – no petition in support of the project – yet strong opposition.

Councillor Sharman also lectured his constituents in a related Facebook post on the Official Plan, writing:

“What is generally not appreciated by community members is the city is sub organization [sic] of the province of Ontario, not an independent organization. The role of the City is to implement plans established by the province almost without question. It does require interpretation though, hence the official plan and all of the angst it is causing.”

This paragraph deserves a close look as it reveals how a Councillor approaches his job and the role of his constituents.

First, he makes a broad generalization of the community, presuming that we are unaware of the municipality’s position within the provincial government framework. Many of us are well aware that the municipality is part of the Province of Ontario – anyone who has even thought about the role of the Ontario Municipal Board recognizes that municipalities are not islands. So why lecture us?

Second, he says, “The role of the City is to implement plans established by the province almost without question.” I have not seen any provincial legislation that limits the ability of city councils to lobby the province for changes, to even demand changes to plans that it sees as inappropriate. Questioning, debating, requesting, suggesting, pleading and persuading are all actions that can be taken by municipalities when it sees plans that are contrary to the best interests of a city. Contrary to Councillor Sharman’s assertion, there is much give and take between municipalities and the province. It is unfortunate that Councillor Sharman appears to have ceded that role in favour of the ostrich approach.

Finally, Councillor Sharman reduces the legitimate concerns of constituents to “angst”, an emotional response, implying that the community is not thinking clearly, and would understand the real world if only they could put their feelings aside, be quiet and listen. He is blaming constituents for behaving foolishly and letting emotion cloud their judgement.

Ballot going in boxWhen an elected leader does not listen to their constituents, they are not respecting their constituents. Leadership that believes it “knows best” has a deleterious effect on our democratic institutions.

Politicians who do not understand the importance of social licence and of representing constituents throughout their terms must be taught that lesson at the polls, as it remains the strongest weapon of democracy.

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.

Return to the Front page

Scobie puts Mobility Hubs and Urban Growth Centres in perspective.

opinionandcommentBy Gary Scobie

December 19th, 2017



I am a citizen who has taken an interest in issues at or near our waterfront and in the downtown core over the past seven years. I am concerned when I see attempts at over-intensification being made in Burlington, especially in our downtown core.

Click to view report

If we go back in time, it all started with the Provincial Places to Grow Act of 2005. This was the first attempt by the Province to control urban sprawl, preserve our Greenbelt for nature and agriculture and plan for better transit options in the Greater Toronto to Niagara area. The Growth Plan of 2006 followed, designating increased densities of population and jobs in most municipalities of Southern Ontario and calling these Urban Growth Centres.

Cities did have some say in these designations. For instance, Oakville decided not to intensify its downtown to Provincial targets, but rather to expand population and jobs dramatically around its GO Transit Station at Trafalgar Road. This would be its Urban Growth Centre. It would intensify its downtown using its own zoning rules in its Official Plan. It would intensify its downtown more gently than an Urban Growth Centre.

Burlington Council at the time appears to have bought into the idea of the Downtown Urban Growth Centre, as suggested by the Province. I can find no counter debate or decision to intensify around our GO Transit Stations instead of our downtown. This decision to go with the Provincial flow would lead nearly ten years later to where we are today – the rush to over-intensify the Brant Street corridor and nearby streets to the east and west under a new Official Plan.

Getting back to the past, Metrolinx was conceived in 2007, shortly after the Growth Plan was enacted. It was all about transportation across the regions to support intensified population and job centres.

There was a time when a much larger bus termial existed 25 yards to the left of this small terminal onm John Street - it was where people met. There were fewer cars, Burlington didn't have the wealth then that it has now. We were a smaller city, as much rural as suburban. The times have changed and transit now needs to change as well.

Less than three years ago the transit terminal was going to be torn down – now it appears to be the “anchor” for a mobility hub.

It focused on the GO Transit network of stations for the most part, but also added in subway, light rail transit and bus rapid transit routes, established and suggested for the future, as connecting links to GO Stations to move people in the this large region, mostly to and from jobs. Hence the Big Move nomenclature that was attached.

Soon the term Mobility Hub would be added to the vernacular in 2008. These were supposed to support Urban Growth Centres by linking them through the transit networks of municipalities and GO services. They were originally supposed to be locations where a number of modes of transportation came together as a network to facilitate the movement of people easily between these modes.

GO parking wide view

The Burlington GO station – an obvious location for a mobility hub.

GO Stations would all naturally qualify as Mobility Hubs because they link car, train, City and GO bus, bicycle and pedestrian modes of travel together in one place, with parking provided at no extra cost. Only recently have I seen the designation of Anchor Mobility Hub used to describe those Urban Growth Centre hubs that fail to qualify as true Mobility Hubs. The Burlington Downtown Mobility Hub is one of those Anchors. It has no trains, no light rail transit or rapid bus transit. And it has no free parking for cars.

It seems that Urban Growth Centres and Mobility Hubs have been linked together for quite a long time, dating back to 2008. This linkage is not accidental. It seems that to be an Urban Growth Centre, you had to have or plan for a Mobility Hub and vice versa.

These linkages were known to municipalities since 2008 and some decided, like Oakville, to chart their own course and preserve their downtowns from over-development by accepting the Urban Growth Centre/Mobility premise, but set in places best suited to dramatic infill of high rise condos and some retail and office space. GO Station locales were the obvious choice in this case.

In Burlington’s case, as stated before, it appears that no disagreement with the Province’s suggested choices for a downtown Urban Growth Centre/Mobility Hub ever arose in City Council meetings. The Province chose our downtown as both and our Council at the time (somewhere in 2008 – 2010) accepted, possibly without public debate. Council may have thought that the downtown needed improvement and this pathway, as mandated by the Province, was as good a way to get it done as any “made in Burlington” solution. And the Province could always be blamed if it didn’t work out quite right. I should note that one of our GO Stations, Burlington GO Station, was designated a Mobility Hub by Metrolinx (ie. the Province) and also accepted by Council.

There is a private, non-partisan charitable foundation known as the Neptis Foundation (www.neptis.org) that researches and reports on regional growth plans and initiatives. It has done some excellent reports on the Growth Plan and Urban Growth Centres that describe in layman’s language the Province’s plans and the repercussions to Ontario municipalities starting with 2006 people/job densities and projecting the changes required for 2031 densities. I would invite you to check out their reports.


Many want the Mobility Hubs kept out of the Official Plan.

Some municipalities have integrated the Province’s growth plans into their Official Plans in major ways. Burlington is one of these municipalities. Other municipalities have done less or even no integration. There is no prize from the Province that I can detect for doing so, nor any penalty thus far for ignoring the Province.

The Ontario Government reviewed the 2006 Growth Plan in 2016 and reported in July 2017 a revised Growth Plan going all the way to 2041. It can be found at www.placestogrow.ca.

It should be noted that right from the beginning, expectations for each municipality were “directing growth to major transit station areas”, “identifies priority transit corridors”, “complete detailed planning for major transit station areas on these corridors to support planned service levels”, “plan for a range and mix of housing, including second units and affordable housing” and “accommodate a range of household sizes”.

Mobility hubs

Having Mobility hubs at the GO stations is something everyone agrees on – it is the idea of a Mobility Hub in the downtown core that has many opposed.

How is Burlington doing in these initiatives? Well, all three GO Stations in the City have been named Mobility Hubs and each are planned to house many thousands of people/jobs by 2031. So growth is being directed to our major transit stations. Will there be any affordable housing and accommodation of a range of household sizes? That’s an unanswered question thus far.

I thought that Burlington was mandated to grow to a population of 215,000 by 2031. I have since been informed the target is 185,000 minimum. We are at 183,000 now. Recently at a Planning and Development Committee meeting, the Ward 1 Councillor stated publicly that Aldershot was set to grow by another 27,000 people by 2031. This would likely be near the Aldershot GO Station or along the Plains Road Corridor. Adding another 11,000 jobs there would bring the additional people/jobs total to 38,000 by 2031 and a 300 people/jobs per hectare goal, as per a Planning Department report dated Nov. 9, 2017.

Similarly, Planning Department reports also dated Nov. 9, 2017 for the other GO Stations show the Burlington GO Station Mobility Hub adding 22,000 new residents and 9,500 jobs by 2031 and the Appleby GO Station Mobility Hub adding 20,000 new residents and 43,000 new jobs by 2031. Both would also reach the 300 people/jobs per hectare goal.

All together, the three GO Station Mobility Hubs are planned to add 69,000 new residents to Burlington’s population by 2031, far exceeding any goal of 185,000 or even 215,000. We’re headed to a quarter million people by 2031, without touching the downtown.

So it is clear to me that we can reach all Provincial goals easily using intensification of people and jobs at the GO Station Mobility Hubs. There is no need to further intensify the downtown at all. It could be left to gently intensify, like Oakville has planned, using current Official Plan zoning rather than dramatically intensify as the Planning Department has advocated in its new Downtown Mobility Hub Plan and the new City Official Plan.

Anchor Mobility Hubs were originally expected to support an area with a minimum of 160 people/jobs per hectare within a 500 metre radius that would be serviced by a light rail transit or a bus rapid transit system.

The City is using a 200 people/jobs per hectare goal, which may be the revised mandate. I understand that City Planners and most of City Council are backing the people/jobs density downtown, but I see no evidence that there is an LRT or BRT system in place to deal with this influx of people/jobs, other than an LRT label being affixed to Brant Street on maps. A label isn’t a plan unfortunately.

I also see no evidence that jobs will flow into the downtown, even to just replace the ones lost when current buildings are demolished awaiting construction of new buildings. The podium style high rises with 3 to 4 storey glass and steel walls along Brant Street will replace individual and unique store frontages we have today. Is this better or worse at enticing jobs and vibrancy to Brant Street?

I am a person who believes that a deal is never a done deal if there is still an opportunity to question and possibly change people’s minds for the better of the community. And I think that we do have that opportunity.


John Taylor, the Dean of city council would have been part of any debate there might have been about accepting the provincial approach to mobility hubs.

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 – a member of council in between 2008 and 2010 when Scobie believes city council made the decision to follow the provincial lead.

Four members of the current Council were members of Council when all these Provincial demands were rubber-stamped. I would ask them to search their memory banks and their notes and inform the public how they decided to acquiesce to the Province’s demands for intensifying our downtown, why they didn’t make the logical suggestion for intensification around GO Stations instead and if they did go ahead with the plans without public consultation.

Dennison announcing

Jack Dennison, a member of city council for more than 20 years would remember how the decision to accept the provincial direction – somewhere between 2008 and 2010 was made.


Mayor Rick Goldring was a council member when the decision was made to accept the province’s approach to transportation hubs, possibly without public debate.

The current Council certainly did not acquiesce to the 374 Martha Street proposed high rise a few years ago. Yet this same Council voted 5 – 2 in favour of a 23 storey condo on November 30, 2017 across the road from our 8 storey signature City Hall – going past the 12 storey current storey zoning and even going past the recommended 17 storey zoning in a Downtown Mobility Hub Plan not yet approved.

This decision has ignited public opinion against the over-intensification of the downtown. They see high rises coming on many corners of Brant Street, and with many mid-rise condos in between. And they see many high buildings destined to come on nearby north-south streets east and west of Brant Street.

During the Vietnam War an infamous sentence was uttered by a field commander which showed the absurdity of war – “We had to destroy the village in order to save it”. Brant Street and our downtown does not need to be destroyed in order to save it.

Gently intensifying the downtown will continue as it has in the past, using appropriate zoning already in place. City planners and City Council need only enforce our current Official Plan and use the concepts already in place in our Tall Building Guidelines and soon to be in place in our Mid Rise Building Guidelines that the Planning Department has committed to.

Our downtown Bus Station is not a Mobility Hub and there is no plan to make it one. Our downtown does not need to be over-intensified through a designation as an Urban Growth Centre. I am asking City Council to inform the Province that Burlington can and will meet its 2031 growth target through dramatic intensification around our three GO Stations, the appropriate place for high rise condos with retail and office space.

That’s where the thousands of new residents will be housed, hopefully with a good number of affordable, family-sized units.

The downtown will intensify too, but not in the dramatic fashion envisioned by the Planning Department.

I am asking City Council to request that the terms Mobility Hub and Urban Growth Centre be removed from the Provincial Growth Plan for the Downtown Precincts and instead be placed on all three GO Stations.

Let our downtown, which admittedly does need to change, do so in a measured and controlled fashion that adheres to reasonable and defendable zoning restrictions already in place. Do not follow through on an Official Plan that would create the “Metropolis” of Halton in our downtown.

Gary ScobieGary Scobie, a long time resident of Burlington is a frequent opinion contributor to the Gazette.  He was a member of the Waterfront Advisory Committee and has been a strong advocate for maintaining public access to the waterfront.

Return to the Front page

Has Justin Trudeau created his legacy in his first term of office - he appears to have changed the way housing is going to be paid for by many.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

December 18, 2017


This is the second of a two part series on affordable housing and the changes made by the federal government.

After he retires, which is not anytime soon, Justin Trudeau will be eternally remembered for giving us legit whacky-tobacky. But he will also have performed one of the largest re-distributions of income this country has seen. And that is not just about the modest changes his government made to the income tax structure, favouring the middle class, his first year in office.

trudeau-makes-housing-announcement-in-torontoNo it’s the $40 billion dollar ten year affordable housing strategy which is to kick in sometime after the next election, providing the provinces kick in their shares as well. The details are scarce but putting that much money in the hands of people who are finding it hard to get affordable accommodation will be a huge economic stimulus for the country.

That may be prudent given where Canada may be in its business cycle, particularly if NAFTA hits the dust bin, as I expect it will. It may also stimulate home building and urban restoration as rental units and high rise condo’s come to fill the gap between demand and supply of housing for Ontario’s growing population. But if the economy keeps moving the way it has under the Liberals, it could also lead to inflation.

Trump - NaftaPerhaps that is why Trudeau is delaying the start up until 2020. Cynics will note that this is also an early 2019 election promise. But after the run-up in house prices recently nobody should argue that there is a problem with affordability, certainly for single homes. And as house prices go, so too must go rental costs eventually.

There was a time when owning a home was everybody’s dream, but those days appear to have come to an end. Two thirds of Canadians still own their own home but that is changing as the cost of home ownership continues to rise. The average price of a home in Canada has topped half a million, despite a cooling-off in the Toronto and Vancouver markets.

Given that average household income are around $70,000 (2015), it would take at least seven or eight years for a new home buyer to pay off their mortgage – providing they used all of their gross income to that end – and lived on water and hope. Practically, those who own their own homes spend less than 20% of their income on housing. Of course that statistic would be higher except that many have already paid off their mortgages and only face costs for maintenance and property taxes.

Burlington - house for sale

Offered at $789,900 – estimated monthly mortgage $2891.00

Still given those numbers it would take the average homeowner up to 40 years to pay off their mortgage unless they inherited a bundle, won the lottery or got a federal handout along the lines of what Mr. Trudeau may be talking about. Otherwise a thirty year-young couple might be 70 by the time they paid off the banks – just in time for one of those reverse mortgages to free up some cash so they could spend the winter in a rented trailer in Florida.

Renters, who typically are lower income earners, shell out 30% of their pay packet for a roof over their heads by contrast. That represents a bigger bite out of a smaller pay packet and they will undoubtedly be the primary target for the new affordability strategy. Chances are dim that they’ll ever get into the ownership market. Spending 40 or even 20 years before one can burn that mortgage paper is a long time.

There are financial advisors who argue that it would be better for one’s financial health to rent and let them invest that cash that would otherwise be plowed into a house. They say this with a straight face, even knowing that a primary residence is capital gains tax-exempt. They ague that history shows a house’s value will just keep up with inflation while they can do much better with somebody else’s money in stocks and bonds. And perhaps they can though there was a lot of money made buying and selling Toronto and Vancouver houses, just recently.

But this federal-provincial affordability program is not going to do much for those who already can afford their homes – it presumably will only target those in need. Early indications are that priority will be to encourage new developments which also meet other development goals at all levels. Narrowing the income gap between rich and poor, stimulating the economy, facilitating urban renewal and mitigating climate change is a pretty tall order for any program. Mr. Trudeau called this initiative a once-in-a-generation event. And if he can pull it off he will leave a lasting legacy for his generation.

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:

Canadian House Prices –   Average Household Income –   Home Ownership

Changing Home Ownership –   Recent Renting Changes –   Housing Stock

Affordable Housing –   Housing Bubble –   Bad Policy

Federal Plans –   Public Housing –   Home Ownership

House as Investment –   More Investment

Related editorial content:

Part 1 of the Affordable housing feature

Return to the Front page

Ward 3 resident wants the building of high rise towers in the downtown core to be decided by a referendum.

opinionandcommentBy Keith Moorse

December 16th, 2017



I was shocked to learn of the approval by council of Amendment No.106 allowing the construction of a 23 story condo at 421Brant St. This is almost twice the existing bylaw of 12 stories. Just as disappointing was the lack of any explanation by the five Councillors for approving the application. I have not heard a single voice supporting the project ,save and except the Planning and Building Department’s 112 page report submitted to the Planning and Development Committee.

Tanner and Taylor at June 21-17 workshop

City Planner Mary Lou Tanner explains a development to ward 3 Councillor John Taylor

The role of the Planning and Building Department also needs clarification. Who do they represent? Their report reads like it was drafted by the developer with the recommendation based on unreasonable assumptions, out right contradictions, false conclusions, and serious omissions.

What can be done to cancel the approval of Amendment 106 and implementation of this project?

FIRSTLY: Restore the democratic process whereby the citizens opinions and input receives consideration. If the five councilors truly represented their constituents they should welcome the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment.

SECONDLY: Establish a referendum process to allow the citizens to determine the outcome of the project and Amendment #106.

THIRDLY: A thorough review of the report (PB- 62-17) by The Planning and Building Department and revisions made where necessary.

If this development takes place it will totally and permanently change the character and charm of lower Brant Street and the City of Burlington. This will affect all residents and is too big a decision for Burlington Council alone. A precedent will be established and more applications will follow, as is already anticipated. There is a reference in the report, PB-62-17, that the proposed 23 story building will look less obtrusive when similar buildings are erected in the immediate area. This is an admission that this building will look out of place until others are erected.

The Burlington Sustainable Development Committee has added it’s comments to the application, starting on page 149. It sets out several conditions to be met, most of which have at best received only lip service. For example: “full public participation in development decisions”. Input was given at public meetings and to council, however, it was ignored. It also called for the new development to be compatible to existing end users, which is clearly not the case. Putting aside, all the disputes regarding whether or not, the analysis is flawed the issue really distills down to three distinct choices:

TD bank Brant ande CAroline

Part of the “quaint” small town Burlington feel that many citizens want.

1.Reject the by-law Amendment No.106 to allow a 23 story condo at 421 Brant Street, keeping lower Brant Street with its’ boutique like shops, and eateries. It has a quaint friendly character which has contributed to its rating as the #1 City of its’ size in Canada in which to live.

2.Allow the amendment to pass thus creating the tallest building in Burlington changing the character of Brant Street and Burlington itself. It would become a Mississauga or Toronto with its’ not so charming steel and glass canyons.

3.Authorize a 12 story building as established by the new official plan.
There are other locations where such a building would be more suitable. Just leave our historical Brant Street alone.

Appendix “A”
1. New Official Plan (NOP) states tall buildings in the downtown area should exclude construction of same on Brant Street which is presently approved for 12 stories.

2. Many units will be three(3) bedrooms to attract families yet elsewhere in the report it states the target market as being “ affluent empty nesters”.

3. Parking at 1.2 spaces per unit hardly meets the requirement for the family ( 3+ adults).

4. Two elevators to service 23 floors are inadequate

5. This project in NOT needed to meet the Provincial Growth Plan minimum target (report PB-62-17).

6. This is not an isolated project and sets a dangerous precedent.

7. Why 23 stories, when there are many exciting designs far more appealing which could be achieved in 12 stories? The cold sharp angles of this structure does not compliment City Hall. Burlington can do better.

8. The only one benefiting from 23 stories is the developer.

9. Years of disrupted traffic due to construction, making a bad parking/traffic situation worse.

Longer term thinking has city hall being replaced but for the immediate future improving the sound system in Council chamber - FINALLY! and improving some of the meetings rooms is where capital dollars will be spent this year.

The clock plaza at City Hall provides this focus.

10. Many small businesses on lower Brant may not survive due to prolonged construction activity.

11. Burlington does not need a “signature’ building. The clock plaza at City Hall provides this focus.

12. For what purpose are there height By-Laws when they are continuously waved?

13. Staff response to citizens’ concerns with building height is flawed. They compare other buildings which cannot be considered in the same category the tallest being 5 floors lower(18) then the applicant and 2 to 3 blocks East of Brant. None are in fact on Brant Street.

14. No infrastructure costs are allocated to the City of Burlington for the sewer and water expansion and upgrades.

Keith Moorse is a Ward 3 resident.  He is a retired senior executive with a Bay Street merchant bank with national responsibility. He has been a resident of Burlington since 1981


Return to the Front page

Doing the homework and really understanding the complex development issues in the downtown core are appears to be a problem. ECoB is trying to bring about a change in the way the city manages all this.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

December 15th, 2017



There are almost as many views on what Burlington should be doing in terms of its growth as there are people in the city.

ECOB Dec 13 #3

Citizens listening to the concerns community groups have over how developments in their neighbourhoods are handled by the Planning Department. The meeting was organized by the Engaged Citizens of Burlington – ECoB

When Lisa Kearns, one of the ECoB organizers,  stood at the lectern in the Burlington Baptist Church she told the 150+ audience that they had to do their homework and then hoisted a three in loose-leaf binder up and told the audience the information they need is out there – but you do have to work to find it and then offered to share what she had with anyone interested. We didn’t see anyone asking to borrow the binder.

Many of the people involved in what is a complex subject are reluctant to identify themselves publicly. One of those wrote in and said: “Seems that this group is questioning the “Urban Growth Centre” designation in Downtown Burlington. The answer is really, really simple – all people have to do is go back to and look at the original Places to Grow document from 2006 – Schedule 2. The designation is right there. No municipal approval is required. The Province says “this is it” now “do it”. All of this talk about evidentiary materials is a complete waste of time.

The province has $50 billion worth of transit and transportation plans it believes we need - just $16 billion of that is funded. Transit is not free but will we re-elect a government that insists we pay for it?

“People must also consider “The Big Move” which designates the mobility hub in the downtown as an “Anchor Mobility Hub”. Anchor Mobility Hubs are focal points with the potential to transform urban structure and improve transit. In other words … big changes are expected.

“There is an Appendix B which indicates that the downtown mobility hub is expected to accommodate 2,900 boarding per day. The question should be “why is the City not planning for this?” not is it really a hub.

“This same Appendix B includes a population target for the downtown anchor hub of greater than 25,000 people and jobs by 2031. The City is not even close to being able to accommodate this target.

“Most importantly, some people selectively ignore the fact that City Council unanimously approved its Strategic Plan that identifies the downtown as an area where intensification and redevelopment is to be directed.”

Click to view report

Joe Gaetan, a frequent contributor to the Gazette explains that the 2017 Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, was prepared and approved under the Places to Grow Act, 2005 to take effect on July 1, 2017.
Section 2, entitled, Where and How to Grow, contains S, 2.2 Policies for Where and How to Grow, and S 2.2.3 entitled, Urban Growth Centres and contains the following:

“Urban growth centres will be planned to achieve, by 2031 or earlier, a minimum density target of:

b)400 residents and jobs combined per hectare for each of the urban growth centres in the City of Toronto;

200 residents and jobs combined per hectare for each of the Downtown Brampton, Downtown Burlington, Downtown Hamilton, Downtown Milton, Markham Centre, Downtown Mississauga, Newmarket Centre, Midtown Oakville, Downtown Oshawa, Downtown Pickering, Richmond Hill Centre/Langstaff Gateway, Vaughan Metropolitan Centre, Downtown Kitchener, and Uptown Waterloo urban growth centres;”

Oakville took an approach that attached more importance to Employment and Commerce. Their Livable Oakville committee produced a very detailed report – something Burlington might want t56o at least review.


The Sims building across from city hall is the only office building in the core of the city – the city of Burlington is the largest tenant.

Burlington has never succeeded in attracting commercial operations into the downtown core – parking space wasn’t possible – thus the major concentrations of corporate offices are along the north and south corridors.

“The Burlington Official Plan appears to be mostly silent on job creation or preservation of work land or spaces.

“This should be a concern to all and one more reason why our Official Plan process must be stopped in its tracks.”

Background material:

Where to download a copy of the Places to Grow legislation.

The Big Move – what it is and where to get a copy of the document.


Return to the Front page