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

Major organizational moves by the city manager seem to be out of focus.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

December 15th, 2017


We received the following this morning:

The article published in this morning’s Gazette titled “Major organizational moves by the city manager seem to be out of focus” is wholly inaccurate for the following reasons:

Parks & Recreation has NOT been merged into Roads, Parks & Forestry (RPF). Parks & Recreation continues to be a separate department headed by Chris Glenn

There has been no reorganization undertaken by the city manager, except the creation of a deputy city manager position and changes to department names only.

Council was fully briefed and aware of the creation of a deputy city manager position, to say so otherwise in incorrect.

Mary Lou Tanner will continue to lead the Official Plan and the Mobility Hub initiatives as deputy city manager; a competition to hire a new Director of Planning will begin in January.

Ms Tanner’s appointment as the deputy city manager was in no way a demotion and as previously stated was a result of a comprehensive internal competition

On November 9th, the City Manager, James Ridge announced a renaming of departments at city hall and moving responsibilities into the newly named departments under the people who were to head them up.

The renaming of the departments in the city was to more accurately reflect the services that are provided to residents.

News anal BLACKAs of Jan. 1, 2018 Roads and Parks Maintenance will become the Roads, Parks and Forestry Department; with Mary Battaglia as lead.

Planning and Building will become the Department of City Building – Planning, Building and Culture with Mary Lou Tanner as lead.

Then on December 9th, Ridge announced that he had appointed Mary Lou Tanner as the deputy city manager after a comprehensive internal competition.

There is something about this picture that is out of focus.

If it was a “comprehensive internal competition”, and we will take the city manager’s word that it was – the competition had to be announced, those wanting to go after the job had to prepare their application, fine tune it, submit it and then let the Director of Human Resources and the City Manager review what they had.

The Director of Human Resources may well have been one of the applicants for the new position; we will let that slide.


Newly minted Deputy City Manager Mary Lou Tanner

Re-org November 9th, Tanner made deputy city manager December 9th – All this got done in less than a month?

What does the appointing of Tanner as Deputy City Manager do to the absolutely critical work being done on the planning side?

As of the 21st of this month the city doesn’t have a Planner. Tanner, the woman who was doing the job is now the “city’s representative for all Agencies, Boards and Commissions; acting in an advisory and liaison capacity for each organization and helping plan and coordinate major capital projects.”

Not much in the way of executive authority there

“Being responsible for the diversity and inclusivity portfolio; ensuring a strategy is developed, and implemented across the organization for all services and programs.”

Important but not the same level of influence as the Director of Planning

“Overseeing the Project Management Office, ensuring the priorities of this office are aligned with the Strategic Plan and corporate work plans and work with the Senior Leadership team to identify and establish priorities across the organization.”

James Ridge

City Manager James Ridge – now has a Deputy to aid the important work he does,

Tanner was a part of the Senior Leadership Team – now she “works with them”.  Will Tanner have any clout? Will she be making decisions or does everything she does slide up to the desk of the City Manager?

There is going to be a “transition plan including an acting Director of City Building will be announced in the near future; however in the meantime Tanner will continue to lead the work on the completion of the city’s new Official Plan.”

How much of this were the city Councillors fully aware of?  The City Manager is responsible for the administration of all city staff and serves at the pleasure of city council. Is Council pleased?

The time line for the approval of the Official Plan has been stretched out to April of 2018 from the original end of January 2018 date.

None of this looks very encouraging – we are changing horses in the middle of a fast flowing stream.


Chris Glenn

Director of Parks and Recreation Chris Glenn

There some additional concerns.  Parks and Recreation is now merged in intro Roads Parks and Forestry under the direction of Mary Battaglia who is a Director. She now has Chris Glenn, also a Director working under her?

Transportation doesn’t seem to have a home at a time when there are several significant studies being done on just how people are going to get around the city given all the intensification that is to take place.
Where does Capital Works fit into the new organization?

On Friday, the 8th of December we had occasion to be at the Fire department following up part on a news story and met with a deputy fire chief who advised us that the Fire Chief was still on the site of the blaze that shut down the Paletta operation in the south-east of the city.

That’s where a Fire Chief is supposed to be – where the problems are. The fire was basically out – with some hot spots that needed a close watch to ensure that they didn’t flare up.

city hall with flag poles

Is the apparent senior staff reorganization a good one or is it a picture out of focus.

The city has a problem – getting the new Official Plan in place and helping the citizens understand the mobility hubs. It is seen as a “hot spot” to hundreds of informed and involved people in Burlington. This is not a time to have senior staff fully immersed in the work they are in place to do.

Being made Deputy City Manager doesn’t look like a promotion – looks like the City Manager just got someone out of the way

And that is very troubling.

Links to related news stories:

Appointment of Deputy city manager.

Renaming of city departments.

Return to the Front page

Citizens opposed to developments and the way city hall is approving them in what is a very complex regulatory environment mandated by the province.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

December 14th, 2017



Is there a sea change taking place in Burlington politics?

Last week there was a neighborhood meeting in Aldershot about a proposal for a 6 story condo at 92 Plains Rd, right on the edge of a long established Aldershot neighborhood.

News anal REDSome at the meeting felt it was “totally out of compliance with the existing Official Plan and bylaws” and was being promoted as “in alignment with city proposals for the Mobility Hub.”

It was a raucous meeting. Nobody was happy, and many expressed this clearly and often angrily.

The discussion was on the negative impact on nearby property values from a development which Councillor Craven supported.

Rick Craven: Best committee chair the city has; not big on the warm fuzzy stuff through. Needs a hug badly.

Ward 1 Councillor Rick Craven faced a hostile audience while explaining the justification of a development. This photograph was not from that meeting.

Craven got called out a couple of times for not showing any support to residents, and for trying to undercut their concerns.

The city planner in charge threatened to shut the meeting down if the rancor and heckling that ensued was not stopped.

ECoB Dec 13 #2

When a resident stood up and said “We need to tell the members of council that we are not going to vote for them” there was an immediate robust burst of applause – they were sending a message – loudly and clearly.

The recently formed ECoB – Engaged Citizens of Burlington – meeting that took place Wednesday evening had representation from every ward in the city – people were just not happy with the way decisions were being made. They want change in the way city council decides on very complex issues.

The focus at the Wednesday ECoB meeting was a development that didn’t get any negative comment when it was introduced to the public several months ago at the Art Gallery. There was just the one delegation when the development was put on the table at a Standing Committee – but when council voted 5-2 for the development – the dam of feelings burst.

People didn’t want their city changed – they continually refer to a vibrant downtown core when Brant Street is anything but except when the Santa Claus parade and the Sound of Music Festival fills the streets.

East side of Brant Street xx days before Christmas 2013.

East side of Brant Street several days before Christmas 2013.  It isn’t all that different this year.  Not what one would call festive.

Anyone who strolls along Brant street might be taken aback at how little there is in the way of Christmas decoration on the buildings.

New Brant street ECoB

This graphic was put up on a screen at the Wednesday ECoB meeting. The city keeps saying this kind of thing is not going to happen – the citizens no longer believe them.

There appears to be a hankering for a time when things were slower, more certain, safer.
Every politician now faces citizens who are unhappy.

That unhappiness is now being pulled together by a group of citizens who don’t like what they see and tend to exaggerate to make their points.

Interesting times ahead.


Return to the Front page

Councillor Sharman sets out why he voted for a 23 storey development on Brant Street.

opinionandcommentBy Staff

December 13th, 2017



In his regular newsletter to his constituents Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman sets out why he was one of the five Councillors who voted for the 421 Brant Street development to proceed.


Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman.

I admit that I was one of the 5 (out of 7) members of Council who voted in favour of accepting staff recommendations to build a 23-storey building on the 421 Brant Street site, opposite City Hall. This decision was despite a significant effort by a number of residents, including an online petition with about 1,400 names, to persuade members to vote against the recommendations. The residents’ primary concerns appeared primarily to focus on the number of floors and “over intensification”. They said the building is too high. A number of residents said they simply want to keep Brant street the way it is.

Certainly, the issue of height appears to be a concern to some proportion of Burlington residents. Of course, we all love our family friendly, low key, community. So, it is understandable. Yet a discussion that focuses on one location and on one measure (i.e. height) without giving sufficient consideration to other important and complex matters will cause much long term, serious problems in the City that Council is focused on trying to address.

First, I will address the application and why I supported the Council decision.

421 Brant 12 and 23

Massing with 12 storeys and massing with 23 storeys. Sharman and the developer saw the 23 storey version the better of the two.

The site is permitted to have 12 stories by right. In other words, they could have proceeded without Council being asked to approve an amendment. Indeed, the owner did create plans to do so, however, City planning professionals were concerned a12 storey rectangular whole block sized building would be both unsightly and cause an unacceptable contribution to the downtown design.

• Clearly, the owners had a right to build something new on the site that would be larger in scale.

• Clearly, the City had created a plan to encourage redevelopment of the site with something new and large.

Staff had to negotiate with developers over what design characteristics would be acceptable. Clearly height is one such concern, but there are others. These include “massing”, set-backs, shadowing, parking, design and others.

In the case of 421 Brant Street, the developer had been working towards filing an application for many years. During that time, the Province had identified downtown Burlington, along with a number of other areas of the City, as a place for significant population density. This was a requirement from the Province, not a suggestion. Accordingly, the developer prepared an application for a 27-storey building that they believed would satisfy that requirement.

As is required, the developer consulted staff about their plans. Staff gave considerable thought to what the best design would be for the building and spent much effort over the last six months negotiating changes to the proposal that they believed would satisfy Provincial requirements, as well as many other considerations including many key issues presented by the public. The result was that they calculated the number of square feet of residential space that would have been allowed in the 12-storey block building and redistributed the floor space in a design that has a smaller street level foot print, with a four storey “podium”, on top of which they then proposed a 19-storey “slender” tower.

East side of Brant Street xx days before Christmas 2013.

East side of Brant Street several days before Christmas 2013. Wasn’t particularly festive looking.

This design would satisfy all legal requirements. It also meant the developer was required to reduce the total amount of floor space in the building by 25%, part of which meant including less commercial and less retail space in the first four floors. Through public engagement, staff was presented with 10 issues that were their priorities (car share, wider sidewalks, separate visitor parking etc.). Of the 10, the approved design achieves 9. Staff negotiated with the developer to get these 9 priorities incorporated into the design.

Finally, the residents’ discussion became a debate about personal preferences and opinions about how something might look without taking into account all the other considerations. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and in the end, someone had to figure out what to do. That was the role of the developer and City staff. Council agreed the recommendations were, on balance, a reasonable compromise. A compromise that we believe will withstand any test at the OMB.

Second, I will address how the application fits within the long term broader concerns of the City:

The extensive analysis that went in to creating the economic vision for the City and the Strategic Plan which received unanimous approval of all City Council has led to the creation of a New Official Plan, Downtown Precinct Plan. The biggest issue is the fact that the City is pretty much built-out which means that land values will continue to increase faster than elsewhere in much of Ontario. Burlington home prices increased 73% in the last 4 years.

Downtown precincts

The Downtown area precincts.

The only way that the City can provide housing that is substantially more affordable is by making better use of land, which means going up in certain places. The community is rapidly getting older. 20% of Burlington population is older than 65, that will double in the next 20 years and the number of people over 80 will quadruple. Many of us will want to sell our single-family homes to live in a lower cost condominium or rental building with less maintenance. If there is no more intensified form buildings here then people will have to move out of the area. The same is true for many of our young people. Just to make matters more interesting, as the community gets older there will be less people who live in Burlington available to work here. This means that it is likely businesses will move elsewhere. Businesses pay twice the rate of property tax as residential homes. If the amount of business tax paid to the city declines then residential property taxes will go up, and you already know how people living on a fixed income will react to that. Our goal is to increase the availability of housing for the young and old that they can afford without losing control of property taxes.

Alternatively, if the City attracts more younger people to live here then a) businesses can stay and grow, and b) homes for young people will also be subject to property tax, all of which means that there will be less pressure to increase property taxes rates as fast.

The plan is to allow only 5% of Burlington land to increase in density, most of which will be less than 11 floors and that will be along Fairview St., Plains Rd. and some areas around plazas. There will be more height around Go Stations. Only 11% of the downtown area will have more height, but not all sites along Brant Street, only a few. Most of the Brant Street height will occur close to Burlington GO. Even that will not be anything like Toronto or Mississauga where 50 floors is common. We expect the maximum to be in line with the buildings at Burlington GO station which are more like 25.

Under the New Official Plan, developers will not be permitted to assemble properties in single family home neighbourhoods in-order-to build tall buildings. Most areas of the City will keep the same type of housing that presently exists. It may be reviewed though.

Sharman July 2016

Councillor Sharman disagrees with those who don’t want height opposite city hall.

The reasoning of City Planning staff and Council members at the committee meeting can be viewed on the webcast. Regular Meeting of Council – November 13.

The issues are quite complex. Council was elected to understand all the issues and to figure how to address concerns of the entire population. Some people think the precise number of floors in a building is more important than everything. I disagree.

Paul Sharman was first elected in 2010 and reelected in 2014.  He was part of the Shape Burlington Committee.  In 2010 he originally filed nomination papers to run for Mayor; when Rick Goldring filed his nomination papers for Mayor Sharman decided to run for the council seat Goldring held.

Return to the Front page

Resident beleives it is up to the developer to decide if they want to comply with the city position or take the differences to the OMB.

opinionandcommentBy Jeremy Skinner

December 11th, 2017



Where is the 421-431 Brant Street development application going?

If anyone has any concerns as to the City of Burlington’s decision with regards to the 421-431 Brandt St. application, then I suggest that they read the City of Burlington Planning Department’s Recommendation Report PB-62-17 which was accepted by City Council decision on November 13th.

The document in its entirety (all 71 pages) is at

Scroll down to Recommendation report and click on the report.  The Recommendation report is close to the bottom – they don’t make it easy to find.

Upon reading the Recommendation Report, it is my opinion that the applicant (421 Brandt Street Inc.) and City Planning were unable to agree upon what the permitted height for the proposed building should be. I can only surmise that the developer threatened to seek an appeal to the OMB to obtain what could not be negotiated from City Planning Staff. A building height of twenty-seven storeys.

I base my opinion on the words “recommending modified approval” which are found in the Recommendation Report’s Subject line and two statements contained within the report found in the Section entitled “Purpose” documenting the different points of view. They are:

1. “The applicants are proposing to amend the Official Plan (Downtown Core designation) and Zoning By-law (DC zone) to permit the proposed 27-storey mixed use building with a floor area ratio of 10.29: 1.” and

2. “Notwithstanding, planning staff have recommended a “modified approval” which would permit a mixed use building with a height up to 23 storeys, subject to significant design and public realm improvements.”

While the developer has documented their agreement to comply with many City and Region comments made during the application process by submitting a revised application last August, the requested building height remained unchanged at 27 storeys.

421 Brant

Skinner believes the developer has an important decision to make.

In addition, the cover letter for the revised submission written by Mr. Mark G. Bales of 421 Brandt Street Inc. dated 03 August to Ms. Mary Lou Tanner Director of Planning & Building includes the following Conclusion statement: “Further to the comments received, the analysis completed by our consultant team and our comments above, we are requesting that you consider the resubmission materials and move the project forward to City Council for approval immediately.”

It is my opinion that the consequence of City Council’s approval on the 13th of November of the City Planning recommendations implies that the developer must decide between:

1. Complying with City Council’s approval of City Planning recommendation of “a mixed use building with a height up to 23 storeys, subject to significant design and public realm improvements.”

The City is not known to amend the Official Plan (Downtown Core designation) and Zoning By-law (DC zone) to permit development of the site until such time when it receives the developer’s agreement to comply.

Other parties, such as a Resident’s Association, can not seek an appeal to the OMB against the City and/or the developer until the City amends the Zoning By-law.

Should any of these other parties seek an appeal against the City and the developer, they would have to: prove that they made a delegation at the Statutory Meeting held on the first of November; assume the costs of obtaining suitable representation at the OMB; and make the case to the OMB that the City and/or the Developer made significant errors in interpreting Provincial, Regional and/or Municipal Policies, Principles and Guidelines.

The risk in seeking an appeal is that the OMB is an independent tribunal with the authority to approve, change, or reuse planning applications. As such all parties run the risk that the developer will take advantage of the appeal to make the case for the original development application requirements, including the 27 storey building height.

421 Brant 12 and 23

Graphic profile of the proposed development on Brant Street – 12 storeys and 23 storey’s.

The OMB may or may not ultimately side with the party seeking appeal in whole, or in part, based upon the strength of the arguments presented by all the parties for and against the appeal.

2. Appealing City Council’s approval of City Planning’s recommendations to the OMB in the hopes that the OMB will direct the City to “amend the Official Plan (Downtown Core designation) and Zoning By-law (DC zone) to permit the proposed 27-storey mixed use building with a floor area ratio of 10.29: 1.”

The costs to the developer in doing so include the costs of obtaining suitable representation at the OMB and the costs associated with delaying development of the property for between 6 and 12 months pending the OMB decision after multiple hearings.

The risk to the City is that the OMB is an independent tribunal with the authority to approve, change, or refuse planning applications. In other words, OMB decisions take the place of decisions made by Council.

The risk to the developer is that other parties, such as a Resident’s Association who made a delegation at the Statutory meeting held on the first of November, could make the case to promote more restrictive terms than those which were recommended by City Planning, such as to limit the building height to twelve stories, etc.

The OMB may or may not ultimately side with the developer in whole or in part of the appeal based upon the strength of the arguments presented by all the parties for and against the appeal.

It is my opinion that the decision rests with the developer as to where the 421-431 Brandt St. development application is going. Until the developer decides, no one else can and the development remains stalled.

Editor’s note:  ECoB – Engaged Citizens of Burlington have called a public meeting for December 13th at the Baptist Church on New Street to discuss an appeal to the OMB of the city council decision to approve the the 421 Brant Street development.

Related content:

Staff recommendation.

Skinner JeremyJeremy Skinner is a Burlington resident who is a frequent contributor to the opinion pages of the Gazette.

Return to the Front page

Demographics, tax and land use policies are the keys to shaping the future of housing and urban development.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

December 11th, 2017


This is one of a several part series on affordable housing

Over the 20th century the world’s population grew by 400 percent despite two world wars which killed off tens of millions of young people of child rearing age. Canada ranks 2nd in the planet by land mass but only 38th by population. Still we have multiplied from seven million in the early 1900’s to five times that number today.

Statistics Canada is projecting that we’ll be fifty or sixty million by the middle of the century. The post-war baby boom and the baby boom echo have been a big part of our growth. But that has now concluded as Canada, like other developed nations, has seen its natural birth rate plummet, for all but our indigenous communities.

Immigrant at Halifax

Immigrants who landed in Canada and came through Pier 21, which is now a museum. This country was built on the backs of these people – they are us?

We are a nation of immigrants, including our first nations whose numbers were devastated by smallpox and other imported diseases introduced by the European settlers. Over the last decade Canada had welcomed roughly 250,000 migrants a year. More recent immigration plans will bumped these numbers to the point where we’ll be taking in a million more people over the next three years. And of course there is ongoing pressure to admit more refugees.

So even if we don’t actually have more children to take our places there will still be increased demand for housing. And most of those immigrants will be moving to cities in southern Ontario, Alberta, BC or Quebec, where housing markets are already relatively tight pushing up the demand and therefore the price of housing. Still, demographics is only one factor in this equation when it come to housing demand and supply.

Land use and fiscal (tax and government spending) policies also play a role. After all for most people their home is their biggest investment, and yet capital gains on that investment is tax-exempt, making ownership very desirable. A second or third home can also be a good source of rental income, in addition to being an appreciable asset.

Not through this part of th Escarpment if you don't mind. Citizens want to make sure the province fully understands how iopposed they are to a raod through this part of our city.

Everything north of Dundas and the 407 is rural – no development except in the hamlets; Kilbride, Lowville. The housing growth will have to be south of the dividing line.

BC and Ontario recently introduced special taxes on non-resident owned property, a policy which has been credited with discouraging speculation and cooling down their steamy housing markets – at least for now. Some municipalities are considering additional taxes on vacant homes in order to encourage landlords to better utilize the existing housing stock. And then there is the impact of Air B&B, influencing house market dynamics – the conversion of long term to short term rental units adding new challenges to rental markets.

Developers and the real estate sector decry the constraints on land development, such as they see with the provincial Green Belt. Their biggest complaint is that this impacts there ability to convert cheap farm land into masses of single family homes, traditionally the most sought after type of housing, but also the least efficient. Why grow food when it so much more profitable to grow houses.

Mapleview Mall parking east side

Once some of the best farm land in the province. “…they paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”

Burlington was once home to some of the best farm land in Ontario. Nothing epitomizes its unfortunate transition to today’s urban form more than Mapleview Mall – where maple trees are no more. Indeed this development gives real meaning to Joni Mitchell’s song ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ – they paved paradise and put up a parking lot. It symptomatic of the demise of low growth rustbelt cities like Detroit, Cleveland and Hamilton at one time or another.

Highly touted GO commuter service is of little use if your job is scattered among the scads of low density industrial sprawl areas throughout the GTA. Spending up to half of one’s working day just commuting is crazy! And then there is the cost of that transportation, a huge price to pay for living the old ‘50s California suburban dream.

So the provincial planning whiz kids dreamt up this ‘places to grow’ stuff which municipalities treat as license to continue sprawl under another name. And of course developers love it. Because they can now make even more money than before building higher density homes on that same old cheap farmland, and occasionally tearing down low rise apartments to reach for the sky.

And there is the matter of municipal zoning policy. Originally designed to protect Dick and Jane in their comfy split-level from the horrors of industrial pollution, zoning has become the true enemy of sustainable living, creating silos in our cities which can only be broached by the automobile.

One only has to look at the parking lot at Mapleview during the Christmas season to get the point or Costco anytime. Strip malls, big box stores and shopping plazas have replaced the local corner store for much of what we buy. And nobody walks to get there. More recently on-lines sales and home delivery, à la Amazon, are threatening to re-shape the future of the shopping mall as consumers literally take to heart that old jingle – ‘let your fingers do the walking’.

Hong Kong has been called the best city for commuters with extensive public transportation options and one of the lowest car ownership rates. 38% of commuters use bicycles or walk to work and shop. And extremely high urban density has made transit both economic and a convenient way of moving about the city. But then do we really want to live in a city where you sleep in a tower and travel to get to anywhere else thorough a canyon?


Prime Minister Trudeau announces a $40 billion dollar federal-provincial partnership deal to match the need for more affordable housing.

Mr. Trudeau recently announced a $40 billion dollar federal-provincial partnership deal to match the need for more affordable housing with real substance. It was one of his promises in the last election. That will require provincial buy-in, something which would have been easier back when more provincial governments also wore the red party colours. Nevertheless it is an ambitious undertaking. And of course money alone will not solve the matter of housing affordability.

Demographics, tax and land use policies are the keys to shaping the future of housing and urban development period. Next week, in this column, we will explore options and entertain possible solutions as we put some meat onto these bones we’ve now laid bare.

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:

Population Growth –    StatsCan Projections –      Population of Canada

Birth Rate in Canada –      AIRBNB –      Hong Kong Housing

Bad Policies –      Market Bubble –      Housing Outlook

Liberal Housing Election Promise –      Housing Announcement

Return to the Front page

It was a negotiated deal that Tom Muir thinks is the kind of thing that leads to municipal corruption.

background 100By Pepper Parr

December 8th, 2017



Tom Muir was leaving city hall recently, heading to the parking lot and crossed paths with city manager James Ridge.

A conversation ensued. Muir describes his conversation with Ridge as “cordial”

Muir making a point

Tom Muir making a point

Muir mentioned the verbal scuffle he had with Councillor Taylor over what Muir thought were points Taylor didn’t want to hear; that the city was using concepts that were not vetted and not approved on the 421 Brant project that was approved by the planning department and then passed by city council under the current Official Plan.

The city is in the process of writing a totally new Official Plan and was pushing very hard to get it done before the end of the year. The public began to push back even harder and the completion date for the new Official Plan, now in draft form is now uncertain.

City manager James Ridge

James Ridge at his first city council meeting.

Muir says that Ridge immediately disagreed and asserted that it was a “negotiation”. Carriage Gate, the developer, had the right to build a 12 storey structure on the property they had assembled.

It has been described as an ugly squat building that used every square foot available. No one liked the look of the building but it was what the developer was allowed to do.

The city apparently came back with the tall building guidelines that call for podiums that were set back nicely from the property line, rose to four storeys and then had a tall skinny building that rose an additional 19 storeys.

The revised proposal Carriage Gate took to the planning department was for 27 storeys – the planners recommended 23 and that was what council bought on a 5-2 vote with the Mayor and Meed Ward dissenting..
Ridge said, according to Muir, that this is what was “negotiated”.

Muir glancing

Tom Muir, a frequent delegator at city hall.

Muir said this was arbitrary and gave everyone around that table power they are not supposed to have if Official Plans and zoning bylaws that the public has bought into are to mean anything at all. Why have bylaws and height/density limits if the parties can just negotiate them away was Muir’s argument.

Muir said Ridge didn’t have a real answer, except he called that “good planning”, and added that he and Ridge talked about the economics, and the built form. They chose high and skinnier rather than shorter, squat, not the massing city wanted, and perhaps butt ugly, like the Sims building which Muir adds was his example not Ridge’s.

Muir’s view is this might be central to any OMB appeal case. Is it “good planning” to just ignore the determinative Official Plan and zoning bylaws and public opinion that gets expressed at required meetings that go way out of compliance and are rationalized as “negotiation”, when they appear to be no more than arbitrary decisions.

James Ridge - looking right

James Ridge Burlington city manager.

Muir said Ridge maintained that the existing Official Plan was designed to be “a negotiation” framework,
In my view, says Muir, this introduces arbitrary power to rules that are supposed to be complied with so that arbitrary is not in the cards to enable noncompliance. “That’s a door to corruption, like it or not.”

Muir makes an additional point.

What Carnicelli didn’t say in his delegation was that Carriage Gate began assembling property for this project ten years ago and that they at one point took a proposal to the Planning department that met the 12 storey limit many people want.

It was a pretty plain looking building that used every possible foot of the property – not much in the way of a street-scape – but it met the rules.

The developer and the Planning department worked together to come up with the structure that met the tall building guide lines that were new and the developer revised the proposal.
City council decided it was what the city needed and voted for it; with two exceptions, the Mayor and Councillor for the ward.

Now, as a citizen, ask yourself this; would you rather have an 11-storey mass (I believe this is the ugly that Mr. Ridge is referring to) or a 23-storey building, 19 storeys in a slender tower? Consider that the 11-storey building is at the property lines and the tall building is set back (wider sidewalks) and the bulk of the tall building is set back once you pass the podium.

Why are we beating up the developer?

The City has never seen anything like this!

Return to the Front page

Patrick Brown may win the battle but he is going to lose the war.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

December 6th, 2017



Ray Rivers has been writing a column for the Gazette for five years. Over that time he has developed a following that isn’t shy about taking him to task when they disagree with his opinion. That ability to “talk back” to a columnist is one of the features of this newspaper.

Rivers hand to face

Ray Rivers

It has taken some time for Gazette readers to appreciate that what Rivers writes are his personal opinions.

Each week Ray and I talk about what he has in mind. I don’t tell Ray what he has to write but I am aware of what he is planning on writing about.

There are times when, as publisher, I suggest a particular subject could use some attention. Rivers doesn’t always agree.

He recently did a column on Ontario Leader of the opposition Patrick Brown. I had hoped Rivers would write about affordable housing – Rivers has said he will get to that.

While Ray is a liberal and a Liberal he does have the capacity to see beyond the end of his nose.

We have approached a number of clearly identified Conservatives to write an opinion column for us – having some balance is important.  We do have our eye on a young New Democrat to become a columnist.

Brown Patrick with headset

Patrick Brown

In his piece on Brown he said he felt Brown was getting some traction and that the race for the Premiership of the province was going to be tighter than I said it would be.

My own view is that Brown does not yet have the profile he needs and his past positions are going to haunt him in an election where the Liberals will have the stronger campaign team.

Wynne Kathleen - looking guilty gas plant hearing

Kathleen Wynne

I have certainly been wrong before but I see Kathleen Wynne winning and then resigning within 18 months. If she loses she is gone.

Then the battle will be between several members of her front bench.

My own view is that it doesn’t matter what Patrick Brown does – he is gone either way.

If he loses there will be a leadership contest. If he wins there will be a member of his government breathing down his neck.

Mulroney Catherine

Catherine Mulroney

Caroline Mulroney is running in York (north of Toronto) where she will win.

Then the real campaign begins for the Mulroney’s. Her father, Brian Mulroney, former Prime Minister, has been itching to get back into the political game (did he ever leave?)

To be able to be part of the team that makes Catherine the Premier of Ontario is one that Brian Mulroney won’t be able to stay away from.

So while the Gazette’s leading columnist thinks Brown could take it – there is a bottle of Scotch on the outcome – none of that matters.

Caroline Mulroney is going for the job and she will get it.

Pepper Parr is the publisher of the Burlington Gazette.

Return to the Front page

Getting More Value For Your Money

opinionandcommentBy Steve Marks

December 6th, 2017



When you’re young, you have this idea that once you’ve got the job you want, you’ll be financially stable. If you’re lucky to earn more money than you need, you’ll never have to worry about finances ever again.

Unexpected expensesWhat we don’t realize is that the more money we get, the more we spend. And, perhaps more poignantly, we tend to spend our entire salaries. Which means that when an unexpected expense comes along, we have to dig deep, take out loans, or use a lot of credit.

But if you’re just managing to live on what you’re earning, what’s the solution? A promotion or raise might be the ideal scenario, but chances are you have no control over that. Your income is going to stay the same, and so are your expenses.

There are some very useful ways to get more from your money. If you do the following, you might find yourself in less debt, or even with a bit of extra cash at the end of the month which you can save.

1. Shop online

There are many reasons people still don’t shop online. You may be wary about buying fresh groceries that you can’t pick out yourself. You may enjoy the process of shopping, using it as a way to take some time out of work in the office or at home. You may simply not want to change what you’ve been doing for so many years.

Shopping on lineHowever, there is one very good reason to shop online that should change your mind. You end up saving money. This is, for the most part, for two reasons. The first is that you’re not going to be tempted by things you don’t need while walking down the aisles. The second is that you can compare prices easily, without having to do more work than most of us are ready to do at the store.

Better shopping habits are one of the best ways to make the most out of your money, and online shopping makes it much easier.

2. Take advantage of credit card deals

If you’re stuck with credit card debt, it might feel like you’ve got an endless mountain to climb. You keep paying money into your credit card and it keeps getting eaten up by interest. However, if you take advantage of credit card deals, you can go a long way towards wiping out that debt.

Some of the best credit cards in Canada will take on your debt at 0% interest for the first year. This provides a great opportunity to make your payments actually count. Also, look out for rewards deals which, if you make good use of them, will actually save you significant cash.

3. Use budgeting apps

Budgeting is incredibly important, as you need to be able to see how much you’re spending against how much you’re earning if you want to change your habits. Many of us aren’t cut out for budgeting, however, and do a half-hearted job of it at best.

Telling money where to goThe good news is that budgeting apps now do the hard work for you. They categorize your transactions, showing you exactly what you spend on, making it easier to figure out what you can cut down on.

Get budgeting, and you’ll soon find you may not need to use your whole salary every month.

Steve Marks is a finance consultant who focuses on the development of best credit management practices for young people.

Return to the Front page

Ontario Progressive Conservatives want to broaden their platform to appeal to those marginally committed Liberal voters and the undecided.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

December 4th, 2017



The Ontario Progressive Conservative party, much like its federal counterpart is regularly supported by less than half the voters. To win an election they must either hope for a strong NDP showing, to take votes away from the Liberals, so they can come up the middle. Or they could broaden their platform to appeal to those marginally committed Liberal voters and the undecided.

Patrick Brown Looking sideways

Patrick Brown, leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Opposition party.

The latter is exactly what newish PC leader Patrick Brown is doing. Coming out of a policy convention last weekend he tabled an extensive, if verbose, election platform, the ‘People’s Guarantee’ with 147 promises. It is a shopping list of promises that, in keeping with the season, might have been put together by Santa’s elves. Indeed the platform, for the most part, could have been written for the Liberals or NDP and is clearly designed to draw supporters in those parties over to the Tories.

After Harris and Hudak it is hard to imagine that an Ontario conservative could be so progressive. One could accuse Brown of wanting to spend like a drunken sailor, except for the fact that he is a tea-totaler. Though one has to wonder how he ended up with terminology typical of an alcoholic’s anonymous handbook – one hundred and forty seven promises.

Brown would cut taxes for the middle class by 22.5%, reduce electricity rates by another 12%, refund 75% of child care costs and allocate $1.9 billion into mental health care, in addition to introducing another unenforceable law – the “Trust, Accountability and Integrity Act”.

patrick-brown smiling

Patrick Brown – does he have a lot to smile about.

And there is more in a platform with spending that would make the current Liberals almost look like conservatives. For example there is $5 billion for new subways, 15,000 new long term care beds and a $500 rebate on buying winter tires. Plus he’d be keeping many Liberal programs such as youth pharma-care, free tuition for the needy, and offering a new seniors’ dental care plan.

That’s a lot of cash he’s promising to throw around and the document contains an itemized accounting of where it is coming from and where it is going. Of course it is an optimistic accounting, but aren’t they all? The Liberals are claiming that Brown is hiding $12 billion in sneaky cuts to healthcare, education and other social programs (page 76 of the ‘People’s Guarantee’). And they might be right but how would one know, since it is so difficult to navigate such a weighty and sprawling document, that few will even bother?

Brown is still very much an unknown commodity in the province. A career politician, he spent years on Stephen Harper’s backbench in Parliament, nursing all the right right-wing sentiments one expects of a good Harperite. But he is campaigning as a changed man – he’s seen the light and it’s called compromise – pandering to the softer side of humanity. He even claims to accept a woman’s right to choose and has embraced the LGBT crowd. And why wouldn’t all of this now be genuine? After all his father had run for the NDP a couple of times.


Patrick Brown has his work cut out for him – keeping his conservative base happy and making the Progressive Conservative tent big enough for others.

Will this be enough to win the pink palace? That will also depend in part on whether the public is ripe for a change of leadership. That is the prescription from the right wing media, though Brown may not exactly be the package they have in mind. And it will also depend on the competing platforms yet to roll out from the Liberals and NDP, and possibly the Greens – and whether they can find enough holes in Brown’s platform to shake his credibility.

Patrick Brown is paying for his income tax cuts with the cash rolling in from a new carbon tax he’ll introduce to replace Ontario’s current cap and trade climate change plan. That means for every dollar working folks will save in income taxes they’ll be using sixty or seventy cents of it just to fill up their cars – not quite the bonanza the income tax cuts seem at first blush.

Carbon taxes are sales taxes, regressive in that they affect those with lower incomes the most. And if they are effective in reducing carbon, the amount of revenue generated will start to fall, rather than rise as predicted. So if the carbon tax doesn’t bring in enough cash to cover everything on his extensive laundry list, expect to see the list get shorter – or watch the deficit and debt grow. There is no free lunch when it comes to balancing the budget.

Brown has taken his cue in economic and environmental policy from the federal government, first by adopting Trudeau’s prescribed carbon tax, and second by cutting the income taxes of those in the relatively lower income classes. This provides both a restraint and a stimulus to economic growth respectively. And that is an appropriate approach given that Ontario’s economy is booming and had outpaced the rest of the country last year – best in the G7.

Brown Patrick with headset

Now that he has a platform – the leader of the Opposition now has to get out on the road, get known and sell the book with 147 promises in it.

But with unemployment lower than it has been in almost two decades, priming the pump without also applying brakes will only lead to inflation. Good economic policy avoids trying to fix something which isn’t broken. And Ontario and Canada are both doing well economically.

But some folks just like to change horses every once in a while and they’re entitled – this is a democracy. And if we can believe what he says in his ‘People’s Guarantee’, Brown is a different kind of Progressive Conservative – one that Ontario has not seen since the days of Bill Davis. And that would make him more his socialist father’s son and less like the Grinch he used to work for.

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:

People’s Guarantee –      PC Convention –      147 Promises

PC Platform –      Cutting Taxes –      A Red Tory?

PC Plan to Win –      Who is Brown –      Brown isn’t Transparent?

Ontario PC –      Tax Plan Falls Short –      Ontario Polls

Ontario Economy –      Patrick Brown

Return to the Front page

Call for stronger role from ratepayer groups - does anyone know how many we have?

opinionandcommentBy Stephen White

December 3rd, 2017



I would submit that one of the reasons this Council and Mayor have run amuck over the past seven years is because there are no strong countervailing organizations in place to challenge or question their decisions.

There are a lot of intelligent, thoughtful and resourceful people who delegate regularly, or write to their Councillor, or express feedback, but because they are acting as individuals and not as part of a concerted, united organization they get “blown off”. A case in point is the November 13th Council meeting on the 421 Brant Street development.

Your city council members: The Significant Seven.

Your city council members: The Significant Seven. Three of the seven were first elected in 2010 – all were re-elected in 2014. Two have been there more than 20 years

By contrast, Oakville has 17 Ratepayers’ Associations. They offer a strong, sustained and ongoing mechanism through which local residents can make their voices known and their opinions heard. When they delegate their Council and their Mayor listen. When they push the agenda and demand action they are able to quickly galvanize public support and things happen. Their efforts around saving Glen Abbey Golf Course is a case in point.

Burlington crest - with city referenceECoB is a great start, but if it turns into Shape Burlington it will just be gabfest and a waste of time. The time for pleasantries and persuasion is past. I hope part of ECoB’s mandate entails identifying and formally supporting municipal election candidates. Without a strategy in place we’ll have a repeat of 2014 with multiple candidates running in each ward, vote splitting, and incumbents slipping through again.

Stephen White is a Burlington resident who comments frequently in the Gazette.

It is worth noting that the Town of Oakville Clerk reaches out to the community and asks for contact information from each of the known resident and ratepayer groups and ensures they are kept informed of what takes p0olace in Oakville.

Related content:

Shape Burlington

Formation of ECoB

Return to the Front page

Jim Young asks city council why they have put the cart before the horse as they work at creating a new official plan?

opinionandcommentBy Staff

December 1st, 2017



A city Council Committee of the Whole listened to delegations in an afternoon and an evening session yesterday.

There were three delegations from people representing developers setting out the impact the proposed Official Plan would have on their projects.

This was followed by four people who delegated in the afternoon – in the evening there were nine registered delegation.

The Gazette will report on what those people had to say. We want to pass along what Jim Young, an Aldershot resident, had to say. Young is perhaps the best delegator this Council has seen during 2017. He has been superb and taught this council some badly needed lessons. He was instrumental is convincing this city council to maintain the ten minute time allocation for delegation. Staff had proposed that it be limited to five minutes – and council was prepared to go along with it.

During his delegation on the Official Plan Young had this to say:

I am not here today to condemn or oppose the latest rendition of the Official Plan.

Jim Young

Jim Young

Neither am I opposed to intensification, downtown density or the concept of mobility hubs.
My first concern is a Big Picture concern about the validity and workability of an Official Plan that is contingent upon several other plans, if those contingent plans are not yet in place.

Official-Plan-Binder_ImageThe draft Official Plan references the Cycling Plan and the Transit Master Plan, both of which have been in development for several years and are still some time from completion. It also references The Downtown Parking Study, which as we speak is still seeking public input and an Area Specific Plan for the Downtown Mobility Hub which according to your timeline will not be completed until June 2018

There are matters of great importance which will impact the lives of citizens embodied in the official plan which council are being asked to vote upon when the prerequisite building blocks are not yet in place.

Is it fair or reasonable for you to vote on detailed areas of intensification and density before we have the Transit Plan in place to move people through these propose areas of intensification?

Can you really make a decision which will determine the walkability and the transport modal split for cycling to ensure livability in our new high density intensified city, if we don’t have a cycling plan in place to support it?

Jim Young

Jim Young speaking at a public meeting on transit issues. He has led some of the public commentary on how the transit service is not meting the needs of the citizens

Can we plan for a forecast 19,000 new residents every 10 years, many of whom the new intensified precincts are designed for and almost all of whom will bring cars if we do not have a parking plan in place? If buildings are approved with 1.2 parking spaces per unit while the average Ontario household owns 1.7 cars, where will we put the all cars? We cannot just hope people will be less inclined to own a car. We need to have that plan in place.

The proposed intensification precincts are premised upon the success and high level of utilization of the downtown mobility hub; yet the Area Specific Plan for that will not be presented to council until June 2018.

The Official Plan Review team has a huge task on their hands and they have to juggle a number of research projects at the same time and manage to find time for real public engagement. The above sets out the projects that all have to be eventually pulled together to create what will become the city's official plan for the next five years.

In 2012 the Official Plan Review team set out how many moving parts there were in the Official Plan. Young points out that many of the parts are contingent upon several other plans that have yet to be determined before the bigger picture is cast in stone.

How do we intensify around a mobility hub when we don’t have the details of what that hub will look like, how it will work? If it will work?

I am asking how can council and staff move forward on this very complex and, for our city, somewhat revolutionary, official plan if the building blocks of all the other supporting infrastructure plans are not in place?

A lot of common sense there. Using a well-worn phrase Young pointed out that the Planners had ‘put the cart before the horse.’ He got that right.

Good questions – Jim Young didn’t get any answers – staff have yet to comment on the points brought up during the delegations yesterday.  That is supposed to take place when the Committee of the Whole resumes this afternoon.

Return to the Front page