There are a lot of questions to be asked: are there going to be any answers from either Council or the Administration?

By Pepper Parr

April 14th, 2022



A matter of major significance is now going to be discussed in public at city council on Tuesday the 19th.

Getting it on the table has not been easy – there were far too many people at both the Council level and the administration level who wanted the Integrity Commissioner’s report discussed in a Closed Session of Council.

Ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte

Councillor Stolte, the subject of the Integrity report, has to be recognized for taking the high road and setting out her position and the why of what she did. There are numerous concerns.

How will Council handle the report? The Integrity Commissioner will present the document and be on hand to answer questions.

Will the Councillors ask any questions?

And there are a lot of questions to be asked.

Ward 3 Councillor Rory Nisan above and ward 1 Councillor Kelven Galbraith

Of the two council members who filed the report: who approached who? Did Nisan call Galbraith or was it vice versa? Realize that Councillor Nisan doesn’t want to leave his home – Covid19 fears.

Councillors are seldom at their office in city hall this past year – so there is no opportunity for the kind of casual conversation and the open exchange of views and collaboration that Stolte sees as vital.

There is concern over an email that Stolte sent to a constituent – how did Nisan and Galbraith get their hands on that email?

Who influenced who at City Hall? What role did the City Manager play?

What role did the City Clerk play? What was the level of collusion between the Mayor and the City manager ?

Will there be public delegations?

Who is going to ask the hard questions?

There is an investigation underway by the Investigator of Closed meetings about the practices used in Burlington.

Does that report not have a bearing on what has taken place?

The meeting on the 19th is scheduled as a virtual meeting – which is unfortunate.

The calendar doesn’t’ work and permit genuine public participation. City Hall is closed Friday and Monday. The public saw the report for the first time at 6:00 am this morning.

It will take time to digest and understand what the issue is – and there is an issue.

People don’t gather as much as they used to – the current Covid19 wave is impacting a lot of people. Councillor Sharman is reported to have become infected.

The concern that many have is that the Integrity report will be read into the record and no one will ask any questions – hoping that is Council and the administration go mute and that this will then all just go away.

Democracy doesn’t work that way.

Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette, an online newspaper that was formed in 2010 and is a member of the National Newsmedia Council.

Return to the Front page

The Cost of Accountability is Five Days’ Pay

By Shawna Stolte

April 14th, 2022



On April 19, 2022 my colleagues on Burlington City Council will vote on recommendations of a Report by the Integrity Commissioner on my behaviour. It is their right to do so, and it is my right to provide my perspective on the public record.

I encourage Council to give serious consideration to the recommendations in this upcoming report, but I am disappointed by the choice made by Councillors Nisan and Galbraith to formally call my integrity into question instead of working collaboratively to resolve the issue.

A fractured divided Council that has let everyone down.

The word “integrity” is defined as “the practice of being honest and showing a consistent and uncompromising adherence to strong moral and ethical principles and values.”

I have tried to uphold the principle of integrity over the course of my first term of Council in every decision I have made, as well as a consistent and uncompromising adherence to the values of transparency and accountability as vital components of the democratic process.

I believe Burlington’s Council was elected in 2018 with a mandate for change and a promise of increased openness, honesty and transparency. Yet, the number of agenda items being moved into Closed/Confidential Council discussion and without providing meaningful information to the public about the general nature of the matter being considered, has increased during this term of Council.

Every one of my Council colleagues are aware of how concerned I have been over the last 18 months regarding the procedures by which Council matters are dealt with in Open vs Closed Session Meetings.

I have exerted considerable efforts over the past year, without success, working with my Council colleagues, our legal department and the City Clerk seeking support to establish and implement a Closed Meeting Protocol for Council. We need policies and updated procedures that adhere to the best practices set out by the Ombudsman of Ontario and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, and which remove any perception that Closed Meetings are used to hide information from the public.

It has been clearly defined in the Municipal Act, the Ombudsman of Ontario and leading case law that “simply put, it is insufficient to simply parrot the test of the statutory exception (e.g. ‘Confidential Update on a Legal Matter’) by simply re-stating it without adding additional context…as this fails to provide meaningful information to the public about the general nature of the matter being considered in closed session”.
Absent very clear protocols, I must find the right balance myself and I chose to share as much information as possible on issues where I strongly believed that important information was being inappropriately withheld from the public.

I was not secretive about the sharing of this information, but open and transparent regarding the reasons, that serve the public good, for sharing information. This fact is documented on the public record.

In response to my actions, Councillors Nisan and Galbraith expressed that they were satisfied with the status quo and saw no need for a Closed Meeting Protocol. Furthermore, they made clear their irritation at my approach to continually bringing this concern forward for resolution.

Instead of choosing to work with me and collaborate on resolving this critical issue Councillors Nisan and Galbraith chose instead to issue four complaints against me with the Integrity Commissioner in January of 2022. Ironically, the complaint itself was made secret, and I was forbidden from informing the public.

The Final Recommendation Report from the Integrity Commissioner was released on April 8, 2022 and will be part of the public agenda at Council on April 19, 2022.

I acknowledge that while attempting to highlight and force discussion on this important issue, the Integrity Commissioner has determined that I potentially crossed the line on two technicalities resulting in a recommendation to suspend five days of my pay.

Personally, the key points in this report state that “it is the obligation of the municipality to ensure that Council’s resolutions maximize transparency so far as possible” and that “Councillor Stolte’s position regarding the adequacy of the resolution for closed session meetings has some validity and the City should consider modifying its closed session resolutions to both quantify and disclose items that are to be given closed session treatment”.

Ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte

I applaud the vast majority of this report as it supports what I have been fighting for on behalf of our constituents. I am delighted that the Commissioners Report has vindicated my actions regarding the concerns I’ve expressed about our closed meeting protocols and practices and I urge my colleagues to adopt the recommended changes as to how Council conducts its business.

Ultimately, if five days salary is the price of finally having a mature conversation that results in Burlington Council adopting an effective Closed Meeting Protocol, then it is one I am happily willing to pay.


Return to the Front page

Interview with Councillor reveals significant differences of opinion on just how they work to get things done

By Pepper Parr

April 11th, 2022



We published a three part interview with ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte.

The earning curve was the steepest Stolte had ever experienced.

This has not been an easy council to interview. It has been difficult to get a clear sense as to how well they work together and the kind of leadership that has been available to the newcomers.

One said to us early in the term of office that he had been told “not to talk to you” – this one has always been easily swayed.

The five newcomers are certainly a mixed bag – each of them has struggled with the size of the job they got elected to – every one of them will tell you – if they are honest with themselves, that they are way in over their heads – but they work hard and do their best.

A situation has arisen that has the potential to tear this council apart. It should break in a few days; it is expected to be on the city council agenda for April 19th. It might be on the agenda as a Closed session item because it relates to the behavior of a person that we are choosing not to name at this point.

Councillors Stolte and Kearns tend to work together and support the positions each takes.

The collegiality that Councillor Stolte thought existed does not exist. Mayor Marianne Meed Ward has turned out to be a very divisive Mayor – who has not been able to create a council, made up of people new to the game, and turn them into independent operators who buy into the big picture and work as a team to end up with a city that is going to see massive population growth requiring literally hundreds of high rise towers.

Meed Ward has chosen the photo op and social media route. A woman who consistently talks up her background as a journalist has yet to hold an open press conference.

She favours situations, such as her perch at CHML where she is never pressed on serious issues or Cogeco where she has a program of her own.

Posing as a journalist is just plain phony – she knows better but up until recently Meed Ward has had a tribe of supporters who believe she can do no wrong.

Marianne Meed Ward didn’t do all that much to mentor the new members to Council

I was once a fan; she was a strong council member who really knew how to go for the juggler. She taught former Councillor and former Mayor Rick Goldring a tough lesson during the last meeting of that council.  She was the best choice for the city in 2018

There is a lot in what Shawna Stolte said during our interview – she was always careful to ensure that she didn’t talk about natters that were debated in Closed sessions – she did say that she has very strong views on the way the city chooses to slip into a Closed session.

Teaching the members of this council that they have an obligation to communicate with their constituents has not been easy. Most feel that their Newsletter is how they can speak to their constituents – the obligation is to open themselves up to media that can ask informed questions.

Stole has taken a first bold step. Her Father would be proud.

Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette, an online newspaper that was formed in 2010 and is a member of the National Newsmedia Council.

Return to the Front page

Councillor Stolte expands on what she thinks civic politics and public service is all about; some real surprises

By Pepper Parr

April 11th, 2022


Part 3 of a 3 part interview.

As we prepared to bring the interview to an end we asked ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte what she would do differently if she were to serve a second term; what did she get right and what did she get wrong.  She was surprisingly direct in answering the question.

The debate that ended a 24 year career in municipal politics; Jack Dennison on the left with Shawna Stolte on the right during a debate at Nelson High School.

“I think I focused on what I ran on. I ran on the tree canopy protection,  on affordable housing.  I ran on engagement and a voice at  City Hall. I ran on improving public transport and I ran on services for seniors. A lot of other issues  have come up in the meantime, but I feel like I have stuck by what people chose to vote on me on.

“This is what I didn’t do right and this is a mistake I’m not going to make again. I did not learn how to use my system.

“It took me till halfway through the term to understand how to work well with my assistant and how to  be a 10.

Editor’s note: The following two paragraphs are highlighted – they are very relevant to the decision Mayor Meed Ward made  revise a Council meeting agenda

“There is no fault in how things worked out in assigning me an administrative assistant.  (City staff choose who a Council members assistant is going to be – there is no input from the Council member.) During my first week on the job my assistant was very open and said she didn’t want to be here. She said she had a one year contract. She said she wanted to work in the Clerk’s office doing election work. She said “that’s where I want to be. I don’t want to be an assistant but I was sent up here because it’s my home job and I plan to get out of here as soon as I can.”

“I appreciated the honesty, it was better than finding out all of a sudden. So within six months she was gone. I went through June, July, August, September and October, four months of not having an assistant . I was bounced around .  I did appreciate all the other assistants taking a turn helping me out but it left me with no ability to fully understand  the practices or procedures on my end. I then had a contract assistant for about five months before I got Nancy. She came in three weeks before the pandemic. It was a rough.

“Something else I didn’t know. I assumed work in the city was done in a collaborative way.

“The learning curve, the confidence in being able to handle that learning curve and being able to handle the level of responsibility and expectation of the role and expectation on myself in the role was immense.

“And things were coming at us at a fierce pace; all five of the newly elected were struggling.

“I really wanted to dive into the issues and into the best practices of the city. I think that’s a piece of work that has surprised me the most.

“Naively, I discovered how much work needed to be done on policies, practices and procedures.

“Especially with council – so much of my work had to be focused much more internally than I was expecting.

“Going into a second term I would like to do things on two levels: the personal things, the things that you aspire to – I think I can get this done.

“And then the bigger picture, the things that I really think are critical fundamental for the way the city grows, because we have huge changes..

Seven new towers will be built in three phases with a projected population of about 2500 people.

“The growth at the GO stations where we are going to build this city and add 25 to 30% in the way of new population. The growth is real.

“This community is in transition; it is growing and evolving so quickly. I do think council should be bigger. I would love to see some consideration given to a council that’s made up of Ward councillors and councillors at large. I had a meeting with the city manager and councillors from Thunder Bay where they have that model.

“I think a model of having councillors doing constituent work and having votes on major city issues is important but I also really believe strongly in the model of councillors at large who do not have a ward to oversee they more have a portfolio – perhaps two councillors at large one who has for an example of a portfolio of environment, public transportation, and planning, where they kind of focus like they’re the higher focus on bigger issues that are city wide.

“Because I do think, having worked with the other councillors there still this protectionism around a lot of little things.

“Regional representation can stay the way it is just add two City Councillors at large. I think that would take Council up to nine. I think whenever you have a group dynamics, the smaller the group, the more opportunity there is for stronger personalities to have a bigger impact on a smaller group. And I think that that is part of the challenge for the City Council. I think if there would be less opportunity for strong dynamics if there were two more councillors added in. And I think when you look at our fellow regional councils, they’re all 11 to 13 members.   I think going up to nine is reasonable.

“There’s a bigger picture that has stunned all of us.  The challenge for all of us is immense.

The proposal is for 40 storeys – it will be less than that – begging the question- is Brant and Lakeshore the place for this kind of building.

“The size of the developments that were coming forward; the determination as to what was going to happen at the intersection of Brant and Lakeshore where two huge towers were being proposed.

“The Planning department was overwhelmed – how were we to fully understand the long term implications?”

I once asked a council member I was having a conversation with about the vision for the city in the Strategic Plan.

What vision was the response.  There is no vision.  When I put this response to Stolte she responded:

“I think anytime you’ve got a new council coming in with a new city manager, that vision is going to be preliminary and will need a lot of tweaking.   I think this next term  hopefully with some returning members, –  oh my gosh, a whole new council again, would not be very helpful for the community. I don’t start the learning curve all over again.”

“I would like to improve public transportation, though from an environmental perspective, hopefully get more environmentally friendly transit,  to get people out of cars.  We need to tackle the environmental issues as well as the traffic issues that we’re dealing with.

“I want to land this housing strategy complete with immediate short term, medium term and long term action items. I want it to be actionable, come heck or high water. I am not going to be okay letting this housing strategy become a policy that gets stuck on a shelf or not implemented.

The public hasn’t had much in the way of opportunity to watch what the Working Group has done. The need to do everything by Zoom has been a problem.

“The Working Group on Housing is sending out messages left, right and center to staff about the expectations that will go to council. There are some pretty high expectations for the implementation of the housing strategy.

“One of the things  that I really want to continue to focus on is low rise residential construction guidelines. Right now it’s the Wild West out there.   There are no rules.  The contractors doing  low rise, residential  construction are not managed and it is the residents in these areas that are suffering.

“I have been working on this problem for two years trying to get some changes made. Cary Clark has been helping. He’s been the champion for it but has admitted to me that his authority to effect change is extremely limited, which I understand.  There are parts of the city where there is a lot of this work taking place with no low rise residential construction management in place.

“There are places in my ward where you have three, four, sometimes five, infill properties, private residential properties being bought, torn down and rebuilt.  There’s no guidelines  – which results in construction vehicles and porta potties out on the street and piles of debris.

“There are construction management rules for the bigger developments, not for infill projects  and it is awful for some of these residential streets.

“The problem is that there are six different bylaws that need to be amended.  There is a report coming from the Legal department in  April.  I finally put my foot down and said I need a summary of these bylaws from the legal department to hear what’s getting in our way. And what strategies and solutions are we going to implement in these bylaws so that we can actually get some of these construction guidelines in place because it’s awful for some of these families who are trying to live their quiet life and they’re surrounded by construction. That’s worse for them. Because they have it literally outside their bedroom window. Literally.”

Nothing about the antics from this lady.

I said that would be the last question but not quite.

What was the funniest thing funniest thing that happened in the first four years ?

“I can’t tell you. Off the record I might tell you some of the antics that took p[lace on the seventh floor of City Hall. We’ll leave it at that. Okay.”

The first four years have been a real ride for the five elected for the first time. They were new and there was nothing in the way of a support system for them, no one to mentor them.

They had to rely on what they could learn from the city manager, the man they made the decision to hire.

Nothing from us on those antics.

Part 1

Part 2

Return to the Front page

Waterfront Planning Study Completed: here is what they are recommending and why. On the Tuesday Council agenda

By Pepper Parr

April 4th, 2022



A report that was going to need a couple of months to be completed by the consultant the city had hired was given a big push and – on Tuesday Council will be asked to receive the report and endorse the recommendation from The Planning Partnership

The Appendix A part of the 245 page document is where the meat on the bone is set out. We will publish that as a seperate article.

The 400 page addendum to the Standing Committee will be debated on Tuesday. – virtually

The white dotted line is the study area. The elephant in the room is the waterfront hotel site. What gets put on that property impact everything else.

Receive the “Waterfront Hotel Planning Study Planning Justification Report” dated March 23, 2022, prepared by The Planning Partnership Limited, E

Endorse in principle the Waterfront Hotel Planning Study, the recommended Preferred Concept Plan, site-specific draft Official Plan policies, directions for a future Zoning By- law amendment and site-specific Urban Design Guidelines as detailed in Appendix “A” to community planning department report PL-28-22; and

Consider the Waterfront Hotel Planning Study findings in Council’s consideration of the site-specific development applications for 2020 Lakeshore Road.

The consultants are saying – no more public engagement – we have heard all we need to hear – let’s just get on with it – or words to that effect.

The Mayor and Councillor Lisa Kearns bought into the Plan B objectives and became champions for it.

The Plan B people put a lot of pressure on the ward Councillor Lisa Kearns and the Mayor – those two bought into what Plan B was advocating, championed that point of view and ipso facto ( an inevitable result) a report comes popping out.

The city needed to close this poorly handled stage of downtown development.

What is particularly concerning is that the continued failures on the part of the Planning department took place when we had a Mayor who was going to bring some order to the way developments were handled.

One paragraph in the report, as dismal as it is, reflects what has been going on. It reads: Subsequently, the Waterfront Hotel Planning Study was placed on hold due to other various priorities in the Community Planning Department such as the new Official Plan process.

The decision came from the City Manager and Council went along with it.  No one asked what the down side risk was. We now know what that risk is.

One Councillor who didn’t want to be quoted said to me during a conversation: “What Vision” – this city doesn’t have a vision.

The PIER went trough its trial and tribulations. The city ended up with a tower that did nothing other than add to the price. It was supposed to house a wind turbine that would pay for the electricity used.

The building of The Pier went through a similar tortuous process. In that situation the city paid for The Pier twice and went through one of the biggest collection of insurance law suits this city has ever seen.

The purpose of the study was to provide a land use and urban design framework to inform site-specific policies to guide a future redevelopment of the Subject Site.

The quaint small village feel is hard to experience as you walk by the six level podium that has been proposed.

The problem with that approach was that the city took so long to get the study completed that the owner of the Waterfront Hotel got tired of waiting and filed a development application that will plunk two 40+ towers at the bottom of Brant Street and crowd the sidewalk of Lakeshore with the kind of structure you find on Bloor Street in Toronto.

The time line the city was faced with was a treacherous path. When the Community Planning, Regulation and Mobility Committee iinformed Council on January 11, 2022, that the anticipated timeline to complete the study was 16-17 weeks a wave of indigestion must have hit the tummies of every member of council. They came back with a Staff Direction:

They did it virtually – made sure that the Waterfront Study was going to be completed in time. Out went the 16 – 18 week. They had a couple of weeks to deliver.

Direct the Director of Community Planning to complete the Waterfront Hotel Study within the statutory time frame of processing the pending application related to the Waterfront Hotel (2020 Lakeshore Road) so as to inform the review of any development proposal on this site in accordance with the policies of the Official Plan.

The time frame was this: The developer had the right to appeal to the Ontario Land Tribunal for a decision because the city did not respond within the allotted 120days – in order to avoid such an appeal the city had to complete their review of the application before April 17th.
The city Planning department “refusal” report is to be heard at Council on the 12th.

An overview of the Study findings is summarized below:

This is the concept the consultants working on the Waterfront Hotel Study are putting forward based on the work they have been doing since 2017. The question is – Is this the best the city can do? And does it comply with the vision.

The recommended preferred concept (2022): 

has regard for matters of Provincial Interest, policy and legislation and has been designed with consideration for the intent of the applicable Regional and Local Municipal policies and guidelines;

reflects overall alignment with City’s in-force Official Plan (1997), the new Official Plan (2020), ROPA 48 and emerging context within the Study Area;

delivers a vibrant mix of uses that will reinforce and support the continuing evolution of the Downtown;

provides for a compact built form that is transit supportive, provides for a range of housing, supports intensification and provides for a range of uses

enhances the streetscape along Lakeshore Road unified with a common language of materials and design elements;

provides for public view corridors down Brant and John Streets to Lake Ontario;

provides for on-site parkland dedication to enhance public access to Spencer Smith Park and build upon an important landmark through high quality open space;

Proposed urban design guidelines will provide site-specific guidance related to the conditions and context of the site to implement the Vision and Principles established through the consultation process and subsequently endorsed in principle by Council in early 2018;

An Official Plan Amendment (OPA) to the in-force OP is required to implement the findings of this Study, and include site specific directions related to matters such as massing and scale, transportation and public open spaces; and,

A Zoning By-law Amendment (ZBA) will be required to implement the OPA. The Study recommends that a rezoning process take place in the future to consider the Preferred Concept (2022) and would also be supported by detailed technical studies.

The following sections of this report summarizes the recommended preferred concept and implementation tools.

The recommended preferred concept is based on the inputs and work completed in 2017 and 2018, feedback on the emerging preferred concept (2022) and consideration for the relevant policy drivers and changes since the Study paused in mid-2018. Section 6.0 of the Planning Justification Report (see Appendix “A”) provides a comprehensive overview of the preferred concept plan.

Highlights of the Recommended Preferred Concept/ Highlights of the preferred concept include:

Land Use / Built Form

• Building heights: 21 storeys for the west tower and 22 storeys for the east tower
• John Street public view corridor with a minimum width of 18 metres
• Stepping down of built form toward Lake Ontario
• 3-storey podium/street wall along Lakeshore Road
• Active at-grade uses like commercial, retail and restaurants
• Focus on a strong pedestrian relationship to the streets and public spaces

Public Realm

• Enhance Brant Street as a gateway to the Downtown, the Waterfront and the Waterfront Trail
• Enhance the entrance to Spencer Smith Park and the Brant Street public view corridor
• Additional public parkland identified on the west and south sides of the Subject Site:
o West side: 0.13 ha
o South side: 0.05 ha
o Total: 0.18 ha
• Provide a John Street public view corridor and inclusion of a privately-owned public space (POPS)
• Maintain existing trees along Lakeshore Road

Mobility and Access

• Remove existing vehicular access at the foot of Brant Street
• Site access for parking and loading from Elizabeth Street
• Active Transportation route along Lakeshore Road, including a painted buffered bike lane as identified in the City’s Cycling Master Plan
• No surface parking on site

Future Zoning By-law Amendment

A Zoning By-law Amendment (ZBA) will be required to implement the OPA. The Study recommends that a rezoning process take place in the future to consider the Preferred Concept. Furthermore, the Study provides that:

“A future rezoning process, supported by technical studies and further evaluation, would allow for flexibility to achieve an interesting built form that would better respond to the landmark nature of this site. This ZBA process would take place in the future and would advance additional engagement through the statutory public process. It would allow for the principles of this Study to be further advanced and explored through meaningful active engagement with the public and stakeholders of this project. Furthermore, a rezoning in the future would allow for community benefits to be leveraged through Section 37.” (or in accordance with alternative benefit charges).

Site-Specific Urban Design Guidelines

The Study recommends site-specific urban design guidelines that will apply to the development of the Subject Site.

When the two towers are in place the pressure to allow higher intensification on this part of Brant that is a two walk away in distance will be tremendous. The two towers remake the downtown – which is fine – if that it what you want.

The intent of the site-specific urban design guidelines is to augment and enhance the City existing urban design documents by providing site-specific guidance related to the conditions and context of the site. They will work together with the guidance provided in the City’s design documents to implement the Vision and Principles established through the Study’s consultation process phase and subsequently endorsed in principle by Council in June 2018.

The site-specific urban design guidelines are provided in Section 6.3 of the Study (Appendix “A”).
The recommended site-specific urban design guidelines provide guidance with regards to:

• Built Form (Building Placement; Building Height, Massing and Transition; Tower Separation; Podium Height; and Setbacks / Stepbacks);

• Access and Mobility; and

• Public Realm (John Street View Corridor; Spencer Smith Park; Lakeshore Road; and Elizabeth Street).

Staff Position on The Study’s Recommendations

Staff are supportive of the recommendations as outlined in the Study

Delivers a vibrant mix of uses that will reinforce and support the continuing evolution of the Downtown;

• Has regard for matters of Provincial, Regional and Local Municipal policies and guidelines;

• Includes tall mixed-use buildings with commercial uses at grade, and residential and/or hotel uses which address many Provincial, Regional objectives and aligns with the overall directions established by ROPA 48;

• Achieves the City’s vision as articulated in the in-force OP (1997) and considers the policy direction of the new OP (2020);

• Provides residents and jobs and public open spaces in this central location that will further support the creation of a complete community; and,

• Creates a special place by balancing significant new redevelopment with public amenities and accessible open spaces.

It is staff’s opinion the completion of the Study has been fulfilled with the delivery of The Planning Partnership’s Planning Justification Report.

Return to the Front page

Is Ontario falling behind the Electric Vehicle Opportunity?

By Connor Fraser

March 27th, 2022




Electric vehicle charging infrastructure is becoming a real problem – and it’s likely going to get a lot worse.

The city has installed a number of charging stations in its parking lots.

If you’ve driven past Mapleview Mall recently, chances are that you’d notice a flock of cars waiting to access the electric vehicle (EV) charging stations.  Through my family and friends, I know several young and middle-aged individuals who recently purchased an EV, and every third day must line up and wait in limbo for 30+ minutes while their car charges. What a (mostly avoidable) real waste of time.

I have also spoken with many who live in condominiums or apartment buildings that are reluctant to purchase EV’s because their parking spaces are not yet equipped with the necessary infrastructure. In an existing condo or apartment, the barrier becomes enormous due to large renovation costs. If residents who are not currently in the market for an EV don’t want to contribute, the expense becomes too prohibitive to share amongst the few residents that do. Many of my friends are first-time car owners and – since they tend to live in apartments – found the lack of infrastructure especially constraining of their excitement to purchase an EV.

There are charging stations throughout many cities.

Electric Vehicles are a real part of our future. In 2021, the Federal Government announced an ambitious target to ensure that 100% of car and passenger truck sales are zero-emission by 2035. The question becomes: How can we adopt this technology in a way which maximizes convenience, and minimizes disruptions – such as wasting time lining up to use public charging stations? Electric vehicles are a distinct technology requiring different interactions than conventional autos. Electricity cannot be transferred as rapidly as gasoline, which makes charging painful for those short on time. Although EVs are increasingly evident on the streets, I don’t believe that anyone (government, community groups) is having a serious conversation about the infrastructure required to support their use, and how that infrastructure should be distributed.

My opinion is this: We should aggressively prioritize uptake of private charging infrastructure, and carefully plan public or semi-private infrastructure to “fill in the gaps” and accommodate those who cannot access private charging. Research shows that poorly planned public charging infrastructure goes underutilized, and is rarely profitable as an investment. Furthermore, consumer research consistently reveals a preference for the convenience of private charging opportunities wherever possible, given the amount of time it saves. Imagine replacing the semi-weekly routine of replenishing your vehicle (and how much time that wastes every week, month, year, decade,…), with a simple “plug and done” routine when you arrive home from work. This reality is possible for most people, but rapidly slipping away.

This development is at the settlement stage with the Ontario Land Tribunal – has the installation of charging stations been included in the settlement?

There is a major role for the provincial and municipal governments to play in this endeavour. At the provincial level, the building code should be immediately updated to require that all new residential constructions (i.e. single detached homes, apartments, and condominiums) have the capacity and “rough-in” connections to support Level-2 EV charging to 100% of parking spaces. This is a no-brainer. Every new apartment, condo and single detached home that is built without this equipment sets the stage for an expensive renovation, or community dispute somewhere down the line. Conversations with real-estate developers, combined with my own secondary research suggest that many new builds do not come with adequate EV infrastructure (if any) – and that the private sector cannot be relied upon to provide solutions. They will build to the minimum standard required, and shouldn’t be blamed for it: The standard needs to be higher.

When Bunton’s Wharf was built electric cars were not part of the way people drove. Who will pay to put charging stations in these buildings. The Condo Corporation is going to have to take on that task.

The province should go one step further and require that owners of existing apartment buildings and condominiums equip 100% of parking spaces with Level-2 charging capacity and energy management systems by 2035. Implementing this requirement might be aided with a standalone legislative tool. For condominiums, the government could offer to cover one quarter of renovation costs before 2025, one fifth before 2030 and none thereafter, with fines for non-compliance beginning in 2035. To demonstrate a commitment to equity, for apartments, co-ops, and community housing, the government could offer to cover half of renovations costs before 2025, one third before 2030 and one fifth before 2035.

Noncompliant landlords of these complexes (including municipalities, in the case of community housing) could be targeted with even more stringent fines after 2035. Without stronger direction, governance issues might delay apartment and condominium residents from benefitting from convenient charging infrastructure and prolong decisions to remain with gasoline vehicles.

Since municipalities have control over open-air parking spaces through zoning bylaws, their role should be to plan targeted public infrastructure that accommodates those without private options. This might include bylaws mandating all workplaces (existing and planned) have a small percentage of parking spaces equipped with Level-2 chargers for exclusive use by those without access to private parking.

Additional bylaws might require all shopping, grocery, and community centres have a small percentage of parking spaces equipped with Level-3 chargers. The percentage should be increased for those locations within a short radius (i.e. 2km) of highway exits to ease range anxiety of those making long distance trips. Promoting highway-proximate infrastructure in this manner would offer the added benefit of maximizing infrastructure utilization in periods of low travel, while offering minimal inconvenience to travelers.

Approaching charging infrastructure in this fashion has the upside of maximizing the convenience of private charging, accommodating travelers and those without private options, and minimizing the potential underutilization of widespread public charging infrastructure.

Ontario has charging stations along the full length of the 401 – at some point every major community in the province will have public parking stations. Better restaurants and hotels will include them.

By not actively coordinating charging infrastructure at the provincial-municipal level, purchasing an EV will bring increasing and unnecessary challenges to first-time home buyers and those living in apartments and condominiums. This includes a significant number of individuals in the young and old-age demographic. A “laissez-faire” approach also carries negative implications for meeting climate targets, and Ontario’s ability to sustain an innovative manufacturing sector.

Please consider submitting your opinion to the City of Burlington’s Electric Mobility Strategy survey by March 31, 2022:


Connor Fraser is a post graduate student at the University of Toronto enrolled in the dual Master of Global Affairs and Master of Business Administration program.






Return to the Front page

Is there a change coming to the way Council handles CLOSED sessions ?

By Pepper Parr

March 24th, 2022



Getting any information about what takes place in a CLOSED session of Council is  a little like squeezing that last little bit of toothpaste out of the tube.

You run your fingers along the sides and squeeze to get the toothpaste to the top of the tube and onto the tooth brush.

City Solicitor Nancy Shea Nicol

That was the image that came to mind as I listened to Nancy Shea Nicol, City Solicitor, as she  explained to Council that she would have a report to them on what came out of the closes session on Tuesday.

Someone somewhere in city hall has decided that this going into CLOSED session on almost any matter had to come to an end – the public had a right to know what was taking up so much time in the legal department.

Nancy Shea Nicol is an old  school lawyer – say nothing or at least as little as possible.

There are occasions  when a CLOSED session is required for a property matter.

Ward 4 Councillor Lisa Kearns – wants a more transparent approach to CLOSED sessions of Council

Ward 2 Councillor Lisa Kearns wanted to know why the public could not at least have the address of the property that was being discussed.

There appear to be changes in the wind.  It would really be nice if the Mayor made a statement explaining that a change was necessary and setting out what the public had a right to know what the business of the city was about.

The city is in the process of buying the old Bateman High School property.

The School Board has said they want to sell because they have no use for the space.  They do however want to rent some of the space from the purchaser.

Brock University has been talking to the city about renting some of the space to set up a teacher training program.

The city wants to put some of the space to use as well; library and something for the seniors in the east end of the city.

These are all public organizations – why all the secrecy?

Old habits? It was just the way things were done?

A fresh wind appears to be blowing through the legal department.

About time.

Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette, an online newspaper that was formed in 2010 and is a member of the National Newsmedia Council.





Return to the Front page

Some very tough decisions to be made by the people of Ontario

By Pepper Parr

March 22, 2022



Ontario’s fixed-date election law sets voting day as June 2, 2022, and the formal start of the campaign period as next May 4.

Burlington now has nominated candidates for the three mainline political parties.

NDP candidate Andrew Drummond get a visit from Liberal candidate Mariam Manaa while she was doing her door to door thing.

The New Democrats nominated Andrew Drummond, the Liberals actually made a contest of their nomination and chose Mariam Manaa as their candidate.

The Progressive Conservatives appointed Natalie Pierre as their candidate.

The Greens nominated Kyle Hutton.

There may be others.

While there is all kinds of political maneuvering taking place at the party leadership level, the fight at the ground level will become fierce starting May 4th.

Drummond is well known, he has run before and has acquitted himself quite well.  Were he to be elected he would be a creditable legislator once he has learned the basics of being an MPP.

Andrea Horwath on the campaign trail

The problem with the Ontario New Democrats is their leader – Andrea Horwath isn’t seen as a leader; there isn’t all that much bench strength in the party – she would have difficulty forming a government and the even more difficulty governing.

Bob Rae who brought tonnes of credibility to the job of party leader had difficulty find the talent he needed to appoint solid members to his Cabinet.

Burlington does have a small but solid community of followers – enough to win?  There was a real chance last time out – not sure that chance exists this time around,

Manaa has no experience in government but some knowledge of the way politicians serve their communities having worked as an intern with two federal MP’s.

No one is sure just where her support came from.  If the Muslim community is large enough she could take the seat.; what is not clear is just how many Muslim’s in the riding there are.   The most recent Stats Canada data is not yet available.  The Muslim community will vote for their candidate.

The team teaching Mariam how to campaign is solid.  If she has the capacity to develop into a credible candidate she could surprise a lot of people.

Aldershot resident Greg Woodruff, right,  talking to Stephen Del Duca, provincial Liberal party leader, while he was in Burlington as the then Minister of Transport for the province.

The Liberals have not been blessed with a gifted party leader.  Steve Del Duca comes across as flailing about looking for an issue that he can use to get the foothold he desperately needs.  Not having a seat in the Legislature doesn’t help. .

The Progressive Conservatives in Burlington have struggled to develop really solid candidates. Cam Jackson served as the MPP for years.  One would be challenged to point to anything significant he achieved while in office.

Jane McKenna was nominated at a meeting where she was the only candidate; zip in the way of political experience and a one of the thinnest public profiles ever seen for a person running for public office.  She was fortunate in having some very savvy political players guiding and directing her.  It was one of Keith Strong’s better initiatives.

There has always been something suspect with PC nomination meetings.

McKenna decided there was an even greener pasture for her at the Regional level and she announced she would not run again as the MPP fr Burlington.

There was no immediate identifiable replacement candidate; we would get notes from people asking if we knew who the PC candidate was going to be.

Natalie Pierre, PC appointed candidate for Burlington

It is not known yet how, when or where the appointed candidate Natalie Pierre was found.

No experience other than having lived in Burlington for 30 years.

The PC party made the appointment on March 4th and informed the public on We were copied on an email in which McKenna appeared to be taking all the credit for finding Pierre.

Since that announcement – not a word.

Burlington has solid deep Conservative roots. As a society it tends to be conservative.

The federal candidate the Conservatives put forward was wrapped in a bubble, said next to nothing and was the poster girl for the gun club lobby.

The challenge for every political party and its candidate is to create profile – get the candidate out in front of people.

To date we have seen nothing on Natalie Pierre.

Are the PC’s going to rely on the strength thay have always has in Burlington. A sort of “she is one of us – vote for her” campaign?

Doug Ford casting a ballot

The problem the PC’s have is with their leader.  He has not exactly proven to be a rock star for the way he handled the pandemic; Ontario has yet to formalize an agreement with the federal government on the new child care program.

It is hard to fathom the PC position on climate change but very easy to grasp what they want to do in terms of building new roads rather that focus on and look for different ways to move people from place to place.

The Bradford Bypass and the Hwy 413 extension are really not needed.

Doug Ford has a small business mentality – he genuinely feels the pain of the small business person who had to close their doors during the lock-downs,

Ford understand the small business community – he genuinely cares about the problems they have had to face.

He is prepared to put at risk the health and welfare on students who would be well served with a masking policy for another two weeks until we learn what WORD are going to be as a result of the Spring Break.

What is proving to be very interesting is the number of parents who have decided they will stay with a masking protocol for the immediate future and wait for new virus infection results.

Doug Ford wants to hope that the reports are minimal and that we may have cleared the mist recent wave.  Let us hope as well that the numbers that do exists don’t get fudged.

Kyle Hutton Green Part candidate

What the province needs at this point in its growth is a well thought out vision – something a bit more than Doug Ford’s Open for Business position.

Burlington now has three candidates; two who are credible – the third too unknown at this point to be able to make a comment.

The Greens have a candidate – thin on real experience but quite a bite of on the ground electing candidates which he learned while working to get Karina Gould elected.

There are tough choices to be made.  A minority Progressive Conservative government would serve the province best,

Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette, an online newspaper that was formed in 2010 and is a member of the National Newsmedia Council.



Return to the Front page

Mary Hill explains why she should be permitted to comment in the Gazette

By Mary Hill

March 20th, 2022


Mary Hill, a person we have not succeeded in satisfactorily identifying, took exception to our decision to restrict her commenting privileges in the Gazette because it looked like she was commenting using two different names.  She asked if she could write, in a respectful manner, a comment to what you today published stating a different point of view to yours.  The following is what she wrote:

The Gazette is in the process of putting in place a set of rules tat should prevent this type of thing from happening in the future.

“Hello, I am Mary Hill. I am not Margaret Riley. Margaret (Maggie) is my life partner. Not that that is anyone’s business. Though the Gazette seems to have made it everyone’s business.

I am writing this in response to the two Gazette pieces that have put Maggie and me through the wringer

Contrary to the thoughts of the Gazette’s editor/publisher, and I am sure some of its readers, Mary and Maggie are not one and the same.

Having straightened that out I must ask what would it matter if Mary and Maggie were indeed just one individual using two different identities to make comments in the Gazette? I don’t understand what the problem would be.

The editor/publisher is correct. Other publications do require authentication of who you are, as do many on-line retailers when one wishes to change account settings for example. Authentication is generally achieved by one of two methods. 1. via sending an email to the account holder’s designated email address. That email may either have an “authenticate” button or provide a code to be entered on the application. 2. via a need for the user to pick out of a line up of six pictures all those pictures that have a common feature.

Why do they require the authentication? In the email check cases it is a security check to ensure the account provider is indeed dealing with the account holder. The picture line up method is there to ensure the site is dealing with a warm bodied human and not a bot.

In neither circumstance does the account provider seek to confirm the identity being used is the actual legal identity of the account holder. Even providers like OLG allow for alternative identities to be used.

So why is that? The simple answer is to allow the account holder to maintain their complete privacy. What is the difference in placing a bet with OLG, or buying product from Amazon, or making a comment to the Burlington Gazette as either Steve Smith or James Jones. There is no difference.

The editor/publisher has said in his article he “needs to know” who the individual actually is. What’s the individual’s legal name, phone number etc. I ask the editor/publisher to explain here to the Gazette’s readers just why he needs that information? Does it have a bearing upon the validity of the comment submitted? Is there a legal requirement? I think neither. The Gazette’s editor/publisher can contact the commentator by email to assure himself the person is a real human and not a bot.

Even using my real name of Mary Hill exposes me to trolling, harassment and unwanted attention. I have heard stories of Gazette commentators not only getting hate mail through their email but also through the Canada Post mail. How does someone get a personal address? Generally it’s quite easy if one has a land line phone. Just go to the 411 look up website, put in the name and city, and bingo addresses pop up. An example:- an advocate for real names only appears to be Cathy Lanc, who commented righteously on both Gazette articles. Cathy I believe know where you live and your phone number. Does that concern you? Not that I would, but it would be easy to troll you. Maggie and I do not publish our phone numbers or our address in any “phone book”.

There are examples galore where an employee, prospective employee has, in my view unfairly, lost their job due to posting material on-line, sometimes years previously, that sat counter to how their employer saw the world. Using a pseudonym eliminates that concern.

As a result of the Gazette’s original article, both Maggie and I have had our personal lives made way more public than we would have liked. It is now obvious that we share more than an internet connection. Our status was our private concern. The Gazette has made it quite public. I question has the Gazette overstepped PIPIDA by publishing our names, email addresses and IP address without our consent. I have no desire to rake the Gazette over the coals, but it just shows how one’s identity and privacy can be easily exposed and potentially cause other issues. It shows how important it is to protect that personal information.

Our social environment is so completely different today from what it was just a few years ago. In the old days you write a letter to the editor of the G&M. It got published. But once hard copy newsprint in which it apperaed had been tossed into the garbage, it to all intents and purposes was gone from public scrutiny. Now, it is on the web forever. Even if you have a change of heart you cannot erase it.

So those are my views. But I think what is more important than my views is for the editor/publisher to explain or justify just why “he needs to know” the personal identity of a commentator.

  • What benefit does the Gazette or its readers get by the editor/publisher knowing the commentator is Jim Smith and not John Smith or James Jones as submitted with the comment? Answer, absolutely none.
  •  Why does the editor/publisher find the use of a nomme de plume or pseudonym, a practice used extensively in literary and journalistic realms for donkey’s years, to cause him an issue in this day and age. Answer, I have no idea.

All the editor/publisher has said is

“I still do not know if Mary is not the same as Maggie; just saying they are is not enough.  I need to KNOW that they are.”

Why is it not enough?

Why does he need to know?

What is his justification for that need?

He does not say.

I doubt he will. Why do I doubt that. Simple. Because there is absolutely no justification he can give.

Editor/publisher please provide your reasoning. Just saying you need it does not make it a valid need.

Editor/Publisher, please reinstate Maggie’s and my commenting privileges.”

Will you publish it?



Return to the Front page

Who are we hearing from - and does it matter? It does

By Pepper Parr

March 17th, 2022



Earlier this month I made the decision to hold comments sent to us from a specific Internet Protocol address that was being used by two different names.

We suspected the two names wwere being used by the same person.

Our comments section is populated with boisterous, well informed people who comment at length. Frequently there is an exchange of views that goes on for a week or two.

We also get offensive, even libelous comments which we delete.  We have, on a few occasions, taken away the opportunity to comment.

Many online publications that have a comment section ensure that they have identified the writer and are satisfied they are real people.

I am always dismayed when a writer does not have the courage of their convictions and chooses to use a phony name.

Many of the comments made are from people who strongly support a particular viewpoint; we welcome those.

Some commentators take us to task for an article they feel was unfair or biased, we welcome those as well.

The general rule is: know your client – it applies to almost everything.  People who comment in the Gazette are not clients but we feel it is important that we know who they are – our concern is not with what they wish to say.

I don’t know Maggie or Mary.  One of them claims that there are a number of people writing under a nom de plumes – that may be true – we just don’t have the resources to track down every person who comments nor is it our objective.

We did on one occasion allow a person to identify as anonymous.  The person was commenting on a position the City Manager at the time had taken on how he would support his Staff during a very contentious municipal election.

The writer took exception with the City Manager’s position because the writer held a very senior position in another level of government, and was not authorized to speak for that level of government: the person could not use their own name.

Senior bureaucrats are discouraged from taking public positions.

In one comment made by Mary an adjective was used that we didn’t see as offensive. The person being referred to saw it differently.  They claimed it was a hate comment and wanted a criminal investigation.

The writer of the adjective apologized and we saw the matter as closed.

We however are still in the position of not knowing who the writers are.  We did reach out to talk to them – we do that frequently with names we are not certain are legitimate. Mary did not take up the chance for a discussion

It  got messy.

In the past I have come close to closing down the comments section.  While I think it is critically important, vital even, that people have a place where they can say what they think and where their peers can respond, monitoring the comments is a significant draw on our limited resources.

There are readers who ask:  “Does this really matter?  Loads of blogs on social media are not the real names of the authors.”

True enough, but the Gazette is not a blog; it is a credentialed on line newspaper that has been publishing for more than ten years.

A reader added: “Younger readers and bloggers often use pseudonyms, it’s no big deal. People are just having their say. Many actors, rappers and people with maiden names even though they are married, use different names and surnames.

“These women may be in some sort of relationship. There is also Anne and David Marsden, two people under one name. How do you know who it is commenting on the article, is it Anne or David? Now there is a comment on here just from David. Do David and Anne have the same IP address? If so, how can they be allowed to use the same IP address?”

The difference is that we know that David Marsden is real and we know that Anne Marsden is real.

“This could be an identical situation” said the writer, “some people have separate email addresses and some use a joint address.

“Lives are changing, we should all try to change or at least acknowledge changes. “… a good editor means keeping up with the changing times. I’m sure as I get older I may find it more difficult, too.”

I still do not know if Mary is not the same as Maggie; just saying they are is not enough.  I need to KNOW that they are.

There is no discrimination here.  Convince me that you are who you say you are and I am a happy camper.

I publish the Gazette, pay for it out of my pocket, and I am responsible for the content.

I would hope that those who choose to comment be responsible enough to properly identify themselves.


Return to the Front page

Former school board trustee official challenges current trustees to do what is right or follow a 'lame duck' Premier

By Peggy Russell

March 13th, 2022



Public School Board Trustees in the Province of Ontario have less than a week to make a very big decision regarding their responsibility to the students and staff and, by extension, the welfare of their communities, with the responsibility they were charged with when elected.

Peggy Russell

Do they follow the direction of the Premier of this Province or do they follow the advice of the experts represented through the Ontario Children’s Health Coalition’s Statement of March 9, 2022?

The Ontario Children’s Health Coalition states: “Masks remain an important layer of protection as the pandemic continues and may be needed in communities with low vaccination rates and where there is a surge in cases. Masks also protect those most vulnerable, including high-risk, immunocompromised and fragile children.”

Trustees in the Province of Ontario have a definitive Role in which, “they must weigh what is in the best interests of the whole education system” which they are duly elected to represent.
This will be the true test of elected Trustees relevancy; there is no hedging around this one.

Either they listen to the experts from the Ontario Children’s Health Coalition or, if they do not, they should be prepared for the potential legal ramifications, not just as a Board, but as individuals who could be named in Legal Actions for not following the advice of the experts from the Ontario Children’s Health Coalition.

Currently Trustees have been advised that legally, they must abide by Public Health Orders. My question is: Are those Orders in the best interest of our collective society or that of special interest groups and some sectors of industry?

Then there is the moral obligation to the children, families/guardians, of the students they serve: to ensure that each and every student, no matter their health status, is provided the same opportunity to learn in a safe classroom environment.

Do Trustees understand that this indeed is their Alamo?

Either they listen to the experts from the Ontario Children’s Health Coalition and do what is right or they follow a “lame duck” Premier who is seeking re-election and the Orders of Ontario Public Health Units who serve at the pleasure of the Premier and their government. Which will it be?

Trustees in Ontario must be prepared to legally challenge the Province, Ministry of Education and, where applicable, Ontario Public Health Units. Trustees need to understand what is truly at stake at this moment or they risk becoming irrelevant.


Peggy Russell is a past Vice-Chair of the Halton District School Board. and was a Director of the Ontario Public School Board Association for eight years.



Return to the Front page

Who is the writer - and why would they want to write under different names?

By Pepper Parr

March 12th, 2022



Who do we hear from when a comment is made?

We put our name on everything we write – no fake names and we expect people who comment to do the same thing.

We recently came across a situation where there were two names, often saying basically the same thing.

We did reach out to talk to one of them, Mary Hill, to get some clarification. We did ask for a phone number, didn’t get one but the answers she gave us to the questions we asked were satisfactory.

Using your real name is usually a good idea.

Then we noticed this:
Maggie Riley

Mary Hill

What’s your problem? you might ask. When all the data we have is available we have the following:

Maggie Riley

Mary Hill

The IP (Internet Protocol) addresses are the same – Maggie Riley and Mary Hill would appear to be the same person.

That’s not the way the game is played.

We will no longer publish comments from either name until there is clarification as to just who is the author of the comments.

Return to the Front page

Social media causing serious harms; should be carefully regulated

By Connor Fraser

March 11th,, 2022



There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that how we interact with the internet, and social media in particular, is disastrous from a health perspective.

Firstly, several studies have noted the link between social media use and depression. A 2018 study released in the Journal of Cyberpsychology, Behaviour and Social Networking demonstrated that every one-point increase in passive social-media use was associated with a 33% increase in depressive symptoms.

Secondly, many have identified links between social media use and reduced memory and attention. Research published by the Gerontological Society of America reported that “on days when social media use was high, individuals reported more memory failures” and furthermore that “higher previous-day social media-use was associated with more memory failures on the subsequent day.” The researchers hypothesize that a key mechanism for memory failures is attentional disengagement, whereby “individuals using social media are less engaged in real-world activities…and may not encode these events and experiences as deeply as they would otherwise.”

Late in 2021, Facebook made headlines by announcing it would re-brand itself as ‘Meta’ signalling CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s intention to play a key role in developing the ‘Metaverse’: The next generation of the internet, enabled by technologies such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). Instead of clicking on webpages and newsfeeds, users will eventually navigate a digital world similar to the physical world, complete with their own avatars, and digital property such as clothing and land.

Imagine a world where a significant number of people live within a tightly controlled digital experience, rarely going outside or interacting with their neighbours. Companies such as Meta and Microsoft are betting big on people spending a lifetime online. But regardless of how scary this potential future looks like, many (particularly young people) are already living in a pseudo-metaverse.

For example, a 2019 article reported that children under age 14 spent nearly twice as long with their tech devices per day as they do with their families. These transformations are having profound impacts on our memories, and ability to pay attention and focus – which has serious implications for the future productivity of our economy, democracy and ability to confront life’s challenges. I argue that social media is already causing serious harms to society – and should be carefully regulated if we hope to prevent these harms and stop the ‘Metaverse’ from magnifying them to a terrifying level.

Consider that an incredible amount of resources have been dedicated towards designing social media and metaverse technologies to be maximally addictive. Former engineers at Google and Meta admit that their apps exploit the same psychological susceptibilities that makes gambling so compulsive, such as variable rewards. Faced to confront the latest techniques in psychology and advanced machine-learning algorithms, it’s no wonder why many find themselves continually attached to their phones – it’s not your fault!

Neither is it uniquely the fault of social media companies, who to my knowledge have not been accused of breaking government laws and regulations in any major way. The role of the firm has always been to generate profits for shareholders – and implicitly value for their customers. Contrastingly, it is the role of the government to identify activities that generate negative externalities and positive externalities – and regulate those activities which produce negative externalities (such as pollution) and fund those activities which produce positive externalities (such as public education).

The current relationship with social media is such that people receive an onslaught of messages from numerous platforms and numerous devices, and find themselves very quickly “toggling” between tasks, unable to consistently focus on any one task for greater than 3 minutes, on average. This toggling is rapidly eroding the capacity for long-term, strategic focus – precisely the tools that people need to set goals and achieve anything meaningful in life.

It is worth noting that social media is not entirely bad, and there are positive aspects to these technologies. For example, in a report commissioned by PEW research, many teens reported that access to social media played an important role in overcoming difficult life experiences. These benefits were magnified for vulnerable populations, such as youth from households with annual incomes less than $30,000 – suggesting that social media offered critical support group that wouldn’t have otherwise been available or affordable.

Moreover, the majority of teens responded that social media enables them to spend time with their friends on a daily basis, through free messaging and video chatting features. During the pandemic, these services have undeniably played an outsized role in enabling people to remain in touch while in-person opportunities were limited. Additionally, some have argued that powerful social media algorithms provide a great service by connecting people with products that are optimally tailored to their needs. To cite one example, last year I received a Spotify advertisement for the language program “Learn French by Podcast” which I subsequently subscribed to and got a huge amount of value from.

While it is clear that social media has benefits to offer when used appropriately, I think it is important to recognize that certain use patterns can be incredibly destructive – especially when people turn to aimless scrolling and passive searching for instant validation. To prevent harms from further accumulating amongst young people, and also to prevent these harms from accelerating as the metaverse becomes more potent, the government must develop an action plan to leave people in control of their relationship with social media.

Any action plan should focus on increasing healthy behaviour and preventing harmful behaviour. One strategy might include imposing regulations on tech giants that make it mandatory for all apps to periodically (i.e. once per month) provide users with a “time-spent” report, remind them about healthy-use habits, and remind them of in-app features that exist to turn-off notifications and block content. Another strategy might include devoting greater government resources to educate citizens about the circumstances under which social media use is harmful. Integrating compulsory modules into the elementary and high-school curriculum about healthy social media practices would be a good start.

Two final points to add. In order to proceed with meaningful action, more academic research of much greater rigour, needs to be conducted. The study cited above from the Journal of Cyberpsychology, Behaviour and Social Networking made use of an online survey where participants answered subjective questions about their experience with social media and any subsequent feelings of depression. This is hardly sufficient evidence, nor the type of decisive evidence I would want to have in my arsenal to push back against big tech. The calibre of academic scholarship in this field needs to improve dramatically in order to provide a clear rational for action that will find sustainable support amongst the majority of citizens.

Finally, I wonder if there is an appetite to explore different business models. One of my professors at the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy, Daniel Breznitz, once commented that “if you’re not paying for a service, you’re a product, not the customer.” In the world of Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, users pay no subscription fees and should therefore think of themselves as “products”.

In order to generate revenues, these business models must create value for their actual customers (i.e. advertisers) by keeping us online for as long as possible. Altering the model by introducing a subscription fee could allow companies to generate value for users as their primary customers, and perhaps abandon the need to aggressively target us with manipulative techniques.

Regardless of what action the government decides to take, this file requires some movement, and I’m shocked that Canadians have received limited leadership from elected officials until now. With continued complacency we are sleepwalking into a future health and economic crisis of titanic proportions.

Born in Hamilton, raised in Aldershot, Connor Fraser attended Waterdown Montessori School, Glenview Public School, Burlington Christian Academy and Aldershot High School. He earned a BASc. in Engineering Science and a major in Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Toronto.  He then  worked as a member of the technology development team at Microchip Corporation (North San Jose, California) where he contributed to the design of computer memory for FPGA chips.

Connor volunteered for the U of T Human Powered Vehicles Design Team as a machinist and led the design of a rollover detection system for high-speed tricycles. During the summer of 2013, 2015 and 2017, Connor lived in Quebec thanks to support from the YMCA Student Work Summer Exchange, and the Explore Program & is decently proficient in spoken French. 

He is currently enrolled in the dual Master of Global Affairs and Master of Business Administration program and is concurrently a CFA Level 2 candidate. He is a Senior Producer with “Beyond the Headlines”, a weekly public affairs radio show that airs on CIUT 89.5FM




Return to the Front page

Burlington Councillor Paul Sharman along with several Oakville Council members bark back at Metrolinx: 'Meet your commitment build the grade separations'

By Staff

March10th, 2022



When Metrolinx advised the Town of Oakville and the city of Burlington that they would  not be able to proceed with the planned construction of grade separations  – they surely didn’t think that was going to be the end of it.

Burlington ward 5 Councillor took the lead on this and, working with Oakville council member issued a statement making it clear that a delay was not on for their communities.

The Town of Oakville and City of Burlington received updates from Metrolinx (the Province’s Agency for coordinating and integration transportation in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area) on the Burloak and Kerr Street Grade Separations.

Life today at the Burloak crossing.



This was the promise – when the price ballooned Metrolinx wanted to back out. The local municipal Councillors aren’t on for that decision.

Metrolinx indicated it could no longer meet its commitment to the costs agreed to by all parties involved for both the Burloak and Kerr Separations and that the Kerr Street underpass would be deferred with no future timeline. ” These changes to our agreements with the Provincial agency are unacceptable to us.”

Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman – isn’t prepared to accept the Metrolinx decision.

Grade separations not only ease congestion, they are pivotal to the health and safety of our community for vehicles and pedestrians and ensure rail transportation moves unimpeded across the Lakeshore West Line.  As representatives in areas directly impacted by these railway crossings, we hear daily about delays, safety issues and concerns from our residents.  We are determined to ensure the Province and Metrolinx fulfill their commitments to the residents in our neighbourhoods and the Halton community at large.

The Metrolinx LAkeshore West line is schedule to offer 15 minute service – vehicles will never get to cross the tracks under those conditions.

“We are calling on all Halton MPPs to work to ensure the government’s commitments to the construction of both grade separations move forward and that they do so immediately and at the costs agreed to with the Municipalities in 2018.  Now is not the time to put critical infrastructure on the back burner.  With the Province mandating growth throughout our communities, we in good conscious cannot continue to fulfill the Province’s demands of added population without safety being put firs.” said Sharman

“Movement throughout our Region relies on critically integrated corridors and the infrastructure to move those vehicles, pedestrians and transit safely and quickly.  This is more than a step backwards; the Government has slammed the car in reverse.  We are calling on all residents who have a stake in this infrastructure getting built to contact your MPP and let them know that these delays, deferrals and cost overruns are unacceptable.”

Provincial members:

Stephen Crawford (Oakville) –

Parm Gill (Milton) –

Jane McKenna (Burlington) –

Effie Triantafilopoulos (Oakville North-Burlington) –



Sean O’Meara                                                                                           Beth Robertson

Regional & Town Councillor Ward 1                                                         Town Councillor Ward 1

Cathy Duddeck                                                                                         Ray Chisholm

Regional & Town Councillor Ward 2                                                         Town Councillor Ward 2

Paul Sharman

City of Burlington Council Ward 5

There is an interesting omission: Burlington’s Mayor Marianne Meed Ward is not a signatore to the statement.  She was all over television reports in the decision

Return to the Front page

Why were access fees waived - the public didn't see a dime of the savings - money went to telephone company

By Staff

March 7th, 2022



On March 3 a city Standing Committee approved a report that  waived permit fees in the amount of $33,800. for improved internet services for north Burlington.

This is basically how accessible internet access will be.

The improved service in north Burlington is a very important need to those residents. These improvements are being funded by the federal and provincial governments. They did not request municipal assistance or funding.

A Burlington resident has a problem with the decision pointing out that on January 25 2022 the city held an information session for this work. I attended.

The two contractors (Bell Canada and Internet Access Solutions) have not formally requested any financial assistance from the city. The contractors have been working to obtain permits from the City, Region, and Conservation Halton.

Fibre optic cable is being laid all over north Burlington giving the residents much needed internet access.

A  Burlington resident who asks not to be identified thinks “the Mayor/council appear to want some credit for the improved internet access. Must be an election  year.”

“The $33,800 given away is monies that we the taxpayer will have to make up in the 2023 current budget from tax dollars. ( Sounds like Rob Ford and the license plates) This expenditure should have been accounted for in the 2022 current budget if council wanted to participate.

“Sounds like bonusing to me.

“Do not blame the contractors for…. getting something for nothing.”

The question here is:  Why are the taxpayers waiving fees that would have been paid by Bell Canada and Internet Access Solutions, the two companies installing hi-speed broadband service in rural Burlington.



Return to the Front page

Statesman like, and straight spoken, but with a common touch, he was very popular, earned respect, and was always the affable gentleman.

By Joan Little

March 4th, 2022



Walter Mulkewich , former mayor of Burlington, died Monday, leaving our city with a big hole in its heart.

I first met Walter around 1970. I knew him by reputation – all good. He was known as a solid individual, forward thinking, and well educated – a former Oakville high school teacher of history and geography, and later a business man. He had been active in the community and his church, taking on the tough jobs, and getting them done. He’d also run for the NDP, faring very respectably in Tory blue Burlington.

Much credit goes to his late wife, Bev, whom he met at the age of 16, They were childhood sweethearts who became soul mates, both with strong character, both exceedingly smart and capable – adventurous, even. Their three daughters – Sharie, Jane and Miriam were close knit, and each has excelled in her world.

They loved traveling, the outdoors, and adventurous trips. That started early. Bev and Walter had talked about seeing northen areas, and in 1968 he accepted a one-year teaching assignment in Inuvik, in the Arctic.

When I was elected in Ward 2 in 1973, I didn’t know them, but knew of them. A year or two later, I met Walter, was impressed, and urged him to run for council, but suspect he’d already thought of it. In those days it was a part-time job. I think the salary was $5,200 a year, plus about the same amount extra if you sought the city/regional seat – hardly a big money-maker!

In 1976, he won in Ward 1, defeating an incumbent. He had a commanding, yet gentle presence, and was a great orator, always in the vanguard of thinking. In those pre-internet days nomination day was exciting. City staff used to mount easels in the Brant Street City Hall window, and post and update candidate lists. Traditionally candidates gathered there at 4:00 to see who was running, and where (because some registered at the last minute). We two couples sometimes stayed downtown for a convivial dinner afterwards.

My husband Lloyd Allingham died suddenly in 1978, and Walter was the first colleague on our doorstep. I remarried in 1981, and the couples friendship resumed. After I retired from council in 1988, Walter frequently dropped in on his way home from City Hall.

Walter Mulkewich with Stephen Lewis – both gifted orators.

There’s a story connected with his 1985 re-election. Local Tories persuaded George Harrington to run against him. (George was Mayor when I was elected, but defeated in 1976 by Burlington’s first woman mayor, Mary Munro). You have to know the city’s culture of that time – predominately Tory, predominately male. But Walter surprised all, retaining his seat with 78 per cent of the vote! The ‘Old Boys’ network was losing ground.

In 1991 Roly Bird announced that he wouldn’t seek re-election. Walter considered Roly a friend, and wouldn’t run against him, but this changed things. Walter stopped by to say he was contemplating running for Mayor. Would we help? We both offered to do anything needed.

He asked me to be campaign manager. I told him I lacked real campaign experience, so was hesitant. (I’d only run two campaigns in my 15 years, the rest were acclamations). He said he’d guide me, and assembled a crackerjack team, garnering support far and wide. Working with so many talented people with the same mission was stimulating. When asked today what I think my biggest contribution to the city was, it was helping elect the city’s best mayor!

Bev was his biggest supporter, and it was a joy to watch them in those nail-biting days – one day optimistic, the next worried. Two noteworthy opponents – one a councillor – were both Conservatives in Tory Burlington, but Walter won. His campaign was based on two principles: environmental protection and fiscal accountability. As expected, his opponents used the “NDP socialist” strategy, but by then he’d been on council 15 years, and proven his mettle.

Statesmanlike, and straight spoken, but with a common touch, he was very popular, earned respect, and was always the affable gentleman. Non partisan, he was admired by colleagues and staff, many of whom became lasting friends. He established the first seniors’ advisory committee.

Very thoughtful, he researched issues and new ideas thoroughly. When he met with developers, there was always a staff member present.

Why did he want the mayor’s job? Garbage! Halton Region had been looking for a landfill site for years – a very costly exercise that required looking at the entire region, then eliminating areas for different factors, like transportation, location, water table, agricultural capability, etc.

Regional staff finally recommended a preferred site – Site A on North Service Road, with Site F (on Tremaine Road in Milton) the runner-up.

The Burlington contingent on Regional council was able to convince a majority of colleagues to support them. This would go to a hearing. If we lost, we’d be back to square one, with no site.

Meantime Halton’s garbage was being shipped to New York State. How long would that last? For the minor cost difference, better to take both sites to the hearing.

Walter had led an environmental committee examining issues on Site A, and was convinced it posed more environmental problems than Site F. He was proven right. Site F (the current site) was found to be superior.

He won reelection as mayor handily in 1994, but in 1997 dropped by with bad news. He’d been diagnosed with Leukemia, and advised not to run. And things worsened. Bev was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and deteriorated quickly until her untimely death in 1998, which devastated him.

In 2015 he wrote an autobiographical book, primarily for family. It was never available publicly, so I treasure my copy. It begins when his parents emigrated from Byelorussia, and farmed near Waterford. He was born in 1940, met Bev in 1956, and began their life journeys.

His girls held a 75th birthday party for him. By then my husband had died and I was delighted that former councillor Linda Pugsley, her husband Stewart and I were invited – the only ‘political’ guests. Linda, Walter and I were part of a small group who, until Covid, met monthly for lunch to discuss current affairs.

Walter sold their lovely Aldershot home last year, moved to a retirement home, and I saw a change in him. This is a huge loss for the city. Would-be candidates will miss him too, because many, many sought his advice on how to be an effective candidate and councillor. While I’ve lost a good friend, Burlington has lost a great ambassador.

The funeral is scheduled, (by invitation only because of Covid) on Monday at 10:00, with visitation Sunday. Arrangements are by Smith’s Funeral Home on Brant Street.


Return to the Front page

Government shuffling the deck; dealing themselves a better hand

By Pepper Parr

March 2, 2022



Three months from now we will be marking our ballots and choosing who we want to lead us in Ontario going forward.

The Ford government is sitting at Queen’s Park passing legislation.  Yesterday we learned that there was a section in a piece of legislation that forgave a significant fine the Premier was required to pay for not getting a budget before the public by a specific date.

The government has delayed publishing the budget which was due March 31st.  The new date is sometime in late April

We learn today that the government announced an advertising program that will focus on how well the economy is doing.

While important, critically important the province is slowly coming out of pandemic driven restrictions that has ticket sales of Raptors games at the Scotiabank Arena  close to sold out.

People need some relief.

World news is horrific; we are in the middle of something that doesn’t impact on most of us – but the news we read about what is happening in Ukraine is going to impact every one of us in the very near future.

Premier Ford in the Legislature

Inflation is beginning to play havoc on what happens to us daily.   Have you been to the supermarket; have you looked at the price of a good steak ?

Supply chain issues are still not resolved

With all this going on we have a provincial government shuffling the cards and dealing themselves a stronger hand.

Keep an eye on the rascals.

Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette, an online newspaper that was formed in 2010 and is a member of the National Newsmedia Council.


Return to the Front page

Rivers steps away from the keyboard; Connor Fraser will write a column on what his demographic thinks

By Pepper Parr

March 2, 2022



We bid our Contributing Editor and long-time columnist Ray Rivers adieu and hope that he travels well.

Ray Rivers has been with the Gazette for at least eight years during which time he wrote an opinion column from a small L liberal perspective. He developed a following that kept him one his toes.  He also developed within the community, a better understanding on just what an opinion piece is.  There are some who still resent some of the stand Ray took.

Ray Rivers – who won the best that Trump would win`. I’ve been buying him good Scotch ever since.

It was my pleasure to stand behind him and support him every step he took.

He made a point of providing background links to support the positions he had taken.

In the years I have worked with Ray he became a friend, a colleague – someone who made my life bigger than it was before I met him at an event and knew before he knew that he would make a fine columnist.

We will hear from Ray again – right now he takes a break as he does his best to cope with the situation in Ukraine.  Ray covered a Canadian Army training camp while he was in  Ukraine and delivered a couple of hundred Canadian flag lapel pins made a number of friends as well.  Their safety is now top of mind for him.

Ray cannot be replaced; his time with us taught our readers that there is a place for opinions in a local on-line newspaper.

which brought me to Connor Fraser, a young man I met

A number of years ago I met Connor Fraser just before he left for the University of Toronto.  I fully expected the young man to do very well.

Set out below is some detail on just how well he has done.

Connor will write a column once a month, he wanted to be more frequent but it takes time to get into the habit of writing regularly – so once a week for now.

His first column will be on social media.

Connor was born in Hamilton in 1997, 1997 is a long-time resident of Aldershot.   He attended Waterdown Montessori School, Glenview Public School, Burlington Christian Academy and Aldershot High School, graduating in 2015. Passionate about the issues facing Burlington, Connor has volunteered for several local organizations and advocated to municipal leaders on building transit oriented, walkable communities. His career goal is to help Burlington – and Canada – navigate the challenges of transitioning towards a just and inclusive low-energy economy.

Connor Fraser

In 2020, Connor completed undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto, with a BASc. in Engineering Science and a major in Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Between 2018 and 2019, he worked as a member of the technology development team at Microchip Corporation (North San Jose, California) where he contributed to the design of computer memory for FPGA chips. While pursuing engineering studies, Connor volunteered for the U of T Human Powered Vehicles Design Team as a machinist and led the design of a rollover detection system for high-speed tricycles. During the summer of 2013, 2015 and 2017, Connor lived in Quebec thanks to support from the YMCA Student Work Summer Exchange, and the Explore Program and is decently proficient in spoken French.

Connor has returned to U of T to enrol in the dual Master of Global Affairs and Master of Business Administration program and is concurrently a Certified Financial Analyst Level 2 candidate.

He is a Senior Producer with “Beyond the Headlines”, a weekly public affairs radio show that airs on CIUT 89.5FM every Monday (October – April) between 11am and 12pm. CJUT is the student run radio station at the University of Toronto.

Connor describes himself as an integrative thinker who enjoys observing parallelisms within and between various subjects such as science & engineering, finance, psychology and international relations. In his free time, Connor enjoys throwing boomerangs, playing tennis, and hanging out with his amazing sister.

You’re going to like this guy.


Return to the Front page

Marsden learns to fiddle with numbers to create an impression that she can win when she runs for Mayor in October.

By Pepper Parr

February 27th, 2022



Some facts:

Municipal election results for Mayor of Burlington

Rick Goldring won with 21,797 votes. Goldring defeated Cam Jackson and Marianne Meed Ward ran and  as a Councillor and won in ward 2.  Anne Marsden was not a candidate in the 2010 election.

In 2014 Rick Goldring ran for re-election and won with 23,360 votes.

Anne Marsden delegating at Burlington city council with her husband David

Anne Marsden ran and got 3,043 votes.

In 2018 Marianne Meed Ward ran for Mayor and defeated Rick Goldring.

Meed Ward – 23,360 votes

Goldring – 16,781 votes

Anne Marsden ran against Gary Carr for Regional  Chair

Gary Carr – 79,775 votes

Anne Marsden – 41,136 votes

The data above is all a matter of public record on either the city of Burlington web site or the Region of Halton web site.

On February 24th, Anne Marsden released the information set out below.

Marsden does not provide dates for the votes she lists.  The amounts spent are a matter of public record.

The Goldring data is for the 2018 municipal election as is the data for Meed Ward.

The Marsden number represent the number of votes she got from the voters of Burlington who chose her as Regional Chair in 2018.

The data Marsden provides appears to be intended to convince people that Marsden is a credible candidate and can pull in a lot of votes without spending very much money.

We believe the numbers are misleading and were intended to mislead.

Anne Marsden has positioned herself as a person who hews to the truth and argues vociferously that she has the facts and that she is right.

She has on occasion done a good job of digging out facts – especially with the C. difficile outbreak at the Joseph Brant Hospital in 2009.

The virus overran the hospital from May 2006 to December 2007- the information was not released until 2009.

Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette, an online newspaper that was formed in 2010 and is a member of the National Newsmedia Council.

Return to the Front page

Doug Ford on the pandemic: '“The world’s done with it.'

By Pepper Parr

February 17th, 2022



Yesterday Premier Doug Ford said: he’s “eager to get these mandates moving.”

It has always been about business for Doug Ford.

“I hate as a government telling anyone what to do. We’ve just got to get moving forward and get out of this and protect the jobs,” Mr. Ford said at a manufacturing announcement in Hamilton.

“The world’s done with it, so let’s just move forward.”

The government intends to fully lift capacity limits on businesses and social gatherings on March 1. Its vaccine-certificate policy – which requires certain businesses only admit vaccinated patrons – is set to end the same day.

Mr. Ford said Tuesday that he was “never sold” on the proof-of-vaccination policy, but that he  introduced it on the advice of the province’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Kieran Moore.

“Dr. Moore’s phenomenal, but you know something, he’s reasonable, too. He’s reasonable, he gets it, he understands the economy,” Mr. Ford said. “Thank God, on March 1, we’re moving forward out of this … I just can’t wait.”

And there you have a Premier doing a Class A hissy fit in public.  The 1500 plus new infections Ontario is experiencing each day is a clear sign that we are not “done with it” yet.

Apparently his heart was never in the fight to conquer.

The comments made by the Premier are so irresponsible.  He has never understood that it really isn’t all about jobs – it is about the health of the people he serves. The thousands of deaths recorded so far are a testament on just how serious this has been.

There is hope however, early in June the people of the province can decide with their votes if they are done with Doug Ford.

Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette, an online newspaper that was formed in 2010 and is a member of the National Newsmedia Council.

Return to the Front page