Ken White: If you can’t convince anyone that you can move this intensified city then you have no business adding population in the first place.

opinionandcommentBy Staff

September 26th, 2017



Frequently our readers make the case for change and wonder why the bureaucrats are not on top of the task?

Kevin white

Kevin White

Ken White, an Alton Village resident, makes a significant point when he comments on the push to intensify and get people out of their cars and onto public transportation or their bicycles.

Here is his comment:
“The Provincial Intensification target was in part meant to promote public transit to accommodate housing density. This was to reduce greenhouse gases and add a mix of affordable housing.

“Fast forward to Burlington and as evidenced by the Committee of the Whole council took part in on September 7th.

“We learned then that we essentially don’t have a transit plan and in fact Burlington Transit will require years of intense investment to bring it to the point of sustainability.

One of the new buses added o the Burlington Transit fleet. There were busses that had more than 15 years on their tires - those old ones certainly rattled down Guelph Line when I was on one of them.

The city doesn’t have a capital budget for transit – relies on part of the gas tax they get from the province and the federal budget.

“A total failure of project management where transit is working in one silo and planning is working in another.

“Frankly, if you can’t convince anyone that you can move this intensified city then you have no business adding population in the first place.”

Is this the first look at a citizen thinking about elected public service?

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Our two Members of Parliament serve as a tag team during Question Period.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

September 22, 2017



They decided to work as a tag team in the House of Commons during Question Period yesterday.

First Oakville North Burlington MP Pam Damoff stood and asked:

Damoff with big wide open smiles

Oakville Burlington North MP Pam Damoff

“Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition has stated that he feels he should not be bound by the same ethical standards he demands of others in the House. He may have forgotten that his own party’s changes to the Lobbying Act actually make him a designated public officeholder. This might explain the confusion about the Leader of the Opposition hosting secret fundraisers.

“Could the Minister of Democratic Institutions tell the House what she is doing to pull the curtain on these types of fundraisers?”

Gould In the House while Obama speaks

Burlington MP Karina Gould getting her picture taken while former President of the United States addresses the House of Commons.

The Minister of Democratic institutions, Karina Gould, the Burlington MP stood up and responded thusly”

“Mr. Speaker, Canadians have a right to know about fundraising events attended by party leaders and leadership candidates, as well as the Prime Minister and cabinet ministers. Our legislation will make public the information related to who is going to fundraisers, where and when they are happening, and the amount required to attend.

“We hope the opposition will support this bill in committee so that no opposition party can ever again have their leader hold secret fundraisers.

“Together let us all raise the bar.”

Words to be remembered.

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Rivers explains just how becoming a political candidate works - at least in the Liberal Party. Messy, messy - and it didn't have to be. Could cost the Liberals the next election

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

September 20, 2017



Were they set up or just naive? To be a candidate for the Ontario Liberal Party one has to be approved by the Leader of the Party. So how did this by-election in Sudbury become such a mess?

Liberal candidate Andrew Olivier had narrowly missed winning a Sudbury seat in the 2014 provincial general election. So when the seat became vacant a year later, he naturally assumed he’d be the automatic choice for the party. But the Premier had promised the nomination to someone else, a better candidate in her mind, Glenn Thibeault, the federal NDP member for the riding who was willing to leave the federal arena and change parties, presumably for a good reason.

Hydro - Gerry S and Energy minister

Ontario Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault with Burlington Hydro president Gerry Smallegange looking over the map showing where the outages were during the 2015 snow storm.

Thibeault won the election handily, slipping past the NDP provincial candidate and trouncing Olivier, who had no choice but to run as an independent. Thibeault must have met the Premier’s expectations because she later moved him into her Cabinet as energy minister, giving him the hot energy file and the job of developing the province’s long term energy plan.

No doubt Olivier was sore about not having got the nod to run a second time under the red banner, but under provisions of the Liberal Party’s constitution the leader is pretty much allowed to appoint any candidate she chooses, especially in a by-election. And then, as we know, hell hath no fury like a spurned political candidate. So somebody in the Party needed to talk him down in case he walked right out of the Liberal camp with all his supporters. And that is when it all got messy.


Pat Sorbara, major force in the Premier’s office has to resign and defend herself in a Sudbury court room

And when the Premier’s chief of staff, Pat Sorbara, and a local Liberal organizer, Gerry Lougheed, spoke with Olivier, he recorded their conversations. He claims they had offered him a job or appointment. But instead of being placated by their apparent concern for his economic future, he took his recordings to the nearest cop shop.

Apparently Olivier knew something they hadn’t considered. There is a 1998 provision of the Ontario Elections Act….”96.1 No person shall, directly or indirectly, (e) give, procure or promise or agree to procure an office or employment to induce a person to become a candidate, refrain from becoming a candidate or withdraw his or her candidacy. 1998, c. 9, s. 44.”

Provincial MPPs may be elected locally and they are expected to serve their local electorate. But a Cabinet minister governs for the entire province and not just his/her constituency. And that can be a good reason for a party leader to have the authority to appoint a candidate.

Nomination meetings can become popularity contests where family and friends, and in some cases a whole community arrive in droves. And this wave of ‘instant’ party members can propel the favourite son or daughter on to victory as the chosen nominee. ‘Instant’ because they weren’t party members before this event, nor likely will be again.

None of this should imply that the most popular candidate is not the best or the best qualified. But just in case, the party always vets, the Leader has the final say and sometimes she/he appoints rather than allow a nomination meeting. The Premier wanted Thibeault  for her Cabinet – her choice, her call. Anyone who meets the basic qualifications can run for provincial office, but those running under a party’s banner need to be blessed by the leader.

Loughhead - sudbury

Liberal party organizer in Sudbury – Gerry Lougheed

Sorbara and Lougheed have been criminally charged and the case is now before a judge. There will be a determination as to whether what the party did amounted to bribery or whether the accused were just offering Olivier a gesture, a consolation prize after the fact. Even if the judge dismisses the charges, this will be an important lesson and precedent for the future.

Apparently Olivier wasn’t offered public service employment – which requires merit testing – or even a specific job or appointment at all. But the point is that Sorbara and Lougheed didn’t even need to talk with him, and you can bet they wish they hadn’t. The upshot, no matter how the judge rules, is that the Premier and her party will take a hit for something that could have and should have been avoided.

Wynne Kathleen - looking guilty gas plant hearing

Telephone calls that didn’t ave t be made were made – might cost Premier Wynne the June 2018 election. The one thing that might keep her in office is the quality of the other choices.

Olivier stands to gain little if anything out of this case except the personal satisfaction of knowing that he has cost the accused their jobs and knowing that he may have hurt the Premier as she approaches another election next year. The notoriety of the case may help or hurt him with his political ambitions. And who knows, one day he may get to sit in the Pink Palace? But it won’t be as a Liberal.

Rivers-direct-into-camera1-173x300Ray Rivers writes weekly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was a candidate for provincial office in Burlington in 1995.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.     Tweet @rayzrivers


Background links:

Ontario Elections Act –   Ontario Liberal Constitution –   Sudbury Riding

Legality of Recording Evidence –   Timeline

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What if ...

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

September 16th, 2017



In the near future there will be an announcement on the appointment of a Facilitator who will review the request for an Administrative Review of the Halton District School Board trustee decision to close two of the city’s seven high schools.

There was a request from the parents at Pearson high school and a request from the parents at Bateman high school for Administrative reviews.

The bar to getting a review was not low – the parents had to show they had wide community support.

The Facilitator will meet with each parent group and meet with the Board of Education staff for reaction from them.

And in the fullness of time there will be a response.

What if – the Facilitator decides there was enough wrong with the process and recommends that the PAR be done again?

PARC with options on the walls

Would another PAR Committee be formed?

The Board would, we think, have to create a new Program Accommodation Review (PAR)  and put a new recommendation forward. Would a new recommendation be any different than the first which was to close Pearson and Central and then revised to close Pearson and Bateman?

Assume all this happens.

Would the current Board of Trustees act any differently?

The power to make a decision exists at the Board of Trustee level and that group does not appear to be in touch with the sentiment in the community.

Unfortunately the Burlington communities are quite fractured – making it difficult for the trustees to make a decision.

Central demo #4

The Central parents were out early and they spared no effort to make sure they told their story.

Central high school parent care only that their school not be closed. They put forward very solid arguments and did a superb job of rallying the parents and focusing the concerns.

The Pearson parents didn’t have anywhere near the resources that Central had and there was a lingering unwillingness to be as bold and as forward as the Central parents were.

The Batman parents failed to read the tea leaves.

The issue the trustees were given was that Burlington has 1800 classroom seats with no students in them. (We appreciate the 1800 number is debatable.) If this was true, it was evident the moment the first map showing where the high schools were located that Batman was at significant risk. They failed to see that until their name was on the list of schools to be closed and while they have done a decent job of getting their story out they have not shown an ability to work with the Pearson parents and create a united front.

PAR presentation - ay Bateman Nov 2 HDSB

That empty room was a damaging and telling statement made by the Bateman parents.

The Bateman grievances are real. They have every reason to feel that they have not been heard. Part of the reason is they didn’t say very much early in the game when it counted.

Given all the turmoil within the different parent groups is it any wonder that the trustees took the safe route and went with the recommendation they were given by the Director of Education?

There was within all the options put before the trustees one that would have given the community the time it needed to take a long hard look at just what Burlington has in the way of high schools and what it needs now and what will be needed ten years from now.

Option 7 - short

Option 7 – close no schools – was on the table but it didn’t get a lot of support from the PARC – this tally was 8 out of 14.

Option number 7 was to not close any schools and take some time to determine just what future needs were going to be. Much of the data the Board staff put forward was suspect and didn’t stand up to the scrutiny the PAR tried to impose.

The public may have expected the trustees to make that kind of decision – the current board of trustees just isn’t up to that task.

Someone is going to have to come forward and pull the parent groups together and hammer out what they collectively want and take whatever consensus they can find to the Board administration and the trustees.

And then begin looking for trustee candidates across the Region to fill those seats with people who are up to the task.

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

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Taxes - an approach to income redistribution?

Rivers 100x100Ray Rivers

September 15, 2017



One only pays income taxes if one has some kind of income. The more income one has, the more taxes he/she can afford to pay. Canadians agreed a long time ago that it is only fair that the wealthy pay a greater share of the tax burden, commensurate with their greater income. So our income taxes are progressive, meaning that the percentage of income being taxed rises with earnings.

Tax ladder

Tax ladder

Over the last several decades however, it has all gone awry. The richest one and/or ten percent of us continue to grow their share of the economic pie at the expense of the rest of us. And the spread between the upper and lower classes continues to grow wider while governments cut income tax rates and rely more on sales taxes (HST) for their revenues. Sales taxes are regressive in that they hurt the lower income folks more than the wealthiest.


Robin Hood – Not a model any government wanted to use.

Income taxation is not only the fairest from the perspective of equity, but also the most efficient in terms of economic growth. According to the early British economist Sir Robin Hood stealing from the rich to give to the poor favours economic growth simply because the poor spend more of the money they have than do the rich. Of course Sir Robin’s theory flies in the face of now disparaged right-wing gospel song titled ‘trickle-down-economics’, in which giving more money to the rich was supposed to eventually trickle down over the tops of their boots to the poorer people down below.

Mr Trudeau came to office with a promise to restore the middle class in this country and he knows appropriate taxation lies at the heart of that promise. So in his first budget he made the tax system more progressive by adding more tax classes and marginally increasing the rate the biggest income earners have to pay, while even more marginally reducing the ones at the lower end.

He also campaigned to reduce unfairness in the tax system by closing loopholes. So the other day his finance minister Mr. Morneau announced they were going to curb the way in which small incorporated business owners have been avoiding taxation by misrepresenting the costs of doing business – sprinkling payments to family members who don’t actually work in the business.

Of course everyone of us believes in getting rid of tax loop holes and believes in tax fairness. That is, until our own ox gets gored, the hens come home to roost, or whatever it is we say on the farm. So small business people, and most notably doctors are screaming blue murder that they’ll have to pay more taxes if this loophole is eliminated. And they have their rationale, indeed as we all do. But unless you are a doctor you can’t possibly understand how hard it is to get by on what doctors make, even the ones who opt to be paid a salary.

Small-Business-Tax-LoopholesThe truth is that our tax system is a mess, a morass of loopholes and tax exemptions which have crept up on us like cobwebs in an untidy garage. Successive governments kept gluing on these addenda, primarily doing their best to serve the needs of the country, and too often and sadly, serving the needs or their electoral base in spite of the country.

Like everything governmental there is a political perspective to the tax system. So we retain popular personal deductions when that function could mostly be replaced simply by raising the minimum level at which people have to start paying taxes. If the politicians would agree to making our Canada Pension Plan a genuine livable pension, RRSP’s and private pension plan contributions could be eliminated as deductions. And of course broadening our health insurance system and adding dental coverage to our social programs would eliminate those health deductions from needing to appear on the tax form.

A dollar of income is a dollar of income, right? So why not treat all sources: employment earnings, net business income, bank/investment interest, dividends and capital gains the same? And why don’t we tax the other incomes, from windfalls such as lotteries, gambling and inheritance? Interestingly a professional gambler does need to pay taxes on his/her winnings, though he/she can also claim eligible business deductions.

tax returnAside from the loopholes and the degree of progressivity, there is the whole tax filing process. Once upon a time we could get by by mailing in a measly four sheets of paper and a couple T-4s. Today’s return requires reams of annexes and tables up the wazoo. There are now literally dozens of private sector computer-based and on-line packages and they are all just different enough to make them proprietary, though they all claim to be accurate.

In fact the government has stopped mailing out tax filing packages so one practically has to buy a package anyway, or hire a tax accountant. Complexity had made the long tax form obsolete. Nobody can file that way unless they have at their disposal a computer, calculator, abacus and rabbit’’s foot, perhaps not in that order.

So it is hard to argue against Mr. Trudeau taking on the long overdue and thankless job of reforming a system which was last re-invented in the late 1980’s when Brian Mulroney sought to give us a taste of his notion of tax simplification. However, the approach Mr. Trudeau is taking is piecemeal at best, a sort of facelift when what is really required is major surgery.

justin-trudeau + middle classMight one speculate that the Liberals are hoping the changes they are making, like decorating a house room at a time, will be harder for any subsequent Conservative government to dismantle and discard?   Or perhaps the task of tearing down and reconstructing the entire building at one time is just too daunting for a government nearing the middle point in its term in office. In which case we can only hope that there is a master blueprint for the design of a better castle or implement shed.


Rivers-direct-into-camera1-173x300Ray Rivers writes weekly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was a candidate for provincial office in Burlington in 1995.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.     Tweet @rayzrivers

 Background links:

Tax Fairness –  Morneau’s Changes –   Tax Reform

Taxes and Growth –   Tax Consultations –   Capital Gains Taxation


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Length and listen is the advice a successfully retired small business person has for the Minister of Financne


opinionandcommentBy Joe Gaetan

September 14th, 2017



In order to understand why Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau are on the wrong track when it comes to small business taxation, Joe Gaetan explains that they have to understand what small businesses are all about, how they tick, the challenges they face and the risks they take.

“According to government statistics, approximately 80,000 new small to medium sized businesses (SME’s) are born and about 80,000 cease to exist each year.


Where does your funding come from?

“To start a business you need seed money, in 2014, 51.3 percent of SME’s sought external financing, compared with 48.7 percent that did not request external financing. If a small business owner funds his or her own business they are doing it with after tax dollars, something many people forget. If they borrow from a bank they will have to collateralize the loan which means if things go awry they could lose their home. Lacking both a credit history and the collateral needed to secure a loan, over 80 percent of start-ups face great risk by personally financing their new businesses. On top of that one should know that small business owners (SBO’s), doctors, farmers, restaurant owners are not tax cheats.


Retirement is not a sure thing.

“SBO’s have no pensions, let alone indexed pensions, no stock options with generous tax treatment, no health benefits, no sick day benefits, no vacation benefits, no golden parachutes and no help from Provincial and Federal politicians. When it comes to vacations and sick days, small business owners lose income when they are away, but their expenses continue and they usually experience a drop in income for however many days they are away. Generally speaking small business owners have no entitlements and no security blankets to get them through any rough patches. The same cannot be said for government workers, politicians, teachers and employees of many public and private enterprises.

“The government recently issued a 63-page white paper on small business taxation that requires an in-depth understanding of tax law, something most small business owners do not have. The paper targets, income sprinkling (income splitting), earning passive investment income in a corporation and converting a corporation’s ordinary income into tax-preferred capital gains, using net income examples that any business person would be happy to enjoy, but is far from representative of small business net-income .

“The article states that,” income sprinkling” (a catchy term used by Morneau to denigrate what is really income splitting),“is perhaps deemed the most offensive” and “the one that will likely have the broadest financial impact on small business owners and incorporated professionals”. The latter is an understatement if there ever was one.


They don’t exist in the private sector where the Small Business people thrive.

“Large banks or any large corporation for that matter, can put whomever they like on their board and can sprinkle them generously with stock options, that when exercised are favorably taxed, one could say “that” practice is a major loophole, but it isn’t, it is perfectly legal under our tax code. Why? Stock options usually carry a 10-year life span which allows the grantee the luxury of exercising them when the time is right and when exercised, only 50% of the gain is taxable. In lay terms, imagine how happy you would be if only half of your income was taxed.

“This is costing the government and therefore us about $800 million a year in lost tax revenue, but the government would sooner tax the small business owner.

“At present small business owners can share part of their income with their board of directors. That could include one or more members of the family, including their spouse and children. Money taken out by a family member would be taxed at the rate for the person who benefited from the income. The family member in question may have little or a lot to do with the day to day operation of the business. One of the arguments against this is, small business owners use this money to put their kids through school, but what about the free tuition that is granted to children of university employees, is that not the same thing, is that not a non-taxable benefit and therefore a loophole that needs to be plugged?

“To understand the full impact of the impact of the attack on “earning passive investment income in a corporation and converting a corporation’s ordinary income into tax-preferred capital gains, you should know that prudent small business owners keep between 90 to 180 days of cash in the bank to get them through low business cycles and unexpected events like Sep 11, 2001 or 2008, two events in recent times that had a negative effect on small and large businesses. Except the “too big to fail companies” were helped while small business had to surf through it with zero help.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, goes face-to-face with Finance Minister Bill Morneau at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Wednesday, November 4, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, goes face-to-face with Finance Minister Bill Morneau Photo credit – THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

“So, if you are looking for income stability or longevity, starting an SME may not be your best choice, and especially after the Trudeau/Morneau juggernaut has gutted some of the few benefits of being a small business owner. Some of the so-called loopholes the Trudeau/Morneau team wish to eradicate are in fact are a legitimate vehicle by which small business try to squirrel money for their retirement years.

“If the government is serious about fair tax reform they should at least do the following:”

Lengthen the consultative window to at least 6 months

Start listening to the many non-partisan tax experts who understand the tax laws and small businesses and are ready willing and able to contribute in a meaningful fashion.

Joseph GaetanJoe Gaetan spent 13 of his fifty years of uninterrupted employment as a small business owner.  He operated a Laser Smoking Cessation business, treating over 5,000 during the the life of the business. He retired from that business in 2013. Prior to that he worked  for a Fortune 100 company.

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Pearson parents meeting with the Mayor - there might be some sparks.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

September 13th, 2017



Later today a small delegation from Pearson high school will be meeting with the Mayor during one of the Open Door sessions he holds for citizens who want to meet with him

Girl with T-shirt LBPH

Showing the school colours.

Pretty clear what the Pearson parents want to talk about – they want to know just where the Mayor was when the decision on closing schools was made. Those Pearson parents don’t buy the argument that it was just a school board trustee decision.

The Program Accommodation Review (PAR) process that took place made provision for representation from the city – the Mayor chose to pass that task along to his city manager James Ridge and had the temerity to say at a city council meeting that he, the Mayor, couldn’t think of anyone more qualified to represent the city.

Podrebarac and Ridge

Steve Podrebarac on the left and Burlington city manager James Ridge at a school board PAR meeting.

At the time Ridge had been city manager for about 18 months, was not a native of the city and probably could not have named the seven high schools in the city.

Ridge attended most of the PAR meetings, spoke twice. On one of those occasions he said the school board should not sell any land. The school board isn’t permitted to just sit on land it owns – they have to use it or lose it. When they do sell the land, which a decision the Board makes when they declare the land surplus.

Steve Armstrong + Cheryl deLught - Pearson

Cheryl DeLught and Steve Armstrong – part of the Pearson delegation.

When the Board makes that decision there is a hierarchy of organizations that have the right to purchase the land – the city is on that list. The city could be negotiating with the school board to move some of its staff into Pearson to keep the building until the city has a better view of just what the student population is going to be.

All the Grow BOLD discussion taking place are making mention of a population that is going to climb from the current 186,000 to something in the 215,000 range. Will there not be some students in amongst those new residents?

Hopefully the Pearson people meeting with the Mayor today will be bold and suggest that the city get onside.

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Getting a trustee and a city council member to release the content of their texts during a school board meeting has yet to be productive.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

September 11th, 2017


The original headline on this article has been revised: a reader took exception to the use of the phrase: “pulling teeth from hens” which she felt was sexist.  We didn’t see it that way and that certainly wasn’t our intention.

This is begining to feel like we are trying to pull teeth from hens: just release the documents.

A number of weeks ago the Gazette asked Ward 1 and 2 school board trustee Leah Reynolds if she would send us the complete contents of the texts she sent and received from Marianne Meed Ward during the June 7th Board of Education meeting. That was the meeting at which the trustees decided to close two of the city’s seven high schools.

We asked the same question of Marianne Meed Ward who is member of city council and served on the Program Accommodation Review committee that was not able to arrive at a consensus or send a direction or recommendation to the Director of Education and to the trustees.

Some would argue that writing a direction or recommendation was not part of their mandate. So?

Everyone seems to share the view that the process was flawed – any comment from the members of that PARC would have been welcome – and might have given the trustees a clearer sense as to what was wrong with the process used.

Reynolds replied to our request with the following:

Reynolds with Roberts rules

Trustee Reynolds had a heavy book marked edition of Robert Rules of Order – clearly came to the meeting prepared to fight a procedural battle – with a parents who is also a member of city council “coaching” her from the public gallery.

Thank you for your question, which I would have gladly provided to you earlier if asked.

Before, during and after meetings, I – as do all trustees – receive messages, questions and concerns from constituents and parents. As confirmed by the Chair at the June 7th and the June 21st meetings that communication does not violate any code of conduct nor is it contrary to any Board policy. As elected officials, hearing from our communities is part of the democratic process and the right of constituents to freedom of expression. While I cannot control who or what information parents or constituents send me, it is my job to listen and to take it into consideration to inform my questions and decision.

School closure conversations are difficult and the decisions are not desired by all of the residents of our community. My remarks were recorded on June 7 on why I supported the director’s report. Let me know if you want them.

The question was – would she send the texts that were exchanged by Meed Ward and Reynolds – which she chose not to answer.

We asked the same question of Meed Ward – we copied each of them on the separate message sent which was as follows:

I am putting together an article on how the Board of Trustees arrived at the decision they did to close two of the city’s seven high schools.

The communication between you and Trustee Reynolds during the debate are part of that story. Would you be good enough to send me all of the texts that you sent to Reynolds during the meeting.

If you wish please feel free to add any comment on the context within which the texts were sent.
Thank you – hope you and the family had a great summer.

Meed Ward came back with:

There is nothing to send. There was no communication during debate of the school closure motions.
As has been previously explained, the communication via text was related to a procedural matter prior to any discussion of the motions themselves, specifically a ruling of the chair on what order motions would be heard.

MMW typing

Marianne Meed Ward texting messages to trustee Leah Reynolds during a Board of Education meeting. Some of the content appeared to be instructions on how to vote on a procedural matter.

There was never a risk of motions not being debated; the issue was simply in what order – simultaneously or sequentially. Getting procedure right protects the outcome of any subsequent vote, thus protecting everyone’s interests including those making this an issue.

The communication had nothing to do with the votes on the school closure motions themselves, and no impact on them.

In the end the chair’s ruling was upheld 7-4 by trustees, the debate and votes on the dual campus and school closures proceeded simultaneously for another three hours. There was no communication during these debates and votes.

My communication is no different than the many emails or texts that were sent by other parents to trustees through the meetings. What makes this different and why it has become a story is because someone read and photographed private correspondence, published it on social media, then misrepresented the substance of the text in a broadcast news story. There was no effort to contact me directly for the truth about the communication, simply a rush to judgment with the aim of social shaming, via the press and social media.

That Ms Meed Ward is precisely the point –part of what you texted was read and it didn’t look all that good. Let the public see every word that was passed between the two of you – they will figure it out.

Some folks have willingly engaged in character assassination as a tactic to save their school. I understand the emotions involved in having your school on the closure list – having lived with it for the previous 6 months. But the ends don’t justify the means. We need to do better than this, especially on difficult issues like school closures. Thankfully the vast majority of citizens have been respectful in sharing their views and making their case throughout this process with facts and evidence, and without personal attacks.

I think there is a splitting of hairs here – the little bit of the texting that the public was able to see appeared to be directions from Meed Ward to trustee Reynolds.

The Bateman community managed to interest CHCH television in the story.  The ran a piece on their newscast – link to that broadcast is HERE.

There is considerable concern within the community on just what happened. We have no idea what the two woman were up to. If there is a public concern both woman have an obligation to release whatever the content of the texts were – with time stamps on them.

Related news stories:

Bateman parents want an investigation.

Parents want trustee suspended.

Parent admits sending message – she wasn’t just any parent either



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Citizen suggests pulling the Downtown Core out of the Mobility Hub Process

opinionandcommentBy Rory Nisan

September 10, 2017



Part of what makes Burlington arguably the best suburb in the GTA is that, almost anywhere in the city, you are no more than twenty minutes from the Escarpment or the lake. Nature is at your doorstep, as is the culture of the downtown mixed with the expansive views of the water.

As many readers know, a provincial mandate to increase the city’s population combined with the decision to not build north of the Dundas/407 barrier means that Burlington will be growing “up” rather than “out”.

One of the prime places to just enjoy the city is on the north side of Lakeshore looking out over ther lake. This could be a social spot in almost anyone of the prime tourist destinations in Europe or North America - buit it is right here in Burlington.

One of the prime places to just enjoy the city is on the north side of Lakeshore looking out over the lake. When the weather is right – seats are hard to get.

The city’s plans for this growth have focused on “mobility hubs” around our three GO Train stations and, more controversially, the downtown corridor. The latter was destined to be the toughest sell: the downtown is not a true hub of mobility in 2017. The truth is that the downtown is a place people want to live for the lake, the restaurants and night life and the culture, not because it is a starting point for transportation to other destinations. Unlike the other three, the downtown is, by its nature, a destination hub first, a transportation one second.

There is an agenda to grow in the downtown core, and while it may in fact be good for the city as a whole, a bit of cognitive dissonance is required to buy into the mobility hub rationale.

When I attended a meeting about this downtown mobility hub this past Thursday, it was not surprising that the Art Gallery of Burlington’s largest hall was filled with interested and sometimes concerned local downtown residents.

Presentations from consultants began shortly after 7 pm, and it wasn’t long before the anxiety of the audience became evident. They did not wait long before interrupting the consultants to ask questions. After responding to a few of them, the consultants understandably implored the audience to let them get through their slides before taking any more.

However, when they finished a few minutes later, they handed workbooks out to the audience and left the microphone, taking no questions in front of the audience. Instead, city staff were deployed to the tables to answer questions in a small group format.

This conveniently prevented the consultants or the city from having to answer questions in front of the packed hall. The city staff patiently and diligently listened to attendees, responding to concerns and asking them to make their views known through the workbooks.

Concept 1 full build out looking north

Resident suggest that if “residential condo towers dominate the downtown core, the beauty of the area will be lost and the development initiative will become counterproductive.

I’m not sure what the consultants’ roles were, other than to fend off potentially embarrassing questions. They presented from prepared remarks for about half an hour and then we didn’t see them again.

Their job was, as is often the case, more about “having a consultation” than actually consulting. While the efforts of the city’s employees to answer queries was welcomed, at some point the city’s leadership will have to stand up and take some heat from area residents. Otherwise, a sense that they were not heard will prevail, and the social licence required for such a large remaking of the downtown will not be given.

Most of the attention focused on the many maps provided, outlining different districts that were often non-contiguous. It became unwieldy trying to understand what the consequences would be at the street level. Still, there was a lot of thought put into the detailed maps and it works as a basis for further discussion.

Several residents wondered whether views of the lake would be further blocked by high rises. The answer: quite possibly. The Old Lakeshore Road Precinct is marked for mid- and high-rises up to 15 storeys.

Rahoons Persian Eatery at Village Square won Best Overall Award.

Rahoons Persian Eatery at Village Square has won awards for its menu and service. One of the city’s most under utilized locations.

As an uptown resident, I want to see the downtown to become an even better destination for all Burlington residents to enjoy. Having more people in the core, if done right, can lead to more thriving businesses and great energy. The downtown looks great on a sunny summer or fall weekend, but it’s a bit of a ghost town in the winter. I see the Village Square as a test of the vibrancy of the downtown. It is a beautiful business centre, reminiscent of the romantic squares of Europe but it has yet to become the thriving destination it deserves to be.

That being said, while adding residents to the core is important for business and culture, if residential condo towers dominate the downtown core, the beauty of the area will be lost and the development initiative will become counterproductive. This is a real risk — one need only look down the QEW to the cold condos along the lake in Toronto.

This would be exacerbated if the City is serious about making the downtown a commuter area — that will attract investors rather than residents and we then risk the high vacancy rates predominant in Vancouver.

We need a made-in-Burlington solution for the downtown and the first step would be more transparency from the City’s planners and leadership on its vision for the area and real consultation with decision-makers, not outside consultants.

The first step should be to pull the downtown core out of the Mobility Hub process in recognition that this area is unique from the real mobility hubs and needs special attention. We are not talking about building a mobility hub around the John Street Bus Terminal. We are talking about permanently altering the character of the downtown area. It’s time to get serious.

There was a time when LAkeshore was known as Water Street and traffic was a little slower. But Burlington isn't a sleepy little town anymore - traffic has toi be controlled.

There was a time when Lakeshore was known as Water Street and traffic was a little slower.

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


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Gazette to be held accountable by National Newsmedia Council.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

September 9th, 2017



The Gazette is a member of the National NewsMedia Council

We became members when the organization it was known as the Ontario Press Council – at that time we were one of the earlier online newspaper accepted into member unanimously by the Board of Directors at that time.

We pay an annual fee to be members – it isn’t cheap.

The National NewsMedia Council (NNC) does not impose its own code of practice. Instead, it expects members to adhere to their own or some generally-accepted code of journalistic standards, practice and ethics.

nnc logo with glassesIn considering a complaint, the NNC has regard for a cascading set of criteria that includes the news organization’s own code of conduct; generally-accepted national and regional journalistic standards; standards such as those of the Canadian Press and the Canadian Association of Journalists; such legal or ethical guidelines as appropriate; and any other considerations deemed valid by the Board.

The NNC promotes media ethics and responsible journalism through our mediation services, pre-publication advising, and outreach.

One of the prime purposes of the NNC is the provision of a place people can go to and air complaints they have about how media has treated them.

This is a valuable public service that is needed – media have to be held to account.

The NNC works diligently to get both sides of the story and they issue a statement that can be either:

An upheld complaint.
Dismissed complaints.
Dismissed with reservations.
Resolved due to corrective action taken.

As NNC members the Gazette is expected to publish any decision made to the Council.

NNC landing

National Newsmedia Council advertisement that promotes the purpose of the Council.

In the past several months there have been two complains made to the NNC about material published in the Gazette.

Both relate to the closing of two of the city’s seven high schools – and in each case the matter came from the Bateman community.

The fist was a complaint that we violated our privacy policy – which we in fact did. We published the name of an individual who has chosen a pen name rather than his own in a comment he made related to a Gazette article.

We later learned that the individual was a member of a Board of Education Advisory committee who we felt was hiding behind the pen name rather than letting readers of his comments know where his thinking was comment from.

We were asked by the NNC to apologize for braking our own rules which we did and that matter was closed.

Since then the Gazette has announced that it is in the process of changing its privacy policy; quite what form that policy change will take has not yet been determined.

We want to provide a form for people to air their views. We regret that frequently some people use a pen name and attempt to”game” the process. A number of news organizations have given up on a comments section. We are not prepared to go quite that far.

The second complaint is much more complex – it relates to a matter of fairness and just how much we did to ensure that we were fair and complete in our reporting.

The prime concern appears to be that we did not name the person we were reporting about but that anyone could read between the lines and determine who it was. Perception and reality are not the same thing.

Unhappy parentIn our conversations with staff at the NNC they understand and appreciate that the closing of a high school is a very emotional issue and feelings come to the surface quickly. The situation at Bateman is very, very hard for many of the parents who have children in the Community Pathways Program to deal with.

We won’t comment further on this until the National Newsmedia Council has issued their decision, which we are advised will be before the end of the month. We hope at that time that we can name the individual, publish the content of the complaint and the Council decision which we will abide by.

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Mike Wallace wants the Mayor's Chain of Office - tapping people on the shoulder all over the city.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

September 6th, 2017



Ken, an intelligent citizen who comments in the Gazette from time to time, made an interesting comment earlier this week.

Burlington Citizens are in charge of their future, he said. “If the people of Burlington want to build to accommodate more people then let’s see how the voting goes in 2018.”

That election is more than a year away but some of the ducks are already being lined up.

Goldring tweet

Cute – why doesn’t the man just come out and say that on May 1, 2018 he expect to file nomination papers.

There are three who covet the Mayor’s chain of office: The current occupant who has said in a very coy way that he is in the race.

Mike Wallace has been telling anyone who will give him 15 seconds of their time that he too is in the race.

And we assume the ward 2 council member Marianne Meed Ward is still in the race. She was running for Mayor when she ran in 2010. Meed Ward had run previously in Ward 1 against Councillor Craven.

Mike Wallace was a member of council for a number of years and expected to be the Mayoral candidate but found himself in a federal election where he won and was off to Ottawa.

Greg Woodruff, an Aldershot resident, has run some numbers based on the votes he got when he ran against Regional Chair Gary Carr and figured out that he has a chance of winning. Will he toss his hat in the ring? Who knows?


Meed Ward loves her job; she revels in pulling people together. During her first term of office she spent her annual postage allotment in a couple of months – she was mailing everything to almost everyone.

At the Mayoral level there is an interesting situation. Meed Ward has her tribe’ they will stand by her – the question is – does she have enough people in the other five wards that will be with her?. If she has – and she seems to believe she does – then the question becomes this – is her vote bigger than what Wallace and the Mayor have to split?

The Meed Ward vote is not going to go to either Wallace or the Mayor. Those two will have to share what Meed Ward doesn’t get.

Mayor at Wallace election HQ Oct 2015

The Mayor spent the night of the federal election watching he vote come in at Mike Wallace’s headquarters.

Mike must feel that he can pull in more of the vote that Meed Ward doesn’t get than the Mayor can.

Wallace and Gould

Wallace congratulating Gould on her defeating him for the Burlington federal seat – it will be interesting if Wallace becomes Mayor and has to deal regularly with the woman that beat him.

Mike has profile, he has been around a long time and he wants the job – close to desperately.

The Mayor chose to go the photo op route – he couldn’t sustain the approach his Chief of Staff Frank McKeough developed for him during his first term.

The Mayor has gone through four Staff Chief’s. He hasn’t delivered on any of his environmental issues – still no private tree bylaw – and he hasn’t been identified with an issue that the public is fully in support of. And he seems to have to cling to the New Street Road diet.

Meed Ward is described as “divisive” – she is focused. She knows where she stands and sticks by her decisions. There isn’t the understanding of the economics of land values that the job needs.

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

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

Should she win her first two years will be hectic – she will want to do everything at the same time. Meed Ward believes she will be a great Mayor. Whether she is not will become evident in the third and fourth year of her first term.

At the council level – no one is going to beat Craven in Ward 1; Leah Reynolds was being primed for the ward 2 seat by Meed Ward but the fiasco with the texts sent between the two during the school closing debate might put a wrinkle in those plans

There is a credible candidate for ward 3 – the issue there is whether or not John Taylor is ready to retire. He has deep deep support in the community but 30 years is a long time. At some point the harness has to be put away – and if Taylor likes the look of the candidate he might decide to support the person and mentor him during the first term.

The potential candidate was raised in the ward and currently holds a very important job at another level of government.

Dennison announcing

Jack Dennison the day he announced the sale of Cedar Spring. his health club operation.

Ward 4? Can Dennison be beaten – Of course he can but not by a candidate who comes into the race late in the game and doesn’t have a team or the funding. Dennison has name recognition – some think the recognition is past its best before date.

Ward 5 – Sharman holds sway there and there doesn’t appear to be any one in the trenches prepared to do the work to take him on.

There is hope for a change in ward 6 – there is at least one very credible candidate who would do a superb job of representing the residents. Career options are a family issue there.

Do a head count at the council level: Craven, Dennison and Sharman are close to a given. If the right people are elected in wards 2, 3 and 6 – and Meed Ward is Mayor – Burlington will be a much different city.

We thought we saw it that way in 2014 and we were dead wrong. No predictions at this point – but the possibilities are intriguing.

Salt with Pepper is an opinion column written by the publisher.

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Rivers gets the gift that keeps on giving - comments on an $8 million ask.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

September 1, 2017



It’s the gift that keeps on giving – for journalists anyway. I’m talking about Mike Duffy who has put himself back into the spot light by suing the Canadian government, RCMP and Senate for close to $8 million in total. One would think that once he had been acquitted on all 31 charges the RCMP had filed against him, the man would count his lucky stars and lay low.

Mike Duffy, toasting - on the public's dime?

Mike Duffy, toasting – on the public’s dime?

But not the Duff. Never shy of being a spectacle, he actually thinks we tax payers owe him something. First of all, being a senator is hardly a real job in any meaningful sense of the word. Even after Mr. Trudeau has tried to make that body of political hacks appear non-partisan, it is still a political body without a functional rationale. All the PM has done is further emasculate it – which is probably a good thing. And besides, when it comes to being owed salary, it wasn’t like Duffy was ever known for doing anything but attending Conservative party rallies.

Second, Mr. Duffy accepted the senate seat for PEI even though he wasn’t qualified. He apparently had pointed out that he really didn’t live there. But when it was PEI or nothing, he went for the lie and used his vacant cottage there as his pretext.

And then there were the expense claims. That he had to return bags of money is a pretty clear indication that even Duffy knew he was in the wrong. Sure the Senate rules may be fuzzy about entitlements for expenses, but he should have known he had been pulling a fast one.

Duffy + Judge

Mike Duffy and the Judge who sent him home.

He was a lucky man to find a judge who obviously felt sorry for him. Or perhaps, as was suggested in his decision, the judge needed to make the point that the RCMP had missed the real perpetrators – Mr. Harper and his henchmen in the Senate and the Prime Minister’s Office. And though Duffy was mainly just a patsy in the whole messy Senate-gate that is hardly an excuse.

So while Duffy may have been set free, nobody really believed that he was innocent. Except for Duffy, that is. So having been expelled from the Senate, he felt he was still owed his back pay and that riled the man. Whether righteous indignation or greed, or both, Duffy believes, that obtaining lots of taxpayer money will restore a reputation that he never had.

Duffy and the PM

Mike Duffy with Stephen Harper when he was Prime Minister; it was a contentious relationship.

It was the same argument that Omar Khadr, the former self-confessed terrorist, used to extract over $10 million from the taxpayers. He needed a big chunk of change to restore his reputation. What reputation? Duffy, was a retired journalist who was put into the Senate on a lie. His biggest contribution was in raising funds for the Conservative party, and he used his position to reward himself.

The RCMP had been suitably chastised for doing the PM’s bidding, instead of upholding the law of the land. And so they dropped the rest of the investigations against the other errant senators who had also padded their expense claims. And that was that bit of justice done.

In our post-Khadr Canada would anyone bet that those senators don’t also start suing for ‘damages’ to their reputations? And that would make the Senate even more a waste of money than it already is.

MikeDuffy smiling

Smiles – much to be happy about.

As for Duffy, if he gets his Senate back pay reinstated, he’d be lucky. But when going to court can be akin to rolling the dice at a casino, who knows? I recall watching former PM Mulroney following his admission of accepting envelopes of cash from that slimy Karlheinz Schreiiber character.

Going to court on this ridiculous $8 million claim might make good theatre and a nice diversion, but I’m guessing it would do as much good for Duffy’s reputation as the Oliiphant Commission did for Mulroney. And on the upside, were this matter actually allowed to go to court, Mr. Duffy might finally have to face real justice.

Rivers-direct-into-camera1-173x300Ray Rivers writes weekly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was a candidate for provincial office in Burlington in 1995.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.     Tweet @rayzrivers


Background links:

Duffy’s Lawsuit –   Justice in the Trial –     Eight Million Cool Ones

Mulroney’s Inquiry –     Senate-Gate

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Silencing the words you don't like and don't want to hear.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

August 30th, 2017



Donald Trump calls out the traditional media, labelling them ‘fake news’- all except Fox News, that is. It’s almost like he is preparing a justification for shutting them down.

MILWAUKEE, WI - NOVEMBER 10: Presidential candidate Donald Trump gestures after Carly Fiorina says she met with Russian President Putin at a one on one meeting, during the Republican Presidential Debate sponsored by Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal at the Milwaukee Theatre November 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The fourth Republican debate is held in two parts, one main debate for the top eight candidates, and another for four other candidates lower in the current polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Presidential candidate Donald Trump. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

It is almost unprecedented for the CEO of America to be demeaning the nation’s time-tested news networks and it is worrisome. Isn’t that a tyrant’s prelude to quashing any opposition and to avoiding criticism?

At one point Trump shut down the cameras at the regular White House press briefings and at another he actually banned CNN and some other media, while allowing other media outlets in.

Bracken being arrested

Fred Bracken being arrested in Fort Erie for trespassing

Somewhat related, back here in Canada the municipality of Fort Erie has also been trying to muffle a critic. Local resident, Fred Bracken, was banned from showing up at town hall for a whole year. He had been complaining about the council’s approval of a medical-marijuana facility situated across the street from his house, and let them know how he really felt about it.

Fred Bracken taking pictures

Fred Bracken filming at a public meeting.

Perhaps he’d watched too many episodes of Miami Vice or was worried that his neighbourhood might become a druggy hangout.  But it sounds like the issue became personal and a bit more entangled since he was apparently also being sued by one of the Councillors.

As we know things can get hot in the shark tank of municipal politics and Mr Bracken apparently got a little loud and boisterous one day. And that was too much for a council short on patience and tolerance. So they banned him under Ontario’s archaic Trespass Act when he refused a command to turn off his video camera. They argued that workplace security was in jeopardy by his very presence and called our Mr. Brachen a threat.

And just as well Fred had that camera running because that tape, in court, let the judge see what was really happening. And the judge agreed with him. While Fred may have been angry and annoying, he was neither violent nor a danger to anyone in the Council Chambers. So the judge rescinded the trespass order claiming the council had violated his Charter rights.

I used to post ‘no trespassing’ signs around my farm in Ottawa to keep the fox hunters and their dogs away from my sheep. But then that was my farm. I always figured that public property belonged to the public and that a public council meeting should be open to the public. I mean who pays for these politicians salaries and the venue where they jawbone about public matters.

Fred Bracken had every right to attend a public meeting dealing with matters of governance concerning his interests. He had been a victim of a town council, full of their own self-entitlement as government, trying to shut him up. It was no different than what Donald Trump had been trying to do, nor what we expect to happen in a banana republic or Russia.

When people who have been denied their constitutional rights seek recompense it can get expensive. Omar  Khadr got $10 million out of court settlement because the former Conservative government had left him to defend himself in a foreign country.

The Judge who heard the Fred Bracken case ordered the city of Fort Erie to pay him $4000. It will be interesting to see if the good people of Fort Erie decide they no longer want to pay for the mistakes of their politicians’ big mistake or even if they will decide it is easier to just clean house.

Rivers looking to his leftRay Rivers writes weekly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was a candidate for provincial office in Burlington in 1995.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.     Tweet @rayzrivers


Background links:

Trump Media Blocking –    More Trump Media –    Trump Media Attack

Ontario Trespass Act –   Fort Erie –    More Fort Erie –    Even More Fort Erie

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Minimum wage increase: Who benefits? Can we afford it? Can we afford not to pay people at least a living wage?

opinionandcommentBy David Goodings

August 24th, 2017



Cindy (not her real name) is a woman of about forty with a winning smile and a full head of long brown hair.

She has been working at minimum wage jobs for many years, often juggling several jobs at the same time. You have to be tough to survive in today’s world of precarious employment and Cindy is a survivor. A few months ago while talking about her present life and her struggle to make ends meet, Cindy was asked what it would be like to make $15 an hour. “That would be awesome,” she replied matter-of-factly. “That would be pretty sweet, I think.” [1]

Isabella Daley is another woman in her forties, well educated and highly articulate, with a wry sense of humour. She knows how tough it is to raise her children (and her condescending cat) while employed at minimum wage jobs. In a candid video produced for Living Wage Hamilton she imagines how her life would change if she were paid a living wage, currently $15.85 per hour in Hamilton. Not only would she be able to pay the rent and utility bills, she could do something for her toothache before it became unbearable, and let her daughter have a friend come for dinner. Isabella knows well what it is like to be one of the “working poor”. [2]

The Ontario Government’s proposed legislation, the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act 2017, includes raising the minimum wage to $14.00 in January, 2018 and to $15.00 a year later. It will be warmly welcomed by Cindy and Isabella and hundreds of thousands of other people as roughly 30 percent of Ontario’s workers are paid less than $15.00 an hour. [3] The government is also legislating that part-time workers be paid the same as full-time workers, and is allowing employees two paid emergency days and five unpaid ones each year.

As expected, the business community, represented by the Chambers of Commerce, is sounding the alarm about catastrophic job losses and dire effects on the economy. One recent study [4] predicts that approximately 185,000 jobs will be put at risk across the province. However, job losses on this scale are, literally, unbelievable as there is abundant evidence from past experience in the US and Canada that minimum wage increases have almost no effect on overall employment. A recent article in the Toronto Star [5] cites research in the US that examined 22 federal minimum wage increases between 1938 and 2009. It found “no correlation between those increases and lower employment levels.” A similar Canadian study [6] covering the years from 1983 to 2012 “found almost no evidence of any connection whatsoever between higher minimum wage levels and employment levels in Canada.”

So, who benefits from keeping the minimum wage low? First, executive officers and shareholders of large corporations—the source of about half of minimum wage jobs in Ontario. For example, the Weston family’s conglomerate, Loblaw Companies Ltd. which includes Loblaws, No Frills and Shoppers Drug Mart, estimates that raising the minimum wage to $15 will cost $190 million in additional wages. But last year the company paid shareholders $1.1 billion, almost 6 times the cost of the wage increase. [7] It looks as though the business community is asking Cindy and Isabella to accept “poverty wages” in order to make the executives and shareholders a bit wealthier.

Secondly, let’s consider the case of small businesses such as restaurants and independent retailers. The owners may respond by laying off employees or reducing their hours, or by raising prices, all of which have consequences for the successful running of their businesses. Alternatively, they may be able to absorb some of the cost of increased wages, or will eliminate jobs through automation. In any event it is very unlikely that the owners will feel much hardship from having to adjust their business models.

Corporations and small business owners should also be aware that when their employees receive fair wages they tend to be more productive, have better morale and better health, and are less likely to leave for another job. Businesses may also benefit from the fact that minimum wage workers spend almost all their wages locally.

Thus the debate on raising the minimum wage comes down to a straightforward choice: significantly improve the lives of Cindy and Isabella and thousands of other people like them, or maintain the financial returns of shareholders, executives and business owners. Fortunately the Liberal Government is in no doubt about what is the right thing to do.

Goodings DavidDavid Goodings was born in Toronto and studied mathematics and physics at University of Toronto and Cambridge.  He was a Professor of physics at McMaster University for thirty years and has been a resident of Burlington since 2001.  He is an active member of Poverty Free Halton and Living Wage Halton. Married to Judy for 37 years which may be why his favourite piano piece is:  Ain’t Misbehavin’ by Fats Waller.

[1] Working on the Edge, a video on precarious employment:

[2] Isabella Daley video, What a living wage would mean to me, on

[3] Why politics drives a minimum wage wedge, Martin Regg Cohn, Toronto Star, May 31, 2017

[4] Bill 148 causing greatest chaos among business community in over a decade: chamber president, Kathy Yanchus, Burlington Post, August 17, 2017.

[5] Minimum wage hike won’t bring ‘doom and gloom’, economists say. Open letter by 40 Canadian economists endorses proposed provincial wage increase. Sara Mojtehedzadeh, Toronto Star, July 4, 2017.

[6] Wage Mythology. The minimum wage and the impact on jobs in Canada, 1983-2012, by Jordan Brennan and Jim Stanford. Report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, October 2014

[7] Yes, Mr. Weston, you can afford a living wage, Angella MacEwen and Cole Eisen, Hamilton Spectator, August 14, 2017

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Board of trustees in need of some help learning what their jobs are and how to pull together as a team. This isn't a sewing circle.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

August 22, 2017


This article has had a correction, Pearson will not open in September of 2018

The Going Back to School process has begun – the school supplies are being bought and fresh new clothing is being chosen.

News Analysis

Parents are learning what the fashion trend is going to be this year and the first timers are going to get a chance to learn what it is like to take a bus to school.

All seven high schools will open this year; it will be different next year.

The Board of trustees voted to close two of the city’s seven high schools: Lester B. Pearson will not open in September of 2018 and Bateman high school will not open in September of 2020.

Protesters PARC

At first it was Central high school parents fighting to keep their school open. They put forward very compelling arguments and they were taken off the recommendation list.

Bateman parents

Bateman high school was put on the recommended for closing list when Central high school was taken off the list.

Lester Pearson at Upper Middle and Headon

Lester B. Pearson parents were never able to get the kind of traction they needed to change the minds of the trustees. Ward 3 trustee Andrea Grebenc who attended Pearson said she could not find a reason for voting to keep the school open.

Both high school parent groups filed a request for an Administrative Review of the decision the trustees made– that review looks at the process used to make the decision – not the merits of the decision.

The parents had to file a request for the Administrative Review within 30 days of the decision – both met the July 7th deadline; the Board Administration had 30 days to respond to the request for a review – they did that by August 7th. The Ministry of Education now has 30 days to decide if there is any merit in the request for a review and to consider the position taken by the Board.

That gets us to sometime in the middle of September.

It would be a little naïve to expect any changes.

The Halton District school Board has been hit with Administrative Reviews before – the end result then was no change.

There is a very unhappy public in Burlington; parents are unhappy with the way the city failed to take a position on closing schools; many feel that the process used to make the decision was so flawed that the trustees should have taken the option that was available to them – and that was not to close any of the high schools at this time until there has been an opportunity for an in depth look at just what the problem is and if there is any likelihood of a change in the number of students that are going to attend high schools.

Burlington was in a situation where one high school was at 135% capacity (Hayden) while another was at about the 65% (Pearson) capacity level. That situation was the result of the traditional feeder schools for Pearson were filling Hayden instead.

The Program Accommodation Review process was new to the people of Burlington, new to the school board as well and in hindsight many people realize that it should have been done differently.

The school board trustees didn’t really deliver on their mandate – they took a hands off approach to the issue during the PAR process and then got swamped with the more than 50 delegations they had to deal with.

Kelly Amos, the chair of the school board was flummoxed on several occasions when it as clear she was in over her head with the process. At one critical meeting she had legal counsel for the Board giving her one opinion and a parliamentarian who had been brought in to provide advice and direction giving her a different opinion.

Collard and Miller

Ward 5 school board trustee Amy Collard livid with the decision made by the Director of Education wears her feelings.

One parent made the both astute and disturbing observation that the school board gave less time to deciding whether or not to close high schools than the city did on what to do with the Freeman station – which is now doing quite nicely in its new location.

The biggest problem the public has is the quality of the current school board. With the exception of Ward 5 trustee Amy Collard, the Burlington trustees are not delivering on the mandate they were given when they were elected.

Trustees Miller, Amos - Graves

From the right: Vice chair Graves and Chair Amos – who along with the other trustees are expected to hold the Director of Education Stuart Miller on the left accountable – something they don’t appear to know how to do.

They don’t know their jobs; they don’t ask hard questions; they don’t really hold the Board staff or its Director of Education truly accountable.

While the trustees may be nice people their job is to ask the probing questions. They have chosen to be nice and operate as what has become a bit of a clique that has a tremendous opportunity to make a significant difference but instead chose to take a pass.

Expect to see a lot of different names on the Burlington ballot in the October 2018 municipal elections.

Burlington can do better than what we have.

MMW + Leah Reynolds

Leah Reynolds on the right. She gets by with a little help from her friends. City Councillor Meed Ward on the left.

We have a board where a trustee – Leah Reynolds – feels it is acceptable to receive text notes and advice on her computer from a member of the PAR, Marianne Meed Ward, who is also a city Councillor, who many believe expects the trustee to replace her should the council member run for the office of Mayor.

There is something fundamentally wrong with the behaviour of these two women, but Chair Amos pointed out that it was not against the code of conduct.

What the Chair failed to realize is that the letter of the law is important and relevant – it is however the spirit of the law that should prevail.

Of the 11 trustees on the Board of Education – four come from Burlington. Collard was the only one to vote against the closing of Bateman High school. Collard and Papin voted against the closing of Pearson.


From the left- trustees Papin, Reynolds, Ehl Harrison and Grebenc sat in on most of the Program Accommodation Review committee meetings as observers. There was no opportunity or occasion for them to make their views known at that point in the process.

The remaining seven members of the Board voted for the closing of both high schools. It is a little unsettling to realize that it was possible for trustees who do not represent the voters of Burlington to vote for the closing of high schools in Burlington even if the Burlington trustees had voted to keep them open.

There was not much in the way of a common cause between the four Burlington trustees. Three of the four bought into the Director’s recommendation to close the two high schools.

The sense that those trustees are keeping those seats warm while they battle for you is something that belongs in your Santa Clause and Easter Bunny box.

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Liberals take a swipe at PC leader Patrick Brown - Gazette reader takes a swipe at theLiberals

News 100 blueBy Staff

August 19th, 2017



Facts, opinions and political speeches – they are certainly not the same thing.

The Liberals have set up a media feature they call Facts Still Matter that they use to hammer almost everything Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown says.

So far the Conservatives have not come up with a way to counter the Liberal hammering.

The Gazette has not been successful in getting through to the Conservatives for comment and reaction.

In the most recent Facts Still Matter the Liberals maintain that;

patrick-brown smiling

Leader of the Progressive Conservative opposition Patrick Brown

Patrick Brown delivered a doozy of a speech to the Stratford Chamber of Commerce yesterday, littered with 19 false claims. This is a new record for a single speech, even for Brown!

Not only did Patrick Brown, in a very Trump-like manner, call our fact checks “alternative facts”, even though they are always credibly sourced, but he doubled down on his outright opposition to a $15 minimum wage in Ontario.

He then moved on to spread misinformation about healthcare, the economy, workplaces, and infrastructure just to name a few. If he wants to give speeches to Chambers of Commerce in Ontario, Patrick Brown needs to remember that Facts Still Matter in Ontario, and Ontarians deserve to hear it.

He Claimed: “[Ontario] is subsidized by other provinces…and no Liberal spin or alternative facts can hide that” and “No one wants to settle for a province that is a have-not Ontario”

Fact: He can use all the Trump lines he wants but that doesn’t change the truth. In 2016-17 Ontario paid $6.9 billion into the equalization program and only received $2.3 billion from it. In addition, according to the Mowat Centre, “Ontarians have consistently contributed more to the federal government in total tax revenue than they have received in federal spending in return.”

He Claimed: “Our credit rating is worse than Quebec”

Fact: This isn’t true. Moody’s and Fitch have the same rating and while S&P’s rating is higher for Quebec,

Ontario credit rating

The Brown statement does have some merit; Quebec,s credit rating is a touch higher than Ontario’s.


He Claimed: “You can see your economy sliding”

Fact: Ontario has led the G7 in economic growth for the past 3 years.

He claimed: “She’s giving free hydro to Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York.”

Fact: We’ve seen this one from Patrick Brown before. The last time the provincial Conservatives were in power, they spent $900 million importing electricity over two years just to keep the lights on. Given our position of strength, Ontario is a net exporter now, benefitting ratepayers to the tune of $230 million in 2015.
(Source: Independent Electricity System Operator)

He claimed: “The day after…they proceeded with 1100 more contracts.”

Fact: Wrong. Todd Smith, Patrick Brown’s very own PC energy critic, was on the Agenda with Steve Paikin on March 6th, 2017, admitting this was entirely inaccurate.
Here’s the exchange:

Steve Paikin: “But they’re not signing any new contracts. So the tweet says she signs the next round of bad energy contracts tomorrow is inaccurate, right?”

Todd Smith: “Yeah, Okay. I’ll say that’s inaccurate.”


Hydro towers - BurlingtonHe claimed: “You could see hydro rates spike by as much as 61 percent after the election.”

Fact: Wrong. The Fair Hydro Plan is already reducing electricity bills by 25 per cent on average for families, small businesses and farms. Lower-income Ontarians and those living in eligible rural and northern communities are receiving even greater reductions, as much as 40 to 50 per cent.

As part of this plan, rate increases will be held to the rate of inflation for four years.


He claimed: “And we’re seeing, we’re seeing hundreds of millions of dollars of [greenhouse] investment flee to Michigan and Ohio, because of hydro”

Fact: The greenhouse industry is actually expanding here in Ontario. Just this March, Greenhill Produce announced a new $100-million development in Lambton County that will create up to 300 new jobs. NatureFresh Farms is also building a $400-million distribution centre in Leamington. Both new investments build on the nearly 3,000 acres and 81,000 jobs already here. The Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers also says the industry has grown here by 150 acres a year.

He claimed: “What’s the point of having these [changing workplaces review] consultations if you already made up your mind?”

Fact: The all-party committee, which includes Conservative MPPs, is meeting next week to debate amendments.

He claimed: “I just came back from the municipal conference in Ottawa—the Association of Municipalities of Ontario—they talked about this huge infrastructure deficit”.

Fact: Whether it’s last week’s announcement that we are expanding Highway 26 in Collingwood, laying the first track for the Eglinton Crosstown in Toronto, or reaching a major milestone through the ground breaking of the Groves Memorial Community Hospital in Wellington County, we continue to make record infrastructure investments in communities across Ontario. Patrick – use this handy website to check your facts!

He claimed: “The Auditor General said we could be seeing cost overruns of 25 percent, because we don’t measure outcomes, we don’t measure performance.”

Fact: We know that AFP delivery costs less than the traditional way of delivering large, complex projects – in fact, the model has saved the province $6.6 billion! We know this because every year since 2013 we’ve had independent, 3rd party organizations review the performance of our projects. What have they found? 96% of our projects were completed on budget.

He claimed: “You might have not have heard this but they cut the amount of medical emergency positions by 50 recently…It means we’re going to have less physicians to the province of Ontario”.

Fact: Since 2003, the number of physicians practicing in the province has increased by over 34 per cent, which is more than 7,300 additional doctors practicing in our health system today.

(Source: Ministry of Health)

He claimed: “They fired 1700 nurses over the last year and a half”.

Fact: Since taking office in 2003, more than 28,949 nurses have begun working in Ontario, including 11,000 registered nurses. In fact, in 2016 the number of nurses employed in nursing increased for the twelfth consecutive year showing our clear, consistent commitment to improving health care in Ontario.

(Source: Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care)

Some of the Liberal responses are a little on the tepid side.

What wasn’t tepid by any definition was a comment from a Gazette reader who pointed out that:

Wynne Kathleen - looking guilty gas plant hearingLiberals telling provincial Conservative leader Patrick Brown that facts still matter?
Pot, I would like you to meet Kettle.

Email deletions, high level bureaucrats on charges for elections bribery and the Premier did not but “should have or ought to have known,” what her operatives were doing on her behalf.

Never mentioned Carbon Tax during election but introduced as perhaps the second largest tax grab in provincial history along with serious inflationary pressure down the road.

Green Energy costs Ontario more than any other jurisdiction in NA for electricity.

Sold the furniture to pay the rent, OPG. Now we own the 4th largest Coal burning source in NA.

Sweetheart union settlements a year before the contracts are due to buy labour peace and election support for 2018.

Cost of staying in a provincial park has increased nearly 100% in 10 years.

I could go on but I have to go to work so I can afford all these new Taxes, I mean Revenue tools.


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There is a new player in the provincial election next June who could change the direction of Ontario's growth.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

August 8th, 2017



It is less than a year away. In June of 2018 we will elect a provincial government.

The provincial Liberals have been in office since 2003 and are described by many as tired and no longer have that edge one needs to govern a province the size of Ontario.

All that raw power has to be transformed into electricity homes and office buildings can use. Trasnformers are not cheap - so Burlington Hydro has to borrow some money to pay for the transformer that will get placed along tremaine Road.

Katherine Wynne decided to sell part of Hydro to raise the money for needed infrastructure projects. Many thought she had made a serious mistake.

Hydro rates bother a lot of people and the selling of a significant part of Hydro One is seen as close to criminal by many.

The attention being paid to the upgrading of our infrastructure – roads, rails – and the building of hospitals has been admirable. Will all that be enough?

Wynne put immense pressure on the federal government to improve the Canada Pension Plan by creating an Ontario pension plan – the federal government caved in and improved the federal plan – something every Canadian can be grateful for.

The raising of the minimum wage to $15 an hour suggests the Wynne government hasn’t completely lost touch with what the province needs. The pressure from the private sector is immense – Loblaws is lobbying her fiercely.

patrick-brown smiling

Patrick Brown is going to have a Joe Clarke experience.

Keeping the provincial economy sound and maintaining the NAFTA agreement with an American president who wants to tear it up before he gets committed to either a mental health institution or a prison is not a small matter. Something well beyond the capacity of Patrick Brown.

When deciding who you want to run the government, being angry and wanting to get rid of what you have, requires a look at what the options are. The pickings aren’t all that inviting.

Andrea Horwath hasn’t excited anyone other than the limited NDP base and the support for her there isn’t exactly overwhelming. And there doesn’t appear to be a number two within the NDP ranks.

Patrick Brown struggles to define just what it is he wants to do – and seems to have an edition of his platform that is tailored for whichever part of the province he is in.

In Burlington it has been difficult to get a sense of what the Conservative candidate, Jane McKenna, has to say or to even get a look at her.

The Gazette has reached out to the Conservative’s in Burlington – they haven’t been returning calls.

Brown is still learning his way as the Conservative party leader – he should be aware that he isn’t going to hold that job for all that long.

Mulroney Catherine

When she was a speaker at the federal Conservative leadership convention earlier in the year it was evident what the Mulroney game plan was – Caroline was headed for the leadership o the provincial Tories.

The game changer is Brian Mulroney’s daughter Caroline, who has been nominated to run as the Conservative candidate in York–Simcoe, north of Toronto. She appears to have a home in Forest Hill, a very tony part of Toronto and a home in a township within the York Simcoe riding.

The team guiding the Caroline Mulroney nomination campaign are keeping her away from national media while they woo the locals. The sitting member for York Simcoe, is the longest serving female member of the provincial legislature and has thrown her support behind Mulroney.

Caroline Mulroney did not decide to enter provincial politics to sit as a back bencher at Queen’s Park. That is not the way the Mulroney’s do business

She will win the York – Simcoe seat and while she has zilch legislative experience the pressure on Brown to put her in his shadow Cabinet is something he will not be able to resist. Should he win the provincial election, which is a big assumption, the pressure to put her in his Cabinet will be even stronger.

The Mulroney’s are going to do to Patrick Brown what they did to Joe Clarke.

It will not take too long for Caroline Mulroney to outshine Patrick Brown and begin the move to ousting the poor man when there is a leadership convention.

Jane McKenna, who has been particularly adroit at figuring out where the power is in a room, will find herself warming up to Ms Mulroney as quickly as she possibly can.

Caroline Mulroney - arms crossed

She has a strong profile: Caroline Mulroney is a lawyer, has experience in the financial sector and the required philanthropic foundation.

Ms Mulroney is in this for the long term. Should she find herself on the Opposition benches the goal will be the same – to gain the leadership of the Conservative party in Ontario.

So what the public wants to do is look very carefully as Caroline Mulroney – is this the woman that is going to restore the Progressive Conservatives to power in Ontario?

Patrick Brown might, and this is a small might, defeat Kathryn Wynne. She is a formidable campaigner and she does not like to lose. She also believes that Ontario has done well by the Liberal government she has led.

These are all small matters – Catherine Mulroney is going to lead the Ontario Progressive Conservative party and will at some point defeat the Liberals.

Former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney and daughter Caroline arrive at the church for the state funeral for the late Jim Flaherty in Toronto on Wednesday, April 16, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney and daughter Caroline arrive at the church for the state funeral for the late Jim Flaherty.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Wynne might prevail and get back in but 2018 will be her last election and there is no one on the Liberal front bench that can take the leadership and defeat Ms Mulroney.

The only thing in the woman’s way is any stupid mistake she could make. Highly unlikely – her Father will be up to his ears in her campaign and he will call in every favour he has and then some.

An opportunity to create a Mulroney dynasty is too much for Brian Mulroney to take a pass on.

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Spoiler alert! Columnist Ray Rivers is on vacation.

Rivers 100x100By Staff

August 4, 2017


Rivers reading a newspaper Jan 3-15


Ray is taking what he feels is a much needed and well earned break to re-fresh and get some work done on his next book which has the working title of The Draft Dodger.

He has found a publisher interested in this most recent book.

He will return to these pages immediately after Labour Day.

Ray Rivers, shamelessly flogs his book every opportunity he gets.

Ray Rivers, shamelessly flogs his book every opportunity he gets.

Rivers published The End of September in 2012.

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Rivers pontificates on the fate of the federal New Democrats; likes the look of Charlie Angus

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

July 28, 2017



In a first-past-the-post parliamentary system only two political parties will ever predominate. That potentially limits the development of ideas and policies since the tendency is for the parties to become entrenched. We see this in spades south of the border where their famous time-honoured arcane system of checks and balances has devolved into little more than a battleground for partisan bickering over established positions.

That is where third parties come in – to generate new ideas and expand the discussion. Of course a proportional representative electoral system is natural habitat for third parties. But we’ve also seen the successful co-operation and contribution of third parties during times of minority government. In fact these were periods where some of our best legislation has been created.

Third parties, especially those with little hope of ever having to actually govern, can push the envelope of what is possible and make the unimaginable imaginable. That is how we got universal national health care. But once a mainstream party adopts a good out-of-the-box idea it gets the credit and power, and the third party continues to linger in the shadows. That is the story of Canada’s NDP. Always a bridesmaid and never a bride.


Jack Layton took Quebec with his Orange Wave but died before he got a chance to really wide that wave.

Jack Layton tried to change that scenario. Coming up to the 2011 election, Layton sold his soul to the Quebec separatists, all but promising them political sovereignty. And it worked. Disillusioned with the Bloc Quebecois and not inclined to support Harper or Ignatieff, voters in that province went Orange (NDP) in droves, and almost as a protest vote. For the first time in their 50 year history – and beyond their wildest dreams – the New Democrats got into the game as Canada’s official opposition.

Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair stands in the House of Commons during Question Period on Parliament Hill in Ottawa Wednesday December 12, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand

Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair one of the best Opposition speakers the House has seen in some time. He reminded one of the great John George Diefenbaker with a beard instead of jowls.

Thomas Mulcair, replacing Layton, chose his own version of the ‘Third Way’, the political philosophy that led to Tony Blair’s string of victories in the UK. There is no right or left only the correct, the Third Way. So while he may have planned to govern from the left, he campaigned from the middle – campaigning as if he were Stephen Harper light. And he lost in a political arena filled with voters wanting a change from the previous decade of ho-hum, nasty and back-from-the-past.

So at the first gathering of the faithful, the NDP rank and file showed Mulcair the door as the party once again sought to discover its old activist self. Fresh from the pen, the elite radical left tossed the Leap Manifesto and its visions for a carbon-free Canada onto the table, as a starting point. The NDP had come home to the fringe after its brief sojourn in the big leagues.

So there are four candidates in a race even more subdued than the Tories just ran. There is less oxygen in the room now when they meet. Already a couple of potential candidates have dropped out, some have been disqualified by the onerous rules, and a whole raft of potential candidates are sitting it out. The truth is Justin Trudeau has stolen their traditional place as Canada’s left-of centre party, at least for now, and the NDP needs to go back to the drawing board… and maybe change their name.

The NDP was an experiment from the beginning, a 60’s merger between a populist agrarian-based socialist party, the CCF, and a large labour movement, the Canadian Labour Congress. After all, this kind of marriage had worked in other Commonwealth nations, Britain in particular, propelling a workers’ party into power. But Canada is a different political animal.

Charlie angus

Charlie Angus – As solid a Socialist as you will find in this country. Can he win the NDP leadership and then do something with the party?

Popular northern Ontario MP Charlie Angus is the person to beat as they move towards the October vote. But as we saw with the recent Conservative leadership contest nothing is a given, especially when the NDP, like the other two main parties in their own leadership races, are using a preferential ballot. But whoever wins this contest will have an uphill climb to re-invent the NDP if it is to remain relevant as a political force.

Among other matters the party needs to consider its relationship with labour. The long-standing linkage with labour unions has likely hurt the party as much as it has ever helped, particularly as Canada continues to de-unionize. And in recent times so much of its traditional labour support has drifted to the Liberals, as unions seek to increase their influence with a sympathetic governing party.

Of course the NDP have formed sub-national governments across the country, and are currently in charge in BC and Alberta. There is a strong political following in BC, though the Greens are biting at their feet. And Alberta is a work in progress, with enough promise to force the parties on the right into a marriage of convenience. These governing experiences serve to perpetually push the national third party to become more centrist and broaden its appeal.

Yet these broadening efforts have also cost the NDP support. Others, like the Greens have sprung up with single issue campaigns which typically erode NDP support as they more effectively focus on an issue. And perhaps there is a better future jointly for both of those parties on the left.


Rachel Notley – strong enough as the Premier of Alberta to force the Conservative interests in the province to join forces to beat her. Alberta’s loss if they do.

Or the NDP might consider jumping into bed with the Liberals who had, after all, stolen much of their traditional thunder in the last election. But there must also be resentment and disappointment with Mr. Trudeau’s betrayal of those dippers who voted Red as the best hope ever of achieving electoral reform, and converting their popular vote into its equivalence in seats in the national assembly.

Still, even if the New Democrats never make government, they need to take heart that they have and do make a difference. As indeed have all the other third parties who have been elected to Parliament, be they Reform, Social Credit/Creditists, Greens, or even the problematic Bloc Québécois. And for that reason alone this leadership contest should be important to all of us.

rivers-on-guitarRay Rivers writes weekly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was a candidate for provincial office in Burlington in 1995.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.     Tweet @rayzrivers

Background links:

NDP –   Leadership –   BC NDP –   NDP Historical Support

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Rivers: aboriginal self-governance, at best, approximates the authority given to municipalities. First Nation describes what will never be more than a notional nation.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

July 21, 2017



Canada’s aboriginal leaders have once again demonstrated how they sometimes don’t do themselves any favours. Last week, having been invited to attend the Council of the Federation where the provincial and territorial leaders meet biannually to discuss national issues – they staged a perfect no-show. Their boycott was put down to their offence at not being given a voice at the ‘Table’ equivalent to that of the premiers.

Unlike the premiers, charged with managing Canada’s sub-national governments, aboriginal self-governance, at best, approximates the authority given to municipalities. So it is unfortunate and dysfunctional when indigenous leaders take their adopted First Nations misnomer to heart. In a united Canada, these First Nations, comprising a million and half people, about 4% of our population and widely dispersed throughout the country, will never be more than a notional nation, as important as they were to our past and should be to our future.

Rivers - treatiesFirst Nations’ authority comes from a patchwork of treaties signed with the Crown over a century ago and the Indian Act, an even more inappropriate misnomer. Although there are some very successful reserves operating, as for example Walpole Island and our neighbours in the Six Nations, many are poorly managed and dependent on federal largesse for their survival, especially those in remote northern locations.

Back in 1969 Pierre Trudeau tabled a white paper proposing to repeal the Indian Act and scrap all of the historic treaties. He would have given the reserves to the individual band members and closed down the Department of Indian Affairs realigning health care, education and welfare to the appropriate provincial authorities. His proposal, a response to the failure of aboriginal policy and the Indian Act over the previous century was widely opposed by the aboriginal community itself, and he dropped the idea.

Canada’s earliest parliamentarians considered the native population uncivilized. The real purpose, arguably, of the Indian Act, which received royal ascent sometime between Louis Riel’s rebellions in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, was to civilize them. It was racist and sexist and designed to promote assimilation of the native population, though officially its purpose was to oversee and administer the welfare of the 600 or so native tribes and bands, and attending to the requirements of the treaties they signed with the Crown.

The Fathers of Confederation envisioned a future where aboriginals would eventually be integrated into mainstream Canadian society, they called it enfranchisement. That would eventually negate the need for an Indian Act – once there are no longer any ‘Status Indians’ -those covered by the Act. Bribes were offered for band members to relinquish their status. Anyone attending a post-secondary institution, serving in the military, joining the priesthood or just wanting to have the right to vote had to surrender their Indian status.

Rivers status cardWomen who married off the reserve would lose status, but men didn’t. And then some rocket scientist figured that snatching children from their parents and placing them miles away in ‘residential schools’ was the ultimate approach to achieve assimilation – though admittedly no one could have imagined the sexual and other physical abuse the children would be exposed to in schools operated by religious orders.

Canada’s First Nations’ development has not been a happy story. We hear all too often about how they generally experience lower income levels, poorer health, higher incarceration rates and shorter life expectancies. We cringe when hearing the horror stories of life at Attawapiskat and Davis Inlet. We find it hard to fathom this whole ugly matter of the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls (MMIWG), currently the subject of a national inquiry.

There is a long laundry list of recommendations coming out of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on the residential school program, though interestingly none of the recommendations effectively deal with what inspired that program in the first place, the Indian Act. The Commission referenced the need to pay attention, if not adopt, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Canada was one of only four or five nations which voted against it and we had little choice given the blatant conflict with our current policies under the Indian Act.

Over the years, subsequent governments, including that of Stephan Harper have attempted to make the Act less sexist and more focused on self-help and self-government. But the Indian Act remained a source of discrimination between those with status, primarily those living on reserves and eligible for various federal subsidies, and those without. In a landmark decision last year the Supreme Court struck down that discrimination, now ensuing that all First Nations, Inuit and Metis are subject to the Indian Act.

Rivers - indigenous-games

Indigenous games – 2017

This decision will be expensive for the government to implement unless we re-invent how we manage our relationship with Canada’s first inhabitants. And it does provide both the indigenous community and the rest of us with a unique opportunity to reset how we live with each other. Perhaps our current PM would benefit from a review of his father’s old White Paper. And what better time to initiate such a dialogue, as we congratulate our indigenous athletes for their participation in the half-century old North America Indigenous games held in Toronto this year.

Rivers looking to his leftRay Rivers writes weekly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was a candidate for provincial office in Burlington in 1995.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.     Tweet @rayzrivers

Background links:

First Nations –   More First Nations –  Canada Day Protests

Premiers’ Meeting –   Truth and Reconciliation –   Indian Act

Status for All –   Beyond Indian Act –   Trudeau’s Proposal

Missing and Murdered –   Status Indians

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