Damoff gives a short rip snorting speech on decorum in the House of Commons.

News 100 redBy Staff

June 29th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The House of Commons rose for the summer last week.  It is out to the BBQ circuit for most of them.

Damoff Pan in the house

Oakville Burlington North MP Pam Damoff lets it rip in the House of Commons.

When Pam Damoff the Member of Parliament for Oakville Burlington North, meets with her constituents during the summer, they might want to know a bit more about what she has done on their behalf.

One of the things she did was give a very short but rip snorting speech about decorum in the House of Commons.

Click to her what she had to say – You go girl!

Damoff will be reading from Motorcycles and Sweetgrass, a novel by Drew Hayden Taylor that weaves a story of magic, the bonds of family and a mysterious stranger that appears one day in a sleepy Anishnawbe community.  July 12  from 7:00 – 8:30pm at Tansley Woods Library in Burlington.

 

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Hamilton is said to be the most expensive date night city you will encounter - where does Burlington fall on that list?

News 100 yellowBy Staff

June 28th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

We didn’t see this one coming.

A date in Hamilton is said to be the most expensive you will encounter – even higher than Toronto.

The research for this dubious WORD was done by EliteSingles, a national organization in the relationship business.

Hearts - red and blackThey totaled up the cost of a typical date night in Canada – and found that Hamilton is Canada’s most expensive big city for a romantic night out, with Toronto coming in second place! Those in Ottawa get off lightly – a date night in the city is below the average cost.

The full study is on their web site – including a rundown of date night costs in 10 of Canada’s biggest cities, and a global dating comparison that shows the cost of dating in 25 cities around the world.

They have highlighted the price differences in two interactive, shareable maps that you can find on our site.

If the love of your life is in Hamilton – be ready to spend more than your Canadian Tire money.

Given that just about everything in Burlington costs more than in Hamilton – especially when it come to gasoline prices – Oakville might be an option.

The full scoop is HERE

 

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High school parents failed to do what needed to be done - give the school board trustees crystal clear instructions - do not close any of the schools.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

June 26th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Everyone is blaming the eleven trustees for the decision they made to close two of Burlington’s seven high schools.

Trustees - fill board +

The trustees needed a clear signal from the parents – they didn’t get one.

All they did was their job. The signals they got from parents were pure self-interest. Central fought like crazy to get their name off the close list. They did that by organizing and putting facts on the table.

Lester B. Pearson put very solid facts on the table – they had the best of the arguments to not lose their school.

School closing banner

The Board staff did everything they could to tell parents that changes were in the wind.

The Bateman parents at first paid no attention whatsoever about the school closing issue – they saw themselves as safe and did nothing.

When they realized they weren’t safe at all – that they were at serious risk they had to scramble to get their story out. It was a very solid story – few people outside Bateman knew how successful a school Bateman really is. The closing of that school is going to be very disruptive for families that have had more than their share of disruption.

The trustees were faced with a situation where the Board made a recommendation, then changed that recommendation and then proceeded to hold several meetings that left few parents happy with the way things were going.

Bateman - crowd scene with Bull

It was too little too late – Bateman parents who deserved better treatment got caught up in a turf war they didn’t see coming. Many of the students at the school will suffer because of their individual circumstances. It didn’t need to happen this way.

What was clear during the Program Accommodation Review (PAR) process was that no one really wanted to see a school closed. It took a bit of time for the PAR committee to coalesce as a group and when they did it was evident that they had within them the capacity to come up with some innovative ideas. They needed more time.

One Gazette commentator pointed out that the city spent more time on deciding what to do with the Freeman Station than the school board allowed for the parents to have a meaningful input on the school closing decision.

When city hall made the wrong decision citizens moved in and got it right – on our sesquicentennial next Saturday you will be able to tour a really well preserved Freeman train station that served this city well. Citizens inevitably make the right decision – they just need some leadership.

The PAR committee learned, much to their surprise, that what they understood innovation to mean was not what the parents meant. What we saw was the size of the divide between a protected part of the economy (school board staff) and the private sector that has to earn its bread every day.

Option 7 - short

Option # 7 don’t close any of the high schools.

Option 19 short

Option 19 – the Staff recommendation,

Option 28 - shortWhat turned out not to be possible for the PAR committee to do was to settle on just the one recommendation and that was to not close any schools and to change some of the school boundaries.

It was there for them to choose – #7.

But instead the different communities chose to protect their own turf and do whatever they could to save their school.

Imagine – just imagine if the PAR had settled on the one option – # 7 and then said to the trustees – don’t you dare close any schools until this issue has been thoroughly reviewed and the community agrees on what is best for the whole community.

Dine lbp

Delegations argued their individual school case and in doing so lost an opportunity to put a collective case in front of the trustees and direct them to listen to the parents.

And imagine if every one of the 50+ delegations had said the same thing – don’t you dare close any of these schools.  Direct the staff to do a better job of coming up with a better solution.

Had the PAR committee and the delegations done what they could have done – do you think the trustees would have voted the way they did?

And had the community pulled together the way they could have we would not have the rancour and really bad feelings between the parents at one school feeling as aggrieved as they have a right to feel.

The matter of those 1800 empty seats is a concern – the world is not going to come to an end if many of those seats remain empty for a while. The 1800 number isn’t apparently the real number – it is somewhat less but it is an issue that needs serious attention.

The trustees had little choice – they didn’t fail – the parents failed. What the trustees got was a set of very mixed messages – close theirs but don’t close mine. Some argue that the Board of Education set things up so just this would happen. I don’t believe they did – but if they did – did we have to follow that direction?

All you had to do was say No! Every one of you – just say No!  That didn’t happen and the trustees went to the safest corner they could find – the wishes of the staff.  One Burlington trustee who campaigned on no school closures went along with her colleagues and voted to let Bateman high school close.

The upside, and it is small, is that trustees get chosen again in just over a year and maybe someone will find a way to get something on the agenda that takes a second look at the decision made June 7th, 2017.

The properties are not going to be sold to developers for years – if they are sold at all. Right now the plan is to close them and that is a decision we have to live with because we let it happen.

Those who buy into the belief that Burlington is the best mid-sized city in the country are probably the same people who claim downtown Burlington is vibrant.

We are really better people than this.

Work together, work for each other and make the place the city that has more than a wonderful waterfront and a magnificent escarpment going for it.

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Citizen agrees that they are being asked to do to much to quickly - wants the city to slow it down and get it right.

opinionandcommentBy Stephen White

June 21st, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

There are far too many initiatives in play, and far too little time to fairly and effectively read, review, understand and absorb the cumulative impact that all of these development proposals will have upon the City.

This process is not being effectively managed and the Mayor and Council need to wake up to this reality.

A closer look at the proposed 2012 city budget called for some thinking and some animated discussion at the Burlington Artr Centre session last week.

Citizens do show up for public meetings and are very willing to participate – but the number of meetings being held now is more than most can manage,

Citizens are attending meeting after meeting trying to get a grasp on what is going on. These meetings make a mockery of public participation because they assume the average citizen:

1) has had the time to review materials;

2) is able to attend public meetings and forums despite other personal and business commitments;

3) has reviewed content online; and

4) has had sufficient time to ask and receive informative answers to poignant questions.

Add to this separate meetings and discussions around smaller planning projects, school closures, etc. and it is a lot to absorb.

We are all being held hostage because of Kathleen Wynne’s intensification mandate.

This sad, sorry, pitiful government has one foot in the grave and despite the Gazette’s optimism it is not a certainty that their re-election is assured.

BC election

Citizens are replacing their governments when they are unhappy – Burlington will have its next municipal election in 2018.

The Liberals should take a long, hard look at recent results in B.C. and Nova Scotia if they want confirmation of that.

Add to that growing public dissatisfaction with the Trudeau government, and recent policy initiatives that will prove incredibly costly and problematic to implement (e.g. a 32% increase in the minimum wage by January 2019) and you have an election minefield ready to explode.

At a minimum the timeline for review and implementation of these planning initiatives should be extended by a year to eighteen months.

Let’s agree to take the time and do it properly and fairly rather than subscribe to an artificially imposed timeline.

White StephenStephen White is a Certified Management and Executive Coach and founder of Competitive Edge Coaching based in Burlington, Ontario. Stephen is a member of the Burlington Chamber of Commerce and also serves on the Chamber’s Political Action Committee.

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Rivers casts a critical eye on the Canadian military role in Ukraine - Part2

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

June 16, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

Ray Rivers and his wife Jean spent a few weeks in Ukraine where they taught English as volunteers in a not for profit school and visited a Canadian army base while there,  This is part 2 of that adventure

Donald Trump, in his short time in office has at least one accomplishment under his belt. He has shamed NATO participants into boosting their defence spending. The Canadian government has just announced a 70% increase in the defence budget over the next ten years. But even that will only get us to 1.4%, still well below the 2% NATO target.

ice breaker

The Canadian ice breaker Sir Wilfred Laurier

The critics of enhanced defence spending will point out that the only nation which ever invaded Canada is now our closest ally, protecting us under its nuclear umbrella, and all the while peacefully sharing this country’s only land border. But climate change is opening up the vast arctic to development potential, and across the divide lies an expansionist Russia. And while there is no truth to the rumour that Vladimir Putin plans to invade Santa’s workshop in the North Pole and put St. Nicholas in charge, a rapidly militarizing Russia with a despotic leader in command does pose a concern.

After all, it wasn’t that long ago that Ukrainians believed they were safe in friendship with their former occupier and Soviet partner. In fact, that peace loving nation wanted nothing more than to transform its proverbial cold war swords into plowshares. It surrendered the third largest nuclear arsenal for a piece of paper signed by the US, UK and Russia, promising Ukrainian territorial integrity. And look at how well that worked out for them.

I visited a former Soviet base in north-western Ukraine which had been virtually boarded-up until they were attacked and the war started in 2014. Today 200 Canadian and an equivalent number of American troops, are helping Ukrainians reacquaint themselves with the lost art of war, including field medicine, strategy, tactics and weapons. It was a slow Saturday afternoon when I was driven to the base but I did get to observe a dozen or so snipers firing their 50’s era soviet Dragunov rifles – still a highly rated weapon despite its age. Having been a good shot in my youth, I would have liked someone to invite me to fire a round – but shooting is serious business for these professional killers.

Training is helpful but what Ukraine really needs are modern defensive weapons and weapon systems to stem the toll in human life inflicted on a daily basis by Russia and its proxies. After three years of aggression in the east, not a single NATO partner, including Canada, has offered up much more than helmets and night goggles. On the other hand this country seems to have no difficulty sending advanced armoured equipment to places like Saudi Arabia, a nation with a troubling record of human rights violations.

swords into

Turning swords into plowshares – a statute that sits outside the United Nations building in New York city.

And the plowshares thing – how has that worked out? Imagine if the Canadian government had nationalized all of our farm land 70 years ago and then suddenly tried to privatize it back again. Picture how that would happen in a world without real estate agents, registry offices or estate lawyers, and a bureaucracy with virtually no experience in land transfer. It is a miracle that land reform wasn’t total chaos instead of just a slow agonizing process. But today, the collectives are gone and 40% of all farmland is in private hands, including some owned by foreign corporations. And those private farms now produce 70% of the nation’s agricultural output.

One of the teachers at the school I was teaching at had studied economics in the old days – Karl Marx, of course – and complained that life had really been better under communism – at least people had jobs. But then she couldn’t explain why the Soviet Union had collapsed, nor could she offer a suggested pathway to improving the current economy. And going back to the USSR is not an option, even if the other Lennon’s fellow Beatle thought it made a good song.

Curiously I have yet to encounter someone who has anything good to say about the country’s president, Mr. Poroshenko. They complain about him being one of the well-heeled oligarchs, with money invested overseas, and question whether he has really closed down his Russian chocolate factories as he had promised to do.

Yet to this observer he seems to have delivered a good amount in his three years as president – halting and reversing the advance of the Russians/separatists in the south east of the country, restoring the economic balance in the economy, delivering an association agreement and a visa-free travel arrangement with the EU, and starting the process of routing-out corruption.

But perhaps that’s part of the problem. Ukrainians are too critical, expect too much of their leaders, and perhaps not enough of themselves. Some dislike having lost the security of life in the old socialist world and would turn the page back if they could. And others are perhaps uncertain or insecure about plunging into the risky world of market-oriented capitalism, even after a quarter century of so-called freedom. But everyone believes that corruption is at he heart of the country’s economic problems. And no doubt the oligarchs, with their vast wealth and positions of power, have much to answer for.

Члены Ассоциации защиты прав вкладчиков провели пикетирование Национального банка Украины с требованием возвращения депозитов. По словам собравшихся, они приурочили пикет ко дню рождения Главы Национального банка Сергея Арбузова. Экспертно-аналитический совет по вопросам участия государства в капитализации банков при Кабинете Министров решил начать выплаты вкладчикам Родовид Банка через Государственный Ощадный банк в апреле. Об этом говорится в сообщении Национального банка со ссылкой на заместителя главы НБУ Игоря Соркина. 17 марта состоялось заседание экспертно-аналитического совета по вопросам участия государства в капитализации банков, на котором было принято решение об осуществлении выплат средств вкладчикам Родовид Банка через один из государственных банков - Ощадбанк. НБУ обратился к банкам с требованием оказать Ощадбанку соответствующую поддержку во время выплаты средств вкладчикам Родовид Банка через их банкоматы и сеть. Кроме того, было принято решение, что выплаты средств начнутся в апреле текущего года после согласования Нацбанком и правительством

Significant disparity in the distribution of wealth in Ukraine.

From all appearances the big cities with their modern supermarkets, trendy shops, restaurants and bars, filled with well dressed, with-it, Ukrainians are just like those in the rest of Europe. Though underneath that modern facade lies an economy, still bound in the past, struggling to survive and hoping to take off into the future. And Ukraine has much to offer, particularly for tourists. It is one of the best bargain destinations anywhere given its current exchange rate. I treated nine people to dinner and drinks in one of the best Georgian restaurants here for a little over $100 the other night.

But they have got to get the tourists to come here in the first place. And that would include finishing that pointless war in the east, regardless that there are virtually no signs of conflict anywhere in the rest of the county. And that would also entail more effort to make tourists feel at home in their own language or at least one they feel comfortable using – one of the reasons I’m here teaching English.

In that vein, Ukrainians have mulled the possibility of dropping the difficult (for us) Cyrillic alphabet in favour of the Latin script, like the one we use. Poland did this years ago, and former Soviet republics Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are now making that change. Although Latin lettering can already be seen on some Ukrainian street signs, such a move towards complete replacement would threaten Russian cultural dominance even further. And that might be the best reason of all.

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:

Part 1

Military Spending –   Ukraine Military Mission

Trudeau Visting Ukraine Base –   Dragonuv Sniper

Land Reform Issues –   Language Matters –   More Language

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Provincial government adjourns for the summer - back in September - lots of politicking ahead of us - this time next year we will have decided if we want the Liberals back in office.

News 100 redBy Staff

June 15th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The Ontario Legislature has adjourned until September 11, 2017.

Burlington MPP Eleanor McMahon set out what the government has done and the direction they expect to go during the balance of their term.

McMahon with senior couple

McMahon talking to seniors during her annual Tea.

McMahon is the Minister of Tourism Culture and Sport and a member of the Treasury Board – she is part of that group that determines policy and the direction the government wants to go in – they measure the risks that are both financial and political.

Governments do what they believe is best for the public that elected and what they feel they have to do to stay in power – it is always a very delicate balance.

In her report to Burlington citizens McMahon said:

McMahon at Up Creek - side view - smile

McMahon at a community event just after the August 2014 flood. she was instrumental in getting provincial funds into the hands of those whose homes were seriously flooded.

Ontario is creating opportunity and security for the people of Burlington and across the province through a series of comprehensive measures introduced during the spring legislative sitting. These measures support good jobs, fair workplaces and better wages, prepare our workforce for the new innovation economy and make life more affordable for workers, students, seniors and families.

Ontario’s economy is in a relatively strong position. However, many people are not feeling that growth in their everyday lives. To help more Burlington residents get ahead and stay ahead in a changing economy, the government has announced actions that will make a positive difference in people’s lives. These are possible because Ontario has balanced the budget. These actions include:

• Raising the minimum wage and creating more security for employees through landmark changes to employment and labour laws

• Making prescription medications free for everyone 24 years of age and younger through OHIP+: Children and Youth Pharmacare — the biggest expansion of universal Medicare in Ontario in a generation

• Launching a pilot project to assess whether a basic income can better support workers and improve health and education outcomes for people on low incomes

• Making it more affordable to buy or rent a home, expanding rent control and bringing stability to the real estate market through Ontario’s Fair Housing Plan

• Lowering electricity bills by 25 per cent, on average, for all residential customers and as many as half a million small businesses and farms

• Providing access to affordable, quality licensed child care for 100,000 more children, including 24,000 in 2017–18

• Making it easier for Ontario businesses to grow and create more jobs by cutting red tape and reducing regulatory burdens

• Creating tomorrow’s jobs today, and attracting talent and investment by funding transformative technologies such as artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles and 5G (fifth-generation) wireless networks

• Continuing to stand up for Ontario workers and businesses by actively defending the province’s trade and investment interests with U.S. legislators and businesses.

mcmahon-talking-bbq

Burlington MPP Eleanor|McMahon with a constituent.

“Actions introduced this legislative sitting are part of our plan to create jobs, grow our economy and help people in their everyday lives” said McMahon

The province goes to the polls on June 7th, 2018 when the government will have to defend this record which includes selling off a significant part of Hydro One and cutting hydro rates by 25% knowing that those rates are going to have to rise – but not until after the provincial election.

The provincial government finally eliminated its deficit, but its debt is rising to new heights.

Ontario net debt

The 2008 recession forced the province to borrow – that borrowing has slowed down – but they are now selling off highly valued assets – Hydro One – to raise funds.

The deficit is the financial shortfall during any one fiscal year – we spent more money on providing services and paying interest on the debt than was brought in as tax revenue

The debt is the money we borrowed when there was a deficit and we didn’t have the money to pay our bills.
One of the things Ontario did was sell a portion of Hydro One to the public. That raised a tonne of money which the province is using to pay for large infrastructure projects that we would normally have had to borrow money to pay for,

The province’s first balanced budget in a decade gets rid of a deficit that had at one point reached about $20 billion, and the government is projecting that balance will continue through to 2020.

The debt, however, is another matter. It is projected to be $312 billion this year, or roughly $22,000 for every Ontarian. It is projected to grow to $336 billion in 2019-2020.

The province’s net debt has tripled since the provincial Liberals came to power. In the last budget presented by Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives before the 2003 election, the debt was about $110 billion.

The overall size of the budget, meanwhile, has roughly doubled – from $71 billion in 2003 to $141 billion this year – the government is spending more money which is fine just as long as tax revenue covers all the spending – and that the tax rate is something the voters will live with.

Interest on debt is the fourth largest spending area, at $11.6 billion. It is also projected to be the fastest-growing spending area, at an average 3.6 per cent a year from 2015 to 2020, compared to an annual 3.3-per-cent increase in health and 2.8 per cent in education.

Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown maintains : “There is no plan in the Liberal budget to get the debt under control.”

Patrick Brown Looking sideways

Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown maintains : “There is no plan in the Liberal budget to get the debt under control.”

“We are spending more servicing the debt each year than we’re spending on all transit and provincial highways, more than we’re spending on the Ministry of Children and Youth Services…more than on care for seniors, more than investments in our post-secondary education, more than supporting northern communities,” he said.

Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa said debt is in fact being managed.  “A first step to managing debt is coming to balance,” he said.

Combined debt fed + prov

We have gotten into a borrowing habit – is this the way to run an economy? There are different views and different political philosophies. It is complex – but we are paying the interest on this debt.

“The debt-to-GDP ratio is improving”, Sousa said, “and the percentage of the budget that goes toward servicing the debt is considerably smaller than it has been in years.

“We’ve locked in those rates over long periods of time to minimize volatility and risk,” he said.

horvath-brown.jpg.size.custom.crop.1086x683

The choices if you don’t like the Liberal government: NDP leader Andrea Horvath and Progressive Conservative leader of the opposition Patrick Brown.

The net-debt-to-GDP ratio is down to about 37.5 per cent from a high of roughly 40 per cent in recent years, but the government hopes to wrestle it down to pre-recession levels of 27 per cent by 2029-30. In the interim, the government has set a target of reducing that number to 35 per cent by 2023-24.

That’s the big picture – you get to decide if you can continue to live with it or if you want to get somebody else in the legislature and see if they can do a better job.  They do work for you – never let them forget that.

 

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Councillor Craven is challenged to a public debate with two residents who don't share his view of where growth in Aldershot should be going.

News 100 greenBy Staff

June 15th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

This should be interesting.

Tom Muir and Greg Woodruff, both Aldershot residents want to publicly debate Rick Craven the city Councillor for Ward 1.

Muir has been a thorn in Craven’s side since he first got elected to office. Woodruff, who ran for the office of Regional Chair in 2010, is no less determined than Muir to make his point – just not as prolific.

There is a potential development on Plains Road on the property that currently is home to a bingo hall and a Home hardware.

Plains Road - Bingo Hall

Location of the property on Plains Road that a developer has expressed an interest in developing.

A developer, National Homes, hasn’t filed anything with the city – so it is just talk at this point but then that is the way things work in some wards.

A developer will get cozy with the ward Councillor and learn as much as he can from the politician. Developers don’t want to go to the Planning department without some assurance that they are going to get more than a fair hearing.

When the developer has done as much as they can to create the conditions they need – they then make a formal application and the development is now in the hands of the professional planners employed by the city.

The Planning department follows all the procedures and the protocols that are in place and in the fullness of time they prepare a report on the merits of a development project that goes to city council where it is debated.

Craven at King Road

Ward 1 Councillor Rick Craven is proud of the improvements that have been made along Plains Road – some of his residents don’t share his views.

Councillor Craven made mention of the development in the Newsletter he publishes and sends out to anyone who asks to have their name on the newsletter list. That’s where Muir and Woodruff became aware of the development – and they swung into gear.

When Muir first got wind of the developers thinking he sent the following to Councillor Craven:

Rick,

This notice of intended redevelopment of this large plaza personifies the issues that people have about what’s happening in Aldershot, and has been happening for some time now.

The wholesale replacement of commercial with what is basically residential, with token retail, makes a mockery of the mixed use, work, shop, play, walk, enjoy, idea.

My Ward Craven PRVV

Councillor Craven refers to the Plains Road Village Vision and believes it has resulted in a different and better community- he has a number of constituents who don’ share his vision.

But nobody at City Hall, including you, seems to listen and all we hear are excuses – like we need to get rid of all the commercial we have, to get more population, so we can somehow get commercial back at some time in the future. This is a joke?

This will never happen, as there will be no place to build meaningful commercial. You heard all the people comments the other night telling you this. What response we got from you guys was; well this plan goes to 2040, so wait and see.

My wife and I have frequented the Home Hardware, Dollar Store (previously Shoppers), the restaurants there, for a long time, and years ago what was a grocery store where the Bingo is. This plaza is one of the few places we find things we need and will walk to. We were very happy to have Home Hardware down here. We can’t walk to the Home Hardware in Waterdown.

All that is in your description of intentions for this site is tear down residential – town homes and mid-rise condos, and of course the token retail. There seems to be nothing anything like the present commercial in this intention statement.

You will recall we had a Canadian Tire, which suffered the same fate. The token retail there is significantly empty and does not offer a lot to replace what was there in services. We can’t walk to Burlington Mall or to Clappisons Corner.

I need to remind you about the Drewloe development replacing the large commercial – grocery store, department store, bank, liquor store, small retail – and the controversy of the bylaw change escaping attention still irks people. No place to walk to the replaces this commercial.

The retail there still has a lot of empty. The Busy Bee from the Bell Motel, Foo Ho, parcel tear down moved in but there was already one across the street next to Hauser/Tim Horton.

The 24 hour fitness gym that moved in is across the street from The Fitness Firm, where you go. That building is also in waiting for a tear down.

I can see from the planning meeting the other night that this is just going to accelerate, sweeping everything away, and there will be no large enough parcels left to build anything commercially significant to replace what we lose. And given the spectacular rise in home prices, this residential conversion is developer irresistible, and I don’t see much resistance from city planning or you.

This is exactly what is terribly wrong with what is being done. The walk, transit, bike plan accompanying this is a farce and doesn’t fit with the reality, which like was also said the other night, it’s all going to be about cars and no place to park

Plains Road - no longer just the highway to Hamilton but now a Main Street in a part of the city with an identity of its own

Plains Road – no longer just the highway to Hamilton but now a Main Street in a part of the city with an identity of its own

The south side of Plains Rd meeting completely ignored a mention of the meeting on the same subject a couple of years ago You will recall my complaint then about rampant speculation going on then, that wasn’t even mentioned to the public when they were asked what they wanted, but all I got was a brush off.

At the recent meeting, the planning manager in attendance didn’t seem to know what was going on in this respect of land assembly. Does she really not know what’s going on?

And there was no mention at all of what people had said they wanted, and issues raised, at the meeting 2 years ago. What a waste of their time and my time.

I won’t go on further, as I find it very disturbing, and I’m starting to wonder more and more why I bother because I don’t see from my engagement over many years that city hall gives it attention in a respectful manner. I have been at several meetings where the staff in attendance look, first bored, then frustrated with questions and points, and then annoyed.

I really can’t blame them the way the reality is and it’s their job.

I can agree with more residential development, where it fits (three ten story building on Solid Gold does not fit with neighborhood right to the North), but the speculation and wholesale conversion and tear down of commercial to further this is too much.

Greg Woodruff adds to the discussion with:

I agree with this all.

Staff policies are de-commercializing Aldershot. Staff don’t care or want commercially viable stores, because the parking and space requirements of real commercial means less people on a lot.

Greg Woodruff

Greg Woodruff

They have turned the place where we live into a math problem and the only problem is the human bugs that don’t quite act as they want.

From 5 years ago Aldershot has:
1) Less trees than ever
2) Less stores than ever
3) More traffic congestion than ever

If you think applying the same policies for the next 5 years reverses this I’d say you lack the ability to perceive reality.

Yes eventually you will get a handful more bikers and walkers, but this will be offset 25 to 1 with people who now have to drive for the basic commodities of living

Reversing this is easy: Put in the official plan the ground floor of any building must be all commercial, commercially vented, transport truck access and 1 square foot of parking for every 1 square foot of retail space.
Yes 10% or 15% less people will live in that building, but something will be around them.

If you think density alone makes a great place there are several shanty slums around the world with great densities you can move to.

Craven responds with:

Greg and Tom,
Thank you for your input.

Ward 1 Councillor Rick Craven digging out a business card for provincial Liberal leadership hopeful Sandra Pupatello.

Ward 1 Councillor Rick Craven digging out a business card for provincial Liberal leadership hopeful Sandra Pupatello. Craven at the time was considering a run for the provincial seat.

I will not engage in an online debate with you since both of you seem to have more time than I do – and since the City has not received a formal redevelopment application yet.

Having said that – you should know that I personally met with the owner of the hardware store yesterday to discuss his situation. We all want to keep the hardware store if possible.

Otherwise, I find both your comments to be overly negative and lacking in long term perspective and vision.
Thanks again for writing.

Muir isn’t prepared to let the member of council for the ward off quite that easily – replies with: (Muir tends to write long – brevity is not his strength).

We all have the same 24 hour days and 7 day weeks.

I have so much experience dealing with this stuff I was able to write what I did in 20 minutes. Greg likely wrote his piece in 10 minutes, as he has been telling you this for years, as have I. I have large file folders with many such attempts to be heard.

Muir making a point

Tom Muir

The city, Mayor, Planning, and you are always soliciting comments and engagement in all kinds of things, and that takes time, lots of it and more, but you complain if we take the time to respond, because you say you don’t have time?

So like I said, respectful listening and attention is not something I expect to receive from you, so thanks for proving my point.

Since you are not on for an on-line debate – frankly, I’m not either, as what we are telling you, and much more, is factual, and is beyond debate – I suggest we all get together, especially to debate your personal long term perspective and vision. I would like to do a reality check of your assumptions.

I hear vagaries about it at every meeting, as you tell us what you say is going to be done regardless of what we think, but these don’t provide an opportunity to have debate and discussion between us all. As I recall from many meetings, you don’t have many people who aren’t concerned about the same things, have similar views, and they express them.

So how about a real debate on this?

Anyways, regarding long term perspective, and vision – this is philosophy of science. The long term perspective, or future, is what the present becomes as we make our decisions and actions real concrete step by step.

Using our capacity for conscious foresight, our ability to logically simulate the future in imagination, is what we are using to tell you what we think is happening in concrete terms, and where it will logically lead.

We don’t lack a long term perspective, we have a very well founded one, based on fact based reasoning, logical outcomes, and where this leads to. Where is your reasoned argument?

You say we are overly negative, but we are telling you facts about reality, proposed changes, and how they are being lined up, and what they lead to.

This leads to something negative in our minds, different from what you say, and not a future we want.

But when we look for you to show the same kind of thinking, you don’t get past the more people part, forget the past consequences as concrete examples of our concerns, like what Greg and I wrote about, and you just tell us it will all work out, so don’t worry, be happy.

The staff do the same thing – they say; remember the plan goes to 2031 or 2040, so who knows how things will happen, they say. No comfort at all.

strat-plan-logo-25-years

It’s a 25 year plan that sets out the strategy for our growth.

To get to 2040 we have to move through all the years between here and there, where you say the good things we already have, that we are going to lose along the way, will somehow mysteriously re-materialize, in ways you have no explanation for.

Well, we know that if you do certain things, other things will logically follow. We can see that it happened in the recent past, and the same mechanisms are still in action and will lead to more of the same. Greg said, and I agree, that If you think applying the same policies for the next 5 years reverses the negative trends he cites, I’d say you lack the ability to perceive reality.

Greg suggests several constructive and practical things, including requiring fully functional commercial on the first floor of every new building, as he describes, and has provided more details on elsewhere. This is not about opposing development, but making it work for all functions, and for all people, not just the landowner and developer.

If we really are, as staff emphasized, in a paradigm shift, then let’s internalize and generalize it all across the plan. Not just density of people, on every parcel, but accompanying density of uses and functions.

Not just more people, more density, less meaningful commercial and retail, less trees and green – try for that on the south side of Plains when condos in the pipeline and more want to sprout – and more traffic congestion, because more people density means more car density, and the walk-able necessary commercial spaces, frequented often, are gone.

It’s elementary. So how about a real debate on these things, face to face? The meetings we have are not enough.

Where will all this go?

Nowhere but Craven must have begun to realize that these two are not going to let this issue die a quiet death.

Stand by.

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Chat and Chew event didn't have all that much buzz about it -

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

June 11, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

It was billed as her annual BBQ – which she called a Chat and Chew – held at the Lions Park in the downtown core where most of her strength exists.

Held on a Friday evening – seemed like a good time. The weather was as good as it gets.

blonde boy

Figuring it out.

It was a large site and there was plenty for the kids to do including a pony ride.

There were information booths galore.

There was free food courtesy of Turtle Jacks.

There were pieces from what we call the Gazebo willows available for those who wanted a keepsake.

There was a fire truck and a police car.

But there was no buzz – no sense that anyone was having fun.

It was certainly a political event – that’s what these things are and held where her political strength exists but ward 2 city Councillor the Marianne Meed Ward’s event seemed to be missing something.

People larger view

There were information booths galore – just didn’t seem to be a lot of people walking around.

The Gazette didn’t make use of the event to engage the Councillor in conversation – we were there to observe.
Was there any political fallout from the school closure decision the Halton Board of Education made to close two high schools earlier in the week?

MMW standing

Ward 2 city Councillor Marianne Meed Ward at her Chat and Chew community event.

Meed Ward will get credit for ensuring that the high school in her ward didn’t get the chop; she is also getting some blowback for what some described as a conflict of interest in serving on the Program Accommodation Review Committee (PARC ) that was involved in whittling a 40+ school closing recommendation down to five – one of which was Central high school.

When the Director of Education submitted his original school closing recommendation his top choice of the 19 options he and his staff came up with had the closing of Lester B. Pearson and Central high school at the top of the list.

Terry Ruff former HS principal BCHS

Terry Ruff former Central high school principal speaks to the first meeting of parents telling them how he two previous attempts to close the school failed.

That announcement mobilized the Central parents who left no stone unturned in their drive to get their school off that list.

Once the Director’s recommendations were public the PARC was formed and Central high school chose Meed Ward to represent them. There were howls of protest about a conflict of interst. Meed Ward had a son at the school and she was asked to take on the task.

She brought formidable political skills to the work she did.

The Gazette attended every meeting of the PARC and found Meed Ward to be much less effective at the PARC than she was at city Council meetings.

There were  times at city council when Meed Ward was close to brazen, which we see as a plus. She was focused and direct and asked more questions than any other three members of city council.

The rest of council often roll their eyeballs when she asked for yet another recorded vote.

We didn’t see the same kind of energy during the PARC meetings.

Meed WArd at PARC

Marianne Meed Ward at one of the seven PARC meetings.

The Director of Education, Stuart Miller  did change his recommendation from closing Central high school and Pearson high school to closing Bateman high school and Pearson.

Many howled at that change and argued that it was influence from Meed Ward, a member of city council and the Burlington MPP Eleanor McMahon that swayed Miller.

Stuart Miller changed his mind when he saw all the evidence that was collected and put forward by the Central high school parents. Meed Ward didn’t have any undue influence – she was part of a team with formidable skills that they put to excellent use.

They were creating teams and assigning tasks days after the school closing announcement was made. The held a silent auction fund raiser and pulled in $14,000 which allowed them to print up signs that were on almost every lawn in the ward.

They demonstrated and they did their homework. They figured out that it was going to cost $400,000 every year for the foreseeable future to transport the Central high school students to either Aldershot high school or Nelson high school.

$400,000 a year – every year was a stunning number – that was only going to go higher as transportation costs rose.

Map #1 - all schools

The distance Central high school students would have to travel if Central was closed and they were transferred to either Nelson or Aldershot high schools is 6.4 km; the distance between Bateman and Nelson high schools is 1.9 km.

The disruption to student extra-curricular life for the students would be immense.

If Central high school was closed their students would have had a 6.4 km trip to either Aldershot high school or Nelson high school.  If either Bateman or Nelson were closed those students would have a 1.9 km trip – many would be able to walk to school.

The map and the rationale Central parents provided was one of the most compelling arguments for not closing that high school.  The Burlington Downtown Business association put forward a strong argument for keeping the high school open as well.

Most of the points the Central parents made seemed rather obvious when they were looked at closely and on wonders why the Board of Education staff didn’t see what the Central parents discovered.

The Central parents challenged almost every decision the Board staff had made; they missed nothing,

The decision to close Bateman instead of central was made.   Central is really in very rough shape physically – mostly as the result of neglect, is going to need a lot of money to be brought up to an acceptable standard. It has an acceptable bit of charm and a lot of history going for it but when compared to what Hayden has got – Central pales in comparison. It is what the Central parents are prepared to accept or have accepted in the past.

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

Meed Ward with Mayor Goldring: she is more comfortable with herself as a speaker and she wants his job

Where they live

There just didn’t seem to be a lot of people.

Meed Ward has an almost tribal relationship with her constituents – they don’t all think she walks on water but they see her as the  member of council that works hard for them and has a vision for the city that other members of council don’t have – including the Mayor who Meed Ward has always wanted to replace.

When she was running for the city council seat in 2009 she wanted the job of Mayor when Can Jackson had it.

For reasons that are not all that clear she chose not to run against Goldring in 2014.

There was a point at which there was little doubt that she was going to run against him in 2018; there now appears to be some doubt.

Were she to remain a city Councillor she would win the ward hands down in 2018 – is the rest of the city ready for her as Mayor?

There are hundreds of them in ward 5 that will campaign actively against her – with a little help from the sitting council member Jack Dennison who is giving every indication that he will run again in his ward, Meed Ward may not be able to pull off a majority of the vote in that ward.

Is the dis-satisfaction from some over the role she played on the PARC going to hurt her longer term political aspirations?

They well might.

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Pearson alumni challenges statements made by trustee who voted for closure of the high school.

opinionandcommentBy Staff

June 10th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Parents with an interest in what has happened to the two high schools that are going to be closed by the Halton District school Board are beginning to voice their concerns.

LBP George Ward + Rory Nisen

Rory Nisan, on the left, a Lester B. Pearson alumni who credits the small enrollment school with much of his career success.

Rory Nisan, a Lester B. Pearson alumni, takes issue with the explanation Burlington Ward 3 and 6 trustee Andrea Grebenc released yesterday.

“She is adamant about 1000 being the necessary number of students” said Nisan. “This is the crux of her argument for closing our school. However, are mega schools optimal, especially when they are way over designed capacity?

“Absolutely not. They are a far worse scenario than having all three schools at 800-plus students, which is easily achievable (we provided her with the data and a clear plan for this).

“Simply giving back the students that were taken away when Hayden opened would fix the problem. Her vote guarantees that MM and Hayden will be well over capacity for many years if not indefinitely.

“She knew this when she made her decision.”

Nissan adds that Grebenc says there “seemed to be more course conflicts than students”. These are empty words. They don’t take into account that the student experience would have been greatly enhanced with 800 students, a number that is easily achieved by bringing Hayden’s capacity down to appropriate levels.

“She also knew this when she made her decision.”

“She notes” said Nisan that “all of the extracurriculars in which she participated as evidence of how much she loved Pearson. However, with MM and Hayden becoming two mega schools with over 1400 pupils each in 2021, students of those schools will have far fewer opportunities than she did.

“She knew this also.”

Lester Pearson at Upper Middle and Headon

Lester Pearson parents demonstrating at Upper Middle and Headon

Nisan, using the material Grebenc provided said that “Again, 1000 students is the minimum, she says. But she voted in favour a dual campus solution for Bateman even though that school only has 747 students (2017).

“Why didn’t she support (or even show any consideration of) a dual campus for MM and Pearson? Why is she more innovative in thinking about Bateman than a school that so many of her constituents have a stake in?

“She knew this was a possibility, in addition to giving Pearson some of Hayden’s students, when she made her decision.”

The 1000 student target that Grebenc appears to see as close to optimum “is not supported by any data that came forth through the entire process. Pearson was never meant to have 1000 students. Several other schools in Burlington will continue to have significantly less than 1000 students after this process is complete. She never mentioned closing any of them” said Nisan.

“She knew this too.”

“She notes that there were 1000 students when she was there because she went through her yearbook and “counted every face”. She fails to mention that there was OAC (grade 13) when she was a student.

“I went through my yearbook (1998)” said Grebenc in her statement. “Pearson was a bustling school that year. The porto-pac was packed. Our sports teams were solid, and I don’t remember ever having a course conflict.”

pearson-high-school-sign

The high school will have emptied parents cast ballots in the October 2018 municipal election.

Guess how many grade 9-12 students there were? asks Nisan:  686.  Another 151 OAC grads rounded out the student body.

“She had these numbers at her fingertips when she made her decision.”

Trustee Grebenc’s short intervention used the word “I” 34 times.

Trustee Grebenc’s statement, filled with rhetoric and hyperbole, and devoid of any data or arguments that passes even superficial scrutiny, was a failure” said Nisan.

“Our students will have to pay the price.”

Related article:

Why Grebenc voted against keeping Lester B. Pearson high school open

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Rivers on a volunteer teaching gig in Ukraine - less than a day's drive from armed conflict hot spots.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

June 10th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

Rivers and his wife are on a volunteer teaching course in Ukraine. As part of this trip he will be visiting a Canadian Armed Forces Base and reporting on part of Canada’s role in that part of the world.

He will return at the end of June and give Gazette readers his take on all the changes that are taking place in this country at both the federal and provincial levels. 

It’s why treating your children to French Immersion will not make them bi-lingual. They need to sleep with the other language, as a former Canadian bi-lingual commissioner once mused. You need to be able to live it, to experience it. So that is what I’m doing over here in Ukraine – helping Ukrainian children to live extemporaneously in our culture. And I’m not alone. There are over 600 volunteer teachers from 140 countries, including a former Russian, all participating in an initiative called GoCamps.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, Ukraine declared its independence, along with all the other Soviet republics. But 70 years of communism had created a culture of passive dependency such that the new nation was reluctant to embrace the changes needed for it to become a fully independent state. That would require abandoning the Russian symbols of authority, its language and religion in particular.

From the Tzars to today’s Vlad Putin, Russia’s leaders have tried to eliminate the traditional language and culture in the lands they occupied. And Ukraine was no stranger to that policy. Ukrainian is a slavic language similar to Russian in that it is based on the almost cryptic Cyrillic alphabet, where the B is a V and the N is a P and the P is an R and the number 3 is a letter. It is very confusing and difficult for we English speakers, and I’m sure the opposite is true.

cherkassy-ukraine-city-v

Public art in the city of Cherkassy where Rivers is teaching Engish

I’m teaching in the industrial city of Cherkasy, some 120 kms south of Kyiv on the expansive Dnieper River. Of the 300,000 people living here it is difficult to find anyone on the street who can speak more than a few words of English, which was likely learned from a TV show or western pop song. Most street signs and restaurant menus, though presumably once in Russian, are almost exclusively in Ukrainian script now, making getting around the city a challenge. Even getting a taxi is difficult since I’ve yet to find a dispatcher who understands either English or my feeble Ukrainian.

Despite that, I am impressed with the high level of English usage among the students at the school I’ve been attending, and their desire to better understand the language and culture that I bring with me. Ukraine’s goal is to eventually replace Russian with English as a second language. I have noticed, in the year since I was last here, how the government has removed Russian language timetables in railway stations – a step in that direction.

There is a segment of the population which would be just as happy to keep Russian but they are becoming a smaller proportion every year and with every new survey taken. It has taken Ukrainians a quarter century to finally decide that they would be better off with memberships in the EU and NATO, something that has held them back from joining previously. It is the youth, the new generation, who more than any others are now making that claim. And for those in doubt about the critical need to improve national security they only need consider what happened to Crimea.

Protection of the Russian language became the official raison d’être for the annexation of Crimea and the invasion of Dunbas, in south-eastern Ukraine. Yet despite an active war, ongoing in the east of the country, which has killed over 10,000 people, it was hard to sense animosity towards Moscow. In part that may be due to the long fraternal and historical association between the nations. It might also reflect embarrassment at having failed to defend themselves from the people they once believed were supposed to be their friends, even family.

Cherkassy - russian ships

Ukraine is a politically sensitive part of the world. Russian navy ships moored in the bay of the Crimean city of Sevastopol, Ukraine. Assault teams in speedboats and helicopters have captured a Ukrainian ship in Crimea and moved it to Russian military port

Distance between Cherkassyand Sevastapol.

Sevastopol is not that far away from where Rivers is teaching English to Ukrainians.

There are five million ex-pat Ukrainians living in Russia and for those who can still recall living in the USSR, the border is an inconvenience. Despite the murderous aggression of Mr. Putin’s crowd, Ukraine still buys some goods from Russia, like uranium for its Soviet built nuclear power plants. And given the degree of Russian espionage and attempted sabotage in Ukraine it is bizarre that ordinary Russians still have visa-free access.

I met a young woman from Cherkasy who was completing her master’s degree at an oil and gas technical college in Moscow. For her the future was about working and living there, given the dim economic opportunities she sees in her home town at the moment. She was having to take the train back to Moscow since the airlines have mostly stopped flights there on account of the war.

For her it’s like that war is with somebody else as she continues business as usual in Russia, a nation where half the people consider Ukraine enemy number one and who are responsible for the death of thousands of Ukrainians. It is hard to fathom how her desire for a good education has overtaken what I’d consider her patriotism. It is odd that there seems to be no concern by her family or friends over her personal security in a Russia that regularly imprisons Ukrainian nationals for crimes called extremism, as it did recently with the chief librarian of the Ukraine Library in Moscow.

I met a family displaced by the conflict in Donetsk and forced to move personal and presumably business interests to the nation’s capital in Kyiv, leaving home and property behind. I would have expected outright anger and outrage, but none of that was apparent in our discussions. And even when the discussion came up there was a puzzling reluctance to blame the Russians.

Cherkassy - political demonstrations

Political demonstrations are a lot more robust in Ukraine than anything we see in Canada

Ukraine’s history as a nation predates much of Europe, and by centuries Russia, its ungrateful birth child. Its fertile productive valleys and plains have made it the object of conquest. Once a powerful monarchy Ukraine’s invasions, first by the Mongols, then by various other nations, including Austria, Germany, Turkey, Poland and Russia. And given its endowment, agriculture is still the life blood of the nation, generating the greatest export revenue.

Unlike Russia which is geographically more Asian, Ukraine has always been a European nation. And Ukrainians are slowly, too slowly for many now, coming to a consensus that their future, national security and pathway to prosperity, like that of neighbouring Poland, lies in the EU. And for that, in addition to retaining their own rich language and culture, they need to communicate and share the languages of with their new western partners and English above all.

…….to be continued.

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:

GoCamps –   Russia and Ukraine –   Russian Speakers –   Ukrainian Language

 

 

 

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Grebenc on Bateman: why she went along with the vote to close the high school.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

June 10th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Burlington Ward 3 and 6 Halton District school Board trustee Andrea Grebenc released a statement on her Facebook page setting out why she voted the way she chose to vote at the Board of Education meeting on Wednesday when trustees decided to approve the recommendation to close two of Burlington’s seven high schools.

Miller in a huddle with Grebenc

Andrea Grebenc in conversation with Director of Education Stuart Miller

“It has been a tough few months” she said “and I know many of you are upset with the outcome of the Program Accommodation Review (PAR). I wanted to let you know that I explored a number of options myself and I was willing to go down the road with respect to a dual campus/one school concept and getting community partners to help fill space in the school.

“I could see the Bateman campus as a truly vibrant community hub. I believe in community hubs and schools should be an integral part of them. I think in this day and age, few people even know their neighbours, therefore providing gathering spaces to provide a true sense of community is important.

“The special education students at Bateman would have had the opportunity to integrate even more with a broader community setting. The north has three community centres. South East Burlington has one community room along with scattered amenities (pools, ice rinks, stadium and park). I believe community hubs should be cradle-to-grave types of places with programming for pre-natal and pre-school, through school ages, youth, adult and seniors programming.

“I took information provided to me from your community and spoke directly with administrators at two dual campus schools in the west. Both schools had similarities and differences to the Nelson/Bateman situation. The administrators were frank about the experience. It wasn’t a perfect solution, it took extra work, but both schools were successful.

“Unfortunately, my colleagues could not see this happening. Community partners were not forthcoming which was the linchpin to make this work. They would take up the On the Ground capacity to make financial sense. I was hoping the city would have stepped up during the final weeks with some possibilities as they are a natural partner and have partnered with us in the past(Hayden/Haber/Alton Library and Kilbride/Public library and community room).

Bateman - crowd scene

Bateman high school parents demonstrate to save their high school – it wasn’t enough to change six minds.

“When Trustee Collard’s substitute motion about exploring dual campuses failed, I had to support a closure. As I mentioned during statements later in the meeting with regards to Pearson, my research informed me that schools need 1000 students to provide students decent course choices and extracurricular experiences. Without putting Nelson into the same lower enrollment state, Bateman needed to close.

“I care about the students in special education placements residing at Bateman. I promise to hold the Director accountable in his statements that situation at Nelson will be better for those students than what they have now at Bateman and that special care is take with each student transition. It is my duty to make it so and my commitment to the community.”

Bateman high school is scheduled to close in September of 2020.

 

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School board trustees will start the process of deciding which, if any, schools they want to close in Burlington. Closing none at this point is the best option for everyone.

highschoolsBy Pepper Parr

June 7th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

They will convene at 7:00 pm this evening and begin the debate on what they as trustees think is best for the citizens of Burlington.

The 11 Halton District School Board trustees have been working through a process that began last October.

They decided then that they should create a Program Accommodation committee to consider the recommendation from the Director of Education that some of the Burlington high schools be closed. Which schools was the issue.

Each high school in Burlington nominated a parent to serve on the Program Accommodation Review Committee and the Board selected one person from a list of people who expressed an interest in serving on that committee.

The PARC met on seven occasion to review the 19 possible options Board staff had prepared. The Director of Education felt that the best option was to close Central high school of the Lester B. Pearson high school.

The PARC was not able to arrive at a consensus but they did narrow down the 30+ options they had in front of them down to five.

One was to close Central and Pearson; another to close Bateman and Pearson, another to not close any schools.

For reasons that will take some time to determine, the PARC members chose to fight with each other to ensure their school was not closed rather than work as a collective and ask the Board to provide more information.

The information given to the PARC members kept changing – enrollment numbers were suspect from the beginning and the source of some of the information was never all that clear.

For the most part every school was well represented at the PARC level. The PARC members were not served very well by Board staff or by the firm brought in to do research and facilitation.

The public that took part in the process grumbled throughout. The Central high school parents were able to organize very effectively from the moment the initial recommendation was on the table.

The second recommendation took Central off the table and replaced it with Bateman high school who then had to scramble to get their story out.

Parents were livid when they learned that the views of the classroom teachers would not be available and that any response from the high school students was going to be very limited.

With the PARC disbanded – it was time for public delegations. There were 51 of those – which Bateman used very effectively to get their story out.

The delegations were followed by an ”information” meeting during which the trustees had ample opportunity to ask questions – there were few questions that could be seen as digging very deeply.

The interesting part was that it took two meetings to get through all the question asking. Of note – there was just the one trustee who came forward with alternatives.

That is all water under the bridge. Even though there has been some last m8inute data that is very relevant – it will be up to the trustees to put forward motions, debate them, revise them and then vote on them.
Will we know Thursday morning what is going to be done? We will know something.

Will the trustees take up the motion that trustee Collard is certainly going to put forward which is to merge Bateman and Nelson. Should that happen – and it isn’t a bad idea – what would the new two campus school be named? Is the Nelson community ready to give up their name? Don’t bet on that one.

Will the parents accept whatever decision is made or will they seek a Ministerial Review?

Given the serious problems with much of the data and the pace at which the community was forced to march to the beat of a drum beaten by Board staff, the best solution the Gazette arrives at it to not close any schools and to create a task force made up of parents for the most part who would put together a solution that meets the needs of every student current and future in the city.

Steve Smith and Tom Muir served the city very well with their consistent contributions to the process. Armstrong said “it’s amazing how many ideas are coming at the last minute …this process is flawed if for no other reason than there isn’t time to build a cohesive plan”

The Board of trustees have more than enough information to agree with that assessment – they should vote for option # 7 – don’t close any of the schools – and defer a decision for at least two years until there is better data available.

In the immediate future the trustees should direct Board staff to give Pearson high school the feeder schools they used to have and lessen the capacity overload at Hayden.

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PARC member produces data that suggests bigger schools are not better schools.

highschoolsBy Steve Armstrong

June 7th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Throughout the PARC process there was a continued refrain that larger schools enable more opportunities.

Eric who PARC

Steve Armstrong

What has been lacking is any concise quantification of this. I’ll share what I have been able to piece together from the data available.

One discussion point surrounded the issue of timetable conflicts. The premise being smaller schools have fewer sections available in combination with fewer course options.

The graph below represents the data from all high schools in Halton. On first viewing the downward trend as we go to the right indeed confirms the notion that larger schools have fewer timetable conflicts. I’ve indicated the overall conflict rates for each of the 4 municipalities on the left hand side.

Armstrong 1One question I asked, but never received an answer on, concerned the three schools circled at the bottom of the chart set out below.

What is it about those three schools, Blacklock, Oakville Trafalgar and Garth Webb that enables them to have such low conflict rates?

My suggestion is that you might be able to apply that knowledge within the rest of board and achieve dramatic improvements on this metric. Improvements that making schools larger alone will not achieve.

Focusing just on the seven schools in Burlington I’ve added a pair of trend lines to model the data points. The resulting equations create a model for predicting the outcome of various changes in enrollments.
Having such high R squared values (1.0 is perfect) simply means the equations do a very good job of fitting the data, and that enrollment explains most of the effect being modeled.

Armstrong 2

In use what the model predicts is that when looking at changes to enrollment at any school the outcome will fall on these dashed lines.

We can also clearly see that when enrollment is less than about 800 students the impact of enrollment changes is about 5% per 100 students. Above 800 that rate of improvement drops to 1% per 100 students.

As total enrollment grows the conflict rate is expected to drop from the current 23% down to about 20% without closing any schools.

The current recommendation to close two schools would result in the conflict rate dropping to about 16%. A number that would still be twice as high as observed in Oakville, despite heavily disrupting two communities.

Larger schools are also expected to have a greater number of course offerings, and as the next graph shows this is generally a true statement.

Armstrong 3The data presented was taken from the SIPs (School information profiles) provided to PARC members, and does NOT include online courses.

I’ve drawn in 2 dashed trend lines that are best fits to the data in two overlapping regions.

The blue curve very nicely models the course offerings for schools with under 800 students, and says there is a strong benefit of adding students. The slope tells us that for every 100 students added we would expect 14.9 more course offerings. Since the core courses are already included in the base amount for every school, these would be expanding the options for elective courses.

The orange line provides insight for schools over 600 in size. The effect of adding 100 students is a much smaller 1.78 courses. As an effort to improve on the accuracy I did take a stab at adding data I found for a couple of the other larger schools in Halton. The results did improve the R squared valued (indicating better predicting power), and lowered the benefit to a little over 1 course per 100 students. Since I couldn’t determine if that data was measured in the same way as what was provided by the Board I decided to stick with the known source information.

So, what does this model tell us?

It tells us that for a school to offer a good number of courses we need a critical mass of around 700 students.

For smaller schools, there is significant benefit in increasing the number of students. We would expect 15 new courses per 100 additional students, up to an enrollment of 700. Above critical mass there is a much smaller increase in course options, only 1.78 new courses per 100 new students.

This asymmetry becomes a useful tool when contemplating re balancing enrollments.

For instance: Suppose a boundary change was made between Nelson and Bateman which results in 100 students being relocated to Bateman. Bateman students would be expected to experience an increase of 15 new course offerings. The loss of 100 students at Nelson is predicted to result in loss of only 2 courses. In practice, if the LTAP predicted growth at Nelson of over 100 students by 2020 was instead directed to Bateman then Nelson students wouldn’t likely even see a reduction in course offerings, they just wouldn’t see any increase over what they presently have.

Likewise, suppose 400 students were redirected away from Hayden bringing todays enrolment down to 100% of capacity. Hayden students would see a reduction of only 8 courses, probably less. If Pearson were to receive 250 of those students then its course offering would rise by around 38, and Robinson could also add a number of courses, but given their high course count already may choose instead to lower timetable conflicts. Clearly bringing the overcrowding at Hayden under control by changing boundaries or moving programs would significantly improve all 3 schools.

By combining the perspectives provided by both the timetable conflict data and the course option information much more can be understood about enrollments over a much broader range then a simplistic less than 600 students, greater than 1000 student view of things.

Both perspectives indicate stronger benefits for increasing school enrollments up to around the 700‐800 range.

Below that critical mass the focus is on adding course options, above that point the focus is on adding more sections, which continues to reduce timetable conflict rates. This plateauing on the course options side is inevitable since the Ministry of education has a finite number of courses that can be offered.

With further work this modeling could be improved.

Related article:

Another example of where parent involvement made the difference.

Editor’s note: Steve Armstrong is an engineer.  He was a PAR Committee member representing students from Lester B. Pearson high school.  One wonders what the Board o Education Planning staff will do with this data.

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Muir sends his comments to the trustees who will decide the fate of two Burlington high schools Wednesday evening.

opinionandcommentBy Tom Muir

June 6th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

I cannot delegate personally at the June 7 Board meeting, so please accept this written delegation for the record.

Accountability of the Trustees and Board

Muir making a point

Tom Muir

You know the time is coming for the Trustees to make decisions about the Board Director’s recommendations about Burlington’s community of schools. In this, it is time to treat the parents, residents, students and community with respect and truth.

It is time for the Trustees, as democratically elected officials, to be accountable to your constituents. The Education Act provides clarity about the responsibility of individual trustees to bring to the board the concerns of parents, students and supporters of
the board.

It provides for the responsibility of the trustees to work with the values, priorities, and expectations of the community to translate them into policy. It is incumbent on trustees to act with integrity, which means with honesty and strong moral and ethical principles.

All the trustees are responsible for the best interests of all students – this means that all trustees are accountable for their actions in regard to Burlington schools, not just schools in their area.

Trustees play an essential role in creating the conditions for: achieving excellence in student learning; ensuring equity and promoting well-being and; enhancing public confidence in publicly funded education.

Enhancing public confidence means ensuring accountability for the use and effective stewardship of resources and public school assets.

My expressions of comment and concern

You also know that I have written you extensively, and provided a great deal of information about the PAR context and process, and my concerns that arise from the factual nature of that, and how the Board actions and behavior is reflected by that body of evidence.

Based on this evidence I have provided over the history of the PAR, and events emerging, it is quite clear that the Board has created an outcome of systematic, conflict-based crisis in Burlington schools and community. There has been an evident failure to enhance public confidence throughout the PAR process.

There have been record numbers of complaints, delegations to the Board, picket lines, demonstrations, protest marches to the Board office, delegations to provincial parliament, complaints to the local MPP and the Minister of Education, testimonials to Burlington schools, and the list can go on as you know.

It seems clear that the failure of the Board to manage and achieve the critical goal of effective utilization, by building what are almost all surplus seats at Hayden, is seen as the root of the present crisis, and conflict, by a large majority of people.

This is the unhealthy, even pathological, consequence of the predominantly defensive strategy used by the Board to control, manipulate, deny, and distort the reality underlying the emergence of the conflicts.

This defense, as offense, is based on the theme of redefining truth, and sticking to the script.

The fact that I had to resort to a Freedom of Information request to get any information at all speaks loudly to the controlling and obstructive manner with which the Board and the Director chose to communicate with residents.

Directives, based on the Education Act, and Guidance documents, state that in carrying out its accountable responsibilities, a board must engage in effective communication with school staff, students and their families, community members, and others. In my experience, and that of others I know of, there was a deliberate failure to engage and communicate on critical matters of facts and truth.

I never received any reply from anyone to my several sets of correspondence and requests for information (other than my FOI), except acknowledgements of receipt and thanks from one trustee to all memos, and similar replies from one trustee to just one memo.

The only effective outcome for the Board was to continue a cover up of the problems asked about for as long as possible. Even my FOI request and response was obstructed, in information provided, and timing.
What is the correct and truthful source of the crisis and conflict?

As I have shown conclusively, with official data, the crisis we face was caused by deliberate and knowing actions by the Board to build the NE Burlington school (now named Hayden) capacity that was not needed based on enrollment trends and utilization expected. The data prove that this is the planned and only cause of the current utilization issues in Burlington schools.

There was no business case in the normally applied manner based on sufficient need for pupil places in excess of seats available, and growing for the foreseeable future.

And on top of that, the Board is now redefining this truth, by using the resultant low utilization, or surplus seats, caused by these past actions, to support the present PAR now, as Condition 1, having failed to act on the foreseeable consequences of the plans they made to build surplus seats, at the time of the planning.

And compounding this, the logic of PAR Condition 2, “that reorganization involving the school or group of schools could enhance program delivery and learning opportunities” is rationalized to follow the lower utilization, as the Board states now, in the present, but failed to, in the past, when it was first created in the plans for Hayden.

This, in fact, reflects another failure to act, by the Board, on the additional foreseeable consequences of the plans made at the time of the planning – failures to act in a responsible, transparent, and accountable manner, pure and simple.

The board is responsible for setting policy relating to facilities, including: maintenance, acquisition and disposal of sites; building renewal plans; and site operation. All policies relating to facilities must first take into consideration requirements related to the achievement and well-being of students of the board.

Despite repeated comments and requests for explanation, I was never able to get the Board to provide such an explanation as to how it included in the Hayden planning such “consideration requirements related to the achievement and well-being of students of the board.”

This means that the decision to build Hayden, and the surplus capacity that it entailed, creating lower utilization in Burlington, would also lead to diminished program delivery and learning opportunities, reduced equity and well being, and less achievement of excellence.

Clearly, if it does this now, then logically, it would have done so then, as part of the plan.

More to the point, these impacts were perfectly predictable, as they would follow from the utilization effects built into the Hayden plan, which they did clearly, and are now present.

As well, and doubly ironic, nowhere does the Board acknowledge the predicted overcapacity occupancy of Hayden now, as a problem in its own right, but contributing to the lower utilization of the other schools, and thus an option to partially relieve that situation.

These outcomes are what the Board is telling us now, through this PAR, will emerge from the lower utilization caused by building Hayden, and so we have to close two schools to correct the surplus they created.

This is used as rationalization for the PAR, and to further entrench the fabricated alternative reality created by the Board, that is creating the conflicts and crisis, and to try and evade being accountable for these actions.

This is the redefinition of truth that the PAR is based on, and this is reflected throughout the trustee debate meeting minutes.

Does the crisis and conflict continue despite knowing the buried truth? What’s happening now?

So what is being discussed in the current PAR debates by trustees is the same thing as would have been discussed if anyone had done their job and considered what such outcomes might be when Hayden was being planned and pushed forward, which would knowingly build surplus seats.

The fact is the Board created comparable loss of equity, opportunity, well-being and excellence to students, in the same measure as they claim now as one reason for the PAR. Before Hayden there was no problem with low utilization, and none in the foreseeable future.

Unfortunately, no one, except one or two trustees back in 2008, took their responsibility and accountability seriously, and no one to this day has been called to account for this, and to explain their actions.
Not even in the two debate meetings of trustees was anyone called to account for this. And I have provided a great deal of official evidence to all the trustees, and Director, on this matter, but there is still no mention.

It is on this basis of disavowal of the truth that this PAR process has acquired the potential to be pathological in its impact as an outcome of this deep rooted denial.

Closing two schools in Burlington is certainly pathological. No doubt.

This fact set has been continually repressed, or buried, like a painful and unacceptable thought, and source of anxiety, in a vain attempt to remove it from the PAR awareness.

The Director himself told me that bringing up the Hayden planning and execution would be too dangerous for him politically.

Whatever happened to Ministry guidance about not having conflicts of interest, or letting personal, political motives enter the decisions?

And further, in the debates, the question of why the Director changed his mind about closing Central was raised, and he claimed there was nothing personal or political in that decision.

Then he invoked the untruth that Pearson and Bateman had declining enrollment and utilization trends, when in fact it was the Board building of Hayden that targeted these schools, and others, as the source of students and feeders and programs to fill the surplus seats they built at Hayden, to gross overcapacity.

The declining enrollment and utilization in Burlington schools was created by the Board, and is being sustained for their purposes.

Overall, from the delegate evening I attended, and the minutes of the two evening Board meeting debates on the Director’s final report, the Trustees still appear to be rejecting the fact that they are debating an untruthful reality, provided to them by the Board and sustained by the Director.

The buried truth I described appears as an unacceptable idea altogether, that is incompatible with their image of the PAR, and their anxious struggle to deal with the crisis and conflicts emerging from their distorted reality, refusal to be openly accountable for that, or hold responsible parties accountable by asking for explanations.

They apparently behave as if this defensive denial of the facts, that actually happened, never occurred, and appear as though they are stuck in a Director provided alternative reality and set of alternative facts.
The Director and senior staff are inflexible and intransigent in the debate, sticking to the script of their redefined reality.

What stands out in the debates?

In the minutes of the trustee debate meeting these few, but telling instances emerge.

1. The very first point raised in the debates was;

“A. Collard asked about ways to reinforce programming and boundaries at Robert
Bateman High School. S. Miller indicated initial discussion around the original
recommendation should precede any additional options requiring further
investigation. G. Cullen commented on the surplus that would still exist with a
twinned school concept.”

Mr Cullen was part of the senior management team back in 2008 and forward on the Hayden plan. He knew all about the consequences built in, and flowing from that plan, but there is no record that he ever warned about the surplus seats results built into the plan, or the utilization and program impacts that might flow from that.

But here he is now, making the “surplus” the very first, and only, thing he says in answer to the trustee’s question. No mention of past actions.

I was also surprised that a senior staff member, Steven Parfeniuk, that was also closely and chiefly involved with the Hayden plan and the Ministry on that file in 2008 and forward, as then Superintendent of Business for HDSB, and would know about everything I have raised, was not questioned, or otherwise revealed as present at the meeting.

This suggests to me that the trustees are in denial with staff, and there was no serious effort to get to the truth of how this crisis and conflict happened, and to call out those responsible to be accountable.

2. Much of the May 17 debate content is about implementing the recommendations and school closures, and how the integration, transitions, and general impacts of closures would be handled.

Of course, in a mechanical sense, movements, integration, and transitions, under closures are forced, and are managed as matters of fact – you just do it. Staff and Director replies were rationalizations of what they will do, and generally, everything sounded as if without harm.

With a very few notable exceptions, although they are in there I must say, I did not sense any real effort to explore adaptive and innovative options to recognize the significance of every school, and how each contributes to the excellence, equity, and well-being of all the students.

I saw no mention of how closing any school does not in any way enhance public confidence, which, along with Board credibility, has been sorely lost in this PAR.

The continued refusal to admit that past Board actions created this crisis and conflict, and so there is a need for appeasement and righting of this egregious wrong, is notable.

This is particularly disturbing given that the Trustees have been provided with all the official and factual information that I was able to collect, and parent and public debate and information, that conclusively prove this, but yet the debate never mentions it, explains it, or accounts for it..

As I said before, enhancing public confidence means ensuring accountability for the use, and effective stewardship, of resources and public assets for the delivery of a strong educational system attuned to individual needs.

I do not see how closing Bateman, in particular, home of the most needy, and apparently an international success story, is attuned to individual needs.

I sensed from some trustee comments, that they take low utilization schools as somehow deficient in their service to students. To me this signifies the trustees are deliberately blind to the fact of Hayden causing the utilization crisis they are in, and that staff and the Board didn’t think about this at all when Hayden was planned and built.

And for sure, they aren’t going to tell anyone about that now.

3. A very notable exchange on the central problem causing the crisis, and the continued rigid and closed approach of the Director is as follows:

“A. Collard provided her perspective on the transportation issues at Hayden. She
also spoke to catchment area for Robert Bateman High School, suggesting
expanding the area to include more than Frontenac Public School. D. Renzella
and S. Miller spoke to the existing catchment area and feeder schools that are
11 directed to Robert Bateman High School. S. Miller commented on the impact of
reversing decisions made by previous Boards of Trustees, specifically redirecting
students or changing catchment areas to move approximately 200 students from
Nelson High School to Robert Bateman High School, and/or moving students from
the Orchard community from Dr. Frank J. Hayden to Robert Bateman. He
commented this does little more than shuffle the deck, and does not address the
underlying issue. Currently five of the six Burlington secondary schools have low
enrolments; boundary changes as described would perpetuate the issue and may
result with all six of the schools underutilized”.

I find that this personifies the Board created source of the crisis and conflict stemming from their alternative reality explanation of what caused it, and continues it.

Again, he ignores that building Hayden caused the surplus seats, the utilization issue, and any program issues that are asserted to result.

The Directors view is, that’s a mistake, but too bad, so the best he can offer is to sweep this accountability under the rug in the name of, “we can’t just shuffle the deck”, and because, as he said to me, it’s too political for him to handle.

Then the Director reverses this political abstention by telling the trustees that reversing decisions made by previous boards, to change boundaries/catchments, feeders, program locations, and other student shifting, is somehow problematic, and he cautions against it.

I repeat again, this is exactly how all the students in Burlington were reallocated, or shuffled like a deck, to fill Hayden to gross overflowing, with no current plan to do anything about that, whatever the consequences.

I don’t see anything wrong with underutilization – gross overutilization at Hayden seems to be okay with the Board and Director.

Shuffling the deck can work if it’s tried, because the underlying issue to everyone I know is that the closing of schools he recommends is a crisis for Burlington schools, and he offers nothing else.

So the Director, in my opinion, is getting subtly but frankly political in advising trustees that this power, which is a key tool in their kit, should not be used as an option to alleviate the crisis, and stop the conflict.

In other words, don’t solve the crisis by doing what others before you did to cause it.

That would recognize and acknowledge it happened, by digging up the truth.

If the Director and trustees want to be inflexible and intransigent, it will be impossible to get enhanced public confidence again.

I suggest that if schools are closed with no accountability for how it was caused and done, the conflict will not end.

Those who are rigid and closed will succeed only in isolating themselves.

Board credibility depends on coming clean and being contrite.

It will not come from actions by some Trustees congratulating the Board and Trustees for “due diligence”, or defensively mentioning that some people emailed support for the recommendations.

Conclusion

This delegation turned into another long one for at least two reasons.

First, the end of the PAR is near, as are whatever decisions trustees are going to make. So this is my last chance to communicate with you before this process comes to a close.

Second, my delegation reflects all the pent up frustration, and conflict-induced outrage, that I have seen in many others, and experienced myself, in this PAR process, and in interacting with an unresponsive, but one-time to me, frankly manipulative, Board staff and Director.

So you are again, as the elected and accountable decision-making body, justifiably on the receiving end of my analysis and opinion.

My final advice to you today is the following.

In your decisions to be made, Trustees are ill-advised to follow recommendations from people who have consistently been wrong about, well, everything. That’s a natural consequence of the redefinition of truth. The whole truth always wants to get out into the light.

And most of all troubling, this is by design from the start.

 

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Parent sets out what the public expects of its trustees - Accountability, Creativity, Empathy, Integrity, Equity and Collaboration

opinionandcommentBy Staff

June 6th, 2017

Burlington, ON

 

A parent from the Lester B. Pearson high school delegated to the school board trustees a few weeks ago and asked some very pointed questions. They are worth a close look as parents wait to learn what the trustees will decide to do Wednesday evening on the matter of closing high schools in the city of Burlington where there are more seats than needed for the number of students who will attend high schools in the foreseeable future.

Dine lbp

Diane Miller, Lester B. Pearson high school parent delegating to trustees.

There is considerable debate about the accuracy of the Board’s enrollment projections but that was not the what Dianne Miller wanted to talk about.

“There are a couple of threads I would like to weave this evening. My starting point is Director Miller’s own words: “We did not go into this (field) to close schools”. Miller wanted there to be a discussion with determination and exhaustive input from all parties impacted by the decision that will be made tomorrow evening.

“What voices have been included in the process “asked Miller and “which ones have been missing? She suggested looking at the issue from the Board’s perspective

Accountability
Creativity
Empathy
Integrity
Equity
Collaboration

The words are highlighted in the Board’s multi-year plan.

“Has due diligence been met in each area. I would argue no.

“Creativity and Collaboration stand out to me as areas deeply flawed in this process by missing partners. “Where has the voice of the teachers been? They are with our children for almost seven hours of the day. Yet they have been kept silent and not given a place at the discussion table. The ones who are told to dig deep, to be creative with our children were not involved in solving a problem impacting those very same children we entrust with their education.

“What about the students. My son and daughter felt their voices were not heard in the process. One felt it was “a done deal”, the “other distraught” at the thought of her school being segmented. Besides the student survey why are they not represented at the PARC table? We hold contests, Think Bowls, Scientific, Robotic, and Math competitions all utilizing their brains…but not on how to save their school. “None of the questions in the student survey touched on their creativity / ingenuity for keeping their school off the chopping block so to speak. Yet they, just like their teachers, are most impacted by this decision.

“Mental Wellness Professionals – why were they not given a seat at the table. LBP was deliberately built as a smaller school setting. A school to provide for relief for the over-crowding at MMR. How ironic that it is poised to be a solution to Hayden in the same capacity and yet this time instead of relief it faces closure. Study upon study reflects the benefit of a 600-800 high school student population. The benefits have already been highlighted by past speakers. Bateman serves a broad sector of student education needs. Yet, no seat was given at the PARC table as to the impact of these school closures. “Where are the union representatives? Why are they quiet in this process?

“Today, as the public, we are given 5 minutes to race through our concerns in person. How is our voice really being heard face-to-face in a meaningful two-way discussion?

“Issues that as a group we could have raised and discussed are innovative ideas. Ways to address under-utilization by renting out of some spaces to community partners – tutoring businesses; Driver’s Ed; other co-op programs such as the LBP Co-op Nursery. As a collective we could have discussed ESL needs at a north/south school – a hub especially since the board likes and wants (and is) to attract students from abroad as high school students into the fold.

“Has the latter even been considered in the student numbers/projections? We could have (and have for LBP) provided resolutions to overcrowding issues at one school and under-utilization at another. Members of the LBP Committee got creative – because they flipped the issue. Instead of taking the premise of – we have underutilization and programming – tell us which schools to close; they started with the “we did not go into the field of closing schools” and came up with ways to in fact make that a true statement. How we are even seriously discussing the closure of a school in the north is beyond logic given the growth.

“Equity – why don’t we give equal weighting and concern to over-crowding as to under-utilization. We heard that 90% is the required utilization but have never, ever heard what the comfort level is for the over-utilization. Given some are projected (your numbers) for 110% or 140%…what is that acceptable %? it is unacceptable to make plans for permanent over-utilization, particularly in a growing area. Too risky. This is what happened to Hayden, now bursting. What number of portables is too many?

“Accountability – who is accountable for incorrect decisions? Who is accountable for short term vs. long term thinking? Who is accountable to the students, the parents, the community, the teachers, when they do not feel included or that they have been heard?

“Empathy – it goes beyond feeling and knowing others are struggling with our decisions. It means we walk in their shoes. Walking in them means we understand how our decisions will impact each and every student within our care. It means we want to have done due diligence, left no stone unturned, left no voice out, and have explored all possibilities before we close a school (let alone two). Let’s hit pause and not feel pressured to move forward with any decision that we are not 100% sure on or that we feel can be justified.

“Be a visionary. Be creative. Be innovative. Be accountable. Be empathetic. Be collaborative in the fullest sense of the word by including all voices at the table. Help this process and the ultimate decision be one that does uphold the integrity of the duty entrusted into your care…our children and financial resources (yes, $12 million in renovations to duplicate Bateman at Nelson is not fiscally responsible).

“So please hear my voice, and the voice of many others. Hear the voice of those who feel defeated in the community. Do not close these schools – they are not just bricks and mortar they beat with the hearts of our students. Partner with us to find a solution that works to solve what generated the PAR in the first place. Work not in silos but in collaboration with the community to come up with a viable solution. We are counting on you.

That is about as good as a delegation can be. Were the trustees listening – was Diane Miller heard?

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The Pope, the Rube and the Prime Minister who invited the head of the Catholic church to come to Canada and apologize to the aboriginal community.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

June 3rd, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

What an imperfect couple they made, the man of conscience and the rube. Not to insult the man but Trump has no excuse for behaving as he does. He has a ton of money, the richest US president ever. In fact he is almost as rich as Pope Francis, who heads one of the most profitable organizations in history, which unlike Trump’s empire has never gone bankrupt.

Anyway, when two billionaires get together you’d think they’d be nicer to each other. But these guys have very little in common outside of the asset values of their inherited corporate holdings. And Pope Francis actually understands what his job is all about, in addition to being a nice guy and a breath of fresh air.

Trump and Pope

Pope Francis with US President Donald Trump and his wife Melania

But the Pope got himself on the Donald’s bad side when he criticized him for wanting to build that stupid Mexico wall, in fact calling wall building anti-Christian. And Trump, in a rare moment of clarity, tweeted back that the Vatican is in fact also surrounded by walls. Though in his defence, Francis was likely being philosophical and that would have gone right over the head of the newest apprentice in the oval office.

So one can only imagine what went on behind those walls at the Holy See as the two old souls got hot and heavy into what’s wrong with the world and how to fix it. And you’d think they’d have stopped where they have common ground – opposition to birth control. After all, Trump is dismantling American planned parenthood, and the Church is still pushing its 10th century dogma, passively instructing faithful parishioners to breed like rabbits.

And for a thinking Pope who has come out against global warming, what could be more fundamental to that issue than reducing the rate of global population growth? Even if the birth rate of western nations has started declining, they’d need to decline much further to compensate for the longevity of seniors. And as for the masses of people in developing nations looking to acquire the fossil-fuel lifestyles we have been enjoying, if the rest of the world lived like Americans, or Canadians, we’d be in an even sorrier mess.

But in fact, global population is still increasing. And it’s not because we need more labour. Automation and robotics are already threatening labour markets everywhere. Ignorance and religion, as personified by Trump and the Pope, respectively, sit at center stage in this unfortunate drama as we blindly pull the curtain on our existence, as we know it, on this planet.

Justin + Pope

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with Pope Francis

So it’s little wonder when Trump departed their meeting, that the Pope couldn’t muster a smile. Not that Francis ever smiles for his official post-visit photo shoots, not even when good Catholic himself, our own Justin showed up at the Papal door. Trudeau wasn’t just there for the chat and a cup of holy tea. He needed the big man to apologize for the abuse Catholic educators over the years had inflicted on young indigenous children – the residential schools.

Justin Pierre and Pope

Pope John Paul II with a young Justin Trudeau and his father Pierre Trudeau

It was a recommendation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Trudeau had taken to implementing all the recommendations, so here he was – true to his word. And rumours are that his Holiness will be popping over to see us next year, so Justin may have just pulled off that gutsy manoeuvre. But did he also talk about climate change and birth control?

Trump has finally made formal what we all expected. He has taken the USA out of the Paris Climate Agreement – the most important game on earth to try to preserve our climate. It was an election promise after all. And he’s in good company among people thinking that there is no art to the Paris deal. Nicaragua and Syria won’t sign up for emission reductions either. And at least he’s consistent. Trump made it clear during the election that he thinks climate change is only a hoax perpetrated by China to wreck the American economy.

So some are figuring that it is better to have America out of the pact than obstructing from the sidelines, as GW Bush’s team did while the rest of the world tried to implement that earlier agreement, Kyoto.

smoke stacks

The United States is on of the biggest emitters of environmental pollution.

Already Europe has made it clear they will entertain no new discussions with the White House on the accord, and China is positioning itself as the new world leader on this most important file.

Besides Mr. ‘Make America Great Again’ will have his hands full tearing up trade deals, closing the borders, restarting coal mining and cutting taxes for the richest Americans. Chances are good that this agenda will just result in Trump digging the kind of hole GW dug himself. Indeed a hole so big that he’ll need a lifeline and prayer to get out. But after that unfortunate meeting with the Pope he won’t be getting any Papal Blessings.

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:

Catholic Business –    Trump and the Pope –    More Trump

Birth Control and Trump –   Birth Control and Pope –   Trudeau and the Pope

Trudeau Photo Op –   Trudeau meets the Pope –   Trump Statement

Trump and Paris Accord –   Trump Announcement –   Trump Backlash

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Political changes taking place all over the country; is a permanent change in the way we elect our leaders in the wind?

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

May 29th, 2017

BURLINGTON,ON

 

It never fails. Leave the country for a week and…

The Conservative Party of Canada held its leadership vote and, as I had suggested could happen, it delivered an upset victory. Andrew Sheer, a 30 something career politician from Saskatchewan and former House speaker, is the new leader of Canada’s grand old party. Using a ranked ballot, also referred to as preferential or single transferable, Sheer snuck past front runner Maxime Bernier in the last elimination round, and snatched the prize by less than a single percentage point.

scheer

Andrew Scheer, 38 year old leader newly elected leader of the Conservative Party of Canada.

One could not be faulted for seeing Sheer as a mini-me, a younger Stephen Harper. After all Sheer, like Harper, is a ‘social conservative’, a label some consider synonymous with right wing or reactionary views. One can’t help but get the feeling that he wants to turn the clock back to the time Mr. Harper ruled the roost – and that the recent period of Liberal government is just an inconvenient stop on the highway to a more conservative Canada.

And like Harper, the new leader is anti-choice when it comes to a woman’s body. Though Mr. Harper was careful to avoid re-opening the legalization debate, which former Conservative PM Kim Campbell has so skillfully brought to a conclusion. That Sheer has played the abortion card in this contest should be a red flag to all potential voters who value freedom of choice.

Other than that we will have to wait and see how progressive his leadership of the former Progressive Conservative party will be – or not. And that may determine the party’s chances of sliding in between the two parties on the left and centre, and forming government come 2019. Sheer, as a novice leader, will be facing a still-popular Justin Trudeau, who will argue for the opportunity to complete what he had begun in his first term.

And the New Democrats will also be showcasing a new leader, which may lead to more of a three way race than in 2015.

Speaking of three way races, there is B.C.’s recent election. Typically a two party province, there hasn’t been a minority government there since the 1950’s,. But that luxury has come to an end after the Green Party elected three members to the legislative assembly. And the B.C. Liberal Party, arguably more conservative than its name, had barely eked out a two seat lead over the opposition NDP.

B.C. Liberal Leader Christy Clark answers questions from media following her meet with Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon to dissolve the Legislature at the Government House in Victoria, B.C. Tuesday April 16, 2013.THE CANADIAN PRESS/ CHAD HIPOLITO

B.C. Liberal Leader Christy Clark is one seat shy of being able to form a government. Photo credit – THE CANADIAN PRESS/ CHAD

So the Libs are one seat short of a majority. And while they could claim the right to form government, given their first place finish, it is unlikely they’d survive the first non-confidence vote. The Greens are tired of sitting in the wings and are hungry for power. So they are looking to bed down with either one of the other parties, a coalition or contract for a one-term-stand as opposed to a marriage of convenience.

Regardless who they sleep with, the result will mean a fresh look at resource projects, like the recently approved Kinder Morgan oil pipeline. And in a province which has built its economy in large part upon its rich endowment of natural resources, there will be fireworks – and possibly new tensions with the federal government. It is expected that a deal will be negotiated by mid-week, so we’ll soon see how this plays out.

And the real sticking point in these coalition discussions is the matter of electoral reform. B.C. in recent years has twice conducted a referendum for electoral change. And both of these – the one for proportional representation and the other for voting by a single transferable (ranked) ballot – have failed. So the Greens are saying ‘to-hell’ with referendum – let’s just do it. But the NDP and Libs are reluctant to wear the blame for defying the results of those previous polls.

The Greens want to introduce proportional representation, a system which does offer more effective representation and is better designed to accommodate minority situations and political coalitions. And that would be a life-line for the longer term survival of their party.

Though had the previous Liberals been able to convince the public on the merits of a preferential ballot when they were in power, similar to the approach the federal Conservatives used last weekend, they might have been returned to office with a majority and the Green Party left out in the cold. There is a lesson in this for our federal leaders.

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:

CPC Leadership –   More CPC –   Even More CPC –   B.C Election –   Minority Consequences

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Are there members of the Conservative prty who did not gt their ballots in time to vote for the new federal leadership?

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

May 24th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The political set in Burlington is a secretive crowd.

We frequently get messages with the line “You are not hearing this from me!”

I’ve never understood why these people don’t stand up on their hind legs and say: “My name is John Doe and I want to know why…?”

Conservative leadership-candidates

The men and women running for the office of Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. Kevin O’Leary, on the far left, dropped out of the race but his name is still on the ballot.

That being said we were told that: “ There have been many members of the Conservative Party who are social conservatives who either did NOT get a ballot or it came too late to mail in. I wonder if there is a story here.”

Is there a story here?

Are there others who did not get the ballot they expected when they became members of the Conservative Party?

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Conservatives pick their winner; candidate from Milton not looking all that good.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

May 19, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Rona Ambrose has been a credible, if not admirable, leader of Canada’s official opposition. Indeed, she has grown from her disappointing early tenure as Harper’s first environment minister. But then Harper promoted her, so she must have exceeded his expectations, doing what the boss wanted all his appointees in that job to do – reduce the role of the ministry in protecting the environment.

Rona Ambrose

Rona Ambrose, current interim Conservative leader leaving politics heading for a US Think Tank

And she’s smart enough to understand that the voters won’t stand for the kind of nastiness, as she has put it, which had characterized the Harper years. So it is unfortunate that after thirteen years in the saddle she will be changing horses, vacating her parliamentary seat and heading for more lucrative work south of the border. Or a better metaphor, she’ll be leaving the daily fish bowl in Ottawa for one of those lucrative beltway political shark tanks.

Her job as opposition leader is almost over anyway and will disappear at end of the month, once her party has chosen its new leader. Of course one could be forgiven for not knowing that a national leadership contest is underway, unless he/she is an ardent political observer, an active member of the Conservative party or a journalist. For one thing there are way too many candidates, thirteen, to seriously follow and keep track of, each with his/her own particular spin.

Then there is the thinly veiled racism that has surrounded the campaign, particularly with some ‘socially conservative’ candidates. This has had the effect of souring the entire process and reflecting unfairly on all the other contestants as a consequence. One would have hoped these prospective party leaders had learned their lesson about race-baiting from the last election.

Kevin oleary

Kevin O’Leary tries to be Canada CEO for all of 30 seconds; chickens out.

Or It could be that the star candidate, that neophyte political wannabe, Canada’s Donald Trump and self-proclaimed Mr. Wonderful, Kevin O’Leary, after trying out to be Canada CEO for all of 30 seconds, has chickened out, deserted the fold and literally left town. But our hero and super star candidate was also a first class membership recruiter, and he has asked his now disillusioned supporters to shift their allegiance to Maxime Bernier, making Max the current front runner.

Bernier is best remembered as the incompetent minister of foreign affairs who left a pile of sensitive files with a biker-chick, his gang-linked girlfriend, and had to be fired as a result. But he is a francophone which the party thinks is big plus for winning seats in Quebec. Though he has a remarkable, some would say scary, libertarian outlook on politics, threatening to destroy Canada’s agricultural supply management system, co-incidentally one on which so many Quebec farmers rely.

Bernie may be a tad extreme but is true to the conservative creed. In fact all of the candidates are preaching smaller government, promising to balance the budget and willing to cut some taxes. It’s that old fake saw about how cutting taxes for the rich will rain down riches on the poor. Since only the wealthy create jobs we need more of them to be wealthier.

All candidates want to get rid of the carbon tax, except the moderate, and maverick, Michael Chong from near-by Wellington-Halton Hills. He would cut income taxes to make the carbon one revenue neutral, à la BC. Chong, like Bernier, is a reformer though his focus is on building a better working government while Bernier sounds like he’d like to get rid of government entirely.

Conservative MP Lisa Raitt asks a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, May 4, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Conservative MP Lisa Raitt

There are only two women in the contest, and both from Ontario. Kellie Leitch has spent a lot of time and effort pitching better screening of immigrants to make sure they are Canada-ready when they get here. Her single issue is called ‘Canadian values’ though, try as she might, she is still having trouble explaining what that means. So the right-wing media assumes she’s talking-up racism and they love her – which is enough to turn most reasonable conservatives to consider anybody but Kellie.

The other female is former Labour and Transport Minister Lisa Raitt. A former Toronto Port CEO, she is one of the few candidates who actually held a senior executive position in the business world. And perhaps that explains her reasonable moderation for most things political. But being moderate doesn’t get you headlines, and to win a nomination for leader of a party now out of power – it helps if you get media attention.  Raitt is the MP for Milton.

The smart money is riding with Bernier come May 27th, particularly now that he has been given a big boost by Canada’s most famous dragon. But the voting is by a mail-in preferential ballot where party members get to rank their choices in the order they would like to have them, or strategically in order to keep some other candidate from winning. So the term ‘front runner’ could well be a misnomer for this box of political chocolates.

This leadership race could be described as a crap shoot, but at least it won’t be a bun fight, since it’ll all be decided by the click of a computer key. Being number one in a poll of thirteen candidates doesn’t mean being number one after the computer does its thing, adding in all the secondary choices. And it’s entirely possible that a candidate could win the election by riding to the top as the most popular second or third choice.

Ranked ballots were used before when the party elected Stephen Harper in 2004, but it was a smaller field of candidates then. Thanks in part to Mr. O’Leary there are about a quarter of a million eligible voters, though not all will vote, especially if Kevin fans decide to sit on their hands rather than vote for Mad Max. The Liberals had almost 300,000 members/supporters on their rolls but recorded less than half that number when it came time to vote at their leadership in 2013

Interestingly, the Conservatives, who have dismissed using a ranked ballot for national elections, are perfectly comfortable with exactly that process for their own leadership contest.

Bernir and girl friend

Maxime Bernier thought to be the front runner who may not have enough second choice support.

Anyway, I’m betting on front-runner Bernier to bring home the prize. And if the world worked the way it was supposed to, Kellie Leitch should finish last, given her polarizing approach to politics.

While the more moderate candidates like Michael Chong or Lisa Raitt might offer the best chance for the party to appeal beyond its ideologically-driven base, that is not going to happen. Chong’s support for the carbon tax makes him a long shot. And Raitt doesn’t sound like she really wants the job, suffering from a disorganized campaign and message. And if her recent interview with National Post columnist John Ivison is to be taken seriously, like Ambrose she may also be heading for the door.

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:

Ambrose –   Candidates –    Nastiness –    Conservative Leadership

Leadership Voting –   Racism and the Tories –   Leitch Video –   Rebel News

Pro Bernier –   Not Bernier –   Lisa –   Lisa Could Win –   Strange Campaign

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He hopes they will let him drive one of the tanks. Rivers going to Ukraine and will tour Canadian army training camp while there.

Rivers 100x100By Ray River

May 12, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Not since the ’80’s, not since before the cold war ended, has the world seemed so very much on edge, particularly in the birthplace of the last two world wars. As we know, European nations are having to rearm themselves, thanks to the new threat posed by Russia’s near dictator, Mr. Putin. He has an ambition – to restore the Soviet Union and reinstate Russia’s place as a major world power.

Take Ukraine, which Vlad the conquerer tried to do a couple of years ago, though it appears he may be content to settle for those bits and pieces of the former Soviet republic where his army is now firmly entrenched. That is the lesson of self-defence – why even in peacetime good fences make for better neighbours.

Ukraine president Poroshenko + Putin

They are not talking to each other: Russian president Vladimir Putin and the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko.

Putin has said that Ukraine shares the blame for allowing this rape to take place – as if rape could ever be justified. The rise of the oligarchs concurrent with the deterioration of the old communist social system; the corruption that infiltrated almost all walks of life; the systematic dismantling of one of the most powerful military forces in Europe; and a former president colluding with Putin, the former KGB agent, to facilitate the country’s takeover – all contributed.

My wife and I are volunteering to spend three weeks this year teaching young Ukrainians to speak English and to understand and develop an appreciation of western customs and traditions. to “the president of Ukraine” GoCamps is a non-governmental organization, supported by the Ukrainian government, with the goal of creating awareness of western society and thus offering Ukrainians a better future beyond the old eastern bloc. This year they are hoping for 1000 volunteers to expose 300,000 children to our way of life.

Most Ukrainians look at neighbouring Poland which has amplified its economy nearly twelve-fold since joining the EU, while Ukraine has barely grown by a factor of two or three. But Ukraine took too long deciding to apply for EU membership, and although it has been the recipient of numerous European development programs, its eventual application to join ticked off Vlad and brought insurrection and war to the 20 something year-old nation.

Члены Ассоциации защиты прав вкладчиков провели пикетирование Национального банка Украины с требованием возвращения депозитов. По словам собравшихся, они приурочили пикет ко дню рождения Главы Национального банка Сергея Арбузова. Экспертно-аналитический совет по вопросам участия государства в капитализации банков при Кабинете Министров решил начать выплаты вкладчикам Родовид Банка через Государственный Ощадный банк в апреле. Об этом говорится в сообщении Национального банка со ссылкой на заместителя главы НБУ Игоря Соркина. 17 марта состоялось заседание экспертно-аналитического совета по вопросам участия государства в капитализации банков, на котором было принято решение об осуществлении выплат средств вкладчикам Родовид Банка через один из государственных банков - Ощадбанк. НБУ обратился к банкам с требованием оказать Ощадбанку соответствующую поддержку во время выплаты средств вкладчикам Родовид Банка через их банкоматы и сеть. Кроме того, было принято решение, что выплаты средств начнутся в апреле текущего года после согласования Нацбанком и правительством

The Ukrainian economy has not grown the way the Polish economy has.

But the EU is not the only entity assisting this country in removing the shackles of Russian domination. The British, Americans and we Canadians are providing both economic as well as military assistance – most significantly by training Ukrainian soldiers in a program called Operation UNIFIER. After all, Ukraine is no stranger to NATO, having been an active partner, though not a member, including supplying troops for NATO initiatives in Afghanistan and the former Yugoslav states.

A Canadian soldier explains the conduct of a patrolling raid to a Ukrainian platoon during small team training at the International Peacekeeping and Security Centre in Starychi, Ukraine, on September 1, 2016. Photo : JTF-U AK51-2016-069-03 ~ Photo : JTF-U AK51-2016-069-03

A Canadian soldier explains the conduct of a patrolling raid to a Ukrainian platoon during small team training at the International Peacekeeping and Security Centre in Starychi, Ukraine.

I have been invited to visit a former Soviet army base where some 200 Canadian military trainers will be in action with Ukrainian recruits, over 3000 of whom have already graduated. Of course Canada is not fighting Putin’s forces so the training is taking place well away from the conflict zone in south-eastern Ukraine, and out of harm’s way. But just to be safe, I’m told, I’ll have to don a helmet and body armour for my tour.

It is just not feasible for Ukrainian forces to take on the well-trained and supplied Russian military – at least not yet. So since the beginning of the Russian invasions the primary response by western nations supporting Ukraine has been to apply limited economic sanctions on Putin’s Russia. Those sanctions, coupled with the drop in oil revenues, (which next to weapons make up the bulk of Russia’s export earnings) have hurt Putin’s economy and restrained his plans to expand his military even more.

So America’s new president, the enigmatic and unpredictable Donald Trump is a concern. Nobody seems to understand what the US president’s aspirations are, if he has any at all, besides exercising power, further enriching himself and going for the glory of it all. But he had spoken warmly of Putin during his election campaign last year, and questioned the lifting of US sanctions. And he and those around him are known to have had significant financial dealing with the Putin crowd.

His recent firing of the FBI Director, who more than any other individual contributed to his becoming president, ironically, has unnerved virtually the entire political class in America. Despite his official rationale for booting James Comey out of his job, everyone understands it has to do with the FBI investigation into Trump and friends, and Russia.

Although the US is not at war with Russia, the two nations are at odds over the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine – and possibly Russian arms supplies to the Taliban. And then there is the hacking of democratic institutions in the USA during last year’s federal election which has been traced back to Moscow. So as Trump welcomed Russia’s foreign minister to Washington this week with open arms, one can’t help but wonder where this is going to go.

Ukraine - aircraft shot down

Malaysian airlines MH17 believed to have been shot down by Russian operatives in rebel held eastern Ukraine.

Travelling to Ukraine will take me on a touch-down to Holland . Dutch citizens were the largest contingent of passengers killed when Russian operatives in rebel held eastern Ukraine shot down Malaysian airlines MH17 a couple of years ago. Perversely, this tiny but important European nation voted against accepting Ukraine into the EU in a referendum last year – as if they were taking out their anger over losing their loved ones on the victims of the broader conflict, rather than the actual culprits. Sometimes that is how it goes in rape cases – we blame the victims.

I visited Ukraine last year for the first time, while doing research for a book I’m writing. And this year its future is only marginally more promising. Except that the economy is stronger and so are the nation’s defences, thanks in part to Canada. And for the Ukrainians, despite support from western nations, they understand that in the end it is they alone who must secure their future and their own security. So I look forward to observing our trainers at work as they help the local soldiers get into shape for even more conflict. And maybe they’ll even let me drive a tank.

rivers-on-guitar

Rivers will be taking his guitar with him and teaching some of the students how to play it – and then leaving the guitar behind as a gift

Ray 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:

Ukraine vs Poland –   Canada Trains Ukrainians –     Trump and Russia

MH17 –      GoCamps

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