The New Hydro Plan - As Good As It Gets

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

March 10th, 2017



What did you do to celebrate International Woman’s Day? I attended a media roundtable with Ontario’s first female Premier at her office in Queen’s Park. Always professional and direct, Kathleen Wynne should have been facing a potentially tough media presser, the trendy term for press conference. But she got off lightly considering the topic, electricity pricing, has been largely responsible for her party’s position at the bottom of the opinion polls.

The sorry history of the electricity file most recently begins with that common sense guy, Mike Harris, who did to Ontario’s electoral sector what GW Bush had done to Iraq. In his ideological zeal to replace everything government, he broke up Ontario Hydro then banned Ontario Power Generation (OPG), one of the largest and most experienced power companies in North America, from developing alternate energy supplies.


The look pretty well sums it up.

His mismanagement spiked hydro rates and led to black and brown outs, even in that brief period of these changes before the Liberals ousted him. But then Dalton McGuinty had also drunk the Kool Aid, and in his passion to keep the lights on while he phased-out the coal power plants, continued writing lucrative 20 year private sector energy contracts like the proverbial drunken sailor. The contracts mostly guaranteed prices and quantities of power delivered, regardless of whether the energy was needed.

It made some sense from the point of view of the small energy supplier who needed market assurances in order to invest. But in the process Ontario not only bought over-capacity, but over-production, which periodically has to be sold at bargain basement rates to utilities south of the border – or spilled.


Niagara Falls – the source of a lot of the energy that powers western Ontario.  It once made the province a leader in hydro generation.

McGuinty and Harris and their cheering section of academics and industry special interests were wrong when they claimed electricity in Ontario shouldn’t be a natural monopoly. It is no secret that those public hydro monopolies in B.C., Manitoba and Quebec have the lowest utility rates in the country. Of course those provinces have vast stores of water power and Ontario did waste a ton of money experimenting with the nukes. But where has all this new alternative private power development landed us? When prompted, the Premier confessed that her staff had considered re-inventing the old Hydro One, but they believe the time for that option is long passed.

We are now stuck with our mixed private-publicly owned system and the consumers are stuck with the big bills we’ve seen of late. So instead of forcing energy users to pay those bills as we go, Ontario’s new ‘Hydro Plan’ involves buying a 30 year mortgage at today’s low interest rates. That way those billions of dollars committed to private sector contracts will spread out over a longer term, and even with the new financing costs, the average utility bill will fall by about a quarter. Of course that presumes that interest rates don’t start to rise.

wynne-at heritage dinner

Will the arms be as open in June of 2018 – which is when we get to cast a ballot.

The government will peg rate increases to inflation for the next few years, while doing something to bring down the outrageous cost of delivery and using more tax-based subsidy to assist households with lower incomes, and small business. Electricity is no stranger to subsidy and debt. We should recall the massive debt the old Ontario Hydro had run up prior to Harris’ version of shock and awe. Almost 30 billion in liabilities exceeded the assets of both Hydro One and OPG.

Wynne may call this a structural change, sharing the financial burden imposed by these contracts with the next generation. But it is really just about moving money around, taking out a mortgage to help cover sunk costs instead of paying as we go. And it’s not like there are any other options to lower the prices, short of tearing up the contracts, something the courts would never allow.

So the Premier got off pretty lightly with the media at the presser. Perhaps they all understand that she is short on options to deal with something that should have been dealt with a decade or two earlier. Or maybe they are just tired of this topic that has been played too frequently by a media looking for human interest stories, and opposition parties looking to raise their own profile.

Wynne Kathleen - looking guilty gas plant hearing

The Premier explaining …

We should all hope that the mistakes of the past will not be repeated and that somebody in the energy ministry is working on a real plan, but that was not revealed in the Premier’s presser. Perhaps that is something she is keeping under wraps until the party’s election platform is unveiled next year? But for now it looks like this is as good as it gets.

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:

Premier’s Statement –   Wynne’s Popularity –    Hydro plan –   More Hydro Plan

Voter Anger –    Business Perspective

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Successful local artist wants to see a little more zip on the streets of the city - less complacency.

opinionandcommentBy Donna Grandin

March 8th, 2017



Where’s our Supercrawl, Burlington?

Yes, we have Sound of Music, but that’s an annual event in a park. The momentum of the annual Supercrawl is sustained by monthly art crawls, and the creative businesses on James St. N and surrounding streets.

Noack interview - city culture days 014

Donna Grandin is a successful local artist active in the annual Art Tour.

Where is our local art scene? The pop-up galleries, established commercial art galleries, affordable artists’ studios, and then all the other businesses that develop on the fringes of the “scene”?

In the last five years especially, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know many of you Arts & Culture people in Burlington, but I’ve also seen us lose talented members of our community as they answered the call of lower cost of living, and a more support for the arts, in Hamilton.

Do we just not have enough people interested in buying local art, in going out to local arts events, in investing in the local arts community?

Apparently, there’s not enough potential for gentrification, our real estate prices are too high, rent is too high.

But I still see empty buildings here and there.

Any thoughts?

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Gazette's ace columnist now a member of journalist's association - will cover the Premier's media conference on Wednesday

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

March 7th, 2017



Rivers reading a newspaper Jan 3-15

Rivers looks at print media from time to time – he prefers the electronic format for the immediacy it gives him and the ability to link what he writes to solid background material,

Our ace columnist Ray Rivers has become a member of the Canadian Association of Journalists, sometimes called the Centre for Investigative Journalism and plans on attending one of Premier Wynn’s media Roundtables being held for regional media to discuss Ontario’s Fair Hydro Plan and how it benefits communities across the province on Wednesday, March 8, 2017.

River cover politics for the Gazette – he’s been doing that for five years now.

Members of the media able to attend in person are asked to arrive at the Premier’s Office at 4:45 p.m. Those unable to attend are invited to call in.


In his spare time Rivers like to play the guitar and enjoy the Goodness of Guinness.

Rivers will be on deck Wednesday afternoon when he and a herd of other media will meet with the Premier as she explains what she plans to do to get her government past the post on the June 2018 provincial election

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City hall forgets to use the words road diet or bike lanes in an announcement on the water main work to be done on New Street.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

March 3, 2017



Here we go again.

It is hard to believe how obtuse some of the people at City Hall can be.

A seven paragraph media release with the word pilot project slipped in but not one use of the work bike or the words road diet.

Here is what the city sent out.

“Water main work with Halton Region will begin on New Street between Dynes Road and Cumberland Avenue on March 7, resulting in lane closures and scheduled water service shutdowns. The construction is scheduled to be completed in May.

“The installation of a new water main between Guelph Line and Dynes Road began in October and November 2016. The work to install the rest of the water main between Dynes Road and Cumberland Avenue will start earlier than scheduled due to mild weather.

“Residents and businesses will be given 48 hours’ notice for scheduled water service shutdowns. Water main installation will include the replacement of curbs, gutters and the boulevard to restore any damage from the water main works.

“New Street between Walkers Line and Guelph Line is the site of a pilot project that began in August 2016 for all street users.

“Completing the water main installation in May will reduce the disruption to New Street into two shorter, two-month intervals rather than one six-month construction period originally planned for the spring and summer of 2017. This will allow for longer, uninterrupted traffic data collection.

“The city is collecting data, and will continue to collect data after the water main work is done and until the end of the summer to ensure the city has the data needed to assess the pilot. That information, along with travel times on nearby residential roads that run parallel to New Street, will be included in a recommendation report to Burlington City Council this fall.

“Creating more travel options for the community means thinking differently about how our city road network looks and functions. The one-year pilot on New Street is an example of how some existing roads in Burlington could be redesigned to give people more travel options to get around the city.”

One of the most contentious projects the city has decided to do – lessen the amount of road space for vehicular traffic on New Street and put in bicycle lanes. It was set up as a pilot project and public opinion views were all over the map.

It was so contentious that the Mayor couldn’t get some personal private time at the Y – residents kept approaching him to bend his ear.

In future they should take him by the ear out to the woodshed.

New street - as far as they eye can see

New water mains being laid down on New Street west of Guelph Line.

One of the reasons for doing the pilot project on dedicated bicycle lanes was because New Street was going to have significant water main work done and then a new layer of asphalt laid down – it was thought that would be a convenient time to install bicycle lanes and see how they worked.

To not even use the words “road diet” or bike or bicycle is sneaky and only adds to the cynicism over the way city hall works.  Do they think that by not using the words that people will forget?

Transparent – accountable – please!

Transit - Vito Tolone

Vito Tolone, Director of Transportation

They transportation department should be ashamed of themselves for letting this kind of media release get sent out. The close to 3000 people at have signed a petition have every reason to be angry – city hall has been exceedingly disrespectful

Vito Tolone, Director of Transportation is quoted as saying” “A lengthy and uninterrupted time-frame to collect all the data needed for the New Street pilot will be beneficial to staff when incorporating this information into our report to City Council.” He can’t say the words either.

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Taxes: you could always use a little of that stash you hid under the mattress to get a good bottle of vodka.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

March 3, 2017



My grandfather used to keep his money under his mattress, which might have made it lumpy and stiff, had he ever accumulated anything resembling a sizeable stash. And what little he didn’t stuff there, he’d re-invest in commodities, mostly vodka. That was a while ago, before the government introduced retirement saving instruments like RRSPs (registered retirement saving plans), which allow tax deferrals, and TFSAs (tax-free saving accounts), which make the interest or capital gains tax-free.

Under the bed.

Hiding your money under a mattress – and it doesn’t have to always be Canadian dollars.

An economy needs savings, because that is a disposable pool of capital ripe for investment and growth. The Canada Pension Plan was in part created just for that purpose, a fund for governments to dip into to develop highways and other infrastructure back in the day. And no government claims to be more committed to building more infrastructure, and needs those funds more, than our modern day federal government.

But we are just a day or two beyond the deadline for investing in an RRSP – so the question is why are total RRSP contributions falling and why is there so much unused potential in the TFSAs? It could be blamed on low interest rates which dissuade the lazy investor. After all actively managing your registered investments in the rising share-market demands more time and work, more risk and more cost than a lot of people are willing to expend.

And the promise of a more robust CPP (Canada Pension Plan), thanks to our Ontario premier, may have convinced people that they’ll need less personal savings outside of the CPP. But most likely It has to do with the financial squeeze facing middle-income earners, caught between the pressures of keeping abreast in our consumer society and making ends meet in an ever deteriorating workplace economy. Not much is left over for savings.


The baby boomers changed the world every decade as they went from cribs to caskets.

And perhaps the lure of a tax deferred income savings plan has lost its lustre. Today’s young workforce has to be discouraged listening to their parents’ grumbling over paying more taxes now on RRSP withdrawals than they ever gained in tax relief back when. And maybe RRSPs are not the panacea they were sold to be – to these human guinea pigs, the baby boomers.

Since the CPP gets lumped in with all the other deductions on a pay slip, it also tends to be called a payroll tax. After all, your CPP donation goes off to an agency which holds it until you reach a magic retirement age, or die. In some ways that is like sending one’s income taxes to Ottawa and hoping they’ll come back as old age security payments (OAS) when you retire. So are RRSPs and TFSA’s nothing more than voluntary taxes, since they’re also locked-in under some kind of government plan?

There is a lot of talk about taxes from the candidates vying to be the next leader of the Conservative Party these days. Everyone of them is promising to cut income taxes, and Mr. Chong is claiming the biggest income tax cut of all. But then this pinkish Tory explains he’s doing that because he’s planning to keep Mr. Trudeau’s carbon tax, and making it revenue neutral – reminiscent of robbing Peter to pay Paul. Except Paul already has lots of cash, thank you, and Peter is the guy filling his car’s gas tank.

Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney leads the chorus in singing an Irish song on stage with his wife (Mila) and U.S. President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan at the conclusion of a gala performance in Quebec City March 17, 1985. (CP PHOTO/Bill Grimshaw)

Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney leads the chorus in singing an Irish song on stage with his wife (Mila) and U.S. President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan at the conclusion of a gala performance in Quebec City March 17, 1985.

Listening to the debates one can’t help but get a warm nostalgic feeling – like back in the days when old Irish-eyed singers Ronnie and Brian first introduced their versions of trickle-down economics between their verses. They reasoned that by giving more money to the rich, the poor would prosper because, as Newton said, everything that goes up eventually trickles down.

The conservative think-tanks and their disciples love, and have never given up on, this zany bit of oxymoronic nonsense. So, not to attract disfavour from their spiritual core sources, the Conservative Tory leadership wannabes are goose-stepping to the beat of our southern neighbour, the Donald, who is promising his billionaire buddies even more.

They say It’s about putting more money in peoples’ pockets. Though why the top 10% of income earning Canadians need that much more cash, or what they would do with it, is a good question. I guess they’ll just let it trickle down to those most in need, like we’ve seen them do in the good old days, right?

Thanks to an economic theory called the ‘marginal propensity to consume’, we know that economic growth comes from putting money into the hands of the lower income masses, not the wealthy. Perhaps some of these candidates are hoping to extend Mr. Trudeau’s modest tax cuts, by shifting tax brackets in favour of the middle class, as he did. Though the not-a-snow-ball’s-chance-in-hell Mr. Chong seems intent on playing the role of a reverse Robin Hood.

Working James and Joes

It is the tax deductions from the pay cheques of the working Janes and Joes that keeps the government alive.

As Mr. Trudeau found out there is a lot of income tax revenue coming in from the common person, the working Joe/Jane, and shifting tax brackets to favour the middle class is costly to the public purse. So it’ll be easier for your next Tory government to follow the model set by Mr. Trump, which inadvertently stretches the wealth gap even more. And that would add very little real loonie change into the pockets of those in the middle, making it just as hard for them to save for that next RRSP or TFSA.

So, so much for that new 4K TV, a vacation or new car. And so much for securing those golden years with sound financial retirement planning. Who can blame them for not sticking more money into RRSPs and TFSAs.

Despite all the talk of helping the middle class there is not going to be enough left over, unless you just want to pad your bedding as my grandpa did. And if that interrupts your sleep too much, you could always use a little of that modest stash to get a good bottle of vodka.

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:

Pensions –   Taxes –    More Taxes

Interest Rates –    Marginal Propensity to Consume –    Chong

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Is the Board of Education missing out on an opportunity to really harness the energy and creativity of the PARC?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

February 25th, 2017



It is almost as if the parents who want to keep their local schools open have to do the job with one hand tied behind their backs.

Changes in provincial government legislation has reduced the number of public meetings a school board has to hold and it removes any focus on what happens to the community.

Director Miller has been saying from the get go that the interests of the students is his primary focus – that comes straight out of the provincial government play book.

PARC Jan 27 full group

Parents from different high schools watch the PARC deliberate; they have held four meetings to date.

The Ontario government is speeding up the process for closing schools, as part of a crackdown on publicly funded boards with too many classrooms sitting empty.

Ministry of education guidelines defines schools less than two-thirds full as “underutilized” and are candidates for either closing or changes to their boundaries or programs they offer. The ministry now has new guidelines for community consultations that must take place before a school can be closed. Critics say the guidelines limit public engagement and make it easier to close schools.

A committee reviewing the fate of a school is required to hold two public meetings instead of four under the new regime, and the time frame for conducting a review is cut to five months from seven. Another major change causing considerable angst for municipal officials is a shift in emphasis toward student achievement and away from considering the impact of closing a school on the well-being of a community and the local economy.

The Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO), said focusing the review process more narrowly on the interests of students might help school boards solve their fiscal challenges. But it comes at the expense of the longer-term interests of a community, including the impact closing a school could have on residential real estate values.

The new process gives municipal governments a formal role for the first time, providing an opportunity for school boards to collaborate with municipalities in making the best use of school space.

Goldring at Inspire April 2015 - hand out

Mayor Goldring may have thought he was dodging a bullet when he had his city manager sit on the PAR committee.

Mayor Golding, who sits on an AMO committee, is treating the closing of high schools like a roaring fire – something he isn’t going to get very close to – he accepted the offer of city manager James Ridge, who apparently volunteered for the task of representing the city on the PARC.  Ridge has said very little.

An AMO spokesperson said: “A school is the hub of a community. When you close a school, that community has lost a draw for anybody to ever come back.”   It is self-evident that property values in the community that loses a school will fall.

Then Minister of Education Elizabeth Sandals said that she wants the school boards and the municipalities to have an ongoing relationship where they are sharing their planning data so that the municipalities are aware of where there are clusters of underutilized schools.

The reality many school boards are facing is that there are too many empty seat and they are under pressure to address the financial drain.

The Halton Board seems to have decided it will follow the provincial guidelines and almost bulldoze the PARC parents into accepting the option the board put on the table; close two of the seven high schools.

We now have a situation where the Program Accommodation Review Committee currently looking for options it can give Director Miller is facing a board administration that fudges data and doesn’t work in a collaborative way with the PARC.  It amounts to a lost opportunity for everyone.

PARC the Aldershot delegates

Aldershot High school PARC member Steve Cussons and Central high school representative Ian Farwell on the left.

Miller is quite right when he speaks of the significant time and effort the 14 PAR committee members  are putting in.  They have had to climb a very steep learning curve and have found on too many occasions that some of the data is incorrect.

Miller seems to have lost the opportunity to harness the energy and creativity of the PAR committee.  Is it too late for him and his team to make a mid-course correction and put some substance into the words, “collaborative” and collectively?

This is a shared problem and there is an opportunity to work as a community that understands and respects each other.

Michael Barrett, president of the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association, said in many heavily contested cases in the past, it was often a municipality that was fighting to prevent a school from closing.

That certainly isn’t the case in Burlington.


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Resident wants the school closing process to be halted by the Minister of Education

News 100 redBy Staff

February 24th, 2017



Gary Scobie

Gary Scobie

Burlington resident Gary Scobie wants the school closing process now asking place in Burlington halted. Here is what he had to say the provincial Minister of Education.

Dear Minister Hunter,

On February 16th I sent an email to Mr. Stuart Miller, Director of Education for the Halton District School Board (HDSB), on which you and other officials were copied. I discussed the how the PAR process happening in Burlington for our high schools has been mismanaged by the Board, leading to a probable conclusion to close our oldest school, Central High, in the downtown core while leaving our newest school, Hayden High, north of the QEW over-filled into portables and over-bussed.

Other schools are still in the mix for closure and catchment alterations. I have no vested interest in the outcome (our daughters were well-educated in Burlington and now live elsewhere as adults). I do not live in the downtown core, but see the possible loss of our oldest school, Central High, as damaging to the future prospects of our downtown residential, commercial and cultural livability.

In real estate, they say the three most important things are location, location, location. This could not be truer for any other high school in Burlington. Central High is part of the fabric that makes our downtown attractive to families. Having a local school that is walked to by 92% of the students means it is a school that deserves to stay and be refurbished to meet all accessibility and program requirements. The alternative, being promoted by the HDSB is to close it and bus the students to the far reaches of suburban Burlington in the east and the west, thereby gutting our downtown of any future attraction to families.

Our downtown is the key intensification area in the future, as directed by our Provincial Government. There will be more condos and stacked townhouses built as re-development occurs under provincial mandate. I believe we all want families to move into existing housing and these new forms of housing to be built in the downtown core, keeping it vital both commercially and culturally. Removing one distinctive hub (Central High) will do much to defeat this goal. Once it is gone, it will never reappear as land in the downtown will be too expensive to re-assemble by the Board.

There are other alternatives, but they have been given short shrift by the Board in this mismanaged PAR process. I therefore am requesting that you, as Minister of Education, investigate this PAR process as soon as possible and request a halt to it before irreparable damage is done to our student experience in Burlington. This process is, after all, to benefit students. In doing so, it should not damage forever the most important neighbourhood in our City, our downtown core neighbourhood.

Burlington is well-known as one of the best cities in Canada to live and age in. I want to protect that reputation. The changes in the schooling of our students have the power to either damage or promote this reputation going forward. The issue is too important to be decided only by the HDSB in a poorly executed PAR process. I ask that the PAR be halted and the catchment areas be adjusted to distribute students fairly in the neighbourhoods where they live, using all the existing schools for now. Take a break from the PAR, step back and consider if a PAR is actually in the best interest of Burlington students, and if it is, begin again, with all of the data accurate and complete this time and treat every school and every student in a fair manner from the beginning. Thank you for your consideration.

Gary Scobie
Burlington ON

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Is Islamophobia taking hold in this country? And will a motion bring it to an end?

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

February 24th, 2017



Canada’s Criminal Code prohibits hate propaganda of all kinds. The Canadian Human Rights Act forbids discrimination, including race and religion. All provinces and territories have human rights legislation which mimics the federal act in matters of provincial or territorial concern, as for example, in areas of employment or accommodation. And overriding all of this is the Charter of Rights and Canada’s constitution.

Iqra Khalid

MP Iqra Khalid introduced a Motion in the House of Commons.

So why is Liberal MP Iqra Khalid, so driven to get her motion on Islamophobia passed by the House? And why is she having such a tough time, including receiving death threats? In part the problem lies with the title – ‘Anti-Islamophobia’. Nobody seems to really know what that term, invented only a couple decades ago, even means. A phobia is an irrational fear. Yet, the outcome we are most concerned with is hate, and not fear – anti-Islamic.

Former Liberal MP and respected statesman Irwin Cotler had pushed through an independent motion on anti-semitism under the former Harper government. But then anti-semitism is a pretty well understood matter, we have only to think about the holocaust. And Cotler’s motion was pretty clear about its aims and objectives. So he is not impressed with Khalid’s motion – particularly regarding that term in its title.

There are some folks concerned that this motion is the proverbial camel with its nose in the tent – eventually the rest of its body will follow. The fear is that Sharia law and blasphemy legislation are just around the corner, ready to spring into the law books, once this motion gets passed. The opponents argue that this will legitimize further infringements of our rights to free speech, or worse. That may be a reach, but I’ve heard people being accused of anti-semitic bias for merely protesting against Israel’s settlement policies.

Floor of House of C

A little shoving people around on the floor of the House of Commons.

There is a lot of silly stuff that goes on in Parliament and politics makes strange bed fellows. MP Michael Chong, who gave up his Cabinet post over Mr. Harper’s Quebec-as-a-nation motion, stands almost alone in his party in support of Khalid’s motion. But then he is running in the Conservative leadership race, so why not rush-in where the other Tories fear to tread.

But it’s not like these motions are ever anything but gratuitous fluff, a pandering by MPs to the demands of some loud voices back home. It is doubtful that Canada’s neo-Nazis immediately ripped the swastikas off their chests once Parliament had passed Mr. Cotler’s motion. And this motion introduced by Ms. Khalid is unlikely to erase the public’s fears about a next jihad coming to a neighbourhood near them, irrational or not.

Funeral for quebec muslims

Public funeral for some of the Muslims murdered in Quebec.

We are all united in the horror we witnessed last December in a Quebec city mosque. Condemnation came from everywhere, MPs, political parties and community leaders across all of Canada. But Ms. Khalid’s motion was actually introduced before that tragic massacre. A motion condemning such an event is always appropriate. But that isn’t Khalid’s motion. Instead, her’s threatens to divide Canadians, something that Mr. Trudeau had hoped to avoid during the course of his sunny ways government.

As we look at what is happening in Europe and south of the border, it is hard not to have doubts and questions about Canada’s policy on refugees and immigration. Canada has generously opened its door to thousands of refugees coming from places where this religion, which most of us don’t really understand, plays a significant role in their daily life. But tolerance in an open society has its limits.

The coming of the Trump presidency and his Muslim travel ban to the USA has poured ice-water into the hearts of all non-Christians and non-citizens there. Those not being deported are fearful that this is just the beginning, and that far more draconian measures are on their way. As a consequence Canada is now seeing the start of the kind of illegal migration across its borders which has plagued its southern neighbour for years, and which ultimately led to the creation of the Donald.

muslims crossing the border

Police officers helping immigrants cross the border into Canada.

Many Canadians are still apprehensive of just how many refugees are to be allowed into this country. The Manitoba crossings are an elephant in the snow fields, and that has forced the opposition parties to take a stand. One of them is chastising Trudeau for not upholding the law and the other demanding he rip up the agreement which identifies the US as a safe nation for refugees.

Ultimately, an unregulated flow of migrants is a problem. It’s the very reason that Angela Merkel will lose her re-election this year as German Chancellor. So Mr. Trudeau needs to pay attention. The public mood is shifting from wanting to helping those in need, to a wariness and the need to seal the borders.

Mr. Trudeau has made consensus among Canadians a touchstone of his policies. He recently tore-up his promise on electoral reform for that very reason – saying it lacked consensus. In that vein, he needs to take a long and hard look at the divisiveness being created by this motion now before the House.

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


Background links:

Anti-Discrimination and Hate –   Motion 103 –    More Motion –   Anti-Islamophobia

More Anti –   Camel in the Tent –   US Muslim Ban –   Opposition –   Support –   Border Chaos –   Manitoba Crossings

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Where is the structural change to make Burlington a truly inclusive city going to come from?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

February 22nd 2017



We recently published two articles that lead us to this third article.

In January we published the Mayor’s State of the City in full. The Gazette has done this for the past five years – it gives citizens the opportunity to review just how the Mayors sees the city he governs.

Earlier this month we did an article on the Friday Night Community event that takes place at Wellington Square United Church where some 300 people gather for an evening of fellowship and a meal that gets put together by one of the more ambitious bunch of volunteers from different faith communities in this city.

Pic 2 - ladies at a food table

Setting up a food table at Wellington Square United Church Friday Night Community event.

Lisa Lunski co-ordinates the event at Wellington Square. Glad Tiding Pentecostal church in the Guelph Line – Upper Middle Road part of the city also has a program where more than 300 people gather regularly.
St. Christopher’s Anglican Church also has a program.

These are not “soup kitchen” operations. These events are intended for people who, while perhaps marginalized, are active and have the same social interaction needs as any other group.

Some people meet regularly at the Legion, others go to one of the four Rotary clubs in Burlington – everyone needs to be part of something.

Spend half an hour at a Friday night community at Wellington Square United church and experience the caring, the sharing and the fun that goes on. I’ve never seen anyone at a Legion hand out a birthday card to a member.

Someone at Wellington Square seems to know when a birthday is taking place – and it gets remembered.

The crowd in the Wellington Square kitchen is a marvel – some arrive as early as 7:00 am to get the food preparation rolling. The menu has been worked out and most of the food has arrived – and it all gets done by people that show up regularly as volunteers.


Glad Tidings runs a community program twice a month. You want to hear this crowd when they sing.

Glad Tidings does this twice each month and it becomes a placed where a man named Luke makes a point of standing by a street crossing and pressing the button that will activate a change in the traffic lights so people can cross – that’s the contribution he can make. He also walks up and down |Palmer Drive and caries waste bins from the sidewalk to the door of many homes,

When Mayor Goldring gave his State of the city address he said:

Flood Goldring with chain of office

This interview was the first time Mayor Goldring wore his Chain of Office outside the Council chamber. He was getting used to the job.

“I want to take time today to talk about the whole issue of housing affordability. When I say affordable housing, I am not talking about subsidized or social housing; I am talking about housing that is affordable for the vast majority of people, from millennials to seniors, and everybody in between.”

One got the impression that the Mayor wasn’t interested in social housing – it doesn’t quite fit the image he likes to project of the city. He seemed prepared to leave them at the curb while he does something to make “housing that is affordable for the vast majority of people from millennials to seniors and everyone in between.”

Our Mayor at the same time tells his audience that “we are all in this together”.

And indeed we are all in this together.

Shortly after we published the article on Wellington Square a colleague wrote and pointed out where she felt the need was:

“We need a dialogue on the difference between charity and social development, one meets immediate needs (food banks and food cupboards) and the other changes the structural causes of poverty and marginalization;

“We need a dialogue on community building and inclusive neighbourhoods that create a space for human interaction and belonging, a lot of that interaction starts around food.”

Gift of Giving back logo - 10th

Now into its 12th year The Gift of Giving Back is Burlington at its best.

We are doing pretty well on the charity side – much of the food used at the three churches is raised by high school students as part of the marvelous 10 year Giving Back program.  These are great band aids – what we need are fishing rods so these people can take care of themselves by fishing for their own needs – that is what structural change is all about.

The space between the thinking that was heard at the Chamber of Commerce sponsored State of the City address and the comments made about inclusiveness is very wide.

We do not yet have a table at which all are welcome.

What do we have to change to make that happen?

Related articles:

State of the City 2011
State of the City 2012
State of the City 2013
State of the city 2015
State of the City 2016

Wellington Square United Church – Friday Night Community

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Burlington Downtown Business Association goes on record – keep Central high school open.

Comment 100By Brian Dean, Executive Director
Burlington Downtown Business Association
February 22, 2017


The Burlington Downtown Business Association (BDBA) is a not-for-profit, incorporated organization that represents the interests of its business membership in the downtown core of Burlington. We undertake multiple roles including event management, communications, marketing and advocacy on behalf of the 435 business and commercial property owners in the downtown.

Parking MMW + Brian Dean with head of meter

BDBA Executive Director Brian Dean – is that parking meter on his desk as a keepsake?

We are interested in all issues that affect the present and future health of our unique community of small businesses.

In January 2017 our Board of Directors met with two representatives from The Halton District School Board at our request. Mr. Stuart Miller, Director of Education and Mr. Dom Renzella, General Manager of Planning attended to brief our Directors with a presentation entitled “Program and Accommodation Review Burlington Secondary Schools”.

Central High school

The Downtown Business association calls Central high school a venerable institution.

The representatives shared the fact that two of the five conditions have been met to trigger a Burlington Secondary PAR. Further that the present recommendation includes the closure of Burlington Central High School, and, that a Program and Accommodation Review Committee had been struck. We understand that this PARC is actively reviewing information and garnering feedback from the broader community.

The Burlington Downtown Business Association would like to be considered a community partner to this consultation.

Of the high schools in the City of Burlington none is more venerable or as embedded within an established community of business as Central High School. The BDBA and its member businesses have developed a symbiotic relationship with the student body at Central High School over many decades.

The Downtown business community has a primary trade area, within a two kilometer radius, of approximately 24,497 people. Bounded by a stable residential neighbourhood, our draw includes approximately 1,200 people in the age range 15-19 years. We have observed the value of the student economy to the continued health of several of our member businesses.

Local high school students are patrons of several businesses in the downtown core. In fact, we are aware of some entrepreneurs that have adapted their business models to accommodate the cycle of student schedules. Several businesses have elected to open in the downtown because of the proximity to the high school population which is a primary market for their business model.

Rays with Central sign

There is hardly a storefront on Brant Street that doesn’t have a Save Central sign in their window. More than 1200 of the signs have been distributed.

These same students provide reciprocal value to several downtown businesses as a ready source of labour. Given that Central High School students are generally in the school’s geographic catchment area they are a reliable source of employment for businesses that value a proximal, walk able labour force.

Our business community benefits from the rich group of student volunteers that are critical to the success of our events, arts and cultural programming and other animation. The BDBA in particular, as a chief event organizer has provided Central High School with countless opportunities to explore the forty hours of community service required per student each year.

Further, both public and private sector groups within our downtown have been advantaged by the co-op and intern programs offered to the wider community by Central High School. We value the opportunity to mentor young business leaders and students similarly gain invaluable experience by liaising with community leaders.

The downtown business community has developed an appreciation of the mutually rewarding relationship with our students and the student economy. Toward our goal of making the downtown a “complete neighbourhood” we believe that Central High School plays a key role in ensuring that we cater to patrons at all stages of life.

Evidence of this is the BDBA’s observation that a number of downtown business members have elected to post signs in support of the movement to keep the high school open. As a body that advocates for the best interests of our small business community, the BDBA feels compelled to acknowledge this groundswell of support.

In a broader context, the BDBA has concerns about the potential cultural and historical impact of folding such a storied institution. As a community building organization we value the fact that parents are the city’s primary work force and a key market demographic for many small businesses. Families with school aged children are an important part of the diverse economy downtown; this diverse economy fuels our city centre’s economic resilience. High schools in downtown cores remain powerful agents in creating social networks. It would be unfortunate for families of school aged children to relocate to other parts of the city as a result of a lack of quality schools in their neighbourhood.


How big will the hit to this Tim Hortons be if central high school is closed?

Central High School students and families benefit significantly because of their location within a downtown district. Concerted efforts by community builders to make the downtown safe and livable for young adults results in a higher standards of livability. The result is enhanced facilities like accessible parks and public areas, traffic-calmed streets, better public transportation and other amenities.

In the coming months the BDBA will be canvassing its membership to quantify the value of the student economy to their businesses. We will also endeavour to learn from our business members the value to the students of their high school being located in the downtown core, on the doorstep of 435 businesses as well a several public institutions (City Hall, Burlington Performing Arts Centre, Art Gallery of Burlington, Museums of Burlington etc).

Benefits to students include enhanced opportunities for a wide range of co-op placements, work experience, and volunteer service – all within walking distance. The BDBA believes that there is neither this number nor variety of both public and private institutions available to students within walking distance of a high school anywhere else in Burlington.

The BDBA will be assembling survey feedback in anticipation of a revised statement for review by the Program and Accommodation Review Committee.

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Muir wants the Board of Education to fess up and accept public responsibility for the decision to build Hayden high school and then revise boundaries to balance the population between the seven high schools.

opinionandcommentBy Tom Muir

February 22, 2017



I had a good hour long conversation with Stuart Miller, Director of Education for the Halton District School Board earlier this month.

He told me he saw this Program Accommodation Review Committee (PARC) process as being about students, about what is good for them. However, when I raised some questions about how these benefits to students were being measured, this goal was not supported with data.

I asked for several forms of data (see below) but have not heard back from him.

Hayden High, named after a Burlington leader in the development of sport for the disabled. Grades 9 and 10 show up on Tuesday.

Hayden High, named after a Burlington leader in the development of sport for the disabled. Grades 9 and 10 show up on Tuesday.

The building of Hayden he agrees is the main driver for the mess. That is something that everyone knows, but unfortunately, for the credibility of the Board and the process you are in, nobody is talking about this. This needs to be rectified as it is key to the legitimacy of what you are doing.

Director Miller said he doesn’t want to go into how Hayden was justified – too political for him, he said. I asked for the paper trail, saying there had to be one, and I want to see it. I intend to follow up on this, and I ask for the paper trail below, but my own inquiry of all the available LTAPs finds that it smells bad.

I have looked into this deeper and it’s not transparent and there is no accountability. There was no justification, except, as Mr. Miller opined, the Ministry was talked into a new school there because the students up there should have a school. There is no justification in New Pupil Places, and Growth Pupil Places, using ministry concepts, anywhere in the LTAPs or Capital Plans.

There is no mention of a need for new pupil places, as the long term enrollment trends were consistently flat to trending down.

In fact, there was scarcely a mention of a new NE Burlington Secondary School to be found anywhere in the LTAPs, just that something about getting one was afoot.

It was clearly a transfer of students from the six high schools to Hayden that was used to fill it. Changing feeders to add to Hayden from Pearson. This much is mentioned, but very little attention was brought to bear.

There was no explanation that I found of why the school was needed, despite stable to falling enrollments, and no rationale was offered.

Gerry Cullen

Gerry Cullen, Superintendent of Facilities and Services; The complex that is made up of the Public Library, the Haber Recreation Centre and Hayden high school was his baby.

The significant issue here is that the staff people who planned and delivered Hayden are not being held accountable, or even explaining, but they are the staff body that is doing the analysis and providing information to the PARC right now. I don’t think you are getting a real drill down and detailed set of options.

The evidence in the LTAPs shows that Board staff basically and covertly fabricated a false rationale, to build student spaces that are not needed, for the opening of Hayden.

So my deep concern now is, that it’s not unexpected that these people can also design and fabricate a false rationale and process to close student spaces – to close schools.

As far as I can see this is what is happening.

All this does is cover up their gross mistake that created the situation, and they are just evading it in order to escape accountability.

Unfortunately, Director Miller, the boss of all this, is too politically shy to bring this accountability forward to the table, and so he countenances and approves this evasion of responsibility.

This leads directly to the conclusion that the Board lacks credibility, which depends on coming clean and being contrite.

Everyone needs to see this, and understand why I persist in raising it as a key issue in the resolution of the PAR.

We discussed information needs and what I would like to see.

Stuart Miller

Halton District School Board Director of Education Stuart Miller.

1. I essentially demanded the accountability paper trail and business plan of how Hayden was approved.

2. I suggested that empty seats be divided between all seven schools, and then six schools. Analyze what is needed to do this (boundaries), and the relative or net money savings compared to the closure and other options.

3. Show how any money savings will be spent for the benefit of students. I asked for detailed data on; number of additional subject offerings, in what schools and how many students gain. I want to see the entire accounting balance.

4. What are the variable operating costs of the empty seats in Central and Pearson.

5. Revisit student number projections downtown. It is another error to discount families moving into condos as affordable.

These are all essential questions I think.

Beyond these outstanding issues and questions, I have a few things to say about the progress I read about in the Burlington Gazette in the first two PARC meetings.

I think the options outlined so far are directing the PARC to closures. The dot-mocracy process from the Gazette’s latest story suggests to me that the PARC is voting, not to the student benefits, but to save their own schools. I think this is due to the framework the Board is using, that frustrates people to exercise the only power that appears available to them.

Two options that close both Central and Pearson are essentially the same in the biggest and most important outcomes and consequences. People are essentially voting for the same thing.

Having these two options and giving them votes, is like rigging the candidate list so the same candidate can be voted for twice.

You can’t add these votes to get a legitimate result.

This is pretty obvious, but perhaps not to everyone.

These closure options are the worst possible results for students, residents and the city of Burlington.

Dot distribution for option 28

Muir argues that the PARC members are being herded into choices that are not in the best interests on the students and the city of Burlington.

Just look at the criteria met, and criteria not met. Those met by closures are most often expressed in general, vague non-specific terms – there are no details. For example, the “no closures” option; “Does not meet a range of outstanding issues, which prompted the PAR.”

Those criteria unmet by closing schools obviously impact the students directly, in concrete and definitely negative terms. This happens in many ways that you are aware of and I will not repeat here.

These options are definitely not about the student’s welfare.

Unfortunately for the people of Burlington, in my opinion, the Board staff seem to excel at providing rigged and manipulated information and choices to get what they want. They did it for Hayden for seats not needed, and now they are doing it again to get rid of schools.

They have boxed you in to a process that is narrowing and focusing you to vote for what you see as the interest of your school and keeping it open. Since the five schools not really named seriously for closure outnumber the two focused on, you can see how the potential votes are translating to actual results reported in the Gazette.

By way of this message I am asking Director Miller, the Board, and the PARC to request and/or provide answers to my questions, explanations, and requests for information.

If you people want this, you will very apparently have to go after it and demand this accountability.

How else can the Board ever be credible and able to be trusted?

Muir making a pointTom Muir is a resident of Aldershot who has been a persistent critic of decisions made by city council. He turns his attention to the current school board mess. He recently suggested to Burlington city council that “If you are so tired of and frustrated by, listening to the views of the people that elected you, then maybe you have been doing this job too long and should quit.”

Muir challenges the decision to build Hayden high school and asks that the Board of Education accept responsibility for the mistake.


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Rivers on cap and trade

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

February 17th, 2017



Patrick Brown has put the ‘Progressive’ back into the Ontario PC party, as he gears up to give Kathleen Wynne a run for her money in the next provincial election in 2018. His mission is to move his party back to where it was before Tim Hudak took it on a wild joy ride that ultimately alienated the voters.

patrick-brown smiling

Patrick Brown, leader of the Progressive Conservative opposition party at Queen’s Park.

He acknowledges that climate change is real, is caused by humans, and he is in favour of a provincial carbon tax to help mitigate it.

Brown sounds like he’d adopt the B.C. carbon tax model if he got a chance. B.C.’s carbon tax increases over time and is intended to be revenue-neutral since income taxes have already been correspondingly reduced. Not everyone in his own party agrees with him on the idea of a carbon tax though. Perhaps that has something to with it being federal Liberal policy.

Brown opposes Premier Kathleen Wynne’s more complicated ‘cap and trade’ approach to carbon pricing/taxation. Implemented this year, there is an annual provincial greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) cap, which declines every year in line with Canada’s strategy on climate change. All large emitters must buy GHG allowances annually to operate their businesses. As we’ve already seen at the gas pumps, the oil companies and utilities will pass much of the cost of the allowances onto their customers, much like the B.C. carbon tax does.

Smokestacks Hamilton

Air pollution coming out of Hamilton smoke stacks.

The big difference with Ontario’s system is that the price of carbon here eventually gets determined in the market place by the buyers and sellers of allowances. This will eventually take place through an auction, rather than arbitrarily by government decree. It is conceivable in Ontario, though perhaps unimaginable, that the price of carbon could be lower in some future year, because of lower demand for allowances relative to the annual cap – something that wouldn’t ever happen with a flat carbon tax.

A second difference is that Ontario’s system is not intended to be revenue-neutral. The provincial government actually intends to spend much of the proceeds from allowance sales on transit infrastructure and for subsidies to business and consumers to assist them to adopt low carbon technologies, like electric vehicles. The provincial folks feel that is a more effective way to help consumers reduce their carbon footprint, rather than simply lowering their income taxes.

Ontario’s cap and trade will also include provisions for smaller entities to create emission credits, also called offsets, and sell these in the market place alongside allowances. For example a hog farmer could convert methane emissions (~30 times more potent that CO2) into useable energy, thereby reducing those emissions and offsetting his/her normal electricity or heating requirements. Being able to sell carbon credits into the market will provide an additional incentive to spur innovation and help pay for the costs of the technology.

Electric car fill up

No air pollution here: an electric charging station in a city garage.

Finally since cap and trade is a market instrument it requires a large number of buyers and sellers of GHG allowances and credits to work efficiently. So initially Ontario’s program will be integrated with that of California and Quebec, though other provinces and states may join later. A common trading registry and on-line format will be available for all participants in the cap and trade system.

The whole Ontario approach is complex, but no more complex than what we already see with our security exchanges, trading derivatives, hedge funds, etc. And carbon emissions trading schemes do work, as New Zealand, Japan and Europe can attest, though not always without some warts or hiccups. Emissions trading was actually invented by a University of Toronto economist, John Dales in 1968, though the idea that pollution can be monetized goes back much further in economic history.

The US acid rain cap and trade program is perhaps one of the best examples of the effectiveness of that market-based approach. Even the Harris/Eves government ran a small trading program to reduce nitrogen and sulphur emissions from the former coal-fired electricity plants.

The B.C. carbon tax, Canada’s first, received glowing praise for seeming to reduce GHG emissions during Canada’s last recession. But it has failed to do so once the economy rebounded. Since there is no cap on emissions, those who complain that it is just another tax are right. And there is no guarantee that the federal GHG reduction targets, which the former Harper government established and which the Trudeau government has since adopted, will ever be met.

Another negative is that, like any other sales tax, carbon taxes are regressive. Revenue neutrality just means there is a re-distribution of income – a reverse Robin Hood effect – giving the extra money the poorer folks paid to fill their gas tanks to those better off through their income tax reductions. Ontario’s system will still hurt the poor but at least there should be tangible alternatives for them to access lower carbon technology, including, hopefully, less costly transit.

Mr. Brown is certainly on the right track in telling his party to get behind the climate change struggle. He just needs to put politics behind him, listen to the business community and think through on the advantages of the cap and trade program Ontario has just started to implement. And while taking the tarnish off the ‘P’ in his party’s name, he should recall that there is no shame in adopting somebody else’s good idea, but it would be a shame to change just for the sake of change.

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:

Patrick Brown –   B.C. Carbon Tax –    Federal Position

Climate Deniers –    GHG –   Canada’s Strategy –   What is Cap and Trade

An Opposing View

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Committee in place to give the Director of Education advice on possible school closings: a consensus has yet to emerge.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

February 14th, 2017



Scott Podrebarac called it dotmocracy – you cast your vote by putting dots on a chart.

It is a process used to get a sense as to where the thinking of a group of people is going.

Sort of like a straw poll.

When the dots (three to each person) were handed out to the 14 people on the PARC who vote – there are a number of advisors – there were 42 dots to be distributed.

The official tally won’t be released until the minutes of the February 9th meeting are published. The publishing of those minutes will be delayed a bit – they have to be signed off by the Chair who is going to be away from his desk for a personal matter for a day or so.

The Gazette has been able learn what the two critical dotmocracy results were:

Option 19 short

Dots shown are not the official count. The final total was 15 dots.

Option 19, which was the Director of Education told the trustees was the Staff recommendation got 15 dots and

Option 7 - short

Dots shown are not the official count. The final total was 8 dots.

Option 7 which was to not close any schools got 9 dots.

The Board staff recommendation got just a little less than one third of the dot votes that were available.

The other votes were all over the map.

So – at this point in time – after three meetings the PARC has yet to settle on a choice – things are still quite fluid.

Aldershot is very concerned about what will happen to them if Central is closed and Bateman is getting scarred silly that they might get closed.

Central and MM question at PARC Feb 9

Central and M.M. Robinson PARC members write there comments on whether or not they felt a particular option met or did not meet the Framework outline.

The Board has added another day of PARC meetings and is preparing for the first public meeting.

Given the way the December 8th meeting went and some of the hallway conversations that have taken place between parents and Director of Education Miller – it could get noisy.

Many parents look at the data and the facts that are out there and suggest “we are in this mess because Hayden was built” – and that may be so – but the school was built and it did have a significant impact on the class room capacity. There is nothing that can be done – the building isn’t going to be torn down.

The opportunity does exist for some creative boundary re-alignments – and several parent groups who seem to have more of a grip on the numbers than the Board’s Planning staff have come up with some interesting ideas that are now in front of the PARC people.

What we appear to be seeing at the PARC meetings is each set of parents from the seven schools are beginning to do what they have to do to keep their school open.

Nelson is seen as safe because of its iconic status in the city; M.M. Robinson is going to get more students.
Somewhere in all this there has to be some leadership – from either the board staff or the PARC people.

PARC the Aldershot delegates

Aldershot high school PARC representatives Steve Cussons and Eric Szyiko are both adept at speaking up and making their point. They can see a yard full of portables coming their way if Central is closed.

There are some very intelligent people within the PARC – will a natural leader emerge and come up with a recommendation that the trustees can vote for?

Don’t expect to see any leadership from the trustees. That crowd is made up of 8 people who are still learning their jobs and a couple of dinosaurs who let this situation develop. There are exceptions: Donna Danielli, who sits on the PARC as an advisor,  is in a position to give the PARC a perspective they need.

At this point the Central people are putting out a very strong case – and they are being very active.

Sharn Picken confering with a parentr at a PARC

Sharon Picken, brash and bold but she knows what goes on in the schools. She is one of the two Bateman PARC members.

The Bateman people realize that their school is at risk and they are now beginning to organize themselves.

The Pearson people are asking that they be given back the students they once had – those that were sent to Hayden where it is said that students are doing their gym classes in the hallways.

At some point a serious analysis has to be done on how boundaries can be re-aligned so that students are distributed more evenly throughout the buildings that exist.

To add to the mix of issues is the cost of the portables that are apparently going to be needed at Aldershot and the cost of transporting hundreds of students by bus.

Four trustees

The trustees sit on the sidelines taking it all in – their time will come in May.

Somewhere in all this data there is an answer. The Board staff are saying that they have put forward an option – close two of the seven schools.

The parents aren’t buying it – the trustees are sitting quietly on the sidelines figuring out what they will do when crunch time arrives for them.



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Are red herrings being put in front of the PAR committee that is preparing a report on high school closings for the Director of Education?

opinionandcommentBy Peter Menet

February 13th, 2017


Last Thursday the Program Accommodation Review  committee was not presented with a 150 page report on AODA prepared by Snyder Architects. They were given a brief outline of approximately six pages. The full report is to appear on the Board’s website. Let’s wait and see where the devil lies.

The asbestos issue was handled very poorly by Board staff. It is my understanding that since the mid 2000’s all Boards in Ontario have tested for and documented the location of asbestos in their schools. My understanding is that this is a requirement of OHSA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration). It is also my understanding, having previously been employed at unionized facilities where I was tasked with removing asbestos material, that there will be detailed reports of any occurrence where asbestos has been disturbed and reports of the remedial actions taken.

So the location of asbestos in all the schools appears to be known and well documented.

Asbestos is not an AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act) issue, it is an OHSA issue. Now we get into the meat of the issue which is friable and non-friable asbestos, but we have to wait to see what the full AODA report says.

It is unfortunate that the Board has presented asbestos as an AODA issue. It is not, it is an OHSA issue.

Public gallery Feb 9

Parents from high schools that are at risk of being closed listen intently to what the PAR committee members are saying and what staff is telling them.

A considerable amount of work has been done in the province to protect the public from asbestos exposure. Again, we must wait to see the full AODA report to see if the Board’s staff did a disservice to the public by raising fears and a disservice to the PARC committee process.

We have to wait for the full AODA report to be posted on the website to confirm if the architects had been given access to the asbestos documents prepared in the 2000’s and to see how these documents were used to estimate asbestos removal costs.

Asbestos is a hot button and was very poorly handled by Board staff.

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Rivers braves the cold Canadian winter air to protest - all in vain.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

February 13th, 2017


If I were Donald Trump I’d have to say that it was the largest crowd ever. There were more people assembled at Nathan Phillips Square than at former US president Obama’s inauguration. And all those white spaces between the people… well that was just snow.

Seriously, there were only a few thousand brave souls who turned out on a bone-chilling February mid-day at Toronto’s city hall this past Saturday. They had assembled to protest Trudeau breaking his promise about how we elect our MPs. And it was a pretty good crowd for such an event given such short notice. Besides, there were as many as twenty of these protests being held across the nation.

Rivers protesting

Gazette columnist Ray Rivers publicly protesting the decision Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made to abandon his election promise to never again hold an election where the First Past the Post was the winner.

The organizers seemed pleased with the turnout. After all, electoral reform is not top-of-mind for most Canadians. No doubt that was what the Liberals found out recently after polling convinced them that they could safely kill the electoral reform promise. And the whole matter is complicated, filled with unfamiliar terms like first-past-the-post, single transferable vote and mixed-member proportional representation. You won’t find that kind of language every day in the sports section.

The faces in the crowd were mostly young – a generation of first-time voters, once convinced not long ago that Mr. Trudeau was just one of them – that new kind of politician, offering a better political deal for Canadians. Better representation might make politics more relevant to this generation and even the one before, the Gen-Xers, who had largely shunned politics and left voting to their parents.

But there was this proverbial elephant in the midst of the protest. If it was this easy to cancel one promise, what about all the other promises the PM made? Can we have faith that he’ll deliver on any of those other promises now? What about legalizing pot, for example? Or will that be the next domino to fall, because someone in the PM’s office has decided there is no consensus on that issue either?

Dalton McGuinty balanced some budgets - but budgets weren't his downfall - the gas plant fiasco did him in.

Former Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty did try to reform Ontario’s electoral system.

But wait, weren’t these the same political staffers who once convinced Dalton McGuinty to reform Ontario’s electoral system a few years ago? Yes, they engineered a process so fair and discrete that when it came time for the referendum, most voters had little idea what they were actually voting for – a process designed to fail. Was that benign neglect? Or were they disingenuous or incompetent?

There were voices in the crowd on Saturday yelling out liar, liar, pants-on-fire. But it seems unlikely this is a case of unbridled mendacity. I mean what rational politician would set out to raise expectations in an election, planning to break his word following the victory party? And why, especially when he knows full well the ultimate consequence – the shedding of all those voters who had delivered him his majority government?

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:

Electoral Reform –   More Electoral Reform –   Even More

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Have you Googled yourself recently?

marketingmoneymojoBBy James Burchill

February 10th, 2017



Studies reveal half us have sought information about ourselves on a major search engine in the last year. More interestingly is the number of us who have gone looking for information about other people (approximately 1 in 3) and the trend continues.

— Turnabout is Fair Play

Businesses and recruiters now regular “look you up online” to see if you are the kind of person they want to work with. That’s correct, it’s not just people vetting businesses anymore, the proverbial worm has turned and now those businesses are looking back at us.

If you aren’t already actively managing your Internet digital footprint you really should because many North American companies now have online personal presentation polices. A shocking number of businesses are now policing how you present yourself on sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and even your personal blog.

— Share With Care

Choose the pictures you share with care, be mindful of the videos, audio and blog posts you share with the world because it can have consequences. Remember, what you blog about today can last a lifetime – literally. So what you say on your blog about your favourite religion, political party du jour, or some other seemingly innocuous subject could quite literally cost you your job!

— Damage Control is Too Late

And if there’s nothing bad out there about you right now, and you think you can ignore this – think again. You need to begin proactively publishing your own “approved” content because when someone steps forward after an issue they have less credibility – it’s reactionary not pre-emptive. The same happens online – if you are nowhere to be found until someone says something you dislike, you lose credibility.

— Getting an Accidental Brand

There are many ways to become infamous on the Internet, too many to list here, however be careful of mischievous teenagers wielding video cell phones. In 2007 a video of a drunk David Hasselhoff, sprawled on the floor eating a burger, became hot news when his daughter allegedly published it to YouTube for all the world to see. Type David Hasselhoff into Google and that infamous video is still in the top 10 list (10 years later!)

— Ignorance Is Not Bliss

As the saying goes, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance!” Whenever a new frontier opens there are winners and losers, online reputation and personal branding is no exception. For example, if someone spent about 30 minutes being mischievous they could cause you some serious damage to your reputation. The current market rate for reputation repair on the Internet is about $10,000.

Blogging and writing about yourself is free.

burchill-jamesJames Burchill is the founder of Social Fusion Network – an organization that helps local business connect and network.  He also writes about digital marketing, entrepreneurship and technology and when he’s not consulting, he teaches people to start their own ‘side hustle.’

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Burlington environmentalist likes the Member of Parliament we had before she was made a Cabinet Minister.

opinionandcommentBy Vince Fiorito

February 9th, 2017



Let me get this straight. You admire Karina’s increased ability to avoid answering questions and spinning her answers? I think that’s why most people have low opinions of politicians. Shouldn’t a leader’s actions reflect their words?

Watching Karina Gould evolve since the election, feels like a political version of “Breaking Bad”. I like the old Karina better when she made statements like these:

Gould in the House of Commons

Karina Gould, then just a Member of the House of Commons.

Karina Gould June 2016
“Electoral reform is the next step in this evolution toward a more inclusive system. We can build a better system that provides a stronger link between the democratic will of Canadians and the election results.”

Karina Gould Sept 2016
“The first-past-the-post system that we have is pretty good at producing majority governments but it’s often considered to be a false majority because our government and the previous Conservative government didn’t really go above 39%, 42% of the vote yet would have much more than 50% of the seats in the house.”

Now, she says Canadians don’t have consensus on electoral refrom. What asked what would be a consensus, she couldn’t answer that either,

For the record, consensus is when everyone agrees. IN a large group, consensus is a super majority (2/3) or better. Consensus is where people working together to solve a problem end up. Its not where they start. Not achieving consensus means the job isn’t over.

I can’t know what Karina was thinking when she accepted this bag of excrement from Justin Trudeau. I hoped when I heard the bad news that she’d stand up to Trudeau and show everyone who voted for her in good faith, that their trust was well placed.

Speaking of Trudeau. Why didn’t he break the bad news himself, considering his words:

Trudeau Justin with signs behind

Justin Trudeau during the election campaign in which he announced this would be the last election where the first past the post was the winner.

Justin Trudeau, December 2016
“I make promises because I believe in them. I’ve heard loudly and clearly that Canadians want a better system of governance, a better system of choosing our governments, and I’m working very hard so that 2015 is indeed the last election under first-past-the-post. Canadians elect governments to do hard things and don’t expect us to throw up our hands when things are a little difficult. ‘Oh, it’s more difficult than we thought it could be’ and therefore we’re just just going to give up. No, I’m sorry, that’s not the way I was raised. That’s not the way I’m going to move forward on a broad range of issues, regardless of how difficult they may seem at a given point.”

Gould - first scrum

Minister of Democratic Institutions Karina Gould at her first news scrum.

Yet when it came time to break the bad news, where was Trudeau? He sent Karina out by herself. He didn’t even have the guts to stand behind Karina in symbolic support. That’s cowardly imo.

I also thought the timing of release was a little rushed, like they were trying to hide the news about breaking their promise to reform our unfair electoral system behind a bigger news story around the same time that got far more national coverage.

While you might admire these qualities in politicians, I don’t. IMO, Politics doesn’t get much sadder, self-serving or cynical than this. The Trudeau Liberals never had any intention of reforming our election system or taking action on environmental issues. They were just empty words they used to steal support from the Green Party of Canada.

I feel sad for Trudeau’s and Gould’s gift of political cynicism he gave to all the young Canadians who believed them. I doubt many of them will vote in the next election. Why would they?

Background links:

Rivers on breaking election promises

The evolution of a politician

Vince FitorioVince Fiorito was the Green Party candidate for Burlington 2015.  He has   not stopped trying to reform Canada’s electoral system or taking action on the environment. Fiorito was the recipient of a watershed stewardship award from Conservation Halton. getting new - yellow



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The promise that was broken: Politicians break promises at their own peril.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

February 9th, 2017



The fundamental elements of a successful democracy are an informed public, a free press and an electoral system which best reflects the will of the vast majority of the voters.

At the time the disparate Canadian provinces undertook confederation, voters had but two federal political entities to choose from: the Liberal Party founded in 1861 and the Conservative Party established in 1854.

Sir John Macdonald9

With just two political parties First Past the Post made sense.

So it was natural for Canada’s election system to be premised as a choice between only two parties. The candidate with the highest vote count would win their election poll in a system called first-past-the-post (FPP). Since the national popular vote typically coincides with the number of seats in a two party system, the public was well represented.

150 years later a lot has changed. Additional political parties representing a more diverse population with more complicated issues and demands have emerged. Recently 100% of Canadians have been governed by political parties which claim a majority of parliamentary seats, regardless that their popular support amounts to less than 40% of the voters.

At the 2012 federal Liberal convention in Ottawa, former leader Stephan Dion chaired an electoral reform policy session, also attended by Justin Trudeau. Although many present, including Dion expressed a preference for proportional representation, there was a consensus to promote a ranked/preferential ballot as a transitional or first step.

Minister of Democratic Institutions and Peterborough-Kawartha MP Maryam Monsef addresses the crowd during a town hall meeting on electoral reform at the Mount Community Centre on Tuesday, September 6, 2016. Monsef is on a seven-week, cross-country tour gathering input on democratic reform. Jessica Nyznik/Peterborough Examiner/Postmedia Network

Former Minister of Democratic Institutions and Peterborough-Kawartha MP Maryam Monsef addresses the crowd during a town hall meeting on electoral reform. Jessica Nyznik -Peterborough Examiner/Postmedia Network

Three years later, as Mr. Trudeau was struggling his way up from third place in the election campaign, he added another vote-getting promise – that this would be Canada’s last federal election under FPP. However once the election was over and the brass ring was firmly in his hand, the urgency seemed to have vanished. He appointed a relatively inexperienced MP as his minister of democratic institutions. She was slow off the mark, proceeded to organize an unfortunate on-line survey, and mis-managed her special parliamentary committee.

The committee finessed the government by recommending a proportional representation approach but only if subject to a referendum. But there is simply not enough time left in the electoral term for that to reasonably happen. So the PM shuffled his junior ministers and announced that he was breaking his promise because there didn’t appear to be a consensus for change.

Except there is consensus. Mr. Trudeau’s own party wants it – they had in fact passed a policy resolution calling for this kind of change. The third parties (NDP, Greens, BQ) are almost unanimous in their desire to adopt proportional representation. And that just leaves the Tories who like the status quo, knowing that FPP is the only way they could ever win majority government again.

But the Conservatives poll less than 40% of Canadians at best. So the government doesn’t need a referendum to change our political system, it already has the numbers. Besides, changing from FPP was an election promise, and Trudeau won the election.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau leaves the stage following a discussion on women's leadership, Thursday, November 24, 2016 in Monrovia, Liberia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau leaving a stage. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Politicians break promises at their own peril. I’d bet that electoral reform is one that will come back to haunt Mr. Trudeau. It is unknown how many NDP, Bloc and Green supporters walked their votes to the Liberals largely because of the promise of electoral reform. Judging by the reaction among the media and those commenting on social media, if they did, they won’t make that journey again. Mr. Trudeau has just lost a huge chunk of personal credibility and trust. That will cost him in support come election time.

There are also Liberals who now feel betrayed and alienated by a leader in whom they had put so much faith and trust. Once lost it is almost impossible to regain the hearts of his once loyal supporters. He can expect to see party unity suffer and membership start to decline. Volunteer workers will become less available, and contributions will start to dry up. Come voting day it will be that much harder to get out the vote and fewer volunteers will be there to help get it out.

Mr. Trudeau has been overexposed in his first year in office, and most of that has been positive, at least up until now. Both main opposition parties will have new leaders for the 2019 race and as they energize their party faithful expect to see them stick Trudeau with this issue until the votes are finally counted.

Finally, what will become of all those reluctant millennials who thought they were voting for a different kind of politics and politician? Perhaps some of them will show up at the National Day of Action for Electoral Reform at Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto, this Saturday 2-4 PM. See you there?

Ray Rivers

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:

Trudeau Lying? –   More Lying? –   Liberal Policy Resolution

Breaking His Promise –   National Day of Action on Electoral Reform

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The evolution of a politician: Gould handles an interview well - stick handles her way through awkward questions.


SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

February 8th, 2017



There is a CBC radio program I seldom miss – “The House” every Saturday morning at 9:00 am
Certified political junkies never miss it.

Last Saturday, Chris Hall interviewed Burlington’s MP and Cabinet Minister of Democratic Institutions Karina Gould.

Karina Gould with cat

She was just a local girl, went to M.M. Robinson, then to McGill University where she decided the wanted to be a Member of Parliament.

I have covered Karina since the day she announced her candidacy. I watched her actually pry away the Burlington riding from Mike Wallace which she did by creating a team of people that were out on the streets almost every weekend.

They would meet at Emmas Back Porch and then head out in teams and do the door knocking. Gould won by being the better campaigner.

On a door step her energy and just plain likability came through.

She once explained what tended to happen when she got to the end of a street she was door knocking on. “People would tell me”, explained Gould “that they intended to vote Liberal but weren’t going to put up a lawn sign.”

On one street Gould said she wanted to shout out: ‘You’re all Liberals” and they were – or enough of them to make her a member of the House of Commons.

Gould - Claite -Kyle - Fed Liberals

Gould with her campaign team during the election that took her to Ottawa – they ran a superb campaign.

She performed well. She loved the moment when then American President Barak Obama recognized her when he paid a visit to Canada.

Gould has that genuine youthful energy – she is just a likeable person who also has the ability to back away from the political rhetoric and ask how a person is doing when she knows they are struggling.

Watching her do the “opening pitch” at what was then the Burlington Bandits was something to observe. It didn’t look as if baseball was a sport she excelled in – but she did get the ball over the plate.

Bandits - Gould opening pitch

The local baseball team didn’t need a pitcher – they did change their name the following season.

When word got out that Prime Minister Trudeau was going to shuffle his Cabinet everyone was pretty sure that Maryam Monsef was on her way out. But few predicted that Gould was on her way in.

She was given Democratic Institutions – and within days of getting back to the House of Commons she announced that the First Past the Post promise made during the election was dead in the water.

When Gould was interviewed on CBC’s The House, it was evident she had grown into the role of a Cabinet Minister quite quickly and was pretty good at dodging some of the questions. She gave the pretty pat statement that her job as Minister was to “protect, improve and make the election process more accessible” and she stuck to it.

Hall wanted to know when she learned that the Prime Minister was not going to make good on his election promise.

Gould explained: “We’ve listened to the public; there is no consensus so we are not going forward with this initiative.”

“When you took this job as minister of democratic institutions” asked Hall, “ did you know at that time that it was looking like the proposal to change the election system would fall ?”

Wallace and Gould

Mike Wallace, former Conservative MP, paying homage to Karina Gould on election night.

Gould responded: “When the Prime Minister asked me to join cabinet and when he asked me to take on this portfolio what he said to me was that he wanted me to make sure that I protect improve and make more accessible our Democratic institutions.”

Hall came back with: “The question was did you know at that time that you would be pulling away from the promise to have a different election system?”

Gould, sticking to her guns said: “My mandate letter was made public on Wednesday so I’m happy and looking forward to delivering on it.”

That 29 year old, with less than a month’s experience as a Cabinet Minister behind her performed admirably as a politician.

Nathan Cullen, NDP member for Skeena-Bulkley Valley in British Columbia, met with Gould the day before she as made a Cabinet minister and asked for some advice on what the Parliamentary committee could and should do next in its attempt to change the way we elect our governments.

Cullen did not know that she was about to be made a Cabinet Minister and Gould was not in a position to tell him.

What we are seeing is a young woman who has all the traits needed to become a strong politician. A good one; only time will tell.

Gould and PM Trudeau

Some thought this junior minister was being made a sacrificial lamb when made Minister of Democratic Institutions – she got past the barrage or criticism rather well. The Prime Minister will be keeping a closer eye on her.

While Burlington is very proud of her – the citizens needs to keep in mind the quote from Junius that appears at the top of the Globe & Mail editorial page.

“The subject who is truly loyal to the Chief Magistrate will neither advise or submit to arbitrary measures.”

The complete mandate letter an be found at:

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Rivers on violence: Quebec’s Premier and Canada’s Prime Minister, have not bowed to this false populism of divide and conquer politics.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

February 3, 2017



An act of hatred and violence. It was 1989 when another mad man slaughtered 14 female students at a University of Montreal engineering school before turning the gun on himself. In this case he was driven by his fear of ‘feminism’. So long as we have guns, guys on the edge and an issue that evokes fear and hatred we can never take our security for granted.

Given all the racist hatred emanating from so many people these days, It was only a matter of time for something like this latest tragedy to happen – the massacre of innocent worshipers in a Mosque in Quebec City.

Quebec mosque


And the responsibility for the event lies partly at the feet of the new leader in America’s White House, a position we used to refer to as the leader of the free world.

In his phone call to Trudeau, Trump offered his condolences, characterizing the massacre as the kind of actions his recent executive orders were intended to prevent. Except they weren’t. Make no mistake Trump incited this act of terrorism. His language and actions served to radicalize this young misguided Quebecer, much as ISIS has radicalized the very ones that Trump was hoping to keep out by his ban.

Rivers graphic for Feb 3And the Muslim ban. This was as poorly considered as so many of his other actions since becoming president. None of the people living in those seven banned countries are known to have committed acts of terror in America over the last quarter century. And yet almost three thousand Americans have been killed by citizens from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Lebanon – Muslim countries where Trump has business interests and which are therefore exempt form his ban.

But it’s not just Trump.  He’s not the only crazy mixed-up reactionary, leading his followers out of what we once considered the new world order into a new frontier of chaos.  Russian president Vladimir Putin is the ring leader, the lead conductor of this mad band of, dare I say faux -Nazis,  striving to take the world back in time.  His goal is the re-assembly of the Soviet Union and there is no international law or agreements that can block him in his quest.

France’s Marine Le Pen is one of our Quebec shooter’s internet heroes, along with Donald Trump. She is also a contender for presidency in this year’s elections in that confused nation. Her goal is to break up the European Union, with a Frexit, then to stop immigration and kick out Muslim immigrants. Her political party has been funded in part by Russia’s Putin, of course.

The people of Holland go to the polls this year and their far right-wing politician, Geert Wilders, another ultra-nationalist Eurosceptic, is intent on tearing apart the EU and playing nice with Mr. Putin. And then there is Brexit, an historical accident that was driven by British ultra-nationalists including a lying cabal led by former British EU representative Nigel Farage, the man Mr. Trump asked to be made British ambassador to the USA.

And Canada is not exempt from this global movement of leaders into hate and chaos. Conservative leadership contender, Kelly Leitch, who along with other leadership contender, Chris Alexander, set up the barbaric practices snitch-line prior to last year’s election. And Leitch has made the politics of division a touchstone of her campaign, demanding proof of adherence to sone kind of undefined ‘Canadian values’ – first from immigrants – and eventually from the rest of us.

The Parti Quebecois had once claimed the moral high-ground, the social conscience of Quebecers, until it too pushed the intolerance button demanding Muslim women show their faces and everyone strip themselves of those icons they’d wear for the sake of their gods and saints. This massacre lies on their doorstep too.

But at least the real leaders of Canada, Quebec’s Premier and Canada’s Prime Minister, have not bowed to this false populism of divide and conquer politics. “We will grieve with you, we will defend you, we will love you and we will stand with you,”

Ray Rivers

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:

The Other Massacre

Quebec Massacre 

Meryl Streep


More Quebec

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