Burchill: growing strong relationships takes time so relax, take a deep breath and smile.

marketingmoneymojoBBy James Burchill

December 16, 2016



As odd as it sounds, some people would rather die than walk into a room of strangers and talk to them! It makes no logical sense to me, but deep in the shadow of my childhood fears, I can still hear my mother’s warning, “Don’t talk to strangers!”

Decades later that modern “monster under the bed” still grabs our feet making us recoil horrified at the prospect of speaking to a room full of strangers. Instead we slip quietly into the room. Avoiding eye-contact, we slink toward the back of the room, anywhere but out in the open where the people are!

We fiddle with our phones, we pretend we’re busy. We distract ourselves, all the while feeling frustrated at our weakness. Our lack of courage. Our inaction. If we’re not careful that feeling will chase us from the room, once again confirming our belief “networking isn’t for us.” It’s a vicious cycle and something to avoid.

Firstly you need to give your head a shake. People don’t bite – unless you’re at a “special party” and the bartender is wearing rubber … in which case you’ve lost me and I suggest you move along – there’s nothing to see here.


When the finish with their texting – they might manage to network.

But if you’re at a B2B networking event where people are clothed in business attire, chatting in small groups to other people of similar dress, then you’re definitely in the right place and there are some things you need to remember.

(1) People go to networking events to talk to other people. They want to connect. They want to know each other. They want to discover commonalities – that’s how it works.

(2) Everyone gets nervous. It’s normal, it means you give a damn – you care. You want to do good, to make a positive impression. You don’t want to waste your time or theirs. That’s good. Just don’t let the “nerves” stop you. Slowly take a deep breath, hold it for a few seconds and then slowly exhale. Smile as you do it. Now put one foot in front of the other and walk into the room.

(3) Its’ NOT about selling. People get too hung up on the idea you’re supposed to be some super salesman. That’s all wrong, it’s about connecting not convincing. It’s about finding common ground, not working the room. When you meet people you simply smile, extend your hand and say, “Hello, my name is James, what do you do?” Of course I recommend you use your own name …

(4) You’re not interrupting. When you walk up to a small group of people pay attention to their body language and facial expressions. If the group seems ‘open,’ stand at the edge and listen. Smile. Wait for it … Someone will invite you in. Then you do the whole ‘stick out your hand, smile and say “Hello, my name is …”‘ and take if from there. If the group is closed or it’s only two people with their feet pointing toward each other then smile and move on. Basically it’s all about manners – don’t intrude and don’t be rude. Simple.

(5) Make it about them. If you forget everything else, remember this: MAKE IT ABOUT THEM. Because soon enough they’ll make it about you if you ask good questions. Be curious. Find out what they do. Listen. Pay a genuine compliment when you can. Avoid the touchy topics like looks, clothing, sex, politics and religion. Try to compliment their work. For instance, I love it when people figure out how much time I spend writing and say something nice about how I make it look easy.


It’s about making the connections – there is a right way to do it and a wrong way to do it.

Remember, at the end of the day networking isn’t about working the room, it’s about turning a roomful of strangers into friends … one person at a time. And be patient, growing strong relationships takes time so relax, take a deep breath and smile.

Oh, and one parting thought for you … I’m not an extrovert, I’m introverted. Introverts aren’t incapable of networking – we just do it differently. It’s not all about the wow, it’s about the now – being present and truly connecting with people. Many extroverts draw their energy and enthusiasm from the room (which is often why it’s not as hard for them to network.) Most introverts draw their energy from within – which is why it’s often so draining afterwards but equally rewarding.


Some of the best small business networking done in Burlington is at the SFN – Social Fusion Networking that Gazette columnist James Burchill sponsors. He packs a pretty good crowd in the Performing Arts Centre

I guess what I want you take away is that you’ve probably been thinking about networking in the wrong way. Forget the sales pitches. Make friends. Take is easy. Take a breath. Smile. Whether you’re an extrovert or an introvert doesn’t matter … I’m a Gemini – so what right? Precisely. Have some fun and for the umpteenth time … SMILE, they won’t bite … unless the bartender is wearing rubber in which case you’re own your own bucko!

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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Gazette columnist gets bogged down by the weather - and decides to take a holiday break.

News 100 yellowBy Pepper Parr

December 16, 2016



The Gazette columnists, Ray Rivers and James Burchill – usually write every week.

Ray Rivers covers the political scene – where his trenchant observations and at times acerbic comment has resulted in a significant following of hos Top of mind column.


Ray Rivers write a regular column for the Gazette, raises chickens and plays the guitar whenever a group will let him in.

Rivers has chosen a rural lifestyle – raised sheep at one time – has a dozen chickens and a barn with stalls that his grandchildren would like him to house ponies in.

Rural means getting around differently in winter weather and we are definitely experiencing winter weather which means the Rivers column won’t make it into his regular Friday spot.

It's all about networking.

Burchill – It’s all about networking.

James Burchill, who writes Money, Management and Mojo will fill that spot today.


Rivers 100x100

Burchill - regularly in the Gazette

Both are going to take a couple of weeks of for the holidays – look for them again in January. Burchill apparently has a couple of new ideas up his sleeve.
Rivers, just might pop in with a column when he sees something that he just has to comment on comes along.

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High school parents will not get to see the data collected at a public meeting for more than a month.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

December 13th, 2106



That data; captured at a public meeting with more than 350 people in the room.

You are not going to be allowed to see it – with the exception that the Gazette captured most of the data and has made it public.


Scott Podrebarac, Chair of the PARC.

Scott Podrebarac, Chair of the PARC and a Superintendent with the Halton District Public School Board has said that he has “not yet reviewed the raw response data from IPSOS and that he “will not release the information until it is presented as a formal report to the PARC members in advance of the first working meeting on January 26th.”

Ipsos is the company the Board of Education hired to “facilitate” the meetings. They are doing a lot more than facilitating – they are gathering the data, they are probably heavily involved in the phrasing of the questions, and they will in all probability do the analysis of the answers they got to the questions they wrote and present that analysis to the PARC which is expected to meet January 26th.

There is something fundamentally wrong with the approach the Chair of the PARC has taken.

In the meantime, the parents who are at risk of losing their high school, are left high and dry as the saying goes – unable to do their own analysis of the answers that were given at the December 8th meeting

It is evident now that the data is heavily skewed to what the Central high school students think because they were by far the largest group in the room.

Podrebarac adds that “I do not want our PARC members getting information from the media before they receive it.”


These people answered 25 questions at a public meeting. The answers they gave were flashed up on a large screen – made public. But the Board of Education does not want to release this raw data until it gets presented to a committee. The parents need that data to prepare their arguments that will go to the same committee.

The Gazette wonders which part of “public” Podrebarac is having a problem with?

In his response to our asking for the raw data to ensure that what we have published is correct Podrebarac said: “we will prepare and present this to them and post the full report as soon as it has been prepared. This is the process that was shared and agreed to with the PARC members.”

Podrebarac said he is “happy to make myself available throughout the process, so please do not hesitate to call me on my cell or in the office. He means well.

The school board has created the PARC as the body that will be the “official” body that is used to communicate with the public – PARC.

The Board has contracted with Ipsos to handle the “facilitation” of the meetings. The lead person from Ipsos, Kirk Perris, holds a doctorate as well as the title Director of Consultations, Canada

On can deduce that Perris will be doing the analysis of the data and presenting that analysis to the PARC at the end of January.


Central high school parents are going to have to be more than strong – they are going to have to fight to keep their school open with one hand tied behind their back.

Meanwhile the parents who stand a better than even chance of losing their high school have to sit and stew for more than a month.

The is (a) unfair, (b) not in the interests of the public

There isn’t a reason in the world for withholding the raw data that was gathered at a public meeting.

Several hundred parents who do not want to see their neighbourhood high school closed and who are out fundraising and preparing their arguments for the PARC and for the trustees, now have to wait until close to the end of January before they can review the data and come to their own conclusions as to what was the data really says. The kind of information gathered has to be analyzed and filtered – and this takes time.

The parents do have representation on the PARC – they appointed one of the two people on the PARC to represent them. The school board has created email addresses for the members of the PARC. A single email address is used to reach both people representing our school.

The addresses are shown below. Urge the members of the PARC to direct the chair of the committee to release the raw data now.


Email addresses for the members of the PARC representing the high schools in the city.

Director of Education Stuart Miller has said that the recommendation staff made to close Pearson and Central high schools was the starting point of a lengthy process.

Hammil + Miller

Director of Education Stuart Miller gets out to dozens of events where students are involved. The same cannot be aid for several of his predecessors.

He said that parents may well come up with ideas that will result in a solution that keeps everyone happy. And the Gazette believes Miller is sincere – what he does not appear to appreciate is that the parents who stand to lose a core part of their community are left to work with data that is incomplete and may have errors with at least one hand tied behind their back.

Miller was on-hand to greet people before the December 8th meeting started but said that he had been advised not to stay.  Miller needs to get better advisers.

Informed people can make informed decisions. In a world of almost instant communication data is king. Let the public have what their taxes  paid for.

Director Miller has a number of options. He can release the raw data to the public and the members of the PARC and then send Chair Podrebarac back to the civics class he seems to have missed.

The data the Gazette did manage to capture and report on

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Tom Muir has some advice for parents with children at Burlington high schools - don’t go quietly.

opinionandcommentBy Pepper Parr

December 12, 2016



Tom Muir has been delegating to city council for more than 25 years.

He is a solid thorn in the side of his council member who doesn’t send Muir a Christmas card, Muir doesn’t lose any sleep over this.


Will this high school close – and if it does what will it do to the life of the downtown core.

He has been watching the Board of Education plan to possibly close two Burlington high schools and he has some advice for the parents. The following is an unedited comment Tom Muir made earlier today.

From my experience, parents just have to become completely self-aware, so they find out for themselves what is really going on.

Don’t expect the Board to tell you what you want to know. This is really politics, and the key in politics is to control the narrative.

That’s what the Board is doing very well. They have the whole process structured and orchestrated.
They act interested, but they are defending the closures recommendation that they made right off the bat. That is their real interest. Don’t be fooled.

Of course you are being manipulated. Your key questions are being avoided, and right in front of your face. So what does this tell you?

They are trying to get you to fill in the blanks of some of their key questions. Your were “facilitated” – another political tool.

They are doing their own brand of efficiency, and I don’t think parents are being told the half of it. Parents are doing heart. Get that through your head.

If parents don’t let their outrage loose, and in mass numbers demand answers to their key questions, on a schedule parents set, to the Board, and the Trustees, and your Councillor and Mayor, and right now, immediately, then the trip down the garden path will continue.

Parents have to self-organize and go to war for what they want. Sheep are for slaughter. They are the big bad wolf.

If parents don’t do this, then give up, because they will just put you down slowly, on their schedule, with their information driving the bus your kids are on.

Don’t kid yourself, and don’t go quietly.

Take the advice of a citizen who has been down this path more often than he cares to admit.  He recently chastised council for their attempt to limit the length of time a citizen could delegate at a Standing Committee.

Tom Muir explaining to city council what their job is:

Tom Muir made, as he inevitably does, points worth remembering.

Muir making a point

Citizen Tom Muir

“I would hope that Council votes in favor of the 10 minutes unanimously, as a show of good faith. I will say that a vote to reduce to 5 minutes is something I see as an insult to citizens and their possible contribution to what we do as a city – our city.”

“Further, if Councillors still want to vote down the 10 minutes, I say this. 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. I mean that, and will not forget how this vote goes tonight. “

“This Council is not your Council; it is the people’s Council.

“And these Council Chambers are not your Chambers, but are equally, the people’s Chambers. All the Councillors and Councils hold these offices and chambers in trust.

“So to vote to reduce the people’s time to speak in these chambers is to fail in that trust, in my opinion.

I ask therefore; herein fail not.”

The vote went 6-1 with Councillor Craven voting against ten minutes for Standing Committee delegations.

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Are the parents of high school students having a number done on them? And if that is the case - what are they going to do about it?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

December 11th, 2016



There was a line in the Saturday Globe & Mail editorial that might resonate with the several hundred people who took part in the first public meeting of the Program Accommodation Review Committee (PARC) at the Gary Alan School on New Street Thursday evening.

The editorial was about the seriously flawed on-line survey being conducted to learn what Canadians have to say about how we elect our leaders.

Much of the editorial was “tongue in cheek” but the following paragraph comes pretty close to reflecting what many people felt when they left the school Thursday evening.

“As you answer the questions, remember that there are no wrong answers, because we don’t care what you say. This is a different way of consulting Canadians – in the sense that we’re not actually consulting anyone. We are just collecting data on our imposed preferences and sorting it by your demographic profile for unclear purposes. Thank you for participating.”

For those at the Thursday evening meeting we expect many to cringe after reading the paragraph.


PARC Chair Scott Podabarac – a Superintendent with the Halton District school Board

Data was collected – the Gazette provided the questions asked and an early cut of the audience responses. The data we provided has to be verified – it wasn’t possible to get it all down – the data on the screens was moving pretty quickly and one of the women sitting in the row behind me seemed to need to chatter incessantly.

All the data needs to be analyzed by the parents who really care about how many schools will be kept open and if schools are closed – which will it be?

The Board of Education may not be able to do better than this – but this is in the hands of the citizens. They are the steel in the spine of the PARC and they can ensure that the report written reflects their views. They can hold Chair of the PARC, Superintendent Scott Podabarc’s feet to the flames – he is there to serve them.

The PARC could also choose to summon Domenico Renzella, Manager of Planning, Halton District School Board and put questions to him and demand all the data they need.


Director of Education Stuart Miller and Manager of Planning Domenico Renzella during an on-line Q&A

Several parents have come up with boundary change scenarios that they think will solve at least some of the empty seat problems.

PARC policy is that:

The PARC is an Advisory body; it acts as the official conduit for information shared between Trustees and school communities. It provides feedback on options considered in Director’s Preliminary Report. It can seek clarification on Director’s Preliminary Report and provide new accommodation options and supporting rationale

The Board of Trustees is responsible for deciding the most appropriate pupil accommodation arrangements for the delivery of its elementary and secondary programs. Decisions that are made by the Board of Trustees are in the context of carrying out its primary responsibilities of fostering student achievement and well-being, and ensuring effective stewardship of school board resources. The Board of Trustees may consider undertaking pupil accommodation reviews that may lead to school consolidations and closures in order to address declining and shifting student enrolment.

The final decision regarding the future of a school or a group of schools rests solely with the Board of Trustees.

There are a couple of ways to interpret that statement. There is an opportunity for the members of the PARC to be aggressively proactive and take the lead on this and not sit there like stooges while the board runs circles around them.

The PARC might even consider having some original research done and require the board to fund it. There is nothing in the rules that says the PARC cannot call witnesses and ask questions.  For any of this to happen to parents have to stand up on their hind legs and demand what is rightfully theirs.

They also need to keep their trustees fully briefed on what is happening and lobby like crazy.

The trustees were elected to make decisions on or your behalf and we would like to believe that those decisions are being made in your best interests as well.

It might get a little messy – but it can’t get any worse than it is right now.

The senior staff at the board are intelligent people and they have the capacity to adapt to changing situations – the parents can determine that this is a changing situation and expect their board to adapt. The phrase innovation and imagination was tossed around several times – bring that to ground and be imaginative and innovative to solve this perplexing problem.


Burlington Mayor Rick Goldring

The disconcerting part in this situation is the way the city has decided to steer clear of what they feel is a little too political for them. The parents at Central understood fully the need for a political element and placed Marianne Meed Ward, their ward Councillor on the PARC – she does have a son who attends the school – so she is legit.

Mayor Goldring chose not to take part and instead sent James Ridge, his city manager, who is new to Burlington and probably hasn’t been anywhere near one of the high schools. He does not have the legitimacy Meed Ward has on this file.  He was not at the first public meeting – it was his birthday. Happy Birthday James.

The data

The Mayor’s choice

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The federal government survey you are being asked to complete is really part of a high stakes poker game.


Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

December 9th, 2016



When did you stop kicking your dog? That question isn’t on mydemocracy.ca the federal government’s survey on electoral reform. But at more than one point I was sure it was coming, as I struggled with the survey.

This online survey the federal government is asking Canadians to complete has drawn the ire from the opposition benches. Elizabeth May compared it to a dating website and was waiting for the question, ‘do you like pina coladas and taking walks in the rain’.


It is a survey at least worth looking at.

There is some speculation that the result is fixed, skewed to give the government the results it wanted.

I’ve worked a fair bit with surveys, but it was only after I’d completed this one that I appreciated the skill that has gone into developing it. There is a difference between a poll and a value-based survey – and this is the latter. The result the surveyors inferred from my responses was illuminating – everyone should try the survey.

Here is where you go to find the survey. www.mydemocracy.ca

Mr. Trudeau has a problem of his own making. His minister of democratic institutions, Maryam Monsef, created a special parliamentary committee giving the members a mandate to recommend an alternative to our current first-past-the-post (FPP) election system. That was one of the key commitments in Mr. Trudeau’s winning election campaign.

Maryam Monsef at a town hall meeting at Mount Community Centre on Tuesday, September 6, 2016 for a meeting on electoral reform. (Photograph by Cole Burston)

Maryam Monsef the federal Minister responsible for electoral reform at a town hall meeting. (Photograph by Cole Burston)

Of course, the parties can’t possibly agree on any one system. The minority parties (NDP, Greens and Bloc) will only ever be satisfied with mixed member proportional representation, the formula that would maximize their presence in the House, While the only option which will allow the united Conservative party to form majority government again is the existing FPP.

The Liberals could live with a mixed-member proportional system, and they have also won consistently with our existing FPP system, including just last year. Still they really would like a preferential or ranked ballot, since they are the party of first or second choice for most Canadians. Elected MPs would better represent the preferences of the majority of Canadians than FPP, and the system would be easier to understand and implement than complex proportional representation.

So, given the diversity of opinion on this matter, perhaps the government expected the committee to fail. That would then open the door for it to take the initiative and move forward unilaterally. Except the minister had given majority membership on the committee to the opposition parties, thus letting the fox run the hen house. So the Conservatives took a strategic perspective and played a brilliant hand.

They bluffed. The Tories anted up to the NDP and Greens bid for a proportional system. But then they raised the bid – requiring a mandatory referendum before any change can be made. Having made sure it was all-in, they then put their cards on the table.

The committee had clearly gone beyond their mandate in recommending a referendum. So a furious minister called them on it – giving them a tongue lashing in the House. But she was bidding with a weak hand and ended up apologizing for accusing them of cheating.


And just who is holding what in the manipulating of the way we get to elect our federal leadership.

This is the adult game of poker, not go-fish. Yet, as if in a game of bridge, the Minister had been finessed. Since nobody but the Liberals are putting their money on a preferential, or ranked ballot come next election, she lost her hand. In fact she lost it to the Conservatives because the minority opposition parties (NDP, Greens, Bloc) were accepting fools’ gold instead of cold hard cash. The Tories are banking on the referendum failing. And that would leave our system exactly where it is – FPP.

But even with a successful referendum there would not be enough time to change the system before the next election in 2019. And Conservatives are gambling that the shine will have come off Mr. Trudeau by then. And perhaps with new leadership in the opposition parties they will put a dent in the powerful lead the Liberals have in popular support. That might just result in another minority government in 2019, given we’d be playing under existing house rules – FPP.

NA-TRUDEAU-EDBOARD5 The editorial board met with Liberal leadership candidate Justin Trudeau on April 5, 2013. CARLOS OSORIO/TORONTO STAR

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau thinking through his next move.

And were the Tories to form a government again, that will be the last we ever hear of electoral reform. Just look at what they did with other Liberal policies, such as the long gun registry or public funding for political parties.

But the game is not yet over, and now it’s Mr. Trudeau’s turn at the deal.


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:

Monsef Apologizes –   Special Committee –   Referendum

mydemocracy.ca –    Critics of the Survey

FPP Commitment –    Electoral Reform Consultations

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Do You Make These 5 Common Marketing Mistakes? Marketing is a process, not an outcome.

marketingmoneymojoBBy James Burchill

December 8th, 2016


The famous P.T Barnum once said, “Without promotion, something terrible happens, NOTHING!” And marketing (or promotion) is all about combating that dreaded ‘nothingness’. The question is… are you doing it right?

Gone are the days where you could open up shop, hang out a sign, and people would beat a path to your door. It just doesn’t work like that anymore (if it ever did). No, these days you’ve got to find a way to ‘get the word’ out, and that’s all a part of marketing.

Advertising is often the most common way this is achieved – after all, many people think that advertising is marketing, and it’s not – it’s just one part of it.

Mistake #1 – Confusing Advertising With Marketing
Marketing is all about marshaling your available resources to assist in the sales process. After all, nothing

Lot of traffic lights at big pole

This is confusing!

happens until someone makes a sale. Marketing is about influencing the buying decision at all points of influence and contact. It covers the way the phone is answered to the way your washrooms look and smell. If you’re not thinking about marketing in this fashion you’re leaving the door wide open for your competitors to slip in and steal your customers away.

Mistake #2 – Running Institutional or Brand Building Adverts
You’ve seen the ads – “XYZ Automotive Service & Repair. The Best Service In Town!” These adverts are a sheer waste of money because they don’t direct the reader, viewer or listener toward any intelligent action or buying decision.

Moreover they immediately cause the prospect to say things like “yeah, sure!”, or “so what!”
Advertising serves one purpose and one purpose only – to sell stuff. Anything else is either vanity, folly or both. Ads are like ‘silent’ sales people – evaluate adverts with the same eye you’d use when evaluating a sales person and you’ll see the difference.

Direct response style advertising on the other hand, makes a complete case for the company, product or service. It overcomes sales objections. It answers all major questions. And it promises results, backing up the promise with a risk-free warranty or money-back guarantee. Direct response style advertising works.


That one stands out doesn’t it?

Mistake #3 – Not Stressing Uniqueness
Most successful businesses or professional services are built around a USP, or unique selling proposition. It might be reliable post-purchase service, super-fast delivery, convenient hours or a combination of things. Think about what it is that sets your business apart from the rest and then make your USP the engine that drives all your marketing and advertising efforts.

The next time you see your competitor’s adverts; see if you can identify their USP. Take note: if you can’t identify your own USP, you can be certain your customers can’t either!

Mistake #4 – Targeting The Wrong Prospects
Always send your sales messages to the people who are your primary prospects – and ignore the rest. You can’t be all things to all people and attempting this makes you nothing to everyone.

If you wish to reach people over 45, for example, your ad’s headline should say something like “If you’re 45 or over…” And make certain all your headlines and ads are specific and targeted to your ideal prospect – avoid abstractions.


Did you test? Do you know what your customer is thinking and what they want?

Mistake #5 – Failing To Test
Finally, if you don’t test prices, headlines, offers, advertising copy, and all your verbal and non-verbal sales messages, you’ll never know what the market wants, or what it will pay. You’re just guessing – which can be financially disastrous.

Marketing is a process, not an outcome. Eliminate these five marketing mistakes from your business and you’ll see positive results – guaranteed!



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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Rivers: Tolls may not be fair but they appear to be necessary.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

December 2, 2016



One day electrically powered vehicles will grace our streets and roadways and the gas pump will be an historical artifact. And as go the gas pumps so too go the gas taxes, which together with license and other road fees currently more than pay for the road infrastructure in the GTA and Hamilton.

EVs (electric vehicles) are still in their infancy in Canada but the automakers have got the memo, thanks to Tesla. And it’s not too early to consider how we should be paying for roads after the gas tax money is gone. As a result, some jurisdictions in the USA have resorted to penalizing EV and hybrid car owners with surcharges on their vehicles – in effect a tax on efficient transportation and thus a tax on the environment.


Will electric vehicles result in less gasoline sales and less in the way of taxes on that gasoline? Is that the real reason behind tolls on highways?

While Ontario subsidizes the purchase of EV’s by up to $14,000, some US states are planning to charge an annual registration fee of up to $200 on these quiet, smokeless vehicles. It’s about fairness they say. Over the years public policy has swung from financing roads through property and income taxes towards user pay. And relying as much as we do on gas taxes, how can it be fair for the F-150 crowd to have to pay for the roads while Tesla owners ride for free.

Already, Oregon is experimenting with a per mile road tax in lieu of the gas tax. An electronic device like your hydro meter would measure your driving and send you a bill. Those west coast states have typically been ahead of the curve in North America – and not co-incidentally they’ve also legalized marijuana there. But the inherent complexities of this proposal make it sound like Cheech and Chong on a bad trip.

So Toronto mayor John Tory is timely in proposing a $2 toll for the Gardiner and Don Valley highways running through the city, that may bring in up to $300 million a year. At that rate it would take twelve years to pay for rehabilitating the Gardiner, but it is a start. And If approved it would still take at least a couple of years before they would have the electronic toll booths in place to start charging.

$2 may be a low ball figure for a city that charges $2 just for an hour of parking on the street, something which causes far more damage to one’s wallet than to the street. And since it can take an hour to crawl along the DVP from one end to the other, sadly the toll would be just like a parking charge.


John Tory arguing then that tolls were nothing but highway robbery.

John Tory has had a change of heart on this matter since he ran for mayor in 2003 – arguing then that tolls were nothing but highway robbery. Of course he has blundered a few times before. There was that negative billing thing when he was with Rogers. Wasn’t he responsible for those disgusting Kim Campbell’s personal attack ads on Mr. Chretien?, And who doesn’t remember the promise to fully fund all private schools.

But he’s got this one figured out now. Though, had he supported David Miller’s road tolls back then, the Gardiner might already have been re-built. Tory used to argue that imposing tolls was unwise since that would drive cars off the Gardiner. He was probably right. But isn’t driving some cars off our congested highways exactly what we really need to do?  Just ask one of those weary commuters stuck in perpetual daily grid-lock.

It’s a tragedy of the common highway. All those drivers trying to get their car on the road spoil it for all those other drivers. The rational economic solution is rationing through the price system. In fact this concept of rationing to avoid congestion is one of the pillars of the highway 407 pricing policy. Or at least, that is the rationale they use to allow them to charge the highest rates – the expensive highway – in North America.


Isn’t driving some cars off our congested highways exactly what we really need to do?

There is no perfect solution. Road tolls involve equity issues related to ability to pay, which can be brutal if you need that highway to get to work – so you can eventually pay the tolls. But flat fees and gas taxes inherently involve somebody subsidizing somebody else’s share of the cost of road building and maintenance. And that’s not fair either.

rivers-on-guitarRay Z Rivers is a songwriter, playwright, author and columnist. Tweet @rayzrivers    He will be performing on Sunday, December 18 at The Pearl Company Arts Centre, 16 Steven St., in Hamilton. The hour-long show of selected Christmas music starts at 2 p.m. Net proceeds will be donated to Mission Services in Hamilton.

Tickets are available on-line (thepearlcompany.ca) or at the door. Admission is $20, $15 for students, seniors and the under-waged. Reserve your seat today, call 905-524-0606.

 Background links:

Tory Tolls –   Tory No Tolls –   Tory Blunders –   Road Tolls Everywhere

407 Policy –      Who Pays for Roads –   Oregon Experiment –   Tragedy of the Commons

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Secret Formula For Making Money Online - Really? But you did look - just in case I do have a secret.


marketingmoneymojoBBy James Burchill

December 1, 2016



Make a fortune on-line.

I know, you figure “What a load of BS…Like he has the secret…” but you still had to look didn’t you – just in case I do have the secret. After all, how painful would it be to think that the answer to all your problems was offered to you at no cost and you were too stubborn, too closed minded to even give it a chance?

What’s the harm in looking? It’s not like I want anything for the information ☺

So let’s begin before you change your mind. Here goes…

Small But Mighty
In any statistical population, there is always a percentage that will accept your offer. In other words, if you keep asking you’ll get a “yes.”

yesKids do it all the time. As adults, we ‘learn’ to stop asking very quickly in our lives because we don’t like rejection. It hurts.

But surely how you ask has something to do with it? Yes and no.

The Sad Young Man
I once heard a tale of a sad young man who had limited social skills. His idea of getting a girl involved hanging out in bars where he’d approach a young lady and simply ask her if she wanted sex!

Can you imagine the rejection rate…and the number of times he got slapped or had a drink thrown in his face? Now that’s rejection. But there’s an upside to this story…this guy always got a girl…in the end. He kept asking.

And the moral of that tale? Asking is the key, and we know that asking the right way is even better, but we know that trying different approaches makes us vulnerable to rejection. It’s quite the conundrum!


That would be a No – but he asked.

Hold that thought for a moment while we get back to the secret.

So if we simply ask enough times we will eventually get a yes, and if we improve how we asking we’ll get more yeses. Ok, now we’re getting somewhere.

Walking into Traffic
On the Internet, a large population is simply called TRAFFIC. And if you have enough traffic you can afford to ask badly and still be successful. Of course, if you ask in more effective ways you’ll do even better – but we’ve got to start somewhere.

So the secret to making money on the Internet is simply getting enough traffic and asking people if they’re interested. So if you can get enough people marching past your website (where your offer is made automatically and without personal rejection, I might add) you will eventually make sales.

Nuts and the Blind Squirrel
Granted if your offer is bad and your website is worse, you’ll make very few sales – but you will make some. As the old saying goes, “Even a blind squirrel eventually finds a nut!”

This ‘secret’ holds true in the real world as well because the secret to making money in a retail store is still all about having a steady stream of prospects (traffic) walking around your store.


Even a blind squirrel eventually finds a nut.

Now making your traffic (prospects) stay long enough to see your offers, and improving the conversion rates so you sell more stuff, well that’s the subject of another article.

An Example
And rather than leave you hanging without a practical way to implement the “more traffic” solution – here’s a clue. It’s free, it’s easy and it’s been under your nose from the very beginning: provide meaningful, appropriate content and the search engines will love you for it.

In other words, support the Internet at the fundamental level – it was built to share information… so write and share!

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.’

getting new - yellow

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In Praise of Council Members:

News 100 blueBy Jim Young

November 30th, 2016



It is always easy to lift the pen or get on the keyboard to complain about and criticize council members. I’m often thoughtful of how thick their skins must become or how difficult it must be not to internalize or personalize the criticism. So it is with some pleasure that I write to congratulate them for a thoughtful and well considered reversal on Monday night.

City Staff and a Council Subcommittee had voted 3 to 3 (with one member absent) to change a bylaw and limit delegations to council to 5 minutes from the existing 10.

On Monday council members, listened, questioned and debated several citizen delegations who came to ask that council reverse that part of the bylaw change.

At the end of the debate, Councilors Sharman and Taylor courageously and very graciously reversed their positions on the issue and Councilor Lancaster (who had missed the original vote but sat on the recommending subcommittee) sided with the delegates to support an amendment by councilors Meed-Ward and Dennison to revert to the 10 minute allotment. Mayor Goldring had always supported maintaining the 10 minute allotment.
The amendment carried 6 votes to 1 proving two things:

Contrary to popular opinion, some councilors do listen and act accordingly.

Burlington City Council GroupThe delegation system proved its worth and earned the support of the majority of council by virtue of the respectful and informed delegates who argued the case intelligently and succinctly.

A victory for common sense, civic engagement and a democratic principle; Well done City Council and thank you to the delegates who gave their time and voice in support of Burlington citizens.


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Jim Young declares: Because you will stand before them in 2018 and they will demand to know.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

November 28th, 2016



City council and the few that attend city council meetings along with the even fewer who watch what council does on the Cogeco live broadcast are in for a treat this evening.

Hearing a true democrat (note the small D) explain the rudiments of what it means to live in a democracy.

Jim Young will explain to members of city council (hopefully the staff will have their ears open as well) when he explains that:

Sometimes democracy frustrates us. Sometimes it completely fails us. Democracy is messy and unpredictable. But its inherent frustrations are still preferable to its failure.

Yes, it grinds ever so slowly through elections; committees; consultations, delegations, votes, amendments then back through the whole messy, frustrating process again.

Jim Young

Jim Young delegating.

And yes, those slow, tangled procedures can tempt us to short circuit the process in the name of speed in the name of efficiency to get the good works we have in mind into action.

The democratic processes of our city demand that qualified, talented professionals like the city staffs and managers, we are fortunate to have in Burlington, apply themselves to a certain vision of the city.

That they nurse that vision through the often tortuous process to council for approval and implementation, only to have someone like me, a citizens delegate, put a flea in council’s ear, a spoke in staff’s well-oiled wheel and force a review all of their efforts and the inevitable delay that brings.

Democracy is indeed frustrating and the temptation to limit those small interferences, those small interruptions is great.

Sometimes it may seem as if we delegates are the enemy of the process. That we somehow stand in the way of the great works and plans you all have in mind for the city.


Marianne Meed Ward delegating.

But that begs the question, for whom are these great works and plans intended? Are they for the benefit of council? I prefer to believe council is bigger, nobler and above that self-interest. Are they for the benefit of Staff, I think not, indeed with all due respect many very dedicated staff members are citizens of other municipalities and even then their professionalism puts them above that.

No, the big plans and great works are for the citizens, those very same people who come here to delegate to advise council, to say please consider me, my family and my neighbours when you contemplate these great plans and great works for the future of my city, the future of our city.

We live in a time when even the best efforts and endeavors of all levels of government are looked upon as “elitist”; are perceived to serve special interest groups and appear to ignore Jane/Joe Public until election time rolls around.

Vanessa Warren

Vanessa Warren delegating.

Limiting the input of citizens only feeds that perception, gives voice to the unreasonable because the reasonable voices feel stifled, limited, ignored.

We live in a time when the Rob Fords and Donald Trumps of this world lend false voice to the anger and frustration of those ignored and overlooked voters. Those brash populist voices, who defying common sense and reason somehow hold sway over electorates.

Not with wisdom, not with policy, not with vision but with the false promise that they will listen while whispering that the “Elitist, Mainstream Incumbents will not”.

When those voices hold sway, democracy fails us.

I urge council: Do not open that door to those small minds and loud voices.

We live in a city rated the best place to live in Canada, the best country in the world. That makes Burlington truly special. That enviable place in the world has been was achieved not just by the excellence of our city staffs, the guidance of dedicated councilors, of every political stripe, but also by a citizenry who love their city and who have participated in its plans and success over many years.

Our 25 year strategic plan very boldly calls for a city that engages its people, I urge council not to let that ambitious goal be tripped up at this, its first hurdle.

When you deny constituents the reasonable opportunity to advise you during council term at meetings such as this, you leave them no other option but to voice their frustrations through the ballot box at election time.


Monte Dennis delegating.

Look at recent election results, where voters vented their frustration at the perception that politicians are not listening, do not provide the opportunity for citizens to be heard, a perception that has given voice to the Fords, the Trumps and the Brexiteers who, bereft of policy or vision or even civil discourse, at least pretend to listen, pretend they will be the voice of the people.

Then proceed to undo all the good that has been done, the community that has been built by that slow and frustrating democratic process.

So far this delegation has taken about 5 minutes, and with more to say, I hope you can understand how limiting 5 minutes can be.

I will finish by challenging each of you who wish to limit the participation of citizens in the affairs of our city:
Will you please explain to this gathering tonight how limiting delegations to 5 minutes is good for our democracy, good for our city?

Will you then publish that explanation in your Newsletter for all your constituents to see and to judge for themselves?

Will you stand at your regular town hall gatherings and tell the people of your wards why you want to silence their voice?

Because you will stand before them in 2018 and they will demand to know.

If you cannot, in conscience, address your constituents on this issue, then you have accept an amendment to rescind that decision and restore the full 10 minute allotment for citizen delegations, or better still do the right thing and propose such an amendment yourself.

Your constituents will thank you for it. Burlington will thank you for it.

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Canadian laws regarding the sexual abuse of children need to change.

opinionandcommentBy Merron Vermeer

November 27, 2016



I think we can all agree that this is a much more urgent issue than hydro bills or housing prices. Let’s put some effort into protecting our most vulnerable.

Right now, if an adult has sex with a child, the minimum sentence is 1 year in jail. For “less serious” sexual crimes against children, six months is a possibility. These sexual predators can get out early on good behaviour. Nobody who violates the sanctity of a child’s body deserves to be rewarded for good behaviour. They have demonstrated behaviour that destroys a child’s trust in adults, a child’s right to be safe, a child’s sense of belonging in a just community. There are many addictions that hurt the addict.

But the sexual exploitation of children traumatizes the innocent with wounds that never heal. No one who uses a child to satisfy a physical urge and then walk away without remorse should get any free pass for good behaviour. The behaviour is abhorrent. Unfortunately, it is easier than ever for this depravity to continue. There is a growing community of child abusers who work together to satisfy their destructive urges.


A pedophile is mentally ill. They are a danger to the public, especially vulnerable children. Jail is not the only solution.

I know bad things happen in this world, and I can usually read about it, worry about it, and then hold my own children close, while trying to move on. But this? This is too absurd to me. How is this not the MOST punishable crime in Canada? The longest jail sentence. Right alongside murder. Have you ever talked to a victim of sexual abuse? It’s a life long sentence. A struggle to rise above the despicable acts that were performed on them in their most vulnerable stage of life. Trust in humanity is broken.

Those images and feelings of violation and helplessness never leave them. There is unwarranted guilt. Embarrassment. But most painfully, abandonment of community. We, as a society, allow their predators back out, to walk the streets, enjoying a freedom that victims will never feel.

As well, since most of these crimes are perpetrated by men, women start to distrust all men. It’s not fair to the good men that are just as passionate about the safety and well-being of children as any woman. My dad. My husband. My son. But sadly, when the media reports the details of yet another pedophile, it weakens the trust we have in men. Human decency demands that men and women work together to strengthen the laws that protect our most vulnerable.

Currently, the Canadian courts can offer a lighter sentence to pedophiles who agree to medication or chemical castration that will help to manage their sexual impulses. But they cannot force them to continue treatments indefinitely once the sentence has been completed. Physical castration is considered the most severe and controversial response to sex crimes. But, you know what? It would be a pretty effective deterrent!

I am a mother and a kindergarten teacher. I am particularly invested in, and connected to our most innocent community members. I will take every one of these stories of twisted, self-indulgent pedophiles to my grave. I will n.e.v.e.r understand how a human being could take pleasure in the sexual violation of babies. It is brutal and cruel and there is NO excuse.

With the increase in demand for child pornography, child prostitution, and other forms of child exploitation, I hope there will be appropriate consequences that send the message to pedophiles that they are NOT okay. Their actions will be punished. They will be judged harshly. No second or third or fourth chances. I get it that they are sick. Most times they ADMIT this in court. They’re mentally ill. But in these cases, they must be held criminally responsible. If that means castration, so be it. I need to know that the children on my watch can play in the park without fear. That, as a community, we will judge sexual predators harshly and demand the kind of punishment that will deter them.

Speak out against this insidious behaviour before it threatens even one more innocent life. Children trust us to keep them safe. I want the legal system to reflect this by getting tougher on sexual crimes against children.

Merron Vermeer is a mother and a kindergarten teacher with the Halton Board of Education. She shares her personal views.

cosaEditor’s note: Every pedophile was at some point in their early lives abused. It becomes a self-perpetuating circle. There is a way to break that process: Circles of Support and Accountability – a process that allows the community to take responsibility for the damage that was done. No one was born a pedophile – the society they were raised in got them to the point where they damage others.

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Youngest ever MPP to take a seat at Queen's Park.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

November 25th, 2016



It is said that in order to know where you want to go, you need to know where you’ve been. In political life that is called experience and education. So what makes a 19 year old first-year university student think he has the qualifications to represent a provincial riding at Queen’s Park? And why would the electors put someone with so few qualifications into office.


Sam Oosterhoff elected to serve as the Member of the provincial parliament for Niagara West- Glanbrook.

That is what voters in the recent by-election of Niagara West-Glanbrook (NWG) did. Sam Oosterhoff is the youngest MPP to grace the halls of Queen’s Park, ever. It might be an age thing though. The voters in that area first elected former PC leader Tim Hudak at age 27 making him one of the youngest MPP’s at that time. And if this trend continues we could expect the next member from there to take up office at the ripe old age of eleven. Perhaps this is a brilliant strategy by the voters to engage youth in the political process. If we can’t get them to turn out to vote, then we’ll just have to elect them into office.

Or perhaps it is the fashion these days – electing unqualified candidates. People are fed up with those professional politicians who have worked their way up – you know the ones the rabble refer to as the elites. US president-elect Donald Trump is more than 50 years older than Sam, but has neither worked in government, nor sought, let alone been elected to, any political office. But that didn’t stop almost half of voting Americans from putting the ignoramus into the highest office in the land. Some Americans would rather have Sam as their president, I’m sure.

There is something about democracy ensuring that you get the government you deserve. And maybe experience doesn’t matter anymore. If that is the case then why do our MPP’s get six figure salaries? If experience counts for nothing what is this nonsense about having to pay the big bucks to attract good candidates, when any Joe can do the job? Not many of Sam’s peers at university will be pulling in that kind of dough as they finish off their degrees.

Isn’t it about respect in the end? How can we claim to respect our electoral system when almost anybody can be elected? Well anybody should be able to get elected, but wouldn’t it behoove them to at least have a little experience under their belt? There are few tests for candidates, though the political parties have a screening process. Did young Sam slip though the cracks or was this some kind of joke the Tories were playing on the electors.

The truth is that the only qualification that matters in politics is that you have been elected. Looking back to the US election, while everyone concedes that Hillary Clinton was the most qualified candidate to contest that position in years, that alone didn’t get her elected. Sometimes it’s style, charisma, star quality or sympathy that wins the hearts of the voters – nothing to do with the candidates actual experience.

Progressive Conservative candidate Sam Oosterhoff, for Niagara-West Glanbrook, speaks to members of the media after casting his vote in the byelection at Spring Creek Church in Vineland, Ontario, Thursday, November 17, 2016. Oosterhoff, the 19-year-old PC candidate in Niagara who hopes to become the youngest ever member of the Ontario legislature, says people are angry about their hydro bills and industrial wind turbines installed in the riding. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Lynett

Progressive Conservative candidate Sam Oosterhoff, for Niagara-West Glanbrook, speaks to members of the media after casting his vote in the byelection at Spring Creek Church in Vineland, Ontario. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Lynett

Some might say that electing Sam was a protest vote against the Wynne government, but NWG had been a Tory riding for over two decades – and re-electing a Tory is hardly a protest. That would be an even greater insult to Sam, who was likely running for what he could do, rather than trying to keep the government from doing what they do.

And while the Liberals may be stuck at the bottom of the polls, they had no trouble retaining the other by-election seat up for grabs last week in Ottawa-Vanier. So we can only wish Sam the best as he embraces his new job. It will be a full-time learning curve – and with his MPP salary, a very expensive education.

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:

Niagara West-Glanbrook –    Sam Oosterhoff –  More Oosterhoff

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Did you just interrupt me? And now you want me to pay attention to you? Why would I do that ask James Burchill.

marketingmoneymojoBBy James Burchill

November 24th, 2016



Interruptions cost more than the time taken … they impact your efficiency and your productivity. Some studies suggest that a single interruption (email ding, phone call, social media status ping, co-worker walking into your office) costs you between 15 and 30 minutes of productivity.

Here’s why: the actual interruption takes you “out of the work flow” you were in and once the interruption has ended, you require time to get back to that level of performance before the interruption. As indicated, this can be as much as 30 minutes. Imagine if you were interrupted every half and hour … you’d barely get any work done.

Oh wait, that’s why most open plan offices are (IMHO) such poor productivity hubs. When I worked for a company I always stipulated an office with an opaque or solid door (so you can’t see people waving at you to see if you’re “free”) that I could close. I trained my staff that certain times I was open to interruptions but when my door was closed … you’d better be running to tell me the building was on fire or that you cut off a limb and needed 911! Protect your time … you can’t manufacture any more and those people that are most productive in a day, are usually the ones that do.

Checking Your Email
Remember email is NOT a TO DO list. Also, email is someone else’s agenda – NOT YOURS. Finally, batch your email checking and responding to scheduled times each day. Sometimes I quickly check the SUBJECT LINE and FROM field for “client fires” and “expected deliverables” first thing in the morning but my proper review/reply is at noon and finally once more at 4pm. It’s been the single biggest productivity booster I’ve ever implemented (second only to finding my most productive hours) and now I’m dogmatic about it.

Unsolicited Phone-Calls
I never take an unsolicited call from a number I don’t recognize, ever. People can leave messages and I will choose to call back if I am interested. Also, I prefer email over phone because I read 5X faster than I can talk! Also, it encourages people say what they mean … I got tired of voicemails like this: “Hi James, it’s [name or often “Me”] … call me when you have a moment.” Seriously? How the heck am I supposed to prioritize that message?

Guess what … I don’t call back when I get messages like that.

If you want to leave me a message then do us both a favour and state WHO it is that calling, say WHAT you want and say WHEN you need it. Also for extra points, tell me the URGENCY/IMPORTANCE factor as you perceive it. For example, “Hey James, it’s John Smith calling about the web project. The client needs an update by Friday at 5pm. Can you please advise status by end of day tomorrow?

If you can do that – you begin to get more productive.

burchill-jamesJames Burchill is the founder of Social Fusion Network – an organization that meets regularly in Burlington to allow networking and relationship building.  He also writes and trains people about how to make technology work for them.

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Fifty three years ago - America lost a President.

News 100 blackBy Pepper Parr

November 22, 2016



How did our neighbour to the south get from the assassination of John Kennedy, the then President of the United States, 53 years ago to where that country is today?

And what do we as Canadians do? What questions do we ask?

Being Thankful for what we have and striving to ensure that we don’t slide into the morass the United States has taken on would be a good place to start.


Moment before rifle shots rang out ending the life of John F. Kennedy

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Does Burlington need a larger city council? Have some of the current members served long enough?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

November 20th, 2016



There is chatter about a larger city council.

It began with a column in the Hamilton Spectator by Joan Little and was followed by a piece written by Brian Heagle.  Links to both are below

The significant seven we have now are not that interested in anything bigger. Mayor Goldring has pointed to Portland Oregon which has a seven member council which he thought was great.

Goldring - Christmas picture

Mayor Goldring’s 2015 Christmas card photograph.

Goldring doesn’t manage people all that well; his career path has not included any significant management roles. He prefers small groups of people that are like minded. Much of the thinking the city has seen the Mayor take up has come from a book he read and then invited the author to town for a speech.

There is going to have to be some form of leadership from the current Council and then a citizenship that rallies to that leadership and says it wants a different size Council.

The public is going to have to hear from past members of city council to talk about the deficiencies of a seven member council.

The people on city council now don’t get along all that well but they each have their alliances and know who they can go to for support. There are – it is not fair to call them cliques – but groupings that come together.  Councillors Craven and Sharman are frequently joined at the hip and Lancaster will listen to almost everything Sharman whispers in her ear.

Councillors Sharman and Lancaster: both part of the Shape Burlington committee who seem to have forgotten what the report was all about - civic engagement

Councillors Sharman and Lancaster: both part of the Shape Burlington committee who seem to have forgotten what the report was all about – civic engagement

Taylor is wearying of the game and doesn’t want to be challenged by any upstarts who might have some new ideas.  Dennison is comfortable with what exists now.


Does she still want to put her hat in the ring for job of Mayor in 2018?

Meed Ward used to be ‘gung ho’ on change; we haven’t seen that much of the Marianne Meed Ward who delegated ferociously before she was elected to council and was a thorn in the side of most during her first term – something the other council members needed. The fight seems to have gone out of her.  To a considerable degree she is still ostracized.  Her public comments on the seniors situation were disappointing.

Political organizations need new blood – that is part of why we hold elections.

Municipal politics is complex business. Its financial statements are not like those in the business world. A municipality cannot have a deficit – if they are short they have to dip into the reserve funds – there are more than fifty of those with millions of dollars sitting in bank accounts.

The Finance department to its credit does a good job of getting the city a good return on the investments it makes – given that there are a lot of things the city is now allowed to invest in.

For a newcomer to get elected to council the learning curve is very very steep. It takes a full term to get a feel and understanding for the way the city works and how staff relate to council.

Two of the city councillors were not at the table and one didn't ask a single question. Councillor Craven chose to be mute.

Councillors Craven and Taylor live on opposite sides of the political spectrum. Each has their strengths – along with a considerable amount of time on city council.

For those new to municipal politics having to learn how city hall works and how the Regional Council works is more than most can manage.

It makes a lot of sense to have two levels of Councillors; one who is just a ward Councillor and the other who is both a ward councillor and a Regional councillor.

The comments we are seeing about what these ward only level councillors should be paid is insulting. Those who do the job work hard; the issues they have to deal with are not simple. To pay someone $30,000 to serve as a ward only councillor is going to get you someone stupid enough to accept such a pittance.

If you are not prepared to pay well – you are going to get very little in the way of talent. That $115,000 – give or take a bit – we pay our city council members now is money well spent. They make mistakes and they could tone up their attitude when dealing with the public – especially with delegations to council meetings.  But they are fairly paid.

The view that they were elected to run the city and the public gets to decide if they like what they got only at election time is an idea that went out of style in the late fifties.  This lot trots out the words accountability and transparency without understanding or believing what they really mean.

Dennison LaSalle

Dennison has the best understanding of the dollars and cents side of civic administration.

It is up to you the public to hold them accountable every chance you get. They are no better than you are. When that OPP cruiser slides by you on the 403 your foot comes off that gas pedal – that is you being accountability to that police officer. It’s the way the world works.

If the current council chafes at that it is because you have let them get away with far too much.
Just don’t insult the institution of public service by not paying them adequately and fairly and providing them with the staff support they need.

A trained administrative assistant could serve two Councillors in the same ward – it wouldn’t be a bad idea to recruit those people from outside existing city hall staff.

If there are people out there who want to run for public office they have to have started their campaigns by now. The rules have changed giving the incumbents an even better chance of winning.

How good it is for the incumbents?

Marcus Gee, a Globe and Mail writer who focuses on municiapl politics wrote on the weekend asking:

Imagine a high-school student council whose members never graduate but stay on year after year, growing older and crankier as the student body they govern evolves. It shouldn’t be much of a strain for residents of Toronto to picture. That’s what their own city council is like.

Councillors hang around year after year – sometimes decade after decade – aging in place as the dynamic city they govern changes all around them. The same old characters have the same old quarrels over and over in a repeating loop of futility.

Like any group or organization that doesn’t renew itself, they have become inward-looking, inbred, ingrown. Voters tune them out. Cynicism about politics grows.

How do we break out of this trap? A small group of reformers has an idea.

The Open Democracy Project announced it was putting together a DemocracyKit, “a crowd-sourced, crowd-funded resource to equip the next generation of city-builders.” The plan is to give newcomers the tools they need to break into the restricted club of city politics.

The democracy kit would include such things as fundraising plans, a guide to door-to-door canvassing, website templates and contact-management systems.


Democracy at work – people planning on what they want to see done.

It’s all aimed at counteracting the power of incumbency. Sitting politicians have overwhelming advantages. They have name recognition, especially critical at the municipal level, where most voters aren’t paying much attention. They have access to the big-name spin doctors and campaign managers who dominate the election game. They have a web of contacts in unions, community groups and local business associations that help them get re-elected. They know the ropes.

No wonder that so many manage to stay on and on. The Open Democracy Project says that incumbents won 92 per cent of the time in elections held in three cities – Toronto, Calgary and Ottawa – since 2001.

Burlington has Councillors who have warmed their chairs in the council chamber for more than twenty years.

Related articles:

Little in the Spectator

Brian Heagle with his view point.

Open Democracy project

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Burchill on education - system is still producing

opinionandcommentBy James Burchill

November 20th, 2016



In 1860, due to continued pressure from the various employers, the government developed the first education system: to create literate employees.

The employers of the time were finding it progressively harder to find employees who could read and write.
So bowing to capitalistic pressures the government created a system of public education with the sole intent of creating “literate employees”. Like the modern army where we train people to become soldiers, the education system was created to create “factory workers”.

This was 155 years ago and nothing much has changed since. In fact the education system is still producing “literate employees” – not free thinking, creative types, but human ‘worker bees’ or drones.

The education system instigated testing to measure advancement and learning but now the testing is often more important than the skills they try and train. In fact, most students only focus on how to “ace the tests”. What good is that?

After school the students go on to “higher education” – there is another oxymoron as research shows only a few post graduate students actually end up using their degrees in their careers.

Why spend all that time, energy and money only to not use the degree?


It’s a job!

When asked why they went to University, or why they got a degree the student answers were frighteningly similar – “to get a job”.

We have created a system were the apparent need to get a job is so great that people will spend about four years and $50,000 on a degree for the sole purpose of ignoring it later and using it to apply for jobs!

In conclusion, we create “literate employees” who now feel so compelled and “must” get a degree to apply for a job (which we all now know has no security anyway) to enter a social and economic environment where they are ill equipped to handle the majority of ‘free-agent’ type thinking (remember this creativity was eroded during school years during the mania with testing and NOT creativity) and did I mention that the cost of this education was over $50,000 (I can’t bear to add in the time before University and the lost opportunity costs.)

My point? Simple, if you have children remember this about the system, firstly it is a system and it is antiquated and there solely for the purpose of creating ‘literate employees’. Know that there is no law (at least here in Canada) that says your children MUST go to school – you can home school.

That the training they are receiving is not going to be very helpful in years to come as the work place is becoming more fragmented and a free-for-all-free-agent place (remember school does not train and create entrepreneurs only ‘workers’) and finally that you and I came from this same training and we need to remember what we most likely think about or world is probably wrong.

How we perceive our environment is a function of how we think about it, and how we think about our environment was ‘trained’ into us by the early educators we were exposed to (school, the place where ‘literate employers are created)

burchill-jamesJames Burchill is the founder of Social Fusion Network – an organization that meets regularly in Burlington to allow networking and relationship building.  He also writes and trains people about how to make technology work for them.

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Just what level of service should city hall provide? And will technology deliver what the taxpayers want?

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

November 19th, 2016



There is a lawyer in town who loves the city – has run for public office and is “involved” in civic affairs. Nice fellow; dependable, decent, gives a damn. He speaks of the city as being a nice place where the quality of life is good.

And on that one he isn’t wrong but he isn’t as right as he would like it to be.


Is leaf collecting a service the city should be providing? The trees are on city property.

Sheldon Creek - chemicl cans

These chemical containers were discovered in Sheldon creek – is their removal a city responsibility?

Another citizen is also active, also involved and has lived in the city since the 50’s. He is the kind of guy who will pick up the phone when he sees something he thinks is wrong. He lives near the Village Square.

The Blyth Academy made a smart move when they set up classes for their students in the Village Square. This gave the “campus” a downtown feel rather than an austere building in the boonies or some commercial waste land where space was cheap.

There is a decent number of students about which suggests the idea is working.

Adults seem to understand that smoking is going to kill you eventually and certainly shorten your life span but that doesn’t seem to have penetrated the fertile minds of the Blyth Academy students. They got into the habit of slipping out for a fag in the Village Square which happens to abut a condominium with which they share common spaces.

The residents don’t appreciate the cigarette butts littering the ground – the students got rousted and the problem was solved.

Students being students, driven more by peer pressure than common sense, found another place to smoke – the city parking lot right across the street.

Our observant citizen picked up the phone, called city hall thinking a bylaw enforcement officer could pay the area a visit and shoo the students back to their classroom

Didn’t quite work out that way.

Our citizen was told it was a Regional responsibility; then was told it was a Parks and Recreation responsibility and that the person who could do something was away. After three to four transfers to someone else – the citizen gave up.

While going through the background papers the city has provided on the capital budget that is going to be debated next week we came across an item which we passed along to the citizen with a real hurt for smokers.

The budget submission includes the funding of the purchase of a Customer Relationship Management / Knowledge Base System (CRM/KB) that will build services for the community, focusing on the needs of our customers. This system will allow our customers to engage with the city and have access to information and services through the channel of their choice; phone, social media, city’s website or email. Creating an integrated service delivery model available through multiple channels is only possible through the acquisition and implementation of such a system. Staff plan to consolidate service inquiries and requests and transform Service Burlington into a centralized customer contact centre.

His comment: “It seems to me that it’s a people problem. No system will fix the experience I had. It’s more to do with the culture, a simple commitment of all staff to excellent customer service.”

The same could probably be said the the falling leaves problem in Roseland.  The comments made by readers on that problem are instructive.

Related article:

Leaf collections – problem with the timing.

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South Burlington resident unhappy with the way leaf pick up is being done.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

November 19th, 2016


Update:  Asked if he wanted to expand on his comment Jack Dennison, the ward 4 member of council said: “The experts will”

Phillip Waggett, a resident of South Burlington, said his street received its second leaf pickup.

This morning, he advised the Gazette, he took a series of pictures of the serious leaf drop which is ongoing–primarily from city-owned trees.


South Roseland street after leaf pick up – resident thinks the city has made a mistake with its scheduling.

“It is not just my street: wrote Waggett “it is across South Burlington and into Roseland, leaves are everywhere, especially on maple trees which have only dropped a small proportion of their leaves at this time.

“My neighbour is of the opinion that the leaves were picked up one week earlier than last year, resulting in possibly the WORST pickup I have experienced in nearly 40 years of living here.

“Who is responsible for this lack of proper planning/scheduling? I do understand that scheduling must be done in advance but surely City Hall has access to the same long-term weather reports as I do?


This maple tree has yet to lose its leaves – warm weather has it confused – that weather also has the people scheduling the leaf pick-up confused. These are trees on city property.

“And I assume city staff responsible are capable of looking outside to see how much of the leaf fall has occurred? None of this has happened with the consequent poor results. What is the City going to do to rectify this?”

Ward 4 Councillor Jack Dennison did get back to Waggett with the following:

“I have included the director of the Roads and Parks maintenance department”

That was it?

No wonder there is disappointment with the way things get done at city hall.


The map showing where leaves are to be collected was published early in October. Someone appears not to have factored in the milder weather and made some changes.

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Make Cuba the newest Canadian province? Rivers is clearly looking for a diplomatic posting.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

November 18th, 2016



I once worked at Toronto airport washing recycled Trans Canada planes for one of those instant airlines, sprung up to fly cows to Cuba, the airline’s only customer. The Cuban missile crisis was over but there was pretty much of a hemispheric embargo in effect against that small island nation. And while the US administration would have liked Canada to fall into line, Conservative leader John Diefenbaker would not be dictated to.

Canada and Cuba have one of the oldest friendships in the Western Hemisphere. More recently Stephen Harper played a key role in opening the way for Obama to break the ice, and become the first US president after the revolution to visit Cuba. But the politician who mostly comes to mind when the talk turns to Cuba was Justin Trudeau’s late father, Pierre.


Margaret Trudeau, Fidel Castro and former Prime Minister of Canada Pierre Trudeau. Castro is showing the Trudeau’s a photo album.

So nobody should be surprised that Justin finally paid a visit to Cuba, though he didn’t get to see his father’s old pal, Fidel. Over a million Canadians visit Cuban annually, and the official purpose of his trip was to expand trade, get some of those tourist dollars back, before the US beats us to it.

Though beating us to it won’t happen if president-elect Trump was serious about his threat to re-impose a blockade. Trump had been keen to build a casino there in the 1990’s but business is business and politics is… So he found religion and the bitter Cuban ex-pats voted in large enough numbers to give him Florida and the path to the presidency.

But the real Cubans weren’t applauding; they conducted military drills, just in case. Nobody expects Trump to invade, but if normalization is ended, Cuba might reconsider Mr. Putin’s offer to re-open a Russian military base there. And that would be so “deja vu” – unless the much anticipated Putin-Trump bromance turns out to be genuine love. Then Cuba will be pretty much on its own, except for a few good friends, like Canada.

When Trump threatened to tear up NAFTA, Canada was quick to call his bluff, offering to put our money on the table and deal. And our guys are pretty good at the game, knowing when to walk away, as we did to close that CETA deal (Canada-EU Trade Agreement) recently. We can visualize the NAFTA negotiations set in one of Trumps’ Vegas casinos – I’ll see your softwood lumber and raise you US steel.

Snow-birding makes a big dent in the Canadian economy, draining foreign exchange and slowing down domestic economic growth. But what if our Canadian sun-worshippers could travel to some hot spot which was part of the economy, so the money would stay in the country?

What if some banana island came out of the blue sea and knocked on our door looking to participate in our style of democracy?

Almost a century ago PM Robert Borden embraced annexing the Turks and Caicos (T&C) islands as a part of Canada. And the issue has popped up regularly over the years, mostly by the government of that British colony. The last time this happened a pale Mr Harper was so blanched by the prospect he told them to go home, they’d been in the sun too long. Canada wasn’t interested – we like to freeze in the winter. Really? Over 200,000 people travel to that island paradise, that’s almost as many as stop by to see the Yukon. Why wouldn’t we want to have those dollars in Canada and those 40 islands as our 11th province?


Part of the Turks and Caicos that Rivers would like to see made part of Canada.

I mean, it’s the ‘rage’ once again, to build empires and grab land. Take Crimea, which Russia did. And I’d be surprised if Mr. Putin has finished his Christmas shopping – watch out for those men in furry hats, bikinis and sun burns – this time they’re the little red men.

Once we’ve snagged the Turks and Caicos, there are bigger fish for us to hook in the Caribbean. I mean what about Cuba?

Over a million Canadians fly there every year, dwarfing little ole’ Turks and Caicos. With access to their doctors, twice as many per capita as Canada, waiting lists for operations would disappear. And maybe you could schedule that operation along with recuperation time in Havana. Tell that to your boss when requesting sick leave.

Canada has some strong linkages to Cuba’s economy, including some of the biggest mining companies there. But we’ve hardly started. And that is why the PM is there – trade and investment. Yes and of course the PM is expected to scold them on human rights abuses – but in this crazy messed up world…

As a Canadian province, Cuba would be entitled to free trade with the US and Mexico under NAFTA, providing Trump doesn’t tear it up. Bringing almost twelve million Spanish speakers into confederation would provide a nice linguistic balance to our multi-cultural nation, complementing Quebec’s 8 million francophones. And if anyone could get the US to close it’s naval base at Guantanamo, that’d be us.

So if that wasn’t what our PM was doing in Cuba – seducing Raul to throw his lot in with us – well it would be a shame. But then, one can always dream.

Rivers-direct-into-camera1-173x300Ray Rivers is an economist and author who writes weekly on federal and provincial issues, applying his 25 years of involvement with federal and provincial ministries.  Rivers’ involvement in city matters led to his appointment as founding chair of Burlington’s Sustainable Development Committee.  He was also a candidate in a past provincial election.     Tweet @rayzrivers


Background links:

Harper and Cuba –  Canada-Cuba –   Cuban History –  Trudeau/Castro

Cuba and Canada –  How Trump Won Florida –  Trump on Cuba –  Turks And Caicos

Can/US/CubaTrudeau in Cubagetting new - yellow

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