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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Local lawyer and former city council candidate suggests the size of city council should be changed.

News 100 yellowBy Staff

November 17th, 2016



The pressure is building.

Hamilton Spectator Joan Little did a column on the size of city council which the Gazette reproduced. We then got a note from Brian Heagle who directed us to his words of wisdom. Heagle thinks the current size of council is out of whack with what the city needs.

Let us pass along to you what Heagle, a past candidate for public office, had to say.  The content has been edited for length – a link to the full and the three second poll is at the end of this article.

Heagle starts his comments with a picture of the 1988-1991 council – pointing out that Jack Taylor was a member of council that far back, and asks: “Did you count the number of people around that table?


Not a computer screen in site – those were the days when members of council would look at you and not be reading their cell phones

At that time there were seventeen (17) people for a population of less than 130,000 in 1991.

There are only seven (7) members of council now – for a population in excess of 175,000.

Oakville has 13 members of council with a population of 180,000.

Milton has a nine member council for a population of more than 100,000

Halton Hills has 11 members of Council for a population of 60,000.

Heagle in group with Boich looking on

Brian Heagle when he was a Liberal.

The decrease in Council’s size was a well-intentioned move in the right direction but the pendulum swung too far.  A telling example is how weary and wary our Mayor and Councillors appear at Council meetings. Who can blame them?

In fairness, who could properly get through all of the reading materials thrown at them (whether paper or electronic), investigate all of the truly important matters (after filtering through the truly less important ones), and genuinely listen to their constituents (as a reminder, improved civic engagement was the rallying cry when this Council was first elected in 2010)?

No wonder Council members often have their heads down, relying heavily on staff reports (is it an unwillingness to challenge them, or lack of preparation?) and rarely looking or standing up to offer strikingly innovative or breakthrough ideas.

Risk-takers? Not this group.

I wrote last year about how this Council is seemingly “stuck in neutral”, and nothing much has changed since then – their long-overdue Strategic Plan eventually passed in April, sadly in line with Council’s previously limp and lengthy versions.

Visionary and bold do not describe this Council. Caretaking seems more appropriate.

To be clear, Council’s work is not easy or straightforward, nor is it restricted to Council chambers.

There’s also the incredible time and energy drains of dealing with cats getting caught in trees, ribbons getting cut, photos getting taken, calls getting made, emails getting returned and getting to countless meetings and events.

Not to mention constant public pressure, as Council goes about their work.

Heagle hands out speaking

Getting the word out – Brian Heagle in action.

Having said that, though, there’s really not much in the way of public scrutiny. Local media is virtually non-existent in Burlington, (We take exception to that comment Mr. Heagle) and it infrequently provides actual in-depth news reporting or analysis anyway.

It’s exhausting merely to try to visualize Council’s unrelenting work schedule, and the personal sacrifices involved, especially for a completely undersized team with an overwhelming to-do list.

Despite Council’s best efforts, have you noticed that public discontent keeps bubbling to the surface lately, replacing our usual general disengagement or disinterest with local matters? And we’re not talking about the Pier anymore.

Citizens seem increasingly frustrated with and anxious about Council – with big and small tipping points.

Unwarranted road diets, the shadow cast by the unrelenting threat and pace of new high rises by the waterfront, the City terminating the core group of seniors volunteering at the Seniors Centre, the City’s short-sighted selling of public waterfront lands to private interests, and more.

It’s no surprise that one natural conclusion and overriding factor can explain, in large part, why this Council gets such unfavorable or unenthusiastic reviews, and why it has seemingly been so unproductive and uninspiring despite 6 long years together.  It’s been 25 years in the making. Council fatigue has firmly set in.


Fuzzy picture – but there is no mistaking Brian Heagle pictured with local Conservative party activists – this was during that period of time when Heagle had his eye on a seat at Queen’s Park

Why expect any Council to excel when they’re always faced with too little time and far too many demands? We’re talking about burnout.

Increasing the size of Council is inevitable, and would represent an important step and signal to re-energize Council as part of a long-overdue governance review – Council isn’t leading by example about a Code of Conduct, which doesn’t exist for them, but does for City Staff).

With a larger group, there’s real opportunity to elect a more dynamic, inclusive and representative group for an evolving Burlington – hopefully, more diverse backgrounds and more progressive thinking will be brought to the table as a result.

It’s time to cleanse the stale air of a tired “small club” environment, and breath new life into a modern Council to help it build an even greater community for the longer term.

To create a healthier culture, you need to get at the root of the problem, not merely trim around the edges.

A change to the size of Council would be at the centre of structural changes that will make a difference.

Longer term thinking has city hall being replaced but for the immediate future improving the sound system in Council chamber - FINALLY! and improving some of the meetings rooms is where capital dollars will be spent this year.

Is it time for a change in the size of city council?

Drawing new lines for Wards is a related burning issue too.

The new Strategic Plan trumpets “GROW BOLD”, as Council seeks to lead Burlington into the future. Will this Council itself “GROW BOLD”, and be wise enough, to pursue increasing its size before the 2018 election?

Seven is definitely not the right number. Not anymore. It doesn’t work well in 2016 – and won’t for the next 25 years.

The three second poll Heagle posted is at – https://brianheagle.wordpress.com/2016/11/17/size-matters-in-burlington/


getting new - yellowJoan Little column from the Hamilton Spectator

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Spectator columnist suggests its time to enlarge city council - she is not wrong.

opinionandcommentBy Joan Little, Hamilton Spectator columnist

November 17th, 2016


The Spectator is not read by enough people in Burlington. Their columnist, Joan Little, wrote some particularly cogent comments about the size of Burlington’s city council that deserve repeating.

Every few years council sizes and ward boundaries change, usually because of population shifts. Councillors invariably are lukewarm, keen to retain areas of strength in past elections. “No one’s asking for change,” they say, but it’s not about them — it’s about service for residents. Toronto is adding three wards. Hamilton, too, is considering change.

Burlington City Council Group

First elected in 2010 this significant seven don’t appear to be the least bit interested in letting any new members into the club that gives them $100,000 + each year.

Halton Region’s population has shifted greatly. When created in 1973, its council had 24 members — nine from Burlington, seven from Oakville, four from Halton Hills, three from Milton, and a chair. In 1997 it was re balanced to 21 — seven each from Burlington and Oakville, and three each from Milton and Halton Hills, plus a chair.

With populations again skewed, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs has decided that Halton council will revert to 24 for the 2018 election. Milton gains two and Oakville one. The 1997 shift necessitated local council changes. Burlington went from eight wards, two per ward, to six wards, one per ward. Mike Wallace was the architect of that move from 17 to seven members. Some, like former Mayor Walter Mulkewich, favoured 13, like Oakville’s.

Burlington has the smallest council in Halton — seven — who sit on the two councils and several boards. Oakville also has six wards, but 13 members — one local and one local/regional councillor, plus the mayor. It is adding a ward, and will go to 15 locally. Milton and Halton Hills have 11 each. Milton will shift from eight wards to four — one local and one local/regional per ward plus a mayor — nine total.

Burlington councillors love their small club, but does it serve the public well? It’s a very small group for developers and special interests to lobby. There have been several 4-3 votes on controversial items. It’s troubling that the fate of such a large city can be decided by only four people — and that’s if all are present.

At one committee session last week, Mayor Rick Goldring and Blair Lancaster were absent — not a criticism, because scheduling conflicts do arise. BUT! Both Marianne Meed Ward and Jack Dennison have heritage homes, so each had to declare a conflict of interest on two different heritage items. That left four to vote on these two reports. Fortunately, they weren’t divisive items.

Goldring and others have spoken of having a larger council. In my opinion, 13 is ideal — not too large, not too small. (The council table will seat 17). More would likely mean broader debate. Additional councillors would be local only, like Oakville’s and Milton’s.

Council has said for a decade that there was no sense reviewing its size, because Burlington could gain or lose regional seats. Well, Halton’s council size is decided, and unlikely to change for another two decades, so what’s today’s holdup?

Cost? Democracy isn’t free, but let’s examine that. Burlington’s 2016 budget is $146 million. The city pays councillors $54,312, the Region an additional $48,060 — total $103,372. Let’s use $60,000 for six more local members — $360,000 — less if fewer were added. Minimal in a $146 million budget (.0025 per cent).

Dennison announcing

Ward 4 city Councillor Jack Dennison is reported to be opposed to a larger council.

This council is unlikely to add six. Dennison, for one, is stridently opposed to adding any, and for city staff, the small number is convenient. Further, a council that can’t even agree on a Councillors’ Code of Conduct, promised six years ago, is unlikely to make such a major change. But if they do, kudos!

Two weeks ago there was a council workshop about a governance charter, but the underlying issue for many members was that outstanding Code of Conduct. They agreed that both items would be considered in parallel later.

I was astonished that council size wasn’t even discussed, because that underlies governance. In response to my question, Goldring said it isn’t an issue — no one’s asking for change but me. Maybe, but four people (if all attend) deciding my city’s future is worrisome.

Adding councillors to a too-small council for 2018’s election would be a step for democracy. Seven is way too small for a city Burlington’s size, considering the ongoing citizen angst about overintensification.

little-joanFreelance columnist Joan Little is a former Burlington alderperson and Halton councillor. Reach her at specjoan@cogeco.ca


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Citizens need to speak up on November 28 or have a limited voice in future.

opinionandcommentBy Jim Young

November 11th, 2106


Following the outrage over the New Street “road diet” and the introduction of bike lanes to the disadvantage of drivers, transit users and residents; one might have hoped that Burlington City Council would waken up to the fact that communication and consultation, before a decision, is preferable to acrimony and bitterness in its aftermath.

In the New Street aftermath every Councillor I heard from agreed that, no matter how well intentioned, the implementation was a communications disaster. They vowed the road diet will be monitored, measured and the data reviewed and debated by the public to gain their input before permanent adoption.

Jim Young

Jim Young delegating at city council. He had ten minutes on this occasion.

In their rush to calm outraged citizens, Councillors assured their constituents that next time around their actions will be more open, transparent and attentive to public input.  So far so good; ruffled feathers have been smoothed, angry voices calmed and all the proper civic engagement boxes ticked. A veneer of local democracy survives and maybe they will all get re-elected next year. Sighs of relief all round.

So how, mere weeks later, you may ask, can this same group of Councillors who have sworn transparency, openness and engagement now vote to limit public delegations to council on matters of community interest and concern?

Until last week any issue before council was open to public input via delegation to council when the issue was discussed and voted on. Interested advocacy groups or individual citizens were allowed ten minutes to present their thoughts, concerns or their support for the matter at hand. Now council’s Community and Corporate Services Committee, which comprises all of city council, have decided that citizens will be limited to five minutes for individual presentations while advocacy and special interest groups will still be allowed ten minutes.


Just how democratic are the city Councillors?

I am at a loss to understand how this promotes or advances engagement and community involvement. Indeed it is an affront to the whole notion of local democracy. Perhaps Councilors Craven, Sharman and Taylor who voted in favour of the new limit will grace their constituents with an explanation. Perhaps they were looking ahead to when the New Street issue comes back before council next year and trying to silence critics who will doubtless be lining up for their full ten minutes to vent on that subject.

"I don't want to hear anymore delegations" said Councillor Jack Dennison.

Councillor Dennison defended the ten minute time limit on delegations.

Goldring - Christmas picture

Mayor Goldring defended the ten minute time limit for delegations.

Kudos to Mayor Goldring, Councillors Dennison and Meed Ward who opposed the five minute limit; Defending our right as citizens to speak truth to power. (Councillor Lancaster was absent.)

The matter will come before the full council on November 28th for final ratification. Hopefully Councillor Lancaster will be in attendance and vote some sanity back into the issue or, perhaps, our three errant Councillors will regain their professed love of citizen engagement and vote more wisely on that date.

Members of the public who wish to make their feelings known about this issue at the Nov. 28 meeting can register to speak at the meeting on.

I urge my fellow Burlingtonians to do so. It may be your last chance to get a ten minute hearing with your council members.getting new - yellow

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Rivers renames the USA - now the The Divided States of America (The DSA)

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

November 11th, 2016



They’re red and blue, plastered across the map of America, the divided states representing the divided state of America. And it hasn’t changed much over the years – the reds and blues are pretty constant from election to election, except for a handful of battleground states.

donald-trumpYes I called the election result but that wasn’t my preferred outcome. Now it seems that the glass ceiling will have to wait. And if Hillary was doing this for womankind, it didn’t work since nearly half of all female voters chose Trump anyway. But then this contest should never have been about gender… or sex. It should have been about the next four years. There was this entitlement thing. Again, Clinton and her cronies believed it was her turn, that she deserved to be president because she got beaten out by an African-American in 2008.

Trump’s folks called her an elite though she, and not her opponent, had pulled themselves up from a humble beginning. But she acted the part, perhaps overconfident in the knowledge that she was the the only qualified candidate. So she went high when he went low and allowed herself to be branded as corrupt and crooked by someone much closer to that description.

For at least a couple of generations now we have been conditioned by the television set. And when we get bored watching a re-run we change the channel to a reality show – its easy to do. Perhaps Clinton didn’t understand that the people wanted change, and not that phoney ‘yes we can’ change they were handed back in 2008. Even if unemployment has fallen to historic lows under Obama, slinging burgers is not the pathway to becoming part of a dwindling middle-class. The American dream just wasn’t working out for all those angry white voters who ended up propelling Trump into the White House.

Trump fist upTrump went rogue. End free trade! Build a wall! Kick out illegals! Tear up the climate change deal! Ban Muslim immigrants! Drop out of NATO! Make love with Putin! Plain speak so nobody could accuse the real estate magnate of mincing words. And when the pollsters and the media prematurely pronounced his imminent defeat, the voters thought what the hell? What have we got to lose? It was a Brexit echo, and it sure looks like Trump played that card from the beginning.

It should have been Hillary. Not because of some sexist reason, but because she was qualified and had some very progressive policies, which she rarely even got to talk about. Baggage drags you down, and she had too much, the flip side of all that experience. And then there was how she got be the nominee. Yesterday’s candidate won her party’s nomination with a stacked hand.

Nobody can say that Bernie Sanders would have performed better, but he was at least liked and respected for his years of experience, his ideals and his ethics. Perhaps the millennial crowd would have come out for him, because they sure didn’t for Hillary. And Bernie and Trump would have at least been fun to watch in debate.

usa-electoral-mao-2016Still, had it not been for the FBI intervention at the eleventh hour, which reinforced doubts about her character, Clinton might have won. And the FBI will likely get off scot-free, since the Republicans are in control now. Isn’t that’s how politics works – the winners get it all?

America was a nation divided before this election, those perennial red and blue states. And it won’t get any less divided over the next four years. Because people don’t always vote in their own self-interest, and they keep voting like they always did. And there can only be two parties in that very imperfect democracy south of the border, where check and balance has transitioned to confrontation and obstruction.

hillary-clinton_3Hillary Clinton graciously wished Trump a successful presidency, whatever that means. One should expect he will be as divisive in governing as he was in campaigning – and big league. Some politicians focus on what unites us… ‘stronger together’. Others use racism and sexism to drive a wedge between the people, and pit one against another. It’s called divide and conquer. And it worked in the Divided States of America.

There were protests on the first two days following the election. Wouldn’t it have been more effective for those young people to simply have voted? After all, it won’t be long before governing America will be the responsibility of their generation.


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.

Background links:

Hillary’s ConcessionTrump’s Lies –   Bernie and Donald –  What Happens Next

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After the dust settles Tuesday night where will our biggest trading partner be?

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

November 4th, 2016



So the election is Tuesday and like so many others, I am not crazy about either of the main candidates Americans have to choose between. For a while it sure looked like Hillary had it in the bag, but the FBI staged something as close to a coup as one can in a liberal democracy. And now it’s too close to call. Except I’m calling it for Trump. He has the momentum and sometimes stuff just happens – look at Brexit.


The leader of the Western world?

And what would we expect from a President Trump? It will depend on whether he has a Republican Congress or whether he is at the mercy of a Democrat-dominated House and/or Senate. And even if the Republicans keep Congress, it is not a given that they will simply rubber stamp all his nutty notions. Many have distanced themselves since learning of his roving small hands and filthy mind.

But if they managed to bury that hatchet we might see some big changes in American foreign policy given what Trump, the candidate, has said to date. NATO would be in for a shake-up at a minimum, and this might get the EU nations off their butts and taking their own security seriously. The US will break its Paris commitment on climate change, as Trump mimics one of GWB’s earliest actions, and that will have some spill-over here in the great ‘still-white’ north.

We are America’s largest traditional trading partner, after all. And who knows whether Trump will really tear up NAFTA or just tinker with it the way Chretien did with the Canada-US trade deal he inherited?

And would Mexico still pay for the wall?


If it ever gets built – how would Donald Trump make the Mexican government actually pay for it?

Some kind of wall will likely get built along the US/Mexican border, but with much of the border comprised of shared rivers (Rio Grande and Colorado), it won’t be nearly as formidable as the one in his imagination. His promises of mass deportation of illegal migrants will also pale in light of the fact that more Mexicans are now leaving than coming to America. But tough love for criminals will make a comeback, including stop and frisk for minorities, and maybe some new punishment for women who have abortions once he gets his hands on Roe v Wade.

Trump hints that he would make the US insular or isolated, though that was also what “Dubya” said as he was plotting to invade Iraq. The result of which led to ISIS, Trump’s number one target. Though his talk of cooperation with Russia makes one wonder if he’d just abandon all of that Syrian mess for Russia to deal with.

Despite that, it is unlikely that Putin and Trump would be soul mates for very long – there is too much distance between them for that. And with Trump promising an even larger military machine, Putin may very well regret losing Obama as his primary punching bag.


Will this man ever address the Canadian House of Commons?

Trump is wealthy so it is no surprise he is a fan of trickle down economics – give to the rich and it’ll trickle down to the poor. But just about every economist in America says he is wrong, and that his massive tax cuts would result in massive deficits, a falling exchange rate, recession and/or crazy inflation. And with Obamacare gone it’ll be back to getting health insurance the old way – if you can and if you can afford it in the Trumped down economy.

The problem with Trump bringing these few wild promises with him to the White House is that nobody is sure how serious he is about them. The rest of what he is offering is short on detail and full of bravado. And the reason for that is simply that he has such scant knowledge of the issues that would be before him. Even worse he is his own chief advisor and one with zero experience in government.

It could be an ugly election and I feel sorry for Americans. Friends in the US are expecting riots in the streets almost immediately should Clinton win. This election is better, or worse, than anything else on TV these days, with the possible exception of the ABC/CTV series Designated Survivor. And the late night talk shows are almost as much fun to watch.

Except it isn’t funny. Americans are faced with two markedly different visions of their future for the next four years, and if I’m right they’re about to make a huge mistake. It was never supposed to end up like this. Sure we all knew Hillary was going to model for the Democrats but nobody expected this buffoon to to even get the GOP nomination, let alone be readying himself for the role of most powerful leader in the world.


What will she be Wednesday morning – some think it could be just Mrs. Clinton

If  Hillary loses, she’ll have no one to blame but herself. Her flawed judgement calls as Senator and Secretary of State have come back to take their revenge. And while she is a powerful speaker with a solid presence she has failed to connect with so many Americans, like the millennial crowd. But Trump has promised to put her in jail after the election is over, anyway.

One could argue that her time in the foreign office wasn’t her own, that aside from the email flap she was only carrying out Obama’s largely unsuccessful foreign policy. Even the former chief of NATO has come to that conclusion, calling out the US president for his weakness as a leader. One wonders when the Nobel prize folks will be knocking on Obama’s door, asking for their peace prize back. They could have given it to Bob Dylan, but then they’ couldn’t find him.

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

Background links:

Mexico-US BorderCanada-US TradeNATOEconomists on TrumpRepublicans and TrumpDesignated Survivor

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Casting your ballot via the internet: Not safe enough according to Gareth Williams.

opinionandcommentBy Gareth Williams

November 4th, 2016



What is the value of convenience? Is it worth sacrificing some of our democratic institutions, like the secret ballot and the knowledge that our election results accurately reflect the intent of voters?

This Monday Burlington City Council (sitting as the Community & Corporate Services) will consider a staff report which recommends Burlington continue its experiment with remote Internet voting. I call it an experiment because Internet voters made up a relatively small overall percentage of ballots cast in the 2010 & 2014 elections in which it was offered.

I do not believe that as a City we should continue to embrace this flawed method of electing our leaders, and I believe most citizens would agree if they better understood the significant challenges involved.

Here is a brief summary of the issues with online/Internet voting:

Voting ballot box

This is a secret ballot

• Internet voting eliminates the protection of the secret ballot and could enable coercion of voters by family members and others. With the large population of seniors in Burlington, and the very real issue of elder abuse this is a significant concern. At the public polling station election staff are there to ensure you can vote in privacy, free from interference; at home or work just about anyone can be standing behind you as you cast your ballot.

• It also facilitates vote buying and/or individuals casting ballots on behalf of others, with or without their knowledge. This has already happened back in 2010 when an Eastern Ontario man was charged and fined with voting on behalf of his family members. It is probably safe to assume there have been other cases (perhaps even here in Burlington) which went unnoticed as it is not uncommon for several family members to share a computer or Internet connection. A mother or father might, for example, decide to vote on behalf of their kids who are away at University or College.

• Evidence indicates that Internet voting does not increase turnout, even among youth. The most recent example of this is Halifax’s 2016 municipal election where the number of online voters dropped by over 10,000. Leading researchers in the field have analyzed 15 years of data and concluded that Internet voting is unlikely to solve the low turnout crisis faced by Western democracies. Perhaps surprisingly, they also found Ontario voters age 18-34 were more likely to prefer paper ballots.

ID theft screen

The level of sophistication the ID thieves have is close to beyond belief – if they want the information – they can get it.

• Most computer security experts warn that Internet voting is not secure. A large number of multinational firms as well as Canadian government departments have been successfully cyberattacked in recent years. There have been many stories in the news recently of high profile attacks like the ones that affected the Ontario EQAO exam and attempts to influence the US election through the release of emails obtained through hacking or phishing attempts. Third party IT security consultants hired by the City of Toronto to study proposals for Internet voting in that city recommended against moving forward with any of the options.

Many other jurisdictions that considered or experimented with online voting have dropped support for Internet voting. These include Toronto, Mississauga, Kitchener, and Huntsville Ontario, the provinces B.C. & Alberta as well as the country of Norway.

A City of Kitchener 2012 staff report was the impetus for that city rejecting Internet voting; it recommended strongly against implementation for their 2014 election. Most of the aforementioned issues were cited. According to this report and other academic studies the highest user of Internet voting is the 45-55 demographic and the vast majority of Internet voters would likely have voted anyway.

Problems with Internet voting were in the news again as recently as this past week in P.E.I. where they are using it for a non-binding plebiscite on electoral reform. An unknown number of voter information packages with personal identification numbers (PINs) were sent to the wrong addresses. These codes could potentially be used to cast a ballot on behalf of another voter. If the vote is cast from a public location like a library, there would be little that could be done to track down the offender.

Many advocates point to the opportunity Internet voting provides to make it easier for disabled voters to cast their ballot. However, as Dr. Barbara Simons a former researcher with IBM pointed it out during her recent testimony to the Electoral Reform panel in Ottawa, it does a disservice to voters with disabilities, to anybody, to provide them with a tool that is fundamentally insecure. We owe it to them when we provide them with alternatives to make sure those alternatives are secure.

Despite the issues we continue to hear that, based on opinion polls, there is a demand and support from the public for Internet voting. To quote Dr. Simons again, if this were a medical hearing to determine whether to approve a new drug for human consumption, safety would be paramount. A drug that is likely to result in serious injury to patients would be rejected, no matter how many people wanted to use it. Internet voting is like a drug we are considering for our democracy.

If this scares you as much as it scares me be sure to contact your Councillor before Monday.

gareth-williamsGareth Williams is a graduate of the Political Science program at McMaster University. He works in Information Technology in Hamilton with 18 years in the field.  Gareth lives in Brant Hills with his wife and their dog Misty.’


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Has the Finance Minister just told us to suck it up?

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

October 29th, 2016


“… we live in a world where we make our own future and the role of government is to facilitate each of us in being the best we can be.”


Former Prime Minister Kim Campbell – she chose to tell the public what the real issues were – and they booted her out of office.

Kim Campbell, shortly after becoming Canada’s first female PM in 1993, announced that it was unlikely the deficit or unemployment would be much reduced before the end of the century. That statement was the first shovel of dirt from the grave she was digging for herself and her party – taking it from its highest poll numbers in decades to a miserable two seats in Parliament. Eventually that election marked the sunset of the Progressive Conservative party.

Canada’s finance minister Bill Morneau, recently told an assembly of Liberal party faithful that high labour turnover and short-term employment contracts are here to stay, and the government should prepare for it. Of course the opposition parties have jumped on that statement as being out of touch with today’s youth, much as Campbell’s comment was out of touch with everyday Canadians hoping to make their lives better.


You chop here and you chop there – and before you know it that square peg will fit into that round hole.

It’s true that the big corporations and the broader public service (including health and education) are the historical providers of that proverbial job for life. Yet today big business makes up only 0.1 percent of all Canadian businesses and they employ only 10 percent of Canada’s non-government sector workforce. We are a nation of small and medium companies, counting some 10 million employees, by contrast. And indeed these enterprises are fraught with volatility, some closing down as quickly as others start up – literally in the thousands every year. So there should be nothing too shocking in what the Finance Minister had to say – it is reality.

Except that judging from the public reaction, we don’t think it is acceptable that today’s high school, college or university graduate should go on to live their lives under the shadow of job insecurity. That is unless they join the broader public service or are one of the lucky one million to land a career in banking, insurance, oil, and auto manufacturing. Otherwise one will have to find employment or create a business opportunity in a small to medium sized business. And that means minimal benefits, and even rarer, a company pension.

And when it comes to pensions, no one knows more than Mr. Morneau, who used to be part of the largest administrator of defined benefit plans (fixed pension) in Canada. And he is also, de facto, the author of the newly augmented Canada Pension Plan (CPP). Eligible benefits under the new plan will bring the CPP up to a third of one’s former salary. And Morneau understands that the day of company defined benefit pensions are numbered and that the CPP will be expected to play even a greater role in our lives.


And this is what might be left when all is said and done.

Morneau talked about the need for government to support training and retraining programs. But didn’t mention the need to reform the current EI program. If steady employment for most Canadians is a thing of the past, isn’t it time to send the old complicated EI into the dustbin of history, and to replace it with a national guaranteed annual income? An economy where people make their career choices based on maximizing their potential rather than economic desperation can only lead to greater productivity.

Kim Campbell was just trying to be honest and frank with Canadians when she told them to suck it up. But she underestimated Canadians ability to do better, looking into the distance using her reading glasses. Indeed the Chretien government slew both the deficit and high unemployment beyond her expectations. And she paid a big price and learned a big lesson for speaking her mind.

Kim Campbell has, in fact, lived the kind of career that Morneau could have been talking about. University lecturer, politician, diplomat, lawyer and writer, lawyer, diplomat and more. In addition to being Canada’s first female PM, she was the first from B.C., and the first baby boomer to take that office. And if we remember her for nothing else it should be how she effectively brought an end to the endless debate on abortion in this country, something our American neighbours must envy.

She has appeared on talk shows (Bill Maher), sounding more like a Liberal than from the party on the right which rose from the ashes of her failed election campaign. And indeed, the Trudeau government made her the chairperson for the new Supreme Court Advisory Board, leading the transparent process which has just seen our latest appointment to the highest bench in the land.

Not everybody will be fortunate enough to have that kind of resume when they hit 70, which Campbell will be doing next year. But we live in a world where we make our own future and the role of government is to facilitate each of us in being the best we can be.

So yes, Mr. Morneau, it’s federal support for training and education. But it’s also additional tax reform to favour the middle class. And if we are really serious, about this issue, it’s time to implement Canada’s first guaranteed annual income. Then those young people protesting their lot in life will have only themselves to blame.

Ray Rivers

Ray 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

Background links:

Kim Campbell –    Canadian Business – 

Chinese Investments – 

Morneau –

More Morneau – 

Morneau on Pensions –

Millenials – 

Trudeau Heckled –

Trudeau Protests – 

Guaranteed Annual Income – 

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What happens when we don't trust the brand anymore? We stop buying

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

October 23, 2016



It’s been a year since Justin Trudeau was trusted by the Canadian public with an overwhelming majority. So what has he done? I was invited to attend a speech he delivered to an assembly of party faithful in Niagara Falls this past weekend. As expected he hit on some highlights from his achievements to date. It had been a hectic day in the PM’s schedule, including a visit to ‘Picone Fine Food in Dundas’ – a political pie tradition. And, along the way, a disgruntled former Green Party candidate, protesting pipelines, tossed some pumpkins seeds at him and got herself arrested. Power to the pumpkin people!


Protester confront Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – PM calms the man down.

The Liberals have dominated Canada’s national political history and the Liberal brand has worn well over much of that time. Liberals would like to think that is because they listen better to Canadians and mostly get it right on social and economic policy. Mr Harper’s naive belief that he could remake Canada into more of a redneck nation never really had a hope in hell. So despite a laundry list of political accomplishments, Trudeau knows his biggest job of leading this country is still ahead of him.

Just how popular the Liberal brand has become of late will be tested this Monday in an Alberta by-election. The Liberals are running small business owner and long-time resident Stan Sakamoto in an uphill battle to replace Jim Hillyer in the perennially safe Tory riding of Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner. But while that Trudeau brand is pretty strong back east, even the candidate is unsure how well it will play out for him. So he’s promising to “…ensure their MP is their voice to Ottawa, not Ottawa’s voice in Medicine Hat.”

Ontario will be also going to the polls in two by-elections in November and it doesn’t look good for the governing Liberals and their leader. The provincial Liberal brand has plummeted and approval numbers are barely above single digits according to some polls – with disapprovals hitting over 70%. Elected to a strong majority in 2003, the government has been hit by bad press. And its inability to explain or defend, or perhaps even to show that it is listening to the public has almost irretrievably damaged the brand.


When the trust is gone – it is gone.

Despite a new leader who won a strong majority two years ago, public confidence has fallen to levels seen only with consumer products from Volkswagen and Samsung – though at least the Samsung phone is a fiery hot item. The Premier and her ministers are seen as stale, having lost their way and having failed tax payers on the economy and rate payers on the electricity file.

The party could identify a list of accomplishments for Ontario residents till the cows come home, but nobody is listening anymore. They could contrast their record with the disastrous performance of the Harris/Eves near decade in government, but nobody cares. That much of the blame for today’s electricity prices can be attributed to Mike Harris for dismantling Ontario Hydro, in the first place, is no excuse for a government which hasn’t been seen to have fixed that system after almost a decade and a half in power – and which hasn’t lowered electricity bills.

Some people point out that the Tories have only their right-wing-nut leader Tim Hudak to blame for Wynne’s big win in 2014. And Hudak has been shown the door and moved on to peddling real estate instead of politics. So his old riding is up for grabs next month as well as a Liberal seat in greater Ottawa. New PC leader Patrick Brown is still an unknown quantity, and folks appear to have forgiven his amateurish flip-flop on sex ed, first opposing then supporting the Liberal policy.

Earlier this year another by-election in the Liberal strong-hold of Scarborough-Rouge River went to the Tories, allowing them to finally get a foot hold in seat-rich Toronto. And despite popular policies in health care, climate change, education and even bringing down the deficit, the voters will not be satisfied with this government. They’ve made up their minds and Hell hath no fury like a disappointed voter, it seems. It’s why many folks wouldn’t even consider buying a Volkswagen or a Samsung phone – they don’t trust the brand anymore.

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’s Accomplishments –    Progress Report –    Picone

Pumpkin Protester

Ontario Elections –   More Ontario ByElection –   Even More –   And More –  

Premier Wynne –    More Premier

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School board now has a Code of conduct for its trustees - City Council has been avoiding creating a code for a number of years.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

October 22, 2016



The following is not something you are likely to see coming out of Burlington’s city council.

Trustees - fill board +

Halton District School Board trustees.

The Halton District School Board passed the following:

With the unanimous approval of Motion M16-0121 on June 15, 2016, the Halton District School Board authorized the posting of the Board’s Trustee Code of Conduct Policy on the Board’s website for public input, for a period of no less than 25 days.

Any feedback received was to return to the Board at the second meeting in September 2016.


Be it resolved that Halton District School Board approve the “Trustee Code of Conduct
” policy, as revised, and appended to Report 16127.

Burlington’s city council has been avoiding the creation of and agreement on a Code of Conduct for the members of Council – not the sign of a healthy organization.


Burlington’s city council

One has to wonder why such a state exists.

The task was left with the City Manager to get something worked out.  Don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen.

This council does not want a Code of Conduct and the city manager isn’t going to work all that hard to bring anything to the table.

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‘You know this is pretty good stuff – we need to listen to these people.’

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

October 19th, 2016



Stuart Miller is the kind of man who enjoys a challenge.

There isn’t all that much bureaucrat in the man – he likes people and he loves the job he has been dropped into – even though at times it does almost overwhelm him.

Hammil + Miller

If there are a bunch of teachers and students doing something on a Saturday – chances are Stuart Miller be with them.

He is the kind of Director of Education who will slip over to Robert Bateman High school for lunch – one, because there is a great cooking class over there and two, he just likes being around students.

You will find him at some kind of student event on a Saturday when most of the senior board people are chilling at home.

He has some major administrative tasks in front of him but for Miller the administrative part isn’t the challenge that has him tossing and turning – it is the impact the change is going to have on the students he is responsible for – and make no mistake about it – he feel responsible for them and takes great pride when those students do well.

Six months ago he was struggling with how his board was going to handle the very significant increase in parents wanting to get their children into French Immersion almost from the day they walked into a school.

He faced several issues there – and he doesn’t have those issues resolved yet. He couldn’t find enough highly qualified teachers and he had a real concern for that small number of students who were not ready for French Immersion in the early years – if at all.

Stuart Miller

Always engaging – always listening. Stuart Miller, Director of Education for the Halton District School Board.

The best and the brightest in a student population always catch they eye of senior board administrators. Miller has an eye for the kid that is perhaps a little slower and needs a little more time or who doesn’t fit in all that well socially but is razor sharp.

Students aren’t the only concern for Stuart Miller. Wednesday evening he is going to hear delegations from half a dozen parents who are going to hand him a 12 page summary of the concerns they have over the thinking that is going to go into a PAR Review

In less than a week, a group of about ten parents – maybe less – pulled together loads of input from parents, did a thorough review of a long document the school board staff have had months to prepare and have come back with their thoughts on what the board thinks it should do.

That the senior bureaucrat could be as productive.

To be a fly on the wall of Miller’s office as he flips through the pages of the report the parent’s prepared.

Miller has an at times wry look on his face and my bet is that when he completes his reading of the document he is going to smile and say to his staff:

‘You know this is pretty good stuff – we need to listen to these people.’

That’s the kind of Director of Education we have in Halton.

Let’s see how he handles the situation on Wednesday evening.

Salt with Pepper is an opinion column written by the Publisher of the gazette.  we invite well thought out opinions from others in the city.

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If BCHS is a community school - then let's hear what the community wants their school to become - let's not limit yourselves to just struggling to keep it open.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

October 13, 2016



It was interesting, exciting and exhilarating to watch some 60+ parents, several with children in tow and babies in carriages talk about how they will go about ensuring that those children have a high school to go to. The Parent Council at the high school did a superb job of both organizing and pulling together information. A quick look at the sheets of notes highlights how thorough they are going to be.

The trustee for the ward was doing what she is supposed to do – advocate for her constituents. The ward Councillor did her job as well. Her “I am here for you” was what the room needed to here.

If one can assume that all four trustees are on side for keeping Burlington Central High open – that gets 4 of the 11 votes. What about the two more that will be needed to ensure that the proposal to close BCHS is not approved by the trustees?

As an aside it looks like the parents with students going to Lester B. Pearson are comfortable with the decision to merge that school with M.M. Robinson.


The potential to become one of the best high schools in the province rests in the hands of the Parent Council.

The people taking part in the first BCHS community meeting were active, engaged and offered some superb comments.

This is their school – and this may be the opportunity for the community to not only oppose the closing of the school but put together ideas and proposals that would make the place one of the best in the province in terms of where students go for their education.

The structure has a sense of style and solidity to it. It is in the downtown core.

It does need a makeover which if done properly will make the school the one many students will want to attend.

It is already unique with its K to graduation set up. It has a very significant number of bursaries and scholarship available to students.


These are the people that can make their school into whatever they want it to be.

It has a parent population that in 1975 raised $100,000 to, we are told, refurbish the auditorium. Those were 1975 dollars.

This is a group of people who should not limit themselves to the just keeping the school open.

Dare to be Daniel’s and show your Board of Education that you have a vision for your community school.

Salt with Pepper is an opinion column publish from time to time

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Disband the Cycling Advisory Committee?

There is a boisterous group of people that use the comments section of the Gazette fairly regularly. There are those that don’t yet understand civil discourse and tend towards comments we don’t publish. There are also those who make a significant contribution – one of those came in yesterday and we want to share it with a wider audience.

opinionandcommentBy Steven White

October 12, 2016



Over and above the dubious value of this entire project (the reconfiguration of the traffic lanes on New Street) is the unmistakable fact that it points to the differential input that various groups and organizations had into this project.

Clearly, the overwhelming majority of ratepayers did not support this initiative and that was made obvious prior to the July vote. Despite this, the Mayor and most of Council went ahead and supported it anyway. The Cycling Committee and the folks from Share the Road wanted it, and their vocal support for this measure ensured its passage. The rest of the City now gets to live with the consequences, including a project that is badly designed, bike lanes that won’t be used six months of the year, and a communication process that is sadly lacking.

Bike lanes - New street

The original traffic lane configuration is on the left, the pilot project is shown on the right.

The Cycling Committee is no longer a consultative or educational forum but rather, an advocacy group for cycling and cyclists. This raises bigger questions. 1) Where is the consultative forum in this City for pedestrians, or motorists, etc.? 2) Why is it that one group or one entity has a disproportionate input into the decision-making process? and 3) Where is the Committee to discuss the broader issue of traffic congestion in Burlington?

Not only does the Cycling Committee have a Councillor attending their meetings (i.e. Jack Dennison), but they also have attendees from City Hall who seem hell bent on promoting bike lanes regardless of the expense or consequences. Read the Minutes of their meetings and it becomes evident that there is information shared with the Committee that the average citizen is not privy to. Fair? Hardly.

As a taxpayer I bitterly resent subsidizing advocacy groups. Advocacy groups should not have exclusive, privileged or special access to decision makers, and clearly in this process they did. Education is one thing, advocacy is completely different. (N.B. Read the July 19th Minutes of the Cycling Committee (page 1) and the Chair is admonishing members not to indulge in advocacy).

As part of the many changes at City Hall it’s time to seriously re-think consultative and advisory committees, and this is one group that should be disbanded post haste.

Editor’s note:  On the several occasions I have driven the stretch of New Street between Guelph Line and Walkers Line – there was very, very little traffic disruption – there was just the one cyclist seen during a rush hour.  What the Gazette is seeing is a lot of comment from people who are unhappy about the pilot project and basically nothing from the city in the way of information.  We must add that when a public meeting was held there were very few people at that meeting who were opposed to the pilot project.

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Rivers connects the dots and suggests Canadians are at a -pay me now or pay me later - time

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

October 8th, 2016



As I write this, hurricane Matthew has just pushed its toll of death and destruction, closing in on 900 killed in Haiti alone. The role of climate change in hurricanes is still being debated in the science community, but three factors make for a strong linkage. A warmer atmosphere means more humidity and more rain with the storms.

Second, a higher sea level resulting from melting polar ice means flooding occurs more often and much further inland with each storm. And a warmer ocean has been associated with the creation of the storms.


More than 900 lives lost in Haiti alone as the result of Hurricane Matthew. Had the eye of this hurricane moved inland on the United States the devastation would have been record setting.

At the least hurricanes have become more ferocious, do more damage and occur more frequently than when the earth was cooler. The other part of the science we don’t understand is how unstable, hurricanes, cyclones and tornadoes will be into the future as the planet continues to heat up. And then there are the other consequences: the northward migration of pests; losses of cold weather species such as the polar bear; longer periods of drought in some areas; and the propensity for even more raging wild fires, such as the one we witnessed at Fort McMurray last year.


Weather was a huge factor with the fire in Alberta this summer.

Even before the fire had finished its rampage insurance claims in that northern Alberta town were totaling $6 billion . Another $2 billion was paid out by insurance companies following the massive flooding in Calgary only a few years earlier. And then there were climatic related events closer to home in Toronto and the flooding in Burlington. Hurricane Sandy cost over (US) $60 billion and Katrina a whopping $125 billion. That storm damage from Katrina cost the equivalent of the entire 2016 Ontario provincial budget of (Can) $134 billion.

So Justin Trudeau this past week rose up in the House of Commons and in his best ‘pay me now or pay me later’ moment announced that he will impose a $10 per tonne carbon pricing levy in those provinces without such a scheme by 2018. Another $10 will be applied each year thereafter until the total is $50 per tonne by 2022.


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announcing a national carbon tax if the provinces do not create their own tax.

The opposition wailed and railed, but the best they could do was demand Trudeau call it a tax, which it is – a carbon tax. But we pay a lot of different taxes and they’re not all bad. There are property taxes for municipal garbage removal and police and fire services and even income taxes go to make sure that even lower income Canadians can have access to health care, education and old age security.

Besides, the provinces where the vast majority of Canadians live already have or are getting a carbon tax anyway. Quebec led the way back in 2007, with a carbon levy of $3.50 per tonne. B.C. followed suit and its tax is now $30. Alberta will be introducing one starting at $20 this year, in addition to an existing carbon pricing mechanism for the energy sectors. And Ontario’s new emission trading program will include an inherent carbon tax. B.C’s carbon tax amounts to about only seven cents at the pump. And – and that is the challenge.

Electric charging - red car

Electric cars are one part of the solution to cutting back on the use of fossil fuels.

The idea of a carbon tax is to change consumer behaviour by reducing their use of fossil fuels – forcing conservation through smaller cars, less driving, lower thermostats, etc. But if you want people to switch from their old daddy’s Caddy gas guzzler, they’ve already paid off, and buy a new Tesla EV (electric vehicle), the cost of gasoline has to rise significantly higher than seven cents. But if you make the tax too high, everyone will just get upset and vote for that other party next election. So there has to be a rationale for the carbon tax – beyond arbitrarily setting a price to get people out of their cars.

And there is a rationale since we don’t pay the full price for the fossil fuels we use. They are implicitly subsidized. The real cost of a litre of gasoline should also include the clean up of tailing ponds at the oil sands, health and environmental deterioration from air pollution, the costs of clean up from leaking pipelines, impacts of exploding rail cars – and now the huge costs from climate change related disasters. But figuring out these external costs (since they are not in the price per litre) is a tricky proposition. So pay me $50 by 2022 is a good first approximation though we’ll still be paying more later.

Trudeau has promised to return all the tax money collected to the pertinent jurisdictions so they can apply it to provincial programs, for example, assisting those with lower incomes, reducing other taxes, transitioning the economy to be less carbon intensive. Making the carbon taxation revenue neutral and not just a tax grab was a key aspect of B.C.s carbon tax. Alberta and Ontario also intend to use some of the revenue to transition their economies to a lower carbon intensity.

It wasn’t that long ago that all the provinces agreed with the federal government on a strategy, which, in line with Mr. Trudeau’s election platform, called for the inclusion of carbon taxation. Still Saskatchewan and some Atlantic provincial delegates (NS and NL) walked out of a climate change meeting in protest almost immediately after Trudeau announced his mandatory carbon pricing policy.


A part of Canada’s Coat of Arms – From sea to sea

A political cynic might call that grandstanding or just politics. Or perhaps there is genuine concern about a new tax being imposed in their jurisdiction, regardless that they get the proceeds. But it sure sounds like a pretty good deal to me – a common nation-wide carbon tax to level the economic playing field across the country. And the provinces get to keep the cash while the feds get the blame for it.

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.

Background links:

Matthew –  More Matthew 

Climate Change and Hurricanes –   Toronto/Alberta Disasters –   Fort McMurray

Canada Ratifies Paris –   Carbon PriceMore Carbon TaxInsurance for Climate Change

Even More Carbon Price –   Even even more –  Provinces and Climate ChangeNational Post on Carbon Tax

Globe & Mail on Carbon Tax getting new - yellow

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