Is bullying nothing more than the shaping of collective beliefs and behaviours within families, within workplaces, within neighbourhoods and within society at large ?

opinionandcommentBy Cindy Hunter

August 29, 2016



Whilst enjoying a cup of mint tea and reading my book the other day at a local coffee shop, I happened to overhear some distressing comments from one of the gals seated at the adjacent table. Sweetly and discreetly (so she thought), she dissed a fellow patron of the establishment with the following comments: “Look at that woman pushing the stroller. See the makeup on her face? My heart breaks for the wee one. How can a mother who spends so much time primping possibly give her child the attention it deserves? I swear, I could just cry.”

On overhearing the commentary, what I felt at that moment was not a grossly misplaced, anxious sense of concern for the child (who appeared to me to be comfortable, content and in no distress whatsoever). Nor did I usher in any feelings of condescension or disdain for the mother. What I did feel was sadness and disgust at the uncalled for remarks – the likes of which are all too common.

Bullying a

The emotional hit for a person being bullied is incredible. It has led to suicide particularly within the teenage cohort.

A woman’s right to wear makeup (or not) is just that – a right. Every woman has the right to choose how she wishes to present to the world. If that means she dresses in blue jeans and T-shirt every single day, she’s entitled to do so. If, rather, she clads herself in haute couture, more power to her. Whether she’s a walking, talking advertisement for her favourite tattoo parlour and/or chooses to shave her head and cultivate grass up there is really no one else’s concern.

As someone who has spent decades in the work force and made an individual choice to apply facial paints every morning, I can vouch for the fact that slapping on the foundation, mascara, eye liner, shadow, lipstick and whatever else becomes such a fast-paced part of the routine that it might use up all of ten minutes. No kidding. It really is that quick when you do it every single day.

Let’s assume for a moment, hypothetically, that the mother of a young child is a knitting fanatic – so much so much that she partakes in the activity for a good forty-five minutes or so every single day, ten minutes here, ten minutes there. Maybe the bulk of her knitting is accomplished when her spouse is spending cherished one-on-one time with the youngster.

How many other women do you suppose would begrudge her that daily forty-five minutes of knitting based on the trumped up excuse that it was taking time away from her small child?

Here’s a hint: None.

Here’s why: You’d be hard pressed to find any woman who perceives knitting as a threat.

Bullying group c

A dramatic way of making a point: how many of the people in the photograph actually bully people?

Smooth talking troublemakers, along with their attendant, multitudinous, gullible shills, would have you believe that nonchalant, slickly packaged hatefulness (as per the above example) is no big deal – in fact harmless, really.

The reality is that it’s a form of bullying.

Such malevolence, in no small measure, and even though perpetrated behind the target’s back, plays a role in shaping collective beliefs and behaviours within families, within workplaces, within neighbourhoods and within society at large – which is, of course, the intent from the get-go.

We hear a lot about bullying among youth, but bullying is also rife within our adult population. For instance, in the specific realm of workplace bullying, Dr. Heinz Leymann, a research pioneer in the field, identified workplace bullying as ‘endemic in work forces’ throughout the world. As well, he estimated that 10% of those bullied take their own lives.

Whether the target is a young person or an adult, regardless of race or religion, bullying is bullying, the ultimate goal of which is to strip the victim of all dignity, in other words, to annihilate someone’s quality of life, or even, literally, the life itself.

Bullying can be kindled by something as seemingly ho hum as a critical remark about someone’s appearance – but the remark is oftentimes executed with a view to heap on subsequent helpings of covert ridicule, in concert with other means of degradation (i.e. ostracization), at any opportunity, until the desired lynch mob mentality is produced. At this juncture, the tiny mound of burning kindling morphs into a grotesque, yet (for many) scintillating pyre.

Bullies – whether Ph.D. wielding, illiterate or somewhere in the middle – excel at the dark art of fabricating and promulgating excuses to scapegoat. The excuses don’t have to be clothing or makeup related. They can be as simplistic as criticizing the expression on someone’s face when that person is merely going about her own business or as brazen as spreading preposterous rumours, based on abject conjecture, about the person’s sex life or level of adult beverage consumption.

Bullying types d

Are you doing any of this? If you are – do you know why?

Are you one of the cultivated abettors and you just happen to be single, lonely and in need of a mate? Have no fear. Your ringleader will spend every waking minute of every day for as long as it takes to unearth and introduce you to your perfect potential spouse. Voila! Here he is.

The favour is essentially a bribe, administered as insurance that you don’t fall prey to an attack of conscience regarding your personal role in the persecution of the target.

Bullies look the same as you and me. Bullies will effectively hoodwink you into perceiving them as veritable pillars of society and as being compassionate to the point of saintliness. (Crocodile tears in church anyone?)

When presented with evidence of their bullying, bullies will often audaciously retort, “Me? Bully? Why would I?”


So what can be done?

Student being bullied by a group of students

Student being bullied by a group of students; happens every day in high chools – how do you put an end to it?

Each of us is sole proprietor of an individual mind. Very often, if we pause and tune in to our innermost knowing selves, we can discern between someone’s legitimate grievance against a third party versus when the complainant is aiming to stir the proverbial pot.

Rather than accept those (ahem) ‘friendly’, seductive invites to hop on board the Bully Bandwagon, it sure would be nice for those of us with a conscience to stop taking the bait and to collectively evolve down a path of maturity, authentic respect, and common sense.

The shade of her lipstick evoked an image of lacquered eggplant. Ultra dramatic. And it looked gorgeous on her.

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Rivers on Peace keeping; arms sales and the departure of Stephen Harper from the House of Commons.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

August 28, 2016



Canada’s Lester Pearson won the Nobel Peace prize for his pioneering work in peacekeeping during the 1956 Suez crisis, a conflict which threatened to pit the US against fellow NATO members the UK and France.

Canada has been one of the strongest supporters of peacekeeping from that get-go. That is until the previous federal government and Mr. Harper virtually shut down the country’s contribution to UN peacekeeping operations and changed our global affairs perspective from honest-broker to aligned-party.

Peacekeepers - Canadian

Canadian armed forces serving as United Nations Peacekeepers

But then Mr. Harper had shunned the UN and it had in turn shunned Canada, shutting us out of a Security Council seat many thought would go to Canada. We once led the world with 3300 peacekeepers in the field, today there are just 34 – down to a mere one percent of our historic past. An all-time low at a time when the demand for UN peacekeeping operations is at an all-time high.

So, in keeping with the international re-engagement Mr. Trudeau promised during the last election, his government announced a dramatic reversal of previous policy, substantially increasing both financial support ($450 million) and peacekeepers (600). Ironically this announcement came on the very day that Mr. Harper announced his resignation from Parliament and politics.

In an article in this paper three years ago, I raised the fact that the Harper government had been supporting growth for Canada’s manufacture and export of arms, noting that this comprised the sum total of his industrial economic policy. There are a large number of armament exporters in the world. The USA, Russia, France and China dominate the international market.

The United NNations 2014 Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), governs the international trade in weapons for its signatories and restricts sales to nations which use them against their own populations. Over 130 nations have signed and almost 90 ratified this treaty but China, Russia and Canada have yet to do so. In addition there are UN nation-specific sanctions and arms embargoes which must be observed by all UN member nations. South Sudan and Libya are two sanctioned nations.

Streit - armed vehicle

It is an ugly brute of a vehicle that can only do harm to the people outside of it.


It was an unfortunate discovery that Streit, an Ontario company, had been selling armoured vehicles through a third party in 2014 to both of these nations. The federal Liberals were caught off-guard and holding the bag left them by the previous government. This became particularly embarrassing since it followed the Trudeau government’s refusal to disallow another Harper era mega deal to sell armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia.

That deal, worth $15 billion dollars and negotiated in 2014, would make Canada the second largest arms supplier to the Middle East, after the USA. The hypocrisy was ripe when a former Tory cabinet minister, Tony Clement, raised the issue, presumably to embarrass the governing Liberals with the tricky dilemma over this lucrative job-creating deal that his government had negotiated.

It was a tough decision. After all it is hard to call yourself a peacekeeper when you are peddling weapons of war to the very people whose cross-fire may put you in harm’s way. So there were no tears by the federal Liberals to finally see the backside of Mr. Harper as he heads off for new employment better suited to his particular skills.

I didn’t disagree with everything he and his government accomplished in their time in office – but he was a disaster in foreign affairs, and that goes for his regressive policies in criminal justice and prison management as well.

stephen-harper scowl

Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Mr. Harper presided over the poorest economic growth rate in Canada’s modern history. His efforts to water down environmental protection notwithstanding, he never built a single oil pipeline. His fixation with petroleum contributed to the economic collapse of his adopted home province. And not least of all, we should remember how he hid in a closet during that gun fight on the Hill.

The British government recently declassified a number of papers from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, included in a link below. These are pretty frank depictions of how the Brits viewed our leaders in the eighties – Mulroney, Turner and Pierre Trudeau. Though nobody who lived through that era should be surprised.

Former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau has died at his home in Montreal September 28, 2000 at the age of 80. Trudeau was Canada's prime minister from 1968 to 1979 and from 1980 to 1984 and is seen here performing a pirouette in Ottawa after the proclamation of the Constitution Act April 18, 1982. PJ/ME

Former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau is seen here performing a pirouette in Ottawa after the proclamation of the Constitution Act April 18, 1982.

Despite all of Pierre Trudeau’s antics and progressive (radical) policies, what most worried them was his 1984 peace campaign. It is hard to understand how his naive bopping around world capitals on what ultimately became a hopeless venture would trouble anyone. How could seeking peace be dangerous? A “bloodless and over-intellectual approach” was their bottom line.

I suspect that Canadian diplomats had some equally choice words for Maggie Thatcher, as well. In the present day I would expect someone in our Global Affairs would point out that David Cameron was even more naive than Pierre in calling that stupid Brexit vote. I wonder how today’s British diplomats regard the younger Trudeau – the darling of the international press in his first year in office. He is flamboyant, but not quite like his father.

And I wonder how those foreign eyes would sum up Mr. Harper – other than to say, as I do, goodbye and good luck.




Ray Rivers

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 once a candidate for public office at the provincial level.


Defence Industry –   Streit –   More Streit –  South Sudan Sanctions –   Saudi Weapons –   Canada Exports to Mid-East –   Burlington Gazette Oct 2013 –   Abandon Peace Keeping

Back into Peace Keeping –  Suez CrisisWhat UK Diplomats Really Thought

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Rivers on what Donald Trump could mean to Canada were he to become the President of the United States in January.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

August 13, 2016



For a mouse sleeping next to the elephant, we Canadians are pretty nonchalant about who our neighbours elect to be their president every four years. Or perhaps we know we can wait out a noxious US leader and hope for a better one the next time. Tensions got pretty high when an angry Richard Nixon lost his patience with Pierre Trudeau, calling him a “son of a bitch”, “asshole” and “pompous egghead” – not to his face of course.

Trudeau and Nixon

Former US president Richard Nixon and Pierre Elliott Trudeau, prime Minister of Canada. Not much in the way of trust between these two men.

US President Ronald W. Reagan (L) posing with Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney before talks in Ottowa, April 1987. (Photo by Dirck Halstead/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

US President Ronald W. Reagan (L) posing with Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney before talks in Ottawa, April 1987.

Then a little over a decade later Brian Mulroney and Ronald Reagan were in ideological bed together singing about Irish eyes. Their strong personal friendship enabled Mulroney to disarmed Reagan, and convince the old gaffer, or was that Gipper, to do something about acid rain, a problem Reagan was sure was caused by trees.

Clinton and Chretien, two middle-road liberals, engaged respectfully and warmly with each other throughout their time together. With Mexico they forged the North American Free Trade Agreement which has continued until today. And Clinton convinced Chretien to join him in intervening in the aftermath of Yugoslavia, using Canadian warplanes to help the Americans bomb the hell out of Serbia.

Once Dubya came on the scene, the romance with Washington came to an end. Chretien refused to support GW Bush’s insane adventure to take down Saddam. However Canada’s response would have been different had Canadian neo-con, and Bush admirer, Steven Harper been in power at the time. And Harper did spend a couple of years during Bush’s reign before the leadership changed again south of the border. But it soon became evident that there was no love lost between Obama and his Canadian counterpart, as he stared down Harper’s idle and useless threats over the Keystone pipeline.

Trudeau and Obama

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and US president Barack Obama

Trudeau and Obama found a sweet spot in their relationship early on, though Obama is now a ‘lame duck’ president awaiting replacement this November by former First Lady Hillary Clinton or real estate mogul Donald Trump. Given generational factors alone it will be challenging for Trudeau to find a spot so sweet as before with either of these candidates. But as everyone should expect, Mr. Trump, the red neck, would prove the greater challenge.

Clinton is proposing a reasonably left wing agenda, swept even more in that direction by a compromise kiss she accepted from contender Bernie Sanders, in order to keep peace on the home front. Income-geared free tuition, campaign expense reform, equal pay for women, taxing the rich, breaking up the banks, killing the TPP trade deal, increasing the federal minimum wage, background checks for gun purchases, and massive federal infrastructure spending.

Her policies roughly parallel those of Trudeau, as well as some of the provincial Liberal governments. This platform in fact ups the ante for social progress and equality, giving more credibility to Canada’s current political direction. And Mrs. Clinton’s opposition to the TPP would allow Canada to escape from what many consider a bad deal, providing welcome relief to a PM ministering to a divided parliament on this matter.

Hilary Clinton

American Democratic candidate for the office of the president of the United States Hillary Clinton.

Otherwise, Clinton would be expected to continue to follow Obama’s policy framework. Commitment to common defence through NATO, for example, would be maintained consistent with Canada’s current objectives. This is a framework in which Canada’s current leadership would find compatibility, despite questions around ongoing trade irritants, such as softwood lumber or beef. But then those irritants have persisted almost regardless who sat in the white House or whether we had a ‘free trade agreement’ or not.

The future would be way more exciting, albeit more uncertain, under a Trump presidency. Early promises to build a wall with Mexico and ban Muslim immigrants, also raise concerns about potential limitations to free access for Canadian businesses and snowbirds. Trump’s musings on NATO and Russia could, ironically, push the EU into a Eurocentric defence posture, possibly leaving Canada to fend on its own when it comes to arctic sovereignty.

And of course Trump’s proposed trickle-down Reagan-style tax cuts would lead to more articles from the Frazer Institute and National Post decrying how poorly the 1% are being treated here in Canada. Meanwhile his massive deficits and increased debt would tend to bring down the US dollar and bring us closer to parity, albeit in a currency market once again looking for stability.

Trump would mark another US turnabout on climate change and would rupture the recently announced North American commitment to control that global threat. Trump says that everything would be negotiable. This is not an unexpected response from a man who has shown so little sophistication in matters of foreign or domestic policy. To mis-quote Bob Dylan, when you don’t know nothing, you got nothing to lose. Everything is up for grabs.

Trump Donald

Donald Trump, Republican candidate for the office of the President of the United States

From what he’s said, Trump’s presidency would be a crap shoot, and it could be uncomfortable for us here in Canada. After all, the USA is our largest trading partner, we share our defence policy with them and our cultures and history are heavily intermingled. And for an independent Canadian leader looking to keep our fences in good shape there can be a fine line between dialogue, sucking up or talking back. Still our PM’s have always held their own, including during those rough patches with Harper and Obama and Trudeau and Nixon.

Should Canadians be worried about a Trump presidency? Only in as much as almost everybody else on the planet would be. Despite all his rhetoric, as president he would be limited by his country’s constitution, its current laws and a Congress, which even if it remained Republican would not likely go along with most of his nutty notions. And the way things go in Washington he’d be out of office before half of his really idiotic proposals hit the road.

Oh sure Trump would have access to the nuclear codes – but like Putin and other national leaders with nuclear weapons, he would quickly learn that the nukes can be more of a constraint and liability than an asset.

Ray Rivers

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 the 1995 provincial election

Background links:

Nixon and Trudeau –   Mulroney/Reagan –  

Clinton’s Promises –   Trump’s Promises

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Rivers on the American Presidential election: The chief contenders are anything but conventional.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

August 9th, 2016


There is nothing conventional in the race for the US White House this year. The chief contenders are anything but conventional.

One is exceptionally qualified, and the other not at all, so the choice should be easy. But none of that seems to matter to an electorate tired of the ordinary and mundane and looking for something new, fresh and exciting.

Not unlike the bi-polar school teacher in the 1977 movie version of the book “Looking for Mr. Goodbar”, there is a new fascination with someone who isn’t part of one’s conventional experience – a new exciting high to be achieved by toying with the prospect of danger – the fantasy and the reality. Which brings us to Donald Trump, a man who has shown no comprehension of the job before him, though if nothing else he is exciting.

hillary-clinton_3Hilary ClintonAs outgoing president Obama made emphatic, there is no better qualified candidate than Hillary Clinton. And if qualification and experience were all that mattered there would be no contest, and the tired but somewhat boring and compromised Hillary would be the shoo-in victor on election day. After all, she is running against a man with a dubious record in his business ventures and one who has never even run for public office – let alone the highest office in the land, in all his seventy years.

But America is a divided people, red and blue states that rarely change their colour, beset with long suffering prejudices on all sides. Despite electing a black president two terms in a row, America is still conflicted with racism. It is a violent place with more guns per capita and greater incarceration than any other.

Despite having the most super rich, the US is only 44th in health care efficiency, 24th in literacy, 14th in education, and arguably has the second highest level of social ignorance among developed nations. Surprisingly at least one survey tags the USA at 46th in press freedom.

And if Trump’s plan to make America great again included dealing with those issues – every thinking American should consider voting for him. But it doesn’t. There is nothing of such to be seen in all his diatribe on America First and making it great again, nothing about introducing gun control, promoting economic and social justice, and furthering education and awareness. Hillary’s plan comes closer to those goals, in fact.

Trump fist upTrump smirk July 24-16Donald Trump cleaned-up in the Republican nomination race by simply being himself. His victory was more of a fluke than a deliberate strategy. He just plumbed for and echoed the deepest, darkest recesses of the worst of America, and spewed racism, homophobia and insults as no American politician had done before. The more outlandish his comments, the more he gained notoriety and support among disciples who mistook his words of prejudice for plain-speaking. He was/is different and exciting. But what makes him dangerous is his lack of detail – what he actually would do.

Once he scored the candidacy of his party one would have expected a whole new playbook, more befitting of a presidential candidate in the big arena. But Trump doesn’t have one. He has nothing to offer but his swagger, a revisionist unfunny Roger Dangerfield for our times. Whether that will continue to propel him is the big question. Hillary has not been able to cripple the significant public support he continues to garner. And so, like other irrational outcomes of public will, such as Rob Ford’s election and Brexit, Trump should not be discounted.

An interesting aspect of this race is the Russian card. Putin has confessed admiration for Trump and vice-versa. Trump’s campaign manager is pro-Putin, having advised the ousted pro-Russian Ukrainian leader, and the Donald’s musing about NATO and Crimea should be unsettling to an America once ready to nuke the Russkies to smithereens, and likewise. But Trump is the inveterate teflon-man and even flirting with Putin has not bothered his core followers, including many veterans and those raised during the cold war.

As the election gets nearer and Trump continues to poll well, Americans will need to ask themselves some hard questions. The first being how badly do they want the kind of change Trump is promising – isolation and a radical shifting of alliances. Do they really want to give him a carte blanche to reverse the past half century of American foreign policy?

Going to bed with Putin might be an exciting idea.

But where will this dangerous fantasy lead? Is Putin really Mr. Goodbar?

Editor’s note:

The conventions are over and the general election has officially begun. In the primaries, Bernie Sanders received 1,846 pledged delegates, 46% of the total. Hillary Clinton received 2,205 pledged delegates, 54%. She received 602 superdelegates. Sanders received 48 superdelegates.

The Democratic party, based on these numbers, is not as united as they would have us believe.  These are very dangerous times for the United States.  Rivers will write next on what he thinks Canada can and should do to protect its interests.


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 the 1995 provincial election

Background links:

Mr. Goodbar –  Clinton Qualified 

Putin-Trump Axis

America’s Global Ranking –

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Climate change is real. Of course it is! Gravity and sunrise are also real.

opinionandcommentBy Tom Harris and Tim Ball

July 29, 2016


The following is an opinion piece from the International Climate Science Coalition on climate change.  In the interest of open public debate on a matter of critical importance we give then space to put forward their views.

The best answer to many of the claims being made in climate change town halls across Canada this summer is simply: of course!

At the meetings, one of which will be held at 7:00 pm on August 4 at the Mainway Arena in Burlington, the public will be told that “Climate change is real.” Of course it is! Gravity and sunrise are also real. But that doesn’t mean we cause them or we would be better off without them. Climate has been changing since the origin of the atmosphere billions of years ago.

But, “man made climate change is a fact,” they respond. Of course! It is obviously warmer in urban areas than in the countryside because of man made impacts. However, the only place where carbon dioxide (CO2) increase causes a temperature increase is in computer models preprogrammed to show exactly that. Records show that temperature increase precedes CO2 increase.

All that should matter to public officials is whether our CO2 emissions are in any way dangerous. Since they are almost certainly not, the $1 billion spent every day across the world on climate finance is mostly wasted.

“Scientific organizations across the planet agree with the climate scare,” say eco-activists and politicians. Of course! Many science entities have strong political and financial motivations for agreeing with political correctness. But none have demonstrated that a majority of their scientist members actually support the alarmist stance. And no reputable world-wide survey has demonstrated that a majority of scientists who research the causes of climate change support the hypothesis that our CO2 emissions will cause dangerous climate change.

Next activists tell us, “2014 was the hottest year on record, until 2015 surpassed even that. The last two decades include the 19 hottest years on record.”

Of course! One would naturally expect the warmest years to be at the top of a warming record. And thank goodness we have been in a gradual warming trend since the depths of the Little Ice Age in the late 1600s.

Regardless, 2014 set the record by about four hundredths of a degree Celsius; 2015 by 16 hundredths of a degree. These amounts are too small to even notice and one is even less than the government’s uncertainty estimates of about eight hundredths of a degree.
But “observations of extreme weather events are increasing. Insurance claims are skyrocketing,” we are told.

Of course! As human habitation increases in areas that were previously sparsely populated, there will naturally be more reports of extreme weather and more related insurance claims. But there is no convincing evidence of a rise in the incidence or severity of extreme weather events in Canada in recent years.

The next alarmist claim? “Sea levels rose 7 inches in the last century!”

Of course! Sea level has been rising since the end of the last glacial period, 15,000 years ago. There has been no recent acceleration, and the current rate of rise is less than one tenth that of 8,000 years ago.

As their climate change claims fail, activists change targets: “The oceans are becoming more acidic!”
Of course! But the change is very small. There are regions in the ocean where pH varies more in a day than the most extreme forecasts for the 21st century, yet ocean life adapts.

Overall, the oceans have never been acidic (i.e., a pH less than 7). Dr. Craig Idso, founder of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change in Tempe, Arizona explains, “Forecasts of future pH come from unproven, theoretical postulations by models based on absorption of CO2 by the oceans. Regardless, there really is no such thing as a representative pH for the whole ocean. It varies vastly near the coast and in upwelling regions, much more than the projected increase in acidity.”

Climate campaigners are upset that fossil fuel companies support some of the groups who question political correctness on climate change.

Of course! But the amounts being funneled to entities which support the climate scare is enormously greater. The latest Foundation Center report (2010) shows that the California-based William and Flora Hewlett Foundation alone donated over one half billion dollars to climate change programs in 2008, over one hundred times as much as the average annual donation activists complain that the conservative Koch brothers have given to skeptics.

All this would be humorous if it did not have such serious ramifications. In the vain hope of stopping trivial changes in climate, activists and compliant politicians are working hard to force us to switch from coal and other fossil fuels, our least expensive and most abundant power sources, to unreliable and expensive alternatives such as wind and solar power. The public need to ask them,

“Why are you doing this? Who are you trying to please?”

Tom HarrisTom Harris is executive director of the Ottawa-based International Climate Science Coalition. Dr. Tim Ball is an environmental consultant and former climatology professor at the University of Winnipeg in Manitoba.

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Rivers sets out the questions Americans may be asking of their leaders: might American choose Donald Trump as their next president?

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

July 25, 2016



Trump smirk July 24-16

Is this a smug over-confident man – or has he convinced America that he can and will protect them?

It’s a crazy, topsy-turvy world. And nothing is more upside down than what is happening south of the border. The Republican party has nominated the bombastic and seemingly racist, tycoon Donald Trump, to be their standard bearer for the most important job on the planet. Trump, who has never served in any public office delivered an acceptance speech which was more than a little scary – not as much by what he said but more for what was left unsaid.

Building a border wall with Mexico and banning Muslims from entering the USA are the closest things to policy statements he’s uttered, though he has also mulled about NATO being obsolete and tearing up international trade agreements. Trump calls it America First, a term that can be found in the dirty laundry of America’s troubled past.

American history has its very roots in isolationism. Founding fathers Washington and Jefferson were determined to leave Europe and European entanglements behind them as thy founded their new land. They even cancelled their military alliance with France once their independence-war was resolved.

Following a late and reluctant involvement in the First World War America’s right-wing politicians kept it out of the League of Nations, an American concept and the pre-cursor to today’s UN. The US’s decision to stay out of the League damned this early attempt at global governance and ultimately contributed to the advent of WW II.

America First was a popular early WWII movement which collapsed following the attack on Pearl Harbour. Membership included Charles Lindbergh, the Kennedys and other prominent Americans who inadvertently became apologists and supporters of Hitler’s destructive policies, much as Trump’s advisor’s are to Russia’s Putin today.

America First is a powerful sentiment but is it even possible? America has been the cop of the world since the middle of the last century. And it has also been policeman, judge and jury too often. So it’s not surprising that ISIS has sprung up – a political and social superbug intent on countering the medicine being doled out by an over-prescriptive and paternalistic USA.

It all makes sense to a nation tired of endless wars and unsure about its place in the world any more. And Trump is the iconic American conservative. Inward looking and largely disinterested in the rest of world. He may be better travelled than Bush and married to a foreign chick, but he is still that local fellow – not at all like the intellectual globe-trotting Kerrys or Clintons. And that is why he may well become America’s next president. He really is like so many of his supporters in that regard.

Almost everything that goes up comes down. Everything old looks new again given enough time. And we eventually get bored with everything. So change is a potion, transforming the mundane to magic – at least until we realize that ‘plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose’.

Change as a motto worked for Obama. And changing back from the future may very well work for Trump and his nostalgic view of the world, it’s just back to Happy Days.

Trump fist up

Gas Donald Trump managed to reach into the hearts of an unhappy American electorate.

If you lived in Nebraska, wouldn’t you be tempted to ask what the hell your leaders are doing meddling in the Middle East, or why the US is risking your child soldier’s life defending Europe from Russia or Japan from China? Wouldn’t you be tempted to ask why your leaders are allowing cheap foreign products to enter your markets duty free while your factories are shut down forcing their workers to line up for unemployment, welfare or Mac jobs?

And wouldn’t you be tempted to ask why you should be welcoming people, like immigrants from Muslim countries or Latin America, who bring their own culture and religion – changing the face of the America you once knew and loved? That was the most powerful question the British recently asked themselves. Their answer was Brexit. Down home America’s answer may well be Trump and America First.

Ray Rivers

Ray Rivers

Background links:

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 the 1995 provincial election.


Publishers engage informed people to write which Ray Rives has been doing for the Gazette for more than three years.  We are proud to have Ray Rivers as an opinion writer however in this instance we do not agree with the views Rivers has put forward.

Isolationism –   America First –   League of Nations –   Republicans in Cleveland

Trump and Fear –     Obama on Trump –  Lies –   Trump the Dictator

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Are we past the tipping point? And if we are - what do we do now?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

July 21, 2016


Is it already too late?

Have we passed the tipping point and are at the point where the greenhouse gasses already in the environment is going to continually increase the amount of CO2 and ice caps will continue to melt – the sea level will continue to rise and places like parts of Florida will just be under water.


The Maldives Islands are expected to slip under the water as the sea level rises.

The people who study this stuff seriously are believed to being preparing plans for the changes that are going to take place. There are parts of the American coast line that are being given up to rising water levels.

There are places in Burlington and the surrounding community where concrete docks that boats used to be tied up to are now several feet under water.

And at the same time there are lakes in Northern Ontario where the wooden dock sits in the middle of dry lake bottom with the water tens of yards away when it used to lap at the edge of the dock while children jumped into the water from deck.

Are the scientists and the emergency planners telling the public the truth about what we are really up against?

There is a part of Burlington where there are some 72 homes that are in a flood plain and will eventually have to be removed. Those homes are clearly marked on a map that the city has not hidden – nor is it something they have talked about all that much.

Burlington knows that it is going to have to have a lot of money in reserve funds for the next flood. The people who do this kind of work don’t use the word “if” when talking about the next flood – for them the key word is “when” followed by “where”. Burlington

Tony Bavota - fire chief

There are parts of Burlington that are very threatened should the city experience another 190mm + of rain in half a day. The Fire department managed the Emergency Measures.

Fire Chief Tony Bavota said at a public meeting that given what we know today – Hidden Valley would not have been built. The flood potential in that part of the city is “something we could not handle”. For the fire chief Hidden Valley is a potential ground zero.

We know these things today and yet the best we seem to be able to do is work harder at recycling those plastic water bottles when the things should be banned.

Use public transit that doesn’t yet meet the needs of people who need to be able to get from place to place in a reasonable amount of time.

New street paving

The focus in Burlington is on re-building roads.

Burlington spends tens of millions repairing the roads so that people can drive comfortably. This is a city that has an ageing population that was raised on the automobile during a time when gas was cheap and they are never going to give up their cars until someone takes their driver’s license away from them.

And they are a large enough cohort to scare the daylight out over every politician at every level; appealing to them to make the change for the sake of their grandchildren? They want that car so they can visit their grandchildren and they aren’t going to make that trip by bicycle or public transit.

When MP Pam Damoff asked people what they thought could be done – the true believers, the ones who belong to Burlington or Oakville Green, talked about the time they spend planting trees and cleaning up the ravines each year and do the ongoing persistent advocating. But in Burlington there still isn’t a private tree bylaw.

Some serious mistakes were made with the way most of the planners did things in terms of land use planning – they didn’t seem like mistakes at the time but we are now at a point where it is close to impossible to correct those mistakes.

We have lost a lot of time.

At best it is going to take bold action to bring about any change – and it is all three levels of government that are going to have to take those bold steps.

They can’t begin to do much of that until the public is ready – and that isn’t going to happen until the public realizes the wolves are at the door.

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Columnist Ray Rivers has taken a deserved vacation - roaring around his farm on a tractor cutting walking trails.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

July 16th, 2016



Where is Ray?

For many Gazette readers Ray Rivers had become a Friday habit – his views on matters federal, provincial and from time to time international have appeared in the Gazette for more than three years.

I first met Rivers when he was talking to a group of Liberals who used to meet regularly at Artisano’s. I liked what I heard Rivers saying a found a way to strike up a conversation. That led to his writing for the Gazette.

Rivers goes fishing NZ - Jan 2015

Rivers tries to get to New Zealand once a year – relaxes with family and gets in a little fishing. His daughter returned to Canada with he husband and their children. Ray is working on making a good hockey fan out of at least the grandson.

This summer Rivers and I decided that a full break for a month or more was well deserved – and except for one occasion when he had to say something about the Brexit mess in the United Kingdom, Rivers has behaved and worked with tools on his farm in Mountsburg rather than the keyboard on his computer.

There is a tree lot that needs some pruning and a new deck for the hot tub. Grass to be cut with the mower that Rivers treats as something you drive at a NASCAR event and the chicken coop needs a good clean up.

Rivers reading a newspaper Jan 3-15

Rivers is incapable of getting through a day without reading at last one newspaper.

So – for those who wonder where Rivers is – it isn’t quite “gone fishing” but it is a respite from a task that can get onerous. Writing a column every week is demanding.

Rivers and I usually have a short conversation about what he would like to write on – we exchange ideas and I pretty well leave him to his own devices. It is the readers that keep him on his toes.

There are about a dozen that watch what he writes very carefully. It did take a while for Gazette readers to fully appreciate that Rivers was a columnist with a view point. Several complained that he was a Liberal and therefore shouldn’t be writing articles.

He is certainly a Liberal and a liberal as well – and that was the point. The Gazette wanted someone with a clear point of view. We also wanted a strong Conservative and talked to a number of people who could have filled that role – none chose to step up the plate.
Public opinion needs to be informed and the exchange of views is part of what informs people. It took us some time to bleed out the more raucous comments that used to appear in the Gazette.

This is not yet a city with a clear understanding of how important it is to keep the public informed and to do so as transparently as possible.

Rivers, who has consistently written a column with often extensive links to other material that few columnists provide.

Rivers on a beach in NZ

With the New Zealand part of the family now on Canadian soil Rivers can see his grandchildren whenever he wants.

Rivers will be back in the fall – we expect him to have something to say about both the Republican and Democratic conventions taking place in the United States and how our federal and provincial governments are doing in this country.

The Gazette is fortunate to have Rivers as part of the editorial team – Burlington doesn’t yet fully appreciate the contribution he makes – which isn’t about what he actually writes – but about the fact that he does write. The city badly needs a public that is informed and is prepared to speak out.

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Transit advocate puts his plan for free bus service during off peak hours back in front of council - they don't nibble.

opinionandcommentBy Staff

July 14th, 2016


Jim Young, a 34-year resident of Burlington is an active member of Burlington Seniors Advisory Committee; he represent them on the Integrated Transportation Advisory. Young was delegating on an issue that he is passionate about – how seniors get around the city.

Jim Young

Jim Young – thinks the city should consider letting seniors use buses free during off peak hours.

Council was listening to people who had thoughts on the cycling lanes that city is considering putting in on various parts of New Street.

“I delegate today” said Young “as a private citizen to offer my private thoughts on the issue at hand.”

“You will understand that for many seniors cycling is not an immediate or pressing issue, (for some of us walkability is challenging enough) though for many seniors it is a hobby that we would love to practice in the healthiest and safest manner available to us. To that end I believe most citizens are generally supportive of the concept, that moving forward, the City must look to promoting cycling as a viable transportation alternative that must be encouraged and accommodated safely, in line with its strategic plan as a ”City that Moves”.

“I would however ask that any accommodation for safer cycling be considered in a way that does not impede or reduce improvements to transit services. Transit is the mode of transport which, by the nature of aging and economic necessity, is probably more the transport mode of the future for seniors in Burlington than cycling.

“So when council comes to weigh the alternatives for bicycle lanes on New Street and the relatively high costs of some of them I would ask you to consider these two thoughts:

Accommodating the sixty cyclists identified in the New Street study for approximately ¾ of the year will cost between $121,000.00 and $4,950,000.00 depending on the alternative chosen. The staff recommended alternative is estimated at $210,000.00.

If you have not already received it, council will very soon be asked to consider a position paper from one of your citizen’s advisory committees titled “Improving Transit for Seniors Improves Transit for Everybody”.

Will there be a reduction in the number of people who use the transit service when the new rates hit May 1st? Probably not - the people who use transit for the most part don't have a choice.

Transit advocate would like the city to let seniors use the service free during off peak hours.

“I have worked with many of you” said Young as he addressed members of council “and city management as well preparing the paper that will recommend free transit for seniors during off peak hours between 10.00 am and 3.00 pm, Monday to Friday. The cost for this will be between $48,500.00 and $72,750.00 per year.

Young added that “even Keith Spicer, Director of Transit, will, when his arm is twisted, agree it will probably cost less than $100,000.00. to provide this service.”

“I respectfully submit that as you consider allocating considerable sums of money to make 60 New Street cyclists happy for two thirds of the year that you consider what allocating a fraction of that money to free transit for seniors in off peak hours would do to making 35,000 Burlington seniors happy on every street all year round. (The $4.95 million option would provide free transit for the next 65 years.)”

It was at this point that Committee chairman Rick Craven, councilor for Ward 1, interrupted Young and asked that he no stray too far from the purpose of the meeting – which was cycling lanes.

Related news stories and comment:

Council couldn’t find a majority for free senior’s transit.

Citizen proposes free use of transit service for seniors during off peak hours.

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Why we are going from urban sprawl to high-rise in one fell swoop. Is there nothing in between?

opinionandcommentBy Carol Gottlob

July 7, 2016


I live in the east end of Burlington, around New Street, and I always marvel when I see photographs taken when my part of town was being developed. The few trees that could be seen were very small

Today when I drive my bike down the street or take my dog for a walk I see trees that are mature and give my neighbourhood a character of their own which is indeed worth preserving.

Caroline looking East from Hager: community wants to retain the single family home zoning fr the precinct.

Caroline looking East from Hager: community wants to retain the single family home zoning for the precinct. The trees are for the most part on private property.

When you look at those houses “west of Brant” which were likely built in the 1930’s and ’40’s, some in the 50’s, do you think those majestic trees were there then? The shrubbery and landscaping are features that we have added.

Over the years they have filled in the neighbourhood to give it that stately effect.  Likewise, I believe intensification along main thoroughfares and increased public transit meets the needs of the ever-growing “single society”.

We live in a society where there is an increasing number of divorced, widowed and selectively single people, modest, affordable living space with plenty of opportunity for social interaction meets their needs

(Don’t, however, get me started on the notion of “affordable”. That is an entirely different, but very critical, debate).

I believe, when these new higher density developments are built, over time, people will fill in the spaces between them with not just green, but many colours, where people can rest and breathe.

The only thing I don’t understand is why we are going from urban sprawl to high-rise in one fell swoop. Is there nothing in between?

I believe that one of the reason we like travelling to Europe so much is because the cities there are high density, not high-rise.

High density gives us no choice but to greet the people we meet and interact with them, but high-rise gives us a good excuse to park in the underground and let ourselves get sucked up to the 20-somethingest floor, without even making eye contact with another soul.
I think we can do better than that.

What might that better look like?

Intensification New at Guelph - existing

The plaza at New Street and Guelph Line – as it looks today. The planners think there is much more potential for the site and suggest some possibilities.

Intensification New St at Guelph possible

Possible intensification for the plaza at New and Guelph Line – all this could be done within the existing zoning and Official Plan.

Intensification New at Guelph - site look

The planners suggest what could be built on the plaza at Guelph Line and New street.

We are absolutely blessed to have a Great Lake at our doorstep, an escarpment in our back yard and a protected Greenbelt arching through our region. Within minutes, we can enjoy a long, sandy beach, kilometres of trail in acres of forest, breath-taking views over the lake, and quaint villages to visit tucked in amongst farmland where you can pick fresh fruit or buy local honey.

Whether you prefer to travel by car, bike or on foot, there is so much within easy access, and a lot of it accessible by public transit as well. Where else can you find this?!

The Burlington I foresee, builds upon what it has already built. It doesn’t mean destroying existing neighbourhoods, nor the trees that make them so special. Leave the lovely homes for families to raise their children, so they can ride their bikes, play street hockey or where folks can walk their dogs through leafy neighbourhoods. On the perimeters of those neighbourhoods, where main arteries intersect and small businesses tend to locate, add mid to high density housing and create a commercial/transit/residential hub to accommodate the seniors and the singles who do not rely on automobile transportation.

The intersection of Guelph Line and New Street is a good example. There are businesses, behind them there are apartment buildings, behind them some town homes and then tucked behind them, detached homes. Such variety of accommodation offers many more options for people, depending on what stage of life they are going through

The Roseland Plaza, and several others like it, would do well to re-invent themselves, with fewer parking spaces and more frequent smaller buses bringing seniors right up to the pharmacy to get their prescriptions, to the barber shop for a haircut or the coffee shop to meet their pals, rather than trying to make their way in from the street across a dangerous (and in winter, slippery) parking lot. Good public transit plays a big part in convincing people to leave the car at home.

It is unsettling to see existing homes/buildings torn down, such as we are witnessing at the New St Maranatha development. Holes in the ground, gaping spaces, and altered vistas can be unfamiliar and disorienting. Yet in time, as people move into these new sites, trees grow in, gardens are planted and familiar faces come and go, the starkness of it all softens and the architecture and nature blend to form a very liveable landscape for our seniors, our children and our pets.

Gottlob smile tighter croppingCarol Gottlob has been a candidate for public office (ward 4) and is a member of the Burlington Green board.  She teaches English as a second Language to new Canadians.


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How important decisions get made - look at what the Brits just did and what Canada did when it chose the flag we now have.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

July 1, 2016


Brexit was a simple referendum question – leave or remain. But dumbing down the referendum question doesn’t make the answer any better. Leaving the European Union is a complicated matter involving trade and other economic considerations as well as a broad swath of social issues, including immigration and settlement policy. Is it little wonder that the voters were confused.


They did get their country back – not much left to work with.

Media reports indicated that some Leave voters confessed to regretting their decision as early as the morning after. The truth is that many voters were understandably ignorant of what they were actually voting for, as evidenced by the stampede to a google search for EU. Pity you say – a bit late for voters to struggle trying to figure what the EU actually stands for, after having just voted to leave it. Britain was only part of the EU since the 1970’s after all.

Churchill is reported to have once said that the best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter. And this mess is exactly what we should expect when we overlay an ad hoc exercise in direct democracy on top of our normal representative system of governance. So why not make sure that our indirect democracy is as representative as possible.

After all we elect and give license to our MPs to make these complicated decisions so we don’t have to get into the weeds – it’s not our job. And Brexit is about as weedy as it gets. But like Canada, Britain is stuck with an outdated first-past-the-post electoral system. Given voting splits among various parties, the governing Conservatives there came up the middle and were elected by just over a third (36.9%) of the electors.

Canada has had its fair share of grief over referenda in the past. Who could ever forget Mulroney’s divisive Charlottetown Accord. Then there were the two Quebexit plebiscites, the second one coming within a hair off creating a Brexit-like crisis.

Canadian flag at Quebec referendum

The referendum on Quebec leaving confederation was a very close vote. Imagine if they had won?

Had Quebec voted to leave, would aboriginal communities have demanded separation from Quebec, as the Scots may now do? Or what about those English-speaking parts of Montreal and Hull, across the river from Ottawa and dependent on national capital for its livelihood? One might argue that we escaped only through plain luck. But unlike Cameron who had no contingency process, Jacques Parizeau had a secret exit plan. His morning-after involved nationalizing military bases located on Quebec soil.

In the last federal election Justin Trudeau campaigned on electoral reform in order to make our democracy more representative. The loyal opposition is now demanding a referendum to seal any kind of deal on electoral reform. Mostly that is pure survival instinct on their part. Almost any kind of change will make the Tory’s lot in life less favourable – reduce their chances of ever forming government – unless they broaden their appeal beyond the stereotypical right-wing voter.

So the Conservatives are putting their eggs into the referendum basket, having watched the earlier electoral reform campaigns in Ontario and B.C. go down in flames. Still they are part of a parliamentary committee looking at options. One option, some sort of proportional representation, would entail reconfiguring our parliamentary chambers and most likely require a constitutional amendment. Fortunately Canada has a comprehensive constitutional amending formula, arguably superior to any national plebiscite.

And of course representation could be improved, were elected candidates to command the support of a majority of voters, as a first, second or third choice. This kind of change, use of a ranked or preferential balloting process, also referred to as a single transferable vote, would involve a relatively simple modification to ballot counting. In fact ranked ballots are what Ontario has invited municipalities to adopt for their next local elections – without any requirement for a referendum.

New Zealand is a case study for a parliamentary democracy which has also institutionalized some measure of direct democracy. Of course it is a small country with its own ethnic and economic diversity, but on the whole is arguably more homogenous than Canada. That argues for New Zealand as a place to pilot the complementary use of direct democracy. This nation of about four million people introduced its own mixed-member proportional representation system following an overwhelmingly positive referendum, and continuance of that system was confirmed by another.

In fact New Zealand has developed a referendum law and process to guide it. But even a New Zealander might eventually find referenda problematic. For example, thanks to their direct democracy going awry, they totally blew their search for a new flag and are now stuck with the old Australian-looking one.

Flag at house of commons

Getting this flag was not an easy decision.

Contrast that to how Lester Pearson managed to bring in Canada’s new flag while operating with only a minority government. And recall how Kim Campbell defused the abortion debate in this country without any referendum at all. As we celebrate Canada Day today, let us recall that we didn’t need a referendum to adopt a new flag, to re-write our national anthem, to repatriate our constitution, to enter into free trade agreements and a host of other things we entrust to our elected representatives. And they could and will better represent us before long.


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 the 1995 provincial election

Background links:

Scottish Independence –  EU Google Search –  Electoral Reform

More Brexit New Zealand Voting –   First Past the Post –  Single Transferable Vote

Proportional Representation –   BC Referendum –    Electoral ReformNZ Flag –

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Rivers sees the the UK after Brexit as no longer so united but still a kingdom.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

June 24th, 2016



English chanel

The Chanel- the history it has experienced. Now more than a body of water – a divide.

The United Kingdom (UK) has just voted decisively to leave the European Economic Community (EEC) and European Union (EU), which it had first joined in 1973. The Common Market, as it was also called, was founded in 1957 in part to propel the still broken post war economies and to avoid emerging conflicts among the original six nations in the Treaty of Rome.

Two years later (1975) Britain’s membership was confirmed overwhelmingly by a referendum to resolve forever Britain’s place in Europe. UK Independence Party leader, and Brexit champion, Nigel Farage was eleven years old at the time of the referendum. And Prime Minister David Cameron, who has just announced his resignation and that of his government, was two years younger. Forever can look like a long time when you are nine.

Cameron had been generally well regarded by almost everyone, winning a respectable majority in the last British election. But he misjudged how his country felt about British sovereignty and its adherence to key EU principles. So in true Shakespearean fashion he has now fallen on his sword for this most serious error in judgement – the referendum. Brexit, as it was called, should be a lesson to all who think that administering simple polls on complicated and strategic matters to the great unwashed is the answer to anything.

British politicians of all stripes are speaking softly, urging calm, and claiming it will take years for the Brexit to take effect. But that is not how the rest of the EU see it. They have demanded a quick exit in the interests of economic and political stability for what remains of their union. That after all was the primary raison d’être for the creation of the EU.

One should always be careful of that which one wishes. Big change can be chaotic and chaos creates its own consequences. So even before the results were complete the world witnessed one of the most stable global currencies, the British pound, crash to lows not seen since 1985. The next day financial giant Morgan Stanley claimed it was heading to a safe landing on the mainland, deserting London as the former banker for the EU.

Pro-EU Scotland, in union with England since the 1600’s, is mulling a redo of its own independence referendum in order to stay in the EU. Northern Ireland is being courted to join its southern EU cousin in the main republic, something considered unthinkable only a decade ago. And now Spain is demanding a governing stake in Gibraltar. Oh what a difference a day makes as that proverbial sun sinks even further on the vestiges of a once great Britain.

The Union flag flying in Regent street.

The Union flag flying in Regent street.

No longer so united but still a kingdom, albeit with a potentially much simpler Union Jack. Without North Sea Oil, Irish and Scotch whiskey, and no place to vacation, the lonely English will have to content themselves with gin and tonics in Blackpool or Brighton. Even Pimms #1 is now owned by the bleedin’ Europeans. Seriously, overnight the UK economy fell from 5th to 6th place in global standing, ironically sucking up to the derrière of former arch rival, France.

Immigration was a significant part of the discussion for most Britons, notwithstanding that Cameron had wrung exceptional, and unexpected, immigration control concessions from other EU leaders. Brits will likely see an exodus of continentals, including a million or so Polish nationals vacating recessionary England for jobs back home in one of the fastest growing EU economies. And that may in some measure be balanced by the return of at least some of the Brit expats living in places like Spain and France and all those tourists now lacking an EU passport.

Canada and the US will be impacted in a number of ways. For example, there was the process of finalizing free-trade agreements with the EU, championed to a large part by the Brits, despite strong objections by Germany and others. But the UK will still be a major player in NATO, though joint military procurement is likely to suffer as the EU finally moves its much promised common defence policy to the next level.

One foot in and one out, best described the UK approach to the EU anyway. Britain wanted the benefits of the marriage but refused to get completely naked and under the covers with its bed mates. She lacked commitment to the marriage, retaining her historical trappings as a way of maintaining her distance – the pound, rules of the road, gallons and miles and so on. And there has always been a measure of upper-nose smugness, that the ‘old chaps’ are better bred and come from superior homes than those dingy quarrelsome continentals.

But rejection is the toughest part of any in a relationship. And England has just told her continental suitors to powder off, spurning their interest, consideration, tolerance, warmth and even love – turning 19 nautical miles into an ocean away. The European reaction is really yet to come, but I’d bet on a hefty dose of tough love. To paraphrase the distinguished17th English playwright, William Congreve – hell hath no fury like a partner spurned.


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 the 1995 provincial election


Background links

Hell hath no Fury

Previous Referendum-

Common Market –

Scottish Referendum – 

England and Scotland Act –

Implication for Brit tourists –

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Burlington - Urban and Rural; Romanticism versus Social Commentary. Bateman makes a strong statement.

opinionandcommentBy Jim Riley

June 22, 2016


The Art Gallery of Burlington is presenting a visual discussion on the duality of the urban and rural aspects of Burlington. Chief Curator Denis Longchamps, along with the Burlington Fine Arts Association, developed the theme to celebrate the BFAA’s fiftieth anniversary.

There was also a Call for Proposals on this theme, broadening it to a multidisciplinary exhibition. Sixty-six art works were selected, with a very wide range of sizes.

This is a more cohesive exhibition than the All Guilds’ group show in 2015, but it still has challenges to overcome. With this curatorial theme, it has improved the unity of presentation. This exhibit presents an uneven quality of artworks.

This theme gave opportunities for the artists to express their opinions about how the urban and rural co-exist in our city. One of the roles of artists is to raise issues within the culture they inhabit. There are few cities that (philosophically and culturally) declare protection of a rural culture, geopolitically combined with an urban culture the way Burlington has – it was actually the province that imposed that requirement on us.. Many artworks spoke of romantic places, with a varying degree of success.

Longchamps hung the Urban Rural exhibit capably, by tying together themes of content, aesthetics and scale.

Batemans Progress

Robert Bateman, Progress, 2015, acrylic

Robert Bateman was invited to exhibit. I found it noteworthy that Bateman and Donna Fratesi’s themes dealt with destruction of Burlington’s historic architecture.

2_ Donna Fratelli, they paved paradise , 2015 acrylic

Donna  Fratesi’s they paved paradise , 2015 acrylic


Both are accomplished technical painters. Bateman was clearer in his thesis than Fratesi’s “They Paved Paradise”. Fratesi seems timid about her message, but evokes a warm memory of the intersection of Pine and Pearl streets. It is a romantic reminiscence of downtown Burlington. Although Bateman relies on text, he creates a clear criticism of Burlington’s treatment of its historic buildings. He focuses on the United Empire Loyalist Fisher house being replaced by a parking lot. Both artists explore their connections to the urban downtown environment, but Bateman’s “Progress” is more directly critical of how we handle it.

3_ Lorraine Roy, The Palace, textile, 2015

Lorraine Roy, “The Balance”, textile, 2015

Lorraine Roy’s “The Balance”  is one of the stronger works in this exhibition. Her textile work not only functions well on a compositional level but demonstrates the “pull and push” between urban and rural ecosystems. The wrapped, uprooted tree balances precariously be-tween the two worlds as it searches for a transplant space. Will it survive? Roy’s imagery is strong with rich tones suggesting a Tim Burton-style nightmare quality. It is intriguingly executed, done with textile rather than paint.

4_ Helen Griffiths, After A Day in (the country), oil, 2015

Helen Griffiths, after a day in (the country), oil, 2015

Similarly, Helen Griffiths’ “After a Day in (the country)” uses her well-developed painterly skills, but also teases the viewer to ponder why she is showing a wild skunk sniffing at a beautiful bundle of roses. The artist statement refers to wild animals invading her neighbourhood. Like Griffiths’ reference to wildlife,

5_ Victoria Pearce, Lost Between acrylic 2016

Victoria Pearce, Lost Between acrylic 2016

Victoria Pearce’s “Lost Between” uses images of Monarch butterflies, and the surrealistic imagery of an urban-rural coyote. The coyote is nestled in grasses as it floats over a grid of urban streets. This may be suggesting that a clash between natural and urban worlds is imminent. Certainly, the coyote making itself comfortable in the urban environment is a new reality for Burlington. All three artists successfully combine content and painterly aspects in their art practice.

6_ Vanessa Cres Lokos, Moving Forward, 2016, mixed media

Vanessa Cres Lokos, Moving Forward, 2016, mixed media

7 Dawn-Hackett-Burns & Michelle Lynn, Home Grown

Dawn-Hackett-Burns & Michelle Lynn, “Home Grown”, ceramic.

Vanessa Cres Lokos, “Moving Forward” and Dawn-Hackett-Burns & Michelle Lynn, “Home Grown” were hung one over the other. Cres Lokos’ expresses her viewpoint on rural and urban issues by placing cows marching along the Burlington pier with a forewarning, overcast sky. Hacket-Burns’ and Lynn’s ceramic artwork explores residential homes overwhelming rural buildings and cattle.

The artwork is placed on a low plinth so that the viewer can hover and oversee the battle.

8.1 Rossana Dewey, Jan Kendrik and Grace Afonso

Jan Kendrick, Rossana Dewey, Grace Afonso group image

Jan Kendrick’s, Rossana Dewey’s, and Grace Afonso’s paintings were hung side by side. All three artists are skilled painters. They use a similar colour palette and their paintings are emotive and sensually compatible. Their artist statements refer to issues: mining the escarpment, the Greenbelt Plan, the mid-peninsula highway and the vanishing rural landscape.  Their images speak of a vast rural environment, but do not deal clearly with the issues expressed in their artist statements.

9 Kathy Marlene Bailey, Sanctuary Between, oil, 2016

Kathy Marlene Bailey, Sanctuary Between, oil, 2016

Kathy Marlene Bailey, “Sanctuary Between” uses curving movement in a watery world of reflections that suggests a more rural, natural aspect of the theme. Her artist statement refers to city planners facilitating a residential invasion of natural sanctuaries. There is beauty and mystery in Bailey’s painting. There is a hint of the escarpment and a house, but the focus is on water. The painting’s message is some-what ambiguous, in comparison to her artist statement.

The Lee-Chin Family Gallery is a large space. Area around the art-works, and the scale of the various artworks, present a challenge. Petit artworks in such a large space are difficult to notice, given the works nearby that are ten feet high. Longchamps creates space and separation for the intimate works.

There may be too many works in the exhibition for a viewer to comprehend, beyond surface aesthetics. I think this is a group exhibition in which less would actually be much more. However, there are many artworks not mentioned here that you should view, to decide on your own.

The exhibition runs until September 5, 2016
Lee-Chin Family Gallery at Art Gallery of Burlington
1333 Lakeshore Rd., Burlington.

AGB Hours

Monday 9:00 am – 6:00 pm
Tuesday – Thursday 9:00 am – 10:00 pm
Friday – Saturday: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sunday: 12 noon – 5:00 pm

Jim Riley is a Burlington, ON, based arts writer, independent curator and a visual and media artist. His recent art practice involves public art and gallery video installations. Riley has a BA from Brock Uni-versity. He has exhibited his art for thirty years in Canada and the United States. Some of Riley’s video art is represented by V tape Distributions, Toronto. Website:



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Weapons of mass destruction in the hands of people with poor mental health = 50 deaths.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

June 17th, 2016


It was a rare moment.

Democrat and republican senators actually agreed to prohibit the sale of assault weapons to people whose names appeared on a terrorist-watch or no-fly list. In fact automatic assault weapons, like the US army’s M16, are restricted. So in theory civilians can no more legally obtain one of these any easier than they could a fully-functioning tank, B-52 bomber or a nuclear missile. But getting one of their semi-automatic cousins is a different story.

Bill Clinton, in 1994, signed a full-on ban for all assault weapons, though he had to include a ten year sunset clause to get the bill through Congress. And since GW Bush was president while the sun was setting, the ban wasn’t re-instated on its best before date, making it open season for gun buyers. So it’s no wonder that these assault weapons have been the first choice of the perpetrators of America’s mass shootings/killings since then.

AR 15

Less than $1000 retail

The popular AR15 is a lightweight, compact rifle, which only requires a slight shift of one’s finger to fire off a round. And there can be as many as 30 rounds of ammo in the magazine should one want to do a lot of damage. It’s not clear how long it took the mad gunman to empty his magazine and re-load before he killed almost 50 people and wounded almost as many in that crowded night club in Orlando Florida last weekend, but it wouldn’t have been long.

Assault rifles have only one purpose, since they make lousy target or hunting guns – we once again we saw how effective they can be in the hands of a terrorist. Believe it or not it is possible to purchase one of these agents of death in Canada, if you are prepared to go through the hoops and hurdles. But then the weapon is restricted for use only on the target range.

As for US president Obama, gun control has to be one of his biggest failings. After each mass kill, he would rail and try to get new legislation to ban these guns. But like the cartoon character Elmer Fudd, he never could quite bag that prize. After Orlando the frustrated US leader complained that suspects on a terrorist-watch or no-fly list aren’t allowed to board a plane in the US but are free to buy an assault rifle.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Senate democrats picked up the theme and after a marathon filibuster session managed to get bi-partisan agreement. And It didn’t hurt that prospective GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump found himself also concurring.

Char Heston clutching a rifle

Charlton Heston clutching a rife at a National Rifle Association convention,

Trump at one point in his life had been an advocate of more gun control. That is until the NRA (National Rifle Association) endorsed him for president. So now he argues teachers should also be gun slingers and that the best way to reduce gun killings is for everyone to carry a gun. Does he have a point? Had some of the partiers in that Orlando nightclub been carrying, instead of just carrying-on, they might have been able to take out the shooter before the count got to 49 fatalities.

But by extension that is a patently illogical argument. It’s true that mutually assured destruction may have kept nuclear armed nations from using their weapons, but would the same approach work for ordinary civilians? Defenders of loose gun laws are hardly driven by logic, meaningful empirical research or reason. But all they need to do is consider how loose guns were a failure even in the Wild West. Indeed the Wyatt Earps’ of that day kept the peace only by keeping the guns out of Dodge. Their gun laws were tougher than most American states have today and they worked.

Assuming the US House of Representatives also agrees to the modest assault rifle restriction, this would be a tiny step towards sensible gun policy south of the border. And a long march always begins with a first step in the right direction. That direction would be where Japan and Australia have marched, with gun laws that make mass shootings almost unimaginable.

The Chretien government made such a mess of introducing universal long-gun registration in this country two decades ago, that its eventual dismantling by the subsequent right-wing government was almost a given. And sure enough, once Harper got his majority he shut it down and destroyed all of the records which had been collected at significant public expense. In another blow to national unity he forced Quebec’s government into court in a failed attempt by that province to use those records as the basis for its own long-gun registry.

Perhaps as a sop to the western gun lobby the Trudeau government decided to campaign against bringing back the long-gun registry, in fact calling its creation a mistake. Still he did make several gun control promises during last year’s election, which are still in process.

Fire arms possesion certificate

This is all you need in Canada

One of those was to implement Canada’s obligations under the International Arms Trade Treaty, requiring manufactures and importers to place special markings on guns. The Harper government, likely in deference to the National Firearms Association (Canada’s NRA), had procrastinated on this simple requirement which facilitates international armament tracking.

And if eliminating the gun registry wasn’t enough, one Conservative MP, a mere month before the Orlando disaster, presented a petition to de-restrict the sale of assault weapons here in Canada. That would mean anyone with a firearms possession certificate could belly up to their local gun shop and bring one of those beauties home to show their little woman or man. Then it’s off to the woods to see about finally bagging that bunny in the bushes – or worse, for some other kind of hunting in a more public place.


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 the 1995 provincial election

Background links:

Samantha Bee –  US Guns –  US Gun Laws  

Guns and Crime in Canada –

Obama on Guns –

More Obama –

LGBT Orlando –

Trump –

More Trump – 

US Gun DebateGuns and the Wild West –  Gun Marking Canada – 

More Marking – 

Liberal Promises – 

Assault Weapons in Canada –

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How did the most important part of the name - community - get dropped?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

June 15th, 2106


I didn’t see the change – even though I was at the event where it was announced.

What I saw was an attractive corporate logo with a really catchy tag line;

Give brilliantly!

BCF logoThe occasion was the launch of the tag line and the newly designed logo put together by Play advertising for the Burlington Community Foundation.

This was the organization that publishes a Vital Signs report on the health of the community.

This is the organization that manages a significant number of endowments created for some community based purpose.

This is the organization that hands out close to a million dollars each year to different community non-profit organizations.

This is the organization that hours after the flood of August 2014, went to work and 100 days later had just short of a million in the bank to hand out to peoples whose homes had been devastated.

I could go on – the word community appears in everything they do.

Thus it was surprising when a friend pointed out to me that word “community” had been dropped from the name – it was now to be the Burlington Foundation.


BCF Mulholland + sign new logoWhen asked for a comment and some clarity, president and CEO Collen Mulholland explained that “Burlington is, and always will be, a thriving community. The Foundation is an integral part — the fabric of the community — as Burlington’s sustainable giving foundation.

“We don’t feel it’s necessary to repeat the word community. We wanted to keep are refreshed brand name concise and memorable also using our new rallying cry and tag line, Give Brilliantly.”

“Hope this helps to clarify for you.”

It doesn’t – defining just who you are matters. Burlington Foundation could be a bank, a club a company that builds basements.

The Burlington Community Foundation tells me exactly what they do – and I applaud that heartily. Continue to Give Brilliantly – the community needs all the help it can get.

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Mary Eleanor McMahon takes on the mantle Ted McMeekin left - she nows has to grow into the biggest job she has ever had - she has shown how to face challenges in the past.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

June 14th, 2016


He mentored her, he tutored her and he perhaps even scolded her from time to time.

She basically harassed him in 2014 when she wanted provincial money for the flood victims in Burlington

And so it came to pass – that he took that long walk into the dark night and she stood up and accepted the appointment to the Premiers Executive Council and is now a member of Cabinet. Two years ago she was an advocate for better bicycle safety.

Politics is a blood sport – it is not for the faint of heart.

It was one of those thinmgs the politicians had to be on hand for - they were the ones that made the funding possible - so Ted McMeekin, the Liberal Minister of Agiculture from a riding next to us, was on hand to tell us what the government had done for us and to thank all the volunteers who made it possible. The volunteers were the imnportant part. of the event.

Ted McMeekin, the Liberal Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and the MPP for the riding next to us spoke for Burlington when we needed help. He is now just the MPP for Ancaster – there is still however, a lot of tread on those tires.

Ted McMeekin put a wonderful spin on his “retirement” from Cabinet when he said: “Each time a man or woman stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he or she sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”  He added – “I’m grateful to have sent my few small ripples into the current of this Province.”

McMahon gushed and in her typical manner kept saying how honoured she was to have been appointed. It is now time to lighten up on the gushing and the gee whiz stuff and get down to the business of legislating.

McMahon at podium

Eleanor McMahon MPP for Burlington – now a member of the provincial cabinet

McMahon will be spending much of the weekend going over the mandate letter that went with the job and then spending endless hours poring over briefing books.

Then she has to begin to think about how she wants to carry out the mandate she was given.

No more bootserism, no more yelps about how great it all is. Hard work, creative thinking and assembling the team she is going to need to get the job done.

With just two years’ experience as an active politician Mary Eleanor McMahon has her work cut out for her.

There are some very impressive pluses to the woman – she is one of the best political campaigners this reporter has seen – and I’ve seen a lot of them. She bonds with people – and the bonding is real. She likes people; she cares, really cares.

AGB presentation McMahon

The arts are now and tourism are now going to be front and center for the new minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport. She has already begun thinking of bike tours throughout the province.

Kathleen Wynne saw something in McMahon when she personally asked her to run in Burlington and bring to an end more than 70 years of Tory rule. The confident the Premier had when she recruited McMahon is clearly still there – her choice wasn’t based on just gender.

McMahon now faces the challenge of proving the Premier to have been right; she knows what it is to face a challenge – but she isn’t alone facing this one.

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Lisa Raitt - Halton MP, questions government on its pension plans.

News 100 blueBy Staff

June 14th, 2016


It was Question Period in the House of Commons and Lisa Raitt wanted to make a point about pensions and what they did do to one’s wallet.

Mr. Speaker, next week the Minister of Finance is going to meet with his counterparts in the provinces and territories to sell them on his CPP scheme which would tax the average worker an extra $3,000 per year. This new payroll tax would kill 130,000 jobs in our country and it would permanently and significantly lower wages for our young people especially.

How does the Minister of Finance expect Canadian workers to save, start a family, or buy a home when he is increasing their taxes?

A few minutes later Raitt followed up with:

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

Conservative MP Lisa Raitt asks a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Photo courtesy THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Mr. Speaker, Canadians are rightly concerned. The impact of a fourth CPP expansion is going to be on their wallets.
The Minister of Finance has stated that a CPP expansion would be putting too many eggs in one basket. He also said that increasing the CPP would practically take the private sector out of the pension business.

My question is again for the Minister of Finance. Will he just abandon this ill-conceived scheme because it would unfairly target Canadian workers?

Ms Raitt makes no mention of the pretty healthy pension benefit program Members of the House of Commons have given themselves – which comes out of the very same wallets she speaks of.  Ms Raitt is the MP for Halton.

Halton boundary from WM

The boundary for the riding of Halton includes much of northern – rural Burlington.

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Spirituality on the GO train - Burlington lawyer gets a different look at the start of his week.

News 100 yellowBy Staff

June 14th, 2016


Karmel Sakran, a Burlington based lawyer who has served on the hospital board, runs a Wills Clinic each year and was the Liberal candidate for Burlington a number of elections ago, got a letter from a friend recently.

You've seen his picture before - on an election poster. He was smiling then

Karmel Sakran doing the Terry Fox Cure for Cancer run

The letter captivated Karmel. He explained: “… my friend describes her role as a Spiritual Care giver and how she recently had the experience of saving a man’s life on the Go Train. I will let the letter speak for itself. Enjoy!

You would think that someone from Spiritual Care would not have trouble answering the questions, “How do you work spiritually at work?” when the Wellness Coordinator asks, however, I was stumped until the Friday night GO train ride home.

GO train crowdsFor those of you that regularly ride the GO Kartrain, you know that it is a bit of a strange environment. You can ride with the same people for many years and never actually meet them. At the end of the day, the cultural norm on the top deck of the train is quiet and silence but the alarm went for “Code 1033,” the code for a medical emergency and this time the emergency was in my car. I went down to investigate and a man had collapsed on the floor, not breathing, rapidly turning blue. Someone had started CPR and I took over compression as she tired. Others arrived as well. I heard the GO train personnel inquire who everyone was and it turns out we had someone from palliative care, someone who delivers babies, a dermatologist and me, a spiritual care provider.

I thought of all those family meetings where it was unknown what time the patient collapsed and how long he had been down for, so I looked at my watch. The time was 4:23. A minute into compressions and I was tiring already. How did I not know how tiring CPR was? I had watched the ICU team do CPR for hours, switching off every few minutes, never realizing how hard the work was and being reminded in the moment how important teamwork is. We began to switch off between trying to find a pulse and doing chest compressions.He was turning that awful colour between life and death.

Someone found a defibrillator and the baby doctor prepared to deliver a shock as she ripped open his shirt at 4:26. We heard her say “clear” and then he jumped underneath us. I heard the palliative doctor ask someone to find his name in his wallet and she began to talk to the patient. Talking to a dying patient is usually my job, but today, I heard someone else giving the spiritual care while we continued chest compressions stopping periodically so the palliative doctor could see if his heart was beating.

Suddenly he began to breathe. A cheer went up and we turned him on his side but the victory was only short lived. He stopped breathing again and we rolled him back to continue CPR. At 4:29 we gave him a second shock. In that second moment when we called “clear,” I looked up and I saw the faces of the people that I normally speak to- scared, overwhelmed by what they were seeing, panicked but I couldn’t provide the spiritual care it was someone else’s job to offer comfort and support. I placed my hands on his chest taking my turn at compressions from the dermatologist and this time I felt his heart punch back at my hands and beat to life again, like when I was pregnant and I felt the baby kick from within. It was like his soul was letting me know he was still there.

The doctors confirmed he had pulses, stronger pulses this time. Rolling him onto his side again it was 4:34. His colour returned, his eyes fluttered open. Oxygen arrived from somewhere and paramedics arrived on scene just as he was waking up. There was a sense of exhilaration that together we had saved this man’s life- the woman who went running through the train looking for doctors and found the strange collection of people to help, the person who donated her scissors to cut open his shirt, those of us that pounded on his chest and shouted in his ear to keep breathing, those that held elevators and doorways, went running for the defibrillator or just silently prayed- together- a crazy team that journeyed together differently today.

As I reflected on the events, I realized that in many ways the hospital is a strange collection of strangers, a collection of people journeying together, never knowing what the day will bring.

GO train Union stationI realized that being in rounds and family meetings had made me the accidental student as I heard over and over again what made the different at the beginning of a cardiac arrest to the final outcome. We must all be accidental students in our journey together, always learning from one another. Today, I reflected on all the people that I watch day in and day out use their hands to work to save a patient. How differently it felt to put my hands on a patient for medical treatment than to hold a hand to comfort. How lost for words I am to describe the feeling of seeing another human being shocked and pounded back to life and to have been a small part of that.

Today as we journey together, I’m reminded once again of the precious commodity of time that is given to each one of us to make each moment count. After he was taken away by EMS, a woman, in tears, explained, that the man collapsed after seeing her struggling up the stairs with her suitcase feeling panicked at being caught in rush hour. Seeing her struggle, he carried her suitcase up to the platform. She worried that the act of kindness may have cost him his life- perhaps it saved him because it put him in just the right place. I am more deeply aware that we are strange strangers on a journey but we don’t have to be estranged from one another, especially in crisis.

So today as I think about what the day will bring. I hope that I can live in deeper spiritual appreciation and with deeper reverence and awe for all those who place their hands onto their fellow sojourners in care. I hope that I can live with heightened awareness and hope for the strangers and companions that are all around. I hope that I can see with more compassion the struggles that each person carries in their work. In the end, to work spiritually is to remember that we journey together.

Pretty good way to start a week!

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Reader offers yet another view on the role of French language instruction - trustees will decide which direction the Halton Board should take on Wednesday.

opinionandcommentBy Graham Fraser

June 14, 2106


One of  the things I like about this job, that pays me less than nothing,  is the responses we get from readers. Elise Box wrote and chided me for what she felt was my giving space to just on side of the French language instruction argument that Halton school board trustees are wrestling with. “I thought since you were in the “pinching,” from the Globe and Mail, you might consider pinching an article that is actually researched based.  Perhaps you could assist in sharing the whole picture to the public.”  I wouldn’t refer to this as “research based”; it is an opinion from a man I know personally and have a lot of respect for – however it is just an opinion.

For years, I have been listening to the arguments of ill-informed critics of French immersion. The time has come to set the record straight.

Some critics use the percentage of Canadians who are bilingual to argue that French immersion has been a failure. However, percentages are misleading; with Canada welcoming 250,000 newcomers each year, some of whom speak neither official language, it’s not surprising that the percentage of bilingual Canadians has dropped, even though the actual number has increased by more than half a million over the past 10 years.

Others complain that French immersion belongs to a particular chapter of Canadian history. Contrary to what many critics claim, French immersion is not a product of the Trudeau years, but began in the mid-1960s in Quebec, before Pierre Elliott Trudeau was even elected to Parliament. Its goal was to help children acquire language proficiency through the use of French as a language of instruction.

The allegation that it is an elitist program that filters out the children with behavioural problems and special needs is also profoundly unfair. The fact is that when a child in immersion has any kind of learning or behavioural problem, the first response of some schools is to pressure the parents to take their child out of immersion, regardless of whether or not the learning problem has anything to do with the language of instruction. Yet there are studies that show that children with learning problems do just as well in immersion as they do in the English stream.

HDSB logoSimilarly, many schools and school boards actively discourage immigrant parents from enrolling their children in immersion, even though studies show that immigrant students – who often speak a third language at home – adapt smoothly to immersion. Some immersion programs, however, boast a high percentage of children of immigrants, as their parents recognize the value of being able to speak the country’s two official languages.

Moreover, critics often refer to the drop-out rate from immersion. This is partly due to students choosing other specialized programs that are not available in immersion, and partly due to other factors. Some 15 years ago, Edmonton Public Schools was concerned about the dropout rate from immersion. By bolstering support for the teachers, improving communication with parents and establishing comparative evaluations of students’ language skills, the dropout rate diminished dramatically. Edmonton Public Schools is now recognized as having one of the best immersion programs in the country.

Some of the disenchantment with immersion comes from unrealistic expectations. Immersion doesn’t – and isn’t intended to – produce graduates who speak French with the fluency of native speakers. What immersion does provide is an important building block on which graduates can develop their language skills. Language proficiency is both an intellectual and a physical activity; without practice, it diminishes dramatically. I hope that the 150th anniversary of Confederation will see an increase in the number of opportunities for students to spend time in an environment where the other official language is dominant.

One of the problems that the immersion system has faced for a number of years has been a shortage of teachers who fully master French. To address this issue, a government program could be useful in breaking down some of the barriers that prevent exchanges between teachers. It is still easier for a teacher in Quebec to have an exchange with a teacher in France than with a teacher in Ontario, and easier for a teacher in Ontario to exchange jobs with a teacher in Australia than with a teacher in Quebec. This, to put it mildly, makes no sense.

Trustees - fill board +

Halton District School Board trustees. Senior staff sit in the second row and are on hand to answer questions and provide detail.

The immersion experience can be life-changing. When Jennifer MacIntyre was a child in a small town in Cape Breton, she insisted on going into immersion, overcoming the reluctance of her unilingual parents. Her reason: she wanted to be able to work at Cape Breton’s National Historic Site, the Site Fortress of Louisbourg. The experience broadened her horizons. Now, several decades later, she is Canada’s ambassador to Switzerland. “Without French, nothing else would have been possible and my dreams would have been much smaller,” she told me recently.

Canadian parents – thousands of whom are themselves graduates of immersion – want their children to have the experience that French immersion offers. It has enriched the lives of millions of Canadians. It is unfortunate that an ideal of perfection is being used to criticize one of the most successful Canadian educational experiences available.

Graham Fraser is Canada’s commissioner of official languages.


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Gender Parity or Gender Cleansing ? Or it is a retirement announcement with a different spin?

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

June 9, 2016


We are all feminists today. We know that men have no monopoly on being successful politicians or in totally screwing up. More generally we know that gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation are artificial barriers that for too long have allowed the ‘suits’ in the white male club to stay in power.

Nobody made that point better than our Prime Minister when he announced that his first Cabinet would be composed of an equal number of men and women and would also reflect Canada’s cultural mosaic. In the USA Obama broke the racial barrier, and now Hillary Clinton has smashed that other glass ceiling becoming the first female democratic nominee.


America’s choice for their next President?

Barring an act of incredible stupidity by our friends south of the border, she will become the next US president and leader of the free world, with the largest military in global history and the second most powerful economic machine on the planet. Of course this is a biggie for the Yanks, but the world has already seen some exceptional female leaders including Thatcher, Merkel, Meir, Gandhi, Katherine the Great. Kim Campbell was Canada’s first female PM.

So I’m puzzled by Ted McMeekin’s announcement that he is planning to resign from Premier Wynne’s cabinet to make way for a women to replace him. It’s true that less than 50% of Wynne’s Cabinet jobs are held by women. And Ted, the popular member of provincial parliament for Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale, my riding, claims he is a feminist and that he expects his resignation will facilitate the transition towards gender parity in Wynne’s Cabinet.

Using quotas, be they ethnic or gender, has been an important transition tool for changing attitudes and opening the door to broader participation by underrepresented sectors of our society. But quotas should never be considered as anything but transitional or they suddenly become that reverse discrimination the white guys all fear. And the pursuit of attracting more of one gender at the expense of the other may lead to perverse outcomes then requiring corrective gender re-balancing.

Teaching was a field once dominated by males, and now is a place where men are seen as an endangered species. Still, while the gap in male and female incomes is shrinking it is hard to argue that the need for transition is over in so many other economic sectors. Except at Queen’s Park where female MPPs are on the same pay scale as their male counterparts and the Premier herself is a woman with the fattest pay cheque in the legislature.

Yet, the argument remains that women are under-represented at Queen’s park relative to their numbers in the general population. But then so are the economically disadvantaged, the poor. And what about those with lower educational achievement or those with a physical or emotional handicap – or seniors. Indeed casting our parliament as a mini-me of the entire Ontario demographic could be a scary thought and formula for failure.

Transit - McMeekin tight

Ted McMeekin – MPP for Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale

And if a male political leader, like Ted is truly a feminist, wouldn’t staying on the job to continue to promote equality be the most important thing he could do? McMeekin is a popular political veteran with an enviable track record, having served the people wearing three different ministries. The horse-racing folks will remember him for his efforts to save their industry after the McGuinty’s austerity program nearly drove it out of existence.

In his latest job, as Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Ted has just initiated a long over-due sea-change in how we elect municipal politicians. That includes new campaign spending limits, prohibiting corporate and union donations, and enabled municipalities to use ranked ballots to ensure that next elected municipal representative would the most popular, the first, second or third choice of the voters, should the municipality go this route.

Transit - Rishia Burke + McMeekin

McMeekin in an animated conversation with Risha Burke, field worker with Community development Halton.

Ted has spent much of his life in politics and fighting for the good causes. He may well be considering the benefits of slowing down, or may even be planning retirement. But resigning his Cabinet seat, notionally to make way for the Premier to appoint a woman, does him no credit. The Premier is a powerful leader and quite capable of recasting her Cabinet however she chooses. Ted would be in or out depending on her judgement of the skills needed for the new team.

Gender parity is a societal goal and we are inching ever closer to that goal, with or without McMeekin’s resignation from Cabinet. In the end it is more about enabling women and ensuring accessibility by removing roadblocks. And there have always been vocations in which one gender or the other predominates, and usually for a good reason. But politics is not one of those vocations.

There are still other significant opportunities to facilitate the transition to the goal of a more gender-neutral world. For example MP’s in Ottawa are considering enhancing the language of the song we all learn to sing, our national anthem, to make it more gender-neutral. But watching a good politician quit Cabinet in the interests of gender parity seems more like a case of gender cleansing. Who will be the next male volunteer?


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 the 1995 provincial election

Background links:

McMeekin Stepping DownMore McMeekin

Ranked BallotsNational Anthem

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