Doug Ford’s gag law will limit comment on essentially any public policy issue

opinionred 100x100By Christine Van Geyn and Scott Hennig.

June 14th, 2021

Reprinted from the Globe and Mail.

Politicians are going to politician. It doesn’t matter their party, the colour of their election sign or ideological background. Politicians will take any opportunity to silence their critics – even if it means enacting unconstitutional laws. And that’s precisely what Ontario Premier Doug Ford is doing by invoking the Constitution’s notwithstanding clause to overrule a recent Ontario court decision that struck down his government’s gag law.

To be fair, it wasn’t originally his gag law. Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government first brought in a law in 2016 that gagged citizens from using paid means of amplifying their voices – not just during the election, but a full 180 days before the election even started.

fORD WITH FLAG

Ontario Premier Doug Ford

But Mr. Ford doubled down on Ms. Wynne’s law when he introduced Bill 254 to expand the restrictions to a full 365 days prior to an election. That means today, with just under a year to go before the next Ontario election, citizens are effectively barred from spending their own money to voice their opinion on any political issue.

Sure, you will still see some political ads from non-politicians over the next 12 months, but they will be limited and only run by those with the deepest pockets and with paid staff who can jump through all of the red tape.

quarry stop sign

If this sign said something about the government it wold probably be illegal.

However, if your grandmother Donna and her bridge group want to pool their money to buy some lawn signs to voice their opinion on long wait times in Ontario’s health care system, the huge amount of debt the government is running up, or why they think the official provincial bird should be changed from the common loon to the blue jay, they will want to consult a lawyer.

For starters, Donna and her bridge buddies will have to register with Elections Ontario and appoint a chief financial officer if they want to spend more than $500 over a 12-month period. With current lumber prices, the cost of stakes for a handful of signs will push over that limit.

If they trip over the next threshold of $5,000 in signs, they will have to hire a professional auditor to investigate their bookkeeping and ensure that every cent is accounted for. Donna and her friends will have to figure out how to fill out reams of government forms.

But they likely won’t – because it won’t be worth the struggle and getting it wrong can result in large fines. This silence is exactly what politicians want.

It’s even questionable whether larger groups can move that mountain of paperwork. If a group of small businesses want to voice their opinions on government lockdown rules that favour big businesses, the law actually requires they file a new report for every $1,000 in spending. Meaning, if they reached the cap of $600,000 in spending, they could have to file 600 separate reports with the government over the next 365 days. The requirements may indeed be so nonsensical and onerous that their very purpose is to deter groups from advertising.

While Mr. Ford’s target may be the union coalition Working Families, the impact of the law is far broader, and limits comment on essentially any public policy issue when these comments matter the most.

Charter signing

Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau signed the Proclamation of the Constitution Act on April 17, 1982; it was accompanied by The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the right to free expression. What makes Canada a special place that people all around the world want to call home is that we embrace differing opinions and let our citizens have a voice. Freedom of expression is a fundamental right that should be embraced. Petty dictators wield power to silence the voices of their critics. In liberal democracies, we demand better.

Justice Edward Morgan rightfully ruled that Ontario’s gag law was too restrictive on Ontarians’ right to free expression, declaring the changes to the Election Finances Act unconstitutional. While the notwithstanding clause is available, Mr. Ford’s decision to use it here, without even taking the time to appeal the decision, is patently self-serving. It is a demonstration of incumbent arrogance, indifference towards free expression, and shows a bizarre and warped sense of priorities. And now Ontarians who want to speak out and say as much have their voices muzzled by this very law.

Christine Van Geyn is the litigation director for the Canadian Constitution Foundation. Scott Hennig is the president and CEO of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

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Ford Out of Touch with Reality - Natural Gas Expansion Plans a Disaster in the Making

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

June 9th, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

 

“A global crisis has shocked the world. It is causing a tragic number of deaths, making people afraid to leave home, and leading to economic hardship not seen in many generations. Its effects are rippling across the world. ”

Obviously, I am talking about COVID-19. But in just a few decades, the same description will fit another global crisis: climate change. As awful as this pandemic is, climate change could be worse.” (Bill Gates – Aug 2020)

Pipeline -Transmountain

Pipelines move natural gas.

So, why would any government anywhere want to expand the carbon footprint of its residents? But that is exactly what the press conference this morning by Premier Ford and his ministers was all about, They are moving onto the second phase of their gas pipeline expansion plan to some 43 communities in northern and rural Ontario.

In total some 28 pipeline projects including well over a hundred kilometers of pipeline will be buried in order that Alberta based Enbridge and EPCOR can supply currently low cost natural gas even further into homes and businesses in the province.

The Ontario government is spending $234 million so the Alberta gas companies can sell more of their product in Ontario. And customers will pay back a dollar a month for being connected to the new gas supply system.

But even over ten years that would take almost 2 million new gas customers to pay off the subsidy to the gas companies. And that is unlikely since Enbridge, which is Canada’s largest gas distribution company, has barely four million existing customers in the province.

And what about the carbon tax? Currently set at $40 per tonne or 7.83 cents per cubic metre, it is set to more than quadruple by 2030. The entire premise underlying this government’s push to have Ontario residents use more natural gas is that it will help reduce their costs of living and for their businesses.

heat homes

Natural gas is the major source for heating homes. Solar has a lot of growing to do.

But it seems Mr. Ford, having lost in the courts, has just decided to ignore that we really do have an ever increasing carbon tax in this country, and will, even if the federal government changes hands.

New gas furnaces last 15-20 years. We can only imagine where the carbon tax will be in twenty years and what that will do to the economics of having locked ourselves even more into natural gas. Investments in new capital infrastructure, like a new gas heating appliance, should include a risk analysis of the future operational costs as well as the gas price today.

Electricity is an alternative. Wind and solar are already the least costly ways of generating electricity today and they are becoming even less expensive. And advances in energy storage will make them more reliable into the future. Already, battery technology is bringing that to reality in places like Australia.

The press conference seemed well attended and there were a number of media questions, but nobody mentioned the carbon tax and its impact going forward. In fact nobody mentioned climate change and our carbon footprint and what this would mean for all of us and for those yet to come.

Doug Ford and Jason Kenney

BFF: Best friends forever. Doug Ford with Jason Kennedy.

This may have been partly about Mr. Ford helping out his fellow premier in Alberta by marketing his gas here. And Mr. Ford may have genuinely been trying to help more Ontario residents lower their heating costs. There was also talk of 5000 jobs, but we know any kind of energy project results in jobs. In fact US President Biden has made jobs the centre piece of his natural gas phase out plan. Yet while the US is phasing out, Ontario is embracing gas.

And that is the other problem with this provincial program. Natural gas was the wonder fuel of the sixties and seventies, when Mr. Ford was still a baby. Today burning natural gas is one the biggest problems facing humanity. And if Mr. Ford doesn’t get that he’s really out of touch with reality.

Rivers hand to faceRay Rivers, a Gazette Contributing Editor,  writes regularly applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was once a candidate for provincial office in Burlington.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.   Ray has a post graduate degree in economics that he earned at the University of Ottawa.  Tweet @rayzrivers

 

Background links:

Bill Gates

Phase 2 Gas Expansion

Australia Energy Storage

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There are some very challenging issues right in front of us that will require inspired leadership. We are about to find out if the challenge is going to be met

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

June 8th, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

 

During a Standing Committee on Monday City Manager Tim Commisso commented on the concerns that had been brought to the Mayor and members of Council related to the condition of streets and public places and the large gatherings of people who appeared to be ignoring the ask that masks be worn.

Burlington is still in a State of Emergency and is regulated in terms of the day to day business of the city by the Emergency Coordinating Group (ECG) which is made up of the Leadership Team and other senior staff including Fire Chief Karen Roche.

This group often meets several times a week and is able to make changes to practices and procedures quickly as long as they don’t have a negative impact on the budget.

The Mayor is a part of the ECG.

Commisso Apr 17

City Manager Tim Commisso

Commisso acknowledged that there are problems and added that he “had nothing to say” on Monday but expected to have things to say once he has met with staff.

Burlington has become a destination for many people who want to get out of their homes and be in places where they can meet with friends.  There wasn’t very much that was open on the weekend.

This Friday the city opens up, albeit not to the point where there are no limitations.  If past experience is any indicator the city is facing crowds that make demands on the resources and push many people beyond their comfort level when it comes to sharing what Burlington has to offer.

It was people, people, people - for almost as far as the eye could see along the Beachway.

It was people, people, people – for almost as far as the eye could see along the Beachway.

There are some who feel the city parks, especially the Beachway, should be for use by Burlingtonians only.  The fact is that the Beachway is a Regional Park managed by the city.

Burlingtonians are proud of the small town feel of the downtown core and want to retain that identity.

The city’s leadership has a difficult situation ahead of it that will require an ability to respond in a responsible way and at the same time educate the community and bring it to the point where the appreciation for the diversity that the city advocates and encourages becomes real.

During the Standing Committee Monday members of council wanted to know how many of the free parking passes were given to residents of Burlington and how many were given to residents of Oakville, Milton or Halton Hills.

This is not a metric that should matter.

There are some very challenging issues right in front of us that will require inspired leadership.  We are about to find out if the challenge is going to be met.

Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette, an online newspaper that was formed in 2010 and is a member of the National Newsmedia Council.

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Rivers: Is it Time to Phase out Natural Gas?

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

June 3rd, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON’

 

The previous provincial government closed all of the coal-fired power plants and permanently banned coal as a fuel for electricity production. That was one of the largest greenhouse gas reduction initiatives in North America. More than 30 mega-tonnes of greenhouse gases annually were eliminated.

That is the equivalent to taking seven-million petroleum powered vehicles off our roads. In addition, closing the coal plants helped reduce the number of smog days in Ontario from 53 in 2005 to zero in 2015.

In 2005 coal-fired electricity still accounted for 19% of the utility bill. By 2015 when coal was gone, wind and solar energy had come from nowhere to account for 9%, even as electricity use in the province increased by another 3%. And while the costs of getting there were not inconsequential, solar and wind are today’s lowest cost sources of electrical energy.

wind turbines

Wind turbines work exceptionally well if located in the right place.

Of course wind and solar are intermittent sources of energy by their very nature. And while awaiting the development of backup energy storage systems, natural gas had been included in the mix to allow for those times when the sun was down or the wind had stopped blowing. Still, by 2018, the year the government changed political parties, natural gas accounted for only 3% of the energy mix.

Renewable energy accounts for a third of the electricity produced in Ontario. And a third of that comes from Ontario’s fleet of solar and wind installations. But after the 2018 election the Ontario government stopped approving and started cancelling new solar and wind projects. Still, even in 2020 wind and solar still generated over 11% of the provincial energy mix.

As a result Ontario’s electricity system is currently about 94 percent carbon free. However that is down from 97 percent under the former government, though still very respectable when compared to other jurisdictions like the USA, or even Alberta.

so;ar energy

Solar panels have proven to be very cost effective.

Unfortunately the current provincial administration is allergic to naturally sourced renewable energy. In fact, the Premier has recently moved to de-prioritize renewable energy in an effort to allow increases in the carbon content of Ontario’s energy mix.

So it should not be surprising that this Ontario government, through its wholly owned Ontario Power Generation, has just spent three billion dollars purchasing three existing gas plants from TC Energy. It is easy to understand why TC Energy would want to unload these facilities which represent yesterday’s fossil fuel burning technology. But why would the Ontario government buy them?

The contrast with what we see happening in the US could not be clearer. US President Joe Biden is committed to eliminating natural gas electricity production within 15 years, replacing it with renewable energy. Canada has just announced new climate change targets for 2030 which would entail a 40-50% reduction in fossil fuel burning.

Recently 27 municipalities across Ontario, representing half of the province’s population, have demanded that Ontario phase-out natural gas electricity production. They are concerned about re-carbonizing Ontario’s energy mix and the potential smog pollution which would result. Converting Ontario’s vehicle fleet to electricity is hardly carbon free if recharging the cars’ batteries relies on carbon based electricity.

The province’s Independent Electrical System Operator (IESO),which manages Ontario’s power system, had begun a stakeholder engagement process to examine the feasibility of phasing-out natural gas. In response, the Ontario Energy Association (OEA,) which represents most large energy providers, quickly generated a report in defence of the gas plants.

gas fired energy plant

One of the three gas fired energy plants the province bought.

The OEA report delivers what they term a ‘rough estimate’ of $60 billion over the next decade as a consequence of eliminating natural gas from electricity production. Rough estimate is a generous term for this sketchy effort at producing a large enough number to get everyone’s attention. And unsurprisingly, the imaginary number, intended to impress the reader, is based on heroic and incomplete assumptions – in short, shoddy work.

But this is not just about climate change and the environmental consequences of burning more fossil fuel. There have been huge economic costs associated with the direction this government has been taking us from the get-go. They gave away $3 billion when they dismantled Ontario’s cap and trade emission reduction system. Another $231 million was spent compensating approved new renewable energy projects which were cancelled by the government.

Then there were the millions, (initially $30 million) which were poured into the pointless effort to kill the national carbon tax. And now the Province is spending $3 billion to buy gas power plants which will have to be decommissioned in as little as a decade.

Meanwhile the government is paying $6 billion a year to subsidize our monthly electricity bill, a practice estimated by the Ontario Energy Association to possibly end up costing $228Billion over the next 25 years. And even so, the cost of electricity has actually increased since this government came to power, peaking just prior to the onset of the pandemic and the Premier’s decision to offer work-at-home rate relief during the crisis.

By any measure, economic or environmental, this is a troubling roadmap. And it is taking Ontario tax payers into the most ideologically driven and wrong-headed misadventure since a former premier broke up Ontario Hydro.

Rivers hand to faceRay Rivers writes regularly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was once a candidate for provincial office in Burlington.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.   Ray has a post graduate degree in economics that he earned at the University of Ottawa.  Tweet @rayzrivers

 

 

Background links:

Coal Power Plants –    Ontario Energy Mix –      Ontario Electricity Rates –

Municipal Pressure –      OEA Study –      TC Plants –

Today’s Energy Mix –     Ratepayer Subsidy – 

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After a bit of kafuffle it comes down to two women seeking the Liberal nomination to be the candidate in the June 2022 provincial election

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

May 31st, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

OPINION

So – what did happen?

We learn that ward 2  Councillor Lisa Kearns had decided to accept a suggestion that she seek the nomination for the Burlington seat in the Legislature.

We were never able to get that confirmed directly from the Burlington Liberal Association but we were able to get confirmation from a reliable party source.

Manaa Miriam H&S

Mariam Manaa – seeking the Liberal nomination.

We were unaware that there was a already a Miriam Manass, woman who had expressed an interest and was running a personal campaign to seek the nomination.

All we had was Lisa Kearns filling her social media with everything she had. Today it was pairs of children’s shoes at the foot of the flag poles outside city hall in support of the 200+ children who were buried on the grounds of a Residential School used to house Indigenous Children who had been taken from their parents.

Kearns with shoes

Lisa Kearns during a Facebook moment at the foot of the flag poles outside city hall

Kearns informed us that she wrote a university thesis on just that issue. We asked for a copy of the thesis thinking it would be interesting to read what a student had to say about the shameful past that had churches being responsible for the welfare of children and then abusing them. Not all the churches but far too many of them.  “Don’t have the document anymore” advised Kearns. Most people hang on to the work they do at the university level.

Then out of the blue we learn that Andrea Grebenc has decided to seek the nomination for the Burlington seat. We thought that she would be a very good candidate for the ward 3 council seat.  She has credibility.

Grebenc

Andrea Grebenc during a virtual school board meeting.

The faster than you can say “Jack Rabbit” Kearns announces that she likes the look of Grebenc and has decided to drop out of the race and support Grebenc.

What really happened?

And also – what happened to the woman who was being “groomed” to replace Kearns on city Council once she had won the provincial seat?

She appears to have been thrown under the bus.

Kearns and Grebenc were not close to each other. I doubt that they actually met – but could be wrong on that.

Our belief is that Kearns found there was a sudden need for a change of clothing when she learned of the Grebenc announcement and did what she could to give herself political coverage.

No need to take a look at the other candidate – Grebenc would fill the bill.

As much as we admire the work Grebenc has done at the school board she would have been better advised to solicit Kearns’ vote and take a pass on an endorsement.

The joint media release the two woman put out was pretty self-serving – no one came out of that looking very good.

The lingering question is – how much damage has Kearns done to her brand and image? She has made herself vulnerable. The mind of the policy wonk failed her – when there was a personal threat – back away.  There has always been a skittishness to Lisa Kearns.

Kearns said both personal and professional matters brought about the decision to withdraw. She should have said that and moved on

Courage of your convictions wouldn’t apply here.

What then does apply?  That is something the voters will get to decide in 2021. Does Kearns think time will wash this all away?

Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette, an online newspaper that was formed in 2010 and is a member of the National Newsmedia Council.

Related news stories

Lisa Kearns announces

Grebenc announces

Mariam Manaa announcement

Joint media release

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Find the will to vaccinate every student and teacher before September

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

May 28th, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The back and forth debate over sending students back to school for the three weeks in June that are the balance of this school term seems to forge what everyone says they want – the best thing for the students.

Stuart Miller

While due to retire in August, current Director of education for the Halton District School Board Stuart Miller could lead a drive to get students vaccinated before September.

Students have been jerked around for the past 18 months.

The pandemic that we are now beginning to admit was something we should have been more aware of did throw a monkey wrench into the way we educated students.

Teachers went into shock when they were asked to teach their students by telephone, which is basically what virtual teaching is. There were no programs to help the teachers overcome the problems.

The equipment needed didn’t exist. The Halton District school Board has put more than “2000 pieces of hardware” into the hands of students.

Some teachers had difficulty adapting to teaching virtually.

The public doesn’t yet understand just how big a challenge students faced. The idea of thinking about teaching kindergarten virtually boggles the mind.

Significant damage has been done, much of it unavoidable.

But surely we don’t have to continue damaging these students.

We appear to be on our way out of the pandemic. Vaccinations are taking place and the Ontario government seems too to have learned to communicate with its citizens.

It looks, as well, that the federal government has vaccine supply lines that are holding.

Could we not now commit to having every student and every teacher vaccinated before school classes begin again in September?

There is an organization called CODE – Committee of Directors of Education.  These men and women have clout – have them use that clout and work with the local Medical Officers of Health and get the job done.

It’s possible – what it appears to be missing is the will.

Find it – the students deserve to be back in the classrooms and the teachers have to be able to do what they do best.

Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette, an online newspaper that was formed in 2010 and is a member of the National Newsmedia Council.

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Rivers asks: Has Ford Been Playing Us ?

 

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

May 22nd, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

OPINION

Doug Ford is right about one thing. Ontario residents will only stop getting sick and dying after we’ve all had our shots. That is because he has been unable and/or unwilling to control the transmission of the virus.

It’s been over a month since he applied his famous emergency brake. And despite the so-called shut down we’re still hitting a couple thousand cases and a couple dozen deaths a day. Yet the reason why it’s taking so long is obvious.

Ford gregarious

Ontario had elected a populist – when the pandemic hit he was expected to lead – many were disappointed.

He shut down the wrong part of Ontario’s economy. Almost 70 percent of COVID transmission in hot spot Toronto, for example, has been taking place in the workplace among factory and warehouse workers and the construction trades.

Had Ford made these folks stay at home we might have seen real and rapid reductions in the numbers. Killing the provincial sick pay plan just made it worse. According to a Peel region study 25% of the industrial workforce had been showing up at work with COVID symptoms.

Ford promised to be brutal at his disastrous April media conference, and he was. But he brutalized the wrong folks. Shutting down outdoor recreational activities, including golf and tennis, which had never reported a case of COVID, was just mean… and stupid.

Doug Ford covid t shirt

Leading the province through a pandemic proved to be more than the Premier and his Cabinet could handle.

But if Ford really wanted to bring the numbers down he should have focused on the sectors where transmission is high. Instead, it was all a smokescreen. He declared residential construction an essential service. How could building a new subdivision in a time of COVID be considered essential?

Mr. Ford’s legislative record makes it clear that he has used the pandemic as a cover to fast track development in the province. His government passed a number of COVID recovery laws last year. And they were more about development than anything else. He has enacted his autocratic Minster’s Zoning Orders, ignoring and bypassing local councils and their voters’ wishes on development.

Ford has unearthed a plan to build a new 400 series highway (413) on property held by a group of developers, who collectively have contributed close to a million dollars to Ford’s party since 2014. They own 39 properties along the proposed route covering 3,300 acres, which is worth about half a billion dollars in today’s market. But their windfall profit is expected to inflate wildly from adjacent sprawl development once the highway is approved.

Ford Doug with graph Apr 16

Scientists were providing solid data – the Premier seemed to use what worked for his agenda.

He has stripped conservation authorities of their role in the approval of new developments that can affect them and all of us. In protest, former Toronto Mayor and Mulroney cabinet minister David Crombie, has resigned as chair of the Greenbelt. And in an insult to everyone who cares about the environment, Ford replaced him with former Harris environment minister Norm Sterling, of Walkerton crisis fame, who actually voted against establishing the Greenbelt.

The speed with which this government is undoing decades of environmental protection in the province is stunning. One has to ask whether Ford is packing in as much development as he can before the next election. And that, apparently, takes priority over controlling COVID.

Ford OPEN for business

It was always about business – the closer they could get to the Premier the better it was for the development community. And they certainly did manage to get very close.

But as the numbers surged this past March, and infected people overwhelmed Ontario’s hospitals, Ford needed to appear to be doing something – to be taking charge. So he scapegoated the federal government and played the rest of us.

His stay at home order was brutal and tough, especially on children and their parents. But it has had little effect on COVID transmission. The numbers are falling because we are getting vaccinated. The stay at home order was mainly just for show.

Rivers hand to faceRay Rivers writes weekly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was a candidate for provincial office in Burlington where he ran against Cam Jackson in 1995, the year Mike Harris and the Common Sense Revolution swept the province.

 

Background links:

Friends with Benefits –     Sick Pay –     Under Cover

Emergency Order –     Construction COVID –       Small Gatherings –

MZO –      Crombie Resigns

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We have a Mayor who does not walk her talk - ducks the opportunity to support local news

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

May 17th, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Tuesday afternoon, tomorrow,  Mayor Marianne Meed Ward will take her seat in Council Chambers as Chair of a meeting of city council.

Along with her is the City Clerk, the audio visual technician – who should be referred to as the magician given the way he manages to keep the video feed stable. It is no small matter.

Part of getting a Council meeting underway is to read a land acknowledgement and to read out any proclamations that are to be made.

The following are the proclamations that are to apply for this meeting of Council

Proclamations:

Day of Action Against Anti-Asian Racism: May 10, 2021

Apraxia Awareness Day: May 14, 2021

National Public Works Week: May 16 – 22, 202

National AccessAbility Week: May 30 – June 5, 2021

World Sickle Cell Day: June 19, 2021

Senior Volunteer Appreciation Week: June 1-8, 2021

Hidradenitis Suppurative (HS) Awareness Week: June 7 – 13, 2021

Month of Play: June 2021

National Indigenous History Month: June 2021

National Deaf/blind Awareness Month: June 2021

Pride Month: June 2021

Her Worship speaks frequently about her 22 years as a journalist and when there were people in the council chamber the Mayor would acknowledge the presence of media.

One would have thought that the Mayor would have chosen to recognize the National News Media week and take up the opportunity to support local news media.

A web site organized by a group of senior journalists with the humorous name inkstainedwretches took on the task of asking municipalities across the country to support local news.  The “wretches” are asking Canadian municipalities to pass a journalism-support resolution between May 3, 2021 and Canada Day.

The petition read:

Given that the creation and distribution of reliable information is crucial for our individual and collective well-being, democracy and civil society;

Given the point to which digital platforms have evolved during the past decade has severely damaged an ecosystem that enables news outlets to provide reliable information (the damage is evident from the number of established news media outlets that closed or merged in Canada since 2008, and has become more critical due to the novel coronavirus pandemic).

We encourage our elected leaders to enact legislation to shape an ecosystem that supports one of the crucial foundations of a functioning democracy: reliable, local journalism.

The following is a lost of all the municipalities that passed a resolution of support to date – look as hard as you may – Burlington is not in the list.

    City of Winnipeg, Man. (April 29, 2021)

    City of Kamloops, BC (April 20, 2021)

    City of London, ON (April 13, 2021)

    Chatham-Kent, ON ( April 12, 2021)

    City of St. John’s, NL (April 5, 2021)

    City of Prince George, BC (March 22, 2021)

    City of Toronto, ON (March 10, 2021)

    Town of Saugeen Shores, ON (Nov. 23, 2020)

    District of Tofino, BC (Oct. 27, 2020)

    City of Kitchener, ON (Sept. 14, 2020)

    Town of Essex, ON (Sept. 8, 2020)

    Town of LaSalle, ON (Sept. 8, 2020)

    City of Cambridge, ON (Sept. 8, 2020)

    City of Kingston, ON (Sept. 1, 2020)

    City of Windsor, ON (Aug. 24, 2020)

    City of Hamilton, ON (July 17, 2020)

    Township of Wellesley, ON (June 30, 2020)

    Township of Woolwich, ON (June 23, 2020)

    Township of North Dumfries, ON (June 22, 2020)

    Township of Wilmot, ON (June 22, 2020)

    City of Waterloo, ON (June 22, 2020)

    Region of Waterloo, ON (June 3, 2020)

While quick to talk about the importance of the media Mayor Meed Ward has yet to hold a press conference since donning the Chain of Office.  Requests to her office for a comment on an issue results in someone from the communications department who ask what it is we want to know.  The Mayor has a full time communications operative working for her.

The Gazette has served the city for ten years. Before becoming Mayor there were numerous interviews with Marianne Meed Ward; nothing since taking the Oath of Office.

Her Worship might surprise us all and produce a resolution before Canada Day.

Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette, an online newspaper that was formed in 2010 and is a member of the National Newsmedia Council.

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Having police in place when they are really needed

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

May 11, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

 

There is a comment in the Gazette from a former police officer who served for 30 years – it deserves some comment.  The police officer wrote:

“My point is …. pay duty officers are requested and paid for by a private company (ie construction, movie shoots) NOT Halton Region, so the suggestion that the City of Burlington request and pay for pay duty officers (out of our tax dollars) is ridiculous. It’s sad to see how the media has contributed to the rise in tension and hate towards the police, of late. AND yes I am proud of my honourable career as a police officer. I worked for HRPS for 30 years!”

Our purpose is not to identify the officer but to respond to her assertion that the Gazette has contributed to the rise in” tension and hate towards the police”.

Rattlesnake 1 police car

Most of the time the police are where they need to be.

The intention is to hold the police accountable and ensure that they be transparent and protect the public that hires them to do just that.

The word hate was introduced by the police officer – not the Burlington Gazette.

Police are often seen on the street, riding bicycles and keeping an eye on things – a basic part of good police work; getting out of the cruiser and seeing what is going on.

In the ten years we have covered Burlington the Gazette has reported on a lot of outstanding police work. There are a lot of smart, dedicated men and women serving the public.

The only thing ridiculous about paying for pay duty police officers is that the taxpayer would be paying twice.

Police officer told us he was on "bikini patrol" and that he loved his job.

Police officer told us he was on “bikini patrol” and that he loved his job.

Times are tough for many people. Coping with the financial damage being done to the hospitality sector is seriously hurting families and some of that pain gets expressed publicly.

People are fearful, they expect, want, and need support.

Most people recognize that is why we have a police service.

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Backbone

Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette, an online newspaper that was formed in 2010 and is a member of the National Newsmedia Council.

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Time to Put Some Backbone Behind the Motto the Regional Police Have.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

May 10th, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

OPINION

The weather is getting warmer; the desire to get outside and enjoy the weather gets stronger every day.

The wearing of masks is getting better – but it’s not as good as it is going to have to be.

Brown and Williams

Dr. Adelstein Brown, head of the Science Table that advises the government, on the left and Dr. David Walker who takes the advice to the Premier.

The science that determines, to a large degree, the decisions the province makes about what we will be able to do and what we will not be permitted to do reacts to the data collected.

The numbers are not really all that much better. Poor enough to have the advisers suggesting that the current Stay at Home be extended two more weeks into June.

The Victoria Day holiday will stress the social cohesion we have even more seriously than it is now.  The Emergency Control Group (ECG) that currently does the thinking, risk measuring, looking for options and doing their best to determine what they will take to Council.

Chief Tanner hard look

Regional Police Chief Stephen Tanner during a virtual meeting with city council.

The comment from the Chief of Police that he did not see Halton Regional Police Service patrolling those locations where crowds tend to converge was much more than a disappointment.

The Mayor is surely thinking through the options as she meets with the ECG.

Something is going to be needed to deter people.   And police can do that.

Meed Ward style

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward: Not amused.

The Mayor has an option; Hire what is referred to as paid duty police service, and have them patrol the parks and the streets on bicycles. These are sworn police officers who do part time work during their off duty hours.

From the Regional Police web site: “The Paid Duty Program will allow clients to hire off-duty officers on a contract basis to provide a police presence at their events. Officers will not be assigned to any function that requires that they act outside the normal scope of police duties.   Terms to be considered when applying for Pay Duty Officers: Events must be within the Region of Halton.”

Then meet with the Police Services Board and let them hear some of her indignation. The Board cannot involve itself in operational matters but they can make their views known directly to the Chief.

The Regional Police use bicycles on a regular basis as part of the way they do their work. Are there any other civic employees using bicycles?

The Regional Police use bicycles on a regular basis as part of the way they do their work. No reason why they can’t be used now. These officers were patrolling Brant Street while a festival was taking place.

The seven members of Burlington City Council are also Regional Councillors. There are all kinds of opportunity to bring pressure on the Region to perhaps allocate additional funds to the HRPS if that is what it needed.

Something has to be done – and whatever is decided upon has to be put in place soon so that city staff are assured that they are safe when they are out meeting with the public.

Mayor Meed Ward has never been shy about picking up the phone and calling the Chief. She may have his number on speed dial.

Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette, an online newspaper that was formed in 2010 and is a member of the National Newsmedia Council.

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Resident 'troubled' by McKenna decision to remove contact form and email from website and disable comments

News 100 blueBy Staff

April 28th, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Communicating with our elected officials should be a very simple process: write a letter, send an email or make a phone call.

That wasn’t the experience Tamara De Dominicis had when she wanted to let Burlington MPP Jane McKenna know how she felt about a vote McKenna cast in the Legislature yesterday.

We want to share that letter with you. All kinds of information in that letter we were not aware of.

Dear Ms. McKenna,

I am writing to you today because I am deeply troubled by your choice to vote against paid sick days for our Ontario workers. Covid aside, no person should have to choose between their health, the health of their coworkers and other points of contact, and their financial security. In this time of a global pandemic, surely it is more important than ever to protect both the individual workers and to stop the spread of illness.

McKenna at the door

MPP Jane McKenna pauses at the door to a public meeting on transit matter – decides not to walk into the room.

If we assume minimum wage earners like those who staff our grocery stores and warehouses, delivering goods that are essential to our daily needs, make approximately $2430 a month (calculated at minimum wage being $14 /hour and a 40 hour work week with a 15% tax deduction for an under $48 535 tax bracket), let us then examine monthly bills.

Assuming rent in Burlington for a one-bedroom costs a minimum $1800, groceries average $200, basic internet is $50, a basic phone plan is $50, and gas is on average $150 monthly, total bills amount to $ 2450 (you’ll note that this is $20 less than their paycheque). Missing a single day of work takes away $97 (after tax).

What kind of choice would you have this person make if they lost out on monies earned from a single day of work? Should they skip groceries? Rent? Internet, and deny their children access to online education?

With the stay at home order, the provincial government introduced a legal requirement to stay home from work if you are feeling ill. This forces sick workers to face a moral conundrum of choosing between following rules laid out by the government for the safety of its people or being able to provide for themselves and their families.

If your government cannot commit to paid sick days in general, surely we can come kind of compromise. You could introduce a temporary bill for paid sick days during the course of the pandemic.

Finally, I am also troubled by your decision to remove your contact form and email from your website and disable comments and messaging from your Instagram account. You are an elected official whose responsibility it is to represent your people. Please listen to our needs and represent us in parliament.

Eagerly awaiting your swift reply in this urgent matter,

Tamara De Dominicis

Ms McKenna isn’t the only elected official that limits where negative comments can be placed.  Burlington’s Mayor and the Regional Chair are both reported to remove comments that do not support them.  Poor practice.

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Kearns now needs to be transparent and accountable and keep her constituents informed

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

April 28th, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The demand that Lisa Kearns resign immediately is foolish.

Were she to do that there would then be the need for a by-election which this city can do without.

Lisa Kearns

Ward 2 Councillor Lisa Kearns

What Ms Kearns should be doing in issuing a Newsletter to her constituents announcing her plans (a tweet is what high school girls do – time to grow up) explaining why she will be running as a Liberal in the next provincial election which will be on June 4th, 2022 unless the Premier feels he needs to return to the people for a new mandate. Not something he is likely to do.

Choosing to drop bits and pieces of her situation here and there or have long chats with her female friends who then pass along the evolving story is a poor way to communicate with a public that elected her in the first place.

Ms Kearns is an intelligent young woman with a first rate mind who has served the city well in a relatively short period of time.

There is now a nomination meeting that has to take place; given that the provincial Liberal’s approached Ms Kearns she may well face nomination uncontested.

The party needs to now focus on putting together a team and raising the dollars to run a strong campaign.  There are many that want the compliant MPP to hold the seat.

Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette, an online newspaper that was formed in 2010 and is a member of the National Newsmedia Council.

 

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Does Doug Ford still have the moral authority to continue as Premier ?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

April 27th, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

OPINION

The Science Table released their recommendations to Doug Ford and his Cabinet on Wednesday of last week and made them public on Thursday of last week.

Most people fully expected the Cabinet decisions would fairly reflect the recommendations.

Science table logoThey didn’t.

That was the moment when everything just flipped. Police forces across the province said they would not follow the provincial directions that would permit them to stop people and ask where they were going .

Municipalities across the province said they could not see how they could close the public parks.

Several very prominent people on the Science Table were prepared to resign.

Burlington’s Mayor called an Emergency Council meeting for the Saturday.

The Premier reversed his position on a number of items on the Monday but by then the damage was done.

Ford tired April 21

A weary, tired Premier – battered by media, pummeled by public opinion.

During a brutal media event that followed, CTV News reporter Colin D’Mello said to Ford: “… you say the buck stops with you, but I think people across this province are wondering, what does that actually mean? Columnists have recently said there is no effective leadership at Queens Park. Another one said you are showing raging ineptitude, and some are calling for your resignation.”  D’Mello then asked:  “Premier, do you still have the moral authority to lead this province as Premier?

The penny had just dropped.  The public has not seen the Premier since.

John Doyle in his Globe and Mail column on entertainment was just as brutal. On Monday of this week he said: “If you live in Ontario, Premier Doug Ford has been ubiquitous on TV for more than a year. Almost every weekday – rarely on weekends – he’s been part of the local newscasts.

“During this pandemic period, his TV appearances and news conferences have had a strange trajectory. It’s been an up-and-down, zigzagging media strategy that was always going to lead to his recent blubbering, blustering mea culpa-filled news conference from a backyard in northwestern Toronto.

“Ford is not a natural on TV. But, watching him, you suspect he thinks he is. His natural mode is combative, dismissive and inflexible. And that has led him and his handlers down a disastrous road. Only media strategists who are themselves right-wing populists with a pro-business, anti-union agenda could possibly think it was ever going to work long-term through a human catastrophe.

“There was a time, at the start of all this, when Ford’s angry inflexibility fit the occasion. Then it didn’t, mainly because Ford and his communications team ceased to focus on the broad public good and began spinning a narrow political agenda that confounded the public and was aimed at a political base only. Inflexible became insincere and then deceitful.”

Ford gregarious

In his first year he couldn’t be stopped – he was everything to everyone. Then the penny dropped

March of last year Ford was on TV, enraged by price-gouging when a high-end grocery chain began selling hand wipes, usually costing about $8.49, for $30. “Nothing gets me more furious than someone taking advantage and price-gouging the public that are in desperate need of these items,” Ford thundered. He announced he would enact legislation to outlaw the gouging. The grocery chain backed off and apologized.

Ford’s media strategy went awry precisely when he began to ignore medical experts – that’s an example of media-savvy strength vaporizing – and made explicitly political and ideological decisions.

We’ve seen many things in Ontario this past year and among the most bizarre has been the unraveling of a communications plan that, as soon as Ford’s angry inflexibility became a liability, was always going to end in tears.

And so where are we now? The news Monday reporting the death of a 13 year old girl who died at home of a Covid19 infection while her Mother was in the hospital recovering from a Covid19 infection.

The child’s father, the family breadwinner, had to work if the family was to be fed.

The public fully expected the Premier to announce something that reflected the Science Table recommendations. Sick days pay was front and centre along with target vaccinations programs aimed the “hot spots”.

On Friday of last week  – nothing

Saturday, Sunday nothing. Premier Ford does not work weekends.

Surely there would be something on Monday.

Nothing.

Ford - editorial cartoon

Editorial cartoonists had found there mark – they were merciless.

While the provincial leadership appeared to be frozen,  Medical Officers of Health in Brampton and Toronto were inspecting work places where there were large numbers of employees working in crowed conditions.  The different Medical Officers of Health shut plants down for for periods of time.

Not a word from the Chief Medical Officer of Heath for the province reporting on what was happening.

Each day the number of new infections and deaths were reported – positivity rates were above the 10% level.

There had been no action on the desperate need for paying people who should not be reporting for work.

Yesterday and today the public learns that the federal government and the provincial government were bickering over a plan that would put $1000 a week into the pockets of those who  had to stay home from work.

The sticking point was who would run the program.  The federal government has their CERB program – all a person had to do was apply and then wait for the money to appear in their bank account..  The federal program was limited to $500 a week – Ontario said they would top it up to $1000 if the federal government ran it.  The federal government said the computer application wasn’t flexible enough to be revised.

What the public was seeing was the equivalent of a bunch of chickens running around with their heads chopped off – blood all over the place.

Factory and assembly line workers in the Brampton area were, in the words of one scientist, “being left to burn”.

The province was reported to be anxious about how their stakeholders would react to being forced to pay people who did not report for work because they were ill.

Meanwhile Amazon, Sobeys, Loblaws and others were reporting massive revenue gains.

There is a simple solution – have the province order the corporations to pay people if they are not well enough to work and then let the corporations turn to the federal and provincial governments for reimbursement.

Those companies have payroll procedures in place – they can move money into bank accounts in literally minutes.

All we have to do is coax the Premier out of hiding and do another media event where he tells his Minister of Finance and Minister of Labour to get into a conference room (wear your masks – keep six feet apart) and figure this out and have a solution they could take to Cabinet.

The provincial bureaucracy would arrange for pizza and some of that buck a beer to sustain them while they figure it out

We are facing a disaster – we know what has to be done – other jurisdictions have solved this problem.

Ontario, the economic engine of the country, is now relying on medical people from the Maritime provinces and the armed forces to fly in and help us through this.  The last time that happened was when Mel Lastman called in the army to clear snow from the streets.

Andrea_Horwath 2

Could Andrea form a government?

Doug Ford has has shown that he is not up to the job that has to be done.  There isn’t all that much in the way of leadership on the opposition benches to replace the current government and one can’t see any of the Cabinet members itching to be Premier.

Later this week there will be a funeral for a 13 year old girl who died despite her father using CPR to get oxygen into her young lungs.

Nothing in the way of condolences from the Office of the Premier.

These tragedies have to stop.

Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette, an online newspaper that was formed in 2010 and is a member of the National Newsmedia Council.

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Community Development Halton places a $ value on the volunteer work done in the Region

opinionred 100x100By Mike Nixon,

April 26th, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

 

I have always been a very avid reader of anything of an historical nature. After all, it seems that the best, and sometimes most unbelievable stories find their basis in truth. And of such great importance especially now, I firmly believe that there is truth in Maya Angelou’s statement that, “You can’t really know where you are going until you know where you have been.”

Amelia Earhart

The Airborne Activist, Amelia Earhart on the cover of Canada’s History magazine – why did that happen.

It probably isn’t so surprising then to learn that I recently read through an issue of Canada’s History magazine which captured my eye with a photo of Amelia Earhart on the cover. I have tremendous admiration for the many accomplishments of Ms. Earhart – her story is quite amazing! But my immediate thought upon seeing her picture on the cover of a Canadian history publication was, “what on earth was Amelia Earhart’s connection to Canada?” The answer was remarkable and is a beautiful story which ties into this month’s National Volunteer Week in Canada!

The story goes that in the latter part of WWI, Amelia visited her sister (who was enrolled at St. Margaret’s College in Toronto) during Christmas, 1917. While walking along King Street one day with her sister they came upon four soldiers, each missing a leg and supporting each other. This so shook Amelia that she had to duck into a local store – perhaps not a surprise given that the U.S. had only that year entered the war, and the ravages of battle were not so much a common sight there.

Instead of returning to the U.S., Amelia decided to stay in Toronto so she could help in the war effort. She completed courses in first aid and home nursing at the St. John’s Ambulance Brigade becoming the sole American to enroll in wartime for the Volunteer Aid Detachment. Dubbed “Sister Amelia” by those she tended to, Earhart spent several years here volunteering her time in everything from working 12-hour days emptying bedpans, making beds, washing patients and serving food to preparing laboratory slides and cultures.

This is a singular example of volunteerism at the time, but not by any means remote. Volunteering is a way of life for many Canadians – it is now and has been since confederation. Some volunteers and volunteer organizations have been inspired – like Earhart – by compassion, some by injustice, others by the simple want to help and support their neighbours and communities.

This Canadian tradition of helping fellow citizens in many ways started on the concept of ‘loving our neighbours,’ building on the values of our Native communities, Canada’s first Christian settlers and the members of virtually every religion which have arrived in Canada since.

And it’s fascinating to know that the roots of many of our volunteer efforts now have a direct relationship to the traditions of our multicultural heritage, from practices adopted in the Maritimes from the English Poor Laws of the 18th century, to Canadians of German descent forming the first funeral or burial society in Halifax in 1753, the founding and work of the Chinese Consolidated
Benefit Association in the late 1800’s, to the founding of the CNIB as a direct effect of the 1917
Halifax explosion.

Winners--Burlingtons-Best-2017---May-12th_-2

Burlington’s Best was one of the way the city recognized those who went above and beyond in serving their community. Mayor Meed Ward made the wise decision to reorganize the way the city recognized people – then Covid19 hit and the event was halted. The expectation is that it will be revived.

Fast-forward to present day, volunteerism in Canada connects people, communities, non-profit and public organizations and, quite frankly all that we do now like at no other time. In 2018 almost 13 million people volunteered for charities, non-profits and community organizations in Canada, accounting for approximately 41% of Canadians aged 15 and over. They dedicated about 1.7 billion hours to their formal volunteer activities (people giving unpaid help through groups, clubs, and organizations) – a volume of work equivalent to more than 863,000 full-time year-round jobs.

Perhaps not surprisingly Baby Boomers and Matures (ages ranging from 56 – 103) were over 70% more likely to iGens (born 1996 and up) to be ‘top’ volunteers, spending 132 hours more on volunteer activities.

But hold on …. and perhaps a silver lining of the current pandemic – with many baby boomers and matures now struggling to keep their businesses afloat or working from home, concerned about their own health and isolating, and in some cases caring for elderly parents, this group has had less time for volunteering during the pandemic. During this time there has been a remarkable surge of iGens, Millennials, and Gen Xers who have been committing to informal volunteering – volunteers providing unpaid help as an individual to others (non-relative) through activities such as shoveling snow, shopping for the elderly and many other examples.

In our own backyard – in the Region of Halton it is estimated that approximately 200,000 volunteers (age 15 and over) put in over 325,000 hours per year. If we apply an average wage of $27 (76% of the economy wide average wage of $35.50/hr), this equates to approximately $870,000,000 + or 17,000 full-time jobs – or 11% of all full-time jobs in Halton.

Last week was National Volunteer Week in Canada. And of course, as part of Community Development Halton, Volunteer Halton has been very actively involved. We would have liked to have hosted our annual (in-person) Volunteer Recognition Breakfast – which obviously we couldn’t. That wasn’t going to stop us, however from focusing on the most important aspect of that event – the amazing volunteers in this Region who give of their time, helping our neighbours and make living in Halton so fulfilling.

Through interaction with many of our community groups in the four major centres in Halton we were able to identify 8 individuals who CDH and Volunteer Halton were proud, and quite frankly privileged to present our 2021 Volunteer Impact Awards. In all honesty, every single volunteer whose names were put forward – and those who were not – deserved awards as well! Every ounce of commitment put into individual acts of volunteerism within our communities was so well appreciated by the community groups through whom the volunteers participated and especially by those for whom they served.

I personally had the immense joy of being on hand for each of these presentations. It is so easy to get down during this pandemic, but I must say that each of the days in which my colleague, Heather Thompson and I had the pleasure of meeting these volunteers and the organizations who nominated them, was pure joy for me. To see the passion which drives these individuals, the commitment they have provided – many of them for years and for several organizations – and to
experience ‘vicariously’ through the volunteers the fulfillment which they receive by giving of themselves, well, it was so gratifying for me and filled me with immense pride. Not only to meet these incredible individuals and families but to feel even just a little part of the amazing compassion that they provide to their ‘neighbours.’

I can’t say strongly enough how important these volunteer efforts are to the communities in which we are all most fortunate to live. Our volunteers make lives and living better for us all and I can only suggest that more of us get involved with the wonderful missions which each of Halton’s community groups operate throughout the year – you will be overwhelmed at how good it feels.

I invite you to please take a look at the beautiful stories of those to whom Volunteer Halton had the privilege to present awards. You can read these stories on CDH’s website or through this link https://cdhalton.ca/2021/04/23/halton-volunteer-impact-award-2021.

How important is it to one who gives so much of themselves through their volunteer work? I can answer quite simply by quoting one of the lovely individuals with whom I had the pleasure of meeting last week …. “volunteering is as necessary to me as breathing.”

Mike NixonMike Nixon is the Executive Director of Community Development Halton.

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A new approach to budget setting gets revealed at Councillor's ward meeting

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

April 24th, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The week was a media bonanza for ward 2 Councillor Lisa Kearns.

Lisa Kearns

Ward 2 Councillor Lisa Kearns

On Wednesday she handled a two hour webcast on what is known now as Fairview LP, the gigantic development that will rise on the 8.5 acre property to the east of the Burlington GO station; on Thursday she held a ward meeting in which she jammed in everything she could possibly tell you about what she is achieving at city hall.

There was one item of significant interest in the city hall recap – that was what appears to be a new and very welcome approach to creating budgets.

Kearns first explained that the 4.14% increase on the city portion of your tax bill was really necessary – that can be argued at some future date.

Kearns also explained how hard council had worked to get a budget in place before the end of March.

The Finance department prefers to get a budget in place before the end of a calendar year but Covid19 has screwed up everything everyone is trying to get done.

wervbg

The practice in the past was to invite the public to “review” the budget that had already been decided upon. It was community engagement at its worst – getting public input before city departments did their work would be classic community engagement.

The plan, if we heard to ward Councillor correctly, was to start budget thinking in June and ask the public what they would like to see before having the various departments submit their first cut on a budget.

The Gazette has been advocating this for years – maybe, just maybe, they will ask the public how they would like to see their money spent.

Done properly this could be very effective.

Time will tell.

Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette, an online newspaper that was formed in 2010 and is a member of the National Newsmedia Council.

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Rivers on the Federal Budget: A Chicken in Every Pot

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

April 22, 2021

BURLINGTON,  ON

 

Just like that it was over!  Presentation of a budget with no real surprises, unlike the almost alarmist complaining by the opposition parties that it had been two years in coming.   And it’s a huge budget document with spending to match.   There was relatively little post-budget fuss except for the habitual Tory complaints about the mounting size of the deficit and the debt.

PM - DPM & finance 2021 budget

Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland preparing to speak to her budget which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau leafs through.

None of the opposition leaders want an election right now, so they are behaving very gingerly to avoid an excuse for an election.  The polls show the Liberals would win again and maybe with a majority this time.  And the Libs would love to take advantage of that, but we’re in probably the worst phase of the pandemic now and the voters resent it when opportunistic governments call inconvenient and untimely elections.  So it’ll come but not just yet.

The pundits are calling this an election budget anyway.  And it is loaded with goodies for just about everyone.  A chicken in everyone’s pot.   In any case it’s all borrowed money – so more like the government borrowing your chicken to give it back to you.  The biggest goodies are climate related initiatives, creating a million jobs this year, and a ten dollar a day national child care program.  But everyone gets some kind of handout, be it farmers, householders, green energy start ups, existing oil companies, and even seniors.

The $10 a day pre-school plan is long overdue for a society which values social interdependence as Canadians like to think we do.  Quebec’s successful program is the template which the feds are looking at.  The results from la Belle Province include better early education, increased female participation in the labour force and economic growth.

We too might have already had this program.  But Jack Layton’s NDP’s pulled the plug on Paul Martin’s minority government in 2006 and with it died a unique federal provincial agreement to establish a national child care program.  Stephen Harper’s, supported by Layton, killed the initiative and gave parents some cash instead, which as one Liberal partisan noted, would likely buy beer and chips instead.   So Mr. Singh is on shaky ground when he claims this has been a long term NDP policy.

cheque Ottawa to Quebec

Federal civil servant handing over a cheque to a Quebec civil servant.

Having showed their hand Mr Trudeau and his finance minister have got their job cut out for them getting the current field of cash strapped premiers to ante up and sign on to a new plan.  And the feds have weakened their negotiating position by saying they would be picking up half of the bill.   Quebec has signaled that it would be happy to get a cheque instead, since it already has a program.

Not every good idea made it to the budget however.  Rank and file Liberals who paid their money to participate in the recent policy convention must be disappointed that their highest priorities seem to have got lost.  Pharmacare, a priority also for the NDP, seems to have been overlooked, though another NDP policy, a federal minimum wage of $15 per hour, has been included.

Universal basic income (UBI) didn’t even get a mention though about 90% of voting delegates supported it at their convention.  That is probably because a UBI would make it more difficult to justify the kind of piecemeal pork that get handed out with this kind of budget – discretionary top-ups and the continuation of COVID emergency programs, most of which are poorly thought out, like the problematic federal sick leave.

And then there is the mother of all wasteful programs – the COVID wage subsidy.   At about $100 billion the wage subsidy is the most costly federal COVID-19 program, and one of the most expensive short-term government programs in Canadian history.  Companies get taxpayer money so they can keep people on the payroll when they don’t have enough work for them.  Isn’t that what we used to call Soviet-style socialism?

football CFL

Canadian Football League wants to get its snout into the trough as well

But it turns out that is a great way to put more money into the pockets of shareholders and to fatten the bonuses and salaries of senior executives, while regular workers are given the boot anyway.   Apparently even the big three telecoms are sucking up wage subsidy money, even at a time when internet usage is up 70-90%.  And telecom rates haven’t declined that I’ve noticed, so how do they qualify?  And how does the CFL (Canadian Football League) get to dip its pigskin in the trough as well?

Who would approve such a wasteful program?  Turns out it was a unanimous decision of all the patties.  And, this has to be a conflict of interest because all four national political parties have also applied for a wage subsidy from this program.   So the next time Erin O’Toole complains about the mounting cost of the deficit, someone should remind him that he and his party are also a big part of the problem.

Rivers hand to faceRay Rivers, born in Ontario earned an economics degree at the University of Western Ontario and a Master’s degree in economics at the University of Ottawa.  His 25 year stint with the federal government included time with Environment, Fisheries and Oceans, Agriculture and the Post office.  Rivers is active in his community; has run for municipal and provincial office.

Background links:

Budget –     Wage Subsidy –    Political Parties at the Trough

 

Cost of Wage Subsidy –     The Rip Off Crowd –     Sealing the Deal

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Leading American newspaper takes a look at how Canada has handled the pandemic

background graphic redBy Sarah Miller Liana

April 21st, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

Reprinted from the Christian Science Monitor

The headline read:

‘Humbling’: Canada’s self-image slides in pandemic as US rebounds

Last year, as the first wave of the pandemic waned, Canadians were grieving from the toll of it all. Yet they were also relatively grateful – especially as they looked at their neighbor to the south.

Christian Science MonitorThe pandemic amplified all the things Canada lauds itself for when it compares itself with the United States – as a nation that is a fraction of the size of the powerhouse next door often does. Its universal health care, a functional government, a communal spirit, and a rule-abiding culture were held up as reasons that case numbers stayed reasonably low. The U.S., meanwhile, bickered about masks and whether the virus was a hoax as cases surpassed anywhere else in the world.

Now Canada finds itself amid a daunting third wave. And as the U.S. has flexed its muscle in an ambitious inoculation campaign, a counter-narrative is emerging among some Canadians that finds them unsettled but also humbled. It underscores a national inclination toward comparative assessment that can often blind the country to its own shortcomings on everything from gun violence to racism to health care – and make it too hard on both the U.S. and itself.

For months, Canada looked at the U.S. pandemic response and felt a sense of superiority. But now the narrative has flipped, and it’s pointing to the danger of building a sense of self-worth on comparisons.

“A year ago it was all about how America breaks the rules … while we are a ‘play by rules crowd,’” says Michael Adams, the president of the Environics Institute, which measures Canadian attitudes. Now the narrative centers around just how much of a global leader in science, manufacturing, and distribution the U.S. is while Canada waits.

“You need a balanced view,” he says. “We – the world and Canada at the head of the list – are benefiting from American innovation and an American can-do philosophy. You can’t just look at America through all the problems they have.”

For the first time, as the world enters year two of the pandemic, Canada has surpassed the U.S. on a per capita basis for the number of new COVID-19 cases, shaking its sense that its compliant culture or commitment to public health would protect it from the worst playing out south of the border.

Today, while many Americans start traveling and tasting a return to normalcy, many parts of Canada have entered their darkest moment. British Columbia has issued a “circuit breaker” shutdown. Quebec extended a months long curfew, ordering residents home by 8 p.m. in some cities like Montreal, leading to protests there.

Ontario, where 40% of Canadians live, has been hardest hit. This week it announced it was shuttering schools indefinitely. Hospitals have canceled all but emergency surgeries for the first time since March 2020 and are preparing field hospitals as record cases wallop the province.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has been far faster at providing shots to those who want them, with 38% of Americans receiving one dose versus 22% of Canadians. Canada is dependent on global supply chains for its doses, and is hoping to get more surplus from the U.S. All this feeds directly into Canadian perceptions of how they stand next to the U.S.

Aisles of non-essential goods are cordoned off at a Walmart store, as new measures are imposed on big-box stores due to the pandemic, in Toronto, April 8, 2021.

Randy B

Randy Boyagoda: professor of English at the University of Toronto

“Canadians define themselves against the United States, and did so perhaps with greater satisfaction and justification over the past four years, and in particular during the dramatic playing out of the pandemic over the past year,” says Randy Boyagoda, a Canadian novelist and professor of English at the University of Toronto. “Now Canadians are forced to reconsider one of the fundamental features of their self-understanding.”

The founding idea of Canada lies in “peace, order, and good government.” Dr. Boyagoda saw proof of that reiterated in the orderly, yet slower, vaccine rollout where he is in Ontario. But is orderly always the best way forward if it gets in the way of dynamism and speed? “Eight months ago, we were taking great satisfaction in not having the same public health situation as in the United States. I think right now we take less satisfaction.”

The current situation is just a snapshot in time; Canada’s per capita death toll is still only a third of that of its neighbor. But the reversal comes as a punch, particularly because it involves health, one area where Canadians overwhelmingly agree their model is superior to the market approach taken in the U.S.

Kate Snider, a high school student in Toronto, is a Canadian American contemplating where to go to university next year: “Last year I was apprehensive about applying to any U.S. schools.” Right now “it seems to be a lot safer in the U.S.”

What Canadians fault most is what they see as a political response in many provinces that they find incoherent. The country’s current plight has spurred important debate, on topics ranging from the demise of Canadian manufacturing capability to provinces not offering workers paid sick leave. But there is also some sense of “humbling,” says Richard Nimijean, who teaches Canadian studies at Carleton University in Ottawa.

Rethinking the comparison

Comparing Canada with the U.S. often has a distorting effect on issues, whether it’s pandemic response, racism, police and gun violence, or poverty. Faring better than the U.S. on most measures can promote a complacency that makes it difficult to tackle internal problems.

Richard Nimijean

Richard Nimijean: teaches Canadian studies at Carleton University in Ottawa.

Dr. Nimijean, for example, often talks about Canadian health care in his classes and asks if students would feel superior about their system if they compared it not with the U.S., but with Scandinavia. An answer, he says, “is not even in their mindset, because the U.S. dominates so much.”

“But in international comparisons of wealthy countries, Canada doesn’t perform that well. It performs better than the United States,” he says. “So we need to be careful about how we assert these ideas.”

Canadian activists trying to address discrimination in policing or racism generally also complain that their fight is discounted because problems here are overshadowed by incidents in the U.S. On the flip side, Niel Avendano, a Canadian in Toronto who lived in Texas for 20 years, says Canadians often assume that the U.S. is just the worst of what is seen on the nightly news, without any nuance.

Living next to the neighbor with the “10,000-square-foot house” compared with your “1,500-square-foot house” can also lend itself to outsize expectations, Mr. Avendano says. He is not surprised that a country a tenth of the size of the U.S. isn’t a leader on the world stage, and Canadians can have a “complex” for not being an economic, military, or diplomatic force. “Israel is not a world leader. Australia is not a world leader. Why is it we expect Canada can be?”

And despite a harsh third wave, Canadians remain firm in acknowledging that that shouldn’t take away all that Canada has done right, while the U.S. fights culture wars around the pandemic. Nelson Wiseman, a political science professor at the University of Toronto, says the pandemic has not been politicized like it has in the U.S. “I think Canadians can be too smug about themselves,” he argues, “but on the other hand, it is objectively the case that our society is, at the present time, more sane, more coherent, and just more together.”

 

Canadian flag at Quebec referendum

“… our society is, at the present time, more sane, more coherent, and just more together.”

 

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The people thought to be spreading the Covid19 virus are caught between federal and provincial benefit programs

opinionred 100x100By Andrew Drummond

April 20th, 2021

BURLINGTON,, ON

 

Monday morning the Ford government again voted down an NDP motion to introduce paid sick days to Ontario.

Doug Ford covid t shirt

Difficult to say that we are actually conquering the virus.

Ford and the Conservatives have been consistent in opposing any implementation of paid sick days with their most common excuse being that it would conflict with existing federal programs. However, despite this, paid sick days has been a key recommendation from many groups to fight the COVID pandemic. Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health, Dr. Barbara Yaffe; The Ontario Medical Association and the Ontario Hospital Association are among those beyond the NDP who have consistently called for this to be a primary measure in Ontario’s fight against COVID, and the lack of its implementation is a key reason Ontario has fallen behind in this fight.

As of April 18, there have been more than 21,000 COVID-19 cases directly attributable to workplace outbreaks according to the Ontario government’s data (Likely source of infection | COVID-19 (coronavirus) in Ontario). That is in addition to the massive but difficult to quantify numbers of people who have been infected with COVID-19 from caretakers or other health employees.

Throughout this pandemic, workers have been going to work sick because they have no other reasonable choice. Until that is stopped, Ontario will still be at risk.

Canada sick benefits apr20The most common excuse the Ford government has given for why they won’t implement a paid sick leave policy is that is conflicts with the federal government’s Canada Sickness Recovery Benefit (CSRB). Ford has repeatedly referenced this program. “There’s paid sick leave from the federal government,” Ford said on April 7. However, there are many differences between the CSRB and a mandatory sick leave policy and showing the details of the limitations of CSRB, helps to understand why it hasn’t been enough to slow workplace outbreaks.

The first major limitation with CSRB is that it is only paid out if a person actually has COVID or is isolating because a close contact does. You do not get any payments if you were sick for any other reason. So, if you have a cough and are having trouble breathing, you need to get a COVID test. However, you also must still go to work in the meantime, and you are not eligible for CSRB unless that test comes back positive. This obviously doesn’t help people stay home the first day they are symptomatic, which will also be the time where they are most likely to communicate it to others. This limitation alone makes it unlikely that CSRB is doing anything to reduce the spread of COVID in Ontario.

The second major limitation is that CSRB doesn’t provide any job protection. If you are a worker in a factory or warehouse and you catch COVID, CSRB will give you 2 weeks of income. However, your employer can still fire you for not showing up to work. For anyone whose employment is precarious, this is an obvious dealbreaker. It doesn’t matter if that worker gets 2 weeks pay, they are still without a job in an economy that isn’t doing well. If a worker must choose between trying to hide their illness or losing their job, many will choose to try and save their job. In some of those cases, it leads the rest of the workplace to get sick.

The third limitation of CSRB is the logistics of receiving the credit. There are two major technical limitations. First, the benefit only pays out in full weeks. You cannot get the benefit for any part of a week (since all COVID cases would require multiple full week’s isolation). Secondly, a worker won’t receive any money until 4 weeks after they have applied as the government processes the claim. This means that anyone living paycheque to paycheque will have no ability to get the money they need for rent or food because their income would be delayed for 4 weeks. Another reason that precariously employed workers can’t take time off and depend on this program.

Ontario at one time was a province that had mandated sick leave for all workers. It was only 2 days per year, but it offered some protection. However, Ford’s government removed those days in 2018 when they took office. Since that time, the pandemic has made clear what a disastrous mistake that was. Hopefully with all the public pressure being put on the government by Andrea Horwath, the NDP, and various community and medical groups, Ford will relent to the expert’s advice and bring in a long overdue program to ensure that we reduce the number of workplace outbreaks in the future.

Andrew Drummond was the NDP candidate in the last provincial election.

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A health crisis and a confidence issue - how much can the public handle ?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

April 19th, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

 

There are a lot of people very unhappy with the Premier.

Brown and Williams

Dr. Adelstein Brown, Chair of the Science Table , keeps a safe distance from Dr. David Williams, Chief Medical Officer of Health.

Members of the Science table who advise the Chief Medical Officer of the province who then advises the Premier are talking about resigning.

They don’t think the Premier understands the gravity of the Covid19 situation and how close we are to being out of control.

Leader of the provincial Liberals want the Premier to resign – Stephen Del Duca said: ““Doug Ford is the worst Premier in Ontario history at a time when leadership matters the most. He should resign now before he makes things any worse. If he does, I will be the first to commend him, because it takes real guts to get out of the way when he’s screwed up this badly. But he won’t. Because he only cares about himself and his special friends.”

That’s just politics – Del Duca has yet to win a seat to even sit in the Legislature.k

It is becoming very clear that this government cannot seem to get ahead of the crisis. Paid sick leave for those people who have the crummy jobs, live with large families, often in congested space, work for a bit more than the minimum wage and having to use public transit doesn’t seem to be something the province is prepared to do.

Ford Doug with graph Apr 16

Premier Ford uses data provided by the Science Table as a prop during a media event – but doesn’t follow the recommendations that came with the data.

Money can’t be the issue – the Premier keeps saying “whatever it takes”. It takes taking care of the people who work in the hospitals who are approaching burn out, the single parent who works in the supermarket and now has to figure out how she is going to care for her children with schools closed.

The decision to give police the authority to stop people at random and have them justify why they are out of their homes was a stretch when the public was informed – then at least 30 police forces in the province declare they aren’t going to use the authority – the province backs off.

There is a health crisis that is barely under control.

There is a confidence problem as well.

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Rivers: When is a Tax Not a Tax ?

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

April 18th, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

OPINION

When you are wrong, you are wrong. The adult thing to do is to just admit it. The debate on carbon taxation is over and Mr. O’Toole has his job cut out educating those dinosaurs in his party who couldn’t even concede that climate change is real.

o'tOOLE SMUG 1

With O’Toole’s ‘green’ rewards, the more often you fill up your car the more more points you earn.

Everyone had been expecting to see his long promised Tory environment policy, ‘Secure the Environment’. But no one expected O’Toole to include a carbon tax, after all the criticism he had heaped on that idea.

Perhaps that is why O’Toole’s tax actually resembles a loyalty card, a kind of Petro-Point collector. Though since it is mandatory, it’s still a tax, something he doesn’t get. And he clearly also doesn’t understand that the incentive should be to reduce green house gas emissions. With O’Toole’s ‘green’ rewards, the more often you fill up your car the more more points you earn. And those points in your personal low carbon saving account entitle you to a ‘green’ prize of the government’s choosing – rather than a guaranteed fixed rebate on your taxes each year.

Some environmental groups have lauded O’Toole though they note that the bar for him to jump was pretty low. And this may all seem like heady stuff for the Tories, but his environmental plan reads like something the Liberals might have written a couple of decades ago – before we all wasted so much time talking about climate change instead of doing something about it.

Setting a goal of 30% for electric vehicles (EV) sales by 2030, may sound new age, but 30% pales when compared to Quebec’s decision to ban all gasoline car sales by 2035. And the Tory policy document offers no real plan on how to get there.

For a party which sells itself as a tax fighter and calls out its opponents as big taxers and spenders, fiscal conservatives will be holding their noses on election day. There are new taxes proposed for luxury vehicles, frequent flyers and even second homes, in addition to the new carbon tax. It is no wonder that the folks at the Taxpayers Federation are going ballistic, calling O’Toole out for breaking his promises.

O'Toole smug 4

Another billion for car battery development, another billion for hydrogen power from natural gas and five more billion for carbon capture and sequestration

And there are billions of dollars in new spending thrown in, as if the traditional Tory pre-occupation with debt no longer matters. There is a billion promised to develop mini nuclear power plants, another billion for car battery development, another billion for hydrogen power from natural gas and five more billion for carbon capture and sequestration – which involves pumping oil sands emissions into the ground and praying they will stay there.

O’Toole has borrowed from Andrew Scheer’s environment playbook, promising more natural gas exports to other countries to help them reduce their coal burning, whether they want it or not. And that probably would lead to more discussion of new pipelines. Interestingly he has backtracked on his party’s opposition to the Liberal’s low carbon fuel standard much as he has now accepted federal carbon pricing for industrial polluters.

There is a brief mention of ‘carbon border trade tariffs’ to level the field for Canadian companies competing against producers in other countries with less constraining environmental standards. This is something the Biden administration is also considering, though it’s an uphill battle against the free trade lobby. Still O’Toole is only committing to study the idea.

While O’Toole talks about increased energy supply he ignores the lowest cost option, the lowest hanging fruit – renewable energy. The Biden administration, south of the border, is banking on wind and solar to drastically shave US carbon emissions. Driving electric or hydrogen powered vehicles will not get Canada to its carbon goals if the electricity that charges/powers them comes largely from carbon based fuels.

O'Toole smug 3

O’Toole’s proposed carbon tax is seriously flawed and may actually lead to increased carbon emissions, rather than reduce them

O’Toole understands that the party he leads is out of step with the majority of Canadians, even in Alberta, who expect the country to deal with its pollution and meet its international climate goals. ‘Secure the Environment’ was intended to correct that imbalance. Unfortunately the plan is still too ideologically driven and still too overly consumed with a dying resource sector.

O’Toole’s proposed carbon tax is seriously flawed and may actually lead to increased carbon emissions, rather than reduce them. Further, his decision to introduce his own carbon tax and claim that it isn’t a tax, is shameful behaviour for someone aspiring to Canada’s highest office.

Why not just admit he’s changed his mind and now accepts the existing carbon tax framework, much like he has done for the industrial polluters. And why not confirm the reality that the carbon tax has neither proven a drag on the economy, nor overly hurt working Canadians. Otherwise he wouldn’t be promoting carbon taxation, even if by another name.

Rivers hand to faceRay Rivers writes weekly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was a candidate for provincial office in Burlington where he ran against Cam Jackson in 1995, the year Mike Harris and the Common Sense Revolution swept the province.

 

 

 

Background links:

Secure the Environment –    Loyalty Cards –    Worst of Both –

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