Rivers returns from Kyiv with a better understanding of linguistic differences; recalls the Quebec referendum fondly.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

April 20, 2016


Canada has been a strong supporter of Ukraine. After all – there are more diaspora here than anywhere else, except Russia. So we’ve offered economic help, spoken out at the UN and NATO, are helping to train Ukrainian troops, and even supplying some military equipment. In a rare moment of domestic political agreement, both the former Conservatives and Mr. Trudeau’s party have been unanimous in this support

I visited the ‘National Museum of the History of Ukraine’ in World War II, which used to be called the ‘Museum of the Great Patriotic War’ before Mr. Putin’s invasions. These are not the times to be ambiguous about whose patriotism we are talking about – so the name got changed. It’s an impressive museum and there are magnificent sculptures on the grounds – of the proletariat, men and women, doing their bit for the big victory.

Many Ukrainians died in the Second World War and one could ask what they actually were fighting for. The Nazis were nasty people. Yet, looking at Finland fighting Russian aggression, some nationalist Ukrainians had hoped that the Germans would free them from the yoke of the oppressive Soviet regime, and its murderous leader. I didn’t notice much of that discussion among the gunnery and soldiers uniforms spread about the floors of the museum. Not yet anyway.

Kiev Rivers sculptureOn the main floor, near the exit, sits a military truck, riddled with bullet holes, as if it were placed there to tease the attendee. Sure enough around the corner is a room dedicated to the over 2000 soldiers who had recently been killed in the Donbas. And that wasn’t counting the civilians or the number who’d been sacrificed on the other side, including those of the Russian regular army. A war without purpose and seemingly without end.

It was a moving exhibit set in the context of what was going on today. As I turned to leave, my eyes locked with those of the presiding female attendant. It was only a few seconds but I was left with a powerful image that will always haunt me. We didn’t speak, and anyway, what would we have said, and in which language – but the emotion was clear?

Mr. Putin would argue that Ukraine isn’t a nation and so Ukrainian isn’t a national language – just a dialect of Russian. Yet this language still persists and is growing in use, despite numerous efforts by the subsequent Russian and Soviet authorities to destroy it. And while more people speak Russian globally, researchers argue that Russian was derived from Ukrainian and not the other way around, making it the dialect in my book.

Being Canadian I know a little of linguistic divides, because we are a bilingual nation, and a relatively contented one at the present. And English and French are a lot more dissimilar than Slavic tongues, so the divide would be greater if we let it be. Canada is a bilingual country but everybody doesn’t speak both languages and we understand that we never will.

Today Russian speakers still make up a large percentage of the Ukrainian population. One elderly lady, I’d met, living in one of Kyiv’s Soviet-styled suburbs, explained to me how she had migrated from Russia in 1954. With one daughter now living in Ukrainian Kyiv and another in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad she slowly drew an imaginary line across her chest showing me how her heart was torn.

Another woman I met on the train, was returning to Kherson to sell her apartment after having lived in New York for the last 7 years. She complained that she hated the Ukrainian language and marveled that I was venturing to travel in this land given my relatively poor grasp of Ukrainian, though she herself only spoke Russian.

Canadian flag at Quebed referendumDoes it really matter that Ukrainians speak Russian as well or even primarily instead of Ukrainian. Aren’t they still Ukrainians. Polls indicate that to be the case. The international linguist Michael Moser thinks making Russian an official second language would make social harmony worse rather that better. He would just leave well enough alone.

He may be right. Canada chose official bilingualism for very different reasons and that decision has served us well, making francophone Canadians feel at home anywhere they need to deal with the federal government. But Ukraine is a different country, has a longer history, and that makes it more complex. And it has to consider the neighbourhood bully – who holds that if you speak Russian you are a Russian.

But then we don’t have to worry that Canada’s even more powerful neighbour will invade and annex Alberta if we sign a free trade agreement with the EU, or speak with a Texan accent. Though that might improve Mr. Cruz’s claim on legitimacy in his race to become president.


Ray Rivers writes weekly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was a candidate for provincial office in Burlington where he ran as a Liberal against Cam Jackson in 1995, the year Mike Harris and the Common Sense Revolution swept the province. Rivers is no longer active with any political party.

Rivers has been in the Ukraine researching his next book.  He returns later this month.

Background links:

War Museum –  Finland/Russia –  Kaliningrad – Ukraine Crisis

Ukraine Conflict –  Quebec Referendum –  LanguageMore LanguageStill More Language

Return to the Front page

Gazette columnist makes the front page of a Ukrainian newspaper

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr, Publisher

April 17, 2016


It happens – let a writer out of the country and they get carried away.

The Gazette’s political columnist Ray Rivers asked for some time off to travel to the Ukraine where he wanted to do some research for his next book.

We suggested he try to write his column while he was abroad but didn’t really expect to get anything.

Then the “funny” mushroom column arrived – and we knew that Rivers was at least alive.

Rivers Kiev

There he is with his picture on the front page and his column inside for everyone to read. What will we read next about this Ukrainian adventure?

This morning we find that our ace columnist is on the front page of the Kyiv Post.

Rivers, who know how to promote himself, sent the editor of the Kyiv Post a note saying they could reprint the column if they wished.
nd they wished – so there we are – Burlington’s on-line newspaper finds its political columnist on the front page of a Ukrainian newspaper.

Who owns the paper we wanted to know and how many papers are there in Kyiv?

There are three responded Rivers and I think they are all both paper and on-line: Unian and Ukraine Today are the others. No idea on circulation, nor ownership – an oligarch controls Ukraine Today.

We suggested to Rivers that given the political situation in the Ukraine that he might be “invited” to remain in the country for a while and be given a uniform.

Rivers responded: “There has been no offer of a rifle – but I’d hold out for a tank anyway. And no such luck, you don’t get rid of me that easily.”

“This Kherson ship-building town is really dead and dead poor – more Russian here than Ukrainian – one can tell – the Russkies use Da and Ukes Tak for yes.

We expect Rivers will report again and that he will have a byline of his own in the Ukrainia Kyiv Post.

Do stay tuned.

The funny mushrooms column

Return to the Front page

‘Shrooms that Glow in the Dark

Rivers 100x100

By Ray Rivers

April 15, 2016


Peace and quiet – not what I expected to find in a city with three million people, the eighth largest in Europe and with a war going on only a few hundred kms away. There are no military tanks on the streets, no machine-gun toting soldiers protecting major institutions and no bombs falling from the sky. If one were looking for that kind of excitement – it’s just not here.

With an economy less than half the size of fellow slavic neighbour Poland, there are a surprising number of modern Euro sedans clogging the streets of Kyiv (Kiev) almost as badly as in the rest of the continent. But the sidewalks are cleaner than Paris and there are no obvious signs of homelessness or drunkenness, though that seems impossible. And again to my surprise, young plugged-in women and men are seen strolling about the streets in the evenings, apparently free from fear for their personal safety.

Shops, restaurants and museums abound, along with ample open spaces and parks to accommodate families and the few tourists who make it over here. The city has a subway system that could give Toronto a few lessons and the architecture is strikingly old world, except in the suburbs where Soviet styled apartment blocks still dominate the skyline. Even the newly reformed police force has been outfitted with Prius patrol cars, giving them a very mod look.

What makes this so impressive is that the country is under siege. Yes, Russia is back in full imperial dress and determined to keep Ukraine as part of its revisionist empire, even if it has to kill all the Ukrainians. Over two years and 10,000 deaths after first invading its neighbour, Russia is nowhere near willing to return the land it occupies. And to keep it’s neighbour on its toes Mr. Putin periodically threatens to occupy the entire nation.

But there is another danger lurking that should not be ignored. Ukraine is the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident, at Chernobyl, just some 100 kms from Kyiv. Opened in 1977 as Ukraine’s first nuclear power plant, and only the third of its kind and size in the Soviet Union, Chernobyl operated for less than a decade before a relatively simple test of safety procedures led to a massive explosion and melt down, spreading radioactive contamination across the globe though mostly predominantly in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine.


The Chernobyl nuclear station after the explosion – the world is still recovering from that disaster.

2600 square kms of northern Ukraine, half the land area of PEI, is off limits because of radiation poisoning. To keep the lid on the still-emitting source, an expensive new sarcophagus is being constructed. And after 30 years there has been some environmental rebound, with reports of growing wildlife populations and the regrowth of forests in the area. These rumours have encouraged poachers to hunt animals and forage timbers for their own use, despite the inherent danger of radiation poisoning and the further spread of radioactive pollutants.

There is a long term plan to rehabilitate the area but that will not happen for another half decade. Hiroshima and Nagasaki, hit by atomic bombs in the Second World War are pretty much back to normal, though researchers are still not satisfied. Nevertheless for nations operating nuclear power plants this does beg the question of whether those facilities are more dangerous than an attack by a nuclear weapon.

And speaking of radiation, the lowly field mushroom has come under attack as well in Ukraine. Apparently fungi are particularly adept at absorbing radioactive contaminants making them unsafe to consume. Yet, there are few activities more traditional that wild mushroom gathering in this part of the world. Mushroom hunting provides a source of recreation as well as nutrition, something that has become even more important for those struggling to survive in the Russian-occupied eastern Ukraine.

mushroom fields

Mushroom fields –

Of course there are those who brush off all of this talk of danger. A few folks who refused to leave the contaminated area are boasting they have reached a good ripe age notwithstanding – something akin to those folks who smoked all their lives but never succumbed to lung cancer. But, not me, my immune system isn’t that good. I’m avoiding the wild mushrooms that feature in just about every menu here.

I attended a choral performance to lament those victims of Chernobyl who passed some thirty years ago. Once again I was impressed with the lack of fuss over security as I carried my backpack into an assembly which included government officials and other dignitaries. Perhaps that is how it is. Perhaps one just gets numbed by what could wrong when so much has and does.

After all, this is a nation which has always known conflict and domination by other nations, including Greeks, Turks, Polish, Swedes, Russians, and Germans…. My Ukrainian grandparents had Austrian birth certificates. So it is understandable why they would not be spooked by Russia, and why they’d be totally blasé about the dangers of eating those tasty wild mushrooms.


Save media that mattersRay 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 as a Liberal against Cam Jackson in 1995, the year Mike Harris and the Common Sense Revolution swept the province. Rivers is no longer active with any political party.

Background links:

Poland and Ukraine   Chernobyl

Chernobyl Disaster

European Contamination 

Radioactive Deer 

Mushroom Hunting

Mushrooms –    More Mushrooms 

Even More Mushrooms     Chernobyl Survivors      More Survivors   Nuked Cities    More Nukes Cities

Return to the Front page

Candidate with many election experiences under his belt sees far too many problems with the province's thinking about ranked ballots.

opinionandcommentBy James Smith

April 8, 2016


Ted McMeekin, Ontario’s Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, has come up with five changes to the Municipal election act:

1 – Shortening the campaign calendar by opening nominations for candidates on May 1 instead of January 1
2 – Creating a framework to regulate third party advertising, including contribution and spending limits
3 – Removing barriers that could affect electors and candidates with disabilities
4 – Making it easier to add or change information on the voters’ list
5 – By far the most significant proposed change is giving municipalities the option of using ranked ballots in future elections, which would allow voters to rank candidates in order of preference. The option to use ranked ballots would begin for the 2018 municipal elections.

To get into the issue let me first cover the motherhood issues.

2- Creating a framework to regulate third party advertising, including contribution and spending limits. Remains to be seen how this will work, but a step in the right direction. Any time we can remove the influence of vested interests from politics, the more reflective and better is our democracy.

3- Making campaigns Barrier Free by requiring city clerks to prepare accessibility plans to identify, remove and prevent barriers that could affect electors and candidates with disabilities, and make the plan available to the public prior to voting day. Welcome change. It will make Ontario’s municipal elections conform more closely to the Province’s AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act).

4- Making it easier to add or change information on the voters’ list. I can’t argue with this as I have an issue using the voter data bases. These lists are full on extraneous and wrong information. Anything that can be done to get clean information is long overdue.

All steps in the right direction, as is the big issue of ranked ballots and I’ll have more to say about ranked ballots in a future piece. But the first issue of reducing municipal campaigns should be withdrawn as this is a step backwards.

What? you say, shortening the campaign calendar by four months sounds like a good idea! Who wants a politician around for nine or ten months prior to a municipal election? I get not everyone wants to see a politician for that long. But this hands a hugely significant advantage to incumbent municipal councillors and Mayors. With few ratepayer groups or service clubs organizing town halls or debates, there are few, if any events where voters can go and listen to a debate between candidates or ask them questions.

Most sitting municipal politicians have a significant advantage as an incumbent over any challenger in addition to name recognition for several reasons. Take the present Mayor of Burlington for example, he will have leftover signs, voter identification, volunteer and fundraising lists already sitting in storage waiting for the next election. If a newcomer is looking to challenge the Mayor, that person will have four months less time to build these resources. No small task.

Other elections can and do crowd municipal elections off the stage. Take the 2014 Municipal election for example. The 2014 Provincial Election took up a good portion of the spring. Many municipal candidates essentially put their campaigns on hold while the provincial campaign rolled along. The fixed election date hasn’t been altered so there is a very good likelihood the next provincial election will be held at the same time as the next municipal campaign.

In a move that’s frankly more in keeping with Putin’s Russia The city of Burlington forbids any campaigning on city property by mere candidates, what ever happened to speakers corner? If one is an incumbent city councillor or Mayor you may run a so called information meeting on a topic of your choice and citizens pay for this re-election gimmickry. All sitting councillors engage in city run promotions walking around an event like Senior’s Information seminars or Joe Brant Days or Car free Sunday with city issued name tags proclaiming their august position.

In these days of disappearing news outlets, shrinking coverage of municipal politics is a very real problem. For example in the 2014 municipal election, after sending several press releases to the Burlington Post I was finally informed that the Burlington Post had decided not to publish press releases for the 2014 municipal campaign. Speaking as a former candidate, and past manager of political campaigns it’s tough enough to get one’s message out to voters in the past, it’s almost impossible now. The issue in many cities, including Burlington is much of the remaining space that’s left for civic politics in the media that has become the GTHA media is often taken up by Toronto City Hall coverage at the expense of local issues. Unless there is a major scandal, local council races are not being covered.

By reducing the time one has to speak to citizens in the context of a Municipal campaign by limiting election campaigns by four months is frankly anti-democratic move and should be withdrawn.

jamessmithJames Smith has run as a candidate in numerous elections – he has managed numerous elections. He has not yet served the public as an elected official.  He was on the driving forces in the rescue of the Freeman Station and has delegated to city council on numerous occasions.  He has close to the world’s worst collection of limericks.

Return to the Front page

The Political Gravy Train - is that what we now call buying influence?

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

April 8, 2016


Please don’t think that because I criticized Ontario’s Premier for holding special access fundraising events – that I’m responsible for her changing her mind on this delicate matter.

wynne-at heritage dinner

A live in between the politicians and the business interests.

We know that Premier Wynne had been thinking about this for some time. But I am pleased to see she is finally reacting: cancelling all ministerial fundraising events, phasing out corporate and union donations, limiting individual donations, and putting rules around third party advertising during elections.

The Premier has promised to consult with the other provincial leaders on these election finance reforms, so the ink is far from dry on the changes. But the Conservatives, under their new leader Mr. Brown, seem supportive of her proposed changes, though they are reluctant to give up their own fundraising events. And the NDP can hardly say no, though they must be a little concerned about losing their union financial support.

And to complete the picture, the Province has also announced changes to the way municipal elections are to be run. New rules will enable municipalities to use ranked ballots and to ban corporate and union contributions to municipal electoral campaigns, as the City of Toronto had done years ago. This enthusiasm for improving local democracy does, however, begs a question. If these changes are such a good idea, why not just mandate them rather than leaving it up to municipal councils to voluntarily implement?

Election signs - many

Is the public ready for ranked ballot elections and will they press their councils in the municipalities to implement them?

Incumbents in municipal councils are typically the default winners at election time. So don’t expect them to be in a hurry to revamp a system that keeps them in power. Without political parties, many voters see local elections as a crap shoot, since they typically aren’t aware of what each candidates actually stands for – so vote for the incumbent. A ranked ballot may not change that, nor change the frequency of incumbent re-elections. But those who do get elected will have broader public support as a first, second or third choice.

And, if ranked ballots will enhance local democracy, why not implement ranked ballots for Ontario’s provincial elections as well? And why isn’t the Premier joining fellow Liberal Justin Trudeau in his search for an electoral process to better serve Canadians? Harmonizing Ontario’s electoral process with Canada’s can only make voters more comfortable with the voting process, and perhaps encourage more voters to come out on election day.

Jean Chretien has a place in Canada’s history books for at least two reasons. First, he kept Canada out of the disastrous invasion of Iraq. And second, he revolutionized federal election finance rules. Those rules were so well-founded that his arch foe, Mr. Harper, largely continued them, in fact strengthening the prohibition on corporate and union contributions. And we know Chretien got it right because even the Globe and Mail, in a recent editorial, has called on the provinces to adopt the federal election financing rules as their own.

Of course Mr. Harper couldn’t leave well enough alone. The very notion that government would actually fund the operation of political parties is anathema to neo-conservatives. So no sooner had he obtained his majority, than he ripped the heart out of Chretien’s package by killing public financing as a partial alternative to financing with private donations. And then he once again increased contribution limits. It didn’t matter that political deductions cost the government more in lost revenue than it would have to pay for the public financing alternative.

Canadian $100 bills are counted in Toronto, Feb. 2, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy

How many donations are paid in cash that is stuffed in large brown envelopes?

Not only is public financing a more equitable and efficient way of allowing political parties to continue to serve Canadians, it is the only way to effectively put a stop to the political gravy train. That is right, big donors give money because they believe that buys them influence, and if you’re not a big donor…?

The system will always be tilted in favour of those with fat cheques going to the party war chest which best reflects their needs, unless we put a stop to it. And as to fairness – as one reader noted, political contributions receive higher income tax deductibility than do charitable donations.

Even before the recent Liberal sponsorship scandal, politics in Quebec was often associated with corruption. Whether perception or reality, the provincial government has reacted to that issue by limiting annual political party donations to $100 – a model for the rest of the country I believe.


Rivers will be away for a few weeks travelling in the Ukraine doing research for his next novel.  His first book, “The End of September” , is available on Amazin. Ray Rivers will return to his weekly column 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 as a Liberal against Cam Jackson in 1995, the year Mike Harris and the Common Sense Revolution swept the province. Rivers is no longer active with any political party.

 Background links:

CorruptionEvils of FundraisingEnd of Fundraising Third Parties Selling Access to Decision Makers

Wynne Cancels Fundraisers Political Financing in CanadaQuebec Contribtion Rules Municipal Elections

Ranked Ballots How Ranked Works

Return to the Front page

Is Burlington in Line for a Second Pier?

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

April 1st, 2016


The question no one seems to be asking is whether Burlington really needs another waterfront pier. Sources distant from both the PM’s people and those of the Premier have indicated some kind of an announcement is forthcoming in the near future.

Done - all the concrete is down - and the steel beams are holding it all in place. Now the railings get put in place.

Upon completion of pier number two will reach well into the lake

The potential cost of this project could total close to four billion big ones and would be funded through a new infrastructure fund. “What better way to use our federal and provincial deficit money than to create new jobs, right here in Burlington,” one source was overheard mumbling.

The mayor has been very closed-lipped about this initiative. That may be because a former Burlington mayor had been thought to be working hard between the sheets to create this baby. And some baby it will be. A mega-motel, to be named after former city and regional counsellor Robert Bates, will anchor the attractions on this artificial piece of land reaching out into the middle of Lake Ontario.

ferris wheel

The ferris wheel on pier number 2 will be visible from Toronto.

The project will also feature the largest ferris wheel in North America named in honour of the former Toronto mayor, whose brother Doug, had been promoting a similar icon to dot the Toronto skyline. Doug Ford, who always wanted to be known for, and as, a big wheel himself, couldn’t be reached for comment.

However, somebody on somebody’s staff noted that the Fords had always supported using somebody else’s money to move people around, so long as it didn’t get in the way of Toronto’s grid lock. In fact the former Toronto Councillor had hoped that the ferris-wheel could be directly connected to Toronto’s expanding subway system.

Stretching out two and a half kilometres into Lake Ontario the centrepiece of the structure will be a huge ferry docking station with access to planned ferry ports as distant as Oakville and Hamilton and the existing Burlington pier. There will be a 30-hectare amusement park on the water, which will include the ferris wheel and thirty-seven Tim Horton outlets. In addition plans may include a waterfront zoo featuring elephants, lions, penguins and other native Canadian wildlife.

Already, ribbon cutting is being projected to coincide with the 2018 Sound of Music festival which would see a switch in content to such classical pieces as Handel’s Water Music, rather than the heavy rock known to incite wave action. However, given the size of this project, the grand opening may have to be postponed once or twice – or several times.


Land fill at the Burlington air park being trucked to the pier number two construction site.

Land-fill for this massive project is expected to come from the levelling of Halton Conservation Area’s Rattle Snake Point. Rock climbing activity has severely eroded the rock face and Milton has been reported petitioning the provincial government and Green Belt commission to make way for even more residential housing in Canada’s fastest growing city. And besides the rattle snakes are all gone, the last one seen on March 17th.

Lawyers from around the problem are looking for a way to legally move the land fill on the air park property to the lakefront.

Not everyone will be pleased with this new development and you can be sure that the Burlington Gazette will be sued and have to shut down at least five or six times in the course of this project.

But the proponents are keen to see the pier built and even keener to give its ferris wheel a spin. They have been heard to say that they personally anticipate this to be a very rewarding venture.

Rumours abound about the siting of multi-unit condos as well, adding as many as fifty thousand new residents to the man-made peninsula.

And as is always the case with innovative ventures, even at this early stage, there are the critics.

Pier - from under beams now removed.

Steel for pier number two was imported from Mexico – the city took this retaliatory action when Hamilton refused to sell the Lasalle Park water lots at a reasonable price.

Some folks can’t help but compare this initiative to what they saw as wasteful spending by the federal Conservatives in the wake of the 2009/10 recession and in preparation for the G20 summit. They cite the expensive network of sidewalks Tony Clement built in his rural northern riding which no one actually uses. And then there is the massive effort that went into constructing Canada’s sixth great lake – right there on the shores of Lake Ontario.

In the words of Burlington Gazette publisher, Pepper Parr, who is believed to be a strong proponent himself, despite his denials, “they pissed away all that money back then and got re-elected, so why not this, now? Besides how better to employ all our adopted Syrian refugees looking for work, and where better to offer them a place to live?”

Getting it - yellowRumours abound that the Gazette has been approached about locating its new international headquarters adjacent to the Bate’s motel complex. When asked to confirm that story, Parr responded that he couldn’t confirm or deny his involvement. “It would be like stabbing the mayor in the back,” he was heard to mutter before turning his head away to suppress a giggle.

Rivers reading a newspaper Jan 3-15

Ray Rivers writes weekly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Something special happens to Rivers on the first day of April each year.

Our apologies for his excesses.

Tweet @rayzrivers


Existing Pier

Return to the Front page

Burlington and the OMB - things haven't changed all that much.

backgrounder 100By Bob Wood

March 31, 2016


This article isn’t for everyone – it gives you a look at the way city council and its citizens used to go at each other.  When writer Bob Wood completes the telling of this tale we will pass it along to you.

Citizens, developers and many municipalities have called for it to be dismantled. The Ontario government has given a big “No” to that notion.

Ted McMeekin, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, told CBC last week that “we need a body like the OMB because sometimes people break the rules.”

So, McMeekin’s Ministry is going to review the OMB with an eye to reform it by foiling those rule breakers. McMeekin is looking for ideas.

He’ll get no help from me. I ought to have an opinion but my views are a bit muddled.  That’s likely because I’ve become far too familiar with a long ago OMB hearing. That hearing dealt with an attempt by a developer to put a McDonald’s restaurant in Parkwood Plaza at the corner of Kenwood and Lakeshore in south east Burlington. There were three OMB hearings for that event.

Kenwood and Lakeshore

Would the community fight the location of a fast food outlet today? The residents spent more than $350,000 in legal fees and those were 1980 dollars

At the end of the third hearing a resident’s group was successful in blocking this inappropriate use of a small plaza. Their success came thirty-six years ago this Friday (April 1, 1980).

Burlingtonians are patiently awaiting a decision on the Councillor Dennison appeal of a Burlington Committee of Adjustment decision to not allow a property severance he was seeking. The hearing took place more than nine months ago.

There is a second OMB appeal that has many in Burlington interested – that being the appeal the ADI Development Group took to what they called a refusal on the part of the city to make a decision on their development application to put up a 26 storey tower on the corner of Martha and Lakeshore Road.

After giving the city a bit of a bum’s rush on their original application – Adi then asks the OMB officer hearing their appeal to postpone the actual hearing while they talk to the city about how an additional piece of property they recently purchased is going to fit into their development.

This stuff does get complex.

The seven year battle details some of the barriers residents faced in trying to cover the costs of an OMB appeal.

Some of the Cast of Characters

Jim Ryan – east end resident and frequent spokesperson for residents. Later elected as City Alderman for Ward 8.
The Committee Against The Establishment of a Restaurant in Parkwood Plaza (CAERPP) – residents’ group.
Herman Turkstra – well known lawyer and former Member of the City of Hamilton Board of Control.
Doug Brown – Solicitor for the City of Burlington.
Joan Allingham – Chair of Council’s Development. Perhaps better known now as Joan Little, columnist for the Hamilton Spectator.
Dalewest Construction – Owner of Parkwood Plaza.

For many years the City of Burlington’s Community Services Committee had convened a January meeting to consider funding requests. Typically, the requests came from recreational, sports or cultural groups.

Three sessions of the committee would be held in 1979 to look at 35 requests totalling $386,164.

The January’s meeting of that committee was to consider a request from a resident’s group. The Committee Against The Establishment of a Restaurant in Parkwood Plaza (CAERPP): they wanted help to foot a portion of their legal bills.

After an in camera meeting the Committee determined in a 3-2 vote that CAERPP should receive $7,500 for their legal costs.

This was a first – a request from a citizen’s group fighting a development proposal.

Mayor Roly Bird, who had been recently elected, defended the decision to fund the citizen’s group saying: “We have been given to understand that the city’s case will be greatly enhanced by their continued participation.”

Bird proposed a $7,500 grant as a compromise after an earlier motion for more money by Alderman Linda Pugsley had failed, receiving support of only one other member of the committee, Walter Mulkewich of Ward One.

Mayor Bird was known as a man of strong opinions. So there must have been many surprised citizens when six days later he had a different one.

Bird told Council that “a number of advisers” he had in the in the city told him they did not support paying the residents’ lawyer.
“I don’t feel the city’s case and the residents’ case will be that much jeopardized by the non-participation of their legal person.”

A strange statement indeed. Bird continued: “We have to ask is this the City’s fight.”

With that Council rejected the position of its Administration Committee.

Ward 8 City Alderman Bill O’Connell called Council’s position “pitiful.”

Other Council members claimed that if the City joined with CAERPP they could expose the city to legal action.

“The City could have been liable for many thousands of dollars for last revenues by Dalewest and McDonald’s,” Jim Grieve claimed.

Others, like Joan Allingham and Rob Forbes disagreed that such an opinion had been offered.

On becoming aware of the City’s rejection of financial support for his group, Jim Ryan had sharp words.

“The mayor indicated that the city is well qualified to handle the situation. Maybe we’ll just let them handle it.”

Jim Ryan addressing council 1978

City Council chamber decor hasn’t changed all that much. The picture of the Queen has been replaced by the city crest. And there are a lot more council members at that table

Ryan went on: “I wish I had as much confidence in them. They blew it last time and they’ll blow it again. They don’t have the specialized expertise McDonald’s and Dalewest have.”

What now? Alderman O’Connell thought that the residents would end their fight.

The residents convened the night after Council’s decision. “It was a hell of a blow,” Ryan told the Spectator.

The committee had already accumulated $13,000 in legal bills and the meter was still running. What fundraising opportunities were still open to them? More garage sales, dances?

“That’s a hell of a lot of dancing and garage sales,” said Ryan to the idea of raising $8,000 more.

The group decided that a lottery could bring in money and be an indication of broader community support. CAERPP members began to sell tickets for a Valentine’s Day draw.  First prize would be $500.

The Committee knows they need lawyer Herman Turkstra, who they had engaged a year earlier.

While the City’s position was similar to the residents, the city’s lawyer can’t really represent the residents’ interests.

“We need our own solicitor. To be successful, the city needs our lawyer,” Ryan asserted. It wasn’t just Ryan who felt this way.

Alderman O’Connell talked to city solicitor Doug Brown and came away feeling the City has little hope. “If the residents pull out we might as well forget it.”

As lottery tickets were being sold speculation continued as to what the City should do.  The Burlington Post editorialized that if sufficient funds were not raised in the lottery the city had to make a choice.  Would they mount an effective opposition to McDonald’s/Dalewest and could it present the necessary arguments “without leaving itself open to future confrontation?”
he Post seemed to think that this was about property values. In their view, the city would put itself in a bad spot if it argued that putting a McDonald’s in the plaza would lower property values. The Post misunderstood the issue as did many citizens then and now. While residents are concerned about such things as property values, the OMB and municipal planning in general are not.

But the residents had no intention of giving up. Perhaps other Burlington observers thought as much.  “There was no intimation we’d drop out, even if we had to go without our solicitor,” said Ryan.

Advertisements for the continuation of the hearing ran in the Post on the same day that another story broke. Now the province was going to review the legality of CAERPP’s lottery. Lawyers for Dalewest Construction had written the Ontario Lottery Corporation (OLC) claiming that the lottery had contravened Ontario’s regulations.

Don Speight, assistant to the director of the OLC, said that a lottery must be for charitable purposes. It must go for relief of the poor, the advancement of education or religion or “any purpose that is of benefit to the community.”

While the OLC’s investigation was going on, lottery organizers were told not to spend any of the lottery’s proceeds. CAERPP had put down $14 for the licence in November although there were some questions about it at the time.

Doug Brown city solicitor

Doug Brown was the city solicitor during the seven year citizen’s battle to prevent a McDonalds from being located in the east end plaza.

“When they first came to me I was not prepared to issue a licence,” claimed City Clerk Don Briault.  But City Solicitor Doug Brown said it was legal.

Three thousand, two hundred and thirty-two (3,232) one dollar tickets had been sold to people who, Ryan said, bought the tickets to help with the legal bills. From Ryan’s perspective the draw was legal because the city had licensed it, Dalewest’s complaint could result in the money being handed over to a charity. People would be angry.
“They did not donate to a charity or a religious organization, they donated to cover our legal expenses,” said Ryan.

With the OLC studying the matter one might have expected silence from government officials. Not so.  A spokesman for the Ministry of Consumer and Corporate Relations told the Burlington Post that the lottery was probably illegal.

“Let’s face it. I’ve never heard of a lottery licence being issued to a group espousing a political viewpoint,” said Ed Ciemigap whose department was apparently exploring legal precedents.

Turkstra was incredulous that none of the parties involved in the determination of the lottery issue had contacted the residents.
“The Ministry seem to have the idea the (citizens) group is engaged in a political process. What they are doing is supporting the position of the City.”

Soon (March 21st) the Attorney General’s office told the Post that the chances of CAERPP being charged were fairly remote.

“Presumably Turkstra and his clients have nothing to worry about,” Julian Polika ventured.

And that is as far as Bob Wood, who grew up not far from the Parkwood Plaza. He hopes to have the whole story complete later in the spring.

Editor’s note: Bob Wood is working on the completion of this story. Things don’t change all that much in local politics – do they? Developers still do whatever they think they can do to get their projects completed.

And where is city council when it comes to supporting the citizens; there are a few in North Burlington that would like to see the city being proactive on their side over the dumping of land fill on the air park property.

Return to the Front page

Parking Standards to get a review - first time in 30 years - we need to do the homework, think hard about the problems and the solutions.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

March 28, 2016


The city is bedeviled with what to do about parking – there are those who feel a parking spot is supposed to open up for them in exactly the place they want to put their vehicle. Many seem blind to the impact their vehicles have on the environment and even though they have more disposable income than they could possibly spend they howl over the cost of parking.

Mapleview Mall - parking north east side

There are times when you can’t get a parking spot at the Mapleview Mall where there are acres of parking space. Is there a solution? We need one.

The city has two malls –one with fields of parking that are covered in asphalt that creates significant storm water management problems. The city owns more than half a dozen parking lots plus a multi-storey tower downtown that is rarely full. Developers are putting up structures for people who may well not require the amount of space the city rules require them to build – but the rules are the rules.


Could we begin freeing up some space and creating spots for just these little guys?

Many of the cars on the road these days are not as big – two could fit in the parking spots now underground but the rules don’t permit much flexibility.

The city has thousands of homes with garages – but residents complain about parking space because their garage is used as storage or a workshop.

The city does have some issues with parking – the biggest of which is public attitude.

The department of transportation is holding an Open House to gather public opinion as they work towards a major review of what the parking standards should be for the city.

Vito Tolone, the recently appointed Director of Transportation, has been around parking most of his municipal career – he knows what he is talking about. He does get a little excited at times during presentations but if you listen to him and pay attention to what he has to say – you will find he is usually right.

This project he is overseeing with the aid of the IBI Group who are serving as consultants to the city is to develop parking standards that:

• Are clear, defendable, and based on sound technical analysis;
• Recognize differences in existing land use and support the envisioned urban structure;
• Encourage transportation alternatives to the personal automobile, where available;
• Support efficient forms of development in terms of costs and land requirements; and
• Balance the needs and concerns of a diverse set of stakeholders including City staff, (who happen to get free parking for their cars), developers, businesses, ratepayer groups, TDM organizations, and the general public.

Burlington City Council Group

This is the crew that is going to have to look at the staff report and then stand up and do the best thing for the people that put them in office – that will call for them to work ad a team – not something that is seen very often.

Lessons learned in previous studies point to the following key success factors: There has to be support at a very high level – city Councillors have to be behind any changes.

There has to be a willingness to accept at least a degree of change, which amount to some political courage and real leadership. Burlington has always been a little short on political courage.

There has to be a balance of technical analysis, best practices and policy guidance. That policy guidance comes from staff based on the data they collect and the advice they get from the consultants the hire.

Potential Challenges include: Collecting data for wide range of uses; obtaining data from private residential properties; developer input (the developers have to be responsible and pay at least some attention to the greater good and not just their bottom line.

There may be a disconnect between the ideal future standards and current behavior (truer words have not been written. Finally, phasing in parking standards is difficult.

Key Issues for Study

• Parking issues differ across user groups and land uses
• Balancing the needs and concerns of a diverse group of stakeholders is a concern
• The city anticipates parking pressure from downtown redevelopment.
• The unclear future of emerging trends in transportation technology and their impacts on parking requirements is not something easily known.
The consultation process is:
• To gain an understanding of the issues that residents, business owners, developers, etc. face in regard to parking and parking standards;
• To gain an understanding of the potential effectiveness of changes to parking standards in making more efficient use of parking, supporting transit-oriented development, and other policy objectives; and
• To gain buy-in from the business and development community, ratepayers, and other interest groups on proposed parking standards.

With the Strategic Plan about to get a blessing from city council staff will begin to fit the role transportation is going to play in the way Burlington will get grown during the next 25 years.

Work on the Official Plan can go forward with more precision now that the Strategic Plan is in place. The Transportation Master Plan will get re-shaped and not exist as a plan that does not fit in tightly with everything else. This is going to be a new experience for the bureaucrats – city manager James Ridge has made it clear that his approach to managing the growth of the city is to always be looking at the complete picture.

Station West

It’s an empty field right now – in a very short period of time it will be a very busy construction site with stacked townhouses and apartment/condo towers – with not that much in the way of public space. All being done legally.

The city has come to the conclusion that it will have a number of mobility hubs and appear to be being forced by a developer in the west end to go with the Aldershot GO station as the first hub – even though for the sake of the city – Aldershot may not make the most sense.

Station West A sign

The Station West development yards from the Aldershot GO station is being actively marketed by the Adi Development group.

The problem is a developer is racing ahead with plans that the city has to climb on board with or get left behind. Quite how Burlington got itself in this bind is going to take some analysis – and if there are planning tools that can give the city more leverage – someone better find then and learn how to use them quickly.

Wednesday night the public gets a chance to make its views known. We need to do this right the first time – once decisions are made – there is no going back. We haven’t done all that well with transportation issues in the past.

Return to the Front page

Canada’s 2016 Budget - A Road Map for the Future ?

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

March 25, 2016


If you want to make money, you have to spend money. And that pretty well sums up the 2016 federal budget – it’s about re-investing in Canada and Canadians. Hardly revolutionary, this economic plan is corrective and moderate in its measures – a first step in the right direction.

R&D spending

While outdated the graphic does show the impact research and development spending has on an economy.

There is investment in transportation infrastructure, something which will improve our productivity, particularly in built-up areas like the GTA. There is some modest spending to improve access to education, particularly for the underprivileged. And there is a huge push to restore levels of R&D, innovation and science, which had been allowed to lapse over the last decade.

Changes to the income tax code, already in the works, modestly favour the middle class over the wealthy. This is more than an attempt to arrest and correct the growing spread between the rich and the poor; this is sound economic policy. It’s called the marginal propensity to consume – redistributing income from the wealthy increases domestic spending, driving consumption and investment, and consequently economic growth.

There is no question of the social dimension of this budget, which invests heavily in people, particularly the disadvantaged. Veterans complaints about neglect are addressed. More child care money will be going to the lower income parents who really need it. Canada’s first nations are given the opportunity to catch up to the rest of us. And age of seniority has been rolled back to 65, at the same time as greater assistance is provided to those seniors in need.

Energy east pipeline map

Perhaps the bigger questions is – will the country be affected by the pipeline?

There is investment in the environment as well. So we’ll see our national environment assessment process restored. Ironically that might expedite the construction of the Energy-East pipeline, as that is a precondition for Quebec’s consent. And the Prime Minister has solidified his commitment to put climate change money on the table to help motivate Canada’s Premiers to action.

The price tag for this budget comes in at just below the thirty billion deficit that everyone was expecting. The largely muted response to the size of the deficit is the result of a government which has shown its ability to manage expectations, and, of course, the promises made during the last election. Only the interim leader of yesterday’s government couldn’t resist the temptation to dump on the budget.

30 Billion dollars is a lot of money, but even after another four years of deficit, Canada will still have the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio in the G7, and half the level of the US or the UK. Moreover, if the annual deficit projections in the budget bear out, relative debt levels will shadow the debt performance of the preceding government, making Ms. Ambrose’s complaint at best a case of the pot calling the kettle…

And not everyone will benefit from this package. New toys for the military are on the back burner, reflecting a lower immediate priority. There could have been more income re-distribution, even greater support for our cultural industries and a faster path for infrastructure development. But you can’t do everything. We also know that more money will still be needed for a new national health care charter and enhancements to the Canada Pension Plan, initiatives on a different timetable.

There are thousands of small solar panel installations like this across the province - they work very well and in many cases provide revenue for the owners.

There are thousands of small solar panel installations like this across the province – they work very well and in many cases provide revenue for the owners.

The budget represents a necessary investment to return Canada to a more balanced, engaging and innovative economy. The fossil fuel era has itself becoming fossilized. Coal has left the station and oil is following suit, being replaced everywhere by renewable energy. Those were yesterday’s ideas promoted by yesterday’s short-sighted leaders.

Canada’s future lies in its potential as a balanced diverse economy. Its strength lies more with our human than with our natural resources. This budget helps us move in that direction by promoting education, science, industry and clean energy. If you get stuck in the past you’ll miss the future.


Ray Rivers writes weekly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was a candidate for provincial office in Burlington where he ran as a Liberal against Cam Jackson in 1995, the year Mike Harris and the Common Sense Revolution swept the province. Rivers is no longer active with any political party.

Background links:

2016 Budget in Full



More Deficit


More Criticism


An Easy Sell

Return to the Front page

It’s the Money Stupid - or is it?

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

March 21st, 2016



The United States is one of a growing number of places on earth where political candidates can opt for public funding. But in that crazy world we call US politics, Mr. Obama shunned the public option for both of his election wins – because he could raise more money on his own. And much of that money came from small individual donations rather than contributions from corporations and unions


While “Daddy Warbucks was a real person the name came to be used as a charicacture for “big men” with immense wealth that could be used for any purpose they wished – often political.

In sharp contrast, later this year, the infamously wealthy Koch brothers, also known as Daddys Warbucks, are going to rain down almost a billion dollars for the GOP presidential campaign south of the border. And they are but one of the numerous corporate political action committees (PAC) in the game there throwing money into the election, hoping that will get them a win, in the increasingly expensive US election orgy.

Back on earth, Canada’s political parties in last year’s federal election were entitled to spend a maximum of $54 million dollars each. None of them actually got to the max, though the Conservative Party came closest at just over $50 million. And they lost the election anyway which makes me believe that there is a God and that the old Beatles standard, ‘money can’t buy me love’, is occasionally true.

The winners, the Trudeau Liberals, spent around $10 million less. It was what they were selling, rather than how much they advertised, which evidently won the election. Now that is refreshing – that ideas alone can win elections – putting to rest the notion that the public can always be bought with its own money. And it is our own money, or at least most of it, when we consider that the funds raised by these parties are tax-deductible.


Cash in envelopes was the advice former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney was said to have given his political cohorts.

Individual donations are the only way federal political parties can raise money here since Mr. Harper eliminated the decade-old annual per-vote public subsidy last year. He argued that government should not be subsidizing the political parties. Who was he kidding? For starters he must have forgotten about the generous rebates Elections Canada doles out to eligible candidate campaigns.

Then there are those individual tax-deductible donations, which in 2009 accounted for almost twice as much of a subsidy to political parties as the per-vote annual government grants. Of course It is no secret that well-healed individual Tory contributors give far more money than that more economically diverse Liberal crowd. And the higher your tax bracket the more valuable these tax deductions are. But perhaps it was only well-meaning ideology and not self-serving hypocrisy which framed Harper’s argument?

But if anyone thinks the federal political funding scene could be better, they need only to look at the provinces. Following the Liberal ‘Sponsorship’ scandal, at the turn of the last decade, corporations and unions were prohibited from contributing to federal political parties. But, provincially, Ontario is still the wild west with the teachers unions, law firms and countless other corporate and labour associations pouring money into party coffers they hope will make a difference.

In B.C.’s last election, corporate donations to the provincial Liberals swamped individual donations. Of course, critics point out that banning corporate and union donations will just result in masked individual donations, leaving the influence peddling unabated. And that speaks to the rationale by those calling for the elimination of individual donations and fully subsidizing political parties, complicated as that might be.

Brown paper bag

It may not come in brown bags any more but cash does move from the people who have influence to the people who want to see that influence used in their favour.

These critics notwithstanding, it is remarkable that the provincial governments have not been forced to follow the federal government by at least eliminating corporate and union donations. Of course, it’s about the money. In fact Ontario’s premier has been criticized for holding ‘special meetings’ with those willing to cough up big bucks for that privilege.

The optics couldn’t be worse. Allowing money to buy access to Ontario’s chief policy maker is what we call influence peddling, and it is the first step on the road to corruption. Ontario residents expect and deserve better.

Rivers-direct-into-camera1-173x300Ray Rivers writes weekly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was a candidate for provincial office in Burlington where he ran as a Liberal against Cam Jackson in 1995, the year Mike Harris and the Common Sense Revolution swept the province. Rivers is no longer active with any political party.

 Background links:

Koch Brothers        PACs (USA)

Money Can’t Buy Me Love

2015 Federal Election Spending          Federal Financing        Influence Peddling      Ontario’s Political Financing

Political Party Financing      Ontario Liberal Donation Limits      Donations from Law Firms

Teachers Unions       B.C. Political Financing

Return to the Front page

Another attempt to get a private tree bylaw in place - Mayor advocates a pilot study for Roseland.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

March 21, 2016


The Mayor is going to make another attempt at getting a private tree bylaw passed by Council – we think.

In July 2013, the Development and Infrastructure Committee chose to receive and file an information report on a private tree by-law feasibility study. Council did not vote to see the creation of such a bylaw at that time.  . The dean of Council, John Taylor, summed it up when he said “the will is just not there”, the public just doesn’t want this” and try as they might BurlingtonGreen and Ward 2 Councillor Meed Ward, who pushed as hard as one can push, could not get this through the Development and Infrastructure Committee.   ” It is going to be very tough to get a private tree by law in this city” said Taylor

In a Notice of Motion that he filed for debate at the Development and Infrastructure the Mayor said that since the 2013 failure he “ continues to hear requests for a private tree by-law in Burlington. Most recently, this came from members of the Roseland community as part of the Character Area Study process.


Many of the trees in Roseland are very old – replace trees have not been planted – at some point the residents of this community will deeply regret the loss of their tree canopy.

“Recognizing staff did not support a private tree by-law specific to the Roseland neighbourhood … I believe there is merit investigating a pilot private tree by-law to gauge its impact.

“I propose that a report on a pilot project with recommendations be drafted by staff, with considerations to such aspects as length of time, extent of regulations, performance measures, staff resources required, among others.

“There are several reasons I support a pilot project for a private tree by-law in Roseland. I believe our tree canopy is essential to the environmental and physical health of our city and its residents. As well, as one of the community’s oldest neighbourhoods, Roseland has a large number of mature trees that contribute to its character. Through the Character Study, many residents expressed a desire to maintain the tree canopy and the presence of the large, mature trees.

“The Roseland Tree Planting Initiative is a noteworthy endeavour started by interested community members.

Belvenia trees-1024x768

A truly spectacular tree canopy – most of the trees are on city owned property.

“This cooperative effort by city staff and residents in the community to proactively plant trees within the public rights-of-way in areas with a high percentage of mature trees, and raise awareness among homeowners about the importance of trees within the neighbourhood, demonstrates the value placed on trees and as such, is an appropriate neighbourhood to implement a pilot private tree by-law.”

The Mayor added that “There are many other neighbouring communities that have private tree by-laws, such as Oakville, Hamilton, Toronto and Brampton. Mississauga is currently working on establishing a private tree protection by-law.

He also said: “When drafting the by-law, it is important staff strike a balance between private property owners’ rights and the intent of preserving our tree canopy. The outcome of this pilot project will be valuable in determining the applicability of a private tree by-law in other neighbourhoods, and, potentially, a private tree by-law for the entire city.”

The motion that will get debated is:

Direct the Acting Director of Roads and Parks Maintenance to investigate the implementation of a pilot tree by-law for the Roseland neighbourhood, with a review of options including, but not limited to: length of time for pilot project, extent of regulations, budget and staffing requirements, and measures to evaluate success, and to include community consultation.

Direct the Acting Director of Roads and Parks Maintenance to report back to committee on June 21, 2016.

There is a critical word missing from the Direction – the word “private” isn’t in between the words pilot and tree. Is this a motion to create a bylaw restricting what people can do with trees that are on their private property?

Geese on Guelph Line and the apple trees

A beautiful collection of apple trees next to st. Christopher’s church on Guelph Line that were cut down because Canada geese were eating the apples and pooping on the roadway.

There have been a very sad story told about the man who cut down a 50 year old tree because he didn’t want to rake the leaves. A lovely collection of apple trees were cut down on the property next to St. Christopher’s Anglican church on Guelph Line because Canada geese were eating the apples and pooping all over a driveway used for the most car by just cars. There was a promise to plant new trees – two years and counting and still no new trees,

The environmentalists take the position that people do not own trees – that we are the stewards of a tree for the period of time we own the property on which the tree grows. Mayor Goldring has positioned himself as an environmentalist – he tends however not to walk his talk.

It will take some time for a shift in attitude to take place in this city. Changes in attitude take place when a society is educated – it is the leadership of a community that does the evangelizing.

The motion the Mayor has put forward isn’t going to get us very far – I would love to be proven wrong on this one.

Background links:

Council looks for every way out of a private tree bylaw.

The environmentalists lost the fight in 2013


Return to the Front page

Do you want to make sure you get the Gazette?

“I didn’t see that article” is a comment we hear frequently from readers.

Gazette logo Black and redThe Gazette is an on-line newspaper that you can get delivered right into your mail box just as soon as it is published.

Many readers have made logging into the site something they do every day – others come in and see what’s going on a couple of times a week.

We have  lot of people who go south for the winter and they come on line to see what has happened in their hometown.

At the bottom of each story there are two small boxes – they are beneath the section you make a comment if you are so inclined.

If you want to get the Gazette automatically – scroll down to the bottom of any article.  You will see two small boxes underneath the space where you can make a comment.

Click on the lower of the two small boxes – we drew a red oblong rectangle around the one you need to put the check mark in.

Gazette New posts notificationYou do need to make a comment – be polite and if you don’t want your comment published just say so.  All comments are moderated.

Once you have entered a comment click on the Post Comment  box and it gets sent to us.  Make sure you put the check in that lower box.

You will then get an email asking if you really want to be notified when a new story is published.

Tell them you do – and zippo – you are a regular subscriber – and the news will be delivered to you automatically.

News that matters, news that puts what happens in your city in context with an approach intended to ensure the people who serve you are accountable to you.

It was the Gazette that broke the story on the Air Park bylaw abuses.  It was the Gazette that followed the construction of the pier – the one we built twice and paid for both times.


Return to the Front page

Will you flick the switch?

backgrounder 100By Pepper Parr

March 18, 2016



The plan is for the lights to go out at 8:30 Saturday night and remain out for an hour. Will you flick that switch to recognize Earth Day? And if you do what difference is it going to make.

Turning off the lights for an hour isn’t going to save the planet.

It is however a statement – and it is a statement the public needs to make – for a couple of reasons.

The earth is not going to disappear – it will be around for a long time – it is we human beings who are at risk.

Vince Fitorio

Vince Fiorito – probably the city’s best environmental advocate.

Vince Fiorito, a Burlington citizen nominated for the Environment award as one of Burlington’s Best, will bend your ear badly if you let him get started on what we human beings have done to the environment. He does however make a number of critical points.

“2015 a new record high average temperature for the planet’s climate. It broke the 2014 record that was a new high. What seems evident is that there is a rate of change taking place that we have not seen before.

“We are in uncharted territory now. It doesn’t take a genius to know that as these trends continue, the result will be series of unprecedented floods and droughts.

“No human being has ever breathed an atmosphere of 400 ppm of carbon dioxide. What does that mean?   The more carbon in the air the warmer the climate gets.

“We have cut down most of the forests and altered the earth’s ecosystems in ways that reduce the ability of the earth to sequester carbon.

“No one can claim to know the future. What we do know is that CO2 levels are rising, along with the average global temperature and sea levels. Oceans are acidifying. Corals reefs and life at the bottom of the ocean food chain is dying.

Blue sky begins to break through the clouds over Arctic Ocean ice Sept. 9, 2009.

Arctic Ocean sometimes does not freeze over – even in winter.

“The last time the earth’s atmosphere had this much CO2, the Arctic ocean didn’t freeze, even in “winter”. Eventually the climate may change to the point where Greenland will become tropical enough to support crocodiles and palm trees, like it was 55 million years ago when ocean levels were 50-100M higher than today.

“The Arab spring and the Syrian civil war are just a taste of what may be coming.

“How does one link a war half way around the world to climate change? That unrest and violence was preceded by a five year climate change exacerbated drought across North Africa and Middle East. Farmers couldn’t pay their bills, lost their land and moved to the cities where they didn’t find jobs and in the case of Syria, didn’t find a caring government either.

“When people are so poor they can’t afford to some of the nicer things they want, they pick up signs and protest. When they are so poor they can’t feed their children, they pick up guns. When the level of desperation reaches the point where the majority of people have nothing to gain from the status quo and nothing to lose from chaos, even the wealthy living in “safe” gated communities become refugees.

“Likely the biggest climate change exacerbated crisis in the near future will come in Bangladesh. Already they’ve lost about 10% of their rice production in the Ganges river delta to rising ocean levels and salt water contamination. Sooner or later a massive climate change exacerbated typhoon will hit this region, flooding and contaminating the remainder of the delta with salt. Then 100 million people will suddenly become food insecure and desperate. The same thing will happen in the Mekong river delta and many other food production areas.”

What would a drought do to wheat farmers in Saskatchewan?

Why do you think those millions of Americans want Donald Trump as their president? Because he says he will do something for them and they are so desperate they will vote for a man that is seen as a dangerous demagogue by many. And they are our neighbours.

xxx 2

Climate change demonstrations

Millions around the world demonstrate regularly for changes – before the planet becomes a place we can no longer live in.

The environmental movement has been around for a long time. When it began we were slurping leaded gas through massive V8 sedans. Industry belched out smoke and sludge with little fear of legal consequences or bad press. Air pollution was commonly accepted as the smell of prosperity. “Environment” was a word that appeared more often in spelling bees than on the evening news.

Mainstream North America remained oblivious to environmental concerns, the stage had been set for change by the publication of Rachel Carson’s New York Times bestseller Silent Spring in 1962. The book represented a watershed moment, selling more than 500,000 copies in 24 countries, and beginning to raise public awareness and concern for living organisms, the environment and links between pollution and public health.

We are now at least at the point where we accept that the climate is changing – we have yet to get to the point where we are ready to do anything about it personally.

Save the Planet - Goldring + organizer

Burlington doesn’t hold large demonstrations – we are too polite to do anything like that. Mayor Goldring did speak to a group of activists about climate change – it was during an election and he was told he couldn’t use the Gazebo in Spencer Smith Park nor could he use Civic square – so he gathered in front of a coffee shop.

Earth Day has reached its current status as the largest secular observance in the world, celebrated by more than a billion people every year, and a day of action that changes human behavior and provokes policy changes.

Today, the fight for a clean environment continues with increasing urgency, as the ravages of climate change become more manifest every day.

Flicking that switch for an hour on Saturday won’t save the world – but it will be a statement – and that is a start.

Return to the Front page

We will know them by their limping ...

opinionandcommentBy Staff

March 17, 2016


Irish drunksOn a day when we all manage to find a little Irish in us we like to pass on a lovely little Irish limerick that says it all for us.

May those who love us, love us.
And those who don’t love us,
May God turn their Hearts;
And if he doesn’t turn their hearts
May he turn their ankles
So we will know them
by their limping.

Gerry Murphy will be printing this one out and framing it

Return to the Front page

And what has the Air Park been up to recently? City solicitor has a lot of questions.

airpark 100x100By Staff

March 16, 2015


One never knows what is going to appear in the mail box.
The following was passed along to us – interesting.

March 11, 2016

Fax: 416-314-8452

Application Assessment Officer
Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change Operations Division
Environmental Approvals Access &
Service Integration Branch Application Verification Unit
135 St. Clair Avenue West, Floor 1 Toronto, Ontario M4V 1P5
E-mail: tina.dufresne@ontario.ca Ms. Tina Dufresne, District Manager
Halton-Peel District Office, Central Region
4145 North Service Road, Suite 300 Burlington, Ontario L7L 6A3

Dear Sir/Madam:
Subject: EBR Registry Number: 012-6693
Ministry Reference Number: 1720-A59NX4 Proponent: 2120901 Ontario Limited
Instrument Type: Environmental Compliance Approval – EPA Part 11.1-sewage
Location: 5432 Bell School Line, Burlington, Ontario

I am writing on behalf of the of the Corporation of the City of Burlington, in response to an application for a new Environmental Compliance Approval for 2120901 Ontario Limited posted to the EBR on February 4, 2016. For the reasons that follow, the City of Burlington is requesting that the application be returned to the proponent as incomplete for the reasons as will be set out below. In the alternative, the City is requesting that the time for the submission of comments be extended for an additional 60 days beyond the current deadline of March 20, 2016 to permit adequate time for consideration of the issues by Burlington City Council, and affected residents.


The City of Burlington and the Burlington Airpark Inc. have been engaged in litigation for several years arising from an illegal fill operation taking place at the Burlington Airpark. The sewage works that are the subject of the application before you drain water from the landfill at the airport that is the subject of the litigation between the City and Airpark. The Airpark is located between Appleby Line and Bell School line, north of Highway 407, all of which is located in the northern rural area of Burlington.

Air Park dump truck

It was the dumping of landfill that resulted in neighbours calling the Gazette – we published the first stories on the problem which woke up people at city hall who began to look into the problem.

A fill operation on the Airpark property commenced in late 2007. The City of Burlington was never consulted about the fill operation or about any proposed expansion plans that the Airpark might have with respect to its operations. On or about March 2013, the City began receiving a significant number of complaints from new landowners in the vicinity of the Airpark. The nature of the complaints ranged from grading activities, drainage, noise, dust, traffic safety and about the possible effects of contaminants in the fill on drinking water. After having investigated these complaints, staff concluded that the Airpark was using its lands as a fill site in order to generate revenue and was not depositing fill to implement a planned and/or imminent expansion of its airport facilities.

As a result of its investigations, on May 3, 2013 the City issued an Order to Comply pursuant to its site alteration by-law by obtaining a permit for the ongoing fill operation. After the Airpark failed to comply, the City issued a Violation Notice under its by-law. Since that time, the City has been engaged in protracted litigation with the Airpark to bring the Airpark into compliance with the City’s by­ laws to address the off-site impacts caused by its fill operation.

Litigation Round 1

The Airpark brought a court application in July 2013 to prohibit the City from enforcing its Topsoil Preservation and Site Alteration By-law against the Airpark and the Airport. The City responded with a counter application seeking a declaration that the City’s Topsoil Preservation and Site Alteration By-law 6-2003 was valid and binding upon the Airpark and to its fill activities.

In November 2013, the court dismissed Airpark’s application against the City and declared that the City’s Topsoil and Site Alteration By-law was valid and binding upon it. The Airpark subsequently appealed the decision to the Ontario Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal on June 13, 2014.

Following the decision of the Court of Appeal, the City continued to press the Airpark to comply with the Order to Comply under the City’s Site Alteration By-law. The City adopted a new Site Alteration By-law #64-2014 which contained materially the same provisions found in the previous by-law. The City maintained that the Order remained outstanding and it continued to be entitled to enforce it. The Airpark subsequently did file an application, however maintained that it was in relation only to a small area at the north-west corner of the Airport. This position

ignores all of the fill unlawfully deposited at the Airpark between January 1, 2008 and August 2, 2013.

litigation Round 2

The City commenced an application to the court in April, 2015 seeking an order to remove all fill deposited on site between 2008 and 2013. In the alternative, the City seeks to have the court order the Airpark to submit a complete application for a site alteration permit pursuant to the new City’s site alteration by-law. The application was heard by the court on November 10, 2015 and at the time of preparing this letter, the court has not released its decision.

Nature of Burlington’s Interest

The City of Burlington has a clear and compelling interest in the application for Environmental Compliance Approval that has been submitted to the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change and posted on the EBR. As demonstrated above, the City has been engaged in a protracted dispute with the Airpark to regulate the fill that was brought onto the site illegally in order to address the environmental impacts resulting from those actions. In particular, the City is concerned with the grading of the property, and the impacts on the drainage of the lands, all of which are related to the proposed sewage works identified in the current application for compliance.

Councillor Blair Lancaster walking through the property of a farm adjacent to the air port found the land spongy and soaked with water – now we know where that water is coming from.

Prior to 2008, which was the start of the fill operations, the Airpark had a storm sewer drainage system that was located generally in the vicinity of the North­ South runway and the airpark buildings. These storm sewers discharged into the existing pond at the SE corner of the property and into the adjacent farm fields.

With the start of the fill operations, additional storm sewers were installed in the areas of fill. These storm sewers discharge into a regulated watercourse and also at several locations along the west property line. This has resulted in changes to the stormwater discharge regime onto adjacent properties. The change has been from the previous “sheet flow discharge” to “concentrated flow discharge”. As a result, adjacent properties have been adversely impacted, as identified above in the form of complaints received by the City.

The City agrees that the MOECC Environmental Compliance Approvals were required for these storm sewer systems. In addition, Conservation Authority permits should have been applied for. It is the City’s position that detailed storm sewer and stormwater design calculations should be provided for these systems. The application does not include adequate information in this regard.

Irregularities with the Present Application

City staff has had the opportunity to attend at the Halton-Peel District Office to view the materials filed by the proponent. The City submits that the application as filed contains a number of irregularities that merit the rejection of the present application on the basis of incompleteness.

Name of Proponent

Air Park entrance uly 2013

The ownership of the Air Park and the taxes they actually pay are now being questioned.

The name of the proponent making application for environmental compliance approval is 212091 Ontario Limited. The Certificate of Incorporation and the Articles of Incorporation attached to the application for that numbered company date back to 2006. Our recent corporate search of this company discloses that the numbered company was in fact amalgamated with the Burlington Airpark Inc. on January 1, 2007, forming a new company, Burlington Airpark Inc. being Ontario Corp. Number 1721779. Burlington takes the position that the application has been made by a defunct corporation which cannot have legal responsibility for the proposed works to which the application relates. The documents submitted in support of the applicant’s name are neither current, nor do they provide proof of the name of a genuine applicant. Furthermore, the documents submitted do not include copies of the subsequent articles of amalgamation.

Burlington submits that the proponent’s name as posted on the EBR is misleading, and a reasonable person having an interest in postings on the EBR respecting the Burlington Airpark Inc. would not have adequate notice of the application as posted in its current form.

Location(s) Related to this Instrument

The posting to the Environmental Registry identify the relevant address as 5432 Bell School Line, Burlington. Our information is that the actual address for the site is 5342 Bell School Line, in the City of Burlington. Again, any reasonable person having an interest in activities related to the Airpark would not have adequate notice that an application had been made for those lands. Also, 5342 Bell School Line is only one of three land parcels forming the Airpark lands.

Statement of the Municipality (s. 5.1)

The City notes that section 1.5 of the Application – Statement of the Municipality has been left blank. The Municipality has to indicate that it has no objection to the construction of the works in the municipality. I can assure you, that the City of Burlington, where the works are located has not been contacted and has not been consulted. Furthermore, the box has not been checked as “NA”.

Our understanding is that a municipal declaration is required from the municipality in which the sewage works are or will be located. The Ministry’s own “Guide to Applying for an Environmental Compliance Approval”, identifies that this declaration, “is required to establish the municipality’s general concurrence with the proposal, to ensure that the proposed works would not contravene any municipal by-laws or other requirements.” Also, the common law requires that the City be consulted in these circumstances.

Based on the background provided in this correspondence, the City of Burlington has very serious concerns about the sewage works identified in the application, and the municipality ought to have been consulted prior to the application having been made. The City takes the position that the installation of sewage works was done concurrent with the illegal infill operation that was occurring at the site, in contravention of the City’s site alteration by-laws.

Burlington’s Request

Barbara Sheldon look at 32 feet of landfill less than 50 feet from her kitchen window. All dumped without any permits because an airport is federally regulated. The city is not done with this issue.

Barbara Sheldon look at 32 feet of landfill less than 50 feet from her kitchen window. All dumped without any permits because an airport maintained they were federally regulated and did not have to comply with city bylaws.

The City of Burlington is requesting that the application be returned to the proponent as incomplete for the reasons as presented. The application contains incomplete and inaccurate information, and has the effect of misleading any person with an interest in tracking environmental activity on the EBR. The proponent ought to correct the application, and ensure that discussions are held with the relevant municipal authorities, including the City of Burlington and Conservation Halton before an application for environmental compliance is re­ submitted.

In the alternative, the City is requesting that the time for the submission of comments be extended for an additional 60 days beyond the current deadline of March 20, 2016 to permit adequate time for consideration of the issues by Burlington City Council, and affected residents.

Please note that these submissions are preliminary and deal only with the adequacy of the application and process followed to date. Should the application continue to be processed for approval, the City will submit its technical comments on the application for environmental approval.

If you require any further information, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Yours truly,

Nancy L. Shea Nicol
City Solicitor & Director of Legal Services cc. Mr. Ian Blue, Gardiner

This is the kind of document that would get circulated to council members and discussed in a closed session of council.  Our thanks to the citizen who had the courage to pass it along to the Gazette.

Return to the Front page

Will city council get it right this time? An opportunity to revover from the first round handling of the ADI development on Martha Street.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

March 14, 2016


Mayor and chair

Can Mayor Goldring keep his council focused and on topic in order to meet the two hour limitation he was given by the Chair of the ADI development appeal now before the OMB.

The Mayor is going to have to be brisk and focused when he chairs the Special meeting of Council Wednesday afternoon as they work through what they want to give their legal counsel in the way of instructions on the latest twist in the Nautique development that ADI took to the Ontario Municipal Board.

Nautique ADI rendering - sparse

Can a substantially revised development still be appealed on its original grounds? ADI purchases property to the north of their Nautique development site.

The ADI Development Group appealed their application to build a 28 storey structure to the OMB because they didn’t like the fact that the city did not give them a decision on their project within the required 180 day timeline.

Now they have the temerity to ask the city to go along with an adjournment for six months or more – and it will be more because there is no room on the OMB calendar until the 1Q of 2017.

There is also a bigger issue – the addition of a significant chunk of property to the development proposal would suggest that the OMB can (some say should) throw the appeal out and let ADI make a new application to the city.

The Mayor might have been better advised to call the meeting for 9:30 am – there is going to be a lot to talk about and there is significant doubt that this council can get through the jibber jabber they do when they debate in time to meet that 3:30 deadline put in place by the Chair of the OMB hearing.

City council recently approved the salaries for city council and reported on what council members were given in the way of expense and benefits money. On has to add about $60,000 to the number shown – this is what the council members get paid for their work as members of the Regional council.

Council vote Dec 18-14 Water Street

Recorded votes are not the norm for Burlington’s city council. In this instance Ward 2 Councillor Meed Ward votes against – it will be interesting to see if she demands a recorded vote for whatever comes out of the closed council meeting on Tuesday.

The debate that takes place, in a closed session of city council, which the Gazette believes is one of those occasions when the discussion should take place in camera; however the vote on what the city decides to do should take place in a public session where the public gets to learn what the question was and how individual members actually voted.

This is an important decision that gives the city an opportunity to bring a developer to heal.

One can hope that Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward will do her duty and once again ask for a recorded vote – don’t let your constituents down Councillor.

Return to the Front page

Not much has changed -

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

March 10th, 2016


So what did the rascals do while we were away?

The Burlington’s Best web site nomination process experienced a bit of a screw up – a staffer said it was “experiencing some issues”. The city manager had to jump in and attempt to resolve one of the problems.

Fox monument 1

Why hard working citizen groups should have to be put through so many hoops by the planning department is difficult to understand.

The group of people who are behind the creation of a really smart looking monument that will commemorate the stop Terry Fox made in Burlington 35 years ago found themselves stumbling over hurdles the people in the permit section of the planning department kept putting in front of them.

The Mayor has come out from the bushes and is putting forward a motion for a private tree bylaw.

Trevor Copp, the Burlington actor who mobilized trhe arts into a Collective makes a point on leadership while Executive Director of the Burlington Museum's operation listens.

Trevor Copp, the Burlington actor who mobilized the arts into a Collective makes a point on leadership while Executive Director of the Burlington Museum’s operation listens.

The Arts and Culture Collective of Burlington (ACCOB) has written the people who are beavering away at getting the Strategic Plan into print and in the hands of the public, asking that the word “arts” be included in the Strategic Plan. Culture is already in the document. Trevor Copp, a sometime spokesperson for ACCOB says they “noticed the lack of the specific term ‘Arts’ and advocated for its specific inclusion (good use of ‘Culture’; we want both terms). Hopefully it gets in there and we can reference it in the future.”
The arts community has high hopes for some city money that will be doled out to the arts community.

As for the Strategic Plan – the document is now more than a year late, has ballooned at two levels, the scope and scale of the document and the cost.

Strategic Plan Workbook

The early version was a four year plan – somewhere along the way city council decided to make it a 25 year plan – nothing on the public record as to why they did that.

Traditionally, Strategic Plans are documents prepared by a city council for its term of office. The document that is coming our way covers a 25 year period – a time frame when not one member (hopefully) of this council will be in office.

The cost of the consultants who created the document ballooned as well – but the public may never know exactly how much they paid – the service based budget we now have doesn’t allow anyone to drill down and learn much about the specifics.

There was an agency that has taken on the delivery of a provincially funded initiative that was being funnelled through municipalities. The dollars went from the province to the cities – and in Burlington there was a plug somewhere that resulted in some close to frantic calls for the dollars to move in the right direction so the payroll could be met.

A resident took issue with the way minutes of public meetings are kept. He was unable to delegate in person and mailed in his concerns – and was surprised and upset at the way the public record was kept. Let the correspondence with the city Clerk tell the rest of the story …

Meed Ward as a delegation

Marianne Meed Ward delegated many many times – she saw it as a vital part of the democratic process. The comments that follow were not made by Meed Ward.

“In 25 years of coming to Council as a delegation, with a submission, I have never, ever, to my recollection, had my name, and my main message, not included in the Agenda and Minutes of the meeting. For a recent example, the message I sent not supporting the downsizing of the Nelson pool had my name and main message included.

“If I send something to Council, to speak to an Agenda item, I automatically want to be identified by name, and by my main message.

“After receiving this reply, I looked at the Agenda and Minutes again for the C&CS meeting and see that you have put my original correspondence, with my name back, into the Agenda packet.

“However, in the Minutes, while you put my name back, you did not include my main message, which was I support the staff report recommendation to refuse the ADI Martha St. proposal as outlined.

“Please change these proceedings record to indicate that I supported the staff recommendation.

“That’s the bottom line here – including my name and main message in Agendas and Minutes – and what I want corrected and never done to my correspondence to Council again, if you please.”

The public record matters – everything the Gazette has published is in the archives – except of course for those items we get bullied into removing with threats of expensive lawsuits.

Return to the Front page

Spectator columnist makes us look better than we are - but thanks - there is more to come on this story.


February 11, 2016



My colleague, Joan Little, a former Burlington alderman and Halton councillor, writes a regular column for the Hamilton Spectator. We share a table in Council chambers reserved for media.

More often than not, it is just me from the Gazette and Joan from the Spectator – the Post gets a reporter to about half of the meetings.
Little and I share views on what we see taking place – we use each other to check on what we thought a council member said – we confirm with each other how a member voted – there are a couple that you would swear did not want the public to know how they had voted.

In her most recent column, Little wrote the following:

Monday saw the end of the online Burlington Gazette.  (Not completely correct Joan – but do read on.)

Burlington’s online news and opinion journal has been produced by resident Pepper Parr for over five years, initially as Our Burlington. Although a resident for under six years, he seems to know almost everyone in the city and at City Hall.

Mayor Goldring once described the Gazette as almost better than sliced bread – he has changed his mind about the Gazette and the Gazette changed its mind about him.

This is what the original Burlington Gazette office on Brant Street used to look like.

This is what the original Burlington Gazette office on Brant Street used to look like.

The demise of the Gazette is sad, because the outspoken Parr always evoked interesting feedback, and left Burlingtonians with something to mull over. He seemed to be everywhere — city hall meetings, community activities, even sports and arts events. And he strongly promoted local endeavours.

But litigation takes its toll. Always outspoken, Parr regularly made on-the-edge observations. Whether actually litigious, only a court could rule, but he upset companies and individuals enough to attract two challenges over the years, neither of which has been heard yet, according to Parr. They cost money for consultations with lawyers.

He had been increasing the Gazette’s advertising revenue recently, but the time needed, and the confluence of the cost of running an online journal and defending against legal threats took its toll.

One company suing is Burlington Executive Air Park, which itself was sued in 2013 by the City over the amount of fill it imported to its Bell School Line site. The City claimed importation of fill is covered by its site alteration bylaw. The Air Park said it was exempt because airports are under federal jurisdiction. Burlington initially won, but the issue is still before the courts as the result of appeals.

Besides the Gazette, North Burlington citizens Monte Dennis and Vanessa Warren were also sued for comments they made. Dennis wrote a Letter to the Editor to the Spectator in response to a submission by Air Park’s Vince Rossi. The Rural Greenbelt Coalition is raising money to help fund their defence.

Another recent corporate threat was from Adi Development Group. Adi is proposing the 26-storey condo at Martha and Lakeshore, which is the subject of a March OMB hearing.

Adi demanded an apology for comments in two November columns which it claimed damaged its reputation. The apology appeared Monday, and the offending columns were retracted.

A question that troubles citizen activists and journalists is whether they might become the targets of libel chill (the threat of being sued for libel to shut them up). Having a second pair of eyes check columns before publication is a plus. On one occasion my Spec editor was concerned about a column’s content, and cautioned me. Grateful for the advice, I amended it, or could have been in that situation.

Ontario passed legislation in October, “The Protection of Public Participation Act”, aimed at protecting against SLAPP suits (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation). It reduces the risk of suits (which are often dropped before getting to trial anyway) and fast tracks the process.

Unfortunately it won’t help Dennis or Warren, because they were sued before this legislation was passed. Such suits can cost defendants thousands. How many people have that kind of spare change?

Meantime Parr has shut down the Burlington Gazette. Asked what he will do now, he said he wasn’t sure, but is considering a couple of options, and will enjoy expanded participation in his church community.

Burlington owes him a debt of gratitude for demystifying some of the operations of city hall, and for providing a local sounding board.

Clearly disappointed, he noted that one of the main things he tried to do was educate citizens about how City Hall works, and how to effectively present their positions. In that, he succeeded brilliantly.

He definitely knows more about the internal workings of City Hall than most people as the result of investigations he’s done. And he has acted in the past as a consultant for small business.

Who knows? He could show up on a council ballot.

Little got most of it right. The Gazette has not shut down – it has just limited what it publishes for a very short period of time.

The apology we were required to publish, if we wanted to avoid a very expensive libel suit, which we thought we could win but could not afford to fight, was to be the top story on the paper for a period of forty – eight hours.

If we published our usual daily volume that apology would have been shoved off the front page with a day or two. So we published very little – and let the apology – that we didn’t write, got top billing.

That 48 hours is coming to an end and we will get caught up.

However – and this is critical – the Gazette needs to change its financial model if it is to continue and find a way to get more advertising into the paper so we can pay our bills and have a cookie jar with some fall back on cash.

I have put everything I had into the Gazette – it cost me a marriage that I did not want to see end and it requires me to move from the accommodation I have now to something that is closer to the pension money I get. It is going to be bumpy for a while

Return to the Front page

The Stateside election: River's discounts The Donald, remembers The Ronald and seems to want to put his money on The Cuban.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

February 4th, 2016


I’m in Nicaragua this week, taking in a little sun and a lot of car exhaust fumes. Even in the picturesque tourist city of Granada, a walk down its narrow streets yields an unhealthy lung full of petroleum byproducts. The privately owned cars, trucks and motor bikes scoot around or get tied up in vehicular traffic on these mostly pot-holed streets, pumping out nasty black fumes and all those other pollutants we don’t see.

It’s a poor country, as I discovered trying to drive on what passes for roads here, before giving up and championing public transportation and my shanks’ mare. And it is a treat to watch the many horse-drawn vehicles and the oxen carts hauling the nation’s produce and its people.

It makes one wonder how these people manage their extensive cane and corn plantations, when not a tractor is to be seen. Oxen technology? One wonders if the exhaust fumes from grass-fed ‘quadro gastric’ ruminants are worse those than from the petroleum-fed internal combustion engines when it comes to global warming?


Donald Trump

It may be a poor country but they do have universal internet, even if it runs a tad slow, in true Latin tradition. So I could hardly avoid exposure to that other hot air activity, the 2016 US primary in Iowa, which was plastered all over the cyber sphere. Our own Canadian-born Ted Cruz managed to trump ‘The Donald’, thanks in part to the flamboyant Trump’s set-to with Fox News and his insatiable appetite to insult and alienate.

One would have thought the endorsement of the unintelligibly rambling Sarah Palin would have pushed him over the top, but not so. Cruz invoked the higher order of ‘The Ronald’ (Reagan) and that must have sealed the deal. Even if Cruz’s own party finds him an unlikeable sort – and if unlikeable, unlikely to win the big one in November – he’s still a more authentic neo-con than Trump, cut in the cloth of his hero Ronnie.

If I were a betting man, I’d put my money on that other Cuban, the handsome Marco Rubio to get the GOP nod, though. Oh and I’d be surprised it Trump doesn’t fall on his promise to the party, and run as an independent along with former New York mayor Bloomberg.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. gestures during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Jan. 16, 2015, to discuss Republican efforts to cut Social Security and Medicare and other programs that have an impact on working families. Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, became the ranking minority member on the Senate Budget Committee when the new GOP-controlled Congress began. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. gestures during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington.

The democrats had a see-saw contest in Iowa with Hillary and Bernie almost equally balanced off. Except it wasn’t supposed to go that way. Iowa should have been a shoo-in for the capable and likeable Clinton, and would have been except for all the baggage she is carrying. No one can blame her for her flirtatious husband’s sexual addiction, and she might get a pass on voting for the Iraq invasion, but it’s her unimpressive record as Madam Secretary which is weighing her down.

And Bernie – God bless his 74 years as a socialist – he is creating quite a stir, especially among those spoiled millennials who need a good reason to vote. In fact Sanders’ impact on the younger crowd hasn’t been seen… since America elected its first black president. Well maybe that didn’t work as well as some of us had hoped, but Sanders like our own Trudeau, is a breath of fresh air in a country on a precipice.

Marco Rubio

Marco Rubio

The precipice – progress or regress. This is not the first time that Americans have faced that kind of choice in their outdated bi-cameral electoral system, with its archaic electoral college and independent state-managed voting systems, And as often as not they have made the poorer choice, as when they and the Supreme Court elected GW Bush and when Cruz’s hero Ronald Reagan won two back-to-back elections – which takes us back to Nicaragua.

The US has had a long history of helping Nicaragua discover democracy even as the Monroe Doctrine, defining the US role in Latin America, was evolving. In the mid 1800’s an American slavery promoter by the name of Walker, from the great state of Tennessee brought in an army on the pretence of supporting one side in a civil conflict. He was there anyway so decided to make himself president and revoke Nicaragua’s anti-slavery law, just to please his southern state-side supporters.

But all good things must come to an end and eventually the bordering states of Costa Rica, El Salvador and Honduras ganged up to defeat Walker, and with a little help from the Brits, he ended up before a Honduran firing squad. Then a half-century later the marines landed, and using the Roosevelt corollary hunkered down to ensure the US’s Panama would be the only canal in the continent. (Nicaragua had been an alternative route).


Former American president Ronald Regan

In the late 1970’s the Sandinista socialist hoard overran the corrupt dictator Samosa and Reagan’s CIA and Oliver North broke American and international laws, selling arms to Iran via Israel – as incredible as that sounds today. The money was used to train the ‘Contra’ militants to commit acts of terror and human rights violations against the Sandinistas. That included killing over 3000 people and mining the nation’s harbours.

The Nicaraguan government first took and won its case against the US in the International Court of Justice, where the court ordered the US to desist and pay reparations. Then armed with that judgement they went to the UN Security Council, only to be vetoed five times by the US. Eventually, brought before the UN General Assembly, a resolution was passed condemning this act of state sponsored terrorism.

Of course the US approach to Latin America has changed recently with the Obama administration turning the page on the Monroe Doctrine – or as some have observed, returning to it’s original intent. As for Ronald Reagan, the world would be a better place had he stuck to his career as a mediocre actor.

Rivers-direct-into-camera1-173x300Ray Rivers writes weekly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking. Rivers was a candidate for provincial office in Burlington where he ran as a Liberal against Cam Jackson in 1995, the year Mike Harris and the Common Sense Revolution swept the province. Rivers has taken a break to complete his second book – he does dabble in local politics.

Background links:

William Walker   ICC Ruling     Contra Affair

Sandinistas       Monroe Doctrine       Terrorism

Return to the Front page

Public involvement in getting ideas from the general public got left out - all the stakeholders got a chance to promote their interests. Wasn't this new Liberal government going to be more open?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

February 2, 2016


“In keeping with the Liberals’ commitment to ensuring an inclusive and open government” said the media release, “Burlington MP Karina Gould and Oakville North-Burlington MP Pam Damoff continued the Finance Minister’s collaborative approach to budget planning by participating in a large number of extensive pre-budget consultations across the ridings in January to gather input from a variety of individuals, groups and organizations on the key issues that should be addressed in the federal governments’ upcoming budget.”

In early January, Minister of Finance Bill Morneau officially launched the Government’s pre-budget consultations and called upon Canadians to share their thoughts on how to better support the middle class, create jobs, and set the right conditions for long-term prosperity and stronger economic growth.

Levee Gould welcoming a new Canadian

Burlington MP Karina Gould works very well with people – she listens well. Not widening the pre-budget consultations to include more than the stake holders might have been a lost opportunity.

Throughout the month of January, Damoff and Gould participated in consultations with a large number of groups including both Oakville and Burlington Chambers of Commerce, the Town of Oakville and City of Burlington, the Region of Halton, representatives of local unions, businesses, social service providers as well as other local MPs and MPPs. They also invited all residents in their ridings to have their say on the budget through their Facebook and Twitter pages.

And that’s the rub – social media is not consulting with people; it’s sort of like a placebo – something you put in place hoping that the person swallowing the medicine will never know that it isn’t the real thing.

The input the local MPs received during pre-budget consultations covered a number of broad themes, including economic growth, climate change, social infrastructure – particularly housing , public transit, youth employment, a national transportation strategy, local infrastructure including active transportation like cycling and walking, and green infrastructure. Of particular importance to those who offered input was improved local infrastructure to assist and improve economic growth.

Examples of local infrastructure put forward in Burlington included grade separations, LED lighting conversion and active transportation links over the QEW. The Burlington Chamber stressed the importance of small and medium –size business to not only our local economy, but national economic growth. The need to focus on local transit, and integration between municipalities was brought up a number of times. Both Oakville and Burlington were clear that they need stable and sustainable funding for infrastructure, and that the process needs to allow for transformational change in the riding.

Damoff polar ear dip

Oakville North Burlington MP Pam Damoff takes part in the annual polar bear dip – she’s capable of doing things differently.

“I was very impressed with the high level of input I received throughout the pre-budget consultation process and was particularly pleased to see such a collaborative approach taken to addressing our local and national economic issues,” said Ms. Damoff. “I look forward to continuing to consult with constituents across my riding as the budget process continues.”

“Our government was elected on a platform that promised extensive consultation throughout the legislative process,” said Ms. Gould. “It’s positive that many of the issues stakeholders raised during our pre-budget consultations are in direct correlation with our government’s priorities which I’m confident will translate into results for Burlington and Canada.”

All input received has been shared with the Finance Minister to inform the decision-making around the budget.

Both Damoff and Gould are superb political campaigners – they have a very real capacity to listen to people and they are part of that new wave of politicians who don’t take themselves too seriously and have fun at the same time.

Both members of Parliament could have and should have held an open mike evening where people would have been invited to speak – but out there ideas and see how the meeting reacted to them.


A grade separation is important and when this one on King |Road was completed it made a difference – but it has yet to result in any new business development along King Road

They went to the stakeholders – this with vested interests – did you expect the Chamber of Commerce to advocate for a $20 minimum wage and does anyone think that Community Development Halton is going to get excited about a grade separation at a rail crossing?

There was an opportunity to have them all in the same room where they could mix it up and perhaps, just perhaps hear each other and begin to understand each other.

A missed opportunity. Maybe next time.

Return to the Front page