Putting the Mayor’s State of the City in context.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

January 29th, 2016

BURLINGTON, ON

He is getting better  as a speaker; one of his council colleagues suggested he was getting some training.

Another council colleague said “he went on to long”.

Ok – but what did he say?

There were no “announcements” – he just ran through the things that had been done, mentioned several of the senior staff additions and got one decent joke in.

There wasn’t a standing ovation.

Flood Fairview plaza

Business people know that problems like this need a resolution – all they heard on Thursday was that more money was going to be thrown at it.

The Mayor made very small mention of a possible storm water tax levy – his audience was a combination of senior city hall staff and business people.

Intensification got several paragraphs. If we understood the Mayor correctly, Burlington has already reached its 2031 target.

The Mayor made much better use of good visual aids – at one point he put up three pictures; one of Waterdown Road as it is today – with its widening and a nice new coat of asphalt; a second on what is possible in terms of height under existing zoning and told the audience that if the people of Aldershot wanted a supermarket all they had to do was go along with those higher buildings.

It is clear that the Mayor hasn’t taken in a planning meeting in Aldershot – those folks want to keep their bungalows and streets without sidewalks.

There was quite a bit of time spent on the strategic Plan – he did mention that it was late – made no mention of the cost and didn’t touch on the content – not even a couple of tease lines. The audience he was talking to Thursday morning is going to be very disappointed when they see the final document – unless there are massage changes from the draft versions.

It was a dull speech – the Mayor doesn’t do barn burners – but gosh, golly, gee could he not have said something that would have the business men and woman in the room sitting up in their chairs?

The city planning department has been working on the concept of mobility hubs and there are still those prosperity corridors being talked up.

Mobility hubs

While the city council has not actually said that the |Aldershot GO station is where the first mobility hub is going to be located – all the signs point to that location.

Those start ups the Mayor is so hungry for got another mention and the Advanced Manufacturing Hub that former Prime Minister promised us is still in the works. But he didn’t drill down into just what this would mean for the business community.

The Mayor did mention the newest speaker he has coming to town – this time it is going to be Brent  Toderian who has said  “good planning is not a popularity contest.”    Toderian will talk about the need for city’s to grow “up” and not out at the Royal Botanical Gardens February 12th.

Mayor Goldring seems to want to go back to the Burlington of the 1970’s when he knew everyone in Roseland where he lived at the time – he longs for that “small town fee”.

He touched on the Community Investment Plan that is going to put small amount of money into community groups and let them plan and run recreational event in their communities.

“We are an engaged city” said the Mayor – it would be really wonderful if the he expanded on what he means by “engaged” because Mayor Rick Goldring certainly didn’t engage his audience Thursday morning over breakfast at the Burlington Convention Centre

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Mayor gives the business community his take on the State of the City - sunshine and roses.

News 100 blueBy Mayor Rick Goldring

January 29, 2016

BURLINGTON, ON

The Gazette has published the Mayor’s State of the City report for most of the last five years.  Links to previous addresses at at the bottom of the 2016 address.

Theologian Leonard Sweet said, “The future is not something we enter. The future is something we create.” Today, I would like to talk to you about Burlington’s future.

Mayor and chair

Mayor Rick Goldring.

I am pleased to share that after more than a year of cooperation and collaboration between the community, City Council and city staff, Burlington’s 2015 to 2040 Strategic Plan is almost finalized. Staff is currently making final revisions based on your feedback before sending the completed document to council for approval this spring.

The city is undergoing an important transition, one that some municipalities don’t step up to. In addition to our core mandate of providing a range of critical city services, council has decided to add a new mandate, to actively “city-build.”

City-building entails using all of the tools available to council and working with partners to actively shape the physical, social, economic and cultural fabric of the city.

The new Strategic Plan is fundamentally different than past plans. It is the twenty-five-year blueprint for city-building, and will be supported in more detail with the Official Plan, Transportation Master Plan, and the Corporate Work Plan. Collectively these plans will be setting ambitious, clear and measurable targets for physical growth, sustainability, carbon neutrality, economic growth, changing how people move around the city and how we engage with the public.

Burlington is one of the first Southern Ontario municipalities to stop sprawling and instead grow in place, something many other municipalities will be faced with in the next decade or two. We are leading the way, and are the ‘poster child’ for David Crombie’s recent report on how municipalities in Southern Ontario should be evolving.
As we stop sprawling, we are now going to focus more deliberately on our rural area through our Strategic Plan and Official Plan.

In preparation, we are actively changing our internal management structures, planning processes, and where necessary, skills and resources to support this new agenda.

There are four key directions outlined in our new Strategic Plan, including: A City that Grows, A City that Moves, A Healthy and Greener City and An Engaging City.
Today, I will talk about these directions, highlight the objectives in each section and discuss achievements of the past year related to the four strategic themes.

A City That Grows

A City That Grows is one where Burlington is a magnet for talent, good jobs and economic opportunity while having achieved intensification and balanced, targeted population growth for youth, families, newcomers and seniors.

Promoting Economic Growth
I believe that economic development is the key to a vibrant, prosperous Burlington – whether five or twenty-five years into the future.
Our results in 2015 were steady. Our key metrics are in line. However, vacant employment land supply is low and we are working to activate key employment lands to provide some much-needed inventory for business to locate.

We are also working through our Official Plan and recognizing that with over 88 per cent of employment land already in use, and a large portion of this development more than 50 years old, we need policies to support redevelopment of these employment areas.

Several expansions took place, most noticeably Cogent and Evertz with significant physical expansions. There are many others in our community with aggressive growth plans.

We are working on a number of office and industrial developments for 2016 and we expect to continue to meet out targets in the short term.

As the global economy becomes more and more connected, innovation and globalization are critical to our future. With global competition and the race to low labour costs, our businesses must innovate and utilize new and emerging technologies, supply chains and intellectual property to prosper.

Cities and governments around the world recognize this. Investments in innovation and industry coordination are increasing in certain jurisdictions. Germany and Austria, for example, have introduced Industry 4.0 and are investing more than 70 billion Euros to ensure that manufacturers are operating at the leading edge. The U.K., U.S. and many others are moving in this direction.

The province of Ontario is recognized as one of the best places to start a business. We are not, however, having the success we need growing these businesses. Data shows that 75 per cent of new jobs come from new businesses, primarily between year two and year seven of operations.

Recognizing these trends, our focus for economic development is shifting. Traditionally, we have focused on retaining the businesses we have. Going forward we will be:

Focusing on supporting start-up and growth businesses.
Developing a Regional Employment and Innovation District, which better reflects the work environment companies are looking for and is connected to our highway and public transit network.
Supporting population growth and initiatives to attract and retain the talent that we need to have. This includes youth, young families and professionals, and a more welcoming environment for newcomers.
Improving our transit connectivity to employment areas including looking beyond our borders is critical. After all, almost 35,000 people go back and forth for work between Burlington and Hamilton every day.
Working with our post-secondary education partners to ensure that employers have the talent that they need and that we as a community are taking advantage of the more than 10,000 annual graduates from our local institutions. We are currently working with Mohawk, Sheridan, Brock and McMaster to provide better access to research and development for local business.

McMAster Univesity is developing a three year program that will significantly improve the management skills of senior and middle management staff at city hall. As many as 150 staff members will be taking courses over a thtree year period.

McMaster Univesity De Groote School of Business is adding a fourth floor.

 

Within the coming months, DeGroote will be finishing the fourth floor of the Ron Joyce Centre. This will be the home of the new Michael G. DeGroote Health Leadership Academy, as well as a Centre for Evidence Based Management. McMaster’s DeGroote School of Business is also launching their new Executive MBA program in Digital Transformation this year.

In 2016, we will continue to work with industry, education and senior levels of government to support the development of an Advanced Manufacturing Hub in Burlington, which will assist manufacturers in Burlington, Halton and Southern Ontario in becoming more competitive globally.

Burlington has a strong, diversified local economy. We will continue to support this, and invest in the future to ensure prosperity in the long term.

Intensification

Intensification is another key aspect to the future of our city outlined in the proposed Strategic Plan.

Burlington intensification areaINSERT

To understand intensification – the greater concentration of people living and/or working in a defined area – we need to understand what factors are influencing the future of Burlington.

Burlington is built out. There is very little room left for traditional greenfield suburban-type development. Fifty per cent of Burlington is rural, agricultural, natural greenbelt and the vast majority of people I talk to want to keep it that way. North Aldershot, Mount Nemo, Lowville and Kilbride areas house the Bruce Trail, Lowville Park, the Cootes to Escarpment Eco Park System and many other natural features. As the Greater Golden Horseshoe Area becomes more urbanized, the importance of maintaining these assets will only magnify.

Primarily because of immigration, 150,000 people move to the Greater Golden Horseshoe area every year resulting in 3.7 million new residents and 1.8 million new jobs in the next twenty-five years.

The Ontario government released the Places to Grow Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe in 2006 defining how we should accommodate this growth.

Halton Region agreed to accept growth of 315,000 people and 175,000 jobs by 2031, with best planning estimates stating that Milton will grow to 228,000, Oakville 246,000 and Burlington 186,000 by 2031. Burlington is close to 186,000 people now.

In a city that is out of traditional greenfield land, where 50 per cent of our city is protected greenbelt land, the next question is: Where do we grow?

Downtown is an Urban Growth Centre in the Ontario Places to Grow Plan and is targeted to have approximately 200 jobs and people per hectare by 2031. It is two-thirds of the way there now.

Our Official Plan also identifies other sites suited for intensification, such as Uptown located at Appleby Line between Mainway and Upper Middle Road.

The Fairview/Plains Road corridor. When we talk about the transformation of Plains Road through intensification, it is important to recognize the leadership and vision of Councillor Rick Craven.

Site with GO in background before sunrise

Five tower Paradigm project on Fairview at the GO station is selling very well.

The areas around our three GO Stations – Aldershot, Burlington and Appleby.

Aging retail plazas like Roseland, Eastway and Lakeside.

We anticipate that 80 per cent of our urban area will not experience significant change.

If we take federal and provincial policies out of the picture, what makes sense when it comes to residential growth for Burlington? Would we intensify regardless of growth policies?

According to city planner and former Vancouver chief planner, Brent Toderian, the advantages of creating more density, if done well, are:

Facilitating more affordable housing choices
Curbing the negative impacts of sprawl
Mitigating climate change
Dramatically decreasing energy costs
Increasing energy independence
Making walking, biking and transit more inviting
Improving public health, diversity, creativity, safety and vibrancy

These advantages are possible if density is created in an appropriate manner.

I would like to note Brent Toderian is our keynote speaker at Inspire Burlington on February 11th. I invite you to join us for an engaging evening around great city-building.

Brent Toderian writes: “What really matters is how you grow big, not how big you grow…. Most cities perceive growth to be a positive thing when done well, supporting such civic goals as improving affordability, enhancing ecological sustainability, supporting social equity and choice, and stimulating creativity and economic development.”

We are improving conversations about density and we will continue to connect and engage with the community soliciting input on how we grow.

Extreme Weather Resiliency

In order to grow within our urban boundary, we need to be assured that our infrastructure can handle the growth. Since the flood of 2014, the City of Burlington and Halton Region have stepped up our focus on storm water and wastewater management.

Flood presentation - 407 flooded

The initial damage from the flood and the cost of making sure we don’t get hit as hard next time – Mayor said we need to plan for the next one

As a result of the thorough analysis and extensive reports completed by the City and Region, we have committed a total of more than $120 million over the next 10 years to improve our resiliency in the event of extreme weather.

A City That Moves

A City That Moves is where people and goods move through the city more efficiently and safely.

A City That Moves offers a variety of convenient, affordable and green forms of transportation that align with regional travel patterns. This is a city that features walkability within new and transitioning neighbourhoods, as well as in our downtown.

We are investing $300 million over the next 10 years on our roads, which includes such projects as road reconstruction, resurfacing and intersection widening.

However, moving forward, we are shifting our focus on moving people through more sustainable modes of travel that do not rely exclusively on the automobile.

Ninety per cent of all trips made on a weekday within our city – which number more than 260,000 – are made by automobile. Furthermore, 50 per cent of these trips are five kilometres or less.

Walkable trips are considered to be two kilometres or less. Bikeable trips are considered to be within the two to five kilometre range.

These are the ideal distances to cycle, walk or hop on a Burlington Transit bus – including to and from one of our three GO Stations.

Just ask Councillor Jack Dennison, who is on the cycling committee and can be found cycling to events on weekends.

Long-term, we are looking to implement a complete streets vision. This vision will be part of an integrated plan that will see on- and off-road bike lanes, sidewalks, multi-use paths and trails and public transit well-connected and coordinated.

Complete Streets will make Burlington more walkable and bikeable, support investments in transit, foster social engagement and community pride, support the local economy and property values, and improve the livability and long‐term sustainability of our region. Burlington will be a better place to live and work, realizing long‐term savings from improved public health and safety, environmental stewardship, social mobility and transportation equity.

Speaking of transit, we are expecting full implementation of our transit intelligent transportation system within the next few months. This includes a website, trip planning function, real-time information and stop announcements.

Creating walkable neighbourhoods directly relates to a City that Moves and a City That Grows.

Noted American urban planner Jeff Speck notes that a walk has to satisfy four main conditions: it must be useful, safe, comfortable and interesting.

When I ask people what they like most about living downtown, they respond it is they can walk everywhere. That is one of the reasons Councillor Marianne Meed Ward says she enjoys living downtown.

Just as Councillor Meed Ward walks to work every day, we want to develop more neighbourhoods across the city where people have that same opportunity.

Mobility hubs offer significant potential for intensification and walkability.

These are places of connectivity where different modes of transportation – from walking to commuter rail – come together seamlessly.

There are currently 3,500 customers using the Burlington GO station on a weekday. The addition of more than 900 residential units further transforms the site into a walk-friendly, cycle-friendly, transit-friendly neighbourhood that also includes office and retail. GO customers can look forward to 15-minute service on an electrified Lakeshore West GO line within the next decade.

This type of development also gives first-time homebuyers, especially young professionals, a chance to enter the real estate market, as well as those looking to downsize, units at a good price.

A Healthy and Greener City

A Healthy and Greener City is one in which the City of Burlington is a leader in the stewardship of the environment while encouraging healthy lifestyles.

In this area, I believe we are ahead of other municipalities with our Community Energy Plan, as well as our vast array of parks, recreation facilities and programming.

According to the respondents of our online survey about the draft Strategic Plan, a Healthy and Greener City was ranked as the most important of the four key directions.

Our health is one of our greatest assets.

Last week, NASA confirmed 2015 was Earth’s warmest year since record-keeping began in 1880. While last saw a major El Niño weather system, this dubious milestone was largely driven by climate change. Fifteen of the top 16 warmest years have occurred since the year 2000.

Healthy Lifestyles

Going back to Brent Toderian’s comments, the potential advantage of creating more density is making walking, biking and transit more appealing, which fosters improved public health.

Healthy living in Burlington is supported by a well-planned city with walkable neighbourhoods featuring good access to parks and recreation facilities.

The Mayor calls this the

Hundreds walk this park right out to the canal boundary every day.

We will ensure every resident lives within a short distance of parks or recreational spaces, creating multi-use parks and green space, and supporting the Bruce Trail. The city’s approximate 50-50 split between rural and urban settings has positioned us as a city rich in outdoor recreational space.

Good programming at top-level recreational facilities also promotes healthy living. Last January, for example, we opened a revitalized Mountainside Recreation Centre, which features an arena, outdoor pool and community space. This centre has become a draw for young people at the weekly No Socks for Ivan drop-in, with an upwards of 200 youth and teens coming weekly.

Councillor John Taylor was a staunch advocate in the revitalization of this recreation centre, and I know the community is grateful for his role in its transformation.

Late last year, City Council also approved a rebuild of Nelson Pool at a cost of approximately $5 million. The updated facility is scheduled to open in 2018, possibly earlier if construction goes well.

Related to a Healthy City and An Engaging City, a new initiative created by the City of Burlington that I am particularly excited about this winter is the neighbourhood rink program. Sixteen parks will feature 18 neighbourhood rinks for the 2015-16 winter season. This supports our parks and recreation mantra: Live and Play Every Day.

The rink program was inspired by Seattle community builder Jim Diers, who worked with our staff on neighbourhood power.

Inspired by Jim’s work, City Council approved $80,000 for community investment. This funding will support residents and groups of neighbours in enhancing city space by adding a park feature, creating an event or starting a new program.

Burlington is also one of 45 communities across Ontario taking part in the Healthy Kids Community Challenge. The City will receive up to $1.1 million in one-time funding from the Province between April 2015 to March 2018 to promote children’s health through physical activity and healthy eating.

Healthy living is also connected to good community health care. The City of Burlington has committed $60 million to the redevelopment and expansion of Joseph Brant Hospital. This is the city’s largest investment in a non-city facility in the history of our community.

Groundbreaking took place in March 2015 for the redevelopment and expansion project’s second phase: a new seven-storey patient care tower.

When construction of the tower is complete in 2017 Joseph Brant Hospital will feature 172 acute inpatient beds, a new emergency department, a larger cancer clinic, nine new operating rooms, expanded medical, surgical and outpatient services, and much more.

Brant hospital - part of 4th floor

Joseph Brant Hospital getting close to topping off. Will open in 2018

Joseph Brant Hospital treats more than 250,000 patients each year. The hospital opened in 1961, but has not had a major renovation since 1971.

I want to thank the provincial government for their significant investment that will cover approximately two-thirds of the total cost of the project.

The Joseph Brant Hospital Foundation is close to reaching its $60 million contribution. To date, the foundation has raised $48 million thanks, in part, to significant donations in 2015 from the Joyce Foundation, Voortman Cookies (Mr. Harry Voortman) and Longo’s Family Charitable Foundation.

A healthy and greener city encourages sustainable projects. Our community gardens program has been well received by the community and we are looking to continue to grow it.

Burlington City Council appreciates Halton Regional Council’s support of the Burlington Beach Regional Waterfront Park Master Plan. The development of this park will enhance the Region of Halton. The park features a natural sand beach that is part of a unique landform called a Baymouth Bar. It is also home to provincially and regionally rare plant and animal species.

The estimated project cost is more than $51 million. The majority of the Burlington Beach Regional Waterfront Park plan will be developed over the next five to ten years. It could take up to twenty to twenty-five years to completely finish the park.

Environmental Leadership

The ongoing implementation and updates of the Community Energy Plan are integral to moving forward as a city on environmental leadership.

This past year, we had a number of accomplishments connected to our Community Energy Plan: Burlington Hydro’s co-gen pilot project, our first electric vehicle charging station on city property and my Inspire Burlington Series/Take Action Burlington event with David Miller from the World Wildlife Fund.

Carpentr House - walking the trail

Citizens walking the trail in the Beachway along what was once a railway line.

We are also in the process of completing phase one of our community energy system feasibility study. The study is looking at opportunities for more efficient and sustainable local generation of thermal energy with electrical generation.

Long-term, we are looking to continue moving forward on environmental leadership through a variety of initiatives, such as city operations that are carbon neutral, increasing our urban forest and tree canopy, and continuing to preserve our rural area.

We continue to be proud partners in the Cootes to Escarpment Eco-Park System. This is a collaboration between ten local government and non-profit organizations to protect, restore and connect more than 9,600 acres of natural lands at the western end of Lake Ontario.

David Suzuki said: “I can’t imagine anything more important than air, water, soil, energy and biodiversity. These are the things that keep us alive.”

An Engaging City

In a city that engages, community members are engaged, empowered, welcomed and well-served by their city. Culture and community activities thrive, creating a positive sense of place, inclusivity and community.

Our vision of an engaged city builds on the foundation we have laid since our Engagement Charter was approved by City Council in 2013.

We created and launched the Get Involved page (www.burlington.ca/getinvolved) for all things citizen engagement on the city’s new website. This includes our online platforms – Let’s Talk Burlington and Insight Burlington, Get Involved calendar and volunteer opportunities.

A rapt audience listened to an overview of the 2014 budget. What they have yet to have explained to them is the desperate situation the city will be in ten years from now if something isn't done in the next few years to figure out how we are going to pay for the maintenance of the roads we have.

A rapt audience listened to an overview of a city budget.

In the past year, we engaged thousands of residents online on a variety of topics, like the Transportation Master Plan, community gardens, Strategic Plan, budget, intensification and parking.

Councillor Paul Sharman’s engagement with the community around the potential redevelopment of Lakeside Plaza is commendable. Last November, more than 300 residents came out to the Lakeside Plaza visioning exercise.

Budget

It goes without saying that a major priority for council and staff is balancing increased services and investments with the need for responsible tax rate increases.

The capital budget was approved in December and the operating budget for 2016 was approved this week.

When combined with the Halton Region and the school boards, the overall property tax increase is 2 per cent and that number is inclusive of a 3.14 per cent increase in the city’s portion.

The city increase of 3.14 per cent is broken down as follows:

The base budget increase of 1.28 per cent that is less than the Consumer Price Index.
A 1.44 per cent increase dedicated to the renewal of the city’s infrastructure.
42 per cent to increase service levels in areas such as winter maintenance, bylaw enforcement and storm water management.

The 2016 budget marks the second year the city presented the operating budget in a service based format. Under this approach, business plans are developed for all 37 of the services provided by the city.

We will continue to strive towards annual property tax increases that are responsible to current and future residents, as well as reflect inflationary increases, infrastructure renewal and increased service investments.

Government Partnerships

Building strong relationships with other governments also moves us towards our goals as a city.

Federal infrastructure investment, which we support 100 per cent, is a key priority of the new Trudeau government.

Property taxes in Ontario are the highest in the country, so we also welcome the federal investment in identified priorities around affordable housing, public transit and climate change.

I look forward to working with our Members of Parliament Karina Gould, Pam Damoff and Lisa Raitt on these issues.

Recognizing that municipalities are a provincial responsibility, it is only natural I have regular contact with our Members of Provincial Parliament Eleanor McMahon and Indira Naidoo-Harris on a wide range of issues, including transit and transportation, environment and municipal legislation.

Meanwhile, the cities of Burlington and Hamilton are involved in discussions through our city managers. The two mayors and members of council also meet as the Greater Bay Area Subcommittee to discuss areas of common interest.

It is noteworthy that Burlington and Hamilton’s chambers of commerce are hosting the second annual Bay Area Economic Summit in June.

This term, I have also played a leading role at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario. I currently serve as the Chair of the Large Urban Caucus and the Chair of the Climate Change Task Force. I am also on the Memorandum of Understanding team, which meets regularly with the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and other members of provincial cabinet discussing proposed changes to policy and legislation affecting municipalities.

Public Engagement Through Cultural and Community Activities

As the City of Burlington grows and will continue to do so over the coming decades, we are diversifying. It is essential to foster a Burlington where everyone feels welcome, regardless of age, race, gender or sexual orientation.

Councillor Blair Lancaster represents one of our most culturally diverse wards. She is focused on creating a strong sense of belonging in neighbourhoods in her ward, as well as city-wide through her role on the inclusivity advisory committee.

The ongoing initiative of Burlington groups sponsoring Syrian refugees and the outpouring of support is an example of the embodiment of engagement and inclusivity.

Arts and Culture

Thanks to city investment and the dedication of leaders, boards, staff, and members of the arts and culture community, I believe we are starting to fully realize the tremendous assets we have right here in our city.

The Burlington Performing Arts Centre was booked for more than 600 uses last year, with in excess of 100,000 visitors. Based on the recent economic impact study in 2014, the arts centre generates $7.8 million in annual economic activity, with room to grow. It also serves as a world-class venue for many local groups, from our Burlington Teen Tour Band and Symphony on the Bay to Tottering Biped Theatre and Burlington Student Theatre. Suzanne Haines became the centre’s new executive director last year.

The Art Gallery of Burlington saw another good year, with new leadership from Robert Steven as the president and CEO. There were 45,000 visitors to exhibitions, not including visitors from facility rentals. There were also 24 exhibitions in their five gallery spaces in 2015.

Ireland Hse front view

Ireland House – heritage that was saved.

Last year, Burlington Museums connected with a large number of young people, in particular, through its education programming. Almost 5,000 children visited the museums through camps, and school and youth group education programs.

More than 1.1 million people visited Burlington Public Library’s seven branches in 2015. The library loaned out nearly 2 million items last year – the equivalent of each resident in Burlington borrowing 10 to 11 items.

Last year marked a historic moment for the City of Burlington’s Public Art Program when six murals were unveiled by seven local artists at one time in December 2015.

There are also the numerous festivals and events that showcase our city and boost our local economy. Hundreds of thousands of people come from near and far to take in events like the Sound of Music Festival, Canada’s Largest Ribfest, the Children’s Festival and Canada Day.

Arts and culture has been a cornerstone of societies throughout history and they will continue to be so in Burlington as we look to the future. Canadian scientist Steven Pinker said: “There is no society ever discovered in the remotest corner of the world that has not had something that we would consider the arts.”

What do we want Burlington to be in twenty-five years?

We want to be a city that grows, a city that moves, a healthy and greener city and a city that engages.

Let’s work together to make our great city even greater.

State of the city addresses by Mayor Rick Goldring:

State of the City 2011
State of the City 2012
State of the City 2013
State of the city 2015

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The budget debates settled on an increase higher than the accepted rate of inflation - some significant problems on how to manage the costs have become evident.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

January 27th, 2016

BURLINGTON, ON

Is it a good budget?

There are few taxpayers who are happy about the rate of increase over last year – and the 20 year projection calls for more of the same.
While the increase year over year is above the rate of inflation – the numbers have to be looked at carefully – they aren’t going to get much better. The biggest thing that appears to have come out of the budget exercise is a realization on the part of council members that they don’t have a tight enough grip on what they need staff to do.
Council seems to be continually blinded sided by one catastrophe after another.

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Repaired at a cost of $380,000 in 2012 – the bridge is going to have to be replaced in the near future.

The Drury Lane Bridge had to be repaired at a cost of $380,000 – that was for a five year patch – the estimated cost of replacing the bridge was something in excess of $2 million – which comes due any day now.

The Nelson Pool had to be closed because of problems with the steel structure and is now not going to be re-built and repaired until sometime in 2018.

The families with children that make use of the Nelson Stadium took matters into their own hands and began working with the school board to upgrade the facilities. The Stadium is on property owned by the city and the school board – two organizations who are not known for how well they get along with each other. They don’t even have a structure that has them meeting regularly to resolve shared concerns.

When a citizen’s delegation spoke at city hall they knew more about what was happening than members of council. That was not a pretty picture.
Council members expect staff to do the ongoing analysis that tells when an asset is due for an upgrade.

How did the city not know that the Drury Lane bridge needed work and how did staff did not know that the Nelson Pool was due for a major upgrade. There is asset management software out there that works all this out – and Burlington spends a fortune on software.

Do we have the right people managing this software and the way it is utilized?

Flood Fairview plaza

The one thing we know about the 2014 flood is that it has cost us a small fortune – think in terms of $40 million so far. We also know that climate change is likely to cost us even more in the years ahead.

Managing the financial cost of the 2014 flood and coming to terms with what has to be done in the way of storm water management had $20 million thrown at it. Council has realized that it is going to take an additional $20 million to make the changes that were recommended by the consultants the city hired.

Storm water - flood mitigation map

The scary word in this graph is “initially” It will probably take an additional tax levy to handle storm water.

The Mayor commented that the city was going to have to take a serious look at a special tax levy for managing storm water. The realization that climate change is upon us and we no longer know what our weather is going to be – here we are at the end of January and you could be wearing shorts on some days.

As for city hall and the media people over there – they are doing it again. Messing with the numbers – and totally trashing there commitment to transparency and accountability.

The city’s media release said:
“The City of Burlington has approved the 2016 operating budget with a 3.14 per cent increase in the city’s portion of property taxes, which will result in an overall property tax increase of two per cent when combined with Halton Region and the boards of education, or $17.10 per $100,000 of home assessment value.
Highlights of the approved budget include:

• The base budget increase of 1.28 per cent is aligned with inflation (Toronto CPI 1.86 per cent) which is consistent with the Long Term Financial Plan objective of competitive property taxes.

• The base budget maintains the $4.8 million contribution towards the Joseph Brant Hospital reserve fund to meet the city’s $60 million commitment to the redevelopment project.

A 1.44 per cent increase dedicated to the renewal of the city’s infrastructure.

An additional $20 million in funding has been provided to accelerate roadway renewal needs over the next four years.

An additional $20 million of funding has been provided over the next 10 years for surface water drainage projects.

$613K in funding (0.43 per cent) to increase service levels in areas such as winter maintenance and stormwater management.

For those that qualify, the Senior’s Property Tax Rebate has increased from $450 to $525 in this budget.
“There are many competing demands for city tax dollars as well as an urgency to find inefficiencies and minimize tax rate increases,” said Mayor Rick Goldring. “We have tried to balance all the city’s needs, prioritize them and forecast with great thought and care to deliver a responsible budget that serves everyone.”

“This budget continues to provide funding to priority areas of infrastructure renewal, the city’s contribution to the hospital redevelopment and maintaining existing services,” said Joan Ford, director of finance. “In key areas, service levels have been increased.”

That’s their story and they are probably going to stick to it.

You won’t get another viewpoint on the budget – the print newspaper distributed in this city didn’t have a reporter at the meeting. My colleague Joan Little who writes a column for the Spectator will undoubtedly make a comment.

Financial impact 20 year

Is this an acceptable rate of tax increases? Does this Council think it can get re-elected in 2018 with these numbers?

Take a look at that 20 year projection again. Did our city Councillors deliver a good budget?

The Mayor has asked the city manager to look for new revenue sources.  Until he has a much better handle on how to manage the problems he has on his table now there isn’t much James Ridge is going to be able to do in the immediate future.\

He needs to get his strategic plan passed – it is close to a year overdue.

Can the current Council provide him with the advice and direction he needs?  Two of the seven members have been on Council for more than 20 years.  Will they run again in 2018?  Will their constituents re-elect them?

2017 is going to be an uncomfortable year for this council.

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Mayor interrupts delegation - says he was straying from the topic under discussion. So much for encouraging people to take part in the civic process.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

January 26th, 2016

BURLINGTON, ON

It was his first serious delegation, one at which he had a concern he wanted to put before city council.

Vince Fiorito, a candidate in the last federal election and a committed environmentalist who spends some of his weekends clearing out rubbish from the city’s creeks, had announced to friends that he was planning on running for city council in his home ward in 2018.

His intention was to spend the next couple of years attending meetings and networking like crazy.

Vince Fitorio

Vince Fiorito was named the Watershed Steward for Sheldon creek. He now wants to become the member of city council for the ward he lives in – Sheldon Creek runs right through the middle of it.

Fiorito is the Steward of Sheldon Creek, a title given him by the Conservation Authority, something he takes very seriously.

His delegation to city council was to focus on what he felt was very poor citizen engagement and he launched into his presentation. Less than 18% of the people in this city know about the ways they can be engaged in the civic process he said.

The city treasurer said she was going to inform citizens about the budget but would not be engaging them, advised Fiorito.

He explained that while he as new to the ways of city hall he expected more public participation.

It was at that point that Mayor Goldring interrupted Fiorito and explained that while he could talk about civic engagement he had to confine his remarks to how civic engagement related to the budget that council was considering.

We recall the Mayor interrupting delegations in the past but never on such a fine point,

Fiorito thought he was going to be able to talk about his concerns over the poor level of citizen engagement – the Mayor advised him that he could talk about his citizen engagement but only as it pertained to the budget – which was limiting what Fiorito had planned – but he recovered and went on to make his point – which was that the public really wasn’t in the room when the budget was being discussed

Fiorito was taken aback at first. His first comment was “Gee whiz” as he fumbled a bit to figure out how he was going to get back on track.

He did pretty well – pointing out to council that Seattle had held 38 neighbourhood meetings and involved 30,000 citizens.

This was the kind of thing he wanted to see happen in Burlington.

He also pointed out that there were no evening sessions in the committee meetings that went through the budget in detail.

The Clerk informed Fiorito that there was a planned evening session but no one asked to be a delegate.

Most of the council members hold meetings in their wards to get local input. A couple of Ward 4 residents discuss a previous budget.

Most of the council members hold meetings in their wards to get local input. A couple of Ward 4 residents discuss a previous budget.

Councillor Dennison told Fiorito that he held a budget meeting for ward 4 residents and it attracted more people than the city meeting held at Tansley Woods. Dennison serves water and popcorn – that must be the attraction.

Councillor Meed Ward explained to Fiorito that many people send email to council members directly and questions are answered.

She and the Mayor asked for a link to the Seattle procedures.

There was to be a second delegation from Robert Lovell who had planned on talking about the need for the Free Monday transit for seniors – but he decided not to speak.
Was Lovell spooked by the way Fiorito was cut off by the Mayor?

Was it necessary for the Mayor to interrupt Fiorito? We have heard others go much further off track than Fiorito did without being interrupted.

What was most disappointing was while Fiorito had strayed – this was his first delegation and the Mayor could have cut him some slack.  Mayor Goldring did approach Fiorito after the meeting and apologized for having to interrupt and did invite him to meet with the Mayor and discuss his concerns.

What was disappointing as well was that the Mayor could have said that Burlington had some distance to go to pull in stronger citizen participation.

Those that might have watched the live broadcast will probably have concluded that delegating and getting shot down was not something they needed to experience.

Meed Ward as a delegation

Vince Fiorito, delegating for the first time at a city council meeting brought back visions of the days when Councillor Meed Ward used to delegate and press council on better transparency and more accountability.

Fiorito is cut from a different cloth. We saw traces of the original Marianne Meed Ward who delegated several dozen times pressing council to be more transparent and accountable before she was elected to office. And she began her climb to those august chambers several years before the 2010 election.

Fiorito seems to have decided to use the same approach. He will be worth watching. And don’t expect him to get tripped up again by the Mayor.

 

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Ontario Creating New Enforcement Team to Combat Contraband Tobacco: they want the tax money.

Crime 100By Staff

January 25th, 2016

BURLINGTON, ON

Ontario is taking action to combat contraband tobacco and keep our communities safe by creating a new Contraband Tobacco Enforcement Team within the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP).

Located within the OPP’s Organized Crime Enforcement Bureau, the new team will be dedicated to investigating the smuggling and trafficking of contraband tobacco and will work closely with local, provincial, national and international enforcement agencies to combat and eliminate sophisticated contraband tobacco networks across Ontario.

cigarettes - illegal

There are very few young men in high school who cannot tell you where to buy illegal cigarettes.

The team will also work with the Ministry of Finance’s tobacco tax enforcement staff by sharing information and collaborating on contraband tobacco enforcement investigations. The Ministry of Finance will continue to provide tobacco enforcement through audits, inspections, and investigations.
Tobacco consumers should be aware that:

All legal cigarettes sold in cartons or packages have a legal yellow ‘ON Duty Paid Canada’ Ontario tobacco stamp, with only certain limited exceptions.
It is illegal to buy, possess or distribute untaxed cigarettes without proper authorization.

Punishment includes civil penalties, fines, and in some cases, jail time, depending on the quantity of contraband tobacco and conviction history.
Addressing contraband tobacco continues to be a priority for Ontario. Low-cost, contraband tobacco undermines provincial health objectives under the Smoke-Free Ontario Strategy, results in less tobacco tax revenues for critical public services our communities and families rely on, and compromises public safety through links with organized crime.

Cigaettes - with Toronto cop

Gary Grant is the national spokesperson for the National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco. He is also a decorated retired police officer with the Toronto Police Service and current director and founder of Toronto Crime Stoppers.

Since 2008 more than 252 million contraband cigarettes, 4.1 million untaxed cigars, and 169 million grams of untaxed fine-cut or other tobacco products have been seized by the Ministry of Finance.

The RCMP estimates that 175 criminal organizations are involved in contraband tobacco in Canada, and it is believed that many use it to finance more serious illegal activity, like drug and weapon trafficking.

Being caught in possession of a single pack of 20 contraband cigarettes will cost the purchaser $108.The fine for 50 cartons or baggies is $4,693 and possession of any more could send you to jail.

Anyone can anonymously report cigarettes being sold illegally, to Ontario Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477, or online at TipSoft.

The provincial government seems to be more interested in stopping the sale of cigarettes on which they cannot collect taxes.

Cigarette advertising

If doctors said they were OK – then they had to be – right? Those same doctors then earned fees for trying to cure the lung cancer.

After years of allowing the sale of a product that has had a devastating impact on the health of people who decided to smoke the province increased the taxes which created an opportunity for the criminal community to move in and sell cheap cigarettes.

cigarette advertising chesterfield-reagan

This dashing young man went on to become the President of the United state – don’t recall him every saying his promoting tobacco was something he regretted.

The advertising and marketing community earned very fat fees for coming up with advertisements that convinced us smoking was cool, hip and the thing to do – and we still have tens of thousands of people who are still smoking. Those same advertising people have not managed to come up with advertisements that change the behaviour.

There are a whole bunch of conflicting purposes and agendas here – and I think the young people see it for what it is – hypocritical.

 

Related article:

Top cop rolls into town in a limo to tell media about the ills of illegal tobacco.

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Can the Mayor and the two Councillors who voted for the Free Monday transit for seniors find a fourth vote to make the basically no cost pilot take place?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

January 22, 2016

BURLINGTON, ON

It’s called being between a rock and a hard place, The rules will ‘get ya’ every time.

Your city council and the staff at city hall will say, whenever they get the chance, that they are always transparent and always accountable and that they are there to serve the people of the city.

The words “citizen engagement” are sprinkled throughout the Strategic Plan that is working its way through the bureaucracy.

Look at this situation and see if you can find the transparency or the accountability or even a smidgen of citizen engagement.

Director of Finance Joan Ford does a great job of providing the data ad her department does a good job of collecting the taxes as well. It's the spending side that is causing the long term financial stress. Ms Ford doesn't do the spending.

Director of Finance Joan Ford does a great job of providing the data.

Burlington has a very good finance department; some of the most diligent people on the city payroll work in that department. They usually always have their fingers on whatever number a member of council might want. Whenever Treasurer Joan Ford doesn’t have a number at her finger tips or makes a small mistake she actually blushes with embarrassment and correct the error very quickly.

Our only beef is that the finance people are not particularly interested in engaging the citizens of the city – they are interested, and are very good at informing the public. These are two different approaches to civic government.

But that is not the current issue. The finance people set an aggressive agenda to get the 2016 budget completed. Debates on the budget take place within a Standing Committee.

Staff set out several days for the process of budget delegations and debate to take place.
Tuesday, January 19th: 10:30 to 6:30 – the meeting ended just after 4:30 pm
Wednesday January 20th: 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.
Thursday January 21st: 3:00 pm to 5:30 pm. This meeting did not take place; the Standing Committee was able to adjourn at 4:00 on the Wednesday when they set they recommended a tax increase of 3.16%

Delegations were held on the Tuesday during the day. For some reason they saw no reason to hold evening sessions- why not?

Why wasn’t there more in the way of public notices – the Gazette would have cheerfully run an advertisement for the city had they chosen to use our medium – which gives better value than any other media in the city – but I digress.

The delegations were strong, factual and well delivered and members of council certainly engaged those who were on hand to speak.

The Council debate took place the following day – the Gazette and the Spectator were the only media present.

It was a good debate – we saw some staff behave in a very disrespectful manner when a member of council put forward some data that was supplied by Oakville on their Free Monday for seniors program. A city Director came very close to saying he didn’t believe the numbers read out to him from the Oakville Director of transit. Our city manager, a former Canadian Armed Forces Captain, knows what insubordination is, quite why he didn’t intercede is a question he might want to answer.

When it came to a vote – those wanting the Free Monday transit for seniors lost on a 4 against – 3 for vote.

Councillor Craven is reported to have told an Aldershot resident that he liked the program – but he did not vote for it – that may have been because almost anything Councillor Meed Ward puts forward, Craven opposes. He didn’t speak at any length on the matter during the debate.

Councillor Paul Sharman

Councillor Paul Sharman voted no – he wanted more data.

Councillor Sharman always wants more data before he makes a decision – there does come a point when a decision has to be made based on experience and wisdom. There was the sense that the asking for additional data was punting the ball off the field.

dfrt

Councillor John Taylor – he voted no – saw free transit as social welfare which most people didn’t need.

Councillor Taylor couldn’t help but see Free transit as some form of social welfare; his mind is still stuck in that old style thinking.

One wonders why Taylor does not label the $225,000 that is forgone in terms of parking fees for the free parking members of staff get every year. With that kind of money the city could make the transit service free to everyone.

Votes can be changed at city council; members can change their mind when they have new information.

But here is the rub. If council votes a second time on the budget matter of free transit for seniors on Monday’s and the vote is lost a second time – it cannot be brought back to council again for the balance of the term of office of this council – two and half years, unless the motion is brought by one of the people who originally voted against the motion – and that vote must pass with a 5-2 for vote just to get it on the table.

That is a high hill to have to climb and would make anyone who wanted to attempt to have the vote over turned at council think twice. Forcing the vote kills the opportunity for the balance of this term of office – which we suspect is exactly what some of the Councillors wanted.

A wiser mind would get into discussions with any member of Council they thought could be swayed – and if the votes were not there – then go to ground and wait for the right opportunity.

There is nothing to prevent council from asking the transit people to prepare the document that would set out what the metrics would be to measure a successful pilot program.

At one point Director of Transit said he could have the document done in a day – when pressed a bit he said he would need a couple of weeks.

Transit Director Mike Spicer, in the yellow shirt, shows Mayor Goldring what he wants in the way of new buses. The MAyor and council obliged and gave Spicer the go ahead to buy smaller buses.

Transit Director Mike Spicer, in the yellow shirt, shows Mayor Goldring what he wants in the way of new buses.

The pilot program wasn’t due to start until April – so Mike Spicer, the Director of Transit has all kind of time to prepare a report – he might use some of that time to meet with his peer in Oakville and learn just how they made their program work.

There is a sliver of hope for the program. Mayor Goldring suggested that the transit people might want to use the pilot project as a marketing initiative – their response to that was they already had a number of marketing programs.

And how well are they working ? is a question the Mayor might have reasonably asked.

Rick Goldring doesn’t yet fully understand what it is to be a Mayor – as the Chief Magistrate he has a “bully pulpit” which he hasn’t learned to use. He could have and should have asked the Director of Transit to re-think his response and then invite the City Manager and the Director in for a cup of coffee and a chat.

Flood Goldring with chain of office

Mayor Rick Goldring on one of the few occasions that he wore his chain of office during an interview.

During the debate James Ridge, City Manager, wouldn’t touch the question. He said – and he right – “this is a political decision.”

That chain of Office the Mayor wears isn’t just a piece of bling. It is a symbol of the office he holds and the authority given him.

There was an opportunity to do something bold, something visionary and, in the words of Jim Young, a chance to show Burlington as a caring, conscientious community.

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He got himself onto the Performing Arts Centre stage - where a crowd of friends listened to him sing.

By Pepper Parr
January 22, 2016
BURLINGTON, ON

A funeral at a Performing Arts Centre? Well first it wasn’t a funeral – it was a celebration of the life of Thomas  Sutherland – everyone in the theatre knew him as Tom.

It wasn’t a sold out event but it was better than many of the events for which tickets are sold.

A good 450+ were in their seats to listen to people who loved Tom dearly and wanted to talk about him before his passing in a very sudden death that no one was ready for begins to be forgotten.

His children Kirsten, Derrick and Matthew were there as were his grandchildren: Noel, Gavin, Oland and Jamie.

Walter Mulkewich asked the audience to “grieve the loss of a good man”.

Tom Sutherland at an arts event

The arts were a big part of Tom’s life – he was an active supporter of the Performing Arts Centre and what was the Burlington Cultural Centre when he first got involved.

I didn’t know Tom all that well – we would cross paths – we were both big L liberals and believed in the cause.

I last saw Tom at the Liberal Christmas Party at the Polish Hall. He was his usual loquacious self. I sort of knew he sang but wasn’t fully aware of the roll music played in his life.

That evening he sang and had MPP Eleanor McMahon joining her voice with his. I thought at the time – we are going to hear more of these two. McMahon likes to ham it up and, if one was to believe all that was said at the celebration of Tom’s life this afternoon – Tom was a born arm twister, could sell ice cubes to Eskimos and encyclopedia’s to people who didn’t know they really needed a set of the books until Tom got in front of them.

He sold the Spectator on the corner of King and James in Hamilton when he was a couple of sizes above a sprout – and as his sister told that story you could almost hear him calling out: Extra, Extra – real all about it in the Spectator. There was a time when that was the way newspapers were sold.

Tom did it all –and he did it his way. He loved to take the Frank Sinatra songs and sing his heart out. During the video that was played on Tom with all kinds of pictures there was his voice. I found myself asking if that was Tom or Frank himself.

Tom_Sutherland_-_2010___Gallery

Was he singing or was he giving a speech? For Tom Sutherland they were one in the same – he did prefer the singing.

The remarks made by the several people who spoke were more political than I expected and were, I suspect, a significant change for Burlington. The Liberals have only held the two seats for just over a year.

Tom ran federally again Bill Kempling in 1978 and again in 1980; he was the kind of guy who couldn’t pass up on an election campaign. Both MPP McMahon and MP Gould spoke entertainingly about their door to door experiences with the man.

One of the highlights of Tom’s personal political career was the occasion he got to introduce then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau

He was clearly loved and treasured – he was a one of 11 children – with five of his brothers passing before him.

His sister Loretta spoke of the occasions when the family would be at the pier on the Beach in Burlington – no not the one we paid $14 million for – one of the wooden structures that were a part of the city we have forgotten about. But the Sutherland family hasn’t forgotten those days.

For a family of 11 – it was as if they were a small tribe – they cared for each other; the love was the glue that kept them all together; it was so evident in the pictures that were shown on the screen at the Performing Arts Centre on a Friday afternoon when several hundred people paused in their busy day to Thomas  Sutherland.

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Aldershot citizen speaks in favour of free transit on Monday. for seniors - council vote no.

opinionandcommentBy Jim Young

January 21st, 2016

BURLINGTON, ON

I am speaking as a private citizen in support of Burlington Seniors Advisory Committee’s effort to reduce or eliminate Transit Fares for Burlington Senior Citizens.  A proposal has been made that City Council and Burlington Transit consider Reduced Transit Fares for Seniors.

In support of, and in addition to the well-made case presented by Mr. Lovell on behalf of Burlington Seniors Advisory Committee, I would respectfully submit to Council and the Budget Committee that Seniors Transit is not just a senior’s issue but is one that affects the entire city, its residents and its reputation as a caring, conscientious community. An issue, which, if addressed effectively, will have beneficial impacts on Traffic Congestion, Road Safety, The Environment and will dovetail perfectly with many aspects of Burlington’s Strategic Plan Proposals currently under review.

As Burlington’s senior’s population approaches 30,000 and continues to grow, it is fair to say our impact on every facet of our city’s way of life is and will continue to be significant.

Jim Young

Jim Young

Seniors Impact on Burlington’s Traffic Congestion:
There is universal agreement that traffic congestion is becoming a more serious issue in Burlington every year. As council strives to encourage continued growth and increasing population to ensure the economic well-being of our city this congestion will only become more troublesome and the economic and the environmental impact more acute. City Council recognizes this and addresses the issue in its Proposed New Strategic Plan (A City That Moves).

Seniors using affordable transit for one in five of their journeys would reduce traffic congestion by approximately 3%. While that may not sound like much, traffic flow science suggests such a reduction has a major impact on traffic flow and reduced commute times particularly at peak volumes. The more attractive any incentive to switch seniors from cars to transit, the greater that improvement will be. More seniors on transit allows working people, business transport and goods to move more efficiently, improving productivity, and supporting the vibrant business environment our city strives to encourage in that Strategic Plan.

Road Safety:
Studies indicate that as we age our cognitive abilities and response times deteriorate resulting in higher levels of traffic accidents, injuries and claims for senior drivers. The safety of senior drivers and their impact on accident rates is an emotionally charged subject we are loath to address for fear offending spouses, parents or potential voters.
Reduced transit costs for seniors would alleviate that burden by providing a dignified and affordable alternative to driving; thereby reducing the risks with all the human and monetary costs involved for their families, the city, traffic authorities and emergency services.

Reducing traffic accidents by moving seniors from automobiles to transit would also go a long way to meeting the city’s Age Friendly City and a Safe Place to Live objectives of its Proposed New Strategic Plan.

Jim Young A

Jim Young

The Environment:
Thirty Thousand Burlington Seniors driving an average of 15,000 Kilometers per year, even allowing for some spousal car sharing, emit 105,000 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. Every car taken off the road by affordable transit for seniors reduces this annual amount by 3.5 tons.

Again, the Proposed New Strategic Plan aims to make Burlington a Greener Place to Live: an admirable objective for our city that we can help achieve by switching seniors from automobiles to transit and reducing our carbon footprint.

Jim Young has lived in Burlington for more than 30 years where he raised his family and involved himself in his community. He still has a pleasantly strong brogue accent.  This opinion pice is a delegation he made during the budget deliberations at city hall.

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At the current and forecasted tax rate citizen sees taxes doubling in 20 years - he doesn't expect his pension income to double over that period of time.

TO: opinionandcommentBurlington  Community and Corporate Standing Committee

FROM: Tom Muir

Subject: City Budget 2016

 

Tom Muir wasn’t able to get to the Standing committee and his schedule didn’t allow him to get to the one public meeting held to “inform” the public abouit the contents of the Operating budget.  So he took to the media that is open to every opinion out there and sent the following to the Clerk of the Standing committee to have his comments put on the record.  Council tends not to listen to Tom Muir.
Councillors;

Since residents did not enjoy city public engagement on the budget, but have just been informed of spending and taxing plans, I have had to spend significant time finding a focus of my concerns.

It’s far to much to cover all the details, however, the big picture over the 20 year forecast is of particular note and concern to me.

1. The compounded average tax rate increases will double the tax take before the forecast period of 20 years is elapsed. Use the rule of 72 to figure that out. The average tax rate increase over the entire period is 3.62% and this leads to the doubling over 20 years.

Using the example bungalow residence in the budget document, the city tax take will go from $1415 to $2854.

If the other tiers of the total tax burden go up as well, the total tax bill could go from $3410 to $6878.

I have to ask you to ask what residents and businessmen think about that exponential curve trend upwards of this tax burden?

Can business double the price for goods and services over the same time period?

I hope your net income is increasing by more than 4% a year for the next 20. Mine is not.

Is this really raising taxes in an affordable manner?

This is really inflationary, in fact, and is shifting income from residents and business to the city for them to spend.

It seems like Council isn’t really thinking about this cumulative trend, in and of itself, and the consequences, at all.
No comment or request in the budget papers that I saw.

And residents were not asked what they thought, they were not “engaged”, just “informed” – this is what we are doing and here’s the tax take.

I would like to see Council pay a lot of attention to this trend. We need Council to tell the Managers to find the cuts needed to shave this to the inflation rate. And don’t tell me there’s no fat to be found.

Tell them a doubling of city taxes over the next 20 years is not to be tolerated.

2. Regarding the 2015 surplus reported, this $4.75 million is 3.23% of the net tax levy of almost $147 million. Taking $3 million of this and subtracting it from the tax levy, would bring the increase down to about the 2% inflation the city claims.

From the of view of the residents and business people, adding all of this to reserves is akin to adding more fat to the city finances. We don’t need fat there, as the reserves look fat as they are.

I see no explanation of some disaster lurking.

The 20 year trend of exponential tax increases that double the tax take, also has fat, for sure, somewhere, but while there are certainly some Councilor requests for amendments and some cost cutting, overall Council doesn’t appear to have asked Management to go find sufficient cuts needed to stay within inflation.

Here’s another pot of money, paid last year by residents, but not spent, that I am sure residents would agree could help reduce this years increase to something more like the “affordable” the city says is the number 1 goal – inflation.

Let’s see some talk and action about this, please.

I’m retired, and I have to live within my income, which certainly doesn’t increase by this much. I’m told business taxes are already high, so we are all in the same boat.

Management makes do with what Council tells them. It’s their job to find cuts. Tell them to.

Muir making a point

Aldershot resident Tom Muir is usually direct, at times abrasive and always looking for clear answers.

When I worked in government, that’s how things were done, just find the cuts, and there were and are no sacred cows.

Certainly, not everything in the budget is needed in the time stated. What’s done is a function of input and time. The first can be reduced some and the time to completion can be extended. Put off spending now to save some. Elementary things we are supposed to teach children about money management.

If the city wants affordable tax rates for residents and business then get going on dealing with the exponential trend that will never deliver such a thing – only a crunch.

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How much of the federal infrastructure spending will make its way to Burlington - and when it gets here - what will we do with the money?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

January 15th, 2016

BURLINGTON, ON

The crowd that rides the GO train and those who drive the QEW collectively make up the bulk of the people who think about the economy, where we are going as a country and how their home town Burlington is coping.

Before too many noses get out of joint over that opening paragraph, I did say the “bulk” – not all the people who think in this city.

Change rooms

How soon might we see a functional club house at the Nelson Stadium?

These are the people that sit on community committees with their friends and neighbours – the Nelson Stadium Revitalization group is one example, the Rural Burlington Greenbelt Coalition is another. Burlington has dozens and dozens of strong community based groups.

They are aware of our fragile economy, they see the impact and deal with the stuttering economic growth – and they read – and they hear about the federal plans to take on some debt and build or upgrade our infrastructure.

How much of that infrastructure upgrading money is going to get spent in Burlington? And what will it gets spent on? Surely some of it will go into the roads that the current city council says we are millions of dollars behind on.

But what else – what has city hall got on hold that could be rolled out tomorrow if the dollars were available.

Well Councillor Jack Dennison would be close to the front of that line with a move to get the pool at Nelson started.

werb

Are the Mainway and east end rail crossing next on the grade separation list?

Then there are the two remaining rail grade separations that are on the books: Mainway and the crossing in the east end.

Lakeside with trees

A plaza with trees liberally spread out – where can you see that in this city? Mapleview? Burlington Mall?

Would someone at city hall begin to work with the owner of the Lakeshore Village Plaza and find a way to integrate the city holdings with the private property and get something happening out there? The architect on that project has put forward some excellent ideas and the community took part in a meeting more than a month ago on what they would like to see. City hall has yet to report on just what the 300 plus people had to say at that community meeting.

Would the city want to nudge the Region and fast track the building of the Beachway Park?

City Hall in fall from south

Has city hall passed its best before date?

There is a fat file in a cabinet somewhere at city hall with a detailed report on what the city needs in terms of space and also sets out how deficient the city hall itself actually is. We are currently renting office space across the street from city hall.

There is a golden opportunity to goose up the never quite vibrant enough downtown and give it some life. Those who continually tell us that downtown is vibrant have jobs that depend on that sleight of hand. Were we to admit that we have failed with our downtown core – those people would need to find jobs doing something else.

What are we missing here?

There is hardly a word coming out of city hall on what they have in the way of ideas and projects that can be made close to “shovel ready”.

The Mayor hasn’t held a press conference this term – the only real press conference he held in his first term was when the city explained how the pier fiasco was settled out of court – and on that occasion he got the city manager to do all the talking.

The current city manager is basically media adverse.

While we have an economy that is struggling, a dollar that is worth 70 cents; oil that is running at about $30 a barrel – but doesn’t seem to have brought gasoline prices down, we are still a people of ideas and energy and we have within us the capacity to make things happen.

Would someone actually do something – soon?

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Resident doesn't think Strategic plan public sessions are going to make any difference - gives them a poor mark.

opinionandcommentBy Vince Fiorito

January 13th, 2016

BURLINGTON, ON

At the beginning of each new term, the City of Burlington Council develops a strategic plan, which reflects Council’s vision and strategic priorities for its term of office and beyond. A strategic plan is a document that provides a framework for future City of Burlington decision making and resource allocation. The result should be a document with specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound objectives and key performance indicators.

Strategic Plan Workbook

Strategic Plans are usually four year plans prepared by a city council.

The process to develop the City of Burlington’s 9th Strategic Plan started in December 2014 and should have been completed by December 2015.

This document should take less than a year to consult all stakeholders for input, develop a draft version for consultation and feedback, before City Council ratifies the final version.

Here we are in 2016, and the city still has a few more public consultations to complete and a significant amount of stakeholder input to process before a final version can be put to a vote before city council. I suppose better late than never.

If you plan to attend one of the public sessions, don’t expect to have much time to add your ideas. The format is to divide the audience up into five groups and rotate through five stations, each with a topic to discuss and a communication facilitator. New ideas are welcome, but you will have to compete for time with other participants. I recommend being prepared to submit your ideas to the session moderator in a written format at the end of the session in case time constraints restrict your ability to share your ideas.

As much as I would like to feel warm and fuzzy about how good the City of Burlington is, we do not having a strategy to address invasive species, pollution, climate change and other problems which threaten our natural heritage system.

Sheldon Creek dump 2

Trash dumped into creek ravines.

The City of Burlington has about 20 urban creek valleys which run through the heart of our city. These areas are currently neglected, overrun with invasive species, littered with hundreds of tons of trash and contaminated with fertilizer and road salt residue.

Fish from Sheldon creek

Fish from Sheldon creek

Despite these serious problems, Burlington’s urban creek system act as wildlife corridors and support a wide diversity of native species including trout, salmon, mink and great blue heron.

Clearly the city could add the  Green Belt objectives and our urban creeks to the Strategic Plan, but, for whatever reason, has chosen to continue to neglect these urban green spaces within walking distance of most city residents.

Vince Fitorio

Conservation Halton made Vince Fiorito a watershed steward – Sheldon Creek is his territory.

I live on Sheldon Creek and founded the Friends of Sheldon Creek Stewardship organization. Ideally I’d like every resident and business adjacent to one of Burlington’s urban creeks to be considered waterfront property.  I am disappointed that the strategic plan has no plan to protect, conserve and restore these natural areas. It’s not like I haven’t tried to raise awareness. I’ve submitted the above information as a delegation to city council and to the Sustainable Development Committee. What does that say about Burlington as an Engaging City?

Another missing component in the Strategic Plan is Climate Change and a plan to reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions. The strategic plan states that by 2040 the “city’s operations are net carbon neutral”.

Hydro Cogen Hydro Sept 29-15

The hydro plans to increase micro-generation of electricity using natural gas, would increase the city’s greenhouse gas emissions.

However, the strategic plan lacks anything on how to achieve that objective. In fact, the city’s plans to increase micro-generation of electricity using natural gas, would increase the city’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Overall the draft of Burlington 2015-2040 Strategic report gets a C- in my opinion with an F on the environment.

The final public sessions for input to the Strategic Plan are:

Strategic Plan Open House
Jan 18, 2016 07:00 PM – 09:00 PM
LaSalle Park Pavillion

Strategic Plan Open House
Jan 18, 2016 07:00 PM – 09:00 PM
Mountainside Recreation Centre

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Burlington Green comments on Strategic Plan - will they be listened to? The comments are very valid.

opinionandcommentBy Staff

January 12, 2016

BURLINGTON, ON

BurlingtonGreen put its two cents on the table and gave city council and senior staff its views on the Strategic Plan that is currently out for public review.

They made several significant points:  One being that there wasn’t enough focus climate change and they wondered why there was a long term vision but not much in the way of a four year, single term of office document.  Burlington Green isn’t the only group asking that question.

Burlington Green’s Executive Director Amy Schnurr points to “the extensive community feedback” they received through their Greenprint for the Future outreach program where they learned what the citizens of Burlington had to say about a variety of local environmental issues.

Iceberg melting

Ice birgs are melting.

“Both globally and locally, the health of the environment and need for effective, results-oriented action to ensure a sustainable future has never been more important. Municipalities have an essential role to play in combating climate change and must prioritize and integrate associated action strategies into short and long-term planning. Additionally, with Burlington currently facing the conflicting challenges of build-out and population growth, the associated issues of intensification, infill practices, habitat destruction, local food security, waste management and effective transportation, combine to make sustainable planning a top priority.”

BurlingtonGreen strongly believes that climate change and the environment must be central to Burlington’s vision and planning going forward and respectfully offers the following input to aid the City in improving the draft Strategic Plan for 2015 to 2040.

Issue:  Strategic Plan versus Long Term Vision: we feel the current document represents a strategic vision, rather than a plan which requires specific, measurable time-bound strategies.

Recommendation:  Re position the document as “Burlington’s Vision for 2015 to 2040”and develop a five year Strategic Plan in consultation with the community, to implement the short and long term elements of the vision.

Issue:  The Vision Statement “Where people, nature, and business thrive” is missing the element of community context.

Recommendation: Include the word “community”, so that the vision statement reads: “Where people, nature, business, and community thrive”.

Smokestacks Hamilton

Smoke stacks are killing us.

Issue: Climate Change: the document makes no reference to this, the most important environmental and social issue of our times, and though some elements, such as the City’s carbon-neutral proposal, address it in part, there is no cohesive or strongly-stated strategy articulated. Cities must be on the front line of action in dealing with climate change, and Burlington needs to demonstrate clear leadership here.

Recommendation: Add a fifth section to the plan dedicated to climate change because strategies dealing with climate change must include or involve all sections of the plan: not just health and environment, but also transportation and economic development and the type of growth we want to have and can sustain in the next twenty five years.

If it is deemed that an additional section cannot be added then all document sections should be strengthened significantly to integrate climate change mitigation and adaptation planning strategies.

Issue: A City that Grows: we support the thrust towards intensification and smart growth; however, there is insufficient recognition of the need to develop and preserve a livable and environmentally sustainable community, while promoting economic growth.

Smart growth must advance strategic plans that respect nature’s biodiversity and our irreplaceable green spaces that Burlington is fortunate to have. This additional point is not only important for Burlington citizens, but is fundamental to promoting economic growth in a postmodern information economy.

Reccomendation: Strengthen this section to clearly indicate that the vision is to absorb growth in the currently defined urban areas to support an economically strong, livable and environmentally sustainable community.

Issue: A City that Moves: we strongly believe that a much greater focus on public transit and active transportation is required in the draft plan.

Bus station 1

Do we have enough buses and are they the right size to meet the changing demand?

Recommendation: Make Public Transit and Active Transportation priorities by creating a dedicated section specifically dealing with “public transit” and “active transportation options”, in coordination with the Region of Halton’s recently published Active Transportation Master Plan, and where necessary, work proactively with the Region to suggest any improvements to the Plan that are needed to meet Burlington’s specific requirements.

Issue: A Healthy and Greener City: we find this section represents a fairly traditional approach to environment and more innovative and integrative thinking and strategies, with a strong focus on Climate Change are required.

Belvenia trees-1024x768

Tree canopies like this take decades to mature – is there a plan in place to replace these trees when they begin to fail? It is streets like this that give Burlington much of its character and value.

Recommendation: Review this section approaching urban and growth issues from an environmental point of view, and ensure the inclusion of important issues such as:
• Green Space: include strategies for green space growth and preservation for its carbon sink capacity and quality of life and health benefits.
A comprehensive (city and privately owned) green space inventory and acquisition plan is required to support this;
• Tree Canopy: include strategies to protect and strengthen our tree canopy to meet Environment Canada’s community sustainability standards.
One example includes the establishment of a practical, effective private property tree bylaw given that the majority of our tree canopy is located on privately owned lands.
• Habitat & Biodiversity Protection: A balanced approach to development planning is essential to ensure the city’s natural areas are preserved and habitat restoration work is advanced to ensure local biodiversity is protected and enhanced.
• Waste Reduction: include municipal and community strategies to support the Region and Province to meet waste reduction goals. Advancement of the city’s green procurement strategies and establishing local targets, incentives and requirements for all events and festivals conducted on city property are a few examples.
• Energy: consider whether energy, being at the fulcrum of climate change, should be a distinct initiative in this section and perhaps whether the section might be renamed Environment and Energy. Include forward looking strategies such as developing community energy systems(s) by engaging industry experts and committing to community energy infrastructure development.
The test for feasibility should not be limited to existing business and geopolitical measures but should include forward looking plans that anticipate changes in support of combatting climate change.
• Farmland/Source Water Protection: include strategies that will strengthen the protection of our vital agricultural sector and water resources such as adopting a Food & Water First policy.

Issue: A Healthy and Greener City: we find this section represents a fairly traditional approach to environment and more innovative and integrative thinking and strategies, with a strong focus on Climate Change are required.

Halton escarpment - long view up slope

Do we have a rural farmland policy?

Recommendation: Review this section approaching urban and growth issues from an environmental point of view, and ensure the inclusion of important issues such as:
• Green Space: include strategies for green space growth and preservation for its carbon sink capacity and quality of life and health benefits.
A comprehensive (city and privately owned) green space inventory and acquisition plan is required to support this;
• Tree Canopy: include strategies to protect and strengthen our tree canopy to meet Environment Canada’s community sustainability standards.
One example includes the establishment of a practical, effective private property tree bylaw given that the majority of our tree canopy is located on privately owned lands.
• Habitat & Biodiversity Protection: A balanced approach to development planning is essential to ensure the city’s natural areas are preserved and habitat restoration work is advanced to ensure local biodiversity is protected and enhanced.
• Waste Reduction: include municipal and community strategies to support the Region and Province to meet waste reduction goals. Advancement of the city’s green procurement strategies and establishing local targets, incentives and requirements for all events and festivals conducted on city property are a few examples.
• Energy: consider whether energy, being at the fulcrum of climate change, should be a distinct initiative in this section and perhaps whether the section might be renamed Environment and Energy. Include forward looking strategies such as developing community energy systems(s) by engaging industry experts and committing to community energy infrastructure development.
The test for feasibility should not be limited to existing business and geopolitical measures but should include forward looking plans that anticipate changes in support of combatting climate change.
• Farmland/Source Water Protection: include strategies that will strengthen the protection of our vital agricultural sector and water resources such as adopting a Food & Water First policy.

A rapt audience listened to an overview of the 2014 budget. What they have yet to have explained to them is the desperate situation the city will be in ten years from now if something isn't done in the next few years to figure out how we are going to pay for the maintenance of the roads we have.

A rapt audience listens to an overview of a budget – did they have any real input ?

Issue:
An Engaging City: we generally support what is here, however as a Blue Dot community, Burlington needs to step up to the commitment and advance a plan to stimulate citizen engagement specifically in regards to growth and environmental issues.

Recommendation: Advance plans to stimulate meaningful citizen engagement with respect to growth and environmental issues.

Burlington Green has been consistent with its plea that the public be listened to and heard. They argue that the City’s Strategic Plan for 2015-2040 “must reflect this commitment; they hope the constructive input and recommendations provided make it into the final document.

 

 

 

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Resident does not want pot sold at the LCBO - would prefer to see independent retailers selling the product.

opinionandcommentBy Vince Fiorito

January 9th, 2015

BURLINGTON, ON

Respectfully, I must disagree with Premier Kathleen Wynne that the LCBO should control marijuana sales in Ontario. If the only issue associated with selling recreational drugs like tobacco, alcohol and marijuana was just keeping them out of reach of our youth during their formative years then I would agree. I would also add that the LCBO and Brewers Retail are models of environmentally friendly packaging and recycling. Bravo.

Marijuana plants“My problems with the LCBO and Brewers Retail are their size, their undue control of the alcohol industry as a regulated monopoly and their limited liability. These organizations have a profit motive to promote and encourage increased alcohol consumption. These organization do not fund drug rehabilitation and counseling programs to reduce the harm to the individual and society from recreational alcohol consumption. ” A large powerful corporation like the LCBO would influence and eventually dictate government policy and control production, like they do now regarding alcohol. Not every bottle of wine or beer gets on an LCBO shelf, to the detriment of small wineries and microbreweries.

Recreation drug policy goals should include educating the public on the risks associated with recreational drug use, with a long term objective to decrease demand.

I believe in a “least harm” approach to guide marijuana decriminalization. I believe that current marijuana laws are more harmful to society and the individual than marijuana use itself. I support marijuana legalization, provided marijuana consumption is regulated to reduce harm to the individual and society. We should not allow large powerful corporations in this business as they become too powerful and difficult to control. For example, because the LCBO is so powerful, we are currently stuck with a system which promotes and encourages alcohol consumption to the benefit of other large corporations and small producers cannot compete fairly with large corporations.

We should not make the same mistakes with the emerging recreational marijuana industry as we already made with the recreational alcohol industry, that are now difficult to change.

marijuana retail

Marijuana on sale $8 a gram – wide selection.

The marijuana industry should be deliberately regulated as sole proprietorships and partnerships to maintain control and create the maximum number of small businesses and jobs. Corporations with limited liability and profit sharing should be kept out of the recreational marijuana industry. Only those directly involved should share the risk and reward of marijuana production, distribution and sales. No profit sharing with limited liability. Overt public advertising should be prohibited, respecting the rights of parents to control what their children know and people who don’t want to see, hear or know about it. A simple standardized symbol over the door of a discreet marijuana cafe is enough.

Marijuana - lady smokingPeople entering a marijuana establishment give implied consent to see legal advertising and promotions inside. Locations of marijuana shops should be strictly controlled by municipal government through zoning and by laws, and they may levy additional taxes. Marijuana production, distribution and sales should be monitored closely for abuses and if the owner/operator breaks the law, they lose their marijuana licenses and face punitive sanctions. Fines for smoking marijuana in public places, similar to tobacco. People may grow a few plants for personal use, similar to vegetables. Need a license to sell.

Corporate control of the marijuana industry, which promotes consumption could lead to marijuana becoming as big of a problem for the individual and society as alcohol is now. If we can’t implement this change in a way that reduces harm to the individual and society, then I would rather marijuana remained illegal with a punitive fine for possession.

 

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23 of the 37 Friday Fugitives have been arrested - the question now is - how many of them were released on bail and failed to appear for their day in court?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Staff

January 8th, 2016

BURLINGTON, ON

 

HRPS crestThe Halton Regional Police Service, Burlington station, reached out to the public for help locating  wanted persons and hold them accountable for their actions.  The results of this initiative were impressive.

Week 1 – Raymond FRENCH (WANTED)
Outstanding charges for stealing $15000 from a senior’s home whom he befriended

Week 2 – Curtis KOMP (ARRESTED FOUR DAYS AFTER THE RELEASE)
Located and arrested in Ottawa as a result of several tips to police from the public
Remains in custody awaiting trial

Week 3 – Kenneth MOODIE (WANTED)
Several outstanding charges for Drinking and Driving related offences

Week 4 – Scottie RYERSON (ARRESTED SAME DAY OF RELEASE)
Accused turned himself in to Halton Police as a result of the media release and attention

Week 5 – Mark AUBERTIN (ARRESTED IN HAMILTON)
Several outstanding charges in Halton for Break and Enter Commit x 8, Mischief under $5000 x 8, Fail to Comply Recognizance x 6, Possession of Break and Enter Instruments x 2, Possession of Stolen Property, Possession of a Controlled Substance and Fail to Attend Court

Week 6 – Michael RAMSAY (ARRESTED)
Accused turned himself in to Halton Police as a result of the media release and attention, arrangements made through his lawyer.

Week 7 – Milan SUCHY and Blanka DOLEZALOVA (WANTED – PARTIES RESIDING OUT WEST, ONGOING EFFORTS TO EXECUTE WARRANTS)
Accused have outstanding charges for Fraud Under $5000, Theft Under $5000, Possession of Stolen Property x 2 and Fail to Re-Attend Court.

Week 8 – Sean KELLY (WANTED) and Jessica HAYNES (ARRESTED)
Jessica was located and arrested in Waterdown by Burlington CIB officers as a result of information received.

Sean remains wanted on outstanding charges for Fraud Under $5000, Theft Under $5000, Personation with Intent and Fail to Re-Attend Court.

Week 9 – Bryon BULLIED (WANTED)
Several outstanding charges in relation to stealing from an elderly male who was confined to his home

Outstanding charges include Theft under $5000 x 3, Unauthorized use of a Credit Card x 3, Fail to Comply with Undertaking, Breach of Probation Order
Accused is also wanted by Ottawa Police for Possession of a Substance x 2, Breach of Probation x 2 and Fail to Appear

Week 10 – Brennen BOWLEY (ARRESTED)
Accused turned himself in to Hamilton Police.
Accused had several outstanding charges with Halton Police, Hamilton Police and Niagara Police
Outstanding charges include Break and Enter Place, Dangerous Operation Motor Vehicle, Fail to Re-Attend Court, Fail to Comply Recognizance x 12, Possession of Property Obtained by Crime, Possession under $5000 x 3, Possession over $5000 x 2, Fail to Comply Probation x 2, Break and Enter Commit x 2, Theft under $5000 and Theft of Motor Vehicle

Week 11 – Corey Rodgers (ARRESTED)
Wanted for Assault with a Weapon, Assault and Fail to Attend Court

Week 12 – Marcin SYDOR (WANTED)
Wanted for Theft over $5000, Theft under $5000 x 3, Break and Enter with Intent, Mischief under $5000 x 2, Possession of Property Obtained by Crime, Breach of Probation and Fail to Re-Attend Court

The accused is also wanted by Hamilton Police for Fraud over $5000, Fraud under $5000 x 7, Breach of Probation, Fail to Comply Recognizance x 2, Breach of Undertaking x 2, Possess – Use of Credit Card x 29

Week 13 – Michael CRICK (ARRESTED), Ashley JACOBS (WANTED) ( JACOBS currently residing in Quebec, efforts on-going to execute her warrants)
JACOBS is wanted for Assault, Breach of Probation, Fail to Comply Undertaking and Fail to Attend Court

CRICK was wanted Theft under $5000 x 2, Fail to Re-Attend Court and Fail to Comply Probation

Week 14 – Ahmad ALAMI (ARRESTED)
ALAMI was located and arrested by Niagara Police as a result of tips received

Week 15 – Beth MICHAUD (ARRESTED)
MICHAUD surrendered to Police as a result of pressure associated with her media release

Week 16 – Darnell PARCHMENT-YATES (ARRESTED)
PARCHMENT-YATES was wanted for Theft under $5000 x 4, Possession of Property Obtained by Crime x 2 and Fail to Appear Court

Week 17 – Korde HILL (WANTED)
HILL is wanted for Theft of Motor Vehicle and Possession of Stolen Property

HILL is also wanted by Six Nations Police Service for Possession of Break and Enter Instruments, Occupy Motor Vehicle without Consent and Possession of CDSA

Week 18 – Matthew PARSONS (WANTED)
PARSONS is wanted for Theft under $5000 x 2, Possession of Schedule III x 2, Fail to Re-Attend Court and Fail to Appear Court x 3

Week 19 – Ryan Andrew WOOD (WANTED) (Believed to be in BC, efforts on-going to execute warrant)
WOOD is wanted for Trafficking Schedule I, Fraud under $5000, Public Mischief, Fail to Comply with Recognizance x 2, Fail to Re-Attend Court x 2

He is also wanted by Hamilton Police Service for Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking – Schedule II, Production Schedule II – Marihuana and Fail to Re-Attend Court

Week 20 – Joshua WEEDMARK (WANTED)
Weedmark is wanted for Mischief – Interfere with Law, Mischief under $5000, Fail to Comply with Probation and Fail to Re-Attend Court

Week 21 – Christian Stuart DRENNAN (ARRESTED)
Possession of a Schedule I, Possession of Schedule II, Care or Control – Impaired, Fail to Re-Attend Court

Week 22 – Brennan HOWE-PATTISON (ARRESTED)
Assault with a Weapon, Assault, Mischief under $5000, Breach of Probation

Week 23 – Trevor Grant ADAMS (ARRESTED)
Assault with a Weapon, Assault, Mischief under $5000, Breach of Probation

Week 24 – Michael DAWE (ARRESTED)
Possession of a Weapon – Dangerous Purpose, Unauthorized Possession of a Weapon, Conspiracy to Commit and Indictable Offence, Fail to Re-Attend Court

Week 25 – Vezio CARDULLO (ARRESTED)
Theft under $5000 x 3

Week 26 – Beth MICHAUD (ARRESTED)
Fraud under $5000 x 2, Uttering Forged Documents x 2 and Fail to Appear Court x 2

Week 27 – Jordan MILLER (WANTED)
Possession of Stolen Property under $5000, Breach of Probation Order x 2

Also wanted by Brant OPP and Brantford Police

Week 28 – Donald Ray McGILL (ARRESTED)
Driving while Impaired, Driving over 80mgs, Fail to Re-Attend Court

Week 29 – Scott MacDONALD (ARRESTED)
Theft under, Fail to Comply Undertaking x 2, Fail to Comply Probation

Week 30 – Nicholas SAWADSKI (ARRESTED)
Theft under $5000, Fail to Comply Probation, Fail to Re-Attend Court

Week 31 – Samantha Rose DUNLOP (WANTED)
Theft under $5000, Fail to Comply Undertaking x 2, Fail to Comply Probation

Week 32 – JASON KEARNS (ARRESTED)
Possession of Ammunition while Prohibited, Possession of a Firearm while Prohibited, Knowledge of Unauthorized Firearm, Possession of a Prohibited/Restricted Firearm, Unauthorized Possession of a Firearm, Breach of Firearms Regulation, Possession for the Purpose – Cocaine

Week 33 – Rob NELSON (ARRESTED)
Drive Impaired, Fail/Refuse Breath Sample, Fail to Appear Court

Week 34 – Benjamin BRZEZINSKI (ARRESTED)
Theft under $5000 x 2, Fail to Comply Probation x 4

Week35 – Kerry Lee HENWOOD (WANTED)
Theft under $5000 x 3, Use of Credit Card x 7
HENWOOD is also wanted by Hamilton Police Service for Fraud under $5000 x 7

There are numerous people who continue to evade the police and the court system and continue to live out in our communities while having a warrant for their arrest in place.  Every Friday, the Burlington Offender Management Unit will share information on a wanted person in hopes that the public can assist in locating the individual.

The police share “Fugitive Friday” information on their website and via social media through Twitter @HRPSBurl and @HaltonPolice.

“The 2015 Fugitive Friday project has been a success as the sharing of information publicly has led to numerous wanted person being arrested and brought to court to answer to the charges against them.  It is due to our concerned community, those that helped spread the wanted information via social media, that we have affected 23 arrests out of 37 wanted persons” said Detective Constable Calvin Bulbrook, the officer who brought the idea to Burlington..

Anyone who may have witnessed these wanted persons or has information that would assist investigators in locating them are encouraged to contact D/C Bulbrook – Burlington Criminal Investigations Bureau – Offender Management Team at 905-825-4747 Ext. 2346 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS), or through the web at www.haltoncrimestoppers.com, or by texting “Tip201” with your message to 274637 (crimes).

Comment on the Fugitive Friday initiative and the role media plays.

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The Friday Fugitive initiative results were impressive - do we keep the news story on the web site once a person has been apprehended?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

January 8th, 2016

BURLINGTON, ON

The Halton Regional Police released the results of their Friday Fugitive initiative today – the results are impressive – 23 of the 37 people they were looking for were arrested.

Pictures of each of the wanted people, provided to us by the police, were published by the Gazette.

Wanted Al Capone

Publishing this picture now is entertainment.

Some of these people had very long criminal histories and would appear to still be living the life of a criminal.  Several were preying on older people unable to protect themselves.  Many of the people the police were looking for were wanted for failing to appear before a judge once they were released on bail.

Wanted

Is publishing this picture also entertainment – the person happens to be a very dangerous individual.

The police spend a lot of time and financial resources apprehending the people wanted for committing criminal acts.  They get to court and are released on bail – which means the police have to go looking for them all over again.

jail cells

Jails are expensive places to operate. Should we jail people who fail to appear for a court hearing? If we don’t – what happens to public respect for the justice system?

Keep them in jail would seem to be the sensible thing to do. Problem with that is keeping people in jail is an expensive proposition. The criminal justice system seems to prefer to let them out and then have them re-arrested.  Cheaper – but it also impacts on the respect the public has for the criminal justice system. For the rule of law to be effective there has to be strong public respect for that rule of law. Without it – we slide into anarchy and that is not a pretty picture.

Super max prison in Penetang

Commonly called “super max” it is a provincial jail in Penetang where dangerous people are kept for long periods o time. There are frequent riots at this jail.

We are a civilized society with some very intelligent people working at the justice ministry – the public deserves to have the problem of how we handle people who consistently fail to appear in court when they are released on bail.

Our member of the provincial legislature might want to tackle this problem and see what she can get done.

As we reviewed the Fugitive Friday initiative, looking at the pictures of the people the police wanted to apprehend we were struck by the number of very young men who had run afoul of the law. Some of them were not much beyond boys and we wondered if we were serving a useful purpose by publishing their pictures know that once on the internet they are there for a long time – a long long time.

The Gazette has heard from several of those the police arrested in the past asking us to take down their picture. Is that our role?

Are we to be the judges of whose picture stays up and whose picture does not remain in the public domain?

One young man had several people write on his behalf – and we took the picture off the internet – but that really isn’t the role media plays.

At some point some prominent personality will have a relative or a family member that got themselves into a spot of trouble, made it into the media and asked if we could just quietly delete what was written.

It troubles us – is that our role? We don’t think so.

Do we remove all those who have been arrested and just keep those the police are still looking for?

Whose interests did we serve by publishing the results of the 2015 Fugitive Friday successes?

Do we know if the people who were wanted were actually found guilty?

What if they were acquitted – do we have the right to keep the “wanted by the police” information on the Gazette web site?

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Could culture fall between the cracks when the budget gets debated or will the city walk their talk? And where is the cultural leadership these days?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

January 8th, 2016

BURLINGTON, ON

Is here a threat to the nascent growth that has been percolating in the cultural field in Burlington?

Last year there were a number of events that took place which added to the health of local culture – one being the national Culture Days initiative that was developed to create a source of information on events taking place across the country and to promote those events.

Local artists could post their event and communities were encouraged to work locally with artists from every discipline possible.

Donna Grandid, a noted Burlington artists was front and center during a recent Culture Days event.

Burlington climbed aboard the Culture Days train last year and the year before that and the sense was that the city would continue to put resources into the event.
Apparently the city isn’t going to have any staff working on the Culture Days initiative in 2016.

Why not ? – the view appears to be that if artists want the event to happen – then let them make it happen.

Burlington’s growth as a cultural destination is not yet at the point where it can fly on its own; it is going to need nurturing for a number of years.

Burlington has a manager of culture events who has some support from a part time assistant. There are times when culture file gets very busy and additional support is needed.

se

Angela Paparizo and Trevor Copp – both strong advocates for a more robust Burlington with a higher cultural profile.

Angela Paparizo is the manager of culture events and was reporting to the one general manager the city had. It isn’t clear yet who Paparizo will report to now that the city no longer has any general managers. The understanding is that city manager James Ridge now chairs the Cultural Action Plan implementation committee.

There was some talk that the culture file will move back into Parks and Recreation where it languished for years.

Culture and sports are two different animals and in Burlington they have not mixed very well in the past.

Fortunately for the arts crowd, the city is in the process of finalizing its operations budget – this is the time for the arts community to delegate and ensure that the gains they have made do not get lost while the city manager figures out what he wants in the way of an organizational structure.

Ridge is focused on getting a Strategic Plan in place; getting a budget approved and then getting back to the Official Plan review that sort of got put on hold.

While there is a Cultural Action Plan along with a Committee to implement that plan, other than the city manager’s blessing it doesn’t appear to have much more propelling it.

The Strategic Plan has cultural arms and legs sticking out all over the place – but as one commentator put it – is the city going to walk the talk?

There is that old phrase that reporters use when they want to figure out what’s going on – follow the money.

How much has been allocated to culture? And then where are the human resources to support what has to be done if culture is to get to the point where it has lift off.

The city has an excellent Performing Arts Centre that has experienced several years of strong successes; the Art Gallery has new leadership – the Museums are still there with Ireland House is a sterling example of how local history can be made part of the cultural scene. Poor Joseph Brant is not getting the same treatment – but with different leadership that too might change.

Maureen Barry, CEO of the Burlington Public Library and a consummate professional has overseen the move deeper into electronic media yet keeping real books on shelves.

Maureen Barry, CEO of the Burlington Public Library and a consummate professional has overseen the move deeper into electronic media yet keeping real books on shelves.

There is a clear cluster of cultural nodes in this city – they need to be pulled together and given strong executive leadership.

Who could do that – Maureen Barry – she will shoot me for saying this – but she is one of the best executives we have in the city with a better big picture of culture than anyone else on the horizon.

That’s just an opinion.

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Columnist Rivers gives us his 2016 predictions - we will look at these at the end of the year and see just how good he is.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

January 4th, 2016

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Job number one for the new federal government will be restoring the good ship Canada.

The previous government will be remembered for its poorly (ideologically) conceived legislation which kept getting overruled by the Supreme Court. Bill -51 (police state), the (un)Fair Elections Act, the Environmental Assessment and the Fisheries acts, and the Safe Streets and Communities Act (mandatory prison sentencing) are but a sampling. Others were typically buried in omnibus legislation so as avoid scrutiny.

supreme_court_aerial

The Supreme Court in Ottawa – not a Court that the Harper government was able to convince very often.

It appears the government backdated authority for the RCMP to destroy gun registry records, which is improper if not illegal. This little trick was buried in one of the several omnibus bills that had everything imaginable stuffed into them; an example was the Tory’s signature law, “Ending the Long-gun Registry Act’ .

This long-gun registry has been problematic since its inception, and it is unlikely Mr. Trudeau, who once referred to the registry as a mistake, will be in any hurry to restore it.

And speaking of guns, Canadian war planes are still in action in the Middle East, something which most Canadians seem to agree with. Bringing our six planes home will not significantly affect the fight in that region, although we should be proud of our fly-boys. And it appears that IS, Daesh, ISIL or whatever they call themselves are on the run.

The real danger is that these extremists will end up diminished but not destroyed, holed up in some hideout, and like al Qaeda dropping in to spoil our party from time to time, as they did in Paris.

Voting ballot box

How will the ballots be counted in the next federal election?

Mr. Trudeau pledged to change the way we elect MP’s, thus making our current multi-party electoral system, known as First-Past-the-Post (FPP), more representative. At least 60% of electors typically vote for someone other than a Conservatives candidate. That implies that moving to a mixed member proportional system (MMP) or a preferential ballot, would ensure that the Conservative Party would never again be able to form a majority government.

Of course all bets are off if the Conservatives were to re-position themselves closer to the political centre. And of course, they could merge with the NDP and then honestly call themselves progressive-conservatives once again.

At a recent biennial policy conference the Liberal party endorsed a preferential ballot, a variation on the FPP. Voters rank their choices on the ballot and, if no candidate gets a plurality, second choices are added to the calculation until someone obtains 51% of the vote. It’s not really as complicated as I’ve made it sound, and the calculations can be done instantly by computers, even if paper ballots are marked. This option is where the smart money can be found.

Still one should never say never – except that our new PM has said never again to the very system which gave him a majority government with less than 40% of the vote. Still it was a larger share of the vote than either Harper or Chretien had obtained. So the Conservatives are demanding a national referendum. Not that Mr. Harper ever held a referendum on any of his legislation, such as the Fair Elections Act.

stephen-harper scowl

Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Perhaps our former PM understood that a referendum can be a messy business. Just look at what happened to Brian Mulroney when he rolled the dice and lost the ill-fated Charlottetown Accord. About half of Canada’s provinces have at least considered implementing MMP provincially. And B.C. and Ontario, each held a referendum, which failed to meet their critical thresholds for adoption.

Call it a communications/messaging failure by the governments or see it as a failure to win by deliberate design. The truth is that these once enthusiastic champions for electoral reform seemed to lose interest after they had become the government. Interestingly, New Zealand made the move to MMP back in the 1990’s with considerable backing by the public in their referendum campaigns. More recently the province of Ontario has announced that it will allow municipalities to use ranked/preferential ballots to determine the winners in the next local elections.

Rona Ambrose

Current Conservative interim leader Rona Ambrose.

Nevertheless the new Tory interim-leader is determined to block any change without first polling all Canadians, and has even threatened to use her majority in the Senate. Of course since we are a federation, Mr. Trudeau might want to obtain a sign-off from at least seven provinces comprising 50% of our population (the amending formula for the constitution) before moving forward. That would allow him to withstand a constitutional challenge in the courts, should one be forthcoming.

As for the Senate there are over 20 vacancies which need to be filled, and the government appears to be intent on filling them based on merit, and in a non-partisan fashion. Meanwhile Senator Duffy’s days are almost certainly numbered, though he’ll likely escape with a slap on the wrist. The core of the problem, which even he concedes, is that he should never have been appointed to represent PEI in the first place.

Provincial plans and national targets for climate changing emission reductions will be addressed early this year. And if they are smart, the federal government will work to integrate the various provincial programs into a national framework, including any ‘cap and trade’ or other carbon tax provincial programs.

It is inevitable that there will have to be new incentives for individuals and enterprises to cut emissions, plant trees, etc.. So if you are looking to make renovations to that draughty house or contemplating buying a new car, like me, it might be prudent to wait a few months. And to help pay for these financial incentives expect to see some kind of carbon tax as well as a national cap and trade program. And what about Ontario’s converting its high occupancy vehicles (HOV) lanes into a tollroad – just a teaser or a harbinger of what waits for all of us?

Below are my expectations of what is coming and the probability of occurrence.

Electors in Saskatchewan will re-elect Brad Wall (60%)
• Electors in Manitoba will vote for a change (70%)
• Ontario will kick off major infrastructure building program (100%)
• Canadian dollar will stay low benefiting Ontario businesses (80%)
• Continued low oil prices will see Alberta trade places with Ontario as ‘have’ provinces (90%)
• A lower dollar will lead to inflation and higher interest rates (60%)
• Ontario pension plan will be a pilot project and rolled into CPP (60%)
• Income taxes will become more progressive at both upper levels of government (50%)
• US electors will get a new president and it won’t be the Donald (100%)
• Eastern Europe will become more tense as Russia/Ukraine conflict continues (90%)
• There will be proxy wars in the middle east between Iran and Sunni Muslim states (80%)
• UK will prepare for BREXIT referenda in 2017 (100%) and stay in EU (60%)
• Canada’s Conservatives move to the middle and prepare for new leader in 2017 (60%)
• Globe and Mail ahead of me (great minds…) with this kind of story (100%)

• I’m going to take a break for a month or so (100%)

Rivers reading a newspaper Jan 3-15

Rivers will read the newspaper rather than write for it as he takes a well earned break.

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:

Gun Registry Screw-Up      Gun Registry       Charlottetown       FPP

MMP in New Zealand       Democratic Reform     Ranked Ballots Ontario      Looking Forward       More Looking Forward

Even More Looking Forward

Food Prices 2016      Big Issues 2016

Tax Avoidance       G&M Predictions

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Halton District Public School Board: a 2015 review.

opinionandcommentBy Walter Byj

January 1, 2105

BURLINGTON, ON

The six new trustees elected to the Halton District School Board, out of a total of 11, had to accelerate get through a steep learning curve when they found themselves faced with a number of issues that were the legacy of previous boards.

As in the past, the HDSB trustees were model administrators and conducted day to day business in an efficient manner. The introduction of the new Health and Education Curriculum was carefully studied by both the trustees and staff and with the assurance of proper training for the teaching staff the new curriculum was introduced to Halton students with little fanfare.

New schools were built in Oakville and Milton and even though lead time was far from ideal, the schools were built on time with few inconveniences. With the Close the Gap project, the board continued to upgrade older schools so that students would have the same classroom benefits the newer schools have; air conditioning and better access to wifi and library services.

Through the Long Tern Accommodation Plan, they reviewed the status of the various schools within Halton and realized that although Halton as a region had a growing population with the requirement of additional schools, there were areas, such as the south of Burlington, where school attendance was falling and consolidation of schools may need to take place.

pineland_streetview-1024x337

Pineland Public School

There were other issues that although identified in 2015 that will be resolved 2016 if not later.

The first thorny issues the trustees faced was the decision that Pineland school be converted to a totally French Immersion school thereby disrupting the ideal of having a community school that served the needs of all those in the neighbourhood. Instead, Pineland was to become a school that was now serving a large swath of students in the south of Burlington who were bused in while those in the immediate neighbourhood would now need to go to a school that was originally outside their boundary.

A numbers game was played justifying the change, but the numbers game were in part a reflection of previous decisions when the French Immersion program was introduced in Halton. No one can ever predict the success of any program, but French Immersion has exceeded expectations to the point where it is now negatively affecting the English program at the elementary level.

The board has formed the Program Viability Committee to fully review and with input from the public provide a solution for upcoming years. As noted before, this will not go down easy in parts of Halton.

Getting to and from school has become problematic within the Halton region. After ceding to the various demands such as larger, friendlier parking lots and curved laneways from both the municipality and public, our schools have become extremely car friendly, resulting in congestion on a regular basis. Combined with one of the more liberal school busing programs, the board is now reviewing how it can encourage more students to use active transportation (walking and biking) as a method of getting to school.

This will continue to be a hot issue for 2016 with potential of much debate.

In January, the board faced the issue of start times for elementary and secondary students. Reviewing studies that stated that school times for secondary students, in some cases are starting too early, the board wanted to alter the start times of secondary students so that the students could have a later start time. However, after much debate and research change would not be easy.

School busses - winter

Any change in school start times would be a logistical nightmare for the bus schedules

With many students (elementary and secondary) using school transportation, any change to school times for secondary could affect the start times of elementary students.

Also, the HDSB shares school busing with the Catholic board. A change for one would require the co-operation of the other or face the possibility of going alone. To date, no changes have yet occurred.

The board did question the viability of using public schools as polling stations for the various municipal, provincial and federal elections. The potential for harm to students was the genesis of this review. It is currently in the embryonic stage but ideas such as potential weekend voting have been raised. Any solution would require all three levels of government so do not expect any quick solution on this one.

Eaule David

David Euale gives retirement a third try – seems to have succeeded this time.

In February, after five years as Director of Education, David Euale announced his retirement, effective August 31st, much to the chagrin of the board and staff. With the mandate of finding the best possible replacement, the board started a provincial wide search for a new director. At times like this, some argue that new blood from outside is at times necessary to stimulate and add a different perspective.

Stuart Miller

Stuart Miller; Director o Education, Halton District School Board

The board decided to promote within and Associate Director of Education Stuart Miller was hired as the new Director of Education. Director Miller is highly respected by both staff and the board and is highly qualified to face the challenges of 2016.

In a thriving democracy, people who are voted into any office are there as representatives of the total population and bring the voice and desires of the mass to an elected body. This would include the highest level in the country, the Canadian Parliament, to elected members of our various school boards. These bodies set out to create policies for not only the immediate future, but also for years in the future. These decisions can lead to the success or potential problems if issues are not properly vetted. So how does the Halton District School Board stack up?

In Burlington, one of the trustees, Amy Collard, was acclaimed while two others, Andrea Grebenc and Richelle Papin received 12% and 13% of registered voters. Leah Reynolds received 17% of registered voters. Based on the number of votes cast, all three were close to or over 50%.

MMW + Leah Reynolds

Is one of these two going to follow the other? Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward and school board trustee Leah Reynolds. There is a “geezer” in ward 2 who would like to upset that apple cart.

The low turnout is not their fault, they elected to run and it may not be the public’s fault as they themselves may not be familiar with the issues. However, we are electing a group of people to oversee an annual budget of close to $700 million and yet do not vet our candidates. The trustees themselves are not representative of the community as all are female, a rarity in Ontario. This in no way disqualifies them, but once again is not representative. In addition, the majority of trustees are not reflective of the population base within parts of Halton.

There are many within Halton, specifically Burlington that no longer have children attending school. This includes the growing senior’s population. Trustees communicate often with parents within the system but one wonders how often those without children have any input into the decision making process of the board.

With the province of Ontario in a huge deficit position, the flow of money to the public is being reduced and all organizations will need to be creative in finding solutions to limited funding and all citizens need to be included in the process.

Walter Byj

Walter Byj: education reporter.

Walter Byj has been the Gazette reporter on education for more than a year. He is a long-time resident of the city and as a parent has in the past delegated to the school board.

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2015 - A Year of promise hope and challenges: Rivers on what we got and what we didn't get.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

December 29, 2015

BURLINGTON, ON

Columnist Ray Rivers looks at 2015 and comments on where we got it right and where we could have done better.  Before taking a month off to travel, refresh and get caught up on his reading Rivers will suggest where 2016 might take us.

Justin Trudeau’s decisive victory at the polls has ushered in a new sense of hope and promise. He is just one person but he has ignited a sense of optimism in the land, and the refugee resettlement issue has been an effective policy instrument. A promise is a promise, but does it really matter whether it’s 10,000 people by the end of the year, unless you happen to be one of those refugees, that is.

Having decided to open our doors to those in need has changed the nature of the debate. No longer just an international obligation, immigration is now cast as an investment in our future. Fear of terrorists among the masses has been replaced with a reflection on the benefits previous refugee settling programs have brought us, going back to the early Irish migrations.

Female researcher taking notes

Federal scientists in Canada can now talk about their work.

Barely two months into office this new leadership has already shaken up our public service. Scientists are once again allowed to speak openly about their findings, and the long-form census is back, fulfilling vital information needs. The promised middle-income tax cut has already been effected, and a non-partisan process for appointing senators is being developed.

But sooner than later Mr. Trudeau will need to beef up the foot soldiers who carry out his wishes. He’ll need a fully responsive, enthusiastic and capable bureaucracy to implement the government’s political will. Over the previous decade the federal public service had atrophied and in some areas, like environmental management, been decimated. Disillusioned and depreciated, many of the smartest people chose to leave rather than suffer the indignation of serving a government which resented them as burdensome, redundant and a drain on the public purse.

Canada is a federation and it works best when the central and provincial governments are working together, something we’ve seen in spades even in the brief time that the Liberals have been in office, and something that had been missing over the last decade. It may help that most of the provinces are also Liberal, or Liberal friendly, except for Saskatchewan. But a common political stripe doesn’t guarantee harmony, as we saw with the earlier PC government in Newfoundland.

There is a new sense of mutual respect for the positions of others. For example, even though the PM has enough support to revise the Canada Pension Plan, he’s waiting for B.C. and Saskatchewan to climb on board. Climate change is a priority, but since the provinces will be doing much of the heavy lifting they will be a big part of the process, thereby ensuring greenhouse gas reduction plans and targets are truly national – for the first time.

Rising tides lift all boatsIt is said that a rising tide lifts us all. Well at least Trudeau’s election victory did for the popularity of the newly elected premiers in the Atlantic provinces. But it didn’t do much for the Liberal leaders in Ontario and Quebec. Voter fatigue is a natural phenomena for a government in power as long as the Liberals have been in Ontario. And the polls also reflect the public’s impatience with what it sees as less than satisfactory performance.

The debt and deficits are a problem. But it’s all the other screw-ups which leave one with the sense of lack of competence. And each screw-up makes it harder for a government to recover lost confidence and credibility. Recently the provincial auditor general (AG) claimed that $37 billion was wasted on the electricity file over the last decade. If accurate, that is a powerful lot of money wasted on that file. Is it any wonder most Ontario householders didn’t trust the government to effect the sell-off of Hydro One?

Poor political direction or failed administrative execution? It’s pretty clear that the gas plant fiasco, including the alleged attempted cover-up was almost entirely political. But that only accounts for one-thirty-seventh of the AG’s allegations. If the role of the civil service is to keep the government that is in power, to stay in power, then they are doing a pretty inadequate job on that file. And part of the reason may be that the organization is stale-dated and long overdue for renewal.

water unsafeOntario’s government hasn’t seen much re-organization over the years, certainly not compared to the federal government. One of the boldest attempts at renewal was prescribed in Mike Harris’s common sense revolution. And of course smaller government was always better, in his mind. Well it may have looked good on paper and it won him the election. But as former Harris education minister Snobelen found, creating crises as an approach to organizational re-engineering just leaves you with… chaos.

And whatever good was accomplished by Harris’ red-tape cutting gestapo was soon lost following the Walkerton scandal, in which seven people died after drinking improperly treated water That tragic incident probably had more to do with downsizing than red-tape, but the baby got thrown out with the polluted bathwater anyway. And the result, ironically, was even more rules and more civil servants to enforce them.

Beer in supermarkets

Beer is no sold in supermarkets – but not yet in Burlington.

Like most Ontario residents I cheered to the news that beer would now be available in grocery stores. But then I learned of all the rules surrounding what should be a simple transaction for a mildly alcoholic beverage – rules that didn’t seem to apply equally at many of the existing in-grocery wine stores, nor at the many rural LCBO franchise outlets. Was this a case of too many provincial lawyers with too much ink in their quills and too little else to write about – or just more of that nanny-state we’ve grown to love?

One of the provincial Liberals’ campaign promises was to enhance our pensions through a provincial plan. Reducing the inequality between those with an institutional or private pension plan and those without is a liberal ideal. But with E-health and ORNGE in mind it is understandable that there is some lack of confidence in this government’s ability to effectively deliver that program. So, it is no surprise that Ontario residents would prefer the new federal government to do it for us as part of our Canada Pension Plan.

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:

Rebooting the Public Service        Premier’s Positive Outlook        A Rising Tide

Creating a Crisis       Walkerton

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Making 2016 work: Trevor Copp wants to see the Performing Arts Centre deliver on the promise.

artsblue 100x100By Trevor Copp

December 29, 2015

BURLINGTON, ON

Trevor Copp is the dancer who brazenly told city council in 2012 that there really was a cultural community in Burlington and Council needed to wake up and pay attention.  That fresh start resulted in the creation of the Arts and Cultural Community in Burlington, a significant report on the state of culture in the city and the development of a Culture Action Plan plus the appointment of a Manager of culture at city hall.  Copp sees that as just a start.

Last year the star of the cultural community was how many indy ‘up and coming’ local artists/orgs ‘up and came.’

NV Sophia wishing forest

Kune Hua’s Wish Garden at the No Vacancy event held on Lakeshore Road this year.

Selina Eckersall’s No Vacancy – a pop up Art event which was an unthinkable in Burlington five years ago – held its Supernova event this year on Lakeshore.

The Burlington Performing Arts Centre saw its full local professional Series bloom with Tottering Biped Theatre, Nortsur, and Koogle Theatre all presenting works. The AGB’s new Executive Director Robert Stevens has for the first time acquired a piece by an internationally famous public art specialist from Lowville, Walt Rickli.

FORM two dancers - one masked

The FORM brought some of the most progressive dance the city has seen – great performance poorly attended though.

And an all-out first: FORM Contemporary Dance presented the first Burlington original contemporary dance event ever this past Fall.

Add in the Art in Action studio tour, the Burlington Slam Poets competing at the world championship, Symphony by the Bay rocking, and Burly Calling all holding their own beautifully.

This is what will finally get us to come into our own: artists doing it for themselves. We’ve been meeting up a storm at the City and progress is slow. The city is a big boat and takes a long time to turn, with several Councillors still needing convincing that the Arts have a place in our budget, not just our hearts.

Getting the City’s first manager of Culture Angela Paparizo into an office was a highlight – but we need a lot more of that going on so the City hall types can catch up to its people.

In 2016 I’d like to see even more independent artists making things happen. The Burlington Shebang – a multi-year collaboration of many local artists – will culminate at BPAC in May.

Suzanne Haines

The performance community really wants to see continued growth in for them in 2016 – they are hoping Susan Haines can deliver. She does need some time to put a program together.

We’ll see if the new Executive Director at the Performing Arts Centre holds up Brian McCurdy’s vision of supporting local theatres. There’s a lot of possibility out there and we can have it all if we become impossible to ignore.

The City needs to kick in more real money and energy for the local artists: no more plans, we need money on the table. We are putting the ‘url’ back in Borington and this is our time.

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