Fiorito: I wish I could end this story on environmental issues on a positive note, but I can’t. A Year in Review: The Top Environmental Stories of 2015.

News 100 greenBy Vince Fiorito

December 27, 29015

BURLINGTON, ON

2015 was a big year for the environmental movement. It was a year of historic agreements, milestones, diversions, sensible policy making and oversights.

Justin at climatechange-summit

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the Climate Change talks in Paris.

Internationally, the biggest environmental story was the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris which will be remembered both for its achievements and failures. Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna as well as the rest of the Canadian delegation deserve recognition for their efforts to negotiate the historic Paris Agreement. As the Paris delegates were debating, atmospheric CO2 levels passed the 400ppm milestone, which is a 42% increase since the start of the industrial age only 150 years ago. The last time the earth’s atmosphere had this much CO2 was two million years ago. Back then, the earth’s climate was 6C warmer, the arctic was ice free and sea levels were about 30M higher than they are today.

If all Paris Agreement signatories respect their voluntary self imposed, non-binding limitations, CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere should stabilize near the same level they were 45 million years ago, when Greenland had crocodiles and palm trees. While the Paris agreement is most likely too little, too late to prevent extreme weather events and catastrophic environmental disasters over the long term, at least most of the world now agrees that climate change is a serious problem requiring action.

Most of the world has now pledged to reduce CO2 emissions to zero by 2070. Since this pledge is non-binding and voluntary, its achievement is highly unlikely. Paris Agreement signatories have agreed to meet every 5 years to review their progress (or lack of progress) and hopefully sign new agreements which may actually include mandatory limits and punitive measures for non-compliance. The Paris Agreement also includes a mechanism for countries hardest hit by climate change associated disasters to receive international aid and calls on developed countries to voluntarily share green technologies with less developed countries. The Paris Agreement isn’t much, but it is progress in the right direction.

Nationally, the biggest environmental story was the election of a new Liberal majority government, which appears to be far more aware and concerned about environmental issues than the previous Conservative majority government. As the Green Party candidate for Burlington in the last election, I must admit that I was dismayed that environmental issues which threaten to make our planet uninhabitable took a back seat to trivial debates over the clothing choices of some ethnic minorities. For most environmentalists, the words of the Justin Trudeau government are like a breath of fresh air. Hopefully the new government’s actions will prove to be equally refreshing.

Provincially, the Ontario Government finally passed three important laws to help protect the environment and environmental advocates. First, the Great Lakes Protection Act is intended to protect and restore the ecological health of the Great lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin and create opportunities for stakeholder participation in efforts to protect, preserve, restore and create habitat. Second, the Ontario Invasive Species Act creates a framework to criminalize the possession, trafficking and release of problematic alien species which threaten Ontario’s native ecosystems.

Great Lakes System Profile Map

Great Lakes Protection Act is intended to protect and restore the ecological health of the Great lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin.

Finally the Ontario government passed the Protection of Public Participation Act, which will help protect free speech from Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP). Unfortunately this new law is not retroactive and comes too late to protect local residents Pepper Parr, Vanessa Warren, and Monte Dennis from a $100,000 Burlington Airpark libel lawsuit.

Municipally, the biggest environment story of 2015 in Burlington remains the Cootes to the Escarpment EcoPark System. In June 2013, local government and non-profit organizations in the Burlington-Hamilton area agreed to cooperatively manage nearly 1,900 hectares (4700 acres) of natural lands in Burlington and Hamilton to protect and restore what is arguably Canada’s most biologically rich and diverse ecosystem. This globally significant, environmental award winning urban park stretches from Hamilton Harbour, through Cootes Paradise to a 10-kilometre section of the Niagara Escarpment. The Cootes to the Escarpment EcoPark is the only part of escarpment not separated from Lake Ontario by a 400-series highway. The Cootes to the Escarpment EcoPark system is home to nearly a quarter of the country’s wild plants and more than 50 species at risk.

15 hectares (37.2 acres) of land in North Aldershot that was donated by Mr. John Holland and will become part of the Cootes to Escarpment park system.

Part of the Cootes to Escarpment park system.

The park’s scientists and technicians are an important source of local environmental knowledge and expertise. I highly recommend participating in their educational and stewardship events. On May 30, 2014, Mr. John V. Holland generously donated a 15 hectare (37-acre) natural area in the Cootes to the Escarpment EcoPark system to the City of Burlington in honour of his wife Eileen to be managed as the new Eileen and John Holland Nature Sanctuary. On December 15, 2015, partners of the Cootes to Escarpment Ecopark System were able to finance the purchase of nearly 40 hectares (100 acres) of natural lands situated in the Greenbelt in Hamilton. Hopefully the Cootes to the Escarpment Ecopark system will continue to grow and inspire local landowners near the park to be responsible stewards of this biodiversity hotspot.

wer

Has Burlington found a way for wildlife and we humans to share the apace we both occupy?

A second important local story is the City of Burlington’s new and improved approach to managing urban wildlife. The issue of urban coyotes especially has been emotional with many strong feelings on all sides of the issues. Councillor Jack Dennison and City of Burlington staff deserves credit and recognition for their successful effort to create wise and sensible city policies and by-laws to manage Burlington’s urban wildlife. They took the time to listen to all points of view, consulted the Ministry of Natural Resources experts, local environmental and citizens groups to develop a rational and sensible approach to managing Burlington’s urban wildlife in a way that reduces conflict, promotes greater understand and also stewardship. Burlington’s new by-laws and policies will reduce the risk to people from urban wildlife and at the same time reduce the risk to urban wildlife from people. Other municipalities would be wise to adopt Burlington’s rational and reasonable “Coyote Response Strategy.”
https://www.burlington.ca/en/services-for-you/wildlife.asp

Holocene extinction event

As roads penetrate into the Amazon Rainforest, fires and deforestation follow. This image from August 5, 2007, shows scores of fires burning along roads and at the edges of already cleared areas of the Amazon in southern Para and northern Mato Grosso states in Brazil. The image and fire detections (marked in red) were captured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite.

The biggest environmental story of 2015 remains the relatively unknown Holocene Mass Extinction Event. Five times in the past, something has happened which killed off most of the life on earth. These events are known as Mass Extinctions. Each past mass extinction event required millions of years before new species evolved and the earth recovered to its former level of biodiversity. The last mass extinction event happened 65 million years ago, wiped out the dinosaurs, gave rise to the dominance of mammals and eventually the appearance of modern humans.

While most biologists have been warning that a mass extinction event was likely underway, they lacked empirical evidence that could quantify the current mass extinction’s scale and timeline. In 2015, a new study by a group of scientists including Paul Ehrlich, the Bing Professor of Population Studies in biology and a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, published in the journal Science Advances, based on empirical peer reviewed evidence which proves that species are disappearing much faster than the historical background rate. The study’s best case scenario is that 75% of all species on the planet will become extinct within 2000 years, with most of the rest ceasing to play a significant role in the natural services which scrub CO2 and pollutants from the air, clean the water and rejuvenate the soil. The study’s worst case scenario predicts that 75% species will become extinct in less than 200 years. Exponential human population growth with increased per capita consumption has altered or destroyed natural habitats and ecosystems. The main human impacts were caused by

• Land clearing for farming, logging and settlement
• Introduction of invasive species
• Carbon emissions that drive climate change and ocean acidification
• Toxins that alter and poison ecosystems

Mapleview Mall parking - south west side

A parking lot today – it was once part of some of the very best farmland in the province from which produce was shipped around the world.

Residents of Burlington need not travel far to see the evidence of the Holocene mass extinction event. All of Burlington used to be as richly biologically diverse as the Cootes to the Escarpment EcoPark System. Today in Burlington, most of the Carolinian forests have been cut down and most of the prairies have been paved over. Nearly every tree, shrub, flower and grass in that people in Burlington deliberately cultivate is an alien species. Nearly every ornamental garden in Burlington has at least invasive species that will soon be banned by Ontario’s new invasive species law.

Our urban natural areas are mostly overrun with alien invasive species which have escaped our ornamental gardens and our urban creek floodplains filled with hundreds of tons of trash in the form of tires, couches, car batteries, television monitors, plastic, broken glass… I know because I have literally removed a few tons of trash myself. Our local habitat loss problem is part of the global habitat loss problem and can’t be blamed on anyone else but ourselves.

I wish I could end this story on environmental stories of 2015 on a positive note. But I can’t. We are obviously ruining the planet and most people don’t care. I am certain that in the future, our grandchildren and their grandchildren will look back to this point in time and wonder how we could be so irresponsibly destructive and uncaring about the future of the earth’s biosphere. I wonder too. If anyone is reading this article 100 years from now, I’d like to apologize to you. We could have and should have done much better, but we were too distracted by a few people’s clothing choices and too busy in our daily lives to give the future of the earth any serious thought or consideration.

Sorry.

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Are we satiated beyond our needs, and can dispose of food we don’t want, without a care?

opinionandcommentBy Carol Gottlob

December 27, 2015

BURLINGTON, ON

 

It was Boxing Day, a day traditionally reserved for ultra-consumerism. Stores were being ransacked for “unbelievable deals”, and mall parking lots were over-flowing. If the retailers didn’t show a profit by this time, we’d likely not see their store fronts next year at Christmas.

I was walking my dog along the Centennial Multi-use Pathway, when I observed a bright coral-coloured mass in the grasses adjacent to the pathway.

Shrimp - Gottlob

How did these shrimp land on municipal parkland here in Burlington?

On closer observation, I came across approximately 20 partially frozen shrimp, the kind you buy ready to serve at supermarkets. There was no packaging. Just dead shrimp. I stood puzzled by this (as was my dog). I took a picture and asked myself, “What is wrong with this picture”? I continued to walk along the path, and on my way back, upon seeing the shrimp still there, I realized, there was so much so very wrong with this.

To begin, the practice of cultivating shrimp in faraway places such as Thailand is ecologically unsound and unsustainable. Furthermore, the labour used to harvest these massive quantities of shrimp is akin to slave labour. Not to mention the toll on the environment by distributing these shrimp all over the world by the plane load, so that they are readily available before their Best Before Date, not only on special occasions, but on any given day of the year.

We don’t necessarily think about it when these delicacies are offered to us at 30% off the regular price, and guests are coming to the house, and we want to make sure we have something to offer them. The holidays bring out all kinds of justification for excessive spending, eating and drinking.

So how did these shrimp land on municipal parkland here in Burlington? My guess is that someone felt bad about simply throwing them in the garbage or the compost, and setting them free in a natural setting somehow made them feel better about it.

Maybe they were sharing Christmas with the creatures of the neighbourhood. Perhaps they simply didn’t like shrimp, or the shrimp had gone bad, and they hoped someone would take pity, rescue them and protect them in a good home. Who knows?

What I do know is that in order to do such a thing, we must be living in a pretty affluent community. Shrimp, even shrimp on sale, is expensive. But to throw them out, uneaten, tells me we are satiated beyond our needs, and can dispose of food we don’t want, without a care.

For whatever reason this came about, the problem then extends even further. Leaving organic matter in parkland attracts urban wildlife (coyotes, racoons, rats). I’ve seen bread, cookies, meat bones and various fruit and vegetables spewn alongside the path at intervals, but never shrimp.

Each time I open the local paper, I read about people feeling uncomfortable, even threatened, having these critters in their neighbourhoods, and beseeching the authorities to remove or cull them. Does this even make sense? “There are too many of them”, they will say.

“Well who invited them?” is the question I would ask.

If we allow ourselves to ignore the excessivness we are responsible for, how are we to establish balance in our existence?

I continued home, my little dog looking back and licking his lips at the thought of what a delightful treat it would have been to savour such tender morsels. Alas.

Gottlob smile tighter cropping

Carol Gottlob

 

Carol Gottlob is a ward 4 resident who ran for municipal office in the last election.  She teaches English as a Second Language and walks her dog daily – when she isn’t riding her motorcycle.

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The reason for the season ...

By Staff
December 25th, 2015
BURLINGTON, ON

The kids have been up for hours, the gift are unwrapped and you are settling in for a comfortable day or perhaps visiting with family, or food for family that will arrive soon.

Santa For-unto-us-1024x473You are enjoying the holiday.

Remember, if you will, what we are celebrating – and the why of it all.

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My Grown Up Christmas Wish - Let There be Peace - Ray Rivers

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

December 24, 2015

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Sorry folks, there’ll be no postcard winter wonderland for us this year. And this is not what we ever meant by the phrase ‘going green’. If there still are climate change doubters/deniers unconvinced by this weather we’re experiencing, the latest scientific research coming out of the Paris climate change conference should give them pause.

Robins and snow

This robin is both cold and confused – for those of us in Burlington we are just confused over the weather we are getting.

I saw a robin the other day and our trees are starting to bud – Mother Nature is obviously convinced we are having an early spring. Hey, looks like we missed winter altogether. And I decided to buy new snow tires this year. Hopefully the ranks of climate deniers have crumbled to a few grumpy old men (and women). These are the folks who wish we could go back to the good old days.

But it was how we lived in the good old days that has rewarded us with this new reality. A consequence of global warming is weather volatility, so we may still see snow and cold later this winter, despite the forecasters. I feel sorry for those robins though. Despite the feathers, I’ll bet they’ll feel the chill, when it finally gets cold.

What really is giving me the chills these days is the way every country seems to be beefing up its armaments. It is scary and, though I wasn’t around prior to WWII, it sure looks like history repeating itself. This is not supposed to be happening. Over the last quarter century we’d got used to relative peace, but the doomsday clock now sits at three minutes to midnight. That is only one minute more than it was in 1953, when the US was contemplating nuking China during the Korean war.

It’s Russia and its macho leader, Vladimir Putin, who has challenged the world order and unrepentantly set the planet on this dangerous course. Vlad may seem rational but he is an extreme egotist who openly regrets having seen the demise of the USSR, calling it the worst tragedy of the 20th century. It’s about protecting Russian values from western decadence, and especially the permissiveness of homosexuality, he says, that turns him on it seems.

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech at the opening of the Army-2015 international military forum in Kubinka, outside Moscow, on June 16, 2015. AFP PHOTO / VASILY MAXIMOV

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech at the opening of the Army-2015 international military forum in Kubinka, outside Moscow. 

But it’s really about power, as it always has been with old Russia. They have arguably the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons and Putin has no hesitation to remind people that he could use them at will. And indeed he could since, unlike previous Soviet leaders constrained by the communist party, he is a law unto himself with a compliant Duma to rubber stamp his every wish.

And he hasn’t finished with Ukraine yet, having re-supplied his troops there recently and positioned them for a new assault when they think the time is right. But perhaps most worrisome are Putin’s flirtations in Syria, supporting Syria’s ruthless Dictator Assad under the guise of fighting ISIS. His attacks on western supported Syrian rebels contributed to NATO member Turkey’s shooting down one of his war planes. And a hurt and embarrassed Putin is just waiting for an opportunity for revenge.

And that part of the world is getting a lot of air traffic these days. The Brits, French, Americans, Jordanians and Canadians (still) are bombing ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The Russians are hitting the Syrian rebels and the Turks are focusing their bombing for the Kurdish populations in Syria and Turkey. And ironically Turkey’s NATO allies, including Canada, are arming and training the Kurds.

The Iranians and Hezbollah are fighting with Assad’s forces. And Israel, is taking opportunistic shots at Hezbollah leaders when it can. One has to wonder how long will it be before the next incident among all these players brings us to a brink. With only six planes in play, compared to the US with 150, Canada’s contribution to the military conflict is insignificant.

united-nations-peacekeeper

It was former Prime Minister who convinced the United Nations to create a peacekeeping force that is still in place in some parts of the world. Is the world now beyond peace keeping?

Lester Pearson won a nobel prize for his efforts at resolving international conflict. And we could play a much more significant role as honest brokers to help bridge the gap between the parties making war there. Of course we’d have to bring our planes back first. It is hard to negotiate between warring parties when you are one of them.

And it’s not just eastern Europe and the Middle East where military tension is building. Asia has seen a massive buying spree of weapons, including ships, planes, anti-ship and anti-plane systems. Populous India and China are each buying the same sophisticated Russia weapons systems to potentially use against each other. And little Vietnam, with a history of fighting the Chinese, is trying desperately to keep up with them, when those resources could be better spent on economic development and its people.

Japan rearming

The Japanese are now rearming to a level we have no seen since the end of the second world war. These are not cruise ships.

Japan, wary of its more assertive neighbour, China, has embarked on a massive re-armament program unseen since the great war. And Germany is considering revising its pacifist constitution. The US and China are playing tag in the South China Sea, along with the Philippines, Vietnam and the Koreas. And speaking of Korea, that Kim clown in the north is doing his best to make Putin look almost reasonable.

I apologize that this is not a very cheery outlook given the time of year and the season of peace we are entering. But ignorance won’t make us any safer. So it’s a big ask. But maybe if we all join our voices this Christmas they’ll get heard. Stop the arms race everywhere. Stop the aggression. Let there be peace. It’s better than the alternative.

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 but he still has a membership card.

Backgrounds links:

Russian Aggression     Putin’s New Year      Russian Society        Doomsday Clock

Optimistic Public Service

India Arming

What’s with the weather? 

How the Russians are arming themselves.

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If you love this planet - begin changing the way you use it. Rivers and his Dad's big honking Plymouth.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

December 18th, 2015

BURLINGTON, ON

There are only a few days left to buy something to put under the tree for my wife. But what I really need is another car. My beloved decade-old Prius has found a new home with my daughter. I bought the car after reading “The Weather Makers” by Australian paleontologist and climate scientist, Tim Flannery. He was so persuasive I even wrote a song about him.

Front three quarter view of a

A Prius – best car Rivers ever bought – he’s in the market for a new one.

According to Flannery the single best thing we can do to reduce our carbon footprint is stop driving gas guzzlers. So, I bought a hybrid. And after 200,000 kms at 4.9 l/100 kms (60 mpg), I figure half of my mileage (100,000 kms) was virtually costless and free from emissions, when compared to a conventional auto.

Last week almost 200 national leaders signed up to the Paris (climate) Agreement. But that was the easy part. We’ve been this road before with the Kyoto Protocol, back in 1997, only to find a change in politics killed the deal. Climate deniers GW Bush and our own Stephen Harper did their best to scuttle any attempts at restraining global warming.

And thanks in some small part to them, 2015 will be the warmest year on record. Greenland’s vast glaciers are now melting twice as fast as predicted by climate scientists. And that means that rising sea levels combined with declining polar ice packs will shift the earth’s mass towards the equator slowing down the planet’s rotation and shifting it on its axis – scary stuff.

Greenland iceberg melting

Ice fields in Greenland melting faster than anyone predicted – water flows towards the equator impacting the way the earth rotates – and some still don’t see climate change as a problem.

Mr. Trudeau has committed to meet with the premiers and come up with a feasible plan of action early in the New Year. A major component of any plan will be a smorgasbord of carrots and sticks to help Canadians get out of old habits. For example, since almost half of all Canadian homes are heated with natural gas, we should expect some financial help with home insulation and alternate heating. And a carbon tax on heating fuels would make sense to help fund these kinds of incentives.

Transportation accounts for about a third of our greenhouse gas emissions and the private motor car makes up about half of that, so expect more incentives to get us onto the new public transportation they keep promising, and into more efficient automobiles. Ontario already offers rebates of up to $8500 for full battery-electric vehicles (BEV) and $5000 for plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHV). But the uptake hasn’t been huge and good luck trying to find them at the car dealer. And even better luck finding a salesperson who knows anything about electric vehicles (EV), PHVs or even hybrids – or understands why you should buy one.

Electric car charging station

Get used to see more signs like this – Mayor has one where he normally parks his car.

But that’s pretty much it – the rest is stuff we individuals can’t do. The oil sands will require a massive clean-up one way or the other, given where oil prices are going. Some provinces in the prairies and Maritimes will need help converting their electricity generation, as Ontario did recently. Then there is the need for increased reforestation and the development of green technologies.

Fighting wars requires massive amounts of energy and results in all kinds of emission releases, especially when oil-tank cars are being hit by bombs. Yet there has been no discussion of finding better ways to resolve conflicts among nations – especially as the world enters a new era of global tension.

International trade, well that is all about moving goods great distances and burning lots of fuel. It is pure hypocrisy when governments which support more free trade simultaneously sponsor those buy-local campaigns. And speaking of goods transport, trucks now release almost as much greenhouse gas emissions as cars. There was a time when most goods were transported around the country efficiently by rail. Today the rail cars are all busy carrying oil to refineries so it can be burned by the trucks which have now replaced them.

Some folks are saying we need to change the foods we eat as well. According to one researcher lettuce has a greater GHG footprint than pork production. But I don’t believe it. Still other researchers claim that meat production accounts for 15% of all GHG emissions. To that end New Zealand has implemented a cow ‘fart tax’. And beef is the worst of the meats apparently, being labelled the ‘SUV of food’. Which gets us back to motor vehicles.

Plymouth with big fins

Gas was cheap and the highways were seldom clogged – the drivers felt like Kings – those were the days!

I confess that I have always been a car buff. I was just a tadpole when my dad brought home a new Plymouth with those monstrous fins. He wintered his beautiful baby in our barn and I’d occasionally climb in behind the odd-shaped steering wheel and stare at the push button transmission, pretending I was actually driving the big V8 powered behemoth.

My dream car today is the Tesla, named after Nikola Tesla the brilliant Serbian inventor. The car was developed by Elon Musk, a Canadian/American South African guy who invented PayPal and runs Space X as well. A friend of mine has one of these electrically powered beauties and it can go over 300 kms on a charge and move like a cat on catnip. But it costs a bomb and is the only EV with the kind of range I’d be comfortable with, given where I live.

So, unless my publisher pays me a lot more money to write these columns, I’d have to sell my farm and move to the city in order to be able to afford one. But if I did that, one of those more modest EV would do the job – or I could just use environmentally friendly public transportation instead. I hope you’re having better luck with your Christmas shopping than I am.

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  politically.

Background links

Cool Video     Tim Flannery        Flannery Song       Paris Agreement

Ignorant Car Dealers        Tesla       What People Can Do       The Hard Work Begins

Earth Slowing Down        Electric VehiclesRoad Transport

Trade and Climate        Household Energy Use        Unattainable

Cow Farts       Electric Vehicles        EV Rebates

Meat is the New SUV

Car and Truck Emissions         Greenland Melting         Lettuce Causes Climate Change

 

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Mike for Mayor? Huh! - there is at least one well placed city hall type who thinks it might happen - others around the eggnog bowl weren't as certain.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

December 16th, 2015

BURLINGTON, ON

It is that time of year when the eggnog is there to be ladled into a cup and the conversation is genial. You use the occasion to get caught up on the gossip and who is doing what.

If the get together has even three or four people who work at city hall then there is going to be some mention of how things are going with city council and the changes that are taking place in the senior staff ranks.

Mayor and chair

Will the chain of office be part of Rick Goldring’s wardrobe in 2018

“The Mayor’s office is a mess” said one imbiber, – “the Strategic Plan will get completed – no one is prepared to say exactly when” added another.

A really interesting comment came from a rather athletic male who wanted to huddle in the corner and talk about the “slate of candidates” he and some colleagues were trying to put together to clean out the current city council.

The current council has completed a quarter of its term of office – people who follow politics (some of one crowd I spent time with live politics) ask who is likely to run for office next time around?

Are Councillors Dennison and Taylor nearing the end of their political careers?

What has ward six Councillor Blair Lancaster got her eye on?

Will the public look at Councillor Sharman any differently now that the discussion of the Lakeside Village Plaza has actually begun to take place?

Do the plans ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward have to reach for the brass ring still alive?

Will Rick Goldring go for a third term as Mayor? Not with the mess that office is in. If not Goldring and if Meed Ward is beginning to look iffy – who?

“Pepper”, said my host who seemed to have had his share of the eggnog – “you aren’t looking beyond all the people in the play pen now.”

A quizzical look must have appeared on my face because my host asked if I knew what Mike Wallace was doing these days?

Wallace and Gould

Wallace conceding to Karina Gould October 19th, 2015

Really I thought – Wallace? Is there any potential there?

Mike Wallace was a council member that many saw as the heir apparent when MacIsaac moved on – however Cam Jackson, who was basically shown the door at Queen’s Park decided he could become a Mayor and the resident’s voted for him.

Mike Wallace had finally beaten Torsney and won a ticket to Ottawa, courtesy of the shellacking the Liberals took over the Sponsorship scandal.

The time line that had former Burlington MP Paddy Torsney beating Wallace in one election then losing to him in another when the Sponship scandal killed the federal Liberals is full of twists and turns.  Torsney is now at the United nations

Many thought Wallace was a potential city Mayor – that didn’t work out – he went to Ottawa instead but then got beat by Karina Gould who is now the Burlington MP

Wallace at Memex

Mike Wallace preparing to deliver a speech.

Wallace served the city well while he was the MP. He brought a lot of bacon to the city and put in the hours that were needed.

He may not have done all that much as a legislator and he did soil his copy book with hi shenanigans over that Justice Committee mess – but Wallace did deliver. He knew how to get cheques sent to the city treasurer and numerous organizations in the city.

Mike back at city hall – huh! Possible? Most certainly.

Wallace didn’t personally lose his federal seat. The Burlington New Democrats failed to cast their ballots the way the usually did and Wallace had a Prime Minister who had taken on an odious bent.

Karina Gould ran a solid campaign and while it is way too early to suggest that she couldn’t be beat next time around, she is looking pretty good. Wallace is smart enough to know that she is going to warm the Burlington seat for at least two terms unless Justin Trudeau really blows it.

Close up - Burlington's MP Mike Wallace looks closely at a piece of art at the Art Centre. Can BurlingtonGreen convince him to help them take a closer look at the state of the pipeline that runs across the northern part of the city - it is a federal issue.

Close up – Burlington’s MP Mike Wallace looks closely at a piece of art at the Art Centre.

Politics tends to find a balance, an equilibrium. All the seats in and around Burlington are pained a bright Liberal red – the public likes to see at least a bit of a balance.

Mike Wallace never made us famous but he never embarrassed us either. He also has a very smart and capable spouse. Expect to see Mike at a number of events during the next couple of years getting his picture in the paper and keeping the profile fresh.

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Ontario's auditor wraps the government's knuckles - points out waste at Ontario Hydro - and to the smart decisions that were made as well.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

December 11th, 2015

BURLINGTON, ON

There is much to celebrate about how Ontario’s energy sector has progressed over the last decade or so. Going off coal has ended mercury and sulphur emissions as well as vastly reducing the province’s greenhouse gas emissions. That should make us a star at the climate change conference going on in Paris. And the lights never went off – except for that nasty ice storm a couple of Christmas’ ago, an act of God.

coal

Ontario shut down all electricity generating plants run with coal.

Going off coal was courageous public policy, getting well ahead of the curve and ahead of just about every other jurisdiction in North America. But there is no free lunch in life. Ontario’s Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk, tells us that this road we’ve travelled has cost us dearly – some $37 billion dollars if her numbers were correctly reported by the newspapers.

I have written a few times on the energy file, as followers may recall. Ontario Hydro was never a perfect institution though it did make electricity a household word in this province. But Ontario Hydro, once the largest electrical utility anywhere, has also served as Ontario’s energy test kitchen.

The Davis government decided to adopt Canada’s home-grown nuclear reactors when he could have bought other, arguably, better systems off the shelf elsewhere.

Nuclear Darlington

Cost over runs and nuclear generation plants seem to go hand in hand.

And we paid a huge price for that experiment, as cost overruns became the norm and technology failures all too frequent. Then like drunken sailors, with too much booze in our heads and too few coins in our pockets, we just put it on our tab. And we’re still paying off that mighty tab with every energy bill.

Sometime before Y2K then Premier Mike Harris thought he’d seen the light. He believed that scrambling Ontario Hydro would create the perfect omelette. But his recipe was flawed and once the egg was cracked the result was blackouts, brownouts and rapidly rising electricity costs. Too late to get the egg back into the shell, it was left to his successors, Premiers Ernie Eves, Dalton McGuinty and now Kathleen Wynne to try to convert this mess into something more digestible.

solar - small renewable energy

Small solar renewable energy set ups are now generating more power than the province needs – the contracts they put in place require the province to buy all the power generated even if they don’t need it.

The Auditor General articulates the issues clearly. To ‘keep the lights-on’ the government contracted to pay renewable energy providers a fixed price for what they produced, whether we needed the power or not. These contract terms were so attractive that green energy adoption has been a huge success in Ontario.

In fact it was so successful that there is now more electrical generation capacity than we need, even with the coal plants gone. And we have to buy all that energy regardless; what we don’t use – we sell as surplus and at a loss. The knuckle-headed bureaucrats and political advisors didn’t see that coming. These were the same ones who had the energy minister at the time sign contracts for gas plants without a cancellation clause.

To be fair, the nuclear plants operate pretty well now that the bugs were nuked out – so we can thank Bill Davis for that. And with our dirty coal plants shut down, even Alberta is following our lead in attacking climate change – thank you Dalton McGuinty. But what about the 70% price rise in our electricity bill since 2006?

The Auditor General does a good job of nailing those factors which contributed to this situation. Poor or inadequate planning, flawed decision making, an absence of benefit/cost analysis, and those really bad contracts for energy supply. There is so little debate over the Auditor General’s well-documented conclusions – the government has already accepted most of her recommendations.

Though she didn’t say as much, it seems that we need to renegotiate or buy-out these lucrative 20 year contracts – or we’ll end up even further in the hole. Former provincial Tory leader Hudak had promised to cancel the contracts, but we all know that was never going to happen. Compounding the poor economics is the fact that energy use is falling, making the capacity issue even more of a problem.

solar - large renewabl energy

Renewable energy has proven to be a reliable source – solar panel farms are operating all over the world where sunlight is plentiful.

The province’s $2 billion energy conservation program may finally be working, but more likely, the high price is doing what economic dis-incentives are supposed to do. Ironically we are conserving energy just when producing energy has become almost environmentally benign. The Auditor General points out that, with the coal plants closed, electricity generation is no longer a major source of climate warming gases. Instead transportation has taken its place.

Mass transit expansion, something both federal and provincial governments have promised, will require more electricity. But given Ontario’s urban sprawl, cars will still rule. And competitively priced electricity will be essential to propel all those electric cars we’re going to need to replace the gas guzzlers. To that end, the Premier has already committed $20 million in new money for province-wide electricity charging stations.

Christmas is supposed to be a season of joy, yet too many people find sadness and depression, more readily than hope and happiness this time of year. If you are one of those, I suggest you put off reading the well-written Auditor General report until the New Year.

We should all ask our Premier to make an unbreakable New Year’s resolution to get out the broom and sweep away the kind of problems the Auditor General has uncovered. Premier Wynne has barely three years left in the electoral term to fix this problem – notwithstanding it’s a problem she mostly inherited. Ontario rate payers need to see their electricity rates start to fall instead of rise. And wouldn’t that be a nice Christmas present for us all?

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:

AG Report

Charging Stations

Fusion Reactors

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Is that a Pot of Coffee or Pot in your Coffee? Rivers comes out for legalization of marijuana.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

December 4th, 2015

BURLINGTON, ON

Imagine a ‘pot’ of coffee – made with real pot. In the late sixties we were encouraged to share a little ‘tea’ with Goldie, a popular feature of the late ’60’s Smother’s Brothers Comedy hour. Tom and Dick were fired by an uptight CBS, in part for that. But they cut the cloth of political comedy for Bill Maher, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, John Oliver and Trevor Noah.

Policde-drugs-Feb-23-15-1024x575

Halton Regional Police have a unit dedicated to tracking down drug dealers – columnist Ray Rivers feels they won’t be needed when marijuana is legalized.

A Canadian company has developed an alternative way to administer medical cannabis. You just drop a pod in your Keurig and bingo, you get a standardized dose of the heady stuff (THC) in your caffeinated brew. Orally ingesting marijuana has always been tricky because of the lag time, so this should make it all a little more reliable, predictable. But for many, it sure beats ‘smokin’ the shit’ – or using a vaporizer, something the Ontario government hasn’t quite figured out.

Marijuana seized in Ottawa

The manufacture, growing and distribution of illegal substances has created a criminal element that police cannot control. Will the legalization of relatively soft drugs drive the criminals out of the community?

What a great way to start your day. Mary Jane and Joe together to greet you at the breakfast table. Your morning beverage to wake you up and chill you down at the same time; getting you up and down, flying to the sun and back down to earth, all at the same time. And if you can mix the whacky-backy with tea and coffee, why not wine or whiskey, and make it available at your favourite LCBO?

In fact British Columbia liquor stores have jumped the gun and are already vying for that very franchise. And why not? Licensing existing liquor stores to sell pot makes a lot of sense, since all are provincially regulated and most are provincially run. As for B.C., where some liquor stores sell snacks as well as liquor and beer, we’d be able to buy our beer, weed and munchies all in one place – one stop shopping for body and the mind. And we can put all of that on the credit card. Have you ever known a drug dealer to accept credit?  Goddam the pusher man!

Canada’s new health minister is aware that the world is watching the Trudeau government as it proceeds to rid us of a stupid prohibition that has plagued us for generations. Uruguay has the distinction of being the first nation to legalize cannabis, though its success has been less than impressive. Even in the most progressive country in Latin America, old habits die hard. So organized crime is still mostly in charge of the drug trade and the police seem to have missed the memo – that it is legal now.

Mexican authorities, who went part way by decriminalizing all street drugs a while ago have also been disappointed with their results. Since the rules allow such tiny quantities, real ‘tokers’ turn to the drug gangs to buy in more volume. And the cops, always looking for another bribe, are still arresting people. It may just be too early to say how well this half-measure is really working, but half-way is sometimes no way at all.

Maijuana and police

Raid after raid to seize marijuana – columnist would like to see the product sold in the LCBO outlets and let the government tax the sale.

The US state of Colorado has had a different experience. Costs for drug related offences are down almost 90%, saving the state millions of dollars in enforcement and adjudication costs. There was some $40 million in new revenue in 2014, which was in part reallocated for health programs. Crime rates fell; violent crimes, property damage and burglaries were down by as much as 10%. Even traffic fatalities came down by about 3%, challenging the naysayers, who had speculated, incorrectly, about ‘stoners’ on the road.

Washington State, the other early US adopter of legalized weed has had a similar experience, though even better from a cost savings and revenue perspective. Most critically, marijuana use among youth has not increased, a frequent talking point among the opponents of legalization.

It was Justin’s father who commissioned the Le Dain Commission to look into the issue back in the ’70’s.. Way back then Le Dain recommended that we lift the prohibition on cannabis. And it is finally going to happen, some 40 years later. So, make mine a double-double.

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:

Coffee Pot      Share a little Tea      Pusher Man       Uruguay drugs       Mexico Decriminalization

Canada being Watched        Province Flip Flops

Another View      LSD 

B.C.     Colorado     Washington      Le Dain Commission

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Given his fresh approach - open, engaging democratic, collaborative, realistic and positive, Justin Trudeau has raised expectations.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

November 27, 2015

BURLINGTON, ON

It’s politics imitating life.

Imagine somebody resolving, on a boozy New Year’s eve, to lose 10 kgs by the next summer. Would anyone complain if they only lost 9 kgs and it took them until September?

Goals give us direction and a point of reference. Moving in the right direction and in some kind of time frame is what matters.

Trudeau Justin

Justin Trudeau before he became Prime Minister.

It’s more like curling than hockey, where you don’t need to be on the button to win, just closer than the other team, and the more rocks the better. So when the PM changed-down his plan from 25,000 refugees by the end of the year, to almost the end of the government’s fiscal year (March 2016), the important thing is that it is still happening.

And ‘doing it right’ is more important than just doing it. Selecting safe Syrian families from the camps and vetting them by our own guys takes time. Call it a broken election promise, but it’s one most Canadians don’t mind seeing broken – given the events in Paris. And, Canada will still be seen as a generous refugee recipient, surpassing most European states and even the USA.

You see there is a new sheriff in town. We elected a new way of doing things in this country last month, not just a new leader. A couple things stand out. For one our new government is more democratic. Decision-making is now shared among Trudeau’s team of cabinet ministers. This de-centralization can strengthen, more than threaten, his leadership. And after that big election win the PM can afford to be confident about his team implementing his vision without his paternal oversight.

Trudeau Justin with signs behind

Justin Trudeau during the election campaign.

Trudeau is also liberating his MPs from sticking to the party line on government bills, allowing more free votes to ensure they more directly represent the wishes of their constituents. He will also be reforming the Senate, something that has eluded his predecessors despite their best intentions. Removing partisanship from appointments will help transform that almost irrelevant body into more of the ‘chamber of sober second thought’ it was intended to be – rather than the rubber stamp it had become.

Then there are the other appointments. Mr. Harper’s cynical farewell gift to Canadians, just before the election, was to stack federal boards and commissions with Tory appointments, some going on beyond the four year term of the new government. The National Energy Board is a case in point – a body which would be able to block progress on a national climate change program. It is time these appointments were sunset with each change of government.

Second, there is a new collaborative approach to dealing with the federal government’s partners in the federation. Harper refused to engage this way, so the last time first ministers met was in 2009. It was refreshing to see Trudeau host an early meeting and obtain a very positive outcome on the potentially divisive issues of refugee settlement and climate change – a topic which prompted unsolicited emissions reduction plans by both Alberta and Ontario.

Third, the new government has shown it is prepared to compromise on goal achievement, if necessary, to deal with other priorities and other realities – as happened with the refugee issue. It would be easy to attribute the new tone of this government to the injection of fresh faces and youthful vigour, but I suspect it is due more to leadership at the top.

Will Farrell (not my favourite actor) wrote and performed an outstanding comedic stage production, which was recently re-played on HBO. Titled “You’re Welcome America” and set in 2009, it is recounts the GW Bush years. This production is both hilarious and thought provoking. It is also timely given that US Republicans are again looking to run an ignoramus as their presidential candidate, favouring the hyperbolic Trump and the seemingly ‘possessed’ Dr. Ben Carson over less charismatic characters in the GOP ‘braintrust’.

Trudeau Justin with big hair

The Prime Minister – the hair

Canada has had its share of colourful PM’s leaving their mark with his/her unique leadership style. Mr. Harper was obsessed with control. He made decisions unilaterally and was not big on entertaining ideas that didn’t conform to his ideology. He would tolerate neither criticisms nor critics. And his confrontational approach exacerbated divisions between supporters and opponents, the right and the centre-left, the disadvantaged and the 10%.

Those who follow my column will attest that I was never a fan of the former PM – neither his policies nor his leadership style. Mr. Trudeau, given this fresh approach – open, engaging democratic, collaborative, realistic and positive – has raised expectations. And we all understand how difficult it can be to maintain that momentum.

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.

 

 

Background links:

Climate Conference       Tory Appointments        Unmuzzling Scientists      First Ministers’ Meeting

Ontario’s Climate Change Strategy       Alberta’s Plan       Refugees        Attitudes on Climate Change

Trudeau Interview        You’re Welcome America

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By the end of the year some of the refugees will be with us - while Europeans deal with the daily fear that guns may blaze on their streets.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

November 21, 2015

BURLINGTON, ON

There is a huge difference between passively supporting a nation’s people by training their military, providing arms and other material – and actively engaging in combat.

A Royal Canadian Air Force (RCA), CF-18 Hornet from the 4th Wing, Cold Lake, Canada, fires an AIM-7 Sparrow medium range air-to-air missile at a MQM-107E "Streaker" subscale aerial target drone over the Gulf of Mexico during a Combat Archer mission. The unit was deployed to Tyndall Air Force Base (AFB), Florida (FL). Combat Archer missions are a Weapons System Evaluation Program. (SUBSTANDARD)

A Royal Canadian Air Force (RCA), CF-18 Hornet from the 4th Wing, Cold Lake, Canada, fires an AIM-7 Sparrow medium range air-to-air missile at a MQM-107E “Streaker” subscale aerial target drone over the Gulf of Mexico during a Combat Archer mission.

Dropping laser guided bombs on a population that has never attacked you, no matter how nasty those people are, is an act of war. Helping others to defend themselves is not.

That is why our fly-boys are coming home, as much as some think we should stay and fight. The UN Charter is pretty specific about what constitutes self-defence. And Canada has been skirting international law since the day Mr. Harper sent the planes to drop bombs in Syria and Iraq. But we know air power alone will not win the war and our contribution was never anything more than token.

It’s true that the Americans, French, Russian and a few others are also bombing there. But like the officer giving a speeding motorist a ticket would say – just because all those other guys are speeding doesn’t give you the right.

The Russians could say they are in an alliance with Syria’s butcher, the French were actually attacked by the terrorists, and the Americans… well, they inadvertently created Daesh (ISIS/ISIL) didn’t they?

Police in Paris

It is a level of security that creates a lot of insecurity -is this the Paris of the future – is this the Toronto of the future?

What happened in Paris last week was horrific. But the second casualty has been the loss of freedom. France, like Canada in 1970, has introduced war measures to deal with the enemy within. Armed soldiers are on the streets, surveillance is everywhere, people can be detained on suspicion, there have been mass arrests, and ethnic profiling has become acceptable.

Suddenly Mr. Harper’s police-state legislation, Bill C-51, doesn’t look so extreme – though it is extreme. And what has happened and is happening in France and the rest of Europe will, no doubt, instruct the promised re-write of that law.

The third casualty is the refugee crisis. What happened in Paris is influencing the future for the hundreds of thousands of people who have fled Syria and are holed up in camps in Turkey and Lebanon, or migrating haltingly across western Europe. Some European nations are building barbed wire fences to keep them out.

While Mr. Trudeau generously promised to bring 25,000 here by the end of the year, not everyone agrees with him. But the mayors in our major cities do. As do all the provincial premiers save that guy in Saskatchewan. Only the defeated Tories are complaining that it can never be done by the end of the year.

Still, Canada’s zeal to help is not shared universally south of the border. Most US state governors have now gone gun-shy – in a land abounding with firearms, including assault rifles and hand guns. This is a land where over 11,000 people were killed by gun violence in 2013 alone.

There are almost a hundred thousand people injured by firearms, and a thousand killed in some kind of gun accident every year. In 2013 over 33,000 people were killed by firearms, not counting those people shot by the police. Meanwhile, the horrific atrocities in Paris yielded fewer than 150 fatalities by comparison.

refugees-austria

Refugees being herded as they move through Europe looking for a safe place to live their lives.

These refugees we are talking about are primarily families, now living in camps hosted by Lebanon and Turkey. They have been thoroughly vetted by those nations and UN agencies, and will be again by our own people. It is always possible that an ISIS terrorist could slip through. But then we’re probably at greater risk from those radicalized here at home. No, this really a case of ignorance, paranoia, racism and bigotry.

We are told that this conflict with Daesh is not about religion, and yet we know it is. The people committing these acts, these crimes against humanity, do so in the name of their god and their religion. And that threatens their own freedom of religion. For example, the Swiss have banned new Muslim minarets and the French have banned face coverings, including the ‘niqab’ in public places. Further, we are now seeing hate crime incidents emerge, even here in Canada.

The French have declared war on ISIS and if they, the Russians, Iranians and others actually put enough boots on the ground, this could well be the end of days for Daesh. But the terrorists may still win in the end. That is if they can force us to give up our freedom and our civil rights. Once that is gone, can democracy and our way of life be far behind?

Recent events are already changing the face of Europe, the birthplace of democracy. The 2008 economic collapse has pitted the rich against the poor. Russia’s Ukrainian invasion has divided the former Soviet states and satellites from those further away from the big bear. And now the refugee crisis is further testing the very idea of a European community.

The upshot is the growth of the Eurosceptic class. For example, Britain’s David Cameron is half-way out the door unless the EU devolves to nothing more than a trade deal. And further to his right is the up and coming French neo-fascist, Marine Le Pen, calling for an end to immigration and a break up of the EU. Le Pen’s leadership model is Russian president Putin and his style of democracy. Her party has reportedly been accepting funding from Mr. Putin, as well.

refugee + heart

Will Canadians have the grace, dignity, forbearance and tolerance to accept the 25,000 refugees the federal government wants to bring to the country. How ill Burlington react to those who are sponsored by churches and other groups in this city?

The dream of a pan-European federation with half a billion peaceful and industrious people is at risk. Imagine combining the British tradition of democracy, French ideals of liberty, Dutch and Scandinavian notions of tolerance and justice, and German economic smarts into one formidable nation state. It’s either that or a return to pre-WWII nationalism, and we know where that will lead. The terrorists will have won.

Rivers-direct-into-camera1-173x300

 

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.

 

Background links:

 

Breaking International Law        UN Charter   Legal Bombing      War Measures

US Gun violence        Surveillance

France ISIS Fight

Hollande Security

Minarets

Le Pen

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Columnist learns something about energy transmission he wasn't prepared to pay $9000 to learn.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

November 13th, 2015

BURLINGTON, ON

Four trucks and seven Ontario Hydro workmen arrived to replace an old hydro pole and transformer before connecting the grid to my new solar collector. A couple of hours later they packed up, leaving me with a pole that looked a lot like that tower in Pisa, and handing me a bill for almost nine thousand dollars for their efforts in installing their own pole.

Electricity started out as private enterprise. So why the fuss about selling shares in Hydro One? At the turn of the century there were entrepreneurs selling electricity and electrical appliances to replace kerosene and coal-gas lamps. Then a little later in the century politicians like Sir Adam Beck, with a bold vision, pushed for the public capital needed to harness the potential of rivers, like Niagara, and distribute the electrons created to every household and business in Ontario.

Rivers hydro pole BEST

Columnist Ray Rivers holding up a hydro poll that feeds the electricity his solar collectors gather and feed into the hydro grid.

By the mid-1990’s deregulation was all the craze. Governments were busy doing their every bit to get themselves out of the business of business. Newly elected Ontario premier Mike Harris was a believer.

His plan was to deregulate the entire energy sector, break Ontario Hydro into smaller components, privatize it all, and bring in competition wherever possible. This was just common sense to him, after all.

Economics 101 tells us that monopolies can be the most efficient form of industrial organization, particularly where conditions favour a natural monopoly – for example where wires come into everyone’s home. Even the phone and cable guys, who managed to stay private, acted like monopolies.

So to deregulation’s credit, telecommunication costs did fall after Bell was required to compete and give up its monopoly.

we

Mike Harris – are the mistakes many think the current Liberal government is making an extension of the mistakes Mike Harris made?

But Harris hadn’t done his homework. The energy workers’ unions and the courts fought him on privatization. As his plan stalled and the costs of his deregulation spiked, he got cold feet and turned over the keys for the Pink Palace to Ernie Eves. Eves, then facing an imminent election in 2003 and huge public outcry over high rates, further subsided them and put a halt to privatization.

But there was the debt. Decades of subsidized electricity rates had left Hydro almost $40 billion in the hole and $20 billion more than could be supported by its assets (called stranded debt).

Allocation of all that debt among the new companies would have sunk them before they even started operating. And Harris, the deficit-cutter, knew that transferring $20 billion onto the existing provincial debt would have cost him the 1999 election. So every month we now pay off a little more of our parents electricity bills.

Hydro One had its growing pains, including that disastrous first CEO, Eleanor Clitheroe, who paid herself $2.2 million and otherwise acted like a drunken sailor. Today the CEO still gets close to a million bucks while over half of Hydro employees have made the sunshine list. With that kind of leadership I shouldn’t have been surprised by my bill or the seven linesmen who showed up at my place briefly.

Word is out that Hydro One turns in over $750 million to the province annually. They call it a ‘cash cow’ and I know where the milk comes from. Subsidizing government programs with electricity rates is about as regressive as it gets. That hits the poorest households and small businesses the hardest, and is hardly what we’d expect from a liberal government. And doesn’t it make a mockery of the 10% discount we get on each hydro bill – paying ourselves?

jgt

Hydro workers clearing trees weighed down by winter ice.

So how would private investors buying a chunk of the giant public corporation be such a bad thing? Hydro One is a big company and isn’t being broken up – and it isn’t even a monopoly. There are other electrical distribution entities scattered in communities all around the province.

Remember all those other guys, besides the heroes from Hydro One, who help us get through that ice storm two winters ago.

The province will hold the biggest share of Hydro One for those worried about the evils of privatization. And in any case there is still a megawatt or two of oversight and control through the Energy Board, the Independent Electricity System Operator and the Energy Minister.

The money being raised from partial privatization has already been targeted to pay for way overdue and badly need transportation infrastructure. And it looks like the public offering has exceeded expectations by already earning $5 billion.

Market investors have a perfectly safe asset in which to stick their cash. And perhaps a new board of directors can help steer a more efficient pathway for the troubled utility.

 

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:

A Bone Headed Plan     A Natural Monopoly

Auditor View      US Restructuring      NDP/Toronto Sun View

Hydro One      More Hydro One      Even More Hydro     Bell Canda

Whether Our Electricity     Local Electrical     Ontario Energy     Stranded Debt     Hydro Sales

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This is embarrassing - three major errors in a plaque put up behind the war memorial.

News 100 blueBy Ed Keenleyside

November 9, 2015

BURLINGTON, ON

The city recently installed attractive and informative identification plaques on many of our public art displays. A brief explanation is provided so that the public will know who the artist was or how and why the piece of art came to be.

There is a plaque beside the Spiral Stella outside the Performing Arts Centre and another tucked in behind the clock on Brant Street outside city hall.

Keenleyside - plaque wording

Ed Keenleyside points to three significant errors in the plaque the city put up explaining the background of the war memorial just north of city hall.

The City is to be congratulated for this effort… but when there are errors on any of those plaques, it is embarrassing.

The errors on the plaque beside the Cenotaph Memorial is embarrassing. Within the handful of sentences describing this important monument, are the following mistakes:

1. There are 38 World War I casualties listed on the memorial, not 39.

2. The 38 fatalities listed are soldiers from the Great War (or World War I ), not from the Second World War.

3. There are 44 local service people listed from the Second World War, not 43.

In addition to the embarrassing errors on the plaque, I wonder why the Korean War Veterans are recognized at the base of the Cenotaph but the Afghanistan War Veterans are not recognized.

Keenleyside with partial monument

Ed Keenleyside can’t understand why the plaque that explains the history of the war memorial he is standing beside has so many errors on it.

I am currently researching the names of the 82 casualties etched on the Cenotaph with plans to publish an informative book, which will put faces and personalities to those who died so many years ago.

I have information on all but one name and that person, J. W. Williamson, is among the 44 World War II fatalities. If anyone can identify this person I would be most grateful. Please contact me at ekeenleyside@cogeco.ca if you can help.

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What a Cabinet - what a challenge to fashion a new way of running the country.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

November 6, 2015

BURLINGTON, ON

No matter who one voted for in the October federal election, we should all be proud of how Mr. Trudeau is conducting himself. Gracious, positive and confident, he appointed a Cabinet which everyone agrees more closely reflects the face of Canada than at any other time in our history.

Trudeau with flags

Do we see ourselves as different now? Can a political leader bring about “real change”?

Beyond diversity, the men and women who will be leading this nation come with qualifications that should help make them the decision makers the new PM wants them to be. Trudeau’s plan is to decentralize decision-making from the center, to reverse a process which had started with his father. Of course, there are dangers inherent in this democratizing of policy making – this ‘government by cabinet’ approach – since it will increase the potential for jurisdictional conflicts among ministers and could lead to somewhat inconsistent national policy.

Trudeau’s Cabinet also involves a real generational change, and as a result some ministers in key positions are relatively new to political office. Take the thirty year old Afghan refugee now responsible for democratic reform; the aboriginal former provincial prosecutor heading up the justice department; a pension expert taking over the finance ministry and a former soldier leading our national defence. But then who could argue with these men and women bringing this quality of real life experience to their offices.

Trudeay and Dion

Justin Trudeau and Stephane Dion – they go back some time – Dion a former leader of the Liberal party is now a Minister in anew cabinet.

And there are some political veterans, including Ralph Goodale, charged with undoing the Conservative’s oppressive security legislation, and former Liberal leader Stephane Dion, who will bring his experience to the foreign affairs ministry. Mr. Dion will have a special role this month joining the PM, the environment minister, opposition leaders and provincial premiers at the UN climate change conference in Paris.

For our relatively small population, Canada is the tenth largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), topping the UK, Brazil and Mexico. And we are among the highest polluters on a per capita basis. There was a time when we Canadians were once recognized as the strongest supporters of the environment and climate action.

Justin with his father

How different will Justin be from his father? Early signs are that Justin will run a different PMO – Prime Minister’s Office

Maurice Strong, a Pierre Trudeau diplomat, chaired the 1972 Stockholm conference on human environment, and Mulroney’s environment minister, Jean Charest, made a big splash at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. Only a few years later Mr. Chretien signed the country onto the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, a legally-binding experiment for global cooperation on climate change, which he helped craft.

I was an observer at two of the earlier UN conferences and observed the measure of respect accorded delegates from this nation. Even after GW Bush ended US participation in Kyoto, the Liberal government insisted on ratifying the agreement helping to bring it into force internationally. Some said we were destined to fail since the US, our biggest trading partner, was sitting on the sidelines.

And the election of the Harper government in 2006 made that a self-fulfilling prophesy. Emission reduction initiatives, begun by the Liberals, were either killed or curtailed as Mr. Harper demonstrated his disdain for Kyoto and anything to do with climate change.

Mr. Harper was never happy with the 6% (below 1990) Kyoto target and eventually chose his own – 17% below 2005 emission levels. The irreverence and arrogance of unilaterally changing one’s target and baseline, while being a party to the legally-binding Kyoto Protocol, was lost on no one. And nobody was surprised when Canada became the first and only nation to drop out of the Kyoto Protocol (2012).

There is inherent conflict between seeking emission reductions and expanding the world’s most polluting oil production process. So by 2015, with the Paris conference and a federal election on the horizon, and with no hope of meeting even his more modest emission goal, the former PM changed the target again. By choosing 30% by 2030, he effectively insulated himself from accountability – unless he were re-elected PM another five times.

Fortunately over the last decade a number of GHG reduction initiatives were undertaken by several provinces. Ontario was the most successful, with its phase out of coal-fired electricity. But Quebec and B.C. also moved forward with a number of measures including a carbon tax. In fact, were it not for the oil-sands projects, Canada might have come close to meeting the original 6% Kyoto target, even in the absence of federal involvement and support.

Neither Harper, nor Chretien for that matter, consulted the provinces before grabbing a number out of the air to use as a target. Alberta, was so annoyed at the Chretien government, the province threatened a constitutional challenge over Kyoto. And four provinces, tired of waiting for the federal government to act, joined a California based emissions trading experiment – including an even different target.

Smokestacks Hamilton

Changing pictures like this – can we do it in time to save the planet? It is that critical.

During the election campaign, Mr. Trudeau had been criticized by his opponents for not choosing his own GHG emissions target. What he has done is invite the premiers to join him in Paris, to participate in the deliberations and to carve a new place for Canada at the table of serious nations.

After all Canada is a federation. And leadership in a federation means bringing all the jurisdictions to the table, something his father couldn’t always do and which Mr. Harper rarely, if ever, tried.

The new PM’s biggest challenge will come in Paris – a test case for co-operative federalism. Fortunately for him most of our provincial leaders, including Alberta, are more than willing to move forward on this file.

And, if they are successful, eventually the PM and his provincial partners will have developed realistic GHG emission reduction targets which we can actually achieve in our lifetimes. Then, hopefully, they can build on that momentum and move onto other issues of import to our federation.

Rivers reading a newspaper Jan 3-15Ray 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:

Trudeau Cabinet     Government by Cabinet

Paris      Cutting Programs that Cut Emissions       Kyoto       More Kyoto

Even More Kyoto      2020 Targets       1972 Copenhagen

1992 Rio       EU 2015 Targets       Current Emissions      Dion

Western Climate Initiative

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Citizen is perplexed; Council member misleads and Mayor gives a whole new meaning to meaningful response

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

November 2, 2015

BURLINGTON, ON

The Mayor blows off a constituent – publicly, and the most proactive member of city council disappoints – all over a development project that city council has said they don’t want to see built and which planning staff advised council to reject.

The ability to manage the file got taken out of the city’s hand when it failed to give the developer a decision within the prescribed time line. .
The matter is now before the Ontario Municipal Board where the city case looks shaky to many

Why is this happening?

Muir making a point

Active whenever development issues are being discussed publicly – Tom Muir wants to know how and why the city failed to vote as a Council on a development application for a project at the intersection of Martha Street and Lakeshore Road

For reasons that no one has been able to sensibly explain to Tom Muir, the citizen who fist asked the question – why did the city fail to vote on the ADI Development project proposed for the north west corner of the Martha Street Lakeshore Road intersection within the 180 day deadline mandated by the Planning Act?

Muir put together a time line that makes it clear the Planning department report was ready in plenty of time for both the Standing Committee to debate and send a recommendation to Council and for council to vote on.

Marianne Meed Ward was just a citizen when this picture was taken - now she is on the other side of the podium, sitting as a Council member. Should make for greay political theatre when the Medicca One zoning matter comes before committee.

Marianne Meed Ward was just a citizen when this picture was taken – now she is on the other side of the podium, sitting as a Council member. As a citien delegating frequently she was vocal and persistent. Some feel she dropped the ball on the ADI Development in her ward.

Meed Ward in her responses to Tom Muir wanders all over the place – she even suggests at one point that failing to vote on the application was no big deal and that it would not harm the city’s case now that the matter is at the Ontario Municipal Board.

And she wants to be Mayor? Yikes.

What is difficult to understand is this – why is it so hard for the Mayor to come out with a formal detailed response to the questions Muir asks? They are important questions.

Mayor has yet to hold a formal media conference this term of office – and if memory serves us correctly he did just the one during his first term of office. The last one done in the previous term of office had to do with the pier and at that time the Mayor had then city manager Jeff Fielding answer the questions.

This Mayor doesn’t perform well in public/media sessions.

Does this city know how to deal with controversial development applications and if they don’t what can citizens do about that – other than vote them all out of office in 2018.

Muir wrote Meed Ward because the project was to be built in her ward and, to some degree, because she has a reputation for getting answers to questions and tends to fight for her people.

MeedWard

Usually always on top of every issue in her ward and frequently on top of issues in other wards – much to the chagrin of other council members.

Meed Ward was in a very serious automobile accident in June that left he with a concussion that was not immediately treated. Her recovery has taken longer than even she expected.

wefr

“Meaningful response” seems to have a different meaning for the Mayor of Burlington.

But we cannot hang this one on the council member – this is a city issue – which happens to be taking place in her ward – the responsibility belongs to council which is led by the Mayor.

We are in the awkward position of having retired the Planner who managed the file and is therefore not available for questioning. And, we found ourselves with the committee that heard the debate being chaired by the city solicitor acting as Interim city manager at the time.

We keep shooting ourselves in the foot and stumbling around like a bunch of rural rubes who don’t know any better.

When political leaders fail to inform their public – rumour, innuendo and all kinds of conspiracy crap comes to the surface.

Was the decision not to have Council vote deliberate so the issue would go to the OMB and the city could blame them for approving a building that many think is high and adds too much density to the area?

Was not voting a slick way to up our intensification numbers – and blame it on the OMB as well?

The city deserves better.

Related news article

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Who paid for the pizza? Public money did - your money. Do we have labour peace in the educational system?

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

October 31st, 2015

BURLINGTON, ON

Something doesn’t smell right.

An astounded public has discovered that the provincial government has been giving grants to some teacher unions, over $2 million this year. The province is apparently forking out the money to facilitate province-wide negotiations. But no one will miss the irony of their government claiming these pay-outs are being made to improve efficiency.

Negotiatons table

They were province wide negotiations – and someone had to pick up the tab – the government did it with your money.

A successfully negotiated labour contract concludes when both parties are convinced the other one got the better deal – a win-win, but feeling like a lose-lose. But when the employer (provincial government) is giving the employees’ bargaining agents money, the outcome is a little more lopsided – a double win for the union and another lose for the tax payer.

At a minimum, this has to be a conflict of interest, for both sides, but particularly from the employees’ perspective. Can one really trust that their union is working for them if it is taking money from the guys across the table? At least two unions have refused the money for that very reason.

Sands and Wynne

Do you think they will figure it out – one of these two woman asked the other?

Since this first broke, the government appears to be caught off guard, shifting its stance by the minute. First they claimed this was normal practice and that no detailed accounting for the money was necessary. Now, it appears that this year’s money hasn’t been doled out and will only be paid on proof of receipts.

But the elephant in the room is why the relatively affluent unions can’t pay their own way. And to add another complication, the latest word is that these payouts may not be made in the future. So why were they needed before, or at all?

Already, some skeptics are questioning whether this is payback for the last election, in which the unions, presumably helped the Liberals win by authoring anti-Hudak advertising. That scenario should be unthinkable – what we might see somewhere else – but not in civilized Ontario. So the sooner the Premier can effectively deal with this issue, the better.

Sands Liz

Ontario Minister of Education; big spender.

Stuff happens, after all. Some well-meaning bureaucrat got the union folks to agree to province-wide negotiations, providing they were compensated for their extra travel costs, hotels, taxis, pizza… And then this minion convinced a busy minister to sign on to the deal – and presto – another crisis is born.

What kind of professional trade union would accept money from the other side? We know Toronto is an expensive city, but are the teachers’ unions so hard up that they can’t afford to travel to the big smoke? These are the unions, with thousands of members sharing in one of the most successful pension plans anywhere, right.

With the election of the Trudeau Liberal government in Ottawa, Premier Wynne is perfectly positioned to help deliver some key programs, from improving our pensions to building critical transportation infrastructure in the GTA. The last thing the government needs is a distraction from that business.

It is early in the Wynne electoral term and this relatively small issue may blow over, given our historically short political memories. But then voters have a habit of eventually changing political parties, even in Alberta. One need only to recall how public perceptions about strong unions and well-compensated teachers played into the hands of Mike Harris, and the chaos that ensued after his election two decades ago.

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.

Background links:

Unions Accountability       Labour Peace      Union Threats      Ontario Teachers Pensions

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Legion wants parents to know about the programs they offer - they fear teachers won't do that job this year.

opinionandcommentBy Pepper Parr (43164-H)

October 25, 2015

BURLINGTON, ON

There are these things we call unintended consequences or we say “I didn’t see that coming.”

The Legion sent us a note yesterday asking if we would publish a letter on their behalf.

Let’s let them make their point before commenting on it:

As noted in recent news, Ontario’s public elementary school teachers are preparing to ramp up their work-to-rule campaign and could begin rotating, one-day strikes this month.

Legion - war memorial

Heroic – most of those who fought volunteered.

The Royal Canadian Legion Zone B6 incorporating Hamilton, Stoney Creek, Waterdown, Dundas and part of Ancaster is concerned that this may impact student’s awareness of our annual Remembrance Poster and Literary Contests. It is through school contact that the appropriate information is circulated for teachers to implement this worthy program. The Royal Canadian Legion encourages the continuation of the tradition of honouring and remembering our military heritage through this annual contest.

These contests are popular with our students and we have had contestants go on from competing at the Branch level to compete at the Zone, District, Provincial and National (Dominion) levels. Contestants are challenged to exercise their initiative and create posters, essays and poems that honour the theme of REMEMBRANCE.

Legion - chest with medals

War time experience is life time experience – the price these men and women paid is far greater than you can even imagine.

We want to ensure parents and students that the contests are scheduled as usual. If children do not receive information from their school, we ask that you please visit www.legion.ca/contest for a registration form, rules and regulations. (Click here to get to the web site) All entries can be submitted to the local branch of the Royal Canadian Legion. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact your local branch.

We look forward to another successful year with our Remembrance contests.

Jackie Ralston, Youth and Education Chair, Royal Canadian Legion, Zone B6

The whole purpose of the educational system is to teach and educate our youth for the work they will do in their future and pass on some of our core values and to enrich the lives of the young people who will lead at some point.

The teachers, I am sure, have genuine concerns but I’m not quite sure what those concerns are. As publishes we get flooded with material from the provincial government – we loved the one about the province passing on millions to the teachers’ association to cover their costs while they negotiated with the province. Receipts weren’t needed eh!

We have yet to see as much as a word from the various teachers’ associations on just what it is they are unhappy about. As publishers we know how hard most teaches work – they deserve to be fairly paid. The public also deserves to hear the teacher’s side of the story.

The Legion has given us theirs.

What is that number after my name – those who served will know.

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One of the beautiful things about the election that took place yesterday is that the transfer of power takes place in a civilized dignified manner. There are a lot of country's where it doesn't happen that way.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

October 20thj, 2015

BURLINGTON, ON

Sometimes things just happen to us – bad luck we call it. And sometimes the hens come home to roost and we reap what we have sown. Canadians overwhelmingly rejected Stephen Harper because of what he stands for and what he has done to us over the last decade.

Trudeau with his mother

Justin Trudeau embracing his Mother Margaret before giving his speech the night he was elected Prime Minister of the country. what a sweet moment.

As this longest election campaign in a century came to a close, Canadian electors decided to shed the misery of the past decade. We are a stagnant economy with the lowest growth rate and highest income inequality since the dirty ’30’s. We now have the least efficient and most secretive government in our modern history. And something has happened to that Canadian sense of fairness and tolerance.

So most Canadians went to sleep last night with the prospect of a better future than their recent past would foretell. Stephen Harper is gone! And a breath of fresh air, optimism and hope has replaced him. It is sad to say but Stephan Harper will not be missed, and his legacy will be a bookmark for an epoch lost in the dust of history.

CHARGES MAY APPLY  Subject: Please add to EMMA On 2011-08-03, at 11:32 AM, Wallace, Kenyon wrote: Cultine: Toronto Mayor Rob Ford introduces Prime Minister Stephen Harper to a crowd of 700-strong Conservative supporters gathered in Ford's backyard Tuesday night during a barbeque honouring Finance Minister Jim Flaherty. Ford says he and Harper are new fishing partners. Credit: YouTube  Harper and Ford.jpg

Stephen Harper showing up at a Rob Ford garden party.

Of course Rob and Doug Ford will miss him, but then almost nobody ever missed the Fords once they left the limelight. And that big shindig they hosted for Harper on election eve may have been the icing on his farewell cake. But then I’ve come to bury Harper not to dwell on his failings.

Canadians changed the channel, in fact they bought a brand new TV. Positive – Better – Brought Together. Sweet words, Mr. Trudeau, but where do we go from here. The cupboard is a mess and the list is long. The economy, income inequality, that TPP, the oil patch, bombing in Iraq/Syria, whacky-tobaccy, electoral changes, the Senate, Bill C-51, green jobs, restoring environmental protection, climate change…

It should be a comfort to us that every province and territory is represented in the new Trudeau Liberal caucus, thanks to that overwhelming strategic vote last night. Mr. Mulcair’s party bore the brunt of that strategic effect, but he has only himself to blame, as discussed in my last column. Besides Trudeau, the federalist, has now been given an endorsement by his native Quebecers. What could be better for the federation?

It was interesting that The Globe and Mail endorsed Harper’s party but not Harper, in fact demanded he resign. Was that political naivety or an indirect call for voting ‘anybody but Harper, by a paper lacking the guts to break a tradition of supporting the Tories?

Also The National Post’s Andrew Coyne resigned as political editor after his publisher refused to print a column unsympathetic to the Tories. He has earned my respect for that. And was G&M columnist Margaret Wente trying to send a message when she ‘damned Harper with faint praise’ – saying he wasn’t the worst PM we ever had.

Mr. Trudeau came into the election amid low expectations, thanks to the Tory attack ads. Today it’s the reverse situation, as he wears the support of about seven million Canadians who voted for him, and so many others who would have made him their second choice. It is a tall order to undo the last decade in a heartbeat, and so it will take time.

stephen-harper  scowl

Stephen Harper – expressing an opinion.

Therefore we all need to take a pill, or a toke (when it becomes legal), and chill to allow the new PM-designate the chance to get on with the job. This is an exciting time and the critics, including me, will be hounding him to deliver. And somewhere on my wish list would be how to get us into the 21st century when it comes to our next federal election.

I’m not talking about preferential (ranked) balloting, which Mr. Trudeau has already committed to. I’m referring to our archaic system of paper ballots, and pencils and manual counting. If we can do our banking securely via the internet, why can’t we vote that way?

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.

 

Background links:

Federal Election      Coyne     Wente      G&M Endoresment

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Rivers tells where he is going: voters now need to decide where they want to go. A tough race with a lot of people taking different positions.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

October 16, 2015

BURLINGTON, ON

The natural order of things has been restored. Tom Mulcair and his NDP were the team to beat when this election campaign first kicked off. He seemed unbeatable with a strong lead and growing support across the country. Yet, as we head into the final stretch of the campaign, the NDP has fallen into their time-honoured third place with virtually no hope of winning.

Federal NDP Leader Tom Mulcair speaks to supporters at a rally Wednesday, August 12, 2015  in Quebec City, Que. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

Federal NDP Leader Tom Mulcair speaks to supporters at a rally  in Quebec City, Que. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

Some might say Mr. Mulcair’s party is just returning to its traditional place in the hearts and minds of Canadian voters. Others might speculate that the early polls were influenced by an artificial boost from the impressive NDP provincial win in the heart of Tory-land, Alberta. And everybody likes a winner.

Then there was the niqab issue, which saw a principled Mulcair at odds with the majority of Quebecers, who simply object to people wearing that symbolic face covering. Mulcair’s ambiguity over the west-east energy pipeline, where he was accused of saying different things in different languages, didn’t help. And his vehement support for federalism, despite his party’s Sherbrooke Declaration (allowing a Quebec exit with a 51% vote), sullied his image among previous ardent-separatist supporters.

Trudeau - just not ready

The attack ads appear to not have worked – voters decide on Monday if Justin Trudeau is ready.

In the beginning it looked like Trudeau had suffered irreparable damage from the Harper “not ready yet” attack ads. The Liberals had come out of the gate without much of a platform for voters to consider, and voters had responded by switching their ‘parked’ votes from the Libs to the NDP. If that trend were to have continued Mulcair would have won, become PM and maybe even got a majority.

So Tom Mulcair figured he could play it safe. He cast himself as the right-winger-on-the-left, hoping to bring conservative-minded voters over his new centrally positioned party. He essentially adopted Harper’s economic policies, fine tuned his last budget, and personalized it to include some NDP items – but promised the same Tory balanced budget program.

Though he’s not yet buried, it sure looks like Tom Mulcair became the architect of his own demise. For those who knew of his past, even changing the face of an ‘Angry Tom’ by wearing a forced smile didn’t help. You can’t have it both ways! You can’t be a social reformer and promise it won’t cost anything. There is no free lunch. Mulcair, by wanting to offer everything to the voters, has convinced them that he is really offering nothing new.

justin-trudeau-and-adam-vaughan-celebrate-in-trinity-spadina

The federal election is certainly not over – but there is some momentum – a tight race that the voters will have to figure out. Listen to the advertising and ask questions.

Mr. Trudeau overcame those attack ads in the course of the debates. Then he went on the offensive, announcing a bold platform agenda. He went beyond the other leaders, promising the first major tax reform since Mulroney, reversing some of the tax burden the former PM had placed on the middle class. And Trudeau’s most exciting promise was to deliver a Canadian ‘new deal’ – a spending program to create employment improving transit and other infrastructure.

If anyone was concerned about his need to run deficits for the next couple of years, he had renowned deficit fighter Paul Martin at his side. His youth and dynamic presence in the debates, and at rallies, provided a contrast between him and the other leaders. So his poll numbers have moved forward, leaving the other parties in his dust. But there is not enough dust for a majority even if all the stars were all to align.

Still, Trudeau has emerged as the strongest of the two (three in Quebec) anti-Harper candidates, And that makes a Liberal candidate the strategic choice for those voting ‘anyone-but-Harper’.

Rivers reading a newspaper Jan 3-15Ray 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:

 

Polls      Is Keynes Winning       Liberal Platform

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Are more than the colours of the fall leaves changing in Burlington?

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

October 13, 2015

BURLINGTON, ON

During the drive to the tens of thousands of Thanksgiving dinners that took place across the province during the weekend – one could not miss the turning of the colours of the trees.

The change in season was taking place right before our eyes.

DSC04642

The changes in the foliage tells us that the season is changing – right before our eyes. What else is changing?

The political pundits had this as the weekend that families would gather around their homes and vigorously debate how the current federal election was going to roll out.

I took part in two such dinners, one with good friends and another with people I’d never met before. There was a candidate’s sign in the driveway of the location that was new to me – comments from the other guests were quiet – the owner of the home had apparently changed his colours and decided he had to vote for what he felt was best for the country.

Orange had changed to red – and for the most part the tenor of the really large gathering was that this is what was necessary for the country to recover.
As to what the country had to recover from – that was all over the map.

With the Liberals six points ahead and the new Democrats struggling to find what they need it appears to have become a race between the Liberals and Conservatives in Burlington – and this race is far from decided.

There was a point at which many suspected the core Conservative vote was going to hold in Burlington – but there were signs of some wiggle – one of which was the change in tone from Mike Wallace, the Conservative candidate, who began to explain that while Prime Minister Harper may not been all warm and cuddly – he was still the best leader for the country.

When a candidate has to explain his leader shortcoming core voters often feel less of an obligation to vote the way they have for generations.
Burlington is still very much up for grabs – this riding is going to be won in the trenches and on the 19th it will depend on how well each side gets out and pulls in the vote.

The new riding of Oakville North Burlington appears to have decided it wants Liberal Pam Damoff to represent them

The colours of the leaves are indeed changing.

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Mayor promises a meaningful answer as to why city council failed to vote on ADI development - six months after the event.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

October 13, 2015

BURLINGTON, ON

Why is it so difficult to get answers out of city hall?

Tom Muir wrote Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward asking why she had not said something publicly about why city council did not manage to vote as a council against the proposed ADI development at the corner of Lakeshore Road and Martha Street.

Muir sent that information request in September 16th and said at the time that he asked for “an explanation of how the staff report on this ADI project did not make it to Council within the 180 days mandated in the legislation as default grounds for OMB appeal.’
He didn’t get a response and repeated his request.

His original request was set out in an email he sent to Meed Ward, the Mayor and the city manager.

On Thursday, October 8th Mayor Goldring responded to Muir with the following:

Hi Tom,
You will receive a meaningful answer.
I was away recently for 10 days and am obviously behind in responding to some emails as well.
Please be patient.

The Mayor has been away – in China – which is significant from an economic development aspect – and the city has not heard a word about that trip. That is another matter.

Meed Ward also said she would respond but Muir has apparently not heard from her yet. Her response has been to refer people to her Newsletters of March31st and September 16th.

Most people the Gazette hears from find the content of the two newsletter confusing.

Muir making a point

Aldershot resident Tom Muir wrote city hall on September 16th asking for an explanation as to why the city failed to get a response to a developer within the 180 day mandated deadline.

The issue for Tom Muir was – how did the city fail to vote officially on the Planning department recommendation not to approve the development application.

Everyone at all concerned with the project new that when the 180 day deadline was reached ADI would be going to the OMB and asking them to approve the project because the city had failed to provide an answer within the 180 day deadline.

ADI rendering second view from SW

The ADI Development Group sought permission to put up a 28 storey structure on a small lot at the corner of Lakeshore Road and Martha.

The city’s planning department put some of their best people on the review of the project and delivered a sound report that said the project should not be approved.

That report went to the Development and Infrastructure Standing Committee where members of Council voted unanimously against the project.

That recommendation from the Development and Infrastructure Standing Committee is just that – a recommendation.

Recommendations from the Standing committee have to go to Council to become effective.

werv

This city Council never got the opportunity to vote against a proposed development within the 180 days they were required to do so. Many people in the city want to know why this happened. The Mayor has promised a “meaningful answer” six months after the event.

Every member of Council will tell you that they are free to change their minds and the vote they cast at a Standing Committee when a report and recommendation gets to council.

The city’s Planning department was fully aware of the 180 day deadline.

Council meetings are scheduled on a meeting cycle that is public – but, and this is significant – Council can meet at any time at the call of the Mayor.

That the Mayor did not call a Special meeting of council is inexcusable. Had the Mayor done his job and called a Special meeting of Council the city’s position before the OMB would have been a lot stronger.

There still would have been an OMB hearing – but the grounds for that hearing would not be that the city failed to respond.

There are those who are saying the will of the city was clear at the Standing committee – and it certainly was – but that will has no standing until the city council votes on it.

ADI aerial photo red line marking Bridgewater site

The ADI development is shown in the upper right, outlined in orange, the Bridgewater development that will break ground in earlier 2016 is shown in the lower left in red.

All that happened on March 31st 2014, when Paul Sharman, Chair of the Development and Infrastructure committee advised the public that a summary of a planning report would be read but the city would not be voting on the matter because ADI had taken the matter to the OMB.

It is only now that we are hearing the Mayor say:

You will receive a meaningful answer.
Please be patient.

And so a cranky constituent waits patiently while the Mayor prepares a meaningful response – will the Mayor make a public statement on just how he failed to call a Special meeting of his Council and vote officially on this issue?

Or will Tom Muir have to send that response to the Gazette so we can make it available to the public?

This kind of situation crops up again and again with the Mayor and his Council.

There are many in the city who are concerned about what will happen at the Ontario Municipal Board hearing that is due to take place before the end of the year.

It is going to be a tough fight and there is no guarantee the city will win it.

Bridgewater from the north looking south

Two blocks away from the site where ADI sought permission to build a 28 storey structure the city approved the building of a 22 storey tower that will break ground in January.

There is a 22 storey structure two blocks away – the Bridgewater development that will break ground in the New Year. Expect ADI to argue that they are as relevant to the development of the city as the Bridgewater project which was initially approved in 1985.

Far too many people have the sense that this Mayor does not have a firm grip on what the city wants and that he has not grown into the job of Mayor in his second term.

The Gazette interviewed Mayor Goldring when he was running for re-election in 2014. We were stunned at what little he had to say during that interview which took place in the offices of Rick Burgess, a Burlington lawyer who once for Mayor.

During that interview Goldring didn’t give any sense as to what he wanted to do in his second term. At the time it looked as if he was going to be acclaimed.

When Peter Rusin decided to run against the Mayor – the game changed quickly and Goldring had to scramble to find a campaign office and then raise the funds needed to run a campaign.

Goldring defends turf 2

Mayor Rick Goldring speaking during a municipal election debate when he had to run against Peter Rusin and Anne Marsden

There was no comparing Rusin with Goldring. While the Gazette doesn’t think Goldring is doing a very good job – and that view is supported by a significant number of people with standing in this city – Rusin would not have been an improvement.

Anne Marsden ran against Goldring but was never a contender – she was a place for people who were dissatisfied with the Mayor to park their vote.

The Mayor no longer talks to the Gazette – he does not answer emails and we are not able to make appointments with him
When the Gazette was finally able to speak with Mayor he said that he would not talk to us because he felt we were unfair and biased.

That is a legitimate comment – however, Rick Goldring is the Chief Magistrate in this city and that position and title does not allow him to behave like a petulant little boy.

Jan. 10, 2011 - Toronto, Ontario, Canada - - Mayor Ford (right) chats with his brother Councillor Doug Ford (left) as councillors discuss the budget..Mayor Rob Ford today announced his 2011 city budget at City Hall.  There is no property tax increase but

The last Mayor to refuse to talk to media was Rob Ford of Toronto – a rather embarrassing comparison for Burlington,

If he has a concern – he has the responsibility to meet with us and set out those concerns.  The last Mayor to do something like that was Rob Ford in Toronto.

There is more to say on how this Mayor behaves – right now we are waiting to see what his “meaningful answer” is going to be and why it has taken so long for some kind of statement from city hall.

The city would also like to hear what the Mayor actually did in China?

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