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

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

November 27, 2015


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


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 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.



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


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


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.


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?


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


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 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


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


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.


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.


“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


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


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 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


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


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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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The Week That Was - Oct 12, 2015 - an objective assessment of the Harper record shows increased national debt, higher unemployment and lower economic growth. By anyone’s measure that is a failure.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

October 11, 2015


Each week between now and the day we all vote, October 19th, Ray Rivers is going to give Gazette readers his take on how the election is going. The week that was will appear every Monday morning.

Next Monday, the 19th, is election day in Canada and the polls are showing the Liberals trending upwards as the NDP decline. As readers who follow me already have guessed, I won’t be voting for Stephen Harper. Mr. Harper made this election about the economy, claiming he is the best economic manager for Canada’s future. So what is his record?

Bennett buggy

They were called Bennett buggies – no one could afford gas and repairing a vehicle was out of the question. Canada was in the middle of a depression in the 1930’s

It turns out that since Harper became PM in 2006, Canada’s growth rate has averaged 1.77 percent, the lowest rate of growth since R. B. Bennett took us for a ride in his Bennett Buggy during the 1930’s great depression, three generations ago.

Mr. Harper has blamed the recent oil price drop for Canada’s current malaise. In fact, during the period when oil was high, this so called fiscal conservative ran six straight deficit budgets in a row, adding $150 billion to the country’s debt load.

As a result he increased Canada’s debt-to-GDP ratio by almost a quarter, to over 85%, from where Paul Martin had left it in 2006. And in spite of this extra federal spending he was unable to get unemployment levels back to where it had been when he took over the reins of power. Today’s 7.1% unemployment rate is almost an entire percentage point higher than the 6.3% Paul Martin had bequeathed him in 2006.

Mr. Harper’s belief is that by cutting taxes the extra money in the taxpayers pockets will trickle-down and stimulate economic growth. But the tax revenues declined faster than expenditures, and with the economy stalled, that formula just rendered bigger deficits. The cuts to corporate taxes, rather than stimulating the economy, showed up in even fatter pay and bonus cheques for executives, or being hoarded. As a consequence, over the last decade of corporate tax cuts Canada’s manufacturing sector lost 400,000 jobs.

The country seemed to experience one clamaity after another.  Oil cars running along railway tracks totally out of control.

Railway tank cars that were not as strong as they should have been were transporting oil to the east coast. Human error result in the deaths of several dozen people when rail cars rolled into a town with the brakes basically shut off.

Mr. Harper put all of his faith and some healthy subsidies into oil exports, transitioning Canada into a Saudi Arabia of the north. And to get the oil to export markets, even before his government’s failed rail policies contributed to the disaster at Lac-Mégantic, pipelines were seen as the answer. Yet, despite having slashed historic environmental laws to expedite this goal, his government has failed to build even one pipeline.

Harper claims Canada’s economic future is tied to these so-called free-trade deals he’s been signing all over the world. Yet, the big one with the EU is stalled over the corporate right to sue governments – the ‘investor-state’ clause. And given recent protests in the UK and Germany against a similar agreement being negotiated with the Americans, there is reason to doubt an ultimate ratification.

In the USA, the leading Republican and Democrat presidential candidates have promised to kill the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement which was initialed just last week. That may turn out to be a blessing. Mr. Harper has set aside over $5 billion to compensate Canadians for economic losses which will ensue, but has failed to identify any direct benefits for this mother of all trade pacts.

Muzzling public service

Scientists who were on the federal payroll found they were prevented from talking about their research – they risked losing their jobs if they protested.

There are many more reasons which would keep me from voting for Mr. Harper. Canada’s sullied place in the world of foreign affairs, as the PM has replaced principled foreign policy with shameless pandering to domestic ethnic communities, is an example. Canada’s failure to address our growing contribution to climate change is another one. The muzzling of the public service by a government which came into office promising more transparency is still another.

Mr. Harper’s social policies, such as mandatory minimum sentencing, prostitution, immigration and drug legalization are part of an ideology he shares with a number of other Canadians. And his government’s style inevitably reflects his own personality, which may explain his reluctance to meet with his provincial partners. Though one can hardly be blamed for their personality, and should be accorded respect for their ideology, these are considerations for an informed electorate.

And not everything he has done is wrong-headed in my view. There are some economic policies which I applauded, particularly in his early years as PM, such as reducing the GST, introducing income-splitting for seniors and closing the income-trust loophole.

Nevertheless, Stephen Harper is the incumbent PM, having been in control of our economy for the last decade. He has made this election about the economy and put his record up as the reason to vote for him. Yet an objective assessment of that record shows increased national debt, higher unemployment and lower economic growth. By anyone’s measure that is a failure.

In conclusion, regardless of all his other policies which have mostly divided Canadians, Mr. Harper has shown himself to be an incompetent manager of our economy. For that reason alone, people in this election should vote for anyone but Harper.

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:

Jobs    Economic Growth    Debt to GDP     Unemployment

Corporate Hoarding     Oil Subsidies

TPP Clinton Opposed       More Clinton opposed to TPP

US-EU Trade Protests



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Former Progressive Conservative Premier of Newfoundland claims Prime Ministers comments on woman wearing a niqab during citizenship ceremonies borders on being racist.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Staff

October 5th, 2015


The views of political personalities on issues that are critical to the social well being of the country are important and deserve the widest possible audience.  Former Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams speaks out on Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s position on the wearing of the niqab during citizenship swearing in ceremonies.

The Gazette believes this country is bigger than the Prime Minister that currently leads us

Former Newfoundland and Labrador premier Danny Williams saaid in a CBC News story that some of the tactics of Conservative Leader Stephen Harper are borderline racist.

Williams, who led a Progressive Conservative government in Canada’s most easterly province from 2003 to 2010, launched his latest scathing attack against Harper and the Conservative Party of Canada on Sunday during an interview with CBC News.

He used the word racism in reference to the debate over the wearing of the niqab by Muslim women taking part in the oath of citizenship.
Williams said the issue is not worthy of becoming a national issue, but the Conservatives have latched onto it in order to secure votes.

Niqab as fashion

The tolerance for which Canada is respected around the world has been severely damaged by the actions of the Prime Minister over woman wearing a niqab during citizenship swearing in ceremonies.

“He doesn’t care if he isolates the issues of women or if he isolates the issue of minorities, and even crosses, possibly, that racism line,” Williams stated.

Williams accused Harper of breaking a promise on equalization payments, igniting an unusual rift between the two Conservative cousins.

The campaign was hugely successful, with not a single Conservative candidate winning election in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The federal Conservatives remain very unpopular in the province, which is largely a legacy of Williams’s ABC campaign.

Williams left office in late 2010 with his popularity still largely intact, and his views still carry a lot of weight in the province.

Williams is obviously hoping his unfiltered attack on Harper will make a difference in a three-way race between the Conservatives, Liberals and New Democrats.

“Over time we’ve seen that this man cannot be trusted. He had no integrity. He’s trying to stifle democracy. There’s no end to what he’s doing,” said Williams.

“He’s a lousy prime minister who’s divisive.”

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The Week That Was in the federal election - and just what is the TPP going to mean to us - if anything?

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

October 5, 2015


Ray Rivers has been writing a column on political issues in the province and across the country.  The Gazette asked Rivers to drop his regular column and write instead on what took place during the week.  This is his fourth column on the federal election and what has transpired to date.

The polls are starting to widen as Canadians begin the process of finally making up their minds. The Liberals are trending up and the NDP down, as the two parties have virtually swapped positions from the start of the campaign. Atlantic Canada is consistently showing red and the prairies blue, but Quebec, Ontario and B.C. are still very much in play.

What were the issues that got the electorate to this point?

The Munk debate on international issues was by far the best debate of the campaign followed by Friday’s French language debate in Quebec, thanks in part to the skilled moderation of these events. It is unfortunate that so-called ‘wedge’ issues have come to override the debate of serious issues at this late date in the campaign.

niqab - fear

The niquab – it is being made into an object of fear rather than a part of religious dress for some people. It has also become a fashion statement for some woman.

One of those wedgies is Mr. Harper’s promise to ban the ‘Niqab’, a simple woman’s head garment, despite the Supreme Court’s ruling that a ban is unconstitutional. It is superfluous the Court says. Everyone is already required to show their face for identity and photographs prior to the actual swearing-in. Further, security is ensured through background checks and signatures, making the Niqab debate such a non-issue.

The PM is ‘full of baloney’ on this issue, according to those who meter these things. But more important is his shameless misleading of the Canadian public. Another wedge issue, also in play, is the annulment of a person’s citizenship.

The loss of citizenship is the last thing the group of 18 Toronto terrorists will regret as they rot in prison for the rest of their lives. But isn’t this a slippery slope – removing the rights of citizenship for some bad actors begs the question – why stop there?


Citizenship ceremonies take place across the country – they are proud moments for those participating.

Citizenship is a serious matter. Don’t we need to have a serious discussion about making it two-tiered, and conditional on the whim of a desperate PM, in the midst of an election campaign? One of those 18 being ‘de-citizened’ was born in Canada, with parents who long ago renounced their original citizenships to become Canadians. Where would Mr. Harper deport him to if he weren’t already headed to a Canadian prison for the rest of his life?

But the really big story this week is the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) which the PM is determined to sign, without debate, even as we sunset this election campaign. Encompassing 40% of global gross domestic product, this agreement is the mother of all trade deals. Yet over the last couple of decades so many tariff barriers have been whittled down such that other factors, for example exchange rates, can be more of a stimulus or impediment to trade.

We know that Canada’s auto parts and supply-managed agricultural industries are at risk from this deal. New Zealand, one of the instigators of the TPP, wants to sell its surplus industrial milk powder into our markets. And if they get a toehold into our supply managed systems, the US is chomping at the bit to dump its subsidized fluid milk onto our grocery counters, putting at least some of our dairy farmers out of business. Oh, and many US dairy producers use a nasty growth hormone which is banned in this country.

But, despite our health laws, we will have to allow American milk companies to sell their milk here because the TPP is really about investor power, about ensuring market access for investors and transnational corporations.

Twenty years ago the world rejected corporate globalization through something called MAI (Multilateral Agreement on Investment), a contract by which nations would surrender much of their domestic sovereignty to corporations. Now it sure looks like the MAI is back in sheep’s clothing.

tppNAFTA, the template for so many of these ‘free-trade’ deals, already allows international companies to sue governments if they feel their right to sell into a market is impeded. And the TPP will supplant NAFTA, adding even more parties to the deal and bringing sovereign national rules and regulations over the economy, environment and social policy to their lowest common denominator. This is the perfect business model for non-interventionist governments – those which believe that government should stay out of trying to regulate its way to a better future, as the current one does, leaving that role to the business community,.

Of course the devil will be in the TPP details, and that makes this deal a pig-in-a-poke. ‘Trust me’ to look after the interest of Canadians,’ is what the PM is saying. And if you listen to the folks in Quebec or Newfoundland, who have been burned by this government on previous trade concessions in the dairy and fisheries industries, that trust is a breach of faith.

Canada’s embrace of free trade over the last decade has coincided with the loss of 400,000 manufacturing jobs and led, in part, to Canada scoring a record trade deficit this year.

beer - canadian

Is there a really Canadian beer company left? Moosehead – that is a Canadian

Major Canadian entities like Inco, Alcan, Stelco, and our beer companies have been swallowed up by foreign conglomerates, and in some cases, as with Stelco, shut down to reduce competition for their international parents.

The theory of comparative advantage, that pillar of free trade economic logic, has allowed this government to regress Canada’s once balanced economy. We have almost become the hewers and drawers of natural resources, which we were at confederation. Without the resilience of a balanced economy we find ourselves at the mercy of the international commodity markets and their inherent booms and busts.

But perhaps the real reason the US has fallen in love with the TPP is China. Having surpassed the USA, China is now the largest economy on the planet, something which unnerves political nationalists stateside. So the TPP, which includes 11 nations, but not China, will help to contain the ‘waking dragon’ by drawing an economic curtain around it in the Pacific Ocean.

Given the cloud of secrecy surrounding this TPP deal, it is unclear how much of a role Canada played in its design and in negotiating its terms so as to protect our economy. Since it will replace NAFTA as it steamrolls its way forward, we may have no choice but to get on board. Still, why the rush and all the secrecy? Shouldn’t the public be given a chance to see and comment before we sign onto to something as awesome as this huge trade pact?

Tom Mulcair says he’d tear up the TPP if it endangers our supply management systems. Justin Trudeau, whose father established our supply management systems, promises to defend the farmers if elected.

Mr. Harper, who prides himself on having shut down the Wheat Board has no such affection for supply management, though it would be political suicide for him to say so, especially during an election campaign. So what about it, can we trust him?

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:

Niqab Baloney   Citizenship Process   

Toronto 18

Nenshi and the Niqab

French Language Debate    TPP Winner and Losers    TPP Dairy

TPP Negotiations    TPP Explainer    TPP Secrecy   MAI

The US Position    TPP Investment     More TPP Investment    Supply Management    Fisheries

More Fisheries      Export Deficit      Overnight Polls

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Is there an Arts Council in the city's future? Should there be one? Does anyone care?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

September 30, 2015


We used to refer to the group that have organized themselves as an Art Collective – ACCOB – which stands for the Arts and Culture Collective of Burlington as an “emerging” group. That day has passed – they are now trying very hard to gain a foothold and to have an impact on the way arts and culture policy and spending are done in Burlington. So far they aren’t getting the traction they need and feel they deserve.

BAC aerial

Art Gallery of Burlington – costs the city close to a million to run – is there value for money? Of course there is – but without artists would we need it?

BPAC raod not done yet

The Performing Arts Centre has had an immense impact on the artistic growth of the city – and the arts community is now able to make great use of the space.

They are dealing with a city hall that is close to patronizing to the individual artists and at the same time spends million on buildings and the subsidizing of an Art Gallery, a Performing Arts Centre and a Museum Board.

The artists feel they should form an Arts Council and be at the table with the same clout, financial benefit and influences the other organizations.

Jeremy Freiburger, author of a report that provided direction for the city's cultural plan based on reams of data he had gathered.  Now the city has to determine how it wants ti implement its Cultural Action Plan.

Jeremy Frieburger, author of a report that provided direction for the city’s cultural plan based on reams of data he had gathered. Now the city has to determine how it wants ti implement its Cultural Action Plan.

The city has a Cultural Action Plan and a committee that is involved in overseeing the roll out of that plan. One would like to think that having artists sitting on that implementation committee would be a positive sign – and indication that the artists are finally getting the influence they feel they deserve.

Afraid not – there is trouble in paradise.

ArtinAction sign lawn

The Art in Action Studio Tour is a ten year success. The event is free to the public and there isn’t a dime of public money in the project.

Teresa Seaton, who is a significant part of the driving force behind the Art in Action group that holds an annual art tour that is very successful – they have been putting on the event for more than ten years and are financially successful enough to be able to award a scholarship each year, thinks an Arts Council is needed.

Seaton is also a commercially successful Stained Glass artist with a studio in the west end of the city.

On the Collective Facebook page she made some comments … well let’s let Seaton speak for herself:

“Interesting meeting today as a delegate from the External Body Committee to CAPIC -The Cultural Action Plan Implementation Committee. Seems we are still defending the need for an Arts and Culture Council to the city. One of the questions that came up was: What would an Arts and Culture Council do for us, the arts and culture community, in Burlington. As far as I can tell one of the first things an Arts Council would do with funding it hopefully gets is to ask the community what can an Arts Council do for you? And because it seems we are a long way from getting any funding for an Arts Council I thought I might throw up the question here on face book. My personal suggestions…”

An Arts and Culture Council could;

1. Lobby the city to implement, or increase, the already existing public art fee on new developments. I believe the existing recommendation is 1%. I have trouble finding this information.
2. Lobby to lower rental cost for art and culture makers and organizations. No artist that I know can afford retail prices for space. Guess why they all move to Hamilton.
3. Assist arts and culture organization in allowing them access to city printing presses and costs. I know my organization, Art in Action, spends 2,000.00 every year to print its brochures. That money could be used to buy more advertising.
4. Run courses for non-profit organization in gaining more sponsorship dollars. As artists we are not particularly good at this either.
5. Run courses on Succession planning for non-profit organizations. We need help at this.
6. Set up courses for individual artist on social media. How to use it, how to design websites and communicate effectively.
7. Set up forums and try to figure out why the local guilds don’t talk to the local contemporary artists who don’t talk to the local traditional artist who don’t talk to the local crafters who don’t talk to anybody.

Seaton Teresa smile

Teresa Seaton – stained Glass artist

“Don’t get me wrong; the City of Burlington has come a long way in the last few years. I see the institutions working together more. There seems to be more community involvement in these institutions. But let’s not let this momentum stop.”

CAPIC: the Cultural Action Plan Implementation Committee consists of:

Scott Stewart, General Manager for the city
Angela Paparizo, Manager of Culture for the city
Chris Glenn; Director of Parks and Recreation
Barb Teatero Manager of the Museums Board which runs the Joseph Brant Museum and Ireland House.
Maureen Barry, president of the library
Rossana Dewey, an artist
Trevor Copp, a dancer

Andrea Battista, involved with Symphony on the Bay
Robert Steven, Executive Director of the Art Gallery of Burlington.

Six of the eight people on the committee are bureaucrats – there is no balance here.

The meeting Seaton attended and delegated at also had two other city hall staff and a ward Councillor.

Seaton is quite right when she talks about how far the artists have come – they have risen, literally, and said “we are here and we want to be heard”. And city council, a bit surprised at the artistic energy they didn’t know existed, put money into hiring a consultant who put together a cultural action plan that the city adopted – sort of, and the created a committee to implement that plan.

And that is sort of where things are stuck.

The artists don’t fully comprehend that politicians and bureaucrats do not give away power – they accumulate power and they are for the most part loathe to share that power.

The only way the people (in this case the artists) wrestle power from the bureaucrats is to threaten the power base they have.

City manager Jeff Fielding doesn't win every time.  Joe Lamb, negotiating for the Seniors' Centre basically took Fielding to the cleaners with the deal he talked the city into.

Joe Lamb, on the left, negotiated a deal for the seniors – he didn’t get the kitchen sink because he didn’t ask for it – but he got everything else he wanted. Then city manager Jeff Fielding was told to keep the seniors happy and he did. There is a lesson for the arts community here.

A classic example of this was when the seniors began to complain about what they were not getting from the city. They, the seniors, were not happy with the people city hall had sent over to administrate their Centre and they were quick to get on the phone and let the Council members know they were not happy.

The new city manager at the time was sent over to meet and negotiate with the seniors who got everything they had asked for and more. Jeff Fielding, the city manager at the time, was told to meet with the seniors and keep them happy.

Canadians learned yesterday that Canada now has more people over 65 than we have under 14 – the power has shifted to the seniors and they are going to get what they want o they will vote the politicians out of office.

What kind of clout do the artists have? They are creative people with the ability to give the city character, colour, reputation and a reason to visit the place.
The Sound of Music hasn’t learned yet how to use the clout they have. They constantly complain about how little they get from city hall and compare that with how much business they create for that downtown core that is still looking for its vibrancy.

Imagine what would happen if the Sound of Music decided they would not put on their event for a year. You can only imagine the hair pulling that would take place at city hall.

Seaton is right on another level as well; the artists have to begin working like an orchestra and all play from the same sheet music. The squabbling that goes on between the different artists and the different groups is not pretty. They are admittedly high strung people – they go without to be artists but at some point they have to create a united front and use the strength that comes from unity to make their case.

City council has consistently said the arts are important – and they do pump a lot into the institutions we have. The artists want a real seat at the table – they are going to have to require the politicians to walk their talk. It will not be easy – but it can be done – look at what the seniors achieved.

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Cheating to win an election seems to be a curse that befalls all political parties once they are in power - it is the voters that lose when that trust is betrayed.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

September 28, 2015


Ray Rivers has been writing a column on political issues in the province and across the country.  The Gazette asked Rivers to drop his regular column and write instead on what took place during the week.  This is his third column on the federal election and what has transpired to date.

Since the beginning of this election campaign the NDP have held the lead. This is the first week that polls show their numbers dropping and the party falling into third place. Support for the once-socialist entity seems to be vaporizing across the entire country, including in Quebec. But never say never in an election this close.

In contrast, the Harper Conservatives have picked up steam mid-campaign, making it seem like a Tory minority is in the works, come Oct 19th. And the polls may actually be underestimating the number of seats Mr. Harper will ultimately win.

Memex - Wallace - Goodyear - McPhail - CTO

Burlington MPP Mike Wallace, second from the left, taking part in the handing out of federal funds to Burlington industry.

For one thing he has more money than the other parties combined, and given the extended election period will assail the other party leaders with a ton of attack ads, which we know work. Then, there is this orgy of recent spending for pre-election goodies in Tory ridings, to showcase, promote and help profile Tory candidates.

Further, Mr. Harper’s government has changed the electoral map to his advantage. With 30 new seats in Parliament it is expected that the Conservatives could win 22 of them, based on the results of the last election. It’s called the ‘gerrymandering’, what his party’s Republican cousins south of the border have perfected, configuring the geography of ridings so the demographics favour the election of Tory candidates.

For example, my riding of Flamborough-Glanbrook was configured by segregating the rural areas from Tory-hostile urban Hamilton. Since rural folks are typically expected to favour Conservatives candidates, the strategy is for the ‘big blue team’ to hold at least one seat in red/orange Hamilton. The riding configuration makes no sense otherwise. It would take longer to drive from one end of the new riding to the other than a trip to downtown Toronto in rush hour.


The Flamborough – Glanbrook constituenmcy is a classic example of “gerrymandering” – a form of boundary setting that has little to do with the voters as a community – more to do with putting like minded voters in the same riding to ensure a win for the governing party.

Holding the most seats in the House, and unlikely to improve on that, Mr. Harper’s strategy is strictly defensive. So, in an effort to discourage voters who aren’t likely to vote Tory, the government enacted its “Fair Elections Act”. Another idea borrowed from southern Republicans, this legislation sees election rules and responsibilities altered so as to restrict the ability of marginal voters to cast a ballot. And it sure looks like some kind of revenge, that Elections Canada’s powers to police cheating have been curbed.

Speaking of cheating, recall that in 2006 Mr. Harper’s back-room boys broke the election financing rules, enabling them to illegally move money around to expand their campaign. The Conservative party ultimately pleaded guilty to exceeding election spending limits and submitting fraudulent election records, and agreed to repay $230,198.00 for its role in violating Canadian election spending laws.

In the 2011 election a Conservative Party staffer blitzed over 6000 non-conservative voters in Guelph with robocall mis-information in an attempt to keep them from casting ballots. It is thought that as many as 200 voters went to the wrong polling places as a result. There were over 800 complaints to Canada’s election commission over this, and seven ridings sought to have their results overturned.

It’s not that the other parties are always squeaky clean. The NDP recently tried to use public money to mail political flyers. More recently, a provincial Liberal campaign worker was charged by police in connection with last February’s by-election in Sudbury.

chretien with golf ball

Former Prime Minister Jean Chretien using a golf ball to make a point during an inquiry into federal spending – several senior bureaucrats went to jail for that one. It was not one of Chretien’s finest hours – and Burlington’s Paddy Torsney lost her federal seat over that issue.

And then there was the Liberal ‘Sponsorship’ scandal, the consequence of which has seen the federal party lose its place in Quebec politics for the last decade. No other scandal in modern Canadian history has resulted in this kind of rebuff. By comparison, robocalls, a flagrant attempt to prevent voters from casting their ballot, has apparently been forgotten/forgiven.

I watched this week’s debate, in French, since the English language version was virtually unintelligent – with the leaders and moderators talking over each other in both official languages. Mr. Harper joined the Bloc in playing to Quebec’s social conservative base in discussing the Niqab ban, and both parties rose in the polls as a result. Quebecers, and most Canadians apparently agree with the PM on this issue.

Mr. Harper’s self-defence strategy has him feeding his party’s base, hoping to give them enough religion that they will return the faith – showing up on Election Day. To that end he has now added another unenforceable economic policy with the ridiculous name of ‘tax lock’. He is promising no federal tax increases of any kind for the next four years if he wins. This is the second silly shoe, given he’s already passed a balanced budget law – which most experts believe will be broken come year end.

And finally this week, it seems that at least one Hamilton area NDP candidate has reduced her chances of winning over the voters. Alex Johnstone, when

Hamilton Ontario, Sept 22, 2015 Alex Jonstone NDP candidate for Westdale,  Dundas,  Ancaster at debate Tuesday night in Dundas. Cathie Coward / Hamilton Spectator

Hamilton Ontario, Sept 22, 2015 Alex Jonstone NDP candidate for Westdale, Dundas, Ancaster at debate Tuesday night in Dundas. Cathie Coward / Hamilton Spectator

confronted with an improper remark about Auschwitz she’d made years ago on social media, apologized by claiming she didn’t know it was a concentration camp. I guess this school board official must have skipped that class in candidate college.

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:

Seat Projections       Redistribution      Rural Votes       Gerrymandering USA

Fair Elections Act       In and Out Scandal

Tory Winning      Harper Winning

Spending Money      Robocalls


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The Week That Was - Sept 21, 2015 - The Economy Debate - did anybody win? did anyone watch?

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

September 21, 2015


The Globe and Mail held its debate on the economy. This was round two for the three leaders and still, neither a clear winner nor loser emerged. The PM stuck to his mantra that the economy is not great, but that he’s done a pretty good job – he’s not perfect. And despite several well-placed jabs by the opponents, and his ‘old stock Canadian’ slip. some pundits thought he performed the best.

G&M debate

Leaders of the three mainline parties taking part in the Globe and Mail debate on the economy. Green party leader Elizabeth May tweeted about the event – she may have had a bigger following than the one webcast by the Globe and Mail.

The way the Nanos nightly polls bob up and down you’d think you were lying, with a good friend, on a water bed. Last night’s poll showed the Tories rebounding slightly as the parties continue this slow dance to the final bell. The CBC’s poll tracker, which uses a weighted average of various polls, shows a tight race with the NDP still in the lead, which is where they have been since the beginning.

The Conservatives wanted this election to be about the economy, so they have run on their record. How is that working out for them? Well, Canada is technically in a recession, the only nation among the G7 to be in economic decline. Unemployment, though near its long term average, jumped to 7% in August. And a small surplus was unexpectedly recorded last year.

A surplus is normally something to be proud of, but not so much in a recession. The announcement sparked criticism that the Tories had deferred spending into future years, just to make the books look good. And others claimed that the surplus had inadvertently contributed to this year’s recession.

Harper with economy signs

Protecting the economy has been the Conservative pith to voters from the beginning. will it work

Mr. Harper claims he is not perfect, but then neither is Canada’s economic condition – what you see is what you get. Still, he has no choice at this point. His last budget is his election platform, notwithstanding the scattering of election goodies he announces every few days or so.

The NDP’s Mulcair is shadow boxing. This is particularly true in Ontario where the words NDP are inextricably associated with high taxes and high deficits – the ghost of a government punching above its weight during one of Canada’s worst recessions. So he’s decided to play it safe, buying into the PM’s budget, using it as his own platform.

Not to appear too cozy with the PM, he has tried to personalize it with his own list of goodies. And, his biggest promise, the $15 day national day care plan, will be just a pipe dream unless all ten provinces ante in. Otherwise he might as well be campaigning with the PM.

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 where he promotes his view that the country is ready for a change. it appears to be working

Last week Mulcair unveiled his ‘fiscal plan’ essentially a ‘back-of-the-envelope’ summary of how he would alter the last Tory budget to make it his own. For example, he added extra revenue from raising the corporate tax rate and subtracted revenue loss from cutting the small business rate before summing the difference.

And all three leaders are now promising to do something to lower the small business tax rate. That would be a progressive measure though it is questionable how much small business investment and job creation would spring forth as a result. Taxes are only one factor affecting small business decisions of investment and hiring, and not the most important one.

Consumer demand is the key determinant for small business expansion and that means a healthy growing economy. If you can’t sell your product, because people aren’t buying or they’re buying cheap imports, then how much tax you’d have to pay on your profits is the last thing you’d worry about. The best policy to help small business is for government to help the economy out of the recession, deficit or not.

Mr. Mulcair is the only major leader planning to raise corporate taxes. One should wonder why all the leaders are not promising to do that. Canada’s corporate tax rate is the lowest in the G7 by a good measure. Further, there is no proof that the government revenue forfeited by lowering corporate taxes can stimulate the economy any better than direct investment in public goods like infrastructure – or cutting the HST. Didn’t we learn a while ago that ‘trickle down economics’ doesn’t work?

Do Mr. Harper and Mr. Trudeau really believe that lowering the taxes of the banks and insurance companies, so they can cut their CEO’s even fatter bonus cheques, really helps our economy? How can these leaders reconcile the dramatic slashing of corporate tax rates over the last decade with the evaporation of some 400,000 manufacturing jobs over that same time period?

Mr. Harper has been criticized for using an unrealistically high oil price as the basis for revenue projections in his budget. That shaky, disingenuous foundation stone for his plan has been ignored and glossed over by Mulcair’s steely-eyed strategists, it appears. As a result Mr. Mulcair’s fiscal plan can be made to balance, just as easily as the PM’s. It is such irony to hear Mr. Harper claim that NDP will be running deficits, knowing that is also in his cards.

Trudeau Justin with signs behind

Justin Trudeau believes the country needs economic stimulation and is prepared to live with deficits to revive an economy that is technically in a recession and has an unemployment rate that is rising – every so slightly.

Unlike the other two leaders Mr. Trudeau isn’t pretending he can run a surplus with imaginary numbers. He’s set a spending target for Canada’s much needed infrastructure investment and… to hell with the deficit, at least for the near future. Unlike the other leaders, Mr. Trudeau has come out of his corner making no pretence that he can balance an unbalance able budget.

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:

The Economic Debate     Key Debate PointsNanos Poll    Poll Tracker

Unemployment NumbersMulcair’s Fiscal Plan –  Mulcair’s Critique –  More Mulcair

Actual Plan    Small Business Tax      Corporate Taxes

Trickle Down Economics

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Liberal candidate explains the change her party wants to make in pensions - doesn't say how it will be paid for.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

September 15, 2015


The phony election phase is now behind us. The past few days there have been more promises from the four parties wanting to either ensure they stay in power or want to form the next government and exert the power the public gives them. And remember – the power a government has is power you gave them when you voted.

Burlington has a large seniors’ population; current MP Mile Wallace has courted that cohort very successfully and they have been loyal to him. Say seniors and you have also said pensions, and that has brought out a statement from Liberal candidate Karina Gould who today said: A Trudeau-led Liberal government will make sure that Canadian seniors get the secure and dignified retirement they deserve.

It hasn't reached a fever pitch yet - it might not but he does know how to pull all the heart strings and both his hair and his children get many mentions.  The bold new ideas? - haven't heard those yet.  what he did assure his audience was that he had very solid values - but didn't make much mention of what they were.

These seniors are certainly fans of Justin Trudeau – he draws well when he is on public tour. Many of his policy statements have been strong – knowing how it is all going to be aid for is a concern. It isn’t just the Liberals who aren’t being candid about the costs.

“With record levels of household debt and an economy in recession, it is no wonder why Canadians in Burlington – and across the country – are worried about their retirement,” said Gould. “Right now, on average, a retired person receives just $618 per month from the Canada Pension Plan – hardly enough to live on. Our seniors have worked their entire lives, and should not have to struggle to make ends meet. Justin Trudeau has a plan to ensure that all Canadians get the dignified retirement they have earned.”

“As part of our three-point plan to create jobs, grow the middle class, and help those working hard to join the middle class, a Liberal government will work with the provinces and territories to significantly reform our retirement security system by:

• Restoring the eligibility age for Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement to 65;
• Lifting hundreds of thousands of seniors out of poverty by immediately boosting the Guaranteed Income Supplement for single low-income seniors by ten percent;
• Introducing a new Seniors Price Index – in recognition of the fact that many seniors live on fixed incomes – to make sure that Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement keep up with rising costs;
• Beginning discussions with the provinces and territories, workers, employers and others on how to enhance the Canada Pension Plan within our first three months in government;
• Not cutting pension income splitting for seniors;
• Introducing a more flexible and accessible Employment Insurance Compassionate Care Benefit; and
• Prioritizing significant new investment in affordable housing and seniors’ facilities as part of a Liberal government’s commitment to a new, ten-year investment of nearly $20 billion in social infrastructure.

This is good stuff – and as a senior who looks for that pension cheque going into the bank at the end of every month I certainly understand who Gould is talking to – me.

How is my government going to pay for this improvement in my pension? Are they going to have to take money away from something else? Will the much touted federal day care program be lost for another decade? Will the aboriginal communities not get the schools they desperately need so I can get a bigger pension?

Governing is a balancing act – how do you keep everyone happy?

Transit - seniors with Gould

Liberal candidate Karina Gould watches a group of seniors discuss transit policy – getting around the city is critical for these people – just as critical as their pensions.

“I’m proud of the policy my Party announced today for seniors,” added Gould. “It is a product of grassroots discussions, like the town hall I held in January with the Hon. John McCallum, Liberal Critic for Citizenship and Immigration, Multiculturalism, and Seniors. The measures we’re putting forward are born directly out of these conversations. I have been listening to the serious issues that face seniors in our community. ‎I’m proud to stand for a party that will act for all of our seniors and ensure a dignified retirement for everyone in our community.”

I too am proud of the policy – I’d just like to know how it is going to be paid for.

The Liberal candidates are not the only ones a little shy on the details side of the election promises – a voters question should be ; how much?

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Reader asks a good taxes question: Why higher here than in North York?

opinionandcommentBy Staff

September 13, 2015


Burlington aerial

Are Burlingtonians fairly taxed – on reader doesn’t think so.

The comments section of the Gazette usually has boisterous debate – several of them write far too long but those that participate in the comments return again and again.

This came in earlier today. A reader said:

Toronto Star, on September 5, published a Home of the Week. It is located in North York, 3,300 sq. ft, 5 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms. with a pool, and a toboggan hill. It sold for $1,729,000.

Taxes are $5,747. I have a small, frame, 1,509 sq ft bungalow in Burlington, assessed at $709,000 which pays $14,433 (including BIA and a commercial surcharge).

Even assuming that 1/3 of my tax is commercial, my Burlington property pays almost double the rate of a North York property valued at much more than double my valuation. This is crazy.

Why should it cost over 4 times as much here as in Toronto?

Interesting question. Our reader should pull the belt in another notch – you are likely to be taxed even more next time around,

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