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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The Week that Was - ‘The Mansbridge Moments’

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

September 13, 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.

This was the week of the the ‘Mansbridge Moments’, the CBC’s National program of interviews with the leaders of the three main parties, and the Green Party’s Elizabeth May. Much as with the candidate debates, a rarity despite this exceptionally long campaign, the winners and losers will be found in the eyes of the beholders.

Harper witrh word NATO

Stephen Harper – on the ropes today – but don’t sell this man short.

I thought Mr. Harper looked tired, and resigned to the fact that his party has now dropped clearly into third place. A new air of humility, possibly him test-marketing the new Tory strategy, ‘Harper’s not perfect’, was in play. However, after his opining about the consequences of a Tory loss, one would be pressed to doubt his sincerity.. Mr. Harper has also parked his old campaign team and embraced a new hired gun to save his failing campaign. Perhaps that announcement alone was behind his strengthened numbers as the week closed.

The ‘Wizard of Oz’, as he is called is responsible for the winning campaigns of David Cameron in the UK and Tony Abbot in the Wizard’s own native Australia. He will have his work cut out for him to effect a mid-campaign correction for Mr. Harper, however. After all, this was a campaign meant to highlight the PM’s strengths as a man of principle, an accomplished economist and a purveyor of security. But that was before the Duffy fiasco, the economy hitting the skids, and the messy refugee crisis.

Topical columnist Margaret Wente has called him toast, what we do with stale bread. And Michael Coren took the time to write a column to let the world know that he couldn’t possibly vote for Harper because he is not a real Christian. After all Christians are supposed to steward the planet and pay regard for the meek who will inherit it.


Seem by many as a smart strategic thinker who adds value to the House of Commons – and thinks she might end up holding the balance of power on the day after the election.

Elizabeth May unveiled the most progressive policy agenda of the campaign. Free tuition, national high speed rail, the end of fossil fuels, and global leadership on climate change – what’s not to like? But then she knows she won’t be PM this time around. So she might as well be promising us perfect beauty and eternal life, oh and a place in Mr. Coren’s Heaven for the PM. May sees herself as a match maker, as a kind of Lava-Life or, dare I say, Ashley Madison; who can mediate the two left-wing parties into an unorthodox alliance – a same-sex marriage of sorts.

And Mr. Mulcair has sworn to wait for ever at the altar, though Mr. Trudeau would need to be dragged screaming. What unites these three opposition parties is their determination to end Harper’s reign. And they are not alone, the Bloc’s Gilles Duceppe and another sixty plus percent of Canadians feel the same way.

There are significant policy differences for the two leading opposition parties, despite agreement on restricting tax free savings, enriching the Canada Pension Plan, killing income splitting, and saving the environment. Still, though Mulcair is promoting his $15 day-care plan, the balance of his socio-economic program, so far, looks a lot like what Mr. Harper has been doing. His commitment to balance his first budget as Canada goes into recession, without even knowing what the real numbers are, looks a lot like risky business.

Mulcair didn’t have a good answer for how he’d get his agenda, including abolishing the Senate, past a potentially hostile Senate. And he hasn’t even got a lick of NDP in the red chamber to plead his case. Then there is the 50.1% vote he claims he’d accept for Quebec’s separation. A legacy of the Layton era, maintaining this promise is disingenuous to Quebecers and the rest of Canada, given the decision of the Supreme Court and his own history fighting against separatism.

NDP leader Tom Mulcair asks a question during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, on Monday, May 14, 2012. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Sean Kilpatrick)

NDP leader Tom Mulcair asks a question during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, on Monday, May 14, 2012. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Sean Kilpatrick)

Unlike Mr. Harper he was upbeat and positive in his Mansbridge monument, something one would expect from someone leading in the polls. But he seemed to smile too much, likely to compensate for criticism of bearing a too-serious, almost dower, natural pose. But at least the smiling did detract from the fur on his face, which every woman I know thinks he should shave. But he was articulate, thoughtful and engaging enough to make people want to like him, even if they’ve never trusted his party before.

Mr Trudeau was enthusiastic to the point of being almost bouncy. It is hard not to think of the ‘not ready’ ad the Tories have been running, but then we should understand that his age is but a stone’s throw from that of Obama, JFK or his own father when they were first elected. And Mr. Harper, who became PM in his mid forties, is the proverbial pot calling the kettle.… Recall that though PET governed us sternly throughout the FLQ crisis, he also played – for example, doing those famous pirouettes or that ‘fuddle cuddle’ thing..

Trudeau promised to reverse the growing concentration of power in the prime minister’s office, a trend his father had initiated in order to improve the work of government. The alternative is a government which runs the risk of contradiction and in-fighting. While Harper is a control freak, it is the cloak of secrecy and reign of terror he has cast over the entire public service that is so damaging. Demoralized and overworked staff are behind the recent failures in the immigration department, for example.

Like Harper, Trudeau’s not perfect. He miscalculated in offering limited support for the Tories’ police state legislation, Bill C-51. It was a political gamble which cost him support both within and outside of his party, possibly one of the reasons for his decline in popularity after having led the polls for most of last year. He claims he’ll fix that though.

The country watched as another Trudeau headed towards the leadership of a political party

The country watched as another Trudeau headed towards the leadership of a political party

He is bold, and boldness is on the other side of stale toast. Voters want change in this election. Ms. May could be the outlier of that change, but Trudeau is a close second, staking out some new ground by offering to re-balance the income tax act in favour of the middle class. He has gone where no one else has gone by embracing a deficit needed to build badly needed infrastructure and grow the Canadian economy out of its recession.

As a consequence his party has bounced back and is now firmly in the second spot of this tight three-way race. Apparently Mr. Mulcair has more goodies up his sleeve and both opposition leaders are promising a fully costed policy platform before balloting time. And then there will be all that new wizardry from the Harper camp.


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 against Cam Jackson in 1995, the year Mike Harris and the Common Sense Revolution swept the province.


Background links:

Christian Thing to d     Toast

Mansbridge Moments     Polls      The Wizard of Oz       More Wizard

Harper Not Perfect

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Gazette reader suggests the Prime Minister may have mislead a Burlington audience.

opinionandcommentBy Pepper Parr

September 11, 2015


There is more to the Advanced Manufacturing hub the ¨Prime Minister announced with great fanfare in Burlington recently. The City’s Economic Development Corporation has been working on the project for some time; their approach is to do away with the fanfare and let the results of their efforts speak for themselves.

“When we have something to say that is relevant” said Fran McKeown, Executive Director of the not for profit organization “you will hear from us”.

Harper in Burlington sept 1 - 2015

Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaking to a hand picked Burlington audience.

The Gazette got a note from Tony Araujo, Vice President – Testing, Paragon Systems, Concord, ON. Here is what he had to say:

I read your story on the Prime Minister’s announcement of a new “Advanced Manufacturing” hub for Burlington and was shocked that the Conservatives would do this again! I’m already fighting the last “investment” this government made in London’s Advanced Manufacturing Park.

In March 2015, Industry Canada’s FedDev Ontario gave Fanshawe College an $8.1 million gift to set up a for-profit commercial testing lab on land provided to the college for free by the City of London. The Canadian Centre for Product Validation (CCPV) will compete head-to-head with existing private sector testing labs throughout Ontario using students as labour.

FedDev Ontario’s own analysis of Fanshawe’s CCPV business plan even concluded that it would “adversely affect” the existing 30 private sector testing labs that “currently serve Ontario industries quite well”.

$8.1 million is bad enough. $100 million will be the death of my business and the 32 jobs that we currently have in Vaughan.

As a small business person, I expected this kind of crazy policy from the NDP, certainly not from the Conservatives.

Is it any wonder the electorate thinks that the Conservatives have lost touch with their values?

There are usually several sides to every story.

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A unique opportunity for 11 people to make a significant, lasting contribution to the public education system we have.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

September 8, 2015


The first in a series on the Burlington trustees on the Halton District Board of Education.

In the next 120 to 150 days 11 people are going to make a choice that could change in a very meaningful way how the municipalities of Burlington, Oakville, Milton and Halton Hills are seen by the rest of the province and perhaps the rest of the country.

Trustees Kelly Amos, Oakville; Amy Collard, Burlington; Joanna Oliver, Oakville; Leah Reynolds, Burlington; Donna Danielli, Milton; Andrea Grebenc, Burlington; Ann Harvey Hope, Oakville; Richelle Papin, Burlington; Kim Graves, Milton; Jeanne Gray, Halton Hills and Tracey Ehl Harrison, Oakville are the elected members of the Halton District School Board and they as a group will vote on who they want to lead the development, administration and delivery of education in the Region.

Andrea Grebnec

Andrea Grebnec – Burlington Trustee

Amy Collard

Amy Collard – Burlington Trustee

Anne Harvey Hope

Anne Harvey Hope – Oakville trustee

Burlington let itself get caught up in the promotional hype of a magazine that chose the city as the best mid-sized city to live in. That Burlington was chosen was due in no small measure to the persuading former Mayor Cam Jackson laid upon the publishers of the magazine. Jackson convinced them to see Burlington as a separate entity and not lump us in with Hamilton – when that was done Burlington began to look much much better.

For a time that line “the best mid-sized city in Canada” was parroted by members of city council as if it was something we had earned – it was an award made up by a magazine to promote their circulation,

There are many many things about Burlington that are positive. But the city doesn’t have much in the way of a provincial or a national profile. Oakville is known for all the people with bags of money that live there and Milton is known for its explosive growth – they also have an Olympic grade Velodrome that was their benefit from the Pan Am games – all Burlington managed to get was a cheque for renting out the City View Park for Pan Am soccer practice.

Burlington seems to want to focus on its geography – the Escarpment to the north and the lake to the south and that’s about it. A nice, for the most part, comfortable community that has its share of problems that it seems to muddle through.

Hamilton is entering a phase that has some buzz to it – the end of their steel manufacturing stage has begun and they are in the process of re-inventing themselves. Two decades from now Hamilton will be THE place to live in Ontario.

As for Burlington – there is an opportunity that is now in the hands of the 11 people who have been elected as school board trustees.

Current Director of Education for the Halton District School Board David Euale has resigned and the search for his replacement is now down to the short list.

Donna Danielli

Donna Danielli -Milton trustee

Jeanne Gray

Jeanne Gray – Halton Hills trustee

Burlington is the kind of city people like to live in – it is safe, not particularly exciting but a reasonably easy place from which to get to Toronto. But is there a really strong reason to live in Burlington? – it certainly isn’t the cost of housing.

But Burlington could be the city that has the best public education school board in the province. Schools matter to parents – just look at the number of private schools in the Region.

Those eleven school board trustees have the opportunity to put Halton on the map – and by extension Burlington as well.

There are schools in this city that parents will actually cheat to get their children into – Tuck is one of them. Why do they do that? Because the principal of that school has made it one of the best in the city.

Why is Nelson High School the superb institution that it?  Why is Bateman such an excuse for a high school? (That is a person opinion – I have had dealings with the leadership at that high school and this is an opinion column.)

It all comes down to leadership – there are great leaders in the public education system and they are always looking for a great board of education to work for – there aren’t a lot of them around.

Imagine what could happen if the trustees made it known that they want the best person there is to lead their board. To say publicly and loudly that they want an education leader who will not only improve our rankings but develop schools where every principal is not only a leader but an innovator.

Kelly Amos

Kelly Amos, Oakville trustee and current chair of the board

Kim Graves

Kim Graves, Milton trustee

Leah Reynolds

Leah Reynolds – Burlington trustee

A director that knows how to motivate and to take risks and create schools that students are excited to go to each day. A leader that has standing and a profile in the community – a leader that has a grip on the changes taking place in the flow of information that young people have coming at them.

A leader that develops high schools that produces Rhodes Scholars – Halton has apparently produced one Rhodes Scholar.

A leader that has high schools that graduate students who are almost automatically accepted at universities because they came out of the Halton school board system.

There is a line in our Bibles about Daniel from which the phrase “Dare to be a Daniel” has come. “God gave Daniel a special task. He boldly accepted the assignment and God used him to change an entire nation!”

As our trustees begin their task of determining who the next Director of Education should be one hope that they will dare to be Daniels.

Richelle Papin

Richelle Papin – Burlington trustee

Tracey Ehl Harrison

Tracey Ehl Harrison, Oakville trustee

A significant step has already been taken in creating a leadership team at the board in the appointment of Jaqueline Newton who has been appointed the Superintendent of Education. Ms Newton was the woman tasked with opening Hayden High school – she did a superb job there and we believe will do an equally superb job with the Board. A Director of Education made from the same mold would be nice.

There are eleven people in the Region who have the power to do just that. If they aren’t all that close to their Bibles perhaps they can fall back on the Nike advertising slogan – Just do it!

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The week that was in the federal election: Rivers on what media and advertising have done to determine the outcome.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

September 7, 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.

Thanks to a reader it has been brought to my attention that the report of the father of the drowned refugee child refusing Canadian citizenship was false, despite its broad reporting by media including the CBC and National Post. Please disregard that line in the column for that reason and if interested please take the time to consult….

Note from that website that…”As National Post editor Jen Gerson suggests, the blunders in reporting this breaking news story do not change the core substance of it: the drowned boy whose picture made the world suddenly care about the refugee crisis might have found refuge in Canada. His family had tried. Our Immigration Minister was directly approached about this specific case.

The story would have been no less impactful had it been reported accurately, and there is no evidence to suggest that the mistakes were made out of partisan bias or intent to sensationalize or deceive. They were mistakes, which often happen in breaking news stories.”

Thanks again to readers who take the time to contribute to the discussion. It is exactly for situations like this that I include my primary source


Advertising – it’s what chews up so much of the money in election campaigns. And, of course, it usually works, though not always as expected. For example, the Conservative ads prior to the last election in 2011, implying that Liberal leader Ignatieff had returned to Canada out of opportunism rather the welfare of Canadians, may have helped knock the Liberals into the Parliamentary basement.

Trudeau - just not ready

This advertisements did some damage – will it come back to haunt the Conservatives?

This time the Tories have taken aim at another Liberal leader, Mr. Trudeau, claiming that he is ‘just not ready’ to be PM. And one pollster is claiming that it has already been effective in dissuading otherwise Liberal voters. Of course, that seems to fly in the face of the latest CBC ‘poll tracker’ which has the Liberals slipping into second spot, ahead of their Tory arch-enemies and closing the gap with the front running NDP.

One has to recall how the Conservatives blew it big time when Kim Campbell was running in 1993. Tory strategists, including the current Toronto mayor of the same name, had ordered up a series of four ads depicting Mr. Chretien as unsuitable for the big job. The images used were unflattering, highlighting a childhood illness which had left him slightly disfigured.

Despite protestations by her campaign team, Campbell pulled the ad in response to a chorus of public protestations. But it was too late and the Conservatives were decimated at the polls, dropping to only two seats.

MikeDuffy smiling

Mike Duffy is on trail – hard to realize that with the way the proceedings in the courtroom are going.

Mr. Harper’s drop in the latest polls reflects a campaign gone awry. The Duffy Senate scandal is still in people’s minds and nobody believes that Mr. Harper didn’t know about the payment nor try to cover it up. If anything will tick off the public, it is an almost never-ending stream of lies.

Then there is the sad state of the economy, covered in my regular column a week ago. The PM’s has been cherry-picking the statistics to put on a happy face on what is pretty clearly bad news – but nobody is buying.

Most recently Canada’s failure in the Syria/Iraq refugee crisis has demonstrated an inexplicable level of incompetence in administration and policy. The minister, Chris Alexander, clumsily and stupidly attacked the media while being interviewed on CBC’s ‘Power and Politics’. The next day, in an admission of his failure, Alexander postponed campaigning so he could return to his office to fix what he should have taken care of months earlier.

This issue has come back all the way to Harper heartland. While other Calgarians were protesting the refugee mess, the City’s popular mayor, Mr. Nenshi, added his voice. He attacked the PM’s response to the crisis and Alexander’s performance. Nenshi demanded bringing back ministerial responsibility and accountability, code words for somebody needs to be fired.

And that would be the Minister, who is apparently unable to answer Nenshi’s questions on how many refugees Canada will accept or even how many have been admitted so far. Meanwhile the father of the drowned young boy, who has brought this issue to light, is so upset he has turned down a belated offer of Canadian citizenship.

Iggy ad

As a political advertisement – this one worked. Iggnatief lost his own seat and did indeed return to Harvard University – truth in advertising?

Also newsworthy, the PM’s wife, Laureen, appears to disagree with her husband’s views on Marijuana and his so-called ‘tough on crime’ mandatory sentencing policy. And then, the Conservative internet folks seem to be unable to locate and use the right images to go along with their social media stories. One would expect such sloppiness from a losing campaign.

And nobody, it seems, wants Mr. Harper to lose this election more than newly crowned Mrs. Universe. Ashley Burnham, a Canadian of Cree origin has called on the country’s first nations to help vote him out of office.


Ashley Burham, a Cree, was named Miss Universe – and is not a fan of the Prime Minister – thinks she can persuade the Aboriginal community to vote this time and vote for someone else

Finally, there is pee-gate. Yes, the Conservative candidate in a Toronto area Riding is caught on camera urinating into a homeowner’s coffee cup and putting it back in the sink, while doing a home repair (his business line). This story is now trending on Twitter and prompting one tweet, “Too bad the Conservatives are no longer progressive, so we could argue whether Jerry Bance is a small p or big P candidate”.

If Mr. Harper’s house of cards includes using his considerable financial capability, particularly during this super-long election campaign period, to fill the airwaves with attack ads, he is in trouble. He knows the opposition can’t match him with attack ads of their own. But with all the bad news the PM has been generating his opponents don’t need them.



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

Background links:

 ‘Just Not Ready’

Mulcair is Ready

Poll Tracker

Chretien Ads



Social Media Sloppy

Mrs. Universe

Refuses Citizenship

Pee in a Cup

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Pensions - an Election Issue. It isn't the only issue but it is one that will impact on everyone in the country. Look carefully at the policy each party promises.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

September 4, 2015



McKenzie King

Prime Minister McKenzie King introduced the first pension plan.

It’s the closest we come to socialism, excepting welfare and universal health care. The old age pension, a national universal pension was first established in 1927. William Lyon Mackenzie King delivered on his campaign promise to create Canada’s first national pension plan. It was modest and income-weighted but welcome relief for Canada’s needy seniors, allowing them to live out their remaining years in dignity, or at least out of starvation.


Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent improved on the Canada Pension Plan McKenzie King created.

In 1952 Louis St. Laurent reformed the pension program, which had barely survived the great depression and WWII, into today’s Old Age Security (OAS). Over the years the OAS has been tweaked, adding an income supplement for those in need, reducing eligibility from 70 to 65 years of age, and inflation-proofing it through indexation. Mr. Harper has partially reversed these progressive changes by deferring OAS eligibility by two years to 67, while his predecessor, Brian Mulroney’s 1985 attempt to remove indexing collapsed before a crack squad of raging grannies.

The OAS is not the only retirement goody that Ottawa offers. There are registered retirement savings plans (RRSPs), initiated by Diefenbaker, which allow deferred taxation; registered interest tax-free savings accounts, started by Harper; and the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), established in 1965 by Pearson. But unlike OAS, which is essentially a welfare program for seniors, these are contributory plans, though the CPP is co-funded by employers.

Pension - graphic - your pesnion plan

It is something everyone is going to need – make sure you are satisfied with what whichever government we elect is giving you what you think you need.

Unlike the OAS which is an entitlement, the pensioners actually are owed the money socked away in these plans, something governments sometimes seem to forget. For example, since Canada has no inheritance tax, the government requires us to continually reduce the value of our RRSPs beyond age 71, whether we need the money or not.

And then there are the myriad of private plans, more now being offered as ‘defined contribution’ rather than ‘defined benefit’. These plans are typically managed by intermediaries, insurance companies or mutual fund managers, who invest the retirees’ future into the vagaries of the market for better or worse, depending on whether the market and interest rates are up or down.

There are so many opportunities for today’s seniors to harvest their retirement earnings that Maclean’s Magazine ran an article (September 15, 2014) titled “Old, Rich and Spoiled”, claiming that today’s retirees are “the most prosperous generation ever”. Despite the inflammatory headline there is no doubt this generation’s seniors are better off than preceding ones. But there are still seniors living below the poverty line and surveys show there is great financial insecurity among a majority of Canadians being put out to pasture.


Notrel in its day was a great multi-national company that failed to keep up with a rapidly changing technology – it also failed to ensure that its pension obligations were met – the provincial government had to pick up that tab.

Private company pensions look good if you worked for the right company, the one that might still be in business through your retirement, unlike we saw with Stelco or Nortel. Even my former employer, the federal government, unilaterally decided to downgrade my superannuation package recently. If you can’t trust the feds to keep their word, who can you trust? In the case of Nortel, the Province has had to take over paying the retirees.

And that is part of the reason why Ontario’s premier, after petitioning the federal government to ramp-up CPP – and being shown the door – is developing her own pension plan, the ORPP. Notwithstanding her understanding that an enhanced CPP would be a better route to go for national portability and consistency, she has little choice but to go it alone. And the provinces have primary jurisdiction over labour matters, which is why Quebec has its own version of CPP.

As a result the provinces can find themselves bailing out defunct pension plans for companies, like Nortel, when they go belly up. Then Ontario also has been topping-up the federal OAS, through its GAINS program. So it has a legitimate dog in this issue, a right to protect the lot of Ontario seniors. And there is broad support for change in other provinces beyond Ontario, judging from the interest the Premier has churned up with other provincial leaders in the Council of the Federation.

Ontario’s plan would only apply to those currently without a company pension plan. It would ‘level the field’ with employees in the banking, insurance, municipal, teaching, and civil service sectors of the economy. Someone who has been employed for 30 years would typically receive 60% of his/her salary as a retirement pension, as most of the institutional plans offer.

But Mr. Harper will have none of it, refusing to change CPP and even refusing to help Ontario reduce the costs of its planned ORPP by harmonizing it with the CPP for collection and management. That is something which would cost the federal government very little but would save debt conscious Ontario from setting up a duplicate bureaucracy.

Justin Trudeay and Wynne

They needed each other on the pension issue – will the Ontario idea of a provincial pension plan prevail? Quebec has its own pension plan. The federal plan as it stands now is not meeting the needs of many Canadians.

Whatever Mr. Harper’s reasons, he is using Canada’s seniors and future seniors, as fodder in his war against Ontario’s premier. As could be expected, Premier Wynne has responded in kind, directly supporting Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, who has committed to modernizing the CPP. And justifiably, since so much of Canada pension framework of was developed by Liberal governments.

The PM is right that refreshing the CPP will add costs to the employers’ payroll, though it should allow the eventual phasing out of the myriad of piecemeal company plans. And that will reduce labour costs for business in turn, while enhancing labour mobility.

Come voting time, pension issues may well be a low priority for young families struggling to manage new families and their first home, where every dollar counts. And the issue will have little, if any, direct payback for seniors already living through their golden years. But making our income systems more equitable and secure is an issue that affects us all as a society.

Fortunately there are clear choices on this issue in front of the voting public. In that regard, Mr. Mulcair has announced that he would call a provincial-federal meeting to reform the CPP within six months of becoming PM. Given his persistent ranking at the top of the opinion polls that must be music to Premier Wynne’s ears, though we shouldn’t expect her to also campaign for 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:

OAS      Canada’s Pensions     World Pension Systems

CD Howe on Pensions      Mulcair       Harper

Federal Pensions      GAINS      ORPP        Wynne

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The Issue - a Cogeco Cable broadcast will be back in September and taking live tweets for the panel members.

News 100 redBy Staff

August 21, 2015


Mark Carr got word that the program he moderates on Cogeco Cable “The Issue” was good to go for the fall.

Cogeco - The Issue crew

Cogeco’s The Issue panel: Mark Carr, host on the left with Casey Cosgrove, a guest, then former Mayor Walter Mulkewich and then Brian Heagle

First show for this season of The Issue is Tuesday September 15th 8pm LIVE.

The show is interactive – twitter them at # The Issue.

The Issue is broadcast on channel 23 and channel 700 for high definition.

Carr monitors the twitter feed and bounces comments tweeted in with the panel made up of former Burlington Mayor Walter Mulkewich, lawyer and former Burlington council candidate Brian Heagle, and Deb Tymstra who has reported for Cogeco on a number of issues.

The intention is to have a guest on the panel as well. The publisher of the Gazette has been asked to take part in the panel from time to time.

Those watching the program can tweet comments and see how the panel responds.

You can agree or disagree with the panel of community/political experts live” said Carr “ and then watch to see how they respond to what you had to say.”

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Riley reviews Kyle Tonkens’ AGB Exhibition; evolving as an emerging professional.

opinionandcommentBy Jim Riley

August 20, 2015


Kyle Tonkens uses approaches of both Performance Art and Installation Art in his most recent artwork, entitled “The Funeral Procession of the Beloved Departed”.

Performance Art is a non-traditional art form that uses two or more arts: these could be acting, painting, poetry, dance, music, etc. My own perspective focuses on the visual impact of the performance.

Funeral Henrietta M

Family and friends were invited to the funeral of the Dearly departed Henrietta Markham.

Performance Art often uses symbolism and concepts that are difficult for some to comprehend without supplementary information. It can be like trying to read a foreign language without translation notes.

2 kyle carry procession

The funeral cortege proceeded along John Street on its way to the Art Gallery of Burlington.

“The Funeral Procession for the Beloved Departed” started on John Street, Burlington. People gathered in celebration of a person’s life, and participants were encouraged to recall their own loved ones. Tonkens referred to the procession being for all our beloved departed, but referred specifically to a woman named Henrietta Markham, and quoted her poetry. Henrietta was Tonkens’ grandmother. During a recent interview, Tonkens disclosed that he used Henrietta’s “voice” in presenting his own poetry. This is in accord with his belief that all things in life and death are interconnected – which is a key concept of the exhibition.

In the middle of the John Street room there was a mound of what the artist had previously referred to as “hand-bound wood rosebuds constructed of gathered sticks and bound together by jute twine and wire”. The rosebuds are painted in solid bright colours creating a colourful mound. Some guests were given neon-coloured rosebuds, or a painted parasol, to carry in the cortege.

Aaron Zukewich played music on his soulful saxophone in the room, and during the procession.

They bore the funerary mound down John Street and along Lakeshore Road to the Art Gallery of Burlington. Once at the RBC Community Gallery, the mound was gently placed with five other mounds on the floor. Those who had carried painted rosebuds and parasols from John Street placed them on one of the six funeral mounds.

Some of the mounds had darker painted rosebuds or natural wood, symbolizing those separated from us some time ago. The contrast between the brightly coloured rosebuds and the earth-toned rosebuds gave the impression of after-life energy that was still within the mound and had not yet departed.

7 gallery shot showing windows

The mandala-like, neon-coloured wall paintings are partly mirrored by the lines on the parasols.

The artist refers to the painted walls as incorporating “the flower of life pattern”. This resembles Hindu mandala symbols — geometric and very spiritual. The three mandala-like, neon-coloured wall paintings are partly mirrored by the lines on the parasols. Umbrellas with a similar appearance are suspended from the ceiling: they represent the spirits, after release from life, connected to the mounds.

The Performance Art drew a crowd of participants. Tonkens did not venture too deep into the non-traditional inter-art practices of performance art. It was intriguing how he straddled non-traditional and traditional art and their approaches to the subject. Conceptually, Tonkens is exploring complex issues that might not easily be communicated to many of those present. The cortege was somewhat like a New Orleans funeral procession, but the music played was more solemn and mournful. It felt ritualistic, in a metaphysical way.

At the AGB, the artist continued his performance by greeting and thanking the participants as one might at a funeral. Tonkens’ belief is that we should be truly grateful. What makes Tonkens’ performance differ from other memorial services is that he gave some of the audience members a gift of a small, square acrylic painting, signed by Henrietta Markham, but done in his style.

Tonkens’ giving of gifts has a sacred aspect. His use of this concept dates back to his 2013 “The Spirit of Death Watching…” performance during his No Vacancy installation. This gift-giving is reminiscent of northwest indigenous potlatch ceremonies. The purposes are similar, in emphasizing the grateful acknowledgement of major life changes such as birth, marriage and death. Tonkens’ ritualistic gift-giving emerges as the strongest element of his performance art practice.

Installation art is sculpture, but the audience is inside the artwork rather than observing from outside. The entire space of the room defines the sculpture’s boundaries. The placement of objects or people within the room is significant to the 3D composition of the work. Each person entering the gallery becomes another part of the sculpture as they walk through the installation of materials, light and colours – not intended to be explored passively from the outside edge, but actively from within.

How successful has Tonkens been with his installation?

Funeral Henrietts M + guitar player

The parasols were carried from John Street and placed on one of the six funeral mounds at the AGB

Tonkens’ suspended painted parasols with curved lines are symbiotic with the wall paintings. The suspended umbrellas integrate successfully the visually awkward ceiling fan into the installation. They break up the aerial space, adding unity to the entire experience. The installation might have been stronger if the ceiling parasols and mounds had been varied more within the room. Changing the scale and location of some of the mounds might have had more visual impact for the viewers, and easier access for closer examination of the mounds.

The RBG Community Gallery’s physical limitation makes it a challenge for installation art. It is a former café, and there are too many windows, plus a drop-tile ceiling and fans.

This installation might have been more successful if the artist had closed the blinds and used a more dramatic lighting technique on the mounds and wall paintings. The existing lighting does not adequately support the concepts. However, it might be argued that these options were beyond the artist’s control. I suspect that the AGB is working on improving this new community space, but labours under budgetary limitations and physical restrictions such as concrete walls.

The quality of art presented in the new AGB Community gallery has varied in the past from very professional works to child art, focusing on thematic community-based exhibitions. Kyle Tonkens is evolving as an emerging professional. I look forward to seeing his future presentations, as he is unique among the members of Burlington’s arts community.

Kyle Tonkens most recent performance art installation is on view at the Art Gallery of Burlington until September 13, 2015.

Jim RileyJim Riley is a Burlington-based video artist, independent curator and arts writer.

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Ontario's premier gets into the election trenches with the federal Liberals.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

August 10th, 2015


The Premier and a couple of her Ministers are going to announce some of the design features for the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan that Kathleen Wynne thinks the citizens of Ontario need.

And why is that news? – Because we are in a federal election campaign and Wynne has made it clear that she is going to work very hard to get Liberal leader Justin Trudeau elected.

Wynne Kathleen - looking guilty gas plant hearingWynne feels something has to be done to improve the pensions that people will need when they retire and because the federal government has shown no interest in making it possible for people to add to what they set aside for future pensions – the province of Ontario has to step in and do something – now.
Wynne has been banging away at Prime Minister Harper for months to get him to hold meetings with all the Premiers – not something he is interested in doing. So Wynne announces that she will hold a press conference to talk about the “design features” of the pension plan she wants to put in place.

Is he what we want?  The name doesn't hurt - now what has he got in the way of ideas?

Is he what we want? The name doesn’t hurt – now what has he got in the way of ideas?

Of course should Justin Trudeau manage to become the Prime Minister all the work Premier Wynne has had done will be set aside and the new federal government will make changes to the current Canada Pension plan – which is what should have been done in the first place – but the current Prime Minister doesn’t want to be seen cooperating with Liberals and certainly not with Kathleen Wynne.

These politicians do play games.

We’ll let you know what the Wynne pension plan design features look like.

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Canada Post provides a public statement regarding postcards in Burlington mailboxes - not a word from our political leaders.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

August 1, 2015


The City of Burlington has received complaints from a number of residents regarding what they believe to be disturbing material delivered to their mailboxes.

In a statement from the city, it is not attributed to a specific person, the city said it is not in a position to affect the distribution of these materials and add that they have received the following statement from Canada Post:

“We are responsible for the physical delivery of all mail in Canada. We do not have the legal right to refuse delivery of a mail item because we or other people object to its content. Anyone who has concerns about the content should either contact the publisher or simply dispose of it.”

And that’s it – not another word. The Gazette has received dozens of complaints and comments on this repugnant literature.

Stand up and speak outSome of the comments on social media:

“You know what really sucks about this all? The images are very painful reminders for many parents who never had a choice. This organization is obviously run by a group of uneducated, immature kids with too much money to blow on junk mail.”

“Well that was nice. My 13 year old just handed me the flyer during dinner. She fished it out from behind a desk because she was worried her 9 year old brother would see it and be scared. Disgusting.”

“Us too. Beyond disgusting and obviously oblivious to the fact that this government just legalized the pill version of said procedure.”

GhandiThere are thousands of comments like this being made on social media. What we haven’t seen or heard are public statements from the office of the Mayor expressing concern over what can only be described as vile.

There is such a thing as community values that are put forward by our leaders be they political, pastoral or prominent people who have earned the respect of the community.

This is the time for these men and woman to stand up and express the dismay, disgust and inappropriateness of this kind of stuff on behalf of the community.

Most people have a view on abortion; many people discuss this subject amongst themselves and arrive at a moral decision they are comfortable with. My own view is that life is the biggest gift mankind has been given and when it is forsaken – let us not demean it with photographs that can only harm.

To attach the face of a person running for the leadership of the country to this smut is as low as one can get. This is not what political debate is about.

Councillor Sharman did have conversations with the police who told him there was nothing they could do. Councillor Sharman could have said publicly that the distribution of this kind of material was unacceptable and that he wanted the public to know it was beneath the values of the community he represents.

When we do not stand up for our values – we lose them.

Related articles:

Is it hate mail? It is certainly disgusting.

Sick minds that sink below common decency.

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Changing the culture at city hall; bringing in the department leadership needed - and getting a Code of Conduct in place for the politicians.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

July 26, 2015


It is difficult to find a developer in the Burlington area who will say great things about the city. It is easy to find developers, particularly the smaller ones, who do not have a complaint they are quite ready to share with you.

The “counter” – that’s the place developers first go to when they want to talk to people in the planning department, is often the focus of the complaints.
Developers will complain that they can never get a straight answer from the planning department and that just when they think they have everything the city needs in the way of reports – they find that yet another report is needed.

The planning department doesn’t see it quite that way – but they didn’t want to talk for attribution.

Stewart Scott blue sweater - more face

Scott Stewart loves that sweater – has he had it since 1967?

Scott Stewart, the General Manager for Infrastructure and Development is serving as the Interim Director of Planning – and he is a lot different from the recently retired Director of that department.

Stewart wants to see a culture change within the department and has moved some people around and adds “there are some noses out-of-place” in the department but there will be a change”.

The bringing in of a new director for planning is a Stewart hire to make and he is pretty clear in his mind what the city needs.

James Ridge, city manager, has some planning experience in his background – he and Stewart should be on the same page on this one.

Burlington’s city council members don’t, at times, fully appreciate the command structure at city hall. Council hires the city manager and he runs the city for them. Council creates policy and issues Staff Directions – the city manager follows those directions.

The city manager is there to advise and guide council – but the marching orders come from Council. Decisions get made by city council based on policy and specific votes made by the seven council members.

They don’t do the actual hiring – a source has suggested to the Gazette that the Mayor wanted to be in on the actual interviewing of the short list for the director of planning – that shouldn’t happen.

The story is told, from a sterling source, of the Council member who said he thought Council should be involved in the hiring of everyone down to the Director level. The person who told the story said to the council member: ‘You clearly have no concept of what staff accountability is all about.’ With this Council it is referred to as “getting into the weeds”.

Most municipal governments have well qualified, committed professional staff. They do have a pension that is not available to most people and it might seem as if they get a lot of time off. When senior staff are taking part at public meetings in the evening – are they required to be at their desks first thing the next day? Many people in Burlington think they should.

When the budget is going through its final phases – the team that creates that document, based on instructions from city council, work well into the night frequently to complete the budget.

Whoever the city hires as its next Director of Planning, hopefully will be with the city for several terms of office. The elected officials come and go – in Burlington they don’t seem to go very often which is unhealthy but until the voters in town decide they want different leadership we’ve got what we elected.

There is a bit of a leadership crisis at city hall; there are culture changes that need to be made in several of the departments.


Scott Stewart on the left,and former city manager Jeff Fielding, put a number of major changes in place – but then Fielding saw a greener pasture and headed west for Calgary.

Burlington has had three city managers in five years plus an interim filling the chair until a new city manager was hired.

Every management leader needs time to create the kind of work force and working environment that results in the kind of service delivery the public wants. Some good people have left the city for other jurisdictions because the lack of solid consistent leadership that would allow them to grow as civil servants wasn’t in place.

Burlington now has a city manager who has yet to make his mark. James Ridge isn’t a Jeff Fielding, his predecessor. He is more cautious and quite a bit quieter and appears to be a stickler for the rules. A deal maker he isn’t.

We need another year of observing Ridge to get a clearer sense as to what kind of a staff he wants to have in place to deliver the program he understands the city council wants.

We have watched Ridge admonish this Council ever so slightly when they appeared to be resisting the making of a decision. Ridge will, in his quiet way, hold their feet to the flames.

Ridge is not a big believer in the concept of Master Plans – Burlington has been in love with the things for years.

Ridge thinks they create silos and he seems to want a more homogenous approach to the way staff think through their problems. It is going to take him some time to determine where staff changes have to be made and then implement those changes.

Fielding was exceptional at getting out and talking to people; you always knew when he was in the room. Ridge is a quieter person – we are only beginning to get a sense of his decision making process.

Council has handed him a hot one – the Code of Conduct that has been kicking around for far too long and should have been agreed upon by this Council at its last meeting. Some fancy procedural foot work on the part of Councillor Sharman, aided and abetted by Councillors Craven and Lancaster, to reverse a change that had been agreed upon at Standing Committee preciously resulted in the whole matter being referred to the city manager who would work with it as part of the governance section of the Strategic Plan.

Strategic Plan sessions are frequently, if not always, done off site or in a room at city hall where there is no web casting capacity.
The scallywags on this council like it that way. It’s going to be messy.

Staff observes these changes and turn to their city manager to save them from this kind of unprofessional behaviour.

James Ridge Day 1 - pic 2

James Ridge the day he was introduced to the public at a council meeting – he didn’t say a word.

Is Ridge up to the job – can he manage the Mayor and the rest of |Council and hold a draw a clear line or will he choose to become “friendly” with council and fetch water for them rather than pour cold water on silly, expensive ideas that they come up with and expect him to find the money to pay for

James Ridge has the summer to work this one out. How he resolves this will tell what kind of a city manager we have; what kind of a culture will prevail at city and what kind of a city we end up being.  This assumes that he completes his five-year contract.

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Crunch time on a transit service decision - will they walk or will they vote yes?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

July 8, 2015


What if the transit drivers decide they want to force their issues and walk off the job Monday morning – the 13th

Transit people will tell you that once a bus rider leaves it takes a long, long time to get them back.

Transit wkshp = Edwardth = Mayor with cell

Mayor explains using the bus schedule on his cell phone

Riders are forced to find some other way to get around – and they often like what they find – even if it costs more and they stay with it for some time.

There is a break in the trust that existed between the transit drivers and those who use the buses.
People who depended on transit had their lives significantly disruptedand they don’t see their transit driver as the friendly person who they met and chatted with every day.

There is a disintegration in public trust – something that is hard to quantify or measure but it is certainly there.

Burlington is not a transit friendly city. There are people who will be delighted when the bus no longer drives by their house making more noise than they want to put up with.

Those same people don’t like the noise the garbage truck makes but they put up with it because they want their garbage removed.

They are not transit users and they resent the amount of their tax dollars that are used to support transit – they see transit that is something for people of limited means – and they don’t see Burlington as a city of limited means.

This attitude is part of a particular demographic – it isn’t seen in the younger people – they adapt more easily and tend to have a different take on the damage that cars do to the environment.

It will be interesting to see what the transit workers decide to do and how city council reacts.

Mayor Goldring: Is there an event he won't attend?  He doesn't have to get out to everything - but he usually does.

Mayor thinking through a problem – transit is going to occupy some of his thinking this weekend.

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Reflections on Canada at the age of 148

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

July 2, 2015


What have we managed to do as a country in this past 148 years?  Stay together is perhaps the biggest part of our success as a country.

Getting the Maritime provinces and what was then the Province of Canada to agree to form a confederation in 1867 was propelled to a considerable degree by the Civil War the Americans were fighting at the time.

Fathers of confederation

Fathers of Confederation negotiating in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.

Once Confederation took place Ontario and Quebec were created and the task then was to bring in the rest of the country – everything west of Ontario
We didn’t get Newfoundland into confederation until 1948.

Then in 1995 Quebec missed leaving the confederation by less than 50,000 votes. They had failed to separate in 1980 as well. Many feel the issue of Quebec becoming a spate country is now behind us – we certainly won’t fight that battle for another twenty years. And who knows what kind of a country we will be then?

We are now an ethnically diverse country. An aggressive immigration policy has moved Canada from a French and English country to one that has people from every imaginable country.

We have in the past shown the ability to bring in tens of thousands of people who faced disasters in their own country. The “boat people” from Vietnam was perhaps one of our best moments as a compassionate caring people.

Peace keepers

United Nations Peacekeepers were the result of a Canadian resolution at the UN. Were respected leaders then.

The creation of the United Nations Peace keepers was another proud significant time for Canadians.

We have been a country that has gone to war when we felt it necessary – and came close to fracturing the country when Quebec saw both the first and the second world wards differently than the rest of the country.

We overcame those difficulties as well.

We have not become known as a country with strong environment positions. We have failed to live up to the various accords we have signed.

Alberta oil sands

Some of the dirtiest oil on the planet comes out of Alberta

We mine and ship some of the most toxic oil this planet has seen; some of that oil will in the not too distant future run through a pipeline at the top of this city.

Why Canada is not a leader in the environmentally sound refining of the tar sands oil is a national shame. It is the federal government that holds all those cards.

John Kennedy made America the world leader in space exploration when he said they would put a man on the moon in ten years. It became a mission for that country and they succeeded.

Imagine if our federal government did the same thing with the oil in Alberta? We could have billions of barrels of oil flowing out of the tar sands and into refineries and transported around the world.

There is more oil in our tar sands that there is in the ground in Saudi Arabia – we are an oil rich nation but we insist on selling dirty oil to people that need oil badly.

We have not been as judicially sound as we have been in the past. Our Supreme Court is constantly at odds with the federal government.

We have treated our aboriginal people very poorly in the past and are still doing so to this day. Changes are beginning to take place but the price aboriginal people have had to pay while the rest of us began to learn and understand how badly our governments treated these people has been very high.

Residential school

To our everlasting shame – we did this to our aboriginal people – some thought we we doing the right thing. Most people didn’t even know what was being done.

Many aboriginal communities are seriously dysfunctional and we blame that dysfunction on the racist belief that these people are not ready to govern themselves. We have been wrong in the past and we are wrong now.

Some of our police forces are beginning to look a little like those south of the border. We treat our criminals so badly that they remain criminals for as long as they live. Punishment is part of behaviour change but there are limits which our federal government doesn’t appear to understand – they just keep opening up more prisons and treating those in prison in a manner that all but guarantees they will return soon after they are released.

And we spend a princely sum to keep convicts in prisons but won’t spend an amount anywhere near on a national day care program.

As a society we have yet to realize that no one was born a murderer or a bank robber – the society we are played some part of what happened to turn an innocent into as criminal.

Vote for me - keep calmAs we move closer towards a critical election in just over 100 days this might be a good time to reflect on the Canada you want and which government you believe will get us all there.

In two years we will have been a country for 150 years – will we be different then?

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What does $50 million of red tape look like? Provincial government has saved us a bundle by using less of the stuff.

News 100 blueBy Staff

June 30th, 2015


What does $50 million worth of red tape look like?

If you’ve ever had to fill informs for any government agency – city hall for that matter – you know what I’m talking about.

In a self-serving media release the province announces that it has streamlined services to help businesses succeed and grow and that this has led to $50 million in savings and 2.4 million saved hours for businesses across the province in the last four years.

Red tape with hand

Business people and citizens drown in red tape while the bureaucrats keep making more of it. They have forms you need to order forms

The idea is to reduce unnecessary regulatory and administrative processes that cost businesses time and money. The report features 28 initiatives across government that are modernizing services and making it easier for businesses to succeed, including:

• Creating a new online system for processing payments for the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care’s Assistive Devices Program — reducing wait times for payments and saving registered vendors $16.7 million and an estimated 500,000 hours over four years.

• A new, convenient online compliance check tool available to businesses with a good track record, as an alternative to full inspections under the Employment Standards Act,- saving these businesses an estimated $725,000 and 36,500 hours over two years.

• Streamlining regulations and processes with the Ministry of Transportation’s simplified testing requirements for senior commercial drivers to renew their licences — saving drivers $1.87 million and an estimated 57,000 hours over a year.

Red tape signage

This could be the logo that could be printed on T-shirts that bureaucrats could wear – that way we would know who they are.

Ontario has set a target of reducing burdens to save business $100 million by the end of 2017. With $50 million of savings so far, our province is halfway to reaching its target. This is part of our government’s broader strategy, aimed at reducing unnecessary burdens to businesses across Ontario. Since 2008, our government has eliminated more than one in six regulatory requirements – or 80,000 regulatory burdens, leading to more efficient, streamlined processes.

And if you believe all this – there is a nice parcel of land in Florida I would love to sell you.

What I want to know is – how many civil servants did the counting of all those hours that were saved?

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Politician sponsors a law that tells politicians how to govern themselves - and it gets passed. Rivers gives it a C

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

June 26, 2015


I have a friend who would like nothing better than to see all political parties banned. Representatives should follow the wishes of the people who elected them, not be desk-thumping seals obeying the every whim of the prime minister and his entourage. For him, Canada’s federal government, with its powerful leadership clique and strict party discipline, best resembles a limited autocracy.

Magna Carta

The signing of the Magna Carta – the document that began the process of taking power away from Kings

But is partisanship the culprit? Political parties are the wheels that have been driving the evolution of the democratic form, excepting the obscure Greek experiments with direct democracy. Not to downplay the importance of the Magna Carta, it was the Whig (Liberals) party in Britain which wrestled autocratic executive power away from the King, and brought us our modern parliamentary template.

So, perhaps, the issue has more to do with leadership style than governance structure. And, in that vein, my friend likes to blame Pierre Trudeau. He says that PET initiated the style, adopted by subsequent leaders, of absolute control over public policy and decision-making. And he is even more critical of Mr. Harper, who makes PET look like a wuss in this regard.

Ontario Tory back bencher and maverick, Michael Chong, finally got his private member’s Reform Act through the system. Chong held a couple of ministerial posts in the 2006 Conservative government before quitting Cabinet in disgust over the ‘Québécois nation motion’. Having doomed himself to eternal back-benching by his action, he then focused his creative juices on reforming the party system to rein in the near absolute power of party leaders.

I’ve never been a fan of government writing laws to regulate its own behaviour. Laws like the Mike Harris balanced budget legislation and the latest federal copycat version of that are good examples of bad legislation. Unworkable, impractical and unnecessary, there are enough holes in that federal budget law for the PM to drive a Mack truck through – as he did with his fixed elections date law.

I always figured that budgets were what we paid the government to sort out in our best interests. It’s their job, why do they need a law? And this so-called Reform Act is about how the party’s rule themselves. Mundane matters like selecting caucus chairs and nominating candidates are the stuff of this bill. Well, at least that is all that was left, after his own party got through with it.

Let’s remember that political parties are already governed under the Elections Act and by Elections Canada. There are stiff penalties for misdeeds, as Harper’s protege and former spokesperson, Dean Del Mastro, recently discovered. He is the winner of a month’s free room and board in the ‘Big House’ for breaking campaign spending rules and trying to cover it up.

When Justin Trudeau heard about potential sexual misconduct by two of his Liberal MPs, a while back, he immediately suspended them from his caucus. Under the Reform Act he now would not be able to do that without jumping through a bunch of hoops and hurdles. You be the judge if that makes us better off – but it sure did tick off Chong’s boss, and that may have been his main point.

Conservative MP Michael Chong addresses a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday December 3, 2013. Chong is introducing a bill that would give party caucuses significant powers - including the ability to vote out their leader.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Conservative MP Michael Chong introduced a bill that would give party caucuses significant powers – including the ability to vote out their leader – and it was actually passed by the House of Commons.

Chong, not only had to grovel to get this bill past his own party members in the House of Commons, but almost lost it in the Senate, where one Conservative senator threatened to kill it. Meanwhile the opposition parties were rubbing their hands and cheering him on. That tells us as much about the legislation as it does them.

And Mr. Chong objected to the bill being sent to the Senate, given that it only concerned procedures in the House of Commons, and the Senate has no authority over the lower house. Besides the Senate is a mess and has become a laughing stock. That institution can’t even manage itself let alone pass judgement on what goes on among MPs in the House of Commons.

It’s not just Duffy, who is still on trial, but all the other scoundrels scarfing down all the goodies to be snatched from the public trough. The person most likely to put Canada’s Senate out of its misery, the high polling NDP leader Mulcair, hasn’t announced whether that will be on his election platform this fall. But he and Saskatchewan’s premier Wall are sure making a lot of noise.

Interestingly Mr. Trudeau has taken the party out of the Senate, at least if they call themselves Liberals. That sounds a lot like what my friend was craving – replacing the thumping seals with non-partisan representatives. Except they’re not really representatives – don’t really represent anyone but themselves.

So long as senators are unelected, they will always be seen as patronage appointments – whatever their political colour. On the other hand, an elected Senate would compromise parliamentary decision-making, as indeed moving to an elected Senate has done in the USA. So more Canadians are coming to accept that it may not just the bath water, but this baby, which needs tossing out.

As for Chong’s law, it prescribes no new penalties, so the Election Act and Parliament of Canada Act are the fall backs. But I doubt Mr. Trudeau or Mr. Harper would serve jail time for expelling the next delinquent MP without having first put it to a vote in caucus. I’d give him a B+ for his good intentions, an A for effort and a C for the actual bill.

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. Up until yesterday Rivers was president of the Flamborough –  Glanbrook  federal Liberal Association.  We could not have a president of a federal constituency association writing an opinion column on the upcoming federal election – Rivers resigned the presidency of the association last night and will take a break during part of  July and return in August – unless of course there is some breaking political news that stirs him from his summer slumber.

Background links:

Chong’s Law      Opposition Support      Passing Chong’s Law

Trudeau’s Law     Mulcair’s Law      Harper’s Law

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Craven’s behavior gives a whole new definition to politicians being in bed with developers.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper

June 26, 2015


Some people in each community listen carefully, ask probing questions and trust their member of Council to keep them up to date on what is happening in their community and to protect the best the community has.

Every member of a city council has their own unique style; something that defines who they are and the way they see their job.

In Burlington there are a number of different political styles. Councillor Marianne Meed Ward was once out on Christmas Day picking up garbage when a resident called her t complain.

During the flood last August Ward 4 Councillor Jack Dennison walked into hundreds of basements to personally see the damage done.

Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman put his heart on his sleeve when her spoke to a group of Rotarians during the Rubfest launch and pleaded for help for the people in his community.

Ward 3 Councillor John Taylor doesn’t hold meetings for his constituents – they are more like family get togethers – he has been in office that long.

Blair Lancaster - almost holding court with her constituents at a corn roast.

Blair Lancaster – almost holding court with her constituents at a corn roast.

Blair Lancaster in ward 6 tends to have two different public styles; one that gets used for those south of Dundas and another that gets used when she is politicking north of Dundas; there is nothing duplicitous ion this approach – she is dealing with two different mind sets and adjust her message to meet her understanding of each community.

Ward 1 Councillor Rick Craven, who gave up talking to the Gazette when we wrote something about him he didn’t like, held a community meeting.

Last Wednesday evening Councillor Craven held a community meeting to talk about the 324 townhouse project on Masonry Court being developed by the ADI Group. It wasn’t a particularly unpopular project – the meeting didn’t cheer when the presentation was over – they just thought the developer could do something that was more “livable” and “imaginative”. “Not very creative” was the most stinging comment.  He was speaking to an audience of about 40 people who were for the most part involved in their community and wanted to know more.

Councillor told them that the population of Aldershot had grown by just 4000 people in the last 15 years and that without more in the way of growth the chances of there ever seeing a grocery store in the west end of the community were very slim.

Rick Craven: Best committee chair the city has; not big on the warm fuzzy stuff through.  Needs a hug badly.

Rick Craven: Best committee chair the city has; not big on the warm fuzzy stuff through. Needs a hug badly.

Rick Craven

Ward 1 Councillor Rick Craven – seems to have forgotten everything he knew about the ADI project on Martha at Lakeshore Road.

The meeting was just like most community meetings in Aldershot; people listened and asked questions and for the most part got fair answers.

Until ..

Until one woman asked the speaker from the ADI Group to tell her a little about the company – she’d never heard of them before.

The company representative told their story – sort of. He skirted totally the situation with the 28 storey application that ADI had made to the city for an application at the corner of Martha and Lakeshore Road which the city and planning department was completely against – including Councillor Craven.

ADI rendering second view from SW

The ADI Group’s 28 storey development proposal on the downtown core was not mentioned at a meeting about their Masonry Court development.

The rules that govern development applications are such that if the planning department doesn’t do something with an application the developer can take their case to the Ontario Municipal Board. Burlington city council didn’t get to vote formally on the project within that 180 day window.

On the 181st day ADI had taken their case to the OMB.

The project is one that the city feels is a mistake from a development point of view and has been consistently vocal about.

But not a word about this issue from Councillor Craven when a constituent asked to know more about the company.

Councillor Craven had an obligation to tell his constituents that there was a problem with a major ADI development application and they were playing a very sharp game – albeit within the rules of the game.

Craven’s behavior gives a whole new definition to politicians being in bed with developers.

Background links:

Aldershot community meeting Wednesday June 23rd, 2015

Full profile on ward 1 Councillor.

Councillor chooses not to represent his constituents; property expropriated.

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Rivers gets carried away with what he thinks Bob Rae can do for Canada; Trudeau suggests a different way to count the ballots - Tories continue to spend a bundle on advertising.

Rivers 100x100Ray Rivers

June 19. 2015


“If I didn’t think he was ready I wouldn’t have stepped aside,” former interim Liberal leader Bob Rae noted. He was speaking at a gathering of Flamborough-Glanbrook Liberals Thursday night in the intimate Cafe Troy in West Flamborough. Of course, Rae was referring to the recent Conservative attack ads aimed at Justin Trudeau, as he addressed the crowd who had come to support local federal candidate Jennifer Stebbing.

Rae event, Troy, June 18, 2015, Ralph Wilson photo (30)

Flamborough-Glanbrook Liberal candidate Jennifer Stebbing with Bob Rae Thursday night in the Cafe Troy in West Flamborough.

As I introduced the former Liberal interim leader and provincial Premier, rhyming off his numerous accomplishments, I couldn’t help thinking how perfectly qualified he would be to help navigate Canada’s political waters should there be an impasse after the election this October. A three party split could well see the Conservatives run up through the middle of the two centre-left parties, but I’m betting on another parliamentary minority.

In 1985 Bob Rae’s third place NDP crawled into bed with David Peterson’s second place Liberals, to give birth to the first non-Tory Ontario government in over four decades. Their two-year fling ended in grief for the NDP, though that party gained considerable credibility and was well positioned for its first ever Ontario majority in 1990.

At the end of 2007 when Stephen Harper’s minority Conservatives were facing parliamentary revolt over the economy, the two national opposition leaders, Jack Layton and Stephan Dion, formed a coalition aimed at removing him. Harper survived by shutting down Parliament until he could persuade Canadians he had changed his economic policy, and the once-eager coalition partners had cooled their jets.

Once again it was Bob Rae who was given the job of picking up the pieces of the stillborn coalition idea. However, enthusiasm for any kind of coalition with a third party had soon dissipated as Liberals reaffirmed their determination to regain a majority on their own.

There is no certainty over where this year’s October election will land us, and for that reason alone, it may be the most interesting election in modern Canadian times. Bob Rae speculated that, like what we saw in Alberta last month, many voters are fatigued, tired, disillusioned and bored with the status quo, and looking for a change. And that means either or both of the opposition parties could benefit.

The Conservatives have been ramping up their advertising, burning up our taxpayer dollars, as sitting governments running on their record are wont to do. They can be expected to re-announce existing programs in an attempt to project an air of progress into their campaign. This was evident when they recently announced some previously allocated infrastructure money for Toronto. And of course the attack ads will continue, though they may shift onto the NDP, providing Mulcair keeps polling this well.

In the context of this electoral uncertainty, Mr. Trudeau has announced his latest tranche of policy, this time improving our imperfect democracy by changing how we elect our members. The Greens and NDP have long advocated changing to a more representative system of electing parliamentarians, though Canadians have so-far rejected proportional representation.

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.

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.  Picture taken when Trudeau was last in Burlington – the hair is shorter now

So ranked or preferential balloting may be in the cards if Trudeau’s party wins the election. That would ensure that all MPs have been elected with at least 50% of the vote as a first or second choice. And that would mean that the party in power would have been elected with the support of at least half of all Canadians, compared to the thirty-something percent the Conservatives got in the last election.

With the Conservatives opposed to anything but first-past-the-post, there would need to be a Liberal, NDP or Liberal-NDP government to change the system. And that may be where Mr. Rae comes in, if he is invited to help put a centre-left coalition together to bring about electoral change. After all, he’s been there before. Who knows the two parties better?


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


Background links:

Bob Rae    Mulcair Government-In-Waiting    Trudeau Open Democracy

Tories Advertising   Tories Infrastructure /

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Rivers hope the Pope talked to Harper about putting an end to polluting the heavens.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

June 12, 2015


“Mr. Putin runs an entirely different system … he runs an economy that is dominated by oligarchs and criminal syndicates. It is not at all like our economy, it doesn’t share our interests, it doesn’t share our values, and so I think we need to have discussions where we can really rally the shared interests of the Western democratic world.” (CBC).

This was one of Canadian PM Stephen Harper’s clearest foreign policy statements.

Cynics might say that he is just catering to the Ukrainian diaspora in Canada – playing politics from abroad in an election year. But he has been consistent on this issue from the get-go, and as such, brings a constructive voice into the mix of confusion over how to solve a problem like Putin.


Prime Minister laying a wreath at a memorial in Kiev.

Notwithstanding his refusal to back up his aggressive stand by supplying defensive weapons, Ukrainian leaders have no greater friend than Canada’s Prime Minister. And his voice has apparently influenced decision-making at the latest G7 meeting in Bavaria, where unanimous consent was obtained to keep economic sanctions on Russia.

The G7, established in 1975 as the Group of 6 (G6) is comprised of the chief financial officers and heads of government of the USA, UK, France, Germany, Italy and, as of 1976, Canada. The G7 can claim to be global power brokers since they represent the majority of the planet’s economic power and wealth.

Canada was an after-thought addition to the original club. We represent the smallest population and economy of the group, though we can boast the second highest per capita GDP and human development index rating. This G7 group is not to be confused with the G20, which includes the G7 as well as other big nations, and collectively controls about 80 percent of global wealth. And as if it were not confusing enough, the European Union established another G5 (now G6) in the nineties.

Russia became a member of the G7 sometime after the disintegration of the USSR, making it the G8, but was kicked out last year after it invaded the Ukraine. Although it’s economy is slightly greater than that of Canada, it’s GDP per capita is only a third of ours – a developing-nation standard of living. That and the other arguments Mr. Harper’s raised are good reasons for its expulsion.

Gold bars

Would returning to the Gold standard make a difference?

The G7 was originally constituted to deal with the aftermath of the US leaving the gold standard. But the Group of Seven have evolved into a forum to discuss economic and trade issues, such as the pending credit default by Greece. Still, when you get a bunch of chief executives from the world’s most powerful nations together, they’ll talk about whatever they want.

So in addition to Greece, the Islamic State (IS), Ukraine and Climate Change were on the agenda. German Chancellor Merkel was passionate about making climate change a priority. France hosts the next global climate change conference at the end of this year, and was hoping the G7 would support something like zero emissions by mid-century.

Japan and Canada, for different reasons, were not ready to sign onto a resolution to stop burning fossil fuels by 2050. So they picked a date, out of thin air, and the rest of the members compromised with 2100 – the lowest common denominator. Well, at least, I won’t be around to criticize the PM, should he miss that target, But neither will he – and that is the point. He might just as well have chosen 2200 or 2300 – it means nothing.

The Ukraine and IS conflicts are serious business. Almost 7,000 people have been killed over the last year in Ukraine, and there are unfounded claims of 10,000 deaths from the US-led bombing alone. There is lots of wrong doing, illegality and immorality to go around, and two sides to every story, but we are the good guys, right?

So what about climate change? The World Health Organization estimates a quarter million deaths annually between 2030 and 2050 and economic costs of up to $4 B a year as a result of this phenomenon. As fixated as we are on Ukraine and IS, isn’t this a bigger picture? Or is there something amiss with our values and interests? I mean, how moral is inter-generational inequality?

Mr. Harper’s European vacation included a ten minute meeting with the Pope, whose office claims to be the pinnacle of morality. Our PM has been asked, by our first nations to give the Pope a message, to apologize for what his church, among others, did to Canada’s aboriginal residential students.

But Harper didn’t ask, choosing to continue his tirade on Russia instead. Pope Francis is a bit of a rock star, and who knows, he might have apologized. No doubt he had already lectured Mr. Putin about the morality of the Ukraine conflict when they met a day earlier.


Pope checking on the heavens – just how polluted are they?

The next big campaign for the Pontiff is fighting climate change. So it is likely this topic came up in his discussions with our PM, but he’s not saying. The Pope has many allies in this battle to save the planet as we know it, including the US and Chinese leaders, and the Europeans.

Mr. Harper would do well to ponder the words he used to describe the Russian leader – the ones about interests and values and belonging to a club that shares values. Should he be re-elected PM later this year, those very words may come back to haunt him, as he finds himself lonely if not alone, in Paris, at the climate change conference.

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:

Harper on Russia       Harper and Climate Change       G20       G7

Harper and Carbon Taxes       Putin and the World       ISIL Conflict

Climate Change Costs       AFN and the Pope

Pope might talk to Harper about pollution


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Regional police just bursting with pride - will show their SUV in the Toronto Pride Parade.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

June 6, 2015


Just two weeks away from PRIDE week in Toronto, the Halton Regional Police are jumping the gun and declared they are proud to celebrate our diverse LGBTQ+ community and are excited to support and participate in the Pride Parade with a newly decorated police SUV.

The Halton Regional Police Service has built strong partnerships with our LGBTQ+ communities within Halton and in particular, with Marcus Logan, Supervisor, LGBTQ+ Education and Support Services for the Positive Space Network in Halton as well as the Reach Out Centre for Kids (R.O.C.K.)

HRPS cruieser with rainbow stripesOn Sunday June 28, 2015, a significant number of service members will be attending the PRIDE parade to march alongside our decorated cruiser. We look forward to joining many other police and emergency services, coming together to support, encourage and promote inclusivity for our LGBTQ+ community.

In addition, our PRIDE cruiser will also be featured at the Halton pride event that is scheduled to take place on Saturday August 15, 2015 at Central Park in the City of Burlington.

“My long standing partnership and collaborative relationship with the Halton Regional Police Service is one that I am sincerely proud of. The PRIDE cruiser is more than a gesture of inclusion; this is a visible commitment to the ongoing diversity and inclusion work both our agencies are doing together in Halton.” says Logan. “I remember the first time we saw the pride flags flying across Halton, it was such a hopeful and moving sight. The PRIDE cruiser has evoked those feelings in me once again and I am sure that our LGBTQ+ youth and families and allies will experience the same when they see the PRIDE cruiser in their community.” – Logan

I always thought Burlington didn’t want to be like Toronto.  At least now we know where some of our tax dollars go,

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