Columnist Ray Rivers re-charges his batteries in New Zealand; adds his comments to a Globe and Mail editorial.

backgrounder 100By Staff

December 30, 2014


The Globe and Mail editorial of December 27, 2014 sums up the year and the ongoing performance of our Prime Minister.  We saw that editorial as significant enough to re-print it.

Rivers on a beach in NZ

Columnist Ray Rivers on sabbatical enjoying a beach in New Zealand – that is really green grass in the background.

Our regular political columnist, Ray Rivers, is currently on a short two month sabbatical and will be writing once every two weeks.  He wanted to comment on this editorial.  His remarks are shown in a different typeface,

From the Globe and Mail: I can’t even get my friends to like me,” Stephen Harper said this year. A joke, obviously, delivered during a moving eulogy for his close friend and political ally Jim Flaherty in April. But more than a joke, too.
The Prime Minister has never been the cuddliest of humans; he was once photographed shaking his young son’s hand as he dropped him off at school.

It is a mistake for us to believe Canadian’s falling support for Mr. Harper is about his personality. He is an introvert, which is not his fault. His trailing Trudeau in the polls has more to do with most Canadians feeling we are going in the wrong direction and could be doing better. It is more about his policies (than his personality) which are divisive – pitting the west against the east, a cynical foreign policy based on ethnocentric values, and stale economic policies which are serving to widen the wealth gap among Canadians.

That formality can be a strength in crises. After the two attacks on Canadian soldiers in October, Mr. Harper’s natural gravitas was reassuring to Canadians. It even gave his party a noticeable bump in the polls in November.
But the ring of truth in Mr. Harper’s quip reverberates less because of his solemn demeanour than it does because of the unyielding way he plays political hardball. The Prime Minister is not someone you want as a friend, politically-speaking, and much less someone you’d want as an enemy.

Not a friend and not an enemy – what does that leave us with? There are times when his demeanour makes us admire him, as in his response post the Parliament Hill fiasco. But then his lack of breadth of vision leaves us to wonder if he gets it at all. Somehow It doesn’t sink into his think skull that the shooting is the kind of thing that should be expected when you abolish the long gun registry, or jump into a war. Oh and Mr. tough guy hid in a closet during the incident, mimicking his own ‘Bush-like’ 911 courage.

He fights ruthlessly and without remorse. He dumps inconvenient allies, sows division with abandon, treats Parliament with contempt and works 24/7 to control what Canadians know and hear about him, usually through the hearty application of muzzles and misdirection.

I’d agree that he governs in an autocratic manner and is control-freak possessed, banning public contact with the public service, for example. Sometimes I wonder if he has not been understudying Mr. Putin. And his lack of loyalty to those who did his dirty work does not wear well on him. I’d add Duffy, Wright, Wallin to that list.

That’s not news, and nor is it all that peculiar to one politician. But, in 2014, the Prime Minister’s bloody-mindedness began to feel like a liability. With him as leader, the party has consistently trailed Justin Trudeau’s kinder, gentler Liberals in the polls in spite of the country’s relatively stable economy. If the Conservatives under Mr. Harper lose the general election next fall, this year may be remembered as the one when Canadians, including members of the Conservative Party, decided their leader’s ruthlessness was no longer worth the cost.

If Harper loses it will be because Canadians want a fresh face and a fresh approach to governing – out with the old divisiveness and back to some core Canadian ‘liberal democratic values’ such as fairness (e.g. how the PM mis-treats Ontario and Quebec).

One of the more telling moments of 2014 came the day after an armed man had stormed Parliament and been killed within metres of a room where Mr. Harper was meeting with his caucus. The morning was marked by sadness and courage as MPs returned to the House of Commons in a display of solidarity; the Prime Minister spoke movingly about the symbolic importance of Parliament, and he even gamely walked across the floor to hug the Leader of the Opposition, Tom Mulcair, and Mr. Trudeau.

And then, several hours later, the Harper government dumped another monstrous omnibus bill onto the Commons, an act knowingly contemptuous of the Parliament the Prime Minister had just praised as the lodestar of Canadian democracy.
Omnibus bills are designed to defeat Parliament’s oversight role. The thick bills allow majority governments to push through major policy changes with little debate by combining multiple unrelated issues into one over-sized turkey. They are an abuse of process; the Conservatives have tabled four since 2010, and the most recent was the second largest.
Mr. Harper was also a repeat offender in 2014 with regard to the dispatching of belligerent junior ministers and hapless parliamentary secretaries to defend problematic legislation in the House or derail Question Period. Pierre Poilievre’s smarmy sales job of the flawed Fair Elections Act and his subsequent climb-down in April were the low points of the year. Or would have been, had not Paul Calandra reduced himself to tears in September after a demeaning display of question-dodging on Mr. Harper’s behalf.

That is a good point, that while previous governments have employed omnibus bills to move milestone, ‘sea change’ policies, Harper appears to use the approach more cynically, to hide stuff. Former justice minister Trudeau used omnibus legislation to make Canada a world leader in social policy under the Pearson government – but it was consistent and transparent.

Both incidents embarrassed some Conservatives as much as they outraged opposition MPs.
This was also the year a former Conservative MP, Dean Del Mastro, was convicted of overspending his campaign limit and trying to cover it up, and a former party staffer, Michael Sona, was convicted in the robo-call scandal. Mr. Harper has distanced himself from both men and their actions, of course, as he did with his former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, who somehow believed it was appropriate to pay off the ineligible expenses of a Conservative senator in 2013. No one would dare say that the Prime Minister endorses unethical activities, but there are people in his party who think that anything goes.

And why wouldn’t they? Mr. Harper showed in 2014 that he will play with his elbows out even in the most inappropriate situation. That brings us to Beverly McLachlin, the respected Chief Justice of the Supreme Court whose integrity the Prime Minister deliberately impugned in an absurd and indefensible fashion. He raised a doubt about whether Ms. McLachlin had interfered with the appointment of a new judge, and was then exposed for being completely and knowingly wrong. His grievous misjudgment demonstrated once and for all that there is no Canadian institution he considers sacred if it stands in his way.

There is no excuse for Mr. Harper’s attempt to embarrass the senior justice of the country – in the end he only embarrassed himself. If he so lacks respect for our fundamental institutions – why should anyone respect him or his?

Other consequences of Mr. Harper’s antipathy to Parliament and to Canadian institutions in 2014 included but were not limited to two crime bills that were sent to the Senate containing serious errors, the use of taxpayer dollars on government advertising that happens to align with Conservative election promises, and a new prostitution law that is likely to fail a Charter challenge, and which police forces across the country have little intention of enforcing, thanks to the government’s refusal to listen to contrary opinions while the bill was in that former house of debate we know as Parliament.

It is remarkable that having seen the existing prostitution law thrown out by the courts as dangerous to the security of sex workers, his justice minister brings in a replacement which is even worse. A clear case of ideology trumping competence.

Ask Mr. Harper how it’s going after almost nine years in office and he – along with every single member of his party – will robotically respond that his government is continuing to fight for hard-working Canadian families and lowering their taxes. It’s a spiel that talks past his government’s many flaws. Mr. Harper is responsible for those flaws, which are mirror images of his own, and gets the credit for his party’s successes. Those include an economy that is not great but better than most, shrinking deficits, a real attempt to reform immigration and native education, tax cuts targeted at core constituencies and the effort to help defeat Islamic State in Iraq.

Not a bad record. The question in 2015 will be, Is it worth it? Or could someone else, inside or outside the party, achieve results on the same scale while respecting Parliament and setting a higher ethical standard?

No its not a bad record, except for all the deficiencies the G&M notes. Mr. Harper set out as PM to transform Canada, to make it a nation that more closely reflects his own values, some of which we agree with. And to some extent he has been successful in shaping attitudes and developing a following. How many followers we will only know after the next election, when we put to the real test whether his lagging poll numbers mean anything at all.

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

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What Lies Ahead for 2015? A federal election - sooner than you think and a budget that will have a pretty thin surplus.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

December 26, 2014



Canada faces an important federal election this year. There will be clear choices for the voters because the philosophies of the Liberals and Conservatives are so different. The NDP has been an effective opposition, but few Canadians are convinced that the party has much to offer, and expect the NDP to almost certainly fall back to its traditional third place standing.

The Harper government introduced a fixed-date election law back in 2007, which ordinarily would mean an election be held on the 3rd Monday of October this coming year. But a debate is emerging Harper election law: An election be held on the 3rd Monday of October this coming year.about whether the PM will go to the voters earlier, arguably breaking his own law in the interests of political expediency.

Driving that speculation is consideration of Canada’s external rather than internal environment. I’’m not talking about ISIS, Iran and North Korea. These are merely distractions from the important global geo-political conflict – the one looming in eastern Europe. Vladimir Putin’s latest aggressions have plunged the world back into cold war mode with a potential for much more significant consequences.

Mr. Harper was foremost among world leaders in condemning Putin’s actions. And he will find enhanced electoral support among Ukrainian Canadians for his strong stand, much as he has found among some Jewish voters, who support his one-sided pro-Israeli policies. But it is the economic consequences of this conflict which will determine his timing on the election.

Pipes waiting for the Keystone go ahead

Pipes waiting for US government approval before they can be buried and used to carry oil from the Alberta tar sands.

It’s mostly all about oil prices. The Saudis and Americans are flooding the market with cheap oil, Russia’s main export and the basis of that nation’s economic strength. Since the price of oil has fallen to less than $50 per barrel, the Ruble has been cut in half and the country is now facing a major recession. In this way, oil pricing has turned out to be even more effective than sanctions at hurting Putin’s Russia, though neither appear to be able to curb his aggressive tendencies

Keystone pipeline cartoon

Harper government waits patiently for some movement on the Keystone pipeline that is supposed to carry oil from Alberta to US markets.

Canada’s economy is also dependent on oil prices, though to a lesser extent than Russia. Since becoming PM, Harper has made the export of oil the central pillar of his economic policy, while jeopardizing our agriculture sector through new trade initiatives, and virtually ignoring Canada’s industrial base. Labelled the ‘Dutch Disease’, we have watched manufacturing and other industries in Ontario and Quebec die-off as oil exports lifted our loonie, thereby making Canadian goods and services less competitive globally.

Having cut corporate and other taxes, the federal budget has become more reliant on oil patch revenues than ever. And it was income from oil that was going to take Canada into the ‘black’ just in time for the PM’s 2015 budget. But, now, that is unlikely to happen, and the longer oil prices stay depressed, the bigger the deficit we can expect in 2015.

Harper has put a lot of his eggs into demonstrating his prowess at managing the economy, so showing up at election time with a big deficit in the basket is not what he wants. The betting is that he’ll call a spring election rather than risk facing the public come October when he is deeper in the red.
A spring election would also keep him ahead of the investigations into Senate-gate (Duffy, Wallin). And the Tory election machine is reportedly better funded, staffed and organized than either of the opposition parties. So why not?

Lower oil prices are good for consumers, the folks voting, balanced budget or not. It’s no secret that contented voters often share their good will by voting for the status quo. After-all, when you can put the savings from that last fill-up towards your child’s new I-Pad life looks more pleasant.

Harper’s throw-back social policies (mandatory jail, drugs, prostitution) or his assault on the environment (environmental assessment, Fisheries Act, Climate Change) may seem more academic than material when gas prices are lower and the man in charge seems to look like he knows what he is doing.

The situation in Europe seems relatively stable, if uncertain, but it could change rapidly as these things do sometimes. Recall how nobody expected the first world war to last very long – but it did. And Mr. Harper has cultivated a ‘tough guy’ image which would benefit him were we suddenly thrust into some kind of serious conflict over there.

The truth is that Canada has been criticized by NATO for underspending on its military and has cut defence spending even more – in order to achieve what now appears to an elusive balanced budget. And perhaps, in a time of war, people might reflect on just how poorly this government treats our veterans in need.

So it sure looks like a spring election is in the cards this New Year. Have a happy New Year however you decide to cast your ballot.

Background links:

Fixed Elections Law   Russia Conflcit   Dutch Disease

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.

Ray will be having his Christmas Dinner in an airport somewhere as he wings his way to New Zealand where he will vacation, ponder and continue working on his second book,  His regular column will appear every second week; in between will be a short photo essay on life on the other side of the world.

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Limiting what public service employees spend on entertainment and travel - keeping noses out of the trough.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

December 20, 2014



The federal government spends $43 billion (2011/12), which is about half of all direct program spending,  on human resources. That averages out to an annual $115,000 salary for each of the 375,000 full time employees who make up your federal government.

Those salaries, according to the Parliamentary budget officer, have been growing at a faster rate than either the private or the provincial public sector, notwithstanding the federal government’s promised austerity program.

Payday Workers in payrill lineupWorkers in the Ontario Public Sector also do well, receiving higher pay and bigger raises than their private sector counterparts. This can be a bit of an unfair comparison, given the extensive breadth of private employment.

Still the difference is striking, with an average hourly pay rate of $34 for the public servant as opposed to $25 across the private sector. And, this gap has been widening over the years.

Nobody objects to value for money and most of us believe that a better educated employee should generate improved productivity. So part of the reason for the gap may be that Ontario public servants, on the whole, are much better educated than their private sector counterparts, with relatively twice as many holding university degrees (41% to 20%).

The Harris government introduced the ‘Sunshine List’ which identified those public servants earning over $100,000. Today that list includes almost 90.000 employees, having grown by 39% since 2009. While public sector incomes were once said to be pulled-up by the private sector it is evident that the reverse is true today. Generally one can assume that the public employee is as well or better paid than most equivalent jobs in the private sector, including many non-government senior executives.

So what about all those outrageous and improper executive expense claims? The 2015 Pan-Am games are an important economic event for this province and for Canada. There is a 17 member organizing committee, which will have been paid about $21 million of your hard-earned dollars by the time the games are on. The CEO, alone, pulls in over half a million a year.

Expense claim cartoonIn spite of what most people would consider generous compensation these characters have been submitting their personal expense claims as if they were understudying Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin. Hundreds of airline flights over were made the last four years, including one to watch a wake-boarding championship in the Caymans . Three thousand dollars was paid for fourteen limo rides from the airport ($238 per trip)?

And why do we have to send this ‘high-priced help’ back to school to take courses in strategic planning and writing – at public expense? What were they thinking when they purchased over a thousand dollars worth of Harry Rosen dress shirts, ostensibly for team uniforms? There was a wine tasting, loads of lunches with alcoholic beverages, and don’t forget the overpriced orange juice. Though, caught squirming in the cookie jar, they eventually paid-back some of the claims, again taking a page out of the Duffy/Wallin playbook.

This expense claim business is not limited to the Pan-Am crowd. The Hamilton Spectator uncovered that our Hamilton-centered health executives (including Burlington) had racked up over $2 million dollars in expenses over the past seven years. Fully a quarter of these expenses were claimed by the top executives, including the CEO of Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) who earns close to $700,000.

Corruption might be too strong a word but greed pretty well sums it up. We have been taught that money is the major motivator for an individual to perform; and that high salaries are the price we have to pay for good executive decision-making. Yet, we paid over a million dollars to the CEO of Hydro One whose organization was brutally criticized for incompetence by the provincial Auditor General in her latest report. So much for that theory!

So if paying big bucks to a CEO doesn’t guarantee a well run organization, what does it promote? Entitlement? I’d be very surprised if HHS couldn’t find someone else who could run that organization at least as well, for half the salary they’re now paying – much as Burlington’s Joseph Brant does.

Lofty titles, fat salary packages and lavish expense accounts might be very comforting to the recipients of these perks, but personal achievement, peer competition and helping the public likely play a much more important role in motivating public leaders and getting results. Mike Harris was on to a good thing in creating the ‘Sunshine List’ and it is unfortunate he didn’t go the extra step of capping all public service executive salaries, as the Province is rumoured to be considering today.

Yet, the truth is that Ontario’s public sector is already leaner than every other province in Canada. And the government actually has fewer public sector workers and spends less on them per capita than any other province. After all, being the most populous province in the union gives us the advantage of economies of scale.

Ontario’s public sector is already leaner than every other province in Canada.But Ontario is in the process of fighting a massive deficit and combating an overbearing public debt. So while reducing senior executive salaries will not solve that problem on its own, it would be a good start. And better expenses management should be a no-brainer.

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:

Federal Employment     Provincial Employment

Pan-Am Games    Pan-Am Expenses

Pan-Am Expenses    More Pan-Am Expenses    Still More Pan-Am    Even More Pan-Am – 

Sunshine List     Average Earning by Province

Capping Exec Salaries     Motivating Employees     Capping Exec Salaries

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What is the rush? Are they ashamed of the decision they made and want to to make sure the public doesn't have a chance to protest?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

December 17, 2014



What’s the rush?

Has your city Council let the holiday schedule deprive you of an opportunity to review what they have done at their Standing Committees before they rubber stamp their deliberations at Council where bylaws get passed?

The Standing Committee of Development and Infrastructure met on Monday and got a solid briefing on what the Economic Development Corporation has planned. There was a public meeting on a sub-division application for Twelve Mile Trail.

Doug Brown wants an affordable, frequent, reliable transit service.  Is the city prepared to pay for it?

Route 6 and 52 will stay as the are for now. Took close to an hour to make that decision.

There was a review of transit service for the Headon Road part of town – routes 6 and 52 during which Councillor Dennison managed to use more than half an hour trying to work out all the twists and turns the buses on that route should take.

There was a lot of huffing and puffing over what a municipal council can and can’t do with development applications.

The following day, Tuesday, the Corporate and Community Services committee met and accepted the staff recommendation to sell the lands along the edge of the lake between Market and St. Paul Street.


Mayor Golding mastered the art of the photo op during his first term of office. He is photogenic and that is apparently enough to get elected.

We heard, for the first time, what the Mayor’s thinking was on that momentous decision. It was kind of wishy washy.

The Standing Committee approved 56 pages of changes in rates and fees – those are dollars that you will pay for the use of facilities that your tax dollars paid to have built.

The chair of each standing Committee diligently explains that the Committee does not make final decisions – they make recommendations that go to Council where final decisions are made and by laws are passed.

The practice in Burlington has been for there to be a full week, usually more, for the public to make themselves aware of what has been recommended before it goes to Council.

The public then has some time to think about was has been recommended and appear at Council if they want to offer a different opinion.

In a democracy the elected would welcome – maybe even encourage the public to appear and make their views known so that the elected could make decisions informed by the public.

Some might suggest that the media is in place to inform the public. And it is – but there has been a strange twist. The Burlington Post usually has a reporter at the media table covering meetings.

Tina Depko –Denver covers city hall for the Post – she is a good reporter – she frequently does a better job as a reporter than I do.

She wasn’t at the media table on Tuesday. Why?
We learned at the end of the Standing Committee meeting that Ms Depko –Denver has been hired by the Mayor as his Manager of Communications.

We congratulate Ms Depko-Denver and hope she serves the Mayor well and that she chooses to take direction from the Junius quote atop the Globe and Mail editorial page: “The subject who is truly loyal to the chief magistrate will neither advise nor submit to arbitrary measures”.

Junius, a pseudonym, wrote letters between 1769 and 1762 to inform the public of their historical and constitutional rights and liberties as Englishmen.

The Depko-Denver appointment probably means that the Post will not carry much in the way of news coverage unless they pick up the meeting from the webcast.

The Gazette will publish several pieces on the two Standing Committee meetings and go into some depth on the atrocious decision to sell waterfront property.

City Hall will close down at the end of the day on Tuesday, the 23rd and we won’t see anyone other than the people who keep the building secure until after the New Year. The holiday schedule for city hall is CLOSED between Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2014, reopening on Monday, Jan. 5, 2015. Sweet!

City hall is CLOSED between Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2014, reopening on Monday, Jan. 5, 2015. Sweet!Is there a good reason for not deferring the Council meeting until after the New Year? Well one reason is that would be a lot of time for people to become informed and perhaps “mad as hell” and decide they don’t want to be treated this way anymore.

We did get the municipal government we apparently wanted less than 60 days ago.

What have we done to ourselves?

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Nothing wrong with the Broken Hydro petition; the people behind it are the concern.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

December 11, 2014



One of the things the internet does is give those with something they want to say a much bigger megaphone.

Hydro costs have been a bugbear for Ontarians for some time – one of the Harris government’s gifts to us.

The natives are still biting back – another petition. The organizers of this one ask:


Hydro in Ontario has been broken for some time. It is essential that it be fixed – the solution is not yet clear,

“If you have a billing complaint with hydro one, please make sure you file a complaint with the Ombudsman as he begins his investigation into Hydro One. Click here to file your complaint.

“And if you haven’t yet, please make sure you share your concerns about Ontario’s broken hydro system directly with the Premier, the Minister of Energy, the Ontario Energy Board and Hydro One.

The problem with the petition is its source. Randy Hillier was part of the government that created the problem we have today. Is the petition part of his drive to at some point lead the Progressive Conservative party in Ontario? His views and solutions to some of the provinces problems would take Ontario back to where Mike Harris put us and to where Tim Hudak wanted to keep us.

The province is going through a profound change; the core of its economic engine is threatened and in some cases fractured. General Motors is moving its assembly lines to Mexico.

The province faces a huge demographic shift; we are now a much more demographically diversified people and we have a growing seniors’ population that we have to care for at considerable cost.

Adjusting to these changes is going to take political leadership that looks forward and not backwards. Randy Hillier is as backward looking as you can get.

The petition has merit – the guy behind it; questionable.

A Petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario
To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

Whereas, the cost of electricity in Ontario continues to escalate;

And Whereas, other charges associated with electricity, such as delivery, regulatory, global adjustment and debt retirement charges make electricity increasingly unaffordable;

And Whereas, these costs have imposed a significant hardship on ratepayers and driven industry and jobs out of Ontario;

We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:

That the Premier and the Minister of Energy reduce the waste and duplication in Ontario’s electricity sector and other necessary steps to lower the cost of electricity so that Ontario’s electricity prices are competitive with other jurisdictions.

Sign here:

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Rivers gives provincial auditor general a close look; she doesn't get a very good grade.

Rivers 100x100Ray Rivers

December 11, 2014



The provincial Auditor General (AG) is an essential part of a system of good government. Being independent and reporting directly to the Legislative Assembly, the auditor “conducts value-for-money and financial audits of the provincial government”. The 2014 report targeted a number of areas including infrastructure, child care and energy (smart meters).

If Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk wants to attack public policies instead of doing what she is being paid for - to evaluate programs - she should join a political party.The office of the AG is not inexpensive, chewing up over $15 million dollars annually and employing about a dozen people each year. This year’s report weighed in at 600 pages, more than twice the size of the New Testament. And though the language is simpler than what we find in the Bible, there is so much redundancy and superfluous description interspersed among all the pretty graphics, that it is might also be as good a remedy for insomnia as some find in the pews of their church.

I have been involved in audit processes at both federal and provincial levels over the years. For the most part the auditors work closely with government officials, and in many cases simply regurgitate what they were told by officials – making for few surprises for the officials. That seems to be the case when this year’s report examined the processes for building infrastructure; 74 building projects were considered.

The AG noted that the “tangible costs (such as construction, financing, legal services, engineering services and project management services) were estimated to be nearly $8 billion higher than… if the projects were contracted out and managed by the public sector.” That waste of money seems logical given the complications and extra rewards required for private sector involvement.

But Infrastructure Ontario officials justified this additional expense arguing that “the risks of having the projects not being delivered on time and on budget were about five times higher if the public sector directly managed these projects.” They estimated this risk at $18.6 billion making the, so-called, alternate financing partnership a no-brainer for them. But are they really serious – five times?

Me thinks that something is rotten in the state of the Ontario public service. Not much wonder the recent billion-dollar gas plant relocation fiasco was handled so casually. Why isn’t the management at Infrastructure Ontario saying WTF, or better still doing something to change that statistic (five times the risk)?

Smart Meters Work

The technology was going to let the consumer make choices.

Following the Harris/Eves government screw-up of the energy file (de-regulation and privatization), politicians jumped onto the smart meter bandwagon as a panacea for spiraling electricity costs. The AG attacks the decision-making process and much of her criticism centres on a cost-benefit feasibility study performed, after-the-fact. Imaginary numbers (guesstimates) lie at the heart of her criticism.

Smart meter

They were going to change the way we used electricity.

In addition, she fairly critiques the lack of oversight on implementation, accountability and general management, particularly for the Hydro One empire. That smart meters may be an essential piece of infrastructure in a transition towards more efficient energy delivery and providing greater control of one’s hydro bill to the consumer is not really something the AG considers, nor perhaps should.

And sometimes the AG isn’t very insightful or even helpful, as when she concluded that there was a “need to provide ministry and agency staff with training to help them do their work more consistently and effectively” for the Child Care, Parole Board, Nominee, and Residential Services for People with Development Disabilities programs. Isn’t that just good counsel for all employees, regardless of program?

MaRs project Toronto PPP

The provincial government used some very creative accounting to approve a loan to complete a building in downtown Toronto that was far from fully rented.

The AG also followed up on whether the government had paid attention to previous recommendations and whether the culprits had cleaned up their acts as a result. Of the 77 recommendations, requiring 170 actions, from the 2012 report, she noted that 81% of had been “either fully implemented or are in the process.”

Impressed with this statistic, one might question whether the AG shouldn’t be brought in earlier – to help program managers’ better design and implement their responsibilities. But that would, of course, shift her role to being both the prosecution and the defence, and immerse her office in a huge conflict of interest.

As the report notes, the mandate for the AG is fairly broad but it is limited to the activities within government ministries and agencies. So it is at some risk to her office that the AG ventures into criticizing general public policy, as she does when slamming provincial deficit and debt levels. “Ultimately, the question of how much debt the province should carry and the strategies the government could use to pay it down is one of government policy,” she notes.

So why does she even mention it? It is not like this provincial government is unaware that we have an emerging debt problem in Ontario. Since her interference is not for informative purposes, what is she doing? The good office of the AG compromises its credibility and authority once it decides to shed its independence and go political, as she has clearly done.

If Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk wants to attack public policies instead of doing what she is being paid for – to evaluate programs – she should join a political party. In fact there is an opening right now for leader of the Progressive Conservatives.

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:

AG on Debt   AG on Private Partnerships

AG on Smart Meters    AG Report

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Does the CBC give the public $1 billion in value? Does the free flow of information matter? Ask the Ukranians.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

December 5, 2014



The good old Soviet Union used to control its media for the good of the Fatherland, strengthening national spirt and resolve, and helping its people feel good about their otherwise miserable lives. After all, the Soviet empire was the inspiration for George Orwell’s classic epic ‘1984’.

The moderately free Russian press in the post-Soviet years has virtually now disappeared, after a decade or so of Mr. Putin leading the nation. And last year, after Ukraine’s corrupt Russian-puppet president fled to Moscow, Putin’s propaganda machine went into action, especially in Crimea and the Dunbas, areas where significant numbers of Russian speaking Ukrainians live.

Those folks were warned about Ukraine’s Neo-Nazi’s taking over Kiev’s streets, banning the Russian tongue and committing unspeakable crimes. The bigger the lie, the more likely it will be believed. They say ‘communication is the answer’ but in Ukraine’s case, without a trusted national and bilingual (Russian and Ukrainian) broadcaster, there was no way to counter the lies and to communicate the truth.

CBC logo

CBC – the public broadcaster that covers the country in two languages.

Canada, the UK and the USA all have public broadcast networks funded in part by combinations of advertising, donations or license fees, and public funding. In Canada’s case the CBC gets about a billion dollars a year, about two-thirds of its revenue, from the federal government. For that the corporation operates a network covering the entire country in our two official languages, as well as in a number of aboriginal tongues where needed, to make sure we all get the news.

Our Harper government has been slashing the CBC’s funding but that is not enough for the critics of the CBC, who voice that the service should be spun off, privatized or sold. They would like nothing better than to see such drastic budget cuts until a poverty-stricken and handicapped broadcaster fails, opening more air space for others, like the mega-sized and horizontally-integrated Bell media giant. The recent Ghomeshi mess has played into their hands, casting doubts on the capabilities of senior management, and further disillusioning an already skeptical public.

CBC logo - old version

A graphic that will be remembered by many in Burlington.

Objectivity and fairness used to be the two pillars of broadcasting. The US first passed the Fairness Doctrine in 1949, requiring balanced reporting in all national media. This centrepiece of US broadcast policy was upheld by the courts until 1987, when President Reagan killed the doctrine in the name of free speech. So today the majority of Americans listen to the Australian-owned (Rupert Murdock) extremely right-wing FOX news. ‘Fair and balanced’ is the ironic logo of FOX, which is anything but.

It is arguable whether public attitudes in the US have been influenced by FOX or its philosophically opposed competitor, MSNBC. But why would anyone be surprised that we are undergoing an evolution in our thinking? I mean, most Russians believe that current Ukrainian leaders, including their Jewish prime minster, are Neo-Nazi’s – say a lie enough times and anyone will believe it.

The mandate of the CBC, here in Canada, does not specifically require fairness but the assumption of objectivity is inherent, since primary funding comes from Parliament. It is common place for conservative-minded critics to accuse the media of holding a ‘liberal’ bias – an accusation that flies in the face of the abundance of right-wing media (Sun, National Post, CTV) and so many of the various CBC news folk themselves (e.g. Senator Pamela Wallen or Peter Kent). And no objective review of CBC programs or personalities has ever shown significant bias, liberal or otherwise.

Canadian flag at Quebed referendum

Did Canadians get the information they needed during the Quebec referendum debates? If they did – they got it from the CBC.

Compared to the BBC, with federal subsidy (collected through mandatory household licence fees) of over six billion dollars, the billion federal dollars to maintain the CBC doesn’t seem outrageous. Our Prime Minister spent more than that just to host the week-long G-20/G-8 summit back in 2010.

And for that money the CBC is the largest broadcaster in Canada and the only one with a specific mandate to promote Canadian culture. Its reach extends internationally as well as across Canada – making the broadcaster Canada’s best global ambassador. The CBC production “Little Mosque on the Prairie”, for example, has been syndicated world-wide including in Israel, The West Bank and Gaza.

When in the grip of either of our own sovereignty crises, the two Quebec referenda, every Canadian knew, at least, that they were getting the straight and honest goods – consistently and accurately. The decisions they ultimately made at the ballot box were based on all of the information, not just some separatist propaganda. Worth a billion dollars? Well why not just ask the Ukrainians what they think?

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:
CBC Factum       US Fairness Dotrine      US Freedom of Expression     CBC Broadcasting

CBC Comment      CBC Public Opinion      CBC Information      Ghomeshi and CBC       BBC

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Jean Belliveau: An apreciation.

opinionandcommentBy James Smith

December 3, 2014



All the other kids wore the Rouge, Bleu, Blanc with nombre neuf. We were Anglos but like Roch Carrier’s book, all wanted to be The Rocket. That is all except me, I wanted to be like my dad’s friend, number four, Jean Beliveau. So on the outdoor rink I was number four.

My dad was a DJ in Montreal, and also did the colour commentary for, I think it was radio station CJAD, hockey, football, and the races at Blue Bonnets race track. Dad was always having us meet stars of one kind or another, and as a kid this really didn’t register.

Jean Beliveau

Always at the front of the game; always playing the puck; Jean Beliveau at his best.

That is except for hockey players. Hockey was different, hockey for me, like from most boys at the time, was what we lived for and I was so very lucky to meet most of the greats of the Hab’s dynasty of the late 50’s & early 60’s. The Rocket, the Pocket Rocket, Claud Prenevost, Boom-Boom Geoffrion, but Mr Beliveau was different, he and my dad were friends.

Several Sunday afternoons I got to go with my dad to the Forum, walk to the rafters into the gondola to watch a game. As a kid this was both terrifying and exciting being so high, watching the game, seeing my dad work on the radio and feeling part of the big people’s world. At the end of the game we’d go to the dressing room, my dad would do an interview or two,

Beliveau against the Bruins

He would come out of the curve in the rink with more than enough speed to overtake almost every hockey player in the league.

I’d get to meet my idols, shake their hands, and learn a new word or two in French. Not sure why but “peut-etre” seems to be the one I remember my dad using a lot. We would never leave without my dad and Mr Beliveau having a conversation, they always had a schtick they would do; he was Jean my day was Gene. Mr Beliveau would greet dad with a smile and “Hello Jean!” and my dad would reply “Bonjour Gene!”. They were both big men, and would shake hands an exchange a laugh, and as a little kid, I would look up in awe. My dad was friends with Jean Beliveau!

I do remember an exchange happing one time shopping in downtown Montreal with my parents. We ran into Mr Beliveau and people paused to look as the two men exchanged a few words. I shook Mr Beliveau’s hand while enquiring “comment allez vous?” Mr Beliveau then remarked about my red white and blue toque.

With my tiny bit of childhood French I informed the captain of the Montreal Canadiens it was a REAL Canadiens “chapeau rouge avec pom-pom bleu”. A little taken back he got a big grin and started to laugh and patted me on the shoulder, said a few more words to my parents, then bid us good-bye.

jean-beliveau at 80

Jean Beliveau at 80 – still the captain

Today with Mr Beliveau’s passing, I will remember Mr Beliveau a giant of a man, who had time for a little kid, and as a friend of my late father who towered over me on the streets of downtown Montreal, laughing.


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What is the definition of Burlington's BEST? Should nominations come from family or should they come from a community that wants to recognize exemplary service?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

November 28, 2014



Many a political career has been started with a citizen serving on a city board or committee.

There are hundreds of people as well who have served on a board and found immense satisfaction in being able to make a difference.

Burlington citizen advisory committees provide Council and staff with input about a wide variety of subjects through discussions, presentations and recommendations. Some committees also organize and participate in community events.

Burlington welcomes citizens who represent the diverse backgrounds of the community to participate on these committees. Becoming a member offers residents a unique chance to volunteer their highly valued skills and to strengthen our shared sense of community.
One of the key groups is the Burlington’s BEST Awards Committee. It is made up of 10 voting members, including: six citizens from the community, and four representatives from media and information agencies.

BEST Awards Committee. It is made up of 10 voting members, including: six citizens from the community, and four representatives from media and information agencies. The committee was established in and is seen as a Planning Committee reporting to City Council through the Community Services Committee.

Their mandate is to recognize citizens of Burlington who have brought favourable publicity and honour to the City of Burlington, to increase awareness of the committee so all citizens of Burlington have the chance to be recognized for their achievements.

The recognition is provided through Burlington’s Best Awards an annual event at which Burlington recognizes the Citizen of the Year; a Junior Citizen of the Year; an Arts Person of the Year, and a Seniors Person of the Year;. The city also gives a Community Service Award, an Environmental Award and a Heritage Award.

These awards are important – but there is a problem. In 2014 the nominations or recommendations did not come from the Planning committee – their task was to vote on the nominations they had before them.The result was we had wives nominating husbands, Mothers nominating their children and girlfriends nominating their boyfriends, which, while admirable, is surely not Burlington’s definition of the BEST we have?

Those nominations came from anyone who wanted to send in a nomination. The result was we had wives nominating husbands, Mothers nominating their children and girlfriends nominating their boyfriends, which, while admirable, is surely not Burlington’s definition of the BEST we have?

In the next few weeks the Clerks department will go through the applications for people who would like to be on the Planning Committee. Let us hope that the committee that chooses the people who will vote for the BEST that Burlington has are people who get to vote on merit.

There are some people in this city who have in the past year served us exceptionally well. They deserve to be recognized for what they have done – not for who they are or what their Mother, Father, husband, wife or girlfriend thinks of them.

Friends and family should be applauding the choice the committee makes – they shouldn’t be sending in nominations – nor should the committee be accepting them.


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Is Confederation still a viable business model? Rivers thinks the Prime Minister has forgotten about the middle of Canada.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

November 27, 2014



Before the British North American colonies converged into a new nation, Ontario and Quebec shared history as the united ‘Province of Canada’. The Act of Union in 1840 brought together the former Upper and Lower Canadian colonies into a union which lasted until confederation in 1867. This union gave birth to the responsible government in the colonies, involving both English and French Canadians despite occasional disagreements, as in 1849, when rebelling Tories burned the provincial capital buildings in Montreal.

Louis Riel statue

The hanging of Louis Riel created a major rift between Quebec, the aboriginal community and the federal government that to some degree still exists today

Ontario and Quebec have had their disagreements; Louis Riel, conscription, liquor marketing restrictions and cross border labour disputes – but there has always been a fraternal amity, not unlike that between the western provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. Premiers Robarts, Davis, Peterson, McGuinty and Wynne were always strong promoters of Quebecers’ interests in Canada including through those troubling periods when Quebec was threatening to leave the federation.

So it is gratifying that Premiers Wynne and Couillard are taking steps to bump up their cooperation on language policy, climate change, electrical energy and strengthening the central Canadian economy. This sounds like a no-brainer though and provincial residents should thank the Prime Minister, if only because the federal government’s neglect is the spark that has driven this initiative. After all, Mr. Harper has spent virtually no political capital on central Canada’s economy, rather focusing his energy on the further development of the Alberta tar sands

Ontario and Quebec make up about 60% of the country’s population and its gross domestic product (GDP). So expanding trade between them should help expand their economies and allow them to pay down their debts. New approaches to sharing electrical grids will help keep electricity rates in check, which is good for the economies as well as the rate payers. But what would really help is a much needed boost to infrastructure, transportation infrastructure in particular, to keep their major cities from choking on their own success.

Throughout history the federal government has always been the driving force in the economic development of this country. It was the feds who gave us our national railways (and have since sold them off) that brought B.C. into the federation and bound us all together. The TransCanada highway is the centre piece of Canada’s national road transportation system. Environmental management across the country was only made possible with federal resources to build water and waste water facilities. The federal government (Trudeau) even salvaged the oil sands when Alberta was ready to throw in the towel, in its earlier days.

So, in keeping with that tradition the Harper government, a few years ago, announced a program to help the provinces fund their growing infrastructure needs. But Ontario’s share is less than three billion dollars while the provincial government needs to spend about $130 billion dollars over the next decade.

Ring of Fire map

The “Ring of Fire”; the name given to a part of the province that is believed to be rich in natural resources but cannot be reached because there are no roads into that part of the province. Ontario wants federal government help to build those roads. The federal government wants pipe lines to move tar sands bitumen from Alberta to the east coast.

Then there is the ‘Ring of Fire’.

The so-called ‘Ring of Fire’, site of potentially billions of dollars worth of valuable minerals, lies about 500 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay, but is currently inaccessible except by helicopter or canoe and portage. Both Ottawa and Toronto agree on the need to develop this resource and the Province estimates about a billion dollars is needed for a transportation system. The federal government has decided that this should come out of Ontario’s piddly $3 billion in that infrastructure fund – and therein lies just another disagreement between Canada and its largest province.

Premier Wynne has requested a meeting with the PM to talk about this matter among others. But Harper is refusing to meet her because he can see no benefit in helping a provincial Liberal government improve its economy. So he’s got nothing to say and no more money to offer. That is, no more money for Ontario if he is going to balance his budget; give another $2 billion in tax cuts to reasonably well-off Canadian families; and keep his fighter jets running missions in Iraq.

Then there is that Ontario pension program which Wynne has decided to undertake, all on her own, since the feds refuse to undertake much needed upgrades to the existing Canada Pension Plan.

And there is Premier Wynne’s demand for a more equitable share of the federal equalization program, now, when the province needs the money most. But then Ontario just voted Liberal in the last election – so who can blame the Conservative PM for not wanting to help her out.

Canada’s record on climate change is abysmal. We had once gained considerable reputation as a front-seat participant in different forums  dealing with the the global issue. But Canada has surrendered its commitment to the Kyoto protocol and is unlikely to meet even the softer targets the Harper government recently set.  Still, the PM likes to take credit for the recent modest improvement in emissions statistics, notwithstanding his ‘full-speed-ahead’ on oil sands development and the pipelines he envisions to move all that oil.

And any reductions of greenhouse gas (GHG) carbon emissions which Canada can boast about are almost entirely due to Ontario’s green energy program and the shut down of coal-fired electricity – an initiative which Ottawa refused to help finance. In fact Ontario and Quebec are the only two jurisdictions in Canada which have significantly reduced their GHG emissions over the years, again without help from the current federal government.

Wynne and Couillard

Premiers Wynne of Ontario and Couillard of Quebec have begun to work together to protect the economic interests of Central Canada

Mr. Harper’s party managed to pull a couple of wins in the recent by-elections, one of them in Ontario. The general election this coming year will be a greater test for his government.  It will be an opportunity to discuss climate change, energy policy and infrastructure in a way that they were not debated in the by-elections.

It is unlikely that Mr. Harper will lose much political support in his western home base over his almost antagonistic approach to the rest of Canada, However voters in central and coastal portions of the country will need to ask themselves what they have been getting out of this confederation. And do we need to rethink the make-up of the political union we call Canada – as Quebec and Ontario seem to be doing. Or do we just change the channel at the polling booth.

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:
Infrastructure    Quebec-Ontario Partnership     Canadian Federalism

Respect   Ontario History    Federal Infrastructure Program

More Infrastructure    Even More Infra   Ring of Fire


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Television commentator objects to a Christmas Tree being called a Holiday tree.

opinionandcommentBy Staff

November 20, 2014



Steven Levy is a CBS News presenter. Last Sunday he did a commentary on CBS Sunday Morning.

What led to the Commentary was the news that the White House referred to Christmas Trees as Holiday Trees for the first time this year.

Steven Levy

Steven Levy objects to the White House Christmas Tree being called a Holiday Tree.

“I don’t like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don’t think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from, that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can’t find it in the Constitution and I don’t like it being shoved down my throat”

“Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship celebrities and we aren’t allowed to worship God as we understand Him? I guess that’s a sign that I’m getting old, too. But there are a lot of us who are wondering where these celebrities came from and where the America we knew went to.

“In light of the many jokes we send to one another for a laugh, this is a little different: This is not intended to be a joke; it’s not funny, it’s intended to get you thinking.

“In light of recent events… Terrorists attack, school shootings, etc.. I think it started when Madeleine Murray O’Hare (she was murdered, her body found a few years ago) complained she didn’t want prayer in our schools, and we said OK. Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school… The Bible says thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself. And we said OK.

“Then Dr. Steven Benjamin Spock said we shouldn’t spank our children when they misbehave, because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr. Spock’s son committed suicide). We said an expert should know what he’s talking about.. And we said okay..

White House Christmas 2014

The White House has decided to call this a Holiday Tree.

“Now we’re asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don’t know right from wrong, and why it doesn’t bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves.

“Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out. I think it has a great deal to do with ‘We reaphat we sow”.

“Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world’s going to hell. Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says. Funny how you can send ‘jokes’ through e-mail and they spread like wildfire, but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing. Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace.

“Are you laughing yet?

“Funny how when you forward this message, you will not send it to many on your address list because you’re not sure what they believe, or what they will think of you for sending it.

“Funny how we can be more worried about what other people think of us than what God thinks of us.”

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By-election in Ontario doesn't give much of a hint on the federal election scheduled for October 2015.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

November 18, 2014



He is consistently below Trudeau and Mulcair in national opinion polls and his party is currently lagging that of Trudeau by double digits, yet the voters in the two federal by-elections yesterday chose Harper. Of course the Alberta riding of Yellowhead was never in doubt, and the new Tory there won by a resounding 60% of the vote. But that is Alberta, where the point of having an election is, arguably, a waste of money. Why not just have the Conservative Party appoint the MPs?

Liberals fail to take Oshawa-Whitby riding: a sign of Harper strength?Whitby-Oshawa was a closer race between the Libs and Cons. Nevertheless, the popular former Whitby mayor, Pat Perkins, who only recently jumped in for the Conservatives, won the support of a clear majority of the voters, receiving almost 50 per cent of the votes cast. The Liberal, Celina Caesar-Chavannes, came in second with a respectable 40% of the vote in this one-time Liberal riding. The NDP, which had replaced the Liberals as the second choice of voters in the last general election fell back to their more traditional spot.

Of course this is the constituency of former finance minister Flaherty, whom Canadians generally respected, once he came to federal politics. And it didn’t hurt that Flaherty’s widow, Christine Elliott, is the sitting provincial MPP there, and also a front runner in the contest to lead the provincial Tories. So the newly-cast conservative candidate had a lot of things going for her.

Oh, and did I mention that the PM announced his so-called ‘family income splitting’ promise mid-campaign – a $2 billion tax giveaway for the wealthiest tax payers, a program Flaherty had justifiably disparaged? But the ‘tax-cut’ spin still works. And it didn’t hurt when tough guy Harper ordered tough guy Putin to “get out of Ukraine” last week – newsworthy, but an empty threat given what little we had and would do for that embattled nation.

By-elections generally tend to have lower turnout and these two contests were no strangers to that phenomena. Only a third of Whitby-Oshawans could be bothered to vote and over 80% of eligible Yellowhead voters must have slept-in all day. I guess they Only a third of Whitby-Oshawans could be bothered to vote and over 80% of eligible Yellowhead voters must have slept-in all day.knew the result would be a foregone conclusion in a province where some voters act as if Canada’s borders start at the Rockies and end somewhere in the prairies. And Mr. Harper is local, despite his accidental birth in Ontario.

Americans just finished voting in their mid-term congressional elections and the President, whose party got slaughtered, grumped that only a third of eligible voters showed up – implying he might have won had turnout been higher. He may be right, but the point is why don’t we have higher voting numbers? Australia has had compulsory voting for eons, with real penalties for those too lazy to get their butts into the ballot both. As a result, over 90 percent of the electorate consistently make the effort to vote, that number hitting 95% in some years.

Were we to adopt a similar law, Albertans would still probably continue to vote Tory, or for the Attila the Hun party if they could – and that is their choice, of course. But at least more people would be engaged in the process of holding our politicians to account. And that should mean better governance.

Of course if you were an NDP supporter in either of these by-elections you might ask yourself why bother? And that is where preferential balloting for multi-party politics makes a lot of sense. Voters select their first choice as they do today in our first-past-the-post system. But if no candidate wins 50% of all the votes cast, second (and third) choices are counted until a winner is announced. Governing parties would always be elected by at least a simple majority of the people, instead of the thirty-plus percentages we’ve seen over the last few elections. However, a preferential ballot wouldn’t have changed the result of these by-elections.

Why not hold elections on a weekend when most people have real spare time? And maybe we need to make voting easier. Why not hold elections on a weekend when most people have real spare time? And what about on-line voting for a nation that has proven how securely we can even do banking that way? What about better election coverage? I mean how many people were even aware that these by-elections were taking place? And what about more time teaching political choice and process at schools, so our youth can develop an interest in how their governments can work for them?

By-elections are usually a good time for the public to register its displeasure with the government in power. If that is true we should take it that the voters are pretty happy with the government we have. But that flies in the face of the national polls – so what is really going on?

Are we a nation of people wanting change, but too complacent to be bothered to do anything about it? Or maybe we truly have become the ‘small c’ conservative society that Stephen Harper had set out to create – too conservative to try change?
By-Elections    Yellowhead   Whitby-Oshawa  
Polling   More Polling 

Analysis   Election Canada Results 

Australian Voting    Harper’s Income Splitting 

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.


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Walter Mulkewich reviews Greg Sorbara's autobiography: a pragmatic practitioner of the political arts.

Comment 100By Walter Mulkewich

November 18th, 2014



Greg Sorbara, “The Battlefield of Ontario Politics, An Autobiography”, Dundurn Publishers, Toronto, 2014

Greg Sorbara was one of Ontario’s most influential provincial politicians for 27 years from 1985 to 2012: He was a significant cabinet minister in the governments of David Peterson and Dalton McGuinty, including Minster of Finance in the McGuinty government. As President of the Liberal Party of Ontario and Chair of three consecutive Liberal Party election campaign victories, he helped build a successful political machine in Ontario.

Sorbara-book-coverHe was in Burlington Monday night as part of his book tour and demonstrated with his straight and candid talk why he was successful and progressive politician.

Sorbara’s autobiography provides a useful summary of Ontario provincial political issues in the past quarter century. But, most significantly this book gives a candid view of how politicians play the political game to actually get things done.

It’s a good read for aspiring politicians, those who want to understated what happens in the back rooms of political parties, and for all of us to understand how politics works.

He gives an understandable account of how the Ontario Health Premium was developed even though his party campaigned on a promise of no tax increase. He explains the kind of deal making that made possible the York Subway expansion. He shows the kind of collaboration that was needed to develop a progressive Ontario Child benefit.

Sorbara deals with the reality of politics as team sport: His candidacy for the Ontario Liberal Party leadership in 1992 in which he came third. His private views on issues such as the harmonized HST and Meech Lake. An honest account of his resignation from the Cabinet over allegations with respect to the Royal Technologies affair, he was exonerated and returned to cabinet. Some interesting stories about candidate recruitment and how campaigns are organized

Perhaps his most controversial chapter is about the gas plant issues in Oakville and Mississauga that he calls “the gas plant myths”, which were “impervious to evidence”. He devoted much of his talk in Burlington to this topic and makes a convincing case, but his is a point of view some might challenge.

His last chapter is the most interesting. He reflects on the future. He expresses his concern about income inequality and he makes a strong case for a national Income Support System and tax reform, as well as federal investment in cities. He talks about the need to grow the economies of smaller cities outside the GTA.

Perhaps Sorbara’s most interesting and controversial suggestion is that, while the Catholic School system has served its purpose, Ontario is changing, and we should have one publicly funded educational system. But, this is a position he never championed in his time at Queens Park.

As the pragmatic practitioner of the political arts, he does not indicate how we might move the political system to accomplish a single public educational system or his other ideas in his last chapter. Maybe that is the point of his book, that there is a time and place for taking on issues.

waltermulkewichWalter Mulkewich is former Mayor of Burlington. He served from 1991 to 1997.  Prior to that he was a member of city Council in Burlington and Halton Regional Council.


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Why war? Part of the reason - Hate, intolerance, envy, authoritarian leadership, political polarization and military zealots.

opinionandcommentBy James Smith

November 13, 2014



I remember this past Tuesday. I’m standing in my office staring at the framed memento, almost 100 years old. A thing I’ve looked at and read countless times; “In the Service of the Nation”. Standing silently I read the names of the engagements: Chateau Thierry, Soissons, Argonne. Argonne, where he received his Purple Heart. The Purple Heart is framed and kept by one of my brothers, now retired from the American Military.

Remembrance Day wreaths - dozens at cenotaphI remember. I remember being a child, holding the medal in my hand and can still feel how heavy & cold it was. How odd to touch the engraved name, the same name as me. I can now hear the TV downstairs again. Two minutes are up, all over, go back to what you were doing. Except I keep thinking of him, his easy smile, the shock of thick white hair, the soft voice that gave his birthplace away despite decades of life in Hell’s Kitchen. He’d never talk about the war, we kids would press but he’d cloud over and say something like “The park is no place to talk of such things”. The most he would ever say is that it was a quick way to become a REAL American.

I remember his funeral. I was just old enough to know that Vietnam was starting to go badly and my own childhood notion of going to America and joining the US Marines was starting to fade as a real goal. The flag draped coffin and the honour guard suddenly seemed very scary to a ten year old. I almost cried in shock when the rifle volleys sounded. The folded flag presented to my Grandmother made me think of what I had been seeing on the TV and the young men being killed in Vietnam.

I remember looking at the Empire State Building in the distance as we made our way back to the limousine and thinking as sad as I was, what would it be like if this was one of my cousins? What if it was my dad being lowered into the ground? I’ve sometimes thought back to that springtime week in New York as the time when I started to wonder about such things that Edwin Starr would sing about a few years later in his song WAR!

I remember the following November and learning to recite In Flanders Field (I still can by the way). At the Remembrance Day assembly not only did I recite John McCrae’s Poem but I introduced the speaker. A First World War Vet, a kindly and grandfatherly gentleman. He kept me on stage to hold his tin hat after I introduced him. The helmet had an odd slice in the back flange, I put my fingers in the hole as I nervously continued to stand on stage, the slash in the steel felt cold and jagged and I wondered about the hole.

Our guest spoke not about war, but about the peace that he hoped we had gained through the horror of three wars. He told us of his wish that peace would fill our days so us kids would never have to see any of the horror that he, and my late Grandfather did. As he concluded his address he took a piece of metal out of his pocket and said how luck he was to be speaking to us and had me hand him his helmet back. With this nasty chunk of metal in one hand and the helmet in the other, he neatly locked the shrapnel into the hole in the tin hat. The audience gasped. After the assembly at recess I was briefly a cool kid because I had held this army helmet, but I recall being somewhat confused by the experience. I still am.

I remember and honour those who’ve served and those who’ve died and respect those who still continue to wear the uniform. I think all Canadians are a little more mindful and respectful this November after the killing of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, and Corporal Nathan Cirillo. But war should never be an option until every other option has been tried and found wanting. Since the Korean War Canada has a proud history of Peace Keeping, a tradition that some would have us move away from. In fact we have very few remaining Peacekeepers in this world and I don’t like this trend. I think my grandfather and others of his generation would tend to agree with me.

Vimy Ridge it seems is more important than Baldwin and LaFontaine, MacDonald and Cartier, Laurier and the settling of the west or many other achievements. In their book WARRIOR NATION: REBRANDING CANADA IN AN AGE OF ANXIETY, Ian McKay and Jamie Swift talk about the “New Warriors” who are “looking to shift public opinion.” They speak of “zealots” who would “transform postwar Canada’s central myth-symbols. Peaceable kingdom. Just society. Multicultural tolerance. Reasoned public debate.” They would replace these traditions with “A warrior nation. Authoritarian leadership. Permanent political polarization.” Vimy Ridge it seems is more important than Baldwin and LaFontaine, MacDonald and Cartier, Laurier and the settling of the west or many other achievements.

A battle in a useless war is now being spoken of as what “made” Canada. This trend troubles Messrs McKay and Swift enough they’ve written a book, and this trend fills me with an empty feeling. The first world war was a war between Empires that was foolish, brutal, stupid and avoidable. As a colony Canada was involved because we had no choice. That men fought, and fought bravely should be remembered, but so should the fact that it wrecked and bankrupted Europe and set the table for Fascism and Stalinism and the further horror that was the second world war. That we should say our nation “came of age” because brave men killed other brave men in a war that we had no say in seems to me to the acme of jingoistic nostalgia for the good old days of Red Ensigns and Rule Britannia not the foundation of the amazing country we live in today.

I remember an all but forgotten monument on University Avenue in Toronto. You’ve likely seen it, just north of Queen Street, it’s the memorial dedicated to those who died in the Boer War. The monument features two heroic young Canadian lads marching off to do battle. As they look to the middle distance, they march in the direction a young Britannia is pointing to.

Whenever I see this monument it always make me think she’s saying: “Go! Go forth & defend the Empire good lads! Africa must be free of the evil Dutch farmers and safe for gold & diamond mines and to build Apartheid! GO my lads GO!” It is a lonely and sad monument that seems to be forgotten. Many men fought bravely for Queen and Empire, four Victoria Crosses were awarded to Canadians in that war. Given the precedent of this forgotten monument why not dust that off too and say Canada was born on the Veldt at Paardeberg rather than Vimy Ridge? I say it’s just as relevant.

Part of the reason. Hate. Intolerance. Envy. Authoritarian Leadership. Political Polarization. Military Zealots. I remember visiting Sarajevo. Back when it was still Yugoslavia and I stood on the spot where Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were assassinated. The spot where the match was struck that started the Great War, and it seemed so ordinary and almost shabby. How did such a quaint and diverse city, an Olympic host city later become a place of such carnage in the Bosnian war? I bet I know part of the reason. Hate. Intolerance. Envy. Authoritarian Leadership. Political Polarization. Military Zealots.

We need to rid our landscape of such things. That the military will always be a large part of Remembrance day goes without saying. But we need to always ensure that our Remembrance Day ceremonies do not become jingoistic celebrations of conflict. The reason we remember those who served and who have fallen is to also reflect on the Peace and what is left of our Freedoms due to the service and the sacrifice of so many. We lose these freedoms through our complacency and acceptance of what the generals want.

Just to let you in on a teeny weeny secret; since at least the time of the Sumerians, the Generals have never had enough toys, and they always want to play with their toys.

I remember in the 1970’s some wag saying “rather than declare war on a little country, we should declare Peace on all countries”. I’d like to suggest we take this idea up and start a new tradition for our next Canada Day; two minutes of silence while we think about what we can do for Peace in our homes, workplaces, cities, provinces and our country. Perhaps then we can build a world that’s more like what my Grandfather would have liked to think that his service helped to build.


 James Smith is an architectural technologist who dabbles in politics and has been described as an essayist. The above is his most recent pondering.



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Are we ready to put an end to the harrassment of the women we work with?


By Ray Rivers

November 13, 2014



Maybe it was that melodic voice wafting through my car speakers. Or maybe the sense of command and confidence projected by this smooth talk show host, drilling down to get at the nut of each issue. I loved listening to Jian Ghomeshi and his well-honed ‘Q’ show which had risen to the peak of radio fame just in time for his dramatic tumble into disgrace, having been exposed as a closet misogynist, a woman beater.

Ghomeshi the radio host always seemed such a gentle and sensitive individual. Who would have guessed ‘Norman Bates’ might be lurking somewhere in his imagination. It wasn’t stabbing in a shower, but it was dangerous spontaneous choking and beatings. It is hard to believe that the man who crafted such a passionate and sweet tribute to his father, on his passing, could have been harbouring such a monster within.

And it wasn’t just the dating, but also his overbearing management style, that did him in. He had become the face of CBC radio, he disgraced himself and fell, as Shakespeare would have applauded – by his own devices. In this case it was his own violent hand. Yet there was an upside to this tragic story since it encouraged so many victims to spring forward for an emancipation of sorts, a new freedom to come forward and tell all.

We were treated to exposés by Ghomeshi’s former dates, his staff and his bosses at CBC, as they described his tyrannical, obsessive and demanding management style. And those stories, no doubt, seemed to encourage a couple of NDP MP’s to complain to Justin Trudeau presumably about a couple of his Liberal MPs hitting on them – or hitting them – we don’t know. Trudeau immediately suspended them from his caucus pending an investigation, only to be verbally abused by an angry NDP leader Mulcair.

Perhaps Mulcair was annoyed that his caucus members had gone to Trudeau instead of to him. Or maybe he was trying to draw cover for an impending harassment case between one of his own MPs and an office staffer. Then out of the blue Sheila Copps comes forward to tell all about an attempted assault by an MP during her time on the Hill, and adding that she had also been raped some years earlier.

All this coming-out makes one wonder who is next, and when will enough be enough already. And what is wrong with our elected federal representatives that they have to act like mischievous children while pay them to represent us in Ottawa. That is not how I want to be represented, perhaps we need an age limit.

We know that bullying behaviour starts early in life. Some would argue that It is a natural phenomenon, development of a ‘pecking order’ sort of thing – in a dog-eat-dog world where the strong survive and weak just suffer – where the cave man goes out to kill the bear and his favourite squeeze stays home to raise the babies and tend to the fire.

We demand equity, equality of opportunity and respect for human dignity.But that isn’t how our modern great society works. We demand equity, equality of opportunity and respect for human dignity; and we expect personal freedom regardless of gender, physical size or economic endowment. So we have started teaching children not to bully, intimidate, or harass, from an early age. That is the way we want them to behave in a civilized community, even if their parents don’t.

I can recall being at an official function a few years ago when one of my bosses came over and surprised me by squeezing my arm until it hurt. I yelled ‘ouch’ thinking she must have wanted to get my attention – and that sure did the trick. I might have made a formal complaint instead of just brushing off the incident, but like so many others I was a little embarrassed, so let it pass.

I consider myself a tactile person. I believe there are times, especially when grief or joy are upon us, that we humans need the assurance of another’s touch. Life would be so incomplete were society to ban physical contact entirely in the name of preventing potential assault. But touching does have its limits – hurting someone, spontaneously choking or punching them about the head is a whole different kettle of worms.

‘Q’ will stay on the air with a new executive producer and a new host, but for me it’ll never be the same without the brilliant Ghomeshi. I remember back to a time when an extremely hostile guest, Billy Bob Thornton, tore into Jian for the way he was interviewing. Billy Bob backed him into a corner and humbled him into an embarrassing submission. No, it wasn’t violence, but Jian Ghomeshi must have got a good taste of what it was like to be on the receiving end of bullying. Too bad he didn’t learn from that experience.

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:


Ghomeshi Ghomeshi Scandal  Trudeau MPs   NDP Staffer 

Sheila Copps  Billy Bob Interview   Sexual Consent 

Bullying   Stop a Bully  What’s Harassment 

Dealing with Sexual Misconduct

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Cherishing the democracy we have and remembering those who ensured we have it.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

November 11, 2014



The weather was as good as it was going to get for a November Day. A great day for a parade. A fine day to pause, reflect and remember.

With blood on the ground at the base of the National War Memorial and six of our aircraft and a couple of hundred support people in the Middle East in harms way – Canadians have reason to ask themselves: are we safe? Is there something wrong with us as a country – and to reflect on just how much we have going for us and the men and woman who made all this possible.

War is a very dangerous game and history tells us that the bad guys do win sometimes.Canada is at war – not a big war in terms of the resources we have put into it, but a big, big war for the ISIS people. (ISIS stands for The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant; which is also translated as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) They want to change fundamentally the way society will function. Could they do that to us? War is a very dangerous game and history tells us that the bad guys do win sometimes.

Our columnist, Mark Gillies did a series of articles on the 38 men from Burlington who were lost in the First Great War. It was surprising how little we knew about them. Gillies is looking forward to the public responding and filling in some of the blanks.

It was disquieting to see armed police officers around the perimeter of the Cenotaph. What would that infantryman at the top of the statute have had to say about that?

The loss of two members of our Armed Forces has brought home to all of us just how much we have to lose. Recognizing our history and understanding what it means to each of us is one of the steps to maintaining the democracy we have.

Cherishing that democracy and practicing it is another step. A 34% voter turnout for a municipal election is not cherishing the democracy we have.

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There were no winners at the flood information meeting ; tough answers, complex forms

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

November 5, 2014



Should the room in which the Burlington Community Foundation Information session on flood damage assistance have been fuller? CBC National news reported that attendance was poor and some people learned they weren’t going to be getting what they thought they would get.

BCF Info - room - audience

The room looks pretty full; the mirror at the back gives that impression but there were less than 100 people in the room – many of them providing information,

There were less than 100 people in the room. The BCF understands there are about 500 homes that they think qualify for financial assistance but to date there have been just 50 applications submitted.

The assistance is limited to people who were uninsured or under insured. Most of the people who were uninsured were not able to get insurance. There were a number of homes in ward 5 that experienced serious flood several months prior to the August 4th flood. Other people were told that their deductible was being increased.

BCF Info - Keven + worried NOT BEST

Keven Reimer, the insurance adjuster assigned to the Claims Committee speaks to a couple of worried people.

The application – all 11 pages of it – is complex and Keven Reimer, the insurance adjuster proving support to the Claims Committee, took the audience through it and explained what information was needed and why it was needed.

The funds raised by the community –  $810,000 has been raised to date – is what is required under the provincial government’s ODRAP (Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program). The community raised funds which the government “might” match on a two-for-one basis.

To date the province has not said they will actually do any matching, although Colleen Mulholland, president of the BCF did say she has been told to be “optimistic”.

BCF Info - Mark Preston _ Richard Burgess

Mark Preston, on the left and Rick Burgess holding his chin are members of the BCF Claims Committee.

The public got to meet and talk to the members of the Claims Committee – Mark Preston, Preston Insurance Services; Bruce Russell, Wardell Insurance; Nancy Swietek, Dan Lawrie Insurance and Rick Burgess, Burgess Law Office.

Keven Reimer is the insurance adjuster supporting the Claims Committee.

Cunningham Lindsay, an insurance adjusting firm was brought in by the BCF to provide this service: Reimer, Branch Manager in Burlington for Cunningham Lindsay, took part in the information meeting and explained the process.

Their role is to provide claims adjudication services to the BCF Flood Disaster Relief Committee; Receive and triage all files; review claims submissions following the (ODRAP) rules. They will attend residential location where necessary to assess claim and provide the Claims Committee with a recommendation of the amount of eligible claim expenses

Reimer said: ODRAP is not primary insurance – any and all insurance options must be utilized prior to consideration by ODRAP

Key Dates were given to the audience:

December 15 is the application submission deadline: all applications must be received by BCF Flood Disaster Relief Committee.

December 15 – Total available Flood Relief Funds will be known

Eight weeks after the close of applications being received, approved applications will begin to receive some financial assistance.

BCF Info - Citizen Lawrie woman

A flooded home owner doesn’t appear to pleased with the answer being given by Nancy Swietek, Dan Lawrie Insurance, a member of the BCF Claims Committee.

Reimer did say the forms were complex. He urged people to get the forms in before the deadline. “We can’t do anything with forms we don’t have” he said. “If there is some information you don’t have – we can help you determine some of the numbers with computer software we have – just get the forms into us.”

 One part of the application form will cause some indigestion for many: “Applicants are required to authorize the collection of personal information. “Pursuant to Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act Legislation this allows the Disaster Relief Committee or any assigned agency (such as Cunningham Lindsey) the right to collect personal information for purpose of investigating claims to the Disaster Relief Funds.”

Sounds like the police investigating a crime or a bank lending you some money. A lot of the money being dispersed came from the community – is this what the community expects?

BCF Info - worried man + hands out guy

The body language says it all – the two home owners don’t appear to be buying into the explanation being given them.

The Claims Information section allows the committee to identify which portion of the ODRAP criteria will apply to your claim.

Proof of residence for the damaged Property is required. A copy of a Driver’s License or two other unofficial documents

What is eligible? The Guidelines provide an assessment of the items that are considered under the program: essential furniture, electronic appliances such as fridge, stove, washer, dryer, furnace, freezer
Eligible restoration costs – are allowed to return the property to pre-loss condition – this means that finishes are allowed on a depreciated basis

Type of Loss are broken down into Building, Household goods, Farm Buildings, Essential Farm Equipment.

Each section of the application must have a response
Be specific – provide a list of the damaged items – floors, walls, ceiling, and give square footage of the damaged area
The amount claimed – again be specific
Provide the amount received from your insurer
If you had a sewer backup limit please advise what that limit is.

Common questions that are asked include:

If you do not have receipts provide an idea of what was paid – to whom and where at – provide what you can and we will try and assess the reasonableness of the claim.

Do provide correspondence from your insurer or from your agent providing that you do not have any insurance.

Do provide pictures.

Do provide a description of the allowed item.

Provide an e-mail address, cell/home phone number, to contact you.

There are some situations that are very sad: One man had what he saw as a very valuable collection of memorabilia that he had put together and was planning on that to be his retirement fund. He will not be able to collect as much as a dime.

BCF Info - woman pointing - basement heavedThe BCF is in a bit of a sticky situation. They have done a marvelous job of raising funds from within the community. Funds came from large corporations; two of the supermarket chains got into the game; an 11 year old boy held a fund raiser at his school and collected more than $3000; and a woman in the audience advised people that there were still home backed cookies for sale at Centro on Brant Street.

The community has come through – to date the province has not and that makes it difficult for the BCF to determine just how much money they are going to have to hand out. People in the audience asked:

“What can we do to get things moving?

Write you MPP was the only answer BCF president Collen Mulholland had for them.



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These situations are policy failures says Edwardh - single mother sees nothing but wait lists.

opinionandcommentBy Emma Delmore 

November 4, 2014



“I find myself becoming more and more appreciative of what Canada does for both its people and those coming here to improve their lives or find safety for their families.

“I am a single mother, my mother was a single mother, and I am afraid of what that might mean for my own daughter one day. Being a single mom means constant stress, fear for tomorrow, and terror when looking any further into the future.

I am a single mother, my mother was a single mother, and I am afraid of what that might mean for my own daughter one day.“I want a future for my child, and I want to start building that now. My biggest issue is child care; I have had to turn down potentially good jobs because of it. When my daughter started school I searched for work, I found work as a dog groomer, than went to find subsidized child care. I was told it was wait listed, stressed and not knowing what to do I admit I let some frustration out on the worker I was dealing with at the time, I looked at her and said; What am I supposed to do, I need to work to provide for my child? The answer she gave me has become a familiar one, – Ontario Works.

“I refuse” say Delmore “to let this be my answer. The Canadian Women’s Foundation reports that “a single mother with one child can earn as little as $14,829 on Ontario Works,” – what kind of life is that. As a parent I am contributing to raising the next generation of young people, – what chance do children of single parents have to be successful Canadians and contributors to our communities under these circumstances?

“I tried finding child care independently in my community that was affordable. I made a choice I am to this day deeply ashamed of.

Joey Edwardh, Executive Director of Community Development Halton, knows this story all too well.


Joey Edwardh – one of the best advocates for the under privileged in a Region that has so much more than other parts of the province.

“This story is not new”, she said, “ it is repeated over and over again. It is impossible for this woman and her child to live in safety and dignity with access to opportunities to be full participants in the economic and social life of their community.

“This is a story of the failure of public policy to provide early education and child care for our children. We all know that a child that grows up in poverty has unequal futures as a little person of today and as an adult of tomorrow.”

“This story also demonstrates the deep poverty that our government establishes for people living on Ontario Works, Ontario’s social assistance program. A single Mom and her child living on approximately $23,038 per year are deemed poor or low income. But on Ontario Works the support received totals approximately $12,600. This is a gap of $8, 584 and leaves this woman and her child unable to meet the necessities of life. We relegate then to destitution in a community and province that has so much.”

“I chose instead to have inadequate child care up until her safety was on the line; I did so because I felt I was left without choices.

I also felt that educating myself could potentially change my situation and offer me the future I desired while also making me a better role model to my child.“Searching for a way to break a cycle and improve our situation I decided the answer might lay in gaining an education that I did not have. I spent two years at St. Lawrence College, taking a Social Service Worker course. It was something I believed in, and that I thought was a way to act as a change agent in improving situations for people that knew what it was like to feel hopeless; after all I have been there.

“I also felt that educating myself could potentially change my situation and offer me the future I desired while also making me a better role model to my child. I received excellent marks, graduated with distinction and for the first time since becoming a parent felt I had a place for me to be myself outside of being someone’s mother.

“I loved the work I was doing both in class and in the community as part of my placements until graduation day. I worked for non-profit agencies that I admired, but like many non-profits there was no room in the budget for added employees. I went to interviews that I researched hoping to improve my chances of working but those with experience got the jobs. I decided to come home to Burlington after nine years in hopes of finding better opportunities.

“I had a better support system in Burlington and saw it as a wonderful place to raise children. I had friends and could be closer to my aging grandparents and enjoy the time I have with them and build an invaluable relationship between them and my child.

Single Mom poor

For many single Mothers – it is about going without and wait listing.

“As the rules go when it comes to subsidized childcare, first you have to get the job, than the subsidy, it is unnerving to say the least. And so I did, I was offered an amazing opportunity in my new field, a chance to build upon my future, provide for my child, and make a difference in my community. Right away I looked into childcare, a before and after school program at her school Tom Thomson Public School, wait listed, then called about getting it subsidized, that too, wait listed. And again I said in frustration, what am I supposed to do? And again came the Ontario Works Speech.

“Constantly mothers are expected to make the choice between work and a better future and our children’s well being, why? I hate living in poverty, I hate what stress has done to my life and to my child’s life, I hate that time and again my sweet child has approached me with sad eyes and her piggy bank trying to make my life easier when it is my job to make her childhood wonderful and carefree.

“I believe in responsibility, both to ones work and to our families, but why does it always have to be a choice. Women make up the largest percentage of underpaid, minimum wage, part-time employees because we feel the greatest responsibility to provide and protect our families.

Beth Hudson

Beth Hudson formed INCITE – had to close it down because they could not get charitable status without which donations just did not flow.

Beth Hudson launched INCITE A Single Moms Support Group. Single moms are women-in-need; generally living at or below the poverty-line; that have been left alone to fend for themselves with little to no support.

INCITE offered a variety of programs to help these women make informed choices, learn, grow, have fun and give back with their Affordable Advice Program. INCITE had a team of over 50 volunteers, including professionals, that helped,  offering one-on-one counseling in areas of financial, legal, mental health.

INCITE had a very exciting and rewarding short tenure helping single moms, but unfortunately, after almost 4 years in operation, INCITE had to close its doors. The nail in the coffin was being declined as a charity from Ottawa. They felt, “There was not a specific need for Single Moms.”

Delmore explains that “we need help, we need more support, and we need to feel that there is hope, that our children do not just deserve better but that they have a right to better, the question is, is who out there is going to help give us a means to do this? Child care services? Employers? Government services? Maybe more Pressure on our male counterparts?

“I am sick of relying on a subsidy that is never there when it’s needed, and being unemployed or underemployed. At this point I am in heavy debt due to student loans, and I am not sure how my bills are going to be paid. I am not searching for temporary solutions but rather long term ones, and I am sure I believe that someone needs to look at the personal side of single parent issues, ask single parents what they want, and work towards making changes.that I am not the only one who is frustrated with a faulty system! I believe that someone needs to look at the personal side of single parent issues, ask single parents what they want, and work towards making changes.”

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Terrorists? Socially disaffected young men? What is Remembrance Day about?

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

October 31, 2014



The term ‘terrorism’ has become almost meaningless today since western leaders apply the label to almost any act of violence, particularly those committed by followers of the Islamic faith. According to, terrorism is “the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes”. The PM has called the killing of our soldiers by Michael Zehaf-Bibeau and Martin Couture-Rouleau terrorism.

Terrorist rinning into HofC

Michael Zehaf-Bibeau running into the House of Commons with a rifle.

But is it really? Sure, these guys were two socially disaffected young men looking to do something noteworthy with their otherwise wasted lives. But no connection has been made between these criminal acts and ISIS, nor of an orchestrated ISIS terror campaign in Canada. It is unlikely that these two deadbeats believed they alone could change Canada’s foreign policy just by killing some soldiers here at home.

There is no question that Canada’s military involvement in Iraq was the spark which ignited the violent actions. But these were desperate acts by ‘lone wolves’ frustrated with the policies of their country and its leadership, and wanting to fight back somehow. Labelling these events as terrorism will not absolve the PM of his responsibility for our safety.

When he enacted the Safe Streets and Communities legislation a few years ago the PM assured us of our security. But now he is going back to the well and dredging up something as scary as permanent martial law, restricting our individual freedom and civil rights. Giving new powers to law enforcement agencies makes little sense when we consider that the perpetrators of these crimes had been in the cross-hairs of the RCMP and CSIS for some time. And wasn’t this the PM who abolished the long gun registry, thus enabling the uncontrolled proliferation and use of illegal firearms, like the one that killed Cpl. Nathan Cirillo?

Before he draws up new laws the PM should first consider his rush into the undeclared war on ISIS. Going to war is always a serious matter. For starters, there needs to be a defensible rationale for going to war. But Canada was neither attacked nor seriously threatened by ISIS (or ISIL). Offensive military action in the absence of these conditions is in contravention of the UN charter and thus illegal. So under what authority are we putting Canadians into harms’ way?

Of course ISIS is a nasty organization and its goal of establishing statehood is a concern. But there are so many other disagreeable people out there. And Canada has no ‘dog’ in this fight, unlike the US which had been an occupying power. We haven’t even suffered reporters beheaded by ISIS. And finally, the US has more than enough military equipment already there to bomb the dwindling number of ISIS targets onto oblivion. They don’t really need us.

CF 18 formation

Canadian CF 18 aircraft now in the Middle East

Still, our Gunslinging PM decided we need to hop into this fight. Without a game plan, without a plausible rationale for involvement, and without even a modest consultation with Canadians, he rushed into war. Ground forces were on their way to Iraq before the PM even made it home from the NATO meeting where this issue was a side-topic. Then, using his majority in Parliament, he rammed through a dispatch of fighter jets, against a united opposition here at home.

When a a nation goes to war it needs to secure its home-front as well as the war-front. War requires additional resources be expended, including funding to beef up national security and prevent the very kind of incidents we have just witnessed. It is clear, sadly, that the PM never anticipated any domestic blow back from his actions, nor provisioned for enhanced domestic security. As I noted in an earlier article, he probably just saw this escapade as target practice for our fly boys, in a warmer climate with real people as targets.

Absolutely nothing excuses the violent crimes we saw committed against our soldiers. The official opposition party had voted against sending the fighter jets without a more detailed discussion and a game plan. The third party had argued that Canada would have been more useful providing enhanced humanitarian aid. The PM would have done well to have followed their advice.

November the 11th is Remembrance Day, and this year there will be another two soldiers to remember, and we will. But we should also not forget that this might have been avoided had we been just a little less eager to send our troops off to war – or at least done our homework before undertaking the mission. Isn’t that what Remembrance Day is supposed to be all about?

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:
Not Terrorism   Terrorism or Mental illness   More Spying   More Security 

Unknown Gun   Canada’s Role in the World   Middle East Interventions 

ISIS in Canada

Lone Gunman    More Restrictive Laws   Video

More Police Powers

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Reflections on ward 6 - who is the winner in an election that has 10 candidates?

opinionandcommentBy Walter Byj

October 28, 2014



I did make a mistake by saying that 80% did not vote for Blair. It should have read 70%.
29% did vote for Blair.


So who is the winner in an election that has 10 candidates? By our current rules, the candidate who gets the most votes wins. No argument. In ward 6, Blair Lancaster got the most votes, 2087 which was 445 more than the next candidate, Angelo Bentivegna. So clearly, she was the candidate that won.

Ward 6 FINALBut what about the electorate, did they win? The 2,087 votes that Lancaster received represented 29.8% of all votes cast. This meant that 70% of those who voted did not want Blair Lancaster to represent them at council. In fact taking it a step further of the 22,579 voters eligible in ward 6, only 9.2% voted for Blair. Now perhaps it is unfair to include non voters in this review, but wasn’t ward 6 ripe for change? Or did the pundits get it wrong?

With a turnout of 30.9%, many in the ward appear to be pleased with their current Councillor and decided not to vote. But that does not discount the fact that of those who voted, 70% wanted change.

So how can Councillor Lancaster make the electorate winners also?

Well how about a town hall meeting where the electorate can voice their opinions. Lancaster is guaranteed the job for the next 4 years so why not reach out to the community and learn how to serve them better. Lancaster doesn’t have to take this route, but it would be the kind of good gesture that would allow those who did not vote for her feel they are still being represented

Perhaps specific committees could be formed within the riding that could assist in developing solutions to some of the problems? Ward 6 is a large geographical area with issues unique to select different parts of the ward.

Or will Lancaster feel that the election is won and will continue to be the Councillor that she has been for the past four years? Time will tell.

Byj Walter  H&SWalter Byj has lived in Burlington for more than 25 years.  He lives in ward 6


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