Transit gets discussed at community meeting: Hlusko and Brown didn't like what they heard

News 100 redBy Staff

October 23, 2014



Burlington Transit held a community meeting on proposed changes to Route 6 at Tansley Woods Community Centre Tuesday evening. It was not a smash hit.

Two seasoned observers, one, the best mind on transit matters the city has and Jennifer Hlusko, a current school board trustee running for the ward six council seat who always has a command of the numbers on anything she talks about,  comment on the event.

Hlusko had this to say:

“I attended the City’s presentation last night about the options that City Staff are considering to response to the complaints received from Headon Forest Drive residents. I had attended the Council meetings last May to listen to the residents’ delegations.

Hlusko H&S

Jennifer Hlusko

I was astounded by what I witnessed last night. The City hired a Consultant to handle this transit complaint. Dennis Fletcher, of Steer Davies Gleave, told the audience that over the past few months he has read every email and complaint received from the public. Mr. Fletcher said he was “brought in by the City to be an objective third party”.

In addition to the Consultant, I counted 8 City staff members, 23 residents, 3 Ward 6 Councillor candidates and 1 Ward 6 trustee candidate. Significantly, in the room was Mike Spicer, Director of Burlington Transit. John Duncan, Burlington Transit, was quick to tell me staff weren’t being paid overtime. That wasn’t my objection (although I expect they’ll be given lieu time).

My objection was that the City once again hired a Consultant to handle a file that staff should handle. There was nothing that Mr. Fletcher provided last night that staff couldn’t have handled themselves. Halton District School Board staff frequently lead very contentious public meetings dealing with boundary reviews and school closures.

Mr. Fletcher presented the 3 options (that were already available online), took questions from the audience then invited them to review the charts up close. Neither he nor staff would provide ridership data. To me, that is the crux of the matter. Mr. Fletcher did take the opportunity to diss the school board for downloading the problem of transporting Notre Dame Catholic SS students onto the City of Burlington. How many students ride the bus? If the route is changed to Option #1, has the administration at Notre Dame been asked how that would likely impact ridership? Does the City project that changing to Option #1 will increase ridership by providing direct access to the Supercentre mall, MMRobinson HS, the No Frills plaza, etc.? Can these projections be shared with the public?

Mr. Fletcher said that City Staff will prepare a report that will go to Council in December. If I am elected to be the Ward 6 Councillor, rest assured that I will advocate for data based decisions. Furthermore, that data is shared with the public. I will highlight for the public every time the City considers hiring a Consultant and how much it will cost taxpayers.

I invite residents to attend the repeat performance on Thu Oct 23rd at Tansley Woods. While the notice states the meeting start time is 6pm, the presentation does not begin until 6:30pm.

Here are the three options. Please note they did not include an option along Upland Drive that meets the criteria of providing transit to the Burlington Supercentre mall, but would consider it if the public requested it. Then when an audience member asked if they would consider Deer Run, Mr. Fletcher said, “We are not looking for streets to put a bus on or to take a bus off. We are trying to provide a service to meet GO times.”

The Hlusko comments were published by Hlusko on “blog” she writes almost daily

Doug Brown and Susan Lewis look over a 1982 copy of the city's bus schedule.

Doug Brown and Susan Lewis look over a 1982 copy of the city’s bus schedule.

Doug Brown, chair of Bfast a transit advocacy group based in Burlington made the following comments about the meeting.

Residents do not have the right to remove service from transit users. Not wanting a bus or bus stop near your home is not a reasonable request. It is strange that Council has been so receptive to moving bus stops and bus routes away from complaining homeowners, while showing no interest in the hundreds of complaints from bus users who have lost service during the arbitrary changes resulting from the “Interim Plan” of September 2012, and the wholesale route and schedule changes of November 3, 2013. Does Council have a bias against transit using citizens?

Transit routes should be determined by user needs and through a long-term, comprehensive transit plan. The November 03, 2013 changes did not meet these criteria.

Any changes made to Route 6 should be based on user needs and views – not on unreasonable requests from non-users to remove service.

Further transit changes should be based on a long-term well researched transit plan. Since the 2010-11 Transit Master Plan was aborted by the City in January 2011, there has been no long-term transit plan. The current Transportation Master Plan would have been a good opportunity to develop a long-term integrated transportation plan that would have included a balanced strategy for moving people via car, transit, cycling, or on foot. This opportunity is being missed.

In an interview the day after the meeting Doug Brown said: “To put it mildly, not a good public meeting.
The meeting had a number of non-transit using residents of lower Headon Forest and Pine Meadow. There were some transit users there, even though the Tansley Woods meeting site has hourly bus service – not great accessibility if you can’t drive there.

The meeting began with a talk by a paid facilitator who spent 25 minutes describing the three options that Burlington Transit has developed for the north end of Route 6.

I was the first person to speak from the audience, but was stopped half a minute into my statement by the facilitator and Mike Spicer on the grounds that only comments on the posted three options were allowed. Before being cut-off, I was interrupted several times by some rude residents with comments such as “have you heard the buses.”

I did at least get my first point out that no resident had the right to prevent transit from using their street, and that streets were public right of ways.

Empty buses was the theme of most of the non-transit using residents. Four transit users did speak, but it was very apparent that the NIMBY-minded residents had created a very anti-transit mood. The first transit user to speak felt compelled to apologize for his comments since they contradicted the presented empty bus claims.

Nonetheless, there were several good observations from the few transit users there. One lady recommended going back to the old #6 route which serviced Burlington Mall as well as the Fortinos plaza.

Anyway, back to my comments which I was prevented from delivering. My first point was that residents did not have the right to remove bus stops or buses from their streets. The second issue is that Transit routes should be determined by user needs and through a long-term, comprehensive transit plan. Good transit planning cannot be achieved by the ad hoc and time constrained options presented at the meeting.

My third point was that any changes made to Route 6 should be based on user needs and views – not on unreasonable requests from non-users to remove service. This is a key issue as staff and council seem to pay much more attention to non-transit users views than the needs of transit users.

And my fourth point was that further transit changes should be based on a long-term well researched transit plan. I noted that the City’s 2014 Capital Budget document shows no funding allocation for a transit plan until 2018 meaning that for the next 4 years, any transit measures will be ad hoc and not based on a sound long-term plan.

The three options presented by the City were far too limited as they ignored the central issue of lack of funding and poor service levels (one- hour headways on the north east routes). Staff has apparently ruled out any alternative that would cost more money – which rules out many potential options for better service.

A final comment – I have been attending many public meetings over a very long time. Last night was the first time I was stopped from speaking.



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Open Letter to Regional Chair, Gary Carr

opinionandcommentBy Halton Residents Against Sewage Backup and Flooding

October 22, 2014



Dear Mr. Carr:

Eleven weeks have passed since the Aug. 4th flood and majority of Burlington residents are still wondering what happened on that day when tens of thousands of liters of raw sewage and overflow from creeks entered into their homes, causing millions of dollars in damages and a plethora of issues from insurance battles to health risks to stolen repair deposits.

Below are questions and concerns from the residents of Burlington which HRASB compiled over the last several weeks. Health and Safety.

As you are well aware, there is a sizeable elderly population in Burlington and many live alone or with their domestic partner of many years. Several of these elderly folks did not have their homes cleaned out within the recommended time frame for a sewage backup. Also, the Ontario Environmental and Safety Network (OESN) mentions that fecal matter trapped in weeping tile and drains can release methane gas, not to mention when affected areas of the home are not adequately cleaned and tested (which OESN found in every case), then bacteria and viruses could grow and overt health effects could occur to otherwise healthy individuals. Why not bring in the Public Health Department to inspect homes?

Follow-up by the Region
We are aware of at least two residents who reported sewage backup flooding to the Region but were not contacted. Of those residents who were contacted by the Region, some reported missed appointments by Regional staff which resulted in delayed reconstruction or pressure from insurance companies for installation of the backwater valve system. Many residents still have storage pods in their driveways.

Burlington Flood Relief Foundation
Why did the representatives from the Burlington Flood Relief Foundation decline two invitations to attend sewer backup meetings thereby missing opportunities to connect with 350+ residents who were directly affected by sewage backup?

Wastewater Capital
Wastewater capital investment for new development in Oakville is 368.4 million dollars from 2012-2016 and a mere 6 million dollars for Burlington in the same time frame. Residents understand that Oakville is experiencing growth; however, Burlington east wastewater pumping stations were identified as ‘poor condition’ and the ‘highest priority’ (in Halton) as per RV Anderson and Associates engineering study provided in 2012 to the Halton Region. Why so little capital investment in Burlington when there are known issues?

Backwater Valve and Subsidy Decisions
Some residents will receive full coverage for the installation of back water valve and sump pump system while others will not. What exactly are the criteria for full subsidy and who oversees the program?

Construction by Year-End
If the Region is waiting for the results of a flood report expected in July of 2015, why are there plans to begin construction by year- end in some neighbourhoods? What knowledge does the Region have currently regarding the sanitary sewer infrastructure which has not been made public?

New Development
Residents feel that developers have ‘no business’ proposing high-rise apartments downtown, at Appleby Mall, or any other area of Burlington significantly impacted by sewer backup/flooding. Until the major infrastructure problems are identified, made public, and ultimately fixed, there will be significant push back by the residents.

We look forward to your response.

Members of the HRASB

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Chair of stop Escarpment Highway Coalition joins the debate - says a New Niagara highway corridor is not needed in Burlington.

backgrounder 100Letter to the Editor
By Geoff Brock
October 20, 2014


A point of clarification. Peter Rusin never said a highway through Burlington was inevitable. He did say a new highway was inevitable and that if Burlington didn’t get proactive with the province and make sure they were at the table where the decisions are going to be made there could be a highway through Burlington.

I’m want to respond to the discussion I’ve seen in the news over the past weekend about a new Niagara Highway coming to Burlington.

I’m very disappointed to see that Peter Rusin, one of the candidates for Mayor in Burlington, is supporting a new Highway through Burlington because he thinks that will end traffic congestion and drive growth

NGTA full study area Juny 4-2012Mr. Rusin’s position ignores the 10+ year study process that was completed by the Provincial Ministry of Transportation in 2013. This study involved multiple municipalities, dozens of Public consultation meetings, and over $10 million in consulting work and transportation planning. The conclusion was that a New Niagara highway corridor is not needed in Burlington. The Stop the Escarpment Highway Coalition was an active participant in this process, along with the City of Burlington and the Halton Region. The conclusion that was reached is a great example of local community groups working with local governments. I don’t know what facts Mr. Rusin is working with other than his own personal opinion.

MidtownOakville mobility hub study

Metrolinx completed the Midtown Oakville Mobility Hub Study in October 2012. The study developed a long-term vision for the Oakville GO Station and surrounding lands, building on the substantial amount of planning work the Town of Oakville has already completed – the May 2011 Livable Oakville Official Plan and the June 2008 Draft Midtown Business and Development Plan. It focuses on the redevelopment of publicly-owned lands around the Oakville GO station, the majority of which is owned by Metrolinx. The study also looks at expanding the GO station to ensure it can best accommodate significant growth planned for the area and future Trafalgar Bus Rapid Transit.

Mr. Rusin seems unaware of the work Metrolinx is doing in the GTHA to get people out of cars and onto transit. Some things Burlington can do alone, and some need Regional and provincial support. GO train electrification will get us GO train service every 15 minutes all day long, all year. That should get some cars off the road and improve air quality! Expanding the Mobility hub around the Burlington GO station could further help reduce congestion and create an employment centre. You only have to look at the great work done in Oakville to define a vision for the Mobility hub around their GO station. Do look.

Getting people out of cars is tough unless they have a viable alternative. Even the MTO’s long term plans show Burlington only moving from less than 5% of trips on transit, to slightly over 10% in the next 15 years. We need politicians and leaders who will ask “What will it take to get 20% of trips on transit?” The answer is better and more convenient service!

NGTA No-highway-here1-285x300There are lots of great policy ideas that Burlington can do on their own. Local trips on transit are not that convenient. It’s still difficult to get from Burlington to Oakville or Hamilton on transit. Working together with sister municipalities, instead of having standalone transit systems, will support the way citizens are living and working in the community. This idea requires regional thinking and cooperation and the vision a municipal mayor can give to the process.

Study after study shows that $1 spent on transit infrastructure returns many times the benefit of one spent on roads. Cars are going to handle the majority of trips for a long time, but the mix is going to change. We need leaders who understand that long term shift is coming and set the course to keep Burlington one of the most livable cities in Canada.

Geoff Brock is the Co- Chair, Stop the Escarpment Highway Coalition


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Why is there a difference between what a candidate says and what they have done? Mayor shifts his campaign tone.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

October 17, 2014



He’s calling the first four years of his time as Mayor the “cleanup/set up” phase for what one might assume is going to be the new beginning for Burlington.  The phrase was used in an interview the Mayor gave recently.

The “set up” here is our Mayor failing to really fight for what he thinks is best for the city he is supposed to be leading.What was there to “clean up? The city certainly has its problems but is there a load of stuff that had to be cleaned up?

Infrastructure needs money, transit needs attention, the advances made with the arts and cultural file have been good.

We still don’t have an Economic Development Corporation that is going to do great things for us. Yes, they do need time to put the new story together but we said the same thing about the Executive Director that it took more than a year to get rid of.

On the surface all the public is seeing is an organization that holds networking events. The next biggie that will speak to the commercial elite is our own hometown girl Lisa Lisson, president of FedEx Canada.

We hear precious little from this Mayor on what could be done with the Air Park. Staff have carried this one – what the public is going to gulp at it how much money has been spent on legal fees. Is that clean up or has the public been set up?

Mayor Goldring has taken the position that he put the pier problem to bed – and except for a few minor details that file is closed: what the Mayor will not live up to or taken responsibility for are the several mistakes that added a couple of million to the cost of the thing.

This city managed to go through two city managers while Rick Goldring was Mayor. They pretty well fired the one that was in place when Goldring took office – the second one took a hike to a greener pasture – and if anyone thinks the council Jeff Fielding had to work with was not a part of his decision to change addresses – then they have the same limited vision our Mayor has.

When Goldring was elected there were some questions asked about his work as a financial planner/wealth manager. At the time we were told that Goldring had given up the various licenses he was required to have and that he would be a full time Mayor. We now learn that he “owns” a local branch of Assante Wealth Management from which he has taken a leave of absence – not quite the same thing as getting out of the business.

The public has heard nothing about what Rick Goldring’s vision is for the city. We do know that he is “not on” for the 28 storey tower the Adi Development people want to put up at the corner of Lakeshore and Martha but we know nothing about what he thinks that part of the city should look like.

There are parking lots in a large part of that area. Private and corporate property owners don’t operate parking lots – they hold land until they are ready to develop. Burlington needs to decide what it wants to see in an area that is going to have a 22 story condominium tower and an eight storey hotel just a block away from the proposed 28 storey tower.

Saying that Burlington already has the legacy tower it wanted (that was back in 1985) it a pretty weak argument for not permitting a 28 story tower.

The “set up” here is our Mayor failing to really fight for what he thinks is best for the city he is supposed to be leading.

At the recent Chamber of Commerce debate Rick Goldring, in an aside to candidate Peter Rusin, the Mayor is reported to have said he agreed with Rusin’s views on any NGTA highway but couldn’t say anything for political reasons.

How’s that for leadership?


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Council candidate looks to both the Regional and the city government to pay for some of the flood expenses.

council 100x100By Carol Gottlob

Candidate ward 4

October 12, 2014


Each week, until the ballots are cast on October 27th, we are going to follow the tales and travails of a single candidate.  We have chosen Carol Gottlob, running in ward 4 against a well entrenched incumbent.  Gottlob has no experience in civic government, has never campaigned before.   Following this candidate is not an endorsement; Gottlob will win on her own merit.

Thanksgiving holiday marks the 10 week point since the flood hit Burlington on August 4th. In the final weeks of this year’s municipal election campaign, I find myself walking up to houses in all parts of Ward 4; some still have bins in the driveway, and many are patiently waiting for the contractors to show up.

The physical clean-up is virtually complete in terms of removing debris and cleansing, but the social and emotional rebuilding still has to happen and confidence in our government needs to be restored.

Flood weather network bridge

Creeks couldn’t handle the volume of water because they were left in a “naturalized” state which meant broken limbs and fallen branches were not regularly cleaned out

During this severe rain storm, our municipal systems that combine storm water and raw sewage into the same pipeline were exposed to more volume than they could handle, and the result was sewage backup spewing out into basements and other low lying drains. As we now know, sanitary sewer overflows which were caused by that huge downpour, created a severe problem to the environment, to public health and significantly, to many homeowners, wreaking havoc on many Burlington homes, causing thousands of dollars in damage to floors, walls, furniture, appliances and electrical systems.

This situation also threatened our Public Health because these overflows were comprised of raw sewage before it reached our waste water treatment plant, and it contained disease-causing bacteria, floating human waste, toxic pollutants, pesticides, and other contaminants that threaten public health and the environment, contaminate drinking water sources, and damage buildings.

Those unfortunate Ward 4 residents who found themselves in this terrible situation were not alone, we now realize. With heightened awareness, we are now learning that the increase in the number of homes connected to already aging sewage systems has contributed to rapid and repeated increases in sanitary sewer backups, flooded basements and overflows in our community.

Flood Fairview plaza

The flood waters sparred no one – home owners and commercial sections of the city all had water in their premises.

In addition, the problems of the adversely affected Ward 4 homeowners were, in many instances, also negatively impacted by nearby creeks, such as Tuck Creek which became blocked by fallen trees and debris, consequently overflowing and further flooding many residential basements via windows and portals.

Generally, the creeks and waterways in Burlington are under the jurisdiction of Conservation Halton. The storm water system comprised of storm water sewers and culverts is under the jurisdiction of the City of Burlington. Sanitary sewers and waste treatment is under the jurisdiction of the Halton Regional Government.

The question before us is this; are these governments taking sufficient initiatives and offering appropriate financial and other assistance to the adversely affected homeowners?

Apparently, Burlington is making grants to affected citizens to offset the cost of building permits and Halton is offering a lump sum towards the cost of the installation of a back-flow valve.

In this regard, I must point out that it is unacceptable to me that our municipalities are also making it a condition of such nominal payments, that a homeowner formally release the municipality from any other claims they may have. The only statement that may, in my view, be required from any recipient is that such payments shall not be deemed an admission of liability by the government and that if a claim against the government is subsequently successful, the government shall be credited with the payment received.

In my view, this extraordinary, but rare, negative situation deserves an extraordinary response from our municipal governments. Provincial and community fundraising contributions notwithstanding, the municipalities should exercise their authority under the Municipal Act to make a financial grant to the affected homeowners and the municipalities would together, upon a formula agreed between them, fund such grants to compensate for the following:

a) the full cost of the purchase and installation of a sewer back-flow valve;

b) the cost of cleaning out and disposing of the sewer backup sludge, the damaged walls, floors and household contents;

c) the cost of removing mold, cleaning and restoring the basement walls, foundation and main floor where affected;

d) the cost of replacing the interior walls and floors of the basement and main floors damaged by the storm and sewer backup;

e) an interest free loan to cover the costs of restoring the basement and its contents, as well as the main floor where affected and not covered by the compensation listed above.

Certainly, the foregoing compensation would be subject to several process and claim procedures, including the homeowner being able to establish to the governments his or her losses and damages, as well as evidence that none of their claims were covered by private insurance coverage. Clearly, the governments would not be obliged nor able to compensate the homeowners for the loss of intangibles, computer data, electronic media and related records.

It may be argued by some, that the compensation outlined above for the affected homeowners is a precedent to be avoided and that, generally, it is too expensive to be paid for by the governments.

As one homeowner pointed out to me, if a municipal water main erupted and caused damage to nearby homes, would the municipality not be responsible? My response is that such compensation to our neighbours is a precedent which should be set, as it is entirely in the public interest that the few citizens among us affected so adversely by such a storm should not have to bear alone and alone assume all of the negative costs of this storm due to the failure of our municipal infrastructure to handle such a storm. As one homeowner pointed out to me, if a municipal water main erupted and caused damage to nearby homes, would the municipality not be responsible?

How is this event any different, other than it being on a much larger scale? The responsibility still rests on the municipalities, and those homeowners who are experiencing repeated floods are no longer eligible for private insurance. Someone has to step up.

Gottlob -with pier in background

Carol Gottlob – running for the ward 4 council seat and a seat on the Regional government; two bikes, one car.

Furthermore, due to the fact that we can anticipate other significant storms in the future, these expenses are justified in so far as they will remove the public health threat to these citizens whose homes are vulnerable, without such improvements, to being subjected to subsequent sewer backups.

If the municipalities in the past refused to foresee the necessity to rebuild an infrastructure to handle such storms within the context of regional development, why shouldn’t they now assume the cost of paying the affected homeowners for the consequence of such prior government decisions?

All the more reason to learn from this and use the technology we have and the foresight we need to exercise, to plan and build for 100 years out if we want a stable and viable infrastructure and move away from costly damage control.

As the evenings close in on us and the weather turns cooler, I am thankful for the warmth emitted from my furnace, however I am sadly reminded that some of my neighbours are not so fortunate, through no fault of their own, and we owe it to them to provide the basic necessities through community assistance as well as good government that takes responsibility for those provisions.


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There was a time when it was the Natural Governing Party of Ontario - will it rise again?

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

October 8, 2014



They used to call the Ontario Progressive Conservatives (PCs) ‘the natural governing party’. Originated with the Upper Canada Family Compact of Sir John A Macdonald, the party was first led by another Macdonald, who was actually a Liberal. The PCs under one label or another have ruled Ontario for over half of the province’s post-confederation history. And interestingly the Party’s official name used to be the Liberal-Conservative Association of Ontario.

christine-elliott-1Next May the Ontario PCs will be choosing a new leader and will get the opportunity to rid themselves of the regressive and divisive politics that characterized much of the past couple decades. Christine Elliott, the widow of former finance minister Jim Flaherty, appears to be the candidate to beat. She’s been down this road before, coming in third place to Tim Hudak in the 2009 leadership fight. Flaherty had been one of the Mike Harris’ radicals though he took on subtler, more folksy and progressive persona as Mr. Harper’s finance minister.

After Flaherty vacated his provincial seat to run federally, Elliott squeaked in to fill her husband’s shoes. She claims to be a moderate, a centrist, and unlike Hudak, was never a foot soldier in the Harris government. In fact she has been known to criticize Harris’ ‘Common Sense Revolution’ and the extreme policies of former leader Tim Hudak, policies which led to the party’s failure in the last provincial election.

There is so much political landscape for a moderate leader of the second party to explore, providing that party is focused on good government and not blinded by ideology. For example we know that balancing the budget is an exercise in offsetting expenditures with revenues. And it follows that if costs can’t be reasonably curtailed, then taxes must increase.

Ontario’s state of transportation infrastructure is in shambles – and especially so in the GTA. Former Premier John Robarts would have intervened long ago to build more public transit, so people could come out of their cars and off the roads. And that would have helped, but this is more complex than just building bus lanes, subways and GO trains – it is about urban sprawl and planning for development in Ontario.

Bill Davis had problems learning how to balance a budget; never really did learn.

Bill Davis had problems learning how to balance a budget; never really did learn.

Former premier Bill Davis implemented Ontario’s land planning process, calling it one of the most advanced anywhere. But for all the praise, it is not much more than a reactive system driven by unsolicited developer proposals. Only the official plans and Greenbelt represent any kind of meaningful planning. And then there is that archaic institution called the Ontario Municipal Board, which exists nowhere else and, which can overrule municipal decisions to the ‘nth’ detail of a developer’s wet dream, thus emasculating council decisions.

Finally the whole municipal system promotes corruption and influence peddling. For example, some councillors accept contributions from land developers, and then are in a position to approve their development plans. And isn’t four years is too long a term for a municipal official between elections? Term limits might encourage greater participation in the municipal process as well as reducing the amount of ‘dead wood’ in council chambers.

Fixing these things is not really a matter of being right-wing or left-wing, and neither is ensuring adequate health care, reliable energy and quality education for the Ontario public. So I welcome a new PC leader who understands that we just want good government. Isn’t that how the PC party started and evolved, at least until it went off the rails. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a choice between two middle-of-the-road parties that mostly believe in the same things for all of us?

An economy in perpetual deficit will ultimately fail to perform at all.And don’t we get tired watching one party come to power and then cancel the programs the former one had brought in, and so on and so forth… Of course there are some universal truths. Wealth doesn’t just trickle down from the rich to the poor, which is one of the reasons we have taxation. An economy in perpetual deficit will ultimately fail to perform at all. And the profit incentive is essential to ensure economic progress.

These principles or philosophies can be located somewhere in the constitutions of both of the two major political parties in Ontario if we look hard enough. This is the heritage of the parties and also their foundation. What’s not there is how they act to achieve these goals: being moderate, reasonable, inclusive and cooperative or conflicting, contrary, exclusive and divisive.

You know, the kind of stuff  Mr. Tory attempted with religious school funding, Mr. Hudak with slashing the civil service and the crippling the unions, and Mr. Harris by dismantling our reliable electrical generation system.Not everybody always votes for the same party, except maybe in Alberta. Some voters might occasionally want to support a second party, if only for a change of blood. But that becomes difficult when partisan ‘policy wonks’ dream up striking new ideological policy planks for the party leader. You know, the kind of stuff  Mr. Tory attempted with religious school funding, Mr. Hudak with slashing the civil service and the crippling the unions, and Mr. Harris by dismantling our reliable electrical generation system.

There are at least four other contenders for the PC leadership so far, and in politics anything is possible. So it may not be Ms. Elliott who wins. Hopefully the new leader will look for inspiration to the glorious days before the 1990’s when the PCs were both conservative and progressive.

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.

PCs    Christine Elliott   PC Leadership 

Patrick Brown Candidate    Hudak’s Platform    

PC’s Relevant?   Federal Conservative Constitution 

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Rivers takes in Venice; finds they too want to seperate - misses out on Clooney wedding.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

October 2, 2014



It seems everybody wants to have a referendum these days. I’m in Italy visiting Venice this week and it turns out the folks out here are planning a ‘Scotland-style’ plebiscite for independence from Italy.

Some separation enthusiasts ran an on-line poll last March and claimed that an overwhelming number of respondents wanted to separate from Italy. Interestingly, like the Scots, they still wanted to stay in the EU and be a part of NATO.


Gazette columnist cover Venetian plans to secede from Italy.

That survey has encouraged Veneto, the regional entity of five million people, which includes the cities of Venice and Verona, to hold a more formal referendum. In fact a referendum was the basis for this north-eastern region to join Italy in the first place. Veneto has a colourful history. It was occupied by, among others, Attila the Hun, the Romans, the French and the Austrians. And as we know from reading Shakespeare, there was also a long period of self-government as well.

I wasn’t the only one visiting Venice. Besides the usual early autumn tourist hordes, it turns out that George Clooney, the actor, chose Venice for his wedding with British human-rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin last weekend. No, I wasn’t invited to the wedding, but I still admire Clooney as an actor, and I like the way he speaks out on the things he stands for, especially global climate change.

The city of Venice had been sinking for ages, partly from all the building on the islands and partly from the depression caused by pumping out too much ground water. Government has taken measures to eliminate that sinking feeling, but its still going to be a wet future for this ‘city of bridges’. Global climate change has already raised water levels and the future will see the Adriatic blanketing a wide swath of coastal north-eastern Italy. Fish will swim where mankind used to walk.

Climate march New York

New Yorkers march in the streets to save the planet. Burlington had a smaller crowd.

A huge crowd demonstrated in New York last week, as world leaders met to decide what to do about climate change. Over three hundred thousand people came out to demand action, but all they got from the government leaders present, were the usual well-intentioned but meaningless speeches. President Obama got up to the podium to tell the rest of the world that it should do as he says – not as he does (or doesn’t). But at least his sentiments sounded sincere.

Canada, on the other hand, ganged up with Australia and Japan to make sure that the Kyoto Treaty was dead and could never be used to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, our Harper, who was in New York at the time of the climate change meeting, didn’t even show his face. And that was probably just as well, since the last thing anybody needs to hear is another speech with more promises that his government has no intention of keeping.

China, now the world’s largest polluter did promise to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions a tad – but not nearly enough. And Russia is too busy selling its vast fossil fuel reserves, or threatening its neighbours, to even think about reducing its carbon footprint. Europe is still optimistic that it can make progress. Munich, for example, is promising to eventually become carbon-free, but their biggest worry today is ensuring a good supply of Russian natural gas.

It was Peter Drucker who characterized management as the science of doing things right – and leadership, the art of doing the right thing. Many world leaders came to New York last week to talk about mitigating an ever-worsening global climate change. Sadly, there was little evidence of good management and no sign of leadership whatsoever.

The locals in Venice told me that the worst floods come in November and December. I was in Venice at the end of November a few years back, while attending one of those climate change conference. Water, water everywhere, and raised wooden platforms set on top of the sidewalks to avoid getting one’s feet too wet. It does really kind of takes away from the romance of it all.

Clooney wedding

George Clooney marries in Venice. Gazette columnist wasn’t invited.

But there was a lot of romance at the Clooney wedding party, I heard. A hundred people, movie stars and other friends, added their weight onto the sunken ground of Venice. George Clooney, Willie Nelson, Neil Young have been outspoken on climate change and they have been attacked in return. But the way I look at it – if not them, then who will take the moral high ground – certainly not Canada’s PM.

Heading back to the train to take me from Venice to Florence, I took the Vaporetto (ferry service) and couldn’t help wondering about the amount of carbon emissions pouring out of the stacks of these boats as thy feverishly criss-crossed the canals. And I couldn’t help feeling guilty at having come here and adding to the carbon footprint of Venice and Italy. But then it is good that I am aware, at least, and I suppose I’m going to have to get used to that feeling or do something about it.

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.

Venice Referendum   Veneto Issues     Venice 

Clooney Wedding    Clooney 

Obama climate Change    Harper and the Climate Conference  Climate Change Demonstration 

Canada and Climate Change   Renewable Energy    Optimistic Energy 

Peter Drucker

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Just what is a conflict of interest - and who defines it? Who will speak for ward six residents when the air park is discussed at city council.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

September 27, 2014



The Air Park is the most important issue in ward six however it really didn`t get the debate it needed. As publisher of the Gazette I did not choose the questions the panelists asked. I did choose the panelists.


an early photograph of the Airpark property.  There are now two runways and a lot more landfill now than there was when this picture was taken.  The lines indicate the extent of the holdings.

An early photograph of the Airpark property. There are now two runways and a lot more landfill now than there was when this picture was taken. The lines indicate the extent of the Air Park holdings.

The Air Park is not just ward six issue – it is a city wide issue – what happens to that land and that operation will define for a long, long time what rural Burlington looks like in the years ahead.

Our task is not to decide the issues but to help in defining what the issues are. We have some very active (and opinionated readers in whom we delight) who take part in this process.

We got the following from a resident:

I’m a resident of Ward 6, and I was at the debate the other night. One issue I thought might come up was one that has previously been raised by Ms. Hlusko concerning Ms. Warren’s potential conflict of interest regarding the Airpark. Since she has stated in the past that Airpark expansion would negatively impact her equestrian business, there does seem to be a real possibility that she would have to recuse herself from discussion of any airpark expansion plans. It would indeed be ironic if she were elected to council, but was then unable to participate in the issue that brought her to local prominence in the first place.
Do you know if Ms. Warren has ever addressed this issue? I think those who support her with the thought that she would be their champion on the airpark issue should get some clarification on whether her role would be restricted.



Tonnes of landfill were dumped on the Air Park property without the required permits.   The public does not know where much of that land fill came from.  The Air Park owners claimed they were regulated by the federal government and did not have to comply with municipal bylaws,  Justice Murphy said they were wrong and that they did have to comply with city bylaws.  How they comply is what your council is going to decide.

We asked Ms Warren to respond and she sent the following:

A Buttonville-like expansion of the Burlington Airpark would negatively affect everyone living in Burlington, including my home and farming operation. The 5 year unregulated fill operation that I fought through the Rural Burlington Greenbelt Coalition and the Ontario Soil Regulation Task Force negatively affected numerous families and properties in Ward 6, and may yet effect all of us if the fill is left untested.

Every decision a City Councillor makes also effects them personally as a resident of this City; what they may not do is have a pecuniary interest in the outcome of a decision. I will in no way financially benefit from a Burlington Airpark that is environmentally safe, or that remains feasible within the context of the Greenbelt Protected Countryside that it has operated on for the last 60 years.

As Ward 6 Councillor, I would never recuse myself from anything to do with the Burlington Airpark, and I would continue to advocate for environmental and social justice on this file. Jennifer Hlusko is plain wrong on this one.

There you have it – two opinions. You now have to think about what you want your Burlington to look like.  We would like to add this: the Air Park would not be the issue it is had Ms Warren not brought it to public attention.

And you might want to ask why Vince Rossi is suing Ms Warren (and the publisher of the Gazette) for libel.

Salt with Pepper is a column written from time to time by Pepper Parr the publisher of the Gazette

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Candidate for the office of Mayor comments on the election race so far.

opinionandcommentBy Peter Rusin

September 20, 2014


From time to time during the municipal election the Gazette will run items in which candidates put forward their thoughts and view on the election campaign.

We are not interested in running your platform but do want to hear from you if you have something to say on the way the city is run and how you would try and do things differently. This feature is limited to those people who are not currently on city council.

It has been a week now since I registered as candidate for mayor. In that time we have been receiving only positive support which is somewhat interesting; nobody has said anything negative or unjustifiably critical. We have received invitations to meet with people, groups, other political candidates, etc. There has been a refreshing tone of curiosity, and the process we hope is at least engaging the electorate and elevating issues. People are taking this seriously.

Rusin walking dog

Rusin walks his dog regularly in Spencer Smith Park.

I would like to share four notable and very distinct inquiries from a sampling of regular citizens, and some personal opinions:

The first was from a long time city employee concerned about being without a contract now since June and worried about the future. We discussed an assortment of issues important to him and his union brother and sisters. I think he felt better after our chat, because he had a chance to voice his opinions, and perhaps he felt that there was some hope in the future to be treated with a bit more respect than under the current regime at city hall.

The second was from a homeowner completely frustrated by the treatment from the mayor’s office; she felt like being treated with disrespect dealing with what she considered relatively minor issues resulting from the impacts of the flood; all this person wanted was a feeling of respect and not simply receiving template responses from junior mayoral staff.

“Try calling city hall and get a live voice on the other end of the phone” was another concern. According to this individual, a variety of staff attended the property to review the complaints, but, then asked her to come in person to pick up a blah-blah letter from the mayor’s office. It probably would have taken less city staff time and resources if she was treated with a bit of respect, instead of seventy unanswered emails.

Two different people, one from the inside and one from the outside; asking to be treated with a little bit of respect. So, is this city functioning in a caring and inviting way like the mayor proclaims, or, is that not quite how this city hall regime conducts its civil service duties?

Does city hall have a duty to provide service like a government or conduct itself in the style of some sort of exclusive private country club?

The third was a series of questions from a person asking: “are you for the gay community? I realize this is a divisive issue for some in the community but it is extremely important to me that our leaders are not afraid to be transparent about their loyalties and honest about what they will actually effectively stand for”. Answer: 100% in favour of the gay and LGBTQIA community; don’t really understand why this would be an issue.

I remember when I was a victim of discrimination as an immigrant child and the feeling of being a lesser person; but that actually helped shape who I am today. All people are equal. I have enjoyed some of the best dinner parties and conversation with my gay friends; definitely not boring, unlike some of my friends who are straight. I hope I am clear and transparent on this topic.

Rusin - direct into camera - hard look

Peter Rusin is very hard on crime – and particularly on drugs.

Another question from the same person: “is the city planning to promote any programs to help decrease the amount of drug activity apparent around our streets and parks? Answer: Part of the Rusin Quality of Life Enhancement platform is the prohibition of the sale of drug paraphernalia in retail and convenience stores across the city. This will help protect our children, police, justice system, and also keep our streets and neighbourhoods safer and free from drug related activity. The current council has ignored this topic for the past eight years under Goldring’s watch. I will be facing this head on and will see to fighting the drug problem; whatever it takes.


St. Paul Street resident wants to see Waterfront Trail extended through lakeshore property the city already owns.

St. Paul Street residents wants to see Waterfront Trail extended through lakeshore property the city already owns.  Rusin has yet to form a view on this situation.  City council voted to sell the land to private interests.

The fourth was a lengthy email I received from a former childhood neighbour of mine, and it made me pause a little bit more than usual: “how does your platform of preservation of green space relate to our food and preservation of farmlands or planning for affordable healthy food”; “ever since that house next door to your parents and my parents has been built, my dad and I have observed a few trees taken down, robins did not return this year, sparrows are gone”; “I have huge concerns about the waterfront and the access for all in Burlington”. “I felt that since you took a proactive stance in running for mayor I would be proactive in letting you know”.

I have not answered her yet, but, I will form my answer to her questions into the platform on these topics soon.

These people now have their voices heard and their right to vote restored. I am so proud and humbled to be a part of this process.


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Ward six debate may not have all the candidates on the stage. Stage fright perhaps?

saltlogo1By Pepper Parr

September 18, 2014



Politics is about power – even at the municipal level. Politicians have access to information the rest of us don’t have. They make decisions that determine how much of our money is paid in taxes; they decide when the swimming pools will be open and they decide when the snow gets cleared off your street.

There are thousands of municipal politicians who serve the public and there are some who serve themselves. They fight hard to become politicians and fight just as hard to stay there.

Politicians work at creating the image they believe their constituents want. Not all of them but the vast majority for sure. Some have agendas – others just want to make their community a good place to live in.
In Ontario municipal politicians have to go before the voters and seek re-election. They have to either spend their own money or raise money to pay for their campaigns.

Those who do the job well – work long hours, very long hours. We have one Councillor in Burlington who thinks being a city Councillor and a Regional Councillor is a part time job. It isn’t.

Burlington has had poor media this past eight to ten years. Poor media means an uninformed electorate. Uninformed voters cannot make informed choices. When voters don’t have enough information – they tend not to vote. Burlington has a poor voter turnout.


Ward 6 Councillor Blair Lancaster thinking through the answer to a question.  Tends to be cautious.

Blair Lancaster, first term member of council seeking re-election.

The Burlington Gazette has organized a debate for the people running in ward six – where nine people want to replace first term Councillor Blair Lancaster. That is a clear sign that a lot of people are unhappy and that a number of people think they can win the Ward six council seat.

We were able to get the use of the theatre at the Hayden High school and have had positive responses from all but two of the candidates.

Jennifer Hlusko has advised us that she has an important board of Education meeting on Wednesday September 24th. Ms Hlusko has served as a school board trustee for 11 years –however she ends that job in November. She is now a candidate for a municipal council seat and her obligation is to the people, who are voting for municipal representation.

Ms Hlusko appears to want to get permission from the Director of Education to miss the school board meeting. She advised us that she would “speak with the Chair, trustees and Director about the September 24th conflict.”

The director of Education reports to the trustees. Ms Hlusko is currently a trustee; quite why she feels she has to seek permission or approval from the Director of Education suggest she doesn’t fully understand the relationship between trustees and the Director of Education.

Blair Lancaster has not yet replied to our invitation to take part in the debate.

The Gazette got a call from a Brenda McKinley who said she was calling on behalf of a ward six candidate but would not identify who she was representing.

Hlusko H&S

Jennifer Hlusko, currently a school board trustee running as a candidate for the ward six seat on city council.

Ms McKinley wanted a moderator from the Chamber of Commerce and she wanted questions from the panelists to be asked of all ten candidates. We declined to change our format and we did not want the Chamber of Commerce moderating this event. They have in the past held their own debates.

Our format was to have the panelists ask a candidate a question, after which any other candidate could make a comment – with one minute to do so. The candidate the question was put to would have a minute to respond to the comments from the others.

Ward six is clearly a contested seat and there are some powerful interests who want to see the “right” person win. We hope that the wines of the debate are the people of ward six.

The event will start with each candidate being given two minutes to put their case before the audience and two minutes at the end of the debate. The order in which the candidates speak will be drawn by lot.

We learned later that Ms McKinley has been in touch with at least one other candidate to get allocated seating for their supporters. The debate is for the public and we will do what we can to ensure that the candidates do not flood the room with their supporters.

We are trying to work within the framework of a democracy and giving everyone an equal opportunity.
There will be questions from the audience when the debate concludes.

At this point we do not have a commitment from either Ms Hlusko or Ms Lancaster. There will be a seat for them with their name on it – it is up to them if they choose to speak to the voters

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Social media at its best: a community sharing information and a known information source carrying and distributing that information.

saltlogo1By Pepper Parr

September 13, 2014

Burlington, ON.


The phrase social media means different things to different people. And there are few really good examples of how social media works and the role it can play in the sharing of information.

While there are mountains of information out there – what exists may not be what you want. Perfect social media is when what you want is also what others have to share.

Flood Fairview plaza

A plaza on Fairview – stores flooded.

Last August 4th when rain fell on the city for close to eight hours and left 191mm of water looking for a place to go – the Weather Network was collecting data from anyone who had something to send in.

The link  here is a really good example of social media doing what it is supposed to do. The piece you have looked at was obtained by the city from the Weather Network and shown at a city Development and Infrastructure committee more than a month after the rains fell.

The Weather Network took video clips sent to them and just stitched them together into a strip of film and loaded it on their web site.

Flood weather network bridge

Individuals sent in clips taken from the cell cameras – which are stitched together by the Weather Network and aired.

Imagine if that piece of video had been shown to the public the day after the storm – Burlington would have had a much better idea as to what had happened and the response to the flood would have been much more engaged.

Had video like this been used at the Ribfest; had the story of the flood been told to the more than 100,000 people who came from places other than Burlington – the amount raised would have been much more than the $40,000 that was raised.

That $40,000 was $40,000 more than the Community Foundation had before Ribfest and the community is grateful – but when compared to the $20,000 that one man and 35 volunteers raised in four hours on Elwood Street – questions get asked.

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Why do we have troops in the Middle East? Didn't we say NO to this in 2003? What's changed since then? Did the government ask if we were on for this action?


Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

September 12, 2014



Didn’t we have the debate already? I mean about sending soldiers to Iraq?  Jean Chretien settled it in 2003, I thought. We weren’t going to participate in the illegal US invasion of Iraq – or its aftermath, something we’re seeing now. The Pottery Barn rule – if you break it you own it – applies.

NATO has lost its way. Of all of its interventions, only Kosovo and Bosnia were in Europe, and neither came even close to falling within NATO’s mandate of keeping the Russian Bear at bay. But Afghanistan, Libya, and now Iraq – really? And when it comes to actually standing up to the Russians, it’s all talk.


That Russian bear has to be fed – constantly.

Our Prime Minister has been outspoken on Ukraine and Russia. So perhaps that is why president Obama shut him out of the meeting with some European leaders and the Ukrainian president. As in so many things, the US leads NATO, but Obama has displayed incredible incompetence on this file. And old Europe is still in shock at the upheaval of the world order they thought would go on forever. So NATO is adrift In the midst of the biggest crisis since the cold war ended.

Obama has displayed incredible incompetence on this file.And our own Harper, forthright in characterizing this issue from the start, has only provided a financial package and a few plane loads of non-lethal aid. It will take more than night goggles and bullet-proof vests to halt the onslaught of Russia’s modern army. Don’t we still have surplus tanks from our Afghan adventure?

ISIS is a nasty organization but hardly a NATO problem, posing no credible threat to the security of Europe or North America. Still Obama has thrown us in it, ordering Harper to send our special operations forces to train the Iraqi Kurds how to kill – something they could probably teach us. What the Kurds really need , like the Ukrainians also under siege, is lethal arms to counter the invading horde. And unlike Ukraine, it appears the Kurds will be getting modern defensive weapons.

Harper should have said ‘NO’ to sending troops to clean up America’s mess in Iraq. Certainly not without a parliamentary vote, and maybe even another discussion among Canadians. And Harper should not have left the NATO meeting without ensuring there would be provision for defensive weapons for Ukraine. That is, if he wants us to believe that all those words he has been uttering on their behalf are not just empty rhetoric.

He should have walked out of the meeting and told the rest of NATO to call him when they had found their intestinal fortitude. If they won’t even supply defensive weapons to help Ukraine, a NATO partner (though not full member), what will they do for us when Canada needs to defend its arctic sovereignty from a Russian intrusion. And that day won’t be far away as we watch Russia preparing its arctic military bases.

Better we go it alone if all we are going to get from NATO is lip service. The resolutions coming out of the meeting in Wales were pathetic. New bases are to be established in eastern Europe, but without any troops to ‘man’ them. Another rapid-action force is being created to replace the one that has remained on paper for nearly two decades. And nothing was done to defend against actual Russian aggression, which everyone concedes is taking place to a sovereign European state – the raison d’être for NATO in the first place.

Harper and Obama

Are the Americans our friends or are they just an ally?

Brian Mulroney gave a rare but very frank interview to the CBC recently. He particularly impressed me with his candour, especially when characterizing the performance of the current PM. He spoke about how essential good relations with our neighbour to the south are if we are to influence their policies, and how Harper had failed in that regard (my words). Why else would Obama have volunteered Canada for this new role in Iraq, and maybe Syria, when it has so little to do with our national interest.

Canada is a strategic partner for the US but not a friend, which it was under Mulroney and Reagan, Chretien and Clinton, and Trudeau and Carter. Obama neither understands nor listens to us as a result. And the US president’s policy of global benign neglect has enabled situations like ISIS and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, rather than prevented them. He has no strategy for global leadership on these issues, as he recently, and unfortunately, admitted – nor any other ones either, it seems. The world has become a more scary place under his watch – perhaps it’s time for him to return that Nobel peace prize.

Canada is a strategic partner for the US but not a friend.It’s not that we have seen great insight on foreign policy from the Harper crowd either, though at least they are saying the right things about Ukraine. Still, our PM needs to recant his commitment to send troops to Iraq, at least until the rest of us Canadians have considered the potential consequences and agreed to that kind of mission. Last time I looked we were still a parliamentary democracy.

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:

US and ISIS    Canada and Ukraine     Canada and Iraq  

Mulroney Interview   ISIS as a Threat   Ukraine and Nato

Obama Wrong on Russia      Russia in the Arctic


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Will the Prime Minister take a walk in the snow? Will the Council of the Federation become what the Fathers of Confederation wanted?

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

August 29, 2014

The Premiers of Ontario and Quebec have met and agreed to work together as never before, building their economies and reducing barriers to the movement of goods and services between them. Other parts of Canada, the west, through the New West Partnership, and the Atlantic provinces, are doing something similar. With a federal government mostly missing-in-action in so many ways, it is inevitable that provincial leaders would look to some kind of sub-national organization as a alternative.

Fathers of confederation

The Father`s of Confederation thought they got it right – but the Senate they wanted isn`t the Senate we have today.

Inadequate federal leadership was all too evident as the leaders of Canada’s provinces and territories got together for their annual summer meeting at the Council of the Federation in Charlottetown this week. The premiers hold two of these joint meetings a year in what is emerging as an evolving component of Canada’s political landscape. Though invited, this PM doesn’t attend, preferring to deal with the jurisdictions individually.

The agenda kicked off with discussion of the tragic systematic disappearance of aboriginal women. Stephen Harper’s misunderstanding and misrepresentation of that issue last week has been greeted with outrage and disgust. Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario, as well as the first nations organizations, have called him on his insensitivity and his resistance to getting at the root causes.

Harper has also isolated himself on pensions, even though the provinces had demanded enhancement to CPP at their last meeting. According to recent polls. only 15 per cent of Canadians are “very confident” they will have enough money to retire “comfortably” and 69 per cent believe the federal government should take the lead. In fact 63% of Canadians believe that existing premiums should be increased and 55% say the provinces should move on their own if the federal government doesn’t. So Ontario’s premier Wynne is receiving a lot of attention for her plans to introduce a provincial pension plan to supplement the CPP.

Provincial leaders are also addressing the need to eliminate the barriers to trade among themselves, something the Harper government has been pushing. And provincial regulations are problematic since they can restrict the free movement of goods and services and impair cross border labour mobility. Saskatchewan’s Brad Wall no sooner finished grandstanding on the need for Ontario to become more open than he realized his New West Partnership may also be a culprit. And the good news for those of us who want to see B.C.’s excellent wines in the LCBO is that Premier Wynne has agreed to… consider it.

The Council of the Federation is becoming a significant force on the Canadian political scene, a scene where an ideologically constipated federal government is putting real meaning to the term ‘conservative’. As the Council wraps up its meetings it is no surprise to see the perennial demand for renewed federal finding for health care and infrastructure. Of course these demands will fall on deaf ears. Mr. Harper’s government has given its last word and closed the taps.

As the Council meeting was drawing to a close in lovely Charlottetown, the leaders posed as if in an 1864 remake of the Fathers (and Mothers) of Confederation. This was another successful Council meeting, again demonstrating how to mobilize consensus among so many Canadian leaders representing such diverse provincial and regional political perspectives. One has to wonder whether the Council of the Federation doesn’t really capture what the real Fathers of Confederation had originally been contemplating when they invented the Canadian Senate. And wouldn’t this body or something like it be a perfect replacement for our current chamber of lost souls?

Harper - fists

Prime Minister Stephen Harper – can put up a really good fight.

Given how out-of-touch the PM is on so many issues of national significance, it is little wonder that his numbers are dropping and people beginning to ask whether he’ll even be around for the next election in 2015. It wasn’t that long ago that Harper was considered invincible and destined to win another majority government. But the polls are telling a different story as we get closer to the election.

Atlantic Canada seems ready to give the new Liberal leader the vast majority of its seats, as Trudeau’s popularity in that part of the country climbs to a new high. And Ontario is once again turning to Liberals in numbers that bode for a potential ‘majority’. But it is always a long time in politics until the next election. Then there is the west, which will follow Harper, as night follows day, except possibly for Vancouver Island where marijuana is the leading agricultural cash crop.

Recent gerrymandering, politely called re-distribution, will hand Harper more than 20 potential new seats compared to a mere 2 for the Liberals. Finally, nobody knows where Mr. Mulcair’s hold on the vast majority of Quebec seats will end up.

Trudeau Justin with big hair

Will the Trudeau mystique holdÉ

Despite what everyone concedes is a good performance by Mulcair as opposition leader, he and Harper are downright boring, compared to the energetic Trudeau. And after nearly a decade of the same old tired face in your face, Canadians are ready for a change. Harper’s vision of a nation converted from pot smoking Libs to little obedient red necks has failed to materialize, or perhaps this is just a new generation rejecting the past, as they always do.

As the Canadian economy starts to sputter from the fallout of the international crisis in Europe next year, some folks might wonder if Harper will take his own ‘walk in the snow’ and allow a fresh new leader to replace him. There are a good many potential candidates including Peter MacKay, Joe Oliver, James Moore, Lisa Raitt and John Baird. With the exception of Baird, who has demonstrated strength in his foreign affairs ministry, these candidates also carry enough baggage to keep them from breaking out of Harper’s musty closet.

And it is unlikely that Mr. Harper will let go of the reins just yet. He is a strong-willed and confident individual who will, no doubt, expect to be there for his party, winning again – just as his favourite anti-Christ, Chretien, used to do.

So expect him to be there for an autumn vote if his numbers continue to fall and it smells like at least a minority Conservative government. And if he can manage to arrest that ‘Mr. out-of-touch’ look, he might well call a spring election in the hope that Mr. Trudeau’s magnetism will have come down from its high.

Background links:
Ontario- Quebec   Council of the Federation    Aboriginal Women   Wall on Aboriginals    Atlantic Polling   Ontario Polls

Harper’s Decision    Harper’s Succession   Replacing Harper   Harper will Resign   Gerrymandering 

Ray Rivers writRivers-direct-into-camera1-173x300es 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. 

Editor`s note.  When ever Ray Rivers has a chance he will get in his view that the Senate should be abolished and that marijuana should be made legal.  He just can`t help himself.

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Ward 6 candidate Jim Curran can't seem to keep out of hot water; scews up Virtual Townhall meeting.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

August 21, 2014



James Curran, candidate for the ward 6 council seat, just can’t seem to keep out of trouble.

There have been more than 25 comments on his status as a real estate appraiser – with lots of back and forth and accusation and upgraded explanations.
What should have been a perfectly clear answer to a reasonable question got twisted and turned with people saying they just didn’t believe the man. At this point I’m not sure exactly what his status is as an appraiser.

Curran with candidate manual

Jim Curran complained to the city about the amount of time candidates were permitted to put up election signs. Says the rules were not clearly set out in the Candidates Manual.

We advised our readers that we were not taking any more comments on what his status is as an appraiser.

People in the community are bothered by the way that part of the Curran background played out but the issue seems to have ground down to he said – she said. At that point we stopped taking comments unless there was some really solid information.

Then – just when the heat was off the status issue – we get an email advising us that:

In light of recent events and concerns of citizens of Burlington, including the flooding, I have arranged to hold a town hall this evening at 7:00. I apologize for the short notice.

We got this at 6:30 – and complained to Curran that such short notice was unacceptable
Curran responded with: “I just received media codes less than an hour ago. The team informed me just hours ago that it was even taking place. I am as unprepared as you my friend.”

Is Curran telling us that he wasn’t fully aware that something this critical to his campaign was something he didn’t know that much about?
Setting up a Virtual Meeting takes time – someone has to make the arrangements with the company handling the calls – and someone has to have sent out notices to people advising them of the event.

Is Curran telling us that, if this was done he wasn’t aware of it – and if it was done by others – why wasn’t he on top of it.

Jim Curran has exceptional political contacts and connections and he would have people who knew how to set this kind of thing up. To screw it up the way he has – does not bode well for putting this guy at the horseshoe come October.


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Why do we treat immigrants as equals and our aboriginals as mis-guided children?

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

August 15, 2015


When the UN adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), enshrining their minimal standards for the survival, dignity and well-being, in 2007, only four nations opposed its passage. These were the former British colonies of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the USA. Canada’s minister of Indian Affairs at the time Chuck Strahl, argued: “By signing on, you default to this document by saying that the only rights in play here are the rights of First Nations. And, of course, in Canada, that’s inconsistent with our Constitution.”

Aboriginals in native dress Rivers columnYet Canadian aboriginal and government officials had been engaged in the development of this declaration since the 1970’s. Amnesty International, condemned the Conservative government’s position as they argued that the UNDRIP outlined minimum human rights standards, complementing rather than overriding existing rights. In fact, over a hundred Canadian lawyers and legal experts prepared an open letter outlining why the Canadian government’s claims were misleading.

And it was only three years later that all four of the dissenting nations reversed themselves and ratified the Declaration, though their support could best be described as qualified. Canada and Australia, in particular, referred to the Declaration as some kind of aspirational document meanwhile insisting that their governments were already in compliance. It is said that if you don’t know that a problem exists, you will never come to a resolution.

Article 3 of UNDRIP includes the right to “to freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.” Now that is pretty meaty stuff and something very much at odds with the paternalism that has characterized aboriginal policy over the centuries. Canada’s approach has always been assimilation or directed isolation – you are one of us or you are on the reserve and will play according to our rules.

Yet, Canada is the nation of multiculturalism. We encourage new immigrants to share their history and lifestyles with the rest of us as we continue to build Canada. Why do we treat immigrants as equals and our aboriginals as mis-guided children? The purpose of the Indian Act, first enacted almost immediately after confederation, was to encourage aboriginals to discard their history and embrace ours; to give up their cultural heritage as if it were obviously inferior.

Of course it’s not just about attitude, though it is a great deal about attitude. There are these historical treaties, and the new ones in the works, that continue to drive that wedge between us and them, to perpetuate the divisions. The Indian ‘status’ is a virtual prison sentence for Canada’s original inhabitants, segregating them from the rest of us. Conferring special rights (e.g. tax free), ‘status’ has perpetuated the demand for a system which has failed to provide economic and social development, and the freedom it purports to offer.

Like a treadmill or vicious circle, aboriginals are trapped in a dependency on public largess and welfare. What, arguably, may have been well-intentioned aboriginal policy at one time in history has been shown to be demeaning and de-humanizing. And the courts have told us we can’t just tear up the treaties, and the Indian Act, and start again, despite the overwhelming logic which says that is exactly what we need to do.

Rivers Idle no morePierre Trudeau, in 1969, and Stephen Harper, more recently, learned that change is not something government can do on its own, it needs to engage all Canadians in a serious discussion. Boundaries and limits, as articulated in the old treaties, can both protect and imprison. Would the creation of aboriginal nations within the Canadian nation be a solution? Doesn’t that already exist with the system of reserves? Would that have served to prevent the conflicts at Caledonia, Ipperwash, Akwesasne and ‘Idle No More’?

The US government officially treats American tribes as ‘domestic dependent nations’ but has struggled in defining how these jurisdictions interact with federal, state, and tribal governments. It all sounds good until the rubber hits the road and everyone sees that this is nothing like the full sovereignty accorded foreign nations. The incident at Wounded Knee in 1973 exposed the limitations of the power of these Indian ‘nations’, when trying to exert some of the influence one would expect to have – as a nation. And that perhaps explains why those four former British colonies, unable to move beyond our 16th century First Nation’s policies, opposed the UN Declaration.

Mohawk land - Rivers columnThere are no elegant solutions it seems, but the status quo is unsustainable, and we are not even talking about the real issues – the longer term place of aboriginals and their culture in Canada and among the rest of Canadians. We dance about, dealing with symptoms like the land claims or improving the education and health services on the reserves, as the Kelowna Accord was intended to do – good things nonetheless. And we pretend to worry about offending native culture, such as when a celebrity dons a warrior headdress, though like the feathered bonnet, so much of all of this is clouded in symbolism.

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.


UN Declaration     Aboriginals      Australia      New Zealand   USA

Indian Act   Land Claims      Indian Land Claims Conflict    Assimilation


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Cowboys and Indians

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

August 9, 2014


My dad once gave me an Indian headdress he’d bought in northern Ontario. It was just a kid’s version, an imitation, and not very flowing – but he bought it at an Indian artifact shop and it was pretty special.  It became a favourite when playing ‘cowboys and Indians’ back then, though I’m a little uncertain about the political correctness of any of that today.

Harper in indian head deress

Prime Minister Stephen Harper wearing an Indian headdress. He has been a friend to the aboriginal community.

In Canada our aboriginals face a host of issues such that a celebrity donning a piece of traditional tribal costume might hardly be worth a footnote in the list of society’s grievances.  Life on the reserves is being challenged by recent changes the Harper government made to the environmental and fisheries habitat protection laws, in order to steamroll oil and gas pipelines over lands claimed by these first nations.  And life for so many, on a number of the reserves, is barely habitable by most standards.

In fact, Canada has been criticized by the UN for its aboriginal policies, and with some legitimacy. In fact, Canada has been criticized by the UN for its aboriginal policies, and with some legitimacy.  One needs to only look at incarceration rates in Saskatchewan and Manitoba to see that there are problems.  And, then there are all the other issues: inferior education, missing women from reserves, violence, alcohol and drug abuse, increasing obesity rates and racial discrimination that still occurs in parts of the country.

The root of all these problems lies with the Indian Act, Canada’s saddest piece of legislation.  Back in its day (1876) Sir John A. MacDonald heralded the Act and its goal of fully assimilating Canada’s aboriginals.  The purpose of the act was to administer Indian affairs in such a way that Indian people would feel compelled to renounce their Indian status, leave the reserves and join the rest of society as ordinary Canadians – a process called ‘enfranchisement’.

I don’t want to pick on Sir John A. or any of the other prime ministers.  The problems really started with all the treaties that the British signed as a well-meaning alternative to wars and the ultimate extermination of the natives.  King George III, yes, the mad English King who was also responsible for the loss of the thirteen American colonies, signed a well-meaning Royal Proclamation in 1763, promising all kinds of good things to aboriginals.  This may have been an over-reaction to his failures with the American colonialists or part of a plan to get Canada’s natives on-side for the oncoming US revolutionary war.

There have been numerous amendments to the Indian Act, which have brought a modicum of enlightenment to the legislation, and even an attempt (Trudeau) to abolish the Act.  But the courts have generally blocked these attempts, falling back on the legislation, the old treaties or the Bill and Charter of Rights.  Abolishing the Indian Act would likely require constitutional changes, much like the Canadian Senate, and out of the purview of the courts.

war bonnet - indian on horsebackSuffice it to say that there have been some positive amendments to the Act over the years, allowing status Indians the right to vote and eliminating discrimination against women who choose to marry outside their tribe.  The process of ‘enfranchisement’, or ‘civilizing’, which gave us the horrific experience of residential schools, has mostly been brought to an end.  In addition there has been progress on land claims.  This topic is a complex web of issues to unweave, so please stay tuned for another column.

In 2006 the Paul Martin minority government managed to get everybody, including the provinces, political parties and tribal organizations to achieve consensus on a program to improve the lives and standing of Canada’s aboriginals.  In fact even after Martin’s government fell, and Harper became PM, the Kelowna Accord became law; though the delivery ended up being curtailed by the less-than-enthusiastic new PM (after all it wasn’t his invention).   Still, Mr. Harper has come back to the spirit of Kelowna, more recently, introducing measures to improve aboriginal education.

Harper has also attempted, boldly, though unsuccessfully, to shift the ownership and full responsibility for the reserves from the Crown to the Indian tribes and their individual members.  The notion was to empower aboriginals by privatizing the reserves’ land holdings and transitioning from the communal way in which bands now operate their activities on reserves.  By ‘normalizing’ economic activities on reserves this might have been seen as just an alternate way of accomplishing the intent of the original Indian Act.

More recently however, the Harper government passed the ‘The First Nations Financial Transparency Act (FNFTA)’, requiring First Nations to disclose their financial statements and the salaries of band council officials.  The argument is that this would provide greater transparency and allow band members to hold their leaders more accountable.  Of course there were critics, as always, claiming that this was a higher standard than applied for most public officials.

But Harper had the angels on his side and scored an early win as the postings appeared on the government’s web site.  In the tiny First Nation of Kwikwetlem (Coquitlam B.C.), with a band membership of 81, it turns out the contracted Chief, Ron Giesbrecht, got almost a million dollars remuneration from the band council.  Apparently he was also the Director of Economic Development which earned him $80,000, plus ten percent of any business that came in.  And an eight million dollars land settlement fell into his lap, giving him close to a million big ones, and tax free since he is a status Indian.

Initially the band council supported Giesbrecht, but that is an awful lot of money.  The federal Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, Bernard Valcourt was outraged and other Canadians joined in the chorus of disapproval.  Apparently his new contract with the band now excludes any provision for commissions.  Nevertheless, Chief Giesbrecht would be a brave man should he decide to don a feathered bonnet at his band’s next festive occasion.  That is unless he decides to give the money back to the band or donate it to some worthy cause.  After all, as good a chief as he may be that is still a lot of money.

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.


 Headdress       More Headdress      Even More Headdress     War Bonnet

 Indian Act       Kelowna Accord     More Kelowna Accord       Harper’s Plan    Big Bonus

Transparency Act     More Transparency       Even More Transparency




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Are we getting it right? Candidate isn't too sure. Carol Gottlob speaks.

Comment 100By Carol Gottlob
August 7, 2014


So the flood waters have subsided, and the issues surface….
The Corporation of the City of Burlington has, since the last election, spent a phenomenal amount of money on two new features of the city; the doomed pier and the Performing Arts Centre. I admit I didn’t pay much attention to the pier, until the crane toppled over and the bills started to pile up. Next, was the Performing Arts Centre, which I questioned, because we are already surrounded by performing arts centres in Oakville, another in Mississauga, Brampton, Guelph and Hamilton. Don’t get me wrong – I endorse art and culture, but this seemed like a bit of overkill to me.
The fact of the matter is, these now exist, and we live with them.

Byj close to complete

Is Burlington more than its over priced pier?

Now, looking ahead, I feel it is time for “renewal”. It is time to look at what we already have, and where necessary, preserve, rebuild, enhance and protect it. The recent flood highlights exactly that need. Climate change is upon us. Floods, ice storms, hurricanes and tornados will become part of our existence on this planet and in this community. We will not be spared. So, let’s take a closer look at the infrastructure, and try to get ahead of the curve. We need to invest in fortifying our systems that we rely on, namely power, transportation and water. We need to protect the properties we call “home”. And this is where the story gets very real.

When the flood waters rose, I stood at the foot of my street and looked at the water rising on New St. I saw people wading through waist-high water carrying their belongings in green garbage bags. I offered help and saw many people doing likewise. Later, I walked over to my former neighbourhood, just south of New St. As I approached my old street, I could smell grilled meat on the bar-b-q. As I passed houses, I saw people inside eating, laughing and drinking wine. Meanwhile, a few steps further down the street toward Tuck Creek, lights were out, cars were floating, and people stood by looking on silently, exchanging almost whispered comments. It was surreal.

The next morning, I returned to pay a visit to former neighbours and dear friends, whose house was now a soggy shell, pumps gorging water back into the creek. Across the road, I saw an elder couple I’ve observed for years. They bought their house when it was built in the 60s and have kept it tidy and neat for all these years. Now they were standing outside, trying to understand how to put the pieces together again.

This is where we need to invest. In the properties that exist. The farmhouses that herald our rural traditions. The neighbourhoods that developers built, but people developed! The original telephone poles that adorn my street were installed in the 1950’s, when two wires were suspended – one for electricity, one for telephone. Now I look out, and I see 26 cables dangling from the equivalent of a toothpick! We need to fortify. We need to protect what we have. We need to help those who turned the houses into homes.

This recent event could aptly be called an emergency situation. Thankfully, no one was harmed, but the damage is severe and the long term impact is undeniable. And let us not be fooled; there will be more to contend with. It is imperative that the city and the council operate with a view to the near future and build reserves, provide contingencies and look after the needs of its citizens when disaster strikes.

Carol Gottlob is a candidate for the ward 4 council seat.

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Pensions Galore

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

August 1, 2014


As a young man I couldn’t have cared less about pensions.  I thought I’d live forever and probably die before I’d get a chance to retire.  Many young people feel that way – planning for one’s old age is not a priority.   And I had reason to hope my future had already been taken care of, because Canada had introduced its national pension plan only a few years earlier.


Where does the reform have to take place? In the minds of the citizens who do not seem to have been able to take personal responsibility for their own pension needs or at the government level where new ideas and new financial formats can be created to result in funds going into pension plans. Is this really a “mind” issue”?

The plan was simple and the accounting straightforward.  You pay in today and get your pension tomorrow.  This was fine when so many were contributing and so few were receiving pensioners.  But as the baby boomers started approaching retirement age and the liability growing, the plan had to be changed before it ran out of money.

So it fell to another federal government and finance minister Paul Martin, in the mid ’90’s, to transform the CPP into more of an investment fund, and place it on a sound financial footing.  The long-term goal is to make CPP progressively more self-funding from contributions and investment earnings, rather than requiring one generation to pay for another’s pension.

The CPP is a mandatory pension scheme based on one’s lifetime earnings.  But there are a full suite of other income sources for seniors to potentially access.  The Old Age Security (OAS) program and the supplementary benefits provisions, originally introduce in 1952, is essentially a senior’s welfare fund which is means-tested to ensure the benefits go to those most in need.

There is the registered retirement savings plan (RRSP), a voluntary limited tax deferred system ; the relatively new voluntary interest tax-free saving accounts (TFSA); employer run private pension plans and, of course, one can always save for retirement from one’s after-tax income.  Finally, the family home is a capital tax exempt asset should the retiree sell it and seniors with homes can get a reverse mortgage.

So why does the Ontario government think we need another pension plan?  Well it is because so many seniors end up retiring and dying in poverty.  The CPP is currently paying an average of less than $7,000 a year.  It fails to provide even a decent minimal level of income for retirement.   And even with the OAS dollars thrown in, a pensioner would be living below the poverty line unless he/she had a company pension plan, RRSP, other savings or a house.

Bottom line is that the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP) would level the playing field between those with an employer pension plan and those without, and that includes some expected three million Ontario workers.  The program will be phased in to minimize the pain to employers, and once in place, those working for the public sector (including teachers and health care workers), large industrial organizations (auto workers) and large institutions (banks) will no longer be the only ones with a comfortable pension plan.

A sustainable retirement income may also reduce the number of Ontario claimants requiring supplementary benefits from the OAS.  How ironic that a provincial pension program, heavily criticized by the federal government, ends up also reducing the federal deficit.


The first pension plan for people was created by German Chancellor Otto on Bismark.

Pearson pensions Time cover

Liberal Prime Minister Lester Pearson was behind the move to provide comprehensive pensions

Yet Ontario’s approach embraces a fundamental conservative philosophy, about people looking after themselves – paying their own way- rather than relying on government welfare to meet their living needs as seniors.  Pensions are long term arrangements, and the federal government, like that young man or woman, just doesn’t want to make that a priority today.


Background links:

ORPP        Canada Pension Plan

CPP and OAS        Pensions        Ontario Pension 

More Ontario       David Dodge

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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Burlington columnist opines on what is happening to the Ukraine – sees a new world order.

Rivers 100x100 By Ray Rivers

July 27, 2014


It sounds perverse perhaps, but this war against Russia may be the best thing for Ukraine.  It has already succeeded in uniting a broken and divided nation.  The western part wants to be part of the European Union (EU) community of nations and the eastern part, at least before the current occupation by terrorists, had wished they could back to the glorious old Soviet days.  But as the conflict continues east and west are finding one common cause – a growing disdain for Russia.

Ukraine naively gave up its nuclear arsenal, the third largest in the world, to Russia in exchange for a treaty guaranteeing its security.  Ukrainians must regret that decision now since Russia has broken its treaty commitment and invaded while the other signatories to the Budapest Memorandum washed their hands, as if their signatures meant nothing.

Putin - sinister look

There was a time when we saw Russian leader Putin as an ally – he is now being painted as a sinister and perhaps dangerous leader.

Ukraine has long sampled all that Russia has to offer its satellites.  Even after independence the country floated in the Russian orbit, putting off both EU and NATO memberships to avoid upsetting Mother Russia.  But the example of a blossoming Poland, whose economy had rocketed following its EU membership, was just too hard to ignore for Ukrainians watching their economy decline in relative terms, and becoming one of the most corrupt places on the planet – even worse than Russia.

For all the respect world leaders accord the Russian Federation, its economy is smaller than Italy’s.  Yet it punches above its weight on the global scene, given its historical place on the UN Security Council; its vast array of nuclear warheads, second only to the USA; and its huge land mass and natural resources therein.  And, of course, it has sucked the EU into dependency on its natural gas, now so vital for their economies.

But Russia’s days as a fledgling democracy are over.  Putin has jailed his political opponents.  He has converted a once independent media into a smooth propaganda machine that turns out the facts the way he wants them to appear.  No mistake about it, Putin has made the grade from elected President to virtual dictator.  And true to form the downing of Malaysian jet liner by Russian insurgents in eastern Ukraine, using a Russian surface to air missile, likely co-ordinated by the Russian military is someone else’s fault.

So the alternate reality recently emanating from Russian media included a number of alternate theories, such as that dead bodies had been placed in the plane, a kind of ‘zombie’ vessel, and set to explode over rebel occupied territory to embarrass them, or that the Ukrainian air force had actually shot down the plane thinking it was Putin returning from Brazil.

Of course the west is partly to blame for this conflict – at least by how is has responded.  NATO is in shambles, having been neglected for decades while member countries reducing their defense budgets every year.  The pleas for more NATO support in the Baltic and south eastern member states have fallen on deaf ears as leaders reflect on what NATO was actually trying to accomplish in Afghanistan.

And Ukraine’s future EU partners are sleep walking, reticent to make Putin pay for his  aggression and the disruption of a world order form which the Russian economy benefited so well – exports of natural gas for imported weapons to modernize Russia’s military.

Putin and Obama

Is the future of the western world in the hands of these two men?

It is not the west’s fault that the Ukrainian army was run into the ground over the last couple decades, nor that it has taken the nation this long to realize that a brighter future lies sleeping with the rest of Europe and not Russia.  And it isn’t the west’s fault that Ukraine is on the cusp of bankruptcy as a result of corruption and its treasury having been plundered by the former president.  But it is our fault that we have not reacted more quickly and more substantially.  Doing so might have caught this current conflict in the bud.

The world order has changed again, though it seems only a few years ago that Russia was a partner rather than an enemy.  Whether it is Putin’s unobtainable strategy, his ego or his disdain for the west, he has changed the way we will look at east-west relations for a long time.   And even if Putin pulled back his mercenaries in Ukraine and stopped shelling their common border, he’d still have to explain the Malaysian air tragedy for which he bears ultimate responsibility.  And after this is over Ukraine will have found its inner self and Russia, hopefully, found a new leader.

Corruption    Airliner Shot Down    Airliner Blame Game    Putin    The Nuclear Issue    Russia Gone Rogue    Propaganda    Ukraine Conflict

Russian alternate Reality      Canadian Support

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. He developed the current policy process for the Ontario Liberal Party.

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Columnist gets no response – takes a break.

Rivers 100x100By Staff

July 11, 2014


Ray Rivers, our lead columnist has done a column every week for the past 14 months.  In each column he adds extensive background links for those who want to delve in the subject in more detail.  Creating all those links is a chore but one we do willingly.

Rivers did a column on the new federal prostitution laws and expected more than the usual response he gets.  Was it the subject or the summer?  There is that wonderful British comedy: “No Sex please – we’re British” that just might apply to Burlington?

No sex pleaseThe British farce,  which premiered in London’s West End on 3 June 1971, was unanimously panned by critics, but played to full houses until 1987. It did not share the same success with American audiences, running for only 16 performances on Broadway in early 1973.  It did not run in Burlington.

Whatever – Rivers decided it was – we’ll let him tell his story in his own words: “I think I’ll just take a break for a couple weeks – I have had no responses to the last column – which I thought might have got some interest – It’s summertime and the readers are easy – the fish are jumping and the cotton is high….”

See you in a couple of week’s Ray.

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