MacKay the Moralist: Legislating morality is a tricky business.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

July 9, 2014


As long as there are men and women – and money – prostitution, the world’s oldest profession, will be with us.  Prostitution is legal in Canada, though some supporting activities aren’t, such as soliciting, operating a bawdy house and living off the avails.  The Supreme Court last year determined these pesky laws could endanger prostitutes in the conduct of their business, violating their Charter rights, and so gave the government a year to fix them or they’d be history.

Canada’s justice minister, Peter MacKay, could have pulled a Kim Campbell and simply allowed the prostitution laws to fade away – as Campbell had done with abortion, thereby removing it from the criminal code.  These prostitution laws are archaic, originating before confederation and based on the dated puritan ethics of the time.  Aside from any question of morality there is no need to regulate the money for sex business at the federal level.  Municipalities are best equipped to deal with zoning, traffic issues, licensing, and public health as they do for other businesses.

Peter MacKay

Justice Minister Peter McKay

Nevertheless, Canada’s Justice Minister has decided what we need is more, not fewer laws.  He is proposing to make buying sex illegal, ban advertising, and restrict selling sex to places free of minors.  The only way sex workers will be able to conduct their trade is in back alleys, in customers’ cars and/or working through pimps.  Instead of meeting his stated goal of eliminating prostitution this will just make it more victimizing, dangerous and unhealthy.

Prostitution is loosely defined as trading sex for some kind of payment.  But defining payment and sex are problematic for an activity which comes in a variety of flavours, including males, females and everything in between.  Coitus or intercourse may be what most people think of, but sex can be anything from oral to anal, sexual touching, just touching or even just talking.

Some ‘pros’ may see themselves as semi-professional sex therapists helping their clients with sexual problems, though don’t expect OHIP to pay for that service.  And indeed, professional sex therapists do employ surrogates to provide sexual services.

And it really is about the money – money to live on.  And if MacKay and Harper really wanted to do something significant to reduce the size of the industry they might start by ensuing all Canadians receive an adequate annual income.  That way they wouldn’t have to resort to renting their bodies.  Lifting the poverty level would remove the very reason that so many people turn tricks in the first place.

Legislating morality is a tricky business, especially in a multicultural Canada endowed with various religions, ethnic origins and cultural values.  And societal values are constantly evolving as we shed the taboos of the past in favour of a broader enlightenment in this 21st century.  Today there are a host of match-making, dating and even spouse-cheating services on-line and yet nobody talks about outlawing these businesses, which are really only a stone’s throw from what we call pimping.

Peter Mackay  mouth open - shoutingMr. MacKay calls his new legal framework made-in-Canada, but it really just mimics the so-called Nordic model which most researchers on the topic admit is a hopeless failure at either eliminating prostitution or reducing potential violence.

Other jurisdictions, such as New Zealand, have effectively legalized (decriminalized) most aspects of prostitution making it safer for all parties involved in the business.  And despite such liberalization of the oldest profession, evidence is that prostitution levels have not increased, as many feared they would.  And they would know because sex workers there pay taxes on their earnings, unlike here.

If MacKay was really serious about what he calls victimization in the industry, the New Zealand model is what he should be looking at rather than that mixed bag he is bringing to the table – a mixed bag that the Supreme Court will once again rule against.  And the moralistic Harper government will have to go back to the drawing boards to re frame the oldest profession.

And speaking of professions isn’t it time MacKay changed his or, rather, that his boss moved him into some other line of work.  Almost every time this justice minister goes before the Supreme Court he loses his case – how on earth has he continued to hold his ministry with a record of incompetence like that.

If I were a PM that prides himself on being in control, I’d certainly want to change MacKay’s ministry if not his vocation.  Come to think of it, he wasn’t much better as Minister of Defence either.  Where is Kim Campbell when we need her?


Ray Rivers writes weekly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was a candidate for provincial office in Burlington where he ran 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.


Background links:

Prostitution       Sex Workers    The Wrong Way   Flawed Information      Street Walkers

 International      Statistics     New Zealand Model     New Zealand    Harper’s Pitch    

 An Other View

 Sex Surrogates –  Nordic Model  

What Sex Workers Say

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Federal by-elections – Did we learn anything? Did anything change? Holding them on a holiday weekend; pure political cynicism.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

July 3, 2104


If his father had spent more time teaching the son to horseback ride instead of to paddle a canoe, would Albertans have taken more kindly to Justin’s Liberals in Alberta’s two federal by-elections?

Trudeau - Pierre and Justin

Pierre never taught the kid how to ride a horse. Tough to win in Alberta without that skill.

Provincial and federal politics are inextricably linked in Alberta.  Though AT ONE POINT governed by the Liberals, the province has chosen other parties since the 1920’s, eventually carving out a reputation as Canada’s most conservative province.

Even before the senior Trudeau’s National Energy Program, essentially a federal tax on oil, served to alienate them, Albertans had mostly decided on the Progressive Conservatives (PC) or Social Credit, a sort of pre-Tea Party political entity that can best be described as conflicted.   Edmonton, sometimes called ‘Redmonton’, has been known to have sent Liberals to Ottawa.

So, despite Liberal hopes for a break-through in oil-sand country, the Trudeau Liberals came up empty-handed, and Mr. Harper’s Conservatives won both Macleod (68.8%) and Fort McMurray- Athabasca (46.3%).  The NDP were barely visible in either race, though they clearly hurt the Liberals in the northern Alberta poll.  That contest between the two major parties would have been much less clear cut had a preferential ballot been used (see my last posting).

Cowboy - oil well

Oil and cowboys – two different demographics. But really low taxes in Alberta.

The oil boom in northern Alberta has created a different demographic than that of  cowboy country.  If there is to be a Liberal or NDP breakthrough, other than cosmopolitan Edmonton, this is the most likely place for that to happen. Otherwise, the Conservatives (in one form or another) will continue to dominate the province. One might be excused for confusing Alberta politics with those of Cuba or even China.  There too, the election results are forgone conclusions.

Ontario’s by-elections were a different story, with both wins going to the Trudeau Liberals, including  Trinity-Spadina, which Layton’s widow, Olivia Chow, had vacated to run for the mayoralty in Toronto.

Ironically former Toronto Councillor Adam Vaughan ended up replacing her.  This represents a significant loss for NDP leader Tom Mulcair, who was hoping to demonstrate national appeal beyond his powerful base in Quebec.

Liberal Arnold Chan cleaned up in Scarborough-Agincourt, in what had been promoted by the Tories as a test case of Trudeau’s marijuana legalization policy.  Despite the aggressive Tory campaign on that issue, it appears the dopers were in the majority – or the voters just didn’t care about that issue.  Will Mr. Harper finally get the message, one wonders?

Mulcair with NDP candidate in Spadina

NDP took a huge hit in Ontario by elections. will the same thing happen with their big base in Quebec?

By-elections are the best chance the public has to register discontent with a governing political party and its policies.  This time around, nothing really changed in terms of the governing party.  Liberals are playing well in Ontario but, despite their improved showing in Alberta, they have a long way to go before they can show results in the west.  The by-elections indicate that Canadians may be drifting back to a two-party system with the NDP, Green, Libertarian and other parties safely in the back seat.

Quebec is still predominantly represented by the NDP, but will Quebecers shift back to their traditional first choice, the Liberals, if a Liberal government seems in the cards?  Quebecers are perhaps the most strategic of Canadian voters, as they demonstrated in breaking tradition to help elect native son Brian Mulroney.   They may just be parking their votes with the NDP.

One has to be careful in reading too much into these by-elections given that the PM deliberately called them on a summer-time Monday, the week school holidays started and the day before Canada Day.  Why stick around to vote if you can head out to the cottage.

If Harper was hoping for low voter turnout to contain any damage, he got his wish.  The best turnout was in Toronto (Scarborough-Agincourt at 27%) and the lowest in the tar sands (15%).  In fact just 7% of eligible voters in Fort McMurray-Athabasca elected the MP there.


Ray Rivers writes weekly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was a candidate for provincial office in Burlington where he ran 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.

 Background links:

Alberta General Elections       By-election Results    Chinese Politics     By-elections

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Legal defence fund needs transparency and accountability before it gets as much as a dime.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

June 30, 2014


The Rural Burlington Greenbelt Coalition (RBGC) has created a web site to raise funds for what they are calling the Burlington Airpark SLAPP Suit Defense Fund.

A SLAPP Suit (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation) is a merit-less legal action brought to intimidate opponents, deplete their resources, reduce their ability to participate in public affairs, and deter others from participating in discussion on matters of public interest.

We, the Burlington Gazette and me, Pepper Parr seem to be a part of it – but until a colleague told us about this fund raising web site – we knew nothing about it other than there were plans to put up a web site to solicit funds to help with the legal costs to defend ourselves against the law suit that has been filed against us by the Burlington Executive Air Park Inc.

Support is certainly going to be needed but this is not the way to get it.

First, the web site focuses on what it calls a SLAPP suit, unfortunately in law there is no such thing at this point in time.  There should be such a thing but in a court of law what should be and what is – are two very, very different things.  Judges go on evidence and precedent.

There is no SLAPP suit; there are no such things as SLAPP suits.  The legal counsel representing Vanessa Warren and Monte Dennis have a vested interests in promoting legislation that would prevent SLAPP suits – and good on them.  What they are advocating is necessary; should have been done years ago.

David Donnelly of Donnelly Environmental Law, and Brian MacLeod Rogers, a leading libel lawyer and member of the Attorney General’s Anti-SLAPP Advisory Panel have been advocating for SLAPP legislation for some time.  Both will become specialists in this niche market and do some good work.  We assume some of the funds donated will go to Donnelly and Rogers.

Rogers represents both Warren and Dennis.  Parr and the Gazette have different legal counsel and a different legal strategy.  The word SLAPP will never leave our lips in our defence arguemts.

What the Gazette, Parr, Warren and Monte are facing is a libel suit where the plaintiff is seeking $100,000 in exemplary damages from the three of us.  It’s a significant case and only fools try to pretend the case is something other than what it is.

At some point there may be anti SLAPP legislation.  But we do not have that now.  What we do have now is a court case – and some financial support fighting that case would be welcome.  But from the Gazette’s point of view,  not under the terms and conditions the Rural Burlington Greenbelt Coalition is asking for donations.

The RBGC does not say what will be done with the funds; they do not say how any funds received will be distributed; they do not say they will be accountable to the donors and report on exactly where every nickel goes.

It is just a request for financial support – and I guess they are saying trust us.  Neither the Gazette nor Pepper Parr will be accepting any funds you may choose to donate until there are solid rules in place for the accounting of funds.

It looks as if the funds are going to the RBGC – but that isn’t clear.  Were it not for the fact that I know these people personally I would look upon this as one of the dozens of internet scams that show up in my email box every day.

I expect the highest possible level of transparency and accountability from the people mounting this fund raising campaign.  The web site they have up right now is the equivalent of what a couple of high school students might do because they didn’t know any better.

RBGC should know better – the candidate for public office should know better; if this is the way Vanessa Warren is going to conduct herself as a member of city council – she will be worse than the incumbent. The city Clerk has a form available for those who feel they want to withdraw from the election.

The fund raising web site does an excellent job of setting out the problem and what the issues are about – they just lost their focus and are talking about something that doesn’t exist – yet.

The Rural Burlington Greenbelt Coalition fund raising web site .


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Three policies for the Premier to Consider: improve democracy, make education truly public and look at the way we tax the public.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

June 29, 2014


 Premier Wynne made a number of commitments during the recent Ontario election.  Here are three more I think she needs to look at.

1: Improve Democracy

 Traditionally the candidate with the highest number of electoral votes wins the election.  This works well when there are only two political parties but not so well in our multiparty system.  The last provincial election provides an example, where Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals won a majority government with 58 seats but with less than 40% of the vote.  This vote splitting among the parties is pretty common place, as Stephen Harper and Jean Chretien also won majorities with less than 40% of the popular vote.


Is the way we count the ballots working for us?

Some jurisdictions have introduced proportional representation, a complicated system engineered to moderate the political advantage of vote splitting.  However, voters in referenda recently in B.C., as well as Ontario rejected a move to that system.

Another option involves use of a preferential ballot whereby voters rank their electoral choices in priority. If no candidate gets 51% of the total vote, then the second ballot choices are counted until someone wins, etc.  The federal Liberals passed a motion at one of their policy conventions to introduce this system should they form government.

With preferential balloting the winning candidate will always have the support of over half of the voters as their first or second priority choice.  There should be fewer minority governments as a result, since the impact of third parties in splitting votes will be diminished.  And policies may tend to become more moderate as parties opt to please a broad swath of the public rather than just their own partisan base.

The province also needs to consider implementing electronic voting via the internet to encourage greater voter participation. Less than 60% turnout in a general election is unhealthy for a nation and province that prides itself on government by the people.  Australia makes voting compulsory with legal penalties for failing to exercise your franchise.

Electronic voting should also reduce the the high cost of elections and facilitate quicker results.  Finally, government may find it useful to include referenda questions on delicate issues as guidance in policy setting, a practice rarely used in Canada.  And as for trust-worthy, well, we trust the internet for our banking, don’t we?.

2. Make Public Education Truly Public

 There is a condition in the Canadian constitution, originating from the British North America Act of 1867, which enables provinces to retain Catholic schools as part of their educational system.  That clause was added at the insistence of Quebec, which ironically has now eliminated its own Catholic schools, as indeed has Newfoundland.

Somehow when the political parties in the last election talked about cost cutting the elephant in the room was our redundant Catholic education system.  Duplication at the board level, under-utilized classrooms in older areas, four school buses when there could be two – these are just the most glaring examples of waste.

Classroom - young kids

Is a separate and a public education system something Ontario can afford? Doesn’t exist in most of the other provinces.

Public education is a great equalizer in our society.  We may not all be born equal but the class room is a wonderful place for children coming from income, ethnic and religiously diverse households to grow together, better understanding each other and each other’s point of view.  Hopefully that provides a formula for a more tolerant, understanding and competitive future for our youth.

3. Raise Taxes to Stem the Red

Ontario has the lowest cost-of-services delivery of any jurisdiction in Canada.  Yet we are still running a deficit and our debt is piling up.  It’s obvious we need to fix the revenue side of the balance sheet.  And that means taxes.

There has been lot of talk about carbon taxes.  B.C. and Quebec generate revenue in addition to encouraging energy conservation, though these taxes.  In the case of B.C. the tax is revenue-neutral, offset by reductions in other taxes.  And revenue neutral is not going to help us with the bottom line, is it?

Road tolls have also been bandied about and the 407, though being the greatest rip-off ever invented by man, is a system that works.  Applying that formula to all divided highways and charging a reasonable toll would bring in a lot of revenue, in addition to helping the motorist better understand the value of the time they spend commuting.

Inheritance tax

Are inheritance taxes something the government wants to bring back? Great cry from the wealthy if that ever happens.

Is it time to bring back inheritance taxes?  It’s not like the deceased will complain about paying death taxes.  Why is it that we don’t tax lottery and gaming winnings as income?


Ray Rivers writes weekly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was a candidate for provincial office in Burlington where he ran 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.

 Background links:

Catholic Schools     More Schools       Even More Schools      Even More

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Liberals get to do a victory hoot and howl; public is watching the decisions they make very carefully.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

June 26, 2014


Now that she is sworn in as the Member of the provincial legislature for Burlington, Eleanor McMahon can open her constituency office, get staff in place and be open for business locally.  We look forward to hearing from her frequently and getting regular quarterly updates.

While getting the constituency office opened, Ms McMahon will also be getting her legislative agenda set up.  We look forward to the day she gives her maiden speech.

All that stuff is in a day’s work – this Friday there is an evening’s fun to be had, as the Liberals gather somewhere in the city to hoot and holler; let their hair down and just have fun.

Had the Premier decided to make McMahon a Parliamentary assistant, we just might have seen McMahon dancing on the table tops.

The Liberals do have their work cut out for them.  There is a public that remembers all too well, the profligate spending during the McGuinty era.  One of their fears going into the election was that this pattern might continue.

There was a recent report on the way Premier Wynne handled the handing out of food cards, during the December ice storm.  The process that was used proved to be less than effective.  City of Toronto staff advised the Premier of several alternative approaches that could have been taken – the advice was apparently dismissed – rather quickly.

One can appreciate Wynne wanting to ensure that people had funds to buy food – putting a program like that in place was good public policy and also very good politics.  That’s what the politicians are supposed to do – then they need to leave it to the bureaucrats to manage the program.

Premier Wynne needs to show the public that she is running a much more financially responsible government.  She needs to not only be accountable, but to be seen to be accountable – and when someone screws up – and someone will – she needs to be decisive and direct in rooting out the problem.

Economic growth in both Quebec and Ontario are slower than the rest of Canada.  Far more public money is spent in these two provinces than western Canada.  The public needs to see benefits from that spending – and they need to see something soon.

The people of Ontario are generous; they believe that we need to take care of each other, to be considerate and compassionate – but realize that there is a financial score card that needs to be paid attention to.


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“…those who claim to be good men must be willing to stand up and fight for what they know to be right.”

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

June 22, 2014


When people hear what is happening it sounds like the kind of thing you hear about in some banana  republic where the roots of a democracy have yet to firmly plant themselves.

A community faces a major issue with a large piece of property where they believe the owner of the property is breaking all the rules.  They form an organization and take their case to city council.  They contact local media and the story begins to unfold.

The community group delegates to both city council and Regional Council and in both instances make a strong case.  The city does a little digging and quickly realizes there is a problem and begins to organize.

They find that the property owner is not cooperating and after a lot of huffing and puffing both sides end up in a court room.

Heavy equipment - View 2 from backyard June 15, 2013

Placing this large hulking piece of equipment less than 20 yards from a property line is outright harassment. The landfill had already been placed on the property. The physical harassment has now been taken to a judicial level.

The city wins its case.  Justice John Murray finds that the Burlington Air Park must comply with the city’s site plan by law.

The Burlington Air Park decides to appeal the Justice Murray decision.  The appeal court makes up its mind in less than half a day.  The air park must comply.

Prior to the appeal, the Burlington Air Park serves Notices of Libel on two citizens and the Burlington Gazette.  A Notice of Libel calls for the person that wrote something to retract what they wrote and apologize.  Neither the Gazette or the two citizens, Monte Dennis and Vanessa Warren felt there was anything to apologize for.

Prior to the appeal court hearing all three: the Gazette, Dennis and Warren were served with Statements of Claim asking for $100,000 in exemplary damages.

Readers of the Gazette will know what we wrote.  Key the words air park into the search engine on our web site and the more than 20 articles will appear.

Monte Dennis wrote a response to a Letter to the Editor that appeared in the Hamilton Spectator.  This was a citizen doing what every citizen has a right to do.  We note that the Burlington Air Park chose not to include the Hamilton Spectator in the claim for damages. Vanessa Warren wrote the following comment in the Gazette:

The Kovachik family opened the airpark in 1962, and for 44 years operated in harmony with its neighbours and its rural surroundings . You are not allowed to capitalize on that history. The history that you ‘re accountable for is amounting to an environmental disaster in our pristine protected countryside, and you may not manipulate that  truth unchallenged  anymore.

This is not an airpark improvement issue. This is a landfill issue, a water protection issue, a storm water management issue, a truck entrance and road use issue, and a property destruction and flooding issue.

Are we to celebrate that you ‘ve spent money to improve your for-profi t business? Who doesn ‘t do that? You say you ‘ve spent 4 million in improvements , but what about the income you ‘ve made from charging for untold hundreds of thousands of tons of unregulated  fill? What about the protected watercourse you ‘ve destroyed? What about the regionally significant woodlot you gutted? The cost to the environment, the community and the City for your ‘improvements ‘ has been too high to bear.

Ask your immediate neighbours – none of whom have “recently purchased their homes” – bow things have improved for them? Flooded fields are unfarmable. Backyards and septic beds are underwater from silted run off. Sight lines and property enjoyment are destroyed. Anxiety about well water safety is high, and you will not permit the MOE to release on-site testing data. Writing that you ‘ve “always respected your neighbours .. .” is more than untrue; it’s cruel.

There are no unsubstantiated claims. Terrapex Environmental found unacceptably high levels of contaminants like hydrocarbons and heavy metals in the paltry 52 soil reports you were able to provide. Off-site water testing may be fine to date (again, where’s the data?), but how long might it tale for those contaminants to leach into wells?

The City of Burlington legally won the right to impose it’s Site Alteration Bylaw on airpark property , and yet you still will not comply. The community would truly love to know that your property is NOT full of contaminated fill – why don’t you give us the verified, third-party data to prove it?

We are all so weary of your attempts to manipulate . Standing up to you and stopping the trucks was never political, it was ethical, and you have no ethical credibility left.

Vanessa Warren

Warren - strong H&S shot

Vanessa Warren, founder of the Rural Burlington Greenbelt Coalition chose to run for public office and represent ward 6 because she felt the community was not being well served by the incumbent. The owner of the land park is now uses the courts to silence her.

What makes the claim against Vanessa Warren so serious is that she is a nominated candidate for the ward 6 council seat where the air park is located.  One could take from the Burlington Air Park legal action that they do not want to see Vanessa Warren on city council.

In an Open Letter to city council the group that has been leading the fight against the air park, the Rural Burlington Greenbelt Coalition (RBGC) asked that the city “defend public engagement and public advocacy – the cornerstones of our democratic system – from the Burlington Airpark’s SLAPP suit, so that this type of legal coercion does not silence the citizens of Burlington.”

Prior to the provincial election there was a bill on the order paper calling for laws that would prevent what is being called Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation (SLAPP).  It was a private members bill brought forward by the New Democratic Party that got all party approval but that bill died on the order paper when the election was called.

The RBGC hopes it can persuade the provincial government to pick up the bill and make it a priority.  They would be delighted if the province moved real quick and then made any legislation retroactive.

The issue is serious, very serious.  When people with significant funding at their disposal decide to use the power of a law suit to silence people who care about their community and are prepared to speak out publicly the courts should not be the place where these public issues get worked through.

The Burlington Air Park has paid more than $62,000 in court ordered costs – so the judiciary is doing its part.

What is profoundly disappointing is that the public has yet to hear anything from the Mayor of Burlington or the Regional Chair Gary Carr.  These two men lead public opinion and they have in the past put their views forward on important issues.  When the Mayor saw for the first time the damage done to the Sheldon property on Appleby Line by the air park landfill  he was reported to have said he was appalled.

Disappointing too is the reaction from the private pilots who are seeing the airport they have used for years put at risk.  The Gazette has talked to a number of these pilots – not one is prepared to say a word publicly.  One exception is Andrew Forber who has commented on several occasions at some length.

Having people fear making public comments is a very unhealthy situation for any democratic society.

Much of the history of the struggle between good and evil is explained by philosopher Edmund Burke’s observation. Time and again those who profess to be good seem to clearly outnumber those who are evil, yet those who are evil seem to prevail far too often. Seldom is it the numbers that determine the outcome, but whether those who claim to be good men are willing to stand up and fight for what they know to be right.

City staff battle with the air park on an almost daily basis over the illegal use of gateways to the air park property and access to the site.  Staff are focused and well led and they persevere – but we are hearing nothing from the people who are in a position to mold public opinion.  Taking the position that they cannot comment on an ongoing court case is hiding behind skirts

The people of Burlington need to hear from the good people.

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Climate change and Canada’s new pipeline – will the Northern Gateway in BC ever get built? Should it be built?

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

June 20, 2104


It has taken him six years to finally announce his first concrete action to combat global climate change and it’s still only a little – and a little late.  US President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency has imposed a 30% carbon emission reduction limit on US coal-powered electricity plants by 2030.  That will mean scrapping some of the older plants and conversion of many others to natural gas.  In addition to the greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction benefits, this will also mean 6600 fewer premature deaths and 150,000 fewer asthma cases, they estimate.

By comparison, Ontario which historically burned coal for up to a quarter of its electrical needs, including at the largest coal-fired plant of its time, had completely shut down and banned coal burning earlier this year.  Ontario’s courageous action is Canada’s single most significant greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction ever.

coal burning energy plant

Smokes stacks like this one dotted the province of Ontario. The government put an end to coal fired electrical generation plants – and we all breath easier now.

The federal government had never really been supportive and had refused to help Ontario with costs of this shift away from coal.   Nevertheless, Mr. Harper was only too proud to point out that Canada was already ahead of the US in cleaning up its coal-burning emissions, when Obama challenged him to follow the US regulatory lead.  Canada’s share of emissions from coal burning are now only about a third of the equivalent in the US.  But unlike the US, our overall GHG emissions are heading skywards making a mockery of Canada’s official reduction targets.

In any case, Obama wasn’t talking about coal, when he challenged our PM, he was referring to our oil sands.  The oil industry claims they can now extract a barrel of oil from the sand without having to burn another full barrel in the process, but mining the tar sands is still the most inefficient and environmentally destructive resource extraction anywhere.

So Obama had the Keystone XL pipeline clearly in his sights.  Approving Keystone would just enable further expansion of the oil sands, something US environmentalists have been decrying.  And since American dependence on Canadian oil is declining thanks to horizontal hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in the US, that Keystone project is looking less and less likely everyday.

Harper and Obama are on different wavelengths.  That became clear as our leader joined with the new Australian PM, recently, promising to thwart carbon pricing and other global attempts to mitigate the effects of climate change, and to oppose efforts such as Obama’s press for climate change through forums like the G20.   Why should we expect dinosaurs to care about fossil fuels?

And Canada isn’t about to be lectured by a lame-duck president.  Mr. Harper has another plan to get the bitumen out of Alberta and into Chinese and other export markets – its called the Northern Gateway project.  Northern Gateway is a pipeline from the tar sands across fragile B.C. terrain, over a thousand kilometres, and to the environmentally sensitive Pacific coast at Kitimat B.C.  Northern Gateway was Harper’s baby form its inception, and just this week he employed the pretense of an energy board review before approving its construction, as everyone was fully predicting he would.

Many Canadians are still unsure about what this means, but not the opposition parties which are united in promising to stop this risky business.  Some pundits think this project could become the PM’s final undoing, since he may lose the crucial support of B.C. voters in next year’s federal election.

The B.C. aboriginal communities, over whose land the pipeline will cross and whose fisheries on the coast would be devastated by the inevitable oil spill, are also unified in their opposition.  And the B.C. government still has conditions and concerns ranging from its desire for compensation to better environmental safeguards, before it consents.  The province does not want to end up saddled with the clean-up costs of any spills.

B.C. residents take their environmental stewardship seriously.  For example, B.C. and Quebec are the only Canadian provinces with carbon taxes to reduce fossil fuel burning and GHG emissions.  And the B.C. economy depends heavily on tourism and its fisheries, both of which are threatened by this project. How is it fair that Alberta gets the royalties while B.C. gets the risk?

Oil pipeline being laid

All he costs related to the transportation of oil through a pipeline have to be taken into account – is that happening?

Early cost estimates of the project which would move the half-million or so barrels of diluted bitumen a day through the Northern Gateway and onto foreign tankers could easily approach twenty billion dollars.  Even if the proponent is in the private sector, there are always federal and provincial subsidies and all the ancillary costs attached to these kinds of mega projects.  One could buy a lot of renewable energy infrastructure for that kind of money.   And damage to the environment from a leak or shipping accident would be… well… just priceless.


Ray Rivers writes weekly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was a candidate for provincial office in Burlington where he ran 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.

Background links:

Ontario Coal Phase-Out         Obama’s Plan       Implications for Canada        Canada’s Response       US Health Benefits      Northern Gateway

 Canada-Australia Coalition         Oil Sands Emissions –        B.C. Carbon Tax

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Email lists – Getting permission – and just when does no mean no?

JumarketingmoneymojoBne 20, 2014


James Burchill is not big on bureaucracy.  He doesn’t like getting tangled up on loose ends.  Define the target, aim, pull the trigger tends to be the Burchill modus operandi.   Here he gets on about having permission to email people.

 By James Burchill

Quick everyone … July 1st is fast approaching and we need to ask everyone we can think of whether we have permission to email them in the future.

Are you freaking kidding me?

Way to go genius … that’s going to cost you dearly.



Implied permission is still a legit way to connect via email UNTIL JULY 1st 2017 that’s 3 YEARS FROM NOW!

You’re basically going to burn your email list if you approach things this way. If you ask everyone in a frantic rush for permission you will get maybe 10% say yes. The rest WILL NOT.

This is not news … it’s typically been this way in the past. If you try and get a list to give you consent to sell them stuff – they usual say no … about 9 out of 10 people do anyway.

So stop with the knee-jerk reactions and think this through. Sure, the days of spamming people are over. Nope you can’t rent a list and sell stuff to them post July 1st without getting some grief … millions of it if you’re found wanting!

But, if you have a list and have been emailing it for a while and you have a pre-existing relationship with people that PRE-DATES July 1st then you have 3 MORE YEARS to move from IMPLIED CONSENT to EXPLICIT CONSENT.

And guess what … there are many wrinkles in the “law” that need ironing out before the REAL DROP DEAD DATE of JULY 1ST 2017.

You do not need to be scaring, spooking or generally giving your list the option to tell you to “go away!” … and if you keep asking them, well it serves you right because they will tell you to ***** off!

Stop being such a “fraidy-cat” and man-up. Email permission is getting a face lift for sure, and you should NOT SPAM PEOPLE but you certainly don’t need to commit email suicide either. Begin slowly converting the implied to the explicit by offering them a valuable report or “ethical bribe” that helps them solve a problem you’re in the market to remedy. Then you are totally on side with Bill C-28 and can email all you like.

Why the rant today? Well I’ve seen so many emails begging me for permission to stay connected … are you kidding me? Get real. This approach is wrong and frankly sends out the worst kind of desperate signals to people. So when I got yet another “whiny … please can we stay friends …” type email I lost it.

All ranting aside, seriously … stop shooting yourself in the foot. Work to convert (implied consent) people on your list by emailing them converting (explicit) offers … and USE THE NEXT 3 YEARS TO DO IT!

Again to be clear … you have 3 years to convert implicit to explicit permission and frankly if you can’t figure out a cool way to do that within your business sector … well I’d say maybe you don’t deserve an email list.

Burchill James C

James Burchill runs the Burlington Social Fusion Network that meets regularly at the Ivy Bar and Kitchen.

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Let’s take a last look at that provincial election before we forget what really happened.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

June 18, 2014


A more than 70 year run came to an end when Burlington elected Liberal Eleanor McMahon as their MPP.  It was a solid win and  part of a Liberal red sweep through much of the region.

Halton went Liberal after 19 years of Tory blue.

It was clear that the people of the province in general weren’t  buying the Progressive Conservative line that the province had to cut like crazy to get the deficit in line and that 1 million jobs were going to suddenly appear.

The province decided to opt for hope and the belief that Kathleen Wynne could work through the problems.  This despite the mistakes that can fairly be described a gargantuan under Dalton McGuinty’s leadership.


The Liberals found a candidate with both depth and an ability to connect with people.

Wynne managed to convince the voters that there was a lot of waste but that there would not be that kind of waste on her watch.  She asked the people of the province to trust her and enough of them to give Wynne a majority government decided to do just that.

One of our readers had this to say about the McMahon win:

Congratulations to Eleanor McMahon. Clearly, she ran an effective campaign and I’m sure she’s was a qualified candidate. I do, however, find it extremely disheartening that Burlington residents bought into Liberal scare tactics, and were so willing to reward eleven years of cronyism, scandal, reckless spending, debt accumulation, blatant lying, shameless pandering to unions, and incompetence with their vote. The party’s victory begs the question, exactly how bad does a government’s behaviour need to be before they get the boot?

I’m curious what Wynne’s excuse will be when the books aren’t balanced by 2017/18 as promised, but I have no doubt she’ll come up with something!

A few days before the election Ms. McMahon and the Burlington Liberals tweeted out something about how they’ll be investing in local businesses and entrepreneurs. I’m still waiting for an answer regarding the specifics of how that will work. I know the Ontario Liberals will be handing out BILLIONS to Cisco and tens of millions to Open Text, but I haven’t heard one word about how Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals will help Burlington businesses succeed. I’m quite certain they won’t let them succeed TOO much, as corporate taxes are almost certain to be raised, as will personal income taxes on reasonably successful entrepreneurs.

Good luck Ms. McMahon. Your government has its work cut out for it, and we’ll be watching.

Indeed all of the province will be watching – many wish there had been better watching when Dalton McGuinty was leading that party.

Did Eleanor McMahon win – or did Jane McKenna lose and how did these two woman come to be the candidate for their political party of choice.

We are told that Kathleen Wynne recruited McMahon directly; that they lunched in Burlington and Wynne asked McMahon to accept the nomination.

The political tradition of this province has been for the local political party association to find a candidate and present that name to the party for vetting.  The late John Boich spent many hours grooming Brian Heagle to become the Liberal candidate only to have Heagle decide that he was more of a blue blood than a Liberal and he went after the Tory nomination.  Poor Heagle found that his blood wasn’t good enough and he couldn’t get the nod he needed from the Burlington Progressive Conservative Association.


Karmel Sakran was selected by the Liberal riding association – not that it made a big enough difference.

Boich convinced Karmel Sakran to run for office and he put up a good fight against a Tory who brought zilch to her nomination.

Jane McKenna was close to the last Tory nominated in the province in 2011 and despite no experience, other than a run against Rick Craven for the Ward 1 seat on city council – where she did very poorly, she had no experience.

McKenna hand out

Turned out to take more than a good suit to convince the voters that you were able to do the job.

She would appear at local events but never once made a delegation to city council where Councillor Craven remarked on the fact that the city had never heard from its MPP.

When Rick Wilson was doing great work to have a plaque placed on the waterfront that corrected the history  surrounding  what actually took place on our waterfront during the War of 1812 he found that he “blown off” by McKenna’s office when he put a call in to them for some help.  At the time MP Mike Wallace was doing everything he could to get the plaque that is at Burlington Heights in Hamilton corrected but as Wallace said at the time: “it was a provincial matter and there wasn’t much I could do”.

The day the creation of the plaque was announced McKenna was on hand apologizing profusely to Wilson for the goof up at her office.  Part of McKenna’s problem as an MPP was her inability to integrate into the community politically – she just didn’t have the experience and local Tory’s began to distance themselves from her.

You rarely saw Wallace and McKenna standing very close to each other when they were both at the same event.

There were serious problems with the local PC party association where it is reported the executive went through at least two changes.  McKenna didn’t have good working relationships with her constituency executive.  She had difficulty as well getting in on events when Cabinet ministers were in town.

Post front page

It was THE political coup of the provincial election when the Liberals managed to convince the Burlington Post to sell them a “mock” front page. Good for the revenue side of the business – but egg on the face editorially. The Post published a front page apology the following day. It happens.

On one occasion when the city was officially opening the Community Garden in behind the Seniors’ Centre on New Street, McKenna wanted to be on hand and wasn’t able to get an official invite from the city.  A polite call to the Mayor could have solved that problem.  The Gazette wrote about the difficulty and advised McKenna on how she could have a presence at the event.  At the time city hall talked the protocols they had to follow.  It is an unhappy day when the political representative for a large number, probably a majority, of the people in the city cannot be at a socially and politically significant event.  That was always McKenna’s dilemma.

The Burlington Progressive Conservative Association chose an unqualified person who was able to win the first time out because of the strength of the political base.  The member was expected to perform and deliver for the community and that just didn’t happen.

McMahon with birthday cake

McMahon had a strong riding association that was able to get feet on the ground to do that vital door knocking – but the thinkers involved in the campaign all came from the Liberal party head office – Burlington was a seat they believed they could win.

McMahon has a fine pedigree and her connections at the federal level are superb.  She is on a first name basis with at least three former Prime Ministers and is a campaigner that connect with people easily.  There is a humility to the woman who has core values that are more than admirable.  There is nothing sleazy about the MPP for Burlington.  Blessed with good health and a pleasant smile McMahon has leaned not to take herself too seriously.

She will use the next six months to get the feel of the provincial legislature and earn her stripes.  By Spring of next year we will know if Eleanor McMahon is more than a pretty face.

Can she be the first in a 70 year line of Liberals for Burlington?  Is there a Liberal sweep for Burlington at the federal level as well?  Will the local Liberals manage to come up with a solid candidate on their own or will they have to rely on the party to sniff out a winner?



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Columnist ecstatic with the election of a Liberal government; beside himself with the end of a 70 year run of Conservative MPP’s

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

June 14, 2014


What a night; what an election!  Ontario voters have rejected the roller coaster, recessionary, austerity program the opposition PC’s were promising.  Instead we have bought into the hope, promise and reconstruction offered in the last provincial budget by Premier Kathleen Wynne.  And the NDP, which had precipitated the election, ended up being marginalized.

Wynne arms wide A

The promise was clear – not to see how well she delivers on that promise.

PC leader Hudak also announced he was stepping down as leader, something which will be music to the ears of the growing number of Ontario conservatives who don’t share his ‘Tea Party north’ vision for this province.  The Globe and Mail, which had been critical of Hudak’s ill-conceived election platform surprised many with its conditional endorsement of the PC leader (Tory minority).  Reports indicate that the Editorial Board may have been coerced by the paper’s owners, apparently causing dissent among editorial board members and making a mockery of the claim of independence for ‘Canada’s so-called national newspaper’.

NDP leader Andrea Horwath needs to consider also stepping down, given her disappointing performance over the last year and during the campaign.  Horwath falsely accused the Premier and her party of ‘corruption’.  Then, having caused the election, she was inept at producing a credible platform of her own – leaving her fellow candidates and party supporters baffled and rebelling.   What was clearly a cynical play to expand her party’s seat count failed miserably and cost us all – paying for an election we neither needed nor wanted.

By her unqualified victory last night Wynne has freed herself from the legacy of the McGuinty era scandals which had plagued her from her first day as Premier.   Moreover she now has a mandate to lead the province onto the path she has promised would restore the provincial economy.  And of course, she will need to grapple with the significant budgetary deficit still ahead as well as a debt-load inherited from the years past.

That will likely mean paying attention to the revenue side of the equation as well as the cost side.  So Ontario residents should expect a return to a more equitable and fulsome taxation regime.  The province has the most efficient (least cost) government in the country.  So while she will need to consider ways to restrain the mushrooming size of government services, that alone will not be enough to remove us from the ‘have-not’ list of provinces.

There were other big changes in this election as well.  Locally, Burlington, where I once ran,  against the odds, finally went Liberal with Eleanor McMahon winning after  70 years of  Tory dominance.  Ted McMeekin, in Ancaster, Dundas, Flamborough and Westdale, retained his seat and can be expected to resume duties in Premier Wynne’s new Cabinet.

Halton voters put an end to the 20 years of Ted Chudleigh’s reign as Liberal Indira Naidoo-Harris pushed him out, convincingly.  Chudleigh’s ouster represents the changing demographics of one of the fastest growing communities in Canada – one that he and his friend Mayor Gordon Kranz created.  Can a similar fate be in the cards for Kranz this upcoming municipal election?

Premier Wynne has been given four years to implement her program of renewal and reconstruction for Ontario.  This is an heroic undertaking given the global world we live in and the lack of support from a federal government best described as anti-Ontario.  To be successful the Premier will need all of our support – after all we are all in this Ontario together.

 Background links:

Voters Decide     Liberal Win      Wynne Settles the Debate      Globe Editorial Board

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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The provincial election from a Burlington perspective.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

June 12, 2014


It was a healthy crowd.  They were attentive and at Nelson High to listen to a debate between Progressive Conservative incumbent Jane McKenna, Liberal candidate Eleanor McMahon in and Janet Mowbray representing the NDP.  All want to be elected as the Burlington representative in the provincial legislature.

Other than the debate sponsored by the Canadian Federation of University Women,  debate this turned out to be the only opportunity to see the candidates debating

The audience was attentive with the focus on what each political party would do for the province in terms of education.

The lines between the policies were as clear as any citizen could possibly want them to be.  The Progressive Conservatives were blunt – they want to see 100,000 fewer civil servants on the public payroll which meant cuts at the educational, medical and public services levels.  While cutting in these sectors was to be brutal – the promise was to create 1 million new jobs in the private sector.

The issue for the PC’s was the level of debt the province is carrying.  The Liberals weren’t as constrained with debt – they saw debt as what was needed to fully recover from the 2008 recession.

The differences in the political party decisions are fundamentally clear – and we don’t hear that many people talking about a “great” program from any of them.

The New Democrats are still fighting the collective agreement battle of the 2011 election – the Liberal government  of the day certainly did themselves no favours when they tinkered with the teacher’s collective agreements.  Liberals now argue that the number of teachers needed problem has been fixed and that jobs were not lost – which the Tories say is part of the problem.   They point to declining enrollments but nothing comparable in the way of lowering of the teaching compliment.

The Liberals believe that the only way the province is going to grow the economy – we still are not fully out of the 2008 recession – is to ensure that we have the labour force with the education needed to take up the good jobs they believe will surely come if the province stays the course.

The Tory’s are obsessed with the size of the provincial deficit and are prepared to cut, slash and burn – whatever it takes to get the civil service reduced.

The Liberals argue that cutting those education, health inspector and hospital staff will significantly reduce the quality of life and the life style Ontarians have come to expect.

Three provincial candidates

If you voted the political party – these were your choices – and the differences are stark.

The campaign locally has been harder fought at the door to door level than most people realize.  The Association of University Woman held their debate during which it is reported McKenna did better than the Nelson High event.

The cancellation of the Chamber of Commerce breakfast (they said no enough tickets had been sold) was a blow to the community.  Many suspected the Tories in this town suggested the Chamber event be cancelled – McKenna wasn’t looking all that good at public meetings.

At some point during the campaign Cam Jackson was seen going door to door with McKenna.  Those must have been really old solid Tory polls.

The brilliant cover page ad the Liberals ran in the Post stunned many.  It sure looked like a real front page – but it was a paid advertorial that has McMahon sweeping the election.

Then she Toronto Star report that had Burlington going Liberal after 71 years of Tory rule- that boosted moral at the Liberal campaign office on Fairview.  Some may have been surprised that the Post sold their “front” page – but a buck is a buck – I guess.

There is a time when the quality of the candidate over rides the party choice – and on that level Eleanor McMahon was the most sensitive to the issues, the most persuasive with her arguments and the most able to listen.

McKenna has been backing away from cuts in the education sector. She is reported to have said the PC’s will not be cutting education spending however she did see a need for better allocation of resources in the educational sector.

Jane McKenna has served one term as the MPP for Burlington.  She was a close to last minute choice for the nomination in 2011 and was surely the most surprised and delighted woman in the city when Keith Strong approached her to accept the PC nomination.

The question many have about McKenna is: What has she done for Burlington?  At a city council meeting recently ward 1 councillor Rick Craven asked why they had never once seen McKenna. “We’re paying her” was Craven’s comment “she should at least appear before us.”

Where the Liberals are weakest  is with the profligate spending during the McGuinty years.  There was nothing wrong conceptually with Ornge except that the government forgot they were supposed to keep an eye on what their agencies do.  Where was the oversight?  E-health was necessary but how did the government get hornswoggled into paying the salaries they paid?

At one point during the lead up the vote it looked as if the Liberals might have squeaked through with a slim two seat majority.  That would not have been because they are the best choice – they are all disappointments and the citizens of this province deserve better.

Leadership is supposed to be about hope, promise,  a better day and a better society – having “chicken little” shout at me saying the sky was going to fall in was not something I needed – thank you.

When Wynne said again and again that she was sorry  about the gas plant decisions during the leaders debate I didn’t feel that we were in good hands.

That the gas plants were going to be cancelled was a given – all three parties knew that  -it was the way the government sent good dollars after bad out the window as they settled with the contracting companies.  The public had a right to better stewardship over public funds

At the Nelson High event candidates were given four questions prepared for the candidates taking part in the Nelson High event – they were given the questions before the event which explained why all of the candidates were reading from documents in front of them

Was it a debate?  Not really but it was certainly a chance to see where each candidate and their party stood on an issue.

Other than door to door visits most of the public had not had a chance to see two of the candidates.  The evening at Nelson High was an opportunity to see how much Jane McKenna had grown as a member of the legislature – unfortunately she hasn’t grown in either stature or a sense as to just what being the member of the legislature for a community is all about.

McKenna did however make it very clear what the Progressive Conservatives would do and many in the room felt the shudder of the Harris days.  However, there were many that recalled all too well what Bob Rae did to the province when he was the NDP Premier.

McKenna, who is usually very quick with facts and numbers, got caught up on her some of the numbers she was putting out.

The politeness and courtesy between Liberal candidate McMahon and NDP candidate Mowbray was so distinct when compared to the brashness and hard words used by McKenna.  At one point Janet Mowbray had run out of time answering a question and McMahon turned to her and said – “use some of my time.  It was noted as well that every candidate for the Burlington seat was female.

For those that went to the event as hard core partisans – McKenna did fine.  For those who were reflective and thoughtful – they would have left the room wondering what kind of a society they want and if McMahon represented that society.  The difference between McMahon and McKenna was palpable.

A speaker brought to the audience’s attention that Mowbray was once a Liberal and did not live in the riding.  McMahon was quick to point out that while she lives in Burlington her residence is about six blocks outside the constituency boundaries.

The issue for the audience was those 100,000 pink slips Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak has said he is going to hand out.  McKenna is quick to add that much of that reduction in people on the payroll will come through attrition.

The campaign is over, people are now making their way to the polling stations and by the end of the day we will know what we have in the way of a provincial government for the next four years. 

If it turns out to be Kathleen Wynne – expect her to face two different people the next time out.  Hudak’s leadership will not survive another loss – and the New Democrats will begin looking for a leader who had s a plan and a vision.

Should Tim Hudak prevail and become Premier Ontario then we have to wait and see how far he goes with his plans to significantly change the way the government provides services and support to the taxpayers and how they grow the economy of the province.

Monday of next week A Different Drummer Books and Burlington Public Library will feature a guest with both knowledge and insight on just how parliamentary democracies work.

Michael MacMillan will talk about his book: Tragedy in the Commons that documents the views of former members of parliament who speak out on Canada’s Failing Democracy.   Monday  June 16  7pm at the Central Library.

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Rivers on: “Why I’m voting for Kathleen Wynne” An opinion piece.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

 May 28, 2014


Margaret Wente, a columnist for the Globe and Mail, wishes that Bill Davis were running in this provincial election because he represents “the good old days”.   But Bill Davis, the Conservative, in all his fourteen years as Premier never once balanced a budget.  In fact he was the kind of spender Tim Hudak daily accuses Kathleen Wynne of being. 

 Davis used public resources to grow the province, opening up the public treasury to improve education, infrastructure, health care, public transit, the environment and electrical energy.   Davis understood that growing an economy is like growing a business, the business of good government.  You need to invest and sow seeds if you want to harvest and profit.  And he understood that investing for the longer term, in areas like education, is important too.

 That is why I can’t support Tim Hudak.  Even though we both obtained economic degrees at the same university, Hudak must have missed a few classes.  I mean does he really want to be Mike Harris redux?  Perhaps he is just stuck in time, given all those days he spent in the Harris caucus.  Hudak’s promise to fire 100,000 teachers, nurses and civil servants has already sent shivers through the markets.  And his war on trade unions would almost make Harris’s ‘Common Sense Revolution’ look like,,, common sense. 

 Harris learned the hard way that cutting taxes just makes the deficit bigger – which partly explains why he took so long to balance his budgets.  By comparison, McGuinty’s growth program saw balanced budgets almost as often, despite the global recession which crippled our auto industry.  And do we really want to further slash corporate taxes just so the big banks can make even greater profits? 

 Hudak’s so-called ‘million jobs plan’ has become the biggest joke in this election campaign.  Wente’s reference to Hudak’s economic plan being described as “a load of ripe manure” pretty much sums it up.

 And what has happened to Andrea Horwath.  She turned up her nose at the kind of budget NDP’ers only dream of – the kind even Bob Rae had never introduced.  Ms. Dithers, who took forever to decide to support the last budget, which gave her everything she wanted, was quick to reject this one because it offered the NDP too much.  Having caused this election however, she has now decided to adopt essentially the same Liberal budget she’d just rejected as her platform.

 Rank and file, and even her candidates, are disowning her.  They are just as confused as she is about what she really wants.  Lately and sadly, Horwath has reverted to just screaming corruption at the Premier.  A false accusation since, while there may have been political pandering and some mismanagement during the McGuinty era, that is not corruption.  We know that all governments, including that of good old Bill Davis, have also suffered their fair share of mismanagement and scandals.

 Of course, the deficit is an issue and will need to be brought under control, and the debt paid down.   But Ontario’s current debt is about the same as that of the federal government on a GDP basis, comparable by that measure to some of the other provinces and considerably lower than Quebec’s.  Also, with the low interest rates we have been experiencing, debts and deficits are less of a concern, providing they are used to fund wise investments..

 Had Mr. Hudak attended and paid attention to the economics classes dealing with fiscal policy, as I had, he would have learned that it is better to grow your way out of a deficit than to cripple the economy with tough austerity.  The recent sad experience of European austerity is a good case study of just that.  And if Mr. Hudak doesn’t believe me, he could always consult with that other economist, our PM, to learn about how growth has helped get the nation’s books out of the red.  

Wynne arms wide A

Energetic, engaging, open, stable and visionary.

 Some people think you need to change governments every couple of electoral terms, just to get a fresh start.  Except that is not what the people of Alberta have been practicing for the last forty years.  The ruling PC party there refreshes itself by changing its leader, usually before that leader reaches his/her best-before date.   It is still democracy when you keep electing the same government, if only because the other parties are just too scary for you – as they are in this upcoming Ontario election.

 Here in Ontario the PC’s once ruled continuously for 42 years with a number of different leaders at the helm.  Kathleen Wynne has been Premier for a little over a year and has shown herself to be energetic, engaging, open, stable and visionary.  She is as close as we get to Wente’s Bill Davis in this election.


Ray Rivers writes weekly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was a candidate for provincial office in Burlington where he ran 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.

Background links:


 Wente on ghosts  haunting Ontario

 Bill Davis

 Balanced Budgets

Alberta’s Elections


Tractor Pull

The NDP (Caplan)

 Horwath’s Platform

  Horwath’s Problems

  Hudak’s Economics

  Hudak (Caplan)

  Hudak’s Million

  Hudak’s Math



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Is the solution for everyone to have a nuclear option?

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

May 22, 2014


It was 1962 and the world was in the grip of the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Fidel Castro was a rag-tag revolutionary, determined to nationalize American companies in his Cuba, regardless of Yankee pressure.  It didn’t take long for Washington to pass judgement on this cigar chomping, bearded upstart – he was  a ‘commie’ and was to be spurned.  And so, as if in a self-fulfilling prophecy, he was pushed into the welcoming bear-hug of a Soviet Union looking for friends with real estate on America’s backdoor.

Nuclear cloud

That mushroom cloud from a Pacific Island test site has become the symbol of terror – in the wrong hands – terror would reign.

In 1962, Kruschev accepted Castro’s offer to locate nuclear warheads on the island, though he kept the keys in Moscow.  Once JFK was shown the evidence he engaged the world in a dangerous waltz with the Soviet leader.  But in the end ‘The Russians tried. the Russians failed – homeward bound those missiles sailed’ (Phil Ochs).  In return, the US agreed not to invade Cuba and to dismantle some obsolescent missiles in Turkey.

The Ukraine had been the third largest nuclear power in the world before they decided to destroy their weapons and sign onto the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT).  That was a bold act for which they demanded and got a quid-pro-quo as Russia, USA and UK put their signatures on 1994 Budapest Treaty guaranteeing Ukrainian’s territorial integrity and preserving it from foreign aggression.

Well we all know how that worked out.  The US and UK turned their blind eyes as Mr. Putin marched in and swallowed Crimea.  So emboldened was the Russian leader by this act of treachery, that he adopted the very same tactics into his play for eastern Ukraine.  It turns out the Budapest Treaty isn’t worth the paper it was written on. 

Nuclear bombs

Stock pile of nuclear weapons. No one really knows how many of the things tehre are in the world – too many,

Still, there is no question where this story leads, as Russia shows no sign of stopping its subversion and planned absorption of part or all of Ukraine into the new Russian empire.  And the US and UK have no intention of lifting their hands in any meaningful way to help, other than the couple of finger jabs they call sanctions.  Though there is an election in a few days and that may resolve or rekindle the chaos currently gripping the country.

Ukrainians are Slavic people which originates from the word slave.  And that pretty much sums up what happens to passive nations which actually believe in peace.  Watching the early events evolve in eastern Ukraine was a bit like reading a Ukrainian version of the 1936 children’s book, ‘The Story of Ferdinand’.  Banned by Franco, burned by Hitler, restricted by Stalin but cherished by Mahatma Gandhi, it is the tale about a bull who would rather smell the flowers than fight in the ring.  That seems to be a passing story, however, as the Ukrainian military finds its momentum.

Cuba prevented American invasion by threatening potentially deadly nuclear retaliation to rain down on Washington.  Would that strategy also work to now protect the Ukraine?   Would American or British nuclear missiles sited in Ukraine, close enough to evade Russian defensive systems, and capable of turning Moscow into a bowl of bubbling borscht,deter further Russian aggression.  Or would it just hasten the end for all of us. 

To be sure the most disturbing aspect of this whole Ukrainian mess is the nonchalance of Obama and Cameron, global leaders who upon inheriting an international treaty to protect Ukraine, have no intention of living up to it.  Ukraine would not have given up its nuclear arsenal without the assurances it got to preserve its territorial integrity.  And nuclear weapons have become the ultimate defence mechanism – the very reason Obama and the Cameron won’t seriously confront Russia.

So, is that the lesson for the rest of the world?  Nobody else is going to protect you from these new renaissance warriors – so you better get yourself a nuke.  Does flaunting or outright breaking of international treaties, protocols and laws have no consequences?   Are we witnessing the death knell of globalization as new trade restrictions, sanctions, and border controls bring the hope of global free trade to an end?

Nuclear - submarine being loaded

Any nation with a coast line and a submarine can transport its weapons anywhere in the world.

Background links:

 Ukrainian Nukes     Canada on Ukraine     Putin VS Hitler     The USSR

Cuban Missile Crisis      Cuban Revolution     Nuclear Disarmament 

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Did technology do them in – or are there a lot of frightened people in Burlington? They are frightened and they have reason to be.

BackgrounderBy Pepper Parr

May 19, 2014


We wrote a piece based on what we were told by our readers; ordinary people with strong convictions and a desire to get all the facts on the table.

Different readers had different search experiences (isn’t technology great?) for news about the Air Park which is a hot topic for people in Burlington.

The first hint we got was that everything about the air park had disappeared from the insidehalton web site was this:   I have been tracking for any coverage on the Burlington Airpark / Airport on Metro Media site (Spec and insideHalton) for some time. This weekend, all past articles on the Airpark have disappeared (there used to be a number of articles), and the return message shows that no search result found. What gives?”

That user got back to us with: , I will continue to perform the search every day…“burlington airpark” airport on the whole Spec / Metro Media site. My searches today give me the following message…

 We were unable to find results for “burlington airpark” in Burlington

That was followed by a comment from a reader who said everything after 2013 was no longer on the site.

That was followed by a comment from a reader who seemed to get a little panicky: The article that Tina Depko-Denver won her recent award for (best rural story in Ontario community paper) no longer comes up on searches.  This is freaking me right out.

“Here’s the link to the artcile (that I had to re-find via twitter) – see if you can find it by searching on insideHalton.

That was followed by:  “It came up for me.”

That was followed by this:

“The articles are all there…they come up in different order – by date or relevance – based on how you search for them.

“I get a different list based on how I search: searching by “rossi” as in Vince pulls up some, searching by “warren” as in Vanessa pulls them up in a different order of “relevance.”

“The best search is by “Burlington Executive Airport” it pulled up the most comprehensive list. It has them mostly sorted by date – since the article “neighbours call on government for help” as almost a year ago, it will appear lower down on the list, on page two.

“Here’s the list with that search function enabled:

 Here are just some of the articles I found on the website dealing with the airpark.

“I think this is a question of digital technology: what search words are being used, and the search tool pulling up information based on chronology and relevance.”

The Gazette has been very deliberate in not using the names of people who send in comments.  The libel chill is still in the air.

It would appear that the information on the insidehalton web site is still in place.  Finding it requires one to use the most effective search terms.  Should it be easier?  We suppose so but one cannot blame the people who run the insidehalton web site for the search terms their readers use.

It is all their and we expect it will continue to remain on the site.  We had planned on trying to reach the operators of the insidehalton site – but the holiday schedule meant no one was picking up their telephones.

We were perhaps a little too quick to call shame on the Metromedia papers and for that we apologize.  There are a lot of frightened people in Burlington – and they have every reason to be frightened.

Background links:

The first we heard of editorial material disappearing.

Air Park legal counsel sending out libel notices

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26 months of dynamic civic leadership have come to a close; the bar was raised – now staff have to learn how to get over it.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

May 19, 2014


Thursday evening Burlington celebrated its BEST – 29 people were nominated for the seven categories the city has within which it recognizes and awards citizens who have contributed to the community.

The day before, in a reception at the Performing Arts Centre, city hall staff met to bid former city manager Jeff Fielding adieu.  It was an event tinged with sadness, disappointment and some of that gallows humour that makes its way into events where there is not a lot of joy in the room.

The city was watching a truly dynamic city manager leave after a hectic, topsy turvey 26 month run when literally everything was looked at differently.

City solicitor Nancy Shea Nicol summed it up rather well when she said much of her work with Jeff was first asking if what he had done was legal and then changing documents to make sure it was legal.  Jeff Fielding was the kind of guy who immediately went to the edge of an issue and THEN pushed.

City administration leadership team: city manager Jeff Fielding on the left with general manager comunity and corporate services, centre and general manager, development and infrastructure Scott Stewart on the righ

City administration leadership team: city manager Jeff Fielding on the left with general manager community and corporate services, centre and general manager, development and infrastructure Scott Stewart on the right.  The two general managers didn’t always pull with the same level of effort.

General manager Kim Phillips, who had a choppy working relationship with Fielding, said staff wanted to have a caricature  made up to present to Jeff but there wasn’t time to get it done.  “Had we managed to put it together it would have been of Jeff on a bicycle heading towards a golf course with his golf clubs over his shoulders peddling by city owned buildings with for sale signs on them.

Jeff Fielding was close to radical in his approach to many of the tasks he took on.  He understood fully the need for the municipal sector to change its business model; he knew that what we are currently doing is not sustainable.

Taking the job opportunity as city manager in Calgary gives Jeff Fielding the opportunity to work with a mayor who also knows the current municipal business model will not work – it isn’t working now.  Fielding was very comfortable in Burlington; taking the job of city manager for Burlington was to be his last move before retirement.  The fertile soil for change that he thought he saw turned out to be thin with nowhere near the nutrients to bring about real growth.

As one watched his behaviour at Standing Committee meetings and became aware of just how big his changes were – it was breath taking.  On an occasion when a discussion was taking place in Fielding’s office – almost every square inch was covered with pieces of papers with ideas, comments and questions.  There was this itch to write down as much as I could read and to whip out the camera and start clicking away.  There wasn’t an issue that Fielding would not at least look at.

Mayor Rick Goldring explaining to Kilbride area residents what was being done and the time frames the repair crews were working to in their community.

Former city manager Jeff Fielding, on the left, was always on hand with Mayor Rick Goldring. Here Goldring explains to Kilbride area residents what was being done and the time frames the repair crews were working to in their community.

He didn’t see any reason for the city to be in the golf club business – we think he was right on that one.  He had a team of smart people begin a study of the city’s space needs – asked first what do we have and then asked staff to set out what was needed now and into the future – and then began looking for ways to leverage the city hall property.

Fielding was convinced that city owned parking lots had much more value in them than was being realized and he was constantly looking for ways to get at that value and make it work for the city.

He understood fully, more than most of the city’s population, the importance of culture to the city and the need to hype the Performing Arts Centre and work with the Art Centre to get more value – and traffic – to those locations.

City council wasn’t able to find the money to hire a full time Cultural Development manager in the 2014 budget.  During the final delegation from the Arts Collective,  Fielding turned and told the speaker that he would look for a way to find the money to hire that person. “I can’t promise I will find the dollars – but I will try” which is more than any of the current council members said.


Jeff Fielding, on the left, didn’t take prisoners. He let lawyer Glenn Grenier,second from the left, who described himself as an expert on the legislation that governs air parks in Canada, know that Burlington wasn’t buying his story. City solicitor Nancy Shea Nicol and Blake Hurley look on.

After the meeting Fielding had some stiff words for Grenier while city solicitor Nancy Shea Nicol and staff lawyer Blake Hurley looked on.

Fielding was direct, blunt and didn’t have much time for the “slackers”.  On the other hand he recognized real talent which he nurtured and developed.  There are a couple of dozen people on the city payroll who are bigger and better people today than they were the day Fielding arrived.  For them his decision to leave now was extremely disappointing.

He turned the way the city does its budget upside down and took staff into a  Results Based Accountability (RBA) approach where the departmental silos would be merged in a way that would be exceptionally difficult for some staff.

When asked what would happen to the RBA work that had been done Fielding told this reporter that all the basic budget work is completed and he felt staff could complete the shift.  That is a stretch by any definition.

Fielding has made arrangements for people in London where he introduced the RBA approach to work with Burlington’s financial team and that help will certainly be useful.  What Fielding has done is take a team of people in probably the best run department in the city and convince them to go way out on a limb with him and do something significantly different.  This kind of thing does not happen in the municipal world.

The financial people were excited, motivated; pumped if you will, and at a critical time their coach and mentor walks off the field.  As much as we admire Fielding  –that decision is difficult to fathom and disappointing as well .  The city needed another year to get RBA in place and functioning – it was within Fielding’s power to do that.  He chose not to.

Fielding did say that he would have liked to have had one more year in Burlington – the city would certainly have liked to have had him for that additional twelve months.  One wonders if the Mayor told Fielding that he was not prepared to accept the resignation at this time and sent him back to his desk.  Too much to ask for I guess

Rick Goldring told staff at the reception that the day he  advised his fellow council members that Fielding was leaving he saw an event on YouTube where the Mayor of Calgary was introducing Jeff as their new city manager.  “I felt”, said the Mayor, “like the guy who breaks up with a girl one night and the next day sees her in the arms of some other guy”.

It was both a shock and a profound disappointment to everyone.  One wonders why we did not see this coming.

Fielding raised the bar said the Mayor in his remarks and Fielding certainly did that.  The problem was that he didn’t stick around long enough to get his team to the point where they could get over that bar day in and day out.  Budget time in 2015 is going to have more than the usual bumps in the road.

City manager Jeff Fielding: About to put his stamp on the way the city has to be run.

Former city manager Jeff Fielding was strong enough to wear his emotions on his sleeve.  Made a difference while he was here.

Fielding who is an exceptionally emotional man – came close to losing it when he spoke to the team that he led and explained that there are occasions when opportunities come along and you take them.  He added that his decision to move from London to Burlington was a family decision.  His wife works with the regional government and the two boys are attending Burlington schools.  Fielding took out a golf club membership – this was home.

The decision to move to Calgary was not, Fielding explained, a family decision.  He was going to Calgary on his own and would commute to be with his family.

Patrick Moyle

Pat Moyle, interim city manager, probably until NEXT June, brings years of experience in municipal government having served as Regional CAO and with the Association of Municipalities in Ontario. A steady hand during a period of change.

Scott Stewart was the “ying” to Fielding’s “yang”.  Fielding looked at things from the 30,000 foot level and could see beyond the horizon and relied on Stewart to execute on the decisions that were made.  The two were a remarkable team – the only good luck in all this for Burlington is that Fielding didn’t take Scott Stewart with him.

There are always complex reasons for changes made in one’s life.  Fielding was pretty sure that the move to Burlington would be the capstone of his career – but then the phone call from Calgary came and Fielding was unable to say no to an opportunity to return to the city where he once worked in the planning department.  There appears to be some unfinished business in Calgary that has cost Burlington the most dynamic and effective administrative leader we have seen for a long time.

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Rivers, a Ukranian at heart, gives his take on what Putin really wants to do and what the Harper government is doing.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

May 16, 2014


Canada was one of the first nations to respond to the civil unrest in Kiev and the Russian invasion of Crimea.  We recalled our ambassador to Russia, dispatched foreign minister Baird to visit Kiev, booted out a few Russian soldiers visiting us, offered a tiny amount of economic and humanitarian aid and sent over a couple of military observers.  This was all announced with the sober deportment which Mr. Harper so capably captures. 

Ukraine crowd in square

Civic engagement – people giving voice to their aspirations.

The Ukrainian situation is complicated. Once considered the bread-basket of Europe, the Ukraine has become an economic basket-case, caught between an ever expanding EU and a newly oil-rich Russia intent on re-establishing the old Soviet Union.  It is one of the ironies of civilization that the Ukraine is caught in this potentially matricidal tragedy, having been the cradle of birth for the Russian people.  For most of its forty-four thousand year history the Ukrainian people were made captive by any and all invaders, including Huns, Mongols and Turks, the Poles and Swedish Deluge, the Austrian-Hungarian empire, Hitler and most recently the USSR, where it acquired its current geographical dimensions. 

Crimea will become part of the Russian Federation, every reasonable person sees that inevitability.  The question is whether Russia is content with its acquisition of this tiny peninsula, or whether it will find pretext to invade other parts of the Ukraine.  The entire western effort focused on Crimea is about keeping Mr. Putin’s attention there.  This hopefully will stall him in order for the Ukrainians to assemble enough of a defence to hold onto the rest of their country.

Mr. Putin is upset.  His dreams of expansion have been set back by the impending Ukrainian decision to favour the EU over his dream of a new USSR.  It is truly unfortunate that the west didn’t have the foresight to envision this situation.  It might have been possible to more fully invite Russia into the European community of nations, such that Mr. Putin would not feel threatened by a pro-west Ukraine.  Russia faces the reality of having lost all of its former Warsaw Pact satellites to the EU, and more importantly to NATO.   From Putin’s perspective securing his military base in Crimea was the very minimum he should do.

There was a time when Canada was viewed as an honest broker.  Lester Pearson won the Nobel Peace prize in 1957, for his trusted independent voice of reason.  Today Canada’s foreign policy is about marketing our natural resources, and shamelessly pandering to the ethnic vote back home.   So nobody listens to us anymore, and certainly not Mr. Putin.  For all the PM’s bluster about the invasion of Crimea, Canada’s only substantial contribution will be through NATO action, should that become necessary.

Ukraine - men on kneesBut we should not deprecate the fact that we were among the first to get involved.  We closed our embassy to register our disapproval at the slaughter of protesters.  Then, following the flight of besieged president Yanukoyvich, we provided early moral support for the new administration in Kiev,   Mr. Harper has a habit of jumping into situations early and this time he got it right and demonstrated leadership.

And there is a lesson from Crimea for Mr. Harper – in fact for all of us.  Quebec having just announced elections is busy preparing for its new sovereignty referendum, should the PQ win.  In response, it appears the PM has come to life, and begun meeting with parliamentary opposition leaders and provincial premiers about his next steps.  After all Crimea’s future in the Ukraine will be determined by a unilateral referendum, not unlike those used in the last two Quebec votes on sovereignty.

Ukraine protester

Democracy in the Ukraine; what a difference between this and the election Ontario is currently having.

Oh what a tangled web they’ll weave – and all they want is to is secede.

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.  Rivers is of Ukrainian extraction – for him this is up close and personal.

 Background links:

 Canada’s Ukraine Contribution   Russia vs Nazis

Legal Issues in Ukraine   Russian View     Kissinger      Ukrainian Feed      Mulroney on Putin    Losing Putin

 Russia Lost the War     Ukrainian Diaspora     Ukraine History     Yanukoyvich Corruption      The Crimea Case

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Gazette resumes publication – some difficult days ahead.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

May 16, 2014


There were 46 comments in the newspaper on a web site article we published when we said we were ceasing publication.  Not one negative comment amongst them.

In hindsight we should have said we were suspending publication.

I met with a number of people after the announcement and was asked by several if there was not some way I could continue.  At the city council meeting of April 28th Councillor Meed Ward announced that we have “for a variety of reasons” stopped publishing, she didn’t elaborate.  You are entitled to know what those reasons were.

On May 30th, I will have hip replacement done at St. Joseph Hospital in Hamilton.  I have a great surgeon at a hospital where the service and attitude is superb.

From the point at which it became evident a hip replacement was necessary to the date the surgery is to be done was less than 90 days – which I felt was satisfactory.  That doesn’t mean there is no pain.  Hurts likes Hades and I’ve still not gotten the hang of the cane my wife got for me.

Having a disabled card for my car is a god-send.  I can park right outside city hall and most buildings that I have to get to – and I don’t have to pay for the parking.  Sweet!

I felt I was unable to do the job I had set out to do.  Add to that the libel notices that were served on us by the Air Park Inc., and I wondered if I could keep the newspaper on a web site going and  fight the Air Park Inc. action.

Somehow the owners of the Burlington Executive Airpark convinced everyone that his plans came under federal jurisdiction and that the city had no say in what they chose to do.  This location was to be the site of a helicopter operation.  The owner of the adjacent property is standing on her property line.

Somehow the owner of the Burlington Executive Airpark convinced everyone that his plans to develop his property came under federal jurisdiction and that the city had no say in what they chose to do. This location was to be the site of a helicopter operation. The owner of the adjacent property is standing on her property line.   Many wonder why a corporation can do this to a neighbouring property.

My wife found the stress of the legal action difficult to handle.  She is the reason I came to this city and I reluctantly decided to cease publishing, at least until the hip surgery was complete and I was able to get around.  Everyone tells me I will be back on my fee in no time once the surgery is done – and I certainly hope they are right.

With the announcement of the decision to cease publishing was posted something astonishing happened.  There were phone calls.  A member of council called to ensure that it was not a delayed April fool’s joke.

There were emails – more than 65 to me personally.

There were comments from readers; more than 46.  Not one negative amongst them. 

The announcement was made on the Sunday and traffic for the Monday was the largest in our three year history.

A number of people wanted to meet with me.  All wanted to know how they could help.  The clincher was the delegation that called at the house.  Three people, all from the same downtown part of the city, rang the doorbell and asked what it would take for me to resume publishing.  I said I would re-think my position.

The Gazette has resumed publishing.  I am not going to be able to cover as much as I did in the past until the surgery is done and the recovery is complete.

As for the Air Park Inc., we became aware that a reader who had made a comment on the web site had been served with a libel notice and we were served with a second notice.  Then third.

We were fortunate enough to be able to get legal opinions from two exceptionally prominent lawyers who said three things. (1) Peter Wells, the lawyer acting for the Air Park Inc., is not a libel lawyer; he doesn’t know that field of law.  (2) You did not libel the Air Park Inc., and you should fight this battle.  (3) The owner of the Air Park is a bully.

We have not been sued as yet and have not hired the lawyer that will defend us should we be sued.  The lawyer we intend to use is one of the best there is in the field.  He will not be cheap – the vacation this summer will be very short and inexpensive.

We have a serious problem when a citizen, running for public office, responds to an article with an opinion and is then chased because someone thinks they have been libeled.   That is called libel chill – and it can be effective. 

The Air Park Inc., situation cuts to the very core of citizen administration.  Does the city have the right to enact bylaws and does the Air Park have the right to flaunt those bylaws claiming they do not apply to them?  They certainly thought so.  But Justice Murray declared they are wrong and that they must adhere to the bylaw – and pay a large portion of the city’s legal costs as well.

The Air Park, as is their right, chose to appeal Justice Murray’s decision. That appeal is going to be heard before a three member panel of the Ontario Court of Appeals at Osgoode Hall June 11th.  The city should have an answer a few weeks after the appeal hearing. 

Legal counsel for the Air Park has provided us with the working of the apology they required us to publish.  We have set that apology out for readers in a separate article.

The Burlington Gazette will not be publishing an apology.  The Air Park can sue if they wish and we will defend our actions in a court of law.  It is our belief that the Air Park Inc. wants to expunge any record of what they have done and they have served us with a notice that if we do not remove the material we published they will sue.

We will work with Vanessa Warren, a candidate for ward 6, who also does not believe that she libelled anyone.  We agree with her.  We will work with the members of the Rural Burlington Greenbelt Coalition (RBGC) who were also served with libel notices.  We will not be removing any of the material we published unless ordered to do so by a Court and we will continue to cover one of the most significant events that has taken place that impact on the long term development of the city.

We have asked for an opportunity to interview Vince Rossi, president of Air Park Inc. on two occasions.  Mr. Rossi has not been available.  He appears to prefer to put his story on the Air Park web site where he can control the content.

The air park is not the only issue of concern.  The changes taking place with the Economic Development Corporation, the provincial election, the development potential for the Brant Street Plaza (No-frills and Tim Horton`s are currently located there).

The loss of a city manager that brought about significant changes with the way city hall will run the city – what we all thought was going to be a 60 month run came to a halt after 26 months and many are still figuring out what we do now?

City Hall BEST aerial

Is there a new city hall in Burlington’s future?

Pressing the city to make their community engagement charter real for the citizens of Burlington.

Following the municipal election and reporting to the voters what we have observed of this council during the past three years and interviewing those people who have put their names forward for public office.

It is nice to be back.

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A product recall – a marijuana recall? Purple Kush didn’t meet the quality standards – it is all going to go up in smoke.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

April 24, 2014


  The Harper government is having one helluva time getting its stuff past the Supreme Court.  Last month it was dealt another blow.  More like ‘smoked’ than ‘blown’ actually, as another piece of Mr. Harper’s psychedelic puzzle for controlling whacky-tobaccy went up in smoke and got knocked into the ash can of Canadian drug history. 

  I can understand the PM’s fears.  If sick people, whom a doctor has determined require access to the medicinal herb, continue growing their own, as they have been doing legally, it might lead to chaos.  Gangland killings will become as commonplace as they are in Mexico; children clipping buds off their parent’s pot plants will get hooked for life; food prices will skyrocket as dopers feed their munchies; and Rob Ford will do another Hollywood in an Etobicoke apartment.  Oh wait – that was crack-cocaine!

 So our sober-faced PM, who claims to never have experienced the pleasure of a toke of nirvana, decided to axe all the private mom and pop grow-ops in one fell swoop.  Only commercial outfits would henceforth be allowed to grow the heavenly herb, under the ever-watchful eye of Health Canada.  There is even a rumour that some chemist called Heisenberg will be brought up from New Mexico to monitor weed quality.  Marijuana, like lettuce, spinach and tomatoes, is susceptible to moulds and bacteria after all, so you can’t let just any backyard gardeners grow their own.  

Marijuana Medical use only -

There are tens of thousands of people using marijuana under prescriptions from doctors for medical reasons

 And pesticides are a definite no-no.  Dope-heads learned that lesson the hard way back in the 70s’ when the US drug enforcement agency (DEA) was forcing the Federales to aerial spray Mexican crops with a lethal herbicide, never thinking that the farmers were going to harvest and sell the pot anyway.  As that velvety smooth Acapulco Gold made it’s way to markets all the way up here, the DEA got a whiff of what it had done and started freaking out. 

So the middlers and dealers were asked to send some of the evil weed for government testing.  And sure enough, almost a quarter of the samples had been contaminated by that deadly pulmonary toxin, Paraquat.   Well that was enough to make you stop smoking your ‘shit’.  No wonder Clinton never inhaled.

It is estimated that the Canadian market for medical mary-jane in the next few years could reach almost half a million users.  So why not turn this growing enterprise into a big corporate business?  That way taxes could be collected to help keep dope smokers in the expensive new private prisons which Mr. Harper’s government is building for them?  Increasing the commercial supply of grass makes perfect sense for a government, otherwise committed to stamping out reefer madness.

Marijuana - lady smoking

Managing pain is one of the reasons people get a prescription to use marijuana for medical reasons.

 Then one of the new commercial grass-growing ops, with the almost hallucinogenic inducing name of Greenleaf messed up.   Whether it was pesticide use, bacterial contamination, or unintentionally over-strength THC (the fun component) hasn’t been confirmed.  But if you or your buds ordered your medical buds from Greenleaf – stuff with the cool handle of ‘Purple Kush’ – yeah you read that right – you have to send it smack back and the company will ship you a bag of fresh ganga in return.  

 Then Health Canada tells us that if you’ve already “bogarted” all your Purple Kush – and not blown your mind yet – don’t sweat it because it’s no big deal.  Is it any wonder the Tory attack ads tell us that Justin Trudeau’s stand on marijuana legalization lacks judgement?

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.


  Background links:

Court Decision      Recall

Purple Kush

 Quality Product

  Medical Marijuana     Colorado Grow Your Own    Paraquat     More Paraquat     Market Potential


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It really isn’t about just coloured eggs – is it ?

opinionandcommentBy Staff

April 17, 2014


The kids love them, grandparents have a great time hiding the coloured eggs and parents learn to deal with the sugar high that follows that Friday morning fun.

It’s something we do – harmless but at some point those children should hear the story and let them decide as they grow what they choose to believe.

But there is another culturally historic story behind those Easter eggs.

Easter egg hunt

It’s not the forty loaves story is it?

Easter eggs, also called Paschal eggs, are decorated eggs that are often given to celebrate Easter or springtime. As such, Easter eggs are common during the season of Eastertide. The oldest tradition is to use dyed and painted chicken eggs, but a modern custom is to substitute chocolate eggs, or plastic eggs filled with confectionery such as jelly beans. Eggs, in general, were a traditional symbol of fertility, and rebirth.

In Christianity, the celebration of Eastertide includes Easter eggs symbolizing the empty tomb of Jesus: though an egg appears to be like the stone of a tomb, a bird hatches from it with life; similarly, the Easter egg, for Christians, is a reminder that Jesus rose from the grave, and that those who believe will also experience eternal life.

One can argue for years over the concept of a risen Christ – but the facts are, there was a man who was crucified – his name was Jesus.  The rest of the Christian tradition is a matter of faith.


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What’s causing climate change? Us – and unless we change our ways now there won’t be much of a world for those who follow us.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

April 17, 2014


Skeptics will point to the winter we’ve just experienced and ask: “what global warming”?  But that is not what the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is saying. They’re saying global climate change is real and getting worse, and that there is still time to take action to help mitigate it.  According to the IPCC, global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) grew over the last decade at double the rate of the previous three decades and over 60% since 1990. 

Smokestacks Hamilton

Smoke stacks in Hamilton.

 I recall preparing materials, back In1992, for Canada’s Environment Minister, Jean Charest, as he was heading out to represent us at the Rio Earth Summit.  Canada played a leadership role in promoting action on climate change there.  We did so again in 1997 when we signed the Kyoto protocol; and again when we ratified it in 2002.  But Canada stopped trying to reduce its GHG emissions once Mr. Harper formed the government in 2006. 

Not that our trying had ever amounted to much.  The Chretien/Martin governments’ various strategies and programs mostly went nowhere and the goals we’d set for ourselves became ever more elusive. 

 When it was clear we’d never reach our goals, Mr. Harper changed the goal posts, and pulled Canada out of Kyoto once he had a majority in 2011.   Our PM never seemed to believe in climate change anyway, and his every action confirms that.  So it was not a surprise when we saw his vision of Canada as the Saudi Arabia of the north, exploiting and exporting fossil fuels to the world.   

 Some say the 1997 Kyoto Protocol was flawed since the developing nations were not required to reduce their emissions.  The US Congress passed a resolution against ratifying it for that reason, despite the role played by the US in drafting the Protocol.  Proponents of the Protocol arguing  that major economies should lead by example, something they haven’t done – at least not in the case of Canada or the USA.  By contrast,  European nations have at least struggled to reduce and maintain their emissions.  

 At the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, there was an emerging consensus about climate change and the need to change our ways.  World leaders foresaw that one day the developing world would surpass North America and Europe in carbon emissions.  That day has come. China increased its CO2 emissions astronomically, such that by 2006 it had become the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter.

 Electricity plants fueled by coal are the most polluting of all sources and there are about a thousand or so plants in the works, globally.  China’s coal plants make up a whacking 15% of global emissions and it gets two-thirds of all its electricity from burning coal.  As a consequence some three-quarters of a million people die every year in China just from coal related health effects.

 So it was a good piece of news, in this sombre picture,  that Ontario announced it has entirely phased out electricity production from coal, I was the first jurisdiction in North America to do so, joining British Columbia and Quebec which produce electricity without coal.  Natural gas, even though it is less polluting, will still be kept in the quiver to complement solar, wind, hydro nuclear and biomass.   The province isn’t off fossil fuels entirely, just the dirtiest one.

 The provincial government’s renewable energy program has been cited by so many people as the source of high electricity bills that everybody is starting to believe it. The truth is that only a small portion of the electricity rate increases reflect switching from coal to the alternatives.  Why would we expect prices for electrical energy to stay constant?  Shouldn’t we keep this in perspective – get a grip?   Have we checked the gasoline pump prices lately?  Didn’t natural gas prices jump up by 40% this year?

And then somebody brings up that costly McGuinty gas plant fiasco, from a couple years ago, and we all just get angry about the rates again.  Reading the latest IPCC report can be pretty depressing, even more than ruminating about escalating energy prices.  If you live in Ontario you can take a little comfort from the fact that we were the only Canadian province to significantly reduce GHG emissions over the last decade – a little shining star in an otherwise dark and troubled sky.

Iceberg melting

If this kind of melting keeps happening – climate will be changed to the point where we cannot recover.

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.


 Background links:

Carbon Emissions

Clean Energy     An Anti-apartheid Approach    Germany’s Green Dreams    B.C.’s LNG     IPCC Report     Harrison Ford     Conference Board   

Carbon Emissions    CO2    From New Zealand    Climate Change Olympics    Measuring What Matters    Tipping Points  

Provincial Emissions    GHG per Capital

Editor’s note: Someone recently said, on one of the David Suzuki programs,  that the amount of energy used when two Google searches are done is equivalent to the amount of energy needed to boil enough water to make a cup of team.  The speaker was arguing that our focus should not be on the supply side of the energy question but rather on the demand side. 

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