Why does your city council want to sell waterfront property rather than create a stunning lake front parkette?

A two part series on the selling of waterfront land owned by the city

Part 1

Part 2

October 7, 2013

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  Our city Council is adrift.  They have lost their way.  Six of the seven council members, the ones that talk about the jewel on the lake and the need to give the public access to the lake, last week put up their hands to approve, in principle, selling waterfront land to a very small group of residents.

A portion of the land at the foot of St. Paul Street that city council wants to sell the private property owners instead of putting in a park they say the community doesn’t need.

These Council members have lost sight of one of the guiding principles behind every policy the city has – save as much of the waterfront as possible, stop the quarrying on the Escarpment and keep highways out of north Burlington.

This Council is prepared to basically obliterate a functioning, albeit small,  community to create a massive park but seems prepared to actually sell of a small strip of land that is right next to the water.  It’s not a very long strip of land but it is land, and as a Texas land owner once said: “Sister, don’t give up the land. They are not making land anymore.”  But your city council doesn’t see it that way

Burlington spent millions on the City View Park, the biggest in the city, in a part of town few people get to, but prefers to sell land rather than have a small parkette on the waterfront.  That is dumb.Despite layer upon layer of policy from the province, the Region and city hall – this Council decided they should sell the property to the three residents who want to buy. 

In selling the land the city is selling the birthright of every citizen and that of all future citizens.  They are not selling the blood of the city – they are selling the bone marrow, for once that land is sold it will take more guts than anyone in this city has ever had get it back.  Burlington will be forever changed – all because six people you elected don’t feel the city needs another park.

Councillor Taylor said the city already has enough parkland.  Not in that part of the city, but that’s not the point.  There is a large goal, a larger objective and that is to get as much of the lakefront land in the hands of the city so that it can be made available to the public.

There is nothing wrong with people owning property on the lake front.  They bought and paid for it and it is theirs to use as they wish.  At some point that property will be back on the market and the city can, if it so chooses, look for ways to add to the land bank that will at some point in the future allow for more space for people to walk along the edge of the lake just the way they do now walk along Spencer Smith Park and the way they go out to the pier –  in droves.

The Pier – remember – it was the “Mistake on the Lake”; hundreds wanted it torn down.  Today there is hardly an hour of the day when people aren’t out there.

The trail through what is now Beachway Park – that was once a railway line.  In the early 1900’s few would have thought the rail lines would be torn out and a walking path put in.

The issue is the portion shown as parkette. The city had three options: keep the land and develop it as a parkette, lease the land to adjoining property owners until the city decides on its long term use or sell the land. The want to sell it.

We kept hearing people say that there would never be a real waterfront trail along all of the edge of Lake Ontario.  Perhaps not in our lifetimes – but if the city keeps the land that it has and adds to what it has over time this city might have a waterfront like that in Chicago.

The Bruce Trail started out as an idea and look what they’ve done with that vision.

The issue is less than half an acre of land – but like everything about property it is location, location, location.

To vote to sell this strip of land is to forget about what Burlington is all about. Should the vote done at Committee be approved at Council on the 15th a part of the waterfront we now own will have been lost for a very long time, probably forever – because six clowns chose to forget what the city is really about – the waterfront.

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Eat this, don’t eat that! Wow – all these rules. Will they make a difference?

October 8, 2013

By Dr. Jeremy Hayman

BURLINGTON, ON.  On the heels of my last submission on food as medicine and its real impact on all aspects of health, I now find it necessary to give readers a glimpse into food as choice and exactly what it is we are feeding ourselves, our children, and our loved ones each day. I’m not lecturing those of you who chose to eat a certain way, or those who consume certain foods by what I refer to as “dietary default”. My intention rather is to put what we know about food, on the table, and remind us all about the importance, impact and value of not only what we put into our bodies, but what we ultimately leave out.

I’m referring to those who consume foods without truly thinking about what or why they consume the foods they do. The term “dietary default” refers to a multitude of references when it comes to our association and relationship with food. Within the context of this discussion, I’m referring to those who consume foods without truly thinking about what or why they consume the foods they do. And out of fairness, it also stoutly refers to foods the average population so simply shy’s away from and leaves out. To delve into this even further, it refers to those who almost automatically follow a routine eating regimen, eat the same foods week to week, and most importantly, rarely, if ever, truly think about the impact of what they eat, or how it will ultimately consume them in the short and long haul with respect to health.

Advertising plays a large role in what we decide to east.

It has become glaringly obvious that societal impact grossly influences the choices and food we ultimately serve on our plates. Yet, with the ever so abundant “way of life” when it comes to our choices (or lack of) with respect to diet and food, the unmistakable contrary reflection also positions itself just as clear and states: “those who do choose what and how they wish to live in harmony with food, do so with absolute clarity and passion, and make it a way of life in order to maintain and pursue continued improvement toward better health”.

We know food affects health. We are also becoming more and more aware of which foods are most important, which are not, and which of the same foods contend as healthier choices over others. Some of us default to the convenient way and eat within the “fast food peril” of life. While others, albeit a smaller, yet ever-growing movement of people, place food and its nutritional value as one of  the most prominent elements in life. These people live “against the grain” in terms of what society dictates we should eat. These are the people who won’t simply surrender to the “conveniences” of today’s living, and make it a true effort to do what is necessary in order to preserve the short and long term health of themselves as well of those they love. What do I mean by this? Well let’s serve it up in the most simple, succinct, digestible way…

... you can and will feel better, stress less, live healthier ...With the overwhelming amount of mass media making use of its privilege to feed us its messages on what/what not to eat, how to eat, when to eat, why to eat, where to eat etc., it’s no wonder there’s an endless endeavor to try and figure it all out. Let alone pressures from others on our way of eating, we end up living in a whirlwind of relentless persuasions about what is best for ourselves and others.  I’m here, as a Naturopathic Doctor, within a profession strictly to support and better the health of those that can be reached, and without alternative motives, to do what I can to lay it out, in plain English, what it is we need to begin allowing our lives to let in, in the most natural and least invasive way.

There is almost no limit to the food that can be bought at a Farmers Market.

We’re all aware that balance in life is a precious gift, and one we, at some level, strive for (some more than others) each day. However, today’s message is that food, and food alone, can and will impact that balance to a more positioned and eloquent equilibrium. There’s no question many of us know what to eat and what not to eat, yet most of us either don’t know how or are lost in terms of where to start. Well, the truth is that it’s not always easy, there’s not one simple answer, and we’re all moving at various paces and levels within the food-life conundrum, yet by recognizing a few simple and effective “food-life rules”, you can and will feel better, stress less, live healthier, and learn that food truly is one of our most precious resources. We all need to treat food as food, and as a living entity, not as a product, a skew, or packaged commodity. So here’s where we’re at, a simple, realistic checklist of where to start, and a reinforcement to those that are already there:

·        Follow the Dirty Dozen Plus & Clean 15 when it comes to buying conventional and organic.

·        Become aware of GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organisms) and which foods contain them (use 1 less GMO per shopping trip per month – a GMO pepper is proving much riskier than a non-GMO organic pepper)

·        Add one new vegetable per month (to start), preferably organic, into your meal routine

·        Eat a vegetable (you know, that stuff that grows from the ground?) at most meals

·        Try an outing to a local farmers market. Local food is great, however local pesticide, herbicide and anti biotic free is even better. You and your children will enjoy the excursion.

·        Eat less meat. And spend the money on more healthy, clean meats

·        Make more of an effort to drop in at your local health food store. They’re local small businesses. Do your duty and provide your support

·        Realize that fast food and eating out essentially supports only your busy, unplanned schedule, it adds no value to your life. It will catch up with you, unless of course it already has

·         Drink organic herbal tea. It curbs cravings and adds endless benefit to your health

·        Begin thinking of food in terms of its nutritional impact. To eat for the simple value of being hungry or for calories is like living in terms of simply “eating to survive, not thrive”

·        If you are not happy with your current weight, either accept you will remain like this and continue to allow your health to regress, or stop making excuses and commit to the effort of making a change

·        Figure out a way to realize that spending more on healthy food now costs you much less than fighting for your health in the years to come

·        Combine lean protein, vegetables and healthy fat within each meal

·        Plan for goodness sake. We’re all busy, yet some of us still make time for our health. It won’t take care of itself

·        Seek out support if you don’t know where to begin. You’re spending enough on unhealthy choices already, it’s time to commit to putting that spending money toward better value

·        Naturopathic Medicine and other natural health professionals are here to help. Our ultimate goal is to make our planet and those within it healthier.

·        Drink clean water. 2L minimum per day to start

·        Make yourself proud. Do something for your health that in the way of better food choices that most wouldn’t have the nerve to try. Trust me, everyone will admire you in the end, yourself included.               


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Is the Prime Minister moving into gunslinger mode? Is Canada about to become a major arms manufacturer?

October 4, 2013

By Ray Rivers

BURLINGTON, ON.  Memorable leaders leave noteworthy accomplishments behind them.  In the US ObamaCare will be that president’s legacy, even though it represents a glass half-full to us in Canada.  Tommy Douglas is remembered for introducing universal health care, while Premier of Saskatchewan in 1962; and Pierre Trudeau and Lester Pearson credited for implementing it nation-wide.

Avro Arrow – fighter plane that was to make us the envy of the western world.

Pearson also gave us our flag and won the Nobel prize while positioning Canada as a global peacemaker.  John Diefenbaker’s biggest accomplishment was drafting our first Bill of Rights but he will only ever be remembered for killing the best fighter jet in its time, the Avro Arrow.  Brian Mulroney led an effective anti-apartheid lobby, but his name brings up the US free-trade deal, the dreaded GST and that nasty Karl-Heinz affair.  

Trudeau eliminated the terrorist FLQ, introduced bilingualism and multiculturalism, made Canada a global entertainment force, implemented a half-hearted metric system, and really got Albertans ticked with his energy program.  And Jean Chretien gave us the long-gun registry – a bill which had the early support of a newly minted Calgary MP named Stephen Harper, voting against his own colleagues with the Reform Party caucus. 

One of Harper’s first actions, as PM, in 2006 was to arm our border guards – who had never needed nor wanted the guns.   He is a tough cop as PM, introducing mandatory prison sentences here, extending Canada’s role in Afghanistan, and sending war planes into Libya.  And this summer Harper got to actually fire a rifle while reaffirming his determination to maintain sovereignty in the arctic.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper – showing the troops how its done as he fires a service long gun while in the Arctic

Few people have difficulty supporting a tough-minded PM, trying to keep us safe from threats of internal or external violence.  So his change-of-mind on the long gun registry and his cancellation of the program, a much celebrated event by his party, was bizarre.  I thought banning guns was ‘de rigueur’ for a sheriff taming the Wild West.  Perhaps he has bought the US Tea Party line that private guns are the only defence against an oppressive government.

The long gun registry had given Harper a wedge issue to solidify his right-wing base and adjust his moral compass to accompany his change-of-heart.  His next step was to deconstruct his firearms advisory committee, and pack it with members of Canada’s National Firearms Association, Canada’s NRA. https://nfa.ca/news/nfa-supports-sensible-government-approach-att  One of the new committee’s early recommendations was to legalize the sale of assault weapons, which the government fortunately ignored.

 Weren’t we all stunned when the PM rebuked the RCMP in High River?  He ordered them to return the weapons they had found, stored illegally, in the flooded homes in that Alberta town.  The Mounties were only enforcing the law, so does this now mean that we can ignore the rest of Canada’s gun laws with impunity?  What is this pre-occupation with guns anyway?  I know a six-year-old boy who is also fascinated with guns – but aren’t we supposed to grow up?  

Last week Canada announced that we would not be joining over 90 other nations, including gun-loving USA, to sign the UN Arms Trade treaty, which is intended to keep weapons out of the hands of terrorist nations and terrorists.    At first this was puzzling, then the penny dropped.  The Harper government has a strategy to transition Canada into a future as a significant arms manufacturing country.  It all makes sense now.

...create gold out of that dark place called war, thereby bringing jobs back to the voters in Canada’s industrial heartland ...Stephen Harper, already the nation’s historic gunslinger, wants to be its gunsmith as well.  Is this the industrial strategy Ontario and Quebec have been looking for?  We’ll build weapons systems for rogue states and fuel them with oil from the tar sands.  Harper’s quest is to create gold out of that dark place called war, thereby bringing jobs back to the voters in Canada’s industrial heartland and reversing the folly of Diefenbaker denying the Avro Arrow. 

Canada will be completely transformed from historic peacemaker to ‘nouvelle’ arms-maker.  That will be Harper’s mark, his legacy, and how he will be remembered after losing the next federal election. 

A knight, without a horse, walks off into the darkest night…

On a quest for a treasure, that shines so bright.

A six-shooter on his left, his right he cannot use…

In search of a dark tower, others can only muse.

(The Gunslinger’s Tale – Ellen Walmsley, 1999)

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Former economic development honcho suggest potential council candidates Stop, Look and Listen

October 2, 2013

By Don Baxter

BURLINGTON, ON.  Hopefully Burlington Council members had a chance to recharge their batteries over the summer, and they are now fully engage with Burlington and Halton business. But at this point in a 4 year term, elected officials begin to think about whether they should run again. For those of us longer in the tooth and with more gray hair, this period is comparable to Pierre Trudeau’s infamous walk-in-the-snow. But our elected officials will thankfully have better weather for their walk. Perhaps they should walk out to the end of the pier, look out, see that we have a second pier, and think of Burlington from pier to shining pier. This takes vision – think of a tree-lined boardwalk running the entire length, full of residents, tourists, joggers, cyclists,  hospital workers, and patients out for a pleasant walk. Do you have vision or is your eye sight too weak? And surely, you see past the bureaucratic response and understand the tourism and human value of leaving locks on the pier.

So Councillors or prospective Councillors, when you take your walk to the end of the pier – STOP, LOOK, and LISTEN. If you don’t hear anything over the squeaky wheels and the vested interests demanding their property rights over community interests, extend your walk.

That’s my point – the vision thing. Burlington is experiencing its own version of a spring awakening the vision thing. Burlington is experiencing its own version of a spring awakening  – new community groups are forming, like my neighbourhood – the Roseland Community Organization, or the beach residents, Roseland Heights Community Association, St. Luke’s precinct, the airport, Burlington Green – to name a few. Why is this happening? In an established community, which Burlington is becoming, providing good leadership and good governance is complex – a kind of a Rubric’s Cube. It means citizens and community groups will become increasingly involved in every decision you make. If you do not have vision and a strong sense of community values then you will just be oiling the squeaky wheels – and in terms of dealing with change, this short-term approach will lead to a downward spiral for our community.

But a Council who temporarily closes a road to allow salamanders safe crossing, who doesn’t even entertain the idea of a casino operation, or who didn’t take the easy way out and abandon the Pier, cannot be considered weak. In these instances, there was and is a clear sense of the community values, and when leadership and vision blend, good decision-making follows.

Community values are more than individual property rights. Developers moving into a neighbourhood do not see the property they have purchased as a home but rather a business opportunity to be exploited. The precious qualities of an existing neighbourhood that have been built through good stewardship over time,conveniently add to profitability of the developers short-term business proposition. They may live in the home for tax avoidance or warranty reasons, but they do not have long-term perspective for building or adding to the sense of community. Rather, they only see short-term business prospects. Trees or heritage on your property are an asset as long as they do not get in the way of their building envelope or planned pool and Jacuzzi.

Community values are more than individual property rights.They do not see either trees or heritage, for example, as a community asset because they cannot accept long-term community values getting in the way of their construction schedule. Their quick solution clear-cut the trees or heritage house, go for your permit, make a lot construction noise and dust, and plant a few shrubs.

Getting back to my fundamental argument, a good Council recognizes and acts upon community values, not the business values of these pick-up truck companies cashing in on something they did not build. I hasten to add, Burlington has its share of great developers who are good community builders. They recognize the value of community, and you see their names on every wall of dedication where good deeds are done in Burlington.

Get my point? In the municipal environment, community values drive good government, not vested corporate interest. This sounds odd from a fellow who used to run economic development for both the City of Burlington and Metropolitan Toronto but my concepts for neighbourhood preservation are not anti-growth for the City, not at all.  Direct corporate interests to where they belong – into intensification and commercial/industrial corridors. The risk proposition for developers who want to move into established neighbourhoods is going up quickly, and flash mobs may become regular features at Committee of Adjustment hearings for severances and variances.

The pier those without vision or imagination might want to walk out on.

So Councillors or prospective Councillors, when you take your walk to the end of the pier – STOP, LOOK, and LISTEN. If you don’t hear anything over the squeaky wheels and the vested interests demanding their property rights over community interests, extend your walk. But if you have vision and a sense of value for established communities, downtown and waterfront regeneration, a protected escarpment, strong arts and culture, tree canopy protection, design-intense development solutions, neighbourhood protection and ongoing infrastructure renewal, then stay put. You can probably run a balanced government responsive to citizens and communities, not just a wanna-be-business on behalf of taxpayers.

You don’t have to be loveable to be leaders in Burlington, just sensible, and clearly, not self-serving.

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Are we really selling dirty oil to the rest of the world? And if we are – why? Can’t we clean it up?

September 25th, 2013

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  Do you have the feeling I get when I hear people talk about the “dirty oil” that is sent around the world from Alberta.  Are we sending the world dirty oil?  Why are we doing that?

Isn’t Canada the country that brought about the Peace keepers – those United Nations guys with the blue helmets?

Aren’t we the people who said no to having American nuclear bombs in Canada?

If there is such a huge profit in the oil sands in Alberta why aren’t we using a part of those profits to do research on ways to make the oil cleaner?Didn’t we take a pass on sending troops to Iran?

And if we’re selling “dirty oil” –why is it dirty?

If there is such a huge profit in the oil sands in Alberta why aren’t we using a part of those profits to do research on ways to make the oil cleaner?

I thought we were the good guys – not like those guys south of us.  We were the country that has state medical coverage while the American are still trying to make that happen.

We are the country where everyone doesn’t have a gun in there house and for the most part we are a gun free society.

We are the country that did away with capital punishment.  We don’t have to kill people to punish them.

My sense of being a Canadian is diminished when I read that we are shipping dirty oil.  I don’t understand why we are not spending large sums of money on finding ways to clean up that oil and spare our environment the harm dirty oil does.My sense of being a Canadian is diminished when I read that we are shipping dirty oil.

I feel ashamed that we are fighting decent people in the United States who don’t want our dirty oil working its way through oil pipes in their fields.  They tell me its good business.  Really?

We Canadians have one of the best educational systems in the world.  We’ve invented some pretty good things.  Our banking system is the envy of the world – yeah some of those banking fees are a little on the outrageous side.

And the cell phone fees are out of whack – but the phone service we have is one of the best in the world.  Almost every time a space ship goes up – it has one of those Canada Arms on it – we did that!

But the dirty oil thing – can’t we do something about that.  Do we really have to sell a product that does a lot of harm to both people and the environment.

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A “Dymond” in the rough and what a whopper of a burger – with shakes as well.

September 24, 2013

By Piper King

BURLINGTON, ON. I had originally planned to compare the desserts from the several different restaurants run by a group in the city.  I drove out to the location of the first one but couldn’t seem to find it.  I was looking for the Local Eatery & Refuge.  My stepson, Jordan and I decided to start our adventure there but when we arrived at the location (4155 Fairview Street), the name on the building was  Dymond’s Social Kitchen & BarA classy feel to it, but with a slightly retro kick..  Puzzled, we parked and entered the establishment.

When you walk in, Dymond’s has a classy feel to it, but with a slightly retro kick.  The tables and chairs are dark, but it thankfully lacks a claustrophobic feeling, due to the large and airy interior.  The walls have a mix of wood paneling and light brick.  The ceilings are a mix of industrial and dark night club blocks, which gives it an upscale, chic feel.

Kasia – took good care of us.

The server, a tiny blonde lady named Kasia greeted us warmly.  We asked for a booth seat, and she ushered us over and took our drink order.  I asked if they have milkshakes (which these establishments usually do not) and much to my delight, she responded YES!  Jordan ordered a chocolate shake and I the peanut butter and chocolate.

When Kasia returned, I asked her if this was still the Local Eatery & Refuge.  She said that it’s under the same management, but they broke away from the Tortoise Group of Companies April 1st of this year and renamed it Dymond’s Social Kitchen & Bar, after the owner Ryan Dymond.

We were both amazed when our milkshakes arrived!  Basically, we received two shakes for the price of one!  I took a sip of my shake and it was absolutely delicious! What struck me was that it was a lot lighter than the typical milkshake you’d get from either Wimpy’s, or Lick’s, which by the way is no longer in business – the bailiff had posted a notice on the plate-glass door.  A bonus for me with the shake in front of me was that I could taste more of the chocolate and less of the peanut butter (score)!

When Kasia returned she took our order: Jordan chose the Bacon Cheese Burger with fries and I chose the Arizona Dog and chips.

You could feed a family with this burger.

A few minutes later, Kasia brought out the largest burger we had ever seen, I mean this thing was piled high with lettuce, tomato and an onion ring (it was almost Alice in Wonderland/cartoon huge)! My dog was another amazing feat of Foodie heaven!  I have NEVER seen a hotdog piled up with so much deliciousness.  When we make hotdogs at home they’re usually a meager chicken or beef dog and a thin, no-name bun. 

The condiments alone amount to a meal.

This was quite literally, the king of dogs, hands down! The chips were served in a deep fryer basket. (I wondered if they were served in the very same basket they were fried in)? I didn’t ask.  The presentation for both meals were amazing.  The food was hot and delicious!  I suddenly remembered a Carl’s Jr commercial I used to see when I lived in Arizona.  Carl’s Jr is known for the messiest burgers, so much so that their slogan was, “If it doesn’t get all over the place; it doesn’t belong in your face.”  This Arizona Dog would have made Carl’s Jr. proud!

When we “finished” our meals (I managed to eat half of the hot dog and only half of the basket of chips), the owner, Ryan Dymond came over and introduced himself.  He struck me as a person who’s passionate about food and the restaurant industry. 

Ryan, a Burlington resident for many years, explained his reasoning for breaking away from the pack.  He wanted a restaurant that supports local businesses and he felt that this could not be accomplished as a franchise.  Once separated on April 1st, he ensured that all the food served in the restaurant would be sourced from local food businesses.  Most restaurants provide a menu for pairing the food with a fine wine, but his vision is to pair their foods with amazing, locally brewed craft beer. The only outsourced beer he advised us, is Samuel Adams (which hails from the U.S.).  He wanted to create a restaurant with “downscaled food in an upscale setting.” 

Ryan Dymond – broke away from a corporate environment and struck out on his own. The menu suggests he will do well – will the Dueling pianos give him that edge?

He went on to explain that every Friday night (and starting in October, Saturday night too) they have an amazing musical spotlight called Dueling Pianos.  It’s basically two pianos set up in a central location so both the bar and the dining room could request and enjoy the music all night.  He explained that he had renovated to ensure that everyone could enjoy the music and that no one would feel isolated.  Plus, for one Friday out of every month they feature a theme night, whereby they’d play to a specific theme – such as an “all Elton John songs” night.

It was truly a pleasure to meet Ryan and he was so good about posing for a photo or two. I will definitely go back one Friday, or Saturday night to check out the Dueling Pianos and see what the atmosphere will be like at night-time. 

All in all, Jordan and I give Dymond’s Social Kitchen & Bar four thumbs up!  The food was delicious, the atmosphere was relaxed and it really had an upscale feel to it that would appeal to Burlington’s affluent society, but the fare will cater to the “inner kid”.

Jordan summed it up this amazing event with his spontaneous observation at the end of our meal “Best part about this experience? “Heart”  just came on the speakers.”  So, we can give Dymond’s another gold star for amazing musical taste. 

Dymond’s Social Kitchen & Bar

4155 Fairview Street Burlington L7L 2A4


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Remember that lottery advertisement line: “Home James, Home” Today one has to add “in less than an hour please”.

September 24, 2013

By Ray Rivers

BURLINGTON, ON.  “Toronto is a great place to live, if only you could manage to get to work” – so says the Toronto Board of Trade.  Commute times in the greater Toronto area were the longest of 19 major cities in a recent survey.  It takes the average commuter 80 minutes round-trip,  a full 24 minutes longer than it would in Los Angeles, the very birthplace of urban sprawl.

Ray Rivers, the Gazette’s political columnist with Premier Kathleen Wynne and MPP Kevin Flynn on the left and Dr. Eric  Hoskins on the right – all at the recent Roundtable held in Burlington.

 So Ontario’s Premier Wynne has made it a priority for her government to improve the lot of commuters by building transit.   “It is a matter of social justice, I want to improve people’s lives by allowing commuters to spend more quality time with family and friends,”  she emphasized in an exclusive interview last Friday.   Ms. Wynne had earlier test-ridden the new half-hour GO train service, en route to a meeting with the Burlington Chamber of Commerce.  Flanked by her Minister of Economic Development, Dr. Eric Hoskins, and the Parliamentary Assistant for Transportation, Kevin Flynn, Kathleen Wynne shared some thoughts on this topic with me.

Premier Wynne believes that this level of traffic eats away at the time people deserve to have with their families and that the time spent in cars is damaging the provincial economy. Is GO the answer – and will we go along with that kind of a solution?

The Premier’s goals are straight forward: invest in people; provide much-needed infrastructure; and improve business opportunities that will result in job creation.  But she has her work cut out for her.  We know that most of Ontario’s urban areas are poorly configured for efficient public transit.  Three generations of urban sprawl have made public transit costly to deliver and inconvenient to ride – so the result is gridlock.  And yes, the Greenbelt, introduced by her predecessor, was intended to curb urban sprawl,  but the benefits of that initiative will not be seen for another generation – until after all the approved developments in the queue have seen their day.   

 Back in 1990 former Premier David Peterson, another Liberal, had proposed an ambitious $6.2 billion expansion of public transit for Toronto.  Then he lost the next election to the NDP,  who cherry-picked elements of that plan.  The NDP lost the next election which resulted in a virtual cessation of transit progress under Mike Harris.  Even when the Liberals did return to power, progress was slow as the Toronto kept changing its mind between subways and light-rail and subways again – making sustainable funding difficult.   

 The Province can’t  really afford to do much in the way of funding these days.  Ontario has been bleeding red ink since the 2008 recession and is now carrying a staggering quarter trillion dollar debt-load on its books.  Metrolinx, the organization tasked with creating some order to the provinces transit mess,  is saying they need $2 billion a year for needed transit expansion,and they are probably right.

This is clearly not working?

 That money is not likely to flow  from the business community; having lowered corporate taxes earlier, it is unlikely the province will raise them again.  One of Wynne’s priorities is to promote business development, not scare it away with higher taxes.  Wynne talked about bringing more jobs out to the suburbs, places like Burlington, so fewer folks need to be on that long daily commute.  There are fewer businesses paying taxes these days as we become more reliant on imports. 

Is this a better option? Can we rely on the public sector to deliver consistently reliable service that works within the reasonable budgets they are given?

Worse still, if we are to believe one think-tank, the left-leaning Centre for Policy Alternatives, we should expect an even greater decline in our industrial base following conclusion of the planned Canada-EU trade agreement. 

 Canada’s Economic Action Plan, the Harper government’s economic blueprint, has committed $14 billion for infrastructure renewal. Premier Wynne hosted the Council of the Federation meeting last July and there was unanimous agreement for “continuing the conversation” about infrastructure – which really means they want access to that fund.   Ontario, with a third of Canada’s population might reasonably expect about five or six billion dollars of that commitment – enough to make a really good start on adding public transit.  And, as if on cue, the federal government has just announced over half a billion dollars for the Scarborough subway extension.

 Aside from the auto companies Mr. Harper hasn’t shown much interest in helping Canada’s industrial heartland move forward.  In fact, there hasn’t been a PM in recent memory with so much interest in selling off the nation’s natural resources and so little interest in protecting home-grown manufacturing and services.    Ontario was once  the mighty province that led the nation in economic prosperity, yet today it has slipped to the status of a ‘have-not’ province.  It would be such a shame if the province ended up becoming another rust belt jurisdiction like Michigan or Ohio, and Toronto another bankrupt city like Detroit.

Ray Rivers, born in Ontario earned an economics degree at the University of Western Ontario and a Master’s degree in economics at the University of Ottawa.  His 25 year stint with the federal government included time with Environment, Fisheries and Oceans, Agriculture and the Post office.  Rivers is active in his community; has run for municipal and provincial office and held executive positions with Liberal Party riding associations.  He developed the current policy process for the Ontario Liberal Party.


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If you think your picture being in cyber space is compromising; how do you feel about having your fingerprint out there?

September 22, 2013

By James Burchill.

BURLINGTON, ON. Apple’s new iPhone with fingerprint security is raising privacy questions and giving many people reason to balk at buying the latest from the gadget giant. The question isn’t whether or not the idea will work, it’s a question of whether or not trading biometric data as sensitive as fingerprints, and the privacy implications that could have, for some convenience is really a good deal. As usual, it’s all about perception and preference rather than one-size-fits-all reality.

The iPhone 5S will let you use a fingerprint as an ID; what happens to that fingerprint should you lose that phone?

The Touch ID on the iPhone 5S: The idea behind the new iPhone’s fingerprint security system is pretty simple. Fingerprints, known to be unique to the individual, are now easily scanned and stored, and can easily be compared to a known base metric for verification. Other biometric options include retina scans, which are very expensive, facial recognition, which is still largely in its infancy, and DNA, which is difficult to do on-the-fly.

Fingerprints have been the most common go-to for consumer-grade biometric identification, but Apple is the first to add it as an option for a common gadget rather than a device meant to be used in secure situations and businesses.

The Touch ID for the iPhone 5S, which is now on the market, uses a fingerprint scan to replace a personal identification number (PIN) for the phone’s security features and can be accessed (limited to a “is the person verified?” Q&A) by apps on the phone to replace similar security measures they might have.

The iPhone will use the scanned fingerprint, but not the fingerprint itself as verification. If that doesn’t make sense, it’s due to the complex nature of how physical attributes like a fingerprint are digitally converted and stored. The fingerprint itself is not stored, per se, but a digital version of it is. That digital version is not as simplistic as a scan or photo of the physical fingerprint, but is instead a series of plot points (or a metric) that describes the fingerprint’s defining characteristics. Those who work with fingerprinting will understand this. The rest of us need more explanation.

How Digital Fingerprinting Works:  Try to remember back to your school days in a Geometry class. Remember how the Fibonacci sequence (Editor’s note: Sure James I remember that.) could be made to make swirls by simply plotting the numbers (1, 2, 3, 5, 8…) in a series of defined points on a chart? Imagine an equation that described a fingerprint using a similar number sequence.

Fingerprint: a unique identifier. Do you want it out there for anyone to grab and use. That would give a whole new dimension to identity theft. Apple’s iPhone5S can use a fingerprint as ID. Is this a smart move? Burchill wonders.

A fingerprint is basically a bunch of swirls with defined beginning and ending points for the individual lines making up the swirl. So to store it digitally, all that is required is to know the beginning, apex, and end point of the swirls that make the print unique and you have a stored version of it. One that takes up very little data space, but that can be easily re-drawn at any time.

This same idea is how most graphics are plotted on a computer screen, in fact, and is also what makes up a lot of the other things we now consider common in digital graphs, photography, and more.

Why It’s a Privacy Concern:  For privacy advocates, what Apple has introduced is a device that can scan a fingerprint and store it, even if it has been encrypted, on a device that is known to be easily hacked. Further, the physical storage of the fingerprint information is on the phone itself and therefore accessible by blunt means.

Other devices that use fingerprint data for security, such as laptops from most of the major makers, have been found to have similar security issues. The difference here is that smart phones are more often stolen and compromised than any other device and with HTC reportedly planning a similar fingerprint ID system; this could become a serious problem.

James Burchill creates communities and helps businesses convert conversations into cash.  He’s also an author, speaker, trainer and creator of the Social Fusion Network™ an evolutionary free b2b networking group with chapters across southern Ontario.  He blogs at JamesBurchill.com and can be found at the SocialFusionNetwork.com or behind the wheel of his recently acquired SMART car.

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The cod fishery – gone; just gone. Left to whither to nothing while 30,000 workers lost their jobs.

September 20, 2013

By Ray Rivers.

BURLINGTON, ON.  They are romantic little fishing villages dotting the coastline of this Island province, the last to join Canada.  The quaint, brightly painted houses and boat shacks are all well maintained and clean.  It is as if the clock had been turned back a half century or more – except for the quiet.  An eerie silence pervades, almost like being in an episode of the Twilight Zone.  Perhaps it just seems that way because the sea is empty.  There are no boats in the harbours; nobody selling their catch-of-the-day on the docks; no seagulls dodging and diving for discarded fish guts; and nobody fishing off an island that was founded on the cod fish.

The cod almost jumped out of the water and into the boats. It was a phenomenal resource that sustained  a province – until the bureaucrats got the numbers wrong.

The almighty cod fish which attracted settlers and fishers from all around the world; which led to the discovery of Newfoundland; and that provided the income and livelihood for its inhabitants… is gone.  The cod fishery collapsed in the late 1980‘s, though it took the federal government until 1992 to actually declare a total moratorium.  Thirty thousand workers lost their jobs overnight and now Newfoundlanders are allowed only a three-week window to catch a few lonely cod for their own tables.

 The expert government scientists really blew this one. They over-estimated the cod stock, underestimated the impact of the fishing vacuum cleaners, called factory trawlers, and then nodded politely as their masters applied political pressure to keep the fishery open, long after it should have been closed.  Now, over two decades later the stock has still not recovered.  Locals do express hope for the cod, some optimism, unlike they do for the wild Atlantic salmon which is truly gone forever.

 Thank God we have agriculture.  But now we have more expert scientists guiding our policy makers, as they support Monsanto and other companies creating the new and exciting genetically modified organisms (GMO).  It was only1994, less than two decades ago, when the first commercially available GMO food, a tomato, was approved by the US FDA.  Yet today there are 25 GMO plants being grown around the world, and almost all of the corn and soybeans (90%) grown in the US are GMO.  Canada is not far behind this trend. 

 Some of the genetic material spliced into these foods simply allows the plants to defend themselves against pesticides like Monsanto’s Round-up, which does such a deadly job of cleaning up the weeds.  Some GMOs have altered biological processes, such as the tomato, which now ripens slower than nature had intended – keeping it fresher-looking on the grocer’s shelf.  And the latest GMO being developed claims to enhance the nutritional value of food (golden rice), thus offering the promise of feeding the masses being born into hunger in the less developed nations of the world.

...they are missing something and haven’t grasped the bigger picture - and that we should be moving slower and more cautiously.  The remaining category of GMO foods actually contain pesticides within their DNA, such as bt corn and bt potatoes Every time we eat these foods we intake the same pesticide DNA that kills or wards off predatory insects, fungal diseases, etc.  Now the agriculture and health agencies and their scientists tell us that these products are safe.  But I worry that, like the fisheries experts, they are missing something and haven’t grasped the bigger picture – and that we should be moving slower and more cautiously.   GMOs have been critically labelled ‘franken foods’ by the organic industry because their process of gene splicing is unlike anything which occurs in nature.

 I confess, I used to be an organic producer and I managed an organic certification agency here in Ontario – so that is my bias.  Like others, committed to organic foods, I am concerned about how much testing has gone into these GMO products, given how soon after development we move these foods into production, the market place and our stomachs.  What if we discover a problem in due course, will we have enough non-GMO seeds to change back?  I am annoyed that there is no labeling where we purchase food, informing us whether we are getting GMO, thus purposely blocking us from exercising our rights to choice as consumers.  And I do worry about the cumulative effect of eating foods with poison in their genetic make-up. 

  I know our agricultural scientists are well-educated and have our best interests at heart when they tell us they believe that GMOs are safe - and time may well prove them to be right.  But then I think ...Once, I ran out of soybean seeds for some garden-variety edamame I was planting.  Rushed, I inquired about organic seeds at my local farmers’ supply store.  But the only kind they had were ‘Round-up Ready’ by Monsanto.  These seeds came with a contract I needed to sign confirming that, though I bought and grew them, they were Monsanto property into perpetuity.  I just shook my head and contacted an organic grower to help me out.

There was nothing modified about this natural resource. All we had to do was responsibly preserve and wisely harvest. We failed to do that.

I know our agricultural scientists are well-educated and have our best interests at heart when they tell us they believe that GMOs are safe – and time may well prove them to be right.  But then I think back to those meetings with the well-respected federal fisheries biologists, when we used to finalize and allocate fishing quotas.  They were convinced that the northern cod stock was strong and growing, and that despite all the fishing pressure it was facing, would never collapse. 

 Ray Rivers was born in Ontario; earned an economics degree at the University of Western Ontario and earned a Master’s degree in economics at the University of Ottawa.  His 25 year stint with the federal government included time with Environment, Fisheries and Oceans, Agriculture and the Post office.  Rivers is active in his community; has run for municipal and provincial office and  held executive positions with Liberal Party  riding associations.  He developed the current policy process for the Ontario Liberal Party.

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How about eliminating this remaining anachronistic vestige of post colonial rule and amalgamating the various school boards?



September 13, 2013

By Ray Rivers

BURLINGTON, ON.  Over a decade ago, Newfoundland and Quebec, the most Catholic provinces in Canada, moved to a single public education system and eliminated separate school funding, leaving only Alberta, Saskatchewan, Yukon and Ontario in the dark ages. 

The UN human rights commission has weighed-in, as well, determining that Ontario is discriminating against other religions and demanding either an end to separate school funding or that the province publicly fund all other religious schools.   We may recall from the election of 2007 how Ontario voters overwhelmingly rejected the full-funding option advanced by Tory leader John Tory.

It’s true that there are constitutional guaranties for separate schools in Canada, a legacy of provincial deal-making in the days leading to the formation of the nation.  But the provinces have absolute authority over education and Ontario could reduce its sprawling systems of education, 73 in total, with the stroke of pen, as Manitoba, Quebec and Newfoundland have done.  There are 29 English Catholic, 8 French Catholic, one Protestant, (Penetanguishene) 31 English public and 4 French public school boards that operate in Ontario, more than twice as many as would be needed for a secular-only public school system.

The Manitoba Act creating that province in 1870, included a provision for a separate school system.  Manitoba’s history is intensely complicated but this issue, became one of the biggest in the province’s history and one which nearly tore the new nation apart.  However, Manitoba persisted in its efforts to eliminate funding for separate schools and two years after Manitoba the North-West Territories essentially followed suit.   More people in Quebec (over 80%) identify as Catholic than in any other province, yet the province also decided to abandon public funding for the Catholic education system and received constitutional authority to proceed in in the late 1990’s.

Solid Catholic classrooms were once a part of Newfoundland educational system. That province is now totally integrated.

I have been visiting the Rock this week.  It’s earliest residents included the Beothuk aboriginal people (now extinct), and the Vikings.  Newfoundland was accidentally discovered by a Portuguese fisherman, landing some twenty years ahead of Columbus.  The Rock was later re-discovered and its modern history started with John Cabot and English and French settlers before being invaded by Irish immigrants seeking relief from their potato famine and English oppression.  By 1840 Irish Catholics made up half the population of the Island, but it was closer to the turn of that century that formal education was initiated with the Anglicans, Methodists and Catholics each running their own religious schools.   

 As Newfoundland joined Canada in 1949, the protestant schools  evolved into a secular public school system but under terms of joining the confederation, Catholic schools had also been given funding.   It took a half-century and two referenda for Liberal Premier Brian Tobin to eliminate funding for all but the secular public system.  So only the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario still fund Catholic schools. 

And what could be easier than eliminating this remaining anachronistic vestige of post colonial rule, amalgamating the various school boards and shutting down those redundant to the educational needs of the province?  Dalton McGuinty’s government transformed Ontario’s education system  from one of the worst to the very best in Canada over his time in office, but was somehow uninterested in further cutting costs by reducing duplication among school boards.  Even as he charged the Drummond Commission to explore ways of reducing duplication and eliminating the deficit, he and they left the secular public schooling option on the table. 

After health, education is the largest expenditure for the provincial government, so it is perhaps unsurprising that Drummond’s report can be found mostly on a shelf gathering dust.  Now Dalton has left the room leaving a new Ontario premier to chart a new course, including doing something serious about the province’s expenditures and deficit.  And what could be easier than eliminating this remaining anachronistic vestige of post colonial rule, amalgamating the various school boards and shutting down those redundant to the educational needs of the province? 

When I lived in rural Ottawa, years ago, I used to watch four half-empty buses from four different school boards parade one after each other, and wonder.  I haven’t seen the math on this, don’t have the numbers, but moving to a single school system should be a win-win for the people of Ontario just as it has been for Newfoundland, and Quebec.  And speaking of Quebec, the irony of it all is that funding for separate schools was only ever put in the constitution because of the insistence of Quebec.  And that province has now eliminated it’s own separate school system. 



Ray Rivers was born in Ontario; earned an economics degree at the University of Western Ontario and earned a Master’s degree in economics at the University of Ottawa.  His 25 year stint with the federal government included time with Environment, Fisheries and Oceans, Agriculture and the Post office.  He completed his first historical novel The End of September in 2012. Rivers is active in his community. He has run for municipal and provincial government offices and  held executive positions with Liberal Party  riding associations.  He developed the current policy process for the Ontario Liberal Party.



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Some think you are what you eat – others say you’re what you wear. Burchill has some thoughts on what you might wear.

 September 12, 2013

By James Burchill

BURLINGTON, ON.   Many in the tech industry believe that the next generation of smart devices will be “wearable.” Remember watches? Ya, those things that are going out of style may be making a comeback when your iPhone and Android becomes wrist wear.

Is that a Dick Tracy wrist watch? What do you mean – you don’t know who Dick Tracy was – where have you been?

There are several designs in the works and Sony has already released a beta test on a wearable smart phone that works very much like your current phone in downsized form. This, of course, will change as these become more prolific and new ideas and the ergonomics of the devices are studied. Expect wrist flicking and hand flexing to replace finger gestures, for example.

Techies are seeing a future in which we are the device – in other words, apps and software, are made for the user, not the device. Whether we have a smart watch, a phone, in-car computers, or a desktop in or all of the above, the apps will work the same throughout with perhaps some differences because one device may be capable of more than another. 

A good example of how this works is Google’s Gmail.

Gmail works differently on your desktop than it does on your smart phone, for example. Imagine that across half a dozen or more devices.  Some will be “hands free” devices (such as the car), which will have interaction through voice commands and hand waving or eye gestures (all things being worked on right now).  Others will be hand-intense, like your smart phone, while still others will be a mix of the two.

A technological future in which devices automatically detect who is using them and load the apps (from the cloud, of course) based on that knowledge is not far off. Imagine checking the time on your watch and being notified that you have a new email. Instead of bringing it up there, you turn to the television and say “pause and show me email.”  It complies by pausing the show you’re watching and bringing up your email screen.  You see it’s important and you’ll need to reply, so instead of using the TV, you pick up your tablet and bring up the email app and finger in a response. Once you do so, you close the email app and the TV asks if you want to resume your show.

This future isn’t so far-fetched and is fast becoming the present.

Is this what’s on the horizon?

This means  app developers are beginning to (finally) think in terms of “screens” and “users” instead of “pop-ups” and “square boxes.” Recently, Phil Libin, CEO of Evernote, said that the transition from mobile to wearables is a far bigger deal than was the change from computer-centric apps to mobile devices.  If you think about it, your notebook and your cell phone have a lot more in common than would a cell phone and a watch or Google Glass, simply because the “screen” is very, very different.

In short, the screen and how you interact with it is changing radically. With heads up and similar options, the old “open a box, then open another one” thing doesn’t work anymore. Things have to be both more fluid and less intrusive. And again, people who use these wearable devices are not likely to have it as their only device and they’ll expect apps to work on all of their mobile machines (at the very least).

Things are about to get even more interesting.



James Burchill creates communities and helps businesses convert conversations into cash.  He’s also an author, speaker, trainer and creator of the Social Fusion Network™ an evolutionary free b2b networking group with chapters across southern Ontario.  He blogs at JamesBurchill.com and can be found at the SocialFusionNetwork.com or behind the wheel of his recently acquired SMART car.


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The Quebec of today and the values it wants to create – differs from the multiculturism of Ontario.



September 6, 2013

By Ray Rivers

BURLINGTON, ON.   Pierre Trudeau was the father of multiculturalism, and in 1971 Canada became the first nation in the world to adopt that policy.  Coming off the October 1970 FLQ crisis, Trudeau needed something to bridge the two solitudes, which Canada had become, and which made fertile ground for the separatists to argue for independence.  Inclusion of Canadians regardless of their origins, respect for their cultural heritage and the richness that comes with diverse cultural backgrounds helped change the focus of minority rights in Canada and Quebec.

 Multiculturalism is fundamentally a liberal philosophy – the right of individuals to freely express themselves and pursue their conceptions of the good life.  The Liberal Party subscribes to it, so it shouldn’t be any surprise that Justin Trudeau immediately rejected Marois’ proposed charter.  But conservatives also subscribe to this philosophy, particularly the more libertarian wing, though they are conflicted by their desire for control.  For that and other reasons the PM is mostly staying out of the discussion at this time – but he’ll have to find his tongue if, and when, the Charter sees the light of day.

The night Rene Levesque lost the first referendum in Quebec. The province would try a second time to leave the country in 1995.

 The NDP are socialists and have little time for religion or religious symbols, although Mulcair appears to be siding with Trudeau – but then he used to be  a Liberal.  The Parti Québécois (PQ) is also a socialist party and favours secularism.  They still remember the Duplessis years and how the Church helped to oppress Quebecers – je me souviens.  And, of course, the PQ prefer any policy which would enable them to reach their end-goal of independence.

 Quebec has always been opposed to multiculturalism.    Half a century after it became national policy, Quebec’s minority government is proposing a ‘Charter of Quebec Values’, a racist, at least in the broadest sense of the word, attempt at shutting multiculturalism down.   Much like the French Language Charter, Bill 101, introduced in 1977 by René Lévesque, the proposed charter Pauline Marois is proposing discriminates against those who are different – those who threaten the notion of a distinct society in the nation of Quebec.

 It is just another brick in the wall for the separatists – a wall to further divide Quebec from the rest of Canada.  Former premier Jacques Parizeau blamed the ethnic minority in Quebec for the narrow defeat of his 1995 referendum on sovereigntyPremier Marois claims her goal is to unite Quebecers, a euphemism for stripping them of their individuality and re-engineering Quebec to deal with Parizeau’s complaint. 

 Pierre Trudeau discovered multiculturalism in the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism (1963).  And Ms. Marois has a commission of her own, The Bouchard-Taylor Report on Cultural and Religious Accommodation.   If we thought multiculturalism was a complex topic, Taylor and Bouchard promote an even more complicated hybrid called ‘interculturalism‘. 

 A nation with diverse cultures is not one that rallies predictably for a common cause, such as Quebec sovereignty.  So Premier Marois wants to instill Quebecers with a set of common values before the next referendum.  If she needed a model, she might have looked to the Japan of the shogun era.  For over 200 years the Japanese people were isolated from foreign influences; foreigners were expelled and their religions banned; trade and contact with the outside world was restricted; and a common language and social mores were forced on the people.  The results of that unification process were impressive as we saw in the Second World War.

 Europe, like Canada, once embraced multiculturalism, so much that chicken tikka masala has replaced fish and chips Chips as England’s most popular dish.  However, Europeans,  like some folks in Quebec, are concerned about the impending clash they envision with their traditional cultures.  France is in the forefront of the fight against religious symbols, though the French government is perhaps more worried about ethnic ghettos, where streets and even suburbs have become enclaves and no-go zones. 

 Of course that isn’t the case for Quebec which has less ethnic diversity than B.C. or even Ontario.  Toronto is now the most ethnically diverse city in the world.  Quebecers are a minority within Canada and the downward spiral of discrimination is a human characteristic.  So Quebec treats minority groups in the province less kindly than they themselves expect to be treated in Canada.  The many freedoms Quebecers enjoy, being a part of Canada, they withhold from the cultural minorities they govern. 

The referendum in 1995 was a battle to keep Quebec in Canada but also to keep Canada a multicultural country.

 Finally and most importantly, Bill 101 and the emerging Charter of Values are just foundation blocks for the next sovereignty vote.  Only a third of Quebecers have ever wanted to create a separate nation out of the province.   But they recently elected a minority separatist government with that unwavering agenda as an end goal.  Marois may appear to be pandering to a handful of intolerant voters with her charter, preying on their worst emotions.  But she is just setting the stage for the bigger battle to come.  She needs to deal with Parizeau’s complaint – even if that makes her look like a racist.



Ray Rivers was born in Ontario; earned an economics degree at the University of Western Ontario and earned a Master’s degree in economics at the University of Ottawa.  His 25 year stint with the federal government included time with Environment, Fisheries and Oceans, Agriculture and the Post office.  He completed his first historical novel The End of September in 2012. Rivers is active in his community. He has run for municipal and provincial government offices and  held executive positions with Liberal Party  riding associations.  He developed the current policy process for the Ontario Liberal Party.


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In Ontario, naturopathic doctors are considered primary care physicians.

Jeremy Hayman, Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine (ND) will be writing a regular column for the Burlington Gazette.  ND is a professional medical designation earned following an undergraduate pre-medical degree and four years of post-graduate medical training at a fully accredited (CNME) naturopathic medical college. All licensed Naturopathic Doctors practicing in Ontario have been fully regulated under the Drugless Practitioners Act.Upon completion of regulatory board examinations, Naturopathic Doctors, as primary health care providers, are required to maintain their competency by meeting continuing education requirements as well upholding naturopathic medical association standings.

In comparison to a Medical Doctor designation (MD), a Naturopathic Medical designation (ND) is comprised of an equivalency in term of basic science education hours.  Where an MD focuses more time on pharmaceutical medicine, NDs also study pharmacology and its drugs, however extensive training in natural medicine (such as botanical, Oriental, nutritional, physical, and homeopathic medicine as well as lifestyle, counseling and herb-drug interactions) is adjunctively studied as well. In Ontario, a naturopathic doctors is considered a primary care physicians. NDs cannot prescribe pharmaceutical medications in Ontario as MDs are able to, and are only covered under extended health plans and not OHIP billing, however they are able to employ conventional laboratory testing and diagnostic imaging as necessary.

September 5, 2013

By Dr. Jeremy Hayman

 BURLINGTON, ON.  September 5, 2013  When it comes to understanding the meaning of the popular phrase “too much of a good thing”, we all too often overdo our ideal balance by taking this idiom to the extreme. It’s common practice to believe that if something is healthy, then more is better. We have all experienced, in one way or another, too much of something we believe is “good” often times turns out not to be as “good” or as pleasant as we first thought.

There are limits – or at least there should be some limits we observe.

How many of you have ever basked under the healthful vitamin D filled sunrays on a warm summer day only to regretfully suffer the agonizing (and burning) result of “too much of a good thing”? Ok, so we agree, in our own unique and sometimes retrospective way, too much of a “good thing” may in fact result in the complete opposite of what we originally thought. This consideration has forced us to accommodate moderation into our daily lives, correct?

  Well, not always in reality, but the true meaning and moral does allow us to consider the wise choice that everything in life should be experienced in balance. Although, when it comes to natural health and contributions to natural health, I sometimes, beg to differ. When it comes to balance and happiness within our children’s mental health, I beg to differ without question.

  The mental health status of children constitutes a need for balance, however the more happiness, balance and support toward a child’s mental health, argument cannot be justified that too much of a good thing is ultimately “too much”. Mental health of children is of utmost value, and the more support that can be provided naturally, the better. So let’s talk mental health within our most impressionable population, and let’s learn what it takes to naturally keep the mental health of our children balanced.

  According to Health Canada, one in  five Canadians will experience some type of mental illness over the course of their lifetime, many of whom will never fully recover. The other four will have a friend, family member, or colleague who will experience a mental health issue. Children, within this statistic, are sadly, not excluded. So what is sound mental health as it pertains to our children and how can the balance toward such a “good thing” be realized? Mental health in children refers to the mental state of how one thinks about, feels, associates, and responds to the world within and around him/her. Depression, anxiety, general stress, attention deficit, autism, panic, and bi polar are mental health states but to name a few. Achieving consistent happiness, positive adaptation, awareness and balanced thought and feeling is what exemplifies mental health to its ultimate degree. When mind and body become occupied and clouded with an ongoing interference of thoughts and feeling, mental health state begins to decline.  Once it acclimatizes to this state of mal-adaptation, psychiatric “disorder” may inevitably ensue. Continued psychiatric distress does nothing more than lend itself to a continued spiraling of ill-health, physically, mentally and otherwise.

  One in  five Canadians will experience some type of mental illness over the course of their lifetime.Interestingly enough, many children affected are being diagnosed simply as an illness due to genetics, “chemical imbalance”, or “predisposition” (which by the way isn’t necessarily an accurate preceding diagnosis at all). It is, however, becoming more and more striking, yet accepted, that mental health issues can also arise from psychosocial stress, unhealthy diets and food production, environmental and toxin influences, as well as from the use (and overuse) of pharmacological medications. Although the contributing source which underlies how a child feels mentally and emotionally may not always be undeniably determined, we do know that focusing on the basics will help make a child feel better.

  When a mental predisposition or illness in a child is typically diagnosed, there is a tendency not to turn to creative solutions for support, but rather to quickly medicate our children. Medication does have its place, however, from a natural and primary care perspective, what should be done is to address a child’s environment, parental stress, nutrition, lifestyle, and an overall comprehensive evaluating view of a child’s life. As stated, medication does have its place (pending individual circumstances, no doubt), however by simply medicating our children as first line treatment, in all circumstances, what’s being done is simply disempowering children, inducing a biochemical imbalance in the brain (not altering or fixing one) and simply guiding children into believing that coping and self-regulating cannot be accomplished without drugs. If all aspects of a child’s life is addressed, medication may still be required, but potentially at a later date, a lower dose, for a shorter time, and may in fact create a better result, given all other supporting aspects have been addressed.

  So how exactly do we treat a mental illness in a child? First and foremost, a professional medical assessment needs to be performed in order to determine where along the “spectrum” a child’s mental state rests. Many diagnostics are determined using a firm array of clinical signs and symptoms, depending of course on the mental state in question. With anxiety for example, a child’s anxiety and worry state would need to be associated with at least three of seven symptoms (sleep disturbance, easy fatigue, and being “on edge” for example). And more importantly to note, just because a child “displays possible symptoms”, doesn’t automatically conclude a mental illness is at hand, however, it also does it mean that there is not.  A whole picture approach would need to be considered, as many symptoms of mental health illness can very well be generalized symptoms in and amongst themselves. Yet, a single symptom can also be a key clue that an initial mental illness may be at play. So rather than diagnosing or treating a mental illness based on a limited clinical picture, a comprehensive and total life picture of the child, as a person, needs to be considered and sought out (as addressing a person and not just an illness, is truly what medicine and its management should be all about).

  Once a mental status has been determined, natural support in the way of botanical medicine, correction of nutritional deficiencies and a therapeutic approach to diet, stress, and environment, in conjunction with primary health care can be successfully accomplished. Vast approaches to mental health can be employed, however utilizing a comprehensive medical approach, encompassing natural sound and evidenced based medicine, combined with primary care practice often works best. Once a mental status has been determined, natural support in the way of botanical medicine, correction of nutritional deficiencies and a therapeutic approach to diet, stress, and environment, in conjunction with primary health care can be successfully accomplished. Realizing and diagnosing a mental illness in a child at any age is not something that sits well with anyone. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be a life sentence of unhappiness, instability or illness either. The evidence is there, that natural medicine works, and by incorporating the essentials in terms of what makes our children better, success with mental illness can be realized.

  Functioning of a child to the degree which satisfies society’s expectations alone is not the element to success. Fundamentally supporting a child’s mental health issue(s) at its root IS the only management tool to propel mental and emotional stability from a life of uncertainty to that of making “too much of a good thing” worth living.

 Dr Jeremy Hayman is an Ontario and Board licensed Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine, practicing at Back On Track Chiropractic and Wellness Centre in Burlington Ontario where he maintains a General Family Practice with special interest in Psychiatric as well as Pediatric health. Dr Hayman can be contacted at drjeremynd@gmail.com

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Where Should I Go On My Next Trip? Travel writer can help – Just Ask!



September 5, 2013

By Gordana Liddell

BURLINGTON, ON.  Where should I go?  Good Question. Actually, while this is one of the most common travel inquiries I get, it’s a terrible question. It’s far too general and can’t possibly be answered until you answer some questions yourself:

Let’s use the W5 approach, shall we?

The world is your stage – what part of that stage do you want to walk on?

WHO are you? Are you the type of traveller that wants to go to a popular destination; one that is deemed to be the most current and hip – where you are most likely to spot celebrities who go to the most fashionable spots in order to be spotted? Or do you want to travel to a place a little more out of the ordinary? Do you enjoy telling people where you have been in order to get the reaction…”where”? Would you prefer to see a destination in its genuine form or would you prefer to hit the parties and the crowds? You get my drift, I’m sure.

Your budget is also a tremendous factor in determining exactly where you will be able to go. Are you a prince? Or are you a pauper? The amount you wish to spend will not only help to determine your destination, it can also limit how you get there as well as the time of year you can afford to go. But there is usually a solution for everyone, as long as the limits are reasonable and the minds are open. Everyone should be able to get a way – your budget will help to define your parameters.

WHAT do you want to do when you get there? Lie down and not get up for a week, apart from getting yourself a fresh drink? Do you prefer to be active and, oh I don’t know…climb a mountain, or go horseback riding, or climb a mountain on horseback? Are you interested in history and architecture? Or is an endless coastline just about all you need to study?

WHERE do you see this all taking place? Before you choose the country you need to choose the setting. Beach? City? Ranch? Countryside? A combination of the above? There are many destinations that are blessed with more than one attribute. Would you like to focus on your favourite or do you like a little variety?

Nature travel is always interesting and can be quite adventuresome as well. Is it expensive?

WHEN do you plan to go? If you have decided that you wish to go on a beach vacation in the South of India and you have time off work in the beginning of July…I would advise you that it is monsoon season and it may dampen your experience. Time of year is very often a factor with regards to destination. It is also a huge factor in the price of tickets; these go hand in hand. Understandably so, higher fares are often directly related to the more “desirable” time of year.

WHY are you traveling? Because it’s awesome! Still, there are many reasons that people plan to take that plane/train/bus/boat/car out-of-town. Business, family vacation, girls’ getaway, some much-needed r&r, a-soul-searching-just-like-in-the-movies-journey, etc. ( I would never advise that last one to pack her bags and head to Vegas. ) Determine your motives and you are another step closer to nailing down that perfect location.

If you can answer at least some of the above questions I’m sure I can help you figure out some good options as to where you should go on your next trip.

Venice has always been a favourite – do you go direct or as part of a tour?

There are truly endless possibilities for travel in the world; there is always someplace we have not been and a unique way for us to experience it. Ask a million people who have gone to New York City and you will get a million different variations of how they experienced it. This is part of what makes traveling so wonderful and why we can never be “finished”.

There are countless questions related to travel; questions about the planning, booking, the journey and the destination. Have you got one? I would love to help make your next trip a little simpler, a little more enjoyable and perhaps even a little less stressful. Please send your questions to JustAsk@bgzt.ca and I will be happy to help.

Gordana Liddell is our resident travel writer and Art Centre guru. She is a graduate of the University of Toronto, a travel industry veteran of nearly two decades, freelance writer, and most recently book editor. She is fortunate enough to live right here in Burlington with her family.

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The 10 Most Controversial Topics on Wikipedia; Jesus was a natural but George W. Bush and circumcision?

September 4, 2012

By James Burchill.

 BURLINGTON, ON. Ever wonder what the most controversial topics on Wikipedia are? The crowd-sourced and edited online encyclopedia is home to a lot of contention. Entries on the site can change in seconds, especially in the more controversial subjects, while others may be horribly written and stay that way for months because it’s not a topic of interest to most editors on the site. 

So what are the subjects most likely to be controversial and see the most changes by the most editors? What are the topics that suffer the most revision as points of view clash?

Controversial? Worth getting more information on?

Well, I wasn’t the only one to wonder that. Some students and faculty at the University of Oxford (yes, that Oxford) wondered too. Lead by Taha Yasseri, the team decided to analyze Wikipedia to find out which topics were most controversial based on the intensity of their “editing wars.”

Not as easy as it sounds, though. Wikipedia is home to about 22 million articles in 285 languages with about 77,000 contributors working on it on any given day. Not happy with just the four million English version articles, though, Yasseri and his team decided to break down the controversies by language as well, looking at all 22 million articles to do it.

First, they had to define “controversial” as it applies to Wikipedia. Going by edits alone wouldn’t indicate contention as it could also mean that it’s a “live” subject that is rapidly changing or evolving, such as a current news event (e.g. a current television series or a current legal trial). So they focused on “reverts” instead, which are edits which are made by one person and then undone or removed by another. These are relatively common, though, but “mutual reverts” where an editor restores an earlier edition and then another editor (often the one who made the new changes that got reverted) changes it back to the new version again. These “edit wars” can go on for days in a back-and-forth struggle as editors duke it out over how things on the site are worded.

That definition works well for what the Oxford team wanted to measure. Using that, they were able to analyze Wikipedia and, after separating articles by language, create a “Top 10” list for them. The ten most controversial topics in English are:

1. George W. Bush

2. Anarchism

3. Muhammad

4. List of World Wrestling Entertainment

5. Global Warming

6. Circumcision

7. United States

8. Jesus

9. Race and intelligence

10. Christianity

At least people are asking questions: still far too many people saying it’s bunk.

Some of those are not surprising, of course, but others come out of nowhere. The top entry is a real surprise, since Bush has been out of office for over five years and is now relatively ignored by the news media. The second is a contentious but not often considered political philosophy that most of us might not even know exists. The third makes sense, as does the fifth, but who would have known that the WWE was so controversial?

Go figure on this one: wrestlers?

Indeed, this is a very interesting list. The team says that in every language, topics of religion are nearly always represented in the top five, as are topics like Israel, Adolf Hitler, and God. For the most part, though, these commonalities are overshadowed by the vast differences in what’s controversial in one language versus another. This often involves controversial war topics or native cultural topics, but can also be celebrity topics specific to the region the language is most commonly associated with.

You can read Yasseri et al’s work on Wikipedia measurements here.

James Burchill creates communities and helps businesses convert conversations into cash.  He’s also an author, speaker, trainer and creator of the Social Fusion Network™ an evolutionary free b2b networking group with chapters across southern Ontario.  He blogs at JamesBurchill.com and can be found at the SocialFusionNetwork.com or behind the wheel of his recently acquired SMART car.

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The Cost of Electric Power: Wind turbines, solar panels are safe as electrical generation and cheaper than anything else available.

August 29, 2013

By Ray Rivers

BURLINGTON, ON.  Let’s debunk the nonsense about the high cost of renewable energy in Ontario.    Gord Miller, Ontario’s Independent Environmental Commissioner, estimated that, for  2010, the total cost for wind and solar was a mere 3% of a household’s total ‘energy used’.  Since your household bill includes other charges, such as delivery and debt recovery,that translates into just over one percent.

There are thousands of small solar panel installations like this across the province – they work very well and in many cases provide revenue for the owners.

So, McGuinty’s Green Energy Act is not why your hydro bill keeps climbing and it’s certainly not going to bankrupt the province, as the scare mongers would have you believe.  That rising tide of hydro bills has to do with more mundane matters like updating, improving, maintaining and expanding our grid infrastructure; and building new power plants even as electricity demand has been falling.

Yes, there is the half-billion dollars, or so, wasted on the cancelled gas plants – but that pales with what we’ve spent on the nukes.  Professor Jose Etcheverry, with the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University, sums up Ontario’s nuclear experience as “it always costs much more and takes longer than originally budgeted”.   He points out that $1 billion is being shelled out to consultants just to estimate the cost of fixing our newest nuclear plant at Darlington.  And like the cancelled gas plants we won’t see a kilowatt of energy out of that money.

Canada was proud to be only the second nation ever when, in 1945, we achieved a self-sustaining chain reaction with a tiny reactor at Chalk River, Ontario.  But it was only seven years later, in 1952 when Chalk River became the site of Canada’s first nuclear accident.  And there was another one in 1958, and then there have been three more serious Canadian accidents after that.   Fortunately there were no direct fatalities from any of these mishaps.

As the professor points out, Ontario’s experiment with nuclear power has been costly.  And there is still no plan or budget to deal with the nuclear waste we have been storing on-site in big pools, pools like the ones at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant.  Leaking radioactive water from that disabled plant, now the worst nuclear accident in history, is a real environmental concern, which nobody should take lightly as we watch the poisonous plume of seawater approach the shores of North America.

Ontario is a pretty stable seismic location to situate something like a nuclear plant.   But it wasn’t the earthquake which caused the crisis in Japan, it was the flooding tidal wave.  And if we learned anything this year, it is that we, too, are powerless against floods when nature decides to unleash its furry.   Then, there is always the chance that something else will go wrong as it did at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl or at Chalk River.   And what about the chance that some terrorist makes her way inside the reactor building?

Ontario has a number of nuclear energy reactors – they were expensive to build and are very expensive to maintain.

We get half of our electricity in this province from nuclear energy and the facilities have been pretty reliable of late.  But we know there will be more problems, requiring even more money to be poured into these reactors as they age and decay.  And then there are the unknown costs of eventually decommissioning the plants and the contaminated sites they sit on.   So the chattering class of pundits, taking shots at renewable energy as being too expensive, are either lying to us or have their heads stuck where the sun doesn’t shine.

Speaking of the sun, I installed a solar panel last year.  Imagine how much different our power needs would be if everybody had one of those on their roof.  Sure, you need to back-up these renewable sources with gas plants, at least until the engineers can get their act together and develop ways of storing surplus energy – with capacitors or hydrogen gas or something else.  And there will always be some bean-counter crying ‘unreliable’ or ‘inefficient’ when she spots below-capacity generation on a cloudy and calm day – but that is the nature of the beast.  These systems only work when the conditions permit, but work they do. 

Wind turbines and solar panels are as safe as electrical generation gets – something we can never say about a nuclear chain reaction.  And the costs of buying, installing, maintaining and de-commissioning renewables are relatively inexpensive.  I know there are people who give themselves stress headaches, worrying about a wind turbine, half a kilometer away, producing a whoosh of wind only they can hear.  But really they need to get a grip – for example, they should take comfort in knowing a wind mill will never threaten them with the China Syndrome. 

Ray Rivers earned an economics degree at the University of Western Ontario, taught in New Zealand and earned a Master’s degree in economics at the University of Ottawa.  His 25 year stint with the federal government included time with Environment, Fisheries and Oceans, Agriculture and the Post office.  Rivers is active with ratepayers groups, a food bank, environmental organizations, community journalism and policing.  He has run for municipal and provincial government offices and  held executive positions with Liberal Party  riding associations.  


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Federal government does the Right Thing with the stand taken on gay athletes.



April 21, 2013

By Ray Rivers

BURLINGTON, ON.  Last June, the Russian parliament unanimously passed a law that criminalizes “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors”.    Presumably directed at the media, fines can reach as high as a million rubles, about $30,000 (Can) for a violation.  It is unclear whether religion, increasing social conservatism, or the perceived need by Russians to reverse their falling birthrate was the stimulus for this bill.  It is also unclear how broadly the authorities will interpret the new law.

 We need to understand that homosexual relations in Russia have been legal since 1993 and still are.  And though we see this new law as objectionable, when it comes to sexual discrimination Russia is in a far different league from the 38 African countries, including Uganda, which criminalize or otherwise repress homosexual activity.  And Russia is nothing like Qatar and Iran where, under Iranian law, someone committing a homosexual act may receive 60 lashes or even the death penalty.

The LBGT community has chosen to be very public in response to the repressive actions of the Russian government.

It has taken a long time for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community to finally achieve a broad measure of equality and human rights in places like Canada and the USA.  It was only 1967 when a young minister of justice named Pierre Trudeau ‘liberalized’ Canada’s criminal code on homosexuality, saying “the state has no business in the nation’s bedrooms”.   Finally passed in 1969, this legislation also decriminalized abortion, and contraception, and further regulated lotteries, gun possession, drinking and driving offenses, harassing phone calls, misleading advertising and cruelty to animals.  Passed by a two-thirds majority it was mostly opposed by the Conservatives, Social Credit and a lone Liberal. 

 In 2005 Paul Martin’s Liberals passed the Civil Marriage Act, making same-sex marriage legal in Canada, the fourth nation in the world and the first outside of Europe to do so.  Again, the Conservatives were generally opposed.  In fact, one of the early acts of the new Conservative minority government in 2006 was to reconsider (revoke) that legislation, a bill which was rebuffed by the other parties.

 So, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, deserves considerable credit for taking on Russia, and Uganda and for bringing his Prime Minister and his political party on-side.  He did the right thing, getting onto the curve of social opinion.  Canada’s pro activity on this issue has not been unnoticed around the world, and is a much-needed step to restoring our international reputation.  And John Baird, the former Tory bulldog has emerged as a respected diplomat for his efforts.

 Our advocacy on this issue today is important, as the world community prepares to assemble in Sochi, Russia for the winter olympic games next year.  Canada’s role has, no doubt, emboldened similar responses from the US, EU and IOC (Olympic Committee).   Russia’s sports minister counters that this is an invented crisis, and he has promised to preserve the rights of all athletes attending the games.  So why, then, did the Russians choose this time to pass such regressive, discriminatory, poorly defined and probably unworkable legislation? 

Russian athletes make their views on gay relationships really clear.

Indeed Baird has displayed a progressive social characteristic that many complain is often so absent among conservatives and conservative policy.  But we should remember that it was the capable Conservative justice minister Kim Campbell who liberalized and, thus, ended the abortion debate in this country.  It was Brian Mulroney who led the attack on South Africa’s apartheid policies, in the face of American and British opposition.  And Mulroney, despite his close relationship with US president Reagan, stood up against US aggression in Nicaragua, recalling another Canadian PM’s ethical positions on Vietnam and Cuba.

 Russia’s new law may put an end to re-runs of ‘Will and Grace’ on Russian TV.  The new censors there will have their hands full, cutting the ‘art’ which happens to ‘imitate life’ from the global media for Russian viewers.  But it won’t stop the progress of civil and human rights everywhere.  LGBT rights in Canada are among the most advanced in the world, and the debate here is over.  It has been a long road and there is no going back.  In the words of a former prime minister, “ what’s done in private between (consenting) adults doesn’t concern the Criminal Code”. 



Ray Rivers was born in Ontario; earned an economics degree at the University of Western Ontario.  He taught in New Zealand and earned a Master’s degree in economics at the University of Ottawa.  His 25 year stint with the federal government included time with Environment, Fisheries and Oceans, Agriculture and the Post office. Rivers left the federal government to consult for private sector and government clients.  He completed his first historical novel The End of September in 2012; a story about what might have happened had Quebecers voted for sovereignty association in the 1980 referendum.  Rivers is active with ratepayers groups, a food bank, environmental organizations, community journalism and policing.  He has run for municipal and provincial government offices and  held executive positions with Liberal Party  riding associations.  He developed the current policy process for the Ontario Liberal Party.


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Heard around town: A cabal wanting to fix city hall?

 By Pepper Parr

August 15, 2013.

BURLINGTON, ON.  Two people had a chat one evening.  It came about when one of the two telephoned the other.  One of the two was as far right on the political spectrum as Attila the Hun while the other was on the left side of the political spectrum – sort of where Tommy Douglas stood.

The lefty didn’t have a clue as to why the right-winger wanted to meet – and knew even less when the meeting was over.

Sometime after that a woman of a certain age was having a friendly drink in an Elizabeth Street establishment and happened upon a man who was quite well into his cups and informed the woman of a certain age that the Conservatives in this city were going to put up a slate of candidates that would fix things at city hall.

Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward. Unbeatable? Some Tory’s seem to think so.

The well-informed individual did admit that there would be problems with Ward 2 where Marianne Meed Ward could probably not be beaten but he was confident that the Tories were in for life in Ward 6 where they believed Blair Lancaster could not be beaten. 

Miss Photo Op – never misses a camera opportunity – but then so do most of the other Council members. Councillor Blair Lancaster in the center with Burlington Olympians in red. Ms Lancaster husband is on the far left.

The lady of a certain age asked why, given the dis-satisfaction expressed by many of the north Burlington residents, they felt the Beauty Queen could not be beaten?  “She was Miss Canada in 1970 you know” was the response.  That tiara may have something to do with Lancaster’s 2010 win – but, truth be told she won by 125  votes against a candidate who didn’t live in the ward.  If Phil Buck, who shouldn’t have been in the race to begin with,  were not on the ballot Mark Carr would be the council member for Ward 6.  Carr by the way will not run in 2014.

So where is this Tory sweep going to come from?

Is there a Tory in Ward 1 that can beat Craven?

Can anyone beat Taylor in Ward 3?

There is a very credible candidate in the wings who will run in ward 4 – don’t expect Dennison to run again.

Is Paul Sharman safe in Ward 5?  Is he a Tory – and if he is, do the Tory’s want him?  They didn’t want Brian Heagle provincially.

Is the Mayor vulnerable?  Is there anyone on the horizon that could come in out of the cold and beat Rick Goldring?  It certainly isn’t going to be Carol D’Amelio.  Philip Papadopoulos might find he has money he doesn’t need and mount yet another mayoralty campaign.

Perhaps the man in his cups, who has served as President of Burlington Conservative riding associations in the past,  was engaged in wishful thinking.  Or is there really a cabal out there wanting to fix city hall?

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When The Loser is Really a Winner, according to one pundit.

By Ray Rivers

BURLINGTON, ON.  August 9, 2013.  She only held onto two of the five former Liberal ridings in the Aug 1st by-elections, but I’d have to say Kathleen Wynn was the big winner.  By-elections often go the other way for a governing party, especially after a ten year stretch in office.  And given the smell around the cancelled gas plants and a couple of other legacy issues, she did better than I expected.  The NDP’s Andrea Howarth picked up a couple of seats, no doubt reflective of her party having constructively worked with the minority Liberals to deliver a better budget this year. 

There are many who believe the Conservative win in Etobicoke was a personal win for Doug Holyday and not a win for the party.

And the big loser was Tim Hudak.  Yes, Doug Holyday took Etobicoke-Lakeshore in a no-surprise victory for the popular former mayor, but Holyday won despite, rather than because of, Hudak.  The knives are coming out among the Conservative faithful, tired of Hudak and his Tea Party political platform.  After eight years of Mike Harris Ontario residents are not going to buy that extremist right-wing snake oil again.  And electors don’t have much time for obstructionist and uncooperative leaders, as US Republicans will likely find out in congressional races next year.

A few weeks ago I did an article on legalizing marijuana; that subject is in the news – again.   I had criticized the policies of further criminalizing (2006) and requiring mandatory sentences (2012).  And I provided a link to a YouTube clip showing our PM gob-smacked, unable to coherently explain his reincarnation of this failed policy.  Then Justin Trudeau promised, only a few days ago, to legalize ‘the weed’, confirming a policy endorsed by his party last year, if his third-placed Liberals could form the next government. 

Besides Harper there are others who disagree with legalization.  The NDP’s Mr Mulcair, is only promising decriminalization, if he makes PM, though I’ll bet some of his younger caucus members would go further.  And the Toronto Star columnist Rosie Dimanno argues that legalizing cannabis would be a stupid idea, in an article full of inconsistencies, thus giving the word dope a whole new meaning.  OK, maybe it’s just reefer madness, and she does make a good point about the Mexican model of decriminalizing small quantities of all recreational drugs.

Presumably Harper’s drug policy is about public safety.  But how safe are we in other ways?  What about the floods that hit Alberta and Toronto – and the hurt that, after all this time, is still ongoing in High River?  What about the railway disaster at Lac-Mégantic when we realize that this could have happened to any number of other railway towns?  And what about the two sleeping children, discovered asphyxiated by an exotic African snake, kept illegally above a pet shop in New Brunswick?  With all we have learned about the dangers of introducing exotic species, why did our federal government allow someone to bring this snake into the country?

A one year minimum mandatory sentence for possessing six marijuana plants seems a  severe punishment, hardly fitting that insignificant crime.  Yet, what should be the punishment for a reckless federal minister who made the fateful decision to allow the MMA railway to run with a single operator, knowing full well that the train would have to be unattended at night, while he slept?  Talk about a teflon-coated government.

And finally, there is the threat of global climate change.  It’s true that the PM can’t stop the progress of climate change – it has been developing for far too long and Canada is not a huge emitter of global greenhouse gases (GHG) anyway.  But we are vulnerable because of our geography, and we need to plan how to deal with the next big event. 

It is incumbent on our political leaders to do more than hide from reality, like the proverbial ostrich with its head in the sand.  Stephen Harper needs to put his ideology behind him and have an honest conversation with Canadians about our future climate challenges, and what he is doing to help us adapt to them.  And, further, he needs to take steps to restore Canada’s one-time leadership on this issue by promoting global GHG reduction initiatives and embracing home-grown local action – the way the government he replaced was, at least, trying to do.

Ontario has shown national leadership by significantly reducing its greenhouse gas emissions over the last decade.  Perhaps that is one of the reasons that enough voters were attracted to the provincial Liberals on August 1st, and an electoral wipe-out was avoided.  This could be a winning issue for Mr. Harper as well.  It’s better late than never.

Editors note:  We think our columnist may be stretching a bit here.  He is one opinion – there are others.

Ray Rivers was born in Ontario; earned an economics degree at the University of Western Ontario.  He taught in New Zealand and earned a Master’s degree in economics at the University of Ottawa.  His 25 year stint with the federal government included time with Environment, Fisheries and Oceans, Agriculture and the Post office. Rivers left the federal government to consult for private sector and government clients.  He completed his first historical novel The End of September in 2012; a story about what might have happened had Quebecers voted for sovereignty association in the 1980 referendum.  Rivers is active with ratepayers groups, a food bank, environmental organizations, community journalism and policing.  He has run for municipal and provincial government offices and  held executive positions with Liberal Party  riding associations.  He developed the current policy process for the Ontario Liberal Party.


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Provincial Premiers meet as a “Council of the Federation”; some modest accomplishments.

By Ray Rivers

BURLINGTON, ON.  August 1st, 2013.  The Council of the Federation, created in 2003, is a venue for the 13 provincial and territorial jurisdictions in Canada – to discus and resolve on federal-provincial and other inter-jurisdictional matters.  Last week Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynn hosted the regular summer get-together at Niagara-on-the-Lake. 

 There were some modest accomplishments.  The Premiers unanimously called on the federal government to conduct an inquiry into the mysteriously missing and/or dead aboriginal women (over 500), following up on a similar request from the National Aboriginal Organization.  And for some reason, the premiers’ call was immediately rejected by the federal government.  

 Progress was made on energy issues, as all but two leaders signed onto an evolving national energy strategy led by Alberta’s Premier Alison Redford.  Only B.C., concerned about the proposed Northern Gateway project and Quebec, in the process of suing Nfld over the Muskrat Falls power project stayed away from signing. 

 Overwhelming consensus came as the leaders jointly condemned the proposed ‘Canada Jobs Grant.    I have been critical of the federal government in the past, and it is because they keep doing things like this.   Education and training is primarily provincial jurisdiction, so the fed’s role has traditionally been to top-up provincial programs, acknowledging that local needs are best met by provincial programs.  Quebec, in particular, is very sensitive to the feds interfering.  https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/at-summit-canadas-premiers-take-on-a-crowded-agenda/article13412119/#dashboard/follows/.

 Regardless, the feds talked with some private sector organizations and then created, what the provinces call, an unworkable ‘one-size-fits-all’ program.  And talk about wasting our money, the federal government spent $95,000 per ad for all those ads you had to sit through during the playoffs this year, announcing a program that doesn’t exist, is still a concept and may never see the light of day.    And, insult-to-injury, they hadn’t even bothered to consult with the provinces, who are expected to pay for a third of the program.  Oh, and the reason for that is because they plan to slash their training contributions to the provinces.

 The Council of the Federation’s first big success was in negotiating with Paul Martin to get the Canada Health Accord.  Martin had earlier slashed federal payments to provinces, in order to slay the Mulroney-era deficits and the Council needed something more sustainable. And they got  the 2004 Canada Health Accord, with guaranteed increases in federal funding until 2014. 

 That was then and this is now.  In total contrast, last year, the ruling Conservatives tabled their plan for health care funding for the decade post 2014.  There was no negotiation, just an offer, fait accomplis   take it or else…  The Council of Canadians lobby on social issues, particularly health, and had arrived en-mass to rally the Council to press on for a better deal.  But the feds weren’t open to discussion – the door was closed.  

The premiers also discussed the Senate. There are so many inherent problems with the Senate but reform to a triple-E body, as the PM has asked the Supreme Court to consider, would not make it any better.  Would an elected senator best represent the interests of his/her province – better than the provincial government?  What if they were at odds?  Is this a recipe for a constitutional crisis, pitting one level of government (fed senate) against a provincial government from which the senator was elected?   There is already confusion over the sometimes competing roles of the Commons and appointed Senate – imagine if senators were also elected? 

It was a missed opportunity for a provincial/territorial ask.  Abolish the Senate, don’t reform it.  And give due recognition to the Council of the Federation as a consultative body when developing public policy.  What could be more vital to this nation’s future than inter-jurisdictional cooperation and what better body to do that than the Council?  Imagine if they met more often.   I mean even separatist Pauline Marois was happy to participate, discuss and resolve with her fellow Premiers. 

 How much government do we really need anyway, and does more government mean better government?  If I put that question to Steven Harper, I think we’d all know his answer.   So, why not do it – why not make government smaller?  Put the $100 million we would save by abolishing the Senate into provincial health care programs instead. 

 The Council of the Federation exists.  It offers vital political tension for the confederation.  And it could be a useful political ally to a federal government that wants to represent all of Canada and wants to make Canada work better.  Indeed the Council would be a better chamber for that ‘sober second thought’ than the dusty, corrupt, old Senate ever has been.

Ray Rivers was born in Ontario; earned an economics degree at the University of Western Ontario.  He taught in New Zealand and earned a Master’s degree in economics at the University of Ottawa.  His 25 year stint with the federal government included time with Environment, Fisheries and Oceans, Agriculture and the Post office. Rivers left the federal government to consult for private sector and government clients.  He completed his first historical novel The End of September in 2012; a story about what might have happened had Quebecers voted for sovereignty association in the 1980 referendum.  Rivers is active with ratepayers groups, a food bank, environmental organizations, community journalism and policing.  He has run for municipal and provincial government offices and  held executive positions with Liberal Party  riding associations.  He developed the current policy process for the Ontario Liberal Party


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