The smell from the gas plant mess makes it difficult to know if there is anything sweet in the budget.

By Ray Rivers

BURLINGTON, ON  May 2, 2013.  Give the people what they want.  Dalton McGuinty transformed Ontario’s health care system from mediocre to one of the best in the country.  He was the education Premier who brought peace and productivity to the class room.  He banned cosmetic pesticides, driving with a hand-held cell phone and smoking while children are in your car.  He brought in the HOV lanes, the Greenbelt, and helped keep the auto industry alive during the 2008 recession.  But one of his biggest achievements was the Green Energy Act.

 Generating energy with coal is dirty, speeds up climate change and impairs our health.  So the Premier set up the Ontario Power Authority to make a plan – to phase-out coal but make sure the lights didn’t go out.  Solar and wind are the path to the future but they only work when the sun shines and the wind blows – so you need a backup and that is natural gas.  And gas, the utilities have been saying for years, is clean. 

One of two gas plant the provincial government chose not to complete – cost to quit – close to half a billion dollars

But don’t tell that to the voters in Oakville and Mississauga.  When they heard about the plans for new gas plants, they weren’t going to let Dalton put one in their back yard.  So on the eve of the last election the Liberal government, hoping to get its third majority, killed the partially constructed gas plants in those communities. 

 It turns out the cost of that decision is now known to be over a half billion dollars – compensation for the private entities building the plants – and new power plants will still have to be built somewhere. 

 The provincial budget came down this week, but it will have to compete for newspaper space with the gas plant fiasco.  The pundits expect the NDP will support this budget and continue to support the Liberals for at least a while – till they are ready to pull the plug.  

 It is said that voters have short memories, but will the teachers support the government which declared war on them?  Will the ORNGE, E-health and the Caledonia crises fade in the voters‘ minds?   And on the budget, will the public register its concern that Ontario has been in deficit for the last decade and its debt doubled over that time?   And, yes, don’t forget the gas plants.

Despite all the good that Premier McGuinty did for Ontario, his legacy will likely be tarnished by this one avoidable blunder.  Who would have advised him to pander to a handful of vocal constituents and to reverse himself on a sound energy plan?  That was an expensive lesson for all of us, and Dalton paid a huge price, falling on his sword and giving up his leadership.  This is also Political Science 101: Be careful with the advice you get from the kids surrounding you in the heat of an election campaign  The honey they are pouring into your ears may well turn out to be hemlock.  

 Next week I will be exploring the new Ontario budget.  If the NDP does indeed support the budget on first reading, the question is whether they will see it through committee and onto final reading.  Andrea must be asking herself why she would want to climb into bed with a Liberal government so shaken by something as destructive as the gas plant fiasco?  There are interesting times ahead.

 Ray Rivers will write weekly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat after which he decided to write and has become a  political animator. Rivers was a candidate in Burlington where he ran against Cam Jackson.


Return to the Front page

Bridges, bicycle paths, roads and the way we get around in this city. Resident suggests we may not be getting it right.

By James Smith

BURLINGTON, ON.  May 2, 2013.  This past weekend yet another young man, 27, died on the railway tracks near Dixie Road in Mississauga. Another family is now linked with Burlington’s Denise Davy and her family by grief over the loss of a loved one on the Lakeshore rail corridor. More than just sad, this news is devastating because when someone dies like this, a family is left not only with the ache in their heart over the loss, but also left with so many unanswered questions. How and why did this happen?  Is it misadventure, suicide or is there something else at work? What are we missing in this picture that motivates people so they feel they have to cut across tracks in the first place?

I’ve never met Ms Davy, but I’ve been impressed with her commitment to attempting to get action on preventing other deaths on the tracks in Burlington. Ms Davy has successfully brought this issue to the front of mind, not only of Burlington City council, a success in its own right; Ms Davy has moved council to direct staff to act.

A couple of really inadequate signs alongside a path that leads up to the railway tracks – crossing is a snap until one realizes there is a train that you didn’t see or hear when you started crossing.

As I write this, I’m sitting on a GO Train making my way into Toronto and I can see how very easy it is for one to make it onto the tracks. Pulling into Bronte station, I saw two men walking away from the tracks. (Did they just cross them?) They likely didn’t give the train and the tracks a second thought. Just something to get around. One does not need to be an expert to see what danger lurk on the Lakeshore corridor.  Just look out from the seat of a GO train as I’ve just done to see the trails and paths, the tree forts, BMX jumps and graffiti.  Pretty quickly one can get the idea of where people regularly walk, play, lurk and take shortcuts. With GO moving to half hour service in June the peril on the tracks is about to become far greater. To mitigate the danger, I notice more brush being cleared and new fences on the rail corridor throughout Mississauga. Will this project carry on to cover Burlington and the rest of the GO network? I hope so – and I hope it happens soon.

Fences are only part of the answer, the spot where the latest death occurred happened on a section of track already with new fences installed.  To improve rail track safety Burlington and other cities need not so much better city planning around railways, but better transportation vision. Being hived off into four parts by railways and highways Burlington has created a neat two kilometer grid that isolates pockets of development as little land-locked islands ironically surrounded by transportation corridors. How do people get in and out of these islands? By car, or for the foolhardy, taking a chance crossing the tracks on foot.  This is a result of the dominant planning regimes of the mid-20th century where land use was neatly divided up into its own little planning ghettos.

Return to the Front page

Pages: 1 2 3

Burlington columnist links the Boston Bombings, Justin Trudeau and Tory attack advertisements

By Ray Z. Rivers

Ray Rivers will write weekly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat after which he decided to write and has become a  political animator.

BURLINGTON, ON. April 29, 2013.  ‘Root-causes’ you say?  Justin Trudeau dared to utter that phrase in his interview with Peter Mansbridge, shortly after the Boston Marathon bombings.   Trudeau was “committing sociology”, the Prime Minster accused, as if that was one of the unforgivable crimes the PM had included in the government’s new ‘safe-streets’ legislation.  

Afghan women being taught some of the basics through funding provided by the Canadian International Development Agency – getting at the root causes of political violence.

National Post right-wing columnist Barbara Kay had earlier taken her aim and fired a volley at the young leader – showing his ‘inner sophomore’, she accused.  She went on to draw a comparison to his father, when as PM he brought out the army to quell the FLQ hostage crisis of 1970.    True enough he activated the War Measures Act, but Pierre also dealt with some of the “root-causes” – the disenchantment and estrangement of Quebecers’ from their rightful role in the federation.  Lest we forget, he introduced official bilingualism, regional economic development, and the inter-provincial equalization program.

Of course Kay and Harper are playing politics, aren’t they?   Everybody knows that for every effect there is a cause…and a root-cause.  I mean why else is Canada providing social and economic aid to Afghanistan, except to remove the kind of ‘root-causes’ that contributed to 9/11, right?  Under Stephen Harper, Canada, proudly, has become one of the world’s top donors of economic development and educational assistance in Afghanistan, raising the levels of education, ensuring greater food security, and regional development of that nation, one of the world’s poorest. 

In 2011, Canada assisted over 1600 schools graduate almost 50,000 students, 85% of them girls.  And we helped Afghan small and medium businesses create over 20,000 new jobs, injecting $325 million in the national economy.  These are very impressive stats for a government that doesn’t believe in ‘committing sociology’ and in considering and reducing ‘root-causes’. 

Return to the Front page

General manager walks the plank – but no one pushes him into the water. This is good news?



By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  April 17, 2013.   Scott Stewart, one of the toughest General Manager’s this city has seen in some time uses his smile and basically decent demeanour to get things done. But if that doesn’t work – well, Stewart came to us from Hamilton where he acquired certain skills.  Let’s just leave it at that.

Earlier this week Stewart, who now heads up what is referred to as D+I, which is the short form for Development and Infrastructure Committee – the place where all the hard work gets done.  All the paper bound tasks; legal, Human Resources, Information Technology and Finance got shifted over to  City Manager Jeff Fielding.

That realignment didn’t leave much for Kim Phillips to do and perhaps we will see some changes in that portfolio somewhere down the road.

Stewart, who drives hard and is remarkably responsive, brought a small report to council committee where he talked about how he feels his people have done and asked council to respond.  Stewart sat there with most of his Directors but they didn’t get to say a word.  Stewart was the mouthpiece.

Do you want more of this and less of that?  Are we delivering on the deliverables?

He came to us from Hamilton – that’s as much as anyone needs to know about General Manager Scott Stewart.

This is the first time we have seen anyone at the General Manager or Director level for that matter put himself on the hot seat – but I guess when you’re on the province’s Sunshine list you can do things like that.

The IKEA matter came back to council four times – and that was good – thought most council members; but the Tim Horton’s desire to be on Brant Street in the old Blockbuster location came back to council too often.

Return to the Front page

Pages: 1 2

Is Justin a New Deal for Canada? First day on the job and the attack ads start – is this their best shot?

 By Ray Rivers.

BURLINGTON, ON. April 16, 2013  Sometimes we Liberals can feel like Goldilocks.  First, the leadership vote kickoff in Toronto last Saturday felt… too empty.  Then the concluding meeting in Ottawa…well, it was so full they sold out the $20 dollar tickets in a flash.   The event was packed with big-name Liberals, including one-time opponents Jean Chretien and Paul Martin who sat on opposite sides of the room. It was a big deal.

The victory was conclusive and Justin Trudeau graciously took the podium to thank one and all.  The Party had opened voting to members and non-members alike, and over a hundred-thousand Canadians participated, picking Trudeau with eighty percent of the votes – a new deal  for political leadership.  Polished, humble and almost boyish, he delivered his first speech as leader of the third party - but now what?

Justin kicked off his leadership campaign by promising to rebuild the middle-class (by which he really meant middle-income Canadians).  But what does that mean?  Franklin D Roosevelt is credited with building the modern middle-class in America, a consequence of his New Deal in the 1940‘s.  Five factors played together for FDR; 1. a sheltered union movement to lift the pay of workers, 2. massive public investment to create jobs for the unemployed, 3. the break-up of corporate conglomerates, 4. progressive income taxation, and 5. trade protectionism.

 Chretien, in his remarks at the podium, noted that his Team Canada had landed significant deals in their excursions into China, while the best Harper could do was to bring back a couple of rented Panda bears.  And Trudeau, who has supported the Chinese buy-up of the tar sands and the Keystone pipeline, seems unwavering on business-as-usual for global trade, the kind that ensures we Canadians remain the hewers of wood and drawers of water we were at confederation.  Not much of a new deal here, I’m afraid.

 Trudeau has not yet spoken, perhaps wisely, on the other elements of how he plans to re-build the middle class.  He and the party’s policy wonks have their work cut out, developing options to restore and promote the middle-class, if he is to be believed.   Of course, Justin is not PM yet, just the leader of the third-party.  But if the polls are any indication, he might very well be in position to lead a Trudeau Liberal government after the next election. 

 Well thought-out and pronounced policy options to restore a more balanced Canadian society and a healthy economy would be a big deal, even if it not exactly FDR’s new deal.

 Ray Rivers is a retired civil servant, a former Burlington candidate for the provincial legislature and an author.  His book, The End of September focuses on how things could have been different during the Quebec crisis in 1983.  Rivers will write for Our Burlington on a regular basis – about twice a month.

Return to the Front page

The Coronation

Ray Rivers was seen pontificating with a bunch of Burlington Liberals Saturday morning before he headed into Toronto for the Liberal Party of Canada Showcase where the six candidates running for the leadership of the party were giving their final speeches.  We asked Ray to give us a first person report on the event.  Ray, still with a belly full of fire for politics, reports:

By Ray Rivers.

TORONTO,ON. April 9, 2013  I could feel the mood as I descended the stairs from old Union Station to the near vacuous bowel of a structure, that is the Toronto Convention Centre.  Trudeau volunteers were everywhere, waving their skinny balloons, and making rallying noises.  They were mostly young people, which was so delightful to see.  The woman on the TV the night before, told us the Liberals would have trouble filling the seats at this event, and she was right.  The rows of seats were dispersed as best they could to disguise that the attendance was not what had been hoped.

At $150. per ticket, for which didn’t even get a bottle of water, let alone coffee and a doughnut, the low turnout was not a surprise but a disappointment.  There was this overly lengthy tribute to departing interim leader Bob Rae – sure, he deserves  recognition, but hey, I thought we were coming to listen to the candidates.  Then the organizers allowed twenty-five minutes for each of the butt-numbing speeches.   They were all good, of course, though I have to admit that I ran off to an ad hoc meeting and missed the last two speeches.  But then, like the rest of the crowd there, I was pretty sure that it wouldn’t matter.  Somebody in the Party needs to take a serious look at how they plan these events.

Joyce Murray had the most effective video and gave a very good speech.  She cautiously and slowly walked the crowd through her vision of co-operating with the NDP and Greens in order to beat Harper at the polls next time.  But it is a complicated matter, and so innovative, that I doubt some of the regular folks got it – or felt comfortable with it.  Joyce spoke of her commitment to small business and the environment and I couldn’t help thinking what a brilliant environment minister she would make in the next Liberal government.

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

Then came Justin, with a huge gaggle of groupies, Trudeau scarves casually around their necks, clapping their skinny balloons and chanting, as their hopeful gracefully climbed onto the stage and proceeded to inspire everyone with his speech.  He was confident and positive and delivered his well-written speech with passion and power.  Knowing the question was in everyone’s mind he commented about his father, saying that his campaign was about Pierre, then added just as it was about all of the parents (of the younger of us, I guess) – that it was about restoring Canada to the glory days before Stephen Harper screwed it up.  Perhaps he was just anticipating the Tory attack-ads coming the Monday following the vote count, but it certainly struck a chord with me – nice twist on a theme.

Return to the Front page

Pages: 1 2

They really set her up. They wanted to shut Meed Ward down – last night they did just that. The fallout, & there will be some, will not be pretty.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  April 9, 2013.   It was almost slick – if a little underhanded – the kind of thing we used to see with a previous Mayor.

While Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward was talking about one of the finer points of the Ghent Avenue development the Mayor looked directly at the Clerk, nodded his head and the Clerk nodded back at which point the Mayor interrupted Councillor Meed Ward and brought to her attention that she had gone beyond the 15 minutes of discussion she was permitted under the city’s procedural by-law.

Meed Ward was a little stunned and I don’t think she was fully aware of what had just been done to her.

At full Council meetings the Mayor presides and recognizes different speakers.  The city manager is in attendance and he is there to address Council on how the administration would handle an issue.

The Clerk plays a vital, semi-judicial and administrative role.  If Council passes a bylaw it isn’t in force until the Clerk signs the document.

Angela Morgan, Clerk, city of Burlington; powerful position.  She runs the municipal elections, she has the power to tell the Mayor what he is doing is wrong and advise him publicly not to do so.  She made the mistake on Monday of letting her Mayor mislead her.

The Clerk is the person the Mayor, or any member of Council for that matter, turns to for an interpretation of the rules.  The Clerk has an assistant who takes the minutes but it is the Clerk who has final say on almost anything and everything.

Angela Morgan, Clerk for the city of Burlington; is an attentive, polite, informed bureaucrat.  But Monday evening, April 8th 2013  – she did nothing to advance the civility of debate and discussion at Council meetings.  This is not something she did on her own – the Mayor put her up to it.

One must admit that Meed Ward does run on – frequently.  She has no friends at Council.  Her Ward 2 colleague Rick Craven has absolutely no time for her.  Councillor Taylor puts up with Meed Ward because he sees a lot of himself when he was a younger man in Meed Ward today.

Councillor  Dennison and the Mayor treat her with the mildest respect possible or with total disdain – depending on the issue.

Monday evening there was a very divisive debate on the Ghent Avenue development, which is in Meed Ward’s ward and she wasn’t backing down.

Mayor Goldring read the Procedural Bylaw carefully and found a way to collude with the city Clerk to shut down a member of his council. The days of innocence for this Council came to an end Monday April 8th, 2013

It isn’t a very pretty development and there are all kinds of issues surrounding the pre-sale of the 58 properties and the way the city chose to let the developer’s consultants provide much of the technical opinion.

Return to the Front page

Pages: 1 2

Now what do we do? We’re #1 – there is nothing else to aspire to. That’s what happens when you let others determine who you really are.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  March 21, 2013  Here we go again.  A magazine that promotes its readership with a list of the best place to live, the safest place to live and maybe even the nicest place to live and then all those locations promote this specious recognition.

Burlington, Burlington, Burlington!  We are better than some phony recognition given to us by a magazine promoting their circulation.

Unfortunately, you can bet real money that the Mayor will tout this phrase every opportunity he gets and the members of city council will do the same damn, stupid thing.

The nicest thing about this graphic put out by the city is the picture.

This city has huge potential but we will never rise above our provincial past as long as we let others define us.

It is what we do with what we have been given that should make us important.

Can we grow to the point where leading corporations choose this city because it has the very best schools, the very best sports organizations for our children and a performing arts centre that is the envy of the country because of the type of event it brings to its stage?

The Burlington Art Centre has one of the very best ceramics collections in North America – and we have it stuffed into boxes because there isn’t any adequate space to display that collection.

Much of the city grew out of a land grant given to a native who served the British Army during the American revolutionary war.  Born a native, became a savage warrior and grew into one of this country’s early statesmen – Joseph Brant is recognized by a pathetic little museum.  He was a great Canadian but we don’t seem to be able to tell our citizens that story.

Why oh why, oh why do we need outsiders to tell us how good we are?

The late Jane Irwin reminded city council that we are called Borington for a reason.  Time to grow up and be who we really are.

Has anyone noticed how vibrant the Alton Village community is becoming?  Are we aware of the way our downtown is going to change in the next five years?

Do we use the Escarpment as a place that provides the fresh vegetables we consume or do we just talk about how nice it is?

Can we grow beyond the festivals that take place on the waterfront?

There are a lot of things done in the city that are superb and we don’t need a magazine with a circulation smaller than the population of the city to tell us what we have going for us.

Return to the Front page

They couldn’t resist it – Taylor warned them it was folly but they think they can fool you by saying it is a 2.07% tax increase. It’s 4.46%

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  March 19th, 2013 – City media release. The City of Burlington has approved the city’s 2013 current budget, which will increase taxes by 2.07 %, or $19.08 for each $100,000 of residential urban value assessment.

“I would like to commend staff, and the city’s budget committee for a job well done,” said Mayor Rick Goldring. “As a municipality, it is always a balance of priorities to look at the quality of life expectations of today with the long-term financial needs of tomorrow. I believe we have effectively made some decisions that serve the people of Burlington while still keeping tax rates competitive with those of other municipalities.”

“Council approved an increase to the hospital levy to $3.6 million, and an increase in funding for infrastructure, with $2 million dedicated towards the city’s local roadway resurfacing program.

“When approving the 2013 current budget, City Council focused on efficiencies in service delivery and the key strategic priorities, outlined in the city’s strategic plan, Burlington, Our Future,” said Ward 3 Councillor John Taylor, chair of the city’s budget committee. “Council takes very seriously every decision related to spending, whether it’s the operating budget or the capital budget. We are focused on what matters to the people of Burlington.”

It took them five paragraphs but they finally fessed up:

“The 4.46 per cent tax rate increase to the city’s portion of the property tax bill is combined with the Region of Halton’s increase of 0.8 per cent and an education increase of zero per cent, resulting in an overall property tax rate increase of 2.07 per cent.”

Councillor Sharman wanted to skew the budget numbers to make them look better.

Councillor Taylor told Sharman “playing with budget numbers for political reasons will come back to bite you.”

What council tried to do was use the regional portion of the tax levy along with the Board of Education levy, which were both a 0% increase over last year, and combine those two with the Police budget, which had a  small increase over last year – and use those lower numbers to make the city numbers look better.  That’s  what we call “trying to pull a fast one”.    It was Councillor Sharman, an accountant at heart, who first mentioned the 2% number.  Bit of jiggery poking on his part which Councillor Taylor warned would come back to bite him.  The surprise is that the Mayor went along with the scam.

At the Council budget debate, where they basically review and for the most part rubber stamp what was done at the committee level, the more contentious matters get a second hard look.

The public can delegate and this year there was a delegation from Bfast, a citizens advocacy group that wanted Council to defer the bus fare increase until there was an opportunity for some significant public comment.  On that level the Bfast people were correct: the city did not take the matter of a rate increase to the public.  So much for community engagement.

Transit, the funding of the Burlington Economic Development Corporation, the funding of the Performing Arts centre, finding the money to keep the roads in decent repair and ensuring that we maintain our contribution to the hospital were the items that got all the attention.

Did they develop a good budget for you?  It wasn’t a bad budget but it papers over quite a few problems and doesn’t provide enough money to fill all the pot holes.

Taylor appeared to be the only person who had much in the way of empathy for the people who can’t afford the cost of transit.  Meed Ward was with him on this to some degree – but the rest, they just didn’t get it.  Going without isn’t a part of their life experience.

“In 2012 the city generated a surplus of $2.3 million. The surplus was used to reduce the impact of one-time or temporary costs on the 2013 budget, said the city’s media release.

It went on to point out that “The city has a long-term financial plan that creates a sustainable financial position for Burlington.”   City Manager Jeff Fielding said:  “The budget is aligned to the City’s investment and operational priorities as outlined in that plan. We are in good financial shape, with a solid base budget, responsible debt management and adequate reserve fund balances.”

Was it a good budget?  It wasn’t a bad budget but given that the budget next year will be the last before this council has to go to the polls again – they’ve not left themselves much room to offer the voters some goodies to keep them happy and plump – before they get plucked again.  Councillor Dennison sent his regrets – he was unable to attend the meeting – can’t blame any of this on him then can we?

A 2.07% increase – nice try.  Just how stupid do your think these voters are?



Return to the Front page

Freshman reporter attends first ever council meeting – he says it wasn’t pretty.

By Walter Byj,

Staff reporter

BURLINGTON, ON  March 19, 2013  I witnessed my first full council meeting on Monday night, and  left with mixed feelings. I was somewhat impressed with the knowledge base of the Councillors, but disappointed with some other aspects of the meeting. Following are my observations, in no particular order.

What was the reason for the barbs that were quite apparent between Councillors Rick Craven and Marianne Meed Ward?   Is there a personal history here?  To be fair, throwing barbs seems to be common among all of the Councillors. Maybe that is part of the political game, but one would think that it could be done in a more civil manner.  It appeared as if members were trying to achieve points over each other.

Freshman reporter Walter Byj thought the transit fare delegation made some strong points – doesn’t understand why their advice wasn’t taken.

Then there was the matter of the two delegations that wanted the proposed 8% bus fare price increase deferred.  Although it did lead to one council member re-evaluating and changing her vote (Meed Ward), others on the council seemed to take any opposition as a personal affront to their good judgement.  Is this ego at play, or are people just being stubborn?

Is this response common to previous or future delegations?  I got the impression that because the Councillors did a lot of hard work and have a great new plan, then their decision must be right. The fare increase is a go with only Rick Craven and Marianne Mead Ward voting against.

Councillor Blair Lancaster seemed quite upset at the way the discussion was and asked the delegation if  council should do nothing.  “We want to work with the people, not against them,” said Lancaster.


Reporter Walter Byj wondered if the amount gained with a transit fare increase would offset the amount being given to the Performing Arts Centre?

While council was eagerly raising bus fares, not sure how much will be raised, they were just as eagerly spending close to half a million dollars over the next two years for the Burlington Performing Arts Centre. Hopefully the bus fare increase will cover this expenditure. At least Councillor Ward was consistent as she voted against both the fare increase and the additional funds for the BPAC.

I wish the Performing Arts success, but not sure at what cost. Mayor Rick Goldring did mention that although the BPAC did lose money last year, the professional shows did turn a profit. Hopefully this does not turn out to be another pier, which was not discussed at all.  That was good news.

Was it the English accent or the cadence of his speech, but I got the impression that Councillor Paul Sharman seems to know what is best for Burlington. I kind of got the feeling that I was being talked down to.

Not sure if this is common to all the meetings, but there were no break scheduled for this meeting. Not sure as to why this is so, as even the most exciting of events plan a break so that everyone can take a moment to refresh. And trust me, the excitement level here does not compare to a sporting event.

Well, that is my quick review. Thank goodness we have reporters who do this on a regular basis and summarize the proceedings in their stories. If you can’t attend the meetings, at least read the articles so that you will have a better understanding of the proceedings.  As for me, I just might sit in on another meeting as making judgements on just one is not fair.  Not sure if I will attend the meeting live at city hall, or watch it on Cogeco Cable.

Walter Byj is a more than 40 year Burlington resident who lives north of the QEW.  He was employed as a Sales operations and planning manager with a major consumer products company for more than 30 years. He also worked in  the field as a sales representative calling on department store branches in south-western Ontario.  Walter also did his time at Dofasco where he did  follow through for customers in the Hot Roll and Plate section.  A graduate of Ryerson University Walter Byj completed a Bachelor of Business Management degree and diploma in Business Administration between  1967–1973 in a combination of full and part-time study.


Return to the Front page

And just how much spin do you get for $10,000 – probably not enough. It’s beginning to get interesting at the bottom of Brant Street.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  March 8, 2013  The city manager is reported to have put out a Request for Proposals on supplying of communications services to the city as they begin to prepare to tell the public about the status of the legal problems related to the construction of the Brant Street pier and the various law suits that are currently in the process of getting ready for a trial.

Councillor Marianne Meed Ward, the one council member who wanted to continue discussions with Henry Schilthuis and Sons Ltd.,  the contractor that walked off the job in early 2010 after doing everything they could to resolve the problems related to the construction,  which many feel began to come to the surface when the crane doing some work on the site toppled and some of the steel beams were badly bent.

The contractor had problems with this project the day he walked onto the site.

While the messy part of the discussions with the contractor took place during the Cam Jackson  council, Rick Goldring, the Mayor who replaced him, had to make decisions of his own to not continue with Henry Schilthuis and Sons Ltd. and put out a new tender which was awarded to Graham Infrastructure.

Goldring and his council had more than one opportunity to resolve the differences and bring a fresh approach to the construction project.  At the time the contractor, Henry Schilthuis and Sons Ltd., and the city were less than $3 million apart.    The increased cost of completing the pier and the legal costs exceed that $3 million by a considerable margin.

The construction is coming along very well and short of something cataclysmic the pier will be officially opened in June, perhaps as part of the Sound of Music Festival.

The node that will have an observation deck as well as a beacon that will soar 12 metres into the air is well underway. Railings that will prevent people from falling over are being fabricated – all should be ready for a Sound of Music festival opening.

Construction is on time – on budget, so they say – but there are all kinds of expenses being racked up that are not being talked about.

The most recent is a suggested $10,000 that wold come from the city manager’s budget for “communications services”, related to legal matters about the pier.

The legal spat between the city and Henry Schilthuis and Sons Ltd. is now at the discovery stage where more than half a dozen companies are involved.  The process of Examination for Discovery, which is when each side gets to see information the other side has as they prepare for a trial.

It is not unusual for the parties to, after having looked at the documents, decide that they should think in terms of talking a settlement rather than go through an expensive lengthy trial.

Tom Eichenbaum, Burlington’s Director of Engineering is a vital part of both the city’s claim against Henry Schilthuis and Sons Ltd. and its defense of the claim the contractor is making against the city. It is not a pleasant time for Eichenbaum.

Discover hearings have been going on for the last month and got extended recently when Henry Schilthuis and Sons Ltd., asked to be able to question the city’s Director of Engineering at more length.

It is believed there was one attempt to get into settlement discussions and that the opportunity to do so was presented to city council but they declined.

It is reported that city solicitor, Nancy Shea Nicol, told council that there was “no smoking gun” and that is believed to be true.  However there does appear to be a consistent number of incidents which when linked together amounts to a preponderance of evidence that does not look all that good for the city’s case.

The argument appears to be focusing on the design of the pier which was done by a local firm Totten Sims Hubicki (TSH) who also served as the project managers.  TSH was replaced by AECOM, a multi-national firm that does business in more than 115 countries.  Their taking over the original designer made them the designers of the pier and the contract manager – a basic conflict of interest that Meed Ward pointed out during her election campaign.

Our Burlington is advised that the legal fees for one of the parties for the month of February amounted to more than $360,000 – if that is what one party is paying one can assume that the city’s legal bill is in the same range.  And they haven’t gotten to trial yet.

With the city now looking for communications talent one can only assume that something is up.  You don’t bring in specialized communications people unless you’ve got a specialized communications problem.

Donna Kell, the city’s Manager of Public Affairs is accredited with the Canadian Public Relations Society, which makes her a  certified communications specialist – and that doesn’t seem to be enough for her to take on this communications task.

Clearly the city is getting ready to tell at least part of the story as it relates to the two court cases; the city is suing Henry Schilthuis and Sons Limited, and they in turn are suing the city.

Councillor Meed Ward may find herself in a situation that only she will be amused with if the spin the city wants to put on the pier and its legal problems looks like an attempt to hide something.

Meed Ward keeps in touch with the 596 fans on her Facebook page and has asked them what they think of all this.  Her comment was: “Since the city launched the lawsuit on the pier, many discussions relating to the previous contractor and design engineer; the details of the options to finish the pier; and the legal strategy and associated fees have been behind closed doors. When the lawsuit reaches resolution, what information are you looking for?

Penny Hersh:  I have to question a City Manager who feels it is appropriate to spend an additional $10,000.00 for a consultant to SPIN the truth that residents and taxpayers have a right to know. If the City is transparent this should not even be a consideration.

Russ Campbell : Is this one of those “nice-to-haves” in the city’s budget? Just shows how city hall wastes money. If we are farming out communications will we be cutting back on communications staff: “The city currently has a full-time manager of public affairs.

Kim Lalonde:  Curious as to how the building department didn’t keep better tabs on the project before it began and during to avoid the mistakes that happened ? Also the phrase you get what you pay for comes to mind since the cheapest bid was accepted on the original project.

Daniel Silverthorne:  Don’t waste 10,000 dollars….the day Jesus comes back is the day the pier will be completed.

Clearly not a lot of support for spending any more money – but the money will be spent.  The question that lurks out there is this:  who tipped off the Post.  This type of investigative reporting isn’t their style, they don’t cover some of the council committee meetings and are never seen at any of the advisory committee meetings.

The Post has been tipped off in the past and it has come up for discussion at closed council meetings.

What does all this mean?  Stick around – it is just beginning to get interesting – but you are going to have to listen closely and read between the lines.  The city will make all kinds of noise with the “grand” opening of the pier and slip in small news items late at night or on the weekend “explaining” what went wrong and how much it is going to cost.  When those questions come forward ask: Why didn’t you settle when you had the opportunity?  Which council member do you think was the loudest to argue against any settlement?

Return to the Front page

Me, the Mayor and the media; a relationship that is stronger because of the almost daily stress.

By Pepper Parr, Publisher, Our Burlington.

BURLINGTON, ON.  February 21, 2013  We were accepted as full members of the Ontario Press Council last fall.

The Press Council serves at the body that listens to the public when they feel media have been unfair.  Anyone can take a complaint or a concern to the Press Council.  The address is set out below.

Ontario Press Council, 890 Yonge St., Suite 200, Toronto M4W 3P4.  Telephone: (416) 340-1981

There is no cost to anyone going to the Press Council.

As member of the organization we are required to abide by their decisions and publish any decision they make.  Because we are an electronic publication any Ontario Press Council decision related to anything we have published remains on our web site for anyone to see.  The decisions of the press council are also on the Press Council web site.

Many people don’t understand the role of media in a society.  Communities with small local newspapers are often poorly served by those publications.  Burlington’s “information deficit” was brought to light in 2010 when the Shape Burlington report was published.

That document, written by former Mayor Walter Mulkewich and the late John Boich,  set out quite clearly what the problem was and where the responsibility for the information deficit lay.

One of the Shape recommendations was to create a Community Engagement Charter and the city is in the last phase of finalizing that document and deciding what it wants to do with the numerous recommendations that have been set out in draft versions of the Engagement Charter.

Another recommendation was for the city to fund some form of media that would help reduce the “information deficit”.  The city should not be in the business of funding media, look at City Talk, the city’s quarterly magazine that is filled with puff pieces written by Council members or their staff.  Terrible waste of money.

John Boich convinced me to use my 30 years of publishing experience to produce some form of electronic media; that conversation resulted in Our Burlington that came out October 2010.

The relationship between the different organizations in the city and the media is usually a strained one.  People and organizations want nice things said about them.  Our job is to say nice things if there are nice things to say but we are also there to report and explain.  We have chosen a cheeky and irreverent style.  We are constantly amazed at how bland most of the statements that come out of city hall, the Region or the offices of the MP and the MPP are; self serving puff pieces for the most part.

Here is what the Mayor had to say about us last summer.

The two or three media people who cover city hall are there to observe and report.   Running a city is a complex business and its matters are complex.  Saying the tax rate is going to be increased is a statement of fact – but those facts have to be put in context.   One percent of the tax increase last year was to pay for the city’s portion of the hospital re-build.

Saying the pier is now on schedule does not mean we don’t also say that the thing is over the initial amount it was expected to cost by more than 200% – and then asking why this happened.  Getting a straight answer is easier said than done.

Asking why city council always goes into closed session when the city solicitor speaks about the law suits the city is involved in over the pier and continually asking how much has been spent on legal fees is part of what media does.

We also reported on the 58 Burlingtonians who were awarded Jubilee medals.

We see more of the council members and staff than most people and we arrive at conclusions.  There are some very good people doing fine jobs at city hall; there are others just putting in the time until the can leave on a pension.

There are some that are always helpful and others that snow you with a dozen documents or refer you to someone else when their job is to provide information and inform.

Our Burlington has had some major differences with some people; some of those differences get resolved, on others we just disagree.

City hall has 1000 people on the payroll and is run by a top tier team of three people – with five layers of management between the city manager and the entry level clerk.

There are more really smart, energetic enthusiastic people at city hall than there are slugs.  And more often than taxpayers realize, they give very good value.

Our relationships with the members of council are all different because they are different people with agendas of their own.   Their public image is basically a brand they use to get themselves  re-elected.  Re-election for a council member is like a promotion to other people; they work hard to get them.

The Mayor is, we believe, in place to show leadership.  While the Mayor has just one vote he  does have the opportunity to lead and to set the tone.  For those who don’t think the style of leadership and the tone of the city council is important,  look back to how quickly this city decided it didn’t want Cam Jackson as Mayor, even though he had served the city as its MPP for many years.  Adapting a Queen’s Park skill set to city hall was something Jackson was not able to do.  Voters saw that inability and chose someone else to be Mayor.

While we have been critical of Rick Goldring in the past, and will be critical of him again in the future because that is part of what media do – we will never forget the evening he basically said goodbye to John Boich a week before he passed away.  He treated John Boich with great dignity, deference and sympathy and in doing so reflected what this city is about.

We really liked the comments the Mayor made about Our Burlington a couple of months ago – note sure Goldring would say them today but they reflect the kind of man he is.


Return to the Front page

Standing room only if you are delegating at city council: so much for accommodating the aging population.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  February 11, 2013 The late Jane Irwin tweaked city council’s nose during the meeting she attended last Monday evening, before she died the following Thursday, when she remarked,  pointedly, that  council members and staff sit in comfortable seats while delegations have to stand.

Many of the delegations use a walker to get to council meetings and need their canes to get to the podium.  They are given ten minutes to speak and then remain to answer questions.  For some that is not a comfortable physical experience.

This delegation left her cane on the table where she could make use of it if needed.  A chair to sit on would have been appreciated.  Our Council chamber is not geared to people with ambulatory problems.

The City Clerk’s Office say they are looking to have a chair available for people to sit at but that means getting a table they can sit at as well – and right now there isn’t anything in place where a speaker can sit, have access to a microphone and a place to put their notes.

Our Council Chamber has a wee bit of a shabby look to it, a sort of retro-fifties feel and a sense of it being a “tired room”.  The “optics” are terrible.  For a city what wants to attract those high-tech companies and their well-paying jobs what we have in the way of a council chamber is a bit of an embarrassment.

To add to the visual presentation one must add a comment of the sound system.  When the city manager is meeting with council he sits inside the horse show where the microphone he has to use is of such poor quality it is often close to impossible to hear what he is saying – and with this city manager you want to listen very carefully.

Burlington talks of its aging population.  It talks of its engaged citizens but then does very little to make them comfortable at council meetings.

It got to be a little too much for this delegation – she had to take her cane off the table and use it to lean on while she shifted herself from foot to foot. Delegations are made to stand before Council like serfs with their hats in their hands. We need to upgrade our manners.

Cathy Unsworth came to Council last week to talk on a heritage matter that impacted property she owned in the west end of the city.  Before getting into her delegation she commented on being asked by the Clerk’s office if she was going to speak for the staff report or against the staff report.  Ms Unsworth just wanted to talk and didn’t feel she had to say she was for or against something.

She makes a very valid point.  People who choose to address Council need to be treated with more respect. And consideration has to be made for their ambulatory needs.

When a person calls city hall to register as a delegate the Clerk should send them a Briefing paper explaining the rules and procedures that are followed.  Including a letter from the Mayor welcoming the person as a delegation would be a nice touch as well.

There should be paper, pencil, a pitcher with water and paper cups for delegations to use.

Burlington isn’t some little hick town.  We are a city with a population approaching 175,000 people.  Our Council Chamber should reflect both who we are and how we want to be seen.

Time for an upgrade.

Return to the Front page

Don’t miss the Winter Market on Saturdays @ TERRA Greenhouse in North Burlington.

By Margaret Lindsay Holton

BURLINGTON, ON  January 31st, 2013  Looking for something a bit different to do with the family or grand-parents on a cold Saturday morning this winter? Bundle up the gang and head over to the TERRA Greenhouse on the north side of Dundas Street between Guelph Line and Brant Street.

Perfectly situated on the dividing line between North and South Burlington, the downtown lake-side crowd will be pleased that they don’t have to venture too far up into the ‘unknown hinterland’ of the escarpment. North Burlington country folk will be pleased that they don’t have to ‘dress up’ to descend into the tony suburbia of Burlington. This well-placed winter market is casual, inviting, and tasteful. Literally.

Large & lush TERRA Greenhouse welcomes vendors and visitors on Saturdays from 10am to 3pm.

As you stamp off the snow from your boots, your tootsies will soon warm up in this well-heated sun-lit huge glass greenhouse. You’ll be welcomed by tasty samples of a wide range of delectable consumables, like raspberry-saturated truffles or mouth-watering bacon-smoked fresh salmon. Taste testing is encouraged by most vendors, but careful what you nibble.  I had one mouthful of the smoked salmon pate and promptly plunked down ten dollars for a critical winter’s supply …

Smokeville’s husband-and-wife team offer mouth-watering smoked rainbow trout and a variety of delicious smoked salmon products.

Exotic highly spiced teas compliment a wide variety of freshly baked ‘local’ pastries. Hardy rustic uncut sour-dough bread loaves beckon, as do delicately decorated orange-chocolate cup-cakes. Fresh meat pies can be had with a quart of well-scrubbed late-harvest turnips or beets. And don’t forget to get your quota of concentrated sour cherry juice: an excellent all-round good health elixir.

A familiar face from the Burlington Mall summer market, this mother-daughter team offer concentrated sour cherry juice, guaranteed to fix what ails you.

Artfully arranged around the greenhouse’s bubbling fountain, strategic floral arrangements by TERRA green the space. Tables are stacked high with local wares by food and craft artisans. There’s really something for every taste. Yes, a tad more expensive then your local super-market, but frankly, it’s such a pleasing mish-mash of enticing stuff, you’ll soon find yourself enthusiastically supporting these local mum-and-pop enterprses.

Tired of standing? Rest your bones in the convenient festive TERRA garden furniture displays. You never know, you just might decide to re-do your summer patio. TERRA attendants are on hand to assist with your purchase if you do. I found their service helpful and informative, not pushy.

The Little Truffle Maker offers her wares. Taste testing is obligatory! 

If you’re not interested in the excellent food produce, you can always sniff exotic expensive hand-crafted soaps or hand-made packets of room freshening lavender. Or, try on a well-knitted toque and scarf combo in a wide variety of joyful colours. Grab a budding cactus or ruby red orchid on route.

It’s always great when a new venture hits pay dirt. Timing is everything. Would this IDEA have worked two years ago? Hard to say. But today, the TERRA greenhouse on Dundas Street has a ‘hit’ on its hands. So much so, there’s talk of opening another Winter Market up in Milton.

Nothing succeeds like success. Without a doubt, this is a win-win venture.  The TERRA greenhouse could well have remained dormant over the winter months, but this resourceful interpretation of ‘space’ welcomes all who seek an enjoyable and novel Saturday sojourn. Local food vendors now have a warm and inviting place to sell their specialty items without incurring a crushing overhead.  Visitors won’t be disappointed.  It is a festive and welcoming event.

Pies ‘n Such offered great gift packages of 5 tasty items for five dollars.

Do head over earlier rather then later. Doors open at 10am on Saturday and close at 3pm. The place was packed last Saturday by 10:30am.

The Winter Market runs until the end of March. Free parking. Free entry.

And don’t forget to try those FREE lip-smacking taste-testing morsels.
Don’t miss the Winter Market on Saturdays @ TERRA Greenhouse in North Burlington.

Margaret Lindsay Holton is both an environmentalist and a community activist.  She is an artist of some renown and the designer of a typeface.  She is also a photographer and the holder of opinions, which are her own, that she will share with you in an instant.   She appears as an Our Burlington columnist every two weeks. All photographs are by MLH unless otherwise indicated.






Return to the Front page

New Premier for the province when you get back to the office on Monday.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  January 25, 2013  So – Sandra Pupatello wins – then what happens?

First there will be a by-election to get her a seat in the Legislature.  Then the Legislature will resume and Pupatello will show the province just what she is made of.  This woman is a tiger – she doesn’t take prisoners.

She will eventually get the election she wants and wipe the floor with Tim Hudak.  She will go to the public with a strong set of candidates – what will that mean to Burlington?

Provincial Liberal leadership delegate Sandra Pupatello meets Burlington’s Ward 1 Councillor Rick Craven.  Could they work well together?

Jane McKenna will want to brush up her resume.   Burlington has two, maybe three potential candidates – one of whom can win the seat with a dynamic enough leader.

Ted McMeekin, the cabinet minister to the east of us and the go to guy when Burlington wants to be heard by the provincial government.  He is supporting Kathleen Wynne because she might keep him in cabinet.  Pupatello won’t invite McMeekin into the cabinet she forms.

There is an opportunity for McMeekin to run for Mayor of Hamilton – they will love him over there – but Mayor of the zoo on the other side of the Skyway may be more than McMeekin wants to take on.

Ted Chudleigh should hold his Halton seat which includes parts of  northern Burlington .  It would take someone who has done a lot of ground work to beat the man who knows his job, does his job and is well liked. He has high name recognition and there are no smears on his copy book.

Sandra for sure on Saturday – then let the games begin.  Ontario has never seen a leader like this before.


Return to the Front page

A little more depth in that State of the City address would have been nice; telling the full story and sharing the concerns is better practice.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  January 24. 2013  It was back in 1986, when Roly Bird was Mayor of the city.  At that time there was a regular Mayor’s Breakfast – an event that gave the wheelers and dealers and wanna be’s an opportunity to get together and network – they didn’t call it that then – it was just the way local politics was done.

Someone came up with the idea of having the Mayor give an annual address.  They needed a name for it and decided they would model it after the State of the Nation address used in the United States.  Burlington was keeping one step ahead of Oakville which still have Mayor’s Breakfasts.

Burlington has been doing this ever since.  This morning, on a crisp Canadian winter day, more than 400 people drove out to the convention centre on Burloak, drove around looking for a parking spot and did what Roly Bird introduced them to back in ’86; get caught up on what’s happening at city hall.

These State of the City addresses gives the Mayor a chance to trot out the list of things that have been done – sort of like a shareholders meeting where all those holding preferred shares get to enjoy their dividend.

This event is put on by the Mayor; his office controls the flow and the event.  No questions get asked and you’re given phrase after phrase of the kind of stuff only a public relations specialist can write.

On balance Burlington is in good shape.  At some point the people at city hall are going to stop trotting out all the MoneySense magazine ratings.  It is a fine city but we seem to have let ourselves be defined by our geography.  The “gem” or the “jewel” of a waterfront (with a pier that is coming in at three times it original cost) and an Escarpment that makes the city both rural and suburban at the same time.  The city is not yet at that point where it can say it is urban or urbane.

We now know that the property either side of the QEW is our Prosperity Corridor and we were assured that city council will approve the Official Plan and the rezoning that is going to be needed to get IKEA into the property it has optioned on the North Service Road.

Council will pass the changes  to the Official Plan and give IKEA the rezoning it wants and it’s then a done deal, said the Mayor except for three words that are laden with possible very serious problems.  Goldring mentioned “two other processes” that we must go through – the Regional government and the Conservation Authority.

Region because Walkers Line is a Regional Road that is nearing capacity and the Conservation Authority because of a creek that is on the eastern edge of the property.

While Burlington wants the IKEA move to happen – the Region isn’t as close to the issue and are not facing the same pressure.  There are 1 million visits to IKEA now – making it the city’s biggest tourist attraction (which got the only laugh Goldring was going to get with this address).  The new location is expecting to get 1.5 million visitors annually.  Walkers Line in its current form cannot handle that traffic and the two lanes that make up the North Service Road certainly can’t handle the traffic going into the location.

THE QEW cannot be made narrower so is any width for the North Service Road going to come out of the land IKEA has optioned?   The next problem then is the railway line at the north side of the property.  Is IKEA’s hope to  make their site wider?

That red line is the railway tracks – the thin black line is the creek on the east of the property.  Getting 1.5 million cars through the Walkers Line intersection is not going to be an easy transportation exercise.  Mayor Goldring misleads when he doesn’t tell the full story.

In the world of planning and design all is possible – but it is not easy and the Mayor misleads his audience when he says “two other processes” – when he should have said two bloody big hurdles that we don’t know quite how we are going to get over and if you’ve got any good ideas – give me a call.

The QEW is a provincial road so we are going to have to work closely with them

The Mayor then used some rather good public relations spin and turned this problem into what you are going to hear called THE PROSPERITY CORRIDOR which will stretch from Guelph Line to Appleby line on both sides of the QEW.  That prosperity is going to amount to two million square feet of new office and industrial space and 6,000 high value jobs.

The Mayor talked about the role the IKEA project played in “helping us shape the new direction for the Burlington Economic Development Corporation” (BEDC).  That was an impressive piece of public relations spin.  The Mayor’s former Chief of Staff, Frank McKeown felt the best thing that could be done with the BEDC, which wasn’t performing all that well, was to “blow it up”.

There are some 20 people on the BEDC board.  It looks like a federal cabinet that has to meet the demographics of a large diverse country.  A board that size has people there to ensure that their interests are protected.  The objective should be to get the smartest people you can find to do the job forget who they represent.  Paul Subject, a member of the board, didn’t expect to have to jump into the fray when he put in more time than he expected working through the way the BEDC would re-shape itself to meet the very real problems it was facing.

The city hasn’t approved the budget that is going to be needed to re-shape the BEDC; the Mayor didn’t mention that one either.

The proof is always in the pudding – and this one is still in the pot.  The people who do the thinking in this city are going to find themselves re-thinking and perhaps re-shaping the council that leads them.  See that as a heads up.

Return to the Front page

Ward 4 resident says PAC was a mistake before it was built and is now an expensive mistake.






January 24th, 2013

Dear Sir:

In the beginning there was a plan for a partnership between the city, senior levels of government and interested citizens of the city to build a Performing Arts Centre and then have it operated by a separate and independent board.   As years past the estimated cost of construction grew without any government commitment to maintain or increase their share of the costs. Private groups came forward saying they would hard to make up the difference but there were no tangible dollars put down.

As estimated costs grew without a plan to pay for them I wrote council and the Post about the financial peril of the project. Unfortunately dreams prevailed over facts and the project went ahead.

Ward 4 resident Jim Barnett says: “The mayor now says this slow start-up is normal. If it is normal, then it would have been anticipated. It is abnormal, thus the city is being asked to bail the project out. It was not that long ago the city was touting the independent board that would make handouts unnecessary.”

The business plan as presented never did have a realistic ramp up in revenues in the early years, but with out this incorrect forecast, the project might not have gone ahead. Therefore it was ignored and the praying started. Well the praying did not work and there is a substantial shortfall. Not only in 2013 but likely for some years to come.

The mayor now says this slow start-up is normal. If it is normal, then it would have been anticipated. It is abnormal, thus the city is being asked to bail the project out. It was not that long ago the city was touting the independent board that would make handouts unnecessary.

Having to hire two more people at this time again points out the flaws in the plan to date.

Let us all remember that only a small cross-section of the citizens use the facility.

When all costs are in, the pier will exceed $20 million and you will not be getting anything back in insurance.

I fear that Performing Arts Centre will also become a drain on the city’s resources, making plans for the hospital more difficult, and increasing taxes for the people who do not use the facility.

Unfortunately I do not have a solution. I hope someone can come forward with a way to save the project and prevent another embarrassment for the city.

In the meantime, I hope the city going forward gets out of the business of building structures that they do not know how construct, finance, budget or manage.

Jim Barnett

Letters to the Editor are welcome.  Please include a telephone number at which you can be reached.  We qualify each submission.  Include illustrations if you wish.

Return to the Front page

Talking Turkey: Lots of Turkey. Really. I’m talking about turkeys here which could include public art.

By Margaret Lindsay Holton

BURLINGTON, ON. January 14, 2013  I have been watching and listening with a great deal of interest over the past few days to the ‘Idle No More’ movement that has erupted across Canada. There are many issues on the table, not the least of which is the desire by the people of the First Nations to be treated as Nations by the current Harper regime governing in Canada. In the midst of this activity – that had me thinking a lot about Canadian colonial history – I received a note from OurBurlington’s publisher, to remark on the recently announced winner of the Public Art Commission for the Burlington Performing Arts Centre. His note to me read, “Can you comment on this in your next column? Be fair, but be very direct as well”.

I read the attached press release.  Peter Powning, from far-off New Brunswick, has won, with his design, Spiral Stela.  Included in the City of Burlington’s press release was an open invitation to the public to add ‘objects of significance’ or “cultural mulch” to his sculpture. “The artist will make a mould of the object, which will then be cast in bronze and added to a large band that encircles the sculpture.” Three times and two locations were provided so the public can participate:  Jan 31, 10-3 pm at the Central Library and 7 pm-9 pm at the Burlington Performing Arts Centre, and also February 3rd at the Burlington Arts Centre from 2-4 pm. The final session will include an artist lecture and ‘creating session’.

The proposed sculpture: Spiral Stela, by Peter Powning, from far-off New Brunswick.

Well, here’s my opinion about all that. (Remember I’ve just been listening, watching and learning from the Idle No More movement … )

I agree to participate in the ‘cultural mulch’ ceremony that will ‘imprint’ objects of significance – presumably from Burlingtonians – onto this foreign object, for posterity. To that end, I will bring a swatch of plastic grass to commemorate the winter of 2009 when our City Elders sold out a piece of our irrefutably unique natural heritage, now known as City View Park in North Burlington, at Kerns Road and Dundas Street, to the Pan Am Games organization of Toronto.

The DESIGN for this largest parkland area in Burlington, supposedly protected under the Greenbelt Act and the Niagara Escarpment Commission, was transformed in the 11th hour by City staff and members of our previous – and current –  City Council into a ‘sports tourism destination’ without any public consultation with immediate residents, or an Environmental Impact Assessment that analyzes how tons of plastic grass will impact this environmentally sensitive era. Thems the facts.

Initially conceived as a “recreational” diverse ‘natural’ parkland area for ALL to enjoy, this park has – and will – become a ‘member’s only’ fenced-in facility geared towards ‘tournament grade’ soccer.  In short, WE, the tax-paying public, have lost OUR park, an important local natural heritage ROOT.

There MAY be an opportunity to regain this park after the Pan Am Games in 2015 when the toxic artificial turf carpets must, by law, go to a hazardous waste facility. (Plastic grass expires every 5-8 years. Two of the plastic carpets were laid in 2011. The ‘tournament’ field and flood-lit stadium will be installed in the fall of this year, or spring of 2014. So, somewhere around 2020, that toxic gunk will have to come out.)

City View Park: Before plastic grass installation, this once-living landscape had to be scraped ‘clean’ and made pan-cake flat.  Photo by Margaret Lindsay Holton.

At that time, it will be up to the NEW City Council to determine if taxpayers funds will be utilized to re-carpet this smothered ground again with million dollar plastic turf, OR, alternatively, whether they will finally have the good sense to rejuvenate this slowly dying eco-system with real growing grass, and, by so doing, provide an essential ‘natural habitat’ for animals (including humans), birds, insects and earth-churning worms. If so, they will also have the opportunity to remove the restrictive fences. This action alone would once again allow all forms of life to freely traverse across this unique open landscape. Living creatures could once again forage within this distinct portion of our section of the designated UNESCO Biosphere, known as the Niagara Escarpment.

Will they do it? Who knows.

Perhaps, years ahead, when Burlington has become the utopian Jersey Shore of the Golden Horseshoe, with electric light-rail transit zipping through the landscape powered by solar and geo-thermal energy, and the old-time ‘locals’ are long dead and buried, newly arrived residents will wonder aloud about the lunacy of previous City Elders who covered their ever-diminishing living-giving-breathing Earth with Life-defying plastic, especially in a ‘protected’ PARK. They may wonder why these turkeys so deliberately eliminated a vital and tangible connection to our communal Burlington natural heritage, the Niagara Escarpment. That is, of course, if they know how to wonder at all.

It is a very real possibility that this on-going eco-travesty will just be forgotten.   Taxpayers will duly pay the exorbitant replacement costs for a PRIVATE ‘members-only’ tournament soccer facility in a PUBLIC park, and the wildlife that does still roam and roost throughout North Burlington’s escarpment terrain will just quietly die off … A dull robotic monoculture of humans will survive on imported genetically modified foods. Tax-enslaved workers will buy FRESH water from off-shore nations who did FIPA-like deals under Harper’s regime. Children will learn programming before they can speak. And ‘play’ itself will become a forgotten IDEA buried under intense competition to host tournament-sport ‘tourism’.

Still, I have hope.

On the first dawn of this New Year I looked out the frosted windows at the farm in North Burlington and watched as twelve robust wild turkeys emerged from a conifer stand and slowly began to forage across the snow-covered yard under the bright winter sun. It was a stately, near sacred, sight to see.

Where had they come from? Where were they going? And why did there seem to be so many?

I had to do some sleuthing.

Author tracks multiple wild turkey tracks.  Photo by Margaret Lindsay Holton.

 Wild turkey was originally native to Ontario, but they disappeared at the turn of the last century due to rapid colonization, habitat destruction and unregulated hunting by settlers.  In brief, we killed off the species.

But, in the mid 1980’s wild turkeys were re-introduced at 38 different release locations in southern Ontario through a program to “restore our natural heritage, provide fowl for hunting and viewing recreation, and derive economic benefits.”  (Ministry of Natural Resources). Begun in 1984, the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, in partnership with the National Wild Turkey Federation and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, launched a reintroduction program that began with just 274 birds.

Stock from the wild turkey populations of New York, Michigan, Nebraska and Tennessee were often ‘swapped’ for wildlife species from this province: moose for Michigan, river otters to Missouri and Nebraska, and gray partridge to New York state. Today, wild turkeys have adapted to our agricultural farmlands totaling somewhere between 60 to 80,000 wild birds.

Turkey hunting season officially began in 1987, and was initially restricted to a spring hunt. But in 2009, a fall hunt was introduced.  Only bearded toms, (mature male turkeys), are allowed to be harvested. ‘Turkey season’, (April 25th, after the peak breeding season, until the end of May), has now been established in most rural areas in Ontario. This hunt is also open to hunters from outside the province.

Wild turkeys are known as promiscuous breeders. Most individual adult males will mate with multiple females. Hens lay a clutch of 10-12 eggs during a two-week period, usually laying one egg per day. Young males are commonly called ‘jakes’ and young females are ‘jennies’. They consume a wide variety of wild foods, including hard mast (acorns, seeds), soft mast (wild grapes, raspberries), green vegetation, and insects. In areas where natural habitats have been replaced by agriculture, turkeys may also feed on domestic grains, like corn, buckwheat, alfalfa and/or soybean. Young turkeys (poults) feed almost exclusively on insects for the first several weeks of life. Insects provide poults with the high-protein diet that they require for rapid growth. A 2-3 week old turkey can eat several thousand insects a day. As you can see, wild turkeys, like all wild critters, need a diversified  living habitat in order to survive.

Wild birds die after ingesting bright bits of PLASTIC, mistaken as FOOD.

Other predators, besides humans, such as coyote and raccoon, are capable of snatching young turkeys, but most are no match for a mature fighting tom. Wild turkeys can run up to 40 km per hour and fly as fast at 90 km per hour. They can cover over 20 miles per day in search of food. A male tom can be up to 4 feet tall (!), and weigh over 30 pounds. Females are, on average, about half that size. Wild turkeys have excellent vision during the day, but can hardly see at night. They roost high off the ground, usually in trees, at dusk. Conifers often provide thermal protection for roosting turkeys so they can conserve energy under extreme cold and windy conditions.

Wild turkey roosting in trees at night fall.

The sale of turkey licenses per annum contributes over $250,000 to wildlife management programs in Ontario. The annual spring and fall hunts generate economic activity for the province worth $2.3 million. (So says the Ministry of Natural Resources).

As of 1999, the use of live decoys, electronic calls and baiting for the purpose of hunting wild turkeys was prohibited. Finally, only a landowner, with a valid firearm license, may shoot wild turkeys that are damaging or about to damage their property.

Obese domestically raised 20 pound turkey carcass in a kitchen sink.

Can wild turkeys hurt you? Any wild animal when cornered or harassed may attack. So, if concerned, call in an expert. Note, only a registered turkey hunter or landowner (with a valid firearm license) can shoot wild turkeys.

All in all, the reintroduction of wild turkey in this province has been a success. Wild turkeys are thriving once again in Halton County in rural North Burlington. Due to human initiative and determination, this formerly extinct species has re-established a solid toe-hold in this, our home and native land. Their reintroduction has, as promised, added to the natural heritage of Ontario. The growing populations are providing viewing as well as hunting recreational activity and, as such, they are adding revenue to our economy.

If we, as humans, can do that over the short course of twenty odd years, surely we can a) improve our dialogue with Canada’s First Nations, and b) bring back City View Park to a ‘natural state’ for future generations.

I wonder what plastic grass looks like when it’s cast in bronze …

Margaret Lindsay Holton is both an environmentalist and a community activist.  She is an artist of some renown and the designer of a typeface.  She is also a photographer and the holder of opinions, which are her own, that she will share with you in an instant.   She appears as an Our Burlington columnist every two weeks. All photographs are by MLH unless otherwise indicated.

Return to the Front page

Can modern science and the display of information help with any possible oil pipeline problem? What pipeline problem?

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  January 8, 2012  This is one of those jaw dropping stories.  Bookmark it and take the time to go through the whole thing.  Amazing, absolutely amazing.

A group called the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has created a room sized, global display system that uses computers and video projectors to display planetary data onto a six-foot diameter sphere, analogous to a giant animated globe.

This isn’t a photograph of the earth but instead it is a globe shaped computer screen on which the earth has been projected.  All kinds of data can be projected on this kind of computer screen that comes in models up to 3 metres wide.  The data can be a live feed from a satellite.  Consider the possibilities?

They call it Science On a Sphere® and promote it as an educational tool to help illustrate Earth System science to people of all ages.

They project data on this room sized globe and then move the globe around so that you can see this world of ours from different angles.  With the globe in place they can display all kinds of data on the thing.  If your child’s science teacher doesn’t know about this – make sure you tell them.

This is an image from that globe shaped computer screen of live cloud data fed from satellites that show the formation and movement of clouds.

How weather moves around the globe is displayed and you can see the changes taking place right before your eyes.

Remember now – you are seeing an image on a computer screen that is very large and shaped like a globe. The image you see here is of the warm water currents, shown in light green, as they move down the west side of Africa across the Atlantic. What does that do to our weather patterns?

Ever wondered what the “gulf stream” really is and how it affects our weather.  You can see where it originates and how the flow of warm air moves around the globe.

You can see whatever data is put up on this huge globe.  The educational opportunities are incredible.  Information about the impact of air pollution, water pollution – the impact of the changing seasons on our world – there to be seen right before your eyes.

In one segment they show how the continents on this earth were formed.  This is absolutely amazing stuff. Animated images of atmospheric storms, climate change, and ocean temperature can be shown on the sphere, which is used to explain what are sometimes complex environmental processes, in a way that is simultaneously intuitive and captivating.

These things are not cheap. They cost around $43,000 for a 24-inch diameter HyperGlobe from iGlobe of Franklin, N.H.; $40,000 for a 32-inch OmniGlobe from ARC Science of Loveland, Colo., or $21,000 for a 24-inch Magic Planet from the market leader, Global Imagination of Santa Clara, Calif.

The Halton Board of Education isn’t going to pony up that kind of money (but if they let one of the bureaucrats go – maybe?) The prices, though, are falling. Mike Foody, the C.E.O. of Global Imagination, says that he hopes to have education-discounted prices down to $2,500 within a year or two. If he succeeds, that would be within the price point of other high-tech classroom equipment, like interactive whiteboards.

A digital globe can illuminate the human planet and display whatever we want in the way of data:  wars, colonization, and the formation of diaspora, modern trade flows or air traffic.

While this stuff is not brand new, been around since 2010, scientists and educators are now getting a sense of just what they can display in terms of information.

It won’t be long before this kind of data display will be part of every news source.  Instead of having the oil lobbyists tell us that the tar sands are not harming the environment – we will be able to see the actual changes – live – of the impact the tar sands are having on the environment.  We will be able to see crop failures as well as bountiful crops.

This is the area any pipeline break would impact.  The actual pipeline runs through the northern part of the city north of Side Road # 1 and south of Side Road # 2

To bring this down to a purely local level, consider the very real concern about what Enbridge, a national energy transportation company wants to do with the pipeline they own that runs through north Burlington.  Enbridge is a powerful North American oil and natural gas transportation company.  The gas heating your house is delivered to your door by Enbridge.

They have  pipeline projects being developed throughout North America.  Some analysts think that Enbridge has figured out they will not be able to get a pipeline though western Canada to get Alberta oil to the far east – so they want to use the pipelines they have to move that oil to eastern Canada and on into the United States where there is a strong market. These guys are big.

The pipeline they want to do that with is a 37-year-old  line that runs through Burlington between #1 Side Road and # 2 Side Road.

Part of the Enbridge #9 pipeline where it crosses Walkers Line.  The company wants to reverse the flow of oil through this line so that it goes from west to east.  Reversing the flow in a pipeline is no small matter.  This line is more than 37 years old.  What kind of shape do you think it’s in?

Enbridge is seeking permission to be able to reverse the flow of oil through their pipeline – not as simple as it seems.  And they want to ship bitumen from the Alberta tar sands  through to Montreal and points eastward.  Problem for Burlington is, there are creeks galore that run south of that pipeline – right smack into our communities and on into Lake Ontario.

Were that pipeline to burst – and where have we heard of pipeline bursts before – parts of this city would be severely damaged.  City hall worries about who is going to pay for any clean up that might have to be done.

As you can see from the still photo’s we have posted there is certainly a pipe line there but we can’t show you the connection to the different creeks and then follow those creeks in real-time down to the lake.

While on the matter of that Enbridge application – it is going to get messy.  Hamilton has been dealing with Enbridge on a different application and has found the company very difficult to deal with

Mayor Goldring, a staunch environmentalist, wants to do something but isn’t quite sure what the first step should be.  The federal government has cut back severely on the number and circumstances under which environmental assessments take place – they have basically taken themselves out of that business.  Don’t expect to read anything about this in the Newsletter our MP, “Marvelous” Mike Wallace sends to you at your expense.

The province could decide that it wanted an environmental assessment done and the Region could get creative and look for ways to cause an environmental assessment to take place.  Problem is the Region isn’t all that a creative place these days.

Ideally, our MP should have met with our Mayor by now to work together to find a way to, first get the facts and inform the citizens, and then figure out what the city can do to protect its citizens.

BurlingtonGreen is advocating heavily for a public meeting.  The key player in all this appears to be the National Energy Board (NEB) that decides if Enbridge gets permission to reverse the flow of oil in their pipeline and also decides if they are going to be given permission to move bitumen from the tar sands though the pipeline.

Burlington’s Member of Parliament Mike Wallace takes a close look at a piece of art while taking part in a photo-op that had him announcing the opening of a kiln at the Art Centre. There are some in the city who think the MP might involve himself in taking a closer look at an oil pipeline application that could negatively impact the city.

Burlington could invite the National Energy Board to town and talk to the public.  The NEB is a federal agency; our MP “Marvelous” Mike could make some of those phone calls on behalf of the city to set up a meeting.  He may have already done that – ya think?

What Burlington wants to know is: what shape is that 37-year-old pipeline in?  Dig up a section and let’s have a look at the condition of the pipe.  And then do a study of what the impacts would be if there were a break in the line should they be given permission to move bitumen through that line.

Any study done would be a report printed on paper with maybe a video as part of the document.  But if there were a way to put current data on one of those globes and put that on-line where anyone at any time could log in and see for themselves what is happening – that would be great new age journalism; great public education and as educational as all get out.

Researching this would make an ideal high school science project.  The full story of what the Science on a Sphere was published in the New York Times.

Return to the Front page

Waterfront committee sinks slowly into the setting sun; a significant opportunity lost.

REVISED, January 1, 2013

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  December 31, 2012  When the Waterfront Access and Protection Advisory Committee (WAPAC) was set up it wasn’t intended as an experiment.  There was a lot of hope in the air – the community was at last going to have something they could be a significant part of – the waterfront would be saved for the public.

They could be called the Pump House crew.

The committee that then Ward 2 candidate Marianne Meed Ward used to sail into office: Save our Waterfront (SOW) said proudly : Members and supporters of Burlington Save Our Waterfront achieved a major victory for community engagement Monday, as city council unanimously passed the Burlington Waterfront Access and Protection Advisory Committee.”  SOW then began doing what they could to ensure they had at least one of “their” people on that committee.  In that they succeeded when Sarah Banks was appointed.

There were two representatives from each ward in the city. During the first few months of their existence  Councillor  Rick Craven chaired the committee which then chose Nick Leblovic to be chair and the re-elected him for their second year of existence.

Our Burlington began covering the committee meetings early in 2011 and was the only media to do so.  When the committee decided to invite former Toronto Mayor David Crombie to speak to them about how you get the community behind the development of a waterfront and not allow the developers to just take over it looked like they were going in a positive direction.

It took sometime to get former Toronto Mayor David Crombie in front of WAPAC but when he did appear he didn’t disappoint. Mayor Goldring joined Crombie but didn’t manage to pick up much in the way of enthusiasm for the idea of a design competition.

It took a couple of months to get Crombie to a meeting, which Chair Leblovic saw as a big feather in his cap,  and when he arrived he proved to be worth every penny of the $500 honorarium he was given.  Rick Goldring was now Mayor and he sat beside Crombie but really didn’t buy into much of what Crombie was suggesting.  While Goldring was still getting the feel of his job it was clear that he and Crombie had significantly different operating styles.

Crombie chastised the city for not following through on the once excellent reputation the city had for its participation in the Waterfront Trail; that was a lead the committee never picked up on.

It was also evident at that meeting that Leblovic was not going to be anywhere near as outgoing or as bold as Crombie.  Nevertheless, the committee was quite pumped with what they heard from Crombie and took on his idea of holding a design competitionn.  It was a great idea and was put in the hands of Sarah Banks who wasn’t up to the task – which should not be seen as a reflection on either Banks’s enthusiasm or competency.  She, along with everyone else on the committee knew nothing about how to host a design competition.  When the idea got to city council – it didn’t get much help there.

Unfortunately the Planning Department didn’t step forward and offer any help. Banks floundered and wasn’t given much help from her chair other than to be told she could not speak to media.  That was a ‘privilege’ apparently reserved for the chair and Our Burlington did indeed have numerous Saturday morning talks with Leblovic.

The idea for a Design Competition was to attract architects internationally who would look at the site and return with ideas and proposals – there was not much more to it than that  – which in itself was enough.  The objective was to get the public thinking about what it wanted and not wait until developer had assembled the land and then did what they wanted to do.

Banks didn’t have the help she needed and appeared not to know where to look for the help.  Sarah Banks was the kind of person who would walk into a room and radiate enthusiasm which made life in Burlington less than satisfactory for her and she later left the city and moved to Ottawa; Burlington wasn’t her kind of town.

Gary Scobie took on the task of getting a Design Competition going and came close to pleading with a city council committee to fund the $45,000 WAPAC felt was needed.  City council wasn’t adverse to the idea but they needed more in the way of a business plan from Scobie – and that wasn’t forthcoming.  They ran out of steam and in hindsight that can be seen as a turning point for the committee.

The WAPAC committee was made up of representatives from every ward in the city.  The problem was the committee met on Friday mornings which made participating very difficult for younger people with full time jobs.  A Saturday morning meeting schedule would have drawn an entirely different group of people.  They didn’t promote their activities,  they never held a meeting at which the general public could attend at a convenient time nor did they come up with a way to involve the public.  They saw themselves as “the” public and they would speak for the city.

Mohamed Alizadeh on the left with Bob Wingfield at the final meeting of WAPAC

Most of the committee members were well over 50 and closer to 65 in age.  The energy levels weren’t what they could have been.

As chair Leblovic would give every committee member more than ample opportunity to speak – sometimes for too long.  He didn’t limit speakers – his approach was to listen to everyone.

Leblovic chose to use the first year learning what the issues were and what the city was up against in terms of developing the waterfront.   The committee brought in speaker after speaker – all of whom knew their subjects very well.  City Planner Bruce Krushelnicki spoke to the group and appeared again at their next meeting to clarify what could be done with properties that were on the south side of Old Lakeshore Road.  They learned more about a piece of property that was once owned by Tim Horton’s Corporation than they really needed to know, including that it was once a gas station.

A committee put in place to advise had turned into a Friday morning class where you could learn a lot about what other people were doing with their waterfronts but WAPAC hadn’t gotten to the point where it was ready and perhaps not able to give any advice.

Senior city staff began to chaff at meetings that didn’t achieve anything and didn’t seem to have a purpose.  City council began to despair and during the end of Q1 in 2012 came to the conclusion that the committee wasn’t going anywhere and decided to bring it to an end.  There was much gnashing of teeth on the part of the WAPAC chair and several of the committee members who felt they had indeed done something useful – and they did do some very useful work for the city.

The development that is going to make the biggest difference to the waterfront in the next five to seven years was one that had been cast in stone before WAPAC was created.  Could they have done anything about the scale?

But the “grand vision” for the waterfront that many expected wasn’t forthcoming.  There is no vision for the lands to the east of the Spencer Smith Park other than saying OK to the committee of adjustment changes the developers of the Bridgewater project that will see a 22 story condo; a seven story condo and an 8 story hotel begin construction  hopefully sometime during the second half of 2013.

WAPAC didn’t have much to say either in terms of advice about the Beachway Park other than to say the residents should be allowed to remain.  For an issue that is central to the completion of what the waterfront looks like in the next ten years WAPAC was disturbingly quiet.

The properties to the east of the Bridgewater project, in an area referred to as “the football”  because of its shape, are owned by some 12 different people.  The WAPAC committee found that there wasn’t much in the way of opportunity for these people to work together and allow a land assembly, and without a land assembly there wasn’t going to be much in the way of development.

One of the things about land is that sooner or later a developer sees an opportunity and takes bold steps as well as  financial risk and buys the land, then hires the specialists needed to convince city council to give them what they want in the way of Official Plan and zoning changes.

The Planners who work for developers are much more motivated than those at city hall and they bring a level of creativity that just doesn’t come from municipal planners.  It takes a level of municipal leadership to get in front of situations like this and have the city heavily involved with the development process. This isn’t the kind of planner Burlington has in Bruce Krushelnicki.  The city does have one of the best thinkers in the planning field and he knows the process as well as anyone else out there – but he doesn’t see himself as the person to advocate for a particular direction.  Maintain what we have and ensure that the rules are followed is the planning department mantra.

There were far too many missed opportunities.  All that said – the WAPAC people did some significant work and took recommendations to city council – where absolutely nothing was done.

In their final report to the city, (which is set out below in bold with our comments beneath each) WAPAC said:

Development of Old Lakeshore Road

Council has our recommendations relating to the future development of the Old Lakeshore Road precinct.  These relate to design criteria including public space and access to waterfront, incorporation of Waterfront Trail, design conformity of buildings and mixed use commercial/residential.  The recommendations stressed the importance of the Old Lakeshore Road (OLR) being a welcoming and eye-catching eastern entrance to the Downtown Waterfront.

The Committee recommended ongoing dialogue with the OLR stakeholders concerning the development criteria and the ongoing participation of staff and Council representatives in this process.

The Committee initiated a staff direction (approved by Council) to make the OLR a specific focus area in the current Official Plan (OP) Review.  The New Committee will work with OP Review team on this initiative.

With the Official Plan Review now leaderless, the Old Lakeshore Road precinct may not get the attention it deserves.

Beachway Park Master Plan

 The Committee made recommendations on suggested uses for the Pump House (pub and/or coffee-house), animation of the Beach and walking path and incorporation of the Freeman Station on the Beach as well as recommendations to remove hydro towers/lines from the beach.  Hydro is studying this aspect on Council’s request. 

The Committee has given preliminary consideration to the issue of the existing residential community in the Beachway Park precinct. Based on the information provided to the Committee to date, there is a general consensus supporting the continuation of this community. However no final recommendation can be made on this matter until the issue of the final reports of the Region and Conservation Halton addressing applicable health, environmental, safety and other relevant considerations.  The New Committee will review these reports when issued and provide a final recommendation to Council.

Converting the Pump House on the Beachway into a destination as a coffee shop/wine bar with an outdoor patio was close to the best thing the committee did.  When it was being discussed by WAPAC there was considerable consternation behind the scenes with several members of the committee becoming more than agitated at what they saw as foot dragging by the chair.

Waterfront Encroachment of Public Land by Private Homeowners

The Committee has made recommendations to Council on Windows On The Water improvements (proper signage, public access, lighting, benches, vegetation trimming and trash receptacles).  We have requested enforcement of current encroachments bylaws to maintain public access to these Windows.  Council has directed staff to design a comprehensive encroachment policy and bylaw this.  The New Committee will review the draft policies and by-laws when available. 

The Committee has also suggested that a similar encroachment by-law be enacted by the Region in respect of waterfront property owned by the Region.

 WAPAC created a subcommittee that traveled from one end of the city to the other along the lake’s edge and identified a number of properties that were public but not very accessible.  It was a solid report with excellent field work done.  It sits on a shelf somewhere at city hall where key people over there responsible for acting on this hope it never leaves the shelf it is on.  When Bob Peachy spoke to the WAPAC people he commented that “this isn’t one of my favourite files” and it is a tough file.  There are some very influential property owners along the edge of the lake who don’t want to share those public spaces.  There are pieces of property the city owns and the public should have access to but property owners make it awkward, if not outright impossible for the public to sit at the edge of the lake and enjoy a picnic lunch.

It is going to take someone with courage and innovative ideas to give the public access to public property and right now that doesn’t exist.

 Rock Wave break at La Salle Park Marina

The Committee recommends that the appropriate modifications be made to the final design in order to accommodate the Trumpeter Swan population that resides in the vicinity of La Salle Park.

 A nice recommendation that doesn’t have the full support of several WAPAC members.  When Beverly Kingdon  made her second presentation to WAPAC she asked again for support to ensure that the planned wave break would not harm the habitat the swans had created for themselves.  Kingdon was quietly listened to and then sent on her way.  Once she had left the room committee member Les Armstrong said quite forcefully that the only reason the swans came to the LaSalle Park part of the city was because people fed them.  “Stop feeding them and they will find someplace else to get food”, said Armstrong.   The Halton Conservation Authority is concerned over waterfront pollution to which the swans and geese are major contributors – no one bothered to bring that concern up with Kingdon.  The biggest factor in making the water unsafe for the public is the waste from the geese that people continue to feed.  There are signs along the edge of the LaSalle Marina property asking people not to feed the geese; the swans appear to get different treatment – why?  Animal waste is animal waste.

While Armstrong’s remarks were valid – they should have been made while Kingdon was in the room – the chair should not have let that happen.

Public Boat Ramp(s) on Lake Ontario

Committee has expressed a desire to work with the City, the Region and the HRCA in determining future sites for recommendations.  The New Committee will work on this project.

A natural beach created when land jutting out into the lake was formed – some think the “mini-beach should have a boat dock dropped into place.

 Burlington has wanted additional boat ramps for some time – the political will to make this happen just isn’t in place.  Many think there will be boat ramps as part of the development of the Brant Street Pier.  There was discussion for a small set of docks that would be taken out in the winter as part of the pier and located in the mini-beach that got created when the pier pilings were put in place.  That got shot down quickly when the city’s Director of Engineering mentioned the $100,000 + cost.

 Acquisition of Waterfront Land

The Committee has recommended that Council develop a policy concerning future acquisition of waterfront lands for public use as and when they become available including how and when to use park dedication and section 37 of the Municipal Act. The New Committee will work with Council on this issue.

 City council didn’t need a reminder from an Advisory committee on this one; what the city needs is some bold thinking on the part of this council to create a land acquisition fund and perhaps agree that a percentage of every surplus be put into the fund.  When the hospital tax levy ends this Council might move to cut that back by half with the remaining half going into a Waterfront Land Acquisition Trust Fund.  They could do that tomorrow if they wanted to.

 Waterfront Access and Protection

As per the recommendation of the Committee the Waterfront is to be an area of specific focus within the OP Review. The Committee has provided City staff with various examples of plans and studies of other Ontario waterfront communities in relation to the development and public use of their waterfronts which will be part of the best practices review being undertaken as part of the OP review of the Waterfront.  The New Committee will work with OP Review team to add citizen views and expertise.

This one will go wherever Council and the people who head up the Official Plan Review want it to go.  In the past, WAPAC was able to ask city hall staff to make presentations and take part in discussions; that is a courtesy not likely to be extended to what will quickly be seen as a political arm of a Council member.

Support for New Committee

The Committee supports the future work of the New Committee in providing ongoing citizen input and advice on issues relating to the Burlington Waterfront.  The Committee recommends that the Council and City staff recognize the New Committee as the natural successor to the Committee and that they give appropriate recognition and support to the New Committee and any future advice and recommendations coming from the New Committee.

What is now going to be called the Burlington Waterfront Committee is a council member initiative that Ward two Councillor Meed Ward created when the decision to sunset WAPAC was made.  It is basically a group of citizens who care about the waterfront and want to see something replace what was sunset.

At the time Mayor Goldring said he would create a Mayor’s Roundtable on the Waterfront but nothing came of that idea.  However, you can bet the Mayor will have quite a bit to say about the waterfront in his One Dream report that is due sometime in January.

Meed Ward’s initiative needs to be seen for what it is; part of her 2014 re-election platform and the organization she will use to launch her bid for the office of Mayor, perhaps in 2020.

Expected to take part in the “new” Burlington Waterfront Committee are, from the left Bob Wingfield, Gary Scobie, Jeff Martin and Marianne Meed Ward, Councillor for Ward 2 who will chair the committee but not have a vote.

And there you have it  – the rise and fall of an Advisory Committee that spawned a few good ideas, and a whopper of a libel suit. The Pump House idea has gotten as far as the city advertising for expressions of interest.  Those are now being evaluated and we could hear something around the time the pier opens in June.  Any commercial venture will have significant short-term risk; longer term there is significant potential.

City council and staff have let themselves think someone is going to come riding in with a great offer that will not cost the city a dime.  The level of risk is such that the city is going to have to come up with some serious coin – and we are nearing an election year.  With the pier costing close to three times what it was originally going to cost and they have yet to contend with the legal fights that will get serious in February – don’t look for much in the way of appetite at council for a subsidy.  Someone out there is going to have to get very creative and somehow squeeze a long, long-term contract out of the city – and maybe ask that a tax break be thrown in as well.

Have we been too tough on WAPAC?; expected too much of them perhaps?  We don’t think so and we look to the Heritage Burlington Advisory Committee that is in the process of resolving a major community problem for the city. The working relationship between the city and the Heritage committee is superb; the Heritage chair has a strong working relationship at both the political level as well as with the bureaucrats.  Jim Clemens talks regularly with the city manager.  I doubt WAPAC chair Nick Leblovic even knew who the city manager was never mind meeting with him.

When the WAPAC committee members complain about how they were treated they might be well served to look at what Heritage Burlington has achieved and compare the leadership over there with the leadership they had.  Had WAPAC had the courage to install Bob Wingfield as chair and then asked the city to give them another year to fix the problems – WAPAC would be celebrating today instead  of licking its self-inflicted wounds.

Return to the Front page