It certainly is a ‘Merry Christmas!’ on the world wide web; sites galore to visit.

By Margaret Lindsay Holton

BURLINGTON, ON  December 18, 2012  The internet is changing us. It permeates nearly every aspect of our conscious lives. It is altering not only the way we think, but the way we perceive the world: past, present, future and dream-time too.  Cumulatively, this is both a good and a bad thing.

But now is not the time to digress on a strident polemic ‘pro’ or ‘con’. Rather, in the short term, (and since you’re here anyway), consider these viral internet Christmas ‘treats’. To be sure, none would have the success they have had without our perpetual ‘clicks’ or ‘hits’. — Ho Ho. Surf’s up. (Remember to adjust your audio as you skip the adverts … )


Author Margaret Lindsay Holton spent hour upon hour finding the gems that are set out below. I’m not sure why she included those terrible chipmunks in her selection but there are others that are superb. Enjoy

Christmas Lights: GANGNAM style. 2 million hits, and counting. (Don’t shoot the messenger!)

Amazing Grace: Christmas Lights. Another festive folly at 23 million hits.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra: an adapted Pachabel’s Canon. Visuals include a few cheesy velvet paintings, but hey, who cares, it has near 4 million hits.

Again, Trans-Siberian Orchestra: The Nutcracker Suite (like you’ve NEVER seen or heard it.)  Not as well known, but still pretty impressive at 250,000+ hits and climbing.

Santa Baby by The Good Lovelies (audio only) from Kingston Ontario. Obscure, with 4,000 hits, but delightful just to listen to their lovely harmonies.

Chipmunks Christmas: Jingle Bell Rock (audio only.) Ok, ok, it’s a stationary cartoon, but it’s still had 3 million hits. (Clearly many miss these delightful little animated high-pitched rascals…. )


The internet certainly lets you get all the Ho!, Ho! Ho! you could ever want. Is there more?

Christmas Carols by the Westminster Abbey Choir. Lovely choral arrangement with 118,000 hits. Not much of a visual, but again, this majestic music does impress, even on the web.

‘O Holy Night’ by Carrie Underwood. Guaranteed to send shivers down your spine, with the added bonus of sing-a-long script (… pity about the ‘devine/divine’ typos though.) The poor script and visual design may explain the surprisingly meager 124,000 hits.

A ten minute cosy wood-crackling fire with 2.5 million hits. (Time now for you to supply the Hot Rum Toddies or spiked egg nog.)

Let us not give Santa all the credit for the Season. There was someone amongst us long before the sales people invented Santa Claus. There is a real reason for the Season

Why all this ‘feel-good’ webby Christmas fuss? Well, seriously, there was this child born approximately 2012 years ago. The Story of Jesus Christ: Full Length Movie (2 hours). With a paltry 214 hits.

Draw your own conclusions …

Merry Christmas One and All.

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Will high school students be in the seats or on the streets Monday morning?

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  December 8, 2012   Parent of elementary school students are ticked over the now more than probable possibility that the people who teach their children will go on a one day strike.

The province’s high school students are “mad as hell and not going to take it anymore” and plan to take their own actions.

Will Nelson high school students be on the streets next week?

The social media within the high school sector is abuzz with plans to just not walk into the high schools on Monday of next week.  There is no one spokesperson for the movement; there doesn`t appear to be a focus but that`s the way today`s youth works; they have their own network that runs beneath the radar screen.  They organize themselves differently.

But what if all the high school students at Nelson High and  Robert Bateman High on New Street just lined the sidewalks holding  hand written placards saying we won`t be students until you guys behave like teachers!

Could Robert Bateman students join Nelson High students in a city wide high school students walkout?

Imagine seeing two groups of a couple of hundred students asking that teachers just do the job they are paid to do, rather well paid we might add.

High school students have taken to the streets in the past to make their point; in this situation the Robert Bateman High School made their point.

Could be interesting.  If you see crowds of students on the sidewalks on Monday – honk your horn in support,  This mess within the educational system has to be resolved – teachers do very, very well and need to understand the economic reality the province faces.

The McGuinty Liberal government was very good to the educational system when times were better.  Class sizes were reduced; all day kindergarten was  put in place.  McGuinty was an “educational” Premier.  Time for the teachers to take a break and let someone else stick their snouts in the trough.



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Magazine cover: It’s global warming, STUPID. Are we listening?

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  November 6, 2012   — The environment, global warming – yeah, yeah, I know.  Those icebergs that are falling apart way up north.  And the hot summer – it all means something – at least that’s what they tell us…but then there are those who tell us it is just a phase the earth is going through.

I know there is something different about the weather – it was certainly hotter last spring and that false signal all the tender fruit trees got put a big dent in the fresh fruit market.  But was that global warming or was it just a weird stretch of weather?

Sometime we need a big bold signal. And that was what Bloomberg’s Newsweek magazine said with its cover this week.

It was also a part of what Metrolinx CEO Bruce McCuaig said recently about GO transit capacity and the crucn we are facing as the Region grows by 100,000 people each year.  Then he made a statement that stunned me.  He said “A full 70% of residents in the GHTA never use transit.”

GHTA means the Greater Hamilton Toronto Area.  I checked with the GO press relations people to be sure that number was right.  It was.

GO ridership has increased 21% over the past five years and at peak times is operating at 110% of capacity.  McCuaig adds that “without at least doubling transit mode share, the average daily commute will jump from 82 to 109 minutes in 25 years.  In rush hour, using the QEW to get to downtown Toronto the commute is easily 90 minutes.  Being able to use the HOV lane cuts that quite a bit – but that lane is certainly not anywhere near its capacity.

After reading the McCuaig comments my mind went back to that Newsweek cover and suddenly the dots were connected.  It is the environment – and we are stupid.

Bloomerberg Newsweek magazine cover – has the point been made yet?

The article in the magazine set out the point and the problem.

When mainline media take on an issue and use their ability to put up stunning graphics you know something is amiss.

New York magazine had a very strong visual showing New York city with part of it in close to total darkness while other parts of the city had power.

Parts of Burlington were without power for a period of time – not short to those who had no light and a fridge that would only keep its temperature for so long.

What does a single person do.  If you’re one of the 70% in the GHTA who hasn’t taken transit – there is a simple step you can take.

New York city. This is what it looks like when the lights go out in a major city. Global warming?

If you live in Burlington and you don’t drive and you are attending a city council meting and want to take part in the debate as a delegation you want to hope that you are up early if the list is long.  I have seen situations where d delegation has had to leave because if they did not they would miss their bus.

Last budget the city took thousands of dollars out of the transit side of the budget and used it to “shave and pave roads that were said to be in serious need of repair.

We close down bus routes and limit the schedule.  And we continue to build communities where a car is essential.

It is global warming and we really can be stupid – this time our stupidity has the potential to make it impossible to live on this planet.

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Library is not a luxury but something we can afford and need to continue funding. Question is: how much do we want to spend?


By Margaret Lindsay Holton

BURLINGTON, ON September 28, 2012  You may recall the recent spat between the Mayor of Toronto’s brother, Doug Ford, and Margaret Atwood, famed Canadian literary icon.  Aside from the eye-opening revelation that Mr. Ford had no idea who Ms. Atwood was, he and his brother, Mayor Rob Ford, on elected promises of tax cutting, were about to eliminate several community libraries. Quelle Horreur!!! The Twittersphere exploded. Facebook campaigns were hatched. Newspaper headlines joined the harangue. Canadian literati rose en masse and Ms. Atwood became their witty champion. A ‘Libraries-Are-Essential!’  REVOLT erupted.

And yet, really, have public libraries become a subsidized luxury that we, as a debt-ridden democracy, can no longer afford?

The naysayers say NO. They do believe public libraries are invaluable venues for all strata of society to not only access current information, but as research centres and repositories of our diverse social histories, local and global.

Maureen Barry, CEO of the Burlington Public Library and a consummate professional has overseen the move deeper into electronic media yet keeping real books on shelves.

As Maureen Barry, CEO of the Burlington Public Library writes, “For 140 years, generations of Burlington residents have helped shape who we are and what we do.” She goes on, “Our thriving library system is a testament to the many citizens who have supported their public library as patrons and volunteers.”

Consider this. Public libraries as an IDEA of ‘free and open access to the public’ only really caught on in Victorian England. Prior to that, public access to cherished sacred and secular written texts – and a better education – was pretty much non-existent. Illiterate serfs remained illiterate serfs. Public access, of sorts, initially began during the violent upheaval of the French Revolution (1789-1799) when cleric manuscript collections and rich nobles’ private libraries were confiscated and became ‘state property’. Over 300,000 items became a part of the newly conceived national library, the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. “Old ideas of monarchy, aristocracy and religious authority were abruptly overthrown by the Enlightenment principles of equality, citizenship and inalienable human rights.” These principles were a natural outcome of the invention of the printing press during the 15th century. “The affordability of the printed word boosted the democratization of knowledge.” (Wikipedia) And that democratization became the cornerstone of today’s democratically inspired public library service, a service available to the general public regardless of wealth or education.

The first known library in Canada was established at a Jesuit seminary in Quebec City in 1635. The public were not allowed access. The first public library in Lower Canada was founded in Montreal in 1796, a mere seven years after the French Assembly in Paris published the first ‘Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen’. The first public library in Upper Canada opened in Niagara in 1800.

It took another 100 years to build a proper public library in Burlington. But that did not stop the IDEA of a public library service taking root in this growing lakeside community within the newly hatched Dominion of Canada. Library services in Burlington began in 1872 when local public school trustees voted to spend $56 to purchase a suitable supply of books from the Toronto Board of Education. These books were placed in the reception hallway at the schoolhouse located on the southeast corner of Brant and Caroline Streets. Members, paying fifty cents a year, were able to access the collection for one hour on Friday evenings.

John Waldie, early library patron, was the   MPP oversaw the merger of Port Nelson and Wellington Square into the Village of Burlington.

It took the initiative and open-mindedness of a former local resident, of Scottish descent, to build the first ‘free’ public library.  And he, John Waldie, did a lot more ‘community-building’ before he finally got around to doing that. During the course of a very successful career as a wheat trader in Burlington, then lumber merchant in Toronto, and as a re-elected MPP for Halton, Mr. Waldie was largely responsible for amalgamating the two lakeside communities of Port Nelson and Wellington Square into the Village of Burlington in 1873.

Several decades later, primarily through his broad-minded philanthropy, the first library in Burlington was built on Brant Street (on the site of the current City Hall.) It also shared the premises with the town offices and council chambers of the time.



First Burlington Public Library on Brant Street, 1913. Current home of City Hall.  Photocredit: Burlington Public Library

Today, a 140 years later, with a somewhat staggering budget of $8.5 million (2011) allocated for staff, maintenance, IT acquisitions, and material book purchases and with a registered user base of less then half the population of Burlington, the public library could be seen as an expensive civic extravagance by the rest of the ‘unregistered’ city population. Begging the question again, are public libraries too expensive, especially in the age of the internet?

Let’s look at some other statistics provided by the library’s public relations department. In 2011, nearly 2 million items were borrowed from the library; nearly one million ‘unregistered’ patrons visited library branches; near 45,000 attended library specific programs; and over 100,000 information requests were fulfilled by library staff. All told, it would appear that this particular library, our library, for the monies allocated, is serving the regional populace very well.

There is no question though those libraries, like us, in this burgeoning internet era, have had to adapt. Today, Information Technology (IT) infrastructure at the library often consumes a greater proportion of the budget than the book acquisition fund. Within the BPL’s Strategic Plan (2012-2015) entitled: ‘The Next Chapter: Thinking Outside the Books’, the BPL intends to further improve functionality and accessibility “by upgrading the core computer system”. The new reality is that we are all increasingly ‘plugged in’. Like it or not.

In Alberta, city libraries charge patrons anywhere from $5 to $20 a year for library cards, but in Ontario, the Ontario Public Libraries Act forbids charging money for access to a library or for borrowing books. There are, thus, few other options for generating revenue aside from taxes. All the more reason for the BPL to provide exemplary ‘connected’ library services to the tax-paying ‘plugged in’ public.

Many would argue, (myself included), that libraries, regardless of spiraling IT and staff costs, continue to provide an irreplaceable democratic role within our young Canadian society. To close them in the name of the ‘global’ internet, would not only close access to those who cannot afford purchasing a private library or pay for monthly internet access, but closure would diminish the nurturing lifeblood of local vibrant communities. Communities coalesce within the ‘free and accessible’ democratic framework of library branches. Public libraries are fundamentally a democratic institution. And one sign of a diminishing democracy would be the closing of community libraries.

It is hard to imagine the lack of an element that we take so much for granted today: electricity. This means of illumination only became available to the general public at the beginning of the twentieth century, (about the same time that Waldie donated thousands of books to form the backbone of the Burlington Public Library.)  Today, we plug in, bounce around on WIFI, and unthinkingly consume megawatts of purchased electrical power to illuminate our expensive laptops and computers. Primarily, we use this bought power to read items for work, school or pleasure: briefs, newspapers, text messages etc, and increasingly, e-books. But, worth asking, what happens if the power goes out, or, Harper forbid, the economy collapses? Communities, without the resources of their public libraries, would suffer profoundly.

Free e-books were first developed in 1971 by the late Michael  S. Hart, founder of More here:

The greater question remains, can we, as Canadians, AFFORD public libraries?  The time and money we privately expend on consumer-electronic portals is far greater than any we physically devote to our library. Likewise, some would say that television, YouTube and the ubiquity of photo imagery – (‘A picture tells a thousands words’) – have usurped literacy altogether (a la Doug Ford).


Child reading

And yet, on closer examination, it is clear that the fundamentals of literacy remain the same for all times and for all ages.

Creating strong narrative arcs to teach and to guide, and using potent language effectively to inform and advise, are the results of a solid education grounded in the basics of reading and writing. Learning how to think is built on the constructions of other’s better words. Their thought-filled written scripts funnel our curiosity and creativity so that we, in turn, develop new insights and pass on our know-how. In that regard, the story-telling cuneiform clay tablets of Sumer dating back to 2500 BC really are the antecedents of the trendy ‘tablets’ of today. The difference is that ‘being literate’ now involves additional skills beyond reading and writing: one must also become computer literate.

As much as the internet does increasingly pre-occupy our time, attention and money, a successful public library providing popular library services – as a kind of ‘out reach’ extension of a nurturing public school system – continues to constructively guide our ever-inquiring minds.  As many also well know, a well-directed search or inquiry through the library is a welcome antidote to the growing anxiety iDisorder of ‘E-Information Overload’. The library has an information service many find useful:  – Just Ask-a-Librarian: It is not surprising that the Burlington Public Library website was visited over 1.5 million times last year.   That works out to over 4000 ‘hits’ per day. Yes, active minds seek answers.

Rather than redundant or too expensive, public libraries have become increasingly necessary filaments that maintain the democratic ideals espoused by our freedom-fighting democratic forefathers. Without them we would also become increasingly disenfranchised from the roots of our very real earth-bound communities.  As vibrant hubs of community service, public libraries today provide much more than free access to current newspapers, periodicals, CDs, DVD’s and books. They also offer early reading programs, computer access and training, literacy tutoring for children and adults alike, and a safe haven for ‘intellectual freedom’. Altogether, they augment the basic tenets of our democracy.

The mission statement for the Burlington Public Library states, “Enriching Burlington by supporting 21st century literacies, lifelong learning, and community connections.” Yes. That is what they do. As Ms. Maureen Barry so aptly writes, “Our public library is truly a dynamic civic commons. “ Yes, that is what it is. All the more reason for us, within the larger community, to continue to support and promote it. Because, as much of the rest of the war-torn and weary world knows: if we don’t protect and use this hard-won democratic ‘freedom’, we just might lose it.

Fiscal prudence and long term accountability must, of course, be continuously evaluated and considered. Cutting back on some library services might be necessary in the days ahead, but never, ever, must we contemplate cutting out our public libraries completely.

And now, a bit of fun.

The Top 100 Books of All Time. 

For those who prefer non-fiction: The Top 100 Non-Fiction Books of All Time –

Better yet, JOIN The Burlington Public Library.

It is FREE, still, for those who live, work or pay taxes within Burlington.

Also coming up at the Burlington Public Library on September 29th: The Human Library. Eleven men and women, of diverse backgrounds, some from oppressive totalitarian regimes, use the ancient arts of ‘story-telling’ and dialogue to break down barriers of prejudice that have shaped their lives. Their stories of disenfranchisement – and ultimate survival – continue to open our minds to the challenges of our ever-evolving humanity. Book your half hour with an engaging living person.

These stories remind us all of the on-going preciousness of an open-minded community-orientated democratic public library service in Burlington, and in Canada.

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.

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Men are really wonderful, even when proud, stubborn and a little bit pig-headed.

By Margaret Lindsay Holton

I recently moved.  And, as anyone who has been through this anxious ordeal knows, moving, if not carefully planned out, can be a logistical nightmare. In preparation, I had meticulously prepared what was going where, sorted which boxes were to go to what specific location, marked said boxes for the movers in black and red markers, and basically got ‘mover ready’. I was determined to leave behind a clean empty house.

Two items were of concern. I was taking two appliances with me. Item one was a 1997 washing machine (worked perfectly) and item two was a bulky Maytag refrigerator that had a deep lower fridge portion, (which I liked and wanted.) Both items were large, cumbersome and very heavy. Both were going to need two strong movers using an appliance dolly to get them out.

I measured the door opening between the kitchen-dining room area to make sure that the appliances would fit through on route to the truck, and discovered, yes, the washing machine would fit, no problem, but no, the fridge frame was too wide by a quarter inch. Thus, the doors of the refrigerator would have to come off.  In the basement, I found the prefect sized wrench to remove the door bolts and put it on top of the fridge, with a small plastic bag for the disassembled bits, ready too for the movers.

The big day arrived. On Wednesday, August 1st. at 9am, after emptying the contents of the refrigerator into a cooler, I went and got the 14’ U-Haul cube truck. I gingerly backed up the beastie so that the cavernous back would open up unfettered to the front door. I rolled the appliance dolly into the kitchen. I was ready for the ‘movers’. Everything was ‘on schedule.’

Never argue with man and his tape measure. © Photography by Margaret Lindsay Holton

Bonus. The first of three strong male movers arrived early. He asked me what I wanted him to do first. I told him that the doors on the refrigerator had to come off so that it would go out the kitchen into the dining room to get to the front door and out to the truck. He looked at the door opening and said, “Naw. It will fit. Just remove the refrigerator handles, not the whole doors.” I handed him the tape measure, and said, “You might want to double check that.”  Miffed that I would challenge his perceptual acuity, he briskly measured the width and depth of the fridge, and measured the width of the door opening. “SEE?” said he, “Lots of room!  We only have to remove the handles, not the entire doors.”  “Are you SURE?”  said  I. “ABSOLUTELY”, said he, as he pointedly placed the tape measure back on the counter.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, never argue with a man and a tape measure. I left him as he began to remove only the refrigerator door handles and went upstairs to finish tidying up there.

When I returned to the kitchen, the two other movers had arrived. All three of them were trying to jimmy the now handle-less refrigerator strapped onto the appliance dolly out through the kitchen-dining room door opening. The dolly was screeching back and forth on the kitchen linoleum as they took one run after another. All were giving instructions: ‘Go left a bit. Go back a foot. Go right 2 inches. Got it here. Go forward. Go left a few centimeters. Go back.’ But still, the refrigerator would not fit through. I meekly suggested that maybe they should take off the entire refrigerator doors. This suggestion was abruptly dismissed. Instead, the MEN decided it would be “Easier & Quicker” to just remove the kitchen-dinning room door off its swing hinge, (rather than unstrap the securely bound refrigerator from the dolly.)  I left them to it.

Door handles © Photography by Margaret Lindsay Holton

An hour later, the move had ground to a halt. Two of the guys, (not the guy who had  measured the refrigerator), were fixated on removing the kitchen-dining room swing door from its upper and lower sockets. That old wooden door, painted several times during the decades, was deeply embedded into the door frame. Without electrical tools on hand, prying loose those old painted over screws and pulling out those old embedded socket hinges demanded dogged determination and a strong set of hands. Another strong set were needed to hold the heavy door level. It was proving to be hard work just to get that door off.

And where was the guy who had so confidently said to remove ONLY the refrigerator door handles?

I found him, a big strong sweating man, on the other side of the swing door, in the dining room.  He too had stopped carrying stuff to the truck.  Instead, somewhat sheepishly, he was very carefully vacuuming up all the aged paint and wood bit chips that were flying off that stuck door and frame as the other two struggled to set that old door free.

It was a poignant vignette.  In that instant, I concluded that men really are wonderful, even though they can be proud, stubborn and even a little bit pig-headed.

Margaret Lindsay Holton is both an environmentalist and an acerbic social activist.  She is an artist of some renown and the designer of  a typeface.  She is also a photographer and the holder of opinions she will share with you in an instant.   She appears as an Our Burlington columnist every two weeks.





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A few more days to have an impact on how the city communicates with you; chance to save some trees and $50,000 a year as well.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  August 7, 2012  The city of Burlington publishes a magazine they call City Talk – they do that three times a year.

The city has the post office distribute the magazine to every home in the city – that costs a bit less than $20,000.

Based on our very limited research (sample of 75 people located in Wards 1,2 and 4) we found most people did not recall getting the magazine.  When shown a copy,  most have a vague recollection but don’t recall what they did with the publication.

Some – 32 of the 75 – kept the magazine until waste collection day and then threw it out.

The city has created a place on their web site asking you to tell them what you think.

Click and tell hem what you think.

The city wants to know if they should continue sending you their magazine three times a year. If you say no they will be able to save $50,000 a year If you say yes – they will have to cut down more trees.


We think the part (about 50%) of the magazine written by the members of Council is a total waste of time.  While somewhat informative the Council members do a better job with their web site newsletters.  Councillors Meed Ward and Craven have excellent newsletters.  Councillor Dennison is catching on.  Councillors Sharman, Lancaster and Taylor either don’t know how to get a newsletter out or don’t care all that much.

Councillor Taylor has such an excellent relationship with his constituents that he hardly needs a newsletter.

The communications game is changing on a monthly basis and the city struggles to keep up with the changes in the technology.  Citizen Committees are not allowed to create Facebook pages for the people that are interested in what they are doing.  If a committee wants to publish or publicize anything they have to work through a Clerk to get something on the city web site – where it is not always easy to find what you are looking for.

The city has made a commitment to upgrade its web site and has a specialist on staff to prepare for the implementation of new software that will eventually link city department reports to council meetings.  No date on when we are going to see that implemented.

Burlington is still stuck in the world of print – getting out of that kind of a rut is easier said than done.  You can help the city but telling them what you think of City Talk.

We asked the public affairs at city hall how the survey was going and if they would be releasing numbers when the survey ended.

Here was the response:

If we need to, we may have the survey open longer than Aug. 10. If so, we would let people know that it is being extended.  If we do not achieve high enough numbers, we will keep going until we do.

Help these people – do the survey and put them out of their misery


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Has the Mayor moved into election campaign mode ? It’s a little early isn’t it? – but we don`t set the political agenda.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  July 27, 2012  Municipal elections have fixed dates in Ontario and the tradition has been to get out on the campaign trail mid-summer and then ramp things up in the fall with the hard push in October with the ballots cast in December – but Burlington`s Mayor appears to have looked at his prospects and decided he needs an early start.

The next municipal election is not due until December 2014 – but some residents saw a piece in their mail box that looked like an election pamphlet to me.

The Mayor says he dropped by the house – I wasn’t home. Documents like this were dropped off at 500 homes – tough weather to be out going door to door.

The Mayor announces that he dropped by, but I wasn’t in, and he wants my opinion on key issues – which he sets out on side two of the printed piece.

While the envelope was convenient – the address on it is city hall. If this is pre-election material, and it could certainly be described as that, the postage costs has to be absorbed by the Mayor personally.

Included is an envelope I can use to reply to the small survey.  The return postage is pre-paid with the envelope going back to the city.

What would prompt the Mayor to do such a mailing  at this time?

Professional politicians – and that`s not an insult – make a point of keeping their ears, eyes and noses to the ground.  It is essential that they pick up every nuance possible and be aware of the different, competing interests so that they can look for ways to balance those interests and develop policies that grow the city.

Is Rick Goldring now a professional politician?  It would seem that way.  He was a one term ward Councillor and ran for Mayor because he couldn’t stand the job the Mayor at the time was doing.  He had no idea he would win, many people in the city didn’t really know the man.

What resulted in Goldring`s win was the level of distaste for Cam Jackson.  No one knew how deeply people felt about Jackson and the job he was doing.  A full understanding of the way this city works is revealed in any close study of the 2010 election results, especially when they are laid over Jackson`s provincial election results.

Politics is the art of the possible and while Goldring really didn’t know what was possible he did tap into a vein of Jackson resentment which got Goldring elected.

We then watched Goldring fit himself into the office of Mayor.  He is close to that half way stage of his first term  and has decided this is something he will do for some time.

Thus the mailing that was dropped off at a number of houses in the city.  We are told that 500 of the pieces shown in this article were printed up.  I’ve no idea why the Mayor dropped one off at my house – my guess is that he didn’t know where I lived.  Had I come to the door when he knocked I`m not sure which one of us would have been more surprised.  But I digress.

Mayor Goldring is clearly using the summer months to get a sharper sense of what the issues are and what the sensitive spots might be.

He asks about taxes, he wants to know what you think about the Strategic Plan (which I`m prepared to bet less than 500 people (outside city hall) have actually read.  Not a word about the Pier, not a mention about the Beachway development; nothing about the downtown core and what we can do with what we have.

He asks about our rural areas but not a word about the Performing Arts Centre which is not as flaw free as many would like to think.

These were the questions the Mayor wanted to ask me. We could have had an interesting conversation.

While this is just a survey, an attempt to get a sense of where people are coming from, the Mayor doesn’t appear to “champion” anything.  What does this Mayor actually stand for?   What is it that really matters to him?

During a Council debate he once said: This is not a hill I want to die on – clever phrase – but what hill is he prepared to die on?

Well, he didn’t want a casino in the city.  He was so strongly opposed to gambling that he directed the city manager to reply to the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation letter saying Burlington would take a pass on the opportunity to be considered as a Casino location and the opportunity to have slot machines in the city.

Many in the city would perhaps have seen merit in slot machines – didn’t matter.  The Mayor was not going to have any of that here.  It might have been more politic to have let people talk about the idea.  There was no public statement on this that we are aware of – don`t know if the Mayor sounded out his fellow Council members on his response either.

There was no mention of the Official Plan review in the survey and while there was a very small mention of transit and the Car Free Sundays the city held, transit didn’t get the kind of attention many in this city thinks it needs.

Does the survey suggest what the Mayor`s priorities are?   Probably too early to tell.

What the survey does tell us is that the Mayor is making sure he does his best to fully understand the lay of the political land he has to walk on.

Is “she”  likely to run against him?    She,  being Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward.  Not a chance – unless something with the Pier goes terribly wrong – and then she will pounce all over Rick Goldring.

Meed Ward has a loyal following that isn’t really understood by her fellow council members. They feel she is doing the city more harm than good. Not a view shared by all that many people outside city hall.
Would she be a good Mayor – could be.

Could she beat him ? – possible if he really screws up on the way he handles any problems with the pier.  And make no mistake, there are problems with the pier and there are problems with the city`s legal case.  Recall that the city sued the contractor for not completing the job.  If the contractor can show that the job couldn’t be done with the plans he was given – that paints a significantly different picture.

Meed Ward wants the job of Mayor so badly she can taste it – but she is smart enough to know when she doesn`t have a chance of winning; and political office is so attractive to her that she will not risk losing her ward seat to take a long shot at the office of mayor.

Meed Ward doesn`t have one `friend`on city council, which doesn`t bother her all that much.  She has an agenda – and it isn’t all that bad an agenda either.

Goldring on the other hand doesn`t have an enemy on council.  He is conciliatory by nature and prefers consensus and will go some distance to get that consensus – but he does have a limit.  Roman Martiuk, the former city manager, learned that the hard way.

It will take some very fancy footwork for the Mayor to step around the problems the pier construction and its legal case could become.   We don`t know if there is going to be a serious pier problem – but the possibility is certainly out there and you know the people who are close to the situation huddle with the Mayor and the city manager regularly  to get a grip on what is going on.

The Mayor hung on to his “official opening of the Pier during Sound of Music in 2013” for far too long.  That suggests a bit of a tin ear when it comes to politics.  His “quality over expediency” is a much better phrase for him to use as he speaks to people.

We don’t know yet how much of a hands on Mayor we have.  He wanted the city manager, Council decided to hire  and the two work well together.  Jeff  Fielding brings considerable depth in civic administration as well as tools that this city has not used in the past.  He will make Rick Goldring a better Mayor than he would be on his own.

The legal side of the pier situation is being handled by lawyers the city hired.  The lawyers on the other side are a bit tougher than the Toronto based fellows we hired.  Many thought this case was one that had to do with simple contract law – we hired you to do a job and you didn’t do it – pay us for the damage you caused.  It is turning out to be quite a bit more complex than that – the original contractor is claiming that the structure he was asked to build could not be built using the design he was given.

Contractors work from drawings they are given that have the seal of qualified and certified architects.  The problem with the pier seems to be with those drawings.  The original contractor is believed to be claiming that he had no control over the drawings.  When a contractor sees an architects seal on a set of drawings – he must assume they are valid and structurally possible.

The city hired the design people.  If they have a claim it is with the people who did the original design work.

Senior city staff continue to claim there were no changes to the specifications between those given to HSS and those used in the second tender that was awarded to Graham Infrastructure.  That may not be completely true – but that will come out in the discovery process which is close to wrapping up – at least for one of the parties.

Obstreperous at times, noisy as well and leans a little more to the right than the demographic in his ward appreciates. Has developed some core resistance within the public transit advocates who could do him serious harm come 2014. Sharman didn’t win in 2010 – he just got more votes than the other guys – there is a difference. And he hasn’t managed to consolidate the base that voted for him

After many efforts to gain public office Blair Lancaster now has to learn how to develop a real working relationship with her constituents – she’s not there yet.

At some point all this is going to come back to city council where we will see all kinds of posturing on the part of the politicians.  Councillors Taylor, Dennison and Craven were part of the Council that decided the pier was a good idea.  Councillors Sharman, Lancaster and Meed Ward were new and can`t have this one hung around their necks.  The Mayor was the Ward 5 Councillor when the first layer of problems came to the surface – but he wasn’t part of the crew that made the decision to build the pier.

Come the 2014 election – there is the distinct possibility that Dennison and Taylor will not run again.  Both have been in Council a long time; both are tired and a real mess might be something they will choose to avoid and take a well-earned retirement.

That could be a problem for Burlington. Dennison and Taylor have the best council experience.  Craven is a strong council member and the pier mess doesn`t seem to have done him any harm.  He has a solid base in Aldershot that probably cannot be damaged.

Councillor Sharman has several problems of his own on his hands.  The transit mess is to a large degree his doing.  Did we lose the Director of Transit because of the way Sharman treated her

Lancaster isn’t making the inroads she needs to make within her ward.  She certainly didn’t earn the Dutch vote with the way she handled the naming of a park for our twin city Apeldoorn, and many of the people in the Beaudoin school district didn’t come away with the sense that their council member really went to bat for them..

Lancaster could learn a lot from Craven on how to serve and woo a ward.  She will never do what Meed Ward does and she is going to need a strong identity with her ward if she is to win re-election in 2014.

When you look at the possibilities: Sharman and Lancaster could be in trouble.  Dennison and Taylor could accept their gold watches and ride off into retirement.  That leaves Craven and Meed Ward (no love lost between those two) and the Mayor who has a good working relationship with Craven but not much time for Meed Ward.

The Mayor is learning.  Has he learned enough?  Does he have the capacity to learn all that he has to learn?  One wag very close to the political scene in this city made the comment that “the Mayor hasn’t turned out to be what we thought he would become, but he is the best we have and we need to make the best of that”.

That’s probably the best that can be said at this point in time.


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Now everyone wants in on the turbine opportunity. Henry Schilthuis and Sons happen to have a turbine in their warehouse – any bidders?

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  June 19, 2012  Michael Yakimchuk, Director,  BrightSky Power Renewable Energy Co-operative, an organization that has been trying to get a roof on the building of some city owned property on which to set up solar panels to generate electricity that will raise revenue for the BrightSky shareholders.  He hasn’t been able to generate much interest at the Burlington Hydro level and the city isn’t exactly making his objective easy.

BrightSky is all for anything that will generate power without using fossil fuels.  As strong environmentalists they have been following the story of the turbine that was to be part of the pier.

Yakimchuk says that when the story on the decision to kill the turbine part of the Pier, broke, I “was working for Hydro One Networks and part of my job was to determine the capacity available for renewable generation projects on Hydro One’s grid.  That’s why I was surprised when I watched the City Council proceedings and heard that the turbine was being cancelled because the electrical system couldn’t take the power generated.  I knew this was not true and I notified BurlingtonGreen immediately.”

Is the vibration this turbine will create the real reason council doesn't want to see it as part of the pier?

“It turns out that there was some miscommunication between Hydro One & Burlington Hydro – I don’t believe the misinformation was deliberate.  Most everyone should now be aware that there is indeed capacity available on the electrical system for this project.   There is no need for batteries (this is a red herring) and the assertions that the project could end up costing taxpayers money or affecting the stability of the pier are completely unsubstantiated – this is a dead simple project.

I know that Burlington Hydro is not asking for their money back but I also know how the money was originally approved for the project (by Burlington Hydro) and how it was funded by the Ontario Power Authority (OPA).

It was funded out of the OPA’s energy conservation fund and there are specific rules around how that money can be spent.  If the project ends up being cancelled, Burlington Hydro will have to fund the project out of net income which means less revenue for the city.  In the end, Burlington tax payers will be burdened with the cost that should have been picked up by all Ontario electricity ratepayers.”

More and more of this story creeps to the surface.

Late in May, Yakimchuk wrote the Mayor asking that the turbine part of the project not be jettisoned but no one on Council seems to want to listen to the advice now available to them from people who know the turbine business inside out.

The plans being used to build the pier show a dual mode meter.  The device is in the building – all it needs is a hook up to the appropriate electrical cables once the turbine is in place.

Steel beams that were deemed to be deficinet were trucked away late in December. Six months later, the beams to replace these are still not on the sconstruction site. Lots of questions as to why.

What is coming to the surface now are the problems with metal fatigue that will result from the vibrations from the turbine.  There are informed engineers who think that one of two things has to happen to the design: either the base on which the turbine is going to rest is beefed up with additional concrete (and some suggest that the pier itself could not handle the additional weight from that concrete OR that the base for the observation deck and the turbine go right down into the bedrock.  THAT would be a design change.

Still a lot of questions around this issue. Is there something some members of Council know that the rest of the city doesn’t know?  The pier has been a series of problems that can be overcome – but Council is going to have to be candid and transparent with the people who are paying the freight on this one.

All this confusion comes at a time when the city’s legal people begin the process of what they call “examination for Discovery.” This process is expected to last about six months with the first 90 days used to exchange documents.  Each side asks the other for specific documents, and then each side gets to examine the other on the contents of the documents.

It is near the end of that process that the lawyers for each side take a hard look at the facts that have come to the surface and decide if it is worth going to trial and let a judge hear the case or if this is the time to make an offer and try to settle before any trial.

While there are more than half a dozen organizations who are a party to this mess – and each has their own agenda; there appears to be a consensus developing that suggests the city may not have the case it thinks it has.  Too early to be sure.  We will know before the end of the year.

Nothing happens in isolation.  The city still talks in terms of the Pier’s official opening being part of the 2013 Sound of Music Festival.   That would appear to be a very optimistic target date and one Council members would want to edge away from – if the date isn’t met they will wear that one.  The lead up to the 2014 municipal election will begin late in 2013 and having the sour taste of a pier that wasn’t ready yet is not something any council member wants to have to explain.   Watch for some council members beginning to distance themselves from the June 2013 date.

Was she rtight all along? Turbine information is coming form all kinds of people - ciouncil seems to have plus in their ears.

Ward two Councillor Marianne Meed Ward will of course come out of the pier mess smelling like a bunch of roses.  She has always maintained that the city should have negotiated with the original contractor.  Had we done that – we just might have had a pier and we would probably have gotten the finished product for less than we are going to pay for the latest version.

If the city has to shell out additional dollars based on a court settlement the lawyers agree upon – all hell will break loose.

The unfortunate part is that if there is a legal settlement that impacts negatively on the city it will have a gag order attached to it and you might never know what the true cost of the pier was.

So much for transparency.

Yakimchuk, in his letter to the Mayor points to “some important economic considerations.”  He may not realize just how devastating those economic considerations could become.

Stay tuned – this isn’t over yet.

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Nothing more delicious than overheard comment about someone you know.

BURLINGTON, ON  June 2, 2012  There is something absolutely delicious about over hearing a conversation others are having about someone you know.  Our parents told us it wasn’t polite to listen in and perhaps it isn’t polite – but we listen in nevertheless.  And we can’t wait to pass on what we heard.

Our source for what follows is impeccable – we would trust our first born with this man.   He was sitting in the lobby of a public building – attending a by invitation only event.

Two ladies of a certain age were seated nearby and noticed Burlington’s MPP Jane McKenna walk into the space and one said to the other:

Oh, it’s going to be one of those events – Marvelous Mike will be here soon too.

To which the second lady replied:

Where have I heard that – the Marvelous Mike thing?

The first lady explains – It’s on that web site, the one done by the guy with the white hair.

Yes, said the second lady.  I don’t understand the thing.  What does he mean by cheeky and irrelevant.

The first lady corrects her friend and says – he says : cheeky and irreverent.

Oh responds the second lady of a certain age.

And continue with

“Why does he always talk about the kimono having to be open?”

The first responds with:

I think he must have had a bad experience in a Japanese brothel.


Ms  McKenna stayed at the by invitation only event.

Marvelous Mike was in Ottawa doing the nation’s business.

Pepper Parr has never been to Japan

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Things that shouldn’t have happened in Burlington last week.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  April 23, 2012  The Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital shouldn’t  have asked the Mayor of Burlington  to take part in the visit the Minister of Health and Long Term Care Deb Matthews made to the hospital..  The Minister was playing crass politics hoping to shift any blame that might arise out of a failure to get their budget passed this Tuesday.

The provincial Liberals should not have targeted Burlington MPP Jane McKenna with the Robo Calls – served no purpose other than to confuse an issue.  McKenna hasn’t been able to get her two cents worth in on the hospital issue which happens to be in her riding.  While not a member of the government – she is the local MPP. The RoboCalls calls were a neat political shot that began when the Premier came to the city and ended when the Minister of Health descends upon the hospital to suggest that if the government falls the people of Burlington only have Jane McKenna to blame.  None of this should have happened last week in Burlington.

The government is a minority one and they have to work things out with their partners.  That the Progressive Conservatives have just walked away from the budget without hardly reading the thing reflects very badly on them – but there isn’t much that is going to change the minds of either Tim Hudak or Jane McKenna.

It was the day the Minister failed to show up with the cheque - but provincial minister Ted McMeekin sweet talked the crowd into believing it would eventually arrive. He's sweet talking the Mayor of Burlington these days. The old fox is still at it.

The Mayor of Burlington should have explained to the hospital people who invited him that he had just come back from an appointment with his dentist where he had some root canal work and wasn’t going to be available.  Your worship – you shouldn’t have let them sucker you into that one.  Ted McMeekin , the Minister of Agriculture and  MPP Ancaster – Dundas – Flamborough – Westdale played you on this one – not good for your reputation.  They need you more than you need them.

Jane McKenna should have walked right into the meeting with the Minister and the hospital big wigs and confronted Deb Matthews and then publicly given out the Ministers home phone number and asked the 1,000 people that called McKenna’s  office to call the Minister at her home and tell her to negotiate with the NDP.  Show her that you can be just as silly and as stupid as she was.  McKenna then might begin to negotiate with the government as well.  The Progressive Conservative position on this budget is very weak and very juvenile.  Rise to a higher standard Ms McKenna.

Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward shouldn’t have attempted  to reduce the funds needed to support the Burlington team that is going to negotiate with the hospital on the Contribution Agreement.

Meed Ward should either resign from the hospital board or at least recuse herself until the way in which city funds are going to flow to the hospital has been fully worked out and agreed upon by both sides.  Or she should give up her Council seat and represent just the interests of the hospital.

Not quite sure how a municipal politician who speaks loudly and eloquently about transparency feels she can sit on two boards that are into some serious negations and working on a project that is bigger than anything this city has worked on in the past.

Mead Ward then went on to let everyone who didn’t read what happened at city council in local newspapers or on Our Burlington, published her views on her Facebook page:

Is she talking out of the hospital side of her mouth or the city side of her mouth?

Disappointed budget committee voted today to spend $50,000 on PR consultant to develop a communications plan on the hospital, and a few meetings with a legal consultant to draft our long awaited contribution agreement. Support the latter in principle, but it costs a fraction of $50k. Don’t support the need for PR program. Curiously, city’s press release on this decision leaves out the $50k price tag. Will post once it’s online.

The news release is now posted, and the costing has now been added at my request.

Support the need for legal expertise with background in working with Infrastructure Ontario to draft our contribution agreement with the hospital, worth no more than $15k (and that’s generous!), but we don’t need to spend extra dollars for the public relations/strategic communications firm which will bring the total tab up to $50k for the taxpayers.

Bad enough to make a serious tactical mistake but to show that you really don’t understand the issues just adds to the track record.  Shouldn’t have happened in Burlington last week.

All three political parties will meet in the Legislature on Tuesday.  The government will make the changes in the budget that the New Democrats will demand – the Liberals are after all a minority government and they have to share the power they have with the other political parties.  The Progressive Conservatives have to accept the responsibility to accept their share of this minority government.

The budget will pass and the Liberals minority government will move on to running the province.

We are into a new week – let`s see if we can play nice this time and make better things happen for Burlington.

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Finally an issue that pits Mayor against his most troubling Council member. What kind of downtown core development for the city ?

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  April 10, 2012  You can see the battle lines beginning to be drawn.  The positions are being staked out.  The issue will probably come down to – what kind of a city do we want?  What do we want the downtown core to look like?  What are we prepared to give up to get the development and the growth we need that will put some life into Brant Street?

Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward has started to stake out her position with a piece she did in her on line Newsletter which got into the hands of a Hamilton Spectator reporter and showed up as a fairly long piece in the holiday Monday newspaper.

The development is to include the full block with a 17 story high rise, a parking garage and a medical complex.

The issue is a development known as Medica One that has missed a critical deadline required in the application they made to rezone the property they had assembled at Caroline and John Streets.  Because of the deadlines that were missed Meed Ward says the zoning application has to go back to Council – which is sort of back to square one and get fought out all over again.  Only this time Meed Ward sits as a Council member and not just a delegate – and she appears to have the planner on her side as far as the technicalities go.

Meed Ward didn’t like the height of the buildings when she was just a citizen; she felt the buildings should have been set back quite a bit further to create a better street-scape; something people could relate too.  At one committee meeting in 2009 she said: “City Hall and the developer have worked behind closed doors for two years, without the community at the table. The staff report only became available to residents June 14, which leaves little time for us to review and respond.”  She was strident and focused then and she will be just as strident and focused when this comes back to Council.

Mayor Goldring agrees with Meed Ward on the technicalities.  The city planner also agrees.  The Mayor thinks there is a way to resolve the deadline problem.  Mead Ward is going to be saying – “not so fast”.    Bruce Krushelnicki, the city planner, is a stickler for the rules and he will insist that Council debate the original zoning application and make a new decision.

During the debate on this project back in 2010 when Meed Ward wasn’t a council member she had major problems with the height and with the way the proposed 17 story structure was going to relate to the street-scape.  Add to that her concerns about the impact the building was going to have on the neighbouring streets.

And that`s where the differences come into play.

A city block with small one and two storey structures was to be the locale for a high rise project that some think the city needs while others feel the scale is out of proportion to the community. This could go to the OMB.

Mayor Goldring believes the city needs development and that the downtown core needs all the help it can get.  Meed Ward sees the health of neighborhoods as more important and this time she has a platform she didn’t have in the past.  The city has to grow – the province set out the growth requirement in it’s Places to Grow policy.  The city is desperate to create jobs, high paying, high tech jobs and Medica One was seen as the first new building that would attract and house those jobs.  The complex was to consist of  affordable units for younger people, a parking garage and a medical complex that would be close to the significant number of senor citizens in that community.  Nick Carnacelli and his Garden Gate development company got the zoning changed he needed and then basically did nothing.  Most of his time, energy and funding was put into a project he has going on in Hamilton.

Since getting the zoning changes he needed Carnacelli then went on to buy the Pearl Street Café properties and hold them for redevelopment.  You can see a developer banking significant pieces of property – is there a larger plan, or any kind of vision. Doesn’t appear to be one.

However, it is evident that something is going to happen with the Riviera Motel property at the bottom of Elizabeth and that just might spark a burst of development in the downtown core.  The Conservation Authority  has given the Mayrose Tyco group a solid boot in the bum and told them to get on with the development or find themselves having to deal with more stringent water’s edge set back rules that will leave them with less property to build on.

Mayor Goldring complained on more than one occasion about the lack of any progress on the site.

Meanwhile, Carnacelli got OMB approval to add more height to his property assembly at John and Brant as well as more height for the property in the Old Lakeshore precinct where the two Lakeshores merge.  Lots of capacity for future development but no shovels in the ground.

Marianne Meed Ward is on the other side of the podium this time - sits as the Council member for Ward 2 where a developer got a zoning change she opposed.

There are those on the 6th, 7th and 8th floors of city hall who feel strongly that Meed Ward has harmed the city’s relationship with the developers and that several have put projects on hold or just not put shovels into the ground because of her intrusions.

The city needs the additional assessment – there aren’t going to be anymore of those large residential developments like Alton in the north east part of the city coming along.    Meed Ward has always had a “thing” about developers – she wants to see them not just putting up buildings but developing in a responsible manner with more than just an eye to putting a couple of benches and a patch of green outside the building that rises 17 stories above the street.

She didn’t take a dime in election funding from developers last time and she won’t take as much as a nickel next time either.  Expect developers to get together and talk about putting together a fund to defeat her in 2014.  Can she be beat?   Everyone can be beaten in an election but Marianne Meed Ward is a true civic fighter with a constituency that just loves everything she does.

There is though a significant number of people who can’t stand what she is doing.  I continually get asked what I think about what she is up to.  The people with perceived influence in the city don`t appear to have all that much time for Marianne Meed Ward.  Does that matter?

Meed Ward has made a significant change in the way the city uses Section 37’s of the Planning Act.  A section 37 of the Act allows a developer to pay a sum of money to the city in exchange for additional height and density in a development.

In the past these Section 37 agreements were worked out between the Planning Department and the developer.  Meed Ward wanted the people who live in the community to be at the table when these Section 37 deals were worked out and not just hear about them when a decision is made.

The orchids on Upper Middle Road, west of Appleby Line are examples of Section 37 deals that Meed Ward wants to see come to an end.

The developers dream. The Mayor's nightmare? The ward Councillors second chance.

All this noise from Meed Ward was manageable by senior city staff when she was just a citizen delegating – now she has a platform and a much higher public profile.  That hasn’t made her any friends at city hall – which doesn’t seem to bother Meed Ward.  Her objective is to convince her ward constituents that she can bring about change and then take that message to the larger community.

With the city’s Official Plan about to begin the required five year review, expect to see Meed Ward front and centre promoting her view of what the city should be.

She seems to have a clearer vision than the Mayor – or at least we are hearing more of her vision.  Add to that her courage – some would call it brash and stupid, but Meed Ward will call for a recorded vote and be the only person to vote for her motion – and do it three times in a row.

But the city knew, or should have known, that was the kind of Council member she was going to be.  Former Mayor Cam Jackson was close to terrified at what Meed Ward would do as a Council member.  That problem evaporated for him when he lost the election.

Rick Goldring is a different Mayor but he is facing a council member who wants the job he has – if not the next election then certainly the one after that.  Can Goldring handle the onslaught for the next two and a half years? .  He is going to have to improve his game on several fronts to keep ahead of Meed Ward.  It will be fun to watch.

While both Meed Ward and Goldring are new to their jobs; Meed Ward as a Council member and Goldring as Mayor, who also has four years’ experience as a member of the Jackson administration, she is much faster on her feet than the Mayor.  She is also far more media savvy than the Mayor.

At this point the Mayor is seen as the more solid of the two but Meed Ward wants that 8th floor office and she has lots of time to plan and build the support she needs. She has a clear vision; something Goldring might have but not one the public has seen.

At this point Goldring talks of having delivered on most of the campaign promises he made – not that many people can remember what those promises were.

Does Meed Ward have the lines she needs into the people with the money in this city?    The developers certainly aren’t excited about her being Mayor but she has a dedicated ward fan club and she runs the best Citizen’s Advisory Committee in town  and she has shown she can adjust her position to the prevailing winds.

She was opposed to the development of a parkette on the Elgin Street property where the city has a maintenance facility.  Burlington had been discussing doing something similar to what was being done in our `twin`city in Holland.  The Appledoorn city officials decided to hold off for a year due to financial constraints and Meed Ward thought that’s what Burlington should have done as well.  Council didn’t see it that way and voted to proceed.  So, while opposed, Meed Ward jumped in and made the project her own and is now deeply involved with architects and plans for the improvement of the area.  It wasn’t necessarily a good idea – the site is too small and the facilities building has traffic that isn’t compatible with the children`s playground right beside the property.

She opposed the way the city decided to resolve the Pier construction issue – Meed Ward felt the city should have dealt with the original contractor and worked something out with him.  She made her case – it didn’t hold and so being the trooper she is – she went along with the decision.  She is however waiting to see just how much the city has spent on lawyers fees on this one.  If the city doesn’t win it`s court case and recover all it’s costs – the howl from Meed Ward will be loud and long.

She leaked or is believed to have leaked information to the media about the Pier (it wasn’t to us) and then had to deal with the ire of her fellow Council members on that one.

Does Meed Ward have the support of her fellow Council members on the Medica One development?  Probably not.  But the city has a Planner who is as ethical as they come – he will insist council follow the rules.  This is going to be a three way play.

The Mayor will be for it and want to find a way to accommodate the developer.

Meed Ward will argue against giving the developer the same rezoning and demand that the city get much more for what the developer wants. If you have any doubt where Meed Ward is heading – read one of her recent community newsletters.

The Planner will stick to the rules – no fast ones with Bruce Krushelnicki.

As the motto on the city`s crest puts it: Stand by.



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Transit user sets out criteria and the challenges faced in making it work. She doesn`t trust Burlington drivers enough to use her bike. .

Jane Irwin has the capacity to make a point incisively and with humour.  Her submission to the Master Transit Plan team are set out below in a slightly edited format. 

By Jane Irwin

BURLINGTON, ON  March 22, 2012  I have used Burlington Transit for the almost 30 years I have lived in Burlington. On average, I travel by transit once or twice a week, which works out to 5 to 10 boardings  per week. My most frequently traveled routes are (in numerical order, not order of frequency) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8 and 10.

I could not attend the public meetings because of time conflicts, but I have read the very extensive background materials online and have also read the comprehensive comments by Walter Mulkewich. The former Burlington Mayor is extremely well-informed on the topic of how transit planning is related to the future well-being of this city. His generosity in presenting his thoughts about Burlington Transit has provoked my writing to express my own more concentrated passenger viewpoint.

Travel choices are extremely important factors in three 21st-century urban goals:

to improve the city’s economic health,

to improve the health of its citizens,

and to improve the city’s environmental conditions.

Measured by these criteria, the preferred travel choices, from best to worst, are walking and cycling, transit, taxi and private car. In terms of cost, the choices are the same.

In terms of the travel time of a journey, the order is reversed: private car is fastest, then taxi, transit, cycling and walking.

Transit in Burlington is undergoing a major review that will produce a Master Transit Plan with significant public input.

The greatest opportunity for transit to compete for increased ridership is to reduce travel time to get from A to B. Everyone in today’s society appreciates more time.

The prime methods of reducing transit travel time include:

1) Greater frequency of buses, including shorter intervals for transfers.

2) Removing unnecessary bus stops ( co-coordinating bus stops with stop signs and lights).

3) More direct routes (not meandering hither and thither).

My own travel choices in recent years include walking, transit, taxi and private car. I stopped cycling 10 years ago because, in my experience, too many private car drivers in Burlington are careless of cyclist safety.

Drawing on my own experience, therefore:

1) Having to wait 60 minutes for a bus is a deal-breaker. A 30-minute wait for a bus makes other travel choices more appealing. BT should aim for a maximum of 20 minute intervals.

2) Here Irwin gets into a level of detail that will interest only those who travel the route but her point is still relevant.

Just as one example, the number 5 route west from downtown at John Street, along Ontario Street to Maple Avenue:

stop for left turn at Pine Street;

stop for left turn at Elizabeth Street:

stop for left turn at James Street:

bus stop and stop light for right turn at Brant Street;

stop for left turn at Ontario Street;

bus stop mid block;

stop sign for Locust Street;

bus stop mid block;

bus stop at Burlington Avenue;

stop sign at Hager Avenue;

two more bus stops mid block;

bus stop and stop light for left turn at Maple Avenue.

In my view, the stop sign should be moved from Hager Avenue (a 3-way stop) to Burlington Avenue (a dislocated corner, difficult for pedestrians), which should be a 4-way stop; and at least 2 bus stops should be removed. I will defer to traffic experts of course, but it seems to me an effort should be made to co-ordinate the facilitating of bus transit.  It is also my view that the bus should travel on Elgin Street, thereby eliminating Ontario Street and the number 10 on Lakeshore. The Elgin Street bus stops would coincide with existing 4-way stop signs.

3) I visit Oakville on occasion, and I prefer their grid system.

For example, why not consider one Appleby line connecting with cross-town buses instead of current 5 itty-bitty lines. Walkers Line has no bus connecting Lakeshore and Fairview. Routes Brant Street 2 and Guelph Line 3 do not meet Dundas Street. BT on Dundas Street has three routes 6, 15, and 11, mostly between Walkers and Appleby Lines. Between Brant Street and Guelph Line, Route 2 meanders just south of Dundas, as do Routes 6 and 62 between Guelph and Walkers Lines.

It is really poor practice for neighbouring communities not to have joint transit on city border areas.   Why not a Dundas Street bus from Brant Street to Oakville? The Oakville Dundas Street bus does not meet a Burlington bus.

Why not a bus from La Salle Park Road to Waterdown, taking a turn into Aldershot GO and VIA station?

Transfers on grid systems should be manageable with current technology, and therefore minimize delays.

Finally, in my experience, BT drivers are exceptionally courteous and helpful. The drivers are a great asset to Burlington Transit, and it should be recognized that their attitude is a factor in encouraging increased transit ridership. Congrats to BT for that!

The city’s Transit Advisory Committee doesn’t weigh in transit quite the way Jane Irwin does.

Ed note:  This is not a lady to trifle with.


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Presto cards to get into the washrooms or use an elevator ? James Smith might be on to something here.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  March 20, 2012  Jonathan Swift published all of his satire under pseudonyms – James Smith chose to be right out front and direct with his comments before a Council meeting that was getting ready to pass the Current Budget for 2012.  Council was not pleased.

One of the bigger issues at Council was what to do with transit.  Many feel that if a bus route runs empty half the time then the sensible business thing to do is shut it down and social responsibility be damned.

Smith, an architectural design director who specializes in landscapes and small environments who is also part of the team that is struggling to save the Freeman station from demolition went before Council to commend them for the Imagination, Courage and Leadership.  That doesn’t happen very often so the media listened very carefully.

Smith said it took imagination to shave half a million dollars from the gas tax money that gets transferred to the city each year and plowing it into paving cul de sacs, which as he pointed out is a French word for a road that doesn’t go anywhere.

Is there space on these library shelves that is empty? If so - the funds to pay for that space gets transferred to the shave and pave program.

Smith was just getting wound up when he added,  rather deliberately, that the gas tax, “despite what some may think, is not a Latte sipping, bike riding, transit loving, pink leftie tax” and it should be used for things that use gas.  Council had previously taken a chunk of gas tax money and moved it out of transit over to their newest money saving tool, the shaving and paving of our roads.

Smith pointed out that he felt it took a great deal of imagination to present (with a straight face) a rationale for the use of funds designed to mitigate climate change to paving cul de sacs. He felt Council should be applauded for their courage in moving $500,000 out of transit to road improvements while the transit review is underway.

Leadership was given special treatment. Smith explained that it takes true leadership to make a commitment to public transit while insisting transit is run more like a business and requiring greater cost recovery and at the same time reducing investment.  In the retail world, Smith added, “this is known as bait and switch”.  Ouch!

James Smith just might have come up with a way to use the technologically "swift"but financially expensive Presto Card to much wider use.

Given these examples of Imagination, Courage and Leadership Smith took a page from Jonathan Swift to make what he called a couple of modest proposals.  Shave and Pave the libraries he suggested.  They are empty of people from time to time – shave and pave a few dollars from that service, it isn’t always used.

He went on to suggest there were other opportunities for a real display of courage.  The washrooms and the elevators are not always used – but rather than close a few of them down, after all like buses they aren’t always used, require people to use their Presto card to get on an elevator or use a washroom.

James Smith just might be on to something here.




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A transit vision for Burlington. It’s in the Strategic Plan and may not get beyond that document.

By Doug Brown

BURLINGTON, ON March 7, 2012  There are five parts to the vision that Doug Brown, probably the best informed citizen on transit matters the city has, which he sets out below.

Every citizen would have access to good transit service. This means that everyone would be within a short walk of a bus stop, and that Burlington’s bus routes and schedules would enable everyone to get to their destination in a reasonable amount of time and at a reasonable cost.

That transit along with walking, cycling, and other active modes of transportation become the favoured modes of travel thus reducing car traffic resulting in reduced expenditures on parking and roads, and less traffic accidents, cleaner air, and a healthier community.

While reaching this state will involve some public investment in improving our transit system, it will lead to significant savings in public expenditures on roads (Halton Region has approved over $2 Billion on road expenditures over the next 20 years); and additional parking spaces (at an average cost of $30,000 per space).


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

My vision is that we become a caring and inclusive city that provides good transit for those that are very dependent on the system. This includes the young and the old, the disabled, and those that cannot afford the high cost of car ownership.  Currently, the City of Burlington spends considerably less on transit per capita than other communities of its size. This is true not just for conventional transit – but for handi-van service as well.  Underfunding has led to lower service levels and consequently lower ridership. Burlington citizens, who are dependent on transit, or want to use transit, deserve at least the same service levels as other communities.

My vision is already largely set out in Burlington’s principle planning  documents. Our Official Plan requires that Burlington quadruple its transit use by 2030 in order that we can accommodate further growth through intensification.

 Our Strategic Plan calls for an “increase the number of people who cycle, walk and use public transit for recreation and transportation. What will it look like?
 – There are fewer cars on the road because more people are using public transit, walking or cycling” The Strategic Plan’s expected results include “a common vision and co-ordinated plan to decrease reliance on vehicles; public awareness of, and support for, the vision; and “more people are using public transit, walking or cycling”

 The Strategic Plan sets out the following expectations for the current Transit Master Plan update:
– improved transit service
– more use of Burlington Transit
– better mobility in and out of the city

 We have adopted the vision in words – let’s now take the action needed to transform our city.

Editors Note:  And that of course is where the rub is.  The city has not and will not “walk its talk”









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The party or the person ? Burlington gets to look at how they have voted in the past. Will old habits change ?

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  October 4, 2011 –  This is the part of the week you get to think about who you are going to vote for.  On Thursday when you go to the polls, you get to act on the decision you make.

Let’s talk about the thinking you are going to do.  Will you vote for the party or the person ?  If you decide at this point that you will vote for the party no matter what – well then you’re some kind of an idiot or at best an irresponsible citizen.

Political parties, like any other organization, have to be held accountable by both the voters and the members of that political party.  It is irresponsible to vote for a party because you have always voted for them.  Paddy Torsney, the former Liberal member of parliament for Burlington learned the hard way what voters do with a political party they no longer trust.

Most people, once they`ve thought about it, find a political party that reflects their views on the way society should be ordered.  And if you`re at all active in your community you support that party with a financial contribution and perhaps take a lawn sign.

And should the party you support deviate from its core principles, a sensible, rationale person would withdraw their support.  If the local political party association forgets what its job is and puts forward an unqualified candidate the rationale human being would withdraw their support. There are occasions when the party is critically important.  Is that the case today in Burlington.  This city has elected conservatives since 1943 – and what does the city have to show for that support.  Certainly not a hospital and the conservatives are talking about significant changes to the geography of the northern part of the city.

The hospital we have is in desperate need of an upgrade and it needs much better funding.  One floor of the hospital isn`t even open – because the President of the hospital can`t get the funding he needs to open up the beds on the floor of the hospital that is closed.  The current member and the member before her didn`t do all that much for the hospital.  The hospital got so run down and so difficult to keep clean that it had a serious C.difficile outbreak that resulted in the loss of more than 90 lives.  That kind of funding failure in any community is criminal.

If the member of the Legislature or the House of Commons cannot deliver for the community then you might want to look for a person who can deliver.  A member who sits in the opposition seats isn`t exactly a cripple – they have a telephone and they can make phone calls and badger the bureaucrats until they do something for you.

While being part of the government certainly has its advantages – it doesn`t solve all the problems.  What a community needs is a member of the Legislature or the House of Commons who understands the community, cares about the community and has the smarts to get the job done.

Running for city council and winning a seat at that level is usually part of the job training that a person goes through as they progress through the ranks.  Nothing wrong with that.  Having someone who is immersed in politics is a plus for a community.  The person believes and loves the job – and it is people like that who deliver for the community.

Is it the person or the party ?  You always have that choice.  And right now Burlington has two very good choices if you take the view that the person matters.  If you take the view that the party is what really matters – then you have a choice for a candidate that will have a very long learning curve and there is no assurance at all that the candidate has the capacity to make it through that curve.

The party or the person?


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Getting down to the short strokes. Candidates to square off at two events giving us a chance to see what they can do.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  September 24, 2011  Well the candidates know there is going to be an election of October 6th and the people working with them are out there beavering away but that is just about the extent of it.

Peggy Russell, the NDP candidate is doing what many politicians do – let themselves believe what really isn’t possible.   The commitment needed to get into politics and run for office has to be so strong that at times it overcomes you and reality gets away.

There is not going to be an orange wave in Ontario and certainly not in Burlington.  What Peggy Russell will do, hopefully, is sharpen things up at the two major debates that are to take place this week.  She is a tough debater and while the people who put on the events don’t really allow true debate – they see themselves as a little too polite for the tough questions, the thrust and the parry of debate that brings out who a candidate really is and what they really think and believe.

Go back to the 1984 “I had no option” debate between John Turner and Brian Mulroney to understand how vital real debate can be.

The Chamber of Commerce cheats the community when they spurn real debate and limit the event to moderated questions and answers.  It’s part of the ‘coziness’ that is a part of Burlington.

It will however not be easy to limit Russell and her direct style.

Jane McKenna is being shepherded and supported by Keith Strong and I suspect a lot of time is being spent on coaching her and preparing her for the all candidate events.  She has to show up at these two events – there is just no getting out of that.  So far she has skipped the all candidate events.  We will see if she has a handle on the issues and has developed enough as a politician to take a seat at Queen’s Park.  If the Progressive Conservative Association had not dithered for so long in finding a replacement for Joyce Savoline and chosen McKenna a year ago – it just might have been possible to get her to the point where she could handle herself and not clutch the PC Change Book to her chest and hope that the words in the book will get her though it all.  It will be interesting to see how she does.

The PC Association has a lot of explaining to do.  Bert Radfordd sould do what he forced Rene Papin to do – which was fall on his sword and back out of the nomination race.  Time for Radfordd to find another occupation

If they lose the riding – and that is within the realm of possibility – they will have four years to rebuild.  Perhaps in that period of time Brian Heagle can convince them that his blood is truly blue.

Speaking of Heagle – he makes a very good point on his Facebook page with the following data: while “ it’s completely unscientific and not equivalent to polls or even lawn signs – the  “Likes” for each Burlington candidate’s Facebook page are close right now: Liberal=129; PC=118; NDP=114.

Once this interesting bit of analysis by Heagle is out expect the political parties to rush to those Facebook pages and flood them with “Likes” which will make the data Heagle gleaned the best we are going to get from that source.  Interesting though.

Karmel Sakran kept himself busy with two press conferences at which he huffed about the terrible things Hudak would do to the province if  he were to form a government.  Hudak shut down the one issue – hospital funding – by releasing a statement that said he would ensure the hospital was funded if he formed a government.  In the meantime the city of Burlington and the hospitals Foundation are going to have to carry the load.

Sakran is the more accomplished speaker – comes from being a lawyer.  However, Russell has put him off his stride at previous candidate events.  He will need to stay focused and on point – something he should be able to do.

It is interesting to note that the Liberal and Progressive Conservative candidates are sticking pretty close to what their leaders have to say rather than saying very much about how they would advocate for Burlington.  What kind of an MPP does Sakran want to be and what kind of MPP does McKenna want to be?  It is pretty clear where Russell is coming from – she will listen to the party line but if she doesn’t like what it is – she won’t support it.  That is not to suggest Russell isn’t a team player – more to the point – she is an independent thinker.

McKenna doesn’t appear to have a clue as to what Queen’s Park is all about but she learns quickly and one can assume that if she wins, that Joyce Savoline, the retiring MPP, will be available to coach her.

Sakran understands what Queen’s Park is all about and he could, at some point, make it into the Cabinet – but a lot of that huffiness will have to go first.  As a lawyer he has more than enough friends to steer him around the place.  The procedures will come naturally to him.

What we don’t know about either McKenna or Sakran is what they are going to do for the community?  Will they toe the party line or will they be advocates for Burlington?

The most recent polls indicate that there is a very, very tight race with the Liberals and Conservatives in a dead heat.  That leads to talk of a minority government and we hear party leaders saying what they would and would not do if they had to team up with someone else to form a government.  When Andrea Horwath said she would talk to any party about forming a government she must have shaken her supporters to their very roots – the idea of the NDP supporting a PC party so that the Progressive Conservatives could form a government must have Walter Mulkewich, former Mayor of Burlington and head of the NDP fund raising committee,  tossing and turning in his sleep.

Turnout for the Chamber of Commerce Event and that being put on by the Canadian Federation of University Woman are the best chance this city has to see and hear the candidates.  Seats will be at a premium – and no walks ins for the Chamber event.

We are indebted to (yes it happens) Ward 2 councilor Marianne Meed Ward for the following:

Beat the rush on voting day and vote in the advance polls. Open daily, 10am-8pm now till Sept. 30. Locations in Burlington: 3230 Fairview St, Unit 115; Brant Hills Community Centre, 2255 Brant St; Fortinos, IKEA Plaza, 1059 Plains Rd. E; Good Neighbour Ministries, 5270 New St; St. Luke’s Anglican Church, 1382 Ontario St.


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We’ve “finally become what was promised”. Really?

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  February 24, 2011  –  When the lights are turned out and you’re completely in the dark you’re never quite sure where you are going and what you are going to bump into.

We “think” we are doing the right thing – but how do you know.  We got a note from a Ken C who said:  Your ‘newspaper’ is finally becoming what was promised. When will we hear about the long term status of Shaping Burlington?

I want to tell Ken, who is now my very best friend for life and with whom I will become a blood brother when we nick our wrists and swear fealty to each other for the rest of our lives – what is happening with Shape.

Burlington City Hall Staff` will be giving their response to the Shape report at a Council meeting March 8th.  The ”illustrious” Kim Phillips, she being THE General Manager of Corporate Services for the City of Burlington will lay upon us the way staff feel they should respond to the eight recommendations contained in the Shape report. 

If you are not quite sure what illustrious means let me share with you the definition in the – to wit, highly distinguished; renowned; famous: an illustrious leader or, glorious, as deeds or works: many illustrious achievements. Kim’s Mum will like that.

The development of an Engagement Charter, which was one of the Shape recommendations, caught the eye of the United Nations Public Administration Network where the comment was made that –

“The charter would affirm the city’s commitment to reaching out to a diverse population and would explain how to navigate city hall and its services,” said Ken Edwards, a member of Shaping Burlington who also worked on the Shape Burlington report. “The charter would incorporate an early notification system and allow a reasonable amount of time for all participants to understand the steps and develop decisions before decisions are made. Ultimately, the charter would promote active public engagement and meaningful dialogue, which likely will require a culture shift at city hall.”

I’m pretty sure Ken’s family doesn’t know that his remarks are being discussed in the halls of the United Nations.  There must be some kind of a plaque the Mayor can give Ken for putting Burlington on the world map.  We’re not just home of the Burlington Teen Tour Band you know.

While it has taken the city longer to respond to the report than it did for Messrs Boich and Mulkewich did to create the Shape team, research and write the report – that is incidental.  Ms Phillips has consulted widely and after an internal review and some discussion with the Shaping Burlington (that being the group of citizens who wanted to ensure that the Shape report didn’t just gather dust) she will release her findings at the Committee meeting.

It needs to be said that there will not be a reception after the committee meeting, but, depending on the content of the staff report, there will be huzzahs or much wailing and flailing once the contents have been digested.  This is going to be a report that will be worth the paper it is written on.

 So – there you have it Ken.  Stay tuned because you know that Our Burlington will be at the media table in Council chambers covering this event.


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