Balancing competing views, listening to readers, and exercising editorial judgement

By Staff

October 4th, 2021



How many perspectives should be included in a brief news piece? When are letters considered an appropriate remedy to showing another side of an issue? These are questions that reporters and editors face every day as they exercise their editorial judgment to determine the angle of the story, the people interviewed, and the evidence used to provide an accurate account of events for readers.

The National NewsMedia Council recently reviewed a reader’s concerns about accuracy and lack of opportunity to present another perspective in a story about local pesticide use.

Exchanging different points of view – respectfully.

The article, published in an Ontario-based community paper, reported on residents’ reactions to a recent application of fungicide, via helicopter, to a cornfield in the area. The article featured comments from local residents expressing concern with the noise disturbance and proximity of the helicopter to their houses.

An individual in the agricultural industry expressed concern with the lack of perspective from farmers and other members of the agricultural community. In particular, the individual argued that the article suggested that the fungicide was “sprayed liberally on the native ecosystem around the field boundaries,” rather than used correctly by trained professionals.

In reviewing the article, the NNC observed that the comments were clearly the perspective of some residents and were attributed accordingly. The NNC found no evidence to support the claim that the article implied that the product was used incorrectly or outside the intended area.

The brief article offered a summary of the concerns raised by residents about the application of the fungicide near their houses. All statements were attributed accordingly to the individuals quoted in the story.

That said, we understand that the individual’s primary concern in this case was not being able to provide a different perspective and relevant information in response to the concerns raised by residents quoted in the article.

A subsequent edition of the local newspaper dedicated a section of its pages to reader reactions to the brief article.

In one article, the publisher alerted readers to the different—and often strong—perspectives on the published piece and other issues at hand. The edition included a published response from the complainant as well as several letters to the editor and other comments in response to the story.

In this case, the NNC considered the news organization’s decision to publish responses to the article to be consistent with best practices in addressing reader concerns, and found the issue resolved. The significant attention devoted to reader responses provided opportunity to show a range of opinions in the community, from farmers and those outside the agricultural industry.

Letters to the editor offer opportunities to clarify or provide different perspectives on information and opinions presented in articles. In this way, they can often serve as a remedy to concerns raised by readers, and showcase the breadth of opinions held by members of a community.

The Gazette has taken a slightly different approach with its comments section.  On many stories there are close to a dozen comments – some very well informed, others not as well informed as they could be.

In the past six months we have found that some commenters ride an issue pressing their view again and again. We no longer approve those comments.

We are also finding that people are writing a comment without identifying themselves and using a phony email address.

Then there are others that are rude and uncivil.

We have in the past told commenters that they need a break and suspend the privilege they have for a period of time.  We have had to completely suspend one commenter.

Going forward we will stiffen the requirement for people to comment.

Behind all this is a belief that informed citizens can make informed decisions and that no matter what the leadership in Burlington do they must be both accountable and transparent.

Return to the Front page

Fiorito on the choice: economy or environment - have both is his view

By Vince Fiorito

October 2, 2021



Regarding the “choice” between the environment versus the economy Vince Fiorito explains that this is a false dichotomy. We can also have both or neither.

Another way to describe the “environment” is the “global life support system”.

Would an astronaut on the International Space Station (ISS) be forced to choose between his job and the ISS’s life support system?

Would we even give an astronaut a task that would make the ISS uninhabitable?

If the life support system fails on the ISS, the repercussions would be immediate. Any task that would adversely affect the ISS’s life support system would not likely be attempted. That’s because humans react to immediate problems pretty well.

What we aren’t that good at, is reacting to and managing long term problems, like climate change, the biodiversity crisis, environmental toxification and potable water shortages. These human created problems impact the “global life support system” and must be solved immediately and simultaneously.

Unfortunately, most of the environmental protest industry has focused on climate change; neglecting, for the most part the others.
These groups have held protests during elections that interfere with political environmentalist efforts to identify and get out the environmental vote.

Effectively the environmental protest industry has increasingly become an obstacle to positive progressive political change. Since these groups must protest to recruit volunteers, fundraise and grow their movements, their relationship with status quo governments they help greenwash during elections and then protest afterwards, is mutually beneficial. Most environmental groups seem uninterested in helping to elect governments that solve environmental problems. Without status quo governments that increase our economic dependence on converting fossil carbon into GHG emissions, who would they protest? How would they grow their movements?

Many of them are dependent on the status quo governments for grants and other funding. Why would these organizations bite the hands that feed them?

Another part of the problem is that during an election, political opportunists will say anything to win the environmental vote including nonsense like “balancing the environment with the economy” as if improving the economy always comes at the expense of creating environmental problems… or solving environmental problems always comes with an economic cost. The truth is that solving environmental problems would create economic growth and new jobs.

The cost of solar has now dropped to the point where it is cheaper than all other energy sources. Monthly payments on a loan to install a solar power system to go off grid would be cheaper for most homes and businesses, than their current monthly electricity bill. After the upgrade is paid off, the cost of electricity would be near zero, whereas the monthly electricity bill would continue to increase.

This change to a distributed network of micro energy producers and consumers would create more jobs that pay better than those that would be lost due when the nuclear power plants and gas turbines become stranded assets.

I understand why people who have invested in the status quo would oppose this change, but why electrical unions and the construction industry haven’t embraced this change remains a mystery to me.

Probably the biggest opportunity to grow the economy and save the planet at the same time is through energy conservation. Most homes and businesses can be made more energy efficient, reducing costs. The monthly savings would pay off the upgrades in a relatively short time. Why the housing construction industry hasn’t embraced this change is also a mystery to me.

The energy industry is lying to us, for the same reasons why the tobacco industry lied in the past.

I believe we have been manipulated by wealthy people who profit from the status quo of laying waste to the earth’s biosphere for short term profits and union jobs. These people refuse to embrace change. The energy industry is lying to us, for the same reasons why the tobacco industry lied in the past.

I used to believe that people could be convinced to make better decisions if they were presented with good accurate information. I now realize that most people are overwhelmed by bad inaccurate manipulative misinformation.

Solutions exist to all our problems, but we won’t implement these solutions, not because it doesn’t make economic sense, but because the people who profit from the status quo are better at manipulating public opinion, than scientists and engineers.

Fiorito didn’t tell me if the hare got away.

For this reason, I’ve moved on to acceptance. Humanity isn’t going to make better choices to save ourselves and the earth’s biosphere. That’s why I am up north, trying to document what’s left, before its destroyed by logging companies intent on converting old growth forest into mostly toilet paper and consumer products that end up in landfills. While the rest of the species that share the Earth’s biosphere with us don’t deserve what’s coming, most of humanity does, including the environmentalists who are more interested in protesting the status quo, rather than meaningful action to change the status quo.

Watching –

Watching – ready to pounce.

Vince Fiorito now lives 300km north of Thunder Bay, near Wabakimi Park where he took the photographs.

Return to the Front page

Scobie on the betrayal

By Gary Scobie

October 1st, 2021



The comments section of the Gazette is heavily used.  At times there is a lot of tooing and froing – so much so that one wonders just what the writer is trying to say.

However, on occasion a writer responds with statements that are painfully true.

Gary Scobie, an intelligent, retired Burlington resident who has delegated frequently before Council, responds to David Barker who asked:  Are you are really saying the Mayor and our councilors pretended to work on stopping the over-development of the downtown? Because that’s what you wrote. You used the word “pretend”. If you are really saying that, your credibility is shot.

The Scobie response is too pungent, too painfully true to be left as just a comment to a reader.

David, here is the inaction that they created. They were well and often advised during 2018 that the only way to stop excessive numbers and heights of high rises in downtown Burlington was to

1) Remove the Downtown Mobility Hub that was a farce and

2) remove the Urban Growth Centre from the downtown.

It was named as a Mobility hub which was enough for some smart lawyers to argue that it served a mobility purpose equal to that of Pearson Airport.

The Mobility Hub was the easier one and Jane McKenna helped in showing how it could be done in the Official Plan. The Urban Growth Centre was going to be the harder one. Therefore it needed to be tackled as soon as the new Council convened in January 2019.

Gary Scobie in the middle of a delegation to city council.

The new Council decided to do one thing instead that would not help – bring in the Interim Control Bylaw (ICB) for one year that would delay processing applications but not stop their time-stamping. They decided to do a second thing that would just make it look like they cared about stopping excessive high rises – start out on an updated OP that reduced somewhat the zoning but still allowed a concrete jungle in the downtown that few citizens in the work groups supported.

This OP took months and months to update, months and months to sit on the Regional Council agenda before being rejected for a few issues. Even when it was given support, it took months again to get provisionally passed.

In the meantime, applications piled up and appeals were initiated at the “new” OLT (just an OMB remake). Time marched on and Council waited two years until 2021 to actually begin asking the Province to move the UGC to the Burlington GO Station.

Two years of wasted time on the most important task in saving the downtown that could have been started in early 2019. Even today it is still not in force until the province passes the legislation, if they actually do.

Scobie maintains this Council has betrayed its citizens

As I said earlier this year, it’s too late baby. The chance has been missed. You can’t go back in time and negate all of the high rise applications filed in good faith under the old OP and the UGC in the downtown. It bothers me and my like-minded friends so much. Council failed its supporters and pretended to work on it instead. We were betrayed.

Scobie was seldom impressed with the responses he got from members of Council.

There’s your timeline. Oh and by the way, the Interim Control Bylaw – it’s still huffing and puffing along after two and a half years of applications piling up for downtown high rises. It won’t go away until every appeal is dealt with at the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT).

Some legacy.

Return to the Front page

The number of cars on Burlington streets isn't being looked at properly

By Pepper Parr

September 24th, 2021



Mayor Marianne Meed Ward once said that fireworks were something she heard about from residents almost as much as parking.

Parking – where do the people driving put their cars when they want to shop, or visit or dine?

Back up a bit and ask – where are all the cars coming from?

Back up a bit more – when a development application is filed with the Planning Department one of the reports that must be included is a traffic study.

Look at any number of those studies and they will all say that the number of cars that might be added to the flow of traffic in the city is “acceptable”, or words along those lines.

The people who write these reports are seen to be professionals who know their craft very well and their evidence is accepted as true.

The traffic reports get an OK from the planners.

And – the OK for that single traffic study might be very valid.

But there is a bigger picture that has to be looked at – and at this point no one is looking or asking the question.

All the traffic from the underground garage will exist on to Elizabeth, shown on the left. To the left of the development is the site for whatever the Waterfront hotels site ends up looking like for the site

The hundreds of cars coming out of the Bridgewater Development will exit the development onto Elizabeth street and then can continue north or go right or left on Lakeshore Road.

The hundreds of cars that are expected to come out of the proposed redevelopment of the Waterfront Hotel site also empty onto Elizabeth Street and then can continue north or go right or left on Lakeshore Road.

While this is, at this point in time, a Ward 2 concern it will become an issue elsewhere when the large developments along Fairview and in the east end of the city come online.

We challenge Councillor Kearns to look for a way to require traffic studies to focus on the impact the single development will have (they are already required to do that) AND to provide a report that sets out the impact their development will have on new developments already approved within a 120 metre radius.

The planners can work out the specifics; the objective is to have information that sheds light on that bigger picture.

It is the bigger picture – everything happening within a specific radius that isn’t being looked at.

The city planners don’t ask – they aren’t required to.

We don’t quite why Heather MacDonald, Chief Planner doesn’t go before council and point out that they are not asked to report on the bigger picture – and ask Council to give them a Staff Direction to do just that.

At some point someone has to get ahead of the problem and ask the bigger question.

If we don’t the phrase in the Official Plan that has Burlington as a “City that Moves” will have to add – moves very very VERY slowly.

To Lisa Kearns and Heather MacDonald – the ball is in your court.

Looking forward to listening to what you put before Council on this one.


Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette, an online newspaper that was formed in 2010 and is a member of the National Newsmedia Council.

Return to the Front page

Public can now get a look at what the developer wants to do with the Waterfront Hotel site

By Pepper Parr

September 21st, 2021



On the evening of September 8th, there was a virtual pre-application presentation given by Bousfields, planners for Burlington 2020 Lakeshore Inc. , which is the company expected to make the application.

It was the first look at what the property owners had in mind for the re-development of the Waterfront Hotel site.

Two things about the images shown below – we were able to show a bit of what the developers have in mind last week.

I think the design is superb.

But I don’t think that design is what the people of Burlington want. It is some distance from the slightly quaint look of the downtown core, which isn’t all that big. It is my belief that there isn’t all that much vibrancy to it. But that’s my personal view.

The decision that gets made about this development is to be made by the people of Burlington.

Unfortunately the people of Burlington didn’t get to see the presentation.

There were just over 100 people participating in the virtual presentation – of which at least a dozen were city staff.

During the Q&A part of the presentation the Gazette asked how we could get a link to the presentation which was recorded.

No one had an answer so on September 11th, I reached out to the Director of Communications Kwab Ako-adjei with the following:


I think you will have taken in all of the pre-application virtual meeting on Wednesday.

Quite a show.

As you know it was recorded and the developer didn’t raise any objection on it being made public – what wasn’t clear was –

Thomas Walker (I erred and used the wrong last name – it is Douglas) was asked and didn’t seem to know where it would be located nor did he leave me with the sense that it would actually be put on the city web site.

Would you follow this up for us please.

I address this to you because we intend to follow how the request is handled and want to be on record as having reached out to the head of the Communications department.

Stay well

I later got a reply from Carla Marshal, who is one of the Communications Advisers with the city.

Good morning, Pepper.

Please take a look at this information, which should help to clarify the City’s role in the development application process: Understanding the Development Application Process – City of Burlington

The meeting was led by the developer so the developer owns the recording of the event. The City does not own the recording; the developer does. It is at the sole discretion of the developer, in this case, Burlington 2020 Lakeshore Inc. c/o Bousfields Inc., if and where the recording is posted; it is up to the proponent to decide whether they will post the recording online on their own website:

Shortly after there was a response from Suzanne Vukosavljevic,  who was filling in for Marshall..  She said:

The City posts its own meeting recordings on the City site but in this specific case you are asking about, it was not a City meeting so therefore, the City is not posting the recording.

Your questions have been answered by staff below.

Thanks for your interest.

The city provided the following:

As the communications advisor for Planning, I have worked with staff to provide you with the following information:

From Thomas Douglas, Senior Planner, Community Planning:

Pre-Application Community Meetings are hosted by the proponent of a development, not the City. If/when the proponent proceeds to submit a development application to the City for their proposal, as part of their application they must provide minutes from the Pre-Application Community Meeting, a written summary of public input received at the meeting, and an explanation of how public input has been addressed and reflected in the submitted application.

In cases where a Pre-Application Community Meeting occurs virtually, this may be done using the City’s or the applicant’s teleconferencing program. When the City’s technology is used, staff will record the meeting and provide the recording to the proponent to aid them in documenting meeting minutes and public input received. The City does not post the recording on the City’s website, and it is up to the proponent to decide whether they will post the recording online on their own website.

I will inform the proponent of the 2020 Lakeshore Road development proposal that the Gazette has expressed interest in obtaining a copy of the recording.

I hope this helps!

I didn’t feel my request had been met and responded:

Actually it doesn’t help very much.  I then set out more specifically what I was looking for: Carla’s responses are short – set in red.

Does the city have a copy of the event that was recorded? No
Pre-Application Community Meetings are hosted by the proponent of a development, not the City.

If not – does the city intend to obtain a copy?

and where will the copy be located on the city web site

The meeting recording will not be located on the City website; it is up to the proponent to decide whether they will post the recording online on their own website –

Further: whose technology was used – re: using the City’s or the applicant’s teleconferencing program. When the City’s technology is used, staff will record the meeting and provide the recording to the proponent to aid them in documenting meeting minutes and public input received.
The applicant has the recording.

Further – who would make the decision to not post the recording, should it become available on the city web site.
it is up to the proponent to decide whether they will post the recording online on their own website

I reached out to the planner Bousfields and asked where we could get a link to the presentation. And waited.

This morning there was a response from the Bousefields planner with a link to the presentation.

And later in the day there was a link from Thomas Douglas with the same link.

That’s a lot of back and forth – but we did get what we were asking for. Why the difficulty is beyond me.

There are two images below. They are of what the building will look like from Lakeshore Road and what it will look like from the Lake.

A rendering of what the development might look like from Lakeshore Road. Commercial space will exist at grade.


A rendering of what the site will look like from the Lake. Each tower will sit on a four storey podium and then rise to 30 storeys and 26storeys.

In part 2 – there is more in the way of visuals and comment on how the virtual event went and what was learned.

The developer can now submit an application.

When and if they do – they are expected to show how they responded to some of the issues and concerns that were raised.

Bousfields added: Note that the plans are not final and are subject to modifications as we move forward. No formal applications have been submitted at this time, and the public meeting was simply to gauge public interest and explain the proposed intent for the site prior to submission of formal planning applications.


Return to the Front page

Rivers: An Unnecessary Election?


By Ray Rivers

September 21st, 2021



By law there has to be an election four years following the last one, except when there is a minority government. Mr. Trudeau had a choice. He could call an election when the polls favoured him, as Jean Chretien once did. Or he could wait until the opposition ganged up and forced an election, as happened when Jack Layton pulled the rug out from under Paul Martin.

That is what politics is all about – trying to get and keep the most seats in Parliament. Indeed Mr. Harper did exactly that in 2008, even after introducing Canada’s fixed election law. Does anyone remember the media calling that an unnecessary election?

The lineups were long – in Toronto Fort York people waited for an hour and a half. Fewer polling stations and an upset public wanting to express their dissent.

That we are in the midst of a pandemic can be a problem. Longer lines and fewer polling places can be frustrating for the voter. But mail-in ballots and advance voting had been available. And the good news is that there have been no reports of transmission or COVID outbreaks during the campaign. Indeed being in a polling station is likely as safe as a vaccination clinic, except for the long lines in some locations.

Elections cost money, this one came in at about $600 million. All that cash goes to pay for poll clerks, polling supplies, room rentals, travel by electoral officials, and communications services. Some of it will be returned to the treasury in the taxes collected from these activities.

Like CERB and the wage subsidy this is an infusion of money into the community. But unlike the wage subsidy the money flows into the community and not into the corporate director’s pockets. Of course there is always a better use for $600 million, including paying down debt.

At this point in the election Justin Trudeau realized he was in the fight of his political life. It came very very close – even thought the Liberals are now saying it was a win.

Holding an election at this time wasn’t in the Liberal’s election platform but from all the noise one would think that was all the Liberals stood for. The real issues, like climate change, mandating vaccines and passports and national child care somehow got lost in the noise.

This was a nasty campaign by comparison to all others, including violent protesters throwing stones at a sitting PM. And it was cursed with a dysfunctional English language debate. Almost from the start Mr.Trudeau became the target of just about everyone.

Despite propping up Mr. Trudeau since the last election, Mr. Singh complained that the Liberals did nothing over all that time. Ms. Paul claimed Trudeau couldn’t possibly be a feminist or respect indigenous rights since he removed his former justice minister from the Liberal caucus. And Mr. O’Toole appeared to blame Trudeau for the COVID crisis in Alberta.

The election bill came in at $600 million – was there a value proposition in there somewhere.

But the voters weren’t convinced. And election night they have returned the PM and his party pretty much where they had started out – back into a minority situation. Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party is still seatless, though he surpassed the Green Party in popular support. The Greens have actually gained a new seat and lost an old one, but are still without a leader to represent them in Parliament.

Either the Bloc or NDP will be needed to prop up the new minority government once again. But barring a successful non-confidence vote Mr. Trudeau will have another four years of government before him. And nobody should think the Liberals will go back to the people again before those four years are up – unless they can show Canadians that it is really necessary.



Ray Rivers, a Gazette Contributing Editor,  writes regularly applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was once a candidate for provincial office in Burlington.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.   Ray has a post graduate degree in economics that he earned at the University of Ottawa.  Tweet @rayzrivers


Background links:

Harper’s Unnecessary Election –

Return to the Front page

Give the Liberals a minority - and hope the Liberal Party will find the leadership needed when Justin resigns.

By Pepper Parr

September 18th, 2021



Many of us have already voted – hopefully a really significant number of Canadians will turn out to cast a ballot in this very important election.

There was no reason for this election to even take place and it is our belief that we will end up with basically the same thing when all the ballots are counted: A minority Liberal government.

Justin Trudeau does not deserve to be given the majority he wants.

There is hard work to be done: Covid19, the economy, housing – do we need a list longer than that?

The current problems aside – there is still the SNC Lavalin issue and the loss of a two female members of the Liberal caucus.

The embarrassing trip to India

The embarrassing trip to India

The WE matter

Two pronouncements from the Ethics Commissioner.

The hopes were high

The hopes were high when Justin Trudeau first ran for the leadership– another Trudeau was going to lead the country – but it hasn’t worked out that way.

That happens in politics. Let Justin Trudeau work with whatever the public gives him on Monday.

Politics being the blood sport it is – the knives will be coming out and the Liberals will begin to look for a new leader – expect to see that in 18 to 24 months.

There is a shift taking place in the way different segments of society expect their political leadership to perform.  The People’s Party of Canada is growing at a disturbing rate; the Greens are failing to grow at a disturbing rate and both the Liberal and Conservative party leaders are learning that they aren’t really as in touch with the members as they should be.

The Liberal Party polls higher than the leader of the Party and the Conservative leader is not able to impress upon his own membership that getting everyone vaccinated is critical if we are ever going to get ourselves from a pandemic to an endemic state with Covid19.

We will be watching closely Monday evening – we might be up very late or we might know as soon as the pools open in the Prairies.

The mess in Alberta – it’s actually a tragedy, that could have been avoided.  Hundreds will die unnecessary death because of decisions Jason Kenny made.

Return to the Front page

Will the current Liberals representing Burlington in the House of Commons all hold their seats ?

By Pepper Parr

September 15th, 2021



It’s just a matter of days now.

The advance poll numbers for the 2021 federal election show an increase of 20% more people using advance polls to vote than they did in 2019.

We are looking at one of the most interesting federal election in some time.  A government could fall because they called an election that wasn’t needed.

Burlington happens to have three people sitting as members of the House of Commons representing our interests.

Will all three be returned?

Who amongst them is at risk?

Given her performance during the debates, such as they were, Karina Gould has earned the right to return to Ottawa.

Emily Brown needs to take a civics class and learn what is required of a candidate.

For us the Green Party candidate was a major disappointment.

The NDP candidate certainly injected some energy and a lot of common sense but it is our view that this election is a choice between the Liberals and Conservatives.

Liberal MP fr Oakville North Burlington Pam Damoff

Over in Oakville North Burlington Liberal Pam Damoff will likely hold her seat if only because the Conservative candidate had little in the way of profile and wasn’t that visible.

The Conservatives decided to hide their candidate and focus on their core vote and hope that enough people would be angry enough to oust Justin Trudeau. Time will tell if they are right.

Milton is an interesting situation. It represents the people in rural north Burlington – there aren’t that many people in that part of the world.

Milton’s ethic community is coming into their own. They are active culturally, they have good representation at the municipal level and they are now ready to take their place at the federal level.

The provincial seat is held by Parm Gill.

The Milton Conservative Party association dumped the former Member of Parliament, Lisa Raitt, from the board. It was about as close to being apolitical coup as you get in Ontario.

Nadeem Akbar, Conservative candidate for Milton. The northern rural part of Burlington is in the Milton boundary.

The issue for current MP Adam van Koeverden is going to be – has he made the inroads he needs to hold the ethnic community vote. Do they trust him or is their confidence going to go to Nadeem Akbar.

Canada has grown through the addition of immigrants from around the world. The first came from the UK, then Italy and, in time, from Japan and Germany.

Most recently they have come from the Middle East – thousands came from Syria and more thousand’s will arrive from Afghanistan.

That is how this country grew to what it is today.

It will all become clear but probably not Monday evening – there are going to be some messy situations where the fight for a seat might be contested or put to a recount.

That’s what politics is all about.

What matters new is you getting out to vote.

Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette, an online newspaper that was formed in 2010 and is a member of the National Newsmedia Council.

Return to the Front page

Rivers: After the Debates…Confusion

“We make a lot of television in Canada. Some of it is brilliant and some of it is mediocre. The worst of it is truly, truly awful. This botched election debate is down at the bottom of the list; an indictment of everyone involved from the host to every politician who attempted to speak during the shambles.” (John Doyle – Globe and Mail)

By Ray Rivers

September 15th, 2021



The Debates in French were better. In fact they couldn’t have been worse than that horror show last Thursday. What went wrong? We could start by the debaters. There were too many.

Green Party leader Annamie Paul

Did we really need to see the Green Party leader at the debates when she has zero chance of ever leading a government, let alone winning more than Elizabeth May’s seat again. The party is polling at about 3% and imploding into a legal fight over the choice of its leader. Her voice is important, like everyone else. But in a league of potential PMs she is out of her league.

The Bloc leader’s stated goal is to tear Canada apart. And his party’s popular support is currently sitting at around the 6% mark, given that he is a Quebec only politician. While Annamie Paul may have a delusional ambition of becoming Canada’s next PM, Yves-François Blanchet takes pride in saying he never wants to be PM. So why was he invited?

Maxime Bernier on his way to being sworn in as Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Harper government – he is now the leader of the People’s Party of Canada.

Meanwhile People’s Party (PPC) was not invited, even though his party is now polling in fourth place, ahead of the Bloc Quebecois and almost double that of the Greens. Of course there are no PPC MP’s in the House and Bernier would probably need to get vaccinated to appear with the others, something anathema to his party’s platform. Still, he should not be dismissed if the Greens are invited. After all, the Reform party before him came from relative obscurity to opposition in a single election.

Moderating a leaders’ debate takes skill and patience and none of that was present in the English debate unlike the other two held in the French language. It was pathetically unprofessional, on the one hand encouraging the debaters to go at it, then cutting them off before they could finish their sentences – allowing anyone interrupting them to take over the floor. And as most have observed the moderator tended to favour the other parties over the Liberals, the Bloc being the sole exception.

Jagmeet Singh leader of the New Democrats

The most cringeworthy moments were when Jagmeet Singh opened his mouth. Singh’s election platform is best described as nothing more than broad generalized notions and aspirations dotted with sob stories of all the poor people he met on the street. As in that old song – anything the Libs are doing he can do better – he can do anything better than them.

He is promising to pay for his promises by taxing Jeff Bezos and other billionaires, regardless that Bezos is not even Canadian. He is also looking to eliminate subsidies to the fossil fuel sector estimated at $18B, something Trudeau had promised to do back in 2015. Though that would be the proverbial drop in the bucket given the hundreds of billions he includes In his spending plan.

Singh, comes from a well-to-do family which sent him off for private schooling in the USA and then paid for his law schooling. Yet he is constantly comparing his life to that of poorer Canadians and indigenous folks. Justin Trudeau may have been a drama teacher but he could learn a lot about acting from Singh.

You can either attract first time voters or steal those from other parties to build up an electoral base. Mr. Singh has targeted Trudeau Liberals and is appealing to them with often inaccurate and half truth drive-by attacks on the Liberal leader. He recently accused the Liberals of talking about a national child care program for 30 years but failing to deliver, for example. Yet he conveniently forgot that Paul Martin’s pan-national program was killed by Jack Layton’s motion of non-confidence only 15 years ago.

Erin O’Toole leader of the Conservative Party of Canada and Leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons

Erin O’Toole has a tough road ahead of him given the party he leads, though he is still polling well. His dramatic shift to a more central position on key issues will encourage voters, fed up with Mr. Trudeau, to vote for him. But he is also losing the hard right faction of his party to Mr. Bernier, who is gradually improving in the polls. Quebec premier’s endorsement of O’Toole may only strengthen that erosion, though Quebec is still a wild card.

And O’Toole like the other leaders and the media keeps asking why we are having this election. And Mr. Trudeau has not really given a satisfactory response to that question. But most folks suspect it was political opportunism to call an election while his popular support was high with the Tories still in the formative stage of redefining themselves.

One benefit of this election, however, is that Canadians are having a healthy debate about a number of issues, primarily climate change. If the Tories don’t win the most seats and claim the right to govern, which they might still do, they will have been given direction on what they need to do fashion policies for the next election.

The Liberals, whether they form the next government or not should have learned a couple of lessons. First they should not call an election, even if in minority, unless they are forced to by the opposition. Second they need to redouble their efforts at phasing out Canada’s fossil fuel sector, starting with ending their subsidization.

Third, when the Liberals do next call an election they need to be better organized and have a good reason for that call. And they actually have a pretty good record of accomplishments, which most of us seem to have overlooked:

1. The problem-free legalization of cannabis and decriminalization of all the people once involved;
2. Over-achievement of the 20% goal of poverty reduction;
3. The first significant federal action on reducing our carbon footprint, including a carbon tax, a cessation of new pipelines and the prohibited sale of new gas vehicles 2035; and
4. Commencing the long road towards indigenous reconciliation.

Justin Trudeau in the political race of his life – if he wins just a minority it might be the end of a political career.

But as Mr. Trudeau ponders his future in the last days before an election which still might see him out of power, he needs to reflect why he gave up on his promise of electoral reform. Over half of all Canadians support parties which promote progressive social and economic policies.

Yet our first-past-the-post system might well allow the Tories to sneak up the middle and win seats with only 30% of voter support while the lefties argue among themselves about who can target even higher emission reductions.

Implementing electoral reform would have been and still might be Trudeau’s greatest accomplishment.

Ray Rivers, a Gazette Contributing Editor,  writes regularly applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was once a candidate for provincial office in Burlington.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.   Ray has a post graduate degree in economics that he earned at the University of Ottawa.  Tweet @rayzrivers



Background links:

The Debate –

Liberal Platform –    Singh’s Lifestyle –

Who Won the Debate –

Climate Crisis –

Return to the Front page

Photo op that becomes a political statement

Pepper Parr

September 14th, 2021



Journalists call them – photo ops.

Those occasions when a developer or a politician want to ensure that their picture is in the paper.

They are part of the media world.

There are times when a photo op is more than a picture of an event or an occasion.

The occasion yesterday was the raising of the Terry Fox Flag at city hall to mark the beginning of the 2021 fund raising campaign.

Traditionally the Mayor is on hand along with members of the Terry Fox campaign and, on occasion, a member of council.

There was a political statement being made during the raising of the Terry Fox flag at city hall earlier this week.

While Paul Sharman advocates for the Terry Fox initiative –is there anyone in Burlington who doesn’t – it is unusual for him to take part in events like this.

But there he was, standing behind the mayor.

And if that isn’t a photo op with meaning then nothing is: Sharman is in the race should the job of Mayor be in play.

The tribe that Marianne Meed Ward created when she first ran in ward 2 as a council member certainly did grow.  That growth seems to have stalled.  There are members of council that no longer support every initiative she comes up with.  She is no longer assured the a majority vote at Council.

Return to the Front page

Reader takes exception to language used on part of the city web site

By Perry Bowker

September 12th, 2021


Mr Bowker sent us a note, saying: “I finally lost my temper. You are welcome to publish my thoughts.
Perry had received a note from the Get Involved section of the city web site, probably because he asked to have his name placed on a list of people who wanted regular updates.

I was dismayed to see the authors of this e-letter carelessly parroting the social media falsehoods about Ryerson. I know it is fashionable to jump on the bandwagon to lynch this man in absentia, but I expect more from representatives of my city.

The name of the school will be changed.

To wit, “mass graves” – this phrase deliberately invokes the image of bodies piled into a hole in the ground. Even the indigenous people are careful to describe what has been found as multiple unmarked graves, and caution against assuming they are all indigenous children who were killed at the schools.

Next: “Ryerson was also instrumental in the design of Canada’s residential school system.” Hardly. Ryerson was instrumental in designing the Ontario public education system, for the benefit of all Ontarians including the indigenous band of which he was an honorary member.

He was long dead before later governments of the day created residential schools as we now know them.

This careless and casual misuse of known historical facts does no credit to our collective efforts to reconcile with our indigenous fellow Canadians.

My vote. Rename, or more properly, re-launch Ryerson Park with proper respect for what the man stood for and where we are today.

Related news story:

HDSB trustee rationale for changing the name of a school

Return to the Front page

What if the pandemic never ends?

By Pepper Parr

September 12th, 2021



What if the pandemic never ends?

What if we are going to experience one version of the Covid19 virus after another?

Where are the variants coming from – indeed, where did the virus first exist. There are far far too many counties that do not have aggressive vaccination programs.

We are currently dealing with the Delta version.  Given that less than 40% of the world’s population is getting vaccinated it is not that outrageous to suggest that there will be other, perhaps more dangerous variants.

Will we experience decades of limitations on what we can do?  As a society can we cope with that kind of a situation?

Segments of the population have very strong feelings about the current federal leadership.

The anti-vaxers are close to rioting on a daily basis.  Our human rights are being limited and we are tolerating that for the “better good” – but how long are we prepared to put up with that.

Are we going to find ourselves being inoculated a couple of times each year against the latest variant?

Ontario certainly doesn’t have the leadership it needs to get us through this – and the alternatives don’t inspire all that much confidence.

Societies go through immense change with situations like this.

The Western world became a much different place at the end of WW II – we saw decades of growth and prosperity the like of which human society has not seen since the Enlightments.

The scientists have delivered – and they might be able to continue to deliver at the same level.

But the world is made up of people, driven by their emotions and best interests for the most part.

Are we descending into a different Dark Age.

Do we have the capacity to overcome what we are faced with?

Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette, an online newspaper that was formed in 2010 and is a member of the National Newsmedia Council.

Return to the Front page

At a Statutory meeting last night the public got to see how changes get made - dozens had wanted to delegate and didn't know how

By Pepper Parr

September 8th, 2021



There is a certain amount of satisfaction watching a political leader evolve.

They don’t all manage to grow into real leaders able to listen and to hear.

Marianne Meed Ward was just a citizen when this picture was taken – now she is on the other side of the podium. committee.

A number of years ago when Marianne Meed Ward was the council member for ward 2 she came to the realization that people were not aware of what was going on in their communities. A development was being proposed, notices were sent out but to a limited number of people. Meed Ward decided to do something about that and the practice now is to send notices to people within a 120 metre radius of a development.

During a meeting last night when there was a Statutory meeting about the Oval Court development a number of people complained that they had not received the notice of the meeting.

A staff member was asked if notices could be sent to a wider radius – he commented on possible limitations within the Planning Act.
Watching the web cast you could see the Mayor thinking it through – thinking perhaps about how she could arrange to have Statutory meeting notices sent to a larger area.

Watch for something like that in the months ahead.

Later in the same meeting as council members were preparing to wrap it up for the day – it was approaching 10:00 pm, the Mayor took a moment to comment on what things used to be like when development applications were filed..

There would be a Notice of a development application.

There was no such things as a pre-application meeting.

The application would be submitted and then things went quiet – not a word.

Then a Statutory meeting was called. The Planning Act required those meetings.

Council required a report from Staff with a recommendation on the development. They could say yes – it looks good or it is not a good development application and does not represent good planning.

What Meed Ward found amazing at the time was that the Staff Report would be submitted at the same time the Statutory meeting took place.

Whatever comments the public wanted to make during the Statutory meeting was irrelevant – the Staff report had already been written.

That said Meed Ward was the way things were done.

Councillors had been away from the business of getting things done for six weeks – it was a slow start plagued by technical issues. Delegations to the Statutoy meeting were coming in at a surprising clip – getting the equipment to work was a challenge.

Last night there was a Statutory meeting on the Oval Court development. There were some technical problems and it turned out that a lot of people wanted to delegate and found that they were not able to do so.

Again there were technical problems.

The Statutory meeting was very unsatisfactory to both the residents, staff and Council members.

But the meeting had taken place.

Mark Simeoni, Director of Community Planning, told Council that a Statutory meeting was mandated – a meeting must be held and it must be advertised and held in public.

He however added that there was nothing in the Act that said the city was limited to just one Statutory meeting.

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward: All the ideas, all the things she wanted to do while a member of Council can now be advanced as Mayor.

Expect the lawyers who were watching the web cast to be searching through their copies of the Planning Act to see if that was true.
This is a different council, breaking the practices of the past and finding new more effective ways to get things done.

Mayor Meed Ward is far from perfect – she has a lot of growing to do yet – but it is interesting to watch her as she thinks something through, makes a note and comes back to it later on.

Return to the Front page

School board will rename Ryerson school - city will rename the abutting park

By Staff

September 7th, 2021



The Halton District School Board wants ideas from the public on the renaming of Ryerson Public School.

The city wants idea from the public on renaming the park that abuts the school.

Could they not create a joint committee and come up with a single name ?

Not on your life – there is too much political upside for all the politicians to share this one.

The school will be renamed – as will the park that abuts the property.

The decision to dump the name of Egerton Ryerson was done very very quickly – basically on one delegation from an Indigenous parent.

The statue of Ryerson was toppled shortly after it was splattered with paint. The head of the statue ended up on an Indigenous reserve at the end of a pole.

There is tonnes of research on just what Ryerson did and didn’t do but those documents aren’t going to get much attention.

This is classic rush to judgement and lets pile on a good thing.

Community members are encouraged to submit a suggestion for the new name of the school by Sept. 24

In a media release the HDSB said: “Ryerson Public School was named after Egerton Ryerson for his contributions to the Ontario education system, however, Ryerson was also instrumental to the design of Canada’s residential school system.

Students, families and community members are encouraged to submit suggestions for a new name for the school between Sept. 7 – 24, 2021.

The HDSB recognizes the significance of naming a new school as an opportunity to:

• reflect the geography, history, local environment, culture or traditions of the community;
• consider equity, diversity and inclusion in the school community;
• name a renowned person of historical significance to the Halton community, or a real person whose contribution to society or humanity is recognized and valued across Canada.

Suggestions can be made:

• By completing the online form
• By fax — 905-335-4447
• By mail — Communications Dept., Halton District School Board,
PO Box 5005 STN LCD 1, Burlington, ON L7R 3Z2

Suggestions will be accepted until Friday, Sept. 24, 2021.

Each name that is submitted will be reviewed by a committee which will include parent/guardian representation. A shortlist of names will be prepared and presented to the Board of Trustees who will select the final name at one of the regularly scheduled Board meetings in November 2021.

The selected name for the school will be announced in a news release and posted on the HDSB website ( and social media.

Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette, an online newspaper that was formed in 2010 and is a member of the National Newsmedia Council.

Return to the Front page

Will the hospitality sector begin standing up for their clients?

By Pepper Parr

September 2nd, 2021



So – there is going to be a vaccine passport. Took the Premier long enough to get a wiggle on. He is right however – why isn’t there a federally issued Covid19 Passport?

Being able to prove that you are vaccinated is critical. Getting everyone fully vaccinated is proving a little difficult but we are at close to 80% and with the need to have that passport to be able to get into a restaurant or an event will push the number to, ideally 95%.

Provision has been made for the exceptions.

For those who don’t want to get vaccinated there are limits to what they can do in a public setting.

The one that really galls me is this. I have to be able to show that I have been fully vaccinated but the person taking my order in a restaurant, but the person serving the food and the person cooking the food does not have to prove they are vaccinated.

I was in a restaurant in Guelph talking with the owner and he said that he could not ask his employees if they were vaccinated.


That restaurant owner wants me to have a meal in his restaurant but he isn’t prepared to ensure that his staff is Covid free.

I want to go to a restaurant that has the courage to put a sign on the front door saying all their staff are vaccinated.

Those that aren’t – tell them not to bother coming to work until they are vaccinated. What about their human rights? What about my right to stay alive?

There is something wrong with a set up that requires me to be vaccinated in order to be served but does not require the server to be vaccinated.

If the restaurants want our business, which many of us really want to give them, then let those restaurants step up and be bold enough to make it clear they are watching out for us.

Restaurants turned to the city for help and they were given help. A lot of taxpayer money was shoveled out the door to help the hospitality sector and most people were happy to see this done.

Our Council members urged us to support the hospitality sector and to begin shopping locally.

I’d like to see those in the hospitality sector looking out for me while I dine in their establishments.

I’d also like to see the Burlington Downtown Business Association counseling their members to care for the people that they want to attract.

There is a film crew using the third floor of the building my office is in.   I rent office space on the third floor.  Every member of the film crew is masked.

Juliana Robertson

Juliana Robertson, a paramedic by training, asked me to come to the table she had set up so that she could put a little stick up my nostril to ensure that I was not infected even though I told her I have been fully vaccinated.

Sorry she said – you have to do this. I surely had the right to go to my office and do my work.  I decided not to challenge her right to “invade my privacy” She asked me to wait 10 minutes for the results and then told me I was good to go.

Robertson runs Reel Medics in Motion – her market is the film production companies  doing their filming in Hamilton. She is the Medic/Covid Supervisor on the Ghosts of Christmas Past production.  She does the Covid testing and is the first responder for anyone hurt on the film set.

It would be really nice if the hospitality sector was as conscientious.


Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette, an online newspaper that was formed in 2010 and is a member of the National Newsmedia Council.

Return to the Front page

Rivers on the role Canada has played in getting Afghan citizens out of the country before the Taliban gets their hands on them

By Ray Rivers

August 30th, 2021



“I want to take this opportunity to speak with our brothers, the Taliban,” said Monsef. “We call on you to ensure the safe and secure passage of any individual in Afghanistan out of the country. We call on you to immediately stop the violence, the genocide, the femicide, the destruction of infrastructure, including heritage buildings.” (Maryam Monsef, August 2021)


Maryam Monsef

The media and social media frenzy that followed that address by the federal minister responsible for the Status for Women, Canada’s Minister for Women and Gender Equality, Maryam Monsef, was horrific.   She clearly had been chosen to speak to the new government in Afghanistan, given her Afghan Canadian nationality, as well as the special role she plays looking out for women and their human rights.

But it didn’t take long for Conservative Leader O’Toole and the conservative media to attack the minister for using the term ‘brothers’ which has a cultural significance they obviously don’t understand.   And of course it is election time.

To be clear, Canada ended its combat role in 2011 and it’s training role in 2014.  There were seven years since then for Afghans and Canadians in that country to leave.  Anyone living there should have understood the inevitability of a Taliban victory once Donald Trump demonstrated his ‘art-of-the-deal’ in February 2020, which sealed that country’s fate.

Canadian immigration officials admit they might have acted sooner or faster to short cut screening rules and allow more people to migrate here.  But what would be the public reaction had an ISIS-K terrorist slipped through the cracks?  Regardless that we rescued 3700 people, many Afghans were disappointed they couldn’t be airlifted.  Still, Canada has offered to eventually take in over 20,000 more refugees, making us one of the largest host nations.

Canadian armed forces were reluctant participants in Afghanistan – their role was to train the Afghan Army.

And we must remember that this was not Canada’s war of choice.  We only went there because the USA invoked NATO’s Article 5 following 9/11, albeit on the thinnest of rationales.    Still that demanded collective reaction by NATO.  And it was America that changed the war from a retaliatory strike against al Qaeda to the doomed nation-building project which mostly ended up as waste of time, money and lives.

And it was the Americans who managed the panicked exodus of extra-nationals and those Afghans who had helped them in the war effort, once the Taliban seized Kabul. Canada was a bit player and, no sooner had commercial flights stopped operating we, along with other minor players, were signaled to end our humanitarian evacuation.  And the situation as we have seen became increasingly dangerous as time went on.

The Taliban has committed before 98 nations that it will respect human rights, including the right for its citizens to be able to leave the country.  Once the US Marines leave the airport, commercial flights may resume, though few people expect the Taliban to stick to the letter of that agreement.

Thousands have already fled the borders to Pakistan or one of the other bordering nations.  That is how most people vacate a war zone, much as Minister Monsef’s family fled to Iran during the Soviet invasion, before ending up in Canada.

The ignorance of the critics damning the Minister for her use of the cultural term ‘brothers’ is indicative of how democracy in this country has deteriorated, particularly since the advent of social media where many people now look for their news.  And as the more traditional media has become politically polarized, alternated facts and outright mis-information, have made truth whatever you want it to be.  Yet, a democracy cannot continue to function in the absence of a well informed public – information is perhaps the most important pillar of our system of governance.

It was a big lie by the former president that the 2020 US election was stolen, which set off an insurrection, siege and the occupation of the US Congressional assembly, the heart of American democracy.   The image of a violent mob ransacking and defacing public buildings in places all around the world is not new – but this had never happened before at the Capitol.

It could have been a scene from Tehran or Kabul.  But it is what is becoming more commonplace in America precipitated from both the political right as well as the left.  Intolerance and disrespect have led to the breakdown of the great American society.  Society has been fractionalized along artificial lines of we and they, right and left, Republicans and Democrats.

With more protesters than supporters on hand for a visit to Bolton, ON – the Prime Minister’s handlers asked the OPP to escort their bus out of town.

And now we see civil discourse turning to confrontational, angry, violent protest here as well.  Hate charged articles in the Rebel and Toronto Sun are picked up and translated on social media so as to drive the wedge among all of us.  Erin O’Toole, to his credit, has spoken against these kind of demonstrations, but the people who support him were in the crowds in Bolton and Cambridge.  They made it a point to shout obscenities and racial insults and violently heckle to the point that one of the events had to be cancelled for the safety of the public.

And finally the Honourable Maryam Monsef, who has been beaten up by a highly partisan mob media may well lose her rural riding because of the bad press.  And that will just demonstrate that some of us anyway are no better than those people in that hell hole from which her parents saved her.  It just shows that you don’t have to be a woman in the Taliban’s Afghanistan to become a victim of hatred.

Ray Rivers, a Gazette Contributing Editor,  writes regularly applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was once a candidate for provincial office in Burlington.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.   Ray has a post graduate degree in economics that he earned at the University of Ottawa.  Tweet @rayzrivers



Return to the Front page

This election is all about power - the voters get to decide who wields it

By Pepper Parr

August 29th, 2021



Elections are about power.

Those who have it want to keep it.

Those who don’t sometimes think they can get it and they do their very best to win power.

The current Prime Minister wanted a majority which would give him the power he wants to run the country the way he wants.

Karina Gould has a seat in this house – Emily Brown wants that seat – you the public get to decide which woman will represent you best. Remember they both take an ideology with them.

There was no need for this election but the Governor General decided to agree to his request to form a new Parliament.

Karina Gould wants to be part of that government Emily Brown thinks she can win the seat.

The public will decide – our role is to do what we can to ensure that the voting public is well informed.

The candidates may not like what we write – we aren’t writing for the candidates. We are writing for people who are going to decide who they want to represent them

Emily Brown brings a lot to the table. She thinks she can win and should she do so – she will want to be a Member of Cabinet.

The Conservatives see an opportunity and they are going to fight as hard as they can to win the seat.

Both Karina Gould and Emily Brown have impressive educational achievements.

This country had a tradition of politicians meeting with media.

The argument that she is too busy organizing her campaign office to meet with media is spurious at best.

Ms Brown speaks of supporting traditional family values – truth, honesty and decency.

Ms Brown was the child of a military family. One would have thought she would be defend the values her Father put on a uniform to ensure we kept the democracy we have.

The power is always in the hands of the people.  Those who want that power are obligated to to be transparent and accountable.  Going door to door is part of the process, meeting with media is another part.

We wish her the best – and hope that she chooses to be what she is telling us she is.

Should she win the seat and find herself sitting in the House of Commons she will be a force to contend with.

Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette, an online newspaper that was formed in 2010 and is a member of the National Newsmedia Council.

Return to the Front page

Trying to interview Emily Brown, Conservative Candidate for Burlington

By Pepper Parr

August 28th, 2021



We ran a piece on Burlington Conservative candidate Emily Brown that generated a lot of blow back from several of our readers.

Burlington Conservative candidate Emily Brown

As publisher I asked Ryan O’Dowd to send me a list of all the contacts he had with Ms Brown and her responses to his email and telephone calls.

That list is set out below:

On August 17th I received the contact information for Emily Brown. I received it at the same time I received Karina Gould’s contact information and I sent emails to both candidates on August 17th, 20 minutes apart from each other. Here is the email I sent Emily:

 “Good morning, Emily,

 Ryan O’Dowd with the Burlington Gazette here, I’m hoping we can meet for an interview sometime this week to discuss your platform and the key issues of the election.

I look forward to speaking with you, let me know the time and date that works best.

Thanks for your time,


On August 18th I followed up by phone. I called Emily Brown three times and did not receive an answer.

On August 19th I spoke to Emily Brown and she could not commit to a time period(I tried to arrange an interview that afternoon) but she asked for interview questions to be emailed to her and said she would provide her availability, she did not.

I sent her the following shortly after the phone call:

“Good morning, Emily,

 Ryan here with the Burlington Gazette, we spoke on the phone this morning. I’m hoping I can drop by the office for a brief chat this afternoon if that works for you.

I look forward to speaking with you.



I called to follow up on August 24th, she answered on my second attempt.

Brown said she could not take an interview all week as they were discussing strategy at her office. I asked her about the following week and she made no firm commitment.

I said I would follow up with her next week and fully intend to but at this point we needed to begin covering Emily Brown so my publisher made the decision to go ahead with what we had.

We will talk to Emily Brown whenever she chooses to make herself available.  Our belief is that informed people can make informed decisions; our role is to inform people.

As credentialed media we adhere to the view of the National Newsmedia Council that a strong democracy is possible when those who strive to lead are transparent and held accountable.


Return to the Front page

NDP candidate uses Green Party data to advocate for Ranked ballots - Huh?

By Ryan O’Dowd: Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

August 24th, 2021



My interview with Nick Page was lengthy and I was not able to convince my editor to run all of it in one story.

Page discussed the importance of expanding our healthcare system to cover such areas as dental, optometric, and pharmaceutical. Tying benefits to employment in the current system “screws” the lower class, said Page.

“Right now you can go to the dentist if you have a good job but if you don’t have a good job you neither have dental coverage or the money to pay the dentist, so you’re screwed. If you don’t have a good job, you don’t have optometry coverage in Ontario. And so by decoupling those from jobs, from having a good job, you help everyone out.

“You also help the businesses not have to pay for insurance employees like that, which is a big expense for some companies like smaller companies who still need to pay benefits to their employees. That’s a cost they don’t need to have, they only really have it because the government doesn’t come through. And it’s interesting because that came about from wage tax in the US back in World War Two. It was a way to get around wage taxes by giving people more benefits, and then it just kind of became how we do things,” said Page.

One of Justin Trudeau’s most often maligned broken election promises was his vow that the 2015 election would be the last under the first past the post system.”

Nick Page- Burlington NDP candidate

Page puts forward a case for a proportional representation using Green Party data – which he claims would lead to federal representation that would more accurately reflect the popular vote. Page also alludes to the use of ranked ballots which would theoretically diminish so-called “strategic voting,” particularly in conjunction with proportional representation. You would rank the candidates in order of preference so you don’t need to be dictated by who can win, and your vote would be more meaningfully represented in government.

“You have some of the people who are elected to government assigned to specific districts, and some of the people elected to government are assigned from a party list. And you do the normal voting in a district, probably with ranked voting to figure out who represents that district. And then you use the country-wide proportional ballots.

“So if, for example, the Green Party gets 8% across the country, it doesn’t all have to be focused on their one riding in Vancouver, or Victoria river is exactly to get a seat, they could have 8% votes across the country, and they’d get 8% of the seats, we would bump them up off their party list, and that way that 8% of people in our country would actually be listened to, they have a voice in government, as opposed to right now, where if after the 2015 election Trudeau only had, votes from like 38% of people, but he got to make all of the decisions because of how first past the post, but he should have had to work with people to make decisions after 2015,” said Page.

Page noted proportional representation may be the best opportunity to implement a government to deal with climate change.

“I don’t think any party with a majority would do what needs to be done to deal with climate change so I think proportional representation or some sort of voting change is what it’s going to take to get the environment under control,” said Page.

2019 federal election results

“In the 2019 federal election, the Green Party received 6.6% of the popular vote and scored 3 seats out of 337, based on the methodology outlined in the 2016 report of the House of Commons Special Committee on Electoral Reform under a proportional representation system the Green Party would have scored 22 seats from the same percentage of the popular vote. If we accept more Green Party seats at the table correlates to more climate change action then Page’s correlation between electoral reform and environmental action may have merit.”

In federal elections there are usually all candidate debates – that is not likely to happen this time around – the logistics of a virtual debate are very awkward.

Page did a podcast in which is sets out where he stands – worth a listen if you want to dive into what the New Democrats hope to achieve. Link here for what he has to say – runs just over five minutes.

The New Democrats have a very stringent set of rules in place when candidates come into contact with voters – don’t expect to see them at your front door all that often..


Return to the Front page

Rivers on the Torys: The Compromise Party

By Ray Rivers

August 20th, 2021


Ray Rivers has done a background piece on two of the political parties; this is his third with a fourth to come.

Erin O’Toole isn’t just fighting Justin Trudeau and the other federal leaders. In many respects, he’s also battling many in his own party – which is never good at election time. (Gary Mason, Globe and Mail)

The Conservative party is almost twenty years old, but like any teenager it hasn’t figured out what it wants to be when it grows up. It was born out a desperate compromise between prairie libertarians and eastern red Tories. And the reds got the short end of the stick.

Disgraced in the minds of some; revered in the minds of thousands

It wasn’t the first marriage of convenience for the Tories and the birthing of a new political entity. Western progressives had joined with this party back in 1942. Conservatives have deep roots in the founding of Canada and had been led by the now mostly disgraced John A. Macdonald and their strength was in the east. The merger helped bridge a national east-west political divide thus creating a truly national political party to rival the Liberals.

Today, ironically the new Conservatives are more western but less progressive than they ever have been. Stephen Harper, the father of the new right wing Conservative party had a clear focus on his adopted province of Alberta and its oil, and paid precious little attention to the rest of the country. And his successor Andrew Scheer did his best to further divide the nation, mainly on energy matters.

Erin O’Toole – leader of the Conservative Party and Leader of the Opposition

Erin O’Toole is an eastern boy, born in Montreal and raised in Ontario where he sits as an eastern Ontario member. From a western perspective he’s another one of them easterners, just not as bad as Trudeau. They will vote for him but only because he represents their tribe and they have no other preferred option. Even O’Toole’s catering to the right wing of the party with promises of restoring assault weapons, killing the CBC and allowing MPs to introduce anti choice legislation has not made him more acceptable.

And O’Toole’s turnaround on the carbon tax must have hurt. Only a matter of weeks after the court decision he proposed a kind of loyalty card, actually rewarding people for using hydrocarbons, instead of taxing them. It is an insult to anyone who seriously understands and cares about global warming. But it sure looks like a carbon tax, and the oil sector must be worried about what is coming next.

The Tories are the only political party which is still obsessed with how and what women do with their bodies, O’Toole’s personal pro-choice stand must confound his membership, especially the evangelicals. Yet, strangely, he is willing to let MP’s propose anti-choice legislation.

Mr. O’Toole has put on his skates when it comes to mandatory vaccines for key sectors (health, education workers) and activities (travel, dining). He has adopted the line of the country’s conservative premiers that individual rights trump collective health and safety. He would like everyone to get vaccinated but he’d settle for an occasional test if they aren’t. Is a swab up the nose less invasive than a jab in the arm?

Former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper

But it is perhaps on the economy where deficit fighting Conservatives, like father Harper, are shaking their heads. His campaign is promising to print more money than the other parties combined, though it’s hard to say since the platform has not been costed. Imagine a Tory promising to cancel the GST, pay half the salary of new workers with tax money, refund restaurant customers half the cost of their meals.

And O’Toole and Andrew Sheer were part of the minority government all party agreement to dump the billions of new spending on wage subsidies and other pandemic relief over the last two years. All the parties own the deficit and the new debt now. Still, it’s not the first time this party, which claims the title of ‘fiscal hawks’ is dishing out money to win the hearts of the electorate, just like those nasty ‘tax and spend’ left of centre parties.

Former Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney

Brian Mulroney never once balanced his budget. And Harper ran the biggest pre-COVID deficit in history, constructing an artificial lake on the shore of Lake Ontario with some of the money. And there were the pre-election handouts by Mike Harris ($200) and Ralph Klein ($400) paralleling the $500 Trudeau doled out to seniors recently.

O’Toole would axe the federal child care program which has already got the support and signatures of 8 provincial and territorial partners. He’d replace it with another tax credit which is of little use to someone on minimum wages, for example. As usual, tax credits favour those who are better off, even if the credits are graduated as he proposes.

It is a telling moment that the new premier designate of Nova Scotia, Tim Houston, a self confessed red Tory had not joined the federal Conservatives, and had shunned any linkages to the party’s federal leader or help from the party. His was an upset victory, overturning the incumbent Liberals in that province and providing evidence that we can have safe voting during a pandemic election, and that not all incumbents get returned,

And that pretty much sums up Erin O’Toole, a compromise candidate representing a compromised and conflicted political party. There is nothing wrong with compromise per se. And all of the parties have had some share of challenges managing themselves. Just look at the Green Party today.

So the question voters need to ask is whether this Conservative party can best deal with our national priorities. In order to get back towards some kind of pre-COVID normal, we know that anyone who can, should be vaccinated or isolated until this is over. O’Toole’s trade off between individual rights and collective public health will just prolong the epidemic, rather than shorten it.

On the biggest existential threat facing humanity, global warming, what he is proposing is too little and too late. For example his carbon tax would max out at $50, well before what the other parties are promoting. Canadians cannot solve the global climate crisis by ourselves, but as a member of the wealthiest club of nations, we have to show leadership and do our part.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – fighting for a majority government – is it within his grasp?

And finally on the economic plan, O’Toole has some very interesting public funding ideas which would benefit some who have been disadvantaged by the COVID crisis. It is hard to judge these in a vacuum to ensure we are not just constructing another artificial lake.

For probably the first time ever, the public has greater confidence in the Liberals ability to manage the economy and recovery than the Tories, according to a recent poll. Perhaps it has to do with the troubled times we’re in. And maybe it’s because Mr. Trudeau, better than Mr. O’Toole, has got his act together, has more experience, or has his Liberal team working with ,rather than against him.

Ray Rivers, a Gazette Contributing Editor,  writes regularly applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was once a candidate for provincial office in Burlington.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.   Ray has a post graduate degree in economics that he earned at the University of Ottawa.  Tweet @rayzrivers



Return to the Front page