They should have given Marvelous Mike a nicer anniversary present.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  February 7, 2012    Now look at what you’ve done Mike.  The Dippers have called for a study on the inappropriate use of secret sessions at all of the federal government committees where legislation is studied, debated, altered and approved.  Had you not attempted to slip through a motion that would allow for those secret meetings the Dippers would never had known that the subject needed study.

And for this to happen on the anniversary of your being sworn in as a Member of the House of Commons in 2006 – well, this is a real let down.  With six years as an MP under your belt you now qualify for that deliciously fat federal pension – which is going to be kind of awkward to square when you meet with seniors later this month and tell them that you are bringing them some help with their income tax returns.  It is not easy being an MP – but you already know that.

Now for those readers who do not read what comes out of Ottawa every day – some background.

Burlington`s Conservative MP Mike Wallace tried to introduce a motion at the government operations committee, of which he is the vice chair, that would force the public to leave the room whenever the committee is determining such matters as which witnesses to call and what subjects to investigate.  Conservative MPs on other committees introduced similar motions.

Marvelous Mike explained at that time that witnesses at the government operations committee would still be heard in public.  “But then” he added “we go in camera to discuss who we are going to invite next and what study we are going to do, all that kind of stuff.  It gives members of Parliament an opportunity to speak frankly about what should be next for the committee to study.”  It also keeps the public from knowing anything about certain witnesses.

The Dippers were certain that the government was up to something and given that they are now the official opposition they felt they had to do something and because they didn’t know what to actually do – they opted to call for a study.

The federal New Democrats are trying to ensure that the Conservative government does not push the debate at Commons committees behind closed doors. Chris Charlton, the NDP Whip, introduced a motion Tuesday at the procedures and House affairs committee calling on the committee to begin a study of the “inappropriate” use of secret sessions at all of the committees where legislation is studied, debated, altered and approved.

“I think it’s really important that committees stay one of the accountable and transparent parts of Parliamentary process which they have always been,” Ms. Charlton said going in to the committee room.

“Unfortunately,” she said, “I think we have seen that the government members are increasingly anxious to move things in camera so that media can’t have access, Canadians can’t have access, and no one is sure what is happening behind closed doors.”

They were talking about you Marvelous Mike and I don`t think they were being very nice.  The least they could have done was congratulate you on the anniversary of your being sworn in as an MP – goodness knows, most of those Dippers aren’t going to make it to that, heaven on earth day, otherwise known as becoming eligible for a fat pension.  Most of them are one term members at best.

“For most Canadians, what happens inside committees is sort of insider baseball,” said Ms. Charlton. “But the reality is that when pensions, for example, are being debated in this House, Canadians have a stake in what happens. And by being able to makes submissions to committees, by having the media report about what’s happening in committees, they are informed about what this government is doing. It’s a critical part of accountability.”

Marc Garneau, a Liberal member of the procedures and House affairs committee, and by the way a former astronaut who was the first Canadian to go into space, said he agreed with Ms. Charlton.

The Committees should be “as public as we can be,” said Mr. Garneau. “There are a few occasions when it has to be in camera, but, as much as possible, the principle should be that it should not be in camera so the media and the public have maximum access.”




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Region and McMaster name JBMH as preferred site for Family Health Care: is Burlington really on side for this?

 By Pepper Parr

Burlington, Ont. –Jan. 26, 2012—McMaster University has selected Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital as the preferred site for the Halton McMaster Family Health Centre, the city, Halton Region, McMaster University and Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital (JBMH) announced jointly today.  Nice news, but notice the city of Burlington isn’t in that list of names.

Now, pay very close attention to the language used – the JBMH is their preferred site, which is a long mile away from being THE site.  The decision isn’t theirs to make – theirs being McMaster, the Region or the JBMH.

“This is an important announcement for Burlington, and demonstrates a partnership that is devoted to enhancing health care in our city,” Mayor Rick Goldring said today at the Burlington Convention Centre during his State of the City address. “Creating a teaching hospital here in Burlington will raise the quality of health care for the people of Burlington and provide a great complement to the redevelopment of Joseph Brant hospital.”

It might – but isn’t there going to be a teaching element at the new hospital being built in Oakville?  Does anyone really think that the province, who happen to be a little short of cash these days, is going to build a teaching hospital in Burlington?  Great if we can get it – but I don’t think it’s in the cards girls and boys.

The city and the region have committed $10 million to McMaster University as part of the Ron Joyce Centre, housing the DeGroote School of Business, on South Service Road.  This project included a commitment by McMaster to open a Halton McMaster Family Health Centre in downtown Burlington.

Well, McMaster has reneged on Burlington in the past (recall the plans – heck even an announcement and a sign saying parking lot # 4 on John Street was going to be the home of the McMaster/DeGroote School of Business – but somehow the buildings migrated a bit to the south and east of our downtown core.

The Oakville hospital is under construction. Their Foundation has raised more than $18 million. Staff have donated $675,000. JBMH doesn't even have a sign announcing their re-development. There is a drawing.

“One of the key initiatives in the Citizens’ Priorities – Halton Region’s 2011-2014 Action Plan is to attract new physicians to establish medical practices in Halton,” said Regional Chair Gary Carr. “A partnership such as this will help to bring new physicians to the Region, and give more residents access to a family doctor.”

The new Oakville hospital is under construction. Hamilton has two hospitals. Is the provincial government going to pay for a large new hospital when there are hospitals less than a 15 minute drive away? Tough to do when the province admits they don't have any money. There are more than 30 other communities looking for money to build hospitals. Milton is in desperate shape.

Doctors are going to come to Halton Mr. Carr but they will be settling in at the NEW Oakville Hospital where there is already a hole in the ground with a fixed price contract signed and more than $18 million raised buy their hospital foundation – of which more than $675, 000.00 came from the staff.

McMaster anticipates using two floors, and about 15,000 square feet (1,394 square metres), of Joseph Brant as part of the Phase 1 project.  All parties hope to be operational at Joseph Brant by the end of 2013.

These guys have taken the Liberal Party resolution to allow the public sale of marijuana too seriously and are clearly setting aside some of their allowance money to buy good weed and a little less on single malt.  McMaster wants those two floors of space and if they have to jerk the public around to get it – well tough on the public.  We’re talking turf here people, not to mention budgets.

“Although we are still working through our approval process, we know this location for the family health centre will be an excellent opportunity to strengthen our ties to Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital for the benefit of the hospital, the residents of Burlington and Halton and the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine,” said Dr. David Price, chair of the Department of Family Medicine at McMaster University. “This centre will also serve our expanding family medicine program in the Region.”

Pipe dreams, pipe dreams and terribly mis-leading.  2013? – they won’t even have a hole in the ground by then.

Dr. John Kelton, dean and vice-president of the Faculty of Health Sciences, added: “This is an important step of our move towards having learners from our medical school and many of our health science programs involved in health care throughout Halton.”

The site plan application for Phase 1 will be submitted to the city’s planning and building department in May. Public consultation will help the community better understand the plans at Joseph Brant.

Are these people assuming that the Memorandum of Understanding between the city of Burlington and the JBMH will be signed by May?  It’s been, what, five months in the making so far.  There are people on Burlington city council who don’t want as much as a dime moving out of the reserve fund that has something in excess of $4.8 million in it at the moment.  If one counts the votes on the Burlington city council – I don’t think there are enough to slip this one past the public.

If this Burlington city council gives the JBMH any of the money raised through a special tax levy and all the city has to show for it is a parking garage – every member of council is at risk of not being elected.  Burlington has put up with The Pier debacle and are going along with their Mayor and his decision to complete The Pier.  They will not go along with paying $60 million for a parking lot.

On Aug. 10, 2011, the province confirmed that the Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital re-development project is approved. This project, with a budget of more $300 million, will result in a significantly rejuvenated hospital.

You do recall dear readers that we were in the middle of a provincial election and the Liberals were going to say whatever they had to say to stay in office.  One of the things they said was that Burlington was going to get its hospital.  Recall too, that the Minister who was on her way to Burlington to deliver that good news didn’t make it.  She didn’t make it at the polls either – she lost her seat.

“We are very pleased to have the new Halton McMaster Family Health Centre on our hospital site,” said Dr. Dwight Prodger, Chief of Staff at Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital. “There will be many benefits to Burlington and area residents with the HMFHC being located here including improved access to family medicine and specialist physicians and it will also help increase the hospital’s ability to recruit and retain new physicians.”

They will be pleased as punch to get a teaching hospital settled in at the JBMH..  Using lines like “very pleased to have” suggests this is a done deal.  Go back to that headline – a teaching facility is their “preferred” location. 

The project will proceed in two Phases. The hospital will begin with an RFP process and tender on Phase 1 in 2012 and construction in 2013. Phase 2 will go through a similar process with the tender award in 2014.

This sounds a little like the early stages of The Pier – recall that there was a plan that called for a much larger pier but when the prices came in – well things got cut back a bit.  Expect lots of cutting back on this one as well.  It just might get cut right back to the tap root.

In December 2009, City Council approved a municipal contribution of $60 million for the proposed hospital redevelopment plan.  The city is working on a Memorandum of Understanding and contribution agreement with the hospital that will outline when and how Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital will receive the city funding.

This is true.  The when and how of those funds moving from the city’s bank account to the hospitals is far from settled.

The city began collecting $1.2 million in 2010 and 2011 through a special tax levy. City Council earmarked $2.4 million from previous years’ surpluses, and now has $4.8 million committed in a reserve fund earning interest. The tax levy amounts to $4 for each $100,000 of residential assessment.

This is also true but it doesn’t mean that we are going to see a teaching facility at the JBMH.

The city has shown leadership in committing $60 million for the hospital redevelopment, and taxpayers have confirmed they think this money should be spent on improving our community hospital.

This too is also true – more true is that city put their money where their mouths are.  The JBMH Foundation has yet to announce that they have raised as much as a dime.  They did have a nice group photo taken.

The Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital redevelopment  and expansion is a $300 million-plus project. The planned civic contribution is $120 million. The Joseph Brant Hospital Foundation has committed to raising $60 million through a fundraising campaign in addition to the city’s contribution of $60 million.

Nice statement but no announcement from the Hospital Foundation as to how much they have raised.  There are a number of traditional major donors who are keeping their cheque books in their pockets.  When the redevelopment of the hospital is real – they will write cheques.

A telephone survey by Ipsos Reid in November 2009 found strong public support for the hospital redevelopment project and for a municipal contribution. Ninety per cent of Burlington residents surveyed agreed the project was important, and 72 per cent of those surveyed were supportive of the project when told about the proposed $60 million municipal contribution.

So?  Can you imagine anyone saying they don’t want an improved hospital..  Burlington people are quite decent and they would see the need for the city to pay a portion.

Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital was built in 1961. The last major update and refurbishment was more than 40 years ago. The redevelopment of the hospital is expected to include: 10 new operating rooms, a new intensive care unit, 76 new in-patient beds, an enlarged and improved cancer unit, new diagnostic imaging and laboratory areas, enlarged parking facilities; and  an expanded outpatient surgical suite.

Those enlarged parking facilities are where the Burlington tax dollars are going to go.  Someone needs to put a hobble on all this.



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Mayor gives the business community his take on our economic health. “We are in good shape”. Really?

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  January 26, 2012  He managed to get through a 25 minute speech without once saying a word about The Pier,  but did tell the Burlington Chamber of Commerce, State of the City audience that the city is in good shape.

Mayor Rick Goldring chose to point to the opportunities and left his audience with the impression that the challenges we have are all manageable without detailing just what those challenges are.  The deficit the city faces with its infrastructure; the very real political problems he faces with the re-development of the Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital, where he has to front $60 million of the $300 million cost and hope that he can survive the damage when the province doesn’t come through with their portion of the funding in 2014 – which is an election year for the Mayor.  Goldring opened the kimono just a little when he said: “…we didn’t anticipate the timing of the announcement or the fact that the city taxpayers along with donours have to front end $60 million each over the next six years.”  Mr. Mayor, if the provincial government does it to you once – you just know they are going to at least try to do it to you again, so don’t bend over.

Old Lakeshore precinct continues to be "the jewel" that has yet to find a crown.

No mention was made of the opportunity to play a leading role in the development of the Mainway Beach west of Spencer Smith Park, that has been languishing for more than a decade.  That opportunity, to do some significant and very innovative development in that part of the city, looks as if it is going to get away from us and be in the hands of the Conservation Authority, because Burlington hasn’t come forward with any solid plans or initiatives.  The Waterfront Advisory Committee has let the city down terribly on this one.  It had the opportunity to develop and present some creative ideas that would offer some solutions to make much more out of the western beach and the Old Lakeshore precinct.  The Mayor can’t do it all.

While things appear to be under control with the plans the province had to ram a road right through Lowville, the fact is that the Minister who told the Mayor that the road would not be built is no longer the Minister responsible for transportation.  Saying “we are committed to keep our 50/50 rural urban split, meaning that all new development must occur south of the Dundas-407 corridor” is one thing.  Putting a stake through the heart of the idea of an Escarpment highway is another matter.  The Mayor is going to have to rely on rookie MP Jane McKenna to ensure that we don’t get horn swoggled by the province should they try to argue that Burlington is going to have to take it on the chin for the greater good of the province and all those jobs that will result in trucks being able to roar across the Escarpment with products bound for the U S of A.

Thordon Bearings, a Burlington based technology company with a bullet proof vest made out of patents and trade secrets. Burlington could use a few more of these.

The American economy is in such poor shape that Burlington would be better selling products to China and India.  We would be even better off if we could create intellectual property industries and sell ideas and technology to South America and some of the developing countries.  Thordon Bearings and EcoSynthetix are great examples of what we are capable of – and at that level Mayor Goldring was dead on when he talked about the opportunities for on-going executive education at the McMaster DeGroote School on the South Service Road.  The disappointing point the Mayor made was that less than 4% of the McMaster business students who do a co-op program – there were in excess of 140 of them in 2011 – worked with Burlington based companies.  This city is letting top notch talent work on co-op programs with companies outside of the city – probably our competitors.  We should be and could be providing at least 20% of those students with co-op opportunities.  Not because we want to give them work experience but because we want to be able to pick their brains and use their developing skills and energy.  They  just might find a future vice president as well.

Burlington has been on the cusp of breaking through an economic barrier for a number of years but the city doesn’t have any class A office space.  Hopes have reigned supreme for more than a decade for the development of some first class office space.  Goldring told his audience there are three major development applications approved several years ago – but there are no shovels in the ground yet.  Can he use a cattle prod to get something moving on this? Someone is going to have to get very creative and put together a development in the downtown core that involves the federal and provincial governments who will take some space in a new building to ensure it is economically feasible for the first five years.  You know the phrase – if you build a better mousetrap they will come – but you have to put some cheese in that mousetrap.  We seem to have forgotten that.

Is Brant street going to see some class A office space or will it always be retail that is consistently challenged to be viable?

An appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board for a change to the Official Plan that would allow for more height on property at Brant and James Street favoured the developer who can now put up seven floors as of right and can ask for an additional three floors.  The understanding within the Planning department is that the developer will make it a mixed use building with retail on the ground floor and both residential and commercial above that.  The developer used the same model for another development five or six blocks north on Brant and one block east where a 17 story building, a parking garage and a smaller structure that hopes to attract medical practitioners.

The city’s heritage problems didn’t get as much as a mention but the Performing Arts Centre got the favourable comments it has gotten since the day it opened.  However, no one is saying anything about what the revenue and expense number for the BPAC look like.

The Mayor did announce one very interesting program that is just being launched.  InnovateBurlington is an intern program that was put together by an advisory committee that saw the need for an innovative, entrepreneurial community of graduate students who could gain some meaningful work experience during which they would develop strategic projects for local corporations.  Burlington needs a little more ginger in its commercial diet.

Innovate Burlington is a partnership between the BEDC, the city, the Chamber of Commerce, The Centre for Skills Development and Training and McMaster University.  These were the founding forces that took part of Rick Goldring’s election platform and grew it to the point where it was ready to be made operational and given to the BEDC to operate at least during the early stages.

Serious problems with retaining the really significant heritage homes in the city weren’t addressed.  We can’t be a world class city if we ignore and demolish the important heritage homes.  A city that forgets its roots will, like a tree, eventually topple over.  Freeman Station is still out there waiting to be saved.

Mayor Goldring tells Chamber of Commerce audience that he is just taking care of business.

Mayor Goldring is developing as a speaker.  For some reason he came across as a little rushed this morning – sounded as if he needed to get all the words out before people left the room to get to their offices.  Public speaking can, and should be, entertaining.  It has a pace of its own and hopefully over time Goldring will develop a style that is a little less rushed.  As for content and style it had a line that will certainly get picked up by others and I think you can expect to see it in his campaign literature.  He said the 21st century is going to be about the ability to learn, unlearn and relearn.  He can put that on a T shirt and win an election on it.  And make no mistake about it – short of a calamity, Goldring is a two term Mayor and maybe even three.   Based on what we have seen so far from this man – we should be so lucky.

Whenever you talk to someone who has lived in Burlington for more than ten years you will hear again and again how great a city this is to live in.  It does have great geography going for it – but it doesn’t have much in the way of buzz going for it.

We talk about the high tech, high paying jobs we want to attract.  The people who do the innovative thinking at work need a city that is innovative, fresh, growing with at least some excitement in it.  Goldring clearly underlined that point when he said: “the state of a city is an attitude, a feeling, a level of confidence about how things are going”.  We are confident – are we complacent as well?



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The twisted tale about the size of the pay cheque and the paying for a parking lot garage.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  December 28, 2011  –  In the world of politics it is called getting ahead of the parade.  When there is some news you know is going to create some controversy,  you get out in front of it and do your best to control it, put it in context and frame it with as much positive data as you can.  Smart people do that –they work at creating the agenda rather than being the agenda.

Come Tuesday of next week, Eric Vandewall and others at the Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital (JBMH) will be the agenda when what they are paid each year is made public.  The province decided some time ago that what hospital administrators are paid is public information and can be learned through a simple access to information request.

Several local media then gave the JBMH a call a few days before Christmas and asked – “well just how much are you paying the lad?” and were told that the media would have to wait until January 3rd, which is what the rules call for.  All the hospitals in the Burlington-Hamilton area got together and agreed that they would all release the numbers at the same time.  In the commercial world that’s called collusion and if they were selling something we would call it price fixing, but I digress.

Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital CEO Eric Vandewall is about to tell us what he gets paid annually. He didn't volunteer this information.

Hospital administrators are paid with tax dollars and Ontario has for some time made the salaries of those paid by the taxpayers public information.  It has been called the Sunshine list and is released each year.

The public relations people at JBMH had an excellent opportunity to be seen as complying openly and willingly with the new rule – but instead of doing that they decided to drag their feet and leave the impression that they really don’t want you to know – and come Monday they will be the news story of the day unless there is a natural disaster somewhere in the world.

I have always wondered why intelligent, highly paid people do such stupid things.  It’s kind of scary when you think about it.  They don’t seem to be able to think much beyond the end of their noses or they are far too focused on their own self-interests – either way – scary.

These are the people we pay very well to make good decisions on our behalf and when they behave like this – stalling for what amount to less than two weeks one wonders – why?

A positive news story would state what Vandewall is paid and then put it in context with say what the city manager is paid ($214,000+ for the last one) and what the President of McMaster University is paid and then look for what some of the publicly traded companies are paying their CEO’s.  Help the public see and appreciate the value we taxpayers are getting for the dollars that go into their pockets.

The medical community has always had a rather high level of arrogance about it.  One had to just watch Vandewall when he last appeared before city council.  He wanted money the city had set aside as its share for the re-build of the hospital and the sooner the better was the message he was sending.  Vandewall told council that the hospital Foundation would match what the city was putting up, $60 million of your dollars over a six year period.  Add the city’s $60 million to what the hospital Foundation was committed to raising and you have a handy $120 million.

Hospital Foundation Board - needs to raise $60 million. So far has only managed to get their picture taken. Nice picture though.

Problem is the Foundation has yet to raise a dime, at least they haven’t reported any funds being raised but they did have a nice picture taken of themselves.  In due course the Foundation will raise its share but right now the hospital needs to lay its hands on some cash so the early prep work for the eventual re-build of the hospital can get done.

One of the first layers of that work is the building of a parking garage.  Why a parking garage first?  The hospital has to clear some land that will be used to add the new extensions to the hospital and they need a place to put the cars currently parked on the hospital lot.  So, they thought, why not get the city of Burlington to pass along some of the money needed to build the garage.

Parking space - someone has to come up with the money to pay for a parking garage so that these cars have a place to go. Burlington city council isn't very keen on city money being used to pay for a hospital parking lot.

Not so fast, say the folks at city hall. Before as much as a dime of city money goes to the hospital,  the Memorandum of Understanding (or whatever they are going to call the document that sets out who gets what and who does what) has to be signed.  That document has been in the negotiation/development stage for more than four months now.  Ward 3 Councillor John Taylor is keeping a very close eye on this one – he’s not about to see a big chunk of the city’s money get used to pay for a hospital parking garage. Taylor was heard to mutter something about maybe having the parking lot revenue go to the city.

All the Senior people at City Hall get their names published in the Annual Sunshine list (Its officially known as the Public Sector Salary Disclosure Act),  if they earn more than $100,000.  The list comes out early in August – we’ll see that you get a copy.  Eric Vandewall earns well in excess of $100,000; he may well be the best paid civil servant in the city, an accolade he isn’t going to want to wear on his lapel.

Hospital CEO Eric Vandewall stalling for time while waiting for a provincial government Minister to show up to announce that the hospital re-build would be funded. The Minister never arrived. This isn't the last time the provincial government is going to let the CEO down.

Good talent has to be paid the going rate and there are not a lot of exceptional hospital administrators in the province.  Vandewall was brought in to clean up a real mess and it would appear that he is doing a very good job at what he is being paid a very good salary to do.  The public needs to appreciate that his job is to get the new hospital Burlington has wanted for some time built – and the faster the better.

Part of the problem is that the kind of hospital Vandewall is beavering away to get built down on Lakeshore Road may not be the kind of hospital Burlington needs for its aging population.  There is reason to believe that Burlington might be much better served with a community type hospital and have Hamilton and Oakville handle the type of medical situations that calls for the high tech/emergency level care.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the needs of our aging population are probably not best met with the type of hospital JBMH is slated to be rebuilt into.  What is best for the city is not yet clear but no one seems to want to ask the question: What kind of hospital is going to meet the needs of our changing demographic and at the same time meet the needs of the current growing population.  But there isn’t a politician in this city who is going to stand up and ask that question publicly.  It would be really interesting to hear what people within the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care think is best for Burlington long term.

He has to do this job and get it done while working with a government that seldom tells him the truth and happens to be broke and isn’t likely to come through with the money needed to do the rebuild.  Eric Vandewall has a very tough five years in front of him.  He isn’t going to be able to do what he was hired to do – through no fault of his own.

So he looks at the pile of cash Burlington is sitting on and looks for ways to get it out of the city’s bank account and into the hospital’s.   Good luck Mr. Vandewall.  There happens to be a wily old coot sitting at that Council table and he isn’t at all keen on seeing city money used to pay for the building of a parking garage.  Part of the garage ? – probably.

When they all learn what you’re being paid – they are going to make you work very hard for every dollar of it.


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Health policy analyst cool on the idea of a JBMH upgrade; advocates for community based health delivery instead.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  November 26, 2011  –  Burlington`s Strategic plan calls for the city to set aside $10 million a year for the next six years to pay for a part of the upgrading of the Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital which the province has promised would take place in 2013.  The Mayor`s Inspire series speaker last week seemed to suggest that an upgraded hospital was not what Burlington needed.

Globe and Mail health columnist Andre Picard, an eminent policy analyst in the health field and the recipient of numerous awards including the Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service Journalism, the Canadian Policy Research Award, the Atkinson fellowship for public policy research and the Centennial Prize of the Pan American Organization. He was named Canada’s first Public Health Hero by the Canadian Public Health Association and was honoured as a champion of mental health. He is a four-time finalist for the National Newspaper Awards.  In other words he is thought of as someone who knows what he is talking about.  So when he suggests that upgrading of the Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital was not necessarily the best thing to do with the limited resources available we might want to sit up and listen.

Andre Picard, a noted authority on heath services policy and lead columnist for the Globe & Mail was just a little cool to the idea of a new hospital for Burlington at the Mayor's Inspire series last week.

Picard outlined the need for community delivered health services which led to Our Burlington asking Mr. Picard this question:  If you are calling for a community based system to deliver health service because that is more cost effective delivery and better health – then does Burlington need a major upgrade to the Joseph Brant Memorial hospital ?

Picard equivocated a bit with his answer when he said it would depend on there being hospitals close at hand that could deliver the kind of service that only a hospital can provide and then added that he thought an upgraded hospital in Burlington was probably a good thing, more or less.  More or less?  That wasn’t exactly a ringing endorsement was it?

Using his criteria – one could argue (and the provincial government might well do that)  that there are excellent hospitals in Hamilton and Oakville which are a very short ambulance drive away.  You can get to a Hamilton  hospital from Lowville faster than you can get to JBMH.

Does Burlington then need an upgrade to its hospital?  Asking that question in this city and you have really put the fat in the fire.  All three candidates in the recent provincial election swore on their Mother’s graves that they would fight mightily to have the province give a firm commitment – with a date attached to it – guaranteeing that our hospital would get the upgrade it needs and which we were promised.

And now we hear from one of the best thinkers in the country suggesting that a new hospital in Burlington might not be what’s best for the community.  Isn’t that ducky?

We know the province doesn’t have any money, and we know that our economy is getting more wobbly every week.  But no one at the provincial level is suggesting that Burlington might want to look at a different model to meet the needs of its aging population.

The city did, what it thought was best, and what the province required them to do, and that was put up $10 million a year for six years to pay for a portion of the cost of the upgrade, we have been told was totally necessary.

The city and the hospital are still working out how the $60 million the city is going to put into the kitty will be spent.  At this point it looks like the city’s money will be used to pay for the building of a parking lot, because the space now being used to park cars is needed for the expansion that is planned.  The city hasn’t written the cheque yet – maybe they want to put a hold on it and ask the hospital to sit with them and take another look at the plans.

Andre Picard, speaker at the Mayor's Inspire series has given Mayor Goldring much to think about, when he came out as less than enthusiastic about the planned JBMH upgrade.

That will take a level of political courage that is seldom seen.

The long term outlook for a new hospital in Burlington just might need a real hard look before we do something really dumb.  Added to Picard’s  Wednesday evening comments, were remarks made in the provincial Legislature on Thursday, where an NDP member read out the list of hospital upgrades the province is talking about – more than 20 of them.  In the economy we are in it just can`t happen.  And someone needs to begin to be much more honest with the people who live here, pay the taxes and expect the public health services they need

Every candidate in the last provincial election said they would ensure that we got the hospital upgrade – what wasn’t asked was – do we need a hospital upgrade?  Every candidate said, what they thought you wanted to hear.  Not one of them had done their homework.  One of them, Liberal candidate Karmel Sakran, used to sit on the hospital board and was as close to the center of political power as one can get – and he never suggested, that perhaps the hospital model we are working within is the wrong model.

All the candidates just mouthed, what they thought the voters wanted to hear.  Should the province decide that Burlington is not the place for a large expensive hospital, and that we should have a number of community care centres spread throughout the city – – just wait for the political howling.

JBMH president Eric Vandewall might want to have lunch with Inspire speaker and noted authority on public health service delivery and talk about the best form of public insitution to meet the needs of the community. Mayor Goldring might want to sit in on that lunch - even pick up the tab if some sensible thinking comes out of the meal.

Picard`s comments suggest that Burlington might not have made the smartest move.  Is the city – that means both the citizens, its city council and the senior hospital staff plus the Board of Directors – courageous enough to ask the hard questions  like, is this really the best thing for the city and its citizens?

One would hope that the Mayor would take the opportunity to have dinner with Picard and ask some hard-nosed questions.  Maybe even ask for some advice as well on how we determine what is best for the city.  In the meantime, don’t write the cheque that would deliver the $20 million plus  sitting in the bank.

Let’s be absolutely sure we are doing what is best for the community and not just what’s best for the medical community who would love to have a shiny new building.


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City Solicitor’s dance card filling up – Council to hear legal strategy December 14th ; will she ask Council to go into closed session?

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON November 16, 2011 – It was a Community Services Committee meeting; that meant Scott Stewart was on deck and that meant an Update on The Pier. It was short – less than 50 words actually – which meant there was nothing really happening and Stewart suggested that perhaps Pier Updates could be dispensed with.  ‘Not so fast laddie’ was the response he got to that idea.  Councillor Dennison said there “was significant enough concern” in the community and that putting out the report lets people “at least know there is something going on”.  Meed Ward chimed in saying she was supportive of continuing the updates at every second Community  Services meeting. “It is not a lack of trust” commented Meed Ward. “Things do happen, things did happen.  This is a prudent course.”

Then Meed Ward upped the ante a bit and asked when there might be some information on how much money has been spent on lawyers and what the legal strategy was going to be regarding the Pier going forward.

Stewart, along with Acting City Manager Kim Philips, advised the committee they could expect something at the December 14th committee meeting.  Meed Ward wanted more than an ‘expect something’ but the best she could get was that there would be some material on what the strategy should be on releasing information about legal costs but there would be no numbers.

General Manager Scott Stewart on the left and Councillor Meed Ward second from the right (Helen Wallihura in the middle) This is not the last time Meed Ward will be using hand gestures to communicate with Stewart.

Meed Ward and Stewart bantered back and forth on what exactly the committee was going to get.  “All expenses on the Pier” asked Meed Ward – “No,”, responded Scott Stewart. ” there will be an overview and discussion around a strategy then discussion around the costs.”  It was like pulling teeth from a hen.  It was clear that staff really didn’t want to talk about this and equally clear that Meed Ward did want to talk about how much money had been spent suing the various parties that were involved with the building of the Pier during what is now called Phase 1.

Staff kept talking about looking for a strategy within which they could then release specific financial data on the Pier.  How much are you prepared to bet that much of this “strategy” stuff will get discussed in closed session?

One got the sense that staff (city solicitor Nancy Shea Nicol was not at the meeting) wanted to say as little as possible but that cat was out of the bag and Meed Ward wasn’t going to put it back in.

Ward 4 Councillor Jack Dennison made an important point when he advised the committee Wednesday evening, that Burlington has not been involved in any construction related litigation in more than 17 years – which made the announced attendance of city solicitor Nancy Shea-Nicol at a December 14th committee meeting all the more interesting because the city now has law suits being pressed on a number of corporations that were involved in the design and phase one construction of  The Pier.

The city has brought in outside legal counsel – understood to be Weir & Foulds, a Toronto law firm that has been a leader in municipal matters, advising on every step they take.  The city has also had a law firm overseeing the procurement of material for the second phase of The Pier.  Ms Shea-Nicol must spend the better part of a day each month approving invoices that several members of council are just itching to know what the total amount is on the invoice.

Councillor Meed Ward made The Pier an election issue during her campaign for public office and she now wants to know just how much the city has spent on legal services.  She had wanted the city to go back to the original contractor and work out the problems with Henry Schilthuis and Sons, (HSS) but the city decided not to “kiss and make up” nor did they like the look of the offer Schilthuis insurance company put on the table.

The real legal issue that is costing the city a small fortune is these steel beams which were found to be defective after a crane accident during phase 1 construction. Councillor Meed Ward wants to know how much the city has spent on legal costs and the city solicitor doesn't want to tell her - yet.

The completion of the Pier, for an additional $5.8 million, is now in the hands of Graham Infrastructure, who now have a construction trailer on the site and may soon begin removing all the deficient steel that is in place and have things ready for the new ‘up to spec’ steel that will be available sometime in the spring.

Shea-Nicol, the Director of Legal Services as well as Solicitor for the city and was once a planner who, in the words of the city’s Director of Planning Bruce Kruszelnicki, moved to the “dark side” and took on “robes” which are not made of silk but perhaps that honour will come her way in the future.  She certainly understands the need for a strategy but does tend to keep every scrap of information that crosses her desk tucked into a drawer or a brief case she locks.  The idea that a public has to be informed if they are to make responsible decisions seems to evade her.  The view seems to be that ‘we the lawyers know best’ which is fine but there is an obligation to let your client know what you are doing and why – and the client is the city council but is not just the city council. The people who pay the taxes have a big interest in all this.

In the meantime Shea-Nicol will battle with council and say as little as possible until she is absolutely certain the city has kept its powder dry and is ready to negotiate the best possible settlement for the city.  Let’s just hope the parties on the other side don’t come across anything during the ‘examination for discovery’ sessions that could jeopardize the city’s claim.

While the Director of Legal Services will put forth a strategy which council will debate – it is the city council that decides what it wants to do – yes of course with advice from the legal counsel, but one would hope that common sense would prevail and that respect for the taxpayers would be top of mind.

This council has a tendency to believe that everything their lawyers tell them is exactly what they should be doing – and that is not responsible local government by any stretch of the imagination.  A council has an obligation to fully inform its citizens and to call to account in-house lawyers who might be in thrall to colleagues who are with large prestigious firms in Toronto. Burlington’s city council has kept information on the cost of this legal mess from the public for far too long.


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The member for Burlington in a position to make history for province and city by crossing the floor.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON October 7, 2011  – We said at the beginning of this election that for the Liberals to win the Tory voters had to sit on their hands and some of the New Democrats had to hold their noses and vote Liberal.  Neither of those things happened in Burlington and the city is basically where it was when this all started – a women representing the riding who is younger than the one we have and in need of a mentor to show her the way around the Legislature.

The Lady Jane is on her own now – even though there are people who know Queen`s Park exceptionally well,  who talk of mentoring Jane McKenna, she would be wise to seek her own counsel an not let any of those who have been that route take her under their wing.

It was our view that McKenna was woefully unqualified for the job she now has, but she is the member for Burlington and we accept the will of the voters.

McKenna could of course make a name for herself and change the course of history in Ontario by giving Dalton McGuinty a call and crossing the floor of the Legislature to sit as a Liberal.  The party would be grateful and groom her as a parliamentary secretary and promise that if she could learn that job she would be made a junior cabinet minister in a couple of years.

The Legislature needs to elect a Speaker.  The Liberals just have to sit tight and not put up any candidates and let the other parties fight it out for the job. The Speaker doesn`t vote – except in a tie vote but if The Lady Jane crosses the floor there will never be any tie votes. McGuinty would have the government he needs to run the province the way it needs to be run for four more years.

Laura Secord, who came from a part of the province just to the west of Burlington,  and look at what she did for the province ?  Possibilities here Jane.  Think about it.

Assuming you do cross the floor,  you would do so on the condition that McGuinty give you an unconditional guarantee that the hospital will be funded – do that and you`ll have the seat until you are well into your eighties.  You might manage to beat Hazel McCallion`s record for political longevity.

Give Regional Chair Gary Carr a call, he was once the Speaker at Queen’s Park,  – he`ll tell you what you have to do to cross the floor.  He`ll forgive you changing your political colours if you get the hospital for Burlington.  While you`re at it – ensure as well that roads don`t get built through the Escarpment – and gosh they just might put up a statue of you somewhere in Spencer Smith Park.

We are looking at a possible Great Moments in Ontario history here Lady Jane.

Minority governments have worked for Ontario before and with a strong enough Liberal government in place to put up a good Cabinet things will go well for the province.  Ted McMeekin may well get a phone call from the Office of the Premier and be asked to return to Cabinet now that Sophia Aggelonitis is no longer a member of the Legislature.  She took a real drubbing whereas Ted McMeekin did just fine up against a very popular public personality.

The Liberal government of course does have a situation on its hands.  It didn`t  quite have a majority when things settled down for the evening and everyone went home.  There might be some recounts, there might be a seat that slips from one side to the other but that isn`t something the Liberals want to count on.

Ted Chudleigh, representing the northern part of the city is going to have to cultivate his soil a little more attentively – don`t think he expect Indira Naidoo-Harris to do quite as well as she did.  Chudleigh is an old hand at the game and if he polishes the apples a little more and delivers something for his riding he should be all right next time around.

Redistribution, which will be in place for the next federal election and if this new Ontario government can stay alive for a four year term that redistribution will apply to the province – so both Halton and Burlington will see changes in their boundaries for the next election.

And that next time could be sooner than we want.  If we end up with a minority government its days will be numbered.  We have a very spunky leader of the New Democratic Party in place and she is going to make Tim Hudak, who will be Leader of the Opposition, wonder at times if he really has that job.  Andrea Horwath has found her mojo and she won`t be doing any backing down.

Tim Hudak has some serious re-thinking to do on some of the positions he took during the election.  Ontario has a number of very serious financial problems to deal with.   This is not the time for the Opposition to be obstructionist.

But it could be the time for a woman who does have one very strong personality trait going for her – the woman has chutzpah – this is time to let it really work for you, for the city and the province Jane McKenna.

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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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Dreadful, is being polite. Not one of the candidates roused any interest or enthusiasm. Surely Burlington can do better than this.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  September 27, 2011  The Chamber of Commerce web site said “No walk ins” – implying that if you hadn’t reserved a seat you were out of luck because the place was full.  A busload of people could have walked in and the room still wouldn’t have been full.  The event was the first time Burlington has seen all three candidates in the provincial election at the same podium.  Maybe the rain dampened everyone’s enthusiasm to see what the political choices were.

The soup was on the thin side.  The only time there were any amusing answers was when the issue of a gas fired generating plant was mentioned and all three candidates came back with a “not on my watch”.  The question was – given that Oakville has turned down a gas fired energy plant and now that Mississauga has said they don’t want the thing either could Burlington be home for the plant?   And that was about as exciting as it got.

Liberal candidate Karmel Sakran, out on his third all candidate event but his first with Progressive Conservative Jane McKenna didn’t make it.  New Democrat Peggy Russell was on point and her energy was certainly evident,  but this was a Chamber of Commerce crowd and they tend not to want to hear about the poor and the suffering.  McKenna held her own.

The questions were a lot better than the answers that were given and because of the format – you wrote out a question and it was asked of each candidate in a rotating order – you had the table with the Tory supporters writing out questions and having them asked – then the Liberal supporters would do the same thing.

The predictable answers to the question of raising the minimum wage: Liberals have  already raised it, Conservatives would leave it where it is and the NDP saying it had to be raised because it wasn’t even keeping up with inflation.

Burlington’s conservatives are still at that point where they believe that keeping wages at the minimum level keeps the costs down – they’ve yet to learn that if the minimum wage is raised people have more money to spend which results in higher sales.  They will get it over time.

What was disturbing, and I mean really disturbing, was the way all three candidates would dive into their briefing books to look for the party position on the question they had been asked.  McKenna didn’t seem to be able to get through a question without referring to her briefing book,  Karmel Sakran wasn’t much better and even Peggy Russell had to refer to her notes.

At times the candidates seemed to be racing through what they were reading to ensure that they didn’t get caught by the time keeper.

One of the questions late in the event was to “put the scripts aside and tell us why you want the job”  McKenna came back with why she went after the job – which just wasn’t true.  The Progressive Conservatives recruited her when they couldn’t find anyone else or didn’t like those who had put their names forward. McKenna got talked into the job, she was originally the campaign manager for Rene Papin who withdrew when the PC association asked him to do so.

McKenna then said something that was surprising.  She said that the “severity of where we are is not understood” by most people and then added that she was “overwhelmed by how much she didn’t know”.  To her credit McKenna has learned a lot – she had a lot to learn but she is more than ‘hanging in there’.  She is earning her spurs.  For a period of time she had chosen to be a peek-a-boo candidate.  She would go to events that were safe for her.  Her handlers should have let her out of the bubble they had her in earlier.  She may not be steeped in all this political stuff but she is learning and punching above her weight.

This was an event that Karmel Sakran should have taken hands down.  He is the most qualified candidate for provincial office, and he is said to be one of the best candidates the Liberals have had for some time.  He is a local boy who has done very well and has done more than his share in terms of community service.  But the room he spoke to Tuesday morning was a room that was not moved by Karmel Sakran.  He wasn’t able to move the words he read off the page.  I am sure he is just as disappointed as his supporters.

There was very little spontaneity and even less passion from any of the candidates.  During the last federal all candidates meeting and the municipal event almost a year ago I don’t recall seeing candidates sitting there with briefing books.  It was absolutely amazing to watch each candidate flip to the appropriate page in their briefing book.

The concern going in was – would McKenna show up.  And of course she had to show up and while her performance was passable at best she looked pretty good because the others just weren’t all that good.

Cogeco Cable had three cameras set up in the room – if they broadcast any of what they filmed they will surely be in the running for one of the worst public service performances ever put on by candidates for public office.  It was dreadful.

Peggy Russell kept having problems with the time allocation.  The Chamber of Commerce had a time keeper who would hold up a yellow care signifying that you were about to run out of time and a red card saying you were out of time and you got cut off.  Russell should have learned that when she saw yellow she had to say five more words of which the last two should have been thank you.

Sakran, a lawyer by training, droned on several times as he read from his briefing book – for a man of his experience that just wasn’t acceptable.

If you were an executive with a large corporation and you had asked Human Resources to advertise a job and send you their top three candidates and you interviewed each one of them – you would have asked Human Resources to run the ad again.  The first batch just weren’t all that good – with the possible exception of Peggy Russell who would be out there fighting the good fight.


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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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So far a very quiet campaign – does that mean the minds are made up?

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON September 19, 2011 – At the half-way point – no political party is losing the race but no one is winning it yet either. The citizens seem to be burnt out with the federal and municipal elections during the past 10 months. Very, very few lawn election signs and those are the ones that count.

During a two hour drive about the city we counted less than 50 signs for all three parties. McKenna had 21, Sakran 13 and Russell 4. We didn’t count the signs outside campaign offices nor did we count those clearly on commercial. We went looking for those individual homes in places like the Queensway community, south of the QEW and west of Guelph Line where McKenna had support that surprised us.

What is confusing is this: Each political party must have at least a couple of hundred members, that is people who pay their dues annually, and we wondered why those members did not have signs on their lawns. They wouldn’t say no if asked. Does this suggest that the political parties are so poorly organized that they don’t have a sign crew that gets out and puts signs on lawns. Or are political signs on lawns passé?

Clearly there is no excitement about the election. It’s going to take place and the people of Burlington seem to be comfortable with that and on election day – they will trot out to the polls and cast a ballot. Will we see another less than 50% turnout?

Province wide – no one candidate has scored big points. They have all made significant points and there is a clear difference between what Dalton McGuinty and his Liberals are prepared to do to help immigrants, with credentials that are not recognized, get a job. The Progressive Conservatives see this as unfair and point to the 50,000 Ontarians who are unemployed. The philosophical differences between the two parties is perhaps most clear on this issue.

What will it mean in Burlington? Jane McKenna, the Burlington Progressive candidate was very vocal on this one and managed to put both feet in her mouth and have Burlington described as home to the Conservative lunatic fringe.

Karmel Sakran didn’t goof to the same degree but he did suggest that if the downloading deal the municipalities have with the provincial government is ended by the Progressive Conservative government, we will all experience financial hardship as the result of the $168. increase in our property taxes. That increase would amount to 50 cents a day – not exactly financial hardship territory.

Political campaigns do bring out the hyperbole and exaggeration. It all needs to be taken with many grains of salt.

Both Karmel Sakran, the Liberal candidate and Peggy Russell, running under the NDP banner, are seen in the community and their organizations pump out press releases every day. McKenna seems to have withdrawn a bit and is running what is called a “bubble campaign”, which is when the candidate goes to places where the reception will be pleasant and no one asks hard questions. The Progressive Conservative campaign now has a small recreational trailer that drives about the city. They haven’t issued any press releases at least nothing we saw

If the Tories are to retain the seat they must hold their traditional vote and that means getting McKenna in front of every Tory they can find that is still breathing. If they can keep the traditional base – they should be able to retain the seat.

Sakran’s strategy was to be seen by the conservative community in Burlington as a moderate they can trust and, given the way McKenna has mismanaged her campaign so far, many conservatives may choose to sit on their hands October 6th or actually vote for a Liberal.

Less than three weeks to go. The two all candidate meetings will let the community see how McKenna stands up to Russell who is well briefed and can be forceful. It should be interesting to watch her. Sakran, who is equally well briefed, but we’ve yet to see him in a forum where he has to perform under some pressure.




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So what do we know at the end of the first week of electioneering for the Burlington seat at Queen’s Park?

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON September 12. 2011 End of the first week – and where are we in the provincial election? Well it is getting a little heated.

The biggest event was the visit to the Liberal campaign offices by the Premier. The campaign office was packed – and it wasn’t exactly a small office. A number of Tories were seen in the crowd. Liberal candidate Karmel Sakran was ecstatic.

Then there was the war of words over the immigrant job tax credit of $10,000. That was part of the Liberal platform. McKenna came out swinging on that one and managed to make a couple of solid points.

Where is the race going? The Liberals certainly have the best campaign at this point but they have been gearing up for some time and their candidate has been in place for months whereas the New Democrats have had their girl in place for less than a month while the Progressive Conservatives were a last minute nomination situation.

The Liberals however cannot win this seat without pulling some support from the traditional New Democratic base and that base is still very solid – more so since the tragic and untimely death of national New Democratic leader Jack Layton. The NDP locally still hopes for a bit of that orange wave to work itself into the provincial campaign, not likely, and then to have some of it seep into the Burlington campaign – very unlikely. However their base will hold and they may succeed in pulling back those who voted NDP in the past.

The Liberals appear to have woken up their base. It has always been around, part of the Paddy Torsney legacy. But if the Liberals hope to make this riding Liberal red they are going to have to attract some of the softer NDP vote and hope that the Progressive Conservative base continues to sit on its hands. Have you noticed that the Liberals aren’t using the bright vivid red of the past – more of a wine colour.

The Progressive Conservative base is unhappy. They did not like the way Tory headquarters in Toronto kind of imposed a candidate on them – but they have only themselves to blame for that debacle. Had they managed to develop a really solid local candidate the Toronto PC’s would have left them alone. Joyce Savoline, the current member of the Legislature for Burlington, didn’t leave the new candidate anything in terms of an election organization. She has been out on the campaign trail with McKenna and Ted Chudleigh, the member for Halton, which includes part of Burlington has shared events with McKenna while she learns the ropes.

The nomination mess has left a bit of a bad taste in the mouths of the quieter stories in town. There is nothing a political party likes more than a local constituency organization that has money in the bank and a local favourite with a good profile. Brian Heagle thought he had that to offer but he brought too much political baggage with him. Rene Papin was certainly a “good old boy” – having been a past president of the association, but for reasons that are not yet clear Papin was sort of asked to step aside. Could it have been his being a man of colour? Karmel Sakran wants to hope that if that was the case that the Tories were dead wrong?

Does Burlington want just white people representing them? Rude question perhaps but a question that the people of this city want to ask themselves.

McKenna to her credit appears to be putting up a stiff fight and talking back very loudly but then Jane McKenna has always been a very “in your face” person. If will take another week to figure out if she is more soundly briefed then when we first talked to her. If she is – look out folks. This is a driven woman.

A bit too early to tell if the lawn signs are really an indicator of support. Every political party has friends with commercial property that are made available for signs – those are expected. It is the lawns signs on the residential streets that tell the tale. If those Tory blue signs don’t sprout up quickly – that would suggest the base is going to sit on their hands and that would mean the end of a reign that started in 1943.




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Salt with Pepper: Community Student Threat-Assessment Training? They’re not kidding.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON September 10, 2011 – I guess it’s something we have to do – but these are our children and that we have to train people to see what we as parents sometimes do not see – a very disturbed child that chooses to act out and harm members of the community.

A media release from the Halton Regional Police Service explained that ” in conjunction with the Halton District School Board, Halton Catholic District School Board, Conseil scolaire Viamonde, Conseil Scolaire de district catholique Centre-Sud and the Provincial Schools Branch (Milton), continues to provide its staff and community partners with exceptional training in the field of student threat assessment.”

People are being taught to assess and interview students they suspect could be a threat to the community. Given the tragedies that have taken place in schools in the past, and we are not talking about just the United States, it has happened in Canada as well, prudent policing would call for this type of training.

The media release went on to say: “Professionals in the school and community system participated in Level 1 Threat Assessment Training this past June. This month Principals, Police, Social Workers and Community partners will gather for additional in-service Threat Assessment Training referred to as “Clinical Interviewing in Threat Assessment.”

“The intensive two-day training session on September 13th and 14th funded by the Ministry of Community Safety and Correction Services focuses on strategic interviewing of key individuals including the threat maker(s), target, collaterals and parents/caregivers as part of the threat assessment process. A more comprehensive look at types of high-risk youth is presented to the participants.”

And so we have Correctional Service people teaching school board staff how to identify, evaluate and asses our children? Looks that way.

Family life is not what it used to be. Separations, divorces, unemployed parents – all this bring stress into a household and children react to that stress. One of the way they react is to act out against the community they don’t understand and have difficulty living within. We are doing something wrong as a society.

The press release went on to say that: “The Canadian Centre for Threat Assessment & Trauma Response, led by Mr. J. Kevin Cameron assists schools and other professionals in understanding the impact of trauma on systems and how to respond in ways that allow schools and communities to deal with serious situations in ways that encourage healing and foster growth rather than divisiveness.”

J. Kevin Cameron we are told, led the crisis response team following the 1999 school shooting in Taber, Alberta and was subsequently seconded by the Alberta Government to the Taber Response Project. He spent 13 months consulting with U.S. sites that experienced school shootings as part of his study of traumatic aftermath including threat related behaviour. Mr. Cameron is an official with the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress and a Board Certified Expert in Traumatic Stress. In concert with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Behavioural Sciences Unit he developed Canada’s first comprehensive, multi-disciplinary threat-assessment training program.

The in-service training will be held September 13th and 14th at Gary Allan High School 2350 New Street, Burlington. For more information, please contact: Inspector J Gordon at 905 825 4749.

Someone somewhere has decided we need this kind of training. I think the money would be better spent on more phys-ed teachers and an upgrade to the library.





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How do you make a Mayor ? Treat him as a catcher and throw everything at him.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON August 17, 2011 – He is getting better. He is more in control than he was in his first six months. He has a better command of the job and is much more of a Mayor now than he was in his six months ago. He thinks now, whereas he tended to react to situations that he wasn’t always comfortable with.

The trestle has been almost as much of a headache as the Pier.  It was essential to have a trestle in place to do the construction work. Whoever gets the contract to complete the construction of the Pier is going to need a trestle.  The one in place now belongs to Bermingham Construction who was a subcontractor to  Harm Schilthuis and Sons, who walked off the job.  The trestle owner wants his trestle back or wants to be paid.  The city has said – take it out by the end of September.  That should solve that problem – right?  It’s never that simple with our Pier.

The trestle has been almost as much of a headache as the Pier. It was essential to have a trestle in place to do the construction work. Whoever gets the contract to complete the construction of the Pier is going to need a trestle. The one in place now belongs to Bermingham Construction who was a subcontractor to Harm Schilthuis and Sons, who walked off the job. The trestle owner wants his trestle back or wants to be paid. The city has said – take it out by the end of September. That should solve that problem – right? It’s never that simple with our Pier.

The latest bit of crap to land on his desk was an attempt on the part of a contractor to get the city to pay for a service he had provided – in this instance it was Bermingham Contracting that wanted the city to pay that company for the use of a trestle that had been put in place by the company the city originally contracted with to build the Pier. That company, Harm Schilthuis and Sons Ltd walked off the job – they basically abandoned it – and the lawyers begin serving Statements of Claim on each other. Great for the lawyers – they have to earn a living too – but not so good for the city who has to pick up the tab for some pretty expensive legal talent.

Add to this, a city that has residents, who, before fully informing themselves, write Letters to the Editor and declare the city should just tear the darn thing down.

“First of all,” said the Mayor in a statement, “I would like to state that the City of Burlington does not wish to fight a legal battle in the media. However, some points need clarification. The following responds to information conveyed by the media regarding the trestle built to construct the Brant Street Pier.

“The city has no contractual relationship whatsoever with Bermingham Construction Ltd. Bermingham has a relationship and business agreement with the original contractor on the pier. The city is not a party to that agreement.  The city does not owe money to Bermingham.”

The Mayor went on to say: “I understand Bermingham’s motivation and interest in looking for a way to recover perceived losses. The city is not prepared to use the taxpayer’s money to resolve subcontractor issues.”

“The city has had discussions with Bermingham to determine if the trestle can safely be used to complete the pier. Bermingham insists that the trestle, as it is today, is not available for use in the construction project and cannot withstand the construction loads.”

Bermingham has written to the city indicating their financial requirements, including the cost of testing the trestle for usability. That amount of money, a figure substantially higher than that reported in the media, is not satisfactory to the city. As a result, the city has asked Bermingham to remove the trestle by Sept. 30, 2011.

We look forward to the receipt of tenders on Aug. 17, 2011, at 2 p.m., and to recommending a contractor in about six weeks’ time to complete the Brant Street Pier.” Said the Mayor.

Earlier in the week Steve Zabos, acting as City Manager, released a prepared statement that was somewhat different than the comments the Mayor made. It was probably the former that made it necessary for the latter – if you get my drift.

Here is what Zabos released: “The city does not substantiate information provided to the media if that information could negatively affect any litigation that the city may be involved in. Bermingham Construction Ltd. is a subcontractor of Harm Schilthuis and Sons Ltd., a company with whom the city is currently involved in litigation.”

The people in the legal department must have had conniptions over this exchange of comments.

There are all kinds of hurdles popping up and so far Mayor Rick Goldring is getting over all of then. But one of his team thinks the whole pier mess is “disgraceful”. Is that hurdle he has to get over or something in a cow pasture he wants to step around ?




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The things a professional, running a publicly funded institution, has to do to get the funds he needs when an election is on.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON August 11, 2011 – There he was, a top notch professional, an experienced hospital administrator trying to re-shape and redevelop a hospital that is badly in need of an upgrade, An institution that has not had any major work done on it for more than forty years in a community that has grown significantly in the past ten years with a population that is aging and in need of different kinds of care. A hospital that went through a deadly C difficile epidemic that cost 78 people their lives because the hospital was old and very hard to keep clean enough to prevent the spread of newer more virulent viruses.

Nice guy, great at what he was hired to do.  Got abused by the politicians.  Made to stand up and basically say nothing.

Nice guy, great at what he was hired to do. Got abused by the politicians. Made to stand up and basically say nothing.

They had him up there on a platform, looking a little like a monkey on a chain tethered to an organ grinder who was peddling the same old tune. Poor Eric Vandewall had to stand up there and say what he has been saying for years, give me the funds I need and I will get you the hospital you need and deserve.

He is the President and Chief Executive Officer of one of the largest employers in the city and responsible for one of the most important institutions in the city. And he had to be excited and say how happy he was, and indeed he is happy, but he doesn’t yet know just how the government is going to get him the funds to build the hospital he has to run. And given that it looks as if the provincial government is going to go the Alternative Funding Plan route(the government doesn’t have the money to pay for the hospital) – Vandewall may not have all that much say in just what kind of a hospital he will get to run. They’ve got the guy tending to the minutia and not focusing on the bigger picture and ensuring he has the best team he can recruit to give the community the hospital it needs and deserves.

A member of the provincial government was on hand at the “announcement” event to spout for more than ten minutes, assuring the community that the hospital was going to be redeveloped. That it was going to happen.

Of course it is going to be redeveloped. The question is exactly when and how much has the government actually committed to the project. Where are the time lines ? Where are the funds ?

The event was an announcement of “historic” proportions. What was historic about repeating what has been known for some time – that the government is going to re-build the hospital ? They couldn’t not re-build, not if they want to have a hope in Hades of ever getting elected in Burlington. It’s been a long time since a Liberal represented Burlington in the Legislature – 43 years and counting.

Ted McMeekin, former Mayor of Flamborough, former member of Hamilton’s city Council and now the MPP for Ancaster, Dundas, Flamborough, Westdale was on hand to make the announcement along with MPP Sophia Aggelonitis, MPP for Hamilton Mountain who is also the Minister of Revenue for the province and the Minister Responsible for Seniors as well.

Aggelonitis was supposed to be on hand for the announcement but was reported to be struck in QEW traffic. This on the day that Premier Dalton McGuinty announced that if the GO trains were more than 15 minutes late riders would have the cost of their fare refunded. Aggelonitis could have taken the GO train like the rest of us and been on time.

Vandewallderwall must have wondered why he spent so much money on renting a fancy white tent that was filled with just about every politician drawing a paycheck – and there were a lot of those on hand, each congratulating themselves on how wonderful this announcement was.

What announcement? Nobody said anything new. We weren’t told how much money the government has committed to the redevelopment of the hospital. We weren’t told when construction would start – not one single dollar amount was mentioned nor was one date mentioned.

Liberal Candidate Karmel Sakran, who sat on the hospital board and was on the committee that hired Vandewal said after the press conference that all one had to do if they wanted to know what was being spent was do some research. Wonderful idea but there are no numbers on the hospital web site nor are there any construction start dates. It was a little on the embarrassing side for Sakran. Here he is, running for office with a campaign that is in very good shape, doing all the right things and ahead of his competition who has yet to open her campaign office and he finds himself sitting in a room with everyone waiting for an announcement that really didn’t get made.

The press conference was originally going to be on the Tuesday but got moved forward a day. One would think the government could plan things well enough to ensure that the Minister making the announcement could get into the riding the Liberals have a slightly better than even chance of winning and have at least a shot at the Halton seat.

Ted McMeekin, member for Ancaster, Dundas, Flamborough, Westdale has shoved Joyce Savoline aside and is doing every media event he can. Savoline, the current MPP for Burlington, is the Progressive Conservative member of the opposition for Burlington, was not at the event. McMeekin , said he had called Savoline four times but she never got back to him. A very reliable source informed me that Savoline apparently wasn’t invited and was very disappointed because the hospital was one of her favourite projects.

After the dignitaries had done their bit, McMeekin said the reason dollar figures were not announced was that the government didn’t want to say publicly what was going to be spent so that contractors wouldn’t know how much money was going to be available. What a crock! Either McMeekin didn’t know – unlikely, or he had been told that announcement would get made by Aggelonitis. Or the government doesn’t want to talk at this time about their Alternative Funding Plan, whichever, it was a cock-up on the part of the government and a waste of everyone’s time.

In his press release Mayor Goldring said: “Phase 1 of the Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital redevelopment is more than  $300 million. The planned local share is $120 million. The Joseph Brant Hospital Foundation has committed to raising $60 million through a fundraising campaign in addition to the city’s contribution of $60 million.” The city already has $4.8 million sitting in a bank account and they are going to sit on it until there is a rock solid Memorandum of Understanding in place. The city’s money may get used to build the parking garage. How embarrassing.

It was a non-event, waste of taxpayers money – and all apparently because Minister Aggelonitis couldn’t get to Burlington on time to tell the whole story and tell us just how many big bucks were going to be spent.





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Innovation is like trip to dentist. Mayor is going to take you through that kind of experience – it will be good for you.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON July 28, 2011 Innovation is something we all talk about but few of us really know what it means to innovate and fewer still actually do very much in the way of innovating in their lives. Ask yourself this: When was the last time you changed the way you do something and did so with a real solid innovation?

Innovation doesn’t come easily. Too many interests get rubbed the wrong way when someone innovates. Corporations can do it because they are profit driven and the innovation is put in place to improve the profit level.

The City of Burlington isn’t driven by profit. It will tell you it is there to serve – but it isn’t always clear who it is that is being served. But that is not the direction I want to go with this piece.

Mayor Rick Goldring understands the need to innovate and while he may not have a lot of experience at actually putting new innovations into practice, he knows they are needed and has begun to take the first tentative steps to bringing some very significant innovations to the city.

He is going to see the Pier completed. It wasn’t a problem he created, it was someone else’s mess, but he is going to clean it up as well as he can. He is going to spend more money than we should ever have spent on the project but that isn’t something he has a lot of control over.

He is going to deliver a Strategic Plan. It may not be the plan he had hoped he could deliver when he started the process, but there will be more than enough meat on the bones of the Plan he delivers to satisfy most people. Once the plan is approved at Council – and yes after as much deliberation as the Mayor can get the citizens of the city to give him – he will move forward with a firm policy that will deliver numerous innovations.

He will be out looking for a new City Manger. Some interesting features in the process of hiring a new City Manger. The interviews are done by the full Council. If a Council member happens to miss one of the interviews they are not permitted to sit in on any other interviews – or as the Mayor explained it: “They get voted off the island”. That process will begin in the fall.

The Mayor will be out in the community meeting as many people as he can to talk up and sell his Strategic Plan. He is taking his – not sure I want to call it a vision – so let me call it the program he wants to work within, one step further and will begin talking about Burlington using the language that the software/computer applications people use.

There is the Web; then there was the Web2. We have an iPhone3 and an iPhone4 with an iPhone5 out there on the near horizon.

Goldring is going to talk about a Burlington that was; the Burlington that is and the Burlington that we are going to have – and he has labeled them Burlington.1; Burlington.2 and Burlington.3. Get ready to hear a lot about Burlington.3 – because that is where your Mayor wants to take you – and he would like to do it with as much input from YOU as possible.

Burlington is a city that tends to be a little placid and shows up at city hall in droves only when it is unhappy. We have a Mayor that is learning his job very well thank you. But he cannot do this all on his on. He is innovating and that means change and change is disruptive and while he is not a disruptive man by nature – he knows that the city has to innovate if it is to maintain the advantages it has.

Your Mayor is doing his part – you need to do your part and pay attention to the direction he is going to take us.




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Everyone benefits from the homeless who live at the Riviera Motel. They get lousy digs but a great view.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON July 11, 2011 – This business of municipal politics can get pretty sticky and complicated.

Try this on for size. A developer, Mayrose Tycon has the right to put up a building that can reach 21 stories into the sky on the property that is home to the Riviera on the Lake Motel, located to the east of the Waterfront Hotel on the south side of Lakeshore Road. The height and density of the structure are basically cast in stone. What it will actually look like isn’t known yet.

At a Waterfront Advisory meeting a few months ago committee member Michael O’Sullivan passed around a news clipping from 1995 that showed a drawing of what the developer had in mind back then. It is pretty close to what people understand the plans being talked about now are calling for.

Mayrose Tycon have been trying to put together a deal since 1995 with a company that would do the actual building and take over the property, but haven’t yet found the right company to partner with. Minto and Tridel, two very large, well established builders walked away from the opportunity. Mayrose Tycon is now talking to a major mid level hotel group about a possible deal that would be a combination of hotel and condominium.

The close to defunct Save our Waterfront people were worried that a structure would go up that prevented a view of the lake. While the height and density of whatever is built is a done deal, the actual site plan is something the community has been assured they would have some say in.

But as Jeff Marten, a member of the Waterfront Advisory Committee, said at a recent meeting: “I would like to be alive when the ground for construction is broken.” That isn’t going to be this year and many wondered if the Pier would be completed before shovels went into the ground for the 21 storey landmark structure.

Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward has been telling her constituents that she is “on the file” but there isn’t very much she can do except prod and probe and ask questions which she did at a recent meeting with the Mayrose Tycon people.

Is there a by-law enforcement officer that would let the badly damaged floor of the motel room balcony at the Riviera Motel remain the way it is if they knew about the condition.  They know now.

Is there a by-law enforcement officer that would let the badly damaged floor of the motel room balcony at the Riviera Motel remain the way it is if they knew about the condition. They know now.

A lot of people would like to see the building torn down because it is something of an eye sore – and who by the way would want to stay in the motel – it looks like a dump. Well – guess what; both the city and the region have an interest in keeping the dumpy looking motel right where is it, thank you. And the developer doesn’t mind one bit – renting out rooms in the motel brings in some revenue

The revenue stream is your tax dollars – money the Regional govern pays Mayrose Tycon for the use of the motel as a place to house homeless people. And as of last Friday the place was full.

There is an interesting aspect to all this and that is for a city that talks about making the waterfront accessible to the public, precious little is actually done to improve the access.

A Waterfront Advisory sub-committee recently did an excellent piece of investigative work to find out just how many “windows on the to the lake” there actually are – good report – that has gone exactly nowhere. Meed Ward hasn’t brought up the matter at a Council committee nor has Councillor Craven. Grahame Richards, who was part of the group that did the field work on the report said he couldn’t add much more: “the people at city hall aren’t answering their phones these day.”

The Mayor sits on the Waterfront Advisory Committee – has he asked legal to look into those situation where private property owners whose property abuts public property have taken steps to actually prevent the public from getting to the edge of the lake.

Lots of issues regarding the lakefront getting to the waters edge and then being a bit stunned when you see the condition of at least one of the buildings. Comes pretty close to being the kind of building run by slum landlords.

There is more than just the one damaged balcony – much of the building probably doesn’t meet building or safety codes.  Why hasn’t the city done something about this situation?  Because it houses homeless people?  Because the Region is renting the building?

There is more than just the one damaged balcony – much of the building probably doesn’t meet building or safety codes. Why hasn’t the city done something about this situation? Because it houses homeless people? Because the Region is renting the building?

Were the public able to walk along the pathway at the lake edge in front of the Riviera Motel they would see the deplorable condition that building is in.

A close look at the building suggests the city’s by law enforcement people might want to take a look at the condition of the structure. But bylaw enforcement in Burlington is a reactive process – they respond to complaints and no one so far has complained. That is about to change.

The Medical Officer of Health might also want to take a look at the structure. Maybe that department is also reactive as opposed to being proactive.

The Riviera has been around for a long time, still has guests who have one of the best views in the city.  At the edge of the property there is a brand new walkway – waiting for the public to stroll along the waters edge where they can gaze upon a dumpy looking eyesore.

The Riviera has been around for a long time, still has guests who have one of the best views in the city. At the edge of the property there is a brand new walkway – waiting for the public to stroll along the waters edge where they can gaze upon a dumpy looking eyesore.

The city gets tax revenue on the property and the developer wanting to get something in the way of a return for the property, rents the units to the Region who use it to house homeless people and immigrants that the Region has to house.

Someone suggested that the city could rent the motel and the land around it from the developer for $1 a year and demolish the eyesore and use the land as a temporary, short term park; and given that this project has been on hold for at least 15 years the public could benefit. Might be a good idea – depends on what the taxes are on the property. Sounds good, seems to have some merit. Why not give it a shot?

The city could enter into an agreement with Mayrose Tycon to forgive the property taxes as long as the city uses the land for a public park. When the developer eventually has a partner who is ready to actually build the city gives up the space as parkland and lets the construction equipment in.

You can get to the walkway that gets you to the edge of the lake – all you have to do is slip through the fence and then wander along till you meet up with the eastern edge of Spencer Smith Park – great view of the unfinished Pier from this location.

You can get to the walkway that gets you to the edge of the lake – all you have to do is slip through the fence and then wander along till you meet up with the eastern edge of Spencer Smith Park – great view of the unfinished Pier from this location.

There was a bit of a land swap involved in the assembly of the property that will at some point become the city’s one skyscraper. A small patch of city land was traded and the developer ceded the right to a small strip of property at the water’s edge that is ready today for pedestrians to stroll along – problem is- the pathway isn’t open to the public. The walkway is in place and will eventually join up with Spencer Smith Park

But don’t hold your breath waiting for either Councillors Meed Ward or Craven to propose this at a Council committee meeting and put forward a Staff Direction to have this looked into. Even if they did, the City Manager would bury this one for a couple of years.

If the motel were torn down the Region wouldn’t have a shelter for the homeless and, while the place is a dump, Burlington doesn’t want to get into a discussion about building a homeless shelter – that would bring out every NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) in the city howling at a council committee meeting. Disappointing, that a city with so much cannot find its way to actively looking for a place to build a shelter for the homeless. We manage to raise money for just about every other group but we’re not very good at helping the truly disadvantaged.

The best place for a shelter would be in either Wards 1 or 2 – can we expect Councillors Craven and Ward to ask the city to look for a suitable location in which to house the homeless and at the same time open up some lake front property for more parkland – even if it is going to be temporary. The location would be a great spot for the sidewalk superintendents in the city to sit out in the fresh air and keep an eye on the Pier construction.



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Salt with Pepper – Steal of a deal for you Scott.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON June 30, 2011 – Scott – have I ever got a deal for you. Scott is my buddy at City Hall – he knows “stuff” and has a “no crap” policy with most of the things he does. They give him thousands of dollars every year just for showing up but he can swing the hammer. Right now, as General Manager Community Services, he is shepherding the construction of the Pier and, as you know, there have been some problems down there. But Scottis on the case and this guy is no Inspector Jacques Clouseau of Pink Panther fame.

I was at the “Sneak Peak” Brenda Hetherington gave for the Burlington Performance Arts Centre and bumped into your buddy Jason Stoner, head honcho of the Waterfront Hotel, and he says he knows nothing about who paid for the advertisement on those cycling races the city ran in the Spectator. (You will remember me Steve old buddy, when we begin accepting advertising, won’t you?)

But I digress. As you will recall, we have been talking about those outdoor lights, the twelve that we bought and paid for that were to be installed on the Pier to light it up at night. You need 12 of the things but you can only find paper work for nine of them and you can’t fine even one of the nine that the city is pretty sure it paid for. The ones that they don’t make anymore either – those ones ? Well Stoner says if the price is right he will buy the nine from you for his parking lot.

Gosh, golly gee Scott – there ‘s a chance here for you to get rid of something that doesn’t meet your needs and sell it to a guy whose credit is said to be good. This is sounding like one of those win, win, win situations.

All you have to do now of course is find the light standards so you can deliver them if you do manage to sell them to the hotel people. You can do that can’t you?



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Salt with Pepper > City of Burlington lawyers hide behind old practices – ‘say nothing, tell them nothing’.

BURLINGTON, ON June 18, 2011 – Our friends down the road at the Bay Observer published the following. We couldn’t agree more.

From the Bay Observer, June 15, 2011

There is something wrong with a legal system that prevents opposing sides from coming to a mediated solution once lawsuits have been commenced. A prime example is the Burlington Pier debacle where the city is suing the original pier contractor along with the original project manager and designer of the structure over structural problems that have halted the project.

We now learn that more than two years ago that Walters Group, an internationally-respected structural steel contractor tried to broker a settlement that would have allowed all sides to save some face not to mention money but was rebuffed. A prime reason for the lack of dialogue is the fact that legal action has been commenced and therefore goes the collective wisdom, everybody involved must clam up for fear of prejudicing their case.

This is the kind of advice that Burlington councillors get from lawyers who have no incentive whatever in shortening or ending the litigation. And maybe the advice is sound maybe it is dangerous to try to resolve a dispute after legal action is commenced but if that is the reality; then it needs to be changed. Whether the Walters Group proposal to finish the pier is the right one, is irrelevant. The intent was to try to inject some common sense into a process that seems to be taking on a life of its own, with attendant spiraling costs.

The current Burlington administration has the construction of the Pier back on track and there is every reason to believe that the June 2013 opening date will be met. There will be cost over runs and given the nature of Mayor Rick Goldring, we can expect Council and the citizens of Burlington to be made aware of those costs.

Learning what was spent on legal costs will be like pulling teeth from hens. The legal department in Burlington doesn’t understand and doesn’t want to understand what transparency means. It is not in their interest to tell the taxpayers what was spent to handle the legal problems surrounding the construction of the Pier.

That however may change.

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Salt with Pepper – An embarrassing situation that could be turned into a golden opportunity.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON May 16, 2011 It has been embarrassing. Many people worked very hard to make the elite cycling event that was to include five different races including a dramatic, exciting race through the downtown streets of Burlington – but it didn’t happen.

City staff put in hundreds of hours and the Halton Regional Police Service put in almost as many. The project may well have been doomed from the start when the promoter, Craig Fagan failed to show up at a Council meeting to talk to the plan in 2010, but the people involved didn’t know at the beginning what they know now – they were working with a most incompetent and unreliable event promoter. His behaviour is a mark against all the semi professional cyclists in Canada and one would hope that the Canadian Cycling Association would take steps to enforce some discipline on Craig Fagan and the Midweek Cycling Club. They put the city and the Regional Police though hoop after hoop.

Every time Fagan failed to appear for a critical meeting there would be an excuse and each time the people working with the promoter would shake their heads and try again. Fagan was taking advantage of everyone’s good will. We were had.

Is there a lesson for us here and an opportunity as well? I think there is. One of the things we have that no one else has is geography and if the cycling groups want to work with a city that puts real effort into making something happen – well maybe they will get in touch with us.

Fagan is now complaining about the cost of policing the event – and indeed the costs did seem very high, but he was aware of those costs right from the beginning. Fagan’s hope was that there would be significant sponsorship to offset the costs – but that sponsorship failed to appear.

We can cavil forever about how incompetent Fagan and his Midweek cycling colleagues were – what we need to do is look for the lessons and learn from them and then figure out how we can take the geography we have and get it in front of the people who want to use it for an elite level cycling event.

And here the city is going to have to lead, for it is Burlington that stands to reap most of the benefit. We will also have to partner with the police and work with them to find ways to get the policing and traffic management costs much lower. While the police may not see economic development as part of their mandate; working with the communities they serve and protect is most definitely a part of their mandate.

So – how would we best do this? The first step would be to learn more. When Fagan and his MidWeek people first approached Burlington we knew next to nothing about the intricacies of elite cycling events and we were constantly waiting for Fagan to give us information. We were far too dependent on a guy who didn’t show up for meetings and didn’t know how to balance a cheque book.

The city can, and should consider putting together a small team, three to five people, and have them research this business of elite sport cycling. Find out who the ‘players’ are. How does it work as a business ? Who makes the rules, who governs the sport and what are the financial basics ? Learn what the sport wants and then put together a report and have the city determine if there is an economic benefit for the city and if there is what will it cost the city to develop that benefit ?

We have an economic development corporation in place that does this kind of thing every day and while I have difficulty seeing Kyle Benham, Executive Director of the Burlington Economic development Corporation (BEDC) peddling a $7500. bicycle through the streets of Burlington, I can see him applying his keen mind to the financial inputs and outputs and advising the city on what might work. Sports tourism is big business and there is no reason why Burlington cannot be a sports tourism destination. We flood Spencer Smith Park with people during the Sound of Music Festival and the Rib Fest. There is an opportunity here – but the city is going to have to show leadership.

The team of three to five people I am proposing would spend less time on the research side than city staff spent in meeting after meeting being jerked around by an incompetent event organizer who was consistently dishonest with the people he was working with.

There is significant potential for the city with the geography we have. Can the city pull all the pieces together and make it work for the city? The first thing Scott Stewart needs to do is pull his people together and do a debriefing and figure out what went wrong and why it went wrong. His staff did a superb job of trying to get the thing off the ground. Not as sure that the policed did as well as the city staff but that can be brought to the surface in a debriefing.

The police could over time develop significant expertise in traffic management and working with communities to handle the different but very legitimate uses of our rural roads. The farmers need to be able to haul hay along those roads and the strawberry growers want those roads passable so that people can get to their fields. Surely there is a way to work with the calendar and figure out a way for everyone to use those same roads.

The police could become experts at this type of road management and traffic control and market their expertise to other municipalities and organizations..

Last weekend Toronto all but shut down parts of the city while thousands ran a marathon. The same thing happened in Mississauga. Properly organized Burlington could have an annual sports cycling event that would bring thousands of people to the city that would get national exposure.

At one of the Budget Orientation meetings earlier this year the BEDC talked of sending a delegation to Appledoorn, our sister city in Holland, on a search for a Dutch company that might be interested in locating in Burlington. Council didn’t warm up to that idea but they just might take to the idea of using some of the BEDC budget to look into Burlington becoming a sports cycling centre.





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