Can the development proposals planned for the 'football' be stopped?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

September 30th, 2019



In from the east

The view of the as yet unnamed tower as you drive into Burlington from the east.

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward left the meeting before it ended. A presentation was being made by Old Lakeshore Burlington Inc. who were explaining what their development proposal idea was for the property at the east end of where Old Lakeshore Road and Lakeshore Road was going to look like; she had heard all she needed.

A part of the city that she used as the rallying cry for her election to city council in 2010 was about to be turned into something similar to what Toronto did to the land south of the Gardner Expressway and Lake Ontario. It was not what she had in mind for her city.

SOW images for fottball

This was the limit Marianne Meed Ward was calling for in the 2010 election.

The provincial government approach to development changed when Doug Ford came into office, the massive change in what LPAT (Local Planning Authority Tribunal) was going to do for the municipal sector wasn’t helping.

Was there a way out of or around what was heading our way?

There might be.

At this risk of using a phrase that didn’t actually resonate in Burlington – it is time to be bold. Let’s try – “Daring to be a Daniel” instead.

There is in the municipal world a number of tools that can be put to very good use – but it does require some creativity.

Russian nesting dolls

A doll within a doll – a planning tool within a planning tool.

I spoke to a number of people about what the city is up against and got some solid feedback. One resident, long in the tooth and the holder of much wisdom and experience in matters related to planning, suggested the approach the city could take is a little like those Russian nesting dolls.

All these planning and land management tools can be made to fit into each.  It takes very tight strategic thinking and you’re going to need a lot of that high priced legal talent to make it all happen – but they experts we spoke to told us it could perhaps be done.

Is it worth the risk to take a shot at it?

Site overview - aerial

The developer sees the 26 storey tower as the eastern gateway to the city – it’s impressive. Is it the best thing for the city?

There is currently an Interim Control Bylaw in place for the Urban Growth Centre. It has about eight months left in the first year it is going to be in place. The city could extend that bylaw for a second year.

The Chief Planner Heather MacDonald has a team of consultants working with her on what the city might do in terms of the kinds of development that will be permissible.

What is permitted

The A and B properties are in what is called the “football”

The “football” is within that Urban Growth boundary – so nothing is going very far until that interim bylaw is lifted.

What I learned in my talks with a number of people is this:

The review of the adopted – but not yet passed by city council Official Plan, could designate certain lands as having a special interest for the city in terms of the long range development.

They could put what is known as an H designation – a HOLD on what gets done with a piece of property.

With that hold in place the city has time to re-think where it wants to go.

Burlington has had relatively large community protest groups in the past. The Save our Waterfront group had more than 1000 members - did it achieve anything other than getting its founder elected to city hall? Here one of the masters of public involvement, former Toronto Mayor David Crombie talks with current SOW presisdent.

Former Toronto Mayor David Crombie talking to Mike xxx, who at the time was President of the Save our Waterfront group that had 1000 members,

With that time available Burlington can then form a group that studies the potential for the “football”; former Mayor David Crombie suggested to the Waterfront Advisory Committee that was in place at the time that they do just that. He added that putting a couple of “oddballs” on such a committee is always a good idea.

I learned that there is also a Community Improvement section in the Municipal Act – it is sometimes referred to as a Community Development Plan.

That part of the Act could be used to put together a plan that had wide wide stakeholder involvement.  These plans, I was told, give a municipality a tremendous amount of power and scope – they are in effect putting the needs and interests of the citizens first.

Right now the Planning department is dealing with a development application, which they have to accept and issue a report on.  They don’t have anything to compare it to – something that might be better for the city.

If the buy in from the public was high enough the city could move to expropriate all the land within the “football” and float a bond to pay for it.

If the Mayor wanted to get really creative she could look for a way to create a bond that the average citizen could units of.

Meed ward looking askance

Does the Mayor think there is a way out of what the developers have told us they want to do with the football? Will the Mayor manage to toss it back to them and expropriate the land.

Meed Ward is staring at a couple of developments that will put 26 storey condominiums on land she believes should not be any higher than 12 storeys.

LPAT will not let that happen – the developers know they will win at that level.

There just might be a way to do something truly stunning for the city.


All of this was close to given away to the owners of properties that abutted the waterfront.

That terrible loss the city suffered when lake front land between Market and St. Paul was sold for a pittance can’t be reversed – but amends could be made for that loss.

Emma’s Back Porch and the Water Street Cookery could be part of something truly unique.

All it takes is takes innovation, creativity and courage.

We are far from experts in this field. But we do believe that citizens will stand up for themselves when the leadership they want leads.

The 2006, 2010 and the 2014 city council’s didn’t lead.  Mayor Meed Ward has made it clear things will be done differently – how much differently.

Let’s see where the Gazette’s active comment people have to say.

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

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Does the public have any idea what is being proposed for the south east core and is city council just going to let it happen?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

September 26th, 2019



There is a meeting taking place this evening at the Central Arena, on Drury Lane road, across the street from the YMCA.

Lakeshore Inc

The public will get a look at what the developer wants to do with the southern end of the “football” the land between Lakeshore Road and Old Lakeshore Road.

It is a pre-consultation meeting, a non-statutory meeting to obtain community input on all of these elements prior to the submission of an application. Planning staff will be in attendance to provide information on the development application review process and next steps. The owner and consultant team representatives will also be in attendance to listen and collect ideas and input from the community.

Old Lakeshore Burlington Inc. is the owner of lands located at 2107-2119 Old Lakeshore Road. The City’s current policies provide for the potential development of a tall building of up to 12 storeys on these lands. The owner is currently considering the redevelopment of the lands with a mixed-use tall building of up to 26 storeys.

This is the way development takes place in Burlington.


The properties the CORE development group want to put 26 storeys on.

A number of months ago there was another such pre-consultation public meeting. This one was at the Art Gallery. It went through the same process; there weren’t a lot of people in that room with much in the way of appetite for the development. The developer in that case was the CORE group.

When the Gazette asked for a copy of the presentation made by the developer – they promised to send it along the next day, we are still waiting for that one.

model 3 d 0f the site

A 3D model of what the south eastern core of the city would look like if the CORE development on the table is approved and built. Another developer wants to build a high rise at the eastern end of the Lakeshore and Old Lakeshore intersection.

Both developments, the CORE development and the Old Lakeshore Burlington development, are in the same part of town – what is sometimes referred to as the “football” – referring to the shape of the property that exists between Old Lakeshore Road and Lakeshore Road.

If there was ever an occasion for Mayor Goldring to seek the opinions of others on the Beachway PArk - now is the time to do it and on Wednesday he will have an opportunity to listen to one of the best minds there is on waterfront development. Former Toronto Mayor met with MAyor Gildring at a Waterfronty Advisory meeting a number of years ago. Time for another chat.

Former Mayor Rick Goldring sits beside former Toronto Mayor David Crombie to listen to members of the Waterfront Advisory Committee.

A number of years ago, when there was a Waterfront Advisory Committee chaired then by Nick Leblovic they invited former Toronto Mayor David Crombie to talk to them about how development can be managed so that the wishes and the will of the public are at least heard. Crombie at the time said: You need to put together a committee and ensure that you have a couple of oddballs at the table – they are the people that pop out the interesting ideas.

Then Mayor Goldring sat in on that meeting; nothing ever came of the idea. Sometime later the Waterfront Advisory was put to rest.

Any development ideas were going to come from the development community. And that is what we are looking at today.

The very significant sized developments that abut each other on what is now the most valuable developed land near the lake, across from Emma’s Back Porch and a football field length away from the Bridgewater development which appears stalled.

There is no public protesting; there is no group formed to suggest that this is not the way this part of the city should be developed.

Other than saying the city doesn’t want this type of growth in this part of the city Mayor Meed Ward hasn’t said very much.


All the land within the red outline was public. The city went along with the sale of the pieces in the middle that abutted houses – they kept the piece of land at each end and turned them into Windows on the Lake. A Crown Jewel had been sold.

Burlington lost the opportunity to keep a large part of the waterfront in public hands when it went along with the sale of that land between Market and St. Paul.

Meed Ward, as a Councillor fought a valiant battle to maintain ownership of that property – despite her efforts then, Crown Jewels were sold for a pittance and the province got most of the money.
George Santayana, a noted philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist who once appeared on the cover of Time magazine wrote that: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

It is going to take a lot more than people who attend the meeting this evening saying this is not what the city wants – it is going to take real leadership – not from just the Mayor but from every member of council.

Full council

This is the crowd that is going to have to step up, get creative, be bold and find a better way to develop the land in the “football”.

Time for the newbies to step up to the plate – let’s see what you are made of.

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


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Local newspaper gets attention it didn't want; parent company sends out a survey asking people where they get their news.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

September 25th, 2019



Well, local newspapers are making the news.

An avid Gazette reader popped us a note about a survey she was sent by the Toronto Star asking about how and where she got her local news.

The Burlington Post is owned by MetroMedia a subsidiary of the Toronto Star.

The Post got its name in the paper earlier in the week when the Mayor hammered them for getting a story totally wrong. The reporter who wrote the piece was sitting in council chambers at the time. Ouch!

Here is what the survey looked like.

star survey

The reader who sent the survey to us had this to say about the Post: Unfortunately the Burlington Post no longer has any purpose other than holding advertising flyers. Long ago they abandoned any sort of credible reporting and won’t ever say anything remotely controversial, seem to be a place for our elected officials to get free advertising, and they don’t allow or print contrary opinions, or even anything newsworthy. When they covered the 2018 municipal election debate and failed to mention that our current mayor at the time was roundly booed by the audience, we knew they were not a credible news source. I’m glad we have the Burlington Gazette online.

The Post at one time was published three times a week- then cut back to twice a week and now it is on the streets just once a week.  When it was published twice a week the price was $1. When the dropped to twice a week – the price went up to $2.

Everyone has their favourite newspaper. The Globe and Mail plus the Sunday New York Times work for me.

Cities the size of Burlington rely on local newspapers to tell the local story. The Gazette has been doing this for nine years – and despite a myriad of legal problems with the city we expect to be here for some time to come.

We don’t always get it right and we have been brought before the association we belong to and told to do a better job. The results of those decisions are public.

The saving grace was that the Mayor didn’t whack us in public.

There was a point where former Mayor Rick Goldring thought we were the best thing since sliced bread and had nice things to say about us. Check the video.

Foot 4

Those are porcupine quills in his snout – wasn’t a happy puppy for the day.

There was a time when there was a full sized broadsheet newspaper in Burlington.  It was folded and made part of the Spectator.

One of my bigger jobs is to think in terms of monetizing the paper and then looking for people who can do some of the day to day work.

I’d like to spend more time at home taking care of the lady in my life and trying to teach the dog to keep away from the porcupines. He’s cute but not very bright – this is the second time he got his snout full of porcupine quills.

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

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If you want to engage in public dialogue have the courage of your convictions.

federal election 2019By Pepper Parr

September 25, 2019



Here is where I wonder what some people think they are doing.

We get literally hundreds of comments each day. More than a third are just plain foul, filled with nasty comments about other people. We don’t publish these – straight to trash.

About one quarter are good and of that half are superb. I am proud to publish those comments. On occasion we take a well written, soundly argued point of view and turn it into an opinion piece.

There is another bunch that come in. The name of the sender doesn’t match what we have in our data base so we send out a test email to see if the address is valid. All too often the email is illegitimate and we get a message like this.

<>: host[] said:
The email account that you tried to reach does not exist. Please
try 550-5.1.1 double-checking the recipient’s email address for typos or
550-5.1.1 unnecessary spaces.

Our testing the email address was because we saw something suspicious in this one that said the following:

I’ve met her and I liked her! I felt a genuine concern and nothing scripted. Hoping that this paper writes articles on ALL candidates – fairly.

The comment was related to the article we wrote about Conservative candidate Elizabeth Jane Michael in which we reported on her deciding not to take part in the planned election debates.

We will write fairly about a candidate – we would like to speak to them.

Stunts like this hurt a candidate – it is clear that someone wrote a comment that was designed to leave the impression that the candidate was worth voting for – but they weren’t prepared to say who they were.

You can’t do that – at least not in this newspaper.


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Foxcroft the subject of a TiCat video - Oskee Wee Wee

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

September 12th, 2019



They all love him – and with much reason.

Foxcroft chasing ball

Ron Foxcroft on his private basketball court.

Ron Foxcroft has done much for Burlington and Hamilton.

He was made a Member of the Order of Canada last week and everyone wants him to know that they are pleased as punch.

Foxcroft is wearing a smile a mile wide – and asking the Tiger Cats who put together the video below not to blow the Grey Cup game that should bring the cup to the city.

The video: Quite funny in places.

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Mayor unable to find a restaurant in Burlington to treat her brother to oysters on the half shell.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

September 6th, 2019



It takes a certain kind of person to run for public office. And should they get elected it takes a certain kind of person to succeed at the job.

That job isn’t about them – it is about the people they serve.

In clerical circles – priests and minister, pastors and rabbis use the phrase: a calling; they feel called to do the work they do.

We seldom see that kind of language in political circles. Politics is about power.

That power belongs to the voters who give it to the people they elect who they trust to serve the public’s interests.

The public looks for wisdom and good judgement.

It was surprising then to see a photograph of Her Worship Mayor Meed Ward sharing oysters on the half shell with her brother, who happened to be in town, at what looked like a very swishy restaurant near the water – sailboats in the background.
Family is said to be everything – unless of course it is totally dysfunctional – but I digress.

MMW with brother - Oakville

Oysters on the half shell – a favourite Meed Ward delicacy shared with her brother at an Oakville restaurant.

Some might ask – especially those in the hospitality business – why the Mayor didn’t take her brother to a Burlington restaurant. Spencers is the equivalent to anything Oakville has. Others have the same ranking.

Many of the people who run restaurants supported the Mayor in her bid to become Mayor. This must be just a little galling.

We are not arguing that the Mayor should only ever be seen in a restaurant in Burlington. What we do want to suggest is that when she publishes pictures of herself on her Facebook page – it would be politically smart to make sure that the background is a Burlington skyline. They don’t call these things photo ops for nothing.

Council will be in full bloom next week; thick agendas will sit in front of them and some serious recommendations will get passed on to city council later in the month. No word yet on who the Mayor is bringing into her office to replace the staff member who decided she liked greener, more digestible grass.

The Mayor pinched the assistant to the ward 4 Councillor who now has to rely on the other assistants for the support she needs.

Word is that it could be as much as a month before the staff problem is resolved. Is Mayor Meed Ward running into the same problem Mayor Goldring had – not being able to find good people she can work with to carry out one of the toughest jobs in the city.

The staff member she pinched is as good as they get – Meed Ward should have kept her when she was he assistant as a Council member.

The job calls for wisdom and judgement – which seems to be missing at the moment.

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

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Update to Burlington Motorcycle Collision from September 2nd

News 100 blackBy Staff

September 4th, 2019


On September 2nd 2019, the Halton Regional Police Service Collision Reconstruction Unit took carriage of the investigation into a motor vehicle collision in the City of Burlington which occurred shortly before 6:22pm at the intersection of Plains Road East and Cedarwood Place.

Plains East + Cedarwood

Fatal accident took place at the intersection of Plains Road East and Cedarwood Place.

The collision between a motorcycle and an SUV resulted in the 60 year old motorcycle rider being transported to Hamilton General Hospital in critical condition.

On the evening of September 3rd he was pronounced dead in hospital as a result of the head injuries he sustained.

The investigation is on-going, any witnesses to the collision who have not yet spoken with police are asked to call 905-825-4747 ext: 5065.

Police have not released the name of the deceased.

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There is a better than even chance that the Ford government will strip citizens of effective political representation next year.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

August 21st, 2019



They gather every year for an annual conference – an event that lets the municipal sector talk to the provincial ministers about what’s coming down the pipe.

In Ontario the municipalities are creatures of the province; their names and their boundaries can be changed at the whim of the Premier.

The province has made it very clear that they want to reduce the $11 billion debt that the Liberals left when they were basically wiped out electorally by the Progressive Conservatives.

When that last happened we all thought Mike Harris was a disaster – now we get to see Doug Ford up close and in person and we learn what a disaster really is.

Steve Clark Minister of Muni affairs Ontario

Minister Clark.

Steve Clark, the Minister of Municipalities spoke at the AMO conference to talk about what he had in mind. He spoke the day after the Premier who made it clear that there were major cuts coming, what the province was going to pay for and what the municipalities were going to have to come up with.

It looked as if the Premier was going to find the money to pay down the provincial debt by forcing the municipalities to pick up more of the freight for the services they deliver.

Moody’s debt rating service said they thought the damage would amount to a $2 billion hit to the municipal sector.

Clark sugar coated everything his Ministry was going to do – it sounded like sunshine and lollipop pops or a verse from The Big Rock Candy Mountain.

It wasn’t until the very end of his speech that we got to see the sleeper – amalgamation is going to take place despite what Burlington’s MPP said.

Clark said: “At last year’s conference, I announced we would be reviewing the regional government system. It’s been in place for almost 50 years — and we wanted local input on how to improve governance, decision-making and service delivery.

Fenn Michael 2

Michael Fenn

“I’ve been unequivocal from day one and stated throughout the review — we have no preconceived outcomes” and added that “Ken Seiling and Michael Fenn are finalizing their recommendations — over 8,500 submissions and close to 100 in-person presentations were received — an overwhelming response — and I look forward to receiving their report.

“I’ll have more to say this fall. For now, I want to thank everyone who participated.”

Not so fast Minister.


Ken Seiling

When Seiling and Fenn were at Halton Region listening to delegations they mentioned that the event was their last stop and that they were ready to distill what they had heard into a report they would give the Minister by the end of July.

The concern for many at the Halton event was – would the report be made public. Seiling pointed out that they had been asked to do the work by the Minister and that the report would be given to the Minister – he would decide if and when it was to be made public.

There were delegations on how well the Region of Halton operated.  Ken Seilling challenged an Oakville delegation that suggested the financial impact was going to be severe if there was any kind of amalgamation in Halton.

At the end of July we heard that the report would not be released until after the federal election.

2018 Council

This Regional Council consists of ward representatives plus the Mayor from each municipality. Far too many people for Doug Ford’s liking.

Yesterday we learned that it will not be on the table until next year.

Most people believe the report has been completed; that the Minister has read it and decided what the government  will be doing.

It will have been discussed at Cabinet and there may well be bureaucrats creating new maps.

Halton map cropped

Will these municipalities get down graded to being a ward in a city?

Will Halton and it’s four municipalities be organized into something called the City of Halton? Far too early to know – what we do know is that Premier Ford is not shy when it comes to downsizing local government.

When he was in Oakville speaking to the Chambers of Commerce from the four municipalities, he was recognizing people in the audience. As he was reading out the names of those from Oakville he paused and said: “Boy, you’ve got a lot of people on that council.” The feeling that rippled across the Burlington Convention Centre was palpable.

Doug Ford thinks a Board of 7 to 9 people is what corporations need and he sees municipalities as corporate structures. Having people at the table who can effectively represent a community is not the role Ford sees for a politician.

His approach is to do it all himself. At that same event he read out his cell number and said ‘you can call me anytime’.

Doug Ford does not understand local politics, doesn’t respect the needs of communities at the grass roots level.

Expect the worst and hope that the very real representation problems in the Niagara Region get the attention they need and that Halton is left alone.

The Gazette got some comments from a former Ontario civil servant who served in several ministries who told us that he “would be very surprised if Clark has not been thoroughly briefed on what the report contains and its main recommendations. “

Our source added that he would “not be the least surprised if there was not some attempt to shape the main recommendations and right from the beginning of the process.

Steve Clark H&S

Minister of Municipalities Steve Clark: Already fully briefed?

“Ministers never “receive” anything that they’ve formally commissioned until they’re ready. They are briefed at regular intervals so that there are ‘no surprises and the final report is an anti-climax at best.

“Well in advance of the formal transmission of the Fenn/Seiling report a fulsome communications strategy will have been developed, ready for precise deployment like the Normandy invasion.”

That invasion of citizen rights looks as if it is going to take place sometime early in the New Year.

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

Related new stories:

We Love Burlington delegates

Background on the Provincial Review of Regional governments

Edwardh describes Provincial Review as very limited


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What does one do with a City Clerk who treats a totally unacceptable breach of the election rules as a learning experience?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

August 12th, 2019



Earlier today the Gazette published an article on some problems that were brought to the public’s attention by Blair Smith and Lynn Crosby.

The problems they discovered after an exhaustive analysis of the data that was submitted to the City Clerk by each candidate brought some very disturbing matters to the surface.

Small administrative errors and typos happen. But when significant amounts of data just don’t appear a full public understanding of who contributed what to whom is no longer possible.

What makes the democratic system we have the success it is – is that we all abide by the laws in place and everything is transparent.

If the numbers aren’t available transparency isn’t possible. And once those who set out to game the system become aware that they can hide where their campaign election money came from, just imagine what can happen.

In a series that will follow in the Gazette in the weeks ahead we list who got what from whom and do our best to identify known developer interests.

Does receiving campaign funds from a developer mean that a candidate has compromised themselves – no but – know that developers are in business and they use their money to enhance their business interests.

Brant looking north - Kellys

Two of the four buildings are done deals – two are working their way through the approval process. Did election campaign funding make them possible?

high profile 421

Done deal


Done deal

Pearl and Lakeshore

Looking for approval.

The public depends upon the bureaucracy to protect their interests, to ensure that the data they get has been fully reviewed and meets the criteria.

How Mike Wallace got away with filing a return that did not have critical dates in his report is not just an oversight. It is sloppy administration done by people who don’t understand or appreciate that accuracy is important.

Are the results of the election in question? No.

The vote count was pretty decisive. The Office of Mayor was not won by money – it was won by a person who heard and responded to the cries of the people who pay attention to civic matters.

The disappointment is that less than 40% of the people who had the right to vote actually cast a ballot.

Mayor Meed Ward was not as unequivocal as she could have been on this matter; she has certainly had her issues with the way this Clerk has handled a number of matters in the past.

The comments made by the Clerk that this was a learning experience cannot be accepted. The position of Clerk in municipalities is significant; for example a bylaw is not in force until both the Mayor and the Clerk sign the document.

Smith and Crosby argue that the Clerk’s behaviour is “a completely unacceptable contravention of information practice and protocol, particularly for one entrusted with maintaining the integrity of the official record.”

It is up to Tim Commisso, City manager to decide what to do next, if anything. What he decides to do will say a lot about the kind of City Manager he is going to be.

There was a situation a number of years ago when the then Director of Planning, Bruce Krushelnicki, sitting at the Council table, advised council that a very senior member of his staff would no longer be in the employment of the city. He walked the individual back to his office; that was the last we saw of him.

Strong managers take strong action when it is necessary, providing they have just reasons for doing so.

Related news story:

Clerk revises public record – considered a no no.


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

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If the Economic Development Corporation is wrapped up - what does that do to TechPlace and the hefty lease they signed?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

July 30th, 2019



What started out as a comment made at the annual Chamber of Commerce State of the City address given by newly elected Mayor Marianne Meed Ward may become a rather impressive Trojan Horse.

Red tape red carpet

Was this initiative a brilliant Trojan Horse?

The Mayor made mention of a committee she was setting up – to be called the Red Tape – Red Carpet (RTRC) initiative during which she, along with her colleague ward 1 city Councillor Kelven Galbraith, were to listen to various groups in the city about their concerns with city hall and the help they needed to grow their businesses.

Lurking in the background was a consistent complaint on the part of the developers and a number of businesses that had found it was very difficult to get anything through city hall in a reasonable amount of time

The RTRC team met with

Rural Business Focus Group, Development and Real Estate Industry Focus Group, Large Business and Manufacturers Focus Group, City Staff and Partner Organization Focus Group, Small Business Focus Group and heard what expected – the departments don’t talk to each other- the agencies (Fire, Education, Region, Conservation) are brought into the picture one at a time.

While Meed Ward was meeting with the various groups – all of which were closed to media – a consistent trait we have noticed from a Mayor who touts her 22 years as a journalist with a high regard for the role the media plays, the Burlington Economic Development Corporation was in the process of looking for a new Executive Director. Anita Cassidy has been serving as the Acting Executive Director for more than a year.

Her predecessor, Frank McKeown, who was at one point Mayor Goldring’s Chief of Staff and went on to run the BEDC, fully understood what the job was – keep the business we have and find new ones – he was just never able to land a really big one.

McKeown thought he was going to be able to put together a partnership with a German consulting group that wanted to get into the North American market. McKeown had his eye on a partnership with McMaster’s DeGroote School of Business and the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering – it didn’t work out – the Germans chose Hamilton instead,

Frank McKeown and Mayor Meed Ward never broke bread together – they had strong differences of opinion on what economic development was all about.

Frank McKeough, former Chief of Staff to MAyor Rick Goldring asked about how politicians can handle complex issues when voters tend not to be informed and don't have the background needed to arrive at decisions.

Frank McKeown, asking about how politicians can handle complex issues when voters tend not to be informed and don’t have the background needed to arrive at decisions.

Some think that McKeown resigned as head of BEDC when he could see that Meed Ward was going to be the next Mayor. McKeown always did have a good eye for figuring out which was the wind was blowing and whose sails it was going to fill.

While he ran BEDC, McKeown created TechPlace – a location where small start-ups could move in for a period of time and find their footing and then move out of TechPlace and set up shop in Burlington and grow as a new business opportunity for the city.

During this mix of events Mayor Meed Ward got invited to take part in a “Tale of Two Cities” with Oakville Mayor Rob Burton who explained to a good audience at the Performing Arts Centre that economic development should be an in house operation.

There are dozens of business people with tonnes of experience in drawing new business to a municipality that will tell you it is nuts to put that kind of an operation in city hall. Views are clearly divided on that issue.

At roughly the same time Burlington learns that L3Wescam is going to move out of the space they are in on the North Service Road to a new site in Waterdown. The Mayor was caught off guard and had to scramble to put a decent spin on the news.

L3WEscam Burlington location

L3Wescam will be leaving these premises for a new purpose built location in Waterdown.

It isn’t clear if Hamilton had gotten to L3Wescam and found them a deal they couldn’t refuse; they did that with International Harvester who were all set to move their parts distribution operation from Burlington to Mississauga – then they got a great deal from Hamilton and a time frame that worked for them.

The new Mayor had ideas of her own – she had begun toying with the idea of creating an MDC – Municipal Development Corporation that would be an in-house operation. In the material she prepared she went so far as to describe the job the Chief Development Officer of such an organization would be doing.

“Establish a position at City Hall to act as our Chief of Business Development, serving as a primary outreach for attracting new businesses to Burlington, overseeing and expediting applications through the system and reporting progress and obstacles regularly to City Council and the City Manager

During the July 15th Council meeting- the last one until September the Mayor asked her colleagues to support her idea and move it forward – the support she needed wasn’t there – council deferred the matter to the September meeting when the consultant’s report on the future of BEDC was in hand.

Anita Cassidy

Anita Cassidy finds herself facing an uncertain future over decisions she didn’t make.

One wonders what Anita Cassidy was thinking as she watched this parade of events pass her by.

The city, which provides most of the BEDC budget is current having a study done on what their role should be. As Mayor, Meed Ward sits on the BEDC Board.

Economic Development is critical to the growth of a municipality – some do it very effectively – Welland Ontario is a great example. Others slip and slide around and lose opportunities that they didn’t even see.

The business of attracting a corporation to move to town is really a networking game – you need someone who knows the players, plays a decent game of golf and has a great story to tell.

Burlington has the elements of a great story – parts of which are buried because their value is not perceived.

What isn’t clear yet is whether or not Mayor Meed Ward has the capacity to listen and to surround herself with people who she trusts and will rely upon when it comes to the complex process of how decisions are made. The jury is out on that one – and when it does return it might well be a hung jury.

There is one final irritant – a fly in the soup if you will.

Tech Place has just under five years left on a lease that has a sliding scale of rent increases. In the final full year of the lease rent will be a combination of net rent and additional rent for a total of $301,877 in the 6th year. That is a big nut to crack in anyone’s language.

TechPlace is a program of the BEDC, it has a staff of 1.5 people and an average annual contribution from BEDC’s core budget of approximately $220,000 per year.

Gross rent over the 6-year contract varies from $24,000 in year 1 to an annual cost of $301,000 in the final year.
There is basically nothing in the way of a revenue stream and while there are some bright spots in the Tech Place story it isn’t enough to cover the rent or justify the expense.

In material from BEDC we learn that “TechPlace is a one-stop destination for new and growing technology companies. TechPlace was established to support Burlington’s Strategic Plan 2015 – 2040 that calls for “Innovative, entrepreneurial businesses have settled or developed in Burlington. The city has helped create the technological support, business supports, infrastructure and educational environment to attract start-ups and growing businesses” and to “Create and invest in a system that supports the start-up and growth of businesses, innovation hubs and entrepreneurship.

“Following best in class ecosystem research and stakeholder engagement conducted in 2017 a clear need to have a physical space to build a successful entrepreneurial ecosystem in Burlington was identified to create connectivity, vibrancy and tell our entrepreneurial story. Burlington Economic Development Corporation became the change champion and opened TechPlace to accomplish the City of Burlington Strategic Plan in a way that was aligned with community need and stakeholder input.”

Angelo B

Angelo Bentivegna wanted more information on that Tech Place lease.

This is the kind of language developers trot out when defending applications.  No one appears to have asked the hard question: How are we going to pay rent of $300,000 in the last year?  Ward 6 Councillor Angelo Bentivegna kept asking questions about that lease – bless him for that – no one else was.

“TechPlace is focused on supporting the scale up and growth of high potential companies through its Launch Pad program and a host of wrap around services delivered through partners such as Haltech, Angel One, Mentorworks, Mohawk College, McMaster University and Halton Region Global Business Centre.

“In addition, BEDC has created a “Soft Landing” program to use as a unique business attraction tool that allows companies considering a location in the west GTA to establish a footprint in Burlington and begin operations while BEDC supports their long term business relocation to Burlington through its traditional business support services.”
There is some pretty fancy language in the BEDC material – the results, while interesting, are not going to do much in the way of changing the makeup of the commercial sector in the city.

Tech place logoSince TechPlace launched in 2017 it has hosted over 10,000 visitors, 200 events, attracted 13 LaunchPad companies, creating a strong business attraction brand and value proposition for Burlington. Results since inception are:

Total LaunchPads -13
Total LaunchPads from outside of Burlington – 10 of 13 Graduates – 7
Graduates that stayed in Burlington – 5 of 7

The BEDC material adds: “There have been a number of recent changes to the local start-up support ecosystem including the launch of Nuvo Network and the review of the Regional Innovation Centre model by the provincial government including Haltech.

“This creates opportunities for reviewing TechPlace’s operating model and determining whether BEDC delivering TechPlace activities directly or spinning off the activities to a partner can create the same benefits for Burlington with a different operating and financial model.”

“As part of the overall BEDC review, it is worth reviewing the efficiency, effectiveness and optimal structure and mandate of TechPlace to determine the pros and cons of retaining it as part of BEDC or spinning it off to an independent provider. The review would include a cost-benefit analysis of the current investment in TechPlace and what it produces in business attraction, versus other strategies for business attraction (e.g., dedicated staff) that don’t rely as heavily on physical space.”

This amounts to Corporate Spin on a situation that is unraveling quickly.

Is the BEDC signalling that Tech Place has not panned out the way they had hoped and that it is time to bail out?

Ward 1 Councillor Kelven Galbraith was taken on a tour of the McMaster Innovation Park and had this to say: “It was amazing to see the business success stories that have emerged from the park and the continued investment into their facilities and operations.

‘The City of Burlington and Burlington Economic Development Corporation (BEDC) looks forward to a great business relationship with the McMaster Innovation Park in the future”. That train may have already left the station.

Meed ward looking askance

Mayor Meed Ward has a strategy and a long term objective – don’t get in the way.

The Mayor wasn’t all that interested in waiting for the result of the BEDC review – she had a job description in her hand for the person who is going to bring some life to attracting new enterprises to the city – all she needed was three of the six votes from her colleagues – they weren’t forthcoming.

Tech Place was seen by former Mayor Rick Goldring as one of his success stories – he really wanted it to work.

Wanting just isn’t enough – is it? The city just might have to suck up that rent cost and look for someone who will take over the lease.

Sean Saulnier over at NUVO One isn’t likely to be the white horse the city needs.

The financial reckoning will take place and a new story line will be spun out of city hall. Burlington learned to leave well enough alone when the New Street Diet proved to be a dismal failure. Are we about to repeat that performance?

Don’t expect to see much in the way of transparency in what happens next – and give up on the idea of holding anyone accountable.

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

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Find a way to recruit the right people and then give them reasons to come to work with all their energy and creativity.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

July 25th, 2019



My friend Vince Fiorito, one of the best environmental advocates Burlington has, taught me that there is nothing that comes before the environment – not jobs, not the bank rate, not even who we elect as Prime Minister – without an environment that meets our needs – nothing else matters.

And, he adds, that environment is something we play a very large part in creating;  given the climate changes we are going through now – it is clear that we have not done a very good job with some thinking that we are never going to be able to recover if we don’t do what has to be done before it is too late.  The planet will go through another stage of extinctions. We have had three so far – the planet survived the creatures on it didn’t.

This time WE are the creatures on this planet.

That lesson – that the environment comes before everything, taught me something – that in every situation, organization or endeavour there are things that have to come first.

After publishing a report on the risks Burlington faces with its labour force the Fiorito lesson struck me.

The only thing that matters at city hall are the people who enter the buildings every day to work for the people that pay them.

Unfortunately those people do not seem to be able to pull together very well. And we aren’t paying them what other municipalities are prepared to pay them.

Laura Boyd 2

Director of Human Resources Laura Boyd

In her report to city council Director of Human Resources Laura Boyd spoke of some of the feedback her department had received and added that:

“When the results were further analyzed, it became apparent that communication within the organization diminishes between hierarchical levels.

“Specifically, between the Burlington Leadership Team and the Supervisors/Manager level and then between the Supervisors/Managers level and their direct reports.”

No wonder we are in the mess we are in.

My question was: How long has Boyd known this? Did she send her message up the food chain to the city manager at the time? Did she alert the Mayor?

The Gazette has listened to Ms Boyd report to city council in the past – we never heard before what she had to say earlier this month.

Staff is what counts. It is their energy, their creativity and their willingness to put in that extra effort that makes a city work.

They aren’t putting in the energy apparently, partly because they are not being paid as well as their peers in other municipalities.

Have you ever seen a city staff member wearing a T shirt with the city logo?  Not much pride in working for the city of Burlington.

In the past few days we have seen comments from people who once worked for the city. Some comments could be sour grapes. We’ve noticed that many of the people we got to know are no longer with the city.

A major change in the culture of the city’s work force and the way they are recognized is needed. That falls on the desk of the city manager.

Laura Boyd

Laura Boyd – Has worked in one city department during her 29 year career.

If we have the numbers right Ms Boyd has been with the city for 29 years – which suggests getting close if not eligible for retirement. All her work experience is with the one department – Human Resources – that too might be part of the problem.

In her report to Council Ms Boyd reports that something close to 20% of the leadership positions will see retirements in the near future.

That gives the city manager some room to find the people that are needed to bring the ship of state around and find more favourable winds to move it forward.

Related news story.

Troops are not happy.
Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette, an online newspaper that was formed in 2010 and is a member of the National Newsmedia Council.

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Burlington let a good one get away - Guelph made him their top dog.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

July 23rd, 2019



In his 33 years of puddle jumping Scott Stewart went from Peel Region to Mississauga, to Brampton, then Hamilton,  then Burlington, and on to Guelph where they appointed him the Chief Administrative Officer – a job that eluded him for far too long in Burlington.

General Manager Scott Stewart with Deb Franke of AJ Braun and Craig Stevens discuss the welding of beams for the Pier. The progress schedule is top of mind for all three. One of the beams being welded is shown.

General Manager Scott Stewart with Deb Franke of AJ Braun and Craig Stevens discuss the welding of beams for the Pier. Stewart was the General Manager who pulled together the team that ensured the city got it right the second time around.

Scott was always a hands on leader. He would spot talent that others didn’t see and grow it, groom it and nurture that talent to the point where it could lead.

Burlington’s city council turned Scott Stewart down twice – he took the hint and went north to Guelph – a city he likes, partly because they own a railway line that Stewart had turned into a competitive advantage for the city.

Stewart Scott blue sweater - more face

Stewart will wear the sweater to the office the day the Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup.

Leadership positions within the municipal sector are attained by moving from location to location – taking the experience gained at one and applying it at another. Burlington lost an opportunity when it chose James Ridge over Scott Stewart – look where that got us. Well, it did rid the city of an under-performing council.

As the Chief Administrative Officer Stewart just might have to move from Burlington, a city where he has deep roots.

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


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Council adjourns after four days of hard work that produces major recommendations - public might like some time to review them before making it all final.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

June 12th, 2019


At a few minutes before 4:00 pm yesterday afternoon Council adjourned and will meet again on the 15th to approve (or not approve) all the reports that were debated.

It has been a mammoth session for this crowd.

On Monday they went from 9:30 am to 10 pm
On Tuesday they went from 9:30 am to 10 pm
On Wednesday they went from 12:30 to 10 pm (the forenoon was spent at a Regional Council meeting
On Thursday they convened at 12:30 and adjourned at 4:00 pm

In June Council revised their working schedule and had Standing Committee meetings start at 9:30 am instead of the standard 1:00 pm start.

The work load and the amount of time to read, think about the reports, discuss them with constituents and then stay at a desk for those lengths of time is going above and beyond.

This is a determined bunch of people – Mayor Meed Ward is right in her element – she is just loving it. Others however, are wondering if this is the best way to run a municipal government.

Angelo B

Bentivegna – “Agenda just keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger.”

Ward 6 Councillor Angelo Bentivegna said that the agendas are “getting bigger and bigger and bigger” and keeping up is a challenge for both Bentivegna and several others.

We are seeing some quality work being done and we are also seeing some shifting as to where the decision making is actually being done.

City manager Tim Commisso has adopted a style that has him commenting on a matter rather than leading the discussion.

When council was in the process of determining what they needed in the way of a city manager the Gazette suggested someone with depth and experience who wasn’t necessarily going to be around for ten years or, someone younger who was ready for the kind of challenge Burlington is and could put in the time to rebuild the ranks and develop a different culture.

Commisso – doesn’t say much, tends to lean into his chair and listen. Doesn’t pick up his cell phone that often and rarely speaks at any length. The only time the Gazette saw him fussed at all was when it looked as if council was going to empty all the cookie jars (known as reserve funds) and leave him and the Treasurer to figure out what to do when there was a real crisis.

Commisso stare

The Commisso stare.

Our view of Commisso’ s approach is not intended to suggest he is slack or not paying attention. When he becomes aware that a staffer is not really answering the questions adequately they get what can only be called ‘the Commisso stare’. At one point he chose to lean forward and point to a document to direct the staffer – who we understand might be leaving the position he holds.

Commisso is fully engaged – but he is not immersed the way former city managers tended to behave. He is prudent – he will spend when he has to but he doesn’t reach for the wallet all that quickly.

Too early to tell, but he likes the people he is leading, and make no mistake, Commisso is leading. He serves at the will of council and this council is very happy to have him lead them – certainly at this stage of their political careers.

The round of Standing Committee meetings this council just completed some vitally important recommendations that will go to council Monday evening.

The downside to all this is that there is not much time for the public to be aware of what was done and then time to reflect and discuss with their neighbours what is being recommended.  The agenda itself is five pages long.

This approach is not what one would describe as “fully engaging the public”. Given the recommendations coming forward there is no obvious reason why the council meeting could not have been held on the 22nd or the 29th. We asked the Office of the Mayor for comment – our contact is away until Monday.

Are they that anxious to get started on their vacations? which by the way they deserve, but let’s complete the work and then start the vacations.

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

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Canada Day is an 'all hands on deck' day for members of City Council.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

June 28th, 2019



Monday morning, Canada Day, all seven members of city council are going to start their day at 8:30 am for what one member called a “full court press”. Everyone has something they are expected to cover said one member of Council.

Canadian flagAt this point this Council is working as a group. Several describe the Mayor as “very political” but they appear to be comfortable with her approach.

Five of the seven are still getting their footing. We are seeing the strengths in some and the difficulty others are having getting a grip on the job they have.

City council on innauguration Dec 3rd - 2018

It was the highlight of their lives – the challenge is for them to make a real difference.

They now have a city manager that they are all more than content with.

When you look at the comments they place on their Facebook pages – they are identical – word for word. Almost as if someone directed them what to say.

They are working quite well as a team but are still working out some of the plays. What we are not seeing is the rancour and the dismissiveness that was so prevalent in the previous council.

Time for a closer look at the individual council members and their performances. After the holidays.

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The dynamic around the Council table for Paul Sharman is a lot different today than it was for the previous eight years.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

June 18th, 2019



Things do change.

There was a time during the life of the 2014-2018 Council where Councillor Sharman would lean over frequently and whisper something into Councillor Lancaster’s ear.

She tended to need a lot of guidance.

The two got along well – Lancaster listened and responded appropriately.

Then an election took place. Lancaster was not re-elected – it was close, too close for Angelo Bentivegna’s comfort and he knows he has to hustle to build the support that Lancaster had.

Sharman won – not by a huge margin; he won with 34% of the vote – and only because there were four candidates splitting the vote. The second place candidate was just 500 votes behind.

Paul SHARMAN 2,840 –  33.99%
Wendy MORAGHAN 2,336 – 27.96%
Mary Alice ST. JAMES 1,471 – 17.61%
Daniel ROUKEMA 1,319 – 15.79%
Xin Yi ZHANG 389  – 4.66%

Sharman pointing LVP

This is not a relaxed man – the vote count in the election explains why.

Sharman puzzled LVP

Sweating out an election campaign.

Paul Sharman was a very frightened man during the election campaign. He was the only member of the old council that was returned. Meed Ward didn’t run as a Council member – she ran as Mayor and we all know how that went.

What the Gazette is observing is the dynamic Councillor Sharman lives with now. He used to have a compliant, attentive fellow council member who would listen to him.

Councillors Sharman and Lancaster - both first term members. Will they both be returned?

Councillors Sharman and Lancaster – both were returned in the 2014 election. Lancaster was not returned in 2018.

He now has a council member that has difficulty understanding the discussion and some difficulty with the concept of nuance in many of the matters before council

Council Sharman sits to his right – often fiddling with his fingers or sitting stiffly with his arms folded across his chest.

The Gazette has the advantage of watching the council meeting via the web cast where we can see the faces of those delegating and get a closer look at the faces and the body language of the Council members.

We do miss the opportunity to meet and mix with the citizens who are in the Council Chamber. We will expand on why we have chosen not to be in the Council Chamber – sometime after July 1st.

As for Bentivegna and Sharman – the picture is worth 1000 words.

Sharman - Bentevegna + Stolte

A picture is worth 1000 words.

Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette


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Where will the new city manager come from? And when will that person arrive?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

June 14th, 2019



City council should be getting very close to having made a decision on who they want as a city manager. The original intention was to have someone in place in July – that might slide a bit.

Filling that critical job is one of the more than a handful of tasks this council has to face. Hiring at the city manager level is something few if any of the current council members are qualified to do. They are going to have to use whatever wisdom they have and hopefully not base their decision on an “I like the guy”.

There are only so many qualified people in the province that can serve as city manager. The choice is of course not limited to Ontario – but with the close to chaos that is coming out of Queen’s Park having someone who has contacts and connections in the province would be useful to say the least.

There are 28 large urban municipalities in Ontario. They are:
Ajax, Barrie, Brampton, Brantford, Cambridge, Chatham-Kent, Greater Sudbury, Guelph, Hamilton, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Markham, Milton, Mississauga, Oakville, Oshawa, Ottawa, Pickering, Richmond Hill, St. Catharines, Thunder Bay, Toronto, Vaughan, Waterloo, Whitby and Windsor.

We can take Hamilton, Guelph, London, Toronto and Milton off the list; they have either just hired new city managers or we have done business with them in the past and it didn’t go all that well.

The choice could well come from what is left.

Burlington wants either an experienced, proven administrator who is ready for a change and is up to the challenge of growing a new, young city council with a feisty Mayor – and prepared to put in the eight to ten years needed to create a truly creative team.

Or, a younger deputy city manager who feels he (or she) is ready for a step up and can convince Burlington’s city council that they have the growth potential to lead them to a better place.

One of the metrics is to look at the quality of the civic administration the candidate comes from. I want to use two examples to make the point: Welland and Thunder Bay.

A full page article on Welland in a recent issue of the Globe and Mail is the kind of news a city would go to some length to get.


Vehicles go under the Welland while ships sail past. A significant engineering feat.

Part of the content reads: “A unique convergence presents itself to truckers, engineers and helmsmen approaching the Townline Tunnel from the north, south, east or west of Welland Ontario. While it’s not a regular occurrence, big rigs and Canadian Pacific Railway trains have been known to simultaneously pass under the Welland Canal in Ontario’s Niagara Region at exactly the same time as lake freighters ply the waters directly overhead.

“That intersection is priceless,” says Welland Mayor Frank Campion. “Our industrial amenities and transportation infrastructure are attracting industry and the jobs associated with it, and align perfectly with the federal government’s plans for transporting goods on an international scale.”

“Combine this with bountiful incentives and a wealth of newly zoned land, and it’s no wonder commercial and industrial real estate development is growing at an unprecedented rate in the Rose City.

Welland’s building boom, which started about two years ago, owes much to the continuing divestment of some 1,600 hectares of federally-owned land along the working canal. “There are several plots we will be interested in purchasing as soon as they come up for sale,” Mr. Campion says. “Given our current levels of residential and industrial growth, we need to have enough land inventory for the future.”


The Welland canal is a huge plus for the city – and they have made the best of it. But the ships that float through the canal don’t put all that much money into the local economy.

A recent federal transport and infrastructure committee recommendation to use canal corridor lands to boost Niagara’s economy has only strengthened the city’s bid to build a dock and loading area on the working canal with financial support from Ottawa’s $2-billion National Trade Corridors Fund, which began a call for proposals in January.

The value of the 726 construction permits issued in Welland in 2017 – $164,548,600 – was more than double that of 2016, with the 802 permits issued in 2018 setting a new record.

Welland water pond

Welland made good use of what they had.

The original route of the fourth Welland Canal, which passes through the city centre, is lined with bike paths, parks, a 750-seat amphitheatre, and the 12-year-old Welland International Flatwater Centre, which hosted canoeing and rowing events during the 2015 Pan American Games.

“The proximity to the U.S. border and major highways, combined with the ability to apply for tax, duty and tariff exemptions, gives us a real advantage,” said Mayor Frank Campion.  “The City of Welland has a very proactive team, and that’s attracting skill sets to the region and bringing the younger generation back. It’s exciting to see all the momentum.”

Dan Degazio, the City of Welland’s director of economic development said: “Companies are paying $200,000 an acre for commercial-industrial property in the GTA. In Welland it’s $125,000 an acre – serviced, configured for drainage, and ready to go. You can be in the ground in eight weeks. In the GTA, I’m hearing stories of 30 months for a permit. We work to accommodate whatever needs to be done. When GE bought here in 2016, they needed to be operational in less than two years. We had them in the ground in eight weeks.”

Can you even imagine a developer in Burlington getting much beyond the application stage in eight weeks?

Mr. Degazio also credits the area’s relatively low wages and cost of living for enticing industry. “I’ve been in touch with a decent-sized GTA employer that’s looking at putting in a 200,000-square-foot building. The owner asks me, ‘Am I going to be able to hire anyone for $18 an hour?’ And I told him: ‘All day long.’ Here, your employees get twice the house for a third the cost.”

“In the last few years, city council has done what needed be done to create an environment that encourages growth,” he says. “Instead of just policing, the Welland Development Commission assists in expediting projects. One of our clients came to Welland last June to set up a 75,000-square-foot food production facility. By the end of September he had purchased the land and in October we were building. That’s unique. In most communities, it takes much longer to complete the process.”

In Burlington Mayor Meed Ward is doing her best to improve the way business gets done with a Red Tape Red Carpet initiative that has her listening to what people from different sectors have to say; there were some positive comments – but they were outweighed by the problems that were impacting every sector.

Now take a look at Thunder Bay where the Police service has been severally criticized by more than one investigation. Growth has stagnated and there is little in the way of hope, energy or enthusiasm to be shared.

Thunder Bay’s problems with its indigenous community have scarred the city. The racism is rampant and sucks the pride, the energy – the very lifeblood out of the community.

A series of external investigations, including a 2015 Ontario coroner’s inquest into the deaths of seven young First Nations people in the city; an Ontario independent police review, released last December, which found the Thunder Bay police force to be racist at an “institutional level”; and a report, released two days after that, by Senator Murray Sinclair, in which he pilloried the city’s police board for failing Indigenous people who are the targets of hate crime.

The problems Thunder Bay faces today are the result of the bad roots that were put down decades ago and allowed to grow out of control and kill what was good in the community. Thunder Bay is a classic example of what hate can do to a city.

According to Statistics Canada’s police-reported crime statistics for 2017, the homicide rate in Thunder Bay was 5.8 per 100,000 population making the city the murder capital of Canada.

News coming out of Thunder Bay is so relevant to the problems Canada has with its indigenous community that the Globe and Mail opened a Thunder Bay bureau.

How does a city get to this point?

Thunder BAy Skyline

A bleak looking skyline of a city with a bleak looking future until it cleans up the social rot that civic leaders allowed to exist and destroy the social fibre.

There are other cities with large indigenous communities; Winnipeg and Saskatoon are examples. Historically Canada has not served its indigenous people very well. There are still hundreds of indigenous communities with Boil Water advisories. Burlington MP Karina Gould spoke with some pride that the federal government has erased 85 Boil Water advisories last year. We should be ashamed that we have even one community where the residents have to boil the water they use.

In a recent article the Gazette published on the two Special Advisers appointed by the provincial government to do a review of the governance of nine Ontario Regions; Ken Seiling, a now retired politician who served as Regional Chair for 30 years,  talked about the values that are needed to serve at the municipal and provincial levels.

“There are things that leaders do not let happen” – that leadership was missing in Thunder Bay for decades.

Burlington is now looking for the administrative leadership it needs as it stares at 30 + development proposals that need to be responded to; a change in the required level of growth in the city and a keen desire to see the right kind of growth in the right place take place.

The citizens made it plain that they wanted a different form of leadership at city hall and elected basically a brand new council and bumped one of the old Councillors up to Mayor – who believes she has a mandate to bring about change. The day after she was sworn in she ended the contract with the existing city manager.

The significant seven who sit in the new (but drab) council chamber are now going through the interviews to determine who they want to hire as the city manager who will re-shape what is currently in place.

Full council

The budget is a big deal, the revision of the Official Plan is a BIG deal – the hiring of a new city manager is the biggest deal these seven people will complete this term of office.

Hopefully they will take a hard look at where the candidate came from – hopefully a Welland type where the attitude is progressive, the people are keen and the municipality is just roaring. That is perhaps why the Burlington Herd, the amateur baseball club in the Inter County Baseball League left Burlington for Welland.

What Burlington wants to avoid is choosing someone from a Thunder Bay situation where the problems are deep and will require years to reverse.

It is all about leadership and past experience is one of the best indicators on what to expect from the person hired.

Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette

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The Not for Profit sector is hurting - leadership at one Regional agency is stressed and staff are uncertain about their futures.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

June 13th, 2019



There is an agency in the Region that has served for several decades that is going through significant turmoil as it comes to terms with change.

We are not going to name the agency, nor will we name any of the individuals involved.

The agency is in the non-profit sector; it is suffering from the loss of funding at the provincial level and to some degree from the federal level.

social-services-and-communities-emblemSocial services at this point in time are, for the most part, a Regional responsibility.  The provincial government downloaded a lot of this responsibility to the municipalities who do not have the financial resources to deliver. The 2014-18 Burlington city council made little effort to take up any of the slack that resulted in funding changes at the Regional level.

The agency of concern has not managed to keep up with the way information is gathered and distributed – infographics for which the the city and the Board of Education have staff in place to create, is not a luxury this agency has – thus they are quite a bit behind in the quality of the information they can send out.

The dollars they get from their funders are put into creating policy papers and developing courses that other small non-profits can use to improve their operations and running programs to meet different needs in the Region.

The Trillium fund in the past was a significant source of funding for the agency we are focused on. That source has dried up.

Staff and Executive leadership at the agency are going through some deep re-thinking as they struggle to determine their direction and the validity of the mission.

Change is painful, the pressure on the Board of Directors is immense – finding people with the experience, depth and time needed to handle complex issues is difficult.

Leadership at the operational level is impacted by the quality of leadership at the policy level. Every leader has to take what former Prime Minister called “a walk in the snow” to think through if this is the time to make way for new leadership.

Everyone likes to leave on a high note – what if the high note’s time has passed?

Reputations and a life’s work should not just be trashed by a report that was not as well researched as it could have been.

The not for profit sector is hurting – this is the case in Ontario and across the country. The struggle to find new leadership and put them in place so that those who have been in place for decades can move on to new opportunities, requires judgement, wisdom and tact on the part of the Boards of Directors.

Salt with Pepper is the opinions, reflections,musings and observations of the Gazette Publisher

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Give your council member a hug!

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

June 12th, 2019



They are under incredible pressure.

The work load is daunting.

The learning curve is just beginning to level out for five of them – it has been incredibly steep.

Some nod off during meetings.

The city council elected last October is sweating it out and for the most part they are doing a really good job and changing the way the city gets its work done.

Staff is still getting its measure as to just who the five new members are.

Both staff and council are badly in need of the kind of leadership a new city manager will bring.

When you see a council member – give them a hug.

Yesterday they put in a 12 hour day – with meal breaks as short as 20 minutes.

They approved a recommendation that Standing Committee meetings begin at 9:30 am instead of the past start time of 1:00 pm.

Staff is struggling to keep up with the work load and setting out deadlines that are going to be very hard to meet.

The challenge for both council and staff is to turn the good ship Burlington around as they set a new course realizing that the charts they had expected to use have been changed.

They need your support – be generous.

City council on innauguration Dec 3rd - 2018

The 2018 city council on the day they were sworn in.

Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette.

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Politics does make for strange bed fellows.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

June 12, 2019



The dynamic was delicious.

Lisa Kearns

Ward 2 Councilor Lisa Kearns

There was the candidate, Lisa Kearns, who won the ward 2 seat; there was the candidate, Roland Tanner, who lost to the current Councillor and then there was the Chair of the meeting, Paul Sharman, who was hearing people speak at a Statutory meeting about a project that no one spoke favourably about, other than the developers’ consultants.

The chair, Paul Sharman, was a member of the Shape Burlington committee. Roland Tanner, who did not win the ward 2 seat, was also a member of the Shape Burlington committee.  The two men didn’t get along at the Shape Burlington committee meetings and they didn’t get along Tuesday evening either.  At one point Sharman did his best to shut Tanner down.

Tanner was also a member of ECoB – Engaged Citizens of Burlington, the organization that held election debates in every ward of the city, including ward 5 where Paul Sharman sought and won re-election.

Sharman seat at ward 5

Paul Sharman’s seat at the ward 5 ECoB debate.

Sharman did not take part in the ward 5 debate sponsored by ECoB. What he did do was trash the organization as illegitimate and misguided.

Roland Tanner June 11-

Roland Tanner

While Sharman didn’t take part in the ward 5 debate he did have some of his people on hand passing out literature.

Tuesday evening, Roland Tanner was delegating, answering some very direct questions from the ward 2 Councillor, Lisa Kearns and dealing with interruptions from the chair.

Politics does have the strangest of bed fellows.

Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette.

Related opinion piece: The delegation the chair wanted to cut short.

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Public service is noble work. People might scoff at the use of that word. If a person doesn’t see the job as a noble calling – they are perhaps not in the right industry.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

May 27th, 2019



There has been a lot of material published in the Gazette on the Red Carpet Red Tape initiative that Mayor Marianne Meed Ward brought to city hall.

The Small Business Sector, the Large Manufacturers, the Developer and Real Estate and the Rural Sector all had strong points to make and serious concerns that they wanted addressed.

In the midst of all this is a full time staff that comes to work each day

Moral at city hall cannot be very high. Staff have seen four city managers in a six year period and are now directed by an interim who had some prior experience with city hall; the planning department has seen huge changes, engineering had to deal with The Pier fiasco.

City hall - older pic

Is it the building or the people who work in it that are the problem? Something isn’t right.

Roy Male, a former Executive Director of Human Resources was an active advocate of the municipal sector as a great place to work.

But there are not that many people who will rave about the service they get from city hall. Some of the decisions are just plain stupid.

The Gazette has worked with people in a number of departments and we can say that there are some very good people toiling away on behalf of the public. We have watched a number of those people grow in their jobs, become more skilled and more mature. There are some who are not going to make the grade and there are some who found the environment was just not for them and moved on.

We talked recently to a staffer who moved from a department in city hall to a city service that had operations elsewhere.  He was a happier man and loving the job he was doing.

We talked to one planner who moved into the private sector after saying “the Mayor threw me under the bus”.

Municipalities are where we live, the quality of day to day life is determined to a large degree by the people who work for the city.

We need to be proud of them and they need to give us reason to be proud.

These are good jobs, with good pay scales and great benefits. People who work for a municipality are in place to serve the public. These are not just ordinary jobs – public service is noble work. People might scoff at the use of that word. If a person doesn’t see the job as a noble calling – they are perhaps not in the right industry.

One resident with a high profile and some valuable city hall experience gave serious thought to running for Mayor and decided the place was just too toxic and not likely to change.

Jeff Fielding did his best while he was city manager to create a different ethic and attitude.  When he got an opportunity to work for the city of Calgary which has a great civic administration and one of the best mayors in the country he couldn’t pack fast enough.  He loved the city, returns frequently to play golf with friends – he just might decide to retire in Burlington.

The most recent full time city manager once wrote staff a memo saying that he “had their backs” referring to comments made by the public during the October election.  The role of a city manager is to ensure that the people working under his direction are always accountable to the public.

The objective is to get to the point where a city hall staff member asks: What can I do for you today?

Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette.

Related article:

What has been learned so far from the Red Carpet initiative?

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