Chat and Chew event didn't have all that much buzz about it -

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

June 11, 2017



It was billed as her annual BBQ – which she called a Chat and Chew – held at the Lions Park in the downtown core where most of her strength exists.

Held on a Friday evening – seemed like a good time. The weather was as good as it gets.

blonde boy

Figuring it out.

It was a large site and there was plenty for the kids to do including a pony ride.

There were information booths galore.

There was free food courtesy of Turtle Jacks.

There were pieces from what we call the Gazebo willows available for those who wanted a keepsake.

There was a fire truck and a police car.

But there was no buzz – no sense that anyone was having fun.

It was certainly a political event – that’s what these things are and held where her political strength exists but ward 2 city Councillor the Marianne Meed Ward’s event seemed to be missing something.

People larger view

There were information booths galore – just didn’t seem to be a lot of people walking around.

The Gazette didn’t make use of the event to engage the Councillor in conversation – we were there to observe.
Was there any political fallout from the school closure decision the Halton Board of Education made to close two high schools earlier in the week?

MMW standing

Ward 2 city Councillor Marianne Meed Ward at her Chat and Chew community event.

Meed Ward will get credit for ensuring that the high school in her ward didn’t get the chop; she is also getting some blowback for what some described as a conflict of interest in serving on the Program Accommodation Review Committee (PARC ) that was involved in whittling a 40+ school closing recommendation down to five – one of which was Central high school.

When the Director of Education submitted his original school closing recommendation his top choice of the 19 options he and his staff came up with had the closing of Lester B. Pearson and Central high school at the top of the list.

Terry Ruff former HS principal BCHS

Terry Ruff former Central high school principal speaks to the first meeting of parents telling them how he two previous attempts to close the school failed.

That announcement mobilized the Central parents who left no stone unturned in their drive to get their school off that list.

Once the Director’s recommendations were public the PARC was formed and Central high school chose Meed Ward to represent them. There were howls of protest about a conflict of interst. Meed Ward had a son at the school and she was asked to take on the task.

She brought formidable political skills to the work she did.

The Gazette attended every meeting of the PARC and found Meed Ward to be much less effective at the PARC than she was at city Council meetings.

There were  times at city council when Meed Ward was close to brazen, which we see as a plus. She was focused and direct and asked more questions than any other three members of city council.

The rest of council often roll their eyeballs when she asked for yet another recorded vote.

We didn’t see the same kind of energy during the PARC meetings.

Meed WArd at PARC

Marianne Meed Ward at one of the seven PARC meetings.

The Director of Education, Stuart Miller  did change his recommendation from closing Central high school and Pearson high school to closing Bateman high school and Pearson.

Many howled at that change and argued that it was influence from Meed Ward, a member of city council and the Burlington MPP Eleanor McMahon that swayed Miller.

Stuart Miller changed his mind when he saw all the evidence that was collected and put forward by the Central high school parents. Meed Ward didn’t have any undue influence – she was part of a team with formidable skills that they put to excellent use.

They were creating teams and assigning tasks days after the school closing announcement was made. The held a silent auction fund raiser and pulled in $14,000 which allowed them to print up signs that were on almost every lawn in the ward.

They demonstrated and they did their homework. They figured out that it was going to cost $400,000 every year for the foreseeable future to transport the Central high school students to either Aldershot high school or Nelson high school.

$400,000 a year – every year was a stunning number – that was only going to go higher as transportation costs rose.

Map #1 - all schools

The distance Central high school students would have to travel if Central was closed and they were transferred to either Nelson or Aldershot high schools is 6.4 km; the distance between Bateman and Nelson high schools is 1.9 km.

The disruption to student extra-curricular life for the students would be immense.

If Central high school was closed their students would have had a 6.4 km trip to either Aldershot high school or Nelson high school.  If either Bateman or Nelson were closed those students would have a 1.9 km trip – many would be able to walk to school.

The map and the rationale Central parents provided was one of the most compelling arguments for not closing that high school.  The Burlington Downtown Business association put forward a strong argument for keeping the high school open as well.

Most of the points the Central parents made seemed rather obvious when they were looked at closely and on wonders why the Board of Education staff didn’t see what the Central parents discovered.

The Central parents challenged almost every decision the Board staff had made; they missed nothing,

The decision to close Bateman instead of central was made.   Central is really in very rough shape physically – mostly as the result of neglect, is going to need a lot of money to be brought up to an acceptable standard. It has an acceptable bit of charm and a lot of history going for it but when compared to what Hayden has got – Central pales in comparison. It is what the Central parents are prepared to accept or have accepted in the past.

Meed Ward with Mayor Goldring: she is more comfortable with herself as a speaker.

Meed Ward with Mayor Goldring: she is more comfortable with herself as a speaker and she wants his job

Where they live

There just didn’t seem to be a lot of people.

Meed Ward has an almost tribal relationship with her constituents – they don’t all think she walks on water but they see her as the  member of council that works hard for them and has a vision for the city that other members of council don’t have – including the Mayor who Meed Ward has always wanted to replace.

When she was running for the city council seat in 2009 she wanted the job of Mayor when Can Jackson had it.

For reasons that are not all that clear she chose not to run against Goldring in 2014.

There was a point at which there was little doubt that she was going to run against him in 2018; there now appears to be some doubt.

Were she to remain a city Councillor she would win the ward hands down in 2018 – is the rest of the city ready for her as Mayor?

There are hundreds of them in ward 5 that will campaign actively against her – with a little help from the sitting council member Jack Dennison who is giving every indication that he will run again in his ward, Meed Ward may not be able to pull off a majority of the vote in that ward.

Is the dis-satisfaction from some over the role she played on the PARC going to hurt her longer term political aspirations?

They well might.

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7 comments to Chat and Chew event didn’t have all that much buzz about it – are there changes taking place in the way the ward views the member of city council?

  • gordon

    Really? Well I suppose that Concerned might have a point if one considers that taking a blatantly conflicted role on the PAR Committee (at the ultimate significant detriment of scores of kids and families in the Pearson and Bateman catchment area) was a virtuous and altruistic act.

  • Concerned Parent

    And why weren’t any of the other City Councillors speaking up for or elected to the PARCommittee? Talk about shirking of duties to the city. The other Councillors actively chose not to take part – must mean they are either afraid to take a stand or not interested in the issues. Just taking the easy way out.What did any of them do for their constituents? Absolutely nothing.

  • gordon

    I think David’s comments pretty well sum up the “take” on MMW’s credibility and self serving behaviour by most stakeholders in the school closure fiasco.
    Of course the exclusion would be the parents of kids currently attending or slotted to attend Central High. Oh , and where does MMW’s kid attend…just wondering.

  • David

    I think most of South Burlington will not vote for her. Her absolute disappearance in the school debate allowing Bateman to close has damaged her credibility.

    It proved her motivation was self serving and as a former supporter of the councillor – our family and many of neighbours are disappointed how she abandoned us when her commitment was required.

  • Barbara

    Sharon, you do not speak for all of South Burlington. I can guarantee you that my South Burlington family WILL be putting an X beside her name if she decides to run for Mayor. We will also volunteer for her and campaign for her. Little pockets of disgruntled homeowners do not make up the majority of Burlington; north, south, east or west.

  • Sharon

    If MMW does run for Mayor in 2018 she might want to remember its the City Of Burlington that votes. I can guarantee that South Burlington will not be putting an X beside her name. And I personally will remind people of the South what she has done.

  • Phillip

    I hope Jack Dennison does run again in my ward. We are ready to expose him for what he is–a councillor obsessed with what is good for him, not his constituents;
    the election strategy is set to convince residents to vote him out. As for Meed Ward, the Central debacle has certainly created an air of conflict-of-interest; as a councillor she had a duty to not only speak for her ward but keep in mind the interests of the entire city–she clearly did not do that.