It is a fractious city council unable to work together all that well - the city suffers - there are some very significant decisions to be made

By Pepper Parr

January 4th, 2020



The three things the city wants to focus on in 2022

Fractious council

Losing the football

Waterfront Hotel

With nothing but virtual Council meetings for just about two years now it is difficult to read just what is taking place.

Councillor Kearns is missing the Standing Committee Clerk and the City Manager are included

If you know the players a little you can pick up some of the discord – and there is certainly discord but this council works very hard to ensure that very little of it gets seen by the public.

The hope that many Burlingtonians had, including this reporter and the Gazette, when Marianne Meed Ward bent her head forward as the Chain of Office was placed around her neck is not today what it was that December evening in 2018. The hope hasn’t entirely disappeared but there is discord and differences.

Council is split into two factions:  The Mayor who will be supported by Rory Nisan until the day he is no longer in office and Kelvin Galbraith who likes the way the Mayor accepts his – let’s build stuff approach to being a ward Councillor.

One the other side, Ward 2 Councillor Lisa Kearns, Ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte and Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman are usually on the same page – and it is seldom the same page as the Mayor.

The factions are not cast in stone with Nisan being the exception.

The swing vote – didn’t see that coming in 2018

The swing vote is ward 6 Councillor Angelo Bentivegna (who’d thought this is how things would work out) who has taken to developing his own view on those matters he understands. And while he is frequently with the Mayor – not as much as he used to be.

Five of the seven members of Council have now been in office for three years and are gearing up for re-election. With one exception the expectation is that all seven will seek re-election. And no – I am not prepared to say who the exception is at this point.

The important things is the the newbies have found most of their footing – they have developed a good working relationships with their constituents; feel comfortable with most of the issues and are tiring of the way the Mayor treats them. Lisa Kearns thought she would like to serve on the Police Services Board and chose to put her name forward. The Mayor did not support Kearns – and the seat went to a Council member from Oakville.

Traditionally members of a Council support each other when they have something they want to do outside of Council.  Meed Ward may have had some very good reasons for supporting someone else for the Police Services Board but common courtesy called for her to talk to Kearns and explain her position. Kearns was apparently blind-sided by the Mayor.

Without a doubt the quickest and the fastest mind on Council; a workhorse as well – does her homework

Kearns, by the way, would have been an excellent Police Serve Board member – she does her homework (better than anyone else on Council) she would have kept the Board members on their toes.

Councillor Stolte looking for some clarity.

When Councillor Stolte isn’t asking for additional clarification on a matter she struggles to get around the interference the Mayor pushes in front of her.

If Stolte has an event going on and invites the Mayor – it becomes the Mayor’s event.

The differences in approach and philosophy became glaringly obvious when the Mayor could not find a way to get the tax increase number she felt she needed going into an election in October.

Her thinking had merit – it deserves an explanation and some analysis and in the fullness of time we will get that to you.

Meed Ward had a well thought out position – the other council members just didn’t buy it. This Council came very close to being in a position where they were not able to agree on a budget which would have put the creating of a budget in the hands of staff – which City Manager Tim Commisso advised would “not be a pretty picture”.

There are times when the Mayor bends over backwards to get her colleagues to “collaborate” with her. The city does not have someone serving as Deputy Mayor because the members of Council could not agree on just what the job would entail.

When the Burlington Land Partnership was set up every member of Council wanted to be on it – wasn’t something the city manager wanted so no one sits on the BLP – which by the way is a significant venture that the general public knows very little about.

Transparency became her middle name – she draped it around her like a flag

In 2010 there were three new members on Council. Meed Ward, newly elected had a lot of time in as probably the leading delegate as a citizen knew the ropes. Paul Sharman had a lot of senior executive experience in the private sector and knew his way around process and financial reports. The only really new ember in 2010 was Blair Lancaster. There wasn’t nearly as much learning on the job for the newbies.

And Rick Goldring who had become Mayor had a good feel for what the job was about – which is not the same thing as being able to actually do the job.

Normally wears a winning smile.

Meed Ward is now in a similar situation. She is Mayor but has yet to create the set of skills needed to make it happen. Politics is the art of the possible with grey being the dominant colour – black or white doesn’t work.  Meed Ward doesn’t do grey.

Listening intently and being able to read the wind as well as the tea leaves in a cup are vital. It is an art with an understanding of the little bit of science that matters.

What a Councillor is made of should be evident by the end of the third year of the term – and with Meed Ward it is evident but it isn’t all that useful.

Expensive but well worth the price – great legal counsel solved a problem for the ADI Group – shovels are in the ground and the cranes are hauling concrete.

There have been some major wins. The Mayor managed to get rid of the Planner in place when she was elected. She did get the Urban Growth Centre moved north and proved that the a bus terminal that is the size of the average kitchen is not an MTSA – despite what sharp legal counsel was able to convince an OMB hearing that it was.  That was a big win for the ADI Group

Meed Ward seems adrift when it comes to solving the football, almost missing in action on the redevelopment plans for the Waterfront Hotel.

She gave Black Lives Matter the coverage it needs and then got totally silly with her drive to put Rainbow Crosswalks in every ward while learning to live with a budget that needed some time in a Weight Watchers class.

In 2018 the Gazette said Meed Ward was the best of the three people running for the job. We expected her to grow into the job – that hasn’t happened and unless she has a horse shoe in her purse that can be put to good use, or knows how to pull a rabbit out of the hat, she is in trouble.

Rick Goldring seldom wore his chain of Office outside Council Chambers

So much so that Rick Goldring is understood to be looking at his chances of once again wearing the Chain of Office.

Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman is usually very direct, tends to want to see data that is verifiable and expects to get his way.

Are there other candidates that might want to reach for that brass ring? There are – but they are nowhere near ready to show their hand.

As for the members of Council Meed Ward will have the support of at least two – one of which may not win his seat come October 2020.

The problem with the football and the strange situation with the Waterfront re-development project will follow.

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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7 comments to It is a fractious city council unable to work together all that well – the city suffers – there are some very significant decisions to be made

  • Alfred

    Hi Diane.

    I’m a little confused.

    Who do you suggest we vote for?

    The Provincial Parties both Liberals and Conservatives who brought all this intensification? The NDP who probably want subsidized housing in the Downtown core? The Mayor and councilors that are not following the mandates imposed on them by the Premiers of the present and days gone by?

    That doesn’t seem to be stopping any development and is just creating chaos along with 5% tax increases. Don’t forget Trudeau for allowing 410 thousand immigrants to this country with no clue where to put them, who are flooding to the GTA for whatever reason. Which creates the demand for many more and more highrise buildings(if that is a problem?) traffic congestion and so on. Squeezing more and more people tighly together to make covid and other contagious killer viruses job a lot easier.

    Many voted for the politicians of all stripes that were led by the nose by environmentalists that supported and forced builders to build up not out.The protocal to save the planet. Guess what? The builders are gladly doing just that. Many out there who voted for these people, are now the ones complaining.

    Who are these people of which you speak that would make your woes disappear? I would gladly vote for them.

  • Diane Knox

    Lest We/ and I Forget my time in 4 properties in S//E Burlington – 1967-2022- We the citizens of Burlington have elected many Council reps and Mayors.. Primary focus in all–Low property taxes.

    So we paved a flood plane for industry, strip malls, opened accesses to QEW-Walkers and Appleby to encourage commuters, turned farmland to Housing, Malls and even gave up our Lakeshore to the pressure/ Rules of Provincial ‘intensification’ High Rise development and Toronto Builders. Some gave warning-Mary Monroe-‘Save the Lakeshore’. (lost all but Mc Nicol thanks to Palletta,) Now we have Floods-2014, Condo Corridor on the Lake, Traffic nightmares. And most of all a Provincial Government who will ignore any and all OP that we submit to any new Toronto builder and whatever new alphabet tribunal.
    This Mayor and this Council have inherited the Sins of the Past. I place no Blame/ Shame on them
    However, it is in my humble view that it is time for All of them, including the Mayor to begin to see their role as decision makers for ALL wards not just their own, to recognize that if we do not stop the Intensification of vulnerable older south Burlington wards whose streams and sewers cannot support this Provincial Intensification, we will only be adding to the Tax burden for the future when the builders have gone. Good luck to them and Vote at every level in 2022.

  • Alfred

    Hello again Mr Leigh.

    Being fractious is a good thing?

    We have dropped from 1st place to 35th place of most liveable Cities in Canada. Under the old Council and Mayor Mr. Goldring we were ranked number 1 for 5 out of 6 years and 2nd once.

    While Mayor MMW. was councilor at the time. The records show she constantly voted against (The Dream team) on just about everything therefore I have difficulty giving her any credit for the stunning rankings Burlington achieved. It was like she was sitting on the other teams bench. Making it more difficult for Burlington to win. Thanks to Pepper for holding those responsible during these troubling times to be accountable for their actions.

    Anyone want to take a guess as to why under this Mayor’s watch we dropped so far 1st to 35th in the rankings?

    • Bruce Leigh

      I’ll take a guess. Yeah, the reason is we as a city are now dealing with all the mess Goldring and his fellow councilors, excluding the Mayor and Sharman, left behind. Primarily in having to deal with developers whose only interest is making huge profits at the expense of this City’s quality of life and against the wishes of its residents. I know you are a single family home in-fill type developer, but I lump you in with them because 9f your constant defence of them.

      None of the application proposals at City Hall provide any meaningful amount of affordable rental housing. All units are condos that will be out of the range of the affordable housing sector.

      If you blame the Mayor you must blame each and every one of her six Councilor colleagues. There are seven votes to be counted on each vote taken. The Mayor only has one vote.

      Yes, she was generally the lone holdout during the Goldring days. Seems residents weren’t happy with five of the other six members of council as they were thrown out.

      “Fractious”. That is the Gazette’s descriptor. That’s not how I would describe this Council. Members of council having different opinions on any given topic is a good thing. A bunch of toadies is a bad thing. The important thing is to discuss and come to a position the majority of members can support. It will not always be unanimous.

      Perhaps you could for the record answer your own question. List what actions the Mayor has taken that you think might have caused the drop in that ranking.

  • Fred Untermeyer

    Unless I’m reading a different copy of this article than you, it is clearly an “opinion piece”. At the end, Mr. Parr states “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.” And to prove that he is not doing a “hatchet Job” on the Mayor, he actually posts her birthday address which is pretty much a freebie bit of publicity and facetime.

    • Tom Muir

      I agree with Fred.

      This is one thing that “the press” does – write political opinion. Pepper says it’s Salt with Pepper and that is pretty much how it reads in affect.

      Much of what media in general publishes is an angle on a story that is at bottom “opinion”, unless presented up front as fact based with sources to show that.

      Bruce’s comment is thoroughly his opinion, using conjecture of what he thinks about the Mayor and Council where he differs with what he says Pepper says, so as to defend them.

  • Bruce Leigh

    Another hatchet job by the Gazette on the Mayor. So biased! Positioned as a report not an opinion piece, which is what it really is.

    Making statements as fact rather than conjecture, which is what they are. e.g. “Kearns was apparently blind-sided by the Mayor”. Does the Gazette know for sure that is the case. Maybe Kerns sought the Mayor’s support and was told no.

    The fact that the Council is as the Gazette calls it “fractious” is a very positive thing. It shows each member of Council has developed strongly and is not merely there to keep a seat warm. It is up to each member of Council to build concensus. It’s not just down to the Mayor to do that.