Letter to the Editor: Resident frustrated by the self-righteous rhetoric of Deputy city manager.

opinionandcommentBy Carol Victor

June 29th, 2018




Mary Lou Tanner – former Director if Planning – now Deputy city manager.

Many of us are frustrated by the self-righteous rhetoric of (Deputy city manager) Marylou Tanner and the decisions made by the planning department in Burlington. Stop telling us what you want us to want, start listening to what we do want.

The planning department and Councillors who supported the decisions to “protect what residents value” better known as the “department that is destroying our beautiful city” have failed to listen to what engaged citizens have been saying for the better part of a year. They ploughed ahead with numerous presentations, emails, meetings, and brochures while failing to hear what the citizens don’t want. I attended many of the council meetings and was dismayed that so many delegations were heard and nothing was done.

mmw with supporters

Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward with some of her supporters.

One of the developers at a February meeting printed and had available for the public copies of a letter where he expressed his disdain for the one Councillor (Marianne Meed Ward) who had voted against this extensive development. This was a disgusting prank . Ms. Meed Ward deserves much credit for truly expressing what many of us feel. She was joined by one other person on council who voted against revising the official plan.

However in the case of the other individual, this was purely a case of optics as he clearly knew that the motion would pass despite the two dissenting votes. A lack of leadership is clearly missing when so many citizens take the time and energy to thoughtfully express their visions for the city they love.

Burlington aerial

The Burlington Carol Victor loves; she moved here nine years ago after 40 years in Toronto.

I moved here nine years ago after living in Toronto for 40 years. It was a breath of fresh air with an unencumbered and accessible waterfront, quaint shops downtown, no traffic gridlock, lots of green space and wonderful amenities. How things have changed!!!! There emerged this spring a great shadow over Lakeshore between Elizabeth and Pearl Streets. Lower Brant Street as we know it will soon disappear.

high profile 421

What family will move into a 23 storey tower with 1 and 2 bedroom condos.

As for meeting the demands of intensification, this is nonsense, what family will move into a 23 storey tower in what will be 1 and 2 bedroom condos, with one spot for parking, no nearby schools, grocery shopping that will soon be gone and traffic gridlock. If you don’t live near the downtown, I would suggest that you visit soon as you won’t recognize it in the near future. We will look like every other suburban off-shoot of Toronto; a western Mississauga with no character, a myriad of shopping malls with chain stores and a series of concrete towers without a real downtown. Why are we giving this away?



The only power we have now is at the ballot box. The function of our Municipal Government is to serve the citizens of the city. Going forward we need to elect people who listen to its citizens and truly respect the democratic process.

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22 comments to Letter to the Editor: Resident frustrated by the self-righteous rhetoric of Deputy city manager.

  • Bob Wilson

    In light of City Manager letter to staff, this letter needs a bump.

    Also, let’s remember what our own MPP says about this topic.

    “City Planner and Councillors should be held accountable for negotiating on your behalf and accurately representing your views.”

    If Mr. Ridge is uncomfortable with the notion that staff should be held accountable for the job they do and the satisfaction rate payers have with their work, he is as out of touch and behind the times as Council and the Mayor.

  • Alfred

    Planning Act of Ontario states that all planning decisions made by Councilors and Planning staff shall ( an order) be consistent with the Provincial Policy Statement issued by the Province. A quick read might educate some on the fact that Ms. Tanner and most of the Councilors got it right. If you don’t like intensification, you might want to lobby the Provincial Government on the future of Development. If your Councilors and Planning staff don’t get it right. The OMB. will and we will all be stuck paying millions in legal fees fighting wars we can’t win. Our last MPP. could have assisted the citizens of Burlington if there was a reasonable argument to be made to the Province that intensification well exceeded the Provincial guidelines. Since her Government came up with this policy, she could have made clear what the premier had in store for Burlington.

  • Michael Hribljan

    Fantastic opinion piece Carol!

    If public engagement and consultation was undertaken without any bias one would think it would be completely unnecessary to continue to promote a plan that has already been approved by council. Of course the continued promotion of this plan only serves as further evidence that the public consultation process was in fact a “sales process”.

  • Hilda Cirotto

    I agree with Carol. The City of Burlington continues to pay lip service when it comes to listening to its citizens. Last Monday’s accident on QEW near Eastport highlights the lack of planning by COB. Congestion ensued all over Burlington and into the region from early afternoon until well past 7pm. The costs for congestion are huge – both mentally, financially and environmentally.
    Does Burlington have an emergency evacuation plan?
    My inquiry to COB as yet has no response.


    Doug Ford pointed out the miscarriages of management at ONTARIO HYDRO and how he would get the insiders out. Lets hope some running for council this year will use a similar tactic and promise to clean up the City Managers office and the the planing department.

  • The Municipal Act 2001 sec.224 (b) states that it is the role of council to develop and evaluate the policies and programs of the municipality. Sec.227 1(a) states that the role of staff is to implement council’s decisions. When any senior staff takes it upon themselves to express an opinion that may go against even one councillor, are they not then in contravention of these sections and could it be that having their own agenda is then contrary to the will of the elected council. In the instance where staff allegedly attempt to promote their own policies by the release of possibly biased, possibly factually debatable, non-official news, or news release piece, should they not be taken to task by council?

    • Andrew Miller

      vocedemocratia: Unfortunately, your interpretation of the Municipal Act is incorrect. Those sections refer to the requirement for City staff and Council members to respect the decisions of the Council, not the ideas of individual Council members. When looking at these sections and their precise meaning, please consider the actions of Councillor Meed Ward going behind Council’s back to ask the Region of Halton to ignore Council decisions and do what she wants. This is not only highly irregular, but complete disrespects Council decisions which she is responsible to support.

  • Stephen White

    Fabulous letter Carol! You captured the frustration and anger that many residents in this City feel. Well done!

    Mary Lou Tanner is neither impartial in her role nor balanced in her perspective. I have watched her in several meetings and her disdain and contempt for citizens delegating against development proposals is palpable. As a public servant she has an obligation to remain objective and to maintain a neutral posture. Using a newspaper column to regurgitate the tired, boring mantra in favour of intensification is neither helpful nor informative.

    What the issue does highlight is a compelling need for substantive change in personnel in not just the Mayor’s Office and on City Council, but also in the senior ranks of public servants at City Hall. These people have frankly squandered public trust, and their bloody-minded adherence to their intensification agenda coupled with an unwillingness to modify the content of their proposals is troubling and frustrating.

    On the positive side, we should all thank Ms. Tanner and her boss, James Ridge, for waking Burlington out of its state of apathy. In the 43 years I’ve lived here I have never seen residents as vitriolic and upset. We just need to make sure that anger is reflected at the ballot box on October 22nd, and that developers’ “pocket puppy” candidates are relegated to the sidelines.

  • Good thing few citizens read what little content is in the Post. It is really what used to be called the shopping news.

    • Hans

      Agreed. The main function of the Post is to provide content for my Blue Box 🙁

      • Stephen White

        Actually I’ve found the Post comes in very handy for wrapping fish and chips and toilet training puppies.

  • Lynn

    Couldn’t agree more, Carol! It is indeed worth questioning why our highly-paid senior city staff are spending so much time (at our expense) writing letters in the media and sending out brochures constantly promoting what appears to be their agenda, especially less than 4 months before an election where this is a crucial issue. Tanner seems to have a weekly column in the Burlington Post now, and in between writes in the Spectator and wherever else she can. I also question why the Burlington Post is giving her this platform during an election period and agree with Stu and Penny that we should be asking that question of them.

    I recall the City advertising at Tim Horton’s about the Official Plan, before it was even voted on by council. They seem to have the process backwards: staff is supposed to take the lead from council, who listen to and act for citizens, and take the city to where the elected officials direct them. It seems to be the reverse in Burlington, where council constantly looks to staff, staff provides them with the information that supports the staff position, and the lowly citizens aren’t in the equation at all. It is utterly dismissive and condescending for councillors to lecture residents that they must listen to the “professionals”. Council should not be a rubber stamp. And believe it or not, many residents are professionals or retired professionals, and have good ideas and valuable input to provide.

    • Philip Waggett

      Lynn, to me it is very clear that the City’s senior staff have a pro-development agenda that is diametrically opposed to the vision that residents have for our city. As I have previously noted on several occasions on this forum, the senior staff, aided and abetted by the mayor and council, have created a culture at City Hall that residents are there to serve them and their agendas; I know that for the overwhelming majority of residents this culture is a$$-backwards.
      And in my experience, this attitude permeates most, if not all, departments at City Hall.
      The coming tidal wave on October 22 will only be the start–the new brooms at City Hall will have to sweep clean.

  • Penny


    Do you think that all the advertising dollars that the City of Burlington spends each year is the reason that Ms Tanner gets to write a column in the Burlington Post in an election year? Perhaps all candidates running in this election should have the same perk?

  • C Jester

    I am going to have to get a column myself in the Post. It could be titled “A Comedy of Errors”, but I think that title is taken. Alas perchance it may have to be a tragedy for there is much ado about failures of this tired Council, especially when it comes to devaluing and replacing our main city street to the lake with shiny towers reaching into the sky on the eastern side.

    As Carol says, come and see it before it’s gone. Or better still, become an agent of change, talk about this tragedy with your neighbours and together resolve to sweep away on October 22nd those who wish Burlington to be just another people warehouse down the road from the Big Smoke.

    Sitting back and doing nothing at this key time in our history would only be a fool’s errand.

  • W. Becken

    I also totally agree. There needs to be a wholesale change in the next election with the new Mayor Meed Ward and all new councilors who will listen to the citizens of Burlington

  • Penny

    How does Mary Lou Tanner get to have a column in The Burlington Post when it is almost impossible to get a reporter from the Post to write a story about a community group that criticizes what is happening at City Hall? I have been told on several occasions that the best way to get something in print is to send it to Letters to the Editor.

    Well I just sent a” letter to the editor ” asking why the city gets to push its agenda in a newspaper in an election year when candidates running for election have to follow rules governing what they can and cannot say or do?

    Perhaps others need to send A LETTER TO THE EDITOR asking the same question.

    • rob n

      Excellent point Penny, let’s see if the Post publishes your letter! I doubt they will.

      We are so fortunate to have the Gazette to tell it like it is!

  • Stu Parr

    Carol – beautifully expressed. Thank you. I think that there is another dimension to this continual marketing of the new Official Plan by City Hall staff, Ms. Tanner most notably but not exclusively. It reflects a sense of “policy ownership” and bias that is completely inappropriate for a public servant. More significantly, perhaps, it exposes a rather nasty weakness in our current electoral rules and protocols. As it stands, there are two main candidates for the mayor’s office – our current mayor and Marianne Meed Ward. Our current mayor has supported the new Official Plan, has become its poster child, whereas Ms. Meed Ward is an articulate opponent. It would seem, given this polarity, that the ongoing communication of the merits of the new plan by Ms.Tanner are tantamount to “electioneering” as they strongly and blatantly benefit the interests of Mr. Goldring, her political “boss”. I would ask why this is permitted and why “The Post” would seem to endorse this practice? Is it not committed to at least the appearance of neutral and fair representation? Why, for example, does it continue to publish large format event notices (Canada Day, for example) with the grinning visage of our current mayor? Is this not actually in contravention of existing election law? I think that most people value fair play, a level playing field, and will be appalled by this rather transparent attempt to ‘stack the deck’ (apologies for the mixed metaphor).

  • Hans

    I agree completely with Carol. IMO, the Deputy City Manager’s job should not include trying to promote a particular point of view; the job should be constrained to assisting the City Manager in carrying out approved City policy.
    And who gave Tanner permission to write these self-serving newspaper articles? I hope that the next council will consist of Mayor Meed Ward and new councilors who won’t tolerate this kind of excessive initiative from a City employee.

    • rob n

      No doubt Ms. Tanner had permission, if not even a push, from the City Manager, James Ridge. Mr. Ridge, if you didn’t already know, is tone deaf to citizen issues.

      Interesting group at City Hall. Probably good people at heart, but they need a whole new culture and leadership.

      Editor’s note: In the interest of fairness to city hall, Editors reach out and ask for contributions, it’s cost free editorial and bureaucrats just love it. They get to say whatever they want without any pesky reporter asking awkward questions. It’s a win – win for the city and the publisher. Not a win- win – win though – the public gets the short straw