Matching the significant election campaign donations with development applications

By Pepper Parr

May 15th, 2023


Part 3 of a series on election financing

At the time of publication, the Gazette had received no response to the two previous articles despite repeated requests to respond.

In Parts 1 and 2, we reported on the financial statements of Ward 1 Councillor Kelvin Galbraith, and pointed out the many developer donations he received, as well as the fact that he received the highest dollar amount of donations of any other Burlington Council member, including the Mayor.

Kelvin Galbraith. Councillor Ward 1

In this third part, we look further at some of those donors again, showing those who gave Galbraith the maximum donation ($1200) or $1000, and who also have current development projects with the City of Burlington, in his Ward 1. The data on these projects was taken directly from the City of Burlington website where they list “Current Development Projects” by ward, along with details of the applications and their current status.

The lists of such projects in all wards reveals that the number and scale of projects in Ward 1 is extremely large. The list is five pages long; covering 23 projects.  These are all big projects, often covering multiple addresses for one development and with multiple buildings. On its face, it would seem that Ward 1 is the leader of major development in the City.

Ward 2 also has 23 developments which, since it includes the downtown and waterfront, is to be expected. Significantly, the Ward 2 Councillor, Lisa Kearns, did not receive developer donations.

The following developers, who donated to Galbraith, have current development projects in his ward:

Molinaro: 1134-1167 Plains Road East, Status: Under Review; 1049 residential units, 4 towers, 22-35 storeys, Vincent Molinaro donated $1000 to Galbraith

National Homes: 484-490 Plains Road East, Status: Approved; two 8-storey condos with 9th floor rooftop amenity, 276 units, 110 stacked townhouse units.

Travis Nolan, VP of National Homes donated $1200 to Galbraith; two National Homes Executive Assistants, Jessica Dipronio and Sara Defina each donated $1200 on the same day as Nolan.

National Homes: 2100 Brant. Status: Approved and under construction. A mix of townhouse blocks, with 4 semi-detached bungalofts proposed in the revised plan of 210 units. City website does not reflect current status.

Infinity: 1029 and 1033 Waterdown Unit, Status: Appealed. 29 storey mixed use building, 295 residential units, 4-storey podium, ground floor retail, 2 levels underground parking, 3.5 levels above-grade parking. Arun Anand, Manager of Infinity’s Construction Management Plan, donated $1200 to Galbraith.

• Infinity: 40-70 Plains Road East, Status: Appealed. 12 storey apartment, 389 units.

• Vrancor Group: At the intersection of 53-71 Plains Rd. East and 1025 Cooke Blvd, Status: Approved; 2 residential towers, 18 and 9 storeys, commercial units on main floor. Gunther Bluesz, Lead Designer & Project Manager at Vrancor Group, donated $1200 to Galbraith.

It is also worth noting that these and other of Galbraith’s developer donors have projects in other wards as well and Galbraith votes on these too. If a Councillor has a development-friendly approach, this tendency has application across the City.

It is difficult to believe that Galbraith’s multiple properties which he owns in the Plains Road area would not benefit from, or are at the very least be impacted by, the influx of thousands and thousands of units being built in the vicinity – regardless of distance from the MTSA. There are so many addresses being developed in Ward 1 covering so much real estate acreage that it beggars belief that Galbraith’s properties are not impacted. This fact is fundamental to the continuing efforts by citizens to review Galbraith’s perceived conflict of interest.

For comparison, the following are the number of current development projects in all Burlington wards. Note that in some they include very small purpose-built structures like a 3-storey veterinarian office. What is most noticeable about Ward 1 is they are almost all very large developments. We believe that it actually surpasses Ward 2, which most would believe is the site of the biggest and most developments.

Ward 1 – 23 developments
Ward 2 – 23 developments
Ward 3 – 3 developments
Ward 4 –  7 developments
Ward 5 – 12 developments
Ward 6 – 12 developments

The following are the addresses of the Ward 1 development projects. The list includes just those on either Plains Road or on streets off Plains Road.

1200 King Road, 1120 Cooke Blvd, 1134 – 1167 Plains Road E., 141, 147 & 153 Plains Road W., 1062 – 1074 Cooke Blvd., 284 – 292 Plains Road E., 484 – 490 Plains Road E., 35 Plains Road E., 1085 Clearview Ave., 92 Plains Road E., 40 – 70 Plains Road E., 1450 King Road, 53 – 71 Plains Road E., 1025 Cooke Blvd., 539 King Forest Court (off King Road), 1029 – 1033 Waterdown Road, 610, 611 Surrey Lane, 875 King Road, 615 and 619 Marley Road, 847, 471, 875, 894, 917 Warwick, 1010 Downsview Drive, 355 Plains Road E.

Aldershot: a place to stand, a place to grow as it were.

So, what is the importance of all this? First, it suggests that major property development has found a welcome home in Burlington’s Ward 1; a place to stand, a place to grow as it were.

Secondly, the number and density of these developments has serious implications for Councillor Galbraith’s perceived conflict of interest – a matter that we will discuss in the future.

Kelvin Galbraith serving as Chair of a Standing Committee

Finally, it makes Galbraith a very influential fellow for this industry.

While he is one of seven council votes –  Burlington Council is one of the smallest in the province, the impact of each member is disproportionately and, we believe, inappropriately high.

The Mayor has recently said that she is open to expanding the size and composition of Council.

Now is the time to begin that conversation.

Part 1 of the series – When we looked at the campaign expenditures of Ward 1 Councillor Kelvin Galbraith things changed.

Part 2 of the series   Why did they donate this much money to a Burlington councillor in an election most voters ignored ?



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2 comments to Matching the significant election campaign donations with development applications

  • Tom Muir

    You say the Gazette had received no response to the two previous articles despite repeated requests to respond.

    Given this gap, here is something relevant to the Gazette series on campaign donations, and development proposals in Aldershot and the MTSA, particularly regarding the points about perceived conflict of interest and specific to the $1200 donation by EMSHIH to Kelvin Galbraith

    Councilor Galbraith has a longstanding agreement with EMSHIH going back to before he was elected in 2018. His several properties, shown in the map set in Part 1 of this Gazette series, that he intends to develop, are directly adjoining to a parcel owned by Emshih. The agreement they have is to develop further and together in the future.

    He has said he is completely transparent, but I do not hear him telling people openly about this agreement and what it means about the clearly obvious pecuniary interest direct or indirect, and conflict that he he has in any development emerging. If this agreement with Emshih does not involve a pecuniary interest direct or indirect as per the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, I don’t know what does.

    The Gazette is right on the money in raising serious concerns that question the appropriateness of the Emshih donation given this agreement. As well, questions are raised about the overall issues the Gazette series raises and the Councilor silence and lack of transparency about the overall matter, particularly as this is relevant to the entire MTSA.

    The Councilor was advised more than a year ago that he has a conflict of interest regarding the entire MTSA, and is required to recuse himself from any City discussions involving the MTSA.

    THe Gazette shows clearly and in detail, the scale of the MTSA proposed development, and the scale of of the perceived Councilor pecuniary interest direct or indirect, and conflict of interest.

    The Councilor and Emshih properties that they have agreed to develop together are right next door in the Aldershot Main Street Precinct of the MTSA. Does this not suggest joint pecuniary interest and therefore conflict of interest?

    Here is the agreement in his own words dated October 8 2018 in written correspondence that I had with him before the 2018 election.

    “With regards to my business property on Plains road and Waterdown road, I have been transparent with people for years. Our land is surrounded by one developer and we have agreed to work with him at such a time when he chooses to develop his property. Our business would be included in a new space within the site. We signed a letter of intent only and have not sold any property as rumours may indicate. Many years may pass still before anything may happen.”

    This situation has many more dimensions, too many, to just go away.

  • Lynn Crosby

    I wonder if Councillor Galbraith has ever advised any developers in his ward that he refuses to read their emails or communicate with them ever again, like he did to his constituent? I know you’re ignoring these articles Kelvin (seems that’s the Burlington way, transparency be damned), so I don’t expect a reply. That’s ok, it was rhetorical anyway.