Mayor has basically given Councillors license to shut out any constituent

By Pepper Parr

January 4th, 2023



The heart of a community is made up of the people who do things; Work at a Food Bank, visit with people who live by themselves, sit on committees and look for ways to make the city, Burlington, a better place to live.

Some are active politically, they follow what happens at city council; that make a point of offering another point of view.

Look at what Plan B achieved and they aren’t finished; look at what ECoB did during its short life. Look at what BCSI did for the community.

One person did even more.

Tom Muir

Tom Muir delegated at city council for more than two decades. In his time and in his way he moved the needle.

Tom didn’t change very much; he always wrote much more than he should have, he dug into issues and wouldn’t let them go.
What changed was the ethic of the city council we have in place now.

Tom saw a real issue and dug out the information the public should have had before the last municipal election.

When the information he wrestled into the public square got too uncomfortable for his ward councillor Kelvin Galbraith cut him off; told him that the Councillor would not communicate with him anymore.

Tom Muir didn’t harass the Councillor, Galbraith’s personal safety was never at risk. He just kept asking questions. Muir hadn’t talked to Galbraith since the beginning of the pandemic early in 2020.

Informed people in Burlington were stunned when Galbraith wrote Muir saying: ““You will receive no further communications from my office.”

Burlington Mayor Marianne Meed Ward

Muir reached out to the Mayor asking if a member of council could do what Galbraith had done and got lip service.

There wasn’t a word heard from any member of Council.

What the Mayor had done was give the members of council a license to refuse to talk to any constituent. In doing so she expunged whatever energy there was left in the community for people who wanted to come forward.

No one was going to challenge council – they saw what was done to Tom Muir. Why bother – no one needs the grief.

Muir has taken the position that “If nobody at City Hall does anything then they have to live with their silence. I do not. KG will do more so it won’t go away.

“None of them have shown any transparency or accountability. They just get away with it – the entire Council is mute.”

Ward 1 Councillor Kelvin Galbraith

In a note to the Gazette Muir said: “You will do what you do, but I am not writing any more unless someone else steps up. By myself I can’t do anymore. I have provided chapter and verse, so I’m done. I just wanted to leave a paper trail record behind.”

Tom Muir may be difficult to work with at times. He has been described as acerbic. He has also been described as very detailed. The city was lucky to have him standing at the podium talking to Council.

There is something very wrong with a community that let’s this kind of thing happen.

We will all eventually pay a price for what this city council has let take place.

Shame is not a strong enough word to describe this lot.

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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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16 comments to Mayor has basically given Councillors license to shut out any constituent

  • Charles Zach

    When bad politicians break the public trust, voters shouldn’t have to wait until the next election to remove them. Alberta and British Columbia have both implemented recall legislation that gives voters the right to trigger byelections when politicians misbehave. Ontario needs a recall petition process to remove these bad actors before they cause too much trouble.

  • Janice Jones

    Well MMW, the mayor we elected in 2018 and again in 2022 supports councillors who for whatever reason refuse to speak with their constituents. These constituents are the people who voted them in. Aren’t they not supposed to be working for us. They are behaving like children who don’t want to play with someone who questions them, doesn’t agree with them, makes their views known.
    Sad situation and quite frankly I find discusting.

  • Sharon

    Burlington had its chance last October to change city council. We blew it! Now we have to live with it for another 4 years.

  • Penny Hersh

    Councillor Galbraith is not the only councillor choosing to ignore their ward residents because they feel threatened by being challenged for their actions or inactions.

    The Ward 2 councillor has done the same thing to me.

    • Blair Smith

      Penny – yes per your previous comment(s). I think the point here is that the practice of not responding to difficult questions or critical observations is condoned if not encouraged by she who sets the tone for the administration. The irony of this should escape no one; a populist mayor who took the chair on a wave of transparency, accountability and engagement promises. One phrase that I remember from my many campaign meetings in 2018 was that she was going to “open the windows of City Hall and fill in the moat around the castle”. Four years and two elections later there is nothing to show except the appointment of a hapless, enabling Clerk and a virtually absent City Manager. The Communications Department is the only sanctioned voice of the administration; a carefully controlled single throat to choke. These are only my observations of course but I would be pleased to debate the state of “open government” and true citizen empowerment in Burlington with anyone from either the Council or the staff bureaucracy.

      Editor’s note: That is as good an invitation as you will get. Bring it on – expect the Meed Ward apologists to wade in on this one

      • Philip Waggett

        You’re right about the mayor promising greater transparency and accountability. Compare her promises with those of Justin Trudeau who in an open letter to Canadians on November 4, 2015 upon being elected PM said:

        “Canadians need to have faith in their government’s honesty and willingness to listen. That is why we committed to set a higher bar for openness and transparency in Ottawa. Government and its information must be open by default. Simply put, it is time to shine more light on government to make sure it remains focused on the people it was created to serve – you.”

        Both Meed Ward and Trudeau are Liberals apparently singing from the same songbook–promise one thing, do another.

        • Dave Turner

          Both Federal and Provincial PC parties prohibit their candidates, MPPs, & MPs from meeting unscripted interactions with constituents, from entering into pre-election candidate debates.

          Where is the transparency there?

          Ford said he would not allow development of the Green Belt. He lied. Ford past legislation overriding the charter rights of education workers and was prepared to use the notwithstanding clause to prevent a court challenge. PM testified at the EA enquiry. Ford invoked “privileged” so as not to. Coward. Ft Erie declared an emergency after the huge snow storm about 10 days ago disabled the city. No help from Ford. Not even a word from him!

      • Dave Turner

        Editor. I’m as much a Meed Ward apologist as you are a Meed Ward denigrator ! LOL.

        Why so much attention on this one person’s issue with Councilor Galbraith ? Has the Councilor shut the door to everyone or just to Mr. Muir? I suspect Mr. Muir has likely overstepped the mark of acceptable interaction with the Councilor.

        If the Gazette is so perturbed by Councilor cutting off Mr. Muir why not focus on and give air to a much bigger but similar problem. That problem being our MPP’s (Natalie Pierre) refusal to have any unscripted face to face interaction with constituents. Just as her predecessor, Jane McKenna, did during her term as MPP.

        Let’s see the Gazette launch and sustain a campaign to highlight that situation.

  • Dave Turner

    Gazette headline

    “Mayor has basically given Councillors license to shut out any constituent”

    That is not really true. Is it?

    The Gazette reported a day or so earlier

    “Muir reached out to the Mayor asking if a member of council could do what Galbraith had done and got lip service.”

    Again not really true, is it?

    In the Gazette, Muir quoted the Mayor as follows:-

    “Council members, as well as city staff, can limit their interactions with individuals where deemed necessary.

    The Mayor’s office has neither the authority nor the resources to investigate such situations, or the interactions that led to them. There are established and appropriate avenues for making a complaint, of which you are already aware.”

    The Gazette reports here:-

    “What the Mayor had done was give the members of council a license to refuse to talk to any constituent. In doing so she expunged whatever energy there was left in the community for people who wanted to come forward.”

    Again not true, is it?

    The mayor clearly says she has no authority to direct council members how to interact with their constituents. The mayor also directs Muir to the Integrity Commissioner if he wishes to make a complaint concerning Councilor Galbraith’s position. A course of action with which he is familiar.

    I believe it was under the Goldring administration former mayoral candidate Anne Marsden was banned from City Hall Due to inappropriate behaviour towards councilors and staff. So please don’t make this out to be something new or something attributable to Mayor Meed Ward.

    Editor’s note: We clearly differ with the writer on this one.

    • And so do the facts Pepper, Strange isn’t it that no matter the subject or those arguing a point against MMW behavior, Turner repeats the same old story about Anne Marsden that he would have no access to in terms of any source documents. Clearly shows a weak argument and trying to drag his disdain for the Marsdens or perhaps just Anne, for whatever reason into a very important discussion on democracy that none of us want to be part of. We simply want what promised and required.

  • Andy Raithby

    Sadly Municipal politicians means you sit or don’t via “name or shame”.

    As a long time core resident I was initially excited about mayor Meed, but as we gradually see the emperors curtain revealed, its a sad picture. Decisions made by this and previous councils are never about its constituents, but rather dictated by developers and provincial mandates. Our downtown is nothing more than an embarrassment, clouded by unsupported growth, taller than the next tower development and traffic, traffic traffic. It makes me wonder if our politicians ever drive in town.

    We are a doomed municipality, and the shrouded secrecy of this council and the antics of Galbraith will leave a sad legacy indeed.

  • Charles Zach

    Unfortunately degradation of our democracy process is an old issue that transcends our own City council. There was a time in the not too distant past that aspiring politicians righteously ascribed to the precept that they are servants of the people and constituency that elected them and are their to represent their interests and protect the rights of the minority from mob rule. They were beholden to the constituency to proactively listen to the concerns of the community and keep powerful special interests from hijacking the process. Now we have radical activists seeking office that only pretend to be politicians who have their own axe to grind at the expense of the people. Coupled with a concentration of political power in the executive, the concept of individual constituent representation has been overshadowed by the will of the executive under the banner of authoritarian collectivism. Communication with the community is now top down and is no longer an exercise in sincere information gathering but a disingenuous means to validate edicts. Burlington saw the lowest turn out of eligible voters in the last municipal election because they have lost faith in the democratic process and these activist usurpers. This translates into a general public distrust in the government, less faith in the rule of law and a greater potential for civil resistance and disobedience. In Burlington, the buck stops at the Mayors desk, who has set the tone for this new age Orwellian governance.

    • Lynn Crosby

      Fantastic comment which says it all. Favourite line of many: “Burlington saw the lowest turn out of eligible voters in the last municipal election because they have lost faith in the democratic process and these activist usurpers.” And yet they had the audacity to repeatedly claim they had an “overwhelming endorsement” or some such nonsense, and threw themselves a party on a stage during a pandemic, fiscal prudence be damned.

      And now we have sunk to new lows, entirely shutting down constituents who dare speak up. Imagine if Rick Craven had told Tom Muir, back when Muir was delegating in support of then-councillor Meed Ward’s anti-development motions, that he would henceforth be ignored? I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t have endorsed that. I’m pretty sure she’d have been shouting about “democracy”.

    • Mary Hill

      I respect this is your opinion as to why the turn out was so low. But I ask do you have any empirical evidence to support your opinion.

      Another possible reason is that residents are very happy with the work done by their council and so are complacent. I have no evidence to support that opinion. But it is as valid as an opinion as yours.

      Why was the turn out for the Provincial election so low? Was it the electorate was super happy with the PC government, or was it that there was no viable alternative? I have my opinion. You will have yours. Likely different to mine. But in the absence of any evidence both are valid.

      I ask please don’t state opinion as fact.

  • As many of us know Pepper,Tom is experiencing what Burlington’s Councillors and Mayor have been successfully practicing for years now. IF you don’t like the question as you know the answer is not in your best interests never answer it. Missing Governance material the Clerk committed to be returned to the City website during the election is a prime example and which all are now silent on including our Ward councillor and the Director of communications being a prime example. Another being the unit cost of mailing voting cards and total bill which would give us answer to how many voting cards were not mailed. They know there are not enough residents who are aware of the issues and able to get through Council’s biggest weapon against transparency, accountability and public engagement, silence, and in some cases we are aware of deathly silence. We have the paper trails too that likely took Tom, an enormous amount of work. Whether they will be of any use in this era of total lack of accountability is another matter.