More on Peter Rusin and what he would do as mayor and the experience he would bring to city hall.

council 100x100By Pepper Parr

September 18, 2014



We know more about Peter Rusin today than we did yesterday.

He is currently running around setting up his campaign organization – when you come into the race as late as he did – there is catching up to do.

Rusin - vision lookWe described Rusin earlier as someone who was in real estate, which somehow got the word “developer” attached to him. While Rusin has done some small development work his strength appears to be in getting things done.

The approach I personally take to hiring people is to look at their core values and their range of skill sets. If those are up to snuff – then you have someone you can train.

Municipal government is radically different than the corporate world. The way they do accounting is confusing to those that don’t know how municipalities are structured and the provincial rules they must operate under. Municipalities are creatures of the provincial government – the province can deice to merge Burlington with Oakville in a heartbeat or, God forbid, annex us to Hamilton.

The old Ontario Reality Corporation hired Rusin to clean up a filing cabinet of cases that had languished for years – this was at a time when the 407 was being built through our part of the province and reaching into Oakville and points west. Rusin’s job was to clear up files that were years old related to land acquisition problems.

He was later appointed to the Board of Negotiations, a part of the Ontario Municipal Board but not responsible to it. This was a 4 year appointment made by a provincial Cabinet order.

His job there was to work on files and get parties to agree on a settlement of the financial dispute.
Rusin is a strong family man (don’t they all say that); he drives his kids to school and thinks the city should pass a bylaw that prevents retailers from selling drug related paraphernalia. Drugs are a big personal issue for Rusin and on this one he tends to lose touch with reality. The city probably cannot prevent the sale of such products. As dismal as it is – we are becoming a society that sees the recreational use of drugs as acceptable. Rusin knows all too well that the use of drugs tends to go beyond recreational.

Rusin would like to see a tree bylaw. “We shouldn’t be cutting down trees – it’s as simple as that.” He sees trees as an environmental issue and doesn’t appear to get tangled up with what some developers choose to do when they purchase a property and take out all the trees then apply for zoning changes. Trees are necessary and they don’t get cut down lightly says Rusin.

There is an apartment building on Guelph Line, south of St. Christopher’s where the superintendent wants to cut down the apple trees because the geese are eating the freefall. Someone suggested he gather the apples and give them to the church that has a food bank – superintendent didn’t appear to want to do that. Peter Rusin might want to have a talk with that superintendent.

The Association of Municipalities in Ontario (AMO) announced that Mayor Goldring was to be appointed (he may have been elected at an AMO board meeting) to an important committee. Rusin saw this as a bit of a travesty – “Why would AMO appoint the Mayor to a committee” asks Rusin – “because they expected him to be acclaimed?” Rusin felt AMO should have issued a statement decrying the fact that the people of Burlington were not going to have an election for Mayor because no one else had come forward. This was part of the reason Rusin decided to run for the office of Mayor.

Rusin believes Burlington needs growth – not growth for the sake of growth but Smart Growth – a term that can mean different things to different people and Rusin was a little fuzzy on a definition.
He points to Dundas and Appleby and what he calls excellent mixed use development. “People can walk to much of what they need in that part of the city. The schools are close at hand; that part of the city seems to function better.”

Perhaps but try walking across Appleby at Dundas – there are six lanes of traffic – close to impossible for a senior with a walker.

Rusin - direct into camera - hard look

Rusin is apparently a tough negotiator.

So – why is Rusin running? He wants to see a more effective Council; he is adamant about their being new blood; term limits are vital. “We have people who have been on this council for more than twenty years – two of them – and twenty years is far too long. We need people who are capable of bringing new ideas to the table and listening to those ideas.”
Burlington is close to build out; all those juicy development charges are not going to come into the city’s coffers. to

There is a piece of land on Brant Street that has round bales of hay sitting on it. The land is adjacent to the Tyandaga golf course which is owned by the city. The piece of and on Brant is owned by the Catholic church – Rusin plans on having a meeting with the Bishop to get that land put into productive use. Letting someone take hay off that land gets them a lower tax rate – which Rusin sees as a lose, lose, lose situation.

Should this guy get the chain of office draped around his neck – expect a much more proactive Mayor. He is a doer, he gets out there and gets it done. He makes mistakes but he seems to have the capacity to pick himself up and move on.

He suggested during our interview that city staff should work a four day week – and, get this, get the same pay. When he says that in a debate there will be an immediate 500+ votes for him from city hall staffers which will come nowhere near offsetting the howls from the other people who will be casting ballots

City Hall BEST aerial

Rusin thinks city hall is a dysfunctional building – thinks staff should work a 4 day week

City hall he adds is an unhealthy place. “The air is stale, the building is not a friendly place; the structure is inefficient”, said Rusin. There is a report that has yet to be taken to a Standing Committee on what the city has in terms of space and what it needs in terms of space. The report is believed to have recommendations that include a new city hall. It is being held back until the election has taken place. Having come perilously close to having their brains beat out of them over the pier, this council was not going to talk about another high profile, expensive project before the election.

That is not the Rusin way. He seems to want to get all the information out into the hands of the public and let them be a part of the decision. Are we hearing the real Rusin? We can’t know yet. The public needs to hear much more about Peter Rusin and be given several opportunities to ask questions. At this point he is very much of an unknown. He does have to be given credit for ensuring there is a debate and an opportunity to hold Rick Goldring to account.

Rusin wants the city to begin thinking in terms of Regional transit. “There have to be buses running along Dundas. We have to make better use of the GO stations and the mobility hubs the city has been talking about have to be made more real – and a little sooner as well” adds Rusin.

Rusin believes there are good developers in the city and thinks the project the Molinaro’s are building at the Burlington GO station is the right direction. He adds “there are developers who have a feel for the community and we need to work with them.” Parkland dedication, Section 37 issues and creating a smoother permit process are all part of the changes Rusin wants to see at city hall.

We are beginning to get a sense of who Peter Rusin is and the way he thinks.

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12 comments to More on Peter Rusin and what he would do as mayor and the experience he would bring to city hall.

  • Jim Riley

    Hi Peter
    I am a member of Arts & Culture Collective of Burlington. We are a group consisting of over 360 artists and arts & culture supporters. The mission of the Arts and Culture Collective of Burlington is to advocate for the arts and culture of Burlington, ON and to increase appreciation, support and involvement with arts and culture in the community.

    We held a All Candidates meeting before you put your name forward. I would like to give you the opportunity to respond to our four questions.
    1. What is your platform on Arts & Culture in Burlington?
    2. The Cultural Action Planned passed unanimously in Council in 2013, yet the first new budget item called for by the plan – establishing a City Cultural Manager – was defeated. Please comment on this vote and state your intention moving into the next term on the role of a City Cultural Manager.
    3. A funded external body (for example, an Arts Council) is the second item called for in the approved Cultural Action Plan. If such an organization is properly researched and consulted on, would you vote to fund this external body in the next term?
    4. Grants is the third major budget item in the Cultural Action Plan. Would you vote to fund a granting program for artists in the next term?

    You may respond here or at
    Jim Riley

  • Peter Rusin


    I will be sharing my plans in greater detail in the very near future. There are opportunities the city can advance immediately, not only to give positive hope to the downtown businesses, but, also to enhance the quality of life of the people living in the core.

    As a bit of a lead into the larger part of the overall plan; we will start with a comprehensive rationalization of city owned assets, including city hall, and other government and privately owned sites in close vicinity. This is very easy to do in very little time, and can be shared with the immediate and larger community groups to educate and actively engage people in understanding how much value the city can bring to smart city growth. The economics and feasibility of options this type of analysis will provide are quantifiable and must be completed regardless of which path this city decides to go down. The people may be pleasantly surprised at just how much opportunity is laying dormant; this will also lift the spirits of people patiently waiting for something to happen, besides the pier.

    Equally important is the preservation of the established character of so many of the unique neighbourhoods. As a rough example, more higher density mixed-use residential/commercial along a main arterial like Brant Street at certain key locations, but, definitely no intensification in neighbourhoods like in the heart of the Roseland community.

    I believe there are people out there who really want to play an active and productive role in collaboration with city hall and private sector partners, in a well informed and pragmatic fashion, for the betterment of the people. In some ways, we are at the forefront of some exciting urban revival opportunities.

    There is definitely a cost to doing nothing, which is what has been going on for too long. I refuse to pay higher taxes to support the continuation of the status quo. Can you imagine if we were able to secure a tax increase at or below the rate of inflation for an extended period of time and develop this city to it’s potential at the same time?

  • greg.fabian

    Sorry for the incorrect spelling of your name Mr Rusin.

  • greg fabian

    Thanks Mr Russin. I think you have helped me narrow it down to two.

  • Peter Rusin


    There are a lot of transportation studies and projects underway across the GTA. That is what I am promoting as part of my smart growth and strategic intensification initiatives that this city needs to embrace going forward. Local and regional municipalities outside of Burlington are much more advanced and are being proactive in smart development including transit oriented development. The regime at city hall over the last eight years has focused more on resistance to change and adaptation to what is required to strengthen this city’s economic base, improve transit and support population growth in an effective manner.

    Burlington has fallen behind. In Oakville for example, east of Trafalgar Road and North of Dundas Street; a new Burnhamthorpe Road alignment is being constructed in advance of newly proposed smart growth development being proactively planned and initiated by public/private sector partnerships. Do we hear about this sort of thing in Burlington? NO.

    I want people to be aware of all the fantastic new transit oriented development going on all around the limits of this city. Goldring has failed to promote the inevitable and because of our falling behind, we will be paying higher taxes.

    Ask Goldring why he opposes the Niagara to GTA corridor study.

    I remember a photo where Goldring stands proudly behind a banner opposing a provincially governed integrated highway transportation study desperately needed to alleviate congestion, increased population growth, and something that would feed some life back into regional economic development. We need leadership that embraces smart growth and economic life, not stop it. His job is to educate people and deal with these issues.

    Goldring wants votes first, people second.

    • Tony Pullin

      Mr. Rusin,
      Thanks for speaking up. Voters will want to know the specifics of how you intend to achieve “smart growth, and strategic intensification”. You also mention jump starting downtown Burlington. Voters in the Core will wonder if this means proposing zoning changes.
      Obviously you have ideas for growth, intensification, and the downtown. When will you reveal a master plan?

  • Peter Rusin

    Tom, thanks for your comments re: development charges and development contribution negotiations and other municipal revenue generating policies and legislation. I think I have a bit of a handle on how those things work outside of what is written in summary format in the Gazette. Goldring and his council are not expert in this field; so let’s leave that alone for now. There is no hook: there will never be a hook with Rusin, ever. In addition, your current leader Goldring has no position on affordable housing. There are different types of affordable housing; they are not bad and there is an affordable crisis issue that needs to be addressed. This city is out of control when it comes to affordable living, especially for first time home buyers and for those that need housing to enjoy at least a minimal level of quality of life and some reasonable level of dignity. I have actually been involved in affordable housing development, Goldring has not. I have been involved with development and re-development, Goldring has not. I have been involved with securing benefits from developments and developers, Goldring has not. I have been involved in many projects that have benefitted many different government bodies, and the public.

    We are at zero growth. A vote for Goldring is a vote for double digit tax increases. Vote for Rusin and you might actually see a relief on tax increase pressures, and an enhanced quality of life, but, you have to embrace strategic intensification to pay for what is coming and to save small business, preserve greenspace, and finally jump start downtown Burlington. Golring says vibrant, he means rusty. Rusin says bolder brighter Burlington.

    Tony, you can thank Pepper Parr for not completing the 4 day work week story. The 4 day work week is only ONE part of a larger quality of life philosophy. One would have to put in the same hours in a compressed or flexed time period. More time off for leisure, family time, increased health benefits, etc. I proposed a discussion on a trial period using the city staff. Not all would qualify, but, we could collaborate with HR and management and the union to see if we could attempt something like this. More time off means healthier and happier people, a more motivated work force, etc. If it is successful, we could promote the model to private corporations, businesses, and other employers, and it would help with congestion, pollution, time wasted, and even allow people to get to city hall business without having to lose time from their jobs, etc. Would you rather sit on the QEW for five days straight or four?

    Overall, the only way out of the City of Burlington economic stagnation is SmartGrowth. A Rusin for Mayor = enhanced quality of life, for all.

    • Tom Muir

      A couple of things come to mind.

      1. I think you need to learn now about how municipal governance works and about the provincial handcuffs that are always there, with limited flexibility. If you wait, and are successful, you will find out from the staff, what Mayor Goldring and all the Councilors have had to learn, what the handcuffs mean in practical terms of what you can do and how long it takes. You seem to have big ideas, and perhaps some good ones, but “there’s many a slip twixt cup and lip.”

      2. I agree with other comments below that you need to spell out exactly, with financial details, how you will reduce taxes; achieve smart intensification beyond that already happening (don’t forget the landowners and developers have to come to the city); defeat the general housing and cost of living bubble that is everywhere in the GTA in order to make housing affordable; and more generally spell out the policies, with specifics, that you will champion to achieve all the things you talk about above. Tell us what you will do, with concrete examples (not rhetoric criticizing), that is different from Mayor Goldring has tried to do.

      3. Always remember – talk is cheap, but the time comes when you have to deliver. Tell us how you plan on doing that in concrete terms. Then we might glean some idea of how much you really know about how the city economy, governance and administration really works.

  • Susan Lewis

    “There have to be buses running along Dundas…”

    There is a plan in place called the Metrolink Big Move. Is he talking about a Burlington Bus Route running along Dundas in addition to the planned Bus Rapid Transit?

  • Tony Pullin

    Thank you Mr. Parr for another insightful article. I wanted to ask Mayoral candidate Rusin if he agreed with the City’s position of ridding itself of City-owned waterfront property – then I read this from you:

    “He (Mr. Rusin)suggested during our interview that city staff should work a four day week – and, get this, get the same pay.”

    So, instead I will ask this question – Mr. Rusin, are you serious?

  • Tom Muir

    Mr. Rusin needs to get his development charges ideas in line with the reality. DCs cannot be used for anything but to provide for the “needs for service” of the new development that pays them. This is all very well controlled and directed by the DC Act legislation.

    They cannot be used by the city for any other use.

    They are certainly not “juicy”, as there are a number of exemptions, discounts, and deductions from what is actually paid for by some categories of new development and service needs, that there is a substantial cost to taxpayers to make up the shortfall.

    This is one of the problems I have always found with many real estate and development industry people – they hype development by using the same false claims about DCs as Mr Rusin.

    One added thing comes to mind here – oftentimes, developer or real estate support for “affordable housing” is based on wanting DC discounts, or they use it as an argument when they always claim the DCs are “too high”, so the taxpayer pays for the affordability.

    So let’s beware of loose talk about DCs and affordable housing – there’s a hook in there.

  • Donald

    This guy, but especially Mayor Goldring, will wipe the Marsden’s out of the ballpark. Have you seem them stroll down Brant St together all cute in their little super-scooter? Actually I wouldn’t say cute, more like naughty.