Is the Prime Minister moving into gunslinger mode? Is Canada about to become a major arms manufacturer?

October 4, 2013

By Ray Rivers

BURLINGTON, ON.  Memorable leaders leave noteworthy accomplishments behind them.  In the US ObamaCare will be that president’s legacy, even though it represents a glass half-full to us in Canada.  Tommy Douglas is remembered for introducing universal health care, while Premier of Saskatchewan in 1962; and Pierre Trudeau and Lester Pearson credited for implementing it nation-wide.

Avro Arrow – fighter plane that was to make us the envy of the western world.

Pearson also gave us our flag and won the Nobel prize while positioning Canada as a global peacemaker.  John Diefenbaker’s biggest accomplishment was drafting our first Bill of Rights but he will only ever be remembered for killing the best fighter jet in its time, the Avro Arrow.  Brian Mulroney led an effective anti-apartheid lobby, but his name brings up the US free-trade deal, the dreaded GST and that nasty Karl-Heinz affair.  

Trudeau eliminated the terrorist FLQ, introduced bilingualism and multiculturalism, made Canada a global entertainment force, implemented a half-hearted metric system, and really got Albertans ticked with his energy program.  And Jean Chretien gave us the long-gun registry – a bill which had the early support of a newly minted Calgary MP named Stephen Harper, voting against his own colleagues with the Reform Party caucus. 

One of Harper’s first actions, as PM, in 2006 was to arm our border guards – who had never needed nor wanted the guns.   He is a tough cop as PM, introducing mandatory prison sentences here, extending Canada’s role in Afghanistan, and sending war planes into Libya.  And this summer Harper got to actually fire a rifle while reaffirming his determination to maintain sovereignty in the arctic.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper – showing the troops how its done as he fires a service long gun while in the Arctic

Few people have difficulty supporting a tough-minded PM, trying to keep us safe from threats of internal or external violence.  So his change-of-mind on the long gun registry and his cancellation of the program, a much celebrated event by his party, was bizarre.  I thought banning guns was ‘de rigueur’ for a sheriff taming the Wild West.  Perhaps he has bought the US Tea Party line that private guns are the only defence against an oppressive government.

The long gun registry had given Harper a wedge issue to solidify his right-wing base and adjust his moral compass to accompany his change-of-heart.  His next step was to deconstruct his firearms advisory committee, and pack it with members of Canada’s National Firearms Association, Canada’s NRA. https://nfa.ca/news/nfa-supports-sensible-government-approach-att  One of the new committee’s early recommendations was to legalize the sale of assault weapons, which the government fortunately ignored.

 Weren’t we all stunned when the PM rebuked the RCMP in High River?  He ordered them to return the weapons they had found, stored illegally, in the flooded homes in that Alberta town.  The Mounties were only enforcing the law, so does this now mean that we can ignore the rest of Canada’s gun laws with impunity?  What is this pre-occupation with guns anyway?  I know a six-year-old boy who is also fascinated with guns – but aren’t we supposed to grow up?  

Last week Canada announced that we would not be joining over 90 other nations, including gun-loving USA, to sign the UN Arms Trade treaty, which is intended to keep weapons out of the hands of terrorist nations and terrorists.    At first this was puzzling, then the penny dropped.  The Harper government has a strategy to transition Canada into a future as a significant arms manufacturing country.  It all makes sense now.

...create gold out of that dark place called war, thereby bringing jobs back to the voters in Canada’s industrial heartland ...Stephen Harper, already the nation’s historic gunslinger, wants to be its gunsmith as well.  Is this the industrial strategy Ontario and Quebec have been looking for?  We’ll build weapons systems for rogue states and fuel them with oil from the tar sands.  Harper’s quest is to create gold out of that dark place called war, thereby bringing jobs back to the voters in Canada’s industrial heartland and reversing the folly of Diefenbaker denying the Avro Arrow. 

Canada will be completely transformed from historic peacemaker to ‘nouvelle’ arms-maker.  That will be Harper’s mark, his legacy, and how he will be remembered after losing the next federal election. 

A knight, without a horse, walks off into the darkest night…

On a quest for a treasure, that shines so bright.

A six-shooter on his left, his right he cannot use…

In search of a dark tower, others can only muse.

(The Gunslinger’s Tale – Ellen Walmsley, 1999)


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Remember the Happy Gang? “We’re happy, we’re healthy – the heck with being wealthy.” Well we are certainly wealthy.

October 1, 2013

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  It wasn’t hard to figure out what the major message was behind the 2013 version of Burlington’s Vital Signs report is: there are many in the community who just don’t have enough – and it isn’t just the “poor” people that are going without.

The Burlington Community Foundation, around since 1999, released, along with 26 other communities across  Canada, a report that touched all the usual bases and added in a significant push on the pressing needs for better access to mental health services.

The Vital Signs report is data driven and uses graphics very effectively to make the point.  The cartoon cover page is Burlington: there’s the gazebo (I met my wife for the first time there) there’s Pepperwoods, there is  Benny’s and the gas station.  The drawings are all in colour and attractive in their own way.  Cute – it isn’t until you get to the second page that the point is made.  Well – compare the two versions and you know in an instant what the report wants to talk about.

The report is the second published by the Community Foundation.  The 2013 report covers eleven key areas of focus, including physical and mental wellness, poverty, youth, and seniors.

 “This year’s report again emphasizes that Burlington is a city of contrasts. We are a prosperous community, with higher than average levels of income and education, with remarkable environmental features such as our escarpment and waterfront. Yet, there are people struggling in our community, in ways that are often unseen, as we drive and walk through our neighbourhoods”, said Burlington Community Foundation (BCF) President and CEO, Colleen Mulholland.

Who are the people that collect all the data and tie the different strands that are woven into the tapestry that is our city?

Established in 1999 as a centre for philanthropy, Burlington Community Foundation is a local knowledge broker and one of the most reliable partners in the non-profit sector. They collaborate with donors to build endowments, give grants and connect leadership. Responsive to their donors, the  grant making experts help people give, build legacies, address vital community needs and support areas of personal interest. The Foundation helps people, agencies and corporations improve the city’s vitality.

Cover: 2013 Vital Signs report commissioned by the Burlington Community Foundation.

Take away the good stuff, the nice stuff and the picture is that of a different Burlington – not one we all get to see.

The report argues that “connections are critical to community vitality” but how do you do that?  You’ve heard it before and with a municipal election just over a year away you will hear it again from every one of the rascals running for office: – Burlington is ranked as the top mid-sized city in which to live in Canada.

We drive – everywhere, in part because local transit has yet to develop to the point where it serves the community as well as it is going to have to. Biggest reason – we like our cars.

And we drive our cars – to everything.  79% of Ontarian’s commute to work by car, truck or van.  That number is 86% for Burlington where we have an excellent, frequent train service that has three stops in the city with plenty of parking – free. 

We vote – in the last federal election 66.5 of us voted while the  Ontario average was 61.5%.  Didn’t do much for us in terms of the quality of our elected members though did it?

We have one of the best educated populations in the province.

We are a well-educated community – check out the charts.

Burlington is doing better at both the number of people with jobs and the number that are unemployed.  But there are other indicators that reveal serious problems.

Our people are employed – they need to be – our housing is amongst the most expensive in the province and rental accommodation is not easy to come by.

Median household income levels are 24% higher in Burlington than the provincial average but according to Statistics Canada, almost 1 in 10 youth under 18 lived in a low-income household.

In 2012, 36% of all items circulated by Burlington public libraries were in the child or youth category. Attendance at children and youth programs at Burlington libraries was 35,195.

Overall, the age profile of Burlington is getting older and more so than the Ontario average – in 2011, there were 29,720 seniors 65 years of age or older living in Burlington, comprising 16.9% of the population vs. 14.6% in Ontario.

Young people in Burlington are preforming well in school compared to the Ontario average but there are some opportunities for improving the lives and outcomes for our youth, starting as early as kindergarten. Some issues we need to tackle  as a community are obesity, bullying and mental health.

Burlington residents are better educated than the population of Ontario and Canada. 67% of Burlington adults 25 years of age and over have completed some form of post-secondary education, compared with 60% of the population of Ontario.

Among Burlingtonians 25–64 years of age, 95% have completed high school – this is a big positive change in a 10 year period: in 2001, 79% had completed high school.

In 2011, there were 143,510 people 15 years of age or older in Burlington. Within this age range, 93,030 people were employed and 5,755 were unemployed for a total labour force of 98,785.

Burlington has stronger employment statistics than Ontario as a whole. The employment rate among people 15–64 years of age was 65%, compared to 60% for Ontario. Burlington’s unemployment rate was 6%, compared to 8% for Ontario.

For the past 10 years, the rate of unemployment in Burlington has been consistently lower than elsewhere in Ontario and in other communities across Canada.

Here are some quick facts about jobs and businesses in Burlington, according to the Halton Region 2012 Employment Survey, released in June 2013:

The City of Burlington has 4,638 businesses providing 74,216 full and part-time jobs.

While Burlington accounts for 35% of the 15–64 year olds living in Halton Region, jobs in Burlington accounted for nearly 40% of Halton’s total employment.

Approximately 80% of jobs were in the service-based sector – the leading ones  being  the  retail  trade, professional,  scientific  and  technical services, and health care and social assistance.

Can we blame the air quality problems on Hamilton?

Air quality good – but could be better

Burlington has good air quality, compared to downtown Hamilton. Hamilton has more poor to moderate air quality days (22%) than does Burlington (16%).

However, Burlington’s location in southern Ontario – in Canada’s manufacturing heartland and downwind from the industrial centre of the U.S.   – increases the number of poor to moderate air quality days relative to more northern parts of Ontario and cities in other parts of Canada. For example, in each of Sudbury and Ottawa only 8% of the days in 2012 had poor to moderate air quality compared to 16% in Burlington.

Price increases are great if you own property – tough market to get into for first time buyers.

The average price of a home in Burlington in the first half of 2013 was $486,669 – up 7% from 2012.

Similar increases were seen in the neighbouring cities of Hamilton (+6%) and Oakville (+7%), with Burlington housing costs continuing to be intermediate between these two cities

Burlington’s rental market is tight – far too tight. The city thought it had a hope recently with close to 100 affordable units coming on line – but that one got away on us.

People looking to rent – particularly those with more modest incomes – can find it difficult to find affordable rental housing in Burlington. In fall 2012, Burlington’s rental vacancy rate was 1.3%. For reference, a vacancy rate of 3% is considered necessary for adequate competition and supply. By comparison, Hamilton’s vacancy rate was 4.2%, and in Ontario as a whole it was 2.5%.

In 2011, Halton had a higher percentage of households (4.6%) on waiting lists for affordable, rent geared-to-income housing than was the case for Ontario as whole (3.2%). Further, the demand for this housing greatly exceeds the supply, as only 0.5% of Halton households were living in affordable, rent- geared-to-income housing in 2011.

In Halton, between 2010 and 2011 there was a 47% increase in households waiting for rent-geared-to-income housing. Families with children are the hardest hit.

The kids think they are getting the exercise they need – caution, this is “self-reported” data.

Residents of Halton are more likely to rate their overall health as “very good” or “excellent” (72%) compared with Ontario residents as a whole (61%).  Moreover, positive health ratings increased from 2011 (66%) to 2012 (72%).

Over 75,000 Burlington residents 18 years of age and older are overweight or obese based on their self-reported height and weight. That’s just over half of the adult population who have an increased risk of certain health problems, including Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, coronary heart disease, gallbladder disease, obstructive sleep apnea, and certain cancers.

Mental health is now at least being talked about – it isn’t something we hide the way we used to – that was an improvement for the better.  Now we have to address the problem and it is not going to be cheap.

“Mental health concerns cut across all socioeconomic levels, all races, both genders and across all age groups in our culture. In fact, 70% of all mental health disorders experienced in adulthood have their onset before the age of 18.”  The Canadian Institute for Health Information tracks the performance of  over 600 health care facilities across Canada on a variety of indicators of effectiveness of treatment, patient safety, appropriateness of treatment, and accessibility. JBH is either at or better than the Canadian average on all of  the indicators.

Seniors need different services. The city currently has one Seniors’ Centre and at least five high schools. Will we need additional Seniors’ Centers that can be converted to high schools 30 years down the road? There are some significant problems to need solutions and we don’t have a lot of time to find the answers.

Canada’s age profile is getting older, and this trend will continue for several decades into the future. For example, the proportion of people 65+ years of age in Ontario is expected to grow from 14.6% of the population in 2011 to over 23% by the year 2036.

Burlington’s age profile has historically been older than that of Ontario as a whole, and the difference has been increasing over time. As of 2011, 16.9% of Burlington’s population was 65 years of age or older, compared to 14.6% of Ontario’s population.

Burlington has more of the Region’s senior population – do we have well thought out plans to meet their needs?

Based on Statistics Canada measures of low-income from the 2006 census, 5.6% of Burlington seniors have low-income after tax. However, the prevalence of low-income is particularly acute among female seniors in Burlington: this prevalence is higher than the Ontario average, and higher than other Halton region communities.

In 2006, about 1,800 senior households in Burlington spent 30% or more of their total household income before tax on mortgages, electricity, heat and municipal services. Of these, almost 500 spent 50% or more of their income on housing, which leaves very little money for food, medications, or other necessities.

In the Age-Friendly Communities Forum: A Seniors’ Perspective – an initiative of the Elder Services Advisory Council In Halton Region – the Burlington participants identified a need for affordable housing as one of the top 3  issues for seniors in Burlington, and noted that “some people are moving out of the community as they cannot afford to live here.”

We love the place.

Burlington residents tend to see the quality of life in the city as improving: 27% said the quality of life in Burlington has improved over the past two years, compared to only 11% who said it has declined.

Survey respondents were asked which factors had the greatest impact on quality of life in their city. What set Burlington residents apart particularly was the importance of a low crime rate, and a strong sense of community.

In a survey of Burlington residents, 76% said culture is “essential” or “highly important” in their daily lives. There are many types of cultural experiences. For Burlington residents, the top 6 are festivals (86%), museum & local history (81%), art galleries (78%), going to the theatre (75%), public art (69%) and family heritage & traditions (69%).

Benefits to Burlington from community cultural organizations include:

624,000+ visits to local festivals, events, productions and exhibitions

89,000+ hours of cultural programming offered to all ages

Burlington residents spend 37% of their cultural time in Burlington, and the remaining time in other cities such as Toronto and Hamilton.

These numbers are the reality for many.  A person cannot live on the minimum wage – it has to be close to doubled – and that’s not something a municipality can do.

Ontario has a legally mandated minimum wage of $10.25 an hour. However, a person working full-time at the minimum wage rate will be living in poverty, as they will earn less than Statistics Canada’s Low Income Cut-off.

The concept of a “living wage” is motivated by the following question: What does a family working full-time (37.5 hours a week, year-round) need to earn in order to pay for the necessities of life, to enjoy a decent quality of life, and to be able to participate fully in the economic, political, social and cultural life of the community?

 The answer to this question depends on family composition and on where you live. Community Development Halton has tackled this question for the Halton Region, including Burlington.

What is included in a living wage, and what is excluded? “A living wage isn’t extravagant. It doesn’t allow families to save for retirement, to save for  their children’s education or to service their debt. But it does reflect the cost of affording the basics of life – something the minimum wage doesn’t do,” states the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Community Development Halton considered three types of Halton households: a family of 4 (two parents, two children – a boy age 10, and a girl age 14), a single-parent family (mother age 30 and a boy age 3), and a single person (male age 32). In each household, each adult is working full- time,  year-round.  The  calculation  of  living  wage  reflects  the  typical  costs  in Halton, as well as taxes and benefits.

The number of youth have grown since 2006 but the senior population has grown more.

The number of youth in Burlington has increased since 2006, but at a slower rate than older age groups. As a result, the overall age profile of Burlington is getting older.

Burlington is an affluent community, but not everyone is well off. In the 2006 census, 7% of all residents lived in low income households. However, this was greater for youth under 18, where 9% – almost one in 10 youth – lived in a low income household.

This is what students have said they did in terms of getting the physical education they need for balanced growth.

According to the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology, youth 12–17 years of age require at least 60-minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity activity per day.

In the Halton Youth Survey, two–thirds of Burlington Grade 7s claimed to meet the 60-minute-per-day guideline, but only just over half of Grade 10s claimed to meet the guideline.

Girls in the Halton region were much less likely than boys to report meeting the physical activity guideline, with only four in ten Grade 10 girls meeting the guideline.

This is not a healthy number.  Why in a community where genuine financial need is not pervasive?

The Halton Youth Survey, conducted by the Halton Our Kids Network, developed an indicator of involvement in criminal activity based on four self- report questions asking about vandalism, carrying a weapon, selling drugs, and group or gang involvement, and these define what is meant here by “criminal activity”. Note that because this is based on self-report, it includes not only youth accused of crime but also youth who “got away with it”.

Our girls are at very serious risk: do we understand why and do we have programs to help them deal with the depression they are experiencing?

One in five people in Ontario experiences a mental health problem or  illness. Because mental illness can affect people in all walks of life, this is as important an issue in comparatively affluent communities like Burlington as it is in other less affluent communities. When you take into account family members and friends, almost everyone is affected in some way.

The childhood, teen and young adult years are a critical period for the onset of mental health problems. The number experiencing mental illness peaks at over one in four young people during the teen years and among people in their 20s.

Mental illness affects people at all life-stages. However, one of the most significant characteristics of the onset of mental health problems is that, unlike many other illnesses, they are more likely to first emerge and affect people early in their lives.

According to a Mental Health Commission of Canada report, the potential negative effects of mental illness on the lives and prospects of young people are considerable:

“Mental disorders are the most common medical conditions causing disability in young people. Most mental disorders begin before age twenty- five and tend to be chronic, with substantial negative short and long-term outcomes. They are associated with poor academic and occupational success, economic  burden,  personal,  interpersonal  and  family  difficulties,  increased risk for many physical illnesses and shorter life expectancy.”

Early detection and treatment of mental health problems is vital for the young people in our community and for the future health of our city.

 “Recent research in areas like diagnostic imaging and immunology point increasingly to the biological nature of mental health disorders. In other words, mental health disorders are truly health disorders similar to diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, etc.”  Access to youth mental health services is not what it needs to be

Only one-third of those who need mental health services in Canada actually receive them.

71% of family physicians ranked access to psychiatrists in Ontario as fair to poor.

While mental illnesses constitute more than 15% of the burden of disease in Canada, these illnesses receive only 5.5% of health care dollars.

ROCK reports that due to mental health funding gaps, as of March 2013, youth and families were waiting for just over 1,000 various services they offer. Wait times for these services range from months up to 2 years.

 

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people in Canada. One of the most important causes of youth suicide is mental illness – most often depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and substance abuse.

The effects of youth suicide go beyond the deceased, impacting those who survive their death – their parents, friends, peers, and communities.

Do our students feel their schools are safe?

A survey conducted by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health found that in response to the question, “In the last 12 months, did you ever seriously consider attempting suicide?”, 7% of Ontario Grade 7s and 12% of Grade 12s answered “yes.”

The Halton Youth Survey asked a somewhat different version of the question, focusing on teens who “sometimes, often or always” had thoughts of suicide in the past 12 months. While the question is somewhat different the results are similar: one in twenty (5%) Grade 7s in Burlington had thoughts about suicide in the past 12 months, increasing to over one in ten (13%) by Grade 10.

Depression is a mood disorder characterized by intense negative emotions and feelings, that negatively impact on people’s lives leading to social, educational,  personal  and  family  difficulties.

The Halton Youth Survey created an indicator of being at risk for depression, based on a person saying they “always” or “often” had experienced the following four emotional states in the past week: feeling sad, lonely, depressed, or like crying.

 The percentage of Burlington students at risk for depression increases from Grade 7 to Grade 10, and by Grade 10, one in 10 teens are at risk for depression.

This increase in risk for depression from Grade 7 to Grade 10 is occurring primarily among girls. By Grade 10, one in seven girls is at risk for depression.

In the qualitative research project, Halton Youth Voice Road Show (2011), participants suggested the following causes for depression in youth:

Being bullied, which was seen to lead not only to depression but also suicide

Different social groups within a school bullying one another

The fact that sometimes youth were just mean to each other

Technology, since youth don’t actually need to connect to each other on a personal level any more

Images and expectations portrayed in the media

The pursuit of material possessions, with participants saying that it would be better if youth just spent time hanging out instead of shopping

Stress

Not having friends

Being pressured to do drugs

 Youth mental health trends at Joseph Brant Hospital

Trips to the hospital emergency department because of a mental health issue represent the tip of the iceberg for youth mental health and substance abuse issues in Burlington. Emergency department visits can occur when mental health or substance abuse issues are undiagnosed, or are untreated, or treatment is not working. Youth visits to the JBH emergency department because of mental health or substance abuse problems show:

Emergency department visits for mental health or substance abuse issues spikes upwards for youth 18–24 years of age.

The annual number of youth under 25 years of age going to JBH emergency because of mental health or substance abuse issues has increased 30% over the last 3 years.

The rate of increase has been even higher among the subset of youth under 18 years of age – showing an increase in emergency visits of 43% over the past 3 years.

JBH operates the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Consultation Clinic, which provides support to children/youth under the age of 18 years. The case load for the Clinic increased by 16% from 2010–11 to 2011–12, and the average wait time for assessment increased by 31%, to 47 days.

The Community Foundation serves us all well – now the community has to look at the data, talk about it and figure out where we can shore up the weak spots and ensure that we continue to do what we have done well.

Collen Mulholland plans to hold a Roundtable on Mental Health early in 2014.  How about ensuring that every grade 10 student in the Board of Education’s high schools be given a copy and make it the focus of a civics class.

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Remember that lottery advertisement line: “Home James, Home” Today one has to add “in less than an hour please”.

September 24, 2013

By Ray Rivers

BURLINGTON, ON.  “Toronto is a great place to live, if only you could manage to get to work” – so says the Toronto Board of Trade.  Commute times in the greater Toronto area were the longest of 19 major cities in a recent survey.  It takes the average commuter 80 minutes round-trip,  a full 24 minutes longer than it would in Los Angeles, the very birthplace of urban sprawl.

Ray Rivers, the Gazette’s political columnist with Premier Kathleen Wynne and MPP Kevin Flynn on the left and Dr. Eric  Hoskins on the right – all at the recent Roundtable held in Burlington.

 So Ontario’s Premier Wynne has made it a priority for her government to improve the lot of commuters by building transit.   “It is a matter of social justice, I want to improve people’s lives by allowing commuters to spend more quality time with family and friends,”  she emphasized in an exclusive interview last Friday.   Ms. Wynne had earlier test-ridden the new half-hour GO train service, en route to a meeting with the Burlington Chamber of Commerce.  Flanked by her Minister of Economic Development, Dr. Eric Hoskins, and the Parliamentary Assistant for Transportation, Kevin Flynn, Kathleen Wynne shared some thoughts on this topic with me.

Premier Wynne believes that this level of traffic eats away at the time people deserve to have with their families and that the time spent in cars is damaging the provincial economy. Is GO the answer – and will we go along with that kind of a solution?

The Premier’s goals are straight forward: invest in people; provide much-needed infrastructure; and improve business opportunities that will result in job creation.  But she has her work cut out for her.  We know that most of Ontario’s urban areas are poorly configured for efficient public transit.  Three generations of urban sprawl have made public transit costly to deliver and inconvenient to ride – so the result is gridlock.  And yes, the Greenbelt, introduced by her predecessor, was intended to curb urban sprawl,  but the benefits of that initiative will not be seen for another generation – until after all the approved developments in the queue have seen their day.   

 Back in 1990 former Premier David Peterson, another Liberal, had proposed an ambitious $6.2 billion expansion of public transit for Toronto.  Then he lost the next election to the NDP,  who cherry-picked elements of that plan.  The NDP lost the next election which resulted in a virtual cessation of transit progress under Mike Harris.  Even when the Liberals did return to power, progress was slow as the Toronto kept changing its mind between subways and light-rail and subways again – making sustainable funding difficult.   

 The Province can’t  really afford to do much in the way of funding these days.  Ontario has been bleeding red ink since the 2008 recession and is now carrying a staggering quarter trillion dollar debt-load on its books.  Metrolinx, the organization tasked with creating some order to the provinces transit mess,  is saying they need $2 billion a year for needed transit expansion,and they are probably right.

This is clearly not working?

 That money is not likely to flow  from the business community; having lowered corporate taxes earlier, it is unlikely the province will raise them again.  One of Wynne’s priorities is to promote business development, not scare it away with higher taxes.  Wynne talked about bringing more jobs out to the suburbs, places like Burlington, so fewer folks need to be on that long daily commute.  There are fewer businesses paying taxes these days as we become more reliant on imports. 

Is this a better option? Can we rely on the public sector to deliver consistently reliable service that works within the reasonable budgets they are given?

Worse still, if we are to believe one think-tank, the left-leaning Centre for Policy Alternatives, we should expect an even greater decline in our industrial base following conclusion of the planned Canada-EU trade agreement. 

 Canada’s Economic Action Plan, the Harper government’s economic blueprint, has committed $14 billion for infrastructure renewal. Premier Wynne hosted the Council of the Federation meeting last July and there was unanimous agreement for “continuing the conversation” about infrastructure – which really means they want access to that fund.   Ontario, with a third of Canada’s population might reasonably expect about five or six billion dollars of that commitment – enough to make a really good start on adding public transit.  And, as if on cue, the federal government has just announced over half a billion dollars for the Scarborough subway extension.

 Aside from the auto companies Mr. Harper hasn’t shown much interest in helping Canada’s industrial heartland move forward.  In fact, there hasn’t been a PM in recent memory with so much interest in selling off the nation’s natural resources and so little interest in protecting home-grown manufacturing and services.    Ontario was once  the mighty province that led the nation in economic prosperity, yet today it has slipped to the status of a ‘have-not’ province.  It would be such a shame if the province ended up becoming another rust belt jurisdiction like Michigan or Ohio, and Toronto another bankrupt city like Detroit.

Ray Rivers, born in Ontario earned an economics degree at the University of Western Ontario and a Master’s degree in economics at the University of Ottawa.  His 25 year stint with the federal government included time with Environment, Fisheries and Oceans, Agriculture and the Post office.  Rivers is active in his community; has run for municipal and provincial office and held executive positions with Liberal Party riding associations.  He developed the current policy process for the Ontario Liberal Party.

 

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Downtown development faces challenge from local residents who claim rules are being broken.

September 23, 2013

BY Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  It has been so long since Burlington has seen a high-rise building that includes office space in the city that we may have forgotten what this kind of development means to a city.

An eight story office building and a 17 story apartment building with an above ground parking garage in between the two.  Somewhere along the way some people let themselves believe that 70+% of the apartments were going to be affordable housing.

The Carriage Gate project is a  mixed use development consisting of an 8 storey office building, a 17 storey, 154 unit apartment building, an 8 storey above-ground parking garage, three levels of underground parking garage, and ground floor retail/service commercial uses.  

A group of citizens will argue before Council that changing the content of the Community Benefits negotiated in exchange for extra height and density on the Caroline/Elizabeth Street development is a mistake and are asking: “Do they have the right to make this change or does this become a new project?”

In 2010, council approved the project and changed the Official Plan on this site to grant double the height for an 8 storey office building and parking garage, and over four times the height for a 17 storey apartment building.

In exchange, the Developer agreed to negotiate a Section 37 Community Benefits Agreement which was to have over 70% of the units as “affordable” housing under Halton Region’s definition of affordability.

Nick Carnacelli, the developer doesn’t see things this way. He argues that he got the additional density for the parking that he put in place and that affordable housing was not part of the deal.  At the committee meeting where the issue was threshed in the city planner explained that while some people felt there was a deal in place – there is no deal in place until the documents are signed and as of today the Section 37 agreement has not been signed.  The city did approve the change to the Official Plan

According to community advocates the community benefits document that was to be signed by the develop included:  a) providing an additional 269 parking spaces; b) Apartment to be constructed to LEED certified environmental standard; c) Parking garage will contain a green roof design and  d)  Residential component will have over 70% affordable housing units.”

The Official Plan change was approved and changed. The developer is asking for a reduction in the affordable housing component from 73% to 27%. 

The community advocates maintain the developer is not now willing to sign the agreement.  They argue that the project cannot proceed until the Section 37 Community Benefits Agreement is signed as it was an integral aspect of the deal and was to be registered on the title of the property.  They add that the zoning bylaw cannot be changed and a building permit cannot be issued until the Section 37 Agreement is signed .

The change to the Official Plan has already be made but the zoning by-law amendment remains outstanding. Some were surprised that any changes could be made without the attendant agreements being signed or that the changes to zoning and the official plan were not made conditional to the community benefits agreement.

Bruce Krushelnicki patiently explains that Section 37 agreements cannot be made conditional.  The benefits to the community are separate from the issuing of an Official Plan change or a change in the zoning bylaw and the issuing of a building permit.

“A section 37 Agreement is one that allows the city to reap certain benefits when an advantage is given to a developer allowing an increased return on a development.  The development has to stand on its own merits – it is only if it stands on its own merits and is approved by a city council that we planners can then negotiate a Section 37 agreement.”

Much of the council committee debate on affordable housing focused on the question: is there a place for affordable housing in the downtown core south of Caroline?  Where should affordable housing be located and who should be paying for that housing?.  Council committee heard arguments that social housing is a Regional responsibility and should be addressed at the Regional level and that developers should not be expected to take on this social service.  The city already has a significant amount of social housing on John Street, immediately north of Pine and south of the Burlington transit station.

 Staff and the owner agreed to a total direct community benefit valued at $6-7 million to be spent in the provision of parking as well as several other benefits that do not have direct costs but which are nevertheless community benefits.

The Planning department also notes that other Section 37 Agreements where affordable housing was secured the amount was less than 30% in  all instances.

Carnacelli explained that the affordable housing units he would have built were so small that families would not be able to live in them thus defeating the purpose of social housing in the downtown core.

Is the city working with a developer who has out maneuvered them several times?  Does the developer understand the process better than the people he has to deal with at city hall?

The project has been something of a paper nightmare for the planning department.  A condition of the agreement approved by Council in 2010 was the imposition of an 18 month deadline for the signing of the required agreements. The bylaw passed by Council at that time was not enacted because Carriage Gate Group Inc. did not enter into the required agreements or pay the rezoning unit fees within the specified time-frame. The conditional approval lapsed on January 5, 2012.  In September of this year  Council granted an 18 month extension to the approval lapsing date.

Carnacelli faces some exceptionally stiff costs on the hydro side of the project.  In order to get hydro to the site he was expected to pay for the cost of getting a hydro lines up from Lakeshore to his site.  Once that hydro line is in place anyone south of the Carnacelli site, which is at Caroline and Elizabeth, would get a free ride.  Carnacelli felt hydro should put the line in and then have anyone developing along the route pay for a share of the cost.

The Molinaro Group didn’t have to pay for the costs Carnacelli is expected to pay to get hydro into  the buildings they  built along Lakeshore Road because the hydro line ran along Lakeshore.

The Carriage Gate project is to have a total of 522 parking spaces of which 193 spaces were required for the residential portion of the development and 60 public spaces were required as part of the land sale. The site is located within the Downtown Parking Exemption Area (DPEA) and therefore the provision of parking is not required except for the residential units. The developer was thereby providing an additional 269 spaces that would not otherwise be required by this development. The estimated value of these parking spaces to service non-residential development is approximately $6-7 million. The developer however will charge a fee for those parking spots when they are used.

The staff report points out that approval was granted almost three years ago  when the initial Section 37 community benefits were being discussed.  In that time economic and market conditions have changed. In that time costs, including but not limited to, development charges, hydro and construction, have increased significantly.

The community advocates argue that a lot of  due diligence, expense and research went into the preparation of the original Staff Report presented to Council on July 5, 2010 which included wording for a Section 37 Community Benefits Agreement which they maintain resulted in the approval of the development. 

They suggest that “if the deal can be changed on this development after the approval process has been completed, this sets a precedent going forward for every Development throughout the entire City of Burlington.”  True perhaps but the Section 39 “deal” has not been signed and as Krushelnicki explains – it isn’t a deal until it is signed.

The community advocates argue that “altering a Section 37 Agreement after the approval process is complete merits a very serious review as developments of this size are going to change the landscape of Burlington forever and this deal sets a serious precedent going forward.  When is a deal not a deal?

Krushelnicki would respond – a deal is not a deal until it is signed.

The community advocates suggest that any change to the approved Section 37 Community Benefits Agreement on the Carriage Gate Development makes it a different project and thus warrants further serious review.

The signatories to any agreement can negotiate changes before the agreement is signed and city planners have reviewed the requested changes and approve of the requested changes.

 Is this a battle between Marianne Meed Ward, Councillor for that part of the city this project is to be built in, and the development community along with those who argue Burlington desperately needs new office development in the downtown core if the city is to have a core that is viable?

There are some impressive properties along Caroline that may not be comfortable with a large office/residential complex parked on their shoulder.

There are those who argue that Meed Ward does not understand the economics of development and is giving the city a bad reputation as a place for developers to ply their trade.

The city has to comply with a provincial Policy Statement that requires the Region to develop a specific amount of housing and a specific number of jobs.  The city does not have a choice – that is what we must do and if a project like Carriage Gate helps the city meet that requirement – they will negotiate the best deal they can get and then happily approve it.

Burlington currently faces negative net growth in the amount of Industrial, Commercial and Institutional (ICI) tax levels.  The money to run the city comes from taxpayers for the most part and if it isn’t raised on the ICI side – then it will come from the residential side.

The issue, actually the elephant in the room is what kind of development will there be in the downtown core?  That’s one on which there is the kind of community consensus this council would like to see. Should Burlington office development just be on the North and South Service Roads and over along Burloak?

During the committee debate Meed Ward suggested that if the community benefits were being scaled back then the height and density given should be scaled back as well.

The buildings in this photograph are gone – the developer bulldozed everything as they moved on both the constructions and their marketing plans.

What Carnacelli argues is that the development charges he has to pay have increased 40% since he started work on the project.

Staff in their report have recommended to Council that the city solicitor be directed to re-work the Section 37 agreement and have it conform to what the developer has asked for while a group of citizens want Council to send the project right back to the drawing table and see it as a new project.

The developer has already flattened the buildings that were on what was once called Tudor Square and has begun to market the project.  Would anyone care to wager on what city council will do Monday evening?  If there is ever going to be any serious or significant development in the downtown core the Carriage Gate project has to be approved.  That might mean holding their nose for some.

 

 

 

 

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Jealous Nelson grad tours Hayden High – eye-popping is her first response.

 

 

September 8, 2013

By Milla Pickfield

 

BURLINGTON, ON.  I’m so jealous. I fell asleep in the middle of my math exam in June of 2012. Why did I fall asleep? No air conditioning. Well at Dr. Frank J. Hayden High School they won’t have that problem. They have air-conditioning and I’ve heard it’s absolutely gorgeous. The whole school is new; and new is spectacular! This huge high school located in the Alton Village opened last week and now houses grades nine and ten students from the surrounding area. 

Alton is one of the last undeveloped residential lands in Burlington and it could be assumed that they recognized the potential growth of the community would exceed the capacity of existing high schools.

Hayden High, Burlington’s newest high school built as part of a complex that includes a Recreational Centre and a public library with a skate park right across the street.

If I had to sum up the new school in one word I would use impressive. Built as one part of the community center -. Hayden High School is huge. The complex has eight competition-sized gyms and a library, and a skate park just outside the school!

Just imagine – you’re in grade ten and you’ve been moved to a brand new high school. Your first day of school – wake up, get dressed, brush your teeth – normal routine in the morning. But this is anything but a normal morning. Today, you get to sleep in a little later than the year before because your new school opens a little later. This morning you don’t have to rush out the door to catch the bus because your school is just a short walk away. This year… at least half of your school friends will not be waiting in front of the school doors to greet you… they go to a different school across town.

One student commented on how he felt when he first entered the school, “Being at a brand new school is very exciting, and it’s also really interesting to be the first ones to see the school to its full extent.” But when asked about what it felt like to be going to school without some of his friends he said; “Having only half of my friends around simply doesn’t feel right. I made at least three good friends last year who had to stay at Nelson, and it feels very unusual without them around.”

The complex from the rear with the high school cafeteria on the left overlooking the sports field. The Haber Recreational is at the end on the right.

Those students who were at Nelson and going into grade 11 stayed at Nelson because Hayden was offering just grades nine and ten. Transition from old to new can be difficult but at the same time exciting. On one hand you miss those old run-down specialties that made your school feel like home… but then again, look at those perks! Everything is new. New computers, up-to-date software that actually works and aligns with the software on your home computer, air-conditioning (remember I’m jealous), internet that operates all the time, a new sound system throughout the school so it doesn’t sound like people speaking underwater … the list could go on and on.

Okay, I am going to go on and on: it’s the food. Since it’s a high school and a community center, rumour has it that a big name food provider will be opening its doors. Did I tell you I’m jealous? Oh, right, I did. 

 

 

But there is a downside. While the new eye-popping catchy attractions may make you jealous (maybe that’s just me) you lose a sense of tradition. As many know, a lot of the excitement that surrounds school is knowing that you aren’t the first ones there; your parents may have gone to that school when they were younger. Sometimes just knowing that gives you a sense of comfort and familiarity.   Remember in the movie The Blind Side with Sandra Bullock when Michael Oher is being questioned on why he chose the University of Mississippi? Michael simply responds with “Because it’s where my family goes to school. It’s where they’ve always gone to school.”

 

Michael chose the University of Mississippi because the sense of unity and pride,  knowing that he will follow in his parents and their parent’s footsteps. Going to a new high school breaks that tradition. You are not walking the halls your parents walked before you: instead you are walking halls that no one has ever walked before. You are creating new tradition and perhaps walking the halls your children may walk someday.

For the next couple of months I will be exploring what it is like being at a new school – from the perspective of teachers, administration, the architects, parents, but most importantly from the students – the individuals who walk the halls every day trying to navigate education and relationships – no mean feat.

Milla Pickfield is a Nelson High graduate who is taking a year off before going to university to do community work and gain experience with people and places that are well outside her past experience and comfort zone.  She expects to follow the creation of the legend that will become Hayden High School in the Alton Village.

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City looking for volunteers to serve on its 10 boards and committees; good place to launch a political career or just make a difference.

September 2, 2013

By Pepper Parr

 BURLINGTON, ON.  Local boards and committees, the place where many political careers have started, is a vital part of the way Burlington works.

The city looks for volunteers to sit on a number of Boards and committees that range from the Accessibility Advisory Committee to the Burlington Museums Board.

Mayor Goldring maintains   “The volunteers who serve on a board or committee help to create a vibrant community,”  and some of those boards are certainly “vibrant”; noisy and disorganized might be a better way of describing the way some have operated.

Others have had a profound and lasting impact on how the city has developed.  The Heritage Advisory Committee did such a good job of resolving the mess the city had on its hands with the historical designation of properties that they got close to a standing ovation from Council when they turned in a report and have gone on to basically create and them implement the policies that determine how recognizing and preserving historical properties is going to be done in Burlington.

Heritage was given a substantial budget to carry out their work and operate, to a considerable degree, as an extension of city hall.

The Waterfront Access and Protection Advisory committee did not fare as well and was sunset by the city before they managed to get very much done.

The city wants to fill positions on the following:

Museum Board has plans for a major upgrade to the Brant Museum – is this a place for you and your skill set?

Burlington Museums Board

These people oversee the operation of the Joseph Brant Museum and Ireland House.  With the Brant Museum moving towards a point where they fund raise to make very significant changes  this will be a busy board.

 Burlington Accessibility Advisory Committee

Accessibility has always been strong in Burlington.

 Burlington Cycling Committee

This committee needs some fresh blood; they did their best but were not able to get the city to go along with bike lanes on lakeshore road.  They did their best – but it wasn’t enough.  Some pretty disappointed people who need new energy and new ideas.

 Burlington Mundialization Committee

This Committee manages our relationship with sister cities in Japan and Holland.  Might be time for some people who do not come from those countries to be on this committee.

 

Is transit important? Do we spend enough on transit? Do people really want to pay for a transit service that is not all that well used? Have you experience with transit and could you contribute to the Transit Advisory Committee.

Burlington Transit Advisory Committee

There is a new regime at transit now and their advisory committee is a lot more civil.  Lots of work to be done here to make transit useful to more people.

 Heritage Burlington Advisory Committee.

Probably the best Advisory Committee the city has.

 Burlington Seniors Advisory Committee

With a growing seniors population this committee can play a very significant role in how best to be aware of the concerns, understand them and provide Council with some direction.

 Sustainable Development Committee

New leadership on this committee will see some changes.  Former chair served a full term and has left a strong team in place.  Good place to be if the environment and matters of sustainability matter to you.

Every year the Civic Recognition Committee goes through nominations for the Best Burlington has in the way of volunteer service. Is this something you could be part of?

 Burlington’s Best (Civic Recognition Committee)

This is the committee that handles recommendations for citizens that have excelled in their community contribution and deserve special recognition.  The recognition evening could do with some improvement and getting the word out on what the city means by Burlington’s Best should bring in more nominations.  These aren’t popularity contests –the city wants to recognize the truly deserving

 2014 Doors Open Burlington Organizing Committee.

This committee needs new energy and a stronger sense of direction.  If you’ve a passion fo helping the city tells its story – and it has a great story to tell – this might be a good place to dig in.

 Terms vary from one to four years, with meetings held monthly. The application deadline is Friday, Sept. 13, 2013. Applications are also available in person from the clerks department at City Hall, 426 Brant St, first floor.

“Volunteering on a board or committee is a great way to share your talents and develop your skills,” said Danielle Pitoscia, the city’s acting manager of committee services. “It’s a great way to really dig deeply into your area of interest.”  Comments like that from one of the best committee clerks this city has, gives you some sense of the energy the city wants to put behind its boards and committee.  There is staff who are there to help; each committee has a Clerk assigned to it.  The good ones are very good.  Count Pitoscia among the good ones.

The comments we’ve made are the result of our experience with several of the committee and our observations of the others.

In the past the city has recognized a number of people who have made major contributions.  John Boich, Jane Irwin, Amy Schnurr, Trevor Copp are just a few of the recipients that come to mind.

Go one line and download the application forms.  Might be something that interests you and that you can make a difference on.

For more information on a specific committee, or to apply online.

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The Spiral Stela is unveiled; crowd likes it – now the rest of he community gets to decide how it feels.

 

 

August 25, 2013

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  And there it was.  Burlington’s first piece of public art that was the result of a joint private benefactor, public funds sculpture sitting outside the two-year old Performing Arts Centre.

The art was the result of an idea Burlington businessman Dan Lawrie had  that led to a conversation with former Centre Executive Director Brenda Heatherington, about a sculpture for the Centre.  The idea worked its way to city council where they agreed to add to the generous financial contribution Lawrie had made.

And there it was: Burlington’s Spiral Stella unveiled.

That brought the city’s Public Art contractor Jeremy Freiburger into the picture.  He was tasked to put together a jury to decide what should be installed.  A jury was selected and a decision made.  Throughout the process the public was involved and the result was a gathering of citizens on a bright sunny day, to unveil the 17 foot sculpture done for the city by New Brunswick based artist Peter Powning.

The jury, made up of Burlington Art Centre president Ian Ross, artist Trevor Copp, Emma Quin, Executive Director of the Ontario Craft Council narrowed the 119 entries down to three finalists and chose Peter Powning’s submission.

And now the Stela gets its first public close up. Do they like what they see? Will it grow on people? Was it a good idea?

The city wanted art that involved the public and that brought out the idea of a “cultural mulch”; a phrase that was as new to Burlington as it was to the artistic community. Cultural Mulch was described as “stories about who we are and where we grow.”

People gather around to see what has been placed into the sheets of bronze that are attached to the Stela. The word was spread quickly as people photographed and “tweeted” about what they were seeing.

That led to a number of sessions where Powning took plaster impressions of various artifacts the public brought in.  Powning had no idea what the next person in line was going to give him.  Some brought in old keys, other brought in a pair of binoculars that had belonged to their grandfather.  Another person brought in a pocket watch fob while yet another brought in a ticket from the opening day of the Centre.

The Spiral Stela was certainly getting a lot of attention from the unveiling day crowd. What was that piece, and that piece there, where did that come from. The Stela needs a close look and some time to figure out what it’s all about.

There were medals and toy trucks – anything the people of Burlington thought described who they were. With the plaster impressions done Powning trucked it all back to his workshop in New Brunswick where bronze castings were made which were then attached to the stainless steel obelisk shaped structure.

The Spiral Stela is now, like the Pier, part of the city and in time the public will come to appreciate what they have outside the Centre.  Jeremy Freiburger, who also wrote a Cultural Plan for the city, believes Burlington has begun a change to a more artistically sophisticated city.

Ward 2 Councillor described what had happened very well when she said “the role of public art reflects what a community is” and what is crafted into the sheets of bronze on the Spiral Stela certainly describes the city, rather proudly.

Public art was described by Dan Lawrie as a “manifestation of a community coming together” and is a lot more than a possession but rather “a collection of memories that will get passed from generation to generation.  It is a perpetual memory and a permanent landmark.”

The beauty of a piece of art is usually in the eye of the beholder.  When good art is made part of the public environment the understanding of what art can do and the impact art has on our daily lives goes through a transition.  Some art is accepted immediately while other art is part of controversial conversations for a long time.

Peter Powning spoke later to a small audience at the Art Centre about public art and the impact it has had on his career.  Powning earns his living working full-time on commissions which come from the corporate sector but is driven now to a considerable degree by the municipal sector.

It was Dan Lawrie’s idea and his willingness to put up $37,000+ of his own money that started the process that ended with a piece of public art being unveiled outside the Performing Arts Centre.

In 1983 Powning was able to convince a developer to include funding for art in a project budget.  One of his early projects was a piece of art in the Market Square in St. John, New Brunswick that Powning said is “still there and holding up very well”.

The value of public art explained Powning is that it gives a community an opportunity to say who they are – to say what a locality’s destiny is.  It is a cultural eruption that has value that accrues to a community.

When Powning saw the notice Burlington published for public art submissions and he looked at the site he immediately saw some very interesting potential.  When he learned that the city wanted significant intense community participation Powning knew this was a project he could develop and convinced the jury he was the man to do the job.

Powning was one of three finalists out of the 119 artists who responded to the call.

Rick Burgess, on the left with Mayor Goldring and sculpture benefactor Dan Lawrie look over the newly unveiled piece of public art.

Public art explained Powning can be “serene, bold or provocative”.  If it results in controversy there is growth in the thinking of a community and as long as it is not too far outside commonly accepted boundaries acceptance takes place.

Powning feels public art helps a community gets away from the “big box” culture that is dominated by a profit or loss report.  Buildings are put up for profit where the objective is to keep costs down.  Spending thousands of dollars on something that does not have a profit attached to it is a hard sell not only to developers but to the general public as well.  If you have been following the comments about spending public money on the Freeman Station you will get a sense of how the public debate plays itself out.  Pay particular attention to the comments part of the story.

The evolution of art for the public has grown from bronze statues of Kings and Queens and major public figures, usually military types to the Rebecca outside the Art Centre that is still surrounded by controversy.

Cultural projects manager Angela Paparizo and Stela selection jury member talk about the next project for the city?

Powning points out that public art has moved away from themes and is not tied down to anything specific but is now much more interpretive.

Powning convinced the public art jury to go along with his Stela approach but had no idea what he would be given by the public to work with.

As individual artifacts were put in front of him he had to make the plaster impression but at the same time listen to the story people told and remember what he heard and what he felt as he listened.

All these words and feelings were taken back to New Brunswick where the creative process began.  Where should the individual artifacts be placed?  Is there a theme that comes out of what he was given?  Is there a theme he wants to create?  What are the space limitations he has to deal with?

Were you there? You should have been. People milled about and asked questions and talked about this newest addition to the city’s cultural fabric.

“There are no rules for this kind of work – it is pure visual improvisation”, said Powning.. There are breakthroughs as you are doing the work. “You count on those” added Powning who has done a number of Stela’s across the country.  One of the more outstanding Stela’s was done in Canmore, Alberta where there was a theme based on eagles that would fly between two mountains at the edge of the city.  Eagles became the theme for that Stela and Powning built on it.

Burlington didn’t have a single theme.  For once the Burlington bookends of the lake and the Escarpment didn’t take over the dialogue; instead Powning worked from material given to him by the community.

The result is a bronze structure that now stands outside the Centre that is expected to become the hub of a community’s cultural aspirations.

Powning and his wife, a writer, were married when Peter was 19.  They had decided they were going to live “off the grid” long before that was an accepted phrase.  They were part of the “back to the land” movement, and live in a place where the telephone line doesn’t always work the way most of us expect it to work.  They have enough in the way of solar panels on their buildings to supply most of their energy and grow much of the food they need.

Powning will keep in touch with how Burlington reacts to and grows with its Stela.  Public art does have to be maintained; you can’t put it up and just leave it there.  Burlington’s Spiral Stela is covered with a coating of wax that makes it easier to clean and Powning will probably come back to Burlington to put a new coat of wax on the sculpture in a couple of years.

Performing Arts Centre board chair Rick Burgess on the left with artist Peter Powning centre, talking to a city staff member.

Before getting driven to the airport to return home, Powning asked for some time to get back to his sculpture and take a few pictures – he has been so busy getting it installed and talking about it that he hadn’t had any time to photograph the work.

The public will now begin walking over to the Stela just the way they now walk out onto the pier.  In the not too distant future the city hopes to have a web site with many different views of the Stela where people can tag different parts of the bronze pieces.

The art does need some sort of a plaque or notice put in place that explains what the object on the bronze portions are all about – and that’s about the only criticism one can make about the unveiling of the Spiral Stela in front of the Performing Arts Centre on a sunny Sunday morning.  We did good.

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Thousands without power for a period of time after major storm rolls across the city. No serious injuries.

 

 

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON.  July 23 2013.  —Hydro workers, firefighters and roads and parks maintenance staff worked through the weekend responding to damage, road closures and power outages caused by that Friday night storm.

By Monday morning power had been restored to all but 3,000 homes. Burlington Hydro staff called in colleagues from other hydro services to help today.  The Burlington Fire Department called in the neighbour Oakville Fire Department.  The city’s roads and parks maintenance staff and contractors worked through the weekend responding to fallen trees and maintaining road closures at locations throughout the city.

This tree on King Road fell on one property landed on the hedge of the next property and then lay sprawled across the neighbours driveway as well.

Hydro will then work on cleaning up and repairing the 25 broken poles with trees down stretching in a path along Cedar Springs Road and No. 1 and 2 Sideroads.

Burlington Transit had to reroute at least one bus line.

Cathy Robertson, Director of Roads and Park Maintenance may not be certified to use a chain saw but she certainly kept her crews hopping over the weekend as the city dealt with hundreds of calls about fallen trees.

Cathy Robertson, director of roads and parks maintenance said the city is “ working closely with Burlington Hydro to focus on what counts most—getting power restored to homes and getting people around the city safely.”

The Region created an enhanced brush pick up that basically lets you put out brush on your next regular yard waste collection.  At that time you can put a pile of bulk brush instead of having to bundle it. That will make it easier for residents to clean up debris from the storm.

Burlington’s Robertson, who advises she is not certified on chain saw use but does manage very well is ensuring that city trees are cleared away as quickly as possible. Trees that are on city property are chipped and the wood chips are used on paths in some park areas and woodlots.

No one was yet able to put a number on just how many trees came down.  The city is completing a street by street check – by the end of this week it should all be cleaned up.  There were no reports of any injuries. But Sunday morning we certainly had a mess on our hands.


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Thousands without power for a period of time after major storm rolls across the city. No serious injuries.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON.  July 20, 2013.  —Hydro workers, firefighters and roads and parks maintenance staff worked through the night to respond to damage, road closures and power outages caused by last night’s storm.

As of 10 a.m., power had been restored to all but 3,000 homes. Burlington Hydro staff called in colleagues from other hydro services to help today.  The Burlington Fire Department, with its neighbour the Oakville Fire Department, responded to 160 calls between 6:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. yesterday and this morning. The city’s roads and parks maintenance staff and contractors worked overnight, responding to fallen trees and maintaining road closures at locations throughout the city.

Alton Village resident Neil Gallant videoed the storm clouds as they rolled across the city and over the Escarpment.

Burlington Hydro is expecting to restore power to the Lowville area sometime this morning, which will reduce the number of customers without power to 1,500. Hydro will then work on cleaning up and repairing the 25 broken poles with trees down stretching in a path along Cedar Springs Road and No. 1 and 2 Sideroads. Hydro will also work to clean up the downed hydro poles and trees at Corporate Drive and Appleby Line.

Burlington Transit is rerouting Route 11 buses onto Ironstone Drive, Corporate Drive and Mainway due to the closure of Appleby Line in this area.

 Local citizens had a great time filming the storm from the safety of their homes – others had to clear away fallen trees.

Cathy Robertson, director of roads and parks maintenance said the city is “ working closely with Burlington Hydro to focus on what counts most—getting power restored to homes and getting people around the city safely.”

To report downed trees or branches, call 311. For information about hydro outages, visit www.burlingtonhydro.com or call 1-877-310-4937.

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James Smith has a viewpoint on the private tree bylaw – he rants.

By James Smith.

BURLINGTON, ON. July 8, 2013. 

James Smith usually goes on about transit or waxes eloquently about the Freeman Station which he is in the process of saving.  Over the weekend he apparently stumbled across a city staff report about trees and – well he kind of lost it.

Guelph has one.

So does Oakville. 

Toronto? Check.

Burlington? Nope.

 I could be speaking about any number of things like reliable, well-funded Transit but in this case it looks like we won’t be getting a Private Tree Bylaw either if one reads the Private Tree By Law feasibility study about to go to council. Burlington it seems is keeping to its long and proud tradition as depicted on our Coat of Arms 

This tree canopy on Belvinia in the Roseland community is a large part of what the older part of the city is all about. Beautifully shaded streets with trees that add value to every house on the street.  Most of these trees are on city owned property.

 To be fair, council has started, if it’s not too much of a bother, the process of maybe, possibly, sometime looking at a private Tree bylaw. Rather than ask staff to craft a tree by-law Council asked for a feasibility study, and in May they told City Staff “no recommendations”, instead we get “options”.   The report spills a lot of ink on background, you know, like why trees are important, applicable statues, methodology, numbers of trees cut down every year by Arborists, (about 1,800) and the results of surveys and consultation. Oh, we’ve been consulted, we’ve been telephoned and online surveyed, research firms hired, and public meetings held. City staff tell us they have 71,571 “Touch Points” (- frankly I don’t like the sound of that term at all). 71,571 sounds like a big number until you read that 68,000 of these “Touch Points” come from  the City’s version of Pravda- AKA- City Talk- the thing that only wonks like me, & high school civics students (reluctantly) read. 

 City staff tell us they have 71,571 \"Touch Points\" Did I mention consultants? Burlington LOVES her consultants, Forum Research provided 31 pages of survey data that supports the community’s view that Trees are important!!  Fifty Nine percent suggested more needs to be done to protect trees. A one page spread sheet and four paragraphs are included in City Staff’s portion of this feasibility study that superficially addresses what other  cities do and do not do to protect trees on private property. What towns  have them, number of times amended, number of annual infractions, fines,  staff required,  number of permits issued and fees, exemptions and a one word answer if the by law is effective.

Did I say we had meetings? Burlington city hall loves its meetings almost as much as it loves its consultants. Burlington carries on its proud tradition of meetings.  Talking and meetings,  give the impression that work is actually being done. One may point to all the meeting minutes, and reports and addenda produced from which a report is dutifully presented. It all looks like an issue is being tackled, decisions being formulated, and our staff resources put to good use. 

 Poppycock.

 Here are City Staff’s Options:

Decide against implementing a Private Tree Bylaw

Direct Staff to Draft a Private Tree Bylaw

Increase Public Education and Awareness

Enhance public Participation and Involvement

Identify Partnerships with the community to Enhance Tree Planting Programs.

Delegate Responsibility for the protection of woodlots between 0.5 ha and 1.0 ha to Halton Region.

 Wow,  what did this cost in staff time and consultants? Furthermore, staff recommends all of these options, with the notable exception of actually crafting a tree by-law. Really. Burllingtonians, 59% of us want more tree protection, but City staff who were specifically asked not to included recommendations, opine that they don’t support a Private Tree By-Law! Out of whole cloth and with little or no back-up this statement heading appears: ” Support for a bylaw regulating trees on private property is low”  In my book 59% is still pretty good, given that Don’t Support, and Don’t Know/Don’t Care are about equal.

Every tree on this street is on private property. Every property owner has the rigght to cut down the tree on their property. If one comes down – so what? If five come down will those five people have lessened the value of the properties on the street? If they all come down – would anyone want to buy property on this street. That’s what a Private Tree Bylaw is about.

 So where does this statement come from? Could it be the many members of vested interests who made their way into the public meeting on the subject? Could it be the way the on-line questions were asked to give a desired result? One example: The on-line survey did not ask WOULD YOU SUPPORT A PRIVATE TREE BY-LAW  but rather cunningly asked: “If the city of Burlington was considering a household tax increase to preserve and protect the urban forest, for which of the following initiatives would you like to see the funds allocated?” and seven choices were presented. Funnily enough, 47% replied they will not support a tax increase for any reason. I wonder how these folks feel about the $300,000 for taking the memorial out of Joe Brant?

 Burlington City council once again is set to live up to their tradition by abandoning anything close to a vision of what kind of city we should build.Lets look at this a little more critically, the city of Oakville have staff of exactly one person to run the tree by-law, Guelph has 4.  if part of the reason staff have drawn the conclusions they have is a result of little support for taxes increased  to be spent on one position,  can we not find the money in existing programmes? What about permits and fines? Surely this can be a self funding office,! I would argue it could generate a surplus to fund some of the other wacky stuff city staff actually want  to do. My conclusion is, for some reason, city staff don’t want the headache of an office that actually does stuff, but would rather play with Adobe Suite making marketing plans that the people of this town really don’t give a squirrel’s tail about. Otherwise why would they have devised a process designed to produce these results?  Make no mistake, one just has to make it through the report and read how the on-line questions have been asked, to come to the same conclusion. It is either that or one must ask if city staff is up to the task.

 After who knows how many staff hours, and work by well paid consultants,  Burlington City council once again is set to live up to their tradition by abandoning anything close to a vision of what kind of city we should build. Heck, we can’t even follow good examples from other cities in the GTHA. Meanwhile mature trees are set to be cut down trees on Ghent Avenue, and through out the city. 

 Oh, and Burlington’s Coat of Arms? Why by now you should know that our Motto below the Shield reads:  STAND BY

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It has been a long, tiring road for Vince Rossi; has his dream hit a brick wall? Will Burlington force him to comply with city by-laws?

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON. Jul5 5th,  2013.  We know about the damage the land fill being piled up on the site of the Burlington Executive Air Park has done.

What is it all in aid of?  Are they really building a bigger airport out there?  And if there is going to be a bigger airport does the wider community not have some say in what takes place?

Yes, airports are regulated by the federal government – there are very good reasons for that.  But methinks the Air Park people have really bent those rules and using them as skirts to hind behind. 

The Air Park has never really had a business plan or at least not the kind of business plan that would keep city officials happy.  There had to be some kind of a plan to keep their bankers satisfied when they got a $4.5 million mortgage but other than knowing there is a mortgage on the property not much more is known.

This was the market Vince Rossi wanted to attract to his airport.

As what has now become a city problem works its way through the various departments at city hall it is becoming clear that Rossi and whoever is advising him never did know how to approach city hall and talk up their project.

The more of these, the better was the mission – the idea had merit but the team assembled didn’t have the smarts to pull it off – then the city found out and that may have been the begining of the end to the dream.

Rossi did have one meeting with Mayor Goldring.  He was intrigued but told Rossi at the time to come back with a much more detailed plan.   He never came back.  At the time Goldring wasn’t sure if Rossi was looking for financial support or if we he was just getting a briefing.

At the time, Goldring was still quite new to his job and may have failed in not red flagging the project and keeping a watch on it.  He didn’t.  His former chief of staff Frank McKeown would have had some very clear thoughts on the project assuming he sat in on the discussion the Mayor  had but McKeown is no longer on staff.

Rossi was dumping landfill at that time and he just continued doing just that.   And for the past number of years, since 2008 at least,  Vince Rossi has been getting away with it – and it is going to take some effort to bring a halt to what he is doing and then to clean up the damage.

The “airport crowd” those people who rent hangers, own light aircraft, like to fly and follow the rules appear to be a very decent bunch of people.  They are being tarred with the brush that many want to use on Mr. Rossi.

When Glenn Grenier, legal counsel for the Burlington Executive Air Park, appeared before council to state his client’s case, his objective seemed to be to scare the city by telling them what they were up against and he couldn’t seem to understand why the city didn’t read his 10 page plus letter and then just fold.

The city manager, on three different occasions, advised the Mayor to move on with the meeting and dismiss the lawyer. He has nothing for us stated Jeff Fielding – he represents the interests of his client.

When advised that he had just five minutes to delegate he told council that he would need more than five minutes – he didn’t get it.

The city knew next to nothing about  what is going on out on the air field.  The only source of information was what the locals can pass along and according to Blair Lancaster, ward Councillor for the north Burlington community, they weren’t telling her anything. Lancaster says she didn’t hear anything from the local people until March 5th of this year.

During the Q&A portion of the council meeting  Grenier did say that  the Air Park’s plans were on their web site.  Councillor Lancaster commented that what she saw on the web site were not plans – “not much more than a wish list” from her point of view.  Meed Ward, ever the techie. added that the web site was no longer on-line.  Grenier said there were technical difficulties.  He could also have said they were experiencing some air turbulence.

At the end of the council meeting the Mayor said this was serious stuff and the city would be moving quickly to get something done – even though at the time they really didn’t know what they could do.

Both the Region and Conservation Halton bought the argument that they had no jurisdiction but Rossi appears to have kept them informed. It wasn’t until Vanessa Warren went public with a delegation to Burlington that the fat was in the fire. Above is one of the early site plans he submitted

The issue would get taken up at the Regional level while the city scurried about to meet with the residents and hopefully get Vince Rossi into the room as well.

Vanessa Warren spoke to a Regional government committee and heard nice words and real, genuine concern from members of that Council.

Burlington took three weeks to determine what its strategy should be.  They are in a very tricky situation and have to deal with someone who cares not a whit about the community he does business in.

In the middle of all this Rossi announces that the company doing the landfill work has a contract to dump asphalt stripped from the 407 and will be doing so all night long as well.  Everyone was astounded at the news.  That contract appears to have gone somewhere else.

Tim Crawford appeared before Regional Council to delegate against the decision to have the southern gate to the project closed and was mauled by a number of Regional Council members. (Every member of the Burlington city council is also a member of the Regional Council.)

Oakville Mayor Rob Burton explained to Crawford that the one thing Halton had going for it was its “livability” and they weren’t about to see that lost.

In an interview after his Regional delegation he talked about how he got involved in the air park development.  He, like just about everyone involved in this project, is a pilot.  He saw great potential for the air park and knew that the Kovachick family wanted to sell the property when Vic Kovachik died.

Rossi has always had a big picture and as his plans matured he bought up the pieces of land he needed. There was always a plan – what was missing was the capacity to execute on the plan.

Crawford had an idea and pulled together a meeting of some 60 pilots and pitched them on the idea of forming a group that would buy the property.  Of the 60 people it turned out less than ten were prepared to write a cheque.  One of the ten was Vince Rossi who at the time was just another pilot with hanger space.

He seemed to be able to raise the funds and eventually bought the property from the Kovachik family – then quickly learned that the operation was a money loser.  Rossi, scrambling to find something, anything that would produce revenue, looked into storing thousands of cars on the site as part of a used car auction operation.

That deal didn’t work out.

The helicopter training operation was going to go in the location in the lower left corner of this drawing. It would have been 75 yards from Barbara Sheldon’s front door. Given the air port is a federally regulated operation – the city’s bylaws had no impact.

Then there was a potential contract to train hundreds of Chinese pilots how to fly helicopters.  That contract never got signed. 

Then there was going to be a cell phone tower that Rogers wanted to put up; that opportunity created huge resistance in the community and after considerable public resistance and a noisy public meeting at city hall in January of 2009 the proposal to build a 65 metre (213-foot) cell tower on a piece of the Burlington Airpark in the north end of the city was withdrawn” and the company looked for and found a different location.

Crawford talked of his meetings with the Burlington Economic Development Corporation which didn’t go very far. “We met with them but all they seemed to want to do was sell us a page of advertising in a publication they were involved in”.  Crawford went on to say that he and Rossi couldn’t get any traction with the economic developers but added that they did buy a page of advertising.

Vince Rossi was able to catch the ear of Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion.  News that the Buttonville airport was going to close was known by everyone and, as Crawford explains it, “the distance between Burlington and Toronto is basically the same as the distance between Buttonville and Toronto – that made a Burlington operation a natural business opportunity.  And an airport in Burlington would be seen as a plus for Mississauga.

Problem with all this thinking, according to Monte Dennis, one of the original participants in the POP (People or Planes) fight that stopped the Pickering airport plans back in 1972, is that “small airports don’t make any money”; something Vince Rossi is learning.  So far he has financed his operation by being paid to have landfill dumped on the site.  Many think that the game is really to make money from landfill and when that comes to an end to walk away from the project.  Those who know Vince Rossi will tell you that he is passionate about this project and does want to see a bigger airport built.

In a presentation document used by Burlington Executive Air Park the following information is set out:

An estimated $30 Million funding project will provide the airport with, but not limited to the below enhancements that will emphasize the importance of the airport to not only the community, but to all of the GTA.

Further land acquisition to enhance the main runway

Construct a new terminal building and associated aircraft movement area

Complete construction of a new West side taxiway servicing the main runway

Service and construct the west side infrastructure

Enhance safety and protect airspace surrounding the airport

Provide services for Transient aircraft

Construct hangars and office space for GTAA Small and medium business’s

Also in the same presentation document:

It was a great idea that is about to become mired in an expensive court case. It didn’t have to be this way.

Burlington Airport is in transition in an effort to provide the current vital transportation and social services we currently offer, as well as move the airport to the next necessary level to meet the growing demand. As a privately owned business, the financial assistance provided for infrastructure to the municipal owned airports is unavailable, yet we serve the community in the very same manner. Of course, positioning the airport for the future requires focus, precise planning and funding. To date all the funding has come from the Airport Owner, Mr. Rossi, but the ability to meet the future service demand will need other sources of infrastructure funding. Mr. Rossi has invested near 4 Million dollars into infrastructure listed below to enhance the facility.

Rossi has been consistent since the year he bought the airport – his operation is federally regulated and he does not have to comply with provincial, regional or municipal rules or regulations.

The Region and the Conservation Authority appear to have bought into that line of thinking and they have done next to nothing, until Vanessa Warren delegated to Burlington’s city council June 10th.   Rossi has run up against a city administration that is determined to be both informed and involved.

The determination of this difference of opinion could we decide what happens to northern Burlington – it will also determine what Vanessa Warren and her husband are able to do with the equestrian school they want to develop – the planned runway extension will be yards from the riding ring they are currently building.

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How NOT to communicate with your constituents; Ward 6 Councillor fails to communicate.

 By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON. May 29, 2013.   How do you keep the natives happy?  How do you answer all the phone calls, take care of the problems – big and small?  Get to the city council meetings, and then the Regional Council meetings and read all the reports? Burlington recently had a committee meeting that had a 1000+ page agenda.

Councillor Rick Craven once got a call from a new home owner complaining about the noise from the rail line that passed behind a berm near the home and wanted him to do something about the noise.  Apparently the home owner didn’t know there was a rail line behind the berm.  Councillor Marianne Meed Ward found herself out Christmas Day one year picking up a couple of bags of garbage.

Municipal politics are local and you get everything – wind rows from the snow plows, garbage not picked up, not being able to get your child into a Parks and Recreation class.  The Seniors’ in Burlington, and there are a lot of them, have their own special needs.

Did I mention transit?  The list goes on and on.  And yet Burlington has two Council members who have held their seats for 20 years and more .  One of the them did recently get himself black-balled by a community organization.

Councillor Blair Lancaster gets out to almost every photo-op there is and has served as the lead spokesperson at a number of NGTA community events with crowds of 250+. Her constituents are not happy with how she is handling the Air Park issue.

Blair Lancaster, one of the crop that got elected to Council for the first time last election has been around politics much of her life.  A former beauty queen, Lancaster has created a business and a personality that serve her well.  She can be tough when she chooses to be.  She brings her own personal style to the job and at times has difficulty fully grasping the details of an issue but she is pretty quick, most of the time, to get the sense of what is happening and follows along.

She brings a bit of that old Conservative Ontario sense of entitlement: you know that, “we deserve this” and the sense that she is here to serve is not always top of mind.  She means well.

Lancaster has in the past, held community events at the Air Park.  We attended one such event and thought it was something Lancaster had put together; it wasn’t.  It was an annual event the Air Park people put on for the community – Lancaster had just piggy-backed on the event.  For many in her ward that was getting just a little too close to a company many in the community had major issues with.

There is now a major issue with the Air Park that has ward six residents writing their council member.  Here is a sample of a couple of those letters and the Council members response.

My name is Teri Jaklin; I am a resident of Rural Ward 6. We have not yet met, which in itself may be telling given the note I am embarking on now.

Blair, I have been following the new activity that is percolating, once again between the air park and the rural community in your ward.  And I respectfully suggest that you have some serious work to do when it comes to effectively representing your constituents (in rural Ward 6) in a fair and balanced fashion.

Ward 6 is full of people who have made their homes and lifestyles here for the very treasures it holds. Greenbelt, an internationally renowned Biosphere, the beauty of the escarpment and the promise to protect these for generations to come.  These are people who are willing to fight harder than the politicians, it would seem, to protect same. And for the fourth time in less than eight years these very people were gathered in a private home, once again, discussing how to protect themselves from this area’s greatest threat, Vince Rossi and the Burlington Airport.

You can speak to any of the people on this distribution list, or anyone living in this area to learn how the noise and air pollution caused by years of fill activity has compromised safety and quality of life – you can speak to neighbours who have been hit head on by the very trucks carrying the fill, not to mention the countless near misses on Appleby Line, those whose properties have been used by rogue truckers as “alternate” dump sites when the airpark gates have been closed, those who have sustained direct property damage as a result of the sheer volume of truck traffic, and you can – and should – speak to one of our neighbours whose beautiful country home has literally been turned into a sink hole – with no regard or respect to her what so ever. Certainly there are personalities at play but wouldn’t you be upset Blair if mountains of fill surrounded your home, covered with weeds, with no landscaping or concern for your quality of life – and no reasonable response from the City?

For years and years this activity has gone on under the veil of “federal jurisdiction” and has been broadly supported by the City’s love affair with the prestige of having an airport in Burlington.  But who is talking to the people that live in Rural Ward 6? Who is managing the balanced and sustainable development of the airport? Yes, an airport is “federally regulated” but it is your job Blair to understand exactly what that means in every way and strictly manage this development so that it is consistent with Provincial and Regional environmental mandates in Burlington as well as the City’s commitment to the conservation of these unique and spectacular lands.

The City’s own words on their environmental commitment are “where people, nature and business thrive” – not where one thrives at the expense of the other.  Over the many years that the residents of your ward have been struggling to be heard, we have spoken with every level of government and the common answer has been that ultimately the buck stops with the City, yet when we have engaged the City on the subject, we get a “deer in the headlights” look and no authoritative response. Does the City even care about life north of the 407? Imagine how frustrated we are.

Blair, your job is no insignificant role. You represent rapidly expanding urban growth and the commercial interests therein as well as the uniqueness of environmentally sensitive lands, a rural community and a growing Airpark. This is a huge responsibility for a new councillor. It also begs the following questions:

What is your understanding of and experience in aviation? What aviation expert has the City of Burlington engaged to support you in airport matters and when will that individual sit at the table with the City, environmental agencies and other stakeholders?

Does the City truly understand the rights and responsibilities of the airpark to the City, or is it just taking Mr. Rossi’s word for it?

What are the 1, 3, and 5-year plans for the City with regard to the development of the Airpark and Rural north Burlington?

When is the City going to engage the passionate people of Rural North Burlington as allies in these plans?

There is more in them thar hills than an enthusiastic airport developer Blair.

Nobody here is opposed to the airport, it was here before many of us moved in, and mostly we maintain a civil relationship with Vince and his managers. But what is going on with the airport borders on negligent with respect to the greater picture, and specifically with regard to the environment and the lives of your constituents.

You are largely viewed as having partnered with the airport to the exclusion of any other stakeholders – and by that I mean the people whose lives are directly impacted by airport activity. What is your position and what are you doing for the residents of Rural North Burlington? When are you going to talk to us? How long can we expect our quality of life to be compromised – or is that your plan for our future?

Poor communication leaves a door wide open to speculation, gossip and frustration. We have come to the Ward 6 Councillor in the past and expressed a desire to work collectively, from a positive perspective, with the City and the airpark – to the point where we had several meetings together. Then came an election, and, well, here we are,  I guess we have to start all over again.

If I have missed information that would shed light on any of my concerns then I stand humbly corrected and welcome the new input. If not, then I look forward to hearing from you, as I am sure may of my friends and neighbours do. Please advise when that will be at your earliest convenience.

 I look forward to your response,

Councillor Lancaster responds with:

Thank you for caring so passionately about our rural residents.

I will address your concerns individually starting with your comments about not having met.  I thought Michelle introduced you and Mike to me at the first Niagara GTA meeting in December 2010 .  We really appreciated Mike offering to video and photograph the event for us.  Since then we have been in contact with Mike many times about the Airpark and NGTA.

I have also provided many other opportunities to network with Ward Six Rural residents such as: three Airpark open houses, The Rural Summit, The Rural Cycling Safety meeting and the “Ward Three and Six” Rural Open House at Conservation Halton.  Of course, all of my public meetings in the urban part of my ward are open to rural residents as well.

We regularly communicate with Ward Six Residents through our newsletter, facebook and my city webpage as well as special distribution lists for specific issues, such as the Airpark.  I understand that Mike is on the Airpark mailing list, if you would also like to be included, please email Michelle directly as we cannot communicate with you without your express written permission.   You may also subscribe to our Ward Six e-newsletter, the link is below in my signature.

As you are aware, the Airpark is regulated by the Federal Government.  I spoke with city staff last week who, in an email, reiterated their position that the city did their due diligence several years ago on issues related to the Airpark and they are comfortable with their assessment that items related to the provision of aeronautics fall under the jurisdiction of the FAA, Federal Aeronautics Act.  They were referring to issues such as the fill.

I have had many meetings with residents who live close to the Airpark who have concerns regarding the noise and safety from the Flight School training program.  Students continuously fly over their homes repeatedly taking off and landing.  Unfortunately, the City of Burlington has no opportunity to enforce a height restriction or noise bylaw as they do not regulate or measure air activity.  Although I have no authority to enforce change, I have met with residents and Airpark officials to help facilitate discussions.  A remedy is still to be achieved.

I am not aware that there is an issue regarding collisions.  There have been no complaints made to my office.

There are no joint City and Airpark plans for the development of the Airpark.  As for rural Burlington in general, I have attached the workbook from the Rural Summit held in January of this year.  The City of Burlington engaged residents by inviting them to attend a Rural summit and over a hundred people participated. The City also had an online survey for residents who were unable to attend. As well, over 500 people attended the Niagara GTA meetings.

I have no experience in Aviation and it is not part of my role as a councillor.  The Federal representative responsible for the Airpark is Lisa Raitt, I noticed you did not include her in your correspondence, I have provided her contact information for you here.

A ward 6 resident, Barbara Sheldon,  who lives across the road from Terri Jaklin responds the Councillor Lancaster’s response with one of her own. 

April -2013

I respectfully forewarn you Ms. Lancaster: this may be one of the most politically incorrect letters you’ve yet to receive since you took Office. To that point, I suspect if there’s not an authentic and noticeable change in your commitment, actions and accountability towards the rural residents of your

Ward whose lives are being destroyed by the owner of the Burlington Airpark, you will receive more like this before you leave Office.  Last week, you received an intelligent letter from Dr. Jaklin, a well-regarded member of our community, asking you to step up to the plate and do the job for which you’ve been elected. She asked that you represent the best interests of your constituents in this community with a fair and balanced process, to paraphrase Dr. Jaklin’s request.

Dr. Jaklin’s letter has been widely distributed and cheered by our community. Two days ago, the letter that you signed back to her soared thru cyberspace to the same recipients. No cheers for you.  In fact, the shock and disgust at your letter were thicker than all that smoke you blew in it. Not only did you NOT address the main concern Dr. Jaklin raised, you dared to insult her intelligence, and consequently the rest of our community for whom she spoke.

Who wrote that for you, Ms. Lancaster? Surely, you didn’t. Someone who genuinely stood on a platform of “BEST PRACTICES” in order to win votes could never have crafted that.

Barbara Sheldon feeds geese on her spring fed pond and wonders just how much more land fill is going to be put on the air park property that is next to her home. Sheldon doesn’t mind the noise of the light aircraft flying around – her problem is with heavy construction equipment noise and what the land fill is going to do to the value of her property and her right to the peaceful use of her home.

Make no mistake about it, Ms. Lancaster – even though you did not visit our community when you were running for Office, we followed your campaign very closely. Good campaign, Ms. Lancaster – however it would appear that once you took Office, you took a page from your predecessor’s notebook when it comes to turning a blind eye to the Burlington Airpark’s destruction of our rural residential and agricultural community within your Ward.

With that in mind, I wish you’d take a page from Marianne Meed-Ward’s playbook. She has clearly demonstrated common sense, integrity, intelligence, compassion and willingness to represent the best interests of her Constituents, as well as the entire city.

Here it is plain and simple for you Ms. Lancaster: We want you to demonstrate the exact same traits exemplified by your colleague and represent the sensible and reasonable interests of this community with regards to the activities of the Burlington Airpark THAT ARE NOT GOVERNED BY TRANSPORT

CANADA – and do it in a fair and balanced process.  I would be disappointed if you did not know by now which activities are not governed by TC, but here it is, plain and simple again for you: the only thing that TC has jurisdiction over at the Burlington Airpark is aeronautical safety. Accordingly, the landfill operation is NOT GOVERNED federally.

Oh – and about your previous Open Houses at the Burlington Airpark? Not a BEST PRACTICE, Ms. Lancaster – not if you genuinely wanted to understand and represent the best interests of this community.

Councillor Blair Lancaster has held several community meetings at the Air Park. Here she meets with constituents in August of 2012. Many North Burlington residents feel it is inappropriate for community events to be held at the air park.

Let me make this ‘plain and simple’ for you again: Asking us to set foot on the land of a man who’s been willfully and selfishly achieving personal gains at the documented expense of destroying our lives, homes and livelihoods, makes about as much sense as asking breast cancer survivors to meet with you, in your capacity as the ED of the Breast Cancer Support Services, at a location known for hosting carcinogenic elements…like a cigarette smoke-filled patio. Doesn’t make much sense, does it – let alone reflect your sincere interest in helping those people.

Nor does your counter statement to Dr. Jaklin make any sense – the one in which you stated how you can regularly communicate with us through your newsletter and social media. For gawd’s sake, Ms. Lancaster, we are not asking to be ‘communicated’ with. And since when did ‘one-way’ communication become a BEST PRACTICE????

Conversely, Ms. Lancaster, we are asking you to participate with us, your Constituents, on a matter that is entirely under your mandate. If you are uncertain of your role with us, I politely ask that you re-read your Councillor manual, specifically Burlington’s Procedural By-law 58-2005, article A: (You are) To represent the public and to consider the well- being and interests of the municipality..

Notice that you are not restricted to solely represent and consider the well-being and interests of a private Company?  To this point, I want a straight answer from you now. Are you willing to come to our community, during the day, and accompany us on a personal tour to witness first-hand the needless and intentional destruction of the properties and welfare of your Constituents, as well as that of the tourists and travelers in our region, resulting from the massive landfill operation directed by Mr. Rossi? I assure you that we will be able to schedule a time that is convenient to you.

This is a simple yes/no question, Ms. Lancaster – requiring no political doublespeak, so please withhold that, as well as any smoke you may be tempted to blow up my ***, like you did Dr. Jaklin’s.

But a caveat, Ms. Lancaster: if you feel compelled to invite any parties associated with the Airpark to join you on this tour – please don’t. Plain and simple: they are not welcome at this time. However, we encourage you to bring your colleagues from Council – it’s about time they were brought up to speed, not by hearsay or by what the Airpark people want you to hear, but by viewing the evidence in person, so they may truly understand the realities and the gravity of the situation.

We are not your enemy, Ms. Lancaster. As dedicated stewards of the rural lands and lives in Burlington, not only are we some of the nicest, most responsible, hard-working and compassionate folks you’ll ever meet, we are your Constituents – you know, the folks you’ve declared on your website as being THRILLED to have the opportunity to represent. Are you ready to make good on that – or did someone else write that for you as well??

Barbara Sheldon

And so it goes in the life of a Burlington city Councillor.  Lancaster has indicated that she intends to run for office again in 2014 – that was before this barrage of letters.

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Freeman station building up a head of steam – getting ready for its big move – all of 100 yards.

 

 

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  May 15, 2013.  John Mello is the kind of guy who stands around a lot.  He is usually thinking five or six steps ahead of the people he is involved with.  He’s a railroad guy – didn’t actually work on a railroad – he just likes trains.  Not the model railway trains guys build in the basements and then wear a funny hat and walk around with an oil can in their hands.  Mello talks about BIG trains, preferably steam engines.

Sitting on some “cribbing” with a sign badly in need of several coats of paint, the Freeman Station gets ready for its big move.

That ability to talk about big trains comes from his 44 years of experience in the railway business where he started as a “train order operator”.  Long before cell phones – back in the days when it was a telegraph operator sending messages in Morse code engineers would be given their instructions written out on small pieces of paper called flimsies that were attached to a hoop and passed up to the engineer as the train slowed down. Mello goes back “that far” – lots of history in the man.

The Freeman Five – with John Mellow in the center listening to city council make a decision.  This isn’t a group Council was going to say no to easily.

Mello is one of the group that is refurbishing the Freeman Station.  It has been a long haul, a very long haul and they are nowhere near where they want to be but there are glimmers of hope and small, even if faltering steps, taken that move the ball up the field.

While there are pounds of paper, documents, permits and who knows what else, Mello leaves all that messy stuff – and it is messy, to others.  He has his eye on the bigger picture.

The next step is to get the station off the really shaky set of blocks it is sitting on and onto sturdy steel beams so that it can be at least moved to its new site – which is less than 100 yards away.

The structure sits on what they call “cribbing” – been there since 2005 and Mello says” it’s still pretty solid”.  Mello explains with the ease of a truck driver who can move one of those eighteen wheelers through downtown traffic just how it is all going to happen.

This beam, one of four that will be used, is being shoved under the station.  Once it is in place it will be jacked up and take the weight of the station – 100 tons.  Then dolly wheels will be attached to the beams and it will be slowly moved from where it has sat since 2005 and to its new home – 100 yards away.  There it will be refurbished and restored and then it will be ready for transfer where it truly belongs – on Lakeshore Road next to the old railway line.  In the fullness of time all that will happen.

The steel beams are being slid underneath the building where they are levelled and shifted to make sure they are right underneath beams in the building that can carry the weight of the building.  Then the beams are jacked up high enough for the person overseeing the restoration of the building can get underneath and do some of the work that has to be done before the building is actually moved.

When everything is ready for the actual move a couple of sets of “dolly’s” – wheels that are together are attached to the beams and the building gets rolled forward and through the fire station parking lot on Fairview and then back into its resting place on the Ashland property where the serious restoration work will begin.

 “They’re going to drive forward from over there” said Mello pointing to the station and then “pull the truck right up to the curb here and slowly back it in and then lower it to the ground” explains Mello.

And he knows exactly where that here is going to be.  “The end of the station will be here” he says as he point to a spot in an open field with hydro towers and a patch of sumac trees that will have to come out.  The trees are very young – easily replaced with something more substantial.  The other end of the station will be close to that tree over there” he adds.

John Mello points out where one end of the Freeman Station will rest.  The other end will be at about where the tall tree is in the background.  Sod turning will take place May 23rd.

“A roadway will come in through here and curve around to the front of the building where there will be parking for a couple of cars”, adds Mello.

When will all this happen?  In the fullness of time is the best Mello can say – he’s not the type to be rushed. 

He does hope that the public turns out to watch the actual move.  The structure weighs 100 tons – “they made them good in those days” explains Mello. “They had wood we don’t have today.

Mello is looking over the horizon at the bigger picture.  The lot of land the Friends of Freeman have is quite large – there will be quite a bit of landscaping to be done and that too will be done in the fullness of time.  Maybe there is some railway track and a couple of engines in the station’s future?  Maybe an original steam engine and a diesel as well.  Mello worked for GO transit for a number of years and he’s the kind of guy who makes friends he can call on.

Fundraising, an ongoing task for the Friends, is currently focused on selling the equivalent of railway ties that will hold imaginary track.  One railway tie moves the station six inches.  They’ve sold a couple of hundred of the things so far.  For $20 you can move the station six inches.

Sod turning on the site is to take place May 23rd, in the forenoon.  All the people who managed to put up or secure funds for the moving and refurbishing the station will be out along with the politicians.  It’s not much more than a photo-op – all part of the process when you work with city hall.

It was Councillors Blair Lancaster, on the right and Marianne Meed Ward that kept the Freeman station idea alive while citizens like Freeman Station president James Smith, second from left and John Mellow in the middle, pulled together a citizens group that will restore and refurbish the structure.

That Thursday will be a very full day for the friends of Freeman Station – in the afternoon they gather to celebrate the life of Jane Irwin, one of the biggest advocates for saving the station.  The sod turning ceremony, a real high for the people who got the station to this point, which is a long way from the day the city ran an advertisement asking if anyone wanted to take the thing off our hands.  There were no takers.

Train order operators used hoops like this to pass messages to trains as they passed slowly through a station. John Mello was one of the people who wrote out the instructions on what were then called “flimsies”. “We used carbon paper in those days – does anyone even know what that stuff is today” wonders Mello.

Councillors Marianne Meed Ward and Blair Lancaster were the two members of council who were not prepared to let the station fade from the pages of the city’s history.  They kept the issue before council while citizens formed a group and got themselves organized.

When the day is done on the 23rd people will return to their homes with fond memories of Jane Irwin and the knowledge that turning the sod for new Freeman station home was a good thing to get done.

John Mello will slip down to the basement of his Burlington home and look through his railway memorabilia collection and let his mind slip back to when he reached up to engineers with that hoop holding the instructions telling them where they were to go and what they would face in terms of oncoming rail traffic.  That’s the way they did it in those days.

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Bridges, bicycle paths, roads and the way we get around in this city. Resident suggests we may not be getting it right.

By James Smith

BURLINGTON, ON.  May 2, 2013.  This past weekend yet another young man, 27, died on the railway tracks near Dixie Road in Mississauga. Another family is now linked with Burlington’s Denise Davy and her family by grief over the loss of a loved one on the Lakeshore rail corridor. More than just sad, this news is devastating because when someone dies like this, a family is left not only with the ache in their heart over the loss, but also left with so many unanswered questions. How and why did this happen?  Is it misadventure, suicide or is there something else at work? What are we missing in this picture that motivates people so they feel they have to cut across tracks in the first place?

I’ve never met Ms Davy, but I’ve been impressed with her commitment to attempting to get action on preventing other deaths on the tracks in Burlington. Ms Davy has successfully brought this issue to the front of mind, not only of Burlington City council, a success in its own right; Ms Davy has moved council to direct staff to act.

A couple of really inadequate signs alongside a path that leads up to the railway tracks – crossing is a snap until one realizes there is a train that you didn’t see or hear when you started crossing.

As I write this, I’m sitting on a GO Train making my way into Toronto and I can see how very easy it is for one to make it onto the tracks. Pulling into Bronte station, I saw two men walking away from the tracks. (Did they just cross them?) They likely didn’t give the train and the tracks a second thought. Just something to get around. One does not need to be an expert to see what danger lurk on the Lakeshore corridor.  Just look out from the seat of a GO train as I’ve just done to see the trails and paths, the tree forts, BMX jumps and graffiti.  Pretty quickly one can get the idea of where people regularly walk, play, lurk and take shortcuts. With GO moving to half hour service in June the peril on the tracks is about to become far greater. To mitigate the danger, I notice more brush being cleared and new fences on the rail corridor throughout Mississauga. Will this project carry on to cover Burlington and the rest of the GO network? I hope so – and I hope it happens soon.

Fences are only part of the answer, the spot where the latest death occurred happened on a section of track already with new fences installed.  To improve rail track safety Burlington and other cities need not so much better city planning around railways, but better transportation vision. Being hived off into four parts by railways and highways Burlington has created a neat two kilometer grid that isolates pockets of development as little land-locked islands ironically surrounded by transportation corridors. How do people get in and out of these islands? By car, or for the foolhardy, taking a chance crossing the tracks on foot.  This is a result of the dominant planning regimes of the mid-20th century where land use was neatly divided up into its own little planning ghettos.

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City council directs staff to ask all kinds of questions about rail track safety & report to the public. Good start.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON. April 30, 2013.  Progress on getting something done with those locations where there is no barrier at all making it very easy for anyone to skip across four railway tracks.  Problem is that in the first three months of this year three people were not able to skip across quite fast enough and they were killed by a train whose path they could not get out of.

Denise Davy brought the problem to a Council committee earlier in the month and brought enough information and data with her then to convince Council to do something.  They issued a Staff Direction with seven parts to it that called for staff to:

Direct the Director of Transportation Services to consult the Minister of State (Transport) and request that:  The Railway Association of Canada and Transport Canada investigate the issues of safety and access to rail lines throughout Burlington.Report publicly the investigation and its findings; and

Direct the Director of Transportation Services to consult with Go Transit and Metrolinx on participating in the investigation through the Ministry of Transportation; and

 Direct the Director of Transportation Services to consult Police Services, Health and Public Works Departments in the Region of Halton to participate in the investigation; and

 Direct the General Manager of Development and Infrastructure to involve City of Burlington staff to assist with the above; and

 Direct the Director of Roads and Parks Maintenance to review publicly held lands that abut railway properties and take the appropriate corrective

action; and

 Direct the City Clerk to notify the Region of Halton and its lower -tier municipalities (Town of Oakville, Town of Milton, Town of Halton Hills) of the

staff direction; and

Direct the City Clerk to notify Jane McKenna, MPP-Burlington, Mike Wallace, MP-Burlington and Lisa Raitt, MP – Halton of the staff direction.

That’s a pretty impressive Staff Direction – the 18th that has been issued this year if you count those sorts of things.

With GO train traffic  to increase to 500 a month passing through Burlington by the end of June, Denise Davy feels the city doesn’t have much time to get some kind of barriers in place at those locations where people tend to scoot across the railway tracks as a short cut.

So what next?  Well there will be a meeting at city hall and then the different players in the game will be pulled together and another meeting will take place.  The public might see something come before council before the summer break in August.

Denise Davy has gotten the easy part done – now to get the wagon moving.  Polite badgering and reminding them all of the Mayor’s words when he said “If there had been three people killed on Fairview Street in the past three months we would have been all over this.

Time to do just that – get all over this and hope that there is not another trespass death before some action is taken.

 Davy is an experienced journalist and knows how to work a source – now she has to work six of them and constantly ask; what’s been done.

 It won’t be easy.

Denise Davy will have tucked herself into bed Monday night knowing that she did well by the son she had who was tragically killed in an accident on a set of railway tracks.

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Three Burlington railway crossing deaths in three months – 7 in the whole province. Intolerable.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  April 29, 2013.  It takes persistence and facts to bring about change and a city council as small as the one we have in Burlington is not always the easiest to move.

Denise Davy appeared before a council committee earlier in the month and brought to the attention of the city the number of tragic deaths along the railway lines that run through the city.

Davy, an experienced journalist was able to engage members of council and felt the city might be able to do something to prevent these needless deaths – she is back before city council this evening, Monday night,  to see if they will put something concrete in place.

While doing some additional research Davy came up with some startling data. 

There is no barrier at this location that is so well used it has a pathway for people to follow. The signage is pitiful.

Some of the deaths along the railway line are suicides – the police are sometimes not sure which are accidents and which are people deliberately trying to end their lives. 

Some people do choose to end their lives by walking in front of a train; others are looking for a short cut and they scoot across the tracks.

The commonly held view is that if a person decides they intend to commit suicide and they are prevented doing so at one location they will just find another.  That apparently is just not true.

This message is a testament to a death that did not have to take place.

Some research done on what is described as “thwarted jumpers” – people who were attempting suicide but were caught before the actually jumped.  Out of 100 people who had tried to jump less than 6% of these people tried to jump somewhere else and end their lives.  If the data is valid, and Davy isn’t a fool – she digs and does her homework – then there are very solid reasons to put up some kind of barrier along those stretches of the rail line where people can cross easily.

People feel they are safe if they look both ways, see no train coming and cross the tracks.  Councillor Dennison told council he does it all the time.  Great example there Jack – people have the view that it is safe.  The numbers tell a different story.

Davy feels the city might put up short stretches of barrier that dissuade people.  She doesn’t want a Berlin Wall or something like that atrocity the Israeli’s have strung across parts of Israel and Palestine – but a wall that is reasonably attractive, that cannot be damaged and cannot be scaled.

The cost is manageable and the benefit is significant.

For the period of January to March of this year there were 7 of what police call railway trespassing deaths.  Three of those deaths were in Burlington.

We have a problem.

We can go after the railway – in this case that would be GO transit which now owns the tracks, we can chase the federal agency that is responsible for transportation safety and we might actually achieve something – but that will take a long time – governments just work that way.

Would a sign with a HELP number make any difference to someone wanting to commit suicide?

Davy wants to put up the barriers now – even if there are just a few.  She thinks too that it might be possible to get the Kids Help Line to put up some of their signs at the crossings.

We shall see how Council chooses to handle this problem – three deaths in three months is not part of being a great city.

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Open up your wallet – they are asking more from you to ride those busses. Bfast strenuously opposes the increase.

 

 

By Pepper Parr

Burlington, Ont., April 16, 2013 —Burlington Transit will be increasing fares, effective Wednesday, May 1, 2013. The increased fares will lead to extended services for transit users across the city.  The increases were approved by city council in March.

Director of Transit, Mike Spicer advises that increases  in ridership along many routes calls for extended  services on these specific routes,”

Will there be a reduction in the number of people who use the transit service when the new rates hit May 1st? Probably not – the people who use transit for the most part don’t have a choice.

The following enhanced services will take effect on June 23, 2013:

Route 101 Plains Express:

New all-day service Monday to Friday

Minimum 30-minute frequency

15-minute frequency during peak periods

Additional stops at: Royal Botanical Gardens, Gorton Avenue, Howard Road and Francis Road

Routes 11 and 15

Saturday evening service extended to 10:30 p.m. and adding Sunday service on both of these routes

Northeast employment corridor – Monday to Friday midday by removing the current dial-a-ride Route 54D and extending Route 81 to cover this portion of Burlington.

Bfast, the Burlington transit advocacy group didn’t see the fare increase through the same rosy glasses.

Bus fares are going up 8.4% May 1st announces Bfast.

Is this because Burlington Transit buses are 8.4% more frequent?

Are buses 8.4% more comfortable?

Do they break down 8.4% less frequently?

 Are they 8.4% more accessible?

Do these buses take us to 8.4% more places?

In short, is our Bus Ride 8.4% better? Is it worth 8.4% more money?

James Smith, part of the Bfast group said: “I think all informed observers would answer NO.

Smith, who might be a potential municipal candidate in 2014, he has run in the past, said:  “The minor improvements outlined by city staff only go part way to restoring the service that was cut in 2012. These so-called enhancements were proposed by city staff in the budget process and are welcome  However, these proposals were also proposed without a fare increase. This 8.4% fare hike has been called ad hoc, but I think of it as a cruel joke pulled out of thin air at city council without consultation”.

“In the March 13, 2013 Toronto Star article on the failures of transit in the 905 Mayor Goldring was quoted without a hint of irony as saying: “They (fare increases) should not be done on an ad hoc basis, … There should be some clear rationale.” 

“Having listened very closely to city council on this subject I did not hear a clear rational for this ad hoc 8.4% increase. Some fees charged by the city have not gone up this year, others have. But I challenge the Councillors who voted for this increase to give us an example of one other city service fee that’s increased 8.4%.”

Burlington Transit does have plans to purchase smaller buses which will see more vehicles on the street and improve service.

“In 2012 city council removed half million dollars gas tax money (earmarked for carbon emission reductions) from Burlington Transit and now use that capital  to pave cul-de-sacs. Most cities use all of their gas tax money for transit. Burlington’s alone in the GTHA as we spend 80% of federal money meant for carbon emission reduction on increasing carbon emissions!”

“By 2015 the city of Burlington will have removed at least two million dollars from the transit capital funding and transferred this money to roads; talk about a carbon shift!”

“On May 1st Burlington will have the second most expensive Bus fare in the GTHA. Does this mean Burlington will get the second best transit system? The answer is no.  By any objective measurement Burlington has arguably the worst system in the GTHA. Burlington has the lowest number of busses per 100,000 population, the oldest fleet,  and the lowest  operational spending per capita, so it is no wonder we also have the lowest number of people per capita riding busses of any GTHA municipality.

Suits won’t be seen in this bus shelter on John Street in the downtown core – they can drive to wherever they want to go.  Those who don’t have that much income have to take the bus – and use this close to filthy bus shelter.

The funding for road repairs has been so poorly managed in Burlington that the city now, according to Ward 1 Councillor Rick Craven, is short $18 million a year on the amount needed to get the roads to acceptable standards. Shadeland Rd in Craven’s ward certainly needs more than a “shave and pave”, the city’s current approach to fixing its roads.

Using gas tax revenue may be one way to move funding around but transit riders should not be expected to pay more and get less to keep the car drivers happy.

In comments to the Chamber of Commerce recently Mayor Goldring said “Suits in this city, don’t ride the bus.”  Could that be because of the condition of those buses and the shelters along the bus route?


              

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General manager walks the plank – but no one pushes him into the water. This is good news?

 

 

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  April 17, 2013.   Scott Stewart, one of the toughest General Manager’s this city has seen in some time uses his smile and basically decent demeanour to get things done. But if that doesn’t work – well, Stewart came to us from Hamilton where he acquired certain skills.  Let’s just leave it at that.

Earlier this week Stewart, who now heads up what is referred to as D+I, which is the short form for Development and Infrastructure Committee – the place where all the hard work gets done.  All the paper bound tasks; legal, Human Resources, Information Technology and Finance got shifted over to  City Manager Jeff Fielding.

That realignment didn’t leave much for Kim Phillips to do and perhaps we will see some changes in that portfolio somewhere down the road.

Stewart, who drives hard and is remarkably responsive, brought a small report to council committee where he talked about how he feels his people have done and asked council to respond.  Stewart sat there with most of his Directors but they didn’t get to say a word.  Stewart was the mouthpiece.

Do you want more of this and less of that?  Are we delivering on the deliverables?

He came to us from Hamilton – that’s as much as anyone needs to know about General Manager Scott Stewart.

This is the first time we have seen anyone at the General Manager or Director level for that matter put himself on the hot seat – but I guess when you’re on the province’s Sunshine list you can do things like that.

The IKEA matter came back to council four times – and that was good – thought most council members; but the Tim Horton’s desire to be on Brant Street in the old Blockbuster location came back to council too often.

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In conference with Premier: Any Escarpment road is on hold – while they continue to study. Is the public going to be in on those studies?

By Pepper Parr

While it might be Toronto doing all the howling about transit and grid lock, Premier Kathleen Wynne understands that it is people from Burlington and surrounding communities that clog the QEW – and it is no longer just during the rush hours.

As part of a reach out program the Premier held a conference call with area media and took questions from about ten of us – the focus was to be on HGTA – Hamilton Greater Toronto Area, and its transit issues.

During the last provincial election Wynne, who was Minister of Transportation at the time,  told the political Pooh-Bahs that she wanted her transportation thinkers to see beyond roads – a view shared by many in the community.  At the time the focus on the community activists was to ensure that there was no road through the Escarpment and they have succeeded in putting a stop to the development of any actual plans to build a road.

There didn’t appear to be much attraction in this photo taken during the provincial election. Wynne, on the right, went on to become Premier of the province and Burlington wants to know now more than ever what her transit priorities really are.

The thinking at the MOT was always conceptual but that kind of thinking tends to end up with a surveyor out in a field with instruments measuring where a road might go.  We won’t see anything like that for the next five years but that infamous map with that green arrow in it is still in one of their files somewhere and it is still in the Region’s  Official Plan.  And as long as that arrow is there – it’s a real option.

That yellow arrow pointing to where an Escarpment highway could go is still in the Region’s Official Plan.

During the conference call this morning the Premier said that studies were still taking place at the Ministry – we already knew that – and that she wants her people to look at all the options.  There are people in the community who are not yet convinced that all the options are being looked at – and that what in now the Ministry of Transportation –  was once the Ministry of Highways – has not yet gotten beyond seeing the problem as roads and the solution as more roads.

Wynne said her commitment to transit was “rock solid” and mentioned her time in Holland where it was more convenient to ride a bike that drive a car.  “Change will take place” she said “when it is convenient to take public transit.”  Throughout the conference call the Premier talked about how all the needs are going to be paid for and added that the government has not been consistent in providing funds for the ongoing needs. “We are playing catch up now” she said.

How we pay for that “catching up” is a major concern for this government.  “My fear” said the Premier “is that we have a lot of projects out there but we don’t have the funding for them in place yet.

Road tolls have been mentioned, parking at the GO stations – these are now called “tools” that can be used to raise funds to pay for projects.  One reporter asked if an increase to the provincial income tax was in the works and went on to suggest this was a more progressive way to raise the funds as opposed to the more regressive fees and flat taxes that have been discussed.

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The feds are giving back some of the money we gave them; Burlington will see roads and water facility improvements.

By Staff

OAKVILLE, ON – Halton MP Lisa Raitt, Minister of Labour and the MP for Halton, has spread the largesse she hands out into the city of Burlington.  Parts of northern Burlington are within the Raitt riding where she announced that the Region will benefit from improvements to roads, water and wastewater infrastructure.  Tremaine Road will be widened and realigned which is a plus for Burlington given the development for the intersection of Dundas and Tremaine that is working its way through our Planning Department

Halton MO Lisa Raitt told Regional officials that funding from Ottawa would show up in the Region.  Parts of northern Burlington are in the Halton constituency.

A new Regional water quality laboratory in Burlington, will get paid for out of the Gas Tax Fund. Given the way gas prices rise – we should see quite a few dollars from that source.

The federal government now has a new Building Canada Plan described as the largest investment in job-creating infrastructure in Canadian history. The improvements to local roads and waste water infrastructure that the government announced today are expected to have a significant economic impact here in Halton Region.

The Gas Tax Fund is supporting numerous projects throughout Halton Region. Between 2006 and 2014, Halton Region will receive more than $84 million from the Gas Tax Fund to improve local infrastructure. For example, Tremaine Road, a project that previously received $5.3 million from the Government of Canada through the Infrastructure Stimulus Fund, is now receiving an additional boost from the Gas Tax Fund.

Water quality testing will be done at the Skyway Plant currently undergoing upgrades.

In addition, at least $1.4 million of Halton Region’s Gas Tax Fund allocation is being put toward a new Regional water quality laboratory. This lab, part of the expansion and upgrade of the Skyway Waste water Treatment Plant in Burlington, will be built to test samples of drinking water, waste water, bio-solids and industrial waste from across the Region. Located in the new operations centre, it will help ensure Halton Region continues to meet and/or exceed water quality and environmental protection standards.

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