Photo Ops - Pablum when the public wants protein. Can Burlington kick its habit and do away with the addiction

By Pepper Parr

April 6th, 2023



The photo op has become something the Burlington area politicians and the city administration have become addicted to.

Rather than speak to why an event is taking place and help the public understand the issue – city staff and or an elected official (frequently both) show up to have their picture taken.

One would struggle to see the value in all the time spent to make this photo op happen. Where was the benefit ?

Two examples are set out – and lead us to asking – Where is the value in these people gathering to have their picture taken?

How many hours were spent setting up the photo op; in travel time to and from the office to the location where the picture was taken ?

Assuming they didn’t go home after the camera shutters were snapped

In opting for the photo op the people participating deny the citizens of the city an opportunity to engage in some dialogue about what took place. Going that route stunts the level of information people have.

How does one change this regrettable practice?

The change would have to come from the very top.

The Mayor could make a statement that she would rather talk to people than have a picture taken.

And the City Manager could advice senior staff levels to look for better ways to inform the public – think in terms of giving them protein instead of Pablum.

Will that happen in Burlington? Certainly not from the Mayor – there is some hope for the City Manager.

Why were all these people on hand to cut a ribbon? Where was the benefit to the public..

The public has been fed a diet of photo ops and doesn’t know that there are issues they need more information on.

The citizens can of course make it clear to their elected officials that they don’t have much respect for the photo op and would rather hear what the politicians have to say.

Ward 2 Councillor Lisa Kearns conducting a Walking Tour

The poor election turnout is due partially to the public not being aware of what the issues are. Being aware is having material they can read and opportunities to talk to their Council member is what engagement is all about. A photo op is not engagement – it is the person in the picture saying – look at me – remember my name and let’s leave it at that.

Ward 2 Councillor Lisa Kearns does a very good job of bringing her constituents up to date on development issues with her walking tours. She also runs the best ward meetings – other members of Council would do well to follow her example.

We are waiting for Kearns to take her crowd on a walking tour around the Burlington GO Station – say walking between Guelph Line west to Brant and up Brant for a block or to – that’s where the heavy growth is going to take place.

Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette, an online newspaper that was formed in 2010 and is a member of the National Newsmedia Council.

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3 comments to Photo Ops – Pablum when the public wants protein. Can Burlington kick its habit and do away with the addiction

  • Lynn Crosby

    Cam Jackson used to be widely mocked for his ribbon cutting photos in the Burlington Post. It was so overdone and continuous it became a running joke.

    Today’s version is the photo op for the mayor, councillor’s and City’s multiple social media accounts. At least the old Jackson photos could only appear a couple of times a week when the Post published. This gang now posts them hourly every day it seems. Much easier to just snap selfies and post a few words (and delete critical replies) than actually inform, engage, give the whole story and answer difficult questions. Most of the media unfortunately is also too happy to go with the photo ops and sound bites too. Thankfully the Gazette isn’t one of them – and look how hard the City and council makes it when you ask them a question, Pepper!

  • Grahame

    Where do these photos appear Certainly not in any mainline newspaper around here.Who do they think reads it?No one I know can even id their councillor!

    Editor’s note: The photo graphs appear in the Gazette in the past.

  • Michael Hribljan

    I could not agree more, this has gotten to the point of ridiculous, my theory is they are following the lead of sock boy in Ottawa, as if this is what public officials should do. They might be wise to look at current polling numbers to see how this is working out.

    Did I see a line item in our budget for “Photo Ops”? Perhaps explains the 7%+ tax increase?