That pier of ours just might become an election issue after all. And they thought it had gone away – silly people.

December 18. 2013

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  Been awhile since we’ve heard anything on the pier.  Like children – when there is no noise you want to look in on them.

That mediation many thought was going to take place in January is not likely to take place for a number of months.  Why?

It was a great day in the history of the city.  The official opening of the Brant Street Pier – now the problems its construction created have to be cleaned up.  Looks like a Court room is the only place we can get this done.

Well turns out some “realizations” have brought about a shift in the thinking of several of the players in this rather expensive game.  You’ve heard the phrase – “there is an elephant in the room” – those involved in the pier litigation are realizing that the contractor was not the problem.

And the company that is the problem has recently realized they have a problem on their hands and they didn’t have their homework done and now they need time to dig through the mounds of paper and be ready for a trial.

Mediation is a step that must be taken before a trial can take place.  There is at least one player in the game that doesn’t see mediation as a solution to the grief they have had to go through – so mediation, when it does take place, might be very short.

We actually built the pier twice. First time it was built a crane toppled over ad revealed problems with the steel being used – it was all taken out. They ordered new steel and built it again. Now all the parties squabble over who is going to pay for the mistakes.

Getting trial dates set with so many companies involved is never easy.  Having a trial start in the middle of the summer would certainly tighten up things in the municipal election. 

What is clear is this:  there is a bit of a mess to clean up.  Under normal circumstances this would come under the normal day-to-day business of a municipal government but the pier became such a defining issue that took on a life of its own.

It became part of the agenda for three different mayors; each handled it quite differently.  For Mayor MacIsaac it was part of a dream that he left in decent shape as he turned over the chain of office.  For Mayor Jackson it was a problem he had hoped to ride all the way to the top – until the crane accident took place. Then it became an issue that gave a freshman candidate an issue to get elected on.  It wasn’t the pier and its problems that cost Jackson the election.

That young man will return to the pier for many years to see his hand print. At some point he will read about and understand how convoluted an exercise it was to get that pier built.

The Goldring administration thought their task was to clean up the mess and get the pier opened but along the way they missed several opportunities to keep the city out of a court room.  Those failures, when combined with the city’s significant and serious financial problems, are like chickens coming home to roost.  And coming home during an election year isn’t the kind of good news story people running for office like to tell.

Some distraction might take place in the Spring should the provincial government decide they need to get a majority and Kathleen Wynne decides to ask the Lieutenant Governor to call an election.

Much of January will be taken up with budget deliberations.  The 10% increase over the four-year term that Mayor Goldring tied himself to will weigh him down a bit – it will be interesting to see what this Council decides it is prepared to give up.

Once the budget for the next year is cast – the election race will take on energy of its own.  And that is just about the time that the whole story behind the pier might come to the surface.


Pier legal problems always discussed behind closed doors.

Pier gets a soft opening.

New steel girders begin to arrive – progress.

New pier tender opening delayed.

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4 comments to That pier of ours just might become an election issue after all. And they thought it had gone away – silly people.

  • Victoria

    Somebody told me that the legal costs currently estimated at $5 Million Dollars, are climbing.

  • Stephen Warner

    It (the Pier) is without a doubt the most embarrassing waste of money ever suffered by a municipality in the GTA. I do hope that solicitors for the city can profit from the lawsuits ongoing; at least someone will receive something for it.

    • marie

      and think the Mayor didn’t know what I was talking about when I said that the Pier’s initial purpose was to bring money into Burlington by allowing transient boats to tie up so that people could spend money dining and shopping. Now it’s nothing more than a money pit – we’ll never see the end of it (no punn intended) and they have the nerve to want to raise our taxes.

  • Susan Lewis

    I love the playful way this article was written, “silly people” and “a bit of a mess to clean up”.

    Levity aside, in Marianne Meed Ward’s newsletter of July 14, 2010, she wrote;

    “I’ve spent hours going over the fine details of the pier construction and design, listening to the various perspectives. The bottom line is: there may never be agreement on whether design or construction techniques caused the problem. Even professional engineers disagree on this point. The city could spend a lot of money fighting it out in court to determine blame and assign costs. Taxpayers may be up for that; but I doubt it. What I’ve heard is residents want a solution – quickly. So what are our options?

    There are essentially three options to finish the pier: tear it down; finish it with another contractor; finish it with the current contractor. We’re told the cost to tear down the pier would be far greater than finishing it, because we’d have to return about $6 million in federal and provincial money already spent.

    It’s doubtful another contractor would be able to complete the pier for the original tender price, given the cost of materials and labour alone have increased in the two years this project has been delayed. Further, it’s doubtful anyone else would want to touch this project, given that even professional engineers disagree on what went wrong. The engineering/construction community is a close-knit one; everyone has heard of “the troubles with the Burlington pier.”

    So that leaves us with the current contractor. …

    …“We were open to their proposal,” said Tom Eichenbaum, the city’s director of engineering. “But the expectation was that the city put more money on the table. That wasn’t deemed acceptable.”

    I asked whether the city will probably spend that money anyway – and more – on litigation, consulting fees and inflation if an agreement isn’t reached soon. Eichenbaum responded that the city is hopeful the bonding company will cover the costs. …”

    I know hindsight is 20/20 but there were some people in favour of accepting the contractor’s proposal. Not everyone was blind at the time but, we are told that Burlington is the number one City in Canada to live in; if you can afford it.