The biggest problem the city faces - housing - is now the portfolio given to Deputy Mayor Shawna Stolte

By Pepper Parr

December 29th, 2022



In creating a new area of responsibility for the six ward Councillors Mayor Meed Ward looked for the strengths interests and personal passions each member had and did her best to akign them with the additional responsibility they were given

Most, if not all the Working Group meetings took pace virtually. They were nevertheless very productive.

Ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte was made the Deputy Mayor for Housing.

This assignment builds on Councillor Stolte’s passion for attainable housing, and her experience as Chair of the community Working Group on Housing this past term. The portfolio will include:

• Implementation of our housing strategy which includes affordable and attainable housing

• Building on the work of the Burlington Lands Partnership to leverage new land acquisition for housing, where appropriate, including surplus school sites

• Liaison with Halton Region on assisted housing

• Co-sponsor on planning process improvements & legislative changes (with the Deputy Mayor for Business & Red Tape Reduction), to get more housing, built faster.

Shawna Stolte: On the screen Stolte doesn’t look all that tough.

Stolte proved herself on the affordable housing file when she went against the grain at city hall and kept nudging the then Chief Planner, Heather MacDonald, to create a committee that would not go into a room with all the answers but instead create a committee whose starting point was “we don’t have the answers” – what they wanted to hear were questions.

Getting that committee through labour and out as an operational entity was not easy; don’t expect Stolte to tell you the lengths she had to go to make it real.

On the screen Stolte doesn’t look all that tough – but she did show some of her mettle when she tangled with the Mayor on the matter of how she was going to issue an agreed upon policy to a staff member.

Stolte did (does?) have a license as a Realtor and certainly knows the fundamentals of buying and selling homes and getting people into the kind of property they want and can afford.

She also brings a fiscal prudence to the decisions she makes as a council member; something few members of this council understand or practice.

Where Stolte is going to have to struggle is at the jurisdictional level – housing is a Regional responsibility and bureaucrats are not known for letting someone else walk on their turf.

It will be interesting to see what she puts forward and how she manages her portfolio.  There is potential for some excellent work – the question is – is she up to it.  Only time will tell.

Stolte went into local politics to serve people and put their interests first.

As interesting will be the working relationship she develops with ward 1 Councillor Kelvin Galbraith.  Recall that he was one of the two council members who took a complaint to the Integrity Commissioner related to information Stolte made public that that had been discussed in a Closed Session of Council.  That complaint cost Stolte five days pay. Her basic nature is not to sweat the small stuff.  The trust factor is going to be one that Stolte will weigh carefully.

Ideologically the two are far apart – Stolte went into local politics to serve people and put their interests first.  Can the same be said of Galbraith?

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9 comments to The biggest problem the city faces – housing – is now the portfolio given to Deputy Mayor Shawna Stolte

  • Keith Demoe

    Of course, many variables to cost of homes, but supply tops list. All three provincial parties campaigned on this back in June. I suspect the shortfall results from a couple of decades of local politicians throughout GTA (and other populous areas) stagnating supply to intentionally spike prices. It’s politicians like Ward who propagate the idea of protecting land beyond certain boundaries calling it farmland but knowing that is not the case…with intention to make homes in Burlington more valuable. Ward is in her 5th year being mayor…what has she done or what does she plan to do?? I wouldn’t expect anything from her other than going on local tv to complain about the province initiatives to build. Shawna Stolte is the only councilor I have heard good things about…meaning she’s authentic and really does concern herself with the betterment of community for all. Hopefully she brings change and gets the support from others on council.

  • Michael Hribljan

    In my observation housing, or lets more accurately reframe the issue, the “rapid rise in house prices” is not just a Burlington issue but a North American issue. I’ve been looking at markets south of the boarder, and any location that is desirable has also seen a rapid rise in pricing since the start of the pandemic and was on an upward trajectory prior to that.
    What’s the common link between Canada and desirable locations in the US… demand of course, but loose fiscal policy and monetary policy by the FED and BOC (dropping interest rates near zero, QE now QT).
    You can tweak things locally, and you should reduce local costs, open up land, etc but until one addresses broader fiscal and monetary drivers, we’ll continue to see more of the same.
    Those with cash to deploy are sitting on the sidelines are waiting patiently for good deals as interest rates rise and quant tightening to address our fiscal mess.
    Any housing strategy needs to include direction to Ottawa to address their loose fiscal policy. I don’t see this happening with a predominantly left leaning council.

  • Blair Smith

    The introduction of portfolio responsibility for each of the Councillors is Meed Ward at her political best. It provides the perception of progressive governance and clear accountability; but, fundamentally, without additional and well-organized resources, it is simply creating another body to blame for collective policy failure and weak leadership. And the cost – just the meaningless but rather grand title of “Deputy Mayor”. From the perspective of political maneuvering, it is “brilliant”; from an operational and governance perspective, it will be a nightmare.

    What mechanisms are in place to ensure that the initiatives of one portfolio do not conflict with those of another? Please don’t say the strategic plan because there are no means therein to effectively weigh priorities. More practically, how will City staff manage to satisfy the resource demands of one portfolio/Councillor when they compete with another for the same resource pool? And will the projects of a favourite Councillor be regarded more favourably than those of one less popular. Mr. Nisan may have yet another problem.

    It will be interesting and exceedingly entertaining to see how this particular “Meed Wardism” performs in the Council Chamber where all good things come to rest and inevitably flounder.

  • Mitch

    Shawna is the strongest member of City Council. She also finds the time to address individual concerns together with her assistant Nancy Pampalon.

  • Penny Hersh

    Does everyone think that giving the Councillors an additional work load and giving them the title of Deputy Mayor is a good idea?

    I have seen and heard “this was a brilliant idea”, ” no other municipality has done this”. However, as our mayor indicated in a council meeting” Burlington has a small but mighty council”.

    Do these portfolio’s come with the necessary resources necessary for all the councillors to be successful? If not, then this initiative will be looked at as a colossal failure.

    Perhaps it is time to look at increasing the size of council?

    • Denise W.

      “Do these portfolio’s come with the necessary resources necessary for all the councillors to be successful? If not, then this initiative will be looked at as a colossal failure.”

      This is the most difficult portfolio of the lot. And the metrics to monitor progress have not yet been established.

      All that aside, I think things should not be divided up in this manner. It dilutes the work force (councilors) and overburdens them. So I do think it to be ill-considered. A quick slap dash oversimplification of problems and puts things on other peoples plates. This does not get my vote for Team Leader of the year award. Admittedly I am not a politician, so I am willing to accept that I am wrong here.

      Teamwork, makes the dream work.

  • If the MMW lead Council had listened to the housing experts who spoke against the ICBL due to its impact on affordable housing Councillor Stolte might have had a half a chance to make a difference. The difference in rents before and after ICBL tells all. Regardless of drop in house prices, rents still spiral and with the interest rates up people cannot meet the financial requirements for mortgages they could this time last year.

    It will take time to bring affordable housing to our City – not holding our breathe we will see it in our life time. . Councillor Stolte needs to work to be seen as the councillor who returns transparency, accountability and public engagement to this Council if she wishes to be seen as the best of the bunch who cares deeply for the best interests and well-being of residents. She has a head start over all the rest charged with meeting these obligations regardless of her missing her chance when Staff put incorrect Bistro information before Council to make budget decisions.

    Burlington families have been losing their family members to other cities for some time now. Didn’t Mike Wallace claim to have the solution in 2018?

    We remember well how we struggled to keep our home when interest rates soared. Burlington families have our deepest sympathy it is not a pleasant road to travel.

    • Blair Smith

      Anne and Dave – with all due respect, to claim that Mike Wallace had or has the “solution” to anything loses me from the start. His hapless and incompetent run in 2018 split the more conservative vote and ensured that Meed Ward won the coveted chair. Agreed, that Goldring made critical mistakes through the latter part of the campaign like his late condemnation of the attack ads and his inexplicably aggressive behaviour in the debates but Wallace’s run virtually assured a populist victory. His ‘solutions’ were scripted by well paid political and out of touch strategists and comically butchered when Mike met the microphone. These are only my opinions only of course.

      • Blair, We agree with everything you say above. It’s the British sense of humour rearing its ugly head at a time in Burlington politics when a smile is sometimes difficult to put on our faces. It was a tongue in cheek comment to show how long we have been talking about family members being separated due to non-existent affordable housing. Had many conversations with citizens who believe Wallace running in 2018 despite him being begged not to, gave us what we now have. All the best for the New Year Blair. We will repeat our usual New Year Resolution inspired by Churchill. “Never, never, never give up!” in working to bring a community together to get us the best we can possibly expect from elected municipal politicians despite pandemics, missing governance materials etc. knocking the stuffing out of us.