The Celebration: Turns out everyone wasn't welcome

By Pepper Parr

October 7th, 2022



The notice looked good to me.

The notice did say: “Everyone welcome”

Ward 2 Councillor Lisa Kearns was going to hold a Celebration event at the Freeman Station, which she rented for the occasion.

It was worth attending – or so I thought.

The evening turned out to be filled with drama.

I arrived, found a spot to stand and watch the room – there were about 30 people – not much more than that. There was live music and donuts with coffee on a side table.

After about five, maybe 10 minutes Lisa approached me and said “I don’t want you here – please leave.”

While taken aback, I realized that Lisa and the Gazette were not on the best of terms these days. When you get bad media politicians tend to blame the media. Her blurting out confidential information during a Zoom meeting held by the Burlington Downtown Business Association was described as an “inadvertent” slip of the tongue.

Whether that is what actually happened will be determined by the Integrity Commissioner at a later date.

I told Lisa that I was there as a reporter and intended to stay. She was adamant – said she would call the police – I offered her my cell phone to make the call. After a few minutes of that – she walked to the front of the room and asked everybody to stand just where they were – not to move – just to stand where they were until I had left.

I said in a voice loud enough for everyone to hear that I was there to observe and that I did not intend to leave. I chose not to take a photograph of the small crowd standing there, some with the heads bowed. This went on for about maybe five minutes.

Lisa then said everyone was going to leave the room and meet outside until I left.

They left – I didn’t.

Two of her supporters stayed behind, a man named Dave who found it necessary to really invade my space. He was a bit taller than I am, standing there almost nose to nose. He said that his six year old son was going to be speaking and he didn’t want me reporting or taking pictures. Children are out of bounds for the Gazette when it comes to local politics and I told Dave that I would not report or take pictures of his child.

“How do I know you will not take pictures?” I responded: “Because I just told you I wouldn’t.”

After about another five minutes Dave and I began to get along – turns out he was a photographer who did some news work.

The woman was a kindergarten teacher who knew Lisa. She just wasn’t comfortable with the way things were going and in a very pleasant voice said she thought I should leave so the meeting could continue.

This is where I sat eating my donut.

It was all getting sort of silly. I am inside the room Lisa paid $300 to rent – add to that the coffee and the donuts – all for a Celebration that wasn’t going all that well.

I had made my point, Lisa I am sure felt she had made hers. I chose one of the chocolate covered donuts and left the room – sitting outside on the north side of Freeman Station eating my donut while Lisa gathered with her friends and supporters on the south side.

A couple of minutes later a fellow whose name escapes me right now sat down beside me – we chatted about why I was there and why I wasn’t prepared to leave then moved on to talk about our children and how they had grown up.

He was retired – we talked about the change in his life style and his involvement in local civic issues. His wife was inside taking part in the meeting.

After a good ten minute talk we shook hands and went our separate ways.

Lisa doing a photo op in the Council Chamber

I had plans to do an interview with Keith Demoe, a candidate for the ward 2 council seat. He thought we could meet in the parking lot of the Freeman Station.

I was comfortable with that. Lisa’s Celebration was winding down, people were beginning to leave.

Then a police cruiser arrives. Two officers talk to Lisa – she had placed the call – then walked across the parking lot to talk to me.

I asked why they were there – they said there was a report that I had been disruptive. I explained what I had done – the police officer didn’t seem to have a problem and said that he didn’t see any reason to file a report.

I continued with the Demoe interview on how he felt he could beat an incumbent. That will be a challenge.

It was late – chose to go home and leave the reporting until the morning.

Politics in Burlington – a Celebration for something that has yet to happen.

Drama, pure high school girl drama.

The Gazette make a point of trying to interview all the candidates. As an incumbent we want to interview Lisa Kearns and ask:

What she set out to do when she was campaign in 2018

What she got done during her first term in office.

What she felt she didn’t get done

And what she would work at should she be returned to office..

We will let you know how that interview goes – if it takes place.

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19 comments to The Celebration: Turns out everyone wasn’t welcome

  • Keith

    Was the reporter acting in a way that would warrant calling police? Don’t seem like it. What did the reporter do for anyone to feel calling police was needed? Your life in danger or does the reporter doing their job have your career in danger. I doubt 911 was dialed I would hope….I’m sure they just called the station, these trusted politicians wouldn’t waste a 911 operators time.

    Editor’s note: I stood in the room – did not ask questions, did not speak or take pictures. Within minutes Kearns appraoched me and said she did not want me at the meeting and wanted me to leave.
    I said I was not leaving. She said she would call the police – I offered her my cell phone. The rest of the story is in the newspaper. There was no disruption. It was Kearns who disrupted her own meeting. Power tripping was the conclusion I came to.

  • Jim Young.

    I have to wonder how the Post, Spec, Star or Globe and Mail would have been treated had they shown up? You don’t have to agree with the viewpoint of the particular media to understand the value of and support a free press. This was disappointing from Clr. Kearns.

    • Tom Muir

      Good point Jim.

      Just the string of 16 comments – other points of view – in this story, and umpteen others over the years, are in my opinion worth the Gazette practicing it’s brand of accountability journalism, even if some don’t like it and where it goes.

      Personally, I don’t like the stories and slant all the time, but so what? I can say that with my own comment.

      Can’t do that with the big press.

    • Mary Hill

      Good question to ask, Jim. I suspect they would have received a better reception. I doubt any of those outlets would have been so rude as to knowingly hold an interview with a candidate at the same location another rival candidate is hosting an event..

      Maybe in future a qualifier to the “all welcome” invitation would be worthwhile; such as “All residents welcome. Please no media”.

      Editor’s note: There are times when you have to wonder – just how uninformed a person can be. Mary Hill can dislike what we do – that is her right and we use out time, our money to give her a platform to say what she thinks.

      But to say “Please no media” – what can one say. There are words to describe people like that.

  • Deborah

    Penny, the person who was asked to leave was not attending as a resident so your comment does not apply in this situation. Their argument for attending and for staying was that they were Media.

    And agree with Grahame Youngs re the inappropriateness of the reporter meeting another candidate at this location on that particular night. Mr Demoe could have toured Freeman Station any other time, and maybe should have already if he’s running to be Councillor of the Freeman Station Ward?

  • Alfred

    Putting her confidentiality release to her friends, whether inadvertent or not aside. May I suggest we celebrate what she has accomplished as a councilor in the City of Burlington the past 4 years of any merit. Promised to stop development when she knew or ought to have known that she couldn’t? Well that lie inadvertent or not got her elected. That was quite an accomplishment, fooling all the smart people in her ward into voting for her. Can any one else think of anything else she did for the City of Burlington???

  • Helen Donohoe

    Are there any mean boys in the six city wards?

  • perryb

    Pepper, perhaps Lisa has come to believe you are actively campaigning against her, and are looking to see her make some stumble you can report on. Based on your intensive coverage of her, but few other candidates, that is a reasonable assumption.

  • Grahame Richards

    Reminds one of Trump in White House press meetings insisting that CNN reporter asking a simple Q to leave.

  • Alfred

    How can she disclose her confidential City secrets to her close friends if you are in the room. Silly guy? Keep em on their toes Pepper.

  • Tom Muir

    The word “Celebration” does not offend me at all. It’s an election campaign.
    But candidates do not need more attack – so don’t attract any, especially like this.

  • Stephen White

    Absolutely petty and silly! If Councillor Kearns had an issue she should have raised it directly in a private discussion. The only justification for bringing in the police would have been if there had been violence, abuse or a blatant threat of intimidation. “Frog marching” reporters out of an event is the type of draconian measures that go on in Third World dictatorships.

    For a Councillor who previously had a stellar reputation her personal brand is taking a helluva hit this campaign. Perhaps time to take a more serious look at one of her competitors. Hopefully, they don’t display the same kind of prima donna behaviour.

    • Mary Hill

      Either one or both Demoe and O’Brien reported Councilor Kearns to the Integrity Commissioner. An act condemned by the Gazette, Marsden, Hersh, and probably you when Councilors Nisan and Galbraith reported Councilor Stolte. I have not heard a whisper from anyone condemning either or both thise candidates. Demoe certainly has been less than gentlemanly in his words towards Councilor Kearns.

      In my opinion Councilor Kearns is streets ahead of her competitors and is thebonkybreal choice. Neither O’Brien nor Demoe have said exactly what their positions are as respects:-

      – City services (status quo, cut, expand?)

      – property taxes ( status quo, cut, raise)

      – traffic congestion

      – Bateman purchase

      To name a few.

  • Grahame Youngs

    I think that it is time for the Gazette to start reporting on what’s going on in the 5 other wards as well as the Mayoral race. We have 24 candidates running for council seats and yet you seem fixated on discrediting one individual at every opportunity.

    In my opinion choosing to interview Mr. Demoe at this event is mean-spirited and meant to provoke Ms. Kearns. Some would call it High School Drama (I chose to leave out the misogynistic reference that you used). You would think that you would have learned your lesson after being banned from city hall for using those types of statements. I am dumbfounded that you don’t see how you are making yourself look foolish the more you carry this on.

    Your narrative is disappointing.

  • Calling police, another example of inappropriate use of community resources that could have meant someone with a real need did not have that need met. You don’t advertise a Celebration in a campaign and then call the police to prevent media reporting unless you have something to hide from the media. Looks like an early retirement celebration to us regardless of whether she understands that or not.

    • Grahame Youngs

      It is my understanding that Mr. Parr suggested that Ms. Kearns call the police. I don’t see this as preventing media from reporting, I believe he was there to provoke. Why else would he and Mr Demoe choose that location and time for an interview.

      Editor’s note: I attended the meeting to get a sense as to what Kearns had in the way of a re-election team. That’s part of the job. I attended the Chamber of Commerce event for the same reason – to watch how the candidates handled themselves. Kearns and one of her staff said they were going to call the police – I offered to let them use my cell phone and dial 911 for them.

      I do not provoke – I listen and I observe. Kearns is certainly not happy with my reporting on her “inadvertent” release of highly confidential information. I had arranged to meet with one of the other ward 2 candidates. Demoe had never seen the Freeman Station. When the Kearns crowd (and it was in the 30 t0 35 count when I was in the room) had left the property we managed to chat with the person closing the building who showed Demoe around.

      The positions Demoe has taken on a number of issues are not what Burlington is used to seeing – our role is to observe and to report and to put what is taking place in context. I am sorry that you have difficulty with that.

      I have in the past written quite positively about the raw brain power Kearns has.

  • Penny Hersh

    It is the job of a ward councillor to help and support ALL residents. If this councillor decides that a resident challenges her decisions and basically blacklists them will she do her job and represent them? If this behaviour is indicative of future behaviour the answer is NO.

    This councillor knows better. It is a shameful exhibition on her part. Have to wonder who is counselling her?

    When you go to vote, the question you need to ask yourself is – Do you think the councillor will be there when you need her to be?

    • Jimmy Perrenoud

      Actually Ms. Hersh, the question all readers need to ask is “when will you not be?” Tiresome. Sorry.

  • Pamela Cowan

    Mean Girls 2 in the making.
    Just more sad Burlington politics – truly bored with all of this ridiculous behaviour.