The Conflict in ward 1 is within the Councillor who does not appear to fully understand his Oath to represent the people of Aldershot

By Pepper Parr

May 17th, 2023



Part 4 of a series

On the morning of October 20th, 2018 Kelvin Galbraith sent Tom Muir an email which Muir made available to us.

Fully two days before the election, Galbraith clearly described the way he saw himself as a candidate, as an Aldershot businessman and as a resident of Ward 1.

Although it is lengthy, we include the full text of the email because it is totally transparent and very clear.

“Hi Tom

“With regards to intensification in Aldershot, I have been consistent in my discussions with people that there is more coming and there is very little that this new council will be able to do in terms of stopping the progress. I have instead, taken the position that I will work with the developers—- to give our ward 1 residents what they have been missing – which is adequate retail and food operations.

“Currently the new official plan zones the south side of Plains road from Lasalle to Filmandale at 6 stories and the new mobility hub has a variation of zoning that allows for higher density as the distance from Plains increases. Currently very few candidates or past councillors have objected to this zoning as we will need to grow somewhere moving forward and have run out of green land in which to cover with urban sprawl. I have consistently said that our 6 story cap should be honoured on Plains road as these projects back on to our residential neighbourhoods.

“The new official plan changes at the Solid Gold site and allows for higher density (11 stories) due to its proximity to the GO station/mobility hub. I am uncomfortable with this height on Plains road but I want to be realistic with people and let them know that a project of that size, close to the mobility hub, will likely pass at council whether I vote for it or not.

“Should council not approve that project specifically, then I’m sure that the new LPAT ( OMB) will certainly overriding our councils decision as they have many times in the past. (The OMB became LPAT which in turn became the Ontario Land Tribunal)

“Currently national homes has already filed with LPAT for the bingo hall site to protect their plans from the new council presumably.

“What I have been advocating for during this campaign is for better retail options on Plains road. Having chaired the Aldershot BIA for the past 11 years, we have seen a diminishing retail sector. Every new development promises main floor retail and when it’s complete we release just how small and inadequate it really is. I want to fight for larger store sizes, better parking options, and more food operations (grocery, restaurant, pub and coffee shop). Zoning that requires food operations can be implemented into specific sites as I have learned from meetings with Marianne Meed Ward. We need more vibrant spaces for Aldershot residents to socialize and typically food operations are where this is done. I live here too and most of my extended family does as well. We all see the void in entertainment here. Especially in the west end of Aldershot.

E is the property owned by Emshih Developments; A is where the Gym Firm Galbraith owns is located; D and C are properties owned by Galbraith; Bis is a garage.

“With regards to my business property on Plains road and Waterdown road, I have been transparent with people for years. Our land is surrounded by one developer and we have agreed to work with him at such a time when he chooses to develop his property. Our business would be included in a new space within the site. We signed a letter of intent only and have not sold any property as rumours may indicate. Many years may pass still before anything may happen.

“You are correct is saying that I would need to declare a conflict of interest with any developments that include these properties specifically. In the grand scale of all the developable land in ward 1, this piece would represent a very small parcel so I don’t think that it should hinder my ability to serve the constituents in an effective manner on all that may happen in this ward.

“I have already read your supporting letter to Marty Staz where you denounced myself and Judy for our links to developers. I only have my signs on the Station West development as I am actively trying to push him to build us a west end grocery store. If I am elected or not, I will still be working on this issue as my volunteer position with the Aldershot BIA. I just feel that I will have more abilities and a stronger voice as councillor of Ward 1.

“As I have stated in my website and literature, I live here and work here, I know the issues. I have spoken to the public about them both in my business for the past 20 years and canvassing for the past 3 months. I want Aldershot to be a better place to live and am willing to fight for that.

“Thank you for reaching out to me.”

This is about is as honest as it can get; Galbraith is to be commended for setting out his position the way he did. I only wish Muir had shared it is as soon is as he got it. It puts things in perspective and explains a great deal of what Kelvin Galbraith is; not a dishonest man but one who has not understood the considerable difference between private businessman and public official.

The two roles or persona are not incompatible and one can argue that Galbraith’s business experience is a valuable asset as a Councillor. But when ‘in office’ that public role must dominate and shape how one views the world. It is a service function with the primary objective being making the best possible decisions for the community of citizens that one represents – not being the voice of a particular interest group.

The problem now for Galbraith is that a number of developers have chosen to make significant donations to his 2022 election campaign – so much so that he has come to be seen as their spokesman and not well aligned to the broader interests of his Ward.

That is not a good place for a City Councillor

The targeted funding Galbraith has received will soon become barnacles on the public view of his ability to effectively represent them; to his ability to understand and further the broad spectrum of interests and concerns in the community. Barnacles can be removed and Galbraith still has some time to change the perception. The question then is: Does he want to change how many people see him and does he know how?

Galbraith sees himself as a good business man who understands retail economics and has networked with the commercial sector. He got into politics, we believe, because he felt he could make a difference and draw some of the commercial activity he believes Aldershot needed and still needs. Eleven years on the local Business Improvement Association will do that to you; but five years sitting around the Council horseshoe table will temper your expectations and dull the enthusiasm.

Kelvin Galbraith being sworn in after being elected in October of 2022

The minute Kelvin Galbraith raised his right hand while taking the Oath of Office he became a different man with a different constituency that he swore he would serve.

I don’t believe Galbraith set out to be the shill for the developers. He saw himself as someone who could get things done and the Ward 1 electorate agreed – twice.

However, in the final analysis, the developers did not elect him. They simply recognized a kindred spirit and conscripted him to support their objectives and their community of interest. Galbraith represented an opportunity and they gladly took advantage.

Galbraith may ‘change his spots’ but it’s rather unlikely. He is not comfortable in a very complex role and does not recognize the inherent conflict. However, the citizens of Ward 1 should recognize the conflict and act accordingly.

They need to hold their Councillor accountable for his actions and his relationships.

They need to take responsibility for being informed.

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.

Return to the Front page
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

5 comments to The Conflict in ward 1 is within the Councillor who does not appear to fully understand his Oath to represent the people of Aldershot

  • Politicians in civil society are held to a higher standard than ordinary citizens. They are called upon to pass the “purity test”. Meaning, not only is he free of a conflict of interest, but is he “seen” to be “pure,” (i.e. unimpeachable) as well?
    Given this gap in message uptake, I offer something relevant to the Gazette series on campaign donations, and development proposals in Aldershot and the MTSA, particularly regarding the general points and implications about perceived conflicts of interest, and to the specific $1200 example donation by Emshih to Kelvin Galbraith

    He never did respond at that time, when he swore his Oath of Office as we were led to expect, and we heard nothing back. We took him at his word about it and trusted him to engage as we requested. He never did, and he effectively used Covid to do nothing about engagement.
    He has said he is completely transparent and accountable, but I do not hear him telling people openly about this agreement and what it means about the obvious pecuniary interest direct or indirect, and conflict that he has in any MTSA planning and possible development emerging, where both sets of properties are located.
    If this agreement with Emshih does not involve a pecuniary interest direct or indirect as per the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, and his Oath of Office, I don’t know what does.
    The Councilor claims he does not have any pecuniary interest, direct or indirect – and in fact he never mentions the words in his situation. In fact, the legal wording in his situation is exclusively stated as “pecuniary interest direct and indirect” in the wording of the Act, and in the Oath of Office the Councilor swore to, which says the Councilor will; “disclose any pecuniary interest, direct or indirect, in accordance with the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act.”
    The Councillor was advised more than a year ago that as a Councilor, property owner, investor, and developer, he has a pecuniary interest direct and indirect, and conflict of interest regarding the MTSA plan that includes designations affecting several properties owned by the Councilor, and so he is required to recuse himself from any discussions and voting in consideration of the MTSA.
    The Councillor and Emshih properties that they have agreed to develop together are right next door in the Aldershot Main Street Precinct of the MTSA. Does this not suggest joint pecuniary interest and therefore conflict of interest? These properties are in planning designations

    The Councilor has already participated in City planning decisions for the MTSA Precincts his properties are in, despite being told he has to recuse for all the MTSA.

  • Stephen White

    An elected politician is expected to articulate and represent the views of ordinary citizens in his/her constituency on all issues. This can’t be done in an effective or objective manner if: (a) they have to recuse themselves on every vote; and (b) they are beholden to special interests who financed and subsidized their election campaign. Moreover, elected officials are held to a higher standard of integrity by virtue of the position they hold. If candidates aren’t prepared to adhere to a higher standard of scrutiny and integrity then they should refrain from seeking public office.

    It simply astounds me how many conflict of interest issues have arisen during the life of this Council. It not only speaks to the limited understanding of candidates regarding legal requirements and norms, but it is a reflection of the dearth of talent running for public office.

    Candidates seeking to run for a party nomination at the federal or provincial level have to submit to a detailed review and assessment by local nomination committees and their party’s head office. In some cases this may involve reference checks, credit checks and a review of social media accounts. Maybe a similar type of mechanism needs to be installed at the local level?

  • Lynn Crosby

    I’d be interested to hear the Mayor’s take on this … she was always very against taking developer donations. Of course it seems to a lot of people that she has changed her old beliefs on many things.

  • I have no problem with Mr. Galbraith’s business relationships. Let’s face it, politicians get elected by interested parties funding their campaign. It is part of the process at the municipal level all the way to the federal level. I commend him for realizing we can’t fight the development planned by the province for Burlington.

  • Jim Thomson

    Kelvin may have started out thinking he represented Aldershot but, he quickly learned that he had to represent all of Ward 1.

    The letter from 2018 shows he has a far better understanding of how things work than the Mayor. He clearly understood that there was no stopping the development if that’s what the Province wanted.