The New City Manager will bring a much needed change to the way the city confronts its problems; they are lucky to have Hassaan Basit

By Pepper Parr

February 20th, 2024



And so we now know who the next City Manager is going to be.

City Council chose someone local, a man who knows the community well and who has performed very well as the President and CAO of Conservation Halton.

The comments made by his peers have been the kind of thing a politician would love.

Hassaan Basit reports to City Hall April 22nd; a cultural change comes with him.

However, make no mistake about Haassan Basit – he is not a politician – he is a very focused administrator who reshaped what Conservation Halton was into an organization that has shown it knows how to listen.

Metamorphoses, his initiative to reshape the Conservation Halton (CH) relationship with the public was one of the first occasions when the public got to see what Basit’s approach would be when he as appointed President and CAO of CH.

Basit could see the changes that were coming in the demand for places to go and appreciate the outdoors.  While Spencer Smith Park is a focal point for Burlington it is close to capacity.  He began to figure out how Conservation Halton would accommodate the thousands of people who will want to visit the CH properties.  He knew his costs were going to increase.  Instead of just announcing price increases he went to the community and asked what they thought the price increase should amount to and in doing so had the people who use the CH properties buy into an increase rather than see it imposed.

There are a few things that Basit will begin thinking about from a municipal perspective rather than regional when he gets to City Hall.

The Nelson Quarry is both a problem and a significant opportunity.

What is going to happen to the Nelson Quarry site?  It was never a major CH challenge other than it was basically across the road from Mt Nemo.  Municipally it is a major issue politically. Basit is going to have to find a way to help the current council see what the bigger picture could be.

He also has to adapt to a new form of relationship.  At CH he was the President and Chief Administrative Officer.  His job was to do the long term thinking and then to carry out the conclusions he had arrived at once they had been approved at the Board level.

As City Manager, the policy part rests in the hands of city council.  A City Manager certainly informs that policy and creates a civic administration that can deliver services based on the policy.

Conservation Halton was close to a sleepy organization that wasn’t known for much in the way of innovation.  Basit learned during the 2014 floods just how unprepared CH was for the kind of Climate Change the city was going to have to adapt to.  At the time, 2014, there was a single source of data for CH to rely upon in terms of knowing what was taking place – and that source had problems getting data from the source to the people who needed the data.

The 2014 flood ripped through several of the creeks resulting in huge damage.

Today there is a sophisticated network that collects data and feeds in into CH, an organization that now has duty officers in place 24/7.

The public began to see some very well informed people representing CH at different levels of the City and the Region.

How many of those people will Basit want to bring with him?

Haassan Basit is a listener.  He will have all kinds of ideas and initiatives he will want to get started on – but he will first listen to the Executive Director level team that is in place and focus on building the trust needed to mould a team that can take on the challenges the city faces.

He is blessed with some exceptionally committed and accomplished people within City Hall.  Chad MacDonald and Sheila Jones should fit in very well with the team he will create.  There are others.

One of the biggest challenges will be upgrading the culture that prevails at City Hall – it is not a particularly happy ship;  – the staff turnover is too high.  Some regrettable hires were made; people who showed great promise realized that the professional growth they saw for themselves were not going to be met in Burlington and moved on.

Haassan Basit addressing Conservation Authority staff

In the past five years there have been a number of reports taken to council on the scope of the problem, including the identification of far too many silos within the organization.

Basit is very well connected at the provincial level. On more than one occasion he has met with Premier Ford who asked for advice that we are told was followed.

His relationship with the Minister that oversees Conservation Authorities is solid and he has played a large part in the re-shaping of Ontario Conservation Authority.

Some thought Basit would be invited to Queen’s Park as an Assistant Deputy Minister and move on to being a Deputy Minister.

That could happen yet – but please, not before Hassaan has done what needs to be done in Burlington.

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2 comments to The New City Manager will bring a much needed change to the way the city confronts its problems; they are lucky to have Hassaan Basit

  • Joe Gaetan

    If Mr. Basit’s performance is half as good as this article on his past accomplshments, we should see some good things happen. Welcome Hassaan.

  • Grahame

    I had never heard of him.You seem to know a lot to rate him so high.What exactly has he accomplished in the past.

    Response: Read the Gazette, use the search engine. The Gazette is Essential Reading.