There are now two candidates in ward 4 – the incumbent has yet to file nomination papers. Other dark horses in the wings?

By Pepper Parr


January 25th, 2014

He’s green – no doubt about that and we’re not talking about the colour of his political stripe.  But John Sweeny brings an engaging naiveté to municipal politics.

He doesn’t represent a vested interest.  He doesn’t have a huge “I gotta do this” approach and he certainly has a lot to learn but he clearly has the smarts and the past experience to learn – and learn quickly.

He brings much more than a dozen years of relationship development between sectors in the high tech field where the relationship is critical if each of the partners is to survive and prosper.  Sweeny worked with Deloitte in their Business Development Consulting side where smart, aggressive successful start-up operations need the support of other like-minded companies to work together and complete a project.

John Sweeney, ward 4 candidate and his wife Gwyneth Intson.

The field Sweeny was in is now the model that the private sector relies upon – where collaboration and not hierarchical structures are what gets things done.  And that isn’t the way the public sector works – Burlington can’t get the Ministry of the Environment to work with them on the soil contamination at the Air Park on what has a more than passing potential to become a serious public health problem.

Sweeny certainly has a lot to learn about just how municipal politics works but Councillors Sharman, Lancaster and Meed Ward had a lot to learn and this reporter well remembers some real “doozers” of goofs by each of them.  What is important is the capacity to learn – along with a willingness to listen – which is something those on Council will ten years plus of experience and contributions to one of the best pension plans you will ever see have yet to master.

One looks for an openness which you see in Sweeny.  He talks of perspectives rather than opinions.  He doesn’t appear to have overly strong opinions but does talk about attaining a perspective based on the data.  He tends to want to know what has happened before and why a problem exists.  If elected John Sweeny will experience quite a bit of indigestion when he reads some of the staff reports that get put in front of him.

He is big on communication and talks of both “push” and “pull” approaches.  He sees it very much as a two-way process: you listen and you explain – refreshing indeed.

Sweeny doesn’t come to this opportunity in his life with a strong record of community service.  He isn’t tainted with alliances that limit.  He isn’t a Rotarian, hasn’t coached any teams, does play hockey.

His Dad was a doctor who made house calls.  He did get involved with other parents when it looked as if the school board was going to shut down Ryerson Public School on Woodview,  a school his children were attending.  He was also directly involved as a coach, manager and trainer within the Burlington rep hockey associations both, Burlington Lions Optimist Hockey Association(BLOMHA) and Burlington City Rep Hockey (the “Eagles). 

Sweeny describes the job of Mayor as that of the CEO – would that it were; every Mayor ever elected in this city would love to have some real executive authority.  John Sweeny will learn that the Mayor is just another vote; a person with ceremonial and public function responsibilities but also the holder of a “bully pit” that if used well can be very effective in growing public acceptance for new ideas, new approaches and a platform from which he can explain why more tax payer dollars have to be spent on a project.

John Sweeny will not be calling on you for financial support to run his campaign.  He doesn’t expect to have to raise any money.  His will be a grass-roots campaign that has him going from door to door talking to people.

He has a website that is “in progress”.  “It is almost ready” he said in a note to us “it is a little trickier than I thought”. Click on the link for the web site: web site address

Sweeny found himself at a point in life where he is able to work as a politician.  He doesn’t use the word “serve”; he doesn’t talk about the job being an “honour” and understanding the trust he is being given.  It is a job that has to be done; one that will pay him half of what he was earning but his situation is such that he can manage that.

His higher level thoughts and what needs to be done?

Growth and sustainability.  Sweeny understands the dynamics Burlington has to work with.  He fully understand that the money has to come in to pay for the services the city has to deliver and he is aware of the problems the city is dealing with on the economic development side.  He doesn’t have solutions; he doesn’t have a five point plan.  He does have the capacity to think through problems and the experience in working with others to find solutions hat work for as many people as possible.

Governance is another concern.  How things work matters to Sweeny.  Is there a process that is delivering what is needed efficiently and effectively? Are the right people in the right places doing what needs to be done?

Infrastructure: A Hart Street in Roseland resident Sweeny is not a part of the “smart set”.  He didn’t appear to know all that many people; he hasn’t been the kind of guy that got out to every community meeting.

He doesn’t have a position on incumbent Jack Dennison’s current Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) appeal of a Committee of Adjustment decision that went against him.

There is a lot about the community that John Sweeny doesn’t know.  He brings an open, disciplined mind that is capable of focusing on a problem and using the data available to find a solution.

It will be interesting to see how Sweeny develops as a candidate.  You can reach him at if you want to join his parade.

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