Tim O'Brien: I can beat the ward 2 incumbent if I work hard enough.

By Pepper Parr

August 23rd, 2022



With nominations closed and the official list of candidates running for positions certified by the City Clerk, Burlington moves into a 62  days to go campaign that will elect seven people who will guide the city through a complex period of time during which critical long term decisions are going to have to be made.

The Gazette will do its best to interview each of the 23 candidates, several of whom feel they can ignore media, put out their own story and assume the public will buy it without any questions.

Democracy doesn’t work that way.

There are 23 candidates to interview.  Some candidates ask if this can be done by telephone.  An in depth interview is a one on one event that takes at least an hour.

The Gazette has brought in Denis Gibbons, a former editor of another Burlington based newspaper, to do some of the interviewing.

Tim O’Brien: His move to municipal politics, not unusual, was brought about by his dissatisfaction with the way the HDCSB operated and his interest in city wide issues.

Yesterday we interviewed Tim O’Brien, a current Halton District Catholic School Board (HCSB) trustee who is not running for trustee re-election.

O’Brien spoke reluctantly about his HDCSB experience explaining that the protocols in place were such that he was not permitted to speak.

He does however talk about some of the changes that trustees were able to make, the most important one from Tim O’Brien’s point of view was input on the hiring of Superintendents.

Burlington city council does not have any formal input on the decisions City Manager Tim Commisso makes on his hiring decisions.  The decision Council makes is who they want as City Manager.  That manager does the staff hiring or delegates it to Executive Directors.

Tim O’Brien was born in Sarnia, moved to Burlington in 1990.  He was a music teacher with the HDCSB; retired in 2018 when he was elected a trustee.

His move to municipal politics, not unusual, was brought about by his dissatisfaction with the way the HDCSB operated and his interest in city wide issues.

These days he is knocking on doors and hearing what the issues are.

O’Brien  does not live I ward 2 – he does live across the street on the other side of the ward 2 boundary.

During his door knocking O’Brien found that intensification is the number one issue for the people he is talking to on their doorsteps.

“Every third household I talked to said their concern was with the level of intensification” he said.

Quality of life was the next big issue for people followed by dissatisfaction and concerns with the services provided by Parks and Recreation.  O’Brien wants to see more park space and points out that if you drive along Guelph Line from Dundas to Lakeshore Road – note how little open green space exists.

He wants to see more and soon before the developers build on the land that could be available.

He said that people don’t understand why all these high rises have to be built.

O’Brien has deep concerns over life in a condo.  It might be Ok for empty nesters but he doesn’t think it is the kind of place where your raise children. Site plan of a development that is planned for FAirview just west of Guelph Line.

O’Brien met with people in Oakville where they appear to have managed to keep the high rise development out of their downtown core.

Some think that is because Oakville hires better legal talent to represent the city at Ontario Land Tribunal hearings and ask aloud if Burlington has the right person leading the legal department.

Some clarification:  The appeal level for anyone who differs with a municipality on the decisions it makes on planning matters used to be the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) that got renamed to the Local Planning Authority Tribunal (LPAT) and was recently changed to the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT)

Post war bungalows on large lots were the norm in the Queensway community. Developers bought up half a dozen properties, consolidated and put up rows of town houses.

While door knocking in the Queensway (west of Guelph Line, south of the QEW) O’Brien learned about what residents in the area called “needle park” – the vacant lot on the south west corner of Harvester and Guelph Line. “The bushes in the park give the drug users a place to do what they do without being seen” said O’Brien adding that the community doesn’t have a park.

It is in a quiet part of the city that has undergone significant development.  Where there were once quarter acre lots with small bungalows that were created for veterans just after WWII; developers did some consolidation and the area now has some significant intensification – but no high rise – yet.

O’Brien found that taxes were not the number one issue – it was third on his list based on what he heard at the door. “People were telling me that if higher taxes were needed to maintain the quality of life they want then they are Ok with that.

Townhouse developments have replaced bungalows on large spacious lots.

What people don’t want to lose said O’Brien  was the almost small town feel of the city.   They don’t like the sense that the city is becoming a place for “rich strangers that we don’t know.”

O’Brien has deep concerns over life in a condo.  It might be Ok for empty nesters but he doesn’t think it is the kind of place where your raise children.

Tim O’Brien has figured it out: Knocking on doors beats the photo op every time.

He would want to see a lot in the way of amenities where kids could play and learn – he wants libraries, swimming pools, gymnasiums and playing fields.  Outdoor ice rinks that are maintained by the community is what he wants to work  for.

Dogs and off leash parks – a big problem now that is only going to get bigger.  The one planned for Drury and New Street is too small said O’Brien.

He likes the idea of creating time for people to use the dog park as unleashed space for two hours or so in the morning and another two  hours late in the day – maybe early evening.

It will have to be monitored but O’Brien thinks it is worth a pilot effort to see if people can learn to share space.

Can he beat the incumbent and win the council seat we asked.  “I can if I work hard enough.

And with that Tim O’Brien was on the phone setting up a meeting and getting ready to knock on more doors in the evening


Return to the Front page
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

26 comments to Tim O’Brien: I can beat the ward 2 incumbent if I work hard enough.

  • David Barker

    “Anne Marsden

    September 4, 2022 at 11:39 am

    Can you give references for the very vocal as we must have missed it and need such references when writing a local opinion piece entitled The Affordable Housing Experience. I can remember one time when Ward 2 Councillor mentioned affordable housing but would appreciate references”

    I will answer your question. But before doing so I note you never ever answer questions put to you here in the Gazette by its readers in response to your comments.

    I have attended a number of mandated developer public meetings in regards to downtown highrise development applications. Those were also attended by both the Mayor and Councilor Kearns. Additionally, I’ve attended public Planning Committee meetings where developers have made their presentations. It is my recollection that both have used those venues to seek from the developer applicants their intentions as to providing affordable housing within their developments.

    Now your turn to answer those questions you’ve been ignoring.

  • Keith Demoe

    Regardless of the legal representation the city may be using, there is only so much that can be done during appeal. Any lawyer working on this has to rely on city officials (not elected) for data associated with the project being disputed. Things like surrounding infrastructure, transit, traffic etc. This all has to be presented/delivered in professional manner. However, there will be other initiatives that will play into the mix. Provincial initiatives on housing…we have a supply problem and it seems as though many of the Councilors throughout Halton are not recognizing it. It’s that type of positioning that will take leverage away from city during these appeals. Marianne Ward and council voted against boundary expansion in Halton and this will play a role on the outcome of an appeal. It also doesn’t help matters when a mayor gets on public television calling the OLT a waste of money and there shouldn’t be one. Completely irresponsible comments that are not going to help situation…but she said it because trying to save face from telling voters that she has the power to stop all development. People like Ward are trying to create exclusivity in Burlington and if things don’t change, there will be an impact in next several years. Housing costs impact rental rates…and in Ward 2, that’s a pretty big concern of which Marianne doesn’t care…and since Marianne Ward helped Lisa Kearns get elected in 2018 with email scandal…Lisa just sits on sidelines.

    • David Barker

      Keith Demoe

      I for the most part agree with you as respects the “lawyer” question.

      But I question your comments about the Mayor’s calling out of the OLT. The OLT is supposed to be an independent, unbiased arbitrator between the property owner and the municipality. Like any judicial body it should be immune to criticism. Further, if you think the Mayor making such comments was bad timing, bearing in mind it is likely the City will have OLT appeals on an on-going basis, just when would be an appropriate time to comment? It is transparently clear the OLT is neither independent nor unbiased, and that it clearly is following Provincial government directives rather than upholding municipal OPs and zoning bylaws, whilst also ignoring residents’ wishes. It should be noted no other province has or finds the need for an “OLT”. So the appropriate question is:- why is one needed in Ontario? Let the courts decide these matters.

      Whilst many anti-MMWers, like the Gazette and a number of its readers, faulted the Mayor and to a lesser extent the rest of council for the City’s strategy in fighting the development applications for ultra-highrise towers in the downtown, I believe almost everyone in this city was opposed to those towers being built.

      None of those towers is going to have the slightest positive impact on the availability of “affordable”, i.e. low cost, rental housing. None of the developers is making any provision to include low cost rental housing. I think your portrayal of both the Mayor and Counilor Kearns is incorrect. Both, like the rest of council, are strong proponents for the construction of affordable, low cost rental housing in Burlington.

      One last thing, please show respect to the Mayor and Councilor Kearns. Get the Mayor’s name right, and address the councilor as Councilor Kearns. Thank you.

      • Keith Demoe

        David, to be clear, I’m not for these high rises. I was pointing out a fact that the OLT will be pushing Provincial initiatives as you also referenced. Therefore, a city/region need to show plans for development…which there is none. That’s where this will present challenges with OLT appeals. Otherwise, the Province will take planning away from city/region altogether. Your comment ..’Both, like the rest of council, are strong proponents for the construction of affordable, low cost rental housing in Burlington.’ …no they are not. Go to Mayor Marianne’s website…nothing there about plans for development other than stopping it. She doesn’t even talk about affordability. Same with Lisa Kearns…actually Councilor Lisa Kearns website doesn’t even take a position on anything…she’s just a vote for Marianne Ward.

        Editor’s note: Keith Demoe is a candidate for the ward 2 Council seat currently held by Lisa Kearns.

        • David Barker

          Keith, not withstanding what you say is or is not on their websites (I have visited neither) both the Mayor and Councilor Kearns have been very vocalin numerous settings whether at City meetings or public/developer meetings about the need for affordable housing to be provided by the developers. Developers have no interest in providing affordable or low cost housing. The profit margin is not attractive and there is a fear that the value of the other units will be depressed.

          I note it has on the past been suggested here by another resident that the City should mirror Toronto Community Housing Corp and develop, build and manage its own stock of lower cost rental housing.

          I believe the City has designated the the three MTSAs and the UGC as the areas for the planned intensive growth.

          The Editor says you are a Ward 2 candidate. I did not know. Perhaps you would share here how if elected you would have addressed the downtown high rise issue, & (2) the affordable/low cost housing issue.

          • Can you give references for the very vocal as we must have missed it and need such references when writing a local opinion piece entitled The Affordable Housing Experience. I can remember one time when Ward 2 Councillor mentioned affordable housing but would appreciate references

      • Anti MMW’ers is a bit strong David, We have nothing against MMW or the Ward 2 Councillor its their competency level that we don’t want in those making decisions for our family and their businesses well-being. As we said before we believe Tim O’brien in our book is the candidate who can help turn things around. We had never heard of Tim previous to his nomination being registered but others who had fully endorsed him confirmed our position.

        • David Barker

          Mr. O’Brien’s platform taken from his website:-

          “I have done, am doing and will do everything I can to curtail the out-of-control intensification of the downtown core.”

          – that is just blah blah. No specific actions suggested. So just what actions does Mr. O’Brien think he can as a councilor take, and not taken by the present council, that will curtail the intensification.

          “A low percentage of businesses in Burlington have wheelchair accessibility for people with mobility issues.”

          – What is that percentage and what is your source?

          I do not see anything more on his website defining his position as to (a) property taxes (maintain or increase or reduce), (b) city services (maintain or improve or cut).

          What is it Candidate Marsden that you are endorsing exactly. I se no actual action plan. Just blah, blah, blah.

          Candidate Marsden, what is your platform?

          • David if you have not figured out my platform yet try calling me as from conversations with those who I am chatting to in the city or have made use of my public phone number, it is very clear they understand my platform and agree it is what we need 2022-2026

          • David Barker

            “Anne Marsden

            David if you have not figured out my platform yet try calling me as from conversations with those who I am chatting to in the city or have made use of my public phone number, it is very clear they understand my platform and agree it is what we need 2022-2026”

            Candidate Marsden, why a private phone call. Why not state your platform publicly as someone seeking public support should do. Are you so embarrassed by your platform or lack thereof that you will not answer questions put to you in a public forum. No matter your reason, it certainly smacks of lacking transparency. Something you continually rail against in you public commentary and I believe of which you accuse the Mayor.

            You are mirroring your friend McKenna, who you endorsed for MPP and now Regional Chair, and the detestable tactic used by federal and provincial conservatived, in that you are avoiding public scrutiny.


      • Hans Jacobs

        Re your: “Get the Mayor’s name right, and address the councilor as Councilor Kearns” – Thank you for pointing that out; I thought Keith was being purposely disrespectful. That is not a good trait for someone running for office who could be in MMW’s next Council if he is successful.

        • Hans, If you think Keith was disrespectful what are your views on the following from our Burlington Council and particularly the Head of that Council with regard to our Head of State who could not possibly have set the bar as a model of service and duty to the people, any higher.

          1. Failed to address the Queen’s picture being returned to the Council Chamber – it was removed several years ago to achieve an updated look. Then they have the audacity to return it after the Queen’s death with a black ribbon across it. death.

          2. Failed to recognize the Queen’s amazing record of service and duty upon her 70th Platinum Jubilee. Not a mention of it from the incumbent Head of Burlington Council when announcing events for the month of her Jubilee. The Fountain in Veteran’s Square has a 25 year Jubilee plaque on it but nothing was done for her 70th jubilee.

          3. Failed to communicate to the Press that there was a Book of Condolences available at City Hall and that City Hall would be open when everyone believes it is closed.

          4. Failed to recognize by either mention or one minute silence at the first Standing Cmmittee after the Queen passed on September 12, 2022 that our Queen and Head of State has passed despite knowing Canada is in mourning for ten days as signified by the flags at half mast. Would they have been put at half-mast if the order had not come from Ottawa?

          5. Failed to retake their oath of allegiance to the new monarch King Charles III before getting into any decision making. When the Clerk was asked why, he advised current oath would suffice – when government bodies all over the world are taking the new oath of allegiance.

          If the incumbent mayor, who is Head of Council has such disrespect for her boss we need not go into the disrespect she has for those she put herself forward to serve as leader of a council whose role is spelt out in the Municipal Act as to represent the people, their well-being and interests.

          If Keith, a first time candidate not getting the Incumbent Ward 2 Councillor and Mayor’s name right is very disrespectful for someone who may serve on the next Council led by the present mayor, what words can describe an incumbent Mayor who has served on Council for 12 years and taken an oath of allegiance on three separate occasions who has lead Council in this huge show of disrespect to a woman who is admired and loved by millions. The incumbent Mayor owes an apology on behalf of our City to the Queen’s family. However, because it is MMW who has shown this great disrespect we doubt you will agree with us.

          We feel so strongly about how our beloved Queen has been treated before and during Canada’s official ten days of mourning by our Head of Council, we are willing to pay for this to be printed as an Anne and Dave Marsden article if it is not posted as a reply comment on the Tim O’Brien campaign article.

          • David Barker

            Marsden as usual complaining about the past with no suggestions for the future. A serial complainer with nothing positive to offer.

            Questions and comments for Marsden (no answers expected as she never answers questions put to her):-

            – When was the portrait first removed?

            – If prior to the 2018 start of this administration, is an apology sought from the previous mayor?

            – Marsden has delegated on many, many occasions over the years. How often has she raised the question of the whereabouts of the portrait?

            – Does Marsden appreciate that now following the death of the Queen it is now inappropriate to have her portrait in the council chamber. If to be re-hung it should be in a prominent position elsewhere in City Hall. A portrait of King Charles III should now be hung in the council chamber.

            – Marsden should note that members of the UK House of Commons and House of Lords have not as yet sworn their allegiance to the King. That will take place shortly. The UK parliament (and other parliaments around the world, including Canada’s) has recognized Prince Charles as king, as King Charles III. King Charles has in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland (not yet Wales) declared his commitment to the parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy. Marsden also received a clear answer to her question of the City Clerk on this subject. That answer was clear in that it said the City takes instruction on this matter from the Federal Government and does not act independently nor unilaterally. As a mayoral candidate and royalist it’s surprising she did not know this.

            – Is Marsden referribg to the King Edward Fountain. If so Marsden will recall I am sure that, she having been banned from City Hall for unbecoming behaviour, it was I, as a member of Heritage Burlington Advisiry Committee, who facilitated her being able to enter City Hall so that she might delegate to HBAC to press for the repair and refurbishment of the King Edward Fountain. HBAC approved a resolution to seek Council approval and support for its repair, and enlisted the advocacy of Mr Harrington and the Burlington Historicam Society. I do not believe Mr Harrington at that time was a member of HBAC.

            – As to the lack of a Platinum Jubilee plaque, what then is your position as to the preceding jubilees – ruby, gold, diamond, and sapphire? Never a squeek out of you before.

            – Marsden, the ability of residents to access and sign a book of condolence at City Hall was announced by the City by its communications department via social media. I note it was posted on Facebook. It was also announced on the City’s website.


            How about you, Candidate Marsden start practicing the transparency and behaviour you demand of councilors. Stop ignoring questions put to you and provide the electorate with clear answers.

    • Hans Jacobs

      Re: “….mayor gets on public television calling the OLT a waste of money and there shouldn’t be one.” – Do you think she is wrong about that? Other provinces seem to do fine without an OLT, I understand.

  • Penny Hersh

    Mr. O’Brien,
    I will agree with you that good legal counsel is extremely important. The question we have to ask is why when the city hires outside legal counsel to represent them at tribunal hearings does Burlington do so poorly? I asked this question to a family member who is a lawyer the response I received was “outside council takes direction from the city’s legal department”.

    How can residents expect those who have never sat on council previously answer the important questions, like increased taxes, services etc? They certainly don’t have the knowledge of what is happening in the city that incumbents do. Makes one wonder if there should be a system of mentorship in place.

    More importantly, in my opinion, is to ask these questions to the incumbents who have sat on council and know what is really happening in the city, and see what their response is.

    • David Barker

      Candidate Marsden, why do you continue to ignore the questions put to you by myself and others here. You asked me a question which i answered directly. Now it is your turn.

      As a candidate for mayor it’s your duty to respond publicly to questions put to you publicly by electors. Not answering those questions is definitely not being transparent and open. Qualities you have often called on our council members to exhibit.

  • Tim O'Brien

    Hi Penny: Great question. I want to say first and foremost that Marion and Lisa (along with the rest of council) have done all that they can in gathering stakeholder feedback, following proper procedure and much else. The truth is, that the developers have better lawyers with bigger teams. I truely believe that the only way to win these appeals is to increase our legal budget so we can hire better people. I really wish there was another way. But, the developer’s lawyers ‘take no prisoner’.

    • David Barker

      Mr O’Brien, sure quality lawyers are very important. But to blame the City’s losing record at the OLT only on the City’s team of lawyers (in-house and outside) is not really justified.. If you are playing that game then aportion some blame to the prior administration at City Hall who did not pass a compliant official plan and a timely invited high rise developers to Miisissaugaize our downtown.

      Anyone who has followed rulings coming out of the OLT and its predecessors will note the body is comprised of Provincial government political appointees, carrying out the policy directives of that government. What is that directive currently? Intensification. The OLT has consistently ignored this City’s official plans and their zoning and other development bylaws. It has also consistently ignored the very much known and loudly expressed, both through the ballot box and public meetings, residents’ position of being anti super high-rise development in the downtown.

      Mr O’Brien please articulate your entire platform, particularly as respects property taxes, City services, the Skyway arena, commuter traffic transiting through the downtown

    • Hans Jacobs

      Who is “Marion”?

  • Mary Hill

    Mayoral Candidate, who does not answer direct, specific, non-platform related questions put to her, just like her friend McKeena, endorses O’Brien. WOW !

    Candidate Marsden is endorsing a candidate that so far it would seem has only knocked on some doors to ask residents what are their concerns. But I see nothing in what he said to the Gazette and which was reported that says what he stands for. Like Marsden he has not offered a platform. His platform, his intended actions if elected, may not mesh with those he has spoken to. Who knows?

    What is his position on property taxes (increase, reduce, maintain)? Will he support maintaining or improving city services, or is he OK with cuts in services. If maintaoning or improving city servicess how would he fund that? What is his position on future intensification development, not just in the downtown but across the city?

    Maybe O’Brien is copying Marsden game plan. When asked where she stood on those same issus Candidate Marsden would not give her positions saying “There’s a time and a place for everything”. Meaning she would make announcements at later dates. Marsden, other than constantly bleating on about audits, puts forward no platform. Why not tell the electorate right now what you stand for. You might think from reading all her comments in the Gazette Candidate Marsden would want to be seen to be completely TRANSPARENT. Apparently though only when it suits her.

  • Thomas C. Riddell

    It’s time for change was not thrilled our current Rep getting back to me items like Bus shelter at Lakeshore and Guelphline.
    and always told she’ll get back to me and she never dose
    I’ll be voting for someone else ..

  • Hans Jacobs

    Tim doesn’t seem to have a good understanding of the role of a board. Board members (like council members) have no qualification requirement for their jobs, besides winning a popularity contest. They may not have the necessary knowledge and skills and should therefore avoid involvement in HR management issues, including staff selection decisions.

    Re: “He likes the idea of creating time for people to use the dog park as unleashed space for two hours or so in the morning and another two hours late in the day – maybe early evening.” …… hopefully followed by cleanup of dog feces?

    • Hans, while you are correct in that staff manage and hire and fire, there was obviously something wrong with the HDCSB hiring process, which we had heard rumblings about and Tim got something done about it. Kudos to Tim. I am confident with the change in the City Hall Audit process that is part of my platform (but not yet part of my website thanks to the city removing a ton of material I need to use after nominations opened) there will be many similar issues identified. Council as a whole will review these and provide staff recommendations of status quo or change to ensure in the best interests of, and contribute to, the well-being of families and/or businesses.

      We cannot continue with the present audit process and the present Chair is a disaster who does not understand the meaning of a quorum let alone the purpose of audit. The city audit programme, therefore, is not producing the results it should. Paul Sharman is well aware of my reference at the national level in terms of my audit skills and expertise (in design, conduct and reporting) which can make a huge difference to our city budget and family and business satisfaction rate with services provided.

      As audit design, conduct and reporting is one of my professional areas of expertise and clearly is not an area of expertise any of the incumbents share, it is my intention as an elected Mayor to determine where the Burlington and Halton weaknesses are through a reliable audit process and not the one we currently have.

      Leash free parks have been a highly discussed subject with those I have interacted with in the community for years and even more so with COVID. Increased mental health issues have also increased the need for therapy dogs and, therefore, the need to address this. While Tim’s suggestion may not be perfect it would immediately give you two diametrically opposed points of view happy some of the time, instead of the way it is now, 100% dissatisfaction. There are always some dog owners who do not pick up but those I know, and they are many, do not belong to this category.

      • Hans Jacobs

        If there are problems with the HDCSB hiring process, the appropriate board response would have been to have the Director deal with them, rather than interfering in a management function. If the Director is not capable, that is a completely different problem.

        Re: “…. audit design, conduct and reporting is one of my professional areas of expertise and clearly is not an area of expertise any of the incumbents share.”
        The actual need for the expertise is not at the politician/council level, but at the professional City management level.
        I don’t recall that you’ve ever given information on your claimed professional qualifications. With respect to “audit”, I would expect incumbent Mr. Sharman, an accountant, to have significant audit expertise.

  • Penny Hersh

    For approximately 2 years out of a 4 year term the current council members have been sidelined by Covid. It will be hard to appraise their performances. However, what I have seen in the way this council operates has not been, in my opinion, stellar.

    Covid has seemed to foster much less transparency. I finally received some very interesting information concerning the inclusion of POPS (Privately Owned Public Spaces) that are now being included in development applications. This does not bode well for the residents.

    How did I get this information – NOT through my Ward 2 councillor, who probably is asking herself why I would stir the pot?

    I received it through Tim Commisso and Marion Rabeau, who is Manager Parks Design & Construction/Engineering Services. I want to take this opportunity to thank them for their transparency. I also want to thank the planners on two development projects that are currently before the city. One being Core Development who has appealed at the OLT and won. This development includes a large POPS that the public will be able to access from Old Lakeshore Road, Lakeshore Road and Martha Street 24/7. The other being the proposed development on Brant/Ghent which includes a possible 5 POPS ( one being constructed over a 2 level underground garage for condominium owners).

    It is time for all ward councillors to take this matter seriously. Will the development community use reducing or eliminating the proposed POPS ( because they know they are very unpopular with the public) in their applications to encourage the city to use other means for them to get the density and height they want and also reduce the amount of parkland required? I hope I wrong, but time will tell.

    Mr. O’Brien what is your take on the intensification of Ward 2? The information you provide will have to include first hand knowledge of just how much say the Municipality of Burlington has if we don’t conform to the Provincial Mandates on growth and intensification.

  • Tim is our choice for Ward 2, our Ward, very impressed after we carried on an email conversation on several matters and read his website. Very much a community oriented candidate who does his homework and will work hard for both Burlington and Ward 2. The trustee experience certainly helps to hit the floor running, thats how Cam Jackson started with Public Board.