Too many Aldershot residents have chosen to be uninformed, uninvolved and have failed to hold the council member they elected accountable

By Pepper Parr

May 29th, 2023



Remembrance Day and The Battle of the Atlantic Sunday have always been important to me.

I was a Sea Cadet  as a youth and then served in the Canadian Navy – I was an Able Seaman aboard HMCS Haida that is now tied up in Hamilton.

In 1914 and 1939 we sent young men and women into war; thousands didn’t return and many of those who did, were damaged for life.

Hundreds gather at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Day to honour those who served, remember those who did not return and treasure the democracy they defended.

Every November 11th, hundreds of Burlington residents gather at the Cenotaph to remember those we lost, honour their sacrifice and celebrate what we gained – we are a democratically fee nation.

We have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms, we elect our representatives at the Federal, Provincial, Regional and Municipal levels. As a nation, we have fought to have the fundamental right to freely select those who will govern us. It is both our privilege and our responsibility to make informed choices and vote.

Over the last two weeks we have highlighted the way the Councillor for Burlington ward 1 manages his personal financial interests and the way he has chosen to represent the people who elected him.  We feel that he is unable to represent his constituents in an open and unbiased fashion. Despite our journalism efforts there is no indication from Kelvin Galbraith that there will be any change. He simply does not seem to understand his conflicted position. There also seems to be an equal problem with his constituents and opponents holding him accountable.

Kelvin Galbraith swearing an oath to serve his constituents.

In the 2022 municipal election the candidate in ward 1 did not tell the voters that he had been advised by the Integrity Commissioner that there would be occasions when he would have a Conflict of Interest due to the location of some of his business interests.  The other 2022 candidate in the ward became aware of the Integrity Commissioner’s report 11 days before the election but decided not to advise voters. To do so would not have been playing ‘dirty political games’ or ‘hitting below the belt’. Rather it was his duty to ensure that the constituents of ward 1 were properly informed before they made their choice. He failed to do so.

The information was made public by a resident who keeps a close eye on civic matters and has made repeated but unsuccessful efforts to hold Councillor Galbraith accountable. He has been confronted with apathy, indifference and, we believe, systemic incompetence.

What Burlington seems to have difficulty with is taking the time to ensure and insist that the men and women they elect are accountable and transparent. We wait until the situation becomes intolerable or uncomfortable, for whatever reason, and vote for wholesale replacements.  It is an all or nothing scenario repeated every 4 years. Or so it seems.

The Gazette has published five articles on election campaign donations.  Those articles have been read by thousands of people.  The Aldershot Insider, a Facebook page, carries a number of comments on the issue – non favourable to the Council member.

The Councillor for ward 1 has chosen not to comment and we were informed that he was advised to not respond.   It’s an old issues management truism that when you have a fiery issue you don’t provide it with oxygen. Stay silent and it will pass; people always forget.

And that is where we have a real problem. It appears that the truism is 100% true. The reason that our elected representatives are not transparent is that they don’t have to be. In fact, it’s a serious disadvantage to them if they are. The reason that they are not accountable is that we don’t hold them to account.

As citizens we need to exercise our democratic responsibilities – be informed, be actively involved and vote. In the final analysis, Galbraith is the self-made problem of the people of Ward 1.

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.

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6 comments to Too many Aldershot residents have chosen to be uninformed, uninvolved and have failed to hold the council member they elected accountable

  • Lynn Crosby

    “Voter apathy is a civic abdication,” Charles M. Blow

    I remember when Ward 1 was the ward with the highest voter turnout. Something to aspire to regardless of whether the rest of the city has poor turnout. Not sure if it still is, but this apathy across our city and beyond is shameful.

    And today we see that a whopping 6% of voters in wards 1 and 2 bothered to vote for School Trustee, despite having multiple days where they could easily vote from their couch 24 hours a day, having advanced poll options and multiple locations again to vote on election day.

    I echo the point of the article: we deserve better but if the majority stays home and most don’t inform themselves, this is what we get. Someone who shuts down constituents who ask hard questions, won’t answer media seemingly as if some puppet master has told them all to stay silent when critical questions arise, and has all this connection with developers with whom I’m sure he doesn’t refuse to speak and meet. Are his constituents his priority? The ones he won’t talk to sure aren’t.

    And sorry but anyone who looks at a map cannot seriously say the city-paid integrity commissioner hasn’t ruled in bizarre fashion if we’re to believe that Galbraith’s business properties aren’t impacted by condo developments right beside and across from him and throughout the whole main Plains corridor. Our council loves quoting from them when it suits them, like that should close down all discussion and debate. They sound like Doug Ford using the excuse of his paid “integrity commissioner” saying having developers with cash gifts at his daughter’s wedding was just fine. This was almost universally met with laughter and eye rolls. What a system.

    Maybe a new complaint should be filed, or an appeal, on the Galbraith conflict matter, with more specifics and asking what is the actual distance rule if there is one and can someone besides Galbraith do the measuring. So, ward 1? Anyone care?

  • There was a time Jim when Councillor Galbraith once said to me that any media coverage was better than no media coverage. Clearly that position has changed. There was also an occasion when he once said to me that “any one who runs against me hasn’t a chance” or words to that effect.

    One can understand Galbraith’s predicament – and it isn’t over yet.

    Media’s role is to hold the elected accountable and require them to be transparent. If we have failed to do tdhat – please tell me what we could do differently

    Journalists don’t do what they do to be liked.

    If an elected official decides not to communicate with a specific newspaper because he doesn’t like what they have to say about him – I suggest to you that part of your job is to advocate for better behaviour on the part of the Council member or help the community find someone else to run for the Council seat

    • Jim Thomson

      Posted in the interests of fairness and completing the conversation.

      How have you been holding Kelvin to account?
      You published an email that Tom Muir received in 2018, That showed he knew a lot more about Galbraiths land holdings than the general population, yet he didn’t raise the issue publicly till late in the election. I said at the time that something smelled, that people knew of Galbraith’s land holdings. The Integrity Commissioner found that the issue raised by Tom Muir was a nothing burger. Yet here you are saying that Rob Radway should have made a big fuss about it, that somehow Ward 1 voters were not properly informed.
      You imply that Galbraith doesn’t understand his conflict, yet he has taken advice from the Integrity Commissioner and has been following it. So how can you say he doesn’t understand it?

      Taking campaign donations from developers isn’t a crime. Perfectly legal under the system. Yet you are insinuating somehow that this makes Galbraith incapable of representing his constituents. That he is doing something wrong.
      What exactly?

      I have no problem with the behavior of Kelvin Galbraith. I disagree with him on some issues, but I have found him to be willing to talk to me. I usually get a prompt response to e-mails. He is a big step up from the former Councillor for Ward 1.

      He isn’t the only politician that is refusing to talk to the Gazette, there are several.

      Time to take a look in the mirror.

  • Jim Thomson

    You are entitled to your opinion.
    However, the voters of Ward 1 chose Kelvin Galbraith by a wide margin over his opponent. That’s the way democracy works.
    The democracy that people died to defend.
    I expect that the approx. 25% of voters that actually voted in Ward 1 are the ones that follow the issues. They still chose Galbraith.

    The voters of Ward 1 turned out to vote in about the same proportion as the rest of Burlington. The apathy is city wide it isn’t confined to one ward.

    I guess your position is that Ward 1 is too stupid for democracy because they elected Galbraith knowing that he owned property in the MTSA.

    What does it say about Ward 4 that they re-elected a Councillor who doesn’t respect confidentiality?

    I am not a big fan of Kelvin Galbraith, but I have seen nothing but innuendo in all your reporting.

    Galbraith isn’t the only politician that refuse to talk to the Gazette. Maybe the problem isn’t the politicians.

    • Pat Brod

      I think you may have misread or misinterpreted the opinion piece. You know Jim, democracy is an ugly, fickle bitch. She often misdirects and cuts both ways simultaneously. Yes, the voters of Ward 1 elected Galbraith and if they did so while aware of his conflicts and general attitude then shame on them, imo. If they did so because he was the incumbent and the name they recognized then shame on them doubly. Voting comes with obligations and one of those is to be informed. The same thing happened in Ward 3 where voters returned a travelling road show incumbent who lied by omission throughout the whole campaign and exaggerated his accomplishments and credentials while playing a convenient ‘family safety’ card. The knowledge of what he was and was doing was there – voters simply did not act on it. Ward 4, as you suggest, poses yet another example and now we have a Councillor there who, arguably, has neither the stamina not the heart to serve. Ward 6 presented the issue of whether likeability should trump competence. Then voters chose who they saw as ‘the nice guy’ and time will tell how that impacts them.

      I think that the opinion piece was saying just that and that we all let them get away with it. They’re not transparent – why would they be? They’re not accountable – why should they be? They don’t engage, your particular issue, because there’s no benefit in true engagement. And we, as an electorate, let them get away with it time and again.

      I liked the article. I hope that the Gazette keeps calling the suckers out.

  • Sadly this is just one of many similar issues brought to our attention since 2010. Also not what our parents and grandparents suffered so much to obtain – to live in a democratic community.