Turning five citizens into productive Council members - a steep learning curve.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

November 3rd, 2018




Of the five new members of Council perhaps one has attended a Regional Council meeting.

The process of installing a new city council is taking place. The five newcomers to council will be at the Regional government offices learning more about what their role is at that level.

In the week ahead they will be introduced to city staff- meeting the city manager, deputy manager, the clerks and department Directors.

They will probably park their cars in the Lotus street garage and cast a covetous eye on the parking spaces right outside city hall that will be theirs on December 3rd.

Budget book covers

The 2019 budget will be a challenge for the new members of the incoming council.

According to one source they have yet to be given copies of the budget they are going to have to review and make decisions on – the decision they make will give the citizens of the city some sense as to what this council is going to be able to do.

Everyone says the 4% tax increase every year for the past seven years can’t continue – but continue it has. The only time the 2010 and 2014 council ever brought in a budget well below that close to 4% number was in 2011 when it was a 0% increase over the previous year. So it can be done.

As these new members of council learn their jobs the process of healing the rifts with the people that lost in the election has t begin. Traditionally the losers make a courtesy call on the winner, shake their hand, wish them well and head home to lick their wounds.

Wallace and Gould

Mike Wallace congratulating Karina Gould on winning the 2014 federal election.

Mike Wallace had the graciousness to pay a courtesy call on Karina Gould when she took the federal seat from him in 2014.

Neither Wallace nor Rick Goldring visited the Polish hall where Mayor Elect Meed Ward was celebrating with her supporters.

Really poor form – both men were capable of better.

The hard feelings have to be set aside. Ideally, both men, when called upon, can provide some counsel.

The job of setting policy for the city gets debated at the Standing Committee level and then decided by council.

Committee structure:
The city currently has five formal committees of council. They are:

Audit Committee
Committee of the Whole
Committee of the Whole – Budget
Committee of the Whole – Workshop
Planning and Development Committee

A member of Council is going to have to chair each committee, manage the agenda and keep the meeting moving smoothly.

Of the people just elected there are three that have some capacity to do this kind of job. Rory Nisan, Lisa Kearns and to some degree Kelvin Galbraith. The others are going to have to watch carefully and learn quickly.

Kelvin Galbraith headshot_Super_Portrait

Kelvin Galbraith, Ward 1

Lisa Kearns Election Photo

Lisa Kearns, ward 2

Rory Nisan

Rory Nisan, ward 3

Angelo Bentivegna, and Shawna Stolte have a lot of growing to do.

Marianne Meed Ward and Paul Sharman are going to have to carry a lot of the freight during the next 18 months.

Sharman will have to handle the budget and Meed Ward will carry Planning and Development and hope that Lisa Kearns and Rory Nisan are up to doing some of the Committee of the Whole work.


Returning council member for ward 5 Paul Sharman will have to head up the Budget committee. He will also have to work on how he wants to relate to the new Mayor.

Meed Ward H&S

Mayor Elect Meed Ward has her work cut out for her. She has wanted the job for more than a decade – now that she has it – can she make it work? A lot of people are depending on her.

Nisan certainly has the background; his experience as a federal government bureaucrat where he served as part of Canada’s diplomatic corps, should serve him well. However, the world of managing and trying to meet competing interests is far different than dealing with bureaucrats from other countries.

Kearns is said to have solid experience in the commercial world; many are waiting to see that experience in action.

Mistakes will be made – and the public will have to cut them some slack.

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9 comments to Turning five citizens into productive Council members – a steep learning curve.

  • Lisa Cooper,

    Seriously Pepper not going to print my response to this article. You should be ashamed of yourself if you knew any of this information during the election and did not report it. The voters had a right to know exactly who they were voting for.

  • Lisa Cooper,

    Lucky Ward 6 they got 2 councillor’s for the price of one.
    Would have been nice if Rory Nisan had let us all know in Ward 3 that he didn’t actually live in our Ward. How’s that splash pad coming along Rory and all the other promises you made at the door. Oh and that stint in Ottawa where you supposedly lived, turns out it was Pontaic Quebec you resided in where you ran an unsuccessful 2015 campaign to be the Liberal Rep in the federal election. I know the municipal election wasn’t a party election so you probably didn’t have to tell people at the door you were conservative, but you did. So which face are you actually. Imagine my surprise when I got back from vacation and Ward 3 residents were messaging me like crazy about your so called bio. So much for transparency and the truth. Same politicians bs different election. Sour grapes on my part, maybe but I can hold my head up knowing I ran a fair and by the rules campaign, and the only money funding my effort was from my own pocket. The financials should be interesting especially the compliance audit.

  • Luke

    It will be great to get the “New Splash Pad in Ward 3”, can’t wait for it.

  • Bev

    I don’t foresee any problems here. The “new” councillors will be working diligently to prove their worth. They will LISTEN and meet with their constituents and be more approachable. Something the previous councillors (except for 1) didn’t do. I am totally shocked that the new Ward 1 councillor would want Sharman as a mentor?? Poor choice. But, good luck to all.

  • Just Saying

    I’d be willing to bag my own leaves and shovel my own sidewalk snow if it helped with taxes. I can’t believe these are services provided by the city. What’s the budget number for those unnecessary services? There must be other maintenance costs associated with cleaning leaves outta catchbasins too. Thoughts?

    • Phllip Wooster

      Where do you live? Here in South Burlington, CITY trees are very mature and drop tons of leaves. Who do you think should clean them up, particularly when the City goes to great lengths to point out that the trees are THEIRS!!!!

      Cleaning snow is not a problem and I would agree with you. My snowblower makes quick work of my front sidewalks but what about my two 90+ neighbours?? Always sounds easy.

    • Dave

      Agreed, it would be ideal if everyone could do their own sidewalk shovelling and leaf collection, and rely less on the City for services. However, in reality many won’t bother to shovel their sidewalk in a reasonable amount of time, or aren’t able to do so for whatever reason. Unshovelled walks then become a difficulty for pedestrians, postal workers, bus riders, school kids, etc. In the interest of creating an inclusive city accessible to everyone (not just motorists) it is important to keep sidewalks clear. Also, there are many sidewalks that aren’t in front of homes/buildings that need to be cleared by the City as well. Homeowners can still do their part though by shovelling and also watching for ice patches that need ice melt put down. There are so many unnecessary injuries from slips and falls on ice. How many people see an ice patch on the sidewalk and ignore it, leaving it for someone else to slip on as soon as there is a light snow?

      Leaf collection helps keep it manageable for homes that have huge amounts of leaves, and helps support homeowners keeping those trees, which are a big benefit to the community and our health and well-being. Indeed, homeowners can help by keeping stormdrains clear in front of their homes, if safe to do so.

      Also, there’s no secret to the City’s budget. It’s all posted online on the City website each year in great detail. There is a capital budget for long-term expenditures (roads, etc) and an operating budget for annual operating costs (snow clearing, leaf collection, maintenance, salaries, etc.) https://www.burlington.ca/en/your-city/budget.asp

      • D Walker

        Wow, I had no idea that some cities cleared the snow for their citizens. The City of Hamilton makes it the homeowner’s responsibility to clear the snow off their sidewalks within 24 hours of the end of a snowfall. They have programs to help senior citizens or those unable to clear them, but it is by-law enforced that sidewalks get cleared. https://www.hamilton.ca/streets-transportation/streets-sidewalks/snow-clearing

        The leafs I can understand, if they are the City of Burlington’s trees and they blow all over the roads. That would make it more difficult to assign to any particular resident.

        But wow, I mean, if budget savings can be found by removing city-funded sidewalk clearing… hmm. It would likely be difficult to change people’s minds who have lived here all their lives and take that city service for granted, I’ll admit, but I can appreciate “Just Saying”‘s point.

    • Kevin

      I have not lived in Burlington that long, but I still find it amazing that the City does offer leaf collection and snow removal. My previous home was west of Burlington where we had to rake and bag our own leaves and shovel our own sidewalks and the end of the driveway after the plow goes down the road, this was never a problem regardless of whether the trees are ours or the City’s. The yards were substantially larger than that of most in Burlington and had substantially more leaves as a result.

      This should not be a service provided by the City, it is a waste of taxpayer dollars. For those with disabilities or that are elderly they should be serviced. Most municipalities have a registration system for these residents to obtain the City provided service. For residents that do not do the work on their yards, they should get fined like most municipalities do. The last city I lived, if you hadn’t shoveled your sidewalk within 24 hours after a snowfall you were fined and the fee showed on your property tax bill. If you still hadn’t done it after 48 hours they came and did it and you got an even bigger fine.

      For leaves you have to rake/blow them anyways, bending down to pick them up and pack them into a bag is not a chore. If you have so many leaves that you need a million bags flip the switch on your leaf blower to turn it into a vacuum, this has the added benefit of mulching the leaves to take up far less space in the bags.