Vanessa Warren files nomination papers – fourth candidate to go after Lancaster’s council seat.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

April 9, 2014


“In the absence of effective leadership in ward 6” said Vanessa Warren “I have filed nomination papers and will contest the seat Councillor Blair Lancaster currently holds on city Council”, and the race for the ward 6 seat got serious.

Warren is the fourth citizen to go after the seat: James Curran, Angelo Bentivegna, Mina Wahidi have filed nomination papers and now Warren.  All will have their names on the ballot in October.  It should be the race to watch come the October municipal election.

Warren - strong H&S shotThe community first got a look at Warren when she chaired the Rural Burlington Greenbelt Coalition to stop the trucks that were dumping what she called “toxic landfill” on what she described as an unlicensed landfill operation known as the Burlington Executive Air Park on Appleby Line.

The issue first came to the wider community’s attention when the Gazette published a story on all the trucks that were on upper Appleby Line carrying fill into the Burlington Air Park site.

Citizens in the rural part of ward 6  were lived with the lack of response from their ward Councillor who seemed just too close to the owner of the air park.

Warren delegated very successfully to city council and just as effectively to the Region.  She proved to be very forthright and to have done the homework necessary to get at the issues.  It was Warren who dug up the fact that there was $4.5 million in mortgages on the air park property that she called the Burlington Airpark landfill dump.

Warren then become engaged in critical issues such as the LaSalle Park Marina expansion, the Mount Nemo Heritage Conservation District, the new Official Plan and the 2014 Budget, where she challenged a speaker for hijacking a public meeting.  Burlington was beginning to see a very feisty advocate. 

In her campaign media release Warren said she “seeks to radically improve on Blair Lancaster’s poor record of access and engagement at City Hall.”   The white gloves were clearly off.

“We’re going to need really strong leadership to enhance the livability of our urban spaces while still protecting our green spaces.” said Vanessa who was a Burlington Green board member for a short period of time.  She resigned all her community affiliations when she announced she was going to run as a candidate.

 “I commit to being an unflinching listener, communicator, and leader”, said Warren.  She has also committed to continuing to do her homework and let the people of ward 6 see what she has to offer.

With three other candidates in the race for the seat on council – it may well prove to be the most interesting election race in October – BUT ward 4 has some interesting developments.  More on that situation at another time.

Who then is Vanessa Warren?  She and her husband run two equine business operations; one in Mississauga that is  one of that last public riding facilities left in the GTA.

Husband Cary has been farming at some level for most of his life – he is also a small craft pilot.

The Mississauga operation is on land they have rented for more than thirty years.  An opportunity to buy a property in Burlington came their way and as Vanessa put it – “this was going to be our ‘pine box’, we expected to be on the Burlington farm for the rest of our lives.”

Airport properties - Warren included

The issue was the air park property – and the landfill that had been dumped on the site – hundreds of thousands of tonnes of un-inspected landfill. The Warren property is shown upper right with red lines.

Vanessa Warren is a fair human being.  Tough,  – she doesn’t take a lot of nonsense from anyone but she is at heart fair.  She has worked with animals for most of her adult life and understands the need for a firm hand as well.

Warren on her horse

Vanessa Warren brings the discipline and focus required as a dressage competitor to just about everything she does. Here she works her favourite stead at a competition.

Burlington first saw Warren when she delegated before city council on the number of trucks carrying landfill along Appleby Line to the Air Park site.  She wanted to know what the city was doing about the traffic and the content of those trucks..  At that point the city wasn’t doing very much – but senior people on the administration side took the concerns seriously and began to look closer at what had been the prevailing view: the Air Park was regulated by the federal government – end of story.

This time the city looked a little deeper and brought in some advisors.  While Burlington did it’s work Warren took her story to the Region and while she did a good delegation she didn’t get much in the way of support.  Oakville Mayor Rob Burton gave Warren what amounted to a patronizing lecture and sent her on her way.  Burton had no idea who had was running up against.

Warren looked to her community, worked with people to form an organization that could speak on behalf of the people in rural Burlington – and this was born the Burlington Rural Green Belt Coalition.  It was a little bumpy at first but Warren brought strong administrative skills to the task and proved more than capable of listening to her peers and moving the ball forward each time they met.

Before long the city was in court with the Air Park owner and Warren felt her part of the job was done.  She felt strongly that the community was poorly served by its elected representative and was active in helping people find someone who lived in rural Burlington to run for the council seat.  She met with a number of people and there were solid meaningful conversations with several but nothing was panning out.

Warren had moved on.  She became a BurlingtonGreen board member and was active in the working on the difference of opinion between the LaSalle Park Marina Association and the people who cared about what was happening to the trumpeter swans who had made a home for themselves at the marina.  Warren also began to work with Councillor John Taylor to get him re-elected in ward 3.  There was still no viable rural candidate for ward 6.

Warren maintains Taylor urged her to run for the seat; whatever it was – something changed her mind and we were advised several weeks ago that Vanessa would be declaring her intentions after a short trip south where she snorkeled and looked at fish.

Back in the country – the wheels began to turn and she was in.

While the air park has been the focus for Warren – she does not appear to be a single issue candidate.  She is an environmentalist; BurlingtonGreen was a good fit for her and we saw some of the grit she has consistently shown when she complained about a speaker from the LaSalle Park Marina Association hijacking a public meeting that was supposed to be about the budget.  At that same meeting she asked why the public was reading about decisions that had basically already made – she wanted the public to be involved well before decisions were made.

She did the same thing last week when she asked city council why they were deciding on the building of a new court house that no one knew anything about. Where was the community engagement, Warren asked.

Warren understands that the “next several years in our Ward are going to be critical ones. The urban areas in the ward are developing rapidly and we are at risk of outpacing our own economic development, infrastructure and transit planning. Growing and intensifying without a strong, integrated planning vision will mean disconnected, poorly serviced neighbourhoods. Upcoming Provincial reviews of the Greenbelt and Niagara Escarpment plan mean that our current rural protections could become less fulsome, and I want to ensure that our community’s formidable desire to protect its liveability, green space and agricultural economy is rigorously represented.”

Rigorous is a word that fits the Warren persona.  There is nothing “wishy washy” about this candidate.

Yes – the airport runway ends a field or two away from the farm she works with her husband and one could argue that she has a vested interest.  The small aircraft pilots who rent hanger space at the Air Park certainly think that is the case.  The small engine aircraft aren’t a problem – it is the threat that there might be larger small jet engine aircraft using the runway – and that is an entirely different situation.

Warren’s overriding question about the Air Park is this: What’s going on up there?  Is was her questions that got the city into a court room where the won their case at the Superior Court level and are heading into an appeal that will be heard in June.

In the meantime Warren will run her campaign knowing that the illegal dumping at the Airpark has been stopped. Then, once all the appeals are done with the need to clean up the toxic heritage of a five year fill operation needs to start.

The community will hear about a candidate who would like to see “a new financial model for a liveable Burlington that grows in place – one that keeps an eye on the triple bottom line: social performance, environmental performance AND economic performance.

Warren with nomination papers

Vanessa Warren with her nomination papers in hand. She may not be elected yet but she has figured out what the photo-op is all about.

Is Warren as good as she sounds?  We do know she was a reluctant candidate and that it was the performance of the sitting member, Blair Lancaster, which was a large part of the driving force behind the Warren decision.

In the next six months the people of ward 6 have an opportunity to listen and decide who they want to represent them.  Councillor Lancaster has said publicly that she intended to run but has yet to file nomination papers.

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4 comments to Vanessa Warren files nomination papers – fourth candidate to go after Lancaster’s council seat.

  • Marie

    I’m not in your ward, but if I was I would vote for you. Blair Lancaster has to go – that’s it – that’s all!

  • Stephanie Cooper-Smyth

    Mrs. Lancaster, there’s no doubt you are lurking on this website, so here’s some advice:

    You haven’t got a chance again Vanessa Warren, so save yourself whatever dignity you still believe you have left after 4 years of being a disgraceful representative of the Ward 6 taxpayers (you know, the ones who pay your salary?).

    Better luck in your next career.

    • Stephanie Cooper-Smyth

      self edit: should have read “against” Vanessa Warren.

      Apparently I’m too excited about the obvious landslide victory by Vanessa Warren to spell correctly!

  • Stacie T

    Shes a gonna win.