Ward 4 debate a standing room only event; no clear winners but a lot of solid information and they now know where Dennison stands on his property severance

council 100x100By Pepper Parr

October 8, 2014



The rain was pouring down – but that didn’t stop the ward four folks from packing the upper floor of Paletta Mansion Tuesday evening to listen to those running for the council seat and the office of Mayor.

The issue for many was just what the incumbent was going to say about his appeal of a Committee of Adjustment decision to the Ontario Municipal Board. The issue related to his request to the Committee of Adjustment for a severance of his Lakeshore property to create a second lot.

The concern for many was the perception that Jack Dennison, as a Councillor, has to adhere to a more stringent set of rules. The Gazette asked Dennison:

When you were sworn in December of 2010 did you not swear to protect the city’s bylaws? Would you explain the role of a Council member when it comes to protecting the bylaws of the city and ensuring they are adhered to?

Dennison said he felt he had the same rights as any other citizen and that included the right to ask for a property severance at Committee of Adjustment which included the right to appeal their decision.
Dennison did not feel that as a city council member he should be held to a higher standard.

So now you know his position. The appeal to the OMB has been postponed twice – and is due to be heard sometime after the new council is sworn in.

Goldring defends turf 2

Rick Goldring stands to defend his first term as Mayor. Challengers Peter Rusin and Anne Marsden look on.

Mayor Goldring and Peter Rusin went at it again; still no knockout punch from Rusin. Goldring is holding his own but he isn’t telling the public much more than he has set out in his brochure.

Rusin wants a “Bolder, Brighter Burlington”; a great campaign slogan that might have resonated with voters if the Rusin campaign had started earlier.

Rusin said he would focus on collaborating with people, ensure there was more transparency and more accountability. He suggested the city currently has “ineffective leadership”; “there is no plan, there is no vision”, said Rusin. He was here, he said,  to put an end to the bad deals the city has made. Rusin added that he wanted to see a city that was run by Council and not the city’s legal department.

Doug Wilcox consistently referred to his “neighbours” but doesn’t actually live in the ward he wants to represent. He also appears to believe that there isn’t a financial problem that cannot be solved by raising the development charges builders are required to pay. Wilcox wants to see these raised wherever and whenever possible.

Wilcox pointed out that currently the development charge for a single detached home is $8203 but just $4075 for a condominium. Wilcox wants to double the development charge for the condominiums built.
Development charges are the amount a developer is required to pay a municipality to cover the cost of the services that have to be provided to the new homes. Roads, sewers, storm water management – all the services that are needed to make a city run properly.

Council candidates ward 4 debate

Ward four council seat candidates: Incumbent Jack Dennison seeking another term after 20 years on Council, Carol Gottlob seeking her first term and Doug Wilcox a candidate who does not live in the ward.

Carol Gottlob, a ward four resident challenging Jack Dennison, made some very good comments. She came across as decent, prepared to learn and represent the interests of the ward. She said she would press for an Ethics Commissioner and a Code of Conduct.

Mayor Goldring actually promised that there would be a Code of Conduct in place during the next term of office. The Mayor is but one vote – if he manages to get a Code of Conduct in place – it will be a very watered down version of what Gottlob appears to have in mind.

Goldring said the city needs to put a Code of Conduct in place before the province imposes one.
The panelist asking the questions consisted of Pepper Parr, publisher of the Burlington Gazette, Joan Little, columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and Tina Denver Depko, city hall reporter for the Post.

Depko asked the candidates their views on the neighbourhood character studies the city was doing.


The ward four debate gave Rick Goldring a lot to think about - he was never challenged like this when he ran for the office of Mayor in 2010

The ward four debate gave Rick Goldring a lot to think about – he was never challenged like this when he ran for the office of Mayor in 2010

Mayor Goldring basically didn’t answer the question. Peter Rusin wanted to know what the definition of a neighbourhood character study was and what was expected of the study. “Are they a tool to gather information, are they a decision made by a community or are they something that is to be implemented” “Which is it” asked Rusin.

Burlington undertook two neighbourhood character studies; one at Indian Point which was abandoned when it was clear there was not going to be any kind of consensus and a second for the Roseland Community which is still ongoing.

The question about the character studies touched on the Official Plan and the ongoing review of the plan which Anne Marsden maintained “has no value”. She suggested Burlington should take on the province and tell them to mind your own business.

Marsden H&S with poppy

Anne Marsden made some cogent direct points during the debate.

Marsden clearly does not understand that municipalities are creatures of the province and, if they wished, the province could decide with the stroke of a pen that Burlington was to be merged with Oakville – just like that.

The province requires that every municipality have an Official Plan that is reviewed every five years and that the review include public participation.

For those municipalities that are part of a two tier government – Burlington is part of Halton Region, the municipal plan must adhere to the Regional Official Plan.

Marsden told the audience that she has been involved in municipal elections 19 of the 20 past years – but has never been elected to public office. There is a reason for that.

Mayor Goldring pointed out that any developer has the right to take a proposal to the city and ask for an amendment to the Official plan. “It doesn’t happen that often” he said “The city makes about three changes a year to its Official Plan”. That assertion needs confirming.

Geese on Guelph - apple free fall

Apple trees on Guelph Line next to St. Christopher’s church last week

The question of a private tree bylaw came up – this one is a problem for Burlington. Oakville has a strong private tree bylaw – but Burlington cannot seem to get beyond the “it’s my property and I will do whatever I want with it” position.  The environmental community has argued that we human beings are but stewards of the planet we live on. Burlington seems to feel the planet is ours to have our way with.

Tree stumps Guelph Line

What is left of the apple trees on Guelph Line next to St. Christopher’s church. Best argument for a private tree bylaw.

The Mayor and Peter Rusin were in agreement on this one a private tree bylaw was a must.

Anne Marsden wanted the public to know who voted against the proposed bylaw.

Joan Little asked the candidates what they thought about the size of the current council. Mayor Goldring loves it – he pointed out that in 1997 there were 17 members on council and it was apparently very unwieldy – council meetings on occasion went on until 2:00 am. This council turns out the lights at 10:30 pm.

Anne Marsden wanted a larger council but didn’t suggest how much larger it should be. Rusin thought two additional council members were needed to better serve the growing population. The size of the current council allows every member to also serve as a member of the Regional Council where Burlington has seven seats.

Dennison said the size of the Burlington council is the envy of municipalities across the province.  You can bet politicians love it – small means easier to control and fewer interests being expressed.

Many people do not realize that Council members earn half of their income as Regional Councillors and are there to represent the interests of the city.  A significant number of candidates running for office make no mention of the Regional council role on their election signs.

Regional Council is due to review the current distribution of Council seats. Burlington may end up with fewer seats and then have to decide which of the city council members will also sit on the Regional Council. Should be fun to watch our elected officials play that game of musical chairs.

There is more to report on this event.  The Roseland Community Organization and the Roseland Heights Community organization sponsored the event.  They served their members very well.  A clear fall night would have brought out more people – but as it was – it was standing room only.

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8 comments to Ward 4 debate a standing room only event; no clear winners but a lot of solid information and they now know where Dennison stands on his property severance problem.

  • Peter

    Why is Marsden even in the debates?? She is bait. Absolutely useless.

  • I was not able to attend so appreciate your detailed report–the sort of thing the Gazette does consistently well.

    Carol Gottlob’s idea for a Code of Conduct sounds like a good one, however, I’m not as enthusiastic about her Ethics Commissioner. Sounds like too much more bureaucracy for my taste. Council should be able to police its own Code of Conduct–under the watchful eye of local media, of course.

    Seems to me that Gottlob is making a good case for a change in Ward 4 representation.

  • Regarding the section on Anne Marsden. Though the corespondent notes correctly that the municipalities have no power that the province can not take away; So what? If aliens come down from space with the power to destroy the earth are we all going to scrape around endlessly begging? If the government of Ontario has no respect for the Municipalities and the massive amount of time that goes into planning documents then at least we can prevent wasting money on them. Our official plan can be reduced to 9 words “Whatever the Ontario Municipal Board thinks is ok today.” File that and the Ontario government does what exactly? Dissolves Burlington? Removes elected officials for it’s own appointees? Fine. At least then we will have put an end to the illusion of local control of our communities.

    What we have right now is a zoning system that applies to local residents, but larger developers can walk all over via the OMB. This has caused incredibly damaging developments that do not actually advance the goals of intensification. We need to settle which level of government is running this process so that voters know what level of government to punish or reward come election time.

    Greg Woodruff
    Candidate for Regional Chair

  • tenni

    Thanks for bringing several issues to the forefront.

    I am somewhat surprised that Burlington has such poorly defined governance policies that it has no Conflict of Interest policy. I agree with Mr Dennison has the rights of every other citizen. If he wishes to sever his property and it doesn’t comply with the bylaws, then it may be unwise for him to ask for a variance. However, if it is proven that a variance has been given for a similar request by a citizen then he should be permitted to apply. He should then refrain from being involved in any part of the decision making by council. He should refrain from commenting publicly on this issue. That means that he should not have made the comment but declined to comment due to conflict of interest.

    With regard to private trees, this seems very multi facilitate and full of thorny issues. My tree is my responsibility to maintain and remove if diseased or disturbing my peace etc. I should not have to permit anyone on to my property to remove apples etc. I do not understand this issue and would oppose this idea. It needs further discussion.


    It’s not as if there is no precedent or other communities like Oakville that have had the leadership to introduce and pass strict guidlines with regard the discriminatory cutting down of trees. Surely some intelligent communication could transpire to A. See what the by-laws contain and B. See how effective they are.
    There are qualified arborists opporating cross border between Oakville and Burlington who can also offer practical advise to whomever at city hall is willing to spend the time to interview or consult.
    We should all as homeowners be aware that we have rights with regards jointly owned hedges and or trees. These rights are not necessarily covered by local by-laws but by Canadian Arboriculturer Law based on legal cases that have been decided by a Court of Law.
    There is an excellent publication Arboriculture and the Law in Canada by Julian A. Dunster and Susan M. Murray. Dr. Julian A. du ter is an R.P.F, M.C.I.P,I.C.A Certified Arborist and Susan M. Murray MSc.,P.Ag,ISA Certified Arborist.
    This publication of over 200 pages contains comprehensive chapters outlining legal cases ruled by our courts with regards Trees growing on boundary lines,Trees along Roads and Highways, Trees Damaged by Chemicals.Tree Preservation By Laws etc.
    Perhaps our city legal department as well as our Mayor and Council should read it along with the other afor-mentioned suggestions.

  • JQ Public

    Looks like the chain saw massacre of apple trees beside St. Christopher’s Church driveway occurred, despite a local food charity attempting to harvest the apples. On the nearby apartment’s property. A shame.

  • Daphne

    Well reported.

  • Maggie

    Seeing the picture of the cut down apple trees I am horrified. It is particularly disturbing considering there were a number of community groups that were willing to come in and maintain the trees and collect the fruit so it could be put to good use, including food banks, reducing the superintendents work load. While I have always wanted to see the preservation of trees, as a homeowner who doesn’t like to be told what to do I had mixed feelings about the by-law. Not anymore. I am firmly behind putting one in place. Since I am running for city council it might not be good, politically, to express my true feelings about this superintendent.
    Maggie Steiss