'We listened', 'we adapted' and then made a decision. Best speech so far this term of council - made by a rookie.

News 100 yellowBy Pepper Parr

April 27th, 2019



It takes a little time for a newly elected city council to find itself. Five of the seven people who sit as city Councillors knew very little about each other before they were elected.

There were different approaches to public services, different philosophical motivations and different objectives.

Wednesday morning ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte gave a speech which is the best we have heard from this Councillor or from this council.

She set out in very clear terms how she and her colleagues approached a contentious issue for a neighbourhood and delicately set out what city staff and city council had done.

The best speech made by any Councillor so far this term went like this:

“36 hours ago we unanimously supported a Motion to Declare a Climate Emergency” said Stolte

Shawna Stolte - smile

Shawna Stolte – Councillor, ward 4.

“We need to demonstrate that we will commit action to this declaration by voting for safe, walkable, environmentally friendly alternatives on our neighbourhood streets.

“Council’s job is to listen… to everyone, and to adapt the plan so that the proposed change has the least negative impact possible on the environment and the neighbourhood.

“I believe we have worked hard to do that here. Citizen input has been a crucial part of this discussion and has had a large impact on shaping the project.

“When the community spoke up and said the quieter streets where everyone agreed walking on the road was safe, we listened and chose to not install any sidewalks on Lorraine Crescent, Apple Valley Lane or McIntosh Place.

“When the community spoke up and said that sidewalks on both sides of Strathcona was not necessary, as sidewalks on one side provided safe passage for those who needed it, we listened and re-engineered the project to only one side of Strathcona.

“When the community spoke up and said that no trees should be impacted, that permeable landscaping and grass should be preserved for storm water management and green infrastructure, we listened and re-engineered the project to bring the one sidewalk into the existing streetscape and ensure that NO trees were removed and there was minimal impact to the green infrastructure.

“When the community spoke up and said that residents had invested a lot of time, money and energy into landscaping that beautified the community, we listened and re-engineered the project to start the sidewalk at the existing curb line.

“When the community spoke up and said that people felt a sidewalk needed to be a little wider to accommodate effective snow clearing, we listened and re-engineered the project to help ensure safer walking in the winter months.

Shawna listening to Dennison

Shawna Stolte during an election debate.

“We have listened and adapted based on community input, but in the end, we need to look to the present and future needs for the community regarding safety, walkability and sustainable urban design.

“We’ve heard a strong voice today from a strong generation which is important.

“But there is another voice that needs to be represented as well.

“Parents with young and school age children struggle between work and raising children to find any free time to come and advocate at City Hall but I have shared with Council multiple emails from busy working parents who live both on and off Strathcona.

“We have heard from parents representing the children of the neighbourhood, we have heard from the local school representing the children of the neighbourhood and we have heard from the local school board trustee, who is here today representing the children of the neighbourhood, and all these voices have been urging me to support a sidewalk on behalf of the next generation.

“From the start of my campaign I have striven to work by the words of James Freeman Clarke who said:

“a politician thinks of the next election, a leader thinks of the next generation”.

It was a deliberate statement made by a Councillor who is not always that deliberate. She had thought through what she wanted to say and did so very very well.

It wasn’t the kind of statement that was heard at the 2014-2018 council – let us hope that Stolte stays true to her values and that her colleagues take on the same colours.

Stolte, a citizen with little experience in local politics took on a council member who had served for decades and continually won because too many people ran against him – thus splitting the vote and putting him back in office.  This time around it became possible to ensure that there was just the one candidate – and she won the seat.

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17 comments to ‘We listened’, ‘we adapted’ and then made a decision. Best speech so far this term of council – made by a rookie.

  • Elan

    And lets never confuse the painstaking and considered attention of our current Ward 4 Councillor with the behaviour of our former Councillor, who spend, I think,
    the maximum of allowed days in Florida over the years rather than serve his constituents. Appalling.

  • david barker

    Elan, well said!

  • david barker

    Louise F. I hope you are never in the position of having to visit a family member or a friend in hospital after being hit by a car, when a sidewalk would likely have prevented it. Oh, and please less of the name calling (“idiot”). Name calling detracts from the credibility of any argument.

  • Elan

    The majority did speak…in the election last October to delegate to Shawna the trust to act in the best interests and on behalf of Ward 4 constituents and the community as a whole. While the interests of locally affected constituents is very important, and it appears was more than duly considered, this should not to be confused, for any counselor, with an effort to redo the election every time an issue arises.

  • Bonnie

    Please note that six council members supported this motion. They all received the package with survey results and comments.

  • Wendy

    While I stand by my comment that this is well written and Shawna spoke eloquently, I agree with some of the others as to “was the community listened to?” I’m not certain sidewalks were warranted on Strathcona and many residents did not want them. When the citizens on Cherryhill Cres (Ward 5) spoke up, sidewalks were not installed, that street is also a walk to a school (3 schools). Councillors are supposed to reflect the voice of their community. People spoke up about allowing pot shops in Burlington, majority in favor, yet this Ward 4 councillor voted against what the majority wanted? Is this reflecting the wishes of your constituents?

  • Carie DeMunck

    Great job Shawna. This newsletter came to all of us in Ward 4 that are on your newsletter list. Very well articulated, with a clear demonstration that serious consideration was given to all sides. Though I don’t live on Stratchcona, I am curious why the adamant opposition to sidewalks by some? I don’t know what the downside to having a sidewalk is, and the haters in this thread don’t point them out.

    • Phillip Wooster

      “Haters”???? Do you always label people who share different views that yours by calling them names. Justin must be one of your heroes?!?!

      Given that there was no demonstrated safety need in a community which was well served without them for over 50 years and given that the majority of opinions in this community were opposed to sidewalks, why are we building them? Particularly when infrastructure $$$$ are needed for more pressing priorities. What we have in this decision is the tail wagging the dog–a scenario that was frequently played out by the previous council.

      • david barker

        Making a comment that someone may be a supporter of JT as being something to be shamed is demeaning. Pot, kettle, black ? I’m not saying I agree or disagree with the placing of sidewalks in this or any other instance, but just because something has been a certain way for 50 years does not mean it remains appropriate. I would hazard that should you find yourself in a position where your child is hit by a car, you would be the first to demand separation of cars and pedestrians and demanding to know why sidewalks were not already installed.

        Question for you – what evidence do you have to say it was a (shrill) minority that won the argument. Did you canvass the entire neighbourhood or hold a referendum?

        • Louise F.

          David Barker – Because anyone who knows that area knows that there was no need for sidewalks on most (if any) of the streets in that area. I’d go so far as to argue that it’s younger parents who want to bubble wrap all of society for their precious snowflakes that are/were pro-sidewalk. I can understand the logic in approving the sidewalk on one side of Strathcona but anywhere else is overkill.
          Shawna’s newsletter notes that the 2019 capital budget earmarked funds to install sidewalks on BOTH sides of Lorraine Crescent (which she wasn’t in favour of). What idiot at City Hall thought that would be a good idea and a good use of taxpayer money???

    • Lucy

      Hi Carie…These 2 links may help to clarify this sidewalk situation. I am not certain how this is a positive example of listening to the residents…but you can read both perspectives and come to your own conclusions.

      https://stolte4ward4.ca/news-and-updates/f/strathcona-area-road-work-and-proposed-sidewalks (Shawna’s perspective)

      https://mariannemeedward.ca/committee-council-meetings/burlington-council-votes-to-approve-sidewalk-on-strathcona-drive/ (Mayor’s perspective)

  • Gloria Reid

    So very well said Shawna! As a Ward 4 resident who wants to see safe, walkable and tree friendly streets everywhere, I think you have done a great job of listening to all points of view, analyzing the facts and research, and making a forward looking decision. Keep up the good work!

  • Alfred

    I think the important question to ask is who’s idea was it to put the sidewalks on a street in the first place. When clearly most of the people in the neighborhood did not want to do this. Should someone at the beginning of this ordeal, not have told who ever demanded this expensive undertaking and said no from the start. I suspect this demand came from one or a small handful of folks who did not consult with their neighbors in the neighborhood I wonder how much this whole process has cost the taxpayers of this City. Curious to find out how this whole process started.in the first place.This case should be a poster child on how to deal with a demanding neighbor. This time wasting process should never have got this far

  • Phillip Wooster

    No, Shawna, the community didn’t speak up about Strathcona–a few squeaky wheels did–the majority didn’t want them! You didn’t listen to the majority or the evidence–YOU CAVED!!! There was never a safety issue–the community has used Strathcona for over 50 years without any demonstrated safety concern. We just finished removing a council who often pandered to the shrill minority. You have just lost my vote in the next election–you appear to have caught Dennison disease!

  • Alfred

    Congrats Shawna on the sidewalk issue. Clearly the folks on the street did not wan’t sidewalks. There is not anyone, that I am aware of that was negatively impacted by the decision not to put sidewalks in. Taxpayer were also the winners here.

  • George Ward

    Excellent job Shawna I knew we elected the right council member for Ward 4. Keep up the good work.

  • Wendy

    Love this article ! Very well written but very well spoken by Shawna !