Who is going to hold the debates that give the people of Burlington a chance to see who wants their vote

By Pepper Parr

August 23rd, 2022



The Roseland Community Organization (RCO) is hosting a debate that will involve the ward 4 candidates and the people running for the office f Mayor.

And good on them for taking this on.

In 2010 the Gazette sponsored a debate for the ward six candidates – there were eight or nine of them. It went well but it required a lot of work and ate up time we just didn’t have.

In 2018 ECOB – Engaged Citizens of Burlington sponsored debates in all six wards during which the city saw some of the biggest turnouts for a political event in several decades.

ECOB filled the Baptist Church on New Street during the 2018 election debates.

ECOB’s Penny Hersh did the bulk of the work to make those happen.

Other than the Roseland Group – who else is going to step up and arrange for debates in their wards ?

Are there service clubs that could take this on ? Sponsoring a debate is not a political activity – it is a civic decision to put in motion an event that gives people a chance to inform themselves.

Ward 2 and 3 both badly need a debate as does ward 5 now that Paul Sharman has to run for office instead of being acclaimed.

There were some interesting comments made by Gazette readers on the story we ran of the RCO announcement

One reader wrote: Roseland Community Group is a group of homeowners, who show interest and take pride in their community. There is no reason why other communities cannot form the same type of organizations.

Another wrote:  The problem I have is, who is the Roseland Community Organization? Who are the members? Are any candidates” a member or affiliate with them? Did any of the members of the ROC help or donate to any of the candidates’ campaigns? If so, isn’t that a conflict of interest? and how do we know it will be fair and impartial. Even the venue is suspect, do any of the candidates belong to the church? Who is going to moderate the debate and come up with the questions? Hopefully it’s not Mr. Parr because we know he mentions Shawna in every article he writes. What experience does the ROC have in running a political debate?

All this reader had to do was spend five minutes on the RCO web site and his concerns would disappear.  Suggesting that using a church would be a conflict – Really?

The same reader went on to say that RCO “hasn’t truly thought this out and don’t have a lot of experience with a political debate. I mean the can’t even figure out how candidates answer questions and alphabetical order is not that fair i mean 1 person always has the first word and 1 person always has the last word.. I would suggest that they have a predetermined order to answer each question determined buy random draw now isn’t that fair.

The level of political naivety and sophistication is so disappointingly low in Burlington.

One can only wish that each community had organizations like the Roseland Community Organization.

Until that happens – would the people in each ward look for a way to hold a debate in their community.

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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8 comments to Who is going to hold the debates that give the people of Burlington a chance to see who wants their vote

  • Penny Hersh

    If debates are to be held there needs to be options for residents.

    Some will not want to attend in-person meetings due to Covid. Scientists are indicating that there will be another surge in cases in the fall.

    Those planning the debates need to be more creative than simply having a large space with audio equipment and someone to ask the questions.

    There could be a “zoom” type platform where people can participate from home and perhaps a video that could be put on Utube that can be watched at a later date if the proposed debate occurs on a day and time that does not fit their schedule. The technology is here why not use it?

    There will always be someone who questions who is putting on the debate, where did the questions come from and if the moderator is biased?

    The reason that Ward 5 held their own debate last time around is because Councillor Sharman refused to attend the ECoB debate for the reasons mentioned above. If I am not mistaken there was also an additional debate for Ward 6 because the incumbent Blair Lancaster refused to participate in the ECoB debate.

    For those attempting to organize these debates, after having done this for the last election, you better have a very thick skin…..the backlash can be brutal.

  • Bonnie

    A wise politician recently said.. ‘Do you want me to tell you the truth or do you want me to tell you what you want to hear?’ Sadly, many on the campaign trail tend to make statements, with out being able to back up these statements with facts. That is why debates are so important in the political world of today..

  • Penny Hersh

    What ECoB realized after the 2018 election was that residents felt that their participation in coming out to the ward debates had garnered the results they wanted – 5 new councillors and a new mayor.

    What they failed to realize was that ongoing participation in their wards could have provided them with a much better knowledge as to whether their councillor was fulfilling their campaign promises. If not, why not, and what could be done to help them achieve the goals?

    Last election intensification was a major issue for some of the wards, especially in Ward 2. Campaign promises, in retrospect, that were made by some of those running now indicate that they had little or no knowledge on the subject.

    A very hard lesson to learn over the last 4 years was that no matter what the Municipality of Burlington tries to put into effect it is useless unless it conforms to the Provincial Mandates. Once a proposed development is appealed at the Ontario Land Tribunal the developer is pretty much guaranteed to win.

    This time around it is my hope that residents will take the time to question those candidates who come knocking at their door. INTENSIFICATION is not an issue anymore. The issue of INTENSIFICATION has come and gone and residents will simply have to accept this as a given. For myself all I have to do is look around ward 2, where I live and see the cranes and appealed and won development projects that will begin construction shortly.

    Councils past and present have failed to protect our waterfront, as well as areas in ward 2 known as the “football” ( the stand alone area between Lakeshore Road and Old Lakeshore Road). It will be interesting to see just what ends up being developed where the Waterfront Hotel is now situated.

    With intensification off the table what do residents want their councillor to do to help the betterment of their ward and the city?

  • Stephen White

    I would submit that one reason for the lack of political engagement in Burlington is the absence of homeowner/ratepayer associations in each ward. ECOB tried to promote this type of model, but unfortunately, it never really gelled. If we had neighbourhood associations similar to the ones that exist in Oakville we would have some formalized mechanism to hold politicians accountable between elections while providing some much needed oversight at City Hall.

    Sadly, apathy is innate to Burlington’s political culture. Add that to a transitory population which increasingly treats home ownership and residency as a financial asset to be bought and flipped, and you have a community comprised of people with no strong ties to their neighbourhood.

    It’s no wonder companies like ADI love Burlington. Acquiescent, obedient and supplicant public servants, politicians with no backbone, and a weak, apathetic electorate who aren’t engaged. A developer’s wet dream!

  • One of the best debates I ever attended was in 1997 I believe at the Burlington Golf and Country Club. Perhaps they can be persuaded to host two proper Mayor debates such as I described in comments earlier as I understand they have gone pretty high tech in their Board Room. I am going to get on that tomorrow.