Wednesday, March 28, 2007


Perhaps your blogger was too harsh in criticizing the staff report on carbon dioxide reductions in a previous posting. And after all Burlington Council, not staff, call the shots.

So off to the Council debate at March 27th's committee to be enlightened on the corporation's action plan to conserve energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

First, the Sustainable Development Committee delivers a passionate, well researched presentation pleading for a 25% reduction in carbon emissions over 1994 levels by 2012. After all more than 400 other North American communities are already doing this.

Councillor Rick Goldring (Ward 5) won't go quite that far but argues strongly for a 20% reduction by 2010. Polls show climate change is the public's top concern ahead of health care and education, Goldring notes.

"We can analyze to death but we must take action," says Goldring.

Similarly Councillor Rick Craven (Ward 1) calls for "real action" and the need to "translate our intentions" if we expect citizens and the broader community to act on climate change as well.

Veteran Councillor John Taylor (Ward 3) believes support for Goldring's views would be the equivalent of signing a blank cheque - something he has never done in eighteen years on Council. Taylor wants the issue to go to Strategic Planning but tips his hand on his position in a rant about empty buses and how we have been "throwing money" at public transit for years. News of such spending will surprise riders of squeaky braked 24 year old buses.

Councillor Jack Dennsion (Ward 4) agrees with Taylor. It is a strategic planning issue.

Mayor Cam Jackson acts "mayoral" and says both Goldring and Taylor are right. Your blogger double checks his notes. How can this be?

Jackson thinks there is a bigger picture and wants to get all council onside through the Strategic Planning process. Good luck to you, Mayor Jackson. Achieiving a Buzz Hargrove/Jack Layton reconciliation would be an easier task.

Councillor Peter Thoem (Ward 2) is glad that we are finally talking about this critical issue which he is happy to deal with at strategic planning.

Committee Chair Carol D'Amelio, in earlier questions, seems to indicate that our expectations shouldn't be too high. We are a growing community and so emissions can be expected to go up.

Here's hoping that Council will get its act together on to this critical issue.

Strategic Planning (Future Focus) starts April 2nd. The process could use some input. Give your Councillor a call. Ask them to live up to the previous 2002 committment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Tell them this matters.

Sunday, March 25, 2007


The City of Burlington is committed to being “a leader in making a high level of environmental performance a primary goal of its policies.....”

So how is this leader in high level environmental performance doing? Let’s look at greenhouse gas reduction and a report coming to committee of council this week.

In 1994 the City of Burlington pledged to reduce its corporate greenhouse gas emissions by 20%.

These emissions are actually up by 21% according to a staff report being discussed at Tuesday March 27th meeting of Community and Corporate Services Committee. But that isn’t too bad because our population is up 16%, say the report’s authors.

And rather than address how to get to the goal the report suggests the goal be changed.

It references the 20% target.

It looks at the Kyoto target of a 6% reduction.

It contemplates getting back to the 1994 levels.

And finally opts for a new per capita target 40% poorer than the one envisioned in 1994 . (The new target is recommended to be. .07 tonnes per capita emissions versus the .05 tonne goal when the city set the target.)

Other cities are reducing their corporate emissions. Toronto has cut back 36% from 1990 levels. And if a growing city like Calgary can maintain a 6% reduction target surely Burlington can do better.

It is hoped that environmentally aware councillors like Rick Goldring will send this report back for more work or reconfirm the old targets and find ways to achieve them.

Otherwise the city’s self proclaimed role as an environmental leader will be exposed as the fish story it has become.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Disingenuous and Duplicitous - Indeed!

When former colleagues of yours are called names you take notice.

Burlington Councillors and Mayor Cam Jackson were recently called "disingenuous" and "duplicitous" by Hamilton Councillor Margaret McCarthy according to the today's Hamilton Spectator.

Let's see "duplicitous": Comes from the word "duplicity". It means tricky, suggests you're deceitful. It implies double dealing.

And "disingenuous" - lacking simplicity, frankness or sincerity; not straightforward; crafty.

Flamborough representative McCarthy uttered these harsh words after Burlington Council came up with what was described as a "compromise" position on the possible expansion of Waterdown Road.

When the name calling comes from a Hamilton politician, in a city where a major achievement is to get a quorum for a council meeting and civility and respect for the public are not often present - well, as my father use to say "consider the source."

The only thing achieved by such mud flinging is to raise the name calling politician's profile in the local press. Mission accomplished.

McCarthy is also quoted as saying the city's new position is "not defensible." This "d" word comment merits consideration.

One can argue that there is no Burlington position now. Not yet. Staff have been asked to take another look at the file.

One suspects, however, that when they come back with the same professional opinion that they put forward a year ago and when the various other experts (Conservation Authority, Escarpment Commission and Regional Planners) hold firm we'll find that Burlington may be on the hook for most of the costs of the inevitable road widening.

That will be disappointing. And taxpayers will be disgruntled.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Drive Throughs Need Restrictions

Orillia Saturday March 10 3:00 p.m. -

It is busy inside Tim Horton’s on Orillia’s Colborne Street.

Busier, though, at the drive through. The cars (many SUVs and 4x4’s), most guided by a single occupant encircle the store like ants around a picnic basket.

Can’t the municipality do something about this? Wouldn’t happen in my town. We care about the environment and we’ve got an anti-idling by-law. Right?

Burlington Sunday March 11 - noon -

On Assignment

whenthemayorsmiles dispatches Hunter R. Wilson, crack gonzo journalist, to a typical Tim Horton’s in order to perform the requisite 15 minutes research that befits the high standards set by this blog.

Hunter R. is in his element, undercover in a New Street phone booth. Don’t want these "drive throughers," if there are any in beautiful Burlington, to get wise to this research.

Hunter’s fifteen minute stake out yields the following:

-A continuous line - always at least five cars idling - nine in line on Hunter’s arrival and seven when he leaves.

-One car waits, engine running, for five minutes and five seconds.

-The average wait is four minutes and five seconds.


*Natural Resources Canada argues that stopping unnecessary vehicle idling is an important way of improving air quality and thus the health of communities (1998).

*Five minutes idling produces 271 grams (more than half a pound) of greenhouse gases.

*If every driver in Canada avoided idling for five minutes per day we would prevent the creation of 1.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year.

It is against the law to idle in Burlington for more than three minutes. The by-law also includes a commitment to public education so we can all learn about the negative impacts of idling.

This by-law does nothing to discourage the kind of idling that drive throughs produce. Good planning can.

Hamilton, hardly an environmental leader, is looking at this. Shouldn’t we?
The upcoming Future Focus strategic planning discussions offer an opportunity.

Our city can do something.

It must.

Saturday, March 03, 2007


Joan Little does an excellent job covering municipal politics in the Hamilton Spectator.

Joan is thorough in her analysis, thoughtful and fair - traits that were put to good use when she served as a Burlington alderman and Halton Councillor.

Unfortunately the Spectator limits her to only a couple of columns per month.

Columnists are supposed to put forward a point of view. Joan has waded in with her assessment of Burlington’s new mayor opining in a previous piece that his “Camship” was not a team player.

A recent column called him a one man-band; accused him of mismanagement on the McMaster file; noted that he craves adulation; claimed he is creating morale problems amongst staff; and more.

Far be it from me to stand up for Cam Jackson, a man I ran against once. On most days his views are 180 degrees from mine. And his personal style rubs me like fingernails on a blackboard but....

Cam is the Mayor

He ran city wide capturing 14,941 votes. By comparison the next biggest vote getter on Council, Ward One’s Rick Craven, received 4,826 votes in a two-candidate race. Clearly, Jackson has the mandate to speak for all of Burlington. Yet those pusillanimous practitioners of parochial ward politics - two of them anyway - have the nerve to criticize the mayor while hiding behind the anonymity offered through speaking without attribution.

The Great Burlington Tradition

Ms. Little paints a rosy picture of a local government of “seamless team transitions,” “mutual respect” for staff, stability and “solid decision making.” But other mayors have shown a lack of respect for staff and, while this behaviour should not be condoned, it must be said Jackson is not unique.

What is needed in Burlington is a well-articulated code of conduct for politicians like the one that exists for staff. Such a code would go some way to ensuring staff are treated fairly.

A Honeymoon Period

Typically, newly elected mayors are given some time to get use to office. After all it is a tough job. In fact, it may be the toughest one Cam has had. Let’s give him some time. Perhaps he’ll learn from these early missteps.