Welcome to the future

inclusivity advisory committee

It was selected in 2013 as the #1 best place for new immigrants in Canada.

A snapshot of its social profile taken nearly 10 years ago, shows:

* Over 1 in 5 (22%) of its residents were born outside Canada.
* Only 1 in 10 belong to a visible minority group. That percentage has likely increased.
* 52% of residents are female.
* Average age is 40. That’s higher than the Canadian average.

Yes, I’m referring to Burlington:


At present, Council members do not reflect many of our key demographics, including our growing diversity.

Let’s take a look at the faces of our leadership. Here are the elected municipal officials in Burlington and Halton….

city council 2014

regional council 2014

Do you see a problem, or not? If you do, and it’s important to you, what can or should be done – if anything?

Difficult and delicate questions. However, they should be asked. Especially during an election year.

In terms of the demographic figures above, here’s how the current Council compares to them. As a reminder, we’re talking about 7 individuals representing over 175,000:

* 2 were born outside Canada (to my knowledge). That’s higher than the 2006 survey.
* None belong to a visible minority group.
* Only 2 are female (29%).
* Average age is far north of 40.
Our aging population is well-represented.

City Hall has made efforts to focus on social inclusivity in recent years, such as establishing a volunteer advisory committee in 2008.

I was part of that initial group, acting as Vice-Chair. Its well-meaning mandate continues to be profoundly underfunded and as a result, very limited in making a deep impact (although it does have a nifty logo, as shown above).

We should not rely on government alone in any event. It’s up to you and me.

The subject for this post came, in part, from a recent online comment made by a 2010 candidate (I was also one of those).

She referred to our city still having a “country club attitude” which is “very Burlington”. I took issue with that. Based on my own experience as a “newbie” and “unknown”, I also offered simple ideas for anyone to encourage/support “newbies”, “unknowns”, “youth” in the local political arena (e.g. social media to help promote them).

It’s very early, but other than a young candidate in Ward 4, registered candidates don’t seem ready to break the mold of past elections. Burlington is changing, but perhaps Burlington isn’t ready for political change. Not quite yet.

In terms of a Council representing its community, what matters most?

I believe they must genuinely know and connect to the interests of virtually all residents at the Ward and City levels; and they must have proven leadership and team-building skills to make meaningful long-term contributions (I put listening, caring, integrity at the top).

Ultimately, for me, it’s about community experience and vision.

As we move forward, does Burlington need a more diverse and inclusive Council with broader experience now? My answer is yes. Will it happen? Let’s see.

2014 is the year to make your voice heard, your support known and your vote count.

2 thoughts on “Welcome to the future

  1. Brian, I’m sorry you took issue with my comment. When I said, “country club attitude”, I certainly wasn’t referring to an attitude shared across the whole city. That said, I did find the blog comments about Mr. Sweeney’s unfamiliarity (as concluded by you not knowing him, and a few hasty emails and phone calls made throughout Roseland) to be a bit….well, cliquey. Burlington does indeed need a more diverse council. I would suggest that headlines such as “Who?” don’t really promote a climate of inclusion. Name recognition within the community is important, but placing too much emphasis on it could dissuade some potential candidates from running–particularly women, younger residents, and those from visible minorities.

    • Understood, Shannon. On a positive note, your comment led me to think deeper about that kind of “cliquey” perception and other hurdles, including how to deal with them.

      As mentioned in my other online reply to you, the “Who?” title was meant to help draw attention to the post’s contents (i.e. providing Mr. Sweeny’s Linkedin information about his Ward 4 run, urging residents to learn more and ask questions about him and others, including once campaign websites are activated). In other words, please don’t judge a book by its cover (e.g. in our friend Pepper Parr’s case, his often unwieldy and misleading titles)!

      Consistent with that theme, and to trigger readers it’s going to be about another registered candidate, my post for the second candidate’s was entitled, “Who’s This?”. The next candidates’ profiles will likely be – SPOILER ALERT – “Who’s That?”, “Who Now?”, “Guess Who? (might save that last one for Jack Dennision in June!)”, etc.

      My intention was not to focus on a person’s name recognition or lack thereof (I’m not in the polling business anyway), but to urge people to get to know ALL the names, not just familiar ones to them (in my case, it was a pretty small survey: me and a handful of others don’t know Mr. Sweeny, but we do now). Your interpretation is fair, and was likely shared by several others. However, it definitely does not reflect my intention, nor the actual information and commentary set out in that post.

      Many thanks for taking the time to provide your clarification and comment here.

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