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It only takes two to tangle

I have decided to withdraw my candidacy for Ward 4.” Sound familiar?

With those words, DAN DAVIDSON is the latest entry to exit the Ward 4 race.

exit sign

Since registrations began in January, six people have signed up to apply for the Councillor’s job. Two remain. CAROL GOTTLOB and JACK DENNISON.

Well, sort of.

Of the four candidates who’ve let it be known they’ll withdraw – just one has officially filed at City Hall to do that. On paper, it’s still a 5-person race!

*** UPDATE: After posting this blog, Dan Davidson filed to withdraw. It’s official.

September 12th is the deadline to withdraw or register.

So, if any registrant fails to formally withdraw by then, his or her name will be on the ballot. And vote splitting inadvertently becomes a factor for the only candidate (so far) who intends to challenge the 20-year incumbent.

carol gottlob sept 2014

Will Carol Gottlob replace current Ward 4 Councillor, Jack Dennison, on City Council?

city council 2010 to 2014

Who will get your vote? And exactly HOW will you vote?

That is, you’re reading this online – so voting online should be of interest!

That option is available from October 2nd to 19th (election day is October 27th). For more, click here…


In the meantime, let’s give you some practice.

Consider the alternative

Take a good look at them, and what they’re saying to you.

We need to have the infrastructure in place, the services, have neighbourhoods structured to be livable and people-friendly.”

As a community, we need to pursue mindful development, prioritize infrastructure projects, promote responsible growth and create job opportunities that will encourage young Burlington residents to stay.”

If we can reclaim waterfront in a fair manner, I will support that agenda.”

The above samplings are from campaign websites for Ward 4 challengers, Dan Davidson and Carol Gottlob, hoping to unseat 20-year Councillor, Jack Dennison.


It all sounds pretty good – but DETAILS?! Don’t look for them in their websites.

The other registered challenger, Steve Kempf, has no website. But that’s a moot point, since he’s withdrawing from the race. That makes 3 candidates pulling out in recent weeks. At this rate, the incumbent could be acclaimed!

What do you think of the remaining challengers?

Are you underwhelmed or disinterested? If that’s the case, it might be because you don’t know them, or their specific positions about issues.

Several factors may be involved. Lack of any substantive information in their websites is one – however, that can be remedied quickly.

If they have clear and realistic visions for a better Burlington, websites and blogs are excellent vehicles to show us how to get there.

But it’s not only how to pave the way, it’s also how to pay for it too! Revenue is not a little speed bump on that municipal road. It’s a mountain.

revenue mountain on road

Oddly, neither challenger has started to knock on doors, nor distribute pamphlets.

door knocking

What’s the incumbent doing? He’s out there doing his job as Councillor and, yes, knocking on a lot of doors.

According to his email sent yesterday to Ward 4 residents about the flood: “I have been visiting non-stop to individual homes and affected areas. I am sorry if I missed you or was not able to meet you at your home. I am continuing to visit residents….”.

jack dennison at town hall meeting

Another factor is that while both challengers are longtime Ward 4 residents, neither has been particularly active in the community before this election, nor held leadership roles.

Community experience and profile are not things you gain overnight. Those factors are enormous advantages for any municipal incumbent.

credentials before election

As politicians will tell you, if you want to win a seat on City Council, start learning and ‘campaigning’ for the job at least a few years before the next election.

Davidson and Gottlob don’t fit that profile.

So why wait to introduce themselves to (gulp) over 26,000 voters in Ward 4 (of which only 35% or less are likely to vote), and hope to get some traction with those residents for what’s now a short campaign? No idea. Seems a highly unusual strategy.

Are these challengers counting heavily on a huge anti-incumbent groundswell?

That could also be an unwise strategy. At the municipal level, I believe that people ultimately want to vote for a person, not against someone else.

Will these factors matter in a sleepy Ward 4 race – which, at present, may be turning into a walk for the savvy and confident Dennison?

An all-candidates meeting is planned. That could wake things up closer to the October 27th election.

Elections 2014 Masthead

Of course, what will happen in this election is not solely on the challengers’ shoulders. It’s also up to YOU.

Please take the time and energy to find out about them. Ask questions. Demand answers. Spectator columnist Joan Little offers some helpful insights and ideas….


As the election clock gets louder, and ticks down quickly (September 12th is the last day to register or withdraw) – so much can still happen in Ward 4. Or not.

A time for leadership

burlington flood makes headlines

Where were you during the Great Flood of 2014?

As for our Mayor, it was impressive and reassuring to see Rick Goldring take charge immediately and confidently during this local crisis. That’s what leaders do.

rick goldring press conference about 2014 flood

He was highly visible in the media, and took to the streets to speak with people.


The Mayor lives in Ward 4 – and let everyone know this emergency was also highly personal. His home was hit.

That’s his basement shown below in the first photo. The second photo is of MP MIke Wallace’s basement – which reinforces that nature certainly doesn’t play favourites, whether with politicians or anyone else. We’re all in this together.

mayor goldring's basementmp wallace's basement

It seems Ward 4 was at the centre of this storm.

I’m not aware if our Councillor Jack Dennison has been on the scene. No messages (e.g. I’m on his email list), nor Tweets or Facebook posts (e.g. if he’s away on vacation). But I’m certain he is or will be very active connecting with residents and businesses.

UPDATE: After the above comments were posted, the Councillor emailed residents late Thursday evening about Monday’s flood, with useful information and tips communicated by the Mayor: http://www.burlingtonmayor.com/city-burlington-august-4-storm-flood-update/

I’ve heard about other Ward Councillors knocking on doors to get the message out about 3-1-1 (apparently thousands dialed that emergency line at the Region, no doubt overwhelming the system) – while offering a personal hand to help.

There are already many heart-warming stories of Ward 4 neighbours checking on and assisting each other, during and after the deluge.

Here’s another….While I stood next to a first responder at Tuck Creek, and it raged by us on Monday nite, he mentioned praying on his knees that no one gets hurt – especially children, seniors or anyone with a disability or who lives alone.

I’m proud to say, Burlington, compassion lives here!

It’s wonderful to see how we can reach out, and break down the walls of insular living. Too bad it often takes a community-wide ordeal.

To my knowledge, there have been no reported deaths or major injuries as a direct result of the flooding. Of course, there has been an incredible amount of property damage, financial cost and emotional anguish. That aftershock lasts long after the waters recede.

This week reminds us not only of our humanity, but also of another stark reality. One that needs to be looked at closer, funded better, and acted on much quicker.


We have an aging POPULATION, a subject which has received slightly more attention in recent years. The downpour also clearly exposed our aging INFRASTRUCTURE.

Both factors are critical to Burlington becoming a liveable and caring community on a truly sustainable basis.

We can’t control the weather. However, we can control how we react to it – and how we prepare for the next potential storm (remember last winter’s ice?) or other extreme infrastructure-rattling events.

That’s similarly true for what some observers refer to as the coming “Silver Tsunami” of our aging population.

silver tsunami stats in canada

There are no easy or simple fixes to combat an aging population or infrastructure.

For example: flood control improvements (to be fair, an affordable modern design/system would have lessened but not prevented the flooding here). That area alone involves storm water and sewage management systems, gradings around old properties, etc. But it’s only part of a more complex and bigger problem in our great city.

Roads, traffic and transit must also be thrown into the infrastructure mix, as we seek to find workable inter-connected solutions.

Most importantly, though, how will we afford what needs to be done in Burlington?

Municipalities have limited means to raise money beyond property taxes, and City Council’s borrowing power is currently self-limited to 12.5% of total revenues. Development charges? Build-out is over, build-up is here.

However, residential growth isn’t happening – Burlington will be the slowest growing municipality in the GTHA over the next 15+ years.

What about commercial growth?

Economic development must be a renewed top priority, and be successful. In particular, we need to finally get tangible returns on the City’s significant long-term investment in the Burlington Economic Development Corporation.

The BEDC is being transformed and led by the Mayor’s former Chief of Staff, and a former Ward 4 Councillor candidate, Frank McKeown. His impressive credentials and no-nonsense manner certainly indicate he’s the right kind of leader for the job.

frank mckeown bedc executive director

During this election year, let’s hope overriding and troubling issues around AGING are raised LOUD AND CLEAR by voters, incumbents and other candidates.

Time is of the essence! Let’s really start to get at viable ideas to deal with those concerns.

That’s what leaders do….and that’s also what leading communities do.

The universe seems to be sending Burlington a message. Are we listening?

Another one bites the dust

First, it was John Sweeny. Now, LEXI KUBRAK has changed her mind!


In her own words….

I wanted to run for office for all the wrong reasons. I was seeking recognition in a field that, while I have a lot of knowledge and understanding in, wasn’t a true passion. When something isn’t a true passion, you don’t commit to it one hundred percent.”

lexi kubrak

Like Mr. Sweeny, she has not officially dropped out – but the race is down to 4 candidates.

Lots of action going on in the 2014 Ward 4 campaign – at the City Clerk’s desk!

The remaining new and unknown candidates haven’t even started to knock on doors yet, and seem to be on course to split votes between them.

It’s looking like hard-running incumbent Jack Dennison can breath easy.

Or can he?

Will someone else step forward, and others drop out?

You never know in what is suddenly Burlington’s most unpredictable Ward.

And now there are 5 (again)

You don’t want to blink during this Ward 4 election campaign!

Last week, one candidate (unofficially) exited, and another (officially) entered.

Please say hello to DAN DAVIDSON.

dan davidson

Dan is a Senior Managing Consultant at IBM who’s been a Ward 4 resident since 1982.

Why run for political office now?

Burlington is a great city, but I feel it is starting to go in the wrong direction in the areas of future planning, resident engagement, and impacts on neighbourhood life style….I thought it’d be better to try to get involved and try to help, rather than complain about it.”

Stay tuned, Ward 4! There could be more people willing to step forward to end the 20-year reign of incumbent Jack Dennison.

The last day to register as a candidate at City Hall is September 12.

And then there were 4

Its time for a change for Ward 4” was his slogan (despite mixing up his itses).

However, he won’t be that change.

John Sweeny

It’s not official according to the City’s election website yet, but John Sweeny has dropped out of the Ward 4 race….


As John indicated, stepping forward for public office requires courage – and a huge commitment, if you win.

Are the remaining Ward 4 candidates up to the task of taking on the entrenched incumbent of 20 years, Jack Dennison? Or, did the strongest challenger just exit?

It’s still early, but here’s a chance to have your say (and also to sense the value of name recognition in a municipal election)….


tim hudak face

paul mccartney yesterday and today

If you listen carefully, Sir Paul McCartney’s ditty was sung today by many Progressive Conservatives in Burlington.

They’re longing for yesterday (and yesteryear) when – feel free to join in – all their troubles seemed so far away.

June 12, 2014. Definitely one for Burlington’s history books.

jane waving good-bye june 12 2014

That’s Jane McKenna not only campaigning on election day, but also waving good-bye.

To less than 3 years at Queen’s Park. And to 70+ consecutive years of an unblemished Tory-blue winning streak! Yikes.


Is this one of the ‘Signs of the Apocalypse’? Maybe it was mass delirium. Or, some kind of computer error.

Consider these slightly more reasonable possibilities…..

A much stronger local Liberal candidate.

eleanor mcmahon and local fire fighters

Burlington’s changing urban landscape and population.

changing urban landscape

Another ill-conceived campaign from the PC central office (led by Tim Hudak stubbornly and loudly pushing misguided messages and misleading facts).

downcast tim hudak after election

A shrinking local PC base of support during recent years – with little inspirational leadership and vision, nor fundraising power (a Cam Jackson strength).

bpca gathering

This lawn sign got more attention than Burlington’s NDP or Green candidate. And nearly as much support!

stupid is

Probably, it was “all of the above”.

Time for the PCs to rethink, reload and rebuild – both locally and provincially.

However, that’s also true for the Ontario Liberals and NDP in this age of hyper partisanship, and public mistrust.

Which gives me an idea.

Why can’t Burlington lead the charge/change for a different and better way of doing party politics? Starting with our next MPP, Eleanor McMahon.

eleanor mcmahon at work

Eleanor has impressive experience working in and with government and community-based organizations, plus she seems to genuinely understand and appreciate Burlington, demonstrating a warm and authentic manner with people.

Those qualities may encourage and set the pace for other local parties and political types to follow suit in how they treat each other and, maybe (just maybe), how they can work together on occasion to serve our great community.

Burlington strives to become an even more compassionate, inclusive, collaborative and progressive community in every way. Why not in party politics too?

I urge all of us to be patient and supportive of our MPP in her early days and months, and try to stay engaged as the next few years unfold.

If she has too many scripted moments with snarling partisan attacks, or refers to herself in the first person? Takes out a false front-page endorsement again in the Burlington Post? Well, those are not healthy signs for real change.

Yesterday was about many things – including a fresh start and, yes, a dose of hope.

Let the healing, and a new era in Burlington politics, begin.

new mpp hugging

Over to you now, Sir Paul….

[p.s. Full disclosure….]

The Globe and Mail newspaper reported in 2013, “Today, somewhere between 1 and 2 per cent of Canadians are members of political parties.” I’m one of the very few.

bdbh political memberships

I’ve always been a “small c” conservative or so-called “Red Tory”.

When Ontario Liberals courted me several years ago, I took a closer look. For a relatively short time, I felt they best represented my kind of moderate, progressive conservatism in Ontario politics. And they did. But not for long.

Shortly before the eHealth scandal was exposed – which began an endless parade of government overspending and undersight (my word for the opposite of oversight) – I realized a “Liberal” dose tends to be too much in the long run. Especially when good intentions lead to more government.

I exited that valuable learning experience, gladly returning to the PC/Conservative fold, even putting my toe in the candidate pool:

HEAGLE (PC Nomination Letter (June.13.2011)_Page_1


Today, Progressive Conservatives need to make our way back to the political centre.

Bill Davis and many others have understood how Ontario can survive and thrive when government works in that space (which seems to have been officially vacated now by the left-leaning Wynne agenda). Regrettably, Tim Hudak took us too far away.

Hopefully, once the election dust clears, the post-Hudak PCs will eventually return from the political wilderness by the next election – which means appealing to more people, especially in forward-looking urban areas. Like Burlington.

That’s full disclosure – if you were wondering about my political tendencies or biases when reading this blog!