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Vote Against Urban Boundary Expansion Reveals Change in Municipal Politics Power Balance –



The realignment of Hamilton’s politics played out in Hamilton City Council’s vote against urban boundary expansion.

In the battle between money and organization, community mobilization won.

For as long as anyone can remember, developers have allowed local councillors to posture against their projects when necessary to appease constituents, so long as their interests are ultimately protected and projects approved.

Hamilton City Council’s decision against an urban boundary expansion is a seismic shift. Council voted against the interests of the development industry.

Politically, it represents the power of mobilization, especially considering the influence developers can exercise in the 2022 municipal election.

The factors weighing upon long-time councillors are best illustrated by Ward 6 Councillor Tom Jackson’s sudden change on the issue.

On November 9, he spoke in favour of urban boundary expansion. On November 19, he voted against it.

What changed?

Is Jackson responding to public pressure against boundary expansion, or is this just politics as usual, with Jackson posturing against developers’ interests knowing the provincial government will intervene on behalf of those developer interests?

Jackson is the most consistent representative of the development industry on Council.

He also styles himself the champion of “his” seniors. “His” Ward 6 seniors are broadly represented in the Stop Sprawl HamOnt coalition, which ran a very successful mobilization against urban boundary expansion.

First elected in 1988, he is an astute observer of municipal politics and is aware of what happens when a council gives too much to developers in the face of a city-wide mobilization against development. He knows what happened to Burlington’s City Council in 2018 and Guelph’s in 2006.

Jackson has not indicated either way if he will seek re-election in 2022.

Leading up to Friday’s vote, Jackson repeatedly stated the importance of “choice” as a key reason he supported expanding the boundary.

“With regards to this issue. Number one, my constituents know that I have regularly supported choice for new families to come to our city of Hamilton. I’m lucky to be in a little bungalow. I have my own little piece of this green earth”, he stated on November 9, only a week before voting against the expansion. “Choice and not limiting choice are important to me.”

Jackson also emphasized development industry jobs, suggesting that if Hamilton does not expand the boundary, money and investment will go to other places.

“Nobody even talked about the potential thousands of construction jobs and investment and new taxes that potentially could come to our city by allowing some aspect of the urban boundary expansion through the staff recommendation of the Ambitious Density program.”

Jackson went for the affordability angle as well, “given our scorching red hot real estate market right now for existing sales and resales. I feel we need to provide greater supply to help to ease that.”

In March, during the Council debate on expansion, and using a mail survey to gauge public opinion, Jackson stated, “so there’s no false expectations as to where I’m coming from … if there is no urban boundary expansion … quite frankly, we will be in my humble opinion confined to multi-residential developments existing in our established urban areas everywhere.”

He had moments earlier spoken against intensification.

He also stated, “choice is important as our city moves forward.”

Jackson was seen as a locked-in vote for expansion. It is why he surprised many on November 19 when he stated, “unfortunately, the farmland issue for me, still will be paramount, and why I won’t be able to support option one, the original staff recommendation [to expand the urban boundary].”

What happened?

Many long-time Jackson supporters – “his seniors” – have bcc’d me in email exchanges with Jackson. They are outraged with City Council’s cover-ups and lies. They are looking to vote for change in October 2022.

Many of them are engaged in environmental and climate change movements.

Jackson pays attention when he receives emails from”his” seniors, he especially cares what the residents of the seniors’ apartment building at 801 Upper Gage think.

Municipal councils can be swept out of office by anti-development sentiments. One only needs to look across the harbour at Burlington.

In 2018, its citizens elected a new mayor and five new councillors in a backlash to what the voters perceive as over-development. Only one incumbent was re-elected.

The Great Guelph Wal-Mart Battle of the 2000s shows what happens when a community mobilizes in response to a land use planning decision.

In short, from the mid-90s until an Ontario Municipal Board decision in 2004, Guelph was divided over a land-use planning application to build a Wal-Mart on the north side of the city.

As the Guelph Mercury’s editorial on October 25, 2003, lamented that the Wal-Mart issue dominated the municipal election campaign, to the detriment of issues a municipal council can actually address.

The 2003 election saw a majority of pro-Wal-Mart councillors elected.

Opponents organized and founded the Guelph Civic League in 2004. It focused on mobilizing voters and unseating incumbents.

While the OMB approved the Wal-Mart, and the Ontario Divisional Court upheld the decision, opponents did not go away.

In the 2006 election, Guelph 7 of 12 incumbents seeking re-election were defeated. An eighth incumbent tied with a challenger; the tie was broken by drawing from a random lot with the incumbent winning.

The memory of Guelph 2006 is the stuff of municipal legend, with incumbents continuing to be defeated in future elections. Once smashed, the shield of municipal incumbency is hard to reconstruct.

There is seemingly no incumbent advantage anymore in Guelph.

Tom Jackson will know it well. It serves as a cautionary tale, primarily due to increased voter turnout motivated to remove incumbents.

[I cannot do the decade-long Guelph Wal-Mart saga justice. For those who wish to learn more, one of the key participants, Ben Bennett, wrote an extensive account in 2016. Adam A. Donaldson did a podcast episode on it in 2016 as well.]

Jackson’s loyalty to the industry is rewarded each election with his campaign collecting more developer money than any other – despite Jackson never facing any serious challengers or needing the funds. (Jackson spends more of his campaign funds on volunteer appreciation gift cards and lavish celebrations.)

Has Jackson been assured that the Ontario Conservative government of Premier Doug Ford will make true on its threat to overrule Hamilton City Council and impose a boundary expansion?

For decades, developer interests have controlled municipal politics. They provide the donor funding and staffing which run the campaigns that elect city councillors. Developers encourage their staff to volunteer on campaigns of candidates which support their interests. [The Municipal Elections Act does not regulate these in-kind contributions.]

Traditionally, municipal politicians have used their piles of developer funding to drown out criticism and highlight issues of interest to voters.

Modern advocacy organizations, including Environment Hamilton and Stop Sprawl HamOnt can overcome this financial imbalance using digital platforms to build their mailing lists and mobilize voters on issues.

Regardless of what Premier Doug Ford does, the scales of municipal power have tipped.

Today, $30,000 in developer’s money pales in comparison to a list of voters which numbers in the thousands.

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Putin says Russia will follow up fast after Ukraine call with Biden



Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that Russia would send ideas to Washington within a week to follow up his talks with U.S. President Joe Biden on the Ukraine crisis.

Neither side spoke of a breakthrough after the two-hour video call but they agreed to keep talking about what the Kremlin called “this complex confrontational situation”.

“We agreed we will continue this discussion and we’ll do it in a substantive way. We will exchange our ideas in the very near future. Russia will draw up its ideas literally in the coming days, within a week we will give this to the U.S. side to consider,” Putin told reporters.

The two leaders used Tuesday’s call to set out their opposing positions on Ukraine, which says it is braced for a possible invasion by tens of thousands of Russian troops close to its border.

Biden warned Putin that the West would impose “strong economic and other measures” on Moscow if it invaded, while Putin demanded guarantees that NATO would not expand eastward.

In his first public comments since the conversation, Putin said it was “provocative” to pose the question of whether Russia planned to attack Ukraine, and once again accused Kyiv and NATO of threatening Russia’s security.

“We cannot fail to be concerned about the prospect of Ukraine’s possible admission to NATO, because this will undoubtedly be followed by the deployment there of military contingents, bases and weapons that threaten us,” he said.

It would be “criminal inaction” on Russia’s part not to respond, he said.

“We are working on the assumption that our concerns, at least this time, will be heard.”


Russia, Ukraine and NATO have all stepped up military exercises as tensions have mounted in the past month.

Russian military aircraft were scrambled on Wednesday to escort French Rafale and Mirage fighter jets flying over the Black Sea, RIA news agency quoted the defence ministry as saying.

Russia’s foreign ministry said it had handed a note of protest to the U.S. embassy over “dangerous” flights of U.S. and NATO military planes near Russia’s borders.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy welcomed Biden’s “personal role” in trying to attain peace in eastern Ukraine, where Ukraine says more than 14,000 people have been killed in seven years of fighting with Russian-backed separatists.

Zelenskiy said he hoped Ukraine and Russia could agree a new ceasefire and prisoner exchanges when their representatives held talks on the conflict in Ukraine’s easterly Donbass region on Wednesday.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told Reuters the talks between Biden and Putin had served the purpose of “deterrence and de-escalation”.

A Russian foreign ministry official was quoted as saying the United States might be included for the first time in a group of countries working to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

RIA quoted the official, Oleg Krasnitsky, as saying there was no reason why the United States should not join the so-called Normandy grouping – comprising Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany – that has tried but so far failed to end the war.

“A lot depends on the position of Washington in settling the Ukrainian conflict. In principle, if the U.S. is really ready to make a contribution, we’ve always been open to America exercising its influence on Kyiv,” he was quoted as saying.

The remarks appeared to indicate that Moscow was open to an offer by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week for Washington to facilitate talks on the fighting.

In eastern Ukraine, some residents were sceptical that the Biden-Putin call would make any difference.

“We have been living in war for many years. And it is terrible that we got used to it. I don’t know what will happen next. We’ll see,” said a 55-year-old teacher who gave his name as Vladislav.

Alexander Pipchenko, 52, said: “It was pointless. It’s been going on for eight years already. In my opinion, it will not bear any fruit.”


(Additional reporting by Dmitry Antonov, Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber, Natalia Zinets, Matthias Williams, Sergei Kirichenko and Margaryta Chornokondratenko; writing by Mark Trevelyan; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

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Politics & Mardi Gras — together again – Daily Advertiser



The campaign trail that leads to the Governor’s Mansion has many pitstops, including but not limited to the annual Washington Mardi Gras celebration. 

Candidates have long sported tights alongside other parading Krewe members and navigated the packed confines of the 65th Parish bar. They often bring their teams as well to help spread the word, whether that means hanging branded beads from hotel doorknobs or simply ensuring the right people — like donors — get the right tickets to the right events.

Next month, however, the tradition will be slightly altered. With new COVID-19 rules being enforced by the Mystick Krewe of Louisianians and families and businesses back home still rebuilding after two years of hurricanes, some of the potential candidates for governor are either skipping the expensive shindig or adjusting their plans.

The decision-making process of each of the potential candidates offers us an early preview of who these politicos are, how they think and, most importantly, what their campaigns might look like. No one has officially announced for the big 2023 contest, but that will change sooner rather than later.

Attorney General Jeff Landry, who has yet to meet a vaccine rule he likes, has no plans to attend Washington Mardi Gras right now. That’s going to be an adjustment for some diehard conservatives who look forward to attending Landry’s annual fundraisers at the Trump Hotel.

Landry’s decision mirrors that of Congressman Clay Higgins, who said he opposes the “oppressive mandates” and new vaccine and testing protocols approved by the Mystick Krewe. Higgins, who is not expected to be a candidate for governor, said the event’s leadership “has apparently determined that free Americans are unable to be trusted with their own medical decisions.”

Over the years, newspapers have been critical of Washington Mardi Gras, since the event jams special interests, lavish spending and elected officials underneath one roof for what now seems like an entire week, rather than a weekend. In other words, some good government folks question the ethics involved in such a swanky party. Higgins’ decision to boycott, though, had The Advocate’s editorial team singing another tune. In an “Our Views” editorial, the paper suggested Higgins’ snub was ”unhinged from reality” and “we dare to say that the party will be a lot more fun without him.”

Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser is also skipping Washington Mardi Gras next month. “I gave up my box and decided not to attend after Hurricane Ida,” said Nungesser. “I can’t go up there for that while we’re still trying to rebuild across the coast. I’m working with groups that are still serving meals right now.”

Nungesser added, “My job is to promote Louisiana and to get people to come here, and everyone at Washington Mardi Gras is already from here. Now, I did go to New York last week for our float in the Thanksgiving parade to promote Louisiana. That was different. That was work.”

State Sen. Rick Ward of Maringouin and state Rep. Richard Nelson of Mandeville, who are also considering a run in 2023, said in interviews they plan to be in Washington for the January event, but will probably skip the posh events organized by the Krewe. They both described it as a personal choice, not a political one. 

Then there’s Treasurer John Schroder, whose own passion for Mardi Gras is rivaled only by the likes of Krewe legends like late U.S. Sen. Russel Long. He’s a longtime member of Endymion and set a goal for himself — even before elected office — to eventually ride with every parading krewe in Louisiana. So it comes as no surprise that Schroder is planning to attend. “For now,” he added.

He’s not the only one. According to Senior Krewe Lieutenant Tyron Picard, tickets for the various functions and rooms at the Washington Hilton are sold out. The annual gathering kicks off Jan. 27 at the Washington Hilton.

[Full disclosure: If you’re planning to attend, I will see you there.]

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‘Good politics, not too great epidemiology’: Ottawa’s new COVID-19 travel rules are a mess, experts say – Toronto Star



OTTAWA—As COVID-19 cases tick upward around the globe and evidence mounts of the Omicron variant’s rapid spread, frustration is rising over the federal government’s attempts to keep the virus outside Canada’s borders.

Since Ottawa imposed its most recent travel ban — along with new testing and quarantine rules — confusion has plagued passengers in airports at home and abroad.

Travellers stuck overseas and those about to depart have descended on Facebook groups, begging for clarity over which rules they’re required to follow, amid questions about why tough new restrictions have been imposed on some countries but not others.

On Twitter, airlines have repeatedly deferred to the federal government when faced with flustered customers looking for help.

The federal government, in turn, keeps pointing to its website, which contains incomplete information.

Even cabinet ministers couldn’t seem to nail down their message: on Monday, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino told reporters Canada was trying to “buy” itself more time to learn about Omicron, while Transport Minister Omar Alghabra told CBC Radio the following morning that the country was working quickly on its approach.

The scramble has an echo of the early days of the pandemic — something experts say could have worrisome consequences nearly two years into the crisis.

“We’re at this point where people are already fed up and fatigued. Even some of the basic measures that we’ve asked for people to do — like masking in indoor settings, trying to reduce social contacts — it’s very hard to keep that up at this point,” said Dr. Susy Hota, medical director for infection prevention and control at Toronto’s University Health Network.

“If you lose people’s attention because one issue becomes really confusing, and the communications aren’t clear … we lose those same people for other things that are important to communicate during the emergence of a new variant.”

Much of the confusion began last week, when Ottawa banned foreign nationals who had recently travelled through 10 African countries from entering Canada.

The decision to bar some travellers but not others makes little sense given the rapid nature of Omicron’s spread, said Steven Hoffman, director of the Global Strategy Lab and a former project manager with the World Health Organization.

“Border closures are also great politics, because it puts the emphasis that this threat is from outside of the country and puts the blame on others, as opposed to putting blame on a country’s public health response to the challenge,” Hoffman told the Star.

His assessment of the strategy? “Good politics, not too great epidemiology.”

Canadians trying to leave those 10 countries were suddenly required to have a negative result from a molecular test for COVID-19 — and to have the test done in a third country — before they arrived back at home.

“That doesn’t seem to be a reasonable policy. Why can’t they have a PCR test where they’re at?” said Dr. Anna Banerji, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health.

“If they’re coming here and if they’re coming from a country with a lot of Omicron, then they could be tested here.”

(Travellers departing from South Africa got a slight reprieve on Saturday, with a temporary exemption that allows them to get tested there instead of in a third country. Health Canada told the Star that the exemption will be extended or revoked based on domestic and international epidemiology.)

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Alghabra rationalized the move as creating a “cushion” between travellers’ departures and their arrivals in Canada, to ensure a more accurate test result.

But even for travellers entering Canada from countries that aren’t on the banned list (aside from the United States), the rules can still be nebulous.

The Public Health Agency of Canada’s arrival plans for vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers — which include an arrival test, differing periods of quarantine, and followup tests — are not yet fully operational.

“The government is steadily increasing the number of fully vaccinated travellers being tested to reach fully 100 per cent operational capacity in the coming weeks,” Health Canada noted in an emailed statement.

Travellers are still not fully clear on where they obtain tests, how many must be completed and how long they are meant to quarantine, which all depends on where they’re coming from and their vaccination status.

What’s more, the government of Canada’s travel webpage notes that anyone who can show proof of a positive result from a COVID-19 test conducted between 14 and 180 days prior to departure is exempt from any arrival testing. But Health Canada contradicted that in its statement to the Star, saying that travellers arriving from the banned countries must undergo the testing — even if they’ve previously tested positive.

“We’re seeing some early evidence that out of South Africa that reinfections can occur more frequently with Omicron — two to three times more frequently than we’ve seen with other variants,” Hota said.

“Just because you’ve had a prior infection doesn’t mean that you are completely immune to an Omicron infection,” she said, adding that at the very least, those passengers should be asked to isolate given that testing recovered people can sometimes yield unreliable results.

Banerji says governments have been dealt a tricky task in coming up with new rules — and having to implement them.

“I think it’s challenging for any government to make policies with so much uncertainty and a lot of unknowns. I would say that it’s really important … to stick to the evidence and the science rather than an emotional response.”


Raisa Patel is an Ottawa-based reporter covering federal politics for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @R_SPatel


Conversations are opinions of our readers and are subject to the Code of Conduct. The Star does not endorse these opinions.

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