Public Health Clinic Relocation

September 27, 2012

I have heard from many people that are very strongly opposed to the relocation of a Halton Region Public Health clinic in the city.  This opposition is based on the characterization of the clinic as a needle exchange program and that the community does not want the type of people that might use this service in their neighbourhood.

The clinic that will be moving from Lakeside Plaza to Fairview Street has been in operation since 1999. The clinic provides a number of public health services: oral (dental) health, stop smoking clinics, and sexual health services. The needle exchange program is only part of the sexual health services provided at all Regional Public Health clinics.

As the former Councillor for Ward 5, the Public Health Clinic at Lakeside Plaza was in my Ward. I did not hear a single complaint about the clinic and it was not a safety concern. The existing shops were canvassed regarding the clinic and did not have a single complaint. As Mayor, I have never received any comments or complaints about the clinic. There is no substantive information that suggests that there would be any community safety issues by relocating the clinic to a new location in the city. It is very difficult for me to understand how this important service is now a risk to the residents adjacent to Fairview Street.

The neighbourhood also raised concerns about the notice the community received about this relocation. Given the nature of the clinic, the applicable zoning on Fairview Street and the fact that this clinic has been in operation for thirteen years without complaint there was no requirement to conduct a public consultation process.

At the neighbourhood meeting at the Harvest Table Restaurant, it was obvious to me that the public was very upset and I indicated that a second meeting was required. This meeting is now scheduled for October 2 at Gary Allan Highschool, 6-8 p.m. (see attached). Recent calls now indicate dissatisfaction with the meeting format. I believe that the issue is with the decision to relocate the clinic. This will be an appropriate way for residents to get accurate information about the clinic and not to be intimidated to ask questions.

I invite all residents to come to the public meeting and ask the questions they feel must be answered. I will be in attendance and am fully prepared to listen.

As Mayor of Burlington and a member of Halton Regional Council, I see this clinic as an important service to our community. We strive to be an inclusive and accessible community and need to assure that required services are  available and accessible to all residents.

You can hear more in this issue in an Interview with Scott Thompson, CHML on September 25, 2012

A good place to start is with empathy

This column appeared in the Burlington Post on September 26, 2012 and is available online at http://www.insidehalton.com/opinion/columns/article/1508490–a-good-place-to-start

September, 26, 2012

Many of us have heard the story unfolding in the US election campaign about Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney referring to 47% of the US population as receiving some form of social assistance and government entitlements.  In a speech to a small group of loyal supporters he commented that this group made no contributions to society.  Regardless of who wins the US election, a significant portion of the country will vote for Mitt Romney and his party.

While we in Burlington are not directly affected by the outcome of the American election, and while we are all entitled to our own ideological views, the lack of empathy in this story is a real concern for me. It reflects a lack of empathy or compassion that has developed in our society and our own community as well.

The make-up of society is always changing. Changes in our economy and demographics generate much of this change as the ebbs and flows create different circumstances. The gap between the wealthiest and the poorest is alarming.

As an example, my generation was able to go to university and fund their education in a reasonable way. A summer job could pay tuition and books. Today, most young people do not have the same opportunity. Tuition rates are through the roof and young people borrow tens of thousands of dollars to get the education that we desperately need them to acquire to be a competitive society.

The province is under tremendous pressure to restructure financially. Healthcare and social services are under pressure. There are significant outstanding liabilities for pensions and infrastructure. If we do not deal with these challenges, we will be passing on to our children a society in worse shape than when it was handed to us, leaving bills to be paid.

On the employment front, we are struggling to see the job generation that we need. It is difficult to pay off student loans at minimum wage, never mind becoming part of the active economy.

In Burlington, as I say repeatedly, we live in the second best place to live in Canada, according to Money Sense Magazine. That does not mean it is the best place to live for everyone. We continue to have a poverty rate of 9-10% in our community.

Burlington is faced with the same social challenges of any other city: mental health, addiction, violence against women, gender equity, unemployment, underemployment, affordable housing, youth and  immigrant opportunities, support for those with disabilities, and many others.

Many try and help, whether it is financially or through volunteerism. We have many non-profit organizations that do excellent work to try to make a difference.

We can all contribute by being empathetic. Remember that there are many in our community that need support – your neighbours, colleagues, friends at school and family members. Showing empathy for others is a good place to start.

Welcome to my new blog

September 8, 2012

I’m pleased to start this new blog. This is a great way for me to connect with the citizens of Burlington, quickly, easily, and for you to connect back with me to share your comments, ideas and feedback.

I look forward to a continuing dialogue with you.

A few things about my blog:

  • Please note  that comments will be moderated to filter spam and language.
  • Comments posted on the blog will not become part of an official public record. The purpose is to get your feedback and to have a dialogue. If you have input that you would like to be part of official City of Burlington records or to be addressed to Burlington City Council, please email me at mayor@burlington.ca
  • I am committed to posting regular, timely content for discussion but if you have an immediate concern or emergency, please call the proper authorities or City Hall at 905-335-7600 or Information Halton at 311
  • I am the primary author of the blog, but my staff will help moderate and update information.

I ask you to use proper ‘netiquette’ and respectful language so that we may have an open and respectful conversation.

Rick Goldring