Giving Thanks and Giving Back


Oct. 11, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving Burlington

We have so much to be thankful for. Burlington is a compassionate, connected community and a great place to live, work, and raise a family and retire.

As we take time to give thanks, we are also reminded that there are many in our community in need. The 2013 Vital Signs report from the Burlington Community Foundation, released last week, reminds us that there are many people struggling in ways that are often unseen. As a community, we are challenged with affordable housing, an aging population, and mental health issues. This is evidenced by the work of our social agencies, faith communities and service clubs that reach out to those in need including the 17,000 people in Burlington who live below the poverty line.

Local area food banks have reported critical shortages of food and supplies and increased need. St. Christopher’s Church recently opened a satellite food bank at 662 Guelph Line to help serve an increased need.

While we have much to be thankful for, we do have much to work on to ensure that Burlington is a great place to live for everyone.

Food Drives

This holiday season there are many ways to contribute and help share in the season of giving.

The 25th Annual City Wide Thanksgiving Food Drive is on until Oct. 17, supporting the Salvation Army Family Services and Partnership West Food Bank. The Burlington Fire Department is collecting donations for the Thanksgiving Food drive at fire stations across the City. Donations can also be dropped off at local area grocery stores.

Thanks to the Burlington Post for distributing donation bags to residences across Burlington.

The Gift of Giving BackThe Gift of Giving Back

I am always proud to share the story of the Burlington Eagles Hockey Club, and their tremendous efforts to support local area food banks.

Along with their partners, the Burlington Cougars Junior A Hockey Club, the Burlington Barracudas Girls’ Hockey Club, and Notre Dame High School, the Eagles have initiated an outstanding community food drive that in just seven years, has collected and donated an astounding 481,410.47 lbs of non-perishable goods during their food drives in mid-November.

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Two memos for Community Services Committee February 27: Recognizing Burl-Oak Naval Veterans and Furthering Transparency

February 25, 2013

I have submitted two memos to Community Services Committee this week. Both are important, for different reasons:

1. It is my honour to support a request from the Burl-Oak Naval Veterans to Name the Promenade in Spencer Smith Park Naval Veterans Walkway. The Naval Ships Memorial monument in Spencer Smith Park is regarded as one of the 12 best war memorials in Canada, attracting visitors from across the globe. Please have a look at the memo and letter.

2. In the spirit of openness and transparency, I have brought forward a memo listing the Activities Involving the Office of the Mayor during my current term of office. Following some questions from other members of Council regarding these activities, I am providing information regarding my level of participation, the funds raised and their intended purpose.

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A good place to start is with empathy

This column appeared in the Burlington Post on September 26, 2012 and is available online at–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.