Education

School Board Denies that Objections Were Raised to Joint Ward 2/3 Trustee

By Michael Borrelli
Published November 27, 2013

The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) has 11 trustees representing Hamilton's 15 wards. The HWDSB Governance Committee has just recommended that Wards 1 and 12 (Ancaster) be represented by a single trustee, and that wards 2 and 3 be represented by a single trustee.

Currently, wards 1 and 2 are represented by a single trustee, Judith Bishop.

According to a an email news release from Bishop issued last night, a board consultation with 392 respondents to an online survey across all 15 wards found:

[T]here was support for combining Dundas (Ward 13) with other Flamborough wards particularly as Ward 14 sends most of its students to Dundas High schools. But Dundas respondents were not in support of sharing a trustee with Ancaster (ward 12). The combination of wards 9, 10, and 11 was welcomed by respondents, as this will allow Winona to be shared with two trustees who will also cover Upper and Lower Stoney Creek and Binbrook and Mount Hope. (Previously Upper and lower Stoney Creek had one trustee and Winona, Binbrook, Mount Hope were linked to Ancaster and were represented by another trustee) There were no objections to the coupling of Wards 2 and 3.

I have to strongly object to these claims. Of greatest issue is the statement: "There were no objections to the coupling of Wards 2 and 3", a statement I can only assume the Committee used to help justify the combination of Wards 2 and 3 under a single Trustee.

This statement is patently false and a complete misrepresentation of the responses the Board received about such a proposal. How can I be so confident in stating this? I completed the online survey and noted my objections, and at least one other member of the Beasley Neighbourhood Association copied on an email letter of objection they wrote.

The HWDSB is already viewed dimly in downtown Hamilton, as its decisions have left gaping education deserts in our community, but am I to take it that the board has now stooped to misrepresenting the public opinion that it solicits?

On behalf of other Beasley residents who aired our grievances with the misguided proposal that would reduce the representation of some of Hamilton's neediest students and parents on the HWDSB, I demand an immediate response explaining why the HWDSB massaged results to their own survey.

Objections to the plan, sent both via the survey and email, were both seemingly ignored in coming to this decision. Perhaps it would not have changed the results, but it is disrespectful of constituents who responded to the Board's solicitation for input.

Michael Borrelli is a social researcher living with his family in the Beasley neighbourhood of downtown Hamilton. He tweets @BeasleyBadger.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted November 27, 2013 at 15:41:28

This would not be the first time the School Board massaged its data to reach a predetermined conclusion.

That said, the combination of wards 1 and 12 doesn't make sense either. Culturally, demographically and politically, the two wards are sharply different from one another.

It seems that they're being lumped together out of sheer expediency since Dundas respondents expressed opposition to sharing a trustee with Ancaster.

The lower city as a whole deserves much better than the dismissive treatment it continues to receive under this school board.

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By Huh? (anonymous) | Posted November 28, 2013 at 22:40:56 in reply to Comment 95194

I don't recall combining Wards 1 and 12 being shown as an option and when I just tried to look into this I found that the pdf's provided as background for the survey don't seem to exist on the HWDSB website any longer (even though at least one --- www.hwdsb.on.ca/ward/Current-Ward-Distribution-2013.pdf --- shows up when a search for "ward" is done on the site). Another pdf, which contained the numbers for the proposed changes as I recall --- /www.hwdsb.on.ca/ward/Proposed-Wards.pdf --- also seems to be gone.
Aside from this, I found the survey to be lightweight and lacking enough background information to allow respondents to provide properly considered thoughts when I did it way back when (and told the folks that put it out there that I thought so). I can't say I'm surprised by this article for second since it seemed right from the start filling out the survey that they didn't really want input, they only wanted to say they'd asked.

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By Huh? (anonymous) | Posted November 28, 2013 at 23:05:23 in reply to Comment 95280

Sorry... I guess I should have read all of comments before posting the above. It seems the Ward 1/12 combo idea came after the fact/survey. Can we have a survey on it please?!? The landscape's pretty different between Ray Street North and Trinity Road South.

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By Grande (anonymous) | Posted November 27, 2013 at 15:49:24

Why can we not have one trustee per ward?

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted November 27, 2013 at 16:30:38 in reply to Comment 95195

I'm not even sure why we have trustees at all. It's an elected public body where the candidates are so obscure and the media coverage is so minimal that the public is effectively playing Russian Roulette at the ballot box.

Just throw the whole body out and replace it with an advisory body of City Councilmembers and Ministry appointees. At least then the Ministry won't have this little club of nobodies to blame for their terrible policies.

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By Mark Coakley (anonymous) | Posted November 27, 2013 at 17:24:44

It amazes me that the HWDSB has the chutzpah to talk about teaching our kids "integrity" and "anti-bullying" when their actions set such a negative example. To add to the irony -- almost all the current members are NDP activists, who talk of helping the poor and disadvantaged; but when it comes to many board actions, e.g. the blatantly unfair closing of Prince Philip, they betray their alleged values, as well as betraying the people they are failing to represent. Sweep them ALL out next election.

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted November 28, 2013 at 20:25:30 in reply to Comment 95204

Ms. Johnstone appear to be cut from the same cloth as her mother Jan, an NDP activist in Kincardine who is also a longtime trustee with (and, more recently, chair of) the Bluewater District School Board.

http://www.independent.on.ca/site/?q=node/780

http://www.bwdsb.on.ca/trustees/

http://www.saugeentimes.com/441 Liz/New executive for Huron-Bruce NDP may 31, 2012/Template.htm

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By highwater (registered) | Posted November 27, 2013 at 18:51:56 in reply to Comment 95204

They have totally ruined the NDP brand for me. Could never bring myself to vote for them now, at least not at the provincial level.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted November 27, 2013 at 21:12:57 in reply to Comment 95213

I'm still waiting for any of Hamilton's provincial reps to mention this mess. Silence all around. We've got a party-leader and a cabinet minister operating in this city, and they're all silent.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted November 27, 2013 at 18:21:38

Very convenient that political allies Alex Johnstone and Jessica Brennan won't have to run against each other if Dundas and Ancaster aren't combined. Also very convenient that it will now be very difficult to elect a progressive candidate to replace Judith Bishop in Ward 1. But I'm sure those are just coincidences and they are simply honouring the wishes of the respondents.

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted December 02, 2013 at 22:04:07 in reply to Comment 95211

Another coincidence: Johnstone's motion to take an election year break in the accommodation review process.

https://twitter.com/SamCraggsCBC/status/407688878502719488/photo/1/large

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted December 02, 2013 at 22:07:40 in reply to Comment 95424

Johnstone's motion would postpone accommodation reviews in west #HamOnt, east Mountain & lower Stoney Creek by a year

"Trustee Peddle, participating by phone, says Johnstone's notice of motion is a way to prevent making tough decisions in an election year"

https://twitter.com/SamCraggsCBC/status/407689765710860288
https://twitter.com/SamCraggsCBC/status/407691439347228672

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted December 02, 2013 at 22:44:27 in reply to Comment 95425

Trustees vote to not have any school closure reviews during the election period

https://twitter.com/JoeyColemanLIVE/status/407693267594403840

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By Lawrence_t (anonymous) | Posted November 27, 2013 at 21:54:42

This seems basis for an OMB appeal. I too filled out the survey and expressed my desire to keep the existing boundaries.

They are rushing this as they must have this in place before December 31st I believe it is because next year is an election year. If not, this decision has to wait until a new regime is elected.

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted November 27, 2013 at 22:37:43

I sent the following message to Judith Bishop on November 1, and she acknowledged it by means of a reply the following day. As Michael explains, it is patently false for the HWDSB to claim that there were no objections to the coupling of wards 2 and 3. Will the HWDSB retract its untrue statement?

Dear Trustee Bishop,

The proposal to elect a single trustee from wards 2 and 3 together provides further proof that the HWDSB has nothing but disregard for residents of downtown Hamilton.

According to your own numbers, Ward 1 represents 6% of the population of Hamilton and 6% of the HWDSB students. Ward 3 represents 8% of the population and 8% of the students. So why on earth would Ward 1 be more deserving of its own trustee? Because it will have seven schools to Ward 3's five schools? Trustees are elected by voters, not by schools, and the greater number of schools in Ward 1 than in Ward 3 is simply a reflection of the HWDSB's systematic neglect of Ward 3.

Keeping wards 1 and 2 together would be much more fair.

Sincerely yours,

John Neary

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted November 27, 2013 at 22:55:07 in reply to Comment 95225

Note that the proposal in reply to which I wrote this message was to have one trustee represent Ward 1 (on its own) and another represent Wards 2 and 3. So the proposal to group Wards 1 and 12 would not be unjust in quite the same way as the original proposal to have Ward 1 on its own and put 2 and 3 together.

Nevertheless it is still categorically false that there were no objections to the proposal to put wards 2 and 3 together, however much the HWDSB might like to believe the opposite.

I think Pxtl has this one exactly right. School trustees exist to provide a charade of accountability, not the real thing. The whole system should be abolished.

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By Dawn Danko (anonymous) | Posted November 28, 2013 at 00:07:00

I'm also confused by the Board's allegations. I did not support combining Wards 2 and 3 when I filled out the survey either. Is there a way to have an independent review of the data?

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted November 28, 2013 at 07:45:35

FYI:

Hello Michael,

My apologies: I should have written" if ward 2 had to be coupled with another ward, there was no objection to being linked to ward 3 ( or for that matter ward 1)". This is what I heard at the school council meetings I attended. I certainly heard from at least 4 people that ward 2 should have its own trustee and this is reflected in the report on consultation

The question of representation of the lower city, and to maintain at least 4 trustee votes for this area, has been at the forefront of my position in these deliberations. As I spend the bulk of my time on Ward 2 issues as the Ward 1 and 2 representantive, ( the need to reduce child poverty, to bring additional child care spaces, to provide proper vision screening for children, to provide access to family services for which there are barriers, to fund a nurse practitioner in SJAM, to understand the needs of aborginal students and ensure the proper supports, to bring awareness of the Canada Learning Bond to all families etc) I am very concerned that there should be proper representation.

Here is the link to all the material presented to the Governance committee with the report on consultation:

http://www.hwdsb.on.ca/wp-content/upload...

Judith Bishop Trustee Ward 1 and 2 Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted November 28, 2013 at 14:43:13 in reply to Comment 95241

I do not agree with this:

C. Limitations of the Survey  Several  limitations  of  the  survey  are  noteworthy.    First,  it  is  unknown  whether  the  survey  respondents  are  representative of the HWDSB and the Hamilton community.  Therefore, it is unclear whether the responses summarized  accurately reflect the opinions of members of the Hamilton and HWDSB communities.   Second, the total number of  responses should not be equated with total number of unique respondents as it is possible that the same person may  have submitted the survey multiple times.    It  is therefore recommended that the results summarized  herein  are  interpreted within the bounds of these limitations.

This is the survey they put forth. They should except it as if they know every respondent was from Hamilton and that there were no duplicate entries. If they are not confident in their surveying system, they need to work on that next time.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted November 28, 2013 at 14:58:41 in reply to Comment 95267

A web survey is by definition not random or representative. As a reliable guide to public opinion it is exactly worthless.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted November 29, 2013 at 14:49:40 in reply to Comment 95269

I get that. But if you are engaging citizens in such a manner, you should accept the results. They wonder why only a few hundred fill these out and then they make a passive statement like that, basically saying to more or less ignore the results because we don't trust them. This decision simply needs to wait until a new term to broaden the discussion. They rushed this in one month but really this should be held off until all ARC reviews have been completed. We need as much representation as possible not less through these reviews and hopefully with how everyone has been following Trustee the past year or so, more people will be eager to either run themselves, or pay more attention to who they vote for.

As for Trustees value, I believe in it but not in it's full current context. I don't have the answer but one suggestion might be to lump Trustee wages on top of a councillor's budget. Those that hold these two positions should be working together because placement of new schools, school closures, partnerships, etc., are all part of the planning of our city and for council to have no control over this is absurd. Have less money from our taxes go to education and take that money and apply it to Trustee wages and have them paid by the City instead of the board.

We complain about councillors all the time and in some cases it's well justified, but at the end of the day they should be the one leader we turn to for everything involving our Wards. School issues could then be filtered to the Trustee to research and report back to the Councillor.

I have thought a lot about running for Trustee myself the past 6 months or so but I am not sure I would want to handle Ward 2 and Ward 3 together. A smaller focus I believe produces better results and Ward 3 is my home and I want to advocate and work to make it better.

I think about the role and as I see it, it's a position that could either be rewarding or stressful based on the relationships with other leaders and a very close working relationship with the Ward councillor and one that shares the same or very similar vision for the future of their Ward. Ideally I would be able to run on the premise that if the candidate for the councillor who I am pulling for, one whose values and vision are in line with my own, wins than it's a position (Trustee that is), I would love to fill.

I see it as just another thing I can relate to sport. Look at Ron Lancaster or now Kent Austin. Players and coaching personnel are eager to follow great leaders because they like working under them. They share the same vision of how to coach/how they liked to be coached/led. Both these coaches brought early results to Hamilton and they did so by bringing some coaches/players with them.

The problem I see with taking on a position voted on by the public, is that you don't know who your leader will be. I'd rather see as in the case with a head coach, a councillor follow the campaigns of the Trustees and upon being elected, hire who he/she feels will best assist them in representing the schools in their Ward. There are likely other positions Ward related that could be appointed by the Ward councillor(s) such as BIA heads perhaps?

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By highwater (registered) | Posted November 29, 2013 at 15:42:18 in reply to Comment 95310

They never engaged citizens on combining wards 1 and 12 in this, or any other manner, but that doesn't seem to be stopping them from justifying a completely anti-democratic and politically self-serving move.

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By go go (anonymous) | Posted November 28, 2013 at 10:02:24

On a similar but slightly different note... Rumour has it that Tim Simmons will be running for Ward 3 councillor. Excuse me while I start packing.

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By Steve (anonymous) | Posted November 30, 2013 at 13:32:49 in reply to Comment 95246

Worst kept secret ever, https://twitter.com/NoBernieMorelli

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted November 28, 2013 at 10:34:25

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By Chris Erl (anonymous) | Posted November 28, 2013 at 13:23:50

I can say unequivocally that the new ward structures will make campaigning very difficult for progressive candidates come the 2014 election. The large wards, multi-member seats, strange ward couplings (Wards One and Twelve comes to mind)…each of these changes will make it very, very difficult to elect progressive candidates next year.

I do want to challenge the assumption that the school board needs to be abolished. We need more accountability and more opportunities to cast a ballot on important decisions, not less. The response to a flawed system of government should be a movement to change it, not to abolish it. Our democracy has flaws, but rather than call it quits on the whole project, we need to have the courage to be a force for change.

Just because it seems broken and just because people don't have faith in their representatives and just because campaigning will be difficult doesn't let us off the hook from being engaged, involved, and active in next year's election. I, for one, am not going to let apathy take over and become a complacent citizen. I know we can change the school board…we just need to recognize the potential.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted November 28, 2013 at 14:33:48 in reply to Comment 95253

My objection to a School Board distinct from Council is that it doesn't make any more sense than it would make to have a Public Library Board or a Community/Recreation Centre Board. The location and operation of community schools is integral to urban planning, but it is entirely divorced from the democratic entity that exists to do urban planning.

The education-specific activities of the School Board are entirely determined by the Province, so the Board's main responsibility is maintaining its physical infrastructure, a task to which it a) clearly lacks the competence to perform and b) in any case is perversely incentivized by a broken school funding formula at the Provincial level.

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted November 29, 2013 at 10:52:58 in reply to Comment 95266

Excellent comments, Ryan--you bring up really important points. Trustees are an extra bureaucratic layer that add neither democratic or economic value. In Hamilton, as in other Ontario jurisdictions, they don't even pretend to be accountable, and some (like Catholic boards) just pander to small minorities of supporters who pay attention and keep them in office at election-time.

As primarily the board of a property management company, this board has abjectly failed over the past number of years to demonstrate good decision-making and has also failed at even pretending to be accountable.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted November 28, 2013 at 14:06:23 in reply to Comment 95253

Well stated Chris. I look forward to following your campaign.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted November 28, 2013 at 13:50:48 in reply to Comment 95253

Complacency is the default state of the public. Expecting more is only workable short-term, not with a permanent body.

There are reasonable limits to the level of engagement you can expect of the public. Voters have enough trouble voting for city councillors. Voting for something as small as a local representative on a local educational body seems even worse than the American practice of voting for District Attorneys and judges. How many people do you think could name their school trustee back in 2010 when we were making the decision that lead to this mayhem? 1 in 10? I doubt it was even that.

Voting requires engagement and informed decisions. Expecting voters to micro-manage the government is a recipe for uninformed decisions.

I don't want to have to care who my trustee is. I already researched a guy I like to represent me on municipal issues, and I voted for him into City Council. Council might be dysfunctional, but only because it accurately reflects the conflicting desires of its constituents.

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2013-11-28 13:53:53

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted November 28, 2013 at 14:27:53 in reply to Comment 95257

What if council candidates had to choose Trustees to run with them?

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By SCRAP (anonymous) | Posted December 01, 2013 at 19:26:50

Instead of doing research, maybe you should switch gears and organize on this issue, Mike. The old way of connecting to people on a face to face level is lost in our new world of surveys and social media. Makes more sense to have 1000's of people from both wards at the next meeting, protesting, picketing, expressing their true and democratic rights.

We all need to recognize that organizing people, the working class and poor which includes many in both wards 2 and 3, will be seen as a bad thing. Even Noam Chomsky wrote about this, we have seen it across the globe for decades now. When the poor ahve organzied and won across the globe, well, we have heard and been brainwashed by the powers to be thru corporate media.

Too many have been blasted with propaganda for decades now, to actually stand up and fight for something, we all wtached what happened during the G20, people who were not even involved with the protests were arrested, I even seen one police officer who said this is not Canada, it is G2- land.
corruption is everywhere.

Wake up people, you being led done a garden path of no return by the powers to be!!!

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By Joshua (registered) | Posted January 08, 2014 at 23:30:45 in reply to Comment 95394

Visit http://www.hamiltonlabour.ca/ for a start on meeting people, attending the district labour council, and getting that organizational work done. Also, the local chapter of the Council of Canadians, Hamilton 350, and the Campaign for Adequate Welfare and Disability Benefits, a similar strain to the anti-poverty group O.C.A.P., are all great to get to know. Honestly, it's rather exciting to think of how, once a community is connected to some political agency and recovering a sense of its own autonomy, other disciplines and forms of work can be brought into conversation with it; it's good to imagine a new world, beginning with the best of where we are.

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted December 02, 2013 at 17:07:44 in reply to Comment 95394

Thanks SCRAP, been organizing in Hamilton for a few years now (research is my paid gig), but only so much one person (or group of people) can do. One thing the BNA has been trying really hard to do is get new faces out at meetings, especially new residents looking for a place to connect with neighbours. The reality is there are dozens of issues to organize around, but not enough bodies to do it, so if you know of anyone downtown willing to lead people on school board issues, please send them our way. Unfortunately, the couple-dozen committed citizens I work with downtown are already busy with their own projects, and no one has time to pick up anything new.

But if you're volunteering to come down and connect with people on a face-to-face level, SCRAP, please join us.

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By Joshua (registered) | Posted January 08, 2014 at 23:21:21 in reply to Comment 95416

Is any of this face-to-face, neighbourly organization happening in Ward 7?

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted December 02, 2013 at 22:52:44

http://www.thespec.com/news-story/4251230-brennan-elected-to-lead-public-board/

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By TDR (registered) - website | Posted December 04, 2013 at 15:51:39

Just for the record, I also completed the survey on the HWDSB site and registered my opposition. In so doing, noticed that at least one school in Ward 2 was omitted from the survey entirely.

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By SCRAP (anonymous) | Posted December 07, 2013 at 16:06:41

Borelli: Thanks for the response. Yes I know organzing can be hard work to get people involved, not everyone is on socail media, thus you do need to do the street level education, letting people know when meetings and such are coming up and informing people why they should show up. I can be available. You can find me on facebook, under Steel City Rising
Against Poverty.

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By Joshua (registered) | Posted January 08, 2014 at 23:26:57 in reply to Comment 95673

I'm beginning to read The Net Delusion, a work about the fallacy that the use of social media and the 'Net will lead to democracy and freedom. It's at the public library at http://hpl.bibliocommons.com/item/show/5... My fear is that the digital divide is growing and those on the digital side are so caught up in participating in it that they are losing themselves: according to an article published in today's Hamilton Spectator, Canadians spend 90% of their free time staring at a screen of some kind. So, enjoy the read; brew some green tea.

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted January 08, 2014 at 22:40:36

Peddle, Turkstra, Glauser and Simmons are out thus far. That's like having five or six incumbent councillors throw in the towel.

One can hope.

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