Donald Trump Effect: What Bodes for Brampton

Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign. Photo Credit: Evan Guest

Several weeks have passed since Donald Trump was elected President of the United States of America, and in that time, we have seen a very different and sometimes unpredictable version of the person we saw on the campaign trail, having reversed several of his most extreme positions; for example, the wall might be a fence, parts of Obamacare are worth keeping, and some undocumented immigrants will be able to stay, to name a few.

Trump’s stance on trade however is likely to be firmly positioned. Trump argued during the campaign that trade policies unfairly targeted American workers. How he maneuvers during his tenure as President is likely to have consequences for Canada, and by extension, our cities.

Long before Trump decided to “get ISIS” or “lock up Hillary”, he had been vocal about unfair trade practices that “rip off” American industries. His favorite target was China, with whom the US has a $365 billion trade deficit.

That number pales in comparison to the trade figures for America’s largest trading partner, Canada. In 2015, the total amounts of goods exchanged between Canada and the US was valued at more than $662 billion. By comparison, Mexico and the United States exchanged $583 billion in goods. While the US enjoys a $12 billion trade surplus with Canada, its trade deficit with Mexico was $50 billion.

Trade in North America is subject to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which Trump singled out during his campaign. “NAFTA is the worst trade deal maybe, ever signed, anywhere.” he proclaimed on nationally televised debates. Trump called for either abandoning, or a “total renegotiation” of NAFTA saying, “We intend to immediately renegotiate the terms of that agreement to get a better deal for our workers. If they don’t agree to a renegotiation, we will submit notice that the U.S. intends to withdraw from the deal.”

Donald Trump has not clearly defined his position between how he sees free-trade with Canada so much as he has with Mexico, but the reality is that the deal covers the entire continent, and a renegotiation of NAFTA affects Brampton directly.

According to the Brampton Board of Trade, Brampton sees roughly $6.7 billion in goods sold to the US. Since NAFTA was signed in 1994, business between Brampton and the US tripled. Over 420 Brampton companies export to the US, and they consider the US to be their most important trading market, responsible for over 34% of their sales.

Over 23,400 Brampton residents work for companies in Brampton that export to the US, representing an estimated payroll income of over $1 billion.

Todd Letts, CEO, Brampton Board of Trade.

Todd Letts, CEO of the Brampton Board of Trade says that NAFTA “has resulted in company starts, more jobs and healthy incomes for thousands of Brampton residents.” He adds that it has “contributed significantly to our regional economy and supply chain, provided property taxes to build needed infrastructure and made significant contributions to many of our community amenities.”

Letts sees potential opportunities in a NAFTA renegotiation. He points out that supply chains in North America are “highly integrated” and that both sides in the deal heavily depend on one another, and that “attempts to unbundle it will be hard to do without hurting American jobs.” For this reason, he believes that re-visiting the deal is “an opportunity in that it reinforces the understanding of the magnitude of the market opportunity for businesses on both sides of the border.”

Trump may demand and win concessions from Mexico which would also apply to Canada. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has expressed publicly that he too, is willing to look at the deal, likely to gain a better deal in areas like softwood lumber, better arrangements for dairy farmers, and labeling of beef products.

For its part, there are things that Brampton should be doing to become more competitive in a globalized economy. Letts recommends that the City should invest more in Canada’s Trade Commissioner Service, a service hosted by Canada’s government, that helps companies that are looking to export, invest abroad, attract investment abroad or develop innovation and R&D partnerships. Doing so would help Brampton to diversify to other major markets like Europe and Asia.

When asked about the risks, Todd Letts points to uncertainty as potentially dampening business confidence: “Businesses don’t like uncertainty. If European companies were considering setting up shop in Brampton, to best access the US, they may hesitate or delay investment decisions, until there is more certainty in Trump’s thoughts on the free-trade arrangement between Canada and the US.” He added, “There’s always the risk that trade with the US will get more expensive or more complicated.”

“However, there is very little risk that specific products won’t have access. Our products are in demand.” says Letts.

Donald Trump is scheduled to take the Oath of Office on January 20, 2017, and is making preparations by assembling his cabinet and advisors. His recent pick of Wilbur Ross, a billionaire investor and critic of NAFTA, will become his Commerce Secretary. Their first goal is likely to begin to reduce America’s trade deficit with China, but in due course, the new Donald Trump administration will hopefully make clear just exactly what it is about NAFTA that they would like to change.


Fluoride in Peel – Two Views

Should the Region of Peel continue to add Fluoride to our water? Proponents say that it is an essential part of a comprehensive oral health program, while others claim it is a dangerous practice that must be stopped.

Earlier this year, Brampton Focus produced two episodes to listen to the opinion that water fluoridation is harming our residents and that it should be suspended immediately by our regional government; we also profiled the recent court action launched against the Region of Peel that claims adding Fluoride is unlawful.

Those episodes generated a tremendous amount of feedback from our viewers, both from those who agree fluoridation must be stopped, and from many who felt our coverage lacked the scientific opinions to back the claims.

After months of work, we are happy to bring you this very special episode of Brampton Focus, where it is all about the science. In this episode, you will hear from two undisputed experts on both sides of this issue.

First, Dr. A. K. Susheela, a medical doctor and Fluoride toxicity expert from India who has spent over 20 years studying the effects of Fluoride on populations that are exposed to it. Dr. Susheela has presented the results of her research to governments around the world, including the British Parliament. She is the executive director of the Fluorosis Research and Rural Development Foundation in Dehli, India.

Second, you will hear from Dr. Eileen DeVilla, the Medical Officer of Health for the Region of Peel, who manages the operations of Ontario’s second-largest public health unit, serving the 1.4 million people who live in the region.

We encourage you to watch this episode and learn more about this issue.


Steve Paikin’s Perspective on Brampton Billy

Steve Paikin’s newest book, Bill Davis: Nation Builder, and Not So Bland After All, has been selling since October, and if you are keen to learn more about Brampton Billy, you can get a copy from Amazon Canada and settle in for a good read.

Steve Paikin has had an illustrious career as a broadcaster. You know him as the inquiring and balanced anchor of TVO’s The Agenda, where he delves into current affairs and talks to the people that define Canada’s politics.

Long before The Agenda, Steve Paikin also worked at various other news outlets, and by his own admission, spent his most formative years working at the same time that Bill Davis ran the Province from 1971 to 1985, the second longest time that anyone has ever served as Premier of Ontario.

As a result, Steve Paikin has closely observed the political scene and is uniquely positioned to write about it. With seven books to his name, including a biography on John P. Robarts, the man who sat as Premier of Ontario before Bill Davis, and the tantalizingly titled The Dark Side: The Personal Price of a Political Life, Steve Paikin has established himself as an authority on politics in Ontario.

In this first ever authorized biography of Bill Davis, Steve Paikin tells the story of how a son from Brampton made an indelible mark on the history of this province and left the place better than he found it– achievements that include his work to modernize the education system.

The book took over ten years to write, including a long campaign by Paikin to persuade the usually modest ex-premier to work with him. The comprehensive work spans 569 pages.

In this special, exclusive interview with Brampton Focus, Steve Paikin explains his desire to tell the full story of Bill Davis; to tell it better. There is a lot for Bramptonians to enjoy in this show, and host Michael Charbon also delivers a special surprise for Steve; For details on that, you will have to watch.

Purchase your copy of the book at Amazon Canada.

Brampton’s Dragon Takes Flight

When Nicholas Desjardins visits his local Home Depot store before Halloween, he walks straight past the seasonal décor aisle and stops in the hardware section to pick up nails for his pneumatic nail gun. He’s not interested in any of the inflatable Halloween lawn decorations for sale; he has a different vision for his property.

In his mind’s eye, he sees a dragon. A really big one.

Nick lives at the corner of Peterson Court and Baycrest Road in Heart Lake. For the past three years, he has been building a massive dragon feature which the neighbours eagerly anticipate every year. “I love it.” says local resident Liz Sable, “I look forward to it. It’s neat to see something growing like that and knowing its from somebody’s imagination.”

Nick admits some people are not as enthusiastic about the creation as he is. City officials, responding to a complaint, have appeared at the home to inspect the dragon; “The City came yesterday.. Somebody did call,” he says. “They were impressed. They came by to look at the structure to see if it was well built, and when they left they said ‘Have a Happy Halloween.’ ”

The dragon is built of wood harvested from shipping pallets and two-by-fours reaching over twelve feet high. The pieces are arranged in a complex geometry that builds out the shape of the fabulous creature with details added for great effect. The construction, Nick assures, is completely safe and self-supporting. “I’m a builder and an engineer. There’s no blueprint whatsoever. It’s all in my head. It’s art.”

The dragon is designed to be lit at night, and Nick says that he will leave it up for a few more days so that residents can pass by and enjoy it. “I do this for the kids; they love it.”

If you do visit Nick’s dragon, please drop off a can of food or a non-perishable food item. All food received will be donated to the Heart Lake Community Food Cupboard.

Nicholas Desjardin.


Nicholas Desjardin. stands proud in front of his creation.


West Side Story at the Rose Theatre

Brampton Music Theatre is presenting West Side Story this November at the Rose Theatre. The production is a modern incarnation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet that takes place in a working-class New York neighborhood.

West Side Story’s score by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim is regarded as one of the best ever written, and the musical is considered one of the greatest of all time.

The story is centered on two rival gangs who battle for dominance on the streets. When a gang member falls in love with a rival’s sister, their fate is determined by the forces of hate, violence and prejudice that surrounds them.

Gabriella Farias and Klint Uzuni were cast to play the roles of Maria and Tony.

Gabriella Farias is a graduate of the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music and has studied at the prestigious Manhattan School of Music. She has played Maria in West Side Story before; as well as roles in The Marriage of Figaro and Les Miserables. Gabriella is dedicating her performance to her late father whose memory guides her today.

Klint Uzuni is “overjoyed” to be making his Brampton Music Theatre debut as Tony in West Side Story. Other than performing, he continues his studies towards the completion of a B.A. in Theatre at York University. His past credits include: Ragtime, Jekyll & Hyde, and Leader of the Pack.

This performance of West Side Story features one of the largest orchestras ever assembled for a theatrical presentation at the Rose Theatre. The production is co-produced by the City of Brampton, another first for Brampton Music Theatre which has been in operation since 1963. The caliber of expertise brought forward for the enjoyment of residents is unprecedented in Brampton.

You can learn more about Brampton Music Theatre’s presentation of West Side story in this special episode of Brampton Focus. Host Michael A. Charbon talks to both Farias and Uzuni about their experience preparing for their performance. We also talk with Katrina Gibson who plays the role of Anita, and Music Director Sharon Vandrish on why West Side Story is a theatrical event that you don’t want to miss.

West Side story plays at the Rose Theatre from November 10th to 19th, and tickets can be purchased at the theatre box office or online.




Andy Donato – A Political Rembrandt

Andy Donato is an artist. Andy draws cartoons about politics. Andy likes to paint. Andy is from Brampton.

When I was a kid, I had the opportunity to meet Andy Donato, the nationally-famous editorial cartoonist from the Toronto Sun who signed his work with a bird. He came to our classroom at the invitation of our teacher to talk to us about his love of drawing and painting. It was a positive experience that I now realize had an impact on my life.

Editorial cartoonists have a talent for putting on paper, via a sketch of caricatures of the political actors of that day, the prevailing opinions of the public at large. These cartoons often “hit the nail on the head” and can be quite accurate in their depiction of events; they cut through the spectrum of opinions to get to the heart of an issue.

During the 1960’s, Andy Donato worked his craft at the Toronto Telegram, a right-leaning publication. Then in 1971, he joined the ranks of the Toronto Sun, where he has been ever since, making us laugh at the political happenings taking place here at home, provincially, and across the country.

His work is a reflection of the political scene of the day; a portrait of the public’s opinion propagating through the airwaves. Not only does his work inform us, but it also helps to shape our opinions, crystalizing an idea within an image that perhaps we were unable to articulate ourselves.

His cartoons make you think. You may or may not agree with the message, but his cartoons have impact, and I believe they play a role in helping Canadians understand the issues, encouraging them to become more involved in the political process.

Like Rembrandt, Andy Donato depicts the interesting people of our time; not in oil or with subtle changes of shade and colour, but with stark wit and a well defined pencil line.

In his private time Andy paints landscapes, be they scenes from Brampton, or other rural and urban settings from around the world that capture his eye. Perhaps one day, his work will hang on a museum wall; I would like to be the first to line up and see it.

In a nod to his Brampton roots, Andy Donato recently received a star on Brampton’s Walk of Fame. Next time you are in Downtown Brampton, be sure to look for it.

In this very special episode of Brampton Focus, we talk to Andy Donato about his career as an editorial cartoonist; about how he did it. We also learn about his favorite subjects, and discuss the political landscape as it stands today.

You can see examples of Andy Donato’s paintings here.


Lorne Scots Regiment Honored

The Lorne Scots.

The Lorne Scots are celebrating their 150th anniversary with the unveiling of a monument in Gage Park that commemorates the Regiment’s founding in 1866. The ceremony marked a milestone that is held dear and special to military families across Brampton. The unveiling was presided by their Colonel-in-Chief, His Royal Highness, Prince Edward, The Duke of Kent.

The Lorne Scots Monument in Gage Park.

The monument, located near the entrance to Gage Park, is inspired by the Vimy Memorial in France, and features three columns; The left column represents “Duty”, the right column signifies “Honour”, while the space between the two stones represents “Sacrifice”.

The Regimental cap badge is supported by the columns which display the Battle Honours of the Regiment. A dedication at the base is adorned with badges and symbols of the Regiment.

In his remarks to the assembly, The Duke of Kent expressed his appreciation for the sacrifices made by the Lorne Scots over their many years of service to Canada, saying, “The monument represents the footprint in the community that the Regiment has had here since 1866; It will always be a reminder of the contributions the Regiment has made preserving world peace, and that it will continue to make in the years ahead”.

During his speech, the Duke of Kent also pointed to new Battle Honours that have been bestowed upon the Regiment, including for Afghanistan, and for the War of 1812, a honour in which the Regiment has “finally gained recognition”.

While the War of 1812 took place more than fifty years before the formation of the Regiment, Master Corporal Chris Banks of the Lorne Scots explains that settlers in this area “formed into groups and were the first take up arms to defend their homeland, joining with the British and Canadian militias.”  According to Corporal Banks, “These Battle Honours celebrate the honour and tradition of people in this area; It recognizes the patriotism of local Brampton residents over the last two hundred years.”

Monuments commemorating the 150th Anniversary of the Lorne Scots were also unveiled in Oakville and Georgetown, and a Trooping of the Colours ceremony was held in Brampton, attended by hundreds of Reservists and members of the public, with the Duke of Kent, as the Regiment’s Colonel-in-Chief, taking the salute.

The Lorne Scots Regiment is one of Canada’s oldest military units. They maintain three Armouries including the Canadian Forces Armoury, which is located on Chapel Street in Downtown Brampton.

Its members are Reservists who hold full time jobs, attend schools, and support families throughout the communities of Peel, Dufferin & Halton. They train part-time to be ready to respond to the defense needs of Canada.

The Lorne Scots Regiment badge cap bears the motto “Air son ar duthchais” in Scottish Gaelic, which reads “For our heritage”.

To learn more about the Lorne Scots Regiment and their history, you can visit the Peel Art Gallery Museum & Archives until January 15th to see the exhibit “Service and Remembrance: 150 Years of the Lorne Scots Regiment”. For more information, click here.

You can also find more information about the Lorne Scots Regiment on their website.

Guests at the monument unveiling.
Trooping of the Colours.
HRH, Prince Edward, The Duke of Kent.
Trooping of the Colours.

Global Roamer 2 Stops in Brampton

How many people can literally say they’ve toured the planet? Eleven years ago, John and Lynda Pinder started their trek to tour the world in a 4×4 camper-truck called the “Global Roamer”. They are now steering their “Global Roamer 2” and recently made an overnight stop in Brampton. We caught up with them to take a few photos and have a brief chat before they moved on.

The Pinders have driven right around the Earth, beginning in Singapore, and then on to countries in Asia, the Middle East, Northern Africa, and Europe. From there, they began a new path that began in Peru six years ago, making their way up and down South America. They have crisscrossed the United States and Canada, and are now completing the latest part of their journey. Their home on wheels is an impressive utilitarian machine that is capable of riding over any terrain, yet offers the basic comforts of home. Mounted over the cab is a set of Moose horns suggesting that the machine is moving forward and nobody can stop it. The Pinders have a motto: “It’s not the destination, but the journey” and indeed their story is a kind of modern-day megellanic odyssey on wheels.

Why did they stop in Brampton? “One of our nieces lives here,” says John. “We came and spent the evening with them. We had some local dinner and some local beer. We had a great time.” When asked about their thoughts on Brampton, John remarked, “It’s very multicultural.” Coming from somebody who has been everywhere, that is a badge we can be proud of.

You can read about their adventures on their blog.


Support the Neville-Lake Walkathon

If you live in Brampton, then it is likely that you know of the tragedy that occurred to the Neville-Lake family, when a drunk driver struck their family’s minivan, causing four deaths, including three children, Daniel, Harry and Milly, as well as their grandfather, Gary Neville.

To ensure that their deaths are not forgotten, family friends have organized a Walkathon that will be taking place on September 10th, 2016, at Chinguacousy Park. Please watch the discussion above and visit for more information.

You can participate by walking, you can participate by giving. You can do both. But please, do not do nothing.

Pokémon GO Invades Brampton

Anthony Crane and Michael Quarry-Chow stand outside PAMA, a popular Pokéstop.

By now you must have heard that Pokémon have invaded the Earth and everyone is looking for them. In Brampton, the craze has fully caught on. Sidewalks, streets, parks and just about everywhere you look, people are out, heads bent and intently checking their devices to find the next goal in the game, usually at locations called “Pokéstops”.

A player displays their latest Pokémon prize.

This isn’t the old version of the wildly popular card game from the 2000’s. Pokémon GO doesn’t involve collecting and trading cards. Instead, using Android or iOS smartphones, a user must navigate in real time using maps as they walk. Using GPS, the game experience mimics the real world and presents players with elements located at places of interest, including the Pokémon themselves.

The result is that normally empty streets are filled with players walking about as they engage the game. The activity goes on all day and late into the night. Even  at 1 a.m., the usually deserted Downtown Brampton is about as busy as during lunch hour. Over at Gage Park where the game shows several “Pokéstops”, over a hundred players are milling about.

Jipreet Kaur and friend Hunter Borges are part of the enthusiastic crowd. “We’re hunting Pokémon, this is a popular spot”, says Kaur. Borges justifies the late-night activity saying, “I think it’s good. It’s better than us sitting and doing nothing. It gives us a reason to interact with other people.”

It is clear that Pokémon GO has achieved a great deal of good, especially in Downtown Brampton, and in other places around the globe where the game has been released. People are out and having fun. One downside to the game has been safety, or lack of it. Authorities have been dealing with numerous situations where the game has led to accidents because of its distracted players. In Brampton, Peel Regional Police tweeted in response to the phenomena: “Always take care and be aware when crossing the street. #BeSafe #PayAttention”.

Pokémon GO has achieved in a small but significant way the dream of city planners everywhere. The game engages people (mostly young people) and utilizes our public spaces in the fullest way possible. Pokémon GO has transformed Brampton into the largest playground our residents have ever seen. It is exciting to see, even if it’s just a mobile game. While the game may just be a passing fad, hopefully the inventors of the game will find new ways to keep it interesting as players continue to discover our city.

Playing Pokémon GO in Gage Park at 1 AM.

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