A commitment to respectful dialogue: focus on issues, not people

This is a good time to republish the commenting guidelines for Ward 2 News, which were first created almost two years ago to foster vigorous and respectful debate in this online space. You know my commitment to community engagement – and to respectful dialogue. I’ve always believed that when the city, elected representatives and residents come together to share different ideas and perspectives, we make better decisions for our community. To invite the greatest participation from the most people, we need to focus on ideas, not personal attacks.

We have a lot of contentious issues in our city recently (and more to come) about which people have passionate views. Passion is good – it shows care and commitment for our community – so long as we commit to respectful dialogue – challenging ideas, rationale and opinion, but not each other.

That’s one reason we require full first and last name to Post here. It’s easier to make an inappropriate comment behind the cloak of anonymity. The guidelines also ask people to refrain from personal attacks, or assumptions of motives. Assume those who have a different perspective than you share the same commitment to our city, they just have different ideas about how to achieve that.

Let’s foster a space where diversity of opinion is welcome, and the focus is on supporting opinions with facts and evidence. That way everyone will feel welcomed to participate in the dialogue.

Below, are the full set of commenting guidelines.

Commenting Guidelines

The goal of the comment feature of is to encourage dialogue in the community on important issues, by allowing residents to share ideas with others, see how others think about an issue, express a range of perspectives, or even ask questions of me so answers can be shared with the community.

Diversity of perspective is welcome; we don’t all have to agree. We do need to be respectful of each other.

From time to time, comments on have veered into territory that tends to discourage rather than promote healthy dialogue and debate. The anonymity available via online communication has at times worked against respectful discourse.

Here are some guidelines before you comment, and our expectations before we will post:

  • Be civil. Would you speak this way to a good friend? If not, rewrite.
  • Focus on the issues. Build your argument and make your case in support of your opinion from facts, research or other sources. That way we can all learn. “I disagree with so-and-so because…” is fine; “So-and-so is naïve/stupid  for thinking the way he/she does and here’s why…” is not acceptable.
  • Don’t make personal attacks. Don’t assume motives of those you disagree with, make unfounded allegations, spread rumours, or engage in any other behaviours that would discourage you from participating if someone said this to, or about, you. The Golden Rule applies: Do unto others as you would have done to you. We will edit or not post comments with this type of content.
  • Say it once: When comments from the same individual or individuals become repetitive, going over ground already stated, we reserve the right to close commenting.
  • Use your full, and real, name. If wish to make a comment in public, we expect you will publicly stand behind it with your name. If you don’t want to publicly reveal your name, that’s fine; you are always welcome to share your thoughts with me privately via my email below. I welcome and consider all feedback in making decisions for the community.
  • Have fun, consider and learn. Share your views and read those of others. May we all benefit from a healthy exchange of ideas, and learn a little more about the people in our community, what you think, and what’s important to each of you. You may end up changing your mind about an issue; even if you don’t, we hope everyone will gain a greater understanding of why people have different perspectives.

These guidelines are effective Jan. 30, 2016 and are not retroactive. As new comments come in, they are expected to conform to the guidelines above to be posted.

Got questions or comments? Contact me directly at

Link to original post: commenting guidelines

Written by Marianne Meed Ward

A Better Burlington began in 2006 after my neighbours said they felt left out of city decisions, learning about them only after they’d been made.

As journalist for 22 years, I thought “I can do something about that” and a website and newsletter were born. They’ve taken various forms and names over the years, but the intent remains: To let you know what’s happening at City Hall before decisions are made, so you can influence outcomes for A Better Burlington.

The best decisions are made when elected representatives tap the wisdom of our community members, and welcome many different perspectives.This site allows residents to comment and debate with each other; our Commenting Guidelines established in 2016 aim to keep debate respectful.

Got an idea or comment you want to share privately? Please, get in touch:


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  1. Thanks to everyone for your comments. I wholeheartedly agree that respectful behaviour must go both ways and have observed occasions when residents have not been treated with respect, being argued with, set up with “gotcha” questions (of the “are you aware” variety) or other behaviours which make people not want to delegate. Council must do better to welcome all perspectives at council, and listen to what folks are saying.

  2. Respect and openness in a dialogue must go both ways! My predecessors already wrote about respect, or rather lack of it on one side. One may quess why is it so: public meetings and opinions are statutory; and that’s all, listening is not.

    I am asking why all these extremely important future Plans for Burlington have no authors?

    Are those very bad plans designed for irreversible destruction of historic Burlington downtown done by anonymous people? Why don’t “they” all go to our neighbours in Oakville to learn: how to preserve and grow at the same time?

    P.S. Thanks very much Marianne for being probably the last one, respecting and listening.

  3. I find this ‘republish’ of interest as it goes to the core of what is bothering a’significant’ number of Burlington taxpayers. Myself and I know others are not feeling respected by those whose salaries our tax dollars pay, whether or not they are elected or hired. The dialogue is reflective of the mood created by those same individuals – yourself Marianne excluded. Further to this Burlington residents are not alone – this is a growing disease within towns and cities regarding increased density for density sake – regardless of the outcome. My take is if the shoe fits then you better prepared to wear it – in other words if put forward a plan which is disliked that much, one need to take a step back and ask why do so many people dislike it!!!

  4. Hard to be respectful when the majority of Council is not.

    Hard to have civil dialogue when the majority of Council does not do dialogue.

    Hard to listen to other perspectives when the majority of Council does not listen or hear.

    Hard to make reasoned arguments based on facts and evidence when the majority of Council just does what it wants regardless.

    I could go on and on with this. This Council is a dictatorship of the deaf, with a grave but common affliction known as Blinders Syndrome – also known as BS.

    It is the majority of Council that veers in their demeanor and conduct into territory that tends to discourage rather than promote healthy dialogue and debate.

    You are demonstrably the only one bright light of truth – the only one who sees that it is always in the best interest to deliver and act on the truth, because there is no telling what harm will come of leaving out these details in the future.

    • I agree with Tom. After reading about the behaviour of council recently, I have to conclude that council has poisoned the possibility of civil discourse. “Dictatorship of the deaf” (MMW excepted) seems accurate.
      Someone I worked with ~40 years ago used to say that it’s difficult to soar like an eagle when your cohorts are turkeys, or words to that effect, and I’m afraid that this is currently the case in Burlington. I wish it weren’t….

  5. While I appreciate your perspectives on respectful commenting, the issues facing Burlington at this time involve specific personalities. I don’t believe that these issues can be discussed in the abstract.

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