Darryl Wolk

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Election Season Arrives in Newmarket and Aurora

Posted by Darryl Wolk on May 6, 2018 at 8:00 AM Comments comments (0)

The month of May has arrived. With it comes election season. Voters in Newmarket will vote on June 7 for MPP and will vote for Regional Chair, Mayor, Deputy Mayor, Councillor and Trustee on October 22. Candidates for municipal elections in Ontario were able to start signing up officially as of May 1. Provincially, the writ will drop on May 9.

Provincial Election:

Newmarket-Aurora will be a riding to watch in this election. Historically it has been a PC riding since it was formed. Frank Klees served as MPP until 2014. In the last election, Jane Twinney was acclaimed PC candidate after a controversial nomination. Chris Ballard, an Aurora Councillor at the time became the Liberal candidate. Christina Bisanz ran twice unsuccessfully against Frank Klees. In 2014, Tim Hudak promised to cut 100,000 public sector jobs and this helped Kathleen Wynne form a majority government. Chris Ballard won Newmarket-Aurora in a close race and went on to become a Minister of Housing and the current Minister of the Environment and Climate Change. Under Patrick Brown’s leadership, Charity McGrath won another controversial PC nomination against Bill Hogg and Tom Vegh. Following sexual misconduct allegations, Patrick Brown stepped down as PC leader. Doug Ford became the new PC leader after defeating Christine Elliott, Caroline Mulroney and Tanya Granic Allen. After the leadership vote, the Newmarket-Aurora nomination was overturned and Christine Elliott was acclaimed the new PC candidate in Newmarket-Aurora. Traditionally the NDP is not competitive in Newmarket-Aurora. Trillium Party of Ontario Leader Bob Yaciuk is running in Newmarket-Aurora. Dorian Baxter (Elvis Priestley) is also expected to run. The Greens and Libertarians will also run a candidate. Most believe the race in Newmarket-Aurora will be between Chris Ballard and Christine Elliott. Current polls show that the PC Party will likely win a majority government with Doug Ford serving as Premier. 30 days is a lifetime in politics and a lot can change over the coming weeks. If Newmarket and Aurora votes for change, that mood might carry on to the municipal elections later this fall.

York Region Chair:

For the first time in York Region’s history, the York Region Chair will be directly elected. This race will be fascinating to see how it plays out in practice. The Regional Chair will be on the ballot in all 9 York Region municipalities. Candidates will have to appeal to Southern York Region voters in Markham, Richmond Hill and Vaughan. They will have to appeal to Northern York Region voters in Newmarket and Aurora. They will have to reach out to growing rural communities in Stouffville, King, EG and Georgina. Mario Rocco (former Liberal MPP) was the first to declare in the race. Current York Region Chairman and CEO Wayne Emmerson is expected to run. York Region currently has 5 provincial Cabinet Ministers. There is some speculation that at least one of them could seek the position of York Region Chair should the Liberals not form the next government. Current Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti has long been considered a potential York Region Chair candidate. Vaughan Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua has also been mentioned. Dave Barrow, Frank Klees, Julian Fantino and John Taylor are also names that have been in the rumour mill in the past. The regional level of government is very important. Human services such as housing, child care and income support are regional services. Public health, regional roads, public transit, policing, paramedics and economic development are managed at York Region. Hopefully the Regional Chair race increases the interest in the regional level of government and provides a democratic mandate for a regional vision that expands beyond the municipal boundaries of the lower tier municipalities.

Aurora Mayor Race:

Newmarket’s Southern neighbours in Aurora are lucky to have an exciting Mayor race. Incumbent Geoff Dawe has announced he is seeking re-election. Deputy Mayor John Abel who received the most votes as Councillor (Aurora does not have a ward system) enters the race with strong name recognition and a positive image around town. Tom Mrakas has been campaigning for four years and launched his campaign officially as well. There are rumours others could enter the Mayor race that has several strong candidates already. Local democracy is alive and well in Aurora. The Town of Aurora is well managed and is currently ranked the “Best Place to Live” in York Region according to MoneySense magazine. In 2014, I proposed cutting the Newmarket wards from 7 to 5 and paying them a full time salary to recruit better qualified candidates. Aurora has implemented this idea for the upcoming election cutting their Council from 8 to 6. That will make the ward races very competitive in Aurora. There tends to be more participation in local elections in Aurora as a result of the Auroran Newspaper. Metroland has been slow out of the gate covering the municipal and provincial elections in Newmarket and Aurora.

Newmarket Municipal Races:

Candidates in Newmarket are starting to come forward in the Newmarket municipal elections. Joe Wamback was the first candidate to declare for Mayor. It is widely expected John Taylor will file his papers for Mayor shortly. He has already declared his intentions on social media. The race has the potential to be close if it breaks along partisan lines, especially coming a few months after the provincial election. Newmarket has a position for Deputy Mayor and Regional Councillor. John Taylor is running for Mayor, leaving this seat open. Ward 1 Councillor Tom Vegh has already declared along with Former Ward 7 Councillor Chris Emanuel. Both of these candidates come with significant baggage and it is likely a third candidate will emerge before the July 27 deadline to enter the race. It is expected that Ward 1 and Ward 4 will be open seats. Tom Hempen is not expected to seek re-election and Tom Vegh is running for Deputy Mayor leaving his seat open. Jane Twinney (Ward 3), Bob Kwapis (Ward 5) and Kelly Broome (Ward 6) have already filed their papers. I expect Dave Kerwin will also file his papers soon. He has served on Council longer than former Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion. Christina Bisanz will be interesting to watch. She has a great job with CHATS and has the strongest qualifications on Council. Many saw her as a strong potential Mayor or Deputy Mayor candidate. She has not yet filed her papers and it is possible she has come to the conclusion that Newmarket Council is a waste of her time. The Mayor shut her down when she tried to raise important issues such as the empty buses in Glenway. The Mayor, Deputy Mayor and Councillors will lose their 1/3 tax break perk in the upcoming term of Council. The town’s own consultant has found that Newmarket Councillors are overpaid by 32% meaning a further pay cut is also possible following the election. Earning more than John Tory, the Mayor is also obviously overpaid by a huge margin. I expect at least one of the candidates to promise to cut the Mayor’s salary if elected. Several candidates are rumoured to enter soon and I would expect every ward will see a contested race. In 2016, close to 10 candidates stepped up in the Ward 5 by-election.

The Newmarket election will have many issues for candidates to address. The Mayor of Newmarket salary currently pays more than Mayors in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. At $212,000 it is way out of the range for a small town of less than 100,000 people. This point is not lost on Newmarket residents who currently pay some of the highest property taxes in the GTA. This term a new stormwater management rain tax was implemented further digging into the pockets of residents. In a desperate push for re-election, the Council voted in favour of a $43.5M land purchase all on debt. To pay for this “central park”, every resident will be hit with a new tax of at least $50 per year for the next 30 years. When property taxes, stormwater charges and the new central park tax is considered together, Newmarket will be paying by far the highest property taxes in the GTA. It would be difficult to argue this has resulted in better services than seen elsewhere in York Region. Newmarket pays some of the highest sports user fees in the province well above our neighbours in Bradford, EG and Aurora. Newmarket has become unaffordable for seniors on a fixed income, young professionals and middle class families. Our current Mayor and Deputy Mayor (who live 1% lifestyles on the taxpayer’s dime) seem out of touch with most local residents struggling with the rising cost of living in town. The high cost of rent and housing in Newmarket is a barrier to many and quickly becoming the top issue in town. Newmarket has very high development charges and there are few quality condo options in town. Our approach on growth is reactive and not proactive. Even if condos and office towers were proposed for Newmarket, we lack the ability to offer sewer and water allocation. Planning is done on the fly and today Newmarket is out of land.

Part of the reason for high taxes is a lack of industrial and commercial tax base to offset residential property taxes. Newmarket has no Magna or State Farm. Our economy is based on the public sector with most private sector jobs paying mostly minimum wage. Over a 5 year period, Newmarket created less than 100 jobs and has consistently placed dead last in York Region in job creation despite an economic boom in the region overall. Our manufacturing sector has been gutted. Local economic development efforts have failed and Council is lacking individuals with legitimate business experience. Most in Newmarket commute long distances to find work. Local job creation must be made a priority. The broadband initiative is going nowhere and Main Street has declined in recent years. There is no evidence so far that significant employment opportunities have come as a result of the new bus system.

Transportation is a disaster in Newmarket. Davis Drive bus lanes led to a decade of construction and came in at triple the budget. On Davis alone, the cost was over $300,000,000 or $100,000,000 per bus stop. At 2.6km of bus lanes, some have built subways cheaper. Similar to the Ghost Canal project, historically we will look back on Davis Drive and wonder what the heck politicians were thinking when this was approved. The same mistakes are being repeated on Yonge Street. Sadly the buses remain empty with some routes even named after the lone passenger who uses the bus route. Fares are the highest in Canada, well above the TTC. The biggest cost to Newmarket associated with the bus lanes was the lost GO Trains. Crossing upgrades and twinning of tracks will stop at Aurora station. Aurora is set to get all day, two way service every 15 minutes. Newmarket will get second rate service. Despite what the politicians tell you, Mulock Station and all day, two way GO Service for Newmarket is not funded or coming anytime soon. It is anyone’s guess how a change in provincial government would impact Metrolinx future plans. We need to return to the basics. There is no money to maintain our roads and a new road tax is being considered. Mulock onramps at the 404 are not completed years after the highway was extended North. The 404 is three lanes each way in Aurora, Newmarket only gets two lanes each way causing gridlock on the morning commute. The Bathurst extension has been a comedy of errors. The town is blocking an extension of Bayview Parkway to Green Lane that would provide easy access to the GO Station. Bike lanes have created an eye sore in our downtown and are used even less than the buses. It is a gong show of gridlock in Newmarket these days and “take your bike to work day” photo-ops will do nothing to change that. We need to get this town moving again.

Newmarket also has a huge issue with cronyism. Town assets and streets are always named after politicians or their friends. Campaign worker Jackie Playter has received more awards than Connor McDavid. Events have become lame and feel like going through the motions on the calendar each year. Often times nobody attends the events beyond the politicians who want photo-ops and the same usual suspects. The Farmer’s Market is OK but nothing different than Farmer’s Markets in other communities. We have nothing close to the Aurora Street Festival or Bradford Carrotfest in our town. Every municipality does something on Canada Day. Ray Twinney Complex, Fairy Lake and Riverwalk Commons are all underutilized. The Newmarket Jazz Festival charges for local acts and last year went head to head with Aurora Ribfest that was free with legitimate headliners. Newmarket Day would restore local pride in town and has the potential to be a huge event if implemented. Over the last three years, the best events in Newmarket were organized by someone other than the town. Newmarket currently lacks an identity in the GTA and is the posterchild of a sleepy suburb with no much happening. The opposite is true in Aurora. Before Newmarket politicians call Newmarket “the best place to live in Canada” we need to at least show we can compete with our neighbour Aurora on the issues that matter.

Incumbents have not put much effort into their jobs. Many miss meetings routinely. Very few Council meetings lasted longer than an hour this term. Many would have been 15 minutes had Newmarket Hydro or the Library not done a deputation. Some members of Council sat there four years without saying a single word unless it was written in advance by staff. This is unacceptable for a board of directors of a $100,000,000 corporation. There is a growing public mood for change, but so far not many candidates stepping up to deliver that change.

Please get out and vote!

Local democracy is important and your vote matters! Please take the time in both the provincial and municipal elections to learn about the candidates, their platforms and their vision for the town, region and province. There are many important issues that require debate. In the past, turnout has not been great. Democracy fails if apathy occurs and people do not participate in the process. On June 7 and on October 22, please take the time to get out and vote!


2017 Newmarket Council Report Card

Posted by Darryl Wolk on September 29, 2017 at 12:45 AM Comments comments (2)

2017 Newmarket Council Report Card:

The last time Newmarket voted for municipal and regional Council was October of 2014. Three years later is a good time to review the results from our Council with a report card. In the election year promises will be thrown around, photo-ops will be plentiful and incumbents will appear at the doors soon. This time May 1 is the earliest a candidate can enter any Ontario municipal race officially. Candidates can spend a maximum of $25,000 of their own money to run or up to the spending limit if it is below that figure. Corporations and unions will be banned from making donations. Council will pass the 2018 budget soon, taxes will go up and Christmas will be here soon. Before we enter the lame duck year where all attention will be focused on the re-election, let's take an objective look at the performance thus far from our Newmarket Councillors. My report card:

Tony Van Bynen: D

In 2014, it was revealed by the Toronto Star that Newmarket Mayor Tony Van Bynen was the fourth highest paid Mayor in Canada. Making over $200k, Newmarket taxpayers have reason to expect top results against the performance of any Mayor in Canada. How does Van Bynen's performance compare to John Tory, Bonnie Crombie, Linda Jeffrey, Frank Scarpitti, Jim Watson, Denis Coderre, Gregor Robertson and Naheed Nenshi? Obviously our Mayor is not in the same league as these other Mayors in terms of results or credentials. Newmarket is not Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Mississauga or Markham. The Mayor's compensation should be in line with comparable towns. After years of being mislead with facts hidden from the public, it is now accepted that Newmarket has the most overpaid Mayor in Canada. Sadly, despite the generosity of taxpayers, the results have simply not been there.

The Mayor is in the twilight of his third term and is expected to retire at the end of the term. He sleeps at Regional Council and is only concerned with procedure at Newmarket Council. Newmarket pays higher property taxes than our neighbours in Aurora, EG, Stouffville, Markham, Vaughan and Richmond Hill. The only accomplishment this term has been a new storm water charge that is basically a tax on the rain. We pay more than our neighbours with Newmarket Hydro than who are served by Alectra. A report found that Newmarket is dead last in job creation within York Region. Rather than take action to create jobs, our Mayor took action to change the Regional staff report. Everyone in town can see that if you are not working for the government, there are mostly minimum wage jobs in Newmarket at the mall or the call centre. As a result, we are a commuter town that is a sleepy suburb of Toronto. Newmarket bungled our biggest investment in a century by choosing bus lanes on Davis and Yonge over GO Trains that will now be all day, two way between Aurora and Union. On growth the record is particularly bad with Glenway, Hollingsworth, Slessor Square and the Clock Tower mismanaged badly. Events have got stale. There is no vision or new ideas at Newmarket Council these days. Meetings are less than an hour. Newmarket has no identity and our issues are not on the radar at Queen's Park or the Parliament of Canada. We are the GTA's invisible community that lives in the shadow of Aurora. According to Money Sense we are in decline and are now a top 100 community according to their survey. Top 10 a fading memory as the Mayor continues to spin his positivity nonsense. Newmarket is likely to go through the motions until John Taylor becomes Mayor in October of 2018. Expect many selfies with his buddy Geoff Dawe in Aurora who is also a lame duck Mayor over the next 12 months. Now that Jackie Playter has gotten her award for supporting him politically, his work is done in Newmarket. His legacy is defined. In 2018, Tony will announce his retirement or he will be retired by Taylor. The only positive that prevented a fail on the report card is the fact this term will be over soon and some kind of change will follow.

John Taylor: B+

John Taylor is going to be the next Mayor of Newmarket. 2018 will be his fourth town wide election. He also ran for Liberal MPP and his family has decades of experience with elections in town. To his credit, he attends all meetings and is prepared and ready to speak at town and regional Council. His big move this term was running for Regional Chair. His smartest move was flip flopping at the last minute and throwing the Clock Tower project into limbo. It was good politics. He is heavily campaigning now and keeping a very busy schedule attending events, setting up coffee meetings and getting his campaign donors in place. He is the only candidate who can raise the maximum $60k for an election campaign and has most of the establishment, town cronies and big money donors locked up on his team. His name is plastered everywhere in town and his name recognition is high. The Era and Snapd are in his pocket and his social media has ramped up now that we are loser to the election. Expect him to interfere in the regional and ward races and try to run a slate of candidates behind the scenes. On Council he controls Twinney, Hempen, Kwapis and Broome giving him an automatic majority already. The only reason he does not get an A on his report card is because he has the power to take control of the Council, show some leadership and address some of the major issues facing the town right now. Instead he is focused on campaigning and looking past 2018. Everyone knows John Taylor is ambitious and wants the Mayor's job. The question is what will he do when he gets it? I ran against John Taylor and don't agree with him on many issues. At the same time, I have to acknowledge that it is obvious he is in a league of his own well beyond anyone on Newmarket Council at this time. In my view, he will be close to impossible to beat in the 2018 Newmarket Mayor's race. A regional candidate may try and run on his coattails but it is unclear how much of Taylor's support will influence other town wide races. While the Mayor's race is pretty well wrapped up, the Regional Councillor/Deputy Mayor race will be the most interesting to watch.

Tom Vegh: C+

Ward 1 is represented by Tom Vegh. He has shown good ambition running for the Ontario PC nomination and placing third. He is the most likely candidate to challenge for the regional seat once John Taylor announces he is running for Mayor. Right now that race looks wide open. Ward 1 is an expensive place and most residents commute to pay their astronomical property taxes in that area. They have busy lives and jobs disconnecting them from the establishment and Council. It is unlikely many will quit their jobs on Bay Street for a part time Ward Council gig. Vegh is a crafty campaigner and won't be defeated in his ward easily. I suspect he could be re-elected as Ward 1 Councillor but will decide to go for a promotion to Deputy Mayor instead. It will be interesting to see if he views himself as better than the existing competition.

Dave Kerwin: A

Dave Kerwin has represented Newmarket and Ward 2 for as long as Hazel McCallion was Mayor of Mississauga. From Ray Twinney to Tom Taylor to Tony Van Bynen he has seen it all at Council. Have an issue? Dave will cook you breakfast and discuss it. Garbage not picked up during an ice storm? He will drop by with his car and pick it up himself. Too old to campaign? He will defeat you with his rolling thunder sign strategy and surprising energy. He is friendly and treats cronies and critics with the same kindness and respect. He deserves his A because he stood up to the Mayor on downtown parking and inappropriate development on Leslie. He had the guts to speak the truth by pointing out that our Mayor "is not a leader". It would be an A+ if that sense of independence, opposition and outspokenness came out more often. Dave Kerwin will register May 1 as a candidate for Ward 2. This is close to a safe seat for Kerwin.

Jane Twinney: F

I am not sure Ward 3 is represented, but on paper Jane Twinney is my Councillor. Her performance has been terrible to be diplomatic. In fact, she is competitive for Ontario's worst Council representative. She misses Council meetings routinely and almost never shows up to town events. She holds her ward meetings outside the ward and outsources the content to John Taylor and town staff. She quit on the ward to run for the Ontario PC nomination and hasn't been heard from since the election. When she updates her social media it is to tell us she is on vacation. There has been no communication on the Glen Cedar baseball diamond yet to be replaced, the Hollingsworth fiasco, the monster home on Elgin or the EG plans for Green Lane. She attacked Victor Woodhouse in the last campaign for living outside Ward 3 and quickly packed up and left the Ward after she was re-elected despite campaigning on living here. Her focus has been a magazine for Stonehaven Living while Leslie Valley and the rest of the Ward get zero attention or representation. The same is true for the businesses on Harry Walker and Davis Drive in Ward 3. This is an example of stealing a paycheque. Jane will have a lot to answer for if she decides to run again in 2018. Of all the wards in Newmarket, this seat is the most likely to change in October 2018. Past elections between Jane and Victor were very close. If Victor Woodhouse runs again this time, he will win as Jane's popularity in the ward is falling fast.

Tom Hempen: C

Tom Hempen is the Councillor in Ward 4 and ran against Larry Blight after he voted to increase his own pay. He promised a fair share for Ward 4. He is now in his second term of Council and the question is does he still want the job? Frankly he is a successful business man and has better things to do with his time. He doesn't need the money or the hassle that comes with being a Ward Councillor. He doesn't live in his ward and is not passionate about any particular issue in town. He does do his job showing up for meetings and has the potential to add a strong business perspective to Council that is otherwise lacking business experience. Currently there are no obvious challengers on the horizon willing to run in Ward 4. It would be interesting if Gordon Prentice stepped up and ran for this seat. Many of speculated this seat could change as it is unclear if Tom Hempen is running for re-election.

Bob Kwapis: B-

Bob Kwapis won his seat in a 2016 Ward 5 by-election. I ran and was the runner-up in a race that had close to 10 candidates. Since the election, Bob has been responsive to constituents, attends events and has been present at Council meetings. He seems eager to learn and is well positioned for 2018 with his recent sign list and support from John Taylor and Jackie Playter in Ward 5. The Clock Tower OMB hearing will happen just prior to the next municipal election. That could be trouble for Kwapis if the developer wins. He was wise siding with Taylor and voting against the Clock Tower after campaigning in support of it during the by-election. I will not be running in a Newmarket Ward election in 2018 and unfortunately Tracee Chambers did not file her financials banning her from running next time. Unless Joe Sponga returns in 2018, Bob Kwapis is looking like a safe bet for re-election next year. Keep in mind Ward 5 is the most engaged Ward in Newmarket. There are plenty of strong potential candidates who could step up and give Bob a run for his money. Outside of Ward 5, very few people care about Newmarket municipal politics.

Kelly Broome: D

Ward 6 is represented by Kelly Broome, but is known as "Maddie's Ward" around town. The ward was previously represented by Maddie Di Muccio who represented the sole opposition voice last term. Her tactics and style made her a lot of enemies and eventually the establishment worked together to bully and defeat her through Kelly's campaign. Some such as Snapd, went as far as to send out anonymous attack flyers against Maddie and her husband in support of their preferred candidates. Maddie has "retired" from politics and Kelly is serving her third year on Council and is still learning the job. She is present at all Council meetings but rarely speaks. She promotes her "community" work paid for through her job at New Roads. She sponsors all her posts on Facebook without rhyme or reason possibly using taxpayer money. Beyond that she hasn't contributed much and it would be difficult to argue Ward 6 is better represented today than it was with Maddie Di Muccio. At least Maddie attempted to raise legitimate issues and spoke up for her ward. Council meetings were longer and more entertaining. The general consensus in town is that Kelly has been a disappointment as a Councillor. Will the establishment support her in 2018 to the same extent they did in 2014? Is Maddie really done? There are plenty of strong potential quality candidates both from the establishment and opposition side who could step up in 2018. Similar to Ward 3, this seat is very winnable and a good place for challengers to target.

Christina Bisanz: A-

Ward 7 is represented by Christina Bisanz who showed leadership during the Glenway issue. She is the only upgrade from previous representation this term on Newmarket Council. On paper, Christina Bisanz has the strongest resume and is the most qualified member of Council. She has an important job, balances it well with her Council responsibilities and is generally liked and respected by most in town. She is connected to the Wynne government and she gave Frank Klees a good run for his money in two elections running for MPP. She would win the Regional Councillor/Deputy Mayor seat easily if she ran in 2018. Due to her career, it is likely she will pass on the Regional race but will win re-election in Ward 7 if she runs. The Mayor outsourced OMB reform to Bisanz and she has handled the file well. The only reason Christina gets an A- instead of an A is because she has not been willing to use her qualifications and take independent positions on Council. Debate is not good with 9-0 votes. Christina showed independence early on with the empty bus issue but was quickly shut down by the Mayor and Taylor. She has now realized being part of the establishment is easier than going against it. She also needs to tone down some of the Liberal partisanship as Newmarket-Aurora is a blue leaning swing riding and she doesn't need to alienate voters unnecessarily. Overall her potential is highest on the current Council and it is hard to imagine an scenario where she is not elected to whatever position she runs for. She is probably the strongest female politician in town right now. Her time is right now..

2018 Election:

In October 2018, Newmarket voters will elect a Regional Chair, Mayor, Deputy Mayor, Ward Councillor and Trustee. The election is about a year away and the campaigning has already started, at least behind the scenes. It has been a quiet term with few results. Apathy is strong among residents and the opposition has gone silent. The Era no longer covers Newmarket Council or York Region Council and is reliant on taxpayer money to survive. Nobody should expect meaningful coverage of local politics or the upcoming election from the Era. Snapd is a chronicle of cronies and is not worth picking up if you are not connected to Council. The Chamber will play games, help incumbents during debates and stay silent on the issues relevant to their membership. New blood is needed in Newmarket for the 2018 but who will step up against a powerful establishment holding our town back? The biggest threat now is that nobody will step up and as a result nothing will change. That would be sad news for local democracy and result in Newmarket continuing to fall behind our neighbours in Aurora, Bradford, EG, Stouffville and King while being invisible in the rest of the GTA. It is time to wake up Newmarket! The election is not far away...

Thank you for reading,

Darryl Wolk 

Former Candidate

Local, Provincial and Federal Elections in Newmarket-Aurora Impact Us More Than Trump

Posted by Darryl Wolk on June 22, 2017 at 11:30 AM Comments comments (2)


After Donald Trump, people are tired of elections and politics these days.  At home, Justin Trudeau is getting close to the half way point in his first term as Prime Minister.  Conservatives have elected a new leader Andrew Scheer and the NDP will select a new leader this fall.  The next federal election will take place in 2019. Americans will vote for President in 2020.


In Ontario, provincial and municipal elections will take place in 2018. Premier Wynne is expected to lead the Ontario Liberals into the next election. They have been in power since 2003 when Dalton McGuinty was first elected.  The Ontario PC Party will be led by Patrick Brown and Andrew Horwath will fight another election as leader of the Ontario NDP. In Newmarket-Aurora, Minister Chris Ballard will face Ontario PC Party Candidate Charity McGrath in the race for MPP.  Newmarket-Aurora is a crucial 905 swing riding that has a history electing Conservatives such as Lois Brown, Frank Klees and Belinda Stronach. Currently the seat is held by Liberals both provincially and federally with Chris Ballard first elected in 2014 and Kyle Peterson first elected in 2015.  The provincial election will take place on or before June 7, 2018.


The results in the provincial election will have an impact on municipal politics across Ontario. Do not be surprised to see defeated or retiring MPPs take a stab at municipal politics in October of 2018.  In York Region, there will be a new race on the ballot.  For the first time, voters will elect the York Region Chair position.  Wayne Emmerson has said he will seek re-election, but it will be interesting to see who challenges him.  Frank Scarpitti and Maurizio Bevilacqua would be strong contenders from York Region Council if they decided to run.  Helena Jaczek would be a strong contender from Queen’s Park with a history at York Region. Many have suggested Frank Klees. This race has a strong potential to raise interest in regional politics.  The next Chair will have to win votes in Markham, Vaughan, Richmond Hill, Newmarket, Aurora, Georgina, East Gwillimbury, Stouffville and King. Urban and rural dynamics come into play in the third largest municipality in Ontario. The costs to cover the region in terms of signs, mailouts and advertising will be in the hundreds of thousands for a credible campaign.  As contenders come forward, this race will be fascinating to watch as it has never been done before. Hopefully it leads to the public and Council buying into a common vision for the future of York Region.


In Newmarket, it is almost a guarantee that John Taylor will be the next Mayor of Newmarket. It does not matter if Tony Van Bynen decides to run again. From experience, I can tell you John Taylor is close to impossible to defeat.  The real interest will be the Ward races and the Deputy Mayor/Regional Councillor race that is wide open at this point.  In the Ward 5 by-election, 8 candidates came forward and several others considered entering the race.  Hopefully this interest extends into 2018 where several candidates in each ward could come forward. Ward 2 and 7 are likely safe seats if the incumbents run for re-election, but the rest are winnable.  The Deputy Mayor race could steal the show depending on who from the establishment and opposition runs. Outside of Christina Bisanz who may or may not run, there is no obvious frontrunner.  Trustee elections will be interesting. The Catholic board is quiet, but YRDSB has been a disaster with everything that has been reported on in the Toronto Star. Sweeping change at the trustee level is very possible. Pretty much nobody will pay any attention to Newmarket politics until the provincial election wraps up in June of 2018. Regardless people are starting to think about their plans right now and will be working the local festival and photo-op event circuit this year and next.


As a Newmarket resident, I will always be interested in local politics.  I love are community and its people.  Democracy is important and we are fortunate to live in a country where we can choose our own government.  Donald Trump will no doubt steal the spotlight and attention, but closer to home we have elections at the local, provincial and federal level before Americans have another Presidential election. Local, provincial and federal representatives will have more of an impact than Trump on our every day lives.  It is important for Newmarket residents to stay focused, informed and engaged on our own politics. We vote provincially in June 2018. We vote locally October 2018. We vote federally October 2019. Let’s make sure we give these upcoming elections the attention they deserve.

"Fake News" and the future of the Mainstream Media

Posted by Darryl Wolk on January 15, 2017 at 3:10 PM Comments comments (0)

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June 1, 1980 CNN launched their 24 hour cable news network.  Just over a year later MTV launched.  It resulted in major change for both the news and music industry at the time. In music video killed the radio star. In news, we began to see a change in how people get informed about the world around them. Network television and the trusted news anchor was threatened as people tuned into to CNN around the clock, not just during the evening news cast. Newspapers at the time realized they could not compete for breaking news, but placed their focus on investigative reporting, covering stories in-depth and providing expert commentary.

It is hard to imagine life today without the internet. I remember logging on in 1995 for the first time and there was not much to do. A few companies and news organizations had websites. ICQ and MSN messenger allowed us to keep in touch with our friends. Blogging on a variety of topics including politics, sports, travel and healthy living started to gain in popularity. In 2004, Facebook was launched and ten years ago Twitter was launched. At the turn of the century, even the internet changed as all companies were expected to have an online presence, users across all demographics connected online and smart phones gave us the opportunity to be online all the time. Today 40% of Canadians get their news online, 68% for those under 35.

When I was in first year University, Napster and MP3 technology was just taking off. Rather than adapt early to the technology, they resisted it. Music listeners faced fear of being fined, downloading a virus and were constantly told that quality was less than a CD version of the same music.  Consumers were expected to purchase full albums and in many cases, people would pay $20 for 1 quality song out of 10. As people stole music, the recording industry saw it as losing sales in every circumstance. Few saw the value in discovering new bands, old music or genres of music that they would have otherwise not been aware of. As technology changed, the industry reacted to it in very different ways. Some bands embraced YouTube to get exposure and placed their focus on touring revenue. Major record labels and record stores resisted technology and refused to change. Stores like Sam the Record Man went under, others like HMV reduced their focus on CDs and got into video games and DVDs. Record labels stopped investing in marketing of their stars and as a result provided limited value to their clients. As the trend towards illegal downloading slowed, Apple jumped on the technology offering a legal way to download music through iTunes and various MP3 players. While companies like HMV struggle to survive, Apple has made explosive profits and now has one of the most expensive stock prices on the market.

I see the current news industry in the same boat as the recording industry when Napster first came onto the scene. Most newspapers around the world are bleeding red ink. Technology has eaten their lunch. Why would anyone place a job ad in the local newspaper when you can use Workopolis, LinkedIn, Indeed or Monster? Why would anyone place a classified ad when Kijiji and Ebay offer cheaper alternatives with more exposure? Why would anyone place an expensive print ad when a Facebook ad better targets demographics, location and personalized interests? Are there still people who clip coupons instead of using apps? Does it make sense to go through the car or homes section in a newspaper when a person can do far better research online in real time? Despite these changes in technology, many newspapers do not want to change. They argue only their news is credible and the government should increase print advertising to keep them a float. Bloggers and online sources are portrayed as inaccurate, biased and "fake news" by the mainstream media who see it as a threat. The problem is that the quality of mainstream news is declining because of their financial situation. Many local news sites such as York Region News Group are becoming more centralized. Local content is being reduced and replaced with generic Associated Press stories and feeds from larger newspapers such as the Toronto Star. Experienced and talented investigative journalists are being packaged out and replaced with reporters fresh out of journalism school barely making minimum wage. By the time news is printed in the daily or weekly newspaper, it is already old news. While some editors, pundits and columnists believe they have a monopoly on informed opinion and intelligent analysis, the reality is much different. Anyone today can have a blog or social media account to get their opinions out. While there is a lot of fake news, uninformed opinions and junk online, there is also better quality analysis than traditional mainstream columnists, editorials and pundits offer too. The trouble for readers is to differentiate what is good and what isn't among the overload of options online. Trends show that newspaper and cable subscriptions are declining. Late to the game, some are experimenting with online and mobile subscription versions. Others seem willing to go down with the ship.

I am not sure what the media landscape is going to look like in five years, but I do know it will be much different than today. Economics will almost surely force printed newspapers and magazines to go exclusively online.  Their revenue is falling along with their market share for advertising dollars. The cost of labour, printing and delivery will continue to increase. As they seek out savings, quality will reduce. Already newspapers are seeing reduced editions and less content. Journalism students probably already realize they can make more money working a communications job in the public or private sector rather than grinding it out and living in poverty slugging away for the local newspaper. As turnover and retirement packages increase, knowledge will be lost and quality will further decline. Do you trust a blogger who has covered a local Council for years and knows all the players, history and background due to a passion for their hobby or do you trust a young reporter fresh out of school with no experience or knowledge about what they are covering? Can a newspaper hold a government accountable when they are desperate for government handouts to survive another day? Do people want to read outdated news or news in real time? Do we need the news media to report on what a politician tweets or do we just follow the account ourselves? I enjoy logging into my Twitter or Facebook account and seeing breaking news in real time.  90% of the news I get is online and there will never be a time when I turn the clock backwards, ignore technology and return to evening news broadcasts or reading a newspaper in print. The news agencies who will survive the next five years will be the organizations who take the Apple iTunes approach and adapt to technology. Those that will fail will resist technology and adapt too late.  The biggest question consumers will have to ask themselves is if we value quality news and opinion. Are we willing to pay for it? We often think of news as a public service. In reality it is a business that cannot survive without being profitable. Some thought Napster would kill the music industry, but iTunes adapted and Taylor Swift is still making good money. Instead of complaining about Twitter, Facebook, Google, Blogging and the internet; the mainstream news media must find a way to make money adapting to technology and consumer preferences. Their long term survival depends on it.

Statement on the Ward 5 By-Election Results

Posted by Darryl Wolk on October 18, 2016 at 12:10 AM Comments comments (0)

I would like to congratulate Bob Kwapis on his election win tonight. I wish him all the best as Newmarket Ward 5 Councillor. Thank you to all the voters who supported my campaign in this by-election. I am honoured and appreciate each of you who took time out of your busy day or weekend to cast a vote for me. I would also like to thank my family, volunteers, donors and supporters for all the time they invested into me. While we did not get the result we wanted, we can be proud of our clean campaign and our focus on the key issues. Congratulations to all candidates who put their name forward for public office. Thank you to the town staff who facilitated this election and to former Councillor Joe Sponga for his 13 years of service. I have enjoyed meeting residents and businesses in Ward 5 and look forward to remaining engaged in our community.