|Posted by Darryl Wolk on January 17, 2016 at 3:40 PM||comments (2)|
Final 2016 Newmarket Budget Vote Coming Up:
Newmarket Council is about to vote on the 2016 budget that will increase taxes above the rate of inflation. This is not new. It has taken place every year since Ray Twinney was Mayor in the 1980s. User fees and water rates were increased already. The falling oil prices has resulted in a drop for the Canadian dollar. This will result in increased food prices for most residents already struggling with skyrocketing hydro rates. There is worry about the housing market with 26% of Ontario homeowners struggling to afford homes. 2016 will be a tough year as wages will remain stagnent for those in the private and non-profit sectors. Youth unemployment will continue at around 20% and the majority of workers in the GTA are currently precariously employed according to United Way. We see poverty and use of food banks on the rise in Newmarket and around the 905/GTA. If the tax hike passes tomorrow, Newmarket families will pay an additional $100 per household when the region, town and school board are considered. This on top of the thousands you pay now. Add this gift from Council to protect their perks to the cost of living struggles already associated with Newmarket's seniors, families and individuals on a fixed income. Nobody likes taxes but everyone realizes they are needed to provide the services we rely on. What taxpayers do not tolerate is when money is wasted, misdirected away from priorities or does not provide value. People in Newmarket are tightening their own budgets in this economy as the cost of living increases. They expect the same from their elected officials. We cannot afford waste during these tough times.
Mayor Salary Scandal:
Update: Before the budget vote, I asked the Mayor to justify how he could raise taxes on Newmarket residents during a recession when he is compensated more than Mayors in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. Watch the video and decide for yourselves. Later that night Council would vote 9-0 to pass a 3% tax hike including a "cost of living" raise for Canada's 4th (or 6th) highest paid Mayor. There was no effort to find savings at all.
I want to correct the record and bring closure to this salary issue before Council votes to hike our taxes, water rates and user fees in the middle of a global recession. It is unfortunate that Era reporter Chris Simon allows the Mayor to insult former candidates with his quotes while failing to research the facts or merits of the issue. The FOI confirms the Mayor of Newmarket makes $179,082.86. The FOI information released contained a November 2015 email from Tony Van Bynen to Era reporter Lisa Queen where he admitted $179k close to the $182k the Star reported that made him fourth highest paid in Canada. There is no dispute. It is fact the Mayor of Newmarket is compensated more than Mayors in Canada's three largest cities Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.
The Mayor made a false allegation in the Era in a recent article dated December 16th about his salary. "Mr. Campbell and Mr. Wolk were totally aware of what those salaries were when they applied for the job and they didn’t seem to have a problem with it when the prospects of them gaining the job was not determined.” That is obviously not true. Chris Simon knows this but I believe was told by his editor to publish this lie anyways. For the past 10 months, the Mayor has failed to be transparent, has misled the media and has done everything possible to stonewall the public on how much of our taxdollars are directed back into his own pocket. Information was released through a freedom of information request when at any time over the previous 10 months he could have simply been honest and transparent. He questioned the numbers reported in the Toronto Star from an article in April 2015 that listed him has the fourth highest paid Mayor in Canada and asked for a correction. Until the scandalous Star article came out, I had no idea what the Mayor of Newmarket made. The salaries for the Regional Councillor and Ward Councillors was about what I expected. The salary for Mayor was a total shock and I did not even have this issue on the radar during the 2014 election. The Mayor did a good job keeping it hidden from the public during the election campaign where normally accountability to the public would take place. The results in the Mayor election were very close. I believe if the public knew abut Tony Van Bynen's salary he would have lost the election and would not be the Mayor today. Council compensation was not published online. Attention was first drawn to the issue in early 2015 when the Era ran a story that he saw a 26% increase during an election year according to the sunshine list. The Toronto Star article came out in April of 2015 and at that time it became a scandal.
As residents were enraged, the Mayor accused the Toronto Star of having their "facts wrong". In the photo above he tweets to the former Era editor, "Debra, FYI Star article is incorrect. It should read $151k not $182. Will ask Star to Correct. Includes both Town & Region". The $151k in the Mayor's tweet is an outright lie with no relationship to reality whatsoever. I am told by the Toronto Star that the Mayor's office requested a correction and sent information that was not verified. Reporter San Grewal stands by his figures. Without his knowledge, the Star issues a "correction" of $159.856.84. We know the correction the Mayor forced on the Star was incorrect as it does not include the Newmarket Hydro perk. The Town of Newmarket later listed $159k as his base salary, not his full compensation including taxable benefits the Star was using in their April article. This was an attempt by staff to help cover up the false correction sent to the Star. Instead of posting accurate information, they posted content approved by the Mayor according to the FOI release into this matter.
Last meeting I came to Council and asked about the Mayor's compensation. My specific question to each Councillor was if they felt comfortable voting to raise taxes while the Mayor of Newmarket was compensated more than Vancouver, Montreal and possibly Toronto. The Mayor shut them down and none had the courage to answer the question. As usual he said I was a failed candidate and that the facts were in dispute. Chris Campbell asked the Mayor how much he made at Council Open Forum a few weeks prior. The Mayor repled "I not have the figures in front of me" on his own salary. On both occasions where the Mayor was asked about his salary, he refused to privde a figure, defend his record or justify his salary in terms of qualifications, results or population size. Instead he called Chris Campbell and I failed candidates and said we had our facts wrong. This is the same pattern he used previous on job numbers, Davis costs and property taxes. The Mayor seems to think that candidates who lost an election should not be engaged in the political process between elections. I made a similar deputation on the election of York Region Chair. Rather than discuss if the position should be elected or appointed, the Mayor called me a failed candidate and added nothing else of value to the discussion at Regional Council. There is such a thing as a "sore" winner. I am proud of my campaign. John Taylor, Christina Bisanz, Jane Twinney, Lois Brown, Frank Klees, Kyle Peterson and John Tory all lost elections before getting elected. There is no shame in participating in democracy.
Following my question at the last Newmarket Council meeting on the Mayor's salary, Van Bynen was quoted in an Era in an article December 16. He thinks a Mayor of a small town being compensated more than the Mayor of Canada's largest city Toronto is a "non-issue" and "waste of staff time". Who cares if Tony Van Bynen is paid more than John Tory? Absolutely everyone who pays taxes in town should be concerned with this as they are footing the bill and it is money that could be redicted to services and priorities of residents. The Mayor may feel that discussing his salary is a waste of time but that is only because this money is going into his own pocket. The taxpayers paying the bill see it as a major issue and scandal. The average salary in Ontario is $49,000.
A few days before Christmas 2015 and during holidays, the Town of Newmarket quietly releases the FOI request on the Mayor's salary. We know from the Freedom of Information request and the Toronto Star article that Tony Van Bynen's full compensation is between $182,464 and $179,082.86. The FOI request contained a November 5, 2015 email between Tony Van Bynen and Era reporter Lisa Queen confirming the $179k figure. All York Region Mayors, including Canada's highest paid Mayor Frank Scarpitt from Markham was copied on that email. The Era decided to spin a positive story for the Mayor despite knowing he was paid more than Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal months before based on that email to Lisa Queen. This raises serious questions about the journalistic integrity of the Era who even went as far as to falsely accuse the Star of having their facts "incorrect" when there was in fact a minor difference between the $179k in the email sent to Lisa Queen and the $182k reported by San Grewal. The entire time the Era knew the correction in the Star was a lie and Tracy Kibble even attempted to use it to prove me wrong in a tweet. Clearly the Era knows where their advertising revenue comes from as the newspaper industry is in trouble. This pro-Mayor spin has been consistent since the new editor was responsible for the Era. After every bad news story about Newmarket Council, she asks residents if they care. It is her job to give them a reason to care about our local democracy by reporting on the issues, not making friends with the incumbents.
It is now 100% confirmed that Tony Van Bynen is either the 4th highest or 6th highest paid Mayor in Canada despite a population of 79,978 listed in the Toronto Star article. The $179,082.86 from Tony Van Bynen himself puts him ahead of Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa, Montreal and Windsor. THERE IS NO DISPUTE. The only difference between 4th and 6th is we don't know for sure if the Mayor of Newmarket was compensated more than legendary Mayor Hazel McCallion. According to San Grewal yes, according to Tony Van Bynen no.
It is ridiculous by any standard to think our Mayor is in the same league as individuals representing Canada's largest cities in terms of population size, qualifications and performance. Newmarket is not even in the Top 50 in Canada in terms of population. We are a town of less than 100,000 people. These are not comparable municipalities being used and the numbers do not lie. Any committee or process that finds the Mayor of Newmarket should be paid more than Toronto is corrupt and obviously broken. This is not "market value". I call on the Mayor to cut his salary immediately by 30% and freeze it for the remainder of the term so that it is consistent with towns less than 100,000 people, not Canada's largest cities. The 2016 budget will provide for another "cost of living" increase for Mayor Tony Van Bynen already making more than Mayors in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Vancouver. If the Mayor could justify this salary he would have by now. Instead he lied and tried to hide it from the taxpayers of Newmarket. That makes it a major scandal. It is time to step back from the trough Tony! You are just getting greedy now. Leadership, optics and setting example starts from the top. If the Mayor is willing to rip off taxpayers, what message does this send to the rest of Council and town staff?
None of the Councillors have had the courage to challenge the Mayor on his salary and Deputy Mayor John Taylor is hoping to collect it next. I predict a 9-0 vote on a tax increase despite a budget full of waste and the fact residents are struggling as the economy heads into a recession. Tax hikes, water increases and higher user fees is always the first option for this Council. What you think or how much you can afford doesn't matter to them. Newmarket Council is more worried about offending the Mayor than their own constituents they claim to represent. The group think approach has made them look foolish and weak in the eyes of the public. It is no surprise many of their own supporters have expressed to me their disappointment in this term. People are starting to get angry and Council's response is to ignore and block on Twitter and rely on the tried and true photo op. Maybe one out of nine will demonstrate some integrity on this Mayor salary scandal but I highly doubt it. Council already had a chance to address the Mayor's salary but they all stayed silent afraid of the Mayor and "failed politician". Apathy is their friend and they hope with a few excuses this will all eventually go away. At the very least they know they have nothing to worry about from the Era.
The only person in Newmarket who will benefit from this budget is Tony Van Bynen and in my opinion it should be rejected until the Mayor gets his salary back into the same ballpark with other municipalities of comparible size to the TOWN of Newmarket. Bonnie Crombie in Mississauga has demonstrated the type of leadership Newmarket is lacking.
"Cutting costs is about leading by example. It starts with me. I will continue freezing my salary for this entire Council term."
-Bonnie Crombie, Mayor of Mississauga
Thank you for reading and please show up at Newmarket Council Chambers tomorrow at 6:45pm and make your voice heard!
Former Newmarket Deputy Mayor Candidate