|Posted by Darryl Wolk on March 30, 2016 at 8:45 PM||comments (0)|
This will probably be my last blog on Newmarket and York Region politics for awhile. To be honest there are other issues beyond Newmarket that I would like to write about. Over the past three years, I feel like I have covered many issues including taxes, transportation, economic development, services, recreation and growth. I have blogged about democratic reform at the local level and customer service. During the last election, I put forward the most detailed platform in the history of Newmarket. I have lived in Newmarket pretty much all of my life. I write about these issues because I love my hometown and care greatly about the people who live here.
To be honest, I am a political junkie. I like municipal politics, provincial politics, federal politics and international politics. I am interested in elections everywhere and take democracy seriously. Over the last twenty years I have had the chance to live my passion. I work in government relations. I ran for political office. I have held every campaign role at one time or another. I even took a vacation to Chicago in 2008 to participate on the Barack Obama campaign. Since August, I have been glued to the television focused on the the United States elections. A topic I have been thinking about lately is political correctness.
When I talk about political correctness, I am not referring to Donald Trump's definition of saying something offensive and calling people out on political correctness when they get angry. What I have noticed as someone who is passionate about politics, issues and solutions is that the real problem with political correctness is that it has become taboo to talk about politics at all. To avoid offending people, many prefer to make politics a taboo discussion that should be off limits. I think this does society a disservice and the quality of our political discourse is declining as a result. It drives down voter turnout. It hides extreme positions. It keeps the public uninformed. It disconnects politicians from the voter. It allows a celebrity politician whose policies make absolutely no sense to come close to becoming the most powerful person in the world. Part of the problem is the media and the system, but responsibility ultimately rests with the citizen who does not take their right to vote seriously.
During the last Newmarket election, I tried to have a serious debate on the issues that matter to regular people in Newmarket. Rather than engage in a serious discussion on policy, my opponents used the talking point that I was just being "negative". The results:
-Newmarket has a Mayor that is now the second highest compensated in all of Canada. He received another raise last year despite controversy over being paid more than Mayors in Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto in 2014. Rob Ford was known for calling every constituent back. Tony Van Bynen is known for blocking every constituent on Twitter.
-Expenses are out of control in Newmarket. Fraud and expense abuse has been approved several times. There is no respect at all for the taxpayer. There is no funding for an outdoor rink or to open our library on Mondays, but there is funds available when a Councillor wants to spend on a luxury hotel for the weekend in Toronto.
-The sunshine list has exploded. The type of wage growth seen on the public payroll in Newmarket and York Region is completely out of touch with trends in the private and non-profit sectors. In 2002, the York Region sunshine list was just over 300 people. Today it is 1800. The Newmarket CAO has seen a 132% pay increase since 2002. We pay the bill.
-It is no coincidence that while payroll, expenses and perks have skyrocketed, so have our property taxes. Ray Twinney was Mayor the last time we saw a tax freeze in the 80s. Since that time, property taxes have gone up each and every year for decades above the rate of inflation.
-Newmarket Hydro rates are more expensive than anywhere else in the GTHA. The entire GTHA including Powerstream have merged to save distribution costs for consumers. Newmarket is stuck on an island by ourselves. The only ones benefiting are the Mayor and Former Mayor who are paid well to sit on the Newmarket Hydro board.
-Close to $300,000,000 was wasted on 2.6km of bus lanes on Davis. Businesses were forced to close. Jobs were lost. Construction went on for almost a decade. The entire town was inconvenienced. Our transit fares are the highest in Canada and most of the buses are empty. Despite this we are about to make the same mistakes on Yonge Street and the provincial budget confirmed that Newmarket has lost badly needed all day, two way GO Trains as a result.
-The Old Town Hall has been under construction forever and the cost is unknown. I believe it is $10,000,000 over budget and I have no ideas when it will be open. Deadlines have been missed consistently for the past 5 years. When it is complete, it will be hidden by a massive condo in the middle of our heritage district.
-Newmarket is dead last in job creation. 100 jobs were created over a 5 year period and Newmarket is the only community in the GTHA to see a net loss of jobs over the last 6 years. We pay higher property taxes and are forced into longer commutes as a result of failures in economic development. Harry Walker is a ghost town and no effort is being made to recruit major employers to the area. The Mayor's broadband initiative is going nowhere and even if it was successful it would create no jobs. The private sector will deliver this throughout the GTA eventually. There was money in the federal budget for rural broadband. Where is the competitive advantage? Outside of the public sector, most of the jobs created in Newmarket are precarious or minimum wage.
-Newmarket pays some of the highest recreational user fees in the province. Many kids cannot afford to play. Others are forced to sign up in Aurora, EG and Bradford.
-Residents in Glenway were misled and close to a million dollars was wasted at the OMB. Now there is more homes going on the former golf course than the developer initially asked for. OMB reform discussions our taking place at the province, but despite his campaign promises, the Mayor has been silent and gone into hiding on the issue.
-We have seen tragedies associated with drinking and driving, yet this Council gave a free pass when the issue came before Council last term. Serious issues were ignored, but Council remains distracted by other petty code of conduct related issues this term.
-Electing the York Region Chair is basic democracy and common sense. Despite this, York Region Council (including our Mayor) voted to keep the backroom appointment process of trading favours and making secret deals.
These are real issues, but I guess I am just being negative. The politically correct thing to do is to ignore these issues and click "like" on our local elected officials Facebook pages when they do a photo op at a charity events billed to their expense account. These incumbents are not doing their job, putting in any effort and serving themselves but I am told to be positive. Results do not matter apparently. Talking about politics is taboo and most people prefer to keep their heads in the sand. As the cost of living goes up and wages stay the same, people eventually get angry. This leads to the rise of politicians like Donald Trump. It still remains my hope that residents in Newmarket get informed and engaged, but the establishment benefits from apathy. Today Toronto said goodbye to Rob Ford. He was controversial and not everyone agreed with all of his policies or lifestyle choices. At the same time he cared about citizens. He respected taxpayers. He returned phone calls. He made a difference. He loved his city. That is why crowds came out in such large numbers today. We could use a politician like that in Newmarket, but in 2014 six out of ten did not even bother to vote. Democracy is important and it is time we started taking it more seriously in our town.
Thank you for reading...
Former Deputy Mayor Candidate