|Posted by Darryl Wolk on September 29, 2017 at 12:45 AM|
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..
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,