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Newmarket-Aurora candidates weigh in on subway development

'They’ll feel they can treat Newmarket, Aurora (this way). There will be a precedent,' member of residents' group says of provincial planning for development near transit

Residents concerned by the trajectory of the Yonge North subway development are giving positive grades to the plans of the major provincial parties — except the Conservatives.

Newmarket-Aurora candidates responded to a survey sent out by a coalition of southern York Region community groups regarding the subway and the ”transit-oriented communities” (TOCs) planning approach the province is following. The groups have expressed concerns about the density of the province’s proposal, as well as overriding the municipal planning process.

The groups' report cards grade the NDP and Liberals a B score for their responses, and the Greens a B+. With no Conservative candidates responding, they received an F. 

“Newmarket, it’s a lovely town. It’s a place where people can grow their families,” Better Richmond Hill executive Graham Churchill said, adding that is not the case for the planned transit-oriented communities. “You’re not going to be able to do that here. This is a housing wasteland.”

The groups have coalesced as the province forges ahead with routing part of the Yonge North subway extension off Yonge Street and along Bay Thorn Drive. Groups are also worried about the amount of density proposed with the TOCs designation from the province around the proposed Bridge and High Tech stations, with more than 30 highrise towers planned for each locale.

The groups say the density plans do not accommodate enough employment, greenspace or schools, with residences trumping all.

“We’re not anti-development,” Keep the Subway on Yonge member Alice Young said. “We always said we need to have a thoughtful, integrated planning framework for new development. The TOCs is not it.” 

The groups sent the questionnaire to candidates in all five York Region ridings. All of the Liberals, NDP and Green parties scored well for not supporting the current TOCs, promising to restore municipal planning autonomy, and limiting the use of ministerial zoning orders (MZOs).

To varying degrees, parties also addressed some support for revoking existing MZOs, though none provided total support for keeping the subway extension entirely on Yonge.

But Newmarket-Aurora Green candidate Carolina Rodriguez said she supports returning to the Yonge alignment. 

“We must build with a purpose and in a way that actually works for communities,” she said. "We cannot ignore the concerns of citizens and municipalities when it is their environments that we are developing."

Newmarket-Aurora Liberal candidate Dr. Sylvain Roy said although the issue is centred in the south end of the riding, with much more growth coming into York Region and the GTA, “we need to be laser-focused” here as well. He said he would “possibly” support diverting from the current route and going with a Yonge Street alignment.

“The current challenges around the state of ministerial zoning orders specifically related to the transit ordered communities — getting around zoning and environmental regulations and short-circuiting the consultation and planning process within municipalities — is a travesty,” he said. 

Newmarket-Aurora NDP candidate Denis Heng said he believes in the expertise of municipal planners. He said schools, hospitals, parklands and community centres are important for complete communities. 

“A community design plan that does not have these elements is an incomplete plan, and using an MZO to move the project forward does not address these failings,” Heng said. “Let’s build communities for people to live, work, and play; not for developers to extract every penny of profit.”

But he said the Metrolinx business case highlighted the benefits of the new route, creating two more subway stations within the funding envelope.

Young said the province could eventually push this kind of planning northward. 

“They’ll feel they can treat Newmarket, Aurora (this way),” Young said. “There will be a precedent.

“We hope by sending out a survey," she added. "We can encourage residents across the region to share our hope and share our concerns.”

You can see the full list of responses through