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LETTER: What qualifies as an emergency in Newmarket?

Those needing roofs over their heads and food on the table, and jobs they can depend on should rank first if council is voting on resolutions to declare an emergency, letter writer says
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homeless

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Re: Article, Newmarket council declares climate emergency, Jan. 14, 2020

“I got up this morning to marvel at the fresh blanket of white covering my back deck, stretching out across the woods behind me. With my coffee, my fireplace, and my favourite sweater, I sit here enjoying our first real snowfall of 2020. And I feel privileged.

Newmarket is a fantastic town of growth, full of fabulous opportunities, natural beauty and amazing, caring people. That’s why I love living here. Yet that’s the surface view. Like the pristine snow-covered field stretched behind me, there is discord, hunger, even death hidden beneath our surface. These are the emergencies in our midst.

Shelter. Food. Security. These are the basic needs we all must attend first and foremost. Yet how many are living homeless in Newmarket? Although homelessness is a year-round issue of concern, in our typical Canadian winter it is the primary emergency of our existence.

We see them every day, carrying their very world in worn backpacks, or tied in plastic bags and pushed around in shopping carts. Some beg on our street corners, in front of our stores, along our sidewalks during the day, and seek whatever limited shelter Newmarket has available to keep them from literally freezing to death on nights like the one just behind us. Then there are the ones simply trying to survive in the shadows, or in their cars, without drawing attention to their situations. It’s absolutely heartbreaking.

Then there’s the almost homeless. Even many of us who currently have a warm roof over our heads struggle to keep it intact. Where is affordable housing when home ownership is beyond what young families can afford? How do our sons and daughters survive when the only alternative is to rent, yet the average rental price swallows up the bulk of their monthly income?

Our reality is that in today’s economy it frequently takes two incomes to afford a very basic one-bedroom apartment. How do they raise their family in that much space, or on what’s left in their monthly budget? This is Newmarket’s housing emergency.

In the same vein, there’s a need to feed our hungry. How many struggling families depend on our food banks to feed themselves? How many of our food banks are underfunded because daily living is so expensive here that food banks have become a staple pantry for those struggling to make ends meet?

Yet food banks often depend on charity for provision, even when those who want to give can no longer afford to do so because their own resources are stretched so very thin. This is an emergency riding below our surface.

The cost for everything is creeping upwards, yet the job market here is not growing to keep up with our population. How many of us have to hop a train for an hour or so each way to find employment to meet our needs because Newmarket does not seem to be overly business friendly, encouraging to industry?

How many other municipalities encounter the same sort of difficulties, putting rural Canadians on trains and buses, stuck in rush hour gridlock twice on a daily basis? We spend more time in transit than with our families. To many of us, that’s an emergency.

Then there’s our growing crime problem. Those of us who are news junkies are well aware of the growing numbers of deaths, gang-related violence, that’s constantly creeping ever closer to our homes. How many Newmarket businesses have been robbed recently, from the mom and pop shops to the banks around us? How many cars in our driveways are broken into on such a routine basis that it’s not even a police priority any more? How many of our seniors, living on a very strict budget, are scammed from their own phones?

Do we really feel safe and secure any more, even on Main Street? How many of us have noticed that the charm and beauty of Main Street somewhat fades as the sun goes down, the shops and family restaurants, businesses close? For so many reasons, it can feel like a very different world at night. This is an emergency to many of us who love Newmarket.

These are mere mentions in the daily plights of our amazing town and all the wonderful people who live within its limits. We all know these problems exist beneath this lovely layer of snow this morning. We know these emergencies haunt us daily. But would Mayor Taylor and council take the time to declare any of these issues an actual emergency? Yet on Jan. 13, Newmarket council opted for an exercise in virtue signalling and passed a resolution declaring a climate emergency in Newmarket.

Reportedly, nearly two dozen local supporters came out to offer up a standing ovation after a seven-page slide show presentation. They were told, “Declaring a climate emergency ensures decisions on future municipal planning, development and operations will be viewed through the lens of the climate crisis and, right now, nothing is more important than climate change” by a local climate advocacy group member, Debbie Fletcher Queen.

Yet many of us who also see a definite need to take climate concerns into consideration in the activities of our daily living do not feel climate should be the paramount consideration involved in making decisions that affect our citizens and our community. Those among us who need a roof over their heads and food on their tables, jobs they can depend on, should rank first if we’re delivering deputations and voting on resolutions to physically declare an emergency in Newmarket.

The resolution to Declare a Climate Emergency passed unanimously. I would personally love to ask our mayor and council if they actually thought this measure through? What will it mean to future business dynamics, potential carbon taxation, and how much red tape will it needlessly toss into our already over-regulated system? Was this really the issue that needed a declaration of emergency?”

Donna Buchanan, Newmarket




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