If Wednesday night’s mayoral debate were a blind taste test between two brands, the tasters — or voters — should have come away with a clear idea of which they liked best.
The two contenders for Newmarket’s top political job, veteran politician John Taylor and novice political-hopeful Joe Wamback, allowed for a more side-by-side comparison of their views, rather than the thrust and parry of a debate.
To say that the two mayoral challengers agree to disagree would be an understatement. They both chuckled at that fact as the night began.
Taylor and Wamback offer voters a different world view based on their own background and experience, both successful, experienced and upstanding in their own right.
And it would be all too simple to peg the candidates as holding more or less liberal or conservative values on such things as taxes and spending.
After 12 years in public office as Newmarket’s regional councillor and deputy mayor, Taylor is proud to have pushed for investments in transit, housing, business development and more that he believes makes a community a place where people want to live and work.
The Town’s controversial purchase of the Mulock Farm property at Yonge Street and Mulock Drive to be developed into a sort of Central Park green space for residents is at the top of Taylor’s to-do list, if elected. In fact, if he wins the mayor’s chair Oct. 22, he promises a full build-out of Mulock Farm as “a park for the future!”
Taylor said he has worked hard to find savings every budget season, but the Town has to respond to the cost of doing business going up.
For example, the minimum wage hike to $14 earlier this year resulted in the Town’s garbage contract ringing in at $500,000 more. While Taylor acknowledged possible tough times ahead financially, he said he would be careful with adding an additional tax burden on residents, such as the municipal land transfer tax, at least for the next term of council, or four years.
On the other hand, a long career as a top executive in the private sector, along with a personal commitment to fiscally conservative values, leads Wamback to the notion that there’s fat to be trimmed on any government budget.
He’s utterly convinced that Newmarket taxpayers are paying too much for the services they receive from their local government and, if elected, vows to cut down your tax bill. He also promises a review of the Mulock Farm purchase to get better value for taxpayers, such as allowing developers to build a broad mix of housing on the land, and nixing the levy placed on taxpayers for its purchase.
He is campaigning on no more closed door deals. Wamback offers a fresh perspective on what he sees as a secretive local government by promising more accountability, transparency and clarity and, oh, a moratorium on taxes hikes.
Ever the pragmatist during the debate, Wamback remarked several times about the need to create a needs vs wants list. Needs include public safety, Town services, and maintenance of its infrastructure. The wants list, or wishlist, as he calls it, is where the tough decisions need to be made.
Here are the "tasting notes" on the unique characteristics of each candidate’s views, philosophy and ideas about Newmarket's future:
Newmarket’s competitive advantage
- The Town has repeatedly landed in the top 25 best places to live in Canada, as ranked by MoneySense magazine.
- Celestica opened here, providing 700 jobs. The Town has a highly skilled workforce and the community is very safe.
- “We just have to sell it,” he said.
- Newmarket doesn’t have an advantage over other municipalities in York Region. Transit is disconnected. There’s a lack of affordable housing. Taxes are too high. Town has a significant disadvantage given these factors.
- “We can relocate GO station closer to Davis, and create housing that’s more affordable,” he said.
- Building a community in which people want to live and raise a family. Visiting local businesses to learn what they need to help them grow.
- “People are noticing Newmarket, we’re on the map."
- Would use his private-sector skills and experience as a builder, engineer and adjudicator to develop excellent relationships with the province and federal government.
- In today’s times of exceptional financial pressures, we need those connections.”
Legalization of cannabis, what it means locally (According to the legislation, municipalities have until Jan. 22, 2019 to opt-out of having pot shops in their communities.)
- It’s a complex and far-reaching issue. Federal and provincial governments moving ahead with legalization Oct. 17.
- “We have to opt-out and take time to figure out what this really means.”
- Time to fight the legalization of cannabis was three years ago, not today, he said. While he doesn’t agree with its legalization, he'll await more details from the province.
- “I’m going to take a wait-and-see approach.”
Attracting employers to Newmarket, jobs
- Business incubator NewMakeIt can drive jobs. Southlake Regional Health Centre is a top employer. Newmarket’s downtown continues to be a big economic opportunity.
- “We have to market our successes, get our story out there. Newmarket is the great place many realize it is.”
- Practical approach needed that includes cutting red tape and development charges that will bring in businesses.
- Southlake is greatest draw in the medical/health care community. Downtown Newmarket is the jewel in the community.
- "We need to improve our sewage, infrastructure before we do more building.”
- Town is in a very healthy position and is on firm financial footing, keeping taxes below the GTA average. Keep reinvesting and people will see the value for their tax dollars.
- “We’re below the GTA average. A community’s only goal shouldn’t be to have the lowest taxes.”
- Newmarket is 2nd highest taxed municipality in York Region. Would conduct a line-by-line review of Town budgets, expenditures. Develop a needs vs wants list. Reduce taxes.
- “A big concern is secrecy. Accountability, transparency, and clarity are reasons I got into the race.”
- Home ownership is not for everyone. He said he's passionate about helping to bring a broader mix of housing options to Newmarket, including rental buildings such as 212 Davis Dr.
- Housing is market-driven and the cost is market-driven. With an aging population, it’s important for seniors to be able to afford to live in Newmarket.
- Revisit the purchase of Mulock Farm for greenspace and, instead, consider building a mix of housing options there.
Municipal land transfer tax
- Won’t support it for the next four years, but won’t swear off it entirely. Acknowledges the future is going to be tough financially.
- Doesn’t support it.
The debate was hosted by the Newmarket Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the Toronto Real Estate Board. The event featured a debate among candidates for Newmarket’s top two political jobs, that of mayor, and deputy mayor and regional councillor, as well as a meet-and-greet with all other candidates.
Voting in Newmarket’s upcoming municipal election for the first time will be done online or by telephone. Voters can now cast their electronic ballots anytime beginning at 10 a.m. Oct 13 right through to election day Oct. 22 until 8 p.m. For more information, visit here
For more information on mayoral candidate John Taylor, visit his campaign website here
For more information on mayoral candidate Joe Wamback, visit his campaign website here