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Future fraught with funding deficits, York Region chair says

From transit fare integration to affordable housing and more, York Region calls for province and Ottawa to come to the table with support, funding

Nearly all of the Regional Municipality of York’s priorities for its new four-year term require the support of other levels of governments to come to fruition.

With York Region's debt estimated to be about $220-plus million, whether it’s transit fare integration between the 905 and 416 regions, expansion of the TTC Line 1 Yonge subway into Richmond Hill, or more rental and affordable housing, re-elected Chair Wayne Emmerson said the provincial and federal governments must commit funding because “we can’t do it alone on the property tax”.

An integrated fare system is a must for this term of council, Emmerson said Dec. 6 during regional council’s inaugural meeting and swearing-in ceremony at its Yonge Street administrative centre council chambers. “We will wait to see if the province will do this and upload all transit in the GTA.”

Regarding rental housing, Emmerson said some funding from the province and Ottawa should help reduce the wait list in York Region.

On the subject of top transit projects, Emmerson said regional council will continue to ask the provincial and federal governments for funding to further extend the Yonge subway within York Region by 2031 or sooner.

“There will be many public meetings for the residents to have their say,” Emmerson added. “We will continue to work with all nine municipalities to encourage more office, industrial and commercial businesses. We will need more jobs as we grow.”

On a high note, the returning chairman, who remains in the regional government’s top job by a unanimous public vote among regional council’s 20 members, assured residents roads will continue to be built, the region’s assets kept in good repair, and funding will be provided for community and health programs.

However, the vote among the new regional council members on whether to cast votes for the council chair position in public or with a secret ballot wasn’t unanimous.

Newmarket Mayor John Taylor alone opposed the vote being made in public as he believes the regional council chair position should be chosen by secret ballot.

“First, I believe that this motion should, in a perfect world, be debated in a regular meeting before a vote where members could actually exchange ideas and opinions,” Taylor told NewmarketToday. As a principle, I believe that the public has a right to know how their elected officials vote on matters of importance. However, sometimes that principle has to be weighed against other competing principals. For instance, when votes are done in closed sessions.  

“In this case, I think that the democratic principle that a secret ballot is the best process to ensure the best and truest democratic outcome outweighs the principle for the public to know how people voted.”

He went on to say that leaders of provincial parties are chosen by secret ballot and, for that matter, all elected officials are chosen by secret ballot.

“It would not have changed the outcome, so my position was one based on my beliefs only,” Taylor said.

Vaughan Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua noted in jest that Emmerson easily held his seat as chair as he was unchallenged by any other candidates.

“I want to congratulate you on that hard-fought acclamation,” Bevilacqua said to much laughter from the audience. “Yeah, it was tough.”

There are eight new faces around the regional council table for the 2018 to 2022 term, including former Vaughan mayor Linda Jackson who, after an eight-year break from political life won a local and regional councillor position on Vaughan council, and Town of Whitchurch-Stouffville Mayor Iain Lovatt, that town’s former councillor who easily unseated embattled former mayor Justin Altmann in the October municipal election.