Mayoral candidate John Taylor wants voters in the Oct. 22 municipal election to know he’s “willing to take a firm stand”.
And, as he told the small audience that came out for the Newmarket Taxpayers Advocacy Group (NTAG) Q & A Wednesday night, “that’s the case for the Mulock Farm”.
His voice takes on passion when he speaks about pursuing “outstanding public spaces”.
“I think that community public spaces are crucial to building a strong community and I think Riverwalk Commons demonstrates that,” he said. “But you can see that in other locations around North America and around the globe, so we need to keep pursuing outstanding public spaces. Some can be very small micro-spaces on corridors, some can be more ambitious like Mulock Farm.”
In fact, the Mulock Farm Estate — “getting that right” — is one of the issues that compelled the regional councillor and deputy mayor to take a shot at filling the vacancy that will be left by retiring Mayor Tony Van Bynen.
“Protecting one of the last significant greenspaces in Newmarket was something that had to be done,” he said. “That was the moment … there isn’t going to be that opportunity again.”
It draws a stark line between him and his opponent, Joe Wamback, who spoke out firmly against the tax levy and turning the entire 11.6-acre site into Newmarket’s “Central Park” at the NTAG Q & A event Sept. 19 at which he answered the same questions.
Taylor defended the $24-million investment and the 2.6-per-cent tax levy required to fund the purchase — which doesn’t include the cost of creating the community park and greenspace, with skating trails similar to those in Brampton’s Gage Park.
“Mulock Farm was a very special moment and I don’t anticipate us bringing on larger projects of that nature,” Taylor said. “The long and short of it is, no, I don’t think it should be a common thing to have a special tax levy for major projects.”
When questioned by audience member John Day about the cost of maintaining the entire 11.6 acres, Taylor remained firm on going big or going home.
“It’s a big size, but I think it’s not going to seem that big as time goes by,” he said.
“It’s not a legacy for council or a person, it’s a legacy for the community. I think it’s something we can make brilliant. It can further enhance Newmarket’s reputation, it can spur economic activity at the corner,” Taylor added.
Working to ensure the proposed Mulock GO station becomes a reality — announced by the former provincial Liberal government in June 2016 to open in 2024 — is another initiative that makes the Newmarket native’s priority list because “I think we have a unique opportunity for Newmarket to, again, advance its identity … in terms of economic development and community growth.”
Again, his stance differs from Wamback’s.
In response to a question from audience member Beverley Varcoe about what can be done to ensure the Mulock station moves ahead, Taylor said the town’s role is limited to “meetings, lobbying and policies”.
“Advancing our secondary plan in that area will demonstrate the need and the business case for that station in that location, I think that is crucial,” he added.
“Transit is hard to come by. It’s a major priority in new development, it provides parallel services and will help to solve the problem at Davis (GO station). I think it is imperative that we keep the pressure on (the provincial government).”
Another focus for Taylor would be “Jobs and the economy”.
“I think, as mayor, 25 per cent minimum should be focused on economic development and attracting jobs and supporting local business in what they’re doing.”
While Wamback indicated his willingness to take a salary cut if desired by citizens, Taylor said he disputes statements that the mayor of Newmarket is the highest paid in Canada.
“For me, the mayor’s pay is $170,000 and that’s relatively in keeping with the mayors’ pay in the GTA… I don’t think it is a crazy amount. I think there are much much better things in terms of what kind of spending occurs in the municipality and what doesn’t than whether the mayor’s pay should be $135(K), $145(K) or $175(K).”
The removal of the one-third tax portion next year by the province translates to the mayor taking home $12,000 less, he added.
The regional councillor also defended the Town’s fiscal state and drive to find cost savings and efficiencies, pointing to the energy-saving LED lighting program for streetlights.
“Every budget process is almost like a wrestling match, you may think it looks like it’s easy, (that) we’re just rubber-stamping, it’s not. It’s a very back-and-forth process, we are looking for areas of savings, we’re pushing staff to find savings.”
He insists a comparison of taxes per capita, rather than property taxes — a July 2018 Zoocasa report ranked Newmarket as having the second highest property taxes in York Region, after Georgina — is the best method.
According to the BMA Municipal Study of 100 municipalities in Ontario, Newmarket ranks 24th lowest, he said.
“I’m not saying because we measure up well that we shouldn’t continuously pursue opportunities for finding savings, because when you can find efficiencies and savings, you can keep the tax rate even lower or provide more savings.”
Improving communications, and experimenting with new forms of communication, will help ensure transparency and increase citizen engagement. If elected, Taylor plans to establish a mayor’s newsletter to share his ideas and thoughts on the issues, saying the mayor’s office has to communicate more directly with citizens.
As Newmarket's regional councillor and deputy mayor for the past 12 years, Taylor has served on more than 25 boards and committees, including York Region Community and Health Services (Chair), Newmarket Economic Development Committee and Human Services Planning Board (Co-Chair).
He has worked as an independent investment consultant, as a partner in a logistics and transportation company, as a special assistant to Liberal MPP Charles Beer, then minister of Community and Social Services, and as a high school English teacher.
He can also lay claim to being one of Canada’s competitive croquet champions.
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