Mayoral candidate Joe Wamback is campaigning to bring clarity, transparency and accountability to the Town of Newmarket.
The longtime Newmarket resident and businessman stressed those words repeatedly to the small audience who attended the municipal election event hosted by Newmarket Taxpayers Advocacy Group (NTAG) at Madsen's Greenhouse last night.
“Backroom deals, hidden agreements, concealed negotiations will never become part of my conduct, or council. All debates and all votes for all issues must be public record and further communicated on a regular basis, not just on social media. ...The mayor’s door, if I’m elected, is open to everybody.”
The format saw Wamback answer a series of questions sent to him in advance, as well as taking questions from residents. Mayoral candidate John Taylor will have an opportunity to be at the podium at a similar NTAG Q & A event Oct. 3 at 7 p.m. at Madsen’s Greenhouse, 160 Bayview Parkway.
“There has been little or no debate on issues affecting the cost of living,” Wamback said, after stating the Town of Newmarket has one of the highest property tax rates in York Region. “And in some cases, they have been entirely secret.”
Wamback pointed to two decisions made by Newmarket council in which he said transparency was lacking.
To nods and murmurs of approval in the audience, he said while the purchase price of the Mulock Farm estate was made public, the cost of developing it, and the subsequent impact on taxes, has not been divulged or calculated.
“The Mulock Farm purchase is going to add $1.5 million a year just in interest payments,” he said. “This is not New York and we do not need a Central Park.”
He was also critical of the plan to build a new GO station on Mulock Drive, slotted for 2030 by the province, because of engineering challenges and traffic issues.
“It is wrong to celebrate a GO station that will never be built,” he said, referring to his review of the plans and research based on more than 30 years of experience as a builder.
Beyond the technical issues related to the project, if the additional GO station goes ahead, it will eliminate close to 300 jobs with the demolition of the building currently on the site, he added.
In response to a question from resident Jamal Massadeh, who supports a new Mulock GO station, Wamback said he would recommend the province extend the dual track just south of the existing station on Davis Drive, and add a parking facility. Relocating the GO bus station closer would provide a more seamless connection for commuters, he said.
Wamback came out firmly against additional tax levies, which the Town has implemented for storm water and will add to tax bills for the Mulock Farm purchase, in response to an NTAG question.
“Levies are not transparent. They have to be called what they are — and I think the expression is let’s call a spade a spade — additional taxes.”
Wamback vowed to cut taxes — by finding savings and efficiencies in the town’s budget, eliminating duplication and overcompensation, increasing accountability for expenses, and creating new revenues — as well as reduce the town’s “sizeable debt that is growing every single year”.
While he supports the programs and incentives in place to develop downtown, Wamback said he would establish an independent body to deal with all financial decisions to eliminate the possibility of a conflict of interest.
“One of the major problems I see here in Newmarket is that there’s absolutely no respect for taxpayers’ dollars. I believe that the council and the mayor are employees — everybody that is sitting here, everybody that writes a cheque six times a year, as we do for our taxes, they are my employers and they have to have respect.”
Later, in response to a question about his willingness to reduce the high salary received by the mayor, Wamback said, “If the people of this town decide that the money that is being paid the mayor is too much, then I’m more than pleased to accept whatever salary this town decides it wants to offer me as the mayor.”
Wamback highlighted experience that includes founding Wamback Corporation in 1984 and successfully completing construction of more than 10 million square feet of industrial, commercial and mixed-use projects in Ontario. For nine years, he was an adjudicator for the federal Ministry of Human Resources and Skills Development, and is an adjudicator, arbitrator and mediator resolving contentious commercial and personal conflicts in Ontario.
He is the CEO of the Canadian Crime Victim Foundation, which he founded following a violent attack that injured his son in 1999, which has raised more than $800,000 for scholarships and psychological counselling for victims of crime, and has been instrumental in creating nine amendments to the Canadian Criminal Code for safer communities across Canada.
“I believe I have experience that matters, not being a politician — the last thing I am is a politician,” he declared to loud applause.
To read more about Wamback’s experience and platform, click here
To learn more about NTAG, click here