If there’s one thing that stood out last night as Newmarket’s new council was sworn in, it’s that all the people who call Newmarket home are crucial to the town’s success.
Faith leaders from five of Newmarket's spiritual communities each delivered a prayer of invocation at the start of the ceremony at Old Town Hall. They included: Miriam Youngchief of the Ninoskomtin Native Cultural Friendship Centre of York Region; Father Efren Alvarez-Pelayo of St. John Chrysostom Parish; Imam Mohammad Bemat of the Newmarket Islamic Centre; Rabbi Mendy Grossbaum of Chabad Newmarket; and Pastor Garry James of Valley View Alliance Church. It is symbolic of a new initiative that could take the form of a mayor's roundtable on diversity and inclusivity to welcome and engage new Canadians and people from other diverse groups who call Newmarket home.
In his first public address, new Mayor John Taylor, a 12-year town council veteran whose father, Tom Taylor, served in the town’s top political job from 1997 to 2006, struck a collegial tone as he laid out the priorities for the next four years.
“Outstanding communities are not built for people, they are built with people,” Taylor said to a packed house from the podium at Old Town Hall. “I will not do great things by myself as mayor, and council will not achieve great things alone, either. We will build the town we believe in together, through collaboration and cooperation with a shared vision of what we want to be.”
The No. 1 priority for the 2018 to 2022 term of council is to develop a Central Park-style urban outdoor space on the 11.6-acre Mulock Farm property on the northwest corner of Mulock Drive and Yonge Street, which the town purchased for $24 million earlier this year and took possession of October 2018.
The green space could include such things as walking trails, a skating trail like the one found at Brampton’s Gage Park, and an outdoor arena.
“Our largest and most clear responsibility is the Mulock Farm park,” Taylor said. “We have made a significant investment and we must deliver something creative, something exceptional and something everyone can enjoy.
“We need to follow through and commit resources, human and capital. That may mean we may not be able to fully pursue other ideas or projects for a while, but we must do this to completion in this term so the public can enjoy the space that we purchased on their behalf and see the results of their tax dollars at work.”
Taylor went on to say that “exceptional outdoor opportunities have become a hallmark” of Newmarket. He said he would like the new council to get going on development of an off-road, multi-use path along Mulock Drive, from Bathurst Street to Harry Walker Parkway, as well as explore the idea of closing the town’s historic Main Street to traffic on summer weekends to create a pedestrian-mall.
“We also need to complete the outdoor arena ($850,000 has so far been raised) and move forward on the outdoor skate park, which will give the kids of this town another reason to leave their screens and get outside and get some exercise,” Taylor said.
Other priorities mentioned include the need to work with all levels of government to build more rental and affordable housing, which Taylor said is one of the greatest challenges facing councils across the GTHA, encouraging more participation from the town’s increasingly diverse population, and a creating a partnership-based approach to job creation and economic development.
“The heart of our community is and always will be the downtown,” Taylor said. “We’ve had significant advancements, but we still have more to do. I predict people will be shocked again and again as downtown Newmarket becomes more exciting, more vibrant and even more successful. We need to continue to add public art and attractions, more festivals and events at Riverwalk Commons, Old Town Hall and at the Newmarket Community Centre.”
Taylor’s acknowledgment that the downtown needs more parking was met with some laughter from the audience.
But there were a few tears, too, as rookie Councillor Grace Simon remarked what being elected for the first time meant to her.
“I am so proud and honoured, and emotional, to becoming a part of Newmarket’s council,” Simon said, as she choked back a few tears while thanking her husband and children, parents, friends and campaign volunteers. “My dad knocked on more doors than myself. He was out with me most days and I would get caught up in conversations quite often with residents and he would keep on going to compete the street and then come back looking for me. He’d say, ‘That’s OK, Grace, you’re winning votes with every connection you make’.”
After Newmarket’s newly minted town council took their oaths of office, led by the Honourable Justice Peter Tetley, each personally noted that what they heard from residents on the campaign trail is top of mind. Councillor Bob Kwapis was absent at the ceremony due to a prior travel commitment.
Here is Newmarket’s new town council, along with contact information:
John Taylor - Mayor of Newmarket
Tel.: 905-953-5300, ext. 2000
Tom Vegh - Deputy Mayor and Regional Councillor
Grace Simon - Councillor - Ward 1
Victor Woodhouse - Councillor - Ward 2
Jane Twinney - Councillor - Ward 3
Trevor Morrison - Councillor - Ward 4
Bob Kwapis - Councillor - Ward 5
Kelly Broome - Councillor - Ward 6
Christina Bisanz - Councillor - Ward 7
Editor's note: This article was updated Dec. 5, 2018.