To the Newmarket Theatre where, at long last, it is time for the candidates for Mayor and Regional Councillor to debate and strut their stuff on stage. The result is a terrific, entertaining evening full of drama and laughter. And all free.

With a straight face and with as much solemnity as he can muster, the Mayor, Tony Van Bynen, tells us:

“This time next year Davis Drive will be finished!”

Mayoral wannabe, Chris Campbell, dismisses this as a complete “fantasy”.

Archbishop Dorian Baxter, reminds us of our biblical life span of three score years and ten, before revealing he is 64.

“I am praying I see the completion of Davis Drive!”

Gales of laughter bring the house down. What a delightfully witty Mayor he would be!

Davis Drive: Taylor feels the pain

For the many vocal critics of Tony Van Bynen and John Taylor, Davis Drive has become a metaphor for Newmarket Council under their stewardship. There is endless delay, disruption and mismanagement (with more to come when work on the Yonge Street rapidway gets underway next year). Throw into this deadly mix business closures and we have all the conditions for a perfect storm. There is no end in sight.

Earlier, Taylor tells us people in his office have been in tears about Davis Drive. He feels their pain.

Wolk says work on Davis Drive is too far down the road to cancel but vows there is “no way we are going to rip up 2.6 km of Yonge Street between Davis and Mulock”.

Decisive, bold but probably impossible.

Wolk wants more all-day two-way GO trains (who doesn’t) but this is something not in his gift.

For two years Darryl Wolk has been poking John Taylor in the ribs with a long, pointy stick, trying to get a reaction.  There are the accusations of cronyism and the Old Boys Club. That it is in Taylor’s genes to play both sides. That he moralises about the importance of confidentiality while giving information to people on condition they don’t reveal where it came from.  I suppose you could call it municipal insider trading.

Political Cross-dressing

Wolk says Taylor’s support for PC candidate Jane Twinney at the recent Provincial Election is proof positive that he was backing Hudak’s plan to axe 100,000 public sector jobs. How absurd!  Taylor, a former Liberal candidate supports his friend Jane Twinney, a born again conservative. But Wolk, a conservative, backed Ballard, the Liberal candidate, in the very same election. Conclusion: there is a lot of political cross-dressing going on.

Taylor has been playing the long game, refusing to rise to the bait. But now he stands and trades blows with his tormentor.

Taylor slams Wolk for his “mis-facts”. The 80% of meetings on Davis Drive that Taylor allegedly missed “is a lie”.

Dipping into his book of famous quotations, he tells Wolk:

“Darryl, you are entitled to your own opinions; not your own facts.”

The temperature is beginning to rise.

Taylor dismisses outright Wolk’s plan to expand Newmarket’s boundaries into neighbouring municipalities to provide more land for business. “I do not support annexing neighbours.”

Taylor calls for high speed broadband (a good idea). Wolk blasts this as a foolish $330m experiment.

Wolk says he will cut industrial and commercial taxes to lure business from Markham and other places. Taylor predicts residential property taxes will go up if this happens.

The Soccer Club loan

Now the grudge match is descending into a bare-knuckle fight. Someone from the audience asks about the controversial loan to the Newmarket Soccer Club. Taylor, who is not taking prisoners, says the question comes from a person with links to the Wolk Campaign Team! Taylor reels off a list of statistics showing the Town and the Club both benefitted. Wolk counters with: “There is a shady deal here” but the wind has gone out of his sails.

Now Taylor is talking about Wolk supporting 40-50 storey buildings in Newmarket. He is exaggerating for effect (something I do myself) but Taylor draws attention to the fact that Wolk would do the developers bidding. Taylor, on the other hand, is the man behind the height cap (true).

Taylor accuses Wolk of having a hundred uncosted priorities plucked out of thin air. (Opening the Library on Mondays, is one example) If these were ever implemented, the cost would be crippling. When Wolk protests Taylor accuses him of “throwing darts again”.

Wolk is argumentative, focussed and well briefed. He stands his ground. But he needs a knock out punch to win. And he doesn’t land one.

It was a good, fast-moving debate and well done the Chamber of Commerce for organising it.

But perhaps we could have another debate organised by, say, York Region Poverty Alliance? There were big policy areas such as affordable housing that didn’t even rate a mention.

Someone took to the microphone last night to remind us that we are taxpayers, yes, but we are citizens first.

19 days to go.