- Written by Gordon Prentice
I read that former Vaughan councillor Michael Di Biase, 71, is to appear before the Superior Court in Newmarket on 30 October 2019 on municipal corruption charges.
Over the years I have blogged off and on about Di Biase and what he got up to. Besides being a Vaughan councillor he also served on York Regional Council.
We wait to see what unfolds in Court.
Turning a blind eye
But even after Di Biase was censured by his home council in Vaughan in 2015 and docked 90 days pay for improperly interfering in the tendering process, life continued as before at York Region.
Nothing was permitted to disturb the clubby atmosphere or cause unpleasantness.
There was no formal report to the Regional Council on Di Biase’s behaviour in Vaughan and the Region continued to pay the regional portion of his salary in the usual way.
Code of Conduct
More astonishing still, the Regional Council decided it didn’t need a Code of Conduct for its members – and this was after the Di Biase shenanigans had come to light.
What does this tell us? Institutions, no matter how grand, need Codes of Conduct to guarantee the highest ethical standards in public life.
It is good to know that York Region now has one.
Di Biase faces charges under sections 122 and 123 of the Criminal Code of Canada.
Breach of trust by public officer
122 Every official who, in connection with the duties of his office, commits fraud or a breach of trust is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, whether or not the fraud or breach of trust would be an offence if it were committed in relation to a private person.
- R.S., c. C-34, s. 111
Marginal note: Municipal corruption
- 123(1) Every one is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years who directly or indirectly gives, offers or agrees to give or offer to a municipal official or to anyone for the benefit of a municipal official — or, being a municipal official, directly or indirectly demands, accepts or offers or agrees to accept from any person for themselves or another person — a loan, reward, advantage or benefit of any kind as consideration for the official
- (a) to abstain from voting at a meeting of the municipal council or a committee of the council;
- (b) to vote in favour of or against a measure, motion or resolution;
- (c) to aid in procuring or preventing the adoption of a measure, motion or resolution; or
- (d) to perform or fail to perform an official act.
- Written by Gordon Prentice
I’ve known Bill Chadwick for years and I like him a lot. Bill is a leading light in the local Liberal Riding Association and worries that I seem to want the election of a Conservative Government.
Voters in Newmarket-Aurora are not faced with a binary choice between the two old parties, the Conservatives and Liberals. If they wish they can vote for the Greens or the NDP. Or Dorian Baxter. Or the PPC. It is up to voters to decide if their vote is “wasted” or not.
What’s happening to the climate – especially in the Canadian Arctic – is getting a huge amount of coverage in the news. So I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Green vote increase. And after the blackface controversy, perhaps some previously Liberal votes will hemorrhage to the NDP.
Election campaigns matter
On Monday evening I was at Ryerson University for a conversation between four leading political journalists on the election campaign at its mid-point. We are told – as if we don’t already know - that campaigns matter. The Toronto Star’s Susan Delacourt, who will be one of the moderators at Monday’s Big Federal Election Debate, says there is no single galvanising issue (or, in the jargon, no overarching narrative) at this point in the campaign. Martin Regg Cohn speaks about how the media typically views elections as a horse race (“horse racism” he says to laughter). They all wonder why the Greens aren’t getting more traction. TVO’s Steve Paikin says the NDP will be “creamed” in Quebec. Paikin also talks about voting intentions. He relies on a number-cruncher at TVO whose complicated algorithms predicted the Liberals would lose 25 seats as a direct consequence of Blackface. But, two weeks later, they’ve got half of them back.
He predicts fewer young people will vote compared with 2015 with its promise of Sunny Ways.
What does all this tell me? The electorate is fickle and has a short attention span. And mid way through this Federal Election campaign there is still everything to play for.
Personally, I am not going to vote “strategically” – voting for one Party simply to keep another one out.
I am going to vote positively for the person who is most likely to represent my view of the world in the House of Commons – even if, for the moment, it seems doubtful that person will be elected.
Lois and Tony
The 64 year-old Conservative candidate and re-tread, Lois Brown, is never going to set the heather on fire. She is a Conservative loyalist and the record shows she will do her master’s bidding, unquestioningly. Lois has a limited repertoire and if she is elected (as seems likely) we can expect more of the same.
The 69 year-old Tony Van Bynen discovered he was a Liberal only a few months ago when a vacancy arose. His record rules him out for me. He dissembles. He is not a leader. He parrots scripts written by others. But if by some miracle he makes it to the House of Commons we should not expect too much from him. He will coast serenely towards his second (or is it his third?) retirement.
Feel free to share my words
So Bill, as requested, I am passing on your views about Lois Brown. You say “Feel free to share my words.” And I shall. Perhaps Lois reads my blog and will be interested in what you say:
From the slant of your Blog you seem bent on electing a Conservative Government. If this is not your intent, perhaps you might dedicate a similar effort to remind people that Lois was for many years the only Conservative MP to vote and cheer for every vote and action of Steven Harper, including all the cuts to Women’s Organizations, the muzzling of scientists, redirecting foreign aid away from needy countries that were not aligned with Business opportunities, destruction of the Long Gun Registry data, and much more. Below are some that I protested.
6 October 2015 Candidate Debate Question. My question is (to Lois Brown) in regards to the muzzling of Scientists.
Canada has some of the finest scientists in the world. Canadian prosperity, jobs, and health all depend on the unfettered work of our Federal scientist. Catastrophically, these experts have been muzzled by the Harper government, and their crucial work handcuffed by a climate of repression and fear. Scientists are not allowed to speak freely about their research. (Important science papers have often been delayed 6 months or disappeared entirely in the mandatory censorship process imposed by the Prime Minister’s Office). When will the Harper government remove this outrageous muzzling of Federal scientists?
2nd June 2012 Speech to Protesters outside Lois Brown’s Office:
Bill C-38 is unprecedented in scope and impact on our future. We did not vote in Lois Brown to surreptitiously gut 60 different acts, including 170 pages of environmental axing, Old Age Security, Employment Insurance, repeal of the “Fair Wages and Hours” act, food inspection, and much more! Where is the consultation with the Provinces, stakeholders, and all Canadians? Where are the fact-based decisions? Why is debate being muzzled? Why is Harper so afraid he has to bury his dirty laundry inside a budget bill? Do Canadian’s want to give dictatorial powers to Harper’s “yes gang” of puppet ministers? No way! Are we like the frog sitting in a pan of warming water, naively sitting still while our goose is cooked? Or are we here to demand accountability from our MP? Are we prepared to tell Lois Brown……. we want this bill split now for fair debate! I say split this Bill! So lets hear it. What do we want: Split this Bill!
Open Letter to MP Lois Brown, 4th November 2012. Subject: The Delisting of Deadly Weapons
Ms Brown, I was appalled to discover that you are supporting legislation that delists deadly weapons like the semi-automatic that was used in the Montreal massacre, as well as guns specially designed to launch armour piercing rounds, and sniper rifles built to assassinate at ranges up to two miles. Now in all good conscience I am appealing for your help in correcting this flawed legislation before its final vote.
Prior to the Long Gun Registry these guns were subject to sales restrictions including mandatory tracking of ownership. The Long Gun Registry took over this tracking. Now you are supporting untracked distribution of these weapons of terrorism and war through the unrestricted scrapping of the Long Gun Registry! To add insult to injury, the legislation also proposes scrapping the valuable information gathered on gun ownership. The RCMP published a long list of cases where the Long Gun Registry has led to greatly enhanced public and police safety, including the tracing of gun smuggling, suicide and domestic violence prevention, theft tracing, and more.
The Long Gun Registry was painstakingly compiled using extensive police work and taxpayer funds. Destroying these records was never mentioned prior to the Federal Election, and I doubt the Canadian people support the foolhardy destruction of valuable crime-fighting information, or the delisting of weapons not needed for any legitimate purpose other than mayhem.
If you and the Federal Government are sincere about being “tough on crime” you will action this issue.
- Written by Gordon Prentice
Background: It is 7.30am and I am in the St Andrew's Golf Club for a hearty breakfast before this morning’s Aurora Chamber of Commerce debate. It is small and cosy and the place is packed. It costs $25 for non-members so I doubt we shall see any curious members of the public wandering in off the street just to have a look.
The usual suspects - the inner core from two main political parties – are out in force. I see famous faces - former Newmarket Mayor Tom Taylor, Aurora Mayor Tom Mrakas and former Newmarket-Aurora MPP Chris Ballard. I suppose there are a few Aurora business people here too.
We have candidates from the two adjacent federal ridings of (1) Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill and (2) Newmarket-Aurora. There will be six rounds of questions – on topics notified in advance.
The format allows the Liberal, Conservative, Green and NDP candidates from the two ridings to decide which one of them is going to answer for the Party. This gives the sole representatives of the Libertarian Party Serge Korovitsyn (standing in Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill) and the People’s Party of Canada, Andrew McCaughtrie, (Newmarket-Aurora) double exposure which neither deserves.
Serge “Canada is turning into a socialist state” Korovitsyn’s politics are half-baked, incoherent and off-the-wall. He wants to get Government out of our lives yet calls for universal, free child care – because it worked quite well in the old Soviet Union. McCaughtrie’s politics are shallow and ill-informed.
We have short introductions from each of the candidates, taking a minute or two to set out their stalls. Lois Brown reminds us she was previously MP for Newmarket-Aurora but forgets precisely when. She says she was MP from 2005 and then corrects herself before someone else does. Her actual tenure was from 2008-2015 but may seem longer to many.
The first question is on public transit and Brown comes across as Lady Bountiful. Her big selling point is she knows how to work the system and get Federal dollars into the riding. Only the simple-minded believe this kind of stuff - that her wizardry alone got the money here. She tells us she got Federal cash for the bridge in south Aurora. Now she says:
“The Conservatives are going to prioritise transport projects that have already been agreed to.”
But what about getting an all-day two-way GO Train service up to Newmarket?
That’s unfinished business. And it is a very big deal for people in Newmarket.
Stop reading from a script!
Tony Van Bynen, a recent convert to the Liberal Party after 69 years on the planet, appears relaxed in this Chamber of Commerce milieu. But why, after years in the public eye, does he read from a script all the time, head-bowed? Doesn’t he know that the candidates who are most effective look directly at their audience as they speak. That’s the way to connect with people.
Van Bynen talks about his long commute when he worked down in the city when he still had a full head of hair (I made that up) and how he took the heat for the rapid bus system. I think this is a coded reference to the endless construction on Davis Drive.
Liberal to Conservative
We move on to questions on tax. Former Liberal MP for Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill, Leona Alleslev, now standing for the Conservatives, grabs the microphone and launches into a passionate exposition of Conservative policy on taxation. She has a huge ring binder at her elbow but doesn’t consult it once.
Alleslev, who was formerly a Captain in the Royal Canadian Air Force, crossed the floor to join the Conservatives in 2018 but her views are so uncompromisingly right-wing I am left wondering how she was ever selected as a Liberal in the first place. When she left the Party she should have done the honest thing and resigned her seat to fight it under her new colours. But she didn’t and is now a dyed-in-the-wool Conservative.
Now we are on to question three about Pharmacare. This is Yvonne Kelly’s strong suit and she comes across as knowledgeable. The Green’s Walter Bauer makes the case for universal healthcare and how it could be made more efficient, such as bulk buying drugs. (On the climate emergency, he explains the meaning of his doomsday stick and how close we are to irreversible climate change. See photo below)
Now Leona Alleslev pulls rank and grabs the microphone again, elbowing Lois out of the way.
Now we are on to precarious employment, the minimum wage and that sort of stuff. Yet again Alleslev reaches for the crackly microphone and gives the Conservative line, leaving poor old Lois Brown open-mouthed.
Alleslev is very animated, waving her index figure in the air, looking directly at her audience and speaking in perfectly formed sentences. She talks about the knowledge industries of the future and complains that Canada cannot keep its bright young talent here at home. She says with absolute certainty that 80% of engineers graduating from Waterloo leave the country. (Hmmm. I make a mental note to double check that one.)
Leah Taylor Roy answers for the Liberals in the same way as Captain Alleslev answers for the Conservatives. This makes Tony Van Bynen appear as the junior partner. Leah doesn’t bury her face in her notes but speaks confidently and clearly, giving the impression she knows what she is talking about. She has facts - and opinions - at her fingertips and comes across well. (She also believes in a nationwide ban on handguns – as does Van Bynen – but this, of course, is not in the Liberal Platform)
Now we are galloping on to question five on affordable housing. I see Lois Brown snatching the microphone before Captain Allesev can lay her hands on it.
I want Lois to assert herself and not play second fiddle to this Conservative arriviste.
Now Lois is shamelessly inventing facts to suit her argument. She says there were no new builds in Newmarket-Aurora over the past four years. This is demonstrably untrue. 212 Davis Drive is just one example.
Now she is talking about extending the amortisation period of mortgages to 30 years but, instead, says 30%. Someone from the audience shouts out to correct her but we all know what she means.
She is stumbling. Something has short-circuited under than expensively coiffured hair.
Now she turns her fire on Tony Van Bynen. She is talking about stress-testing mortgage applications and has a dig at the complicity of bankers:
“Someone wilfully put them into a situation they can’t afford.”
I hear Van Bynen talk soothingly about the importance of having a safe and affordable place to call home. He talks about 212 Davis Drive where 25% of the units are subsidised. Is he gilding the lily here? I don’t know. I thought there were 225 private purpose built rental units with 30 subsidised for low income households but things may have moved on since 2017 when these figures were quoted by York Region.
Now there is a question from the floor on what to do about deficits.
Lois is now on a roll. She has the microphone tightly in her grip, telling us we have to start living within our means. This is straight out of the Conservative playbook.
She lambasts the Liberal’s projected deficit of (I think) $20 billion
“with no repayment program!”
She demands to know from the old banker when he ever loaned money without a repayment program.
This is shaping up quite nicely into a grudge fight. I like this. I don’t want politicians to pull their punches.
Lois on the red leather couch
Now, without missing a beat, Lois turns her fury on to Justin Trudeau’s red leather couch in his office which she says cost $150,000. We get some phoney outrage:
“It could pay for four people to go through college!”
Is this the same red leather couch that featured in the Globe and Mail editorial on the 150thanniversary of Canadian confederation?
Lois is all hot and bothered about the couch. I look around and people seem unconcerned.
Van Bynen on debt
Now Van Bynen sparks into life. The old banker talks about the
“positive components of debt”.
He says you can’t pay for your house in cash (perhaps he could) and you’ve gotta borrow. And this is where people like him, the bankers, come in.
Now he is telling Lois that national debt in relation to GDP is currently 31%. Under Stephen Harper it was 39%.
Van Bynen smiles as if he has just delivered a knockout blow.
Lois just grips the microphone a little tighter and says nothing.
Newmarket-Aurora: Liberal candidate Tony Van Bynen; Conservative candidate Lois Brown; NDP candidate Yvonne Kelly; Green candidate Walter Bauer; PPC candidate Andrew McCaughtrie. (Dorian Baxter is now a registered candidate for the election in Newmarket-Aurora standing for the Progressive Canadian Party)
Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill: Liberal candidate Leah Taylor Roy; Conservative candidate Leona Alleslev; NDP candidate Aaron Brown; Green candidate Timothy Flemming; Libertarian candidate Serge Korovitsyn
- Written by Gordon Prentice
The Liberal Party member of a few month’s standing and wannabe MP, Tony Van Bynen, wants us to vote for him on 21 October because he is a “trusted community leader”.
Where is the evidence for that assertion?
Dave Kerwin knew Van Bynen for decades and saw him close up on Newmarket Council. He told Van Bynen to his face in front of a packed Council meeting:
“You never show any leadership!”
Kerwin, the longest serving councillor in Canada until he retired after last October’s election, stands by that brutal assessment.
In truth, Van Bynen is essentially an administrator, rarely if ever leading from the front. He is a gradualist, content to watch the paint dry.
At the candidates debate last Thursday he displayed no urgency on tackling climate change. The warnings from the UN that we have 11 years to do something cut no ice with him. He says it's not possible. During the debates on extending the 15-minute GO train service northwards to Newmarket from Aurora he said he would like to see us “easing into that” as we go forward. No rush. He says he believes in “followership” as much as leadership.
Van Bynen hoards information like the secretive old banker that he is. He says his word is his bond. Yet the record shows he trades in half-truths.
There are examples when he broke the trust placed in him. When Newmarket Council called for the Chair of York Regional Council to be directly elected by voters at large (by a vote of 7-1) he broke that trust. At York Regional Council, in defiance of his own Council’s position, he voted for the status quo and for cronyism.
Saints and sinners
When we elect an MP we are, of course, not electing a Saint nor, we hope, a sinner. But Van Bynen’s long municipal career is studded with sins of omission and commission.
He talks blithely of transparency and openness yet, even now, fails to tell the press about the full extent of his $162,739 severance package and how he requested payment of the huge slab of cash from York Region to be deferred from 2018 to 2019 “for tax planning purposes”. Is this what the Voice for Fiscal Prudence really means when he talks about “fiscal responsibility”? Telling us he will be watching out for our interests while looking after his own?
Against Code of Conduct
Van Bynen voted against the introduction of a Code of Conduct for York Region. These codes underpin the relationship between politicians and public. Earlier this year the Region was forced by law to adopt a Code. It calls on members “to act in a way that bears public scrutiny”. So I expect him to be fully transparent on the arrangements he made for his second severance payment of $67,068.
Van Bynen addressed the issue of trust in an interview with Newmarket Today (while admitting ignorance about one of the major issues of this Liberal administration):
“Trust is a one-on-one thing, I don’t know enough about the SNC-Lavalin issue to understand what’s going on there and, for me, it’s important that people make a local decision first and trust me as their local representative to take our issues to Ottawa… and I intend my community to hold me accountable to them.”
How can Van Bynen be properly held to account if his way of doing politics is to trade in half-truths or, indeed, conceal the whole truth?
Glenway: no explanation
The former golf course at Glenway is now being redeveloped for housing but during the height of the controversy – when we saw enormous public meetings attracting many hundreds of residents - we were not told that Mayor Van Bynen and his Council had the opportunity to buy the golf course land in 2008 but turned it down. Here was an opportunity to protect open space but Van Bynen rejected it after an in-camera 20 minute discussion.
Later, when residents and the Council were doing a post-mortem on what went wrong at a so-called "Lessons learned" meeting, he chose to stay silent (other than thanking people for their contributions) offering no explanations for his actions. This failure to address issues head-on in an open and transparent way is entirely typical of the man.
After the experience of Glenway, Van Bynen was desperate to cut a deal with the Clock Tower developer Bob Forrest. He told the ERA newspaper:
“We've learned through Glenway that polarity doesn't help anybody."
On the redevelopment of the Clock Tower he was less than candid. This was a major issue for the Town yet he told me in writing there had been no one-on-one meetings with Bob Forrest, the developer. Again, he was being economical with the actualité.
Clock Tower: there may have been one or two conversations
When pressed at a packed meeting of the Committee of the Whole on 18 April 2016 Van Bynen qualified his earlier statement:
"There may have been one or two phone conversations but they’ve been general in nature. They were about the project overview, the planning process and community issues. No commitments were given to support the application.
The week before Van Bynen had told the ERA newspaper that
"The Clock Tower is a great example of the intensification we need."
He went on to support the redevelopment and ended up being in a minority of one. His “leadership” on this issue was rejected by every one of his Council colleagues.
Doug Ford's cuts
Now, as a newly minted Liberal candidate, he excoriates Doug Ford and his cuts but couldn’t find any time over the summer to talk to the paramedics, teachers, librarians and others who gathered outside Christine Elliott’s office every Friday protesting about the very same Provincial Government cuts.
He now admits he doesn’t do that sort of thing.
Van Bynen retired after the October 2018 election but stayed on the Board of York Net Telecom - an entity wholly owned by York Region – as a “citizen member”. He is the only one.
The position is unremunerated.
But I had to check.
I couldn’t take something like that on trust.
- Written by Gordon Prentice
Read this first. Drawdown Newmarket-Aurora should be congratulated for organising the Federal Election candidates Q&A at the Old Town Hall last night. And the candidates (who turned up) all deserve a hearty round of applause. There was a good crowd there. We are indebted to Newmarket Today for telling us why the Conservative candidate, Lois Brown, was absent. According to her Campaign Manager, Peter Seemann, she had “a long-standing commitment” which clashed.
When asked what that commitment was, Seemann said he couldn’t disclose the details, and added “it’s an event related to the campaign but it’s not a public event”.
Last night’s “debate” at the Old Town Hall didn’t live up to its billing.
The atmosphere was hushed and overly respectful. The audience quiet and subdued. You could have heard the proverbial pin drop.
I found myself thinking: Come back Dorian Baxter!
It wasn’t a debate, it was a question and answer session with candidates sometimes reading their answers metronomically from scripts in front of them. Oh dear!
I know they can do better than that. But the format seemed to snuff out all spontaneity. Candidates weren’t invited to challenge each other. There were no rebuttals and few interactions. There were no sparks flying at any stage. Even when candidates made good points there was no applause to encourage them.
Subsidies are bad
The People’s Party of Canada candidate, Andrew McCaughtrie, is out of his depth. He has one string to his bow, ending subsidies.
The Green candidate, Walter Bauer, comes prepared with his visual aid, a doomsday stick showing how all the parties’ commitments to tackle the climate emergency have failed and will fail, except, of course, the Greens.
He says it is not a choice between tackling climate change and employment. Oil and gas jobs are readily transferable to construction and other industries.
The NDP’s Yvonne Kelly appears fluent and relaxed, getting the first laugh of the night with a dig at companies and corporate responsibility towards the environment.
“I haven’t seen much evidence of that (pause)….. ever since I’ve been alive.”
The Liberal standard bearer, Tony Van Bynen, looks a bit red-faced and apprehensive to begin with but he soon chills out when he gets the measure of the event. The audience is respectful. Just the way he likes it.
After questions to candidates from the Drawdown people things are opened up to the floor. Most are linked in some way to climate change but some other topics sneak in. The Greens and NDP are pushing for a change to the electoral system, arguing for PR. Van Bynen prefers the ranked ballot (which is not proportional).
(The Liberals have abandoned their 2015 election pledge to move away from first-past-the-post.)
Van Bynen also breaks ranks with the official Liberal line when he says he wants a ban on handguns.
There are questions on mental health, working with the Provinces, Canada’s indigenous peoples and arm sales to oppressive countries. There is another on the growth of populism worldwide. The Green’s Walter Bauer tells us we felt smug when the Americans voted in Donald Trump.
“So we voted in Ford.”
We chortle, quietly.
Now a question on addiction and opioids. It is 8pm and one hour into the event and Yvonne Kelly asks the moderator:
“Is it OK if I put my purse here.” (on the empty chair next to her)
“I guess Lois isn’t coming.”
This gets a laugh.
All the candidates are stumped by a question about Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic once the ice melts and other countries want to use the North West Passage as an international waterway. A few fail to understand the question.
Now there is a clever question on climate change and the deficit. What’s the worst that can happen with both? As expected, the Greens come out fighting. Canada, with its relatively small population, is not responsible for most of the global heating now going on. But Walter Bauer tells us it’s not OK to pee in the pool.
I look around and see some famous faces suppressing smiles.
The Greens tell us we have 11 years left to do something before climate change accelerates and becomes irreversible. Van Bynen, the Voice for Fiscal Prudence and a gradualist by temperament and inclination, says that's impossible. It will take much longer.
Now the Voice for Fiscal Prudence is telling us there are two kinds of deficits and we should have a balanced approach to debt. The old banker reminds us he once made a living doing this.
“Sometimes that (balanced approach) involves incurring responsible debt.”
Oh! I see.
Now we are gently cantering towards the close and the moderator, Penny Stevens, thanks us for our questions. She says she didn’t know what to expect from the audience beforehand. But in the event she didn’t have to deal with any heckling.
More’s the pity.
Update: And this is from Newmarket Today. Photo of Walter Bauer (above right) taken from Newmarket Today.
Updated on 28 September 2019 to include a reference to the Liberal Party abandoning its 2015 promise to get rid of first-past-the-post.
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