- Written by Gordon Prentice
I meet Walter Bauer for a mid-morning coffee at the excellent Cardinal Press Espresso Bar in Newmarket’s old Main Street.
He asks for hot chocolate served up in a “real cup”. I follow suit, immediately impressed by his green approach to the smallest of things.
Walter, the relaxed and affable Green candidate for Newmarket-Aurora, is wearing a lapel badge telling us to Be Brave and Vote Green.
On Monday the Greens published their election platform so we shall have lots to talk about. It runs to over 80 pages - with arresting photos and graphics. I print out only the contents pages and plan to ask him to pick a topic and we’ll take it from there.
But first I suggest the document is a hostage to fortune. There is a long list of commitments and they’ve got to be paid for. And the Parliamentary Budget Officer who has been asked to cost the proposals won’t finish the math until next week.
I suggest the Green’s slogan:
Not Left. Not Right. Forward Together
(apart from being clunky) is disingenuous. It seems to me they are putting forward a platform that most left-of-centre people would feel very comfortable with.
Walter reminds me it also calls for a balanced budget. I suggest this is something political parties feel obliged to promise or risk being seen as reckless and profligate. As we all know, the national debt rose relentlessly under Stephen Harper and Conservative Governments in Canada routinely live with deficits if the alternative is hiking up tax rates.
Walter wants to go after those who evade tax who increase the tax burden on everyone else - those who play by the rules. Speculators and house flippers are also targets. He wants to see a “Guaranteed Livable Income” to lift people out of poverty. (The details are in the Platform at page 59). Seems to me the Green commitment is to fair taxation.
Walter is a professional engineer who is semi-retired. He also acts as an expert witness focussing on the consequences of delay for any given project. He also deals with productivity issues. When he retired from engineering he lived on the land for five years, building his own home and raising chickens. He wanted to vote Green but there were no candidates – so he got in touch with the Party and offered to become one. He stood in Richmond Hill in last year’s Provincial election.
We are now talking about global heating and I suggest the political climate has, perhaps, never been better for the Greens. The Canadian north is now heating up four times as fast as the rest of the planet and people seem to be listening to the arguments in a way that never was the case before. He agrees.
He says he is getting a terrific reception on the doorstep and voters are genuinely concerned about climate change. He has 78 lawn signs ready to go into the ground and is confident the Greens will do well. (He tells me the Greens had to pay a non-refundable $500 to the Town for a permit to put up election signs! With their meagre resources, this represents a big slice of the money the Party has to fight the election.)
Is a Green vote a wasted vote?
But what about the wasted vote? In a riding like Newmarket-Aurora, dominated by the old duopoly for as long as anyone can remember, why should people vote Green?
He says we should vote for people who will make a difference – not the same old, same old. He says he is angry at all the bull we get from the main parties.
He says Andrew Scheer’s proposed tax credit for people using public transit is not as generous as it sounds since so many people using public transit, like students, don’t pay tax.
“Scheer makes my blood boil.”
I tell him he is coming across as the angry man and he just laughs.
He says his campaign is trying to shift opinion, move the needle, on some of the most pressing challenges we face, here in Canada and around the globe.
We cover a lot of ground with me dipping into the Green Platform wherever I see commitments which to me appear controversial or pie-in-the-sky. But Walter gives as good as he gets.
His home page is the CBC (which he says is underfunded) and he devours books like there is no tomorrow. I could talk to him for ages but he has to go and meet the students at Pickering College’s Green Club. He hopes the international students will talk about green initiatives being taken in their home countries. Sounds good.
We shake hands and I thank him for being so open with me. When I fire questions at Walter he doesn’t duck and dodge or hesitate or equivocate. He gives straight answers to straight questions. I find this very refreshing. Too many politicians seemed trained from birth to tell you what you want to hear rather than tell you what they really think.
As we leave Walter says he is going to be making a big announcement at the Newmarket candidates’ debate.
There is a theatrical pause as he waits for me to ask what it will be.
And, on cue, I do.
He just laughs.
This is one secret he is keeping up his sleeve, for now.
- Written by Gordon Prentice
Newmarket’s Deputy Mayor Tom Vegh yesterday waded into the election signs controvery, telling a constituent the Region’s election sign by-law:
“re timing of the erection of signs applies to municipal elections, not provincial or federal elections.”
Many will consider Tom Vegh an expert on election signs.
Last year Vegh blanketed the Town with election signs from the word go, leaving his opponents struggling to catch up. They never did.
The Town’s by-law defines an election sign as
“a sign advertising or promoting a registered candidate in a federal, provincial or municipal election, including an election of a local board or commission.”
What happens now?
Yesterday Vegh said
“Town and Regional staff are meeting to determine next steps in regard to any discrepancies between the two municipal by-laws and how other municipalities are interpreting the regional by-law.”
What an absurd state of affairs! Didn’t they compare and contrast the Regional and Town by-laws before now? Didn’t they know a Federal Election was coming up?
Yesterday I wrote to the Region drawing their attention to the Lois Brown signs which have been erected in clear contravention of the York Region Sign By-law 2015-36. I asked if they would let me know what action, if any, they propose to take.
I am waiting to hear.
The Town requires candidates to pay $500 (non-refundable) to get an election signs permit. But what on earth is the purpose if they don’t enforce their own by-laws? Is it just a money grab?
And what about the smaller political parties – and independents – for whom $500 is a big chunk of cash which could be used for campaigning?
And another thing…
All this begs the question of whether the Town’s by-law is actually enforceable in a Federal election. Under the Canada Elections Act political parties can have electoral district associations and candidates. But independents can also stand for election. By definition, they do not have associations. The Town's Election Sign By-law defines a candidate as:
“...a person who has been nominated under the Canada Elections Act, the Election Act or the Municipal Elections Act.”
Political Parties will say that once they have held a nomination meeting they have a nominated candidate. But what about the independent candidate who has no association and no nomination meeting?
To be “nominated” the independent candidate must file his or her nomination papers with the returning officer. The earliest date for doing this is, I think, tomorrow, Thursday, September 19th.
Election signs are everywhere
But elections signs are now appearing everywhere. This is because the political parties believe the Town's by-law permits them to put up their elections signs on the day after the writ of election was issued – not after they have lodged the candidate’s nomination papers with the Returning Officer.
This means that candidates running under the banner of a political party can put up signs now. But independent candidates (and I don’t know if we are going to have any here in Newmarket-Aurora) cannot put up their signs until their nomination papers have been filed. This is the only "self-nomination" process recognized by the Canada Elections Act.
At the moment there is no level playing field between candidates representing political parties and those who are standing as independents. The answer is to have one date – the date for filing nomination papers – applying to both categories.
Photo shows Tom Vegh, Bob Kwapis and Kelly Broome enjoying breakfast with Lois Brown and Christine Elliott on 4 April 2018.
The Elections Canada website says this:
When are campaign signs allowed to be displayed?
“The Canada Elections Act does not regulate or prohibit displaying campaign signs outside a federal election period. However, provincial or municipal laws may regulate campaign signs placed on public or private property before or during an election period.”
- Written by Gordon Prentice
Conservative candidate for Newmarket-Aurora, Lois Brown, has flouted a key York Region by-law which says election signs should not be erected on regional roads before 23 September. (Regional Roads are major highways operated and maintained by York Region and not the local municipality, in this case the Town of Newmarket.)
Lois Brown election signs have been put up at Leslie and Srigley (right) and Leslie and Stackhouse in clear contravention of York Region Sign By-law 2015-36 which forbids election signs on regional property until:
“10am on the 28thday prior to the election day”
Why is this important?
Other political parties who obey the by-law are disadvantaged. Lois Brown signs are placed in high visibility locations for a full week before their signs start appearing. It is all about fairness and ensuring a level playing field for all the candidates.
What should happen now?
The signs should be removed immediately. York Region has the power to remove any election sign “placed in contravention of this by-law”. The Town of Newmarket is authorised to act on behalf of the Region and should do so now.
What happens if they are not removed?
The by-law at section 12.4(a) warns a first conviction means a fine of $100 and not more than $10,000.
But a second or subsequent conviction for the same offence means:
“a fine of not less than two hundred dollars ($200) and not more than one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000.00)”
The signs should come down today.
I am posting this at 11.15am on Monday 16 September 2019.
Update on 17 September 2019: And this is how Newmarket Today covered the story.
Regional Roads in Newmarket-Aurora
- Written by Gordon Prentice
When I chat to our wannabe Liberal MP, Tony Van Bynen, at Tim’s I have no idea we are being closely observed by two members of the public (who are unknown to me).
They nurse their coffees and wait to see who will turn up to chat with Tony, our next MP. They choose not to approach him themselves (which, to me, seems very weird).
It is a long wait. And then the doors swing open and I arrive to ask the great man a few unscripted questions. I listen to his answers and go with the flow.
They take this photo which, I suppose, is worth more than a thousand words.
Just the candidate, eyes glued to a screen. Nothing on the table to advertise his presence. Nothing to say “please chat with me”. And no attempt to interact with anyone else in Tim Hortons.
Coffee with the Candidate
But I suppose Tony has ticked a box on his website’s events calendar. Been there. Done it.
Elsewhere… According to Tony’s events calendar it looks as if Tim Hortons has now been abandoned as a venue but you can still have “Coffee with the Candidate” at the Liberal Campaign Office at 12 St John’s Sideroad, Aurora L4G 0M6 between 7pm-8pm on the following dates:
Wednesday 18 September 2019
Wednesday 25 September 2019
Wednesday 2 October 2019
Wednesday 9 October 2019
Wednesday 16 October 2019
Having coffee with the candidate is well worth doing. I’d recommend it.
Tony will ask if the conversation is being recorded. So it is important you turn off your phone and keep both hands visible on the table.
- Written by Gordon Prentice
Tony Van Bynen, the wannabe Liberal MP for Newmarket-Aurora, arranged for his severance payment of $67,068.33 from York Region - which he claimed in 2018 - to be paid in 2019
“for tax planning purposes”.
Van Bynen, who retired from municipal politics in October 2018, also received a severance payment of $95,631 from the Town of Newmarket.
I asked Van Bynen why he did not tell Newmarket Today about this second severance when he was interviewed by the press in June. He tells me he was commenting about the principle of severance payments rather than the actual figure.
I learn this after I wander into the Tim Hortons on Yonge Street, next to the York Administrative Headquarters Building. Van Bynen wants to chat to his future constituents and this is an offer I can’t refuse.
Startled to see me
I arrive at 10:45am hoping to see him after the initial surge of curious constituents has thinned out. I spot him sitting by the window alone, gazing at his laptop. I put my stuff down on the chair opposite. say hello, then get a coffee. He is startled to see me.
Now he is sitting in front of me, looking uncomfortable, and I ask him why he is all alone. He says Tim Hortons is a commercial business and you’ve got to be respectful of that. I ask if he has had any customers so far and he says he has had a few. I say I’ve got a few questions for him and as they’ll come up during the campaign I hope we can talk.
Are you recording this?
He appears very guarded.
“Are you recording this?”
“No I’m not. But I’d like to. Do you mind?”
“If you do, this conversation is terminated.
OK. No worries.
SNC Lavalin, no clue
I start with a question about SNC Lavalin which featured in yesterday’s Newmarket Today. The journalist Kim Champion quotes Van Bynen:
“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”.
I find it incredible he doesn’t know enough about the SNC-Lavalin affair to venture an opinion.
“Have you read the report of the Ethics Commissioner?”
“No” he says.
This is jaw-dropping. SNC Lavalin has been front page news for months and the Ethics Commissioner’s report has been out for ages. I tell him he is going to be asked about this sort of stuff during the campaign and he better get an opinion asap.
Blocking people from seeing Tweets
Now I am asking if he will continue to block me on Twitter once he is my MP. He says I am not respectful. I tell him I never say anything libelous. (Most of my views are rooted in fact with the occasional prejudice thrown into the mix.)
But surely he cannot block people just because he disagrees with them? He says he doesn’t like how I characterise things.
He tells me I have been disrespectful for years. I ask him how he defines “respect” but get nowhere.
I tell him throughout his career he has spoken in half-truths and have a long list in my head should he challenge that assertion.
Protests outside Christine Elliott's Office
Now I ask why he never joined the protesters outside Christine Elliott’s constituency office. (See my YouTube here.)
On one occasion Jackie solemnly promised me Tony would be joining the protest but couldn’t because of a funeral.
Van Bynen insists Jackie Playter had never spoken to him about “joining the picket”.
Not again! Who on earth do we believe?
I ask if he has ever joined a picket, at any time, ever.
He says he wouldn’t go down to Christine Elliott’s office because the demonstration was all about provincial politics.
But I remind him he has been talking about Doug Ford’s cuts.
“Does this mean that you will not be talking about Doug Ford during this election campaign?”
He hesitates before conceding that, yes, he will be talking about Ford.
It was one of those “Gotcha” moments but I say nothing and quickly move on. I have a lot of ground to cover and he could pull up the drawbridge at any stage. I strive to be respectful while gently quizzing the great man.
Freshly minted Liberal
I ask when he joined the Liberal Party.
“Earlier this year after meeting Kyle (Peterson).”
“Have you ever been a member of another political party?”
Now I want to probe Van Bynen’s green credentials as someone who is the self-proclaimed “voice for fiscal prudence”.
How Green is Van Bynen?
I want to know if it was a good idea for the Federal Government to spend $4.5 billion to buy the trans-mountain pipeline project. Yes or no.
He says he would have to think about it and do some research. I tell him this won’t wash if he is asked the same question in an election debate. I tell him he has to have a view.
He says he needs to examine the business case.
Now I am getting exasperated but don’t let it show.
He says the decision has been taken so it is not up to him to express a view. I tell him the decision hasn’t yet been implemented.
Now he says the pipeline will allow Canada’s energy resources to get to overseas markets.
Now I ask him about the development of the oil (or tar) sands in Northern Alberta. Surely their continued development is inimical to Canada’s efforts to combat climate change and global heating? No, he says. It is possible, with the right mix of policies, to promote green energy while developing the oil sands.
Would he cap production at current levels, as a start to weaning ourselves off fossil fuels? No answer.
What about the dangers of an environmental catastrophe in the High Arctic? I ask him if he knows what a tailing pond is. These gigantic ponds that can be seen from space hold all sorts of toxic sludge which, if released into the Athabasca River by accident, would be discharged into the High Arctic. He says Environment Canada looks after that sort of thing.
Nothing to worry about then?
Newmarket-Aurora's voice in Ottawa
Now I hear myself asking him if he intends to be Newmarket-Aurora’s representative in Ottawa or Ottawa’s voice in the riding.
He clearly believes his job is to take the concerns of his riding to Ottawa. Taking small town politics to the nation’s capital.
Van Bynen expresses no interest in foreign policy. I ask him if he has ever said or written anything, anywhere, at any time on foreign policy issues. I get another blank stare.
Now I am asking him about banning handguns and assault weapons. He says is in favour of a ban. He doesn’t need to do any research or look at business cases or any of that stuff which is his stock in trade. I congratulate him:
“You see we can agree on some things!”
Now it is time to wrap things up and I thank Van Bynen for his time. I ask him if I can repeat the exercise once we are into the campaign.
I tell him I hope to speak to all the other candidates.
As I am finishing my coffee he asks why I am not running for elected office. I tell him I don’t want to. But the question leaves me wondering why the 69 year old Van Bynen wants to be our Member of Parliament. He is not someone who is driven by passionately held convictions. He believes in simple neighbourliness.
Van Bynen wants to go to Ottawa
Kyle Peterson told the Liberal nomination meeting in July:
“When Tony Van Bynen indicated to me he was interested in running, it made me feel much better about my decision, because like me, and all of us, Tony cares about this community.”
And that really is the long and the short of it.
When Kyle decided to stand down after one term it unexpectedly opened up a vacancy which Van Bynen found appealing.
But he would first have to join the Liberal Party. And he did.
The well-formed views and opinions might, or might not, come later.
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