Newmarket’s ERA newspaper – which is delivered weekly free of charge to every home in the Town – won’t tell its readers why I am running for election as Deputy Mayor and Regional Councillor.
Ted McFadden, the Managing Director of Metroland York Region, who is responsible for editorial policy, asked me to rewrite my reasons for running to remove any reference to my opponent, the incumbent Regional Councillor Tom Vegh. I refused and I am appealing his decision.
I am running because I want to see honest and ethical behaviour in municipal government and that means challenging Tom Vegh who spent like a drunken sailor in the 2018 election. He then had to be bailed out by developers’ money after the election to clear the debt he had run up.
Newmarket Today reported in 2019 that more than half of Vegh’s campaign contributions came from within the development industry.
The law now bans corporate and union donations to candidates running for office but private individuals can contribute up to a maximum of $1,200 per candidate. Money poured in to Vegh’s campaign from individuals who are also big names in the development industry. They just swapped hats and sent the cheque to Vegh.
After he won the election Vegh was still carrying a huge $30,000 debt.
He told Newmarket Today:
“After the election I started receiving a lot of cheques and some of those I sent back for one reason or another, if I wasn’t comfortable accepting it. But there’s a few there that I said, “Yeah, OK”.
Which begs the question - which cheques did he refuse to cash and why?
“I won the election without their (developers) help, without even talking to them or them approaching me. And then we started receiving the donations.”
It must have occurred to Vegh that taking money in this way could be seen as placing him under an obligation to the development industry. Without their money his election would have been challenged.
“You know, $1,200 or whatever someone is giving me, I don’t think that’s nearly enough to influence anyone in a corrupt way. Second, I’m not corrupt. Third, there’s an entire Newmarket council there, don’t overestimate my influence on council.”
Tom Vegh has questionable ethics. His voting record on major planning issues at York Region more often than not follows the development industry line. He has voted to press ahead on controversial planning proposals after rejecting the benefit of advice from the Region's professional planning staff.
Tom Vegh is the reason I am running.
Click "Read more" to see the email exchanges.
29 August 2022
Dear Mr McFadden (photo right)
Your reporter, Lisa Queen, tells me you are not prepared to publish the reasons why I am standing for election unless they are re-written to exclude any reference to my opponent Tom Vegh.
In an election, it must be possible to reference a political opponent’s track record and ethical behaviour where comments are rooted in hard fact.
I have read Torstar’s Journalistic Standard’s Guide and your decision not to publish my reasons for standing appears to be in conflict with a number of core principles.
For example, the Guide states that:
“Fair news reports provide relevant context, do not omit relevant facts, and aim to be honest with readers about what we know and what we don’t know.”
When you publish the candidates’ profiles can I ask you to tell your readers (in the same piece) why you decided not to publish my reasons for running?
29 August 2022
Hello Mr. Prentice,
Thank you for reaching out.
The purpose of the profiles we are offering to all candidates is to provide the opportunity to tell residents/voters a little bit about themselves and what they plan to bring to the position.
It’s not meant to be a platform to question what others have done or not done, because there is no option for those opponents to respond.
Not giving someone an opportunity to defend himself/herself is not fair, which goes against the Torstar Journalistic Standards Guide. It is addressed in the paragraph that follows the portion you quoted:
“Our core fairness standard demands that any subject of potentially harmful allegations must be given opportunity to respond.”
Since there is no way to provide that opportunity in the candidate profile we are offering, we cannot print your answer as provided.
I agree with your statement that: “In an election, it must be possible to reference a political opponent’s track record and ethical behaviour where comments are rooted in hard fact.”
But the candidate profiles are not the place to do so.
As Lisa has mentioned — and has offered —a separate story, where both sides of the issue can have a voice, is the proper venue.
The option to answer the candidate profile question in a way that meets our journalistic standards is still available to you and I hope you’ll take advantage of it so voters will get to know you and your platform.
Ted McFadden | Managing editor, York Region
30 August 2022
Dear Mr McFadden
Thank you for your email of 29 August 2022.
I have considered the points you make carefully but my position remains unchanged
I have already explained why I am running for election as Regional Councillor and, as I said before, I am not going to invent another reason tailored for your newspaper.
I am running because (a) Tom Vegh’s election campaigns are funded in large measure by people intimately connected with the development industry and (b) with his voting record in office. I cannot be clearer when I say that is my motivation for running.
You say that any subject of potentially harmful allegations must be given (an) opportunity to respond. I understand from email correspondence between Lisa Queen and Jane Twinney (which was copied to all candidates) that the Candidates Profile piece will not now be published until after Labour Day.
This gives you time to ask Tom Vegh to respond. Personally, I wouldn’t want to restrict him to 50 words. He can have as many words as he needs to explain why he takes money from people from development industry people and if he approaches them for money or if they offer it unsolicited.
I have already asked him these questions but he refuses to engage with me on the grounds that I am a candidate and we are in the election campaign period. When I sent Lisa Queen my response to the Candidates’ Profile questionnaire I copied it to Tom Vegh. It follows that I am not ambushing him in any way.
But if, at the end of the day, you hold to your position I would ask that you explain to your readers why you are not printing my reasons for running. I would be content with a formulation along the lines set out below but I leave this with you. I would also ask that any statement by you is placed in my Candidate’s Profile where my reasons for running would have appeared.
“We asked Gordon Prentice to re-write his reasons for running as he criticized his opponent who would not have had the opportunity to respond in the same article. Mr Prentice would not change his reasons for running so we have decided not to publish that part of his candidates’ profile.” (50 words)
Is there an avenue open to me to appeal your decision? If so, can you tell me how I do this?
31 August 2022
Hello Mr. Prentice,
I appreciate your response, however, my position also remains unchanged.
Ted McFadden | Managing editor, York Region
31 August 2022
Hello again Tom
I am writing to ask for your help.
Ted McFadden, the managing editor of Metroland York Region, is refusing to print my reasons for running for Regional Council. He says the profile piece is not meant to question what others have done but, the reality is, I am only running because (a) you take money from people intimately connected with the development industry and (b) I believe this influences the way you vote.
Ted McFadden pointed me to the Torstar Journalistic Standards Guide which says:
“Our core fairness standard demands that any subject of potentially harmful allegations must be given an opportunity to respond.”
He goes on:
‘Since there is no way to provide that opportunity in the candidate profile we are offering, we cannot print your answer as provided.”
I copied my reasons to you when I responded to Lisa Queen’s “Candidates’ Profile Questionnaire” on 24 August 2022. I said this when asked why I had decided to run:
“The incumbent, Tom Vegh, accepts campaign donations from people intimately connected with the development industry and votes in line with their interests. I deplore this. He over-promises and under-delivers, promising a new library and seniors’ centre in 2018 and walking away from his clearly stated and unambiguous commitment.” (50 words)
I am asking you to contact Mr McFadden to say you have no objection to the paper printing my reasons for running.
For my part, I have no objections to you commenting on my reasons for running in the same profile piece. I have told Mr McFadden so far as I am concerned you can have as many words as you need.
The fact that you accept developers’ money is a matter of public record. You are quoted extensively in this Newmarket Today story written by Kim Champion on 22 April 2019.
How you finance your election campaign is, of course, a matter entirely for you so long as it is within the law. I am aiming to spend about $5,000 in this campaign - a fraction of your spending in 2018.
You told Kim Champion:
“… I was in a situation where the most I could contribute myself still left me with about a $30,000 deficit, and you can’t finish a campaign with a deficit like that, otherwise it’s considered self-funding, So, after the election, I started receiving a lot of cheques and some of those I sent back for one reason or another, if I wasn’t comfortable accepting it. But there’s a few there that I said, ‘Yeah, OK’.”
“Developers are only a small portion of the donations I received. Most of the donations I got was after the election. I already won and they just started arriving in the mail. And I had to pay off that $30,000 deficit.”
The 2018 election was on 22 October.
According to your Financial Statement filed with the Town in 2019, you accepted $1,200 from Joanne Barnett (Marianneville) on 7 September 2018; $500 from Jennifer Crainford (Groundswell Urban Planners) on 7 September 2018 and another $700 on 2 October 2018; $1,200 from Renzo Fabbro (Andrin Homes) on 2 October 2018; $1,200 from Howard Kerbel on 2 October 2018; $1,200 from Toba Scott (Kerbel Group) on 2 October 2018; $1,200 from Jeff Kerbel (Kerbel Group) on 2 October 2018; $1,200 from Kerrigan Kelly (Groundswell Urban Planners) on 2 October 2018; $1,200 from Lucila Sandoval (Groundswell Urban Planners) on 2 October 2018; $1,200 from Heath Purcell-Sharp (Groundswell Urban Planners) on 16 October 2018 and $1,000 from Sam Reisman (Rose Corporation) on 10 October 2018.
You received $17,500 before the election from development industry people and others and $22,850 after the election when the development industry knew you had won. The details are publicly available on the Town’s website.
Some people may believe, as I do, that taking money from people intimately involved with the development industry in order to clear your campaign debts would put you under an obligation to them. It is for that reason I have been asking you if you are soliciting donations or accepting money from these very same development industry people in this election.
I very much hope you will contact Ted McFadden.
Once we have settled the campaign finance issue we can then move on to other matters.
PS: I wrote to Ted McFadden to say I would appeal his decision not to cover my reasons for running.
This evening he told me his position was unchanged and said I should write to Lori Martin who is Metroland’s deputy director of content for York Region. I am therefore copying this email to her and to Ted McFadden, Lisa Queen and Newmarket Today.