It is 10am on Friday morning and I am sitting in a comfortable chair on the verandah of a lovely heritage home in the old downtown. A little dog I met for the first time moments before is sprawled out at my feet, nestled into my red shoes, as if we are old friends.
I find myself chatting amicably to two people. Tracee and her close friend and campaign manager, Julie Cochrane, who is President of a group of local artists.
They act like a tag-team. Tracee taking some questions and Julie others. They seem to be in it together, in a sisterly kind of way.
Tracee is at pains to explain she is Newmarket through and through. She grew up here. Built a successful business in Town and knows a lot of people. She comes across as an open and engaging “people person”.
For years, I have been looking at local politics from the outside, trying to understand the power plays and relationships in municipal politics. But until she threw her hat into the ring I had never heard of Tracee Chambers. Now she is running for office, I want to know if she was, for example, aware of the two Clock Tower petitions, for and against? And why she chose not to sign one or the other? The Clock Tower has been a big issue for years.
She winces slightly, acknowledging she is coming from a standing start but she says she is getting up to speed on all the issues. She has just posted on her website her "five areas of focus". She has Ian Proundfoot (ex ERA newspaper) on her team and is supported by many others. She has been briefed by the Town’s CAO, Bob Shelton.
On the Clock Tower, seven storeys is too high. She has been out canvassing views on Main Street. If the current height cap is breached then some other business owners would want to follow suit. And before you know it, the old downtown would have changed forever. The very thing that now draws people to the old downtown (the heritage and human scale) would be gone.
I am now talking about Bob Forrest and the OMB and how the Clock Tower project can only proceed if Bob gets Town owned land for his underground car park. Yes, says Tracee. Bob Shelton told her the Town doesn’t need to sell the land to the developer, it can be made available using some other arrangement/agreement.
We now move on to the other big planning issue downtown, the King George School development. (The application has now gone into the Town’s Planning Department.) Julie tells me the plans will shortly be on public display in the old School and people can makes up their minds about it then. The school will be an integral part of the development. She senses that people are comfortable with what is likely to emerge – townhouses and the heritage school converted to condos.
Now I tip-toe into asking about the election campaign itself. With a crowded field of 8 hopefuls it is quite possible that the successful candidate could win with 30% or even 20% of the total vote. She nods in agreement.
I learn that Bob Kwapis was seen as the candidate favoured by the powers-that-be but now, with so many candidates in the race, they are just waiting to see how the cards fall.
She tells me that by nature and instinct she searches for compromises that bring people together. As a councillor, she has only one vote and to get anything done she would need the support of others.
More women needed on Council
Julie chips in. Newmarket needs more women on Council. They bring a different perspective. She laughs, three is good but four would be better!
I mention election signs that will be going up around the Ward from 17 September. Are we going to see a blaze of Tracee Chambers signs? Julie tells me with sweet innocence how many election signs they’ve had printed. I decide to keep this information to myself though I shall be counting how many go up.
As I get up to leave, I am given butter tarts (from the Maid’s Kitchen) to take home with me. Julie goes in to the house and emerges with a beautiful oil painting of William Lyon Mackenzie, painted by her husband. I mention that I recently visited the great man’s house in Toronto which is still standing while those on either side have long been demolished. There is a moral there.
Now I am walking away from the house I hear Tracee call after me:
“Don’t forget my campaign launch tomorrow!”
“Wear your funky shoes!”