It goes without saying that all the candidates, without exception, deserve a hearty round of applause. Running for elected office takes time, money, energy and commitment and when it’s all over - and to rub salt into the wounds - the voters never say thank you. That’s not their job.
The winners, of course, are now fair game.
The Real Winner is Tom Vegh
Tom Vegh had the most to lose in this election and he did the business. He abandoned his safe berth in Ward 1 to make a pitch for the Regional Councillor vacancy. It could have gone pear-shaped but the gods were smiling on him.
The entry of the green Joan Stonehocker into the race probably siphoned votes away from Chris Emanuel whose platform was way too negative. That 40% tax hike was never going to stick. Emanuel’s loud insistent drumbeat on tax drowned out everything else.
Tom Vegh could hardly believe his good fortune. His big, bold and positive signature policy – a new library and seniors’ centre – didn’t even feature in the Town’s election pages which profile the candidates (using the candidates’ own material). When Tom penned his profile (sometime after 27 July when the Town published the list of certified candidates) his top three priorities were:
1.Increase seniors’ housing options
2.Reduce speeding on residential streets
3.Oppose Regional land transfer tax
At no point in his profile does Tom mention a new library and seniors’ centre. Clearly, it is work in progress. I shall be following Tom’s efforts closely as he seeks to deliver on his promise.
Taylor was never going to lose
We have two new councillors – Ward 1’s Grace Simon and Ward 4’s Trevor Morrison – and a retread, Victor Woodhouse, in Ward 2. They will be joining the old gang of four – the re-elected councillors (Jane Twinney and Bob Kwapis) and those who didn’t face an election because there were no challengers (Kelly Broome and Christina Bisanz).
It will be fascinating to see how Taylor handles the job of Mayor with all the new faces around him.
His predecessor, Tony Van Trappist, was content to play the part as Chairman of the Board – only venturing an opinion when he was backed into a corner and had no other option - allowing Taylor to set the agenda and, largely, dictate policy. Van Trappist never reported back on what was happening at York Region – and not just because he wasn’t paying attention. He left it to Taylor. I can’t see Taylor deferring to Tom Vegh.
Dive in at the deep end.
For what it’s worth, my advice to the new councillors is to dive in at the deep end. Don’t wait for that brilliant thought to materialise before opening your mouth. Get stuck in. The former Ward 4 councillor, Tom Hempen, took years to find his voice and that was a tragedy because he often had interesting things to say.
Some councillors also have an unstated policy of never voting against a staff recommendation. Don’t do it. It leads to lazy thinking. And it begs the question: why bother having an election at all?
Challenge the staff
Challenge the staff. If there is a policy vacuum they will fill it. Ask questions. And then ask some more. Does this have to be discussed in closed session? Take the solicitor/client privilege stuff with a spoonful of salt. Keep them on their toes and don’t let them take you for granted. And perhaps this is a good time to remind them of section 2(b) the Town’s Employee Code of Conduct:
“It is every employee’s responsibility to ensure that all information they communicate is as accurate as possible. No employee shall withhold information or wilfully mislead Members of the Council, other employees, clients or the public about any issue of corporate concern.”
If they bother to stir themselves councillors can shape, mould and lead public opinion and get people re-engaged in local politics.
In an era of declining voter turnout that surely must be a good thing.
In October 2018 voter turnout in Newmarket was 34.7%. In 2014 it was 36.8%.