Tonight (Monday 8 July 2019) is a big occasion for Tony Van Bynen - and for members of the Liberal Party in Newmarket-Aurora.
The 68 year-old Van Bynen who has spent 18 years in municipal politics being “steadfastly bipartisan” is being acclaimed at 7.30pm at the Royal Canadian Legion in Newmarket’s Srigley Street as the new Liberal candidate for the October Federal Election.
Van Bynen will address hundreds of Liberal Party activists expecting to be fired-up and motivated for the campaign ahead.
Van Bynen will not let them down. He has spent a lifetime preparing for this moment.
What will he say? Will he invite questions? Will the hat be passed around to help fill his campaign war chest?
He will tell his audience he draws inspiration from three famous leaders – the Dalai Lama, Martin Luther King and John A. Macdonald.
The Dalai Lama has certainly made his mark on the old banker. For years I have witnessed him at York Regional Council, head slightly bowed, deep in meditation, saying nothing.
And then there’s Martin Luther King whom Van Bynen admires for his social justice. We shall find out tonight whether Van Bynen's concern for social justice goes beyond mere neighbourliness which has been, until now, the defining core of his political beliefs.
Van Bynen also looks for inspiration to John A. Macdonald, praising the man’s vision and commitment to build. At a time when Justin Trudeau is trying hard to put relations with Canada’s First Nations on a sounder and less contentious footing, the old banker’s choice of Macdonald (who believed in the forced assimilation of indigenous peoples) may seem misjudged.
But in any event, this is Van Bynen’s big opportunity to throw his natural banker’s caution to the winds and tell us what he really thinks about the challenges facing Canada. When he gets to Ottawa what will be his priorities?
Will we hear a call to arms or get one of those bland re-heated offerings that he used to dish out year-after-year to the local Chamber of Commerce, telling them how terrific Newmarket is? No. I think we can expect a rousing speech which sends shivers up the spine.
Van Bynen will want to speak out clearly and unequivocally about the things in Canada that need to change. If he sees injustice I expect him to shout about it, not look the other way.
This may be a tall order for a man who is happiest when dealing in woolly generalities, who rarely stakes out a position on controversial subjects unless he is absolutely forced into a corner. He tells us this is his golden rule:
“We need to listen to all perspectives”.
Pensions a priority? (other than his own)
How would that have worked when Sears Canada closed its doors at Upper Canada Mall? When the local Sears was selling off its stock at knockdown prices I recall conversations with Sears staff whose pensions were disappearing before their eyes. Whose side would the Voice for Fiscal Prudence have been on? And when he gets to Ottawa what will he do about it?
Van Bynen will talk about climate change but I doubt he will use the term “climate crisis” or even “climate emergency”. Even though Canada is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, that would probably be a step too far. He says:
“Climate change is very real and the Conservatives are pretending it is not a serious issue.”
Tonight he will laud the various initiatives taken at Newmarket Council such as solar panels and Soofa benches. But he won’t mention the York Regional Climate Change Action Plan. He chose not to comment when it came up for ratification on 16 November 2017. He missed the previous meeting when it was considered it detail (and that's OK) but was silent at full Council when he could have spoken. But that's entirely typical.
Follow the leader
We can thank the old banker’s long-time colleague, former councilor Dave Kerwin, for reminding us that Van Bynen is not a leader. It is best to think of him as a well-paid administrator. The old banker came up with this little gem in 2016:
“Leadership is as much about followership.”
I think he means we are all joined in a common pursuit, a common endeavour, the leaders and led. He just gets more money than the led.
When it is all over and Tony Van Bynen MP is comfortably settled in his new office in Ottawa, gazing out over the river, daydreaming, will he still block me from reading his tweets, as he does now?
Van Bynen told City Life Magazine his inspiration comes from “three famous leaders”
“I very much admire the Dalai Lama, because of his way of listening. Martin Luther King Jr. is someone whom I admire for his social justice. And when I think of John A. Macdonald, I think about the man’s vision on commitment and how to build.”
Update on 9 July 2019: And this is how Newmarket Today covered the meeting.