Former Newmarket Mayor Tony Van Bynen received severance payments totalling $162,699 when he retired from municipal politics and not just the $95,631 previously reported.
The wannabe Liberal MP Van Bynen – who says he will be the Voice for Fiscal Prudence when he gets to Ottawa – deliberately chose to understate the total amount of money he collected.
He claimed two severance packages after he stood down from elected office last October.
The $95,631 claim from the Town of Newmarket – the maximum allowable - was set out in the Council’s 2019 Statement on Remuneration and Expenses which, by law, has to be published annually in March, covering the preceding year. It soon became public knowledge.
But there was also a shadowy second payment from York Region totalling over $67,000 which was not reported in the Regional Council’s equivalent Statement of Remuneration and Expenses in March 2019 which only covers claims and payments made in 2018. (Van Bynen had a seat on York Regional Council by virtue of his position as Newmarket Mayor.)
A severance payment must be claimed – it is not automatic. And the Region allows retiring members a six-month period of grace to decide whether or not to claim. Delayed payments can, therefore, fall into the next tax year.
The retired banker Van Bynen informed the Regional Treasurer on 13 November 2018 that he would be claiming severance but wished the payment to be delayed until 2019. Van Bynen was paid $67,068.33 on 24 January 2019. His name escaped being listed in the Region’s March 2019 Statement as having received a severance payment but it will appear next year in 2020 after his election to the Federal Parliament in Ottawa.
So why did Van Bynen ask for the money to be paid in 2019? Was it simply a matter of shifting income from one tax year into another? Or was it to minimise any publicity?
"There is no double-dipping"
On 27 June 2019 Van Bynen told the local press there was no “double dipping” while omitting to tell them he had also put in for a significant severance payment from York Regional Council - where the record shows he rarely made a contribution. Van Bynen justified his $95,631 Newmarket payment this way:
“It’s not unique and severance is part of the overall compensation package It is all part of what the market has provided and other municipal service employees get severance.”
And on his bid to become Newmarket-Aurora’s next MP he said this:
“If I am successful, the federal position won’t start until later in the year so there is no double dipping.”
In that press interview in June 2019 Van Bynen chose not mention the $67,000 he had received from York Region five months earlier. What Van Bynen told us then was clearly a half-truth. You don’t forget about getting a cheque for $67,068. He has never been completely candid with us. (More on this to follow)
Severance for elected officials was introduced by the Town of Newmarket in December 2006, the year Van Bynen became Mayor. It is payable whenever an elected official leaves office, for whatever reason. By contrast, Town employees who leave their jobs voluntarily (for example, to get another job or to retire) are not paid severance.
Dining out on our dollar
For years he billed his meals to the Town, dining out on our dollar. And we had no idea who he was dining with nor the purpose of his “business lunch”. It was another example of Van Bynen’s sense of entitlement.
York Regional Council now has a Code of Conduct for its members. It was forced by law to adopt one earlier this year. In 2015 Van Bynen was one of a number of members who voted against one, believing it wasn’t necessary.
The most important statement in the new Code of Conduct is listed as its first guiding principle:
“Members shall serve the public in a conscientious and diligent manner that promotes public confidence and will bear public scrutiny.”
So should he thank me for getting this information on his severance out into the public domain before the Federal Election? Or will he be cursing me?
As it happens, earlier this week I ambush our wannabe MP at my local councillor’s Ward 4 summer party at a London Road Park, a stone’s throw from Van Bynen’s home. I ask:
“Hi there! How is the campaign going?”
Our wannabe MP replies curtly:
I am thinking, hey, he’s closing down the conversation before it even starts!
Just like he blocks me on Twitter.