I am told the second Newmarket-Aurora candidates’ debate will be held on Saturday 7 June 2014 from 3pm-5pm at Aurora Town Hall. The event is hosted by the Auroran newspaper.

I hope all the candidates show up. An empty chair tells the voters a candidate is simply not serious.

Elsewhere… we read that tonight’s Leaders Debate (Tuesday 3 June) is more likely to solidify opinion where it now is rather than move it.

If so, this will be bad news for Andrea Horwath who, perhaps with good reason, has received unremittingly hostile press coverage since the election writ dropped.

And, if there were any justice in this world, Tim Hudak would be skewered on his faulty Million Jobs math. 

Curiously, despite all the furious talk of scandals, past and present, nothing seems to be sticking to the Teflon-clad Kathleen Wynne who floats through the campaign, ever smiling. 

9 days to go.


It is Friday night and I am comfortably seated in Newmarket Theatre for the much anticipated candidates’ debate. It is terrific entertainment and all free. There is a full house – well, almost.

The format – quick rapid fire questions and short answers – moves things along briskly. And there is a short session giving candidates an opportunity to quiz other candidates. This, for me, is the most illuminating part of the evening.

But first, the candidates introduce themselves, painting little pictures for the rest of us to admire. The youngish Libertarian candidate, Jason Jenkins, draws gasps when he says he has six children. He believes in cutting taxes, dramatically reducing the size of Government and privatizing everything that isn’t nailed down.

Chris Ballard, the Liberal, projects a “steady-as-she-goes” demeanor. He tells us he has been chair of all sorts of committees on Aurora Council while, at the same time, running his own successful business.  The well-rounded Ballard tells us he loves Aurora which, he says, is a great place to bring up a family. Politicians feel obliged to say these things but I groan inside.

Canadians Choice candidate, Archbishop Dorian Baxter is a one-off. He sees Ontario's economic salvation coming via a closer association with the 71 nation strong British Commonwealth – in particular, India - and la francophonie. His views are eccentric but he is good value for money. And his alter ego, Elvis Presley, is always there in the background, ready to take the stage.

a little less conversation, a little more action

When elected, Baxter promises “a little less conversation and a little more action” at Queen’s Park. They’ll be all shook up. He says all this with a booming voice and a beaming smile on his face. He is clearly enjoying himself. When elected, he will give 50% of his MPP salary away to combat poverty.

The Green, Andrew Roblin, is bubbling with ideas and is quite impressive. He has lots of arresting facts at his fingertips and doesn’t need to consult a folder first.

NDP standard-bearer, Angus Duff, is a professor who lives in Aurora. He is sporting a big orange bow tie and projects quiet competence in an academic kind of way. With disarming honesty he admits that if he doesn’t know the answer to a question he will say so rather than make something up (as many politicians would).

Duff generally follows the official NDP line when answering questions, only occasionally ski-ing off-piste.  He jumps on the all-day two-way GO train bandwagon saying the NDP is committed to delivering this. This is news to me, but welcome.

I am Jane Twinney

Jane Twinney, the PC candidate and favourite to succeed Frank Klees, gives the impression she would rather be somewhere else. She seems nervous, often stumbling over her words. Her opening statement is curiously disjointed, telling us half way through her pitch that she is Jane Twinney - as if we didn't know. Jane tells us she has been knocking on doors and people want change.

Now the candidates are being asked about the deficit and how it can be reduced. Jane wants to cut the number of public sector workers by 100,000. She says it can be done through attrition. We are told 5% of the workforce retire every year. There is no mention of forced lay-offs. We are asked to believe it won’t be messy!

A special needs teacher, fired up and concerned, asks Jane from the floor if her teaching assistant is going to face the axe. No says Jane, with unusual confidence. As I am listening to her, I think to myself Jane is making things up as she goes along. I check afterwards and discover that, on this one, she is right.

Dorian Baxter is now asking Jane why she voted for tax increases at Newmarket council when her party is promising tax cuts. Surely this is a question Jane would have anticipated? She mumbles something about doing what is right for her residents. It is a feeble reply.

Rooting out waste - a top NDP priority

Now Angus Duff is telling us the NDP would tackle the deficit by rooting out waste.  This provides the cue for Baxter who gets a laugh when he says the NDP won't have to appoint a Minister for Accountability. When elected, he, Baxter, will fulfill that role.

Now the candidates are talking about how best to create a more favourable climate for business. At a brisk clip, we are on to infrastructure and how we pay for it. Next it is retirement and having the resources to enjoy it. Now energy costs (Jane tells us to expect a 48% increase over the next four years). Now it is the turn of food banks.

Then we are on to bees. Angus Duff engagingly confesses complete ignorance of the subject and offers no answer. The Green, Andrew Roblin, is in his element telling us that bees are responsible for 30% of all pollination. Without the bees, our food crops are threatened. Now we move on to something else.

There is hardly time to pause for breath before we are on to the next topic. The format kills any chance of testing candidates’ views to destruction. And it wouldn’t take much.

Million Jobs Plan

Jane Twinney is asked from the floor about Tim Hudak’s Million Jobs Plan and how the figures don’t add up. Jane, completely missing the point of the question, tells us that even if we get 800,000 new jobs that would be good. That is as much as we are going to get, like it or lump it. We move on.

The meeting flares into life when candidates are asked a question about the OMB (Ontario Municipal Board) and whether it should be reformed.

Angus tells us elliptically that development should be “aligned with the interests of the community”.  Jane says the problem is not with the OMB but with the legislation, presumably meaning the Places to Grow Act.

Klees is incandescent - or would like us to think so

Chris Ballard says something about Glenway that infuriates Frank Klees who is sitting a few feet away from me. The perma-tanned Klees, dressed in tight jeans and pointy shoes, takes to the microphone to denounce Ballard who, he claims, attacked his integrity by suggesting he didn’t work hard enough to get his “Preserving Existing Communities” private members' bill on to the Statute Book. Klees affects outrage well. He is quite the actor.

Of course, Klees has dined out on his private members' bill for ages. But there is more to “supporting Glenway” than a private members' bill that stood zero chance of becoming law. I never saw Klees nor heard a peep from him throughout the whole, long Glenway saga. And I followed it closely.

Ballard doesn’t buckle, refusing to retract whatever it was he said that so upset Klees. Ballard gets Brownie points for this.

All in all, an entertaining evening and I am sure the audience enjoyed it as much as I did. The candidates now have the measure of each other and, in any return match, we can expect a bit more cut and thrust.

Without question, we need another debate in Aurora but will we get one?


Jane Twinney's Newmarket Council website tells us she attended Brock University in 1982 “where she took an interest in political science and business economics”.

Jane wants to see local businesses hiring more employees and that's good.

So, with her business economics background coupled with the experience of running her own business, Jane will understand why Tim Hudak’s “Million Jobs Plan” doesn’t add up.

We see the "Plan" unravelling before our very eyes. Hudak has confused so-called “person years” with “people’s jobs” and overestimated eightfold the number of new jobs he expects to be created under a PC Government at Queen's Park.

So...  will Jane repudiate Hudak’s faulty math at tonight’s candidates’ debate in Newmarket or will she agree with her leader? Will she come clean? Will she tie herself in knots? Either way, it will be a delicious moment to savour.

Jane on the Campaign Trail

In a youtube video to supporters Jane says she hopes to meet everyone on the campaign trail. Good for her! But, mysteriously, the youtube video recording her day on the campaign trail which I had been so looking forward to viewing “has now been removed by the user”.

Here is Jane Twinney accepting the (uncontested) PC nomination for Newmarket-Aurora back in March. Frank Klees delivers a well-honed valedictory, without a note, telling us he got where he is because of the values instilled in him by his parents and not because of some “high-falutin” education. The eloquent Mr Klees certainly knows how to tickle the erogenous zones of the Newmarket Aurora conservatives. 

What do young people make of the election?

Next week Newmarket-Aurora candidates will find out what young people make of the election

Top marks to Tim Greenwood for organising an election event for young people next Thursday, June 5, from 7pm-9pm at the Valley View Alliance Church at 800 Davis Drive. All the candidates are signed up.

Tim, a youth employment worker in York Region, explains the event is non-partisan and “its purpose is to create awareness of this election and the issues amongst young people… and to help candidates understand the issues that are of most importance to the youth”. This could be one of them.

I am told that “adult allies” are welcome but will be expected to stay in the background.

Meanwhile the main candidates debate takes place tonight at Newmarket Theatre from 7pm with an open house from 6pm.

The Aurora debate is on 7 June. More details to follow.

NDP struggles for lift-off

Professional pundit, Robert Fisher, tells Matt Galloway on last Friday’s Metro Morning that the NDP platform is not a game changer. Over at the Globe and Mail Adam Radwanski sticks the knife in and twists. You would expect the paper to be critical – and it is. He says Horwath’s long awaited policy goals lack substance. Since the unveiling last week of the underwhelming NDP platform, Andrea Horwath has been given a roasting by the media – and by people who should be her close supporters. She fires back. We read that Ontario’s NDP platform sounds awfully conservative. And definitely to the right of the Liberals. Her policy goals are hard to take seriously.

Star columnist, Martin Regg Cohn, says Andrea Horwath's NDP has lost its moral compass.

Can it get much worse than this?


Changing the Way We Vote

The Ontario Liberal Platform makes an explicit pledge to change the voting system if they win the June 12 election.

This is a seriously big deal but I am unclear about the mechanics of bringing it in.

“Kathleen Wynne’s Plan for Ontario” says this:

ALLOWING CHOICE IN MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS. We will give municipalities the option of using ranked ballots as an alternative to first-past-the-post in their own elections.

But how would such a decision be made by the municipality?  By the Council? With or without formal consultation with local residents?  Would there be a local referendum? And could the decision be reversed?  I am sure the answers are out there in some background policy paper. I just can’t find it.

Unsurprisingly, Liberals favour the ranked ballot (also known as preferential voting) because it is likely to benefit them. In Ontario, NDP voters' second preference would, by a large margin, go the Liberals.


At the last Provincial election fewer than half of eligible voters turned out to cast their ballot. Why did so many people stay at home? Their indifference raises big questions.

Why bother to vote?

Does your vote make a difference? Or does it simply legitimise a system that is broken? 

The next IdeaMarket is at Newmarket Public Library tomorrow, Tuesday, from 7pm - 9pm in the Multi-purpose room.

All welcome.



We are crying out for a fast and frequent GO train service to Toronto.

Here in Newmarket, a town earmarked for explosive population growth, transit should become a touchstone issue – in the way it has in Kitchener-Waterloo.

All the political parties are talking about all-day two way GO trains but is it just the usual election hype? Or, this time, are the Parties serious?

The Liberal Platform

In their 2014 Platform, published on Sunday, the Liberals promise to deliver all-day GO Train service “to more communities”. They say they will spend $29 billion over the next decade

“for investments in transit and transportation infrastructure projects across the province… This investment will introduce train service every 15 minutes on all GO lines. It will mean less congestion on the roads and less time spent on the train platform.”

Of course, we have been here before. In their 2011 platform, the Ontario Liberals declared: 

“In the next phase of the Ontario Liberal Plan, we’ll expand service by delivering full-day, two-way GO train service on all corridors – that’s the equivalent of 71 million fewer car trips annually.”

Progressive Conservatives want to "expand transit"

The PC 2014 platform promises to:

“expand our highways by fixing bottlenecks throughout the region. And we will expand GO Transit with more rush hour service, more express trains, more all-day, two-way service and a more superior customer experience.”

Hudak would stick with the old diesel Puffing Billies and abandon Liberal plans for electrification. Here he is explaining his vision for transit on youtube.

NDP has two priorities but is otherwise unspecific

Just like the Liberals, the NDP says it will earmark $29 billion over 10 years for transit and transportation projects across the Province “and begin flowing funds immediately”. However, the NDP’s priority will be all-day two-way GO trains to Kitchener Waterloo and an all years round daily service to St Catharines and Niagara Falls.

To vote NDP on the strength of their plans for transit would be an act of faith.

Two-way all-day service will be introduced within 10-15 years say Town's outside consultants

As part of its Secondary Plan process, the Town of Newmarket commissioned a Transportation Study from consultants GDH. The Study, which is referred to in the draft Secondary Plan published last September, was only made public in April 2014. Newmarket’s planners and others from the Region have been fine-tuning it for months. On GO Train frequency it says:

GO Transit service is currently at 2 trains per hour (5 trains during peak period) in the peak direction during the AM and PM peak periods. Based on Metrolinx’s Big Move transit plan, GO Rail service through Newmarket is expected to increase significantly from two trains per hour in the peak direction to 3 peak direction trains by 2021 and 4 peak direction trains by 2031. Furthermore, two-way all-day service will be introduced within 10-15 years (before 2031). Metrolinx has advised that the tracks will have to be doubled to Newmarket and beyond, to accommodate this service improvement.

This begs a number of questions. If Metrolinx believes the tracks will have to be doubled to Newmarket, is the present railway corridor wide enough to carry a second track?  What preparatory work has been done?

Newmarket’s draft secondary plan also refers to the proposed new park and ride GO train station at Mulock Drive. Where are we on that? How does it fit into the grand scheme of things?

Rob Prentice explains

Rob Prentice, the Town’s Commissioner for Development and Infrastructure, told the special public meeting on the revised draft secondary plan on 28 April 2014:

“…GO has been working on an operational plan for a couple of years now. They have been aiming towards more frequent service. All day service was something that was only recently mentioned at a provincial level and it didn’t specifically say which lines. But they have looked at expansion to all-day service and had a target of, I think, their last plan of 2020. So it is some years off and in those plans double tracking isn’t always necessary. Maybe in some lengths of the railway corridor but not through every location. So it doesn’t necessarily mean double tracking.

 He went on:

The (new proposed) station at Mulock has been in GO’s plans for a number of years, certainly as long as I can remember so it has shown up in their long range plans for a very long time as do others. The regional official plan. As others do. At Bloomington. So they are very long range plans. The specifics around them at this time are not very clear. They are general long-range plans. They don’t have specific sites or dates.

It all seems a bit up-in-the-air to me. If the Town's top expert on infrastructure and development doesn’t know what’s happening what chance is there for the rest of us?

Last month I wrote to Bruce McCuaig, the Chief Executive of Metrolinx, on the dual tracking issue and on the proposed new rail station at Mulock.

Maybe he can shed some light on things - even if the politicians can’t or won’t.

What the Parties say about the Ontario Municipal Board

Newmarket is a town on steroids.

We are growing fast.  And we know from bitter experience that developers appeal to the OMB at the drop of a hat if their plans are delayed or challenged by the Town.

OMB rulings can have a profound impact on our neighbourhoods, changing them forever. 

Yet none of the main political parties wants to get rid of the OMB despite flaws that are self evident. The rulings don't follow precedent and can be capricious. The appointed adjudicators - some good, some woefully poor - need not have any legal training yet the OMB operates with many of the formal trappings of a Court of Law.

The Ontario Liberal Government went out to public consultation on land use planning some months ago but specifically did not include the Ontario Municipal Board in its remit.

The Liberals boast about introducing “award-win­ning”  land use planning legislation that "encourages smart growth and protects green spaces for future generations". Given what happened to Glenway, how can they say this and keep a straight face?

The Liberals promise legislation to

Enhance respect and protection for local official plans when municipalities do comprehensive, up-front planning and zoning.

Reduce the number of development applications that go to the Ontario Municipal Board.

Ensure citizens are consulted sooner and that there is more citizen input into the land use planning process.

You can take what you want from these pledges. Elasticity is built in.

Hudak’s Progressive Conservatives say in their Paths to Prosperity document, Building Great Cities

The intensification demands of provincial planning should not override local decision-making. We will retain the Ontario Municipal Board to balance the concerns of individual citizens, developers and cities.

I am not entirely sure where that contorted logic leaves us. At the end of the day, who calls the shots?

Andrea Horwath’s slender “Plan That Makes Sense” says nothing about the OMB.

Yet, in the last Parliament, the NDP MPP Rosario Marchese introduced a Private Members Bill that would remove OMB jurisdiction from the City of Toronto. It died with the Parliament.

So there is a very real issue about the OMB.

But one the NDP is unwilling to address in its election platform.