Paul Ferguson, Director of Newmarket Hydro and President of Newmarket-Tay Power Distribution Ltd, will be presenting the 2014 financial statements of Newmarket Hydro Holdings inc and Newmarket-Tay Power Distribution Ltd on Monday morning (15 June) to Newmarket’s Committee of the Whole.

The hydro company, Newmarket-Tay, is jointly owned by the Municipalities of Newmarket (93%) and Tay (7%). There are around 70 mostly municipally owned distribution companies in Ontario.

Unfortunately there is nothing in the reports to show how much Board Members receive by way of remuneration.

In an exchange of emails in May I learned from Mr Ferguson that the Directors of Newmarket-Tay Power Distribution receive an annual retainer of $8,000 plus a per diem of $200 for attending Board of Director or Board Committee meetings. He says that there are six Board and four Committee meetings per year so the average annual remuneration is $10,000.

I was left wondering whether this information was publicly available and, if so, where it would be found. So I politely asked him.

Mr Ferguson helpfully pointed me to a Newmarket by-law passed in 2000 which set the remuneration which, he says, has not been adjusted since.

Pear Shaped

It was at this point that things went a bit pear-shaped.

Noting that Mr Ferguson would be presenting the financial reports to councillors on 15 June, I courteously asked him if there was any reason why the details of Board remuneration could not be included. I suggested it would be helpful if the sums actually disbursed (and not simply the annual retainer) could be shown. Entitlement to an annual retainer does not indicate whether it is, in fact, taken up.

Mr Ferguson’s testy and intemperate response invited me to contact those Board members directly “who capture your interest”.

Why shouldn’t this information be routinely disclosed? Why should Newmarket taxpayers who pretty much own the hydro company be expected to act as sleuths digging out ancient by-laws that are not on-line and writing directly to Board members?

Sunshine List controversy

After the brouhaha over Tony Van Bynen’s salary as reported in the Sunshine List I was left wondering if his declared remuneration included moneys paid by Newmarket-Tay Hydro. The Mayor is appointed by the Town to serve on its Board but any remuneration is neither paid by, nor reported by, the Town of Newmarket. It is left to the hydro people to disclose or not, as the case may be.

But that is not the end of it.

Annually, in March, every municipality in Ontario has to produce a Statement of Remuneration and Expenses for Members of the Council and Council Appointments to Boards and Other Bodies. You can see the one for Newmarket (March 2015) here.

Section 284 (1) (a) of the Municipal Act 2001 obliges

The treasurer of a municipality shall in each year on or before March 31 provide to the council of the municipality an itemized statement on remuneration and expenses paid in the previous year to each member of council in respect of his or her services as a member of the council or any other body, including a local board, to which the member has been appointed by council or on which the member holds office by virtue of being a member of council;

What the law says

284(3) of the same Act says a statement shall be provided to a municipality in the following circumstances:

If, in any year, any body, including a local board, pays remuneration or expenses to one of its members who was appointed by a municipality, the body shall on or before January 31 in the following year provide to the municipality an itemized statement of the remuneration and expenses paid for the year. 

It seems to me that Newmarket-Tay Hydro should provide details of the Mayor’s remuneration to the Town of Newmarket and that information should be made publicly available without people like me having to make a big song and dance about it.

And who precisely does the Hydro Company report to at the Town?

Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua and his hydro remuneration

For purposes of comparison, I’ve had a look at the City of Vaughan’s Statement of Remuneration and Expenses for members of the Council and Council Appointments to Boards and Other Bodies. You can read the latest statement here.

I went to Vaughan (not just because it is in York Region) but because it had its own Hydro Company. Details of the remuneration paid to the Mayor, Maurizio Bevilacqua, for serving on Vaughan Holdings Inc (previously named Hydro Vaughan Holdings Inc) and Hydro Vaughan Energy Corp are set out in the statement above. In the case of the former, Mayor Bevilacqua received $8,125 remuneration and $158 benefits and in the case of the latter, $1,750 and $34 respectively.

The City of Vaughan’s 100% owned hydro companies were restructured in 2013. The new Vaughan Holdings Inc. holds 45.3% of PowerStream Holdings Inc. Six Members of Vaughan Council sit on the PowerStream Board of Directors and are paid. You can see the details here. Maurizio Bevilacqua is now Chair of Powerstream.

It seems to me that if the City of Vaughan can report these matters so too can the Town of Newmarket.

I shall be asking for details of the remuneration and expenses paid by Newmarket-Tay to the Mayor of Newmarket for the last five years for which figures are available.

I am taking this up with Bob Shelton, Newmarket’s Chief Administrative Officer who, wearing another hat, is also a director of Newmarket Hydro Holdings.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Mayor Tony Van Bynen fought last year’s election on a pledge to bring lightning fast broadband to the Town:

“Bringing broadband connectivity to Newmarket is essential as technology plays an increasingly bigger role in our daily lives. A robust internet infrastructure is as essential to our economic future as rivers, railways, and roads were to our past. We are working towards connecting with Orion & Canarie, a high-speed 10 gig research network by the end of 2014.”

The Town is doing work on this but so too is York Region. In fact, the Region is setting up a Broadband Task Force and will decide on its membership at the Council meeting on Thursday 25 June.

My candidate is Tony Van Trappist but, first, he will have to shake off the torpor that descends on him as soon as he enters the Regional Council Chamber.

He relies on Newmarket staff to do his thinking for him but, nevertheless, broadband was his top priority in last year’s municipal election and that must count for something.

Everyone agrees (I think) that Newmarket needs super-fast broadband but how to make it happen?

The Town’s Committee of the Whole gathered last month (May 19) to chart the way forward.

The Town says it wants

a partner that will invest in the design, construction, ownership and operation of an open access, ultra high-speed broadband infrastructure at affordable rates for residents, businesses and organizations.

Town staff have a partner in mind but, typically, they are not telling us yet.

Three areas – an interconnected corridor – are to be given priority:

(1) Main Street Business District (from Water Street to Davis Drive)

(2) Davis Drive Health/Life Sciences Corridor(from Main Street to Leslie Street)

(3) Leslie Street/Harry Walker Parkway Business Corridor

But should these areas get priority?

Step forward John Heckbert, mortgage broker, indefatigable tweeter and champion of Davis Drive. His deputation of one is well received. He seems to know what he is talking about and that is always a good start.

He wants to know why Main Street with 75 business addresses is getting wired up but not Newmarket’s section of Yonge Street with 200-250 unique business addresses.

I learn there are plans for free wi-fi in Main Street and the Riverwalk Commons area. This is to get “community buy-in” for the super fast broadband initiative.

The Town’s Chief Administrative Officer, Bob Shelton, says staff is working with the Region. No-one wants to duplicate work that is being done at Regional level. Or, he might have said, take credit for it.

Now Susan Chase, the Town’s Director of IT Innovation, and Christopher Kallio, the Town’s Economic Development Officer are fielding questions.

Christina Bisanz wants details of how the community will benefit. Kelly Broome-Plumbley wants a time line. Will it be cheaper than the service offered by other internet service providers? Joe Sponga is banging the drum for Main Street – there’s lots of innovation there. Dave Kerwin wants to know what kind of financial return the Town is going to get from its investment. All this stuff is going to become clear when staff report back with a “favoured model”. But councillors are assured they will be made aware of all the models.

John Taylor tells us there are lots of high tech companies in Harry Walker Parkway – it’s just we are not aware of them.


The Mayor is going to change all that. He says so.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

I am in the cavernous Council Chamber at York Region (11 June 2015) expecting a debate on super fast broadband. Instead, I find two deputations of Italian Canadians complaining vociferously about traffic infiltration in their neighbourhood in Vaughan. They are arguing about the solution and the rest of us look on, bemused. We are intruding on a family quarrel.

I learn about the neighbourhood’s Italian demographics. Every second person has a surname ending with a vowel (not unlike York Regional Council itself).

Vaughan Mayor, Maurizio Bevilacqua, jocularly tells one of the deputants, Anthony Francescucci, he shouldn’t anglicize his name just to help the Chair, the struggling Wayne Emmerson, get his tongue round it. He should stick with the authentic Italian pronunciation. This produces approving smiles from Francescucci's deputation.

Emmerson is now calling people to the lectern using their first names, finding it easier.

One group wants to ban peak hours rat-running by the clever device of placing turning restrictions at key entry and exit points. New traffic signs would order no left turns into the residential area. Another group from a different part of the same neighbourhood argues this “solution” would create another set of problems and would impact adversely on them.

I hear about the volume of traffic on some residential streets increasing exponentially over recent years. One vehicle whizzes by every 12 seconds. And they are travelling at the speed of light.

Emmerson, completely at ease in his role as the home spun philosopher, tells us people nowadays don’t get up early enough to take their kids to school and end up rushing.

Ahhh! So that's it.

After much argument and counter-argument a truce of sorts emerges. The Regional Transportation people say that stopping people from using some roads will have a displacement effect, transferring the problem elsewhere. Another study is needed!

They promise to look further at the issue of traffic infiltration into residential neighbourhoods and report back. Honours are even and this is enough to satisfy everyone.

I hope the findings will be as relevant to Newmarket as they are to the West Downs community in Vaughan.

We have huge and growing traffic infiltration problems of our own.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


At York Region’s Committee of the Whole (11 June)

The Region’s Chief Planner, Valerie Shuttleworth, takes us through the paper “Affordable Housing Measuring and Monitoring Guidelines”.

But first, her colleague, Rick Farrell, prepares the ground with some arresting statistics.

A new single detached home in York Region now costs on average $890,804.

Twelve months ago, that very same house sold for $799,000.

And between 2004 – 2014 the average resale house price rose by 90% yet average hourly wage rates rose by 21%.

I hear that the average condo rent in 2014 was $1,564 which Farrell describes quaintly as:

“a very substantial debt for those who are challenged with income.”

Now Shuttleworth is calling for more powers from the Province to tackle the housing crisis. She says the Region is using all the powers currently available from the Province and

“We haven’t even made a dent.”

She wants  inclusionary zoning.

Newmarket’s John Taylor is thinking outside the box. What about secondary suites? What about promoting ownership where homeowners have a rental income stream via a secondary suite?

Now he asks if the Region’s housing policy is achieving what we want to achieve. (Manifestly not.)  He says the Region’s policies could end up creating a lot of one bedroom condos.

“That’s helpful but it is not a solution”.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

York Region is a bit like a giant news factory, churning out, month after month, interesting morsels of information. I am surprised more stuff isn’t picked up by the local press. The Committee of the Whole meetings are not streamed or put out on YouTube and, bizarrely, full Council meetings are only audio streamed. Weird or what?

Anyway, I learned a few things at York Region’s Committee of the Whole (11 June)….

It is time for the Annual Traffic Safety Report and the Region’s road and traffic chief, Brian Titherington takes us through the grizzly roll call of accidents.

  • One collision every 63 minutes
  • One pedestrian hit every two days
  • One cyclist hit every 4 days
  • One person injured in a vehicle every 4 hours
  • One death every 17 days

I learn that of the top ten high collision intersections in York Region, Yonge and Green Lane is third from the top. Between 2012 and 2014 there were 164 collisions compared with Weston Road and Rutherford (187 collisions) and Highway 7 and Weston Road, the Regional black spot, with 199 collisions.

Personally, I would throw the book at bad drivers. Driving over the speed limit should be as socially unacceptable as blowing cigarette smoke into someone’s face.

And yet it is tolerated.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve been on the 400 series of highways with someone tailgating me or switching lanes at speed without signaling.

Most collisions (24%) happen as a result of driving too close to the car in front.

We need brake lights that shout: Back Off!

And dashboard and rear view cameras, with automatic taping, standard for all new vehicles. The technology is there and it is easy. Why not?

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.