The old banker and former Mayor of Newmarket is coming out of retirement to go to Ottawa as Newmarket-Aurora’s next MP. At least that’s the plan. 

Our current MP, Kyle Peterson, has decided to throw in the towel after one term, opening up a vacancy for Van Bynen who tells us he “scopes” things out before making a move. 

No-one wanted the Newmarket-Aurora Liberal nomination last time round except Kyle Peterson who got it by acclamation. The same thing could happen again. 

Personally I think healthy political parties need competition for big jobs. I don’t like shoo-ins.

Indeed, Team Trudeau’s nomination process recognises this and encourages Liberal Associations to cast the net wide to attract women candidates and those from under-represented groups.

Tony Van Bynen’s profile somehow doesn’t quite match. 

That said, he has a lot of things going for him. Name recognition, for example. 


He projects an amiable, avuncular persona. His political credo can be summed up in the word “neighbourliness”. And we all like a good neighbour. But is that enough? And why on earth does Van Bynen, now in his late sixties, want to go to Ottawa anyway? He already has a fistful of pensions. Is it the restaurants?

Van Bynen explains:

“I realize that after an 18-year municipal career, being steadfastly bipartisan, this might come as a surprise. However, I am very concerned about where this country could be headed if Andrew Scheer were to become prime minister."

"Climate change is very real and the Conservatives are pretending it is not a serious issue — they don’t even have a plan for combating it. I’ve seen the negative effects of provincial and federal neglect on our communities. We cannot afford to go backward.”

He tells us he is also concerned about protecting health care and social programs under Conservative governments at the provincial and federal levels. I’ve spent years following debates at York Region, pressing for meetings to be televised and live-streamed, and I cannot recall a single instance when Van Bynen spoke out on social policy issues. He may have whispered something about the climate crisis at some stage in his 18 bi-partisan years, but I can’t recall the headlines. 

I get so fed up with him saying nothing and collecting his $55,000+ "stipend" for just being there that I dub him Van Trappist - a tag that sticks. He makes no effort (unlike our current Mayor, John Taylor) to shape or lead opinion at York Region. Van Trappist is just coasting, not even paying attention to matters affecting our own area. 

Yet this same Tony Van Bynen says the country needs strong leadership nationally.

A secretive old banker

Tony Van Bynen has many qualities but leading from the front is not one of them. He is essentially an administrator, cautious and secretive as befits an old banker.

He is not a leader. I have this on the authority of Dave Kerwin, the nation’s longest serving councillor until he retired from Newmarket Council last year. He saw Van Bynen close up for 18 years and in June 2016 publicly berated him:

“You never show leadership. And that’s what’s wrong.”

I thought Kerwin had gotten carried away in the heat of the moment but he was sticking to his guns a week later, claiming he didn’t regret a word of what he said. That is Kerwin’s considered view of the man who would be our MP.

To be fair, Van Bynen has some positives. He smiles a lot (and that’s good) and he knows how to chair a meeting. But, then again, so do I - together with lots of other people.

Van Bynen dislikes openness and transparency. He consistently voted against opening up York Regional Council to the cameras. 

And when it suited him he was prepared to disregard the views of his colleagues, expressed in a democratic vote.

Don’t trust the people

When the issue of electing a York Regional Chair came up for discussion at the Regional Council on 18 February 2016 Van Bynen was one of 14 voting for the status quo, openly snubbing the views of his colleagues on Newmarket Council who voted 7-1 for direct election.

As Mayor he tendentiously blocked people he considered troublesome from viewing his tweets. Including me. It is a practice he continues as a private citizen. But is this going to continue when he is our MP? If so, should we be worried?

What kind of MP would he make?

Fortunately, we needn’t speculate. We have his record as Mayor of Newmarket to guide us. 

I came. I scoped. I conquered.

He told the press he would be:

 "a voice for fiscal prudence, just as I was on Newmarket council.” 

Dining out on our dollar

That didn’t stop him dining out on our dollar for years. Nothing very prudent about that. 

Van Bynen is famously economical with the actualité. While Mayor he failed to disclose all sources of income. He was always getting more than was reported in the Sunshine List. A skilled operator, he never gave a straight answer to the simple question: How much do you make as Mayor? The money he got from sitting on the Hydro Board was a State secret until I forced the issue in 2015. It is now routinely published.

Van Bynen is not candid with people. The redevelopment of Glenway meant a massive dislocation for hundreds of local families. And the decisions which led to the redevelopment were immensely controversial. At the public “Lessons learned” meeting he thanked everyone for their comments and views which would be “fully considered”. But he didn’t have the guts to tell us what he thought went wrong. It was entirely typical that he expressed no view.

No applause! 

He has an obsession with process and procedure, often scolding members of the public who have the temerity to applaud at public meetings. They are told to show respect.

Van Bynen likes to cut deals with developers. He likes to operate in a grey area where people don’t stake out positions in public. He prefers nuance. During the big debates on the future of Newmarket’s historic Main Street he was rooting privately for Bob Forrest, the developer who wanted to demolish a row of historic commercial buildings in the heart of the heritage district, while telling us he didn’t have a view. And then, on 26 August 2016, the mask slipped and he blurted out: 

“The Clock Tower is a great example of the intensification we need”.

Translated, this means Van Bynen was prepared to rip up the Town’s Heritage Conservation District policy as the price of staying onside with Bob Forrest. In his weird management-speak Van Bynen told us:

“We’ve learned through Glenway that polarity doesn’t help anybody.”

Van Bynen is also a gradualist; someone comfortable with others setting the policy agenda. Instead of rattling the bars of the cage when Metrolinx announced the twinning of the Barrie line would stop at Aurora he meekly accepted the decision with resignation, as a fact, not to be challenged. 

He believed an all-day, two-way 15 minutes rail service would come to Newmarket eventually: 

“easing into it as we go forward".

He slept through a subsequent debate. 

If and when Tony Van Bynen MP gets to Ottawa we can be certain of one thing. 

He won’t make waves.

But he will make money.

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Will Christine Elliott, Minister of Health and Long-term Care, find time to read a well argued critique of Bill 108 (More Homes More Choice Act) from senior Newmarket Council staff which is on the Council's agenda tonight? (Scroll to agenda page 316)

Elliott says she "champions" the new Act and claims it will make housing more affordable for the people of Newmarket-Aurora. 

The report says 

Bill 108 contains limited evidence that its central objectives, making it easier to bring housing to market and accelerating local planning decision, will be achieved.” 

A copy of the report is being sent to Elliott for her “consideration”.

The Town wants the Province to “engage in significant and meaningful consultation with municipalities prior to the development of the regulations" which will be made under the new Act. 

If this happens it will be a first.

The Town should formally request a meeting with the Minister now that Queen’s Park is shuttered until after the Federal Election in the Fall and she has time to “re-connect” with her riding.

The report says the consultation on the Bill was short with

key pieces of information missing which will come through Regulations at a later date. The full impact of these changes cannot be fully understood without the information provided in Regulations.”

With the amazing FordFest BBQ and celebrations behind her what better time than now to sit down with the Town and talk about what should be in those much anticipated Regulations?

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It’s been a bad week for Buck-a-Beer. 

The re-shuffle didn’t fix anything. And the patronage appointments had to be reversed.

But perhaps the most painful development for Buck-a-Beer is Renata Ford’s decision to run as a candidate for Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada in Etobicoke North, the riding he represents in the Provincial Parliament. Delicious!

But, more gripping still, is the news from Renata’s own mouth that the $16.5 million lawsuit she brought against Doug Ford is “still before the courts”.

I thought it had just fizzled out in the way these things do. But it appears to be alive and well.

Ford's Deco Labels bleeding money

The lawsuit filed at the Superior Court by Renata Ford last June shows the financial statements of Deco Toronto recording losses of $396,376 in 2010; $1,111,485 in 2011; $423,961 in 2012; $497,996 in 2013; $2,164,557 in 2016 and $1,498,598 in 2017. 

Ford, who sees himself as a great businessman with the golden touch, won’t make Deco Labels financial statements or his salary public. 

A year ago I went to a post-election briefing by the Globe and Mail’s Adam Radwanski who perceptively told us the Libs/NDP should have focussed during the campaign on the “chaos” that Ford would generate and that he would be a “giant headache” for four years. 

Cleaning out the stables

Well, Ford is certainly delivering chaos. And no-one has been able to rein him in – certainly not Caroline Mulroney whom Radwanski identified as someone who would clean out the stables. As if!

Christine Elliott has proved to be another huge disappointment, clapping like a seal whenever Buck-a-Beer barks an order.

Three weeks ago Tony Miele who chairs the “PC Fund” wrote to Party members about the election of Doug Ford as Premier of Ontario. He says the election marked an end to:

“15 years of Liberal corruption and waste with your tax dollars.15 years, when we were hit with scandal after scandal.   You know what passes for a scandal with Doug Ford? Trying to save the taxpayers a few bucks. The media is up in arms every day trying to take Doug down. It’s our job – yours and mine – to make sure our guy can keep on fighting.”

The abuse of power

The real scandal surely is about the abuse of Parliamentary procedures to ram legislation through on major issues of public policy without giving the public any opportunity to comment. It is about the scandalous patronage appointments. About ripping up contracts and legislating to deny any legal remedies to the other parties. It is about slashing public services with no mandate. And much more.

Ford’s mantra used to be:

“Promise Made. Promise Delivered”

But when things got difficult for Buck-a-Beer the message changed and now they’re:

“Protecting What Matters Most”

In Ford’s case, it’s his back.

Renata Ford is out for revenge but so too is Vic Fedeli who did his master’s bidding and is rewarded with a humiliating demotion.

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Another Friday and another demonstration by the Common Ground people outside the constituency office of our MPP Christine Elliott, Minister of Health and Long Term Care.

She is of course never at her office on “constituency Fridays” but neither is our 68 year old ex-Mayor and wannabe Liberal MP, Tony Van Trappist. 

I think the old banker just wants another pension. 

Outside Elliott's office today (21 June 2019)

Newmarket's Citizen of the Year 2017, Jackie Playter, has repeatedly assured me that our putative Liberal MP for Newmarket-Aurora will be outside Elliott’s office, holding a placard aloft.

Personally, I can’t see it. 

The old banker protesting? About anything?

For months now I’ve been hoping to get a photo of him holding a placard outside Elliott’s office, talking to the demonstrators about their concerns. But he is never there. 

I suppose I could photoshop Van Trappist but it’s not the same as the real thing.

Jackie tells me she is not Van Trappist’s campaign manager though she is supporting him.

Good for her!

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Ontario's Health and Long term Care Minister Christine Elliott is losing a big chunk of her responsibilities as long-term care is passed over to Dr Merrilee Fullerton and Michael Tibollo takes on mental health and addictions. 

Fullerton and Tibollo also join the inflated 28 strong Cabinet, with salaries and staff to match.

Elliott is delighted about the cut in her workload, effusively congratulating Ford earlier today and telling us she is looking forward to working closely with her new Cabinet colleagues.

Ford likes Elliott's congratulations!

Ford tweets that he likes the fact that Elliott is congratulating him! 

I don’t know if the burden of being Minister for Health and Long-term Care was too much for Elliott to carry alone. Maybe she asked Ford to lighten her load.

On 26 February 2019 Elliott was speaking about her new “People’s Health Care Act” lambasting the alleged fragmentation of the health and long-term care system she inherited. She told us:

“Too much time and attention is spent on maintaining a siloed and fragmented system… Right now care is fragmented, particularly at transition points, for example, from hospital to home care.”

“We envision a community-based health care delivery model that connects care - and includes primary care and hospitals, home care and long-term care, mental health and addictions supports, just to name a few.”  

Help required

She didn’t say then that she needed help to deliver her vision.

But she does. And she is grateful.

I shall be interested to see how the Ministry’s organisation chart is divided up to reflect all the new responsibilities and who deals with the inevitable overlaps.

Oops! Almost forgot. 

Caroline Mulroney was demoted.

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Background paper considered by York Region on 20 June 2019 on the health service restructuring as proposed by Christine Elliott. The map is here.

Update from the Toronto Star: The day Ford blew up his Cabinet to save himself. And how the Globe and Mail sees it.