Earlier this year Liberal candidate Tony Van Bynen received $162,739 of taxpayers’ money to cushion his voluntary retirement from municipal politics in November 2018. 

The $95,671 he received from the Town of Newmarket was publicly reported in March 2019 but the $67,068 from York Region was not reported as he asked for the payment to be deferred from 2018 into 2019 “for tax planning purposes”.

Both payments were in fact made in 2019.

York Region will publish details of the cash payout on 18 November 2019. But this date for disclosure could be pushed back if Van Bynen appeals, citing personal privacy.

My Freedom of Information requests lodged six weeks ago asked for:

1. A copy of the letter and application form for severance sent to Tony Van Bynen by the Regional Treasurer on 29 October 2018, redacted where appropriate and

2. A copy of the severance application sent by Tony Van Bynen to the Regional Treasurer and received on November 13, 2018, redacted where appropriate.

The Region proposes to make full disclosure of the material from the Regional Treasurer. The Region also tells me Van Bynen’s letter of 12 November 2018 will be redacted in part on personal privacy grounds as will his formal application for severance. 

The $67,068 will be formally reported in March 2020 as part of the Region’s annual statement on remuneration and expenses, as required by law.

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and this is how the Comic Store in Newmarket’s Main Street South sees it....

The unlawful demolition of the protected historic building at 184-186 Main Street South in the heart of the Town’s Heritage Conservation District by the developer Bob Forrest was an avoidable tragedy. 

The building did not fall down of its own accord. 

Bob Forrest ordered the demolition.

The Town hopes to wrap up its investigation into the circumstances in two weeks. And it has ordered all work on the site to stop. It is not clear when this Stop Work notice will be lifted.

After last week’s overnight demolition the public will want to know that the remaining buildings are still safe.

What did Forrest know?

Clearly, the Town must demand an immediate statement from the owner, Bob Forrest. This is no time to dilly dally.

What did Forrest know? What was he told? What did he do? When did he do it and why?

The Town’s Commissioner of Development and Infrastructure, Peter Noehammer, will be leading the investigation but does he have all the resources he needs to get to the truth of what happened?

Bring in the Police

How many people are working on the investigation? Who is being interviewed? Are lawyers present? Has anyone declined to be interviewed? Are the Police being involved? If not, why not?

We need to know about the modalities of the investigation. We are not being told. The Chief Administrative Office, Jag Sharma, stonewalled at Tuesday's Committee of the Whole when asked a few limp questions from Ward 5 councillor, Bob Kwapis.

On Tuesday Sharma said he couldn't give a time-line on the investigation. On Wednesday evening the Mayor told us he hoped to see it concluded in two weeks.


Clearly, Bob Forrest should be prosecuted for his cavalier decision to demolish a protected building in the heart of the Heritage Conservation District. But we need to understand what was in his mind when he ordered the demolition of the building. 

Personally, I believe 184-186 Main Street South should be rebuilt at the owner’s expense. 

But that is something for another day.

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Note: The Minutes of Settlement agreed last year between the Town and Bob Forrest's Main Street Clock Inc had this to say at paragragh 43:

"The parties agree to act reasonably and in good faith in respect of all dealings between the parties pursuant to these Minutes of Settlement."

Demolition on Main – update

News reaches me that workers are seen on the building site on Main – despite the Stop Work Order that was slapped on the work following the unlawful demolition of 184-186 Main Street South on the evening of 9-10 October 2019.

I go to Main Street and I am now talking to a worker who is securing the scaffolding at 184-186 Main Street. He tells me the scaffolding was attached to the building that was demolished and that it has to be made safe. I ask what would have happened if the scaffolding had collapsed on to Main Street, injuring someone.

He says the Site Supervisor is about. 

I wander round the block and see a man in a white hard hat and another guy in day-glo construction gear.

I introduce myself and discover I am talking to Jim, the site supervisor, from Prime Design Build. He wasn’t around last week but he tells me the scaffolding was secured before the building was knocked down. 

He hopes the Stop Work Order can be lifted in a couple of days.

Safety issues

Predictably, I am told there was a safety issue. The man in the day-glo is Jacques Carrier from CFCW Construction Inc. He tells me the building had to come down because it was unsafe. And he had 10 people on site. He says the old building was being held up by the Clock Tower. 

It is still unclear who authorised the demolition.

Now Mr Carrier is telling me that the building next door to the demolished one is also unsafe. (This is the building painted light blue in the photo right.) I ask him to explain.

He says the front wall is just sitting on earth. I ask if there is a rubble stone foundation but the answer is unclear.

I know there was a concrete foundation to 184-186 Main Street and also at 194 which shares the same concrete foundation plinth as the pub, the Olde Village Free House.

As I am talking to the Site Supervisor and the construction man, Craig arrives.

Craig is wearing a jacket with a Newmarket logo. He says he has to check if he gets reports of anyone on site. Jim tells him he has been in 194 Main Street South but no work was going on.

188 Main Street is also unsafe 

Is the historic commercial building adjacent to the one that was demolished unsafe as Mr Carrier alleges? 

Are any of the remaining buildings at risk of collapse?

How on earth did it come to this? We urgently need answers.

Moments ago the Mayor tells me that the only people on site are structural engineers and scaffolding staff and both are allowed on site to check on the current status of the buildings and to ensure the buildings are safe.

"Nothing is being done that contravenes the Stop Work Order".

This is reassuring.

But let's be honest. What we have witnessed is a classic case of demolition by neglect. 

Rotting buildings left empty and neglected for years while our naïve and trusting Municipality chooses to believe that the owner, Bob Forrest, will do the right thing.

There was never any chance of that happening.

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Update at 22.00 on 15 October 2019: This exchange took place at the Committee of the Whole today at 2hours 16 minutes in to the meeting.

"A little bit of an unfortunate situation"

Mayor John Taylor: New business?

Councillor Bob Kwapis: Thank you Mr Mayor. We had a little bit of an unfortunate situation just before the long weekend on Main Street during the construction within the Clock Tower developements. And (I) just wanted to ask staff if the developer in any way received any kind of demolition permit or any indication that that one house would be levelled.

Chief Administrative Officer Jag Sharma: Through you Mayor Taylor.  I am working with Commissioner Noehammer. No there was no demolition permit issued for that property and what we can say is that we are investigating and that there have been Stop Work orders; orders to conform put in place so two of the properties have a Stop Work order and one has an order of conformity applied to it - essentially a Stop Work order and we continue to investigate and we will provide more details when we can.

Bob Kwapis: Do we have any kind of timeline about when some of the details might be coming up throughout this investigation that we are doing?

Chief Administrative Officer Jag Sharma: I don't know that I could give you a specific timeline at this point in time. What I can say is that we are actively investigating at this point.

Bob Kwapis: Thank you. I look forward to the findings.


Update at 23.00 on 16 October 2019: The Mayor, John Taylor, is giving a lecture this evening to the Newmarket Historical Society on the purchase by the Town of Mulock Farm - the former home of Sir William Mulock. He gets a question afterwards on the unlawful demolition of 184-186 Main Street South. He tells us he is upset. The investigation into the circumstances surrounding the demolition could take two weeks. He says the Town did not issue a permit authorizing the demolition of the protected historic building. The issue goes beyond Newmarket. If rules and regulations are ignored by developers who demolish and then try to justify their actions after the deed is done then we have problems. (My words not his.)


I am told there will be no report on the unlawful demolition of 184-186 Main Street South on the agenda of the Town’s Committee of the Whole which will be meeting shortly.

But Bob Kwapis – councillor for the downtown Ward 5 – is expected to raise under New Business the question of what happens next.

It is not complicated.

The Ontario Heritage Act sets out the offences relating to the demolition of properties within a Heritage Conservation District:

Erection, demolition, etc.

42 (1) No owner of property situated in a heritage conservation district that has been designated by a municipality under this Part shall do any of the following, unless the owner obtains a permit from the municipality to do so:

1. Alter, or permit the alteration of, any part of the property, other than the interior of any structure or building on the property.

2. Erect, demolish or remove any building or structure on the property or permit the erection, demolition or removal of such a building or structure.

The Committee should ask Bob Forrest for a statement on the demolition within 24 hours - if the Town has not already done this.

Kwapis earlier told Newmarket Today: 

“It (184-186 Main Street South) shouldn’t be demolished because the facade has to be intact, or at least it has to have the historical significance that it had before. I would doubt very much they would take the front down because that would be a big no-no.”

The heritage building has been completely destroyed on Bob Forrest's orders.

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The Conservatives are the likely winners of the Federal Election in Newmarket-Aurora whose current MP, Liberal Kyle Peterson, is standing down to spend more time with his family (seriously). 

Kyle’s replacement, the 69 year old former banker Tony Van Bynen, discovered he was a Liberal a few months ago when the vacancy opened up. He wants us to believe it is a close-run thing:

“This is going to be the closest election we’ve ever seen in Newmarket-Aurora.”

Liberals nominate PPC candidate to get him into the race

Perhaps this is why he and other leading local Liberals signed the nomination papers of the People’s Party candidate Andrew McCaughtrie – to shave votes away from the Conservative former MP, the lacklustre Lois Brown. Curiously, this devious manoeuvre has not been picked up by the local press. But if, against all expectations, the old banker wins by a very slim margin his decision to back McCaughtrie will have paid dividends. 

In its latest projection 338canada.com gives the People’s Party of Canada 2.6% of the vote in Newmarket-Aurora with a 1.7% margin of error either way - but enough to make a difference in a very tight race.

Why do I believe Brown will win?

The Conservatives and Liberals are both within striking distance of each other in the national polls. The CBC Poll Tracker says this today:

“The Liberals and Conservatives remain neck-and-neck in both national support and in the seat projections, but with the two major parties both below 33 per cent support nationwide a majority government looks unlikely. The New Democrats and the Bloc Québécois have momentum following the debates, while the Greens are holding their support.”

The Ford Factor: Contaminating the Conservative brand

But in Ontario, the Liberals are ahead of the Conservatives. This could be due to the Doug Ford effect and any number of other factors such as demography.

On the face of it, Newmarket-Aurora should be a Conservative riding given its profile. Household incomes are way above the regional average. The election website 338canada.com now says the riding is “leaning to the Conservatives” and puts the probability of the Conservatives winning at 77% and the Liberals 23%.

For anyone who was downtown yesterday this takes a bit of believing. There were about 300 people hanging around for hours outside the Lil Hungry Brew Hops hoping to see the Prime Minister and hear what he had to say. 

For all their razzamatazz and optimism the Liberals are taking nothing for granted. They are warning people not to waste their votes. But is a vote for the NDP or the Greens actually wasted?

NDP and the Liberals

The NDP leader Jagmeet Singh has long said he will not prop up a minority Conservative Government. But he is now saying quite explicitly that he is open to the possibility of making some kind of arrangement with the Liberals if they do not win an overall Parliamentary majority.

Support for the NDP is holding up well in the riding. At the last Federal Election in 2015 the NDP took 8.5% of the vote. Current projections give the Party 10.5% with a margin of error of 3.7% either way. 

The Greens are in an even stronger position. With a very good candidate in 2015 they took 2.4% of the vote. But now they are projected to get a very significant 9% (with a margin of error of 3.3% either way).

These days the climate emergency is never out of the news and I simply cannot see Green supporters, in large numbers, moving over to the Liberals who have spent $4.5 billion buying the Trans-Mountain Pipeline. 

Cross-over voters

But these cross-over voters do exist. When the Prime Minister was visiting Newmarket’s Main Street yesterday I got chatting to a leading local environmentalist sporting a Liberal lapel sticker. I was told it was to keep the Conservatives out. 

A minority of voters are exercised by constitutional matters such as electoral reform. After Trudeau’s volte-face on the issue I cannot see them going Liberal again.

And what about the candidates? Do they really matter?

Most people cast their votes based on the Party and its leadership. Insofar as local candidates matter it works at the margins. But in a close election they can count.

Lois Brown's prior engagement

True, Lois Brown is a well-known name but she hibernates between elections. She says she has knocked on a million doors in the riding but she has been invisible for years – with no presence in the local press and media. She even failed to show up for one of the candidates debates claiming she had a prior engagement that she couldn’t tell us about. Oh please!

The secretive old banker Tony Van Bynen has been around for decades but I sense we still really don’t know him. He plays his cards close to his chest. When I broke the story of his second severance payment of $67,000 from York Region I got thousands of hits on my modest little website. The Geiger-counter started beeping like mad. 

Maybe people from the other side of the globe were interested. Or, perhaps, Conservatives who are never going to vote for him anyway. Who knows? But the needle moved and Van Bynen – who never complains and never explains – was forced to tell us why he kept this second payment a secret for so long. 

Do these things matter? To most people, probably not.

Strong candidates

The Green candidate, Walter Bauer, has shown himself to be an astute campaigner, never short of an answer on climate change nor on a host of other issues.

For the sure-footed Yvonne Kelly this is her second time around as the NDP candidate and she has shown a deep knowledge and understanding of the riding and the problems it faces such as housing affordability. Her vote is going to hold up.

So where does that leave the incumbent Liberals?  Leslie and Srigley

I’ve always believed lawn signs give a pretty good indication of the way the wind is blowing. Maybe that’s why Lois Brown blatantly disregarded the Regional By-law and planted her giant election signs alongside regional roads in defiance of all the rules. (Like this one on the right at Leslie and Srigley)

Do lawn signs make a difference?

But, seriously, dare we rely on something as boringly analogue as a lawn sign in this shiny digital age? Researchers in Calgary tell us there can be a positive correlation between the number of lawn signs on private property (not the big signs on regional roads and public space) and the eventual result. And there is also the subliminal messaging the signs send out to people just going about their day-to-day business.

You can hear all about it in this CBC podcast.

Around my neighbourhood (which is Van Bynen’s too) there are plenty of Liberal lawn signs. But Lois Brown is not far behind (if indeed she is). And I see a healthy number of NDP lawn signs with the occasional Green sprouting here and there.

Barring an upset, I am steeling myself for four years with Lois as my MP.

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Liberal mover and shaker Wasim Jarrah records it for posterity on his cell phone. 

Kyle Peterson ex MP bottom left applauds. Van Bynen smiles. The PM is slightly hoarse after a thousand stump speeches.

Liberal fervour unleashed - and curious bystanders