York Region Taxpayers Oppose Regressive Bill


In early-2016, a delegation from the York Taxpayers Coalition traveled to Queen’s Park to speak to M.P.s from all parties in support of a democratically elected Chair of York Region Council.

Among the reasons why our organization supported this election was the insurmountable public debt accumulated by the York Regional government over the years through the system of the unaccountable Chair appointed by the Mayors and Regional Council members after a municipal election.

We noted that Regional government issues are rarely, if ever, debated during a lower tier municipal election. The 2018 election was going to be the first time in fifty years that York Region voters would get an opportunity to directly weigh in on issues that involved the level of government that impacts the lives and standard of living of approximately 1.3 million people.

In the run up to the June 8, 2018 provincial election, the Ontario PC Party, led by now premier Doug Ford, was silent on any disagreement with direct elections of the York Region Chair. In the new government’s Throne Speech of just two weeks ago, there was no mention of any impending changes.

Yet suddenly, just three months prior to the municipal election and without any prior consultation of York Region residents, Doug Ford has decided to deny York Region voters of their democratic rights.

York Region’s highest profile M.P.P.’s, Health Minister Christine Elliott and Attorney General Caroline Mulroney, are not York Region residents. They both reside in downtown Toronto, which is a fact that clearly clouds their judgment. They simply don’t understand the issues involving the record high debt load that impacts the lives and well being of residents to keep up with property tax increases.  If they did, they would afford the same scrutiny they do on provincial debt: in this year’s budget alone, the York Region Government is spending $5.2 billion while having amassed a debt of over $3.7 billion – the highest per capita debt load in the GTA. Toronto doesn’t have a second tier municipal government after all, so how could they understand the tax pressures we face here?

Taking voting rights from York Region residents won’t solve our public debt issues. We need direct democracy to fix the morass we find ourselves in.

Doug Ford’s rash actions on this regard calls into question his judgment over what’s best for the ratepayers of York Region.

Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti’s legacy



In February 2013, I wrote this column in the Toronto Sun:

Two and a half years later, and after countless of hours spent by hard working members of the community to get the consultant’s report made public, we’ve learned details on a controversial 2013 sports arena deal that Markham mayor Frank Scarpitti and several allies under him were determined to make a reality.

A total of 13 reports were ordered to be made public by Ontario’s Privacy Commission. We’ve learned that in addition of not garnering an “adequate return,” the arena deal could have cost taxpayers “tens of millions of dollars more.” It would have placed the city in “significant risk,” with years of future debt; nor would the deal receive “adequate returns” for the city.

Here’s the link explaining those reports: http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2015/10/28/markham-nhl-arena-was-on-thin-ice-from-the-beginning-newly-released-documents-show.html#pq=dfQVtk

Two and a half years later, Markham taxpayers can determine what they’ve always suspected: that the proponents of the arena on Council, headed by mayor Frank Scarpitti, were not honest with the public when it came to costs; and were in fact mislead.

The York Region Taxpayers Coalition wants to express our thanks and gratitude to Markham community volunteers who were so dogged in their pursuit of the truth.

In addition to public pressure, we recognize that the Freedom of Information process was also somewhat effective at getting Council to make the details public.

Unto the end, Markham Mayor Scarpitti remained dead set against releasing the consultant’s report. Today we can guess why.

Frank Scarpitti had hoped that the GTA Centre would be his legacy project.

It won’t be.

More appropriately, his legacy will be defined by a delusional steadfast support for a reckless deal on the backs of Markham taxpayers.

Nearly 900 York Regional Police officers on this year’s Sunshine List


Whoever said crime pays could have just as easily said fighting crime pays.

This year’s Sunshine List, a table of public servants earning more than $100,000, shows 42 per cent of the region’s sworn officers are on the list.

There are 898 officers listed, a jump of 23 per cent from last year’s total of 732 and a 1,626-per-cent rise from 2005, when it was 52.

The highest paid on the list include York Regional Police Chief Eric Jolliffe at $249,584, Deputy Chief Thomas Carrique at $217,802 and Deputy Chief Andre Crawford at $188,335.

In terms of dollars, the 2005 figures add up to $5 million being spent on staff earning more than $100,000. That number is now more than $100 million.

Police union president Todd Sepkowski said when looking at the numbers, the public needs to take a number of details into consideration, including the amount of paid duty, overtime, court time and sick bank payout.

“A lot of firemen have second jobs that aren’t reported on the Sunshine List and paid duty is like a second job to us, difference is it’s counted on our salaries,” he said.

He added that paid duty, which pays about $55 an hour, is paid entirely by private funds, not by the taxpayer.

“There’s no burden to the community on that,” he said, noting that the Sunshine List should be restructured so that those numbers are not included. “Another detail that doesn’t get mentioned is a lot of these numbers are inflated by a one-time sick bank payout that was given out for the final time. It’s not the salary, it’s the extras.”

A first-class constable, with less than eight years service, earns $88,534, according to the police.

Sepkowski further insisted that when an officer is off, but is required in court on that day, he must attend and is, therefore, paid overtime.

However, Maddie Di Muccio, president of the newly formed York Region Taxpayers Coalition, said she would like to see fewer officers conducting paid duty, suggesting the private sector would be just as good at some of the tasks, including directing traffic.

“Why can’t we hire security guards and support private industry when they can do just as an effective job,” she questioned.

She said that is just one of the many problems with police salaries, which she said won’t stop rising until we let go of a “culture of spending” and adopt a culture of saving.

Di Muccio said she understands why public employees feel like they are being attacked and said it’s not their fault, rather those who hold the purse strings.

“It’s going to eventually catch up to us,” she said.

York Regional Police is not the only organization with rising salaries — firefighter salaries across the region are also up, with 409 making the list this year.

The highest paid firefighters include Central York Chief Steve Kraft at $186,760 and Markham Chief William Snowball $180,167.

York Regional Police Const. Andy Pattenden notes the force already posts salaries on its website and said the $100,000 threshold in 1996 (when the list was launched) would be about $140,000 today, taking inflation into account. That would eliminate the majority of the officers listed, considering only 399 officers make a base salary in excess of $100,000.

Greg Horton, president of the Richmond Hill Firefighters Association, said their job is not the same as it used to be, meaning firefighters are no longer “sitting around waiting for fires to happen”, but trained and engaging in medical calls, hazardous material extrication, water rescues, extrications as well as storm and flooding management.

“When all this is taken into account, I think we have to keep in mind that firefighting is an investment, not an expense,” he said, noting firefighters work seven more weeks per year than your average employee because of their 42-hour work week.


The return of photo radar in Ontario?


There’s a push by a regional council in the GTA to bring back photo radar, York region councillors are looking to the province to see if they can use photo radar there but while council is excited about the idea, the province isn’t very receptive to it.

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York Region seeks return of photo radar


Council plans to petition province to allow use of controversial technology, despite police success in reducing speeding.

Photo radar is back on the table in York Region, after councillors voted to make a pitch to the province for permission to reinstate the contentious speed-enforcement system.

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