From Newmarket Today 30 September 2022. (The 2018 graphic (right) and the bar charts are not from the story. These are my inserts)

Joseph Quigley writes:  

Election opponent Gordon Prentice, who has been calling on Tom Vegh to stop accepting funds from builders, says he's moving on from the issue now that the 'significant U-turn' has occurred. 

One of the most contentious issues in the election race for Newmarket's deputy mayor seat may be at an end as incumbent Tom Vegh has promised to not take any donations from developers.

After scrutiny of his 2018 campaign donations, and repeated attacks from opponent Gordon Prentice, Vegh has said he understands residents would prefer candidates avoid taking money that's tied to developers. He said he will be self-financing his campaign this election, according to campaign material.

“I respect that (there are) people who would prefer you don't accept donations from anybody who's doing any business of any kind with the town,” he said. “I just got to respect that.”

Vegh spent approximately $45,420 on his campaign in 2018, putting him over the self-financing limit. As a result, he said he had to raise funds after his election with individual contributions capped out at $1,200. He garnered approximately $22,850 in donations from the building sector.

But Vegh now plans to keep donations out of his campaign. Asked about what that means for his campaign spending compared to 2018, he said this election is different.

“I was not an incumbent last time, and it was a vacant seat,” he said. “In this case, I’m the incumbent, so it’s a different type of campaign.” 

Opponent Prentice wrote in a campaign email that the “significant U-turn” was a long time coming and he is moving on from the issue.

He said it may have been challenging for Vegh to get those same contributions this time after the publicity. 

“I can’t see there being many developers out there who would want to donate money to Tom Vegh,” Prentice said. “Not where there will be press and media attention in the run-up to the election.” 

Financial disclosures do not come out until after the election, but most of Newmarket’s elected candidates did not spend as much as Vegh in 2018. Mayor John Taylor spent about $67,000 on his last campaign and raised about $45,000 in outside donations in a ticketed event, but told NewmarketToday in 2019 that he did not take donations from developers.

Spending for others who won council seats in the last election were all less than $10,000. Councillor Jane Twinney, who had approximately $3,000 in developer donations in the last election, was acclaimed for this election. 

Vegh has said the previous donations have not influenced him, and he has voted in lockstep with the rest of town council on land-use planning decisions. But Prentice has noted Vegh’s voting record at the regional council level, where he voted in favour of the official plan seen by some as allowing too much sprawl in development

Still, the donations are not an issue Vegh said he is hearing about while knocking on doors. He said inflationary cost pressures are the biggest thing residents are worried about. 

“We’re going to have to manage this inflation, and there are ways for us to do that,” Vegh said.

Prentice has encouraged residents to ask Vegh about the campaign donations, the first-time local candidate said. He added that there is some importance in addressing these issues.

“We’re moving into an era of content-free elections. Where people don’t get excited about the elections because it’s just the same old people saying the same old things, with nothing much changing, and people just kind of switch off,” he said. “It’s a triumph of the bland.”

But despite the attacks, Vegh said he has no intention of commenting on his opponent, something he said he had stuck to in his 20 years of campaigns.

“I’m putting forward my 20-year record, the projects we started, we need to complete … That’s what people want to hear. They don’t want to hear me talking about my opponent,” he said. “You’re just supposed to put your best foot forward.”