To York Regional Council (3 November) where I hear tributes to Danny Wheeler, the veteran Regional Councillor from Georgina who, sadly, died earlier this week.
Outside the Regional HQ the flags are flying at half mast.
As I listen to the tributes I look at the framed photograph occupying Danny Wheeler’s usual place in the Council Chamber, sandwiched between the Regional Chair, Wayne Emmerson, and Markham’s Frank Scarpitti, the highest paid Mayor in Ontario.
In an eloquent tribute, Scarpitti tells us Wheeler would often lean across towards him and give his quick fire assessment of their colleagues’ contributions to the debate. We are left wondering what was said.
There are other tributes including one from Markham’s normally loquatious Jack Heath who tells us Wheeler’s death has affected him greatly. Very simple but moving.
Now we are on to the day’s ordinary business.
The Regional Council Chamber is like a giant seminar room where all manner of interesting things are discussed and debated and for free. The meetings should be streamed and televised and this, at long last, is coming. It would be an education for us all.
I had no idea, for example, that last year’s slide presentation by a certain Ian Buchanan, on the innocent sounding subject of Forest Management was peppered with, I assume, pornographic images.
The jovial Regional Chair Wayne Emmerson introduces Mr Buchanan with a comment that is definitely below the belt:
“No X rated pictures this year? No bugs?”
Mr Buchanan wisely chooses to ignore this provocation.
This year’s presentation on the Region’s Forest Management Plan mercifully shows nothing but trees. Now I am listening to John Taylor telling us all about the vast tree canopy that blankets Newmarket. He sees it from the top of the 15 storey rental apartment building currently under construction at 212 Davis Drive. He loves telling people he has been to the top.
We have three other presentations.
First up is Anne-Marie Carroll, the General Manager for Transit and Transportation Services at VivaNext. The questions come thick and fast, mostly about fares.
Markham’s Jim Jones – who thinks outside the box – wants to know why transponders can clock drivers using the 407 and bill them but there seems to be no corresponding technology for bus travel. When people are paying $4 cash for journeys in York Region why can’t people jump on and off buses for 50c if they only want to travel a block or two? Why can’t they use transponders on their wrists or mobile phone? Terrific question.
John Taylor wants to know about the UPass (or university pass) and how it will increase revenue. There are 12,000 students at York University but only 3,000 purchase a monthly pass. What can be done to boost take up?
Water and Sewage again
Now it is the turn of Mike Rabeau who gives us an update on water and wastewater capital spending. His presentation gallops along, the delivery full of pace. Here is someone who evidently enjoys talking about pipes and pumps and effluent. I see Newmarket’s Deputy Chief Planner, Jason Unger, in the public gallery, soaking it all up. Nothing Rabeau says changes the cold reality that Newmarket’s water and wastewater capacity will be rationed until 2024. There are no questions just an audible sigh of relief that the enthusiastic Mr Rabeau is supervising things.
Now we are on to the Regional “Seniors Strategy”. Packed full of arresting statistics. Seniors (65+) in York Region are living longer – to 84.1 years on average compared to 81.5 in Ontario and 81.1 in Canada.
Healthy and Wealthy
44% of York Seniors say their heath is excellent or very good.
Seniors in York Region are generally wealthy. The net worth of the Region’s boomers in 2014 was $790,000-$890,000 compared to Canada as a whole where the figure was $378,300-$533,600. There’s this and much more besides.
John Taylor tells us the number of seniors in York Region will soar from 150,000 to 300,000 in the next 15 years. He calls for more innovative housing options for them.
Sitting a few feet away from him is Newmarket’s most celebrated senior, Tony Van Trappist, who, for the moment, is comfortably housed at 395 Mulock Drive.
He remains silent throughout.
There is nothing to engage his interest or curiosity.