Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Things I want to see for Newmarket

This a rework of a post on another blog from last year, it seemed appropriate to move it over for a more local audience.

In light of peak oil, pollution, global warming and those pesky food security issues that are dear to my heart(and belly) there are a great many things I’d like to see happen to make Newmarket a better and more sustainable place for what I believe will be a harder more austere future.

No more irrational development, yes we should increased density but stop building those damn 4000 sq ft homes, and stop allowing big box developments. Mixed use high density is the best model, each block should have a grocer, a restaurant, a bar, a play ground etc. Grouping all the retail and services around main arteries that no one can walk to is insane.

LEEDs certification for all new homes and major rebuilds, simple additions must be at least R2000 compliant. If people’s houses are so inefficient that they cannot heat them affordability you will get people freezing in the dark or installing in wood stoves that create smog and lead to deforestation, not to mention the number of dumb asses that burn down their houses or gas themselves when they bring the BBQ inside.

New Commercial buildings must utilize their roofs as green roofs, Solar PV or Solar thermal applications, 12 year phase in for all existing commercial buildings, provided they can structurally support higher roof loads.

I’d like to see more open mindedness in the building codes regarding alternative building materials; Straw bail, earth bag, rammed earth etc. The carbon footprint of the building process must also be taken into account when building not just the day to day carbon use.

No more drive through businesses with notice that existing ones must be phased out in 5 years. Having both an anti idling law and numerous drive through restaurants and bank machines is irrational, either you're against idling or not.

I want the city to stop planting foreign ornamental trees everywhere. All trees should be indigenous species with at least half being productive varieties of fruits and nuts, providing both natural foods for wildlife and energetic citizens. Citizens should be encouraged to tend and harvest city trees.

I don’t want the Widening of Davis Drive for public transit lanes.
Peak oil is going to severely reduce the amount of public traffic on the roads within the next 10 years. Widening this road to accommodate transit on the assumption that oil availability or price will never impact car use is blinkered thinking. The age of the car is ending, stop building infrastructure that perpetuates a broken model.

I want people to come forward to found a transition town movement (I’ll certainly join and take part but I won’t kid myself that organization or consensus building skills are my strong point, I’m too much the lazy malcontent)
Transition towns is a great movement devoted to helping towns and communities adapt to peak oil and more self reliance.

I’d like to see the creation of a food not lawns movement. The wasted water, energy, time and fertilizer on grass are a national disgrace. The potential benefit to food security, biodiversity and the survival of pollinators greatly outweighs the benefit of the uniformly boring dead zone we call lawns. While it’s your right to have a lawn I it’s also my right to utilize my soil to grow food and not be harassed about its appearance if it’s properly tended

I also want moves towards the legalization of small urban livestock, hens, rabbits, dwarf goats as part of a greater Right to Farm legislation.
Many urban municipalities in the U.K. and U.S. are once again allowing the ownership of small numbers of well tended food animals. These towns realize that peak oil will eventually impact food production and shipping costs making local food relevant again.

I want to see tax relief and zoning concession that encourage land owners to lease, donate or even use their honking big lawns to grow food locally. Just drive around the Pony and Stellar Drive industrial area, the lawns on some of these properties could supply 100s of people with produce. The utilization of urban lands to feed people is becoming more prevalent

Stop jerking us around on community gardens. After years of improving the soil in Newmarket’s community garden the region is giving urban farmers the boot, our new location will be a dead field of clay adjacent to the Magna center. In reality the Magna location should be additional garden plots not replacement plots.

While we did get a one year reprieve on our existing location it won't happen again as construction of a new high rise Regional building is scheduled to begin next year. Since I've lived in Newmarket the population has doubled yet no new plots have been added to the program and the garden is scheduled to be moved to barren soil for a second time. How is this supporting communities?

I’d like Ontario hydro to allow us the use of the hydro corridor for garden plots. There are many acres of untended and usable land going to waste.

I want a local food cooperative selling locally grown fresh and canned produce as well as bulk purchases of food staples.
The closest we have now is this small raw food co-op I’ve used them before to buy wheat for my flour mill.

A year round farmers market would be wonderful too

I want to see the careers ended for those local politicians who think that the only thing they must offer to get my vote is more public ice rinks. There is more to life and their jobs than facilitating hockey…arrgggg!

I want to see strict enforcement of the no free range cat bylaw. If your dog, child or spouse is running amok in my yard I can call the police, if it’s a cat however you must trap it yourself because police or animal control won’t do anything. Cats and their freakishly zealot owners are apparently above a law that protects indigenous species like song birds from being hunted by a foreign and destructive species. If you’re too lazy to clean your own cat box put the cat down, don’t send it to crap in my garden. Sorry for the rant, Pet Peeve, Literally

Ban golf courses- One of the few places Ontario exempt from the cosmetic pesticide laws and a huge waste of arable land. Play like the ancient Scots did, in a pasture with the sheep, sheep dip and rocks as obstacles.

I want to see a group of environmentally aware people create a slate of like minded candidates in the next round of municipal elections.
(this had better happen soon, its election year)

I’d like the Newmarket Farmers market to have its board fired and a neutral party placed in charge. From what I’ve been told by two local vendors is that market has lost vendors because board members did not like losing market share to a better product and refused to renew peoples permits. (By the way, the best meat pies are now sold by a guy at the Aurora market.) It also looks likes some current vendors are breaking the rules and bringing out of region produce from the food terminal rather than live up to their local produce mandate.

I’d like to see at least one weekend Go train that goes down 9:00ish a.m. and came back at 5-6 pm so that people can do the Ex, trade shows, theatre, the islands etc.

More shelters at the stations, as well as a YRT schedule that actually gets people to the train before it leaves.

A couple things I missed that a reader brought up

“I'd like to see bylaws changed for development such that the provision of bicycle storage is mandatory. Currently developers have clear rules around they number of parking spots they must provide, but nothing about bike paths and storage.” I should be able to go to the store with a bike or scooter, not just a car. Hell they should even put in e-car and scooter charging stations at larger locations.

“I'd like to see some thought given to the locations of existing housing (ie neighbourhoods) and looking at where those people most likely want/need to walk/cycle to, and then a plan in place to ensure they have safe paths that are well maintained.” In fact I’d support buying houses on some nested streets and tearing them down so we can punch new walking paths between streets. The fact you have to walk 15 minutes to reach a neighbour that you see out the back window is nuts

There are so many things that I want done yet I see no awareness to the need for change. I guess there are several answers but they all boil down to 2 categories

I’m a delusional crank
People are inherently short sighted and stupid

Or maybe there are people out there who will say, "Those are great ideas, I want to get involved" and will contact me to do something.

No, you are right. I must be a delusional Crank!!! bwahahahahaahah

If anyone else wish to spout off about their pie in the sky vision for our town, send it in, I might just post it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Press release: "Holding the Line on Our Democracy" Community Meeting

I promissed more details on the CEDAN's upcomming town hall event on Democratic issues in Canada, here is yesterday's News release

Press Release – For Immediate Release February 15, 2010

From Citizens Engaging Democracy, Newmarket-Aurora


"Holding the Line on Our Democracy."

February 25, 2010


Binions Hall, Trinity Anglican Church, 79 Victoria Street, Aurora, ON

Suggested donation: $10.00/pay what you can

On Feb. 25th, join us for a local community meeting to educate and inspire local voters.

Featured Speaker:

Dr. Marco Fonseca, PhD. (Department of International Studies, Glendon College) will discuss the topic of grassroots democratic movements, with a focus on Canadian participatory democracy. He points out that, “when we do not take part in the public life of our political community, the very meaning of our citizenship - a key element of what it is to be Canadian - is at risk of being lost.” Our democracy is in crisis and it is up to all of us to let those in power know that we are watching and we want change.

Our Goals:

to reach Canadians who are still not aware that we have no sitting Parliament

to educate citizens about threats to, and the erosion of, our democratic system

to engage people, knowing that low voter turnouts and apathy lead to the election of governments who do not represent us

to tell our elected representatives to do their jobs in the House of Commons

to take action, preventing the misuse of power from being repeated.

We are presenting a petition requesting a legislative change to prorogation procedures.

We are also presenting information about related organizations so that people can take action and communicate with their government.

All local elected politicians will be formally invited to attend as observers.

Background: The shutdown of our Canadian Parliament in December 2009 by a minority government --in mid-debate of 37 pieces of legislation -- was only the biggest symptom of our ailing democratic processes. On January 23, 2010, in over 60 peaceful, non-partisan rallies of 29,000 concerned Canadians, we let our politicians know they had crossed a line. The 225,000 members of Chris White's Facebook group, Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament (CAPP), proved them wrong as almost 30,000 Canadians marched in the streets telling their politicians to "Get Back to Work."

Canadians Engaging Democracy, Newmarket-Aurora is a group of local citizens who met to coordinate the January 23 rally and feel that ongoing work is necessary to engage and inform voters. We want our democracy back.

Please join us in "holding that line" for our democracy!

Press contact: Liz Jefferson Website:

For details, please call (905) 868-9183 or email

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Democratic dysfunction alive and well in Newmarket

During the last Federal Election in 2008 voter turnout dropped to a record low of 59.1%

The Ontario provincial race was even worse at 52.6%

Canadians are largely becoming disengaged from the process of government and this leads to several problems such as extremists and fools gaining disproportionate power (both in parties and government) and in many cases the recruitment of fewer and lower quality candidates.

Enter Newmarket’s Election history where we have a meagre 30% participation rate in municipal elections. This, my fellow citizens is an absolute disgrace. To further highlight our democratic dysfunction look at the nominations for the 2010 contest so far; the Mayor, Regional Councillor, and both the ward 1 and 5 incumbents are facing no challengers. So far nobody even wants to run for York Catholic District School Board trustee.

With the exception of ward 6 with 4 contenders (which is a healthy number) all other wards only have 1 candidate contesting the incumbent. Either ward 6 is an aberration of democratic zeal or everyone is taking advantage of the fact the incumbent is not running again. I'd love to spend a couple of hours and a couple of beers with Dennis Ramsarran to get the real scoop on council. If you are out there Dennis the offer is open.

What does this say about us?

It says many of us don’t realize or don’t care how much municipal decisions impact our lives. Municipal government supplies our roads, parks, water, schools, libraries and emergency services; things which matter more in the average life than a federal law allowing free trade with a corrupt state like Columbia.

It says that we don’t care about getting the best person for the job, any willing fool will do.

It says the part time nature of the positions with both day and night responsibilities disqualifies a large portion of the citizenry who work full time or out of town.

It says we don’t care how the $3,000…$4,000… $5,000 … in property taxes we pay each year is spent. If you really don’t care how your money gets spent send it to me, I do care.

It says we don’t care about choice. This is the really bizarre thing because people don’t like a restaurant that only serves one thing one way. We don’t drive the same car or own the same house yet we are willing to suffer no choice in our electoral races. You know what you get when you have no choice? You get the lowest common denominator, average people, doing an average job at best. The equivalent of pepperoni pizza for life, no other toppings, no chillies or garlic power to sprinkle on top and no choice beverage to wash it down with, everyone gets no name cola. Yummm!

People like you and I need to wake up and smell the stale burnt coffee. We need to follow council, encourage bright people who’ve never considered running or run ourselves. Support a candidate because they are smart, capable, articulate and want the same things you do, not because you know them or they’ve asked to be your facebook buddy. Demand detailed policy points not mindless platitudes and at the very least pay attention and actually vote.

Occasionally we do see slight glimmers of hope as we did just a few short weeks ago when 200 or so concerned citizens rallied against a cynical attempt to quiet the House of Commons' democratic right to question and investigate the ruling government. I want to see more of this kind of zeal at the town level.

As an Aside

If you are concerned about the erosion of our democracy at any level of government please keep the evening of Thursday Feb 25th open for the first in what may become a series of Town Hall meetings hosted by Citizens Engaging Democracy. This event will be held at Trinity Anglican Church in Aurora from 7:00 -9:00ish featuring guest speaker Professor Marco Fonseca who will speak to the issues of the degradation of democracy and grass roots civil movements.

The organizers would appreciate small donations at the door to cover the event. I’ll have more on this in coming days.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Google Street View is active in Newmarket

Google Street Vie is a massive undertaking where camera equipped cars like the one I captured last summer in Newmarket travel all the roads taking continuous pictures of the neighbourhoods. Once they are compiled and loaded these pictures give you the ability to take a virtual tour around the various cities and towns imputed.

To use Street view go to google maps and either zoom in or do a search for an adress, when you get zoomed in far enough you drag the little yellow/orange man on the zoom bar and place it on the street you wish to view and you will zoom into the street level view of the area where you can rotate, look up and down as well as move along the street like you were driving. You can also get in by zooming until you get a framed picture of the location and if you click street view in that box this you to the street level pictures.

Street View is a great tool/toy for checking out a city before travel, giving directions to friends, scouting around when house shopping or just being nosey. In some areas within hours of going live people found images of a thief scaling a house, someone taking a leek in the bushes, a few rude gestures and numerous people immortalized while they took out the garbage in their panama’s , fortunately faces are blurred out.

Go ahead and check out our town, if you find anything funny let us know.

Me I just like to gawk at houses I like but can’t afford.

It would appear I can’t maintain the blistering pace of posts that I started this blog with due to a either a wrist injury or just plain carpel tunnel. I will attempt to keep at least something fresh up weekly.