Q&A With Your Ward 1 Candidates – Part 4 of 4

The polls are now open.

Eligible voters can vote in the 2018 Markham Municipal Election from October 12 to October 22 up until 8:00PM.  For more information, please visit MarkhamVotes.ca.

Please see the final question of our series below.  Again, responses have been limited to 250 words.  Another thank you goes out to our candidates for taking the time to give these questions their consideration and provide thoughtful responses.

Question 4:
Imagine the future 10 or 20 years from now – what legacy are you most proud to have left (or accomplishment achieved) during your tenure as Ward 1 Councillor?

Caryn Bergmann:
The legacy I would like to leave from my time on City Council echoes my previously stated priorities and objectives of not only preserving, but enhancing our environment. 

Markham has an ambitious vision towards sustainability, however without a progressive council that values and champions these objectives, notable progress will not be achieved.

Valerie Burke has been a driver of environmental leadership throughout her terms on council, and in her absence, I will strive to keep these important issues at the forefront of all considerations.

The Greenprint Sustainability Plan sets out a number of goals and targets which will lead us in the right direction, but in order to obtain this vision we need concrete plans to get us there, and a willing public that supports it. For example, our tree canopy currently stands at 18%. The York Region Forest Management Plan recommends a canopy cover range for Markham of 20%-35% by 2051. The city has declared an objective of 30%, with no goal date, and has stated that without increasing trees on private lands, these objectives are not attainable. 

Thus, residents must understand the importance of participating in this process, and must support this endeavour. In order to achieve this, I aim to increase public awareness and approval of these essential projects amongst everyone in the ward, and particularly with young people who will be inheriting our environment. 

My objective, and my legacy, will be to champion these goals, and play a leading role to shepherd these plans to fruition.

Hilary Neubauer:
I thought about this question a long time. It is a very good one. I believe that municipal politics, when done correctly, should be the most boring thing anyone ever heard of. Residents should be heard, services should be provided, and the finances should be transparent. In twenty years, if my legacy is that I represented Thornhill well, and preserved it through its continued growth, then I will be proud.

Howard Shore:
I have felt privileged to serve our community and hope that the residents of Thornhill will feel in their hearts that, whether they agreed or disagreed with me on one issue or another, that I always tried to make decisions with the best interests of the community in mind; that I spent tax dollars as if they were my own and that I understood their concerns. 
I would like to make a difference in the lives of Thornhill residents.  Residents take pride in living here and expect clean air, safe streets, access to opportunity and ease of movement.   I’d like to ensure that Thornhill is not overrun by increased development.  In 10 years, I hope that Thornhill residents are able to get on a subway stopping at Yonge and Clark. 
I’d be very proud of a legacy which ensured that no senior should ever have to sell their home because of municipal taxes; that embraced both green, sustainable initiatives as well as making Thornhill and Markham a truly leading-edge ‘smart’ city technologically.
I would know that progress had been made if we made everyone, regardless of background or circumstance, truly feel a part of the Thornhill and city tapestry –  that we are richer because of our diversity.

Barry Nelson:
Highly successful organizations succeed due to the development of visionary, challenging and measurable Strategic Plans, which during the implementation process attract the best leaders, performers and resources available.

Society needs to be inspired to reach for higher achievement and that begins with expectations that I’ve been rooting out as I visited so many of our residences. Long term I will ensure that council becomes far more committed to core strategic processes that are measured constantly against short-term expected outcomes, which in turn contribute to a sustainable, caring and happy society we all want to live in.

Keith Irish:
I love this question. I typically approach each major undertaking with “the end in mind.” I ask myself at the start: what does success look like? I then carefully plan what needs to be done to achieve it.

In 10 or 20 years I want Thornhill to be a vibrant community with more white-collar employment options than it has today and public transit infrastructure that gives residents a real choice between whether they should drive or take transit. In order to achieve that it must be integrated with the larger regional transportation network that includes both GO Transit and the TTC and it must be affordable, convenient and fast.

I also want to see our green space preserved and protected. I worry about the future of the Ladies Golf Club. I think everyone would agree that Ward 1 is better with it than without.

I don’t want to see it suffer the same fate as Unionville’s York Downs Golf Course. On September 12 in a 10 to 3 vote Markham Council approved turning it into 2400 residential units and 120,000 sq. ft of retail space. I’m also reminded by the comments a resident of Blue Spruce Lane made to me that “every golf course in North America is for sale.” While not quite the reality, the decline in the popularity of the game, especially among young people, is an alarm all of us must heed.

Peter Wong:
I would like to see Thornhill gradually taking shape into a Satellite City of GTA having its own historic areas, green spaces, cultural amenities and attributes where people can happily and healthily live, work and play.

Ricardo Mashregi:
I hope to leave a legacy of having been an honest and effective politician. I want to be a good listener, I want to be responsive to the needs of my constituents, I want to work in a civil and collegial manner with other members of Council, and I want to be a role model for other people who wish to serve in the public interest. There is little confidence or trust in politicians today and this must change. I want to be part of that change.

If I am able to serve Thornhill in accordance with these principles then the specific accomplishments will naturally follow.

Wishing everyone a fantastic weekend!


Q&A With Your Ward 1 Candidates – Part 3 of 4

Good evening,

Green spaces provide a multitude of benefits for Markham and its residents. It is also a vital habitat for wildlife. Tonight’s question focuses on strategies to balance future development with green space preservation.  All responses were limited to 250 words.

Question 3:
Thornhill is blessed with natural green spaces, mature trees, and diverse wildlife. But these elements are at risk. How do you propose to balance future development with ecological and environmental concerns?

Peter Wong:
While we all agree that our green spaces must be protected, we should not ignore the fact that change is the only constant in life. What we need for Thornhill is a balanced and sustainable developmental change which could be achieved by adopting an experienced common sense approach. Thornhill needs a representative who has the real knowledge, expertise or direct experience to actually make sound judgments.

Howard Shore:
Sustainability is about leaving our planet better than we found it for our children and our children’s children. Markham’s GreenPrint Plan for Sustainability is based on a triple bottom line, comprised of social (people), economic (financial), and environment (planet).

I was very proud to be a member of Markham’s GreenPrint Steering Committee. For Markham to really thrive, all three pillars need to be strong. The sustainable Markham I envision integrates all three elements and becomes the lens through which all decisions at the municipality – from budget items to new development applications, are viewed.

If returned as Councillor I would advocate for the elevating the status of ‘sustainability’ in Markham by re-designating the planning Commission into the Development and Sustainability Commission. This would not merely be a matter of optics, rather, create a fundamental shift of priorities in how we examine and judge future development and growth within our City.

Hilary Neubauer:
Where there is a will, there is a way. The green spaces of Thornhill are a major reason for our high quality of life. The financial value of our properties is tied to the environment in which they exist. Development is coming. I will be working very hard to encourage relationships between new developments and green industries. I will oppose any bylaw amendment that reduces protection of our green spaces and trees. There are opportunities in green industries and innovations that need to be explored. Markham can be the tech capital of Canada, and protective of our natural environment as well. It takes will and determination. I have both.

Barry Nelson:
We need to measure developments against what we claim to protect within the Markham Strategic Plan – we link these vital assets to the fabric of our society, and therefore development must be adapted to the natural environment vs. the other way around. I’ll use logical arguments toward asset protection that link to Markham’s strategic plan. The existing one works and we need to follow through on our commitments.

Ricardo Mashregi:
I already have a track record in working to protect our natural heritage. In 2014 I founded “TRUE”, Trees and Residents for Urban Environments. TRUE is made up of a cross-Markham group of residents, representing 7 different ratepayer associations. One of our initiatives was to fight for the preservation and compensation of 3,900 trees that are endangered by the redevelopment of the York Downs golf course. TRUE works to enhance understanding at Council, and with developers, of the economic, environmental and social benefits of a healthy and robust tree canopy and eco-system. The preservation of green space and wildlife must become more of a priority in Markham. Once they are gone there is no getting them back.

Keith Irish:
There’s no question this is a difficult balance. Intensification – the development of a property, site or area at a higher density than currently exists – and gridlock are related.

While I contend that intensification causes gridlock, I do not believe all intensification is bad. Building up versus out has allowed us to protect the Greenbelt from construction. Higher densities encourage business and cultural investment that grows the city’s tax base and enriches our lives. A lot of what we take for granted would not be possible if fewer people lived here. It’s also a positive reflection on Thornhill that so many want to call it home.

However, we also like our neighbourhoods the way they are. That’s why we chose to live in Ward 1. I especially enjoy walking my two Labrador Retrievers in Pomona Mills Park. I am grateful, as I am sure all residents are, for the work previous community builders did to preserve, protect and improve the park.

However, there’s bound to be trouble when high-density development outpaces the ability of our local infrastructure – roads, schools, public transit, water, stormwater and sewer capacity – to cope and encroaches upon our green spaces.

I believe this is the predicament we now find ourselves in. If I am fortunate enough to be elected, I will be a strong defender of our natural environment, mature trees and natural habitat not just here in Ward 1 but across our city.

Caryn Bergmann:
As I stated previously, environmental protection is an integral part of my values. I believe that it is crucial we do the most we can to perserve our ecosystem. We cannot create more of our green spaces once they have been paved over.

As councillor, I intend to make decisions with a Green lens, ensuring we are always placing environmental considerations at the top of our priorities.

If I’m elected, you can be sure that for any proposal that comes to council there will be a strong voice for conservation, sustainability, and environmental protection. I intend to accomplish this by asking the right questions, ensuring checks and balances are in the review process, being thorough and not dismissive, and making decisions based on fact not assumption.

I pledge to always prioritize existing natural resources, over “just replacing them” somewhere else. If trees need to be replaced, I will work to ensure that the replacements will benefit the same ecosystem as the one effected, and not be placed somewhere else.

Stay tuned for our final post of our series where our Ward 1 candidates provide their answers to our final question.

Q&A With Your Ward 1 Candidates – Part 2 of 4

Good evening,

According to the Markham Votes website, the role of a Ward Councillor is to represent residents from a specific ward.  Ward Councillors also have a responsibility to represent the public, as well as consider the well-being and interests of the municipality.

In Part 2 of our series, tonight’s question allows candidates to outline their main priorities if elected. All responses received are posted below and were limited to 250 words.

Question 2:
Please name your top 3 priorities.

Caryn Bergmann:
1) Listening to residents.

My top priority is to represent the needs and concerns of my community, and find solutions.

Furthermore, I endeavour not just to listen to your concerns, but actively seek comprehensive input from residents when it comes to major decisions. Promoting engagement opportunities is essential in this, as residents MUST be aware these events exist so that they can contribute.

2) Protecting our environment.

This is not just a priority of my candidacy, but a core value in my life. I feel very strongly about the importance of protecting our environment to sustain a liveable future for our children.

Climate change is real. We’ve seen it begin to already have drastic effects on our weather – intense storms have increased in severity and frequency. We must do everything we can to mitigate these effects before it’s too late, and ensure we are adequately prepared for the challenges that are to come.

3) Balanced growth.

Thornhill is facing challenging times. The multiple developments being proposed will ultimately double the population of our community. These developments need to be thoroughly scrutinized and evaluated, and fully reflect our needs before approval.

Is there adequate infrastructure to support this growth, including roads, water systems, community centres, parks, and schools?

Is there sufficient consideration being given for our aging population who have raised families here to remain a part of our community as their living requirements evolve?

We need to anticipate, not react, and ensure we are properly planning for the future.

Keith Irish:
I actually have five.  They are:  addressing gridlock, ensuring the city provides reliable services that residents both need and want, making necessary investments in public infrastructure, advocating for the extension of the Yonge Street Subway and ensuring our tax dollars are well spent.

Although I am an optimist by nature, I know these won’t all be addressed overnight.  There are no quick and easy solutions.

That is why my platform includes items that I believe are achievable in the short term.  Each relates to the five overarching issues. 

They are: 

  • A reduction in the transit fare Ward 1 residents pay to board a bus that connects to the TTC route network.
  • A re-examination of the effectiveness of HOV lanes on Yonge Street in light of new development that has occurred since they were put in place.
  • Genuine property tax relief for those family members and friends providing in-home care for seniors and those with disabilities.
  • Independent traffic and infrastructure studies for land development proposals or a legal defense fund for ratepayer groups to legitimately challenge a development application.
  • A rapid response team of city-hired summer students to quickly respond to complaints by cutting the grass of unkempt and empty homes with the cost added to the homeowner’s property tax bill.

Ricardo Mashregi:
I have more than three priorities and here they are in no particular order.

First, Markham has to do more to control traffic through residential neighbourhoods. The policy of York Region is basically to allow traffic to go anywhere and everywhere. In my part of Thornhill we have fought this policy at the City level to protect our community and our school kids from the danger and disruption of non-stop traffic during rush hours. Part of protecting the quality of life for the people of Thornhill, in particular because of our geographic location, is to keep traffic off of local roads. In the larger scheme of things I will continue with my work, to ensure that the Yonge subway extension is fully funded.

Second, we need to continue to press the City for improved flood protection for those areas of Thornhill that are still at risk. In my area we advocated before Council for many years after the major flood of 2005 and now have the same level of flood protection as newly built subdivisions. However, there are still sections of Thornhill that are subject to flooding and require a strong advocate on Council. 

Third, Markham needs to do better in providing affordable recreation and cultural activities to all segments of our community. We have parks that are under-utilized and offer very little to our residents. We are a highly diversified community, with many cultures and demographics represented, and we need to do a better job of meeting their needs.

Barry Nelson:
There are 7 complex priorities for Ward 1:

Developments – that must stick to city policies and the official plan

Traffic Flow – using safer and efficient transportation and control systems

Infrastructure – using emerging technologies to avoid flooding, allow better transportation and manage snow

Smart City Communication – new ways to connect residents with the information and services they need, including regular face-to-face meeting opportunities at our community centre that leads to

Community – cultural celebration of diversity, recreation programs and the arts,

Environmental Green Space and Heritage – conservation and preservation

Value – efficient use of City resources and tax dollars

Hilary Neubauer:

  1.  Continuation. I want to step in to this role, and protect the legacy of our current Councillor. Her work has set Thornhill on a good path, making this a place we can all be proud of. I intend to follow in her example.

2.  Careful Planning. New and infill development is going to continue. It needs very close attention. Planning, financial and scientific analysis, and consideration for our existing residents must be priorities before any work begins. I am not anti-development, I seek to protect what makes Thornhill valuable, not sell it off.

3.  The Environment. Climate change and exceptional weather events are going to continue to have an impact on us. Markham does a good job in waste diversion, infrastructure upgrades, and protection of green spaces, I will support and commit to environmental protections, and the expansion of current practices.

Howard Shore:
1.         Traffic and transit.

Extension of the Yonge-Finch subway station to at least Highway 7 is a critical priority.  We take pride in living here and expect clean air, safe streets, access to opportunity and ease of movement.   We need to treat transit as an essential investment in our future.  How we move people and things affect all aspects of our lives – environmentally, socially and economically.

2.         Infrastructure, including protecting Thornhill homes from flooding.

Flooding has a devastating effect on families and their homes. Thornhill’s pipes are old and small.  The size of most storm sewers in Thornhill are designed to withstand the worst storm we may see on an average of once every 2 to 5 years – far less than in newer areas of Markham.

Thornhill has some of the oldest power utility grids with more overhead power lines and backyard connections than elsewhere in Markham.  This needs to be addressed.

The age and quality of facilities here in Thornhill, including the amenities in our local parks is a serious concern.  Thornhill can quite easily become the ‘have not’ part of Markham.

3.         Slowing the tide of development.

Some developers would have us believe that high density development will create the ‘tipping point’ for new infrastructure – roads, sewers, transit, etc.  That hasn’t proven to be true.  Approving more development without having infrastructure in place first and at locations which common sense tells you will create additional traffic headaches is simply unfair to and shows disregard for existing neighbourhoods and the residents who live there.  That attitude has to change.

Peter Wong:
1)    Economic prosperity

2)    Road Safety

3)    Affordability and livability for aging population

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post where we will present our candidates’ responses to our third question.

Q&A With Your Ward 1 Candidates – Part 1 of 4

Good evening.

Hope everyone had a fantastic Thanksgiving celebrated with family and friends.

With the polls opening at the end of this week (October 12), executives at RORA would like to help residents make an informed decision when they vote.

Our Ward 1 candidates had the opportunity to respond to four questions posed by RORA on a variety of topics.  As part of our series, we will be releasing one question each day.  Please take a moment to read their responses (limited to 250 words).

We thank the candidates who participated for taking the time to give these questions their consideration and provide thoughtful responses.

Let’s start with Question 1:
Why do you think you will be an effective representative for Thornhill?

Ricardo Mashregi:
I think I would be an effective representative for all of Thornhill because I have already proven to be an effective representative for my area. As the Chair of the Grandview Area Residents Association for the past 6 years I have worked well with all parts of my community and have helped to achieve major improvements, such as updated storm and sanitary sewers and wonderful new amenities for our local park. I have worked with City staff and have given many deputations before Markham Council. I have collaborated with other residents associations across Thornhill and feel that, if I am elected, I will have no trouble working with the other members of Markham Council for the betterment of our Ward and our City. In short, I have a proven track record of successful and collegial work on behalf of our community and I understand how things are accomplished in Markham. I am ready to “hit the ground running.”

Peter Wong:
I possess a Bachelor’s Degree in Financial Management and a Bachelor’s degree in Law. In addition to being a legal and real estate investment consultant, I am also a certified mediator and commissioner of oath. Currently, I am volunteering as an arbitrator for one Real Estate Board in Ontario.  
I had served as department heads of Credit Departments for two International banks in Toronto. My other working experiences include being an owner/operator of a franchised hotel in Ontario. I’m also knowledgeable about immigration, litigation, real estate, business and international commercial laws and practical business operations. 
My knowledge and experience will definitely help in my job as your representative.

Keith Irish:
As a 30-year resident of Ward 1 I have always believed in the power of local government to solve problems and make things better for people.

I have the experience, ideas, passion and time to help solve the problems we face and as your Councillor make our community an even better place to live, work and play.

After graduating from university I chose Thornhill as the place I wanted to live, raise a family and operate a business. I am proud of our community and have made time to volunteer and give back to make it better.

I represented Ward 1 for two terms as Public School Trustee, was on the Markham Theatre Board, coached hockey for six seasons with the Thornhill Community Hockey League, was a member of the parent council of Thornhill Secondary School and currently serve on Markham’s Accessibility Committee and as Chair of the Heintzman House Board of Directors.

For 20 years I have owned and operated my own Thornhill-based corporate communications consulting firm.
I have learned a lot from operating a business and working with others to achieve the best outcomes. Being responsible for meeting a payroll focuses your attention everyday on the quality of your work, responsiveness to the needs of your clients, and the importance of providing great customer service.

I live by three simple rules: always do the right thing; honour your commitments; set a good example. If elected, I will bring the same approach to Council and to those I represent.

Barry Nelson:
6 cities have been clients of my performance improvement programs and strategic business planning services. I’ve also been actively engaged within Thornhill for 33 years and specifically within Ward 1 community for 12 Years. My contributions that mirror the work of Councillor in leadership and performance include:

  • 12 Years and 85+ presentations within Markham’s elected leadership, representing local infrastructure, cultural and heritage interests
  • 2 Years as Committee Member and Survey Facilitator for the City of Markham’s current 10-year strategic Culture Policy and Plan
  • 6 Years as appointed Committee Member for Heritage Markham – Chair for 4
  • 12 Years on The Society for the Preservation of Historic Thornhill – President for 2
  • 2 Years leading within Markham’s Ward 1 (South) Thornhill Residents Inc.
  • I’ve visited over 5,700 (and counting) Ward 1 homes seeking input from people like you and I’ve 7 priorities as a result

I improve performance. Professionally, I’ve spent the last 22 years helping people become better skilled within their roles – even the City is a client.

As a professional facilitator, I get people engaged, talking and working together to achieve the best results.

I’m a skilled problem solver who’s respected for quality solutions and outcomes.

To earn trust and respect, I listen, commit and follow-up. These behaviours result in great collaborations.

Negotiation Skills are vital for the role of Councillor. I’ve taught and consulted on negotiation. I’ll share these skills to achieve win/win outcomes for residents.

Howard Shore:
I’ve had the privilege of serving Thornhill in the past as a member of Council and the best part of the job was talking with residents and listening to their concerns.  Whether it was my monthly coffee klatch drop-in, regular town hall meets, annual movie in the park or meeting people door to door, it was a tremendous opportunity to hear directly about residents’ hopes and concerns and do my best to help.

Representing one’s community means respecting what’s important to each individual whether their concern is a pot-hole on the road, pick-up of their garbage or the gridlock on our roads.

I am running to return to Markham Council because now more than ever Thornhill needs strong, capable leadership with both experience and vision. Residents know that I’m a good listener, that I work hard and that I actually got things done when I was on Council.

Hilary Neubauer:
I know how to build relationships, listen to opposing viewpoints, find answers, and get results. My network is extensive and I surround myself with experts who I trust to give me reasoned advice. I was raised by a municipal politician, and through her I know exactly how challenging it is to serve as representative of a large and diverse community. In decision making, I am led by facts and not feelings. There is divisiveness at every level of Canadian politics right now. This is dangerous, especially for areas like ours, where there is valuable land still available to purchase. Thornhill needs someone who will stay the course, and truly represent the will of the residents. That representative is me.

Caryn Bergmann:
Thornhill has been my home for most of my life. Since I was 3 years old, I’ve grown up here, lived here, and worked here, and it holds a special place in my heart. As such, every action I undertake as councillor would be based on what’s best for my community. I pledge to act only with honesty and integrity in all of my decisions, never putting corporate or outsider interests ahead of my neighbour’s concerns – my loyalty lies with my community, and my community alone. My compassion and ability to empathize with others drives me to be an advocate for my constituents on any issue, big or small.

Additionally, I would be an effective councillor because I am committed, open-minded, always willing to listen, and resourceful – constantly looking for possible solutions to problems even when the odds are stacked against me.

I’m the youngest candidate on the roster, and so I have a unique investment in contributing to the best possible future for our community. As councillor, I wish to give a voice to younger constituents, ensuring their concerns are properly heard and they are adequately engaged in their community. 

I believe we need a fresh outlook on council, one that reflects the community that we want to be in the future. 

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post where we will present our candidates’ responses to our second question.

Ward 1 – Candidate Meet & Greets – Sept. 25

Meet your Candidates Session
Markham voters are invited to meet their candidates running in the upcoming municipal election.
Inform your decision by meeting candidates face-to-face and get a sense of who they are and what they could do for you if elected.
At this event, you will have the opportunity to have one-on-one conversations with candidates about the issues that matter most to you.
Date: Tuesday, September 25, 2018
Time: 7:00pm to 9:00pm
Where: Thornhill Library – Program Room