Out in Write Field
Regional Chair still a hit in his home town
By Bruce Stapley
Stouffville Free Press
Wayne Emmerson returned to his roots on a snowy Friday morning last month to lay out the details of York Region’s $2.1 billion Operating Budget and $942 Million Capital Budget for 2017 to the Stouffville Chamber of Commerce.
The York Chairman, who became an institution here in Stouffville after serving six years on Town Council followed by 17 years as mayor ending in 2014, was given a warm welcome by the businessmen and residents who attended the breakfast at the nearby Meadowbrook Golf Club. So much so that when David Probert, Mr. Emmerson’s old adversary from his days as Mayor, challenged him to put more effort into bringing much needed commercial development to the Whitchurch-Stouffville side of Hwy. 404 in the Gormley area, Mr. Emmerson received a round of applause when he insisted his allegiance to his home town was as solid as ever. “I have never turned my back on Whitchurch-Stouffville,” he stated. “I will always be there for you.”
But other than that it was smooth sailing for the Chair as he methodically laid out the facts and figures pertaining to the region and its finances. He started with the basics; the region includes 1.2 million residents, employs 5,700 people, is home to 51,000 businesses. He cited the king pin investments of the previous year starting with transit initiatives including the expansion of the Spadina and Yonge subway lines into the region and pointing to the $290 million spent on new roads.
He said the current year will see a continued emphasis on transportation projects, affordable housing, water and waste water projects, and expansion of broadband availability to the residents and businesses located in the half of the region’s geography who are presently underserved. He assured that the region has been pressing the federal government to contribute to these initiatives, saying how Whitchurch-Stouffville’s rural communities are among the areas which will benefit from $500 million made available by the feds last December to increase broadband access in non-urban areas.
In discussing the region’s $2.7 debt load, Mr. Emmerson said the fiscal strategy includes managing the capital plan, reducing the reliance on debt and saving for the future. The region currently enjoys an AAA credit rating with Moody’s and has a strong reserve balance.
In concluding his remarks, Mr. Emmerson pointed to the huge changes that may be in store when the regional Chair goes from being an appointed position to an elected office starting with the 2018 municipal vote. He suggested smaller towns like Whitchurch-Stouffville will have to work harder to be sure their voice is heard at the regional level.
From all appearances, those in attendance seemed hopeful that the Town’s native son would emerge victorious and regain his current role after the next election.