Barrie 360 has invited the seven candidates for mayor in Barrie to outline the top five issues they believe need to be addressed in the city, and how they plan to resolve them if elected.
Their responses will be published here as we receive them.
Those experiencing homelessness deserve our help. Together, we can decide to do better and do more.
Barrie city council and not the County of Simcoe council need to plan, manage, and implement the homelessness portfolio and directly receive the associated Federal and Provincial funding to do so.
I say this for several reasons
No member of the County of Simcoe council lives in the City of Barrie and none are elected by Barrie residents. They cannot be held accountable by Barrie residents for their actions or lack thereof, nor do they understand the impact of homelessness on Barrie and its people.
- The current homelessness crisis needs immediate attention. Removing an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy (the county) means smoother, faster development and implementation of strategies and solutions that meet the unique needs of our city.
- Our city is growing, and as we grow, we will not only have residents arriving that are of good health and financial stability. Our homeless population will also grow. We need the autonomy, complete with the proper provincial funding, to properly plan for the growing number of those who find themselves homeless in our community.
- With greater autonomy, we can work far more strategically with our charities, volunteers, and support service providers.
I believe in evidence-based decision making and the evidence clearly shows that the provincially built and managed social housing units of the 60s, 70s, and 80s worked. They made a difference. The province stopped this program in 1995.
I will, if elected as mayor, rally my fellow mayors and other municipal leaders to join me in advocating that the province commits to re-engaging in this type of housing.
I would work with the Federal and Provincial governments in an undertaking that would see a greater number of rental units constructed, units that are mixed market in nature.
AFFORDABLE HOME OWNERSHIP and RENTAL UNITS
A top issue for us is housing costs and yet, we have 19,000 unbuilt homes. That’s 19,000 homes whose price tags go up every day. Red tape delays impact housing costs by 100s of thousands of dollars. How so? The current market forecasts that a $500,000 house for sale in April of this year will sell for $600,000 or more in April of next year.
If housing is an essential part of our lives, we need to give it a preferred approval route.
We need to get bureaucracy out of the way; simply, it takes far too long to plan and approve housing. Bureaucracy continues to add to the financial burden on all of us. Red tape delays for home builders, renovators, and homeowners looking to improve mean cost increases for buyers.
We need to challenge the province to rethink the massive Ontario Building Code, which while it keeps us safe, it dramatically increases building costs and, in many instances, tries to solve a problem that does not exist. The code needs its language updated to ensure interpretations by all parties are consistent.
I will advocate for new tools that will allow Barrie to work with the province so we can advance the building of the “missing middle” housing and advance the creation of appropriately constructed multi-generational homes.
Barrie can play a major role in enticing builders to consider the construction of more affordable rental units.
We, as a city, need more autonomy so that we can plan, build, own, operate, and combine affordable housing, including units dedicated to hard-to-house individuals. The net result is a housing model which will increase the supply of market, affordable and special needs housing in good locations.
I would champion the cause of mixed-market housing developments, as they have several advantages over fully concentrated affordable public housing. Mixed market housing helps prevent pockets of poverty from developing, and they promote more inclusive and supportive neighbourhoods, where people of diverse backgrounds and circumstances work together to build their community.
My doorstep conversations often include discussions on how the city can better address and properly plan for climate change.
People who have heard me speak often hear me state that we need to think long before we think short. By this, I mean we need to envision where we wish to be at a defined point in the future and plan the best path forward to achieve the desired outcome. On climate, it means establishing clear outcomes and targets. Researching successful initiatives to adopt here and communicating the importance of taking action now.
We are a growing city and as we grow, new infrastructure will be built, existing infrastructure will be replaced, new equipment such as vehicles will be purchased, and other municipal assets will be replaced. This all needs to occur under a climate change point of view.
I believe as a city we need to be all-in on climate change. It cannot be a portfolio that is merely added as a job function to an existing position. We need a subject matter expert on board, someone whose sole task is to lead long-term corporate and community strategies. Someone who can provide council with solid advice and present well-considered recommendations for council approval.
We need staff on board, not consultants. My experience with far too many consultants is that they come in, borrow your watch, proceed to tell you what time it is, and then off they go. No thanks. Something as critical as the climate needs a firm council commitment, and that means having staff that are accountable to the CAO and Council leading the way.
The task ahead is significant. We need smart and proven ideas to transform our buildings, the way people move (transit, etc.), and how we recycle, re-use, and re-purpose existing assets; all in ways that reduce our carbon emissions.
I will establish actionable items that can be delivered in the next four years of council. I will commence a stop idling campaign, and explore intelligent traffic light systems to reduce idling time through more efficient traffic flow. I will commence a Food Is Not Garbage campaign and establish a zero-food waste target date.
Among our vulnerable in Barrie are seniors – those struggling to live independently at home and those in long-term care.
Although these are not municipal issues, I as mayor would certainly hold the province accountable to deliver on their funding promises for multiple long-term care components. Specifically, we must ensure the province lives up to their air conditioning commitment.
Beyond holding the province accountable, I would wish to see city council fully engage in how we can accelerate moving towards a community-based LTC model — a model that would see multiple seniors receiving the care they need while residing in a smaller residential home-style setting.
While the interior of the home would be designed in a significantly different manner than a normal residential home, the exterior of the home would be no different and would aesthetically fit into the neighbourhood.
We need to create housing stock that allows seniors to downsize from existing larger homes to smaller, more appropriately sized homes. This type of home is also a more affordable first entry into the housing market for young people.
Early in the next council term, Council working with staff will develop a solid white paper strategy for a pathway to a new model that will better serve our seniors and provide them with the care, dignity, and safety they deserve. In my previous political roles, I had great success in changing past provincial legacy service delivery models.
Rather than arriving at Queen’s Park with a problem to be solved, I will arrive with a well-thought-out solution.
One of the largest challenges facing our city is growth. It impacts us in every way: traffic on our roads, noise, sprawl, rising home prices, effects on Lake Simcoe and increased taxation.
As we grow, we will see all elements of society arrive. We will see people of wealth along with those needing a helping hand. People of good health and those of poor health. People who are homeless or facing addiction and mental health challenges. Let’s foster a shared sense of humanity and provide opportunities for all citizens to live well and thrive.
We need to look out 20-30 years and determine the needs, look, and feel of our city. Then we set short, medium, and long-term goals, targets, and milestone accomplishments. This strategic planning will be inclusive and transparent so we can all work together to make Barrie a healthier community.
I will work with councillors early in this term to identify where we need to be and to put in place the on ramps required so that our future can easily come on board.
Our city is growing and will change. What those changes look like and the future we create depend on who’s in charge. I’m asking for your vote to lead our city as Mayor.