During the 2018 election, I wrote my platform as a letter to my future son or daughter, about what I hoped Orillia could be for them. This is an updated version of that letter. It's a look at some of the things I was proud to see happen over the past 4 years, but also some things our city needs to improve on to get to that vision.
To my future son or daughter,
Over the last four years, our world and our community have been experiencing a lot of challenges. We've made it through a difficult pandemic, we've witnessed violent and horrific struggles for political power overseas, and some of the problems with our environment are becoming more evident everyday. All of these issues are disturbing and overwhelming. However, they are also a reminder of how lucky we are to live in a country as welcoming as Canada and in the city of Orillia where community and compassion are alive and well. Living here is an incredible gift!
Alleviating Poverty and Making Housing in Orillia More Affordable
Our community has become much more difficult to afford over the past two years. The pandemic has pushed demand for housing to very high levels and getting by is a bigger challenge. This situation makes it hard for the next generation to stay and live here. That's not what I want for you. We need to alleviate some of the costs of living in this city by supporting those who need help, going out of our way to make sure that affordable housing is available to everyone and ensuring that there are services to support the most vulnerable.
I'm proud that since being elected, I have advocated to improve this situation. Many times I pushed for an increase to the City's Affordable Housing Reserve. As the city's representative on the County's Affordable Housing Committee, I advocated for more ambitious affordable housing targets. Additionally, I was part of a collaborative effort with many non-profits that brought a night-time warming centre for the homeless in Orillia. I stand by this advocacy and hope that I'll continue to have the opportunity to move things in the right direction. There is a lot of work that needs to be done and we need to start making meaningful change to address the problem!
Protecting our Environment and Keeping our City Beautiful
Arguably, one of the most pressing issues today, is our environment and ensuring we keep things clean and beautiful for the next generation. This is my greatest worry for you, that you will be forced to grow up in a world that is beyond hope of recovery. Where opportunities for a safe and healthy life are few and far between, and many of the advantages that generations past have grown up with will not be there for you. I want to do all I can to protect this world for you and ensure that this negative image is not what you and your generation is left with.
As a Councillor, I have done everything I can to ensure this thought is reflected in the decisions I make. I have been a big proponent for environmentally sensitive choices at the municipal level. I was pleased that the city council adopted the Climate Change Action Plan which sets ambitious targets to get us to zero carbon emissions over the next 30-40 years. I have also been a strong proponent of improving waste diversion in the city and looking at creative ways to go about doing that. This includes playing a role in bringing the "Take a Bag, Leave a Bag" Pilot Program to Orillia stores to reduce the need for single use plastic bags.
I also want to ensure that the way Orillia is planned, factors in environmental sustainability. I believe that our city needs to veer away from the harmful urban sprawl model. This city should be designed to be environmentally friendly with a focus on medium density (3 or 4 storey buildings), diversifying neighbourhoods, and creating more 15 minute communities (a community where most things are walkable within 15 minutes from a person's door). In addition, it is essential that environmentally sensitive areas within the city are preserved rather than developed. By making environmentally conscious planning decisions, we can protect our community for the next generation (your generation) and help to make it so that the health of Orillians and their quality of life will improve.
Exploring Unique Alternatives for Economic Growth
I want to make sure that Orillia is a community with unique opportunities for you. A place where young professionals can find work and settle. Where the economy and workforce is one that is diverse. We should be a model amongst other communities. We can explore different avenues so that our municipality can support the creation and retention of unique businesses such as those in: the green energy industry, the green industry, the film industry, etc. Attracting more unique economic opportunities will make it so that an increasing number of young Orillians can make their home here.
A Responsive Municipality
I believe that our municipality's responsiveness in addressing basic challenges could be improved significantly. We need to ensure that things such as: sidewalk snow clearing, sidewalk resurfacing, traffic calming in problem areas, and other everyday challenges are addressed more actively and promptly.
Over my past four years as a Councillor, I am very proud to say that I have been a strong advocate for my constituents. When there is an issue, I do all that I can to make sure it gets fixed! This has included anything from helping to correct an inaccessible sidewalk to ensuring the removal of a dangerous tree branch in a park. I've also assisted in the creation of a local seniors phone-in newsline. Some of my smallest accomplishments are also my proudest.
A Bright Future
During this past term, I have not been afraid to stand up for the things that I believe in, even when I am the lone voice, even when it is difficult to do so. If re-elected, I will continue to bring this passion to the position.
As Orillia continues to grow and change, I want to make sure that the best parts of it are kept for your generation. Just as I do today, I hope that one day you too will be walking down the street and feel pride in how beautiful and friendly Orillia is. I hope that you will see Orillia as a community where everyone can afford to be and where the future looks brighter than ever.
That has and will continue to be my mission as a City Councillor!