Good evening, everybody. Thanks for coming out. My name’s Gerry Marshall. Excuse me. I have a granddaughter, and she’s gracious enough to pass along a little bit of a cold for me. Some of you folks know me in my role as the Simcoe County warden and the mayor of Penetanguishene. My wife and I moved down to Barrie after I didn’t run for re-election in 2018. We moved down to Barrie be a little closer to our kids and family and I hadn’t really considered getting back into politics at that time when I first didn’t run for re-election. But I’ve been out of the political world long enough to know that I’d like to be back in it. I really miss it. I enjoyed a seat at the table, I enjoy being part of the broader conversation, and I enjoy being part of a team, trying to make their communities better. From a personal background, I started out as a pole climbing lineman with the McLean Hunter, which became Roger’s Cable TV. Over the course of my telecom career I ended up vice president of operations with Rogers, managing budgets in the neighborhood of 200 to $300 million in staff, complements of 600 to 700 employees. So, during the course of that time, you would’ve thought, my wife and I were in the witness protection program. We actually moved 29 times while I was with Rogers from Midland and Penetanguishene to Kitchener to Cambridge, to Ottawa, to Vancouver. So we’ve had a great experience living in different communities and enjoying that and I bring that experience to the table. So I look at the leadership I can bring to the table, look at my political experience, and enjoy being here tonight; enjoy the conversation with my fellow candidates. So thank you for coming out.
Understanding that there is a homelessness and addiction crisis in the city of Barrie what services would you support to protect our most vulnerable citizens, including a supervised consumption site?
I’m certainly in favour of the consumption site. I think that the consumption site’s a necessity to help those that are having such struggles in their lives. And the reality of the situation is you have to have that consumption site close to where the people in need need to have that service. So, you can’t relocate it where they’re not. You have to be close to help people in need and be there with them. So certainly I support that. In terms of all the measures and all the security and all the safety items that have to come with having a consumption site have to be put in place as well. So I certainly wouldn’t go out without thinking our way through the entire conversation. In terms of affordable housing and homelessness, certainly, you know, as a big fan, those who know me from the County know that I’m a big champion of affordable housing. Certainly, Lucy’s place was a direct result of my engagement with the mayor Jeff Lehman at the time. And really my wife, who’s in the audience with us, likes to watch those shows. There you buy and flip homes, and she said, why couldn’t we find some place that’s derelict, that needs to be retrofitted, and actually turn those into a home and housing opportunities? And that’s exactly what we did.
What does culture mean to you, and how will you ensure that arts and culture remain a priority for the city of Barrie?
One of the things that we have to do with culture is actually separate it from the tourism portfolio. For the longest times we marketed our city’s tourism and we included culture within that basket, and really you have to step it out of the basket. It has to stand on its own and be recognized for what it is. And as Devin said, it’s arts and it’s music and it’s the vibrancy of our communities that’s different than tourism. Tourism is coming to a festival or enjoying our waterfront. Culture’s something different. Culture’s something that we take hold of as a community and take pride in, and it’s our own and we want to share that with other communities. So, if on council, I’d certainly look to the city of Hamilton. It’s done a great job of driving culture. I’d say they’d probably be one of the leading ones in Canada, if not North America, of getting that culture statement out there, that culture, vibrancy, having it recognized properly, funded properly, and delivering it out in a manner that people understand why it’s different, why it’s distinctive, why it needs to be there.
In light of the city's recent declaration of a climate crisis, and plans to ban single-use plastic, what are some concrete actions council can take to reduce our contribution to the crisis.
Thank you, I think it was a great move by city council to actually declare that emergency. I think we need those municipal leaders and communities to send out the right message to not only our own residents, but to our neighboring municipalities. And people are paying attention to the conversation across Ontario, Canada, North America. Beyond the plastics. I mean, we need to look at our transit routes, extend transit so more people can ride transit instead of taking their own cars. More bike paths would help out. Taking our fleet of vehicles in the city of Barrie and getting them off gas fueled. And making them more hybrid and, or energy efficient. So we power them on electricity or whatever the opportunity is. Look at our new facilities and make them net zero as we build new facilities. And net zero means that facility is putting back into the hydro grid as much as it’s taking off. So we end up with a zero situation, passive complexes for our municipal employees. So a lot of things we can do as we think our way through and as they often say, you need to think long before you think short. So let’s see where we want to be 30 years from now and plan to get there.
Understanding the concept of induced demand how would you direct a shift towards sustainable transportation in our quickly growing city?
In terms of transit and traffic congestion a couple of things we need to look at for sure is to continue to work with the County of Simcoe, for instance, on the linx program. You know, from my position as a county warden, I worked with mayor Lehman and city staff to get that transit link creed between the two communities so that people from our community could get out, and people from outlying communities to come in to the city of Barrie. So we need to expand that transit route wherever we can, continue that linkage, because we are the center of the hub here in the County of Simcoe. Most people are coming to Barrie so we need to look at that transit link and how do we get our residents out of our community if they need to get out, and how do we get people into our community without bringing in the cars? So we want to invest in that. We want to invest in transit deeper into our municipalities as well. The further out we can go, the more carpooling creations that we can make and stops we can make are much needed. And I can tell you when we launched this in, in the city of Penetanguishene, we didn’t have bus stops. We actually had a flag down system. If you were anywhere in the route you waved your hand, if you want to get off, you waved your hand. So make it easy, make it friendly.
What do you believe are the three highest cost services to the city and what would you do to mitigate them and help alleviate tax burdens?
I agree a minute is tough to answer this question, but at the end of the day, it is right. It’s emergency services. You know, police, fire and ambulance are driving costs in every municipality. And so what we need to do is maybe pause and think about how that could be different. One of the reasons they’re expensive is dispatch sends three vehicles to your house in an emergency. And the reason for that is there’s different dispatch centres. So the 911 call comes in, fire sends their guys, the ambulance sends their guys and we send police. So if we had one quarterback, one dispatch system that picked the right team, the right vehicle, the right person at the right time, we’d only send one, but it would be the right one. Should we be thinking about fire medics? So instead of a paramedic and a fireman, should that be a joint opportunity? Should we scratch that itch and find out if that makes sense? And if you think about it, should we have an emergency services department rather than have a police chief and a fire chief and an ambulance emergency center chief? Should we not have one general manager that drives all three emergency services and get some efficiencies there? So we need to look at it differently in my opinion.
Historically Barrie has built single story detached homes and has the highest per capita percentage of home-owners. How do you think this has affected our development as a city and what should be done to address this to provide affordable and supportive housing?
Affordability is a huge challenge as I think everybody knows. I think we need to be creative. We need to look at the housing stock that’s out there. And as a municipality if we have a spot where we want to have a three-story walkup, a four-story walk-up, then how do we incentive developers to develop on that property? And so we need to look at land that the municipality owns as well. Is any of that land not really worthwhile to municipality. Can that be kicked into the kitty to actually work with the developer to create some housing that’ attainable and affordable for people. So you need to look at that. If you look at the city of Surrey one of the challenges they had, and they were like the city of Barrie, had huge high rent rates. And what they did is new subdivisions for a period of time, every new subdivision, had to have an in law suite in the basement. Every one. People owning the house didn’t have to rent it out, but every home had to have the capability to have that in-law suite inside that new home. That was fair for the people moving into that subdivision because they knew there’d be basement apartments in there. So when you bought in an area where you knew that was occurring, they dropped their rents by about 35%, just with that one strategy. Bold. But it worked.
Do you have any political party affiliations and have you accepted any financial or equity support from a political party in this by-election?
I actually ran in the last election as a liberal, so I’m a card carrying liberal, have been for quite some time. Having said that, municipal politics is nonpartisan. So if you think about the county warden, I sat in front of 32 mayors and deputy mayors and some are green party, some were NDP, some were conservatives, some were liberals and some didn’t care about any party, you know, but that group of 32, despite all those disparaging points of view and political beliefs maybe at the federal, provincial levels made many great decisions. And that’s what happens at the counsel table. It’s not partisan. It’s actually about being, working with a group of people, having your voice heard. And when you sit at that table, it’s really is about listening. You need to listen to hear what your fellow council members are saying. Cause if you sit there with a predetermined opinion and you sit there just to wait to speak, you’re not going to get the full value of actually being part of a full council that’s looking at an issue from several different ways. So, nonpartisan all the way.
Do you believe recreation and sporting programs should be subsidized by the city or be fully paid for by the users? Should children have access to affordable programs?
As with most of the table here, I certainly agree with getting our youth and our children involved in our communities in any way, shape or form. If that includes subsidies than I’m onside with that. But having said that, there are ways to subsidize without draining the tax dollars. So, for instance, if we have a city program and this a swimming program or a soccer program, it’s run by city staff and it’s run by the city itself, then there’s nothing stopping us from having that class size filled with the, those who maybe have an income challenge, those children that couldn’t actually participate. So you get those who can pay into that program at 100% and then you have maybe five or 10 spots for families that can’t afford that. And you have people that can actually vet families and their incomes to verify that yes, this family meets the criteria to get some assistance. So, take those programs that we’re running as the city, make sure we leverage that to its maximum. And help those that need a helping hand up.
Do you have further political aspirations beyond our municipality?
Now we moved to the city of Barrie to be closer to our grandkids. So being an Ottawa or downtown Toronto every day, it doesn’t quite cut that cloth. Having said that though, if I am elected, I would like to get onto the board of, let’s say, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario or Federation of Canadian Municipalities. I think it’s important for politicians, municipal politicians in the city of Barrie to make sure that we explore beyond our own boundaries. Those associations make a big difference in what happens in our municipalities. They handle the broader questions, some of the policy issues with the federal and provincial governments. So we need to make sure we’re well placed on one of those boards. And certainly if I was running for council and I successful and you voted me in, I certainly go into my peers asking for their permission to pursue that type of activity because I think it adds tremendous value to demystify reality, to have your municipal politicians sitting on those boards that are meaningful. And from the County of Simcoe, I had one member of council on every meaningful board across Canada and across the province of Ontario. It makes a difference and I certainly would like to volunteer my name to my counsel appears to participate in one of those boards.
In a time when the province is downloading work to the cities, how you work with the province to make sure services we need are available?
I think we need to, again, to my earlier comments about me being on the right boards, if you think about the association in disparities of Ontario, they meet with the federal or provincial government on a monthly basis talking about issues that are important to the municipality. So you want a seat at that table. Uh, but the reality is that 9 cents, every tax dollar collected comes back to municipalities. The rest of it stays with the federal and provincial government. So we, 9 cents of those tax dollars come back to us. So downloading is a real challenge for us when we’ve got 67% of the infrastructure that we’re accountable for, it would have to build, but we only get 10% of that tax revenue going into that level. So we make sure that we have to remind them of that conversation consistently. And I think the city of Barry did the right thing. They identified that here’s what the provincial downloads cost us in this year’s budget. And I think it’s important to do that because that’s outside of the control of the city council. So there’s a couple of things that city council doesn’t control. It’s the County of Simcoe charges. It’s education and its provincial downloads. So we want to make sure that our citizens are educated on where those costs are coming from so that you hold those people at the MPP and NP levels accountable for those types of actions.
Do you have any suggestions to reduce household food insecurity in Ward 3 and/or throughout Barrie communities?
I think this is where I say ditto. You know, some of everything, everybody said here. I think this is all valid. There’s no doubt about it. Some of the other things that we could maybe think about is maybe at the schools making sure we support those breakfast and lunch programs at the schools. I know in the town of Penetanguishene when we had our Christmas party, we didn’t charge our staff to attend, but there was a donation and that went into the breakfast programs at the local school. So, making sure you get creative ways to fund those programs. As Ram said, one of the driving causes of people doing without food is the income level. So, what can we do about those income levels, whether the living wages or greater employment opportunities, whatever that may be. We need to research that as well. And we have a lot of great product makers in the city of Barrie and surrounding areas, but they don’t have quality kitchens to cook out of so they can’t really sell their food because it’s not in a certified kitchen. So, let’s look at getting those kitchens in the local schools or in other places during evenings and weekends when people can come in, in a certified kitchen, and get their product out to market to those residents that can use it at an abject better price. At the end of the day, bad food’s cheap, good food’s expensive. We need to change that.
What motivated you to run for Ward 3 council and why should I vote for you?
of Barrie for the past 20 years. And while we might look like a new resident to Barrie, I was actually coaching minor baseball in Lampman park today after the tornado hit. I’ve coached our Barrie Colts, I’ve been quite involved in the city of Barrie for a number of years. Beyond that though, in the last 10 years I’ve worked with the city of Barrie, their staff and the mayor and other members of council on a lot of programs. A lot of good work that happened here happened because of that relationship. So, you know, for me to sit down at that council table, and my political experience, my governance experience, will get me quickly up to speed on new items before a council, a lot of existing items and items that had been around for a year or two. I’m already up to speed, probably been involved in those conversations to start with. And so I’d like to carry that on. And so, you know, at the end of the day, my grandkids are here, my family’s here, my sons are here. Barrie’s where we’re at. And so, Barrie’s certainly a spot that’s attractive to me to engage in being part of the community. And I look forward to it.
Thanks everybody for coming out. And thank you very much for setting up the opportunity for us to get together and speak tonight. I really enjoyed the conversations and enjoyed the questions that came towards us. Certainly, you know, in my opinion anyways, for the city of Barrie the number one challenge us is growth. And with growth comes everything. Growth comes those with high income families to low income families, those who need a helping hand up in life to those who are healthy and everything in between. So, we need to look at our city over the next 10, 15 and 20 years and have a plan that has a human services element to it. That recognizes that as we grow, we don’t just get the healthy and the wealthy, we get the whole environment of a population that exists here today and won’t simply get larger. So, we need to recognize that and understand that and plan for that when it comes to the nuts and bolts for Barrie. Beyond that, the human element side is all our infrastructure. So where are the roads going? What are the arterial roads look like? What does transit look like? How are we getting to and from where we are, where we need to go? What do we have today that needs to be improved to better service us tomorrow? Where do our facilities need to be to better service us tomorrow? So we need to be thinking through that conversation. Beyond that, we need to be thinking outside of our borders. So, for instance, growth to the south of us definitely impacts the city of Barrie. Any activity growth to the south of us, whether it’s Vaughan, Richmond Hill, Innisfil, Bradford will slow up traffic on highway 404, 407 and 427. So we need to have a provincial input on those types of conversations. My political experience and background allow me to get to the table, to work with my fellow council members, on those type of conversations and to plan properly. Thank you very much.