Davidson takes on ‘old boys club’
By Rick Vanderlinde Innisfil Journal August 31 2010
INNISFIL — Dan Davidson hopes to “shake up the old boys” club on Innisfil council by becoming the next deputy mayor.
That means beating 14-year veteran councillor Bill Van Berkel at the polls, a politician he describes as one of the “old boys”.
“It’s time for the old boys to go,” Davidson said.
“I’m hoping for a real shake up — the people want change. Not drastic change, but we need to build on what we have to make it work for the people who already live here.”
Davidson represented the Big Bay Point and Sandy Cove area in his first term of council, and has been outspoken in several areas, especially on environmental issues.
For instance, he opposes any plan to build a road through the Leonard’s Wetlands in Alcona.
“This council has certainly been complacent on environmental issues in the past,” Davidson said.
Davidson criticized Mayor Brian Jackson and other long-time councillors for their style of governing, saying he wants to see more open debate at the council table.
As an example, he pointed to a September, 2008 council meeting when he was shut down for attempting to debate the town’s involvement in a OMB hearing related to legal costs over the Big Bay Point Resort.
Davidson was unable to get a seconder to his motion, which killed any debate as Big Bay Point Resort opponents crowded the council chamber waiting for answers.
“Council was told not to second my motion, that’s what took place that night,” he said. “No one should be allowed to stymie debate.” At the time, Jackson denied a gag order was put in place.
Davidson said he could work closely with either mayoralty candidate, Barb Baguley or Gord Wauchope, although he also considers Wauchope as part of the “old boys” club.
“I can work with anyone who is elected. But as deputy mayor, I would not let the mayor get involved in limiting any debate.”
Van Berkel told the Journal Davidson’s “old boys club” characterization is upsetting.
“I angers me a little that he’s using that term,” Van Berkel said. “To me that’s kind of insulting. What does it even mean? Everyone on that council works very hard.”
Van Berkel said he thought council worked fairly well over the past four years, considering difficult issues such as Barrie’s annexation and the mayor’s guilty plea for threatening Coun. Bill Pring with bodily harm. Jackson was given an absolute discharge.
“We even seemed to overcome those things fairly well,” he said.
Davidson, an unabashed environmentalist, said he wants to make sure that the existing residents of Innisfil benefit from growth, not just the developers.
“Let’s slow this down a little and see who it is benefiting,” he said. “Let’s see if it’s good for the people who are living here now.”
Davidson said he is worried existing residents will pay costly bills for water and sewer hook ups when the servicing comes along the 25th Sideroad to the Big Bay Point Resort.
Studies show that when old septics are closed down, developers can place four new homes on the town’s water system, Davidson said.
“If the developer gains, then those other people should gain,” he said. “The developer should being paying to have existing residents hook up because the developers will benefit from it. We don’t people losing their houses over this.”
Van Berkel and Davidson agree that development should not punish existing residents. Last fall, council voted against forcing Big Cedar residents from hooking up because costs ranged from $30,000 to $133,000.
“It’s not our mandate to put financial burdens on families,” Van Berkel said. “The developers should not be allowed to place any financial burden on anyone. Certainly, not on the people who already live here.”
Van Berkel also agrees with Davidson that the environment is a huge issue for Innisfil.
“Of course the environment is everybody’s mandate. It is one of the most important issues in this town,” he said. “I want to help make sure Lake Simcoe is in better shape for our kids than it was for us.”
Davidson said he thought long and hard about taking on Van Berkel, who has 14 years on council.
“I’ll admit I’m a little a nervous. I’m the new guy on the block,” he said.
Davidson said he has received support and encouragement from around Innisfil, not just from his own constituents.
“I’ve heard people say they want to vote for me but they can’t because they don’t live in my ward,” he said. “Now they can.