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Deputy mayor’s race off to nasty start

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In Innisfil
Sep 23rd, 2010
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By Rick Vanderlinde Simcoe.com Sep 08, 2010
INNISFIL – It’s not everyday you hear a politician call himself a “sleaze” at a public council meeting.
At first I thought I had misheard him. A media colleague heard something different, but I was sure Van Berkel said: “Nothing more to report from the sleaze on council.”
The sleaze? What up?
I still couldn’t believe it, so I took Van Berkel aside after the meeting and asked him: “Did you say sleaze?”
“Yes,” he said. “I don’t appreciate being called that. There’s no place for name calling in this election.”
Van Berkel it turned out was livid after fellow Coun. David Davidson described him as being “sleazy” in an article in a competing newspaper.
The word that outraged Van Berkel so much was the very last word in that article.
Davidson, who doesn’t deny he said it, was quoted as saying: “(Van Berkel) jumps on the bandwagon of the environment at this stage of the game. Where was he four or eight years ago. He couldn’t give a damn about environmental defence and Lake Simcoe. This is sleazy.”
With that, there’s no doubt the race for deputy mayor is off to an acrimonious start.
Van Berkel was already annoyed when Davidson started his campaign early last week by saying he was running to shake up the “old boys club” on council by getting rid of Van Berkel, a  14-year veteran.
Being called sleazy put the Lefroy resident over the top. Van Berkel was shaking with anger when he told three reporters that there was no need for name calling in the campaign.
“That’s uncalled for and I don’t appreciate it one bit,” he said.
And as for Davidson’s claim that Van Berkel was a Johnny-come-lately on environmental issues, Van Berkel had this to say: “I was working to save Lake Simcoe while he was still in diapers.”
The next morning, Davidson agreed he regretted the comment “a little” and that he sometimes “shoots too hard from the hip”.
But he stands by his position that Van Berkel is part of an “old boys club” that has had its day in Innisfil politics.
Apparently, the two men are ready to engage in one of the nastiest political battles in Innisfil’s history.
Davidson has always been outspoken and is a known opponent of the Big Bay Point Resort in his ward. He is an unabashed environmentalist who works alongside Environmental Defence and other organizations that have criticized Innisfil council’s approvals of the mega-marina.
Van Berkel on the other hand is a huge proponent of the project, which he says will bring millions in taxes and investment. And he believes it can happen without harming Lake Simoce.
“He has to get over it,” he told the Journal. “This is happening. If there wasn’t opposition from them (Environmental Defence) this would have happened years ago and there would be jobs. And that cesspool (abandoned marina) that’s there now would be cleaned up.”
I’m all for vigorous debate. But Davidson should tone it down a bit.
Sure, finger pointing and name  calling make for great newspaper copy. But for the sake of Innisfil, let’s focus the attacks on policy and platform, not personality.

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