Mayor hopes to finish what he started
The Barrie Examiner has been featuring one-on-one interviews
with the mayoral candidates during the upcoming weeks.
By J.T. MCVEIGH BARRIE EXAMINER October 7 2010 — Sitting in a cramped campaign office amongst signs, maps and papers, incumbent Mayor Dave Aspden talks like a person who feels his job isn’t finished.
A veteran of almost two decades of municipal campaigns, Aspden feels he has a pretty good read on the public.
Aspden represented the down-tow n Ward 2 for nine years, before stepping up to the mayor’s job, replacing Rob Hamilton during the last election.
He cites his successes on council — helping to bring in the cancer care centre, the expansions at Georgian College and says he’s is proud that he has been able to follow through on all of his platform promises of four years ago.
“There are 800 jobs at Royal Victoria Hospital with the completion of the cancer centre, another 400 with the Health and Wellness (Centre) expansion at the college,” said Aspden, “and literally hundreds of jobs coming out of the Park Place project.”
Gingerly adjusting himself in his chair as the result of a pinched nerve in his neck, from a fall outside of Barrie City Hall in January, Aspden downplays concerns about his health.
“I can’t repel out of a tower like I did last year,” he said with a laugh, “but I had to delay my treatment in Toronto because it would cost me more than a day campaigning. I’ll catch up after the election is over.”
Aspden admits that there were some opportunities that were missed over the past couple of years, but “not because of council, but rather the economic conditions caused some people to shy away.”
Aspden talks of Barrie’s first mayor, Willard Kinzie, when it became a city, and his plans for bring business to Barrie.
“Willard would travel all over North America trying to encourage business to Barrie, and I believe you have to look where the business is,” said Aspden.
“I have had contact with the consul-generals of Israel, Switzerland, China all talking about the city.”
Aspden cites more than 20 delegations from China to Barrie, with more to come, believing that Barrie is very attractive to international business.
China, however, brings up one of the points of controversy started with his tenure as mayor.
Aspden rolls his eyes and sighs as he goes into some of the allegations that have dogged him.
“I don’t run away from the heat,” said Aspden.
And he has had his share of heat.
“I was cleared of all the police board claims made to OCPS (Ontario Civilian Police Commission) and the Ontario Police Association gave me an award,” he said.
“With the China trip, I believed, to get business, I have to meet business.
“When that all blew up, the (OPP) went through everything — my finances and everything — and cleared me of all that.
“To me, it was just a lot of grandstanding and good headlines in the news,” he said.
Perceptions were that relations in the council chamber were pretty stormy. Aspden doesn’t really have the answer.
“It was a far different council that I was used to. It was a new council and they thought that they were in the House of Commons, the way they kept firing questions back and forth,” he said. “Outside of council chambers, I have a good relationship with all of the councillors.”
All in all, he believes that there was huge progress by council.
“One of the things I was most proud of was giving each ward their own voice. They know the issues and we didn’t have a favoured few being supported by council, like in the past.”
Despite the pluses he has seen from this council, he still disagrees with some of the major decisions that have come into reality. The sale of Barrie Hydro to PowerStream has taken ownership away from the city, he says, and the construction of the downtown theatre, he believes, squanders taxpayers dollars.
Where is Barrie going to be by 2014 if Aspden is back as mayor?
“Barrie is known as a growing city and I expect we’ll be able to capitalize on that, and, with my concept of an investment team, we will be following up on all of those opportunities.
“The taxes were the lowest in years, police and fire staffing has increased, more BACT buses, everything I committed to four years ago has been met,” said Aspden.
“I have always told council to vote what is best for the city and not to get re-elected, and that is what I have always followed.”