Acclaimed Innisfil councillor Bill Van Berkel ready to make a difference
by Janis Ramsay Innisfil Journal
With 18 years of previous council experience, acclaimed Ward 2 Coun. Bill Van Berkel is ready to serve again.
And while he comes to the job with an open mind, he also has opinions about recent council decisions.
“Uber is a good start, but it’s not the total solution,” Van Berkel said, adding that the GO train is needed in the community, along with more jobs. “We need more industry, more employment and a bigger tax base.”
Van Berkel, 71, was first elected in 1991.
When asked what it takes to be a councillor, he said it’s about working together.
“It’s important to listen when someone calls or when things are brought to council,” he said. “It’s important to look at it from all sides, not just what you think.”
With a strong belief in democracy, Van Berkel said he doesn’t go into debate like a bull.
And he’s hopeful that whomever is elected on Oct. 17 will have a similar approach.
“One of the big things I hope is that whatever council is elected, they get along,” he said. “If we can get a council that does agree, we will accomplish something.”
After losing his run for deputy mayor in 2010, Van Berkel’s scheduled knee surgery kept him out of the 2014 council race, but he was ready to try again. He feels humbled that residents thought he would do a good job, as he ran uncontested.
While reflecting upon his last term on council, some of the same issues are still on the table, such as Friday Harbour, hydro costs, servicing at Innisfil Heights and drainage issues.
“I was there right at the beginning of Friday Harbour,” he said. “And for Innisfil Heights, I really think it’s time we came up with a solution. If we can’t do it ourselves, we have to go for help.”
Van Berkel said many pockets of the town are without water and wastewater servicing, and a solution is needed there, too.
“It’s not cheap — I just paid over $12,000 because they serviced (my) road. I think a lot of people would be happy to pay that,” he said. “I think Lefroy is a large enough community it deserves water — and many other areas as well. For years, we worked in Cookstown and there are still areas without.”
And growth should help pay for some of that.
Not only does the Gateway Casino add money to the coffers, but Friday Harbour is paying development charges, and a $200 million Tollendale Village development is in the works, Van Berkel said.
“We have things that not many municipalities have. Maybe if we pool all this together and start working our way through the priorities, maybe we can do something.”
He said people are smarter today and want to know where their tax money is going.
“And I don’t think the brainpower has been there,” he said. “It’s shameful that something (like Innisfil Heights) that has sat on the books for 20 years hasn’t happened, and no one is pushing for it or looking for alternatives.”