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Lewis plans private municipal election meeting

In Orillia
Oct 9th, 2009

By COURTNEY WHALEN, The Orillia Packet and Times October 07, 2009
A private meeting being held by former MP Doug Lewis to try and garner interest in the upcoming municipal election isn’t cause for concern according to come councillors.
Close to 90 people, among them former city politicians and local business people, are on a list of invited participants to a meeting Thursday night, according to a copy of a letter obtained by The Packet & Times.
“I am asking you to take some time to discuss the future of our city with like-minded individuals with a view to what can be done in the municipal election in 2010,” states the letter.
The letter indicated recipients are being invited because of past or present contributions to the community and states later that political party affiliation isn’t a factor in the meeting.
“I am not in a position to make any comments on the private meeting I am holding on Thursday night,” Lewis said yesterday, noting he would be better able to comment once the meeting was over.
Coun. Wayne Gardy, the sole member of current council who received a letter of invitation, doesn’t see the meeting as an issue.
“I don’t think there’s really any end motive other than encouraging people to get involved,” he said.
It’s not uncommon for groups with similar priorities to get together and look at ways things can be done differently, he said.
“Certainly I don’t think it’s any secret around town that people aren’t happy,” Gardy said.
The 2010 municipal election is set for Nov. 8. Interested candidates can file their paperwork as early as Jan. 4 and right up until Sept. 24 of next year.
“Orillia desperately needs city councillors that have a stake in the future of Orillia and can provide sustained leadership and teamwork to council and municipal staff,” states Lewis’s letter. “We could do so much better with leadership, teamwork and a sense of purpose from council and staff.”
As someone who believes strongly in civic engagement, Coun. Michael Fogarty doesn’t see the meeting as a bad thing and noted from looking at the invitees, it isn’t a meeting being drawn along political party lines.
He admitted he was surprised that Gardy was on the list when no other current councillors were, but it’s not an issue for him.
“To get upset or to speak ill of what he’s (Lewis) doing I think speaks to self-interest,” Fogarty said.
He said he hopes some action comes from the meeting and that it doesn’t just turn into a forum for complaint.
The final decision on who makes up the next term of council is up to the voters, he said, noting he’s more than prepared to let his record on council speak for itself.
“My only disappointment is going to come if all this dissatisfaction doesn’t turn into more voter turnout,” he said.
Coun. Ralph Cipolla is also prepared to let his record speak for itself, he said.
“If people feel that I haven’t done a good job, they can vote someone else in,” Cipolla said.
He said he respects the work Lewis has done for the community and noted there is a democratic process in place for municipal elections, but said he doesn’t like pre-planned elections.
In his letter, Lewis states the purpose of the meeting is to discuss why people need to get involved in the next municipal election.
“At this point, we don’t have any idea as to who the candidates might be. Our job is to encourage candidates to run and help them with time, effort and funding,” it says.
Coun. Don Evans said he finds the whole idea “fascinating.”
“I don’t recall there ever having been a meeting organized in quite this way for this purpose,” he said.
It’s clear that Lewis isn’t happy with some of the decisions or actions of the current council, said Evans. It’s a feeling he has on occasion himself, he added.
“It’s quite evident that he is disturbed by what this council has done or hasn’t done or isn’t going to do,” he said.

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