Ward is a 22 year veteran of the council and served as deputy and acting mayor
On October 24, Barrie residents will vote to elect a new council including the mayor. Jeff Lehman, who served as the mayor since 2010, has decided not to run for reelection.
One of the prominent candidates for mayor is Barry Ward, a 22 year veteran of Barrie city council. Deepak Bidwai, Local Journalism Initiative reporter for Barrie Community Media, spoke with Ward on various issues including homelessness, cost of living, environment, racism and leadership style differences with Jeff Lehman.
Ward served as the deputy mayor for the past four years and acting mayor when Lehman took a leave of absence to run his unsuccessful provincial campaign. Ward said he agrees with Lehman on most of the issues and “would not have run against” him if he had run again.
To help people already struggling with increased cost of living, Ward said “we don’t want to burden them with a big tax increase as well. And that will be a big challenge because obviously the city is facing many of the inflationary pressures everybody else is.”
Barrie is one of the most expensive cities in Canada to live in. Last year, Jeff Lehman chaired an Affordable Housing Task Force. “Affordable housing is not going to be built overnight,” Ward said. He said it is important to finish implementing all recommendations of the task force.
Ward also defended the city’s current policy to address climate change. “I think we’ve got a very ambitious climate plan,” he said. “Our target is to cut by 2030, cut our 2018 level of emissions by 45 per cent and be carbon neutral, net zero by 2050.” He said the city is also spending $100 million on expanding and upgrading the wastewater and sewage plants. At a recent Bike the Night event organized by Active Transportation and Sustainability Committee, many complained about the lack of bike lanes. Ward said the city has built bike lanes despite objections from some residents.
Ward along with the entire council voted to approve a safe injection site in downtown. Though the provincial government hasn’t approved it yet, Ward said “it saves lives.” Instead of looking “at the worst examples,” he wants residents to look at the successful sites such as in Peterborough. “Go online and look up stories on them. It’s been praised by downtown merchants, everybody in Peterborough, I couldn’t find a single negative thing to say about the safe consumption site.”
Ward said he is running “to protect the things that are important to people” and “to enhance areas that need enhancement.” I’ve been on council a long time. I know all the people. I know provincially and federally and in the county,” he said. I think I can provide the kind of leadership that will unite Council.”