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Mayoral candidates chime in on state of downtown Barrie

Downtown Barrie has been a cause for concern — real or perceived — within recent memory for many city residents, but what would the city's next mayor do to fix it

What do Barrie’s seven candidates for mayor think about the city’s most important issues as election day approaches on Oct. 24?

Alex Nuttall, Gerry Marshall, Mike McCann, Barry Ward, Andrew Gordon, and Weldon Hachey responded to six questions asked by BarrieToday about a variety of issues and concerns facing the city. . Rob Haverson did not respond.

One of the questions was: Are there serious problems in downtown Barrie? If so, how must they be addressed by the next council?

Downtown Barrie has been a cause for concern — real or perceived — within recent memory for many city residents. Is it safe, by day and night? Are there too many bars in such a small area? Can small shops and stores thrive there, or are the number of empty storefronts the answer? Do city councils do enough to help downtown Barrie?

Alex Nuttall

We have an incredible downtown and waterfront, but all I keep hearing is that residents no longer feel safe going downtown. I will focus on cleaning up our downtown by ending the Penetanguishene superjail prisoner drop-off at Barrie’s transit station, and by bringing more jobs, homes, resources for police and emergency services, and by offering incentives to grocers so we can finally have a grocery store built downtown.

Gerry Marshall

My vision for a revitalized downtown includes a performing arts centre, an outdoor multi-use stadium and the fast-tracked development of a market district. We need to see stalled developments in the downtown core get constructed. These un-built units could be home to 20,000 or more people living in our downtown core. Getting these units underway will drive the business case for other critical elements such as grocery stores and schools. I will work to convince the province that the City of Barrie should be empowered to address our homelessness challenges. Current decision-making lies with the County of Simcoe. For Barrie to provide proper care and effective services, we must be responsible for planning, implementing and managing the homelessness portfolio. This will allow the city to better engage with and assist charitable groups, downtown merchants and most importantly, our homeless citizens.

Mike McCann

Downtown Barrie faces several issues, including homelessness, drug use and a lack of trust between police and residents struggling to make ends meet, or battling addiction. Rather than trying to find a Band-Aid solution that sweeps the problems we face under the rug, we need to honestly address the issues that are impacting our downtown and ensure our decisions benefit the economy without dehumanizing those who are struggling.

Barry Ward

There are problems downtown because we have quite a few vacancies right now, especially in the west end. There is also a perception that the downtown is unsafe. We can fight this perception in two ways. A great police presence on the streets, especially during the evening, would make many people feel safer and help prevent crime. Getting more people downtown would also make everyone feel safer while helping downtown merchants and filling up those empty storefronts. That is why I am a big booster of the plans to turn the current transit terminal into a market area. It would attract residents and tourists, draw people from the waterfront and boost the surrounding area by attracting specialty food and craft shops. We need provincial funding for reintegration staff at correctional facilities and hospitals so that people being released from those facilities are given help on finding a place to live.

Andrew Gordon

Community safety is the largest issue in downtown Barrie. It needs to be the first thing addressed by the new council. We also need to have a plan in place for people with mental illness and addiction.

Weldon Hachey

Drug use! Low income! Homeless! Suicide! Depression! These and many more are severe symptoms of despair. Feelings of helplessness. We need to stop trying to put a bandage on these issues. We need to identify the root problem and make changes to stop this cycle of never-ending despair. The science experiment with a rat in a cage. Given two bottles. One water and the other morphine. The rats time and time again eventually OD due to the cage. Another scientist said this is not an accurate experiment. They built a rat habitat. Not a cage. They put other rats in and had stimulation like healthy food and games. Things to exercise and play with. They put the same water bottles in and not one rat went to the morphine! We must break down our cage and build a haven for our children and our future.