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Mayor's race getting higher profile in Barrie

'I believe it’s going to affect all of us, in my opinion,' candidate Rob Haverson says of deputy mayor seeking top political job

Did the race for Barrie’s next mayor just get a much-needed shot in the arm?

With Mayor Jeff Lehman not seeking re-election in the October vote, Deputy Mayor Barry Ward has filed his nomination papers for mayor, joining Alex Nuttall, Rob Haverson and Gerry Marshall in the campaign.

Marshall, Haverson and Nuttall were asked Thursday — the day after Ward declared — what it means to the mayor’s race to have a sitting deputy mayor now involved, a 22-year council veteran, and what it changes.

And Ward is not only the deputy mayor; he served as acting mayor while Lehman was on the provincial campaign trail.

How will this affect the race for Barrie’s mayor, if at all?

Nuttall, 36, is not without profile himself — a former Barrie councillor (2006-14) who also served as Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte MP from 2015 until 2019.

He says his priorities as mayor would be fixing city streets, affordable housing, property taxes and jobs.

“Certainly, those who have been around the (city council) table over the past eight years (2014, since Nuttall last served on council) and making those decisions … we’ll talk about what they did or didn’t do,” he said. “We’re going to continue to talk about what we’re going to do in the future to ensure that we deal and address these issues.

“And as we move forward through that campaign, certainly, those issues that haven’t been addressed in the past and need to be addressed in the future.”

Marshall, 66, is also not without profile.

He is the former mayor of Penetanguishene (2010-18) and the former Simcoe County warden (2014-18). Marshall also ran as the Liberal candidate for Simcoe North in the 2018 Ontario election and in Barrie’s Ward 3 byelection in 2020.

“I don’t think it changes anything,” Marshall said of Ward entering the mayor’s race. “It’s just another choice for the citizens to consider and I think the three of us with political backgrounds come at the role from different perspectives and different backgrounds, different thoughts, I think. The citizens will be well served by a competitive election.”

But Haverson, 33, who owns a car detailing company, said Ward’s entrance into the mayor’s race will make a difference.

“I believe it’s going to affect all of us, in my opinion,” said Haverson, who has no background in politics. “He’s already got so much going on for him already. He’s already established so much … with people. 

“I think for all of us at this point, yeah (it’s going to be tougher to win the mayor’s race).”

Marshall doesn’t look at it that way, however.

“It gives the residents … three politicians who are looking to lead the city, and I think that all three of us will probably have similar platforms in terms of what our city needs — I’m talking about the economy, affordable housing, the opioid crisis, and, of course, roads and taxes,” he said. “So, for the residents, really, they’ll be looking at our platforms, looking at our leadership style, looking at our vision for the city, and how we’d address those issues.”

Nuttall said he sees some of the same issues.

“I think as the people of Barrie are going to be making a decision in October with relation to what they want the future of the City of Barrie to be, what I’ve been hearing at the doors is that the city streets need to get fixed. For too long the streets have been left in very poor shape,” he said. “We need to make sure that housing in Barrie is affordable and there’s a number of ways that that needs to be done. Taxes have gone up far too much over the past eight years and we need to make sure that there’s jobs for folks in the City of Barrie, that they shouldn’t have to work in Toronto to afford a house in Barrie.

“As we go forward and look at the different visions, my vision is to fix these issues that exist in terms of a very big increase in taxation over the past number of years, to fix the streets and put a focus on fixing roads, where there hasn’t been one, and to ensure that we have enough jobs for people in the City of Barrie,” Nuttall said.

The Oct. 24 city vote will determine the next Barrie mayor, 10 ward councillors and school board trustees.

The nomination period for candidates closes Aug. 19 at 2 p.m.

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