OrilliaMatters will profile all the candidates seeking election in the Oct. 24 municipal election in Orillia.
With five terms on city council already on his resumé, Coun. Ralph Cipolla is back on the campaign trail seeking a Ward 2 position — and a sixth term in office.
The 76-year-old business owner moved to Orillia from Italy in 1955, and he has been here ever since. He’s a father of three, grandfather of four, and he has run his downtown business, CC Fashions, for more than 50 years.
Serving on council in the late 1970s, from 2003-10, and 2014 until today, Cipolla said what keeps him coming back is his desire to make Orillia a good place for young people to build their lives.
He’s the founder of both the Orillia Perch Festival and Orillia Jazz Festival, and has extensive volunteer experience in the community.
“Our children and our grandchildren are the most important things for our future, so that’s what I wanted to do: create a future for them,” Cipolla told OrilliaMatters. “We have to be careful and make sure that (Orillia is) safe, and make sure there’s job opportunities for them when they grow up so that they don’t have to move (away).”
With that in mind, Cipolla’s proudest achievements on council include working to bring Lakehead University and the new Orillia Recreation Centre to the city.
He highlighted the city’s waterfront redevelopment plan as a key accomplishment during the current term of council.
Cipolla said helping the community through his business over the years is something he is proud of, as well.
“We’ve been in business 51 years. Our business has helped a lot of people get out of poverty,” he said. “As a matter of fact, people that worked for me, we helped them build businesses. We lent them money to start up businesses and everything else. That’s the kind of thing I love doing.”
He views housing, homelessness, and the opioid crisis as the biggest issues facing the city.
One of his top priorities is to establish a mayor’s task force to tackle the opioid crisis and homelessness. Part of that work would include running an education campaign, he said.
“Opioids have done more damage to our community, through health and death, than COVID-19, basically,” he said. “We’re going to get a teacher from each high school, and a student from each high school, with the help of Georgian College and Lakehead, and educate on the hazards of opioids.
“A young person in Grade 9 is influenced by his peers, so we really need to educate them on that, which also prevents homelessness.”
Affordable housing is another issue Cipolla hopes to address. He said developing a variety of housing options is a positive way forward.
“Rent geared to income, affordable rent, and market rent — if you put those three scenarios together, (people) will help each other, communicate with each other, and they rise above everything so you don’t create homelessness,” he said.
Pointing to another example of work he’s helped with in the past, Cipolla cited the Elizabeth Overend Non-Profit Housing as an example of how affordable housing should be created.
“One of the best things to do is education. What we did up there, I made sure that we had a hall at the bottom for training, so … we trained people for how to manage their bank accounts, how to dress for an interview, how to do an interview,” he said.
“Within two (to) three years, we had about 35 per cent of the people that were rent geared to income move up to market rent, and that’s the kind of thing we need to do.”
Other issues Cipolla hopes to work on include revitalizing city infrastructure, ensuring waste reduction, addressing pollution in the the city’s harbour and working to bring ridesharing programs like Uber to the city.
He also hopes to bring traffic-calming measures to several parts of the city to improve community safety.
Over his years on council, Cipolla said he has learned it’s paramount to mindful and accepting of others.
“You can’t be everything to everybody, but you have to be open-minded to accept what some people are saying … they need (or) what we need in our community.”
Asked why he should be voted in for another term, Cipolla said he “gets things done.”
“If you call me and need something done … I talk to staff and then I go and visit the site and I make sure that we can help,” he said. “If we can’t help them … I put them on to people that can help them.”
Ralph Cipolla and Rob Kloostra are the current Ward 2 councillors. Kloostra has opted to run in Ward 1. Other candidates in Ward 2 include Brian Hare, Alan Bayne, Gilles Depratto, Harold Dougall, Ian Gordon, Luke Leatherdale, Dael Morris and Robert Winacott. To see profiles of the candidates and for more election-related stories, go to our municipal election page.