OrilliaMatters will profile all the candidates seeking election in the Oct. 24 municipal election. Prospective candidates have until Aug. 19 to submit their nomination papers.
A local teacher and actor is running for a Ward 4 council position in the upcoming municipal election.
Janet-Lynne Durnford, 55, has spent most of her life in Orillia since moving here as a child, and she has been an elementary school teacher for the past 32 years. She currently teaches at Monsignor Lee Catholic School, and plans to retire from teaching in November.
While most of her local connections are through her involvement with arts and theatre groups, Durnford said she has had a keen interest in politics throughout her life.
She recently ran as the Simcoe North NDP candidate in the 2021 federal election.
“I'm really looking for opportunities to serve the community,” Durnford told OrilliaMatters. “I like to be busy; I like a challenge, and I really love Orillia.”
With the world moving out of the pandemic, “recover and thrive” are the words Durnford uses to describe her campaign for council, and her plans touch upon a wide variety of issues throughout the community.
“What we really want is (a) diverse group of people, with different viewpoints and different opinions, who can come together to best meet the needs of the city,” she said. “I know I can do that; I know that I can respectfully get along with people and work in a team to work toward a goal.”
One of her key priorities is to look at ways to streamline access to frontline services for residents across housing, physician recruitment, and social, health, and addictions services.
“What can we put in place to kind of remove some of these … silos? Because there's a lot of agencies involved,” she said.
“I think that the municipality can play a role in not combining those services, but combining access to the services. I think a mental health and wellness standing committee, with stakeholders from the different services, and maybe something that we can look at, is do we hire a mental health and addiction services coordinator?” Durnford said.
Another priority for Durnford is to make sure Orillia develops sustainably.
She hopes to help ensure that growth, be it through intensification or boundary expansion, takes place in a responsible manner.
“We (need to) find that sweet spot between our growth needs and the environmental limits, because clearly we have growth needs, but sprawl … nobody wants to build on farmland.” she said. “We have to find that spot that works not only for Orillia, but for the surrounding townships.”
Durnford noted that Orillia will need space for big projects, like a new hospital, but wants to make sure boundary expansion and intensification have environmental considerations.
“What does that intensification look like? How do we do that without reducing our tree canopy, which is really, really important and impacting the ecosystems that we have even within the city?” she said. “I think we have to intensify, so we can reduce the amount that we have to expand beyond our borders now.”
She said her biggest hope for the next four years is to build on the city’s climate action plan.
“I think my biggest hope for the next four years, would be building on the Orillia (climate action plan), implementing that plan, building on it, and really ensuring that Orillia isn't just sustainable, but it's thriving.”
Durnford also highlighted the work being done by the Downtown Orillia Management Board, but suggested that a committee could be formed for businesses outside the downtown core.
“I think that we could benefit from a small business board, or committee, that represents the businesses outside of the downtown core, because I think the perception that those downtown businesses are favoured,” she said. “I think (it) would go a long way in helping those businesses bring their concerns forward.”
Durnford praised the current council for doing a number of good things, including implementing a climate action plan, but mentioned that she hopes to see better communication with residents.
“I have heard from a few people with issues like the Elgin Bay pump station, the lack of communication there,” she said. “People understand that a lot of it is in closed session, but they also just want answers. You know, what is the timeline? What can you tell us without you know, breaking confidentiality?
“Also, I have heard some criticism that the fine details of the city budget aren't available online.”
Pat Hehn and Tim Lauer are the current Ward 4 councillors. Hehn has announced she will not seek another term, leaving Durnford, Lauer, Pat Reid, and Joe Winacott as the current candidates for a Ward 4 position.