Ward 1 councillor Ted Emond is proud of what he and his council colleagues have achieved over the past four years.
He says the proposed Hydro One deal, the construction of the new recreation centre and the purchase of the Metro plaza to pave the way for waterfront rejuvenation are “long-term decisions that will have a positive impact on our city.”
However, neither one of those projects is complete, he noted, referencing how when new mayor Angelo Orsi was elected in 2010 he reversed course and imperiled several planned projects.
“One of the ways to ensure continuity and to see the visions of these things continue is to give the electorate an opportunity to continue down that path to the degree that I can, as one of nine … that’s the biggest driving issue that factored into seeking re-election,” said Emond.
Emond also likes to remind people that despite those ambitious projects, the city is not deep in debt. In fact, Orillia, Emond says, is in better financial shape today than it has been at any other time over more than two decades.
“These capital projects are being funded from cash flow, internal borrowing from reserves, and some short-term borrowing from the city’s credit line during 2018 and 2019,” explained Emond. “By 2020, the city will again be cash flow positive and, by 2022, long-term external debt free.”
As a result, Emond believes there will not be any significant tax hikes on the horizon.
“There is a reasonable expectation that (we can) continue to expand and grow … without getting into a lot of debt or raising taxes significantly,” said Emond, who hopes tax increases would be in line with the level of inflation.
Emond, who served as mayor during the mid 1980s when the community centre was condemned, said he is excited about the impending opening of the new aquatic centre. It is ironic that the location of that complex catapulted him back into politics.
He joined the West Street Makes Sense group that formed after Orsi’s council voted to site the new recreation centre on James Street on the former site of David H. Church school.
“I was part of the group lobbying for a location other than David H. and I wasn’t pleased with what was going on with that council,” said Emond, referencing a “lack of decorum.”
Once Steve Clarke opted to run for mayor, Emond decided to run for a council seat.
“The two commitments I made back then were to return council debates to some form of reasonable pleasantness and I think we’ve done that,” said Emond. “The other thing was to encourage council to make lasting, long-term decisions that would have a positive effect on our city.”
He believes the potential Hydro One deal, waterfront plan and recreation centre fit that bill.
But there are some challenges ahead, said Emond, who turned 78 in August. He said the city is rapidly running out of land and wonders if annexation will need to be considered sooner rather than later.
He also believes the dispute between Grape Island residents and mainlanders “needs to be resolved” and says he and his council colleagues have worked long and hard to broker an arrangement that will please both groups.
Similarly, he said it will be up to the next council to address concerns about potential changes to the Orchard Point neighbourhood and the location of a new waterfront sewage pumping station that has proven controversial.
“It’s important to do your homework, to do the research and give matters due consideration,” said Emond. “I take the job very seriously.”
Editor's Note: All candidates in Orillia's municipal election will be profiled in the days ahead. They will be published daily, by ward, in alphabetical order; the mayoralty candidates will also be profiled.