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Ward 1 candidate says city needs to get 'back to basics'

Local business owner Ken Abbott says council blinded by big projects; He says focus should be on needs, not wants
ken abbott.jpg
Ken Abbott has had enough and has decided to run for municipal politics. He is a candidate in Ward 1. Dave Dawson/OrilliaMatters

Ken Abbott admits he’s not politically correct. Nor is he a politician. But he could soon become one.

The 47-year-old landscape business owner has thrown his hat into the ring in Ward 1; he is one of three candidates vying for the two available seats at the council table.

“I’ve had enough,” he says. 

Abbott says he has seen a lot of wrong thinking in the last four years. The “straw that broke the camel’s back” came when city council recently voted to start charging for parking in the Metro plaza parking lot across from Studabakers and in the lot formerly used by the Ossawippi.

“That was my breaking point,” he says. “It doesn’t make sense. Are we not supposed to be welcoming tourists?”

However, it’s not the only issue. He is critical of the weed control and what he says is a lack of cleanliness around the new Waterfront Centre and believes the city’s snow removal needs work.

“Snow removal is horrible in Orillia,” he said. “Why are we voting against snow removal at the bus stops? Are we just waiting for a lawsuit? People want clean streets and clean sidewalks and they want the frigging roads fixed. They should be listening to the people.”

Abbott is also against the sell-off of the Orillia Power Distribution Corporation to Hydro One. That idea was rejected by the Ontario Energy Board. However, Orillia Power and Hydro One have refiled their application with the city’s blessing.

“(Orillia Power) should not be sold,” said Abbott. “There should have been a referendum.”

On top of that, he is furious the city sold land to Hydro One without any written guarantee they would build a facility there. He claims the city sold the property “below market value” and says Hydro One could easily opt to sell the land – for a profit – and walk away from the deal.

“It was not a smart decision.”

The owner of Canestoga Landscaping thinks council has spent too much money on big projects at the expense of the basics.

“This council is focused on wants not needs,” he said, referencing waterfront plans, the recreation centre and other items, such as money spent to erect a stone archway at Victoria Park. “There are needs that have to fulfilled, before we worry about things like that.”

He also said all taxpayers deserve to be treated equally, noting Grape Island residents, currently, are not being treated fairly. He wants to see the barging issue resolved quickly.

Abbott vows to “get back to basics” if elected. He said he will commit the time necessary to being a city councillor and would hire extra staff for his business, if necessary.

In addition to self-funding his campaign, Abbott said he will donate his council salary to charity.

“If I get elected, that money will be donated to The Lighthouse,” said Abbott of the Peter Street men’s shelter and soup kitchen. “I grew up with nothing. I started this company with nothing. I’m not a millionaire by any means, but I will be some day. To me, it’s all about giving back … I learned that from an early age.”

Coming from nothing, he said, will ensure he treats taxpayer money like his own. “I know the value of a dollar and I’m a common-sense guy.”

He believes it would be common sense to empower the city’s bylaw department to take a proactive approach to enforcing the clean and clear bylaw – something council voted against earlier this year.

“It’s the little things that matter,” said Abbott. “This city needs to get back to the basics.”

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.