Over the past four years, Sarah Valiquette brought ideas, both her own and on behalf of organizations she worked with, before Orillia council, but she said she felt like elected officials didn’t want to hear them.
“Council ignored the people of Orillia last term,” Valiquette said.
It’s the reason the 32-year-old, who co-owns Era 67 with her husband, Ian Thompson, said she’s running for one of two Ward 1 seats in the Oct. 27 municipal election.
If elected, Valiquette said listening to the voices of her constituents would be her top priority.
“I really want to bring that back to the council table,” she said.
Valiquette participated in the city’s public consultation session on where to build a recreation complex.
While the majority of people who attended – Valiquette included – indicated they wanted to see the facility built on West Street, council selected the former site of David H. Church Public School on James Street.
In 2012, Valiquette, then chair of the Downtown Orillia Management Board (DOMB), sent a letter to city politicians asking them to consider changing their minds.
“West Street’s a gateway into our community,” she said, noting it’s underdeveloped.
“It doesn’t do Orillia any justice,” she added.
In 2013, council put plans to build on James Street on hold to consider a public-private partnership at the FLSmidth property at 174 West St. S.
Most of the discussions about the recreation file over the past four years have gone on behind closed doors.
“I really want to finally read the confidential files,” Valiquette said.
Although she initially supported building the recreation centre on West Street, she said she now doesn’t feel she knows enough about the options to commit to a particular site. But she said her experience working with community organizations, including the DOMB, chamber of commerce and the community foundation, has taught her the value of partnerships.
Valiquette wants to see the next council work more closely with those organizations and others to bolster Orillia’s economic development.
While she said bringing in new businesses – as hers was five years ago – is important, nurturing existing ones is essential as well.
“You can never forget about the current businesses,” she said, adding she believes the shop locally movement is an important part of sustainable growth, having experienced first-hand its benefits.
While Era 67 is in Ward 3, Valiquette, from Bolton, said when she first moved to Orillia to attend Lakehead University eight years ago, she lived in Ward 1.
“That’s where I feel the real connection,” she said.
She and Thompson live in Washago, but spent five years in Ward 1, which is also where Valiquette’s parents live.
Valiquette said she wants to protect the Victoria Point wetlands. The proposed development of a seniors’ home on them has area residents up in arms.
“I definitely don’t want them to construct there,” she said.
She she wants to hit the streets and find out what people in Ward 1 do and don’t want to see in their city and make their voices heard.
Orillia has an an impressive sense of community, she said, adding, “Here, everyone is connected and everyone’s tapped in.”
Also running in Ward 1 are Donald Porter, Mike Chatzikyriakos, Joe Fecht, Ted Emond, Douglas Winterburn, Wayne Gardy (incumbent), John Swartz and David Campbell.