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Barrie city councillors unanimously support motion to stop harassment by local leaders

Barrie city councillors met for the final time Wednesday ahead of the upcoming municipal election, and they were greeted by dozens of people supporting one particular motion.

Councillor Natalie Harris, who will not be seeking re-election in the fall, brought forth a motion for the city to send a letter to the province outlining its support for the Stopping Harassment and Abuse By Local Leaders Act, also known as Bill 5.

The legislation would allow municipal integrity commissioners to remove councillors from office if they are guilty of workplace harassment or violence, a power they currently don't have.

"There are insufficient consequences for members of council who behave like this, who commit these acts," says Mayor Jeff Lehman. "So the folks who were here tonight, the Women of Simcoe County and a number of other groups, we're here to say council, we want to see you re-up [sic] your support for what is a bill by a Liberal MPP to do what really should have been done before the election by the government, which is to give municipal integrity commissioners the power to remove from office somebody who is guilty of something that severe."

The motion was passed unanimously as dozens of supporters held up signs condemning harassment.

At Wednesday's meeting, there was also discussion surrounding a topic that was first brought up and voted on at the meeting on Sept. 12. City council decided to approve a request from a developer to delay the development charges for a new project in the city's downtown core, which would bring hundreds of new rentals to the city.

Provincial legislation specifies that any developer does not have to pay development charges for five years if they are purpose-built rentals.

This new proposed project in Barrie would be about 80 per cent purpose-built rentals, with the remainder being condos from which the developer will profit. Councillors made an exception and granted the request to defer the charges.

"At one point, Barrie had the third highest rent of any city in the country, after Toronto and Vancouver; hard to believe, but it was us, little Barrie, and that is because Barrie has a severe shortage of what we call purpose-built rentals," says Lehman. "That has driven up monthly rents, and it's been especially severe during the pandemic with the increase in home prices."

Lehman quantifies the vote as a compromise. The developer has been granted a two-year deferral, not the traditional five, with interest collecting as well.

Wednesday's meeting was the final time this council will meet before the upcoming municipal election on Oct. 24. Lehman, who is not seeking re-election after failing to secure a seat provincially at Queen's Park this past spring, called it his 'penultimate' meeting after leading the council for over a decade.

"This is our city, and it is so important that, number one, you show up to vote because we know that turnout in the provincial election was very low; you need to turn out; this is your city, your municipality, your city hall, your council," says Lehman. "So my biggest hope over the next six weeks is that we see a good election race based on the issues that are important to people in Barrie and that people then go out and vote." Top Stories

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