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Downtown Barrie councillor not seeking re-election

Downtown Barrie city councillor Keenan Aylwin announced Thursday that he would not seek re-election in the fall.

The Ward 2 councillor wrote a lengthy letter on his website outlining his decision and the factors that led to it.

In his frank conversation with CTV News' Mike Arsalides on Friday, Aylwin said it was a difficult decision not to run for city council again.

"It's a difficult decision; I feel like there's still so much work to do. A lot of people in our community need support, but for myself, I need to find a way that's sustainable for me to be involved in a way that brings joy and real connection, and I wasn't finding that on city council," Aylwin said.

In his letter, Aylwin wrote about his battle with depression and anxiety and how the struggles are linked to the current state of the world.

"Whether it's the lack of substantive action on the climate crisis, the growing gap between the rich and the poor, or the rise of the far right here and around the world - things are bad, and a lot of us aren't okay," wrote Aylwin.

The Ward 2 councillor went on to say that the COVID-19 pandemic and the lack of connectivity kept him from feeling safe and well, and he was nearing a breaking point.

"At first, it felt like we really were "in this together" - that it was possible for us to band together to protect ourselves and our neighbours while exposing the flaws in the current political and economic systems that put people in harm's way," wrote Aylwin.

"But we saw a powerful counter-reaction to that sense of solidarity and togetherness that has really grown and been enabled by those in power in order to feed capitalist profits."

Further down in his statement, Aylwin writes he needs time to heal and to find a way to engage in a community that brings joy and genuine connection.

"I can tell you - the old boys club is alive and well in Barrie. We all know that there's an 'ugly side' to politics today, and it's worse than I thought," wrote Aylwin.

However, his response on how to fix things on Friday was hopeful.

"We need the citizens of Barrie to step up and get involved," Aylwin said. "Whether that's in an election or outside of the election, people need to get engaged in their community and organize together, talk to your neighbours, talk about your shared values and what you'd like to see in the city."

Aylwin's decision comes just hours before the deadline for Barrie city council candidates to submit their nominations for the fall election.

The full letter can be read here.

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