Reflecting on a decade: Barrie–Innisfil MP John Brassard

Barrie–Innisfil MP John Brassard reflects on the last decade and how his riding is growing.
Barrie–Innisfil MP John Brassard reflects on the last decade and how his riding is growing. Supplied

For the holidays, Global News is releasing questions and answers with local leaders in Barrie and Simcoe County so that residents can get to know their officials better.

In this installment, Barrie–Innisfil MP John Brassard reflects on the last decade and how the community has changed.

Global News: What were you doing in 2010 and how does that contribute to where you are today?

John Brassard: In 2010, I was a councillor for Ward 7 in the city of Barrie. My years as councillor were instrumental in being a responsive representative for the residents of the ward [that] I represented. All politics are local, even if I am in Ottawa. I employ that very same responsiveness from Ottawa as the member of parliament for Barrie–Innisfil. I always return phone calls or emails when people have called or emailed me, even if they don’t like the answer.

GN: How were you hoping things might shape up in Barrie–Innisfil over the past decade (from 2010 until now)?

Brassard: I always knew that the city of Barrie would see growth in its population. As a councillor and as a member of Barrie’s economic development committee, I worked to ensure there would be a solid base for good employment opportunities, [so that] families [could] come and make Barrie home. We are seeing growth in our population, not only in Barrie but also in Innisfil, with the development of Friday Harbour and new homes in Cookstown, Sandy Cove and other communities in [the riding].

READ MORE: Conservative MPs urge Prime Minister Trudeau to re-establish Lake Simcoe Clean-up Fund

GN: Were you right or wrong in terms of how you thought your community was going to develop over the last decade? If you were wrong, how so?

Brassard: We knew growth was coming — the provincial growth plan dictated that. The city has been planning for the growth [that] we’re now experiencing for a long time, and now we see the town of Innisfil doing the same. It’s important that Barrie and Innisfil continue to have a clear vision for growth and [that they’re] able to sustain the services needed for an expanding population across all age demographics. Seniors, or those close to retirement, have looked to Barrie–Innisfil as a place to retire, with many leaving the GTA to come here. [I’m] not sure many would have projected that 10 years ago, but with house prices the way they are in the GTA compared to the relative affordability of houses in Barrie–Innisfil, it means that people are moving here for a more affordable retirement. That will pose some challenges to our services. Meeting the demands and aging population will be critical in decision-making, especially in the areas of healthcare and affordable senior housing.
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GN: What is the single biggest change that has happened for you over the past 10 years that has been a game-changer?

Brassard: Built form. Barrie, for example, has moved away from being a sprawling, single-family dwelling community. We now have much more infill development happening and multi-residential units – townhouses [and] apartments, for example – being built. It had to be done that way to create a more sustainable and affordable community. There has been much more smart growth than in the past.
GN: What has been your biggest win as Barrie–Innisfil MP and/or as a Barrie councillor?
Brassard: For me, it’s all about helping the people I represent every day when they need [their MP’s help with] issues like dealing with Veterans Affairs or the Canada Revenue Agency. That’s where I get my greatest joy, and I know my staff do as well. We don’t look at things through a lens of big wins. It’s all the little wins that add up to create some pretty big wins.
Over 1,200 fans cheered at the Barrie Molson Centre as the Toronto Raptors stormed to victory
Over 1,200 fans cheered at the Barrie Molson Centre as the Toronto Raptors stormed to victory

GN: What has been your biggest disappointment or miss as Barrie–Innisfil MP and/or as a Barrie councillor? What did you learn from it?

Brassard: The biggest disappointment was supporting the demolition of the Dunlop Arena [in Barrie] just before federal stimulus funding was made available that could have saved [the] iconic building. I think about that often. If we had only waited, the building would likely still be standing.

GN: In your opinion, what was the biggest story of the last decade in Barrie–Innisfil?

Brassard: The fire at the Five Points was big. It destroyed a whole city block in the downtown. City council recently approved a development proposal, but the progress to this point has been slow. On a positive note, it also led to a standardization of fire vehicles in the city, meaning that every apparatus that’s been ordered since [then] has been the same, which is important for training and operation purposes.

GN: How has the make-up of Barrie-Innisfil changed over the last decade? How does this drive your decisions?

Brassard: We have become a much more cross-cultural community, with a lot of firsts that have been happening over the last decade. From Diwali celebrations to our first-ever Asian Lunar New Year event last year, the cultural fabric of Barrie–Innisfil is changing. As the member of parliament, [it’s meant that] I have attended many more cultural events and have worked hard to promote a cross-cultural connection and understanding, not just [for] people who have called Barrie–Innisfil home for a long time, but [for] those who haven’t been here long [as well].

READ MORE: Woman walks over 400 kilometres from Barrie to Ottawa to support gender equality

GN: What’s your biggest hope for Barrie–Innisfil for 2020-2030?

Brassard: My biggest hope is that Barrie–Innisfil remains a place that is desirable and affordable for families to call home. Both Barrie and Innisfil are looking ahead to growth, how that will look and the impacts it will have. We have everything that anyone [could] want to raise a family, including being in a beautiful part of the province. From culture to recreation, we have it all.

GN: What do you think is the biggest challenge facing Barrie–Innisfil over the next decade?

Brassard: While the increased development and population [is exciting, it] needs to be managed properly, and I am confident that both Barrie and Innisfil are mindful of this. The challenges that come with the expected growth will put pressure on our environment, as well as Lake Simcoe. Protecting Lake Simcoe is vital in every decision that is made, and both Barrie and Innisfil know this.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.