ThoroldToday will be profiling every candidate in the upcoming municipal and school board elections on Oct. 24. Today: councillor David Jim Handley.
In his eighteen years on city council, David Jim Handley has made quite a name for himself. Although his direct and sometimes combative approach has ruffled some feathers, Handley insists that his most important job is to fight for the people of Thorold.
“I believe in all those 18 years I have served the taxpayers well,” Handley says, in an interview with ThoroldToday. “I get a lot of satisfaction serving the residents.”
Handley is especially proud of several accomplishments during his last term on city council.
“I’m the councillor that brought the motion forward for the city to install a handicapped swing in the Battle of Beaverdams Park—a first in the city of Thorold,” says Handley. “I was also the councillor who brought forward the motion to install a washroom facility in Port Robinson East.”
Handley, 61, says he has always loved Thorold. He highlights his work helping Thorold Fire Services and Thorold Legion raise funds during the pandemic.
"I’ve always been one to give back to the community," he says. "Every Christmas I take care of a minimum of 15 families and I’ve been doing that for 15 years.”
If he is re-elected, number one on Handley’s agenda is the Canada Games Park.
“I can’t believe that councillors and the mayor voted for the Canada Games facility without knowing the true costs or implication to the taxpayers,” he says. “When I get re-elected, I will put forward a motion for a full forensic audit investigation of the Canada Games agreement because I just think something isn’t right there.”
Handley is convinced the city didn’t do its due diligence before signing the deal.
“The expedience and the fashion that it was done and the fact that they’ve hidden a lot of the information from the public to this day concerns me,” he says. “They took me to the Integrity Commissioner because I supposedly released confidential information. But when you’re taking taxpayers' money that can’t be confidential.“
Support him or not, one thing is certain: Handley's tenure as a councillor has included plenty of controversy.
In 2020, an Integrity Commissioner's report found that his communication with City Hall staff and fellow councillors contained "criticism, disrespect, questioning of competence and, in some instances, unmistakable bullying." As a result, Handley had his pay suspended for eight months.
Handley says he just wants to put the whole affair behind him. "I’ve done my time,” he says. “It’s nothing to be discussed any further. The public knows what happened, it’s old news."
Handley says he is focused solely on the future — including his push for a complete restructuring of City Hall.
“I’m going to ask for a full organizational restructuring review of senior staff, related to senior staff and the responsibilities to council and the public,” he says. “I can honestly tell you there are probably over 20 reports in the last four years that members of council have asked for from staff that have yet to come forward.”
Handley also hopes to tackle student issues in Thorold. He points to the provincial government’s "Heads and Beds" program that funnels money into municipalities with universities or colleges. While St. Catharines is a beneficiary of the program due to Brock University, Thorold is not.
“I have nothing against the students in general,” Handley says. “They’re not all a nuisance but some are. Brock University constantly flushes away the blame and says: ‘Well, once they’re off campus they have nothing to do with us.’ Yet we have to deal with the issues relating to the student housing and Brock University in general.”
Handley says it’s easy to feel passionate about Thorold.
“It’s a great place to live,” he says. “I went to school here. I ran businesses here. I want to try to preserve it as much as I can. I know it’s never going to be that hometown feeling that it was but I’m just passionate about the community itself, the well-being of the residents.”
At the end of the day, Handley's message is simple: “I’m honest, I’m transparent, I’m accountable and I represent all the taxpayers in Thorold, not just some.”