Inspiring Innisfil 2020 – Change a Name or Make a Name?

Innisfil Council held a special meeting on Wednesday (May 11) to receive the Inspiring Innisfil 2020 report. The presentation outlined five strategic objectives:

  • Improve our quality of life dramatically
  • Make Innisfil a desirable [tourist] destination
  • Make arts, culture and heritage major community assets
  • Help all businesses succeed here

The consultants included a list of very definite goals supporting these objectives, such as:

  • Make economic development the number one priority
  • Double the economic impact of Lake Simcoe’s benefits by 2013
  • Ensure that the Town is financially stable by 2014
  • Develop an urban core by 2020

The scope of the report was not new to most of the people in attendance who were also active participants in the consultations. What came as a total surprise was the suggestion to “begin the process of renaming Innisfil”. So here’s the  dilemma – change our town’s name or make a name for ourselves?

The open forum discussion immediately focused on this question. Consultants felt that the residents themselves had indicated that Innisfil has a weak identity arising from its several fragmented and competing communities. Their proposed solution is to start over with a new, more powerful image that everyone can embrace. The discussion included alarming news that provincial bureaucrats in the Ontario Ministry of Infrastructure (the folks who help fund municipal projects) had such a low opinion of Innisfil that they were already scheming toward eliminating Innisfil altogether by partitioning it between Barrie and Bradford West Guillimbury through future amalgamations.

Some people were upset that the notion of giving Innisfil a new name came “out of the blue”, some were sceptical, while others saw it either as a positive idea or as a terrible one. From a few conversations afterward, I got the sense that, regardless of the merits, there was an underlying anxiety that this new idea would be contentious enough to divert attention from, and possibly undermine, work toward other aspects of the strategic plan.

Councillors asked the public to keep an open mind and give the idea some thought. Examples of past name changes in other towns and cities were discussed in open forum. My own feeling is that it is at least worth pausing to consider. We are, after all, paying for this advice. But I think you’d have to count me as one of the sceptics. My feeling is that this is too divisive to be a priority right now. We have neither a strong enough case to abandon the current name, nor do we have any notion of a potential replacement.

The consultants boldly proposed that Innisfil become “The place to be by 2020”. If this is our challenge then I think we can elevate the reputation of Innisfil by becoming the innovative, sustainable, thriving, and head-turning community we want to be. Focusing on the solid goals that have been clearly outlined, maybe even exceeding them, will make headlines that can showcase Innisfil to others in a dramatic new light. Do we choose a name, or do we make a name for ourselves?

I’ve been invited to join in a discussion with the Mayor of Innisfil on Rogers TV. Rogers cable subscribers can tune in on Tuesday (May 17) at 9:00 p.m.

View the presentation to Council (audio is not great)