A stalwart in the local political scene since 1989, Evelyn Dutrisac filed her nomination papers with the City of Greater Sudbury yesterday to seek the mayor’s seat in this year’s election.
Although sparse on platform details, which the Chelmsford resident said will be released throughout her campaign, she said her pledge right out the gate is to listen to people.
“I have a message to share, but I’ll be learning,” Dutrisac told Sudbury.com outside of Tom Davies Square on Monday, shortly before filing the paperwork necessary to make her campaign official. “I’m a teacher at heart, and throughout my life I’ve learned from others.”
Dutrisac publicly announced her candidacy in January, but waited until the nomination period officially began this week before launching full-steam ahead, per the Municipal Elections Act.
“The poll is a door-to-door poll,” she said, adding that in addition to plenty of door knocking, she plans on engaging with people through social media, which she admits isn’t in her technological wheelhouse, but is something she has been offered help with.
Dutrisac was first elected to public office as the Town of Rayside-Balfour’s Ward 1 representative in 1989, a position to which she was subsequently acclaimed in 1991.
This initial two-term run followed two unsuccessful campaigns with the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario candidate in the Nickel Belt, in 1985 and 1987.
She later served the same region as Ward 4 Coun. in the now-amalgamated City of Greater Sudbury from 2006 until 2018, when she stepped down to spend time with her ailing husband, Roland Dutrisac, who passed away in February 2021.
In the latter years of his life, Roland lived at St. Gabriel Villa, a 128-bed long-term care facility in Chelmsford. Evelyn Dutrisac helped raise $6 million to make the care home a reality before it began accepting residents in March 2011.
“I got to spend time with him, and he was the love of my life,” Dutrisac said, adding that she was thankful to have him so close during his final days. “I wanted to walk with him as he made the passage of life to the final stages of life, and I was very grateful I was able to do that. … I miss him because he was always beside me.”
In addition to being a rock in her personal life, Dutrisac said that her husband also helped with her political aspirations and supported her during the trials and tribulations that came with life in the public spotlight. His death last year leaves a gap, but Dutrisac credits a team of supporters who have stood beside her with doing their best to fill his vacancy on the campaign trail and for spurring her to seek public office again.
She hadn’t intended on running for mayor in this year’s election, but the support from the people around her joined a desire to help the community she loves by pushing her to re-enter the fray.
It’s a path the career educator has been on since the ’80s, when she decided to quit her studies toward earning a doctorate degree in order to shift gears and seek public office.
“I’m so excited about it,” she said of this year’s campaign. “All that I’m asking is that people listen to my platform, listen to what I have to bring forward.”
Despite taking a break from public office to be with her husband for a few years, Dutrisac remained connected to her community through various boards and committees, including the Greater Sudbury Abbeyfield Steering Committee, which continues to push for seniors housing in the region.
“I’m an early riser,” she said of her frequently busy days. “I get up early in the morning and I don’t need much sleep.”
Thus far in her campaign, Dutrisac said she has been listening to people and has begun drafting an issues-based campaign that leans toward optimism.
“You see success before you start, and if you don’t get it something better is coming down the pike,” she said, adding that she remains inspired by late NDP Leader Jack Layton’s message of “love, hope and optimism.”
“We need to grow the economy, we need to get industry … because that’s the tax base, and once you have a lower tax base it means a lower tax for your people,” she said, pushing for an “open for business” message wherein the city doesn’t say “no,” but instead offers solutions to developers.
As for the controversial Kingsway Entertainment District, which has remained up for debate long after city council voted in 2017 to approve the municipal events centre project, Dutrisac said that she voted in favour of the project at the time “with the information that we had.”
“It’s still in the books to go, but I’m listening to people, why they’re for it and why they’re against it,” she said. “It all comes down to listening.”
More information on the project is anticipated in the coming months, which she said will better inform her campaign platform.
It’s through mutual respect and listening that city council can forge a more constructive path forward, she said, and her first job as mayor would be meeting with every council member to learn what their goals are for the next four years.
Disagreements and debates in council chambers are fine, she said, but “you shouldn’t be destroying other people, you should work with people and listen to people, because when we go to council chambers we don’t have all the answers – that’s why we meet together.”
Council chambers should be filled with elected officials who have open minds and have read all of the reports from city staff they require to inform their decisions, she said.
Although optimistic in her ability to win the Oct. 24 municipal election, Dutrisac said that she has won elections in the past and lost others, and that every occasion was considered a win in her books.
“Even though you lose the count and you’re not elected, I will not lose,” she said. “I will learn and I will grow and I will be able to understand our city much more.”
Running against Dutrisac is Mayor Brian Bigger, who is seeking to retain his seat; former Sudbury Liberal MP Paul Lefebvre, who announced his candidacy last week and will be filing his nomination papers after the provincial election on June 2; and homelessness advocate Bob Johnston, who also filed his nomination papers and spoke with Sudbury.com for a story to be published soon. Miranda Rocca-Circelli has also announced her candidacy for mayor, and on her Facebook page cites her platform pillars as economic vitality, environmental sustainability, social and civic engagement and mental health and well-being. Sudbury.com has reached out to Rocca-Circelli for an interview.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.