North Bay mayoral candidate Peter Chirico wants to set the record straight on a couple of things as the municipal election takes centre stage in the minds of voters.
"My health is in good shape," he says. "I went through nine major surgeries over the past 10 years and I'm healthy and I'm ready to go — I feel it, my family knows it — I'm in the best shape I've probably ever been in."
Chirico then responds to a question about his role in the cost overruns at Memorial Gardens earnestly, saying it is the first time he has spoken publicly about the controversy in years.
"Mistakes were made all the way around," when it comes to Memorial Gardens, Chirico says, "and certainly, I paid the price for those. But, that facility, I am 100 per cent proud of. I will stand behind that facility. When we take a look at just the last four years, the women's world curling, the Pinty's event that is coming back, wouldn't have happened without that facility.
"Even at the cost that it came in at, in the end, if we look at what's happening around northern Ontario, and in Sudbury, $16 million [has given us] a pretty good facility. We've got an OHL team that promotes North Bay every time they play. We're on TSN and on the air with the curling, all of those things are due to that facility.
"I'm extremely proud of it. Mistakes were made. You can't change those."
A platform is forthcoming but Chirico does say his ideas will take, what he claims, is the good work the Al McDonald regime has done and make it better.
"We will release, through our platform, how we are going to continue to grow our city," says the top boss at the North Bay and District Chamber of Commerce. "It's a different mindset of looking forward. I'm not going to be critical of the past and what they've done. They did what they felt was best and I think we can do better. That's what I intend to do."
The colon cancer survivor who battled for his life during a tumultuous time in both his professional and public life says he has little time to dwell on what pours out of negative people. Chirico just passed his 11-year check-up and remains cancer-free and he says he feels better than he has in over a decade.
"My outlook on life has been very positive," he says, "it's had to be. I continue to live that way and I can bring that to the table, I can bring that to council and I can bring that to the city."
The former deputy mayor considered a run at the top seat four years ago but admits he wasn't then in the best health to do the job effectively.
"That's me, it's 120 per cent or nothing. But, this is the right time. I'll be 66 this year and it's something I've always wanted to do. I've been involved with politics my whole life. I remember my dad ran for council in 1965 and I was out, putting leaflets on windshields."
He says his parents' interest in politics influenced his desire to give back to the community at a young age and led him to join the late Bruce Goulet's campaign for mayor in the 1970s.
As far as family ties go, it's not often a candidate for mayor is the second-most discussed member of a family in media circles but that has been true for the last couple of years with Peter's brother, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jim Chirico.
"I've never been more proud of my brother as I have over these past two years," says Peter. "It's been unprecedented times with no playbook. I've been close to checking out of this world a couple of times and the only person I wanted beside me, besides my wife, is Jim. If people want to associate me with Jim, I'm honoured."
Chirico recognizes social issues and the isolation faced by many due to the COVID-19 pandemic have contributed to some of the toxic negativity he has witnessed through social media.
"When we think about what we've been through over the past couple of years with the pandemic, there is negative — lots of negative. We as a community, deserve better. We need better and we have to do better."
Chirico says he sees the mayor's job as an extension of his community work with various organizations such as the DIA and One Kids Place. He is also on the Board of Governors of Canadore College. So far, he is running unopposed for mayor but he is prepared to campaign on his ideas and experience.
As far as his style of leadership, he says, "I do my homework, I consult, and once I make my mind up, that's the way we're going."
With a nod to the criticism he has received recently — and over the years — as a politician and municipal employee, Chirico says, "There are always going to be armchair quarterbacks, that's just the way it is. They are more than welcome to come out and run if they don't agree with the direction I'm going. Put your name on the ballot."