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Sault mayoral candidates meet with voters

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Candidates vying to be Sault Ste. Marie’s new mayor say a few issues appear to be top of mind for voters: homelessness, drug addiction and mental health.

The Sault Ste. Marie Public Library hosted a meet-and-greet this week, giving candidates a chance to pitch their platforms directly to constituents and take questions.

Though the five candidates have their differences, they all agree that the city’s ongoing struggle with homelessness, addiction and mental health is the biggest issue.

Ozzie Grandinetti, a small business owner and former city councillor, said he would explore private partnerships if elected mayor.

“I’ve said this many times -- we have to lobby the provincial government for funding and possibly do a private partnership with the private sector to get things going and helping the people out that need the help,” he said.

Current councillor Donna Hilsinger agreed, adding she, too, would lobby the province for more money.

“We need to relentlessly advocate for the services that we need to address homelessness, mental health and addictions,” said Hilsinger.

“And we need to follow the good work and continue the good work that the Sault Ste. Marie Housing Corporation has been undertaking to address homelessness.”

Tobin Kern, an Ontario Works employee and newcomer to the local political scene, said the addictions crisis needs to be treated as a health care issue.

“It is a health care crisis and we definitely need more assistance from the province who oversees health care,” said Kern.

“We need to ensure our service providers do have the space to collaborate and do what they do best.”

Robert Peace, a newcomer to the Sault, is calling for greater collaboration between all levels of government.

“The barriers have to get broken down between government agencies, between provincial agencies, federal agencies,” Peace said.

“There are dollars, there’s just no leadership bringing these people together. And I think that’s what an effective, efficient mayor can do at city hall in Sault Ste. Marie.”

Councillor Matthew Shoemaker, who attended the meet-and-greet via Zoom, wants to see direct investment from the city to deal with the addictions crisis.

“What I’ve committed to doing, if elected, is putting municipal dollars into getting a safe consumption site established so that the province can take over the operation of that,” said Shoemaker.

Meantime, the City of Sault Ste. Marie said voter cards are in the mail and that advance polls open Oct. 8. Election Day is Oct. 24. 

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