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Ward 2 election forum: candidate calls for emergency meeting

'We just need to get together as a group, and make Sault Ste. Marie safe again' - Dennis Murphy

Dennis Murphy, longtime downtown resident and owner of the Music People DJ Service, called Tuesday night for a crisis meeting with Sault MPP Ross Romano and MP Terry Sheehan to take action on safety issues.

"Sault Ste. Marie is not safe anymore," Murphy told a forum for Ward 2 candidates in the Oct. 24 municipal election.

"I talk to a lot of people in Ward 2. They don't want to walk downtown at 10 o'clock in the morning where there's a lot of people shooting up. They don't want to see that," Murphy said.

"We have to take the handcuffs off our police. We have to talk to the province. Start putting people in jail. Start cleaning up the neighbourhoods."

Murphy is one of four candidates running for city council in the core-area Ward 2. 

The others are Luke Dufour, Lisa Vezeau-Allen and Nick Armstrong.

Armstrong didn't attend the Tuesday night candidate forum, organized by Algoma University, Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce and SooToday. 

Organizers said Armstrong told them he was "not feeling well." 

"It's time to come together and declare we're in a crisis," said Murphy, responding to a question about public health and safety.

"It's time to call an emergency management meeting including our MP and our MPP to take action to address the numerous problems."

Murphy opposes a number of recent downtown improvement initiatives, including the downtown plaza and the transit terminal relocation.

But he says we need to spend to put more emergency-service boots on the ground.

"There's not enough emergency services to deal with these issues, that are 24/7."

"We need to hire more police. I notice there's four more police officers being hired right now. We need another 10, maybe."

Murphy says we also need at least four more firefighters, plus additional emergency medical staff. 

"We just need to get together as a group, and make Sault Ste. Marie safe again," he told the forum.

Vezeau-Allen, who chairs the Sault Ste. Marie Police Services Board, talked about efforts to educate downtown businesses about lighting and other issues related to preventing crime through environmental design.

She also mentioned a community safety and wellbeing plan that involves more than 40 organizations.

"I think it's up to us, as councillors, to be engaged with those committees and understand the work that's being done," Vezeau-Allen said.

Luke Dufour cautioned that health care is constitutionally the responsibility of the provincial government.

The province, Dufour said, has "significantly more resources than a municipality does in order to address a very severe public healthcare crisis that we're in right now for mental health and addictions."

He said the city can double down on things that are under its purview, including housing.

"How can we increase the amount of supportive housing that is available, for healthcare workers to be onsite 24/7 to care for the people who need it most?"

"Let there be no mistaking: we still need to hold the province to account to find the level of services in Sault Ste. Marie that other communities get to have to deal with these issues." 

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David Helwig

About the Author: David Helwig

David Helwig's journalism career spans seven decades beginning in the 1960s. His work has been recognized with national and international awards.
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