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Sault candidates react to debate, provide campaign updates

Four of the Sault’s candidates vying for a seat in the Legislature shared their views on the current political climate

In approximately two weeks, residents will head to the polls to elect the Sault's next member of provincial parliament.

The leaders of Ontario's four biggest political parties hit the debate stage in a televised event Monday night, discussing several key issues like the pandemic, Highway 413, and improving schools and healthcare.

Ontario's Progressive Conservative leader Doug Ford defended his record as Premier, and local PC incumbent Ross Romano says he did an excellent job.

"I was happy to see the Premier speak about the Sault on two different occasions," Romano says. "I think Doug Ford has continued to demonstrate his commitment to our community, and it just goes along with all of the major investments that we've seen here. It's good to see so much construction and development of infrastructure in the Sault."

Meanwhile, the Sault's Independent candidate Naomi Sayers was not impressed with Ford's use of a personal binder during the debate, which he referred to several times throughout the night.

"He's being unfair to voters and citizens because he could have come prepared and could have followed the rules like everyone else," Sayers explained. "He didn't make it clear why he needed the binder. There has to be a certain fairness involved to voters and other candidates."

Local NDP candidate Michele McCleave-Kennedy didn't agree with Ford's use of a binder either but praised her party's leader Andrea Horwath for a strong debate.

"I'm so proud of her," McCleave-Kennedy says. "She showed her heart and strength. I was very impressed with Andrea's ability to speak on several northern and local issues like investing in families, bringing in more doctors to provide healthcare, and supporting our schools."

Ontario's newest option for voters, 'New Blue,' was not represented at Monday's debate in Toronto. The Sault's New Blue candidate Shane Pankhurst was disappointed party leader Jim Karahalios wasn't invited to participate.

"We should have been invited," Pankhurst says. "However, Jim Karahalios and many of the New Blue candidates were out front of the TVO Broadcast Centre talking to supporters on the street. I was there as well, and it was a great turnout."

Pankhurst grew up in the Sault and is currently operating a restaurant in Brantford, Ontario. Addressing the Sault's social issues are among his biggest priorities, and he intends to return home closer to the election.

"I plan to be back up for the final five days of the campaign," he says. "While I'm there, I will be connecting with my team and hopefully get a chance to organize an informal meeting for the New Blue supporters and campaign team - weather permitting and funds permitting."

Naomi Sayers' campaign trail has also been a unique one, as the lawyer is forced to think outside of the box to attract voters since she isn't bound to any party.

"I'm still reaching out to voters and trying to build interest with anybody who would like to chat with me," she says. "I try to follow up as much as I can to people who would raise issues with me. I just want them to know that I do care - that's important to me. We have to get creative, and hopefully voters begin to understand this is an option."

Meanwhile, PC candidate Ross Romano is on a mission to reach every house before the election.

"We've been to over 18,000 doors already," he says. "I feel the most important place we can be is at the doors and talking to constituents. It's one of the most effective ways we can carry our message. I've always been committed to knocking on every door in every election I've been a part of. We've never missed before.

NDP candidate Michele McCleave-Kennedy has a similar mindset and is thrilled with how her campaign has gone so far.

"I've been door to door for about six hours a day," she says. "It's been very positive at the doors and people have been very receptive. This campaign is different compared to the last one. There's way more support, people are willing to engage, and they know there's an election this time. The momentum is building and it's really exciting."

SooToday made several attempts to get a hold of local Liberal candidate Liam Hancock and local Green candidate Keagan Gilfillan, but they were not available for comment.

Voters will head to the polls on Thursday June 2.