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Conservatives, Liberals confident of capturing Sault riding

Spina says voters want change; Sheehan defends record; Morin-Strom 'cautiously optimistic'
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SooToday has approached Sault riding candidates to get a sense of their mood as voters prepare to go to the polls Monday, Sept. 20.

Several national media polls have Justin Trudeau’s Liberals and Erin O’Toole’s Conservatives in a dead heat, neither party likely to form a majority government if those polls prove to be accurate.

“People are obviously frustrated that an unnecessary and expensive election was called during a pandemic,” Conservative Party candidate Sonny Spina told us Wednesday.

Pointing to the rising number of active COVID cases in Canada, as well as a rising inflation rate, Spina said “$600 million later for this election campaign, there are a lot of people and a lot of businesses we could have helped with that money. People are frustrated and struggling.”

“The comment that I have received a number of times from people at the doors is very simple. They say ‘I don’t believe it was the right time for an election but we sure do need one because we need to get rid of the Liberals and we need to get a government that's going to help the people,’” Spina said.

The campaign, Spina said, has given Canadians an opportunity to get to know Erin O’Toole as a “compassionate, caring, and a responsible, proven leader.”

Liberal candidate and incumbent Sault MP Terry Sheehan told us he and his team are confident of a Liberal victory at the federal level.

Sheehan said unprecedented government spending on Algoma Steel will win the riding for the Liberals.

Sheehan spoke at length of the Liberal government’s announcement, made by Trudeau himself on a visit to the Sault in July, of up to $420 million to make Algoma Steel the ‘greenest’ flat-rolled steel producer in Canada.

“In my 24 years of door knocking which I’ve done, this is probably some of the best reception I’ve had at the door...we’re getting such a positive reception and I think that is indicative of the way people feel here in Sault Ste. Marie and I’m looking forward to serving them after Sept. 20th and beyond,” Sheehan said.  

Spina said a Conservative government would be committed to providing the amount of $420 million in support for Algoma Steel as first announced by the Liberals in July.

However, Spina said the green plan for Algoma Steel, moving away from coal-based production to electric arc furnace (EAF) steelmaking, will displace workers, a concern shared by union leaders.

“The big difference is I have already met with the union. I have already heard their concerns about the displaced workers and lost jobs and I am fully committed with a plan to work with them, the employers and the workers, to provide opportunities for training and for employment to take care of those displaced workers,” Spina said.

“For me, it (the timing of the campaign) was a little unexpected,” said NDP candidate Marie Morin-Strom.

“I remember campaigning with my dad (former Sault MPP Karl Morin-Strom). I remember knocking on doors. Campaigning has changed a lot but door-knocking is still extremely effective. I would say what has surprised me the most is how nice and pleasant everyone has been (regardless of political stripe).”

“I’ve been hearing a lot of disillusionment with the current government. A lot of people seem to be unsure whether or not they’re going to lean towards me or lean towards the Conservatives. A lot of people are concerned about health care and vaccine policy on both ends of the spectrum,” Morin-Strom said.

“Some people are over the moon thrilled that there is mandatory vaccination (in some places) and it’s going to keep their kids safe and there are other people who are hard core against it,” she said.   

Another theme Morin-Strom has heard while knocking on doors is the chord NDP leader Jagmeet Singh has struck with many voters.

Some analysts say Singh’s popularity with some voters may take it away from Justin Trudeau’s Liberals and lead to a Conservative minority government.

Traditionally, the Sault has elected either Liberals or New Democrats to represent the riding in Ottawa, but recent SooToday polls have shown Conservative Spina leading Liberal Sheehan and New Democrat Morin-Strom trailing in third.

Still, Morin-Strom said “I am cautiously optimistic (about chances of victory as the NDP candidate for Sault Ste. Marie).” 

Regardless of polls, Sheehan said “we will form the government.”

“People are starting to say ‘okay, I know that you’ve done a great job and I’m going to vote for you because you’ve brought record-breaking funding which has translated into growth and jobs, so we are doing quite well,” the Liberal candidate said. 

“It’s been a very positive experience...there’s only one poll that matters and that is the poll that is on Sept. 20th,” Conservative Spina said.