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Morin-Strom: federal NDP's worst local defeat in more than 50 years

If the New Democratic Party candidate was harbouring even a drop of bitterness last night, it wasn't showing

An orange harvest moon peeped occasionally through heavy cloud cover on election night.

But anyone hoping Sault Ste. Marie would once again vote New Democratic orange was disappointed. 

At time of writing on Tuesday afternoon, with 180 of 184 Sault polls counted in one of the tightest races in the nation, local NDP candidate Marie Morin-Strom had collected 7,666 votes, behind Liberal incumbent Terry Sheehan (14,312) and Conservative Sonny Spina (14,271) in the still-undecided contest.

Morin-Strom's percentage of the vote, currently calculated at 20.1 per cent, is the NDP's poorest showing in Sault Ste. Marie in more than 50 years.

But not by much.

Skip Morrison collected 21.8 per cent in 2015.

Sara McCleary got 22.7 in 2019.

Steve Butland had 22.2 in 1993.

But recent NDP election returns are a far cry from Cyril Symes' 50.5 per cent in the 1974 federal race or Tony Martin's 40.4 per cent in 2008.

If Morin-Strom was harbouring even a drop of bitterness last night, it wasn't showing.

"I think this is only the beginning," she told a Monday-night Zoom meeting of campaign workers. "We will continue our fight for the people of Sault Ste. Marie."

"We are not the big business party. We are the true party of everyday working people."

How did Morin Strom spend election day?

"I was out in Garden River and Rankin doing some voting reminders and driving some very lovely people who needed a ride to the polls," she told SooToday.

Voter reminders?

"If we don't have phone numbers for some of our supporters, we'll go knock on the door and ask if they need a ride. If they're at home, we'll leave a reminder of where their polling place is and what the hours are."

Was she adequately supported by the federal New Democratic Party?

"I don't think we were necessarily one of the priorities of the federal party. I could have wished for some more support from them. But we had an amazing cast of volunteers and people that came out to help locally. There's a really awesome group that threw 100 per cent of their support behind me. I couldn't be luckier, really."

Were there any federal NDP policies that made her uncomfortable, that might have been better adapted to Sault Ste. Marie?

"I didn't find any that made me uncomfortable. I could wish for more detail in some of the policies. I thought that the environmental policy was ambitious and good, but I could have hoped for some more specific details, especially as it relates to large industries like Algoma Steel."

"I thought the housing policy was great, but I would have loved to have some more specific details as related specifically to our situation here in Sault Ste. Marie... How do we work on the idea of large companies from outside of Sault Ste. Marie who are coming in and buying up properties and turfing out lower-income people that they don't think are the the 'right' renters?"

"We had a very specific policy on foreign buyers, but of course a lot of the people in Sault Ste. Marie aren't foreign buyers, but they're outside-the-city buyers, large corporations who are coming in."

Morin-Strom received her party's nomination in April and started to campaign when the writ was dropped on Aug. 17.

"I did a ton of door-knocking. Usually twice a day for several hours. Occasionally by myself. More often with a friend or some volunteers. Trying to do a couple of polls every day."

Any encounters with nasty dogs?

"No nasty dogs. Beautiful dogs. A million gorgeous dogs. And really nice people. Even people who weren't supportive were very polite. Happy talk – those who weren't happy to talk I guess didn't answer the door. You hear negative stories that people might have, urban legends of being yelled at our sworn at, but I didn't experience any of that."

Some well-known locals worked on Morin-Strom's campaign including Marek McLeod, Ted Hallin-Williamson, Gayle Broad and Ray Dawson.

"We're coming out of this campaign with new blood in our party, new volunteers, new ideas, new energy. That's been wonderful," said Celia Ross, Morin-Strom's campaign manager.