Tobin Kern addressed a small but loyal audience of supporters at Bellevue Park on Tuesday as he officially launched his campaign to be Sault Ste. Marie’s next mayor.
Kern is an environmentalist dedicated to green causes in his first run for public office.
Kern - an Ontario Works case manager and married father of two - is a Brampton native who moved to the Sault in 2007.
Unionized workers at Algoma Steel - the Sault’s largest employer - have voiced their concerns that the steel plant’s planned conversion to electric arc steelmaking will lead to significant job losses.
“That’s a tough one,” Kern said, speaking to SooToday.
“With the changes in the way we do things, there are likely to be job losses, so I can’t offer consolations or say that there won’t be job losses, but our way of life and our community is at stake, so we do have to make the changes to move towards an environmentally friendly way of doing things without the emissions.”
However, Kern projected that ‘green steel’ would create jobs in the long term.
Kern has advocated for an improved public transit system to get conventional vehicles off the community’s roads, pointing to a southern Ontario city as an example for the Sault to follow.
“When I think about Guelph, they’re changing their public transit system to try to increase their ridership, and they’re doing that by changing their routes and increasing frequency. I think if we make moves to try to address climate change by doing things like increasing transit ridership by moving people away from cars, then we’ll see the federal dollars come because if you look at Guelph, they’re in line to receive electric buses, and that would be great for Sault Ste. Marie.”
That said, Kern said the mayor and council have to indicate their willingness to go green to receive those federal dollars for electric buses in Sault Ste. Marie.
Many green initiatives depend on federal and provincial political will to invest in environmental causes, but Kern, in his run for mayor, said, “I think the mayor and council could definitely engage citizens and act as role models and lead the way, saying ‘this is the way our city needs to go.’”
Speaking of the opioid scourge in Sault Ste. Marie, Kern said, “when we look at climate change, we’re going to need all hands on deck and need everyone healthy, so we need to definitely shift what we’re doing. We should probably look to other communities to see what they’re doing and, if they’re having some success, work with federal and provincial partners to see if we can try these things here.”
As for affordable housing, Kern said the city needs to approach the senior levels of government to address the problem,
As mayor, Kern would have to deal with the state of the city’s roads, still reeling from potholes from last winter.
Kern said, “maybe it's time to look at alternatives. Maybe with less traffic, the roads will improve, and there will be less potholes with more people taking the bus.”
“By throwing my hat in the ring, I definitely feel empowered. I think a lot of people agree with me,” Kern said, pointing to fellow environmentalists in the Sault.