Editor’s note: Earlier versions of this article quoted Ozzie Grandinetti as saying he wants police to ‘eliminate’ carding. Today, Councillor Grandinetti advised us that he misspoke, and actually meant to suggest police be allowed to ‘reinstate’ carding, permitting them to ask people on the street for identification if they are, in Grandinetti’s words, “roaming around at night acting suspicious and carrying backpacks.” The article has been changed to reflect his clarification.
Mayor Christian Provenzano's widely disparaged appearance earlier this year on the W5/Vice Canada documentary Steel Town Down was the subject of an edgy exchange at last night's mayoral candidates' debate at Algoma University.
The testiness began when challenger Rory Ring suggested the mayor had demonstrated unawareness of the city's opioid crisis.
"I'm so glad Mr. Ring has brought up the W5 documentary," Provenzano replied. "There was no good political reason for me to do that. I did that because I knew that there was an issue in our community and I was asked to do it to bring attention to the issue."
"The short clip he's referring to was a clip when somebody off-screen asked me about stats from the previous month at Sault Area Hospital. I had just finished a 45-minute meeting with Desiree Beck [chair of Sault Ste. Marie & Area Drug Strategy Committee and a key figure in Steel Town Down] and she didn't give me those stats."
"I said: 'I don't have those stats.' That is not the same thing as not knowing about the problem and not working on the problem. All of the community leaders in this community will tell you, I was there," Provenzano said.
Here's what Ring said to draw out the mayor on this issue:
After years of involvement in committees and organizations and stakeholders, sitting on the police services board, you have full knowledge of coming to the W5 interview. And yet, you still are not aware of the opiate program and the challenges that we have in our community.
Sir, I find it hard to believe that you can sit here and commit to your history and your work on the opiate issue prior to that interview. Yes, we need to understand the cycle. We need to understand that addiction is not a socioeconomic challenge. It is not selective on who it takes. So we need to understand what our frontline services need. We need to support them. We need to make sure that we're giving them the tools to deliver the services at the right intersection and point of convergence with the needs of that individual.
Another mayoral challenger, Ted Johnston, said he sees the opioid problem first-hand in his neighbourhood at the west end of Albert Street.
"I have had people literally in my backyard, screaming at the top of their lungs at 4 o'clock in the morning. This is not an issue that only affects the people affected by the opioid crisis directly as users. It affects the community," Johnston said.
A fourth candidate, Kemal Joseph Martinovic, has not been attending candidate debates.
Thursday night's debates were moderated by SooToday's Jasmyn Rowley and organized by Algoma University, SooToday and Shaw TV. Council candidates also appeared from Ward 4 and Ward 5.
Some highlights from the Ward 4 debate:
- incumbent Marchy Bruni called for recorded votes on every City Council issue, and for meetings of Future Sault Ste. Marie to be open to the public. He also wants at least two city councillors on the agenda review committee
- incumbent Rick Niro said that during its last term, "this council has been completely transparent"
- challenger Tim Marsh proposed upgrading the McMeeken Centre and the property behind it, turning it into "a western hub of activity."
- challenger Sara McCleary wants #5 plastics and food waste added to the city's recycling program
Some highlights from the Ward 5 debate:
- incumbent Frank Fata promised that if he's elected, this will be his last term of office. Fata also warned about environmentalists setting up roadblocks to economic prosperity. "We're letting the environment control everything in this country," he said
- challengers Corey Gardi and Matthew Scott called for bringing back the Mike Zuke outdoor rink
- incumbent Ozzie Grandinetti saya local police should reinstate carding - the practice of stopping, questioning, and documenting people when no crime has been committed
SooToday encourages our readers to view the full debates at the following links:
The 2018 municipal election takes place Monday, Oct. 22.
The following is a full list of candidates:
- Johnson, Ted
- Martinovic, Kemal Joseph
- Provenzano, Christian
- Ring, Rory
Councillor – Ward 1
- Christian, Paul Joseph
- Hollingsworth, Sandra
- McCleave-Kennedy, Michele
- Mitchell, Don
- Pearce, Derek Thomas Ernest
Councillor – Ward 2
- Cistaro, Sam
- Dufour, Luke
- Hallin, Ted
- Thyne, Denis-Jody (D.J.)
- Turco, Lou
- Vezeau-Allen, Lisa
- Young, Jason
Councillor – Ward 3
- Bruno, John
- Hilsinger, Donna
- Hupponen, Judith
- Hutchinson, Winona
- Shoemaker, Matthew
Councillor – Ward 4
- Bruni, Marchy
- Marsh, Tim
- McCleary, Sara
- Niro, Rick
Councillor – Ward 5
- Fata, Frank
- Gardi, Corey
- Grandinetti, Ozzie
- Scott, Matthew