Sault Ste. Marie’s incumbent Liberal candidate says it was important for his party to call for a September election to finish the job to defeat COVID-19 for good, but recent polling data shows most Canadians don’t agree now is the time to go to the polls.
Reached by phone on Monday, Terry Sheehan said has already begun knocking on doors and putting up signs, after the Governor General Mary Simon agreed on Sunday to dissolve parliament.
He said the door-knocking was done in a COVID-19 friendly way with his wife Lisa and daughter Kate by his side.
“We wore masks and were distanced,” said Sheehan. “What we heard is how much the various supports that we created for Canadians, for Saultites, and how well they worked.”
Sheehan said he heard from a cross-section of the community at the doors, from seniors and youth to small businesspeople, steelworkers and some medical professionals.
“I have over 20 years of political experience, almost approaching 25 years at different levels. Each election is an opportunity for people to be engaged and have their say. They are going to have that opportunity and it’s an opportunity to have them look at who is best to steer us through and finish the fight on COVID-19,” said Sheehan.
Sheehan said a ‘Team Canada’ approach by the government over the last 18 months has been very effective in dealing with the pandemic.
“What I also heard at the door is we still need to finish the fight for COVID-19. We still need to be there for Canadians, to protect the health and the economic and social realities people are facing.”
Asked if the Saultites answering the doors agree with the need for an election, Sheehan said the opposition has at time tried to block or slow the progression of legislation making its way through the house.
“We have to make sure we continue to have the support out there that is necessary for people and our businesses and institutions to survive,” he said.
Saultites at the door understand this, said Sheehan, but recent polling data by Mainstream Research says 65 per cent of Canadians feel an election is unnecessary at this time. The Liberal government had not lost the confidence of the House of Commons and the scheduled date for the next election was not supposed to be until 2023.
“What I am hearing at the door is that they are pleased with what we have done and they want us to continue doing what we are doing so we can continue to build back better. That’s the feedback I have been receiving,” said Sheehan. “What I am hearing at the door is they want us there and they want us to continue to support everyone.”
Asked if it is worth rolling the dice on an election with a possible fourth wave in the works, Sheehan said he is hearing a lot of positivity at the doors about vaccination supply and recent infrastructure funding announcements for Algoma University, Algoma Steel and the Sault Ste. Marie Airport, among others.
“People are really pleased that even during this pandemic how well Sault Ste. Marie has done,” said Sheehan.
That support is evidenced by the number of Liberal election signs that have popped up literally overnight, said Sheehan.
Signs for Sonny Spina, candidate for the Conservative Party of Canada, and first-time NDP candidate Marie Morin-Strom have also been popping up across the city.
Spina and the Conservatives finished the 2019 election with 32 per cent of the vote in Sault Ste. Marie, behind the 38 per cent from Liberal incumbent Sheehan.
When asked how the government plans to make good on its promise to take in 20,000 Afghan refugees in the middle of an election, with no Canadian presence in the country, Sheehan said he is going to remain engaged on that file.
The Canadian government made that promise recently as the Taliban once again took control of that country after two decades of occupation by allied forces, including from Canada. There are concerns for people who assisted the allied forces during that time, like interpreters and others.
Sheehan said to date he has not been asked about rehoming any of the Afghan refugees in the Sault, but will be ready if the request is made.
“We are absolutely a very kind, caring and compassionate community that I know welcomes newcomers with wide-open arms,” he said of Sault Ste. Marie. “We are ready and able to continue to support when called upon in this situation. I know people are working on it.”