Why did you decide to run for council?
This summer, I was presented with an opportunity to move to Toronto. I nearly became one of the countless young people who left the Sault for "greener pastures," but something kept holding me back: the Sault is my home. I have a connection to this community and the people in it, and I struggled with the idea of leaving. So instead of running away, I decided to stay in the Sault and put my name forward for City Councillor to try to make sure that the next time a young Saultite is presented with a similar opportunity the answer for them is obvious: stay here, at home. I want to bring new ideas to Council to try to pull the Sault out of the rut that it's fallen into lately and make our community a place where young people want to live, work, and raise a family.
What innovative projects would enhance life in your community?
There are a number of innovative projects I would love to see here in the Sault. I know it's not practical to see all of these implemented due to financial constraints, but let me outline three projects I would love to see here.
First, and most practical, I would love to see a youth centre established in the Sault. There have been calls for one for years with little to no response from the City, but I firmly believe that one can be set up at minimal cost to fill this need. We have to show our youth that we hear them and care about them.
Second, and not too difficult, it would be amazing to see rooftop gardens set up on buildings along Queen Street. As you walk down that street, you start to realize that most of the buildings have flat roofs; why not use that space to grow vegetables that can then be donated to local food banks and soup kitchens to help feed those in need?
And finally, I'll mention the most expensive project I'd like to see in the Sault: a downtown plaza as outlined by the consultant Roger Brooks. To develop a plaza that can be used as a market, with a small splashpad that can be used as a skating rink in winter - this is something we don't see much of in our region that could be a big draw. The recreational opportunities it could provide would be a major boon to our quality of life here in the Sault.
What do you think are the greatest challenges your city faces?
One of the greatest challenges facing the Sault today is our youth outmigration. For several years now we've been losing young people in droves, to the point that we now need to rely on immigration to hold our population steady. The lack of youth here has led to a number of unfilled jobs in certain sectors, and therefore a reluctance by investors to come to the Sault and bring other jobs in other sectors. We need to make the Sault a city where young people want to live in order to stop that outflow.
Another significant challenge facing the Sault is our high levels of poverty, as well as food and housing insecurity. These social issues often then lead to health issues - including struggles with mental health and addictions which we know are major concerns here in the Sault. Although it is important to talk about the economic issues, including taxes and jobs, the City needs to do more to address these social issues because this will have a positive organic impact on the economy.
Other than the official ways of communicating (minutes, municipal notes), how else will you reach out to your constituents to involve them in the decision making process?
I will always maintain a presence on social media and will happily invite constituents to reach out to me there and ask for feedback online. But more importantly, I'm going to regularly go to my constituents physically. I am committing to knocking on doors in my ward at least once a month to talk to constituents, to seek out feedback on decisions I and Council have made, and to ask for input on what they would like to see done differently. This is an approach that has been lacking for too long, but I think that it is important for City Councillors to engage constituents by any means possible.
What do you cherish most about your community?
I love that this city can rise to a challenge like no other when it comes to helping those in need. Recently I sent out a call for volunteers for a charity event and received an outstanding response. And in June when the mayor announced he would be raising money for a new breakfast program for local kids, the community donated more than twice his goal - more than $50,000 - in only three weeks.
The Sault is not without its challenges, but the people are so caring and generous in times of need that you can't help but love the community.