Growing support for those who could use a boost

I had the pleasure of checking out the Food Bank Farm in Sault Ste. Marie this year.

The work being done by Colin and Sharon Templeton, along with their team, is having a significant impact on our community.

The Food Bank Farm operates on a not-for-profit basis and fresh, quality food is distributed to local families in need.

“At the height of our season we were delivering fresh produce twice a week to the Soup Kitchen,” reads a newsletter put together by the group.

“When we add it all up we delivered approximately $13,000 worth of food to the Soup Kitchen. Not a bad year with very poor weather.”

The Food Bank Farm is launching a new initiative I’d like you to be aware of. The team wants members of the community to become Food Bank Farmers.

They want local gardeners to plant an extra row of veggies that will be given to local families. The farm plans to establish drop-off locations where people can leave their donations.

If you’re interested in being a part of this initiative, contact project coordinator Ayushi Shah at planning@foodbankfarm.ca or 705-255-1459.

This is a great example of innovative thinking from members of our city, and we can all help take this to the next level by getting involved.

Highlighting growth in downtown Sault Ste. Marie

There has been plenty of exciting activity of late in our city’s downtown and I encourage everyone to take some time to explore what our community has to offer.

From restaurants popping up to feed a variety of different tastes, to a new beauty salon, tattoo parlour, real estate agency and radio station, there is quite a cool cluster of businesses developing downtown and throughout our city.

Neeta Marwah is now offering Punjabi and Indian cuisine at Rasoi, the Indian Kitchen on Queen Street East. I had the chance to stop by and grab a bite. Neeta’s presence in the downtown area is a welcome addition.

Speaking of growth on Queen Street; Lavish Salon, SOO Blaster and StreetCity Realty Inc. have recently opened locations in the downtown area. In other parts of the city, Discover the Canvas and KFM Radio have also set up shop.

The hyperlinks included below provide you with some background information about the variety of new and exciting businesses, but I encourage people to check these spots out in person and a great opportunity to do so is coming up later this week.

The Downtown Association is hosting ‘Moonlight Magic’ on Thursday from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Queen Street will be closed to traffic from Pim to Dennis Street. Stores will be open late to provide people with the chance to do some late-night shopping. There are also fun activities planned like a free hot chocolate competition and bed races, along with the community tree lighting ceremony at 7 p.m. I hope to see you there.

Rasoi, The Indian Kitchen: https://www.sootoday.com/local-news/sault-gets-punjabi-diner-just-in-time-for-diwali-743272

SOO Blaster: https://www.sootoday.com/local-news/new-restaurantarcade-coming-to-queen-street-2-photos-655209

StreetCity Realty Inc: https://www.sootoday.com/local-news/new-sault-real-estate-agency-celebrates-official-opening-3-photos-744622

Lavish Salon: https://www.facebook.com/lavishsalonSSM/

Discover the Canvas: http://northernontario.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=1228105

KFM Radio: https://www.sootoday.com/local-news/sault-ste-maries-first-christian-radio-station-hits-the-airwaves-7-photos-728166

National attention for local leaders

Members of Sault Ste. Marie’s business community have been receiving national attention for their achievements and I want to highlight these success stories.

The EXIT Realty Lake Superior team of Kristen Trembinski, Rob Trembinski and Jamie Coccimiglio are EXIT Canada’s 2017 Canadian Broker of the Year.

The Trembinski’s ties to real estate in the city run deep. Kristen and Rob’s grandfather, William McPherson, and father, Terry Trembinski, worked in the real estate profession for many years. Kristen and Rob continue to carry forward the family legacy to this day.

Brie Gallagher is another local leader receiving attention for her work. Brie’s renovation of a home in the city was recognized as an ‘Instagram-Worthy Oasis’ by HGTV’s Great Canadian Homes. Brie has moved home after graduating from the Ontario College of Art and Design. She runs BRIETAKESPICTURES and BRIEMAKESSPACES in the Sault.

The recently held business pitch competition put on by the Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation is a great representation of how we can help turn potential future leaders into success stories like the aforementioned examples.

Sarah Huckson captured the grand prize (valued at $15,000) for her business, Scott Coffee Co. Alex Benzin and Nicole Findlay finished second and took home $5,000 for Ontario Wild. This competition is an important way to foster the spirit of entrepreneurialism in our youth and show them what’s possible.

Thanks to all involved with the process and I also want to express gratitude to the sponsors who stepped up to help support the initiative. When we work together as a community the road to success becomes easier to navigate.

Sault Ste. Marie and the Ring of Fire

Recently, Allan Coutts and Stephen Flewelling of Noront Resources visited Sault Ste. Marie to discuss progress on the Ring of Fire developments. I was glad to host these two gentlemen at the Mayor’s Office for a meeting to hear about the latest news from their company.

I first met with Mr. Coutts and Mr. Flewelling in November, 2016 to discuss their Ring of Fire holdings and the potential to construct a ferrochrome refinery in Sault Ste. Marie. I have been in touch with the company a few times since on these same topics. There have also been a number of employees at the EDC who have kept in close contact with Noront over the last several months and I want to credit them for their good work in promoting the Sault as a favourable location for a processing facility.

For those who may not be aware, we’re one of several sites vying to become home to an eventual ferrochrome refinery, including our fellow northern Ontario cities of Thunder Bay, Sudbury and Timmins. When you hear the scale of the facility, it’s easy to understand why it is so sought after—it will be a $1 billion construction project that will lead to 300+ well-paying industrial jobs once the plant becomes operational.

While the refinery would obviously be a longer-term project, we have all the elements that are needed for it in Sault Ste. Marie and as such I think that our location is being very seriously considered. Noront is hoping to select their preferred site towards the end of the summer, so we will continue working with it and promoting the case for Sault Ste. Marie.

Sault Ste. Marie hasn’t traditionally been a big player in the mining sector but we are hoping to get in the game because it certainly appears to be an industry that will grow in Northern Ontario. The Ring of Fire has potential to be one of the largest and most lucrative resource developments in Ontario’s recent history. If managed properly, the benefits will flow all across Northern Ontario, including in the many First Nations communities that are located near the mineral deposits.

It’s important for those of us who are elected officials in Northern Ontario to do all we can to encourage cooperation and collaboration so that the mineral wealth of the Ring of Fire can be developed responsibly for the benefit of our region. That includes ensuring that environmental concerns related to both mining and refining operations are addressed properly and mitigated as much as possible.

We are in the very early stages and there is a lot more work to be done, but we are up to doing it.

A busy start to May

May has arrived and the first week of the month was a busy one, with some great events and announcements taking place around the city. It’s worth a look back on some of the good news stories and notable events that happened to lead off the month.

Special Olympics Announcement

On Wednesday May 3rd, Sault Ste. Marie was announced that it had been selected as the host site for the 2019 Ontario Special Olympics Winter Games. The community last hosted the Special Olympics in 2001 and this will be the first time we have hosted the winter games.

Special_Olympics

At the announcement that the Sault will host the 2019 Special Olympics Ontario Winter Games on Wednesday May 3rd.

With 450+ athletes and coaches expected to make the trip for the games, the event will be quite substantial and a significant economic boost for our tourism sector. But more importantly, the games will afford us the chance to celebrate the human spirit and the unique abilities and potential of every person. I know it will be a very meaningful event for everyone involved and I am glad that we will be able to host it in our community.

At Wednesday’s announcement, Special Olympics Ontario declared the Sault Ste. Marie’s bid was “the best they had ever seen.” Congratulations to the Sault Ste. Marie Police Service and Tourism Sault Ste. Marie for all of their excellent work on securing the event.

Riding the Big Bike with Reggie and his crew

A month or two back, I dropped in at Reggie’s Place after work with a few people. Lorraine Daigle (Reggie’s sister) asked me if I would be interested in riding the Big Bike with their team in May. I suggested that I’d be glad to do it, but that I thought it was important that we had Reggie participate as well. Lorraine pledged that if I did it, she would get Reggie to do it.

Fast forward to Thursday May 4th and both Reggie and I made good on our respective promises. The Reggie’s team was kind enough to outfit me with a flashy cape and even added me to their team name. It was a great time with a fun bunch of people and best of all we were able to support the great cause of heart and stroke research.

Jane’s Walk for Accessibility

On Friday May 5th, I took part in the Jane’s Walk for Accessibility that occurred downtown. City Accessibility Advisory Committee Member Diane Morrell led our tour of Queen Street East and it was very enlightening. There are many little things that make for accessibility challenges—like the slope of a driveway or uneven sidewalk blocks—that you don’t really appreciate until you travel in a wheelchair or push someone in a wheelchair. Making our city accessible is an on-going job, one that government, businesses, and residents all have to be mindful of its importance.

jane_walk

Touring Queen Street East, as part of the Jane’s Walk.

This is the second year that Jane’s Walks have taken place in the city and they are a tremendous event. The walks are a great way for residents to learn about neighbourhood histories and local urban issues from their fellow citizens.

Milestone Anniversaries

On Sunday May 7th, I was privileged to attend a mass and dinner in celebration of the 100th anniversary of St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church. Throughout its history, the church has been an important place of spirituality and worship. It’s also provided an important link to Ukrainian culture and heritage. Best wishes to everyone from the church’s community as they celebrate their centennial year!

Thoughts on the McMeeken Incident

We had an alarming incident occur in our City on Tuesday evening when the McMeeken Arena had to be evacuated due to elevated levels of carbon monoxide. A substantial number of people who were exposed became sick and had to seek or receive medical treatment, while an even larger number had to go to Sault Area Hospital to be checked out as a precautionary measure.

Ultimately, it’s a relief to know that the persons affected were treated successfully and that everyone is going to be ok. However, that in no way discounts the discomfort and anxiety that this episode caused, which was very real and understandably upsetting to everyone involved.  Adding to the apprehension was the fact that many of the people affected were teenagers and in some cases young children. As a parent myself, I can appreciate how frightening it would be to have to take an ill child to the hospital as a result of something like this.

I want to acknowledge and recognize our firefighters who did a terrific job leading the evacuation in a calm and orderly way and then explaining to the evacuated persons what symptoms they should be wary of and when they should seek medical attention. The firefighters have also been doing great work to ventilate the building and assist with finding the cause of the problem.

I also received a compliment from a constituent about the professionalism and orderliness of the rink attendants who assisted with the evacuation, so I want to acknowledge them for their assistance.

On the medical side, as the extent of the situation became apparent, our paramedics assisted with meeting incoming patients at the hospital and ensuring that those in need started receiving treatment right way. And of course, Sault Area Hospital and their staff really stepped up and performed admirably. They’ve been rightly applauded in many corners for how they handled the situation and I’m happy to add my voice to that chorus. They quickly realized that they needed to escalate due to what was happening and they brought in substantial additional resources right away in response. Everyone pitched in, all the way up to Sault Area Hospital senior management, and their team was prepared, professional, and ready to address contingencies that might arise.

In all, everyone involved in the evacuation and treatment pulled together and worked as a team and I want to thank everyone involved in the immediate response for their efforts and great work.

Obviously though, we are left with some pressing questions that need to be answered. We need to know the source of the carbon monoxide and why the climbing CO levels did not trigger an alarm from one of the multiple detectors located in the building.  We need to come to understand why this incident happened and, just as important, we need to know if there is something that the City needs to be doing differently to ensure that an incident like this does not happen again. We’ve had regulatory personnel from TSSA, third-party experts, and City staff working on the scene to find out what happened and why.

My commitment to you on behalf of my office and City Council is that we will find the answers, we will bring those answers to the public and we will make whatever changes are necessary to ensure that something like this does not happen again.

 

A Place for Everyone

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to meet a newly-arrived refugee family at the airport. They were a family of seven from the Congo. They had undergone a long and tiring journey, travelling from Zimbabwe to Germany to Toronto and then to here. Despite the difficulties of their travel and despite being overwhelmed at arriving in a place unlike anywhere they had experienced before, I could tell they were relieved to be here.  Exhausted no doubt, but relieved.

It was touching to see, just as it was touching to see the excitement and happiness on the faces of the staff from the Sault Community Career Centre and the volunteers from the community who were there to receive them. I was even able to carry out a young, sleeping boy to the car that was taking the family to their hotel. It was a special moment.

It is my understanding that there are more than 65 million refugees in the world, displaced because of war, famine, and political instability. It’s a shocking statistic.

We can all agree that Canada is a big place. We’re a country of some 36 million but we could accommodate many millions more than that. Canada has the opportunity to be a world leader in resettling displaced persons. To put it very simply, we have the room.

And not just in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. There is an opportunity for Sault Ste. Marie. We’re a City with a population in the 70,000s, but we have the infrastructure to support 85,000 or 90,000, perhaps even more.  With the right support from the provincial and federal governments, slow-growing places like Sault Ste. Marie would be able to take in a substantial number of refugees and new migrants to Canada.

I think that could be a very good thing for our City. While I recognize that people need opportunities for work and so forth, people can also create those opportunities. People create economy. Ultimately, bringing people here means more customers for businesses, more students for schools, and more people paying taxes. It’s an investment in our own human capital.

However, to make this happen we have to adopt the right mindset. We have to embrace diversity and inclusiveness and we have to work hard to make newcomers feel at home. Like the arch in front of the Civic Centre declares, we have to be “the friendly City.”

Ultimately, we are going to need a lot people just to maintain our current labour force and population and those people, whether they are immigrants, new Canadians, millenials, or former Saultites thinking of moving back, are all going to want the same thing: a City where they feel safe, welcomed, and at home.

We can only achieve that if we commit ourselves, as a community, to the values of tolerance, respect and open-mindedness. It’s not just the right thing to do, it’s not just a moral imperative, for us, it’s also an economic and social imperative.

I think we are on our way. As Mayor, I’ve spoken with international students who are enthusiastic about the City and want to stay after they graduate. I’ve seen the recent outpouring of local support in the wake of a hateful incident that happened here and also in response to the tragedy in Quebec City. And I’ve seen the caring and commitment of citizens who have stepped forward to donate time, money, and possessions to help those fleeing unimaginable circumstances settle in our community.

We don’t have to look further than Passport to Unity, held yesterday to see some of the great work happening in our community.  It was a tremendously successful event and I noted, as I made my rounds, that the family from the Congo that I had welcomed at the airport a few weeks ago was there – eating submarine sandwiches in and amongst dozens of other newcomers.  I was happy to see them.

Sault Ste. Marie can be a place for everyone. With all the challenges in the world and with our own demographics being what they are, we have to be.

-CP