Romano Issues Statement on “Steel Town Down”


MPP Ross Romano issued the following statement regarding the documentary, “Steel Town Down” that aired nationally on CTV’s W5 Saturday night

I believe I speak for us all when I say how frustrating it was to see the way in which our City was depicted in the recent airing of the W5 television special, Steel Town Down.  While I believe there is in fact an opioid crisis in our community, this is not a problem that is specific or exclusive only to Sault Ste. Marie.  The opioid crisis extends across all communities throughout Canada and deserves national attention, however it is upsetting that it came at the expense of the place we proudly call home.

The fact is that this is an epidemic and the people of our community need to know that it is not being ignored.  Recently I met with Ron Gagnon, the CEO of Sault Area Hospital and we discussed this crisis at length.  There is a strategy being developed to provide greater access to addictions and mental health services here in Sault Ste. Marie, but that initiative will be costly and will require significant financial government support.  I am going to do everything in my power to see that those resources are made available so that we are better equipped to combat our battle against addictions.

The problem of addiction requires more than only a reactive approach to providing better access to services.  We must be proactive to keep drug use and overdoses at a minimum.

Economic initiatives that will spur job growth; education initiatives that will create greater awareness; and legal initiatives that will prevent easy access to these harmful drugs are all necessary if we want to effect meaningful change.  I intend to fight to ensure that all these measures receive the attention they are due because the cliché is true; it is a matter of life or death.

Sault Ste. Marie is my home and it is the place where my wife and I have happily decided to build our futures and raise our children.  We are so much more than what was portrayed on W5 and I know that we will rally around this to show the rest of the country that we are a community that will mobilize together, to effect positive change within our own home and beyond.


  1. Love listening to the blame game. Blame the Feds. Blame the Province. Blame City Hall. Blame the doctors. Blame the pharma companies. Blame lack of things to do. Blame the parents. Blame the grandparents.
    Blame the siblings. Blame the police. Blame the teachers. Blame Essar. Blame the recession. Blame lack of social housing or drop-in centres or safe injection sites. Blame the drug dealers. Pat the social worker on the back for administering Naxalone to the same individual 3 times in a week…yep, saved their life, so they can shoot up again the next day…Is anyone missing the point in all of this nonsense?

    • That’s my position.
      Drugs, the use of drugs, including alcohol and tobacco, is a choice.
      No drug dealer will shove drugs down your troath, you got there because you made a choice.
      Who’s the first one to blame?

  2. The problem is the government – it starts at the top and works down hill. Everyone is looking in the wrong direction. Everyone needs to email, phone call and send letters to your government. Mayor and city hall can’t do much.

  3. Never said the Soo was the only place with a drug problem. This program was not to promote the Soo in anyway. It was about the Soo’s drug problem. Plain and simple. I thought the program was done well. But honestly, they could have done it in segments. The drug problem here is so much worse than the program showed.

  4. Dear Mayor,

    There is a lot to be learned about the responsibilities of being in a leadership position, regardless of what that position might be. From the documentary we saw that you had no clue – or a willful blindness – as to what was happening in your constituency. That is unforgivable. It is the responsibility of the officer of health to report on crisis and epidemic findings to city officials. Did that person not fulfil their duties? It is your responsibility to then request financial and legislative support from the province in order to move forward with a comprehensive response. Did you, or do you, have any plan in place to do this? This crisis is not unique to the Sault, I quite agree. But, Sault Ste Marie has been hit hard – especially with regard to our young adults – and continues to be. There is a whole other group of substance users who were not represented in the documentary who are just as likely to be effected by drug poisonings as the ones represented. They are your neighbours, dentists, doctors, brothers and sisters. Those who are so stigmatized by the way citizens respond to substance use that they will not use drugs in an open forum and would rather risk their lives than seek assistance to be safe. I have to ask, is it fair that we can enjoy a glass of wine or bottle of bear without worry that it might be laced with poisons the way that substance users have to? Never mind what is happening everywhere else. Work with us to provide a safe and effective way to help those willing to seek assistance, in the way they want it, so that we don’t continue to see the rise in overdose deaths and permanent impairments in the city. I have been trying to speak to you and to the drug strategy team for quite some time about what I have learned from my involvement on a national and international level with the Opioid Crisis. Desiree has done her darndest to see that I was shut down. When Vice Canada approached me for an interview I was quite happy to explain that the Sault, my home town and the city where my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren live, is an epicentre for overdose in Ontario. My daughter lived in the Sault; used substances for more than a decade in your city and died by her substance use and related diseases five years ago now. Since then, I have used our experiences to change the way people like yourself see substance use. You can not push it under the rug and believe it will simply go away. Trust me, from my own experience with my daughter I know and I learned the hard way. I am more than happy to speak with you, just like I have always been. Kindly connect with me through my website or email address below.

  5. His response is ignorant. Like already stated it is not a promotional video for the Soo. No matter how many beach’s, fountains or boardwalks we have this is the reality for far to many citizens here. You can’t say it is a life or death situation and then in the same breathe be concern about how we look in the national spotlight. Sickening…

  6. Shame on you Ross. Sticking your head in the sand is a sure fire way to lose the next election and exactly the small town mindedness that keeps our city in the backwoods.

  7. Steel Town Down isn’t intended to be a source of local pride; it depicted a living reality for real people in our community, right now. This is an authentic address of a drug issue that exists right beneath our brow. It is time to address the issue head on without making excuses or taking a position of defense.

  8. We have a problem. Opioid deaths.
    Stop the dying.
    Provide pharmaceutical grade fentanyl to those addicted.
    Sue big pharma for causing this problem.
    Provide a safe use sites.
    Provide fentanyl test strips for all street drugs.
    Provide trauma counseling and mental health and substance misuse services.
    Provide in house detox locally.
    Discontinue private suboxone clinics to prevent the draining of healthcare dollars to private corporations.
    And, this is just the start. All this is much cheaper than what we’re doing!

    • Carfentanil is 100 times stronger than Fentanyl, is designed for use to tranquilize elephants and such and the most dangerous drug of all and is the main killer. Why give them any kind of Fentanyl and discontinue Suboxone clinics that are the best and safest alternative for people addicted to all hard drugs and the easiest drug of all to wean people off of? I think you need to do a little research before making such suggestions.

  9. Mr. Romano…You need to get your head out of the sand and spend a few days and nights on the streets with your outreach worker (s)and in the hospital with your one and only addiction counsellor. I suggest you pretend to be an addict who does not wish to live this way and see how far you get in recovery in SSM. Many communities in Northern Ontario are facing serious addiction issues but I have been to the Soo in recent years and I gotta say W5 depicted exactly what is going on in SSM.

  10. We need more things to do for our kids. I was born and raised here. We are in need of things like a place where a kid and be a kid. There not a dam thing for them to do without having much money. What happened to our new skate park. The city are shutting the doors and locking things up for our kids to go and have fun. Instead thier on the streets doing this drugs. When I was a kid we had a lots of things to do. Keep in mind this was in the early 80. But now you need money. We’re these kids are not equipped with it.. we have a beautiful city. Let’s not made it as known as it is. For our future children.

  11. This story that aired was NOT intended to attract tourists. It clearly stated that this is a common problem EVERYWHERE. The situation in our city is really bad so they used our city to highlight the problem. Mr Romano is great at electioneering but short on substance. He knew what is going on in this city and sat back and responded only when it was politically prudent to do so. Quit talking and do something Mr. Romano.

  12. For crying out loud!! This is our MPP? The documentary states “Our joint team spent a week in the neighbourhoods of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., one of many smaller centres coping with the opioid crisis.”
    No one is saying that the Sault is the epicenter of the crisis, but rather it’s not something that only happens somewhere else.

  13. Maybe you could’ve gotten on this last September when I sent you a PM. It took 2 months for you to answer it and even then it was just a form message to e-mail you or call. If it was the fault of your staff, better get a new staff. You could have reacted to this before the program aired.

    All of you, not just you, remember this is an election year and a lot of heads will roll, provincial and local.

  14. Mr. Romano…
    W5 did a documentary on the opioid crisis. They chose Sault Ste. Marie because it has one of the highest, if not THE highest per capita overdoses. I presume the intent was to show how the opiod epidemic is affecting one community. This IS an accurate portrayal of the reality.

    If you were making a video of the good and wonderful things about the Soo and area, would you include the not-so-nice aspects of it? Of course you wouldn’t. So why would a documentary about a specific problem, a problem that exists across Canada, deal with anything but that story?

    I worked in health care. I raised two daughters. I watched friends and family deal with drug abuse and addiction. I know how woeful prevention, treatment and rehabilitation services are in this city and province. It has been crappy for decades, through Liberal and Conservative and NDP governments.

    This city needed a jolt of reality, this province needed it and this country needed it. As bad as we thought heroin and crack and morphine were, these new ever-more-powerful opiods are unbelievably more powerful and dangerous and addictive. And the regulatory bodies just keep on approving big pharma’s newest money-earner.

    The Soo was portrayed in the W5 documentary exactly how some parts of this city and its population are.Some people just want to keep their heads buried and ignore the reality. Just like the #time’s up movement on sexual harassment, etc. it is also past time ‘s up on ignoring this reality. How many people know that if a tiny little bit of some of these opiods accidently gets inhaled by or absorbed through the skin of a bystander who stops to help or an EMT or cop who responds, THEY can OD? People need to KNOW.

    Stepping back from and being offended by the bluntness and portrayal of the W5 documentary is not something we have the luxury of doing.

    • Well said Karen! It all starts with awareness and education for all. And starting a dialog with actions and working towards solutions. I think the W5 piece was very accurate and started a reaction and people talking! Think about how you can help starting with human respect and non-judgement!

  15. I saw the documentary, as a fellow Canadian it didn’t make me see your city in a bad way. We know that there are industry towns across Canada that are struggling with economic issues and sadly, the all to common mental health issues and addiction. I did get a different view of what is going on, so far all we heard about was big cities like Vancouver or Toronto. The small town I live in, is in as much danger of this happening as Sault Ste. Marie and that is scary as my kids are going to be teens soon. Small towns have low income families and not a lot for the kids to do. We all need awoken to this danger, maybe we can help our towns before it gets this far everywhere.

    • Defense lawyers have saved many an addict and i know your horrific story, believe me, I didn’t agree with the results of thaaaat either but I’ll tell you had Romano not been my lawyer and spoken for me rather than allow me to speak, i might not be enjoying these wonderful days and nights and weeks and months and years I’ve been so lucky to enjoy. He was the beginning to my own success, although hard work, dedication and self inventories are required also, there are first steps, and those steps have assistants and those assistants are required as the foundation.
      I don’t like everything the guy does, but i do like his views on this subject thus far.

  16. “It is upsetting that it came at the expense of the place we proudly call home”……interesting. The documentary could have shown the crisis in many other cities, but it chose to show the Sault. If it were shown in any other city, maybe we would turn our heads & say it doesn’t exist here…unfortunately it does.
    The W5 documentary barely touched the surface of what is going on in this city. All areas of the Sault have a crisis, not just the west end. It is out there & we have to accept the fact that it does exist.
    Whatever the drug of choice may be, if it’s laced with fentynal, it can kill you. I believe society is highly uneducated to the effects some of the street drugs or prescription drugs can have on a person. The dependency is real & addicted people will do anything to get their next fix. It may be their last.

    • Like the mayor and all of city council, Ross Romano did not want to face the music until it was brought to light by W5. Months have past since this documentary and even though they were well aware of the ongoing epidemic drug problem they chose to ignore it until they no longer had a choice. Election time is coming, this speaks volumes about who or who not to elect for another term. I think we need a whole new city council as well as a new mayor, but who wants to be the mayor of a broke and dwindling retirement town other than someone with an already large income that happens to live here?

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