Sara McCleary is ready to bring change to Sault Ste. Marie.
And she’s not afraid to show it.
McCleary hosted a meet and greet event at Cafe Natura this evening to hear some voices and share – over a delicious cup of organic coffee – what the Sault’s needs are, as well as her goals for our beloved city.
McCleary shared some of her insights with local community members and local riding NDP members alike, who told her some of their primary concerns.
This gave interested individuals the opportunity to ask the potential NDP candidate questions about what her platform will be if she becomes the local leader of the party.
McCleary highlighted the need to work alongside city council to make sure they know what the Sault’s priorities are, and help them lobby for funding that we need.
Many of the issues vocalized by attendees are ones that have been bounced around throughout the last couple years of Wynne’s premiership, certainly making them forefront issues of the upcoming provincial election.
These include hydro costs, the need for investment in and up-scaling of healthcare services, job development, and affordability.
In terms of healthcare, some of the specific topics included hospital wait times and services, and the lack of readily available services for those in need, specifically in terms of mental health issues and addictions.
In light of all the conversation that has been sparked since the W5 Documentary Steel Town Down, there is an evident need for more funding for Sault Ste. Marie’s hospital, as well as other health and non-profit organizations that battle addictions on the front lines.
McCleary is very passionate about this issue, and has responded proactively by starting a non-profit organization called ‘We’ve Got This,‘ devoted to campaigning for mental health awareness to end the stigma surrounding talking about these kinds of issues.
She sees mental illness and addictions as coming hand-in-hand, arguing that we need better funding for mental health services to act more preventatively against the development of addictions issues.
McCleary also mentioned that she advocates for supporting more accessible dental and health coverage which in turn will help to eliminate hospital wait times, as people will have less need for those services, having their health needs met and cared for through coverage.
Some individuals in attendance who are members of the NDP party brought up the concern for truly showing a united NDP identity with their next leader.
“We can’t be perceived as soft liberals,” said one member.
This also brought up the concern amongst many members about living in a Doug Ford-led Ontario.
Specifically, a Doug Ford-led north.
One attendee asked McCleary, “If there was one thing you would say to a Ross Romano supporter to make your case, what would it be?”
She responded, “I would say that a vote for Ross Romano is a vote for Doug Ford. A vote for Doug Ford is a vote for Toronto. We need to see money coming into the North, we’ve already been put on the back burner for too long.”
Although, it was discussed that many people may want to vote locally for the power that is in power on a provincial level.
In regards to this, McCleary noted, “One thing people need to realize is if I am elected for Sault Ste. Marie, I wouldn’t have to toe the party line. I could stand up for Sault Ste. Marie against some of the more Toronto-centric ideas and policies. This is something that Ross Romano cannot always necessarily do.”
Having grown up in Sault Ste. Marie, McCleary knows the ins and outs of the city as well as the various aspects that make our city so unique in terms of opportunity as well as weakness.
Her parents were small business owners, so she knows the value and importance of this type of industry to our regional economy, and the challenges that they deal with in the face of our struggling local economy.
“Right now the average income here is low but the cost of living is so high. Small businesses are taking a hit and people are struggling to make ends meet,” McCleary told her guests.
She continued, “I know what it’s like to live pay cheque to pay cheque, I know what it’s like not to have a night out because I can’t afford a sitter. I understand what needs to be done to make life better in the Sault, more affordable. I know what the Sault can be, what it has the potential to be.”
Advocating for the average person is the cornerstone of McCleary’s political beliefs.
The local riding members of the NDP party will vote on Thursday evening at 7:00pm, at the Bushplane Museum.
McCleary says, “If it’s me, on Friday, I’ll be door-knocking and campaigning.”
Stay tuned as more information unfolds as the NDP members make their decision.