Locked out of this week’s Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce candidate debates, New Blue candidates joined a group of approximately 50 supporters to get their word out regardless.
“Vote your conscience, vote New Blue,” a voice on a megaphone beckoned passers by alongside a group that peaked at approximately 50 people outside of the Chamber’s downtown office on Thursday night, where the virtual debates were hosted.
Inside the building, Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce chair Neil Milner explained to Sudbury.com that they typically have several candidates running in each of Greater Sudbury’s two electoral districts, which can muddy the waters in a debate format.
“We found that having all of those voices is actually distracting at times from the main messages,” Milner said, adding that they wanted a focused message toward the business community.
Their current criteria is that only those candidates whose parties have a seat in provincial parliament are allowed to participate, meaning that only Green, Liberal, Progressive Conservative and NDP candidates were invited.
Wednesday night’s debate featured Sudbury candidates, and Thursday night’s debate featured Nickel Belt candidates. Progressive Conservative candidates skipped both events, while Green candidate Glenys Babcock did not attend Thursday night’s debate.
The same format has been applied to next Wednesday’s in-person Canadian Association of Retired Persons candidates meeting scheduled to take place at the Northbury Hotel at 2 p.m. At that event, however, those political parties not represented in debate will be allowed to set up booths where they can share campaign material.
Outside the building on Thursday night, candidates Melanie Savoie (Nickel Belt) and Sheldon Pressey (Sudbury) strived to get their messages out and introduce themselves to voters regardless of their lack of invitations.
“I was kind of offended by that because we have 124 candidates in 124 ridings, so we have a full boat here,” Pressey said.
“It’s just unfortunate that we don’t all get a fair shot at expressing our opinions and goals and opportunity to connect with people,” Savoie added.
“A lot of people are ready for change and I think we’re a breath of fresh air and we’d like an opportunity to connect with the community, really, and that’s why we’re here tonight.”
The Ontario Party, whose leader Derek Sloan visited Sudbury on May 6, shares similar values as the New Blue party, with both political stripes pushing for “freedoms” and oppose all manner of COVID-related health mandates.
Whereas the New Blue has a full slate of candidates, the Ontario Party currently has 105.
The Liberal and NDP candidates that participated in Thursday night’s debate “want to control what we do, where we travel,” Pressey said of their support for COVID-related mandates.
The New Blue, he added, believes, “It’s your body, you choose whether you get vaccinated or not, and you shouldn’t lose your job over it.
“I don’t remember a time when medical information wasn’t a personal thing between you and your doctor, and now it’s being spread all over the world.”
There’s limited data on vaccinations, Savoie said, and “there’s really not much difference from vaccinated and not – you can share it just the same.”
Pressey shared a similar sentiment, noting that COVID-related health measures, including vaccinations, closures and travel restrictions, have failed to end the pandemic.
According to current hospitalization and intensive care unit numbers, the unvaccinated are at a greater likelihood of ending up facing serious COVID-related outcomes. As of Friday there were 97 people in intensive care units in Ontario, of whom 36 per cent were unvaccinated or partially vaccinated. Of all eligible Ontarians aged five and older, 87 per cent are fully vaccinated.
“This is Canada, and we stand for liberty, do we not, and compassion and diversity and we respect our Canadian Constitution, or we should be,” Savoie said. “I would think that’s one of our core values, and I think we’re a true conservative party as opposed to the PCs.
“People should be able to make their own decisions, not just medically. There’s serious government overreach happening, and it’s creeping into every sector, every part of our lives. We deserve autonomy. People can make choices in their own best interests, and it’s just massive government overreach, it really is.”
Despite not being invited to debates, Savoie said that she and Pressey would continue getting their names out there by canvassing and holding events of their own.
“There’s just a lot going on that needs attention, and we want to bring in some fresh energy and fresh ideas.”
In a write-up provided to Sudbury.com introducing himself to voters, Pressey noted that he has complied with the rules of social distancing, masking and getting vaccinated as a means of controlling the spread of the virus.
“I now hear that there will be no end to Covid-19 and the mandates need to be kept in place,” he wrote. “Our lives and the lives of our grandchildren will not have the freedoms that we had before the pandemic.”
In her write-up, Savoie notes that she was born and raised in Coniston and now lives in Garson with her husband and two boys. She’s French-Canadian with” strong family values,” and has been a developmental service worker for 18 years.
“I joined the New Blue party of Ontario because I’m very concerned about the lack of support and representation for the hard-working people of Northern Ontario,” she wrote. “I feel our government has been representing corporations as opposed to making decisions that are in the best interest of us, the taxpayers.”
A full rundown of the latest slate of candidates in any electoral district in Ontario can be found on the Elections Ontario website by clicking here.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.