Municipal government

Kern pledges to lead action on climate change in next city government

“Leaders should stand up and demand more,” he told a dozen supporters gathered for his campaign launch.

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Elaine Della Mattia

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It was a “sense of urgency and responsibility” that drove Tobin Kern on his mission to become the city’s next mayor.

He kicked off his Climate Action Now campaign at Bellevue Park on Tuesday, promising to be a mayor who leads the city down a more environmentally friendly and sustainable path.

Kern, 44, married with two children, said he wanted Sault Ste. Marie to become an environmental and climate change leader.

Experts from all disciplines around the world have urged people to tackle climate change issues and Kern believes it is the job of a true leader to do just that.

“Leaders should stand up and demand more,” he told a dozen supporters gathered for his campaign launch.

Advocacy, demanding more from higher levels of government and leading by example in asking for help from the community to solve the problems a community is facing is important, he said.

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“The incremental approach that once worked in the past is no longer appropriate,” he said. “It just won’t work and that’s what we’re seeing right now – emergencies on multiple fronts.”

Kern admits the municipality doesn’t have the skill or the resources to fix the problems on its own, but ignoring the problem isn’t a solution either, he said.

Kern wants to see the next council lead by example by electrifying its transportation and encourage citizens to do the same or use public transportation.

It can also adapt to more climate-friendly practices, educating the community on the importance of doing so and committing to eliminating unnecessary waste.

“To me, that’s what leadership looks like. It’s active. It’s progressive. It’s committed,” he said.

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Kern said he would also engage in a thorough review of all operations with the goal of reducing greenhouse gases and setting more ambitious targets to reduce those greenhouse gases.

Kern said he also wanted to see incentives developed and attached to building permit fees that would result in “greener” infrastructure development.

He also sees the need to develop affordable housing and municipal governments have a role to play in addressing the issue.

Kern thinks best practices from other communities should be explored, that the city should join a coalition of municipalities advocating for affordable housing and hold town hall meetings to hear community ideas and advocate louder at the provincial level.

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Substance abuse and mental health issues also need to be addressed and it should be up to the city council to raise awareness of the issue locally through town hall meetings to create dialogue and develop solutions.

“I believe Sault Ste. Marie can be great, but first it has to be good,” the social worker said.

Kern told the Sault Star that the existing city council had no ambition and should have set higher goals.

Even big manufacturers like Algoma Steel are taking action to reduce their emissions by 70% by 2030. “They know the writing on the wall and they’re moving towards those goals.

Eliminating single-use plastics is just “the start. As a community, we need to look at any practice that will reduce our impact on climate change,” he said. “It’s a small slice of the pie.”

Kern said he hasn’t seen strong advocacy for what the community needs and he believes greater community engagement is needed as well as better partnerships with the provincial and federal governments.

“I haven’t seen a lot of that and it’s really missing here,” he said.

There are five mayoral candidates. The other four are Matthew Shoemaker, Donna Hilsinger, Ozzie Grandinetti and Robert Peace.

The municipal election is on October 24.

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