THUNDER BAY – Five years ago, when he was publisher of the Chronicle Journal, Clint Harris declared he wanted to help Thunder Bay end its homelessness problem.
Harris pointed to the success of Medicine Hat, Alta., which all but eradicated chronic homelessness, as a stark contrast to Thunder Bay, which has seen its homeless numbers double to more than 700 since 2017.
As mayor, Harris, whose friend lost a daughter last year to a fentanyl overdose, said fighting homelessness and addiction will be his No. 1 priority for the city, and the benefits will have a major economic impact for everyone living and doing business in the community.
“My top issues are homelessness and human trafficking and the gangs that are coming to our city that are making it difficult for many families, including the elderly who are afraid to go out into the streets,” said Harris, one of five candidates seeking the mayor’s chair in the 2022 municipal election.
“The homelessness numbers have doubled in the last four years. I think in 2017, when I first talked about ending homelessness, the number was about 256. If you fix the bottom end of our city that needs serious help... I watched how Medicine Hat eradicated chronic homelessness and the financial benefits they’re seeing by taking care of their vulnerable on the streets.”
Among his suggestions is appealing to the province to make use of the now-vacant Lakehead Psychiatric Hospital, a 500,000 square-foot, 1,200-bed facility that he said could easily be used to house those in need and provide the mental-health and addiction care they might require.
Though lacking in political experience, Harris said he brings plenty of private-sector knowledge to the mayor’s race, something he called sorely lacking at city hall in recent years.
In addition to running a daily newspaper, Harris served on a number of boards, including chairing the Thunder Bay Community Auditorium board and the United Way of Thunder Bay campaign, and serving on the board of the Thunder Bay Regional Research Institute.
It’s that proven track record that can help turn the city around, he said.
“It didn’t matter which board that I was on, whether I was a team member or a leader, we found successes,” Harris said.
“The city needs to look at my resume and my advantages and the national clients and the visits of 200 per year (from my Chronicle Journal days), and my ability to bring new businesses to the community. And there’s my connection to the community. You need a charismatic sort of mayor, but also a mayor that has successes in his past and his resume shows he can fulfill all the needs of the position.”
Harris said he’d fight for more transparency on the Thunder Bay Police Services Board and opposes the city building an indoor soccer facility at this time, without support from either the private sector or senior levels of government.
It just doesn’t make sense, he said.
“This thing’s been going on since 2018 and the $22 million they were looking at for funding, it fell off the table. Once that money is gone, until money comes to the table of that sort, you don’t invest in something that has no backing,” Harris said.