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Meet the candidates (Mayor): Gary Mack

Meet the Candidates: Coffee shop co-owner Gary Mack spent 25 years working in social services, including two as executive director at Shelter House.
Gary Mack
Gary Mack is one of five candidates seeking the mayor's chair in the 2022 Thunder Bay municipal election. (Leith Dunick, TBnewswatch)

THUNDER BAY – If he’s elected mayor, Gary Mack says he plans first to tackle the issue he knows best – Thunder Bay’s growing homelessness problem.

Mack, who spent 25 years in social services, including two as the executive director at Shelter House, before opening the successful and popular Bay Village Coffee café, said homelessness, poverty and addiction are at the root of many of the city’s problems.

It’s at the heart of why the first-time municipal candidate decided to run.

“I was really inspired to run this year because I feel like our city has been neglected. It seems to me that nobody has been driving this ship and we need a mayor who has a vision for Thunder Bay and the drive to see that vision through,” Mack said.

“I especially was focused on the social issue our city is facing. The police, the Chamber of Commerce, it seems like everyone agrees that we really have to deal with our social issues if Thunder Bay is going to move forward. I came to realize I was the perfect person to address those [issues], because I have 25 years experience working in those areas.”

First and foremost, he plans to create a task force to deal with the homelessness problem.

“We have tent cities, we have encampments, and I’m really afraid that those are going to become entrenched in Thunder Bay. So we really need to act quickly. We need to house our most vulnerable people and it will have a huge impact in terms of cost savings to our emergency services and also for just making our city a safer, better place to live,” Mack said.

Mack would also like change to come on the emergency services front, stating there’s a better way of responding to many incidents that don’t necessarily require police involvement.

"We need to free up our police officers’ time so they can be focused on the serious crimes we’re facing in Thunder Bay, which is the gangs, the drugs and the guns," he said. "We need to take serious action on those issues. Police officers have 50,000 calls per year. Most of that is non-criminal and non-violent. That can be done by somebody else."

“That can be done by teams of mental health workers who can be going out and handling all of that so our police officers can be dealing with the stuff they are trained to do.”

When it comes to police leadership, Mack said he’s strongly in favour of hiring an Indigenous police chief and working to change the culture at the Thunder Bay Police Service to be more inclusive and more representative of the people they’re serving.

He wants the next police chief to have a say in any plans for a new police headquarters.

Mack is supportive of an indoor turf facility, but not at any cost.

“I’m a huge fan of sports and athleticism. Our grandson is eight years old and a huge soccer player. I think the sports community has done a really good job and spoken out and said they need a facility. I agree with them on that. But I don’t think we need a $55-million, super-fancy, in-a-swamp facility. I think we can do something a lot cheaper,” he said, pointing to an $8-million covered facility built in Edmonton.

Leith Dunick

About the Author: Leith Dunick

A proud Nova Scotian who has called Thunder Bay home since 2002, Leith is Dougall Media's director of news, but still likes to tell your stories too. Wants his Expos back and to see Neil Young at least one more time. Twitter: @LeithDunick
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