The Liberals are hoping a recent announcement for an investment in Algoma Steel will help keep the Sault Ste. Marie riding red and on Thursday the party flew in a high-ranking cabinet minister to play the role of cheerleader.
Sault MP and Liberal incumbent Terry Sheehan spent much of Thursday with Bill Blair, the party’s minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. The pair hosted a press conference on the lawn near Algoma Steel’s Gate 2.
In July, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was at Algoma Steel to announce a $420-million investment to retrofit the plant from coal to electric arc technology.
Blair touted the benefits of that commitment, which he attributes in part to Sheehan’s leadership in the steel caucus.
“Terry’s advocacy has come to Sault Ste. Marie and made a very significant investment of $420 million to ensure this factory remains viable and energy efficient in the future, that the jobs that are so important to this community, are protected,” said Blair during the press conference.
Sheehan said the retrofit will help the government hit its eventual carbon targets by reducing emissions equivalent to taking a million cars off the road.
He noted the last time Blair was in the Sault in 2019, a $16-million investment was announced by the government in the Tenaris Tube Mill.
“They are growing again and it’s good news in Sault Ste. Marie,” said Sheehan.
Sonny Spina, running locally for the Conservative Party of Canada, said his party would also support the $420-million investment to convert Algoma Steel to cleaner technology, but would bring the unions to the table.
"I'll work closely with the unions and Algoma to ensure that anyone who loses their job as a result of this project will have the support and retraining they need,” said Spina in a news release.
Union Local 2251 member Drew Craig, speaking in the Conservative release, welcomed the commitment to include unions in talks about the retrofit.
"Personally for me, I want to see Algoma be environmental leaders in the steel industry so the merits of the project make sense," said Craig. “Terry and Algoma did not consult us on this project, as they are required to do, and neither the Liberal government nor Algoma would answer our calls or questions about what impact this project will have on our members and their families here in Sault Ste. Marie.”
During Thursday’s press conference Blair said the Conservatives and their party leader Erin O’Toole did not stand up for workers when the United States imposed a 25-per-cent tariff steel and 10-per-cent tariff on aluminum imports from Canada.
“We made a decision at that time that we would make dollar-for-dollar retaliatory tariffs on things that mattered to Donald Trump, that mattered to America,” said Blair.
He continued: “when we introduced those tariffs and stood up to Donald Trump, Mr. O’Toole rose in the House of Commons and said the retaliatory tariffs that we imposed were dumb and that given the choice he would do nothing but roll over and accept Donald Trump’s unfair treatment of Canadian steel and Canadian steel workers.”