Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Doug Ford stuck close to his talking points Friday during a campaign stop in Sault Ste. Marie, pole-dancing around media questions about the United Steelworkers and Ford's unwavering support for U.S. President Donald Trump.
Early in his seven-minute address at the Machine Shop, the PC leader expressed appreciation to USW Local 2251 for its recent endorsement of Sault candidate Ross Romano.
"I want to thank the United Steelworkers for standing beside Ross," Ford said. "Great representative, Ross Romano. Fighting for the people of Sault Ste. Marie!"
Curiously, there were no Steelworkers standing with Romano and Ford on Friday.
Local 2251, representing hourly workers at Algoma, sent no one to the campaign appearance.
"We were busy," Local 2251 president Mike Da Prat told SooToday.
"We were finalizing our submission for negotiations."
During time allotted for media questions, SooToday asked Ford:
"How is the local endorsement from Local 2251 of the Steelworkers holding together after yesterday's tariff announcement, and is your support for President Trump still unwavering?"
Ford loquaciously mamboed around our questions, taking two minutes, 20 seconds and 336 words to say essentially nothing about what we'd asked:
"My support is for the people of Ontario. I'll tell you, I'm so grateful for the United Steelworkers. I've always said my whole career, you know, I fight for the frontline workers. And I'm going to to continue fighting for the frontline workers. That's myself, my brother, my family, we always take care of the frontline workers.
"I'm so grateful for the United Steelworkers because they get it. You know, they have a party, if elected, and hopefully we will be elected, they understand you have to be competitive. They understand you have to get rid of the 380,000 regulations. They understand you have to lower hydro rates, lower taxes. Put more money into their workers' pockets instead of the government's.
"Each one of those Steelworkers, they're going to get 20 per cent of their income tax back under our plan. When they go home and they open that hydro bill every single month, it's going to be reduced by 12 per cent. On gasoline, when their family members fill up at the pumps, we're reducing gas by 10 cents a litre. Compared to the NDP, it will be up to two dollars a litre. We won't be competitive.
"Again, my friends, it would be an economic disaster, an economic disaster, if the NDP ever got in. I'm not sitting here playing politics or anything.... I want every single person to go talk to your employer, no matter if you work for someone who has two employees or you work for a medium-sized or larger company. Ask your employer how they feel about the NDP ever getting into power. They'll tell you. They'll tell you it'll be the worst thing that could ever happen to Ontario.
"I stand for the frontline workers. I stand for the little guy. We've always stood for the little guy. I'll break down that brick wall for the little guy, the union workers, the non-union workers, the Steelworkers, they're all champions and I appreciate all their support. Thank you very much."
Earlier Friday, at a campaign appearance in Thunder Bay, Ford was slightly more forthcoming about the new steel and aluminum tariffs, describing them as "devastating news."
In a statement released Thursday, the PC leader said: "After June 7th, as premier, I will work with the federal government to resolve these trade issues to make Ontario open for business again."
In the Sault, Ford skirted a question from a Radio-Canada reporter about any plans he might have to privatize the LCBO, instead extolling the advantages of being able to buy beer and wine in a wider selection of grocery, convenience and big-box retail outlets.
He also refused during his Sault stop to answer a question from Shawn Jeffords of the Canadian Press about whether he'd march as premier in Toronto's yearly Pride parade.
"When I get elected, we'll sit down and we'll make that decision," Ford told Jeffords. "My main focus is the economy, is making sure we create jobs and have this province thrive. I am zoned in on that."
"Reducing taxes, reducing hydro rates, putting money back into the people's pocket. That's my main focus for the next six days," the PC leader said.
Ford said it would be "fantastic" to have a ferrochrome processing facility in Sault Ste. Marie and he promised to use Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp. cash to keep Huron Central Railway open.
Ford also talked about what he said is an increasingly radical New Democratic Party, set on destroying Northern Ontario jobs to satisfy special-interest groups.
He contrasted the NDP with "our big-tent Ontario PC party" where "everyone is welcome," even disillusioned New Democrats.
The 42nd Ontario general election will be held on Thursday, June 7, 2018.