"Hot dogs are a bit of a theme tonight," Rory Ring was telling us Thursday at the Sault Ste. Marie Soup Kitchen Community Centre.
After a month of snarling over tax issues with fellow mayoral candidate Christian Provenzano, Ring had decided it was time to show us his kinder, cuddlier side.
Readers of SooToday forums had been howling at the on-leave chief executive officer of Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce to provide specifics on how he'd cut taxes and give us an a bun-dance of jobs.
So the one-time J.M. Schneider wiener salesman decided to put on a free frankfurter feast at the soup kitchen.
He'd satisfy his critics by releasing his campaign platform there.
He'd invite Ring supporters to bring canned goods, diapers, garden produce, hygiene products and cash donations to help those hurt by unpaid steel mill accounts and Tenaris downsizing.
"When Rory told me that he had chosen to release his campaign platform here at the Soup Kitchen Community Centre, and he wanted everyone who came to show their support with a food donation, it filled my heart," Ring's wife Michelle Cecchini told the assembled crowd.
"First, with love for my husband because he has a very generous soul," Cecchini said. "And secondly with gratitude, as it would be an opportunity for all to come together as a community to share the harvesting of food that will benefit many families this Thanksgiving."
As Ring launched into his four-year-tax-freeze, free parking downtown, buy-local platform, he kept coming back to hot dogs.
Hardly a nanosecond after a kid walked in wearing a hot dog T-shirt, Ring interrupted his speech to execute a near-perfect wiener-pivot.
"I love his shirt because it says hot dogs and that's what we're having tonight, just for him," the mayoral candidate said. "I used to sell hot dogs, I worked for J.M. Schneider."
The wiener motif resurfaced as Ring was talking about the need for a buy-local policy at City Hall.
"If we've got a city that acts like it buys from Sault Ste. Marie, maybe our citizens will buy from Sault Ste. Marie. Maybe we can stop people from shopping online, even though it is a trend. I get it," Ring said.
But buying local isn't an easy thing to do. It's complicated by international trade agreements that discourage preferential purchasing, and Ring offered no ideas last night on how he might overcome those hurdles.
The campaign platform announced yesterday is a broad-strokes document, "very high-level," Ring said. "Over the next six weeks... we'll start putting some more meat on these bones. Not hot-dog meat. Some real meat."
More weenies poked up as Ring was talking about the need to make the Sault more business-friendly.
"I would support an environmentally responsible development of that facility," he said, referring to NorOnt's ferrochrome smelter proposal. "I think we need to count on it for the future of Sault Ste. Marie. It's five to seven years away. We need to act today."
Ring then talked about obstacles faced by Sammy Jansen, a teenager who secured a grant from Ontario’s Summer Company program to sell hot dogs over the summer on Queen Street.
"A 16-year-old opens up a hot dog cart. City licensing made him get an insurance policy for $5 million. I don't know the last time I hit anybody over the head with a hot dog, but it didn't kill him. We need to be smart about the way we do business," Ring said.
Even an audience complaint about residential mould got diverted back to sausages.
"I would rather enforce a mould bylaw than a hot-dog cart bylaw," Ring said.
Those attending last night's platform launch included campaign manager Jane McGoldrick, Ward 3 council candidate Winona Hutchinson, 2010 mayoral candidate James Caicco and Joe Iachetta, best known for his much-lamented Joey Calzone's Italian Eatery and Bar.
Ring described the moment he decided to run for mayor.
This time, he kept wieners out of it, and talked instead about Can-Am Poker Run power boats.
"I was watching the power boat races from the shores of the St. Marys. I was standing alone because some people had gone off to do their own things," Ring said.
"These things are going, what, 150 miles an hour. Twin V8s. I'm standing on the shore, and I go: 'Man, I feel like I'm Sault Ste. Marie. I feel like I'm standing on the shore, and everybody is blowing by me in twin V8s. I need to get off the shore and I need to get on the boat. I need to start moving with those people and we need a community that can move as well.' Because the more we stand still, the more people go by us. We need to be on that boat and we need to be doing things for our citizens that catapult us from the shore, on the boat and into the future."
Another mayoral candidate, Kemal Martinovic, promised Thursday to roll back pay for all city unionized and non-union staff next year to 2015 levels.
"This will reduce city spending by approximately $6 million a year and no services will be cut," Martinovic said.
Incumbent Christian Provenzano said this week that he was encouraged to see the Statistics Canada unemployment rate in August was 5.1 per cent, better than the 5.7 per cent provincial rate and the 6.0 per cent national rate.
August's labour force participation rate was 65 per cent and the employment rate was 62 per cent, both up substantially over recent months.
The mayor nonetheless said more needs to be done to ensure that Sault Ste. Marie is attracting and developing the local talent that employers need.
Also running for mayor is Ted Johnston, who wants to use philanthropy, user fees and sale of advertising space to fund non-core municipal services.
The 2018 municipal election takes place Oct. 22.