Patrick Brown, leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, hasn't ruled out supporting provincial aid for Essar Steel Algoma.
"I'm not putting anything off the table," Brown told reporters today after meeting members of the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce at the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre.
Brown said that being a Conservative doesn't oblige him to say no to struggling industries.
"I'm not going to say no to anything simply on ideological reasons," he said.
"I don't believe in rabid partisanship. As a Conservative, I would consider packages and opportunities to retain jobs in Northern Ontario."
For example, as the federal representative of Barrie in the House of Commons in 2009, Brown supported Canada's $9-billion bailout of the auto industry.
"I'd have to see what that [Essar Algoma] package would entail. But I'm very committed to retaining industry here in Northern Ontario."
"If I'm looking at Northern industries that are struggling, I'm going to consider all options to keep those jobs here."
"I supported the loans that were done in the auto sector. Obviously, Essar is more complicated because there are significant funds that are still owed locally."
"I know that's within the court process. It's not my place to get involved in a court process but if you tell me that the funds that are owed locally have been satisfied and we're in a position down the road where the province could consider some package that would grow jobs here, retain jobs here, would I be willing to look at that package? Yes."
"But I'd say that it is very premature to consider what might arise with Essar down the road."
"I think the first thing we have to ensure is that all those local business, and frankly, the city, that have been put out, that needs to be satisfied before any conversation can happen."
It was Brown's fifth visit to the Sault since he was elected party leader, and by his count, something like his 18th trip to Northern Ontario.
"I think the approach my predecessors took, not showing up here, was an indication that they weren't serious about the North," he told reporters.
"I've gone in the last year to Northern Ontario more than any of my predecessors combined in modern times. I think it expresses my keen interest in the North. I fully intend on picking up seats here. I fully intend to win here in Sault Ste. Marie. I intend to pick up seats across Northern Ontario."
"I'm in the process now of building a platform for the next election and I want it to be one that is the most friendly that we've ever seen to Northern Ontario."
Asked about concerns raised in his meeting with local Chamber of Commerce representatives, Brown said he heard, among other things, about the high cost of public safety.
"I believe an area that we can help is on mental health," he said.
"A lot of police forces have told me that 40 percent of their calls are now mental health calls, because the government of Ontario has underfunded mental health."
Afterward, the wannabe premier was scheduled to make a pilgrimage to 938 McNabb Street for some awesome lickage mixed on the frozen stone slab of Holy Cow's Ice Cream Parlour.