Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown says all northern Ontario ridings are in play for next year’s general election thanks to Thursday's byelection win in Sault Ste. Marie.
The northern Ontario city elected Ontario PC candidate Ross Romano to Queen's Park to replace the Liberal MPP, who stepped down in December.
Romano’s byelection win Thursday means all northern Ontario ridings are in play for next year’s general election, said Brown. “I think a lot of those potential star candidates (in other Northern Ontario ridings) now look at this and say there is a path here.”
Romano joins just two other PC MPPs representing the 11 ridings in northern Ontario, Vic Fedeli in Nippising and Norm Miller in Parry Sound — Muskoka.
“I think Ross can be a catalyst for broader change. I want to suggest there is going to be significant change in Ontario — positive change in a year. I want northern Ontario to be a part of it,” said Brown.
According to unofficial results posted on the Elections Canada web site, Romano received more than 40 per cent of the vote in Thursday night’s byelection, contrasted with the party’s 12 per cent showing in the 2014 general election.
“The last time we won Sault Ste. Marie, I was two years old and Bill Davis was premier of Ontario,” said Brown. “I think it goes to show our message is resonating in northern Ontario."
The Sault will no longer be represented by a ‘Kathleen Wynne apologist’, he added.
”When people complained about the hydro bills, about the Clean Energy Act, the NDP and Liberal MPPs would say everything is fine,” said Brown.
“The concerns of northern Ontario, the concerns of Sault Ste. Marie with someone like Ross will no longer be swept under the rug. You will have someone to stand up for them.”
He added, “I want Ross to ensure the needs of Sault Ste. Marie are raised in the legislature, that Kathleen Wynne hears directly from Ross Romano,”
The PC leader noted he and Romano attended law school together and are good friends.
“I know he is so motivated to do well by his community, to serve Sault Ste. Marie with distinction, and I think he’s going to do a great job,” Brown said.
The newly-elected MPP can expect a critic position in the opposition, said Brown.
While knocking on doors during the byelection, Brown said the main issue he heard was the government’s inaction on the Ring of Fire — an estimated $60 billion in chromite deposits located about 400 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay that the PC leader calls a ‘generational opportunity’.
Timmins and Sault Ste. Marie are being suggested as possible locations for a future ferrochrome smelter to process the chromite, which can then be used in the manufacturing of stainless steel.
“The fact the government is not at the table pushing the infrastructure investment is a huge problem. There would be spinoff jobs across northern Ontario with the Ring of Fire,” said Brown.
The development of a transportation corridor, currently under consideration by the Liberal government, would be a priority for Brown.
“We can’t wait for the jobs in northern Ontario, we need that generational opportunity now,” said Brown.
High electricity costs and unemployment were two other issues Brown said he heard at the doors during the campaign.
“We need a more affordable Ontario, we need a more prosperous Ontario. We need jobs in northern Ontario. We need the government not to forget about northern Ontario,” said Brown.
The NDP did not win the riding, suggested Brown, because the party has supported Liberal policies like the Green Energy Act.
“At the doors of Sault Ste. Marie, the people appreciated that the failure of the Green Energy Act is owned both by the NDP and the Liberals,” said Brown.
He added: “When the NDP and the Liberals have all the same policies — and you want change from Kathleen Wynne — why would you ever vote NDP?”