'We have your backs,' Wynne government tells steelworkers during quick Stelco visit
She may only have two months to make good on the promise, but Premier Kathleen Wynne was in Hamilton this week to tell steelworkers she has their backs.
Wynne, who's running for re-election in June, toured Stelco and took questions from steelworkers Wednesday. She said she's met with 37 U.S. governors, and American industry players, to make sure they understand the importance of fair steel trade between the two countries.
"We want to make sure these jobs thrive and that steel in Ontario remains strong," Wynne told the gathering of about 40 steelworkers.
"We have your backs," said Steve Del Duca, Minister of Economic Development and Growth.
Wynne visited as premier, but the stop comes weeks before the June 7 provincial election. Wynne's Liberals will face off against the Andrea Horwath-led NDP and the Ontario PC party, led by Doug Ford.
She was also the second governing party leader to visit to Stelco in the last month. On March 13, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited.
Gary Howe, president of United Steelworkers Local 1005, said he doesn't mind the steel industry being a photo op lately. It's still attention on the industry and a chance to get the union's point across.
"It's positive that the premier come in and talk to the workers," Howe said.
Mayor Fred Eisenberger felt the same way.
"I imagine all the candidates and all the parties will be doing the same," he said. "They all want to demonstrate their support for all the industries in the province. I think this is just one demonstration."
In Wynne's case, Eisenberger said, any visit will be perceived by some as electioneering. "You're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't.
"I'm sure the folks here appreciate that the premier is here."
In fairness, Wynne isn't new to the file.
Last year, she advocated for an Ontario exemption to any state legislation requiring that construction projects use American iron and steel. She's also been vocal against the idea of tariffs on Canadian steel exported to the U.S., and set up her own meetings with governors in states that have Ontario as a key trading partner.
There's been criticism lately too. Horwath called on Wynne on March 29 to help keep the Hamilton Specialty Bar steel mill viable, and criticized the lack of steel mentions in the recent budget.
"Desperate times call for desperate measures," said Horwath, a Hamilton Centre MPP.
"And for the hundreds of workers who work at Hamilton Specialty Bar, their families and hundreds of pensioners in my community, times are indeed desperate. Of course, you'd never know it reading the Liberal budget. Not once does it refer to the steel industry."
The union also wants the province to enact anti-replacement worker legislation scrapped under the Mike Harris government. This comes as Max Aicher workers have been locked out for five years, while inside, the company uses replacement workers.