Yan Roberts was among the dozens of people who filed into a mining products factory Wednesday to hear Stephen Harper announced expanded and enhanced mineral exploration tax credits.
Like all of them, he'd signed up in advance, stood in line to get his name crossed off a list, received a yellow wrist band and was ushered onto the factory floor, where the fans had been turned off so people could hear Harper's latest pitch to voters in Nipissing-Timiskaming.
Roberts watched as the prime minister said a re-elected Conservative government would extended the existing 15 per cent mineral exploration tax credit, which was introduced in 2006.
He also had something for remote projects, like Ontario's Ring of Fire or Plan Nord in Quebec; a 25 per cent mineral exploration tax credit for any project in the territories or that is more than 50 kilometres from an all-weather road or service centre.
Taken together, the two tax credits would cost $60-million a year beginning in 2016-17
The announcement is one his party hopes will resonate here — in 2011, the Conservatives only won the riding by 18 votes, snatching it from the Liberals, who are running the same candidate in this campaign.
Economic growth in the mining and manufacturing industry is a major local issue; dozens of businesses support the mining sector and nearly 3,000 people in a town of about 64,000 make a living directly working for those companies.
But Statistics Canada reported this week that in the first six months of the year the mining sector contracted and in June, support activities for mining and oil and gas extraction were down 2.7 per cent, after some increases earlier in the year.
Suppliers in North Bay don't just ship products to the oilpatch, they also provide parts and equipment for exploration in the surrounding region, which can be a challenge in remote locations.
"Having riches below the ground does not in and of itself guarantee prosperity above," Harper said.
Hence the exploration tax credits.
But at what environmental cost?
That was Roberts' question. As the room grew warmer, he doffed his plaid shirt.
Underneath, another shirt read, "Water Not Harper."
The Conservative leader's events are ringed with security, including RCMP and a team hired by the campaign for additional support.
An RCMP officer gently escorted Roberts away, before one of the campaign's press people guided him out the door.
He said he was handled kindly, but found the juxtaposition between security and policy jarring.
"They are putting more security protection into themselves and their campaign stops than they are into the environment," Roberts told reporters outside.
Roberts said he had no intention of disrupting the event, or approaching Harper directly.
"They may have read that as something more escalating than it was. It was more cautious and safe to just stand there and let the three words speak for themselves."
He said his concerns involved the Energy East pipeline project, which would carry oil from Alberta through Ontario to the East Coast and would run just north of nearby Trout Lake, North Bay's water source.
Critics have complained there are not enough environmental safeguards built into the pipeline plan.