Don’t try telling Sarnia-Lambton MPP Bob Bailey that his cup is half empty.
His overwhelming optimism about the future viability of local refineries – the lifeblood of Sarnia’s economy – was a key message during an hour-long town hall Thursday.
About 90 people joined on Zoom to hear what Bailey had to say about local issues presented by the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce.
The Canadian government’s 2021 announcement that by 2035 all car and passenger truck sales will be zero-emission, precluding the use of gasoline, won’t have a “meaningful” impact on Sarnia-Lambton’s refineries, Bailey said.
He said he consulted with the Canadian Fuels Association, which represents the country’s transportation fuels sector, and they predict an increase in demand for jet fuel, low carbon fuels and diesel to fuel freight trucks and airplanes.
As electric vehicles become more commonplace, it won’t be possible for tractor trailers hauling freight and airplanes to be battery-driven and they will remain dependent on diesel, Bailey said.
Since 2/3 of every barrel of oil is used to produce diesel fuel, demand will continue for local refineries, he said.
Jet fuel is already produced locally, Bailey pointed out. “Seventy-five per cent of the jet fuel in Sarnia goes to Pearson and the rest goes to Detroit,” he said, adding that he, for one, would not want to fly on an electric plane powered by a heavy battery.
At the same time, Bailey expressed doubt that the 2035 deadline will be enforced.
“I don’t want to be a wet blanket on EV (electric vehicles), but all this hoopla about 2035…I’ll believe it when I see it,” he said.
His discussion this week with the Canadian Fuels Association was reassuring, he said. “I’m the guy who always sees the glass half full or more, so I’m very optimistic,” said Bailey. “I felt better after talking to the Canadian Fuels people.”
When questioned about Sarnia’s role in the emerging hydrogen sector, Bailey said Sarnia-Lambton has the right geology for large-scale hydrogen storage and is already producing some hydrogen locally.
He said he has the ear of both the Minister of Energy and the Minister of Natural Resources when it comes to provincial investment in hydrogen and believes Sarnia-Lambton is a strong competitor.
Bailey acknowledged that Huron County also has potential storage facilities but said he’s “very confident, when it comes time, we will have hydrogen storage and production here.”
The Chamber’s town hall put a wide range of questions to Bailey, asking his opinion on delays in the justice system, the sale of greenbelt lands, future development in Bright’s Grove (he’s in favour), and the impact of Bill 124 on the wages of healthcare workers.
The Ford government introduced Bill 124, which limits wage increases to 1%, when it first came to office and inherited a large deficit, Bailey said.
The courts have since ruled that Bill 124 violates collective bargaining rights. The Conservatives are appealing that ruling. Meanwhile, the legislation has lapsed and won’t impact upcoming negotiations between workers at Bluewater Health and the hospital this March, said Bailey.
“Bill 124 is done now,” he said. “They’ll be bargaining with their employer for, hopefully, advanced pay.”