Bob Bailey says he wishes sometimes he was 25 years younger and in the workforce so he could ride the wave of economic prosperity he predicts is coming.
“I see so much potential for this area,” says the incumbent MPP, who took a leave of absence from his job at NOVA when first elected 11 years ago.
“I’m the kind of guy who sees the glass three-quarters full, not just half full,” Bailey said. “There’s so much happening that’s positive.”
NOVA held open Bailey’s job as a contract co-ordinator until he officially retired a few years ago.
His former employer’s recent decision to invest $2.2 billion in a new polyethylene plant in St. Clair Township will have a resoundingly positive impact on the local economy, says Bailey.
Though in opposition, he was able to assist with the deal in the backrooms of Queen’s Park, he said.
“I worked behind the scenes, setting up meetings with the ministers and working with groups like the Chamber (of Commerce),” he said.
“I spent a lot of time, always trying to encourage it and telling the ministers that it isn’t just for Sarnia, it’s for the entire province.”
Ultimately, the provincial government contributed $100 million toward the NOVA expansion.
“At the end of the day, it’s a vote of confidence in this area,” Bailey said. “If we hadn’t landed it the future would look pretty bleak locally.”
Being a Progressive Conservative MPP during Liberal rule is frustrating at times, but hasn’t stop him from advocating for the riding, Bailey said.
He points to $88 million in provincial funding announced over the past four years, all money he says he helped obtain.
That includes $7 million for CEE Hospital in Petrolia, $445,000 for withdrawal management, $590,000 for bike lanes and another $10 million for Lambton College.
Bailey has been plugged into local politics since he was a boy in Oil City and family friends with the late MPP Lorne Henderson.
“I thought maybe I could do something like that,” he said sitting behind a desk at his campaign headquarters in Point Edward.
“I was with the PC Youth, then helped fundraise for both the federal and provincial parties. I was on the executive and I was a returning officer. I did pretty much everything but be the candidate.
“By my mid-50s, I thought it wouldn’t happen.”
But as the 2007 election approached, a friend suggested he run. He defeated Caroline Di Cocco, a Liberal cabinet minister, and went on to two subsequent election victories.
But this campaign feels different, Bailey said.
“When I knock on doors, people talk about better health care and more jobs, but they also talk about change and are much more willing to hear our platform.”
Name: Bob Bailey
Party: Progressive Conservative
Occupation: Retired contract co-ordinator at NOVA
Previous elections: 1 municipal (won), 3 provincial (won all).
Marital status: Married to Elizabeth (Libby) for 48 years; 3 children, 2 grandkids
Most important issues: Job creation, health care.