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Q&A with Sarnia-Lambton MPP Bob Bailey

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Just days before a new PC leader is elected in Ontario and months before the June 7 provincial election, The Journal’s Cathy Dobson sat down with Sarnia-Lambton MPP Bob Bailey to discuss local issues, his perception of the leadership race, and former leader Patrick Brown’s on-again, off-again participation.

SJ – Do you think Patrick Brown’s actions have hurt the party?

BB – “No, I don’t think so.  All the polls have shown, even when he was still in the race, that we are going to defeat the present government.”

SJ – You supported Patrick Brown for the leadership in 2015, right?

BB – “Yes I did, with Monty McNaughton. And (Brown) did a great job. I don’t want to dump on Patrick.  He paid the debt off. When he took over we owed seven or eight million dollars because of the last election.  And we had less than 12,000 members.

“Last I heard, we have 127,000 members and Patrick’s got to get the credit for that. And he raised the money to pay the debt off, challenging each and every one of us to raise at least $25,000. I don’t know if any other leader would have done that.  Patrick was a workhorse. He was good to me and I’m not a fair-weather friend.

“I see now there were issues, obviously, but he built a membership and attracted all kinds of candidates, including Caroline Mulroney.

“This debacle for him only started about five weeks ago.”

SJ – Party leadership hopeful Caroline Mulroney, who you are backing, was the first to call for Patrick Brown to remove himself from the race because of sexual misconduct allegations. What are your thoughts on that?

BB –  “Early on she said Patrick needed to step aside and clear his name. Then, when he decided to run for leader, she said the leadership campaign is no place to try to clear your name because that would be the focus of the media.

“I think Patrick did see the wisdom in that and did drop out.”

SJ – Detractors say Mulroney has no political experience.

BB – “Her answer to that is, we’ve had five years of Kathleen Wynne who has lots of experience and what’s that got us?  I think that’s a good answer.”

SJ – You say the most important election issue for you is returning respect to municipal government and small town Ontario.  What do you mean by that?

BB – “We’ll put an end to the Green Energy Act, which took power away from municipalities to say no to projects they did not want. For example, wind turbines.

“If we’re elected to government, we’re going to look at every contract and (see if there are) any that we can get out of, that have clauses that haven’t been met.

“We will also restore the Ontario Municipal Partnership Funding (OMPF) levels. For a long time, we’ve heard local municipalities have lost millions and millions of dollars and we’re committed to restoring them.”

SJ – On the local front, what concern do you hear about most from your constituents?

BB – “Truck crashes on the 402. We just had another one the other day. I handed a letter to Transport Minister Kathryn McGarry asking to open up the former MTO inspection station on the highway to use as a staging area so truckers will stop to get their paperwork ready.

“Police and others tell me a number of these people are trying to do their paperwork as they come along the 402 to clear customs and they are maybe not paying attention as much as they should.

“The other idea is to get extra money for a dedicated group of officers to patrol that length of highway.

“I will keep pushing for that. I have family and friends who are first responders and we’re putting a real load on them. It’s a health and safety issue and I intend to get something done.”

SJ – Our region has lengthy wait lists to get into long-term care facilities and there are calls for more staffing. You petitioned the government in 2016 about it. Are there any signs of improvement?

BB – “I raised this in the House just the other day. There are 124 seniors waiting for space at Afton Park (in Sarnia) alone. And when they get in there, families find out the staff are run off their feet.

“I hear this all the time, so I’ve asked for the minister to look at more beds and a better staffing level.

“It’s a question of priorities. I think our seniors – and I’m going to be one in a few years – built this county, built this city, and I want to see people treated the way I want to be treated someday if I ever end up there.”

SJ – Sarnia resident Kerry Henrikson started an awareness group to support families devastated by an autoimmune condition known as PANDAS/PANS. She and a group of delegates were with you at Queen’s Park recently to talk about more research and education.  Did you make any progress?

BB – All three parties unanimously passed my motion in the house for an advisory council to travel the province and bring awareness to PANDAS/PANS.

“We’ve got it on the radar and I’ll certainly do what I can do.”

SJ – The Sombra ferry hasn’t operated since ice took out the causeway in January.  Is there anything you can do to get funding for repairs?

BB –  “I spoke with Dan Lauwers (Michigan House of Representatives) in Lansing and I know it’s on their radar.  He said in Marine City across from the ferry, 40% of their revenue is down because Canadians aren’t able to come over.

“I said, let’s get our heads together…can the Michigan government somehow lend the money to get this thing fixed.

“I also think there’s a role for the premier of Ontario and I am going to lobby our new leader who, in my opinion, will be the new premier.”

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