The provincial election’s Petrolia connection

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If you look at the numbers alone, the odds are pretty good that the next MPP for Sarnia-Lambton will be from Petrolia.

While Liberal Candidate Anne Marie Gillis and the NDP’s Brian White hail from Sarnia – one of the namesakes of the riding – three of the five candidates all make Petrolia their home.

Andrew Falby of the Libertarian Party in downtown Petrolia while PC Bob Bailey and Green Candidate Kevin Shaw are neighbours on First Ave.

Bailey and Shaw have just four homes between them; Shaw went to school with Bailey’s twin boys and now his children attend the same school as Bailey’s grandchildren.

There are drawbacks to living so close to each other. Bailey and Shaw were both recently concerned when campaign signs in their neighbourhood disappeared. While it was the work of a few young thrill-seekers, both Shaw and Bailey worried they might take the blame.

Falby and Bailey don’t live on the same street, but they’re quite familiar after debating each other over the course of a couple of elections.

So we asked the trio while they sat in the sunshine at the Petrolia Farmers’ Market – is there something about Petrolia that makes people more political. “I think people in small towns feel the have more of a chance to get involved and to make a difference,” says Shaw who moved back to Petrolia after spending time in Toronto.

Falby says it may just have to do with the pace of everyday life. “In Toronto everything is too fast; it’s not people friendly anymore,” he says adding they may not believe they can make a difference. “We in the rural areas still have more of the ingrained pioneer spirit of our fore-bearers. We have more time to reflect, to ponder at the slower pace living in the country than out cousins in the big cities, and that down to earth resiliency is the major difference and I believe to be a major often hidden asset.”

While the postal code of the candidates only be an interesting fact of the election and not a factor in who wins the June 12 vote, Bailey says there could be a case made for Petrolia being home to some of the regions best politicians.

“Since 1894, 10 federal or provincial members were from Petrolia – and I included Enniskillen with that,” he says. That list includes MPs Alfred Gurd, George Moncrief, two Fairbanks (J.H. and Charles Sr.) Joe Armstrong (widely credited as the father of rural mail delivery) and more recently Lorne Henderson and Marcel Beaubien.

Bailey believes in the early days many oil men were elected because “people in involved in the oil industry were well known…with lots of connections.”

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