Time to work together on future


Time to work together on future

“During the economic downturn we are experiencing, it is important that our citizens realize what council can do to alleviate the situation, particularly for the people at Sterling and Local 1001.”

Thus began Mayor Cliff Barwick’s impromptu economic state of the union address Monday, following a deputation by CAW Local 1001 seeking council’s support to secure the future of the Sterling Truck plant.

While grim-faced union members packed the gallery, Barwick offered little more than platitudes and an assurance, “My office will continually be available to you.”

In other words, if you’ve got any ideas please bring them to us because city staff, the Economic Development Corporation and council have no concrete game plan to deal with the loss this year of thousands of manufacturing jobs.

This council and the EDC have followed a policy of diversification, stressed Barwick. We have pursued opportunities with food processors, bioenergy and small tool manufacturing, he added.

Well, why did the city turn up its nose at playing host to the ethanol plant that ultimately located in Aylmer?

“Anything the city has done with regard to investor development has been for the future,” noted Barwick.

However, he assured, “We will not neglect the auto sector. It has provided well-paying jobs with good benefits. It is not our intention to isolate that sector.”

To his credit, Barwick was absolutely correct when he observed the Highbury Industrial Park in the city’s north end “is our biggest marketing tool.”

Although there are only two tenants currently in place, it would have been prudent of him to applaud the efforts of Messenger Freight Service. The modern CPR boxcars sitting on their company siding are testament to the firm’s goal of increasing the railway presence in St. Thomas.

Now that’s diversification.

His upbeat summary that, “when the recovery comes, we are in the forefront and ready to move forward,” fails to acknowledge we may linger on the critical list for many years.

Like the party platforms paraded during the federal election campaign, the mayor’s address was long on rhetoric, short on substance

What is most disheartening, however, is once the honest, dedicated members of Local 1001 left the chambers, it was business as usual for council — bickering and dithering over convention expenses and remuneration, topped off by personal attacks lobbed at each other.

This corner once again encourages all of our municipal officials to dust off the McCarthy-Tetrault report of 2003 and absorb the comments and recommendations dealing with the dysfunctional council at that time.

Because, the 2008 model is displaying alarmingly similar symptoms.

THE RIGHT TO KNOW

This may come as a revelation to Ald. Bill Aarts, but it should be abundantly clear any elected official or municipal employee who attends a conference or seminar must be prepared to justify every penny spent if it is billed to the city.

While other municipalities may pick up the tab for spouses or significant others to attend these events, that is not the current policy in St. Thomas. Nor should it be.

Those on council have to understand they are not members of an exclusive country club, but instead are financially accountable to city taxpayers.

This is a lesson that should have been driven home following the city purchase card fiasco.

Since the Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference attended by Ald. Aarts, Mayor Barwick and Ald. Lori Baldwin-Sands was held in Ottawa at the end of August, the fact it is now a topic of discussion at the table suggests further questioning may be in order.

That is why this corner has requested from treasurer Bill Day a copy of the expenses submitted by each attendee.

GET ON WITH IT

Whew, it’s a good thing council gave its blessing to the remuneration bylaw when they did. Had this dragged on much longer, by Ald. Aarts’ calculations, it could have ended up costing ratepayers countless thousands of dollars.

Nevertheless, if the concern is revenue neutral, why doesn’t he direct his energy toward the Timken Centre, a cash boondoggle that threatens to become a bottomless pit as various mechanical and electrical components burn out, break down or, in some other fashion, give up the ghost.

POINT TO PONDER

If the Sterling Truck employees had remained in the gallery Monday evening, do you think Ald. Tom Johnston would have continued to harp on about what he feels is the inadequate compensation doled out to the board of directors of St. Thomas Energy?

To bemoan the not-too-shabby sum of $8,400 to attend a dozen or so meetings each year, while thousands of others fret over how they’ll pay the mortgage, is to lose sight of reality.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“It is clearly evident that this whole thing is a personal attack by Ald. Warden on myself.”

Ald. Tom Johnston gets down to the nitty gritty when explaining his motivation for not supporting the bylaw enacting Ald. David Warden’s remuneration package for council.

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