The insightful tale of two hours

Ian McCallum

Ian McCallum

Talk about lights out.
It appears the powers to be at city hall were totally unaware of Earth Hour, to be observed this evening, until T-J reporter Kyle Rea contacted the mayor’s office on Monday of this week.
After that phone call, the city scrambled into action and registered Tuesday for the world-wide event.
The observance “slipped under the radar,” admitted Mayor Cliff Barwick to our erstwhile reporter.

Nothing was brought forward at any council meeting and our mayor advised the city didn’t receive “proper notice of it.”
Over at the Chamber of Commerce, it’s a similar story.
“The only request we had came on Tuesday and was relayed by the city,” advised chamber president and CEO Bob Hammersley, “asking us to join in their effort to power down. We’re certainly planning to do it, but by the late arrival we’ve missed all the deadline opportunities for weekly transmissions and newsletters.”
Hello. The scope of Earth Hour is nothing short of global. Stories have been in the mainstream media, all over the Internet, in schools and other public institutions for months.
What more notice do you need?
Meantime, Elgin county has anticipated Earth Hour for some time, under the direction of CAO Mark McDonald.
In fact, the county is lending its support by promoting the event across the entire day.
Not only shutting off lights, but turning down thermostats and powering off computers.
“There are significant things that can be done and will be done,” asserted McDonald.
Tens of millions of people around the world will turn out the lights tonight in a personal statement with global impact.
And city hall is still waiting for a press release.
One individual with a pulse on the inner workings of the corporation put it best — it would never have happened in this fashion if we had a CAO.

The unwanted bags of organic compost lining streets all over the city certainly are doing wonders for the reputation of Bob McCaig.
Never one to appear on a Top 10 popularity list, the real face behind Green Lane Environmental is now coming to light.
The current contractor, BFI Canada, is holding fast to the letter of its agreement with the city and will only pick up one 64-gallon green compostainer from each residence once every two weeks.
No extra bags of leaves, garden and lawn clippings, etc.
Even though in the past all of that recyclable material was hoisted into the Green Lane trucks.
The company, via Bob McCaig, did the city “a favour” acknowledges Ald. Tom Johnston, chairman of environmental services.
 “They were performing a service that was above and beyond what was required,” adds Michelle Shannon, the city’s recently hired waste management co-ordinator.
 “Green Lane had set a precedent and BFI is just doing what’s obligated,” she added.
 “The prior contractor was just doing it as a favour,” continued Johnston. Just like picking up Christmas trees. That wasn’t in the contract either.”
 He noted the city is logging all complaints, and they must be numerous based on calls from residents to the T-J, to be included in future contract negotiations.
“Maybe discussions have to be more intense at a city level if we want to improve it.”
Good luck.
The difference is McCaig lived in the community, donated resources to many civic projects and was visible (which may be good or bad, depending on your viewpoint).
But at least he was approachable and had a stake in St. Thomas and Elgin. If you remember, he always ran notices in the paper when there were problems or changes to the pick-up schedules.
BFI, on the other hand, is based in London and will not even return phone calls placed by the T-J newsroom.
Under-commit and over-perform is a valuable tenet for good customer service.
Now we’re finding out that’s exactly what McCaig and Green Lane did in the past.

The McGuinty government brings down the most important and far-reaching budget in the history of this province and who at city hall is available to comment?
Not Mayor Barwick, he’s out of town and made no arrangement to deal with media questions or reaction.
No member of council was approached to fill in as acting mayor, so that corner of the building remains silent.
Treasurer Bill Day was heading off to a conference and was not able to comment in a timely fashion.
Is this city open for business?

“The people who are suffering the most in this recession are the people who don’t pay taxes anymore because they don’t have a job. But, they will still have to pay eight per cent on all those other goodies.”
Ernie Hardeman, Progressive Conservative MPP for Oxford County calls the provincial budget the biggest tax grab in Ontario history.

City Scope appears every Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be e-mailed to:


4 thoughts on “The insightful tale of two hours


    For the benefit of those on council who reside under a rock, here a little information about Earth Hour.

    Earth of course is the planet we inhabit and includes the 36,000 folks in St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada.

    “Earth Hour began in Sydney in 2007, when 2.2 million homes and businesses switched off their lights for one hour. In 2008 the message had grown into a global sustainability movement, with 50 million people switching off their lights. Global landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Rome’s Colosseum, the Sydney Opera House and the Coca Cola billboard in Times Square all stood in darkness.

    In 2009, Earth Hour is being taken to the next level, with the goal of 1 billion people switching off their lights as part of a global vote. Unlike any election in history, it is not about what country you’re from, but instead, what planet you’re from. VOTE EARTH is a global call to action for every individual, every business, and every community. A call to stand up and take control over the future of our planet. Over 74 countries and territories have pledged their support to VOTE EARTH during Earth Hour 2009, and this number is growing everyday.

    We all have a vote, and every single vote counts. Together we can take control of the future of our planet, for future generations.”

    Our part time mayor who thinks he should be paid $80,000 a year, says Earth Hour “slipped under the radar” and the city didn’t receive “proper notice of it.” How pathetic is that?

    We also get a VOTE in St. Thomas in November 2010 and we serve ourselves well to get rid of this dunderhead.

    Bill Sandison
    Advocate for a Better Municipal Government
    STR8TALK in St. Thomas

  2. Bill:
    What’s truly disturbing is Mayor Barwick was out of town for at least two days and more likely 3 or more and yet did not appoint an acting mayor which I believe in the city’s procedural bylaws. He did not make himself available to respond to questions about the budget, or maybe he didn’t get the press release the budget was coming down on Thursday. By the way he is not out of town on business, we’re told he’s taking a mini-vacation. This after a two-week junket in Japan. Must be nice. As I said, is St. Thomas open for business?

  3. Ian:

    Perhaps he believes he is above rules and regulations and I do not think he is the only one who skulks around thumbing his nose at us. It may have been his intention not to appoint anyone as Deputy Mayor as it would have drawn attention to his absence otherwise. By the way, how much paid vacation does this PART-TIME mayor receive and who keeps track of it?

    Clearly, the fish rots from the head down. Witness the entitlement mentality without accountability – frequent extended lunches and absences from the office, why some are reported as a daily sighting at the local YMCA from 2:00pm – 3:00pm daily (Monday through Friday inclusive) until surgery sidelined them. And, when was the last time you heard anyone say – that was my fault, let me fix it so it doesn’t re-occur. It just doesn’t happen.

    It boils down to this simplistic statement: If you want things to change, you have to make changes, starting with the mayor.

    Regrettably we are saddled with this lame duck until the end of next year. And believe it or not, I’m told he expects to repeat as mayor. How does that old saying go – fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

    We may or may not be open for business but we at least we have “25% More Life in St. Thomas”

    What we need is STR8TALK.

    Bill Sandison
    Advocate for a Better Municipal Government
    STR8TALK in St. Thomas

  4. Bill:

    You bet it’s entitlement. Look no further than the obscene purchases made on city credit cards under the watch of the last council. Ditto for outrageous cell phone charges and upgrades on hotel rooms with no apparent approval. Likewise not relying on cheapest mode for travel when heading out of town. The list goes on and on. And now they want BlackBerrys, All of this on Mayor Barwick’s campaign pledge for transparency and accountability.

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