The sad passing of Central Elgin Mayor Sylvia Hofhuis

Patrick Brennan
Sylvia Hofhuis, a Central Elgin mayor who was loved by her own council and credited with working tirelessly for the public, died Sunday morning at St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital.
Hofhuis, 55, a resident of Port Stanley, died after a lengthy illness.
She and her husband John, a family practitioner and coroner for the area, moved to Port Stanley from Toronto 35 years ago, recalled Tom Marks, Central Elgin deputy mayor, in an interview with the Times-Journal on Sunday.
“I guess what I remember most about her is the people person. She always tried to help people.”
Marks said he got to know her well over the last six years after Central Elgin was created, the result of amalgamation, and both were elected.
In the 2006 municipal election, Hofhuis was elected mayor and Marks, deputy-mayor.
“I said to her, ‘let’s work together.’ She treated me like gold. She never lost an election.”
Marks said a hallmark of Hofhuis’ time on council was her passion for her constituents.
“She put a lot of time into helping people,” Marks stressed.
St. Thomas Ald. Heather Jackson-Chapman worked with Hofhuis on the St. Thomas-Elgin Public Art Centre board.
“She always fought for the art centre,” she noted. “She was able to get increased funding for it from Elgin county council. She was able to convince her colleagues it was a wise investment.”
Jackson-Chapman said one of Hofhuis’ greatest strengths was her ability to see the big picture and make fair assessments based on that.
Hofhuis knew even though the art gallery was located in St. Thomas, it was for both city and county residents to use and enjoy.
“She knew the outreach components of the art centre programs benefitted everyone,” Jackson-Chapman said.
St. Thomas Mayor Cliff Barwick said Hofhuis was a mayor who strived to be accessible to her ratepayers.
“Her primary purpose was to make sure everyone had access to her,” he said. “She was a person very involved in the community. She was a very pleasant person, very optimistic.
“I know we were both enthusiastic about the Ontario government’s intention to build up the psychiatric hospital.
“She was a very fine lady and an excellent warden,” added Aylmer Mayor Bob Habkirk. “My condolences to her family.”
Malahide Township Mayor John Wilson praised her work on county council.
“She was a good county councillor, a very progressive thinker and someone who understood how things worked.”
Elgin Warden Bonnie Vowel noted county council will miss Hofhuis.
“County council was deeply saddened by the passing of Sylvia Hofhuis,” she said in a statement. “As each month went by since her illness began, we never gave up hope that she would one day return to the table.
“Sylvia was a pleasure to know and it was a privilege to work alongside her at county council. Sylvia was able to make decisions and take a stand for the good of the county when called upon to do so. Sylvia worked so very hard for her community and what she believed in.
“She will be missed greatly by all who knew of her good works.”
Hofhuis held several elected positions in Port Stanley and later, Central Elgin.
She was a reeve of the former village of Port Stanley and later a councillor, deputy mayor Elgin county councillor and Central Elgin mayor.
Hofhuis served as Elgin warden in 2008.
Flags flew at half-mast today at the Central Elgin municipal offices, located in the Elgin County administration building on Sunset Road.

Why all the secrecy over at Elgin St. Thomas Public Health?

This corner received several anonymous tips several weeks ago alerting four staff were let go earlier this month in the area of dental services at Elgin St. Thomas Public Health.
One individual passing along information noted, “no one knows why, no details were given but all staff are extremely upset and in turmoil, it has been a devastating week.”
Cynthia St. John, executive director with the organization, is unwilling to shed any light on the dismissals, which have obviously impacted staff morale.
“Truthfully, we do not comment on personnel matters,” she asserted.

Cynthia St. John

Well, truthfully Cynthia, we don’t view this as a personnel matter, but instead a cut to a particular service and as a publicly-funded operation, insight into the rationale for the cuts, who determined they were necessary and how this will impact the delivery of that service would be appreciated.
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Heather Jackson-Chapman makes it three in St. Thomas mayoral race

Heather Jackson-Chapman has filed nomination papers to run for Mayor of the City of St.Thomas in the October 2010 municipal election.
Having served two terms as Alderman, Jackson-Chapman feels this knowledge and experience has prepared her to serve as Mayor.
As Chair of Planning and Development, Jackson-Chapman is especially proud of this full term’s work on the City’s Official Plan to be released shortly. The OP will modernize zoning and expand the urban settlement boundary in the southeast area of the City.
Platform issues include the need to hire a CAO, create a strategic plan for the City that will align with the goals of the Economic Development Corporation’s strategic plan (the EDC plan deals with the Industrial sector only) and establish a better working relationship with the County of Elgin.
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Cosens unveils first election plank – the importance of hiring a CAO

ST. THOMAS – Mayoral candidate Mark Cosens delivered his first of several election platform statements today: installing a Chief Administrative Officer of the Corporation of the City of St. Thomas.

“I strongly believe that a city the size of St. Thomas, with its complexity and challenges, now more than ever in today’s economy, needs a true professional leader at the helm of municipal staff,” Cosens said. “Hiring a CAO is one of my first priorities once elected, an initiative I believe would assist putting St. Thomas back on the map in an effort to attract jobs to our community.”

While he considers improving the St. Thomas economy and creating jobs his overriding task as mayor, the hiring of a CAO would further that goal and the task is a priority on Cosens’ agenda when elected.
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National food strategy rooted in Elgin

Posted by Ian:

With no clearly defined picture as to what Canada’s agri-industry should look like in the coming decades, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture is taking a lead role in devising a national food strategy. OFA vice-president Mark Wales, who farms near Copenhagen in east Elgin, is a vocal advocate for a clear, defining agricultural template that can be adopted on a national scale.

City Scope conducted a lengthy interview with Mark on March 9 of this year. What follows is the entire unedited version of the phone interview with Mark in Toronto that delved into a national food strategy, a similar undertaking in the U.K., GM foods and other agri-industry topics on the radar.

City Scope: Mark, define for us what has led up to the push for a national food policy.

Mark Wales: There never has been any clear defining, overarching national or even provincial food strategy in this country. Some municipalities, like Vancouver, have a food strategy and I think Manitoba has a bit of one, but those are mainly focused around very local food. But there is nothing overall to say what should Canadian agriculture look like, whom should we be trying to feed, what should we be trying to produce and who should be doing it and under what standards and so on.

There is a myriad of policies but none of them with any overarching vision or strategy. So, that’s what we’re working on here, both in Ontario at the OFA level, and at the national level through the Canadian Federation of Agriculture.
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Wind power has boomed in the UK because of the subsidy system under which consumers pay roughly double the normal price for energy

THE first detailed study of Britain’s onshore wind farms suggests some treasured landscapes may have been blighted for only small gains in green energy.

The analysis reveals that more than 20 wind farms produce less than a fifth of their potential maximum power output.

One site, at Blyth Harbour in Northumberland, is thought to be the worst in Britain, operating at just 7.9% of its maximum capacity. Another at Chelker reservoir in North Yorkshire operates at only 8.7% of capacity.

Both are relatively small and old, but larger and newer sites fared badly, too, according to analyses of data released by Ofgem, the energy regulator, for 2008.

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And to find out how poorly Ontario wind farms perform on any given day, visit here

See also Wind power is unreliable, expensive and doesn’t result in lower CO2 emmissions

Some choice … cut services or hike municipal taxes

Hit taxpayers in the pocket or scour the corridors of city hall for cost-cutting opportunities.

That’s the options facing council and staff in the finals days before the 2010 operational budget comes under scrutiny a week from Monday.

Mayor Cliff Barwick has made numerous references to tough decisions that have to be made this year and in to 2011, so we went right to the source this week for a status report on the financial health of St. Thomas and the implications for residents.

“I think you’re in a situation where the taxpayer is going to be hit to some degree, but at the same time, we have taken a substantial number of items out of the budget,” Barwick told City Scope on Thursday.
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So, where’s the warm and fuzzy Navistar feeling in Chatham?

Posted by Ian:

A feel good story from Navistar in the heart of Dixie. So why are Chatham employees pounding the pavement for months on end with no future in sight? A whole different approach in Alabama …

Like many companies in these tough times, Navistar Diesel of Alabama, faced severe layoffs this January, but unlike other companies, it devised a way to keep employees on the payroll. Instead of laying off workers, plant manager Chuck Sibley kept them on, and loaned them out to local charities — saving the jobs of 50 people, who would have been laid off.

“We knew last July we were going to have a problem, that we’re going to have too many people and we weren’t going to have work for them in January,” Sibley told ABC News. “I woke up at 3 a.m. in the morning, trying to figure out what I am going to do with everybody, and it just popped into my head that I could get them to do community work because we knew this was going to be a temporary thing.” He approached the president of the engine group, and the ball began rolling.

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Salary disclosures are nosy, unproductive ramblings

Posted by Ian:

Reader E. Thompson of St. Thomas is quite upset with my recent posting of public salary disclosures at city hall (other Elgin municipalities, hospital employees and school board officials must file this info by the end of the month). She calls publication of this mandated information as, “nosy, unnecessary, unproductive ramblings.” After speaking with her personally, we have cordially agreed to disagree. In addition, she is quite annoyed at my suggestion Joe Thornton, who was ceremonial chairman of the Timken Centre capital fundraising committee, might consider a monetary contribution to earn naming rights for the main rink, now that Walker Transport has declared bankruptcy. Otherwise, I believe city ratepayers should be recognized for their increased financial role in all of this. In any event, here is her full criticism of my comments. The post in question can be found here .

Re: March 6th City Scope by Ian McCallum

I have read several of Mr. McCallum’s columns that have made me twinge in horror. This one was no exception.
It’s bad enough that the individuals so dedicated to our community such as our Police Chief, Fire Chief and their officers have to read their personal business related to the income of their employ on the front page of the paper every year, then Mr. McCallum must turn around and make his comments on the subject as well.
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