A living nightmare for Elgin St. Thomas Public Health staff

It seems an apology, of sorts, is in order after heaping praise last week on Cynthia St. John for shedding light on the dismissal of four employees in March.

However, this week, we have reason to believe the executive director isn’t exactly being up front about the comings and goings at Elgin St. Thomas Public Health.

To refresh, this corner passed along details of a media release sent our way explaining the background to the 2010 budget and the resultant staff reduction of 3.45 full-time employees.

Let’s just clarify things a tad.

Seems the four employees originally discussed in City Scope are a separate issue from the above employees, who were laid off in the past couple of weeks.

A topic of discussion yet to be dealt with by St. John.

Of those four employees, indeed, two were only a couple of years shy of retirement as alluded to here.

Now, it appears the organization is beginning to re-hire for the terminated dental positions, including a new dental hygienist.

So, what gives?

And why is the part-time dental consultant still on board?

If things have gone off the tracks in that department, shouldn’t this individual (supposedly with all the technical smarts) be held accountable?

This would tend to add credence to the suspicion, harboured here, that this organization has become top-heavy in the administrative end — a trait mirrored in other public sector bodies.

I mean, what exactly is a special projects manager and how does this individual contribute to improving the day-to-day operations at Elgin St. Thomas Public Health?

Not to mention the delivery of services by front-line staff.

And, where is the corresponding increase in that staff — the real face of the public organization. Remember, when it comes time to live with the budget, it’s the front-line staff who bear the burden.

We can only surmise morale has plummeted, while employee grievances are on the elevator up.

We would like to elaborate further on that point, however OPSEU and CUPE spokespeople appear reluctant to pick up the phone.

In the meantime, St. John appeared before Elgin county council on Tuesday, where she challenged us on the accuracy of reporting her $25,000 increase in salary in 2009.

Some of that was due to overtime associated with the H1N1 pandemic, she asserted.

The pandemic that failed to materialize, we could argue.

In any event, as a salaried manager, why is St. John reaping overtime benefits for the swine flu non-event?

How many other managers were rewarded in such fashion?

We understand St. John is diligently working on her Master’s Degree. We can only trust the copious amount of time spent on this endeavour does not interfere with her managerial duties at Elgin St. Thomas Public Health.


It’s patently clear mayoral candidate Mark Cosens hasn’t included a new police headquarters as a plank in his election platform.

Why else would he peg the cost of a new home for city police at $30 million, other than to discredit efforts of the police headquarters building committee?

You have to ask from what part of the stratosphere did Cosens pull this figure.

If he had bothered to read the April 1 edition of the Times-Journal, he would have better educated himself on matters affecting the corporation.

In that story, T-J reporter Kyle Rea outlined, in detail, the funding options available to the city in order to cover the estimated $15 million cost of the new facility.

That’s right … $15 million.

The higher figure being bandied about is nothing short of fear-mongering.

Which has this corner wondering, are the Joe Preston and Steve Peters’ camps so desperate to dump Mayor Cliff Barwick in October they are willing to support distribution of such misinformation?


“From my knowledge of the industry for 26 years, that’s a practice we’ve done and I know most other municipalities do the same thing. Just keep quiet.”

Ross Tucker, parks and recreation manager, on his policy, to date, which calls for the city to avoid filing reports of vandalism to city police in an effort to keep such news out of the Times-Journal and avoid copy-cat incidents.

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

8 thoughts on “A living nightmare for Elgin St. Thomas Public Health staff



    When Mark Cosens mentioned $30 million for a new police station during his interview with Dan Reith on Politically Speaking, it appeared to be consistent with what had previously been published. Patrick Brennan of the T-J reported last year that Mayor Barwick said the city applied for “between $10-$15 million to build headquarters for the St. Thomas Police Service” under the Build Canada program.
    If the federal government, province government and the municipality have to split the cost equally, that would suggest St. Thomas planned to spend upwards of $30-$45 million to build a new police station.

    We would need to see a copy of the application that was submitted by the city to confirm the amount. Not sure why Barwick provided a range rather than the exact number.

    Where did the $15 million figure originate and does it represent the total cost of a new police building, or is it anticipated to be the St. Thomas portion only?


    Fear knocked at the door; faith answered; no one was there. ~ Unknown



  2. Bill – The price tag has never, ever been even close to $30 million … this is a myth. It has always been $10 – 15 million and the city has applied on a couple of occasions for upper-tier funding and was turned down. That is why we had the April 1 story outlining how the city will go it alone on the financing. The $30 million tag is the pervasive spreading of mis-information as was so prevalent during debate on the location/price of the city’s new twin-pad arena. To continue floating this figure is a dis-service to the police building committee and city ratepayers.


  3. Ian,

    Not trying to propagate a myth, but I can appreciate why some people might think it’s the higher number considering the city applied for “between $10-$15 million” – which was supposed to represent 1/3…

    I am aware that they applied for infrastructure funding under the Build Canada program; Aylmer, Elgin County, Southwold and the surrounding area received a total of $8.9 million in funding for sewer, water distribution, road construction, pollution control plants and bridge replacements while St. Thomas received nothing, because the new police station did not qualify for funding under the established guidelines. An opportunity to receive funding for improvements to St. Thomas roads, sewers and bridges was wasted in this round of funding. Price aside… a disservice has already been bestowed upon city ratepayers.

    There does not appears to any support from city residents to indicate a new police station is their #1 priority for the city, but council unanimously and steadfastly proclaim it as such.

    It would serve to set the record straight if the police building committee or a member of council issued a clear and concise statement regarding the full projected cost associated with a new police station.



  4. Bill: The new arena and Valleyview weren’t high on the public radar either but there was a need for them. A new satellite ambulance facility and a second fire hall weren’t even on the public radar but the time had come to deal with efficiencies. Go in to the police station and see for yourself the mess over there. I challenge you as a municipal candidate to call Chief Lynch and ask for a tour of the station and the crowded courts upstairs where handicapped individuals have to be transported through prisoner areas to get to court rooms. I can tell you right now Bill would welcome the opportunity to show you around. Instead of trying to murky the financial waters through speculation and monetary ledgerdemain, educate yourself on an issue that has been festering for 20 years. What this city needs is informed candidates not purveyors of half-truths and myths.


  5. Bill: And I see from your tweet this morning you are making the cost of the police station a campaign issue. All the more reason to arm yourself with information. If you don’t take up my challenge to visit and talk with Chief Lynch then you really aren’t interested in becoming an informed candidate.


  6. Ian,

    In the time that you’ve known me have I ever struck you as someone who isn’t interested in becoming informed?
    My tweet asks, “What will a new St. Thomas police station really cost?” and my prior post suggests someone in a position of authority should issue “a clear and concise statement regarding the full projected cost associated with a new police station.” Those are calls for information and clarity.
    The overarching issue that does concern me about the project is the city’s track record of poor financial management and lack of controls so if we are going to earmark some monies toward this project, I believe we should be well informed on what it will cost and that it should be formally project managed.
    I do not and have not challenged the need for new accommodations but where I differ from the pack is that I do not believe it is the city’s #1 priority, do you?
    On your suggestion, I’ll gladly call Chief Lynch to request a tour.



  7. Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
    I’ve been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!

    Christian, iwspo.net


  8. Ian I had a thought today that perhaps the police station could double in size after the new court house is built ? I wonder what the new cost will be to transport prisoners from the police station to the new court building ?


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