What we have here is a failure to communicate

It was determined late Friday the boil water advisory, issued Thursday evening, was actually a false reading — the result of contamination at a lab in London — but it flushed out weaknesses in the city’s communication strategies.

Four hours may not seem like an excessive amount of time, but when you’re dealing with the potential of an E. coli outbreak, it might as well be an eternity.

City engineering staff knew about the suspect water sample at around 3:40 p.m. on Thursday, however the first notice went up on the city website at 7:40 p.m., when Elgin St. Thomas Public Health released details of the boil water advisory.

Health unit officials were contacted at 4:30 p.m., but it was well past 6 p.m. when the Times-Journal newsroom received official confirmation from Dr. Frank Warsh, medical officer of health.

However, thanks to the fleet fingers of Ald. Heather Jackson-Chapman, who was acting on a tip from a municipal official outside of St. Thomas, the first tweet was in cyberspace some time before the phone call from Warsh.

Why the delay in confirming the advisory, and why did it take so long to involve the media with its ability to quickly transmit vital, time-sensitive information?

Long before city staff posted the notice, Central Elgin officials were going door-to-door notifying residents in their municipality.

Meantime, in St. Thomas, at least one member of council was not officially advised by city hall until Friday morning.

Our elected officials and the media should have been on the front line in the quest to alert residents to any potential health risk.

The city dodged the bullet this time, but all parties would be wise to re-visit our emergency action plan with a fine-tooth comb, in particular how information is quickly and accurately transmitted to the community.

Luck may not be with us the next time around


Don’t be fooled by Mark Cosens’ gracious deferral to Al Riddell, gushingly announced earlier this week.

Bowing out of the mayoral campaign to join the aldermanic fray had little, if anything, to do with Riddell’s abilities or talent.

In handing the baton over to Riddell, Cosens stressed, “When I looked at who my opponents were until the first of June, I wasn’t backing down. I didn’t see the leadership, I didn’t see the vision. I just didn’t see anything from this current council that I want to see in the next four years.”

Cosens is entirely correct when he stressed all that changed when Riddell filed his papers on June 7.

That’s when persuasive pressure began to be applied to ensure Cosens didn’t clutter up the much-anticipated Cliff Barwick versus Riddell main bout.

Exactly one month ago in the corner, we noted the mayoral battle will be a two-horse race, with apologies to Jackson-Chapman.

City Scope continued at that time, “for this to transpire, Mark Cosens will be encouraged to pass on his mayor’s bid and settle for an aldermanic role.”

If all of this plays out and Barwick is dethroned, former mayor Jeff Kohler triumphantly returns in an aldermanic capacity and Cosens has a seat at the table, one city developer (with a passion for gardening and chip wagons) will breathe easier when the new council is installed.

One piece of the puzzle is now in place, however Jackson-Chapman may be back in the spoiler role with her aggressive performance in alerting residents of the boil water advisory.


We understand Kohler has graciously declined to appear with Dan Reith on his popular local production of Politically Speaking.

Could the host have suggested some of his comments would be directed at contentious issues that surfaced four years ago?

If such is the case, you sure have to give Reith credit for pursuing that line of questioning.


Cosens is prouder than a new parent when it comes to chatting with anyone who will listen about his election videos posted on YouTube.

Pay particular attention to the one with Riddell, who notes his campaign manager is his dog.

I know we’re into the dog days of summer, but to inject lame humour like this woofer into a critical municipal election campaign is an insult to the intelligence of voters.


“As a mayoral candidate, he’s the only one. If it wasn’t for him running I would still be running against the two.”

Mark Cosens on why he removed himself from the St. Thomas mayoral race and is throwing his support behind hopeful Al Riddell.

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

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