Will St. Thomas survive this bitter election campaign?


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In this corner we have developer Bob McCaig. Staring him down is Warren Scott, president of the St. Thomas Professional Firefighters’ Association.

At stake, whose slate of candidates will sit in the council chambers come December.

In a letter to the Times-Journal this week, in response to an opening volley from McCaig, Scott emphasized his association will continue to “be active in this municipal election and future elections supporting those candidates whom we are confident support public safety.”

McCaig has responded, “I am sure the community appreciated the reply of Warren Scott pointing out there are in fact seven candidates that the association supports and not just three. I stand corrected.”

McCaig notes the association stance begs more questions than it answers, in the context of how the firefighters selected the candidates they’re assisting with delivery of campaign flyers.

“Were all candidates interviewed and how were they chosen?” he ponders. “From a cursory discussion with those not being supported, it turns out that they were not contacted, so we can put that issue to rest.

“Perhaps the real zeal in the support of the firefighters’ association is not for the future as much as it is to express their appreciation to council for approving their last collective agreement.”

Careful Bob, you’re fanning the flames now.

“It (the agreement) gave all qualifying St. Thomas firefighters a ‘retention’ bonus of up to 9% annually. Three per cent after seven years of service, plus a further 3% after 17 years of service and a further 3% after 23 years of service. This, in addition to all future increases. No wonder they are so cheerful as they go door to door supporting those who supported their wage package.”

McCaig goes on to note the first request for retention pay was rejected previously by council in 2006. The firefighters’ association, rather than risk arbitration, decided on another solution.

“Cliff Barwick was elected as their mayor and in 2007 the retention pay clause, along with standard cost of living adjustments and other improvements to the collective agreement, were unanimously approved by the whole of council lead by chairman Gord Campbell and Dave Warden, Tom Johnston, Lori Baldwin-Sands, Heather Jackson-Chapman — the current council seeking re-election,” McCaig observes.

“How Campbell missed the endorsement of the association this time simply points to his labour-trained ability to separate his political associations from the support of those with whom he was authorized to negotiate,” points out McCaig.

“So you see, it’s not about public unions alone who are in the trough for far more than society can afford, but primarily it’s about politicians who knowingly fail in their undertaking and then do not willingly disclose what they have done.

“Let’s elect representatives with integrity, intelligence and a desire to improve our community,” urged McCaig.

Will all of this really go away after Monday’s vote?

POLITICAL TAKE-DOWN COMES TRUE?

Lingering on that last thought for a moment, do you recall any St. Thomas municipal election in recent memory that has degenerated into such a morass of mudslinging, back-stabbing, pettiness and character assassination?

The extremely questionable timing of a law suit, a vicious on-line ad campaign, automated dial-out calls to voters, slates of candidates, neighbourhood pitted against neighbourhood.

My goodness, is this really the fashion in which we want others to view our city?

Have we embraced the American model of guerrilla campaigning – complete with negative advertising, candidate slamming, fear-mongering and intimidation?

Will the 2010 vote be remembered for the candidates we wanted to take down instead of voting for the individuals we entrust to lead us bravely into the future?

Perhaps we need this 48 hours leading up to Monday’s vote as a cooling down period. An opportunity to shed the emotion and vitriol and replace it with a calm, rational assessment of all the issues that need to be dealt with in the coming years.

Not just a derelict downtown building that suddenly has become a campaign flashpoint – a non-descript shell that two week’s ago would not have been on the radar screen of one single St. Thomas voter.

Get out and vote on Monday, but most important remember the words in this corner last week from George Bens.

“You can really sort it out quite simply by saying who are the most ethical people here. Who are the people I would trust to babysit my children and to invest my money. Those are the kind of people you want in public office.”

FROM BAD TO WORSE

Over the past few weeks, we haven’t delved into the quagmire of woe that is today’s Elgin St. Thomas Public Health.

So, what has transpired while this corner turned its attention to the municipal vote on Monday?

Well, who should pay a visit to the Edward Street home of the health unit but representatives from the Ministry of Labour.

Apparently for the second time in less than a year.

And what has prompted ministry footsteps to again tread the halls?

Harassment grievances . . . an issue that has reared its ugly head several times in City Scope.

An issue that CEO Cynthia St. John skirted around when interviewed earlier this year.

Now, she is unavailable for comment — vacationing the past few weeks.

Turmoil is the best word to describe the atmosphere at the health unit.

Four employees in the dental department let go in February.

Are more pink slips on the way, hitting desks like the last leaves of fall?

Are these employees incompetent, lacking in qualifications or skills — where’s the captain of this ship in distress?

And why has the attention for so long been focussed on their leasing arrangement?

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“Anybody that went over there last summer and saw the weeds were orange, that’s a warning sign. Weeds shouldn’t be orange.”

Ald. Dave Warden lays it on the line for anyone thinking of playing on the site of the former Northside Arena.

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

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