Dialing out for votes turns the tide on mayoral race


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It was a game-breaker. It, being news that broke last Thursday of the law suit by London developer David McGee, filed in August, against the city, Mayor Cliff Barwick and numerous other defendants.

Did the timing of the $3 million suit, and the hiring of political strategist Suzanne Van Bommel, impact the mayoral vote in the final weekend of the campaign?

A study of the advance polling numbers would appear to indicate the front-page story filed one week ago by the T-J’s Kyle Rea, and picked up by the Free Press in London, took the wind out of Barwick’s campaign sail.

As of last Friday, Barwick led the advance polls with 585 votes, followed by Heather Jackson-Chapman at 454 and Al Riddell with 432 votes.

At the Elgin Mall polling station on Saturday, Jackson-Chapman won the day with 212 advance votes, 16 more than Barwick and almost 100 better than Riddell.

Of course the rest is history. When the counting was done Monday, she won the mayor’s title by a margin of more than 500 votes.

It’s far from scientific, and McGee asserted the timing of the suit was not politically motivated, however the resultant tidal turn can’t be denied.

GOING OUT IN A BLAZE OF GLORY

Tom Marks, out-going mayor of Central Elgin, isn’t leaving the office in quiet fashion.

Extra chairs may be needed at Wednesday’s board meeting of St. Thomas Elgin Public Health after Marks issued a challenge to Central Elgin ratepayers to drop by 99 Edward St., to observe first-hand the health unit’s idea of belt tightening.

“If Central Elgin residents are telling me start slashing and burning and sharpening the pencil, that’s the place (the health unit) they need to look at,” harrumphed Marks.

The heated rhetoric is in reference to CEO Cynthia St. John’s desire to move to larger, multi-million dollar, purpose-built digs at the west end of Talbot Street, instead of remaining tenants in the building currently owned by the County of Elgin.

Glad to see he is holding their feet to the fire, however if time permits Wednesday, board member Marks needs to apply similar heat to St. John with regards to the second visit in less than a year by Ministry of Labour representatives to deal with harassment grievances.

Seems no member of St. Thomas council has the desire to ask the tough questions on this one. The front-line staff deserve answers.

RAIL REALITY

Serge Lavoie, secretary of the St. Thomas-Elgin Branch of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario, checked in to alert readers their next meeting will focus on a possible vision for the city’s rail assets and specific actions for saving the MCR rail trestle over Kettle Creek.

He goes on to note, “Since a special ACO-sponsored town hall meeting about the trestle, the issue has been presented to St. Thomas council, resulting in a motion to consider an engineering study of the trestle.

“With a new mayor and renewed council, there are clear opportunities for the development of a vision incorporating the rail lands, CASO station, Elgin County Railway Museum and the MCR trestle. The future of the Trans-Canada Trail is included in the discussions.”

The meeting is slated for 7 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 9 at the Elgin County Railway Museum, 225 Wellington Street.

I have to admit I was at first skeptical of the trestle vision, however after trekking up to Goderich to experience the magnificent Menesetung bridge and the hiking trail along the abandoned CPR right-of-way, you can’t help but get excited about the possibilities — with funding and co-operation from all of the partners at the table, of course.

With that in mind Serge, save me a seat on the 9th.

JOLTIN’ JOE

A popular fixture around the county at many, many events and, of late, busy with funding announcements, we now see a more aggressive side to MP Joe Preston with his “No OAS for 3-year Canadians” mailer that landed this week.

He and the Stephen Harper Conservatives have hit a raw nerve with Elgin-Middlesex-London constituents and Canadians across the country who are furious with Liberal MP Ruby Dhalla’s Bill C-428 that would allow immigrants who’ve been in Canada for three years to collect monthly OAS payments – a reduction from the current 10-year requirement.

Preston and Harper are right on the mark with this one – it’s all about contribution to Canadian society, and you don’t achieve that in significant fashion in just three years.

If you didn’t get a newsletter, I’m sure Preston and his staff would be more than happy to oblige. Contact the constituency office at (519) 637-2255.

EATING CROW

Readers Danny Attridge and Lois Jackson checked in to see how crow tastes. It’s a reference to my observation in this corner a couple of months ago the St. Thomas mayoral race would come down to a Barwick versus Riddell duel.

Of course, Jackson-Chapman let the pair duke it out . . . for runner-up honours.

Jackson wrote in, “It is wonderful to have been right about Heather Jackson-Chapman’s electability. Never underestimate quiet waters, as they can run deep.”

And no, crow is not a taste for which I want to acquire a liking.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“It’s going to be a very interesting council. There’s a lot of ideas out there right now about how to spend money, but they’re going to find out there isn’t any money there to spend.”

Out-going mayor Cliff Barwick, following Monday’s defeat at the polls.

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

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