Rain on his parade? Steve dumps water on the speculation


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Our MP Joe Preston waxed poetic about it in Friday’s T-J. Popular QMI Agency columnist Christina Blizzard speculated in the same paper that perhaps the 39th Ontario parliament was abruptly prorogued Wednesday, a day ahead of schedule, in order to derail plans for a fond send-off on Thursday.

The centre of all this ink-drenched attention, MPP Steve Peters — who supposedly had been critical of his own government just days previous — couldn’t help chuckling when he spoke to City Scope from his home on Friday.

“I think people are reading far too much into that,” he opined. “The (provincial) clerk actually said to me Monday morning, “We don’t have a lot to do.’ There really wasn’t a lot on the agenda.”

So, like the big auto plants, when you run out of parts you shut down early, is that it? No devious plan by Premier Dalton McGuinty to steal the thunder from the out-going Speaker?

“There’s speculation this was done to rain on my final day in the chair. I don’t buy it. Was I disappointed we didn’t sit Thursday, yes I was. I had it all planned.

“My mum was coming down. I had people coming down from the riding to watch the last question period and then open up the apartment (at Queen’s Park) for a farewell get-together for everyone.”

Peters found out about the change in plans mid-day Wednesday and had to scramble.

“I had to call my constituency staff because we were going to close the office just so they could come down. If you’ve got a hotel room booked, cancel it, we’re not paying for it.”

He admits he was disappointed, but at the same time he was able to have a full parade out of the chamber, something they don’t traditionally do.

“I also had my chance Tuesday night to say my piece when they did these tributes for all the members who are not returning. It was at that time when I had my chance to speak that some people read in to some of my comments. If you read Hansard, I didn’t direct them at the premier.”

A reference as to whether the premier yields too much power, or have members yielded too much.

As always, Peters remains gracious to a tee.

Lending credence to the observation of Blizzard, “Peters will be missed. He’s fair and even-handed — a rare and precious skill in a majority Parliament.

NOW THAT’S A SHORTFALL

The next time a member of council blathers on about a zero per cent hike in the municipal tax rate, kindly refer them to report TR 29-11, a meaty consultants’ document entitled, Tangible Capital Assets, contained in Monday’s council agenda.

The attached summary from city treasurer Bill Day should not come as a surprise — the current level of capital funding for maintaining the city’s existing infrastructure is woefully inadequate.

What is startling is the extent to which the city is lagging behind in infrastructure funding.

The authors of the report, Infrastructure Solutions Inc., estimate the city’s infrastructure debt at $282 million.

According to their theoretical model, St. Thomas would require annual capital funding of over $20 million, in addition to the current deficit of $282 million.

As a benchmark, the city’s 2011 capital budget includes about $6.2 million for renewal and rehabilitation of city assets.

Day goes on to state the obvious, the city is underfunding the capital program.

He warns it is important to note the existing capital funding level does not address the accumulated infrastructure deficit.

Our municipal representatives no longer have the luxury of deferring these expenditures to future generations.

WHERE’S THE LOGIC?

Monday night, city council will have no option but to rubber stamp a site plan control committee recommendation that will allow the Thames Valley District School Board to plunk four unsightly portables alongside Mitch Hepburn Public School.

A school that welcomed its first students less than three years ago.

The portables, initially approved by the council of the day in July, 2009, are a necessity to accommodate full-day kindergarten. The school was constructed with an addition in mind, but that would require more ministry funding, which the board is hopeful will be secured in the next five years.

At that point, how many of these porta-cabins will be cluttering the school property?

The 2009 council meeting generated several memorable quotes that dealt with the logic of parking portables at a newly-built school.

“It doesn’t send the right message when we’re closing schools in the heart of the city,” observed Ald. Heather Jackson-Chapman.

“We should not be using our children as guinea pigs in order to get ministry funding,” added Ald. Bill Aarts.

Nicely put.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“I wasn’t looking for personal accolades. I was there, did my job and had a great time. It was an amazing experience.”

Steve Peters reflects on his time as Ontario Speaker.

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

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