Should we go or stay, the answer after this time out


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We haven’t harangued the brass at Elgin St. Thomas Public Health in some time, but that
doesn’t mean they have eluded the City Scope radar.

There is a sense the contentious issue of a new home for the organization is about to surface in the not-too-distant future.

When we last left the health unit in the twilight of the previous board of directors, there was a deep rift between the city council reps — staunchly in favour of locating to new digs — and the county contingent — firmly looking to preserve the status quo with the organization remaining in the county-owned building at 99 Edward St.

This week, the health unit and the county agreed to a one-year extension of the existing lease that will see the organization stay put until the end of 2013.

We talked to new board chairman, Central Elgin Mayor (and likely to soon be acclaimed Elgin County Warden) Bill Walters, to bring us all up to speed on what direction the health unit is likely to take under his direction and with four new board members.

“This board has simply taken a step back and we want to make sure we’re satisfied with doing our own due diligence . . . and reviewing all our options,” Walters explained.

“The health unit’s main obligation is to provide services in a timely and efficient manner in an appropriate location,” Walters continued.

“We had concerns that if we didn’t have enough time, how could we find another place or operate and still provide the best service.

“For me as chairman of the board, I think it’s very good planning to have the breathing room and let the health unit complete its process of review. And, when we get comfortable and get to the right stage, then we’ll make a decision as to what option is best for us as a health unit.”

Walters stressed he appreciated the work of the previous board however, reading between the lines, we can only surmise his aim in calling a time out is to watch those divisive days of the past disappear in the rear-view mirror and employ a lull in the action to reach a consensus that addresses the interests of the city and county.

Not an easy task for someone more at ease in the back 40 than the board room.

FIRST TASTE OF ACTION

Our newly-minted MPP wasted little time finding his voice at Queen’s Park.

On Thursday, Jeff Yurek dumped cold water on the Dalton McGuinty government’s rosy claim the auto industry has bounced back quite nicely,
thank you.

“Three factories in my riding alone have closed in the last two years,” Yurek reminded his colleagues across the floor.

“Ford, Sterling and Lear, which alone contributed 6,000 jobs at their peak to the local economy, have left.”

He continued, “the government is failing rural Ontario, and the government is failing the residents of Elgin-Middlesex-London.”

After stealing the riding from the Libs in October, Yurek is determined to keep EML front and centre in the Ontario legislature.

“I believe in the economic potential of this riding, I know we can be productive and contribute significantly to Ontario’s economy, but we need the type of leadership that encourages — not discourages — private investment and job creation.”

OUTSTANDING SERVICE

A tip of the City Scope style book to a pair of long-serving municipal officials who were recognized Friday in London with a provincial Long Service Award from the Ministry of
Municipal Affairs and Housing.

Former Malahide Mayor and Elgin County Warden John R. Wilson was honoured for his 25 years of service in a career that began in South Dorchester township in 1985.

He is also a vocal supporter of rural schools and championed the cause of Springfield Public School when the London-centred school board threatened it and others with closure.

He was a key player in the Community Schools Alliance and served on the executive committee.
At that time he called this corner to stress, “we’re not looking for special treatment, we’re looking for fair treatment for rural schools.”

As we observed after the phone call, over the course of his lengthy political career, John always had a knack for getting to the nitty gritty of the task at hand.

Also participating in Friday’s ceremony was Ald. Gord Campbell, who was first elected to city council in 1981 and, with the exception of a three-year gap from 2003 to 2006,
has served continuously.

Or, as he likes to put it, “If I reach Nov. 30, which would be the end of this council year, I’ll have served a third of my life on council.”

This corner will never forget an early encounter with Ald. Campbell when he suggested if I don’t remove a tape recorder from in front of him, I would soon acquire a taste for magnetic
tape and plastic.

Congratulations are in order for two outstanding politicians who have served their constituents in exemplary fashion.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“(Premier Dalton) McGuinty, in his throne speech today, has refused to make the difficult decisions necessary to put Ontario’s economy first.”

Elgin-Middlesex-London Tory MPP Jeff Yurek reacts to Tuesday’s throne speech, which the deputy finance critic warned is evidence McGuinty is continuing down the
same path that has resulted in a ballooning debt.

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

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