There’s life – and pressing concerns – beyond the GTA


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Two examples this week to illustrate Premier Dalton McGuinty’s complete disdain for life beyond the confines of the Greater Toronto Area.
From the don’t-bother-me-with-the-details file, McGuinty made it clear this week he’s not interested in observing first-hand the incendiary conditions at the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre.
Not only will the Premier not accept a challenge from Warren (Smokey) Thomas, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, to visit the beleaguered facility, he won’t comment any further beyond his observation two weeks ago on a visit to London.
“Obviously, there is more work to be done and I know this is a very important file on the minister’s desk.”
Where, for too long, the file has sat.

Meantime, Dalton doesn’t want to dirty his hands dealing with life in rural Ontario as witness the findings of a new Abacus Data Poll conducted for Racing Future that finds three in four Ontarians want the Slots at Racetracks Program decision reviewed.
Furthermore, only 17% support the McGuinty government’s decision to cancel the program.
The Slots at Racetracks program was an agreement between the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) and 17 horse racing tracks across the province whereby slot machines were installed at those tracks.
Under the partnership, racetracks received 20% of the revenue from the slots, while the local municipality received 5%. Each year, the provincial government received about $1.1 billion in revenue; the racetracks received $345 million, while municipalities received about $86 million.
In March of this year, the provincial government and OLG announced they were cancelling the program without any consultation with their equine industry partners,
McGuinty rationalized the decision by arguing the province could no longer subsidize the tracks through the program.
Well, the poll determines the majority of respondents don’t buy the subsidy con pushed by the provincial Libs.
Overall, respondents were more likely to consider the program a partnership rather than a subsidy (40% partnership, 25% subsidy). Another one in three respondents (36%) were unsure of which better described the program.
With regard to the volatile situation at EMDC, ‘Smokey’ Thomas says it’s time for McGuinty to “grow a spine” (see Quote of the Week).
Reader Jeff Pinney responds on Facebook: “Not likely . . . McGuinty lacks a vertebrae.”

BUILDING BRIDGES

This easterly view of the Michigan Central Railway bridge, which spans Kettle Creek, Fingal Line and Sunset Road, shows the massive concrete piers that support the structure built in 1929.


A warm reception at Monday’s council meeting for Matt Janes, representing On Track St. Thomas, and their vision to purchase and develop the Michigan Central Railway bridge over Kettle Creek at Sunset Drive into this country’s first elevated park.
Typical of council’s reaction is this from Mayor Heather Jackson: “I think, certainly, the community support is going to be there for this project. It’s very, very exciting and one of a kind here in Canada.”
That sentiment is shared on the Times-Journal Facebook page as witness these two comments.
Amber Dawn Pullin observes from Toronto: I would very much love to see my hometown become a better place with more hope (jobs) for the residents and for visitors to see there is more than despair and pawn shops. Rooting for St. T!”
Nancy Mayberry of St. Thomas adds: “I’m quite certain this council is much more forward-looking when it comes to recognizing that tourism, based on all our railway heritage, is one of the ways to replace our lost manufacturing.”

A SURE BET?
The majority of city council appears smitten with the concept of OLG locating a casino in St. Thomas.
“I’m hoping for support on this because it’s going to be an opportunity to send a very clear and loud message that the city of St. Thomas is open for business,” finance and administration chairman Lori Baldwin-Sands gushed on Monday.
That sentiment mimics the philosophically bankrupt policy of Premier McGuinty, who argues we can help pay down the province’s debt by making it oh-so-easy for Ontarians to gamble away their earnings at a casino near you.
We have to back Ald. Jeff Kohler on this one as he warns his council mates of the need to weigh the social costs associated with gambling.
“Before I would support something like that, I’d like a report to see the downfalls of having gaming within the community,” Kohler advised.
“A lot of people just look at the revenue side but I think you have to be aware of the downfalls of it, addiction, the cost of other things that come along with that. I think, just for the whole moral fabric of the community, I’d like to see some more information before we just go ahead and do that.”
Is this the long-term economic playbook for the city? Land a casino and we’ll all be singing Happy Days are Here Again, a song that ironically dates back to the Great Depression of 1929.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“Old Daddy Dalton, he ought to come look at stuff. He should grow a spine and come down here and meet the people his policies are affecting the most. They have a multitude of issues in all the jails but this one here has reached the boiling point. I marvel at how a politician can just ignore such obvious problems.”

Warren (Smokey) Thomas, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, after touring Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre for about two hours Tuesday.

City Scope appears every Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to ian.mccallum@sunmedia.ca.

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