Candidates, be prepared to talk homelessness


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Homeless advocate Jason McComb has been in St. Thomas for much of the week as he wends his way westward across Canada.

On his Walking In The Free World trek for homelessness, he has met with Prince Charles and Canadian Olympian Clara Hughes and hung out with the Trailer Park Boys.

Perhaps his most productive meeting to date was Monday when he sat down with MP Joe Preston, MPP Jeff Yurek and St. Thomas Mayor Heather Jackson.

It allowed Preston to assert, “It’s time to get outside the same box we’ve been in,” when dealing with the homeless in St. Thomas and Elgin.

Preston continued, “It’s not easy to fix but it is easy to take steps.”

And that next step, advised Yurek — with the reminder it is a municipal election year — is to throw the issue at the mayoral and aldermanic candidates.

Jason McComb

Jason McComb

So if you have filed your nomination papers — or intend to — you would be wise to give thought to how you will address social issues like homeless shelters and society’s forgotten souls.

Jason McComb likely will approach you with some rather uncomfortable questions.

It’s a passion of his.

CRUNCH TIME

The numbers game is up. This Wednesday, 11 a.m. at city hall, the cost of constructing a new police station and the tab to renovate the existing HQ in the Colin McGregor Justice Building will be presented to the public.

It is not going to be welcoming news for anyone who signed the Bob McCaig petition.

Expect the two figures to be very close . . . in fact the cost of new could come in less than renovations due to the amount of work necessary to meet all building and accessibility codes.
21 jt 03 policejpg

Then, be prepared for plenty of grumbling and caterwauling from the renovation camp.

Expect to hear SPH Engineering — the firm hired to estimate the cost of renovations — is not competent and we can’t accept their findings.

As one wag pointed out at last week’s meeting, we’re running out of consultants because the renovation camp on council will not be satisfied until someone — anyone — comes up with a figure that suits their cause.

And, watch for three members of council to now demand the cost of demolishing the existing police HQ be included in the final pricing.

Odd, we don’t remember one member of council in particular calling for the cost of demolishing the old Northside Arena be rolled into the final cost of the Timken Centre.

But that’s a whole different story for another day.

It’s been the case all along, no shortage of running fast and loose with figures during the entire police station debate.

TELLIN’ IT LIKE IT IS

The side of MP Preston that many constituents know little about is laid bare on page 3 of today’s T-J.

It’s a candid interview with Preston, who announced in June he would not seek re-election next year.
Preston

A shrewd move on his part with PM Stephen Harper tumbling in the popularity polls and facing mounting criticism on everything from climate change and the tar sands to research cuts and lack of transparency.

However, put that aside and get a glimpse into the Ottawa Preston that few in Elgin-Middlesex-London are familiar with.

Although he has never held a cabinet post, Preston’s position as chairman of the standing committee on procedure and House affairs and chairman of its subcommittee on agenda and procedure make him an influential figure nevertheless.

In his chat with journalist Larry Cornies, Hamburger Joe as he likes to call himself, opens up about life on Parliament Hill.

“Being an MP is the most boring job in the world and it’s the most exhilarating job in the world — and the price of doing one is doing the other,” he says.

And his take on retirement? Joe quotes one of Elgin’s favourite sons, the late John Wise.

“He once told me to have some thought about when it’s time to leave,” Preston recalls. “He told me, ‘Don’t let the people send you home.’”

Worth remembering.

PUBLIC MEETING

This Wednesday will see a public information meeting at Memorial Arena to unveil the city’s Invasive Phragmites Management Plan in an effort to increase awareness of the aggressive weed that is spreading like wildfire as it strives to become the dominant plant in the area, resulting in a significant reduction in the diversity of native plants and wildlife.

Phase 1 of the plan to make the city a Phragmites-free zone will concentrate on the problem area around Lake Margaret and Pinafore Lake.

The information session begins at 7 p.m. in the auditorium at Memorial Arena.

GROWING INTEREST

Veteran campaigner John Allen has added his name to the growing list of aldermanic candidates for the October municipal votes.
JOHN ALLEN

For the St. Thomas director, playwright and personal support worker this will be his sixth kick at the can. In 2010, Allen ran on a platform geared to boosting economic growth and promoting St. Thomas as a cultural centre.

And, once the long weekend is out of the way, expect one of the big guns now on council to announce their intention for the fall trip to the polls. This decision will shake up what has been a decidedly ho-hum race to this point.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“I had a couple of hockey coaches who had the same view (of my abilities) as the prime minister. I saw myself as a fantastic goal scorer; they decided I was a pretty good defenceman.”

MP Joe Preston pokes fun at himself in a candid interview earlier this week with journalist and educator Larry Cornies.

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

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