Earlier this week we wrote briefly on Joe Preston’s entry into the St. Thomas mayor’s race, joining Steve Wookey and Malachi Male, who already had declared their intention.
So, how does Preston’s announcement impact the mayoralty campaign and, if elected, what does he bring to the council chamber?
“The mix on council right now, I know I can work with them,” offers Preston. “I know most of them and I have met with almost all of them while I made my decision. I’ve learned I can work with pretty diverse groups.
“I come to this with a little bit different credentials than others. I put my risks where my mouth is and have gone out and created jobs in this community. I’ve been a community activist involved in a lot of other projects in the community.
“But others come with their own credentials and life skills that can make a good team work.”
Preston asserts his business background is a valuable asset to any municipal council.
“I’ve looked at municipal politics and said, ‘I know it’s a hard business and all your time is spent running your companies, but more of you should run.’ People who sign the front of paychecks should run for this job.”
Although municipal politicians are limited in what they can undertake to attract jobs, small business owners can certainly provide the impetus.
“There’s not that great big auto plant coming anywhere, anymore. We have to move forward in the small business growth area of five to 100 jobs. And that’s fine, we can do it. If we do 10 of those we’ve got just as many jobs as some big employer.
“That’s why after leaving federal politics I’ve spent a great deal of time mentoring small business people and summer companies and start-ups. That’s where the growth of our area is.”
“Individual risk-takers are going to be the heart of our community and we need to make it easy for them to help grow their businesses.”
And a vibrant community has to have an active volunteer base, notes Preston.
“You live in St. Thomas. Let’s all work together. It doesn’t have to be city driven. It can be community driven. I think if we look at it that way, we’ve proven in the past . . . we can do that. We can make this a better place without having to hold our hands up and say ‘Can we please have a grant’ or ‘Can the city be involved.’ It takes all of those to make St. Thomas a better place.”
Preston stresses it’s not just about the obvious things in the city.
“It’s about Inn Out of the Cold and Grace Cafe and the other great start-up things we’ve been doing in this community to help people who are less fortunate. We’ve got to do this. That’s the fabric of a community that’s successful.”
Preston is the first to point out council has to work as a team for the betterment of the city.
“We’re using a slogan, ‘More, together.’ We can do more job growth with mentoring. If we do it together. We can do more together in housing. We’ve got a housing shortage and we’ve got builders who want to build. How can we match that up? By doing more together to make that happen.
“Just plain growth. Whether it’s in jobs, community groups, volunteerism and pride in our community. Those are the four pillars that we’re at right now.
“There are eight councillors and one mayor and if those nine can get 100 more on the same topic, we’re in great shape. And I think we can. We’ve got some good people in this race. And we’ve still got two weeks for people to put their names in.
“Municipal politics is where rubber hits the road.”
And Preston stresses there is no reason why those municipal politicians can’t look beyond their boundaries to benefit a larger watershed.
“I’ve made lots of friends in the neighbouring communities like Southwold, Central Elgin, the County of Elgin and London. And, with all of these people working together, we can make the region better. And so I think I can bring to the table something the others won’t.”
NO STRONG BREEZE IN DUTTON DUNWICH
The wind is about to be taken out of the sails of Ontario’s Green Energy Act.
Earlier this week Todd Smith, Minister of Government and Consumer Services under the new Doug Ford Conservative government, announced he was cancelling the White Pines Wind Project in Prince Edward County. The undertaking had received notice to proceed during the run-up to the June 7 provincial vote and construction was underway.
Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek, now Minister of Natural Resources, campaigned on cancelling the 57.5 megawatt Strong Breeze wind turbine project in Dutton Dunwich and he says he has had that conversation with the Premier’s office and the future of the project is now under review. Construction of the 20-turbine wind farm, approved by the Kathleen Wynne government, but strongly opposed by residents and municipal council, was not slated to begin for at least another year.
Late Friday afternoon, Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines, Greg Rickford, announced the province will cancel 758 renewable energy contracts, including the proposed project in Dutton Dunwich.
Friday evening (July 12) Yurek released the following statement. “I am pleased to announce that the government has decided to cancel the Dutton/Dunwich wind turbine project. The majority of the community and municipality have been against this project from Day 1. We made a promise we would cancel these unnecessary energy projects and we have kept that promise as part of our plan to cut hydro rates by 12 per cent for families, farmers and small businesses.”
Rickford also confirmed the government intends to introduce a legislative amendment that, if passed, will protect hydro consumers from any costs incurred from the cancellation. “For 15 years, Ontario families and businesses have been forced to pay inflated hydro prices, so the government could spend on unnecessary and expensive energy schemes,” said Rickford. “Those days are over.”
COMMUNICATION ON HOLD AT CMHA
We reached out to appointed supervisor Sandy Whittall at the Elgin branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association for insight as to whether a new executive director is to be named as the result of the departure of Heather Debruyn.
We have been advised Whittall is away from the office until July 23 and we can seek clarification at that time.
Perhaps she can also clarify allegations Debruyn departed the office with an unknown number of cardboard boxes in her possession. No doubt they were personal items however was some sort of inventory undertaken?
Most unfortunate that the branch’s director of human resources, data, and communications, Jesse Lake, has failed to communicate by returning phone calls.
We can ask Whittall about that oversight as well.
THE READERS WRITE
The mid-week post on Joe Preston’s intention to run for mayor in St. Thomas generated plenty of feedback including this from Ed van der Maarel.
“Things just got very interesting!”
Susan Gerry checks in with, “It should be very interesting to see Kohler, Peters and Preston in council. Be back in a moment…. going to make popcorn for us!”
And, Bud Lorch adds a touch of humour with, “This will drive a lot of people ‘wookey’.”
Not sure about Jacqueline Allum’s feelings on this. She simply posts, “Oh NO!”
FOR THE CALENDAR
The annual MP/MPP luncheon is next Wednesday (July 18) at St. Anne’s Centre, featuring MP Karen Vecchio and newly re-elected MPP Jeff Yurek. They will discuss accomplishments of late, what’s on the agenda right now and their vision for Elgin-Middlesex-London riding. Tickets are available by advance sale only through the St. Thomas & District Chamber of Commerce.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“If Premier Ford wants to truly serve the people of Ontario, I invite him to remember that includes all of us; unionized workers, minimum-wage workers, immigrants, Indigenous people and women.”
Naureen Rizvi, Unifor Ontario Regional Director, in response this week to the newly elected Ontario government’s speech from the throne.
Questions and comments may be emailed to: City Scope
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