As of 2 p.m. yesterday (July 27) the window of opportunity to file nomination papers for the Oct. 22 municipal vote closed. The lineups are set, let the serious campaigning begin.
There were no new additions in the mayoral race at the deadline, so incumbent Heather Jackson will be challenged by Coun. Steve Wookey, former MP Joe Preston and musician/small business advisor Malichi Male.
In the hours and days leading up to yesterday’s deadline, the ranks of councillors seeking re-election and those vying for one of eight seats up for grabs swelled to 19.
Late entries include former alderman Lori Baldwin-Sands; Lesley Buchanan, St. Thomas Cemetery Company manager; Greg Graham; Rose Gibson in her fifth attempt to gain a seat; John Laverty, long associated with St. Thomas Energy/Ascent Group; Michael Manary, who unsuccessfully campaigned in 2006 and 2014; James Murray; and Kevin Smith.In a Postmedia interview this week, Baldwin-Sands – who sat on council from 2006 through 2014 – says she wants to return to the council chamber to focus on job growth and quality of life issues.
Well, if they are such a concern why didn’t she seek re-election in 2014?
She was thoroughly trounced as the Liberal candidate in the 2011 provincial vote and humbled in the 2015 federal election, again carrying the Liberal banner.
She said her passion is to bring good quality of life to St. Thomas. Hard to imagine how she will accomplish that based on her two previous terms where she sat for weeks on end in the council chamber without uttering a word.
Silence may be golden, but not in this case.
Buchanan has done a marvellous job of defending St. Thomas Cemetery Company after council waffled in 2015 on continuing to authorize $59,000 in annual funding. Several members of this present council were of the firm belief the city could operate historic West Ave. cemetery for less than the current budget.
At the time, this corner found it curious Mayor Jackson was literally forcing the cemetery board of directors to sit up and beg for a hand out while she had no qualms at securing a $7.9 million line of credit for St. Thomas Energy/Ascent Group.
Gibson is a veteran campaigner for a seat on council. Her first outing was in 2000 and she returned to the fray in 2003, 2010 and 2014. Of note, each time she secured more votes than in her previous attempt.
In 2000, Gibson won the favour of 1,777 voters, while on her last run for office in 2014 she had the support of 2,625 voters.
Laverty became acting CEO at Ascent in 2015, and was tasked with cleaning up the mess left by departed CEO Brian Hollywood, which included a significant operating loss the previous year.
He stressed the need for the financially strapped St. Thomas utility to return to its core competencies.
Laverty was a former public utilities commissioner who described himself at the time as “kicking around the utility industry on the governance side since 1991.”
Manary first ran for office in 2006 and managed to get a mere 584 votes. Eight years later, he garnered 1,183 votes.
Over the coming weeks, we’ll profile those seeking to win the support of voters in the fall municipal election.
Last week this corner noted the four-way St. Thomas mayoral race is the first such occurrence since 1974. Well an email from a former mayor informs, in fact, the last such lineup was relatively recent.
In 2000, Peter Ostojic garnered 5,143 votes to edge out Joanne Brooks by a margin of just 86. Also on the ballot that year were Steve Jenkens and William Janzen.
Thank-you Peter for setting the record straight.
BEHIND THE CMHA TURNAROUND IN ST. THOMAS
Earlier this month we touched bases with Rain Loftus, OPSEU regional representative, for an update on the labour situation at the Elgin branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association in St. Thomas.
Loftus was quite frank in his assessment the arrival of Sandy Whittall, appointed as a supervisor by the Southwest Local Health Integration Network (LHIN), has resulted in a marked improvement in working conditions.
We speculated that may also be due, in part, to the departure of executive director Heather Debruyn. In a parallel to the exit of Patricia Laemers-Riddell at the Early Learning Centres, perhaps legal action might be pending in this instance as well.
In any event, Loftus observed with Debruyn out of the picture, “I think that’s where our membership exhaled a little bit. I think it certainly moved the needle in the right direction. We’ve always maintained we’re there for dialogue and certainly we’ll work together and that’s what we’ve been doing and will continue to do.”
We caught up with Whittall this week and she advised her time in St. Thomas is drawing to a close.
“Right now I am on a five-month contract,” she informed. “When I took on the role, that is what we decided on. Part of that is we didn’t know what to expect. I continue to have ongoing conversations with the Local Health Integration Network.”
Whittall will wrap up her supervisory assignment at the end of September, and will that include input on a new executive director?
“At this point in time, I don’t have an answer to that question,” advised Whittall. “Part of my role was to stabilize and, ultimately, the LHIN will make that decision. I’m here to guide the organization at this point and stabilize it. They (the LHIN) are still the major decision makers.”
The unique approach of appointing a supervisor for the Elgin branch was initiated this past spring, prompted by a report from healthcare consultant Ron McRae which pointed to numerous issues of poor governance and a lack of oversight.
McRae’s report included a staff assessment of Debruyn’s ability to head CMHA Elgin in an effective manner. On a scale of one to five, her average score was 1.8.
A “cause for concern,” concluded McRae.
Another thorny issue for McRae is the composition of the board of directors. He noted two of the four directors were friends of Debruyn, possibly leading to “a conflict of interest.”
He recommended increasing the board structure to six or seven individuals.
Whittall has taken temporary measures to address McRae’s concern.
“The way the legislation is written, that actually is my decision as the supervisor. What I have done at this point is ask them to remain in an advisory capacity. So they don’t have the powers of a board at this point. They have accepted that for now. I have sort of focussed more internally at this point.”
Part of Whittall’s obligation as supervisor is to submit a final report to the LHIN when her tenure is up at the end of September.
She stressed, “It will be up to the LHIN to act at that point.”
An exciting development this month for Serge Lavoie and the dedicated volunteers associated with the St. Thomas Elevated Park.
Doug Tarry Homes has announced a $100,000 contribution to the 2018 capital campaign and taken a further step with a pledge to “convince area businesses and individuals to help make it a reality.”
Greg Tarry, president of Doug Tarry Homes, said the motivation for the financial boost is the desire to see “the entire bridge park to be completed as soon as possible, all 300 metres of it, with proper railing systems and wooden decking.”
Tarry added, “With this contribution, we’re challenging the business community to step up and help finish the project.”
He noted the call to action – to be known as the Doug Tarry Homes End-To-End Challenge – has a goal of raising $500,000, which is enough to construct and install the remaining railings and decks required to span the entire bridge, end to end.
If that target is reached, the final installation will take place next spring.
Erica Arnett and Matt Janes are the campaign co-chairs.
“They are acknowledging that our community has really embraced this unique project,” advised Arnett in a media release, “and that it has become an important part of our city’s trail system and tourist attractions.”
Arnett, who is also a board member of On Track St. Thomas, pointed out “Since buying the bridge in 2013, On Track St. Thomas has raised over $250,000 in cash, $30,000 in donated public art and well over $30,000 in contributed goods and services.
“In addition, hundreds of hours of volunteer hours have gone into the landscaping work done by members of the St. Thomas District Horticultural Society. Our community has supported this project in an incredible way.”
SUSPENDED NO LONGER
Earlier this month, when dealing with the departure of Riddell-Laemers from the Early Learning Centres in St. Thomas, she responded to our question as to why she had been suspended by the College of Early Childhood Educators for failure to provide information.
“I didn’t submit a change form to inform them I was no longer working for ELC,” she explained in an email. “It is a 30 day requirement and I was off by a few days.”
Well, as of July 13 she is no longer suspended.
Meantime, she is undertaking legal action against her former employer and we will have much more on that in the not-too-distant future.
HAVE YOUR SAY
Astute insight online from Steve Thomas with an observation regarding this fall’s municipal election.
“Seems to be an awful lot of municipal candidates so far who are publicly avowed political partisans. All good people I’m sure, but it would be a shame to be stuck for four years with a supposedly non-partisan city council made up with a majority of its members actually partisan members, and public supporters, of one particular political party. It was better when municipal elections were for shorter terms.”
Plenty to mull over there.
FOR THE CALENDAR
The 9th annual Bridges to Better Business in St. Thomas and Elgin event is scheduled for Oct. 11, featuring the return of the local food showcase and business awards.
It will run from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Elgin County Railway Museum with David Usher as keynote speaker.
Usher brings with him an impressive list of credentials, including multi-platinum, four-time Juno award-winning musician as a solo artist and the lead singer for Moist; best-selling author; and the founder of the artificial intelligence creative studio Reimagine AI.
His interactive presentations incorporate live music, video, improvisation, technology, and humour “to show audiences the steps they can take to jumpstart their creative process in their work and their lives,” according to Tara McCaulley, manager of the Elgin-St. Thomas Small Business Enterprise Centre.
For more info and tickets, visit sbecinnovation.ca, or call 519-631-1680, ext. 4503.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“What does it mean not to have local news in your town? Would it change where you live, how you raise your kids, where they go to school? It would if a local coach were abusing kids, and would have kept doing so if a newspaper hadn’t reported it . . . It would if there were a spike in health viruses, because there wasn’t the news infrastructure to warn people to be safe.”
Kyle Pope, Columbia Journalism Review
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