The St. Thomas mayoral contest was a four-way race, however at the all-candidates meeting Thursday (Oct. 11) you couldn’t help but feel one of the hopefuls had all but conceded.
In front of a gathering numbering about 100 at the Knights of Columbus hall, Malichi Male used his allotted five minutes to talk not about himself but, instead, praised his three opponents.
“The rest of the candidates are amazing,” he observed.
“Heather (Jackson) has stood strong,” he added.
Turning his attention to Joe Preston, Male noted “Joe creates something out of nothing. Joe cares.”
As for Steve Wookey, Male summed it up in one word, integrity.
“He would be an excellent mayor . . . Any of the three would be excellent.”
Not one to ration out superlatives, Male concluded “We could be the greatest city on the planet with any one of them.”
Jackson is seeking her third term in the corner office at city hall with the goal of ensuring St. Thomas remains a caring, compassionate and welcoming community.
Addressing the drug problem in the city – and in particular the opioid crisis – Jackson stressed police and bylaw officers are not the ones who should be dealing with discarded needles in the downtown core.
“Let’s find solutions for people dealing with addictions,” she stressed.
Turning to economic development, Jackson pushed the need for St. Thomas to remain competitive.
“We have the jobs,” she claimed, “we have to get people to fill them.”
Up against two other capable mayoral candidates, Jackson closed by reminding those in attendance she was the one at the helm for all that has been achieved over the past eight years.
Opening with “this is the right time in my life to run as mayor,” Coun. Steve Wookey suggested the position will require 60 hours a week of his time.
With four years under his belt as a member of council and his lengthy background in education, Wookey advised “I am highly qualified for the role.”
He added, “Being an educator is much like being a politician.”
As to one of his main attributes, Wookey invited voters to query others about the mayoral hopeful and the common response will be, he is “trustworthy.”
But in the end, it is going to require more than just the mayor’s hand at the helm.
“If things go well, it’s because we worked as a team.”
Former Elgin-Middlesex-London MP Joe Preston, taking a page out of former MPP Steve Peters’ playbook, cautioned voters “We don’t live in a little bubble.”
He elaborated, “We have to get the best out of our neighbouring municipalities.”
Piggy-backing on Wookey’s reminder, Preston pointed out “No one person can lead this community . . . it’s nine people working together.”
Paying tribute to the efforts of community volunteers like the late Ken Verrell, Preston indicated he would like to assemble a mayor’s task force on volunteering with the provision, “I want to be the cheerleader who heads that.”
Just a reminder for those who have not yet taken advantage of advance voting. While there are no obvious emotionally divisive issues, as has been the case in recent municipal votes, that doesn’t lessen the need to cast your ballot on Oct. 22.
A voter turnout of less than 40 per cent is not a marker of a truly healthy community.
STIRRING THE POT
In what has been a low-key run-up to the Oct. 22 municipal vote in St. Thomas – as compared to the last bitterly fought campaign in 2014 – Tim Hedden livened things up at the Oct. 11 all-candidates gathering.
At the close of his two-minute time slot, Hedden took a run at fellow candidate Lori Baldwin-Sands and accused her of aspiring to become the Elgin-Middlesex-London Liberal candidate in next year’s federal vote. We have already documented this and you can read about it here.
Following that post, reader Pat Morfee defended Baldwin-Sands in an email sent to us which you can read here.
Baldwin-Sands was not able to respond to Hedden’s charge as she had already presented to the gathering at the Knights of Columbus hall. However she took to Facebook for this observation.
“Tonight, a question arose about my future plans.
“If so honoured to be elected to St. Thomas City Council, I will tirelessly consult the residents and work toward achieving your goals for the community.
“Like hundreds of other municipal politicians across the country in the past, will I seek a party nomination in a future provincial or federal election? There would be dozens of steps to be completed over many months, and most importantly I would need to determine how I can best represent the needs of the community. Rest assured, many politicians in this community and elsewhere have made such decisions in the past, or made decisions on job transfers or moved on for other reasons.
“When I ran provincially in 2011, I took an unpaid leave of one month, and had I been successful, I am sure that the 8th place finisher would have gladly fulfilled the role. Later, another council member did resign, and a different decision on how to replace him was made.
“I do not know what the future holds, but I will always strive to best serve my community, either in politics or volunteer activities.”
Sure doesn’t sound like she is denying the veracity of Hedden’s claim.
Hedden, by the way, closed out his comments by assuring, “I am here to serve you for four years, not until a better job comes along.”
Comments from all of the councillor candidates in attendance will be featured early next week.
DON’T BE DRIVING HIGH ON THE HIGHWAY
Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act, comes into effect this coming Wednesday (Oct. 17). The legislation controls the production, distribution, sale and possession of cannabis.
The St. Thomas Police Service reminds, until then, it remains illegal to buy, possess or use cannabis for anything other than authorized medical or research purposes.
And, city police remind motorists they will continue to strictly target drug-impaired drivers. As noted on their website, “Our role in this regard will continue to include the application and enforcement of applicable laws.”
Part 1 of Bill C-46, which came into force on June 21 of this year, introduces three new criminal offences related to drug-impaired driving or when a motorist is impaired by a combination of drugs and alcohol. The offences focus on the concentration of THC, measured in nanograms per millilitre (ng/ml):
- An offence for low-level THC concentrations of 2 ng/ml to less than 5 ng/ml will result in a $1,000 fine;
- An offence for higher-level THC concentrations of 5 ng/ml or more will lead to a $1,000 fine to 120 days imprisonment on a third or subsequent offence;
- An offence that recognizes the effects of combined marijuana and alcohol consumption: 50 mg of alcohol per 100 ml blood plus 2.5 ng/ml or more of THC results in a $1,000 fine to 120 days imprisonment on a third or subsequent offence.
Adolescents who possess a G1, G2, M1 or M2 licence – and all persons under age 22 – must also adhere to a zero drug level while driving. Failure to do so will result in a licence suspension, vehicle tow, additional MTO fees, a $110 fine and a further 30-day licence suspension on conviction for young drivers.
Motorists must understand the new offences do apply to those with a medical authorization for cannabis.
The bill will also allow police to conduct tests, using approved oral fluid screening equipment or a blood test, to determine if a driver is under the influence of drugs at the time of driving.
Part 2 of Bill C-46, which takes effect Dec. 18, will allow police to conduct roadside breath alcohol testing, without having suspicion of alcohol consumption, when a motorist is lawfully stopped by police.
The Criminal Code of Canada does not differentiate between alcohol-impaired driving offences and drug-impaired driving offences. Driving while impaired by any combination of drugs or alcohol is a criminal offence, and has been since 1925.
If suspected impaired driving is witnessed, a traffic stop will be initiated by St. Thomas Police Service officers.
A detailed break-out of the Cannabis Act and its implications can be found on the St. Thomas Police Service website.
WHO IS WILLING TO ASK THE TOUGH QUESTIONS?
Since no member of this current council has ever exhibited the moxie to raise questions on the Ascent-St. Thomas Energy/Entegrus utility merger, perhaps one of the newcomers elected Oct. 22 will take up the challenge.
Who will probe further as to why the consulting firm of Grant Thornton was chosen to advise the city on the merger and not a recognized name like KPMG? And who made that decision, Mayor Heather Jackson or city manager Wendell Graves?
With fees charged in the neighbourhood of $1 million as we understand, was a request for proposal issued to provide those consulting services?
Has the city utilized the services of Grant Thornton in the past?
Mayor Jackson and councillors Gary Clarke and Linda Stevenson sat on the five-member Ascent board of directors. One of the core values of this organization was “we accept responsibility for the truth, whether good or bad.”
So when will one or all members of this trio be forthcoming on the back story to the merger?
There still is time to probe these three board members – Clarke and Coun. Mark Tinlin now sit on one of two new Entegrus boards – before a new council is elected, in case you are still uncertain as to who to vote for.
At Monday’s (Oct. 15) reference committee meeting – which is open to the public beginning 4:30 p.m. at city hall – council and staff will discuss alternate uses for Wellington Public School.
We talked with Graves back in August on future uses for what used to be the home of the STEAM Centre and, prior to that, the St. Thomas campus of Algoma University.
At that time, he noted “It’s a wonderful space, so I think we will have a big lens on alternatives that may come forward.”
Whatever the prospects, it’s a pricey piece of city-owned real estate to be sitting vacant.
Third-party audit at St. Thomas Early Learning Centre overshadowed by disturbing allegations
THE READERS WRITE
John Waugh forwarded this observation on one downtown project now underway.
“So sad to see that huge Food Basics blocking view of the CASO station. I vote in Southwold so can’t register a protest vote. Anyway, just a newcomer here.”
A lot of talk lately about a downtown heritage district. Did the city miss an opportunity here to better direct the ultimate look and feel of this development?
FOR THE CALENDAR
The Remembrance Day Service will again be held at Veterans Memorial Garden on Moore Street, which will be closed between Talbot and Centre streets from 8 a.m. until 12:30 p.m., although there will be provision for access to the Moore Street parking lot. The west end of the lot is to be temporarily designated for accessible parking.
The tree lighting ceremony at city hall is scheduled for Nov. 16. It will require the closure of Mondamin Street, between Talbot and Curtis streets, between 5 and 8 p.m.
This year’s Optimist Club Santa Claus parade will be held Nov. 17, starting at 6 p.m. The route will take it along Talbot Street, from First Avenue to Elgin Street.
Questions and comments may be emailed to: City Scope
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