Change of environment accompanied by a climate of controversy for MPP Jeff Yurek

city_scope_logo-cmykCan’t imagine Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP would immediately suggest enjoyable to describe his first week as the province’s head of the environment, conservation and parks ministry.
Just days after the cabinet shuffle that moved Yurek out of the transportation portfolio, he found himself in Halifax this past Thursday (June 27) at a meeting of the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment.
The gathering allowed ministers the opportunity to brainstorm on such issues as plastic waste, climate change, air quality, and wastewater.
In a release issued following the discussions, Yurek noted “we are deeply disappointed that (federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine) Minister McKenna continues to focus on her tax plan, disguised as a climate change measure, and refuses to respect the legitimate ways provinces and territories, including Ontario, are tackling climate change in their own unique jurisdictions.”

Yurek went on to note, “We don’t believe there is a one-size-fits-all approach to fighting climate change across the country. This is why we released a Made-in Ontario Environment Plan to protect and preserve our air, land, and water and fight climate change without imposing a costly carbon tax on the hardworking people of our province, which the federal government has done to all Canadians.”
yurek questionjpgHe then referenced the fact Ontario was challenging the constitutionality of the federal carbon tax.
One day later (June 28) Yurek’s initiation at his new ministry took a turn for the worse when the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled, in fact, the carbon pricing scheme, known as the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act, is constitutionally sound.
Last month, Saskatchewan’s Appeal Court upheld the carbon pricing law as constitutional.
The Ontario ruling prompted Yurek to advise, “Ontario will be appealing this decision to the Supreme Court of Canada. Ontario doesn’t need a carbon tax to address climate change.
“Our Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan considers our province’s specific priorities, challenges and opportunities, and commits to meeting Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions target of 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, without imposing a carbon tax on the people of our province.”
In a statement released following the ruling, Yurek stressed: “As committed to in our Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan, our government is working to finalize a new emissions performance standards regulation that will ensure large industrial polluters are accountable for their greenhouse gas emissions.”
Yurek concluded, “Unlike the federal government’s carbon tax, the emissions performance standards is not a tax on the fuels Ontarians use for heating their homes and fueling their cars, or that small businesses use to run their operations.
“As a result, it will not increase the price of everyday essentials, like home heating and groceries.”
As Yurek has discovered in a matter of days, dealing with climate change in his new role is a far cry from enticing GTA residents with promises of new subways and additional Metrolinx services.



One week ago today (June 22) an inmate at the Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre (EMDC) was found unresponsive in his cell and died in hospital.
It’s the 15th death at the London facility in the past 10 years.
In a statement issued Monday (June 24), Yurek advised: “I will continue to work with the solicitor general to ensure the safety of correctional officers, staff and inmates.”

Mental health funding announcement

Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek with Solicitor-General Sylvia Jones (second from left).

At the end of last month, Solicitor-General Sylvia Jones was in St. Thomas for a funding announcement and, when asked about the situation at EMDC, she responded “We have to make sure the facilities we currently have are as safe as they possibly can be . . . To be blunt, to suggest that we tear down an institution when there are 200 inmates in it seems a little short-sighted.”
She continued, “I am looking at the system Ontario-wide, I am not going to look at one institution and make it vastly different from the rest.”
In the coming days, we’ll talk with Yurek who was particularly vocal about deaths at EMDC when a member of the official Opposition.



Not unlike listening to elevator music while placed on hold for lengthy periods of time, this corner patiently awaits a return phone call from Mayor Joe Preston for comment on an allegation of unwanted touching by a member of city council.

Mark McDonaldjpg

Mark McDonald

Last month, the city’s integrity commissioner Mark McDonald received a signed complaint from a city employee alleging an unidentified member of council of the opposite sex “removed a cell phone from a hip pocket, brushed their body against the complainant’s back and casually touched a forearm and elbow multiple times, making the employee feel very uncomfortable.
As a result, all members of council will have to undergo sensitivity training.
Council had the option under its Code of Conduct to mete out further punishment but chose not to.
Is it not incumbent on the mayor to explain the rationale behind that decision and detail the sensitivity training process and how it will be monitored to ensure all parties participate?



The residents of Hickory Lane in St. Thomas will be following this process with interest.
The city’s committee of adjustment is holding a hearing 10 a.m. on July 11 in Room 415 at city hall to deal with an application submitted by Patricia Riddell-Laemers who is seeking a minor variance under the Planning Act to operate a daycare out of her home at 18 Hickory Lane.
Curious that the application is to be heard at this time as it is understood the daycare – which is a permitted use under the city’s zoning regulations – has been operating for some time.
A case of someone not doing their homework?
And yes, the applicant is the same individual whose employment at the St. Thomas Early Learning Centre was formally terminated with cause last April. In July, the former executive director initiated legal action against the centre.
The centre alleges Riddell-Laemers failed to obtain proper approvals from the Ministry of Education prior to demolishing a wall in one of the facilities; improperly disbursed wage enhancement funds; used centre credit cards for personal expenses; harassed and bullied staff; and engaged in intimate interactions in the office which were overheard by staff.
The allegations have not been proven in court.



The city will celebrate Canada’s 151st birthday Monday with a day chock full of family fun in Pinafore Park.
The festivities – which begin at 11 a.m. – include music; wild bird and reptile displays; police, fire and EMS displays; live painting and sculpting; a vendor’s alley; and the Kinsmen Club beer garden and barbecue.
Canada DayjpgIt all leads up to the awesome fireworks display lighting up the sky at 10 p.m.
A few reminders are in order.
The fireworks are sent skyward at Emslie Field, however, spectators are not permitted in that area to watch.
Entry into Pinafore is from the west due to road construction and there is limited designated and overflow parking in the park itself.
There will be no entry into Pinafore Park after 9 p.m. and no exiting after 9:30 p.m. until the fireworks are over.
Parking is available within walking distance at Memorial Arena, Parkside Collegiate, John Wise Public School and the St. Thomas Curling Club on Parkside Drive.
Full details available here.


Last week our feature item focussed on the city’s integrity commissioner Mark McDonald’s and his report to council after he received a signed complaint from a city employee alleging a member of council of the opposite sex “removed a cell phone from a hip pocket, brushed their body against the complainant’s back and casually touched a forearm and elbow multiple times, making the employee feel very uncomfortable.
Tim Hedden Tweeted the following observation.

“I struggle with this because as voters we need to be aware of issues pertaining to character in case said person runs again. However, I certainly don’t want the complainant to fear harassment for coming forward. So many imperfect processes around issues of harassment, sexual or otherwise. At the end of the day, I lean towards transparency in politics. But I know that way can be quite imperfect as well.”

And Tracey Howie checked in with this.

“I think the sensitivity training should be done especially in this day and age. That would set the tone for a better workplace as well on a go forward basis there would be zero tolerance. Why would they not go ahead with that?”

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