Backing the guarantee with a financial pledge, St. Thomas/Elgin to get its long-awaited end-of-life hospice

city_scope_logo-cmyk“I can guarantee there will be a hospice in Elgin county . . . during my term.”
Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek issued that assurance last December and less than a year later, Deputy Premier Christine Elliott backed that guarantee with a $1.6 million pledge to open an eight-bed residential hospice to serve St. Thomas and Elgin.
Friday morning (Sept. 20) Elliott, who is also the province’s health minister, made the announcement at Memory Garden in Pinafore Park and added once the facility opens, the province will provide $840,000 annually toward the operating costs.
The annual funding is projected to cover approximately 50 per cent of the hospice operating costs.

The appearance of Elliott was a dream come true for Peggy Gillespie and Linda Corriveau who, 17 years ago formed a steering committee for Serenity House, a facility that would provide a home-like setting for those individuals living with or dying from a terminal illness.


Ontario’s Deputy Premier Christine Elliott with Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek.

The pair began their push in 2002 with a fundraising concert for Serenity House Hospice featuring Canada’s singing priest, Rev. Mark Curtis.
In a presentation to city council in February of 2017, Lisa Penner palliative care lead and clinical co-lead with the South West Local Health Integration Network advised the aim is to reduce the reliance on emergency department beds in a hospital.
“Not only is that a costly endeavour for our overall system, it’s also not the best place to be. Ninety per cent of individuals surveyed across the province who were on their palliative care journey did not want to be in hospital, they wanted to be at home.”
It was Yurek who set the stage five days before Christmas last year with an early gift for the hospice supporters in the form of a letter from Elliott supporting a hospice and encouraging the planning committee to submit a capital program application.

“By providing people and their families with end-of-life support in a comfortable setting, we will ensure that patients receive the proper assistance, dignity and respect that they expect and deserve.”

In front of a large gathering of community leaders yesterday – appropriately in a place of remembrance – Yurek noted: “For many years it has been really evident in our region that there has been a significant gap in parts of our health care system, especially with regard to supports for palliative care.”
He again pointed out Elgin county is the only county in southwestern Ontario without a hospice.
However, looking ahead, Yurek said: “We can imagine the impact that access to psychological, spiritual and bereavement support service will have for patients nearing the end of their lives and for their families.”
In noting “when our loved ones are at their life’s end they deserve to have a quiet, comfortable place to receive palliative care that they need,” Elliott confirmed St. Joseph’s Health Care Society, a member of the Elgin Residential Hospice Planning Committee, will receive the $1.6 million in funding to open the Elgin residential hospice.
“By providing people and their families with end-of-life support in a comfortable setting, we will ensure that patients receive the proper assistance, dignity and respect that they expect and deserve.
“It should not be up to Ontarians and their families to figure it all out on their own.”
No location for the hospice has yet been determined, indicated Richard Corneil representing the St. Joseph’s Health Care Society, however, a building committee is to be established with the expectation of requiring 16 to 24 months to design and build the hospice.
During that time, a capital fundraising campaign will be launched. Details of the undertaking will be available at
“There are a lot of donors in the community ready to step forward to put their dollars toward building the hospice,” stressed Yurek.
“You will see the capital campaign unfold in the coming months with the highlights of how much money would have to be raised locally and when the ground will be broken. And that’s going to be as soon as possible.”
Yurek wrapped up the proceedings with the observation, “I truly believe that Elgin county and St. Thomas is a giving community that really wants this hospice and will be fully supportive of making sure we reach these goals quickly.”

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Administrators – and no doubt members of council – must be feeling burned with the manner in which arbitrator Barry Stephens resolved issues related to the collective agreement between the city and the St. Thomas Professional Fire Fighters Association.
Association members have been without a contract since the end of 2016 and arbitration consumed the better part of a year. According to association president Warren Scott, it is the first time in his memory the bargaining has had to go that route.
And, you have to question why arbitration was necessary in the first place.
fire-demolation-jpgOn three key issues, there is no way the city was going to get a favourable decision.
Specifically integrating the dispatch centre into the police system – a vital bargaining issue for the city as we understand – is a non-starter as it violates the no-contracting out provisions in the current collective agreement.
As to 24-hour shifts, this has been on the table in the past and with the majority of full-time fire services in the province operating on this system, the city might as well concede.
The new shifting for suppression firefighters will go into effect Jan. 1 of 2020 on a trial basis for three years.
As for wages, traditionally the police and fire services enjoy wage parity and the firefighters got a two per cent raise in each of the three years of the new deal.
As of July 1 of this year, a first-class firefighter earns $99,180.
Scott estimates the protracted negotiations, culminating in arbitration, resulted in legal fees for the association in the range of $175,000.
You have to surmise the legal tab at city hall will be a similar amount.
And, apparently, that does not take into account legal fees linked to the numerous grievances filed of late by the association.
So, what else do association members get in their new contract?
Family Day has been added as a paid holiday and probationary firefighters will be entitled to benefit coverage as soon as they are hired.
In the event an employee dies or is killed in the line of duty, the city will maintain benefits for qualified family members.
The term of the contract covers Jan. 1 of 2017 to Dec. 31 of this year.
That’s right, both sides will return to bargaining within the next few months.
In a recent conversation with city manager Wendell Graves regarding a letter of non-confidence in fire chief Bob Davidson sent from the association to Mayor Joe Preston and members of council, he responded “I think both the association and the city, we are both waiting for the results of the arbitration process. And that really is the anchor of all of this.
“I think everybody is disappointed we have not seen that yet. I think the sooner we see that, the better for everybody.”
Can’t see where Graves and members of council are feeling too chipper about Barry Stephens’ arbitration award.

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Global Climate Strike rallies attracted millions of participants in demonstrations held around the world yesterday (Sept. 20) with young people the predominant driving force.
Here in St. Thomas, a gathering of fewer than 50 participants gathered to “to show our elected leaders, here in St. Thomas, across the province and across Canada that there is an urgent need for them to take immediate action to fight climate change,” according to rally organizer Julie Berry.

Global climate strike 1jpg

Julie Berry addresses several dozen participants in front of St. Thomas city hall during the Global Climate Strike rally.

Truth be known, there was nary a city politician in sight, including Coun. Lori Baldwin-Sands who tried unsuccessfully to have city council declare a climate emergency in St. Thomas.
In fact, the only elected representative on hand was Elgin-Middlesex-London MP Karen Vecchio, joined by federal Liberal EML candidate Pam Armstrong.
In her address to attendees, Berry stressed “We are in a pretty big mess. But, I have hope because I am not alone in wanting to change direction. I have you.”
She continued, “We are not here only because of our fear or our feeling of despair. We are here because we have hope. With hope, we are unstoppable.”
Berry documented four things that must be undertaken “If we are going to change the direction in which we are headed.”
The first step is to accept the fact this is an emergency.
“It is not the time for business as usual. There is no Planet B.”
Next, encouraged Berry, “Educate yourselves.”
And then talk to your friends and family, neighbours and coworkers.
“You’re going to say it politely because you care about them. We’re not going to get anywhere if we don’t care about each other.”
And finally, stressed Berry, Step 4 is to act.
“Do something, stand up and be seen for what you believe in. We have to engage our political leaders. We have to bring fresh air into this democratic system that we are so privileged to have.”
“Real fundamental, systemic change will not happen unless we hit the streets and make ourselves heard.”


Organizer Julie Berry with Elgin-Middlesex-London MP Karen Vecchio.

Berry then asked those present to approach the microphone and announce the names and ages of young people close to them impacted by the climate emergency.
Vecchio accepted Berry’s challenge to take the mic and address the gathering.
“I recognize there needs to be a plan to make sure we have a healthy Earth. There may be different ways of getting there, but I’ll be honest, I don’t believe there are political parties that are against the idea of climate change.
“We need to continue to have an open discussion. We need to have open and listening ears. And action. I hear the action.”
Vecchio continued, “I really appreciate all the work that is being done by our local stewardship council. It’s great to see where we take old gravel pits and have wildlife come back to those areas that have not been there for decades.”
Berry announced another rally will be held next Friday (Sept. 27) beginning at noon in front of city hall.


A small group of Lake Margaret residents is continuing with their struggle to have restrictive covenants enforced in that community.
They are opposed to commercial ventures operating out of homes in the Lake Margaret area, specifically a childcare centre based out of a Hickory Lane residence.
Along with all home purchasers in that subdivision, they signed an agreement with Doug Tarry Limited which stated “the purchaser shall not use any building erected on a lot for any other purpose than as a private residence and no such building shall be used for the purpose of a profession, trade, employment or business of any description.”
Having sought legal advice, the group has been advised that clause may, in fact, be overly restrictive.
Undaunted, they have filed a brief with the province’s Local Planning Appeal Tribunal which has acknowledged receipt and will advise of any possible next step.

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WHAT IF . . .

. . . a female parks and recreation department employee takes the next step and decides to further pursue action against the male member of council she alleges removed a cell phone from her pocket, brushed his body against her back and touched her forearm and elbow “multiple times?” What then? It will require more than sensitivity training for all members of council.


Dutton artist Jenny Phillips and her husband Dave pass along an invite to their upcoming open house at the Village Crier Galley, 194 Currie Road in Dutton. The occasion is the 30th anniversary of both the gallery and David’s role as Dutton town crier. He was, for many years, the town crier for the County of Elgin. While Jenny will be in the gallery drawing old barns and tractors in pen and ink, Dave will be outside demonstrating the finer points of town crying. The open house hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 27; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 28; and noon to 4 p.m. on Sept. 29. Jenny notes after visiting the gallery you can pay a visit to the nearby Wallacetown Fair. More information at 519-762-2862 or by email at

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