From 38 seconds to 90 days, living with unintended consequences

city_scope_logo-cmykThe city likes to refer to it as “unintended consequences,” we prefer a consequential collapse in communication.
We’re referring, of course, to last month’s surprise announcement the city is to proceed with a procurement process to designate new operators for the EarlyON system in St. Thomas-Elgin.
Community Living Elgin (CLE) has been the agency to deliver the EarlyON program since July of 2018.
One of the “unintended consequences” is the realization the city cannot possibly have the new delivery model in place for the Jan. 1, 2021 launch.
This is required to offer a seamless transition from the old model as the CLE agreement with the city expires at the end of this year.
And so the existing agreement will have to be extended into the new year in order to get the new operator(s) up to speed.

CLE board chair Darren Connolly and executive director Michelle Palmer passed along the following observations on the latest turn of events. ”
“The RFP (request for proposal) for the provision of EarlyON services was issued on October 16, 2020 (which closes on November 12, 2020). On October 19, Community Living Elgin was asked in writing by St.
Thomas-Elgin Social Services, Children’s Services to continue providing EarlyON support on a month-to-month basis.
EarlyOn logo“We are confident with 49 days between the close of the RFP in the midst of the Christmas holidays and in a community faced with operating challenges during a pandemic, it appears St.
Thomas-Elgin Social Services would not have been able to receive the RFP submissions, complete a review process, award between one and multiple EarlyON service providers the contract, and be poised and ready in our communities by January 1, 2021, to provide the necessary quality programs and services mandated by the Ministry of Education. This placed the St. Thomas Elgin EarlyON system at risk for an interruption of service for children and their families.

“This decision also allows our employees to maintain steady employment and provides continuity to children and families during a most stressful time in the world – a pandemic!”

“After consultations with our Children’s Services EarlyON team, the CLE Board of Directors, and Senior Management team, we collectively agreed to step up and enter into the month-to-month contract until the RFP process is complete and awarded. The decision was made solely to ensure the continuity of EarlyON programs and services to children and families.
“CLE has agreed to the month-to-month contract extension because this is not about the city or the agency, it is about and for families and their children. CLE’s EarlyON team of professional, qualified employees will continue to perform their duties even during this very tenuous
“This decision also allows our employees to maintain steady employment and provides continuity to children and families during a most stressful time in the world – a pandemic!

“We look forward to a clear, transparent process related to the RFP as we continue to put families and children first.  #FamiliesFirstCLE”

“Just today our local public health has announced a considerable increase in local cases. The timing of and reasons for such changes are perplexing.
“Beyond the month-to-month contract, we want our community and families to know we will enter the RFP bidding competition to continue to provide EarlyON programs and services across St. Thomas and Elgin County as we have done under the current system since 2017 and under the former OEYC system since 2002.
“CLE has been at the centre of family support in our community since the 1970s and will do our utmost to continue.
“We look forward to a clear, transparent process related to the RFP as we continue to put families and children first. #FamiliesFirstCLE”
Obviously a phone call to city manager Wendell Graves was in order to further discuss the “unintended consequences” as they relate to the contract extension.
“We don’t know what the outcome will be of the RFP process,” admitted Graves. “So I can’t predict that.
“What we’ve offered to our friends at the Early Learning Centre is we will actually put them on notice things will change 90 days after new contracts are awarded.
“That gives them time to do what they have to internally.”
So, the city isn’t exactly admitting they can’t get the new operators in place in time. Instead, their massaging of the contract extension appears to offer an option for CLE to deal with their collective agreement termination notices.
In previous correspondence from Connolly he noted, “Because of this decision, as of today, we are forced to advise our 12 EarlyOn employees of pending layoff notices. Nine of these employees are members of OPSEU Local 151, and the agreement requires us to meet the notice terms of our Collective Agreement.
“We will also be required to pay out close to $100,000 in termination pay to these employees, given we have been providing these services for many years. Even if we were to be successful in an RFP for the Central Elgin portion of EarlyON, we would not require the same number of staff members currently employed, therefore these layoffs are inevitable.”
Will writing cheques for thousands of dollars in termination pay impact the vital programming CLE now offers in other areas?
If so, this is a rather costly “unintended consequence” on the city’s part.

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In this time of deep distrust and divisiveness, the timing couldn’t be better. At Monday’s (Nov. 9) meeting, council will be asked to receive as information a report outlining a partnership between the parks department and the Lions Club of St. Thomas to install a Friendship Arch in Pinafore Park.
Friendship ArchAccording to the report, the Friendship Arch “is a monument that is used to symbolize the friendship and commitment of the Lions Club to their community.
“In 2020 The Lions Club of St. Thomas marked their 90th year of continued success and support to the residents and businesses within the
City and saw placing this arch as a way to mark the milestone event.”
The arch would be situated north of the playground and be visible from the park roadway.Friendship Arch location map
The Lions Club will be responsible for purchasing the six-foot arch and the cost of installation. The city will absorb the cost of the cement pad to be used as a base.
Installation is expected to be completed next spring.


Beginning next year, we will no longer be hopping aboard a St. Thomas Transit bus to get around the city, instead, we’ll be in Local Motion.
Railway City Transit logoThat’s the new branding for what will become Railway City Transit.
Expected to launch sometime in the first quarter of 2021, the new system will feature:

• Extended Monday to Friday hours from 5:45 p.m. to 9:45 p.m.
• Extended Saturday hours from 5:45 p.m. to 9:45 p.m.
• New Sunday service from 9:15 a.m. to 5:45 p.m.
• Expanded coverage of the industrial area.
• More frequent east/west service from the west end of Talbot, stopping at the SmartCentres hub and ending at the Elgin Centre.

Watch for new stops, shelters and passenger amenities while the two transit hubs will be upgraded with seating.
As Mayor Joe Preston notes, “A good transit system is a key measure of a City’s quality of life as it provides critical mobility and accessibility for those going to work, school, medical appointments, shopping and more.”
Before the launch, a ride guide will be made available for transit users.
Little Eva, by the way, is Eva Narcissus Boyd who had the Number 1 single The Loco-Motion back in 1962. The catchy tune was written by the husband-and-wife songwriting team of Carole King and Gerry Goffin.

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Last week we briefly noted council would be taking one more kick at the can concerning the 2021 community grant process during Monday’s (Nov. 2) reference committee meeting.
Well, they did but we’ll never know the full details as the live stream of the meeting packed it in. Seems appropriate in a perverse way.
We did manage to obtain a copy of city manager Wendell Graves’ presentation which we will summarize.
Under the system in use for some time, 0.5 per cent of the city’s tax levy is allocated to community grants and that is approximately $235,000.
Groups requesting a grant complete a community grant application form and then council weighs the merits of each once the budget is approved.
There are challenges, noted Graves, most significantly “the principle of providing grant funding becomes a focused discussion point at each budget cycle with little year-to-year consistency of process.
As has been the case for some time, four main recipients account for much of the available funding.
This year, the St. Thomas Elgin Public Art Centre received $70,000, the Talbot Teen Centre $60,000, the St. Thomas Seniors’ Centre $50,000 and St. Thomas Cemetery Company $55,000.
Grant requests that come before council later in the year can be problematic, advised Graves, depending on whether there is any money left in the pot.
Then there is the matter of what is the policy for waiving rental fees at municipal facilities?
There isn’t a consistent one.
Moving forward, Graves has listed three key considerations.
Council needs to decide if grants to the four major recipients are representative of grants for specific projects and or should they be considered as part of the city’s operating budget and removed from grant discussions each year.
Does council want to continue to allocate any grant funding toward special one-time, community-based events that may be planned?
And, how should council best be treating the waiving of fees at city facilities?
Speaking with Graves yesterday (Nov.6), he indicated council will begin 2021 budget deliberations early next month and he aims to have a grant update – based on feedback from the reference committee meeting – to members for their consideration.
He added the consensus after Monday’s reference committee meaning was “if there is to be a grant process, the total allocation would be in that range of one-half of one per cent of the tax rate.”
And perhaps devise a system for dealing with grant requests at other times of the year.
“To be looked at a couple of times a year as things are planned throughout the year,” suggested Graves. “We’ll get that figured out.”
Could this be the year members reach a consensus on a firm grant policy that survives more than one term of council?


A private member’s bill to establish a framework for the licensing of supportive living accommodations passed unanimously at second reading in the Ontario Legislature Monday (Nov. 2).
We’ve written several times regarding Niagara Centre NDP MPP Jeff Burch’s bill, Protecting Vulnerable Persons in Supportive Living Accommodation Act, 2020 (Bill 164).
MPP Jeff BurchA similar proposal, Bill 135, was brought forward on May 18, 2017, by then Welland NDP MPP Cindy Forster and prompted, in part, by the actions of Vishal Chityal of, which owns numerous domiciliary facilities including Walnut Manor in St. Thomas.
He also operates Lakeside Terrace in Port Colborne, which we wrote about as recently as Oct. 10 of this year.
She had this to say about Chityal – who also goes by the name Charlie Duke.
“He’s no stranger to city officials — substandard conditions. His tenants are high-risk — they’re usually on ODSP or social assistance; they often suffer from physical disability, mental health issues and have a strong dependency on operators — and Charlie Duke takes advantage. We get calls every day and complaints from them.”

“The sector remains unregulated with no minimum standards of care. We’ve heard too many shocking stories of high-risk adults and seniors being mistreated, neglected and left to live in deplorable conditions.”

As envisioned, her bill would provide “a framework for operators and sets minimum standards that must be met so that vulnerable tenants no longer suffer from a broken system.
“The bill defines what a home is, requires home operators to be licensed, similar to retirement homes—failure to have a licence is a punishable offence of up to $1,000 a day—and would set a framework for inspection and complaint protocols.”
Her bill had passed second reading and was before committee when the provincial vote was called in 2018.
Burch picked up the torch and his bill provides a framework for operators and sets minimum standards that must be met so that tenants are no longer at risk.
During a press conference on Dec. 10 of last year at Queen’s Park Burch stressed, “The sector remains unregulated with no minimum standards of care. We’ve heard too many shocking stories of high-risk adults and seniors being mistreated, neglected and left to live in deplorable conditions.”

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And a reminder, I can be heard weekday afternoons as news anchor and reporter on 94.1 myFM in St. Thomas. As always, your comments and input are appreciated.


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