In today’s toxic world of politics, MPP Jeff Yurek remained true to his values and beliefs


city_scope_logo-cmykThe news release Friday (Jan. 7) afternoon seemed to come out of nowhere and caught many by surprise.
MPP Jeff Yurek announced he would not seek re-election in the June provincial vote and he would resign from his seat at the end of February.
He opened the release with this observation.
“When I entered politics over ten years ago, I made three promises to myself: represent the people of Elgin-Middlesex-London to my fullest ability, remain authentic and true to my values and beliefs, and recognize when it is the right time to step down.”
The reason for Yurek’s decision to pack in provincial politics perhaps lies in the second promise noted above.
Values and beliefs are important to Yurek and, pandemic aside, his insistence on remaining true to those core truths surely put him in a philosophical conflict with Premier Doug Ford and his values and beliefs.

Back in October of last year, as Yurek celebrated a decade representing Elgin-Middlesex-London at Queen’s Park, we conversed with him at length on those ten years.
One thought stood out from that Saturday morning conversation, “The people who elect you should be your focus at all times.”
yurek questionjpgYurek never wavered from that, although in the past year or so it surely must have become increasingly difficult, based on the direction in which Ford was taking the party.
And, Yurek wasn’t able to enjoy long-term stability in any cabinet posting he earned.
In his early years in Opposition, he started as an auto insurance and transportation critic, ultimately moving to health critic for three years.
When the PC party displaced the Kathleen Wynne Liberals, Yurek spent time with three varied portfolios in transportation, natural resources and his last posting as environment minister.
In spite of the time consumed in those cabinet posts, Yurek made it clear, “that constituency always came first. And I always ensured I was available to be in the riding for meeting with people and making sure I was able to attend the events that I needed to attend.”

“That was my goal. I always look on the positive. I’ve learned a tremendous amount doing those various ministerial roles and I think that helps benefit the entire community.”

Bounced from his latest ministerial role last summer as Ford tweaked his cabinet in anticipation of this spring’s election, Yurek served as Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade in addition to being a member of a couple of standing committees.
Perhaps frustrated inwardly with no cabinet posting, Yurek maintained a positive outlook.
“It’s a difficult situation at the time. I’ve always tried to accomplish as much as possible immediately. Especially after the first shuffle when you don’t know when the second, third or fourth shuffle would come along.
“That was my goal. I always look on the positive. I’ve learned a tremendous amount doing those various ministerial roles and I think that helps benefit the entire community.”
Leaving more time for his constituents.
“The experience has made the operations of my office and myself more efficient and to be able to pinpoint where we need to deal with the government to get the assistance we need.”

“We had a lot of investment in our hospital and saved two schools from closing. There’s one more item I want to accomplish and that is to get that MRI for the hospital.”

Looking back on his 10 years, Yurek agreed adoption of his private member’s bill in 2015 that became known as Ryan’s Law, named in honour of 12-year-old Ryan Gibbons who died in 2012 after suffering a severe asthma attack at Straffordville Public School was perhaps his most rewarding accomplishment.
“That was a hard-fought battle that took a number of years. It felt such an accomplishment at the end of the day.”
Yurek also spent a considerable amount of time and resources to ensure a new school will be built in Belmont with a scheduled opening in time for the 2023-24 school year.
In the process ensuring a secure future for schools in New Sarum and Springfield.
His follow-up comment perhaps foreshadowed what would transpire in less than three months.
“We had a lot of investment in our hospital and saved two schools from closing. There’s one more item I want to accomplish and that is to get that MRI for the hospital.”
Less than a week after our October conversation, Yurek was able to proudly announce provincial funding “brings MRI services home to our community.”
Something he referred to as “a game-changer.”
In more ways than one, perhaps.
Asked at that time his thoughts on another run in the June election – a race he surely would win pulling away – Yurek circled back to values and beliefs.
“It’s always with what the family is doing as Number 1 and their advice on whether or not to keep my name going forward or not.”

“You provided me with a rare opportunity to fulfil an idealistic dream of making our community a better place and I am honoured and grateful to have served you. Your unwavering confidence and trust are appreciated and will be remembered.”

Yurek always heaped praise on the team back in St. Thomas, a talented and efficient group of individuals.
Yurek closed out his media release by paying tribute to that team.
“Your devotion and enthusiasm for helping those in need of our assistance has been exemplary and a standard by which future constituency offices ought to be measured.”
And, to the constituents of Elgin-Middlesex-London – not just those who voted for him – Yurek offered a classy but, no doubt, not a final farewell.
“You provided me with a rare opportunity to fulfil an idealistic dream of making our community a better place and I am honoured and grateful to have served you. Your unwavering confidence and trust are appreciated and will be remembered.”

Related post:

With a provincial election on the horizon, MPP Jeff Yurek reminds, ‘The people who elect you should be your focus at all times.’

WHAT’S AROUND THE CORNER FOR THE PANDEMIC?

Ironically, she sounded the alarm earlier this week.
Yesterday (Friday) evening, it was announced there was a COVID-19 outbreak on the 5th floor Acute Medicine Unit after three patients tested positive for the virus.
St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital north wingIt’s the first outbreak at the facility since the start of the pandemic.
Hospital president and CEO Karen Davies had warned days earlier, “This recent increasing surge of COVID-19 cases in our community puts our hospital at risk.”
A pending risk due to the surging cases of Omicron cases which Davies advised left the hospital vulnerable to “being overwhelmed.”
That was referenced in a hospital Tweet on Wednesday.
“Today, our inpatient area is at 120%. That means 78 patients are in an area intended for 65.”
A capacity situation that is not due to the pandemic, but aggravated by it.Karen Davies STEGH CEO
“We’ve been at capacity for a long time,” noted Davies. “There is a real risk of us being overwhelmed.
“That’s because of being actually overcapacity, combined with having so many staff off sick because of Omicron.
“That’s a real risk and I do feel the public needs to know that.”
Davies continued, “Definitely staffing is a daily concern. With the isolation requirements and the prevalence of COVID right now, and other illnesses, almost every unit in our hospital right now is functioning short.
“We’ve got lots of staff picking up overtime, but they’re exhausted. I would say the goodwill of nurses is exhausted.”
So the news of an outbreak in a critical area of the hospital is just one more burden to bear.
Davies noted in a release yesterday, two years into the pandemic and STEGH has avoided such an outbreak due to “the exceptional attention of our Infection Prevention and Control Measures over the past 22 months as we have managed a high volume of COVID.”
What we are trying to do right now, advised Davies, “is really preserve our healthcare.

“Vaccines don’t make the disease go away. They stop the severity of the impact of it. It’s human behaviour that cannot be excluded as a driving force behind the surge.”

“We have to remember it’s not just COVID patients we need to care for. We still need to operate and be available for people who fall, people who have heart attacks, strokes and who have babies.
“And so we’re running the hospital on top of this influx of COVID sickness.”
Part of the strategy is the establishment of designated areas to deal with those exhibiting COVID symptoms.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic we’ve been segregating the best we can. What we call ‘hot areas’ for COVID-positive or COVID-suspect patients.
“But with the recent introduction of the Omicron variant, those ‘hot areas’ have really been spread out throughout the hospital.
“We do try and contain them but it’s becoming more difficult.”
Then there’s the hot-button topic of vaccination with almost all of the patients in ICU being unvaccinated.

“I’ve been personally very disappointed in how the public has been treating our staff and physicians. We have an amazing team here and they continue to show up every day. We’re living in a time with lots of unknowns . . . and we don’t know what’s coming next around the corner for the pandemic.”

The vaccine, whether Moderna or Pfizer, is not a miracle cure, stressed Davies.
“Vaccines have drastically dropped the need for hospitalization and intensive care requirements and the risk of dying.”
Let’s underline the following.
“Vaccines don’t make the disease go away. They stop the severity of the impact of it.”
And then highlight in bright yellow her follow-up.
“It’s human behaviour that cannot be excluded as a driving force behind the surge.”
Davies admits she is upset in the way some members of the public are treating hospital staff and there is no reason it should be tolerated.
“I’ve been personally very disappointed in how the public has been treating our staff and physicians.
“We have an amazing team here and they continue to show up every day. We’re living in a time with lots of unknowns . . . and we don’t know what’s coming next around the corner for the pandemic.”
A final reminder from Davies.
If you have to attend the hospital, “we ask and we expect people to wait and please be kind to our staff.”

WHERE ARE TAXPAYER DOLLARS DESTINED?

It is anticipated the members of council will approve the 2022 city budget at Monday night’s (Jan. 10) first meeting of the new year.
The increase to the municipal property tax levy will be 2.35 per cent as established during preliminary deliberations late last year.
Let’s delve into some of the big-ticket items in the capital budget.
A total of $4 million is to be spent on aerated tanks at the sewage treatment plant on Sunset Drive. This is for odour control and will be a blessing for those living in the area.
For future development in the northwest corner of the city, $8.9 million is allocated for sanitary servicing.
Full details on residential expansion in this quadrant of the city can be found on the Positioned for Growth website, now up and running at http://stthomas.ca/positionedforgrowth.
For the city’s successful Complete Streets program, a sum of $11 million has been budgeted for this year.
Read more about this multi-year project here.
Concerns were raised last year by Earl Taylor with the Downtown Development Board about the safety factor at some of the city’s pedestrian crossovers.
A sum of $400,000 is available for upgrades to 10 of those crossings.
Just shy of $300,000 is for parking lot and landscape improvements at Jaycee Pool.
Work will begin on the Curtis Street Square – site of the former Colin McGregor Justice Building – a community-friendly green space that will see a $2.1 million investment this year.
Almost $4 million in the budget will ensure a start to the much-delayed childcare facility on St. Catharine Street, across from the above square.
And $4.8 million is in the budget for Phase 2 of the city’s community and social services hub – to include a third fire station in the future – to be located on Queen Street.
Construction is already underway on the site.
There are 56 projects covered in this year’s capital budget for a total of just over $43 million in expenditures.

THE ECHO CHAMBER

No shortage of responses on the proposed community/aquatic centre we’ve focussed on for the past couple of weeks.
In a series of Tweets, Tim Hedden stresses the need to remember the arts and culture in the city.

“We have tens of millions of dollars in infrastructure related to activity and sport. I believe we have exactly zero city-owned assets for the development of art/artists.
“Because of the downplaying of the arts in education with the focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) there is an entire generation of kids who are not having their education in the arts fully developed.
“Art builds empathy and fosters community. Many feel they have to leave the area to realize a career in those pursuits. If there is money to be obtained for such pursuits could we please remember these neglected areas?
“A performing arts centre of 200-500 seats could be a boon for tourism/restaurants.
“I have witnessed first hand the transformation art has on kids. It’s incredible. I’d really like to see something done in that direction.
“I know it shouldn’t be sport vs. art, but if you put them both on one of those justice scales, it would catapult the arts out the window.”

Valerie Young writes attention needs to be directed at affordable housing.

“Personally I would like to see affordable apartments for working families. Seems all the new builds are for seniors or outta reach for the working class. The new Alma luxury apartments seem a bit overboard with amenities and costly.”

Dan Vernackt suggests we need more discussion on such a facility.

“Very good discussion. More needed. Numbers don’t lie. How well used is the High Street pool?
“It would be nice to have everything under one roof (including a cultural centre) but that comes with a huge price tag.
“I think a satellite library at the mall would work well. It was well used while the library was renovated 10 years ago.”

Liz Dye agrees affordable housing is the priority at this time.

“Sorry, but I think this city should make efforts to make it affordable to live here period. Entertainment should come second to affordable housing.”

Chris Smith-Heidt garnered interest with her simple request.

“I would rather see a detox rehab and mental health facility.”

To which Norma-Jean Grech-Campbell replied, ‘Indeed.’

“A new rec centre with fees too high for young families or seniors services the wealthy and entitled. Let’s see some funds go to the truly vulnerable.”

Leith Coghlin reminds such a rehab facility is not a municipal consideration.

“Ask the province for it. They’re not a municipal mandate.”

Questions and comments may be emailed to City Scope

Visit us on Facebook
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.

city_scope_logo-cmyk

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s