It was less than encouraging news this week for St. Thomas and area businesses.
Ontario’s top doctor, Dr. Kieran Moore, advises he can’t offer any guarantee the current COVID-19 public health restrictions will be lifted on Jan. 26, even though in-class learning opens up on Monday.
Businesses across the province have been begging for greater clarity on the restrictions.
Dr. Moore says he understands their frustration, but any easing of restrictions will be tied to hospital and ICU cases.
There is an expectation, says Dr. Moore, the picture may become a little clearer sometime next week, however, those restrictions will be eased in a slow and careful fashion.
Just after announcing the move to a Modified Step Two of the Roadmap to Reopen at the beginning of January, we talked with Earl Taylor, chairman of the Downtown Development Board to get a sense of the impact locally.
“I think with the retail businesses being able to stay open at 50 per cent capacity, it is not going to hurt too much. There are people in the stores but they are not crowded.
“I think they will still be able to handle it. At least the government considered that 50 per cent option.”
For restaurants, well that’s a whole different ballgame, stressed Taylor.
“It’s going to be the killer for the restaurants. Going back to 100 per cent lockdown is going to be very, very, very tough.
“This isn’t their first rodeo and they have definitely had some experience in the past with them being locked down and they sort of know how to handle it.
“But, without the consumer coming in and sitting down and ordering, it’s going to be tough for them and I feel for them.”
For full-service restaurants, how long can they survive another round of takeout only?
Taylor said the aim was to send a letter off to MPP Jeff Yurek to state our case that yes, we’re cutting our downtown small businesses to 50 per cent capacity.”
But what about the big box stores?
Restricting them to 50 per cent capacity still allows for hundreds of shoppers to gather inside at any given time.
And, who is monitoring these outlets to ensure the capacity limit is being adhered to?
“We don’t think there’s a level playing field, once again,” advised Taylor.
“I know our merchants that are on our board, they are going to be able to deal with it, but it’s the restaurants.
“That’s going to be a killer.”
IS ELGIN-MIDDLESEX-RIDING IN FOR SOME FLACK?
The shock of his retirement from provincial politics is still lingering, however, the wheels are in motion in preparation for this June’s provincial vote.
A nomination meeting will be held this coming Tuesday (Jan. 18) to determine who will represent the PC party in Elgin-Middlesex-London.
It’s just a formality, though, as riding president Bill Fehr explains.
“We had other candidates in the background over the years and one of those is coming forward and that is Rob Flack.”
So it appears the Dorchester resident will be acclaimed virtually Tuesday evening.
Fehr notes the east end of Elgin-Middlesex-London riding is an active area of support for the party.
“Our east end around Thorndale and Dorchester is a very active part of the riding association.
“They do a lot of work during the elections. He (Flack) is from EML, so I don’t think it dictates we have to have somebody from St. Thomas or Aylmer.”
In the 2021 federal election, Flack ran in the London West riding, finishing second to Liberal candidate Arielle Kayabaga by less than 3,000 votes.
He graduated from the University of Guelph in 1979 and began as a sales trainee at Masterfeeds, a national agribusiness. In 1993 he was appointed president and CEO.
He is active in the London community, as the founder of a Charity Classic that supports both the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of Southwestern Ontario and Camp Trillium.
He has served as a director and chair of the London International Airport and is the current chair of the St. Peter’s Seminary Foundation.
Most recently he was the president and chairman of the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.
CITY COUNCIL SHOULD SKATE AROUND THIS ISSUE
The bitterly cold weather this weekend should increase the safety factor for those gliding along the ice at Lake Margaret.
To walk or drive past them out on the ice is truly to witness a Canadian picture postcard.
We all know this is another pandemic winter but is it also the year outdoor skating rinks are back in vogue?
Of late, they seem to have been a casualty of the warming winters in this part of the country.
myFM has reported on the outdoor rink now open to the public at Malahide Community Place in Springfield.
And, you have to love the cautionary note on their rink rules.
“Outdoor ice may have more imperfections than indoor ice.”
But those bumps and ruts detract little from the sheer enjoyment of cutting across the ice like a kid again.
The good news is such a rink may be returning to St. Thomas.
Tucked into Monday’s (Jan. 17) city council agenda is a report from Jeff Bray, Director of Parks, Recreation and Property Management dealing with the resurrection of an outdoor rink that injected some enjoyable moments into the winter of 2015.
That was the year the Doable Neighbourhood Project approached city council with the idea of establishing an outdoor rink on city-owned land between Msgr. Morrison Catholic School and Locke’s Public School in the city’s north end.
Thanks to some hard work, partnerships and a stroke of good luck weather-wise, it opened in time for Family Day.
All going well, that may be the case again this winter.
Doug Tarry Homes has contacted city staff to again have a rink spring up in that same location.
It would be a joint effort with local volunteer groups and businesses including Home Hardware, the St. Thomas Fire Department and Impressions Printing.
The dimensions would roughly be 30 feet by 50 feet with off-duty firefighters undertaking the initial flood and subsequent floods as required.
Should council approve – and Mother Nature brings us an old-fashioned winter for several weeks – the rink could be available for skating ASAP.
Volunteers from Doug Tarry Homes will handle maintenance and supervision.
The news gets better.
If successful, Doug Tarry Homes hope to continue with the rink each winter and possibly expand the program to neighbourhoods elsewhere in the city.
Could we become the Outdoor Rink Capital of Canada?
A personal note to Doug Tarry.
We have yet to do our bike ride across the St. Thomas Elevated Park and down the trail, so why don’t we prepare with an afternoon glide around the rink?
I can hear my skates right now saying, ‘We’re in!’
A GENTLE JAB FROM OUR MOH
It’s happening here as well.
This is not the lineup for the all-you-can-eat buffet where you pick and choose what you want to eat.
During a Southwestern Public Health media briefing Tuesday (Jan. 11), Medical Officer of Health Dr. Joyce Lock advised COVID-19 booster appointments are being cancelled because people are holding out for the Pfizer vaccine rather than the Moderna brand.
“Studies show that immunity shoots back up after the booster and it doesn’t matter which brand.”
“I strongly, strongly urge everyone, particularly those over the age of 50, to choose increased antibodies over brand,” stressed Dr. Lock.
She added the body’s immunity after the original two doses of a vaccine is decreasing over time.
“Our bodies don’t care what brand they receive, they follow the science, not the manufacturer.”
Hopefully, a modicum of assurance for those holding out on a booster because of brand shopping.
She continued, “Studies show that immunity shoots back up after the booster and it doesn’t matter which brand.”
The health unit has just added more than 1,100 COVID-19 vaccination appointments through a pair of pop-up clinics.
One is this coming Friday (Jan. 21) at the Ontario Police College north of Aylmer and running from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.
A second clinic will operate out of the Tillsonburg Community Centre on Jan. 25 at the same hours.
These clinics are intended for staff in school/school support or childcare settings, children ages 5-11 and their parents, and staff in long-term care and retirement homes.
You can book online at covidvaccineLM.ca. and when prompted on which priority population you belong to, choose ‘Targeted Populations.’
THE ECHO CHAMBER
No shortage of feedback following MPP Jeff Yurek’s announcement he will not seek re-election in the June provincial election and here’s a sampling.
David McCarthy writes the following in an email from Rochester Hills in Michigan.
“There may be family things, he may have become disillusioned with politics. But I think the non-ministerial situation took a bite.
“Too many portfolio shifts and then shifted out altogether. A bright future strangled.
“Maybe some high visibility place till there’s an opening for an MP.
“Too talented, well-spoken, good presence and hard working to just be sent out to pasture.
“I’d like to know the inside story.”
Denis McClelland got right to the point.
“Proud of our hometown hero.”
Dennis Kalichuk has close ties to our departing MPP thanks to his mental health, homelessness and addictions awareness petition read by Yurek on Oct. 7 of last year at Queen’s Park.
“…putting his family, and his values first. That’s a class act. And as an MPP on the job, his constituents were #1 priority.”
Worth Chisholm wrote what many feel.
“Disappointed to learn of Jeff’s resignation. Our provincial government’s loss. You will be missed.”
June Harris echoed that sentiment.
“Sad news. Thanks for the good work for your constituents.”
John Beecroft kept it simple.
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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.