‘Trying to make decision-makers . . . understand that things are different in rural Ontario’ – Andy Kroeker, NDP candidate for EML

city_scope_logo-cmykThe three major parties have now announced their candidates to run in Elgin-Middlesex-London in the June provincial vote.
All three were acclaimed.
In the first week of March, the NDP announced Andy Kroeker as their candidate to contest the riding with the Conservatives’ Rob Flack and the Liberals’ Heather Jackson.
Kroeker has been the executive director of the West Elgin Community Health Centre for the past dozen years.
Working in health care, Kroeker says he has witnessed how underfunding has impacted rural communities in particular.
It’s just one item on a substantial “laundry list” of concerns that need to be addressed.
“Certainly I have my concerns about healthcare,” stresses Kroeker, “social services and affordable housing and education.
“So there is a long laundry list, I guess, of things which are challenging in a post-COVID environment.”

Not to mention items of particular concern to the residents of St. Thomas and Elgin county.
“Transportation is a concern and also access to regional internet is a challenge for a lot of people in our area.
“That and even in the past two years, affordable housing has become a challenge in rural Elgin. And we’ve been working in the past two years in respect to challenges with homelessness.”
Andy Kroeker NDP provincial candidate 2022Kroeker resides in London with his wife Louise and they have two adult children.
He has been a volunteer on that city’s Environmental and Ecological Planning Advisory Committee and sat on the board of the Thames Talbot Land Trust.
He hopes to use his voice to reach the decision-makers who are distant from rural communities.
“Trying to make decision-makers, whether in London locally or Toronto or Ottawa understand that things are different in rural Ontario.
“And even a conversation now about representation on the school board (a reference to the rural-urban split with Thames Valley District School Board trustees) is a very important conversation we need to have in terms of equity versus equality.”
Kroeker stresses the need to move to a greener economy.
“One of my big concerns is we’re running out of time with respect to climate change.
“We’ve been saying for decades now we’re going to do something about it and we haven’t.

“And, whether I follow in the footsteps that is obviously up to the people to determine but my hope is that we have good conversations about important issues over the next two months and that the people of Elgin-Middlesex-London choose who they think is the best representative.”

“Even locally with the flooding we have and the heat waves we’re having. It is impacting us here in Elgin.
“It’s going to be difficult, but I think we need to move toward a greener economy make sure we have good jobs for people as we transition.”
Over the years, he acknowledges the riding has been blessed with good MPPs and he aspires to follow in their footsteps.
“Steve (Peters) and then Jeff (Yurek) were both great representatives for the riding.
“And, whether I follow in the footsteps that is obviously up to the people to determine but my hope is that we have good conversations about important issues over the next two months and that the people of Elgin-Middlesex-London choose who they think is the best representative.
“Whether it’s me or somebody else.”
London West MPP Peggy Sattler in a release announcing Kroeker’s acclamation notes, “With Andy on our team we’re going to make life better for families by investing in smaller classrooms, ensuring communities get better access to healthcare and making it easier for people to afford a home.”

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Following a four-month pilot project undertaken in 2020, the St. Thomas Police Service began equipping officers with body-worn cameras developed by Axon.
The 31 cameras are linked to a digital evidence management system under a 10-year agreement with Axon worth approximately $1 million.
In its first year, the program “has been an absolute asset . . . All officers have not only embraced this program but assisted in making it as successful as it is.”
STPS Body CamsThe cameras and the digital evidence management tools as a complete program “is a true success and have proven nothing but benefits to the community and the service.”
That’s the conclusion of the first-year report recently filed by Staff Sgt. Kyle Johnstone, part of the service’s policy which requires annual reporting to ensure the policy is current and being adhered to by all members.
The annual audit also ensures all video is securely stored and retention periods are being maintained, with the video being deleted only as regulated and there is to be no unauthorized access to the recordings.

“This is an efficient tool for the officers as it prevents the need for having people come to the police station for formal video interviews when it can be done at the scene.”

Over the course of the year, 24,177 videos were recorded by officers and 6,863 images were captured and uploaded.
These images are scene photographs and videos captured on cell phones and uploaded to the digital evidence management system.
According to the year-end audit, these are used “for more common, lower grade offences such as mischief, theft and motor vehicle collisions to name a few.”
A total of 1,407 audio statements were captured. These are statements officers take at the scene to “capture the best evidence.
“This is an efficient tool for the officers as it prevents the need for having people come to the police station for formal video interviews when it can be done at the scene.”
And, 557 citizen submissions were uploaded to the digital evidence management system.
An officer can send a link via text message or email to a member of the public so they can access the system.
The citizen submissions contained images or videos an officer can review and maintain.
In 2021, nine complaints were filed through the Office of the Independent Police Review Director(OIPRD) with seven of those determined by that body not to be in the public interest.
The remaining two complaints were referred back to St. Thomas Police for follow-up.
After reviewing evidence from the body-worn camera, the two complaints were withdrawn by the complainant who was able to view an unbiased, real-time version of events.
Additionally, the province’s police watchdog the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) received five notifications and invoked its mandate on three of these.
Evidence from body-worn cameras was reviewed and two of the investigations were closed.
The third investigation remains active however an internal review was launched under the Police Services Act which found the officers involved “acted in accordance with policies and procedures.”
And in the latter part of last year, quarterly audits were undertaken to ensure the cameras are being activated “in accordance with the policy and that all videos and associated evidence are being labelled with an incident number and categorized properly.”
Further details including the history of the body-worn camera pilot project and program can be found here.

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The greening of Railway City Transit has hit a roadblock as discussed at the March 21 council meeting.
The good news is transit users will, in the near future, be riding aboard new buses similar to those purchased in 2017.
They will not, however, be electric vehicles.
In August of 2020, Catherine McKenna, federal Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, announced the city was to receive $2.2 million in funding for the purchase of 14 zero-emission buses and other improvements to transit operations.
Railway City Transit bus March 2022This, in addition to $1.8 million in provincial funding announced by then MPP Jeff Yurek the previous year.
At Monday’s meeting council approved spending $1.1 to purchase gas-powered buses in the hope the next time around electric vehicles will readily be available.
Justin Lawrence, director of environmental services explained the reason behind gas-powered buses to members of council.
“The economics are not great for small (electric) buses in Canada and we have been hunting all over the world.
“When we do the life-cycle cost analysis on about seven years, it does not pay off at this point.
“The issue is that Ford and GM aren’t making an e-cabin chassis yet.”
So, what are the implications?
Lawrence went on to explain, “Right now, a company like this (Creative Carriage of St. George, Ontario) will buy a gas cabin chassis, take the gas engine out and the gas tank and, obviously, that is a lot of wasted effort and wasted materials.”
As soon as e-chassis become readily available, added Lawrence, various manufacturers will have zero-emission vehicles on the market for transit systems like Railway City Transit.
Of the $1.1 million price tag, the city is only paying 27 per cent with the higher levels of government covering the bulk of the expense.

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In our conversation last month with Wendell Graves on his final day as city manager, we asked him about the future of Wellington Street Public School.
WELLINGTON STHe would only say “Council has authorized a lease for that building, a good chunk of it. It’s been in the works for a number of months.
“In the next few weeks, there is going to be some activity there, some interior renovations and then the tenant moves in.”
Nothing has been finalized at this point, however, the tenant is St. Joseph’s Health Care which is interested in leasing the first and second floor of the building which carries a heritage designation under the Ontario Heritage Act.
They are seeking permission to renovate the former classrooms and corridor areas.
The lease would appear to be a long-term arrangement, securing the future of the former school as well as creating a new revenue source for the city.
More next week.

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Referencing last week’s item on the 14-storey apartment building to rise at Talbot Street and First Avenue, Iris Sherlock is not impressed.

“Who wants to live with Walmart and Wendy’s as your view and constant noise from traffic and a high rise in the middle of town doesn’t suit the surrounding landscape.”

That prompted this response from Vanda Ostojic-Middel.

“People who don’t drive will find it very convenient. The housing is desperately needed.”

As to the acclamation of Heather Jackson as the Liberal candidate for Elgin-Middlesex-London, Dave Mathers suggests the women-only decision by the Ontario Liberal Party could have a negative impact at the ballot box.

“I think the impact will be the loss of many male Liberal votes. Even several women I have talked to do NOT agree with the party’s edict.
“For certain, the results on the evening of June 2 should prove to be very interesting.”

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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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