Casting light when a council meeting goes dark


city_scope_logo-cmykFor many of us, we’ve settled into a pandemic dictated routine where our days are punctuated with Zoom meetings interspersed with live-streamed gatherings, exponentially increasing our screen time.
Leaving us to wonder how much of this will pivot over to the new reality?
But what happens when one of these feeds fails or the audio stream is so out of whack it is impossible to follow along?
It has happened twice this month with city council: once with a reference committee meeting dealing with community grants and again this week with the scheduled council meeting.

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‘We get this protest in, we move it out of town and do it as peaceful as possible’


city_scope_logo-cmykMayor Joe Preston and Police Chief Chris Herridge have both cut to the chase when talking about today’s (Saturday) Freedom Rally in St. Thomas: “We do not want this protest.”
It’s the third such rally in less than a month in the region at a time when the province is tightening up restrictions due to a rapid increase in COVID-19 infections.
In speaking with Herridge this week, he stressed “should they come here they could face charges.
“But if you say ‘no’ to the arena (Memorial Arena, where the protesters are meeting up) they’re going to show up. And, we do not want what happened in Aylmer (where the march through town forced detours at numerous locations).”

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STEGH reports uptick in COVID-19 testing but ‘sufficient capacity’ for anticipated influx


city_scope_logo-cmykWith COVID-19 testing centres in London overwhelmed this week as a result of the Western University outbreak and the province aiming to up the testing across the province to 50,000 per day in short order, what is the status of the assessment centre at St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital?
President and CEO Robert Biron says there has been an uptick in the number of daily tests however there is spare capacity at the centre.
Speaking with Biron this week he confirmed, “Yes, we are seeing an influx from a number of sources.

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After all these years, is there a move afoot to pare the size of St. Thomas city council?


city_scope_logo-cmykSize does, in fact, matter.
That was the finding back in 2003 of what was known as the McCarthy-Tetrault report, a full and independent review of the council of the day and its working relationships at city hall.
The initial call for a review of council and staff dated back to April 28 of that year when Jeff Kohler, then an alderman, moved that “the City of St. Thomas undertake an independent review of human rights practices in the corporation of the City of St. Thomas.”
The subsequent report categorized council as “dysfunctional” and its inability to operate in cohesive fashion is “rooted in the mix of personalities . . . . The resulting lack of respect for others seriously undermined the effectiveness of council.”
The report’s author, Chris White of the law firm McCarthy-Tetrault, made several recommendations, the most contentious of which called for the reduction in the size of council to seven members from the then-current eight, including the mayor, in an effort to cut down on the number of deadlocked votes.

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2020 St. Thomas budget outlook: Contract negotiations cloud the horizon at city hall


city_scope_logo-cmykMore investment is needed in infrastructure; a number of city assets could be pared; there is a call from the treasurer to address user fees, some of which are too low; and be prepared for several rounds of employee bargaining.
That’s the St. Thomas financial picture for the coming year.
With a minimum amount of fuss – read little spirited debate – and the complete absence of pencil sharpening, council this week approved a draft of the city’s 2020 budget.
Members were content to rubber-stamp the budget which will see a 2.43 per cent increase in the municipal property tax levy next year.
That’s dependant on the results of contract bargaining on several fronts at city hall. More on that momentarily.

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A clear case of neglect, however ‘reasonable doubt’ lingers in the death of Lady


city_scope_logo-cmykJustice Glen Donald’s judgement Friday (Nov. 15) at the Elgin County Courthouse infuriated the fur baby fans in the front row but, in the end, he had no other option.
Following a three-day trial last month in which Tarrick Fakira-Martin – charged with unlawfully killing his dog, Lady – often wept and buried his head in his hands at graphic witness testimony, Justice Donald acquited him but noted there was no question the dog had been neglected.
Fakira-Martin was charged last July after St. Thomas Police received reports from residents in the area of St. Catherine and Meda streets regarding the well-being of a dog.
He pleaded not guilty to charges of injuring an animal on the trial’s opening day, Oct. 7.
Fakira-Martin has always maintained the dog drowned in Kettle Creek near an area known to some as Suicide Hill.

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Proposed cuts to healthcare funding will result in more downloaded costs to municipalities: Ontario Health Coalition


city_scope_logo-cmykPlanned provincial cuts and the closure of public healthcare services will lead to the Doug Ford government offloading more costs associated with these services to every municipality in the province.
That is the message Melissa Holden will deliver in a deputation to city council on Tuesday (Nov. 12).
Holden is a member of the Ontario Health Coalition in London whose mandate “is to protect and improve our public healthcare system for all.”
In addition, the organization advocates “to protect services as public and non-profit and to protect local accessible service on the principles that underlie our public healthcare system . . . principles of compassion and equity.”
Holden warns rural communities already suffering from a shortage of services will be particularly hard hit “as dispatch services and the governance of ambulance services would move further away.”

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The Provincial Animal Welfare System: Providing protection for the canary in the coal mine?


city_scope_logo-cmykWith a pair of high-profile St. Thomas court cases in the past couple of years dealing with abuse and neglect, this week’s announcement the province is proposing a new animal welfare system is encouraging news for animal advocates.
The legislation was introduced Tuesday (Oct. 29) by Solicitor General Sylvia Jones and, according to a release from MPP Jeff Yurek, “includes the strongest penalties ever in Canada for people who violate animal welfare laws and a more robust enforcement system.”
No specifics, however, are contained in the release introducing the Provincial Animal Welfare System (PAWS) Act as to what those penalties may be.
“Ontarians can be confident that the government is proposing a system that will protect animals,” assured Jones.

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Awaiting the green light on an Elgin-Middlesex-London Liberal nominee


city_scope_logo-cmykWith just 99 days until the federal election, you might very well be wondering who the Liberal party has tasked with attempting to unseat incumbent Karen Vecchio in Elgin-Middlesex-London (EML) riding.
Well, the short answer is no one.
The nomination meeting was originally scheduled for January and here we are midway through July with no designated candidate although we know Lori Baldwin-Sands has filed papers.
Will she be acclaimed at some point in the very near future?
A phone call to David Goodwin of the federal Liberal riding association should result in some answers.
“They haven’t called the nomination yet,” advised Goodwin.

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