You’d expect a healthy workplace environment at the Canadian Mental Health Association, wouldn’t you?


city_scope_logo-cmykThey deal with some of the most vulnerable members of the community, but staff at the Elgin branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association say they are struggling with their own unbearable stress.
And now, members of OPSEU Local 133 are breaking the silence.
Bolstered by CMHA members from Oxford, about two dozen staff took a stand outside the Centre Street office where they claim to be working in an environment of fear, intimidation and anxiety.
According to Carol Warner, OPSEU staff representative, St. Thomas employees are consistently targeted and penalized by upper management for speaking up about health, safety and other workplace concerns.
“It’s hideous, it’s a long-standing issue,” notes Warner. “I would say it’s a systemic issue. We have grievances in the docket that are, at a minimum, four or five years old. And the grievance program has flaws as well.
“If one decides to, they can influence how quickly or how slowly the grievance process unfolds.” Continue reading

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Who suffers when you can’t get there from here?


city_scope_logo-cmykLow-income families, young people, seniors and those with disabilities are the most disadvantaged when a rural area does not have access to good public transportation.
That was the message Thursday (March 23) at a rural public workshop hosted by Elgin St. Thomas Public Health and  attended by close to 30 participants.
The aim of the three-hour forum was to get the ball rolling on development of a community transportation system for St. Thomas and Elgin county.
Opening speaker Dr. Joyce Locke, the area’s medical officer of health, noted 35 per cent of Elgin’s population lives in rural areas, with personal vehicles being the most popular form of transportation.
In fact, advised Locke, 86 per cent of those living in St. Thomas/Elgin drive to work, with the average annual cost of operating a vehicle running in the neighbourhood of $7,300.

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Roundtable on rural poverty: Is the province out of touch?


yurek-legislaturejpgIs the goal of this provincial government to encourage migration from rural areas to urban centres, as suggested by one Elgin county mayor? That was one of the issues raised at a roundtable on rural poverty held Feb. 24 at the CASO station in St. Thomas and hosted by Elgin-Middlesex-London Conservative MPP Jeff Yurek.
Attended by two dozen municipal and social/community agency representatives, the forum was designed to get a sense of what rural poverty is and its impact on St. Thomas and Elgin county municipalities, explained Yurek afterward.
“What’s available and what barriers are out there for people. Too often policies are developed in Toronto with an urban lens and we need to look at it with a rural point of view. It’s different living in rural Ontario and we need to have a balance in policies to ensure we can help get people out of poverty in rural Ontario.”

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Nothing says summer like a circus under the big top


city_scope_logo-cmykThere’s no denying he’s chuffed an authentic, European-style circus will entertain at a dozen performances this summer in St. Thomas. But what really has Sean Dyke pumped is the big top tent under which it will perform.
Massive may be a more apt descriptor. The tent is 16,000 square feet in size, holds in excess 0f 2,000 in grandstand seating and 1,000 for catered events. The stage measures 1,260 square feet.
Now those are numbers the general manager over at St. Thomas Economic Development Corporation can really sink this teeth into. A tent with those dimensions shouts possibilities.
Of course the touring Canadian-Swiss Dream Circus – billed on its website as “incredible displays of acrobatic, balance, aerial stunts and thrilling acts” – will occupy the Railway City Big Top for two weekends in August, that’s a done deal.

Pencil-sharpening time as council tackles 2017 budget


city_scope_logo-cmykThe first of three 2017 budget meetings was held Monday at city hall with the second in the series on tap this coming Monday at 4 p.m. where the focus will shift to proposed capital projects and grants.

The 2017 draft budget requires a municipal tax levy increase of 3.44 per cent. However when you factor in an additional $41 million in residential assessment, that reduces the proposed levy to a 2.32 per cent increase.

Proposed capital projects this year total $36.3 million in expenditures. Continue reading

A big ‘if’ looming over proposed west end community hub


city_scope_logo-cmykIt’s fast approaching the one-year anniversary of the announcement last April the city has extended a conditional offer to London developer Shmuel Farhi to purchase a vacant plot of land on the south side of Talbot St., between William and Queen streets, and extending to Centre Street.

The site is being considered for development of a community hub to house the Ontario Works department and the Central Community Health Centre, both currently occupying office space along the north side of Talbot Street. The possibility also exists the site could be used for affordable housing units.

In the intervening months, the city has undertaken due diligence. Time is becoming a factor, however, as the lease on the Mickleborough building at 423 Talbot Street current home of Ontario Works and also owned by Farhi, expires later this year.

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Complete Streets: Paving the way forward


city_scope_logo-cmykEndorsed Monday by city council, the Complete Street guidelines are “”a shift in mindset from the historical car-centric streets to modern multi-purpose streets that appropriately support all modes of transportation,” advised David Jackson, the city’s manager of capital works.

It’s an ambitious blueprint for the future with an aim to design, create and build streetscapes that accommodate users of all ages and abilities and all modes of transportation including pedestrians, cyclists, motorists and transit users.

However we could argue there is little clear direction on the latter save for continued road reconstruction to lessen the shake, rattle and roll that hastens the demise of city buses. Continue reading