Last stand for the infamous Barwick Five


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The clock is ticking down on the term of what many ratepayers have deemed the most ineffectual council in recent memory.
That may be an overly harsh evaluation — one only has to look at the two councils in power during the lengthy and feisty new arena debate a decade ago — however there is little doubt the individuals who became known as the Barwick Five were no crowd favourites, with the exception of Heather Jackson, voted in for a second term as mayor.
She and Ald. Jeff Kohler are all who remain as a new council is installed next month.
While many voters will surely take credit for the house cleaning at city hall, the reality is the makeover was self-inspired.
Aldermen Dave Warden, Lori Baldwin-Sands and Gord Campbell announced their retirement from municipal politics and aldermen Cliff Barwick and Mark Cosens were the two casualties in the mayoral race with Jackson. Continue reading

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Filling vacant council seat akin to musical chairs


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Monday’s vote to appoint former mayor Cliff Barwick to fill the seat vacated by Sam Yusuf has unleashed a groundswell of anger and accusations across the social media universe.
Not to mention some questionable logic and judgment from both factions of council.
To get the ball rolling, you have to ask, when council had 60 days to fill the vacancy – whether by appointment or by-election – why did the Barwick 4 feel compelled to call a snap vote just minutes after officially declaring the seat vacant?
That in itself brought out the red flags, prompting Ald. Mark Cosens to charge, “it’s obvious that had been orchestrated.”
Point taken.
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Stop the budget bus, we’re headed in the wrong direction


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The focus the government should be taking is job creation, especially in St. Thomas and Elgin. That’s the thumbnail analysis from Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek on the Ontario budget handed down Thursday.
“There’s pretty much zero for job creation or even getting our economy back on a somewhat level platform,” Yurek told City Scope on Friday.
“Spending is up $3.6 billion dollars at a time we’re trying to balance the budget. That’s just the wrong direction.”
Do you start with reeling in public sector salaries? Do you tinker with bargaining rights, as was the case with teachers?
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Filling vacant seat will be a true test of this council


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When city council next gathers at city hall on May 6, the seat previously occupied by Sam Yusuf will officially be declared vacant. Council will then have 60 days, under the Ontario Municipal Act, to appoint a new alderman.
It’s an undertaking that has been dealt with several times in the past decade or so, however T-J reporter and People columnist Eric Bunnell reminds us of the fascinating parallel he wrote about in April, 2000.
Helen Cole had announced her resignation and council met behind closed doors to unanimously agree Jeff Kohler should fill the vacancy.
He was the third runner-up in the 1997 municipal vote, however the top vote-getter of the also-rans, Terry Shackelton, had already moved on to council and the next individual in line, former alderman Hugh Shields, declined the appointment.
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I’m sorry, your patient care has been out-sourced


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It’s an atmosphere that has been described as poisonous. A department where the director is accused of harassing, bullying and belittling a long-time employee who, as a result, is now absent from the workplace on stress leave.
A situation where an individual charged with the financial welfare of a $110 million corporation is in flagrant and repeated violation of that organization’s respect in the workplace policy
What is shocking is the venue – the treasury department at city hall – and the actions of city treasurer Bill Day have put CAO Wendell Graves and human resources director Graham Dart between a rock and a hard place.
And, no matter what action they deem necessary, it could cost St. Thomas ratepayers dearly.
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Just how thorough was that background check?


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St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital CEO Paul Collins checked in with us via email this week to offer insight into the hiring of vice-president of corporate services Malcolm Hopkins.
If you recall, Hopkins confirmed with this corner he was employed by The Kerkhoff Group, a B.C. construction, property development and building products manufacturing group of companies that went “spectacularly bankrupt around 1994” – his description of the meltdown.
In the aftermath, Hopkins was ordered to pay $10,000 and was issued with a five-year director/officer ban with conditions in 1997 by the British Columbia Securities Commission.
Our question: four years after this disciplinary action, what was the process that led to the hiring of Hopkins at STEGH?
Collins passed along the following summary.
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Hospital junkets open up wider health care debate


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Leading the way toward a lean, efficient and effective operating program versus ripping taxpayers off with over-valued, over-billed opinions of what’s good for the hospital.
That’s the debate that has raged on the Times-Journal website and Facebook page in the aftermath of our revelation last week of the overseas jaunt to Singapore by four St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital executives.
In the week since, we’ve learned of other trips to the U.K. and Wisconsin and rumors of possible convention junkets to Florida and Las Vegas that are now being checked.
News of the fact-finding mission to Birmingham, Bristol and Leeds in the U.K. by CEO Paul Collins and chief of staff Nancy Whitmore comes on the heels of a revealing T-J editorial penned by John Robson entitled, “To see the future of Canadian health care, look to the U.K.”
Robson paints a picture of a health care system in shambles with the collapse of the National Health Service on which ours is modelled.
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