Guest columnist Bob McCaig: Tough decisions – who will govern St. Thomas for the next four years?


We plan to open up space in this corner on occasion to allow a guest columnist to present their point of view on issues impacting St. Thomas and Elgin. Are you so passionate about some element of community life that you are compelled to organize your thoughts to share with others? It could be the upcoming municipal election, the proposed development on the Alma College site, the city’s infrastructure, the provision of municipal services . . . well, you get the idea. Submit your editorial to us for consideration and, who knows, we just may give you the podium. Our contact info is on this page.

poll cover pageKicking off this feature is an individual who is no stranger to politics at any level. Bob McCaig is not shy on opinion and the city developer was riled up enough during the municipal vote four years ago he commissioned Oraclepoll Research to produce a St. Thomas Municipal Election Report, based on the responses of 400 individuals. You can read that report here. The following is McCaig’s take on this month’s mayoral race. 

Let’s start with the mayor’s office. Heather Jackson has held the job for the past two terms.
Current councillor Steve Wookey, a popular secondary school teacher, wants to be mayor. He has a pile of signs on lawns, an obvious sign of considerable support.
Joe Preston, who served two terms as Member of Parliament for Elgin-Middlesex-London, enjoys public service and can’t wait to get back on the job. He figures sitting as mayor of St. Thomas, he will be the right individual to serve constituents while getting home for supper each night. That’s a task truly difficult for MP’s and MPP’s alike.
The fourth candidate is a newcomer to the city – an entertaining rapper/entrepreneur named Malichi Male – who makes friends easily but, being so new to the city, he is likely to garner but a few votes this time out. Continue reading

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Sutherland Saga: ‘The court costs may have exceeded the costs of repair’


city_scope_logo-cmykNeither of the combatants in the City of St. Thomas vs. Sutherland Lofts hearing was the star of the show Wednesday at the Elgin County Courthouse.
That honour went to his honour, Justice Peter Hockin , who had no qualms about speaking his mind, sharing his thoughts and guiding lawyers Valerie M’Garry and John Sanders down the path of least resistance.
Or as he stressed, “I don’t want to spin our wheels on collateral issues.”
Now remember, this is the same Justice Hockin who, in 2008, overturned a ruling from Justice David Little that gave the city the go-ahead to demolish the four-storey structure.
In reference to the boxes of evidence accumulated since then, Hockin cut to the chase. “Is it unsafe right now . . . there were recommendations of what could have been done but never was done.”

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St. Thomas developer states the obvious: ‘You’ve got to have people downtown’


city_scope_logo-cmykIt will be a game-changer for the revitalization of the downtown core. An apartment complex proposed for the three-acre parcel of land at the southeast corner of Ross and Talbot streets that one of the partners in the deal calls “a nice lot that would make for good housing.”
In May of 2015, Bob and Don McCaig purchased the vacant parcel of land at 672 Talbot Street from Infrastructure Ontario for $750,000, well below the asking price of $1.1 million. 
Previously the site of a car dealership and the YMCA prior to that, the land had been purchased by the province as a possible location for the consolidated Elgin County Courthouse.
Speaking with Bob McCaig on Friday, he is proposing to erect a pair of apartment buildings in two phases.

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What’s in a name? In this case, $2.7 million


city_scope_logo-cmykThe city this week locked in place two more pieces of the Talbot Street West redevelopment puzzle with announcement of the purchase of two properties from London developer Shmuel Farhi.
The acquisitions are the Mickleborough Building at 423 Talbot Street – the home of Ontario Works since 2000 – and a parcel of land on the south side of Talbot St., between William and Queen streets, and stretching south to Centre Street.
While a conditional offer was announced last April the delay, according to city manager Wendell Graves, revolved around environmental issues.
“We have done due diligence over and above so we know exactly what we are facing,” stressed Graves. “In our approved city budget this year we have funds allocated there to begin some cleanup. Because we are looking to use pieces of that site for residential, under the Ministry of the Environment regs, that is the highest order of cleanup that will be required.”

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Over-capacity and under-used, aye there’s the rub


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A special meeting of council on Tuesday which included invited officials from the Thames Valley District School Board did little to heal the great divide in the Pierre Elliott Trudeau French Immersion School community.

In fact, if anything, the rift has widened.

The tone was established early when manager of facility services Kevin Bushell admitted the board “mis-read the community” when dealing with overcrowding at the French Immersion school.

He then announced — and which was confirmed later that evening at the scheduled board meeting in London — an area attendance review would be undertaken beginning in the fall to be completed before the end of the year.

So, there will be no busing of senior students from the school to Port Stanley Public School to deal with severe over-crowding at the former Homedale Senior Elementary School. Continue reading

Is this a snow job on snow removal?


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It’s a hot topic for a bitterly cold day . . . the effectiveness of snow removal efforts in St. Thomas. The debate has generated a bevy of comments, both passionate and bitter, on the Times-Journal website and Facebook page. The intensity of which hasn’t been witnessed since last October’s municipal election.

The manner in which Dave White, roads and transportation supervisor, defended his snow fighting strategy during Monday’s council meeting did little to satisfy members of council, not to mention ratepayers.

One was left with the impression the Jan. 7 snow squalls caught him off guard, as he advised plows did not hit the streets until after staff arrived for work at 7:30 that morning.

You would think when Environment Canada issued a snow squall watch more than 26 hours previous, specifically targetting St. Thomas, that all resources would be on alert prior to the morning commute instead of trying to battle the elements in the middle of the drive to work.
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Time for good ideas, not absurd promises


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Prior to the 2003 municipal vote, this corner checked in with the author of a citizen’s guide to electing better public officials who encouraged voters to maximize the impact of their decision when they cast ballots.
Charles Bens has consulted more than 200 public sector organizations in Canada, the U.S., Europe and Latin America, and he advocates a process he calls “quality voting.”
In the aldermanic race, voters can cast up to a maximum of seven votes, but Bens stresses there is no requirement to endorse that number of candidates.
The goal, argues Bens, is to only support those candidates “who will make good decisions on behalf of the community.”
If a voter feels they have accomplished that by supporting less than the maximum allowed seven candidates, then they should not feel obligated to cast the remainder of their votes.
He pointed out just filling up the ballot “can sometimes send irresponsible and unethical people to public office.”
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