Doors closed on nominations, let the campaigning begin in earnest


city_scope_logo-cmykAs of 2 p.m. yesterday (July 27) the window of opportunity to file nomination papers for the Oct. 22 municipal vote closed. The lineups are set, let the serious campaigning begin.
There were no new additions in the mayoral race at the deadline, so incumbent Heather Jackson will be challenged by Coun. Steve Wookey, former MP Joe Preston and musician/small business advisor Malichi Male.
In the hours and days leading up to yesterday’s deadline, the ranks of councillors seeking re-election and those vying for one of eight seats up for grabs swelled to 19.
Late entries include former alderman Lori Baldwin-Sands; Lesley Buchanan, St. Thomas Cemetery Company manager; Greg Graham; Rose Gibson in her fifth attempt to gain a seat; John Laverty, long associated with St. Thomas Energy/Ascent Group; Michael Manary, who unsuccessfully campaigned in 2006 and 2014; James Murray; and Kevin Smith. Continue reading

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The time has come to brag about St. Thomas, says Coun. Linda Stevenson


city_scope_logo-cmykLinda Stevenson’s trip to city hall this past Monday (July 16) ensured the sitting council would not be in a lame duck position to close out the term.
Stevenson filed her nomination papers, signalling her intention to seek a second term on council. The following day, Mayor Heather Jackson entered the now-crowded mayoral race, leaving only Coun. Mark Burgess as the lone question mark for the Oct. 22 municipal vote.
Following her official business at the clerk’s counter, we talked with Stevenson at length about her initial four years in the council chamber and her expectations for the future.
“I enjoyed the first term a lot,” advised Stevenson. “I think it was a good working council. We got a lot of work done. A lot of faith in staff bringing forward reports that were full and the information was good so we can make good planning decisions. Continue reading

The departure of CMHA Elgin executive director ‘moved the needle in the right direction’


city_scope_logo-cmyk“All things are positive from the get-go.”
That’s the upbeat assessment of the working environment at the Elgin branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association after the Southwest Local Health Integration Network took a unique approach by appointing a supervisor for the St. Thomas/Elgin operation.
That move, initiated this past spring, was prompted by the report from healthcare consultant Ron McRae which pointed to numerous issues of poor governance and a lack of oversight.
Things had sunk to such a level last October that an information picket was held outside the Centre Street office in St. Thomas by staff – represented by OPSEU Local 133 – who claimed they were working in an environment of fear, intimidation and anxiety. Continue reading

‘You really don’t want labour unrest,’ given Ontario’s new political climate


city_scope_logo-cmykAfter considerable negotiations, a settlement has been reached in a labour dispute involving staff at Closing the Gap in St. Thomas.
On May 2, a final offer from the employer was presented to OPSEU members who unanimously turned down the deal.
The outstanding issue remained wages, with Closing the Gap earning, on average, $165 per client visit while paying their employees $46 to $48 per visit, some of those lasting almost two hours.
Lynne Easter, staff representative at the OPSEU London Regional Office, confirmed Wednesday (June 27) “We reached a deal . . . and it was ratified by the membership on Monday (June 25).”
The deal was reached through mediation and members “voted overwhelmingly in favour. The reality is nobody wanted a strike. And, given the current political climate, under the newly elected government, public servants are fearful in terms of anyone working for a public dollar is conscientious of that. You really don’t want labour unrest.” Continue reading

‘Working diligently’ to ensure regulations are adhered to at Early Learning Centres


city_scope_logo-cmykBack in April, we wondered whether the third-party audit undertaken at Early Learning Centres in St. Thomas and Aylmer was routine due diligence on the part of city staff or complaint driven.
The matter came to the attention of this corner when a former staffer at an Early Learning Centre in St. Thomas called to alert us about a frustrating situation at the centres.
As this individual explained, at stake is the departure of former executive director Patricia Riddell-Laemers, the disbursement of top-up pay ear-marked for staff and allegations some individuals may have been wrongfully dismissed.
Matters apparently sank so low, some staffers hired a lawyer to delve into Ministry of Labour and Ministry of Education violations at the Early Learning Centres. Continue reading

For Steve Peters, his focus is on city hall (once again)


city_scope_logo-cmykStanding at the front of his house, he has a clear view of the city hall tower. And now, Steve Peters is seriously contemplating a return to the council chamber at that very same building where he first cut his teeth on municipal politics, 30 years ago this fall.
A former city alderman, mayor, Elgin-Middlesex-London Liberal MPP and Speaker of the Ontario Legislature, Peters has so far remained coy about his intentions once the nomination period opens May 1, other than to insist he is not interested in again donning the mayor’s chain of office.
An in-depth conversation this week, however, did shed considerable light on whether the political will to serve the populace still burns within Peters.
“Someone said you’re sitting on the fence. But I’ve been there and I’ve done that. And people say why are you going to go back?” Continue reading

Third-party audit at ELC: Routine due diligence or complaint driven?


city_scope_logo-cmykYou know things have reached the boiling point when former and current staff contact you about the toxic work environment at their place of employment.
Such was the case this week when a former staffer at an Early Learning Centre in St. Thomas called to alert this corner about a festering situation at the centres.
As this individual patiently explained, at stake is the departure of former executive director Patricia Riddell-Laemers, the disbursement of top-up pay ear-marked for staff and allegations some individuals may have been wrongfully dismissed.
Matters apparently have sunk so low, some members of staff have hired a lawyer to delve into Ministry of Labour and Ministry of Education violations at the Early Learning Centre.
The vast majority of staff at the centres are females, very young and fearful of losing their jobs, according to the caller to City Scope. Continue reading