‘There’s a lot of opportunity in the region right now,’ but do we have the labour pool to support it?


city_scope_logo-cmykWith two area employers seeking more than 3,500 workers, at first glance, it would appear to be a rosy picture for job seekers in St. Thomas, Elgin county and neighbouring municipalities.
More so in light of two years of economic fallout related to the pandemic.
But there are other factors at play when you consider employers here and across the province are coping with a labour shortage.
We talked this week with Sean Dyke, CEO of St. Thomas Economic Development Corporation to ascertain the impact this will have on smaller firms already hunting for employees.
How easy will it be to find 2,000 or so employees for the Amazon fulfillment centre north of Talbotville plus 1,500 workers for the Maple Leaf Foods plant in south London, both opening next year?
“I do think they will be able to draw from a wide range of areas in the surrounding region,” suggested Dyke.

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‘People should be able to assess their own risk and make their own decisions’ – Mark Millar, New Blue Party of Ontario


city_scope_logo-cmykFounded in 2020, the New Blue Party of Ontario is led by Jim Karahalios, the husband of Belinda Karahalios, former PC MPP for Cambridge and now the party’s first MPP.
She was turfed from the PC caucus after voting against Bill 195, the Reopening Ontario Act, which she described as “an unnecessary overreach on our parliamentary democracy.”
New Blue identifies itself as “an anti-establishment centre-right political party.”
The party aims to field candidates in all ridings for the June 2 provincial election.
It has put forward Matt Millar, a life-long Lambeth resident, as its prospective candidate for Elgin-Middlesex-London.
A third-generation fruit farmer who also operates a small tech support company, Millar advises the party is all about less government involvement.
“The reason I got into this is I just want people to have more control over their own lives. I don’t want the government to be overbearing and forcing people to do things they don’t want.”

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‘Trying to make decision-makers . . . understand that things are different in rural Ontario’ – Andy Kroeker, NDP candidate for EML


city_scope_logo-cmykThe three major parties have now announced their candidates to run in Elgin-Middlesex-London in the June provincial vote.
All three were acclaimed.
In the first week of March, the NDP announced Andy Kroeker as their candidate to contest the riding with the Conservatives’ Rob Flack and the Liberals’ Heather Jackson.
Kroeker has been the executive director of the West Elgin Community Health Centre for the past dozen years.
Working in health care, Kroeker says he has witnessed how underfunding has impacted rural communities in particular.
It’s just one item on a substantial “laundry list” of concerns that need to be addressed.
“Certainly I have my concerns about healthcare,” stresses Kroeker, “social services and affordable housing and education.
“So there is a long laundry list, I guess, of things which are challenging in a post-COVID environment.”

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RFP casts light on proposed EarlyON delivery model


city_scope_logo-cmykAs hoped for, the city this week released the request for proposal (RFP) for the delivery of the EarlyON program in St. Thomas and Elgin county.
While it provides some insight and clarification on the new direction, there are questions and concerns on the part of the city, based on the two-page addendum that accompanies the RFP document.
The preamble notes, “The City of St. Thomas is issuing this Request for Proposal (RFP) to seek successful proponents who will operate EarlyON Child and Family Centres in St. Thomas and Elgin County.
“For the purposes of the delivery of EarlyON Child and Family Centre programs and services, three distinct Service Delivery Zones have been created: West, Central and East.”

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In a mere 38 seconds, city council passed a motion that could result in a dozen people losing their jobs


city_scope_logo-cmykThe recommendation before council at the Sept. 21 meeting appeared straightforward enough: That council grants permission to proceed with a procurement process to designate three operators for the
EarlyON system in St. Thomas-Elgin.
Now, either the mayor and councillors did not fully read the report from Teresa Sulowski, supervisor of children’s services – it was two pages in length – or they failed to comprehend the possible implications of what she is proposing.
In any event, the opportunity was there for any member of council to seek clarification or request further information.
Instead, the far-reaching report was approved in a matter of 38 seconds with nary a question or comment.

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Mandatory wearing of face masks: ‘It’s becoming our new second nature’


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The feelers have been out there for some time now, and last week’s interview with Dr. Joyce Lock, Southwestern Public Health medical officer of health, confirmed the wearing of face masks in enclosed public places was soon to be mandatory in this COVID-19 marathon.
Dr. Lock sealed the deal via a teleconference Thursday (July 30).
There are those who will argue this should have been done back in the spring as the pandemic embers flared into a full-blown blaze.
Our neighbour to the north made the wearing of face coverings compulsory exactly two weeks ago, so why the lag time in the health unit’s watershed?
Dr. Lock touched on that last week noting, “we’re working step in step with our municipal partners to make it as simple a process as possible for individuals, businesses and organizations across our geography.”

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‘We’ve been able to bend the curve, but we’re not out of the woods yet’


city_scope_logo-cmykThey are not included in the daily tally issued by health units across the province – including Southwestern Public Health in this area – and yet these individuals have been victimized and their lives put on hold by the coronavirus.
And last week’s release of the framework to be adhered to by hospitals is a welcome ray of hope for those whose elective surgeries and procedures also fell victim to COVID-19.
Although it may still be several weeks before ramping up the numbers, St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital president and CEO Robert Biron says the preparatory work is underway.
Speaking with him yesterday (Friday), Biron advised the immediate task is to work with other hospitals in the region to create a joint plan so that all hospitals are working “in a lockstep approach.”
He adds, “There is a lot of complexity involved in that because there is a pandemic we have to account for.

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Hospice for Elgin ‘is not a luxury item. It is absolutely an essential service’


city_scope_logo-cmyk“This is not a luxury hotel. It is an appropriate place for end-of-life care in a cost-effective manner.”
Coun. Linda Stevenson’s observation at the Jan. 16 reference committee was typical of the words of support from council members for the Hospice of Elgin, a 10-bed palliative care facility which, when built, would serve the residents of St. Thomas and Elgin county.
Trouble is, neither municipality has come forward and put dollars on the table.
Even though in September of last year, Deputy Premier Christine Elliott pledged $1.6 million pledge toward construction of the hospice at a yet-to-be-determined location.
Plus, the province will provide $840,000 annually toward the operating costs. The annual funding is projected to cover approximately 50 per cent of the hospice operating costs.
Late last month, the county played its cards in the form of a letter from Warden Dave Mennill to city council advising municipal officials there resolved “to support the Elgin Hospice Group through non-financial measures but declined to offer financial support.”
In a conversation with after this week’s reference committee, he elaborated further.
“It won’t be financial support because we are tied to 2023.”
That’s when the county’s financial commitment to The Great Expansion at St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital is fulfilled.

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As St. Thomas positions itself for growth, the financial reality looms


city_scope_logo-cmykBy the year 2041, the city’s population is projected to exceed 50,000.
To accommodate this influx, the city will need to adjust its urban area boundary as part of a review of its official plan.
The city is undertaking – with input from residents – a project it identifies as Positioned for Growth.
The study will assemble the required planning and engineering reports to support the preferred expansion lands and bring them into the urban area boundary to designate for development.
Concurrently the city is identifying recreational and cultural infrastructure and the fire protection services required to support this growth in the coming decades.
Representatives from Dillon Consulting in Kitchener met with council at Monday’s reference committee meeting with a draft copy of its fire station location study.

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