It all started with a high school geography course so many years ago.
As city manager Wendell Graves reflected back on his years of public service on Feb. 25, his final day at city hall, his attention turned to a particular field trip that would be “the ignition point” for what would become a four-decade career path.
“Don Cann was the teacher and he brought us on an afternoon field trip to city hall and specifically to the planning department. And that was my initial ignition point. I had never been in city hall before.
“My roots are in the city. I graduated eons ago from Locke’s Public School and then Arthur Voaden and the influence those institutions had on my career path has been tremendous.
“I give a shout out to all those kids who sit behind those desks or in front of a screen. There is so much opportunity here in the city for them to grow their careers and that is really important.
“And a fulfilling career as well.”
It would be nothing short of a prodigious understatement to say Kathryn Whittaker has an office with a view. Likewise, her current stature is an epic voyage distant from a summer job hostessing aboard a tour boat in Toronto harbour. On March 10 of 2018, the former St. Thomas resident was promoted to captain of the Sea Cloud II, a magnificent 94-passenger tall ship built in Spain in 2000 and operated by Sea Cloud Cruises of Germany. The firm notes she is the first female Canadian captain of a passenger cruise ship and the first female captain for Sea Cloud. Whittaker just completed a trip from the Caribbean back to Spain on April 18 and we caught up with her Friday (April 20) at her Ottawa home. Recounting her career path from the foot of Bay Street in Toronto to life spent on open waters should commence with tales of her early years in a sea-faring family. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Continue reading →
The release last Monday (March 5) of the salaries of municipal employees earning in excess of $100,000 in 2017 revealed some eye-popping pay raises to several senior managers. In the case of Ross Tucker, director of parks and recreation, a salary hike in the 20 per cent range And for clerk Maria Konefal, a 10 per cent pay raise. One of the explanations given by city administration is some of the senior managers have increased job responsibilities. Let’s be honest. How many residents out there have had more work piled on them over the past few years with nary a penny added to their pay cheque, let alone a double-digit wage increase? Continue reading →
Time spent at a coroner’s inquest brings with it the emotion of family members and friends sitting through graphic testimony in the courtroom interspersed with details of protocol, procedures and guidelines that seem, at times, almost callous in nature. Such was the case this past week with the four-day inquest into the death of St. Thomas construction worker Brian Daniel, killed on July 2,1014 when he was struck by a pick-up truck on the Highway 3 bypass at the Burwell Road bridge. The recommendations – excellent in scope and most of them put forward by Daniel’s daughter Krista McColl – can be found here. But to better understand the context of the back-and-forth testimony heard throughout the inquest, here are snippets of what was presented to the five-person jury.Continue reading →
The governing bodies of the health units in St. Thomas/Elgin and Oxford county on Jan. 10 approved proceeding to the next level in merging the two bodies. Locally, the health unit is the governing body and so municipal councils in St. Thomas and Elgin were not involved in any vote to move forward with the merger, whereas in Oxford the county serves as the governing body and municipal council had to approve a motion to proceed. To be known as Oxford Elgin St. Thomas Health Unit, the new entity would serve approximately 204,000 residents. A new, autonomous board would be composed of four representatives from Oxford and two each from St. Thomas and Elgin county. Continue reading →
We picked up the cause last week of a Lambton Shores woman whose father was a resident of Walnut Manor, an independent supportive living home in St. Thomas. In 2014, we documented the plight of the 14 residents of the Walnut Street facility who were being served such culinary delights as what was called pasta salad, consisting of macaroni and salad dressing. Or chicken wieners served on plain white bread for lunch. An advocate for the residents at the time, lawyer Elena Dempsey, described the situation in this fashion. “They run out of food and when they run out of food they concoct the most bizarre meals. I was told of one meal that consisted of spaghetti with instant mashed potatoes on top and mushroom soup poured on top of it.” Mmmmm, nothing says satisfying like chef’s surprise. Continue reading →
This is a horrible time of year to revisit this story. But can there ever be a good time to tackle what has been described as warehousing of our most vulnerable residents? In June of 2014, this corner profiled a disturbing situation at Walnut Manor, an independent supportive living home in St. Thomas operated by Niagara Supportive Living of Welland. Fourteen residents in the home were served up meals described as appalling not appealing by St. Thomas lawyer Elena Dempsey. She had become an advocate for the residents and was reaching out to the community for their help and support to turn things around at Walnut Manor. Things had gotten so bad, Elgin St. Thomas Public Health shut the kitchen down for three days. Four-and-a-half years later and it would appear history is repeating itself. Continue reading →
Friday’s announcement of the proposed merger of Elgin St. Thomas Public Health and Oxford County Public Health – which aligns with the province’s call for fewer health units with autonomous boards – is, no doubt, intended to create efficiencies. Such is the desired effect of any merger, no matter the business sector. To quote the media release, the two health units “began exploring a potential merger as a way of working towards a strong, unified rural voice for public health in Ontario.” To further quote from the release, “The intent to merge was formalized through a letter of intent signed by Oxford County Warden David Mayberry on November 8 and Elgin St. Thomas Board of Health Chair Bernie Wiehle on November 9. The letter of intent commits both organizations to a review of each other’s finances, operations and assets; to equally sharing any costs associated with the merger; and to pursuing the necessary statutory and regulatory change at the provincial level before the merger becomes official.” Continue reading →
In January of last year we first wrote about the forgotten Talbot Street apartments, clearly visible from the mayor’s office across the street at city hall. Even more shocking than the decrepit state of these hovels was the fact owner Trad Antoine had been approved by St.Thomas-Elgin Ontario Works for funding to add 10 one-bedroom units next door at 560 Talbot St., above the former Capitol Theatre. Two of the apartments were to be reserved for clients supported by the YWCA of St. Thomas-Elgin and the remainder for Canadian Mental Health Association clients. He was in line to receive $731,925 of Investment in Affordable Housing (IAH) funding. Just before Christmas, 2016, we checked in with acting director of St. Thomas-Elgin Ontario Works Elizabeth Sebestyen on the status of those new units given the fact Trad had packed up shop at his furniture business housed in the old theatre. Continue reading →