So, who on city council is responsible for kicking around the issue of climate change?


I love my planetjpgFor the second time in less than a month, Coun. Lori Baldwin-Sands failed in her bid to have council endorse a motion to declare a climate emergency in the city.
So, you have to ask what is the motivation behind this motion that Baldwin-Sands admits is purely symbolic in nature?
Well, if you were one of the several dozen supporters in the public gallery Monday (April 15) and you listened objectively to what was espoused by seven councillors, the mayor and city manager, then you should have your answer.
The motion, tabled by the member of council who is seeking the Liberal nomination for Elgin-Middlesex-London riding in this fall’s federal vote is, pure and simply politically motivated.

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They have yet to close the gap, but talks continue in an effort to avert a strike in St. Thomas


city_scope_logo-cmykWhile talks continue, no settlement has been reached between OPSEU Local 152, representing 22 health care professionals and Closing the Gap in St. Thomas. Their contract expired on March 31 of last year.
And, those employees could be off the job in a week’s time.
Closing the Gap is a healthcare provider offering services in homes, schools, workplaces, long-term care homes, hospitals, and clinics across Ontario.
On May 2, a final offer from the employer was presented to OPSEU members who unanimously turned down the deal.
The outstanding issue remains 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. Continue reading

Capping community grants the opening salvo in 2018 mayoral race?


city_scope_logo-cmykIt was a budget body slam last night (Dec. 18) in the council chamber at city hall. A bloc of five councillors sent a clear message to Mayor Heather Jackson as to who is behind the wheel on budget deliberations. Or at least the community grant portion of the 2018 city budget.
Councillors Steve Wookey, Joan Rymal, Mark Burgess, Mark Tinlin and Gary Clarke voted to adopt the budget as is. The 2018 financial roadmap for the city included a $60,000 cap on community grants to any one group or organization.
Jackson is opposed to a grant cap and therefore was in opposition to approving the budget as is.
She did a little politicking of her own by asking for a recorded vote so those associated with the Talbot Teen Centre (TTC) and St. Thomas Elgin Public Art Centre – two pet projects – would be well aware of her sympathy. Continue reading

Will transit continue to take a back seat in St. Thomas?


city_scope_logo-cmykFor those who rely on St. Thomas Transit, change may be a passenger in the coming year.
The transit contract with Voyageur – originally in effect Jan. 1, 2012 – expires at the end of the year and the city has the option to enter into a three-year extension.
The transit system was up for discussion at council’s Nov. 20 reference committee meeting at city hall, where the director of environmental services, Justin Lawrence, brought mayor and council up to speed on the five-route system.
In 1989 the hub and spoke system operated with traditional transit buses on a 45-minute cycle over a 14-hour day, Monday through Saturday.
Today, the same hub and spoke system operates 11.5 hours per day (except Sunday) on a 30-minute cycle utilizing buses not far removed from RV’s that struggle to remain in one piece over what appears to be a five-year life span. Continue reading

Is jockeying for position underway for the 2018 mayoral race?


city_scope_logo-cmykThe plug has been pulled – at least temporarily – on Mayor Heather Jackson’s vision of a fibre optics network for St. Thomas.

Her plan for a fibre optics information session was voted down in a closed-door meeting on June 20 and Jackson was so infuriated she fired off an email to various players in the business community pointing the finger at councillors Jeff Kohler and Gary Clarke, who put forth the motion that “The Information Session regarding fibre planned for July 19, 2016 be postponed until a date agreeable to Council.”

Council voted 6-2 in favour of the motion.

The cost of such a network would be tens of millions of dollars according to an individual in the know and this may have played a role in council putting the brakes on the mayor’s plans. Continue reading

Interpreting Ascent deal through our ‘filters’


city_scope_logo-cmykThree members of council are in favour of keeping the people who elected them to office in the dark about the comings and goings at Ascent, formerly known as St. Thomas Energy.
Well actually it may only be two but we’ll get to that in a moment.
The trio, Mayor Heather Jackson and councillors Gary Clarke and Linda Stevenson sit on the Ascent board of directors which met May 26 to deal with the sale of its Ascent Solutions division to Spark Power of Oakville.
Included in the deal are Tillsonburg-based Tiltran — acquired by Ascent in 2007 — and Belleville operation Tal Trees — acquired in 2009.
This corner — and we’re sure many ratepayers — would like financial disclosure on the sale.
Guess what, that is not about to happen. Continue reading

Sutherland stalling hits ratepayers in the pocket


city_scope_logo-cmykIf it didn’t pose such a financial burden on the city, the Sutherland saga would be comedic relief in best Keystone Cops fashion.
Take, for example, the return to court this past Tuesday in what was to be the start of a scheduled two-day hearing to determine the fate of the 103-year-old structure.
Instead you have a solicitor and three city staffers sitting in stunned silence across from building owner David McGee and his lawyer as Ontario Justice Gorman announces she has only set aside five minutes for the proceedings.
So, who dropped the ball here?
It was made perfectly clear when the two sides last faced off in April the next step would entail presentations from the city seeking to proceed with demolition of the derelict building while McGee and his lawyer would counter with the argument there is nothing structurally wrong with the four-storey structure. Continue reading