For the past four years, the St. Thomas Fire Department has faced the equivalent of an internal multi-alarm blaze. And, it is to be hoped with the announcement this week of Kyle Smith’s promotion to deputy fire chief that the final embers of controversy have been suppressed. You have to delve back to August of 2017 and the death of popular fire chief Rob Broadbent to discover the source of the flames of discontent. The decision was made somewhere in the corridors of city hall to look elsewhere for a replacement for the outgoing, community-minded Broadbent. This is despite a strong candidate in Deputy Fire Chief Ray Ormerod who, according to some sources, was not even granted an interview. We’ll wend our way back to Ormerod shortly. So the search for a new chief ended in Chatham-Kent where the deputy chief in that municipality, Bob Davidson was deemed the ideal replacement. Davidson arrived in St. Thomas in January of 2018 only to abruptly tender his resignation in July 2021.
After an extensive national search, St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital had to look no further than its administrative offices to appoint a new president and CEO. The current vice-president of integrated care, Karen Davies, will take over the helm Aug. 7 from retiring president Robert Biron. We spoke with Davies on Tuesday (June 22) and she considers it a privilege the hospital board of directors has given her a vote of confidence. “It’s not about you,” suggested Davies, “it’s about the patients and all of the amazing people who work here, all of the staff and all of the physicians and the community we serve. “So, it really is a great privilege. And no, I didn’t anticipate to be in the middle of a pandemic but I’ve come to see, though, it is also such a good time of opportunity.” Credit is due to the team at STEGH, added Davies, for the manner in which they have been able to navigate the hospital through the COVID-19 pandemic. And continue to do so.
It’s a great question. How are police supposed to keep this community safe when the courts continually release or deal lightly with repeat offenders? Some with dozens of outstanding and fail to comply charges. A revolving door police are stuck in while attempting to deal with a record number of service calls, many involving social and mental health issues. All of which tax police resources at a time when there is a hue and cry to defund police. We presented this to St. Thomas Police Chief Chris Herridge this week – which coincided with the release of the service’s 2020 annual report. A document which revealed a 10 per cent increase in incidents last year while the overall use of force rates for the service dropped by 33 per cent. The report notes, “This is a very strong indicator of officer awareness, de-escalation skills along with education and training capabilities of our officers.” Herridge began the conversation by suggesting, “We’ve got to figure out a way to deal with this issue we are having. It’s been termed catch and release and we have to find a way to protect the victim and how do we look after vulnerable people as well.
There are one or two members of council advocating for fishing and non-motorized boats to be permitted on Lake Margaret. Several of their peers have expressed an interest in whether this is even possible from an environmental point of view. But, is council as a whole willing to authorize an expenditure of $50,000 to find out if such recreational activities are feasible? That’s the question Monday night when members delve into a report from Ross Tucker and Adrienne Jefferson from the city’s parks, recreation and property management department. For a sum of $49,245 plus HST, Ecosystem Recovery Inc. of Kitchener will undertake an environmental assessment of the Lake Margaret area. The firm offers a diverse range of engineering services to help effectively assess, manage, and restore sensitive water resources infrastructure, according to their website. Over the past 20 years, two master plans have been created for Lake Margaret, both were conservation-based and both recommended no activity on the lake including swimming, fishing, or recreational watercraft.
It will be interesting to gauge the response at city hall
after the province announced yesterday (Friday) it is launching consultations with the municipal sector to strengthen accountability for council members.
To quote the release from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, “The province wants to ensure that councillors and heads of council maintain a safe and respectful workplace and carry out their duties as elected officials in an ethical and responsible manner.” Minister Steve Clark added, “We want to gather input to ensure there are adequate mechanisms in place to hold council members accountable for any unacceptable behaviour.” He went on to note, “It’s critical that everyone feels safe and respected in the workplace, and that they know there are accountability measures in place for members who violate codes of conduct.” It was two years ago that an unnamed member of council was the subject of a signed complaint from a city employee alleging an individual of the opposite sex removed a cell phone from a hip pocket, brushed their body against the complainant’s back and casually touched a forearm and elbow multiple times, making the employee feel very uncomfortable.
A blue-and-white sign in the front window at 378 Talbot St., at first glance, appears deceptively hospitable. Its message, however, elicits a long second study. “Welcome To Ontario Open For Business Closed For Autism” Propped up against the glass in the former downtown branch of TD Canada Trust, the sign marks the office of CoField Inc. Co-owned by Lyndsay Collard and Alison Ditchfield, the pair head up a team of instructor therapists who provide Intensive Behavioural Intervention to children with autism and their families. Which has the two senior therapists butting heads with the provincial government over autism funding. Hence the sign.
Can’t imagine Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP would immediately suggest enjoyable to describe his first week as the province’s head of the environment, conservation and parks ministry. Just days after the cabinet shuffle that moved Yurek out of the transportation portfolio, he found himself in Halifax this past Thursday (June 27) at a meeting of the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment. The gathering allowed ministers the opportunity to brainstorm on such issues as plastic waste, climate change, air quality, and wastewater. In a release issued following the discussions, Yurek noted “we are deeply disappointed that (federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine) Minister McKenna continues to focus on her tax plan, disguised as a climate change measure, and refuses to respect the legitimate ways provinces and territories, including Ontario, are tackling climate change in their own unique jurisdictions.”
Exactly four years ago, we wrote at length about workplace harassment at city hall, referring to it as a “toxic environment.” At that time, we postulated the City of St. Thomas, as a corporation, should be held to a high standard of excellence with regard to a workplace environment. The issue in 2015 involved a city employee we identified as ‘Dave’ and his allegations of verbal and physical abuse involving fellow employees and managers. In a conversation in June of that year with human resources manager Graham Dart, he conceded “As an employer, we don’t have to guarantee a harassment-free workplace, because we can’t do that. “There is no expectation or requirement of that. But there is an obligation on our part — especially under the Occupational Health & Safety Act — that we address harassment in the workplace.”
The ceremonial ground-breaking was held last month and now it is down to serious business at Veterans Memorial Garden, to be located on Moore Street, across from BX Tower. The garden will incorporate the city’s war memorials in one downtown location. This would include the First World War soldier in front of St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital and the Second World War and Korean War memorial at Princess Avenue. Standing on the site of the garden recently, Tony Bendel, representing Lord Elgin Branch 41, Royal Canadian Legion, described the layout. The soldier will be moved to the north end of the garden while the Second World War and Korean War memorial will be in the centre and become “the focal point. And currently right now in Toronto there is a bronze statue being cast of an Afghan soldier and that will be at the far end (south end of the garden near Centre Street). They will be building a rock wall and that soldier will be sitting on that.”Continue reading →