Who suffers when you can’t get there from here?


city_scope_logo-cmykLow-income families, young people, seniors and those with disabilities are the most disadvantaged when a rural area does not have access to good public transportation.
That was the message Thursday (March 23) at a rural public workshop hosted by Elgin St. Thomas Public Health and  attended by close to 30 participants.
The aim of the three-hour forum was to get the ball rolling on development of a community transportation system for St. Thomas and Elgin county.
Opening speaker Dr. Joyce Locke, the area’s medical officer of health, noted 35 per cent of Elgin’s population lives in rural areas, with personal vehicles being the most popular form of transportation.
In fact, advised Locke, 86 per cent of those living in St. Thomas/Elgin drive to work, with the average annual cost of operating a vehicle running in the neighbourhood of $7,300.

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Roundtable on rural poverty: Is the province out of touch?


yurek-legislaturejpgIs the goal of this provincial government to encourage migration from rural areas to urban centres, as suggested by one Elgin county mayor? That was one of the issues raised at a roundtable on rural poverty held Feb. 24 at the CASO station in St. Thomas and hosted by Elgin-Middlesex-London Conservative MPP Jeff Yurek.
Attended by two dozen municipal and social/community agency representatives, the forum was designed to get a sense of what rural poverty is and its impact on St. Thomas and Elgin county municipalities, explained Yurek afterward.
“What’s available and what barriers are out there for people. Too often policies are developed in Toronto with an urban lens and we need to look at it with a rural point of view. It’s different living in rural Ontario and we need to have a balance in policies to ensure we can help get people out of poverty in rural Ontario.”

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Spending big doesn’t get you the chain of office


city_scope_logo-cmykThe final numbers have been submitted and it’s a bitter lesson for mayoral candidate Mark Cosens, who found you can’t spend your way to the top.
March 27 was the deadline for candidates to file campaign expenses for the 2014 municipal vote and all 22 individuals met that target.
Cosens claimed $15,244.94 in expenses, which was well beyond double the amount logged by Mayor Heather Jackson at $5,883.59.
Cliff Barwick, who filed months ago, spent just over $4,000. Continue reading

City Scope readers have their say on transit and hospital


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I’ve always maintained the success of City Scope is due to the loyalty of faithful readers who take time out of their busy schedules each week to digest the column, and their willingness to freely pass along comments and criticism.
Here are just two examples from this week’s mailbag.
Joe Caverly of St. Thomas attended Thursday’s transit open house at city hall and wanted to share his observations.
“I got a positive feeling after talking with the representative about my issues, and the direction in which St. Thomas Transit is going,” Joe offered.
“While I do not agree with the change to one-hour schedules for some of the routes, I was told that this was just the consultant’s recommendation and that public feedback may override these changes.
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Redefining hospital’s future languishes on wait list


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We’ve badgered the administration at St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital for some time now, so it’s interesting to note CEO Paul Collins will make a guest appearance Monday at city council with a presentation on redefining the hospital’s future.

In summary, the vision encompasses new adult mental health programs, a new emergency department that is double the size of the existing area, new surgical suites and centralized ambulatory care housed in Complex Continuing Care.

The redevelopment represents a $106 million investment in St. Thomas and Elgin.

It’s a business case that was presented to the ministry of health in July, 2009, where it has languished ever since. However, it is a project the hospital has advocated for many years and should there be a change in government come October, it could add a whole new dimension to wait times.
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History of public transit in St. Thomas


Use of public transit in St. Thomas is on the upswing, although we have yet to see evening and Sunday service which you would expect in a progressive municipality. The history of transporting the public around the city is a colourful story dating back to 1879 and an interesting synopsis is posted here