Earlier this month, Jeff Yurek celebrated 10 years in provincial politics as MPP for Elgin-Middlesex-London.
Now a decade employed in the same field may seem fairly insignificant, however in the world of politics – at any level of government – that can feel like a lifetime.
Moreso of late with the transformation of the playing field into a highly divisive, confrontational and threatening battleground.
We talked at length this week with Yurek about his political career to date.
As we jokingly asked Yurek, what would possess a successful and popular downtown pharmacist to throw his hat in the political ring?
He admitted he has always had an interest in politics.
“I think it was the combination of being involved with the government of the day dealing with pharmacy issues. Everyone always looks back and wants to do better for the next generation.
“Opportunity arose and I thought I would put my name forward.”
Is another provincial backtrack in the offing?
On Aug. 16 MPP Jeff Yurek, minister of the environment, conservation and parks, noted in a statement, he is working “to improve public transparency and consistency” in dealings between municipalities and the conservation authorities.
Yurek continued, “The legislative changes we’ve made ensure conservation authorities focus on delivering core services and programs that protect communities from natural hazards and flooding while using taxpayer dollars efficiently and effectively.”
Last week in this corner, we questioned the impact this legislation would have on events such as the maple syrup festival hosted by the Catfish Creek Conservation Authority (CCCA)at Springwater Conservation Area.
Well, what should appear in the agenda package for Tuesday’s (Sept. 3) city council meeting but a letter from Rick Cerna, CCCA board chairman and Ward 3 councillor in Malahide Township.
By approving its Part 2 capital budget and the 2015 operating budget Monday, city council authorized a property tax levy of $47,040,822 for this year.
That translates to a 3.55% property tax hike in 2015, up slightly from the 3.48% proposed, yet less than the 3.8% tax levy in 2014.
The slight increase from the proposed budget presented last week to council during a public meeting at the St. Thomas Seniors’ Centre is accounted for in additional grant money doled out by council.
In total, $281,146 was distributed to community groups and social agencies in St. Thomas, much of that sum drawn from working reserves.
That figure does not include $250,000 to St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital for its expansion program as part of the city’s 10-year pledge. Continue reading
Members of the city’s police and fire service account for an overwhelming majority of members in the Sunshine Club each year and 2014 was no exception.
Of the 96 city employees who earned greater than $100,000 last year, 81 work are based at the police station or fire halls.
This corner talked at length last week with Chief Darryl Pinnell who made it very clear, “A lot of it has to do with base salaries now. Things are getting up to the point where base salaries are getting close to that ($100,000) number.”
Likewise, we had a lengthy dialogue with Chief Rob Broadbent on the factors impacting the salaries of firefighters.
“If you look at the Sunshine List this year, you’re going to see a number of firefighters on it versus officers. It’s not uncommon for our officers to be there just by pay grids. Tack a few call-back fires or overtime shifts on top of an officer’s salary and it doesn’t take very much for them to bump over the $100,000 threshold.”
After a quiet year in 2011, membership in the city’s Sunshine Club fairly blossomed last year, as outlined in a report to be received Monday by St. Thomas council.
In his public sector salary disclosure report, human resources director Graham Dart reveals membership in the $100,000 club mushroomed from 39 city hall employees in 2011 to 58 in 2012.
Of that total, 17 are from the city’s police department (up from 11 in 2011); 28 are from the fire department (17 in 2011) and 13 from city administration (an increase of only 2 over 2011).
We’ll compile a complete city list for next week, however here are highlights to tide you over.
The top earner at city hall is CAO Wendell Graves at $166,315, up from $146,217 in 2011. He supplants police chief Bill Lynch, who topped the list in 2011 at $150,976. He clocked in last year at $161,984.
Many city administrators saw their salary increase by about $5,000 last year in what was supposed to be an austerity push.