CECI grad got in there and gave it a try . . . now she’s captain of the ship


city_scope_logo-cmykIt 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 this year, 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

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Third-party audit at ELC: Routine due diligence or complaint driven?


city_scope_logo-cmykYou know things have reached the boiling point when former and current staff contact you about the toxic work environment at their place of employment.
Such was the case this week when a former staffer at an Early Learning Centre in St. Thomas called to alert this corner about a festering situation at the centres.
As this individual patiently explained, at stake is the departure of former executive director Patricia Riddell-Laemers, the disbursement of top-up pay ear-marked for staff and allegations some individuals may have been wrongfully dismissed.
Matters apparently have sunk so low, some members of staff have hired a lawyer to delve into Ministry of Labour and Ministry of Education violations at the Early Learning Centre.
The vast majority of staff at the centres are females, very young and fearful of losing their jobs, according to the caller to City Scope. Continue reading

Much-maligned Dobbie Report basis for double-digit salary hikes at city hall


city_scope_logo-cmykThe 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

Bridging the gap: Province acknowledges local concerns with new 401 interchange


city_scope_logo-cmykThe province has listened and the stretch of Glanworth Drive known as the farmer’s freeway will remain intact with a new alignment of the overpass at Highway 401.
At a public information centre held Thursday (Feb. 1) at the Stoneridge Inn, London, the Ministry of Transportation unveiled its preferred alternative for interchange improvements at the 401 and Col. Talbot Drive.
The original plan would have seen the Glanworth Drive bridge demolished, forcing farmers to move their massive implements on to busier roads. The new interchange will see the Glanworth Bridge replaced and realigned further east with the roadway repositioned to meet Col. Talbot Drive north of its present junction at Littlewood Drive. Continue reading

Can a bus ride begin the journey out of poverty?


city_scope_logo-cmykAmong the positive steps taken this year in St. Thomas to help mitigate poverty’s impact on Ontario Works recipients was the introduction in February of the Bus Pass Pilot Project.
Under this scheme, recipients seeking employment would have access to a monthly bus pass, recognizing “Access to reliable and affordable transportation is integral to a person’s ability to gain and maintain employment, to access health care, recreational, educational and social activities among other things.”
That is according to a report from Heather Sheridan, supervisor of employment and income supports, to be discussed at Monday’s council meeting.
She is asking council to continue the bus pass program and extend it further to include sole support parents and their children. Continue reading

So, this guy comes up to me and asks, ‘When is the next bus to St. Thomas?’


city_scope_logo-cmykWhile this country’s passenger train network has been picked clean to the bone like so much road kill, Toronto transportation writer and policy adviser Greg Gormick notes it is no coincidence the topic of rail travel ebbs and flows with the election tide.
His clients have included CP, CN, VIA and numerous elected officials and government transportation agencies.
One of his latest undertakings has him consulting for Oxford County to document concerns about the province’s high-speed rail (HSR) proposal linking Toronto with London and eventually Windsor.
Gormick warns HSR will further contribute to the decline of VIA passenger rail service to Woodstock, Ingersoll, Brantford, Stratford, St. Marys and other communities in the region. Continue reading

Mergers are all about creating efficiencies, so who will be left at the alter in health unit marriage?


city_scope_logo-cmykFriday’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