Will Ontario’s new minimum wage result in maximum economic stress for school bus operators?


city_scope_logo-cmykAs debate swirls around the province’s decision to raise the minimum wage in stages, beginning Jan. 1 of next year, the Kathleen Wynne government has not taken into account the impact on school bus operators, most notably small, independent firms that have safely transported students back and forth to classes for decades.
The Ontario School Bus Association (OSBA) estimates nearly one million Ontario families rely on school buses to get their children to school. The Wynne government’s push to hike the minimum wage could threaten the availability of bus service in the coming year. Continue reading

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More sensitivity and less stunt when reaching out to the homeless


city_scope_logo-cmykThe promotion was called Sleepless In Our City, a well-intentioned fundraiser for the United Way of Elgin-St. Thomas. In capsule form, former MP Joe Preston and Tim Smart, the regional sales manager for a couple of local radio stations, were going to bundle up and spend the night sleeping – if possible – in the back seat of their respective cars. In the case of Tim, a Honda Civic.
(Full disclosure here, I spent several years as a volunteer on the United Way campaign cabinet and the entire team is to be applauded for raising in excess of $485,000 in this year’s campaign, as announced Friday evening.)
The media release from the United Way noted, “In Elgin St. Thomas, 20% of home owners and 42% of renters were spending more than 30% of their household income on shelter costs.”

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Nothing says summer like a circus under the big top


city_scope_logo-cmykThere’s no denying he’s chuffed an authentic, European-style circus will entertain at a dozen performances this summer in St. Thomas. But what really has Sean Dyke pumped is the big top tent under which it will perform.
Massive may be a more apt descriptor. The tent is 16,000 square feet in size, holds in excess 0f 2,000 in grandstand seating and 1,000 for catered events. The stage measures 1,260 square feet.
Now those are numbers the general manager over at St. Thomas Economic Development Corporation can really sink this teeth into. A tent with those dimensions shouts possibilities.
Of course the touring Canadian-Swiss Dream Circus – billed on its website as “incredible displays of acrobatic, balance, aerial stunts and thrilling acts” – will occupy the Railway City Big Top for two weekends in August, that’s a done deal.

Bankruptcy an undesirable fare at Cox Cabs


city_scope_logo-cmykAn independent player in the movement of people and parcels around St. Thomas and environs since 1944, taxis branded as Cox Cabs picked up their last fare early this year.
A victim of a market re-brand or idled by bankruptcy?
The former, insists owner Jamie Donnelly, who purchased Cox Cabs from the late Terry Banghart in 2011. Banghart took part ownership of the company in 1993 and sole ownership in 2003. He began as a driver with the firm in 1973.
“We started re-branding about three months ago and we have completed it now,” Donnelly told City Scope recently.

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Will council give green light to Sutherland Press building demolition?


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Entitled ‘Demolition of an Unsafe Building,’ a report to mayor and council Tuesday from Chris Peck, chief building official, would appear to clearly indicate the city has had enough dealings with the owner of the Sutherland Press building.
Peck is asking council to approve a tender submitted by Schouten Excavating of Watford, Ont., in the amount of $101,135 for demolition of what remains of the four-storey structure owned by David McGee of Toronto.
To recap recent history, on Sept, 16 of last year the city posted an emergency order on the building following a partial roof collapse at the southwest corner of the structure at Moore Street.

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Will new council game plan lead to efficiencies?


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Mayor Heather Jackson alluded to changes in her 2014 mayoral campaign and a report last fall on restructuring of at least one department at city hall recommended a re-think in how council conducts business.
A new game plan saw the light of day Thursday at a special meeting called to solicit dialogue on a proposed overhaul of council’s committee structure.
Currently, a system of seven standing committees is employed to deal with finance and administration; human resources; environmental services; protective services; community services; planning and development; and social services.
Business relating to each of these committees is managed within committee of the whole during regular meetings of council.
Under the new system presented by Jackson and CAO Wendell Graves, the seven committees will be scrapped in favour of four reference committees that would undertake discussions dealing with strategic community development and planning; community engagement and services; infrastructure management and civic operations; and local government and administration. Continue reading

Is new-look council an improved model?


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Not only will it be a new-look council on Dec. 1, the method in which our municipal representatives conduct city business is about to be overhauled.

We talked with Mayor Heather Jackson on Friday to get a sense of her expectations as head of a council comprised of a sole returnee.

“I see this all as opportunities. I don’t see any challenges. There is a lot of learning that is going to happen in a short period of time.”

To assist with the formidable learning curve, Jackson and CAO Wendell Graves are establishing an online resource centre for the six new aldermen.
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