Change of environment accompanied by a climate of controversy for MPP Jeff Yurek


city_scope_logo-cmykCan’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.”

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Is sensitivity training sufficient deterrent to deal with workplace harassment at city hall?


city_scope_logo-cmykExactly 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.”

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The Dobbie Report: Was the damning document hijacked?


city_scope_logo-cmykAfter reading the unabridged version of the Dobbie Report, it’s not so much the concerns raised by the author, London consultant Tim Dobbie, are troublesome — and they most certainly are — it’s the manner in which the document itself was withheld from the previous council.
And we’re not certain all members of this council received “a thorough presentation of this report and an implementation update as part of their council orientation,” a critical recommendation of the report.
But let’s step back for a moment to get up to speed on the report itself.
The organizational review of the environmental services department — budgeted at $20,000 — was undertaken in the summer of 2014 and involved interviews with staff, department heads, members of council and outside stakeholders. Along with 10 sweeping recommendations, the review details major issues facing the City of St. Thomas, including the almost $300 million infrastructure deficit.
A highly edited version was presented to the outgoing council on Nov. 3, 2014. The report was endorsed that evening by a slim 5-3 margin with aldermen Cliff Barwick, Tom Johnston and Dave Warden opposed.

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Diplomacy has disappeared at the top


city_scope_logo-cmykFriday afternoon we received a copy of a release from the Holiday Fantasy of Lights committee advising it is pulling the plug on the popular Pinafore Park winter festival.
“For 21 years, Fantasy of Lights has made Pinafore Park a beautiful winter wonderland of lights and display, with many families and people coming to the park to enjoy,” the release notes.
“With the retirement of our chairman and many senior committee members two years ago, we had to fold for a year. With a lot of effort over the last few months, we got a new chairman and some committee members, and had great ideas for the upcoming year.
“We have worked hard to get up and running for this season, but with all of the challenges that have been handed to us from the City and Parks Department, we have decided to fold the Fantasy of Lights for good.” Continue reading

When will mayor deliver on her parking promise?


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Not unlike the vehicles using them, the city’s consolidated courthouse parking program has required several major tuneups over the past year or so.
And the tinkering is nowhere near completion, based on the frustration level at Metcalfe Gardens where staff, residents and visitors are calling for a policy overhaul.
Prior to the opening of the new court facility in March, 2014, friends and relatives visiting the seniors residence could always park on the surrounding streets with nary a worry of being ticketed.
All that changed when the city and province reached an agreement whereby 315 parking spaces would be provided within a 300-metre radius of the courthouse.
That led to construction of the Crocker St. parking lot and several along the north side of Centre St., combined with a major crackdown on free on-street parking in the courthouse neighbourhood. Continue reading

Workplace harassment: ‘a dangerous point’ at city hall


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It would be fair to suggest the City of St. Thomas, as a corporation, be held to a high standard of excellence with regard to workplace environment.

In other words, municipal employees in dealings with their peers would expect to enjoy a relatively harassment-free workplace in which to conduct city business.

Well it’s not quite that cut and dried, as we discovered following conversations in the last two weeks with human resources manager Graham Dart and a city works employee.

“As an employer, we don’t have to guarantee a harassment-free workplace, because we can’t do that,” Dart pointed out.

“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.”
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