Ontario's downtowns need a 'provincial system' to coordinate revitalization says St. Thomas leader

Earl Taylor, the Chair of the St. Thomas Downtown Development Board speaks during an interview with CTV News on April 7, 2021.

Business owners, advocates, police and politicians met online Wednesday to discuss ongoing issues in the core of St. Thomas.

While many topics were addressed, a key focus was security, drug use and aiding the homeless.

The chair of the St. Thomas Downtown Development Board admits solutions are elusive.

Earl Taylor is calling on Queen’s Park to take a more active role, and not only in St. Thomas.

“Until a provincial-wide system is put in place to solve this on a provincial basis, I think all of us are spinning our wheels to a certain extent.”

Since merchants spoke out in an outdoor public meeting last September, multiple groups have been working to address their concerns.

Initiatives including CCTV cameras and increased patrols have helped to combat vandalism and public disturbances.

But during the online meeting, Taylor stated more could be done.

Yet, just like other Ontario downtowns, he says finding long-term solutions is proving challenging.

Taylor hopes recently announced promotions, including a scavenger hunt through the core, will bring more people downtown.

Taylor says despite its troubles, St. Thomas is attracting new shops, boutiques and services.

“It is not stopping small business entrepreneurs from creating something for our downtown, cause they know that is the centre hub of our city.”

Taylor says Wednesday’s meeting, initially slated to be a one-time event, may occur “every few months” moving forward.