Dilkens firing back with 'silent majority' supporting proposed mega hospital location
It's been nearly four years since the proposed location of the new acute care hospital was announced at County Road 42 and Concession 9 near the Windsor airport.
Since then, CTV News has covered many stories about the project, including a mounting local campaign against that location.
But now some new voices have entered the fray, belonging to what Windsor’s mayor calls "the silent majority."
Drew Dilkens and Essex County Warden Gary McNamara hosted a news conference Friday, with several people, in support of the hospital location — meant to counter what they refer to as a “loud minority.”
Dilkens and McNamara are referring to the actions of the Citizens for an Accountable Megahospital Planning Project (CAMPP).
“There is a small minority of voices that have been attempting to represent the interests of our community with respect to the new hospital,” said Dilkens. “And the vast majority of the city and county residents and businesses fully support this $2 billion transformation of our region’s healthcare system, including the location of the new state-of- the-art acute care hospital.”
Dilkens said a united voice supporting the proposed location is needed.
“While we understand the need for better facilities, it is equally important for the Government of Ontario to hear the majority of residents and businesses in this community, in this region, in this city and county are united together in support of both the transformation of the healthcare system and the site of the new acute care hospital,” said Dilkens.
McNamara also said it’s time to wake up the silent minority — particularly in the face of cuts from a new Progressive Conservative government in Toronto.
“We can’t give them any, any excuses whatsoever to make Queen’s Park’s job any easier,” stated McNamara.
CAMPP has lobbied against the preferred location since the site was announced in July of 2015. Members have put up lawn signs, billboards and rallied at city hall meetings — arguing the removal of a hospital from core neighbourhoods will gut the city and lead to unnecessary sprawl.
Most recently, the group launched an appeal to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal against a city decision to rezone the greenfield lands for the hospital and more city development.
The appeal by CAMPP has also received contributions or pledges of $5,000 from the Downtown Windsor Business Improvement Association, $2,500 from the Via Italia BIA and $1,000 from the Wyandotte Town Centre Business Improvement Association, plus $5,000 from local couple Frank and Saralee O’Reilly.
Dilkens also argued any BIA funding an appeal of a city decision is violating the Municipal Act.
“Taking taxpayer-levied dollars from their members to fund a third-party appeal of a city decision is clearly outside of the scope of what a BIA can do,” said Dilkens.
The mayor said the city is having municipal auditors review the matter after getting a strong legal review of BIA powers.
Dilkens added city council could decide to dissolve the current BIA boards for breaching the Municipal Act, which the mayor described as the "nuclear" option, or reduce their budgets.
"In some cases, this effort has been spearheaded by certain members of city council who personally oppose the hospital plan and would prefer the plan fall apart and risk our region not receive $2-billion investment that would deliver state of the art healthcare in our community," said Dilkens.
The Vice Chair of the Downtown Windsor BIA, Pat Papadeas, said she was surprised by the news from Friday’s news conference.
"There has not been, up until now, a single member who has complained about that," said Papadeas. "I think it's really clear that overall where the membership stands is in line with the position that we would not want to see, the hospital, the services, the ancillary services, move from the downtown core."
Papadeas also stated they will do what’s right if they are in fact in violation of the Municipal Act.
A GoFundMe page is also set up by CAMPP and more than $56,000 has been raised. The goal is $100,000.