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Hospital denounces 'baseless claim' made by Windsor mayoral candidate

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An online war of words is heating up between the campaign teams behind Windsor’s leading mayoral candidates, which once again is pulling the hospital into the fray.

At issue is mayoral candidate Chris Holt’s pledge Wednesday to have the city fund a mental health emergency room in downtown Windsor.

It’s a $9-million plan for a two-to-three year pilot project paid for from city coffers by halting $7.4 million in funding for the streetcar beacon and $1.8 million for slide upgrades at Adventure Bay.

“We value the people experiencing social and medical trauma in our downtown. We value that more than we value a trolley,” said Holt. “We value that more than the latest and greatest waterslide at Adventure Bay.”

During his announcement, Holt indicated he’s consulted with hospital officials on his plan, prompting Hotel Dieu Grace Healthcare president Bill Marra to issue a letter to his board, distancing the hospital from the proposal.

Mayoral candidate Drew Dilkens posted that letter on Twitter, inciting a spat between both candidates’ campaign teams, including Dilkens’ campaign manager Abe Taqtaq and Holt campaign advisor and Ward 3 councillor, Rino Bortolin.

On Thursday, both hospitals issued a joint release.

“Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare and Windsor Regional Hospital want to categorically state that neither organization has been involved nor will be involved in any collaborative discussions or partnerships with any of the municipal candidates,” reads the statement. “It was inappropriate for a political candidate to make such a baseless claim.”

Holt says his campaign team consulted on costs, which are expected to be about $4 million per year of the pilot.

“It was never implied that we had a working relationship with them or anything like that. We're just doing our homework,” Holt said.

Dilkens argues Holt’s pledge pushes the cost to the municipal taxpayer where Dilkens’ own idea for a mental health drop in centre would be paid for by the province.

“The plan he put forward talks about spending $9 million of city taxpayer funding to fund projects that are the responsibility of the province of Ontario,” said Dilkens. “It's risky.”

Holt counters the idea has been talked about in great detail over the last few years — and wants the city to fund the pilot project because action is way past due.

“We're pledging to actually fund it as opposed to just waiting for Premier Ford to grace us with a with a check,” said Holt.

Dilkens said the city should stick to its core mandates.

“It just shows that Chris Holt is going off without all the facts, not talking with the partners. His decision making is risky,” Dilkens said.

Election Day is Oct. 24.

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