WINDSOR, ONT. -- A new player is lending its voice to the ongoing mega hospital discussions.

The Windsor-Essex Economic Development Corporation has launched a new campaign — to showcase local support for the project to decision-makers at Queen’s Park.

They’re calling the campaign: “We can’t wait."

The taxpayer-funded agency made the campaign public today — and is hoping to mobilize what it calls the “silent majority” of Windsor-Essex residents who support the proposed location of the new acute-care hospital on County Road 42.

“This project hasn’t moved one step, not even one baby step forward, and it seems that the only opinions being coordinated and mobilized are opposition to it by what we believe is a small minority of residents,” says WEEDC President and CEO, Stephen MacKenzie.

The goal is to launch an advocacy journey by signing up supporters and gaining followers to prove to the province that it’s time to fund the next stage of the hospital system plan, which would unlock $9 million from the Ministry of Health for functional planning of the new facility on County Road 42 at Concession Road 9.

According to MacKenzie, the campaign will be driven through social media to create an “advocacy pipeline” to showcase what they believe is overwhelming support for the project — and hope that message is loud and clear to top decision-makers at Queen’s Park. For that reason, he says public participation in the campaign will be a critical metric to move the project forward.

“We have to rally the support, educate our residents, our businesses and get the right information out there,” MacKenzie says.

WEEDC is getting involved because the project is expected to create thousands of jobs — not just in the short-term through construction, but also long-term, because MacKenzie argues the city will be a more attractive destination for investment with an improved healthcare system.

He points to a study done by KPMG, which suggests 13,000 full-time equivalent positions will be created related to the $2 billion project.

Ottawa-based Crestview Strategy was hired to run the six-month advocacy campaign to sign up and track supporters to prove local support for the project outweighs opposition.

MacKenzie estimates the cost to the taxpayer-funded organization, which has an annual budget of $2.4 million, will be in the six-figures.

Philippa Von Ziegenweidt is the longtime spokesperson for opposition group Citizens for an Accountable Mega Hospital Planning Process (CAMPP), which has fought against the location since it was announced in July 2015. She argues it promotes urban sprawl, is inaccessible to many people who rely on public transit, and goes against both city and provincial planning documents.

Von Ziegenweidt says grassroots organizations on both sides of the issue already exist — and questions the need for an expensive outside agency.

“How can they spend so much money, of taxpayer money, to support something like this?” asks Von Ziegenweidt, noting CAMPP has spent more than a year to raise $90,000 in its ongoing legal battle with the city over the proposed location. “It’s a company that specializes in lobbying the government. Why are they doing this in order to supposedly create a grassroots campaign?”

“We’re not lobbyists, we’re not going to lobby,” reassures MacKenzie. “But to make sure that Queen’s Park and the decision-makers understand the support is here and we need to kick in the stage two funding for the capital funding for the planning process.”

MacKenzie says the board of directors for WEEDC unanimously approved the campaign.

Over the coming weeks and months, WEEDC will be placing digital media ads on all social platforms to spread the word about the campaign and get users to take part in the effort.