In this space, the Rose City Politics analyzes, breaks down, and critiques a local political issue that affects each and every Windsor resident.
For May 2021, the Rose Rose City Politics panel opines on the Ontario government’s announcement of stage two funding for the mega-hospital project and what it means for Windsor and our fellow residents.
Doug Sartori: The announcement of Stage 2 funding for the new acute care hospital in Windsor was big news, and rightly so. Advancing in this process brings the region closer to a major capital investment and renewal of the local health-care system. Stage 2 is about functional planning for service delivery. Just as in Stage 1, the second phase of the process includes public consultation.
Previous public engagement on this file has been unfortunately divisive and bitter, with leadership taking an aggressive posture towards critics and observers. For all of our sakes, they should strive to do better in Stage 2.
Windsor Regional used a survey to prioritize site selection criteria, invited residents to join the site-selection committee, and conducted more than seventy town halls. Proponents claim this represents an unprecedented level of community engagement. It surely represents a significant amount of activity, but was it truly a state-of-the-art public consultation? In my view there is plenty of room for improvement.
Meaningful and inclusive public engagement don’t happen on their own. The issue with relying on an opt-in approach is that most Canadians choose not to participate. A 2017 Municipal World survey found that only 20 per cent of Canadians have ever participated in a municipal public consultation, and that fraction comes with built-in demographic biases.
I spoke with Nader Shureih of Environics Analytics about his work using neighbourhood-level data to help the public sector engage residents from different ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. He said this approach can help with developing a strong and effective public consultation strategy because “you’re able to effectively align communication and strategies with the populations that are most greatly impacted.”
Moving forward, Windsor Regional Hospital and steering committee volunteers should consider how to make the Stage 2 consultation process more inclusive and representative. Bringing a more receptive and less combative tone to the conversation would be a good start.
Doug Sartori is a political observer and organizer. When he’s not recording podcasts or getting people out to vote he runs Parallel 42 Systems, a technology consultancy in downtown Windsor.
Pat Papadeas: Proceeding with plans to build a mega-hospital on County Road 42 will result in the biggest mistake to be made in our region for generations to come. It is important to make clear that I am referring to location and not the need for new hospital infrastructure.
Some people are tired of this debate about location and just want to “move forward”. Not surprising, given how much (of our) money has been poured into propaganda to wear people down into accepting it. If there was ever a case to be made about choosing one’s battles, however, this is it.
Now, about that recent Phase 2 funding announcement in the provincial budget. The funding is not about building a mega-hospital at that location. There are 5 stages to get there. The $10 million in funding is to develop a functional program to plan the space requirements. This will need to include the space requirements for hospital services for folks in the most densely populated part of the region. We’ll wait and see.
Additionally, $10 million represents only .05% of an estimated 2-billion dollar project. Note that 2-billion dollars does not include the cost of furniture or equipment nor municipal infrastructure. As for municipal infrastructure, that is not yet budgeted. Any talk of being close to having “shovels in the ground” is nothing more than a deliberate attempt to confound.
What to make of the funding announcement? Really good political theatre and partisan positioning.
At the end of March, Premier Ford announced expanded capacity for hospitals in Brampton, saying, “There’s five seats, provincial ridings, we need to get those other three seats to continue having a strong voice down at Queen’s Park. So in the next election, please vote for the PC government in the three other ridings….”
The Premier doesn’t need to be as direct with us. We have the Mayor of Windsor working on that.
Pat Papadeas is a legal studies professor at St. Clair College and co-author of the textbook Canadian Business Law (Emond Publishing). She is active in organizations that directly or indirectly support a bold and vibrant downtown.
Don Merrifield Jr.: The new mega-hospital received 9.8-million dollars to move on to Phase 2 of the process, which now involves the functional programming that will be needed at the new hospital. The hospital plan is a 5 part process which shows there is still a ways to go, but this funding shows the government is serious about moving the process forward. If the last year has shown us anything, it is that our current hospital infrastructure is woefully inadequate.
Our area for far too long has not had the required medical facilities we deserve. Hopefully our political leaders and those involved in this project continue to keep it top of mind of the provincial politicians who will make the decisions to keep the project moving forward.
Regardless of the location debate, this project is terribly important to the health and wellbeing of the entire region. Of course it’s naive to think politics won’t play a part going forward, as it has in the past; expect this will be a main talking point of all local candidates in the next provincial election. The reality is we have accepted for far too long inadequate facilities we’ve had for decades.
It is important that the public not be ignored in the process, but making debates a zero sum game of “either we get our way or we burn it all down” serves nobody but the egos of the people involved on either side. The economic impact this project could have on the area can not be understated. If research and development facilities can be part of new project, it would open up many possibilities for our great medical research and training that goes on at The University of Windsor, hopefully spinning off into economic opportunities for the whole area.
Don Merrifield Jr. is a realtor serving Windsor Essex County for over 21 year, a co-host on Rose City Politics for over 10 years, a former professional musician, father and grandfather, and a former ward 3 city council candidate.
Rose City Politics broadcasts each Wednesday night at RoseCityPolitics.ca, is available on all your favourite podcasting apps, and appears in print monthly in Biz X Magazine.
[This column first appeared in the May 2021 issue of BizX Magazine]