Last night, Oakville Council resolved by an 11-2 margin to donate a maximum of $170 million to Halton Healthcare Services’ local share plan to fund the new Oakville hospital.
The public consultation process took over four months and included online, written and telephone surveys, as well as hundreds of emails and phone calls to councillors.
“The collaborative approach we are known for worked to produce a result that is both affordable and no-risk and enables our community to catch up with our need for modern, safer health care.” – Mayor Rob Burton
Long consultation process
The consultation process revealed that Oakville residents strongly supported the need for a new hospital, but were concerned about the financial contribution requested of the Town of Oakville by Halton Healthcare Services.
Polls conducted by Oakville.com revealed that more than 65% of residents were in favour of the the hospital but 44% were undecided about how it should be paid for.
“While I am frustrated and annoyed at the provincial government for the position they have put us all in, I am confident in the Hospital Board to manage this project and to deliver a first class facility that Oakville needs and deserves.” – Jeff Knoll
Majority vote by Council
There was a majority vote by Council with two councillors, Cathy Duddeck and Keith Bird, voting against the resolution.
Mayor Rob Burton
“While I appreciate the enormous work that has gone into the planning of a new hospital and I fully agree that a new hospital is badly needed, I cannot agree to committing property tax dollars to fund something that should be financed at the provincial or at the Regional levels,” said Cathy Duddeck.
When asked about his decision Keith Bird noted, “I believe the Province took responsibility for hospital funding as part of the ‘Who does What’ or Local Services Realignment (LSR) exercise between the two levels of government a few years ago. So to download hundreds of million of dollars of costs for hospitals onto the backs of our municipal property taxpayers is a travesty and I was offended by this being presented to Council.”
Other members of Council noted that his was challenging decision but that Council listened to the public and acted accordingly:
“In my 28 years serving the people of Oakville, I have never experienced such a dynamic, progressive and challenging decision.” – Ralph Robinson
“This is a good deal for Oakville that will produce a modern hospital that is needed by the community. The costs are affordable by the community and council has taken the opportunity to manage each of the risks that have been voiced during the public process,” said Councillor Tom Adams.
“Council listened and responded. The people want and deserve a hospital for the 21st century” – Alan Johnston
Support from the public
Several community organizations including the Oakville Chamber of Commerce encouraged Council to approve the funding of the new hospital.
“Funding of the hospital is one of the biggest issues our community has dealt with in decades,” stated Chamber Chair Sonny Jelinek. “We know some members of Council have concerns. However, our board of directors overwhelmingly agree that if Council does not approve the proposed funding, the hospital project will be at serious risk. We don’t want to lose this opportunity because of principles related to provincial funding formulas – we can’t change those now. Bottom line is that we need the hospital.”
Town staff will report to Council in 2011 at the conclusion of the hospital RFP process with the exact amount of the proposed donation and the opportunities it has identified to fund the donation through non-tax revenues.
Actual payments to the hospital are scheduled to begin in 2015 once the hospital is built and operational.
“We’ve agreed to give Halton Healthcare Services a donation with the understanding that this amount will not change.” – Mayor Burton
Public reaction to the decision
Reactions to the 11-2 decision have been positive overall. You can view some of real-time reactions from Councillors and members of the public via Twitter here here here here here and here.
UPDATE: Click here to read the announcement from MPP Kevin Flynn