Cathy Deddeck

Oakville Hospital

This is by far one of the hardest decisions we on Council will have to make - our decision will impact our community not just today …but for many years to come. 

Personally, I have listened, I’ve read, and I’ve listened and read even more, in preparation for my vote this evening.

Before I proceed I would like to express my personal thanks to the Hospital’s administration (especially John Oliver), the many hospital volunteers and staff, for all their hard work on this issue. Thanks should also be directed towards Town staff, our Mayor, and our local provincial representative, MPP Kevin Flynn.

While some within the community may disagree with the answers they have been provided throughout the process we need to remind ourselves that these individuals have worked extremely hard to achieve a new hospital in Oakville. They have given considerable time and effort on behalf of the entire community they deserve our thanks for their combined efforts.

As many of my colleagues have said before…….nobody disagrees that we need a new hospital …….we all agree that we have outgrown the existing hospital due to growth within the community.

However, where some of us might differ is deciding how that new hospital is paid for!

Throughout the consultation process Oakville taxpayers have repeatedly asked me “what exactly will this local contribution provide us”. They know that our regional neighbours will be utilizing this hospital in addition to Oakville residents – so why they invariably ask “Why are only Oakville taxpayers paying the local costs?” 

When I inquired on their behalf if they would receive any type of special treatment (due to the fact that they were paying for this hospital on their property taxes)…….the resounding answer I received was of course not!  Several were quick to remark that Oakville residents frequently access services in Mississauga, Toronto, and Hamilton that’s while it is called a public healthcare system !

But let’s look at those same municipalities and compare what they have paid for healthcare through their property taxes in comparison to what Oakville’s share will be.

Mississauga :
Credit Valley Phase II     No municipal funding provided

Trillium – no municipal funding assistance

City of Toronto:
City of Toronto Council is on record indicating that this is a provincial responsibility and provides NO funding assistance

No direct funding provided by the City of Hamilton

The public has contributed and continues to contribute to our public healthcare system through their provincial taxes…… and in doing so they expect to be able to access healthcare across the province, regardless of where we live.

However, in asking local communities to pay for a hospital on their property taxes we are now asking one community to pay for something that others have not. Is it really any wonder that at a recent meeting of mayors from large, urban communities, several mayors raised this issue of how the healthcare issue is affecting municipalities across Ontario.

Prior to 1998 Halton Region provided hospitals with capital funding up to 1/3 of the total costs for projects that were approved by the Province. 

Unfortunately, in April 1998 Halton Region suspended their Hospital Grant ByLaw until such time as the Province of Ontario reinstated the development charges for hospital growth relating to capital costs.

Halton Region’s actions were as a direct result of the previous provincial government’s 1997 “Development Charges Act”  The Act stipulated that hospitals were no longer eligible for development charges funding.

Due to those changes…..when it comes to capital hospital costs…… growth is no longer paying for itself.

Ask yourself ….Who legislates how much our community must grow – the provincial government.

And who legislates where the growth and intensification must take place – the provincial government.

So if growth is supposed to pay for itself ……why isn’t the province paying for the new hospital? 

The Oakville community is being asked to finance something that is a Provincial responsibility.  Even if the province refused to completely fund the building of the hospital – at the very least they could have reinstated the Development Charges Act. That would have provided Regional governments the much needed tools to fund capital costs for building new hospitals. The present government has had 7 years to remedy the 1997 changes to the DC act and although the Region, AMO, and others have repeatedly asked for those changes nothing has been done!

It has been suggested that we need to publicly lobby the provincial government to reinstate the previous changes made to the Dev. Charges Act – I completely agree. However, the time for such actions in Oakville has passed – our future lobbying efforts will not impact the funding of this new hospital !

In reviewing my files I came across the transcript of Brad Graham’s speech to Halton Region on January 30, 2008. Mr. Graham was the Asst Deputy Assistant to the Ontario Growth Secretariat, which is part of the Ministry of Public Infrastructure Renewal.

At the 2008 meeting he was asked by the Chair:

Is the province committed to requiring the full cost of growth to be carried by the development industry including amendments to the Development Charges Act and will the province provide grants to cover any shortfalls?

Mr. Graham’s response was and I quote:

I think I know the quick answer to the last question - NO   I mean clearly the “principle” of growth paying for growth is an important one.

Other than alluding to ongoing “discussions” he indicated nothing else forthcoming from the province…..

At one of the past Council meetings we were fortunate in having Mr. McLeod, a representative from LHIN (Local Health Integration Network) respond to this question :

“Why doesn’t the Province completely finance the hospitals?

And to make sure I quoted him correctly I played his presentation on our Town TV taping.

Mr. McLeod stated and I quote:

“The system is designed to make sure that we are not building hospitals everywhere with provincial taxpayer dollars.

When they are being built they are not just needed by the provincial taxpayers of Ontario but felt to be needed by the local population, and that local contribution is a way of signifying that the need and the desire for the facility is there.”

I’m sorry but this doesn’t really make sense to me ……surely if the Ontario Government can make the necessary decisions regarding Design Build projects they can ascertain if a community’s need for a hospital is indeed valid. Is asking residents to pay for a hospital on top of the provincial taxes they already pay the only way to decide if the need a facility is needed here?

In this particular case both the hospital and the community have both clearly articulated and proven to the provincial government that a hospital is indeed needed!

It comes as no surprise that many long time residents continue to be cautious about supporting the local share with their property taxes to build this new hospital ……especially when nobody knows what the actual borrowing costs will be when the bill payment is due in 2015.

Over the past few years Oakville residents have become increasingly frustrated when they were advised that no beds were available for them or a family member at OTMH.  Their frustration grew even more when they found out that there were in fact unoccupied beds remaining empty while they continued to wait for a possible bed placement. Even after it is explained to them that the reason for those empty beds was due to a lack of provincial funding and that the beds could not be “staffed” as a result ….they still have had a hard time understanding the true reason behind bed shortages.

Is it any wonder that when they have been asked by the province to support a local share of the building costs they become even more skeptical ?……what exactly will that local share provide them?   I have described to them the design of the building, the services that will be will be available, the cancer clinic, etc. …… but invariably the question they responded with was …“that’s nice but will there be more beds and more staff when it opens ?  We don’t have enough nurses and doctors at the present hospital and the pressures on our hospital staff are intolerable”

They have a hard time understanding that the answers to those questions are not within the town’s control – the town’s contributions only addresses the building of a new hospital and NOT how it is staffed. The provincial government is responsible for the operational budget of the hospital.  Again the counter response ….“but I understood that when it opened we would have another 132 more beds than we do now !

Once again I explain that yes they we will have 457 furnished beds “furnished and available” – but they will not have access to those beds until the hospital “ramps up” to it’s full staffing capacity. 

More and more this pattern of questioning gave me cause for concern……..was there a misconception within the community that all our hospital related problems will be gone at this new hospital? 

While some concerns will be resolved……. others will remain ……largely in part because a portion of the public’s concerns are not controlled by the Town, the Region, or even the Hospital – they are controlled at the provincial level.

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 …in fair conscience ….agree to committing property tax dollars to fund something that should be financed at the provincial level – or at the very least at the Regional level. I could have supported even an even split between Oakville and the Region...but the entire costs being paid for by the Oakville taxpayer.

Regardless of how many perceive Oakville as being an “affluent” community we have a considerable percentage of our residents who are barely struggling to stay in their homes

Many are raising young families ……. others residents are on fixed incomes. They have raised their families, and want to remain in their homes and in the Town they helped to build as long as possible ……in approving the local contribution we will be adding yet another tax burden to the both ncoming HST and Smart Meters charges… burdens that many residents may not be able to afford.

While a new hospital plays an important role in making Oakville a more Livable community …… increasing taxes on the existing residents may seriously increase the risk of Oakville residents no longer being able to afford to live here!

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