Chris's speech on his position and comments on the new hospital
Announced to the media on September 20, 2022
I felt it was important to have this event to clearly articulate my real position on the hospital once and for all. Last week we heard from my opponent who continues to use the need for a new hospital as a political football. He’s used it now in every election, at every level. He continues to spout mistruths and misinformation at a scale that needs correction.
We all know the process that led us here today. It's been one of the most intense and in depth debates and public discussions we’ve had municipally in our history. Unfortunately my opponent has been part of the side that has made this a very divisive and contentious issue in our community, and apparently continues to do so. The need for a new hospital is not, nor will it be, up for debate. It is completely agreed upon. The discussions that surrounded the location and the process in which the site was chosen did not need to pit residents against each other. My opponent seems to thrive off division, and will use it as a political tool at any time where he stands to benefit. That's unacceptable. That’s not leadership.
My position on the site selection process and the location has been clear, and the reasons I have articulated in voting against this site still exist today as unaddressed issues we need to deal with as a community. But, as I have done in my two terms of council, I will and do respect the direction and the will of the people. Just as recently as three months ago we had a provincial election where area residents supported MPPs who ran on delivering this hospital and making it a reality. In this location. City Council has already approved the zoning change and the creation of a tax levy collecting our share of the municipal portion. I am here today to pledge to the residents of Windsor that I will not hold up or stand in the way of that funding being allocated to this project when needed.
Contrary to my opponent who called this “the perfect location” just last week, I know, as do tens of thousands of residents, this was not the perfect location, far from it. I, unlike my opponent, will not hide my head in the sand and pretend there are no issues tied to that decision. I am prepared for the work that needs to happen to make this hospital not only a reality but a success.
The main issues that we need to address as a community are as follows:
24hr ER and full services at the Ouellette campus of WRH starting from day one. Equity and access to health care for those who need it most has been one of the most egregious oversights of the plan as it stands today. I am glad my opponent has FINALLY pledged support for 24/7 ER services in the core. Remember, just three months ago he mocked and called out Provincial candidates who did the same. Along with Councilors Bortolin, Costante, Kaschak, and McKenzie, I have been steadfast in advocating for 24/7 ER services in the core. This shows that our work has not only paid off but has led the way in making sure Windsor residents get the services we deserve. Don’t we deserve that leadership in the Mayor’s office?
The second issue that needs attention is the expense and timing of the infrastructure needs in the surrounding area of the new Hospital. Sandwich South is a blank slate, with no infrastructure to handle such a huge investment along with the ancillary investments that will follow. During this time the City will also begin developing the Sandwich South lands for housing. What will all this new infrastructure cost? We actually have no idea. Back in September of 2021 I tabled a motion to have a third party consultant report back with a comprehensive outline of the cost and timelines of needed infrastructure work in the area of the new acute care hospital. That motion did not pass, with my opponent being the deciding vote against. He and the 5 councilors you saw flanking him last week all chose to disregard this concern and willfully ignore the true cost to Windsor taxpayers. Will the City collect much needed development charges from the Province for this hospital? Will the province or the county contribute their fair share to the immediate infrastructure needs to make this “regional” Hospital a success? Will there be a huge shift in capital priorities to ensure we can keep pace with these investments without cutting much needed road and sewer investments? We simply do not know. Why would we not want to know the full impact of this investment and properly prepare for it? My opponent was the deciding vote against. How much has that one vote cost us?
Today I wanted to set the record straight so the citizens of Windsor have a clear understanding of my position, directly from me. Not only will I not stand in the way of using our municipal levy to contribute to the hospital when called upon, I will strengthen the plan, with the following starting immediately if elected:
1. Create a community wide Health Services Table exploring not only 24/7 ER access in the core but many other services that will be important to the communities who need them the most, with an emphasis on mental health and addictions. Agencies such as CMHA, HDGH, and the United Way will all be asked to contribute to this important conversation.
2. Establish a Sandwich South Infrastructure Task Force, comprised of residents, industry partners, city administration, and infrastructure engineers. The goal of this task force is to determine and cost out the infrastructure needs of the area as we begin construction of the new hospital in the greater context of the overall Sandwich South development.
3. Prioritize Nurse recruitment working with Invest Windsor Essex, Workforce Windsor Essex, St Clair College and The University of Windsor. This program will partner with WRH in continuing their efforts to attract talent to the Windsor area. We are in desperate need of nurses in our community.
4. Become a leader in advocating for investments in the mental health, addictions and long term care sectors. HDGH has space and infrastructure to open up more mental health beds immediately. HDGH also has the capacity to create much needed long term care beds. We know they are actively looking for space to invest and expand into this sector, as a City we need to support their bid and advocate on their behalf. We need to advocate for funding now. We currently have no formalized advocacy arm in the province working on mental health and addictions issues specifically, not at AMO or other formal municipal bodies. I pledge to lead this initiative across the province. Locally I will begin by adding 8 new outreach and mental health workers to our streets to work with Police and mental health agencies for improved access to service. While we have pledged support for the H4 centre we cannot wait 5+ years to begin work on this issue.
5. Prioritize all Transit Windsor routes that will access the new acute care hospital. Routes will begin before the doors open as construction workers and others in the area will need access as the project moves ahead. I will also work to create a special compassionate fare for family caregivers who will need to be at their families side for days at a time at the new facility.
6. Expedite the creation of a Climate Action and Energy Plan for the Sandwich South area. Our existing climate and energy plans currently do not include this area. This plan will include consultations with members of the public, local institutions, industry experts, researchers and our own administration. As we develop and move ahead with the clearing of greenspace and create more housing and services in Sandwich South we need to do so with our climate goals in mind. City Council has already endorsed a motion to create carbon neutral neighbourhoods in Sandwich South, we need to ensure development here is done properly. Health outcomes are tied in so many ways to our climate goals and actions. We cannot ignore those here.
So, to summarize, my opponent continues to spread misinformation and fear and wants to use the need for a new hospital as a political football for him to punt around. By contrast I am committing to you clearly that I will not stand in the way of the provincial plan to build a new hospital here. I will work with the province and the county to fulfill our financial obligation to the project. But I am not stopping there. I am pledging to the residents of Windsor that they deserve to know the full cost of this investment, financially and environmentally. I have a six point plan to address the gaps and prioritize the entire health and well being of our community.
I have always approached decisions at council with integrity and consistency. Residents of Windsor know that if I am making a pledge here today I will keep that promise and work with the province to make this not only a reality but a success. We need to approach this project with eyes wide open. This will be a generational investment that will need a proportional municipal investment to accommodate it here. We cannot hide our heads in the sand like my opponent continues to do and we cannot continue to politicize a project that needs to move forward and open its doors to the residents of Windsor Essex as soon as possible.