Hospital Being Used as Political Football

It seems the Collingwood municipal election campaign has caught the attention of the General and Marine Hospital senior staff.

Political sniping regarding perceived past and present relationships between the Town and Hospital has prompted the Collingwood General & Marine Hospital to issue a press release with regards to its stance on the matter and its focus as a service provider to the community.

Statement Issued Monday September 10, 2018, by the Collingwood General and Marine Hospital

Statement on behalf of Collingwood General and Marine Hospital

“Over the past couple of weeks, the Hospital has received a number of inquiries regarding issues arising during the current Municipal Election. This hospital is an apolitical body and does not become involved in any election.

The hospital’s focus is and will continue to be upon achieving our vision and mission through:
• Attaining appropriate operational funding
• Addressing space challenges
• Maintaining our excellent efficiency ratings
• Continuing to develop innovative programs such as community based Cardiac Rehab and Healthy Babies, Happy Families programs
• Working with the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC) on our redevelopment priorities

As has been our tradition, once the municipal elections are complete, the hospital will continue building upon the current good relations and partnerships we have with the Councils in each of the areas the hospital serves; including the Town of Collingwood, Clearview Township, Town of Wasaga Beach, Town of the Blue Mountains and Grey Highlands.

We wish the best to every candidate running to serve their community.”

Why was this release necessary?

An April 10, 2018 article by published an article that contained confirmation from both Norah Holder, President and CEO of the Collingwood General and Marine Hospital, and Fareed Amin, CAO of the Town of Collingwood, that the Hospital and Town were working together regarding hospital redevelopment and the steps necessary to move the provincial application process forward.

“Our Board Chair and I have met monthly with the Town of Collingwood’s CAO and Mayor over the past six months to help aide with the transition and discussions surrounding the hospital. We plan to continue with our monthly meetings as they have been very successful.”
–Norah Holder, President & CEO, Collingwood General & Marine Hospital

“We are waiting on them to tell us what they need from us. We have set aside some money and many other municipalities in the county have also set aside some funding for it, so Norah is in the driver’s seat and we’re playing a supportive role. We’ve basically said you tell us what you need from us to help move this along.”
–Fareed Amin, CAO, Town of Collingwood

So what has changed?

A municipal election campaign is underway and some candidates are using the hospital file as political weaponry.

Mayoral Candidate John Trude states on his web site that the current council obstructed the Hospital.

“I think it’s a travesty that Council allowed its administration to orchestrate, behind closed doors, with the support of a sole sourced lawyer and consultant, a technical planning issue. It was completely at odds with the Hospital’s registered professional planner’s and lawyer’s opinions and led to the Hospital’s preferred site becoming a hot local issue.

I believe that Council failed in recognizing that ultimately, land use planning approvals from the Town are required and that their early and unwarranted intervention may have prejudiced some people in the community. It is through the land use planning approval process that Council would have been in an informed position to ascertain the true wisdom of the Hospital’s proposal and the true wishes of the community. In turn, they could have then impartially adjudicated on the matter.

Now with the 2018 election before us, approximately 24 months after Council decided to obstruct the Hospital, and after thousands of dollars of our money being needlessly spent on sole sourced consultants and lawyers, and after hundreds of hours of Town and Hospital staff and volunteer time, Council has decided to support the Hospital’s preferred site. I am relieved that Council has finally listened to the wishes of their constituents by adopting a motion in July 2018 to request that the Province issue a zoning order to allow for the Hospital’s preferred site to be considered.”

On his web site, Mayoral Candidate Brian Saunderson says the Town of Collingwood and Hospital are in complete alignment.

“It has been said that this Council, Town staff and myself, in particular, have opposed, blocked and obstructed the Collingwood General and Marine Hospital’s efforts to get the much needed new hospital our community and region need.
This is simply not true.

This Council has and continues to support the Hospital’s redevelopment efforts and is completely aligned with the CGMH on this issue. On September 12, 2016, Council passed a motion supporting the Hospital in the submission of the Stage 1 a) and 1 b) reports including the identification of the Poplar Sideroad site as the Preferred Site unanimously in a recorded vote.

On September 11, 2017, this Council passed a motion I moved to support the Hospital’s efforts in any way it can unanimously in a recorded vote. On January 29, 2018, this Council passed a motion I moved to pre-approve up to $150,000 in the 2018 budget to the Hospital for the Stage 1 approval process unanimously in a recorded vote.

Most recently, on July 23, 2018, Council passed a motion I moved to direct staff to send a letter to the Province asking the Province to consider designating the Poplar Sideroad site as the site for the new hospital by Ministerial Order unanimously in a recorded vote. The Province did this in 2010 with the siting of the John Di Poce Campus of Georgian College and only the Province has the power to designate a site which effectively over-rides any local or regional planning processes. Should the Province designate the Poplar Sideroad site then it will alleviate the need for some time consuming and costly planning processes and accelerate the process.”

Both Mr. Trude and Mr. Saunderson agree on one important point. The Province will make the final decision on what the new hospital will look like and where it will located.

John Trude (from
“Finally, we must all remember that ultimately the redevelopment decision, including if, when, and where, will be made by the Province, as the Province is essentially putting up the lion’s share of the money.”

Brian Saunderson (from
“The Hospital is currently at Stage 1 of a 5 stage process and, as stated by the CEO Norah Holder, this process is a marathon not a sprint and the general timeline from Stage 1 to the start of construction is 8 years. Siting which is a Provincial decision is generally determined at the start of Stage 3.”

Draw your own conclusions. We’re simply presenting content from both candidates.

Looking back to the April 2018 article, Hospital CEO Norah Holder said meetings continue on a monthly basis to encourage ongoing conversation regarding issues.

“Our Board Chair and I have met monthly with the Town of Collingwood’s CAO and Mayor over the past six months to help aide with the transition and discussions surrounding the hospital. We plan to continue with our monthly meetings as they have been very successful.”

Collingwood CAO Fareed Amin stated throughout the interview that the relationship between himself and Hospital CEO Norah Holder is good.

“We’re on each other’s speed dial.”

Where we are today is what is important, and there is nothing to indicate anything has changed from earlier conversations.

The relationship between the Town of Collingwood and General and Marine Hospital is good, and moving forward as it should.

Enough already!

–Paul Richards is a retired broadcaster and the author of

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CLICK HERE to read the April 2018 story where we interviewed Norah Holder and Fareed Amin