Showing that he is continually out of touch with Windsor residents, mayor Drew Dilkens thinks the plan for the new hospital is a positive for the region. In the face of stiff opposition, City Council voted 9-1 to approve an annual 1% tax levy (read: property tax increase) to fund the City’s share of $200 million in required infrastructure upgrades.
Dilkens’ vote in favour of the tax increase speaks volumes to the politicization of the issue of the new hospital, which still has yet to be approved by the financially strapped provincial government. Except for Ward 4 councilor Chris Holt, the remainder on council have fallen into lockstep with the cash grab, even the so-called fiscal conservatives.
The tax increase plan brought forward by Dilkens requires the movement of $40 million from the capital budget, which will slow down or cancel needed improvements in the city. Dilkens admitted that robbing the capital budget jeopardizes current and future projects.
Another $5.4 million is expected to be collected for nine years from the Samsung solar farm at the airport, another project that is clouded in controversy.
Windsor is now on course to remove $108 million from the economy to stash away for a project that hasn’t been approved or budgeted for at Queen’s Park. At the heart of the opposition is a poorly thought out plan to build the hospital at a green-field property on the outskirts of the city.
Contrary to some councilors’ beliefs, urban sprawl is not the way of the future. Many of the 34 delegations spoke out against the urban sprawl which requires higher levels of funding than high density planning.
The new hospital will also have fewer beds than currently provided to the area along with a reduction of services, which will require patients to continue to travel to London for treatment. The plan also calls for just two 24-hour emergency care facilities for the entire county, both segregated from current population centres.
Those who attended the meeting at City Hall complained of having little opportunity to voice their concerns. Dilkens has taken to using the Eddie Francis mute button to silence critics of the property tax increase and cut off debate.
As a member of the steering committee which selected the proposed hospital site, Dave Cooke has taken to disinformation regarding opponents to his plan. He told media that members of Citizens for an Accountable Megahospital Planning have not attended any of the public sessions.
Cooke’s statement is untrue. Despite the sessions being scheduled in obscure locations and at times designed to dissuade attendance, CAMPP members have turned out, only to find debate curtailed.
Dilkens also resorted to using the catch phrase skin in the game to refer to obligating the city to spending millions of dollars. The CBC counted the phrase used 17 times during last night’s meeting leading some observers to wonder just how much tax payers are being skinned.
The property tax increase will be in effect until 2029, 13 years of collecting from residents for a project that may change drastically, especially in light of a law suit that was brought due to the questionable site selection process.