There Is A Precedent For Citizens To Vote On Hospitals


By Doug Charles

The hospital steering committee claims they are, “… making sure this is the most inclusive, fair, open and transparent process possible. It is unlike any other process used before in Ontario.” Apparently they are excluding the history of Metropolitan Hospital.

In 1922, 1923, and 1925 eligible citizens voted on a hospital by-law before construction was completed in 1928. Part of the by-law was to take advantage of Hiram Walker and Sons’ offer to contribute $125,000 toward the new hospital to be built in Walkerville.

The total cost, as reported in the Border Cities Star in September 12, 1925, edition, was estimated to be $530,000. In 2016 dollars, that would be $7.2 million for a 50-bed hospital.

Compare that to the $115 to $200 million we would pay today.

Hiram Walker previously made a similar generous offer to build a new county gaol (jail) in Walkerville. He knew the value of economic anchors. However, Essex county council eventually passed on that offer.

At a Special Session of Essex County Council in August 1895, Councilor Coste moved, “… that it is the duty of this council to take into consideration the splendid offer made by Mr. Walker …” but they should, “… consult the ratepayers upon it …” and the two other options in Sandwich and Windsor. Also that the matter, “… be left over until the January session to take a vote of the people of the county”

Not everyone had the right to vote though. Women got the right between 1917 and 1918 and some Asian descendants were denied federally until 1948. Status Indians were denied until 1954 in Ontario, and federally until 1960.

Only property owners were allowed to vote on the hospital by-law in the 1925. Yet, despite prejudices, citizens considered worthy of the vote were considered worthy of serious decisions.

We’re not all technical or medical experts, architects, or urban planners, but neither are city councillors nor the hospital steering committee. Sound decisions are based on judging information provided by experts.

In general, citizens can see through the biases of the experts.

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