The things a professional, running a publicly funded institution, has to do to get the funds he needs when an election is on.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON August 11, 2011 – There he was, a top notch professional, an experienced hospital administrator trying to re-shape and redevelop a hospital that is badly in need of an upgrade, An institution that has not had any major work done on it for more than forty years in a community that has grown significantly in the past ten years with a population that is aging and in need of different kinds of care. A hospital that went through a deadly C difficile epidemic that cost 78 people their lives because the hospital was old and very hard to keep clean enough to prevent the spread of newer more virulent viruses.

Nice guy, great at what he was hired to do.  Got abused by the politicians.  Made to stand up and basically say nothing.

Nice guy, great at what he was hired to do. Got abused by the politicians. Made to stand up and basically say nothing.

They had him up there on a platform, looking a little like a monkey on a chain tethered to an organ grinder who was peddling the same old tune. Poor Eric Vandewall had to stand up there and say what he has been saying for years, give me the funds I need and I will get you the hospital you need and deserve.

He is the President and Chief Executive Officer of one of the largest employers in the city and responsible for one of the most important institutions in the city. And he had to be excited and say how happy he was, and indeed he is happy, but he doesn’t yet know just how the government is going to get him the funds to build the hospital he has to run. And given that it looks as if the provincial government is going to go the Alternative Funding Plan route(the government doesn’t have the money to pay for the hospital) – Vandewall may not have all that much say in just what kind of a hospital he will get to run. They’ve got the guy tending to the minutia and not focusing on the bigger picture and ensuring he has the best team he can recruit to give the community the hospital it needs and deserves.

A member of the provincial government was on hand at the “announcement” event to spout for more than ten minutes, assuring the community that the hospital was going to be redeveloped. That it was going to happen.

Of course it is going to be redeveloped. The question is exactly when and how much has the government actually committed to the project. Where are the time lines ? Where are the funds ?

The event was an announcement of “historic” proportions. What was historic about repeating what has been known for some time – that the government is going to re-build the hospital ? They couldn’t not re-build, not if they want to have a hope in Hades of ever getting elected in Burlington. It’s been a long time since a Liberal represented Burlington in the Legislature – 43 years and counting.

Ted McMeekin, former Mayor of Flamborough, former member of Hamilton’s city Council and now the MPP for Ancaster, Dundas, Flamborough, Westdale was on hand to make the announcement along with MPP Sophia Aggelonitis, MPP for Hamilton Mountain who is also the Minister of Revenue for the province and the Minister Responsible for Seniors as well.

Aggelonitis was supposed to be on hand for the announcement but was reported to be struck in QEW traffic. This on the day that Premier Dalton McGuinty announced that if the GO trains were more than 15 minutes late riders would have the cost of their fare refunded. Aggelonitis could have taken the GO train like the rest of us and been on time.

Vandewallderwall must have wondered why he spent so much money on renting a fancy white tent that was filled with just about every politician drawing a paycheck – and there were a lot of those on hand, each congratulating themselves on how wonderful this announcement was.

What announcement? Nobody said anything new. We weren’t told how much money the government has committed to the redevelopment of the hospital. We weren’t told when construction would start – not one single dollar amount was mentioned nor was one date mentioned.

Liberal Candidate Karmel Sakran, who sat on the hospital board and was on the committee that hired Vandewal said after the press conference that all one had to do if they wanted to know what was being spent was do some research. Wonderful idea but there are no numbers on the hospital web site nor are there any construction start dates. It was a little on the embarrassing side for Sakran. Here he is, running for office with a campaign that is in very good shape, doing all the right things and ahead of his competition who has yet to open her campaign office and he finds himself sitting in a room with everyone waiting for an announcement that really didn’t get made.

The press conference was originally going to be on the Tuesday but got moved forward a day. One would think the government could plan things well enough to ensure that the Minister making the announcement could get into the riding the Liberals have a slightly better than even chance of winning and have at least a shot at the Halton seat.

Ted McMeekin, member for Ancaster, Dundas, Flamborough, Westdale has shoved Joyce Savoline aside and is doing every media event he can. Savoline, the current MPP for Burlington, is the Progressive Conservative member of the opposition for Burlington, was not at the event. McMeekin , said he had called Savoline four times but she never got back to him. A very reliable source informed me that Savoline apparently wasn’t invited and was very disappointed because the hospital was one of her favourite projects.

After the dignitaries had done their bit, McMeekin said the reason dollar figures were not announced was that the government didn’t want to say publicly what was going to be spent so that contractors wouldn’t know how much money was going to be available. What a crock! Either McMeekin didn’t know – unlikely, or he had been told that announcement would get made by Aggelonitis. Or the government doesn’t want to talk at this time about their Alternative Funding Plan, whichever, it was a cock-up on the part of the government and a waste of everyone’s time.

In his press release Mayor Goldring said: “Phase 1 of the Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital redevelopment is more than  $300 million. The planned local share is $120 million. The Joseph Brant Hospital Foundation has committed to raising $60 million through a fundraising campaign in addition to the city’s contribution of $60 million.” The city already has $4.8 million sitting in a bank account and they are going to sit on it until there is a rock solid Memorandum of Understanding in place. The city’s money may get used to build the parking garage. How embarrassing.

It was a non-event, waste of taxpayers money – and all apparently because Minister Aggelonitis couldn’t get to Burlington on time to tell the whole story and tell us just how many big bucks were going to be spent.





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