News Local

Searching for common ground

By JT McVeigh, The Enterprise-Bulletin

collingwood town hall

collingwood town hall

Everybody is talking, but no one seems to be listening as the rhetoric between Collingwood town council and the board at Collingwood General and Marine Hospital (CGMH) appears to be coming to a full boil.

Recent postings on the CGMH website suggest that council is actively blocking the hospital’s submission by suggesting planning approvals are being singularly focused on CGMH’S third preferred site, the existing hospital, ignoring the Poplar Sideroad site.

Collingwood Mayor Sandra Cooper has challenged the hospital to take down the posting suggesting that the hospital’s comments are wrong and potentially slanderous in a letter this week to CGMH board chair Thom Paterson.

“I understand that there is currently a vibe in the community that is negative towards the town on the hospital redevelopment process and when we are trying to work collaboratively with the hospital to move the redevelopment plans forward, I find the statement made on the CGMH website truly troubling and disappointing,” Cooper wrote in the letter.

The temperature began rising Feb. 27 when more than 200 supporters tried to get into town hall to hear a deputation from the hospital to council.

During the deputation David Finbow, a board trustee with CGMH told council “I would agree that council by way of motion has certainly identified that they support redevelopment but certainly the administration within the town has been effectively creating roadblocks for us to proceed with perfecting our applications.”

One recommendation from Deputy Mayor Brian Saunderson was for the board and council to sit and discuss their differences, Cooper, on the other hand, would like to see a meeting but with a smaller group including the mayor, deputy mayor, CAO and planners and members of the CGMH board.

Board chair of CGMH, Thom Paterson, feels that it is time for conciliation but is cautious.

“As I mentioned in March in a letter to the mayor we welcome the opportunity to continue to meet we don’t think that a joint board and council meeting is an appropriate way to talk about the differences we have and seek common ground,” Paterson said after council’s last meeting Monday night. “The mayor put on the table that we meet with smaller groups and working group to find a common solution I think that is the best solution that we heard.”

Paterson was at Monday’s council meeting to hear councilor Kevin Lloyd’s notice of motion asking for discussion in part on providing land use approvals for a hospital to be built on the Poplar Sideroad site, and Town works collaboratively with the Hospital in moving forward on the submission of our Stage 2 proposal to the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care.

Lloyd’s motion will be heard March 27 at a regular council meeting being held at the Georgian Bay Hotel to accommodate what is believed to be another large crowd.

CGMH Guy Chartrand admits that the situation is frustrating and hopes that council and the hospital can see themselves getting past their differences.

“I go back to when we went back to council after we went through the $1.2M process and over 18 months of work all we are asking is that that they provide us a fair shake in reviewing the preferred site with us so that it is a viable option as we continue to move forward,” Chartrand said. “Our job and our obligation to the ministry was to give all options to the ministry so that they can evaluate it. In all our talks with the town it all seems to be about technicalities about policy and not about the patient.”

Chartrand warns that these decisions affect health care far into the future.

“The patient has to come first here, and it’s not about today but 20 or 30 years from now, we have to be visionaries we have to look forward and to be accepting of change and growth,” he added.

Cooper agrees and recognizes the passion that people in the area have for their hospital.

“Its very frustrating as the head of council that we can’t find our common ground,” the mayor said. “I have my own personal views on it and I have done my own due diligence phoning other mayors from other municipalities that have had this experience and looking at a new hospital seems to be the better way to go, it is less costly.”

Cooper feels that it is time to reset the discussion and begin to look at the redevelopment as something more than proving who is right.

“I think is an area where a smaller group and getting together and working out the differences, check the boxes and this is what we need from you and this is what you need from us and go away and do those things this and then we clearly understand what it is and we can move together with it,” Cooper said.

“Rather then just fighting back and forth. It’s just the dog chasing its tail.” 

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