Go grab yourself a “Cup of Joe”, pull up a chair and let’s chat a while about last night’s historic Windsor City Council Meeting concerning the Mega Hospital Tax Levy
In the end, the vote for the hospital tax levy at the special April 25 meeting of Windsor City Council was anti-climactic. After five hours of heated and emotional debate, the vote taken shortly after midnight had not changed the outcome most expected six hours earlier.
With Councillor Bill Marra abstaining by virtue of conflict, and with Mayor Drew Dilkens voting with his council, the 9 to 1 vote in favor of the hospital tax levy allowed the city of Windsor to join the county of Essex in moving the mega-hospital project forward.
The only dissenting vote was Councillor Chris Holt who remained faithful to his declared opposition dating back to the earlier December budget meeting on this matter.
So there were no surprises. If any of the 30 plus delegates and their supporters, largely members of the social media group, CAMPP (Citizens for an Accountable Mega-Hospital Planning Process), thought there may be a St. Paul on the Road to Damascus moment with this Council, it didn’t happen.
Here are the details of the hospital tax levy and how they affect the average Windsor taxpayer:
- A 1% property tax levy will immediately be assessed to reach the goal of approximately $55 million; this was revised by Mayor Dilkens from the original administration proposal of 2.19% property tax levy.
- Another $5.4 million will be added to that from revenue collected from Samsung Solar Farms between the years 2020 in 2029.
- The remaining $40 million will be extracted from the capital budget.
- Interest on the tax levy is expected to generate close to $7 million, and the impact on the average Windsor owner for the next 14 years will average approximately $30.
If the Ministry of Health does not allow Windsor to move forward with the hospital project, the tax levy revenue collected and maintained in a separate account will be rebated to taxpayers in the next tax year.
According to Windsor Regional Hospital CEO David Musyj, this commitment by Windsor city Council following on the heels of a similar commitment by Essex County Council last Wednesday sends a very powerful message to the Ministry of Health and “puts the ball in their court.”
Musyj reported that the Niagara Health System – Niagara South (one of 5 communities vying for provincial capital dollars for new acute care hospitals) had just learned last week that the Ministry of Health allowed their quest for their new acute care hospital to move forward to stage II of the process.
It is important to note, according to Musyj, that Niagara began their process the very same day as Windsor. With the (near unanimous) decisions of Windsor City and Essex County Councils to move the mega-hospital project forward and start collecting their financial obligation of $200 million through tax levies, Musyj believes this region has positioned itself well to be successful for the funding.
Many of the delegations speaking before Council opposing the levy were actually opposing the location of the proposed hospital at County Road 42 and Concession 9. They expressed their fears that the downtown core would become decimated with further empty buildings, while urban sprawl to the far south boundaries of the city would flourish.
There were heartfelt representations by residents such as Lorena Shepley, representing Voices Against Poverty, and Beth Cooke, representing the Indigenous Community. Both expressed concern that Windsor’s most vulnerable in terms of poverty would be adversely affected by the hospital proposed for construction out near the airport.
To his credit, Mayor Drew Dilkens, exercised reasonable latitude as Chair of the meeting in allowing the delegations to air their concerns, concerns frequently not dealing with the tax levy itself but with the location of the hospital.
The mayor even allowed the first delegate, Philippa von Ziegenweidt from CAMPP, to repeat her presentation at the end of the delegation list when technical problems with audio prevented the TV viewing audience on TVCogeco from hearing her remarks.
So now we sit and wait for a response from the Ontario Ministry of Health – a response that should grant permission to Windsor Essex to proceed to stage II of the process.
It was indeed a very historic night in Windsor City Council chambers. The men and woman elected to represent our best interests as a community courageously and diligently worked with their colleagues from Essex County Council, and with the dedicated members of the hospital team, to fight for what we deserve – the most significant overhaul of our healthcare system in our 124 year history.
Well done, one and all! #WEareready … In fact, #WEare- MORE-than-READY!
Joe scrumming with Mayor Dilkens (with a laugh) April 25, 2016
David Musyj with Joe, April 25, 2016 Windsor City Council
Article, photos and video by Joe McParland