JOHN ROBBINS/Bullet News
I hate to jump to conclusions.
In this case, it has only taken seven years to come to a conclusion, so I really can’t be accused of jumping.
Here it goes:
If you want to see a new South Niagara hospital built – ever – you will have to vote for Tim Hudak and his Progressive Conservatives.
There – I said it.
First off, my apologies to Niagara Falls Liberal MPP Kim Craitor.
Kim has worked his butt off trying to convince his government to adopt the recommendations of its own expert – Niagara Health System supervisor Kevin Smith, who proposed last year around this time that a new hospital be built in South Niagara to replace the existing facilities in Niagara Falls, Welland, Port Colborne and Fort Erie.
Sorry, Kim, you’re government just isn’t listening to you or Kevin Smith on this one.
In fact, they aren’t doing anything on this file.
You see Smith proposed building a new, modern state-of-the-art hospital at a cost of $800-plus million instead of spending even more money fixing up four old ones.
The Liberals have seen fit so far to do nothing.
No new hospital.
No money committed to fixing up the old ones.
In other words, the staus quo, which is exactly what Smith’s report said wouldn’t do.
Smith made a pretty damn good case for building a new hospital – both from a medical perspective and a business one.
I need not repeat his arguments here; media outlets across Niagara have spent the past year writing endlessly about every aspect of Smith’s plan.
But while it was Smith proved the case for a new hospital for South Niagara, it was former Niagara Falls Conservative candidate Bart Maves who first proposed the idea way back in 2006.
Maves, a current member of regional council, will once again be representing the Tories in the Niagara Falls riding during the next election.
Hudak, MPP for Niagara West-Glanbrook, saw the Liberals yank the promised funding for a long-awaited and badly needed new West Lincoln Memorial hospital in last year’s budget.
So far, he’s the only provincial leader who has endorsed the single biggest recommendation in Smith’s report – building a new South Niagara hospital.
He’s crystal clear on it.
By contrast, Premier Kathleen Wynne and Health Minister Deb Matthews will not commit to anything, either building a new hospital or patching up the old ones.
Once more, they don’t even seem to be able to muster any kind of argument as to why they aren’t doing either of these things.
All year, I have waited to hear a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ and some kind of rationale from the government.
Then I thought to myself, surely Wynne is waiting for the provincial budget to announce money for a new hospital for South Niagara.
Sure, there was money in the budget for some specific hospital projects and some for unspecified projects.
Not a word about Niagara – at least none that anyone, even Craitor, could find.
All of which leads me to believe Wynne and Matthews think things are fine just the way they are now; building a new hospital in west St. Catharines was good enough.
Now, it’s true not everyone is in favour of closing four hospitals and building one new one.
But I personally don’t know anyone – even the most vocal critics of the two-big-hospitals model for Niagara – who say keep the existing hospitals open and leave them the way they are now.
After the last election, Hudak made a promise to not just criticize the Liberals, but instead to put forward clear, alternative solutions and ideas that people can get behind.
In Niagara he has done just that by putting his endorsement behind a new South Niagara hospital.
Love him or hate him, Hudak, at least, is proposing something other than the status quo, which it appears is all we can ever expect on this issue from the current Liberal government.