Two Windsor, Ontario mayoral candidates in the upcoming local election are throwing barbs about the future of healthcare in the region.
Acting Drew Dilkens and challenger Chris Holt each established their respective positions a week after Dilkens called Holt about his voting record regarding the proposed hospital at 9 County Road and 42 County Road near Windsor Airport .
Holt has long opposed the hospital’s location, arguing that the greenfield development will contribute to urban sprawl and be far from the city’s most densely populated areas.
Dilkens took another blow on Tuesday morning, suggesting his opponent’s track record makes him a “risk” on the project if he is elected mayor.
“This election is really about one thing for my opponent: killing the hospital,” says Dilkens.
Windsor Regional has just received $10 million from the province to create functional plans for the new hospital.
Dilkens points to two big council decisions that Holt voted against as councilor — repurposing Sandwich South for the new hospital site and approving a 10 percent hospital levy for taxpayers to get their share of the expected $2 billion project cost to pay.
“If there are any fluctuations in the collection of the 10 percent interest or other political shenanigans, our project will end up at the bottom of the list and will include 16 other hospitals built before ours in the province of Ontario,” Dilkens warns. “We are fourth and goal in this project. We can’t afford to fumble the ball now.”
Chris Holt held a media conference later Tuesday to address the criticism.
“My opponent continues to spread misinformation and fear and wants to use the need for a new hospital as a political pawn on his side,” says Holt, who is clear about his position against the site choice and noting the reasons he doesn’t like the site as it stands to this day unsolved problems,” he says.
But he says he will respect the direction and will of the people.
“I’m here today to promise the people of Windsor that I will not hold up or prevent the allocation of these funds to this project if the need arises,” says Holt.
Holt, who served on the council for eight years prior to this campaign, also proposes a six-point health care plan that includes:
- Creating a community-wide health care table that examines 24/7 emergency room access at its core
- Established a Sandwich South infrastructure task force to identify and cost the area’s infrastructure needs
- Prioritizing nurse recruitment in partnership with Invest Windsor Essex, Workforce Windsor Essex, St Clair College and the University of Windsor
- To become a leader in advocating investment in the areas of mental health, addiction and long-term care
- Prioritizing all transit Windsor routes reaching the new acute hospital
- Accelerating the preparation of a climate protection and energy plan for the Sandwich South area
“As we develop and evolve the clearing of green space and the creation of more housing and services in Sandwich South, we need to do this with our climate goals in mind,” says Holt, adding that he’d like to know exactly how much it’s going to cost for the maintenance of the property on which the hospital and surrounding development will ultimately take place.
“We actually have no idea,” adds Holt, noting that a year ago he applied “to have an independent consultant report back with a full overview of the cost and timeline of the required infrastructure work around the new acute hospital area.” .”
His motion was not passed, five councilors and Dilkens voted against.
“He and the five councilors you saw alongside him last week all chose to ignore those concerns and willfully ignore the true cost to Windsor’s taxpayers,” says Holt.
Dilkens fired back later in the day, saying his opponent spent two terms thwarting the process by voting against key milestones and supporting Citizens for an Accountable Planning Process (CAMPP), an advocacy group that is appealing the Hospital site submitted to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal. These appeals were eventually thrown out by the court.
“Today, Holt tried to adopt a more moderate tone,” says a statement from Dilkens’ campaign. “Neighbors, voters and activists can’t be fooled by Holt’s flip-flops: he’s not determined to see the hospital project through. He’s too risky.”
Dilkens’ Health Care Action Plan commits to putting a shovel in the ground ahead of the planned start of construction in 2027 and promises the continued operation of a 24/7 emergency room on the Ouellette campus.
Dilkens points out that Windsor needs a strong advocate in the mayor to get the project done on time, saying: “We just can’t trust Chris Holt to deliver this message in Queen’s Park when we know he has a long history of… Refusal from the hospital has .”
Holt says his campaign has focused on other ways to improve the quality of life for Windsor residents and is urging the mayor to respond to his own voting record on issues like transit.
“My opponent is digging up things from the past to use this as a weapon and it’s really dividing the community and making it a scare tactic,” says Holt. “This is a manufactured crisis.”
There are five other people vying to be Windsor’s next mayor including Benjamin Danyluk, Aaron Day, Matthew Giancola, Ernie Lamont and Louis Vaupotic.
Early voting in the election begins October 5, 2022.
The local elections will take place on October 24th.