Saunderson’s disrespectful performance

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Perry Mason“Your honour, I object,” shouted Perry Mason as he leapt from his chair and approached the bench. “This line of questioning is simply badgering my client.” “Sustained,” roared the judge, pounding his gavel.

Didn’t you just wish someone would have done that Monday night? I certainly did, while watching the embarrassing, disrespectful way that Deputy Mayor Brian Saunderson grilled David Finbow, the volunteer delegate from the hospital board. Cross-examined Finbow as if he were a criminal. That is NOT the way we expect our elected representatives to treat delegates. It was embarrassing and, frankly, childish.

As I read it, it’s also in violation of our own Code of Conduct:

Members shall conduct themselves with decorum at all meetings in accordance with the provisions of the Town’s Procedural By-law or the applicable procedural by-law of that Local Board. Respect for delegations, fellow Members and staff requires that all Members show courtesy and not distract from the business of the Town during presentations and when other Members have the floor.

Where was the courtesy? The respect? Grilling a delegate and implying he isn’t being honest is not what I call respect. And the Procedural bylaw says:

Delegates shall respond to questions from the Members only through the Chair…

Which Saunderson clearly ignored in his aggressive, verbal jousting.

You can watch the whole event on Rogers TV, here, staring at 0:55:00 and continuing on through to 1:57:00. Saunderson’s attack-style questioning begins at 1:26:23 and lasts until 1:44:45. That’s longer than delegations are allowed speaking time (10 minutes)!

You’ll also see how often he ignores proper protocol, speaking without going “through the chair.” And at 1:44:30 he apparently thinks he’s the mayor: he tries to set up a meeting meeting with the hospital board and council, and says staff will take care of it. What bloody arrogance.

(NB: the time stamps shown may be off by a second or three either way. The Rogers online video does not have a user-friendly method to move to specific or exact times in the feed)

Spend a bit of time watching the whole presentation and subsequent questions. It’s embarrassing to watch the Block lamely try to shuck the blame onto someone else – the hospital board mostly (Saunderson does this at 1:40:50 for example). They try to pretend that they themselves were not the cause of the delays, the cause of the roadblocks, or the negative messages sent to the province that have lengthened the process. Not our fault, they sputter and spume. You did it, they point their fingers.

At 1:48:20, Councillor Jeffrey throws the province under the bus. It’s their “rules of engagement,” she says. Not my fault, it was broken when I picked it up… and then at 1:49:04 she complains about the “messenging” from citizens – not the hospital – concerned about this debacle. So it’s YOUR fault too. Never The Block’s, never the administration’s. Damn that annoying free speech thing. My Camembert is getting cold!

Well let’s get that “not my fault” nonsense out of the way first: tune to the comments by the head of planning. Nancy Farrer points out starting at 1:25:18: it was council’s motion in August that demanded the “peer review” that held the hospital board back. She notes THREE times that council asked for it. So yes, the blame is squarely on the shoulders of those at the table who voted for it. At 1:34:10 Finbow explains why the two reports the town presented on Dec. 9 caused the process to go off the rails.

But before I get into the details, let’s look at the underlying issues first. You can download a copy of Finbow’s presentation here; the slides below are taken from it.

The main issue in all of this is crystal clear: patient care. Patient care is the TOP priority in the hospital’s 2013 strategic plan (1:27:00). What is best to serve the patients? What will best serve the needs of the patients from the four regional communities in the CGMH’s catchment area? That was what the board, its Facilities, Planning & Development Committee and their consultants wrestled with for months. And the answer all the experts, medical staff and planners came up with is: to best serve the patients, the hospital needs a new, larger site. The first preference is on Poplar Sideroad. Three of the four municipalities served by the hospital support the proposed site. Only Collingwood remains estranged from it.

So that’s what the board presented to the Ministry of Health & Long Term Care (MOHLTC) in September. But as Finbow noted, the expected timeline (below) quickly fell apart. The date for comments from the Ministry kept getting moved forward. Instead of six weeks, it became six months and no one is sure if that will be met.

timeline
Roadblocks came. The town presented an analysis (requested by The Block) of the preferred site before the hospital had even made an application (1:03:10) although the town had been warned that any premature analysis could be seen as “highly unusual, premature, procedurally unfair and potentially prejudicial.” Didn’t stop the town from presenting the report, however.

Finbow then goes on to say the hospital wants not to remove lands from the (undefined in our Official Plan) “employment lands” area, but to ask that the town consider adding hospitals as an acceptable use within that category (1:05:00). Why? because, he said (1:08:30), the hospital is the town’s largest employer:

Jobs

That’s 550 staff, 400 volunteers, 96 physicians and midwives currently, with another 175 new jobs projected for the future. So how can it not be considered for “employment” lands? Then he says more about employment lands and the town’s existing surplus of same (currently >100 ha; the hospital needs only 15 ha). But you can watch it for yourself.

Then he discusses “sensitive” land uses. There are provincial guidelines that determine how far from uses like schools, homes and hospitals you can locate an industry or manufacturing plant. The old smokestack sites (class III) requires a 1km distance (don’t expect to ever see one here again). It’s 300 m for small-scale (class II) manufacturing, and 70m for light uses (class I). But Georgian College already sets the standards out there:

Distance from Georgian college

The hospital will not significantly alter the distances for locating anything class II or III because they are ALREADY in place for the school.

But let’s not get crazy about zoning or land use. The municipality can change the zoning and update the Official Plan with little effort. It just requires progressing through the glacial planning process and bureaucratic quagmire. We did it with Georgian College. We did it with Balmoral Estates and other residential developments on previously industrial or rural land. We’ve done it a dozen times in as many years. It’s a process, not a hurdle. And as for the current site – it can be repurposed for many uses, including clinics, housing, hospice…

Developing on the current site would cost $46 million MORE than developing on the Poplar Sideroad (I know: money has never been a concern for the spend-crazy Block). Tanks to the town making employments lands a roadblock, it potentially means the hospital has to spend at least $100,000 more for studies and consultants to go forward. And if the town drags it into the OMB, it could cost up to $300,000 more. Since the hospital doesn’t have that money in the bank, the board has to ask the Foundation for it – money that should be spent on equipment and upgrades to hardware. So your donations will go to funding a completely unnecessary effort to cut through the town’s red tape. And, as Finbow says (1:21:48), it will add several more months of delay to an already sluggish, delayed process.

It was a good presentation with a combination of explanation and a hint of well-deserved recrimination. And a subtle suggestion that, thanks to the delays, the board is considering other options, outside Collingwood. Like I wrote earlier: it could be the Wasaga Beach General & Marine. And (1:24:30) these delays also mean the CGMH won’t be part of the province’s 2017-18 capital budget – adding years more delay to get the application even considered.

They don’t get it.T he Block just don’t get it. Everything goes over their heads or in one ear and out the other. It’s like the cartoon character Patrick said to Spongebob: “I wumbo, you wumbo, he she we wumbo, wumboing, wumbology, the study of wumbo? C’mon, SpongeBob, this is first grade!” For the Block, this is all wumbo, wumbo.

Collingwood deserves better.

~~~~~

The show actually started at 4:30, well before cameras cover the meeting. Supporters of the Collingwood General & Marine Hospital (CGMH) came out in their euphemistic droves. The council chamber was filled, and all seats taken and by 4:40 it was standing room only. And still they came, filling the hall, overflowing down the corridor. By my count (confirmed by another former politician in attendance) more than 130 people came out to show council their support for the hospital’s redevelopment plans.

Crowding, however, became a problem. The fire chief – doing his duty to public safety – required the majority of them to leave (only 65 people are allowed in the chamber, including staff and council, and 35 in the hall). So they left, but not before parading into the council chambers to show everyone just how many of them were present.

Too bad they had to leave, because they would have heard the most disrespectful, antagonistic, adversarial and angry cross examination of a delegate I’ve heard here in more than 25 years.** The deputy mayor must have imagined he was in the courtroom instead of council, the way he badgered Mr. Finbow. But by the next morning, the community was abuzz with comment on Saunderson’s disrespectful behaviour.

Then, before the hospital got to the lectern, those left had to sit through lengthy presentations – unnecessarily so – before the hospital’s turn.

The first delegation of the night was supposed to be an award for a nice renovation in the heritage district. Usually a five-minute job. Instead it turned into a 20-minute ramble about the committee’s newsletter and poster before the award was even mentioned. Someone in the hall near me suggested the reason for this meandering time-waster was because the speaker is the spouse of the committee dedicated to blocking the hospital’s proposed site for redevelopment.

And where, oh where, was the interim CAO in all of this? Missing in action. Was he unwilling or unable to take the pressure? I have not been able to find out the reason for his absence. But he has played a key role in this matter. He is the Emperor Palpatine to Saunderson’s Darth Vader.

Comments from the rest council included the usual bland thank-yous, empty platitudes and me-me-me statements. I might summarize the remarks of the others briefly as:
(1:17:58) Deb Doherty: Blah, blah, blah, hectare? acre?
(1:20:55) Kevin Lloyd: I support the proposed redevelopment site. And at 1:52:05 – I feel like I’m in a courtroom!
(1:23:00) Councillor Madigan: woof, woof, woof. He tries to be Saunderson’s bulldog, but instead comes across merely as his lapdog. Again at 1:49:40: me, me, me. Despite his self-aggrandizing comments about being elected to serve the people of Collingwood, the audience knows all too well this group only serves themselves. How little he understands the hospital is a REGIONAL facility that serves four municipalities.
(1:44:50) Tim Fryer: Uh, um, blah, uh, blah, blah, um. Um.
(1:47:52) Kathy Jeffrey: Blah, blah, someone else’s fault.
(1:49:20) Cam Ecclestone: Mumble, mumble, blah, mumble.
(1:53:00) Mayor Cooper: We need to provide healthcare not only to our residents but to the area residents and visitors.
(0:00:00) Mike Edwards: silence (he was MIA for this important presentation, too)

* Here’s one issue that wasn’t raised Monday but was explained to me afterwards: the hospital currently depends on helicopters to take serious and critical patients to other care centres. Right now they have ONE flight path available, and when a chopper lands, the hospital has to shut down its ventilation system to prevent fumes and debris from entering the building. The current pad is grandfathered: if they move or change it, they have to apply for new access rights to Transport Canada – with no guarantee they will get them. So if they redevelop on the current site, they could potentially lose their helicopter service. Not to mention that redevelopment on the current site would require land acquisition and expropriation that will possibly pit the hospital against its neighbours and result in acrimonious legal battles (1:19:20). And as Finbow says (from 1:42:10), the costs of expropriation will be borne by the town – i.e. YOU, the taxpayers – but will only “assist” the board in considering the viability of the current site, not guarantee it.

~~~~~
The following letter is from the former hospital CEO, sent to On The Bay magazine and published on their Facebook page:

Council Costs Hospital 4-6 Months in Planning Cycle

As a former hospital President and CEO who has sought government approvals and who oversaw construction of a 500 bed hospital on a green field site, and a rebuild on an existing site, it is atypical and a gift that the Ministry of Health Capital Branch encouraged the G&M hospital to submit its Phase 1 plan and commit the Ministry to a 4-6 week turnaround for their response. The local hospital took advantage of this encouragement from the Ministry and submitted its Phase 1 plan in September — the Collingwood Council got in the way, apparently lead by the Deputy Mayor based on Monday night’s performance.

Having built a new hospital on a green field site and completed three years of disruptive renovations on the existing G&M hospital in the ‘90s, I can tell you that there is no comparison in terms of ease of construction, reduced cost and hitting timelines in the green field option. That is what Oakville did, that is what Niagara did, that is what Barrie did, as well as Brampton and Peterborough to name a few. There is a reason hospitals select green field sites for the construction of their new facilities: no need for costly, time-consuming and sometime contentious expropriation and demolition of existing buildings.

Also, paramedic access to the hospital’s preferred site on Poplar Sideroad by local ambulances is superior from Clearview, the Beach, and the Mountain, not to mention Collingwood. No more town congestion to deal with, but rather clear access from the south, west and east via Poplar Sideroad. Easier and quicker access to the Hospital by ambulance has the potential to save lives of future patients when minutes matter.

And yet, from Council’s public meeting Monday night, it appears that our councillors — with the exception of Kevin Lloyd — doggedly hang onto keeping the hospital on its current site. This was evidenced by the Deputy’s Mayor’s ‘cross examination’ of Council’s guest and presenter, Mr. Finbow representing the Hospital. Council suggests that the two parties should ‘collaborate’ going forward. If Mr. Sanderson’s ‘cross examination’ is Council’s idea of collaboration, such collaboration is doomed.

Mr. Finbow noted in his remarks Monday night that in 30 years of working with municipalities he has never experienced such a premature and prejudicial study the likes of that commissioned by Collingwood Council. In my 35 years in health care, I am unaware of a similar approach from a supportive municipality of their local Hospital’s redevelopment effort.

If our local Hospital should miss the 2017-18 capital allocation cycle of the Ministry of Health through the Government’s budget announcement later this year, the citizens of Collingwood and surrounding municipalities served by the Hospital will have to look no further than Collingwood Council.

Planning, approval and construction of a new hospital is generally a 10-year process. The Hospital has already been delayed 6 months through the Town’s meddling, and we heard Monday night that the Hospital will require another 4-6 months to develop the 2nd phase submission in light of Collingwood Council’s unprecedented timing of their study.

Citizens of Collingwood served by the Hospital should insist that their elected officials provide appropriate zoning for the Poplar side road site and then step aside and let the Hospital and their consultants try to salvage the process they begun in earnest on behalf of residents and visitors to Collingwood, Clearview, Wasaga Beach and The Town of the Blue Mountains.

Paul Darby, Collingwood

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