The Block torpedoes the hospital, again

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Stupid peopleWhen their sole-sourced consultant’s report failed to give The Block the high ground to oppose the Collingwood General & Marine Hospital’s redevelopment plan, the weasels on council and in the administration decided to undermine the hospital from a different direction. And they hired another consultant.

That’s right: wasting $30,000 of your hard-earned tax dollars on one sole-sourced consultant to “peer review” the CG&M’s already peer-reviewed report wasn’t enough. So they hired a second consultant because the first didn’t say what The Block wanted. How much that second consultant cost taxpayers has not yet been revealed.

The first consultant’s report just weakly suggested more information might possibly maybe sort-of be useful. I’m told few of The Block actually read it and even fewer understood it. But because it didn’t say what they wanted, it had to be supplanted by another scheme. Another report. Back to the conniving board: hire someone to say what they wanted to hear.

At the latest meeting (Jan. 23) of the “Secretive Initiatives Standing Committee” they had a report tabled at the end of the agenda called the “Employment Land Analysis Update.”  Its contents were cunningly not included in the online agenda package, so as to avoid revealling their hand to residents ahead of time.

And that, my dear readers, is the latest, stealthy salvo in The Block’s war on the hospital.

The anti-redevelopment group (The Block’s cheerleading team) was at the meeting and given an opportunity to speak again about how they wanted the hospital to remain where it is. Wah, wah, wah. Change is bad. New things are bad. Our regional hospital is really only intended to support our own downtown. Do what we say! Wah, wah, wah.

You might recognize among them some former VOTE (Voters Opposed To Everything) members, part of the now-dwindling pro-Block cabal that got the current council elected. They collectively like to play the drama queen and noisily oppose every suggestion of change or progress in Collingwood. Thanks to them, we have an empty lot at Hume & Hurontario Streets. Now, with the hospital in their sights, they engaged in a Trumpian disinformation campaign full of alternative facts (according to the story in The Connection; the Empty Prize Bulletin couldn’t be bothered covering it, it seems… probably too much like work…)

The hospital board got wind of this latest report, however. They have smart people who pay attention to things and care deeply – unlike the majority of our council. Several of the hospital representatives were at the meeting, too, but didn’t speak. Why not? I suspect because they didn’t get to see the report before the meeting like, it seems, the anti-hospital group did.

What, you ask, is wrong with a report on “employment lands”? Sounds innocuous enough. Not when it’s used against the hospital as part of The Block’s war on the hospital. Here’s how:

The term means basically land zoned industrially or commercially for business to build on. There’s a definition in the Planning Act and the 2005 Provincial Policy Statement (which I took from this report,). The Planning Act notes:

1.(1) In this Act,
“area of employment” means an area of land designated in an official plan for clusters of business and economic uses including, without limitation, the uses listed in subsection (5), or as otherwise prescribed by regulation;
Uses re “area of employment”
1. (5) The uses referred to in the definition of “area of employment” in subsection (1) are,
(a) manufacturing uses;
(b) warehousing uses;
(c) office uses;
(d) retail uses that are associated with uses mentioned in clauses (a) to (c); and
(e) facilities that are ancillary to uses mentioned in clauses (a) to (d).

The Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) notes:

Employment area: means those areas designated in an official plan for clusters of business and economic activities including, but not limited to, manufacturing, warehousing, offices, and associated retail and ancillary facilities.

Got that? No mention of hospitals. That’s the torpedo The Block intends to fire to scupper the hospital’s plans. Pretty obvious what our sneaky weasels are up to.

They want to argue that the land the G&M wants to develop on is zoned for industry and if we use it for hospitals, industries won’t have land to come to. Horse puckey. That’s 1960s’ thinking.

The land was farmland for about 100 years before it was zoned industrial. And ever since then, the companies have been lining up to build their factories, their commercial centres, their processing plants. Or not. It’s been empty for the town’s entire history, even when zoned industrial.

As in the rest of Ontario, there is no line up to build factories anywhere on industrial lands, at least not more than a short drive from the GTA. Most factories are leaving small towns, not moving to them. Consider the many we’ve lost to date: Canada Steamship Lines, Nacan, Goodyear, Reynolds-Lemmerz, Harding Carpet, Collingwood Ethanol, Kaufman, Backyard Products among others. Think any of them plan to return?

So re-purposing industrial land to something that might actually get used is the smart municipal trend. Except here, of course. Not with The Block at the helm to steer us into the rocks of economic development.

In fact the only building out there on all that land, surrounded by empty fields, is Georgian College and that’s simply because the developer donated the land. It’s not a factory or a commercial centre, either, and like the land it sits on was, any other land out there could be as easily re-zoned for the hospital. But The Block’s fixed ideology won’t allow that.

And lest we forget the province’s own growth plan which directs industrial growth along the Highway 400 corridor – not here. We’re a RESIDENTIAL growth area outside the planned industrial growth node:

Strategic industrial employment areas: To be planned and protected for employment uses that require large lots of land and depend upon efficient movement of goods and access to Highway 400. These are not settlement areas. Major retail and residential uses are not permitted.

Nonetheless, the latest consultant’s report reads:

“…it does not appear that the conversion of industrial lands is necessary, in particular since the redevelopment of the existing site appears to be a viable option…”

It contains other statements suspiciously aligned with the anti-hospital agenda. But did the consultants ask the hospital to comment before that was delivered? Did The Block or the town administration share it with the hospital and ask for comments? Of course not. That would suggest openness and transparency, both anathema to those pulling the strings.

In the interview reported in The Connection, the mouthpiece for the anti-hospital group inadvertently leaked the arguments they will use to take any proposed move to the OMB:

“Provincial planning policy does not support the sprawl that would be signified in a Poplar Side Road location,”

No, sprawl would be defined by RESIDENTIAL development and associated strip malls, not by a hospital. The residential developments are ALREADY zoned and approved west of the site. There’s already retail/commercial west of the site, too. The sprawl sky isn’t falling, Chicken Little. It fell decades ago.

And using the town planner to present the employment lands report instead of the sole-sourced consultant means she won’t be able to argue for the move at the OMB. A very Machiavellian scheme, in the pejorative sense of the word.

As Guy Chartrand, hospital CEO, told the Connection, the delays and roadblocks being set up by The Block and its pet administration might mean looking for another site entirely. One out of town. Like I called it earlier: the Wasaga Beach General and Marine coming your way soon.

Collingwood – and our hospital – deserve better.

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