Members of township council could not find common ground when discussing a potential donation of $50,000 to the Brock Community Health Centre Monday (Jan. 27) night.
While three members supported the request, three others were adamant that the request be forwarded to budget deliberations.
Prior to the meeting, Ward 2 Councillor Claire Doble had brought forward a motion – seconded by Ward 1 Councillor Mike Jubb – that the municipality include that figure in the 2020 budget.
Though the project has been dogged by delays for roughly a decade, the CHC is planning to construct a 21,000-square-foot facility in Cannington.
The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care is funding the majority of the building costs – which are currently estimated at $9.7 million – but the Brock CHC is responsible for fundraising for roughly $450,000. More than $330,000 of that total has been collected thus far.
In speaking to her motion, Coun. Doble noted that the new facility will provide expanded healthcare services for township residents and will aid the municipality’s efforts to recruit medical professionals.
“It will also provide an anchor in downtown Cannington,” she said.
Coun. Doble urged her colleagues to support the motion.
“This is a project that’s been waiting many, many years – it’s time for us to support it.”
Ward 4 Councillor Cria Pettingill was quick to agree, noting that local entrepreneur and philanthropist David Slabodkin has pledged to match all donations.
The project is more than deserving of support from council, she said.
“Promoting healthy communities is at the heart of what local government is all about.”
Following Coun. Pettingill’s comments, Ward 3 Councillor Walter Schummer brought forward a motion to table the request until budget deliberations, which are slated to get underway on Feb. 7.
The motion was lost following a deadlock amongst council members. Coun. Schummer, Ward 5 Councillor Lynn Cambell and Mayor Debbie Bath-Hadden all voted in favour of tabling the motion, while Coun. Doble, Coun. Pettingill and Ward 1 Councillor Mike Jubb voted against. Regional Councillor Ted Smith was unable to vote as he is currently serving as chair of the Brock CHC’s board of directors.
Speaking to the initial motion, Coun. Schummer said the request should be forwarded to budget deliberations.
“I cannot support any motion that calls for immediate spending in 2020 while members of this council have not even seen the first draft of the 2020 budget,” he said, referring to the motion as “premature” and “irresponsible.”
He also chastised his colleagues that have attempted to build support for the donation by noting that it would not have an impact on the taxpayer if it was funded through reserves.
“That’s not true,” Coun. Schummer said, noting that much of the money in reserves had been budgeted in previous years and wasn’t spent.
He also noted that healthcare is not traditionally considered a municipal responsibility and that the local fundraising component was another form of downloading from the provincial government.
“We’ve had a gun put to our head on this and the Province is holding the trigger,” he said.
Coun. Jubb countered that argument by noting that he’s yet to hear a negative comment about the prospective donation from a member of the public.
“This would, quite frankly, put the shovels in the ground…our taxpayers support the donation.”
While the facility would be a “wonderful asset,” Coun. Campbell also said the request should be tabled to until councillors had an opportunity to review the budget.
“What’s the rush?” she asked.
Mayor Bath-Hadden echoed those sentiments.
“This motion is premature…we can’t commit to a dime until we see the 2020 budget,” she said.
In a recorded vote, the motion was lost following another deadlock.
Coun. Doble, Coun. Jubb and Coun. Pettingill supported the donation, while Mayor Bath-Hadden, Coun. Campbell and Coun. Schummer voted against.
That news was not welcomed by the supporters of the CHC in attendance, with some quickly clearly from the council chamber.