Mega funding for mega-hospital: Ford budget allocates $9.8M for new hospital in Windsor-Essex
The provincial government released its 2021 budget Wednesday
The province's 2021 budget Wednesday included funding toward the planning for the new mega-hospital to be built in Windsor-Essex.
In the budget, the province says it is allocating $9.8 million to "support the ongoing planning" of the new acute care hospital that will be located on a 24-hectare site at County Road 42 and the 9th Concession.
The 231-page plan had two themes: health and economic recovery. Tax credits and grants are outlined to assist families, businesses and large funding was dedicated to the health-care sector and tourism industry.
But funding for the new hospital took the spotlight for officials in Windsor.
Windsor Regional Hospital president and CEO David Musyj expressed his delight about the funding, saying Premier Doug Ford had delivered on his promise to Windsor-Essex.
"I can't be happier," Musyj said Wednesday.
"Premier Ford stepped up to the plate, made a promise in August of last year to our community ... that this was going to be the number one priority and that he was going to be an 800-pound gorilla and make it happen and the 800-pound gorilla delivered."
But Musyj said the hard work has only just begun, with stage two expected to take at least two years to complete.
Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said the funding confirms that the project will move ahead.
"We're moving to phase 2. It's no longer if this is a project, it's when the project is built," he said.
"It's certainly a great day and there's no other way to slice it Doug Ford delivered strong for the City of Windsor today."
There was been significant controversy in the past few years over the hospital's planned location that has led to multiple court proceedings.
Advocacy group, The Citizens for an Accountable Mega-hospital Planning Process (CAMPP) have been the ones to oppose the hospital's location. CAMPP has said that the location is too far from the city centre, also arguing that the location contributes to urban sprawl and isn't accessible to some residents.
The group has put forward a number of unsuccessful appeals in the past.
The budget also announced funding for a 55,000 square-foot facility in Chatham-Kent that is expected to serve 30,000 families and provide treatment for thousands of children with special needs.
Pandemic relief for businesses
The province also plans to offer a second round of payments to small businesses whose revenues were hard-hit by the pandemic.
Up to $20,000 each for some 120,000 eligible businesses throughout Ontario will be available. Those that received a payment during the first round will automatically qualify for a second, the Ministry of Finance says.
Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce president Rakesh Naidu told CBC News that the dedication to helping businesses recover is good news for the region.
"It's the small and medium-sized businesses that were significantly hit ... They have addressed the current situation and have some plans to tackle and get us out of this lockdown condition and to recover fast," he said, adding that hospitality and tourism based businesses will likely see the focus of that support.
But Naidu said he would have liked to see more on inter-provincial trade as well as support for businesses around paid sick days.
The province earmarked $255 million in new funding to municipal service managers and Indigenous programs to respond to increasing COVID-19 cases in shelter settings.
There was another $18.5 million set aside for the next three years to support victims of domestic violence and $13 million to help people with developmental disabilities access community housing.
But as for further benefits for affordable housing, the province pointed to the federal government.
"Housing ends homelessness and that housing is everyone's business," said Joyce Zuk, executive director of Family Services Windsor-Essex.
"So what housing advocates don't like to see is one level of government saying it's this level of government's job to get the housing built. We need both levels of governments — the feds and the province —working together to address what is a 30 year housing shortage in this country."
In Windsor, some 5,400 people are on a waitlist for affordable housing.
Read the full Ontario 2021 budget:
With files from Lucas Powers