Editorial – Funding double standard

Residents in the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville are going to benefit from a significantly redeveloped long-term care home. Announced in 2021, Maple View Lodge near Athens will be completely rebuilt by 2024 – the contract is already tendered. The long-term care home, parts of which are older than 100 years, will expand from 60 to 192 beds and the Ontario government is funding the rebuild at a cost of approximately $43 million. Redeveloping long-term care homes is a priority of the Ford Government, one that intensified in the wake of the thousands of LTC home deaths that occurred due to COVID-19. It appears though that some projects are given more priority and greater access to funding than others, and have fewer fundraising requirements.

The project to redevelop Dundas Manor in Winchester was announced by the provincial government in March 2020. There was an announcement, dignitaries spoke, but few details were released. At that announcement, provincial officials could not even answer the basic question of how much Ontario was contributing to the project. The Leader learned later that the provincial funding is approximately $33 million. The project will cost over $50 million, no thanks to inflation.

Since the Dundas Manor announcement, the Winchester District Memorial Hospital Foundation has been raising money towards the project. In 2018, the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry vowed to set aside $4 million to contribute towards the project – that was fulfilled in 2020. Thirty months after the initial Dundas Manor announcement, progress remains at a standstill due to funding. The project needs $22 million in fundraising, and with municipal contributions, just under $11 million has been raised. That number needed for the Dundas Manor project will continue to increase the longer it takes to get shovels in the ground due to the current inflation rate. Or maybe there are other factors at play like politics that put Maple View Lodge ahead of other projects.

At the time of the Dundas Manor announcement, this riding was represented by MPP Jim McDonell, who was a parliamentary assistant. Currently this riding is represented by rookie MPP Nolan Quinn, who also is a parliamentary assistant. Meanwhile the riding that Maple View Lodge is in is represented by MPP Steve Clark, who is a senior cabinet minister in the Ford Government. Cabinet Ministers outrank Parliamentary Assistants. Based on this alone, the appearance of politics over need is ripe.

The deadline to redevelop and expand Dundas Manor was yesterday. SDG Counties has done its part, as have residents who have donated through the WDMH Foundation toward the project. It is time for the province to step up to the plate, make up the difference in funding, and get shovels in the ground now. The double standard for approving, funding, and constructing LTC projects needs to end.

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