“Bring it on,” says Huntsville Mayor of threats of a lawsuit by MAHC

27

In a surprise turn of events, minutes before Huntsville councillors were set to discuss a motion that would ask the Province to dismiss the MAHC Board and its CEO, Huntsville Mayor Scott Aitchison received a letter from a solicitor representing MAHC accusing him of defamation and of making false and misleading statements.

The Mayor was presented with the ‘cease and desist’ letter about 15 minutes before the start of council. Doppler has obtained a copy of the letter, which asks the Mayor to withdraw the motion scheduled to be tabled that evening, that he immediately “cease and desist from publishing any further defamatory statements, including postings, statements or other communications about MAHC, its CEO or other members of the senior leadership and refrain from making defamatory comments about MAHC, its CEO or the senior leadership team verbally, including in public venues and meetings,” and that he “publicly apologize to MAHC, MAHC Board of Directors, Ms. Bubela and other members of the senior leadership team, as well as the community.”

The Mayor said he was not surprised by the letter. “I was not terribly surprised that this is a tactic that they took. I was thrilled because if I’m going to win in the court of public opinion, having them sue me is better than anything I could’ve expected. I thought the best thing that could happen is for them to come and try to discredit me and try to make me look bad when all I’m doing is standing up for the citizens of this community who are feeling very frustrated by them and their process. So if they want to sue me for that, I say bring it on.”

Asked if he would apologize to the Board and senior staff at MAHC as the letter requested, the mayor said: “Not unless a judge orders me to.”

In conversation with Doppler immediately after the meeting on Monday, the Mayor said the motion will not be taken off the table but will simply be put on hold. “If we meet with them and continue to be dissatisfied with what we’re hearing then council can discuss that same motion, or a variation of that, at the next council meeting,” he said.

As for the threat of a lawsuit, “I think at the end of the day it’ll backfire on them,” he concluded.

Don’t miss out on Doppler! Sign up for our free newsletter here.

print

27 Comments

  1. Thank you for standing your ground, Mayor Aitchison. The arrogance of these un-elected, self-appointed rulers is astounding.

  2. Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare on

    This media release was shared by Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare today, March 27, 2018. Doppler is posting it here in response to the article above.

    MAHC Responds, Bringing Future Planning Back on Track

    Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare (MAHC) has a proven track record of working collaboratively with stakeholders and has established a Capital Plan Development Task Force to lead MAHC’s future planning work. The task force is largely comprised of community members and has municipal representation which includes the Mayors of Huntsville and Bracebridge, the Reeve of Burk’s Falls and the CAO of the District of Muskoka.

    The task force began its work in August 2017 and is working together to follow a capital planning process to plan for MAHC’s future. Recent events are threatening to interfere with and derail the process, and are detracting from these efforts. MAHC is disappointed this is occurring, and reluctantly issued a letter to the Mayor of Huntsville and Town Council to try to get the process back on track.

    MAHC is not suing anyone. The letter was sent on behalf of the MAHC Board of Directors and Senior Leadership Team to address: the Mayor’s false, misleading and defamatory comments about MAHC in the media; and Huntsville Town Council’s motion calling for the dismissal of the MAHC Board and CEO and to dissolve the organization, which seeks to undermine public confidence in MAHC and its leaders.

    “We understand there are concerns about possible models, and want to assure the community and council we are listening to their feedback,” says Board Chair Evelyn Brown. “I want to be clear that the Board and the CEO have not made any decisions with respect to future planning, except to ensure that we follow the process outlined by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.”

    “The Capital Plan Development Task Force is close to bringing forward to the Board of Directors its recommendation for a preferred model,” Brown adds. “The task force needs time to do its work. The community and council can continue to have confidence that the 25-member task force, with its broad membership, will duly consider all feedback and information when evaluating the models to arrive at the best recommendation for safe, high-quality sustainable care in the future.”

    For more information about MAHC’s future planning work, visit http://www.mahc.ca/planning-for-the-future.

  3. Peggy Peterson on

    Well it seems we have reached a point where government needs a good talking to by some ones Grandmother. Suing each other is just so not helpful and does nothing to ensure excellent healthcare in Ontario. I hope someone in this chaos is the clear message that Huntsville and Bracebridge want their local full service hospitals. If funding is a challenge for the budget balancers I suggest we begin a campaign that removes ten percent from all the salaries on the Health care Sunshine List . I believe that is where we need to find the funding to restore healthcare services and reduce wait times in our hospitals . I sure they would be enough to lighten the work loads for the front line workers too and money left over . Let’s offer a plan to redirect that money out of the pockets of the public body who make way too much money and back into health care.

  4. I just have to say that I agree with the Mayor and I think the Boatd needs to focus on finding a solution that allows Huntsville to keep our hospital, rather than going around wasting energy and eventually money threatening lawsuits to people who voice their opinion, even if that opinion is contrary to what the board has decided or recommending. Last time I checked we can still voice our opinion in this country and that includes the Mayor. To build a brand new hospital seems ridiculous to me and it is spending money that could be used to fund hospitals that already exist. Find a solution. We want our hospital.

  5. Brian Dallier on

    Complete nonsense what MAHC is trying to get away with😠😡
    Nail their butts to the wall Scott!!!!!!!!!

  6. Evelyn Brown is chair of MAHC. She is also chair of the One Muskoka movement. Is it just a coincidence that in spite of considerable effort to disguise it, it seems fairly obvious that the MAHC study appears to favour the single-site hospital model using an offer of free serviced land in Bracebridge? Or is the single-site hospital option simply a hidden extension of the One Muskoka movement? If so, it will only add to the reservations that current municipalities already have about losing convenience and losing their fair say in a One Muskoka arrangement.

    Do residents and businesses of either town really want to drive 38 kilometers to the other town every time they need to visit the hospital or medical or town offices? On the surface, the One Muskoka and single-site hospital ideas appear to offer government savings, but in reality they add to the time and travel costs (and emissions) of individual citizens and businesses and of medical and municipal staff.

    History shows that One Muskoka would likely require a brand new campus including municipal offices, a hospital, and perhaps a college campus and other services in the geographic center of the territory. That would equally disadvantage all current residents and businesses. That would totally change the growth patterns of the two biggest towns. But history shows that that was the only way to resolve similar disputes around the founding of capitals in Ottawa, Washington DC and Canberra, Australia. That is a grand vision indeed, but what would it cost, who will pay, and are we ready for it?

    • Very good points, Hugh. We need to be wary of any proposals to further centralize authority. The greatest amount of freedom and respect for the individual’s right to speak out are achieved with de-centralization. We are a long way from the ideal of “town hall democracy” but some areas of the Province are close–such as the municipalities of Muskoka. It is a grand heritage and one we would do well to think VERY carefully about, before we give it up. The further one is from the decision-making that affects one’s life, the more one becomes a chattel of the state. Do we really want to give up our birthright in favor of a mess of pottage from Queen’s Park? They are only giving back an ever-decreasing portion of what we pay into their coffers and we are supposed to celebrate the “generosity” of our Liberal government, while they pay entirely extravagant salaries to those in the health bureaucracy (among the same practices in many other bureaucracies)? But there are some who see the wasteful and dishonest practices: https://www.ourwindsor.ca/news-story/7983363-auditor-general-takes-aim-at-ontario-liberals-over-spending-and-waste/

  7. Enno Kerckhoff on

    It’s time someone has exposed what has been so painfully apparent for at least the last two years. Well done Scott !! …..and thank you !

  8. Bravo Mr. Mayor, your actions and response to the unveiled threat are commendable. I believe the obvious tactic of serving you immediately prior to the meeting completely backfired on the MAHC. Keep up the good work!

  9. Brian Tapley on

    I’m sitting in Dwight, definitely not the center of the universe, but from what I see in the media if I had to choose between what Mayor Aitchison and what MAHC is saying I’d say that Aitchison and the concept of keeping two hospitals makes more sense for the long term and for the good of all our citizens.
    MAHC and their pronouncements seem to come most often as a “surprise” and this is not really what one would expect from a body charged with looking after and planning something as important as health care.

    As for “One Muskoka”, even the most casual glance will confirm that we are very much “over governed” here but I am not sure simply lumping everything into a single grand administration based in Bracebridge will make anything better. It is important to keep the local administration local enough to be practical.
    It is worth noting that the School Board suffers the same problem. They did sort of lump things into one central board some years back and I’ll bet that despite the sky high salaries most citizens could not tell me the name of your School Board representative, much less do you ever attend a School Board meeting as a spectator. Has your representative ever contacted you? Do you know how to contact them? They now exist in some other universe and I no longer have any involvement as a citizen. This may be easy for an administration but it is not necessarily good for the community and this is not where we should be headed with our municipal government.

  10. Mayor … I hope your actions are worth it … remember who makes the final decision and control the MONEY($$) .. and ..people don’t like to be accused of … ‘this and that’ … as you have indicated … nor have their integrity challenged .. in public! This just might be the final nail in the coffin for your opinion and strategy. Let’s see what happens!

    • Randy Spencer on

      Mr. Slater, this sounds like a bit of threat. Why not let the people of Muskoka vote for either 1 hospital or 2 hospitals and then just represent the people’s wishes going forward to the new leader in June?

      • Mr. Spencer .. no threat.. just stating an opinion! I believe the committee has heard it from the people and will take the info into account when THEY make their decision. I also believe the committee (feedback) and the next leader at the provincial level will take into account ‘all’ the issues that are present and … will continue to be front and center for a 2 hospital solution. Long term strategy, future area expansion, potential increased population etc etc and .. ‘the available money($$)’ will be taken into account for who ever has final say on the strategy. The decision will not be a ‘current’ popularity vote .. as stated … other important/reality issues will be taken into account.

        • The Provincial government does NOT control ALL of the money which will be required for ANY of the options. The local citizenry will be expected to come up with their share of the money to fund the project. And it is pretty well a given that the majority of the local citizenry will NOT support, or only give half-hearted support for any option that leaves them without accessibility.

          So, perhaps we will come to a stalemate with the Provincial health bureaucrats and they will cancel the project. Our situation seems comparable to the situation in Grimsby. The people of Grimsby and their town council apparently had a plan to replace their 70-year old building with a new hospital (the old building was still struggling with asbestos remediation). It was scrapped in 2012 by the Liberal government’s MoH, even though the local citizens of the area had already raised $14 million to fund the new hospital. So the citizens of Grimsby are apparently STILL without an adequate and well-maintained hospital. In 2014, West Lincoln Memorial was subsumed under the Hamilton region’s healthcare mandate. Here is a 2016 report from the Hamilton Spectator which mentions the subject of West Lincoln Memorial Hospital, in an article which discusses the closing of some hospitals in the Hamilton area and the building of new ones: “…The [new] plan also revives redevelopment of West Lincoln Memorial Hospital that was cancelled in 2012 when Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal government killed a number of hospital projects in Tory-held ridings. West Lincoln is in the Niagara West-Glanbrook riding of Tim Hudak, who was opposition leader at the time…”

          You can read the rest of the article here: https://www.thespec.com/news-story/6700722-hhs-plans-to-open-a-new-hospital-close-mcmaster-children-s-hospital/

          I think it is reprehensible that the Liberal government’s MoH is playing politics with a service as vital as healthcare. As of May of last year (2017) West Lincoln Memorial Hospital has just been “given permission to speak to” the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care about their plans for the redevelopment of WLMH. They are apparently still in limbo as they do not appear to have been yet given the green light. https://www.niagarathisweek.com/news-story/7275085-hamilton-health-sciences-gives-update-to-grimsby-council/

    • Randy Spencer on

      The Mayor truly is who I was referring to as The New Provincial leader who hopefully will still support 2 hospitals.

  11. Gregg Steele on

    I just have to say that it is very easy to troll around, sitting behind a computer and throwing insults….
    Could we perhaps grow up just a tiny bit and let the task force, which, (perhaps everyone is not aware of??) is made up almost entirely of volunteers, the same people it is tasked to represent…try and let them do what they have been tasked to do by the MOH and stop the name calling?

    • I think that our problem is wider than just a local consideration and is centered in the cavalier treatment that a lot of small and medium municipalities are being given by the Liberal government’s MoH. The citizens of this town and Bracebridge are understandably frustrated and you just add to their frustration when you tell them to “grow up”. Our situation appears to be analogous to that of the Town of Grimsby (see my post above) and it is unlikely to be well-remedied until the Liberal Provincial government is defeated.

  12. Doug McDonald on

    I would like to thank the Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare Board members for their hard work on behalf of my community. As a mainly volunteer organization I appreciate the time and effort put in. Yes I want two separate hospitals with all the “fixings”. I would be surprised to hear that any Muskoka resident would prefer to have a reduction in health care services. I also wanted the Burks Falls Hospital to remain open and that did not happen. I would ask Mayor Aitchison if our town council would meet the complete wish list of his constituents, of course there are budgetary restraints on that as there is with our health care. The deadline to apply to be a MAHC board member passed on March 9th of this year. I trust all the people who know they could do a better job have handed in their credentials. There are priorities and if health care is one of yours then act with effort , your voice and your vote!

  13. Thanks Scott , you definitely have our votes for sure.
    M.A.H.C has got to go …Period.
    A self appointed body at the trough of the Liberal Government with no accountability and arrogance attitude to the people of Muskoka is such a political travesty.
    It is completely obvious that a 1 hospital plan is in the works and mandated a long time ago.
    You can fool some of the people some of the time but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time .
    Go Mayor Go!
    Only people like you can fix this horrible political situation we now face and hopefully fix more with some wiser choices coming up. Everyone has a vote …Remember that….

    • Terry M. Russell on

      In a recent piece I expressed grave doubt that anything could stop the MAHC-MoH juggernaut…..However, I am now much encouraged by the strong & spirited leadership Huntsville’s Mayor, Scott Aitchison in rallying Council to the cause.
      Well done, Sir. It will not be easy, but always remember you are elected and they are not.

    • Len Macdonald on

      Did you think that the board gets paid, by the Liberal government “trough”? They put up with your abuse for free. Like Doug Mcdonald (no relation) said: why don’t you apply for a position on the hospital board? Anybody can. Then you get to put up with public abuse and no money and no thanks. I thought not.

Leave a reply below. Comments without both first & last name will not be published. Your email address is required for validation but will not be publicly visible.