Mayor Karin Terziano is not going to be happy with me this week. She doesn’t like being talked about and that is what I am going to do.
She is one of those rare politicians who shuns the limelight. She has no idea how to blow her own horn, which, in a strictly musical sense, is very unusual for a Terziano! She is not interested in drawing attention to herself. She is just interested in getting things done. Perhaps that is why she is so effective.
Recent events in Canada and abroad have had me thinking a lot lately about leadership. A recent poll in the National Post stating that 69 per cent of our population thinks that Canada is “broken” acts as a sharp reminder of how little leadership we have and how badly we need it. There are so few examples of it these days that my heart warmed when I saw something in our own community that showed that effective leadership is still alive and well, if only in our little corner of the world.
Most people know that Huntsville has had a serious lack of nursing home beds for many years. In more recent times, it has turned into a bit of a crisis with many instances of elderly people unable to receive needed care, or having to be sent well away from their community and family in order to get it. There are families in our community who have had to give up much-needed employment in order to stay home to care for an elderly parent who needs more professional care but cannot get it because of a lack of nursing home beds.
Our former mayor, Scott Aitchison, was a strong advocate for expanded nursing home facilities here and many people have worked hard to make it happen, especially former and current members of the Fairvern Nursing Home board.
Fairvern came up with a plan to build a new facility near the Huntsville Hospital campus, expanding from the current 76 beds to 160 long-term beds, equal to the number of nursing home beds at The Pines in Bracebridge. Greystone, a local contractor, donated the land and the Town built a road to it.
But the crunch came at the cost of the new building. Nursing homes, other than private ones, are the responsibility of the District of Muskoka which operates The Pines in Bracebridge. Muskoka’s share of an expanded Fairvern would be at least $23 million and there is no way that can be supported by a single municipality any more than The Pines could have been built and expanded without District help.
And so, on Mayor Terziano’s watch, the task arrived of convincing Muskoka District Council to assume control of Fairvern, commit to the local share of capital dollars, and apply to the Province for 160 nursing home beds for Fairvern. There was considerable opposition to this, primarily from some township municipalities who were reluctant to take on the increased cost to their local tax base.
The challenge for Karin Terziano was that the fate of a much-needed expansion of Fairvern was now in the political arena. If the District of Muskoka failed to assume responsibility for Fairvern and the proposal that went with it, the project would be dead and the efforts of a lot of people meaningless. It was a do-or-die moment.
The mayor did not hesitate. She is aware that the first rule of politics is to know how to count, and in this instance she needed 12 votes from the 22-member District Council. She knew she had the support of Huntsville’s three other District councillors, but she also knew that as mayor, the buck stopped with her. She worked tirelessly to get support from other District councillors, sometimes having to move around obstacles that were placed in front of her, which she did with effectiveness and grace. She had allies but she also had opponents.
The mayor quietly planned her strategy, made sure she had strong representation from nursing home advocates at key District meetings, including former deputy mayor, Fran Coleman, took advice from a few other District mayors who supported her and generally “worked the room” in her quiet manner until she was fairly confident that she had the votes that were needed. She was so effective that those who originally opposed the Fairvern proposal agreed to a non-threatening compromise that allowed them to support it, resulting in a unanimous decision by District Council to support an expanded nursing home in Huntsville.
While clearly Karin Terziano did not do this alone—and would be the first to say so—she deserves credit for getting the deal closed with the District of Muskoka and, in my view and probably to her relief, this has not been adequately recognized. It was a true test of leadership and, in terms of Huntsville’s future needs, it is a really big deal.
Now the next and final step is to get approval from the Province of Ontario. Hopefully, our Member of Provincial Parliament Norm Miller can exercise the same level of leadership in this regard as did our mayor. Huntsville and the District of Muskoka have done their job, Norm. Now, over to you!
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