Listen up! – An interesting week for Muskoka Heritage Place, the Hospital and Justin Trudeau

Hugh Mackenzie Huntsville Doppler

Hugh Mackenzie
Huntsville Doppler


I am not sure if people get wiser as they grow older, but I do know from personal experience that at least some of us get less tolerant. A case in point for me is the reckless vandalism that occurred at Muskoka Heritage Place recently. There was no point to it other than sheer nastiness and mischief. Historical assets worth many thousands of dollars were damaged or destroyed, just so these jerks could get their kicks. I am told that the police believe they know who these guys are and that they also believe they are the same bunch who jumped all over new cars at a local dealership, causing more fruitless damage.

Personally, I hope when they are caught, they are thrown in jail. I know that there will be some folks who will say we need to look at the root cause of their actions and try to understand why they would do it. I don’t agree. As soon as people are old enough to know right from wrong, they should be accountable for their actions, most especially when they affect other people. If parents don’t teach them that, then it will have to be the justice system. These vandals should not be pampered. They should be taught a lesson. If they are let out of jail it should be to work to repay the damage they have done, every penny of it. And after that, they should do community service until they understand the value of other people’s property and the need to respect it.

This incident has caused me to rethink my position in relation to Muskoka Heritage Place. A decade ago, when I was mayor, Pioneer Village, as it was known then, was an issue of controversy and in some ways it has been ever since. It is expensive to maintain and an easy target at budget time.

Today, Huntsville Council is between a rock and a hard place. They are dealing with extraordinary expenditures, some of their own making and some not. But nevertheless, I suspect we will be looking at a double digit tax increase next year unless serious cuts are made soon. No doubt, that is why Council considered asking for proposals for a private operator for Muskoka Heritage Place. It would save taxpayers about $100,000 per year.

I admit to being one who had serious doubts about continual public funding for Muskoka Heritage Place. It has had declining attendance for many years and it seemed like throwing good money after bad.

However, spurred by the damage inflicted on Muskoka Heritage Place recently, I have rethought this. In addition to a tourist attraction, which is currently, not very successful, MHP is also effectively an archive for a good deal of Huntsville’s history. That should not be lost. Indeed it needs to be preserved and secured to prevent future incidents.

The question then, is how to do that in an affordable way? The status quo is clearly not viable. Perhaps it is a public/private partnership, bringing new capital to the site for upgrading and new attractions that would encourage more traffic and therefore more revenue. The important thing is to think outside the box. And that is why I think that Council made the right decision last week when they decided to seek available grant money to hire a consultant to develop models for Muskoka Heritage Place that would be affordable to taxpayers and also become a living and a viable, historical attraction, for tourists and for the residents of Muskoka.


I am hearing rumours, and I hope they are right. I hear that the North Simcoe/Muskoka Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) has not endorsed the recommendation of Muskoka Algonquin Health Care (MAHC) for a new single site hospital in the District. I for one, thought they would rubber stamp the recommendation and kudos to them for not doing so. Instead, as I understand it, primarily because of feedback they have received from Muskoka, they are opting toward engaging a facilitator to work with the entire community to find a reasonable and cost effective solution for the delivery of acute health care in Muskoka and hopefully, East Parry Sound.

Muskoka Mayors and others who contacted the LHIN deserve credit for their leadership in this. However, the hard work begins now. MAHC has submitted their recommendation. When a Facilitator is appointed, it will be up to Bracebridge and Huntsville to present viable options for comprehensive local acute hospital care. There is a group in Huntsville working on that now. Hopefully, that will put us one step ahead in the game.


Justin Trudeau will be sworn in as our Prime Minister on Wednesday. One thing he will quickly learn is the significant difference between governing and campaigning. During the Election Campaign, the Liberals made 150 promises. Many of them will no doubt be implemented. Others will be modified or retracted based on the reality of governing. That is the nature of politics and no leader should be held accountable for doing what he or she finds, at the end of the day, to be in the best interests of Canadians.

An example is Mr. Trudeau’s promise to admit 25,000 Syrian refugees into Canada by the end of next month. Under campaign circumstances, that was an understandable and perhaps emotional commitment, but even the most ardent immigration experts argue that it cannot be achieved by the end of this year, with appropriate vetting and security measures in place. It takes time and scrutiny to ensure that refugees in fact, want to live in Canada, have a place to live and an opportunity to work. Planning for such a mass influx of people takes time and that time should be given to the professionals whose job it is to manage the integration of refugees into our society with compassion and with an understanding of the mechanics that must be in place to ensure a smooth transition both for the refugees and for the citizens of Canada.

As Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau should listen to the experts and push back his timetable. It is the right thing to do and it will be an early test of his leadership. To do otherwise and allow 25,000 refugees into Canada in the next two months, would be to effectively place them in holding camps until they can be properly vetted and settled. That can be a recipe for disaster and we should learn from history and not go there. Most Canadians would agree, that if it takes a little longer to do it right, then that’s what should happen. Prime Minister Trudeau will not be faulted for listening to them.


  1. Thank you, Mr. Mackenzie, for expressing your views openly, and giving a voice
    to many local citizens who are unable to voice theirs.
    Please keep up your important work. Very appreciated.

  2. EXCELLENT commentary – on the proposed Syrian Refugee immigrant [Trudeau] campaign promise

    1. I suspect that most of these people will seek , or be placed in the GTA.
    2. many of these people suffer from severe illnesses – TB, AIDS, Diabetes, malnutrition, etc – for which Medical Care will be required.
    3. our Province is currently undergoing serious financial problems, with a corresponding reduction in funding for our Doctors, and the “OHIP” Medicare system currently in place – these financial reductions to our practising physicians have created difficulties now documented by the Ontario Medical Association, as to the current delivery of health care to the existing population.
    4. because of severe fee reductions to the current practising physicians, many mature and experienced Doctors are retiring – it is not worth their time or resources to continue to practise medicine in a financially hostile work-environment.
    5. young graduates are looking to other geographic areas to practise – outside of Ontario – because of lack of incentives – and severe cut-backs in funding for technology to make their offices electronically up-to-date.
    6. to cope with an influx of 25,000 new patients – is not going to work – it is estimated by the Ministry of Health, that, without the proposed immigration influx, there are currently 900,000 Ontario residents without a physician to care for them.
    7. now, there will be more people – and less Doctors
    – great planning – NOT !!!
    – please consider discussing this matter with family, friends, and those who may have some political insight in reaching the Premier with these concerns – after all, she is the daughter of a family physician herself.

    • Dr Magee,
      We are not aquainted. Perhaps someday that will change and I will enjoy the no doubt excellent care you provide. However today I must comment critically upon your submission to the Doppler.
      I agree wih your position that 25,000 or even half that number new citizens arriving at once into Ontario would be problematic for any number of reasons.
      I am afraid I am more than a little turned off by your focus on Doctor’s remuneration in your arguments.
      Doctors are important in the community and through their work do service to society which is mich valued and appreciated. We all rely on your knowledge and skill when we are in your care. The same thing applies to nurses and other health care professonals. We value all the body of dedicated service they provide.
      However society can only cough up so much money to fund current operations and we have about reached the limit.
      I haven’t reasearched this subject so will avoid specifics however I will observe that doctors, along with a number of other public sector professional groups already command a huge portion of the finite pie that is the public purse.
      It is a fact that Ontario is broke and has been for some time.
      This province spends far more than it takes in. The only (proper) source of funds for operating expenses is taxes. Everyone agrees that taxes are about high enough. Health care now commands around 50% of the provincial budget. How much higher would you suggest this be alowed go?
      The budgetary leftovers have to fund all the other clamoring public services and program spending that is necessary to run the province. This says nothing about our collective obligation to pay our current debt which is currently now a staggering 281 + billion $. Ontario is running a 10.9 billion budgetary deficit. This seems to grow anually adding to the debt. The working public have an expectation that of their paycheques some fair share should remain in their own pockets after taxation.
      So after consideration of these facts and figures, what exactly, would our friend Dr Magee suggest should be done?
      We are clearly in a desperate situation. One might think that a brain trust such as that to be found in the government of Ontario ( both civil service and political ) aught to be able to come up with some fresh thinking and suggestions.
      How about trying different ideas in health care as a start? Alternate care providers funded by public insurance? Most people don’t realize that there are already such providers which have been operating in certain specialties in Ontario with great success and to the benifit of their patients and the system.
      The concepts of choice in both health care and education are prooven winners in other juristictions but are taboo here. This is a sad state of affairs and underlines the cowardice and wilful ignorance manifest in the Ontario government (and in fairness, in the citizenry).
      Seems to me that the concept of “beggars can’t be choosers” pretty much fits Ontario right now. I think the time is well past to abandon idilogical prejudice and get on with trying some good ideas which have been successful elsewhere.
      If we can stop blowing our money on cancelled gas plants, solar pannel and windmill debacles, payoffs to unions and a host of other wasteful government spending and focus on proven concepts which are working elsewhere we just might dig our selves our of the latrine pit we are in. Even with applied brilliance it will take a very long time but we must make a beginning. The status quo will not do.
      So, DrMagee, there it is. Your specific ideas sir?
      Jim Boyes

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