The provincial election is now four days away. Many have voted already and those who have not and intend to do so have likely made up their minds. But in tight ridings like that in Parry Sound- Muskoka, it ain’t over ‘til it’s over.
In the recent past I have made my own position quite clear when it comes to this election and many of those that disagree with me have done the same. All of that is fair ball.
My greatest concern is that the two new full-service acute-care hospitals for Muskoka now committed to by the Ford Government will be in jeopardy if we do not return a Conservative member to the provincial legislature for Parry Sound-Muskoka.
Yes, this presupposes that the Ford Government is re-elected on Thursday, but at this point in the campaign most signs point to it being the best bet, although still a bet. And yes, I have heard the accusations of fear-mongering when I suggest that the outcome of hospital care in Muskoka is potentially at risk in this election.
But this is not just me. I have said what I have to say on this subject. This week two people with a long history of community involvement in Huntsville and Muskoka, Bob Hutcheson and Doug Millikin, have reached out to me with their concerns. Bob has put his concerns in a letter to Doppler which I urge you to read. Doug Millikin has agreed to allow me to include his comments in this article, because they deal exclusively with my main concern, and that is the future of our hospitals and Fairvern Nursing Home.
Many people will remember Doug Millikin. He came to Huntsville to build the Kimberly-Clark facility here and remained many years as plant manager and subsequently retired here. This, at the young age of nearly 97, is what he has to say:
“The circular graph from Mainstreet Polling, published in Doppler last week, filled me with alarm.
“I lived in Huntsville for 50 years and during that time was vice-chair of Huntsville District Memorial Hospital and chair of the building committee for what was then a new hospital. I also served as chair of the Huntsville Hospital Foundation. As vice chair of the Hospital board, I was very involved in the purchase of the forty-acre site on which the Huntsville Hospital now sits.
“I am very aware that both our hospitals in Muskoka now need more renovations or rebuilding. I care vehemently about the future of our hospital in Huntsville, especially having spent 12 nights under its care last July. I am grateful that Doug Ford has committed to two new hospitals in Muskoka, one in Huntsville and the other in Bracebridge, and I believe it is very important that this becomes a reality.
“For the past three years, I have been living with my family in Guelph, although frequently returning to Huntsville. Mike Schreiner, the leader of the Ontario Green Party, is the MPP for the riding in which I currently reside. Talking to a cab driver recently, he commented that while Mike is an extremely fine individual, with high ideals, he really has minimum clout in getting approvals from the province for matters important to the riding.
“It is my experience, over many years, that a riding seldom gets anything allocated unless the MPP is also a member of the party in power.
“It was under a Davis/Miller government that we got the current hospital. It was under a Ford/Miller government that we got the new and expanded Fairvern Long-Term Care Home approved. And it was under a Ford/Miller government that we got the commitment for two new fully serviced acute care hospitals in Muskoka.
“It was under a Liberal government, with a Conservative member in Parry Sound-Muskoka, when we lost the Northlander train service, and it was under a Liberal government when we were switched from being designated in Northern Ontario to Southern Ontario, resulting in a significant reduction in eligible grants.
“We need to think seriously about that. When the rubber hits the road, a riding is best served by having an MPP who is also a member of the government party. This is the reality—this is politics—pure and simple. ‘Take care of one’s own.’ It is a serious business.
“Now make no mistake. The sole reason that I write this is that it is my strong opinion that we jeopardize the recent new hospital funding commitment if the successful candidate in Parry Sound-Muskoka is not a member of the governing party, which all polls currently project will be the Conservatives.
“I fully understand people’s anger and frustration, especially after the pandemic we have all been through. I simply ask that the very possible adverse consequences, especially in relation to our hospitals and Fairvern, in not electing the Conservative candidate in Parry Sound-Muskoka be considered.
“I urge everyone eligible to vote to think about this. The stakes could not be higher.”
To me, Doug Millikin has explained the issue in a nutshell. It is not personal. It is just the reality of hard-nosed politics. I agree with him entirely. The stakes could not be higher and clout matters.
Hugh Mackenzie has held elected office as a trustee on the Muskoka Board of Education, a Huntsville councillor, a District councillor, and mayor of Huntsville. He has also served as chairman of the District Muskoka and as chief of staff to former premier of Ontario, Frank Miller.
Hugh has served on a number of provincial, federal and local boards, including chair of the Ontario Health Disciplines Board, vice-chair of the Ontario Family Health Network, vice-chair of the Ontario Election Finance Commission, and board member of Roy Thomson Hall, the National Theatre School of Canada, and the Anglican Church of Canada. Locally, he has served as president of the Huntsville Rotary Club, chair of Huntsville District Memorial Hospital, chair of the Huntsville Hospital Foundation, president of Huntsville Festival of the Arts, and board member of Community Living Huntsville.
In business, Hugh Mackenzie has a background in radio and newspaper publishing. He was also a founding partner and CEO of Enterprise Canada, a national public affairs and strategic communications firm established in 1986.
Currently, Hugh is president of C3 Digital Media Inc., the parent company of Doppler Online, and he enjoys writing commentary for Huntsville Doppler.
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