By Mike Williscraft
With an end goal of a balanced budget in five years, Niagara West MPP Sam Oosterhoff says his Progressive Conservative government is on its way with last week’s budget announcement.
Locally, many were waiting to see if funding for West Lincoln Memorial Hospital’s rebuild was specifically part of the package. While it was not, the portion which was, is a crucial step in the process, Oosterhoff said.
“It’s fantastic news that the West Lincoln Memorial Hospital was included twice in the budget. That is a huge step forward,” said Oosterhoff from Queen’s Park, right after the speech was concluded.
The budget reads:
“Ontario’s Government for the People is supporting infrastructure investments that will ensure patients and their families have access to health care they need. This is why the Province is supporting early planning for the redevelopment of the West Lincoln Memorial Hospital in West Niagara,” reads the budget.
It also states that support will be “planning funding for construction of a replacement hospital on the same site”.
The government has previously committed $500,000 to Hamilton Health Sciences to facilitate the reworking of design documents which had already been submitted to the Ministry of Health. This work has already started.
This rework was necessitated when a scaled-back version of the initial $280 million projected model was requested. In early February, the HHS received a document from the Ministry of Health outlining a $150 million build.
For now, though, Oosterhoff is ecstatic.
“This is a very good thing. We need to get estimates, cost estimates and scope of the project back to move further in the process. This is standard at this point,” said Oosterhoff, adding Premier Doug Ford is still fully behind the project.
“I spoke with him today and told him I appreciated it being mentioned twice. He said ‘we’re going to get that hospital built for you, buddy’. That was exactly what he said.”
The budget included many new features such as expanded liquor and beer sales into corner and grocery stores, permitting of alcohol in some parks, and “tallgating” before events in approved locations.
As well, a new “central procurement process” will be implemented to make use of the province’s buying power. This will save about $1 billion annually, said Oosterhoff.
On education, he noted class sizes would rise by one student to 28, but noted that was still under the limit of 30 in Quebec.
“We’re getting the deficit under control but there are tough decisions. We are very much a leader in education,” he said, adding the increase is in intermediate grades only, not junior.