By Mike Williscraft
Strike two was the result of a second go-round for a McNally House Hospice ask at Grimsby Council for $132,000 to support their four-bed expansion project.
The request was initially deferred to 2023 budget consideration at the Jan. 16 council meeting, but Monday night it was lifted for reconsideration.
Coun. Nick DiFlavio put a motion on the floor, seconded by Coun. Reg Freake, that council approve the expenditure. He also reiterated, “I agree wholeheartedly that we should have a criteria.”
This comment referred to the Town developing a formal process for community and charitable “asks” which come to council from time to time.
The initial vote Jan. 16 was 6-3 against, while Monday night DiFlavio’s vote was rejected 5-4. Councillors Delight Davoli, Veronica Charrois, Jennifer Korstanje, Don Howe and Lianne Vardy opposed. Mayor Jeff Jordan and Councillors DiFlavio, Freake and Jacob Baradziej, who flipped his vote, were in favour.
“I will say that I am really torn on this particular issue. I believe in the good work that this organization does,” said Davoli, who went on to question the transparency of the McNally organization by not having its 2022 financials on its website. She also noted that no initial mention of McNally’s Foundation, which has $2 million in it, was also a problem for her.
“I was disappointed in the fact that I don’t feel, yet, like they share that same vision that I have for openess and accountability and transparency,” said Davoli.
“Perhaps if they were asked they would come forward with it and that would be a lovely thing, and they probably would. They’re good people, but that’s why I thought we should refer this back to the budget process, set a policy about all of it and make sure everybody is very clear about that.”
Korstanje said approving the request ahead of having a formal process would set a bad precedent.
“We cannot say ‘yes’ to this and then establish criteria and expect every other organization to follow that criteria,” said Korstanje.
“That would not be fair. From a legal perspective, that would open us up to liability.”
DiFlavio said the rationale of Davoli and Korstanje was off-base, noting the Town’s 2022 Financial statements are not on the Town site, either, suggesting that was more of a housekeeping issue.
“The idea of any decision we make being precedent setting, I can tell you that we’ve given money to organizations in the past and never once did I look back and never once did somebody come forward and say, ‘Well, you gave money to them. Why aren’t you giving it to us?’.”
“Every decision we make as a council is a new decision based on the information we have in front of us that day.”
After DiFlavio suggested funding could be found in a projected 2022 surplus, so as not to impact residents through an additional hit on the 2023 levy, Vardy told him any expense was a hit to taxpayers.
Korstanje disagreed, noting a premature decision would be “unfair treatment”.
“When we do that, we create issues. Just because we don’t see them doesn’t mean they’re not there,” said Korstanje.
Charrois also said the ask “is a want, not necessarily a need.”
“This is a day hospice, so this is not end-of-life care. These are people that are two years out that are navigating the system, so this is not the same,” Charrois said.
In fact, the new build planned will include all 10 beds, upped from six, while it is the current facility which will be converted to a day hospice, which will house programming for those in need of supports – both patients and their caregivers – as well as bereavement programs.
As well, while Charrois noted the facility was not at capacity, McNally’s occupation rate in 2022 was 96.7 per cent, one of the highest in the province. This usage includes turnaround time between patients.
Vardy suggested a friendly amendment which would have noted council would support it, amount to be determined at budget time. This was rejected by Freake, who seconded the motion, so it died.