PROVINCIAL NDP opposition leader John Horgan is offering his assistance in helping convince the provincial government to replace the aging and inadequate Mills Memorial Hospital.
Meeting with Terrace city council Aug. 18, Horgan offered it the use of his office space as an operations base when it travels to Victoria next month for the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities convention.
That’s also when local governments lobby provincial cabinet ministers on specific issues and a new Mills is on the council’s ‘to do’ list.
“And I have a nice suite,” said Horgan.
To date the province has financed what’s called a concept plan for a new Mills, completed in 2014, but has stopped short of moving to the next stage, a far more detailed business plan outlining the physical size of a new structure, services it would contain and associated costs in preparation for financing and construction approval.
Terrace mayor Carol Leclerc told Horgan a new Mills is the top priority on the Northern Health Authority’s capital projects list.
And she noted the province has denied an offer by the North West Regional Hospital District, which spans the region and which provides 40 per cent of the money for capital projects, to pay for the business plan.
Still, Leclerc told Horgan, “we’re going to remain optimistic.”
Horgan said he viewed a new Mills as not simply a project that would put people to work within the community.
A new Mills, he said, is needed public infrastructure to serve the region and attract growth.
For the province not to listen to local officials is “not consistent with giving [the region] the tools it needs,” he said.
“I have the greatest confidence in the Northern Health Authority which is one of the best run health authorities,” Horgan added of the agency which has been developing the plan for a new Mills.
Speaking afterward, Horgan said he would not interfere with any strategy of the council or of the North West Hospital District in pursuing the province.
But he was dismayed at the letter sent by provincial health minister Terry Lake in turning down the hospital’s offer of paying for a business study for a new Mills in advance of the province committing construction money.
The province, said Horgan, “is looking for excuses not to deliver services in the region.”
Lake’s letter, he added, appears to be “short-sighted and wrong-headed.”
“It’s for the benefit of the region and that clearly seems to have been lost on Mr. Lake,” said Horgan.
Board members of the North West Hospital District are also headed to Victoria next month to also press the case for a new Mills.