Regional Mayors meet with Premier Ford to discuss Highway 3, new hospital, and shoreline protection

by Adam Gault

Mayors from Windsor-Essex municipalities met with Ontario Premier Doug Ford in Windsor on Thursday, August 13, to discuss issues relating to COVID-19 recovery, as well as provincial funding for the region.

Speaking over lunch, topics of discussion included the new regional hospital, shoreline protection, and the widening of Highway 3.

Essex Mayor Larry Snively was in attendance at the luncheon, and said the meeting with the Premier was productive for the region, noting that Ford said funding would be coming for the new mega-hospital.

“I think he pretty well guaranteed us, he’s going to come up with the funding. One way or another,” Snively said.

At a press conference later in the afternoon, Ford said that in speaking to the regional mayors, the construction of the new hospital is a top priority for his government, and that the development of the new health care facility was essential for the region.

“It’s my number one priority now to give them proper healthcare to such a large region,” Ford said of the estimated $2 billion hospital project. “One way or another, we’re going to find funding for this hospital. [Windsor-Essex] is in desperate, desperate need of this.”

Ford also announced the Ontario government is providing $30 million to municipalities through the Connecting Links Program for 2021-22, to build, repair, or replace local roads and bridges. Mayor Snively is hopeful Essex could see a share of that funding, which he said could be used to address issues on concession roads within the municipality.

“$30 million is not a lot of money, but even if we get a portion of it to do one concession road, I would be very, very happy,” Snively added.

The Connecting Links Program provides funding to eligible municipalities of up to 90 percent of eligible project costs, up to a maximum of $3 million for road projects. In response to municipal feedback, the province is permanently raising the maximum amount of available funding for bridge projects from $3 million to $5 million to reflect the higher costs of maintaining and repairing bridges compared to roads.

The widening of Highway 3 to four lanes between Leamington and Essex, an election campaign promise, was also a point of discussion during Ford’s visit, with the Premier stating that it was time for proper investment to be delivered to what he said was a “forgotten” region.

“Under this party, we aren’t going to forget it, under myself, it’s not going to be the forgotten city anymore,” Ford stated. “We have to start delivering proper services.”

Shoreline protection and erosion issues of the Great Lakes, a problem that has impacted many living along Lake Erie in Essex County, was also brought up to the Premier, who Mayor Snively said would take the issue back to Queen’s Park to be investigated.

“He knows that there’s a problem,” Snively said. “He said he was going to work on that, and I’m sure there’ll be some funding in the future coming down for shoreline protection.

Mayor Snively also added that he has invited the Premier down to Essex to see the Lake Erie shoreline firsthand and to share ideas on shoreline protection. He is confident a meeting can be arranged for a future date.