Categorized | Mike's Column

Snap WLMH suspended animation, please

A simmering unrest and general concern is heating up to a level of disgust and rage where West Lincoln Memorial Hospital’s suspended animation rebuild is concerned.

It is all very unfortunate, but the low-grade flames were certainly fanned last week when West Niagara residents collectively felt (and I am summarizing dozens of comments made directly to me) slapped in the face by the provincial government.

The slap came in the form of the notion of a new hospital in Niagara Falls going from a notion to Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant LHIN programming approval to the $26 million in Ministry of Health grant rolled out by Deb Matthews.

To be clear, absolutely nobody begrudges a new hospital for the Falls or (and it should be built more south and central to Niagara’s southern tier) any other community. Niagara has been a redheaded stepchild to provincial government for years, so it sure would be nice to see some level of focus here.

For that matter, it was great to see the provincial coffers tipped in favour of the wine industry with the same breath as the Falls hospital announcement. Again, there are those who think that industry has seen enough government support –– both from the feds and province –– but, as I say, any attention is good attention these days.

What I would like to  see is government step in and demand the LCBO give more shelf space to Canadian content. Canadian vintners and distillers should not be squeezed out in their own backyard and, for that matter, why/how is beer showing in up in liquor stores…but that is a column for another day.

People are really mad, really upset that we (Niagara West residents) have been disregarded and Niagara Falls gets ushered to front of the new-hospital funding line just so the Liberals can buy itself a seat at Queen’s Park in the pending byelection.

It is the game of politics in its ugliest most base form.

I was asked to be the guest speaker at Lincoln Rotary Club’s meeting this week. Since I knew some questions would come regarding WLMH, I made an update on the situation part of my presentation. While I told the gathering the Liberals’ transparent pre-byelection tactics is unfortunate, I didn’t let Niagara West Glanbrook MPP and Tory leader Tim Hudak off the hook either.

Hudak was put in a position before the last budget was set in stone of lobbying to get WLMH included and risking being called a “homer” or stepping aside from that issue and letting the budget skate by. The net effect of that won’t be known to constituents or Hudak until the next province-wide election.

What comes of all this is still an unknown, but the whole thing is very sad and the frustration is exceedingly high.

One thing to remember in all this, when that anger overflows, is to direct it at those who deserve the wrath, and that target is NOT those who raised the initial community funds or those who have been caretakers of the funds over the last 10 years. Remember all the money has been kept separately and it fully accounted for. It is waiting for the project to proceed and all will be ready to go.

All I can say is, when you guys are ready to hop on the busses and head to Queen’s Park, call me and we’ll get that teed up.

Generally, I would say try to be patient. At some point, hopefully soon, the government has to wake up and get the WLMH project on the rails.

* * * * * *

Back to the Rotary meeting….a couple of very interesting newspaper questions arose focusing on two areas: internet and readership.

With internet, to summarize, the basic questions was has the internet softend ad rates.

To be sure, the only thing that has softened ad rates in our market is rate slashing by the local corporate publication. Whether it is the $499 full page promo I heard about this week or the six-page package I heard about last fall that averaged out to $200, those kinds of rates are just plain silly and, no, you would never see NewsNow match those rates.

Internet has effected national advertising far more than local. With weeklies, due to the content being intensely local –– if it is being done right –– has insulated weeklies as our content which draws readers’ eyeballs is typically not available online.

Ultimately, readership is what wins. You either have it or you don’t. We hear all the time how advertisers get terrific response to their ads in our pages and we want to keep that train rolling.

Thanks to Lincoln Rotary for the invite. Those events are always very interesting.

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