• John Jantak

Supporters disappointed with decision to relocate Vaudreuil-Soulanges hospital site

Mayors and MNAs share their thoughts with The Journal

PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK

A billboard still stands indicating the originally-named site of the Vaudreuil-Soulanges hospital. The Journal reported December 14 that the provincial CAQ government announced it will move the hospital site to another locale in order to protect agricultural land.

At least three Vaudreuil-Soulanges mayors are still reeling after The Journal broke the news last Friday that the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government will move the proposed regional hospital to another unknown location.

MRC Vaudreuil-Soulanges Vice-Prefect and Pincourt Mayor Yvan Cardinal, Vaudreuil-Dorion Mayor Guy Pilon, and Saint-Lazare Mayor Robert Grimaudo shared their frustrations during interviews with The Journal on Monday, December 17.

The Journal also spoke to Vaudreuil Liberal MNA Marie-Claude Nichols about her disappointment at hearing the news and to Soulanges CAQ MNA Marilyne Picard who spoke about the decision to change the location, even though no alternate site has yet been chosen.

Mayor Yvan Cardinal

“It’s a big surprise and disappointment,” he said. “Studies since the beginning determined this is the best place in Vaudreuil-Soulanges to have the hospital. The move means all the work that was started by the city of Vaudreuil-Dorion and the provincial Ministry of Transport, including installing preliminary infrastructure will now have to be redone when the government announces the new hospital site.”

He said the MRC always knew the Communauté métropolitain de Montréal (CMM) would not accept the location as stipulated by the CMM’s Plan métropolitain d’aménagement et de développement (PMAD), but the former provincial-led Liberal government issued a decree to allow construction.

“There will now be a push by the MRC, the mayors of the 23 municipalities that make up the MRC, and citizens to try to persuade the government to re-evaluate and reverse their decision,” said Cardinal.

Mayor Guy Pilon

“I’m shocked, deceived, sad, but I’m also very curious to sit with them and find out what other sites they are proposing,” said Pilon. “I’ve been on this project since the beginning for the past 10 years. The other sites are not good for a hospital.”

While the land is in an agricultural zone, it was chosen to build on because the farmland isn’t arable after the topsoil was removed, said Pilon. There was also a former gas station next to the land on Boulevard de la Cité-des-Jeunes that was closed to accommodate the hospital.

“We’ve already done a lot of infrastructure work to get the ground ready,” said Pilon.

The mayor noted he had a document from Quebec Health Minister Danielle McCann dated October 30 asking Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante to change its PMAD to accommodate the hospital.

“Now a few weeks later the government is backing away from their request. We hope for a meeting in January,” said Pilon. He is also hopeful the government will reverse their decision saying there is no other suitable option.

Mayor Robert Grimaudo

“We’re all very disappointed. It will result in more delays,” said Grimaudo. “Vaudreuil-Dorion has invested a lot of time and money in their preparations for the site that was selected. The timing to choose another site isn’t good. We’ve been waiting a very long time. We need a hospital. We are the only MRC in Quebec that has a population that more than justifies a hospital.”

He feels the issue is about getting the current government to listen to the constituents in the region and follow through on what the previous government pledged to do despite differences in political ideology.

“I have no problem with the CAQ in power. They’re the government and will do what they want to do. What I want is the best for my constituents. If we change the location, we will be going backwards and it will take more time to complete,” said Grimaudo, who also had harsh words for the CMM. “Why is Montreal making these decisions for us?”

PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK

Vaudreuil Liberal MNA Marie-Claude Nichols stands outside her riding office in Vaudreuil-Dorion on December 17. Nichols said she hopes the provincial CAQ government reverses a decision it made last Friday to move the Vaudreuil-Soulanges hospital to an undisclosed location.

MNA Marie-Claude Nichols

“I’m very upset. I don’t know what’s happening or why. Our population demographic keeps increasing which is why the project became bigger, from 202 beds to 404. We need 25 hectares of land. It’s the best place for this kind of project with excellent accessibility next to Highways 20, 30 and 40,” said Vaudreuil Liberal MNA Nichols.

Part of her tenure at the MRC when Nichols was mayor of Notre-Dame-de-l’île-Perrot allowed her to be a part of the review process when 17 different proposed hospital sites were studied. They were eliminated because they all had unique problems, including being too close to railway lines and oil pipelines, or having other unsuitable characteristics, she said.

“That’s why the MRC chose the current site,” said Nichols. “And with the ministerial decree we had, the work should have proceeded very quickly. I hope the government changes their decision.”

MNA Marilyne Picard

The CAQ’s decision to cancel the current site was made in accordance with a decision made earlier by the CMM that determined the current site was not suitable for a hospital, said newly elected Soulanges CAQ MNA Picard.

“The CMM has power regarding the preservation of agricultural land where the hospital was going to be located. Our objective is to look at other options. Obviously, because of real estate speculation we’re not going to talk about what they are,” said Picard.

“We’ve had many meetings to discuss the best options in order to find a solution that will take the least time possible to build the hospital. We are determined and committed to build it within the same current timeframe. Our decision will come quickly in the New Year. Construction will begin before the end of the first mandate,” added Picard.

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