Just plain stupid: Tristan Cleveland on why Bayers Lake is no place for a QEII outpatient centre
Metro Halifax columnist argues Premier Stephen McNeil should be thinking more about accessibility when making these decisions.
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Last week Stephen McNeil announced the Liberals will put a new QEII outpatient centre in Bayers Lake. It’s a stupid choice they should rethink.
Saying an industrial park is a great place for a hospital facility is like saying a typewriter is a great computer. Yes, it will treat patients and it will be easily accessible from highways. And yes, typewriters are good for writing.
But when government will spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a building and its employees for decades, the project better damn well accomplish more than one thing. A computer without internet and photos is a dud, and a hospital whose location does nothing for our economy, transportation and health is a very expensive dud.
Here are three areas to think about when it comes to this:
Consider Acadia University’s buildings in Wolfville. Yes, people go to them and learn things. But people also leave those buildings and spend money in local businesses. They bring life to the main street and make it feel like a place people want to come back to. They buy homes nearby and they pay taxes. In short, they make the whole town a viable economic project, which is why Wolfville is one of the only growing rural places in Nova Scotia.
And yet, for decades, our governments has been putting expensive new institutions in the middle of nowhere on cheap land where they can do nothing for the success of anywhere.
If the government doesn’t want to put a hospital building downtown, fine, but put in a community, any community. Put it somewhere where pharmacies, restaurants, physio clinics, optometrists, inns, restaurants and cafes can spring up and support economic life.
Halifax’s Urban Design Manager, Jacob Ritchie, pointed out on Twitter that the Lacewood Terminal in Clayton Park would be a good spot for it. A terminal means 13 bus lines already go there, so taxpayers wouldn’t spend a dime to accommodate the new passengers, and the hospital would generate way less traffic. Thousands of people in Clayton Park could just walk.
If it goes in Bayers Lake, we’ll have to divert buses from where they’re needed to an outlying place where no one lives. And even with extra buses, access will always suck for the fully one third of us who can’t drive.
It is now so hard to walk or bike to do anything in Canada that we spend $2.4 billion dollars yearly on treating the direct health consequences of inactivity.
Nova Scotia’s Thrive Strategy and our Sustainable Transportation Strategy both said we were going to smarten up and start putting institutions in places that at least someone can walk to. I asked Transportation Infrastructure Renewal if they considered that goal in their decision and they said a bike lane is nearby, ignoring that this still means absolutely no one will walk. It’s bizarre and frankly idiotic to undervalue health in the location of a hospital.
The economic, transportation and health impacts of massive government investments aren’t all just added bonuses. Without them, a project isn’t an investment in our future, it’s just spending money. If the Liberals think a hospital facility in an industrial park is a good use of tax dollars, then I have a very fancy computer to sell them. It types.