Port Hope residents to fight MZO to expedite build of long-term care home

Click to play video: 'Port Hope residents protesting Ford Government’s usage of MZO for new long-term care facility'
Port Hope residents protesting Ford Government’s usage of MZO for new long-term care facility
A planned long-term care facility in Port Hope, Ont., has been a source of contention between a landowner and residents for some time. Now, with a minister's zoning order expediting the process, residents are taking action. Sam Houpt reports – Jun 20, 2023

Residents in Port Hope, Ont., continue to fight against plans for a long-term care home, which has now received a provincial minister’s zoning order (MZO).

Southbridge Care Homes proposes to build a seven-storey, 192-bed long-term care facility at 65 Ward Street — site of the former century-old hospital. Southbridge currently operates a 157-bed long-term care home adjacent to the former hospital and would demolish it once the new site is complete.

READ MOREFord government blasts Pickering council for rejecting long-term care home MZO request

However, in 2018 the Municipality of Port Hope council designated the hospital property a heritage site in effort to prevent the demolition. The building has sat vacant for over two decades.

But this week the province issued MZOs for the Port Hope property along with Orchard Villa in Pickering and a long-term care in Ottawa — all run by Southbridge Care Homes. The province has said the MZOs are to help ensure upgrades to long-term care homes across Ontario.

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The MZO, requested by Southbridge, overrides a municipal council’s zoning decision for a property.

Last month, Pickering town council rejected the MZO request for Orchard Villa.

On Tuesday, Port Hope residents held another rally against the demolition of the building. They hope Port Hope council follows Pickering’s suit after previous councils have twice turned down proposals by Southbridge Care Homes.

“I’m just hoping we get this MZO revoked,” said Jenny Munro. “Very little chance of that, but we need to stand our ground and make sure this never happens again.”

Design of the new long-term care home on Ward Street in Port Hope, Ont. Novatech

Opposition in Port Hope grew following the dozens of deaths at the 308-bed Orchard Villa during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020. The Canadian military were required to assist the home and six others.

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The military who were inside Orchard Villa reported patients being left in beds with soiled diapers, along with sightings of flies and cockroaches. Their report also said rotten food could be smelled from the hallways outside patients’ rooms.

The reports didn’t instil confidence in Port Hope residents with the company.

“Say you had a daycare that lost a third of its children because of mistakes and neglect. Would you give it a huge daycare afterward?” asked Munro. “To me, that’s what Pickering is facing and what Port Hope is facing — a lack of concern for human rights.”

Multiple calls and emails to Southbridge Care Homes CEO Ryan Bell have not been returned.

Northumberland-Peterborough South MPP David Piccini says inaction by Port Hope council triggered the MZO being issued by the province.

“We’re not going to let NIMBY (not in my backyard) forces delay the imperative to get modern and safe spaces for seniors in Ontario,” he said. “They deserve a space within the urban boundaries — it’s in the provincial policy statement.”

“The previous council dithered and didn’t find a solution. In fact, they did not propose one tangible alternative solution to Southbridge.”

Port Hope Mayor Olena Hankivsky says the municipality’s hands are tied with the MZO. On Monday, council unanimously support a recommendation from the Heritage Port Hope Advisory Committee to reject a heritage demolition application for the former hospital.

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“We live in a context where this is one of the policy tools that the provincial government is using to fufil their mandate on a number of different files in this term,” she said. “MZOs are not open to appeal — it takes the decision-making out of the hands of municipalities.”

Council is scheduled to meek June 29 at 45 p.m. to review a staff report on the issue and the heritage demolition application.

— With files from Sam Houpt/Global News Peterborough and The Canadian Press

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