Frontenac County Council has approved, in principle, a plan to donate $55,061 each year for the next ten years to the University Hospitals Foundation of Kingston, the fundraising arm of the Kingston General, Hotel Dieu, and Providence Care hospitals.
This decision came about after two presentations by board members of the University Hospitals Foundation earlier this year. This was the final year of a previous 10 year $54,000 annual commitment by Frontenac County to the hospitals.
To continue what was, in 2007 as it is now, a mistaken way to spend municipal tax dollars, is a bad decision that will essentially tie the hands of the councils that are elected in 2018 and 2022.
Unlike every other decision made by Council as part of the budget deliberations, the donation to the hospital foundation has nothing to do with either the mandated operations of the county or providing direct services to county residents. It is a charitable donation, much the same as a donation any Frontenac County resident might make to the same foundation or any other charitable cause.
As residents of Frontenac County and as patients in a health care system where the Kingston hospitals play an important regional role, we might indeed be inclined to make donations to the hospital foundation as individuals. But we can make that decision ourselves, and do not need a council that was not elected for that purpose to make a donation with our money. Furthermore, we already pay for hospitals through income taxes, as we are well aware.
Any further donation we would make to the hospital foundation as individuals would with a tax deduction, but Frontenac County does not even receive a tax deduction for this donation.
There seem to be only two arguments in favour of the council making this decision. The first is that it did so once before, and the second is that the City of Kingston does it, so we should too.
The decision in 2007 was not a good one, so why repeat it.
As far as Kingston is concerned, the city has an entirely different economic relationship with its hospitals than Frontenac County does. The hospitals are intricately connected to Queen’s University, an economic engine like no other in Kingston, The hospitals draw people and resources into the city and generate revenue for dozens of medically related businesses in town. When people come from Frontenac County and elsewhere to the hospitals, they spend money at Kingston businesses.
The economic relationship between the City of Kingston and its hospitals is different from that of Frontenac County, and the fact the City supports the hospital certainly does not justify Frontenac County doing so.
Some members of Frontenac County Council may have been influenced by the way the proposal to make a donation was presented to them last week. $54,000 was already included in the budget, as if it was an ongoing commitment, which it wasn’t, and only the $1,000 increase was presented as an increase to the budget. This is not the case. The entire $55,000 is new spending, the largest single discretionary increase in the entire budget.
The Frontenac County budget has not been finalized. That will likely happen on November 15.
Council still has the opportunity to reverse this commitment and bring in a smaller budget increase or divert the money to an internal priority for county residents.
The University Hospital Foundation of Kingston is indeed a noble cause, but there are, to quote of our great poets, “a wide wide world of noble causes out there”.
Our Council should not be spending our money in this way. They can and should reverse this decision.