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Opinion: Dave Dale, Let’s not return to ‘normal'

The $122-million redevelopment and expansion of Cassellholme is a glaring example of politicians playing hot potato with health care issues

We should be aiming higher than the pre-pandemic ‘normal’ because that’s exactly what led to this place. Right?

The dots of whatever we had going on before 2020 connect directly to what’s happening now. COVID-19 merely exposed the weaknesses that need attention and improvement, notwithstanding a few things that require replacement.

It’s hard not to pick apart and mock the politics of it all.

But before I scratch out some thoughts on local municipal matters with provincial twists, it would be good to acknowledge National Indigenous Peoples Day and that the North Bay area is Indigenous territory. That’s basically all I wanted to say about international affairs for now, likely more to say for Canada Day.

If you just happen to be yearning to learn a broader perspective about why relationships need repair, I’d start with what Nipissing First Nation’s June Commanda shared about her residential school experience. The story Bike ride honours residential school survivors was written by BayToday’s new Local Journalism Initiative reporter David Briggs.

It started with a local cycling group wanting to learn more after the news broke about 215 unmarked graves at the Kamloops residential school. They wanted to honour survivors and met Commanda before the ride at the community memorial in Duchesnay Village.

The group was actually fulfilling some of the steps toward better relationships outlined in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations. Every turn of the wheel helps progress.

As for our ‘colonial-settler’ society, there’s definitely work to do on almost every front: economic, social, cultural, health and education to name a few. The pandemic and politics have made that clear.

Nothing can be more obvious than the need for a functioning education system that teaches lifelong learning essentials, including adaptability. With heaping spoons of science and healthy living knowledge on top.

It’s been proven – over and over again – that omitting factual history from the curriculum leads to a public poorly armed for understanding systemic social impacts. I could be referring to the American states launching critical race-related white-washes in their schools. Canada, however, already pulled that trick by misrepresenting Indigenous realities for more than a century.

Sorry, I said I wasn’t going to bring that uncomfortable stuff up again.

Long-term care is another essential that shouldn’t return to ‘normal’ again.

The $122-million redevelopment and expansion of Cassellholme, East Nipissing District Home for the Aged is a glaring example of politicians playing hot potato with health care issues.

And now everyone is painted into a corner with an August deadline imposed for a funding application as a clock "ups the ante" by the minute.

Who is to blame for the situation? It’s curious there was only one qualified bidder. Did the tender process itself repel interest? And does the $122-M price tag include interest? (That’s an inside joke about how the costs of some projects get calculated with tax while others do not.)

Meanwhile, it’s hard to point fingers when councils have a rep on the Cassellholme Board of Management, with the City of North Bay having the most seats.

It is interesting that TWG Communications was hired to help pitch the project’s fait accompli, knowing the thing with Invest North Bay didn’t work out as initially planned. The website marketing the project ( is actually one of the best I’ve seen for explaining a project’s timeline, design, and phases.

It’s much better than what they did for Mayor Al McDonald’s last two election campaigns.

Municipal partners, meanwhile, are facing a debt commitment that gobbles up their borrowing power for decades, forcing councils to look at annual tax levy increases to cover other capital and operating needs.

North Bay might have to spike the new twin pad facility at the Steve Omischl Sports Fields Complex.

Councillors are doing a gut check no doubt, especially with the last budget of their term most likely a re-election killer.

Some might even change their mind about potential capital gains taxes on principal residence sales … if they can get a piece of the action. They can also wait until the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation figures out what to do after the market boiled over the top.

The real stink in the garden comes from the approved provincial contribution of up to $65 M being part of the debt municipalities are to shoulder. Ontario, to our horror, is trying to download debt to keep billions off its books.

At some point, the province and cities will go straight to putting liens on property titles to show it has sufficient paper assets.

And we haven’t even got to how we’ll ensure LTC residents in both private and public facilities get a continuous dose of compassionate care.

We better not toddle too long. There’s no way our kids will take care of us after we wrecked the economy and made homeownership a cruel tease.

Reader feedback:

A person who lives in the Yukon sent me an email after reading my first column, which attracted mixed reviews. One reader emailed and accused me of being Conservative and another on Facebook thought it was a tad too middle-of-the-road. “Beige” but “not awful,” he said. Fair enough. There were quite a few more positive comments, so I’ll keep trying.

The lady from Yukon, who lived in North Bay 13 years ago, agreed wholeheartedly that we can learn a lot from the mistakes during the pandemic.

“We are having an unusual increase in Covid cases and I am certainly not comfortable with this. Last year, graduation ceremonies and celebrations were not allowed but they (government) let them happen this year,” she said, noting returning miners also caused outbreaks.

“That's not a good thing when you take into consideration that we have very limited medical services and hospital beds in the Yukon.”

Cases there doubled since she emailed me with notices of exposure events including high school grads, two elementary school classes, and bars adults (read parents) are frequenting. Makes sense and good case connection info to know. 

Dave Dale is a veteran journalist and columnist who has covered the North Bay area for more than 30 years. Reader responses related to his work can be sent to [email protected]. To contact the writer directly, email: [email protected] or check out his website