DeJong Announces Planning Money for New Terrace Hospital

The drive to replace Mills Memorial Hospital in Terrace moved a major step forward today, with the province committing itself to planning a new facility.

Finance Minister Mike de Jong made the announcement to a packed meeting of the Terrace Chamber of Commerce today, during a speech to trumpet last week's budget.

The finance minister received a standing ovation from the Terrace business community as he announced the BC Liberals had set aside money for replacement of the 56 year old Mills Memorial Hospital -- and he said it was because of the government's sound fiscal management.

"We were able to include, in both our capital plan and our fiscal plan, the funds necessary to move ahead with a new Mills Memorial Hospital so lots of work to do now and it's probably a four-year exercise but we're underway and we have the money to do it," he said.

But NDP Leader John Horgan released a statement today, saying the Liberals have simply caught up with what the New Democrats have been saying for more than six months -- that Terrace needs a new hospital.

De Jong gave hints during his speech today that an announcement was coming -- so Mayor Carol Leclerc was growing more and more hopeful as she  listened.

"When Minister de Jong was sort of stretching out about the hospital I thought okay, this is going to be it, this is going to be it, so I was absolutely ecstatic when he made the announcement that Terrace is going to get a new hospital -- it was tucked in that 2.4-billion dollars for health care -- yeah pretty happy about that," said Leclerc.

De Jong's announcement today doesn't necessarily mean there'll be shovels in the ground next year, but the minister says the process might move along a little bit faster than many people think, and that Terrace may have a brand new hospital within the next three or four years.

"Well we'd like certainly to be into procurement by next year and we're going to move this along as quickly as possible and I guess the good news today is we've set aside what we believe to be the necessary amount of public dollars on the province's part to make this a reality," he said.