Tag Archives: Shriner’s

A Tale of Two Cities

By Jason Menard

Apparently, winning in London depends on which side of the Atlantic you’re on.

Yesterday London, England surprised many and plucked the 2012 Olympics out from under France’s nose. And, in a cosmic balancing of franco-anglo relations, Montreal edged out London, Ontario for the rights to the Shiners Children’s Hospital.

So while they break out the party hats on Downing Street, there will be a noticeable lack of fezzes on display in The Forest City. And instead of developing a new site to help sick kids, Londoners on this side of the Atlantic will have to find a cure for bruised egos.

But once the shock and disappointment of losing what was, at one point, professed to be a sure thing passes, North American Londoners will have to realize that it’s time to strike while the iron is hot and capitalize on whatever increased recognition the city may have earned from this five-year process.

However, London’s representatives at the conference almost erased any goodwill with an inflammatory video that alleged the proposed site of a new Shriners Hospital in Montreal’s Glen Yards – next to McGill’s planned superhospital – is contaminated. That game of dirty pool has put London behind the eight ball in terms of public relations.

While all parties were making nice afterwards and saying the right things about mending fences and working together in the future for the benefit of the children, the fact of the matter is that London and Montreal’s delegations have acted more like kids themselves during this process.

Whether it was questionable accusations about contaminated land or supercilious dismissals over the status of London as a major player in the medical game, both sides haven’t come out of this unscathed. But with the right attitude going forward, London’s loss could end up being a win-win-win situation for all parties involved.

Win #1 – The city of Montreal retains the Shriners Hospital, and whether they choose to renovate the existing Mount Royal location or invest in building a new site, the city is assured of remaining a hub for specialized pediatric care in North America.

Win #2 – The Shriners, despite what Londoners may think, made the right decision. Essentially, they were taken for granted by the powers-that-be in Montreal, who ignored requests for concessions until it was almost too late. In the end, the Shriners were able to use London’s efforts to woo them to work a better deal with their existing city while continuing 80 years of tradition.

Win #3 – And this is the trickiest of all. The clock is ticking on London’s 15 minutes of fame. As it stands now, we’ve proven that our existing facilities are worthy of international recognition – so much so that we were almost able to wrest away the prize of a Shriners Hospital from much bigger competition. But the key is to be able to build on that fame and entrench it into the minds of the masses.

It’s not enough to be respected – London needs to work to be revered. Respect means that those in the industry know what your city has to offer in your chosen field. London’s got that already – our hospital system is on par with any other in the country and, thanks to the University of Western Ontario and its research facilities, we’ve earned a solid name in the medical and research communities.

But reverence? That’s something difference. To be revered means that Joe (or Jean) Average knows who you are. Reverence means that perceived transportation issues – like those that allegedly helped to sink London’s bid – are a non-factor because you’ve got that name recognition to back it up. It’s all about how you market yourself.

Londoners are blessed and cursed by our self-importance. Internally, the city’s leadership believes The Forest City is a major player on the Canadian landscape – but externally, we’re really not much more than a spot on the map. Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver – they can get away on name recognition alone. London has to work at promoting itself as a haven for the medical community.

There’s room for smaller cities to make their mark in this nation. One needs to look no further than down the 401 to see how the Kitchener/Waterloo/Cambridge region has become an international star in future technologies and research, powered in large part by RIM.

London needs to market itself less for its forests and more for its forceps. The Shriners’ decision shouldn’t be lamented as a loss, but rather recognized as an opportunity. The city has stepped onto the national and international stages, the audiences are waiting – now it’s time to make others see what Londoners believe: that London is, and will continue to be, a legitimate player in the theatre of Canadian health.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Sticks and Stones May Break Our Bones…

By Jason Menard

I wonder, do Shriners hospitals offer a cure for thin skin?

In a desperate bid to keep by an official with the Shriner’s Hospital in Montreal, many people in the City of London have bristled at the fact that London was referred to as a less-than-cosmopolitan city. Suddenly some of the more notable talking heads in the city are lobbying missives back as if the entire Montreal region had been involved in this, instead of one, misguided individual.

The fact of the matter is that London isn’t cosmopolitan. It’s stuck at a crossroads and is in danger of being overwhelmed by inertia.

I have spent almost equal amounts of my life in both London and Montreal, and I’ve seen the good and the bad of both. I had to laugh when I read some of the comments that were made in an attempt – puerile as it may have been – to boost our city’s own fragile ego. It was almost as if we were back on the schoolyard, resorting to “My dad can beat up your dad.”

Sure, driving to work in Montreal would take me an hour – if I chose to take that route. But the commuter train and other methods of public transportation got me from one end of the island to my downtown office in 15 minutes. Conversely, it takes me 10 minutes to drive to work in London, but would take over an hour by bus. Considering we’re the Forest City, I’d have to say chock one up for la belle province.

London remains a medium-sized town with big-city aspirations that have been saddled with small-town thinking. For many years, the city has been considered bush league – and it’s evidenced by the fact that so many people feel the need to be over-protective of our accomplishments. One would think the JLC is an entertainment Mecca on par with Madison Square Garden considering the amount of times it has been trotted out in defence of this city’s cultural standing.

So instead of resorting to playground antics, maybe we should sit back and take a look at where this city is – and where it can go, if we let it!

We can be proud of our world-class hospital facilities – including the incoming Shriner’s Hospital – and the fact that we have one of the most respected education institutions in all of Canada thanks to the University of Western Ontario. We can hope that the vaunted JLC will serve as the start of a vital downtown revitalization. We can pride ourselves in the city’s beauty and relative safety.

But still that inertia remains. I recently spoke with one of this city’s radio voices, who shares a history with me in that we both attended Western and both left London for a number of years, only to return. And, despite the cosmetic changes like building changing names and stores changing ownership, we were both struck with the same idea – not much has changed in the past 10 years.

That social inertia seems to have gripped this city, and needs something to tip it over the brink. Does this city decide to turn the corner and modernize? Become aggressive in its approach to attracting new and dynamic industries? Or do we continue to be led by an Old Boys’ (and Girls’) network that doesn’t want to rock the conservative boat we’re on. Do we accept the status quo and be content?

The opinion of outsiders towards London can be summed up in one word – pleasant. Of course, that’s if outsiders even have an opinion of us. Like it or not, despite how self-important some Londoners feel, the fact of the matter is that we’re barely a blip on the cultural and social radar of the rest of Canada. So are we happy with this, or do we want to move forward and become a vital component of the country?

The Shriners offer an interesting metaphor for this city. On one hand, you have the traditionally older Shriner population being looked to as a key component of this city’s growth. But perhaps the focus should switch to the kids they are looking to help. A Shriners hospital works to give those children hope for a brighter future.

The choice is up to London. It’s great for a city to have the enthusiasm and potential of children, but it’s embarrassing for us to be acting like them.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved