Founding of Markham Stouffville Hospital

Markham Stouffville Hospital. Photo Credit: Jessica Campbell. April 4, 2016

Markham Stouffville Hospital. Photo Credit: Jessica Campbell. April 4, 2016

The population of the town of Markham has drastically increased over the years and plans for a new hospital were underway as early as the 1950s.  During that time, residents predicated that the population was going to increase in the upcoming decades.  At the beginning of the 1960s, a campaign for the Markham Stouffville Hospital was launched.[1]  The following essay if going to argue the Markham Stouffville Hospital board of directors faced several challenges in dealing with the community and the provincial government of Ontario during the development process.  One of the most important aspects about the hospital is that community involvement, donations and fundraising helped the board of directors make the hospital project a success.  One of the first challenges that the board of directors faced was gaining approval from the provincial government.

The Markham Stouffville Hospital board of directors was founded in 1968.[2]  It was not until 1982, when the name of the hospital was changed from Markham York Hospital to Markham Stouffville Hospital. Mayor of Whitchurch-Stouffville, Eldred King believed that the new name was more representative of the area, that the future hospital would be servicing.  After careful consideration, the hospital board decided to change the name.[3]  During the late 1960s the province of Ontario created the “Toronto-Centered Region” plan and transit-oriented development.  Compact urban form was developed as a way to practice sustainability.[4]  This kind of practice helped towns, like Markham, become more accessible to facilities and the plans for a new hospital was a project that was a popular topic of conversation among Markham residents, the Ontario provincial government and the municipal politicians of Markham.  There were debates going on between city council members about the land uses in York Region County as early as the 1960s, but competitive city planning in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) started in the 1950s.

Competitive city planning is a result of postwar metropolitan planning.  During the 1950s, Toronto was shaped by mass production, automobile based suburbanization, downtown urban renewal, modernist planning, federal-provincial housing, mortgage finance, immigration, and transportation policies.[5]  When Metro Toronto was founded in 1953, there were six local governments, which consisted of Toronto, Scarborough, North York, Etobicoke, East York, and York.  These areas represented contradictory territorial compromise between inner city and the postwar suburban municipalities.[6]  Political Activist, John Sewell, refers to York Region County as the “southern six”.  This region consists of the townships of Vaughan and Markham, the towns of Richmond Hill and Markham, and the Villages of Woodbridge and Stouffville.[7]  Around 1966, these areas were predicted to have high pressure development and the York Region Council tried to convince the Ontario Water Resources Commission (OWRC) to investigate joint water and sewage possibilities.  In 1967, the Smith Committee Report was released and it mentioned a proposal to transform the York Region County and areas west into the Metro Highlands regional government.[8]  In February 1968, the York Region County Council formed a committee of senior staff, which reviewed Smith’s recommendations.[9]  Sewell’s information proves that Markham was growing at a fast pace, even in the 1960s.  After reviewing Smith’s report, the committee said that it was important to not disrupt the rapid growth and economic development.[10]  The committee concluded that the present technological standards, of that time, showed the York Region County as a suitable place for farming, estates, recreation, and small towns and villages.  Sewell states that this kind of area is best suited for low density uses of land and that it is important to protect the conservation of resources and to minimize pollution.[11]  In a strange way, Sewell’s idea about this kind of contradicts that idea about a hospital being put into place, because a facility like that requires potential farmland being taken away, as well as vast uses of valuable and vital resources.  A hospital is an excellent facility to have in a town like Markham, because it benefits the residents.  It can, however, be a disadvantage to the natural environment because it can potentially cause pollution.  The Minister of Treasury, Economics, and Intergovernmental Affairs, Darcy McKeough met with the Richmond Hill City Council in April 1969.  During this meeting, McKeough presented ideas for a regional government.  The York Region City Council created a report, which stated, “The County unit can provide an efficient and practical means of achieving local needs as opposed to the disadvantages associated with central control be senior governments far removed from the local scene”[12]  This report argues that the local needs of Markham were important to the city council and one of those needs was a local hospital that was deemed acceptable by the council because of expanding urbanization.  This report can also argue that gaining access and approval for facilities, such as a hospital is a challenging process.

In October 1969, the Executive of Markham commissioned a study of the use of property.  This study helped define the future role in the delivery of healthcare in the Markham area.  This study also created a relationship between Markham Stouffville Hospital, the York Central Association for the Mentally Challenged, and the Cerebral Palsy Parent Council of Toronto.[13]  By 1970, the hospital board received 50 acres of land which was a donation from Philanthropist, Arthur Latcham, however, they ran into difficulties in obtaining Charter approval.  When the Ministry of Health approved of the board and the land, they told the hospital board that they were not allowed to ask for funds for the future hospital, until the town of Markham reached the population guidelines.[14]  The first meeting that the hospital committee had was at 8:00pm on April 24 1979 on Main Street in Markham.[15]  During this meeting, the board members discussed that back in March 1976, Chairman of the Markham Stouffville Hospital Committee, Donald Deacon said that the Ministry of Health was responsible for making the final decision as to where the hospital site was going to be.  Deacon also stated that the board had to approach the subject cautiously because the government was not going to offset an operating deficit.[16]  The provincial Government of Ontario is responsible for preparing regional demographic projections and issues dealing with general planning policy statements.[17]  Deciding where the future hospital should be was difficult for the board of directors.

There were several debates going on about whether or not the hospital should located on Highway 48 between Major Mackenzie Dr. and 16th Avenue.  The hospital board did approve of that idea because they believed that it would benefit the residents.[18]  The other desired location for the potential hospital was in southeastern York Region located on 9th Line, just north of Highway 7.[19]  This piece of property was already home to Participation House and Pine Point Lodge, which were both gifts to the community from Latcham.[20]  In order to establish a suitable hospital, the population in Stouffville, Markham, and Unionville, from Don Mills on the west to Brougham on the east, would have to be around 35,000.  This population would meet the appropriate guidelines, which were four and a half treatment beds per 1,000 people.[21]  The hospital board members faced a busy time during the 1970s and 1980s because of the expansion of suburbs, within the town.

The majority of the planning for the Markham Stouffville Hospital occurred during the 1970s and 1980s.  Markham was in the second wave of development during that time and it extended up until the early 1990s, when the hospital project finally came to an end.  The second wave is also known as the inner suburbs.  Conventional suburban development was taking place during the 1970s and 1980s and is known to be some of North America’s largest concentration of plans prepared with traditional neighborhood design principals.[22]  The development policies that took place during these two decades expanded a commercial tax base, which demanded a single-family detached homes and new roads.[23]  These policies proved that the population of Markham was in fact growing.  Markham Councillors wanted to continuously expand the urbanized area in more compact forms, but they also wanted to use the New Urbanist design principals.  This would help achieve the objectives that were emerged as a reaction to the conventional suburbs.[24]  The hospital board continued to gain approval from the Health Ministry regarding the hospital site.

In March 1977, Deacon told the Assistant Deputy Minister that he wanted a promised decision regarding the hospital site by the end of the year.  The Deputy Minister stated that the hospital site chosen had a great deal of merit and that he had studied the plans closely after looking at the population map that was prepared by the Markham Planning Committee.[25]  After some consideration, the hospital board settled on the land located at the 9th Line and Highway 7 location, to be the site the future hospital.[26]  The support for the hospital project was continuing to grow.  Upon a hospital board presentation that was held in September 1979, it was revealed that the York Central Hospital and the Region of York supported the hospital project.  Chairman of the Richmond Hill Hospital Board, Bill Lazenby said that he hoped that the former village of Markham will get it’s hospital.[27]  The Markham Good Neighbors Club told the Markham Council that their members were in full supporting mode for the hospital to be built on the property that was donated for the purpose.[28]  On December 4 1979, Health Minister, Dennis Timbrell mailed a letter to Chairman, Rogers Gardham regarding the Ministry’s new hospital building program in Scarborough.  Timbrell advised Gardham that the Scarborough Committee made recommendations for a site for the Salvation Army Scarborough Grace Hospital in south Markham and north Scarborough.[29]  He advised Gardham that the site that the Salvation Army owned on Birchmount Avenue in Scarborough was selected for a community general hospital with a capacity of 300 beds and 200 of those were later opened up in 1985.[30]  Timbrell said in the letter that the Ministry would be specifically looking at the town of Markham for a new hospital building program and future hospital requirements.  Timbrell stated that he was planning to meet with the representatives of the York County Hospital, Newmarket, York Central Hospital, Richmond Hill, The York-Markham Provincial Board, and the York Region government sometime in early 1980.[31]  The hospital board finally got their wishes of hospital approval granted in 1981.

An article from the Markham Economist and Sun newspaper, dated on August 20 1981 indicated that the province of Ontario agreed on the idea that Markham needed a new hospital and that the next hospital that was to be built in the GTA would be built in this town.[32]  During a committee meeting Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Lachlan Cattanach stated, “now it is just a question of time and the allotment of capital financing”.[33]  Cattanach also stated that Timbrell not only supported the concept of a hospital being built in Markham, but he would also include the hospital project into the capital expenditure list that his ministry would be presenting to the cabinet.  Timbrell requested the Markham group to arrange meetings with the ministry to discuss the long-term financing and planning of the hospital.[34]  Member of Provincial Parliament, Don Cousens, who represented the York group during the meeting, stated that some of the major challenges to the hospital have been overcome.  Cousens said that the big problem that they had at that point in time was the availability of financing.  The opportunity to receive money for the hospital, as well as other projects was tough because of the economic circumstances.[35]  The provincial government agreed to pay for two-thirds of the building cost and the other remaining one-third would come from the Region of York and local fund-raising projects.[36]  This would become one of the most important aspects of the development of the Markham Stouffville Hospital.

The estimated cost for building the hospital was $50 million and the communities portion was $5 million.[37]  Chief Operating Officer of American Express Canada and General Chairman for the Hospital Building Fund Campaign, Edwin Cooperman kicked off a fundraising campaign that with a generous donation of $25,000 from American Express.[38]  Cooperman was in good spirits and said that he was confident that the community would be able to raise $5 million in a reasonable amount of time.  “This is a large project which will test the strength of many of us… and we are going to meet goals” he said enthusiastically.[39]  The Markham Stouffville Hospital Fund officially started on April 24 1983 during the Gala “kick off” dinner dance held at the Markville Mall Shopping Centre, which provided entertainment by Rob McConnell and his 16-piece orchestra band.  The hospital fund had exceeded their goals and raised more than $30,000 that night.[40]  President of Emerson Electric, Markham, Hugh Allan pledged $125,000 over a five-year period.  Lions Club President, Don Way and incoming president, Jim Wicks donated a cheque of $50,000.[41]  JDS Developments who were the owners of Markville Mall at this time, were absolutely thrilled about the event being hosted at the shopping centre.[42]  There were many representatives of corporations that helped out with fundraising for the hospital project.  A.C. Neilsons was a company that helped fuel the fundraising drive.  A retired employee of the company, named Lyal Moody said that he would be concentrating his efforts on enlisting corporate support.[43]  During the gala dinner, McDonalds Franchise Owner, Dick Cohen announced the “Be a Builder” campaign for the hospital project.  Cohen said that McDonalds was going to contribute to the fund through a sale of “I am a Builder” slogan buttons for $1 and bricks for $25.  The campaign started at the gala and ended on May 29 1983, which is when a closing ceremony for the ending of the campaign took place, to which Ronald McDonald made an appearance at.  Cohen said that he hoped to make thousands of dollars during the campaign and that he had several other unique ideas in order to capture the customers interest.[44]  The hospital fund even received contributions from small business’ within the Markham area.  An example of one of these business’ was Sebastian Rizza’s Hairstyling, who donated all of their profits to the fund after a one-day thrust.[45]  The hospital board achieved a great deal of success in the year 1984.

Chairman of Planning for the hospital, Mac Cosburn said that he hoped that the construction of the hospital would begin in the summer of 1984.[46]  In 1984, the Markham Stouffville Hospital Fund received a generous donation of $551,785 from a Farmer named Harvey Bunker.[47]  Bunker was 91-years-old when he passed away on February 29 1984 and it was written in his will that he wanted the money from the sale of his family farm, which was located on the 9th Line, to go to the hospital fund, in memory of himself, as well as his sister Florence and brother, Thomas.[48]  Prior to his passing, Bunker lived in Green Gables Manor, in Stouffville.  While living in this area, Bunker had a keen interest in the Markham Stouffville Hospital project and he wanted make a contribution to the fund.[49]   The Markham Stouffville Hospital Board of Trustees adopted the official logo in 1984.[50]  It was designed for use of all signage, stationary, and forms, which were used when the hospital first opened.  Cattanach stated that the hospital board members unamiously approved of the logo.  Cattanach said that the logo would communicate with the community and let them know that the hospital was going to be a place in which professionals of the highest standards will be working there and they will be as compassionate as possible to their patients.  The logo is two-toned blue and was usued for several of the fundraising activities, prior to the opening of the hospital.[51]  The residents living in Markham during the mid 1980s witnessed the hospital in it’s fullest stage of development.

The architects, Mathers & Haldenby were chosen to design the Markham Stouffville Hospital in 1983.  Mathers & Haldenby helped design Roy Thompson Hall, Toronto General Hospital, and St. Michael’s Hospital, which are all located in the GTA[52]  Over 20 different firms were considered for the project, but the hospital board had the most amount of faith in Mathers & Haldenby because they were well qualified due to their extensive experience in hospital and community facility design work.[53]  In 1982, the firm received the Design Award from the Ontario Mason’s Relations Council, because of their outstanding work on the John David Eaton Wing in Toronto General Hospital.[54]  Andrew Mathers was a senior partner that was in charge of the hospital project and he commented on how the Toronto General Hospital project was a “handsome addition to the urban frame of downtown Toronto”.[55]  Architect, Henry Lowry said that it is important for architects to keep flexibility in mind when building a facility, such as a hospital.  Lowry was confident that Markham Stouffville Hospital was going to be as flexible as possible for the future patients.[56]  In 1983, the Ontario Ministry of Health predicted that the hospital was going to respond to over 30,000 emergency visits per year and provide 65,000 patient days for medical and surgical care.[57]  With these statistics in mind, it was obviously crucial to have a hospital that was going to meet the needs of the residents.  The design for the hospital was finalized in 1986.[58]  In 1984, the hospital board faced one of their largest challenges because the issue of abortions came into existence.

Pro-life groups were trying to gain control of the Markham Stouffville Hospital Board of Trustees and it caused tension within the community.  The future Markham Stouffville Hospital was a battleground for pro-life and pro-choice groups.[59]  “I’m extremely irate that a pro-life group which represents a minority opinion in our country has taken control over a situation as if they were a majority” said Leda Waite.[60]  The angry resident of Markham donated $1,000 to the fund and was ready to demand it back because of the pro-life groups. “I have better places to give it to…” Waite said bitterly.[61]  She was unimpressed with the small town mentality that the town of Markham adopted and exclaimed that any woman would be able to obtain the right to an abortion in the city of Toronto.  There were nearly 2,000 pro-life residents living in Markham during this time and these residents were a part of a group called “Right to Life”.  President of York South Right to Life, Margaret Goodier said that she was surprised by the media attention that was gained because of the issue.  Treasurer of the Canadian Abortion Rights Action League (CARAL), Lee Tyler-Milne stated in a letter that was sent to the Ministry of Health, that a special interest group should not be allowed to move like that and affect the hospital board.  CARAL had members living in Markham, Unionville, and Stouffville.[62]  Goodier told the board of trustees that they hope they will not have to have another meeting about the issue.  The Markham Economist and Sun article, “abortion fight likely at hospital meeting”, ended with Goodier quoting, “Our concern is the right to life of the unborn child”.[63]  Many of the residents living in Markham and Stouffville were anxious about the start of Markham Stouffville Hospital project, more so than the abortion issue.

A fantastic ceremony took place at the future hospital site, located at the corner of 9th Line and Highway 7 on the morning of November 23 1985.[64]  Some of the hospital delegates spoke briefly, but the highlight of the ceremony were the two parachutes that were dropped from an above aircraft, which acted as a pinpoint as to where the future hospital was going to be built.  More than 100 helium balloons were released, with tags indicating that the balloons came from the ceremony.[65]  The Markham Economist and Sun learnt that one of the balloons traveled as far as the state of Vermont, when a farmer named Gordon Eurich Sr. found one while hunting in the woods on the morning after the ceremony.  There were other balloons found in the states of New Jersey and Maine.[66]  The atmosphere at the future hospital grounds was exciting.  Even though it was a cold and wet morning, thousands of people showed up for the ceremony, with their shovels, and participated in the sod turning ceremony.[67]  During this time the hospital had 206 beds and it was predicated that the construction was going to be completed by the Summer of 1988.  The abortion issue continued to haunt the hospital board elections that took place on June 5 1986.[68]

More than 2,000 hospital corporation members were predicted to show up to the meeting, as pro-life and pro-choice forces battle over for control of the hospital board.[69]  The candidates for the hospital board tried to downplay the abortion issue, by saying that the most important concern was the construction of the hospital.  Bart Cull, who was a Unionville agency member stated that, “abortion is not the important issue, the important issue is to build the hospital”.[70]  The York South Right to Life group endorsed a list of candidates, who were in favor of the pro-life stance against abortion.  There were 11 candidates that were recommended by the hospital board, because they did not represent a special interest group.[71]  There was no record obtained as to who those candidates were, nor a record of how the meeting in June went.  The abortion issue did however, stretch into the year 1988.  At this point in time, the hospital board was still undecided as to whether or not abortions were going to be allowed to take place at the future hospital.  The Supreme Court of Canada struck down the abortion law in 1988 by stating that it was unconstitutional.  That court decision affected the area hospitals, including Markham Stouffville.  Hospital Board Chairman, Joan Wood said that the board was going to monitor political and legal developments regarding the issue.  Wood insisted that the matter would be fully dealt with by the time the hospital opens.[72]  Markham Stouffville Hospital did open their doors only a short while later.

After years of hard work from both the hospital delegates and the community, the Markham Stouffville Hospital project finally came to an end.  Markham Stouffville Hospital opened their doors to the public on March 5 1990.[73]  It took several years for the hospital board to gain government approval, but they accomplished it.  It took several years to raise the money for the hospital to be built, and that goal was also accomplished.  Lastly, it took several years for the construction to completed, but it was achieved.  By 1991, the population of Markham was nearly 155,000.[74]  The current address for Markham Stouffville Hospital is located at 381 Church St. in Markham, Ontario.[75]  In January 2004, the Markham Stouffville Hospital Corporation partnered up with Uxbridge Cottage Hospital.  This was done as a way to help out the growing community of Uxbridge and to practice the developing changes in the provision of community care.[76]  The current address for the Uxbridge location is 4 Campbell Dr. in Uxbridge, Ontario.[77]  If it was not for the overwhelming generosity of the community, this facility would not have been around to service the well populated community.  It was the beginning of a new and wonderful era in Markham and the Markham Stouffville Hospital was a successful project.

City planning began in Markham during the 1950s because the population was expected to increase in the upcoming decades.  During the 1960s, a full fledged campaign started for a new hospital to be built in Markham, Ontario.  The province of Ontario agreed to pay for two-thirds of the hospital and it was up to the community to help pay for the remaining one-third.  Fundraising and donations helped make the hospital project a success.  The hospital board dealt with several issues regarding government approval, finding a potential site for the future hospital, and of course the battle between  pro-life and pro-choice groups.  The hospital board overcame these challenges and the Markham Stouffville Hospital became a successful project.

[1] Our History, “Markham Stouffville Hospital”,

[2] Private Records of R. Gardham, “Special Committee of Markham York Hospital,” 24 April 1979, 1

[3] “Hospital Name is Changed”, Markham Economist and Sun, December 15 1982

[4] Stephen M. Wheeler, “Planning for Metropolitan Sustainability”, Journal of Planning Education and Research, 20 no. 2, 139

[5] Stephan Kipfer and Roger Kiel, “Toronto Inc? Planning the Competitive City in the New Toronto”, Antipode, 34 no. 2 (2002): 238

[6] Ibid

[7] John Sewell, “Reshaping Governance in the Fringes”, Chap. 7 in The Shape of the Suburbs: Understanding Toronto’s Urban Sprawl. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009), 19

[8] Ibid

[9] Ibid

[10] Ibid

[11] Ibid

[12] Ibid, 19-20

[13] Private Records of R. Gardham, “Special Committee of Markham York Hospital,” 15 May 1979, 1

[14] Private Records of R. Gardham, “Special Committee of Markham York Hospital,” 24 April 1979, 1

[15] Ibid

[16] Ibid

[17] David L. A. Gordon and Ken Tamminga, “Large-scale Traditional Neighbourhood Development and Pre-emptive Ecosystem Planning: The Markham Experience, 1989-2001”, Journal of Urban Design, 7 no. 3 (2002): 322

[18] Don Bernard, “Hospital to Move”, The Weekender, July 20 1985

[19] “Hospital name has changed”, Markham Economist and Sun, December 15 1982

[20] “Hospital Report, Far From Final, Deacon Warns”, The Weekender, August 23 1979

[21] Private Records of R. Gardham, “Special Committee of Markham York Hospital,” 24 April 1979, 1

[22] David L. A. Gordon and Ken Tamminga, “Large-scale Traditional Neighbourhood Development and Pre-emptive Ecosystem Planning: The Markham Experience, 1989-2001”, Journal of Urban Design, 7 no. 3 (2002): 324

[23] David Gordon and Shayne Vipond, “Gross Density and New Urbanism: Comparing Conventional and New Urbanist Suburbs in Markham, Ontario”, Journal of the American Planning Association, 71 no. 1 (Winter 2005): 42

[24] Ibid

[25] Private Records of R. Gardham, “Special Committee of Markham York Hospital,” 24 April 1979, 4

[26] “Hospital name has changed”, Markham Economist and Sun, December 15 1982

[27] “Hospital Wins More Support”, Markham Economist and Sun, September 20 1979

[28] “Hospital Suuport Growing”, Markham Economist and Sun, December 13 1979

[29] Dennis Timbrell, letter to Rogers Gardham, Ministry of Health, December 1979

[30] Ibid

[31] “Minister Supports Hospital”, Markham Economist and Sun, August 20 1981

[32] Ibid

[33] Ibid

[34] Ibid

[35] Ibid

[36] Ibid

[37] Maureen Murphy, “Markham Hospital Enters Second Stage”, Markham-Unionville Times, October 20 1982

[38] “Markham Hospital Fund Raising Begins”, Markham-Unionville Times, December 8 1982

[39] Ibid

[40] “Campaign Starts Strong”, Markham-Unionville Times, April 27 1983

[41] Ibid

[42] Sue Mifka, “Corporations Unite to Aid Campaign”, Markham-Unionville Times, April 13 1983

[43] Ibid

[44] Ibid

[45] Ibid

[46] “Maureen Murphy, “Markham Hospital Enters Second Stage”, Markham-Unionville Times, October 20 1982

[47] “Late Markham Man Wills $500,000”, Markham Economist and Sun, November 28 1984

[48] Ibid

[49] Ibid

[50] “New Logo Adopted”, Markham Economist and Sun, May 2 1984

[51] Ibid

[52] “Architects Chosen for New Hospital”, Markham Economist and Sun, October 12 1983

[53] Ibid

[54] “Architects are well-known”, Markham Economist and Sun, October 12 1983

[55] Ibid

[56] Greg Coates, “Hospital Design in Final Stages”, The Weekender, February 8 1983

[57] “Architects Chose for New Hospital”, Markham Economist and Sun, October 12 1983

[58] Greg Coates, “Hospital Design in Final Stages”, The Weekender, February 9 1983

[59] Christine Koserski, “Hospital Fight Likely at Hospital Meeting”, Markham Economist and Sun, July 4 1984

[60] Ibid

[61] Ibid

[62] Ibid

[63] Ibid

[64] “Several Hundred People Show for Hospital Groundbreaking”, The Weekender, November 27 1985

[65] Ibid

[66] “Balloon Soars from Markham to Maine in About 23 Hours”, Markham Economist and Sun, December 18 1985

[67] “Several Hundred People Show for Hospital Groundbreaking”, The Weekender, November 27 1985

[68] “Abortion Haunts Hospital Elections”, The Weekender, June 4 1986

[69] Ibid

[70] Ibid

[71] Ibid

[72] Steve Houston, “New Hospital Still Undecided on Abortions”, The Weekender, February 20 1988

[73] Our History, “Markham Stouffville Hospital”,

[74] Statistics Canada: Census Tracts in Toronto- Part B (Ottawa: Statistics Canada, May 1994), 703

[75] Contact Us, Markham Stouffville Hospital,

[76] Our History, “Markham Stouffville Hospital”,

[77] Contact Us, Markham Stouffville Hospital,

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