The retired high-tech executive behind the largest single donation in Montfort Hospital's history is hoping his $1-million gift will inspire other wealthy entrepreneurs and business leaders to step up their game for the greater good.
Yves Tremblay and his wife, Sylvie Villeneuve, made their contribution in support of the hospital’s new Orléans Health Hub, which, barring any pandemic-related delays, is scheduled to open next summer.
The 96,000-square-foot facility will bring health care much closer to home for those residents living in Ottawa's east-end suburb of Orléans. It will serve all ages, from newborns to seniors, through integrated, community-based health-care programs that focus on patients' needs. Services will be provided in both official languages, recognizing that Orléans has a large francophone population.
The project, which is being led by the Montfort Hospital, started in the planning stages more than a decade ago when Dalton McGuinty was premier. It's mostly funded by the Ontario government.
The Montfort Foundation is now one-quarter of the way toward raising the $12 million it needs to raise for the $87-million facility located at the corner of Mer-Bleue Road and Brian Coburn Boulevard. It has assembled a campaign cabinet chaired by Tremblay, who retired in 2001 as senior vice-president of operations at JDS Uniphase, a once-booming Ottawa-based fibre-optics company.
Tremblay is in the unique position of having connections to both the Franco-Ontarian community and the English-speaking, west-end high-tech community. He also has a long history of philanthropy and community involvement, including a stint as chair of the Ottawa Hospital board of governors from 2005 to 2008.
Here’s the thing, though: Tremblay and his wife don’t live anywhere near Orléans. Their home is in west-end Kanata, along the Ottawa River. It’s conceivable his only reasons for visiting the hub involve the cheque presentation and ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“I’m not looking for my philanthropic activities to bring me anything, other than to be a good citizen and a good community member,” replied the father of four and grandfather of 15.
“I have put myself on this path to be generous, to think about the community and to share, and not only for my family or my neighbours or my neighbourhood, but at large,” said Tremblay, who has lived in Ottawa since the late 1970s.
Tremblay acknowledged that he usually prefers to remain behind the scenes. He decided to go public with the donation in order to encourage others to be philanthropic, if they have the means.
“Ottawa is blessed right now with a lot of successful businesses,” said Tremblay. “There is a new crop of entrepreneurs who are benefiting, like we did in the late '90s and early 2000s with the JDS, Nortel and Newbridge companies of this world. A lot of people made out fairly well.”
In 2003, Tremblay was part of a $15-million donation to the Ottawa Hospital from former JDS employees.
Tremblay hopes the new wave of freewheeling entrepreneurs and e-commerce superstars will also “put their shoulder to the wheel and push” to make Ottawa a better city for all.
“You get to become quite wealthy – you never dreamed of being so successful – and then you ask yourself, 'What do I do now?' You build a big house, and then what?”
It’s up to the so-called one percenters, Tremblay believes, to be the rising tide that lifts all boats.
“We have to be generous, to think about the community, and to share.”
The million-dollar donation from Tremblay and Villeneuve is a “historic gift” for Montfort, lawyer Ron Caza, board chair of the Montfort Foundation, said during the recorded ceremonial cheque presentation event.
Said Montfort Hospital CEO Bernard Leduc: “This important financial support will allow Montfort and its partners to innovate and provide exemplary care and services to the Orléans community.”
'Montfort is for everybody'
Tremblay said there’s a general misconception that the Montfort serves only French-speaking people. More than 50 per cent of patients at the bilingual hospital don’t even speak French, he noted.
“Montfort is for everybody. It’s first and foremost a high-quality hospital. If you speak French, you can be guaranteed to be served in French.”
Tremblay listed several reasons why he believes in the Orléans Health Hub so strongly. The centre will make it more convenient and simpler for east-end residents to access health care. He also sees it as a wonderful collaboration between Montfort and such other health and community service partner organizations as: Youth Services Bureau, the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario, the Eastern Ottawa Resource Centre, Ottawa Public Health, Ottawa Community Geriatric Psychiatry Services, Bruyère and Champlain LHIN.
“I like the fact that it connects with other partners,” said Tremblay. “I don’t like the silo approach in health care.”
Mélanie Potvin, who's Montfort's project director for the Orléans Health Hub, said work on the new facility is more than 80 per cent done. EllisDon has done a great job with the construction, she said, and the new building is now at the stage where the drywall is up and the flooring is being installed.
“We're excited," she said. "It’s really starting to take shape inside."