‘Ottawa’ Federal Government asks NCC to Review Sites for Ottawa Hospital’s New Civic Campus
In a May 20 letter to NCC chair Russell Mills, obtained by Postmedia, Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly asked the agency to review possible sites identified by the hospital and to make a recommendation by the end of November.
Under pressure from the new Liberal government, The Ottawa Hospital announced in March it was re-evaluating its plan to build the new Civic campus on a 60-acre site on the northwest corner of the Experimental Farm, across from its current location on Carling Avenue.
That plan, announced in November 2014 by hospital chief executive Jack Kitts and then Ottawa cabinet minister John Baird, sparked immediate controversy, partly because there was no community consultation and also because it would position the new super hospital directly on one of the oldest research fields at the Farm.
The hospital has since identified four possible sites for the new Civic campus. One is at Tunney’s Pasture, but the others are all on Experimental Farm land: the original site announced in November 2014, a site further east, on the northern edge of the farm, and the site of the now-demolished Sir John Carling Building, just south of Carling Avenue and west of Preston Street and Prince of Wales Drive.
But a spokesman for Joly said the NCC review isn’t limited to those sites. The only stipulation is that the locations studied should be in Ottawa’s urban core.
The hospital submitted its own private review of the four sites to the Liberal government in April, but until now, the government had not said how it intended to proceed.
In her letter, Joly, the minister responsible for the NCC, refers to the Crown corporation’s role in overseeing the use of federal lands in the National Capital Region.
“Given this mandate, I am asking the NCC to review the prospective sites selected by The Ottawa Hospital for the new Civic campus and provide me with a recommendation and justification of the NCC’s preferred site,” her letter says. Joly wants the review to begin next month, with the entire process completed by the end of November.
In an email to Postmedia on Wednesday, NCC chief executive Mark Kristmanson promised the agency would “conduct a thorough review” of prospective sites for the new Civic campus.
“Over the next few weeks, the NCC’s professional planning team will develop a plan of action, including public and stakeholder consultations, to arrive at a recommendation in the next six months,” Kristmanson said. The plan will be presented to the NCC’s board at its June 28 public meeting.
“This is an opportunity to ensure that this world class health care facility in Canada’s capital benefits from a strong planning foundation and serves the needs of all citizens that will depend on The Ottawa Hospital in the coming decades,” Kristmanson said.
Ottawa Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre on Wednesday defended the location announced by Baird as “the only reasonable option.”
“To review the decision is disrespectful to the public servants who spent months negotiating the current location, and it is playing politics with the health care of thousands of Ottawa residents,” Poilievre said in an email.
Joly’s decision to ask the NCC to review the prospective sites was well-received by all involved in the process.
Hospital spokeswoman Kate Eggins said the hospital was “pleased to see the site selection process moving forward and looks forward to learning about the next steps in the NCC process.”
Leslie Maitland, past president of Heritage Ottawa, a leading opponent of locating the new Civic on the Experimental Farm, said she was relieved by Joly’s decision.
“The message we had been getting from the NCC consistently has been that the choice of sites was entirely in the hands of The Ottawa Hospital,” Maitland said. “Whereas we’ve been saying, ‘These are federally owned lands. They belong to the citizens of Canada.’ So this is a very promising development.”
Maitland said she was optimistic that the NCC review will produce a better decision.
“I certainly hope they take into account the significance of the Farm, not just as a national historic site, but more importantly, it’s the scientific importance of the lands under discussion.”
Earlier this year, Kitts said the hospital is in a race with other Ontario communities planning to build similar super hospitals.
The Ontario government has committed $12 billion over 10 years for capital health infrastructure, but hospital officials say it’s important to get planning done early to get access to that money.