Building a Coalition

+ On March 11, 2015 Heritage Ottawa sent a letter to the Hon. Aglukkaq, Minister of the Environment and Minister responsible for Historic Sites.  Here is Min. Leona Aglukkaq‘s reply.  On April 21, Heritage Ottawa sent similar letters to the Ontario Ministers for Health and Long Term Care; Tourism, Culture and Sport (Min. Michael Coteau replied); and Agriculture and Rural Affairs (Min. Jeff Leal replied).  Min. Yasir Naqvi (local MPP and Government House Leader) also replied.

Nearly a year later, on February 23, 2016, Min. Eric Hoskins finally replied, confirming there are no approved capital projects in Ottawa, that this is within the purview of the Champlain LHIN and that any site analysis would include community/stakeholder consultation.  This late reply may have had something to do with an earlier reply from his Parliamentary Secretary, MPP John Fraser, who wrote to a constituent on February 5, 2016:

The ministry is planning to provide written comments to TOH on their pre-capital submission early this month. TOH will be required to respond to the ministry’s comments satisfactorily before ministry staff can conclude their review of the pre-capital submission. At this time, the proposal is not an approved project.

+ Here are some letters from soil scientists:

Prof. Ian de la Roche, UBC, former Director, Plant Research Centre, C.E.F. (16 December, 2014)

Prof. David Burton, Dalhousie University and President, Canadian Society of Soil Science (22 December, 2014)

Prof. Dan Pennock, University of Saskatchewan and Fellow, Canadian Society of Soil Science (13 January 2015)

Prof. Pete Smith, Institute of Biological & Environmental Sciences, University of Aberdeen (16 February, 2015)

– Eminent environmental physicist Freeman J. Cook (Australia; 15 June 2015)

A.E. (Johnny) Johnston, Laws Trust Senior Fellow, Rothamsted Research, UK (24 November 2015)

Prof. David Hopkins, Royal Agricultural University, Cirencester, UK (30 November 2015)

– Profs. Paul Hallett (University of Aberdeen), Davey Jones (Bangor University) Keith Goulding (Rothamsted Research, UK), and John Conway (Royal Agricultural University, Cirencester, UK) individually signed a “To Whom It May Concern.”

– Prof. Warren A. Dick, School of Environment and Natural Resources, Ohio State University (Wooster, OH), on 20 February 2016 endorsed the Coalition’s <letter to the Champlain LHIN>, wanting to

encourage the LHIN to embrace conserving this significant research institution, while guiding the Ottawa Hospital toward an appropriate site for the Civic Campus.  I spent a sabbatic year away from The Ohio State University and at the Central Experimental Farm.  It was a great time of collaboration for me.  The facilities and land used to support agricultural research at the farm are excellent.  In this time of increasing food insecurity around the world, it is important that we prioritize agricultural research.  I sincerely hope the location of the Central Experimental Farm is not compromised in any way.

Dr. G. Clarke Topp, a soil physicist retired from the C.E.F., wrote to Min. MacAulay on 2 May 2016. He notes that the long term and ongoing studies of soil health and climate change are essential for food security.  He challenges the Minister to demonstrate that publicly supported agricultural research remains in the Ministry’s plans.

+ Under the leadership of Heritage Ottawa, the “Coalition to Protect the Central Experimental Farm National Historic Site of Canada” sent a letter to The Ottawa Hospital Board before its annual public meeting on June 24, 2015.  The letter was signed by 5 organizations (including the Greenspace Alliance) and 9 individuals, the latter mostly scientists from around the world.  It explains that the C.E.F., including specifically “Field No. 1” (which would comprise most of the 60-acre give-away) is not only a National Historic Site but also an internationally significant research institution.

At the Hospital’s public meeting, delegates of the Coalition were assured that the letter would be considered as part of the consultations which are scheduled to take place in the Fall of 2015.

Coalition building continues. More on Heritage Ottawa’s web site.

+ Heritage Ottawa submitted four questions to the National Capital Commission, hoping to have an opportunity to ask them at the Annual Public Meeting on June 25. David Jeanes did and here is a transcript of CEO Mark Kristmanson‘s reply.

+ On November 23, the Coalition wrote to Ministers MacAulay (Agriculture), McKenna (Environment) and Joly (Heritage), proposing a win-win: “Saving the Central Experimental Farm and enabling Hospital Renewal: We can do it!” The letter had well over 20 additional signatures, locally, from across Canada and from around the world.

Parties cc’d included the National Capital Commission.  Here is CEO Mark Kristmanson’s reply (December 23).  He insists that the NCC is only advising the Hospital, which has the lead on the public consultations because it is the proponent; and confirms that these consultations will be about optimal design.  The reply ignores the failure to consult on the land transfer!

+ On November 26, the Ottawa Citizen reports that consultations will take place early in the new year. Also, the Champlain Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) has endorsed the Hospital’s plans (reported in the Metroland papers on December 1).  A hospital official says that rebuilding on the Civic campus site would take 20 years longer and cost $1 billion more.

+ Two days later, one letter to the editor says most former patients would favour moving onto the Farm.  In the same issue, Norman Tape, former Agriculture Canada Research Director and Ottawa Hospital (TOH) governor, explains the scientific importance of the Farm’s fields and argues that moving the campus to the farm would not improve access to the hospital; he also reminds readers that TOH must serve all of Eastern Ontario, not just Ottawa.

+ December 11 – Peter Anderson, in iPolitics, publishes If Trudeau’s serious about science, he’ll prove it with the Experimental Farm. He writes:

At the core of the debate is transparency in government decision-making … The consultations planned for the new year are about the design — not the location — of a new campus. Any consultation that leaves the location off the table amounts to window-dressing.

+ January 25, 2016 – The Western Producer writes “Coalition fights to save experimental farm in Ottawa.”  It quotes Julie Harris as saying that scientists need Field No. 1 to continue critical, long-term research.  “At the moment, there are 21 agricultural research projects happening on that piece of land,” she said.

+ February 1 – Karen Eatwell, President of the National Farmers Union – Ontario writes to three federal Ministers saying that “The scientific, national, and international significance of this land is irreplaceable” and that “Studies done in the open-air laboratory at the Central Experimental Farm directly benefit Canada’s agriculture sector…”  (The letter is also available on the Union’s blog.)

+ On March 2, the Presidents of the Canadian and Ontario Federations of Agriculture write to three federal Ministers in support of the Coalition’s arguments, saying:

As agricultural producers, we have seen firsthand the benefits to improved productivity and sustainability that has arisen out of the research that has taken place at the CEF. The results have had national significance and contributed to a stronger Canadian agriculture sector. It is critical that commitments to primary research are continued at the CEF to enable us to continuously improve our productivity and produce more, with less.

The letter concludes:

The CFA would welcome the opportunity to work with your offices in this area to explore an alternate open and transparent consultation process that would maintain the integrity of the current CEF and its research capacity while finding an alternate and acceptable location for a new Ottawa Hospital facility.

+ On April 19, thirteen former senior Agriculture Canada officials, ranging from deputy minister to scientist, wrote an Open Letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, making a strong argument that the CEF’s experimental fields should not be sacrificed for a hospital.  They are, the letter says,

an outdoor laboratory in which the slowly-responding soil itself is the subject, and re-locating this laboratory to another soil site would reset the long-term research clock back to zero and disrupt or displace other important studies, costing millions of dollars and jeopardize decades of public-good research.

They conclude:

This land is far more valuable for its contribution to Canada’s agricultural economy, innovation, food security, and environmental sustainability than as a hospital site. There are other viable sites for a hospital in Ottawa. We therefore respectfully urge you and your cabinet members to re-consider the transfer of Central Experimental Farm research land to the Ottawa Hospital and to preserve it for ongoing and future research.

(Elisabeth Payne reported on the letter in the Ottawa Citizen.)

+ On April 21, Elisabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada, wrote to Minister Catherine McKenna in support of the Coalition.


Go back to lead article and list of pages