January 30, 2016
Documents obtained through Access to Information lift the veil off the much-repeated assertion that, absolutely, 60 acres across the road from the Civic Hospital is the best and only option for a new campus.
In March 2014 a senior official of The Ottawa Hospital (TOH) responded to the National Capital Commission answering the question “Why this piece of land?” Attached was a… 2007 Memo! Also attached was a 3-page “Civic Campus Land Planning Matrix.”
By any measure — indeed, by TOH’s own admission — this was a first-cut, preliminary exercise. Thirteen criteria were defined in one line each; scores could only be 1, 0.5 or 0; all criteria were given equal weight.
Said the 2007 memo: “it is anticipated that further criteria will be raised during our discussion or during the next evaluation phase, which will further validate the preferred options.” And again, the memo speaks of future work to “further evaluate and explore the feasibility of the top three options.”
The matrix showed two sites — CEF lands across the road, and lands across from Nepean Sportsplex (wrongly identified as part of the CEF) — rising to the top. The only evidence that any further thought was given to an evaluation of alternatives was in that 2014 email which said that, now that they realized that the transition will have to take place in phases (hello?), this tipped the balance in favour of the CEF lands across the road.
Some of the criteria raise eyebrows. One is “Future Expansion,” which suggests that TOH considers the CEF ripe for the taking (3 of the 5 options that scored a “1” on this criterion are on the Farm). Another is “Agriculture Canada Impact.” It is defined as “impact of site development on agriculture Canada’s research mandate (To be confirmed by Agriculture Canada and NCC).” Other ATIP-obtained documents show that researchers implicated in Field No. 1 did not become aware of the gift of land until the day of the announcement in November 2014.
More fundamentally, already in 2007 TOH had concluded that they needed 60 acres. Another document obtained through ATIP — the November 2014 Civic Campus Master Plan — gave a breakdown of the space requirements. They added up to 54 acres but left the implicit assumption of number of floors unspecified. This not a credible analysis.
Final note: The documents are rife with spelling errors and misstatements as to who owns which properties. This is a minor concern but suggests the Matrix was put together in a rush or that due care was not put into the selection process. Also perhaps indicative: The Tunney’s Pasture option is called “Tunney’s Pasteur.”
Post Scriptum: On TOH’s web site its site selection analysis is referred to as dating from 2008. There is a link to the criteria which are identical to the 2007 document except for “Future Expansion” which now refers to “within the boundaries of the chosen location” rather than “over and above what is currently planned.” The conclusion is the same as in 2007/2014. It is said to be the result of “a comprehensive review that included third party experts.” The 2007 document only refers to officials of the NCC and the City of Ottawa. UPDATE (18 Feb): When contacted about the discrepancy, TOH informs that “2008” was a typo; the web site now states that the analysis dates from 2007.
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