The discussion continues

On March 10, 2016 Joanne Chianello on CBC News puts the key question: Why does TOH need 60 acres? Cameron Love gives five reasons why they need so much space and makes a comparison with a new hospital in Dallas; it, however, serves a metropolitan area of 7 million. He concedes that some parts of the desired campus will have 8 to 10 stories.

Three letters to the Editor of the Ottawa Citizen were published on March 11.  Jerry Fiori suggests that we should first determine what kind of health care facilities we need 25 years from now.  Roger Stacey joins the many who have suggested that Lebreton Flats would be a good location for a new hospital.   Dr. Dieter Riedel stresses that the CEF lands are not “empty” but have been the source of 130 years of agricultural science and cannot be replaced.

A long “Explainer” article by Elisabeth Payne in the Ottawa Citizen (March 19) reviews “how we got there,” which includes the list of 12 criteria used to assess sites in 2007.  There are pictures of the four sites that are now under consideration: The original 60 acres, a reconfigured 60 acres in the same area of the CEF, the Sir John Carling site, and Tunney’s Pasture.


Why the “shortlist” now features these four sites and no others remains unexplained.  Nor is the premise questioned that a new hospital needs 60 acres.  This premise and the shortlist seem designed to confirm TOH’s original preference.

The Sir John Carling building is the proposed site for the national insect and vascular plant herbarium collections, and for a welcome centre to the National Historic Site. It is part of the Cultural Heritage Landscape of the core campus area of the Farm. It seems that, like in 2007, this option was brought into the mix without consulting anyone. That this is considered an option at all is creating huge anxiety within AAFC.


An important new initiative

At the end of March, the Agricultural Institute of Canada announced it would attempt to raise the level of consultation on the matter of choosing a location for a new Hospital.  (CBCNews story.) A meeting attended by a wide range of stakeholders, including the Coalition, was held on April 11.  The meeting was to discuss what further consultations should be held.  Attendees responded to the following questions:

Should there be public consultation on the issue of the site of the new campus of the Ottawa hospital?

What information would be needed for this consultation?

What experts should be called?

How public should the consultation be?

What format should the consultation take?

Paul Johanis had prepared an excellent brief that allowed the Coalition to respond to each of these questions.  The AIC will issue a report that will be made public. It is expected to call upon all three levels of government to hold further consultations.

From the Protect the Farm Facebook page:

So maybe it will be possible to wind this process back a bit, as suggested by Catherine McKenna, and bring some evidence to bear on this critical decision. Now, will the authorities react to this call? We will be watching closely.

Melissa Murray, writing for the Metroland weeklies (April 18) quotes AIC chair Serge Buy as saying: “We believe the community needs to be consulted, so if the government isn’t going to do it, I think we’ll do it.”

Here is the AIC’s report out from the April 11 meeting.  It lists all who attended and found unanimous agreement that:

• Engaging the community is a priority and an important component of this process, and
• Openness and transparency is important.

On May 2, the Ottawa Citizen published an op-ed by Dr. Chris Carruthers, former chief of staff of TOH, with the provocative title: “Why the new Civic should be built on the farm.”  He argues the new facility — the region’s top trauma centre — needs to be close to the Heart Institute, and close to the Royal’s new PET-MRI scanner.  Also, the need to provide patients with single-occupancy rooms is urgent.

On behalf of the Coalition, Paul Johanis wrote a rebuttal, which the Citizen has not yet published:

An op-ed penned by a former chief of staff of the Civic Hospital appeared in your pages yesterday arguing that the Civic should expand onto the Central Experimental Farm and pronto. While there are many very good reasons why this is a terrible idea, the good doctor put forward some arguments for why it must be so. 1. The new campus must be close to current campus because the heart institute and other medical services are located there 2. the move will be phased, 3. it’s the regional trauma centre. All of them are flawed.

Why does the new campus have to be so close to the existing one? The plan calls for all services to be moved to the new location, including in the fullness of time, the Heart Institute. The long term vision for Ottawa approved by the Champlain Health Integration Network is a three campus model, with each specializing in specific services. This by definition means that patients may be transferred from one facility to the other for various services. A whole infrastructure is in place currently to effect such patient transfers between the General campus and the Civic. This would simply continue regardless of where the new campus is located.

If there is concern that phasing the move will cause problems by having services separated (which it shouldn’t, see bullet 1), then don’t phase. Do the move all at once. As this new facility will be serving residents for generations, maybe 100+ years, don’t let phasing, an issue that might last just a few years, lead to a sub-optimal decision on location.

Because locating the new campus near the old one is definitely sub-optimal strictly from a health care perspective, especially in its role as the regional trauma centre. Congested, off the rapid transit and no longer central in relation to the massive expansion of the city’s population south and west, the current location was genius in 1924. Things have changed since then.

The Coalition petitioned the Commissioner of Environment and Sustainable Development why AAFC had not conducted a strategic environmental assessment of the potential transfer of land.  In reply, the Department admitted they should have done so and that a process has been put in place to not have this happen again.  However, it argues that the actual transfer is not a “project” under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and that therefore no environmental assessment is required.  A more comprehensive response is here, along with Minister McKenna’s June 30 cover letter.

Months later, after the Response appeared on the Auditor General’s web site, the Ottawa Citizen (Andrew Duffy, 26 September 2016) devoted an article about it on its front page under the heading: “Report sees end to climate work.”  This is a peculiarly slanted view of what the Response says and, in fairness, the article quotes CEF scientist Ed Gregorich as vigorously protesting the journalist’s interpretation.  Also quoted are MP Pierre Poilièvre and Coalition chair Leslie Maitland.  To lift just one quote from the Response: “Overall, the impact of closing down ongoing studies on the site are more relevant to scientific knowledge supporting the agricultural productivity and economy than scientific knowledge on environment and climate change.”  Scientists may dispute the correctness of that assessment but even if it were true it does not diminish the value of the research going on at the Farm!

On September 29, the Ottawa Citizen published a rebuttal by Ed Gregorich.  It argues that the research at the CEF is vital for the world’s food production system and that this type of research takes many years as it depends on decades of accumulated knowledge of the soil.

(For more on the science at the C.E.F. please go here.)

The Hospital’s April 27, 2016 report on four sites has become public.  As Joanne Chianello notes at CBC News (June 16), 33% of the allegedly needed space would be devoted to parking.  This is further illustrated in a land use analysis by Barry Padolsky.

Kelly Egan asks: Why not look at private properties, such as Lincoln Fields or the Westgate Shopping mall?  Both — owned by RioCan — are due for a major remake.  Both sites are smaller but he calls 60 acres a moon-wish, and cannot understand why LeBreton Flats is not in the picture.  (The Citizen, June 30)

In an op-ed in the Ottawa Citizen of September 17, James McCracken, chair of the Hospital’s Board of Governors, notes that location and access are what matters most. Also, emergency and diagnostic departments need to be next to each other, not on another floor.  Finally, he asserts, the Hospital needs 3,400 parking spots.

Three days later, Barry Padolsky, a member of the Coalition, writes in the Citizen that the new hospital must be located within 600 m of a rapid transit line (the Trillium or the Confederation line).  Questioning the need for 60 acres, he recalls that the April 2016 report commissioned by the Hospital saw only 19% of the proposed space devoted to hospital buildings, while 42% would be roads or parking. “Why select a site that accelerates climate change and contributes to the erosion of public health?” he asks.

Not to be outdone, the Ottawa Hospital pledges to hold consultations on the amount of real estate to be devoted to parking… after the site has been selected (Don Butler in the Ottawa Citizen of September 21; on TOH’s web site).

On September 29, Mohammed Adam opines that we should just get on with it and build on the Farm.  “Listening to some supporters … you’d think that some bawdy house was going to be built on sacred land…”

On October 4 in the Ottawa Citizen, and also on CBC Radio‘s All in a Day on October 5, MP Pierre Poilièvre repeats that the NCC process is a waste of time and the new Hospital should be located across the road on the Experimental Farm.  A hospital is more important than farmland, he asserts.  Paul Johanis wrote a rebuttal to the NCC and the Citizen. In it he notes that the Hospital did no work between 2007 and 2014 despite having been told that the Farm land was not available and referred to the Coalition’s brief on research taking places there.  In the Citizen of October 8, David Reevely effectively counters Poilièvre’s assertions.

On October 6, Elisabeth Payne writes predicting that the next big fight will be about parking. She notes that parking revenue is not a huge source of revenue (just under $4 million in 2015/16) and quotes huge cost differences between building surface parking vs. a parking structure vs. underground.

The amount of parking the Hospital claims it needs keeps receiving comment. On October 10, Tyler Dawson, deputy editorial pages editor of the Ottawa Citizen, argues the Hospital has good reason to ask for 3,400 surface parking spaces, essentially repeating the information conveyed by Elisabeth Payne on October 6.  Maybe, he writes, “a hospital is a greater good” compared to “scientific research on the Farm.” For once the ensuing on-line discussion makes some good points. Also letters to the editor on the parking topic and others.


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