Civic Hospital Development

Citizens gathered at the experimental farm Sunday August 15, where the Civic Hospital is attempting to develop hospital grounds in an area which would result in the destruction of over 500 mature trees. This would be a devastating loss to green space and tree canopy at a time where we should be taking drastic action to protect those assets. The original location for the hospital recommended by the NCC was Tunney's Pasture, but Mayor Jim Watson announced shortly after that the project had been moved. He did not provided a detailed explanation. Follow ReImagine Ottawa on Facebook for updates. Here is the full press release from ReImagine Ottawa:

Ottawa, August 12, 2021

ReImagine Ottawa requests the City’s Integrity Commissioner investigate the selection of the Central Experimental Farm for the new Civic Campus of the Ottawa Hospital.

Today, Mr. George Laing on behalf of ReImagine Ottawa filed at City Hall, a complaint to the office of the City’s Commissioner to investigate the circumstances around the switch from Tunney’s Pasture to the Central Experimental Farm.

It is our contention that Mayor Watson, Councillor Harder and other developer-friendly authorities may have used their influence to change the new hospital site from Tunney’s Pasture (TP) to the Central Experimental Farm (CEF). This is referred to locally as the “flip.”

This flip to the CEF protected several billion dollars of potential development at Tunney’s Pasture which would not have been available if the hospital were built there. The reasons for the change were never properly explained. In the Ottawa Citizen, Mayor Watson was quoted saying: “We have our reasons,” but at the time he gave none. Nor were there any public consultations or discussion at City Council prior to the flip being made. It was made after private consultations.

Reasons given in the request for an investigation include:

1) Tunney’s Pasture (TP) was the National Capital Commission’s first choice for the new Civic Campus. It was made after a six-month public consultation and study that included input from more than 7,000 citizens and evaluation of twelve potential sites by professional planners on the basis of 21 criteria established after the consultation with stakeholders. This consultation and study was based on criteria from the Ottawa Hospital.

2) Within three days of the NCC public announcement of Tunney’s being the winning site, there was a second announcement signed off by a group of politicians, saying that the new hospital would be built at the edge of Dow’s Lake and on a site that encompasses close to 5% of the Central Experimental Farm (CEF). The spokesperson for this announcement was Mayor Watson.

3) The CEF is a National Historic Site and the Rideau Canal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The CEF has been used as an urban park and agricultural research centre for generations. To build a parking garage and a series of massive buildings on and directly adjacent to this beloved place would change this healthy, beautiful, historic and irreplaceable public gathering place forever.

4) When the intention to switch from Tunney’s to the Farm was announced by the Mayor, a small group of citizens banded together under the name of ReImagine Ottawa. In 2018, ReImagine Ottawa convened a distinguished panel composed of four eminent Ottawa residents. Dr. David W.O Rogers, a medical physicist, Dr. Frank Johnson, an environmental engineer, and founder of General Instrumentation, Justice Monique Metivier, a retired Ontario Superior Court judge, and Dr. Declan Hill an investigative journalist known internationally for his fearless reporting. On behalf of ReImagine Ottawa, they asked for a public inquiry into why the NCC recommendation was so quickly overturned.

5) If the hospital had been located at Tunney’s Pasture as originally recommended, it has been calculated about 2.5 billion in condominiums and office space would have been lost to developers.

6) A few short months after the flip, a contract for development and project management of Tunney’s Pasture was awarded to GBA Group. This contract would not be required if Tunney’s Pasture remained the selected site for the hospital. Mr. Bird, President and CEO of GBA Group, is also a director of the Ottawa Heart Institute. Mr. Bird has long been a donor to the Mayor’s election campaigns and an award-winning fundraiser for the hospital. GBA Group was also awarded the development and project management contract for the new hospital at Dow’s Lake/the Farm.

7) Robert Marleau, the City’s Integrity Commissioner, in a 101-page report to City Council, recommended that Jan Harder, the Chair of the City Planning Committee, due to a serious conflict of interest with a developer, be removed as chair of the city’s planning committee, removed from the committee, lose 15 days pay, and reimburse the city for any legal costs she charged to defend herself.

8 ) In July, 2021, ReImagine Ottawa launched a petition requesting an investigation into the flip. At time of writing there are over 2,450 signatures.

Democracy requires transparency and accountability and right now this immensely important public decision is lacking in both.
There will be a mass choir event at the Farm on Birch Drive on Sunday, August 15 at 2 pm. to sing in lament and in protest at the loss of over 500 trees and this cherished public space for no discernable reason.

For further information:
George Laing (kgcs@magma.ca) 613-729-7252
Clive Doucet (Crod@clivedoucet.com) 613-808-0019

ReImagine Ottawa is a group of volunteers working to free the city from developer-funded politics and planning. Our current focus is the hasty re-siting of the Ottawa Hospital’s Civic Campus from Tunney’s Pasture to a site bordering Dow’s Lake at Carling Avenue and including 40 acres of the Central Experimental Farm.

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