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Parties agree on Civic Hospital expansion consultations

Recent meeting brought together groups interested in seeing a more open and transparent process

By Melissa MurrayOttawa West News

If the government doesn’t engage in public consultations about the proposed Ottawa Hospital Civic campus expansion, the Agricultural Institute of Canada might host them.

Serge Buy, CEO of the Agricultural Institute of Canada, said the federal government needs to listen to the community and interested stakeholders ahead of making a decision on the location of an expanded Civic campus on federal land.

“We believe the community needs to be consulted, so if the government isn’t going to do it, I think we’ll do it,” Buy said.

A meeting was held April 11 with interested parties, including representatives from local MP,  MPP, and city council offices, representatives from the hospital and AIC, as well as the local community association. Buy said in an interview that at the meeting there was a strong consensus the government should move forward with a transparent and open consultation process.

That resolution will be forwarded to three ministers in a letter that will be made public, Buy said.

“We are hoping for a response after the letter is sent and if there is no response we may go back to the participants and say we don’t know that there is going to be a consultation,” he said.

“I’d rather not have the Agricultural Institute doing this. This is not our mandate, and to be frank, it’s on our dime as well.”

The group is proposing a three-pronged consultation that includes releasing relevant facts, such as traffic studies, historical information about the farm and recent data about the farm and its value, hearing from experts and then letting the community weigh in.

“We are in a little bit of a black hole because nobody knows what process should be used. We don’t even know who is in charge in the government,” Buy said.

Buy is hoping consultations can start soon and wrap up in the next few months, so the government can come back with its decision.

“The hospital is an important part of the community, and we need to make sure we have a hospital that functions properly. We also need to know whether or not the right decisions are being made.”

The federal government announced in November 2014 that up to 24 hectares of land at the experimental farm would be used for the hospital’s expansion.

“(They) came out and surprised everyone by saying, ‘We are giving the hospital land,’” Buy said.

“I assume that (the minister) was expecting applause and the fact of the matter is the community said, ‘No, that stinks, we don’t want to see a process like this.’”

He said the decision was a shock to everyone and emphasized just how necessary an open and transparent process is when deciding where an expanded Civic campus should be located.

“When you have a process that is mired in secrecy and backroom deals, what results out of it is usually public suspicion, and that’s exactly what happened in this case. In the end it may be the right decision and I don’t know,” he said.

The meeting of interested parties was closed to the general public and media. Kate Eggins, media relations officer at the Ottawa Hospital, said the meeting was “well received.”

“It was a really good meeting and the hospital was there to listen and learn.”

Eggins said the federal government is asking for the hospital’s four preferred sites to be re-evaluated. The hospital is finalizing an analysis of each of the four sites.

“We are submitting the information and then it’s in the federal government’s hands to do with as they wish,” Eggins said, adding the hospital is not ranking the four sites.

The four sites include:

• The original site that was put forward in 2014 at the northwest corner of the experimental farm

• A “reconfiguration” of the 2014 plan to deal with concerns over the farm’s scientific work

• The former Sir John Carling building at the northeast corner of the farm

• Using the Tunney’s Pasture government office complex

With files from Jennifer McIntosh