First there was the Central Experimental Farm after the Ottawa West Nepean Conservative MP granted the Ottawa Hospital’s request for the 60 acres across the road from their current site.
Then the 2015 election took place. Former NDP MP Paul Dewar was defeated and the Liberals were in charge. A group formed to save those 60 acres of the farm went straight to the new MP and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna asking to have the decision from Baird overturned.
McKenna asked the National Capital Commission (NCC) to conduct a review to find NCC property to offer to the Ottawa Hospital. Based on the approach she received from those wanting to “save the farm”, the NCC may have known that the Central Experimental farm was off the table.
While the farm was off the table, were there other sites that have been given a nudge to the frontline? We have learned that months ago, McKenna met with the NCC and asked that Tunney’s Pasture be given a good look as the new site for the Civic campus of the Ottawa Hospital.
Then an announcement, it was a decision that created ripples across the city and through four levels of government. The NCC decided it would make the Government hub of Tunney’s Pasture offered as a site for the Ottawa Hospital.
The reaction was swift from current Ottawa City Councillors and former Ottawa Mayors, Tunny’s Pasture was so far down the list of possible sites when the Ottawa Hospital did their own study it was not even talked about. Issues with traffic, access by EMS vehicles and the increased volume of people daily in the area was not sustainable without changes to roads and traffic flow plans – changes that were not anticipated for quite sometime by the City of Ottawa.
On the day of the announcement, Ottawa Centre Provincial Liberal MPP Yasir Naqvi was non-committal about supporting or raising doubts about the selection. No Liberal MPP in Ottawa said a word. The only provincial MPP to raise the question of the selection was Nepean-Carleton PC MPP Lisa MacLeod, during Question Period in Queens Park, asking Health Minister Eric Hoskins to intervene and have the NCC reconsider the selection.
Within a week of the announcement last week, the tide against Tunney’s Pasture was becoming stronger. On Parliament Hill, Carleton Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre asked McKenna about the decision. It was the Heritage Minister Melanie Jolie that answered, she ‘would review the report and make a recommendation/offer to the hospital’.
Too late, the hospital board rejected the location siting along with the previous issues mentioned, the cost and the time to build the new hospital was greater than if another location was chosen. The relocation of 10,000 civil servants and demolishing of the buildings on the site now (including a 26 story tower) would cost more and take longer than the hospital was willing to accept. A next century healthcare facility was needed sooner not later.
McKenna praised the decision and issued a press release, (https://cmckenna.liberal.ca/news-nouvelles/statement-on-ottawa-hospital-site-recommendation/). In her release she praised the NCC for their selection for the location for a new state of art health facility.
Eventually the 5 Ottawa Provincial Liberals got on the same page as the area Federal and Provincial conservatives and supported the Hospital’s decision to reject the decision of the NCC, though a joint press releases and Ottawa South MPP John Fraser making the media rounds.
Mayor Jim Watson came out trying act as the voice of reason for the decision, but aware of the challenges it presented. Watson as the top ranking municipal elected official aimed to play the role of peacemaker seeking a solution that meets the needs of the Ottawa Hospital.
While the sideshow of backlash was happening Minister Joly had not yet made her decision known, she was likely waiting this out to determine if a consensus on an alternative sire could be made, it was.
After some inward reflection everyone agreed, the former site of the Sir John Carling building of Agriculture Canada could and would fit what the hospital was seeking. It was across the street, just a little further east than originally planned.
In a joint press conference with the City of Ottawa, the NCC along with Provincial and Federal members of parliament all were happy with the new site proposal, even McKenna who it seems always liked Tunney’s Pasture. When asked about her previous praise for Tunney’s, McKenna preferred to be “forward thinking” about the new site.
What remains to be known is what influence did Minister McKenna think she had with the NCC? How could she be so out of touch with what the hospital AND the City needed for healthcare? How has this tarnished McKenna? How has McKenna playing Hospital Hopscotch damaged the NCC and if she had just let the NCC do its study what site would have the NCC and Minister Joly offered to the Ottawa Hospital?
Photo Source: Library and Archives Canada
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