Feds will make former Sir John A. Carling experimental farm site available for new Ottawa Hospital Civic Campus

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sir john a carling site
The Central Experimental Farm site where the new Ottawa Hospital Civic campus will be located

Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly says the federal government will make the former Sir John Carling site available to the Ottawa Hospital for its future Civic campus, her office said in a statement.

The news on Dec. 2 came moments after Liberal MPs and MPPs joined Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and hospital officials to call for the Civic hospital to be built at the site at the Central Experimental Farm’s northeast corner.

Political leaders just a few hours earlier joined with hospital administrators to lobby the federal government to relocate the campus there, rather than the National Capital Commission’s (NCC) recommended Tunney’s Pasture location.

A statement signed by municipal, provincial and Ottawa-area federal politicians jointly backed the alternative location, in an effort to override the NCC’s Nov. 24 announcement.

“Today, the Federal National Capital Region Government Caucus, the Ottawa Provincial Government Caucus and the Mayor of Ottawa committed to working together to fast-track the approval of the former Sir John Carling Building site as the preferred location for the new Civic Campus – and to get on with the important work of building a better Civic Campus for all residents of Ottawa and Eastern Ontario. Together the group represents eleven federal MPs, five provincial MPPs and the Mayor of the City of Ottawa,” the statement said.

“The approximately 50 acre site is located at the northeastern corner of the Central Experimental Farm. The former Sir John Carling Building site does not include any research fields and will have a minimal impact on agricultural lands or recreational greenspace.

“The site’s central location provides easier access to the Queensway from both directions for Ottawa residents and patients who travel to the Civic Campus from the East and West and from throughout Eastern Ontario. It also provides easier access to residents from the South end of Ottawa via the Veterans’ Memorial Highway (416) or via Prince of Wales Drive.” The site is also near the Trillium Line, and thus accessible to the extended transit system.

“The Ottawa Hospital believes the former Sir John Carling Building site addresses their key concerns with regard to access, costs and timelines. Our community deserves a twenty-first century hospital and we are committed to bringing world-class health care to the City of Ottawa. This recommendation has the full support of the Ottawa Hospital Board of Governor,” the statement said. “Not only does this site bring all parties together, it addresses the views of the community that the site be located in the downtown core while being easily accessible by public transit.”

“Today, our group has written to the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Minister responsible for the NCC, informing her of its support for the former Sir John Carling Building site as the future home of the new Civic Campus.”

On Nov. 29, the hospital board formally announced it would oppose the Tunney’s Pasture location. On the same day, five Ontario provincial members of parliament issued a statement saying they, too, believe the location is a bad choice.

“Over the last 10 years there has been a crane at every hospital in Ottawa, and we remain committed to investing in health care in Ottawa and across the province,” the MPPs said.

“We have been working with The Ottawa Hospital on the development of a new Civic Campus. A new Civic Campus is critical to the future healthcare needs of our growing city and our aging population.

“We believe that local decision making is critical and we fully support The Ottawa Hospital Board as it responds to the NCC’s recommendation in moving the new Civic Campus forward,” said the statement from Bob Chiarelli, Yasir Naqvi, John Fraser, Marie-France Lalonde and Nathalie Des Rosiers.

“Our concerns are in line with what has been previously expressed by various community leaders surrounding access, cost to public purse and risk of a lengthy delay,” the MPPs said.

”This is a significant investment in our healthcare system and the quality of life for all Ottawa residents. It is extremely important that we get it right to avoid lengthy delays to the rollout of this project, and we believe that this recommendation needs to be reconsidered.”

The previous Conservative government had approved the original Central Experimental Farm relocation proposal, but when the Liberals took office, responding to researchers and conservationists opposed to developing the farm site, the NCC undertook a review of 12 possible site options for federal land transfers for the hospital, including the farm and Tunney’s Pasture.

The NCC had earlier said in a statement that “the Tunney’s Pasture site emerged as the most suitable location based on the comparative analysis of the 12 potential sites, using 21 criteria grouped under three themes.”

“Extensive analysis of the evidence and the public’s input demonstrated that Tunney’s Pasture is the ideal site among the 12 under consideration for the new Civic Campus of The Ottawa Hospital,” said NCC chief executive officer Mark Kristmanson. “Tunney’s Pasture best meets the 21 criteria, particularly in light of the most recent data concerning the future of urban transportation, demographic growth and federal land use in the capital.”

The new hospital, when constructed, will be one of the city’s largest infrastructure projects.

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