Padolsky: Save the environment - Put the Civic hospital campus on the LRT line

Undated Historical Photo, Central Experimental Farm

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

OTTAWA CITIZEN, By Barry Padolsky

In November 2014, the former Stephen Harper government allocated 60 acres of the Central Experimental Farm, a National Historic Site, for a new Civic hospital campus.

On May 20, 2016, Mélanie Joly, minister of Canadian Heritage responsible for the National Capital Commission, halted the former government’s decision. She directed the NCC to take a fresh look at prospective sites in the core of the National Capital.  

The NCC will evaluate 12 federally owned properties using three key criteria to recommend a “preferred site” by November 2016. The three criteria are:

1. Does the preferred site meet the goals of the NCC’s Plan for Canada’s Capital and federal priorities?

2. Does the preferred site meet the goals of the City of Ottawa’s Official Plan and the City’s strategic priorities?

3. Does the preferred site permit the creation of an excellent hospital?

The NCC, however, will be compromised by the Ottawa Hospital’s “21st century campus vision,” which requires a 60-acre site so that it can build a hospital campus whose dominant land use will be roads and parking.

This vision is revealed in the Ottawa Hospital’s 73-page report dated April 2016 in which architectural “test plans” assume that only 19 per cent of the proposed 60-acre site is needed for hospital buildings. Astoundingly, according to that version of the plan, more than 42 per cent of the site would be dedicated, not to health care facilities, but to roads and parking.

Roads and parking?

Writing in the Citizen on Sept. 19, James McCracken, chair of the Ottawa Hospital Board of Governors, admits that the future Civic hospital “needs” 3,400 parking spaces. Conservatively, this would translate into 1,241,000 person trips per year by car, if each parking space were used only once a day. Is the Ottawa Hospital unaware of climate change and the need to build sustainable cities?  

Without question, the NCC should recommend a site for the new Civic located on Ottawa’s new LRT Rapid Transit network (Confederation Line or Trillium Line).

Why? The Federal government’s climate change strategy calls for Canada’s cities to integrate land use and public transit in order to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by diminishing our dependence on the automobile as the primary form of urban transportation. Locating the hospital within 600 metres of an LRT station would help to meet this goal. It would also comply with the NCC’s “Plan For Canada’s Capital” which promotes integrated land use and “sustainable mobility,” particularly on federal lands.

It would also contribute to  the Ontario government’s new Climate Change Action Plan and  the City of Ottawa Official Plan’s strategic priorities. Specifically, the city is committed to achieving the goal of a “transit modal split” of 50 per cent within the greenbelt by 2031. This means that the new Civic hospital should be accessible by excellent public rapid transit to half of all future hospital visitors, ambulatory patients, staff and volunteers.  

Finally, locating the new Civic within 600 metres of an LRT station would directly promote public health. The link between climate change and the threat to public health is now evidence-based. 

At the recent Canadian Medical Association Conference in Vancouver, the CMA recognized that climate change is the “greatest global health threat of the 21st century.” The link between carbon emissions and global warming is no longer challenged. The CMA Council committed to actively promoting its climate change and human health policy among Canada’s physicians.

It is evident that the NCC’s report to Minister Joly (and Catherine McKenna, minister of the Environment and Climate Change) should recommend a site, any site, on Ottawa’s $2.1-billion LRT Rapid Transit network. The NCC’s three broad criteria naturally lead to this conclusion. Why select a site that accelerates climate change and contributes to the erosion of public health?

Let us reflect on the Hippocratic Oath that Canada’s medical community observes: “Primum non nocere.” First, do no harm.”  

Physician, heal thyself.


Barry Padolsky is an Ottawa architect, urban designer and heritage consultant.

Heritage Ottawa encourages our readers to make their views known by taking the NCC's online survey,