Editorial: Limiting Public Input on the Hospital

The Ottawa Hospital Civic Campus. Photo: Darren Brown, Ottawa Citizen

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

OTTAWA CITIZEN, Editorial Board

There has been “confusion” about how the public is to be consulted on building a new Civic campus for The Ottawa Hospital, admits CEO Dr. Jack Kitts. Indeed. And apparently it’s only going to get worse.

The hospital, laudably, held its first public consultation about the new campus Monday, drawing a crowd of 500. Many fear that 60 acres of Central Experimental Farm land will be given to the new hospital; that was the plan under the former federal Tory government. But the Liberals, and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna in particular, are far less keen on that option and want more study of the whole enterprise, with more transparency. The hospital says that’s fine.

Yet for all the vows of increased public input, no one quite knows how this will take place, nor how final approval for a new hospital will occur.

McKenna is described by her office as being “very, very much in listening mode,” but the hospital says flatly there will be no more public sessions on where its new Civic campus will go – even though location is the main point of debate. Instead, the hospital may hold another “information session” in the coming months – while not asking people their views about where to build.

Instead, the hospital will study four sites currently in contention (three of them still on Experimental Farm land), compare these against provincial health ministry standards for new hospitals, and submit the results to the federal government. Minister McKenna will consult in some fashion yet unknown with other federal ministers, such as the minister in charge of the  National Capital Commission, the agriculture minister and the minister of public services and procurement.

The process after that is also murky. The federal government somehow signs off on a site, then more public consultations – strictly on hospital design, mind you – take place. These will likely be organized by the hospital and the NCC (which, you’ll remember, recently threw a shroud of secrecy back over the LeBreton Flats development process.)

None of this sounds particularly transparent. None of it speaks to the issue on most people’s minds: where to build. The public, which deserves better, will remain confused.