Ottawa Hospital to review controversial site for new Civic campus

Photo: Michel Aspirot / CBC

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

CBC News, By Amanda Pfeffer

The Ottawa Hospital will review whether the 24-hectare Experimental Farm lands are the best site for its new facility, CBC News has learned.

Eight years ago the hospital undertook its last review of some 12 possible locations, favouring the Experimental Farm land across the street from the current Civic campus.

But feedback from the community since that decision has led the hospital to reconsider whether the choice is the best option, and whether new options might have become available, a source at the hospital told CBC News.

Leslie Maitland, a spokesperson with the Coalition to Protect the Central Experimental Farm, said she welcomes the news.

First Attempt to Acquire the Land was Rebuffed

I'm hoping the outcome will be a serious consideration of other sites," said Maitland. "I think what didn't happen in 2007 was a complete understanding of the scientific and historic significance of the farm."

The first time the hospital requested the site, the National Capital Commission refused, citing the significance of the site both for its significance to national heritage and agricultural science.

Using the same land assessment from 2007, the hospital asked again six years later but that time received approval.

That approval eventually led to the announcement in November 2014 by then Minister John Baird, that the Experimental Land would be leased to the hospital for $1 a year.

Local opposition led to Minister calling for review

But since the announcement there has been strong local opposition.

Maitland's group, a coalition of close to 50 heritage advocates and agriculture and climate change scientists, sent a letter to several federal cabinet ministers, including Environment Minister and local MP Catherine McKenna.

Last month McKenna said she would review the consultation process that led to the decision to green light the project.

Maitland said since the 2007 review, other sites more appropriate may have become available. 

"There are other potential sites for the hospital so that we could end up with a win-win situation in which the hospital gets the site it needs, and the farm can continue to conduct the important research that it does," said Maitland. 

A spokesperson at the hospital confirmed public information meetings will begin on March 7.