NCC board votes to decontaminate communism memorial site

The National Capital Commission has passed plans to decontaminate the site a controversial communism memorial in Ottawa after a major shakeup of its board of directors.

Board votes 9-3 in favour of smaller communism memorial plan

This is the new rendering of the smaller and shorter victims of communism memorial. It is eight metres tall and only takes up 37 per cent of the site, not 60 per cent as an earlier plan indicated. (National Capital Commission)

The National Capital Commission has passed plans to decontaminate the site of a controversial communism memorial in Ottawa after a major shakeup of its board of directors, which was decried as politically motivated by one of the monument's loudest detractors.

The board passed the plans by a nine to three margin on Thursday afternoon.

One night earlier, the NCC issued two tweets: one welcoming the five new board members, and one wishing the best to the four whose terms were expiring. One spot on the board is currently vacant.

The shuffle came before the NCC voted on a plan to decontaminate the site of the proposed National Memorial to Victims of Communism, which would be installed near the Supreme Court of Canada on Wellington Street.

The monument falls within the ward of NDP MP Paul Dewar, who on Thursday afternoon criticized the new NCC appointments for being little more than a move by the federal Conservatives to stack the board in their favour.

"They could have at least looked at people who (had) experience other than just ties to the Conservative party," Dewar told CBC Ottawa.

"I hope that the appointments of these members wasn't simply to push through this very controversial project."

Dewar has repeatedly raised concerns about the proposed site of the monument, between the Supreme Court of Canada and Library and Archives Canada, since the NCC approved its location in 2013.

New Democrat MP Paul Dewar is decrying the new NCC appointments as being politically motivated. (The Canadian Press)

Most of the new NCC board appointments have ties to the Conservatives, including Brian Coburn, a former cabinet minister with Ontario's Progressive Conservatives, and Basil Stewart, who ran for the federal Progressive Conservatives in Prince Edward Island in the early 1990s.

Another new appointee, Victor Brunette, is a member of the Pontiac Conservative Association, according to his Facebook page.

Appointments 'completely normal'

The fact that the five new appointees were named less than 24 hours before Thursday's vote is nothing more than a case of coincidental timing, said Russell Mills, chair of the NCC board.

"These appointments are completely normal. All the terms of the departing directors expired months ago," said Mills.

One of those departing directors, former Ottawa mayor Jacquelin Holzman, said that the new appointments had to be named before the House of Commons rose for the summer break.

The fact that many of the new appointments have Conservative ties is nothing surprising, Holzman added.

"I would not imagine anybody's not going to appoint their friends, or people who are of like minds. But that's what politics is all about," said Holzman, who was nominated for her position on the NCC board by former Conservative MP John Baird.

"When a government takes over, a government brings in the people who might be thinking in the same way that they all happens that way. This is nothing new."

Update on monument design

In addition to today's vote on decontaminating the site of the proposed monument, the NCC will also be receiving an update on how the monument -- if it does eventually get built -- could look.

While the NCC has approved the location, the memorial's precise design has not yet been officially given the green light, said NCC spokesperson Jean Wolff. 

Earlier this year the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada criticized the jury-nominated design for being inappropriate for the site between Supreme Court of Canada and Library and Archives Canada

The institute is one of a long list of voices which have spoken out against the design of the monument, its location, or both.