Ottawa

Save the farm supporters dominate public consultation for new Civic hospital site

People fighting to save the Central Experimental Farm were the most vocal at a public consultation Thursday night on the controversial site selection for the new Civic campus of The Ottawa Hospital.

NCC gathering public feedback on 12 possible site locations

The Experimental Farm's research needs tobe preserved, says the National Farmers Union of Ontario. 0:28

People fighting to save the Central Experimental Farm made the most noise at a public consultation Thursday night on where the new $2 billion Civic campus of The Ottawa Hospital should sit. 

The National Capital Commission held its first and only in-person open house and presentation at the Canadian War Museum to answer the public's questions about its newly announced list of 12 possible locations for the new campus.

More than 400 people attended.

NCC CEO Mark Kristmanson had to give the crowd a stern warning to be respectful after Gatineau farmer Bob McClellan suggested the NCC doesn't know anything about farming.

"This is science. This is an outdoor lab," said McClellan. "Who is going to be evaluating this? What are their competencies in climate change research, soil research, crop research? I know you can hire all the flunky consultants you want but what I would rather have is ... people who are fellows of scientific societies."

Kristmanson defended the NCC's selection process.

"First of all there's a very determined and serious group of people working on this," said Kristmanson. "There are no flunky consultants. I actually won't tolerate much of this."

A woman interrupted and hollered from the crowd, "Do you have any knowledge of agriculture?"

"No, excuse me," Kristmanson replied. "If you want to make comments you can come to the mic. This is a forum where we should have respect for the people involved. There is no one involved who is a flunky and I really take exception to this."

NCC CEO Mark Kristmanson tells the crowd at a public consultation on Thursday night to be respectful. 0:31

Others who live near the existing Civic campus voiced their support to keep the new campus close to its current location along Carling Avenue, and to build on one of the four possible locations at the farm. 

Resident David McDonald said he owes his life to being treated at the Civic hospital, and that he's forever indebted to them for the opportunity to stand and talk at the microphone.

I just have a hard time remembering the last time a cob of corn saved my life.- David McDonald, resident

"I just have a hard time remembering the last time a cob of corn saved my life. So I support site nine [on the west side of the farm along Carling Avenue]."

At one point, Kristmanson said he had heard a lot about the farm and wanted to hear about other topics.

"We've obviously heard a lot about the public science and the importance of the Central Experimental Farm, and we've got that," said Kristmanson. "But we are interested in what people have to say about the other criteria. We're talking about the size of the hospital, we're talking about a connection to transit."

Doctors at The Ottawa Hospital's Heart Institute saved resident David McDonald's life in 2011. He now wants the new Civic campus to stay near his home. (CBC News)

Online consultation runs until Oct. 6

Other people did raise concerns that only a few of the 12 possible locations are near public transit. Others worried about the large amount of parking proposed and its affect on local traffic. 

Representatives of The Ottawa Hospital were also in the crowd to listen to the feedback. 

"There was some concern there had not been enough public consultation," said James McCracken, chair of The Ottawa Hospital's board of governors.

"I'm hopeful this will lay to rest the public consultation aspect of this and that we can move forward quickly. We need this new hospital now," he added.

An online survey will be available to the public on the NCC's website until Oct. 6. 

The NCC's board of directors are set to see the results of the site review process at a Nov. 23 public meeting. The NCC's recommendation will then be submitted to the Minister of Canadian Heritage for a decision.