Don’t Look A Gift Civic In The Mouth: Reader




Commenter Brocklebank takes a completely different view of the Civic hospital debate.

An interesting and unique position.

Here’s Brocklebank:

The Ottawa Hospital thinks that the federal government should give it land for a new hospital. There is no federal program under which municipalities are offered land for hospitals.

Nevertheless the federal government had its real estate organization, the National Capital Commission, draw up a recommendation regarding land to be offered (under conditions not disclosed) to the hospital. The NCC made a recommendation. Before the minister responsible could receive the recommendation, the hospital folk rejected the choice. Here is it worth updating the old phrase that you should not look a gift horse in the mouth. In this case the phrase should be that you should not spit in the face of a prospective gift horse donor.

So the hospital thinks that it knows what the federal government should do with its real estate. Maybe the federal government should now just be silent and let the hospital go hat in hand and see if anyone else is willing to provide land.

After all, once the feds give land for the Civic in Ottawa, there is no reason that the federal government should not be expected to do the same for every town and hamlet in Canada.

If there was any incompetence in this whole affair, it was that the federal authorities failed to challenge the call by the hospital leadership for a vast spread of land on which to build a sprawling “wellness centre” rather than an urban hospital.

Incidentally is there anyone out there with $2 billion burning a hole in their pocket who is about to slap down the cash for this project?



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15 thoughts on “Don’t Look A Gift Civic In The Mouth: Reader

  1. Brocklebank,
    You’re absolutely correct. If I offered one of my kids a car and the response was “I don’t want that car, I want your other car”, it would be less than five seconds before any talk of me handing over a car ceased. It is, after all, my car and my decision what happens to it.

    If people are looking for a federal minister to blame for this whole fiasco, don’t look at McKenna or Joly but cast your eyes back to John Baird. Had that deal-making process been more public, we could have weighed in then on the choice of site; the concept of building up rather than out and how parking should be dealt with. Knowing the Hospital wanted to expand in that area instead of out on Woodroffe might well have swayed the LRT decisions towards a Carling route.

    Every community across the country needs land for something whether it’s a new hospital or some other priority. I’m waiting to hear the feds story to justify providing such a huge asset to a local project in Ottawa that’s not in their mandate and then not doing the same elsewhere. The other side of that will be a questioning of the allocation of stretched federal resources for a non-federal responsibility. When they turn down a request for funding, how long do you think it will take for people to say the money would be available if the not-universally loved City of Ottawa wasn’t getting extra goodies from the feds?

    1. If you were in need of a minivan, and someone offered you a two seater, should you accept it? What if someone offered you a car that would require significant repairs, the sum of which exceeded its fair value after the repairs were done?

      The NCC offered the Civic some land that the Civic had concluded that it did not meet its needs (it was No. 6 on the priority list). The Tunney’s Pasture property offered by the NCC has a number of buildings on it that will need to be demolished, potentially adding to the cost of construction to be incurred by the Civic, not to mention the costs to be incurred to address the Scott Street and Parkdale Avenue traffic flows.

      Why should the Civic be obliged to accept an offer that doesn’t meet its needs, with costs that might exceed the value of the land?

  2. Joanne Chianello (CBC Ottawa: “Let’s get some answers before we dig in our heels on the Civic campus question”) is of a similar opinion, noting that the Ottawa hospital officials just took four days to reject the Tunney’s offer. Chianello briefly reviewed issues like access, cost and timelines and found that nothing was clear, i.e. issues could not be verified in four days: “Yes, we should all voice our opinions, but let’s make sure those opinions are based in real evidence.”

    Alex Cullen also questioned the $2-billion funding availability. I guess that we shall have to wait for the next provincial election to see whether that funding will be forthcoming.

    1. Sheridan:

      Did not The Ottawa Hospital not study the Tunney’s Pasture site already?

      I believe that’s the case.

      Thus I would wonder why it took them four days to respond. Seems slow if you’ve already studied the location.

      So I’m not sure where Joanne is coming from on this.



      1. Sheridan:

        I just read Joanne’s column and I agree it’s good we are having this discussion.

        That said, I think her transportation arguments are off.

        I know this seems hard to believe but there is a huge difference in traffic on Parkdale north of the Queensway versus south of the Queensway. That’s because Parkdale has the only nearby interchange to the Queensway. Emergency vehicles going south from the Queensway get a reasonably clear shot to the Civic. Tunney’s Pasture’s thousands of commuters cram Parkdale north of the Queensway for much of the morning and afternoon. Parkdale is so slow that the crush lasts for hours.

        A Civic north of the Queensway faces gridlock much of the day and there is no way to widen Parkdale without expropriation. That expropriation would be likely to include the Parkdale Market. Parkdale is only two lanes.

        As well, cars can’t get out of the way of an ambulance on Parkdale north without driving over the curb onto the sidewalk. Not sure we want to make a habit of that.

        So traffic is a concern. Ambulances use the Queensway.



      2. Ken,

        Joanne Chianello is quite clear: “It’s not that these aren’t valid concerns, however. It’s that we appear so far from knowing the details of any deal.”

        On access: “According to NCC officials, the hospital did not submit any traffic reports during the months when the commission was reviewing various land options for a new Civic. And last week, the Ottawa Paramedic Service said that, while they have some caveats because it’s so early in the process, they didn’t anticipate major problems for emergency vehicles needing access to Tunney’s.”

        On cost: “Would the federal government pick up any of the costs of demolishing the buildings currently on Tunney’s? No one knows yet. And it’s unclear whether anyone has asked, as no one from the hospital’s board has met with Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly’s office.”

        On timelines: “In its April 2016 report to the federal government, the hospital stated its target to start construction on a new Civic campus in the fall of 2021, and finish by the summer of 2026. (It’s right there on Page 2, in a table titled ‘Major Milestone.’) But in three other places in the same report, the timeline for building and completing a new Civic is 10 to 15 years. The NCC estimates the process will take 15 to 20 years, and believes a 10-year timeline is optimistic no matter what site is chosen.”

        In short, Chianello is claiming that the hospital board has not provided the public with any empirical evidence for rejecting the Tunney’s site.

        1. Sheridan:

          Thank you for this but I think the ground has changed with this morning’s press conference at city hall.



        2. “… no one from the hospital’s board has met with Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly’s office.”

          Really? She’s the one with the ultimate decision coming from her desk and the hospital board hasn’t met with her?

          Who did they talk to besides themselves? Wouldn’t she be the first stop that you would have made?

          Nothing about this fiasco should surprise me any more, I suppose, but this is ridiculous.

    2. The Hospital Board should have spent more than 4 days before replying, and the NCC board should have spent more than 48 hours studying their report before voting on it. No?

      1. Nicholas:

        With respect Nicholas, I’m thinking TOH has spent a lot more than four days studying the best location for a new hospital.

        My guess is that the location has probably been an obsession for years at the hospital.



        1. Oh I absolutely realize that and agree. I was just trying to point out that yes, 4 days is arguably either too short or too long depending on your point of view, but 2 days for the NCC board to read their report and vote on it is way too short.

    3. One other point, Sheridan:

      Our city fathers decided to thin Wellington Street West to one lane in either direction with parking on the side. Plus bikes mingle with traffic on this crowded artery.

      I don’t know how much relevance this has to the Civic but when you thin those streets as urban planners are wont to do, it makes emergency vehicles trips down them very difficult.

      Ambulances are vehicles, too. So are other emergency trucks. The city’s war on cars, if that is the case, is also a war on emergency vehicles.



      ps Sorry. Maybe I’m digging in my heels.

      1. Ken,

        This is a serious matter and therefore it is incumbent on the part of the hospital board to have a professional traffic study done. Why? Because it is a gift of land and therefore the burden of proof for rejecting this land lies with the hospital board.

        The NCC gave clear reasons for their selection of Tunney’s on their website. So, if the hospital board disagrees with the NCC’s findings, then by all means prove them incorrect with evidence-based reports. If the hospital board is so well prepared, then providing those studies should be easy. However, as far as I am aware, the hospital board cited no studies to back up their statements.


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