Friday, 4 March 2016

Where's the NCC?

Mark Kristmanson (CEO National Capital Commission), John Baird (then-Minister for the NCC), Jack Kitts (CEO, Ottawa Hospital)
On the 3rd of November 2014 three men took to the stage to make an important announcement about the future of the Ottawa Hospital. Mark Kristmanson, CEO of the National Capital Commission, John Baird, then-minister for the NCC, and Jack Kitts, CEO of the Ottawa Hospital, were delighted to share the news that 60 acres of research land at the Central Experimental Farm would be transferred from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to the NCC for lease to the Ottawa Hospital.

(Notably absent from the scene was anyone from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.)

As readers of this blog are well aware, this came as a surprise to everyone. The deal was negotiated in secret in early 2014 despite AAFC categorically rejecting a hospital on the site in 2008. Its absence from the event may suggest how its negotiators felt about being involved in the severance.

Nonetheless, in documents obtained through access to information and freedom of information requests, as well as statements by both John Baird in 2016 and Mark Kristmanson in 2015, the National Capital Commission played the key roll in "facilitating" the proposed land transfer.

And yet since the 2015 election the NCC has been all but absent from the scene. Melanie Joly, the new minister for the NCC, has not said a word publicly. Mark Kristmanson seems to have disappeared even though in spring 2014 he was personally commenting on the draft treasury board submission.

The NCC's role deserves to have more light shed on it.

Why, for example, did the NCC fail to include the land severance during its 2014 consultations on the Capital Urban Lands Plan?

(A plan that, conveniently enough, includes a new "non-federal facility" category precisely for these 60 acres. A plan, further, that makes clear it should overrule any other plan for lands under its mandate, including the Central Experimental Farm which has its own longterm management plan. The NCC had the opportunity, and perhaps the responsibility, to bring this forward during the 2014 consultations on the Capital Urban Lands Plan.)

Why, when asked by a consultant hired by AAFC in spring 2014 for details about the Hospital's case did the NCC simply shrug and say "we'll have to go with what we have"?

Why did the NCC, in late April 2014, tell AAFC negotiators that it understood their interests and wanted to help protect them, and then a few days later tell the Hospital that the NCC wants a design that uses the whole 60 acres being offered? That AAFC's interests were its own and not the NCC's? And that perhaps Mark Kristmanson and Jack Kitts should be personally brought to bear to halt complaints from AAFC regarding the size of the land grab?

Jack Kitts of the Ottawa Hospital has been abandoned to carry the water for the NCC as this deal has soured under ever increasing scrutiny. I am sure he is also wondering "Where is the NCC?"