Email message to City Planner re: Hospital Parking, January 5th 2000

Dear Mr. Legault,

As a long-time local resident in the community adjacent to the Ottawa Hospital General Campus, I write in response to the notice of an application by the representatives of the Ottawa Life Sciences Technology Park for a temporary zoning amendment to allow the Ottawa Hospital employees to park on this site.

This application follows within weeks of the unanimous rejection by the City of Ottawa Planning Committe of an application by the representatives of the owners of the Life Sciences Technology Park (the Ontario Government no less), to have the zoning of this park upgraded to allow office building on the site. It also follows within weeks of the City of Ottawa granting yet another request by the Ottawa Hospital (for the umpteenth year in a row), to use city-owned land leased at a nominal rental fee, to allow their employees to park virtually free by comparison with other parking rates in the area.

Meanwhile, friends and relatives (read Ontario and Ottawa taxpayers and voters, who collectively own that leased city land), needing to visit patients in that campus of the Ottawa Hospital, must pay about ten times the parking fees that the employees are charged, in order to park in the visitor-parking-garage on-campus. The original rationale for the request by the Hospital for the use of this city-owned land was that it needed time to build a suitable parking garage to accommodate employee parking. In their most recent annual request for an extension of that privilege, they have finally admitted that they do not have, and probably never will have, the necessary fifteen million dollars to build such a facility. They have implied that if the parking rates for employees were to be increased to market rate levels, that it would create a recruitment problem.

Reading between the lines, my personal interpretation of what the Hospital is saying is as follows:

"We are strapped for cash and living from hand to mouth, the Provincial Government is keeping us on a short leash, yes, it's true - if you think that we will ever have the resources to build a parking garage for our staff, you are dreaming in technicolour. If you people want viable and sustainable health-care services in your part of Ontario, you are going to have to play ball on things like requests for additional parking space. If some of your residents around our campus get overwhelmed with the traffic and the parking spillover - tough bananas, they better get used to it - as long as the Harris government is hell-bent on tax cuts, you can expect more of the same."

Now I repeat that this is strictly my interpretation. Nobody from the Hospital has made any such statement, but given that that it is currently running a deficit of $20M, it is surely obvious that it has to exploit as ruthlessly as possible, every avenue available to it in order to survive, which of course includes extracting every possible concession it can from the local municipality.

The responsibility for this debacle lies fairly and squarely with the Provincial Government. We as Ontario taxpayers (and voters I might add), should not have to be the victims of the hands-off policy of this government, which effectively dishes out totally inadequate resources to hospitals, and then leaves them to flounder around to do the impossible, following some sort of Milton Friedman free-market philosophy that a dose of realism will wean them away from their wasteful public-sector ways.

I strongly urge you to make an issue of this application, reject it outright and force the hands of the real culprits, the ones who hold the purse strings of the Ontario health-care system, to come up with the funding for the Hospital to build a proper facility to meet the parking needs of its employees - as any self respecting private sector employer would do. Fifteen million dollars is nothing compared to the annual commitment that Premier Harris has offered to give in tax breaks to professional sports arenas across the province a few weeks ago. The government should get its priorities straight.

Quentin Bristow.

cc
Ontario Premier Mike Harris
Ontario Health Minister Elizabeth Witmar
Opposition Leader Dalton McGuinty
Mayor Jim Watson
Regional Councillor Peter Hume
Ottawa City Councillor Allan Higdon
President, Faircrest Heights C.A. Joyce Wright

Dr. Q. Bristow. P.Eng.
Billings Ave.
Ottawa. Ontario
K1H 5L6