Lottery to fund hospital expansion takes centre stage at Ottawa City Council

ABOVE: Proposed design for the new Ottawa Hospital Civic Campus (Photo: The Ottawa Hospital)

May 11, 2022

Ottawa City Council met in person today. The session began by highlighting the contributions of two local citizens. Mayor Jim Watson awarded the Mayor’s City Builder Award to Dave Kalil, known locally as Ottawa’s Piano man. Kalil raised over $115 000 for charities by performing on his weekly home-based show “Take a Break.” Grace Thrasher, president of the Manotick Community Association, was also awarded the City Builder Award for her extensive volunteering in the community running event, including the Manotick Soapbox Derby, The Manotick Summer Picnic, and Shiverfest.

When the discussion of city business began, Councillor Carol Anne Meehan brought forward a motion, seconded by Councillor Riley Brockington, to explore directing staff to investigate creating a lottery to help fund the municipal funding required for the expansion of the Ottawa Hospital Civic Campus.

In March, Premier Doug Ford announced the province would invest $29 million in the hospital project, with the city being tasked with providing $150 million for the expansion. Meehan said that although this expansion is needed, residents worry that the cost will fall on their property taxes and household budgets, which are already strained from the rising cost of living.

Meehan stated that the incentive-based lottery would be easily accessible to those in the city with deeper pockets. Councillor Shawn Menard expressed frustration at what he called the “downloading” of responsibilities from the province to the city, saying that cities should not be funding what should be an entirely provincial responsibility and noted that Ottawa should send the request back to the province. Councillor Jeff Leiper stated that the province is responsible for healthcare but would support Meehan’s motion if there would be a meaningful contribution to the hospital without increasing taxes for residents.

Councillor Mathieu Fleury said that if citizens are concerned about this issue, there is a provincial election happening, and residents should discuss the hospital funding issue with candidates. Mayor Watson expressed concern that opening a lottery could undermine the successful CHEO lottery.

Councillor Catherine McKenney addressed the decay of Somerset House on the southeast corner of Bank Street and Somerset Street, a vacant heritage building that has been slowly crumbling for decades. Councillor McKenney fronted a motion to allow the city to repair the building and bill the owners for the work. McKenney expressed frustration after trying to get the work done for the last eight years. Mayor Watson called the building “the ugliest blight on our landscape in the entire city.” He said the landlord was among the “top terrible building owners in all of Ottawa.” Watson then noted that the landlord, Mr. Q, should show pride in his city and the nation’s capital. McKenney’s motion carried.

Tim Tierney presented a motion to rename the field at Ken Steele Park, Mark Bingham Field, in time for the Bingham Cup. This inclusive rugby event was founded by Mark Bingham, a proponent of inclusive sports who died in the 9/11 attacks on flight United 93. The council meeting ended afterward shortly.