More commercial and residential developments to provide homes for workers and more health services near the hospital. More cars on Chelsea’s already congested roads. A possible highway connection between Hwy 5 and 50 through Chelsea and Cantley. And the development within a recognized Gatineau Park ecological corridor along Chelsea Creek.
These are impacts facing the municipality of Chelsea and its residents if the rumoured location of the future regional hospital along Boulevard de la Technologie in the Hautes-Plaines area of Gatineau prove to be true. These effects and more were discussed on March 21 at a press conference in Gatineau where about 30 opponents of Quebec’s rumoured plans to build a 600-bed, three-million-square-foot, $2.5 billion hospital gathered.
The press conference was dominated by a speech from Conseil regional de l’environnement et du développement durable de l’Outaouais – CREDDO – president and former Gatineau mayor Marc Bureau.
“The development will go directly north,” he told gathered press during the Coalition pour un centre hospitalier accessible et durable en Outaouais (CCHADO) March 21 press conference.
CCHADO is a group of businesses and people who are concerned about the hospital plans. CREDDO is one of the member organizations.
“There’s never been a coalition this strong,” Bureau said when asked if he’s witnessed concerted efforts such as this in his eight years as Gatineau mayor.
So far, CISSSO has been tight-lipped about its plans for the hospital’s location. It hasn’t announced where it will go, it hasn’t even announced a short list of proposed sites that it’s studying. The Low Down’s requests for a list of possible hospital sites have all been denied.
CISSSO previously promised consultations but none have been announced.
CCHADO member Patrick Robert Meunier said that the coalition is focusing on the Boulevard de la Technologie site because of rumours in the media and unnamed sources identifying it as the site for the hospital.
On March 21, Le Droit reported that the province plans to build a highway from Hwy 50 through Cantley, over the Gatineau River, through Chelsea to Hwy 5 south of Chemin Old Chelsea.
At a Chelsea Council meeting in early March, Chelsea Mayor Pierre Guénard stated his opposition to the Hautes-Plaines hospital site. Bureau and Guénard both suggested downtown Gatineau as a more appropriate site for the hospital.
“We have a chance to revitalize downtown [Gatineau] that’s being ignored,” Bureau said.
As the crow flies, a new hospital along Boulevard de la Technologie in the Hautes-Plaines area of Gatineau would be close to the municipality of Chelsea. But as the car drives, it is not.
Without a direct connection to Chelsea, most Gatineau Hills residents would need to drive to the proposed hospital via Hwys 5 and 105 or Chemin de la Mine. MRC Prefect Marc Carrière said he’s concerned that, if the Hautes-Plaines hospital site is finalized, the resulting increase in traffic would put a strain on Chelsea roads.
“I’m not saying it can’t be here, but if it is here there will be a cost for the municipality of Chelsea,” Carrière, who stated that he attended the conference to hear concerns and not to show support or disapproval of the hospital site, told the Low Down.
He said that roads like Chemin Old Chelsea, de la Mine, Notch and others already get packed with Gatineau Park visitors or commuters and a Hautes-Plaines hospital could make the problem worse.
Carrière said he also attended because he doesn’t want the regional hospital to reduce health services offered now in the Gatineau Hills, such as at CLSCs or Wakefield Memorial Hospital.
A CISSSO plan published in 2021 about the regional hospital includes a recommendation that Wakefield hospital should become either an emergency room with a CHSLD – a long-term senior care home – or an emergency room with a multi-service centre.
“We want more services because the population of the MRC is growing and going to keep growing,” Carrière said.
The Hautes-Plaines site also sits in a Gatineau Park ecological corridor identified by the National Capital Commission along Chelsea Creek. Ecological corridors are important to the biodiversity of the park and surrounding areas because they allow wildlife to travel into and out of the park in areas that aren’t heavily populated with humans.