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  • Hunter Cresswell

Hospital hot potato

It’s ironic that the possibility of building a hospital on the doorstep of the Gatineau Hills – a place that’s sorely in need of more health services and facilities – has been greeted with such controversy.

Chelsea Mayor Pierre Guènard came out swinging against the idea last month, as did several Gatineau business groups. But the controversy isn’t unwarranted, and it’s more than just Chelsea playing the NIMBY game.

The rumoured Hautes-Plaines mega-hospital location is a tough one. But I see two forces clashing against each other whenever the topic is brought up: the health of people versus the health of the environment.

First, the environment.

Building a 600-bed, three-million-square-foot, $2.5 billion hospital near the end of Boulevard de la Technologie in the Hautes-Plaines area of Gatineau directly next to a sensitive, undeveloped area isn’t a good idea during the throes of a climate crisis.

The National Capital Commission identified the Chelsea Creek area – the actual creek, not the Chelsea centre village housing development named after it – as an ecological corridor for the Gatineau Park. Eco corridors boost the park’s biodiversity by allowing animals to travel in and out of the park without coming too close to humans.

The creek itself is a sensitive habitat. In 2020, an Action Chelsea for the Respect of the Environment survey found vulnerable and protected freshwater mussels in the creek.

Trees are literally the greenest way to capture carbon dioxide. So cutting down trees and paving fields to build a huge hosp