Ottawa prepares to hand over historic federal farmland to corporate developers

Ottawa prepares to hand over historic federal farmland to corporate developers
Posted on March 8, 2017 | Ken Billings | Written on February 24, 2017
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Author's Note:

Author's Note:

The decision by Heritage Minister Melanie Jolie, Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, Provincial MP Yasir Naqvi, and Mayor Jim Watson on December 2nd, 2016 to overturn the six month NCC Site Review Study only 1 week after the announcement of Tunney's Pasture as the best choice, was the height of arrogance and abuse of power. This prompted me to write the article and create the video.

The original title was: What If? ...A Vision for the Central Experimental Farm in 2020 but editors kept changing it so I left the more political title.

Author's Video Note:

The Central Experimental Farm (CEF) in Ottawa is a 1055-acre open-space jewel in a modern metropolis. By comparison, New York's Central park is only 837 acres. The CEF was established back in 1886 by Agriculture Canada to produce safe and healthy food for Canadians. After the Second World War, the ministry directed it to embrace chemical industrial factory farming that benefited corporate agri-businesses and prioritized profit over food safety.

In 1920, there was nothing but organic farming on this historic site. Writing a letter to the Agriculture Minister in January 2016, I asked how much of the farm was organic and permaculture research and was told that 2-5% is organic, 0% is permaculture and 95% is chemical based.

Moving on to December 2nd, 2016, the Heritage Minister, Melanie Jolie announced that 70 acres of the CEF would be given to developers to build a new Civic Hospital Campus. Shocking news, since a week before, the NCC Federal Site Review, that took 6 months, spent $100,000 and studied 12 sites announced Tunney's Pasture as the preferred site of the new hospital campus. In just a week, three levels of government came together in a press conference to announce the CEF site choice instead.

On February 8th 2017, the CBC report announced that the Baseline bus rapid transit corridor gets the council OK. A strip of the Central Experimental Farm would be taken away on the South side of the farm. The O-Train expansion south also has plans to double track which may take some of the East side of the CEF.

So much for the historic jewel, the Central Experimental Farm (CEF). There is a definite disconnect between our three levels of government for this wonderful historic space.

At a small protest Saturday January 21st on the CEF farm, former City Councillor Clive Doucet said, “ The 50 acres for the hospital has nothing to do with patient care, it’s just another sweetheart deal for developers.”

Dr. Shiv Chopra, a health food regulator for over 35 years with Health Canada said, “We have been creating sickness with our food system, therefore we need more hospitals. We should be doing the opposite, educating our children to grow and eat healthy food that does not contain toxic materials”

The Vision...

If people of Ottawa really care about the Central Experimental Farm, we will have to have a vision for the next hundred years. One dream for this beautiful open space would be an example to all Canadians of a farm for organic, permaculture and greenhouse research and education by 2020. On the 100th anniversary we could start our path back to clean, sustainable food and an education centre for K-12 in the Ottawa-Gatineau region.

If the Ontario government puts growing food as a central part of the curriculum, then ecology, food, soil, air, and water will be practical building blocks for subjects like biology, physics, math, poetry, and art. This will create an appreciation and a lifelong connection to the earth that will benefit all society.

The five pillars of food safety, a blueprint for future global food security put forth by Dr. Chopra, should be taught and appreciated by the coming generation if we are to have a healthy and sustainable society. Our local, provincial and federal governments seem to have another priority, of giving up this historic landmark to local developers, instead of developing safer ways to produce healthy food, a shortsighted goal, indeed.

By removing antibiotics, hormones, animal waste fed to animals, GMOs and pesticides Canadians can have the cleanest food in the world. Now that is a vision worth dreaming about.

Ken Billings is editor of,
Executive Director, Food Sovereignty Canada,
a vegetable gardener, and a bicycle enthusiast.

More links:
Info on Dr. Shiv Chopra:

Vimeo TV:

About The Author

Kenskyman's picture

Editor of Digileak Canada, Executive Director of the Canadian Council on Food Safety and Health, videographer, singer, poet, gardner and avid cyclist.