• James Armstrong

Public consultation another step in the Vaudreuil-Soulanges hospital


PHOTO BY JAMES ARMSTRONG

Farmers of all ages voiced their concern over losing local agricultural land to the hospital project including Véronique Boyer at the microphone on the left.

The public consultation meeting organized by the Quebec Ministry of Health and Social Services was a step forward in the realization of the Vaudreuil-Soulanges hospital project. At issue is the agricultural zoning of the parcel of land chosen for the construction of the new hospital. The public consultation was a necessary part of the legal process for the Quebec government to adopt a decree to amend the Plan Métropolitain d’aménagement et de Développement (PMAD) of the Communauté Métropolitaine de Montréal (CMM) to ensure the hospital project is in conformity with their PMAD. In turn, the Municipalité régionale de comté Vaudreuil-Soulanges (MRC-VS) and the city of Vaudreuil-Dorion would be required to adjust their respective planning tools accordingly.

Agricultural concerns

Approximately 150 residents from across the region attended the consultation, held at the Vaudreuil-Dorion Multi Sport Centre Wednesday, May 22 including members of the local agricultural community. They made the point that 24 hectares of agricultural land in Vaudreuil-Dorion would be forever lost if construction of the hospital happens on the proposed site. President of the Syndicate de l’Union des Producteurs Agricoles de Vaudreuil-Soulanges Louis-Marie Leduc emphasized the destructive impact of urbanisation on agricultural land and asked the government to consider other sites for the project.

Lawyer and head of the Real Estate Transaction Framework at the Directorate of Infrastructure Conservation of the Ministry of Health and Social Services Carole Arbour responded other sites had been evaluated and all of them had difficulties meeting the prescribed requirements for the site. Arbour noted that throughout the process of choosing a site, all the concerns regarding the current site had been weighed in the balance. In the end, the need for a hospital in an easily accessible location tipped the scale.

Vaudreuil-Dorion Mayor Guy Pilon noted the CMM had permitted construction on agricultural land and the hospital project was not a precedent-setting case. He also said the land in question was not high quality soil, hadn’t been farmed for a number of years, and part of it had been used as a site for a now defunct service station.

Possible to rehabilitate the soil

Several of the young farmers from the region took exception to the mayor’s comment about the quality of the soil.

“It’s a high potential soil,” local student and farmer Véronique Boyer told The Journal following the meeting. She described the soil as needing attention, care and good management.

“It could be used to produce good forage,” she said. Boyer has earned a degree in Agricultural and Environmental Sciences from McGill University and is currently helping out on the family farm while continuing her studies. In her opinion, the land in question has agricultural value and using it to construct a hospital sets a dangerous precedent for the future of agricultural land in Quebec. In spite of the concerns raised during the consultation, everyone agreed the region requires the services of a local hospital.

PHOTO COURTESY MRC VAUDREUIL-SOULANGES

Architectural concept of the proposed Vaudreuil-Soulanges Hospital

Project Background

In May, 2018, the Quebec government advised the CMM and the MRC-VS of the need to modify their planning tools as presented by urban planner Hélène Doyon at the beginning of the consultation. Both the CMM and MRC-VS responded their development plans did not conform.

At the end of October, 2018, the Quebec government officially asked them to proceed with the appropriate modifications. The CMM replied on November 20, 2018 that they would not change the PMAD. The MRC-VS, however, went ahead with a ruling to modify their schema layout for region in January, 2019. The provincial government decided to wait until April 29 giving the CMM time to change its mind. Meanwhile, the MRC-VS had to reverse its changes to its schema because it was no longer in conformity with the PMAD of the CMM. According to the presentation, there was no response from the CMM between January and April, 2019.

On May 1, the government gave public notice for the public consultation indicating it was prepared to move the project forward with a decree.

“This is a process that began in 2016,” said Assistant Deputy Minister Luc Desbiens adding, “The first decree was adopted in 2016 placing a reserve on the land for the site.” That was followed by a decree in June 2018 authorizing the use of the land for purposes other than agriculture and an expropriation decree at the end of July, 2018.

The formal transfer of ownership to the Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux (CISSS) de la Montérégie-Ouest is expected to take place in the coming weeks. Desbiens declined to put a date on when the decree would be issued saying the results of the public consultation had to be presented to the government.

The budget for the project, estimated at $1.5 billion, contains $2.4 million of compensation for the agricultural land. According to Arbour, how that money and to whom it will be disbursed has not been decided.

Currently in the planning stage until 2021, construction of the 404-bed hospital project is expected between 2022 and 2026.

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