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Migration to former Nortel site among 'largest office moves ever completed in Canada,' DND says

By Julie Ireton, CBC News Posted: Nov 29, 2016 5:30 AM ET Last Updated: Nov 29, 2016 8:12 AM ET

The federal government purchased the former Nortel Networks complex at Carling Avenue and Moodie Drive in 2010.

The federal government purchased the former Nortel Networks complex at Carling Avenue and Moodie Drive in 2010. (Tobin Grimshaw/Canadian Press)

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There's been another delay in the migration of Department of National Defence employees to their new headquarters at the former Nortel Networks campus in Ottawa's west end, pushing the move back one year from the date originally planned.

Department officials now say hundreds of employees will begin moving into their new workplace in January 2017 instead of this week.

Lt.-Cmdr Diane Grover, communications director for the headquarters move, said the decision came after DND workers asked to "slow down" the process.

Hundreds of workers are being relocated to the vast Nepean complex that was once home to Nortel.

'It changes all the time. It's a moving target basically. It's sort of wearing on people.'
- John MacLennan, Union of National Defence Employees

Public Services and Procurement Canada, which now owns the facility, noted in a ministerial briefing earlier this year that the project had already faced months of delays.

The official relocation now gets underway in the new year with 3,400 workers moving in by spring.

Union calls for clarity

"I'm not surprised that it's been delayed and been delayed and been delayed. That's the normal practice when government gets on with something," said John MacLennan, national president with the Union of National Defence Employees.

John MacLennan

John MacLennan is national president of the Union of National Defence Employees. (CBC)

"It takes a longer time because there's layers of bureaucrats. Many departments are involved with this: Public Works, Treasury Board, National Defence."

The union is calling for clarity for its members.

"We want to know when the end date is. This is going to be done in phases. It changes all the time. It's a moving target basically. It's sort of wearing on people," said MacLennan.

The federal government purchased the former Nortel property at Moodie Drive and Carling Avenue, with its 11 interconnected buildings, for $208 million in 2010.

Limited access after move

The move will allow DND to consolidate its workforce spread across the national capital region from 47 locations to seven main sites.

"This will be one of the largest office moves ever completed in Canada ... over three years," according to a DND brief, which notes 8,500 workers will transfer to the new campus at a rate of 150 a week until the spring of 2019.

"By consolidating the majority of the administration and strategic functions of the headquarters into a campus environment, National Defence will be better positioned to achieve operational savings and accommodate its personnel in a secure environment."

Chief of the Defence Staff General Jonathan Vance

Gen. Jonathan Vance, commander of the Canadian Forces, says the shift of DND headquarters to the former Nortel site will be good for the city in the long run. (Andrew Foote/CBC)

Earlier this month Gen. Jonathan Vance called the impending migration of so many workers to the new campus "a bit of a centre of gravity shift" for the city.

Grover noted OC Transpo has shifted several routes to accommodate DND employees, and there will be a new, dedicated road for buses on the campus that's expected to open by Dec. 12.

The department will be setting up a defence security perimeter, limiting public access to the building.

"Security is a big, big factor, because of the nature of the work that we do," said MacLennan. "There'll be tighter access control, because right now it's open concept, anyone can drive up to the building. That's going to be tightened up with fencing. Certainly there's going to be access control ... so there'll be layers of it."