---- Gatineau Park virtual meeting: NCC OK's private homes?
Hull-Aylmer MP Greg Fergus deserves praise for hosting a November 19th virtual town hall meeting regarding the future of Gatineau Park (Bulletin, November 25).
Participants submitted many excellent questions and comments on park protection, but it’s too bad Mr. Fergus didn’t provide any detailed information on that issue. The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society also expressed its disappointment over a lack of discussion on Gatineau Park legislation in a November 29th Facebook post, urging the adoption of protection equivalent to that of a national park.
Mr. Fergus didn’t provide his own views on the park’s draft 2020 master plan.
Participants underlined that the draft plan represented a serious shift in park management by placing the interests of residents over those of the public. This is in contradiction to all previous master and conservation plans, which underline that residences are harmful to the environment and visitor experience.
I was shocked by Park Director Christie Spence denying that she had issued occupancy permits to Meech Lake residents for their structures built on park property. Yet there can be no doubt that she told some 60 Meech Lake residents in 2018 letters that she was granting them special privileges. Here is what she wrote: “Having management and control rights in respect of Meech Lake, and as owner of the property on which your infrastructure encroaches,” the NCC “is disposed to permit its encroachment on federal park
property at Meech Lake. The granting of this permission is conditional to your ongoing compliance with municipal by-laws and regulations...”
Since Mr. Fergus did not press her on this, I sent him copies of Ms. Spence’s documents confirming the existence of these permits. I believe he should make some reference to this in any future statement on park protection.
The point of a public assembly is to let citizens have their say and their questions. Instead, Mr. Fergus gave the floor to the Park director for about 20 minutes (one third of the meeting). Most of the questions raised were not answered.
Despite these criticisms, I was very pleased to read in the Aylmer Bulletin that Mr. Fergus will be writing a report on Gatineau Park based on the questions and comments he received from participants.
That gives me hope something may actually be in the works.