--- Protecting Gatineau Park with smoke and spin
It seems that Assistant Deputy Minister James Stott's June 29 claim that the "Federal Government is committed to protecting and maintaining" Gatineau Park is all smoke and spin, given that the 134th house since 1992 is currently being built in the park, at 1094 Mountain Road, in the park.
This is a violation of every master plan, the 2010 Conservation Plan, and, I would argue, section 25 of the National Capital Act, which stipulates that Gatineau Park is "declared to be for the general advantage of Canada" (the federal declaratory power). That means the NCC has exclusive jurisdiction over the park's entire territory.
Were it really committed to protecting the park, the federal government could impose a permanent building freeze, for example, with an order in council or an act of Parliament.
In Munro v. NCC, the Supreme Court noted that the federal government can impose zoning throughout the National Capital Region, by virtue of its powers for "Peace, Order and Good Government." Yet, the government always looks the other way and claims it has no authority as new constructions continue to hollow out the park. The optics are atrocious: your department manages a public space as a private club for friends of the regime, making the park look like the playground of a banana republic.
I am attaching the summary of NCC/FDC/Treasury Board policies regarding private lands in the park. As well, please find below a sample of the several statements on private property from the NCC’s 2010 Gatineau Park Ecosystem Conservation Plan:
- P. 19: Private properties and developments, residential leases, are not consistent with the Park’s mission.
- P. 20: Consequences of private properties and development: direct habitat loss; alteration of species behaviour; alteration or fragmentation of species and habitats; potential impoverishment of indigenous populations and biodiversity; alteration of ecosystem structures and functions.
- P. 52: The presence of private houses impacts on the ability of shoreline areas to maintain their integrity.
- P. 57: Private properties are likely to have a negative impact on the behaviour of wild species, exposing them to habitat fragmentation and loss, and does not necessarily reflect the ecological values of a conservation park.
- P. 65: The presence of private properties places stress on the host environment in the form of water pollution, habitat fragmentation and the erosion of riparian habitats. The weakening of the ecosystem has allowed invasive species to colonize the area, and urban development has also increased pressure on the natural environment.
- P. 80: Reducing the impact of human-induced development. A number of structures such as roads and private residences are present in the Park. Steps must be taken to reduce these impacts inside the Park, both in the field (e.g. creation of buffer zones, reduction of concrete surfaces) and in decision-making.
- Appendix 3–4: Three main stressors are responsible for damage to aquatic ecosystems: invasive species; human use and recreation; development and private properties.
- Appendix 3–5: Since 1991, attendance has increased to more than 500,000 visits per year (Sodem 2001), and is currently situated at 4,000 visits per km². In addition, visitor numbers tend to be concentrated at certain sites, such as Meech Lake, which currently receives nearly 39% of total visitor traffic.
- Appendix 3–6: Restoration actions: reduction in the size of areas occupied by human-induced infrastructures: purchase of privately owned land; demolition of infrastructures and restoration of vegetation on demolition sites.