The NCC Must Expropriate Meech Lake Property

The NCC Must Expropriate Meech Lake Property
Posted on August 3, 2016 | Jean-Paul Murray | Written on August 3, 2016
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Letter type:
Announcement

Author's Note:

Author's Note:

The NCC and the Liberal government are failing to protect Gatineau Park by allowing construction of an 11th new house at Meech Lake since 2006.

Chelsea, August 3, 2016 – The Gatineau Park Protection Committee (GPPC) is condemning the National Capital Commission (NCC) and the Liberal government for failing to stop construction of a new house at 787 Meech Lake Road. 

“The NCC has the mandate and authority to acquire all private lands in the park; yet it persists in allowing construction of new houses that violate its master plan and will grossly inflate their cost to taxpayers,” today said GPPC deputy secretary Michael Lait, who is currently completing his PhD thesis entitled The Rotting Heart of Gatineau Park.  

All master plans written for the park since 1952 emphasize that private lands pose serious problems to park management and must be eventually removed. As well, the most recent park plan and two NCC task forces have given highest priority to acquiring waterfront properties. 

“Although the NCC’s acquisition mandate is clear, its weak-kneed and myopic leadership is allowing the continued rape of the Meech Lake shoreline. No wonder the chairman of the NCC Mandate Review Panel has called the agency’s management “timid” to the point of being “irrelevant,”[1] said GPPC secretary Jean-Paul Murray.

Moreover, a 1988 Treasury Board decision integrated all Gatineau Park private lands into the National Interest Land Mass (NILM), earmarking them for eventual acquisition. “On the basis of the 1988 Treasury Board NILM approval […],” says an NCC document, “the NCC was directed to acquire and consolidate non-federal lands identified as part of the NILM”[2] (italics ours).

“The cost of acquiring these properties is estimated to be about $100 million,[3] but what will it be ten years from now, after NCC CEO Mark Kristmanson has allowed countless more mansions to go up in Gatineau Park and around Meech Lake?” said Mr. Murray.        

“This is the 132nd new house in Gatineau Park since 1992 – the 117th under a Liberal government – and the NCC board has a moral and fiduciary obligation to halt this construction and continued plunder of the public purse,” Mr. Lait said.

“Clearly, the NCC has lost control of the issue, and time has come for the Liberal government to step up to the plate, fulfill its commitments to protect Gatineau Park and expropriate the property at 787 Meech Lake Road,” said Mr. Murray. “We are calling on MPs Greg Fergus and Will Amos to stop hiding from the press and tell us what they intend to do to clean up this mess and protect Gatineau Park,” he added.

Mr. Amos and Mr. Fergus refused to speak to the press about Gatineau Park on two occasions: to the West Quebec Post on May 13, and to Radio-Canada on July 9.

“During the last election campaign, Mr. Fergus distributed a flyer where he promised to make Gatineau Park protection one of his ‘top priorities,’ and the time has come for him to act on his promise,” Mr. Lait said.

A recent study by the Municipality of Chelsea confirmed that 119 structures[4] have been built without permit at Meech Lake, 79 of them on the lakebed, which belongs to the federal government by virtue of a 1973 land exchange with the Province of Quebec.

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Information: Michael Lait, 613-291-2543;  Jean-Paul Murray, 819-827-1803; Web site: www.gatineauparc.ca.

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[1] ‘Timid’ NCC could become irrelevant, scholar warns, by Mohammed Adam, Ottawa Citizen, January 3, 2012; La CCN « trop timide » pour bien jouer son rôle : Selon un expert en gouvernance, Le Droit, le 4 janvier 2012.

[2] About National Capital Commission Lands, National Capital Commission, http://www.canadascapital.gc.ca/sites/default/files/pubs/NCC-About-National-Capital-Commission-Lands-Sept-2006.pdf

[3] Debates, House of Commons, March 7, 2014, p. 3690: http://www.parl.gc.ca/content/hoc/House/412/Debates/059/HAN059-E.PDF

[4] “The grass still not greener at Meech,” by Anastasia Philopoulos, The Low Down to Hull and Back News, September 9, 2015, pp. 1-13. http://www.lowdownonline.com/the-grass-still-not-greener-at-meech/

 

Letter Response

Backgrounder: Private Property in Gatineau Park

A review of various plans and reports pertaining to Gatineau Park written since 1950 demonstrates that private property has long been seen as problematic for the park’s administration and that recommendations for its gradual removal are a recurring theme.

From the 1950 Gréber Plan, to the 1952 Report of the Advisory Committee on Gatineau Park, to the 1980, 1990 and 2005 Gatineau Park Master Plans, every study of this issue has described the presence of private property in Gatineau Park as being at odds with the park’s mandate and vocation.

For instance, the 1980 Gatineau Park Master Plan argued that private lands within the park limited the possibilities of developing it for the benefit of visitors.[1] To remedy the situation, the 1980 Master Plan recommended the purchase of private properties, particularly those around Meech Lake.

In 1988, Treasury Board created the National Interest Land Mass (NILM), designating all lands in Gatineau Park as such, and targeting them for eventual acquisition. This designation relates to properties in the National Capital Region considered essential to the vision of the capital as well as to its integrity, symbolism and interpretation. Those lands are either owned by the federal government, or considered essential and earmarked for eventual acquisition.

According to the Treasury Board Web site, these lands are to be “held in trust for future generations.”  As well, an NCC document titled About National Capital Commission Lands, available on its Web site, says this about NILM: “On the basis of the 1988 Treasury Board NILM approval […] the NCC was directed to acquire and consolidate non-federal lands identified as part of the NILM.”

Moreover, in 1989, on the heels of the NILM’s creation, the NCC set up a task force to establish criteria and a strategy to acquire private property in Gatineau Park. Identifying all private properties in the park, underlining that all of them had to be acquired, the Task Force drew up a list of those to be purchased on a priority basis.[2]

The 1990 Master Plan, for its part, was less exhaustive in its review of private properties than its 1980 predecessor had been, though it underlined that they created conflicts between residents and visitors and that the NCC should work towards acquiring them.[3] As well, the 1990 document stipulated that “the park is, and will remain, a public domain planned and managed for the benefit and enjoyment of the public at large.”[4]

More recently, the 2005 Master Plan noted that over 200 private properties remained within the park, concentrated mainly in the Meech Lake, Kingsmere Lake and Skyridge sectors, that their presence made controlling park use difficult, and that acquiring them remained the NCC’s long term goal.[5]

Although the 1980 Master Plan did not designate comprehensive categories for acquiring private property in Gatineau Park, its 1990 and 2005 successors did. The former recommended that the NCC place a high priority on properties subject to multi-unit developments, those that were environmentally sensitive, and those that were considered harmful to key park resources and assets.[6] As for the 2005 plan, it recommended that properties of ten or more acres and those located on waterfront be acquired on a priority basis.[7]

 A review of the last three Gatineau Park Master Plans and the 1989 Task Force Report confirms that the NCC has been consistent in its commitments to acquire private property, particularly in the park’s most heavily used area around Meech and Kingsmere Lakes. However, despite repeated NCC commitments, some 296 private properties consisting of 2,112.75 acres remain within the park, many of them on waterfront around Meech and Kingsmere Lakes. Besides, the NCC has acquired very few of the properties that have been on the market at Meech and Kingsmere Lakes over the past three years – despite having declared in successive Master Plans that waterfront properties had to be acquired on a priority basis.

Moreover, several large private properties remain inside Gatineau Park which may fall prey to major subdivisions. The NCC is mandated to acquire all private lands in the park, and allowing development inside it only means the serious mortgaging of our future. The proposed Carman Road Development in Gatineau Park was a case in point. Although the government stopped the development, it only did so after considerable protest from park advocates.

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[1] Gatineau Park Master Plan, National Capital Commission, Ottawa, 1980, p. 35.

[2] NCC ATIP A-95/96-026, pp. 55-56.

[3] Gatineau Park: a Master Plan for the ’90s and Beyond, National Capital Commission, Ottawa, 1990, p. 29.

[4] Ibid., p. 9.

[5] Gatineau Park Master Plan, National Capital Commission, Ottawa, 2005, p. 52.

[6] Gatineau Park: a Master Plan for the ’90s and Beyond, ibid., p. 9.

[7] Gatineau Park Master Plan, National Capital Commission, Ottawa, 2005, p. 52.

About The Author

A writer, certified/literary translator and communications specialist with nearly 25 years experience working on Parliament Hill. In 2015, Ekstasis Editions published his translation of Robert Lalonde's Little... More

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