THE NCC’s long trail of deception and twisted communications

THE NCC’s long trail of deception and twisted communications
Posted on September 23, 2016 | Jean-Paul Murray | Written on September 23, 2016
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Author's Note:

Author's Note:

The National Capital Commission’s communications record regarding Gatineau Park is a long trail of misrepresentation and deception...  (Photo caption: the true boundary of Gatineau Park is shaded green. The red line shows what the NCC claims to be the "rationalized boundary." The NCC has removed 8 km2 of the park... without telling anyone...)

NCC communications are rank and fetid with the gangrene of distortion and misrepresentation, and the rot just keeps eating away at the agency’s credibility...

Whether it’s through a February 26, 2015 press release falsely claiming the Meech Lake Association never urged the NCC to close public facilities at the lake—against overwhelming proof of the contrary—or the NCC CEO’s erasing park history in the Ottawa Citizen last August 11, or the agency denying its ownership of 61.5 km2 of park lands in its latest annual report—something it repeats in its latest draft master plan—or its misleading Parliament about the precise nature of park boundaries, the NCC’s communications record is one long trail of misrepresentation and deception...  

A key agent in this process over the years has been their senior communications manager, one Jean Wolff. Now, Mr. Wolff not only seems to have a very hard time concentrating on or remembering the facts, he also seems intent on discrediting the Gatineau Park Protection Committee, as well as its research methods, membership and conclusions.

To illustrate my point, I’ll just highlight the several untruths Mr. Wolff expressed in a document prepared to answer media questions regarding Gatineau Park boundaries, a document titled “Key Messages and Questions and Answers on Gatineau Park Boundaries,” September 28, 2011, obtained through access to information (NCC ATIP A-2011-00042).

As background, it’s important to underline that the NCC misled Parliament on the issue of Gatineau Park’s boundaries in 2005, giving two completely contradictory answers to the same questions raised by two different parliamentarians.  The Honourable Mira Spivak raised a question of privilege on this in the Senate on November 22, 2005.

Mr. Wolff’s 2011 Key Messages is filled with misrepresentations. First, he claimed that the earliest technical description of Gatineau Park’s boundaries was prepared in 2007 for the drafting of the Conservative government’s Bill C-37. As well, Wolff claimed that “throughout the history of the park [...] there was no compelling need to do an NCC metes and bounds” (the technical name for the park’s boundary).

However, Mr. Wolff was wrong on both counts.  First, the boundary description he mentions was completed in 2007 as a result of the Senate Committee study of Senator Spivak’s Gatineau Park Bill S-210. In no way were they drawn up to help with the drafting of a government bill tabled two years later in 2009 ... Moreover, those boundaries were first published in Senator Spivak’s follow-up legislation, Bill S-227, tabled in 2008. Second, the first metes and bounds for the park were completed in 1965 by surveyor Marcel Ste-Marie at the NCC’s request (I obtained this information through access to information). So, obviously, and contrary to what Mr. Wolff says, there was a compelling need to draw up boundaries ... because the NCC asked a surveyor to do so. How can you possibly know where the park is, if you don’t have a clearly defined boundary? Wolff’s claims defy intelligence and credulity.

I note that Mr. Wolff repeated his mendacious claim that no metes and bounds for the park had been drafted before 2007 on page 7 of his briefing note. He also does so twice on page 8 and again on page 9. Perhaps the NCC should hire a researcher / archivist to help Wolff with such issues.

Second, Mr. Wolff suggested that the Quebec government “owns” 17% of Gatineau Park. However, that is a continuing swindle perpetrated by the NCC. It is the NCC that makes payments in lieu of taxes on those lands, confirming it “owns” them (or, to make it simple for Wolff to understand: you don’t pay taxes on lands you don’t own). Those lands were transferred to the NCC in perpetuity in 1973. Besides, this question was settled when the Gatineau Park Protection Committee intervened before the Quebec Administrative Tribunal in March 2009, forcing the Quebec Department of Justice to withdraw its claim questioning the validity of the 1973 transfer. Interested parties will find evidence elucidating and confirming this in the documents section at www.gatineauparc.ca.

Third, Mr. Wolff says “the park as we know it today was developed and consolidated in the 1970s and 1980s.” Again, that is utter nonsense. Had Mr. Wolff read the NCC’s own documents on this (prepared by Gershon Rother) he would have known that the majority of Gatineau Park lands—i.e., 68,000 of its 88,000 acres—had been acquired by 1966. Accordingly, how could Mr. Wolff make such a ridiculous claim?

Fourth, Mr. Wolff contradicts himself on the question of the Quebec government’s 1974 Gatineau Game Reserve boundaries around Gatineau Park. Although Wolff acknowledged on page 5 that the Quebec government had set a metes and bounds description, he contradicted himself on page 10 by saying it didn’t...

Fifth, perhaps the most misleading and confused claim Mr. Wolff makes occurs on pages 3 and 10 of his briefing document. He says the Loblaws and Petrocan on Saint-Raymond Boulevard were never identified as part of Gatineau Park on any NCC maps, and that such talk is “fictional.” Well, I have about a half dozen NCC maps and one from Environment Quebec that say Wolff is, again, wrong. I sent Mr. Wolff just one such map confirming he was the one engaging in fiction by denying this fact.

Sixth, Mr. Wolff completely failed to explain how the "new" boundaries can be legitimate, when countless NCC analysis and submission sheets (obtained through access to information) say that a 1960 Order in Council set the park’s legal boundaries, and that any change to them would require a new Order in Council. No such new Order in Council was ever adopted, which means that lands the NCC claims are in Gatineau Park, like the Meech Creek Valley, are in fact outside the park, and that properties the NCC claims are outside the park, like the Wakefield crematorium, Tim Horton’s, Giant Tiger, etc., are actually  still inside the park.  

Finally, I note that on page 3 of his briefing note that Mr. Wolff impugns the motives of people who ask serious questions about the NCC’s appalling mismanagement of Gatineau Park. I underline that he seems completely oblivious to the agency’s record of dereliction that includes renting property to dope growers, destroying buildings key to the park’s history, violating countless master plan commitments, paving park trails with glass shards and trash, failing to enforce contracts with a ski centre, printing maps that keep changing park boundaries, senior park officials either being fired or charged with breach of trust, misleading Parliament, etc. Seems his approach boils down to weaselly attempts to discredit whoever lifts the lid off NCC rot...

The foregoing confirms that NCC has very serious credibility and staffing problems. Ultimately, the NCC CEO is responsible for this. However, instead of doing something about it, he looks the other way, as he does when several new buildings go up at Meech Lake, or when his communications gang posts two contradictory and misleading versions of the 2015 Annual Report on its Web site. You’d think there’d be a major overhaul... 

I note that the fallacious February 26, 2015 NCC press release was removed from the agency’s web site... after I complained. I can provide a copy to anyone wishing to consult it, as well as copies of the Meech Lake Association’s briefs and letters to the NCC requesting that Blanchet Beach and the McCloskey boat launch be closed.  

As further evidence of Mr. Wolff’s shocking behaviour, I am attaching, below, my refutation, in French, of the several untruths he spread in the student newspaper La Rotonde, in December 2014.

I've attached NCC submission sheets below indicating that changes to Gatineau Park's boundaries must be confirmed by a new order in council...

***

LES MULTIPLES BÊTISES DE JEAN WOLFF: la CCN a de sérieux problèmes de communication

Les propos attribués à Jean Wolff, gestionnaire principal des communications de la CCN, dans la Rotonde du 8 décembre 2014, ont achevé de me convaincre que celui-ci mérite une retraite anticipée :  http://www.larotonde.ca/parc-gatineau-parc-aime-gere/.

Pour avoir un brin de crédibilité, la Commission de la capitale nationale doit communiquer des faits, et non des bêtises, voire des mensonges, comme le fait souvent ce personnage.

En citant les nombreuses balivernes de M. Wolff in extenso, l’article rapporte que « la CCN nie toutes les accusations de M. Murray » au sujet du parc de la Gatineau, de ses limites, de son territoire et des obligations de la société de la couronne à cet égard. Facile à dire; autrement difficile à illustrer… 

Première bêtise de M. Wolff : « Les limites du parc sont claires, effectives et non contestées depuis des décennies. Les limites actuelles sont établies et consacrées depuis le milieu des années 1990 ». Pauvre M. Wolff : ce disant, il illustre l’ampleur de son ignorance des faits. Rappelons que les limites du Parc ont été fixées par décret en conseil en 1960 (CP 1960-579), et qu’elles peuvent exclusivement être modifiées par un autre instrument législatif. C’est d’ailleurs ce que confirment toutes les feuilles d’analyse de la CCN à cet égard (obtenues par accès à l’information). Or, la modification des limites effectuée en 1997 n’a été enchâssée par aucun instrument législatif. Ergo : le Parc a subi un retranchement territorial très considérable de huit kilomètres carrés. La question de privilège soulevée à cet égard par l’honorable Mira Spivak au Sénat le 22 novembre 2005, en dit très long sur la pourriture qui continue de ronger la CCN.

Deuxième bêtise : et M. Wolff de poursuivre sa litanie d’âneries en me prêtant des propos : « Il n’y a pas, il n’y a pas eu et il n’y aura pas de construction privée sur des terres du Parc. M. Murray n’a toujours pas prouvé ses assertions de construction sur les terres du Parc ». Or je n’ai jamais dit que des constructions avaient eu lieu sur des terres publiques dans le Parc. Une minable tentative de la part de M. Wolff pour me discréditer : il imagine des « propos » loufoques, qu’il m’attribue ensuite, avant de les réfuter pour se donner l’air d’un grand seigneur bien au fait de la situation. Exactement comme on fait dans une république de bananes…

Ce que j’affirme depuis plus d’une décennie, c’est que la CCN viole son propre plan directeur, et ses obligations en vertu de la Masse de terrains d’intérêt national, en permettant la construction de nouvelles maisons dans le Parc. Depuis 1992, 132 nouvelles constructions ont été aménagées dans le Parc. Nous en avons fait le calcul au moyen de demandes d’accès à l’information, et en les recensant nous même.  

Troisième bêtise de M. Wolff – et là il se couvre vraiment de ridicule : il affirme envers et contre toutes les preuves du contraire que l’autoroute 5 ne sillonne pas le Parc. « L’Autoroute 5 n’est pas dans le parc », dit-il grossièrement. Toutefois, on n’a qu’à consulter une carte routière pour confirmer qu’une bonne partie de cette route est dans le Parc, et que son plus récent prolongement empiète sur environ 80 acres de son territoire.

Quatrième bêtise de M. Wolff : il nie que la CCN est propriétaire des terres dites québécoises dans le secteur du lac La Pêche. Ces terres ont été transférées à la CCN en vertu d’une entente signée avec la province et de deux décrets en conseil. Par ailleurs, le Comité pour la protection du parc de la Gatineau est intervenu sur cette question devant le Tribunal administratif du Québec, forçant le ministère de la Justice de la province à retirer sa requête. Notons que même l’ancienne première dirigeante de la CCN, Micheline Dubé, nous a confirmé par lettre que ces terres appartiennent à la CCN.

Cinquième bêtise de M. Wolff, là où il confirme l’ampleur de la gangrène qui ronge la CCN tout en illustrant la médiocrité de son raisonnement : il dit qu’il « faut se poser des questions sur la nature et la constitution du Comité pour la protection du parc de la Gatineau... Il faut aussi questionner la qualité de la recherche et la méthodologie qui soutiennent certaines conclusions de M. Murray ». Bien sur, M. Wolff, n’offre aucune réfutation crédible aux faits que nous présentons, ni aucun exemple d’erreurs sur le plan de la recherche ou de la méthodologie. Il tente par ailleurs d’effacer notre très considérable contribution à l’évolution du Parc : reconnaissance officielle de ses véritables origines, dépôt de huit mesures législatives dans les deux Chambres du Parlement, opposition au projet immobilier du chemin Carman, intervention auprès du Tribunal administratif au sujet des terres dites québécoises, et je le souligne : le  secrétaire adjoint de notre comité, Michael Lait, déposera d’ici la fin de l’automne une thèse de doctorat intitulée « The Rotting Heart of Gatineau Park (« Le cœur pourrissant du parc de la Gatineau »).

De toute évidence, ce gaffeur devrait être limogé séance tenante. Mais non, la CCN continue de le récompenser en lui confiant la responsabilité de propager des bêtises, voire des mensonges, en son nom. Soulignons qu'il est gestionnaire principal des communications pour la CCN...

Si j’ai attendu aussi longtemps avant de rédiger cette réplique, c’est que j’avais d’autres chats à fouetter…

 

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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