Lipstick on a Pig, or the Appalling Mismanagement of Gatineau Park

Lipstick on a Pig, or the Appalling Mismanagement of Gatineau Park
Posted on August 13, 2016 | Jean-Paul Murray | Written on August 12, 2016
Letter type:

Author's Note:

Author's Note:

The NCC's CEO tries, but fails, to paint a rosy picture of Gatineau Park

NCC CEO Mark Kristmanson’s August 11 op-ed in the Ottawa Citizen is pure Orwellian claptrap, lipstick on a pig, a limp  apology for NCC impotence and incompetence.

There are so many things wrong with what he says. The worst part: he throws up a smokescreen by saying urbanization is taking place outside the park, whereas it's destroying the park's core to the tune of 132 news houses built there since 1992—among other things. He also tries to excuse his failure to implement the NCC's Master Plan at Meech Lake by saying development of private properties is "a municipal responsibility... a crucial responsibility..." That’s what I call buck-passing mediocrity. It's the NCC's responsibility to stop development in the park by virtue of the National Capital Act (sections 10 and 14), the National Interest Land Mass, every Master Plan ever written and two task force reports. And he’s been a disaster  in that regard—four new houses have gone up at Meech Lake on his watch, two of them right next to a public beach. Even former NCC CEO Marie Lemay didn't let new developments go up right next to public beaches...

The NCC has several options in its tool kit for stopping development in the park, the final recourse being expropriation. Over the years, the agency has stopped major subdivisions through purchase (Carman Road) and expropriation (Woodhouse and MacInnis developments), yet it has allowed 11 new houses at Meech Lake since 2006, which is tantamount to a major subdivision by increments...

Moreover, saying private lands make up only 2 percent of the park's territory is a red herring: those properties crowd around the heart of the park—Meech Lake and Kingsmere—which get huge numbers of visitors. Residences seriously undermine the visitor experience and give the impression that this public park is more of a private club or gated community. Meech Lake residents have, for decades, been lobbying to force closure of Blanchet Beach and the McCloskey boat launch, while Kingsmere residents have managed to persuade the NCC to close the Booth Picnic site, to make way for several new mansions...

The NCC CEO’s saying that park health is good ignores the mess at Meech Lake, where 80% of residents, according to a municipal report, continue to violate the shoreline restoration bylaw, seven years after it was implemented, where 119 structures have been built without permit—79 of them on the lakebed, which is NCC property. So what's he going to do about that? Utter more nonsense about park residents being “stewards of the land,” (see page 70 of the draft Plan for Canada’s Capital) or say he wants to work in close partnership with the Chelsea mayor who continues to recklessly issue building permits for lands the NCC has been directed to acquire? Besides, Kristmanson didn’t write a single word about lac La Pêche being slowly choked to death by a Eurasian milfoil infestation. Good health, my foot!

Kristmanson’s claim that the park's ecological footprint has increased is utter nonsense when you calculate the 132 new houses and four new roads built there since 1992, the eight  square kilometres of land removed behind closed doors, and the NCC's failure to secure new boundaries for the park. Every NCC analysis and submission sheet on this issue provides irrefutable confirmation of the need for new boundaries to make up for the "rationalization" that took place in the late nineties.... So the Meech Creek valley still isn't inside the park's legal boundary (as set by Order in Council P.C. 1960-579), while the Wakefield Community Centre, the crematorium, Giant Tiger, Tim Horton's, Subway, etc. all are... And didn’t the NCC mislead Parliament on the boundaries issue in 2005? Senator Mira Spivak’s Question of Privilege is a strong indictment of the agency in that regard (See Senate Debates, November 22, 2005, pp. 2132-2134, and November 23, 2005, p. 2143).

But that isn’t the only claptrap peddled by the NCC. Dr. Kristmanson’s administration still maintains that 61.5 square kilometres of park land belong to the Quebec government—see the map on page 12 in the clumsily hatched draft Plan for Canada’s Capital for evidence—although those lands were transferred to the federal government by order in council in 1973. The NCC even managed to get Minister Mélanie Joly to mislead Parliament about this on January 29, 2016, when she tabled the NCC's Annual Report which vaporizes federal ownership of those lands (the NCC even had two versions of this Annual Report on its Web site making contradictory claims about those lands)... Think about it: that’s the first thing the new Liberal government did regarding the park.

Kristmanson is right to say the park is unique. A unique disaster, an utter and complete embarrassment and betrayal of a public trust...

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I also wish to flag a grammatical mistake in the first paragraph, a subject-verb disagreement (proximity and beauty are two different concepts). As well, Dr. Kristmanson erroneously claims that Gatineau Park has been around for six decades; however, it was founded in 1938, so that makes it nearly eight decades. Dr. Kristmanson is an historian and he really should know better than to erase history. I guess that's what he gets for hiring over-qualified writers who know little or nothing about the NCC. Pathetic... There are other factual errors, and I invite readers to highlight them...  


About The Author

Jean-Paul Murray's picture

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