Lopoukhine: NCC must decide to truly protect Gatineau Park

By Nikita Lopoukhine, Ottawa Citzen, January 20, 2021

The National Capital Commission (NCC) board of directors will meet on Thursday to consider the fate of Gatineau Park. After much consultation and input from citizens, special interest groups and an advisory panel, the Gatineau Park Master Plan will be deliberated by board members.

The draft plan, released for public review in the fall of 2020, focused on conservation. Comments received were incorporated into a final plan. It is not clear how many of these comments were included in the plan submitted to the Board because the final version is not open for review.

But an important point that the draft plan raised is the glaring absence of governing legislation for the park.

The National Capital Act establishes a 15-member Commission (board of directors) that meets periodically to address topics that vary from the development of LeBreton Flats to issues affecting the Greenbelt and Gatineau Park. The NCC reports to Parliament through Minister Anita Anand, as designated by an order under the National Capital Act. This Act establishes and assigns responsibilities to the NCC but interestingly does not reference Gatineau Park other than providing for payments to municipalities in lieu of taxes.

Park plans are not an easy document to prepare and, in the case of Gatineau Park, even more difficult. Gatineau Park is a federal park, as are Banff or Fundy national parks, belonging to all Canadians. The park is the most visited in Canada on a per capita basis, with multiple access points and many vested interests focused on recreation, private property owners, and adjoining municipal plans. Assuring conservation outcomes without a governing statute is a complex task taken on by NCC staff.

The implications of not having governing legislation and thus no oversight by Parliament are many. Park boundary changes, for example, are at the whim of the NCC. The fact that a revised master plan is being considered by unelected commissioners is in sharp contrast to the national park example, wherein the minister responsible for national parks signs off on publicly released plans and tables them in Parliament.

https://ottawacitizen.com/opinion/lopoukhine-ncc-must-decide-to-truly-protect-gatineau-park