By Jean-Paul Murray
Gatineau Park will mark its 75th anniversary (see footnote 1) on July 1st this year and the National Capital Commission (NCC) is celebrating this milestone in the grandest style – by allowing yet another monster house to defile the Meech Lake shoreline.
This latest eyesore, measuring 100×60 feet, is being built on land the NCC has been mandated to acquire by virtue of a 1988 Treasury Board Directive.
In that directive, all lands in Gatineau Park were folded into the National Interest Land Mass – which which means they are of great importance for building the nation’s capital, and that they must be acquired at some point (see footnote 2).
So, if buying out all private landowners is the directive, then the NCC is grossly inflating the cost of completing Gatineau Park by allowing this construction and others. And it’s thumbing its nose at all of us as taxpaying Canadians.
But the NCC can do something. Its governing legislation allows it to pass bylaws to forbid construction in the park. It can also issue notices of intention to expropriate – or proceed with outright expropriations if owners refuse to negotiate.
Unfortunately, the NCC seems more interested in protecting landowners’ rights than those of all Canadians. When I asked them about this latest violation to the park’s master plan, they answered that “construction by private property owners remains their right, and furthermore, any building permits related to residential properties fall within municipal jurisdiction.”
What about the public’s right to a democratically-managed park? What about this construction being a violation of the letter and spirit of the National Interest Land Mass and all park master plans? And why in God’s name did Chelsea council issue a permit allowing another monster house at Meech Lake?
Don’t these geniuses understand that private property is incompatible with Gatineau Park? Don’t they realize it destroys and pollutes the environment, undermines public access and the visitor experience? That it diverts public funds from park conservation to deal with improper uses?
From my perspective, this new house — this Meech Lake ‘tombstone’ – marks the death of Gatineau Park’s public and ecological vocation, just in time to celebrate the park’s 75th anniversary.
– (Footnote 1 – Gatineau Park visionary gets his due: The NCC is finally recognizing Roderick Percy Sparks’ key role in preserving the capital region’s finest piece of greenspace, Patrick Dare. The Ottawa Citizen, Saturday, July 9, 2005, p. E3).
– (Footnote 2 – About National Capital Commission Lands, National Capital Commission, Ottawa, September 2006, p. 4).
Ed. note: Jean-Paul Murray is secretary of the Gatineau Park Protection Committee.