• Hunter Cresswell

Citizen petition surpasses signature goal

NCC also not paying La Pêche in full

The tax dispute between Chelsea and the National Capital Commission is heading to the House of Commons.

It only took five days for a citizen petition to reach the 500 required citizens for it to be tabled by Chelsea resident and Pontiac MP William Amos in the House of Commons. The petition demands that the NCC, among other things, honour a February recommendation from the Payment in Lieu of Taxes Dispute Advisory Panel to pay the municipality of Chelsea $589,427.

A citizen petition to bring awareness about the ongoing tax dispute between the municipality of Chelsea and the National Capital Commission to the House of Commons exceeded 500 signatures this week. Photo courtesy of the NCC

NCC public, legal, and corporate affairs vice president Nicolas Ruszkowski in this week’s Valley Voice on page 4 states that the Crown corporation, which owns and manages Gatineau Park and other greenspaces and parks around the Ottawa area, is still analyzing that recommendation.

According to the House of Commons website, the petition submitted by Chelsea resident Marcel Chartrand on March 24 was signed 582 times by the morning of April 5.

“The NCC must live up to its community responsibilities,” Amos told The Low Down during a March 29 phone interview.

He said that he doesn’t agree with all the wording of the petition, but will still table it, which means that he will summarize the petition while the House of Commons is in session to enter it into the formal records of Parliament.

“I’m choosing to table it because it represents the will of a considerable number of citizens,” Amos said.

Chelsea resident Brendan Denovan helped draft the letter that led to this petition.

“It’s also a call to action,” he said. “This is just asking the NCC to keep their word.”

In January 2019, then-NCC CEO Mark Kristmanson wrote a letter to Denovan saying that the NCC would respect the panel’s process and follow its decision.

The petition also calls for the NCC to follow the Dispute Advisory Panel’s December 2019 recommendation to pay the city of Gatineau in a similar tax dispute over Gatineau Park lands and to also pay the municipality of Pontiac in another similar dispute.

Municipality of Pontiac Mayor Joanne Labadie said the NCC didn’t make the full payments in lieu of taxes in 2020, which totals about $138,000.

“It works out to be about two per cent of our operating budget,” she said. “We’re not a rich municipality; it’s significant.”

This costs the average Pontiac taxpayer around $42 on their property tax bill, Labadie said.

The municipality of Pontiac has already hired the same legal team that represented Chelsea and Gatineau.

“Our intention is also to get a hearing at the Dispute Advisory Panel,” Labadie said.

Gatineau Park stretches across four municipalities; two of which have already had Dispute Advisory Panel hearings and one is gearing up to schedule a hearing. That leaves the municipality of La Pêche. It also isn’t getting paid all the payments in lieu of taxes it’s owed under the most recent property value assessment conducted by the MRC.

“Now that’s four municipalities out of four that have the Gatineau Park [and] that haven’t received [full] payments from the NCC,” Chelsea Mayor and MRC des Collines Prefect Caryl Green said.

La Pêche Mayor Guillaume Lamoureux wasn’t immediately available for comment on the issue, but didn’t deny that the municipality is owed money from the NCC, when reached by phone.

The petition is still open for more signatures, visit petitions.ourcommons.ca to sign.

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