By Hunter Cresswell
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in Chelsea to discuss federal aid for businesses during the pandemic, and The Low Down took the opportunity to ask him about a local news item with federal repercussions.
He held a press conference at Biscotti & cie in Old Chelsea Village where he talked about the federal wage subsidy program, since that café is an example of a business that wouldn’t have been able to operate at all during the pandemic without it, owner Manuela Teixeira told this reporter after the conference.
During a brief question period, The Low Down was afforded the opportunity to ask Trudeau about what work was being done to settle the ongoing payment dispute between Chelsea and the National Capital Commission, given that the press conference was held in the municipality of Chelsea, just across the street from an entrance into the NCC’s Gatineau Park.
“I know this is an issue that has been ongoing for a long time and I’m certain the appropriate authorities are engaging in ways to resolve it in the right way,” Trudeau answered.
With that political, non-answer in hand, The Low Down later asked Pontiac MP William Amos and Mayor Caryl Green, who both attended the event, for further comment.
“We’re looking at three years of unpaid taxes and penalties and interest,” Green said about the disputed amount of payment in lieu of property taxes the municipality says it’s owed from the NCC.
“We will be approaching $2 million,” she added.
Green said the municipality is waiting for a confirmation that the NCC will be available for a hearing in November.
The NCC contests the MRC des Collines most recent reevaluation of property values across the park that saw the NCC’s debt to Chelsea – i.e. monies owed in lieu of the taxes that would be due if the property was privately owned – rise to $242,000. The commission contends that increase in its bill is because parkland properties were assessed at values comparable to development lands instead of lands held for conservation, which is the intent in Gatineau Park.
“The conversations and discussions are ongoing. Obviously the matter is before the dispute settlement process. We’ll have to see how that process unfolds,” Amos said, adding that he has spoken with Trudeau and municipal officials about the issue.
“We have an open channel of communication and I think the municipality feels they are able to get their message through,” Amos said.
Gatineau Park takes up 65 per cent of the total area of the municipality, but represents less than 10 per cent of the municipality’s tax revenue. While property taxes in the village centre have increased by up to 400 per cent, on average all lands in the municipality have increased by just 19 per cent.