Pontiac OK’s building inside Gatineau Park
The municipality of Pontiac’s August 8 public consultation on a new bylaw to allow residential construction inside Gatineau Park was all smoke and mirrors.
The premise was to give Pontiac residents who live inside Gatineau Park “the same rights as everyone else in the municipality.” That is utter nonsense, because “everyone else” doesn’t live inside a federal park where all private properties are targeted for acquisition by the National Capital Commission. According to two NCC task forces, all private properties of 10 or more acres were given Level 1 priority for acquisition because they might be subdivided.
Pontiac’s new bylaw would affect almost 300 acres. For instance, one gentleman supporting the new bylaw, Pierre Gervais, owns 108 acres inside the park. And according to the NCC’s own list of private properties there, at least two other sizable lots could be subdivided: Ms Sheila McCrindle owns 56 acres; Ms Katharine Fletcher owns 47 acres. That’s at least 211 acres.
At the meeting, Pontiac officials attempted to allay (the NCC’s) fears of subdivisions by weak and misleading assurances. First, they claimed that developments were nearly impossible, given the protection afforded by Quebec’s farmland zoning, underlining that this act is “among the strictest in the country,” and “at arm’s length” from political interference. More nonsense: every act can be amended by the National Assembly. Moreover, between 2005 and 2014, Quebec’s Commission for Protecting Agricultural Lands (CPTAQ) approved 63% of requests for removing land from agricultural zones: over 23,000 acres were de-zoned. The provincial government has also gotten around the Act by using executive orders to remove lands from farm zoning. Pontiac officials conveniently overlook the fact that the municipality’s own website contains a CPTAQ ruling that removed one property from agricultural protection.
Second, Pontiac officials claimed that some properties couldn’t be developed because they lack road access. But Sections 997 to 1001 of the Quebec Civil Code provide for the creation of rights of way to gain access to landlocked or wedged properties. So, these properties in the Park could be granted a right of way before being subdivided and developed.
Pontiac officials don’t seem to understand that all these properties are inside Gatineau Park and part of the National Interest Land Mass, and that any development on them is a frontal attack on the park’s ecological vocation, the public purse, and on all Canadians.
The Supreme Court (Munro v. NCC) has ruled that the federal government can impose zoning throughout the National Capital Region in all matters deemed to be of “national concern”. Accordingly, it should adopt an Order in Council imposing a development freeze throughout Gatineau Park. Other options would be to purchase the properties or expropriate them if they are subdivided.