---Greg Fergus hosts town hall on future of Gatineau Park
Wanting some insight from the public on a meaningful local resource, Hull-Aylmer MP Greg Fergus invited the community to join him for a virtual town hall on November 19, focusing on the future of Gatineau Park. Hosted alongside Gatineau Park Director Christie Spence, the dicussion had more than 492 visits and reached more than 800 people via Facebook.
The event included a presentation on the revised plan for the Gatineau Park, led by Spence, followed by a Q&A session. Receiving dozens of questions from residents in English and French throughout the meeting, Fergus said he was delighted with the community’s participation to an amicable conversation. “I’m thrilled that people take an hour out of their time at the end of the day to come in and listen,” Fergus said. “Even if it hit two people, I think it’s really great. I mean look at what’s happening in the world … people can’t even talk. It’s important to have these discussions so people hear different perspectives. It’s not confrontational. We might not all agree. But let’s discuss.”
Noting that the Gatineau Park is near and dear to locals, Fergus believed it was necessary to give residents a platform to voice their opinions on what it needs. “It was just continuing the process of keeping our ears to the ground with our constituents,” Fergus said.
While under Federal government jurisdiction – managed by the National Capital Commission - he clarified that the Gatineau Park is divided into numerous parts with varying legal frameworks. Spence noted that around 80 per cent of the park’s visitors are locals.
Among other subjects brought up during the discussion, the main themes focused on how the park is protected, what more can be done to enhance its preservation and how people should use it. “People want the park protected,” Fergus said. “No matter what the question was, they love the park. They want access to the park and they want to protect it. Sometimes there’s a bit of contradiction. We love the beauty of the park. But we don’t want to crowd it, and we want to also have full access.”
Fergus said the most important aspect of the park’s management will be finding a compromise between promoting its natural conservation and providing adequate community access. “It’s good to have a park,” Fergus said. But if you don’t have people using it, yes, it serves literally our lungs for the region. But we also have to give people an opportunity to go out. Or else, they’re going to strike their own trails.” Noting that the event helped him better understand certain issues about the park, Fergus said he will use the information from the discussion to write a report for his constituents.
While he’s enjoyed being able to connect with locals despite the current circumstances, Fergus admitted that limiting social interactions to the internet has made work more exhausting. “I’m not complaining,” Fergus said. “I’m not working the mines … but 12 and a half hours of looking at a camera, it can get a little tiring, more than I ever would have thought. I much prefer having face to face meetings.”
Before the pandemic, Fergus hosted his town hall meetings in public, notably at l’Université du Québec en Outaouais (UQO). His next virtual meeting will take place on November 26, an open mic event where people can ask their local MP anything.