NCC Watch

Working to consign the NCC to oblivion

Search string: "c-37"

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Bill C-20 approved at committee

Bill C-20 (formerly known as C-37), a set of tepid reforms to the National Capital Act, is now heading toward second reading. The bill includes some enhanced protection for Gatineau Park, garnering mixed reviews from some park watchers. The Citizen recaps some of the five year (and counting) odyssey of the bill:

Federal legislation that would for the first time legally recognize the boundaries of the Gatineau Park is a step closer to reality, although at least one activist believes the bill does not go far enough to protect the park.

Bill C-20, officially an "act to amend the National Capital Act and other Acts" (or, more colloquially, "An Action Plan for the National Capital Commission") was approved at committee this past week. It's expected to clear the House of Commons before the Christmas break.

Among other things, the bill defines Gatineau Park's boundaries and stipulates that land can be sold - or added to - only by an order of the Governor in Council (which is basically the federal cabinet), instead of by the NCC.

[...]Bill C-20 also calls for the Greenbelt to be protected by legislation. The NCC has up to five years to define what the official boundaries of the Greenbelt are.

The question of protecting Gatineau Park in legislation has had something of a tortured history for several years. In 2005, then-NDP MP Ed Broadbent introduced a private member's bill on the issue. Dewar reintroduced it in 2006.

In 2009,the Conservative government introduced its own bill regarding the NCC and Gatineau Park, but that bill died when Parliament was prorogued at the end of December for two months. Then in April, Ottawa West-Nepean MP John Baird - then the minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Communities and responsible for the NCC - reintroduced the bill yet again.

Meanwhile, the extension of autoroute 5 in and around Gatineau Park remains a threat. From the Citizen:

Running a four-lane highway north from Chelsea to Wakefield will destroy a lot of forest and wildlife in, or just beside, Gatineau Park, says a coalition of environment groups.

Quebec has proposed a 6.5-kilometre extension of the four-lane Highway 5 through an area now served by the two-lane Highway 105.

This comes as Parliament has given second reading to Bill C-20, which would require the National Capital Commission to protect the ecological integrity of Gatineau Park. The park today doesn't have legally protected status and borders, as national parks do.

[...]The proposed highway corridor would be a minimum of 150 metres wide, and would require cutting 88 hectares of forest, with an estimated 8,800 trees, said Huggett. Some of this lies in the park; more lies outside the park's boundary, but still on NCC land.

Citizen: Gatineau Park won't benefit from bill: critic [10 November 2010]
Citizen: Environmentalists oppose Highway 5 extension from Chelsea to Wakefield [10 November 2010]
Citizen: NDP abandons Gatineau Park commitment [4 November 2010]
Citizen: NDP's efforts secured better protection of Gatineau Park [6 November 2010]GPPC: Dewar wrong: bill doesn't protect park boundaries [8 November 2010]

Friday, April 30, 2010

Government to continue "efforts in modernizing the NCC"

The prorogued Bill C-37, a set of tepid reforms to the National Capital Act, returns as Bill C-20:

Canada's Transport Minister John Baird and the Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of State (National Capital Commission), today announced that the Government of Canada has reintroduced legislation to amend the National Capital Act (NCA), the enabling statute of the National Capital Commission (NCC).

Transport Canada: Government of Canada continues efforts in modernizing the National Capital Commission [30 Apr 2010]
The Lowdown: Gatineau Park is not a Park [26 May 2010]
Gatineau Park News: Legislative summary of Bill C-20 [7 June 2010]
NCC Watch: Bill C-37

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

NCC bill dead, but will probably rise again

The government's NCC touch-up bill C-37 has died with the recent prorogation, but according to Le Droit, it will likely return in some form:

Mort au feuilleton, le projet de loi sur la Commission de la capitale nationale (CCN) devrait renaître de ses cendres avec plusieurs couches de vernis. C'est du moins ce que souhaitent certains députés fédéraux, qui ont passé les dernières semaines de 2009 à éplucher le texte législatif, pour finalement se faire couper l'herbe sous le pied par la prorogation du Parlement.

[...]Pour le député libéral de Hull-Aylmer, Marcel Proulx, il s'agit d'une manoeuvre indécente, qui a pour effet de renvoyer des projets de loi à la case départ. « Les témoignages peuvent toujours être utilisés, parce qu'on a les transcriptions, mais le travail comme tel est à recommencer », dit-il.

Au total, 41 amendements ont été présentés en comité parlementaire, tant par les conservateurs (14) que par les bloquistes (14), les libéraux (8) et les néo-démocrates (5). Les députés d'opposition souhaitent que le nouveau texte législatif en tienne compte. « S'ils redéposent le même projet de loi, c'est de la mauvaise foi », estime M. Proulx.

Le bureau du ministre responsable de la CCN, Lawrence Cannon, a laissé entendre hier que le projet de loi serait rapidement remis sur les rails, après la rentrée parlementaire. « Nous tenterons d'obtenir l'accord de l'opposition pour faire adopter rapidement les projets de loi du gouvernement, y compris le projet de loi de la CCN », a assuré un porte-parole du ministre Cannon, par courriel.

(The article is also available in an English translation at GuideGatineau.)

Le Droit: Le projet de loi sur la CCN est appelé à renaître [6 Jan 2010]
GuideGatineau: Dead on the Order Paper: NCC bill to be reintroduced [6 Jan 2010]
Citizen: Gatineau Park bill dies in prorogation [11 Jan 2010]

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

NCC bill still in committee

Bill C-37, introduced back in the summer, is still grinding its way through parliament, with forty or so amendments tabled against it according to Le Droit:

Présenté le 9 juin dernier, le projet de loi C-37 assure une pro­­tection accrue au parc de la Ga­­tineau, en plus d'introduire un train de mesures touchant la gouvernance de la CCN. Le document législatif est scruté à la loupe par le Comité parle­­mentaire des transports, de l'in­­frastructure et des collectivités, sur lequel siègent notamment les députés Marcel Proulx (Hull-Aylmer), Richard Nadeau (Gatineau), Mario Laframboise (Argenteuil-Papineau-Mirabel) et Mauril Bélanger (Ottawa-Vanier).

Le comité parlementaire a en­­tendu de nombreux témoins, dont le ministre John Baird, qui coparraine le projet de loi. Au total, 41 amendements ont été présentés, tant par les conservateurs (14) que par les bloquistes (14), les libéraux (8) et les néo-démocrates (5). Pour le député Marcel Proulx, le projet de loi ratisse si large, qu'il était impensable qu'il soit adopté avant la fin de l'année. « C'est loin d'être strictement un projet de loi qui protège le parc de la Gatineau, dit-il. C'est une réforme de la gou­­vernance de la CCN, ce qui ouvre toutes sortes de portes. »

(The article is also available in an English translation at GuideGatineau.)

Le Droit: Le projet de Cannon fortement revu [23 Dec 2009]
GuideGatineau: Minister Cannon disappointed with C-37 progress [23 Dec 2009]

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

NCC misleads Parliament on park boundaries

OttawaStart has a post from the Gatineau Park Protection Committee highlighting the NCC's own confusion about Gatineau Park's boundaries:

The NCC's CEO Marie Lemay and Chair Russell Mills appeared today before the Commons Transport Committee to support the Conservative government's Bill C-37, the so-called Action Plan for the Nation's Capital.

"Ms. Lemay has had 22 months on the job to get her act together and she should know better than to say the size of Gatineau Park has increased by some 1,700 acres," said Mr. McDermott. "The lands Ms. Lemay refers to may be part of the National Interest Land Mass, and the NCC may wish they were in Gatineau Park, but legally they are clearly outside the park," said [GPPC co-chair] Mr. McDermott.

The NCC's own 1995 documents say "The boundaries of Gatineau Park [were] established by the Order in Council in 1960," adding that "new Gatineau Park boundaries [would require] an amendment to the 1960 Order in Council which legally created the park." However, no new Order in Council has ever been adopted to ratify the park's so-called 1997 boundary. In legal terms, only the 1960 boundary is valid, which means the Meech Creek Valley is legally outside the park, and that the park has suffered a net loss of 1,842 acres since 1992.

"Not only did Ms. Lemay get it wrong on the boundaries, she also misled the committee over NCC ownership of 12,500 acres of Gatineau Park, falsely claiming the titles still had to be registered," said Mr. McDermott. "That is utter and complete nonsense, since all the NCC needs to claim ownership of those 12,500 acres is a transfer of control and management from the province, which is exactly what it got by virtue of a 1973 agreement," said Mr. McDermott.

[...]Gatineau Park's boundaries were set by a legal instrument years ago. On April 29, 1960, the federal government approved Order in Council P.C. 1960-579 which included a plan "indicating the Gatineau Park boundary." Moreover, various documents prepared by senior officials for the NCC's executive management committee confirm that the 1960 decree set the park's legal boundary and that any changes to it would require a new Order in Council.

Over the last two years, however, the NCC has been changing its story on the exact nature of those boundaries. For instance, it told Senator Mira Spivak in 2004 that "the legal boundary of the park ... had been established by federal Order in Council in 1960." And then, in a complete reversal about a year later, it told Ottawa-Centre MP Ed Broadbent that "the 1960 Order in Council did not establish the park boundary." Adding to the confusion, NCC Chairman Marcel Beaudry said in a letter of April 12, 2005 to senators that Treasury Board had approved the park's new boundary in 1997. However, in response to a written question from Senator Spivak seeking clarification, the NCC now said that the Treasury Board decision had not established the park boundary...

And in the wake of these contradictions the NCC has also claimed that Gatineau Park's boundary was set by everything from the Meech Creek Valley Land Use Concept, to National Interest Land Mass designation, to section 10(2)(c) of the National Capital Act.

Little over a year ago, the NCC was trumpeting the fact that they had actually managed to figure out the park boundaries.

OttawaStart: NCC Misleads Parliament -- Again [28 Oct 2009]
NCC Watch: NCC Board confirms Gatineau Park boundaries [4 Apr 2008]

Friday, October 9, 2009

NCC bill in committee

The Citizen has coverage of committee hearings for the new NCC bill (C-37) introduced in the summer:

The expropriation powers of the National Capital Commission should be repealed to protect private property rights within Gatineau Park, federal Transport Minister John Baird told a House of Commons committee meeting Monday, while an advocate argued that the land must be given legal federal status, otherwise it is really just a park in name only.

Baird, who introduced a bill to protect the boundaries and natural environment of Gatineau Park, said the government wants to guard the rights of private property owners in the park.

Bill C-37 stops short of declaring Gatineau Park a national park, but designates its boundaries and allows the NCC to administer it. The NCC will also be required to maintain the park's "ecological integrity."

The chairwoman of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society's Gatineau Park Committee, Muriel How, said Bill C-37 has serious deficiencies, since it does not adequately deal with the issue of ecological preservation or provide the legal means to control private development within the park.

[...]Baird said Bill C-37 won't satisfy all concerns about the NCC and Gatineau Park, but it does require public board meetings, a five-year master plan and a list of lands to be preserved in the national interest. He said new regulatory powers would allow the commission to protect the park's ecological integrity.

Critics of the bill argue that new housing permitted within the park has been chipping away at its boundaries and causing erosion around some of its most beautiful lakes.

Citizen: Baird wants an end to NCC expropriation rights in Gatineau Park [9 Oct 2009]
CBC: NCC should lose power to seize private land [10 Oct 2009]

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

More tinkering with the National Capital Act

The government today announced an "Action Plan for the National Capital Commission." This Plan of Action consists of a few mild proposals for changing the National Capital Act:

Highlights of the proposed legislation (Bill C-37):

  • The NCC's board be required to hold at least four meetings in public per year, and may hold parts of a meeting in camera if required;
  • The NCC be required to submit, at least once every ten years, a 50-year master plan for the National Capital Region, for approval by the Governor in Council and tabling in Parliament;
  • The NCC's existing responsibility for the six official residences and for certain elements of transportation planning in the National Capital Region be reflected in the Act;
  • The NCC may designate or remove designations of properties that are part of the National Interest Land Mass only if regulations setting out the criteria and process have been introduced;
  • The NCC must manage its properties in accordance with principles of responsible environmental stewardship;
  • The NCC be required to give due regard to maintaining the ecological integrity of Gatineau Park;
  • The boundaries of Gatineau Park are described in a schedule;
  • The NCC may make regulations prescribing user fees, which under this new legislation, would require Governor in Council approval;
  • New and enhanced regulatory authorities and enforcement provisions to enable the NCC to better protect its properties; and
  • The NCC no longer be required to seek Governor in Council approval through an Order in Council for individual real estate transactions such as acquisitions, disposals and leases.

This follows on from previous tinkering after the Mandate Review from a couple years back, and leaves the NCC to go about its business in much the same way they always have.

The NCC board meetings are already public - excepting those portions that aren't - so no real changes there. The NCC has never been short of plans, just worthwhile achievements, so requiring them to submit yet another plan every 10 years is something that, if we were in the government's shoes, we'd have kept to ourselves.

The government release does mention that "a transparent regulatory regime be established before properties can be designated as part of the National Interest Land Mass." So perhaps when the government is done, the mysterious and arbitrary process by which the NCC buys and sells land will become less mysterious, although probably no less arbitrary.

The release also includes vague language about "due regard for ecological integrity" and "principles of responsible environmental stewardship" - more specifics in due course, no doubt.

"Enhanced regulatory authorities" is, of course not something you want to hear about an already regulation-happy group like the NCC. And, lest they forget, they've put those elusive park boundaries in a schedule - well that should come in handy.

The legislation will be introduced in parliament this summer.

Citizen: New law would let NCC designate Gatineau Park lands [9 June 2009]
CBC: Gatineau Park gets more federal protection [10 June 2009]
Metro: Rules don't go far enough for park: NDP [10 June 2009]
Release: Government of Canada presents an action plan for the National Capital Commission [9 June 2009]