NCC Watch

Working to consign the NCC to oblivion

Search string: "mackenzie"

Matches found: 27

Thursday, January 3, 2016

A look back at Ottawa's future

First interviewed last summer, Bruce Deachman provides an update on Alain Miguelez's book on the Gréber plan. From the Citizen:

But beyond simply offering photographic evidence of the city's growth, Transforming Ottawa explains the hows and whys behind the shaping and reshaping of Ottawa, particularly from 1950 to the mid-1980s. Subtitled Canada's Capital in the eyes of Jacques Gréber, it explains how an urban planner from Paris came to have such an influence on Ottawa's post-Second World War growth, what he intended and how it was implemented. For, unlike earlier city plans - major ones were undertaken in 1903, 1915 and 1922 - Gréber's 1950 blueprint is the one today's capital most resembles: The trains and industrial effluence have largely left the city core for the outskirts, while at the same time the verdancy we now hold so dear as beautifying also separates our neighbourhoods and makes Ottawa difficult to navigate without an automobile.

In other words, the Gréber Report's implementation changed Ottawa greatly, sometimes for the better, but often not.

The historic photos were commissioned by Gréber, who was hired by then-prime minister Mackenzie King to create a city plan worthy of a national capital, on the sort of scale of a Washington or London. The feeling at the time was that, almost 100 years after becoming Canada's capital, Ottawa was still very much a provincial town, and a growing sense loomed that it was time to make it more majestic.

Among Gréber's chief concerns were the numerous railroad tracks running through town and the concentration of heavy industry in Ottawa's core. His plan saw Union Station closed and a new one built on Tremblay Road, allowing Colonel By Drive to be built along the canal. But, Miguelez notes, the hope that those industries forced out of the downtown core and off the Ottawa River would relocate in the same direction as the station didn't pan out. Many of them simply chose to relocate or consolidate elsewhere, largely eliminating the city's blue-collar sector.

Miguelez is planning a second edition of the book for this spring.

Citizen: Transforming Ottawa: A look back to Ottawa's future [3 January 2016]

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Red tape strangles art project

An art installation about art, nature and bureaucracy has been nixed by the bureaucrats at the NCC. From the Citizen:

The art installation planned for Confederation Park was supposed to celebrate, most positively, the connections between art, nature and bureaucracy.

Designed by Ottawa artist Jennifer Macklem, the installation was to be on view during the annual Rideau Canal Festival July 28 to Aug. 1, and was to be titled The rapture coming to transfigure bureaucracy.

But there was a problem. The bureaucracy - specifically the bureaucrats at the National Capital Commission - were not enraptured with Macklem's creation and gave it a thumbs down.

Why? The art would have touched a tree.

[…]Macklem wanted to attach several strips of lightweight, biodegradable plastic to a high branch of the tree and then lead them earthward like sunbeams at a 45-degree angle to encircle a desk and chair placed on the grass.

The internationally renowned artist, who is a sculpture instructor at the University of Ottawa, said she is respectful of nature, including trees, and would have attached the plastic strips in such a way that no branch would be damaged. After all, she had created a similar installation, attached to a tree, for Winterlude this past February. And no one raised a fuss about that.

In fact, during the past two Winterludes, the NCC allowed art projects, including the one by Macklem, in Confederation Park that involved material wrapped around trees or branches.

[NCC spokesman Jean] Wolff said those projects were "experimental." No damage was done to the trees in those "pilot projects," he conceded, but officials felt it best to stop permitting artists to incorporate trees into art installations.

Macklem said she can understand the NCC having a policy that prevents damage to trees, but that the commission is essentially telling people "you are not allowed to touch a tree." She used such words as "juvenile," "appalling" and "humiliating" to describe her experience.

[…]Macklem had offered to use a lamppost on the nearby Mackenzie King Bridge instead of a tree, with the plastic strips pointed toward a spot on the grass of Confederation Park. The NCC killed that idea too. The latest proposal involves installing a dead tree in the park for Macklem to use.

Citizen: Red tape strangles artistic celebration [12 July 2011]

Friday, March 4, 2011

NCC frets over Congress Centre sign

As the new Congress Centre nears completion, the NCC is concerned that a proposal for a large electronic display facing Mackenzie King bridge could disturb the universal drabness of the area. From the Citizen:

Called the Art Wall, the Convention Centre sees the massive screen overlooking Mackenzie King Bridge as an innovative platform to showcase Canadian art, connect Ottawa interactively with the rest of the country, and create a new buzz in the city. It would also show live video of events and could feature sponsorship advertising.

But the Citizen has learned that the NCC, which has responsibility for safeguarding the historic character of the capital, doesn't like the proposal. The new convention centre, which is on the main ceremonial route, across from the Rideau Canal, and within the sight lines of the War Memorial and Parliament Buildings, sits in a historic centre of the city. And because of the location, NCC officials apparently believe the visual representations on the screen might be incongruous. More importantly, they worry that the screen might be exploited for commercial purposes, and sooner or later, distasteful advertising might appear near hallowed downtown sites. The NCC has the power to approve the convention centre design under a covenant covering the site, which in the distant past, used to belong to the federal government, convention centre officials say.

[...]Graham Bird, project manager for the convention centre, says the cutting-edge design of the new building represents what Ottawa can do, and using new media for the south wall is designed to push the envelope and help the city banish its reputation as a joyless place.

[...]The NCC will not say publicly how it feels about the art wall because it won't comment on a proposal under consideration. All spokesman Jean Wolff would say is that the proposal would be reviewed with an eye on the commission's responsibility to protect the character of the capital. The Citizen however, has learned that the commission's advisory committee on planning and design is meeting in Ottawa Thursday and Friday and will review the proposal.

"The NCC has received an application for this project and there is a review underway. No timeline has been set to provide the final decision. We have to let the process take its course," Wolff said.

Except in this case, apparently, as NCC CEO Marie Lemay was talking to the Citizen the very next day defending the NCC's right to question the proposal:

The proposed LED screen on the south wall of the Ottawa Convention Centre has wider implications for the capital and the National Capital Commission has a responsibility to ask tough questions in order to make the right decision for the future, the commission's chief executive Marie Lemay said Thursday.

[...]Lemay said the NCC has a mandate to safeguard the "inner character of the capital," including scenic landscapes and views along the Rideau Canal, and any proposal that might affect the surrounding environment has to be vetted. She said the NCC hasn't made up its mind on the proposal, and at this stage its permanent staff don't know whether they would recommend the screen to their board for approval or not. But they have enough concerns to raise for a healthy discussion. Among the questions: Is this the right thing to do, is this the right time to do it, and is it a good fit?

[...]Convention Centre executives appeared before the NCC's advisory committee on planning and design Thursday to present their proposal to a panel of architects, planners and designers drawn from across the country. The panel's comments will go to NCC staff who will make a recommendation to the board for a decision. Lemay couldn't say when the board will take the issue up, even though the centre is hoping to set up the screen in time for Canada Day.

Whatever happens, Lemay said the proposal has opened up a serious discussion about what kind of capital Ottawa should be, and whether innovations like new media screens should be part of its future.

"I don't know where this is going to end, and at the end of the day I don't know if we would recommend to the board to go down that path or not. But it is important that we seriously look at this and maybe it will also help us take a good look at the future," she said.

Considering the new screen will face NDHQ, the most conspicuously ugly building in the entire city, put there by the design visionaries at the NCC, and the NCC is also in the process of developing the LeBreton Flats to a whole new standard of ordinariness, remind us again why anyone pays the NCC the slightest attention in matters of design?

Citizen: Convention centre, NCC argue over the big picture [2 March 2011]
Citizen: Bright lights, growing city [3 March 2011]
Citizen: NCC guarding capital's character by questioning big screen near the canal, CEO says [4 March 2011]
Citizen: Picture the potential [4 March 2011]

Thursday, March 18, 2010

NCC releases Gatineau Park conservation plan

The NCC has announced another plan, this one for Gatineau Park - the Gatineau Park Ecosystem Conservation Plan. Apparently it will be essential reading up until 2035. As is usual for these plans, some group or other gets it in the neck; this time it's the rock climbers, who will see climbing routes developed over the past 50 years pared back to a handful. Apparently this is to protect and rehabilitate the Eardley Escarpment. From the CBC:

The commission is concerned climbers are trampling endangered plants and disrupting wildlife.

"The rock climbing is now happening all over the ecosystem and we need to address that," said Michel Viens, the NCC's senior manager of natural resources and land management.

Eric Grenier, chair of the Ottawa-Gatineau Climbers' Access Coalition, said the new restrictions are unfair because most climbers are already careful not to disturb the ecosystem.

"You'll be hard pressed to find a group of people who care more about the environment ... than people who spend as much of their free time in it as much as they can," said Grenier, who has been climbing for about six years.

The NCC's own eco-credentials have, of course, been severely eroded by years of road building and trail widening in the Park, as "Ray From Ottawa" explains in the comment thread:

This is the same NCC that allowed a large swath of the south end of the park to be cut down, blazed, bulldozed, dynamited, and paved to allow Blvd. Allumettieres (Highway 148 -- Google it) to pass through. The same NCC that brings in heavy machinery and tonnes of gravel every year to turn narrow walking paths into gravel highways for the fall leafers. The same NCC that cut down and paved even more sections of forest for the convenience of Mackenzie King Estate tea drinkers.

They aren't standing up for nature. They are using nature as an excuse to limit an activity they know little about, don't partake in, they don't like, and they don't make money from.

CBC: Eardley Escarpment climbing routes scaled back [18 Mar 2010]
Citizen: Gatineau Park rock climbing to be curtailed under new plan [18 Mar 2010]
Metro: Plan limits options for rock climbers [18 Mar 2010]
GPPC: Conservation Plan an Empty Shell (pdf) [17 Mar 2010]
GPPC: NCC policies threaten park [12 Mar 2010]
GPPC: GPPC Releases Full Park Conservation Plan [17 Apr 2010]
NCC: A natural space to pass on to future generations [17 Mar 2010]
Ottawa-Gatineau Climbers' Access Coalition

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Sussex barriers may be removed

Meanwhile, on the NCC's mile of rebuilt history, the security barriers at the U.S. embassy, put up back in 2001, may finally be removed. From the Citizen:

Sussex Drive will be reconstructed between George Street and St. Patrick Street over the next year and city officials want to use the project as an opportunity to get rid of the barriers, which were first installed after the terrorist attacks on the U.S. in 2001.

The barriers, considered an eyesore by city officials and visitors alike, also take two lanes of traffic out of the downtown core; one on Sussex and one on Mackenzie Avenue.

The construction project is a partnership between the city and the NCC, which is estimating in its documents that the cost will be $7.7 million. The NCC's share is $3 million, including $1.2 million for "aesthetic treatment" of the security elements along the edge of the embassy. The NCC is scheduled to endorse the treatment of the embassy frontage in January. The NCC board approved the overall project last week, along with an impressive new landscape plan for Colonel By Drive in front of the new Ottawa Convention Centre.

The Sussex Drive reconstruction is a complex project that includes new water mains, sewers, relocated utilities, pavement, trees, signage, granite curbs, new streetlights and premium street furniture to create "a welcoming streetscape." The commission will use the opportunity to repair foundation walls on buildings it owns from George to York streets and from Clarence to St. Patrick.

Citizen: NCC ready to revamp Sussex [25 Nov 2009]

Monday, March 9, 2009

"The monument part seems completely gratuitous"

Maria Cook takes a look at the NCC's plans for the Sussex-Rideau intersection in the Citizen:

Achieving the balance is a critical issue because it has to do with a change of attitude and to what extent traffic engineering dominates urban design choices. "If only we could get the traffic engineers to agree to take down the ugly traffic lights and install something more reasonable," says Rideau-Vanier Councillor Georges Bédard.

The space in question is a triangle with busy roads on two sides and a blank wall. It used to be the site of the Grand Hotel, which was attached to the east wall of the former Union Station, now the Government Conference Centre.

What makes it work from a traffic perspective is the MacKenzie Avenue ramp extension and the sunken underpass -- which has become a hangout for the homeless.

In three scenarios under study by the NCC, the underpass and the ramp would be removed.

[...]The NCC sees the space as having potential for some sort of monument, though with the Rideau Canal, a world heritage site, and Confederation Square nearby some people question whether there is a need to compete.

It may be enough to make it an attractive urban space, a pause on the ceremonial route, as well as a breathing point in civic life, whether you're getting on a bus at the Rideau Centre, passing in your car or riding your bike.

"The monument part seems completely gratuitous," says Paul Kariouk, architecture professor at Carleton University. "It's never going to have the significance of the Cenotaph. This thing could be a glorified traffic circle." Kariouk says there should be an ideas competition. "If it's a vital threshold into the city for dignitaries let's rethink what that could be. It's almost like the front door to downtown.

"It has to have some quality that allows you for a moment to forget the city," he says, as well as "a stunning night presence" with illumination.

Citizen: Taming a 'cranky intersection' [9 Mar 2009]
NCC Watch: Sussex-Rideau

Friday, March 17, 2007

New board members redux

Over at the Citizen, Ken Gray provides a bit of background on the new appointments:

Over at the National Capital Commission, it's business as usual.

The board of the Crown corporation recently got four new members.

The four, announced by the office of Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon, have interesting pedigrees.

As always, there are out-of-towners and patronage appointments.

Daniel J. MacLeod is a New Glasgow, N.S., town councillor and has an interesting connection to Ottawa. He will be able to visit his daughter more often here because she is Lisa MacLeod, the Progressive Conservative MPP for Nepean-Carleton. His term is for three years.

Joining Mr. MacLeod is Eric D. MacKenzie, who was a Tory MLA in New Brunswick. Mr. MacKenzie was also a teacher in New Brunswick for 36 years. He also has a three-year term.

Political patronage at the NCC is nothing new -- the Liberals did it, now the Tories are doing it.

But what is disconcerting is that, in light of a review panel ordered by the Tories into reforming the archaic institution, the same old stuff is unfolding at the Crown corporation.

Mr. MacKenzie and Mr. MacLeod are no doubt nice, well-meaning people, but what do people from the Maritimes know about Ottawa-area issues? How many people in New Glasgow and Fredericton even know what the NCC is?

Will these two men know anything about the history behind the Federal Court decision on the Champlain Bridge? Will they understand how many times the heritage Britannia area (the most convenient, low-cost spot for an interprovincial bridge) has been wrongly threatened by a span across the Ottawa River? Have they any idea how important it is to get dangerous heavy trucks out of downtown? Board members chosen from outside the region simply don't understand the big issues, let alone the nuances, of the national capital.

We hold out more hope for Robert Tennant, an Ottawa resident who is a registered professional planner and a member of the Canadian Institute of Planners. This is the kind of person who theoretically should bring some knowledge of how modern cities should be developed. His term is three years.The final appointment was Helene Grand-Maitre of Gatineau who is the vice-provost of l'Universite du Quebec en Outaouais. Her term is for four years.

Cannon spokeswoman Natalie Sarafin said his office is studying the review panel's recommendations and any changes that would be needed to the NCC Act to facilitate those changes. The office will make an announcement when a decision is made, Ms. Sarafin said.

Translation: Given some of the appointments plus Ms. Sarafin's statement, it sounds very much like changing the NCC is not high on Mr. Cannon's agenda.

Citizen: May ponders battle with Baird [17 Mar 2007]

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

New board members appointed

Lawrence Cannon announced some new appointments to the board of directors of the National Capital Commission. NCC Watch wishes Ms. Hélène Grand-Maître, Mr. Eric D. MacKenzie, Mr. Daniel J. MacLeod and Mr. Robert Tennant full enjoyment of their new sinecures.

Transport Canada: Appointments to NCC announced [7 Mar 2007]

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Dion considers taking Gatineau Park away from NCC

Federal Environment Minister Stephane Dion said he would look at giving Gatineau Park some sort of special protection - either as a national park or giving it legal protection. Dion was speaking before a Senate energy and environment committee. The National Capital Commission remains resolutely opposed to any change in the park's status as its own fiefdom. While Dion gave no guarantees, park watchers responded positively to his statement.

The NCC has long since lost credibility on its ability to protect the park, in no small part due to the various road building projects they've sponsored over the years, including the McConnell-Laramee freeway and the Mackenzie King Estate access road built in 2003.

Citizen: Minister considers taking Gatineau Park away from NCC [15 Feb 2005]
Radio-Canada: Le Parc de la Gatineau pourrait devenir parc national [15 Feb 2005]
Radio-Canada: Des écologistes veulent que le parc de la Gatineau soit mieux protégé[21 Feb 2005]
Citizen: Protecting Gatineau Park [4 Sep 2004]

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Give credit to Gatineau park's founder

Gatineau Park historian Jean-Paul Murray writes in the Citizen that the NCC is still misrepresenting the history of the park:

And the just-released study into the park's origins conducted for the National Capital Commission by two Quebec university professors perpetuates the misrepresentation of that story.

[...]The NCC has misrepresented the park's story for 45 years. The professors wrap the issue in the thickest fog of sophistry and ignore the facts they present by concluding that "circumstances" and a "series of actions by various individuals" created the park, for which they say they can't "provide the date of founding and the name of the founder." If Sparks did more than anyone else to create the park, as they demonstrate, then why can't he be considered the founder? If money for purchasing the first parkland was voted in the Commons on June 29, 1938, then why can't this be considered the founding date?

The claim that everyone and no one was responsible for creating the park is a cop-out and betrays the professors' collectivist bias. They reveal that bias when they downplay the impact individuals can have on society, saying that "regardless of their influence, [individuals] generally hold a power which they wield collectively." The spirit of this statement warps the study by forcing the spurious conclusion that many individuals share equal responsibility for creating the park.

[...]Credit for the idea of Gatineau Park belongs to Frederick Todd, who proposed it in his 1903 plan for the national capital. The idea was advocated as well by the plans that followed it: the Holt Report in 1915 and the Cauchon Report in 1922. Although these documents recommended creating a park in the Gatineau Hills, they spoke of it only in the briefest and most general of terms. None of them provided blueprints for the park or action plans for setting it up.

[...]When the story of Gatineau Park's creation is stripped of its various myths, the only two men left standing are Mackenzie King, who had to have his arm twisted, and Percy Sparks, who did the twisting. According to the Ottawa Journal of April 12, 1949, King essentially "set the seal of approval on plans [...] submitted to him by far-sighted and public-spirited men of the Woodlands Preservation League." And, as I've demonstrated elsewhere, the leading force behind the league, and Gatineau Park, was Percy Sparks, who did most of the researching, organizing, lobbying and designing that led to its creation and initial development. Why was Percy Sparks was omitted from all previous histories of Gatineau Park?

Citizen: Give credit to Gatineau park's founder [22 Dec 2004]

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Gatineau Park users take aim at NCC

The NCC heard from the public at its presentation of its latest Gatineau Park master plan. The plan calls for more user fees, less car traffic and more conservation areas to help preserve the park's ecosystems. In the process they will be banning or curtailing, somewhat arbitrarily, climbers and snowmobilers. This continues a trend of scapegoating park users, including mountain bikers, to distract from the NCC's own failures in managing the park. The NCC is, after all, planning to build a freeway through it, and recently finished building the Mackenzie King Estate access road in what was, for the NCC, record time.

Citizen: Gatineau Park users take aim at NCC [28 Oct 2004]

Tuesday, September 7, 2004

CPAWS renews campaign to protect Gatineau Park

The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society is renewing its campaign to get Gatineau Park legal protection similar to that of national and provincial parks. Currently, there is no law preventing the National Capital Commission (NCC) from logging or inappropriately developing the park or selling off park property. "One of the greatest threats to the park is the ongoing destruction and fragmentation of habitat by roads, such as the access road constructed last year through the Mackenzie King Estate, the recently approved McConnell-Laramee boulevard, and the proposed Deschenes highway which would cut through the park near Pink Lake."

CPAWS: Group calls on new Heritage Minister to protect Gatineau Park [7 Sep 2004]
CPAWS: Letter to Heritage Minister Liza Frulla [7 Sep 2004]
CPAWS: Gatineau Park backgrounder

Friday, May 7, 2004

Entrance fees for Gatineau Park

An NCC report is recommending an entrance fee for Gatineau Park - $4 per person up to a maximum of $8 per vehicle. Marcel Beaudry was careful to point out that this will help reduce the number of cars coming to the park and, as a result, pollution. All well and good. But, as usual, the NCC is saying one thing, and doing another. You see, the NCC, dismayed that the park is currently "reached with difficulty through a maze of regional roads," has plans to "encourage visitors to travel DIRECTLY into the Park via a broad, landscaped boulevard that goes straight from Confederation Boulevard in downtown Hull to the Gatineau Parkway" (quoted from the NCC website).

The landscaped boulevard is, of course, the McConnell-Laramee freeway, which the NCC has been planning for decades. Together with the recently constructed Mackenzie King Estate access road, the NCC's road-building schemes tend to suggest that the NCC's goals are in no way related to discouraging automobile use. The fee proposal is simply a cash grab from an overlarge bureaucracy working at cross-purposes with itself.

A curious side effect of Park fees will please environmentalists: apparently the NCC cannot legally charge fees unless the Park is given protected status, something environmentalists have been lobbying for for years.

CBC: Entrance fees floated for Gatineau Park [7 May 2004]
Radio-Canada: Deux députés s'opposent au droits d'entrée [7 May 2004]
Ottawa Citizen Sound Off: Let drivers pay a park fee [10 May 2004]

Wednesday, April 7, 2004

Mackenzie King Access Road wood left to rot

Last fall, the NCC opened the Mackenzie King access road in Gatineau Park (constructed in unusual - for the NCC - haste after being announced in the fall of 2002). As for the 900 trees that were cut to build the road, they have been left to rot at Meech lake. That's approximately 250-300 cords of wood. Meanwhile, the NCC continues to buy firewood from suppliers for cross-country skiers to burn in the cabins in Gatineau Park.

Wood rotting by Meech Lake

Monday, December 8, 2003

Gatineau Park's forgotten founder

Vice president of the New Woodlands Preservation League Jean-Paul Murray writes in the Citizen that the National Capital Commission has misrepresented the story of Gatineau Park, and failed in its mandate to "communicate the capital to Canadians":

Though the NCC attempts to portray Mackenzie King and Jacques Greber as the park's founders, the facts tell us that title rightly belongs to Roderick Percy Sparks.

For instance, the Ottawa Journal of March 30, 1959 credits Sparks with being the "father of the Gatineau Park," adding that as chairman of the Federal Woodlands Preservation League, he "brought about the first purchase by the Dominion government of what is now [...] the Gatineau Park."

[...]Yet in the reams of documents the NCC has produced on this subject, not one mention is made of Sparks or the process that led to the park's creation. Supporting the claim that Sparks led the charge on this issue, however, are seven key documents, most of which he wrote or co-wrote.

[...]As the NCC proceeds with drafting a new master plan for the park, it should consider the facts presented in this article. Although I've brought this matter to its attention several times over the last two years, it has yet to acknowledge Sparks's contribution.

Perhaps the best method to recognize Sparks and complete his work would be to make Gatineau Park into the truly national and public park he envisioned.

Citizen: Gatineau Park's forgotten founder [8 Dec 2003]

Friday, November 14, 2003

NCC must commit to protect Gatineau Park

Aylmer writer Ian Huggett argues in the Citizen that the money the NCC is throwing away on monoliths on Island Park Drive would be better spent acquiring new land for Gatineau Park:

Projects that are high-profile and conspicuous, yet superfluous, are gobbling limited funds at the cost of purchasing woodlands west of Gatineau Park. Recent expenditures on capital projects such as the million-dollar replacement of the facade at the Daly site on Sussex Drive or the $250,000 monoliths marking the entrance to Island Park Drive could be better spent purchasing woodlands to complete the park's western boundary.

Twenty to 30 square kilometres of forest could be acquired, extending the park to Wolf Lake Road between the hamlets of Ruthledge to the north and North Onslow to the south. Woodlots in the Pontiac run between $280 an acre and $500. The million-dollar price tag of the recently completed Mackenzie King Estate access road could have purchased an additional 5,000 acres to help absorb the exponential increase in park visitors. Every year 500 new homes are built abutting the park in the Gateway sector, in the southerly confines of the park in Hull.

Ottawa and Gatineau residents drive to the park in increasing numbers merely to get outdoors, as their green spaces such as Moffatt Farm in Ottawa and Fraser's Field in Aylmer are sacrificed to development.

The NCC is managing our assets by a law of diminishing returns. Chairman Marcel Beaudry is wrong in asserting that the NCC owns land in the capital on behalf of all Canadians. The commission merely acts as a steward -- and our steward is acting like a peacock. The majority of Canadians have voiced their opposition on the hungry consumption of every last piece of open space.

[...]It's a matter of values and priorities. To curry favor with a cynical public, resources are injected into frivolous visible icons such as the pretentious cairns along Island Park Drive, where several thousand commuters a day can goggle at their architectural incongruity while lining up to cross Champlain Bridge. Conversely, spectators are sparse in the remote sectors of Gatineau Park, where 30 square kilometres of forest could easily be added to the park.

[...]Gatineau Park continues to be eroded by new roads that dissect sections of the park. Dismembered sections fall into hands of the private sector, such as the Vorlage ski hill in Wakefield, land behind Wakefield School, the field beneath Champlain Lookout, and property south of the McConnell-Laramee highway. Despite a hypothetical priority list of properties that the commission targets for acquisition, there are no funds allocated to purchase private land in or around the park when it is placed on the open market. A private log cottage on Lac Lapeche, inside the park's high-conservation zone, was sold a few years ago to a private buyer after the park was given first dibs to buy. A hobby farm including 50 acres bordering the park at Lac Philippe is on the open market, with no attempt by the NCC to purchase the $160,000 property.

Citizen: NCC must commit to protect Gatineau Park [14 Nov 2003]
Citizen: Let's enhance this NCC gem [17 Nov 2003]

Saturday, May 10, 2003

Group to present case to give Gatineau national park status

The recently formed Coalition for the Survival of Gatineau Park will present Parks Canada with a formal written proposal next week to give national park status to Gatineau Park:

The Coalition [...] says that under the current management by the National Capital Commission, a federal agency, the mandate to protect the park is unclear. National park status would lay out in detail how the park can be protected, the group says.

The coalition is concerned about projects such as the new access road for the Mackenzie King Estate, the McConnell-Laramee Highway linking Aylmer and Hull, and increased human traffic into the park which the coalition believes will degrade the environment in and around the park, said Nicole Desroches of the Council on the Environment and Sustainable Development of the Outaouais.

'If you make it easier for cars, therefore you will have more cars and then you are going to need another parking lot," said Ms. Desroches.

Citizen: Group to present case to give Gatineau national park status [10 May 2003]

Thursday, May 1, 2003

Group wants Gatineau Park protected

With the impending construction of the McConnell-Laramee freeway and the Mackenzie King Estate access road, a new coalition of environmental groups is calling on the federal government to protect the park with new legislation:

Jean Langlois calls the NCC's management and development of Gatineau Park short-sighted and "death by a thousand cuts."

"Under the current direction we're going, 100 years from now we're not going to have a natural park left," says Langlois, director of the Ottawa Valley chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.

[...]Langlois says there are three options: national park status; new legislation limiting the NCC's hold on the park; an act of parliament to create a whole new classification for Gatineau Park.

[...]Instead of pushing for national status, the NCC is urging the coalition to take part in its consultations. The master plan for Gatineau Park is being revised, and the NCC says it's willing to listen.

The group is calling itself The Coalition for the Survival of Gatineau Park, and has already received vocal support from Jack Layton and the NDP.

CBC: Protect Gatineau Park for good, coalition urges [1 May 2003]
CPAWS: Make your voice heard [1 May 2003]
Radio-Canada: Meilleure protection pour le parc de la Gatineau [1 May 2003]
Environmental News Network: Gatineau park: is this the beginning of the end? [1 May 2003]

Monday, April 14, 2003

Speak out against new road in Gatineau Park

The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society has created an information page on the proposed Mackenzie King Estate access road, along with a sample letter to send to the National Capital Commission. Action Chelsea is also hosting the page.

CPAWS: Speak out [14 Apr 2003]
Action Chelsea: Gatineau Park access road info page [30 Jan 2003]

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Mackenzie King Estate Access Road Report

The final version of the Preliminary Screening Study, the Public Consultation Report (by the consultants Tecsult) and the draft environmental screening report (by the National Capital Commission) are now available from the NCC for review by the public.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Gatineau 'Park'? Not really!

An upcoming CPAWS Wilderness Wednesday is featuring an update on the latest developments in Gatineau Park entitled "Gatineau 'Park'? Not really!" They'll be describing new road development such as McConnell-Laramee and the Mackenzie King Estate access road, along with new housing development inside the park. April 2, 2003, 7:15 p.m., Mountain Equipment Co-op, 366 Richmond Road, Ottawa. The talk is free; space is limited, register in advance by calling (Ottawa) 729-2700 or email

Friday, January 31, 2003

NCC approves Gatineau Park road

An NCC Management Committee has approved the million dollar access road to the Mackenzie King Estate in Gatineau Park. This despite Chairman Beaudry stating at the NCC's most recent General Meeting that further studies on the road would be done before approval and widespread criticism that the preliminary environmental screening is inadequate. They aren't wasting any time on this one: the road route was staked late last fall.

Meanwhile, residents of Hull are battling plans by the Quebec Government to allow heavy trucks on that other road through Gatineau Park, the McConnell-Laramee freeway.

CPAWS: Gatineau Park access road info page [30 Jan 2003]
Action Chelsea: Gatineau Park access road info page [30 Jan 2003]
CPAWS: Speak out against new road in Gatineau Park [April 2003]
Radio Canada: Les opposants aux camions lourd sur l'axe McConnell-Laramee [12 Feb 2003]
Minister's response to McConnell-Laramee petition [14 June 2001]

Friday, November 22, 2002

Gatineau Park Master Plan Review meeting

Apparently, the NCC is reviewing its Gatineau Park Master Plan. The "public consultation" will take place from 5 pm to 9 pm on two nights: mostly in English, on Tuesday November 26, 2002 at the National Gallery of Canada; and mostly in French, on Wednesday November 27, 2002 at the Canadian Museum of Civilization. There will be a Q and A session, so be sure to get up there and ask 'em about all the new roads they're planning, like the McConnell-Laramee freeway and Mackenzie King Estate access road.

Citizen: Traffic jam in the park [16 Oct 2002]

Saturday, November 2, 2002

NCC to build yet another road in Gatineau Park

The NCC intends to "improve access to the MacKenzie King Estate", which means building a 900 metre road from the Champlain Parkway to the Estate parking lot. The Environmental Assessment is available at the NCC website.

LowdownOnline: Trees will die, but better than a kid [24 Oct 2002]

Friday, August 9, 2002

NCC roundly criticized over Gatineau Park

An editorial in the Citizen by Stephen Hazell, Executive Director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, outlines some of the NCC's failures:

New roads such as the Laramee-McConnell connection and Mackenzie King Estate access road, along with new housing development inside the park and on its periphery, continue to fragment wildlife habitat. Exploding levels of trail use by bicyclists, skiers, all-terrain vehicle riders, snowmobilers, rock climbers and hikers also increase the stress on ecosystems. If Gatineau Park was a national park, it would be on the critically endangered list.

National parks are protected by law, but not Gatineau Park. Incredibly, Parliament has enacted no law governing how land in the park is to be used. The NCC owns most of the land in the park and thus has some control over development. But decisions to build new roads or expand skiing facilities are made at the discretion of the NCC and in secret. And without a governing statute, the NCC lacks the tools to properly manage the park, even if it wanted to.

Hazell notes that Public consultations are under way for a new Gatineau Park Master Plan. CPAWS would like to see legislation that would make the park more like a real national park (as opposed to an NCC fiefdom). The NCC is currently backing a plan to build the McConnell-Laramee freeway through the park.

CPAWS: Let's Protect Our National Treasure [6 Aug 2002]
CPAWS April 2002 submission to the NCC's Board of Directors
CPAWS Update on the McConnell-Laramee Road Through Gatineau Park

Wednesday, August 28, 2001

Citizen series on Ottawa's waterfront starts

The Citizen begins a series on Ottawa's under used waterfronts. The National Capital Commission and its predecessors rather obsessively expropriated most of the waterfront property in the last century, with the very original notion, only partially carried through, of building scenic roads. The result is the rather pleasant monotony we have today. The article makes some excellent points:

The 1950 Greber plan, under the guidance of the amateur landscape architect William Lyon Mackenzie King, emphasized parkland above everything except the removal of rail lines from downtown. Greber was behind the creation of the parkway system that monopolizes the waterways in the region.

Without question, the "greening of the capital" is one of the federal planning body's greatest achievements -- the Greenbelt and the generous parks surrounding many of Ottawa's public buildings are important features that practically define the city in the minds of many people. But it's now reached an alarming level of fetishism, especially since the industrial menace parks were supposed to fight is no longer the threat it used to be.

The parkways -- the Ottawa River Parkway, the Rockcliffe Parkway, Colonel By Drive, the Queen Elizabeth Driveway and Prince of Wales Drive -- are all pretty, and they're better than factories. But that's about all you can say for them. The NCC's plan for the capital holds that the waterways are to be "accessible, continuous symbols of Canada's natural and cultural heritage," which is the kind of thing that sounds good until it becomes clear they aren't to be used for anything interesting. The parkways' monopoly on monotonous waterfront land use is a shame.

Compare the uses other Canadian cities make of their waterways. Vancouver's glorious marine districts, from the natural beauty of Stanley Park to the cultural attractions of Granville Island, are exciting. Toronto's harbourfront is notoriously unfinished, but it has marinas and swimming pools and Queen's Quay, not to mention Ontario Place and the Canadian National Exhibition. Montreal's Old Port is one of Canada's great attractions, and its Lachine Canal is experiencing an expensive but exciting rebirth as a centre for culture, recreation, and loft studios and apartments. Even Halifax's sewage-laced harbour has popular restaurants and music venues.

Ottawa has parks. A hundred kilometres long between them, and all 10 metres wide.

These make sense as part of the monumental capital the NCC has striven to build, but not as components of an exciting, livable city. The roads make the waterways appealing stretches on which to drive, but act as barriers to pedestrians. The canal is difficult to get across on foot in the summer. These problems of passage aren't hugely important now -- but only because if you're standing by one of the rivers or the canal, what's over there isn't any different from what's right here.

We can do better, without sacrificing much of the pleasure so many Ottawans get from the waterways as they are now. We must suspend our aversion to public commerce -- the Ottawa River doesn't need a shopping mall on its banks, but restaurants and cafes and bike-rental shops and artists' studios are nothing to be afraid of. We must make the waterways more accessible -- they're now interesting to travel along, but often difficult to get to. We must be courageous in demanding changes in planning policies that maintain Ottawa as a monument and prevent it from reaching its potential as a city.

Citizen: The parkways' waterfront monopoly Series: Open Waters [28 Aug 2001]

Saturday, December 2, 2000

Daly fiasco set for next stage

The NCC has announced that seven groups are now in the running to develop the Daly site. From The Citizen:

After 20 years of failures and false starts, the National Capital Commission says it hopes to select a business group next spring to develop the site of the former Daly Building in the heart of Ottawa.

The NCC announced yesterday that seven groups are in the running to develop the site -- probably with shops at street level and apartments or hotel rooms above.

The seven contending groups include Canadian Gateway Development Corp., the group that failed in an ambitious plan to put an aquarium on the Daly site, facing Confederation Square, between Mackenzie Avenue and Sussex Drive.

[...] In announcing that seven groups are in the running to develop the Daly site, the NCC said it will aim to complete a review of proposals by early February. At that time, some or all of the contenders will be asked for detailed designs and finance plans. The NCC hopes to receive all that information by early April.

If all goes according to plan, the NCC hopes to choose a developer by the end of April 2001, said Diane Dupuis, spokeswoman for NCC chairman Marcel Beaudry.

The NCC, which has been burned many times over the Daly site, is not saying when it hopes the project will be completed. Gateway had planned to spend as much as $75 million on an aquarium, shops and upscale hotel on the site.

But the NCC withdrew its approval for the project after the would- be developers could not get financing for the aquarium.

It was the idea of an aquarium that had most appealed to the NCC and influenced its decision to name Gateway as developer of the site. Gateway includes The Regional Group, an Ottawa real estate development company, and Westeinde Construction, a major builder in the capital.

[...] Also bidding are Claridge Homes (Bill Malhatra); Groupe Faubourg Inc., in a joint venture with Canadian Gateway (Steve Gordon); Groupe Lepine (Rene Lepine); Industrielle Alliance (Claude Tessier); and International Concept Management (Rick Gregory).

Citizen: New Daly site bidding war begins [2 Dec 2000]