Bill S-210: An Act to Amend the National Capital Act – Establishment and Protection of Gatineau Park
By: Tom McCarthy (2006/10/19)
The following should be interesting to those who have grown up training in and around the Gatineau Park, and who consider it part of who they are. It will be particularly interesting for any who dream of living in the Park at some point in their lives – or for any who live there now. Senator Spivak, a member of the Canadian Senate from Manitoba, has introduced a Private Member`s Bill (a bill that is introduced by an individual member rather than the Government) into First Reading in the Senate.
The Bill that Senator Spivak has introduced relates to the Gatineau Park. She proposes to do several things:
- establish official boundaries for the Gatineau Park (apparently the Gatineau Park is the only federal Park whose boundaries are not established or regulated by federal statute, and which is not protected under the Canada National Parks Act);
- provide a process for enlarging the boundaries of the Park (she does not actually propose to enlarge the Park, but simply create a formal mechanism by which, if anyone wanted to do so, they would have to abide. This involves consulting with the Province of Quebec and the Government of Canada);
- prohibit the sale of federal property situated in Gatineau Park (I don`t think this happens much nowadays anyway, but this would stop the sale of any lands not already public);
- recognize that one of the purposes of the NCC is to purchase private properties that come up for sale in the Gatineau Park; and,
- grant the NCC the right-of-first-refusal to private properties that do come up for sale in the Gatineau Park.
Senator Spivak wants to do all this for very good and noble reasons; she feels that the Gatineau Park is an important national treasure, and wants to preserve and strengthen it so it can be there for future generations to enjoy. As well, the NCC, in its 2005 Master Plan for the Gatineau Park, advocated the establishment of legal boundaries for the Park.
The first three items are relatively standard, bureaucratic-type changes that have limited impact on the Park. However, the last two are whoppers! What the Senator is trying to do is buy back, eventually, all the land in the Park that is now privately owned. Right-of-first-refusal means that when a property is listed for sale, the NCC will have 60 days to consider purchasing that land, and during that time, no other buyer is allowed to make an offer for that land. Should the NCC choose to buy it for the listed price, the owner must sell it to the NCC.
The impact (if the bill is passed) is that the NCC will begin buying back all the private land in the Park! Is this a good thing? It certainly isn`t if you are one of those folks who`d like to live in the Park. It may also not be if you are one of those folks who currently lives there and is contemplating selling; this Bill could drive down property values if the NCC has a right-of-refusal; on the other hand, by making private properties in the Park more scarce, the Bill could drive up property values, which would be a good thing for owners. And how do we feel about those few folks who live in the Park (mostly scattered along Meech Lake and Mackenzie-King estate)? Would it be our preference that no-one lives in the Park? Or does it somehow contribute to the Park`s greatness that there are a few private properties in there?
All interesting questions. In any event, Private Members Bills rarely get passed into law –although in a minority Parliament this may be a different story – so there may be nothing to worry about. But if it does, you heard it here first!!
The text of the Bill is available at: http://www2.parl.gc.ca/content/Senate/Bills/391/public/S-210/S-210_1/S-210_text-e.htm.