Federal government to increase size of Rouge National Urban Park



Prime Minister Stephen Harper praised his government’s environmental record on Saturday when he announced plans to increase the size of Canada’s newest national park, Rouge National Urban Park in the Greater Toronto Area.

Speaking in Pickering, Ont., Harper said his government plans to add 21 square kilometers (5,000 acres) of land to the park for trails, campgrounds and other outdoor activities. The area will also include plots of agricultural land and archaeological sites.

“Today’s announcement means that Canadians for generations, here in the GTA and across the country, will have the opportunity to learn more about Canada’s history,” said Harper. “They will be able to experience the greatness of this country that begins with nature.”

The Conservatives initially announced their intention to create the park in 2011, but the legislation did not come into effect until May.

The park sits on a parcel of land that spans the cities of Toronto, Markham and Pickering. The area was originally set aside for building an airport under the Liberal government of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, but the plans never materialized.

Harper on Saturday repeatedly referred to the failed airport plans, accusing Trudeau of “crippling vibrant communities” and delaying economic development in the region.

Harper also addressed critics who oppose conservative environmental policies, saying his government has worked to preserve the environment by creating six new parks, while expanding others.

“When you put it all together, it is an environmental record that this country can be very proud of,” he said.

In the past, the government has faced direct opposition to its plans for Rouge Park.

Critics said initial plans did not include appropriate environmental protection measures, threatening the natural ecosystem of the Rouge Valley.

In February, the Ontario Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure called the bill a “joke”.

“We are just not prepared to hand over ownership of the land to a federal government that refuses to put in place legislation strong enough to preserve it,” Duguid said.

Duguid and others feared that the legislation protecting the park would meet or exceed the standards set by policies and that key areas of the valley, including the Red River, would not be protected. The province has also raised concerns about agricultural practices in the park.

Harper on Saturday called the criticism unfounded.

“The new Rouge National Urban Park will have the highest level of environmental protection,” he said.



Comments are closed.