House of Commons vote adds 17 km2 to Rouge National Urban Park

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Supporters of Rouge National Urban Park received some good news on Wednesday.

The House of Commons has approved Bill C-18 – legislation that adds more than 17 square kilometers to the park and introduces more protections for ecosystems, wildlife and farmers who work in the east Toronto area .

“Rouge is a great example of what we can do when we work together with the provincial government, Indigenous peoples, environmentalists and farmers,” Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said in Ottawa.

Ecological integrity and visitor experience

This new law, debated for nearly four years, amends the Rouge National Urban Park Act.

On Wednesday, Tory MP Blake Richards was the only one to oppose changes to the Rouge National Urban Park Act. (Canadian Press Images)

But not everyone was in favor of this change.

Conservative MP Blake Richards, who was the only one to oppose the motion, told CBC News in a statement that what concerns him most is the bill’s first priority, ecological integrity.

He argues that this shouldn’t be the park’s only concern.

“Parks Canada’s mandate is obviously to promote ecological integrity, but it’s also to promote the visitor experience,” he said.

Richards represents the Banff-Airdrie region of Alberta, which encompasses Banff National Park.

Too much focus on the park’s environmental integrity will undermine its role as a “guide for visitors”, he said.

“There is a balance between ecological integrity and visitor experience – a balance that must be maintained.”

21 times the size of Central Park

But McKenna maintains that this decision benefits both the environment and park users.

“We are talking about a national park that is 21 times the size of Central Park in New York where we will protect ecosystems, as well as wildlife, and where working farmers will continue to grow crops, and in fact will be able to teach visitors and Canadians more about the foods we grow and eat,” she said.

Rouge National Urban Park is home to more than 1,700 species of plants and animals, according to the federal government. (John Rieti/CBC)

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