Mayoral candidate McKenney proposes a national urban park to protect the Greenbelt

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Ottawa mayoral candidate Catherine McKenney has pledged to work to turn the Greenbelt into a national urban park if elected mayor to further protect the land, but other candidates doubt that move. be efficient.

At a campaign event on Tuesday, McKenney announced they would work with the National Capital Commission (NCC) and Parks Canada to secure the designation and bring tougher environmental protections to public natural space.

“This green space surrounds our city. It’s loved by the people of our city,” McKenney said outside the Nepean Sportsplex, which sits along the Greenbelt.

“This is a unique opportunity to take advantage of the federal government’s program to create national urban parks.”

The policy would see the Greenbelt become the second park of its kind in the country. Rouge National Urban Park in the Greater Toronto Area is currently the only one, home to Toronto’s only campground and some of its last working farms.

The federal government has invested $130 million in the program

In August 2021, the federal government launched the $130.9M National Urban Parks program. The lands being considered for funding will contribute to the government’s goal of protecting 25% of land and inland waters by 2025, according to a press release announcing the scheme.

The 20,000-hectare greenbelt includes major landmarks such as the Mer Bleue Bog and Pine Grove trail system. Owned by the NCC, it was created in the 1950s to protect the rural lands bordering the city from urban sprawl.

Subsequent developments in Kanata, Barrhaven and Orleans have since exceeded its limits.

Pictured at a rally outside Ottawa City Hall in September 2021, McKenney says Ottawa should take advantage of a “once in a lifetime” opportunity. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

McKenney, who said he was “in touch” with the NCC and Parks Canada about the idea, said stricter protections for natural areas would also help boost tourism.

A ‘recycled idea’: other candidates weigh in

Candidate Mike Maguire, who is running for mayor for the third time, said in an email to CBC that he would like to know how the new designation would improve existing protections.

Candidate Param Singh responded by email saying he recognizes the need to protect the Greenbelt from urban sprawl, but added that he doesn’t believe the National Urban Park “will change anything short or long term”.

Mayoral candidate Mark Sutcliffe released his environmental plan in mid-August, which included pledges to install hundreds of electric vehicle charging stations and double the city’s annual tree-planting goal.

In an email to CBC, he said McKenney’s proposal was a “recycled idea.”

“There is no doubt that we need to protect the Greenbelt and ensure that development stays within urban limits,” Sutcliffe wrote. “But taking designated green spaces and calling them something new is not serious climate leadership.”

Five mayoral candidates – Brandon Bay, Bob Chiarelli, Nour Kadri, McKenney and Sutcliffe – have been invited to participate in a debate on the environment and climate justice at the Centretown United Church, 507 Bank St., from 19 a.m. September 28. .

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