As a resident of Scarborough and one who has fought alongside many to save and protect the Rouge Valley for over 25 years, I am concerned about the serious loopholes in federal legislation creating Rouge National Urban Park .
Last year our government signed an agreement with the federal government to establish Rouge National Urban Park – the first of its kind in Canada.
Ontario’s direct contribution of provincial lands and approval of those currently held by the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority would result in a substantial donation of land for the new park, or approximately 5,400 acres of land. parks and conservation areas.
In turn, the federal government is committed to ensuring that Rouge National Urban Park meets or exceeds the standards and policies Ontario has put in place to protect green spaces.
In June, the federal government introduced Bill C-40 to create Rouge National Urban Park. Unfortunately, this act, as worded, is silent on the MOU’s requirement to meet or exceed provincial standards for ecological integrity.
Ontario has developed policies aimed at improving the ecological integrity of the Rouge Valley and surrounding areas. These strategic directions are the result of extensive consultations with Ontarians undertaken by all political parties, beginning with the creation of Rouge Park, the protection of the Oak Ridges Moraine, and the creation of the Greenbelt and Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe.
Even by failing to mention the important environmental protections that Ontario has put in place for this territory, federal legislation will not guarantee the protection of the Rouge Valley. It will not protect or improve the ecological integrity of this territory.
For this reason, if the federal government is unwilling to change its legislation, I will withdraw my recommendation to support the transfer of 5,400 acres to the park.
These changes to Bill C-40 should make it clear that existing Ontario provincial policies and plans that improve the ecological integrity of the Rouge National Urban Park project will be met or exceeded. The changes are also expected to include a commitment that the federal government will comply with provincial policies such as the Greenbelt Plan (2005), the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan, the Greater Quebec Growth Plan. Golden Horseshoe and the Big Move.
All of this land is in Ontario’s Greenbelt, an area established by the provincial government to protect more than 2 million acres of forest, farmland and wetlands. I believe Rouge Valley will be better protected and enhanced by these policies.
I did not take this decision lightly. We have heard from an overwhelming majority of members of the local community as well as the environmental community that this is the right decision. We all believe in the creation of a Rouge National Urban Park – we just don’t trust the Harper government when it comes to protecting the environment.
If the federal government changes its law, I am prepared to recommend that cabinet transfer our 5,400 acres of land to Rouge National Urban Park.
It is a simple request that is shared by members of the local community and the environmental community.
Ultimately, this is a demand that will result in better protection of this very important piece of nature so that future generations can continue to enjoy this unique and beautiful park.
Hon. Brad Duguid is Ontario Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure and Member of Provincial Parliament for Scarborough Center.