The province slows down plans for the country’s first national urban park

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The province of Ontario will not cede land to the federal government for Rouge National Urban Park despite months of political wrangling.

“Because of their refusal to listen to our concerns, I will not recommend to our cabinet that Ontario transfer the lands under provincial control which would have made up two-thirds of the park,” Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid said on Thursday.

“Obviously, the current federal government never intended to find a resolution in this matter,” Duguid said after the Conservative-controlled Senate rejected Liberal amendments to the legislation creating the park.

“It seems to me that the federal government missed a great opportunity here to work with the provincial government, to work with environmental stakeholders and agricultural stakeholders in a very compromising and constructive way,” he said.

Queen’s Park’s refusal to transfer 5,400 acres of parkland to Ottawa over environmental concerns will derail the creation of an urban reserve 16 times the size of New York’s Central Park.

“I don’t see this as the end of the efforts to build a Rouge National Park,” Duguid said, adding that “the stubbornness of the federal government has prevented us from doing it today.”

“We will one day see a Rouge park; it just might not be that the Harper government can do it, ”he said, referring to Prime Minister Stephen Harper who faces an election later this year.

Ontario controls about two-thirds of the 58 square kilometers of land in what would be Canada’s first urban national park, which includes a large tract owned by the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority that cannot be sold without provincial approval.

The remaining third of the land is owned by the federal government, while the cities of Toronto and Markham hold small parcels.

Federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq blasted Duguid.

“Your assertion that provincially controlled lands are better protected under current provincial legislation is false,” Aglukkaq told him in a letter.

“Your approach so far has challenged your sincerity in working together constructively to find a solution. I’m not interested in playing political games at the expense of farmers and the environment, ”she wrote.

Aglukkaq reminded Duguid that Ontario would have to comply with “clear conditions. . . in the legally binding 2013 federal-provincial land transfer agreement.

But a joint statement from environmental groups – including the David Suzuki Foundation, Environmental Defense and Friends of the Rouge Watershed – supported Queen’s Park.

“The (federal) bill does not meet the basic requirement that a protected area should prioritize nature conservation, as provided for by international standards, and does not meet or exceed environmental policies.” existing plans for the Greenbelt, Oak Ridges Moraine and Rouge Park, ”It said.

The Nature and Parks Society of Canada-Wildlands League and Ontario Nature also signed the declaration denouncing federal parks legislation as “flawed” and “a missed opportunity to effectively protect an ecological treasure for Canadians today. and in the future ”.

Ottawa has committed $ 143.7 million over 10 years and an additional $ 7.6 million annually for operating costs thereafter to create the park.

With seven million people – a fifth of the Canadian population – living within an hour’s drive, this would be the most accessible wilderness retreat in the country.

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