Harper announces expansion of Rouge National Urban Park
July 12, 2015
By Jenna Zucker
If re-elected, the Conservative government will be more than doubling its preliminary contribution to Rouge National Urban Park, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Saturday in Pickering, Ont.
Mr. Harper said an additional 21 square kilometers of new lands will be added just east of Toronto in both Pickering and Uxbridge, increasing the park’s boundaries by 36 per cent to 79.5 sq. km once fully established.
During his announcement, Mr. Harper made no mention of the Ontario Liberal government’s decision earlier this year to pull its parkland from the project over concerns about environmental protections.
Meanwhile, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has said he will work with Ontario Liberals to provide them with comfort they need to have them contribute their land.
Mr. Harper assured that the park will be granted the highest protections of any urban park in the world, with its own legislation - the Rouge National Urban Park Act, which is said to provide investments to both conserve and restore it and ensure its enforcement year round.
He addressed past critiques by stating his government’s establishment of six new parks, while continuing the expansion of others.
“The plan does more than just create parks - it assists Canadians in their own efforts to restore and protect ecologically sensitive lands,” said Mr. Harper.
The passage of Bill C-40, the initial intention to protect the first urban national park in Canada, was announced in 2011, but legislation was only executed in May.
In March, the Ontario Liberals pulled their portion of the land, arguing that the federal government’s environmental protections didn’t go far enough.
“Our government views the additional contribution of lands by the federal government to the Rouge National Urban Park as positive news, but will wait for the specific details on how the land will be environmentally protected before commenting further,” Brad Duguid, Ontario’s minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure, said in a statement.
“We are hopeful that with this new step, there will be an opportunity for the federal government to revisit and amend their current legislation at which point the province could agree to transferring its lands to the federal government,” Mr. Duguid said.
The Prime Minister said the expansion of the park will have an extensive network of new trails and will include forests, streams, creeks and meadows, which will be used to “create jobs, growth and long-term prosperity for Durham region and the GTA.”
“[It’s] imperative that we continue to implement strong conservation policies while also staying focused on building a strong economy,” Mr. Harper said.