Russel Mills and The NCC??
The National Capital Commission, commonly known as The NCC, is a Crown Corporation of Canada that is a huge part of the life of my City of Ottawa. They are by far our biggest landlord. They have jurisdiction over hundreds of important properties including our Prime Minister’s Residence and Rideau Hall, the place our Governor General gets to sleep. They also control several huge integral parcels of land, such as several scenic parkways, along The Ottawa River and The Rideau Canal, as well as The Central Experimental Farm. They are also responsible for Gatineau Park, across The Ottawa River, in Quebec. It is my favourite outdoor playground, where I do most of my mountain biking, hiking, camping and kayaking. I love that large beautiful park, and am proud of how the NCC has taken care of it.
They do an almost commendable job at fulfilling their many important responsibilities with all of these properties. The Greenbelt is a far different matter however. If only they made it much larger in scope, then I would have no problem with it. But for Jacques Greber, the man behind it’s creation, to have such a lack of vision is quite simply baffling to me.
The Greenbelt was intended to surround the entire urban center with an anticipated maximum population of only 500,000 people. The original plan was to never extend any city public utilities beyond The Greenbelt. Personally, I would have much preferred the entire city to max out at half a million people. I don’t like the idea that it is a growing metropolis, but that is our reality. It is totally bizarre to me that they allowed this very short sighted vision to be developed the way it was.
The NCC readily admits that the population of the city in 1970 (not long after the Greenbelt was completed) had already grown to the size that Greber thought would not happen for another thirty years. But instead of taking action to correct this disaster, they double down and they not only want the Greenbelt to remain exactly where it is, they have tried to expand it. I find this idea detestable.
Most of us realize that the whole idea in the first place was to contain “urban sprawl”, yet of course the exact opposite has happened, and it has created outrageous and totally unnecessary sprawl. They know this, we know this, yet they are determined to keep it intact as is.
The idea of a “Greenbelt” should obviously benefit the local eco-system. But instead it is an environmental disaster. If the whole Greenbelt was a thick carpet of forest, I would be the first one to say leave it intact. But that is not the case in the least. There are huge sections that had all the forests clear-cut many years ago, and so it is mainly the many farms in the Greenbelt that I have the biggest problem with.
You ask any four-year-old child if a big farm belongs inside a city, or does it belong out in the countryside. You know the answer you will get. And if they are a bright little child, they will probably tell you what a dumb question it is. So why, WHY, do so many adults seem to forget this basic, and proper concept that we all learned when we were toddlers?
Developers are right now poised to clear-cut another 175 acres of pristine forest outside of Kanata to build more houses. Why do the all the farms, wetlands, and forests that are being destroyed for the sake of more housing far outside the Greenbelt have to be sacrificed in the name of keeping the damn “Green” belt?
The extra costs in developing past the Greenbelt are astronomical. OC Transpo buses spend over ten million dollars in extra fuel every year just to drive across this wasteland. So then think of the millions of dollars in fuel spent by all the car and truck traffic combined. And then of course that means much more wear and tear on all the vehicles. And don’t forget the many extra tons of the mysterious. but real, carbon emissions.
But the unnecessary waste doesn’t nearly stop there. What about all the millions of extra hours combined of travel time being wasted. Does time savings mean nothing to you? The extra cost in extending all the infrastructure farther and farther away is mind boggling, in building it, and maintaining it.
As well it increases all forms of pollution. Carbon emissions is not the only form of pollution we should be worried about. It increases the amount of soil pollution, air pollution, water pollution, noise pollution, light pollution, etc. ETC.
But yes, I am grateful to the NCC and The Greenbelt for preserving the many precious nature areas, such as Mer Bleu, Stony Swamp, and several other areas. Though I doubt they would have been touched anyway.
Naturally I am not the only one who finds all these distressing facts obvious. I was shocked, yet thrilled about seven years ago, when the newly appointed Chairman of the NCC Board, Russell Mills, was asked by the media what his priorities will be in his new job. And his first and main point was to start developing The Ottawa Greenbelt. He even goes further than me and foresees one million people living in this space someday, that now has a very sparse population. He feels that it has served a purpose but believes it is time to move forward with a new plan.
Unfortunately, Russel Mills was quickly reprimanded for speaking out of line, and has never spoken publicly on the subject again. I believe he got an irate phone call from John Baird, the Member of Parliament responsible for The NCC at the time. John Baird came out in the press with several lame excuses why the Greenbelt must not be touched. John Baird has fortunately left politics in the meantime. Though he didn’t have the honour, or decency to even complete his last term of office that he had committed to. But I am glad he is long gone, as he was nothing but a blowhard puppet of Stephen Harper’s.
And one very curious little fact about Mr. Mills and the NCC. A couple years after he made his one public statement in favour of my ideas, he was quietly relieved of his duty as the Chairman, while the NCC conducted their big, expensive, and utterly usesless, Master Plan Review of the Greenbelt, that I participated in enthusiastically, yet angrily, of course. And then after the review was completed he was quietly reinstated as the Chairman.
It was in the news very recently that his term as Chairman is coming to an end next month. I hope he speaks out in favour of my ideas again as soon as his term is over.
Justin Trudeau appointed the first ever Member of Parliament responsible for the NCC that is not from the Ottawa area. The current MP for the NCC is Melanie Joly of Montreal. I am sure she is not as familiar with The Greenbelt as most of us in Ottawa are, and I am hoping she has an open mind to… Change.