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Ontario to Feds: Pay us for Rouge Valley

Farmland Battle Unfolds Over Creation of National Park

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The Ontario government is demanding compensation for land that will become a part of the Rouge National Urban Park, Canada’s first park to protect farmland. It’s a surprising demand since their intensions were never made public; instead a letter was sent by Ontario Infrastructure Minister Bob Chiarelli directly to Federal Environment Minister Peter Kent.

"An important component of building the park is ensuring that Ontario receive appropriate and adequate compensation or fiscal offsets for its significant realty interests which Canada wishes to include," Chiarelli said.

At a time when Ontario should be commending the federal government for protecting farmland in a region where it’s constantly under threat from urban sprawl, its interests are focused on the expansion of the city rather than protecting rural communities’ agricultural heritage.

But there is some historical context for this demand, back in 1995 the province created Rouge Park with the help of $10 million in federal funds. Now that the federal government wants to transform the park into a national park the province wants compensation for lands that were under their jurisdiction.

"We're committed to working with Parks Canada to realize the vision of the proposed Rouge National Urban Park," Salter added. Chiarelli's letter describes the province's protection as evidence of "foresight" and "leadership," but the province acquired many of its Rouge Park holdings through expropriations meant to create a new city beside an international airport in Pickering.

Is it unreasonable for the provincial government to be making these demands, or should they be embracing this new initiative and stand up for protecting prime agriculture lands?

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