CBC Ottawa Peddles Fake Facts About Gatineau Park
On Wednesday, August 8, the Municipality of Pontiac held a public consultation regarding plans to adopt a bylaw that would allow new construction inside Gatineau Park. About 300 acres are at risk of development, despite vapid assurances to the contrary.
CBC Ottawa is in the doghouse over its tendentious, mistake-ridden reporting on this consultation. On August 9, "journalist" Kimberley Molina made up facts in her report on this consultation. She clearly tried to make light of the threat to the park. The title of her report ("New bylaw could let homeowners rebuild on fringes of Gatineau Park") betrays a lack of objectivity. Fringes, according to the Cambridge Dictionary, are "the outer or less important part of an area." So the report's title clearly attempts to downplay the importance of the issue. As well, Ottawa Morning pedalled a number of fake facts the same day.
I have long had the impression that CBC has ignored the issue of residential proliferation inside Gatineau Park to protect its friends and employees who live there... Or maybe, it doesn't want to offend the NCC, which is its landlord...
Below is the complaint I sent to the CBC's Ombudsman.
I am shocked, disgusted and appalled by the fake news presented as fact by the CBC twice in one day. 1). Ms. Kimberley Molina's August 9 report, "New bylaw could let homeowners rebuild on fringes of Gatineau Park"; 2) the Ottawa Morning interview with Pontiac Mayor Joanne Labadie, August 9.
A) Ms. Kimberley Molina's awful slanted and mistake-riddled report:
1) Ms. Molina claims private properties were "grandfathered" into the park, creating the impression that their presence is in perfect harmony with the vocation of a public/ecological park. It isn’t; all NCC/Treasury Board policies stipulate they are nonconforming and must be removed eventually;
2) She also claimed that private property acquisitions began in 2008. That is utter nonsense. The NCC/FDC have been acquiring private lands for the park since 1938, and the reporter casually and ignorantly obliterated 70 years of history (note: CBC corrected this after I complained);
3) The reporter makes up facts about the number of acres of private lands acquired: she claims that half of the remaining 600 hectares have been acquired since 2008. Wrong again: the NCC has acquired 211 of those remaining 600 hectares: that's about one third, not "half" as the reporter falsely claims. I obtained the 211-hectare figure through access to information;
4) Ms. Molina's report claims that the property of one of the people interviewed, Sheila McCrindle, "borders" on Gatineau Park. False; it's right inside it -- 22.6 hectares (according to the NCC's own document. For proof, see "List of All Private Properties in the Park," document 11, page 2 in the documents section at www.gatineauparc.ca);
5) The reporter parrots the NCC claim that private lands represent less than two percent of Gatineau Park's area. Well, most of the park is inaccessible, and the private lands there crowd around public facilities. For instance, according to the NCC's 2010 Gatineau Park Conservation Plan (p.165), nearly 40% of park visits are concentrated at Meech Lake, while the Meech Lake residents association, for several decades, has pressured the NCC to close public facilities there, including the boat launch and the public beach. This is an obvious attempt to downplay the seriousness of the problem.
This was one of the worst CBC reports I've ever seen on the issue. The reporter seemed to make light of the clear and present threat of residential development...
B) Ottawa Morning Peddling Fake Facts about Gatineau Park in its August 9 Interview.
The host made up several facts in his Gatineau Park/Municipality of Pontiac interview, seriously jeopardizing the already poor credibility of the CBC on this issue:
1) First, he said: “Inside Gatineau Park, there are a number of private homes and cottages grandfathered in when the park was created.” Where did the reporter get this absurd notion? The term grandfathered refers to a clause or policy whereby “an old rule continues to apply to some existing situations while a new rule will apply to all future cases. Those exempt from the new rule are said to have grandfather rights or acquired rights, or to have been grandfathered in” (Wikipedia). Well, there is no such rule or policy, since all NCC and Treasury Board plans, policies and decisions clearly confirm, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that private properties are nonconforming and must eventually be acquired. From the Lower Gatineau Woodlands Survey in 1935 (the park’s founding document, which proposed “gradual land acquisition” over the national park option), to the 1946, 1947, and 1952 Advisory Committee on Gatineau Park draft master plans, to every Gatineau Park master plan ever written: 1980, 1990, and 2005: to the National Interest Land Mass, to two NCC task forces (1989 and 2008) all say Gatineau Park private lands must be acquired. So your host misrepresented fiction as fact.
2) Second, he said: “Until now, those residents [referring to all park residents] couldn’t do much to develop those properties, but the municipality of Pontiac has plans to change that to allow renovations or rebuilds.” Wrong: residents of the park in the municipalities of Chelsea and Gatineau have been building and developing for years: I’ve counted 132 new houses in the park since 1992. Moreover, the host omitted to say the new bylaw stipulates “construction, reconstruction and renovation.” Why did he omit the word “construction?” Because new construction is the clear and present threat to the park... 300 acres are potentially at risk of development. He was seemingly hinting that renovation and reconstruction are okay, while totally obliterating the real issue...
3) Third, the host lets Sheila McCrindle get away with saying that most of the private lands in the Pontiac part of the park are in the agricultural zone, “and that is very strictly governed by the CPTAQ [Commission de protection du territoire agricole du Québec]... there really isn’t that much potential for development.” Well, between 2005 and 2014, the CPTAQ approved 63% of requests for removing land from agricultural zones. Accordingly, 9,444 hectares were withdrawn from that zoning (see http://collectivitesviables.org/articles/protection-du-territoire-et-des...). Let’s just say there’s huge potential for development. So CBC listeners are lulled with a canard into thinking there's no risk of development inside a federal park.
4) Fourth, the host didn't challenge the mayor who claimed nonsensically that Quebec’s agricultural zoning is among the strictest in the country and sheltered from political pressures. Again, that’s utter claptrap: see above argument on removal of 9,444 hectares (22,000 acres) from agricultural zoning between 2005 and 2014. The Municipality of Pontiac's web site even includes a CPTAQ decision dezoning agricultural land on its territory...
5) Fifth: the host makes up the NCC’s alleged “right of first refusal” over the purchase of private lands. Where did he dig up that notion? Right of first refusal was included in most of the private bills tabled in both houses of Parliament as a mechanism that would allow the NCC to acquire private lands as they come up for sale. Although that is its current policy, it hasn’t purchased dozens of key properties over the last 10 years. Right of first refusal is neither a law nor a right in this case. The NCC may have negotiated such a right from some land owners, but it does not apply to all private park land, as your host suggests.
Please note: one of the Ottawa Morning researchers (firstname.lastname@example.org) telephoned me. Much of the time she tried to excuse the inexcusable, saying it was a question of opinion... Her telephone manner was atrocious; she tried to drown me out by speaking, insistently, as I was speaking. I had to tell her several times to let me speak. Very, very poor public relations for the CBC...
Finally, the English language CBC, contrary to Radio-Canada, has not been covering the issue of residential proliferation inside Gatineau Park (132 new houses since 1992), or the massive violations of the shoreline rehabilitation bylaw at Meech Lake (one report in 2014, no follow-up). On that topic, it has been behaving like the network of a banana republic. Might it be that it systematically refuses to deal with this issue head on, for fear of upsetting or outing its friends and employees who live in the park? I have urged the Fifth Estate to report on this; I even sent them the link to Dr. Michael Lait's ground-breaking 2017 PhD thesis: "The Rotting Heart of Gatineau Park." No reply...
Shame on the CBC for peddling fake facts and presenting them as news. It seems that they're protecting the status quo in Gatineau Park instead of its ecological and public vocation.