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Today's letters: Tough vehicle restrictions at Gatineau Park are discriminatory

Saturday, March 25: Lots of people — families, the disabled, older people — are being shut out by the NCC, readers say. You can write to us too, at

Signage from last spring shows restrictions that were placed on vehicle access to the Gatineau Park parkways in 2022.
Signage from last spring shows restrictions that were placed on vehicle access to the Gatineau Park parkways in 2022. Photo by Jean Levac /POSTMEDIA

Gatineau Park vehicle restrictions are unfair

Re: Gatineau Park car restrictions unfair, hikers and walkers say, March 20.

The unnecessary restrictions on vehicle access to the Gatineau Park parkways, imposed by the NCC the last three summers, is not only unfair to hikers and walkers, it is also unfair to picnickers, painters, photographers, birdwatchers and stargazers.

Most glaringly, it discriminates against people with disabilities, seniors and families with young children.

The Gatineau Park Sustainable Transportation Plan was published in 2015. This plan took six years of consultation and development, and has a planning horizon of 20 years —until 2035. It is being completely ignored by the NCC.

What happened? Tobi Nussbuam became CEO of the NCC in 2019. Under his leadership, the NCC: closed the parkways at night; permanently closed the North Loop section of the parkway; and implemented a three-year pilot in reducing vehicle access to the parkways despite there being no valid ecological or safety reasons for doing so.

The closing of the parkways in 2020 was presented to the public as a temporary measure made necessary by a global pandemic. Acceptance of these closures by the public was solely based on this justification. The public was not aware of the changes being considered for post-pandemic closures, as evidenced by the thousands of signatures on the petition to restore access.

The pre-pandemic Gatineau parkways schedule must be restored so all Canadians are once again included.

Jim Kyte, Ottawa

Restore access to the parkways

The NCC has had a strange way of “welcoming” people to Gatineau Park during spring, summer and autumn. It restricted automobile access to Gatineau Park’s parkways, then charged people going to many of the still-accessible parking lots $13 a day to use them. This was, apparently, because the still-accessible lots were too busy.

Of course, if the lots on the parkways were available, those visiting the park would be spread out, as they used to be before 2020. Hikers, nature lovers, photographers, tourists, the disabled, the elderly and families would, once again, be able share the parkways with cyclists and use the trails and visit the lookouts. Thousands of people (to-date) have signed the Gatineau Park Parkways petition at to restore access to the parkways. Is the NCC listening?

Barbara Lapointe, Gloucester

Isn’t it intended as a people’s park?

Isn’t Gatineau Park the people’s park? Isn’t the NCC funded by the taxpayer? Shouldn’t all people who use the park have a democratic say if certain segments of the population are going to be restricted from accessing the park?

This is autocracy, not democracy. Too much power concentrated in a small group can be a dangerous thing, and as we all are aware, power corrupts, and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely.

Douglas Cornish, Ottawa

NCC contradicts its own mission

In 1988, then-NCC chair Jean Pigott announced a fee for use of the Gatineau Park ski trails. Despite the unhappiness expressed by a few skiers, the measure was accepted. The chair of the National Capital Division of Cross-Country Canada pointed out that such a charge was long overdue, and would certainly bring about an improvement in trail preparation. He also noted that the National Arts Centre charged considerably more for admission to its theatres.

It was a bold but reasonable move by the NCC, and complaints soon subsided. It is therefore disappointing to see that, in seeking to protect the environment, the present management is proposing clumsy measures to reduce road traffic on the parkway by handing weekday access to cyclists alone. Environmental concern, yes, and vigorous exercise, bravo — but denying a large and older element of the population access to the inner parking lots and thus to the full enjoyment of the trails during the week is a serious contradiction of the NCC’s mission.

Walking groups and individual complainants have so far had the classic bureaucratic chant of “We are working on a long term plan.” I encourage the NCC leadership to put an end to this nonsense.

Jim Bradford, Chelsea

Expand road access to the park

Re: What the NCC is doing about climate change (and the Rideau Canal Skateway), March 16.

CEO Tobi Nussbaum wrote recently about the NCC and environmental issues. The NCC’s  assets, while numerous, are not managed well when it comes to usage by Canadians. Time and time again, we hear of conflicts in the use of roads and trails in Gatineau and Ottawa, as well as in Gatineau Park.

The reality about congestion in the park is that there are not enough access roads and trails. A Google search indicates a land mass of 361.3 square kilometres and only 32.5 km of roads. Of course there is congestion. All the roads are in the area closest to the cities.

It would be easy enough to get infrastructure money from the Liberal government (champions of environmental issues) to expand the roadways out towards Luskville and Otter Lake, and open the park to more planned use. Walking and hiking trails, as well as a roadway, would not ruin the park.

Brian Vachon, Greely

Bridge work should be done at night

It seems that the NCC has no regard for people in Quebec. I live in Aylmer and the Champlain bridge has now been reduced to one lane each way. The only words I have to describe the situation are “untenable” and “crippling.”

The traffic is backed up for kilometres, yet one cannot leave the house at 5 a.m. to avoid the traffic. Why does the NCC not do the work overnight and leave the bridge open during the day?

This situation cannot go on for the next eight months. It is high time that Ottawa began building bridges. The population in Aylmer has tripled at least in recent decades and we are still stuck with only one bridge.

Ninon Grand-Landau, Aylmer

Air transport unfair to disabled

Accessibility of air transport in Canada needs to change. To have prearranged disability accommodations, I must either request a wheelchair to be accompanied by staff, or offer the in-person signature of a third party granting the airline responsibility for me. This offensive policy does not allow me to sign for myself.

No other prearrangements can be made. Does this policy assume that all disabled customers who require assistance, yet do not require a wheelchair, are incompetent to represent themselves? Or does it mean that the accessibility needs of persons with disabilities who fall into this procedural gap are simply considered unimportant? Whether rooted in our nation’s legislative requirements or the airline’s misinterpretation of accessibility is irrelevant. The results are inappropriate treatment of many disabled travellers.

I can walk, talk, see and hear. I experience chronic pain, and have cognitive and sensory processing issues that escalate in complex, noisy and demanding environments. I do not need a wheelchair. Nor do I need someone else to take responsibility for me. What I do need is someone to assist when the airport environment, communication demands and required procedures become overwhelming. With the right supports my cognitive functions will likely not be pushed beyond their limits. It is much more likely that, without such supports, I will be forced into a state of increased vulnerability.

I am left only with the hope that when I declare my need for assistance at check-in, staff will not only be available, but also informed about the needs of people with hidden disabilities, and empowered and required by their bosses to provide the necessary supports. I am left with no choice but to accept that I may not get any assistance.

Laura Brydges, Ottawa

Safety issues plague housing project

Re: Orléans United Church redevelopment gets city hall approvals after delay sparks criticism, March 22.

Misinformation continues to abound about the 81-unit, for-profit Orléans United Church housing project. Some 25 units will be affordable housing. Let’s be clear. Everyone supports it, including many who signed our petition. In fact, we encourage this development.

The main issue is about safety. It is not about false NIMBY claims, delays or even parking. This development will be located between a children’s playground and a seniors’ home, jammed into a narrow lane in Orléans. The project has no risk management plan or even the standard Traffic Impact Analysis (TIA).

The city planning staff maintain that only 0.75 parking spots will be allotted per unit. This is plausible in the urban core but not in suburbia. Many people require a vehicle for their employment, especially those in the service industry.

Likewise, they are a necessity for busy families and most seniors. Existing affordable housing projects in the area all feature a minimum of two spaces per unit. Green vehicle charging stations are on the way. To deny anyone housing because they have a vehicle is discriminatory and unacceptable.

In the face of reality, city council has seen fit to turn a blind eye to the most basic of safety considerations. Instead, council and the media have indulged in discussion of incidental issues and cries about “NIMBY cowards.” This preoccupation does not serve the community, in an honest and responsible manner.

It appears too late for us. However, the “Official Plan” will continue to allow more haphazard construction projects, which bypass normal standards for density and safety. That should keep us all awake at night

Richard Rice, Orléans (petition organizer)

City short-sighted on housing plan

The province and our city elected officials say they want to provide residents with affordable housing. So why is our mayor and council settling for only 25 affordable units and missing an opportunity to put 81 affordable units in the 360 Kennedy infill project?

On Wednesday, council approved the planning and housing committee’s recommendation for this project, giving it all of three seconds of consideration. Setting aside the fact that the intensity of this urban island in an oasis of suburbia is a bad fit, should we not ask why the city simply accepts the first proposal that comes along by a property development company?

This project contains the bare minimum of 31-per-cent affordable units (25 units) that will attract government funding. Although affordable housing is in short supply,  council rubber-stamped the bylaw change needed by the developer to make it happen, with 69 per cent of the units (56 units) as market-value rentals.

One might conclude that in the rush for more affordable housing, the concerns of more than 900 neighbours, expressed in a petition, about the dangers of increased traffic on a residential lane are simply collateral damage.

Affordable projects can be profitable: see Coburn Heights (all 16 units are affordable), an eight-minute walk from 360 Kennedy, as one example. No market-value component was needed to make it financially viable. Here though, we are only getting 25 affordable units, with 56 going in as market value rentals.

Jim Rycroft, Orléans

Keep pressing Trudeau on China

Lately the media has been on Justin Trudeau’s case about foreign interference. Good for you and thank you for protecting democracy in Canada. A free press protects our democracy, and is essential in exposing threats to it.

In 2015, Trudeau promised openness and transparency.  For this reason, I supported him. He has proven to be neither open nor transparent.

Trudeau’s behaviour does not pass the smell test and he is hiding something. Go get him and don’t let up until we find out what he is hiding.

Richard Jamieson, Ottawa

Taking refuge at 24 Sussex

Re: After Roxham Road: Diverting refugees from homelessness; 24 Sussex Drive is empty but the utility bills are still soaring, March 20.

These two front-page articles present both a problem and a solution. One article is a call for helping settle refugees in Ottawa; the other says that 24 Sussex Drive has been sitting empty since 2015. The solution is obvious: house the refugees in 24 Sussex.

Herschell Sax, Ottawa

If only we could tax the place

24 Sussex Drive has had no resident for a significant number of years. Will it be subject to the City of Ottawa’s Vacant Unit Tax?

Lin Dickson, Ottawa

Let them use the swimming pool

I, and I’m sure countless others, continue to be puzzled as to why something hasn’t been done by now to either renovate or replace the deteriorating pile at 24 Sussex Drive. As a result, the prime minister of our country and his family stay elsewhere.

To a certain extent, I understand the criticism about high utility bills at the official residence, but, really, are we so small-minded as to begrudge the Trudeau family the potential use of the swimming pool there? Maybe we would prefer they pay for a YMCA membership?

Anna Blauveldt, Ottawa

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