Nature and Environment 6410 Views by Dave Moscrop

Gatineau Park: Quebec seeks clear-cut for Autoroute 5

Do you want to see a 300 year old pine forest cut down?

What is the A- 5 expansion?

The Autoroute 5 expansion was announced by Transport Canada and the Quebec Transport Ministry on Nov. 15, 2006. The expansion includes two phases: Phase One comprised the construction of 2.5 kilometres of highway northwards from Tulip Valley (in Chelsea). Phase Two, currently underway, includes the construction of 6.5 kilometres of four-lane divided highway to extend the highway from Chelsea to Wakefield. Phase Two has drawn criticism from some concerned groups.

Why is the highway being expanded?

The A5 expansion project is aimed at achieving two broad goals: economic development and improved road safety in the area.

According to Lawrence Cannon, the Conservative minister of transportation at the time of the project launch in 2006, an expanded A5 "will contribute to the economic growth of the Outaouais region and foster the development of tourism." Michel Després, the Quebec transportation minister in 2006, added that the extension "will help improve the flow of traffic on Highway 105 and should have a positive effect on road safety in this area."

Who are the main players and what are their roles?

The National Capital Commission was responsible, along with the federal ministry of transportation as federal coordinator, for conducting an environmental assessment before the project began. The environmental screening was completed in 2009.

Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society–Ottawa Valley Chapter and the Gatineau Park Protection Committee both condemn the project as environmentally irresponsible and have attempted to rally public support against the project. Jean-Paul Murray of the GPPC argues that the issue is also one of political transparency, claiming that the management of the park and NCC communication about the A5 project has been inconsistent and undemocratic.

NCC senior media relations manager Jean Wolff has denied these claims, noting that critics have "moved the goal posts" after having previously engaged in the public review of the A5 extension, including the EA. He also notes that there is confusion among critics over land owned by the NCC and land within the Gatineau Park boundaries, since the NCC owns land in the area that is not a part of the Park.

Why is the project controversial?

The highway expansion involves clearcutting trees in and around Gatineau Park. According to the CPAW-OV, this cutting will destroy 88 hectares (about 217 acres) of land within the park’s legal boundaries. Murray puts the number of lost parkland at 100 acres, 75 of which will be clearcut.

However, according to Wolff, the NCC is committed to planting two trees for each tree cut. He also claims that the area of parkland trees to be developed is much smaller than has been claimed, citing the federal EA, which put the area at about 1.6 acres. He also claims that the project has been carried out according to the terms set by the EA, which included a moratorium on work between April 1 and August 15, 2011, in order to protect local birds nesting in the area.

Who set the park’s boundaries?

This question is a bit tricky. The federal government set the park boundaries in 1960 by an Order-in-Council (PC-1960-579). However, Gatineau Park is neither a national* or provincial park, and since the park’s inception there has been land inside park boundaries that has been privately held or developed for purposes such as highway construction.

However, according to the NCC, it has a long-standing policy of acquiring privately owned land inside the park. A 2008 Order-in-Council (PC-2008-1604) confirmed a 1997 NCC policy of land acquisition inside the park. The Order “approves the acquisition by the National Capital Commission of any or all privately-owned real property within the 1997 boundaries of the Gatineau Park, Quebec, on terms satisfactory to the National Capital Commission.”

What are the environmental concerns?

Two environmental concerns stand out. First, deforestation of a 300 year old forest is a threat to both local flora and fauna – especially to several bird species that breed in the area and, according to CPAWS-OV, the habitat of endangered animals. Second, according to the GPPC, the expansion will encroach on parkland, effectively shrinking the size of Gatineau Park while destroying old growth forest.

In response, the NCC cites its policies of replanting twice as many trees as are cut and of growing the size of the park by acquiring privately held lands inside the parks boundaries.

How much does the project cost?

The total estimated cost for the project is approximately $32 million. Phase one was budgeted to cost $27 million and phase two was expected to cost $5 million. The A5 project costs are being shared between the federal and Quebec governments under the Agreement Regarding the Improvement of the Quebec Portion of the National Capital Region.

Internet site reference:


There are 0 comments on this post

Leave A Comment