Takeover leaves future of urban park uncertain
Locals worry new management could put Downsview Park at risk
Downsview Park could see more residential development in the future
Neighbours of Downsview Park are concerned that more of it could be sold for development after control of Canada’s only national urban park was passed to the Crown’s land management company late last year.
Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose announced that Canada Lands Company (CLC) had taken over Parc Downsview Park, which had a mandate to build and finance the 572-acre site, 300 acres of which is a public park. According to its website, CLC is an arm’s-length corporation that “manages, redevelops and/or sells” properties under its control.
“We do have to operate in a commercial manner,” said Manon Lapensée, a CLC spokesperson. “The government of Canada is a shareholder, meaning that we return our profits back to the government.” She said the park will keep its original management team and structure but will be headed by CLC’s board of directors. She said no major decisions for its future will be made until a review of the park’s assets and operations is completed.
“They have a stone cold heart. They don’t care about community.”
To local Ward 9 councillor Maria Augimeri, the takeover was a “huge concern” and was made without her knowledge. In early 2006, federal plans to sell 272 acres of the total site — to support the development of 10,000 residential units — were revealed.
“Back to the future,” Augimeri said of CLC. “They’ve got a stone cold heart. They don’t care at all about local community. Not a shred of decency.”
A local residents’ group, the Downsview Lands Community Voice Association (DLCVA), had a close working relationship with the previous management. The takeover was made without consulting the group, said its executive secretary, Rosanna Seca-Iaboni, who expressed concern that decisions will be made in Ottawa, not locally.
“We’re just worried the park will no longer be their priority,” she said. “Look at the mandate of the new board of directors. It’s a wait and see situation.”
CLC and DLCVA have now initiated a correspondence via e-mail.
CLC expects to have its review of the park to be finished by mid-February.