The remaining third of the land is owned by the federal government, while the cities of Toronto and Markham hold small parcels.
Federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq blasted Duguid.
“Your assertion that the provincially controlled lands are better protected under the current provincial legislation is false,” Aglukkaq told him in a letter.
“Your approach thus far has called into question your sincerity with respect to working together constructively to find a solution. I am not interested in playing political games at the expense of farmers and the environment,” she wrote.
Aglukkaq reminded Duguid that Ontario should abide by the “clear terms . . . in the legally binding 2013 federal-provincial land transfer agreement.”
But a joint statement from environmental groups — including the David Suzuki Foundation, Environmental Defence, and Friends of the Rouge Watershed — supported Queen’s Park.
“The (federal) bill fails to meet the fundamental requirement that a protected area must prioritize nature conservation as laid out in international standards, and fails to meet or exceed the environmental policies of the existing Greenbelt, Oak Ridges Moraine and Rouge Park Plans,” it said.
Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society–Wildlands League and Ontario Nature also signed the statement that decried the federal park legislation as “flawed” and “a missed opportunity to effectively protect an ecological treasure for Canadians today and in the future.”
Ottawa has pledged $143.7 million over 10 years and an additional $7.6 million annually for operating costs after that to create the park.
With seven million people — a fifth of Canada’s population — living within an hour’s drive, it would be the most accessible wilderness retreat in the country.