Judy Sgro discusses a new uncertain future for Dowsview Park
2012 is almost gone and, as we look forward to the years ahead, now is the time to reflect and to plan for 2013. As the Member of Parliament for York West, I have been truly blessed to have had the opportunity to represent your views in the House of Commons. As always I thank you for your support and I look forward to working with you in the years to come.
In the past year we have accomplished much but, there is still more to do. By way of example, I wanted to take this opportunity to raise an issue that is of increasing concern to me as both a community member and as a federal legislator. The issue to which I refer involves the 231.5 hectares (572 acres) of public property that comprises Downsview Park.
At this moment, Downsview Park’s boasts a lake, more than 60,000 trees, numerous walking and running paths and environmentally sensitive parking areas; all within an area found between Keele Street, Sheppard Avenue West, Allen Road and Wilson Avenue. Put another way, Downsview Park is a one-of-a-kind jewel within our city.
Of course the past several months have been tumultuous and disappointing for Canada’s largest urban park. Like many residents of this city I too felt a tremendous loss when I first heard that the Canadian Air and Space Museum, located within Downsview Park, was to be closed forever. I think we can all agree that this loss of our local aviation history’s primary showcase is a blow that hurts us all. But, in as much as this was problematic, I am bothered more by the recent announcement that Canada Lands Co., the Crown property management body, has taken over the stewardship of Downsview Park from Parc Downsview Park, Inc.
To many this move may seem administrative but, to those of us who remember what happened to 36 hectares of waterfront property that the federal government gave to the City as a Centennial gift, there is reason to worry. In a word, “encroachment” eventually whittled away that gift and I fear that Downsview lands will suffer the same fate in the years ahead.
The Ottawa-based Canada Lands Co. has a specific mandate to find the best economic return from the sale of government property. In my opinion, this mandate does not seem to fit well with the idea that the Downsview property should be protected and preserved as a public green space for all. Alternatively, it would seem more reasonable to predict that the 231.5 hectares involved will eventually be converted into residential build-out. I suspect the outcome will be the construction of 20,000 or even 30,000 new housing units over the next 20 years.
For the sake of clarity – I am not suggesting that I have specific or privileged knowledge of any plan that is now in place but, experience is a great teacher and, based on that, I worry. Downsview Park is an irreplaceable and unique community asset that is worth protecting. I am already on-side and I would encourage anyone who feels the same to take a moment to let your federal MP know your thoughts. Any move to sell this property would require the approval of the federal Conservatives and, as luck would have it, the MP charged with representing the riding containing Downsview Park, is a member of the Conservative Party. With this in mind, in addition to contacting your own representative, I would urge you to contact Mark Adler to share your thoughts on this issue.
I thank you for taking this matter as seriously as I do and I thank you for getting involved.
Hon. Judy Sgro, MPYork West