NCC rebuffs call from mayors for more local voice

The chair and interim CEO of the National Capital Commission brushed off suggestions the organization meddles in local affairs and said they do not support the idea of having municipal representation on the commission's board.

Chair says commission must be able to stop bad ideas like 'a railroad on the riverfront'

NCC chair Russell Mills, left, and interim CEO Jean-Francois Trepanier said they did not support municipal representation on their board. (Kate Porter/CBC)

The chair and interim CEO of the National Capital Commission brushed off suggestions the organization meddles in local affairs and said they do not support the idea of having municipal representation on the commission's board.

NCC Chair Russell Mills and interim CEO Jean-Francois Trepanier were responding to a letter Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and Gatineau Mayor MaximePedneaud-Jobin issued Wednesday to Prime Minister Stephen Harper asking that the NCC's board of directors be made to include at least one elected representative for each city.

The two mayors expressed frustration over the NCC's meddling in local affairs, such as the western extension of the light rail transit system in Ottawa.

But Mills said Thursday he's not worried about the relationship, saying conflicts with Ottawa and Gatineau are rare and that recently most of the bad blood has been concerning the city's western LRT plans.

He said as the caretaker of the 10 per cent of land in the region owned by the federal government, the NCC should have that authority. While Mills said the current negotiations with the city are progressing well, in the past he said they have had to fight to keep rail lines from going up along the Ottawa River.

"The NCC needs to retain the authority to stop bad ideas for federal land like a railroad on the riverfront," he said.

That prompted Watson, who was actively following coverage of the news conference, to fire back on Twitter "or ugly condos on Lebreton Flats..oops that was an NCC decision!"

Mills says NCC represents all of Canada

Mills also said board members are accountable to all Canadians, while any municipal representative on the commission would represent only as small percentage of Canadians if on the board.

The Crown corporation's mandate is "to ensure that Canada’s Capital Region is a source of national pride and significance" but its activities have undergone some upheaval after Canadian Heritage took over its role last year as the organizer of events like Canada Day and the upcoming Winterlude.

The NCC still acts as a landowner in the region, and is also in charge of maintaining the official residences, the Rideau Canal, Gatineau Park and other properties.

John Baird is the MP responsible for the National Capital Commission.

His communications director, Rick Roth, said in an emailed statement that the NCC "has a national and Pan-Canadian mandate."

"I think the fact the prime minister has had a local minister responsible these last eight years is an enhancement. The idea of putting city officials on the board is an idea this and the previous government have not endorsed."

Mobile users click here to see Russell Mills' letter back to Jim Watson and Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin.

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