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Montreal city councillor calling for national park to be built in West Island

Montreal’s West Island park plans face criticism
WATCH: The controversy continues over proposed plans for a sprawling park in Montreal’s West Island. As Global's Tim Sargeant reports, one independent city councillor says it should be a national park – but even that idea has its drawbacks.

Building a national park is certainly not a new idea but it’s one that city councillor Marvin Rotrand argues will save Montreal potentially hundreds of millions of dollars.

Rotrand claims a national park should be built instead of a massive urban green space in the West Island as proposed by Mayor Valérie Plante.

The councillor representing the Snowdon district says the City of Montreal can’t afford to purchase the land — much of which is already owned by private real estate developers.

“The city is not only on the hook for the value of the land, the city is also on the hook for punitive damages,” he told Global News. “The massive spending power of the federal government is far more than any other municipality.”

A national park designation means Parks Canada would be responsible for the park, which includes protecting its ecological integrity and conserving the space.

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READ MORE: West Island developers’ patience running thin over Montreal’s urban park plans

In August, Plante announced plans to create a 30-square-kilometre urban park known as the Grand Parc de l’Ouest through parts of Pierrefonds and neighbouring municipalities to the tune of $125 million.

The federal government also plans to commit $50 million to the project  — but did it won’t have a national park designation.

The federal government announced last June its plans to extend the Rouge National Urban Park with the Toronto Region and Conservation Authority. Rotrand argues the same should be done for the West Island.

A spokesperson for the city says Plante was not available to comment on the matter.

While the city’s plan is welcome news for environmentalists, real estate developers who own parts of the land have also raised concerns. They want the right to build on the territory.

“We live in a society with a rule of law and you can’t simply confiscate people’s property,” Ali Argun, the lawyer who represents the land owners, told Global News on Aug. 23.

READ MORE: Ottawa pledges $50M to build sprawling urban park in Montreal’s West Island

As for Rotrand, he can’t promise developers would have the right to build if a national urban park was created.

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“It will be a negotiation but it will be a negotiation the federal government has the capacity to do that the city does not,” he said.

Rotrand says he plans to continue to make his pitch for a national park to the suburban mayors, local MPs and he intends to raise the issue during the federal election campaign.