MPs, Caldwell First Nation applaud millions for Windsor’s Ojibway National Urban Park in federal budget

Millions in funding announced in Tuesday’s federal budget have been set aside for the proposed Ojibway National Urban Park in Windsor, Ont.The budget unveiled in Ottawa proposes to provide $36.1 million over five years starting in 2024-25 and “$4.6 million per year ongoing” for the park. “What that means is within the next 12 months, we will open an Ojibway National Urban Park here in Windsor-Essex,” said Irek Kusmierczyk, Liberal MP for Windsor-Tecumseh.The funding will go toward the park’s operation and any opportunities to expand and procure additional land, he said. This is the first time Ottawa has set aside budget money for the creation of Windsor’s national urban park.”Really what this means is that Parks Canada now has all the resources that it requires to finish the job, to get all the agreements signed, to get the governance agreements in place to set the boundaries of a park,” Kusmierczyk said.”They now have the funding to operate the Ojibway National Urban Park year after year after year.”Park funding ‘a positive move,’ Caldwell chief saysChief Mary Duckworth of Caldwell First Nation, which recently signed an agreement with Parks Canada to explore joint governance of the park, said the funding announcement was “nice to hear.””It looks like they have thought about what needed to happen, what direction and what the people wanted in Windsor-Essex as well as the First Nations,” Duckworth said. “I think it’s a positive move but it doesn’t mean we get the national park — there’s a lot of work to be done still.”The funding won’t impact NDP MP Brian Masse’s private member’s bill to create the Ojibway National Urban Park, which is still moving through the Senate. Duckworth said she is still waiting on the outcome of that bill and wants to see it passed. WATCH | Friends of Ojibway ‘ecstatic’ to see park included in federal budget: Friends of Ojibway ‘ecstatic’ to see park included in federal budget Mike Fisher of Friends of Ojibway says he is ecstatic that the federal government set aside funding for Ojibway National Urban Park in this year’s budget. The government says it will spend $36.1 million over five years starting in 2024-25 and “$4.6 million per year ongoing” for the park. “Within Windsor-Essex, our history has been erased … we talk about collaboration — I think it’s about what we’re doing for everybody and the future generations,” she said. “But I’m happy to hear there is a budget that is allocated and I’m optimistic to see what happens after this.”Kusmierczyk said Ojibway National Urban Park will be the second in Canada — the first is Rouge National Urban Park in Scarborough in suburban Toronto — and the first expansion of the program from among 15 potential parks vying for funding. He credits the Windsor community with pulling together to get the ball rolling. “This happens because you have strong partnerships, because you have strong grassroots advocacy, and you have that, together with a seat at the government table, and you have a Liberal government that cares deeply about the environment.”Masse says Ojibway park money a ‘big win’Masse, who represents Windsor West, said the budget’s funding of Ojibway is “complementary” to his bill, currently in second reading in the Senate. “I want to thank all the community groups that have been fighting for this for so long.”Masse anticipates his bill will be in the Senate on Thursday. If passed, it would codify the national urban park into law. “Having this additional money is definitely very positive because it would need money to start anyway. And then second to that, we do know that the legislation is very critical to keeping the pressure on,” Masse said. Midland Painted Turtles are seen in Ojibway Park. Caldwell First Nation recently signed an agreement with Parks Canada to explore joint governance of the national park. (Michael Evans/CBC)”The legislation is just as important because that absolutely provides the sanctity for it in the future and avoids it from being undone later on. And if we’re going to allocate millions of dollars to this project, we definitely don’t want to do it for naught.”Conservative MPs Chris Lewis (Essex) and Dave Epp (Chatham-Kent—Leamington) declined to comment on the budget. Mike Fisher, part of the Friends of Ojibway, said the funding was “huge” and it means all parties are on board. “We’re quite excited,” Fisher said. “You see the efforts going on and those commitments to it happening, but really once you see it in a budget and once you see it highlighted that way and the funding becomes real, that commitment from the federal government is just fantastic.”Other federal budget newsKusmierczyk also said the government’s recently announced national school food program is a win for Windsor-Essex. “It’s transformative for our community, especially since Windsor-Essex does have some of the highest child poverty rates in all of Canada,” the MP said. “This will not only give our young kids a fair start in life, a good start in life, but this will also help moms and dads who are struggling, whether it’s struggling with the cost of groceries or struggling to balance time.”The program is a billion-dollar commitment to provide as many as 400,000 meals in schools by 2024-25. In other news, the HMCS Hunter building in Windsor has been identified by the Department of National Defence as one of 14 surplus properties that can be sold and have the potential for housing. Masse said that was good news for Windsor. “That’s a good win for us because it’s been a long fight to try to get that property in the heart of the city taken care of.”

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