NCC does not have authority to enforce public health orders on Rideau Canal, Gatineau Park: CEO
OTTAWA -- The National Capital Commission is encouraging you to enjoy its cross-country ski trails, toboggan hills and the Rideau Canal Skateway close to home this winter.
However, NCC CEO Tobi Nussbaum admits the National Capital Commission cannot stop you from travelling outside your neighbourhood to get some exercise.
"This is the thing; we have neither the authority nor the resources to be enforcing these rules," said Nussbaum in an interview on CTV Morning Live Friday morning.
"That's why we're trying to be gentle in our touch of please follow public health advice, please use your best judgement. We've got lots of assets available; the urban ski trails, the Greenbelt, Gatineau Park, the Rideau Canal."
Earlier this week, the NCC said that in the spirit of the stay-at-home order in Ottawa, it wants residents to utilize NCC assets closest to their homes, including the Rideau Canal Skateway when it opens.
Nussbaum notes both Ottawa Public Health and the Ontario government have encouraged people to stay close to home during the stay-at-home orders. The Ontario and Quebec governments have asked people to avoid non-essential interprovincial travel to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
"The province hasn't really defined local, so we're just saying people should use their best judgement. We don't make the rules, we're trying to encourage people to follow the rules," said Nussbaum when asked about who should use the Rideau Canal Skateway.
"What we're suggesting in our messaging is 'please use our assets, why don't you use those NCC assets that are closest to you.' You know, people have been really good; people are smart, they know that we need to run our assets safely. We want the canal to be used; obviously we don't want it to be a major destination this year."
Ottawa has received over 30 centimetres of snow this week, creating perfect cross-country skiing conditions across the national capital region.
CTV Morning Live host Leslie Roberts asked Nussbaum if the NCC wants Ontario residents to avoid travel to Gatineau Park during the pandemic.
"We're really encouraging people to follow the public health directives. We don't make them, but we think we have a responsibility to encourage users to follow them," said Nussbaum. "I'm disappointed; I haven't been skiing in Gatineau Park but I recognize that we're in a unique situation."
The NCC is hoping to open the Rideau Canal Skateway for the 51st season early next week.
Roberts asked Nussbaum if NCC Conservation Officers would be issuing tickets for people violating Ontario's orders on gatherings.
"We don't have that authority," said Nussbaum. "Maybe I shouldn't acknowledge that Leslie, but it's true. The NCC wasn't set up to respond to a pandemic in any kind of enforcement way."