Fence and sensibility: Liberal MP wants new Signal Hill barrier torn down
Before making comments on the brewing controversy surrounding a wooden privacy fence erected at Signal Hill, St. John's East MP Nick Whalen had to go and see it for himself.
What he saw confirmed his gut feeling about the fence — it's ugly.
"I was somewhat flabbergasted," he said. "Everyone was uniformly against it. The community doesn't appreciate what's been done here by Parks Canada."
The three-metre-high wooden fence was put next to the interpretation centre, about halfway up the iconic hill, which was the site of the first transatlantic wireless transmission in 1901.
A local Parks Canada superintendent, Bill Brake, said the fence was constructed to block the view of St. John's harbour and the nearby amphitheatre for people driving by. Drivers have been known to be distracted by the sights, Brake said, and some even stop in traffic.
Whalen wasn't happy with those comments.
"I sort of feel bad for the poor man who had to come on and defend this fence with the speaking points provided by his deputy minister," he told CBC's The St. John's Morning Show on Wednesday.
It's not just the fence that Whalen takes issue with. It's the entire flow of traffic on Signal Hill.
While Signal Hill Road used to go straight to the top, it was changed several years ago to include a roundabout that brings drivers by the visitor's centre and amphitheatre. If the traffic was never diverted that way, Whalen said, there'd never have been a need for a fence.
"They've taken one mistake that was made in the design of the traffic flow to the top of the hill, and they've compounded it and now made two."
Whalen was especially peeved by the lack of public consultation, which he said is counter to the way his government promised to rule.
"We just want the government and the bureaucracy to address changes in public policy and public infrastructure in a way that's consistent with what we've promised Canadians — that we are going to consult on changes like this."
On Wednesday morning, Whalen told CBC News he had been in touch with Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, who is also responsible for Parks Canada.
He said she is looking into the issue and how to address it.
In Whalen's opinion, there's only one way to rectify the issue.
"I would like to see the fence come down."
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