The municipalities of Gatineau and Chelsea, Que., say they have no choice but to pursue legal action against the National Capital Commission so they can collect more than $1 million each they claim they're owed.
The dispute, which began in 2018, centres on each municipality seeking payment in lieu of taxes from the commission, which originally disagreed with the property assessment for its land in Gatineau Park.
Then on Tuesday, Chelsea town council adopted a motion to have its lawyer issue a notice that would give the National Capital Commission (NCC) 10 days to pay up.
"Really, we're in a cul-de-sac here," said outgoing Gatineau Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin, speaking at his last council meeting after eight years in office.
"We're not questioning our ability to work with the NCC. It's a really valuable partner, but we really have a disagreement, so we're going to do like Chelsea and go to court together to get this clarified."
The NCC originally submitted $242,000 less than Chelsea demanded three years ago, and the commission has withheld part of the payment on its entire annual tax bill to the municipality ever since.
Then recently, a federal committee recommended the NCC pay $590,000 plus interest to the municipality.
Residents said at the time they were pleased with the decision, especially because they have paid higher taxes to foot the bill since the dispute began. But the NCC still hasn't paid.
At Tuesday's council meeting, Chelsea councillor Greg McGuire expressed his disappointment with the NCC.
"Let's be clear, [their leaders] are breaking promises. ... They don't care about legitimate laws and processes," said McGuire.
"The NCC treats our staff with disrespect. .. They blackmail, they lie, it's unheard of."
Commission made several offers of payment: NCC
In a letter sent to Chelsea city council before its Tuesday meeting — a copy of which was obtained by Radio-Canada — the NCC claims it has made several offers in recent months to payments in lieu of taxes for the years 2018 to 2023.
"The NCC offers financial support equivalent to 100 per cent of the amounts recommended ... retroactively and, at a minimum, for the remainder of the 2021-2023 property assessment period," the letter reads.
The NCC letter also proposes to pay the municipalities partly through payment in lieu of taxes and partly through other financial contributions that total $6.5 million.
"Thus eliminating any shortfall relating to the 2018–2020 and 2021–2023 periods," the letter said.
The NCC also wants the municipalities to abandon any legal proceedings.
Its chief financial officer, Michel Houle, did reiterate the corporation's argument that conservation lands — such as much of Gatineau Park, which is the land under dispute — should be evaluated differently than residential land.
Outgoing mayor of Chelsea, Caryl Green, said the offer makes no provisions for long-term solutions after 2023, which is why the municipalities are not satisfied.