An Action Plan for the National Capital Commission

An Act to amend the National Capital Act and other Acts

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.

Sponsor

John Baird  Conservative

Status

Report stage (House), as of Nov. 15, 2010
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the National Capital Act to

(a) modify the governance structure of the National Capital Commission and increase its transparency;

(b) clarify the National Capital Commission’s responsibilities, including those regarding planning and sound environmental stewardship;

(c) establish the boundaries of Gatineau Park;

(d) enhance the National Capital Commission’s regulation-making powers;

(e) remove the requirement that the National Capital Commission seek Governor in Council approval for real estate transactions;

(e.1) require the National Capital Commission to provide the Governor in Council with a description of the boundaries of the Greenbelt; and

(f) harmonize that Act with the civil law regime of Quebec.

This enactment also amends the Official Residences Act to clarify the National Capital Commission’s responsibilities regarding official residences. As well, it makes consequential amendments to other Acts.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

An Action Plan for the National Capital Commission
Government Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 3:10 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Royal Galipeau Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, this government proposes to amend the governing legislation of the National Capital Commission, the National Capital Act. There have been a number of changes to the National Capital Act over the last 20 years, but they have not been as comprehensive as the package that has now been presented.

In 1988, the NCC's mandate and powers were broadened to include the organization of activities and events in the national capital region that would enrich Canada's cultural and social fabric. At the same time, the act was amended to state that the NCC headquarters must be located in the national capital region, as opposed to Ottawa, and to clarify provisions related to development projects.

The number of directors has also varied over the years and other changes have been made, some of which have been to align federal laws.

With this bill, important changes will be made, for the first time in at least 20 years, to some significant aspects of the NCC's enabling legislation, including governance, transparency, responsibilities and protection of the commission's property.

I would like to highlight the components of Bill C-20 that would increase the transparency of the NCC's activities.

These components of the bill are important because the NCC has been criticized in the past for making important decisions behind closed doors and not listening to the stakeholders concerned. The NCC is subject to considerable public scrutiny because its decisions and its actions affect so many people, sometimes directly in their backyard. The NCC responded positively to these critiques and became the first crown corporation to hold public annual general meetings. Despite the introduction of this annual opportunity for members of the public to voice their views on the NCC and its projects, criticism continued.

In the wake of a new leadership at the NCC and in order to address the issue of transparency and to improve outreach with citizens, the NCC announced, on its own accord, a series of measures to increase openness and transparency. Indeed, in the fall of 2007, the NCC began to hold board meetings open to the public except for those items that are sensitive such as human resources and legal issues. It also created an external ombudsman position that reports directly to the board of directors.

Since then, this new approach has been applied consistently. For example, the NCC recently announced a process to review its greenbelt master plan. Public consultations are a key component of this exercise. The NCC has already consulted the public on various projects, but it has now expanded significantly citizens' participation in the development of plans and projects.

While the NCC was dealing with these critics regarding transparency, the Government of Canada was moving forward with one of its priorities, which is to improve the way the government works. That initiative led to the adoption of the Federal Accountability Act, which received royal assent on December 12, 2006. For the NCC, this legislation meant that the positions of chairperson and chief executive officer would now be separated.

Making the decision makers of crown corporations more accessible to the public was also reflected in the Budget Implementation Act, 2009, which came into force on July 13 of last year. This act contains provisions relating to the governance of crown corporations. These amend the Financial Administration Act to require that parent crown corporations hold public meetings at least once every 15 months.

This government welcomes the initiatives adopted by the NCC to increase its openness to the public. However, we want to ensure that this commitment will remain now and into the future. This is why we propose amending the National Capital Act to obligate the NCC to hold at least four public board meetings each year. We recognize the need for the board to discuss some sensitive matters in camera, and members can see this is also reflected in the government's bill.

The National Capital Act has not been significantly amended in over 20 years. Considering that governance practices evolve over time, a review of the NCC and its enabling legislation provides an opportunity to modernize some governance elements included in the enactment.

In the spirit of the separation of the chair and the chief executive officer positions, the government proposes to remove the chief executive officer and his or her successors from the board of directors. The chair is the representative of the NCC's board of directors to outside parties and the leader of the board's discussions. This person is also the key link between the board and the minister responsible for the NCC.

The chief executive officer is the main link between the NCC's board of directors and managers. The government proposes to remove the chief executive officer from the board so as to strengthen both the board and the CEO's responsibility. The government keeps the power to appoint the chief executive officer, but it is clear that the CEO is accountable to the board regarding the NCC's management and performance. The board would then have one less member.

Another governance item included in the proposed amendments to the National Capital Act is the creation of a vice-chair. This is seen as a useful safeguard to have, should the chair be absent or unable to act, or should that office be vacant. One of the proposed amendments is to have the vice-chair designated from among the board members by the Governor in Council and to be compensated as a regular board member.

In keeping with updating the NCC's enabling legislation, the government also proposes to remove the general manager position. With the separation of the CEO and chair positions, the position of general manager is no longer relevant, especially since it has been vacant for more than 10 years.

Appointments below the level of chief executive officer would be the NCC's responsibility, and not that of the Governor in Council. These changes reflect the announcement made in the 2010 budget to reduce the number of appointments made by the Governor in Council, so as to improve governance and activities, while also strengthening the management of federal organizations, boards and crown corporations.

The recruitment of qualified and experienced board members is essential to the good functioning of the board and the NCC. Many crown corporations provide appropriate remuneration to their board members for the time they spend in meetings. The NCC presently does not have the authority to compensate its members, except for travel or related expenditures. Therefore, one of the proposals this government puts forward is to allow the Governor in Council to grant appropriate remuneration to all of the board members.

As everyone can see, I am supporting this legislation because this government believes that the proposed amendments to the National Capital Act would provide the NCC with a modernized enabling statute that reflects good governance practices in the 21st century. It would also provide the basis for ensuring that the NCC continues to be nimble and responsible to the public.

An Action Plan for the National Capital Commission
Government Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 3:20 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the hon. member, who represents a riding in this region, namely, Ottawa—Orléans. His riding contains a large section of what is known as the greenbelt on the Ontario side of the National Capital Region. How can he accept and tolerate the fact that his government is proposing to legislate the boundaries of Gatineau Park on the Quebec side, while on the Ontario side there is absolutely nothing to limit, establish or identify the boundaries of the greenbelt?

Does my colleague not have a problem with the fact that there is nothing to protect the greenbelt? In other words, his government or any other government could suddenly decide to sell off or get rid of part of the greenbelt, which is so important to the greater Ottawa-Gatineau region.

An Action Plan for the National Capital Commission
Government Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 3:20 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Royal Galipeau Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, I really appreciate the question my hon. colleague just asked. It is particularly relevant considering that one of his Liberal colleagues, the hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier, wants to do precisely what he is suggesting should not be done, that is, take away part of the greenbelt to build an interprovincial bridge. So I very much appreciate the member's advice. I will see that the matter is discussed at committee.

An Action Plan for the National Capital Commission
Government Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 3:20 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Ed Fast Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I commend my colleague from Ottawa—Orléans for his speech on the National Capital Commission. He and I have been seat mates for a number of years, and I have come to appreciate his significant knowledge of the political and constitutional history of Canada. He has been charged with explaining to us in the House some of the technical amendments to the National Capital act.

I would invite the member to explain to the general public, who may be watching today, exactly what the National Capital Commission does. We in the House know the role it plays in preserving a good portion of our national heritage and the parliamentary precinct, but as a great, very hard-working member for Ottawa—Orléans, he also understands the role the commission plays. I would invite him to perhaps explain to Canadians a little more of the role of the commission.

An Action Plan for the National Capital Commission
Government Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 3:20 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Royal Galipeau Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, in the national capital region, there are a number of civic authorities. Of course, since amalgamation on the Quebec and Ontario sides of the river in the last decade, there are fewer municipalities. But still, the municipal councils of the City of Gatineau and the City of Ottawa are focused on the needs of those individual municipalities.

However, the National Capital Commission has a national mandate. That is why its board of directors, by the way, is not made up exclusively of residents of the national capital region, but residents of the whole country. It is to make the national capital a beacon for the whole country.

Frankly, it has also been a bit of a question of pride, and on occasion false pride, for a succession of prime ministers since Sir Wilfrid Laurier to have felt when visiting other capitals they needed to turn the former lumber town of Ottawa into a national capital. Now, of course, since we are a G8 capital, the NCC makes sure that it happens.

Of course, we have just had the Tulip Festival. But most of all, and I want all residents of Winnipeg to understand this, we have the world's longest skating rink. This is where I learned how to skate.

An Action Plan for the National Capital Commission
Government Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 3:25 p.m.
See context

Fort McMurray—Athabasca
Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak on this very important bill. Certainly, the National Capital Commission is charged with creating a capital that all Canadians can be proud of, as the member has recently stated. During the previous session of Parliament, we heard many members speaking in the House about the great assets we have in the national capital region that all Canadians, including those who come to visit, should be aware of. It is important to protect them for the future generations of Canadians so that the Ottawa region can stand as the capital region of Canada and so that all Canadians can, indeed, be proud of it.

In addition to the great natural assets we enjoy in this region, namely Gatineau Park, which the member spoke of, the greenbelt and the river shorelines, the National Capital Commission has enhanced our nation's capital over the past century through a number of different and varied projects.

This includes a network of incredible parkways, as well as more than 180 kilometres of recreational pathways that allow residents and visitors to this region to travel by bike, foot or rollerblade across the region while enjoying the beauty of the national capital area. Indeed, yesterday I had an opportunity, as I came back from my riding, to rollerblade around the region and go down to Hog's Back some 20 kilometres. There were many Canadians enjoying that opportunity all day, in fact.

Leading up to 2008-09, the National Capital Commission received an annual average of approximately $23 million in capital appropriations and $74 million in operating appropriations. Recognizing the importance of maintaining the significant infrastructure under the NCC's stewardship, this government granted additional ongoing funding to the NCC, so that it does not have to rely on selling its properties, which it appears took place in the past, in order to maintain its assets. This government wants these assets to be maintained for the people of Canada for future generations.

In budget 2007, this government confirmed an increase of $15 million, including $10 million for the NCC's capital budget. This is good news indeed for the people of Canada and the people in this region. This new funding, which was first received by the NCC in fiscal year 2008-09, allows it to maintain its assets, which is obviously very important so that they are not depleted, with appropriate life cycle management to ensure their long-term sustainability and continuing enjoyment for all Canadians.

In addition, the National Capital Commission will allocate a portion of this additional funding to implement any changes to its responsibilities that would result from the amendments that are currently proposed for the National Capital Act. In response to the difficult economic situation, which all Canadians and certainly most of the world is aware of, this government presented Canada's economic action plan, which has kept Canada busy and kept people working.

This has also provided additional generation of economic activity in all regions of the country. It is no different here in the national capital region. It is no exception.

That is why this government has invested nearly $48 million through this plan in order to continue the maintenance and rehabilitation of a number of NCC's assets, which have quite frankly been run down to quite an extent and are really beyond what is necessary in order to keep this area beautiful and pristine.

Ottawa is well known for the Rideau Canal, which my friend has indicated is the longest skating rink in the world. People from Winnipeg would disagree with that, but notwithstanding that, it has been designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization as part of our world heritage. It is very important. The Rideau Canal is renowned for its winter transformation. Many of us in the House and many Canadians have had the opportunity to skate on the Rideau Canal and it is very enjoyable.

The NCC offers skaters many facilities to utilize and to make their experience on the canal even more enjoyable. However, the existing service buildings date from the early 1970s and they are well beyond their life cycle. One can imagine how they are. Mr. Speaker, I am sure you have had the opportunity of going down there, putting your skates on and enjoying those buildings, but they are certainly beyond their life cycle. As a result of this government's financial commitment, these will be replaced by new buildings with lower maintenance costs, universal accessibility, which is very important, and more functional layouts. That is good news as well.

The U.S. embassy, of course, is situated near the intersection of Sussex and Rideau Streets. This particular area receives a lot of pedestrian and vehicle traffic, especially given its proximity to Parliament Hill, the office and residential buildings, and of course Byward Market which most visitors to this area enjoy.

Since this area is part of our Confederation Boulevard for which the NCC is ultimately responsible, it is participating in a rehabilitation project, which is managed by the city of Ottawa. Funds from the economic action plan will enable the replacement of the security barriers along the perimeter of the U.S. embassy by bollards which will improve the flow of traffic and allow the installation of a bicycle lane. Of course, this is a bottleneck for many of the people who come from Quebec across the Alexandra Bridge.

This government is also investing in the rehabilitation of Carbide Mill Masonry on Victoria Island which is quite depleted. The mill was built in 1899, and is designated and recognized as a heritage building by the Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office. This is an important historic monument for the people of Canada, as well. This work done on this mill will improve the stability of the building to meet federal heritage conservation imperatives.

When we think about green space in the national capital region, Gatineau Park and the greenbelt come to mind; however, the NCC also owns and maintains many other parks across the region, including Confederation Park, Major's Hill Park in the core area, as well as Rockcliffe Park, Vincent Massey Park and Hog's Back Park, just to name a few of which are under its mandate.

In some cases, the existing infrastructure actually dates back, believe this or not, to the 1950s or 1960s. With this economic stimulus funding by this Conservative government, existing public and concession buildings will be rehabilitated. This will allow upgrades to mechanical and electrical systems, and meet accessibility requirements again. It is again good news for the people of Canada.

As per the 1996 greenbelt master plan, the proposed 56-kilometre greenbelt recreational pathway is designated to provide a continuous and varied recreational and educational experience along the complete length of the greenbelt. The greenbelt is very important to the people of Canada. We have the lowest density of population in the world, which means we get to enjoy the outdoors much more than most nations. It is really good news.

Now from Shirleys Bay in the west to Green's Creek in the east, this has been promised for some period of time, and to date a total of 23 kilometres has been completed. The next section that will be completed with Canada's economic action plan is a 10-kilometre section through the Pine Grove sector of the greenbelt. That is, again, good news.

In addition, the recreational pathway between Britannia and Carling Avenue will be rehabilitated, and the recreational pathway along the Aviation Parkway corridor will be extended by two kilometres. This helps people get to work. It helps people enjoy the area. It helps all Canadians enjoy this great area when they come to visit. I would encourage all of my constituents and all constituents across Canada to enjoy what is theirs, and that is the Ottawa capital region.

We are making very important investments across this country through Canada's economic plan, and this is no different. That is why we are making these investments. After years and years of Liberal neglect, this government is coming forward with a plan to invest back in the people of Canada and the quality of life even here in the capital region.

Another important project will be the development of Gatineau Park entrances. They are difficult to find. This will not only improve the visibility of the official entrance points, but will also ensure better traffic management in Gatineau Park. Entrance points will also help to reinforce the park's identity and convey conservation-related messages, as will the new rehabilitations be more efficient, more environmental, more green, the things that Canadians have told us they want out of this government and future governments.

There are many other projects that are being carried out and funded by the government, by the people of Canada. I have outlined some of the projects that we will undertake in the coming months to improve and implement the NCC's mandate to develop and preserve the national capital region, which is the important part here. This should be a non-partisan issue. We should move forward with this good news for the people of Canada.

In closing, I want to emphasize the importance to modernize the National Capital Act. I hope that every party, including the Liberal members who quite frankly left it in neglect for years, will support it as well.

An Action Plan for the National Capital Commission
Government Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 3:35 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, not a highly contentious issue, but I would like to bring up one of the aspects that is talked about in this legislation that I think deserves to be addressed. The member talked about the master plan. Over the past couple of months we have been through several exercises that talked about the supremacy of Parliament in this particular place and encompassing all areas, including, I feel, the NCC.

In looking at this issue, the government is talking about, every 10 years, doing a 50-year master plan that is to be approved or brought forward to the governor in council or cabinet, and then tabled in the House. However, no debate ensues from that.

I am wondering if the member or the government envisions the idea of a master plan for the NCC to be brought into this House, to be thoroughly debated and discussed, before it becomes the actual plan in force.

An Action Plan for the National Capital Commission
Government Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 3:35 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I wonder why, when that member's party was in power, it did not do that. The Liberals made unilateral decisions without taking in any input at all from the citizens or from other parties, so it is kind of rich to say that when they are in opposition.

I want to talk very briefly about what did happen in relation to this act. The act came to committee and the minister met with all parties in the House. He sat down with each and every interested party in the House to find resolutions to all issues. We did not go to committee and try to ram this through, as the Liberal Party tried to do in the past on just about every bill it ever put forward.

The minister met with every party to find resolutions, to find common ground, to find a way that we could put this forward so the people of Canada could enjoy this great area in the national capital region. That is what I would like to hear the member talk about. I would like to hear his comments on that.

An Action Plan for the National Capital Commission
Government Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 3:35 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, part of what my colleague just said is true. When there were discussions about Bill C-34, the predecessor of the current bill, meetings were held, but the Bloc Québécois was not invited to take part. It is not true to say this was always done with great openness or to ensure that all parties were up to speed.

My colleague has told me, for example, that if the government wanted to expand the parks in Banff and Jasper, the Government of Alberta would be consulted. In recent discussions, he told us he did not see the need to consult the Government of Quebec if the federal government wanted to expand Gatineau Park, which is on Quebec land.

I would like to know whether my colleague will change his mind. It is good for Alberta, but not for Quebec.

An Action Plan for the National Capital Commission
Government Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 3:35 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I quite frankly understood the member to be wrong in this particular case. My understanding was that the provinces have been asked for input in relation to this particular act and the member himself was asked. I remember speaking to the member at committee. I remember speaking to the member after committee and before committee about this particular act. I could have sworn that he talked to the minister about this act as well and sought his input on it.

If I am wrong on that, I apologize, but that is my understanding, and I thought I saw it with my own eyes. Certainly, if it has not taken place, let me be clear. I am here right now. The hon. member should come across the floor and talk to me and let us have his input in relation to this important act. If he wishes me to speak to somebody else in the Quebec government, I would be more than happy to do so.

This is a non-partisan issue about the best interests of Canadians, so that all Canadians can be proud of the national capital region and enjoy all of its benefits.

An Action Plan for the National Capital Commission
Government Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 3:40 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to address Bill C-20, An Act to amend the National Capital Act. I am going to refer to my speech of June 18 of last year on Bill C-37, which was the first legislation introduced by the Conservatives, in June 2009.

But first, I want to inform hon. members that I issued a press release on March 19, to put some pressure on the Conservatives and to condemn the effects of last December's prorogation.

I was wondering what had happened to the urgent need to pass Bill C-37, which seemed so important to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities and the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Indeed, in June 2009, the Minister of Foreign Affairs said that, should an election were held in the fall of 2009, the bill would be quickly reintroduced. The previous month, he had stated that he wanted to “proceed quickly”. In December 2009, he added that he was disappointed because the bill had yet to be adopted. Did he want us to pass this legislation without any debate? We were now at the end of March, in the spring, and the bill had not yet been introduced. After exerting pressure to have all the parties reach a consensus, there was still nothing happening. That is when I declared that the whole thing was just pure hypocrisy.

I also made reference to the amendments proposed by the Liberal Party at committee stage. I simply believe that the Conservatives are not prepared to accept amendments. They want their bill to be approved without any debate. They want rubber-stamping.

That is what I wanted to say on this point.

I am now going to respond to the comments that the parliamentary secretary just made, namely that the minister consulted all the parties. It is absolutely true that I attended a meeting. However, as regards the ideas that we put forward, the minister took them under advisement, if I may use that expression, even though he is not a judge. He told us that he would think about our suggestions. Not one of them was accepted. And I will go even further. To my great surprise, the Conservatives did not accept the amendments that had been voted on and approved by the committee during the review of Bill C-37, and they did not include them in their new legislation. This is the second point I wanted to make.

I will now begin by revisiting Bill C-37, which is the original legislation. One can see how much time was lost because of last December's prorogation. Had it not been for that unfortunate prorogation, this bill could surely have already gone through third reading stage in the House.

I was saying that Bill C-20 uses almost the exact wording of Bill C-37, which was being studied in committee last fall.

This is what we had to say last year about Bill C-37.

First, we had questions about changes to the governance of the National Capital Commission and Gatineau Park.

At the time, we planned to support Bill C-37 in principle, so it could be referred to committee for further study. That continues to be our position.

The national capital is the symbol of our country. It is important to ensure that it communicates this vision to visitors from around the world. The national capital region is one of the most beautiful in the world and we are very proud of it.

To oversee the national capital region, legislators established the National Capital Commission. This organization works well and the employees who support it care about the development of our region. I would like to thank them for their dedication and loyalty. Having said this, I believe that it is appropriate to maintain transparency at the NCC and to continue improving it as much as possible. An open and transparent society is a reflection of Canadian values.

This update reflects the current political reality. People want to participate in discussions about their living environment. The decisions made have a great impact on them. It is also a question of principle.

Therefore we have questions about the administrative changes proposed for the NCC.

I should point out that the NCC is an independent corporation whose mission, according to its website, is to:

“prepare plans for and assist in the development, conservation and improvement of the National Capital Region in order that the nature and character of the seat of the Government of Canada may be in accordance with its national significance; and”

“organize, sponsor or promote such public activities and events in the National Capital Region as will enrich the cultural and social fabric of Canada”.

Generally speaking, the NCC's job is to develop the National Capital Region's lands and to promote our region. Bill C-37, which is now Bill C-20, follows up on recommendations from the ad hoc committee chaired by Gilles Paquet in 2006.

Bill C-20 specifically amends the National Capital Act to:

(a) modify the governance structure of the National Capital Commission and increase its transparency;

(b) clarify the National Capital Commission’s responsibilities, including those regarding planning and sound environmental stewardship;

(c) establish the boundaries of Gatineau Park;

(d) enhance the National Capital Commission’s regulation-making powers;

(e) remove the requirement that the National Capital Commission seek Governor in Council approval for real estate transactions; and

(f) harmonize that Act with the civil law regime of Quebec.

This enactment also amends the Official Residences Act to clarify the National Capital Commission’s responsibilities regarding official residences. As well, it makes consequential amendments to other Acts.

That last point is absolutely right.

I would now like to comment on the part of Bill C-20 that deals with Gatineau Park. Together with the green belt on the Ontario side, Gatineau Park on the Quebec side is one of the jewels in the crown of Canada's capital. Born of the Greber plan, they purify the air in Canada's capital. Today we have some serious questions about the boundaries of Gatineau Park. They need to be made very clear.

On page 13 of the bill, the description of the Gatineau Park boundaries reads as follows:

The boundaries of Gatineau Park are within the registration divisions of Hull, Gatineau and Pontiac, Province of Quebec, are located in the municipalities of Chelsea, La Pêche, Pontiac and the City of Gatineau, and form part of the cadastres of the Township of Aldfield, the Township of Eardley, the Township of Hull, the Township of Masham, the Township of Onslow and the Cadastre du Québec.

I will not read the description of the lots that follows the list I just read. There are pages upon pages of numbers that mean very little to people like us. However, it establishes the park's boundaries.

But let us be clear, when we look at this bill, it is obvious that the matter needs to be thoroughly studied. The description of the boundaries I am talking about runs from page 12 through page 34. It is a very detailed description. So we will need briefings, maps, engineers, and even a GPS to make sure that everything that needs to be included or excluded is properly delineated and identified. We therefore feel this requires a far more thorough examination in committee. We need to clarify its functions and accessibility and set the boundaries.

We were not given a detailed map of Gatineau Park when this was studied in committee. Instead, we were given a map on a piece of paper that was 8½ x 11 or 8½ x 14. It was very odd. Gatineau Park is massive. It is bigger than some European countries and, despite that, when we were studying Bill C-37 in committee, we did not receive a map that clearly showed its boundaries. I will say it again, we believe that this issue needs to be studied more closely in committee.

There are many reasons why I do not think that Gatineau Park should necessarily become a national park, but basically it is because there are portions of land inside and around the park that belong to the government of Quebec.

I think that any protection afforded the park should not include prohibiting citizens from having access and engaging in activities there, and the vast majority of residents and visitors would agree. However, there should be some limits set. Some sections of the park, but not all, are open to the public for recreation and physical activity. That is what is so unique about Gatineau Park.

Highway developments in recent years have improved access for residents to the western part of the city of Gatineau and to the park. Like the greenbelt in Ottawa, Gatineau Park is an ecological treasure, but it must also be able to grow and adapt to the human environment. There must be a balance between the two.

Protecting the park is essential. To do so, we have to know its physical boundaries and put protective mechanisms in place.

Some are disappointed that Bill C-37, now Bill C-20, does not go far enough, but others are happy to begin the discussion. That is the gist of the message I want to deliver today. We must vote in favour of the bill so that it can be studied in depth in committee.

In the course of that process, however, we will have to pay attention to certain concepts included in the bill so that they are fully understood and defined, including concepts such as national interest land mass and the ecological integrity of the park.

The bill raises other questions. Could the NCC continue to charge or increase user fees? Also, is there a possibility of privatizing the park or certain parts of it? In addition, this bill raises the issue of public transit in the national capital region. This whole issue and its local and regional impact must be studied.

The use and disposition of properties in the park must also be very clear, so as to cause prejudice to no one.

That is what we said in the House on Bill C-37 or, should I say, Bill C-20.

Now I want to focus on an amendment to the bill that we felt to be crucial, and that is the amendment on the greenbelt.

The Liberal members from the National Capital Region, the member for Ottawa South, the member for Ottawa—Vanier and myself, are calling for better protection of the greenbelt. There are no serious regulations protecting the greenbelt. Together, the City of Ottawa and the NCC can do whatever they want with this land. We believe this green space must be protected from developers. The greenbelt is a sensitive area that is part of our region's green heritage, and I want to emphasize this concept of green heritage.

The member for Ottawa South, the member for Ottawa—Vanier and I as Liberal members of Parliament in the national capital region have good reason to call for enhanced protection of the greenbelt. There are, as a matter of fact, no major regulations protecting this area. Together the City of Ottawa and the NCC could do what they like with it.

We believe this green space must be protected from developers. The greenbelt is a sensitive area that is part of our region's green heritage, and I would like to emphasize this concept of green heritage.

The national capital region has something that sets it apart from other national capitals: green space in its core. This space is the result of a planning process that dates back many years, to the time of the Gréber plan which I mentioned earlier. But more and more, our green space is facing increased pressure and is being sized up for other purposes.

The national capital region has something that sets it apart from other national capitals: green space in the core. This space is the result of a planning process that dates back many years, to the time of the Gréber plan which I mentioned earlier. But more and more, our green space is facing increased pressure and is being sized up for other purposes.

Given that the greenbelt is completely unprotected, we firmly believe it must be given the same safeguards as Gatineau Park. This type of protection is flexible enough to allow for land exchanges and road access, but would limit residential, commercial and industrial development and, as in the case of Gatineau Park, it would protect the area's ecological integrity.

Given that the greenbelt is completely unprotected, we firmly believe it must be given the same safeguards as Gatineau Park. This type of protection is flexible enough to allow for land exchanges and road access, but would limit residential, commercial and industrial development and, as in the case of Gatineau Park, it would protect the area's ecological integrity.

We want this protection not only for this generation, but also for future generations. We are the trustees and custodians of our region's heritage, and it is our duty to protect the greenbelt. We must also protect it to keep our national capital a green, accessible region on a human scale, because that is what makes the capital unique.

The greenbelt gives great pleasure to tourists, who are a major driver of the regional economy. It also creates many jobs and helps diversify employment so that the region's economic development does not depend solely on Canada's public service.

Although the NCC has begun revising its master plan, we do not feel we should wait for its recommendations. We must not wait for the Conservatives to destroy our greenbelt. We have to develop the tools to protect it immediately. Legislators are elected to make decisions, and we must show leadership and protect the greenbelt. The way to protect it is through Bill C-20.

We in the Liberal Party want to protect our greenbelt right away.

Let us protect the greenbelt immediately.

Here are the main amendments we made to Bill C-37, which we will also put forward for Bill C-20: ensure that 25% of all jobs—not square metres—in all federal organizations in the national capital region are located in Quebec and 75% in Ontario by establishing job hubs in each province; maintain the ecological integrity of NCC properties in Gatineau Park and Ottawa's greenbelt; have the National Capital Commission maintain, build and renovate any existing and future bridge across the Ottawa River in the national capital region; have the House of Commons and the Senate approve the NCC's master plan.

In conclusion, we would like to see changes in the NCC's responsibilities, the inclusion of greenbelt protection similar to the protection for Gatineau Park and the approval of the NCC's master plan by both houses of Parliament.

An Action Plan for the National Capital Commission
Government Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 3:55 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his speech on Bill C-20. I have a simple question about the 25:75 rule as it applies to the distribution of jobs between Gatineau and Ottawa. Does he see anything in this bill that would make the NCC the watchdog in charge of ensuring the 25:75 distribution of jobs between Gatineau and Ottawa? I think that we agree on the definition of government employee and on the fact that some status indicator could be used.

An Action Plan for the National Capital Commission
Government Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 3:55 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Gatineau for his question, which is a very relevant one. The distribution of jobs within the national capital region has been an issue for many years. So far, the calculations were always based on the number of people having the Treasury Board as their employer.

Unfortunately, this excludes a number of organizations which are part of the Government of Canada. Museums, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the Canadian Forces, Canada Post and the Revenue Agency are all excluded simply because, at the time when calculations were originally made, anything called Government of Canada came under the Government of Canada and Treasury Board.

Now, in modern days, changes have taken place. We absolutely must include, as the hon. member suggested, not only those employees who are under the purview of the Treasury board, but all jobs.

Why put that in this piece of legislation? The reason for that is simple. The National Capital Commission is talking about a 10-year master plan. I think this would be a perfect opportunity to establish the 75:25 distribution and also to establish job hubs on both sides of the river.

My colleague from Gatineau is quite right. He has heard our message. I think he is also making it his own. The NCC has to be in charge of the 75:25 distribution and the monitoring of that policy.

An Action Plan for the National Capital Commission
Government Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 4 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-20, An Act to amend the National Capital Act and other Acts. The Bloc Québécois has some serious concerns about this bill. We welcome it, but we have some concerns.

When it comes to protecting the environment, our focus is on Gatineau Park. The park, which has an area of 350 km2, is federal land managed by the National Capital Commission. Unlike other national and provincial parks in Canada and Quebec, Gatineau Park is not protected by legislation and has no official status. As such, the park is subject to the whims and decisions of the organization responsible for running it, in this case the National Capital Commission, which, according to its powers under the legislation, can sell land, which includes land on Quebec soil.

A number of environmental groups and citizens' groups are calling for better protection of Gatineau Park, for example, by including a section in the act to give the park official legal status, to clarify its purpose, and to ensure its ecological integrity.

Some of the groups calling for this include the Ottawa valley chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, as well as the Gatineau Park Protection Committee.

The Bloc recognizes how important it is to protect and conserve natural settings. We believe that we must protect Gatineau Park from property development, clarify the purpose of the park and ensure that it is around for future generations.

Respecting Quebec's jurisdictions and the integrity of Quebec's territory, are both very important, and I must point out that in 2006, the House of Commons unanimously recognized the Quebec nation. In short, “nation” is the community to which we belong, the group with which we identify, and within which we debate and decide how our society is to be organized.

And because a nation is the special place where political decisions can be made, recognizing a nation means recognizing a political entity with legitimate political rights and aspirations.

By recognizing the Quebec nation, the House of Commons recognized the right of Quebeckers to control the social, economic and cultural development of Quebec themselves.

By stating that the Quebec nation is composed of all residents of Quebec, regardless of their origin or mother tongue or the region where they live, the federal government recognized that the Quebec nation has a clear geographic base made up of all, I repeat, all of the territory of Quebec.

In short, recognizing the Quebec nation also means recognition of the legitimacy of Quebec's repeated demands that Quebeckers should have the powers and resources needed in order to develop their own society.

To date, Canada has not yet acted on that recognition and continues to behave as if it were composed of a single nation.

However, the minister currently responsible for the National Capital Commission, the hon. member for Pontiac and Minister of Foreign Affairs, has abided by the Allaire report and the Charlottetown accord. Although they do little to satisfy the aspirations of Quebeckers, those two documents were clear about the need for Quebec to have full control over the development of its municipal and regional tourism.

I would like to quote the document entitled A Quebec free to choose dated January 1991 published by the Quebec Liberal Party:

It [Quebec] must also have complete control over regional development. Finally, in terms of sectoral policies, it must repatriate exclusive control over agriculture, energy, the environment, natural resources and tourism.

Regarding the Charlottetown accord of 1992, points 32 and 35 read as follows:

32. Tourism

Exclusive provincial jurisdiction over tourism should be recognized and clarified through an explicit constitutional amendment and the negotiation of federal-provincial agreements.

35. Municipal and Urban Affairs

Exclusive provincial jurisdiction over municipal and urban affairs should be recognized and clarified through an explicit constitutional amendment and the negotiation of federal-provincial agreements.

This is from the 1992 Charlottetown accord.

It is particularly interesting to note that the minister responsible for the NCC, the hon. member for Pontiac and Minister of Foreign Affairs, is part of a government that came to the other national capital and solemnly promised to respect the Government of Quebec's jurisdictions.

I would like to quote the current Prime Minister. This is from a speech he gave in Quebec City on December 19, 2005, during the election campaign:

We will recognize provincial autonomy, as well as the special cultural and institutional responsibilities of the Quebec government. We will respect federal and provincial jurisdictions, as defined by the Canadian Constitution.

Now he must act accordingly.

Based on the fact that the current government has promised to respect Quebec's jurisdictions, the Bloc Québécois expects all activities of the National Capital Commission concerning Quebec to be subject to the approval of the Government of Quebec.

The governments of Quebec have always considered territorial integrity to be inviolable. The federal government, through the National Capital Commission, has gobbled up land in Quebec to the point where the NCC is now the largest land owner in the Outaouais. The NCC owns more than 470 km2 of land, or 10% of the land in Gatineau and Ottawa combined. On the Quebec side, the NCC owns most of Gatineau Park.

On May 18, 2010, the local press informed us that the City of Gatineau had to first negotiate the repurchase of land with the NCC before installing a standard cycling lane on a section of road in the Hull sector.

The message is clear.

Although the federal government and the National Capital Commission consider the Outaouais and the Ontario side as a single entity, we consider Gatineau and Ottawa to have their own identity and interests. The National Capital Commission must recognize that the Government of Quebec and the City of Gatineau, on the Quebec side, are better positioned to meet the needs of their citizens.

The Bloc Québécois believes that the federal government and its agent, the National Capital Commission, have the obligation to respect the integrity of Quebec's territory, both in terms of the land mass and the exercise of power.

The federal government's law and policies should be amended to ensure that: first, the federal government and its agencies cannot dispossess Quebec of its land; second, all National Capital Commission activities, decisions and development projects on Quebec territory are to be approved by the Government of Quebec in advance

In the same vein, but on a different matter—necessary amendments to Bill C-20 to respect Quebec's territorial integrity and jurisdictions—there is the very important point of the national interest land mass.

Bill C-20 would introduce the concept of “national interest land mass”, which would allow the National Capital Commission to designate any land, such as Gatineau Park and other land in and around Gatineau, as being part of that land mass and prescribe the process for acquiring it.

Clause 10.2 states:

If criteria and process are prescribed under paragraph 10.3(a), the Commission may designate all or a portion of any real property or immovables as part of the National Interest Land Mass or revoke such a designation, as the case may be.

Clause 10.3 reads as follows:

With the Governor in Council’s approval, the Commission may make regulations

(a) setting out the criteria and the process respecting the designation of all or a portion of any real property or immovable as part of the National Interest Land Mass and the revocation of such a designation; and

(b) prescribing in relation to public lands that are designated as part of the National Interest Land Mass or classes of those lands — in addition to any requirements under the Federal Real Property and Federal Immovables Act — the process by which those lands or classes of them may be acquired by the Commission or by which the administration of them may be transferred to the Commission, and any terms and conditions of such an acquisition or transfer.

This concept raises a number of concerns, especially among elected officials of the Government of Quebec, who have written about them to their federal counterparts. In an October 30, 2009 letter to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, who is the minister for the Quebec City region, Quebec's Canadian intergovernmental affairs minister, Claude Béchard, shared this concern:

This new tool, due to the NCC's increased presence on the Quebec side of the Outaouais region, further complicates the Government of Quebec's exercise of its jurisdiction with respect to land use planning.

This concept of national interest land mass has been cause for concern to the Government of Quebec since 2007, when on the occasion of the release of the report, “The National Capital Commission: Charting a New Course”, Benoît Pelletier, then the minister responsible for intergovernmental affairs and the Outaouais region, had written to the hon. member for Pontiac, the current Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of State for the National Capital Commission, to express his apprehension.

Thus, the Government of Quebec was already protesting in 2007. I will read an excerpt from the letter from Quebec's Minister Pelletier to the federal minister, the hon. member for Pontiac:

Moreover, despite noting that the Canadian Constitution gives the provinces jurisdiction for land-use planning, the report nevertheless promotes a new idea, that of the “National Interest Land Mass” (NILM): land in the NCC portfolio that is deemed essential to the long-term viability of Canada's Capital Region. This is a remarkably nebulous concept. It could potentially entail a risk of encroachment on Quebec's territorial jurisdiction in the Outaouais, given that a number of important components of the NILM, including the Gatineau Park and other parcels of land in the Greenbelt, are located in Quebec. Such an expansion of the NCC's prerogatives is an extremely disquieting prospect.

As far as transportation development in the Outaouais region is concerned, the section on the National Capital Commission's mandate introduces a new provision in the commission's mission, which may cause problems. The bill proposes that the commission:

(a) prepare plans for and assist in the development, conservation and improvement of the National Capital Region, including in relation to transportation in that region, in order that the nature and character of the seat of the Government of Canada may be in accordance with its national significance;

The Bloc Québécois believes it is clear that developing land within Quebec's boundaries is within the purview of the Quebec government, both in the federal capital region and elsewhere. The same goes for transportation.

The Bloc Québécois believes that until Quebec has full power, the federal government's laws and policies should be amended to ensure that all National Capital Commission activities, decisions and development projects within Quebec's boundaries should be subject to the prior approval of the Government of Quebec.

Just like the “national interest land mass”, the transportation issue could “further complicate the Government of Quebec's exercise of its jurisdiction with respect to land use planning”.

In a letter dated October 16, 2007, Minister Pelletier wrote the following to the member for Pontiac, the Minister responsible for the National Capital Commission:

In the past, the Government of Quebec repeatedly condemned the NCC's methods in the Outaouais region and the impact of its decisions, most often made without consultation following a closed-door process utterly lacking in transparency. The relationship between the Government of Quebec and the NCC is tense, as illustrated by the fact that important road infrastructure agreements signed in 1972 and 1985 were not completed until 2007.

That was a letter from the Government of Quebec to the federal government on the subject.

The Bloc Québécois believes that in general, under legislative power sharing provisions, road development and maintenance, along with public transportation, fall under Quebec's jurisdiction. That is no secret.

Land use planning is and must remain under Quebec's jurisdiction, even in border areas like the Outaouais region.

I would now like to turn to consultation with the Government of Quebec. The letter refers to “the NCC's methods in the Outaouais region and the impact of its decisions, most often made without consultation following a closed-door process utterly lacking in transparency”. Minister Pelletier was writing on behalf of Quebec's National Assembly and the Government of Quebec about Quebec's position on the National Capital Commission's role in the Outaouais.

The recurring problems in relations between the National Capital Commission and the Government of Quebec mainly stem from the fact that the federal government has given this organization too much power. The National Capital Commission regularly oversteps certain boundaries that we feel properly belong in the Quebec government's jurisdiction.

Bill C-20 proposes some amendments that illustrate this perfectly.

Now I would like to talk about the master plan. This bill would require the National Capital Commission to outline its broad objectives in a master plan once every 10 years, which seems reasonable to us.

What seems less reasonable is that the National Capital Commission can do this without consulting provincial governments or the public, including those who live in the areas affected by these broad objectives.

The Bloc Québécois believes that the people and governments directly implicated, especially the Government of Quebec, are best suited to identify what they truly need.

From these statements, it is obvious that the Bloc Québécois will study this bill again very closely, and we hope that this time the amendments we propose will be adopted, if anyone expects the Bloc Québécois to vote in favour of this bill.

An Action Plan for the National Capital Commission
Government Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 4:20 p.m.
See context

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I certainly know the region of Gatineau is within the provincial jurisdiction of Quebec and that parts of it are within Ontario but the member never once mentioned the Algonquin Nation. I raise this because I think it is very important. The Algonquin Nation never ceded any territory within Quebec or even within its territorial interests in Ontario. The Algonquin Nation has a very specific, historic and spiritual connection to the Outaouais and the Gatineau region.

I would like to hear from my hon. colleague about efforts that have been made to include the Algonquin Nation in discussions.

I remember the situation on lac Témiscamingue in the 1990s when Parks Canada was going to rebuild the old fort at Ville-Marie and it excluded the Algonquin Nation. The Algonquin Nation was not making any outrageous demands. It just wanted to be part of it because it had been a historic trading centre for the Algonquins for thousands of years. At that time, they were completely left out and many bad decisions were made by Parks Canada in terms of the development and it ended up becoming a confrontation. To settle it all, Parks Canada finally ended up having to make the Algonquin Nation part owners of this historic site.

I think we could do a lot to end any misunderstanding by ensuring that there is consultation from the beginning.

I would like to ask my hon. colleague how he feels about consulting with our first nations peoples, in particular the Algonquin Nation which has such a historic and traditional interest in this territory?