Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks Act

An Act to amend the Canada National Parks Act and the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act and to make consequential amendments to the Canada Shipping Act, 2001

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2013.

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

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

Part 1 of this enactment amends the Canada National Parks Act to create Sable Island National Park Reserve of Canada.

It also amends the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act to prohibit drilling for petroleum in Sable Island National Park Reserve of Canada or within one nautical mile seaward of Sable Island’s low-water mark, to restrict surface access rights provided for under that Act and to provide for the issuance of licences and authorizations with respect to activities that may be carried out in Sable Island National Park Reserve of Canada.

Finally, it makes consequential amendments to the Canada Shipping Act, 2001.

Part 2 amends the Canada National Parks Act to provide that the dedication of the national parks of Canada to the people of Canada is subject to any Act of Parliament.

It also amends the description of the commercial zones for the Community of Field in Yoho National Park of Canada in Schedule 4 to that Act and of the leasehold boundary of the Marmot Basin Ski Area in Jasper National Park of Canada in Schedule 5 to that Act.

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.

Votes

  • June 6, 2013 Passed That, in relation to Bill S-15, An Act to amend the Canada National Parks Act and the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act and to make consequential amendments to the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, not more than five further hours shall be allotted to the consideration of the second reading stage of the Bill; and that, at the expiry of the five hours provided for the consideration of the second reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and, in turn, every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage of the Bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.

Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks Act
Government Orders

June 18th, 2013 / 7:50 p.m.
See context

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I move:

That, notwithstanding any Standing or Special Order or usual practice of the House, Bill S-15, An Act to amend the Canada National Parks Act and the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act and to make consequential amendments to the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, be deemed concurred in at the report stage and deemed read a third time and passed.

Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks Act
Government Orders

June 10th, 2013 / 12:05 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Patrick Brown Barrie, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill S-15. I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak in support of this bill.

Sable Island is one of Canada's great natural treasures, a windswept remote island renowned for its wild horses and its historical role as the site of the nation's first life-saving station.

It is a place of astounding beauty, with sand dunes, marram grass and freshwater ponds. Anyone fortunate enough to visit this unique environment is captivated by its diversity of plants, birds and animal life. The island is home to several endangered species.

This rare and remarkable place also has a rich cultural history. Sable Island holds a special place in the hearts and minds of Nova Scotians and Canadians. It has inspired artists and writers locally, across the country and internationally.

An island of such spectacular beauty, rare flora and fauna and cultural heritage is wholly deserving of our protection. That is why on October 17, 2011, the governments of Canada and Nova Scotia signed a memorandum of agreement to establish and manage Sable Island as a national park reserve of Canada.

Our objective is to protect Sable Island for all time for the benefit, education and enjoyment of the people of Canada. As the House is aware, the designation of Sable Island as a national park reserve of Canada takes into consideration the Mi'kmaq asserted rights and title in Nova Scotia. These are being addressed through the made-in-Nova Scotia process between the governments of Canada, Nova Scotia and the Mi'kmaq.

Moreover, the governments of Canada and Nova Scotia have agreed that Parliament will enact legislation amending the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act to prohibit drilling for petroleum in Sable Island national park reserve of Canada and to limit the range of surface access rights in respect to the petroleum work or activity in the park reserve.

We have done the essential preparatory work, and I would like to highlight the many reasons why Parks Canada is uniquely situated to oversee the protection of Sable Island.

The Parks Canada network now includes 44 national parks, 167 national historic sites and 4 national marine conservation areas. Since 1911, this agency has worked hard to ensure that Canada's historic and natural heritage is protected and that Canadians and people around the world can engage in inspiring discoveries of our treasured and natural historic places.

Let me give an overview of how we have expanded Parks Canada's protected areas network in recent years. In 2006, that network was 277,400 square kilometres in size. Since then, the Government of Canada has taken actions that would protect an additional 149,639 square kilometres. This would bring Parks Canada's network to more than 427,000 square kilometres, or a 54% increase.

What these numbers demonstrate is how completely Parks Canada is committed to taking care of our natural treasures and to acting as their ever-vigilant stewards. The early visionaries of our parks system recognized that connecting with the natural world can be a deeply meaningful and moving experience, and a fundamental part of that mission was a way to foster these connections. This is a principle to which Parks Canada remains dedicated.

Allow me to give some highlights of Parks Canada's achievements over the past few years, all of which provide ample evidence of this agency's fitness for the stewardship role with regard to Sable Island. Let me start with some recent top achievements, several of them marking firsts, not just in Canada but in the world.

In 2007, the Prime Minister announced the creation of the largest freshwater marine protected area in the world, Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area. This addition to our system comprises more than 10,000 square kilometres, including the lake bed, islands and north shore lands.

In 2009, we expanded the boundary of the Nahanni National Park Reserve sixfold to over 30,000 square kilometres. There is absolutely no doubt that this landmark conservation achievement is quite significant. In fact it is the greatest accomplishment for Parks Canada in a generation. I am delighted to note that it was done in close collaboration with the Dehcho First Nations.

Another outstanding accomplishment in 2009 was the establishment of the Saoyú-§ehdacho National Historic Site in the Northwest Territories. This marks the first of three firsts in Canada. This national historic site was the first northern cultural landscape commemorated by the Government of Canada; the first northern national historic site co-operatively managed by Parks Canada and an aboriginal group; and also the first protected area established under the Northwest Territories protected areas strategy. This historic site comprises two peninsulas bordering the Great Bear Lake. It is an area of 5,565 square kilometres, which is approximately the size of Prince Edward Island. This site protects a cultural landscape of great importance to the Sahtu people of the Great Bear Lake. The elders' vision for the site is one of continued teaching and healing, a place that forever helps to sustain the culture and well-being of the people.

In 2010, the Government of Canada formally established the Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area Reserve and Haida Heritage Site, which some people call “the Canadian Galapagos”. This achievement was a result of historic and outstanding collaborative partnership between the Government of Canada and the Haida Nation. What is extraordinary about this unique protective measure is the combination of the existing park reserve with a new marine conservation area. In total, over 5,000 square kilometres are now protected: a spectacular wilderness that extends from alpine mountaintops to the deep sea beyond the continental shelf. The scope of this achievement is a first not only for Canada but also for North America and the world.

In 2011, Parks Canada oversaw the successful reintroduction of the plains bison and the black-footed ferret, an animal once thought to be extinct for most of the 20th century, in the Grasslands National Park. This measure was part of the $75-million investment to improve the ecological integrity of national parks and national park reserves across Canada.

It was also in 2011 that the Government of Canada announced it would create Canada's first national urban park in Toronto. The concept of a national urban park is an entirely new and unique one to Parks Canada and, indeed, to Canada. Once established, Rouge national urban park will provide an unparalleled opportunity to reach the 20% of Canadians who live within the vicinity of the park and in Canada's most culturally diverse city. Since the 2011 announcement of the Rouge national park, Parks Canada has made steady progress toward establishing this unique protected area in the heart of Canada's most populated area. The agency has worked with first nations and more than 100 communities and organizations including youth. I note that my riding in the city of Barrie is very close to this Rouge national park, and I know that across southern Ontario the commitment to it has been supported and appreciated.

I also remind members of the House about four successful multi-partnership expeditions that Parks Canada has led in Canada's Arctic, in search of the lost vessels of Sir John Franklin. This work has helped narrow our search, with the great added advantages of further asserting Canadian sovereignty and deepening our scientific knowledge in the Arctic. The work to protect our natural heritage is ceaseless, and it takes in all parts of our vast nation.

In May 2012, for example, the governments of Canada and Quebec announcement the creation of an advisory committee for the feasibility assessment of a marine protected area in Îles-de-la-Madeleine.

In August 2012, the Prime Minister announced the establishment and boundaries of Canada's 44th national park, the Nááts'ihch'oh National Park Reserve in the Northwest Territories. This new national park reserve will serve as a launching area for visitors to its northern wilderness, with its breathtaking landscapes of the upper reaches of the world-famous South Nahanni River. Together, the Nahanni and the Nááts'ihch'oh national park reserves protect habitat for mountain woodland caribou, grizzly bears, Dall sheep, mountain goats and trumpeter swans, while at the same time supporting the economic aspirations of first nations and the tourism industries of the region.

I need hardly tell members that the Parks Canada role in the protection of our diverse precious natural areas and species is one of which all Canadians can justly be proud. In its dedicated work as a steward, Parks Canada is an example to the world. In fact, its reach and influence extend globally, and it has received international recognition for its achievements.

For example, in May 2011, the World Wildlife Fund International recognized Parks Canada with its prestigious Gift to the Earth award. The award noted Parks Canada's outstanding conservation achievements, including the recent dramatic growth of Canada's system of national parks and national marine conservation areas.

In September 2012, Parks Canada led the development of the publication titled “North American Protected Areas as Natural Solutions to Climate Change”, released at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature World Conservation Congress in South Korea. This publication is a collaborative effort of the North American Intergovernmental Committee on Wilderness and Protected Area Conservation with the government representation from Canada, the United States and Mexico.

I would like to turn now to some of Parks Canada's achievements in the realm of historic and cultural commemoration. As I noted earlier, these are important aspects in the protection of Sable Island.

In fact, in 2012, Parks Canada received such a historic designation itself. That year, the Government of Canada honoured the agency as the world's first national parks service by commemorating the Creation of the Dominion Parks Branch and the birth of Parks Canada as an event of national historic significance.

Parks Canada's other commemorative highlights last year included the opening of the new visitor centre at Fort Wellington National Historic Site as part of the special War of 1812 commemoration. The Calgary Stampede, billed as the greatest outdoor show on Earth, was also recognized as an event of national historic significance as was the Grey Cup.

In August last year, our environment minister designated Canada's heritage lighthouses under the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act, which included the St. Paul Island Southwest Lighthouse in Dingwall, Nova Scotia and McNab Point and the Saugeen River Front and Rear Range lights in Southampton, Ontario.

On the 100th anniversary of the sinking of RMS Titanic, the government honoured the historic efforts of Canadians in the recovery of victims of the disaster.

Earlier, I mentioned Parks Canada's involvement in searching for the ships of the Franklin expedition. In July 2010, the agency embarked upon its 10 day archeological survey of Aulavik National Park to locate HMS Investigator wreck and document and map the land sites associated with Captain Robert McClure's expedition to find the Northwest Passage. This initiative produced a number of findings, including the shipwreck of HMS Investigator, three gravesites and new information on the equipment and provision cache site.

I said that Parks Canada's commitment to protecting our natural and cultural heritage is unceasing. So, too, are the agency's efforts to help connect Canadians with nature.

The early visionaries of our parks system recognized that when people connected with the natural world they could have an experience that was deeply meaningful and moving. A fundamental part of Parks Canada's mission is therefore to foster these connections.

Today, that mission is more urgent than ever before. As many members of the House know, North Americans are becoming more and more disconnected with nature. Tackling the disconnection and fostering Canadians' close relation with the natural world is therefore a task for Parks Canada, and it takes it very seriously.

It is typical of the agency's dedication to this vision that it used its own anniversary to further this crucial work. In its anniversary year of 2011, Parks Canada introduced a series of ongoing programs to reach Canadians and youth in particular.

Among these were the innovative and highly popular learn to camp initiative, overnight camping events aimed at introducing city dwellers, many of them young families or recent immigrants, to camping and other fun outdoor activities.

Through its my parks pass program, the agency provided every grade 8 student across the country with passes to enter all of Parks Canada's sites free of charge for 12 months.

Parks Canada also introduced a promotion called “Canada's coolest school trip” in which a grade 8 class could win a school trip to visit a national park or historic site.

Using multimedia, the agency's national parks project brought together 52 of Canada's best musicians and filmmakers to create music and film inspired by Canada's most breathtaking national parks. These films are available online. The soundtrack album is in stores and on iTunes and a documentary TV series is running on Discovery World.

Also on television, Parks Canada premiered Operation Unplugged, a reality show in which eight urban young people traded their techno-dependent lifestyles for a summer unplugged in the national parks.

In all these ways, Parks Canada's centennial celebrations help the agency meet its target for public engagement so Canadians' awareness of Parks Canada and support for its work are growing across the country. Parks Canada reports the visitation to national parks is now slowly increasing, helping to reverse a downward trend seen over many years.

In my overview, I have touched on many areas of Parks Canada's achievements, all of which demonstrate the agency's long history, experience and passion for protecting our natural and cultural heritage. I noted its international recognition and that it was the first national parks agency in the world. I am fully confident that this superbly well-qualified federal agency will make an ideal steward for the wondrous beauty and unique character of Sable Island. I am therefore urging all members in the House to support the bill, which would make this exquisite island one of the jewels in our national parks system with Parks Canada as its able steward.

Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks Act
Government Orders

June 10th, 2013 / 12:20 p.m.
See context

NDP

Ève Péclet La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, I hear my colleague's message loud and clear. I understand his good will and his desire to help Canadians connect with nature. However, since the Conservatives made significant cuts to Parks Canada, they have also cut its activities, environmental assessments and the protection of navigable waters. Furthermore, some Canadians now have to volunteer their services in order to take care of Parks Canada.

We will support this bill because it is important. However, I would like to know what the member has to say about this. If we add a 44th park, what will happen and who will look after it? Will the government allocate funds specifically to protect the environment? Will the government reverse the cuts it made to Parks Canada? I would like the member to answer those questions.

Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks Act
Government Orders

June 10th, 2013 / 12:20 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Patrick Brown Barrie, ON

Mr. Speaker, first, since 2006, this government has put significant investments into Parks Canada. More significant, we need to look at the overall numbers. One could say that in this year or that year there was small cut or a large increase, but the bottom line is if we look at an overview of Parks Canada, the protected areas in 2006 went from 277,000 square kilometres in size to an astounding 427,000 square kilometres today, a 54% increase to Parks Canada. That is an accomplishment for the Government of Canada. It shows the commitment of the Conservatives to Parks Canada, which is quite astounding.

Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks Act
Government Orders

June 10th, 2013 / 12:20 p.m.
See context

Calgary Centre-North
Alberta

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, as we have debated this bill in the House over the last few sessions, I have been pleased to see a lot of support for getting the bill to a parliamentary committee for review.

There is one colleague in the House who has spoken out against the bill, and that is the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands. She has incorrectly stated that the bill would change the scope and functionality of the Canada National Parks Act, when instead, it would create a reserve for Sable Island, which prevents hydrocarbon drilling on the surface of the island and a buffer zone around it. That would provide significantly increase protection for the ecosystem of this area. It has been developed in partnership with the Nova Scotia government and industry.

Could my colleague speak to the importance of supporting the bill's passage through to committee and perhaps some of the inaccurate comments that the colleague has made?

Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks Act
Government Orders

June 10th, 2013 / 12:25 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Patrick Brown Barrie, ON

Mr. Speaker, first, let me note that it is great to have such an advocate in the member for Calgary Centre-North. Her commitment at the environment committee and to Parks Canada is simply incredible.

She is absolutely correct that it is a mistake for the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands to try to block or build support against investing in Parks Canada and against creating national parks. It does an incredible amount of good. When it comes to ecological protection, I think this is something all Canadians value to ensure the partnership created with first nations and with the Government of Nova Scotia is honoured at the multi-level agreement. We should honour that ecological protection. I am so proud to be part of a government that is so committed to doing so.

Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks Act
Government Orders

June 10th, 2013 / 12:25 p.m.
See context

NDP

Sadia Groguhé Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague appears to understand the importance of national parks. It is also clear, however, that his comments are simply for appearances, considering the cuts imposed on Parks Canada, as my colleague mentioned earlier.

Furthermore, Canada is not even coming close to meeting its commitments regarding the conservation targets set out in the United Nations convention.

Can my colleague tell us when his government will put an end to the piecemeal approach it has adopted so far when it comes to the environment as a whole?

Of course, the NDP supports and will vote in favour of a comprehensive approach on environmental issues.

Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks Act
Government Orders

June 10th, 2013 / 12:25 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Patrick Brown Barrie, ON

Mr. Speaker, this government has shown a tremendous commitment to the environment. Rather than just talk about it, like the NDP likes to, the Conservative government has taken tangible action. In my own home area in Simcoe county, for the first time in history, the Government of Canada, rather than leaving it to local authorities to invest in, invested in the cleanup of Lake Simcoe, with a $30-million initial grant and a subsequent $29-million grant. Phosphorous levels are now at an all-time modern low. It is not just Lake Simcoe, it is Lake Winnipeg and across the country that there has been a commitment to cleaning up the environment in a very real and meaningful manner.

In terms of the international forums the member mentioned, I would note that we are being honoured in Canada for Canada's unique and zealous commitment to the environment. A good example is in 2001 the World Wildlife Fund recognized Parks Canada with its prestigious Gift to the Earth award to recognize Canadian efforts. Additionally, we were recognized at the World Conservation Congress in South Korea in 2012.

This is certainly a government with a track record of success and accomplishments in the environment. I know my home community in Barrie, Ontario, tremendously appreciates the cleanup that has happened on the shores of Kempenfelt Bay.

Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks Act
Government Orders

June 10th, 2013 / 12:25 p.m.
See context

NDP

Philip Toone Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, this bill is certainly worth our attention and should be looked at it in committee. I look forward to debating it in committee, if it passes at second reading, and I will support it. However, I have some serious reservations.

The commitment of the government toward the parks system in our country has been transparently lacking. Cutting $59 million last year is a case in point. We are not sure where the government is trying to take us, but the creation of a new park may be a step in the right direction. Perhaps putting the $59 million back into the system would be another step in the right direction.

In the interim, let us talk about what is being done at Sable Island. There is talk about creating a buffer zone. The parliamentary secretary mentioned that. The member spoke about the Magdalen Islands and the protections to be created there. Protections consist of, for instance, marine-protected areas around parks, as is planned to be done in the Magdalen Islands. The question is what kind of protection that is. It is still completely undefined for the Magdalen Islands and remains undefined, even though we have talked about for years. I would like the government to come clean on what its definition of marine-protected areas really is.

Let us talk about Sable Island. If there is going to be a buffer zone around the island, we are talking about low-impact seismic testing. We know seismic testing can blow the eardrums right out of whales that are crossing through those areas during seismic testing.

Could the member please explain to me the meaning of low-impact seismic testing? What protections are going to be put in place for marine mammals and how is the government going to ensure that seismic testing is, in fact, going to be low impact that it is not going to affect marine mammals as they cross through the area of this new park?

Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks Act
Government Orders

June 10th, 2013 / 12:30 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Patrick Brown Barrie, ON

Mr. Speaker, certainly the member's support for this bill is appreciated. Sending this to committee is an important step in the process, so that is encouraging to hear. I understand that the member will have a role in suggesting witnesses so that we can see some of the structure associated with the conservation process and hear appropriate guidelines and suggestions.

There is already an ongoing dialogue between the Government of Nova Scotia and the Government of Canada. I know that the member for Calgary Centre-North has spoken in the House of Commons in great detail to some of the elements of conservation and what they would entail. The member may want to take a look at that in Hansard.

Overall, this is a fundamental commitment to the province of Nova Scotia and to Canadians that we value our natural heritage sites. If we look at the big picture, it is about supporting ongoing efforts to expand our national parks system. Since 2006, we have seen not only a net increase in the budget for Parks Canada but an astounding 54% increase in the number of square kilometres associated with Parks Canada.

Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks Act
Government Orders

June 10th, 2013 / 12:30 p.m.
See context

NDP

Élaine Michaud Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House in support of Bill S-15, Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks Act, at second reading.

I should first note that I will be sharing my time with the member for Saint-Lambert.

Among other things, Bill S-15 proposes to make Sable Island, a small island 175 km off the south-east coast of Nova Scotia, Canada’s 43rd national park.

It is a very interesting bill that has support from regional and national environmental groups. It is the result of negotiations between the federal government and the provincial NDP government. Clearly, with support from the community and from government, we already have an opportunity to take the longer view, and perhaps support it.

A few months ago, on one of those rare evenings of rest I was able to get, I happened upon an article about Sable Island. I was truly fascinated by what I was able to learn, particularly about the unique ecosystem of this thin sand dune off the coast of Nova Scotia. I found the island absolutely magnificent. It is a most impressive place, with over 300 unique species of birds, insects and butterflies, and a herd of the wild horses that are the cause of its fame.

The flora of Sable Island are just as varied, and include a number of plants rarely found elsewhere on our planet. Uninhabited, except for a handful of researchers, this island continues to stir the imagination of Canadians today, and must be protected, both because of its unique and important ecosystem, and its historical value. The island is very fragile, and exposed to the winds of the Atlantic Ocean. In an intensified way, it is subject to the weather conditions of the environment in which it is located.

In designating Sable Island as a national park, this government has the responsibility of granting it the enhanced environmental protection measures that should accompany its designation as a national park.

Although Bill S-15 seems to be an initial step in the right direction, there are still a number of concerns about its wording.

First, the bill prohibits drilling within one nautical mile of the island, or on its surface, but still allows drilling underneath it. This is a first for a national park in Canada, but it is not one to be proud of. In my view, a very dangerous precedent is being created for future national parks that may be created over the years in Canada. I would not like to see similar rights granted to some companies that own drilling rights, such as ExxonMobil, which still has the right to drill close to Sable Island. I believe such an opening is very dangerous, and it should be studied in detail in committee.

The current wording of Bill S-15 also allows various types of low-impact exploration on the surface of the Island, but without a clear definition of what that expression means. I have problems with this, because it is difficult to imagine all the different kinds of exploration that might be carried out on Sable Island, which is already very fragile.

My colleague from Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine has raised some concerns about the effects of some kinds of exploration, which are considered to be low-impact but which can have very harmful effects on marine mammals in the vicinity of such tests.

For these reasons, the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development has a lot of work to do before we can fully support the bill as currently drafted. It has some fairly serious shortcomings, and we must ensure that the text that emerges from the committee's proceedings guarantees genuine protection for Sable Island's invaluable habitats and ecosystems.

Parks Canada's mandate is to protect the natural and cultural heritage of our national parks. The final text of Bill S-15 must truly reflect that mandate and implement practical measures to ensure that it is carried out.

I come from the riding of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, where nature is a very important part of people's everyday lives and environmental protection issues are among their greatest concerns. They regularly enjoy the outdoors, hunting and fishing, but they also want to protect our natural resources.

Last Saturday, I attended the Saint-Basile-de-Portneuf fishing festival, during which I even had a chance to go and stock the river with trout.

This is one of the many actions the municipality takes every year to ensure that fishers retain their access to the river, which is very close to the village, and are able to continue fishing without depleting all the fish stocks in the river. These efforts show how important nature is to the people of my riding.

Although there is no federal national park in my riding, there is a provincial park, the Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier. There is also the Portneuf wildlife reserve, which I highly recommend to everyone as a summer vacation destination. People will not be disappointed by it.

The Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier is less than 30 minutes north of Quebec City. The Government of Quebec created the 670-km² park in 1981 to protect a representative sample of the natural region of the Laurentian mountains. Some of you may have had the opportunity to travel across part of the park if you have ever driven from Quebec City to Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean or other neighbouring areas. That route features a very good sample of the region's natural assets. In addition to a spectacular glacier valley, the park is also crossed by a salmon river, the Rivière à saumon, and is home to rich and diversified plant and animal life.

The Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier is also home to an isolated herd of nearly 75 woodland caribou, a cervid species considered vulnerable and found in very small numbers in the province of Quebec. I saw one on one of my many trips across the Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier, between Quebec City and Jonquière, where I lived for a number of years. Protection for the caribou's environment, part of which is located in the Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier, is essential to the species' survival.

The 775-km2 Portneuf wildlife reserve is located approximately 40 km north of Saint-Raymond, halfway between Quebec City and Trois-Rivières. It is another large nature preserve in my riding. Some of you may perhaps already be familiar with the region, which is well known to hunting and fishing enthusiasts who come to the service cooperative in Rivière-à-Pierre to stock up on provisions before heading off to take advantage of this wildlife reserve's magnificent hills and valleys, as well as its countless lakes and rivers.

Plans are already underway in my riding to create a protected area in the Portneuf wildlife reserve, and work to protect the ecosystems in this part of the area is ongoing. With such a wealth of natural resources in my own riding, it is difficult for me not to take an interest in other natural resources in Canada, including those of Sable Island, which is the subject of the bill before us today.

Unfortunately, I do not feel reassured when I look at the Conservatives’ track record on the environment, particularly when the bill would leave open the possibility of drilling underneath Sable Island. An environment as fragile as this already needs our protection, and preserving its ecosystem means that the number of people visiting it should be kept down. This bill, however, leaves open the possibility of drilling underneath the island. This, to me, is inconceivable, particularly given the Conservatives' track record.

In 2012 alone, the Conservatives eliminated important environmental protection measures, including 99% of federal environmental assessments and 98% of protective measures for Canada's navigable waterways. They eliminated the protection regime for most fish habitats. They also slashed $29 million from the Parks Canada budget and eliminated over 6,000 jobs, all of which clearly demonstrates that Canada's national parks are anything but a priority for this government.

The Conservatives are proposing the establishment of Canada's 43rd national park, but are not providing Parks Canada with everything it needs to fulfill its mandate to protect and preserve our natural heritage. That is what worries me.

I am therefore supporting the bill at second reading so that it can be referred to committee for the in-depth study that is necessary. I hope that what comes back to us in the House is a version that truly protects Sable Island, an outcome that is absolutely essential.

Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks Act
Government Orders

June 10th, 2013 / 12:40 p.m.
See context

Calgary Centre-North
Alberta

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I was quite pleased to hear the level of detail and content in my colleague's speech.

In previous debate, we have talked about the fact that this bill would not amend the Canada National Parks Act in order to permit low-impact petroleum activities; rather, it would amend the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act to restrict the board's current powers to authorize various forms of hydrocarbon exploration in and around the area. This is a very positive environmental gain for Sable Island.

Unfortunately, the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands has tried to confuse this issue, quite seriously, in the media. How does my colleague opposite feel about this, given that the NDP government in Nova Scotia has been one of the most active proponents of this legislation; has passed a very similar bill in its legislature; and has been working in a very positive way with industry, first nations groups and various other stakeholder groups in order to get this real ecological gain for the area?

Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks Act
Government Orders

June 10th, 2013 / 12:40 p.m.
See context

NDP

Élaine Michaud Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for her question.

The NDP government in Nova Scotia is doing what I would like to see the federal government do. It is taking the time to consult those who will be affected by the bill; it is taking the time to discuss the matter with all segments of society, from first nations to industry. That openness is important. It is important to hear all the points of view and have a conversation in order to come to the best possible agreement. That is worth applauding. The NDP government in Nova Scotia took steps to get to where we are concerning Sable Island.

What saddens and worries me is that there is still the possibility of exploring for oil under Sable Island. Similar measures could be put in place for other new parks. Currently, certain oil companies are retaining their right to drill under the island. They can set up 1.1 or 1.2 nautical miles away from the island and drill horizontally under the island.

I see some of the members opposite gesturing as if to say that that is not the case. However, ExxonMobil is one such company that is retaining its right to drill under Sable Island. This is a first for a national park. I am worried about the precedent it will set.

I hope that we can really have that discussion in committee because, generally speaking, the Conservatives hold the majority in committee, and they cut short most of the discussions that are not to their liking.

I hope that, this time, they will take the time to listen to all of the witnesses and really take an in-depth look at this issue.

Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks Act
Government Orders

June 10th, 2013 / 12:45 p.m.
See context

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, it certainly must be unusual in the House to have the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment twice attack the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, myself, by name. I wonder if my hon. colleagues are as surprised as I am.

I have said very clearly that I want to see the creation of Sable Island's national park, but that we must not allow the integrity of the national park system to be sacrificed. It is very clear that this legislation would allow the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board the rights to regulate activities inside a national park. It would be obligated to only consult Parks Canada about the decisions it makes. It would not even need to get a sign-off from Parks Canada before it undertakes activities.

This is a significant threat to the integrity of the entire national parks system. I ask my friend to expand on her comments regarding her concern that this sets a dangerous precedent.

Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks Act
Government Orders

June 10th, 2013 / 12:45 p.m.
See context

NDP

Élaine Michaud Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.

What she describes is strangely reminiscent for me of the situation currently prevailing with regard to aviation. Developers can in fact set up anywhere, without having to ask permission from Transport Canada to do anything. They merely have to notify it of what they are doing. Here we have a similar scheme. I find this deplorable and rather disturbing.

I said just now that people seemed to be saying there would be no exploration or drilling on Sable Island. However, the subsoil of Sable Island is not part of the national park. It would be excluded.

I do not entirely understand the reasoning of this government, which asserts that it will not allow any exploration on Sable Island, even though the subsoil nevertheless remains accessible to some companies. Are we going to find similar measures in future laws establishing national parks? I hope not.

I hope that the necessary provisions to avoid such a situation will be included in Bill S-15.