Evidence of meeting #62 for Fisheries and Oceans in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was lighthouses.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Patricia Kell  Manager, Policy and Government Relations Branch, National Historic Sites Directorate, Parks Canada Agency
  • Cal Hegge  Assistant Deputy Minister, Human Resources and Corporate Services, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
  • Doug Tapley  Manager, Cabinet Affairs, Parks Canada Agency
  • David Burden  Director, Real Property, Safety and Security, Divestiture, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Okay. We may look at that. As you know, a lighthouse is a focal point that we're drawn to, to experience the coastline and the crashing surf. But if we're going to look at interpretation, it has to be of a high standard, and I would think that maybe Parks Canada might be able to help us, because you do a tremendous job with the presentation.

A community group would not be able to secure funding from a regional economic development agency if they're still under the ownership, the direction, of Parks Canada. You can't move money from one federal pocket to another. Would it have to be divested before regional development moneys would be allocated?

11:25 a.m.

Doug Tapley Manager, Cabinet Affairs, Parks Canada Agency

Regional development organizations provide contributions to organizations outside of government to do various things. Because we are inside of the federal government, we do not qualify to receive any of their contributions.

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Gerald Keddy

I'm sorry, Mr. Cuzner. You're over a minute now, and you only had a second, so you'll have to catch him on the next round.

Monsieur Asselin, s'il vous plaît.

June 19th, 2007 / 11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Gérard Asselin Manicouagan, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

The way in which Bill S-220 was drafted led a number of parliamentarians to vote in favour of it at second reading. That is exactly what the Conservatives and the New Democrats did, as well as the Liberals who overwhelmingly voted in favour of the bill. The Bloc, however, was reticent about doing so, even at second reading. Personally, I decided to vote in favour of the bill at second reading so that I would be able to hear from witnesses. Had it been defeated at second reading, we obviously would not have been here talking about it today.

This bill has already been tabled a number of times in the House of Commons in various guises and it either died on the Order Paper or was outright defeated. I hope that the Conservatives, the Liberals and the New Democrats will realize that it is simply a waste of time to enact legislation that makes no mention of funding; I presume that they will realize that it is not worth continuing to discuss such a bill. That being said, I believe that it is important to shed some light on this bill, a bill that was prepared by the Senate, although sponsored by our chairman.

To my mind, it is utterly nonsensical to speak of protecting heritage buildings without providing financial resources to do so. I also disagree with the idea of asking the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to use funds that have been earmarked for small craft harbours, as our small craft harbours have been suffering from underfunding for a number of years. Their upkeep has been inadequate and they need a helping hand so that fishermen can enjoy a safe and functional place to berth. Whichever way you look at it, much more money is needed.

Lighthouses are a navigational aid that belong to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. They are not used as often as they once were. The bill provides for the creation of an advisory committee that will be mandated to produce an inventory of lighthouses and to decide which ones will remain heritage lighthouses, which ones will be transferred and which ones will be sold to private sector buyers. In some instances, lighthouses may even be demolished.

I believe that the inventory will have to be prepared thoroughly. The advisory committee would be responsible and would have to consult with stakeholders. However, we must bear in mind that nothing will be done without political will and the support of the department. Where will the money come from? Canadian Heritage, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans or Parks Canada? The Mingan Islands, in my riding, are on land that belongs to Parks Canada. A lot of tourists come to visit the lighthouses on the island. A business plan for restoring and developing the lighthouses was even developed, but nothing is happening.

I would like to know where the money will come from and why we should continue studying Bill S-220. I know for certain that these lighthouses are falling apart at the seams, or to put it more bluntly, totally antiquated and dangerous.

Over the time that these bills have been tabled in the House, a number of studies have shown that several of these lighthouses are highly polluted. This is not something that can be overlooked. An in-depth environmental evaluation would have to be given priority, because these lighthouses harbour mercury and diesel fuel contaminants. Given that the surrounding land is also polluted, both building and land would need to be decontaminated, as departments well know. Nobody would want to buy these lighthouses in their current state. They are virtually moribund and there is little chance of their making a recovery.

I would like the representatives from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans or from Parks Canada to tell me whether they really believe in the idea of setting up an advisory committee and implementing lighthouse disposal and development programs. I would also like them to tell us if they know where the money to fund all of this will come from.

If, at the end of the day, neither DFO nor Canadian Heritage is prepared to invest a cent in this project, and if Parks Canada has no money to restore and develop these lighthouses, surely you would agree with me that the idea of setting up a commission, carrying out studies and evaluations, and spending more money is simply pointless. And if such is the case, why bother continuing with Bill S-220?

11:30 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Human Resources and Corporate Services, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Cal Hegge

I am not quite sure how to answer your question, Mr. Asselin. As I stated earlier, our department will support the objective of the bill. The problem is simply that we do not have enough resources to implement the measures that this legislation will require.

If Parliament adopts the bill, we will have no choice but to ask for additional funding to implement it.

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Gérard Asselin Manicouagan, QC

You said that you would request additional funding. Why would you request additional funding? Would it be for restoration, renovation and upkeep? Would you require the funding immediately? Have you prepared an inventory? How much money would be required straightaway? How many hundreds of thousands of dollars would the government have to invest? Are hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to make these lighthouses viable?

11:30 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Human Resources and Corporate Services, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Cal Hegge

I am unable to give you an answer at the moment because we do not yet know exactly what the enacted legislation would entail. I provided two examples of the type of funding we would require, but it will depend on the exact content of the final version, as if I am not mistaken, Parliament and this committee are currently considering a number of amendments to the bill.

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Gérard Asselin Manicouagan, QC

Did you know that some of your land, buildings and lighthouses were contaminated?

11:30 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Human Resources and Corporate Services, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Cal Hegge

If we have contaminated lighthouses, we will be eligible to benefit from the Federal Contaminated Sites Action Plan. It provides funding to address matters such as, for example, contaminated lighthouses. I do not know exactly how many lighthouses are affected.

11:30 a.m.

David Burden Director, Real Property, Safety and Security, Divestiture, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

The majority of our lighthouses are affected to some degree, but the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has a program to assess the environmental status of all of our properties.

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Gérard Asselin Manicouagan, QC

Could you send us a list of the contaminated lighthouses so that it can be tabled with the committee?

11:30 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Human Resources and Corporate Services, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Cal Hegge

Yes, that would be no problem.

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Gérard Asselin Manicouagan, QC

Please note that carefully, Madam Clerk, because promised documents seem to have a habit of getting lost in the mail.

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Gerald Keddy

Thank you, Mr. Asselin. Your time is up.

Mr. Lunney.

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

James Lunney Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Thank you for coming. It's an interesting subject that we're talking about here. It seems as though for some time there have been attempts to bring a bill forward to address this issue, and we've never been successful in finding a solution.

I am a little confused by the number of sites that we've referred to here. I hear reference to some 750 sites. Another place I see 450 sites. Can somebody give me an idea of how many actual sites we have out there that potentially might be affected by this bill? How many lighthouses is DFO responsible for now?