Evidence of meeting #21 for Fisheries and Oceans in the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was heritage.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Patricia Kell  Director, Policy and Government Relations Branch, National Historic Sites Directorate, Parks Canada Agency
  • Doug Tapley  Manager, Cabinet Affairs, Parks Canada Agency
  • Cal Hegge  Assistant Deputy Minister, Human Resources and Corporate Services, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
  • Krishna Sahay  Director General, Real Property, Safety and Security, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
  • Andrew Anderson  Senior Divestiture Analyst, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
  • Patricia Carney  P.C., Senator (retired), As an Individual

9:45 a.m.

Manager, Cabinet Affairs, Parks Canada Agency

Doug Tapley

One would hope so.

Doing this on an ad hoc basis, looking at one individual building type at a time, creating an administrative infrastructure, different designation processes, and different criteria for different purposes--all of that is very expensive, and all of that leads to gaps in terms of conserving other equally important types of heritage resources.

I think the other thing to consider is that if you look at Canada's historic places in a comprehensive fashion, you would have to be very cognizant of the federal interest, and you would have to make sure that designation criteria really dealt with the most important representative examples of our cultural resources. I think that's probably the benefit of a comprehensive approach. It immediately gets you into that frame of mind.

9:45 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Wouldn't it be a bit cumbersome? If it were doing everything, it would be very difficult to ever see the light of day, wouldn't it?

9:45 a.m.

Manager, Cabinet Affairs, Parks Canada Agency

Doug Tapley

No, I don't think it would be cumbersome.

We have a Government of Canada policy on federal heritage buildings that requires the cooperation of a number of departments, and that works quite nicely. I don't see why this would be any different.

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Fabian Manning

Thank you.

Mr. Miller.

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I would certainly like to thank our guests and the department staff for being here today.

I am going to split my time with Mr. Keddy.

There are a number of issues that I wanted to ask about, and one was the finances, but I believe Mr. Keddy wants to ask that.

I'm very pleased that this bill is progressing. As we've heard around the table, this is the seventh time, although there are some changes and what have you. I'd like to think that maybe the seventh time will be the lucky time.

In my riding I have a number of lighthouses. Six are dominion lighthouses that were built in 1858 and 1859, and one of those--the one on Griffith Island--has deteriorated. I'm hoping that this bill will keep that from happening in the future.

The one thing I would like clarified a little bit more--and I know the issue was raised earlier by colleagues--is with regard to access. I was going through the bill, and it's fairly clear to me that the necessary buildings are designated heritage. The only way to get to a number of these lighthouses that are desolate is by air or by boat. It's clear to me. I would just like to confirm that the protection of that access is not precluded by this bill; it just doesn't come under the heritage designation. Am I correct in assuming that the bill protects that, and that the access is not under the heritage part of it?

9:50 a.m.

Manager, Cabinet Affairs, Parks Canada Agency

Doug Tapley

I believe someone mentioned previously that there's an obligation in the bill to maintain a heritage lighthouse. For that maintenance obligation to be respected, the site would have to be accessible.

There may be an issue of how you would pay for that, in particular, if it's a community group. That would be part and parcel of the community group's business case. One might expect that there would be different sources of funds. Parks Canada has user fees. A community group may contemplate user fees as well.

There are economic development programs that would deal with things like a heritage tourism attraction. So potentially there might be federal-provincial-municipal programs available for a community group to make application to.

Fundraising.... Parks Canada has relationships with community groups that have undertaken fundraising programs for different purposes and have been very successful in those undertakings, probably far more successful than a government organization could ever be. It doesn't seem that people want to give the government more than they pay in taxes.

So there are different opportunities to look at ways and means of financing the provision of contemporary access facilities. I think the key here is that we would like to keep the contemporary access facility, manage this contemporary asset, so that you can make use of building materials that will last the longest period of time and cost the least amount of money.

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Thank you.

I have two lighthouses in my riding that have already been taken over by the friends of the lighthouse group--Cabot Head and Cove Island. One question that has been asked of me is this. Once a petition is put forward by a potential community group, if there were any environmental concerns--and I'm not implying that there are, but there's the chance that some of our sites across the country may have--would those environmental concerns be addressed by the government before turning them over to the group?

I presume that yes, they would, but I'd like to just hear confirmation of that.

9:50 a.m.

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

Cal Hegge

Have these sites already been divested, then, from the federal government?

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

No, these sites would be if somebody comes forth. A new site would be proposed to be taken over by a group. I believe “petitioners” is the word that's used.

9:50 a.m.

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

Cal Hegge

Going back to an earlier discussion, using the federal contaminated sites action plan funding, my understanding is that we would have to bring these up to a reasonable standard, which would include addressing contamination.

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

That was my question.

Thank you, and I'm going to turn it over to Mr. Keddy.

April 1st, 2008 / 9:50 a.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Welcome to our witnesses.

I've listened to my colleagues and their questions to our panel members. But from a committee perspective, we have this bill in front of us, and if we don't manage to steer it through the House, I doubt if it will ever come back in a form that could pass.

I understand the questions on the dollars, and they are important. But in this case, the process is actually more important than the dollars. If the process is in place, it doesn't matter if there are 12 heritage lighthouses or 105. If the business case is put forward for divestiture to a community group, and they show that they can look after that lighthouse, then the federal government has an obligation to divest it in good order, which includes environmental cleanup.

Am I correct in that assessment? That's one of the reasons for the discrepancy in the numbers.

Mr. Blais brought up the idea that this might somehow affect core funding from DFO, but the whole principle of this bill is that it won't affect core funding from DFO, in perpetuity.

I suppose that if there were still a couple of lighthouses under DFO with the lights on, this would be an ongoing core funding responsibility. Mr. Hegge is shaking his head, so I imagine this will be correct.

I will give you two examples in Nova Scotia where DFO or Parks Canada may want to maintain the light. Sambro lighthouse would be the first one, the oldest light in North America. Another example would be Seal Island lighthouse, which is a light that was built in the early 1800s. It's just offshore of my riding, but it's a two-hour boat ride. Even though it's an old light, it's going to be very difficult to find a community group to look after it. So that might be a light we would want to have the government be responsible for, or it may be impossible to find anyone to be responsible for it.

The point I am making here is that this bill is the process. It allows community groups to come and ask for heritage designation for a light within their community. There have to be criteria in place to say that it is a heritage light.

There's a responsibility on the part of the government to make sure that it's divested in good order, that it's painted. But there also is a key responsibility here. Barry MacDonald and the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society and other societies have looked at this bill. The key is this: community groups that want to take these lights over need a business plan that says they are able to support it as a heritage light, which includes the ongoing maintenance. But it does not include the preliminary maintenance and the environmental cleanup for the divestiture.

Am I summarizing that correctly? No mistakes yet. All right. It's just a matter of time.

On the numbers, we have 746 lighthouses in Canada, but there seems to be some discussion about how many of them are actual towers, proper lighthouses that you could go up inside of. Roughly 250 is the estimate we were given.

I see Senator Carney shaking her head. And 51 of these are manned now, so they are more permanent. Twelve of them are within Parks Canada.

The reality is that we don't know how many of the lights are heritage lights. I have heard the number 60 or 65. To be honest, I think 65 would be a lot, because we have to find a municipality, a town, or a community group to take these lights over.

I hear Mr. Blais' concern about the cost of this bill. The cost is going to be shouldered originally by Parks Canada, Environment Canada, and somewhat by DFO. But this does not include the core costs.

I'm trying to implore my colleagues here that we support this bill, we make the amendments that need to be made, and we get it through the committee and back to the chamber. We can actually put this in place for a very reasonable amount of money, so that we have the process then in place to protect heritage lights. But it's not strictly DFO, not strictly the Government of Canada that's responsible for these things, but the community organizations themselves, and there will be access.

I tell you, with a few amendments, I think this is a great bill. We have it this far, and we really do need the support of everybody at the committee to be reasonable here and try to move it on.

I had carriage of this bill once myself. We never got to the committee process. We were almost there. I know from talking to the lighthouse preservation societies themselves that they're not just anxious, they're almost exhausted over the process and the number of times it has come forward. Senator Carney brought this through the Senate. I think if we look at this in reasonable, common-sense terms, we can get it through here.

That wasn't too many questions for you guys, was it?

10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Fabian Manning

These were supposedly questions, but....

Mr. Hegge, going back to your last comment, just to clew up, in reference to your previous testimony, in June 2007, are there any figures that I may have missed here that you will be looking at now that will be required by the department to address this issue? Is there any funding within the budget at the present time, or would that have to be allocated under new funding or taken from some resources that are already there?

10 a.m.

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

Cal Hegge

Basically, the short answer is that right now—not to suggest we aren't spending any money on lighthouses, because we are, for health and safety reasons, obviously, on the ones we have staffed, and I alluded to this—we are spending a minimal amount of money. If this bill goes through without any additional source of money, we would have to look within our existing capital budget.

I know, and this committee knows, just to use small craft harbours as an example, how difficult that would be. We would have to rob Peter to pay Paul. It would definitely affect our operational mandate, and that's why we've been consistently pointing out that if the bill goes through, we're going to have to find a source of new funds to implement it, from our perspective.

10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Fabian Manning

Thank you, Mr. Hegge, and thank you to our witnesses.

We're going to take a five-minute break now to clear the table and to prepare our next witness.