House of Commons Hansard #91 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was park.

Topics

Canada National Parks Act
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale for the Minister of Canadian Heritage

moved that Bill C-27, an act respecting the national parks of Canada, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Canada National Parks Act
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

Ottawa—Vanier
Ontario

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Canadian Heritage

Madam Speaker, I will take the next few minutes to give an overview of Bill C-27, in the hope that members of the House will decide today to refer it to committee for further consideration.

Bill C-27, the Canada national parks act, in its short title, will provide enabling authorities to legislate the boundaries of the park communities, to define the commercial zones within them, and to set caps on commercial development. The scale of such actions will depend on the nature of the communities as they range from the towns of Banff and Jasper to the small summer community of Waskesiu in Prince Albert National Park. These actions recognize that commercial development in national park communities must always be tempered in the interests of ecological integrity.

The seven communities will remain as special places. We will work to ensure their continued sustainability. Residents are part of the equation and the communities must provide for economic opportunities and services along with strong cultural and social services.

Everyone will recognize that these are not average communities. These are federal lands and part of the national parks and parliament has a duty to see that they are managed accordingly. Therefore, under the provisions of Bill C-27, the community plans would be guided by the principles of no net environmental impact, responsible environmental stewardship and heritage conservation.

Legislation can do little to create a culture of respect and caring for wildlife but it can create a deterrence to the wilful destruction of wildlife. Accordingly, the bill proposes to increase the penalties for poaching rare, endangered or trophy species of wildlife. Such offences would be punishable by fines of up to $50,000 and five years imprisonment. The penalties are appropriate it seems, given that the trophy head of a Dall sheep, for instance, can reach up to $150,000 on the black market. Multiple offences would be counted separately so that the taking of two grizzly bears, for example, would double the penalty.

In addition, a particularly gruesome type of poaching is aimed at feeding the international trade in wildlife parts and organs for exotic medicine. For example, bears have been slaughtered solely for their gallbladders, and elk for their antler velvet. This will be fought by a new provision against trafficking.

Bill C-27 proposes a number of important measures related to the seven communities located within national parks. In order to understand these provisions, we should examine the history of the communities and the prospects for their future.

All seven communities have their origins in the last part of the 19th century and the earlier part of the 20th century. In the Rocky Mountain parks of Banff, Jasper and Yoho, the development of communities is tightly linked to the development of our national railway and road transportation corridors.

I note these facts in order to underscore the context within which the communities were established. It was at a time in Canada's history when we looked upon our nation as having unlimited wilderness. The extraction of natural resources was not perceived as being in conflict with that belief. Consequently, forestry and mining were allowed within some national parks and communities were established to serve those particular interests.

For example, Anthracite and Bankhead were coal mining towns established in Banff National Park of Canada. And Oil City—the name says it all—, in Waterton Lakes National Park of Canada served the first of our oil drilling operations. Although these extractive activities and the communities of Bankhead, Anthracite and Oil City have long since vanished, they remind us of an era when such activities were deemed appropriate within national parks.

Today, we know that our wilderness is limited and we understand the need to preserve representative areas within our national park system. We no longer allow the commercial exploitation of natural resources within national parks. Moreover, we understand that any development within a national park should be carefully limited so as to avoid impairment to its ecological integrity.

We understand too that high quality environmental conditions are the foundation for the tourism industry and the very reason millions of people from all over the world, and primarily from Canada, visit our parks annually. Therefore, no new communities will be located within national park boundaries and the existing communities will be managed in ways that support park values.

The Minister of Canadian Heritage has put great effort and thought into the drafting of the community provisions in the bill before us. She has been diligent in analysing the key studies which identified problems and solutions within the national park system. The reports of the Bow Valley Study and the Ecological Integrity Panel contained wide-ranging recommendations which have served as the basis for making ecological integrity the first priority in national parks.

Given that the Government of Canada is responsible for the conservation of national parks for all Canadians, it is important that parliament retain an overview of the communities' role and development. To that effect, Bill C-27 proposes that community plans be tabled in each House as soon as possible after proclamation of the new Canada National Parks Act.

The plans will respect the provisions in the act. They will be consistent with the park management plan; accord with guidelines for appropriate activities; and provide a strategy for growth management. The shaping of these plans will also be guided by principles stated in the bill; namely, no net environmental impact, responsible environmental stewardship and heritage conservation.

Growth management will be achieved by describing the boundaries of the community and its commercial zones, along with the measure of the maximum commercial floor area permitted within those zones. Each of these key elements of the community plans, the boundaries, the commercial zones and the maximum commercial square footage, will be enshrined within the schedule to the Canada National Parks Act and thus, become part of the act. Implementing the provisions of Bill C-27 will ensure a proper evolution of the communities from the past centuries into the next one.

We have gone from logging and mining to the prime purpose of maintaining the ecological integrity of the national parks for the benefit, education and enjoyment of present and future generations. The communities have an important role in this and in serving visitors. They will remain. They will be supported. We look forward to their becoming models of environmental stewardship.

It can never be said often enough, ecological integrity will be the key principle applied in our national parks. I urge members of the House to refer this bill to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage so that it can be further examined and so that we may protect our national parks for the future.

Canada National Parks Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Reform

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, I am delighted to rise in the House on this beautiful morning to debate an issue which is of great importance to Canadians. I am talking about the preservation of our natural heritage.

I am privileged to have been born in Saskatchewan and even more privileged to have been able to move to Alberta early in my life. For many years we lived within four hours of two of Canada's most pristine and loved national parks, Jasper National Park and Banff National Park.

We spent time in other national parks, including the park at Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Waterton Lakes National Park.

I was chosen to speak on behalf of my party today because the name of my riding is derived directly from the national park in it, Elk Island National Park, which is located just a few miles outside Edmonton.

Elk Island is a unique park because of the fact that it is basically a marsh area. Indeed, the word elk implies that there are elk in the park. There are also bison and many other different forms of wildlife.

I had the privilege last year of hiking with some of the people in the park and, as the good song says“Oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam”, we roamed with the buffalo. We had to be careful not to interfere with them lest they take exception to us and attack us because at certain times of the year they can be dangerous.

My love of the parks extends over the last 40 years. Some of the best memories I have include visits to the parks, both in Banff and Jasper. We went camping for a week in Jasper for our 25th wedding anniversary. When asked by my friends how our week had gone, I told them it was the worst week I had ever spent. I told them that the problem was, when we entered the park there was a big sign that said “Do not feed the wild animals”, so my wife starved me all week. Camping was not as much fun when I got hungry.

I love the park. Saskatchewan, as members know, has many acres of flat land. Every time I go to the mountains I am completely awestruck by their grandeur, their magnificence. I cannot come up with the words which could adequately describe the mountains.

If there are members of the House who have never visited Canada's Rockies between Alberta and British Columbia, they owe it to themselves to see one of the most beautiful parts of Canada.

Being campers, when we visited these camps we encountered a number of people from around the world. I remember one couple who were quite a bit better off than we were because they had travelled all over the world. One of the things they said was that they had been everywhere in the world, including the Alps in Switzerland, but the most beautiful scenery they had encountered was along the Banff-Jasper highway. Having travelled there several times I would certainly attest to that.

I agree with the general idea of a national parks system in Canada. I very profoundly agree with the concept that we must preserve the pristine character of our parks and our beauty spots, not only for ourselves and visitors from around the world, but for future generations; not only for future generations of Canadians, but also for future generations of people around the world who come to visit and enjoy the beauties of this country.

I mentioned earlier that when we were a young couple with young children we spent some time camping in the national parks. Lest I give the wrong impression, I might as well indict my wife on a very important issue. I have always loved the outdoors and camping under the stars. I remember as a young university student being out near the Rocky Mountain house area. We were preparing a youth camp for summer activities. I remember going to sleep that night, which was beautiful, clear and starry. We did not use the Celsius scale back then, but converting it to the Celsius scale it was probably about minus five degrees in the morning and there were about 10 inches of new snow. That is a picture of beauty which is etched permanently in my mind. I will never forget it.

As a young family I would have loved to have carried on with that camping tradition, but my wife was not so much inclined. She said that she did not really look forward to leaving her nice home, sleeping on the ground or in a tent and being vulnerable to wild animals, insects and all of that. Being the kind, loving husband which I clearly am, I made a concession and we purchased a travel trailer, one that would keep us off the ground, give us some protection when it rained and so on. We made that little compromise. We had wonderful times in our trailer at the campsites of the different parks.

The reason I am saying this is because those are such wonderful, warm memories for me; the environment in which it occurred, the hikes we took and the admiration that we had for the beauty that was given to us. I feel very strongly that we should preserve that and preserve its accessibility, which will be one of the themes of my talk this morning.

When we were a young couple, believe it or not, we could afford to go to Banff for a week. I was not a well paid person. Very early in our marriage we made the decision that my wife would be a full time mom. We have always lived on my income and will retire on my non-pension, since I am one of the members of the House who has opted out of the lucrative MP pension plan. We made the decisions on principle and I do not regret that, but we have never been well off.

I truly am a member of the House of Commons in the sense that I am a commoner. As a young family we were actually able to go into the parks of Banff and Jasper. Those were the ones that attracted us because of their proximity to where we lived. We were able to enjoy them. At that time the fees for camping and for using the amenities were within our budget.

I regret to say that the policies of the federal government over the last number of years have become, really, a case for the elites. It probably dates back to the end of the Liberal era before the Conservatives took over for nine years. It is now really only for the very rich.

We were at the campground not very long ago. I was rather saddened to see that most of the people there were the ones with the big motor homes. Obviously those who were independently wealthy could afford to spend time there, but there were not many people who came from what I would call the rank and file, ordinary middle income Canadians. That is a policy which is very regrettable.

For us as a family it was a wonderful experience.

I regret that the new generation, the moms and dads of today, the young couples, cannot really afford to go to Banff and to Jasper because the daily costs are so high. Many of them are spending time in the area just outside the parks. In southern Alberta we have a couple of areas which are really expanding very quickly. Canmore is probably the best example. It is a large area which is five or six kilometres outside the boundary of the park. That is where people are going because they can enjoy the beauty there. Perhaps they can take a day trip into the park, but they cannot stay in the park because this government and the government before it chose to set an entry fee structure that is beyond the reach of ordinary, overtaxed Canadian families.

That is a mistake as far as I am concerned. I think it is a very large error which I would like to see corrected.

We are talking today about national parks. I have no interest whatsoever in arguing against the desires of the people in Parks Canada and the Department of Canadian Heritage to preserve both plant and animal life, to see that it remains undisturbed as much as possible. However, we used to say in Saskatchewan when I was growing up that if someone overdid something they were swatting a fly with a shotgun. It was a huge exaggeration.

I want to be very careful because I do not want to be misunderstood, but I believe that to some degree the ecologists, the biologists and the people at Heritage Canada and others are greatly overstating the degree to which the area needs to be protected.

I believe that we need to respect the land. I believe that we need to respect the parks. We have taught our children to obey rules like staying on the paths in order not to harm the vegetable life that is off the path. We have always done our part to keep the campgrounds clean. Our motto was: when a camper leaves he should leave nothing but the sound of his footsteps. I think that is important. It is a matter of individual responsibility.

Some of the extreme measures that are being taken by the people who claim they are protecting the parks are making them inaccessible to ordinary rank and file Canadians. I have already mentioned the fee structure which they are using to keep ordinary folk out. That is an error.

There are other things as well.

I think of the considerable number of letters and presentations I and my colleagues have received because of Heritage Canada's insistence on closing down the little grass strips for private airplanes in Banff and Jasper. It is impossible to defend the closing of those airstrips if we look at it in balance.

It can be said that the elk used to go across the field and now there is an airstrip and of necessity, there is a big 10 foot fence around it to protect the airstrip so the animals cannot go on the airstrip. Sure, but I have had the occasion to fly over those parks in a jet plane at 25,000 or 30,000 feet. When I looked down I really had to strain my eyes to see the little thread down there that is the Trans-Canada Highway. The towns of Banff and Jasper can hardly be seen from that height simply because there are as many trees in the towns as there are outside them. People live there and tourists come from all over the world to visit there.

To me when I look at it in balance there is a little pin spot which is a town, a little thread which represents a highway and perhaps a railway in the middle of miles and miles and miles of wilderness. Some people are concerned about one more little pin stripe just one-tenth of a millimetre long in the perspective of looking at it from that height. They say, “We do not care if a person in a small airplane gets into trouble. We will not have an emergency airstrip. Let him fly into the mountain”. I think it was the Minister of Canadian Heritage herself who said to let them land wherever they can. People in a small airplane cannot just land it anywhere on the side of a mountain without killing themselves.

That is a totally misdirected set of priorities. When it is more important for the elk and the deer to have a path to walk along than to preserve a human life which may be in danger, that is misplaced priorities. I simply say to the government that there is nothing lost by keeping open a small airstrip. There is nothing lost by that; there is only gain in terms of safety and accessibility to Canadians.

I have talked about the airstrip. I have talked about the fact that there are miles and miles of wilderness available for the wildlife and we as humans are surely able to also enjoy a part of it.

I would like to come back just for a second to the almost sacredness of the space in our parks. It is not a great secret that I am a person who believes in God. One of the songs I have sung many times is “How Great Thou Art”. I do not know if anyone here knows that song.

Canada National Parks Act
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Please do not sing it.

Canada National Parks Act
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Reform

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

I will avoid the temptation to sing it on the prompting of the member opposite but it has a phrase, “When I consider the world that You have made, I see the stars, I see the awesome grandeur of the mountains”. It is very seldom that I go into the mountains that I do not think to myself and often say to my wife or other family members who are with me, what grandeur, what extravagance God used in creating this part of the world.

Our native friends have that same affinity. They often express in their religious faith the grandeur of God's creation. We need to make sure that Canadians of all different backgrounds and visitors to our wonderful country have an opportunity to stand in awe of this huge monument of creation when we observe what our parks are.

There are some misdirected points in the bill before us. One of the things Parks Canada and Heritage Canada try to do is to run roughshod over the taxpayers and citizens of this country. That is a totally misdirected priority.

There are limitations in the bill which say arbitrarily that we are not going to permit a park to grow beyond its existing boundaries. Boom, just like that. There is no consultation, no input from the people, no input from the stakeholders.

Canada National Parks Act
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

That is total nonsense.

Canada National Parks Act
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Reform

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

No, it is not nonsense. The member opposite says that what I said was nonsense. What I am saying is not nonsense. I am talking about Bill C-27. There is no requirement for meaningful consultation among the stakeholders.

That is wrong. There are situations in Banff for example. A place which hosts visitors to our country and tries to be hospitable to them is now required to have buses to run its staff out of the park for overnight stays because it is not permitted to construct a building for the staff to stay overnight.

Talk about ecology, talk about the environment. What is better: running a bus an extra 100 kilometres a day, or having a building right next to where the people work so that they can walk or ride their bicycles to work? It is case of using a sledgehammer to solve a problem instead of trying to be reasonable about it.

I am very concerned about the way in which changes to parks can be made if we pass Bill C-27. It used to be that under the old Canada parks act, establishing a new park or adding land to it required an amendment to the act itself. It would have to be debated in parliament. It also required that notice be given in the Canada Gazette as well as in newspapers in the local area. That is not the case anymore. Now it allows simply for orders in council. The minister could make a declaration and whatever the minister said would be the new law. No public notification is required. I think that is an error.

I believe very strongly that the ministers in many, many of the bills which the Liberal government is passing are being given way too much power. We are losing that thread of accountability which comes in a good democratic system.

There is no mention made in the bill of required public consultation, co-operation or support from local governments or provincial or territorial governments in which the parks exist.

We need to not only provide for those points of consultation, but I would love to see a government with the humility on many occasions actually to accept what the people out there are saying. Most of the time the people who are working day to day in the parks and the area know the situation very, very well.

One of the things we are going to hear is that it would be turned over to commercial interests. I want to talk a bit about that. I do not believe for a moment even if we turned the parks over totally to commercial interests that their task would be to completely destroy them. Why would they destroy that which attracts people from all around the world? I believe they are very capable people who in conjunction with local, provincial and federal governments could consult and come to an agreement as to the degree of expansion required.

Tourism is so important to our country. It is economically important. I will not negate that. It is important.

I have already spoken about the importance of allowing other people to come to our country to share in its grandeur, but it is also important that we provide decent Canadian hospitality and that will come in balance. I am simply not prepared to say I trust the federal government fully and I trust the commercial interests not at all, because what we need is a balance. We need a dialogue between them. We need to come to agreements. Sometimes the federal government may have to give a little. I simply do not believe in the high handed, autocratic, dictatorial government. That is what we have in this bill.

I am very concerned about the long term future of our parks under a bill like this one. The interests of the government in proposing Bill C-27 seem to be much more to preserve its little fiefdom, its little kingdom, its control. That seems to be what the largest interest the government has in this.

The government is not interested in preserving the beauty of the parks and their accessibility to ordinary Canadians. That is most important. I would not begin to put a human being at the level of an animal although some would, but if an animal has a right to be in a park, in my view so does a human being, so do Canadians and so do visitors from around the world.

I would like a parks policy which would permit co-operation among the commercial interests, the interests of tourism and the interests of allowing our Canadian citizens to enjoy the beauty of our parks. That balance is missing in this very one sided, give all the power to the government, in fact, give all the power to the minister bill. We should have one that would be balanced and which would serve Canadian people so much better.

I am aware that I could have more time to speak. I have certainly emphasized the most important things that have been on my mind and in my heart. I appreciate very much the attention all members in the House have given today. Only two of them have dared to squawk at all in protest about what I have been saying. The others have been blissfully silent.

Canada National Parks Act
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased, on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois, to address at second reading Bill C-27, the Canada National Parks Act. This bill is an overhaul of the existing act.

The main changes proposed in this bill are a new process for the establishment of future parks, a substantial increase in fines relating to poaching, and ways to restrict the development of communities located within park boundaries.

The Bloc Quebecois supports the principle of the bill. However, it will listen carefully to the comments and proposals by the various groups appearing before the heritage committee. The Bloc Quebecois also intends to raise certain major concerns, including some that have to do with the wording of a fundamental provision of the Canada National Parks Act, namely clause 4, which deals with public use of parks.

The Bloc Quebecois also notes that while the Minister of Canadian Heritage claims to want to put environmental protection at the core of this legislation, she does not provide adequate funding to Parks Canada.

Indeed, when it comes to funding, the minister is more inclined to implement procedures that do not concern her department, such as the increase in fines and in lease rates.

Worse still, while Parks Canada is faced with an urgent need to radically change its culture to protect the parks' environment, Parks Canada's net budget will be reduced from $313 million in 1998 to $283 million in 2001.

I would like review the main amendments to the National Parks Act and, in passing, indicate the Bloc Quebecois' position on each.

Let us begin with the changes to the procedure for establishing new parks. The current legislation calls for any new national park to be created by legislative means. Bill C-27, however, proposes a new procedure involving an order in council. This is to be tabled in each House of Parliament and then referred to the appropriate standing committees, but they will not have much time to address it. Parliament will then be able to refuse to endorse it, and thus it will be rejected. As well, the area of a national park may not be reduced except by legislative means.

We have two comments to make on this section of the bill. First of all, we appreciate the fact that the government makes a commitment in clause 5 not to create any new park without provincial consent. This is very important. Respect for the sovereignty of Quebec over its territory is essential to the Bloc Quebecois' support in principle of this bill. We do, however, feel that the time limit for examination of the order by taxpayers and parliamentarians is too short.

In fact, clause 7 of the bill stipulates that, from the time a proposal for a new park or expansion of a park is tabled in the House, the House and the committee will have just 20 days—that is right, 20 days—to reach a conclusion on the proposed modification set out in the order. We do not think that is enough to enable parliamentarians to do their work and taxpayers to organize.

The bill also proposes the establishment of seven new parks: three in Nunavut, one in the Northwest Territories, one in Newfoundland, one in Manitoba and one in Saskatchewan. It also proposes the establishment of a reserve, at Pacific Rim in British Columbia. Finally, it proposes the expansion of the Point Pelee to include Middle Island. This park is located in Ontario on Lake Erie.

One important thing, the bill proposes to increase fines and establish new offences. The existing legislation provides fines for poaching wildlife. These fines vary from $10,000 to $150,000 and may involve imprisonment.

With Bill C-27, the fines for poaching would increase from $50,000 and/or six months' imprisonment on summary conviction to $150,000 and/or up to five years' imprisonment on conviction on indictment as the result of a charge.

These fines for poaching are in keeping with those found in the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act, the Canadian Wildlife Act and the Migratory Birds Convention Act.

The bill contains a new offence for trafficking. This offence will apply to fauna, flora and natural resources. Thus the possession of rare plants and fossils for trade or barter and the possession of objects with the intention of trafficking constitute an offence. The maximum fine will be $10,000, but it could go as high as $150,000 with imprisonment when endangered or protected species are involved.

Bill C-27 also proposes penalties for repeat offenders. Its provisions allow for the imposition of fines for each specimen of wildlife species taken, and for each day during which an offence is committed. Finally, the bill will allow authorities to recover the costs of cleaning up the damage caused by substances spilled in a park. The Bloc Quebecois cares about the parks' environmental integrity and supports all of these measures.

The bill also seeks to restrict the development of communities. Currently, the existing act does not include any mechanism to restrict the commercial development of communities located in parks. The proposed new legislation corrects this flaw by providing that parliament will approve community plans that will become schedules to the act. These plans will have to be consistent with the management plan for the park in which the community is located and with any guidelines established by the minister for appropriate activities within the park community, provide a strategy for the management of growth within the park community, and be consistent with principles of no net negative environmental impact and responsible environmental stewardship and heritage conservation.

The plan will include a description of the lands comprising the park community, a description of the lands comprising the commercial zones of the park community, and an indication of the maximum floor area permitted within the commercial zones of the park community. This means that commercial growth will be subject to ceilings, and any change will require passage of a new act, which means a national debate in parliament.

Thus all opinions on the matter could be expressed at that time. We note, however, that the bill has nothing to say on many points relating to these communities. There is no reference to who will draw up these community plans, nor to how the communities will finance standard utilities. There is no assurance of an elementary respect for municipal bylaws or provincial regulations. This is a point of considerable concern to the Bloc Quebecois.

Clause 16, moreover, gives the governor in council considerable powers over the communities. It is stated in 16(g) states that the governor in council may make regulations respecting:

(g)the issuance, amendment and termination of leases, licences of occupation and easements or servitudes, and the acceptance of the surrender or resiliation of leases and the relinquishment of licences of occupation and easements or servitudes, of or over public lands

(i) in towns and visitor centres, for the purposes of residence, schools, churches, hospitals, trade, tourism and places of recreation or entertainment,

(ii) in resort subdivisions, for the purpose of residence.

This clause disconcerts us because there is a total lack of recourse for those living within national parks against potential abuse of such regulatory power.

The Bloc Quebecois intends to listen to what community representatives have to say when the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage meets. In the opinion of the Bloc Quebecois, their point of view must be taken into consideration, and a proper balance struck between their interests and those of conserving the environment.

Above and beyond this bill, a change in corporate culture is required. Unfortunately, the bill shows no evidence of this. In fact, the focal point of the bill, clause 4, states as follows:

4.(1) The national parks of Canada are hereby dedicated to the people of Canada for their benefit, education and enjoyment, subject to this Act and the regulations, and the parks shall be maintained and made use of so as to leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.

The Bloc Quebecois considers that this bill puts the focus more on the benefit and enjoyment of the people of Canada than on the ecological protection of the national parks. The former appear first, while ecological integrity comes second. We should reverse the order of this provision and strengthen the wording to make clear the primary purpose of a park.

In fact, in a recent report, the auditor general pointed out that the national parks were used more for tourist purposes than to preserve their ecological integrity. He deplored the fact that the protection of the natural setting was at the mercy of visitor traffic.

Allow me to quote the auditor general:

Delays in preparing management plans and ecosystem conservation plans reduce Parks Canada's ability to preserve the ecological integrity of national parks.

Thirteen parks reported that they did not have a fully completed ecosystem conservation plan. The management plans of the six parks that we reviewed did not provide a clear link between ecological integrity objectives and initiatives. We are concerned that in some instances, management plans emphasize social and economic factors over ecological factors.

Last month, the Panel on the Ecological Integrity of Canada's National Parks released its report in which it said:

The majority of the parks report today a considerable and growing loss of ecological integrity, particularly in the smallest parks and those located more to the south—

Canada National Parks Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

The Speaker

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member, but she will have another 26 minutes. I thought that this was the right moment to interrupt her speech and move on to Statements by Members.

Correctional Service Canada
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Reform

Derrek Konrad Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, last month residents of Prince Albert had the shock of a lifetime when a boarder showed up at their door in handcuffs and shackles, accompanied by a Correctional Service Canada guard.

It turns out that he had been delivered to the wrong house and that, unknown to them, their neighbours or even the city, the house next door was a halfway house for offenders on supervised release.

A bylaw in the city of Prince Albert does not require notification where homeowners intend to open their home to room and board as long as they do not have more than three people at one time.

Correctional Service Canada has used the bylaw to avoid disclosing its plans to house offenders on staged released programs in the city. Stating that they were only obeying the law, officials protested wide-eyed innocence when the issue became public, and the solicitor general has not responded to my letter on the matter.

As Canada's top lawman, the solicitor general must instruct his own officials to do more than obey the letter of the law. They must also obey its spirit and intent.

National Composting Week
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, tomorrow is the end of National Composting Week, for which the theme this year is “The Future Starts Here”.

Composting, a natural means of recycling, decomposes and transforms organic matter into humus, a product that can be used to improve soil texture and fertility.

Food, agricultural and gardening waste, and paper, wood, manure and leaves are excellent organic matter for composting.

The Government of Quebec is a leader in this field, having adopted, in 1998, an action plan on the management of residual fertilizers so that by the year 2008 up to 60% of recoverable putrescible matter will be recovered annually.

What explanation can there be for the absence of any reference to composting on Agriculture Canada's website except this government's deplorable lack of sensitivity with respect to the environment, which is clearly demonstrated by its stand on organic farming.

National Defence
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Mark Muise West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, why is the Minister of National Defence not doing more to help our brave gulf war veterans who are suffering from an assortment of very debilitating illnesses associated with their military service in the Persian Gulf?

These brave soldiers fought for our country and now they must fight for themselves. Why is the military not doing everything in its power to determine what is causing their terrible symptoms? Is it because the military has known all along what is causing the sickness?

Sue Riordan fought to save her husband despite meeting up with indifference from our military. It is only after the death of Terry Riordan and the subsequent discovery that he had unusually high levels of depleted uranium in his bones that our military took an interest.

We now learn that the Royal Military College did a study on depleted uranium which showed the harmful effects it has on the human body. It begs the question: Was the lack of interest in Terry Riordan's illness caused by the fact the military already suspected the cause of his sickness?

Regional Development
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, on April 20, Economic Development Canada announced an investment that will benefit the entire Outaouais region: $9.3 million over the next five years to help develop three important components of its economy.

First, $6.8 million will go to the development of high tech companies.

Another $1.2 million will be invested in developing new tourist attractions. Our region abounds in natural and manmade spaces with the potential to interest people passing through our region.

Finally, $1.2 million will be allocated to stimulate the economy in rural areas, an area essential to the economic growth of our region.

Clearly, the strategy is tailored to the needs, strengths and assets of the Outaouais region, which is one of the loveliest in Quebec and in Canada.

This is additional proof that the Canadian government is working to improve the quality of life of regions in Quebec.

Greater Napanee
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Larry McCormick Hastings—Frontenac—Lennox And Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a message in praise of the vigour and vitality of small town Canada. A shining example of that vitality is Greater Napanee, a town in my riding.

This is the eve of Walleye Weekend in Greater Napanee, an annual event that attracts more than 7,000 visitors to the region. The visitors will be coming to a town that Harrowsmith magazine recognized last month as one of the 10 prettiest small towns in Canada.

Members know Harrowsmith magazine as a national publication, but I also know it as the publication that had a start in a building a few doors from my home in Camden East.

Apart from its charm, Greater Napanee is alive with new economic activity. Among that activity is the construction of a large travel plaza that will include restaurants, stores, a service station and a hotel.

Greater Napanee is an old town with a new spirit. As part of that pride in the town, citizens are planting flowers to compete in the national Communities in Bloom competition.

I invite all members, and especially members from urban ridings, to stop by and smell the roses.

French Language Education In Manitoba
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Reg Alcock Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian government has once again invested in the future of our young people.

On April 27, the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Manitoba's education minister reached an agreement in principle to implement special investment measures for French language education in Manitoba.

These measures will help improve the quality of the programs and services provided at the elementary, secondary and post-secondary levels. The $30 million contribution will be funded equally by the two levels of government.

Thanks to that new intergovernmental agreement, young francophones in Manitoba will have the opportunity to make a place for themselves in tomorrow's world.