House of Commons Hansard #113 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was pension.

Topics

Child Poverty
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Diane St-Jacques Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, according to the UNICEF report that came out today, 47 million children in developed countries are living in poverty. Canada occupies the No. 17 position in a list of 23 industrialized nations.

The reason for Canada's low standing is that one child in five lives in poverty. Even though this government has passed various budget measures, the problem of poverty still persists.

Will the Prime Minister make up his mind to take real measures to eliminate our children's poverty now?

Child Poverty
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Brant
Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, we welcome the UNICEF report. Very clearly it suggests to all governments in Canada that we have to do better by our youngest citizens.

I hope the House will recognize that the report was based on 1994 data. We hope that the work we have undertaken with the provinces, particularly in the area of the national child benefit, will provide better results in subsequent reports.

Clearly we want to continue to work with other jurisdictions in support of Canadian children. That is why last week I spent time with my counterpart focusing specifically on the issue of Canada's children and early childhood development.

Presence In The Gallery
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

A number of visitors are with us today. Members may receive them after I introduce each person or each group of persons. First I draw the attention of hon. members to the presence in our gallery of His Excellency Borys Tarasiuk, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine.

Presence In The Gallery
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Presence In The Gallery
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

I also draw the attention of hon. members to the presence in our gallery of two of our commissioners from the Territories: Glenna Hansen, Commissioner of the Northwest Territories, and Peter Irniq, Commissioner of Nunavut.

Presence In The Gallery
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Presence In The Gallery
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

I also draw the attention of hon. members to the presence in our gallery of two members of the New Brunswick Legislature: my brother Speaker, the Hon. Bev Harrison, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick, and his colleague, the Hon. Kim Jardine, Minister of the Environment and Local Government of New Brunswick.

Presence In The Gallery
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-27, an act respecting the national parks of Canada, be read the third time and passed.

Canada National Parks Act
Government Orders

3:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

When debate ended the member for Lethbridge had some time left but he has indicated he will not use the rest of his time.

Canada National Parks Act
Government Orders

3:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Mark Muise West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure for me to rise before the House to participate in third and final reading of Bill C-27, an act respecting the national parks of Canada. We are talking about the national parks of Canada, which means that they belong to all Canadians and are for the benefit of all Canadians.

One of the real concerns I had with this government bill was that I believed the rights of some Canadians were being overlooked while the interests of others were being put forward in a very positive manner. I was concerned that the commercial interests within our parks communities were being ignored as the government focused greater attention on preserving the ecological integrity of our existing national parks. This increased focus on environmental issues relegated the concerns of our local entrepreneurs to the back burner.

I believe we could protect ecological integrity without having to sacrifice existing commercial interests. I believe the interests of both can coexist given the willingness of each side to work together for the benefit of our national parks and those who depend upon them for enjoyment.

It was for this reason I introduced an amendment to subclause 10(1) that specifically called for the inclusion of commercial interest among the groups that the minister should enter into agreements with for the purpose of carrying out the act. Although the government did not specifically adhere to the wording of my amendment it nevertheless amended the section to make it all inclusive, and it now includes commercial interests.

Another major concern brought forward by a number of witnesses who appeared before the committee was that the federal government could have terminated leases or failed to renew leases without having to justify its reasoning to the affected individuals. In effect, there was no recourse, no mechanism available for appeal by these individuals whose properties were effectively being confiscated by the federal government.

Our party insisted that the bill include a clause which would demand that any property to be reclaimed by the government be done only if there were just cause. These individuals are entitled to some kind of compensation in the event their leases are not renewed. Therefore I am pleased that the government recognized the seriousness of this issue by reinstating the provisions contained within the Expropriation Act.

I want to congratulate my colleagues who sit with me on the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. I especially want to acknowledge the efforts of my colleague, the member for Portneuf, whose amendments will give the committee more time to study the extension or the creation of future parks. I also want to mention the efforts of his colleague from Manicouagan who made sure the opinions of the Mingan Archipelago residents would be taken into account.

I congratulate the member for Churchill River for introducing his amendment to delete subclause 7.3 which would have limited debate on a motion to concur in amendments to our national parks system to only three hours. That would have been a bad precedent to be set, the ability to legislate closure or the time allocated to debate a piece of legislation. I am very happy that change took place.

Throughout our deliberations one of the concerns I had was trying to ensure that residents living within our national parks were provided with an opportunity to voice their concerns about the future direction of their local communities. This concern was shared by all opposition members who through a number of proposed amendments tried to draw the government's attention to their need to have a voice in any future decision making.

For example, my colleague from Dauphin—Swan River introduced amendments at report stage that would have called for the inclusion of a “local government body” during any negotiations on the future of our parks communities. Similar amendments were also introduced at committee by me and the member from Churchill. Unfortunately the federal government refused the inclusion of any wording that referred to a local government body for fear, I would think, of creating another Banff.

As I mentioned during report stage, and I will repeat it again at third reading, I regret that the member for Dauphin—Swan River opted not to actively participate in the debate of these amendments during clause by clause deliberations at committee. Instead he opted to introduce his own amendments during report stage. His knowledge of parks communities, particularly having lived and operated near a national park for many years, would have provided all of us at committee very helpful insights into the unique problems facing individuals who reside within or just adjacent to our national parks.

I commend the member for Dauphin—Swan River for introducing an amendment accepted by the government that secures access to a traditional source of fresh water emanating from our national parks which flows into adjacent communities. This amendment was particularly important to the residents of Dauphin who have depended upon water from the Riding Mountain National Park since the early 1900s.

The priority of this government is undoubtedly to protect our national parks. We are all aware of the problems existing in our national parks. Many studies have been commissioned by the federal government and, each time, the consensus was that our parks are in jeopardy.

The federal government could no longer ignore the results of these studies. Something had to be done before the integrity of our national parks was imperilled for ever.

Just like most Canadians, I want to protect our national parks for future generations. As parliamentarians, we must take the appropriate measures to protect our parks, for our children and for our children's children.

The Progressive Conservative Party has a long history of wanting to protect and preserve representative areas of our unique and wonderful ecosystem. As I have mentioned before, Canada's first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, created our first national park when in 1885 his Conservative government designated 26 square kilometres around the hot mineral springs near what is now the town of Banff, declaring it a national treasure.

Sir John A. Macdonald began a legacy that successive governments have continued to build upon. He recognized the intrinsic beauty of Canada's natural environment. It is this beauty that we are trying to protect in Bill C-27. Is it perfect? Far from it.

Will this piece of legislation respond to the need to protect the ecological integrity of our national parks? I personally believe it will go a long way to help preserve for generations to come the natural beauty we are so fortunate to have here in Canada.

The bill does not address all the concerns that were expressed before the committee. Residents in our national park communities, particularly in Jasper, are still concerned that their voices are not being heard by the Liberal government. The success of Bill C-27 will depend largely upon the goodwill of the federal government and particularly the Minister of Canadian Heritage.

Having said that, I can understand why the residents of Jasper are concerned. The government has failed to demonstrate any goodwill in its past dealings with the residents of Jasper. It is imperative that the government approach future negotiations with our park communities in a co-operative manner and not with the confrontational approach that has poisoned relations between Parks Canada officials and the local residents for years.

As I have said, the bill is not perfect. However I believe it goes a long way in helping the government maintain existing parks while also speeding up the process of creating new national parks. I suggest that we support Bill C-27.

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3:15 p.m.

NDP

Rick Laliberte Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak at third reading of Bill C-27, the Canada national parks act.

This is the final stage in the House of Commons legislative process where members of parliament can speak on the bill before it leaves this House to go to the other place. This may be the last time that the House of Commons reviews the national parks act for many years. I believe that for parliamentarians our national parks should be above politics. They are a trust for this and future generations of Canadians.

As stated by the parliamentary secretary, a high degree of co-operation existed during the legislative review by the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. I would like to state our appreciation for the outstanding levels of co-operation during the committee hearings and the support of Parks Canada personnel throughout the legislative process. I also wish to acknowledge the chair of the standing committee.

It was very important to overcome several shortcomings in the legislation. A good example of where Bill C-27 was strengthened by the committee working together right from the very start was on the definition of ecological integrity. Many members were surprised to find that there was no definition for the mandate of Parks Canada on ecological integrity.

Most opposition parties put forward a definition found in the ecological integrity panel report and the government put forward its own definition of ecological integrity. It was a definition that could have been construed or interpreted as simplified or weak. The committee members from both sides of the House, with the assistance of Parks Canada and experts, were able to hammer out a suitable compromise on a proper and adequate definition. The final agreed upon definition reads as follows:

“Ecological integrity” means, with respect to a park, a condition that is determined to be characteristic of its natural region and likely to persist, including abiotic components and the composition and abundance of native species and biological communities, rates of change and supporting processes.

This is quite a definition. There is a reason why I raised the example of co-operation that transcends political boundaries. The respect for Canada's wilderness treasures has led to a stronger bill than the version that was first tabled in the House. The ecological panel spent several years identifying and describing the risks that parks face. “Parks are not islands” was the panel's rallying cry.

There were other areas in the bill where improvements were made and others where improvements were not made at all. My colleagues have raised the necessity for improving community consultations, which I will address in a moment.

For now I will speak on proposed clause 8(3) which was defeated and which I hope the other place will discuss. The report stage Motion No. 3 proposed by the NDP would have addressed the concerns put forward by the Canadian Nature Federation and some committee members. Those concerns were that many of the threats to Canada's national parks are from developments and land use decisions external to the national park boundaries.

Indeed as the ecological panel stated, parks are not islands.

There is a growing appreciation and need for Parks Canada to work with adjacent landowners and decision makers to try and ensure the complementary management of national parks and adjacent lands.

Parks Canada must be able to provide its information and knowledge of greater park ecosystems to any authority or body, environmental assessment panels, et cetera, to ensure that the decisions account for their possible impact on these nationally significant landscapes.

Parliament is ultimately responsible for the national parks act, for ensuring that the national parks are passed on unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations. It is our duty as parliamentarians to do our best to protect this country and our citizens.

Twice now, in 1988 and today, parliament has directed the minister and Parks Canada to make the restoration and maintenance of ecological integrity of Canada's national parks the first priority in all management decisions. If these goals that parliament has set out are to be met, then the men and women who manage our national parks must be confident in the fact that parliament fully expects them to participate in the decision making processes that are reasonably expected to affect the ecological integrity of national parks.

The NDP motion would have assisted in this noble effort which is of great importance to all Canadians. The amendment sought to provide park managers with the assurance that while they may have no jurisdiction over land use decisions outside the parks, we do expect them to provide the best information and advice to those land use processes reviewing developments outside those parks.

Only by participating in such forums can we expect Parks Canada and other landowners to work co-operatively to achieve the conservation of the parks landscape both inside and outside the boundaries in such a way that native species survive and human aspirations and benefits from the natural places are realized.

The improvements to the bill are substantial and no bill is perfect. However, we are disappointed that the government voted against the amendment.

Another amendment we would like to see in the future is the Bill C-27 definition of ecological integrity included in the Parks Canada Agency Act. This would provide absolute clarity in the agency's mandate. When parliament debated the agency act in the first session of the 36th Parliament, there was no definition of ecological integrity, although the term can be found in this bill now. Let us clarify it in both acts.

Of particular note for future discussion was a proposed amendment for clarifying “no net negative environmental impact” as part of the governor in council regulations and powers in relation to development. This was a written witness submission that followed the somewhat hurried committee hearings, a point to provide assurance to developers and communities that this expression would apply evenly and fairly, to ensure the heritage minister's commitment to no net negative environmental impact was not misunderstood by any cabinet minister in the future, especially if it is related to a new park for example in Atlantic Canada or in the northern regions.

I would like to thank the parliamentary secretary and Parks Canada staff for a particular improvement made to Bill C-27 during the committee stage. Witnesses and my colleague the member for Yukon raised specific concerns on the traditional and sacred gathering of objects and materials in national parks. The committee made a specific change for clarification in clause 25 to avoid a misunderstanding of the definition of trafficking in the bill, for example, to avoid traditional bartering of medicinal herbs as being defined as a crime.

The committee also struck down an attempt to limit the debate on the parks amendments to three hours. The NDP and most members of parliament are against time allocation and limitations on free speech and debate. Committee members agreed and the limitation on debate, a dangerous precedent for other legislation in this House, was defeated in committee.

My colleagues, this point brings me to a constant concern for this bill. As elected officials it is our duty to represent our constituents, our ridings and the majority views that these special places in Canada hold.

As stated by my colleagues, the recognition of parks communities was an important issue throughout the debate and hearings for the national parks act which led to this bill.

Prince Albert National Park is located in the Churchill River constituency. The community of Waskesiu in turn is located in the park, one of seven identified parks communities in Canada. Representatives are elected by the communities to participate in the Parks Canada process.

We acknowledge that the government in clause 12 of the bill drew attention to and recognizes the representatives of parks communities. This is an important step forward but the efforts should not have been limited there. At no time in the future should the important contributions that the residents, Canadian citizens, play in Canada parks development, maintenance and future direction be ignored.

In Waskesiu an elected community representative committee consists of people like Shelley Funk, Peter Strassen and Hervé Langlois working with Parks Canada constantly. There is a great working relationship with Parks Canada, especially with Superintendent Bill Fisher. Our office appreciates his hands-on and progressive approach, and his honesty and sincerity which are a reflection on Parks Canada's history and professional standards that Canadians have grown to expect and treasure. The degree of respect held by committee members, Shelley, Peter and Hervé in Waskesiu, should be considered no differently.

Tom Lee, the CEO of Parks Canada, stated on May 30:

First of all I would like to state before the committee because Waskesiu does have concerns and they have written me that this is a terrific organization to work with, they're supportive of the park, they're valued. We want to see that relationship maintained and we think they're important, we know they're important.

The NDP acknowledges that an effort was made by the reference in clause 12 but still maintains that the government could have gone further in recognizing parks communities. We do not state that more municipal power authorities were necessary, but more fair and just acknowledgement was required. Removing Jasper and leaving Banff in the bill was a political issue at best.

Community buy-in and participation in the new direction of saving our parks and not just limiting operations to a cost recovery Disneyland theme park approach is an absolute necessity. Parks communities such as Waskesiu have come a long way in recent years, overcoming distrust and shock at the degree of cutbacks inflicted during the government's slash and dash deficit years in the mid-1990s.

We have come a long way since my friend Cec Allen played on the shores of Kingsmere as a child, and watched as a decision from Ottawa removed the summer shacks that local residents enjoyed just because Ottawa's perception was that they were not pretty or aesthetic.

Jasper representatives described an emergency response vehicle ordered via the cookie-cutter approach in Ottawa that did not fit into the fire hall. That put people's lives at risk and Parks Canada and the community to shame. Communities are there daily and should be respected and heard. Then these blunders would not appear. There would be a smooth transition of community decisions and recommendations and parks delivery of the recommendations if they meet the appropriate standards.

Community participation could have been better defined. This was the government's political decision, and we were disappointed that it did not materialize.

Perhaps the most important point about the bill that Canadians would like to know is, where do we fit in now? Will access be closed to humans? Will recreation be stopped? I would like to state for the record, no. All this is about accessibility. Our population and international visitors will continue to enjoy our parks, perhaps in different ways, at different times and in different locations as parks grow in the country to offset seasonal peaks and breeding times.

Mr. Gérin, the panel chairperson, said that stopping visitor use was not the point at all. Better visitor use is needed. More education and interpretation is needed. A better respect for our natural treasures and the fragile nature of our parks must be taught and distributed.

The increase in aboriginal participation is welcome across the country and throughout the parks system. It is a welcome initiative for aboriginal communities to see parks take an open stance in delivering and preserving the natural heritage.

Although the government defeated our reference to traditional aboriginal ecological knowledge, the reference is found in other pieces of legislation in Canada. It could be brought in later. This is an important contribution that the original peoples and elders make to understanding our nature and national parks and is a key component for the future of our national parks.

I thank the heritage minister for the foresight and vision demonstrated by her support for the aboriginal secretariat for Parks Canada. Speaking of vision, I recognize that one reason for the new and improved parks act was to expedite the completion of Canada's national park system based on an eco-region approach. Of 39 eco-regions 14 remain unprotected. This is a repeated red book promise. The improved legislative capacity of Bill C-27 will help this process.

I thank the governor general for her specific mention of completing Canada's parks system in the throne speech. I know she shares the concern of the heritage minister and the Prime Minister that this legacy for our children and future generations be completed as soon as possible in this new century.

The NDP shared its surprise when the finance minister neglected to provide any money to fulfil this promise. It was an awakening when in the budget speech Parks Canada was totally missed. With the passing of this act perhaps the finance minister can provide a Christmas present for all Canadians this year by putting the 100 million dollars plus identified as necessary for this noble goal that the NGOs, parks communities and Canadians have called on, especially Parks Canada personnel who need these resources.

At the same time as there is sufficient funding to maintain let alone restore our national parks, our national wilderness treasures deserve respect, not neglect. That is another debate for another day, a day when there are the values Canadians can hold true.

We value our national parks. The national parks are hereby dedicated to the people of Canada for their benefit, education and enjoyment, subject to the act and regulations. The parks shall be maintained and made use of so as to leave them unimpaired for the future enjoyment of generations to come.

With those noble words that are a part of Bill C-27, we lend our support to the bill. We hope that Canadians will enjoy the national parks this summer and for future generations.

Canada National Parks Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Clifford Lincoln Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, in 1996, the Minister of Canadian Heritage did me the honour of asking me to act as liaison with the working group that was appointed to study ecological issues relating to Bow Valley, mainly around Banff National Park.

The working group, on completing its work, stated for the first time that the principle of ecological integrity needed to be applied in our national parks, especially those located in the Rockies, which were its main concern. Based on this principle, the working group called upon the minister to stop all commercial development, particularly in the city of Banff, which was continuing to expand commercially.

I must congratulate the minister for the courage it took and for the integrity she showed. All her actions since then, first of all in implementing the recommendations of the working group, have required a lot of abnegation and courage. It was a controversial decision to implement the recommendations of the Bow Valley working group, but it was an even more controversial decision to establish, two years later, in 1998, a national panel to look into the future of our parks, namely the panel on the ecological integrity of Canada's national parks.

That panel, which sat all through last year, was made up of 11 distinguished Canadians. I want to say a special thanks to the chairman, Jacques Gérin, and to other distinguished Canadians such as Stephanie Cairns, Louis Bélanger and Henry Lickers, who represented various segments of society, particularly in relation to their convictions with regard to the future of our parks. They came to some really striking conclusions. I want to quote here what their report said on the loss of habitats inside our parks.

In Canada over 90% of Carolinian forests have been converted to farmland or towns. On the prairies 99% of the native tall grass communities and 75% of mixed grass communities have disappeared. In Atlantic Canada 65% of the coastal marshes have been drained or filled. Across northern Canada only 35% of the boreal forest remains undisturbed. Largely as a result of this habitat loss many Canadian species are currently threatened.

As we know, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada detected 339 endangered species.

The amazing part of this report was that it developed a huge consensus in Canada. After broad consultations involving all sectors the report received great support from Canadians who value our parks beyond every other value in Canada, except perhaps certain things like the flag, the CBC and national identity. The parks represent all that is valuable to us in the sense of our well-being and our sense of values in Canada.

It included a panel on ecological integrity supported by industry, which again is a breakthrough. I will quote from an industry association submission to the panel which indicates that parks must become centres of learning and study of ecological processes to provide answers for those who wish to manage in the best ecological way possible. Parks must create research groups in partnership with universities and industry to build the body of knowledge necessary.

In 1997 the state of parks report of Canada indicated that out of 38 national parks then in existence only one showed no ecological impact or stress. Therefore 37 of the 38 parks showed some degree, mild to serious, of ecological impact or stress.

The ultimate recommendation of the panel on the ecological integrity of Canada's national parks to the Canadian government was that ecological integrity should become the management priority of our national parks. This led to Bill C-27, which we are debating today at third reading.

The legislation integrated the very principle of the ecological integrity for all aspects of the management of our national parks.

As my colleagues from the Progressive Conservative Party and the New Democratic Party said earlier, the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage came to a true consensus on Bill C-27.

I take this opportunity to particularly thank the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, the member for Ottawa—Vanier, who does a beautiful job listening to people and who has made himself available to all committee members in order to improve the act.

I would also like to particularly thank my colleagues in the opposition, the member for Dauphin—Swan River, as well as those for Portneuf, West Nova and Churchill River. All have shown a positive, constructive attitude. All the members of the committee have worked together, in a non partisan spirit, to improve this act.

As my colleague for Churchill River said so eloquently, we believe that parks are above petty politics or partisan politics.

I think that we have demonstrated, in Committee as in the course of this debate, that this intrinsic value, for us Canadians, goes well beyond mere political boundaries.

Bill C-27 has established some marker points. From now on, it will be much easier to create new parks. Seven new parks will be created and the process will be much more open. There will be a much closer interaction with aboriginal peoples, with the first nations. There will also be—and this is very necessary—more fines for poaching and the trafficking of animals and wildlife species.

I would be remiss if I did not end by quoting the conclusion of the panel.

The commission used words of thanksgiving from the Haudenosaunee Nation which say so much that I would like to leave them with the House:

Today we have gathered and we see that the cycles of life continue. We have been given the duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things. So now, we bring our minds together as one as we give greetings and thanks to each other as People.

We are all thankful to our Mother, the Earth, for she gives us all that we need for life. She supports our feet as we walk upon her. It gives us joy that she continues to care for us as she has from the beginnings of time. To our Mother, we send greetings and thanks.

I think that this is the spirit of the act.

We thank our mother, the earth, for all that is good, represented so beautifully by our national parks. I forgot to mention that I will be splitting my time with my colleague from Oak Ridges.

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3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Oak Ridges, ON

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-27 proposes a number of important measures related to 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 early 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. The town of Banff was a railway construction and service centre some years before the national park was established.

Both the towns of Banff and Jasper even today continue to serve railway needs along with the national park needs. A small community which is an operational centre for the Canadian Pacific Railway as well as the administrative centre for the park, Field is essentially a residential community for railway and park employees. Lake Louise and Banff National Park were developed as a tourist centre by the CPR prior to being incorporated into the park.

Further south, the community of Waterton Park in Waterton Lakes National Park was developed with the primary purpose of serving park visitors. It operates seasonally and has a year round population of fewer than 100 residents. The same is true of Waskesiu in Prince Albert National Park, Saskatchewan, and Wasagaming in Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba.

I note these facts 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. 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 which were established to serve those interests. For example, Anthracite and Bankhead were coal mining towns established in Banff National Park. Oil City, in Waterton Lakes National Park, served the first of our oil drilling operations. Although these extracting activities in the communities of Anthracite, Bankhead and Oil City have long vanished, they remind us of an era when such activities were deemed appropriate within national parks.

Today, however, 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 foundations for the tourist industry and the very reason millions of people visit our parks annually. Therefore, no new communities will be located within national park boundaries. 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 the community provisions in the bill before. She has been diligent in analyzing the key studies which identified problems and solutions within the national park system, which we discussed at committee.

The Banff-Bow Valley study of 1996, and the work of the ecological integrity panel, which reported to her this March, contained wide ranging recommendations which served as the basis for her ecological integrity action plan.

The previous version of this bill, Bill C-70, died on the order paper last year. One of its provisions related to the introduction of municipal taxation within park communities. These provisions would not have applied to Banff since it already has a municipal taxation regime as a municipality incorporated under Alberta legislation.

The proposal to introduce municipal taxation in the other communities led to concerns which could best be summarized in the phrase “taxation without representation”. The taxation provisions have been removed and Parks Canada will continue to subsidize the administration of these communities.

At the same time, I want to reassure members of the House that the park community residents will be actively involved in the management of their communities. Each community is unique and the management model that evolves in a particular community will be tailored to that community.

Given that the communities are special, federal responsibilities situated on federal crown lands within a national park, it is important that parliament retain an overview of their 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 with respect to the provisions in this act will be consistent with the park management plan; an accord with guidelines for appropriate activities; and, provide a strategy for growth management.

Growth management will be achieved by describing the boundaries of the community and its commercial zones, along with a measure of maximum floor area permitted within the zones. 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.

Concerns were raised by the park community representatives during the hearings on Bill C-27 and the standing committee responded. Regarding concerns with respect to the termination of the leases, the bill has been amended to state that the Expropriation Act applies. Community plan has been identified to mean a land use plan for the park community. This new definition serves two purposes. First, it ensures that there will be no confusion between the use of the term “community plan” and this legislation and how the term is used in the Alberta legislation.

Second, it signals to park community residents that there is no impediment to them undertaking their own planning for social, educational, health and related needs of their community.

The section on public consultation now makes explicit reference to the representatives of park communities and requires that the minister consult with them on land use planning and development in park communities.

Implementing the provisions of Bill C-27 will ensure a proper evolution of the communities from the past century into the new millennium. They have gone from logging and mining to the prime purpose of maintaining the ecological integrity of 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 them becoming models for environmental stewardship.

Canada National Parks Act
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3:50 p.m.

Reform

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to have a short opportunity to speak to this bill, particularly with Banff National Park being in my riding, an area which I have enjoyed for many years because of its beauty, expanse, the people who reside there and who have pioneered that whole area and the number of individuals with whom I have met and talked with regard to what takes place there.

I have had the pleasure of living in that mountain range for over 60 years. I know quite a bit about mountains and wildlife. I certainly can appreciate any effort to try to maintain the natural beauty and the natural state of any area that is so appealing to the people of this great land. We must really continue to stress the fact that this land does belong to the people of Canada.

When I looked at the original bill, and then found out about Bill C-27, I have to admit that I was in total shock. I never believed for a moment that the Liberal Party would back down from a tax grab, but it did. That shock was a little too stressful. However, I certainly am glad to see that someone rattled the party's chain and brought it to its senses at least once in the time I have been here. It will no longer be required to take extra money from residents when it has no business doing that, because it is taxation without representation. I applaud them for that.

The thing that always bothers me about decision making in a park is the consultation factor. Consultation, to the Liberal government, has bothered me for a number of years. I have seen consultation on agriculture in my riding. The Liberals come in droves to get consultation but they do not seem to understand what the people are saying in my riding when it comes to agricultural issues, for example, their beliefs on how marketing of their product should take place. So much for consultation. They hear it but they do not do anything.

I sat in on the consultations that were supposed to take place throughout Banff National Park regarding a number of issues. The strange thing about it was that some people did not even know about the consultations. They did not even know they were going to have an opportunity to speak, because in a lot of instances it is only a select few who get invited to the table when we have a consultation period.

If I am fortunate enough to get wind of it, I like to crash in on these consultation parties and listen to what is being said. It is not an open consultation process and it never has been. I do not know why they continue to say things like “What a broad consultation we have had. What a wonderful thing we are doing”. I can name dozens and dozens of people who have lived in Banff National Park all their lives and who may have worked for the railroads or in the original mines. Believe me, these people have some knowledge about what should happen and what should not happen. Their consultation process just does not seem to occur.

I have good one-on-one visits. I try to hold meetings and get input. I had our critic out in Banff one night and we had a fair turnout. We wanted some input from people so we could bring their message to this Liberal government and to the heritage minister. I understand we have a heritage minister who was absolutely shocked that we had mountains in Banff, for goodness sakes. It is really strange to hear these things but that is what I hear. “Oh my, look at all the big mountains”. She did not know we had those.

There is no way I can be convinced that public consultations will be held when it is not clear who will call for these things. The section states “The minister will have these discussions as appropriate”. It will be the minister deciding if it is appropriate to have consultations, a minister who lives in the industrial area of Hamilton.

Perhaps some people in Banff might need to have consultations. Maybe they should make the decisions. Or, as Ralph Klein stated, “the lack of consultation that takes place with regard to stakeholders and park users indicates that Ottawa is dictating changes to park policy without input from even the provinces”. Like it or not, that is the feeling out there. It does not matter whether the members jeer what I say or that they want to make a big noise about it.

I spend a lot of time in that park because it is in my riding. I talk to individuals. I know decisions are made carte blanche without any input whatsoever from them. They are getting a little tired of that kind of activity. There is also no consultation with anybody who is affiliated with the province.

Lake Louise is another beautiful little community in Banff National Park. I will tell a story to the House of what happened there, just to show the disgraceful way this government operates. When I was in the Samson Mall, a great stopping off place for people who pass through the park, a fellow told me he was glad to see me at Lake Louise and indicated that he would like to meet with me.

Three people wanted to meet with me behind a building and all three of them were park wardens. Why did they want to go behind the building to meet with me? As employees of Parks Canada, answerable to the Liberal government, they did not want to be seen talking to an official opposition member because it could mean they would be ostracised or punished for having done so without permission from park officials. We had to have a secret meeting.

The meeting lasted about 30 minutes and these individuals described to me the various reasons why they felt they needed to have sidearms. However, the experts on that side of the House do not think they need them. Have they ever consulted with park wardens who have lived there all their lives, who have confronted poachers and situations that are a little dangerous regarding wild animals, which those members also know nothing about?

Do not give me this crap about consultations. I had more consultation in 30 minutes out of sight because these guys, who are employees of this Liberal government, did not want to be seen talking about it. After all, it could mean their jobs. What a pathetic situation.

However, that is not surprising. When we go into communities and do our work as critics for prisons, guess who does not want their names being used if they talk to us? They are called prison guards and prison correctional officers. Why do they not want their names used? It is because they are considered to be employees of this government.

Consultation? No, I am afraid not. The government does not really know the meaning of the term. Consultation to them is to go out and put on a show. They put on a good front, pretend to know what they are talking about, come back to Ottawa, make all the decisions, and then do whatever they like.

When good amendments that make sense are presented by various members of different parties the government will not consider them. After all, they were put forward by members of the opposition who want to make it all political.

The preservation and the future of parks should never be a political issue. The value of the land of this great country is far more than economics. There is nothing more valuable than the natural beauty of the greatest country in the world.

This group of people does not want to shove politics aside and deal with the issues in a truly open and consultative way, with true willingness to accept good, solid ideas to make a bill better. When they take that approach then Ralph Klein is right. It is the dictatorial attitude of government members, ignoring input from people, not allowing input from the provinces or anyone else that causes the real grief in our parks. The sooner we get rid of that attitude the better will be the chance for the future of our parks.