House of Commons Hansard #15 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was heritage.

Topics

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Jeanne-Le Ber
Québec

Liberal

Liza Frulla Minister of Canadian Heritage and Minister responsible for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, I would like to welcome my hon. colleague. As for appointments, especially that of the president of the CBC, I can assure him that everything will be done according to the rules.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

I draw the attention of hon. members to the presence in the gallery of the Hon. Matlapeng Ray Molomo, Speaker of the National Assembly of Botswana.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Presence in Gallery
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

I would also like to draw the attention of hon. members to the presence in the gallery of the Hon. Rick Thorpe, Minister of Provincial Revenue for British Columbia.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-7, an act to amend the Department of Canadian Heritage Act and the Parks Canada Agency Act and to make related amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Canadian Heritage Act
Government Orders

October 26th, 2004 / 3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to contribute to this debate and speak this afternoon on Bill C-7, an act to amend the Department of Canadian Heritage Act and the Parks Canada Agency Act.

On December 12, 2003, as we remember, control and supervision of Parks Canada Agency were transferred from the Minister of Canadian Heritage to the Minister of the Environment. This was done by order in council.

On July 20, 2004, another order in council regarding responsibility for built heritage came into effect. This was necessary in order to clarify the preceding orders. On the one hand, the control and supervision of the policy group on historic places were transferred; I will say something about that in a few moments. The powers and responsibilities and the functions of designing and implementing programs with built heritage as its primary focus, were transferred from the Minister of Canadian Heritage to the Minister of the Environment. Bill C-7 will amend the legislation to reflect these two changes.

I have the honour of representing the riding of Glengarry—Prescott—Russell. I often talk about it in this House. It has a very significant place in the history of Canada. Indeed, it is in the Glengarry area that Sir John Johnson and his disciples, if I can use that term, arrived in 1784. These people were refugees from the war between the United States and England, the war of American independence. At least, this is what the Americans are saying, because the British called that same war by another name. In any case, in the aftermath of that conflict, around 1784, there was this exodus of people living in the 13 colonies, but particularly the state of New York, in the Mohawk Valley. These people crossed the border to get to the area of Lancaster and, later, Williamstown. Incidentally, that town is named after Sir William Johnson, the father of Sir John Johnson, who was the founder of that region.

Mr. Speaker, if I am not mistaken, you are yourself a descendant of these people, some of whom came to my riding of Glengarry—Prescott—Russell.

Sir John Johnson's manor is still in Williamstown, in the Glengarry area. Unfortunately, it is no longer part of my riding. Following the redrawing of the electoral map, it is now located in the riding of Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry. Most of the other sites are located in the riding that I represent.

Talking about interesting historic sites, I do not need to remind hon. members of the flour mill of father Alexander Macdonell, after whom is named the town of Alexandria, in my riding. I should also mention the Macdonell-Williamson house, which proudly bears a plaque attesting to its status of provincial historic site. It is located east of Chute-à-Blondeau, actually in Pointe-Fortune, where part of the town is in Quebec and part of it is in Ontario. The Macdonell-Williamson house is right on the border. These are some examples of historic places in the riding that I represent and in the Glengarry area in general.

It is also interesting to note that the Longueuil seigneury, the one in Ontario, is located in the electoral riding that I represent. Jean Lemoyne, the seigneur of Longueuil, owned that seigneury, which later became the township of Longueuil. Indeed, after 1791, it became the township of Longueuil. We are talking about the region located in my riding. In fact, this means that a part of New France is now in Ontario, because this was a seigneury, the seigneury of Longueuil. I can see that some members opposite are surprised and even pleased by this.

I would also like to talk about some other aspects of the bill, which is, after all, about parks. I am among the lucky people who, because of my duties as a member of Parliament, have had the opportunity to visit a number of national parks, each one more beautiful than the last. I am thinking, for example, of some parks I visited in western Canada this summer, particularly in British Columbia and Alberta.

But I am also thinking about Gross-Île, that extraordinary place in Quebec. That, of course, is the island that saw the arrival of many Canadians of Irish origin, including my wife's ancestors. The hon. members who have met my wife will have noticed her Irish heritage, which is particularly visible in the colour of her hair. My grandchildren resemble her, with those special features. I had the pleasure of visiting Grosse-Île and I recommend such a visit to all my colleagues. It is a truly fascinating experience.

I have been describing some national parks as they exist today. I know there is talk of establishing new parks in a number of regions. For example, in the North there are interesting sites but there are other ecologically interesting areas that I think deserve to be national parks.

For example, here in the national capital region, there is a bog called the Mer Bleue. It is part of the National Capital Commission's lands. It is an NCC park. It is well protected. The NCC is doing a fantastic job and is well managed by its president, Marcel Beaudry, whom I salute and to whom I send my best wishes. The NCC's parks and areas are well protected.

There is another, still larger area of my riding, the Alfred bog. This is a highly sensitive ecological zone. RIght now, it comprises perhaps between 15,000 and 20,000 acres of land. In recent years, unfortunately—but not this past year or the one before, for reasons I shall explain in a couple of minutes—an ecological disaster was shaping up in that region. A group of entrepreneurs had the idea of digging up peat and bagging it for sale to be used as gardening peat moss for vegetable and flower gardens, lawns and the like. This had a very devastating effect on the bog, and on the flora and fauna of the region. Suddenly the people in the villages started to find deer and other smaller wild animals on their lawns. These animals were not able to negotiate the huge ditches dug to drain the peat bog and then excavate the peat. This was a very sad state of affairs. I appealed to the Minister of the Environment, the hon. member for Victoria, who is no longer a minister but one of the benched former ministers, like myself. I got a great deal of help from him in this matter, and take this opportunity to thank him.

Thanks to him, a group known as Nature Conservancy of Canada, or Conservation de la nature in French, bought outright some 3,000 acres of this bog, thereby protecting this huge area.

Just a few months ago, thanks to the United Counties of Prescott and Russell which spearheaded this effort, another large stretch of what was left of the bog that was not already in the hands of the public or para-public sector was purchased. As a result, virtually all that is left of the Alfred bog, in eastern Ontario, is part of this property, either public or para-public, if we include Nature Conservancy of Canada. We have at least protected this very sensitive area.

I am one of those who think the time has come to go further on this issue. The time has come to join our forces to convince the Government of Canada to turn this ecological area, now partly owned by the public, through the United Counties of Prescott and Russell, the South Nation River Conservation Authority, Nature Conservancy of Canada and others, into a park.

With this plea, today, I am taking a first step in advocating in the House of Commons the creation of this park.

Many members go through my riding to get theirs. Many parliamentarians go to Montreal or elsewhere. When they leave Ottawa, they go through the beautiful riding of Glengarry—Prescott—Russell. I hope that members making this trip will stop frequently and spend a lot of money to contribute to the local economy of my riding.

These members who travel in the region and go to the outskirts of Casselman or Saint-Isidore, before stopping to spend lots of money—I sincerely hope they will—will see this area. There is the Larose forest, the site of the Écho d'un peuple production, which talks about our Franco-Ontarian ancestors, and not far from there is the ecological area known as the Alfred bog.

The United Counties of Prescott and Russell and the others made these acquisitions with the support of yours truly and, of course, the then Minister of the Environment. I would like to reiterate my appreciation for everything the hon. member for Victoria did. Now that this has been done, I think it is time to move ahead to the second stage. In other words, the Alfred bog should become a national park.

Today is the first time you have heard this plea in the House of the Commons. It will probably not be the last because this is a very worthwhile project, in my opinion. Some might wonder why I did not raise this issue sooner. After all, I was a minister for a long time. As I just described in detail, the bog was not publicly owned at the time. It was private property.

Now that almost the entire bog has been acquired by government or quasi-government bodies, the project is possible. That is why we should now consider moving ahead with such a project.

Some might say it is not directly related to the bill before us today, but I say it is. We are creating, through legislation, the structure I described at the beginning of my speech and there is no better time to tell officials, ministers and anyone else interested, about the merits of the project I am undertaking for the Alfred bog.

I have thanked the minister and I thank colleagues for supporting the bill. I not only look forward to its speedy adoption by the House of Commons but I also look forward to the day when I can invite all members of the House to the official opening of the Alfred Bog national park.

Canadian Heritage Act
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the member's speech and his reflections about some of the historical sites that are in his riding and nearby and I wanted to ask him a question about those. I know the bill contemplates transferring responsibility for those sites to Environment Canada and that it has been back and forth a little between Heritage Canada and Environment Canada.

I also know that the Minister of Public Works has contemplated selling off some of the government's holdings in terms of buildings and other public facilities. Just this morning I had a phone call from one of my constituents who was very concerned about that possibility. He believes that those facilities are part of the birthright of all Canadians and that they should remain with the government, not be sold away only to be rented back or to be part of some other arrangement.

Does the member believe that this arrangement might actually protect historical sites, if transferring them to the Department of the Environment was a way of protecting them and ensuring they are part of the future of all Canadians?

Canadian Heritage Act
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member seems confused about four or five different things.

First, nationally designated sites are not necessarily the property of the Government of Canada. A number of sites are privately owned by local organizations and are subject to a designation by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board.

Second, some sites are actually the property of the Government of Canada and are government assets. I have heard the discussion about those where the government feels that it should be selling them off, which concerns me as well. I share some of the concerns in that regard. I hope the minister is listening attentively to these concerns. However that is not the same thing at all.

Finally, what the bill would ensure is that the structure of Parks Canada is transferred from the Minister of Heritage Canada to the Minister of the Environment in terms of reporting and so on. I do not see in this bill how that would change an existing historic site from continuing to be an historic site. That is a very different proposition altogether. The bill does not deal with that, as far as I have been able to recognize.

Just to summarize briefly. First, I share the concern that we should not engage in a major way in disposing of government assets but that does not mean that they are all forbidden to be disposed of. That is equally wrong.

Mr. Speaker, you represent the beautiful and historic City of Kingston, where the city wants to acquire a vacant lot that is about eight feet wide and a quarter mile long. It somehow was divided that way 175 years ago and it needs to be transferred to the municipality. It is those sorts of things. Sometimes it could even be the private sector. We therefore cannot say that there is a blanket or should be a blanket interdiction in that regard.

The historic sites that we have are not always government owned. We are talking particularly about those designated by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board. These could be government owned, local government or agency owned, sometimes city owned, and sometimes they are completely in private hands, but they are still designated in the way that I have just described.

As the member can see, it is a little bit more broad than the way it has been described by the hon. member.

I do encourage the government to continue to protect our historical sites in Canada. I happen to have a bit of a passion for history, as well as rock music, but that is another issue. I do hope that we protect the historical sites that we have for our children and, shall I say, my grandchildren.

Canadian Heritage Act
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Bloc

Gérard Asselin Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened very carefully to the concerns of the member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell regarding a part of the land in his riding. He talked about a peat bog that had been farmed. His main concern seemed to be that, if this was sold or assigned to the private sector, the peat bog might be farmed again.

In Quebec, there are organizations called RCMs, regional county municipalities. They are responsible for unorganized territory. There is also an organization called Protection du territoire. In Ontario, I do not know the protection structures, but if one wants to protect a piece of land, an area or a sector, it is not a good idea to hand over that piece of land or area to the federal government to create a park there.

In that case, can the municipality, which is an organization that has managed the lands in its territory, bring in urban bylaws? However, there is also the provincial government, through the Department of Cultural Affairs, that could ensure the protection of this land, because it seems that the land is part of the member's main concerns. In fact, this is important to him, and he seems to be saying that this causes a problem when peat bogs are in operation.

My question is as follows: would there not be another land protection organization that would meet the concerns that the member just outlined, without necessarily transferring responsibilities so that the federal government would inherit a part of the land to create a park? We know that, if this park is managed by Parks Canada, it would entail investment costs. It would also be an intrusion of the federal government in provincial lands.

Canadian Heritage Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, there are no unorganized territories in my riding. The territories I represent are all in existing municipalities, for the most part in the United Counties of Prescott and Russell, an entity which is roughly equivalent to an RCM in Quebec. There are also the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry. Finally, the third part of my riding is the city of Ottawa, which I also represent, at least its eastern part. So that is not the case.

Currently, most of that land is owned by the South Nation River Conservation Authority. For the benefit of my colleagues, in Ontario conservation authorities are created under a provincial statute. So, that land is in part owned by the said conservation authority. Another part is directly owned by the United Counties of Prescott and Russell. Another part is owned by the Nature Conservancy. I believe some of that land is owned by Ducks Unlimited. So it is owned either by public or semi-public organizations, and that is good.

Today, on 90% of our territory, we are no longer faced with the risk of seeing mechanical cranes and other pieces of equipment come and cause havoc as we saw in the past. It will not happen again.

However the desire to have a national park in my riding is not tantamount to saying it is an intrusion. It is ridiculous to claim that the desire to create a national park is an intrusion. If I were to stand along highway 17 in Alfred and ask people if they want a national park in their riding, I would say that 90% of them would support the idea. It is not an intrusion when 90% are in favour of it and the other 10% would presumably want to keep on extracting peat from the bog.

However, we do not have a problem with intrusion in our area. As a matter of fact, there is nothing I would like better than to have the kind of resources the Government of Canada could offer us: a small interpretation centre, for instance, and the like. By the way, it is important to note that the Alfred bog was designated by the UN, the United Nations, as a significant ecological area.The group is called COSEWIC and I will try to spell it out later. It was designated by the UN.

Canadian Heritage Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Russ Powers Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my great pleasure today to speak at second reading to Bill C-7, an act to amend the Department of Canadian Heritage Act and the Parks Canada Agency Act and to make related amendments to other acts.

The bill would give legislative effect to the government reorganization that was announced on December 12, 2003 as it affects Parks Canada, the Minister of Canadian Heritage and the Minister of the Environment.

I would like to take the opportunity today to speak to the House about an important new initiative at Parks Canada; that is the creation of the historic parks initiative. This initiative is based on the recognition by the Government of Canada of the fact that historic places capture the meaning and values of Canada, as well as the drive, sacrifices, ideas and hard work of those who have shaped our country over these many generations. That is an understanding shared by all governments in Canada and by Canadians at large. This appreciation of the importance of historic places does not just apply to place with national designation, but to a large number of places in every community in every corner of Canada.

Heritage buildings make cities more interesting places to live in and can revitalize downtown cores. Historic places can also draw in tourism dollars to our rural communities, our small towns and hamlets and our urban centres alike.

Restoration and redevelopment of historic buildings help the environment by capitalizing on the energy invested in the original structures. It also provides well needed jobs and an opportunity to spur the economic vitality of the communities.

Most significant, historic sites and buildings provide places of learning for our children and our grandchildren and places of understanding for all of us. It is very difficult to determine where we are going to go when we do not know from where we have come. That is part of the rationale for making every attempt to preserve and where possible restore historic properties.

Despite this positive sentiment toward historic places, the reality is that year after year, decade after decade, more and more historic places are being lost for whatever reason. Recognizing the need to resolve and to ensure that Canadians can enjoy a rich heritage both now and in the future, the government three years ago announced plans to work toward a historic places initiative, initially with a $24 million infusion by the government to kickstart the process. That has been in the works since first announced in May 2002.

The keystone of the initiative is federal, provincial, territorial and municipal cooperation coupled with equally valuable collaboration with members of Parliament. Yes, we as members of Parliament are part of the process. Aboriginal peoples, heritage experts and a comprehensive number of institutions, organizations, communities and individuals will all be part of the process.

Consensus has emerged on where Canada and Canadians need to be when the historic places initiative is fully implemented. Parks Canada will play both a leadership and partnership role to make that consensus move from concept to reality. Strategies will focus on helping Canadians to build a culture of conservation.

Among our common goals is the need to provide all Canadians with the practical information and tools they need to protect historic sites. The initiative for this historic places is the most significant conservation effort related to historic sites in our nation's history. Thanks to the excellent teamwork of all the provinces and territories, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Heritage Canada Foundation, we have begun this year, through consultative efforts, to see its first tangible results with the launch of the on-line Canadian register of historic places.

I remember this very well. In May 2002 the then minister of Canadian heritage attended the annual conference of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to launch this initiative. At that time she indicated that it was very important to do this not only for continuity in communities, but also from the standpoint of the potential for economic renewal. She started the consultation process. She made a presentation to the working group at the annual general meeting of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. She and her staff visited the meetings over the next year to consult with their economic development committee to work toward the development of the initiatives.

A number of times her staff visited community group and well established, well recognized community conservation business groups, whether it was work with the housing or commercial sectors, to develop the initiative. The first stage, the creation of the Canadian register historic places, is a culmination of lot of work and agreement by many people and organizations.

The Canadian register of historic places will for the first time in one place provide a register for all Canadians to inspect and determine those buildings and sites that are recognized as historic by any level of government. Whether it is from a federal perspective, or a provincial, territorial or a community perspective, they will be recognized and identified in a single location.

It is anticipated the register will contain approximately 20,000 historic places when it is fully launched. The register will be an important Internet-based source for planners, policy-makers, community organizations, teachers, students and families who wonder how they can learn about and help preserve the past.

In addition, Parks Canada has already adopted the Canadian standards and guidelines for the conservation of historic places in its practices in the area of conservation. It is also encouraging all other jurisdictions to adopt them so that there will be a common benchmark for conservation practices in Canada. There is a real movement toward a very short period of time as those standards will become the norm in every one of our communities, provinces and territories.

In the year ahead Parks Canada will also implement the commercial heritage properties incentive fund, a new program which was announced late last year to encourage the rehabilitation of historic sites. In other words, this would be an opportunity for the commercial sector to work hand in hand with the communities to preserve buildings that are important to the integrity of their communities.

The fund is a four-year $30 million plan to ideally tip the balance in favour of heritage conservation over demolition. Taxable Canadian corporations will be eligible for reimbursement of a portion of the cost of restoring historic properties for commercial use.

I know in my riding, involving part of the old city of Hamilton and a number of suburban and rural communities which date back well over 200 years, there are clearly identifiable historic properties. The old part of the city of Hamilton, which is an established old city, has buildings that are worthy of consideration for their restoration. In fact some developers are looking for the opportunity to work hand in hand and take opportunities for this. I know the city council of Hamilton is looking at ways to work with these developers to preserve these magnificent buildings that, for whatever reason, have been left to decay over the years. I would think, in anticipation of our program, they will tend to be oversubscribed and the demands will be filled quickly.

To qualify, buildings must be on the new Canadian register and the projects must follow the new standards and guidelines. Therefore, there is an onus upon the communities to get out ahead, to follow the standards to ensure that their properties are registered and to adopt within their cities the new standards and guidelines for the preservation and reconstruction of these heritage buildings. A new Parks Canada certification process, involving expert evaluation, will evaluate all submissions.

At the end of four years, Parks Canada will review results with the intention of determining the value of recommending permanent incentives for the government. Parks Canada will also strengthen the dialogue already begun with aboriginal peoples to meet practical needs so aboriginal people may be fully engaged in the historic places initiative.

I have lived in the same area for about 40 years. For me, standards have developed to which I have become accustomed. One thing about this wonderful country is the diversity. What is historical for me, may not be something that is historical for someone else. The importance is upon the abilities for each of the communities, provinces and territories to identify those that are important to their needs.

While many of Canada's other historic places are buildings, for aboriginal peoples, those places are far more likely to be ceremonial places, sacred burial grounds or images that are inscribed on stones. Parks Canada will draw upon the wisdom of the elders and others to find appropriate ways to ensure full aboriginal inclusion in the historic places initiative.

I would respectfully encourage all my colleagues from all sides of the House to join me in the passing of Bill C-7.

Canadian Heritage Act
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Richmond Hill
Ontario

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I know my colleague's interest in this matter as a former municipal councillor. The Canadian registry of historic places is probably the most important initiative that has taken place in this file in more than a generation. The member talked about the 20,000 properties that will be listed, after much consultation with those in the historic community and experts.

The fact that the moving of Parks Canada from heritage to parks will have a real impact is very important. Could the member elaborate briefly as to how, in particular, under the environment department, the whole initiative can be better enhanced, with more attention given to it?

I am sure the member will also want to comment on the fact that to have the best parks in the world, we need more money. I am sure he will be with us in our discussions and deliberations to ensure that we maintain and continue to acquire more money. I think all members in the House realize that to have the best in the world, we need to maintain the stock by having the necessary dollars. It is something, unfortunately, we have not had in the past. I am sure the Treasury Board minister who is here today will agree with me.

Canadian Heritage Act
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Russ Powers Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, perhaps at first blush, when we take a look at the legislation, a number of us would question the realignment of the responsibilities. Logically, it would fall under the purview of Heritage Canada. However, we should look at the properties in question.

It is interesting. Over the last two years I have been involved in an insignificant way, but I have been aware of the process involved in the consultation with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and other provincial, territorial and municipal partners. Realigning Parks Canada makes all kinds of sense from the standpoint of having the appropriate expertise in place.

As I have mentioned, we are not only talking about fiscal buildings. We are talking about the lands, mountain ranges, passes, sections of railways or whatever the case might be. It covers the total gamut. What I consider historical property, as alluded to earlier, is something that really might not mean anything to some of my other colleagues in the House.

Every possibility that is important for the communities, provinces or territories has been considered. Parks Canada has a great deal of expertise from the standpoint of the skill sets situated within that department, whether it is the curators of heritage properties or the ability to recognize the most important environment components of the properties in question, to ensure that the environmental integrity of the properties and the surrounding lands are preserved. It just makes logical sense that it comes under the purview of Parks Canada.

Canadian Heritage Act
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Jeremy Harrison Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, in my riding we have the Prince Albert National Park, better known as Waskesiu. It is one of the most beautiful parks in the country. Unfortunately, the infrastructure of the park is literally falling apart. Roads are in terrible condition. Buildings are unkempt and literally falling down.

I wonder if the hon. member could comment on where he sees Parks Canada going in terms of upgrading the infrastructure of national parks around the country and particularly Prince Albert National Park.