House of Commons Hansard #28 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was environment.

Topics

The House proceeded to the consideration of 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, as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

Department of Canadian Heritage Act
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10 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

There are three motions in amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill C-7. Motions Nos. 1 to 3 will be grouped for debate and voted upon according to the voting pattern available at the table.

I shall now put Motion Nos. 1 through 3 to the House.

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10:05 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

moved:

Motion No. 1

That Bill C-7, in Clause 3, be amended by replacing line 6 on page 2 with the following:

“replaced by the following:

“Minister” means the Minister of the Environment.”

Motion No. 2

That Bill C-7 be amended by deleting Clause 4.

Motion No. 3

That Bill C-7 be amended by deleting Clause 28.

Mr. Speaker, the amendments are consistent, one with the other, and are all directed to the same issue. Bill C-7 would transfer the responsibility for our national parks from the heritage ministry to the environment ministry. As an aside I have to say that I never could quite figure out why it went the other way a number of years ago. However it is back and the parks are where they should be, with the Department of the Environment.

The amendments address one anomaly in the bill, which is that the responsibility for the decision making around Parks Canada is not directly and specifically appointed to any particular minister. It allows for some flexibility as to who the individual will be who will make the final decisions on the issues within that department as it affects Parks Canada.

It was the opinion of our party that was a flaw and continues to be a flaw in the legislation. We are proposing these amendments, which, as I say, flow one into the other, that the Minister of the Environment will be the person designated to make these decisions. The first amendment asks that he or she be named specifically and that occurs in clause 3 on page 2, line 6, so that the minister would be the Minister of the Environment.

The second amendment would delete clause 4. That clause, as is in the bill now, would provide that the Governor in Council, cabinet in effect, may designate a member of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada to be the minister for the purposes of this act. It is not specific at all. It would allow any minister, who may have little or no knowledge of the requirements of our parks and the issues affecting our parks, to be designated.

We have not had any logical explanation from the government as to why it is simply not appointing the Minister of the Environment and leaving open options that would allow the government of the day to appoint someone else. It just does not appear to be logical, which is why we have moved that amendment.

The third amendment is to clause 28, which leaves open the possibility that some other minister would be named. Clause 28, as is, reads:

The Minister of the Environment is the Minister for the purposes of the Parks Canada Agency Act until another member of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada is designated under section 2.1 of that Act, as enacted by section 4 of this Act.

The first amendment asks that the minister be named. The second amendment asks that the clause, which gives cabinet the ability to name somebody else, be deleted. The third amendment, with regard to the Parks Canada Agency Act, asks for the same thing, that clause 28 be deleted.

With regard to the thrust of this, we know that the parks system is under severe pressure. In the next riding over from mine is the smallest national park in the country. At the rate it is deteriorating, it may almost totally disappear because of lack of remedial action on the part of the government to protect it. It could disappear some time in the next 50 to 100 years. That is just one example. It may be one of the more extremes.

Of all of the parks in Canada, Point Pelee National Park is at the greatest risk of disappearing over the next century, but there are any number of other parks that are under great stress. These are heritage properties that we as a government have a responsibility to protect, enhance and make available to the greatest degree possible, without damaging them, to the Canadian citizenry and visitors from foreign lands for that matter.

We have a long history of doing just that, but under this government, particularly in the last 10 years, our parks in fact have deteriorated. Our concern, then, with regard to these amendments is if we do not have the minister who is and should be the most knowledgeable, and I will repeat that, the most knowledgeable about the importance of the role the parks play in the protection of our ecosystem generally as well as specifically in those geographic areas. If that person is not the one responsible for making decisions to fight for the parks and for funding for the parks, to advocate for the preservation of these parks, if the key minister is not doing that, I think it is quite clear what will happen: a continued deterioration of our parks.

It is no coincidence, I believe, that the parks deteriorated when they were outside the Department of the Environment and under the heritage department. The thrust of the Department of Canadian Heritage was in other directions and Parks Canada was all too often a secondary consideration. As a result, we have seen in some cases destruction of parts of parks and in others a rapid deterioration.

If the House sees fit to accept these amendments, it will be in a position where the minister, who is a key determinant of how well and how extensively we are going to protect parks, will in fact be in the driver's seat, if I can use that colloquialism. The person who will be making the decisions will be the one who is and should be most concerned about protecting them.

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10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to take part in today's debate on the amendments by my colleague, a former fellow member of the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development, in connection with Bill C-7.

I will start by saying that we will be voting in favour of the three amendments proposed by my colleague over the way.

Why? Because we need to make sure to avoid what has happened in the past with respect to the supervision, monitoring and administration of parks. Why do I say this? Because we need to keep clearly in mind that, before this bill was introduced, it was precisely the Department of Canadian Heritage that had responsibility for administering the parks and ensured a degree of supervision. It did so, of course, via an agency, Parks Canada, but the ministerial responsibility lay with Canadian Heritage, which also had responsibility for historical sites.

How can we agree, in any vision or policy on sustainable development and with the government's firm intention to protect the ecological integrity of an area, to any department but the Department of the Environment having control and supervision in this perspective. Well, in fact it was the Department of Canadian Heritage of former minister Sheila Copps, which was responsible for managing our parks.

I feel that the introduction of this bill, which makes official an order-in-council that dates back several months, was a step in the right direction. I do feel, however, that the motions presented by my colleague over the way have clarified the role Environment Canada will need to play if it is to respect the ecology and our ecosystems.

As far back as 1996, an Auditor General's report had some pretty sharp criticicisms of Canadian Heritage's behaviour as far as our parks are concerned.

I will quote just one excerpt from the Auditor General's report, page 7. This is recommendation 31.46:

Parks Canada should develop an effective system for monitoring the ecological conditions in all national parks

And so there were serious shortcomings. What we hope, here on this side of the House, is that the bill and the amendments proposed by my colleague will ensure that the law is perfectly clear with regard to ministerial responsibility.

In fact, as my hon. colleague said, the governor in council gave itself broad power to designate a minister responsible rather than the minister of the environment, at any time. So some limits have been set on this.

I must speak, furthermore, to the sorry state of Canada's parks. I say that because there are two conflicting visions of the way Canada's parks will be managed.

The first vision involves a desire to increase the number of areas under Parks Canada responsibility, so as to increase the number of crown lands, in Quebec among other places, of course. There is another vision under which, in view of the sorry state of our park infrastructure, existing parks would be consolidated.

I have met many Parks Canada employees. As recently as yesterday, they were in my office telling me many things about our Canadian parks system. One of their points was that our Parks Canada employees do not have the resources to do their jobs adequately.

They also reminded me about the sorry state of Parks Canada infrastructure.

Thus, we have important choices to make in coming years. Either we increase the designated areas, protected areas, and abandon the parks we already have, or else we decide to consolidate, restore our surveillance and control systems, and possibly reinvest in the parks we already have.

I hope that we can develop an integrated vision. Of course, we must protect the ecological integrity of our land, especially where there are particularly fragile ecosystems, endangered species, and habitats in need of protection, if we are really going to protect endangered species and those at risk.

Still, this all must happen in cooperation with the Government of Quebec, which has its own network of parks and wildlife reserves. Of course, they, too, need improvement, but we must do it in an integrated way and there is room enough for both systems.

It should be remembered that, whenever an area is designated under Parks Canada, it inevitably becomes federal land, that is land under federal jurisdiction governed by federal legislation.

I think that, in a broader vision, our sensitive areas, our ecosystems could be protected by relying on the sense of responsibility shown by the Government of Quebec in recent years and in recent months in particular. It has demonstrated its desire to increase the number of protected areas. Quebec is, admittedly, seriously lagging behind.

However, we must recognize at the same time that, in recent months and years, the Government of Quebec has come up with a vigorous policy to make up for lost time. I think we are on the right track. We must trust Quebec with protecting these areas.

With respect to existing parks, which come under federal jurisdiction, I am pleased to hear that the responsibility to be conferred upon the Department of the Environment will be further defined.

Also, there are parks not too far from here, like the Gatineau Park, which are under federal jurisdiction and are the responsibility of the National Capital Commission. Yet the NCC does not come under Parks Canada.

The fact is that there are currently areas such as the Gatineau Park, which, while a federal responsibility in principle, are awaiting some form of recognition from the federal government to be integrated into the Parks Canada system.

Even in existing federal structures under federal responsibility there is a serious cleanup to be made. As far as parks currently under federal jurisdiction are concerned, I think the time had come to hand the ministerial responsibility of Canadian Heritage, which has dabbled in propaganda now and then, over to a department whose role is clearly to protect the ecological integrity of our parks. That is the mission of Parks Canada.

It is therefore with great pleasure that I will support my hon. colleague's amendments to clarify the responsibility of the Department of the Environment.

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10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to speak at report stage of Bill C-7 which is an act to amend the Department of Canadian Heritage Act and the Parks Canada Agency Act and to make related amendments to other acts.

In the context of committee debates on this issue, there appears to be an impression among MPs that Parliament and not the Prime Minister decides which minister has the responsibility for departments and agencies and that such organizations cannot be transferred to another minister's responsibility unless Parliament expressly agrees to such a change. It appears to me that is the nature of the amendment that is being proposed.

It is important to note that the Prime Minister has the prerogative to assign responsibilities to ministers. This also includes allocating ministers' portfolios, establishing their mandates in keeping with existing legislation and identifying priorities for their portfolios. Parliament has also given the government the ability to transfer portions of the public service, ministerial powers, duties and functions from one part of the public service or from one minister to another.

This power gives the government the necessary flexibility that it believes it needs to reorganize the institutions of government and to address governmental priorities and public needs. It does, however, not give the governor in council the power to expand or alter the powers of either ministers or departments, which appears again to be the concern that is in the amendments.

As of December 12 the Minister of the Environment is in fact the minister responsible for Parks Canada Agency. It can therefore be said that the proposed amendments merely reflect the status quo and therefore are not as serious as they may appear at first consideration in terms of the government not wanting to be able to firm up the intent and spirit of this bill and give the Minister of the Environment very clear authority.

However, the government cannot support the NDP amendments at this time and at the same time defend the principle regarding the Prime Minister's prerogative to make organizational changes. It would be the contention that the legislation and the amendment thereto are primarily technical in nature. I hope that gives another side of the amendments that are being put forward, albeit those amendments are being put forward in a very positive spirit in order to firm up and make this bill in fact work. The government understands that also.

The bill will 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. The bill will also update existing legislation to reflect two orders in council that came into effect in December 2003 and July 2004, which transferred control and supervision of Parks Canada Agency from the Minister of Canadian Heritage to the Minister of the Environment.

The bill also clarifies that Parks Canada is responsible for historic places in Canada and for the design and implementation of programs that relate to built heritage. It updates the Department of Canadian Heritage Act and the Parks Canada Agency Act. The remarks I am going to make underscore the urgency with which the bill will attempt to deal with the challenges that are facing our heritage sites and Parks Canada.

Canada's national parks, national historic sites and national maritime conservation areas represent the very soul of Canada. They are a central part of our heritage, who we are and what we are. They are places of magic and wonder and heritage. Each tells its own story. We do not take this lightly. Together they connect Canadians to their roots, to their future and to each other. That is why the spirit of this legislation is an attempt to reinforce what we believe to be the true heritage of Canadians, that Canadians want to see us do better with respect to our heritage.

Responsibilities for safeguarding and celebrating heritage will continue to be shared among departments and agencies across government. I would like to assure the House that Parks Canada's organizational integrity has been and will be maintained.

Responsibility for built heritage is managed through a number of programs, including national historic sites, federal heritage buildings, heritage railway stations, federal archaeology, heritage shipwrecks and the federal role in the historic places initiative. These activities are of interest to all parliamentarians and to Canadians in general. Built heritage includes sites, buildings, and monuments recognized for their historic value.

Through the Parks Canada Agency, the Minister of the Environment has responsibilities in three key areas: management of Parks Canada's built heritage; federal government leadership in programs relating to built heritage; and a Canada-wide leadership role in built heritage.

Hon. members are probably most familiar with the first of these areas, Parks Canada's role as a steward of heritage places. Parks Canada leads the national program of historical commemoration which identifies places, persons and events of national historic significance. The program aims to celebrate Canada's history and protect associated sites.

Parks Canada administers about one in six of the more than 900 national historic sites which speak to the diverse and rich history of our country. Parks Canada's stewardship role with respect to these places and their historic values and resources is similar to its stewardship role with respect to national parks.

Unfortunately, many of Parks Canada's built heritage assets are under threat. The Auditor General's report on the protection of cultural heritage in the federal government indicates that two-thirds of Parks Canada's national historic sites and federal heritage buildings are in poor to fair condition. The same is true for Parks Canada's assets more generally, which need $140 million annually to be maintained. They only receive about $40 million at present. This is a major challenge for the preservation of these irreplaceable national treasures. All members of the House are concerned about this.

Despite strong management systems that put care for cultural resources at the centre of planning and reporting for national historic sites, the future of many of these places continues to be threatened. Repair of masonry and wooden structures weakened by exposure to our climate, such as those repairs required at Fort Henry National Historic Site of Canada, are ongoing. Coastal erosion threatens to literally wash away significant parts of the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site of Canada.

These examples are symptomatic, not exceptional, of the state of our cultural resources and of the infrastructure that supports Canadians' ability to visit such sites. These resources, once lost, will be gone forever and with them will go their evocative testimony to Canada's dramatic past. Addressing the ongoing deterioration of resources needs to be a priority for the government.

Federal government programs relating to built heritage is the minister's second key area of responsibility. Through its leadership in the federal heritage buildings program, Parks Canada works with departments to protect the heritage character of buildings while the property is within federal jurisdiction.

The minister's third area of responsibility is to provide Canada-wide leadership in built heritage. Only a small portion of historic places in Canada are owned by the federal government, so cooperation with others is absolutely key. Government alone cannot save Canada's built heritage. This requires participation by individuals, corporations and other governments across Canada.

Year after year, decade after decade, more and more historic places are being lost. The remaining heritage buildings and structures, cultural landscapes and archaeological sites continue to be threatened. Recognizing the need to deepen its resolve to protect built heritage, the Government of Canada has responded with the launch of the historic places initiative, the most significant conservation effort related to historic sites in our national history.

The profound nature of what we are talking about with respect to the spirit of the bill is a subject that crosses all partisan lines of the House. It is of interest to all Canadians, be they new immigrants or those who have seen the traditions through generations of immigration to this great country.

I am confident that all members of the House will support not only the spirit but the substantive nature of the changes that are part of the bill. I hope the bill will carry unanimously as it really symbolizes what we as Canadians believe in, in terms of protecting our heritage.

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10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, I understand that Bill C-7 is a technical amendment, a minor technical bill to move Parks Canada Agency from the Department of Canadian Heritage to the Ministry of the Environment.

While my party sees no reason not to support this legislation, I believe it is appropriate to put on the record a number of concerns that the federal government should be aware of in transferring Parks Canada Agency to the Ministry of the Environment.

It has been noted previously in the House that many of the problems that have come to be associated with the poor administration in running our national parks had more to do with the personal failings of the previous minister of Canadian Heritage than in the original intent of Parks Canada Agency being under the purview of Canadian Heritage. I hope that in the haste to distance Parks Canada from the previous minister Parliament is not creating greater problems by putting the environment ministry in charge.

I appreciate that naming the Minister of the Environment as the minister responsible for the purposes of the Parks Canada Agency Act is a transitional provision. Normally, giving any additional power to cabinet and away from Parliament is bad for democracy. It contributes to the democratic deficit which has been accelerated by the Prime Minister. In this case it may prove to be quite necessary to have a sober second thought clause. That is a clause designating which minister and which ministry should be ultimately responsible for policy governing national parks in Canada.

I make this observation based on the example that the people in Ontario have had to face as a consequence of the decision to move some traditional activities as well as traditional responsibilities from their respective departments to the Ontario ministry of the environment. In each of the instances to which I intend to draw attention, the results for the public have been an unmitigated disaster. It would serve no useful purpose for the federal government to repeat the mistakes that are now occurring in the province of Ontario. It is unfortunate that the problems that have been created are all because the Ontario ministry of the environment is involved and because of the way it has interpreted its mandate.

The Ottawa Valley has a proud heritage when it comes to the lumber industry. The decision to move activities normally associated with the industry to the ministry of the environment has caused undue financial hardship as well as job loss to the small sawmill owners of eastern Ontario. I know our friends in northern Ontario are watching to see what is happening here because if we do not stop the attack on sawmills in eastern Ontario, they will be next and they know it.

The Ontario ministry of the environment has taken the position that sawdust is no longer an industrial product. In its mind it is now an industrial waste. The environment ministry has taken that position and now views sawmill owners as being guilty of producing this so-called industrial waste, without the benefit of due process. When asked in court to produce scientific evidence to support the ministry's position, the government lawyer has asked for adjournment after adjournment. This in turn has racked up thousands of dollars in legal bills with postponement after postponement.

Small business does not have the same deep pockets as government. Faced with work orders from the ministry of $40,000, $50,000 or $100,000, as well as mounting legal bills, many small business employers are shutting their doors. Some of these are third or fourth generation family businesses.

Never mind that their product, sawdust, can even be found here in the flower beds on Parliament Hill. Never mind the fact that sawdust is used in many products, such as particle board, which is used in construction, furniture, kitchen cabinets, and products like fuel pellets. It is even used as an ingredient in foodstuffs.

I have stood side by side in court with some of our small sawmill producers. Forcing everyday hardworking citizens into court is wrong.

The decision to remove the administration of the nutrient management act from the department of agriculture to the ministry of the environment has had an equally disastrous effect on farmers in Ontario. With the nutrient management act, water regulations and BSE, farmers are quickly becoming an endangered species. Perhaps farmers could qualify for assistance as endangered species because they sure are not seeing it from government programs.

I have drawn attention to these examples because this so-called housekeeping legislation is transferring our national parks to the ministry of the environment. The record speaks for itself when it comes to activities of ministry of the environment. There needs to be a balance between the desire to preserve the natural heritage in our national parks and the enjoyment of that legacy.

Another example of the chaos that is created when environmental zealots take control is the decision to transfer the responsibility for safe drinking water from the Ministry of Health in Ontario to that same ministry of the environment. Campgrounds, rural churches, community centres, restaurants, any small public facility all face either excessive charges or closure from costly, unworkable regulations. While the minister admits these new regulations are onerous, she still intends to ram them down the throats of rural residents. Delaying the implementation of the new regulations and hoping the anger dies down seems to be the plan with the latest announcement on this issue.

If anyone does not understand the rural revolution that is happening in Ontario and the need for rural people to fight back against government, one need only look no further that the actions of the ministry of the environment to know that rural Canada is at a breaking point when it comes to government intervention. Canadians have traditionally pursued heritage activities. Heritage activities like hunting, fishing, and logging are at odds with certain environmental fanatics who refuse to accept the fact that these traditional heritage activities are legitimate pursuits.

While the government has promised to strengthen the focus on the ecological integrity of Canada's national parks, what does the phrase ecological integrity actually mean? Does it mean that under a ministry of the environment mandate, people will be barred from our national parks?

When I was the official opposition critic for Canadian Heritage, I was approached by snowmobile clubs that had legitimate concerns that the creation of a new national marine park along the north shore of Lake Superior would shut down a major snowmobile trail that links northwestern Ontario with the rest of the province. Can the concerns of snowmobiles and their owners be accommodated by a department of the environment in the same way that Canadian Heritage would?

I urge the government to move slowly and cautiously when it comes to our national parks. For most Canadians, it is our outdoor legacy that really sets this nation apart from all other countries. I look forward to monitoring the way in which the ministry of the environment, or whatever ministry is finally named, handles its mandate when it comes to Canadian heritage, both natural and historic.

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10:40 a.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to participate in this debate this morning on the motions to amend Bill C-7, which is the act to amend the Department of Canadian Heritage Act and the Parks Canada Agency Act and to make related amendments to other acts.

As a member of the New Democratic Party, I strongly support Bill C-7, because I think this is a long overdue change to put Parks Canada back with the Minister of the Environment. However, I have some concerns about making that a permanent decision and ensuring that responsibility stays with the Minister of the Environment. The motions now before us now address that. We want to ensure that the Minister of the Environment continues to have the responsibility for Parks Canada.

We want to ensure that person who has the expertise and who has concern for the biodiversity of Canada and for the ecological concerns in Canada maintains the responsibility for our parks, as they are a key aspect of the policies around the environment.

We are also concerned about the constant shifting of the responsibility for Parks Canada. Some years ago it was with Environment Canada. It shifted to Canadian Heritage. Now it is shifting back to the Minister of the Environment. Each time we do that, we spend valuable dollars that could be spent on building and maintaining our parks and infrastructure in our parks, which is always in jeopardy and has always been underfunded. We want to avoid those changes which constantly add to the problems of our park system. We think the Minister of the Environment is the key person to look after parks and that is where responsibility for that should lie.

We want to avoid those changes which constantly add to the problems of our park system. We think the Minister of the Environment is the key person to look after parks and that is where responsibility for that should lie.

Earlier it was suggested that this might be some attempt to limit the power of the Prime Minister to appoint the minister. We are saying nothing about the Prime Minister's ability to appoint the Minister of the Environment. All we are saying is that the Minister of the Environment should be the cabinet minister who has responsibility for parks. We want to ensure that responsibility remains with that minister.

Furthermore, we think that if there is to be some change in this, given the importance of it, the House should have some say in that decision. That is why we suggest that the ability of the cabinet, the governor in council, to shift the parks mandate from one ministry to another without seeking the consent of the House should be removed from the bill, and one of the motions addresses that issue.

Parks are a key issue for Canadians and a key part of our Canadian heritage and our sensibilities as Canadians. Our natural areas are important to us. They are a spiritual place for Canadians. They are a place where we go for recreation and where we celebrate the natural beauty of the country. We want to ensure that central place in the psyche of Canadians is recognized by the legislation before us. We think that ensuring the House has a say in where that responsibility lies and a continuing say in where it lies will address that.

We also want to ensure that people with expertise in ecological integrity and other ecological issues can have the responsibility for parks. That is why we think it is important that this function remain with the Minister of the Environment.

It is part of an overall strategy. Parks are not something that is isolated that can be shifted around willy-nilly from ministry to ministry. We have fought long and hard to ensure that the responsibility for our parks is seen as part of a broad environmental strategy for Canada, a broad strategy of biodiversity in Canada. We want to ensure that the parks remain with the appropriate minister for that. Clearly for us, that is the Minister of the Environment.

Bill C-7 addresses some important issues, important issues that the NDP has always supported. We have always believed that the environment department should have responsibility for national parks. Our critic, the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, has spoken very strongly in the House and in committee on that issue.

We think this shift supports the biodiversity goals that we have. Centralizing responsibility for agencies concerned with biodiversity ensures for a more coherent strategy and communication. Park Canada Agency will join the Canadian Wildlife Service, the biodiversity convention office, in the environmental umbrella. We think that is a very appropriate place for it to be because it is linked intimately with those other agencies and offices.

In contrast, the Ministry of Canadian Heritage has no other responsibilities for biodiversity. We think this is a really crucial move, a key one which makes logical sense and gives the biodiversity issues their appropriate place.

This shift also resonates with our philosophy of national parks as wilderness areas. Parks Canada Agency's most sacred charge is to protect our national parks. We view many of these as wilderness areas, biologically diverse places where Canadians can connect and identify with nature.

Our parks are places where Canadians go for recreation. It is a spiritual trek for many Canadians. It is not just recreation in the sense of diversion, sports playing, hiking, or time away; it is recreation in that we get to recreate our sense of self and our sense of the world. Our parks have a particular place in that , a very central place in the spirituality of many Canadians.

Moving responsibility for Parks Canada to Canadian Heritage was widely seen to reflect a more mundane philosophy of national parks. It conflated them in with our built heritage, our human constructed heritage. Moving Parks Canada back to Environment Canada makes a positive statement about the value of our wilderness areas.

We have noted that organizations such as the Sierra Club of Canada in one of its report cards acknowledged that there was some progress on a green agenda in Canada, but concluded that the federal government's marks have been sliding in relation to protecting nature, parks, endangered species and the life of our oceans. We want to make sure that that trend is reversed. Putting the parks in with Environment Canada is a significant way of ensuring that we do better in the area of protecting our wilderness spaces and ensuring that the appropriate attention is paid to our national parks system.

Canadians do not want to see any slippage in our parks system. They do not want to see any further loss of our wilderness areas, any further decrease in the biodiversity of this country. We want to make sure that our parks, as a primary agent of ensuring those things, are resting with the appropriate people. We want to make sure that the appropriate people are doing that work and that the appropriate minister is overseeing that work.

That is why with the amendments we are proposing today we want to ensure that the Minister of the Environment is the key minister involved in overseeing and ensuring the health, well-being and the development of our parks. We want to ensure that they are protected wilderness areas, that they are places of retreat and recreation for Canadians, that they have the appropriate habitat for wildlife and flora and fauna.

We want to make sure that continues and cannot be changed willy-nilly and cavalierly. We want to make sure that the House has a say in any further changes or any further attempt to move that around. We want to make sure the House has a chance to examine exactly what the reasons for any proposed change in the future would be. We want to ensure that the ideals of Canadians are maintained with regard to the importance of parks within our country.

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10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the debate on the proposed amendments at report stage of Bill C-7.

I do not understand why the hon. member wants to propose these amendments. In my view, they will take away from the bill. Let me explain why I think so.

At the present time we have a minister known as the Minister of the Environment. Of course in a cabinet shuffle the Prime Minister can call a minister anything he or she wishes, as we all know. The difficulty I have with this is that we could be at a case in the future where the Prime Minister named someone the minister responsible for parks, and the minister responsible for parks would not be responsible for parks because the law says it is the Minister of the Environment who is. That is why we should not adopt the amendment proposed by the hon. member.

Furthermore, it is not impossible that in future the minister we today call the Minister of the Environment may be called the Minister of Sustainable Development or something else. In fact, it could very well be that there would be no minister called the Minister of the Environment, but we want to put the title of the minister in the bill as being responsible for the department. As we can see, this does not make sense, in my opinion. I suppose the bill works anyway if we leave the amendment in, but it does not make the bill better. It makes it worse.

We brought this bill to Parliament in order to have a framework legislation, one that is clean and hopefully will stand the test of time, but who knows, six weeks from now or some such it may need an amendment if this amendment we have today stays as part of the bill. It could be that the bill would have to come back before the House if there were a cabinet shuffle at some point, even before the bill makes it into law in the other place. This is not a good amendment.

I think what the hon. member is trying to say is that he hopes the environment department is responsible for parks in the future. That was evident in the speech of the last hon. member from the New Democratic Party. In his view, he might think that the parks flow better as part of environment than they do as part of heritage. It is a philosophical debate. One could argue it either way, I suppose.

The fact remains that we still do not know what the future minister's position will be called nor whether the Minister of Environment's title will be kept much longer. The minister might be called the minister of sustainable development, as I was saying earlier in English.

Furthermore, including this amendment would mean that in the future there could be a minister responsible for parks who would not be responsible for parks because the Parks Act stipulates that it is the Minister of Environment who is responsible.

Consequently, the amendment does not work. It is too bad, but I do not see how this will improve the bill. I agree that the bill will probably work with the amendment even if it does take away from the text in question.

Whether the bill is amended or not, a prime minister is in no way obliged to appoint a minister in the future, in the first place, and the title of the position as designated by a prime minister in the future is not cast in stone, in the second place. For these two reasons, I would encourage the hon. member to rethink this. The amendment he is proposing will not accomplish much.

Having said this, I would like to get back to the philosophical debate as to whether parks have more to do with the environment than with heritage, because this is an interesting issue. In my constituency, there is a site that I want to be designated as a park. In this case, the environmental aspect is obviously the more important one. This is not always the case, but it is in this instance. Therefore, in a case like this one, I am quite prepared to say that it has more to do with the environment and I will explain why.

The region that I would like to be designated, in the future, as a national park in Glengarry—Prescott—Russell is a region that you know well Mr. Speaker, since you are a native of that riding. I am referring to the Alfred bog, in Ontario, which is about to recognized as a very sensitive ecological area under the UN Ramsar convention. Of course, in this particular case, it would more appropriate come under the responsibility of the Department of the Environment.

However, in the case of the Rideau Canal, is not quite as clear whether it should come under the Department of the Environment or Canadian Heritage. There are all sorts of physical and historical infrastructures that date back to 1825 and that have to do with a threat, as it was perceived at the time, namely an American invasion and so on. Consequently, in this case, these works are more closely related to our heritage than to the environment, although, as I said, the line between the two can be quite fine, when we are talking about vast green spaces where heritage buildings can be found, along with an ecological zone that deserves to be protected.

In any case, what the hon. member is presenting to us is the vision that the Department of Canadian Heritage or the Parks Canada Agency should have. If this is the case, he should have presented a definition of the parks' mandate, instead of designating the position of minister, without knowing whether that position will exist in the future.

In other words, he could have said: “In its definition, the Parks Canada Agency will assume responsibility for environmental issues, for heritage issues and for all other issues”. He should not have designated the position of minister, because it has nothing to do with the objective that he set.

Family Physicians of Canada
Statements By Members

November 19th, 2004 / 11 a.m.

Liberal

Robert Thibault West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in support of Canada's Family Doctor Week, which will be held from November 21 to 28. Family doctors are the backbone of our health care system and the preferred first access for Canadians seeking medical attention during times of injury or illness.

This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the College of Family Physicians of Canada. The college promotes the continuing medical education and professional development of its members.

At this time, I would like to extend particular recognition to Dr. Mohamed-Iqbal Ravalia of Twillingate, Newfoundland, who has recently been recognized as the family physician of the year. I extend congratulations to Dr. Ravalia.

Riding of Cambridge
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the people of Cambridge-North Dumfries for electing me as their member of Parliament. It is an honour and a privilege to represent the community where I was born.

I asked for this duty because I was fed up with the waste and mismanagement which still pervade the government today. For example, who in their right mind would spend $20,000 to pay out $3,500 or deny compensation to all hepatitis C victims while administrators chip away at this fund?

The lack of intellectual fortitude on that side of the House is truly astonishing. People in Cambridge have told me they are fed up and mad as hell. They needed that million dollars that the Prime Minister spent on a wasteful pre-election tour for a new CAT scanner.

The people of Cambridge have entrusted me to represent them. I will do exactly that. I look forward to working for my community, including my riding executives who are here today.

Governor General's Literary Awards
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Sarmite Bulte Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to inform the House that the Canada Council for the Arts announced this week the winners of the 2004 Governor General's Literary Awards for Children's Literature.

I am proud to say that in English language books the winner in the text section is a constituent of mine, Mr. Kenneth Oppel, for his book Airborne .

Mr. Oppel published his first book in 1985 when he was only 15. Since then he has had a successful career in promoting children's literacy. Although Mr. Oppel has received many awards for his work, this is his first Governor General's literary award.

Canada Council director John Hobday said it best:

In a world dominated by television, video games and the Internet, children's authors and illustrators have an extraordinary challenge: to create books that stimulate the senses, the emotions and the imaginations of our young people and instil in them a lifelong love of reading.

It is people like Kenneth Oppel and the other three children's laureates who have given the children of our country a very precious gift. We thank them.

Wharf Maintenance
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Bloc

Raynald Blais Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, small vessel harbours are important to my riding. The numerous wharves located in my area are used by fishers and pleasure boaters. Many of those wharves are, however, in such a serious state of neglect that they are dangerous, if not actually unusable.

There are plenty of horror stories, particularly concerning Rivière-au-Renard and Grande-Vallée. In the latter location, the federal government has so neglected maintenance that most of the facilities have been closed down. They have put metal fencing around them to block any access.

The Grande-Vallée municipality has been demanding repairs for the past 10 years. Today it would cost close to $900,000 to get the facilities back in shape.

The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans must take immediate action so that the local people, fishers and tourists can start using the Grande-Vallée fishing port and all the other small vessel port facilities that are so greatly needed.

Museum for Human Rights
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, the federal government committed $30 million to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg during the last election. Consequently, the Province of Manitoba and the City of Winnipeg also committed $20 million each to enable this museum to be built.

The current federal government then promised more than it could handle to garner votes for its members so they could get elected. This promise was believed and expectations ran high.

Now the Asper Foundation chairwoman, Gail Asper, says the museum's future is under threat from the federal government's refusal to cough up $100 million to help build it, along with another $120 million for the facility's first decade of operation.

This is just another example of the irresponsible and unethical operation of this federal government, a government that will say anything to get elected, anything that will enable it to get front page headlines.

Today we know the election promises were there just to garner votes.

Hiv-Aids
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Paddy Torsney Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, next week I will have the honour of co-hosting a World AIDS Day breakfast in my constituency with the Miriam Child and Family Support Group of Burlington. This is an annual event. It will be our ninth annual breakfast.

This breakfast provides the opportunity to raise awareness and to provide information to many people in our community who are concerned about HIV and AIDS. This year Kim Johnson from the People with Aids Foundation is the invited speaker.

The Miriam group provides practical assistance and emotional support to HIV infected and affected children and their families. It has been doing this since 1994. The trained volunteers have comprehensive care teams and work with other community agencies. The proceeds of this annual event go to the Miriam Child and Family Support Group.

I want to congratulate Jean Round and her great team for continuing to do this breakfast with my staff. I hope we have a great turnout. I encourage all members of the House to honour World AIDS Day and do their part to get the message out in their own communities.

Centre de la petite enfance Patachou
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Denise Poirier-Rivard Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Centre de la petite enfance Patachou in Mercier, along with Denyse Richard, the head of one of its home-based child care services, were honoured with a prestigious award on October 30.

They received a gold medal in the team involvement category at the Montérégie coalition of early childhood education centres gala, with the theme of “30 years of dreams and passionate involvement”. This great evening brought together the whole community to acknowledge excellence, celebrate the dream and share the passion.

The panel of judges selected the child care centre and Ms. Richard for their initiative of bringing children from home-based day care to take part in a day of activities in a child care centre.

This event also marked the 30th anniversary of the Montérégie coalition of early childhood education centres. Its 123 members provide care to some 25,000 children in child care centres or home-based day care facilities. Congratulations, Patachou. Keep up the good work.