House of Commons Hansard #38 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was supply.

Topics

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

It being 11:05 a.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Trent-Severn Waterway
Private Members' Business

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Bruce Stanton Simcoe North, ON

moved:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should consider the advisability of evaluating the future of the historic Trent-Severn Waterway, one of Parks Canada’s National Historic Sites, and its potential to become: (a) a premier recreational asset; (b) a world-class destination for recreational boaters; (c) a greater source of clean, renewable electrical power; (d) a facilitator of economic opportunity and renewal in the communities along its 386 km length; and (e) a model of environmental sustainability.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Lambton--Kent--Middlesex for seconding this motion.

I am pleased to rise in the House today to outline my reasons for sponsoring Motion No. 161, a motion that, if adopted, would ask the government and specifically the Minister of the Environment to consider evaluating the future of a unique and historic asset, the Trent-Severn Waterway, a national historic site that belongs to the people of Canada and is managed for them by their federal government.

The need for this evaluation is compelling, but before I speak about that need, I first would like to provide some perspective and history.

The Trent-Severn system is a 386 kilometre long inland waterway, running from the Bay of Quinte on Lake Ontario to Georgian Bay on Lake Huron. It connects many communities of 1,000 people or more and includes the major centres of Peterborough, Orillia, Kawartha Lakes and Quinte West, as well as Barrie and other large communities on Lake Simcoe and Georgian Bay.

For navigation and recreational boating, it operates 44 locks, one marine railway and 39 swing bridges. The system includes 160 dams and control structures that manage the water levels for flood control and navigation on lakes and rivers that drain approximately 18,600 square kilometres of central Ontario's cottage country region, across four counties and three single-tier cities, an area that is home to more than a million Canadians.

The system has no fewer than 18 hydroelectric generating facilities, with a capacity to contribute an average of 100 megawatts of clean, renewable power each and every day. To put that in perspective, it would be the equivalent of a 300 turbine wind farm or about 20% of one of the four big units at the coal-fired Lambton Generating Station.

As a historic canal, the Trent-Severn makes an important ecological contribution through the protection of wetlands, the attention to water quality and the preservation of habitats for many aquatic species and many species at risk.

The Trent-Severn protects important elements of our history and culture, including first nations cultural sites dating from 6,000 years ago and the historic features and remnants of 19th century settlement in this part of Ontario.

The Trent-Severn makes a valuable contribution to the economy, attracting thousands of recreational boaters and millions of visitors each year to its lock stations, campgrounds and public sites. In fact, for every person who visits the system by boat, there are five who are land-based visitors.

The Trent-Severn recorded approximately 150,000 lockages last year, down from its peak of 250,000 in 1990. Up to 1,000 community businesses thrive on serving the residents and visitors to the lakes and rivers of the Trent-Severn. Indeed, many of the communities exist because of the very recreational and retirement lifestyles associated with these shoreline communities. Services to the recreational boating public and other visitors include many rural-based small businesses, from fuel, storage and repairs to food service, outfitters, attractions and retail outlets.

The Trent-Severn offers the landscapes, rivers and lakes of central eastern Ontario, which stretch from the granite outcroppings and windswept pines of the Canadian Shield and Georgian Bay to the rolling hills and drumlins of Northumberland County. These beautiful natural features have made these lake areas popular for cottages and camps since the late 19th century, with many being converted into year-round homes for increasing numbers of Canadians.

The vision of an inland navigable waterway linking Lake Ontario with Georgian Bay was first inspired by early 19th century settlers who worked to establish the first wooden lock in the heart of the Kawartha Lakes, at Bobcaygeon, in 1833. They did this to access lumber markets to the south. It would take another 87 years to complete the waterway.

Construction on the system was sporadic in the early years until the re-elected government of Sir John A. Macdonald got behind the construction of a system in a more robust way between 1883 and 1887. Construction continued annually, except during World War I, until the system was fully connected for navigation across 386 kilometres by 1920.

During the late 1800s, the golden age of steamboats and resorts made the lakes of the Trent-Severn Waterway a hub of tourism in the province. All visitors arrived by train to destinations like Lakefield, Lindsay and Severn Bridge.

Since 1920 the system has served primarily as a destination for recreational boating, but due to its series of dams, locks and bridges, it remains today an essential infrastructure for roads and railways, water level management, flood prevention, and shoreline and aquatic habitat protection.

The Trent-Severn has been managed and regulated under the Parks Canada Agency Act since 1970. The historic canals regulations of the Department of Transport Act provide the regulatory framework for the management of the system in accordance with the historic canals policy of the government.

Currently the Trent-Severn's operating costs are about $9.5 million per year. It collects revenues of close to $4 million annually, leaving a net cost to the government of about $5.5 million per year, but these costs do not include capital repairs and replacement costs, which have varied from $2 million to $5 million per year over the last decade.

This gives us some idea of the size, scope and the complexity of the Trent-Severn Waterway. As we might conclude, the waterway reaches well beyond what one would typically think of as a historic site. It is much more than a historic archive and, as I will explain in a few minutes, I believe it has the potential to make a far greater contribution for the investment that Canadians make toward it each and every year.

Why should the government be undertaking an evaluation or review at this time? First, the Trent-Severn, as I mentioned, is the steward of important shoreline and aquatic habitat across 4,500 kilometres of shoreline. This is an area of the country that is now facing enormous pressure for shoreline development. The original designers of the system could not have imagined the waterway supporting this kind of growth and activity, and the waterway is a prime source of drinking water for hundreds of thousands of people who live or cottage along its shores.

Second, the smaller rural communities along the system's path are experiencing shrinkage in economic opportunity as their primary job base in tourism, manufacturing and other commercial enterprises adjusts to the realities of consolidation and economic realignment.

The recreational boating industry, which accounts for about $11.5 billion in GDP annually and 84,000 jobs nationally, is growing, yet lockages on the Trent-Severn have declined by almost 70% since its peak in 1990. For many of the communities along the waterway, this represents a missed opportunity.

Third, the waterway has the potential to produce up to 50% more hydroelectric power. That is a clean, renewable source of electricity with no environmental degradation. I do not need to remind hon. members just how important this consideration is, especially with the government's commitment to enable a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and pollution.

Finally, the Trent-Severn has the ability to provide a unique destination for outdoor recreation and the exploration of our history and culture for the growing urban populations that live within one to two hours' drive from its many sites. The waterways and rural roadways that lead to these sites offer a great outlet for healthy water and land based activities such canoeing, kayaking, hiking and cycling.

Canada is not alone with its large and historic canal system. Other jurisdictions like New York state and Scotland have revitalized their historic canals to provide, in addition to their historic, navigational and recreational value, a tremendous impetus for economic renewal in the communities along those canals.

As an example, the New York state canal system offers a glimpse of what the future of the Trent-Severn could be. New York state undertook to revitalize its canal in 1996. Since then it has invested in the upgrading, infrastructure and marketing. It has developed a water and land based trail and an environmental greenway for residents and has established new rules for land use and development along the shorelines. Those investments came only after a very thorough examination of the New York canal system with a view to its full potential.

The New York canal revitalization program has been underway for over 10 years but it has been so successful that this year the canal has completely waived the user fees for recreational boats on the system. The canal has become, in a sense, an economic generator of its own making while staying true to its mandate of historical preservation, environmental protection and enhancement.

I am not suggesting that we replicate what Scotland or New York has done. I cite these as examples of how the Trent-Severn Waterway, a government asset worth an estimated $1.7 billion, could become a net contributor for Canadians, both environmentally and economically. We need to examine that potential first before any conclusions are drawn, before any speculation occurs and, most important, before any new public expenditure is considered.

I would not want to speculate on how the government might guide such an evaluation in the future but I do believe that a process could be initiated to collect relevant data, consult with stakeholders and engage the province of Ontario and local governments for their participation and interest.

In conclusion, an evaluation would help the government to consider the future of the system and its potential to contribute to the health and well-being of Canadian citizens through recreation, to the appreciation of our history and early settlement, to clean renewable energy, to the economy and job creation, and to the protection of sensitive environmental features.

The Trent-Severn Waterway is a complex and multi-faceted resource, a jewel in the crown of the federal government, and it could be an even greater asset to Canada and to Canadians when we address the question of its long term sustainability. Canadians expect their government to manage these treasures in the public interest, and this waterway, with its 19th century design and control systems, begs a closer examination and, in keeping with its potential, I believe a renewed mandate.

The waterway has existed and served citizens and visitors well for over 150 years. There is no doubt that the process to consider what lies ahead for the Trent-Severn will not be easy. It will take time and it will take foresight. Implementing any plan for the waterway will take even greater amounts of determination and patience. These are the kind of qualities and ingenuity that the original designers and builders of the waterway had many decades ago. We would do well by their example.

I encourage all hon. members to support the motion and I look forward to their questions and comments.

Trent-Severn Waterway
Private Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, during his speech the member indicated that the peak economic contribution of the Trent-Severn Waterway was about 20 years ago. I wonder if the member could advise the House whether some of the reasons have been identified for the declining performance in terms of the economic opportunities there.

Trent-Severn Waterway
Private Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Bruce Stanton Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member is right. While there has been a decline in the number of lockages on the system, as I referenced in my remarks, the number of boats on the system has increased over the last decade or more from about 40,000 to 60,000. What we are seeing is a decline in the degree to which boaters on the system become transient.

Boating recreation is very much one component of the system. As we look ahead to what the system might be, the key issue is how to accommodate the Trent-Severn to become a broader base of recreational benefit for Canadians but at the same time doing that in an environmentally sustainable way.

Trent-Severn Waterway
Private Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have listened with interest to the remarks of the hon. member for Simcoe North. He seems to be very aware of the situation.

Here is my question. I will preface it with an excerpt from page A 1 of the January 6, 2006 issue of the Midland Free Press. It reads as follows:

On local issues, the president of Bayview-Wildwood Resorts said he'll work to have Lake Simcoe listed as an area of concern, making it eligible for federal funding.

On the member's website, it says:

[He] is the 5th generation of the [family name] family to own and operate a tourism business on Sparrow Lake since [the family first built the present inn] in 1884.

I would like to ask the hon. member if he still has ties to the Bayview Wildwood Resort or if any ties he had to that industry have been severed since January 6, 2006.

Trent-Severn Waterway
Private Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Bruce Stanton Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member speaks of a family business, a heritage that I have and have had for five generations. I mentioned that our family settled in this area and was one of the first settlers to operate one of the steamboats on this system way back in about 1874.

I have spoken in terms of the potential of this system. I would say to the hon. member that this is an area of Ontario that represents almost a million people who are affected by a 386 kilometre long waterway.

Many small communities from Georgian Bay to Northumberland county have a stake in the future of the system. It reaches far beyond what I or my family might have done in terms of our own business on Sparrow Lake.

Trent-Severn Waterway
Private Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Trent-Severn Waterway is an issue of great importance in my riding. Peterborough actually has the world's tallest lift lock and it operates on the Trent-Severn Waterway. We have seen declining boating numbers coming through the city of Peterborough and it has led to some hardship in our tourism industry.

I commend the hon. member for bringing the motion forward because it is a matter of great importance to central Ontario. Does the member believe that investment into the waterway would provide a return, not only to the communities directly around the waterway, but to Canada as a whole?

Trent-Severn Waterway
Private Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Bruce Stanton Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is right and I welcome his support for the motion.

As has been demonstrated by a strategic look at how historic canals have contributed to the local economy, this has been in done in New York and in Scotland where the revitalization of these canals over a long, methodical and thoughtful approach has contributed substantively to the local economy. It has created the impetus for renewal in the very small communities that dot the waterways along the shoreline.

We would need to look at this in a very cautious way. I think this is a very long term process. The evidence exists to suggest that this would be the kind of investment that would clearly benefit Canadians in the long term.

Trent-Severn Waterway
Private Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the motion. I was drawn to it for a particular reason. About two or three years ago I started an outdoor caucus which grew to be very strong. It is amazing how many members of Parliament have a significant interest in the outdoors, not only boating and fishing, but camping, hunting and the like. This is, as the member described in his motion, a premier asset of Canada.

I thank the member for Simcoe North for raising the issue because it is the kind of issue that demonstrates the need for parliamentarians to have a longer term view of the priorities and the necessities for us to ensure that these premier assets that we have and manage on behalf of all Canadians continue to flourish and continue to provide the kinds of accesses for visitors, domestically or from abroad, to enjoy and for their families to enjoy for many years to come.

In Motion No. 161 the member asks for a review by Environment Canada on evaluating the historic and cultural background of the Trent-Severn Waterway and tries to link that into, not only a matter of maintaining the historic and cultural base, but also to ensure it remains a premier recreational asset and a world-class destination for recreational boaters. This has a significant economic impact.

The member also calls for a greater source of clean energy. The member indicated in his speech that there were a large number of hydro generators already there and that there was some potential. Who can deny the need for us to continue to look at the opportunities for renewable clean energy sources? It is an important opportunity.

The facilitator for the economic opportunity, I think the New York case is an excellent case to show that a canal system of 575 miles and about 175 years old when it actually was first set up has become a real economic gem and in the context of maintaining an historic character to it. There is a fine balance here, which the member covered well in his last point about promoting environmental sustainability. However I do not think many Canadians understand what the terminology means.

I see the member smiling and I suspect we have some work to do. I suppose for a lay person it might be simply to describe it as we want to ensure we leave this as good if not better than when we got it from an environmental perspective. Environmental degradation is a serious problem in our society as we have often seen.

I asked the member a question a little earlier about the performance. The member indicated that the peak performance was back in 1990 and that it has not achieved those same kinds of levels since then.

When I worked within the outdoor caucus, we had briefings from fishers and anglers and some of the hunters groups. One of the things they wanted to impress upon us was the enormity of the economic impact of recreational activity, such as boating, fishing, camping and so on.

Everyone thinks that if they want to go fishing all they need is a fishing rod or something like that. It is a lot more than that. Everyone who wants to go fishing probably wants a fishing jacket and a hat. They might want to rent a boat or o buy a boat. They may want to stay at a lodge. If we were to talk about the condition of the lodges in our recreational areas in some of the non-urban centres, they are suffering. I raise this issue because I wanted to place it on the record in the hopes that Environment Canada will see it.

The anglers and hunters made a presentation to us in which they said that immigrants to Canada in the last 10 to 20 years often have come from countries that do not have water systems, that do not have lakes, rivers and canals. Therefore, those people have no knowledge about recreational fishing, boating and camping or about buying a trailer or a tent and sleeping bags. We should consider the ripple effect, the economic impact.

One challenge is to make sure that the infrastructure is in place. It is also going to be extremely important to ensure that the targeted market is expanded to embrace people in Canada who have not had their first taste of the outdoors. That is extremely important. Sometimes when people are asked about this, they do not have a clue about where to start.

For people who have come to Canada from an African country or somewhere like that, and have never fished in their lives, it is a foreign concept to them when somebody says that fishing is relaxing and is part of the great outdoors. Where would they go? How would they know how to do this? There is a significant opportunity here but it is a long term strategy because it involves establishing a culture of welcoming people to experience something new. The hunters and anglers were bang on in their presentation.

There is no question that 9/11 has had a very significant impact on that entire industry. The season following 9/11, people found substitute activities which were quite satisfactory for their needs. As a consequence, we have not been able to get people back in the same numbers. Every time we make a step forward, something like that makes us take a step backward.

There are many elements to this debate. It is extremely important that members understand it is not just about someone saying, “Here is an area where they seem to be doing pretty well; they just want a bit of money to make it nice”. This could be one of the most substantive projects and a model for other areas of Canada not only in terms of environmental sustainability but in terms of showcasing some of the richness of Canada to our visitors and to new Canadians.

I thank the member for bringing forward the motion. I am certainly going to support it because I want to encourage Environment Canada to get together with stakeholders. This is going to involve not only Environment Canada but certainly the province, regional governments and private investors. The New York canal system is an excellent example of where the private sector has played a major role in financing the infrastructure and sharing in the wealth. At the same time it has bought in to the environmental sensitivities. We have to make sure that the waterway does not become a carnival atmosphere but is a peaceful retreat that many Canadians and visitors to Canada can enjoy.

This may not be the most glamourous subject to have come before the House, but we know how long it takes to build a hospital, an airport, or highways. Planning is necessary and we need to engage all stakeholders. Someone has to take the lead and it looks as if it should be Environment Canada.

With the right indication from Parliament, a dialogue will start to put the focus on the Trent-Severn Waterway. This may lead to the most extraordinary advancements to have been seen in many decades, an investment to benefit Canadians for generations to come.

Trent-Severn Waterway
Private Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I unfortunately have to introduce a note of discord with respect to the statements made by the previous speaker and the hon. member who introduced the bill. I have absolutely nothing against the river in question, or tourist development in general. The hon. member for Simcoe North, who introduced the bill, is very familiar with the region and the industry. He was involved with various tourist development organizations in the region: the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, Resorts of Ontario, Tourism Ontario and the Huronia Tourism Association. The problem I see, however, is with the fact that, as he told us, since 1884 his family has owned and operated tourist facilities located in the area directly affected by his bill. When I put my question to the hon. member, I was hoping he would give me a different answer.

I will remind you, Mr. Speaker, and the hon. member through you that, as we speak, his party which boasts about being whiter than white has a bill before a parliamentary committee of the House, namely Bill C-2, the accountability bill. Under this bill, any public office holder, minister or parliamentary secretary is prohibited from placing themselves directly or indirectly in a real or apparent conflict of interest situation. Granted, members of Parliament are not included.

So, theoretically, under Bill C-2, the hon. member has the right to present us with his sweet little bill. He would have it nice and neat, he wants everyone to come, everyone to say it’s great. However, he is respecting neither the electoral platform of his party nor the spirit of Bill C-2, which would have all members demonstrate that they are in no way in a conflict of interest when they vote or when they table a bill. In any case, I hope that that is what the bill says, that is, that it concerns not just ministers and parliamentary secretaries, but MPs as well.

If the hon. member wishes to table a bill to improve the environment, the tourism industry, or whatever else in the administrative region he represents, he is entitled to do so. That is what all of us do here, in this chamber, when we want to improve the situation in our riding. That is the rare privilege we are afforded by a private member’s bill.

Nonetheless, if I am the owner of a hotel on the edge of the St. Lawrence River in Repentigny, and through a private member’s bill I ask the government for money for a feasibility study, perhaps my neighbours in Berthier, Montreal or elsewhere along the St. Lawrence would be justified in claiming that I am using my privilege as an MP to obtain money for my hotel on the river’s edge. The people who would tell me that or who would tell the population that would be right. This is true for all members of the House, but above all for a member who represents the party that says it wants to be whiter than white. I have nothing against this hon. member, personally; I am just getting to know him today.

However, the question can be asked: is this hon. member respecting the spirit of Bill C-2? That is my first question. Did he ask the current ethics commissioner whether he had the right to table such a bill? That is my second question. If I am told that the answers to these questions is yes and that I am mistaken, fine! Earlier, however, when I asked the hon. member if he was still the owner of a hotel affected by the bill, he told me he was. So if there is no problem, there is at least the appearance of a problem.

In January 2006, he said quite frankly on the front page of his paper that with respect to local issues, he would work in Ottawa to put forward a project for Simcoe Lake, to which the federal government might contribute financially.

On his own website, he says that his family owns Bayview Wildwood Resorts Limited, and that he is vice-president of The Cottages, a family business going back five generations.

According to a company brochure, Bayview Wildwood is located in a beautiful setting on the Trent-Severn Waterway and has a great view of the lake. It sounds like a very nice countryside tourist destination.

All members of this House would like for more tourists to visit the area by boat, for the Canadian tourism industry to flourish, for everyone to be happy, for the unemployment rate to drop below 1% and for everyone to have jobs. That said, we cannot presume to use our privileges as parliamentarians to support an industry that has been in one family for five generations.

The motion states:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should consider the advisability of evaluating the future of the historic Trent-Severn Waterway, one of Parks Canada’s National Historic Sites, and its potential to become: (a) a premier recreational asset;

How much will that cost?

(b) a world-class destination for recreational boaters;

Why is this not being done elsewhere in Canada? There are tourists in my colleagues' ridings. I could ask the federal government, in the form of a private member's bill, to conduct a feasibility study for the Théâtre Hector-Charland in my riding. I could thus ensure the development of the theatre in order to increase the number of visitors to this major tourist destination and increase business next year. If I owned that building or the business, I am sure that my party's whip—a man who I greatly respect—would warn me that I would be in a dangerous position, being judge and jury for my own bill. That is where the problem lies.

(c) a greater source of clean, renewable electrical power;

How much money has the federal government invested in hydroelectric resources in Quebec compared to what it has invested in nuclear energy in Ontario and in what is happening in Newfoundland? A member has tabled a bill because he owns a hotel. The Liberal member that preceded him said that business has gone down a little. He is therefore asking that a feasibility study be conducted so that his hotel can be a little more profitable.

Someone has already tried that. That someone was the member for Shawinigan. It was called Shawinigate. He also sold his golf course—I do not know if there is a golf course on the member's hotel property—he signed it over on a restaurant napkin and sold it. The RCMP has been investigating this matter for who knows how long.

If the member unequivocally states that he definitely did not table the bill for his own or for his family's personal gain, if he affirms that he is in complete agreement with the accountability bill tabled by his party, that is Bill C-2, and that the ethics commissioner said he could table his bill without reservations, then the Bloc Québécois will reassess its position on whether or not to support this bill.

In principle, the bill in general is good; however, we must be prudent when we are the judge in our own case. That is what happens when we are elected. We must consider our personal affairs from a different perspective. We must not become the main lobbyist for our own company. The term lobbyist is very popular among my Conservative friends.

If light is shed on these points, if we respect Bill C-2 and the conflict of interest code for members of the House of Commons, if the ethics commissioner confirms that there is no conflict of interest, then we shall see whether or not we will support this bill. However, what appears to be just apple pie is much more than that. We would like further information on this matter.

Trent-Severn Waterway
Private Members' Business

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, the motion brought before us encouraging the government to engage in an evaluation of the Trent-Severn Waterway is one that is certainly attractive to support and one that I would support.

I must admit that I am disturbed by the information that has come out this morning from my colleague from the Bloc with regard to the member for Simcoe North who has moved this private member's motion. There appears that there may be the potential for a conflict between his personal financial interests and the outcome of this evaluation. Presumably, if it is a positive evaluation of additional work required and money being spent by the federal government, he and his family might benefit. I think it might behoove him to follow the advice from our colleague from the Bloc and investigate the propriety of this, in terms of him moving the motion, with the Ethics Commissioner.

Having said that, with regard to the merits of the motion itself, this evaluation appears to be a very attractive approach. I have been on the Trent-Severn Waterway a number of times over the years, at a number of different locations, vacationing with my family, and one can see the potential there.

As I was doing some of the background research, I was disturbed at the reduction in the use of the waterway by private and recreational boaters. I think that fact alone would militate in favour of the evaluation being done.

It is an extremely important waterway, from the perspective of our historical heritage and culture. There are any number of sites along the waterway that teach us a fair amount about our first nations, our aboriginal population, and early European settlement and commercial developments that occurred in various spots along the waterway.

As I mentioned earlier, from my own experience as a tourist and from a recreational standpoint, there are some great advantages of the waterway if one is interested in that, whether one is fishing, boating, or just out for some time in quiet areas of parkland, all of which are along this substantial stretch of waterway. One can again see a real potential for further development. The comments we heard from the member for Mississauga South were interesting, from the standpoint of economic and environmental sustainability, the two going hand in hand.

From an environmental standpoint one could see that, where the human footprint has been applied to the natural environment, additional development could occur without that footprint being expanded whatsoever.

Within those limits, we would like to say it would be possible to do that, which would allow greater access by more tourists, more people engaging in recreational activity and the potential for additional commercial traffic along that waterway as well.

I believe, from minor assessments I have done, that it would be possible to expand services already in existence without expanding the human footprint and damaging the natural environment. That makes it very attractive.

In terms of the economic opportunities here, it begs the question and hopefully, if this evaluation does go ahead we would be looking for partners. Obviously, the province of Ontario is potentially a significant beneficiary here for the production of hydroelectric power if nothing else, but also the economic activity that would go on would benefit the residents of the province and would generate revenue for the province.

If the evaluation does go ahead, if we do an in-depth assessment both from an environmental standpoint and an economic standpoint, the province of Ontario would be invited to join in funding that and creating the mandate for that study along with Parks Canada or whatever department from the federal level would be involved.

In addition, clearly the private sector has a role to play here. It will, to a great extent, be the major beneficiary if there is further development, expansion and improvements along the waterway. That has certainly been the experience from what I have been able to read in New York State and what I have observed in both England and Scotland where they have done a significant amount of work to enhance the attractiveness of the use of their canal system.

In both those countries, the private sector, whether it be tourist lodges, boaters, or people who sell equipment for recreational purposes, all do benefit. Again, both in terms of designing the study, the assessment and paying for it, the private sector certainly has a role to play. I can see at the end of the day that all three, the province, the private sector and the federal government, would be involved designing the study, so that the mandate is clear, the scope of the study is clear, and that it covers all of the points that each one of those partners would be interested in having covered and also assisting in the funding of it.

I wish to comment regarding the point about hydroelectric power. When we consider what we are facing nationally in terms of energy shortages and looking for clean alternative fuels, there is an existing system that could be further developed with what would appear to be no additional damage to the natural environment. A substantial increase in megawatts would be produced from that system. It seems it is one of those we should be getting onto right away. Maybe that should be one of the early parts of the study, so if there are developments that could be conducted, if there are enhancements that could be made to the plants, we should be moving on that as quickly as possible.

It is interesting that one of the first plants that was developed privately back around 1910 is at Big Chute along the waterway. It was one of the first plants that was bought by Ontario Hydro, called the commission at that time. It was in effect one of the initiators of the grid that we have across the province of Ontario which for a long period of time has been a major source of economic activity.

It is interesting that Ontario Hydro started to acquire those private plants, one of the substantial ones at Big Chute. It is still there. It is still operating, from what I understand not at its peak efficiency and that enhancements would allow it to expand, as would be the case in a number of the smaller plants along the waterway. It would appear that we could double, perhaps triple, the amount of hydro that is created from the waterway if we modernized and expanded within the scope of not causing any environmental damage. That would be available to the communities on the waterway throughout the whole stretch.

Let me conclude by urging the mover of this motion to investigate my concern about the potential conflict. I would also urge the government to respond to the motion, not just by accepting it in its general format but by seriously studying the availability of funds and the wisdom of putting funds behind this type of study. It would have to be a substantial study to cover the whole waterway and to cover all of the issues that crop up. It would appear there is a very strong potential here for economic development, the betterment of the environment, and one that we should be pursuing as a government.

Trent-Severn Waterway
Private Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

Langley
B.C.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to speak today to Motion No.161 introduced by the hon. member for Simcoe North. I want to thank him for his work on this important issue on the future of the Trent-Severn Waterway.

The waterway has a special meaning for all Canadians. Its full title is the Trent-Severn Waterway National Historic Site of Canada, and its designation as a national historic site bespeaks the fact that the waterway has genuine national historic significance and helped to shape the history of our country.

The waterway is a place of great natural beauty as well. The splendour and variety of its scenery is one of the waterway's greatest assets. For example, a boater travelling northward from the Bay of Quinte through the Trent River Valley will pass through lush farmlands, marshes rich with wildlife, and waterfalls and rocky gorges.

Rice Lake, with the distinctive teardrop-shaped drumlins that form its islands, marks the start of the Kawartha Lakes region. Shorelines blaze with colour in the fall, and so it goes with scenery and features of equal quality for nearly 400 kilometres, all the way to Georgian Bay.

The Trent-Severn Waterway is a rich tapestry woven with many of the stories of Canada that define us as a nation. It is a story of transportation. Native people have travelled the waterway lakes for thousands of years and archeological sites found through the area point to the importance of this transportation and migration route.

Samuel de Champlain travelled these waters, as did voyageurs. The waterway has seen the transport of great rafts of timber cut by loggers who were hurling down the pine and the romance of steam-powered excursion boats.

It is a story of sustenance, of courage and endurance, and of the evolution of Canada's economy, from ancient aboriginal fish weirs to early agricultural and lumbering economies, to the dams and the mills that were built to power industry, and that morphed into power generation and the birth of the industrial economy. The Mnjikaning fish weirs are a fascinating example of the ingenious technologies for survival developed by native people a millennia ago, and are a national historic site in their own right.

It is story of the engineering creativity and adaptation that were part and parcel of Canada's development, of canal locks that are almost a century and a half old, two ingenious and breathtaking lift locks, one of the world's earliest concrete arch bridges, and more. The Peterborough lift lock alone is a sight to behold. It is an engineering marvel, an elevator for boats that lifts and lowers watercraft a spectacular 19.8 metres and is yet another national historic site.

The concrete arch bridge near Bolsover is one of the earliest examples of this type of structure. It is a story of our political evolution with chapters that speak to the Family Compact, Upper Canada, Macdonald and Laurier.

The waterway's four national historic sites offer unprecedented opportunities to tell these stories to Canadians and to guests from around the world. Some 8 million to 10 million people live within a two to three hour drive of the waterway and there are some 50 million people only a day's drive away. New Canadians, particularly from the greater Toronto area, make up a significant segment of the waterway's visitation. What a wonderful opportunity the waterway presents to help them get acquainted with their new country.

In the same vein, hundreds of thousands of school children live along the waterway. Given Park Canada's mandate for education, the waterway has exciting potential to make Canada's history come alive and become real for these children. Parks Canada has an opportunity to tell the waterway stories and to engage Canadians in their history.

Moreover, this government wants to foster a culture of heritage appreciation in Canada. To do this, we need to ensure that our history is protected and preserved, and this means that from a practical point of view, we need to reflect on which governance and operational models will permit Parks Canada to focus its mandate and expertise on the Trent-Severn Waterway, so that its marvellous tales of Canada can be told to present and future generations.

It is important to begin by understanding what makes a historic site a national historic site and what Parks Canada's mandate is for overseeing our nationwide system of national historical sites.

The Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada has been at work since 1919. It is made up of respected historians and specialists from every province and territory of Canada, and it works closely with Parks Canada to promote and protect Canada's heritage.

One of the board's most important responsibilities is to make recommendations to the Minister of the Environment, who is responsible for the board and for the Parks Canada Agency, regarding the commemoration of people, places and events of national historical significance. Since the establishment in 1919, the board has designated more than 1,800 people, places and events as being worthy of commemoration. The total includes a country wide family of 155 national historic sites administered by Parks Canada, which stretches from sea to sea to sea.

Let us consider for a moment the challenges facing the Trent-Severn Waterway. The essential infrastructure of the waterway has been deteriorating and in places is badly in need of repair and rebuilding. That includes bridges, canal locks and dams. Some of these generate hydroelectricity and some are for water and flood control purposes.

Some have asked, is it not the responsibility of Parks Canada to fix the waterway? That is a good question. The Trent-Severn Waterway was built over several phases of early construction in 1833 and opened to navigation in 1920. Parks Canada assumed control of the waterway only in 1972. This included all responsibilities for water management and shoreline development.

The federal government's jurisdiction for the waterway rests primarily in the historic canal regulations, as mandated under the Department of Transport Act. To put it simply, the federal government owns the waterbed of the navigable waters and that is it. The present management structures for the waterway and its associated governance date back to the turn of the century and they emphasize navigation.

The legislative and regulatory framework, under which Parks Canada holds its present responsibilities, never envisaged the present conditions of exploiting growth and use of the waterway. Nor was it designed to cope with them. Moreover, let us take a brief look at Parks Canada's mandate for national historic sites. Its primary mandate under the Parks Canada Agency Act is:

To foster knowledge and appreciation of Canada's past through a national program of historical commemoration.

Parks Canada has a very specific mandate to protect culturally significant resources, ensure public education and understanding and to provide for first class visitor experiences.

The waterway is not a national park, so Parks Canada does not have the authority to treat it as a national park with regard to safeguarding environmental quality. Parks Canada has a mandate to foster heritage appreciation across Canada and to ensure that visitors to our national historic sites have a high quality experience.

Asking the agency on its own to maintain and restore one of Canada's major and most complex waterways over which many jurisdictions have powers, is asking too much. The challenges facing the waterway simply cannot be addressed by one jurisdiction. We would be limiting ourselves only to the tools within Parks Canada's toolbox for maintaining national historic sites.

The way forward, with regard to the Trent-Severn Waterway, is clear. Its problems must be clearly defined and then addressed through a collaborative effort of all stakeholders.

I am very optimistic about the future of the Trent-Severn Waterway National Historic Site of Canada. Many people and non-governmental organizations are hard at work already doing their part with great community spirit to preserve the waterway and its heritage for the benefit and enjoyment for future generations.

One organization, in particular, I want to acknowledge and thank is the Friends of the Trent-Severn Waterway, who deeply care about the waterway's future. If all the partners and stakeholders come together and embrace their responsibilities, the waterway will remain a living, vital resource that includes individual property owners, the business community, hydro operators, municipalities, the province and the federal government.

By supporting the motion, we can support and start to focus high level and strategic attention this issue in a way that develops ownership by key interests in the future of the waterway. I encourage all members to support the motion.

Trent-Severn Waterway
Private Members' Business

Noon

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business is now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

The House resumed from June 9 consideration of the motion that Bill C-10, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (minimum penalties for offences involving firearms) and to make a consequential amendment to another Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

Noon

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

When the House last discussed Bill C-10, there were five minutes remaining in the period of questions and comments for the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre.

The hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas.