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Track Peter

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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is parks.

Conservative MP for Thornhill (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 61.40% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Rouge National Urban Park Act November 25th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I must say, in response to my hon. colleague, that I personally have been disappointed by the behaviour of the Ontario government, and not just in recent months but over the course of years.

In my previous incarnation, ministers of the Ontario government tried to ransom the transfer of the lands under their authority that will become part of the national Rouge urban park. They have been very unhelpful in recent days in trying to imply somehow that their conservation standards, their protection standards, are higher than Parks Canada's.

In fact, loopholes in Ontario's Greenbelt Act and the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act grandfather environmentally destructive practices, which allows exemptions if endangered species are killed in the interest of the government of the day if a net benefit is provided. There is a very loose system of permitting. This suggests that the Ontario government, in fact, would perhaps be better focused on raising the lands under their current authority to the standards that will be required and overseen by Parks Canada.

Rouge National Urban Park Act November 25th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, deep down I know that my hon. colleague does have the best interests at heart for this wonderful new protected space that is very close to his constituency.

As I mentioned in my remarks, fully 75% of the lands that will be enshrined and protected in this unique new national urban park in some cases have been seriously affected by civilization. There is an old garbage landfill in the area, which is part of the history of the area. There are wonderful archeological deposits in different parts of the park. There is an old auto wreckers shop where the land has been significantly polluted, which will have to be seen to in the course of time.

When it comes to the definition of ecological integrity, as applied and respected by Parks Canada in our more traditional parks where there is space and where natural fires and floods are allowed to take place to renew and revitalize those parks, it would simply be inappropriate to apply it in this particular setting.

As for the definition of ecological health, I come back to the point of my previous hon. colleague's question. There is a tendency sometimes in committee to overwrite legislation, to be specific with things that really should go without saying. The fact that Parks Canada has accepted stewardship of this new urban protected space, this unique space, and the fact that the national park plan, which every park must have, is already in draft form and available for reference by my colleague and others will more than reassure those who may be in doubt as to the definition of ecological health.

Rouge National Urban Park Act November 25th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for her support virtually from day one when we met in the early days of planning for the park.

This park would fulfill the dreams that Ontarians have held for decades now.

To the point of the member's question, it is sometimes possible to over-think the legislative process. The Parks Canada leadership has been magnificent over the past couple of years as we have moved forward through the various stages of consultation and planning. It goes without saying that the Rouge national urban park would be a people's park, and it will be unique in that it will be available by public transit to fully 20% of the Canadian population. It will provide a wonderful opportunity for those newer Canadians who might not have had a chance to experience our traditional parks as a springboard to more traditional protected areas.

Rouge National Urban Park Act November 25th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour and a pleasure to rise in the House today on this historic occasion, the third reading of the Rouge national urban park act.

Before I get to the good news, I find I must speak to the fact that the past hour has been wasted by another example of legislative vandalism by the official opposition, the NDP. I am told that it might have been a mistake in signals and I suppose we have to consider that, but I think this is just the latest in a long-running example, both in committee and here in debate in this House, where the NDP has obstructed, undercut, and taken part in legislative vandalism.

I will now go to the good news. The Government of Canada is proudly embarking on a Canadian first, a new kind of national protected area within Canada's largest metropolitan area. The creation of Rouge national urban park is a proud and historic achievement not only for all the residents of the greater Toronto area and all of Ontario, but also for Canadians right from coast to coast. Rouge national urban park, which is a Canadian first, builds on an incredible legacy of pioneering and innovative conservation work undertaken by Parks Canada for over a century.

In 2011, the year of Parks Canada's centennial, the agency was awarded the Gift to the Earth award by Mr. Gerald Butts, who was then of the World Wildlife Federation International. As colleagues now know, he is working on a recovery effort for another endangered species, but that is another story.

The creation of Rouge national urban park is an immensely proud occasion for all Ontarians and Canadians. It helps to position Canada at the forefront of the world's emerging urban protected areas movement. Rouge national urban park would be one of the planet's largest and most significant urban protected areas, providing a sanctuary of protected and restored forests, marshes, wetlands, farmlands, and centuries-old cultural landscapes alongside the greater Toronto area's rich cultural diversity.

This bill allows more land to be added over time, which would eventually make this wonderful park 25% larger than the current protected area, making it 13 times larger than Vancouver's Stanley Park—no offence intended to my colleagues from British Columbia—16 times larger than New York City's Central Park, and 33 times larger than London's Hyde Park.

Rouge national urban park would be a shining example of the very best of Canada, because it brings together and enshrines in legislation the protection and the celebration of three things that define us as Canadian and speak to the very essence of Canada—our nation's national, cultural, and agricultural heritage.

This bill integrates the protection of nature, culture, and agriculture in a new and bold approach, but I want to make it clear that the Rouge national urban park would provide us with a strong legislative framework to meet, to exceed, and to expand upon the protections and mandate currently in place to protect and manage smaller portions of the Rouge by a variety of public landowners.

Protecting nature, culture, and agriculture together does not mean that protection of natural resources is somehow diminished, as some have implied, nor does it mean that there are no priorities or that the Rouge is trying to be everything to everyone. That is simply not true. Those who suggest such scenarios do not understand the Rouge Park's urban setting, the needs of its landscape mosaic, or the opportunity to demonstrate true leadership internationally.

Having been asked by the Rouge Park Alliance, which for years had managed the lands currently called the Rouge Park, to find a solution to the governance and conflicts that were making park management impossible, Parks Canada began consulting with thousands of Canadians and with hundreds of groups and organizations representing stakeholders, communities, non-governmental organizations, and governments.

Through the process, the government determined that an integrated approach was the most appropriate for the Rouge. It is an approach that has three very clear interconnected priorities when it comes to protection: nature, culture, and agriculture. This model is what Canadians and the Rouge Park Alliance, the formerly provincially appointed managing authority of Rouge Park, have asked for. This approach would allow us to make the very best conservation gains across the entire park landscape in ways that would allow for the Rouge's natural, cultural, and agricultural resources to receive the highest level of protection now and far into the future.

The Government of Canada's integrative and inclusive approach will allow us to succeed where the previous disparate park authorities and regimes have not before. While there has certainly been some wonderful work done to protect the Rouge over the last 20 years, there have also been divergent and sometimes conflicting interests in the lands that make up the future Rouge national urban park. During that time, no single legal regime governed these lands, and at times the voices of many groups and residents were not reflected in policy development and park management. Nature, culture, agriculture, and visitor connection opportunities were often seen as competing rather than complementary priorities.

When the bill came to committee earlier this month, one of the witnesses we heard from was the Hon. Pauline Browes, the director of Waterfront Regeneration Trust Corporation and a former federal minister of state for the environment. Mrs. Browes gave the committee some of the history of the creation of the Rouge Park. She stated:

Every municipality in the Rouge watershed passed a motion endorsing the proposal, as well as the TRCA, to urge the federal government to establish a national park. The Government of Ontario publicly and enthusiastically supported that recommendation. The community supported the recommendation.

Ms. Browes continued:

This legislation is before you. Parks Canada, a heralded organization of experience and very competent individuals, has been assigned the responsibility of the permanent protection and preservation of the natural, cultural, and agricultural aspects of the Rouge national urban park. In particular I would like you to look at clauses 4 and 6. I have read the debates that each of you have made in the House of Commons...but the language of these two clauses is clear and self-explanatory. These clauses will allow the minister to make the decisions based on the identified purposes for which the park is being created and the factors which must be taken into consideration. Pitting the elements against each other by putting one as a priority...would really create conflict. I would ask you to consider the natural, cultural, and agricultural aspects, and I mean the cultural aspects with the aboriginal issues and the archaeological issues. When I was a member we did some archaeological digs in the park and we found a 17th century French coin. There's a lot of cultural heritage within this park.

With Bill C-40, Parks Canada, through the Minister of the Environment, would be given the responsibility to bring all groups together and work for the betterment of Rouge national urban park to ensure a broad range of perspectives is heard and nature, culture, and agriculture are all valued, celebrated, and, most importantly, protected to the full extent of the law.

Our government's approach will see everyone with a stake or interest in this wonderful new national park working together, where a win for nature will also be a win for agriculture and for the cultural landscape of the park. In practical terms, this means that Parks Canada would apply its world renowned approach to conserving biodiversity and restoring native wildlife and ensuring the health of park ecosystems through rigorous monitoring of the park's flora, fauna, waters, and soil. Parks Canada would work with farmers to end the cycle of one-year leases and initiate a leasing regime that would foster economic stability. The farmers would in turn work to manage farmlands in an ecologically sound fashion, commit to conserving resources, and contribute to the visitor experience and cultural heritage of the park.

Integral to all of this, as emphasized in the bill, is the fact that Parks Canada would manage the health of ecosystems. It would apply this concept across all of the park's ecosystems, landscapes, and resources in a way that not only protects and restores natural and cultural heritage, but also promotes a healthy and vibrant farming community. This new type of protected area cannot, as some have requested, be managed for ecological integrity. The fact that more than 75% of the park's intended area has been altered or disturbed by civilization, the fact that it is in close proximity to Canada's largest metropolis, and the fact that it comprises a variety of landscapes and uses make the concept of ecological integrity simply inappropriate for the Rouge. Instead, this unique protected area calls for this new approach to conservation.

When the bill was before committee earlier this month, one of the witnesses we heard from, Mr. Larry Noonan from the Altona Forest Community Stewardship Committee, said:

Some people have asked why the term ecological integrity is not in the act. The Canada National Parks Act states that “ecological integrity” includes “supporting processes”. As a further clarification of part of this definition, Parks Canada defines “ecosystem processes” as “the engines that make ecosystems work; e.g. fire, flooding...”.

Mr. Noonan continued that “Ecological integrity cannot be applied to an urban national park”. He was very clear, and he has the authority to stand by these words. Furthermore, he stated:

We cannot allow fires and flooding in the Toronto, Markham, and Pickering urban environment. The Rouge national urban park act cannot have this term included, or there would have to be a list of exceptions to the definition which could serve to lessen its impact in the Canada National Parks Act.

Stepping aside from Mr. Noonan's quotes for a moment, there are loopholes in Ontario's act that basically allow any number of events to take place, with profound negative impacts on both the protected area itself and the wildlife, archaeological realities, first nation realities, and the agricultural component of this unique new entity.

After saying that ecological integrity cannot be applied to an urban national park, Mr. Noonan said:

The Rouge national urban park act cannot have this term included...Instead, Bill C-40 refers to “the maintenance of its native wildlife and of the health of those ecosystems”. The Rouge national urban park and the management plan lay out strategies for attaining the highest possible level of health for the park's ecosystems.

As well, we heard from many other witnesses, a list of whom I will not go into at this point, who did not believe that ecological integrity was even achievable within Rouge Park due to its unique urban setting and the large percentage of historic land disturbance.

Conservation of nature is clearly one of the main objectives of Rouge national urban park and the integrated management approach is very much in keeping with internationally defined standards for the conservation of protected areas.

The legislative framework for the Rouge national urban park meets the definition of a category V protected area under the stringent criteria of the International Union for Conservation of Nature. This category of protected area applies where the interaction of people and nature over time has produced an area of distinct character, with significant ecological, biological, cultural, and scenic value. This is exactly what Rouge national urban park represents. I will commit to the House that Parks Canada will see to it that all of this park's unique components live up to the highest international conservation standards and receive the strongest ever legal protections in the history of the Rouge.

Integration is tailor-made for this unique landscape and it is the right way forward for Rouge national urban park. Integration allows us to protect, and future generations to appreciate for eternity, if I may say, the striking colours of sugar maples in the Rouge's Carolinian forest in the Fall and to enjoy the fresh maple syrup made by the Rouge's heritage farmers every spring. In other words, our integrated approach is just about as Canadian as one can get.

In light of this historic occasion and in the spirit of coming together for the public good to create a lasting legacy for Ontarians, Canadians, and citizens of the world, I would urge all members to support the bill before the House The legislative framework for the Rouge national urban park meets the definition of a category V protected area under the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Stringent Criteria.

Foreign Affairs November 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, early this morning we learned of an attack against a synagogue in West Jerusalem. This cowardly act took the lives of four people and left nine injured. Attacks on innocent worshippers in what is supposed to be a place of peace and tranquillity are cowardly and must never be tolerated. Those who incite or morally support these outrages cannot evade responsibility for their role in these cowardly acts.

Can the Minister of Foreign Affairs please comment on today's tragic events?

National Defence October 23rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, can the Minister of National Defence please update the House on the status of Operation Impact, Canada's contribution to the fight against the terrorist forces of ISIL in the Middle East?

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve Act October 23rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I can answer the concerns raised by my colleague in her well-reasoned and thoughtful question.

Sometimes we think only in the context of our great traditional centuries-old national parks and the protections that have continued over the decades, but we must realize that with the creation of any new national park, the Government of Canada and Parks Canada are not the sole decision-makers in these matters. We are in partnership with governments, in this case the Government of the Northwest Territories, with the various communities of the north, and, as my colleague mentioned, with the input of those organizations and companies that this government believes are responsible for helping to build the economic vitality of not just the urban south but of the north.

I salute the ambition of those among us who would make our entire northern lands into one great national park reserve with no development. However, it is the responsibility not only of the Government of Canada but also the people of Canada, the provinces and territories, and local governments to consider exactly the balance between environmental protection of our special places and reasonable social and economic development. The legislation now before us speaks to exactly that balance.

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve Act October 23rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to travel in the northern reaches of our country with the hon. member for Yukon.

The work to create this additional protected space adjacent to the great Nahanni National Park Reserve has taken many years and extensive consultations with all of the groups that I mentioned in my speech, including the Government of Canada, the Government of the Northwest Territories, the regional community corporations, and equally important, the people who have lived on this land for thousands of years, the Sahtu Dene and Métis peoples. In their negotiations, they had a variety of views on exactly what needed to be protected and how it should be protected.

I can assure members of the House that there were many versions of the ultimate map designating exactly what the boundaries of the park would be, including the protected areas, the spiritually relevant areas of the park, and the areas relevant to protecting wildlife and biodiversity, as I mentioned in a previous answer to a colleague on the other side of the House.

At the Prime Minister's announcement in Norman Wells not far from the new park, which still requires infrastructure to be developed to allow easier access, there was great joy and satisfaction that all of the considerations necessary to create a new national park had been recognized in the spirit of co-operation and collaboration.

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve Act October 23rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question.

I think that the breadth of the member's original question, before focusing on the protection of flora and fauna, particularly wildlife and all its forms in the new Nááts’ihch’oh national park reserve, makes it a complicated and very large question.

There is the creation and stewardship of both our traditional national parks and our new national park reserves and marine protected areas on all three coasts in very different parts of the country. There is the new Sable Island National Park Reserve, the proposed Rouge national urban park reserve within the outskirts of the Greater Toronto Area, and of course, Nááts’ihch’oh, which is a remote, still largely unsullied part of our great natural spaces in the north. They face a number of challenges in terms of designing the national park plan for each individual park, such as ensuring that there is reasonable accessibility for visitors and considering highways as well as a variety of civilization infrastructure realities, such as power lines and so forth.

Parks Canada is world renowned. In my travels around the world, in almost every situation when visiting a protected national space abroad, I have heard from the administrators of these parks of their great admiration for the work of Parks Canada.

In regard to the protected species within Nááts’ihch’oh national park, great care has been taken, because Nááts’ihch’oh has a very important part to play in the life and continued existence of the woodland caribou. On the calving grounds, both the Sahtu and Dene people, the Northwest Territories, and wildlife authorities have advised protecting these birthing grounds, and I can assure my colleague that they would be protected under this legislation.

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve Act October 23rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I will enthusiastically encourage all fellow members of the House to join me in supporting Bill S-5, the Nááts’ihch’oh national park reserve act. As my colleague from Yukon has reminded the House, this legislation would protect unparalleled wilderness lands in the Northwest Territories, about 5,000 square km, which is an area only a little smaller than the entire province of Prince Edward Island.

In August 2012, I had the honour of travelling with thePrime Minister to Norman Wells in the Northwest Territories to announce the establishment of Nááts’ihch’oh national park reserve. The name of the proposed national park reserve comes from North Slavey, an aboriginal language. The word means “pointed like a porcupine quill” and refers to the shape of Mount Wilson, which is a peak that looms over a series of moose ponds in the proposed reserve, which are the headwaters for the world-famous South Nahanni River. Aboriginal people consider this mountain sacred. They have lived off the surrounding lands for millennia.

The establishment of Nááts’ihch’oh national park reserve completes the ongoing work to significantly expand the Nahanni National Park Reserve and to conserve a significant portion of the South Nahanni River watershed. In short, Canada has expanded the boundary of Nahanni to the point that it is the third-largest national park complex in the country. This expansion, the largest in Canada's history, would build on our country's strong tradition of national parks and our international leadership in conservation.

The boundaries of the proposed park reserve are the product of a broad process of collaboration and consultation. Hundreds of individuals, over a number of years, shared their views on the proposed boundaries. Representatives of aboriginal groups, territorial governments, regional community corporations, mining companies, and other federal departments were also brought into the consultations.

Ultimately, the proposed boundaries would achieve key conservation gains, such as protecting the upper reaches of the South Nahanni River and habitat for woodland caribou and grizzly bear. They would provide for conservation values and visitor experience without blocking access to significant areas with high mineral potential. The proposed boundaries would also ensure that the Nááts’ihch’oh national park reserve would protect nearly 4,900 square kilometres of the Sahtu Dene and Métis settlement area of the Northwest Territories.

The legislation before us would also support Canada's national conservation plan, announced recently by the Prime Minister. The plan proposes to contribute to Canada's long-term prosperity by taking concrete action in three priority areas: conserving our lands and waters, restoring ecosystems, and connecting Canadians to nature. The establishment of Nááts’ihch’oh national park reserve would support each one of these three priorities. It would conserve a beautiful landscape located in the southwest corner of the Northwest Territories and, as my friend reminded us, along the Yukon border.

Given its remote location, this land fortunately remains largely unspoiled. The protections afforded through the legislation now before us would ensure that these lands and waters would continue to be enjoyed for many generations to come. The massive expansion of protected areas in this part of Canada would also help preserve a unique ecosystem. With the addition of Nááts’ihch’oh, more than 85% of the South Nahanni watershed would be protected. Today, this region features habitat for mountain woodland caribou, grizzly bear, Dall sheep, mountain goats, and trumpeter swans. During the all-too-short summers, the fields burst into life as wildflowers bloom and insects buzz over a thick carpet of moss, grass, and shrubs.

Creating the new park reserve would mean that more than 10% of Canada's north would be managed as protected areas for the benefit of Canadians, for the benefit of aboriginals, and for the benefit of local communities. In total, the north would have 11 national parks, 6 national wildlife areas, and 16 migratory bird sanctuaries. The total area would include nearly 400,000 square kilometres, an area about the size of Newfoundland and Labrador, which I think is quite a legacy for future generations.

Given its timeless beauty and abundance of flora and fauna, it is no wonder that aboriginal people have long felt a deep connection with this part of their north. A particularly spiritual place to the Sahtu Dene and the Métis people is the mountain that towers above the Moose Ponds on the upper South Nahanni River.

Creating the Nááts’ihch’oh national park reserve would mean these lands would also attract visitors from outside the north. People would come from across Canada, we hope, to see the spectacular landscapes of the upper reaches of the world-famous South Nahanni River. Visitors would also be able to hike, canoe, raft, and climb in the new Nááts’ihch’oh and the recently expanded Nahanni national park reserves.

The establishment of Nááts’ihch’oh national park reserve would demonstrate to Canadians that this government understands the importance of protecting wilderness, while continuing to make it accessible for people domestically and from around the world.

The bill would also provide the Minister of the Environment with the powers to permit two pre-existing mineral access roads through a small part of the national park reserve and to enforce the necessary measures to ensure that the environment is protected where required. These road provisions are exactly what Parliament approved in 2009 when it passed legislation to expand Nahanni National Park Reserve sixfold. There is a mineral access route contemplated in the northwestern part of Nahanni that travels north into the new Nááts’ihch’oh national park reserve, and Bill S-5 would simply extend the minister's powers to permit that part of the road within Nááts’ihch’oh.

The Government of the Northwest Territories has indicated that there are processes now in place, should any development be proposed for lands adjacent to the new national park reserve, so that there will be environmental assessment, including public hearings, under the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act.

The Government of the Northwest Territories has stated many times and very clearly that it has a very rigorous system of oversight and practice with regard to the protection of the environment. Even with the proposed park boundary, any adjacent development would be subject to a very thorough review in the context of maintaining and protecting the park.

The bill is, I believe, a concrete example of the action we are taking within the northern strategy, which proposes a responsible approach to development, one that balances environmental protection with social and economic development, one that empowers northerners and exercises Canada's sovereignty in the north. People would have an active role in managing this new national park reserve, which would help build capacity and, at the same time, strengthen northern governance.

I would hope, in closing, that hon. members would join me in supporting Bill S-5, Nááts’ihch’oh national park reserve act.