An Act to amend the Department of Canadian Heritage Act and the Parks Canada Agency Act and to make related amendments to other Acts

This bill was last introduced in the 38th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in November 2005.

Sponsor

Stéphane Dion  Liberal

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

The purpose of these amendments is to transfer responsibility for the Parks Canada Agency, and certain associated functions, from the Minister of Canadian Heritage to the Minister of the Environment.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Bank ActGovernment Orders

October 6th, 2005 / 11:05 a.m.
See context

Etobicoke North Ontario

Liberal

Roy Cullen LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Mississauga South. I welcome this opportunity to rise in this House to speak on Bill C-57.

We are well aware of just how important the financial services sector is to the Canadian economy, and that of Toronto in particular, where my riding is located. The steps taken by our government in recent years attest to that fact. We have passed legislation ensuring that financial institutions have the modern regulatory framework they need in order to be competitive in today's global economy. Bill C-57 builds on these initiatives.

This bill builds on the financial services restructuring package that was introduced and passed by Parliament in 2000. I think it was the largest piece of legislation that was introduced and passed by Parliament dealing with the financial sector in Canada and how it was going to be structured or allowed to structure itself. Of course, a major piece of that legislation dealt with bank merger guidelines.

At the time there were governance issues affecting the major banks and financial institutions that were not dealt with, so this bill addresses some of those governance issues. For example, it brings the legislation up to date to recognize the fact that the major insurance companies were demutualized. It also deals with the issues around deposit insurance and aligns this act with some of the features of the Canada Business Corporations Act, for example, the question of the defence of due diligence by directors.

In fact, my first private member's bill in 1997 dealt with giving directors the defence of due diligence for corporations incorporated under the Canada Business Corporations Act. It was necessary I felt, and in fact it was incorporated later into the Canada Business Corporations Act, that directors would be given the defence of due diligence.

What that means is that if directors of companies asked all the right questions, demanded certain information in certain ways and did everything that was reasonable for directors to do, then they would not be held liable if something occurred subsequently which created problems for the corporation. I think it is fair for directors to have that defence because directors come together for board meetings maybe once a month. It is management that is primarily responsible for running the company.

For example, if a company was building a big plant and the director asked about the impact on the environment by the plant, and wanted an independent study conducted by environmental engineers, once the study was conducted and the environmental engineers said the plant would create no environmental difficulties, then at that point in time I think the director has discharged his or her responsibility. Subsequently, if the plant creates some environmental problems, then I do not think the director should be held liable. That is what the change to the Canada Business Corporations Act did and that is what the changes to Bill C-57 contemplate as one of the pieces with respect to the financial institutions legislation.

Corporate governance is one of those items that has received more attention in the last few years around the world, particularly with the advent of the Enron scandal in the United States and WorldCom. We have not been immune in Canada either. We have had some difficulties with corporate governance at Nortel. I cannot remember the company name, but there was the Drabinsky theatre group that got into some problems.

Corporate governance is a very topical matter and concerns, of course, a lot of citizens who own shares in companies, pension plans and mutual funds. In fact, many Canadians hold shares in companies in Canada through either mutual funds or pension plans or hold those shares directly. It is important to them that corporate governance is sound.

That is why, following the Enron and WorldCom situations in the United States, members on this side reacted. I do not know about members on the other side as I do not think they spend much time worrying about things like this. They are more interested in a $1.50 pack of gum that Mr. Dingwall bought. Nonetheless, corporate governance is a very important matter because it affects the investments that many Canadians have made. Following Enron and WorldCom, the United States, through its Congress, brought in legislation referred to as Sarbanes-Oxley that basically brought in tough corporate governance rules for companies.

The reality is that the Sarbanes-Oxley legislation, while well intentioned, has had some mixed reviews, but it did raise the question, certainly on this side of the House, of what we should be doing in Canada, so we struck a caucus committee, which I was honoured to chair, and we looked at corporate governance in Canada.

Canada has a complicated quilt of different jurisdictions and different organizations that get involved in corporate governance. We have the Ontario Securities Commission. We have organizations like the Canadian Public Accountability Board, which was set up just two years ago to give oversight over auditing firms, so that auditing firms are held accountable to the audit reports that they issue. Many investors rely on these audit reports because if they give companies a clean bill of health, then someone investing in those companies has a right to expect that they have a clean bill of health. The Canadian Public Accountability Board was set up to monitor the performance of auditing firms.

We also have the Canada Business Corporations Act. I forget the exact statistic but something like 30% to 40% of the public companies in Canada are incorporated under the Canada Business Corporations Act. It is a large number of companies. It does not represent all companies, but it is quite comprehensive.

Therefore, our view, coming out of that review, was that the Canada Business Corporations Act could be used and should be used as a benchmark, as a worldclass standard that should be implemented. This is an area that the Government of Canada can control very directly. Through Parliament, we can pass legislation that sets the corporate governance rules for corporations incorporated under the Canada Business Corporations Act.

What does corporate governance consider? It deals with a whole host of things. It deals with things such as the composition of a board of directors and whether there should be independent boards of directors. We saw problems, for example with Nabisco, which was a big fiasco years ago where the CEO hand-picked all the members of the board of directors and paid them $40,000 U.S. a year. They would go to fancy meetings and so on. When the executive made presentations to the board of directors, they were all hand-picked buddies of the CEO and chairman, and nothing really came under close scrutiny. There are issues around the independence of the members of the board.

There is the question, which particularly comes up in the context of financial institutions in Canada, of what the requirements or limitations are in terms of the participation of foreign directors on boards of directors. Should a bank such as the Bank of Montreal or an insurance company such as Sun Life be allowed to have unfettered access to members of their boards who are U.S. citizens, for example, as opposed to Canadian citizens?

There are issues whether the role of the chief executive officer should be split from the role of chairman of the corporation, so that the chair could be independent and provide more oversight over the CEO and his or her executive team.

There are issues around executive compensation, stock option plans and the transparency of those. One of the problems or challenges we had was public companies' quarterly profits being reported and those profits really determining the share price of a company to a large extent. The management of companies is under huge pressure to keep earnings per share on the rise. That sometimes puts officers of a company in a position where they might compromise their ethical standards, frankly.

We saw that in a big company in the United States, Xerox or one of those, that simply capitalized a whole range of expenses that should have been expensed. Of course, if those costs had been expensed, it would have had an impact on earnings per share. Its share price would have been affected, so they treated them as assets rather than expenses. Even the most cursory examination by an accountant would have or should have revealed that those were not assets, those were expenses.

With the pressures on management to perform in terms of earnings per share, we need to have complete transparency with respect to stock options, so that shareholders know that the executive of a company has certain incentives to see the share price increase. In this way shareholders know precisely what is going on.

There are issues about the handling of proxies for meetings, so that the executive and the management of a company do not dominate what happens at these meetings. There are a whole range of developments under corporate governance, but I am pleased to note that the Minister of Industry is conducting a review of the corporate governance under the Canada Business Corporations Act and I hope that he picks the best practices.

We have had some time now to learn from the experiences of other jurisdictions, looking at what the United States did and others, and consulting with the industry and other stakeholders to pick the best practices in terms of corporate governance and enshrine them in the Canada Business Corporations Act.

That would not impact every single company in Canada, but it will be the new benchmark. It will set the standard and the Government of Canada can take pride in that because it will protect investors, whether they are direct investors, big monied investors, or small investors through mutual funds, pension plans or the like.

There has been a great deal of press recently about the bank merger guidelines, whether the Minister of Finance will come out with the new bank merger guidelines. The financial sector legislation was enacted by this Parliament around 2000 set up a process for large bank mergers. It set up a role for the Standing Committee on Finance of the House of Commons and the Senate banking committee, so that those committees would be charged by Parliament to assess the public interest questions around major bank mergers. It was enshrined in Bill C-7.

The banks of course are looking for certain clarity around what a large bank merger would entail, what would be the appetite of the government to allow another bank merger. This is a vexing question because in Canada we know there is a large concentration of banks and further consolidation would raise some questions.

The bottom line is that if we were to allow another merger of two major banks, what would the benefit be to Canadian consumers and Canadian business? We know the benefit to the shareholders of major banks, to the boards of directors and all those with stock options. They would receive a benefit and that is fine. Profit is not a dirty word. However, we need to understand what the benefit would be to consumers in terms of choice, access to services, and would it enhance the ability of Canadians to do their banking? That is the question on the table.

Another issue that has been presented has to do with cross-pillar mergers. When the finance standing committee of the House of Commons dealt with large bank mergers and the public interest aspects of that, the committee did not really deal with the question of cross-pillar mergers. Cross-pillar mergers would entail the merger of a large bank with a major insurance company, for example, Sun Life merging with the Royal Bank of Canada.

There has been some discussion, pro and con, as to whether that would be a good thing or a bad thing. The empirical evidence would suggest that there is not a lot of synergy or appetite within those two different sectors. They have a different business culture, a different business model, but nonetheless, it is an important question because it allows a concentration of capital. It allows a company to have stronger capitalization.

This is one of the things that is important for banks because they are dealing in an international world. If their client is a Canadian company that is a multinational and wants to expand globally, the banks have to have the capital, the care and the capacity to do that kind of work. So, there is some interest there. That is a debate I am sure we will have maybe in the next Parliament, but it is an important question.

When the Minister of Finance comes out with his bank merger guidelines I hope he will ask the Standing Committee on Finance to examine the public interest aspects of cross-pillar mergers because that was not really dealt with in any detail by the finance committee. We focused mostly on large bank mergers.

As I said, this huge piece of the legislation did a number of things. It described the process under which large banks could come to government seeking a merger but it did much more than that. What it attempted to do was create more competition within the banking sector so it created greater opportunities for the credit union movement to grow and enlarge. It gave more opportunities for foreign banks to participate in the economy in Canada. It gave a lower threshold for start-ups of banks in Canada. It set up the consumer protection agency. It did a number of things, which is why it was such a large bill when it was presented to the House.

Not only does the House of Commons committee and the Senate banking committee look at the public interest aspects, but the Competition Bureau weighs in and makes a determination of whether a bank merger would create any anti-competitive types of situations. The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions also makes a determination of whether a merger would create any issues around prudence and stability of the financial sector in Canada. Therefore it is quite a rigorous process.

One of the ironies is that if two major banks were to merge, the Competition Bureau would very likely say that there would have to be a divestiture of certain branches. Let us say, in the case of the Toronto-Dominion Bank and the Bank of Montreal, if they ended up with too many of their banks in a small town in Ontario and not enough of the other banks, the Royal Bank and CIBC for example and others, the Competition Bureau might say that now with this merger there is too much of a dominant position by that bank in that city or that region and it has to divest of certain branches.

This creates an interesting aspect. In the past this has always been seen as a negative in the sense that if they have to divest that means the people in that local community have less choice and they do not have the range of options that they might have had if the banks just stayed the way they were. There is clearly some truth to that.

In the last few years some of the smaller banks, Laurentian Bank, the National Bank and the credit union movement, have indicated very clearly that if the Competition Bureau indicates that a bank merger would require divestitures that they would be very interested in buying up those branches. The ironic twist is that we could end up with more competition in a regional market if we ended up with some of these smaller banks in those locations.

Therefore it is an important question and it is a vexing question and I am sure the next Parliament will deal with that.

However I am very happy to support this bill because it would bring the financial institutions legislation more in line with the Canada Business Corporations Act. It would provide the corporate governance requirements that we need. I hope down the road that there will be further enhancements to governance for banks that will be further aligned with the changes to the Canada Business Corporations Act that I certainly expect will be coming.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

April 5th, 2005 / 5 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Jeff Watson Conservative Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is with mixed feelings that I rise today to speak to Bill C-38, the Liberal government's attempt to change the definition of marriage in Canada.

What pleases me is that I speak today at the end of a period of dialogue with the people of Essex on the bill. Not only have we received literally thousands of e-mails, letters and faxes but I have this past week completed a series of town hall meetings in Essex, the first of their kind in recent memory by an MP in this riding.

Twice before, in 1999 and 2003, the definition of marriage has come before the House on motions, and twice the previous Liberal member of Parliament for Essex toed her Liberal boss's line. I am pleased to state today that this tradition has been broken and will remain so for as long as I am privileged to serve the people of Essex.

What disappoints me, after the recent Supreme Court of Canada reference, is that we are here today by a policy decision of the Liberal government. Let us recall that the Supreme Court reference neither declared heterosexual marriage unconstitutional, nor did it direct Parliament that this institution be changed. Neither did the Liberal government campaign in the recent federal election that it would change the institution of marriage. Though this is a breathtaking volte-face by a Liberal government that has spent 12 years perfecting the art of dodging issues for which it was given a mandate and adopting those it concealed from voters, it comes as no real surprise.

I sit on Parliament's Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development. Since October last year we have seen only two pieces of legislation: Bill C-7, a housekeeping bill to move Parks Canada from the Department of Heritage to the Department of the Environment, and Bill C-15, a bill on migratory birds. That is five months and only two pieces of legislation quickly dispensed with.

Bill C-38 is intended to distract from the fact that this Liberal emperor has in fact no legislative clothes. Canadians should forget what the Liberal government is telling them. While the Prime Minister wraps himself up in misguided Liberal notions of our charter and our maple leaf, the Conservative Party of Canada is instead doing the responsible job of a government from the opposition benches.

For 12 years, the best ideas of the Liberal government have been taken from the policy books of the two legacy Conservative parties and pathetically adopted in half measures. Sadly, the only idea that truly belongs to the Liberals is changing marriage. They should listen to the Conservative Party and to Canadians instead.

Canadians would do themselves a great favour by eliminating the Liberal middleman in the next election in favour of a Conservative government that has always stood clear and accountable on maintaining traditional marriage.

Last night I sat rocking my son, Elijah, to sleep. These are not only moments to treasure, as I continue on my journey to what I hope will be old age, but they are clarifying as well. Sarah and I are his mom and dad. He comes from the uniting of our flesh in the security of the lifelong covenant of marriage. The bonding of our life for life was intended from the foundations of the earth to bring forth life. It is rooted in the laws of nature. It is a defining characteristic of marriage that cannot be altered, even if all lower courts in all jurisdictions proclaim so from the rooftops.

Elijah developed in his mother's womb. He entered the world through her labour. She birthed him into her own waiting hands as I supported and encouraged her. Mom nourishes him from her body. He will get lifelong immunities from mother's milk. He also nurses for comfort. Such needs can only be met by his mom. As a man I cannot birth. I cannot nurse. Yet, Elijah is also part of me. While mom comforts him, I centre him. I am his anchor.

Heterosexual marriage has always benefited society, not just here in Canada, but all over the world and all across history. Scientific advances and legislative wordsmithing will never build a better family than that which has pre-existed both scientists and parliaments. The government has the power and duty to recognize this. It does not however have the power to change it.

Bill C-38 not only attempts to strike at society's stabilizing pillar of heterosexual marriage, it threatens to undermine the other stabilizing pillar, the rule of law. Law is stabilizing precisely because it has tradition, because it is rooted in natural law and because it is moral. Moses or Magna Carta, Hammurabi or Blackstone, the Supreme Court and its lower courts cannot look to the charter in 1982 as a break with the past. Nothing in the charter is revolutionary. Within its provisions, crafted by Canadians through their Parliament, there is no new jurisprudence. There is no kernel from which today's courts can produce tomorrow's new precedents.

In self-governments like Canada, the rule of law can only happen with popular backing or consensus. Parliaments and courts risk cleavage with the people if either or both break with history and tradition. Who will respect the law if the law does not reflect their values? Yet the Liberal government risks compounding the lower courts' mistakes by enacting a law which does not reflect the consensus of Canadians.

It is foolish to overlook 10,000 years of received wisdom known as jurisprudence. Lower courts in Canada, and nowhere else in history, threw out the common law recognition that marriage is the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of any other. The jurisprudential principle of stare decisis, to let decisions stand, was cast aside. The courts have ignored their own rationale and in the process have undermined their own security and credibility.

Heterosexual marriage has been self-evident, that is, not needing proof or defence, for thousands of years of human existence. It took until 1866 before Britain's highest court formally recognized marriage as it always existed. The British North America Act never felt it had to clarify gender in marriage; only it divided powers over it because of the need to protect the rights of women and children in divorce. Parliament has never since considered it needed a federal marriage act to tell the courts that marriage is between one male and one female. The courts have until recently held this interpretation as their own tradition.

It pains me to think that the fanciful notions of a few unelected judges have forced the need for presenting evidence of the nature of marriage. Since the courts have thrown their own common law tradition out the window, it falls to this Parliament to enact statute law giving strong and clear direction to the courts.

The Liberal government's Bill C-38 gives the wrong direction. It is up to members of Parliament with courage and backed by popular consensus to amend the bill to enshrine marriage as between one man and one woman. The courts must and will respect such direction.

A house is only as good as its foundation. The Canadian house has stood well on the firm foundations of traditional marriage and respect for the rule of law for over 130 years.

As I rocked my two year old, Elijah, finally to sleep, I wondered what I would be leaving to him. As a father I need to provide him security. As an MP I need to uphold the security and stability of the traditional definition of marriage and the rule of law.

I thank the people of Essex for expressing their firm defence of marriage and the rule of law. On their behalf, I call on colleagues of the House to amend the bill so that the courts will hear and respect that marriage in Canada will be the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of any other.

The BudgetRoyal Assent

February 24th, 2005 / 12:20 p.m.
See context

The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received which is as follows:

Rideau Hall

Ottawa

February 23, 2005

Mr. Speaker:

I have the honour to inform you that the Honourable Louis LeBel, Puisne Judge of the Supreme Court of Canada, in his capacity as Deputy of the Governor General, signified royal assent by written declaration to the bills listed in the Schedule to this letter on the 24th day of February, 2005, at 11:02 a.m.

Yours sincerely,

Curtis Barlow for Barbara Uteck

Secretary to the Governor General

The schedule indicates that royal assent was given to: Bill C-7, an act to amend the Department of Canadian Heritage Act and the Parks Canada Agency Act and to make related amendments to other Acts--Chapter No. 2; Bill C-4, an act to implement the Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment and the Protocol to the Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment on Matters Specific to Aircraft Equipment--Chapter No. 3; Bill C-302, an act to change the name of the electoral district of Kitchener--Wilmot--Wellesley--Woolwich--Chapter No. 4; Bill C-304, an act to change the name of the electoral district of Battle River--Chapter No. 5; and Bill C-36, an act to change the boundaries of the Acadie—Bathurst and Miramichi electoral districts--Chapter No. 6.

Department of Canadian Heritage ActGovernment Orders

November 26th, 2004 / 10:30 a.m.
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NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise with a great desire to speak to the bill, not only because of my involvement in the previous Parliament but because our party has concerns with regard to where we go as a country with our natural areas, particularly those areas that are encompassed by the Parks Canada legislation.

Bill C-7, now at third reading, is being treated as a housekeeping bill in the sense that all we are doing is transferring responsibility for our parks, both on land and in water, to the Department of the Environment, from heritage. Our party has pressed for that transfer for a long time. I believe it is necessary for Canada to do this.

Having said that, we need to place in context where we are with our parks, again both on land and in water. One of the things that I want to address is a concern with the attitude of the government toward our parks.

As we have heard from the previous speaker in some detail, we have a proud history of developing and taking care of our parks. However, that is dated history. As we heard from the previous prime minister, the plan is to expand our parks, and we need to do that. There is an international standard that we need to meet.

As I travel both within the country and, more important, outside the country, it is interesting to see the attention paid to Canada in this area. Canada has large undeveloped areas. They are still in their natural state. There is an expectation across the globe that we will foster protection for those areas. The concern that I and my party have is we are not doing a good enough job.

The standard internationally is that 12% of all our land, and that includes both in the water and on land, is to be set aside and preserved in its natural state. If we do a superficial analysis, we are fairly close to that, especially when we take into account the lands that we expect will be moved over into our national parks. We have moved reasonably well at a theoretical level. However, the reality on the ground and in the water is different.

In the last Parliament, we moved to expand our facilities in the water, in the form of marine conservation areas. I would point out one of the other countries that has taken more of a leading role. Australia, is way ahead of us in this regard. It had marine conservation areas of a similar nature almost two decades ago. We only got to it about two years ago.

The concerns we have, with the role the federal government has played or this Liberal administration has since being elected in 1993, is that the parks have deteriorated. Any number of reports, which have come out in the last four to five years, show that not enough money has been spent to maintain the existing parks. Not only are the buildings within the parks themselves deteriorating quite noticeably, so are the natural areas. We need to address those reports and meet the requirements set out in the recommendations, and we are not.

For instance, it was quite interesting to see what happened when the previous prime minister announced that we would have these 10 new parks. That was about two years ago. The funding to go with that was woefully inadequate. It simply would not do it. This is perhaps the height of hypocrisy. Those parks took in areas that had substantial first nations land claims against them. I would suggest, without prejudging the outcome, that it will be established that the first nations claims are valid.

The prime minister of the day was in fact proposing to convey land into the public sphere that ultimately is not public land, it is first nations land. That is a real problem.

Similarly, in the last Parliament, as I said earlier, we passed the legislation dealing with marine conservation areas. However, there is no way near enough money to protect them. In fact, the legislation has some major flaws in the provisions about what would be permitted in those marine conservation areas, including dragging off the east coast that would destroy the coral that is there. This is one of the major reasons that we should be protecting that area.

On both the east and west coasts, it would allow for exploration for minerals, and oil and gas deposits which in most cases require the use of explosives. This would damage the biological integrity of those areas.

We have a situation where at the pronouncement level it looks good. However, when we get down to the reality of what is happening in our parks, whether on land or in the seas, we are not carrying through to meet that international standard that we are being expected to by the world.

I want to go back for a minute to the role that first nations have played in this area. The reason we are close to having the 12%, the international standard, is because the first nations claims, particularly in the northern territories, have provided us with a good deal of that percentage. It is one that I think we have to recognize as a society and as a government. We have to acknowledge that what they have done as a people is to protect the biological integrity of the areas that they control.

I want to deal a bit more with the threats that we are faced with in the parks and that we would like to have seen addressed in this bill. As opposed to this simply being a housekeeping bill to transfer responsibility, we would prefer to see more in the way of regulation and legislation that would protect our natural areas in our parks and marine conservation areas.

I want to talk about the attitude that we saw expressed by the government. We moved as a party, on behalf of our member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, that the responsibility be directly attributed to the Minister of the Environment. The bill, as it originally came before the House before it was successfully amended, provided that any minister or other individuals within the Privy Council Office could be designated as responsible.

This goes to the essential attitude that this government has had since 1993 of seeing parks sort of off on the side and not having a champion, not having an advocate. When Parks Canada was with heritage, the heritage minister obviously had conflicting responsibilities: to protect the arts and culture, broadcasting, et cetera, and Parks Canada was an additional responsibility.

As a result of that, we saw a dramatic deterioration in the parks. It is appropriate that we put it back into an environment where we have the minister who, one would expect, and I do not say we always get that from these ministers, would play that championing role, that advocacy role within the government and within cabinet to see to it that the parks do not further deteriorate and in fact the remedial work is done. They should be brought back to the standard one would expect and new parks would be properly protected. Boundaries would be built around them so that we would not see any deterioration in those parks, or usages within those parks that would be inappropriate and incompatible with maintaining them in their natural state.

We need that person in the cabinet. We moved that amendment and want to acknowledge the support that we received from the opposition parties on that amendment. We got it through successfully earlier this week.

What it says to us as a party is that the Liberal government is really not serious. We would like to see other issues addressed. We are obviously not going to get it. We will support this bill because it is important to have the transfer made from heritage to environment.

However, we would have appreciated and expected that the government would have taken a more proactive role in seeing that other protections were built into the legislation so that our parks would meet the standards that the international community is expecting of us and more importantly, that Canadians from coast to coast to coast are expecting of us.

We talk about the national identity of Canadians and the angst that we sometimes go through. We know that our health care system is one of the programs that we point to that separates us from other countries and that makes us proud to be Canadians.

The national parks fit into that category as well, whether it is in the Maritimes, again offshore or onshore, whether it is in central Canada, in the Prairies, in the Rockies, in B.C., or up north in the territories. In every area there are national parks or natural areas that we are proud as Canadians to say we are protecting and we will protect.

That is the essence I believe of being Canadian. If we travel, especially in the developed world, we are looked at as having the best of both worlds. We have an economy that is strong, but we also have been able within that to protect our parks. It is very important that Canadians do that and it is very important that we continue to do that.

This legislation does not advance us much in that regard. Other than making the transfer and hoping that we end up with an advocate within the government and within cabinet, it does not advance us much in that regard, in spite of the expectations of both Canadians and the world as a whole.

I want to spend a couple of minutes on other threats that are applicable to the parks. Threats that I would ask the government to consider subsequently in regulation, because some of this could be done by regulation. Some of it will have to be done by legislation and some of it has to be done by way of cooperation with the provinces and our neighbour to the south, the United States.

We need to build corridors in order to preserve any number of species. Some of those corridors go down into the United States. A good number of them go east and west across provincial boundaries and cross into areas where there are provincial parks. We need to develop a much more efficient system of working with the provinces and the United States to assure that those corridors will be established and will be maintained so that we stop losing the habitat for so many of our species.

We can point as one example to the grizzly population in Banff which is under very severe threat because the gene pool is so limited. There is not enough diversity in that gene pool and we badly need to develop a corridor for the grizzlies within that park so that they would be able to move in and out in a much more natural and effective way to maintain that gene pool.

Similarly, there are a number of areas that we need to work on with the provinces because we need to protect the area adjacent to our national parks. We have, in a number of places, quite significant suburban types of development, large developments going in immediately adjacent to parks and putting significant pressure on the national parks. We need to be working with the provinces around land use control in order to ensure that there are buffer areas that are natural or semi-natural, that will act as a buffer for our national parks.

We have to be very clear that we will not allow incompatible usages in our parks, whether it is mining or forestry, and we can go down the list. I mentioned earlier the use of explosives in the exploration for mineral resources in marine conservation areas. It is extremely detrimental to the natural species that inhabit those areas and we need to put an end to the ability of the private sector to do that.

In a number of cases, that is work that can be done within the national government, but there are other times when assistance is required in cooperation with the provinces. Therefore, we need to be developing more extensively our relationships in that regard.

In conclusion, we recognize that this is a housekeeping bill. It is one that we as a party are going to support because we badly need to have that champion, that advocate for the parks that has been so sorely missed in the last 11 to 12 years under this Liberal administration. We need that person and we need that person to do the job, which is to fight hard to ensure that protections are there and that the funds to develop and protect the parks are in place.

We will support the bill, but we are also asking the government to give serious consideration to additional regulations, legislation and the diplomacy that we need to build with other jurisdictions.

Department of Canadian Heritage ActGovernment Orders

November 26th, 2004 / 10 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted this morning to rise on Bill C-7. The bill is in fact a reaffirmation of the government's absolute desire and commitment not only to review the responsibilities associated with our natural heritage with respect to our parks and historic designations within our parks and natural environment, but also to make sure of the continuity required with respect to our built history, to make sure that there is a very clear delineation of responsibility with respect to maintaining what Canadians have a right to. Their natural and their built heritage should be protected, administered and managed in manner that is in keeping with the high degree of responsibility we all feel for our heritage.

As members will know, then, the bill 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. As I said, it will delineate responsibilities.

The thrust of my comments today will be about the action plan on establishing new national parks and national marine conservation areas within the context of the bill, two subjects which members have said from time to time are issues they really want to get into.

I will give members a little history. On December 12, the control and supervision of the Parks Canada Agency was transferred from the Minister of Canadian Heritage to the Minister of the Environment. This transfer was given effect through an order in council.

On July 20, 2004, another order in council came into effect relating to responsibilities for our built heritage. It was required in order to clarify the earlier order in council. First, control and supervision of the historic places policy group, that group and its responsibilities, was transferred from the Department of Canadian Heritage to Parks Canada. Second, the powers, duties and functions related to the design and implementation of the program that had built heritage as their primary subject matter were transferred from the Minister of Canadian Heritage to the Minister of the Environment.

Bill C-7, as I have indicated, will update the legislation to reflect these directions and these responsibilities.

The bill deals with the machinery of government and does not contain any substantive policy provisions. It simply gives legislative effect to the direction that the government reorganization was taking, as announced on December 2003, in particular as it affects Parks Canada.

In addition to amending the Department of Canadian Heritage Act and the Parks Canada Agency Act, Bill C-7 also amends statutes through which Parks Canada delivers its mandate: the Canada National Parks Act; the Historic Sites and Monuments Act; the Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act; the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act; the Saguenay--St. Lawrence Marine Park Act; the Species at Risk Act; and the Canada Shipping Act. All of these are associated statutes that are implicated by this transfer. But there are no additional funding requirements related to Bill C-7, as the jurisdictional responsibilities with respect to funding, works and associated initiatives obviously are within the budgets of the relevant departments.

Parks Canada's organizational integrity has been maintained. The Parks Canada agency remains committed to working with Canadians to protect and present nationally significant examples of Canada's natural and cultural heritage for present and future generations.

I think it would be an understatement to say that the examples of that unique heritage, which in fact is a reflection of the various cycles of immigration and our first nations and aboriginal peoples and so on, are top of mind with respect to our heritage.

I would like to take a few moments to talk about the Parks Canada story. I think it is a global best practice. It is a story that is worth repeating often in order for us to have a sense of just how absolutely spectacular this country is in terms of its natural heritage.

I am sure that from the House's perspective Canada's national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas are somewhat akin to the soul of our country. They are a central part of who we are and what we are and in fact what we want to be. It is what we signal to the world that is so important with respect to the preservation and the stewardship of the natural heritage we enjoy.

These places are obviously places of wonder and awe for those Canadians who have travelled from coast to coast to coast. I happen to be one of them. I am never above and beyond being totally impressed with what God has given us as a natural environment. It is just so absolutely awesome, even in the global context.

Each of those places also tells its own story because the people who live in those areas have a special kinship with respect to their natural heritage and their built heritage. In fact, it is a reflection of a very regional kinship that people have with their own immediate environment. It is one that they wish to share with all Canadians and in fact with the world. It is unique. That natural environment, our built environment, is also a reflection of the mosaic that we refer to as Canada.

What we cherish as part of our national identity, we also recognize as part of our national responsibility. If we feel so strongly on the one hand how special our heritage is, then equally we have to rise to the challenge in terms of our accountability to nurture and preserve it.

All Canadians share the responsibility to preserve and protect Canada's unique cultural and natural heritage. Together, we hold our national parks, our national historic sites and our national marine conservation areas in trust for the benefit of this and future generations.

Canada has the distinction of having established the first national park service in the world. Over the decades, our system of national parks has grown to 41 national parks and reserves, preserving for future generations almost 265,000 square kilometres of lands and waters. There are plans to add an additional 100,000 square kilometres through the creation of eight more national parks. This legacy is possible in large part because provincial and territorial governments, aboriginal and first nations people and local communities have worked with us to create many of these new national parks.

The creation and management of national parks is a delicate balance between protection of ecologically significant areas of importance to wildlife and meeting economic and social needs of communities.

The Government of Canada is committed to working with aboriginal people, local communities and other Canadians and stakeholders to protect our precious national heritage through the creation of new national parks and national marine conservation areas. When I say the Government of Canada, I include that this particular issue is a non-partisan issue in which all members of the House on both sides, in all parties, feel the same with respect to the protection of our natural and built heritage.

In October 2002 the government announced an initiative to substantially complete Canada's system of national parks by creating 10 new parks over the next five years. This will expand the system by almost 50%, with the total area spanning nearly the size of Newfoundland and Labrador. We have already created two of these 10 new national parks with work continuing on eight other proposals. Five new national marine conservation areas will also be created.

Canada is blessed with exceptional natural treasures. We owe it to Canadians and to the world to protect these lands and waters. The action plan calls on Parks Canada to work with all of its partners, the provinces and territories, aboriginal and rural communities, industry, environmental groups, labour and all others, to complete this effort.

In March 2003 the government allocated $144 million over five years and $29 million annually thereafter toward this effort.

The action plan has already produced two national parks. The new Gulf Islands National Park Reserve of Canada protects 33 square kilometres of ecologically rare land in the southern Gulf Islands of British Columbia.

At over 20,000 square kilometres the new Ukkusiksalik National Park of Canada protects virtually an entire watershed close to the Arctic Circle in Nunavut.

As we speak, the whole issue of ecological balance is being discussed. We have had the recent Arctic report out of Iceland and a conference is going on with respect to countries that have responsibility for the Arctic. Our mandate is to be accountable to preserving the Arctic. We all know there are huge challenges with respect to global warming and the Arctic.

Other parallel concerns are being expressed through reports that will be coming to the House. As a matter of fact, there will be a report today with respect to water quality in some of our natural areas, one of which is the Great Lakes Basin, that will be a parallel effort in an attempt to make sure that these natural areas are protected, the latter being water quality.

The Ukkusiksalik Park is a product of an agreement between the Government of Canada and the Inuit of Nunavut forged over several decades of hard work, all focused on protecting land, water, caribou and polar bears for present and future generations.

Specific sites for more national parks will be selected in other natural regions across Canada, the southern Okanagan; the lower Similkameen in interior British Columbia; Labrador's Torngat Mountains and Mealy Mountains; Manitoba's lowland boreal forests; Bathurst Island in Nunavut; and the east arm of Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories. Just to speak about those potential inclusions geographically gives one the sense of the vastness of Canada. Sites for the two remaining national parks are being identified by Parks Canada.

Negotiations to establish the Torngat Mountains National Park Reserve in northern Labrador are nearing completion. Members will be pleased to know that this longstanding proposal will protect some of the highest mountains in North America east of the Canadian Rockies.

In March 2004 the Premier of Manitoba and the former minister of the environment signed a memorandum of agreement identifying the boundaries for public consultation for a national park in the Manitoba lowlands. They also committed to negotiating a national park establishment agreement by May 2005. Both parks will make significant additions to our worldclass national parks system.

The government is also working with partners to establish five new national marine conservation areas, adding an estimated 15,000 square kilometres to the system. This will be a major step for global conservation of marine habitat. Canada has the world's longest coastline and 7% of its fresh water.

This commitment to creating a new marine conservation area is consistent with recent Speeches from the Throne in which our government made a commitment to create new marine protected areas as part of the ocean action plan. These national marine conservation areas will be located in ecologically unrepresented marine regions. Four sites have been identified, including the Gwaii Haanas off British Columbia's Queen Charlotte Islands, western Lake Superior, British Columbia's southern Strait of Georgia and the waters off the Îles de la Madeleine in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

While a site for the remaining national marine conservation area has yet to be finalized, Parks Canada has received a number of proposals from local communities, a testament to the growing interest in the conservation of our marine heritage.

In addition, the government will accelerate its actions over the next five years to improve the ecological integrity of Canada's 41 existing national parks. This will implement the action plan arising from the report of the panel on the ecological integrity of Canada's national parks, which was endorsed by the government in April 2000.

These two initiatives, the action plan to establish our system and to expand our system of national parks and national marine conservation areas and the action plan on ecological integrity, are the most ambitious initiatives to expand and protect national parks and national marine conservation areas in over 100 years, indeed, since Banff National Park of Canada, Canada's first, was established in 1885.

Parks Canada needs to get on with the job and Parliament has assigned the job to it. I urge all members, for the reasons I have attempted to articulate in my comments, to support the bill as a major step forward in outlining and saying to Canadians that the House, the government and all parties understand the responsibilities with respect to the stewardship of our natural and built environment, and that the bill is a step toward maintaining that accountability with all Canadians.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

November 25th, 2004 / 3 p.m.
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Hamilton East—Stoney Creek Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon we will continue with the opposition motion. Tomorrow we hope to complete third reading of Bill C-7, respecting parks second reading of Bill C-22, the social development legislation, and second reading of Bill C-9, the Quebec economic development bill.

Next week we will give priority to second reading of Bill C-24, the equalization legislation. We also will try to complete any business left over from this week.

When bills come back from the Senate or committee, as the case may be, we will add them to the list. Hopefully this will include Bill S-17 respecting tax treaties and Bill C-5, the learning bonds bill. By the end of the week, we hope to be able to proceed with Bills C-25, the radarsat bill, and Bill C-26, the border services bill.

Next Thursday shall be an allotted day.

Department of Canadian Heritage ActGovernment Orders

November 24th, 2004 / 5:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Russ Powers Liberal Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, when we get into discussions about various legislation, we always find the opportunity to have dialogue on a number of issues that are concurrent to particular legislation. One of the wonderful things about Parliament is that we get the opportunity to not only bring forward ideas and issues that are consistent for our own ridings, but things in which we have a common interest.

Tonight, certainly, that has been apparent through the discussions. We have been able to convey issues that are important not only to our children and grandchildren but also to us.

Bill C-7, which is before us for consideration at third reading, can be perceived as an administrative shift; in other words, the appropriate realignment of the duties and responsibilities of these areas, whether it relates to historic sites or the designation of our parks. It is very appropriate that they be so delineated so they can get the resources they deserve.

The parliamentary secretary addressed the legislative components and, from an administrative standpoint, where it was best suited. I want to now delve into an issue that has been alluded to by a number of others, which is the ecological integrity and the realignment of our national parks as it relates to the realignment under Parks Canada.

It gives me great pleasure to address the third reading of 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. The bill would give legislative effect to the government reorganization that was announced on December 12, 2003, as it affects Parks Canada, the Minister of Canadian Heritage and the Minister of the Environment.

The bill would update existing legislation to reflect two orders in council that came into effect in December 2003 and also in July 2004, which transferred the control and supervision of the 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.

As we are aware, the battlefields, as they are known here in Canada, continue to be under Heritage Canada because of the commission that was established back in 1908 for that purpose.

Permit me to take members back a few years to introduce them to what I mean by ecological integrity in our national parks. In March 2000 the independent panel on ecological integrity of Canada's national parks tabled its report. The panel's report was quite comprehensive and contained more than 120 recommendations for action. As it was intended to be, the report was very frank in pointing out not only the deficiencies but the challenges that face our national parks.

One of the previous members referred to the fact that when we talk about identification, whether it is the Canadian flag, the maple leaf or the beaver, the recognition of our national parks ranks with those as being something that is truly Canadian.

The panel's report confirmed that most of Canada's national parks had been progressively losing precisely those important natural components that we as a government and all of us as members of Parliament were dedicated to protect.

Accordingly, the panel called for a fundamental reaffirmation of the legislative framework that protects the parks, together with policies to conserve these places and the appropriation of funds necessary to support these efforts.

Parks Canada committed itself to implementing the report and its recommendations insofar as it was legislatively and fiscally possible. It is now being done in full dialogue with all affected parties, and helped tremendously by the funding announced in budget 2003. I would anticipate further funding will be committed in budget 2005.

Parks Canada's first priority for national parks is to maintain or restore ecological integrity. This is prescribed by the government legislation, that is the Canada National Parks Act, proclaimed in 2001. Subsection 8(2) reads:

Maintenance or restoration of ecological integrity, through the protection of natural resources and natural processes, shall be the first priority of the Minister when considering all aspects of the management of parks.

Why is ecological integrity so important? It is important because the loss of natural features, natural features that are so identified within our national parks and processes, deprive Canadians of the opportunity to use and enjoy these places for the purposes for which they were intended. Loss of ecological integrity contradicts the very purposes for which our parks were set aside and constitute an irreversible loss of heritage to both current and future generations.

Achieving the maintenance or restoration of ecological integrity also means putting science first. This includes traditional ecological knowledge.

Our national parks and our national historic sites are very important symbols of Canada. Canadians, through personal visits and other learning mechanisms, can use these places to enhance their pride in, and knowledge of, Canada and of Canadians.

Parks Canada is committed to an expanded public education and outreach program to convey accurate, interesting and up to date information to Canadians and those who are not Canadians, and perhaps those who would like to be Canadians.

The provision of information via the Internet is a priority for Parks Canada. This type of interactive outreach continues to intensify and is aimed at our urban areas. The objective is, in effect, to bring our national parks and their values to people who may not otherwise have the opportunity to visit them or may visit them only infrequently.

Our marketing programs emphasize the primary conservation purposes of our national parks. Accordingly, visitors are encouraged to understand and respect these purposes and to plan their activities and visits to align with them.

Parks Canada, rightfully so, is committed to improving ecological integrity in a number of ways: first, improving our science, particularly research and monitoring the health of our parks; second, through communication, specifically enhanced interpretation and education activities; third, reducing impacts on facilities; and fourth, implementing up to date environmental management practices and technologies.

I would stress that one cannot sustain economic benefits without enhancing both the natural environment of the parks and visitors' enjoyment of them. I would equally stress that any changes must and will be implemented in full consultation with partners, including the provinces and territories, national and regional tourism, non-governmental bodies and, of course, aboriginal people. If indeed town sites and municipal authorities are so involved, they also will be involved in our dialogue.

A priority area of the panel's report concerned the impact of stressors that have their origin in places external to the park's boundaries. To deal with such factors, the panel called for renewed an expanded partnerships. The proposed transfer of lands is one such partnership. In this respect the panel was coming up from a place with which we are all familiar: the notion that what we do in our own backyard can have significant effects in our neighbour's backyard.

I will digress for a moment and talk about my experiences and understandings. I had the pleasure of serving as an elected individual in a municipal setting for close to 22 years. In that capacity I served as chairman of one of the 38 conservation authorities in the province of Ontario. These were set up in the late 1950s to recognize the major impact of hurricane Hazel which came through and devastated many town sites and certainly our water course system. The legislation that was brought in at the time identified the need for the creation of watersheds. It identified that there were no political or municipal boundaries because a water course begins at its source and ultimately finds itself to its mouth. As a result, it impacts everyone in its course.

We found that dealing with our deliberations in a watershed manner gave us the opportunity to consider all the impacts that would have on our neighbours either internally or externally. This is an approach that we will take with the intervention and involvement of Parks Canada in the program where not only what is within our parks is considered, but also the impacts that are felt from the outside.

It is difficult to overestimate the importance of these issues because our national parks have many concerns that are shared in common by partners, such as the provinces, the territories, aboriginal peoples, private landowners and various other interests. There are so many it is hard to name them.

In particular, I have never known nature to recognize or respect a human boundary. One day a grizzly bear may be in a national park and the next day it is in another jurisdiction. Those who are residents in Jasper or in Banff know of the migration or the impact of the flora and fauna on their lives and as a result adjust accordingly. Rivers, likewise, flow through jurisdictions. Acid rain from many kilometres away becomes a park problem when it impacts national park resources. The list goes on and on.

Fundamentally, renewed and extended cooperation among neighbours who share common concerns is the only option toward maintaining ecological integrity. It is in this spirit that the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation and Parks Canada intend to work together to ensure that the ecological integrity of the Pacific Rim continues to be the first priority.

The bottom line is that we must improve the ways we work together if we are to safeguard the future of our national parks. The nature of the programs we devise to do so will be established in cooperation and consultation with interested partners. Throughout this process the prerogatives of constitutionally defined jurisdictions, as well as the rights of private property owners, will be respected.

I have just sketched for the House a very broad overview of where Parks Canada is coming from and where it hopes to go. In summary, first, the panel report on ecological integrity was an important milestone for the future of the national parks of Canada. Parks Canada has taken it seriously and is moving forward in implementing the directions it recommended. Its implementation in a purposeful yet sensitive way is bringing benefits to us all. Its neglect would have meant untold costs to all Canadians forever.

The provinces, territories and aboriginal peoples are and will continue to be significant partners in achieving protection of our national parks. Viewed narrowly, in terms of jurisdiction alone, Canada's national parks and other federally protected areas fall under the stewardship of the federal government, but they really belong to all of us. They are the legacy of each and every Canadian. Let us enable future historians to say that on our watch we protected this precious legacy and even left it in better condition than we found it.

I urge all members to support the passage of Bill C-17.

Department of Canadian Heritage ActGovernment Orders

November 24th, 2004 / 4:50 p.m.
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NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a great privilege for me to rise today in the House to speak to Bill C-7. While it has been referred to in a number of different ways by various members in the House as a technical move and a piece of housekeeping, it also affords us the opportunity to refocus our attention on the importance that we place on national parks and heritage sites.

The importance that we have been placing on this in a lot of respects has been mere words and nice intentions. Some questions have been put to the government asking what its intentions are with respect to the budget, moneys, and the serious intent that will follow this so-called housekeeping procedure.

We support the move of Parks Canada to the Department of the Environment. This makes perfect sense with respect to protecting the ecological integrity and administration. That is where it started out and that is where it should go back.

I am a new member and the process that we went through in terms of addressing this bill, taking a look at it thoroughly in committee, making some changes to it, and how those changes came about, was very informative to me in terms of how the House could possibly function. There is a certain measure of cultural experience going on for certain political staffers within the government as to how the House may or may not function in the future.

In the past there may have been some tendency to steamroll things, to push things through committee, heaven forbid, or to use non-elected representatives to push a certain political agenda. We bumped into a bit of that in the process of this bill coming forward. It was very interesting to watch how the House functioned as a whole, how we were able to get support from the other opposition parties, talk to members within the government who also found some agreement toward the changes that we were looking for, and receive enough support to have proper and good amendments come forward.

We started with a good bill. It was potentially a housekeeping bill and we made it better. That is the idea of this place, not to simply accept what comes forward but to make changes that we feel represent the views of our constituents across this country. That is the work of the committee and the House.

Herein lies an opportunity for us in this minority government to address other more significant pieces of legislation. I am thinking of Kyoto, water and air quality across this country, and other aspects of the environment, which other members have spoken about today, that need addressing and need the influence of all members of the House in terms of drafting legislation. I am encouraging the government and its political machine to consider conferring with the other parties prior to tabling bills.

There was a suggestion put forward last night in a small committee about green papers, the reintroduction of discussion papers from the government, allowing them to approach other members to have discussion points rather than presenting take it or leave it bills, and going through the arduous process of making serious amendments. There seemed to be a great receptivity among those who were involved in the committee work last night toward a move where the government would come forward with a series of questions and proposals which members in the House could toss around back and forth, and then legislation could derive from that.

I believe this legislation is stronger for a number of the points that have been raised by other opposition members and by members of the government. This piece of legislation firmly affixes where the control and responsibility lies. Who, in a sense, holds the bag for parks in Canada? It is with the Minister of the Environment. The minister is in the best position to understand the importance of ecological integrity and is put in cabinet to protect those aspects that have been talked about so much in the House and in committee, namely, how important parks are to our national identity.

I believe the member for Red Deer was referring to how important parks are for people just to refer to places. There are certain parks that people can bring forward in their minds. Clearly, it is a part of our makeup in this country. Oftentimes Canadians fall back and forth trying to find some point of identity. How do we distinguish ourselves on the world stage? Clearly, we have some perception of ourselves as protectors of the environment. We have some perception of ourselves as having great open spaces that we take care of and manage on behalf of future generations and on behalf of the globe, quite frankly.

Are we properly funding these things? Absolutely not. We have been hearing this from former environment ministers. We are hearing it from the parliamentary secretary. While the words and the platitudes are nice, that these parks are important, that species are important, that we care about future generations and these historic sites, we seem to lose the will along the way, when we head to the budget process, to actually find the dollars identified by the Auditor General and the minister's own staff that are needed to protect both the ecological integrity and the historic sites within this country.

I want to ask a question of the parliamentary secretary in terms of the reconstruction, redesign and rebuilding of many of our monuments and sites. When I look around this particular site here with the asbestos in the walls, the terrible footprint that this place leaves in terms of its actual harmony with the environment, the buildings that we stand in and work in are not healthy buildings. They are not healthy for the people who work here. They are not healthy for the environment as a whole because they leak so much energy.

I would certainly encourage the government, as we are looking to make some real investments in the future, to think of the ecological footprint of all these buildings we are hoping to restore. I hear the Prime Minister is having some problems with some drafts in his residence. We would be more than open to the suggestion of actually fixing the environmental catastrophe that the Prime Minister's residence has become.

Department of Canadian Heritage ActGovernment Orders

November 24th, 2004 / 4:20 p.m.
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Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to have this opportunity today to speak to Bill C-7.

This is a bill we have had an opportunity to examine in committee. It is administrative in nature, in principle at least, but has also afforded us an opportunity to do some serious thinking about the role parks should play in Canada.

This bill was introduced on October 8 by the Minister of the Environment. Hon. members will recall that the hon. member for Victoria, who was with us this afternoon but has unfortunately has had to leave, was the one behind this bill, the purpose of which is to transfer responsibility, control and supervision of the parks agency to Canadian Heritage from Environment.

We need to keep in mind the reason we are examining this bill today. We are doing so because the government decided on December 12, 2003, to enact an order in council in order to transfer these responsibilities, as I have said, from Canadian Heritage to Environment. What is more, on July 20, 2004, a further order in council came into effect relating to the responsibilities for built heritage. It was required in order to clarify the earlier order in council. The basic purpose of the bill is to provide legislative support to the orders in council of December 12, 2003, and July 20, 2004.

What is more natural than to have our parks come under the responsibility of the Department of the Environment? What this bill reflects is the aspect of ecotourism. We cannot take steps to protect areas, to implement a policy intended to protect ecosystems and to apply notions of ecological integrity as is the mission of Parks Canada, in part, when the agency is connected to Canadian Heritage, with its totally different vocation.

It is somewhat natural, if I may use that expression, to see this responsibility being transferred to the Department of the Environment. To us it is obvious and significant. We must remember the whims of the previous Minister of Canadian Heritage; every time she touched a tourism product or opportunity, no matter what it was, all she saw was an opportunity to make political hay.

Despite the past whims of the former Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, now the Minister of the Environment, we hope that ecological integrity is at the heart of this administrative change we are now looking at in legislative form.

Of course, this is a technical change. On this side of the House we have determined that this change will not have administrative impacts that would damage or distort the working environment. That is important. In recent months we have seen the conflicts at Parks Canada and seen how the agency's employees have been treated. On this side of the House we saw this legislative change. We have, by talking to the unions, ascertained that this administrative change will not have an impact on the way the work is done. That is what the union leaders have told us and that is the guarantee the government has given us.

Therefore, there is nothing in this bill that could change the way work is organized and thus change the employee's job descriptions. What we hope is that the government has learned from the recent dispute at Parks Canada that it should provide the necessary conditions so employees can do their work properly.

When I met with representatives of the Public Service Alliance of Canada on this issue, they described the conditions in which some employees work every day. There are mitigation measures in Forillon Park, for example. With a choice between preventing or reducing the impact of erosion on a hill and constructing a wharf, the wharf was chosen. In a context where ecological integrity should have been protected, the choice was made to improve tourism infrastructure.

It is not incompatible, and I do understand that. Ecology and tourism can go together, except that management, and of course the employees who work on Parks Canada infrastructure, do not have enough resources. When ecological integrity—and those whose responsibility it is to protect it—is shortchanged in terms of resources, it is always the ecosystem that suffers in the end.

We cannot talk about ecosystems without talking about habitat, which, in turn, brings us back to the issue of species at risk and endangered species. These species will never be adequately protected, if there is no real protection of their habitat.

My concern is that the conditions facing those who manage our parks and the employees who devote their time to parks are less than ideal in terms of work organization as well as resource protection. In the coming years, we will have to not only implement administrative changes such as the ones we are considering today, but also to strengthen our network of parks in Canada.

Let us be clear however. I did not say extend the network of Parks Canada. We are basically facing choices. What are these choices that this Parliament might have to make? What decisions might Parliament, and the Minister of Finance in particular, have to make in the coming years? We have two choices. One choice would be to consolidate the network of parks in Canada. At present, everyone agrees that the current network is in an advanced state of deterioration. Even the Auditor General said so in 1996. The other choice would be to increase the number of parks in Canada.

Choices have to be made. We cannot have it both ways. Either we consolidate the existing network by providing quality services while ensuring proper environmental integrity, or we increase funding and dole out money here and there to develop protected areas all over the place, without necessarily ensuring habitat protection.

We have to think about these things. There are consequences for Quebec. I will remind the hon. members that one of the key elements in past negotiations between the federal government and the provinces was this transition from land belonging to the provinces, naturally, to land under federal jurisdiction. Increasing the number of parks and the area designated as protected increases at the same time the number of crown lands, which means that they will be under federal jurisdiction.

Very often, federal jurisdiction is difficult to enforce on these lands, whether we are talking about the Species at Risk Act or the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

Quite often, these acts, which were adopted here in Parliament, are not even implemented on lands that are under federal jurisdiction.

This is why I am asking today that our existing parks be consolidated, in cooperation with the provinces and park networks.

Let us not forget that we have wildlife preserves in Quebec. We have parks that are under the responsibility of Parcs Québec. It is possible to consolidate the existing federal network while also consolidating the existing provincial network. The idea is not to increase the number of parks in Quebec merely for the sake of it.

We must care about protecting and implementing the concept of ecological integrity, which is based on the protection of our ecosystems. There is a lot of work to do in this regard, because, as I said, resources are limited and needs are constantly growing.

The report tabled by the Auditor General in 1996 is a case in point. This report was released over eight years ago. However, it was mentioned that even though Canada adopted the concept of ecosystem-based management, even though Parks Canada defines ecological integrity as a condition where the structure and function of an ecosystem are unimpaired by stresses induced by human activity and are likely to persist, the planning process does not always provide a clear link between ecological integrity objectives and initiatives. That was the conclusion of the Auditor General of Canada.

That means there is a flaw in the Parks Canada mission, in the concepts it adheres to and also in its practice.

We can only hope that this administrative change will result in concrete changes in practice. We have to make sure that the Parks Canada goal to maintain ecological integrity is put into practice.

That is why we sincerely hope that these administrative changes, which will transfer this agency from Canadian Heritage to Environment Canada, will help us move in that direction and reach the mission objectives.

I congratulate my hon. colleague from the NDP opposite as well as his party for presenting this motion, which was adopted by this Parliament a few days ago. It leaves no room for prevarication by the government. My colleague opposite took measures that have been adopted by this Parliament to ensure this responsibility truly falls to the Minister of the Environment.

Of course there are administrative changes made by order in council and there is this bill. However, in this Parliament we made sure this responsibility will truly belong to the Minister of the Environment. I think this is another way to consolidate and to make sure that ecological integrity will be maintained.

I was saying earlier that the federal government is in no position to preach in its jurisdiction. I was saying that many parks in Canada are in poor shape and their ecological integrity is not being protected. There is also the example of Gatineau Park.

Believe it or not, but Gatineau Park, which is not far from here—a few kilometres or a few minutes from Parliament Hill—does not have legal status under Canadian law. This park is the responsibility of the National Capital Commission, whose primary interest is urban development such as developing Sparks Street here in Ottawa. It is quite incredible. This park is federal responsibility, it is not part of Parks Canada's network, but rather the National Capital Commission, which in the past, has often been lax when it came time to apply the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

This land, which is under federal jurisdiction, is not protected by the same guarantees as those confirmed by Parks Canada in its mission. The park comes under the responsibility of a commission that looks after such urban planning matters as certain streets in this city, Ottawa. There is something unacceptable about that.

This is why we have representations from members of a not-for-profit organization inquiring whether this jewel of biodiversity, which is there to protect the habitat, could come under Parks Canada. I have no problem with that, provided things are done correctly, that Parliament is duly informed, and that we can guarantee the ecological integrity of the area.

We are aware that, when it comes to parks, and without saying that the law of the jungle prevails at present, there is a lot to be done. There is legal protection in place, yes, but very often no resources available. What is more, in the past, the responsibility lay with Canadian Heritage.

I greet the hon. member for Victoria, who has just joined us. I have had many opportunities to join with him in battles for the preservation of ecological integrity. It is rare to see a member of a political party as courageous as he has been in recent weeks and months. He has dared to continue to defend the moratorium on oil exploration in his region. This does him proud, and I mean that.

The government needs to understand that what is fundamental to any decision making, if we want to end up with a true strategy for sustainable development, is to put strategic environmental assessment into application, that is to say make plans, programs and policies focus on sustainable development.

This administrative change we are considering today must therefore be not just that, but have an impact on actual Parks Canada practices as well.

Department of Canadian Heritage ActGovernment Orders

November 24th, 2004 / 3:45 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Bob Mills Conservative Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is certainly my pleasure to speak to the bill again and to let the House know that we support the bill in terms of transfer of parks from the heritage department to the environment department. We think it makes a lot of sense and obviously it can be administered better.

Today we also need to make a commitment to parks and to heritage sites so that in fact they will not become the poor cousins of the environment department and will be considered an important part of this whole portfolio.

The parliamentary secretary has mentioned cooperation between municipalities and between provincial governments. That is something in which our party believes very strongly.

It is interesting, too, when we talk to the general public. I just had the pleasure, along with my colleague from the Bloc, of addressing a group of university students who are here visiting the House this week. When we listen to their questions and concerns, what we hear is that environment certainly plays a very large role in what they think is important for their future, their families' future and their concerns. It is very rewarding to speak to a group like that because of their comments, their questions and their encouragement.

As well, I think it is important to talk about the heritage of parks and what they mean to different Canadians, their importance from an economic and an ecological standpoint, and of course we can get into tourism, what it means, and the image it creates for our country. Many of us who travel a lot and have for many years are very concerned about what people think of our country. Many of them do think about the parks and the parks system. Any number of times when I tell people where I am from they ask if that is close to Banff, Lake Louise or whatever, so it is an international thing that people know about.

I am very concerned as well about the $500 million deficit in infrastructure. The fact is that through the 1950s and 1960s we committed to preserving these parks, to having proper signage, to having a proper system of parks, and we have let that decline for various reasons. I think that for many parks we have done a disservice to future Canadians by letting this happen.

As well, when I visited the parks, I met with chambers of commerce that are close to the parks. I think most specifically of Jasper Park. One of the major comments I heard was the fact that cleaning of snow and repair of highways in parks comes out of the parks' budget, yet many of these roads are through the park and are part of transportation. A great deal of the parks budget is being used up for maintenance of highways, which is a transportation issue and really has nothing at all to do with the park.

Those are the kinds of issues that I hope Environment Canada takes a look at. I hope this department will manage better than the heritage department has done. As the critic for this area, I hope to hold the government's feet to the fire to be sure it makes parks the priority that I think most Canadians want them to be.

As well, having a long term vision and knowing where we want to go in terms of environment and the parks system becomes critical. It does not matter whether we are talking about the Great Lakes or the salmon fishery on the Pacific or of course the serious problems with oil spills in Atlantic Canada. It does not matter where we are talking about. No matter where it is in this country, I believe that we have had a relatively short term vision for what we want to do environmentally.

If anything, ecosystems do not work in the short term and changes to the environment usually happen over much longer periods of time. Again, I would encourage the government to come up with a much longer term plan for parks and for heritage sites throughout this whole country, and it will be our job to make sure that it does.

On the bigger issue, I will comment about the government's performance in environment. It is interesting that we are now rated 24th out of 24 of the industrialized countries by the OECD. We have an analysis done by the Conference Board of Canada. We have the environment commissioner, who for the last number of years has reported on our environmental standing. We are not doing that well. We have a number of major and serious environmental problems. Most of the world thinks of us as being that pristine, clean, pure air and pure water place, yet when we actually pull off the cover we find something quite different.

Therefore, I am disappointed that we are dealing with very minor environment bills. Obviously I am waiting for some substance in terms of the government's plan for the environment. While Bill C-7 is important, it could really be called a housekeeping bill. It is something that we are going to support but basically it is little more than housekeeping.

As for Bill C-15, which is basically about oiled birds in the Atlantic and Pacific, I think I asked my first question about oiled birds in 1996. The number of dying birds was 300,000 a year minimum and was probably more like a million, and I was told that the government would have legislation very soon. That was in 1996. I did a private member's bill in 1997 and here we are in 2004, almost 2005, and we finally have a piece of legislation on the oiling of birds.

That is not very quick action. If we do the mathematics, we see that this is an awful lot of birds. Those populations cannot withstand that kind of loss year after year with a government that is moving so slowly on environmental issues. I would hope that Parks Canada will not undergo that same tedious performance that we have seen to this point on a bill like that.

I want to come back to the environmental issues of our country. To be rated 24th out of 24 by the OECD is quite a shock. To be rated anywhere from 23rd to 15th or so by the Conference Board of Canada and to be rated by a number of other notable boards and groups in the very low part of the industrialized world is not something that I am proud of. Certainly as the senior environment critic, I hope we will change this and dedicate ourselves to change.

Let me give some examples. The first is the issue of raw sewage being dumped into the ocean. It is not a first world, advanced and developed country that dumps raw sewage into the ocean, yet we have three cities dumping raw sewage into the ocean and we call that environmental integrity. We have to change that, if for no other reason than just the reputation of our country.

I worked on the Sumas 2 issue, testifying in the U.S. as an intervenor on the Sumas 2 project and then again in Abbotsford on the same project.

Mr. Speaker, I know you are very familiar with that issue.

When I went to see the governor of the State of Washington it was very interesting. I went there to tell him they were taking water from our aquifer, that they were going to pollute the second most polluted airshed in Canada, the Fraser Valley, and that they were going to dump sewage into the Sumas River, which drains into the Fraser River in Canada. The most important issue was the location, which was wrong because of those factors.

The governor listened and then he commented. His comment was that he was very glad I went to see him. He said that he understood the air quality issue in the Fraser Valley, but he said, “Why don't you and I get in my car and drive down to the Seattle Harbour and you let me show you your sewage coming from Victoria?” He said that when we did something about our sewage, he was ready to talk about our air.

That is a pretty tough argument to follow up on. It is pretty tough to say, “No. My air is more important than your water”. It is not an argument that one is going to win. As a result, we left it at a draw. I came back home and said that I was going to fight like heck to stop that from happening in my country.

We talk about the pure, clean water we have and yet we have over 300 boil water warnings at any given time. Who would have thought that in a country like Canada we would not be able to drink the water wherever we are in this country? I am embarrassed that this is the case. I believe we must dedicate ourselves to fixing that problem because it is a serious problem.

Why did we not get a bill on that issue instead of this one? We could have very quickly transferred our parks. That has been done anyway. It is not a major thing. It is a housekeeping item. Let us talk about sewage. Let us talk about water. Let us talk about those kinds of things.

We have over 50,000 contaminated sites. We have a minimum of 8,500 federal contaminated sites. Let us talk about identifying, prioritizing and going after them. That would be a piece of legislation that a lot of Canada would be very interested in.

Let us talk about the record of cleanups. I do not think the people of Sydney will tell us that they are all that impressed with the speed at which the Sydney tar ponds have been cleaned up. Yes, there have been plans, and yes, there have been failed plans, but really there has been little else.

Let us talk to the parents of young children in Toronto. Let us talk about the smog warning days when little Johnny should not go out and when grandma should not leave her home because of the air that is not clean enough and could in fact damage their health. Obviously this something we can deal with.

Let us talk about landfills. Last week I went to British Columbia. On my way, I picked up a paper. On the front page of the Ottawa Citizen last Thursday, I saw that the City of Ottawa is being sued for $45 million. What is it being sued for? It is being sued for the seepage out of its landfill site, which has contaminated neighbouring property.

What about those brownfields that no one will insure? They have full servicing past them, costing municipalities a lot of money, but they cannot be used because of potential contamination and future lawsuits. Those lawsuits are starting to come.

This is our Canada that we are talking about. This is our environment that we are talking about. This is in the top five issues of all Canadians.

Are there solutions? Yes, there are. There are many solutions. There are solutions to that water problem. We need to understand our aquifers. We need to understand the charge and recharge. We need to understand the quality and pollution issues. We need to look at all of that. We need legislation that will help the provinces and municipalities to do that.

I had an interesting time at the end of August. My wife enjoyed it. I promised her a nice holiday at the end of August and in early September. I said to her, “Guess where we're going? By the way, did I tell you I have a few appointments on our holiday?” Our first appointment was at an incinerator. She has been to many other incinerators, so she knew where we were going. We visit landfill sites. We have been doing that for only about 35 years.

One day, we were picked up about 7:30 in the morning and we went to the most modern incinerator there is in downtown Copenhagen. It is fascinating because it is an incineration plant that is using the most modern technology. It has recycling at the front end, with cement products, building materials, glass and that sort of thing. Then the rest is put into a huge hopper. That big hopper then feeds it into a big turning drum, of which there are six, and that garbage is then turned and rotated. It is brought up to 100° Celsius. In this case, gas was used.

I went on another holiday with my wife to Berlin. We found it was using the methane from the fermentation of sewage for fuel. These cities are recycling this. That garbage is incinerated and the combustion from that goes from 100° Celsius to 1,000° Celsius, which creates steam. Animal waste and sewage can also be burned. The steam then drives a turbine which then produces electricity, which is sold. It takes that steam, cools it down and distributes that hot water.

The particular system travels 104 kilometres. It has a 2% loss of energy in that 100 kilometres, and the heat is sold. Now there is income from the electricity and from the heat. Then that flue gas runs through a number of treatments. Various chemical processes are used in this. One involves using ammonia and the sulfur dioxide from the flue gas, which becomes 85% on the first pass, is turned into gypsum, which is used in making wallboard. That gypsum is then sold, another source of income.

The nitrous oxide is then broken down into its component parts and that nitrogen is then turned into fertilizer, which provides a new source of fertilizer, which is sold to the agricultural community. The CO

2

is captured is gasified and that gasified CO

2

is then put into titanium containers, which are then sold to the greenhouse industry. Remember that the best use of CO

2

is photo synthesis. By adding more CO

2

to greenhouses, production can be greatly increased. It can also be sold to Norway, where it is put into wells and improves the recovery of gas and oil by sequestering it under the ground. Now the CO

2

is gone.

Heavy metals now have been precipitated out and those heavy metals then can be sold to industry and recycled. The dioxins are separated out and further incinerated.

The point in this whole rant, if one wants to call it that, is that is the kind of vision and legislation we need in the House. It is environmentally sound and it will make a difference. It will deal with our air quality situation, our water pollution situation and provide income.

This is the final thing on garbage. I enjoy visiting these places. I am not sure my wife has the same joy. The neat part is the plant I visited is owned by 11 municipalities in 21 towns and cities. They took out a 25 year mortgage on it. That is how it was financed. Yes, it is more expensive than a landfill, but think about what they have done. The mortgage has been paid off, and they now have a resource from which they can make profit.

I could go on for a long time on the subject of the environment. I think I have demonstrated that in the past. I look forward to the opportunity of talking about the other kinds of bills that could come forward. Let us get the housekeeping done quickly and move on to some more substantial environmentally sound bills.

Department of Canadian Heritage ActGovernment Orders

November 24th, 2004 / 3:20 p.m.
See context

Richmond Hill Ontario

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure today to rise on third reading 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.

This bill would give legislative effect to the government's 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 would update existing legislation to reflect two orders in council that came into effect in December 2003 and July 2004. They transferred control and supervision of the Parks Canada Agency from the Minister of Canadian Heritage to the Minister of the Environment.

The bill would also clarify that Parks Canada would be responsible for historic places in Canada, and for the design and implementation of programs that relate to built heritage.

The legislation would be primarily technical in nature. It would update the Department of Canadian Heritage Act and the Parks Canada Agency Act. It would also amend the statutes that enable Parks Canada to deliver its mandate; notably, the Canada National Parks Act, the Historic Sites and Monuments Act, the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act, the Species at Risk Act, the Canada Shipping Act, and the Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act.

Canada's national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas represent the soul of Canada. They are a central part of who we are and what we are. They are places of magic, wonder and heritage. Each tells its own story. Together, they connect Canadians to our roots, to our future and to each other. Responsibilities for safeguarding and celebrating heritage would continue to be shared among departments and agencies across government.

The Minister of Canadian Heritage would retain a key leadership role and overall responsibility for cultural heritage and would continue to work closely with the Minister of the Environment and with other ministers to keep common objectives with heritage.

I would like to assure the House that Parks Canada's organizational integrity would be maintained. Parks Canada would remain committed to working with Canadians to protect and present nationally significant examples of Canada's natural and cultural heritage for present and future generations. This is fitting given the important linkages between the environment, heritage and sustainable development.

I would like to clarify again that the Prime Minister has the continuing ability to decide on which minister has the responsibility for departments and agencies, and to transfer organizations to another minister's responsibility in order to meet objectives.

Parliament has given government the ability to transfer portions of the public service and ministerial powers, duties and functions from one part of the public service or from one minister to another. This would not give the governor in council the power to expand and alter the powers of either ministers or departments. Parliaments plays an important role in this regard.

The power granted to the government gives us necessary flexibility to reorganize the institutions of government to address government priorities and public needs. It is in keeping with the Prime Minister's responsibility to assign ministers portfolios, establish their mandates in keeping with existing legislation, and identify priorities for their portfolios.

The Minister of the Environment has been responsible for the Parks Canada Agency since December 12, 2003.

While the amendments simply reflect the current reality, the government must defend the principle regarding the Prime Minister's ability to make organizational changes. Therefore, we do not support the amendments.

I would like to take a few moments to talk about the built heritage aspects of Parks Canada's mandate. Built heritage includes sites, buildings and monuments recognized for their historic value. These include battlefields, forts and citadels, shipwrecks, archeological sites, cultural landscapes, bridges, houses, cemeteries, railway stations, historic districts, ruins, engineering marvels, schools, canals, courthouses, theatres and markets.

Responsibility for built heritage is managed through a number of programs, including national historic sites, federal heritage buildings, heritage railway stations, and federal archeological heritage shipwrecks in the historic place initiative. These activities are of interest to all parliamentarians and to Canadians in general.

Through the Parks Canada Agency, the Minister of the Environment has responsibilities in three key areas: the 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 in the stewardship of historic places. Parks Canada leads the national program of historic 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 speaks to the diverse and rich history of Canada. Parks Canada's stewardship role with respect to these places, and their historic values and resources is similar to a stewardship role with respect to national parks.

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 Auditor General has indicated that problems similar to those for national historic sites administered by Parks Canada exist for national historic sites and federal heritage buildings administered by other federal departments. The government is considering ways to respond to the Auditor General's concerns over weak conservation standards and accountability requirements, as well as the recommendation to strengthen the legal framework to protect built heritage. For many years Canada has lagged behind other G-8 nations and its own provincial and territorial governments in the protection of historic places.

The minister's third area of responsibility is to provide Canada-wide leadership in built heritage. Only a portion of the historic places in Canada are owned by the federal government. Cooperation with others is critical. 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. Remaining heritage buildings and structures, cultural landscapes and archeological 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 historic places initiative is based on the acknowledgment that government alone cannot save all buildings and other historic places. The keystone of the initiative is a broad, national coalition with the provinces, territories, municipal governments, coupled with equally valuable cooperation involving aboriginal peoples, heritage experts and a comprehensive number of institutions, organizations, communities and individuals.

In the field of heritage, we are truly in an area of policy interdependence. The goals of the initiative are to create a culture of heritage conservation in this country by providing Canadians with basic tools to preserve and celebrate historic places, and by protecting historic places under federal jurisdiction. Strategies focus on helping Canadians build a culture of conservation.

The protection of Canada's built heritage is not only about saving what is meaningful from the past. It is also about sustaining strong communities for today and tomorrow. Rehabilitation of existing buildings capitalizes on the energy invested in the original structures and prevents unnecessary use of new materials and energy.

Less demolition means reduced pressure on landfill sites and the revitalization of historic downtown areas. It increases the need for new civic infrastructure, such as roads, sewers and public transit. By contributing to such sustainable communities, public policy truly makes a difference in people's lives.

Consensus has emerged on the role that Canada and Canadians want for historic places in our lives in our communities. One of the common goals is the need to provide all Canadians with the practical information and tools they need to protect historic areas.

The launch in 2004 of the Canadian registry of historic places is a product of that collaboration. It is probably one of the most important initiatives that we have seen in this country in terms of the preservation and the celebration of history. For the first time in one place Canadians will have a registry of the buildings and the sites that are recognized as historic by any order of government in the country.

It is anticipated that the registry will contain approximately 20,000 historic places when it is fully populated. The registry will be an important tool for policy makers, community organizations, teachers, students, and families who want to learn about and help preserve the past.

As a former educator, one who taught Canadian history for 20 years, I can say that this is a significant breakthrough, not only a significant breakthrough in terms of establishing this registry, but because we now have a joint commitment by all orders of government. This is an example of good federal-provincial-territorial cooperation.

The standards and the guidelines provide clear and accessible guidance on good conservation practices. This document was developed in consultation with federal, provincial, territorial, municipal and non-governmental stakeholders. There will be a common benchmark for conservation principles and practices in Canada.

It has already been adopted by Parks Canada and by several provincial and municipal jurisdictions. The standards and guidelines are a model of promoting a new approach to the science and technology of building conservation, and promoting and circulating the information broadly for the benefit of all Canadians.

Parks Canada is also implementing the commercial heritage properties incentive fund, a new program announced in 2003 to engage the private sector in the conservation of historic buildings. This fund is a four year $30 million plan designed to tip the balance in favour of conservation over demolition. It provides financial incentives to eligible commercial historic places listed on the registry in order to encourage a broad range of commercial uses for historic properties within our communities.

Fiscal measures like this program are central to engaging others to achieve the government's goal for built heritage. Historic places connect us to our past, to our future and indeed to each other. They provide places of learning for our children and places of understanding for both new citizens and Canadians of long standing.

What we cherish as part of our national identity we also recognize is part of our national responsibility. All Canadians share the obligation to preserve and to protect Canada's unique culture and national heritage. Together we hold our national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas in trust for the benefit of this and future generations.

With this new reporting arrangement, through the Minister of the Environment, it will clearly define responsibilities for built heritage programs. Parks Canada will continue to work to safeguard Canada's built heritage, support the protection of historic places within federal jurisdiction, and engage Canadians broadly in preserving and celebrating our country's historic places. It will continue to play a similar role in the protection of Canada's heritage sites for which it is so well respected by Canadians and indeed admired internationally.

I respectively encourage all my colleagues on both sides of the House to support Bill C-7. The bill again has technical amendments to move the Parks Canada Agency from Heritage Canada to Environment Canada.

However, the work that we are doing collectively to ensure that not one more historic site is lost is extremely important. We have lost 20% of our historic sites since the 1970s. Therefore this agreement on the registry is very important and the work that we do and the support that we give Parks Canada, both emotionally and financially, will be important for generations to come.

Again I urge all members to support the legislation.

Department of Canadian Heritage ActGovernment Orders

November 24th, 2004 / 3:20 p.m.
See context

Jeanne-Le Ber Québec

Liberal

Liza Frulla Liberalfor the Minister of the Environment

moved that Bill C-7, an act to amend the Department of Canadian Heritage Act and the Parks Canada Agency Act and to make related amendments to other acts, be read the third time and passed.

Canada Not-for-profit Corporations ActGovernment Orders

November 23rd, 2004 / 6:15 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Michel Guimond Bloc Charlevoix—Montmorency, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Earlier, I alluded to Bill C-7, but the Chair will know that Bloc Québécois members are in favour of the motion dealing with Bill C-21.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Canada Not-for-profit Corporations ActGovernment Orders

November 23rd, 2004 / 6:15 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Michel Guimond Bloc Charlevoix—Montmorency, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bloc Québécois members will support this motion on Bill C-7.

Department of Canadian Heritage ActGovernment Orders

November 23rd, 2004 / 6:05 p.m.
See context

The Speaker

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded divisions on the motions at report stage of Bill C-7.

The question is on Motion No. 1. The vote on this motion will also apply to Motions Nos. 2 and 3.

(The House divided on Motion No. 1, which was agreed to on the following division:)