Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act

An Act to protect heritage lighthouses

This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in October 2007.


Not active, as of June 13, 2007
(This bill did not become law.)


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.

April 1st, 2008 / 9:10 a.m.
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Assistant Deputy Minister, Human Resources and Corporate Services, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Cal Hegge

Good morning, Mr. Chairman and committee members. We're also pleased to be here this morning to discuss Bill S-215.

As you know, it's not the first time we have been here to discuss the bill and its previous version, Bill S-220. Last June, my colleagues and I were here to discuss the bill. At that time, we confirmed our minister's support for the basic principles of this initiative while noting some areas of concern.

I'm happy to note that the bill you have before you this morning, certainly from our perspective, is much improved from the version we were reviewing last year. Many of the areas of concern we raised last year about administrative and financial challenges have been at least partially addressed.

From a DFO perspective, we are happy to note that the bill now contains language that supports and will facilitate our efforts to advance sales or transfers of surplus lighthouses to ensure their continued public purposes for local and community-based alternate uses. This is very much aligned with our departmental lighthouse divestiture program.

As well, the application of the bill has been clarified to apply only to lighthouses owned by the federal government and not those owned by third parties. This issue was of concern to some organizations that had previously acquired lighthouses from our department and were concerned about the possibility of increased financial obligations.

There have been administrative improvements related to the processes affecting proposed alterations.

Finally, and most importantly, the bill now provides a requirement for public meetings prior to any proposed demolition and reasonable alternatives to demolition. This was missing from the original bill, and we feel it should help ensure that local communities are informed and involved in important decisions affecting their lighthouses.

It is clear that new technologies are replacing the need for many of our fixed aids to navigation, such as lighthouses. However, Canadian lighthouses remain a point of pride for coastal communities, for our staff in DFO, and for the coast guard, who manages and maintains them for our operations, and for visitors who come to see them.

We recognize the historic and cultural value of heritage lighthouses. The principles of Bill S-215 are most worthy, but I must restate that our department does not have the financial resources to cover the implementation costs. During the past 20 or so years, DFO has been able to recapitalize only those assets that are required for operational purposes. The majority of these funds have been invested in staff sites in British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador, and only to deal with the most urgent health and safety concerns.

I believe the last time I was here discussing this bill, the annual departmental operating deficit for core real property assets was about $30 million from what should be reasonably invested to maintain those assets required to support ongoing program service delivery. If the bill is passed without the necessary funding, the resources to support heritage could only be found by diverting core program funds, which would be inappropriate in the context of our mandate and could compromise our ability to deliver program services. As custodians with new responsibilities under the bill, DFO could no longer defer structural repairs required to ensure that many of these heritage lighthouses remain standing.

Nobody wants to see surplus lighthouses that could go to local communities neglected or destroyed. For the last several years, DFO has been working to foster relationships with heritage organizations like the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society, as well as local community groups that want to adopt lighthouses. We are doing everything possible to live up to our heritage obligations within the financial realities we face. Our priority is to meet community requests for continued public purposes wherever possible. No sales on the open market have happened in recent years, and I do not foresee open market sales unless there has not been an expression of community interest.

Our view is that many of our surplus lighthouses could be transferred at nominal value to communities and not-for-profit groups with tourism and heritage interest mandates that are better equipped to assume responsibility for their protection and conservation than DFO. The bill now acknowledges this important principle, and this should help us work better with heritage interests and local communities to ensure the availability of lighthouses for alternate public usage.

This concludes our opening remarks. We will be pleased to address any questions the committee may have.

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

March 11th, 2008 / 6:25 p.m.
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Catherine Bell NDP Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, last year I spoke to a predecessor of the current bill, Bill S-220. I am honoured to once again stand to talk about the importance of lighthouses.

It has been, as others have said, almost 10 years since the original bill was introduced. I would like to recognize the work of Senator Michael Forrestall and acknowledge also the work of Senator Pat Carney, as others have done. Without those people before us, ensuring that the importance of this was laid out, we might not be here today.

In speaking to the bill previously, I mentioned what a lot of people conjure up in their minds when we speak the word “lighthouse”, images of seafarers past and present who ply our coasts in trade or commerce, or just for pleasure. Our lighthouses have long been a part of our coastal history and our coastal heritage from sea to sea to sea.

I mentioned that it was a rare thing for a private member's bill or motion, if passed, to be enacted. A few bills have not been enacted such as the seniors charter or the veterans first motion, which were passed by a majority of the House. It seems to be a broken promise on the part of the Prime Minister who said he would honour the will of Parliament.

If this bill passes, I hope it is enacted. It also needs to have the funding attached to ensure the upkeep and maintenance of these treasures is a reality. Since the bill has been debated for many years, it must finally pass and be enacted.

Another vision springs to mind when one says the word lighthouse, especially in these times of increasing activity and changing weather patterns on our B.C. coast. One not so romantic is the stark reality that many thousands of people who live on our coast rely on the ocean for their livelihoods. They rely on our lighthouses for information, guidance and assistance. These are not the unstaffed lighthouses or lighthouses that will soon be turned into museums, but staffed lighthouses that employ thousands of people, workers who are on call 24 hours a days, 7 days a week to provide ears and eyes on our coast as well as assistance in times of need.

These gems of the Pacific coast, our light stations, are part of a living and working history. Canadians recognize these sites as historical icons with an important and continuing role in safety of mariners and aviators who ply our marine highways, transporting workers and coastal products that we need.

Our citizens have again and again demanded to keep these sites funded and staffed. Our 27 staffed light stations are strategically located to provide many services to the mariners, aviators, coastal communities and isolated inhabitants of coastal British Columbia.

Weather information is passed to Canadian Coast Guard radio stations on a schedule, seven times daily. Special weathers are submitted on significant changes 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Lightkeepers also give updated weather reports on request, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This information is vital to aviators and mariners, as they move up and down the coast, in order to track weather systems and to find windows of opportunity for safe journeys.

The coastal economy also relies on our staffed light stations. Dependable weather information is vital to coastal communities. From Campbell River, one airline alone, Vancouver Island Air, flies 14,000 float plane passengers a year up this coast, delivering mail, workers and supplies. Lightkeepers provide meteorological services. Canada utilizes light station weather reports for forecasting weather warnings and continued tracking of climate data that will provide such necessary correlations as climate change occurs.

Because of their strategic location and federal presence, light stations are able to provide coastal security and testify to sovereignty. On many occasions, lightkeepers liaise with other departments such as the Department of National Defence, the RCMP, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and provincial wildlife and forestry departments, and provide them with any information and assistance upon request.

Many forest fires have been spotted by lightkeepers and they take an active role in the RCMP's coast watch program. Keepers act as first responders on many incidents and work closely with coastal search and rescue units in B.C. Light stations also act as staging grounds for medivacs.

There are many people working and staffing the 27 light stations along our B.C. coast. One such couple is Steve and Alice Bergh. They staff the Chatham Point light station in my riding of Vancouver Island North. Steve and Alice have been at Chatham Point light station since their arrival in 1989. Since then, they have saved numerous boats from sinking and have assisted many mariners.

The list of major incidents is quite long, says Steve:

--we have rescued divers, provided first aid to seriously injured victims, attended to a drowning victim, provided shelter to a lost hypothermic logger in an open boat in a blizzard who without our foghorn to guide him to our station would have suffered a serious fate....

I have quite a large file of letters and articles from mariners and boaters who have found assistance there in their hour of need.

Chatham Point is not the only station to provide this kind of assistance. They all do. The dedication of the lightkeepers all over the coast is well documented. Those saved are many.

I would like to read for the House an excerpt from a letter in the Western Mariner journal of January 2007. Mr. Ross Campbell writes a harrowing story:

It was howling outside, storm-force in fact, and the slack tide was allowing unusually large seas to roll into our small bay, making the boats heave at their lines. I was up, on-and-off, all night, checking and fretting and, of course, listening to the local weathers on WX2. Chatham Point, our nearest manned lighthouse, provided a special report at 02:20 hrs: visibility three miles; winds from the southeast at 40 knots and gusting; seas five feet, 'moderate'. The next regular report had the wind at southeast 55 and gusting.

All the light-keepers give 100% for the travellers on this coast but after listening to the 'local weathers' over the years, I get the impression that the keepers at Chatham Point never sleep! They often supply the kind of up-to-the-minute, useful-to-the-mariner information that no automated system can ever duplicate such as the observation of the different sea-states in the various channels visible from Chatham Point. But it's the special reports in the worst conditions, at the darkest times of night, and the speedy and capable response to any need in their area, that I so much respect.

I believe every mariner and aviator on the BC coast appreciates the dedication to safety that these light-keepers demonstrate. I say, “Bravo!” and a heart-felt “Thank-you!”.

I have to concur with Mr. Campbell of the MV Columbia III from Sonora Island, B.C.

Another light keeper at Cape Beale was recently recognized for spotting four mariners clinging to an overturned vessel. He was able to direct the search and rescue vessels out of Bamfield to assist. He then walked down to the beach to find a fifth man and give him aid.

Light stations are important investments in the prevention of marine casualties.

Lightkeepers provide such a variety of services, including the maintenance and protection of the light stations. Sites that have been de-staffed are in notoriously bad repair with no on site protections in place.

This is another reason why the preservation on site of historically significant working heritage light stations is important. Staffing these heritage and non-heritage sites is imperative.

Moneys and legal protections should be made available to preserve those heritage sites that need repair, such as Pachena Point's lantern dome. The tower at Pachena is suffering due to the ravages of the weather and without major work soon may not be savable. It is the sole remaining wooden light tower on the west coast. It is one of only two first order fresnel lenses on the west coast and the only dual bull's eye first order fresnel lens anywhere. The tower was 100 years old last year and was built by hand after the wreck of the Valencia.

Pachena Point light station is on the West Coast Trail and sees between 6,000 and 10,000 hikers a year, thousands of weekend campers and hundreds of day hikers, all of whom come to see the tower. Without fail they ask two main questions: can we see the inside and does it still work? The answer to both of these questions is no. Thousands of people come to see our light stations. On the west coast, this one is probably the most photographed site on Vancouver Island. It is currently depicted on a Canadian stamp.

I have highlighted only a few of the 27 staffed light stations, not to mention the other 29 decommissioned or automated stations, for a total of 56 on the B.C. coast.

What we need is a commitment to keep the buildings and structures at light stations staffed and maintained for the safety, security and benefit of our coastal communities, and for workers, for travel and for the historical and current education and benefit of every Canadian.

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

March 11th, 2008 / 6:05 p.m.
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Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, with applause like that from the Conservative Party, I am beginning to think I did something right, or maybe not.

I would like to congratulate my colleague from Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound who has brought this bill forward in this House. I would also like to congratulate my colleague on the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, the hon. member for South Shore—St. Margaret's, who brought this up in its former version which was known as Bill S-220.

A big congratulations goes to the hon. Pat Carney who did so much for so many years on this, as did Senator Forrestall. These people have been mentioned for all the good work they have done to make this a big issue when it comes to heritage lighthouses.

My colleague from the Bloc, the member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine mentioned something about the money situation. I think what he talked about is the operating funds, or core funding as we like to call it. In that case many smaller communities are unable to take over these lighthouses for the simple reason they are unable to provide the upkeep, certainly when it comes to heating and when it comes to maintaining the exteriors, being in the harsh climate that they are, because after all, these are lighthouses, and many of them find themselves in trouble. It is a constant battle to raise funds in order to keep these lighthouses up. They have been around for 250 years. We have made alterations to these lighthouses but keep in mind that we have always managed to maintain the character of the lighthouses.

I speak of my neck of the woods, the east coast lighthouses, particularly for Newfoundland and Labrador, but also for Nova Scotia. My hon. colleague talked about the ones around the Great Lakes which also share a great deal of history. We cannot forget how Pat Carney so eloquently spoke of the lighthouses on the west coast.

I would like to bring out some of the arguments that Senator Michael Forrestall of Nova Scotia and Senator Carney, who championed this for quite some time, made about supporting a bill like this and the designations that are needed for heritage lighthouses.

In 1988 Pat Carney talked about Canada's Heritage Railway Act and she compared protecting lighthouses to that legislation. Lighthouses fall under federal jurisdiction when it comes to their being altered, sold, removed, assigned, transferred or otherwise disposed of without public consultation. Therein lies the key to this bill, which we do support. Yes, we do support it.

When the public consultation process is engaged, it becomes far more beneficial to the community, the not for profit group, or the municipality which chooses to take over that building, because only then will there be buy-in from the community. Only then will the lighthouse survive. Only then will these lighthouses continue to be the beacons they always were. It is not so much from a navigation point of view because many of them have been decommissioned, but this time they will be revered because of their cultural and historical perspective.

As I like to say about Newfoundland and Labrador, and I do not mean this as a slight, we are brimming over with character, brimming over with culture. Many colleagues can attest to that. My colleague from Nova Scotia would probably say the same thing.

I want to talk about the west coast for just a second. Senator Carney spoke about British Columbia having 52 of Canada's surviving 583 lighthouses. Buildings are vulnerable because fisheries are vulnerable. Fisheries and Oceans Canada over the years was responsible for the lighthouses. There was really no mandate to protect them for the sake of heritage and culture. The bill attempts to help us restore some of the dignity that has been lost in many of these cases.

With respect to Bill S-215, formerly known as Bill S-220, there is a controversy surrounding the potential costs of implementing the bill. There was a ruling some time ago about private members' bills and whether they dip into the public purse and require a royal recommendation. This avoids that. On October 29, 2003 the Speaker ruled, “After examining the bill, I can find no obligation for the spending of public funds either by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board or by the Minister of Canadian Heritage”. That is something to consider as well.

When the bill comes before the committee, the official opposition will explore that aspect of the spending and the operational funds required, as I spoke of earlier. I would like to talk about that.

Through the preparatory process for Bill S-220, which preceded this bill, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Environment Canada, through Parks Canada, asserted that there are 750 lighthouses in Canada that would require funding pursuant to the provisions of the bill. The figure has presumably been applied to the cost analysis by these departments.

In looking at some of the facts and figures involved here, let us look at some of the lighthouses in question. The figures state that only 3% of our lighthouses across the nation have genuine heritage protection, which was done by some of the departments and that may be questionable, and only 12% have received partial protection. In British Columbia, the figure is even lower, B.C. having 52 of the 583 lighthouses.

I want to talk about a submission from the Heritage Canada Foundation to the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. This brief was done in light of Bill S-220 in the last session. I would like to read into the record some of the things the foundation had to say, which I found quite compelling:

Bill S-220--

--now Bill S-215--

An Act to protect heritage lighthouses, provides a means for the Government of Canada to examine, recognize, protect and maintain a highly significant group of heritage structures. Binding, legal protection for designated heritage lighthouses is absolutely essential.


Otherwise, accountability is compromised, and decisions about the stewardship of heritage buildings can be made in an arbitrary manner. It is important to stress that the all provincial and territorial jurisdictions and, by delegated authority, all municipal governments in Canada have binding heritage statutes and related legal measures, such as covenants and easements, to protect and guide the management of heritage property. Within the federal jurisdiction, only railways stations are subject to such binding legislation.

That is very key.

Prior to the Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act, the Government of Canada recognized only six heritage railway stations in the entire country through the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, and even these had no legal protection. Today, 166 heritage railway stations have been designated by the federal government.

Therefore, it is a program that genuinely works. Therefore, what has been tried, true and tested in the Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act can also be applied to lighthouses.

The Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office evaluates the heritage significance of federally owned heritage buildings, but it is a closed process. Herein lies what I feel is the crux of this issue, which is to say, it makes mention here of the fact that there was no public consultation required. This is what my colleague spoke of and this is what we have to address as we send the bill off to committee.

Basically the community values heritage property. That is what the Heritage Canada Foundation states and I could not agree more. We certainly do have along the east coast so much history involved with our heritage lighthouses that it is long overdue, given that so many people volunteer so many hours to maintaining our culture and heritage through our lighthouses, whether they be around the Great Lakes, on the west coast or certainly on the east coast.

Since I only have one minute, I would like to quickly mention some of the lighthouses of which I am particularly fond: Cape Sable Lighthouse, Nova Scotia; Sambro Island Gas House in Nova Scotia, incredible, built in 1861 on Cape Sable Island; Seal Island Lighthouse, built in 1830; Estevan Point, British Columbia; all are amazing structures that stand the test of time and certainly so proud to be a part of this particular bill.

I would like to mention some of the Newfoundland and Labrador areas of distinction that I believe should be recognized from a heritage and cultural perspective: Belle Isle, Cape Pine, Trepassey, St. Mary's Bay, Cape Race, Fortune Bay, Green Island Cove, Green Point, Gull Island, Notre Dame Bay, and funnily enough one called Bay Roberts, and one called Confusion Bay Light Tower. How is that for a quaint name for a lighthouse? How is that for being a beacon in the fog when someone has to look out and say, “Where are we, sir?” and the reply is, “We are in Confusion Bay, for goodness' sake”. What does that say?

At the end of the day, the lighthouse proved to be the beacon it always had, and has, been. It is something of which we should be very proud, certainly from a cultural perspective.

In North Head and Brigus is the Conception Bay light tower. Then there are some of the more famous ones. Some are provincially owned, such as the Cape Bonavista lighthouse in my riding. Others are owned by Parks Canada, such as the Cape Spear lighthouse in the easternmost point in North America. A lot of people in the House would probably be familiar with it.

There is also the Port-aux-Basque lighthouse, the Channel Head light tower and the Random Head light tower. I would be remiss if I did not mention one of my favourites, the Long Point light tower in the Crow Head, Twillingate area. It received distinction a few weeks back, one of which I am extremely proud.

June 19th, 2007 / 11:25 a.m.
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Gérard Asselin Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

The way in which Bill S-220 was drafted led a number of parliamentarians to vote in favour of it at second reading. That is exactly what the Conservatives and the New Democrats did, as well as the Liberals who overwhelmingly voted in favour of the bill. The Bloc, however, was reticent about doing so, even at second reading. Personally, I decided to vote in favour of the bill at second reading so that I would be able to hear from witnesses. Had it been defeated at second reading, we obviously would not have been here talking about it today.

This bill has already been tabled a number of times in the House of Commons in various guises and it either died on the Order Paper or was outright defeated. I hope that the Conservatives, the Liberals and the New Democrats will realize that it is simply a waste of time to enact legislation that makes no mention of funding; I presume that they will realize that it is not worth continuing to discuss such a bill. That being said, I believe that it is important to shed some light on this bill, a bill that was prepared by the Senate, although sponsored by our chairman.

To my mind, it is utterly nonsensical to speak of protecting heritage buildings without providing financial resources to do so. I also disagree with the idea of asking the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to use funds that have been earmarked for small craft harbours, as our small craft harbours have been suffering from underfunding for a number of years. Their upkeep has been inadequate and they need a helping hand so that fishermen can enjoy a safe and functional place to berth. Whichever way you look at it, much more money is needed.

Lighthouses are a navigational aid that belong to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. They are not used as often as they once were. The bill provides for the creation of an advisory committee that will be mandated to produce an inventory of lighthouses and to decide which ones will remain heritage lighthouses, which ones will be transferred and which ones will be sold to private sector buyers. In some instances, lighthouses may even be demolished.

I believe that the inventory will have to be prepared thoroughly. The advisory committee would be responsible and would have to consult with stakeholders. However, we must bear in mind that nothing will be done without political will and the support of the department. Where will the money come from? Canadian Heritage, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans or Parks Canada? The Mingan Islands, in my riding, are on land that belongs to Parks Canada. A lot of tourists come to visit the lighthouses on the island. A business plan for restoring and developing the lighthouses was even developed, but nothing is happening.

I would like to know where the money will come from and why we should continue studying Bill S-220. I know for certain that these lighthouses are falling apart at the seams, or to put it more bluntly, totally antiquated and dangerous.

Over the time that these bills have been tabled in the House, a number of studies have shown that several of these lighthouses are highly polluted. This is not something that can be overlooked. An in-depth environmental evaluation would have to be given priority, because these lighthouses harbour mercury and diesel fuel contaminants. Given that the surrounding land is also polluted, both building and land would need to be decontaminated, as departments well know. Nobody would want to buy these lighthouses in their current state. They are virtually moribund and there is little chance of their making a recovery.

I would like the representatives from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans or from Parks Canada to tell me whether they really believe in the idea of setting up an advisory committee and implementing lighthouse disposal and development programs. I would also like them to tell us if they know where the money to fund all of this will come from.

If, at the end of the day, neither DFO nor Canadian Heritage is prepared to invest a cent in this project, and if Parks Canada has no money to restore and develop these lighthouses, surely you would agree with me that the idea of setting up a commission, carrying out studies and evaluations, and spending more money is simply pointless. And if such is the case, why bother continuing with Bill S-220?

June 19th, 2007 / 11:05 a.m.
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Cal Hegge Assistant Deputy Minister, Human Resources and Corporate Services, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Thank you.

Good morning.

Like my colleagues from Parks Canada, we are very pleased to be here today to assist in the SCOFO review of Bill S-220.

Canadian lighthouses, which date back to the 18th century, were built to ensure marine navigational safety. Many of Canada's lighthouse towers still serve their original purpose as aids to navigation, which is evidence of a continued, thriving maritime trading system.

Canadian lighthouses also remain a point of pride for this department--both the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard. To be sure, lighthouses are just as important to the DFO and CCG staff who manage and maintain them for operational purposes as they are to Canadians who live near them or visitors who come to see them.

The principles of Bill S-220 are laudable, but the department does not have the financial resources to cover the implementation costs. However, we recognize the historic and cultural value of heritage lighthouses.

Nobody wants to see lighthouses that could go to local communities destroyed. For the last several years, DFO has been working to foster relationships with groups who want to adopt lighthouses, and we are doing everything possible to live up to our heritage obligations within the financial realities we face.

Our priority is to meet community requests for continued public purposes wherever possible. No sales on the open market have happened in recent years, and I do not foresee open market sales unless there has not been an expression of community interest.

Our view is that many of our surplus lighthouses could be transferred, at nominal value, to communities and not-for-profit groups with tourism and heritage interest mandates that are better equipped than our department to assume responsibility for their protection and conservation.

We do have concerns regarding the potential implementation costs and impacts on our lighthouse divestiture strategy. Our concern focuses around the maintenance requirements within the bill and concern that prospective groups might no longer follow through on the divestiture initiatives if DFO were required to maintain them to heritage standards.

While it is technically not a money bill, it is our contention that funds would be required to ensure lighthouses were brought up to an acceptable level to meet the obligations specified within the bill.

Due to the marine aids modernization initiative, AToN 21, the traditional role of lighthouses has been reduced. Consequently, during the past 20 or so years, DFO has recapitalized only those assets that are required for operational purposes. The majority of these funds have been invested at staffed sites in British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador only to deal with the most urgent health and safety concerns.

Current policy requires the divestiture of surplus properties and precludes significant investments in properties that are no longer required for program purposes. For some time now, DFO has worked with community groups and non-profit organizations to transfer lighthouses of local interest for a nominal sum.

Currently, the annual departmental operating deficit for core real property assets is about $30 million--in that figure I'm talking about real property, not just restricted to lighthouses--which would be reasonably invested to maintain all assets required to support ongoing program service delivery. If the bill is passed without the necessary funding, the resources to support heritage could only be funded by diverting core program funds, which would be inappropriate in the context of our mandate and could compromise our ability to deliver program services.

As the ADM responsible for small craft harbours, I know I don't have to dwell on the unfunded nature of that particular program. It's been in front of this committee several times. It's an example of another program that we do not have any flexibility to move funds from and that we would have to look at--not just small craft harbours but throughout our capital budget--if we were going to try to come up with funds for this program.

As custodian, with new responsibilities under the bill, DFO can no longer defer structural repairs required to ensure that many of these heritage light stations remain standing. In fact, we will require access to some funds immediately, as repair work cannot be delayed further if many of these heritage lighthouses are to be protected as proposed in the bill.

For the bill as written, it is estimated that our department would require $461 million of a total estimated cost of $481 million over the first 10 years for recapitalization costs and $24 million of a total estimated cost of $26 million annually thereafter for maintenance costs, in order to respect their statutory obligations for those lighthouses under our custodial control, if 450 sites were to be designated. The estimate is based on the assumption of a 60% designation rate, as per the Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act, on a maximum of 750 DFO lighthouses.

At the other end of the spectrum, if only those lighthouses that are part of national historic sites and our highest FHBRO, Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office, designated lighthouses were afforded the statutory protections proposed in the bill, the estimated financial impact for DFO would be $105 million of a total estimated $118 million for recapitalization. There would be an additional $5 million out of a total estimated $6 million annually thereafter, for maintenance and addressing the administrative barriers required for effective implementation. Even at this level, the department would need to seek additional new funding.

Mr. Chair, that concludes my opening remarks. We'd be pleased to do our best to answer any questions the committee might have.

June 19th, 2007 / 11 a.m.
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Patricia Kell Manager, Policy and Government Relations Branch, National Historic Sites Directorate, Parks Canada Agency

Thank you. I'd like to thank the standing committee for the opportunity to participate in the discussion of Bill S-220.

During the last 30 years, Canada has lost over 20% of its historic buildings, and recent estimates suggest that another 14% are at risk of being lost. These are significant amounts for a country such as Canada, which has a comparatively small number of historic buildings.

Canada remains the only G-8 country without statutory protection for its federally owned heritage buildings. The purpose of the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act is to preserve and protect heritage lighthouses by providing for their designation, preventing inappropriate alteration or disposal, and requiring that they be maintained.

The Auditor General of Canada, in her report on cultural heritage in 2003 and her follow-up report on built heritage released this year, recommended that the federal government strengthen its conservation regime for built heritage. However, the Auditor General also cautioned that the government should make strategic and reasoned choices consistent with the means available to maintain designated historic places. She questioned the designation of many examples of the same building type, citing lighthouses specifically.

An approach like that taken by Bill S-220, through which a single type of building will receive its own designation and protection program, risks jeopardizing the protection of other heritage buildings such as the Parliament Buildings, which still have no legal protection. Such an approach is also expensive, in that it requires its own administrative processes and systems.

Bill S-220 recognizes that many Canadians have a strong attachment to lighthouses and that lighthouses are icons of our maritime heritage. Owing to this important role, 14 lighthouses are already designated as national historic sites, and 126 are designated as federal heritage buildings under the Treasury Board policy on management of real property.

Bill S-220 would provide statutory protection to lighthouses with significant heritage value, a principle that is deserving of support.

Given these considerations, the challenge moving forward will be to ensure that Bill S-220 is as cost-efficient as possible and that it supports other related policy objectives. With this in mind, there are three areas of concern: reducing the costs of the bill's implementation, rationalizing the requirement for public meetings, and facilitating the divestiture of lighthouses that are surplus to operational requirements.

I will address issues associated with reducing costs and rationalizing public meetings, and my colleague from Fisheries and Oceans Canada will speak to the divestiture issue.

The obligation to maintain heritage lighthouses represents the bill's most significant financial consideration, and associated costs will largely depend on how many structures are designated. Currently the bill includes the power to designate not only lighthouses but also related built structures. The reason is to ensure that beyond the light tower itself, other structures that have a function in a lighthouse's operation are conserved. This would include buildings that contribute to the heritage character of the lighthouse, such as lighthouse keepers' residences, gas houses, and fog alarm buildings. However, it would also include other kinds of infrastructure that are related to lighthouse operations but contribute little to heritage character, such as helipads, walkways, wharves, equipment sheds, and even outhouses. Some of these are very expensive to maintain.

Parks Canada therefore suggests that only related buildings be eligible to form part of the heritage lighthouse designation. This would result in fewer structures being designated, reduced costs for maintenance, and a greater focus on the lighthouses themselves.

Coastal communities are intensely interested in the future of their lighthouses. A belief that decisions were made about conservation work and sales and demolition of lighthouses without communities being informed has been translated into the bill as obligations for public notices and public meetings.

As currently drafted, the bill takes an inconsistent approach to public notices and meetings. It requires public meetings for alterations; such public meetings are unnecessary, as the bill requires that alterations be done in such a way as to protect heritage values to a high standard. At the other end of the spectrum, the bill does not require a public meeting if a heritage lighthouse is to be demolished, an action that has irrevocable consequences. Furthermore, public notices and meetings are required if a heritage lighthouse is sold, even to a community group that is intent on providing for its continued public use.

Public notices and meetings should be offered when public interest would be highest and could have the greatest impact on the future of a heritage lighthouse.

This would suggest that no public meetings be required before alterations are made and no public meetings or notices be required when heritage lighthouses are sold to groups that will continue their public use, but that public meetings be mandatory when the demolition of a heritage lighthouse is proposed.

l believe that my colleague from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans would also like to address the committee.

The House resumed from June 11 consideration of the motion that Bill S-220, An Act to protect heritage lighthouses, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

June 12th, 2007 / 6:55 p.m.
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Gerald Keddy Conservative South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure and an honour to rise and wrap up speaking on Bill S-220. In doing so, I thank my colleagues from all parties present for their work and input on this private member's bill. I thank them for their support of the intent of the bill.

As well, I recognize the support and the input from the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Minister of the Environment. I would be remiss if I did not recognize Senator Carney and her sponsorship of the bill in the Senate. In mentioning Senator Carney, I would be remiss if I did not mention the late Senator Michael Forrestall who sponsored the bill not once but five times in the Senate. I am sure he is looking down today thinking that finally this has some opportunity and some chance of coming to fruition.

As well, there is a number of other individuals to thank such as Barry MacDonald of the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society for his input into the bill. Hopefully, after second reading, the bill will proceed to committee. There are some amendments that we are looking to bring at committee, and I am sure there will be some discussion on those. It is important, for the first opportunity after many years and many people working on the bill, that we can see some light at the end of the tunnel.

I will point out one of the amendments that we will consider in committee. I will not belabour this tonight because I think most of the members understand it. However, so people who are lighthouse supporters and who are listening to this will understand, I will mention it briefly.

As the bill is currently drafted, it takes an inconsistent approach to public notices and public meetings. It would require a public meeting for decisions related to conservation work, despite provisions in the bill that already require any alterations to protect heritage value to be of a high standard. At the same time, the bill does not require a public meeting if a lighthouse were to be demolished or torn down. This was simply an oversight. This needs correction.

It is our intent to bring substantive, reasonable and sensible amendments like this to committee. We are hopeful that there will support from all the members, who have supported the bill to this point, at committee to make these types of changes.

The other aspect that must be understood is the overall cost has to be reasonable and within DFO's budget. As it now stands, we are expecting that DFO will have to find more money in its budget than it intended for some type of reasonable and orderly divestiture process.

Both the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Minister of the Environment are all right with that. They know they will have to find some more dollars. For the first time, I think we have a golden opportunity to preserve lighthouses and lighthouse infrastructure in coastal Canada in perpetuity, whether that is east, west, north, south or the inland waterways. That is the point of this bill.

One more time, I would like to recognize the outstanding work of the late Mike Forrestall on this bill, and thank him for that.

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

June 12th, 2007 / 6:45 p.m.
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Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission B.C.


Randy Kamp ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise today to speak to Bill S-220.

Let me begin by thanking the member for South Shore—St. Margaret's for sponsoring the bill in the House and also the hon. Senator Pat Carney from British Columbia who brought the bill forward to this chamber. She carries on the work of the late Senator Forrestall of Nova Scotia. He cared deeply about Canada's lighthouses as an indelible symbol of our shared heritage, as do I and many members in this place.

Bill S-220 seeks to protect and preserve heritage lighthouses by requiring their maintenance as heritage monuments. Currently there are about 750 “lighthouse like” aids to navigation in Canada and the bill would provide statutory protection to many of them.

As a proud Canadian from the west coast and a strong supporter of communities along the Pacific coast, lighthouses have a special place in the hearts of many British Columbians. For many communities, lighthouses stand as an important part of their cultural identity.

Like the railway tracks that stretch across our landscape, like the grain elevators that rise from the Prairies, lighthouses are a part of the fabric that is Canada. They are woven into our songs, poetry, stories and even our art. We will even find them from time to time on our postage stamps. Not only that, they are a prime tourist destination for thousands of visitors from across Canada and around the world.

Lighthouses have helped to shape the history of my province. Like many, I recognize and appreciate the role they have played in opening the west coast to development, trade and commerce. In fact, nine west coast lighthouses are already designated as federal heritage buildings. Let me speak for a moment or two about just a few of those.

To begin where it all began, the white tower and red brick lightkeeper's house of Fisgard have stood faithfully at the mouth of Esquimalt Harbour since about 1860. Fisgard is Canada's first manned light station. For almost a century and a half, this lighthouse, and the one at nearby Race Rocks, has shone the way through the Strait of Juan de Fuca and on to Victoria Harbour for countless mariners.

Today it is still a welcome guide for many sailing these waters, including those heading to the Royal Roads anchorage and Esquimalt naval base. The lighthouse and the Fort Rodd Hill artillery base are designated national historic sites and successful destinations for tourists and history buffs alike.

Point Atkinson lighthouse in west Vancouver may well be the Pacific coast's most famous. The original structure was built around 1874. In about 1912 a hexagonal concrete tower was built to take its place. This lighthouse, with its powerful beam and strategic location at the outer approach to Burrard Inlet, has provided safe passage to many a mariner sailing into Vancouver. For decades, it has helped protect the city's bustling international shipping fleets.

Vancouverites care deeply about this lighthouse and they care about the surrounding 75 hectare park, which, incidentally, contains the last stand of old growth forest in the Lower Mainland, mostly Douglas fir. This dense forest provided a fittingly dark background for the lighthouses' bright beams, and I and many others are pleased that they are both still there today.

Estevan Point is another example of B.C.'s historic lighthouses. It was built in 1909 and is said to be one of only two Canadian lighthouses to be attacked by hostile forces. Historians today debate whether the shells that missed their mark and drew no casualties in 1942 were, indeed, from an enemy submarine off Vancouver Island. The other theory is that the attack was staged by an allied ship to provide political cover for the Canadian government's controversial move to implement conscription, but we will not get into that debate today.

Either way, the Estevan lighthouse stands as a beacon of our past and a true piece of Canadiana. It is one of the most distinctive lighthouses in all of British Columbia. The spectacular flying butresses of the Estevan light station soar almost 46 metres into the sky. It is one of only six remaining lighthouses in Canada to feature this unique architectural style.

It is clear that lighthouses shine brightly in the history of my home province and other parts of Canada. Before the advent of the automobile, our waterways were the highways of choice for travellers and their cargo and lighthouses were their road signs. The value of lighthouses as icons of the past is undeniable.

However, the 21st century has been marked by rapid technological change and with that change the operational role of lighthouses is diminishing. New marine safety and navigational technology are replacing the need for lighthouses in guiding marine traffic. As a result, many have become operationally redundant and many have fallen into poor condition.

Should we care? I feel strongly that we should. Lighthouses often define the very culture and spirit of the Canadian community marking its rightful place in the history of our country.

However, just as technology has changed with time, so too have communities across Canada. To succeed, communities are seeking new opportunities and adapting themselves to the economic, cultural and social realities of today. Similarly, we can be innovative in defining new roles for lighthouses within these communities.

For some time now, DFO has worked with other federal departments and levels of government, as well as community groups and non-profit organizations, to transfer surplus lighthouses for alternate public uses. In fact, communities can purchase surplus lighthouses, for continued public use, for the nominal fee of $1.00.

Would we like to maintain every lighthouse of historical significance in the country? We certainly would. However, this is beyond DFO's mandate and resources. Our job is to provide Canadians with basically three things: one, sustainable fisheries and aquaculture; two, healthy and productive aquatic ecosystems; and, three, safe and accessible waterways. These duties cannot be undermined because they, too, are important to Canadians.

Canada exports about $4.1 billion in fish and seafood a year. Every year, more than 100,000 transport vessels make their way through our waters. They carry 360 million tonnes of goods, with an import or export value of $85 billion.

That is why our government, on behalf of Canadians, invests in things like fisheries science and management, enforcement and habitat protection, oceans stewardship, renewing the Coast Guard fleet and modernizing aids to navigation. We work with the local community in keeping Canada's small craft harbours safe and functional. World events have expanded DFO's role, through the Canadian Coast Guard, in maintaining maritime security along our shores, in conjunction with other agencies.

I must agree with my colleague from South Shore—St. Margaret's, who is championing this bill in the House. While the goals of the bill are entirely supportable, its methods need some refining. In fact, just finding a clear definition of “lighthouse” is itself challenging. As I mentioned, there are 750 structures that the public perceives as lighthouses, which could come under our heritage protection if the bill passes as it stands now.

Under Bill S-220, Parks Canada would be responsible for designating heritage status and DFO, as the primary custodian of lighthouses, would have to fund almost all the costs associated with preserving them. Clearly, a sober and pragmatic approach is required.

Under our current operating budget, DFO would be forced to make some tough choices to deliver our newly assumed heritage responsibility. However, at what cost? The resources to maintain lighthouses have to come from somewhere.

What would we take back from a fishing industry that can ill afford further pressures? Would we choose to impact the renewal of our fisheries, the management of our oceans or the protection of our aquatic ecosystems? Could we continue improving our small craft harbour infrastructure, which Canadian fishers dearly need to earn a living? Perhaps most important, what about the safety of persons and property travelling on our waters?

These are choices that none of us at DFO would wish to make and that Canadians should not have to face, and I hope we will not have to.

Historian Desmond Morton once wrote:

Canadians, like their historians, have spent too much time remembering conflicts, crises, and failures. They forgot the great, quiet continuity of life in a vast and generous land. A cautious people learns from its past; a sensible people can face its future. Canadians, on the whole, are both.

I think that speaks volumes to the debate we are having today.

I believe in honouring our maritime heritage and I believe this is a shared responsibility, including but not limited to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

We fully support the principles of Bill S-220. We are willing to work with other levels of government and community members, who care about preserving these vital links to our past and can make the most of these opportunities to honour our maritime heritage.

Canadians do have a strong attachment to lighthouses. However, we also need to move from an emotionally based argument to a practical one. Simply put, true heritage lighthouses need to be protected and preserved for the education and enjoyment of current and future generations. They need to have new life breathed into them. They need to be rejuvenated so they can play a new role in community life.

Lighthouses are a symbol of survival and hope in hundreds of Canadian communities. In fact, with the exception of only two, every province in Canada has lighthouses. As Canadians, we all have a responsibility to protect these important symbols because it is through our history that we come to know ourselves as a people. I believe we all have a role to play in that regard.

The House resumed from March 27 consideration of the motion that Bill S-220, An Act to protect heritage lighthouses, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

March 27th, 2007 / 6:50 p.m.
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The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and Bill S-220 is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence. When it returns for debate in the House, there will be two minutes left for the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment.

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

March 27th, 2007 / 6:40 p.m.
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Langley B.C.


Mark Warawa ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, the sense of wonder and reverence we feel as we learn about the past human activities that laid the foundation of our country stimulate a profound desire to ensure the preservation of historic places, artifacts and structures. It encourages us to want to share these experiences with our families and ensure that future generations can also benefit from them. It motivates us to ensure the protection of natural areas and commemoration of historic places, which is a national priority.

These areas and sites symbolize our national identity. They characterize the way we see ourselves and how others see us as a nation. Through our efforts, we demonstrate to the world a thoughtful, caring attitude toward the national and international treasures of nature and culture so richly bestowed upon Canadians.

Such is the spirit of Bill C-220. It reflects what many Canadians feel when they walk toward a shore and look at a lighthouse. Lighthouses are part of Canada's history. They have ensured safe navigation and docking for tens of thousands of fishermen, ship crew members and passengers and immigrants. The inspiration and knowledge we derive from these special heritage places more than justify our efforts to protect and commemorate them.

Canada has a world-class system of heritage areas and programs designed for the preservation of the most outstanding of our country's treasures. This includes national historic sites, national parks, heritage rivers, historic canals, marine conservation areas, heritage railway stations and heritage buildings, including lighthouses. These special places provide Canadians with outstanding opportunities to learn about and personally experience their rich heritage. These sites are an integral part of what we are, not simply what we were.

The historic sites component of Parks Canada is responsible for Canada's program of historical commemoration which recognizes nationally significant places, persons and events.

The Minister of the Environment designates national historic sites on the advice of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada and federal heritage buildings evaluated by the Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office and an interdepartmental advisory committee.

More than 100 lighthouses have been designated as national historic sites or as classified or recognized federal heritage buildings. There are other types of heritage buildings, such as old post offices and armouries. I will give a few examples of these precious landmarks of Canadian history.

The first lighthouse on the St. Lawrence and the third oldest in Canada today was erected on Île Verte facing the Saguenay Fjord. The Île Verte light was first lit in 1809. It remained the sole light on the mighty St. Lawrence for the next 21 years.

Today, the private owner keeper's house has been transformed into a bed and breakfast. Every year thousands of visitors from across Canada, North America and Europe have the opportunity to spend some time at this legendary site and learn more about Canada's history.

Gibraltar Point erected in 1808 is the oldest existing lighthouse on the Canadian Great Lakes. The tower, built of limestone, originally stood some 67 feet in height. A 15 foot extension was added in 1832. The lighthouse is no longer in service but he city of Toronto has preserved it as a historic site.

Located on Lake Huron, Point Clark Lighthouse was built between 1855 and 1859. It commemorates the vital role of lighthouses in navigation on the Great Lakes. The 87 foot limestone tower, topped by a 12 sided lantern framed in cast iron, is typical of the six Imperial towers built in the region, a lighthouse style rarely seen elsewhere in Canada. Point Clark Lighthouse is one of Canada's national historic sites. The township of Huron has an agreement with Parks Canada to operate the light keeper's house as a local museum.

Fisgard Lighthouse is a circular brick tower, 56 feet high with an attached dwelling. It was built in 1860 at the entrance to Esquimalt Harbour. Along with Race Rock light, it inaugurated the fixed navigation aids on the Pacific coast of Canada. Even though the lighthouse is still in service, Parks Canada maintains it as a historic site. The former keeper's house now contains exhibits and a video station.

There is no doubt that lighthouses are important to Canadians. They stand against winds, tides and storms. They are a symbol of strength, resilience and Canadian courage and resourcefulness.

But they are not the only type of heritage buildings worth protecting. National historic sites represent thousands of years of human history and hundreds of years of nation building. They have been representative of the diversity of Canada's historic heritage.

National historic sites are located all across Canada. Each national historic site tells its own unique story, part of the greater story of Canada, contributing a sense of time, identity and place to our understanding of Canada as a whole. Each national historic site is part of a system that spans the country, telling the story of Canada's development as a nation.

In her November 2003 report, “Protection of Cultural Heritage in the Federal Government”, the Auditor General questioned the protection of many examples of the same building type, citing lighthouses specifically. In a follow-up report released in February 2007, the Auditor General reiterated some important recommendations, including the need to strengthen the conservation regime for built heritage.

Under the Parks Canada Agency Act, Parks Canada has the responsibility for built heritage programs and historic places in Canada. The agency's objectives include ensuring the commemorative integrity of national historic sites and respect for and conservation of the heritage character of federal heritage buildings.

The processes adopted by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board for the selection of national historic sites and by the Federal Heritage Building Review Office for the evaluation of federal heritage sites are based on recognized selection criteria and in-depth research. They are intended to protect the most outstanding examples of Canadian cultural heritage in all categories of built heritage, not one single type.

In conclusion, protecting our built heritage is about making choices. Which historic places will we choose to protect? What means will we put into play? How will these activities be funded?

As we heard earlier today, not all old buildings can be preserved. The choices are never easy to make, but they have become critically important to the development of protection strategies. We need to make judicious choices in designating heritage buildings and to have appropriate means to ensure their conservation on behalf of all Canadians now and in the future.

We want to examine Bill S-220 carefully. I commend Senator Carney in the other place and the member for South Shore—St. Margaret's for bringing the matter forward in the House to stimulate this important debate. I encourage all members to engage in a fulsome debate on this issue.

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

March 27th, 2007 / 6:35 p.m.
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Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from South Shore--St. Margaret's, as well as the hon. Senator Pat Carney and the late hon. Senator Forrestall for the tremendous work they did on this file for many years in trying to bring this issue to the forefront.

Bill S-220 is a compilation of some bills that have been introduced not only in the House but in the Senate. My colleague from South Shore--St. Margaret's has a private member's bill on this, as do I. Senator Carney did yeomen's work trying to get the bill through the Senate and then to the House for this discussion.

I can appreciate some of the concerns my colleague from the Bloc Québécois had but I can assure him that the bill would do quite a lot of good, not only for Quebec heritage but for the rest of the country as well.

Are there a couple of concerns? Every bill has some concerns. As the chair of our committee so rightly said, if we can get this bill to committee we can discuss those concerns in a rather pragmatic fashion and we can bring in people from around the country. We can bring in departmental officials, people from the provinces and, quite possibly, those heritage groups that have insisted on taking over responsibility of these lighthouses. We think that in many ways this is a win-win situation.

The federal government does what it wishes to do through automation now. However, with the technology we have these days many lighthouses have become redundant but their structures have historical significance, not just to us in Atlantic Canada but to people right across the country. Every time one of those lighthouses comes down, either through an act of God or through deliberate attempts by us to remove it, we lose a piece of our history.

I have had the benefit of living on both coasts of this great country and I have seen many lighthouses. It is an absolute joy to picnic near a lighthouse and imagine what it was like 100 or 200 years ago when seafarers plied their trade and used the beacon of hope to direct them into a safe harbour.

We have many folklores and stories about lighthouses. Although we may be romanticizing this particular debate, we believe this issue is of significant importance. Just like other historical aspects within Canada, like grain elevators on the prairies or train stations and other things, lighthouses played a significant role for our ancestors.

We are not asking that every lighthouse be protected. We are not asking that every one of them be designated under a heritage aspect. That would be fiscally unwise and fiscally irresponsible. We are asking that those lighthouses of significant historical importance to the country be protected. People in the Dominion Institute and many others can identify those particular lighthouses.

We know that people within the Department of Canadian Heritage, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Environment Canada, the Coast Guard, et cetera, have expertise on this subject. They could identify the lighthouses that deserve special protection of this nature. We believe that in the end it would actually be fiscally responsible. We also know that many of these lighthouses suffer from environmental contamination and they need to be cleaned up.

As my colleague, who has the honour of living in South Shore--St. Margaret's on the lighthouse route, it is incredible to see the number of tourists from around the world who go to areas like Peggy's Cove, Cape Forchu, Cape Spear in Newfoundland and Langara Island on the west coast and have their pictures taken near what we sometimes call the candy pole or the barbershop pole. Many of the them are in salt and pepper designs as well. These lighthouses are absolutely fantastic. It is absolutely fantastic to explore them, to witness them and to read about their history. When we speak to volunteer groups in the communities that are attached to those lighthouses, we hear their desire to keep those lighthouses.

The love for these lighthouses and their historical significance is something we as politicians should understand more fully. We should also try to assist the volunteer groups in trying to maintain these lighthouses in perpetuity.

The goal of the bill is to eventually get those lighthouses into a state where they can be transferred over to non-profit groups, hopefully within the communities of interest, so that the integrity and the history of these lighthouses can be preserved for many generations to come.

Every time we lose a particular piece of heritage, it is a loss for all of us. I know my hon. colleague from Halifax is very supportive of the bill. I would like to tell my colleague, who is also the chair of our committee, that we in the federal New Democratic Party, as well as the provincial parties across the country, support this initiative.

On some of the concerns that he has outlined that we need to discuss, I am sure we can discuss them in a very pragmatic fashion within our committee.

I would remind the House, as has been mentioned before, that although the members of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans do not necessarily agree on everything, the reality is that I have been on that committee since 1997 and we have done many reports on all aspects of the fishery, and I believe we can work in a collegial fashion to move this issue fairly quickly.

This would really honour a true friend of Nova Scotia and a long time member, not just of the service, but also of the Senate, of the House and of Canada, the late Senator Mike Forrestall. He was a very decent human being. He had a love for this particular issue. We believe that it would be very fitting, in his honour and in his memory, to move a particular issue of this nature forward.

We believe this would be fiscally responsible. We believe that eventually the finances will be in upcoming budgets for this particular initiative. We believe the House of Commons can, once and for all, actually put its stamp on a heritage lighthouse act so that groups, like the Dominion Institute and groups throughout the provinces, the territories and the country, will be able to honestly say that we worked in a manner befitting this Parliament to move this issue forward in, hopefully, a unanimous way one day.

I am sure the Bloc member's concerns can be addressed in our committee as well. I look forward to that day.

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

March 27th, 2007 / 6:25 p.m.
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Raynald Blais Bloc Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, after that fine speech I would not want to stop us all from getting along. I can see why in the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans we work in a collegial manner for the betterment of those we defend. It is in that spirit that I will speak today on the matter of heritage lighthouses.

However, I will go against what I have heard so far because the Bloc does not intend to support Bill S-220, for various reasons I will explain in the next few minutes.

As I was saying when I asked the question earlier, it is hard to believe that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, finally, in all its wisdom, has come up with an alternative to neglecting the lighthouses and the difficult situation in these areas.

The department thought that a bill like this would allow it to randomly, perhaps after some form of public consultation, determine that a lighthouse at a certain location would be protected. If this desire to cooperate on this does not manifest itself, the lighthouse in question might simply disappear and be dismantled, for lack of funding, as I heard the Conservative member say loud and clear.

I am well aware that we are currently in a situation where small craft harbours are not being maintained as they should be. You know as well as I do how much money is needed not to refurbish, but to renew all the wharves that are deemed essential. If we properly assessed the situation, we would see that there are wharves deemed essential by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and there are other general wharves. The number of general wharves largely outweighs the number of essential ones.

The latest figures show that $470 million is needed to restore the wharves. I get the feeling that the real amount is much higher, since that figure dates back to 2005 or 2006, if I am not mistaken. We are now in 2007. You know as well as I do that with every storm, or every time there are a few more waves, the wharf deteriorates just a little more. As soon as a wharf starts deteriorating, it does not take long before it is run down. Accordingly, the amount of money that should be recommitted to this file increases exponentially.

The small craft harbours file is in a serious situation, and this is a federal responsibility.

The solution every time, for want of money, is to turn to volunteers who work under the harbour authorities. The other solution is to simply put up a fence around these wharves. It is completely irresponsible for any government to do so.

There is a risk associated with the bill tabled today. We are told right up front, and quite openly, that there will be no more money in the budget for heritage lighthouses. However, a committee will be set up to undertake public consultations, but with no guarantees as to the outcome. The minister will reserve the right to decide whether or not a certain lighthouse, considered significant and a heritage property by one community, will be designated, whereas another may not necessarily be given that status. We are promised that there will be money later, as if by magic, to maintain these heritage lighthouses.

I am prepared to have some faith, but not to that point. I do not wish to be blind.

I wish to be responsible and rigorous. Which means that a bill will not solve the problem of the responsibilities of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans with respect to heritage lighthouses. It is not that type of bill.

What is really needed is more money for facilities such as lighthouses, small craft harbours and wharves. I have the impression, given that the past can be an indication of what the future holds, that the purpose of the bill is to mask the sad reality and possibly provide a way out for the department. Furthermore, this is all being done under the pretext of designating cultural assets. In this regard, I would have liked to have seen this work carried out in cooperation with the Government of Quebec. The fact that the government is a majority or a minority is not at issue. The Government of Quebec should be consulted where properties—namely lighthouses—could become cultural assets. What will happen to these lighthouses after that?

As soon as a community develops an interest in a lighthouse, does that community have to make a huge financial effort to find the money to refurbish the lighthouse in question? In the end, even though there is a bill, there is no money behind it. As a result, volunteers who want to protect a cultural asset and who are interested in doing something with a heritage lighthouse will be asked to put in a superhuman effort.

In the end, it will turn out that for want of money and real political will, these people will be left to their own devices. This situation is a federal responsibility. This is not about lighthouses in other jurisdictions. These lighthouses belong to Fisheries and Oceans Canada. In terms of protecting jurisdiction, the responsibility falls entirely under Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Also worth emphasizing is the fact that eventually, we may find ourselves with a lighthouse that has to be decontaminated. It might just be the lighthouse, but it could also be the buildings nearby.

We know that mercury was used a lot. Extensive use of mercury has led to the contamination of some lighthouse sites. What will be done about that? Does this mean that volunteers and the community will be asked to do even more to ensure that the so-called federal responsibility to maintain a so-called heritage site is honoured? The problem is being offloaded to volunteers and coastal communities. Because of their attachment to the heritage lighthouse, they will do anything to protect it. Site decontamination could cost $600,000, $1 million, $1.5 million or even $2 million. That is the kind of situation that could arise.

That is why I do not think that the bill before us today meets our expectations. It is not completely contrary to our expectations, but we have to be rigorous and responsible. I do not claim to have the solution, but I think that unfortunately, with respect to the heritage lighthouse issue, given how the department is managing the other file in its portfolio, small craft harbours, we can hardly trust it with respect to its responsibility to adequately maintain the facilities it owns. That is why we will vote against this bill.

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

March 27th, 2007 / 6:15 p.m.
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Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, this is such a great issue not just for coastal Newfoundland and Labrador but for coastal Canada.

We have some of the greatest heritage celebrated in the world when it comes to certainly lighthouses and a perspective of history. I would also like to point out what a lot of people overlook. In tourism brochures and all over the place across western and eastern Canada, we have a tremendous heritage in central parts of Canada as well.

As my hon. colleague from Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound is certainly aware of, I think he has about eight lighthouses in his riding. Indeed, that tells us what kind of history we have with lighthouses, not only in east, west and north but also to the centre of this country.

At this point I would like to congratulate Senator Carney on her work on Bill S-220, an act to protect heritage lighthouses, introduced in December 2006. British Columbia Senator Pat Carney's bill will prevent heritage lighthouses that fall under federal jurisdiction from being altered, sold or destroyed without public consultation. Therein lies a fantastic idea, something that I do believe is long overdue.

I would like to point out and commend the work that has been done by the late Senator Forrestall who also did some tremendous work on this.

I would also like to take this time, since I am in a very complimentary mood, to share the compliments and share the hard work that has been done by all my colleagues, especially the ones from Nova Scotia. My colleague from Cape Breton—Canso has done a tremendous amount of work. My NDP colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore has done quite a bit on this file. I would be remiss if I left out my friend and colleague from South Shore—St. Margaret's who has long been a champion for this. I commend him for it. Of course, my friend from Îles-de-la-Madeleine, how can I forget the east coast of Quebec where this is necessary.

In the spirit of all this congeniality, I would like to say that indeed we are supporting Bill S-220 for many reasons. I think some of it can be summarized in the hard work that people have done over the years to protect their heritage. Around Newfoundland and Labrador we have lighthouses dating back to being the focal point of coastal communities in the mid-1800s. Lighthouses go back to becoming the focal point of communities for sealers and fishermen all over the eastern parts of the country.

Of course, being from Newfoundland and Labrador, the oldest colony in North America, lighthouses have indeed been an intrinsic part of our past and will continue to be.

“Going Towards the Lights in Atlantic Canada” is a document by the Canadian Register of Historic Places written by Darin MacKinnon. He is the registrar of heritage places with Prince Edward Island and he makes some very good observations. First of all, he says, “Lighthouses stand out”. He says, “Those lonely sentinels are iconic”.

He goes on to say and this is my favourite quote from him and it is very true. He says, “They are beacons from our past”. Indeed they are beacons from our past and something that we should preserve for the future, not only for our children but also for generations to come, many years, 100, 200 years. We should take notice of this.

In 2004 Parks Canada with provincial and territorial partners launched the Canadian Register of Historic Places. It is a searchable online source of information for anybody who is interested in finding out in their nearest vicinity if indeed they do have lighthouses and where they can go and see them.

For those who have an interest in lighthouses and the deep history associated with them, I do not suppose any of my Saskatchewan colleagues would find too much online, but nonetheless we get the idea, whether it be from the Great Lakes to the Arctic.

There are light stations to dwell on. Two recent examples from CRHP listings from Newfoundland and Labrador highlight other buildings associated with lighthouses. I would be remiss if I did not mention one in my own riding which is the Long Point Light Station at Crow Head. It was recently designated in December 2006.

I would also like to point out something that my colleague from Cape Breton—Canso mentioned when he talked about the available funds. I do think and I would compel the government and governments to come, no matter what stripe or colour, to look into a designated fund for our lighthouses as historical pieces.

I understand the limitations. I certainly understand the challenges in doing this for in excess of 500 lighthouses, but as my honourable colleague from the Conservatives pointed out, there has to be something done to preserve the lighthouses that serve to be our beacons from the past.

Also, I will talk about Cape Bonavista, another one that goes way back to the early 1800s and how it has evolved over the years. Through time, it has become a major beacon on the northeast coast. It is not of federal jurisdiction; it is provincial. However, when it comes to lighthouses and protecting our culture, when did jurisdiction ever matter? This is an important issue. It is one that is necessary for each and every colleague in the House.

In the process for Bill S-220, both the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Environment Canada asserted that there were 750 lighthouses in Canada which would require funding pursuant to the provisions of the bill. The figure has presumably been applied to the cost analysis conducted by these departments. However, on December 7, 2006, during the hearing of Bill S-220 by the Senate Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, they pointed out that only 3% of our lighthouses across the nation had genuine heritage protection and only 12% even had partial protection. That exists for 583 of these lighthouses. These are statistics that we should keep in mind as we vote on the bill. I hope we get the support of all our colleagues in the House.

Why is this needed to protect heritage lighthouses? It is for the Government of Canada to examine, recognize, protect and maintain a highly significant group of heritage structures, something with which I cannot see anybody in this legislature or other legislatures across the country disagreeing.

Today, for an example, we also have a great bit of money and attention given to railway stations across the country for their heritage impact. We actually have more lighthouses designated than we do railway stations. Decades ago, the government decided to have a policy where it would recognize and support railway stations for heritage purposes. Today 166 heritage railway stations have been designated by the federal government.

Let us contrast and compare. Lighthouses are beacons of the past and we could say the same for trains and railway stations. Something along that magnitude is indeed required in this situation.

Other examples that we could use are Cape Sable lighthouse, Nova Scotia, Sambro Island gas house in Nova Scotia and Estevan Point in British Columbia. It is a fantastic place for many people along the coastline to see, to get a glimpse of the history and culture of which they do celebrate. I congratulate each and every participant who is involved in that.

Bill S-220 is needed too. There are three major points I will bring out, which is the main reason why we are here today to support the bill. First is to give the public a voice in protecting heritage lighthouses. Second is to provide a systematic and legally binding mechanism for the recognition and protection of lighthouses that are presently owned and operated by the federal government. That is why we are here today. Third, we should provide an opportunity for public consultation before authorization is given for the removal, alteration, destruction, sale, transfer or other disposition of a heritage lighthouse. That is a very necessary component.

Bill S-220 is a very important first step for this incentive. The funding needs to be addressed. In fact, I suggest that maybe the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans could probably look at something along this magnitude if it has not done it before. Perhaps my hon. colleague can point it out. He has more experience on the committee than I do.

I do appreciate the comments in here today. I appreciate Senator Carney and the work that she has done. Indeed, this is something that we can easily support, and we do it with a great amount of enthusiasm.