moved that the bill be read a third time and passed.
Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure to rise in the House today to debate third reading of Bill S-215, an act to protect heritage lighthouses. But before I go any further, I would like to personally thank my seconder, the member for South Shore—St. Margaret's, for all his hard work on this, and also for the very strong support from the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl.
I would be remiss if I did not mention some of the history of this bill which some may or may not know. This initiative was initiated seven or eight years ago by the late Senator Forrestall. After his unfortunate passing, it was carried on by Senators Carney and Murray. We have had some great support from people all over the country which I will be talking about a little further here.
There is a book called Alone in the Night. It is a collection of stories about the lighthouses of Georgian Bay, where I happen to live, the Manitoulin Islands and the North Channel in Ontario. It speaks about what our Canadian lighthouses really are when the authors wrote:
Lighthouses capture the imagination. There is an obvious appeal in the romantic image of lights as beacons of strength and protection, but the fascination goes beyond that. Pass one of the silent towers and an eerie presence beckons--of untold stories and forgotten memories.
By most standards, we are still a very young country. Lighthouses are a critical and important part of our early history and our development as a nation. From Newfoundland and Labrador to British Columbia, they have shaped our destiny. Let me offer but a few selected samples.
The Cape Pine light tower, which is a national historic site, was built in 1851 on Newfoundland's southernmost point to guide transatlantic navigation. It was the first of a series of cast iron structures that substituted for fire-prone timber structures. On a personal note, I had the privilege of being at that site last July and it is truly something to see. Its contribution continues today. In recent years it has operated as a pollution research station.
In the Maritimes, we have Sambro Island, just outside the entrance to Halifax Harbour. It is 250 years old this year and the oldest operating lighthouse in all of the Americas. Along the St. Lawrence, L'Isle-Verte and Cap-des-Rosiers lighthouses were built almost 200 and 150 years ago respectively, and both are designated national historic sites. In British Columbia, Race Rocks and Fisgard light stations will be 150 in 2010.
All members know of the important role that lighthouses have played in our development as a nation. With many lighthouses celebrating important anniversaries this year, and I have mentioned just a couple of them, I can think of no better way to honour their importance than for this House to pass Bill S-215.
The fact that this bill has arrived at third reading speaks to the tremendous amount of thought that this House and the Senate have put into protecting our heritage lighthouses. In fact, it is the seventh time that Parliament has considered a bill to protect heritage lighthouses, and I sincerely hope we will be seventh time lucky. Going back to my Irish roots, maybe the luck of the Irish will be upon us here.
There is broad support for this bill in this House, in the Senate, and certainly among Canadians. To date we have spent a considerable amount of time on this bill, with many hours in committee listening to Canadians voice their support for protecting heritage lighthouses. We heard from the Senate, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Parks Canada, and from academia and community stakeholders on both coasts, in central Canada and Quebec. We have heard the voices of people across this country urging us to pass this legislation and I agree with them.
I can tell members that in my riding of Bruce--Grey--Owen Sound, there are a number of lighthouses, including some of the six historic imperial lighthouses that were constructed between 1855 and 1859, but the condition of some of those majestic properties has deteriorated. I would like to see this bill passed to spare a similar fate to the one on Griffith Island in Georgian Bay, which is in my riding.
Just this past Saturday night I had the pleasure of being on the Chi-Cheemaun, a local Ontario Northlands ferry, where a fundraiser was held, and part of the tour that we had passed by Griffith Island.
While it was very nice to see it at dusk, the light tower standing there with the light is great, but some of the outbuildings have deteriorated. This bill will keep that from happening and hopefully as well to some other important lighthouses in the country.
Why should we pass this bill? Mr. Robert Square, the chair of the Cove Island Lightstation Heritage Association, which is another lighthouse in my riding, said it best:
I believe that the preservation of lighthouses, Bill S-215, is a shared responsibility, shared between the government and our groups, the non-profits. There's a wonderful opportunity here to do some really good work in preserving our lighthouses.
These sentiments were echoed by Mr. David Bradley, chair of the Association of Heritage Industries of Newfoundland and Labrador. In his testimony, he said:
Canada's cultural heritage is vital to our identity and sense of place. The built heritage is the most vivid physical representation of that cultural heritage--
He also told the committee:
As with railway stations, lighthouses have a special significance to Canadians. They are iconic structures. Many have significant architecture. But their importance stems more from their role in Canadian history. Often standing in relative isolation on islands or headlands, they have been the first evidence of Canadian culture encountered by generations of immigrants to this country.
Natalie Bull also appeared before the committee as executive director of the Heritage Canada Foundation. She noted that lighthouses are used extensively in promoting tourism and that many are, as she put it, significant destinations in and of themselves. Peggy's Cove, I think, is one that truly represents that.
Mr. Barry MacDonald, who has worked tirelessly to advance this initiative, spoke to the committee of the bonds that maritime communities have with the lighthouses that served them and their forebearers. He is the president of the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society and he also noted how volunteer groups are benefiting their community by keeping these bonds intact. He said:
A pioneering effort began in Prince Edward Island in 1984 with the lease of the West Point lighthouse. A well-organized development plan saw ten rooms, a full-menu restaurant, and a gift shop in place by 1987. A real success story, this lighthouse has consistently employed 25 local people and is a major tourism destination on Prince Edward Island.
Casting an eye to New Brunswick, Mr. MacDonald pointed out that the interpretive centre at the Cape Enrage lightstation welcomes more than 40,000 visitors per year to the rugged Fundy shore. The non-profit group that developed it and operates it generates annual revenues of $350,000 and employs about 20 students. This group has been in business since 1993 and has not looked back.
The committee heard time and again of the tremendous benefits to transferring lighthouses to communities. It allows those closest to these heritage sites, those with the greatest stake in their preservation, a chance to have a hand in their future. Non-government groups have more flexibility in fundraising than does a government organization.
The executive director of Heritage B.C., Mr. Rick Goodacre, also appeared before the committee. He noted the contribution of the many volunteers who are adopting and will adopt lighthouses for alternate use. He stressed that the sustainability of lighthouses is dependent on the will to conserve them. He said of Bill S-215:
I think that's why, in this case, special legislation is valuable and necessary. I don't believe the general blanket of federal policy for heritage buildings is sufficient to deal with our historic lighthouses.
I say amen to that.
Mr. Goodacre told the committee that if Bill S-215 is passed, his organization will strive to help implement it in his province and realize its goal of protecting heritage lighthouses. To quote him: “We'll do whatever we can to make this work”.
The witnesses who came before the committee clearly gave Bill S-215 a lot of thought. They recognized that while perhaps not every lighthouse can be saved, they are willing to work with the Government of Canada on this. They ask that we pass this bill so they can continue to be part of the process. They want to ensure that local communities are included and can assist in ensuring the future of their lighthouses.
Speaking on behalf of the heritage community on the east coast, Mr. Bradley, who again, is the chair of the Association of Heritage Industries of Newfoundland and Labrador, said:
--the heritage community recognizes that the compromises made along the way were a necessary part of that process, and we are happy with this bill.
Barry MacDonald, whom I mentioned earlier, was one of those people who helped make this bill work with compromises and I truly thank him for that.
I agree with Mr. Bradley when he added, “It is time to move ahead”.
Returning to Mr. MacDonald of Nova Scotia, he urged passage of the bill to, as he put it:
--recognize and protect the rich architecture that is present in our lighthouses across this country,--
From the grand beacons that rise along our coastlines to the small, wooden pepperpot styles that are unique to Canada, few nations can boast such a varied and treasured collection of lighthouse architecture. Put simply, these heritage sites are worth protecting.
This initiative has been around the block several times and it has always received strong support. Unfortunately, those attempts suffered the fate of many private members' bills, the parliamentary clock simply ran out. However, opportunity has knocked a seventh time.
The fact that this bill is here again speaks volumes to the importance of this proposed legislation to many Canadians who are determined to protect these unique symbols of our past.
There is wide support for this bill in the community and in government. The government sought changes and we in committee, through collaboration and compromise, made them. What we have before us today is quite simply a better bill, a workable solution.
Essentially, the bill requires that a designated heritage lighthouse be reasonably maintained. It facilitates ongoing protection and ensures use for a public purpose when heritage lighthouses are transferred from federal ownership.
We have also addressed the issue of access structures. To better define the scope of the act, we changed the terminology from “related structures” to “related buildings”. These measures will improve protection for heritage lighthouses, whether they stay in federal hands or are transferred to the community.
Thanks again to the input of many stakeholders, Bill S-215 offers a statutory mechanism to identify lighthouses worthy of heritage protection. It puts in place a process to recognize, protect and maintain them. It is a bill that would allow community members to have a say and take a hand in the future of their lighthouses, as well they should.
I call on members of this House to realize the dream of the late Senator Forrestall, who first brought this issue into the spotlight, and pass this bill.
Once again, I would like to thank Senator Carney and Senator Murray for all their hard work. I wish to thank Barry MacDonald and everyone else across this country who have helped to bring this bill to the point that it is. I thank them for their tireless support.
I urge everyone in the House to support this bill.