moved that Bill C-370, An Act to amend the Canada National Parks Act (St. Lawrence Islands National Park of Canada), be read the third time and passed.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise tonight to open third reading debate on my private member's bill, Bill C-370, an act to change the name of the St. Lawrence Islands National Park to Thousand Islands National Park.
I want to begin my comments by thanking members on both sides of the House for their participation in these debates and their support of the bill. I would also like to thank the witnesses who came to Ottawa on short notice last month to appear before the committee. For those who were unable to attend the committee meeting, I would point out that Kim St. Claire appeared on behalf of Parks Canada and explained how the bill would benefit the park. Don Ross, currently the executive director of the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve, noted how this name change was first proposed back in the 1970s when he was working for Parks Canada. Tom Russell, the executive director of the Thousand Islands Community Futures Development Corporation, spent his time explaining how businesses in the region use and benefit from the Thousand Islands name. He also noted the reliance of my region, where this park is located, on the hospitality sector. I appreciate the contribution of three of these folks to the discussion of the bill at committee. Their input was invaluable.
Among the issues discussed at committee were answers to questions that have been raised here about the bill. The first concern expressed was about the consultation. As Mr. Ross noted at committee, the consultation process for this name change began in the early 1970s but that it unfortunately did not proceed beyond the region itself. At the time, however, the consensus was that the park's name should be changed to Thousands Islands National Park.
My own consultation process on the bill dates back several years when I first heard from municipal councils in the region, as well as chambers of commerce and other concerned groups, that they would like to see the name change occur as quickly as possible.
Parks Canada also conducted a consultation that met with the same result from the public and other interested and concerned parties.
After the discussion that had taken place in the 1970s, many people in the region began referring to the park as the Thousand Islands National Park. There is no doubt that the name change is supported throughout the region.
The other issue that was raised was the cost involved in the name change. Ms. St. Claire addressed this in her remarks at committee. While a firm final figure has not been produced for acceptable reasons, Parks Canada put a ballpark figure of about $100,000 for the change. This would be spent over an approximately 10-year period, which is one reason the exact cost is really hard to pinpoint. The other reason the cost is hard to nail down is that much of the changes would be accomplished as part of regular maintenance.
Let me explain what has to be done. Parks Canada would have to change a few signs on Highway 401 and on the Thousand Islands Parkway that direct people to the park. This would have to be undertaken almost immediately. These signs are slat signs, so only the actual name portion would have to be changed. It is possible that an inexpensive cover could be made for these signs until such a time as they require replacement with new signs.
Websites would have to be changed at a minimal cost. Letterhead, business cards and envelopes would be changed as they run out of current stock.
Sign boards at Parks Canada property would also be changed as part of the normal maintenance regime. In other words, as signs weather and wear out they would be replaced by new signs with the new name. This part of the change would actually be part of regular maintenance that would be undertaken with or without the name change, so although the name would be changed, the signs would in any case be replaced over a 10-year period. Ms. St. Claire indicated at committee that Parks Canada is actually looking forward to the exercise because it would give them an opportunity to take a sign inventory that is overdue at the park.
After all this time and all the discussion and efforts over the years to try to rename this park with a name better suited to its location, now is the time to act.
As I and others have mentioned in previous discussions here, the park is in a truly unique area of Canada. It is at the crossroads of the natural and cultural history of North America. Its natural assets have been recognized in the greater region that has the UNESCO world heritage designation. The park is located within the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve. It was a cultural crossroad as the North American continent was opened up by natives, adventurers, fur traders, explorers, settlers and merchants.
The St. Lawrence Islands National Park was established in 1904 as the first Canadian national park east of the Rocky Mountains. Located in the heart of the Thousand Islands area, it is an 80-kilometre wide extension of granite hilltops, which join the Canadian Shield of northern Ontario with the Adirondack Mountains in New York State. Glaciers retreated 10,000 years ago, scraping sediments and exposing the rounded knobs of an ancient mountain chain. When the St. Lawrence River flooded the area on its path to the Atlantic Ocean, over 1,000 hilltops became the Thousand Islands.
The area retains a rugged beauty. Plants and animals migrated to the area, encouraged by the moderating effects of the Great Lakes and the variety of micro-habitats, which were created by the rugged topography.
The islands form a land bridge from northwest to southeast across the St. Lawrence River, aiding movement of species through the area.
This narrow isthmus, known as the Frontenac Axis or Arch, is the vital link joining two important North American landforms, the Canadian Shield and the Adirondack Mountains, to form one ecosystem.
Although the waters of the Great Lakes can be a barrier to migrating flora and fauna, the St. Lawrence funnels the water into a narrow channel and the islands form stepping stones, shortening distances between the land masses.
The presence of the Great Lakes to the west has the effect of a heat sink, which moderates the climate in the area immediately surrounding the Thousand Islands. As a result, many plants and animals reach the northern or southern limits of their range in the Thousand Islands.
The river also funnelled people coming from the Atlantic to the interior of North America through the islands. Native people, explorers and settlers have left their mark on the region and the islands. Enough native artifacts have been located to prompt a mandatory search each time waterfront is developed.
Battles have taken place among the islands, especially during the War of 1812.
Explorers and writers have marvelled at their beauty and mystery.
The French actually named the area, Les Milles Isles, or the Thousand Islands, in the 1700s when French explorers travelled through the region. This was long before there were international boundaries. The islands themselves were named by the British navy.
As the region opened up to tourism in the late 1800s, people began to advocate for a park to protect and preserve some of the islands. The park began in 1904 with a small piece of waterfront property at Mallorytown Landing. Nine federally-owned islands in the St. Lawrence River added to the attraction and recreation facilities were installed.
Over the years, islands and land parcels were annexed. Today, the park comprises more than 20 islands and about 90 islets scattered between the Main Duck Island, which is south of Kingston and Lake Ontario, and Brockville, Ontario. It includes mainland properties at Mallorytown Landing, Landon Bay, Jones Creek and the Larue Mills Creek.
Our national parks represent Canada and showcase the best of what we have to offer. This park is an excellent example of that.
Parks are protected so they can be enjoyed by visitors today and into the future.
Parks Canada's offerings make the federal government Canada's largest provider of natural and cultural tourism products. Its destinations, such as national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas, form the cornerstones of the Canadian tourism industry.
Tourism represents as a significant economic opportunity for Canada. In 2010 the tourism sector contributed $29.7 billion to the Canadian economy and employed 617,300 Canadians. In my riding alone, over 6,000 people are employed in the visitor services industry.
Our national parks, and this one especially in my great riding of Leeds—Grenville, offer important economic possibilities for the province of Ontario and for Canada.
The Thousand Islands is known throughout the world as a tourism destination. Every year millions of tourists flock to the region, but very few people know that there is a national park located in the heart of those islands.
This park is the closest national park to the city of Ottawa. Even with the creation of Rouge National Urban Park, Thousand Islands national park will remain one of the closest national parks to the Toronto region. However, it remains one of our best kept secrets.
It is time for us to offer new possibilities for this majestic national park and something as simple as changing its name will dramatically alter how Parks Canada engages and attracts members of the public.
For over 100 years, tourism has played a prominent role in the Thousand Islands community, supporting family-owned businesses from generation to generation.
St. Lawrence Islands National Park has an annual budget in excess of $1.5 million. While some of this revenue is self-generated, a majority comes from the Canadian taxpayer.
When Parks Canada has publicly stated that it is trying to encourage new Canadians, younger Canadians and urban Canadians to visit national parks, it does not make sense for Parks Canada to work outside the regional brand of Thousand Islands.
That brand is known throughout the world, yet in a region where other private tourism providers take advantage of the strong, recognized and powerful world-famous Thousand Islands brand name in using the term “St. Lawrence Islands”, Parks Canada is not talking in the same language as other Thousand Islands tourism operators.
If one were a traveller, one would find it difficult to distinguish between the offerings of the St. Lawrence Parks Commission, Parks of the St. Lawrence and the St. Lawrence Islands National Park. Two of the three organizations named have many sites outside the immediate Thousand Islands area and are not interchangeable with the national park. As well, they have differing mandates.
As the government, it is our role to help remove barriers that limit opportunities for Canadians to become more engaged with our treasured natural places. We should be doing all we can to help provide opportunities to showcase what Parks Canada has to offer. Placing Thousand Islands national park on the map is a small but significant step that will help enhance public awareness of this incredible park.
A name change presents an opportunity to renew Canadians' passion and support for our country's important natural spaces. A name change would help ensure that this national park finds a place in the consciousness of Canadians and that future generations are inspired by and support this long established protected treasure.
Economically, a name change to Thousand Islands national park would align our public offering with those of other regional tourism providers. This would help initiate sustainable, expandable growth generating activities and relationships. We are creating a legacy that says lasting improvements can be made by government.
Parks Canada will be able to expand its reach and impact by taking advantage of the existing regional brand. We heard this from Ms. St. Claire during the committee meeting.
National parks have been renamed in the past and in both of these instances the new names better reflect the region in which they are situated. This is what I am trying to accomplish with the bill.
Bill C-370 is an easy bill for all members of the House to support because we will be changing the name from St. Lawrence Islands National Park to a name that better reflects the local region. It is a name that is already used by regional residents and existing park visitors. It is a name that will help Parks Canada position the wonderful landscapes and features of the park in the psyche of Canadians. It is a name that will immediately improve local, national and international recognition of the park. It is a name that will facilitate better interactions with other regional tour operations and tourism initiatives, improving local economic opportunity. It is a name that simply makes sense.
Thousand Islands national park fits the region, it fits tradition and it fits the future. Thousand Islands national park is the right name for the right park and it is about time.