Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve Act

An Act to amend the Canada National Parks Act (Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve of Canada)

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2015.

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

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

This enactment amends the Canada National Parks Act to establish Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve of Canada.

Elsewhere

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

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve ActGovernment Orders

December 11th, 2014 / 10:15 a.m.
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Conservative

Lawrence Toet Conservative Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, as we debate third reading of Bill S-5, I want to express my full support for the Nááts’ihch’oh national park reserve act.

The purpose of the bill is to formally establish and protect Nááts’ihch’oh under the Canada National Parks Act as our nation's newest national park. This would the forty-fourth national park Canada has created since it first set aside lands in the Rocky Mountains for Banff National Park.

Located in the Mackenzie Mountains of the Northwest Territories, this newest national park borders on the Yukon territory and shares part of its boundary with Nahanni National Park Reserve. At 4,895 square kilometres, it would be the fifteenth-largest national park in Canada.

I want to express my appreciation to fellow parliamentarians who have spoken in support of Bill S-5. It is clear that support for the protection of Nááts’ihch’oh national park reserve under the Canadian National Park Act cuts across party lines and is a vision shared by all.

However, as we move toward the end of debate on Bill S-5, I do want to address some of the perceptions that have emerged during discussion on Bill S-5, both in this chamber and in committee.

In short, some of the commentaries suggested our government lacks the commitment to both protect Nááts’ihch’oh national park reserve and to honour the undertakings we have made to the first nations and Métis of the area in the establishment agreement that we signed in March 2012.

The first issue I wish to address is the public consultation program.

A number of members have raised concern over the fact that so few of the over 1,600 participants in the consultation program indicated a preference for the boundary that closely resembles the one that was chosen.

When Parks Canada released its three boundary options for comment in 2010, it was very clear in its material that it was not a vote but a discussion. The agency clarified that it was possible that none of the three options presented would be the boundary, stating:

The three boundary options being presented are not formal proposals and it is unlikely that the final park boundary will look exactly like any of them.

Indeed, the final boundary was not any of the options presented for public consultation. At the request of the Sahtu Dene and Métis in 2012, the government added a 20-square-kilometre extension of the national park reserve boundary into the O'Grady Lake area. The purpose of this addition is to facilitate visitor access to this new national park in a very beautiful area.

As the consultation program demonstrated, the government's proposal to create Nááts’ihch’oh national park reserve generated considerable support among Canadians. Over 96% of the participants who submitted written comments expressed their support for this initiative to create a new national park, and over 61% cited as important the protection of the habitats of important wildlife species such as grizzly bears, caribou, Dall sheep, and mountain goats. Passage of Bill S-5 would be the best means for this House to positively respond to this level of support.

Consultation programs are but one element of an overall approach to deciding upon whether to create a new national park, under what conditions, and with what boundaries. In the case of Nááts’ihch’oh, the results of the 2010 public consultation program were not the only factor in deciding the boundary. Our government also had to consider the final views of the Government of the Northwest Territories and the Sahtu Dene and Métis; the results of the mineral and energy resource assessment that was undertaken the by the Geological Survey of Canada; the strategic value of the minerals in the area to Canada; the needs and plans of the current mineral development companies that have interests in the Nááts’ihch’oh area; and the views of other implicated federal departments.

The result of this process is a proposal for 4,895-square-kilometre national park reserve that would protect the upper reaches of the South Nahanni River as well as habitat for woodland caribou and grizzly bears, while allowing for the development of existing mineral claims and leases and for potential future mineral development.

The second issue I want to address is the suggestion that Parks Canada would not be able to maintain the ecological integrity of Nááts’ihch’oh national park reserve.

The Canada National Parks Act states:

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

The establishment agreement we signed with the Sahtu Dene and the Métis commits both parties to sustain the ecological integrity of the South Nahanni River watershed.

Several speakers have cast doubt on our government's commitment to ecological integrity in light of the recent report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development on Parks Canada and ecological integrity. I want to dispel this concern. Parks Canada continues to maintain professional and technical science capacity at each of Canada's national parks in order to deliver science-based programs such as ecological monitoring and restoration and the protection and recovery of species at risk. It will be no different in the Nááts’ihch’oh national park reserve.

In his report, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development concluded that:

Parks Canada...is fulfilling its key responsibilities for maintaining or restoring ecological integrity in Canada's national parks. The Agency has developed a solid framework of policies, directives, and guidelines for fulfilling its key responsibilities....

The commissioner also highlighted the fact that Parks Canada is recognized as a world leader in developing guidance on ecological integrity. I would note that Parks Canada is transparent with the Canadian public on the state of our national parks' ecological health, as we are the only country in the G8 that is reporting on the state of ecological integrity in our national parks system.

Parks Canada is also recognized internationally as a leader in building respectful, trusting relationships with aboriginal peoples, which includes the active use of traditional knowledge in ecological decision-making. It would be no different in the Nááts’ihch’oh national park reserve.

All of this augurs well for the ecological future of Nááts’ihch’oh, as our government has the legislative mandate for ecological integrity the staff and resources, and the track record to ensure that this park would be left unimpaired for the use, benefit, and enjoyment of future Canadians.

The third issue I want to address is the ability of Parks Canada to promote tourism associated with Nááts’ihch’oh national park reserve.

The agreement between Parks Canada and the Sahtu Dene and Métis confirms that a shared purpose is to “encourage public understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of the Park” and to “enhance the experience of visitors to the Park”. I am pleased to note that between 2009-10 and 2013-14, Parks Canada measured a 4% increase in visitation to our national parks, which is almost a half a million new visitors. Our government has seen growth in visitation to a range of sites. Gros Morne National Park, on the west coast of Newfoundland, saw a 6% growth between 2012-13 and 2013-14. There was a 21% growth in Cape Breton Highlands National Park in Nova Scotia, a 13% growth in Ontario's Bruce Peninsula National Park, and a 31% increase in visitation to Manitoba's Wapusk National Park.

At the urging of the minister responsible for Parks Canada, the agency is developing an approach to unleashing the economic potential of our northern national parks with a focus on more aggressively attracting visitors to experience northern Canada and the culture of the aboriginal people who call these lands home.

Clearly Parks Canada continues to deliver quality ecological integrity and visitor service programs, and, most importantly, it continues to deliver on its mandate to maintain and make use of the national parks so as to leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.

Finally, there have been suggestions during this debate that in creating Nááts’ihch’oh national park reserve, we would simply cut the ribbon on a new park and then abandon it, offering press releases but not funding its development and operation. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Among other things, the agreement signed by Parks Canada and the Sahtu Dene and Métis states that a shared purpose is to create employment and business opportunities for beneficiaries of the affected Sahtu communities. Since we signed that establishment agreement with the first nations in 2012, Parks Canada has moved to immediately implement the terms of the agreement. For example, the minister of the environment appointed representatives to the management committee that is to advise on the management of Nááts’ihch’oh. The management committee provides advice to the minister and the Sahtu Renewable Resources Board on various matters, including renewable resource issues, the park management plan, employment, training and economic opportunities for members, and protection measures.

Until a new office is constructed, Parks Canada has opened a temporary office in Tulita and hired four employees, including the site superintendent. One of these is a Sahtu beneficiary. Parks Canada is advertising all positions locally in the community and consulting with the Sahtu on how best to attract Sahtu beneficiaries. In hiring staff, Parks Canada is taking into account special considerations for Sahtu cultural knowledge and provides preferences to qualified Sahtu members.

After signing the establishment agreement, Parks Canada started discussions with the first nations on the supply of offices, a visitors' centre, a warehouse, and housing units. In the end, the total capital investment in the community will be $3 million.

Clearly, we have not just cut a ribbon and run. We are committed to fulfilling the terms of our agreement with the Sahtu Dene and Métis and have moved to immediately implement it. We have committed the necessary funds to establish, develop, and operate this new national park. We are taking steps to ensure that this new national park reserve will not only protect the environment but make a meaningful contribution to the social and economic well-being of the community. This legislation would protect the lands and waters of a nationally significant landscape in the Nááts’ihch’oh national park reserve of Canada.

In passing the bill and making it law, we are providing Parks Canada with the powers necessary to protect this national treasure for the benefit of all Canadians. It is not just here in Parliament but across our nation that people work to protect the great symbols of our nation, the great institutions of our democracy, and the natural and cultural heritage that stand as a testament to the history of our great nation. We owe them our gratitude.

In conclusion, I hope that all members will support passage of Bill S-5 and the formal establishment of Nááts’ihch’oh national park reserve under the Canada National Parks Act.

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve ActGovernment Orders

December 11th, 2014 / 10:30 a.m.
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NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Northwest Territories, NT

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his speech and for coming here and presenting the government's viewpoint on the bill, which has certainly not come from the front benches of this establishment. That is something that should always be considered when presenting such an important bill.

I want to talk a bit about Parks Canada, because having lived next to Wood Buffalo National Park for my entire life, I know very well what has happened with national parks in our country.

Under the Liberals' administration, national parks were the whipping boy for program cuts. They have continued that way through this government. In the year 2000, I remember the park superintendent at Wood Buffalo telling me that the park's budget in real dollars was less than it was 20 years before. We are dealing with very large pieces of land that do not have a lot of support in terms of financial resources to do the job that has to be done.

In the Nahanni expansion, I asked Jim Prentice, the minister at the time, to give me a letter outlining what he was going to do for this expansion. He said they were going to put $5 million into capital projects for the Simpson and Nahanni Butte region. That was seven years ago. Nothing has been spent yet. I talked to the director the other day in committee. He said they have $3 million put aside, so over seven years the $5 million has turned into $3 million, and nothing has been built.

What is the best indicator of future performance? It is past performance. How is the government going to improve on its past performance when it comes to putting infrastructure into our national parks?

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve ActGovernment Orders

December 11th, 2014 / 10:30 a.m.
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Conservative

Lawrence Toet Conservative Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting to note that the question comes directly after we just invested $250 million in national parks.

There is a strong commitment. Even the environment commissioner's report stated very clearly that Parks Canada is in a position to make sure it upholds the ecological integrity of our national parks. We will continue to work toward that.

The Conservative government has established more national parks and added more national parks and more conserved areas in this country than any government has before. We continue to support that work going forward.

Parks Canada has clearly stated that it has the financial wherewithal to do the work it is required to do to not only maintain our parks but to enhance them and make them better places for our visitors from around the world.

Members can see from the statistics I gave in my speech that we are seeing a rise in park usage. More than half a million more people visited our national parks than in past years. That is a fantastic record, and it is something we can all be proud of as Canadians. We should stand side by side in the House and be proud of our great national parks and be willing to bring them forward as something we should all be proud of as Canadians.

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve ActGovernment Orders

December 11th, 2014 / 10:35 a.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member is right. We should all be proud of our national parks.

I listened the to the member from the Conservative Party talk about how the government has done so much for national parks. I hear the New Democrats say that the Liberals do not support national parks. Here we are today, talking about the Nááts’ihch’oh national park, which was actually created by Pierre Elliott Trudeau back in 1972. It was a time when governments around the world were not moving toward national parks. We had a visionary prime minister back in 1972, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, who saw the merit of this particular national park, which we have today in a much more expanded way.

The member is right that we need to value the potential role our national parks can play, not only for people but for the environment. This particular park, for example, has grizzly bears and caribou, among other things.

Would the member not agree that as we continue to evolve as a nation, we need to explore how we can add to our national parks in a positive and creative way? Today is a step. Is it perfect? Likely not, but it is a step moving forward. Would he not agree?

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve ActGovernment Orders

December 11th, 2014 / 10:35 a.m.
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Conservative

Lawrence Toet Conservative Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from across the way from Winnipeg North, my neighbouring riding. He is acknowledging that we are doing something great here, that we are moving forward, and that this is a very positive step for Canadians. I would agree with him on that.

The creation of national parks is very important. The Conservative government has created three national wildlife areas, three marine protected areas, two national parks, two national marine conservation areas, and one historic site. That is a pretty good record for the government. We have done a lot of work.

At the environment committee, we spent a lot of time working on the national conservation plan, which is being rolled out as we speak. As the member opposite indicated, that work was very much predicated on hearing from people across Canada who were telling us about the need to not only have these parks but to be involved in them, to be able to actually touch and feel things and be part of that natural area we have a natural inclination to be out and about in. That is what we heard a lot in our hearings during those meetings on the national conservation plan, and that is what we continue to bring forward here.

It is important that we continue to work on establishing these things.

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve ActGovernment Orders

December 11th, 2014 / 10:35 a.m.
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Conservative

Terence Young Conservative Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, parks are a very important part of Canadians' lives. The Conservative government has an excellent record when it comes to the number of parks and protected areas it has created. It has already created three national wildlife areas, three marine protected areas, two national parks, two national marine conservation areas, and one historic site.

Why is it important to now establish the Nááts’ihch’oh national park reserve?

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve ActGovernment Orders

December 11th, 2014 / 10:35 a.m.
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Conservative

Lawrence Toet Conservative Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for that great question, because it is important that we have an understanding of why it is so important that the Nááts’ihch’oh national park reserve now be established.

The establishment of this park reserve will complete the ongoing work to significantly expand Nahanni National Park Reserve and to conserve a significant proportion of the world-class South Nahanni River watershed. We will expand the original 4,765 square kilometre boundary of Nahanni sevenfold, to the point that it will be the third-largest national park complex in Canada, at 34,895 square kilometres.

Globally, this is among the most significant national park expansions. The boundary for the expanded Nahanni and the newly established Nááts’ihch’oh includes habitat that will protect up to 600 grizzly bears, as my friend across the way alluded to earlier. That is nine times greater than the number of grizzly bears protected within Banff National Park, Canada's first national park.

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve ActGovernment Orders

December 11th, 2014 / 10:40 a.m.
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Conservative

Ted Opitz Conservative Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, this park will be enormous. When one includes the neighbouring Nahanni National Park Reserve, it will be approximately 35,000 square kilometres. That is more than six times the area of P.E.I. This huge park will naturally also have a very long boundary.

I would like to know from the hon. member the key achievements within the boundary of the park.

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve ActGovernment Orders

December 11th, 2014 / 10:40 a.m.
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Conservative

Lawrence Toet Conservative Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the final boundary of the South Nahanni River watershed will protect about 70% of the South Nahanni River watershed that lies within the Sahtu settlement areas.

In combination with Nahanni National Park Reserve, 86% of the entire South Nahanni watershed will be protected. The park will protect, in and of itself, about 82 grizzly bears and the summer habitat for the Nahanni woodland caribou herd.

Visitors will now be able to paddle the South Nahanni River from the Moose Ponds to the Nahanni National Park Reserve within that boundary.

The boundary was selected to achieve key conservation gains, including protection of the upper reaches of the South Nahanni River, as well as habitat for woodland caribou and grizzly bears, while allowing for the development of existing mineral claims and leases and potential future mineral development.

Again, as I said, the boundary will protect 70% of the South Nahanni River watershed within the Sahtu settlement area.

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve ActGovernment Orders

December 11th, 2014 / 10:40 a.m.
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NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Northwest Territories, NT

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise and speak to Bill S-5. Of course, we support the development of national parks, and as a national party, we are very much in favour of Parks Canada.

As an MP from the Northwest Territories, my job in Parliament is to make sure that the people in the Northwest Territories get the deal they agreed to with the Conservative government. That is my job, and if I do not do that, I am not doing my job. Therefore, when the hon. member said that somehow this is linked to the flowery thought of all these national parks and that I am opposed to it, that is not the case at all. My job here is to represent the people of the Northwest Territories and the people of the Sahtu. That is what I am here for, and I know that job.

We are pleased, and we hope that the bill will pass later today and that we will all agree to get it done before Christmas, because really, this expansion of the Nahanni National Park Reserve is a Christmas gift to Canada. It is not necessarily simply from the government; it is from the people of the Sahtu Region. The first nations, the people who have settled their land claims, had the ability to say to the Government of Canada that they were willing to enter into a partnership and create a national park reserve in their territory on the land their ancestors lived on, which is theirs to use. They went ahead with this for the good of Canada and for the good of everyone. I think that is who we should be celebrating here today: the people of the Sahtu Region. They are the ones who are ultimately responsible for this national park.

I could say the same thing about the Dehcho Region during the first expansion of the Nahanni national park. It would not have happened without the support of the Dehcho people.

Now we have a third park in the Northwest Territories that our first nations people are looking to develop and create. That is the Thaidene Nene, which is located on the eastern edge of Great Slave Lake. It is a beautiful area, and these people are working very diligently with Parks Canada, with everyone they can, to promote and develop this sacred area, which they understand will be a world-class national park in the future.

Our people in the Northwest Territories are onside with national parks, but we want to make sure that the Conservative government is onside with what it takes to create a national park. It is not just an agreement on the land that will be put in a reserve. It is the understanding that we need to build the infrastructure. We need to make the opportunities for that national park, one of many in the Northwest Territories, to flourish and provide the people of the Sahtu Region with an opportunity to show the beauty of their region, to bring people into Canada, and to offer something that is unique and wonderful in an ever-shrinking world: wilderness that is well preserved and is part of a natural ecosystem. That is what we have with Nááts’ihch’oh park. It is a wonderful opportunity.

We are onside with this endeavour. We look forward to the bill going through third reading here today and leaving this place, with the understanding that it can go to the Governor General for final approval. That would be a very good thing to happen.

It is not that we agree with everything that has happened with the park. There are people who have said that the boundary should be larger, but that is something the government has made a decision on. That is the role of the government. It chose not to listen to the people. Therefore, the Conservatives are moving forward with this reserve, and we have to accept that. That is fine. We will deal with it. There will be other governments in the future that may make the changes required to completely control the ecosystem in that area and make sure it covers the whole watershed. Those are issues we can deal with later.

The national park reserve sets out an area whose final boundary will be renegotiated. There will be opportunities to deal with that. Therefore, this is not a problem and we can move ahead.

I want to switch gears and talk about the Sahtu Region. The Sahtu Region in the Northwest Territories is an amazing area. It has natural resources that have been exploited for many years by Imperial Oil at the Normal Wells oil field. When we think of it, the current government and the Liberal government before it have always refused to allow the royalties, the dollars collected from the Normal Wells oil field, to be returned to the people of the north.

The government tells us what is in the devolution agreement. It says it owns part of that oil field and that it is not going to share it. How did it get ownership of it? It traded the rights to take royalties from Imperial Oil for a one-third share of ownership. Therefore, on a deal that was struck between the Liberals and Conservatives—I do not know who struck this deal, but they made a deal—the government collects the money as ownership rather than royalties, and tells the Northwest Territories government that it is not going to get a penny out of it. This has been going on for 40 years.

When we talk about putting a little money into a national park in the Sahtu Region, that is after the government has fleeced the people of the Northwest Territories, taking all the money out of their pockets from the oil field. That is what the Conservatives did. They cannot deny it; that is the history. With the Liberals and Conservatives, it is the same old story. It is really an unfortunate aspect of the development of the Northwest Territories that this resource is not considered part of any devolution agreement and has been taken out of the equation.

What happens in the Sahtu Region? There is limited infrastructure development, there is a high cost of living, people have less than adequate community resources. That is the situation in the Sahtu Region. No wonder people are looking to a national park for an opportunity to improve their lot in life.

There was some talk in the last couple of years about fracking oil. Shell went in and other companies were fracking oil there. That is fine. At $60 a barrel now, that is over. It is finished. It is not going to happen. Nothing like that is going to happen in the Sahtu Region for a long time. We have an opportunity now to develop other resources, most of which have been identified as tourism. Local people can be involved in this and we can see some sort of economy creeping in on that basis.

It is a sad fact of northern development that these kinds of arrangements are made. Governments take and do not return. Resource development in every other region of the country is used to develop the region. Royalties are used to improve the situation so that the region can develop. In this case in the Sahtu, those monies have amounted to about $120 million to $150 million a year over many years. That might be reduced a bit now with the price of oil going down, but those are the kinds of dollars we are talking about that have been kept out of the Sahtu Region.

The government has not reinvested. It says it owns this resource, but does it put the money back into the region to make sure that it is good? Any normal public government with the right and responsibility to collect money from a region generally puts something back into the region.

I am glad that the government has agreed with the Sahtu people to create the national park, but it might explain why my concern lies more with the promises that are made about the development of the park and the investment that the government is willing to make in national parks in the Northwest Territories.

In the case of the Nahanni expansion, the dollars were actually cut back. There were some seven years in which infrastructure was not developed, and then the dollars intended for infrastructure are cut by 50%.

How does that work? Did you not think about inflation? Does inflation not come into developing infrastructure? Do you not—

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve ActGovernment Orders

December 11th, 2014 / 10:50 a.m.
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NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Northwest Territories, NT

Mr. Speaker, I have to admit that I was talking about the Liberals and Conservatives together, and perhaps when I said “you”, the Conservatives did not realize that I was lumping them in with the Liberals for their refusal to deal with the north respectfully when it comes to this particular aspect of northern development in the Normal Wells oil field. The Conservatives have stuck with the Liberal line.

Regarding the “you” that I was referring to, I apologize for any confusion I might have caused my Conservative colleagues this close to Christmas, because I know they are probably thinking about mistletoe and Christmas pudding and all the rest of that. I am really happy for them because it is a good time of year and I am sure we will all enjoy ourselves at Christmas.

However, I want to go back to tourism because with oil at $60 a barrel in this country, we are going to have to do something other than resource development. Sixty-dollar oil is not going to make this country run properly. Let us talk about tourism and what the government has done for tourism over the last years since the Conservatives have been in power.

With regard to tourism, the marketing investment made by various nations in tourism in 2011 was as follows: Ireland, $211 million, a 14% increase; Mexico, $153 million, a 4% increase; Australia, another resource-developing nation, $147 million, or a 30% increase; France, a similar increase, Canada—we should be up there—$72 million, a 10% decrease in our marketing effort by the current government. Every other country in the world has taken tourism seriously. What is wrong with the Conservatives? Do they not understand that bringing people into this country helps our balance of trade, that it creates jobs and opportunity for real people? Whether it someone working in a gift shop in Victoria or paddling a canoe for a visitor in the Sahtu Region, or whatever people are doing, they need the support of the federal government.

We need to sell Canada. We need to sell these beautiful national parks that we have created. We need to put that on the table. Yes, perhaps some national parks have seen increases in their tourism, and we could pick out a few of the smaller ones and say that is great. Yes, national parks are going to be a selling point for Canada, but we have to sell them. We have to invest in them. We have to make the marketing decisions that will improve the opportunities for tourism to increase so that we can actually benefit from them.

Perhaps we should simply invest in oil, which jumps from $147 a barrel down to $60, back up to $100, and now down to this. How is this going to work for Canada? It is not sustainable. This type of activity cannot be the main stem of our economy. We need to go back to the basics of how we make a living in this country. We cannot be living high off resource development when prices are so fragile. Some days resources are going to make a lot of money for people and those people will put more money into housing, causing the price of housing in Calgary to rise to a point where sooner or later it will fall and hurt everyone. However, what happens when interest rates go up and all those young people who have resource-development jobs paying them $180,000 a year and have bought expensive houses no longer have those jobs anymore? We are going to see the same situation that occurred in the 1980s.

Why should we be so focused on resource development? Why not invest in things that we can control? Tourism is a great opportunity.

Let us think about it over Christmas. As people are eating their plum pudding, as they are enjoying the love and affection of their family, which I am sure all of us are going to do and look forward to so much, let us think about tourism. We should think about the opportunities that exist for this country to share what we have. We should think about the beauty of the Sahtu Region and about the incredible nature of the Nahanni National Park.

I remember Jack Layton, Olivia Chow, and I went down the Nahanni River in the summer of 2007. We wanted to promote the expansion of the park. What an incredible area Nahanni National Park is. One of the reasons it is so incredible, and I do not think many people in this country realize, is that it is an area that was never glaciated. When we go down the canyons of the Nahanni for 200 kilometres, the rocks we see up on either side, a thousand feet into the air, are the rocks that were there a hundred million years ago. The patterns of change that have occurred over those years through erosion have created the most magnificent spectacle one could imagine.

What a treasure is Nahanni National Park. What an opportunity—

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve ActGovernment Orders

December 11th, 2014 / 10:55 a.m.
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NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Northwest Territories, NT

Then he reduced the budget.

We have seen that we have quadrupled the size of the parks and we have reduced the budget. How does that work? Why not invest in these parks? Why not think that these parks are the real opportunity for growth and tourism in this country? We cannot simply look on them as the whipping boys for cutting the budget for the government. That should not be the case.

National parks should be that sacred trust in which we put forward that opportunity to expand, to look at the wonderful wilderness we have. In a world of nine billion people, wilderness is one of the most valuable commodities there is. Going forward, we know that people will want to come and visit the parks. We know they will want to experience what we have here. Let us invest in that. Let us make that happen.

When my hon. colleague accused me of not liking national parks, that was absolutely ludicrous. I love the wilderness. I love what we are doing with the size and shape of our national parks, but we absolutely need to make sure that investment goes in, so that the people of the regions I represent will benefit. The Northwest Territories has given up more land for national parks than any other part of this country in the last 10 years. Let us see the investment go in to make that a reality for us.

Mr. Speaker, you have done an incredible job of keeping me in line. Thank you. I will stop my discourse there, because I can see I will not get much more applause from the other side, so I think this is a good time to quit.

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve ActGovernment Orders

December 11th, 2014 / 11 a.m.
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Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the speech of my friend from Northwest Territories. I want to refer to some of the things he said.

He should acknowledge that it is this government that has increased protected space in Canada by 40%. We quadrupled the size of Nahanni National Park, something that conservation experts and environmentalists had pushed for years. It was not the Liberal government; it was this government.

The hon. member is very correct that the Nahanni National Park is a phenomenal place, the first UNESCO world heritage site in the world. It was the first one designated. For years there was even mining allowed in these great areas. I think that is an example of where we can work together and accomplish great things.

There were new financial resources put to the park, never as much as anyone would like, but we have seen some good success. The bill before us, I think the member would acknowledge, is another step in the right direction, keeping up the momentum that has been building in recent years.

I found his speech quite entertaining, and I do not like Christmas pudding.

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve ActGovernment Orders

December 11th, 2014 / 11 a.m.
See context

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Northwest Territories, NT

Mr. Speaker, the words I did not hear from the minister were the words of the first nations of the Sahtu region, the Dehcho people, the people of Lutsel K'e, who are the ones who actually make the parks happen. Without their support, this would not be here. That is why I said this is a Christmas gift from the first nations of my region. The Sahtu have said they are willing to give up their traditional land to make a reserve that they will share with the rest of the people for eternity.

I thank the government for listening. That is very good.

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve ActGovernment Orders

December 11th, 2014 / 11 a.m.
See context

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, the member for Northwest Territories, for his excellent speech.

Speaking of resource extraction, Stephen Kakfwi, the former premier of the Northwest Territories, had some pretty harsh words to say about the proposal. Of course, there is the expansion of the national park, but the way it was done was rather strange. Indeed, Mr. Kakfwi said he has the impression that it was done to protect the interests of mining companies. In the end, a large section of the land basically looks like a doughnut, with a hole in the middle, which is not protected although it is crucial to the protection of habitat and breeding grounds in that territory. According to Mr. Kakfwi, that part of the park will not be protected specifically in order to allow exploration.

Since my colleague knows the area very well, I would like to hear his thoughts on Mr. Kakfwi's remarks about the park's expansion.