An Act to amend the Rouge National Urban Park Act, the Parks Canada Agency Act and the Canada National Parks Act

Sponsor

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is, or will soon become, law.

Summary

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

This enactment amends the Rouge National Urban Park Act to set out priorities in respect of factors to be considered in the management of the park. Additionally, it adds land to the park. It also amends the Parks Canada Agency Act to allow the New Parks and Historic Sites Account to be used in a broader manner. Finally, it amends the Canada National Parks Act to modify the boundary of Wood Buffalo National Park 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.

Votes

Feb. 22, 2017 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.

Rouge National Urban Park ActGovernment Orders

February 21st, 2017 / 12:05 p.m.
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Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak once again to the Rouge park bill. When I say, “once again”, it is probably my fourth, fifth, or even sixth time speaking about this national enterprise, the Rouge park. I have spoken on this side of the House about the park, I have spoken on that side of the House about the park, and I am somewhat pleased that we are finally inching our way toward a conclusion of speaking about the park. I remember as clearly as today standing on that side of the House and saying for the member for Wellington—Halton Hills that we could solve this dispute over ecological integrity in a heartbeat simply by the insertion of a minor amendment, and then we could unanimously support the creation of the park. But for reasons best known to that member's party, rather than that member, the Conservatives decided that clause would not be inserted. The consequence was that the members from the environment community and the members from the farm community could not see their way clear to be jointly supportive. Thankfully, that roadblock has been cleared up. I and the member for Davenport, with whom I will be splitting my time, will elucidate somewhat on the significance of the insertion of an ecological integrity clause, the main effect of which is to bring all of the players into the tent, in order to have a truly national park.

The last time I spoke about this park was shortly after Thanksgiving, and I described to the chamber that my family and I, along with our kids and grandkids and respective spouses, etc., had taken a post-Thanksgiving walk in the park on a glorious fall day. I have to recognize the way in which my wife will make sure that we are all out the door enjoying the beauty of this park. It really is a magnificent asset for the eastern GTA, for Ontario, and indeed nationally.

I also feel that we should recognize the Herculean efforts of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and her staff for worrying this file along, making sure that it does not simply fall off the legislative agenda. I want to publicly thank the minister for her efforts in making sure this file continues to move. I also think that Minister Duguid in the provincial legislature needs to be recognized once again for his willingness and his efforts in bringing again all the parties together: the environmentalists, the community leaders, and the farmers. Finally, the Minister of Health needs to be recognized, again for her conciliation efforts among all of the various parties. I also need to recognize the committee that dealt with the file expeditiously after second reading and submitted a unanimous report, which I think is close to where we are in this chamber at this time. I am rather hoping that once this chamber deals with this bill, the Senate in turn will deal with it expeditiously. It is after all the year 2017, our sesquicentennial, and it is a glorious way that we can celebrate the great natural but also aboriginal heritage that we have in this part of the eastern GTA.

As members know, if we do not preserve this it just simply disappears. It is not as if there are not enormous pressures on this part of this land mass to have it just simply disappear because of the population pressures in the Toronto areas, the ever-escalating land prices, and also the transportation corridors, etc. If we do not preserve the space it will be lost, and with it our heritage will be lost.

Sir John A. Macdonald, in 1885, designated Banff a reserve. It was the initial effort on his part to start the national parks system, which formally commenced in 1917. It was 100 years ago that we started the national parks system, with Fort Anne in Annapolis Royal, in Nova Scotia. We now have a network of 46 parks and 171 national historic sites.

It is our heritage, and it is something the government has recognized by making access to our national parks free to all Canadians for the year 2017. I am hoping that Canadians take advantage of this. It is, after all, their heritage.

In this particular area, something in the order of five to seven million people have, within an hour or an hour and a half, access to the park.

Because we have prioritized ecological integrity, there is a real chance that we could be world leaders in reconciling the natural heritage, the aboriginal heritage, the pressures of a modern economy, and the pressures of an expansionary real estate market and the 1,700 species of animals and plants that are in this park as we speak.

The Rouge National Urban Park features an incredible array of plants and animals. It is one of the most biologically diverse places in Canada. Within an area with five to seven million people, we have one of the most biologically diverse places in Canada.

The park also features ecosystems that are increasingly rare, namely Carolinian forests, along with wetlands, meadows, and marshes. In addition to its compelling natural heritage, Rouge National Urban Park is also incredibly rich in its cultural and agricultural heritage. For millennia, indigenous peoples gathered, farmed, and traded on lands that now lie within the boundaries of the Rouge. The region includes some of the busiest and most important indigenous sites in North America. Centuries ago, European settlers and their descendants began to farm here, and many parts of the park have been farmed continuously ever since.

As the greater Toronto area grew during the last century, the Rouge came to attract people eager to escape the city to hike, canoe, camp, and swim. I would put myself and my family among those people.

We are in the process of celebrating 150 years of our Confederation and 100 years since designating our first national heritage site. Both anniversaries are very much worth celebrating, because they help us understand how far Canada has come and what our country can achieve.

By supporting the efforts of Parks Canada to protect and present our treasured places, Bill C-18 would increase public understanding, appreciation, and enjoyment of this country's heritage. I am hoping that hon. colleagues will join me in supporting this bill, and I am hoping for unanimous support so that it will go to the Senate with a forceful message that all members indeed support this bill.

Rouge National Urban Park ActGovernment Orders

February 21st, 2017 / 12:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

Madam Speaker, I am so pleased to speak in support of Bill C-18, an act to amend the Rouge National Urban Park Act, the Parks Canada Agency Act and the Canada National Parks Act.

Parks are very important to the residents of my downtown Toronto riding of Davenport, because we are an inner city riding and green space is at a premium. We have a few small parks in our riding, such as Earlscourt Park, Dufferin Grove Park, and even smaller ones, like McGregor Park and McCormick Park. We turn pretty much every green space into a parkette, because green space is so needed. We have places like the Bartlett Parkette, Chandos Park North, and the Beaver Lightbourn Parkette. Every piece of green space we can find we turn into some sort of parkette, because that is how much we love our green space in downtown Toronto. That is why the residents of Davenport are particularly excited about Rouge National Urban Park. It is a national park that is accessible to Davenport residents, and indeed seven million residents in the GTA, and everyone can get there by public transit. We are so excited.

The proposed legislation has been debated in the chamber and was reviewed by the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. The standing committee heard the testimony of many witnesses, studied a number of briefs, and considered several proposed amendments. The committee concluded its work by endorsing the proposed legislation with no changes.

The primary objective of Bill C-18 is to ensure that Parks Canada integrates the principle of ecological integrity in its management of Rouge National Urban Park. The introduction of ecological integrity as the first priority in park management is consistent with the way Parks Canada has been managing the park since it was officially established in 2015. I actually looked up the definition of “ecological integrity”, because I wanted to make sure I understood what that actually means. What it means is that the park is managed in a way that human activity does not impair the ecosystem of the park, that the natural ecological processes are intact and self-sustaining, and that the park is managed in a way that the ecosystem can continue to evolve naturally and have the capacity to renew itself so we can enjoy this national park not only today but for generations to come.

Parks Canada has had decades of experience applying ecological integrity in a variety of protected areas, each with its own unique needs and sets of circumstances. Rouge National Urban Park will be no different. Ecological integrity will be applied in respect of the park's urban setting and in support of its reason for establishment: to protect and present for current and future generations the natural and cultural heritage of the park and its diverse landscapes, to promote a vibrant farming community, and to encourage Canadians to discover and connect with their national protected heritage areas.

For more than a century, Canadians have entrusted the management of our cherished places to Parks Canada. The agency has responded by continually establishing and meeting the highest standards for conservation and restoration while balancing the delivery of internationally celebrated educational and visitor programs, without compromising the ecological integrity of the parks. Today Parks Canada manages 46 national parks, four national marine conservation areas, and 171 national historic sites. These are essential components of our heritage. They are places that define us, inspire us, and reinvigorate us.

The amendments proposed in Bill C-18 would support Parks Canada's plan to realize the full potential of Rouge National Urban Park. By amending the Rouge National Urban Park Act to add ecological integrity as the first priority in Parks Canada's management of Rouge National Urban Park, the government would not only be able to meet its mandate commitment in working with Ontario to enhance the country's first national urban park but would be able to protect this important ecosystem and provide greater certainty for park farmers, who will be able to continue carrying out agricultural activities within the park. I am convinced that this is particularly important for Rouge National Urban Park because of its composition and close proximity to Canada's largest city and metropolitan area.

Rouge National Urban Park comprises a rich assembly of natural, cultural, and agricultural landscapes, with many remarkable features, including an abundance of flora and fauna. Indeed, with over 1,700 species of plants and animals, the park is one of the most biologically diverse places in Canada.

Managing and protecting such incredible natural heritage, when some six million people live within easy commuting distance, represents a formidable challenge.

For millennia, people have lived, hunted, fished, and farmed on the land that today forms Rouge National Urban Park. In the last century, the Rouge became increasingly important to city dwellers eager to experience nature, to hike, to canoe, to camp, and to swim. The area has long inspired naturalists and even artists, like Group of Seven artist F.H. Varley, who painted scenes of the Rouge River late into his career.

Working farms are a unique feature of the Rouge National Urban Park, and their presence is essential to achieving the park vision, having been farmed continuously for centuries. In a day and age when many people, particularly those who live in the urban city, say that we are disconnected from nature, that we need to find ways to make sure we do not forget how food is made and the efforts that go into it, the Rouge National Urban Park allows not only the residents of Davenport but all of those in the surrounding areas to be able to find a place to see how food is made, and to help us make sure we continue to reconnect with nature, the green space, and the world around us.

Preserving all of these elements in such a populous area requires special care. The government understands what is at stake in Rouge National Urban Park, and Parks Canada has already completed several important conservation projects to support its ecological integrity. Many more projects are either under way or in the planning stage. For instance, Parks Canada is working on restoration projects with the municipalities, environmental groups, and local farmers by reintroducing threatened turtles, making it easier for wildlife to cross park roads, and enhancing the health of agricultural wetlands. Other projects aim to protect existing wildlife, control invasive species, and enhance visitor experiences. Parks Canada is also working to enhance farmland, promote a vibrant farming community, and ensure a long-term future of agriculture on the Rouge.

I want to add that I used to love taking my nephew to Riverdale Farm, which is also in downtown Toronto. I know that he would have loved to have known that a place like the Rouge National Urban Park existed, because it would have helped inspire his creativity and joy of learning about bird species and animals. He just loves green space in general. I think it will cause a lot of happiness for a lot of children in days to come.

Placing the first priority on ecological integrity entails a broad, holistic approach. It involves acknowledging that ecosystems change continuously due to complex interrelated processes. The landscapes that make up Rouge National Urban Park and the plants and animals that live there are in a constant state of flux. They are not the same as they were a century ago, and they will be different again in the future.

Parks Canada has the experience and expertise needed to fulfill the full potential of Rouge National Urban Park. Delivering a consistently excellent visitor experience is an important element of this. Research indicates that people who visit one member of Canada's family of protected areas are likely to visit others. This magnifies the importance of the excellent visitor programming at the Rouge National Urban Park.

Among the many potential visitors who live nearby are large populations of newcomers to this country. Many of them are in my riding. Many of the people who come to the Rouge are visiting a nationally protected area for the very first time. Ensuring that they enjoy a rich, fulfilling experience is a powerful way to nurture and share Canada's heritage through the agency's excellent visitor programming. The learn to camp program is a prime example of this. Guided by Parks Canada staff and volunteers, program participants learn how to set up camp, roast the perfect marshmallow, and experience the many other joys of the great outdoors. This is just one of the many high-quality visitor programs that Parks Canada delivers in Rouge National Urban Park.

Visitor experiences at Canada's heritage places are designed to provide visitors with meaningful experiences while discovering Canada's natural and cultural heritage.

Bill C-18 also proposes to amend statutes not related to Rouge National Urban Park. One such amendment is that the government would be allowed to expand or complete existing protected heritage areas that have already obtained operational status. Therefore, one of—

Rouge National Urban Park ActGovernment Orders

February 21st, 2017 / 12:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Haldimand—Norfolk.

When I last spoke to this legislation, I remarked that it was both a delight and a disappointment, and I must echo that same qualification today as I join this final debate on Bill C-18.

It is a delight because it offers a wonderful opportunity to celebrate again the magnificent accomplishments of Parks Canada and the agency's pioneering protection and innovative conservation of precious Canadian spaces for more than a century and a quarter.

It is a disappointment because the unnecessary and mis-applied conservation principle imposed on Parks Canada contains a sad and unacceptable compromise of that great agency's conservation principles and practices, a compromise clearly intended by the Liberal government to provide federal political cover for the petty partisan obstructionism of the Ontario Liberal government in its refusal to transfer provincial lands to our Conservative government to complete the magnificent new Rouge National Urban Park. My disappointment is mitigated somewhat, because the Liberals have finally brought Bill C-18 to the point of passage.

I will speak first, again, to my delight. It was an honour to serve in a government that, in barely 10 years, increased Canada's protected areas by almost 60%, with new national parks, national park reserves, and marine protected areas. Many of these additions involved remote wilderness areas, such as Nahanni, Nááts'ihch'oh, and Sable Island, similar to Canada's original wilderness national park, Banff National Park.

Then came Canada's first national urban park, building on a decades-old dream of a broad range of passionate and dedicated conservation-minded citizens, community groups, and far-sighted local, provincial, and federal politicians. It is not quite in the centre, but it is certainly surrounded by the Canadian metropolis, the greater Toronto area.

In the 2011 Speech from the Throne and the 2012 budget, our Conservative government announced a commitment to work for the creation of a new national park in the Rouge Valley, and $143.7 million were assigned to a 10-year plan to create the park, with the provision thereafter for $7.6 million per year for continuing operations.

Parks Canada's unparalleled expertise and creative talents were brought to bear to meet the challenge of developing and delivering this entirely new park, and the challenges, as I am about to address, were considerable, unlike anything in Parks Canada history.

I had the pleasure of wandering one of the trails in the Rouge this past weekend, and I would recommend to colleagues in the House and to any Canadians or new Canadians watching our proceedings today on television to do the same at the first opportunity.

The Rouge Valley, from the shores of Lake Ontario to the Oak Ridges Moraine, more than 20 kilometres to the north, is a once-pristine natural area that has witnessed more than a century of intense human activity. There are ancient first nation sites, but also a former landfill site and an auto wrecker's yard. Surrounded by residential communities and businesses, the Rouge is criss-crossed by hydro transmission lines, railway lines, highways and secondary roads, and waste water sewers.

In the north, there are 7,500 acres of class A farmland worked by 700 farmers, who were uncertain of their future for decades, on lands expropriated more than 40 years ago by a Liberal government for an airport that was never built.

Despite all of these realities that are so unlike Canada's traditional wilderness parks, the Rouge is still home to marvellous biodiversity: rivers, streams, marshes, a Carolinian ecosystem, and evidence of some of this country's oldest indigenous sites, human history dating back more than 10,000 years.

When the Rouge National Urban Park is completed, it will provide exceptional protection for all of the approximately 1,700 species of plant, animal, and marine life of the Rouge. This includes full, uncompromised protection for all of the valley's threatened and endangered species. Unlike past well-intended but unfulfilled plans for the Rouge, species recovery plans will be mandatory and non-negotiable and under the strongest protection of Canada's Species at Risk Act.

Rouge National Urban Park will provide, for the first time in its history, year-round, dedicated law enforcement through Park Canada's storied park wardens. As with other of our national parks, they will have full powers to enforce a single set of park rules and regulations.

The uncertainty experienced for so long by farmers in the Rouge created by short-term one-year land leases will be eliminated. They will be able to invest in repairs to farm infrastructure, apply best farming practices, and continue to both contribute to the local economy and provide an enduring and productive farming presence in the rich portion of the Rouge for visitors from far and near to see.

Parks Canada's carefully developed plan for this first urban park is exactly what conservationists in the Rouge Park Alliance, the former provincially appointed managing authority of the lands, have requested for decades. The plan was the result of consultations with 150 stakeholder groups and 11,000 Canadians. It has the endorsement of all municipal and regional governments that have committed lands to the Rouge National Urban Park.

However, there was one notable foot-dragging exception. That was the Liberal government of Ontario. That government, through successive infrastructure ministers, and not one parks minister, refused to allow conservation experts at the Ontario Parks agency to evaluate and respond to the Parks Canada plan. I would remind the House again, as I have in the past, that at one point, one infrastructure minister even demanded of me what was effectively a ransom. These were lands, incidentally, that the province had been neglecting, trying to be rid of for years. The minister said that he would transfer the provincial lands to the national park for the payment of $100 million. Of course, the Conservative government refused to pay.

There are other stories as well, but in the end, in the corridors of Queen's Park, the provincial Liberals said they would not transfer the land the province had been trying to get off its books for decades. They would not transfer the land until they could give it to fellow Liberals. With the outcome of the 2015 election, the Liberals paid back their provincial cousins, with the political cover that Bill C-18 so unfortunately provides.

Bill C-18 contains a bit of the sort of agency housekeeping that Parks Canada performs every year or so. Two of the amendments, as we have already heard today, are fairly routine: a slight change in the boundaries of Wood Buffalo National Park, and changes in the Parks Canada Agency Act regarding property considerations and compensation in protected areas. However, the main amendment is an insult to Parks Canada's well-deserved international reputation. As I said at the outset, it is a sad and unacceptable compromise of Parks Canada's conservation principles and practices.

The Liberal government would add to the Rouge National Urban Park Act the condition that it be enforced under the principle of ecological integrity. Ecological integrity does not have a universal definition, but Parks Canada has long considered it applicable only to our wilderness parks largely untouched by civilization. For example, in Banff National Park, where barely 4% of its territory has been disrupted by the Trans-Canada Highway, town sites, and ski hills, ecological integrity means that forest fires or floods are allowed to occur naturally, except where communities or human life may be threatened.

No rational conservationist would allow fires and flooding in the Toronto, Markham, and Pickering urban environments. Alan Latourelle, Parks Canada's CEO for 13 years, from 2002 until his retirement two Augusts ago, after 32 years, was responsible for the Rouge-enabling legislation and he opposed very vigorously the injection of ecological integrity into the legislation.

I am delighted the legislation is now close at hand, which will see, finally, the much-delayed transfer of the Ontario provincial lands. The Rouge National Urban Park, when it is completed, will be at least 13 times the size of Vancouver's Stanley Park, 16 times larger than New York's Central Park, and 33 times larger than London's Hyde Park. Too much time has been wasted on petty political partisanship. It is time to make this park a reality. Although disappointed in the way that would happen under Bill C-18, I look forward to voting tomorrow for completion of this wonderful new national park.

Rouge National Urban Park ActGovernment Orders

February 21st, 2017 / 12:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my friend and colleague from Thornhill for sharing his time with me today.

I am honoured to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-18, an act to amend the Rouge National Urban Park Act, the Parks Canada Agency Act and the Canada National Parks Act. The Rouge National Urban Park is the first of its kind in Canada. We live in a country that is culturally diverse, but it is environmentally diverse as well.

It is important that all Canadians have an opportunity to experience the beauty of our rich environment and everything it has to offer, which quite frankly, is why this park was established, to introduce more Canadians to nature, local culture, and agriculture.

I would like to start by talking about the history behind the Rouge National Urban Park because it is important for the context of Bill C-18.

As has already been discussed by my hon. colleague from York—Simcoe, the establishment of the Rouge National Urban Park can be traced back to the days of the Mulroney government when members of the House and members of the community recognized the unique environmental landscape of the Rouge Valley area and decided they wanted to protect it for the enjoyment of future generations. However, it was not until 2011, under the previous Conservative government, that concrete action started to take place to secure the formation of the new park.

In the 2011 Speech from the Throne, the previous Conservative government committed $143.7 million over 10 years for the creation of Rouge National Urban Park. From there, legislation was drafted to ensure that the protection of the park was enshrined in law. In May 2015, the Conservatives passed Bill C-40, an act respecting the Rouge National Urban Park.

During that time, I frankly was shocked at the amount of opposition coming from my Liberal and NDP colleagues and the amount of political interference that came from the Ontario Liberal government at the expense of protecting the Rouge Valley area.

This leads me naturally to a few concerns I still have with Bill C-18. In my opinion, and this is one many of my colleagues share, Bill C-18 is being used by the federal Liberals as political cover for the refusal by Kathleen Wynne and the Ontario Liberals to transfer the provincial portion of the lands before the 2015 election.

The Liberals have consistently played political games with the Rouge National Urban Park. In fact, provincial infrastructure Minister Chiarelli, secretly demanded a $100 million payment for the land transfer, which as one would expect, was rejected on principle by the previous Conservative government.

Following this, provincial Minister Duguid wrote a letter stating that the Ontario government would not transfer the lands until the Rouge National Urban Park Act was amended to “ensure that the first priority of park management was “ecological integrity”.

That leads me to my second concern, which is the use of the term “ecological integrity”. The true environmental definition of ecological integrity implies letting forests burn, letting floods run their courses, and allowing wildlife survival without human intervention.

The Rouge sits alongside residential neighbourhoods. It has highways, power lines, and a pipeline across various parts of it, with working farmlands, a former landfill dump site, and even an old wreckers yard within its borders. For these reasons, any attempt at calling our actions ecological integrity would frankly be in words only.

The term “ecological integrity” as the first priority of park management could also provide an opening for the interference or indeed even the removal of the farmers from the park.

Let us be clear, this park is unique in its composition. Everyone who has spoken to this bill has recognized that. There are no other parks like it in Canada. In fact, an important part of its makeup, in my opinion, is the inclusion of farmlands. Coming from the agriculturally diverse part of Canada, I think that it is extremely important for all Canadians to understand the crucial role that farmers play in our daily lives.

Unfortunately, not everyone has the opportunity to walk out their door and see those farms in action. Having farmers as part of this park will expose many more Canadians to what they do and how they do it and, hopefully, garner more appreciation for the work they do for us.

Opening up the opportunity for farmers to be removed from Rouge National Urban Park would be a disservice to the park as a whole, and to those who visit it.

What is more, and perhaps most important, to protect the safety of Canadians living in close proximity to the park, ecological integrity cannot, and should not, be applied to an urban national park.

As I mentioned previously, part of the definition of “ecological integrity” allows for forest fires to burn and floods to flow freely. If this were to happen in this case, the lives of the people residing in the area could be placed in jeopardy. What exactly would that accomplish, at the expense of safety to Canadians?

Simply put, it is a designation that even Parks Canada has disagreed with, because it is an unrealistic approach to an urban park.

As members know, the safety of Canadians should be of utmost importance to any government. I am extremely disappointed to see this lack of respect for Canadians living in this area from the Liberal government.

Bill C-18, by the way, does not include the transfer of the parklands that were expropriated by the federal Liberals in the early 1970s for an airport that is yet to be built. Nor does it include the additional $26.8 million over six years and $3 million annually thereafter in funding that our previous government announced in 2015. I have to admit that I am very disappointed that the Liberals have not followed through on this either.

While Rouge National Urban Park is not particularly close to my riding of Haldimand—Norfolk, we in Haldimand—Norfolk are no strangers to wildlife or to environmental conservation. We are one of the first areas to develop ALUS, the alternative land use services incentive program, which just recently attained national certification, and our area is a biodiversity hotspot as part of the Carolinian life zone. This zone contains productive agricultural lands, forests, and wetlands, and provides habitat for nearly 25% of all of our species that are at risk. This part of our area is home to an extensive list of flora and fauna and, believe it or not, around 400 different species of birds.

In fact, UNESCO, in April 1986, designated the Long Point area as a world biosphere reserve, which was the third to be so designated in Canada, at the time. Today, it is one of 16 biosphere reserves in Canada and provides a great example of the Great Lakes coastal ecosystem and a unique blend of habitats.

I am proud of the hard work that residents in our area, and organizations like Bird Studies Canada, the Long Point World Biosphere Reserve, the Long Point Region Conservation Authority, and other agencies, do to promote the environmental sustainability of our area for people from across Canada and, indeed, from around the world, to enjoy.

These same principles and practices will be applied to Rouge National Urban Park, I hope.

To conclude, I would like to say that I support Rouge National Urban Park and I will be supporting this bill. However, as Her Majesty's official opposition, it is our duty to bring up these concerns. I hope that the Liberal government will not just consider them but take action on them.

Rouge National Urban Park ActGovernment Orders

February 21st, 2017 / 1 p.m.
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Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Haldimand—Norfolk and inform you that I will be sharing my time with the member for Yellowhead.

I am pleased today to speak to Bill C-18, an act to amend the Rouge National Urban Park Act, the Parks Canada Agency Act and the Canada National Parks Act. As the official opposition deputy critic for the environment and climate change and also a member of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, these matters are important to me.

I am proud to live in a country that has many natural and historic treasures. I am also proud of the work done by Parks Canada, a world-renowned conservation agency that looks after and protects our treasures for current and future generations.

I would like to remind all of my colleagues and all Canadians that the picture the Liberals have been trying to paint of us, the Conservatives, for the past several years regarding the environment is false. They are saying that we are the bad guys and that we are just trying to score political points. However, many of our actions show that the opposite is true. I would like the remind the House that the current Liberal government stretched the truth and deceived environmental groups during the election campaign. Then, after winning the election and forming a majority government, the Liberals announced that the Harper government had done excellent work with public service scientists, that it had set very high and demanding targets, and that the Liberal government had a duty to recognize that. It would use the Conservative targets to actively participate in the global effort to reduce greenhouse gases in keeping with the Paris agreement.

Once again, we can see how dishonest this government is. It took advantage of the vote on the Paris agreement to hide within the wording of the motion that it was going to impose a carbon tax on Canadians. We completely disagree with that tax. The Conservatives voted against that unacceptable ploy, which will take money out of the pockets of Canadians.

We support the Paris agreement. We believe that every province should be responsible for implementing the measures necessary to meet the targets. This falls under their jurisdiction. Quebec did its homework. It does not need the federal government. Once again, the Liberal government of Canada is infringing on provincial jurisdiction.

As for Bill C-18, an act to amend the Rouge National Urban Park Act, the Parks Canada Agency Act and the Canada National Parks Act, we, the Conservative Party of Canada, the official opposition that I am a member of, we support this park. I want to inform the government that we plan to support this bill because we are in favour of protecting the environment and in favour of providing the tools needed to develop and maintain these parks.

This support should come as no surprise, since it is the Conservative Party that can take credit for creating the Rouge National Urban Park, the country's first urban national park. I would remind the House that the park was created under Stephen Harper's government when, on May 15, 2015, Bill C-40, an act respecting the Rouge National Urban Park, was passed. That bill helped to position Canada at the forefront of the world's emerging urban protected areas movement.

We are talking about the Rouge National Urban Park. Here is a description to help Canadians and my colleagues really understand what an urban park is. Here is how it is described on the Parks Canada website:

A rich assembly of natural, cultural and agricultural landscapes, Rouge National Urban Park is home to amazing biodiversity, some of the last remaining working farms in the Greater Toronto Area, Carolinian ecosystems, Toronto's only campground, one of the region's largest marshes, unspoiled beaches, amazing hiking opportunities, and human history dating back over 10,000 years, including some of Canada's oldest known Indigenous sites.

What amazing diversity within a single park, and what a wonderful idea to protect this diversity by bringing it all together under the management of Parks Canada.

To that end, the agency worked with local farmers and conservation groups to restore those lands to their original state and improve the health of the park’s ecosystems. The fight against invasive species will be intensified, which will contribute to the recovery of species at risk. Additional trails will be created to complete the park's trail system.

This bill seeks to include the notion of ecological integrity. Wow, what a great idea. First of all, no one can even clearly define this concept. When asked, most of the people who live in this environment every day indicated that it would be impossible to apply this concept and that it would lead to never-ending legal battles. The Liberals are once again trying to create the illusion that they are working hard for the environment. As I said, it is merely an illusion.

Almost all the stakeholders voiced their concerns about making ecological integrity one of the guiding principles for an urban park. Every one of the following people spoke out against this idea: Roger Anderson, regional chair of the Region of Durham Regional Council; Wayne Emmerson, chairman and CEO of the York Region; Frank Scarpitti, mayor of Markham; Jack Heath, deputy mayor of Markham; Dave Barrow, mayor of Richmond Hill; Dave Ryan, mayor of Pickering; Glenn De Baeremaeker, deputy mayor of Toronto; Ron Moeser, Toronto city councillor; Alan Wells, chair of the Rouge Park Alliance; Heather Moeser, former executive member of the Coalition of Scarborough Community Associations ; Keith Laushway, chair of the Waterfront Regeneration Trust; the York Region Federation of Agriculture, an organization of the Regional Municipality of York; the Altona Forest Community Stewardship Committee; and the Toronto Zoo administration.

Why is the government not listening to these experts? Does it think that they know nothing? They deal with issues like this on a daily basis.

Alan Latourelle, a former director general at Parks Canada who recently retired, indicated that the ecological integrity objective could not be met. He said:

For example, in the Rouge national urban park, a significant component is the land that we've agreed on and are working productively with the farmers. That, for example, would not be able to achieve the ecological integrity objective within that context, but we can demonstrate environmental leadership by working collaboratively with them.

Why impose something unrealistic and unenforceable rather than working with stakeholders? That is what we would have done, and what we did in the past. Why are the Liberal not doing that? This is a good suggestion from someone with real-life experience managing a natural park. Why is the government being so stubborn?

This bill proves that the federal Liberal government is in bed with Premier Wynne and her Ontario Liberal government. They had a plan during the election campaign to make the Conservatives look bad. A minister in the Ontario cabinet, Mr. Chiarelli, secretly demanded a $100 million payment for the transfer of the lands that belonged to the province. Of course we refused to pay. We manage public funds responsibly, and we want taxpayers to have more money in their pockets.

The current Liberal government, led by the best actor, or perhaps the worst manager, depending on your perspective, got down on its knees before its friends in the Ontario government. The rest is all just window dressing.

In closing, I would like to say that parliamentarians have other priorities besides voting for legislation that has no direct impact on people's daily lives, and more importantly, that cannot be enforced. However, we will not block the bill because we believe it is important to walk the talk, and we are in favour of protecting our lands and natural environment. In my riding of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, which boasts beautiful lands and provincial parks, we work with a number of organizations to protect the environment and our green spaces.

Rouge National Urban Park ActGovernment Orders

February 21st, 2017 / 1:15 p.m.
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NDP

Wayne Stetski NDP Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to quote from some of the witnesses we heard regarding Bill C-18:

Ecological integrity, is it justified? Of course it is. This is one of the most biodiverse areas in all of Canada. Yes, there will be challenges. Yes, this is an aspirational goal, but we can do it.... The diversity is so great here and the potential is so high that we should choose no other goal....

That was Jim Robb, general manager of the Friends of the Rouge Watershed.

Dr. Stephen Woodley, who is with the IUCN, and is the vice-chair for science, said:

The term “ecological integrity” is used as a management end point by many protected areas agencies globally, and it's embedded in the IUCN guidance. It provides a well-understood and measurable system to understand the ecological condition.

Michael Whittamore, who is president of Whittamore's Farm, made this statement:

...we have complete confidence in [Parks Canada's] ability to execute a management plan that will meet the needs and expectations of all the stakeholders and reach a level of ecological integrity for an urban park in an urban setting....

What does the member have to say about these expert witnesses, who range from local to international, on ecological integrity?

Rouge National Urban Park ActGovernment Orders

February 21st, 2017 / 1:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Jim Eglinski Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Madam Speaker, I am glad to share this time with my hon. colleague, the member for Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier.

As vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, I am pleased to stand in this House to speak to Bill C-18.

I was away last week, but last week in the House during debate on Bill C-18, there seemed to be some debate as to who had the most beautiful scenery in their riding. I am here to settle that. It is mine, Yellowhead, and the majestic Jasper National Park. Sorry, but those guys all lose.

Canadians and visitors to my riding of Yellowhead can experience nature and develop personal connections to the park. Jasper has something for everyone, whether a novice or an adventure enthusiast. In fact, there is Maligne Canyon, a stunning, deep limestone gorge full of waterfalls, fossils, and lush plant life. It can be explored from above in the summer and from below in the winter, where people can walk along the ice. It hosts over 400,000 visitors a year.

There are 75 kilometres of cross-country skiing and over 200 kilometres of official trails surrounding Jasper townsite, which are perfect for fat biking, winter walking, and snowshoeing during this time of year. For those who do not know what a fat bike is, it is that new modern bike that has tires close to four inches in size on wider rims. The bike is designed for low ground pressure, allowing for riding on soft, unstable terrain, such as snow, sand, bogs, and stuff like that. There are a lot of fat bikes around Jasper. There is one actually sitting outside the Justice Building right now.

Speaking of trails, as part of budget 2016, this government proposed a bike and walking trail along the lcefields Parkway from Jasper to the Columbia icefield. This trail would allow many visitors to experience the icefields more personally. I look forward to being informed of when the consultation will begin on that trail. From the paddle-in campground, to hang gliding, skiing on Marmot, or hiking in Maligne Canyon, Jasper National Park provides visitors with a variety of opportunities to connect with their national heritage places.

Setting up a national park is quite an experience. Parks Canada has done it 46 times. Rouge National Urban Park is unique. It is our first urban park.

Rouge National Urban Park was created in May 2015, when our previous Conservative government passed Bill C-40, An Act respecting the Rouge National Urban Park. This was in keeping with the 2011 throne speech wherein the government committed $143.7 million over 10 years for the creation of the park.

In this House in November last year, the hon. member for Thornhill, stated this about Rouge National Urban Park:

It is located amidst fully 20% of Canada's population. While it takes many hours and many thousands of dollars to reach some of our traditional national parks, the wonders of the Rouge are easily and inexpensively accessible by road, rail, and public transit. Visitor information centres, guided hikes, and kayak touring are available to schoolchildren and to Canadians, old and new.

Bill C-18 makes changes to the Rouge National Urban Park Act, the Parks Canada Agency Act, and the Canada National Parks Act. This bill proposes to add “ecological integrity” as the primary factor to be considered under the Rouge National Urban Park Act, in addition to adding lands to the park.

Parks Canada originally disagreed with the “ecological integrity” designation because it is an unrealistic approach to an urban park, or any park. The true definition of “ecological integrity” would imply letting forest fires burn, floods to run their course, and wildlife survival without human intervention. This is problematic for Rouge National Urban Park because it sits alongside residential neighbourhoods, has highways, power lines, and a pipeline across various parts of it, with working farmland, a former landfill dump site, and an old auto wreckers yard within its borders. It is going to be a challenge. Ecological integrity as the first priority of park management could be an opening to the interference with or even the removal of farmers from the park. I want to step away from Rouge park for a moment.

Back in my great riding of Yellowhead, there is a lot more to the riding of Yellowhead than just Jasper National Park. There are large vast forests with active pulp, paper, and lumber manufacturing. Agriculture comprises over half of my riding. We grow all the basics: grains, canola, industrial hemp; and, yes, we also grow medical hemp, or marijuana. There is probably some recreational weed being grown, but that's not legal right now. Yellowhead also has active mining, and it is an energy-producing region with oil, gas, and coal.

However, tourism is one of Yellowhead's economic drivers, because of Jasper National Park and other parks in the region. Therefore, I am concerned with the Liberal buzz phrase “ecological integrity”. It bothers me. It has become an integral part of Parks Canada policy, not only in the Rouge National Urban Park, but in all national parks.

Just north of Jasper National Park lies Willmore Wilderness Park. Many of my friends run a foundation that looks after this pristine wilderness. Susan Feddema-Leonard and her husband Bazil are well known in the area for looking after this vast land, which is almost the size of Jasper National Park. Last year alone, Bazil spent something like 36 days on horseback travelling the trails to make sure they were clear of garbage, debris, fallen trees, and other things. They love to take people out on trail rides into the mountains and teach young people about living on the land, and protecting and preserving the land. Susan and Bazil are what I call true environmentalists, but they also use the land. They do not need ecological integrity. They use good common-sense practices, and because of this, Willmore Wilderness Park is flourishing.

I mentioned the bike trail proposal by the Liberal government. I agree that this would be good for tourism and good for local businesses inside and outside of Jasper National Park, but that buzz phrase “ecological integrity” may stop this development. Environmentalist groups are gathering in opposition at this time.

Even worse, Jasper National Park's power dam is failing. It does not get power from the grid; it makes its own power. We need to replace it, and a powerline has to be run from a grid outside of the park. Environmental groups are already opposing this as it does not meet ecological integrity as it is laid out in the books. I fear that the Liberal buzz phrase “ecological integrity” may hamper the development and operations of all of our national parks.

Canada's so-called environmentalists are so vocal: keep nature as it is, and no disturbances. They will use ecological integrity as a means to stop development in our parks. Where is our future within Parks Canada?

For the above reasons, any attempt at calling our actions “ecological integrity” would be in words only. The current protections provided to Rouge National Urban Park far exceed the protections provided by the Province of Ontario, specifically prohibiting mining, logging, and hunting, and applying the Species at Risk Act and year-round dedicated enforcement officers.

In general, I am pleased to see the government expanding on the work started by our previous Conservative government, despite this unnecessary and potentially problematic wording, “ecological integrity”.

In conclusion, we support Bill C-18 and the expansion of the Rouge National Urban Park.

Rouge National Urban Park ActGovernment Orders

February 21st, 2017 / 1:30 p.m.
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NDP

Wayne Stetski NDP Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time today with the member for South Okanagan—West Kootenay.

I am pleased today to speak in favour of Bill C-18, a bill that would amend the Rouge National Urban Park Act, the Parks Canada Agency Act, and the Canada National Parks Act.

With the indulgence of the House, I am going to dedicate my speech today to Parks Canada employee and volunteer extraordinaire Barry Campbell, of Tofino, B.C. Barry devoted 45 years of his life to Pacific Rim National Park Reserve as a park naturalist, park warden, and volunteer after he retired, pulling hundreds if not thousands of bags of invasive weeds from the park. He died just after Christmas from cancer. Barry mentored me during my first parks job as a park naturalist, and I enjoyed it enough that I continued to make working within four parks and the environment my career and my passion right up to today, when I work as the NDP critic, or advocate, for national parks. I thank Barry for starting me on the path to a lifelong devotion to parks. My sincere condolences go to Barry's wife, Barb, and to his children, Michael and Ben, and their families.

While we are here today to talk about Rouge park, I would like to take a moment to put Rouge into both a historical and a system perspective.

Canada's national parks system began in 1885 with Banff National Park, so it is 132 years old. May 1911 was an important date, as the first ever body to administer national parks was established. It was called the dominion parks branch, which is now Parks Canada. In 1930, the National Parks Act was created and first focused on preservation.

There are currently 45 national parks, 46 with Rouge included. They cover every province and every territory, and they represent a variety of landscapes and natural heritage. They currently cover just over 303,000 square kilometres, or about 3% of the total land area of Canada.

Twelve of our national parks are UNESCO world heritage sites, including Wood Buffalo National Park, which is under investigation right now. There is a fair bit of concern as to whether Wood Buffalo should keep its status due to the Site C dam in British Columbia and the oil sands in Alberta.

The smallest national park is Georgian Bay Islands National Park at 14 square kilometres. Rouge will be just 19 square kilometres, at least until it is increased. The largest park is Wood Buffalo National Park at almost 45,000 square kilometres.

How are these parks currently doing? The most recent report is entitled “State of Canada's Natural and Cultural Heritage Places” from 2016. It talks about the need to improve consultation with stakeholders when establishing parks, regarding ecological integrity. Progress has been made since 2011, when things were in really quite bad shape, but 91% of the indicator ecosystems have now been assessed. Regarding species at risk, the report states that many species continue to face threats from inside and outside heritage places, habitats are disappearing at a rapid rate in many parts of Canada, and climate change can also affect biodiversity.

Parks Canada's 2012 national asset review highlighted that over half of the agency's holdings were in poor or very poor condition and required investments, maintenance, and rehabilitation. It also goes into parks' ecological indicators and some of the issues that are currently out there. There definitely needs to be some improvement in terms of managing our existing parks as well.

Another area where parks and protected areas are challenged in Canada is in meeting the Aichi targets signed onto by Canada. Canada has agreed to set aside 17% of its land by 2020 as protected areas. We are currently at about 10%. Also, 10% of Canada's marine areas should be protected by 2020. We are currently at about 1%.

The environment and sustainable development committee is just completing a study on how to meet and perhaps exceed Aichi targets moving forward. There are many ways we can do that, including working with first nations to create indigenous parks, making sure that there is connectivity between parks and protected areas, working interdepartmentally within the federal government, working with the provinces and territories, municipalities, and non-governmental organizations. There are many other recommendations. I ask members to stay tuned as a great report will be coming to Parliament shortly.

One of the recommendations is also to consider expanding the number of national urban parks, of which Rouge is the first one. Why does Rouge deserve to be Canada's first national urban park, and why do we support the bill?

Bill C-18 proposes amendments to the Rouge National Urban Park Act, and these important amendments include making the maintenance or restoration of ecological integrity the first priority of the minister in all aspects of the management of the park, and adding approximately 1,669 hectares of federal land to Rouge national park.

Bill C-18 also broadens Parks Canada's ability to pay out funds from the new parks and historical sites account. That will help create new parks as well.

Finally, Bill C-18 modifies the boundary of Wood Buffalo National Park in Alberta by withdrawing 37 square kilometres to create the Garden River Indian Reserve, which is a long planned commitment around reconciliation, so there are three aspects to the park.

Why is Rouge that important? First, Rouge park is one of the most biologically diverse areas in Canada, including a rare Carolinian forest, 23 federally designated species at risk, and over 1,700 plant and animal species. It also provides the only ecological connection for wildlife between the Oak Ridges moraine and Lake Ontario. It includes many agricultural and culturally important resources, including a national historic site and one of Canada's oldest known aboriginal historic sites and villages.

Important as well, there is an active farming community that is not protected under the Park Act, and it is really important to realize that agricultural activities and conservation, if done well, can go hand in hand, and Rouge park would be a good model to demonstrate that.

It is the first national park in an urban setting, accessible by public transit. It creates a model for other areas of protection in urban settings, and approximately 20% of Canada's population live within one hour of Rouge park. These are all really important factors as to why it is important to protect Rouge.

In conclusion, we want to recognize the hard work and dedication of all community members who have worked tirelessly to protect the existing parklands and to establish Rouge National Urban Park. We believe that future national park management for Rouge should do a number of things. It should clearly prioritize ecological health, ecological integrity and conservation. It should ensure that all activities that may affect the park undergo a thorough environmental assessment, and that is one of the challenges of that bike trail in Jasper, there has been no environmental assessment or community involvement. It should include a science-based management plan to provide for strong public and parliamentary oversight. We should consider adding almost 10,000 acres to the park by adding federal lands currently set aside for an airport.

We will continue to hold the Liberal government accountable to deliver a Rouge park that truly can serve as a model for establishing a number of new urban national parks across Canada.

Rouge National Urban Park ActGovernment Orders

February 21st, 2017 / 1:40 p.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I would like to pick up on a point to which the member made reference. Today we are debating Bill C-18, and I think we owe a great deal of appreciation to those individuals, many of whom are stakeholders. We have political leaders, but it is also important to recognize that there are very many community leaders. For all the right reasons, they saw and understood a vision and want to, as much as possible, advance this national park, the Rouge.

We are in third reading. I think it is important that we take a moment during the time we are debating the bill to acknowledge how much we appreciate the efforts of all those individuals who go far beyond the elected offices who really helped make this happen.

I wonder if the member might want to emphasize that particular point.

Rouge National Urban Park ActGovernment Orders

February 21st, 2017 / 1:45 p.m.
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NDP

Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Madam Speaker, I am happy to rise today to speak to Bill C-18, which proposes amendments to the Rouge National Urban Park Act that was passed in the last Parliament. I will be speaking in favour of this bill, as it strengthens the protections of this park and its ecological integrity.

I will begin my comments about national parks in general, Rouge Park in particular, and then spend some time talking about how this bill is pertinent to a national park proposal in my riding of South Okanagan—West Kootenay.

Rouge Park is the first urban national park in Canada, marking an innovative step in the approach Parks Canada is taking to protecting our ecosystems across the country. When we first started creating national parks back in 1885, we had vast areas of wilderness to choose from in southern Canada. We created large parks throughout the western mountains, Banff, Jasper, Kootenay, Yoho, Glacier, Mount Revelstoke. In the boreal forests of the prairie provinces we made Prince Albert National Park, Riding Mountain National Park, and the enormous Wood Buffalo National Park. Some early national parks were smaller, such as Point Pelee National Park in the Carolinian forests of southern Ontario. However, for the most part, we look to our wilderness as a source of parkland. We had lots of that a century ago. Today, those opportunities are much more limited, and I was happy to see Parks Canada broadening the scope of their protected areas with the creation of Rouge National Urban Park.

Our national parks play a number of roles, and first among these is to protect the full range of ecosystems found across this wild and diverse country. Our national parks provide a rich opportunity for Canadians to experience, enjoy, and learn about our natural heritage. That is certainly an important role for parks near urban centres, such as the Rouge. Bill C-18 emphasizes that first role, the preservation and enhancement of the ecological integrity in our parks, which is critical to the success of all natural parks, whether they are areas of vast wilderness or smaller areas hemmed in by urban and agricultural landscapes. The bill would make the maintenance or restoration of ecological integrity the first priority of the minister in all aspects of the management of the park. Also, the bill would add more federal lands to Rouge park. Size matters, at least when we are talking about ecological integrity.

In the mid-1900s, Parks Canada began a program to represent the full ecological diversity of this huge country in the national parks system, adding parks to Atlantic Canada, and in the north. As the decades went on, it became more challenging to find representative areas in the south that could function as parks. Grasslands National Park in Saskatchewan dealt with issues around ranching and grazing, while the establishment of Gwaii Haanas involved payment to the B.C. government for lost opportunities in forestry. Despite these challenges, these parks are now considered successes, and indeed national treasures. Gwaii Haanas is also a model of how co-management with first nations communities and government can work in a national park setting.

However, there are still ecoregions of Canada that are unrepresented. In 1979, almost 40 years ago, one of my first real jobs after graduating from university was a contract with Parks Canada to report on opportunities for the creation of a national park in the dry interior of British Columbia, one of the only major ecoregions south of 60 with no representation in our national parks system. I found large areas on the interior plateau that were relatively intact but lacked many of the characteristics that made the dry interior unique in Canada, particularly desert grasslands and ponderosa pine forests. These grasslands are one of the most endangered ecosystems in Canada, along with the Carolinian forests of southern Ontario, as in the Rouge, the tall grass prairies of Manitoba, and the Garry oak savannah of southern Vancouver Island. Those rare grassland ecosystems were best represented in the south Okanagan Valley. However, opportunities for a large wilderness park there were limited. Most of the low-elevation habitats were highly altered, and most of the grasslands converted to orchards and vineyards. The land base is a complex mosaic of provincial, federal, first nations, and private ownership.

For various reasons, nothing was accomplished to create a national park in the dry interior of B.C. for about 25 years. Then, in 2002, an initiative began to bring together various groups in the south Okanagan to get a national park established there. Federal, provincial, and municipal leaders, first nations, and environmental groups lobbied B.C. and the Canadian government and were successful in starting a feasibility study to look at the idea.

While there is general local support for the park proposal, the situation is complex and there are many issues to consider. First Nations were in favour of the idea in principle, but wanted a real role in the development of the park and a direct role in the management of it, as is done in Gwaii Haanas and many northern National Parks. First Nations initially objected to sacred areas included in initial Parks Canada maps of the park proposal. These areas are now excluded and First Nations are again supportive.

Environmentalists were disappointed that some important areas were dropped from the Parks Canada proposal. Hunters were concerned about the loss of hunting opportunities.

A large helicopter school was concerned, and still is, about assurances that its operations would not be affected by a new park.

Ranchers, the group most directly affected in terms of their livelihoods, were deeply concerned that a new national park would put an end to their operations. In BC, most ranchers lease large areas of crown land range in the summer and without access to that land base, they would be out of business very quickly.

It was a complicated situation, and it is perhaps not surprising that the process floundered for several years before the feasibility study was released with a positive answer in 2011. First nations released their own study, again agreeing in principle to move forward with planning in 2013.

Parks Canada spent some time working on a new policy to deal with the concerns of ranchers. It eventually decided that for this park, grazing could be allowed exactly as it was now managed under the B.C. Forest and Range Practices Act. Unfortunately, just before the talks could move on to the next stage, the B.C. government pulled out of the process. Again the initiative languished until the province recently announced it was willing to come back to the table and talk about a national park. I was very happy to hear that decision, and I hope to see the process move forward once again.

Like Rouge Park, the national park in the Okanagan would not be like the big wilderness parks across our country, but it is needed to protect the rare and diverse ecosystems in southern British Columba. It would provide a big boost to the local economy. If other national parks in B.C. are anything to go by, it would create hundreds of direct and indirect jobs, all while protecting the local environment. It would also bring federal funding for the acquisition and management of the park. Yes, it will take time and continued dialogue to create, but we should not give up on it simply because of those difficulties.

The innovation I see in the creation of Rouge Park sets a good example of how new national parks can and should be created in the future, as Canada's national landscapes become increasingly fragmented. I would point to the recent creation of Gulf Islands National Park Reserve as another model of park creation in a landscape of complex land ownership.

Bill C-18 would also broaden the ability of Parks Canada to pay out funds from the new parks and historic sites account. This measure will give the government greater flexibility in paying out funds for the acquisition of land to expand any national park, not just for establishing a new park. Again, this makes it easier to establish parks in areas of complex land ownership. Since the days of expropriating land for national parks is essentially over, private lands will only be added on a willing seller basis and that is very difficult to arrange the moment a park is created.

Bill C-18 would strengthen the ability of Parks Canada to meet its mandate to give strong directions for ecosystem integrity and would create room for innovative solutions to both park establishment and park management. It would keep Rouge Park as a national treasure and I hope allow Parks Canada to continue to preserve the full diversity of our natural heritage, including the dry grasslands and forests of the south Okanagan Valley, for our grandchildren and their grandchildren.

Rouge National Urban Park ActGovernment Orders

February 21st, 2017 / 3:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to rise again to speak to Bill C-18, an act to amend the Rouge National Urban Park Act, the Parks Canada Agency Act and the Canada National Parks Act.

Today, I am going to spend a bit of time talking about my riding in northern Alberta. I like to call my riding the promised land, as I have said a number of times. I am going to talk about a little piece of promised land in the northeastern corner of my riding, land that is now becoming part of the new reserve for the Little Red River Cree Nation. Gus Loonskin is the chief. I have not had the privilege of visiting that part of my riding yet. I have made arrangements to go there several times, but due to some unforeseen circumstances on two occasions, the meetings have been cancelled.

I have driven to the northernmost edge of my riding. it is a long four-by-four road into the communities. The chief thought better of my driving the road myself, although I am always up for an adventure. He said he would meet me in High Level and then things transpired and we never actually met, but one day I will make it up to the Little Red River Cree Nation and visit the communities of John D'Or Prairie, Fox Lake, and Garden River.

Garden River is within the boundaries of Wood Buffalo National Park, and that is precisely what this bill is about today. It proposes turning 37 square kilometres of land in Wood Buffalo National Park into a reserve for the Garden Creek community, which is part of the Little Red River band.

The Little Red River Cree Nation is made up of about 5,000 people in northern Alberta. It is about 200 kilometres south, maybe less, of the border with the Northwest Territories. At the end of June and beginning of July, there is nearly 24 hours of sunlight in northern Alberta. In the spring, people typically get a lot of work done because there are lots of hours of sunlight. After getting home from work, typically there is eight hours of sunlight left before people go to bed, so things get done at that time of the year. However, the inverse is true during December and January, when there are only a few hours of daylight. Typically it is light only from about nine o'clock in the morning until three or four o'clock in the afternoon. When there is snow on the ground, not much happens anyway, other than logging.

The Little Red River Cree Nation actually owns its own logging company, Little Red River Forestry Ltd. It owns a number of companies that operate in that part of the world and they are relatively successful. Having a population of 5,000 gives forestry companies in that area human resources to tap into. There is a significant amount of forestry that takes place in northern Alberta. There is also a significant number of other things that happen there.

Little Red River Cree Nation is also home to the Little Red River Wildland Firefighters Inc. Northern Alberta is a relatively sparsely populated part of the country and there are vast forests that people work in, such as loggers. There is also oil field development. There is a lot of wildlife as well. Managing forest fires is a big part of what is done in northern Alberta. The Little Red River Cree Nation is a definite part of that as well, because it has its own company that contracts to the Alberta government and the federal government to maintain the forests in the area.

From my research, this is part of Treaty No. 8 territory. Treaty No. 8 was signed in 1899, well over 100 years ago. Shortly after that, Wood Buffalo National Park was put in place to allow for a large buffalo herd to move freely. Interestingly, however, there was no buffalo herd there, so the park was created and the buffalo were transported from Wainwright, Alberta, which is about 900 kilometres south, and they were transplanted in Wood Buffalo National Park.

This leads to some concern today, because these bison have bovine TB. Even the local indigenous population does not hunt them because of the worries of the disease that happens to live in some of the bison. There is an ongoing concern about that.

Either way, whatever the case may be, at 47,000 kilometres, this is one of the largest, if not the largest, national parks in the country. It takes up the whole northeastern corner of Alberta. It is not a national park that a lot of people visit, because there are not a lot of roads to it. To get to this particular corner, people would have to fly in or drive in during the winter on a winter road. I believe that people can get there by taking a ferry down the river as well. For the most part, however, nobody drives in and out of that area on a regular basis. It is a significantly remote corner of the province. There is not a lot of industrial activity in the park, and therefore, there is no need for roads, and roads going to that corner of the province simply do not get built.

Since 1988 or maybe a little earlier, but for decades and nearly as long as I have been alive, they have been working on transferring this piece of land out of the park and into a reserve. This work has been ongoing.

I would also point out that there are other areas in my riding where people are waiting for a reserve. There is the Peerless Trout First Nation, which is probably about 300 or 400 kilometres south of the area that is in the bill. The people there are also waiting for their reserve. They have been promised land as well, and they are working tirelessly for their reserve.

This is a three-stage process. I have met with the band and council. They have shown me what is going on, and I have been able to advocate for them on these things. They have stage one and their own piece of land, which is now the reserve. They have built a health centre. They have their own fire station, and are building an education centre there as well. However, there are still stages two and three. They are looking forward to getting that completed.

This is an ongoing process with many levels of government dealing with it. There's the provincial government. Typically, all of the crown land in Alberta is managed by the provincial government. The provincial government has to sign off on it, which I believe it has. The local municipality also has interests in that area. It has a big road maintenance yard right inside that area. There has to be an agreement on how that is going to be managed as well. There are some hurdles that have to be stepped over in order to move forward.

There is the Lubicon Lake Band, which was missed by the Indian accountants who came through in the 1800s and therefore never got its own reserve. These people have been living there for hundreds of years, and they just happened to have been missed. It is fairly easy to see why. People can travel for hours and hours on the highway and see only bush. There is a sign at the beginning warning of there being no gas for 175 kilometres. People had better have a full tank of gas. The band also moves around depending on the time of the year, and has several camps on the edges of these lakes. They were missed when the allocation for reserve lands came out, and so they never had a reserve. However, we worked diligently for 20 years or so, and in 2010 the band got its first agreement on where the land would be.

As members can imagine, sometimes there can be a kerfuffle between neighbouring bands. One band may say that it is that band's traditional territory, and the other band may say the same. This is also the case up in northern Alberta where I represent. We are looking to see more progress on that. However, the basic outline has been nailed down, and I think that deal was signed in 2010 with the federal government, and we are continually working toward that.

It seems these land claim deals typically take years and years just to get everybody on the same page and get all the details hammered out. I know that the Lubicon Lake Band First Nation is definitely looking forward to having its own piece of promised land.

As we consider the bill, the Rouge park aspect of the bill has been talked about extensively and I understand that it affects a lot more people seeing as it is perhaps right in the centre of a big, sprawling metropolis, with many ridings that interact with it. I would emphasize that the land in the northern part of my riding, at about 37 square kilometres, is about half the size of the Rouge national park, so it is a significant piece of land. Perhaps there are not as many people who will be impacted by this piece of land, but for the livelihood and the way of life of the Lubicon Lake Band First Nation, those 5,000 people who live in northern Alberta, this will have a profound impact on their ability to develop that area and to build permanent structures there and be able to use the land in the method that they see fit. It is a fairly virgin piece of land as well. There has not been too much impact in terms of industrial activity, unlike the Rouge national park.

I will leave what I have to say about the Wood Buffalo National Park and the taking of the 37 kilometres out of the park. I think I have addressed it well. I know the people of Little Red River are quite excited about this new development, but it has been worked on for generations. Regardless of whether the federal government has recognized this as being their territory or not, they have been living there already and they are excited about it, but it is also a matter of fact because they already live there and are raising their families there.

I will move on to the Rouge national park, the piece of this bill that has had the most attention from members. I think we are starting to sound like a broken record, but I want to talk about the term “ecological integrity”. Coming from northern Alberta, one of the most beautiful places in this country, to put the term “ecological integrity” on the Rouge national park seems like a great irony. I mentioned northern Alberta where we are taking part of the Wood Buffalo National Park out. That is an area that has ecological integrity and it is easy to see how we can continue to manage that purely because there are not a lot of people who live in Wood Buffalo National Park. In fact, this is the only community that lives in Wood Buffalo National Park.

However, the Rouge national park has been lived in for thousands of years. Significant industrial activity has happened in that area. Currently there are highways, power lines, and pipelines that run through it. All of these things make our lives better. Highways allow us to travel at high speeds, 100 kilometres an hour, to get where we need to go. Pipelines bring natural gas that we use to heat our homes, so we need these things. There is no doubt about that. With regard to power lines, I have a cellphone on my desk right now that every day is charged up. Every night I charge it up and most of the MPs here could not survive without our cellphones. It is a bit of an understatement, we probably could survive. It is not like water or food, but the anxiety that I feel when my cellphone is not in my pocket and it is not readily available, or if the battery goes dead, is significant.

That example is about the power to charge up my cellphone every night. I guess it is a bit of an overstatement to say I cannot survive without it, but I think members understand what I mean, that the power is important.

That says nothing about the heat that it provides. I know in Alberta, my home is heated with natural gas but where I rent here in Ottawa, my home is heated with electricity. It is imperative that the electricity continues. In order for that to happen, we are going to need power lines and we are going to need pipelines. It is a great technological feat to see that each house in this country is heated by some form other than wood nowadays. It is much too easy. In fact, I think that is part of the problem, that we have forgotten what it is like to go out and chop wood, and bring it in to keep our homes warm. We have forgotten what it is like to have to store wood all year long in order to burn it throughout the winter.

Now if we are cold, we just go over and turn the thermostat up. We do not think too much of it past that. We do not think about all the power lines that it took, and we do not think about all the pipelines. We do not think about the big dam that is up in northern Quebec or Labrador or B.C. or wherever it is that generates the power that we get to use.

Right here in Ottawa, within sight of this building, there is a big power generation dam. We often drive by there and wonder what it is. That is what is powering our cellphones. That is what is heating homes. It is that kind of thing. These are the technological advances that humanity, because we have put our minds to it and co-operated together, has been able to make, to make all of our lives better.

When we say Rouge National Urban Park should have ecological integrity, it is a misnomer even just to insinuate that currently we do not have ecological integrity there in terms of it being a natural habitat. There is a lot of human impact that has happened there.

Second, if we are going to put that on there, Parks Canada has a definition for that, a “hands-off approach”, letting nature take its course. If a stream is going to erode away the dirt, exposing a pipeline, potentially causing a spill, we are just going to let that happen and we are going to have to move the pipeline. If that is a stream that erodes away the base around one of the power lines, we will have to just let that happen. We cannot take preventative action, which, in my thinking, would be the smart thing to do.

One of my towns in northern Alberta, the town of Whitecourt, is looking to become a city soon. Every time the census comes out, the residents look to see if they have made it over the 10,000 mark. If it makes it over the 10,000, it can apply to become a city. At this point, it is a town.

Just last year, it launched a project to divert the water from the river to some degree to prevent it from washing away big parts of the town. There is a big lumber mill and a big park, and things like that, down in the river valley. It was being threatened by the river eroding the bank away. Just in one year, 35 feet was lost off the bank of the river. The river was moving into town, basically. Big berms have been built in the river to divert the water, so the water does not hit the bank directly and erode it more.

That is the beauty of humanity's genuis, the fact that we can see these problems, and we can undertake methods to divert the water or prevent the forest fire or all of these kinds of things.

To put the term “ecological integrity” on a place like Rouge park seems very counterintuitive to me. No matter how much this piece has to be in there, I do not think it was an appropriate term to be placed on the Rouge park.

That said, I see my time is winding to a close here. I would like to congratulate the people of Little Red River Cree Nation on their new reserve. I would like to thank the government for continuing the hard work that has been done over the last decades to get us to this point.

Rouge National Urban Park ActGovernment Orders

February 21st, 2017 / 3:50 p.m.
See context

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, although that sounded a bit more like a question, I would like to add a few comments before the close of debate today on Bill C-18.

The Rouge National Urban Park Act is extremely important. It has given us an opportunity to have a discussion about the larger purposes of national parks in Canada.

I want to begin by acknowledging that we are on the traditional territory of the Algonquin of Golden Lake. I think that is an important aspect of what we are doing here with the Rouge National Urban Park; it is reconnecting with the first nation peoples and their traditions, use, and occupation of the territory that was here before there was a Canada.

It is important that as we reflect on the purposes of national parks we not fall into what I have found frustrating in the debate on Bill C-18, which has been something of a false debate on the purpose of a national park and why we are worried about ecological integrity.

Ecological integrity is at the heart of the reason we create parks. We do not create national parks in this country to create amusement park areas or primarily for the purpose of giving Canadians and foreign visitors a chance to walk in the woods. That is a wonderful side effect of creating a national park.

National parks have the highest order of protection within the International Union for Conservation of Nature's protected areas hierarchy. They are the crown jewels in every country. National parks, unlike provincial parks, are more restrictive in what one can do. Yes, I enjoy hiking in national parks, but I know that in some areas, one is not to take a dog at all, and in no place is one to take a dog off a leash. Provincial parks are different.

In no place in Canada should we compromise on the fundamental principle of ecological integrity to encourage economic development. There was a bit of a slippery slope some time ago. Back in 1998, the federal government commissioned a panel on ecological integrity. It was chaired by Jacques Gérin, a former deputy minister of Environment Canada and a very respected civil servant, who I am proud to call one of my dear friends. Jacques Gérin, as the deputy minister of Environment Canada, had the misfortune for a while of being deputy minister to the one minister of the environment in the history of this country who truly did not understand the purpose of a national park. This was in the Mulroney administration. Some members may recall Suzanne Blais-Grenier. She was the only minister of the environment who ever said out loud, “Gee, it's a shame. Why can't we mine and log in our national parks. That seems like a lost opportunity.” Her time working within the Mulroney cabinet was brief. Fortunately, the prime minister, Brian Mulroney, did not appreciate having a minister of the environment musing about clear-cut logging in national parks or why we were not mining or damming. She was shuffled out of cabinet, and the person I came to work for sometime later, the hon. Tom McMillan, replaced her.

It was a moment when people began to rock back on their heels and say, “Wait a minute. Could we actually have a minister of the environment in cabinet who does not understand that the purpose of national parks is to protect these areas from development?”

We have a vast area of this country outside of all protection. It is very clear that most of Canada is not protected. Therefore, when we do say that this is a national park, we have to understand the purpose of that park. That purpose was clarified by a panel created on ecological integrity back in 1998 that reported that ecological integrity must not be ignored. It must be fundamental.

This issue is critically important to the creation of national parks.

With that, the Canada National Parks Act was amended to ensure that ecological integrity stayed there as the paramount purpose of national parks. Frankly, that was being eroded over the 10 years of the Harper administration. We saw a private, for-profit company put an ice walkway in Jasper National Park. Yes, it is a great tourist attraction, but no, it did not contribute to the ecological integrity of Jasper National Park. Neither did it contribute to the ecological integrity of Cape Breton Highlands National Park when the previous administration was promoting the horrific idea, which thankfully, this Minister of Environment and Climate Change has seen the end of, of a mother Canada statue in Green Cove, a pristine area of the coastline of the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Development and tourist attractions of that type are completely inappropriate for our national parks.

The debate on Bill C-18 has given us a chance, in closing the debate at third reading, to reaffirm that national parks are about ecological integrity. That is why we have to go back and look at the Sable Island national park act that passed in the 41st Parliament. It still, lamentably, allows the Canada/Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board to have superior regulatory authority within the national park over Parks Canada itself. The CNSOPB is allowed to order seismic testing and to merely notify Parks Canada. It does not even have to consult in advance. That national park act, like the Rouge National Urban Park Act, needs to be revisited and ecological integrity restored as the core purpose of creating that park.

There have been some red herrings in this debate about forest fires burning out of control. Ecological integrity in every instance relates to the ecosystem we are protecting. The Carolinian forest is, with the exception of the Garry oak forest type in southern Vancouver Island, the most endangered forest type in Canada. Unlike Canada's boreal forests, the Carolinian forest is not a fire-driven ecosystem. It does not need, for ecological purposes, fires to burn through it. It is a moist forest. It is a hardwood forest. It has 70 different species of trees. It is far more biologically diverse than the boreal, for example. It has more than 400 bird species. It has marshlands, and we are losing our wetlands at an extraordinarily fast rate, particularly in southern Canada.

Despite the concern, which I acknowledge is valid, from an environmental lawyer like John Swaigen, from the Friends of the Rouge, who would still like to see changes made, this is a point where we cannot make changes. We might revisit it in a number of years. However, right now we need to reassert that while 75% of the Rouge National Urban Park is still in its wild state and 25% is disturbed, Parks Canada can have a plan and a vision, and Canadians can support it, to restore more of the marshlands and restore more of the Carolinian forest. We can ensure that in this time of climate change we provide as much of a corridor as possible for those species that are moving further north as the climate changes so that they have a habitat to find as they go north,

We need the Rouge National Urban Park. We need it whether it is an urban park or a wild park. It is the Rouge National Urban Park Act that we debate today, that we put to bed today at third reading. I support it, I am grateful for it, and I am very grateful to my colleagues for giving me this abbreviated time. I did not need to take my full 10 minutes.

I just want to reassert that parks are about ecological integrity, full stop. That is why we create them. That is why we must protect the concept, the principle, and the foundational purpose of our national park system: to protect the ecological integrity of Canada's diverse ecosystems.

Rouge National Urban Park ActGovernment Orders

February 17th, 2017 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Catherine McKenna Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Madam Speaker, I am proud to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-18, and to the work that has been accomplished to bring forward the proposed amendments to this important legislation for the future of Parks Canada.

I want to personally thank my hon. colleagues and the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development for their careful analysis of the proposed legislation. I encourage all members to join me today in supporting Bill C-18 at third reading so that it can make its way to the Senate.

The timing of the proposed legislation is significant as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation and the centennial of national historic sites.

Canada's national parks and national historic sites enable Canadians to experience our rich history and heritage. The legislation before us would give Parks Canada the authorities it needs to build on its role as a world leader in conservation and its growing list of accomplishments.

Bill C-18 proposes to amend three statutes: the Rouge National Urban Park Act, the Canada National Parks Act, and the Parks Canada Agency Act. Each set of amendments targets specific goals. Together these will benefit Canadians in several important ways.

Since 2011, when the initiative to create Rouge National Urban Park was first announced, we forged partnerships with community organizations and indigenous peoples. Parks Canada has completed dozens of projects to improve and protect ecosystems and farmlands in the Rouge.

Today, with Bill C-18, we will make ecological integrity the management priority for the Rouge National Urban Park. Adding ecological integrity to the Rouge National Urban Park Act would help us realize the full potential of Canada's first national urban park.

Discussions around Bill C-18 have focused on the concept of ecological integrity. I believe that focus was justified considering the importance of the Rouge to greater Toronto area residents and all Canadians.

Ecological integrity is about maintaining the native components of a place, including plants, wildlife, waterways, and ecological processes. The Canada National Parks Act defines the term clearly, and it requires Parks Canada to maintain or restore ecological integrity in its management of all national parks. For Rouge National Urban Park, Bill C-18 would make this requirement explicit.

Rouge National Urban Park is unique and special for many reasons. It has remarkable diversity of flora and fauna, a rich history dating back to the first indigenous peoples, and a vibrant agricultural heritage. All of this is within one hour of seven million Canadians, and one can get there on public transit. It will be the first national park that many new Canadians get to visit. What better gift to all Canadians than free access to the Rouge and other parks across Canada to celebrate the 150th birthday of Confederation?

The combination of these factors presents both challenges and opportunities. The best way to meet these challenges and to make the most of these opportunities is to place ecological integrity at the forefront of the park's management.

The goal of this management approach is to preserve the Rouge National Urban Park's great wealth of natural, cultural, and agricultural features for future generations.

The Rouge is home to rare Carolinian forest, significant wetlands, and over 1,700 species of plants and animals. It includes some of the oldest indigenous sites in Canada, sites that date back thousands of years, and vast expanses of class 1 farmland, the rarest and most fertile land in the country. Some of that land has been farmed for centuries.

This approach puts ecological integrity first to ensure that the Rouge's cultural and agricultural heritage is protected now and for generations to come.

Our government is committed to the protection of our national parks, expanding the system of protected areas, and contributing to the recovery of species at risk. No organization in the world is better equipped than Parks Canada to support these goals. For more than a century, the Parks Canada Agency has acted to preserve and protect this country's natural and cultural heritage.

Parks Canada is recognized around the world as a leader in conservation, educational programming, and meaningful and high-quality visitor experiences. As other members of this House have pointed out, the agency has already made strides in these areas at Rouge National Urban Park.

It is because of Parks Canada's vast expertise in conservation that this government assigned the agency a co-lead role in fulfilling one of Canada's international commitments under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. The convention proposes to protect the world's biodiversity by encouraging countries to protect their lands and waters. As part of its commitment under the convention, Canada aims to protect at least 17% of our lands and fresh water, and 10% of our marine ecosystem by 2020.

Joining Parks Canada at the helm of the terrestrial component of this initiative is Alberta's Environment and Parks ministry, along with the province's climate change office. To achieve this ambitious goal will require broad collaboration and determined action to establish networks of protected areas that preserve Canada's incredible biodiversity along with a series of other equally important conservation measures.

In order to facilitate this collaboration and identify key initiatives, Canada and Alberta will create a national advisory panel. The panel will advise the governments on practical solutions for expanding the existing network of terrestrial and freshwater protected areas, particularly on how best to evaluate progress.

The panel will include members from various stakeholder groups, such as indigenous organizations and non-profit agencies, municipalities, representatives from the natural resources sector, as well as youth and community groups, in order to ensure that the panel's advice reflects a wide range of perspectives.

Our government is determined to expand this country's system of protected areas and to safeguard biodiversity not only to honour the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, but also because of its importance to each and every person on this planet.

Biodiversity is essential to our collective well-being and to Canada's ability to adapt to climate change. By protecting Canada's vast variety of species, ecosystems, and ecological processes, we also protect humankind and create a valuable legacy for future generations.

Natural spaces are a vital component of Canadian culture. They are central to our identity, to our heritage, and to our economy. More than a century ago in what is now Banff National Park, Canada became one of the first countries in the world to protect a natural space from development. Our country was also the first to establish a federal agency to administer and protect areas of natural and historical importance.

Another indication of how important natural spaces are to Canada and to Canadians is that we use legislation to designate protected areas. We understand these areas are vital to Canada's ecosystems and that they play a fundamental role in safeguarding habitat for wildlife, mitigating the impacts of climate change, and providing opportunities for tourism, recreation, and connection with nature.

In order to achieve our national biodiversity target, which is to protect at least 17% of Canada’s land and fresh water, our government will work with indigenous peoples in the spirit of reconciliation and a renewed nation-to-nation relationship.

We will work together based on recognition of rights, respect, cooperation, and partnership. Canada values the wisdom and contributions of indigenous peoples in our collective effort to reach our biodiversity targets.

Parks Canada works with more than 300 indigenous peoples across Canada to protect, conserve, restore, and present Canada's natural and cultural heritage.

To strengthen the agency's working partnerships with indigenous peoples, Parks Canada introduced a reconciliation framework last year and utilizes traditional knowledge in its work.

In addition, through budget 2016, our government invested in a five-year program that will encourage indigenous storytelling and support indigenous tourism opportunities. This year Parks Canada will work with indigenous communities to develop and deliver 40 interpretive activities at national parks and historic sites across the country to enable visitors to gain new perspectives on Canada's treasured places.

In managing national parks, Parks Canada maintains or restores ecological integrity, and provides Canadians with opportunities to discover and enjoy them.

The main reason why Canadians enjoy these spaces is that they tell stories of who we are, including the history, cultures, and contributions of indigenous peoples.

Making ecological integrity a priority will help Parks Canada protect the Rouge's natural, cultural, and agricultural treasures. Situated in close proximity to 20% of Canada’s population, Rouge National Urban Park offers a unique opportunity to make our national parks more accessible to Canadians, including youth and newcomers, so that they can experience the outdoors and learn about their environment.

By encouraging Canadians to visit national parks and providing them with the information and means to enjoy them, Parks Canada allows more Canadians to explore nature and to learn about our country's heritage.

For 2017, the Government of Canada is offering Canadians free admission to all national parks, national historic sites, and national marine conservation areas. We are thrilled with the high volume of visits to our national parks, and we look forward to welcoming visitors to Parks Canada locations to celebrate Canada 150.

The free 2017 parks discovery pass has been incredibly popular with more than 2.6 million individuals and businesses having ordered passes. I can say with confidence that Parks Canada has many tools at its disposal to effectively manage increased visitation.

Ecological integrity will continue to guide the management of our national parks. This includes helping visitors plan their experience in advance, encouraging shoulder season visitation, and promoting hidden gems and less frequented parks. For example, Parks Canada places are offering even more events and activities in the fall and spring.

We are also investing in our facilities to ensure capacity can be handled. This includes significant investments in infrastructure, particularly in campgrounds, day use areas, and trails, and the addition of oTENTik accommodations across the country.

Through budget 2016, our government is also investing in the popular learn-to-camp program, to reach more low- and middle-income families, giving them the opportunity to experience the wonders of Canada's outdoors. Budget 2016 also enabled us make significant investments in tourism facilities and roads to help connect Canadians to nature, while stimulating the economy in communities across the country.

Other highlights in 2017 will include bioblitzes, in collaboration with partners, to foster greater awareness of conservation and biodiversity. Bioblitzes are great examples of citizen science. They are fun events that bring together naturalists, scientists, and members of the public to identify as many species as possible in a particular area. Canadians can contribute to real science while connecting with nature in a personally meaningful way.

As we celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation, my hope is that many Canadians, including youth, urban families, and newcomers, will discover Parks Canada for the first time this year at Rouge National Urban Park.

The bill before us would help the Rouge achieve its full potential. Canada's first national urban park is located in the most densely populated region in the country. The greater Toronto area, already one of the most multicultural places in the world, continues to attract more newcomers, and more so than any other region. Many of these people have little to no experience with national parks and are unfamiliar with Canada's heritage.

The Rouge National Urban Park, accessible by public transit, is the ideal stepping stone for people to familiarize themselves with Canada's incredible network of protected areas that are so dear to Canadians.

To help newcomers experience our country's natural and cultural heritage, Parks Canada participates in the cultural access pass program, run by the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, and will be holding citizenship ceremonies in our parks as we celebrate Canada's 150th year. The pass provides free admission to more than a thousand cultural treasures from coast to coast to coast, including many Parks Canada places. Each newcomer receives a pass during his or her first year of Canadian citizenship. This helps to ensure that generations of newcomers to Canada have every opportunity to be inspired by the places and events that help define us.

I am also proud to say that as of 2018, admission to Parks Canada sites will continue to be free for all children and youth under 18, courtesy of our government.

It is important, when we are contemplating this legislation, that we look back on the work already accomplished to create Rouge National Urban Park and that we also consider the collaboration that made this progress possible. For decades, community groups and public agencies have worked to protect and celebrate the Rouge's natural, cultural, and agricultural heritage.

The creation of Canada's first urban national park in this environment required extensive consultation and strong partnerships. Parks Canada continues to work closely with farmers, indigenous partners, the Province of Ontario, municipalities, and other government agencies and organizations, as well as with educational institutions and environmental groups, in order to ensure the success of the Rouge.

It is a management approach that prioritizes ecological integrity and supports collaboration, because it involves a holistic, comprehensive approach. The proposed amendments to the Rouge National Urban Park would enable visitors from near and far to experience, understand, and appreciate the Rouge's unique combination of natural, cultural, and agricultural heritage. In particular, I would like to acknowledge the Government of Ontario's commitment to transfer its lands for the completion of Canada's first national urban park.

Let me turn to other proposed amendments to the Canada National Parks Act and the Parks Canada Agency Act. Bill C-18 proposes a second set of amendments that relate to the boundary of Wood Buffalo National Park, in northern Alberta. By withdrawing a portion of land from Wood Buffalo National Park, the Government of Canada would be able to honour its commitment to the Little Red River Cree Nation in supporting the establishment of the Garden River Indian Reserve. This would represent a small but vital step toward reconciliation with indigenous peoples.

The third set of amendments proposed in Bill C-18 would modernize the rules that govern the New Parks and Historic Sites Account under the Parks Canada Agency Act. Currently, funds from the account can only be used to acquire land or property to establish a protected heritage area that has not yet reached full operational status.

The amendments proposed would give Parks Canada more flexibility so that it could act quickly to acquire land and assets in order to expand or complete existing protected heritage areas that are already in operation, for example, the Grasslands National Park or the Bruce Peninsula National Park.

The amendment would also enable Canadians to contribute to the expansion or completion of such heritage areas.

The Rouge National Urban Park Act has been the subject of considerable debate in this House. During its review of the amendments to the act, the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development called several witnesses, studied several briefs, analyzed a handful of proposed amendments, and then proposed Bill C-18 with no changes.

As we celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation, I urge all members of this House to endorse Bill C-18 as a way to protect our natural, cultural, and agricultural heritage for the benefit of all Canadians, now and into the future.

Rouge National Urban Park ActGovernment Orders

February 17th, 2017 / 10:35 a.m.
See context

Conservative

John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON

Madam Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise to speak on Bill C-18, an act to amend the Rouge National Urban Park Act, the Parks Canada Agency Act and the Canada National Parks Act.

I represent the great riding of Barrie—Innisfil. The population growth of the Barrie metropolitan area is outpacing that of Canada's, at 5.4% annually, and the riding of Barrie—Innisfil grew by 7.9% between 2011 and 2016.

The riding is home to many wonderful parks and nature areas, including Kempenfelt Bay, which provides residents with walking, running, and play areas, including a great stretch of beach that at this time of year is home to many ice fishing huts and snowmobile trails.

I am pleased to speak on the third reading of C-18, an act to amend the Rouge National Urban Park Act, the Parks Canada Agency Act and the Canada National Parks Act. I will begin by saying that I will be supporting the bill.

Bill C-18 is a bill that has a history going back to 1990, when the Progressive Conservative government at the time in the province of Ontario, created an advisory committee to prepare an action plan to protect the Rouge River and its surrounding lands. In 1995, the Rouge River Park was created, and the Province of Ontario benefited with a donation of land, increasing the size of the park considerably.

With support for Canada's first national urban park, former Prime Minister Harper committed in the Speech from the Throne of 2011 to the creation of the Rouge National Urban Park. He further added an additional 21 kilometres to the park, with land from Pickering and Uxbridge. At that time, the park reached the size of 79.5 square kilometres. What was unique about the Rouge National Urban Park at the time was the diversity of the land that it encompassed, from forests to farmland.

In 2013, the federal government and the Liberal Government of Ontario entered into an agreement, transferring 47 square kilometres of land to the park. This transfer created a park that reached from the east end of the city of Toronto to Markham and Pickering. It created an urban park that was 22 times the size of New York's Central Park, and 14 times larger than Vancouver's Stanley Park.

In November 2014, the Conservative government introduced Bill C-40. It passed the bill in May 2015 to create the Rouge National Urban Park. The park is unique in Canada. Previous to Bill C-40, the lands were protected by Ontario's Greenbelt Act, which substantially lowered environmental protection standards from the federal laws that would become the new regulations for the new park under Bill C-40. With the park now under federal jurisdiction, regulations under the Parks Canada Agency Act, the federal Species at Risk Act, and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act were all in consideration.

Located 100 kilometres from Barrie, the park is home to a unique combination of natural, cultural, and agricultural features, including 1,700 species of plants, birds, fish, mammals, insects, reptiles, and amphibians—more than 10,000 years of human history. Outcrops of rock formed in the last glacial period and found in Rouge Park are being used to study seismic activity, in particular for the risk of earthquakes. The faults that are visible indicate earthquake activity occurred between 13,000 and 80,000 years ago. Rouge National Urban Park contains the original portage route between Lake Ontario and Lake Simcoe used years before Canada's Confederation 150.

It sounds to me that by enacting Bill C-40 at the time, the federal government understood the environmental protection that this land required. Under Ontario's Greenbelt Act, the land would not have been at the level of protection that it would have been because of Bill C-40. The bill brought together the protection of nature, culture, and agriculture in a new approach. With a strong legislative framework, protection would exceed and expand on the protections that were in place at the time.

At the time of Bill C-40, the opposition felt that the term “ecological integrity” was missing from the legislation. In committee when this was discussed, Mr. Larry Noonan, from the Altona Forest Community Stewardship Committee, stated that:

Ecological integrity cannot be applied to an urban national park.

He stated further:

We cannot allow fires and flooding in the Toronto, Markham, and Pickering urban environment. The rouge national urban park...cannot have this term included, or there would have to be a list of [exemptions and] exceptions to the definition which could service to lessen its impact in the Canada National Parks Act.

Mr. Noonan also stated the following in committee:

Instead, Bill C-40 refers to 'the maintenance of its native wildlife and of the health of those ecosystems'. The Rouge national urban park and the management plan lay out strategies for attaining the highest possible level of health for the park's ecosystems.

When I first joined the House in October 2015, I sat until recently on the joint committee on regulations. Having sat through and researched items discussed in the regulations committee, I can honestly say that the last thing that Parks Canada needed was additional regulations to abide by. The Minister of Environment and Climate Change, the sponsor of Bill C-18, must surely know the weight of regulations that her senior staff struggle under.

In his speech for the third reading of Bill C-40, the hon. member for Thornhill and former minister of the environment, said:

The legislative framework for the Rouge national urban park meets the definition of a category V protected area under the stringent criteria of the International Union for Conservation of Nature. This category of protected area applies where the interaction of people and nature over time has produced an area of distinct character, with significant ecological, biological, cultural, and scenic value.

He further said:

This is exactly what Rouge national urban park represents. I will commit to the House that Parks Canada will see to it that all of this park's unique components live up to the highest international conservation standards and receive the strongest ever legal protections in the history of the Rouge.

Bill C-18 is nothing more than the Liberals playing political games at the provincial and federal levels.

In Queen's Park in Toronto, the Progressive Conservative MPP for Wellington—Halton Hills, Mr. Ted Arnott, has stood on several occasions, asking the Kathleen Wynne Liberals to abide by the 2013 agreement for the transfer of lands to the Rouge National Urban Park. His statement in the provincial house clearly shows that the Ontario Liberals were playing politics.

Taking a few sentences from his statement in April 2015, he said:

It has now been over two years since the Liberal government agreed to transfer land to the federal government to create the Rouge National Urban Park, which would be the largest urban park in North America. The creation of the Rouge National Urban Park would provide strong protection measures for the land between Lake Ontario and the Oak Ridges moraine, and as we know Parks Canada maintains high standards.

We also know that the Rouge National Urban Park would be protected by dedicated year-round park wardens. These wardens would ensure the ecological, environmental, and cultural integrity of the park by enforcing rules against illegal dumping, poaching, polluting, hunting, vandalism, and the theft of cultural artifacts—all issues that have plagued the park for many years.

By putting politics ahead of good policy, the minister is putting at risk almost $144 million that was committed by the federal government for this initiative. This is money that would be used to protect the environmental integrity of this land and ensure that the Rouge National Urban Park is enjoyed by the people of this province for decades to come.

Today, we call upon the minister to stop playing games, stop delaying, and instead take the step forward and work together to create the greatest urban park in North America. As Mr. Arnott put it, these are Liberal games and they are the only reason that the land has not been transferred as was agreed to in 2013.

Bill C-40 is nothing more than making the Liberals in Ontario get what they want, and what they wanted, “ecological integrity”, as stated by Mr. Noonan, is not responsible for the Rouge National Urban Park.

Another voice who has supported Bill C-40 as it was without the “ecological integrity” was the Hon. Pauline Browes, a former federal minister of the state for environment. Ms. Browes stated at committee, paraphrasing: Parks Canada is a “heralded organization of experience” with very competent individuals, and “has been assigned the responsibility of the permanent protection and preservation of the natural, cultural, and agricultural aspects of the Rouge national urban park”. The act allows the minister “to make the decisions based on the identified purposes for which the park is being created and the factors which must be taken into consideration”. Pitting the elements, the urban, rural and park lands, against each other by putting “one as a priority...would really create conflict”.

Parks Canada has also disagreed with ecological integrity as a primary guiding principle for the park. It is important to look at just what ecological integrity means. The true environmentalist definition of ecological integrity would imply letting forest fires burn, floods run their course, and wildlife survive without human intervention. The Rouge sits alongside residential neighbourhoods, schools, and playgrounds. It also has highways, hydroelectric power lines, and a pipeline across various parts of the park. There is farmland, a former landfill site, and an old auto wrecker's yard within its boundaries. Will the environmentalists allow fires to burn down homes, floods to do personal property damage, let highway and transportation infrastructure fall apart, and allow animals to threaten the lives of perhaps women, children, men, and their household pets, and cause hardships to the livelihood of farmers in the name of ecological integrity?

As I mentioned earlier, the current protections provided to the Rouge National Urban Park are far and beyond whatever the Liberal government could provide. In fact, I would think that Kathleen Wynne would have welcomed the federal government taking the financial responsibilities of the parkland off its books. This is much more than two words, “ecological integrity”. This is about money for the Ontario Liberal Party. This is about ego. The Ontario minister of economic development, Brad Duguid, admitted that they had no intention of working with the Conservative government with an election approaching. He confirmed this, with statements in the house in Toronto on November 26, 2015. He said:

The government you spoke about, the Harper government, didn't take that responsibility seriously. Thank goodness that the new Prime Minister and new government do, and we are looking forward to working with them to put in place a real national park for the Rouge that is going to ensure it has the protections we have in place today....

Minister Duguid also said:

This is about working together with the federal government to get this done right. We finally have in place a minister of the environment federally and a government that cares about the environment, that is determined to save this planet, determined to ensure that we preserve these ecological gems like the Rouge Valley.

Let me say that the Harper government got it right with the Rouge National Urban Park. Witnesses in committee confirmed that the enhanced protection of Parks Canada in federal regulations would far outweigh whatever protection the Wynne government provided. Loopholes in Ontario's Greenbelt Act and the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act grandfather environmentally destructive clauses and provide for bad permits to be issued. The exemptions would do massive damage to terrain and allow endangered species to die.

Again, witnesses, such as former CEO of Parks Canada, Alan Latourelle, said:

Any individual or organization that directly or indirectly implies that the federal legislation for Rouge National Urban Park does not meet the standard of the current provincial legislation for Rouge lands is misleading the public.

As members have heard, Parks Canada disagreed with the need for ecological integrity.

The Friends of Rouge National Urban Park is a small group organized to encourage the Ontario government to commit to its legal obligation to transfer its 25 square kilometres of land to the federal government. It should be noted that at the time, November 2015, this group included former federal cabinet ministers, current MPs, and councillors. All involved with this group supported the original Bill C-40, with no ecological integrity as part of the land transfer agreement. Contrary to the Ontario government, The Globe and Mail, on March 20, 2015, said that the federal government position was a reasonable compromise as it provides for the “flora and fauna and any endangered species”, and “prohibits hunting, dumping, mining, logging, and other unparklike activities”. Just as important, The Globe and Mail noted that the Rouge was an urban park and that natural ecosystems do not work in an urban setting.

This bill is also about money. The Ontario government is drowning in red ink. The deficit and debt grow. The provincial debt is at $316 billion. The individual debt of Ontarians is valued at almost $23,000. Therefore, it does not surprise me when I find out that the Ontario infrastructure minister, Bob Chiarelli, requested, make that demanded, a change to the land transfer agreement. A demand was made for a $100 million payment for the transfer of the Rouge National Urban Park to Parks Canada and the federal government.

If members remember the opening of my statement, I mentioned that the park grew with donations of land to the Ontario government from municipalities to grow the Rouge. The key here is “donation”.

The province was asking for money from some lands that were given to the province years earlier. Only after the demand for payment was given did the Ontario government decide to stop any transfer of the park lands in the name of ecological integrity. This goes against the June 22, 2016, announcement by Minister Duguid at the “Paddle the Rouge” where he stated that he would recommend the provincial land be transferred to the federal government. I wonder who forced the minister to reverse his decision?

Demands for money were replaced with demands for ecological integrity. The demands were made without Ontario Parks being able to evaluate and respond to the Parks Canada's plan for the new park.

Led by the provincial infrastructure minister and the economic development minister, the Ontario Liberal government broke a legally binding land transfer agreement with the federal government that covered 47 square kilometres. The Wynne Liberals acted in a partisan manner with a federal election approaching and, once again, used their inability or desire to work with another governing political party to get their way, when so many experts had gone on record in disagreement with the demand of that Liberal government.

In the 2015 election, Prime Minister Harper committed to expanding the park even though the Ontario Liberals had broken a legal agreement. New trails, streams, forests, creeks, and meadows would add to the Rouge National Urban Park. The then third place Liberals campaigned at the same time that the Ontario government would be provided with the “comfort” they needed to have them contribute their land. No commitment was made to expand and add to the park as it was.

Will the Liberal government go against the 2013 legal agreement for the land transfer? Will Premier Wynne get her $100 Million for “comfort”?

I want to end by saying that the previous federal government took bold steps to add more than 220,000 square kilometres to Canadian federal parks and marine protected areas, an increase of more than 58%. The former Conservative government's national conservation plan expanded national park lands by tens of thousands of square kilometres and secured ecologically-sensitive private lands.

Canada's national parks provide outstanding examples of our country's natural landscapes, generate significant economic activity by attracting visitors from Canada and abroad, and provide Canadians with access to our natural heritage. The environment is arguably the most common of threads that binds every citizen of this planet together, and I believe in conservation. I also believe conservation is in concert with many Conservative values.

I look forward to supporting Bill C-18, but I just wish the Liberal government and its provincial Liberal cousins would stop playing politics that causes introduction of legislation that increases regulations and pits sectors of our economy against each either.

Rouge National Urban Park ActGovernment Orders

February 17th, 2017 / 12:05 p.m.
See context

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to join in this important discussion on Bill C-18. Creating parks is important.

I was kind of disappointed yesterday. We are all friends here and I am sure no one will tell a tale out of school. The most powerful person in the entire NDP sits just on the other side of the door. His name is Anthony Salloum. If anyone really wants to know where the power is, and it is bit of a secret inside story of the NDP, it is Anthony. Yesterday Anthony said to me that he had a real project me, that I would like it. When I took a look at it, I realized it was about a park. As important as the bill is, I was incredibly disappointed.

Let me just take a second to read the summary so there is a context for my remarks. It states:

This enactment amends the Rouge National Urban Park Act to set out priorities in respect of factors to be considered in the management of the park. Additionally, it adds land to the park. It also amends the Parks Canada Agency Act to allow the New Parks and Historic Sites Account to be used in a broader manner. Finally, it amends the Canada National Parks Act to modify the boundary of Wood Buffalo National Park of Canada.

I know how important that is as part of this, but my disappointment stems from the fact that I would not be given the opportunity to talk about how the government had let so many people down by turning its back on electoral reform. That was the kind of speech I wanted to make. I wanted to come in here and point out for Canadians that, again, the government had turned its back on them. The Liberals said over 1,800 times during the campaign that they would make electoral reform a key cornerstone of their mandate. It turned its back on that promise.

As I mentioned in my statement earlier, it is more than passing strange that the current Prime Minister is fearmongering about proportional representation by saying that going to PR could lead to extremist governments getting into power. My response would be to point out that Stephen Harper, an extremist government by many of our measurements, got in with 39.6% of the vote. With less than 40%, it got 100% of the power. How can that be seen as democratic? There is nothing democratic at all that 39% of the vote gets 100% of the power. One does not have to be a political scientist to understand that is not a democracy.

The Prime Minister himself said that 2015 would be the last election that we would have a first past the post system, until he won by that system, got himself a majority and got 100% of the power. The ironic part is that the Liberals formed a majority government and got 100% of the power with a smaller percentage of the popular vote than the Harper government had.

Under proportional representation, if we get 39% of the popular vote, we get 39% of the seats. It is common sense. It makes every vote count. That is the key thing.

The members can appreciate my disappointment when yesterday, as I was lining up my work for today, Anthony said that this was what he needed me to do today, to speak to the bill before us.

I really was hoping it would be something about electoral reform, so I could reflect the anger and the betrayal and the disappointment that exists certainly in my riding and based on the emails that I am getting seems to have spread across the country.

Millions of people may not be hanging on this issue yet, but the numbers have grown. Quite a number of years ago our former leader Jack Layton asked me to be the NDP democratic reform critic, which I did for a period of time. Again, millions of people were not interested but the number was smaller than it is now. This shows that people understand the issue and understand why virtually every other advanced country moves to a PR system. We have a natural hesitancy to do anything too radical. Once people get past that—