An Act to amend the Parks Canada Agency Act (Conservation of National Historic Sites Account)

This bill was last introduced in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2019.


Gord Brown  Conservative

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)


Defeated, as of Nov. 1, 2017
(This bill did not become law.)


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

This enactment establishes the Conservation of National Historic Sites Account and sets out the rules in respect of donations made for the conservation of national historic sites.


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.


Nov. 1, 2017 Failed 2nd reading of Bill C-315, An Act to amend the Parks Canada Agency Act (Conservation of National Historic Sites Account)

Private Members' Business—Speaker's RulingPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

October 31st, 2017 / 10:25 a.m.
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The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on May 12, 2017, by the hon. member for Winnipeg North concerning the possible requirement for a royal recommendation with respect to four private members' bills, two from the House of Commons and two from the Senate.

The Commons bills are Bill C-315, an act to amend the Parks Canada Agency Act, conservation of national historic sites account, standing in the name of the hon. member for Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, and Bill C-343, an act to establish the office of the federal ombudsman for victims of criminal acts and to amend certain acts, standing in the name of the hon. member for Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d'Orléans—Charlevoix. Both bills are currently in the order of precedence at second reading.

The two Senate bills are Bill S-205, an act to amend the Canada Border Services Agency Act, Inspector General of the Canada Border Services Agency, and to make consequential amendments to other acts, standing in the name of the hon. member for Toronto—Danforth, and Bill S-229, an act respecting underground infrastructure safety, standing in the name of the hon. member for Guelph. Both of these bills are currently awaiting first reading.

Members will recall that on May 9, 2017, I made a statement in which I invited arguments in relation to these four bills. I would like to thank the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, the hon. member for Guelph, and the hon. member for Perth—Wellington for their detailed interventions.

Of the four bills, Bill C-315, in proposing to establish a separate account as part of the accounts of Canada from which disbursements could be made, raises most clearly a question about the possible need for a royal recommendation. The other three bills, C-343, S-205, and S-229, are different. While they present schemes that could lead to new spending, all contain coming-into-force provisions designed to make such spending conditional on separate parliamentary appropriations. I will address Bill C-315 first, and then the other three.

Bill C-315 establishes a distinct account for the conservation of national historic sites, called the conservation of national historic sites account. The funds for this account are to be raised exclusively through private donations and from the interest generated from them. I should note that this fund seems to be separate from the pre-existing new parks and historic sites account, which serves a similar purpose and is also based, at least in part, on donations.

Bill C-315 also provides that the funds may be spent for specific purposes in relation to national historic sites. The parliamentary secretary contended that the creation of such a new account, and the authority to spend its funds on national historic sites, would be a new and distinct purpose that is not specifically authorized by any statute, thus clearly requiring a royal recommendation.

In making his case, the parliamentary secretary drew a parallel to the employment insurance fund. While nominally its own account, all amounts received and dispersed from the EI fund are deposited in and drawn from the consolidated revenue fund. Because these monies are part of the consolidated revenue fund, a royal recommendation is necessary to authorize any expenditure from it.

Although the situation with Bill C-315 is not entirely analogous to the EI fund, I believe that a similar principle still applies. Even if the monies are accounted for separately and raised exclusively through donations and interest generated from those donations, once collected, they become public funds deposited into the consolidated revenue fund. Any payments from this fund would also be drawn from the CRF. As the bill authorizes this spending for a specified purpose, it must be accompanied by a royal recommendation. Therefore, I find that the objections raised by the parliamentary secretary are well founded.

However, as is consistent with our practice with respect to Commons bills, Bill C-315 can continue through the legislative process as long as there is a possibility that a royal recommendation could be obtained before the final vote on the bill. Alternatively, the bill could perhaps be amended in such a way as to obviate the need for a royal recommendation. Absent one or other of these options being exercised, the question at third reading of the bill will not be put.

Let me now turn to the issues raised in the three other bills, namely S-205, S-229, and C-343. The parliamentary secretary argued that the bills in question were proposing new and distinct expenditures and that the accompanying coming-into-force provisions did not alter this fact. In support of this argument, he cited a Speaker’s ruling from November 9, 1978 about clauses in bills that seek to elude the requirement for a royal recommendation. Accordingly, it was his contention that the question could not be put at third reading on Bill C-343. Moreover, with respect to Bills S-205 and S-229, which originated in the Senate, both should be removed from the Order Paper since any bills appropriating public funds must originate in the House of Commons.

The member for Guelph argued, on June 20, 2017, that Bill S-229 is in order and should be allowed to proceed. First, he contended that no procedural authority exists to remove Bill S-229 from the Order Paper. To do so, the Chair would be relying exclusively on constitutional principles set out in sections 53 and 54 of the Constitution Act, which, in his view, is contrary to the principle that the Chair does not rule on matters of constitutionality. He also contended that even if a royal recommendation were needed, the Chair should allow the bill to continue until the end of the debate at third reading, as is done for private members' bills first introduced in the House.

The member then turned to more substantive arguments about the bill, claiming that the coming-into-force clause ensured that it did not appropriate any part of the public revenue, as such appropriations would have to be granted through subsequent legislation. He further contended that it was not a “money bill”, but, and I quote, “merely contemplates the minister entering into an agreement but does not directly involve any expenditure”.

The hon. member for Perth—Wellington, on September 19, 2017, made a similar argument in relation to Bill C-344. In his view, it was clear that no money could be spent for the purposes set out in the bill unless and until such funds were appropriated by Parliament in a separate measure. He argued that the bill merely established the machinery under which some future expenditure might be made and that for this reason it did not require a royal recommendation.

As Speaker, I am mindful of my responsibility to provide members with the widest amount of latitude possible in bringing forward measures for consideration as long as these conform to our rules and practices. Their proposals may take the form of either motions or bills. The Chair would only intervene to prevent consideration of such items when they are clearly defective in some procedural way. One of the most important tests when it comes to bills that authorize spending is that they must first be introduced in the House of Commons and must be accompanied by a royal recommendation prior to final adoption. The key question in relation to these three bills is whether they authorize any spending. That is to say, would their adoption result in public funds being appropriated for new and distinct purposes?

The Parliamentary Secretary pointed out measures in each bill that he felt required a royal recommendation. Bill C-343 provides for the appointment of a federal ombudsman for victims of crime, with remuneration and associated expenses for the appointee, and the hiring and remuneration of the necessary staff.

As the member for Perth—Wellington mentioned in passing, this office already exists as a program within the Department of Justice and the ombudsman is appointed as a special advisor to the Minister of Justice pursuant to the Public Service Employment Act. What Bill C-343 proposes, I would argue, is different, insofar as it seeks to establish the ombudsman as a separate and independent office outside of the department. In such circumstances, a royal recommendation would be needed to properly implement the creation of this office and authorize spending to this end.

Bill S-205 proposes the appointment of a new inspector general of the Canada Border Services Agency, the appointee's remuneration, and associated employment benefits. These provisions, if implemented, would require new and distinct spending not currently covered by existing appropriations.

Bill S-229 seeks to authorize the designated minister to make regulations allowing for, among other things, the establishment of a funding program to enable notification centres and damage-prevention organizations to exercise the functions assigned to them under this act, potentially involving new expenditures not currently authorized. Excepting that certain clauses of each bill seem to involve potential spending for which a royal recommendation would ordinarily be required, the critical question is the impact of the coming-into-force clause.

The hon. member for Guelph and the hon. member for Perth—Wellington cited certain authorities and precedents to justify why a royal recommendation is not required. Beauchesne’s Parliamentary Rules and Forms, sixth edition, at page 186, citation 613 reads:

A bill, which does not involve a direct expenditure but merely confers upon the government a power for the exercise of which public money will have to be voted by Parliament, is not a money bill, and no royal recommendation is necessary as a condition precedent to its introduction.

The same publication, at page 185, citation 611, addresses the issue of Senate bills containing a clause that states that no money will spent as long as the necessary parliamentary appropriation is not secured. Specifically, it states:

A bill from the Senate, certain clauses of which would necessitate some public expenditure, is in order if it is provided by a clause of the said bill that no such expenditure shall be made unless previously sanctioned by Parliament.

All three bills explicitly provide that they cannot be brought into force until funds are appropriated by a subsequent act of Parliament, which would have to be initiated in the House of Commons and be accompanied by a royal recommendation. The adoption of these bills, then, does not authorize the appropriation of any funds from the consolidated revenue fund. They would establish a framework in law to establish the new offices proposed by Bill C-343 and Bill S-205, or to develop the system proposed by Bill S-229.

However, the crown is in no way obligated to spend money for these purposes. If, in the future, Parliament granted the necessary funds for these purposes, it would be doing so in the full knowledge that it would allow these measures to come into force. Such a granting of funds would have to be done pursuant to our normal financial procedures. This being so, the financial prerogatives of the crown and the privileges of the House of Commons are entirely respected.

It must also be recognized that the House has not had to deal with bills providing for conditional spending in recent years and certainly not since the significant changes to our practices surrounding private members' business made in 1994.

After careful consideration, I am of the view that a royal recommendation is not required, and that these three bills may continue along the usual legislative process. With that said, I believe it might be useful for the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to consider the matter of private members' bills that contain what I would call, for lack of a better term, non-appropriation clauses. The House would likely welcome any views that the committee would have to offer on this subject.

I thank hon. members for their attention.

Parks Canada Agency ActPrivate Members' Business

October 31st, 2017 / 4:50 p.m.
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Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to stand in the House to speak to the bill and in the spirit of the day, I will mention I do not quite have 95 theses to contribute to this debate and I am not going to nail my speech at the end of it to the chamber doors, but I do have a Yiddish proverb I want to share. The member for Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes would appreciate it. “Without money, there is no world”.

We understand that it takes money if we want to preserve things and purchase things, just like our buildings are a national treasure. Our national historic sites need money in order to continue to attract visitors, students, and teachers so they can learn about our national historic sites and better appreciate these great assets that Canada has as part of our cultural and national heritage.

I am very pleased to support Bill C-315 and I want to thank the member for Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes for tabling it once again for debate.

It calls for an establishment of an account to which all donated funds would be attributed when the donor indicates a desire that the funds be devoted to conservation at a given site. Parks Canada administers 171 federally recognized historic sites and defines over 970 more as historically significant.

I used to work in a historic site because Alberta had its own designation for it. What is very unique about the building is that it used to be the old Calgary Chamber of Commerce building. It used to be an Odd Fellows temple that was converted for use by the Chamber of Commerce. The entire building was not a historic site. Only the ballroom was considered a national historic site. What was unusual about the building as well was that it had two pubs built into it on two different floors. Working in a historic site like that, I came to appreciate the money that goes into maintaining it to keep it at the level where the building does not fall down and to make it usable for new generations to take advantage of, to use it for the purpose it was built for originally and for new purposes designed for it. Today, it is owned by an oil and gas company that also owns the Bow Tower across the street and is used for trading.

Bill C-315 would create a system that would basically manage donations and promote future donations. That is really important. A dedicated fund would not displace federal support that national historic sites receive today, but would complement, a point that was made by the member. We are not looking to replace federal or provincial government support for these sites but to complement and give Canadians and international visitors an opportunity to participate in the stewardship of national historic sites.

We as Conservatives believe in subsidiarity, which is the government closest to us is the one best placed to serve us. The principle involved in subsidiarity is that those closest to an action, item, or a place know it best and will be able to take care of it best.

When it comes to stewardship and conservation, they are both very conservative principles. We are stewards of our historic sites as we are stewards of Parliament and of the seats we are privileged to have on behalf of residents of our ridings, so we pass them on to the next generation. We are judged on how well we have done, by how well we have maintained them, how well we have used them, and whether they are still there for future generations to take advantage of.

I want to reserve the rest of my comments specifically on some of the points the parliamentary secretary made when presenting the government's position on this. The parliamentary secretary mentioned that this is already done by Parks Canada and a lot of this would be duplicative in some way. I do not believe that is the case. I do not believe it would limit donors in any way. The limits that Bill C-315 proposes on how the account is spent, meaning only the interest be spent on conservation of works, would give certainty to donors.

Having worked in the non-profit sector, that is an important concept. When donors give money, especially when we create a principal account to raise interest and only the interest is to be used for a purpose or goal, donors want to know that the money will be there 10, 20, 30, or 40 years afterward. The same principle applies when people are endowing a chair or professorship at a university. Donors want to have certainty that the money will be there in the future to sustain the initial purpose the money was given for. The same principle applies here.

Members of our communities and international visitors will have the certainty of knowing that of the dollars they give today and into the future, only the interest will be used to finance the operations and the maintenance of a national historic site.

The parliamentary secretary said that the bill specifically required that only the interest be used and that the principal itself would remain in the account in perpetuity. That is an important feature of the bill, an important bonus in the bill. It is not a defect in the bill; it is an advantage of the bill. This is a purposeful act by the member to ensure the principal will always be there and will accumulate over time, with only the interest being spent.

The Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund works exactly on this same principle. Although it has yo-yoed in the past because of market conditions, only the interest has been spent to finance government operations.

Last year, the parliamentary secretary said that the public donated a little more than $56,000 to national historic sites for various activities and programs. That is not a defect of the bill itself; it is an opportunity. It is a floor from where we can grow. It is a place to start getting Canadians to donate to national historic site maintenance, to increase the stewardship and the conservation goals of the specific sites they want to support. I do not think the amount somehow detracts from the goal of the bill, which is very laudable, it just creates a floor. We would have a metric to set ourselves by which would tell us if we had improved year over year and if we had made things better. The this is being cost effective.

The parliamentary secretary went deeply into details about how much money would actually be generated in order for it to be useful. The amounts are not as important as the goal. We can build a principal account over time. A dedicated account would achieve that goal. It could even be tracked over time. Donors could be told that if they donated an extra $50,000, $100,000, or even $100, it would help build up the account into the future. They would be helping a national historic site meet its goals.

We do the same thing when endowing professorships or chairmanships at schools, colleges, and universities. I have worked with human resources professionals. I remember considering endowing a chair in human resources labour relations in Alberta to further the professional goals of the association, much like what we are trying to do here, which is improving conservation and stewardship of national historic sites. The mechanism we do it by will give certainty to donors. They can be repeat donors and keep giving into the future. The $56,000 are just a floor. There are vast areas for improvement.

The last point I want to make is about international aid and government programs that provide matching funds.

The Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, or Burma, was mentioned again today in the House. The government will be matching funds. During the Fort McMurray fires, the government matched funds as well. This is just a comparison as we reflect on the contents of the bill.

A really good argument can be made that the amounts involved will not have a sizeable impact on the government's response to the Fort McMurray fires or the crisis in Myanmar, or Burma. However, it is not necessarily the amount of money that is given or the amount of money that will be matched by one side to another; it is the purpose and the goal. It gets people involved in taking meaningful action, with a meaningful goal and a purpose to it. The Rohingya crisis provides Canadians with an opportunity to play a part in making a better world. In the case of the Fort McMurray fires, it was an opportunity for Canadians from coast to coast to contribute to the recovery efforts, to contribute to the emergency aid that was being provided by the Red Cross.

It is not the amount that matters so much. It is the mechanism by which we provide donors with the certainty that their donation will be put toward that goal, and in this case, the conservation and stewardship for national historic sites, which is laudable.

This is a great bill. It is an excellent idea from a financial administration point of view. I heartily support it and I invite all members to do so as well.

Parks Canada Agency ActPrivate Members' Business

October 31st, 2017 / 5 p.m.
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Wayne Stetski NDP Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Madam Speaker, I will be speaking today to Bill C-315, but I want to start by reminding the House and Canadians that today is a day of prayer for peace in Ukraine and throughout the world. Initiated in 2014, Prayer for Peace is organized to pray for an end to the undeclared but active war on the eastern boundary of Ukraine as well as an end to conflicts around the world. As members know, there are more than 1.2 million Ukrainians in Canada, and some day there may actually be a national historic site, hopefully, recognizing the contributions of Ukrainians to Canada. That is where Bill C-315 comes into play.

Bill C-315 is one of three heritage bills to be introduced in this Parliament, and it is one of the reasons why the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development has been looking at heritage issues this fall. While the committee's report is not yet finalized and therefore not public, I will draw on some of the testimony the committee has heard over the last few weeks.

First, though, I would like to speak about the background to this bill. I find it interesting and hopeful, quite frankly, that the bill was introduced by a member of the Conservative Party, because it was the previous Conservative government's cuts to heritage funding that contributed to the need for this legislation.

In the 2012 federal budget, the Conservatives cut $30 million from Parks Canada's budget, much of it aimed specifically at Canada's heritage programs, and1,600 Parks Canada workers were told their jobs potentially would be cut. For the Rideau Canal, this meant shorter operating hours, longer lineups for boats waiting to get through the 23 lock stations, the possibility of higher user fees, and critical maintenance and repair work delayed or cancelled. The Rideau Canal is 202 kilometres long, stretching from Kingston to the Ottawa River just below Parliament Hill. Many communities along its route consider it a major tourist attraction and depend on the money the canal brings in from boaters and other tourists.

That is why, when the cuts were announced, the group called the Friends of the Rideau made an offer to the government that the group would fundraise and privately pay for necessary repairs. The previous Conservative government refused the group. It said there was no mechanism that allows a citizen or group of citizens to donate money to the government and have it spent on a specific heritage site. That is what Bill C-315 intends to remedy. It would allow an individual or a group to fundraise toward the upkeep for improvement of a federal heritage site and the money spent specifically on that site. The bill would also encourage donations through a tax credit.

The government's current position is that this is all possible under current legislation, but it has yet to inform the House what that mechanism is or where it can be found. In fact, when the Parliamentary Secretary for Status of Women spoke to this bill on October 6, he lamented that public donations, “when spread over as many as 171 national historic sites across the country...would not be enough to make a meaningful contribution to conservation efforts.” The parliamentary secretary is clearly missing the point of this bill. Bill C-315 would not encourage donations to be used in the National Parks general account, but to be targeted specifically to a single historic site of the donor's choosing. That is the mechanism currently lacking in existing legislation.

This is a small bill that would have very little if any impact on the government's finances, but would help communities and individuals like those around the Rideau Canal to ensure that heritage sites are preserved. We have 18 UNESCO World Heritage sites across Canada, including the Rideau Canal, and each of them is a source of local and national pride and a place for Canadians to visit, to learn, and to enjoy.

The study we are undertaking in the environment committee shows there is much to be done to protect heritage in Canada. In fact, the standing committee has heard that Canada is one of the few developed nations that does not have a law to protect our world heritage sites, nor do we have comprehensive legislation to protect historic sites or historic places. Therefore, we certainly hope to correct that through our study and our recommendations to the House.

The result of this gap in legislation is clear: sites like the Rideau Canal and Wood Buffalo National Park end up neglected by government until, to our national shame, UNESCO has to step in and recommend corrective actions. That is unacceptable, and it must be addressed.

While Bill C-315 would not provide all of the funding or the willpower to protect and preserve our national sites, it would give Canadians the opportunity, which does not exist under current legislation, to support those specific sites that are important to them. That is a good thing.

I am happy to support Bill C-315. It is well worth the support of all members of this chamber.

Parks Canada Agency ActPrivate Members' Business

October 31st, 2017 / 5:05 p.m.
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Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Madam Speaker, on this October 31, 2017, I want to wish a Happy Hallowe'en to all members of Parliament and their families. Unfortunately, since we are here we will not be trick or treating with our children, but they are in our thoughts.

I am honoured to rise in the House today to support Bill C-315, an act to amend the Parks Canada Agency Act (Conservation of National Historic Sites Account), a private member's bill. Today I want to talk about the positive impact that this bill will have on tourism in the many communities in Canada that are home to our national historic sites. Local and international visitors are the bread and butter of those communities.

Through donations, this account would complement Parks Canada's budget for restoring, rehabilitating, and maintaining national historic sites, which would help the agency improve the appearance and draw of these sites, in some cases considerably.

I would like to mention that I am a member of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development where we are working on a report on historic site conservation. It is an important element that is in the same vein as this bill.

These newly restored sites would attract a growing number of visitors, and the revenue from admission fees and merchandising would enable Parks Canada to pay for more national and international advertising. It is important to understand that the development stage requires money. We know the government members opposite have money to burn and no concern for the deficit they are accumulating, but we on this side of the aisle feel it is important to secure the funding to finance our projects in accordance with the wishes of our generous donors.

Essentially, donations help improve the aesthetic appearance of these sites, drawing in more visitors. The increased admission fee revenue, in addition to new donations, will help Parks Canada maintain these sites, freeing up funds that could be used for more advertising, to give these sites greater international visibility. This is a winning cycle we cannot afford to pass up on.

Furthermore, our national historic sites give Canadians a powerful link to our rich history and our national identity. They also tell our story to the international community. Many foreign tourists are interested in learning about the history of our young country. Our historic sites are one of the best ways to tell everyone what made Canada the great and beautiful country it is today. They also symbolize the progress we have made over the past 150 years.

As a free and democratic nation, we have a duty to tell our story and share how we have overcome many challenges to get to where we are today.

Not many visitors will say that they have come to see us or are drawn to Canada because of our four seasons. Our greatest assets in the tourism industry are the rich history we have to share, our diverse culture, and our marvellous and beautiful sights. Not many Canadian destinations can count on sunny days or the perfect surfing conditions, so we need to be creative and make sure that the experience we are offering to tourists is worth it for them, both in terms of travel time and financial investment.

That is why we need to do everything we possibly can to ensure that our national historic sites are maintained, restored correctly, and refurbished based on how they are actually used. We need to ensure the Parks Canada has sufficient resources to adequately market our sites across Canada and around the world in order to attract visitors from all over.

Creating a legacy fund for each site will achieve that and will encourage new donations thanks to a comprehensive and transparent accountability framework that will provide future donors with peace of mind based on the assurance that their money is being used to maintain the sites that they know and love.

Increased donations will help improve the general appearance of the sites, and ultimately, will allow Parks Canada to promote our national historic sites through persuasive marketing thanks to increased revenues from a larger number of visitors.

All organizations need to do business development. I see this as an extra tool to help Parks Canada and the sites do business development and become even more competitive at attracting tourists. In addition to benefiting Parks Canada directly, more tourists visiting national historic sites will help the surrounding communities grow.

Tourists who visit any of these sites need transportation, accommodations, food, and entertainment during their stay. That means significant economic spinoffs for our local communities.

Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier has some amazing sites, including Saint-Raymond's internationally renowned vallée Bras-du-Nord in the RCM of Portneuf. Everyone is aware of the economic benefits it brings to the region. Lac-Beauport, another destination in my region, has the Sentiers du moulin, an enchanting site that is great for fat biking and national competitions. We are currently working on attracting international interest. It is important for our rural regions to be able to survive with help from the economic impact of tourist attractions.

Every family that visits will spend a significant amount of money just by being in our communities. That money will go to the small businesses that are the pillar of our tourism industry. Nearly 98% of the tourist industry is made up of small and medium-sized businesses that, unlike the major chains, depend on seasonal tourism to stay in business and feed their families. Although these companies are smaller, they are a big draw for international tourists who are discovering the beautiful regions of Canada. Local businesses are recognized for their ability to work with major destination marketing companies. These companies work to attract international tourists and encourage them to come and try our restaurants and hotels, see shows, and visit our national historic sites, which make our country a popular destination.

By helping Parks Canada to improve the general appearance of its sites and by ensuring that they are well maintained, we can promote Canada's history and help these small businesses promote themselves.

By growing tourism through the promotion of our national historic sites, we will also promote neighbouring communities and contribute to their success. That means we will be supporting the 1,700,000 people who work in the tourism industry every year, many of whom are women, young people, immigrants, and members of other groups who, unfortunately, have no job stability because of the seasonal nature of the business. Over 50,000 youth between the ages of 15 and 24 work in the tourism industry, which accounts for over one-third of youth employment opportunities. Tourism provides full-time and part-time job opportunities in a wide variety of areas, including transportation, lodging, entertainment, and the food industry.

Furthermore, Parks Canada provides many of these jobs. During the peak season, it employs more than 2,100 workers in full-time indeterminate positions, 1,900 in seasonal jobs, and hires some 1,100 students. In addition to employment and other direct benefits for Canadians, tourism is also a source of revenue. For example, tourism revenues totalled $21.4 billion in 2011. This is important when the government is looking for revenue streams and sources of revenue. According to estimates, every $100 spent by a foreign visitor generates $30 in taxes compared to $26 generated by domestic spending.

There is no better time than the present to promote our historic sites to Canadian and international tourists. International tourism is booming and it is very important to provide this industry with the tools it needs to grow.

If we want Canada to be considered an attractive destination and not just a bargain, we must support the maintenance, restoration, and rehabilitation of many historic sites. That means that Parks Canada must have the resources needed to maintain and promote our historic sites and to entice visitors to come and see them.

Bill C-315 will do just that. By encouraging donations to be used for maintenance and everything that goes with it, we will make it possible for Parks Canada to attract more visitors by making its sites more attractive tourist destinations. For all these reasons, I hope members will join me—

Parks Canada Agency ActPrivate Members' Business

October 31st, 2017 / 5:20 p.m.
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Gord Brown Conservative Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank the members for Calgary Shepard, Kootenay—Columbia, and Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier for their support for this bill.

I am pleased to speak once again to Bill C-315, an act to amend the Parks Canada Agency Act. It is a bill to amend the act with regard to the conservation of national historic sites. As I mentioned the last time I spoke to this bill, it would establish separate accounts for individual Parks Canada sites, to which people could donate money and be issued tax receipts for. That money could be kept in a fund, similar to a foundation, and the interest earned on it would be used for the preservation of particular sites.

Again, as I mentioned before, this idea was brought forward during intense discussions about the Rideau Canal a few years ago. When researching the possibility of being able to donate money, we found some interesting things. There was no mechanism for people to donate to specific historic sites managed by Parks Canada. In the last hour of debate on this bill, government members said there already was, but we have done significant research on this and found that not to be the case.

We know there are many people who want to donate. We already heard from the member for Kootenay—Columbia about people along the Rideau Canal who wanted to give money during the significant discussions on the future of the Rideau Canal. The Conservative government at the time announced over $40 million toward infrastructure, and in fairness to the current government, it made announcements after the election supplementing that funding, which is all good news. I think all members support national historic sites and this bill would create a mechanism for those who want to donate to do so, despite several speakers suggesting during the last hour that it is not possible.

There are a number of national historic sites in my riding that are managed by Parks Canada, including Fort Wellington. For example, if a wall were crumbling at Fort Wellington and a friends group wanted to raise money from the public to help repair that wall, it could be organized and accomplished if this bill were to pass. Right now, people can donate to Parks Canada. However, that money goes to the overall Parks Canada budget and does not allow people to donate to specific sites. Many Canadians have an affinity to national historic sites. They visited them as children, they are in their regions, and they have a personal affinity to those sites and want to contribute to them. Right now, there is no mechanism to do that.

I conducted a Google search to see what would happen if I asked how to give money to Parks Canada, and these are some of the sources that I found: “Understanding The Parks Canada Entry Fees”, “Working at Parks Canada”, and “Parks Canada's diversified accommodation reservation policies”. I found a number of different suggestions. On page 4 of the search results, there was a link to the speech I gave just a few weeks ago, but by page 9, the search engine began to refer to peripheral mentions of Parks Canada in speeches and other documents that had little or nothing to do with Parks Canada.

I tried the same search but identifying the Rideau Canal as the only recipient, instead of Parks Canada. By the end of the first page, I found, “Observations on the Inland Navigation of Ireland”. Many members would be familiar with the Redpath Sugar company. It retains in its museum a silver cup that was given to Mr. Redpath by Lieutenant Colonel John By when he was building the Rideau Canal. They are very proud of their connection to the Rideau Canal's heritage and representatives of Redpath wrote a letter in support of this bill. They have also made substantial donations to programs and projects along the canal, but they have not been able to do it specifically for the canal itself.

Earlier today, the Speaker ruled that this bill needed a royal recommendation to be passed. Members come here with private members' bills and we hope they all have an opportunity to look at them. I am encouraging members to vote for this bill and send it to committee so we can find a better way to support Canada's national historic sites.

Parks Canada Agency ActPrivate Members' Business

October 6th, 2017 / 1:30 p.m.
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Gord Brown Conservative Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, ON

moved that Bill C-315, An Act to amend the Parks Canada Agency Act (Conservation of National Historic Sites Account), be read the second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be here today to speak in support of Bill C-315, which is an act to amend the Parks Canada Agency Act with regard to the conservation of national historic sites account.

I would like to spend my time today discussing the purpose of this bill and its value in terms of promoting Canada's history, culture, and beautiful scenery, not only to our own citizens but to the entire world.

Bill C-315 proposes the establishment of an account to which all donated funds will be attributed when the donor indicates they want the funds to be used for the conservation of a given site. The interest of this account would be spent only on the preservation, restoration, and rehabilitation of the specified heritage site, thus assuring the donor that their money would be put to good use in protecting the site they know and love.

Canada is very fortunate not only to be the home of many federally, provincially, and locally recognized national historic sites, but also to have a number of internationally recognized UNESCO world heritage sites, including the world-famous Rideau Canal. Although those who reside in Ottawa probably know the Rideau Canal as the home of Winterlude and the world's longest outdoor skating rink, its history is much richer than that. That history is often lost on those who have never truly visited the site.

Construction on the canal began in 1828. Its purpose was to create an alternative military supply route from Montreal to the Great Lakes. The canal officially opened in 1832, stretching from Lake Ontario to Ottawa through the wilderness of eastern Ontario. In fact, almost the entire northern boundary of my riding of Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes is the Rideau Canal. At the time, the Rideau Canal consisted of 47 locks, fortified lockmasters' houses, and blockhouses, representing an incredible feat of engineering for the time that employed countless people.

Among the contractors who worked on the canal and built some its most impressive sites was John Redpath, the founder of Redpath Sugar, a proud Canadian corporation that recently announced its support for Bill C-315 as a means of promoting donations from its organization and others like it.

Following the canal's completion, many small settlements developed into thriving communities along its banks. Bytown, which was later renamed Ottawa, was set up as the construction headquarters. Clearly it continued to grow long after construction was completed, to become the Ottawa we know today.

Following World War I, the canal lost its industrial and commercial purpose and became a waterway for recreational vessels, an extremely popular pastime among both Canadian and American pleasure craft operators today. In 2000, the Rideau Canal obtained a heritage river designation. Then, in 2007, the canal was designated a UNESCO world heritage site, demonstrating its importance on the international stage.

That is the kind of story Canada should be promoting, a story that showcases the hard work and ingenuity that led to the great country we have become.

Parks Canada currently administers 171 federally recognized national historic sites and defines over 970 more as being historically significant. With such a large responsibility resting on this organization, it is crucial that Canadians be able help in any way possible. In fact, in my own riding of Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, we are fortunate to have many sites that have helped define the development of the area and continue to attract people to reflect on our history and achievements, which in turn is a great boost to our local economies.

Our many national historic sites across Canada provide us and visitors with leisure, education, beauty, and a unique experience that can never be recreated. Like many precious things, they are a rare wonder and deserve to be promoted and protected with the utmost care. Unlike natural attractions, our historic structures at these heritage sites are made of bricks and mortar and timber, and will crumble and rot with time. They require a great amount of care in reflection of the hard work and historic struggles that led to their construction. Once they are gone, no amount of money or goodwill could possibly bring them back.

Therefore, we are tasked with ensuring they remain in good repair so that future generations can look back on Canada's great history just as we do today. Many of our citizens have fond memories attached to these locations—days out with family, getting back to their roots, and in some cases, personal stories—that will forever be tied to the important historic moments that took place there.

Along the Rideau waterway, for example, are many families who can trace their origins to the construction of the canal. With happy thoughts and generous hearts, these kind individuals are often eager to give donations, with the hope that their money will keep the place that they love in pristine shape for years to come. That type of generosity should be encouraged, as Canadians have so few opportunities to step forward and take stewardship of their own history.

Although visiting a national historic site might allow an individual to learn and experience the history that took place there, encouraging donations helps Canadians to understand the site as part of their personal history and national identity. While any donation made to Parks Canada is put to good use, donors should be assured that their donations will maintain the national historic site that bears personal significance to them. The creation of a legacy fund for the conservation of such sites would not only provide that assurance but also encourage further donations from Canadians and international visitors alike. This extra funding would aid Parks Canada in paying for the restoration, rehabilitation, and preservation of buildings, forts, and other historic structures that our country has to offer.

Parks Canada has done an exemplary job of fulfilling its mandate of protecting and presenting nationally significant natural and cultural heritage while fostering public understanding, appreciation, and enjoyment in ways that ensure that the site's ecological and commemorative integrity remain intact for present and future generations.

Although Parks Canada already has protections in place covering the expenditure of donated funds, these regulations are not easily found and are not well known to the public at large. This is troubling, especially given that studies indicate people are more willing to donate to a given cause when they view its organization as being transparent and easily held accountable. They do not want to watch their donation disappear into a void of bureaucracy and want to know that their money will be used for the protection and preservation of the site they have come to love, and not for wages, groundskeeping, and other matters unrelated to the historical significance of the site itself.

Bill C-315 would help Parks Canada create a system that would not only manage donations but also promote further donations in the future. Its current donation management system, while effective in ensuring that money is spent in an ethical manner, does nothing to encourage donations and lacks the easy, well-documented transparency donors desire and deserve. That is what Bill C-315 has to offer.

Despite the number of people who visit our national historic sites each year, Parks Canada receives surprisingly few donations. On a national scale, it received only $28,000 in 2013 and between 2014 and 2016, the cumulative total annual donations fell by $30,000. While each of these donations is undoubtedly appreciated, we can do much more, especially given the cost of maintaining, restoring, and rehabilitating our national historic sites. In fact, in 2013, $10,451,000 was spent on restoration. In 2014, $9 million was spent, and in 2015, $7million was spent.

Surprisingly, these numbers are kept artificially low by the fact that Parks Canada cannot accurately calculate salary and wage expenditures related specifically to the repair and maintenance of national historic sites. With numbers like those, we should be doing everything we can possibly do to raise money and keep our sites in pristine condition. They are priceless to our nation and deserve only the best.

Beyond these direct benefits to the national historic sites and to Canada's national identity, increasing donations and improving the overall appearance of our sites could serve as a significant boost to both national and international tourism. When travelling in Canada, whether from another province or another country, our visitors come for our history and hospitality, not for our famously good weather. In fact, most travellers perceive Canada's strength as a tourist attraction to be our beautiful yet affordable destinations, such as the national historic sites we aim to protect.

If we want Canada to be seen as a valuable destination rather than simply an affordable one, we must ensure that these sites remain in good repair, which can be helped through the creation of the legacy fund outlined in this bill. This would allow us to teach our history, while sharing the diverse culture that makes Canada so unique in the world.

Encouraging tourism would not only further benefit the funding of Parks Canada through gate fees and product sales, but also provide support for the approximately 1.7 million jobs supported by the tourism industry each year. What is more, these positions tend to be held by demographics that have had historic troubles in obtaining and maintaining employment. Immigrants, women, and youth are provided with jobs in a diverse range of fields, such as hospitality, food, and entertainment, often making significantly more than the minimum wage.

In fact, many of these individuals are employed by Parks Canada itself. In its peak season, that department employs approximately 2,100 year-round indeterminate employees, 1,900 indeterminate seasonal employees, and approximately 1,100 students.

What is more, the increasing tourism created through the maintenance of our national historic sites would promote the growth of their surrounding communities by supporting the small businesses that make up the backbone of our tourism industry in Canada. Around 98% of the industry is run by small and medium-size businesses that rely on the patronage of international travellers to keep their doors open. These businesses often work hand in hand with destination marketing organizations that promote international visitors not only to the businesses but also to the national historic sites that make Canada a valuable destination no matter where people are from.

In Canada's 150th anniversary year, we should be more focused than ever on the protection and preservation of the history that makes us who we are today. We should be preserving, rehabilitating, and maintaining our sites as well as we possibly can to ensure that they will continue to stand for another 150 years and far beyond.

By encouraging donations from international visitors and Canadian citizens alike, we not only promote taking stewardship of our own history and national identity but also ensure that the sites will maintain their beauty and integrity for generations to come. At the same time, we are promoting the tourism industry, which employs so many Canadians.

For these reasons, I hope that all members will join me in supporting Bill C-315 for the creation of a national historic sites account.

Parks Canada Agency ActPrivate Members' Business

October 6th, 2017 / 1:45 p.m.
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Winnipeg South Manitoba


Terry Duguid LiberalParliamentary Secretary for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for clarifying that. I appreciate the opportunity to contribute to the debate about Bill C-315, An Act to amend the Parks Canada Agency Act (Conservation of National Historic Sites Account).

I want to thank the member of Parliament for Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes for bringing attention to the important issue of conservation at our national historic sites, with the introduction of Bill C-315. As members know, this bill proposes the creation of a dedicated account for public donations directed to the conservation of national historic sites administered by Parks Canada.

The Government of Canada welcomes the interest and passion that Canadians have for our national historic sites, including any financial support that the public may wish to provide towards the conservation of a particular national historic site. However, the government does not support Bill C-315.

Bill C-315 is motivated by a noble objective, admittedly, supporting the long-term conservation of Canada's national historic sites through the contribution of public donations. However, I am pleased to tell members that the bill is not required, as a mechanism to do this already exists under current legislation.

Indeed, Bill C-315 would serve to duplicate existing legislative authorities under the Parks Canada Agency Act and the Financial Administration Act. These authorities already allow Parks Canada to accept donations and use them in the manner being proposed by Bill C-315. They do so without placing the limits that Bill C-315 proposes to place on the way that Parks Canada can currently accept and manage donations made to these sites.

Canadians take great pride in our history. I expect that this pride will be passionately on display in communities right across this country this year, as we mark the 150th anniversary of Confederation.

National historic sites are vital assets. They reflect the rich heritage of our nation and provide an opportunity for Canadians to learn more about our diverse history. These treasured places encourage us not only to consider the past, but also to ponder where we stand as a nation and what we strive to become.

As a leader in promoting the conservation of national historic sites, Parks Canada itself manages 171 sites, along with our national parks and national marine conservation areas. Parks Canada is responsible for protecting and presenting nationally significant examples of Canada's natural and cultural heritage.

Many factors contribute to Parks Canada's success as a recognized leader in heritage conservation: a staff of dedicated experts, strategic partnerships with community groups and environmental and heritage organizations, and strong support from visitors and the Government of Canada.

The conservation of national historic sites is a complex, demanding, and never-ending task. Heritage properties, by definition, are old. Many of them face significant threats as they deteriorate over time due to weather and use.

To manage these and other threats, Parks Canada undertakes interventions on national historic sites in accordance with the “Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada”, a reference for heritage conservation practice. Whether it is repainting a historic lighthouse or repairing the concrete walls of the Rideau Canal, Parks Canada knows how to protect and present these treasures.

To signal its support of Parks Canada's efforts, the Government of Canada is investing over $3 billion over five years to improve, restore, and recapitalize Parks Canada's built assets, including national historic sites. Many of these projects foster the conservation of heritage buildings and structures administered by Parks Canada. Through these investments, Parks Canada is protecting and preserving our national historic sites while supporting local economies and contributing to growth in our tourism sector.

In addition, in budget 2016, the Government of Canada signalled its support for conservation projects undertaken on non-federally owned national historic sites, heritage lighthouses and heritage railway stations, and other important assets, by allocating $20 million over two years to the national cost-sharing program for heritage places administered by Parks Canada.

The legislation now before us, as its title suggests, the conservation of national historic sites account, proposes to establish an account dedicated to conservation activities at national historic sites administered by Parks Canada. The account would be managed by Parks Canada to collect and use donations to fund conservation projects. The bill specifically requires that only the interest generated through the investment of the principal be spent on conservation projects, but the principal itself would remain in the account in perpetuity.

While Parks Canada welcomes all donations as a way to further support the conservation of national historic sites, it is important to note that the amount of annual donations has historically not been substantial enough to adequately support conservation activities. Last year, the public donated a little more than $56,000 to national historic sites for various activities and programming.

Taken in context with what is proposed under Bill C-315, Parks Canada would have to attract far more donations, perhaps at least a hundred times more, to ensure that the account is cost-effective. As an illustration, investments of principle in conservative financial vehicles would generate only about 2% annually. Even if donors were incredibly generous and donated, let us say, $5 million dollars under the proposed investment strategy, this would generate about $100,000 per year in interest. It is a respectable amount of money, but when spread over as many as 171 national historic sites across the country, that would not be enough to make a meaningful contribution to conservation efforts.

To date, there is only one instance in which a donation has been made consistent with the terms proposed in Bill C-315. The bequest of Prime Minister Mackenzie King for the ongoing conservation of Laurier House, as per the Laurier House Act, stipulates that an endowment of $225,000 remain in the account in perpetuity, with its interest spent on the upkeep of the Laurier House National Historic Site. In fiscal years 2014-15 and 2015-16, this account has generated amounts of approximately $5,000 and $4,000, respectively.

The existing donation management practices at Parks Canada provide the public with the option to decide whether they wish their donation to spent immediately or to generate interest over time. This is an important choice. Bill C-315, though well-intentioned, which I again commend the hon. member for, unfortunately is duplicative of current practices and in fact would restrict donors' choice.

Parks Canada has demonstrated its leadership and commitment to maintaining the commemorative integrity of Canada's cultural heritage. The policies, programs, and investments currently in place do an admirable job of supporting this objective. Bill C-315 would do nothing to enhance this support, and I encourage my hon. colleagues to vote against the proposed legislation.

Parks Canada Agency ActPrivate Members' Business

October 6th, 2017 / 1:55 p.m.
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Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to an important private member's bill brought forward by the hon. member for Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes.

Bill C-315 is an act to amend the Parks Canada Agency Act. Its enactment would permit national historic sites operated by Parks Canada to maintain a separate account for donations that would earn interest, which could be used for the restoration and preservation of those sites. Currently, designation as a national historic site by itself does not bring in any monetary funds for the upkeep of the site. Therefore, I am pleased to support the hon. member's motion to introduce one more way for national historic sites to generate revenue to support their upkeep.

However, our effort should not stop there. We need the federal government to partner with all levels of government and the community to make infrastructure and program investments to help protect and preserve these national historic sites. There is no question that national historic sites are places of profound importance to Canada. They bear witness to this nation's history and showcase its diverse cultural traditions.

Canada is a nation of diverse indigenous peoples and cultures, as well as immigrant communities who have come from all over the world. Each community brings with it its own unique heritage and contributes to the social fabric of Canada in different ways. Entwined in our history is also a history of discrimination faced by many communities in Canada. This discrimination is still very much alive today, evident in the rising number of hate crimes reported. Remembering and honouring the contributions of our diverse communities is one of the most powerful ways we can combat the arguments put forth by those who want to claim Canada for only a portion of the country's population.

In my riding of Vancouver East, there is a national historic site that is a perfect example of the way these sites remind us of both the richness and challenges embedded in Canadian history. Here I refer to Vancouver's historic Chinatown. Vancouver's Chinatown developed as a self-segregated enclave due to discriminatory laws forbidding people of Chinese heritage from living and working elsewhere in the city, as well as the racially motivated violence and hostility experienced by the community outside the enclave.

The distinctive and beautiful buildings in the community, constructed by benevolent associations to help fellow community members, are living monuments to both the struggle and resilience of the community. Many of the historic buildings continue to serve the community today as gathering places, activity spaces, and homes for Chinese Canadian seniors.

In the heart of the community, the Chinatown Memorial Monument stands to honour the Chinese railway workers who helped complete the most treacherous sections of the Canadian Pacific Railway and the World War II veterans who served to keep our country safe. This monument depicts the history of Chinese Canadians in Canada and has profound meaning to our community.

Surrounding it is the Chinese Cultural Centre, the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Garden, and the Andy Livingstone Park, all of which are important cultural sites and spaces for the Chinatown community. Historic Chinatown received designation as a national historic site in 2011, and in May 2017 community members and activists celebrated the unveiling of a series of plaques that mark the designation.

However, despite its status as a national historic site, Vancouver's Chinatown is number three on the Heritage Vancouver Society's top 10 watch list of endangered sites in Vancouver and the top 10 endangered places list of the National Trust for Canada. In fact, ongoing immense development pressure is having a direct impact on Chinatown.

The National Trust of Canada has stated:

Relentless development threatens the physical fabric of this nationally significant urban cultural landscape. Design guidelines meant to maintain a “Chinatown look” are often overlooked and building heights have been dramatically increased. At the same time, intense speculation is driving up rents and displacing long-time residents, many of them seniors, who are central to the area’s rich cultural identity. Without better control on new development and efforts to sustain local businesses, Chinatown’s unique character will be lost.

According to research done by the Chinatown Concern Group, since 2008, Chinatown has seen almost 800 market housing units built and approved, while only 22 non-market housing units were built in the same period.

Many people are worried that Chinatown may lose the rich cultural essence that makes the neighbourhood unique, and the future of Chinatown remains uncertain. As we celebrate Canada's 150, our community is calling on the federal government to not forget that B.C. was able to join Confederation through the labour and sacrifices made by the Chinese railway workers who helped complete the most treacherous sections of the railway. We are also asking the federal government to remember that 2017 is the 70th anniversary of Chinese Canadians winning the right to vote.

Our community would like to see all levels of government work together to recognize the cultural importance of historic Chinatown and to honour the contributions of Chinese Canadians to our nation by protecting the community that was built out of that history.

The government of B.C., a willing partner through its efforts to reconcile historical wrongs and discriminatory laws faced by Chinese Canadians, has created a legacy fund. One of the legacy initiatives is to examine ways to rejuvenate the Chinese society and clan buildings. Clan and society associations were founded in the spirit of kinship. Historically, they served to address the social, political, and financial needs of Chinese Canadians in communities across the country. These buildings would be renovated to better serve the needs of today's community by creating usable community cultural spaces, space for food programming, and affordable housing.

To date, a clan association needs assessment has already been conducted, and a Chinatown senior housing feasibility study has also been completed. The City of Vancouver has committed to restoring clan associations through its Chinese society legacy program. What we need now is a partnership with the federal government so that together we can ensure the success of this meaningful legacy initiative.

When we designate historic Chinatown as a national heritage site, action needs to be taken. Both infrastructure and programming dollars are needed. For our community, historic Chinatown is experienced through both its physical structures and its ambience. When our community thinks about protecting the heritage of Vancouver's Chinatown, we are not just looking for the installation of plaques. We are also envisioning a Chinatown vibrant with aromatic food stalls, similar to the food streets in Hong Kong and China. We are imagining a hub of intergenerational activities, where elders share stories of the past, teach the youth various traditions and the secret of how to make homemade Chinese delicacies in celebration of different cultural festivals, or play mah-jong together.

We are thinking about a community with a capacity to learn from and care for its elders, as many of the residents of Chinatown are seniors now and are living in substandard housing. Some of those seniors are people who still recall the discriminatory practices of the past. We therefore feel very strongly that there must be a commitment to invest in affordable housing and services for seniors and families in and surrounding the Chinatown area.

Our community is never short on ideas, passion, and effort. Some of the dedicated members of our community even envision Vancouver's Chinatown designated a UNESCO world heritage site, and they have been working hard to try to realize this dream. However, all of this important work cannot be done by the volunteer efforts of individuals alone. All three levels of government must step in to honour the commitment we make when we designate a community as a site that is historically significant to Canada.

Because it is a major historical site and tourist attraction, it is vital that we do everything we can to help revitalize Chinatown in a way that preserves, protects, and reinvigorates the integrity of this historic neighbourhood. I call on the federal government to join all of us in this vision.

Parks Canada Agency ActPrivate Members' Business

October 6th, 2017 / 2:05 p.m.
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Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-315 is an amazing bill. I really appreciate the fact that it is only two pages long. It goes to what we would often like to see in this place, a straightforward bill whose impacts we can see.

We just heard from the Parliamentary Secretary for Status of Women that the government will not support the bill. I am deeply disappointed by that. The Liberals say that currently no one is really donating to our national heritage sites, that only $56,000 was donated to the national heritage sites. That is precisely what we are trying to boost. We are trying to boost those donations. Just because the number is low does not mean that the system does not work. We are trying to make it so that where our treasure is, there our hearts will be. That is the essential point of the bill. I commend my colleague for bringing it forward.

If people donate money to a national heritage site, it goes into a big black hole and the money is spread throughout the country. In my riding I have a national heritage site in the town of Fort Vermillion. If I visited that site and thought that it needed some upkeep, I would be willing to donate some money. When I donate, will the money then show up at the Fort Vermillion site? Officials do not really know, because it goes into a big pot and gets disbursed around the country.

The bill would ensure that if I donated money when visiting a national heritage site in Fort Vermillion, the money that I donated would go to help that site in Fort Vermillion. That is the essence of the bill. Often in this place we speak past each other, which is frustrating, but today I could not believe that the parliamentary secretary totally failed to recognize the fact that the donations would be tied to a particular site.

The parliamentary secretary failed to mention anything about the charitable status that comes with such donations. As I understand, currently no charitable status comes with that. We could make charitable status such that if we gave to a national heritage site, we would get the same tax benefit as if we donated to a local charity. We give charitable status as a tax incentive to encourage donations. If we were to do that for national heritage sites, we might actually encourage donations, and then the $56,000 a year might grow to be millions of dollars a year. The individuals who are donating to that cause could see the direct effects of their efforts in the particular heritage site they love to visit regularly. They could see their money going to improve the upkeep of that site.

I know that many people in northern Alberta are particularly interested in national heritage sites. Even though in my riding we only have one designated national heritage site, there is a group from northern Alberta called the Friends of Northern Alberta History Society who have put together an app that can help bring awareness about national historic sites. The app uses a map, and if people know of a historic site it can be put into the app and becomes a bit of a wiki, so that people who visit that site can tell their story and what they know about that particular site. I will give it a plug. It is called the History Check app and I know that people in my riding have been working extensively on it. I would especially like to thank Sheila Willis for spearheading that effort, which I hope will become a great success.

I am extremely disappointed to hear that the government is not supporting the bill and that it has failed to grasp the essence of the bill.

Parks Canada Agency ActPrivate Members' Business

October 6th, 2017 / 2:10 p.m.
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Filomena Tassi Liberal Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to explain why I do not support Bill C-315, an act to amend the Parks Canada Agency Act, Conservation of National Historic Sites Account. Although I respect the apparent goal of Bill C-315, the mechanism it proposes is duplicative of what the government is already able to achieve.

Bill C-315 aims to support the conservation of national historic sites. Without question, this is an honourable goal. I suspect that everyone in the House supports efforts to preserve, rehabilitate, and restore national historic sites. Canada's network of national historic sites reflects the rich and varied heritage of our nation, and provides opportunities for Canadians and other visitors to learn more about our diverse history.

The legislation now before us would create a new mechanism to help fund the conservation of national historic sites. However, the mechanism is redundant, even though the intention is sound. This government welcomes all donations to heritage sites as a way to further support the conservation of national historic sites. Doing so helps to protect and celebrate our heritage. We should not support a mechanism that would limit the existing framework.

The legislation now before us would establish the conservation of a national historic sites account. Individual members of the public and organizations could donate money to the account, which would be managed by Parks Canada. So far, so good. However, it is the interest earned in the account that would be spent on conservation projects. The principal would remain untouched. Over time, the donations would accumulate and the account would grow. While this approach might look good at first glance, it loses its appeal upon closer scrutiny.

The primary reason that the government does not support Bill C-315 is because the bill's objectives are presently being met by existing donation management practices at Parks Canada.

Parks Canada accepts, manages, and spends donations as per the authorities granted to it by the Parks Canada Agency Act and the Financial Administration Act. Under the act, whenever an individual makes a donation to a national historic site, the funds are deposited into a specified purpose account. At the time the donation is made, the donor may specify what he or she wishes the funds to be spent on, such as conservation activities, trail construction, cultural interpretation, asset restoration, etc. Individuals are also able to request that the donation generate interest over time, with the principal held in perpetuity.

Members of the public have shown that they are interested in supporting activities at particular national historic sites through donations. During the fiscal year of 2015-16, the total amount of donations received and deposited into the account was just over $56,000, directed toward seven national historic sites. None of these donations were made with the added stipulation that the funds generate interest over time. This may be because it is better to spend the entire donation in order to address high priority areas of improvement. If the bill passes and the level of annual donations remains consistent, the interest available will be too small to adequately support conservation activities. This is where our problem lies.

For the sake of argument, let us imagine that Bill C-315 becomes law and that the proposed account attracts 10 times this amount in donations; that is $560,000. Given that even the most lucrative of secured investment funds yields less than 2% interest these days, each year the account would generate about $10,000. While this is not an insignificant sum, sadly, it would not make a meaningful contribution to the conservation of national historic sites.

In addition, the restrictions imposed by Bill C-315 may actually discourage donations, because only the interest generated would be used for conservation activities. For example, if the restoration of a canon at the York Redoubt National Historic Site in Nova Scotia is to cost $1,000, an individual who wishes to donate $1,000 to support the immediate restoration of the canon might be shocked to learn that he or she would have to wait 35 years until the donation generates enough interest to cover the restoration cost. Ultimately, Bill C-315 would hamper the ability of Parks Canada to invest public donations in conservation projects at national historic sites.

Parks Canada is a recognized leader of heritage conservation. The agency is responsible for protecting and presenting nationally significant examples of Canada's natural and cultural heritage. Along with national parks and national marine conservation areas, Parks Canada manages 171 national historic sites. These include an amazing array of places and stories to discover, from lighthouses to battlefields, and cultural landscapes to historic neighbourhoods. Parks Canada employees and contractors have the expertise, experience, and dedication needed to ensure that these places and stories endure, and that they are safe, accessible, and compelling for all Canadians.

The Government of Canada is investing over $3 billion over five years to improve, restore and recapitalize Parks Canada's built assets, including national historic sites. This represents the largest infrastructure plan in the 105-year history of Parks Canada. Many of these projects foster the conservation of heritage buildings and structures. Through these historic investments in heritage places, Parks Canada is protecting and preserving Canada's national historic sites while supporting local economies and contributing to the growth of tourism in their areas. One of the projects funded by this investment is only a short walk from here, along the Rideau Canal.

Parks Canada recognizes the importance of this country's built heritage. Places such as the Rideau Canal, Province House in P.E.I., and many others, express our national identity and connect us to Canada's past, present, and future. Due to many factors, such as neglect, urban development, and climate change, many of Canada's heritage places are at risk. I take comfort in knowing that Parks Canada is committed to maintaining the commemorative integrity of Canada's cultural heritage and conservation activities at the 171 national historic sites that it administers.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the member of Parliament for Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes for raising this important issue through his proposal. The conservation of national historic sites is necessarily a co-operative exercise. The Government of Canada works in collaboration with provincial, territorial, and municipal authorities to administer a range of programs. These programs complement one another as they pursue a common goal.

We must do our best to protect Canada's national heritage sites, because these treasured places define and inspire us. They are inherently valuable and have taken on even greater significance this year with the 150th anniversary of Confederation. Bill C-315 would not only duplicate existing legislative provisions, it would also limit Parks Canada's ability to manage and direct available funds to meet conservation priorities. As such, it does not merit the support of this House.

Parks Canada Agency ActPrivate Members' Business

October 6th, 2017 / 2:20 p.m.
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John Aldag Liberal Cloverdale—Langley City, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today in the House to speak to Bill C-315, an act to amend the Parks Canada Agency Act, conservation of national historic sites account.

I greatly commend the member who put forward the bill in the spirit of trying to get more resources to our heritage properties, particularly our national historic sites in Canada.

As we have heard, there are 171 properties owned and managed by Parks Canada. Prior to entering politics, I had the opportunity in my career to work at many of those sites, manage, and to visit them. I have visited them extensively over a 34-year period.

I will go back to the beginning of my career in 1983 at Fort Walsh National Historic Site. It was a place that had been partially developed and consisted of the remains of a Royal Canadian Mounted Police remount ranch. Many of the buildings were in need of rehabilitation. There were some investments that needed to be made in new exhibits. Therefore, financial challenges existed, and this was back in the 1980s.

I served as an interpreter and saw some of the challenges that our historic properties faced. As I moved around the country in my career, from being a front-line interpreter to holding supervisory and management positions, I had the huge privilege of going to places such as Whitehorse, where I managed all visitor programs at Parks Canada facilities, and throughout Yukon. One of the gems there is the Dawson City collection of national historic sites.

Parks Canada sites are located in many diverse places, and there are a variety of environmental challenges, such as threats of climate change, as we see in Dawson City. It is an evolving landscape and challenges often arise.

The challenge with the Parks Canada sites is that they are funded by appropriations, and so there are always competing interests. Fortunately, there are many organizations involved, and one near and dear to me is Motherwell Homestead National Historic Site in Saskatchewan. Moreover, in the last decade, I was that manager at Fort Langley National Historic Site in British Columbia. Many of these national historic sites have friends of organizations. They are generally non-profit organizations and are able to work in very close collaboration with Parks Canada to solicit funds. At the property where I was, the Fort Langley National Historic Site, the friends there were involved for many years in fundraising for rehabilitation, rebuilding, and the addition of new assets to the site. They helped build one of the bastions and a portion of the palisade. They helped get a restoration program going. This demonstrates that there are organizations out there that are willing to work in partnership with Parks Canada and who can manage some of the funds and collect donations.

My experience in more than three decades in the field was that people were often reluctant to cut a cheque to the federal government. There was always this concern, and the private member's bill is trying to address that concern by saying there should be specified purpose fund for donations.

However, the challenge with the bill is that only the interest earned will be used. Again, going back to my time as manage at Fort Langley National Historic Site, sometimes managers of these properties have small projects. It may be a $10,000 renewal of an exhibit, or a $50,000 installation of a new roof on a building, and if there is no money for that, the community will often be willing to help.

As well, there are already mechanisms in place, as mentioned by some of my colleagues on this side of the House. There are specified purpose funds. The Parks Canada Agency Act and the Financial Administration Act allow the Parks Canada Agency to retain funds and direct them.

The beauty of the existing system is that we are able to raise funds and then expend the full amount. Therefore, if a school group wants to support a project, its entire fundraising effort can go into a specific project, as opposed to going into an account that is locked up in perpetuity and only generates interest in support of these sites.

I hate to speak against any effort to try to increase investment in historic sites, but I just do not think that Bill C-315, as it stands in this format, is the way to do it.

Our environment and sustainable development committee is currently doing a study on the state of built heritage in Canada. We are looking, within the federal collective, at what is working and what is not. We are having some discussions with departments and Parks Canada about existing financial mechanisms that are in place to help protect the built heritage in Canada. We are not through that study yet. I think it is important that we conclude that study and bring forward recommendations.

There may be some interesting things we can do with properties not owned by Parks Canada and the federal government and with the family of national historic sites out there. It would also be great if the federal government committed the funds to maintain its own assets. That would allow us to do fundraising for many of the other heritage properties that exist in Canada that are also in need of investment.

In the study we are doing, we are hearing some very interesting ideas. We are going home for a constituency week now, but we will be coming back and continuing that study. We hope to have recommendations. Our committee, including my hon. colleague from Pontiac, who sits on the committee with me, will be bringing forward recommendations to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change. We are hopeful that we will see a response in the coming months.

From there, the government will perhaps be able to respond through legislation and deal with some of the shortcomings, or the need for enhancement, of existing legislation to give commemorative integrity, as an example, primary consideration in the management of national historic sites. It is not currently captured under the Canada National Parks Act.

We have heard testimony that perhaps there should be specific legislation for national historic sites. I think that would be a great move to try to deal with some of the management challenges we have with 171 sites that are owned and operated by Parks Canada.

Will Bill C-315 resolve some of the issues? I do not believe that it will. That is why it is important that our government and the committee actually continue to advance this conversation and that we work together.

We also have an issue we heard about through some very compelling testimony, some very powerful testimony, from indigenous organizations in the country. There are some great opportunities to be looking at how we celebrate indigenous culture and heritage in Canada. It does not tend to fit nicely into the built heritage paradigm we have under a colonial framework. It would be great to see some money and fundraising by various parties, perhaps, go toward a renewed, celebrated indigenous commemoration program, a celebration of culture and heritage.

There are lots of questions that need to be asked, important questions about heritage and the role of the federal government in supporting heritage in Canada. Our environment and sustainable development committee is working on that. Although there are some great efforts, such as Bill C-315, to perhaps advance the cause of heritage and the chronic underfunding we see in some locations, there are many other ways we can deal with these issues. I look forward to working with my colleagues on how we can find those solutions eventually.

I want to take this last minute to talk about some of the other amazing places I have been and some of the successes. I spent some time in southern Ontario during my career with Parks Canada. The southwestern Ontario field unit has amazing national historic sites. One that really comes to mind is HMCS Haida, in Hamilton. It was a really great project the federal government was able to fund. The community was very supportive, through volunteers, in making it accessible and telling the great stories of that great warship to the people of Canada.

There are existing mechanisms, as I have said, within the Parks Canada Agency Act and the Financial Administration Act that allow those types of partnerships to allow us to capitalize on the public's interest in heritage and even to grow it.

I thank members for the opportunity to speak to the need for investments and all the ways we can do that for built heritage in Canada.

Parks Canada Agency ActRoutine Proceedings

October 18th, 2016 / 10:05 a.m.
See context


Gord Brown Conservative Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-315, An Act to amend the Parks Canada Agency Act (Conservation of National Historic Sites Account).

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to introduce my private member's bill, an act to amend the Parks Canada Agency Act, regarding a conservation of national historic sites account. I had introduced this bill in the previous Parliament and it came forward from some of my constituents.

The legislation would permit national historic sites operated by Parks Canada to maintain a separate account for donations that would earn interest and that interest could be used for the restoration and preservation of that site.

I have a number of national historic sites in my riding, including the Battle of the Windmill National Historic Site, Fort Wellington, and of course the Rideau Canal. These are all national historic sites that could benefit from the legislation being passed in this Parliament.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)