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

Sponsor

Gord Brown  Conservative

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

Status

Second reading (House), as of Oct. 6, 2017

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-315.

Summary

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.

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.

Parks Canada Agency ActPrivate Members' Business

October 6th, 2017 / 1:30 p.m.
See context

Conservative

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

Liberal

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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NDP

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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Conservative

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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Liberal

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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Liberal

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

Conservative

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)