Thank you, Deborah.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Members of the committee, it is a real pleasure to be here today.
You have in front of you a summary of our notes. You also have a book that gives you some idea of the majesty of the Trans Canada Trail, an article from the Globe and Mail, and as well, a package that is the case for support, which has been developed as part of the fundraising.
Canada 125 was the entity created by the federal government for the celebration of the 125th anniversary of Canadian Confederation. There were a broad range of events and projects but the most successful were those that brought Canadians together as Canadians, as participants, and not as spectators.
So the success of Canada 125 was focused on events that were initiated by the people, with Canada 125 being an enabler. We see Canada as a community of communities, caring, sharing, and cooperating. These are the best values of Canadians. You see that right across the country.
We have been a nation of trails and travellers since the earliest fur traders and voyageurs. To me, it is a history that dates back to the coureurs des bois and the adventures of La Vérendrye and des Groseillers. It encompasses all the adventures in our history. There is enormous pride for our vast spaces and the splendour of our magnificent country.
The Trans Canada Trail is a legacy project from Canada 125. It was actually founded--again--in P.E.I., in Summerside, in September of 1992, and was the brainchild of two individuals, Bill Pratt from Calgary and Pierre Camu from Ottawa. It was seen as a way of creating a permanent recognition for Canada in the day-to-day life of Canadians and it has been an enormous success.
Why did they think that was the case? Because the single most successful event that was planned by Canada 125 was something called the block party. That doesn't refer to the Bloc Québécois, but actually to a block in a city. That initiative came from a woman in Winnipeg who had sent in the idea.
What happened was that Canada 125 created a bucket, effectively, and in that bucket were streamers, logos, flags, ideas--initiatives for a party. Those parties all took place on the same day, July 1, 1992, and it was an enormous success. The amount of correspondence and reaction we had from the public with respect to that one event.... The reason was that it allowed people to share Canada. It allowed them to meet their neighbours as new friends. Also, it allowed everybody in Canada to celebrate their differences and our common values.
Like the railway and the Trans-Canada Highway, the Trans Canada Trail links Canadians to one another, but it does so at human speed. It's a huge success. It has been driven by local communities as part of a coordinated plan that is owned by all Canadians. It has been built by thousands of donors and volunteers in every part of Canada.
The trail enjoys the tangible support of every province and territory as well as 400 local trade groups. We have been fortunate to receive non-partisan support from all governments. We can say that every prime minister who governed since the start of the Trans Canada Trail has given it its support. The same goes for governors general.
The trail was one of the two entities recognized by the federal government in its original legislation as a qualified entity for the donation of environmentally sensitive lands.
Today, the trail is close to 75% complete. There are 400 community-based trails, each with distinct features and unique and diverse landscapes. In fact, Peter noted that every time he travels in Canada, he tries to find a piece of the trail to exercise on. I do the same thing. So does Deborah. So do many, many Canadians. It is within 30 minutes of 80% of Canadians. When it's complete, it will extend 22,500 kilometres, from the Atlantic to the Pacific to the Arctic Oceans, and will link over 1,000 communities and all Canadians.
The names of the trail sections evoke a sense of place in history: the Waterfront Trail, the Niagara River Recreational Trail, the Voyageur trail, the Confederation Trail, the Lachine Canal trail, the Grand Concourse, and the Fundy trail. All of them represent parts of our history.
Across the country, there are many important trail projects in progress and we definitely have momentum. There are 200 identified gaps in the trail, totalling approximately 600 kilometres.
We must establish links between wilderness trails and urban areas. Some require major engineering and construction to overcome rugged terrain, while others require thoughtful design to protect environmentally sensitive areas. We know exactly what needs to be done and we have a strategy in place.
The Trans Canada Trail has recently established a foundation—and you have the package in front of you—for a $150-million fundraising campaign. The national leadership consists of Hartley Richardson and Valerie Pringle, so we don't lack for spokespeople or enthusiasm.
We want to create opportunities to engage every Canadian in connecting with this national legacy project. The trail is a collective endeavour. It is a tangible and symbolic tie that brings us altogether, and we believe is a source of national pride.
One of the things about the trail is that it really speaks to our history as Canadians. It speaks to us with respect to our character as Canadians.
This country started with trails, followed by a railway, and then, in 1963, that was followed with a highway. Now we're going back to the future. We've created a trail that is a pedestrian trail, a ski trail, a biking trail, an equestrian trail, and, in some places, a water trail. Why have we done it? Because there's a strong sense in our public, a strong demand in the public, for preservation of our natural environment and, also, an opportunity to share this country in a human way.
I think the trail demonstrates some of the best characteristics that define us as a people. The determination of and the effort made by the individual volunteers who build and maintain this trail are truly astounding.
It helps us celebrate the best of ourselves — the places, the stories and the experiences that make us who we are. It celebrates Canadian values.
By generating passion and commitment among Canadians for our country, the trail makes Canada strong. It inspires us — emotionally, intellectually and spiritually — and gives us hope. I would say that the human aspect of the Trans Canada Trail is extremely important for our families and our country.
The trail is one of the largest volunteer projects ever undertaken in Canada. More than 100,000 people have contributed time, energy, and resources, and most of them tell us that they're motivated, not by their own self-interest, but by a desire to make a difference and leave a legacy for their children and their grandchildren.
I have to tell you that it's inspiring to me to meet these people, it's inspiring to see their efforts, and it's inspiring to be part of this whole exercise.
The Trans Canada Trail board, partners, local trail groups and volunteers are committed to fully connecting the trail by 2017, in celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary.
The connection of the trail will be a historic milestone for Canada and Canadians. Indeed, it will be the culmination of two and a half decades of work by volunteers. These are not only individuals, but also community organizations, corporate partners and governments.
We see the trail as a lasting gift from Canadians to Canadians. There is a French expression that says “ce n'est pas un cadeau”, meaning this is not a gift.
This is not a Trojan Horse; this is a real gift. This is something that is truly grassroots. It's a huge success because it is an initiative of individuals from all across Canada. This is not a top-down exercise.
I noticed that in the testimony from Mr. Aykroyd he indicated that, in his experience, the most significant factor was that the initiatives came from the local groups. That was our experience at Canada 125, and I believe it is something that you should keep as a fundamental consideration in anything you recommend. The initiatives have to be initiatives that come from the wellspring of creativity that Canadians have to offer, because their ideas will be driven by genuine emotion. This is the energy that you will need to harness in order to make the 150th anniversary celebrations successful.
As we mentioned, we are linking the celebrations on the Trans Canada trail to other events: the war of 1812 Bicentennial, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the 150th anniversary of Canada’s founding fathers of Confederation and the Charlottetown and Quebec City conferences in 2014. There are many other opportunities to be explored.
This opportunity touches Canadians in so many ways. I think if you start to do the analysis, you will see that it speaks to Canadians' health and fitness. I'm sure you've all seen the reports about the difference that getting up off the couch and getting onto the trail means for heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and even cancer.
A half an hour a day on the trail can save lives. It can join families. It is a strong, significant element of culture and history. It is a strong educational force and reinforces our commitment to the environment. Most importantly, it is unity of purpose and unity of people.
In 2017 the Trans Canada Trail, when complete, will be the longest and grandest recreational trail in the world. It joins, as we said, all Canadians, 1,000 communities, and three oceans, and it represents a huge opportunity as the venue for the 150th anniversary celebrations.