Thank you very much for the invitation, Madam Chair, and honourable committee members.
I'd like to speak to three more high-level themes. Rather than getting into the specifics, I want you to get the mood of heritage in Canada. You can follow along with the slides in front of you.
I want to talk about three things. They are what we consider heritage today, to provide a context for the state of built heritage in Canada, and to offer leadership goals that the federal government could meet.
I work for a company that values sustainability that is working towards carbon neutrality. That's the goal of this government. It's also a central goal in protecting heritage buildings. We all live our lives on a spectrum of past, present, and future, but we often live with only the present and future in mind, especially as the 21st century anxieties are our preoccupation. These include globalization, climate change, terrorism, and things like that. To be a healthy society, we need to embrace our past. Today, we have a chance to move Canada steps closer to what has already occurred in most G20 countries, namely, to support heritage in a real and substantive manner, rather than always framing it on the margins.
Like it or not, in this room, we are all heritage advocates. Each of you care about your past, whether it's learning about your family history, maintaining your cottage, or being a collector. There are many types of heritage. There's physical heritage. We often talk about physical heritage or built heritage that I'm going to talk about. Then there's intangible heritage, natural heritage, and even digital heritage. All of these might be meaningful to you, your family, your community, your province, your country, or even globally. Ask a question about what is a value in your life and you are probably thinking about heritage. Heritage is living sustainably. Heritage has significant impacts on social well-being, environmental conditions, from reducing waste to developing better construction, and holds huge economic benefits, especially in the tourism sector. Heritage can change in meaning. It is not fixed in one era, but a continuum of meaning. It is an interconnection with previous and future generations, akin to the seven-generation concept of the Iroquois Confederacy.
The Aga Khan Foundation understands this. In front of you is Al-Azhar park, a green lung in the middle of Cairo. The Zeidlers in Toronto understand this. Heritage conservation projects bring benefits to society. Each of these projects contains the ideal of what I call the three Cs: culture, community, and commerce.
Canada's context is one that has evolved from commemorating places based on specialized criteria and monumentality, both physically and conceptually, to understanding that everything is a cultural landscape. The old stereotype of activists fighting developers remains, but it is waning. There are people out there doing interesting work.
We now live in a world that Paul Crutzen described in the seventies, which he termed the anthropocene, or a global cultural landscape of human intervention. To educate the public on these concepts is a challenge. There are maybe a dozen professors in Canadian universities teaching on heritage. There are only a few professional programs in the educational system, actually.
Let's turn specifically to built heritage. The process of officially designating places by federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments amounts to one-tenth of one per cent. Based on Canada's building stock and with estimates of designations in the country, there's very little protected in Canada. About 41% of our commercial and institutional buildings were built before 1969. That's our building stock as of today; we have an older building stock. Construction costs on care and maintenance of places, which means renovations, upgrades, and retrofits, make up half of the construction industry today—half of the construction industry. It's not new construction. It's care and maintenance of places that exist today. None of this work, except for in a very few cases, requires proper conservation treatment. Within the construction industry, there's almost no experience in heritage conservation, and yet, almost a million and a half people work in the industry, with activity in the billions of dollars. As I said earlier, heritage is now about sustaining what we have: no more demolition, and better care and maintenance of what we have.
There is a disconnect between heritage and other industries, a place where the federal government could be a leader. For example, industry has not incorporated conservation principles into their standards, processes, and programs, even though work is performed on historic buildings. LEED and other green building programs have not integrated heritage. There are minor criteria for that. Even in the new WELL program through the International WELL Building Institute, there is no measurement of quality of place or of historic place. Some provincial building codes are strong on addressing heritage buildings, but the national building code is much weaker on the national level, often causing variances to the provincial code.
As the former Canadian registrar, I redeveloped the Canadian Register of Historic Places to be more accessible for people to learn about their places, but there was always the challenge of implementing proper documentation standards across jurisdictions, unlike models in other countries, such as the United Kingdom.
We have no real, proper data today on the state of heritage in Canada. There are 1,237 federal heritage buildings covered by the Treasury Board policy on management of real property, which was created in 1982 and regulated by the federal heritage buildings review office. It is a buildings-only policy. It is not a landscape policy or a land policy. It does not cover engineering structures or land use. It's out of date and needs an overhaul. It hasn't revised its approach to evaluation in almost 40 years. It does not maintain its designations to reflect changes in buildings. Buildings evolve over time. In fact, Parks Canada eliminated the role of the manager of FHBRO several years ago.
The policy is weak in terms of federal buildings. For example, it does not protect places that are owned and operated by crown corporations. Unlike Ontario crown corporations for instance, they are not accountable to any authority. These include Canada Post, CBC, Canadian museums, the Royal Canadian Mint, the Bank of Canada, the National Arts Centre, all of the port authorities, and the St. Lawrence Seaway. For example, two years ago, CBC demolished one of the earliest radio transmitter stations in Canada without requiring any review process. It was an art deco gem that could have been a national historic site, and yet even a commemoration would not protect it. Indeed, even when a department does due diligence and after repeated attempts to save a federal heritage building, it can end up in a landfill.
There are 968 national historic sites of which 200 are federally owned. The balance are owned by various levels of government, first nations, non-profits, and private hands. These are commemorations. They are moral in nature under the act. They have no legal protection and very little support, except for one federal program, the national cost-sharing program, which in fact is biased towards wealthier national historic sites and does not benefit those that need it most. Many national historic sites cannot raise matching funds, but you won't hear of those.
This is the Berthier railway station, and it's a national historic site. I discovered it had been lost along with several other national historic sites, yet I can't find any record of it being demolished. It's now completely gone. It lost its commemorative integrity.
Of the successful national historic sites, outside of having the economic advantages of being owned by the federal government, there are many sites working away trying to operate on reduced budgets. Glanmore, for example, runs its programming on just under half a million dollars in its budget, and that is probably half of what a federal agency would run their sites on.
One solution is an effort that I am part of to create a pan-Canadian network of national historic sites for the purpose of acting as a backbone organization that reduces the cost—not siphoning money away from them—and raises the profile of managing these places while protecting their commemorative integrity. In fact, federal support for such an organization could be fulfilled by the minister, who may, and I quote the act “make agreements with any persons for marking or commemorating historic places pursuant to this Act and for the care and preservation of any places so marked or commemorated”.
As leaders in heritage conservation, you can enshrine protection in legislation; address support for heritage places as you do in other industries; revise the models within government to protect federally owned property, including businesses owned by the government; sustain a greater family of national historic sites; improve how codes and standards are implemented; be the leader that demonstrates to industry the sustainable goals of this century; and finally, possibly punish those who think short-term gain is to their advantage.
To end, I'm showing you a modest building in London, England. In 2009, the building was under threat of demolition. In 2010, the U.K. culture minister listed it on the advice of English Heritage. Its grade II status means that carrying out unauthorized work is a criminal offence and owners can be prosecuted, and a local planning authority can also insist that all work undertaken without consent be reversed at the owner's expense.
Four lads from Liverpool, along with hundreds of other pop musicians, used these recording studios in Abbey Road since the 1930s. It is now protected, thanks to the legislation in place at the national level, and this could not happen today in Canada.
Thank you very much.