Evidence of meeting #4 for Environment and Sustainable Development in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was park.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Andrew Campbell  Senior Vice-President, Operations, Parks Canada Agency
Darlene Upton  Vice-President, Protected Areas Establishment and Conservation, Parks Canada Agency
Stephen Van Dine  Vice-President, Strategic Policy and Investment Directorate, Parks Canada Agency
Michael Nadler  Vice-President, External Relations and Visitor Experience, Parks Canada Agency
Catherine Blanchard  Vice-President, Finance Directorate, Parks Canada Agency

8:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Vice-Chair Conservative Kerry-Lynne Findlay

I call the meeting to order.

Good morning, everyone. We're going to get started. Our chair will be here shortly, I'm sure. We don't want to cut into witness time. We have a lot to cover. I'll just say right now that I'm from Vancouver, so I feel like I'm living in a snow globe. I'm getting used to it.

We have with us today representatives of the Parks Canada Agency: Andrew Campbell, senior vice-president, operations; Catherine Blanchard, vice-president, finance directorate; Line Lamothe, vice-president, human resources and employee wellness; Michael Nadler, vice-president, external relations and visitor experience; Darlene Upton, vice-president, protected areas establishment and conservation; and Stephen Van Dine, vice-president, strategic policy and investment directorate.

Welcome to you this morning. We appreciate your being here and educating us on all you do. I'm sure that we have a lot of questions for all of you.

Madam Chair is here. I'll just finish this sentence and say that we've allotted 10 minutes to each.

I will turn this over to the chair.

8:45 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Yasmin Ratansi

Thank you, Madam Findlay.

Are all of you taking 10 minutes each?

February 27th, 2020 / 8:45 a.m.

Andrew Campbell Senior Vice-President, Operations, Parks Canada Agency

It will probably take a total of 15 minutes.

8:45 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Yasmin Ratansi

Thank you. Who's going first?

8:45 a.m.

Senior Vice-President, Operations, Parks Canada Agency

Andrew Campbell

I am. Thank you.

Good morning. I would like to begin by saying how honoured we are to be here this morning on unceded lands of the Algonquin, Anishinabek people. I'd also like to express our thanks to the chair and to the members of the committee for inviting us to speak with you today.

It's a real privilege to appear before the committee, and we are grateful for the opportunity to discuss the agency’s mandate, priorities and some of our recent accomplishments.

In just a bit of housekeeping, I would like to outline that we've provided the members with a copy of our presentation. As well, hopefully, you've all received a USB stick that has a presentation and some visuals of Parks Canada and gives an outline of some of the things we do that are a little less well known. Finally, I believe there are notes that have been provided to the clerk.

Now, if I may, I will quickly walk the committee through the mandate and overarching scope of Parks Canada. I'll be followed by Darlene, Stephen and Michael, who will highlight some of the major mandate areas of Parks Canada.

To begin, the Parks Canada Agency is responsible for protecting nationally significant examples of Canada’s natural and cultural heritage and sharing the stories of these treasured places with Canadians. In doing so, the agency fosters public understanding, appreciation and enjoyment in ways that ensure ecological and commemorative integrity for today and for the future.

The Parks Canada team is over 5,000 strong, and we're proud to be entrusted with the stewardship of Canada’s national treasured places, a stewardship we share in many places with indigenous peoples.

The agency manages some of the finest and most extensive natural and cultural heritage places in the world, which include 47 national parks; 171 national historic sites, which include nine heritage canals; five national marine conservation areas and one national urban park.

The protected areas help restore the health of ecosystems, build their resilience and contribute to the recovery of species at risk—

Is there a problem?

8:50 a.m.

NDP

Laurel Collins NDP Victoria, BC

The two interpretation channels aren't working.

Our translation isn't working.

8:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Yasmin Ratansi

Could you try plugging it on the side? Sometimes that works. Maybe someone could help them. Is everybody else's working?

You may continue, Mr. Campbell.

8:50 a.m.

Senior Vice-President, Operations, Parks Canada Agency

Andrew Campbell

Is it working? Thank you.

Protected areas help us restore the health of ecosystems, build resilience and contribute to the recovery of species at risk, not only protecting biodiversity but also helping mitigate the impact of climate change.

National historic sites, whether they're sacred spaces, archaeological sites, battlefields, heritage houses or historic districts, allow Canadians to learn more about Canadian history, including the diverse cultural communities that make up Canada and the history and culture of indigenous peoples.

Furthermore, Parks Canada places are an important part of local economies, helping welcome more than 25 million visitors to Canada's treasures, helping generate billions of dollars annually and employing tens of thousands of people in urban settings, in rural communities and in the north of Canada.

I'd like to quickly present an overview of the agency's priorities, which help guide our everyday work in meeting our important mandate.

First and foremost, Parks Canada places tell the stories of who we are, including the history, cultures and contributions of indigenous people. Together, through a collective commitment to heritage, we are renewing the ways that these stories are brought to Canadians. Through natural conservation, we are working with other federal departments, provincial and territorial governments and indigenous partners, both as a leader and as a trusted partner in advancing the conservation goals of our country.

We are making impactful infrastructure investments. Parks Canada is protecting and conserving our national treasures while supporting local economies, employing Canadians across the country and contributing to growth in the tourism sector. Investments in the heritage, visitor, waterway and highway infrastructure ensure safe, high-quality and meaningful experiences for visitors, enabling Canadians to discover nature and connect with history. Importantly, Parks Canada in many communities is one of the key anchors of economic sustainability, as the iconic places provide both economic opportunity and community spirit.

As an overview of our financial situation, Parks Canada's budget is approximately $1.7 billion in 2019-2020. Of this amount, approximately $600 million is our ongoing permanent funding, of which 75% comes from funds appropriated by Parliament and 25% comes from revenues generated by the agency. The main sources of our revenues are admission fees, accommodations such as camping and land rent, and commercial operations. The remaining time-limited portion of our budget primarily relates to capital funding in the amount of $900 million in the current fiscal year. This capital portion is part of the $3.6 billion that the government has provided over the past six years to Parks Canada to improve the condition of its large, diverse and unique asset base. The ultimate goal of these capital investments is to ensure Canada's national parks and historic sites are a source of pride and enjoyment today and into the future.

Now I'd like to turn to my colleagues to highlight key directions and a few accomplishments of Parks Canada over the past fiscal year with regard to protecting and managing our treasured natural and cultural heritage.

Ms. Upton, you may go ahead.

8:55 a.m.

Darlene Upton Vice-President, Protected Areas Establishment and Conservation, Parks Canada Agency

Thanks, Andrew.

Thanks, everyone.

The agency will actively assist in meeting the goal of protecting biodiversity and conserving 25% of Canada's land and 25% of Canada's oceans by 2025. In collaboration with indigenous partners, stakeholders and other levels of government, we're currently working on two national park reserves and five marine conservation areas and exploring new opportunities.

In addition to this goal, the agency is a recognized international leader in the effective management of protected areas. We ensure complete understanding of the biodiversity and ecosystem processes in our places, we monitor further ecological integrity and we take management action to restore ecosystems and recover species. In fact, we're one of the only national park systems in the world that has a fully developed and fully implemented system-wide ecological integrity monitoring program, consisting of more than 700 independent scientific measures that inform park-specific priorities and guide our investments in conservation.

Parks Canada is also one of three competent departments under the Species at Risk Act, with more than 200 species on Parks Canada-managed lands. We are a partner in the implementation of the pan-Canadian approach to transforming species at risk conservation, with a focus on priority species, places and sectors.

Given the potential magnitude and diversity of climate change impacts on Parks Canada heritage places across the country, the agency is continuing to work to improve its understanding of current and future climate change impacts and to enhance its ability to adapt through a variety of initiatives. This includes conducting a risk assessment and developing a carbon atlas and an adaptation framework. We've done a number of regional climate assessment meetings, hosting these regional workshops with partners. We have site-specific risks, mitigations and adaptations, and we're continuing to look at how to integrate climate change considerations into all aspects of our park management.

I'll stop there and turn it over to Stephen, who's here for Christine Loth-Brown.

8:55 a.m.

Stephen Van Dine Vice-President, Strategic Policy and Investment Directorate, Parks Canada Agency

Thank you.

Good morning. I'm here on behalf of our colleague and newest addition to the team, Christine Loth-Bown. She has been delayed by the weather today. We are strong believers in team, so I am delivering her remarks. We're even stronger believers in the motto “safety first”.

8:55 a.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!

8:55 a.m.

Vice-President, Strategic Policy and Investment Directorate, Parks Canada Agency

Stephen Van Dine

We are responsible for 171 national historic sites across the country. These are varied places and tell many chapters in the story of Canada from time immemorial until the 20th century. Parks Canada also acts as the secretariat for the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, which advises the minister for Parks Canada on the designations of persons, places and events of national historic significance. We administer a number of programs, including heritage railway stations, heritage lighthouses and federal heritage buildings. The agency is Canada’s representative to the World Heritage Committee and oversees the program for world heritage sites.

The framework on commemoration that we delivered in 2019 is our new system plan for national historic sites. The framework sets priorities for new designations and for the renewal of the way in which history is told at our heritage places. The framework provides a foundation for how we work with others—including, importantly, indigenous peoples—to identify, recount and mark our common past. Our achievements include the discovery and exploration of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, which have been collectively designated as national historic sites.

The 2019 archaeological research season was one of the best ever. The Parks Canada underwater archaeology team’s findings contributed to a better understanding of historical and Inuit accounts of the Franklin expedition, and in particular will help establish a clearer picture of the storied ships and their crew.

In 2019 the World Heritage Committee supported the inscription of Writing-on-Stone/Áísínai'pi as Canada’s most recent world heritage site. This landscape in southern Alberta is characterized by hoodoos and rock art. Some of the in situ archaeological remains date back approximately 3,000 years. The landscape is considered sacred to the Blackfoot people. Their centuries-old traditions are perpetuated through ceremonies and enduring respect for places.

Some of the work of your committee has also contributed to the studying of built heritage in Canada, producing in the last session of Parliament the report entitled “Preserving Canada's Heritage: The Foundation for Tomorrow” in 2017. This report made 17 recommendations, many of them relating to the need for legislation to protect federal heritage. As a result of this mandate being given to our minister, we will be developing new legislation for the effective protection of federally owned heritage places, ensuring that these cultural crown jewels are sustained for future generations.

I will conclude my remarks by saying that one of the most effective ways to achieve concrete results in advancing an important objective of this government—reconciliation—is through negotiated agreements and increased roles for indigenous peoples in decision-making. Parks Canada works with approximately 300 indigenous communities. More than 30 places are currently managed through collaborative structures with indigenous peoples. We are engaged in 40 modern treaty negotiation tables and over 30 rights and recognition tables.

Finally, in 2019 Parks Canada published a work plan to address barriers to its work with indigenous peoples. This document, entitled “Mapping Change: Fostering a Culture of Reconciliation within Parks Canada”, sets out commitments to be achieved within a five-year timeline. Commitments include work to support inclusion of indigenous languages in heritage places and collaborative development of messaging regarding the ongoing roles and responsibilities of indigenous peoples as stewards of their traditional territories.

Thank you.

9 a.m.

Michael Nadler Vice-President, External Relations and Visitor Experience, Parks Canada Agency

Thank you, Stephen.

A core element of Parks Canada’s mandate is to present and share Canada’s national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas with visitors from across Canada and around the world. In fulfilling this mandate, Parks Canada not only facilitates the enjoyment of our country’s national heritage places but also contributes to communities and to Canada’s growing tourism industry.

Each year, Parks Canada receives 25 million visitors across the 222 sites administered by the agency. Most of these visitors are Canadian, with the remaining 20% coming largely from the United States, Europe and Asia. The scale of Parks Canada's operations makes the agency one of Canada's largest providers of natural and cultural tourism.

Visitors to Parks Canada places contribute an estimated $4 billion to the Canadian economy through spending in communities that neighbour Parks Canada places and through disbursements to the operators who deliver experiences in Parks Canada places.

While contributing to Canada’s tourism economy is very important for the agency, Parks Canada's focus is on facilitating Canadians' enjoyment of our national heritage places now and into the future. This work is rooted in the legislation for Canada’s system of national parks. It means that the agency works hard to present national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas to Canadians not only when they come to visit but also through digital media and a number of outreach programs in their communities.

In fact, each year Parks Canada delivers an amazing array of experiences to visitors to national heritage places. At the same time, the agency works to bring these places to people where they live by delivering outreach and engagement programming, such as the Learn-to Camp program in urban and rural centres across the country.

Combined, these outreach programs reached 110,000 Canadians in 2019. On our digital channels, Parks Canada reaches still more Canadians. We receive some 18 million unique visitors per year to our website and enjoy a social media following of nearly two million.

Parks Canada places are also important settings for communities to gather. In 2019, Parks Canada hosted more than 20 citizenship ceremonies, and we hosted over 100 local events and celebrations in collaboration with local communities and other partners.

Canada's national heritage sites are places where Canadians can gain a deeper appreciation of our country, including indigenous cultures. Parks Canada works closely with indigenous communities across the country to deliver authentic indigenous experiences in national parks and at historic sites.

These experiences help to foster greater understanding by non-indigenous Canadians of the cultures, history and traditions of our country's indigenous peoples.

Parks Canada is the steward of some of Canada's most treasured places. We are guides, partners and storytellers, and we strive to foster a greater appreciation and understanding of Canada’s national and cultural heritage.

We are committed to sharing the stories of these special places from multiple perspectives, reflecting the diversity of Canada and also respecting the cultures and perspectives of Canada’s indigenous peoples.

Madam Chair, we would be pleased to address any questions or comments the committee has.

9:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Yasmin Ratansi

Is anybody else speaking? No? Okay, thank you.

We'll begin the first round of questioning for six minutes.

Go ahead, Madam Findlay.

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

Kerry-Lynne Findlay Conservative South Surrey—White Rock, BC

Thank you for being here.

I'll start with a couple of B.C. questions, as that's where I'm from.

Are you involved at all in Ramsar designations? For instance, Burns Bog, which is near where I live, got a Ramsar designation a few years ago. Are you involved in things like that? You talked about recognition and protection.

9:05 a.m.

Vice-President, Protected Areas Establishment and Conservation, Parks Canada Agency

Darlene Upton

No, we are not involved directly. There may be overlaps from time to time with some of our sites, such as Wood Buffalo, but we're not directly involved in the designation.

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

Kerry-Lynne Findlay Conservative South Surrey—White Rock, BC

Okay.

One close to home for me as well is the Gulf of Georgia Cannery in Steveston, which has a rather unique relationship with Parks Canada. I'm just wondering how that is working. I know your partnership there is a little different.

9:05 a.m.

Senior Vice-President, Operations, Parks Canada Agency

Andrew Campbell

Just for everybody else's education, the Gulf of Georgia Cannery is a site that is co-managed with the local people. We maintain the facility and the local community actually does the interpretation of the site, which is, from our perspective, a great partnership. It continues to work on a good basis.

Our ability to do some of the capital improvements has been helpful in that relationship. We continue to look forward to that relationship moving forward smoothly into the future.

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

Kerry-Lynne Findlay Conservative South Surrey—White Rock, BC

This is a historic site on the Steveston harbour, off Richmond in B.C. It's a heritage site, in the sense that it speaks to the early cannery days there. It is managed by a non-profit society in co-operation with Parks Canada.

Are there any similar partnerships that you're aware of in Canada?

9:05 a.m.

Senior Vice-President, Operations, Parks Canada Agency

Andrew Campbell

We do have some other partnerships like that, but I can't think of them off the top of my head. We do a great amount of co-operative management with indigenous people across the country for many of our sites. As well, we have sites in many places across the country where the story is brought by the local community. Certainly that one was one of the forerunners of these kinds of arrangements for Parks Canada.

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

Kerry-Lynne Findlay Conservative South Surrey—White Rock, BC

Thank you.

In Radium Hot Springs, another place in B.C., there has been a shutdown of the hot pools there that's having a major economic impact on the village of Radium. Does Parks Canada have a timeline to complete the shoring up the wet floors so that people can access the pools?

9:05 a.m.

Senior Vice-President, Operations, Parks Canada Agency

Andrew Campbell

We have, over the past three weeks or so, been working on the engineering study to get the exact time frames. We've met with the Chamber of Commerce and we've met with the office of the mayor in order to keep them up to date as we get information. We have approved the funding so that the repair can go forward. We're now in the final stages of engineering.

We want to make sure that we are accurate about how long it's going to take to get the facility back open. We are working with businesses locally, and we have been able to keep the one tenant who runs the spa in the area open through the entire process. We'll continue to work with the town and let them know as we get the exact time frame.

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

Kerry-Lynne Findlay Conservative South Surrey—White Rock, BC

I know there's a lot of anxiety there about the economic impact of this shutdown. Do you feel there are enough funds available to complete the project and deal with the failing concrete?

9:10 a.m.

Senior Vice-President, Operations, Parks Canada Agency

Andrew Campbell

We just put funds towards that—in fact, on Monday—in order to make sure that the funds are in place.

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

Kerry-Lynne Findlay Conservative South Surrey—White Rock, BC

Do you see how timely I am in asking you that?