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

9:50 a.m.

Bloc

Monique Pauzé Bloc Repentigny, QC

Yes, that answers my question, but I'd like to dig a bit deeper.

What happens when the site is privately owned?

I have an article that was in the paper about a site not far from my riding, in the Lanaudière region. It's home to a federal heritage railway station that has been falling into disrepair for the past 30 years, completely ignored.

How did a heritage designation help that privately owned railway station? Canadian Pacific was privatized.

9:50 a.m.

Senior Vice-President, Operations, Parks Canada Agency

Andrew Campbell

In order for a railway station to be recognized as a protected site, various conditions have to be met. Consequently, any changes or upgrades are subject to certain rules and a review is carried out.

However, there are no rules forcing a private owner to make changes or improvements if they choose not to. The rules focus on the actual changes to the property.

9:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Yasmin Ratansi

Thank you.

Madam Collins, you have two and a half minutes.

9:50 a.m.

NDP

Laurel Collins NDP Victoria, BC

I want to go back to my question about conservation, to the 25% by 2025 and 30% by 2030. This is maybe a better way to get at what I'm looking for.

What do you see as the barriers, both on land and in water, to our achieving those targets? Where are we right now? I'm just curious about the path forward and what that looks like.

9:50 a.m.

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

Darlene Upton

I'll speak to Parks Canada and what we've contributed.

Canada is currently at 12.1% protection on the terrestrial side. About a quarter of that, or about 3.5%, has been contributed by Parks Canada. We're hopeful that we might be able to contribute another 3% in the coming years toward Canada's targets for terrestrial conservation.

On the marine side—

9:50 a.m.

NDP

Laurel Collins NDP Victoria, BC

I'm sorry; you said, “in the coming years”. What's the timeline?

9:50 a.m.

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

Darlene Upton

We're aiming to try to achieve another 3% by 2025.

9:50 a.m.

NDP

Laurel Collins NDP Victoria, BC

Okay.

9:55 a.m.

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

Darlene Upton

That's our goal. You can't always predict the outcome of these things, but we're always moving forward. I'll add on the terrestrial side that other effective conservation measures have been recognized for places that aren't managed specifically for conservation, but the way in which they're managed contributes to conservation. For example, a number of Parks Canada's national historic sites, which are not national parks but do contribute, are currently being evaluated for their effectiveness as conservation. They'll contribute as well.

On the marine side, Canada is currently at 13.81%. Parks Canada's contribution to that is about 6% currently. With the projects that we have going on—again, I don't have the exact numbers on me—we're expecting to make further contributions.

It's not all about the percentage, I would say. One of the things we need to look at is also the “where” and the value. That means, for example, that in southern Canada there's a lot of value to smaller protected areas from a biodiversity perspective.

9:55 a.m.

NDP

Laurel Collins NDP Victoria, BC

Thank you.

Then in terms of—

9:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Yasmin Ratansi

You had 10 seconds.

We now go to the third round. I will have to stop at 10:15 to let the witnesses go. Then we'll go into committee business.

Mr. Aitchison, you have five minutes.

February 27th, 2020 / 9:55 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Aitchison Conservative Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I appreciate you all being here as well, so thank you.

I'm actually from a riding that has a natural historic site—the Norman Bethune house in Gravenhurst, which we're very proud of. The mayor of Gravenhurst has actually been to China a couple of times, which is very interesting.

I want to talk about one of the mistakes, maybe, that Parks Canada made—specifically, the Signal Hill fence issue.

For those who don't remember, it was back in 2018. Parks Canada decided that they wanted to do what was described in the planning stages as a visually appealing permanent fence and gateway to control access to the tattoo performance field on Signal Hill. There were a lot of great reasons for this, including increasing revenues. It would be an attractive way to get more people attracted to the visitor centre and the café. It cost about $65,000 to build, but a week after it was built, complaints started rolling in to MP O'Regan's office. Then Rick Mercer got hold of it and all hell broke loose, of course.

Parks Canada was being criticized all over the place, and there was some backtracking going on. Public safety was cited as a reason, but there were no stats on that. The fence was taken down. It was fairly controversial and under the direction by then of Minister McKenna. I understand that screw-ups happen, and for anybody who thinks I'm being mean, google “pipe man in Huntsville” and you'll know that I've got some too.

The reason I ask the question is not to embarrass you, but just to ask what the public consultation process is for those kinds of decisions, whenever there's some kind of a significant change being planned for a facility or a natural historic site. Has it changed as a result of what happened on Signal Hill?

9:55 a.m.

Senior Vice-President, Operations, Parks Canada Agency

Andrew Campbell

Thank you for the question.

It's great to learn from everything that goes on, both positive and negative. One thing we learned from that is that some of the public consultations we need to do around those types of elements.... I think we've always had a strong value and ethic towards public consultation. It just made us all remember to redouble that effort as we are doing those types of things that, as in this case, obviously affect the viewscape and the way people view that site.

I will say that on that site there are still some public safety concerns, but we're redoubling that effort of looking, with the community, at other ways that it could perhaps be mitigated.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Aitchison Conservative Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Is there a difference between the consultation process that you go through for changes to a national historic site versus, say, a national park? I can't remember the park where users could get permits to do some clearing on back-country trails. It's things like that. When you make those kinds of changes, is the process different depending on what kind of facility you're in?

10 a.m.

Senior Vice-President, Operations, Parks Canada Agency

Andrew Campbell

There are many different types of processes, everything from the constitutionally protected areas that we talked about before and our duty to consult with indigenous people, right through to some minor consultations that you might do with a particular group.

The management plan is the largest consultative process that we take for the management for every park and site, and there are those for national historic sites as well. For specific actions, there will often be secondary consultations.

10 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Aitchison Conservative Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Those consultations are fairly broad-based, I would say. Who all would be engaged in that consultation? How do you pick who's involved?

10 a.m.

Senior Vice-President, Operations, Parks Canada Agency

Andrew Campbell

In many cases, it's open house. They are also using online consultative processes more and more through Michael's group, so that not just the people in the local area can participate. Obviously, all Canadians like to have a voice in national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas, and they should. Being able to do online consultative processes are also important.

10 a.m.

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

Darlene Upton

We are now required to post any significant project requiring environmental assessment under the new act. It's not a consultation per se, but rather a transparency process that allows Canadians to see what's going on in these places and to request input.

10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Yasmin Ratansi

Thank you.

Mr. Saini is next.

10 a.m.

Liberal

Raj Saini Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Good morning, and thank you very much for being here.

I'm going start with a local question. I'm sure you're somewhat aware of the issue surrounding this question.

As you know, Parks Canada manages 12 UNESCO world heritage sites, and one of those sites is right here in Ottawa, the Rideau Canal. I think UNESCO's World Heritage Centre has been a bit concerned about the expansion of the Chateau Laurier in terms of how it would affect the viewscape of the Rideau Canal.

A lot of people may not know this, but the canal is an example of slackwater canals built in the 19th century, and we don't have that many in North America. It is not only a preserved heritage site, but the technology is something to marvel at.

What is Parks Canada's analysis of this expansion? Do you feel that this expansion is warranted? Would this expansion damage the viewscape of the Rideau Canal?

10 a.m.

Senior Vice-President, Operations, Parks Canada Agency

Andrew Campbell

I'll flip it to Michael to start.

10 a.m.

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

Michael Nadler

Thank you, and we'll be happy to take follow-ups.

On the Chateau Laurier addition, Parks Canada has played an active role in helping to assess and address any potential visual impacts the project could present to the Rideau Canal, a national historic site and a UNESCO world heritage site.

Over the past several years, various heritage impact assessments and visual impact assessments have been undertaken by third party consultants, and we've viewed these assessments very carefully.

We acknowledge that there is a visual impact associated with the proposed addition to the Chateau. What we want to underscore is that there are established processes under the World Heritage Convention, and managed by the World Heritage Centre, to address or look at those impacts. Parks Canada works very closely with the centre.

10 a.m.

Liberal

Raj Saini Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

My next question is in regard to the planting of two billion trees, which we had in our platform commitment. One of the things that I find would be really interesting and really creative is for all the parks across Canada to be involved in this endeavour, not only in terms of protecting the environment but also in terms of engaging the local community.

Is there a plan by Parks Canada to have this type of engagement to conduct tree planting? Is there a way of measuring how much will be done over the next few years?

10 a.m.

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

Darlene Upton

That's a Natural Resources Canada project lead, and we are working closely with Natural Resources Canada and Environment Canada on how this might be rolled out. Certainly, Parks Canada lands offer a potential that we're looking at.

10 a.m.

Liberal

Raj Saini Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

I'm going to follow up with a question that Ms. Collins asked. This is about the protection of the land, from 20% to 25% in 2025 and 30% in 2030.

One of the things I am thinking about is this. In that rollout, is there any plan by Parks Canada to increase the number of parks conservation areas in Canada? To get to that point, there would have to be a further analysis done of land in terms of what more could be conserved or what more could be brought under the guidance of Parks Canada.