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Evidence of meeting #21 for Fisheries and Oceans in the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was access.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Patricia Kell  Director, Policy and Government Relations Branch, National Historic Sites Directorate, Parks Canada Agency
Doug Tapley  Manager, Cabinet Affairs, Parks Canada Agency
Cal Hegge  Assistant Deputy Minister, Human Resources and Corporate Services, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
Krishna Sahay  Director General, Real Property, Safety and Security, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
Andrew Anderson  Senior Divestiture Analyst, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
Patricia Carney  P.C., Senator (retired), As an Individual

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

That was my question.

Thank you, and I'm going to turn it over to Mr. Keddy.

April 1st, 2008 / 9:50 a.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Conservative South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Welcome to our witnesses.

I've listened to my colleagues and their questions to our panel members. But from a committee perspective, we have this bill in front of us, and if we don't manage to steer it through the House, I doubt if it will ever come back in a form that could pass.

I understand the questions on the dollars, and they are important. But in this case, the process is actually more important than the dollars. If the process is in place, it doesn't matter if there are 12 heritage lighthouses or 105. If the business case is put forward for divestiture to a community group, and they show that they can look after that lighthouse, then the federal government has an obligation to divest it in good order, which includes environmental cleanup.

Am I correct in that assessment? That's one of the reasons for the discrepancy in the numbers.

Mr. Blais brought up the idea that this might somehow affect core funding from DFO, but the whole principle of this bill is that it won't affect core funding from DFO, in perpetuity.

I suppose that if there were still a couple of lighthouses under DFO with the lights on, this would be an ongoing core funding responsibility. Mr. Hegge is shaking his head, so I imagine this will be correct.

I will give you two examples in Nova Scotia where DFO or Parks Canada may want to maintain the light. Sambro lighthouse would be the first one, the oldest light in North America. Another example would be Seal Island lighthouse, which is a light that was built in the early 1800s. It's just offshore of my riding, but it's a two-hour boat ride. Even though it's an old light, it's going to be very difficult to find a community group to look after it. So that might be a light we would want to have the government be responsible for, or it may be impossible to find anyone to be responsible for it.

The point I am making here is that this bill is the process. It allows community groups to come and ask for heritage designation for a light within their community. There have to be criteria in place to say that it is a heritage light.

There's a responsibility on the part of the government to make sure that it's divested in good order, that it's painted. But there also is a key responsibility here. Barry MacDonald and the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society and other societies have looked at this bill. The key is this: community groups that want to take these lights over need a business plan that says they are able to support it as a heritage light, which includes the ongoing maintenance. But it does not include the preliminary maintenance and the environmental cleanup for the divestiture.

Am I summarizing that correctly? No mistakes yet. All right. It's just a matter of time.

On the numbers, we have 746 lighthouses in Canada, but there seems to be some discussion about how many of them are actual towers, proper lighthouses that you could go up inside of. Roughly 250 is the estimate we were given.

I see Senator Carney shaking her head. And 51 of these are manned now, so they are more permanent. Twelve of them are within Parks Canada.

The reality is that we don't know how many of the lights are heritage lights. I have heard the number 60 or 65. To be honest, I think 65 would be a lot, because we have to find a municipality, a town, or a community group to take these lights over.

I hear Mr. Blais' concern about the cost of this bill. The cost is going to be shouldered originally by Parks Canada, Environment Canada, and somewhat by DFO. But this does not include the core costs.

I'm trying to implore my colleagues here that we support this bill, we make the amendments that need to be made, and we get it through the committee and back to the chamber. We can actually put this in place for a very reasonable amount of money, so that we have the process then in place to protect heritage lights. But it's not strictly DFO, not strictly the Government of Canada that's responsible for these things, but the community organizations themselves, and there will be access.

I tell you, with a few amendments, I think this is a great bill. We have it this far, and we really do need the support of everybody at the committee to be reasonable here and try to move it on.

I had carriage of this bill once myself. We never got to the committee process. We were almost there. I know from talking to the lighthouse preservation societies themselves that they're not just anxious, they're almost exhausted over the process and the number of times it has come forward. Senator Carney brought this through the Senate. I think if we look at this in reasonable, common-sense terms, we can get it through here.

That wasn't too many questions for you guys, was it?

10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Fabian Manning

These were supposedly questions, but....

Mr. Hegge, going back to your last comment, just to clew up, in reference to your previous testimony, in June 2007, are there any figures that I may have missed here that you will be looking at now that will be required by the department to address this issue? Is there any funding within the budget at the present time, or would that have to be allocated under new funding or taken from some resources that are already there?

10 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Human Resources and Corporate Services, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Cal Hegge

Basically, the short answer is that right now—not to suggest we aren't spending any money on lighthouses, because we are, for health and safety reasons, obviously, on the ones we have staffed, and I alluded to this—we are spending a minimal amount of money. If this bill goes through without any additional source of money, we would have to look within our existing capital budget.

I know, and this committee knows, just to use small craft harbours as an example, how difficult that would be. We would have to rob Peter to pay Paul. It would definitely affect our operational mandate, and that's why we've been consistently pointing out that if the bill goes through, we're going to have to find a source of new funds to implement it, from our perspective.

10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Fabian Manning

Thank you, Mr. Hegge, and thank you to our witnesses.

We're going to take a five-minute break now to clear the table and to prepare our next witness.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Fabian Manning

Welcome back. Welcome, Senator Carney. I think everybody is ready.

Whenever you're ready, Senator Carney, please proceed with your opening statements.

10:05 a.m.

Patricia Carney P.C., Senator (retired), As an Individual

First of all, it's a pleasure to be back here in the House of Commons, where I served two terms as the MP for Vancouver Centre from 1980 to 1988 before being called to the Senate in 1990.

It's also an honour to appear before you to present my private member's bill, Bill S-215 , an act to protect heritage lighthouses. This is, as has been noted, the seventh time this bill or its antecedents have made it this far. We hope seven is our lucky number. I'm glad the bill has so many advocates.

We have distributed to you Canada Post's folio of five heritage lights, which shows you some of the differences in the light stations.

I will be speaking for about 10 minutes; then I'll be presenting a hard-copy presentation of some of the different lights. Then I'll be available to answer your questions.

The specifics of this proposed legislation have undergone a sea change since I and the late Senator Mike Forrestall of Nova Scotia first co-wrote it in 2000. Lately the assistance of Senator Lowell Murray has brought it to its present form, but the purpose has always been on a consistent course.

I want to point out that because the coasts are so different and the light stations are so different, it has always had to have east coast and west coast input.

The purpose has been to conserve and protect federally owned heritage lights across Canada by four means. Bill S-215 will provide a means for their selection and designation as heritage lighthouses; prevent the unauthorized alteration or disposition of heritage lighthouses; require public notice and public consultation before the transfer, alteration, sale, or demolition of a designated heritage lighthouse; and require that designated heritage lighthouses be reasonably maintained in a manner consistent with accepted conservation standards.

Lighthouses play a vital role in our marine communities. I certainly don't have to tell members of the committee that. The DFO has told the Senate committee that there are 256 light stations as defined in this bill; the other 504 are other kinds of navigation aids, light buoys, range markers, and other things that other experts can tell you about.

The 256 light stations are in eight provinces. People don't realize that only two provinces, Alberta and Saskatchewan, don't have federal lighthouses. Most of them are fully operational and an important part of our maritime safety net. There's been a lot of talk about the divestiture of surplus lighthouses, but one of the most important points about this bill is that most of these light stations are operating light stations serving the maritime community now.

Canada’s light stations also attract thousands of visitors every year, contributing to the economic and cultural benefits to coastal communities, particularly in Atlantic Canada, where DFO has a program of divesting non-operational lighthouses that are surplus to its requirements to local communities.

But Canada’s heritage light stations are at risk. Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the department responsible for most federally owned lighthouses, has no mandate and, as you've heard, no budget for heritage protection. Parks Canada is required by statute to protect heritage sites under its jurisdiction, but often lacks the resources to carry out its mandate. As a result, many of Canada’s light stations, even operating ones, are vulnerable to decay and destruction. They've been blown up, they've been burned down, and they've been dismantled, as they were on my home island of Saturna. Bill S-215 is designed to address these issues.

Many members of this committee have lighthouses in their ridings and are aware of their historic significance and present value. The first Canadian lighthouse, and the second-oldest lighthouse on the continent, was constructed at Louisburg on Cape Breton Island in 1734. Another historic Nova Scotia lighthouse, the Sambro lighthouse, which Mr. Keddy has referred to, was established by the very first act passed by Nova Scotia's House of Assembly in 1758. The act placed a tax on incoming vessels and alcohol imports to pay for the lighthouse. We could do that again.

It is the oldest operating lighthouse in North America and a Canadian national historic site celebrating its 250th anniversary this year, an event that makes the passage of this bill so important.

In his speech at second reading, MP Larry Miller noted that the history of lighthouses on the Great Lakes dates to 1803, when a lighthouse was constructed at Mississauga Point on Lake Ontario. Several other lighthouses were built in the next two decades.

I thought it was interesting that other lighthouses were established during the 1850s in response to the first Canada-U.S. free trade agreement in 1854, which considerably increased shipping. As the minister responsible for the last free trade agreement, lighthouses seem to be part of my own particular mandate.

Light stations were later established on Canada's rugged west coast, some before the two British colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia united in 1866. The first permanent light station was Fisgard lighthouse, constructed in 1859 near Victoria. In 1860 the British Royal Navy built the magnificent Race Rocks lighthouse on a rocky islet in Juan de Fuca Strait at the entrance to Victoria. It's still a major operating light station, but the concrete tower of this historic light is crumbling.

In comparison with Atlantic Canada, relatively few light stations were built on the Pacific Coast—it was too far from Ottawa, and they were usually built only after many ships were wrecked and people drowned. On my home island of Saturna, the famous East Point lighthouse, which serves marine traffic utilizing the international boundary waters between Canada and the U.S., was built in 1888 when the barque, John Rosenfeld, carrying the largest shipment of coal to that date, ran aground on Boiling Reef. Saturna residents heated their homes for many years with the salvaged coal. The original tower was demolished, but an automated light still operates. Our community is converting the original fog horn building as an interpretive centre on the Spanish and British explorers who first charted these historic waters. I can talk to you about it, if you want to know how we're doing that with Parks Canada, because it would answer some of the questions you have raised.

We understand that DFO will be proposing two changes to the existing bill, which, if adopted, will require that the bill be returned to the Senate for approval, hopefully before a general election. As Mr. Keddy said, I retired as of January 31, 2008, and my office closes today, so I certainly won't be here to propose it again.

The amendments represent an agreement between the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and of course the Minister of the Environment and me and supporters of Bill S-215 on the impact of the bill. One involves adding a clause to the preamble, to the “whereas” part, to mention access. That's an interpretive clause. The second deals with changing the wording of the bill to related structures. I can answer questions on those.

My concern in these amendments is to conserve access to some sites, including wharves or helipads, so that heritage light stations can be maintained and utilized by communities. It's interesting to know that of the 256 lights, I am told that 125, or roughly half, can only be accessed by water or helicopter. Therefore, the point has been made by many of you that they wouldn't qualify for heritage sites if you couldn't get to them.

In correspondence that is filed with the clerk, Mr. Hearn has made it clear that since many of these light stations are operating light stations—which addresses some of your points, Mr. Manning—DFO has to maintain them and to maintain access to them now. Every light station in British Columbia is an operating light; there are no surplus lights, as there are in Mr. Miller's riding, or on the east coast. So DFO is committed to maintaining that access. The access, as I say, would be dealt with in the preamble, according to the proposed amendment .

As for access in British Columbia, only one of the 52 light stations in British Columbia is on the mainland. Think of that whole coast. Only one is on the mainland. That's Point Atkinson in west Vancouver, and it's already a national historic site. All of the rest of them are on islands; that's why they're there. So access is important.

Minister Hearn successfully argues that since DFO must provide access to operational light sites for operational security and maintenance purposes—and all B.C. light stations and many others are operational—conserving them as heritage resources is unnecessary.

In recognition of our concern about access, he suggests the committee should be encouraged to adopt language in the preamble that acknowledges the importance of providing access to heritage lighthouses in order to recognize and promote their contribution to Canada's maritime heritage. As I said, I believe that will be presented.

Minister Hearn's concern, as you heard earlier, was that the existing wording of the bill implies that the means of access—i.e., wharves and helipads—would require being maintained to heritage standards, which of course is not our intention. I prefer Saturna's new contemporary government dock to the old dock, with its creosoted pilings, that burned down.

Therefore, the minister suggests that the government's proposed related buildings amendment, which would replace the clause now existing in Bill S-215, would be the greatest public benefit in terms of cost-effective heritage conservation.

On the assumption that these proposals are made in good faith, we agree with the proposed changes and seek the committee's support for them.

The heritage lighthouse bills, all of them, were designed to involve the public in the designation, conservation, and maintenance of these important assets. If Bill S-215 is passed, the fate of these marine assets will require the public to take the initiative. We can pass the legislation, but somebody out there has to take the initiative to form the petitions, so it will be in the hands of Canadians.

I would like to take my remaining time to review a few examples of Canada's light stations to show their great diversity. So I am directing you to this—

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Fabian Manning

Senator Carney, we have a round of questions, and our time is getting limited, so you'll need to clew up your remarks so that—

10:20 a.m.

P.C., Senator (retired), As an Individual

Patricia Carney

This will just take a few minutes. I need to show you the different—

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Fabian Manning

We'll have to shut down at ten minutes to 11, because we have a bit of committee business that we need to care of.

10:20 a.m.

P.C., Senator (retired), As an Individual

Patricia Carney

But I would like to have a few minutes, because there's been a lot of talk about light stations, and this very short presentation will show you what the different light stations look like.

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Fabian Manning

Feel free to go ahead, but I may have to limit questions.

10:20 a.m.

P.C., Senator (retired), As an Individual

Patricia Carney

Okay.

The first one is Peggy's Cove, which is known to all of you and is an operating light station. You'll notice its architecture. It's accessible. You can drive to it.

The next one is the Nootka light station. When we talk about access, this shows the importance. Nootka light station is on an island on the west coast of Vancouver Island. It is a very historic place. It is where the first European contact was made between first nations and Europeans in the late 1770s: the meeting of Quadra and Cook under the auspices of Chief Maquinna, which led to the famous Nootka Convention, which broke the Spanish hold on the Pacific lake. After Nootka, British and Portuguese explored the Pacific Ocean.

It was established in 1911. It's at the aboriginal home of Yuquot or “windy place”. It's the traditional summer village of the Mowachaht/Muchalaht people, and it could be, at some time, when we talk about coastal communities.... There is no community at Nootka. It might be proposed for the tribal area of the Nuu-chah-nulth group, which might take the whole coast, so you can't restrict the idea of community just to the adjacent community.

The next one is Cape Forchu, which is in Nova Scotia and has been successfully divested—so you may look at that—to a local community.

Pachena Point light station shows you the access issues and shows you the surf. This is an operated light station. It is also manned. If you look at the sea, you can see why you need a pair of eyes to tell you what the sea state is and what the fog state is. This was established in 1908, two years after the sinking of the Valencia, which up to the time of the Titanic was considered one of the worst maritime disasters in history.

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Fabian Manning

Senator Carney, I hate to interrupt, but if we're going to go through the 10 slides, we're definitely not going to be able to do our questions.

10:20 a.m.

P.C., Senator (retired), As an Individual

Patricia Carney

Okay. Then I commend them to you. I particularly commend the slide of the 52 staffed lighthouses in B.C., which shows you how isolated they are, since that's an important point—there are no communities in many of those areas—and also of the East Point foghorn building, which is being resurrected by my community. And the last slide is the burning down of Mosher Island light station in Nova Scotia.

I am now finished this discussion.

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Fabian Manning

Thank you for that.

Mr. MacAulay.

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and welcome, Senator. Obviously, you've done a lot of work, and you are to be commended.

How many petitions do you foresee coming in the next, let's say, five years? I think you mentioned the number 260 or 261 or 264 or 256. Is that the number that you feel...or is it a lot lower? What do you see as the number of lighthouses that would be petitioned to be designated?

10:25 a.m.

P.C., Senator (retired), As an Individual

Patricia Carney

We simply don't know. If you look at slide 8 in my presentation, you'll see that an awful lot of the B.C. light stations are so far away from communities that they may never be designated. It's the same with Newfoundland. But there are others on that B.C. page, like Merry Island, Entrance Island, Trial Island, Cape Mudge--most of the lower ones--that are accessible. So it really depends on which group is willing to take them on.

I know there is incredible interest in taking it on. People will donate time. They'll donate material. On our foghorn building people will donate the paint. So a lot of the costs will be covered by donations. And we can't really tell people....

This bill is in its eighth year--and Mr. Keddy talks about the exhaustion of people. Some people think it's never going to happen so there's no point in trying to organize petitions. But I can tell you that once this bill passes and receives royal assent, there will be people applying over the time period involved in the bill to take over part of the light station. It's an important point, because with some of the light stations, the operating ones, DFO is not going to give them up, but DFO will give up or sign a licence of occupation for part of the light station, such as the lighthouse keeper's house. On Sisters Islets, on the B.C. coast, the Land Conservancy is interested in taking over and maintaining the lighthouse keeper's house, which is empty, for European tourists. People will pay to go and sit on a rock in the middle of the Gulf of Georgia.

I already sit on a rock in the middle of--

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

Senator, when these lighthouses are petitioned and turned over, the ones that are not used for lights would become private property. Is that right?

10:25 a.m.

P.C., Senator (retired), As an Individual

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

None of them? Will they always remain under the jurisdiction of the Government of Canada? What is the intent?

10:25 a.m.

P.C., Senator (retired), As an Individual

Patricia Carney

The intent is to meet Treasury Board rules, which, as you've heard, means they have to have a common public purpose. Every single light in B.C.--the province I'm most familiar with--is an operating light. We couldn't imagine them being disposed of to private interests. I don't know about the ones on the Nova Scotia coast.

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

So the fact is they will remain as public property?

10:25 a.m.

P.C., Senator (retired), As an Individual

Patricia Carney

They certainly will be if they're operating lights. In our experience, we're signing a licence of occupation for 30 years at a buck a year with Parks Canada to refurbish and operate the foghorn building.

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

Have you done any research into how the United States and other countries have handled this situation?