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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

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Fabian Manning

I need to call the meeting to order. I welcome everybody back.

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Conservative Wetaskiwin, AB

On a point of order, Mr. Chairman.

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Fabian Manning

Go ahead, Mr. Calkins.

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Conservative Wetaskiwin, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I don't mean to interrupt this meeting, and I'm looking forward to the proceedings going on, but I think, Mr. Chairman, as the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, members here are deeply concerned about the events that have just happened in the gulf with the four sealers who are missing from the Magdalen Islands. Mr. Chair, I think it would only be appropriate that at this committee we take a moment right now.

I'm seeking unanimous consent from this committee that we rise in a moment of silence to recognize the lives of those four brave sealers who were lost in this last week, and pay some tribute to the sometimes dangerous and difficult work that these folks have out on the coast, and the cost they sometimes have to pay in order to provide for their families and to maintain their traditional way of life. I would ask for unanimous consent for everybody in the room to stand for a moment of silence to recognize the loss of these sealers, the cost it's had for their communities and their families, and, I'm sure, the sadness that's being felt by all of the sealers on the Atlantic coast because of this tragic event.

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Fabian Manning

I'm sure you will have a unanimous vote for that.

[A moment of silence observed]

Thank you for that, Mr. Calkins.

I certainly pass on to Mr. Blais and Mr. Lévesque from Quebec our sympathies, and pass them on to the families you may be talking to.

Most of us around this table have witnessed and been part of tragedies at sea. While the ocean is very bountiful, it takes a lot from us, too, when it takes the lives of our fishermen.

Just to quote the words of a great song in Newfoundland and Labrador:

Brave men, she said, is what they are,
those who face the icy wind;
Knowing as they leave their sheltered coves,
They may never come back again.

It's so true.

I certainly want to thank Mr. Calkins for that, and on behalf of the committee, I want to express our sympathies.

Mr. Blais.

9:05 a.m.

Bloc

Raynald Blais Bloc Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

I appreciate having Blaine's attention. I admit that it will be a little hard for me to focus today and talk about heritage lighthouses. However, I will do my best over the course of the next minutes.

This is a tragedy, a drama of human proportions. However, at the same time, a slew of questions come to mind. There is a great deal of misunderstanding, frustration and anger in the wake of these incidents.

Later on during the meeting, I will seek unanimous consent of committee members to send a message of condolence to the victims' families. As fate would have it, I was out on the ice last week observing the seal hunt. I had an opportunity to chat with the captain who lost his life. His vessel had a broken rudder and was very near to the icebreaker Des Groseillers. This was a different vessel from the one that towed his vessel. We landed by helicopter on the Coast Guard vessel Des Groseillers. The Acadien was positioned alongside. I went to the bridge to talk to the captain, Mr. Bourque, with whom I was mildly acquainted. This happened on Friday afternoon and the accident occurred in the early hours of Saturday morning.

This is very hard for me, given my vivid memories of this encounter, but I would well imagine that all committee members will want to shed some light on this incident, because the entire maritime community is in mourning. We can't undo what has happened, but I hope that we can shed some light on these events to prevent another tragedy in the future. One tragedy is one too many. In that respect, I would like us to observe a minute of silence. I think it's the first thing we can do, but I do think we need to do more to mark this event.

Thank you very much.

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Fabian Manning

Thank you, Mr. Blais. We'll certainly deal with that when the time is appropriate to do so.

First of all, I want to welcome our witnesses here this morning as we begin our discussion on Bill S-215, An Act to protect heritage lighthouses. You are our first witnesses. I believe Mr. Tapley is going to have some opening remarks.

If you would be so kind, please introduce yourselves to the committee members, telling us your status and whom you represent.

Thank you.

9:10 a.m.

Patricia Kell Director, Policy and Government Relations Branch, National Historic Sites Directorate, Parks Canada Agency

I'm Patricia Kell, and I'm the director of policy for national historic sites at Parks Canada.

9:10 a.m.

Doug Tapley Manager, Cabinet Affairs, Parks Canada Agency

My name is Doug Tapley. I manage cabinet affairs for Parks Canada.

9:10 a.m.

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

I'm Cal Hegge, ADM of HR and corporate services, from Fisheries and Oceans.

April 1st, 2008 / 9:10 a.m.

Krishna Sahay Director General, Real Property, Safety and Security, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

My name is Krishna Sahay. I'm director general of real property, safety and security at DFO.

9:10 a.m.

Andrew Anderson Senior Divestiture Analyst, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

I'm Andrew Anderson, senior divestiture analyst with the divestiture branch at DFO.

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Fabian Manning

Thank you.

Mr. Tapley.

9:10 a.m.

Manager, Cabinet Affairs, Parks Canada Agency

Doug Tapley

We're pleased to be here this morning to have an opportunity to participate in your deliberations.

I would like to make some brief opening remarks on behalf of Parks Canada. Mr. Hegge will do the same afterwards on behalf of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

From a heritage conservation perspective, we are happy with amendments to the bill that have been previously adopted, particularly those that would enable heritage lighthouses to be managed according to national and international standards and practices. This bill would provide a strong tool for advancing heritage conservation in Canada. Accordingly, there is only one area of concern that we believe needs to be addressed. The amendments today that will be proposed would serve to focus potential designations on buildings that truly make a contribution to the heritage character of designated lighthouses. This would be beneficial not only from a perspective of heritage conservation, but also from the perspectives of financial prudence and, in some cases, public safety as well.

In closing, I'd like to draw the committee's attention to the fact that this is the second private member's bill that has sought to protect an individual building type. The Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act was the first. Setting up administrative structures to protect individual building types is a costly way to go about conserving built heritage. It also leaves gaps as other equally important and historically significant examples of our heritage are left without statutory protection. The Auditor General has made these observations on two recent occasions. In the future, Bill S-215 could provide a model for conserving all of Canada's historic places and situate us among the leaders in built heritage conservation internationally. Officials from Parks Canada would be eager to work with all members of Parliament to achieve this end.

As for today, we are very appreciative of the opportunity to assist members of the committee in your deliberations concerning Bill S-215.

Thank you.

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Fabian Manning

Thank you, Mr. Tapley.

Mr. Hegge.

9:10 a.m.

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

Cal Hegge

Good morning, Mr. Chairman and committee members. We're also pleased to be here this morning to discuss Bill S-215.

As you know, it's not the first time we have been here to discuss the bill and its previous version, Bill S-220. Last June, my colleagues and I were here to discuss the bill. At that time, we confirmed our minister's support for the basic principles of this initiative while noting some areas of concern.

I'm happy to note that the bill you have before you this morning, certainly from our perspective, is much improved from the version we were reviewing last year. Many of the areas of concern we raised last year about administrative and financial challenges have been at least partially addressed.

From a DFO perspective, we are happy to note that the bill now contains language that supports and will facilitate our efforts to advance sales or transfers of surplus lighthouses to ensure their continued public purposes for local and community-based alternate uses. This is very much aligned with our departmental lighthouse divestiture program.

As well, the application of the bill has been clarified to apply only to lighthouses owned by the federal government and not those owned by third parties. This issue was of concern to some organizations that had previously acquired lighthouses from our department and were concerned about the possibility of increased financial obligations.

There have been administrative improvements related to the processes affecting proposed alterations.

Finally, and most importantly, the bill now provides a requirement for public meetings prior to any proposed demolition and reasonable alternatives to demolition. This was missing from the original bill, and we feel it should help ensure that local communities are informed and involved in important decisions affecting their lighthouses.

It is clear that new technologies are replacing the need for many of our fixed aids to navigation, such as lighthouses. However, Canadian lighthouses remain a point of pride for coastal communities, for our staff in DFO, and for the coast guard, who manages and maintains them for our operations, and for visitors who come to see them.

We recognize the historic and cultural value of heritage lighthouses. The principles of Bill S-215 are most worthy, but I must restate that our department does not have the financial resources to cover the implementation costs. During the past 20 or so years, DFO has been able to recapitalize only those assets that are required for operational purposes. The majority of these funds have been invested in staff sites in British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador, and only to deal with the most urgent health and safety concerns.

I believe the last time I was here discussing this bill, the annual departmental operating deficit for core real property assets was about $30 million from what should be reasonably invested to maintain those assets required to support ongoing program service delivery. If the bill is passed without the necessary funding, the resources to support heritage could only be found by diverting core program funds, which would be inappropriate in the context of our mandate and could compromise our ability to deliver program services. As custodians with new responsibilities under the bill, DFO could no longer defer structural repairs required to ensure that many of these heritage lighthouses remain standing.

Nobody wants to see surplus lighthouses that could go to local communities neglected or destroyed. For the last several years, DFO has been working to foster relationships with heritage organizations like the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society, as well as local community groups that want to adopt lighthouses. We are doing everything possible to live up to our heritage obligations within the financial realities we face. Our priority is to meet community requests for continued public purposes wherever possible. No sales on the open market have happened in recent years, and I do not foresee open market sales unless there has not been an expression of community interest.

Our view is that many of our surplus lighthouses could be transferred at nominal value to communities and not-for-profit groups with tourism and heritage interest mandates that are better equipped to assume responsibility for their protection and conservation than DFO. The bill now acknowledges this important principle, and this should help us work better with heritage interests and local communities to ensure the availability of lighthouses for alternate public usage.

This concludes our opening remarks. We will be pleased to address any questions the committee may have.

9:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Fabian Manning

Thank you, Mr. Hegge.

We'll go to Mr. Matthews for the first round of questions.

9:15 a.m.

Liberal

Bill Matthews Liberal Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I'd like to welcome our guests. Thanks for coming.

You talk about structures and related buildings. What specifically are we talking about on site? Are they buildings related to the operation of the lighthouses or those that accommodated people?

9:15 a.m.

Director, Policy and Government Relations Branch, National Historic Sites Directorate, Parks Canada Agency

Patricia Kell

On a lighthouse site there may be a variety of different structures, including the main light tower. In many cases, there has been a lightkeeper's house associated with the site and in some cases also other support buildings, a fog alarm building or an oil shed in some cases.

We have been drawing a distinction between things that are buildings—so sort of four walls and a roof—and things that are structures, which would include things like wharves or helipads or walkways, which would not qualify as buildings but which have been the point of some of the discussion related to the bill.

So our sense is that some of the buildings may be in fact meaningfully associated with the heritage value of the light tower, something like the lightkeeper's house, which was built at the same time and was integral to the functioning of the light station, whereas these ancillary structures may in fact support the functioning of the station but in no cases have they been found to have heritage value.

9:20 a.m.

Liberal

Bill Matthews Liberal Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

So are all of those structures or buildings accessible, then, in today's world, or is some of the infrastructure you talked about available to make them accessible?

9:20 a.m.

Director, Policy and Government Relations Branch, National Historic Sites Directorate, Parks Canada Agency

Patricia Kell

Clearly, in some cases, their purpose is to make the light station accessible. Presumably, once you're at the station, everything that is there is accessible to you.

9:20 a.m.

Liberal

Bill Matthews Liberal Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

Are any of those sites isolated?

9:20 a.m.

Director, Policy and Government Relations Branch, National Historic Sites Directorate, Parks Canada Agency

Patricia Kell

Are any of the light stations isolated?

9:20 a.m.

Liberal

Bill Matthews Liberal Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

Yes.

9:20 a.m.

Director, Policy and Government Relations Branch, National Historic Sites Directorate, Parks Canada Agency

Patricia Kell

Certainly, yes.