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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

9:35 a.m.

Bloc

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

People always tend to read a little too fast. However, the interpreter at the back of the room needs to follow along and the pace is a little ridiculous.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Fabian Manning

I apologize once again to the interpreters. It's my Newfoundland way of speaking. I'm sorry about that. I'm also on heavy medication for the flu, so that is a double dose. Anyway, let's try it again:

...if only those lighthouses that are part of national historic sites and our highest...Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office designated lighthouses were afforded the statutory protections proposed in the bill, the estimated financial impact for DFO would be $105 million of a total estimated $118 million for recapitalization. There would be an additional $5 million out of a total estimated $6 million annually thereafter, for maintenance and addressing the administrative barriers required for effective implementation. Even at this level, the department would need to seek additional new funding.

Just to give you an idea, if 60 of the 760 lighthouses were designated, which would be an 8% designation, the estimated cost over a five-year period would be, for Parks Canada, $9 million, and for Fisheries and Oceans, $76 million, for a total estimated cost of $85 million.

These are just figures that have been proposed. If there is any dispute with those, feel free, if any of the members of the committee would like to speak to them. In fact, this is almost a year old now.

Mr. Hegge.

9:40 a.m.

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

Cal Hegge

Mr. Chair, you just alluded to the fact that this is probably a year old. Those cost estimates were predicated on the bill at that time. There have been some revisions that have brought the estimation down somewhat.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Fabian Manning

Right. And that's just to be clear. Thank you.

Mr. Stoffer.

9:40 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for coming today.

Of the 256 light stations that are on now, how many are actually manned in the country, with a human presence on a regular basis?

9:40 a.m.

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

Cal Hegge

There are 51.

9:40 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

So in terms of those 51, the minister indicated, during the time we spent with him previously, that there is no discussion at this time to make those automatic. They're going to keep those people there for now.

That then makes it about 200 light stations, and 12 of them are owned by Parks Canada. Of the remaining 188, how many of them do you estimate would be designated heritage? This bill has been around in some form since 2000, so you should have a ballpark figure, within five or ten, of how many light stations across the country, if this bill or something like it went through, would be deemed heritage.

9:40 a.m.

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

Patricia Kell

I'll start.

The challenge here is that it depends on how the criteria are set. As Mr. Hegge alluded to earlier, when we look at the different programs we have, we get different answers to that question.

The national historic sites program looked at lighthouses across the country, sort of as a group, and ended up designating very few of them, about a dozen. The federal heritage buildings program, which has approximately the same population to draw from, and has in fact in the last couple of years engaged in quite a concerted effort to evaluate all the lighthouses--in part because of the bill and in part because of the needs of the department--has evaluated about 329 lighthouses and designated as recognized 111 of those. So that's--

9:40 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

One second here; you said 329 lighthouses, but there aren't 329 lighthouses, there are 254 light stations and 504 aids to navigation. They're two different things.

9:40 a.m.

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

Patricia Kell

Okay. The pointy buildings with the lights on top are what they're evaluating.

9:40 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

We're just looking at light stations--lighthouses, for instance, not the aids to navigation--and from my understanding, there are roughly 188 of them within the confines of DFO. Of that, how many would be deemed heritage? We heard 60 earlier, from the chair. Are there still about 60?

9:40 a.m.

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

Patricia Kell

I'm sorry, my data are not divided that way. But based on the information I do have, about one-third of the lighthouses they looked at were designated as recognized, which is the lower level of recognition. About 20 of them were recognized as classified, which is the higher level of recognition.

Part of the difficulty here is that if we take as our standard the level that we see as recognized, we get five times as many lighthouses than if we say that the qualities we're looking for in a classified building are the kinds of qualities we want.

9:45 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

I can't speak for the committee, but I assume no one here would say that every single one of these structures and these light stations has to be protected under heritage. I don't think that's where we're going. But hopefully there are significant ones across the country that have that designation in order to be protected for the future.

Mr. Sahay, you talked about community groups coming forward with a business plan. Is there any plan afoot with regard to some of the light stations that are pretty isolated? I'm thinking of Whitehead, Nova Scotia, for example. It's been sitting there 30 years vacant. I know that the former lightkeeper, who was there 35 years himself, would love to get his hands on that property as an individual.

Are there any situations across the country where an individual can purchase the property if they say, “Look, just give it to us for a dollar and we'll do the cleanup and maintain it ourselves”? Or must it be a community divestiture in that regard? This is when there is no heritage value to it and someone just offers to take it off your hands.

9:45 a.m.

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

Krishna Sahay

There has to be a continuing public purpose before we could give it to them for no commercial value. That's the Treasury Board disposal policy. That's not so much this bill as our ability to sell it to somebody as a private individual. Otherwise, we would have to use the standard techniques for disposing of a property.

Now, if nobody else bid on it, and this guy...but that's a whole different thing. We would not upgrade it. It would be a commercial transaction. But under this bill, if a group came forward and proposed a public purpose to this, that would presumably take precedence.

9:45 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Okay.

My last question is for Parks Canada. This is the second time that buildings have been designated. You talked about the Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act, and now this one, but you had said it leaves other things out. Is it not fair to say that if you encompass everything in a sort of potpourri bill it would never see the light of day?

This one took eight years just to get to this stage. If you encompassed everything in Canada, as I think you indicated, would you ever see a bill of that nature making the light of day, because it would cross so many different departments?

9:45 a.m.

Manager, Cabinet Affairs, Parks Canada Agency

Doug Tapley

One would hope so.

Doing this on an ad hoc basis, looking at one individual building type at a time, creating an administrative infrastructure, different designation processes, and different criteria for different purposes--all of that is very expensive, and all of that leads to gaps in terms of conserving other equally important types of heritage resources.

I think the other thing to consider is that if you look at Canada's historic places in a comprehensive fashion, you would have to be very cognizant of the federal interest, and you would have to make sure that designation criteria really dealt with the most important representative examples of our cultural resources. I think that's probably the benefit of a comprehensive approach. It immediately gets you into that frame of mind.

9:45 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Wouldn't it be a bit cumbersome? If it were doing everything, it would be very difficult to ever see the light of day, wouldn't it?

9:45 a.m.

Manager, Cabinet Affairs, Parks Canada Agency

Doug Tapley

No, I don't think it would be cumbersome.

We have a Government of Canada policy on federal heritage buildings that requires the cooperation of a number of departments, and that works quite nicely. I don't see why this would be any different.

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Fabian Manning

Thank you.

Mr. Miller.

April 1st, 2008 / 9:45 a.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I would certainly like to thank our guests and the department staff for being here today.

I am going to split my time with Mr. Keddy.

There are a number of issues that I wanted to ask about, and one was the finances, but I believe Mr. Keddy wants to ask that.

I'm very pleased that this bill is progressing. As we've heard around the table, this is the seventh time, although there are some changes and what have you. I'd like to think that maybe the seventh time will be the lucky time.

In my riding I have a number of lighthouses. Six are dominion lighthouses that were built in 1858 and 1859, and one of those--the one on Griffith Island--has deteriorated. I'm hoping that this bill will keep that from happening in the future.

The one thing I would like clarified a little bit more--and I know the issue was raised earlier by colleagues--is with regard to access. I was going through the bill, and it's fairly clear to me that the necessary buildings are designated heritage. The only way to get to a number of these lighthouses that are desolate is by air or by boat. It's clear to me. I would just like to confirm that the protection of that access is not precluded by this bill; it just doesn't come under the heritage designation. Am I correct in assuming that the bill protects that, and that the access is not under the heritage part of it?

9:50 a.m.

Manager, Cabinet Affairs, Parks Canada Agency

Doug Tapley

I believe someone mentioned previously that there's an obligation in the bill to maintain a heritage lighthouse. For that maintenance obligation to be respected, the site would have to be accessible.

There may be an issue of how you would pay for that, in particular, if it's a community group. That would be part and parcel of the community group's business case. One might expect that there would be different sources of funds. Parks Canada has user fees. A community group may contemplate user fees as well.

There are economic development programs that would deal with things like a heritage tourism attraction. So potentially there might be federal-provincial-municipal programs available for a community group to make application to.

Fundraising.... Parks Canada has relationships with community groups that have undertaken fundraising programs for different purposes and have been very successful in those undertakings, probably far more successful than a government organization could ever be. It doesn't seem that people want to give the government more than they pay in taxes.

So there are different opportunities to look at ways and means of financing the provision of contemporary access facilities. I think the key here is that we would like to keep the contemporary access facility, manage this contemporary asset, so that you can make use of building materials that will last the longest period of time and cost the least amount of money.

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Thank you.

I have two lighthouses in my riding that have already been taken over by the friends of the lighthouse group--Cabot Head and Cove Island. One question that has been asked of me is this. Once a petition is put forward by a potential community group, if there were any environmental concerns--and I'm not implying that there are, but there's the chance that some of our sites across the country may have--would those environmental concerns be addressed by the government before turning them over to the group?

I presume that yes, they would, but I'd like to just hear confirmation of that.

9:50 a.m.

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

Cal Hegge

Have these sites already been divested, then, from the federal government?

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

No, these sites would be if somebody comes forth. A new site would be proposed to be taken over by a group. I believe “petitioners” is the word that's used.

9:50 a.m.

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

Cal Hegge

Going back to an earlier discussion, using the federal contaminated sites action plan funding, my understanding is that we would have to bring these up to a reasonable standard, which would include addressing contamination.