Mr. Speaker, for the benefit of people reading Hansard I will tell them that I am wearing a tartan tie which I purchased in Scotland this summer. It is my family tartan and I am very proud of it.
I just want to make a couple of comments about this whole business. The Liberals have permitted this debate to fall off the tracks. It has ended up in a squabble match between them and the Bloc over whether the Bloc is right or they are right or whatever.
As I said, my wife and I visited Scotland this summer. I was very impressed that the people of Scotland, who have much blood on the ground over various things which have happened in their history, are very, very proud of their Scottish heritage. I can only hope after we are successful in defeating the separatists in their referendum whenever they want to bring it, that the Quebecois in exactly the same way that the Acadians have, will say: "I am proud to be a Quebecer," in the same way that the people in Scotland say: "I am proud to be Scottish, but boy am I happy to be a part of the United Kingdom". I can only hope we will see a move in that direction.
The member for Broadview-Greenwood finally mentioned the word parks in this debate. Surprisingly in the grab bag that is Canadian Heritage, national parks are actually included. I suggest that parks possibly have more in common with the Department of the Environment. I have a couple of thoughts along that line in terms of the reorganization of the Department of Canadian Heritage.
The Canadian Parks Service objective for national parks as enunciated in 1991 is to protect for all time representative natural areas of Canadian significance in a system of national parks and to encourage public understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of this natural heritage so as to leave it unimpaired for future generations. It is for this reason that I suggest because of the very obvious close connection to the Department of the Environment that perhaps parks would be better served in a different department.
Let me also read from the 1990 publication "State of the Parks". The introduction says in part: "The national park profiles and national historic site profiles are designed to identify basic data for each park and site in the system. As such they will provide a context for the first state of the parks report. They represent a first attempt to provide a comprehensive reference list of the values, conditions and threats which occur throughout the system".
At another point it says: "At this stage the data for the profiles are preliminary and reports of conditions are generally based on professional judgments rather than definitive criteria. This report fills an important function in that it identifies quite specifically gaps in the information systems which need to be addressed". And this is the specific connection: "Canada's green plan will provide resources to take an ecosystem approach to the management of national parks. In co-operation with other services of the Department of the Environment, the parks service will be developing indicators to measure the condition of the natural resources and the stability of the cultural resources".
It is important to note that the introduction to this presentation in 1990 was done at a time when parks were actually a part of the Ministry of the Environment. Under Kim Campbell's regime she made this grab bag of Canadian heritage that now happens to include parks.
For reference let me also read from the news release from the current minister dated March 24, 1994. In its background, national heritage considerations, ecological integrity: "In the establishment and management of national parks, Parks Canada strives to maintain the ecological integrity of those protected areas. Ecological integrity is defined as a condition whereby the structure and function of an ecosystem are unimpaired by the stress of human activity and are likely to remain so.
The 1994 Parks Canada guiding principles and operational policies provide the framework for achieving this condition within national parks in conjunction with their sustainable use and enjoyment by visitors".
Parks are of great interest to me because I have three parks in my constituency; Kootenay National Park, Yoho National Park and Glacier National Park. Therefore I am quite interested in them. I have also taken time to read the current and most recent study from the Glacier-Mount Revelstoke National Park management plan.
In summary this very good document tells me the direction the park wants to go. Basically it is leave it alone, do not touch it. Leave it in its natural state. It also talks about the fact that if certain flora or fauna or smaller animals or birds have been removed through the mismanagement of the parks, the parks would like to add them back.
Interestingly though, they say that they will only let wild fires burn if they are in very remote areas and would simply go straight up the mountain. I can appreciate that where we have the Northlander Lodge and other buildings of that type, even parks buildings and camp sites with washroom facilities and so on and so forth that you would want to protect that area. However the difficulty is because we do not have a really clear definition of what we want to do in our parks. Because we have a Disneyland, Bambi kind of an idea about what a forest looks like, we are saying: "Leave it alone, except we will suppress fire".
The difficulty is that even in Glacier National Park there is an area of the park that has a campground in it that has root rot. Root rot is something perfectly normal that is going to happen to trees. Therefore, due to lack of understanding, people from
Canada, the United States and Europe travelling through will say: "Oh my, how awful, this part of the forest has died".
Forests live and die in the same way that populations or people within populations live and die. We have a situation right now in Kootenay National Park-and I would suggest that this would be applicable to parks on the east coast and on the west coast-where we have a bug or a blight. We have in quite a number of trees an infestation where the trees are all turning red. How terrible. No, it is not terrible. That is part of nature's plan, of regeneration.
As a matter of fact the reason why we have dominantly lodgepole pines up through Banff, Kootenay Park, Yoho Park and on up through Jasper is because around 1885 for a three-year period fire actually started as far south as Mexico and slowly worked its way up so that we have this monoculture of lodgepole pine. The trees have now reached a point where they are attracting disease or bugs.
If we as human beings have not learned anything from what was in many cases an explosion in Yellowstone National Park where the place turned into an absolute inferno with no conceivable way of being able to control that inferno, then we have not learned very much. Particularly in Banff National Park they have tried burning some of the undergrowth and underbrush, to try to maintain this Disneyland kind of Bambi, Smoky the Bear, approach to what a forest is supposed to look like.
I also read in the same report under sustainable use that throughout the consultative process leading to a revision of Parks Canada policies, discussions surrounding national parks underwent the most scrutiny. There was concern about which activities and facilities are appropriate within the confines of national parks.
In response a revised policy reflects the role of national parks as part of larger ecosystems. Therefore decision making must be based on an understanding of surrounding environments leading to partnerships for the protection and sustainable use of the whole ecosystem. In the national parks context this means that people gain direct and indirect benefits from heritage resources over the long term without destroying them.
Herein lies the conundrum. Herein lies the problem. In fact, in my judgment in many situations in our national parks-again I direct this to whether we are talking about the east coast, the far north, central Canada, because of our Disneyland approach to parks-we are actually letting the parks act as an incubator for bugs and disease where the trees are being killed. As a consequence we are loading the fuel and when it takes off there is going to be no stopping it. Commercial forests outside of parks are going to be negatively impacted either by disease, bugs or fire.
Glacier National Park has a budget of $7.3 million and 99 full time people. Yoho National Park has a budget of $5.8 million with 81 full time people. In the case of Glacier National Park the vast majority, 75 to 80 per cent, of the budget is for road clearing. I would like to know what in the world Heritage Canada is doing in the road clearing business when we have perfectly competent, capable, equipped departments, subcontractors or contractors to the provincial government?
To give an idea of where this is going, I have a press release in my hand of September 12 from Doug Martin, regional vice-president, Public Service Alliance of Canada and it reads: "Parks Canada is contemplating centralizing Yoho National Park highway crew to Banff and Lake Louise. Also being considered for transfer are the finance and store operations. Yoho employs approximately 60 full time and seasonal employees. The proposed transfer affects upwards of 40 employees who will be required to move to Alberta". It goes on and raises some very legitimate concerns.
I was speaking about an hour ago with the mayor of the town of Golden which is in my constituency. The mayor was asking me: "What is going on, what is happening". He is going into a council meeting tonight. They want to know. They need to know.
I lay at the door of the Liberal government the fact that this area of parks management is completely up in the air, is rolling over, is appearing to be completely out of control. We are into a process of redirection and there is no direction from the top; the top level being the minister of parks.
Furthermore, in taking a look at the whole issue of highways and asking why Parks Canada is in the highway business, I read in a note from the Northlander Lodge, which is up in Rogers Pass: "The Alberta Truckers Association lobbied long and hard and advanced the position that they should not have to pay to transport commercial goods across Canada on the Trans-Canada Highway just because the highway happened to go through the federal park". Parks Canada made a policy decision and in a speech in Calgary the minister announced that through commercial traffic would no longer have to pay a toll to go through the parks. He is asking if there is going to be a reimposition of the toll in the parks because it very directly impacts on his business.
If there is a reimposition of the toll for the vehicles going through the parks, then people coming through are going to be in a position of saying: I am not going to stop at the Northlander Lodge because I did not pay my permit; I am not going to stop for a cup of coffee, I am not going to stop for that extra gas that I think I need, I am going to bypass it. This directly affects him.
The reason why I am asking if it makes sense for parks to be in the highway business is that the last time I looked commercial vehicles, for that matter passenger vehicles, are presently paying to all the provinces diesel and fuel taxes that should be
going to the capital cost of maintaining roads as well as the day to day maintenance of roads.
I believe in user pay. The Reform Party believes that those who are using a service should be paying for it. I understand that and I support that. However if it works to the detriment of the businesses that are located in the parks, then that is just plain wrong-headed thinking.
Right at the moment we have a situation in Kootenay National Park-again let me put in parenthesis that I am referring to some specific situations I am personally familiar with. I have every reason to believe that the same kind of situation is in place in virtually every park across Canada. We are talking about a management situation, what should we be doing. With the greatest respect to my friends across the way, the people are not getting direction from the top.
For example we are looking at enterprise units in parks. What is an enterprise unit in a park? If you have hot pools in Radium, in Banff and in Jasper and the revenue from the visitors to those pools is just going into consolidated revenue, that does not generate efficient management of those pools. As an example, that is the first of the enterprise units. They have hired an individual and the revenue coming in from the pools is going to be segregated so that they can use it to manage the park facilities related to the pools.
Here again, we have an issue of hiring practices. Should we not be making sure that the parks are in a position to be able to hire people with pool management backgrounds rather than being forced to hire from within the civil service, still with the civil service mind, to be able to get the job done?
In conclusion, I believe for dollar efficiency that the heritage department should turn over parks back to the environment department. I also believe in the concept of enterprise units, where you would have user pay so that you get the dollars to provide the service.
Finally, may I suggest that Canada sell the parks building in the very high rent district in Calgary, get out of Calgary, move the people into a town like Golden which is right in the centre, and manage the parks from a low rent district and a district that more reflects the area than the area the bureaucrats in Calgary are presently in.
I thank you for the opportunity to speak to this issue, Mr. Speaker. These are a few ideas that I have with respect to parks. In summary I say I believe parks should be moved from heritage back to environment.