Mr. Speaker, I want to reiterate what I said before question period. I was highlighting some of the program reviews that have taken place in the country which brought us to budget 2000.
When budget 2000 was released, there was no mention of national parks in it. National parks have been a great part of our summer activities. When students take their summer break, they and their families flock to our many national parks in the beautiful regions of our country. The huge demands on our parks by our growing population and by international visitors have put a great burden on the ecological integrity of these parks.
If the Minister of Finance has any obligations toward seeing environmental integrity take place, he must review his financial and fiscal responsibilities in budget 2000. There is nothing in the budget that mentions anything about improving the opportunities for the National Parks Agency to increase the resources for the management and wardens who care for these parks. They require the human resources, seasonal resources, technical and capital resources to make the parks a better place to be and to protect them for future generations.
A part of our national parks heritage is to increase the allocation of our parks in this country. We are going very slowly. There was an increase in designated parks in years past but nothing was mentioned in the budget for the year 2000. There was nothing planned for increased park allocations. There was nothing from the government. I would like to highlight this as a major oversight by the finance minister this year. We hope that he will announce as soon as possible some initiative toward our national parks and enhancing this issue in next year's budget.
We would like to highlight the fact that national parks in Canada have been overlooked in this year's budget. There has been zero increase in their budgets. A greater demand on more user fees has been coming from the parks. The revenue sources that are being created at our national parks are not necessarily a good thing for the ecological integrity of our parks. The balance of restricting use and advertising for more use for the sake of further revenue is not necessarily a good thing.
Another great oversight not only in this budget but in government policy is in respect of northern development. The issue of northern development in Canada is of great interest. Many people will look at the north and see its vast natural resources. The north has a sparse population. It is the final frontier, as one opposition member mentioned.
I just returned from Europe where I looked at how development has taken place there. Two concepts come to mind which I would like to share with the House. One of them deals with the issue of banking.
Everyone knows the banks of this country, CIBC, Royal Bank, Bank of Montreal, are all making great profits and doubling their profits every year. That is the investment banking side. But regional development banking is lacking in this country. I am not just talking about business development for businesses in downtown Toronto, for example, or Halifax, Montreal or Vancouver. We need regional development banking so we can look at the economically deprived regions of Canada.
We look at the north as a vast region where communities and populations have sustained a livelihood through many generations of sustainable development. Sustainable development is the key. But now because of a lack of financial resources, capital finances that can be invested strategically to create jobs, to create investments, to create resource management that reflects the needs of communities, that is not happening.
Let me speak about investment banking. If a forestry operation is to be developed in northern Canada, the investment banking would take place in Toronto or in some stock market in New York, Calgary or Vancouver. The company would usually be southern based and in this case they would be looking at getting resources from the north and bringing them south for development and profit.
That is what we call colonization. Colonization is what brought these vast institutions here. I am talking about the British, the French, the Spaniards and Portuguese who wanted more resources and further riches for their countries. They came to Canada looking for new found land. But now we are a country and as Canadians we have to protect our resources. Let us hold on tight to our resources. The resources in Canada and the world are dwindling. If we hold on to our resources, their market value will increase. We must treasure our resources not only for our immediate profit making, but to sustain them for future generations so they have a means of livelihood in the future.
The whole issue of northern development was very much overlooked in this budget, not only the developmental issue but also the infrastructure issue and the high cost of delivering services to the north. Most people take for granted having a litre of milk and, in most cases, two litres of milk. In southern Saskatchewan one can easily buy a two litre carton of milk for $2. In northern Canada, it costs $8 for a two-litre carton of milk, which is four times the price of milk in other parts of Canada.
We had a report about the sad situation of first nations education. We cannot compare the education system in northern Canada to that of southern Canada. There are school divisions within and around the city of Ottawa where schools have a population of between 500 and 1000 students.
Villages in northern Canada with a population of 500 may have 20 students in a high school. The student-teacher ratio might diminish to 10:1. There is a high cost to having one teacher teaching only 10 students but that is the reality of living in a small community. Not everyone can be moved to an urban centre.
We must continue to support rural and remote communities. This is the reality of being Canadian. We cannot pretend to be England or Germany, or small countries that are the size of the smallest provinces in this country. We are a huge country. We must think big but we must also think of what is fair for everyone.
Housing development is another issue I have mentioned. Our communities are in the middle of the boreal forest region and we lack housing. Why can we not build log or timber frame homes that are community based instead of real estate or development based? That is a challenge for the government. We should have research projects that will foster the development of community housing and create family initiatives to keep housing viable. We should not have a housing problem in the middle of a boreal forest.
We need research institutes to give us the best decisions on designing a house. We do not have research institutes in the north dedicated to the livelihood, resource management or the economic viability of the north. I challenge any of the research chairs that have been duly announced by this budget to consciously choose northern initiatives. I doubt if they will even look at the issues, aside from the genetically altered subject on which we have spoken.
Biotechnology is a major initiative that the Department of Industry has been working on. The moral and ethical issues dealing with biotechnology have to be addressed as well. There has to be a balance between what the consumers need to know about genetically modified foods and the need to protect the environment.
We mentioned the environmental aspects of the Kyoto protocol and keeping greenhouse gases in check with emission controls. I am aware of no initiative by this government that tells Canadians what decisions we should be making on our automobiles.
The latest initiative we saw was yesterday regarding VIA Rail. The government has finally woken up to the fact that trains are a viable option for this country. We can travel from Halifax to Vancouver on a train, and by making an investment, maybe that train will be on time. There are trains in Europe that go 300 kilometres an hour and trains in Japan that are being tested at 500 kilometres an hour. I would rather be travelling on a train, seeing the beautiful landscapes of this country than flying above the clouds.
We also have a diminished opportunity to fly above the clouds right now because Air Canada is the only airline. We have no alternatives. The schedules connecting western Canada with eastern Canada are being dismantled. The schedules that were there before are not there today. Flight schedules are being dismantled all for the sake and success of the lobbyists who have successfully told the government that one company cannot compete against another.
A train is probably the cheapest form of transporting freight in this country. In the land-locked provinces, where there are no shores touching the Atlantic or the Pacific, we rely on trains to take our agricultural products to market.
As a young person I travelled on the highways of northern Canada and a train on a railroad track would have been a better alternative. Rather than exercising the option of increasing our rail access to other places in Canada, we have been dismantling our railroad tracks, especially in western Canada. Railroad tracks that existed fifty years ago have now disappeared.
We must reinvest in and reconnect our communities with a railroad system and a transportation system that is reliable, not just an Internet and information highway system. We need a real highway system to connect real people with real places and real people with other real people, not just virtual connections or a connection on a TV screen. We must connect the French people with the English people, the Dene people with the Inuit and the Inuit with the Mi'kmaq. All these people have get to know each other because we are all Canadians.
As parliamentarians, it is time we looked at restructuring our system of governance. It is time to reinvest in education and in opportunities for our young people.
The budget is certainly a spark in the right direction to no more program reviews and no more cutbacks. It is time to reinvest. However, let us invest in the right way and let us invest with our hearts in the right place where it will be fair and equal for all Canadians.