Madam Speaker, I will take the next few minutes to give an overview of Bill C-27, in the hope that members of the House will decide today to refer it to committee for further consideration.
Bill C-27, the Canada national parks act, in its short title, will provide enabling authorities to legislate the boundaries of the park communities, to define the commercial zones within them, and to set caps on commercial development. The scale of such actions will depend on the nature of the communities as they range from the towns of Banff and Jasper to the small summer community of Waskesiu in Prince Albert National Park. These actions recognize that commercial development in national park communities must always be tempered in the interests of ecological integrity.
The seven communities will remain as special places. We will work to ensure their continued sustainability. Residents are part of the equation and the communities must provide for economic opportunities and services along with strong cultural and social services.
Everyone will recognize that these are not average communities. These are federal lands and part of the national parks and parliament has a duty to see that they are managed accordingly. Therefore, under the provisions of Bill C-27, the community plans would be guided by the principles of no net environmental impact, responsible environmental stewardship and heritage conservation.
Legislation can do little to create a culture of respect and caring for wildlife but it can create a deterrence to the wilful destruction of wildlife. Accordingly, the bill proposes to increase the penalties for poaching rare, endangered or trophy species of wildlife. Such offences would be punishable by fines of up to $50,000 and five years imprisonment. The penalties are appropriate it seems, given that the trophy head of a Dall sheep, for instance, can reach up to $150,000 on the black market. Multiple offences would be counted separately so that the taking of two grizzly bears, for example, would double the penalty.
In addition, a particularly gruesome type of poaching is aimed at feeding the international trade in wildlife parts and organs for exotic medicine. For example, bears have been slaughtered solely for their gallbladders, and elk for their antler velvet. This will be fought by a new provision against trafficking.
Bill C-27 proposes a number of important measures related to the seven communities located within national parks. In order to understand these provisions, we should examine the history of the communities and the prospects for their future.
All seven communities have their origins in the last part of the 19th century and the earlier part of the 20th century. In the Rocky Mountain parks of Banff, Jasper and Yoho, the development of communities is tightly linked to the development of our national railway and road transportation corridors.
I note these facts in order to underscore the context within which the communities were established. It was at a time in Canada's history when we looked upon our nation as having unlimited wilderness. The extraction of natural resources was not perceived as being in conflict with that belief. Consequently, forestry and mining were allowed within some national parks and communities were established to serve those particular interests.
For example, Anthracite and Bankhead were coal mining towns established in Banff National Park of Canada. And Oil City—the name says it all—, in Waterton Lakes National Park of Canada served the first of our oil drilling operations. Although these extractive activities and the communities of Bankhead, Anthracite and Oil City have long since vanished, they remind us of an era when such activities were deemed appropriate within national parks.
Today, we know that our wilderness is limited and we understand the need to preserve representative areas within our national park system. We no longer allow the commercial exploitation of natural resources within national parks. Moreover, we understand that any development within a national park should be carefully limited so as to avoid impairment to its ecological integrity.
We understand too that high quality environmental conditions are the foundation for the tourism industry and the very reason millions of people from all over the world, and primarily from Canada, visit our parks annually. Therefore, no new communities will be located within national park boundaries and the existing communities will be managed in ways that support park values.
The Minister of Canadian Heritage has put great effort and thought into the drafting of the community provisions in the bill before us. She has been diligent in analysing the key studies which identified problems and solutions within the national park system. The reports of the Bow Valley Study and the Ecological Integrity Panel contained wide-ranging recommendations which have served as the basis for making ecological integrity the first priority in national parks.
Given that the Government of Canada is responsible for the conservation of national parks for all Canadians, it is important that parliament retain an overview of the communities' role and development. To that effect, Bill C-27 proposes that community plans be tabled in each House as soon as possible after proclamation of the new Canada National Parks Act.
The plans will respect the provisions in the act. They will be consistent with the park management plan; accord with guidelines for appropriate activities; and provide a strategy for growth management. The shaping of these plans will also be guided by principles stated in the bill; namely, no net environmental impact, responsible environmental stewardship and heritage conservation.
Growth management will be achieved by describing the boundaries of the community and its commercial zones, along with the measure of the maximum commercial floor area permitted within those zones. Each of these key elements of the community plans, the boundaries, the commercial zones and the maximum commercial square footage, will be enshrined within the schedule to the Canada National Parks Act and thus, become part of the act. Implementing the provisions of Bill C-27 will ensure a proper evolution of the communities from the past centuries into the next one.
We have gone from logging and mining to the prime purpose of maintaining the ecological integrity of the national parks for the benefit, education and enjoyment of present and future generations. The communities have an important role in this and in serving visitors. They will remain. They will be supported. We look forward to their becoming models of environmental stewardship.
It can never be said often enough, ecological integrity will be the key principle applied in our national parks. I urge members of the House to refer this bill to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage so that it can be further examined and so that we may protect our national parks for the future.