Madam Speaker, as I do every time I stand to speak on national parks I want to quickly recite my own background and the relationship I have with national parks. My family and I decided in 1973 to move to a piece of property on a lake on the west side of the Rocky Mountains. We have lived there since 1974. We continue to live there today. Our family grew up there.
I have nothing but the greatest respect for the wildlife, the environment and the ecology. We have made a very strong personal family commitment to the environment, waking up in the morning and watching the bald eagles swooping down over the coots, or watching the muskrat burrowing out from the under the ice on some of our docks in the winter. I know our neighbours do not necessarily always appreciate the number of deer we have around in the winter because they chew at the hedges, but I live in an area with 500 people who have nothing but the greatest of respect for the ecology, the environment and certainly for all the wildlife species there.
With those personal qualifications, I would like to make some remarks on the whole issue of the establishment of the marine conservation areas. The change of the name from marine park, which is the name of the act from another parliament, to marine conservation area reflects a realization that national marine conservation areas are not simply parks in the water. Marine conservation areas involve a partnership among several federal departments.
Under the Oceans Act, the Ministry of Fisheries and Oceans can establish marine protected areas. Additionally, Environment Canada can establish national wildlife areas or marine wildlife areas under the Canada Wildlife Act, as well as migratory bird sanctuaries under the Migratory Birds Convention Act. We see, then, with respect to what the government is attempting to do here that there already are a lot of federal laws with respect to the protection of the marine conservation areas.
What is very unfortunate is that these national laws end up overlapping and creating many more layers, like layers of an onion, on top of all the provincial regulations as well. Because the act would be administered under Canada's national park agency, I would like to take a look at how the national park agency is currently relating to issues of ecological integrity and the environment.
I will refer to a document that was done by the Fraser Institute. I believe the name of the document is Off Limits: How Radical Environmentalists are Shutting Down Canada's National Parks . It was done by Sylvia LeRoy and Barry Cooper and I want to give them full credit for what I am about to say here. Bearing in mind that the marine conservation areas would be administered by Parks Canada, let me read from one of the sections in this report, which states:
Much of the confusion over current parks policy stems from the language adopted over the course of a cumulative policy review process initiated by the federal government with the appointment of the Banff-Bow Valley Task Force in 1994. Reflecting recent trends in the wilderness conservation movement, ostensibly scientific discourse has been turned into highly charged political rhetoric in order to redefine the basic assumptions and parameters of parks policy. Specifically, the overriding consideration is to evaluate the impact of activities in the parks on what is called their “ecological integrity.” No one would in principle argue against a common sense understanding of ecological integrity, or EI as it is called by Parks Canada officials and environmentalist groups. Obviously, preservation of the integrity--the wholeness and soundness--of the ecology--the natural environment--must be an important priority in park management. In fact, however, the effective meaning of EI is far from clear. As a technical term, a term of art, as the lawyers say, it has been used to promote everything from the common sense meaning of environmental stewardship, to a most unusual and basic restructuring of the mountain parks, especially Banff National Park.
In the name of ecological integrity, it has, for instance, been proposed that Moraine Lake, the image of which used to grace the back of the $20 bill, be either bombed or poisoned so as to eradicate all non-native fish species described as “biological pollutants” by one government ecologist. Science projects already under way at the less well known Bighorn Lake are just as astonishing. There are trout in Bighorn Lake today, but according to EI advocates, once upon a time there were none. Ecological integrity today apparently requires that the existing fish be exterminated and the lake returned to pristine sterility. Bighorn Lake, a few miles from the Banff townsite, is a popular destination for hikers with fishing poles. It seems a curious policy of wildlife management that requires the extinction of wildlife.
It is this kind of extremism we see currently within Parks Canada which I am addressing as it relates to the future administration of this marine conservation area. When I visited Gros Morne National Park about three years ago I was astounded to see some of the largest mammals that I have ever seen wandering around in the wild in Canada. These were moose, absolutely gigantic moose. I was told that there were no fewer than 7,000 moose within Gros Morne park. Why have they thrived there? First, the top of the flat areas in Gros Morne park is a smorgasbord for the moose. It is perfectly and ideally suited for the moose, which is probably why God did not put moose in Newfoundland. Someone did. Someone introduced a pair of moose around the turn of the century. That pair has subsequently increased to 7,000 head and on top of that are literally eating Gros Morne out of existence.
In this report from the Fraser Institute we see on one side of the coin that selectively Parks Canada is prepared to poison Moraine Lake or to blow up the fish in Bighorn Lake so as to get back to a pristine standard, while on the other side of the coin, perhaps because the moose are so big and so magnificent, there is an absolute ban on any idea of there being a cull or any way of actually getting the number of moose under control, the balance being that the park likely within a number of measurable years will not be able to sustain those moose nor will the park be able to sustain itself and its ecological balance.
I visited Riding Mountain National Park about four years ago in the summer to find that someone had decided to plant some spruce trees on the far eastern boundary of the park. It was an area that was supposed to be a grassland or by nature was a grassland area. The spruce trees thrived and then we had spruce trees that were 80, 90 or 100 years old being cut down. These were beautiful clear spruce trees that were being cut down and burned because of park policy to try to return the area to grasslands.
On one side of the coin we are prepared to poison, blow up and annihilate fish. On the other we are not prepared to do anything about the moose that are destroying the park, but we are prepared to cut down and burn perfectly merchantable timber. This does not give me a whole lot of confidence in the environmental understanding of Parks Canada at this point.
I will read again from the Fraser Institute study, which states:
Parks policy has tended towards ever-greater restriction on enjoyment in order to promote ever-greater preservation. With the completion of reports of the Parks Canada Panels on Outlying Commercial Accommodations (OCAs) in 1999 and on Ecological Integrity (EI) in 2000, this policy trend has been emphatically affirmed . Bolstered by the scientific discourse that established benchmarks in [the Banff-Bow Valley study], and aided by the legal advice of the Sierra Legal Defence Fund, the EI Panel has reinterpreted Parks Canada's historic dedication both to visitor use, and to park protection. Thus according to the Panel, “a proper reading of the National Parks Act of 1930 reveals that...there was no dual mandate.” Rather, ecological integrity was the one and only goal. Such a revision of the plain language of the Act calls into question the legitimacy of the general process by which parks policy is made, and in particular it raises the issue of informed public involvement. Since new guidelines for outlying commercial accommodations and ski areas are to be settled within the parameters of the EI Panel conclusions, the economic impact of the revised understanding of ecological integrity is bound to be significant. Moreover, these same assumptions are also bound to establish the context of future amendments to the National Parks Act as well as of future changes to regulations and interpretive guidelines made by Parks Canada under the terms of the Act.
As I stated at the outset, my primary concern about this issue is that we are giving to Parks Canada, an organization of questionable ecological understanding at this point, a club that it will be able to use in the national marine conservation area.