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House of Commons Hansard #15 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was heritage.

Topics

Environment and Sustainable Development

10 a.m.

The Speaker

I have the honour to lay upon the table, pursuant to subsection 23(3) of the Auditor General Act, the report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development to the House of Commons for the year 2004.

This document is referred permanently to the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development.

Genome CanadaRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Chatham-Kent—Essex Ontario

Liberal

Jerry Pickard LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, in accordance with Standing Order 32(2) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, on behalf of the Minister of Industry, the annual report of Genome Canada for 2003-04.

Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Willowdale Ontario

Liberal

Jim Peterson Liberalfor the Minister of the Environment

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-15, an act to amend the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Bernard Patry Liberal Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the first report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade on Canada's relations with the countries of the Muslim world.

Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee is asking the government to table a comprehensive response to the report.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, with the House's indulgence, I have two petitions to present this morning.

The first petition is yet another in a series of petitions I have been trying to present every day that the House sits and has routine proceedings. The petition is from concerned citizens in Mallorytown, Gananoque, Brockville, Ontario, and Golden, British Columbia.

The petitioners wish to draw the House's attention to the fact that the Canadian Forces Housing Agency provides on base housing for our military families. It serves a valuable purpose for those families. Housing accommodations provided by the CFHA are in many instances substandard and families of Canadian Forces soldiers living in accommodations have seen very dramatic rent increases and are due for another one November 1.

Therefore the petitioners call upon Parliament to immediately suspend any future rent increases until such time as the Government of Canada makes substantive improvements to the living conditions of housing provided for our military families.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is also one in a series that I have been presenting on behalf of constituents in my riding from the small town of Mackenzie, British Columbia. This is signed by some 53 members and is added to a lot of other signatures I have presented previously.

It draws to the attention of the House that because it is a northern isolated town, Mackenzie faces many challenges and has far less amenities than nearby cities. Without the tax deduction available to residents of nearby communities, the district of Mackenzie and its businesses continue to experience difficulty attracting and retaining invaluable employees, including skilled tradespeople and health care professionals. The current geographic criteria used to determine qualification for the deduction unfairly discriminates against the residents of Mackenzie.

The petitioners therefore call upon Parliament to immediately reinstate Mackenzie's eligibility for the northern residents' tax deduction.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Devillers Liberal Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I would like to present a petition signed by approximately 50 constituents in my riding of Simcoe North.

They are petitioning Parliament to pass legislation to recognize the institution of marriage in federal law as being a lifelong union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present a petition signed by 269 people from the riding of Québec and other ridings around Quebec City.

These people are calling on the government to maintain Canada's multilateral approach to security and to reaffirm its support for non-proliferation, arms control and disarmament and to reject any plans for the militarization of space or star wars, including the plans for a missile defence shield.

This petition has been signed by 269 people. There is no solicitation or visible message other than: No to the missile defence shield. Quebec and the rest of Canada are mobilizing to show the government which direction to take on the matter of the missile defence shield.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Beauséjour New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from October 22 consideration of the motion.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Carol Skelton Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed my pleasure to rise today to speak on Bill C-12, otherwise known as the Quarantine Act.

Canada has had a Quarantine Act for decades, but it has not been updated since 1872 to properly reflect the changing needs of today's world.

No longer do we rely on slow-moving ships to move people. No longer do we trade mainly with cities just down the road. Today's world has millions of people moving across continents every day of the year. Containers by the thousands arrive on our shores with goods destined for every corner of Canada.

But it is not just goods, animals and people coming into Canada that we need to be concerned with; we also need to be concerned with what goes out of Canada. Whether it is the famous rabbits of Australia or the zebra mussels of the Great Lakes, we are all aware of several major problems resulting from careless trade practices. In addition, we all remember SARS and the avian flu problems in British Columbia. Canadians and their economy were devastated by their effects.

Some Toronto businesses say the effects of SARS still linger, and we do not know the actual dollar figure for what SARS cost the city of Toronto and the province of Ontario. In fact, there is a belief that SARS is still affecting the Toronto area.

Bill C-12 is legislation which, for many reasons, could be called a response to SARS. In the wake of SARS, Dr. David Naylor, chair of the National Advisory Committee on SARS and Public Health, made a number of important recommendations.

One of the major recommendations has already moved ahead, with the creation of the Public Health Agency of Canada. The agency has opened and Dr. David Butler-Jones has been appointed the first chief public health officer in Canada.

Another observation by the Naylor advisory committee was that there were insufficient quarantine officers sent to screen air travellers and provide information so that travellers were aware of the situation. Dr. Naylor also stressed that he felt the quarantine officers were sent into the situation with little information and inadequate support materials.

Unfortunately, the agency is not much good until we provide it with some authority, that is, legislation that lets the agency do its job. This is why the legislation before us is so important.

The Naylor advisory committee also said, “The Government of Canada should ensure that an adequate complement of quarantine officers is maintained at airports and other ports of entry, as required” and they should be “fully trained and informed”.

Bill C-12 would give the minister the power to designate a wide range of people as officers, which does not necessarily mean that they would be suitably trained for a quarantine emergency.

Canada needs an updated Quarantine Act and trained professionals to meet challenges in our new world. That also means we must have our present medical officers and health care professionals state their opinions on this new bill.

The new act goes a lot further in granting health officials the powers needed to properly contain and address threats to public health from new and re-emerging infectious diseases.

Unlike the old legislation, the bill focuses on airlines as the primary mode of transport, instead of marine vessels.

The proposed act contains powers not seen before in the hands of health officials. Under the bill, they could commandeer any location or facility of their choosing for use in enforcing the Quarantine Act. Most times, this likely would mean the commandeering of a hotel for use as a containment facility for large numbers of people, but it could be anywhere. This in fact is one part of the legislation that concerns me.

The new legislation says market-based compensation will be provided for anyone who is affected, such as a hotel owner. This is similar to what has been promised to other sectors of the economy before, specifically, cattle producers in the wake of the BSE problems. Unfortunately, it was the political arm of government that decided what they were to receive for compensation. As well, I have watched as the CFIA has taken farmland out of production, causing producers great financial difficulty. The government waited until the market fell out of the specific industry and then compensated them based on new, lower market prices.

A key issue in the bill, which needs to be addressed, is the issue of compensation for conveyance owners. While it is somewhat addressed, there does not seem to be anything definite for individuals and their related expenses during the quarantine period.

Following the SARS crisis in Toronto, the cost of hotel rooms dropped drastically. One would expect the hotelier to be compensated for the cost of a hotel room prior to the outbreak. Do we really think customers will race back to a hotel after the quarantine is lifted?

Compensation must be based on the market price before the problem, not after, and that rate must be decided by an independent group, away from government control.

This legislation as proposed does not adequately address the mechanisms that would be used to access such issues and I hope the government will use some of its time to better explain its position and intentions.

As well, I want to make sure that in the government's efforts to address one crisis, it does not create another. We need to have assurances in place ahead of time or else people may not be willing to cooperate.

The new legislation does for the first time provide some initiative to cooperate. There would be severe penalties and jail sentences applicable to those who make disease management much tougher. I believe this is another good step in giving tools to our health officials to do their job effectively.

While health officials would have more rights and powers, so would the people affected the most. The protection of human rights while carrying out quarantine measures has also been of some concern to me. For example, the bill does not specify what individual or agency would determine the symptoms of each of the diseases listed or what symptoms the individual must exhibit in order to be detained by health officials. It should be noted that clause 62 would give cabinet the broad power to make regulations respecting health assessments and physical examinations.

The new legislation would give those being examined and detained more of a say. When and where reasonable, interpreters will be provided. If possible, people will have the ability to request a medical examination by a physician of their preference.

These types of measures are in keeping with the charter, but I believe they do not handcuff our medical officials from doing their job effectively.

Part of doing their job effectively would be the ability to redirect passengers to other locations as necessary or to detain passengers as needed, and even to prevent travellers from leaving from Canada if necessary. They would be able to screen, vaccinate, disinfect, decontaminate and examine goods, animals and people as needed.

All these measures are designed to meet the new standards of the World Health Organization.

Last week I spoke on the need to be better prepared for emergencies in Canada. The proposed act would better address a problem when it arises, with better surveillance measures and better staffing.

We will be going through the bill thoroughly during committee and I will be bringing forward any necessary amendments at that time.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address Bill C-12, the new Quarantine Act.

Members may recall—no one here was alive at the time, but I am making a historical reference—the first Quarantine Act dates back to the 18th century, more specifically to the year 1794. It is important that all countries have provisions allowing them to tale swift action when infectious diseases are discovered or anticipated.

As the hon. member for Laval—who was making her maiden speech in this House on Friday—aptly pointed out, the Bloc Québécois supports the principle of the bill. We will suggest a few amendments to the Standing Committee on Health. However, as regards the principle of this legislation, we agree of course that taking action in such circumstances is a federal responsibility.

I would like to mention the main focuses of this legislation. If Bill C-12 is passed, carriers would be required to disclose all cases of disease or death occurring prior to their arriving in Canada. This means that it will be mandatory for a ship, a railway company or an airline to report diseases discovered onboard.

This bill would also make it possible to require travellers who have a communicable disease or have been in close proximity to a person who has a communicable disease to present themselves to a screening officer or quarantine officer. My colleagues will agree that this is more than reasonable.

As well, the use of screening technology would be allowed at the entry point into Canada. This may seem equally reasonable but we have a small question on this.

I see that clause 14 of the bill allows “any person authorized by the minister”— this being the Minister of Health—“to use any screening technology that does not involve the entry into the traveller's body of any instrument or other foreign body” in order to determine whether a traveller has symptoms of a communicable disease.

That strikes me as a bit general, an opening to abuse in certain circumstances. I wonder whether it might be replaced by the wording “any medically appropriate technique”.

In passing legislation, we must not betray the intent of the legislator. As much as possible, therefore, where appropriate, the bill needs to be precise so as not to allow any openings for abusive interpretations or confer upon the Minister of Health any powers we do not wish to confer upon him.

This bill would also permit the inspection of any conveyance arriving in Canada, and the disinfection and decontamination of the conveyance, its contents and cargo, if necessary.

This bill, which appears highly technical, certainly forces us to reflect a bit about globalization. When the first quarantine laws were enacted, back in the 18th century, 1794 to be precise, hon. members will agree that people's mobility was relatively limited. Travel was not without discomfort; the means were not as highly developed as they are now.

I would like to make a quick aside here, to indicate that I strongly encourage the hon. member for Outremont to reintroduce former Bill C-26, which conferred powers of mediation on the Canadian Transportation Agency. I cannot understand that member's lack of backbone. We need him to show a little more gumption in defending the interests of Quebec. This is very important.

Yesterday I was speaking with a woman mayor who sits on one of the committees of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, a very important lobby group. I believe that the leader of the NDP has had connections with this in the past. Railway transportation is an extremely important problem.

I have been told that the railways run through some 1,400 communities in Canada. It is quite incredible to realize that CP and CN are acting like railway delinquents.

In my riding, Hochelaga, CP works 24 hours a day, because it serves the port of Montreal. Some of our constituents, who live in residential areas near the tracks, find their peace is disturbed at all hours of the day and night, morning and afternoon.

I think the hon. member for Saint-Lambert has a similar problem. As I said, it affects 1,400 communities in Canada. We do not yet know what number the new bill that deals with this issue will be given; the previous one was Bill C-26. Our constituents know that the number of a bill corresponds to the order in which it is introduced in the House, and we do not know when this bill will be introduced. Nevertheless, I am not explaining myself very well with respect to the dithering by the member for Outremont. I hope he is not one of those servile ministers who blindly follow orders from the lobbyists for CP and CN, whose power all of us on the Hill are familiar with.

Luckily for consumers, there is someone like the hon. member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, our transport critic, who is shrewd enough to understand the negotiations required in such circumstances. I hope that the Minister of Transport will soon introduce a new bill identical to Bill C-26 so that the Canadian Transportation Agency can intervene. As we know, it is a quasi-judicial body that issues official rulings.

We will recall that citizens of Oakville, Ontario, asked the Canadian Transportation Agency to make regulations allowing it to intervene in the operating conditions of the major national carriers such as CN and CP. Since the carriers have the funds needed to contest legislation, both the constitutional and more practical aspects, they contested the power and prerogatives of the Canadian Transportation Agency and they won in a Federal Court ruling, in 2001, if I remember correctly. Once again we are in a situation where, unfortunately, the railway companies have total control unless we, the legislators, can intervene.

That is the end of my digression, which was brief and really timely in this debate on quarantine and intended to remind hon. members that the mobility of persons is a consequence of globalization. One of our colleagues in this House looked into that matter. We are not talking about just an opinion. Our colleague gave it some thought and realized that the political boundaries of a state do not necessarily match its economic boundaries anymore.

Naturally, the mobility of capital, people and goods creates a flux, a constant movement of our fellow citizens. The border between the United States and Canada, for example, is one of the most open. The hon. member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles could perhaps remind me who said, “Geography has made us neighbours; history has made us friends”. This is how the relationship between Canada and the United States was described. I think it was by former Prime Minister Diefenbaker.

I will conclude, because I have only one minute left, by saying that we will support the bill in principle. While we understand that it is the role of the federal government to look at potential areas of infection, we are concerned because the federal government is trying to claim certain prerogatives.

For instance, I read in the bill that the federal government planned to deal directly with the authorities. These would be health officials. Clearly, that is not desirable. But, in principle, we will support the bill.

My hon. colleague from Laval and I will put amendments forward at the Standing Committee on Health. We will work with the sense of responsibility that has always been the trademark of the Bloc Québécois team.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Health.

(Motion agreed to and bill referred to a committee)

Canadian Heritage ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Fredericton New Brunswick

Liberal

Andy Scott Liberalfor the Minister of the Environment

moved that Bill C-7, an act to amend the Department of Canadian Heritage Act and the Parks Canada Agency Act and to make related amendments to other acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Canadian Heritage ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Richmond Hill Ontario

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure today to rise to speak at second reading to Bill C-7, an act to amend the Department of Canadian Heritage Act and the Parks Canada Agency Act and to make related amendments to other acts.

The bill would give legislative effect to the government reorganization that was announced on December 12, 2003, as it affects Parks Canada, the Minister of Canadian Heritage and the Minister of the Environment.

The bill would update existing legislation to reflect two orders in council that came into effect in December 2003 and July 2004, which transferred control and supervision of the Parks Canada Agency from the Minister of Canadian Heritage to the Minister of the Environment.

The bill would clarify that Parks Canada is responsible for historic places in Canada, and for the design and implementation of programs that relate to built heritage.

The legislation is primarily technical in nature. It updates the Department of Canadian Heritage Act and the Parks Canada Agency Act. As well, it amends the statutes that enable Parks Canada to deliver its mandate, notably the Canada National Parks Act, the Historic Sites and Monuments Act, the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act, the Species at Risk Act, the Canada Shipping Act, and the Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act.

Canada's national parks, national historic sites and the national marine conservation areas represent the soul of Canada. They are a central part of who we are and what we are. They are places of magic, wonder and heritage. Each tells its own story. Together, they connect Canadians to our roots, to our future and to each other.

Responsibilities for safeguarding and celebrating heritage will continue to be shared among departments and agencies across government. The Minister of Canadian Heritage retains a key leadership role and overall responsibility for cultural heritage, and will continue to work closely with the minister responsible for Parks Canada and with other ministers to achieve common objectives for heritage.

I would like to assure the House that Parks Canada's organizational integrity has been maintained. Parks Canada remains committed to working with Canadians to protect and present nationally significant examples of Canada's natural and cultural heritage for present and future generations.

The hon. members of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development should be aware that the committee's responsibilities are now expanded to include matters related to built heritage. This is fitting given the important links between the environment, heritage and sustainable development.

Built heritage includes sites, buildings, and monuments recognized for their historic value. These include battlefields, forts and citadels, shipwrecks, archaeological sites, cultural landscapes, bridges, houses, cemeteries, railway stations, historic districts, ruins, engineering marvels, schools, canals, courthouses, theatres and markets.

Responsibility for built heritage is managed through a number of programs, including national historic sites, federal heritage buildings, heritage railway stations, federal archaeology, heritage shipwrecks, and the federal role in the historic places initiative. These activities are of interest to all parliamentarians and to Canadians in general.

Through the Parks Canada Agency, the Minister of the Environment has responsibilities in three key areas: the management of Parks Canada's built heritage; federal government leadership in programs related to built heritage, and a Canada-wide leadership role in built heritage.

Hon. members are probably most familiar with the first of these areas, Parks Canada's role as a steward of heritage sites. Parks Canada leads the national program of historical commemoration which identifies places, persons and events of national historic significance. The program aims to celebrate Canada's history and protect associated sites.

Parks Canada administers about one in six of the more than 900 national historic sites, which speaks to the diverse and rich history of Canada. Parks Canada's stewardship role with respect to these places, and their historic values and resources is similar to its stewardship role with respect to national parks. Unfortunately, many of Parks Canada's built heritage assets are under threat.

The Auditor General's report on the “Protection of Cultural Heritage in the Federal Government” indicates that two-thirds of Parks Canada's national historic sites and federal heritage buildings are in poor to fair condition. The same is true for Parks Canada's assets more generally, which need $140 million annually to be maintained but receive only $40 million. This is a major challenge for the preservation of these irreplaceable national treasures.

Despite strong management systems that put care for cultural resources at the centre of planning and reporting for national historic sites, the future of many of these places continues to be threatened. Repair of masonry and wood structures, weakened by exposure to our harsh climate, like those repairs required at Fort Henry National Historic Site of Canada, are ongoing. Coastal erosion threatens to literally wash away significant parts of the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site of Canada.

These examples are symptomatic, not exceptional, of the state of our cultural resources and of the infrastructure that supports the ability of Canadians to visit such sites. These resources, once lost, will be gone forever and with them will go their evocative testimony to Canada's dramatic past. Addressing the ongoing deterioration of resources needs to be a priority for this government.

Federal government programs relating to built heritage is the minister's second key area of responsibility. Through its leadership in the federal heritage buildings program, Parks Canada works with departments to protect the heritage character of buildings while the property is within federal jurisdiction.

The Auditor General has indicated that problems similar to those for national historic sites administered by Parks Canada exist for national historic sites and federal heritage buildings administered by other federal departments. The government is considering ways to respond to the Auditor General's concerns over weak conservation standards and accountability requirements, as well as the recommendation to strengthen the legal framework to protect built heritage.

For many years Canada has lagged behind other G-8 nations, and its own provincial and territorial governments, in the protection of historic places.

The minister's third area of responsibility is to provide Canada-wide leadership in built heritage. Only a small portion of historic places in Canada are owned by the federal government, so cooperation with others is key. Government alone cannot save Canada's built heritage. This requires participation by individuals, corporations and other governments across Canada.

Year after year, decade after decade, more and more historic places are being lost. The remaining historic heritage buildings and structures, cultural landscapes and archeological sites continue to be threatened.

Recognizing the need to deepen its resolve to protect built heritage, the Government of Canada has responded with the launch of the historic places initiative, the most significant conservation effort related to historic sites in our national history.

The historic places initiative is based on the acknowledgement that government alone cannot save all historic buildings and other historic places. The keystone of the initiative is a broad national coalition with provinces, territories, and municipal governments, coupled with equally valuable contributions involving aboriginal peoples, heritage experts, and a comprehensive number of institutions, organizations, communities and individuals.

In the field of heritage we are truly in an era of policy interdependence. The goals of the initiative are to create a culture of heritage conservation in the country by providing Canadians with basic tools to preserve and celebrate the historic places and by protecting historic places under federal jurisdiction. Strategies focus on helping Canadians build a culture of conservation.

The protection of Canada's built heritage is not only about saving what is meaningful from the past. It is also about sustaining strong communities for today and tomorrow, the rehabilitating of existing buildings, capitalizing on the energies invested in the original structures and preventing unnecessary use of new materials and energy.

Less demolition means reduced pressure on landfill sites. Revitalization of historic downtown areas decreases the need for new civil infrastructure, such as roads, sewers and public transit. By contributing to such sustainable communities, public policy truly makes a difference in people's lives.

Consensus has emerged on the role that Canada and Canadians want historic places to play in our lives and communities. Among the common goals is the need to provide all Canadians with the practical information and tools they need to protect historic places.

The launch in 2004 of the Canadian register of historic places is a product of this collaboration. For the first time Canadians will have in one place a register of buildings and sites that are recognized as historic by any order of government. It is anticipated that the registry will contain approximately 20,000 historic places when it is fully populated.

The registry will be an important tool for policy-makers, community organizations, teachers, students and families who want to learn about and help preserve the past.

Another important accomplishment is the development of the standards and guidelines for the conservation of historic places in Canada. The standards and guidelines provide clear, accessible guidance on good conservative practice. This document was developed in consultation with federal, provincial, municipal and non-governmental stakeholders so there would be a common benchmark for conservation principles and practices in Canada. It has been adopted by Parks Canada and by several provincial and municipal jurisdictions.

The standards and guidelines are a model of promoting a new approach to the science and the technology of building conservation and promoting and circulating this information broadly for the benefit of all Canadians.

Parks Canada is also implementing the commercial heritage properties initiative fund. It is a new program announced in 2003 to engage the private sector in the conservation of historic buildings. The fund is a four year, $30 million plan designed to tip the balance in favour of conservation over demolition. It provides financial incentives to eligible commercial historic places listed on the registry to encourage a broad range of commercial uses for historic properties within our communities.

Fiscal measures such as this program are central to helping to engage others to achieve the government's goal for built heritage. Historic places connect us to our past, to our future and to each other. They provide places of learning for our children and places of understanding for both new citizens and Canadians of long-standing.

What we cherish as part of our national identity, we also recognize as part of our national responsibility. All Canadians share the obligation to preserve and protect Canada's unique cultural and natural heritage. Together we hold our national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas in trust for the benefit of this and future generations.

With the new reporting arrangement through the Minister of the Environment and clearly defined responsibilities for built heritage programs, Parks Canada will continue to work to safeguard Canada's built heritage, support protection of historic places within federal jurisdiction, and engage Canadians broadly in preserving an celebrating our country's historic places. It will continue to play a seminal role in the protection of Canada's heritage sites for which it is so well respected by Canadians and admired internationally.

I respectfully encourage all of my colleagues from both sides of the House to join me in passing Bill C-7.

Canadian Heritage ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Bloc

Maka Kotto Bloc Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague opposite on his concise and enlightening comments. Now, I would like to know whether his government can give us any indication of the amount or the percentage of the financial resources which will be taken out of the Canadian heritage department, should this legislation pass.

Besides, once the parks are taken out of its purview, would it not be more logical to change the name of the Department of Canadian Heritage and call it the Department of Culture and Communication?

Canadian Heritage ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, first, I want to assure the hon. member that this is a technical amendment. It does not involve the issue of costs or policy change. Essentially, we are moving Parks Canada simply from Heritage Canada to Environment Canada.

The member makes a good point in terms of funding. As I said, we need more money. We are not losing any money by moving it from one department to the other. However, we will need the support of all members in the House to ensure that our parks continue to be the highest quality and are funded in a way which ensures that all Canadians will have access to and be proud of our national park system.

There are no cuts, but we are looking for more money. This simply moves the agency from one department to another, but there are no cost implications or policy change.

Canadian Heritage ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my honourable colleague opposite. There is probably agreement in the Bloc on this issue. The environment critic of the Bloc will explain why our party will probably support this bill.

But here is my question for my colleague opposite: what guarantee do we have that, under Environment Canada, Parks Canada will no longer be an instrument of propaganda on Canadian unity in the hands of the federal government?

Back in 1996, the Auditor General mentioned his concern that sometimes, management plans gave more weight to economic and social factors than to ecological ones.

Can we have a guarantee that, once Parks Canada is under Environment Canada, the environment will be protected and Parks Canada will no longer be used just to promote Canadian unity?

Canadian Heritage ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would point out to the hon. member that in terms of the ecological integrity and the social and economic aspects of parks, that will be guaranteed. It is very important to stress also the ecological, the social and the business aspects. I tried to stress that in my comments. I look forward to the support of the Bloc with regard to this bill.

As far as the position that Parks Canada was used for propaganda or for furthering national unity, I would respectfully disagree with my hon. colleague. I have never heard it characterized in such a fashion. Nor would I give any legitimacy to such a characterization.