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.


Canadian Heritage ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.


Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member who just spoke on a good speech. Is the government considering including some reference to ecological integrity? Moving Parks Canada to the Ministry of the Environment calls for that in my view. It would be a wonderful opportunity for the ministry to recognize that we should go there. That kind of language will capture some of the concerns many of us have about some of the activities happening around and beside parks which have an effect on the parks. That is sometimes worrisome.

The other thing I would like to know from the member is this. Will moving Parks Canada under the umbrella of Environment Canada mean that more money will be put into that ministry? Over the last few years, those of us who have parks within our jurisdictions have seen a decrease in the resources and a diminishing of the ability of those parks to tell their story. Will the government now move to turn that around and begin to invest again in those kinds of important activities and protect those assets?

Canadian Heritage ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.


Bryon Wilfert Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I tried to stress in the presentation the ecological aspects, which are very important. According to my colleague, moving Parks Canada to Environment Canada is a technical amendment. It does not and cannot address all issues. However, the Minister of the Environment has stressed very strongly, and I as well on his behalf, the importance of ecological integrity. I am sure we will see that continued theme on a number of issues as we go forth. I had the privilege this morning to speak on behalf of the minister at Nature Canada. I talked about ecological integrity and those issues.

The member makes a good point, but again, the bill is purely a technical amendment. However, I note his comments and want to assure him that is something to which the minister is very much committed.

Canadian Heritage ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Malpeque P.E.I.


Wayne Easter LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food (Rural Development)

Mr. Speaker, I understand that this is a technical amendment, moving the Parks Canada Agency under the Department of the Environment.

When the Parks Canada Agency comes under a new department, it may be that the attitude of the Parks Canada Agency will change in some respects and maybe we can get a bit of common sense in that system.

I will give the House an example. Prince Edward Island National Park falls under the Parks Canada Agency. I would encourage anybody to visit the P.E.I. National Park. It is a wonderful place. However, local residents in Prince Edward Island National Park have for generations picked bottles of cranberries. It is part of their culture. In the last three years Parks Canada conservation officers decided that would not be allowed. I can understand not allowing a commercial cranberry grower in there. That makes sense. For individuals who are residents of the area, it makes sense to allow that. Why let those cranberries fall off, rot and waste away?

Does the parliamentary secretary think it makes any sense that individual residents cannot use the park and pick the odd cranberry? There is nothing wrong with that. Might we also have an attitude shift and a bit common sense from Parks Canada now that it is shifting to Environment?

Canadian Heritage ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.


Bryon Wilfert Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have been to that national park. Although I did not pick any cranberries at the time, I appreciate the member's concern. I know he had some colleagues here who have also made comments about their support.

In terms of attitude, the staff at Parks Canada are second to none. They are obviously top notch and are always look for and welcome input. I am sure the minister would also. I invite the member to put his concerns in writing so we can bring this issue to the attention of Parks Canada to see what we can do so that we do not come down too harsh on those who simply want to pick cranberries before they fall to the ground and rot. We will do our best.

Canadian Heritage ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.


Bob Mills Conservative Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-7. As has been pointed out, this would transfer Parks Canada from Heritage Canada to Environment Canada. In looking at this it seems that is the obvious place where it should be. It has been there in the past and that makes a lot of sense.

Let us review what parks mean and what parks are for our country. What do people think about Canada when we travel internationally? One of things that indicates our national identity is to say that we are pristine, that we have clean water, babbling brooks, lots of forests and all of those green things that represent Canada. All of us know there are some flaws in that thinking but as long as we are travelling internationally we will continue to promote the fact that Canada has all of those good things.

Our parks probably represent the focal point of that thought internationally and so very often when we are travelling people will tell us that they have been to Pelee Island, Banff, Jasper or to one of the many resorts and parks that we have across Canada.

When Canadians are asked about our park system they will say that this is a place to preserve habitat for future generations to enjoy. It is for our children and grandchildren to enjoy. It is a place to protect wildlife and a place where wildlife can live, prosper and remain for future generations. It is also a living, breathing ecosystem that we can look at, understand better and sometimes it even provides great benefits for our own population in terms of pharmaceuticals and so on.

The controversy I think is what role humans have in parks. This has been something for debate. We have talked about it many times. We have attempted, as we have encroached on our park areas, to make them more friendly for the people, animals and habitat.

We have had some problems. I can think of the wildlife crossings that we have built over our Trans-Canada Highway. Those crossings are for animals but we forgot to put anything there for humans to get across the highway. As a result we have humans crossing on the animal crossovers, thus leaving their scent and sometimes their garbage, and obviously animals are not using the crossovers because they do not want to be where humans have had such close contact.

There are a lot of planning issues that we need to have in our parks so that humans play a role within that park system. That is open to a lot of debate. How much or how little humans use our parks can be discussed at much greater length but that is not the purpose of the bill.

Whether it is picking cranberries or whatever, the most important thing is the consultation process we need to have with Canadians regarding their parks. We need to promote consultation and cooperation as opposed to the confrontation which often leads to some very unpleasant things happening within our park system.

We must also be very aware that our park system represents a major source of foreign income for Canada and the many people who work in and depend upon the national parks have to be considered in any equation with regard to what we do. Many young Canadians have jobs in our parks system through the summer in order to pay for their university. They learn about the parks and they make them better for all of us.

As well, there is the wilderness experience. As more and more people live in urban communities, it becomes more important to have natural areas in our parks system for them to enjoy and experience what the real wilderness might be like.

I am talking about a balanced approach, one that takes science and the ecological integrity of the area into consideration and one that consults the people who are part of that parks system.

In speaking to the bill, obviously I think Environment Canada is better able to consider the environmental integrity and the use of the parks than Heritage Canada. For that reason, it makes sense to support the bill and to support the transfer.

We will always have people who are the extremes, people who do not want anyone to go into parks at any time, in any way. They literally want to build walls around these parks. They probably would go so far as to say they want such a pristine environment that we should all live in caves, not drive cars, be without electricity, et cetera. The other extreme of course are the people who say that we do not need parks so we should get rid of them and not preserve them. Obviously that is not acceptable either.

We need to have trade-offs. We must consider both sides of the issue. I am sure Environment Canada can come up with the ecological integrity in these parks and maintain them with humans using them.

As well, we need to look at some of the issues that parks face. One that I am very aware of is the situation where they have limited budgets, where their infrastructure has serious problems and has declined over the years. Some of the problems are due to a lack of money while others are problems of allocation. I guess the most obvious one is the fact that some of the highways being maintained by parks are throughways through parks.

Jasper Park in my province has a major highway running through it. The truckers and others who are on that highway do not want to drive through a park. They would rather use another road but with the mountains being where they are, they have to use that highway. Likewise, if they take the Trans-Canada Highway, they must to drive through Banff Park, which they do not particularly want to because they have to slow down for the animals and tourists.

Parks Canada's budget is used to clean the snow and repair the roads because the roads are inside the park. I do not know how much of its budget is used that way, but I think it is something that the committee can look at to say that money really is part of transport. This must happen right across Canada. The money should in fact stay in the parks and not be used for things like roads.

I think those are the kinds of examples where we can probably provide, even within the present budget, money to be used to improve those parks. I would hope Environment Canada would look at those things when Parks Canada becomes part of its new mandate.

I tried to find out what the concerns were with this transfer and who would not like it. I could summarize it in a couple of areas that we could look at. The first one would be Environment Canada's reputation. Some would say that within Environment Canada there are a number of fanatic environmentalists, people who would live in a cave and who do not want anyone within parks. That is a major concern because, as I said earlier, we want to be somewhere in the middle. Trade-offs have to be made. We do not want to live in a cave. We want our standard of living and we want to be able to enjoy the national parks.

It would be important to deliver the message to Environment Canada that it must find a balance. It cannot be 100% concerned about the pristine preservation of an area. Areas can be restricted and people can be controlled but we cannot go so far as to keep people out. It is my general feeling that the minister will probably set the tone for that development.

Some members on the other side might agree with me that one former heritage minister set the tone for the parks and created a lot of problems. Ms. Copps created a real concern that the minister could stop development and prevent things from happening without any consultation. It became a very confrontational approach to how parks should be dealt with. That minister is no longer here and I do not believe the new minister will take that approach.

However it is a concern and one we need to address. We as parliamentarians need to be sure that Environment Canada understands there is a middle ground involved, the middle ground being what is acceptable, not the extremes on either end where parks are over-used or under-used.

The second concern I heard when I was researching this subject was about some of the heritage sites. I was asked what concern Environment Canada would have for an historic railway station and how that would mesh with that department as opposed to Heritage Canada. I did not have a good answer for that question. When I pursued it further I was told that Environment Canada would be the poor cousin and that it would not get the resources or the dedication by bureaucrats to preserve historic sites. If that were to happen that would be a major concern and a concern that should be addressed.

One of the historic sites in the former boundary of my riding is a very important part of the parks system and it is utilized that way. I understand there are other historic sites that may not be close to the park and may become poor cousins in Environment Canada. Because this would be all inclusive, we should ask those questions and ensure Environment Canada gets the message that this is not acceptable.

As we send Bill C-7 off to committee after second reading, it is important that it shows concern for all of the different stakeholders. The committee needs to look at cottage owners who live in many of our parks, the businesses that depend upon our parks, and the many students who are employed in our parks. This would be an opportunity for the committee to listen to what those people think and maybe use it as a lever to make sure there are different and better considerations for these kinds of things. There will not be a lot of other parks bills in the House in the upcoming years so this is an opportunity for the committee to look at some of the things that I have raised. This could be a real positive thing for the committee to look at.

Should the committee hold extensive hearings? The hearings do not have to be extensive but the committee should listen to all the stakeholders with the intention of working with Environment Canada to improve the administration of our parks. The committee must send the environment bureaucrats the message of what Canadians want.

Committee members need to listen and make decisions. The committee must send to the environment bureaucrats the message that this is what Canadians want.

We could use the example of the member who raised cranberries. That is a fairly small issue to the whole of Canada. However, it is likely a huge issue to the person who has done that for five generations. Obviously, we must tell Parks Canada that it needs some flexibility, it needs to be reasonable, and it must use common sense in its approach to how it deals with parks.

I would see the committee serving the function of sending that message to the minister and employees of Parks Canada and, of course, to Environment Canada who are the administrators of this whole thing. People are concerned about what happens to our national parks. People are concerned about the decline of the infrastructure. People are concerned about a number of things. I am sure that any members who have a park in their riding have heard of these concerns.

We must be sure that Environment Canada understands that there is a place for recreation, tourism and access. While it can be controlled and limited, it obviously must be a part of any plan. I think this is better off under Environment Canada. That department should be able to look at a broader base of considerations than possibly Heritage Canada could, with the exception of perhaps some of those heritage sites which I am still a little concerned about.

We really need a vision for where we are going. At the moment we are talking about parks. I think we could do it in a lot of other areas. That vision is extremely important to the kind of Canada that we want in 2050 and in 2100. Parks are not planned over short terms. They are planned over very long periods of time. Ecosystems do not develop quickly. It is a very slow process. Therefore, what we do with these parks then becomes important.

I would include a much broader range for Environment Canada to look at, everything alternate energy to garbage and how we deal with our garbage. All of that should be part of that long term vision which we should be able to develop.

We want to maintain the view of Canada as a green country, as a great place to visit with clean air, clean water, clean soil and where we really care about our environment. Unfortunately, we have signed over a hundred international agreements. As the environment auditor general has told us for about the last four years, we have not lived up to very many of those 100 international agreements. We talk a lot about it, but we really do not score very well on what we do.

We are likely to support this bill based on the fact that parks are better off under Environment Canada. We should use this opportunity to improve our parks, to look at some of the concerns, and make our parks better for all Canadians now and in the future.

Canadian Heritage ActGovernment Orders

11:15 a.m.


Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak 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.

I remind the House that this bill was introduced and read the first time on October 8, 2004. The purpose of this admittedly technical bill is to transfer responsibility for the ParksCanada Agency from the Department ofCanadian Heritage to Environment Canada. It is rather technical but we think it is probably time that some changes occur within the federal government in terms of responsibilities.

The people responsible for Canadian parks and their resources must strive to maintain the ecological integrity of those resources and protect our ecosystems. We have our doubts about leaving responsibility for ecosystems, which come under Parks Canada, with Canadian Heritage. Who better than the Department of the Environment to protect the ecological integrity of our resources and our parks, since its mandate is to protect and promote the ecosystems and to make the various ecological aspects of this environmental heritage more accessible to the public?

On December 12, 2003, pursuant to an order, control and supervision of the Parks Canada Agency were transferred from Canadian Heritage to the Department of the Environment. On July 20, 2004, another order concerning the heritage responsibilities had to be made to clarify the previous one. Following those two orders, the legislation had to be amended, which explains the introduction of Bill C-7 to bring about the required amendments.

Of course, the bill is technical in nature. It contains—let us be honest—no substantive provision, even though it will affect several other acts. I emphasize this, because it will be examined in committee. We agree in principle with the introduction of the bill. However, when a bill has the effect of making amendments to the Canada National Parks Act, to the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act, and—note this third act—to the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park Act, to the Historic Sites and Monuments Act, to the Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act, to the Canada Shipping Act and to the Species at Risk Act, there is good reason to ask ourselves a number of questions. Indeed, this bill changes a number of acts, and this is quite important.

What we were told, and I certainly want to believe the government, is that these changes will have no organizational impact for the Parks Canada Agency, and that the organizational integrity of Parks Canada will be maintained.

Unions seemed totally in favour of these amendments in principle. However, in committee, we will have to question officials to see if, in light of the various disputes that occurred in recent weeks, among others with Parks Canada, the government will actually be able to guarantee this organizational integrity. Even though we agree in principle, it is our intention, on this side of the House, to meet with unions and to ask them if these changes meet their expectations and if they do not have concerns on the organizational level.

The state of parks in Canada is a pretty major concern. There are two visions, which may not necessarily be competing but rather complementary. According to the first one, we should start by consolidating the network of parks across Canada which, in many cases, are in a pitiful state because of severe lack of funding in recent years. Even customer services have been greatly affected and, in some instances, resource preservation may be in danger. So, there is this school of thought which recommends that we start by consolidating the existing network.

There is another one, according to which we should increase the number of parks in Canada. There are not enough parks; there should be more. What does that mean for Quebec? This means creating more Canadian zones, more federal lands. We must never forget that these places managed by Parks Canada inevitably come under federal jurisdiction. That means that federal law, including the Species at Risk Act, automatically applies. We never objected to such legislation applying to federal lands or crown lands.

Increasing the number of lands under the authority of Parks Canada inevitably increases the federal presence in Quebec. But in Quebec, we have a similar structure, called Parcs Québec, which allows us to create our own network of parks and wildlife reserves.

In the coming years, strategic choices will have to made. Should we consolidate, strengthen the existing networks of parks, invest public funds in greater amounts to preserve the ecological integrity of existing parks, or should we develop and increase the number of parks across Canada instead?

I think the ecological integrity of these lands ought to be preserved. I travel across Quebec; I am one of those who, each year, during tourist season, visit many parks that come under the jurisdiction of the federal government. I observe how rundown these parks are. Personally, I think we should reinvest in the parks, but in existing ones.

As indicated earlier, we must not forget that Parks Canada comes under the Department of Canadian Heritage. We must remember what the mission of these parks is. The Canada National Parks Act, 1988, states:

The national parks of Canada are hereby dedicated to the people of Canada for their benefit, education and enjoyment, subject to this Act and the regulations, and the parks shall be maintained and made use of so as to leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.

We cannot but be pleased with this. In recent years we have seen Canadian Heritage's propaganda strategies at work throughout Canada. This was grounds for concern. So what could be more normal than for the parks, which used to come under Parks Canada, to move to Environment? Perhaps this will enable us to ensure that the primary role that parks in Canada ought to play will be played, namely maintaining ecological integrity.

This is, in fact, precisely what is lacking in Canada at present. This morning Johanne Gélinas, Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, tabled a highly interesting report on the state of our environment. I would invite hon. members to pay particular attention to one chapter of that report, the one on strategic environmental assessment.

The majority of departments refuse to integrate strategic environmental assessment, not just into their policies but into their plans and programs as well. If they did, we would at last be able to apply a directive that has been around for 14 years now, yet is very often not applied by the departments.

The Minister of Natural Resources over there must know what I am referring to. I would invite him to read the commissioner's report, as well as Bill C-48. The commissioner considers this no more or less than an unacceptable legislative initiative that does not promote sustainable development. When major oil companies are given tax incentives through Bill C-48, is this a policy promoting a sustainable development strategy for Canada? The answer to that is no, and that answer comes, not from the opposition, but from the commissioner of the environment, a person whose very mandate is to analyze this government's policies, plans and programs.

We have every right to be concerned about the way federal departments maintain the ecological integrity of the various areas for which they are responsible. To transfer Parks Canada from Canadian Heritage to Environment Canada is quite normal. Why is it normal? Because we now have a direct link to the Department of the Environment, which is responsible for protecting endangered species for instance. What can be more natural than to enforce this legislation in our parks? Maybe we could ensure that the environmental impact assessments in Canada, which come under the Department of the Environment, are applied to our parks as well as to everything Environment Canada does.

We have demonstrated again this morning that the strategic environmental assessment is applied in very few departments. A lot of departments are dragging their feet. Therefore, it is a good thing that our parks come under Environment Canada. The Environmental Assessment Act might finally be applied to crown lands. What could be more basic than to have federal legislation applied to crown land? What could be more normal than to ensure that the species at risk legislation in Canada is enforced on the crown lands that make up our Canadian parks?

It is quite normal. If the government carried out environmental assessments, a process triggered by the Department of Finance in the first place, we might not be in the situation we are right now as far as the state of the environment is concerned. As early as 1993 the Auditor General of Canada pointed out some administrative problems, as well as a lack of reinvestment dating back to 1996. There has been no reinvestment for eight years. The Auditor General said eight years ago that planning did not always provide a clear link between ecological integrity objectives and initiatives.

He is one of her recommendations: “Parks Canada should ensure that park management plans are updated in accordance with the requirements of the National Parks Act and policy, and business plans should be clearly linked to those management plans. Parks Canada should also introduce a formal process for monitoring the implementation of management plans”. The Auditor General also said in 1996: “Parks Canada lacks key information necessary for park management”.

The number of visitors increased by 25% between 1988 and 1989, and also between 1994 and 1995. Canadian parks are getting busier all the time, but investment is down. Moreover, ecological integrity, which should be the main concern of the government, leaves a lot to be desired.

This transfer of responsibility from Canadian Heritage to Environment Canada will not ensure that those goals will be met, which was harshly criticized by the Office of the Auditor General as early as 1996. Why I am saying that? Because since I have been here, I have seen an increase in the number of legislative measures affecting the environment, be it the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act or the Species at Risk Act.

Therefore, it is not because there have been legislative initiatives that the federal government has necessarily enforced the appropriate laws which it enacted itself. It is not because there is an endangered species act in Canada that the federal government has enforced that act on the lands within federal jurisdiction, such as those managed by Parks Canada. It is not because there is an environmental assessment act in Canada that this government has necessarily enforced its own law on its own lands. Of course, this transfer from Canadian Heritage to Environment Canada is, I think, a real test for the federal government.

We shall see whether the intentions and actions behind the introduction of this bill on October 8 translate into tangible activities to preserve ecological integrity on the lands belonging to the federal government. I am skeptical. We are ready, in principle, to give the federal government a chance. We are ready to do whatever we can to help this government enforce its own laws.

I believe that this restructuring, while technical, shows the essence and spirit of this desire. But I shall remain skeptical. We must ensure that in coming years we can put all possible means at the disposal of public servants and all who wish to maintain this ecological integrity and protect and increase accessibility. Naturally, this involves a transfer of responsibilities. It also involves reinvestment in actual, existing parks, and not necessarily scattering zones that would be more protected by Parks Canada.

Let us begin by consolidating our network of parks in Canada which, as I have often said, is in a precarious state. We must put our resources where they are needed. We can begin a process of organizational change, which is desirable, and transfer this responsibility away from a department, namely Canadian Heritage, whose purpose in recent years has been political propaganda to a department that, finally, must shoulder its responsibilities to protect resources, endangered species and ecological integrity on the lands for which the federal government is responsible.

Canadian Heritage ActGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.


Denis Paradis Liberal Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to congratulate the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie for his expression of faith in the Parks Canada system. I also congratulate him on his appointment as vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.

The Bloc understands that this bill proposes technical changes. It transfers Parks Canada from Heritage Canada to Environment Canada. I wonder about Quebec's share.

Quite often, we hear our friends in the Bloc Québécois say that Quebec is claiming this or that because it does not get enough in a given sector. They talk about research and development, for example. I already heard this. They have also said that it was important that Quebec gets its share in equalization. The Bloc Québécois is omnipresent in many issues in order to claim a significant share for Quebec.

I wonder about Parks Canada. I have the feeling that Quebec does not get enough compared with the other provinces with regard to the number of parks belonging to Parks Canada.

I would like to ask my Bloc colleague what he is waiting for to join us, Liberal members from Quebec, to demand that more parks be administered by Parks Canada in Quebec?

Canadian Heritage ActGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.


Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I can see that the hon. member's emotions are running high. He is showing greater concern for the environment since the Bloc Québécois had a very good environmentalist candidate in his riding, during the last election campaign. This person announced last week, in his own newspaper, that he would continue to be a good spokesperson and that he would continue to force his MP to ensure environmental integrity. This shows the Bloc Québecois' strength and the effective campaign run by Mr. Ouellet in the riding of Brome—Missisquoi. He is a very good environmentalist and he is also a past president of the Parti Québécois' environment committee.

I too could ask a question of the hon. member. Are there not, in his region, areas administered by Parcs Québec and not necessarily Parks Canada? I invite him to tour his region. He will realize that, while Parks Canada is not present, Parcs Québec is providing the same environmental protection to certain areas.

We do not need to be lectured by the hon. member, because the Quebec government has assumed its responsibilities by protecting certain areas in his own region. The member opposite is even pleased to associate himself with it in the context of environmental protection.

This shows that we are perfectly capable of preserving the environmental integrity of certain areas under Parcs Québec's structure. The hon. member is well aware of what I am referring to, since there is an area run by Parcs Québec very close to his riding.

Canadian Heritage ActGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.


Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is a key issue. I am a member from Quebec, and all of us are extremely sensitive to the environmental issue. I therefore am of the opinion that the presence of Parks Canada is essential to the protection of wildlife and the environment.

Although he does not make it a habit, the hon. member declined to answer my question. He preferred playing the same old tune again, and I wonder why. We also agree with the role of Parks Quebec.

I would like to know whether the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie agrees that we should have more Canadian parks in Quebec.

Canadian Heritage ActGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.


Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is a good question. What I want to do is to protect the environmental integrity of special areas in Quebec. I am still of the opinion that Parks Quebec and the Quebec wildlife refuges can do the job very well.

The hon. member for Bourassa can understand that Parks Canada was under the Department of Canadian Heritage, which, in recent years, was more or less the propaganda arm of the federal government. You can understand my scepticism concerning the real mandate of Parks Canada, when it was under a minister that handed out flags throughout Canada.

Indeed, the federal government has demonstrated in recent years that its concern was not necessarily to preserve the environmental integrity, but to indulge in political propaganda for the Department of Canadian Heritage.

Canadian Heritage ActGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.


Brian Fitzpatrick Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, I do keep in touch with the park in my province, Prince Albert National Park, and the people who work there. I can assure the House that the people who work in the park today and who have been in the park system for any length of time are relieved that they will get out from underneath the heritage department and into some other government department. They feel they have been used as political tools for far too long by the heritage department, so I can confirm what the vice chair of the environment committee had to say.

I have a question for the vice-chair of the environment committee. In my park there is no money left for simple maintenance. Parks Canada buildings are deteriorating. They have no paint on them. The roads are falling apart. There is extreme, excessive regulation of national parks and the entire maintenance budget of the park is being used up to comply with environmental and other departmental requirements.

There are no funds left to take care of day to day simple maintenance matters in the park. This is becoming a real crisis. The roads in the park are literally coming apart. The buildings are an eyesore. Tourists coming to the park shake their heads in dismay. This is one of our national parks which has visitors from other countries. They must be shaking their heads at what they see in the park.

I would like to ask the vice-chair of the environment committee, could his committee look at the capital cost requirements of our national parks and the crying need for simple maintenance of existing infrastructure in our parks?

Canadian Heritage ActGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.


Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question.

Indeed, we are currently considering the future work of the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development of the House of Commons. Some members of the committee have asked that we study the state of infrastructure with a view to maintaining the ecological integrity of the parks. I have taken note of the hon. member's request. It will most certainly be part of our discussions on the future work of the committee.

I am well aware of the state of disuse of some of the parks. I talked about that earlier. I think it would make much more sense to consolidate the current network, rather than creating new federal parks here and there across Canada, especially in Quebec.

I agree with the hon. member. However, before doing we start scattering , let us make the current resources, under the responsibility of Parks Canada, available to the public and consolidate the infrastructure network. If not, we will just end up with a number of parks in Canada where services are in a poor state. The current network has to be reinforced, not expanded, as least as long as there is no guarantee of supplementary budgets.

Canadian Heritage ActGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.

Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine Québec


Marlene Jennings LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister (Canada—U.S)

Mr. Speaker, I found it very interesting to listen to the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie. I agree with him that the government should definitely consolidate our national parks and all their sites and monuments. I am also pleased that he supports the Canadian government's decision to transfer the responsibility and mandate for Parks Canada from the Department of Canadian Heritage to the Department of the Environment.

I think there should be greater investment. That is clear. I doubt there is a Canadian anywhere who does not agree. This has been the opinion expressed today, in the House of Commons, by every member who has spoken to this issue, regardless of their political persuasion.

I would like to come back to the questions asked by my colleagues, the member for Brome—Missisquoi and the member for Bourassa. They asked the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie whether he supported the proposal involving Parks Canada—and now involving Environment Canada—for protecting the federal national parks. Does the member support the idea that what is good for the rest of Canada is good for Quebec? We have land that come under federal jurisdiction—

Canadian Heritage ActGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

If the Parliamentary Secretary so wishes, we will allow the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie to answer the question.

Canadian Heritage ActGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.


Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, let us be clear. What my colleague opposite is asking is essentially to ensure that lands under the Quebec government's responsibility are transferred to the federal jurisdiction. In increasing the number of Parks Canada lands, the government is transferring provincial land to the federal government.

Let the member show that the Quebec government does not assume its responsibilities. I invite her to talk to her colleague from Brome—Missisquoi, who asked the question. He finds that, on the contrary, we must maintain and even increase services provided by Parks Canada in his own region. Has he ever suggested in this House that the activities of Parcs Québec should be transferred to Parks Canada? Never, since Quebec is assuming its responsibilities in this regard.

Canadian Heritage ActGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.

Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine Québec


Marlene Jennings LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister (Canada—U.S)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to take part in the debate on Bill C-7 at second reading.

Before starting, I would like to go back to the question put to the member for Rosemont--La Petite-Patrie by two of my colleagues and myself.

The member tried to turn our question into a political issue, distorting its goal. Nobody in the Quebec Liberal caucus wants the Quebec government to transfer national parks under its own jurisdiction to the federal government . That is not the case. What the member tried to say is not fact. The fact is that in Quebec there are national parks under federal jurisdiction. As a matter of fact, there is one in my riding. It is a tiny one located in an urban setting. It comes under federal jurisdiction. It is federal land.

In the Province of Quebec there is land which is not provincial but federal. The question was whether the member, in view of his concern for the environment and the ecological integrity of national parks under federal jurisdiction, wanted the federal government to create and manage other national parks in Quebec.

I now return to my speech. I'm quite sure that the member for Rosemont--La Petite-Prairie will use the question and comment period to get back to the topic.

It gives me great pleasure today to speak at second reading of 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 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 sites and places in Canada, and for the design and implementation of programs that relate to built heritage.

Permit me to take members back a few years to introduce members to what is meant by ecological integrity of our national parks. In March 2000 the independent panel on the ecological integrity of Canada's national parks tabled its report. The panel's report was quite comprehensive and contained more than 120 recommendations for action. As it was intended to be, the report was very frank.

The report was very frank in pointing out the challenges that face our national parks. In fact, it is perhaps a misnomer for me to say the challenges that face our national parks, but the deplorable conditions in which some of our national parks exist.

The report confirmed that most of Canada's national parks have been progressively losing precisely those natural components which they were dedicated to protect. Accordingly, the independent panel called for a fundamental reaffirmation of the legislative framework that protects the parks, together with policies to conserve these places and the appropriation of the funds necessary to support these efforts.

I was quite pleased, listening to my colleagues on both sides of the House, Conservative, Bloc, unfortunately the NDP has not spoken as yet at second reading but I am positive that someone from the NDP will speak at second reading on the bill, and the colleagues within my own caucus.

They have all made the point that this is a good piece of legislation that they support. They have also made the point that there needs to be, other than this legislation, the appropriation of proper levels of funding to ensure the ecological integrity of our national parks and monuments.

Parks Canada committed itself to implementing the report and its recommendations fully, that means all 120 recommendations, insofar as it was legislatively and fiscally possible. It is now being done in full dialogue with all affected parties and helped tremendously by the funding announced in the 2003 budget.

Parks Canada's first priority is to maintain or restore the ecological integrity of our national parks. This is prescribed by the governing legislation, the Canada National Parks Act, which was proclaimed in February 2001. For instance, clause 8 states:

Maintenance or restoration of ecological integrity through the protection of natural resources and processes, shall be the first priority when considering all aspects of the management of parks.

Why is ecological integrity so important, some Canadians may ask and some of my colleagues on both sides of the House may ask? I am sure I will never be able to answer it fully. There are others who have a lot more knowledge than I do in this area. I will make my poor attempt to answer it.

Ecological integrity is important because the loss of natural features and processes deprives Canadians of the opportunity to use and enjoy these places for the purposes for which they were intended. Loss of ecological integrity contradicts the very purposes for which our parks were set aside and constitutes an irreversible loss of heritage for both current and future generations.

By making ecological integrity a priority, we make human beings a priority through protecting our precious heritage sites today and forever.

Achieving the maintenance or restoration of ecological integrity also means putting science first. Parks Canada is committed to becoming a science based organization. This includes traditional ecological knowledge.

Our national parks and our national historic sites are very important symbols of Canada. Canadians, through personal visits and other learning mechanisms, can use these places to enhance their pride in and knowledge of Canada and Canadians.

Parks Canada is also committed to an expanded outreach program to convey accurate, interesting and up to date information to Canadians. The provision of information via the Internet is a priority for Parks Canada. This approach is paying off as millions are visiting the Parks Canada website on a monthly basis, not only from Canada but also from countries such as Australia, Japan, Italy and Germany. This type of proactive outreach continues to intensify and is aimed at our urban areas.

In effect, the objective is to bring our national parks and their values to people who may not otherwise have the opportunity to visit them or who may have an opportunity to visit them only infrequently. Let us just talk about local historical sites in one's town, community or city. When family comes to visit we tell them about those sites. In Montreal, we say they have to see the St. Joseph's Oratory, the Notre Dame Basilica in old Montreal or this place or that place, the various historical sites.

Most of the time, at least 5 times out of 10, when we speak to residents of that city, we find there is a good chance they have never set foot in particular historical sites, for a variety of reasons. If that is true when the sites are immediately accessible through a bus ride, a walk, the metro or a bicycle ride from where someone lives, we can imagine how inaccessible some of our parks may be to ordinary Canadians who perhaps do not travel outside of their immediate environment. By having this Internet website and the outreach program available, we bring the knowledge, the pride and the information, those parks and those sites themselves, into the homes of ordinary Canadians.

The marketing programs emphasize the primary conservation purposes of our national parks. Accordingly, visitors are encouraged to understand and respect these purposes and to plan their activities and visits to align with them.

Parks Canada is committed to improving ecological integrity in a number of ways: first, through communication, specifically, enhanced interpretation and education activities; second, reducing facility impacts; third and finally, implementing up to date environmental management practices and technologies.

In its tourism and marketing planning, Parks Canada must take fully into account the huge economic value and significant social contribution of our parks both locally and nationally.

I would stress that one cannot sustain economic benefits without enhancing both the natural environment of parks and the visitors' enjoyment of them. It is only common sense that we must maintain or restore the ecological integrity of our parks. People will simply refuse to visit our parks that are unacceptably degraded; I believe that was one of the points made by the independent panel on the ecological integrity of our national parks in its March 2000 report.

Equally, I would stress that any changes must be and will be implemented in full consultation with partners, including provinces and territories, national and regional tourism, non-governmental bodies and of course our first nations.

A priority area of the panel's report concerned the impact of elements that had their origins in places external to park boundaries. To deal with such factors, the panel called for renewed and extended partnership. Proposed transfers of land is one such partnership. In this respect, the panel was coming from a place that we are all familiar with: the notion that what I do in my backyard can have significant effects in my neighbour's backyard.

It is difficult to overestimate the importance of these issues because, as we know, our national parks have many concerns shared in common by partners such as provinces, aboriginal people, private landowners and various other interests.

In particular, I have never known, and I do not believe there is an MP in the House who has ever known, nature to recognize or respect a human boundary. One day a grizzly bear may be in a national park and the next day in another jurisdiction. Likewise, rivers flow through jurisdictions. Acid rain from many kilometres away becomes a park problem when it impacts on our national park resources. The list goes on and on, so fundamentally, renewed and extended cooperation among neighbours who share common concerns is the only option toward maintaining ecological integrity.

The bottom line here is that we must improve the ways we work together if we are to safeguard the future of our national parks. The nature of the programs we devise to do so has to be established in cooperation and consultation with interested parties. Throughout the process, the prerogative of constitutionally defined jurisdictions--that is for my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie--as well as the rights of private property owners will be and must be respected.

I have just sketched a very broad overview of where Parks Canada is coming from and where it hopes to go. In summary, the panel report on ecological integrity was an important milestone for the future of the national parks of Canada. Parks Canada has taken it seriously and is moving forward to implement the directions it recommended. That implementation in a purposeful yet sensitive way is bringing benefits to us all. Its neglect would have meant untold costs to Canadians forever. The provinces, the territories and aboriginal peoples are, will be and shall be significant partners in achieving the protection of our national parks.

Viewed narrowly, however, in terms of jurisdiction alone, Canada's national parks and other federal protected places fall under the stewardship of the federal government, but really they belong to all of us, to each and every Canadian. They are the legacy of each and every one of us today to future generations. Let us in a very small way, by voting in favour of this legislation, enable future historians to say that on our watch at least we did what we could to protect this precious legacy and hopefully we left it in better condition than we found it.

I will close by saying that in the House during the debate someone said that the unions for employees of Parks Canada were in favour of this legislation transferring the Parks Canada Agency from Heritage Canada to Environment Canada, but the speaker was not sure, given the labour disputes that were ongoing, whether or not they were still in favour. That party intended to meet with members of the union.

I would like to say that I have in fact met with members of the union. I met with them early in September. I met with some constituents who are members of Parks Canada and members of the union. One of the subjects of discussion, besides the issue of the contract negotiations and their requests for their collective agreements, was in fact the future of Parks Canada, the future of our national parks. They were very supportive of the idea that the Parks Canada Agency be transferred to Environment Canada. They were very supportive of the fact that in doing so we have a better chance of preserving and enhancing the ecological integrity of our national parks and monuments.

However, I also have to say that one of their concerns was lack of sufficient funding and the fact that too many of the employees were not full time, permanent employees, the result of which is at times disjointed implementation of policies. One of the things they asked me to do was bring that message to the Hill. I have done so. I have spoken with the ministers responsible, with the parliamentary secretary and with members of our caucus.

In conclusion, this is, as everyone has said, a technical change, but it is an important change because it shows the vision that this government has going forward with regard to our national parks and sites and monuments located within the parks. This is our vision for our national heritage. I encourage all members of the House to support this legislation. I look forward to the work that the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development will do with this piece of legislation.

Canadian Heritage ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, at the beginning of her speech, the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine said she wanted me to comment during questions and comments, since she made reference to some of the statements I made in my own speech. This is somewhat unusual.

I find the hon. member very good when she is reading her notes. I do not know if they were written by her or by senior public servants. Be that as it may, I notice a much greater spirit of cooperation when she is reading her speech than when she gets carried away here in this House.

At the beginning of her speech, the hon. member seemed to want the number of parks in Canada to increase significantly. She seemed to be saying that the federal government should establish even more parks. There is one thing on which I agree with her and that is the need to preserve environmental integrity. This is essential to Canada. How can we preserve the environmental integrity of several areas that have a rich biodiversity and also, sometimes, some endangered species?

So, my question is: Is this not fundamental? Moreover, if Parcs Québec, which is accountable to the Quebec government, is already protecting this environmental integrity, is the hon. member prepared to recognize that, in certain regions, where the Quebec government is assuming its responsibilities and creating protected areas, the federal government should take a back seat? Based on the comments made by the members for Brome—Missisquoi and Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, the number of parks should be significantly increased. However, in 1996, the department provided the following reply on behalf of the government to the Auditor General:

The Department believes that Parks Canada has adopted a strategic approach. It is important to recognize that provincial and territorial, Aboriginal and local support must be earned through dialogue and consultation, always in conjunction with legitimate demands.

Therefore, this spirit of cooperation is necessary. The federal government cannot act unilaterally. If the provinces are doing their job in protecting resources and environmental integrity, why could they not fulfill this role?

Canadian Heritage ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, one thing is certain: the ecological integrity of the national and provincial parks is the business of all Canadians, and it is only logical that, if parks are already under federal jurisdiction, we ensure that they are properly managed and that their ecological integrity is properly safeguarded. That is what we are dealing with today.

This does not in any way diminish the principle that it is also desirable for the federal government to envisage—whether today or another day—the creation of other national parks, when possible, desirable, and on federal land.

As for the question of working with our partners, I have said we agree with that, and the government has said so as well. The task force report also said so in 2000. The auditor general is not the only one to dispense information and knowledge. Each and every one of us can do so if we are involved.

The issue here is not a matter of whether the only actions are to be at the provincial level. No, I say first of all that we must be allowed to work within our own jurisdiction. For example, if it is a matter of national parks already in existence in Quebec, parks under federal jurisdiction, which we are administering as we should, and there is other federal land that could become national parks, then we should get to it.

In discussions with our partners, we might end up having to pass management over to the Aboriginal peoples, for instance, rather than the Government of Quebec. That is a possibility, as it was at the time of the Government of Quebec's historical agreement with the Cree community, and the one with the Inuit community some 30 years ago.

So there is nothing to prevent the federal government from perhaps at some point transferring management in the course of negotiations. We are not at that point yet, however. What we are dealing with is the ecological integrity of our present national parks.

Canadian Heritage ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, while I applaud many of the comments my colleague has made, I would like to reiterate some of the comments made here across the floor with respect to consultation processes that take place within the parks. I was wondering if the hon. member would seek some commitment that the local communities, particularly the first nations, were brought more into the process.

Also, with respect to the budgeting, ecological integrity is waved around quite a bit, while in the auditor's report and other reports with respect to parks there has been a serious and significant lack of funding for parks. May I look forward over the next few months to a budget coming down in the wintertime that will have a significant increase? I would ask the member to comment on essentially making sure that this very noble cause of ecological integrity actually has some dollars behind it, because while it is a notion, without funding, it remains a notion.

We have heard similar promises before from the government with respect to parks. Meanwhile the latest labour dispute has highlighted many of the comments from the organizations showing that our parks and our heritage sites have been falling apart.

Canadian Heritage ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I truly welcome the member's question because it is an important one.

I am not sure if the member was here for my entire speech, but if he was, he would have noted that I talked about the necessity to make real investments. One of the problems in ensuring ecological integrity of our national parks is having the resources. Part of that is financial resources but part of it is also our human resources.

We have a whole class of employees who, because they work for Parks Canada in national parks, are unable to work 12 months of the year. As a result for instance, they cannot get a pension after 25 years of service because they only work six months of the year. This has become a clear category of employee and that is a problem.

It is a problem when our agency which is required to ensure ecological integrity is not being funded to the extent that it should be. I share that concern. This is not the first time I have spoken to that issue. Perhaps in the House it is the first time, but let me assure the member that I have spoken about it to members of the cabinet, to the present Prime Minister and to the former prime minister. It is not a new issue for me.

I have not made my name on ecological issues except for the issue of cosmetic use of pesticides. I am in favour of banning it. I have had a private member's bill on that but I have left it to others to make their reputation on that particular issue and make it their priority.

I was pleased to speak to the issue today because I wanted to do so in a very public and vocal manner. Most members in the House know that I can be very vocal. I manage to win the voice votes for the government most of the time almost on my own, or it feels that way sometimes.

I welcomed this opportunity because I wanted my constituents and Canadians across the country to know that I think this issue is important and that I support it. However, I do not think that this is the only thing the government has to do. There are other things the government has to do. I will continue to push for it and work with anyone who wants to push that forward.

Canadian Heritage ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to make my maiden speech, which I am proud to make with respect to Bill C-7. As the member who spoke before me clearly indicated, this is a technical bill. It also has very grave significance for our parks system.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the people of Skeena--Bulkley Valley who placed me in this chair. I have a deep feeling of honour and respect for this place. I thank them also for the amount of trust they have placed in me, particularly as a young person, young by certain measures in this place, and that is clearly measure enough.

For those who are not familiar with my riding of Skeena--Bulkley Valley, it takes up the entire northwest corner of British Columbia. I would argue with any member in the House that it is the most beautiful corner of Canada. It is virtually the size of France and is a bit bigger than the entire British Isles. In that scope and region the diversity of views is matched by the size of the riding itself.

My riding is home to a number of first nations communities whose respect and honour I also hold dear. I thank them also for giving me the ability to speak on their behalf in this place.

Canadians have consistently identified parks as one of their greatest sources of national pride. In a recent poll, parks placed high, right up there with Don Cherry and the flag. This issue is serious and is of significant importance to many, if not all, members in the House. Management of this source of national pride is of significance also.

While Bill C-7 is a technical bill, we hold some reservations about it. In essence, the NDP supports the movement of Parks Canada to the Ministry of the Environment. The fit is more natural and makes sense, particularly when we are constantly harping on about the idea of ecological integrity.

Oftentimes our parks are subjugated to other interests and means, but ecological integrity must remain of primary importance as to why a park exists and in its constant maintenance. We would hope that this one factor would continue to be essential in the management of our parks. The NDP was happy that this was mentioned in the Speech from the Throne.

With parks under the jurisdiction of the environment minister, we hope that the ecological integrity aspect will be a consideration in everything that happens within a park's boundary. This is not the case right now. Parks are perennially underfunded. There is always a temptation to make up for the budget shortfalls by encouraging activities that threaten the ecological integrity of the parks in my region and throughout Canada, by using off-peak seasons and encouraging increased tourist traffic, for example, in highly sensitive places.

Overall we are pleased that parks will find their place in the Ministry of the Environment. However, we are concerned with a few things which I will point out now.

The bill does not actually state that parks will stay within the Ministry of the Environment. That is of grave concern. It causes confusion for me and many members of my caucus as well as other members across the floor. If parks belong under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of the Environment, why not simply state it and place it in the bill in a permanent way? Parks have been moved between jurisdictions before. Every time this happens, it sucks up resources and valuable time from an already improperly resourced department. Why not firmly fix parks within the Ministry of the Environment, have done with the discussion and thereby not incur costs of $20 million to $25 million every time a minister decides that it needs to move again?

We will take up the issue of the language and the lack of clarity in Bill C-7 at committee. I look for support from all members of the House to make sure that we can clarify the bill.

Another concern with this legislation is it allows the governor in council to shift the parks mandate from one ministry to another without seeking the consent of the House. This is of grave concern because the decision of where parks, and therefore the ecological integrity of parks, end up is entirely at the whim of a very select body rather than by the House. Parks affect all members of the House in one way or another.

One also has to wonder if the government is going to make some quick cash by moving parks to industry or selling off specific lands. The decision to be placed in different ministries at the whim of the government is a problem, although finding extra cash does not seem to be a problem for this particular government. Moving the agency around costs a huge amount of money and puts a huge amount of effort on an already overly stressed parks staff. It distracts them from the important efforts that are needed with respect to maintaining ecological integrity.

Also of concern is that within the Privy Council, any member can be designated as the chief person responsible for parks. Within the Privy Council there is a wide assortment of people, some elected and some non-elected. For us that is a grave concern. The notion that at some future date we could have a non-elected official representing and leading parks in future directions is of grave concern, particularly when we talk about matters of ecological integrity. They can bump up against some other concerns such as financial matters.

Parks occupy a place both emotionally and mentally in the Canadian psyche. Parks are a place where many of us have gone to identify ourselves as Canadians. When we travel abroad, we place some identity of ourselves in the idea of wilderness and places far-reaching.

It has already been identified within the park structure that we do not have all the ecological areas of Canada captured within the park system. They are not representative of the most significant and important flora and fauna within the country.

As the bill goes forward, Canada now sits at a crossroads in a sense of either boldly going forward with initiatives that bring parks up to the proud place that we hold them or continuing the digression down a slippery slope, which has been presented already by the auditor's report and the hon. member, to a point where parks become an embarrassment for us or they become a place of scourge where we cannot go to rejuvenate or identify ourselves.

I strongly encourage the government to finally take strong measures, both fiscal and ecological, to ensure that parks maintain themselves as a proud place in the Canadian heritage.

Canadian Heritage ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Yukon Yukon


Larry Bagnell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to welcome the member to the House. He is in the riding adjacent to mine, and he will be a very effective member. We have already worked on some issues together. He gave an excellent opening speech. However, I would like to take issue with one of his points. At the beginning of his speech he challenged any member to challenge his assertion that he came from the most beautiful corner of the country.

In Yukon we have the highest mountains in Canada, the largest icefields outside the polar caps and the spectacular Dempster Highway through the northern tundra. We have the top of the world highway built on the mountain tops north of Dawson. We have one of the most beautiful river systems in the world with spectacular scenery. What evidence did the member use to make his assertion that he had the most beautiful corner of the country?

Canadian Heritage ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, one needs a certain amount of light to see the wonders of nature. I have visited the hon. member's riding a number of times. Part of the problem that exists with what perhaps may be a very beautiful part of Canada is we cannot see it for about 10 months of the year. One might put forward the suggestion of high powered lighting systems so we can see the great mountains and fantastic rivers.

However, my in my corner of the country, and we can cease this debate after this, we can see the beautiful mountains and fantastic rivers much of the year. One does not constantly run the threat of severe hypothermia while looking at those mountains.

Canadian Heritage ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Richmond Hill Ontario


Bryon Wilfert LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I will not get into the pros and cons of which of the two ridings mentioned is the more beautiful, having visited both of them. A good friend of mine has been a very strong advocate in Kitimat. Members may know Joanne Monahan, a former president of the FCM. She certainly would agree with the assertion of the member.

With regard to the placement, the member agrees at least in principle that the natural fit is for Parks Canada to be with the Ministry of the Environment. I am glad to hear that. Let us say that 10 or 15 years down the road or way into the future, after my lifetime, another government came in and wanted to create a super ministry, maybe natural resources and environment, and the whole lot are brought together. We would then have to come back and again, go through all the legislation.

It would seem to me that we agree the integrity of the mandate of Parks Canada is maintained in this ship. We know it is a natural fit, and the member agrees. However, it would be like spelling out the minister and we cannot do that. Unfortunately, ministers change from time to time, hopefully not this one, and the mandate changes. I am not sure how he thinks this would be more constructive in adding to what wants, about which we will no doubt have a discussion at committee. If the member could elaborate, I would be interested.

Canadian Heritage ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his support in my campaign to list our riding as the most beautiful in Canada.

With respect to the movement and placement of parts, the concern with the shifting around is exactly what the member said. Heaven forbid, a government would come in with not such a sound and strong consideration of ecological integrity, which would place parks in greater jeopardy.

While this is cumbersome in terms of placing a bill before the House, so goes democracy. It is an important cumbersomeness in making major decisions with respect to something as crucial and important as our parks and heritage. To bring it back to the House for full debate is exactly the point. If a government, with not such a fine understanding of the park system, were to make more irrational decisions, we would look upon that very disdainfully, particularly if we had not spoken at this point and said that it must be fixed.