Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the debate on the proposed amendments at report stage of Bill C-7.
I do not understand why the hon. member wants to propose these amendments. In my view, they will take away from the bill. Let me explain why I think so.
At the present time we have a minister known as the Minister of the Environment. Of course in a cabinet shuffle the Prime Minister can call a minister anything he or she wishes, as we all know. The difficulty I have with this is that we could be at a case in the future where the Prime Minister named someone the minister responsible for parks, and the minister responsible for parks would not be responsible for parks because the law says it is the Minister of the Environment who is. That is why we should not adopt the amendment proposed by the hon. member.
Furthermore, it is not impossible that in future the minister we today call the Minister of the Environment may be called the Minister of Sustainable Development or something else. In fact, it could very well be that there would be no minister called the Minister of the Environment, but we want to put the title of the minister in the bill as being responsible for the department. As we can see, this does not make sense, in my opinion. I suppose the bill works anyway if we leave the amendment in, but it does not make the bill better. It makes it worse.
We brought this bill to Parliament in order to have a framework legislation, one that is clean and hopefully will stand the test of time, but who knows, six weeks from now or some such it may need an amendment if this amendment we have today stays as part of the bill. It could be that the bill would have to come back before the House if there were a cabinet shuffle at some point, even before the bill makes it into law in the other place. This is not a good amendment.
I think what the hon. member is trying to say is that he hopes the environment department is responsible for parks in the future. That was evident in the speech of the last hon. member from the New Democratic Party. In his view, he might think that the parks flow better as part of environment than they do as part of heritage. It is a philosophical debate. One could argue it either way, I suppose.
The fact remains that we still do not know what the future minister's position will be called nor whether the Minister of Environment's title will be kept much longer. The minister might be called the minister of sustainable development, as I was saying earlier in English.
Furthermore, including this amendment would mean that in the future there could be a minister responsible for parks who would not be responsible for parks because the Parks Act stipulates that it is the Minister of Environment who is responsible.
Consequently, the amendment does not work. It is too bad, but I do not see how this will improve the bill. I agree that the bill will probably work with the amendment even if it does take away from the text in question.
Whether the bill is amended or not, a prime minister is in no way obliged to appoint a minister in the future, in the first place, and the title of the position as designated by a prime minister in the future is not cast in stone, in the second place. For these two reasons, I would encourage the hon. member to rethink this. The amendment he is proposing will not accomplish much.
Having said this, I would like to get back to the philosophical debate as to whether parks have more to do with the environment than with heritage, because this is an interesting issue. In my constituency, there is a site that I want to be designated as a park. In this case, the environmental aspect is obviously the more important one. This is not always the case, but it is in this instance. Therefore, in a case like this one, I am quite prepared to say that it has more to do with the environment and I will explain why.
The region that I would like to be designated, in the future, as a national park in Glengarry—Prescott—Russell is a region that you know well Mr. Speaker, since you are a native of that riding. I am referring to the Alfred bog, in Ontario, which is about to recognized as a very sensitive ecological area under the UN Ramsar convention. Of course, in this particular case, it would more appropriate come under the responsibility of the Department of the Environment.
However, in the case of the Rideau Canal, is not quite as clear whether it should come under the Department of the Environment or Canadian Heritage. There are all sorts of physical and historical infrastructures that date back to 1825 and that have to do with a threat, as it was perceived at the time, namely an American invasion and so on. Consequently, in this case, these works are more closely related to our heritage than to the environment, although, as I said, the line between the two can be quite fine, when we are talking about vast green spaces where heritage buildings can be found, along with an ecological zone that deserves to be protected.
In any case, what the hon. member is presenting to us is the vision that the Department of Canadian Heritage or the Parks Canada Agency should have. If this is the case, he should have presented a definition of the parks' mandate, instead of designating the position of minister, without knowing whether that position will exist in the future.
In other words, he could have said: “In its definition, the Parks Canada Agency will assume responsibility for environmental issues, for heritage issues and for all other issues”. He should not have designated the position of minister, because it has nothing to do with the objective that he set.