Motion No. 1
That Bill C-7, in Clause 3, be amended by replacing line 6 on page 2 with the following:
“replaced by the following:
“Minister” means the Minister of the Environment.”
Motion No. 2
That Bill C-7 be amended by deleting Clause 4.
Motion No. 3
That Bill C-7 be amended by deleting Clause 28.
Mr. Speaker, the amendments are consistent, one with the other, and are all directed to the same issue. Bill C-7 would transfer the responsibility for our national parks from the heritage ministry to the environment ministry. As an aside I have to say that I never could quite figure out why it went the other way a number of years ago. However it is back and the parks are where they should be, with the Department of the Environment.
The amendments address one anomaly in the bill, which is that the responsibility for the decision making around Parks Canada is not directly and specifically appointed to any particular minister. It allows for some flexibility as to who the individual will be who will make the final decisions on the issues within that department as it affects Parks Canada.
It was the opinion of our party that was a flaw and continues to be a flaw in the legislation. We are proposing these amendments, which, as I say, flow one into the other, that the Minister of the Environment will be the person designated to make these decisions. The first amendment asks that he or she be named specifically and that occurs in clause 3 on page 2, line 6, so that the minister would be the Minister of the Environment.
The second amendment would delete clause 4. That clause, as is in the bill now, would provide that the Governor in Council, cabinet in effect, may designate a member of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada to be the minister for the purposes of this act. It is not specific at all. It would allow any minister, who may have little or no knowledge of the requirements of our parks and the issues affecting our parks, to be designated.
We have not had any logical explanation from the government as to why it is simply not appointing the Minister of the Environment and leaving open options that would allow the government of the day to appoint someone else. It just does not appear to be logical, which is why we have moved that amendment.
The third amendment is to clause 28, which leaves open the possibility that some other minister would be named. Clause 28, as is, reads:
The Minister of the Environment is the Minister for the purposes of the Parks Canada Agency Act until another member of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada is designated under section 2.1 of that Act, as enacted by section 4 of this Act.
The first amendment asks that the minister be named. The second amendment asks that the clause, which gives cabinet the ability to name somebody else, be deleted. The third amendment, with regard to the Parks Canada Agency Act, asks for the same thing, that clause 28 be deleted.
With regard to the thrust of this, we know that the parks system is under severe pressure. In the next riding over from mine is the smallest national park in the country. At the rate it is deteriorating, it may almost totally disappear because of lack of remedial action on the part of the government to protect it. It could disappear some time in the next 50 to 100 years. That is just one example. It may be one of the more extremes.
Of all of the parks in Canada, Point Pelee National Park is at the greatest risk of disappearing over the next century, but there are any number of other parks that are under great stress. These are heritage properties that we as a government have a responsibility to protect, enhance and make available to the greatest degree possible, without damaging them, to the Canadian citizenry and visitors from foreign lands for that matter.
We have a long history of doing just that, but under this government, particularly in the last 10 years, our parks in fact have deteriorated. Our concern, then, with regard to these amendments is if we do not have the minister who is and should be the most knowledgeable, and I will repeat that, the most knowledgeable about the importance of the role the parks play in the protection of our ecosystem generally as well as specifically in those geographic areas. If that person is not the one responsible for making decisions to fight for the parks and for funding for the parks, to advocate for the preservation of these parks, if the key minister is not doing that, I think it is quite clear what will happen: a continued deterioration of our parks.
It is no coincidence, I believe, that the parks deteriorated when they were outside the Department of the Environment and under the heritage department. The thrust of the Department of Canadian Heritage was in other directions and Parks Canada was all too often a secondary consideration. As a result, we have seen in some cases destruction of parts of parks and in others a rapid deterioration.
If the House sees fit to accept these amendments, it will be in a position where the minister, who is a key determinant of how well and how extensively we are going to protect parks, will in fact be in the driver's seat, if I can use that colloquialism. The person who will be making the decisions will be the one who is and should be most concerned about protecting them.