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House of Commons Hansard #95 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

May 10th, 2005 / 6:45 p.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Conservative South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

moved that Bill S-14, an act to protect heritage lighthouses, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order to ask your opinion on Bill S-14. It seems that it ought to be accompanied by a royal recommendation.

As Marleau and Montpetit notes:

Under the Canadian system of government, the Crown alone initiates all public expenditure and Parliament may only authorize spending which has been recommended by the Governor General.

This is an essential feature of our system of responsible government.

I wish to draw your attention to section 17 of Bill S-14, which requires that:

The owner of a heritage lighthouse shall maintain it in a reasonable state of repair and in a manner that is in keeping with its heritage character.

Over time this requirement will necessarily involve the expenditure of very significant funds by the owner.

Most of the lighthouses in Canada are the property of the federal Crown, given Parliament's jurisdiction over “Beacons, Buoys, Lighthouses and Sable Island” under section 92(9) of the British North America Act, 1867.

The bill is, by section 5, made binding on Her Majesty in right of Canada, demonstrating a clear intention to include federal government properties within the scope of the bill. It is estimated that the cost to Parks Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans could be as high as $235 million over five years, with significant ongoing costs.

When this bill's predecessor was debated in the previous Parliament as Bill S-7, the Speaker ruled that the bill did not require a royal recommendation. This ruling seemed to focus on the fact that the bill did not immediately impose an obligation to expend public funds since there would not be any heritage lighthouses to maintain until the governor in council designated some.

To my knowledge, the timing of an expenditure has not been a factor in previous rulings. If a bill involves a new and distinct cost to the Crown, it surely does not matter if the cost is incurred immediately upon assent of the bill or at some future point.

Moreover, if we examine the provisions of government bills accompanied by a royal recommendation, we find that only a minority of them actually oblige the government to expend given amounts.

A money bill simply authorizes the activity that will incur an expenditure and leaves the decision in individual cases to a minister, the cabinet or some administrative body.

Erskine May disposes of the issue very succinctly. It states:

The same [i.e. the requirement of a new and distinct charge] applies to a totally new legislative purpose which imposes only a potential liability on public expenditure.

For example, the argument cannot be sustained that a proposal to confer on a Minister a discretionary power to expend money in certain circumstances escapes the need for a Money resolution because the circumstances may not arise or the discretion may not be exercised.

This is found in Parliamentary Practice , 22nd edition at page 763.

The Speaker also appeared to rely on the fact that the bill was modelled on the Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act, which had itself been introduced without a royal recommendation.

While the two bills share many features, they differ in one critical respect. The railway stations act does not impose an express obligation to maintain the structures, whereas Bill S-14 does. In any case, stations are owned by private companies, while the cost of maintaining heritage lighthouses will be borne by the public purse.

Therefore I conclude that this bill should properly be accompanied by a royal recommendation and I hope the Chair will consider these points carefully.

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Conservative South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Mr. Speaker, I must say that I am a little surprised that the hon. member chose to bring these points forward at this time. I have no problem offering a rebuttal, but usually on private members' business a member would take that opportunity to walk across the floor and speak to the member supporting the bill.

Obviously the bill does incur some financial obligation on the government if it were to pass in its present format. The suggestion would be that all of those details could be looked after at committee.

This bill, or versions of it, has now come to the House for the third time. It has passed the Senate. It was passed in the last Parliament by the Senate. What we are actually dealing with here is property that is incurring a federal cost now. This property is already owned by the federal government so we are spending money for the upkeep of lighthouses. We are not putting new costs in here.

Because many of these lighthouses are being divested to private ownership, we are asking that in the future the owners, be they provincial, municipal or private, would have some responsibility to keep at least the physical outside of the lighthouse in the condition that would speak to its heritage and the era in which it was built.

As far as additional federal costs, actually less federal money would be spent in the future on lighthouses than there is now. To this day, there is a federal cost to lighthouses. I do not understand the logic of the member's intervention.

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Conservative Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, if the chief government whip is going to rise on a point of order on this issue she should get her facts straight.

In her point of order she referenced the BNA Act, 1867. There is no such thing as the BNA Act, 1867. There use to be an act entitled the British North America Act, 1867 but that no longer exists. There is an act entitled the Constitution Act, 1867. If she is referring to that she should clarify that. If she is rising on such a point of order, then I go back to my original point, which is that she should get her facts straight.

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak briefly to the point of order.

It is very important for people to realize that we are dealing with federal government obligations that now exist and that the existing heritage protection for our lighthouses is woefully inadequate. This is broadly recognized as something that needs to be addressed.

I would simply add my voice to those who are pleading the case for the government spokesperson to recognize that the details can be debated at second reading.

I will quote directly from the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society which said, “We need help in keeping the lighthouses from the ravages of neglect and the processes of disposal”.

This is an urgent matter. I hope, in some spirit of making this Parliament work, and in showing that the acrimony is not so great that people are obstructing all progress in the House, that there can be debate and the bill can be referred to committee where the kinds of concerns raised by the government member can be addressed.

I hope she is not trying to kill a very important initiative that has been supported over many years by people who are concerned that we are losing our lighthouse heritage.

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. chief government whip has raised this matter. I thank the hon. member for South Shore—St. Margaret's and the members for Halifax and Wellington—Halton Hills for their interventions.

It is quite normal to have this issue raised at this stage of proceedings on a private member's bill. The Chair will take the matter under consideration and get back to the House.

Debate can proceed on second reading. It can go, in fact, up until third reading and it is only at third reading that, if a royal recommendation is required, no further proceedings on the bill can go on. That question may not be determined until the bill has been reported from the committee and we see it in its final form, ready to proceed to third reading. However I will get back to the House and make a ruling on this matter in due course.

The hon. member for Durham is rising on another point of order in respect to the bill.

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Oda Conservative Clarington—Scugog—Uxbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am rising on a point of order. Following consultations I believe if you seek it you would find unanimous consent for the following amendment. I move, seconded by the member for South Shore--St. Margaret's:

That the motion for the second reading of Bill S-14, an act to protect heritage lighthouses, be amended by deleting the words “Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage” and replacing them with the words “Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development”.

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

The Speaker

Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to the proposed change to the motion?

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Amendment agreed to)

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Conservative South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pride to rise in the House this evening to once again support this bill from the Senate with the idea of preserving lighthouses, certainly not just in Atlantic Canada but throughout coastal Canada, across Atlantic Canada, in the north, in western Canada and even inland. There are only two provinces in Canada that do not have lighthouses: Alberta and Saskatchewan. All other provinces have lighthouses.

I would like to comment further on the intervention by the member for Durham. The importance of that intervention is that Parks Canada became a part of the Department of the Environment, a move that was passed by order in council in December 2003. The legislation making it official was passed in the House in February. Parks Canada is the correct department and that is where we should be going. Therefore, we have to go to the environment committee rather than the heritage committee.

There is a very good reason for putting parks under environment. It is believed to be a better fit with regard to the fact that for parks and the environment, historic sites such as lighthouses make up only a small part of Parks Canada. In one way, it seems like a bit of an odd fit but it is a fit. The budget for lighthouses comes from Parks Canada, which is under environment, so it needs to go to the environment committee. I wanted to have that on the record.

I also would like to read into the record some comments from my hon. colleague, Senator Forrestall, who has supported this bill and has done yeoman service in the Senate on this piece of legislation. I believe this is the third time that it has come to the House of Commons. Prorogation twice prevented it from being passed and we are back here once again with the belief that all members will support this extremely important bill.

I would like to read into the record a brief portion of hon. Senator Forrestall's comments, because I think they ring extremely true to the very gist of this bill. He said:

I am pleased...to speak to Bill S-14, [an act] to protect heritage lighthouses. This is neither a partisan nor a money issue. Steps must be taken to preserve and protect Canadian heritage for future generations, whether that be [heritage properties], railway property, lighthouses or, perhaps in the not-too-distant future, grain elevators...These are monuments to the Canadian way of life.

We have been over this ground three times. The bill has now passed through the Senate twice and then on to the House of Commons to committee twice before prorogation. Twice previously this bill has been fast tracked and we ask for speedy passage again.

He continued, saying:

--there is no question of the place of the lighthouse in the human heart and its simplistic beauty set against the rugged, dark sea and coast. One does not have to be from the shores of the Atlantic or the Pacific to be attracted to lighthouses.

I appreciate those words of Senator Forrestall. Once again I would like to be on the record in thanking him for all the hard work he has done in keeping this issue alive, and quite frankly, before we lose more of our lights, due not just to neglect but to the ravages of the ocean they are there to protect.

As I have mentioned, only two provinces, Alberta and Saskatchewan, do not have a lighthouse. Of the roughly 500 lighthouses across the country, only 19 have full protection as heritage sites. While 101 others have partial protection, lighthouses have heritage status and they fall under the jurisdiction of Parks Canada. Surely we can do a better job than protecting just 19 of the historic lighthouses in Canada.

I have spoken to this legislation on several occasions in the House. Lighthouses are very much a part of Canadian culture, not just Canadian maritime culture but Canadian culture. Not only are they part of our culture, they are part of our storytelling, our folklore and our songs. There is as much of a lighthouse inside every Canadian as there is a maple leaf.

There is no Canadian who does not have a picture of a lighthouse. Very few Canadians have not visited the historic light at Peggy's Cove in Nova Scotia, which falls inside the boundaries of my riding of South Shore--St. Margaret's. I would argue strenuously that no Canadians living today cannot picture the Peggy's Cove lighthouse in their mind when I say the name.

Lighthouses stand as historic focal points for communities where they have watched over generations of our forefathers as they have traversed our seas. Further, some of these lighthouses serve as an important part of local economies across the country, as many have restaurants, inns or museums nearby.

Bill S-14 is of personal importance to me because there are 135 heritage lighthouses in Nova Scotia. Let us remember that only 19 lighthouses are fully protected and 101 are partially protected. In Nova Scotia alone there are 135 lights that should be protected. This figure does not include a great many of the smaller towers. It does include the 28 major lighthouses in my riding of South Shore--St. Margaret's.

These lights are not just part of our culture and our seafaring tradition but part of our communities. In the days when those lights were manned, the lightkeeper was an integral part of the community, often having access not just to the light but to Morse code and to a telegraph. The keeper could actually pick up, send to and receive messages from offshore vessels and certainly from vessels in distress.

There are dozens and dozens of communities in Nova Scotia and on the Pacific coast, in Atlantic Canada and in Quebec, where, when darkness falls, the light on the lighthouse can be seen rotating to this day. There are a lot fewer than there used to be, but they are still there and they are still very much a part of our maritime way of life.

Can anyone in the House imagine our province of Nova Scotia without its lights at Peggy's Cove, West Head, Hawk Point, Coffin Island, Seal Island--

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

An hon. member

Or Advocate.

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Conservative South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

--or Advocate or Digby? There are lights throughout coastal Canada that are an important part of the fabric of our society. We cannot afford to lose these lights at this time when we are in the best of times in this country through no fault of the government but simply through hard work by Canadian taxpayers. We can afford to save them.

I do not mean to make this into a partisan discussion, but if we can find money for other things, if we can find money to keep the government alive, then we can find the pittance, the almost pitiful amount of money, that it would take to keep these lights operating.

We are not looking for hundreds of millions of dollars. We are looking for legislation that would allow these lights to be protected in perpetuity. The current legislation is not enough to protect lighthouses.

Two federal bodies have the power to select and designate heritage lighthouses, the Federal Heritage Building Review Office and the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, yet they have only managed to protect 19 of the over 500 lighthouses in this country. They have managed to partially protect only another 101.

I am not about to suggest that we can save every light and keep every light in Canada operational. I am suggesting that we can maintain the physical part of the light. The lights could be kept in them, and with technology today, the ability to keep the light on would be a lot cheaper than it was years ago. We have better systems and better technologies to keep the light on.

If we speak to the fishermen, the people who have traditionally used the light, we will learn that with all of the technology available there are still occasions when they depend upon that light for navigation or they depend for safety upon a foghorn associated with the light. When all technology fails and they are coming home on a stormy sea, in the fog or in the dark, a navigational beacon is important.

If any members have ever been in those circumstances, they know that the value of those lights is not to be taken lightly. They are still very important. They still have a safety value and they still have a navigational value, even with all the technology we have today.

I would sincerely urge all of my colleagues in this House to look at Bill S-14 and to look at the manner in which it was brought forth. I appreciate all the good work that was done in the Senate in fast tracking this bill. I appreciate the fact that it has made it to the floor of the House of Commons. But with a very tenuous grip on government, we may not have a lot of time, so I would urge everyone with all possible haste to make sure this bill passes and to get it to committee to make any changes that need to be made.

We are amenable to changes, but we are not amenable to not having this bill pass, to having more lights fall into the ocean where they can never be recovered and to having more lights sold to private individuals who have no responsibility for maintaining the outside physical structure of the light and keeping it as a heritage property, as we would with any other heritage property in Canada.

We are not asking for the sun and the moon and the stars. We are asking for this very good, solid, commonsense piece of legislation to be passed forthwith from the House, to go to committee and come back for third reading, so that we will be able to save at least one more lighthouse before the ravages of time and the sea take more of them from us.

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

Conservative

Carol Skelton Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, being from a province that the member says does not have a lighthouse, I must say that we do have one very small lighthouse that I know of. It is at Cochin, Saskatchewan, on the edge of a lake, but it is very small.

My hon. colleague mentioned privatization. Is this what the government has been doing? Could he further explain that whole idea for me?

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Conservative South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Mr. Speaker, for the last 10 years the government has been pursuing a divestiture process with lighthouses. There have been many divestitures. It has accelerated in the last few years. A number of them have been sold off.

As in all federal divestiture processes, the lighthouse first gets offered to the province, then to the municipality and then to private individuals. In the United States, a great many lights are now owned by private individuals. When the government is divesting the light, it also divests property. That property is ocean frontage and it is valuable. There should be some onus on the new owner of the lighthouse to keep that heritage property in shape.

I do not have the exact numbers in my head, but I have assisted with at least five or six divestiture processes in the riding of South Shore--St. Margaret's with local lighthouse groups. The Sandy Point lighthouse group in Shelburne county actually took over one lighthouse and has done a lot of great work with it, maintaining it and doing the upkeep of the light.

There is very much a concentrated and accelerated process on behalf of the government to rid itself of these lights. We need to protect them now.

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I commend the member for South Shore—St. Margaret's for continuing the battle for us to preserve our lighthouse heritage in a far more effective manner than is being done to date.

I would like to follow up on the comments the member has made about what is happening with respect to privatization of our lighthouses. In his view, does the bill before us provide adequate protection against the possibility that in the divestiture processes taking place now a particular lighthouse could be divested to a provincial or municipal government and then, in turn, the provincial or municipal government could end up privatizing it? Is there sufficient protection in the existing legislative framework and further in the bill before us or is it his view that at committee there has to be a strengthening to ensure that in the process of divestiture and then the possible future privatization that the heritage lighthouses are not lost for all time?

In the commercial usage of a lighthouse by a private operator that acquires it from a provincial or municipal government in the divestiture process, are the protections sufficient to ensure that it is not lost from the public domain and, therefore, no protection for our heritage property in that sense?

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Conservative South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Mr. Speaker, there is a fair amount of work that needs to be done at committee. We need to explore a number of avenues. There is no real difficulty with the bill. However, the difficulty of not moving forward with it means we are doing nothing and then exactly what the member is talking about comes into play.

We continue to lose our lighthouses at an alarming rate. Some of them literally fall into the ocean because of the ravages of the sea. We would continue to have divestiture, as she has said, to the provincial and municipal governments, and they are taking on a cost. That is why I think it is so important to designate the rest of the lighthouses, which should have historical heritage designation, immediately so we do not simply have 19 in all of Canada with that designation.

At least another 100 of them would classify as heritage properties. We need to be very careful about the commercialization aspect. Some of the lighthouses will end up being passed into the hands of private individuals. The idea of the bill is to offer some protection to at least the physical structure outside of the lighthouses and to continue with the silhouette of the lighthouse on the skyline, or on an island or next to the ocean.

I do not know if we can control it all, but we can do a better job than we have done. It is very important that we do it forthwith.

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

Richmond Hill Ontario

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise this evening to talk about this important issue for Canadians and to the government: the protection of built heritage. Canada's historic places represent the soul and the spirit of Canada. These places mark the lives and the stories of those who forged this country.

Historic places can be buildings, battlefields, lighthouses, shipwrecks, parks, archaeological sites, cultural landscapes, bridges, homes, grave sites, railway stations, historic districts, ruins, engineering wonders, schools, canals, courthouses, theatres or markets. They can be large and perfectly intact. They can be small and have only fragments of their history remaining.

What Canada's historic places require is commitment by Canadians to protect and value them. It is such a commitment that we see reflected in the bill before us today, an act to protect heritage lighthouses. The intention of Bill S-14 is to protect heritage lighthouses within the legislative authority of Parliament by providing a means for their designation as heritage lighthouses, by providing an opportunity for public consultation before authorization is given for the removal, alteration, destruction, sale, assignment, transfer or other disposition of a designated heritage lighthouse and by requiring that designated heritage lighthouses be reasonably maintained.

Canada has a rich history of lighthouses associated to our strong traditions in maritime navigation. The first lighthouse in what would become Canada was at Louisbourg in August 1731 and was completed two years later. The remains of this lighthouse continue to be protected within the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site.

In the 19th century the systematic lighting of Canada's coasts began in earnest and lighthouses were erected in critical locations first, then driven by vested interests like the desire to establish and keep safe a faster mail service and placed in response to calamities. Some of Canada's lighthouses mark significant engineering achievement involving innovations in lighting systems, fog signals and extraordinary construction efforts. Some exhibit exceptional esthetic qualities and some lighthouses, such as that in Peggy's Cove, have come to symbolize our country.

Lighthouses have played an important role in our development as a nation. Senator Forrestall is to be congratulated for his efforts to see that this significant building type is protected. Indeed, his perseverance in having introduced the bill on five separate occasions indicates a remarkable dedication to the protection of lighthouses.

Bill S-14 calls for the designation of heritage lighthouses by the governor in council on the recommendation of the minister and provides for public petitions to trigger the designation process. At the minister's request, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada would be responsible for considering such lighthouses for recommendation to the minister. If the board were involved, it would be obliged to allow the public to make presentations.

Bill S-14 also provides for a system in which any person can object to proposed alterations to or for the disposal of a designated lighthouse. If this were to occur, the minister, with the advice of Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada would have to decide whether or not to authorize this action.

The effect of the bill would be to protect a great number of lighthouses which do not currently enjoy protection through a new designation program. It would place new obligations on the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada to administer this program, establish new powers for the minister responsible for bill over his colleagues who hold lighthouses in their departmental portfolios, and require maintenance of any designated structure.

Such obligations come with a price. It is for this reason that the hon. colleague has asked for a point of order regarding whether the bill constitutes a money bill. Bill S-14 would create a program, the lighthouse protection program, which does not exist today.

The associated implementation costs are unavoidable and it is estimated it would cost around $235 million over five years and more than $18 million per year ongoing. My hon. colleague has acted in the public interest in seeking confirmation of the financial prerogative of the Crown.

In light of such expenditures, the government must ask whether a program such as proposed in Bill S-14 is the most efficient and effective way to protect built heritage.

Although the Government of Canada supports the principles behind Bill S-14, and I would underline that we support the principles, we remain concerned that the bill deals only with one type of heritage building.

Lighthouses are a significant building type, without doubt, but so are churches, grain elevators, post offices and museums. I listed quite a number of buildings at the beginning. In supporting Bill S-14, the groundwork is laid for similar costly bills relating to other heritage building types.

The Government of Canada is committed to the protection of built heritage. In the October 2004 Speech from the Throne, the government committed to “foster cultural institutions and policies that aspire to excellence”. We also committed “to be unwavering in the application of fiscal discipline”.

In order to make the bill more fiscally responsible and to align it with sound policy for heritage institutions, the government will propose a number of amendments. These amendments will seek to streamline the administrative process associated with the bill and invest in those areas which will have the greatest impact on protecting the most significant lighthouses in Canada.

The bill, as drafted, sets a lofty benchmark for the protection of built heritage. In a world of unlimited resources, it would be ideal. However, there are currently many competing demands on the public purse and broad protection for many buildings is not possible. As the Auditor General observed in her 2003 report on the Protection of Cultural Heritage in the Federal Government, lighthouses are already well represented among buildings with heritage designations, while proliferating designations threaten the survival of all heritage buildings. We cannot, unfortunately save them all.

The government has analysed the needs of built heritage in Canada in great detail over the past few years and has developed proposals that would respond to these needs.

For many years, Canada has lagged behind other G-8 nations and its own provincial and territorial governments in the protection of historic places. I have certainly talked about this issue before.

In 2002 a public discussion document was released providing an overview of possible legislation to protect built heritage under federal jurisdiction. This paper set out proposals for new legislation to ensure that the Government of Canada would have the tools needed to address gaps in federal heritage protection and to ensure that it could fulfill its stewardship responsibilities for the historic places that it owned.

Consultations have taken place and Parks Canada continues to develop legislative proposals. These proposals would provide legal protection for all historic places on federal lands and for archaeological resources on or under federal lands and waters. The proposed legislation would also formally recognize the Canadian Register of Historic Places and commit the government to the agreed upon conservation standards and guidelines.

The proposed legislation will require the Government of Canada to ensure that its national historic sites and “classified” buildings, those designated to be of utmost historic importance to Canadians, are appropriately maintained and protected. If sold or leased out, specific legal instruments will be put in place to ensure that the building will continue to receive the same high level of conservation protection. This includes 27 lighthouses that are currently covered by these two types of designation.

In the case of “recognized” buildings, the proposed legislation will encourage the use of standards and guidelines and require departments, agencies and crown corporations to take into account the heritage status of the building. Ninety three lighthouses are currently designated as “recognized”.

These legislative proposals are only one aspect of the government's response to the needs of built heritage. A small portion of historic places in Canada are owned by the federal government, so cooperation with others is key. This requires participation by individuals, corporations and other orders of government.

The historic places initiative, which is extremely important, is based on the acknowledgement that government alone cannot save all buildings and other historic places. The keystone of the initiative is a broad national coalition with provinces, territories and municipalities coupled equally with valuable collaboration involving aboriginal peoples and heritage experts.

Budget 2005 commits $46 million over the next five years to continue to implement the core programs of the historic places initiative, a budget which I hope all members in the House will support.

Parks Canada is also implementing the commercial heritage properties incentive fund announced in 2003.

The government remains committed to the overall objectives of Bill S-14, the protection of iconic and treasured examples of Canada's built heritage, found from coast to coast.

We are interested in preservation and the amendments we will present will try and redefine, to some degree, this initiative. We support the principles that are outlined here. We look forward to further discussion on this and working with the member opposite in ensuring that lighthouses, among other important treasures of this country, are protected.

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

7:25 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Roy Bloc Matapédia—Matane, QC

Mr. Speaker, before I begin my intervention, I would like to read a short passage from a book entitled Sentinels of the St. Lawrence: Along Quebec's Lighthouse Trail by Patrice Halley, with a foreword by Joël Le Bigot. My colleague for Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia gave it to me at one point, when we first discussed the bill before the House today. I would just like to read you a few lines:

From the time he first mastered fire, man has used artificial light to guide his way in the dark and ensure his safety. The sea is one of the greatest dangers faced over the centuries by man, forever in search of new spaces to conquer. In this fundamental struggle, in the earliest days, the imaginations of sailors conjured up an edifice to guide them safely out of danger, safe from fear and from the enormous solitude of the sea. In this way, the long history of navigation and that of lighthouses are intertwined.

The preface is beautiful and very poetic. The book shows truly remarkable and beautiful buildings. Unfortunately, the poetry and beauty all fade at comments such as the one just made by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment. It is totally discouraging.

I note that the Canadian Coast Guard began automating lighthouses in 1970. Since then, the federal government, which was responsible for heritage, has abandoned it completely. New facilities were built, with their automated lights, in most areas and regions where it seemed necessary. Here too savings were claimed to be the reason, but that has never been proven. The Auditor General reported on the matter more than once, but no one has ever shown that savings were really made.

Today, it appears that those savings were probably false economies. The Auditor General's reports never proved conclusively that the Canadian government actually saved money by automating the lighthouses. We need only think of the cost of the new facilities and their upkeep.

Since 1970, as I was saying, these buildings have been completely abandoned. We have heard that some of these lighthouses have been declared historic monuments and sites and transferred to the Department of Canadian Heritage. Today they are the responsibility of Parks Canada, which looked after them at the time. Over the years, some lighthouses were transferred, but very few.

There is a Management 101 principle that does not seem to have been followed here. And yet it is a simple principle. By the way, my colleague from Sherbrooke, who supports what I have to say, does not have any lighthouses, or “phares” in his riding, only bands, that is, “fanfares”, as he told me earlier. That is typical of his kind of humour.

What I wanted to emphasize is the federal government's total withdrawal, as we see in the rest of its activities since 1983. What has the federal Liberal government done since 1983 with the small craft port and airport infrastructure? What has it done with all the direct services provided to people? It has been constantly and permanently dropping them. The federal government abandons everything that it thinks could cost it something. It tries to get rid of this infrastructure and palm it off on the provinces, the people, or communities that do not have the means to take care of it. It is as simple as that.

First they should invest. According to Management 101 principles, the first thing is to take a real inventory of these structures. That would enable us to determine what repairs are needed. Then criteria would have to be drawn up that are much less demanding than those of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.

I have some news for them. If people try to get a lighthouse recognized by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, I warn that their work will certainly be cut out for them because very few will be recognized. The criteria are very tough. Most of the lighthouses that could be ceded today to provinces or local communities, for instance, will never be recognized by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board because its criteria are far too strict.

The toughness of the criteria is therefore just a way to justify this government's lack of action on the maintenance of this infrastructure.

What is being done? Unfortunately, the bill would have to be amended to this effect because the criteria are so strict that virtually no lighthouses will be accepted into the program. As requested by Canadians pursuant to consultations, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board is given the task of determining which lighthouses are really historic and part of our heritage. I can say right away that 99% of these lighthouses will not be recognized because the criteria are far too tough.

The federal government must therefore start by assuming its responsibilities. Let us draw up an inventory of the infrastructure. Let us propose new criteria for the Historic Sites and Monuments Board. Then we can assess what the costs would be of repairing and maintaining these structures.

I would remind my colleague from Nova Scotia that, according to a principle of the Canadian Constitution, when the federal government wishes to divest itself of land or infrastructure, it must start by offering it to the province. Then it can be offered to the local communities and municipalities. There is, therefore, a need to work in conjunction with the provinces. The federal government needs to start by drawing up a proper inventory, a proper evaluation of the infrastructure, and then needs to indicate how much it would cost to repair them, by sector or by province.

So first of all there has to be negotiation with the provincial governments to see what can be done with the infrastructure. A real policy is needed—there is none at present—which would require this government to take care of its own business and to do so promptly. As my colleague from Nova Scotia has just said, the bulk of this infrastructure is deteriorating rapidly. That is the way the present government does things.

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

7:30 p.m.

An hon. member

The wharfs.

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

7:30 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Roy Bloc Matapédia—Matane, QC

The wharfs for small craft are a good example. They are left to deteriorate beyond repair at which point it becomes too expensive to bother. The same goes for lighthouses. Since 1970, those no longer being used have been abandoned. They are neither repaired nor maintained. After a while, they are too far gone to be maintained and then they have to be demolished or destroyed.

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

7:30 p.m.

An hon. member

Or fenced off.

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

7:30 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Roy Bloc Matapédia—Matane, QC

They have to be fenced off, as my colleague from Gaspé says. What is happening to the infrastructure of small craft harbours? A fence is put up to keep people out. The same thing happens when a lighthouse becomes a danger. It is fenced off to prevent people from getting hurt.

I hear the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. He is very much aware of what I am talking about. I hope he will ask his government, even though it is living on borrowed time, to take action and at least give us a draft policy that will enable healthy management of the lighthouses along the St. Lawrence as well as in the Maritimes and British Columbia. They are the very image of the government.

This government has been concerned about infrastructure. It tried to buy us with flags and ads. The Gomery inquiry is in the process of proving it. The members of the government do not even have the courage to take care of their own infrastructure. It would have been so easy to ensure a presence and to have a safe, presentable and usable infrastructure for tourists and locals alike.

I think I have made my point. I hope we will manage to have a real policy one day.

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

7:35 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity this evening to enter into this debate. I am actually quite encouraged by the comments made by the member for Richmond Hill, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment. He indicated I believe a serious intent on the part of the government not to just vote for the bill but to see the bill go to committee and to undertake to put forward serious amendments that hopefully will strengthen the effectiveness of the bill, not weaken it.

I think there is a resolve, and perhaps this is one of those things on which we can come to an agreement and show that the House can be made to work, by ensuring that after second reading it goes to committee.

I want to take the opportunity to congratulate the member for South Shore—St. Margaret's, about whom I have already spoken in acknowledging his continuing campaign for lighthouse preservation. I also wish to congratulate the Senator from Nova Scotia, Senator Forrestall, known back home as Mike, for a relentless devotion to this topic.

I want to take the occasion to congratulate the hard working members of the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society who are part of a broader and growing network of those who have been working hard to preserve our lighthouse heritage. They have worked tirelessly to bring to light the importance of this issue.

I want to briefly acknowledge the statement of principles that they have put forward in making the case for better lighthouse preservation. They have talked about the need to recognize the cultural and historical significance of lighthouses, but they have also stressed the importance of their natural and environmental settings and their potential as catalysts for the revitalization of coastal communities.

This is something that may not be fully appreciated by those who live in land locked communities. Many communities have struggled to ensure that lighthouses that have been going out of the business of active use in recent years are made a focal point in the broader attempts to revitalize rural and seaside communities. This is something that we need to keep in mind.

There are people that live in provinces that do not have the benefit of any lighthouses. I know Alberta and Saskatchewan were cited, but a member from Saskatchewan stood up and enlightened us to the fact that there is at least one lighthouse in her riding, so I guess we should acknowledge that practically everyone except perhaps land locked Alberta has some lighthouses. For people in those provinces it is understood that lighthouses are so much more than just physical structures.

Lighthouses have been an incredibly important part of everything from keeping seafarers safe to ensuring safe passage and safe landing. Whether it is those who have been using ocean vessels for a mode of transport, trade, commerce, military purposes, or whether it has just been simply for recreational purposes, lives have been saved. I do not know how many. I guess I would not know how to even estimate but probably hundreds of thousands, if not millions over time in our history.

It is important to recognize that there is a quite unique read of whether it is solitary souls or amazing families that have devoted their lives very often under extremely isolated conditions and in conditions of dire hardship to ensure the safety of persons who have been travelling our oceans for whatever purposes. I think we need to recognize that.

There are so many reasons why we need to be taking up this challenge, recognizing that our lighthouse heritage is going to be lost forever if we do not get away beyond the heritage designation of only 19 of our existing lighthouses.

We are losing time. Many lighthouses are simply becoming so dilapidated that they are beyond salvation. I acknowledge the point made by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment whose department has responsibility for this, that it is not realistic for us to talk about preserving every single lighthouse that has ever been in operation. I do not think anyone is suggesting such a thing. However, before it is too late, it is important for us to go through this orderly process of designation. We have to put in place the structure and the resources to make sure that they are not lost forever.

In the very few minutes left to me I want to turn attention to a particularly special lighthouse that exists in my riding of Halifax, the lighthouse at Sambro. I will say the lighthouse was not in my riding of Halifax until the riding boundaries changed under redistribution.

The lighthouse at Sambro has been in existence since 1758. Sadly, during hurricane Juan which struck my province with an almighty force in the fall of 2003, serious damage was done to the Sambro lighthouse. Some of that damage has been repaired, but not all of it. There is a desperate need to complete the restoration and the repair to the Sambro lighthouse before it is too late. Specifically, it has to do with the gas house, that is the term, that supplied acetylene gas to allow the lighthouse to perform its function.

I have written several times to the minister responsible seeking the commitment of resources to ensure that that repair is done. The community has worked hard. The citizens of Sambro, the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society and those in the broader community who are really seized with this and not just the romanticism and the symbolism of it, recognize it is a critical part of the community. It is a critical part of the revitalization and maintenance of that community. It is a very important tourist attraction.

I hope that as we discuss the need to move hastily to preserve our lighthouse heritage, the minister responsible will recognize that among the very special lighthouses that are already preserved there are sometimes urgent needs, such as the one at Sambro. We must have the resources to fully repair and restore it from the terrible damage done by hurricane Juan.

If we could have a little more of this kind of cooperative, collaborative tone in this House and less of what people see on a daily basis it would be a better day. It would also be a better investment in keeping our political process strong and engendering the kind of respect for democracy that is fast waning in this country. I think people are recoiling in horror at the notion that all we ever do is fight in here and we never really make this place work, or we never come up with concrete solutions.

Let us get this job done. Let us get the bill to committee. Let us invite some of the witnesses who are important for us to hear from. Let us check it off as one more accomplishment in this minority Parliament.

In order to achieve that we need to make sure that this Parliament keeps working. We must not simply go to the electorate for the crassest of self-interest partisan reasons instead of carrying out the mandate that we were given by the people of Canada.

I hope we will do that with respect to this bill and the other responsibilities and challenges that lie before this Parliament.

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

7:45 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Oda Conservative Clarington—Scugog—Uxbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to Bill S-14, an act to protect heritage lighthouses, put forward by my colleague, the member for South Shore--St. Margaret's. I also want to commend those in this House and in the Senate who have supported this bill previously in Parliament.

Lighthouses are an integral part of Canada's heritage and history. There are countless stories of crises in our past in which Canada's lighthouses have played a critical role. Whether it is off the coast of Newfoundland or in the gales of the north Pacific, they have saved the lives of many Canadians and foreigners. Now for many, lighthouses not only provide an essential service but lighthouses have become a special part of what Canada means to them and others around the world.

They have become part of our artistic cultural works in songs, paintings and even tapestry. The picturesque images of Peggy's Cove, and the lighthouse on the northern tip of the Queen Charlotte Islands on Langara Island: these pictures say this is Canada.

These structures identify an integral part of our heritage and draw thousands of international travellers each year. In Ontario, one can take the Bruce Coast lighthouse tour. Each of the 500 lighthouses in Canada has a special meaning in our lives, our history and to the communities in which they are situated. I support this bill as it is urgently needed.

For many of our historic lighthouses, we must offer recognition of their part in our heritage and maintain them for future generations. Without protection, neglect is destroying many of these historic structures. The impact of wind, water and deterioration are destroying these treasures each year. Without Bill S-14, we will lose a precious part of our natural history and marine culture.

This bill's purpose is to preserve and protect our heritage lighthouses in three ways: first, by providing for the selection and the designation of heritage lighthouses; second, by preventing their unauthorized alteration or disposition through a process that allows for public consultation; and third, by requiring that heritage lighthouses be reasonably maintained.

Current legislation gives two federal government bodies the power to select and designate heritage lighthouses, the Federal Heritage Building Review Office and the Historic Sites and Monuments Board. However, under the current legislation, more lighthouses are being rejected than are being protected. Only 19, or 3%, of our lighthouses across Canada have genuine heritage protection. Only 101, or 12%, have partial protection. In the U.S.A., 70% of lighthouses that are over 50 years of age have heritage protection.

Also, in the current system the public has no right to participate in the process of selecting or designating heritage lighthouses.

Currently there are no provisions to ensure that these structures are adequately protected. In fact those who maintain our operating lighthouses do not have a mandate to protect culturally significant lighthouses.

Bill S-14 addresses all of these issues. The appropriate minister will have the authority to recommend to the governor in council that a lighthouse be designated as a heritage lighthouse. In its deliberations the governor in council must give the public an opportunity to make representations about the heritage designation of that lighthouse. The bill also ensures public participation in this process by allowing the public to submit petitions on its own to propose heritage designation for any lighthouse.

Finally, the bill prohibits anyone from altering or disposing of a heritage lighthouse without the authorization from the minister and without giving the public notice of his or her intentions. The owner of a heritage lighthouse must also maintain it in a reasonable state of repair in a manner in keeping with its heritage character.

This bill not only ensures that lighthouses will continue to be an integral part of our Canadian heritage, it has the potential to create opportunities and partnerships with local communities.

By having the ability to participate in a lighthouse's designation and future, the local communities have the opportunity to incorporate lighthouses into their lives as potential interpretive centres or tourist destinations. Thus, this bill will allow lighthouses to become part of the larger social fabric. It is important for Canadians to be able to take part in determining what they believe is important to our country's history and cultural heritage.

I am encouraged by the provisions in Bill S-14 that allow for such full public involvement. It is Canadians who should determine what is important as monuments to our country's history. Without this bill we will lose too many lighthouses to natural deterioration, wilful destruction and neglect. We must take this step to preserve and protect our heritage for future generations. If we do not, we will lose the structures that have become icons in our history, such as the lighthouses, railway properties and grain elevators.

As the hon. Senator Pat Carney stated in 2002, this bill was modelled after Canada's Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act and it will strengthen our heritage archival asset base for generations to come. Senator Carney also pointed out that there is nothing currently in place to ensure that heritage status will also cover the historic dwellings or equipment that are integral to the heritage value of the lighthouse site. This legislation does so.

This legislation also has other benefits. The bill works within the existing system so it does not create any new bureaucracy or programs. There will also be a uniform set of standards and criteria within which the assessment of the significance of a heritage site will be determined.

As I have said, Canada has roughly 500 lighthouses across the country. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has indicated that over time about 200 lighthouses may become surplus to its operational requirements. This shows that this bill is truly important to Canada and its historical heritage. We must act now to ensure that a significant part of our country's past is saved and preserved.

I ask all members of the House to support Bill S-14, an act to protect heritage lighthouses.

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

7:50 p.m.

Charlottetown P.E.I.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans I appreciate the opportunity to say a few words in this very important debate. I understand I will not have my full allotment of time, so I will try to be as brief as I can.

Like the member opposite, I certainly appreciate the role that lighthouses have played in Canadian history, in the province of Nova Scotia, throughout Atlantic Canada and indeed throughout Canada. These are very important institutions.

I come from Prince Edward Island. Lighthouses have been part of the landscape there for generations and generations. In Prince Edward Island there are 14 lighthouses that have either been classified or recognized by the federal heritage review board as essential symbols of Canada's heritage.

There are a number of themes emerging from tonight's debate regarding lighthouses. First, there are surplus lighthouses. Because of the change in technology, both land based and in vessels, a lot of lighthouses are no longer needed for navigational purposes. The second theme emerging is that Canadians from coast to coast to coast are very emotionally attached to the lighthouses along our coasts. Lighthouses have attained what I suggest is a mythical role in our lives and quite rightly so.

I urge anyone who plans on going to Prince Edward Island this summer to visit the lighthouse at West Point.

I should also point out on behalf of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans that there has been some divestitures and excellent opportunities. The department just does not have the financial flexibility to invest in lighthouse maintenance beyond what is required for strictly operational reasons.

It is the view of the minister and my view as well that this legislation should be referred to committee and hopefully, because of the financial constraints, a common sense solution will be sought and developed by the committee members. For that reason we will be supporting Bill S-14.