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.