House of Commons Hansard #119 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was spending.


Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act

10:55 a.m.

The Speaker

Before we resume debate on second reading of Bill S-14, an act to protect heritage lighthouses, I would like to deliver a ruling on the point of order raised by the Chief Government Whip on May 10 with regard to the requirement for a royal recommendation for this bill.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the hon. Chief Government Whip for having raised this matter at the commencement of debate at second reading. This is the most appropriate time to raise such concerns as it permits the Chair to return to the House with a decision before detailed consideration of the bill is taken up in committee.

The Chair also wishes to thank the hon. members for South Shore—St. Margaret's, Wellington—Halton Hills, and Halifax for their submissions on this matter.

Bill S-14 proposes a mechanism to designate and protect heritage lighthouses as well as to require that they be reasonably maintained. In making her presentation, the chief government whip argued that clause 17 of the bill appeared to involve the expenditure of significant funds by Parks Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. The clause reads as follows:

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.

She also referred to a ruling on this bill's predecessor, Bill S-7, delivered on October 29, 2003, and argued:

This ruling seemed to focus on the fact that the bill did not immediately impose an obligation to expend public funds...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.

In 2003, the Chair was responding to a similar point of order raised by the hon. member for Kootenay—Columbia and the then government House leader, the hon. member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell. They also asked the Chair to look at clause 17, asking whether it involved spending. In my reply, I stated:

Both the hon. member for Kootenay—Columbia and the government House leader are in agreement that the bill does not immediately require the expenditure of public funds. Any funds that may be required to comply with clause 17 of the bill will be required of the owners of lighthouses only once those lighthouses have been designated as heritage lighthouses...As there is no obligation for public expenditure created by the passage of Bill S-7, there is no need for a royal recommendation.

The Chair was referring to the fact that this bill, of and by itself, does not create an authorization for new spending for a distinct purpose. For example, the bill does not create a new agency to protect heritage lighthouses nor does it set up a program for funding the maintenance of lighthouses. This bill simply provides a mechanism for designating heritage lighthouses and requiring that they be reasonably maintained. These provisions do not authorize new spending for a distinct purpose.

The Chair acknowledges that at some point in the future when heritage lighthouses are designated, there may be an expenditure of public funds. However, I would characterize those expenditures as falling within departmental operational costs, for which an appropriation would have been obtained in the usual manner. From year to year, such expenditures would vary depending on the condition and number of heritage lighthouse structures and on the effects of weather. Such operational expenditures are covered through the annual appropriation act that Parliament considers and approves.

Therefore, after listening to the submissions of hon. members and after reviewing my previous ruling and the provisions of this bill, I would conclude that Bill S-14 does not require a royal recommendation.

It being 11:08 a.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from May 10 . consideration of the motion 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

11:05 a.m.


Raynald Blais Bloc Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to day to speak to Bill S-14. What I have just heard clearly illustrates and underscores the bulk of what I want to say.

I would have loved to have been able to indicate that we are in favour of Bill S-14 and that we could move ahead on it, since the principle seems a good, worthwhile one, designating heritage lighthouses and so forth.

However, when we look at things more closely, there is a different take on this. The bill summary brings this out, and the Speaker's ruling adds still more weight to my position. The summary reads as follows:

This enactment protects 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.

So we can see that there is actually there is a means for designation in the bill. But as for new money for the lighthouses that have been abandoned for several decades, well just forget it. This shows clearly why we cannot support Bill S-14. Even if the principle is valid, there are horror stories, to some extent, about heritage lighthouses, which I will discuss over the next few minutes. Consider, for example, what happened to the lighthouses in Madeleine-Centre in the riding of Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia and in Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine.

Clearly, then, the best way to describe Bill S-14 would be as a red herring, which is a way to divert attention from what is happening right in front of us. I am convinced, entirely convinced, that Bill S-14 is a perfect example of federal downloading, this time in the issue of lighthouses.

We could also talk about the port infrastructures of small craft harbours and about other facilities. Ultimately, we realize the approach the government has adopted in recent years, in other words, it is abandoning infrastructure such as ports and small craft harbours. Lighthouses have met the same fate. After several decades, the ready-made solution is to build fences. That is the solution they have found for small craft harbours in a state of disrepair. That is also the solution they have found for lighthouses, which, really, could very well be a source of economic diversification.

We know full well that lighthouses no longer serve their original purpose and have not for some time now. Not, in fact, since 1970. The federal government decided to abandon lighthouses as they stood then. However, we see that, since 1970, abandoning them has been the only thing that happened with regard to lighthouses. This abandonment has led to stories such as the one from Madeleine-Centre in the riding of Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia.

I was the assistant to the member for Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia for several years, starting in 2000. One of the files we worked on was the Madeleine-Centre lighthouse.

The government, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Department of Transport came up with only one solution for the lighthouses, which were very useful at one time, which were used for vessel safety and also could have been used to diversify regional economies in regions like mine, Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine.

The only solution they found was to let things slide and that has had some terrible consequences.

I have letters showing that this heritage infrastructure was very dear to the people of Madeleine-Centre. It was also felt that this was an opportunity to create jobs for the people of this community and help them take charge of their lives. I do not think that having this goal or vision is a problem. To take charge, they need support in the form of financial assistance. There was no support in this case.

I have letters that date back to 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002 and 2003 stating the only response given by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in this matter. The people want to take charge of their lives and have some control over their future. Unfortunately, the only response they get from the government is along the lines of wait and see because there is not enough money. We are left empty-handed like we were before.

The Madeleine-Centre site also needs to be decontaminated. It is all well and good to maintain a lighthouse in the hope of being able to use it one day as a tourist attraction. However, the use of lighthouses did cause some contamination. The sites therefore need to be decontaminated.

It could take tens of thousands of dollars to fix up the Madeleine-Centre lighthouse. Does the government know what it would cost to decontaminate the site? Some $2 million. That is the real situation. This is where we get to see how the minority Liberal government operates or, rather, does not operate, quite simply, because it is not assuming its responsibilities. It knows very well that these lighthouses involve costs. Fixing them up will cost one amount, decontaminating them will cost another. I think the Madeleine-Centre lighthouse is a fairly good example of the cost involved.

Why are we skeptical when a new bill like S-14 is introduced? Another argument may be used. The member for Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia mentioned it, and other MPs may mention it as well. We wonder: does the government really want to set up a board simply to limit the possible designation of heritage lighthouses? In Quebec, some 40 lighthouses could be designated heritage lighthouses. Does the government really want to establish a board, which, after public consultation, after deliberating, receiving petitions and so on, in other words, having bought some time by creating a diversion, will decide in the end that only some lighthouses qualify for the designation or for the purposes the government has for them? There is no indication what a heritage site or a heritage lighthouse is.

To my way of thinking, the right thing for the current Liberal minority government to do would be to fix up the lighthouses we have in Quebec. I think doing so would send a message that some responsibility is being taken for these facilities, which they abandoned in the 1970s, nearly 30 years ago. At least, that is what happened in regions such as Gaspé and the Magdalen Islands.

Today, for this reason as well, the message of Quebec's sovereignty is being heard loud and clear, and it will get louder and clearer tomorrow.

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to speak to Bill S-14 dealing with lighthouses.

Coming from Nova Scotia, historically, and even today, lighthouses play an important role in the fabric of our society.

I first want to thank my hon. colleague from South Shore—St. Margaret's for bringing this issue from the Senate to this place. I also wish to congratulate Senator Pat Carney and Senator Mike Forrestall for their work on this issue.

The preservation of historical lighthouses is not just an issue that affects Nova Scotia. It affects the whole country. As we know, only two provinces, Alberta and Saskatchewan, are without a lighthouse but I am sure if they work hard and get a grant from some sort of fund they could get one.

As my hon. colleagues know, lighthouses have an historical and important nature both on the east coast and west coast. For years and years, long before technology ever came around, the lighthouses were the beacon of hope for mariners, seafarers and people who plied their trades in the fisheries and on the oceans.

As everyone knows, the weather on the east coast can get very rough. It gets foggy a lot of the time and the lighthouses are the beacons of hope or rays of light in terms of what happens on the coastline. It was very important to mariners back then and I believe it is just as important to mariners now. We now have GPS systems and new technology where people can go literally anywhere in the world right now under GPS but the reality is that it is not 100% reliable.

The fact is that we need working lighthouses in rural parts of Canada but there is also the historical nature to them. Much of the fabric of life that we used to have is now gone. Everywhere we go, a building or a property somewhere, which has an historical aspect in our society, is being torn down in view of progress. I think this is quite sad.

Lighthouses represent a very historical aspect to our way of our life since European contact. When the Europeans first came to Canada they realized that the shores of the east coast, for example, were quite dangerous and that they needed lighthouses and people on the coastline to safely guide mariners to their destinations.

I am looking at my colleague from Malpeque. He knows all too well the importance of lighthouses in his beautiful area of Prince Edward Island. From a tourist point of view, if I may jump forward in the argument, literally thousands and thousands of visitors every year tour the lighthouses of Atlantic Canada, which I am sure is the same on the west coast. No one is more proud of the fact that in Nova Scotia we have Peggy's Cove. I could stand here for hours talking about the history of Peggy's Cove.

Peggy's Cove has the only lighthouse in Canada that has a working mailbox. There is a postal person on the premises during the summer months so people from the world over can get their post cards stamped “Peggy's Cove”. Peggy's Cove has a population year round of anywhere from 60 to 100 people but thousands and thousands of people come to those rocky shores just to see the lighthouse and the magnificent view that Peggy's Cove has to offer.

While I am on the subject of Peggy's Cove, we wish to pass on our condolences to the family and friends of the people who lost their lives a few years ago in the Swiss Air tragedy not very far off the shores of Peggy's Cove.

The importance of Peggy's Cove to our tourism and psyche on the east coast is extremely important but it is not just Peggy's Cove. There are many lighthouses throughout Nova Scotia and, for that matter, the rest of Atlantic Canada, which are an important and integral part of our history and heritage. To lose our lighthouses would mean losing one more part of our history.

Many groups in Atlantic Canada, such as the Lighthouse Preservation Society of Nova Scotia, do a great job in raising awareness of this important infrastructure of our historical society. What is really critical is that if we tear them down we will lose a bit of ourselves. We simply cannot allow that to happen.

I know the hon. Senator Pat Carney has raised the issue many times on the west coast. In British Columbia many lighthouses are not accessible by road and the only way to get to them is by sea or helicopter. Many of them are still in fine working order. Many good men and women still work those lighthouses today and are an integral part of the security of mariners, yachters and people who are working or recreationing on the west coast. They know they are not that far from the human voice behind the radio if they are in trouble.

I could not help but notice that years ago the hon. member for Victoria was once rescued by people on the coastline because of an incident he had in a slight mishap. If people were not there at that time, that member may not be here today. I am sure he is fully aware of the importance of manned lighthouses throughout our country.

A decision was made years ago to lower the number of staff at lighthouses throughout Atlantic Canada and parts of western Canada. I think that was a mistake. Although we have the technology which could probably do that job, there is nothing wrong with having a backup.

When we talk about security, it is important to have people on the coastline to be the eyes and the ears of our nation, so they see and hear what is going on out there. Right now if somebody has a boat that is overturned and cannot get help immediately, those eyes and ears could save precious minutes and precious hours by getting people to the rescue scene. That is the importance of having people in those lighthouses.

For those lighthouses that have no staff and cannot be re-manned, we think it is important to have the resources in place to maintain these infrastructures, so that people from around the world, and our children's children, can understand the significance and the historical aspect that these lighthouses play in our psyche and, again, in our heritage as we move along in this country.

It is important to know where we came from as a society because that way we know exactly where we are going. It is unacceptable for any government or anyone to make the decision to get rid of these lighthouses and mothball them, and more or less get rid of them completely.

Coming from the east coast and being raised on the west coast, I have had the opportunity of seeing many lighthouses and talking to many people who either work in them or used to work in them. The stories they tell are simply nothing short of incredible. It is absolutely fantastic the love they have for working that close to the sea, and working with mariners, fishermen and the people who are boating as well as those who come and visit our shores. Everyone who comes from Atlantic Canada, and I am sure I speak for my hon. members from Cape Breton and my hon. colleague from Halifax as well, knows the importance that they play in our society.

The federal NDP will be supporting Bill S-14 when it comes up for the final vote. I want to thank the hon. member for South Shore—St. Margaret's for bringing this bill to the House of Commons.

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.

Malpeque P.E.I.


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

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Sackville—Eastern Shore talked about the history of lighthouses and how important they were as a beacon of hope. There is no question that is absolutely correct.

The bill before us is Bill S-14, an act to protect heritage lighthouses. We must ask ourselves, can we, or do we even want to, save every single lighthouse, or is there a way to save heritage sites that could be more fiscally responsible than Bill S-14 sets out?

The intention of Bill S-14 is to protect heritage lighthouses within the legislative authority of Parliament by, first, providing a means for their designation as heritage lighthouses; second, 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; third, requiring that the designated heritage lighthouses be reasonably maintained.

More specifically, Bill S-14 calls for the designation of heritage lighthouses by the governor-in-council on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment 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. With the board involved, it would be obligated to give all interested persons a reasonable opportunity to make representations concerning the designation.

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

The principles on which the bill is based, that is to protect significant examples of Canada's built heritage and to encourage a culture of conservation in this country, are important. I salute the hon. member for South Shore—St. Margaret's for engaging the House in debate on this matter and for bringing it forward from the Senate.

However, the bill requires amendments in order to make it more fiscally responsible and to bring the processes and the policy foundation more closely into line with existing designation programs. There are currently three heritage designation programs which, like Bill S-14, relate to built heritage. These are the national historic sites program, the federal heritage buildings program and the heritage railway stations program.

The national program of historic commemoration identifies places, persons and events of national historical significance. This is done through the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, which advises the Minister of the Environment on the designation of these subjects.

The Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada was established in 1919 to evaluate and provide advice regarding subjects of national historic significance. It continues its important work to this day, receiving more than 2,200 inquiries each year from Canadians about possible designations. Over 80% of the subjects considered by the board are brought forward through submissions from the public.

I can vouch for that because a number of sites from my home province of Prince Edward Island have been considered by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada and been designated as historic sites. They are definitely an important part of our heritage.

The Parks Canada agency supplies the research support for the program and also the board's secretariat. It installs commemorate plaques and monuments, and Parks Canada administers about one in six of the more than 900 national historic sites.

Some 13 lighthouses have been designated as national historic sites. Of these, eight are administered by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and five by the Parks Canada agency. Those which are administered by Parks Canada are protected for all time in accordance with the Historic Sites and Monuments Act and the Parks Canada Act, and are among Canada's most important and treasured lighthouses.

Examples of these crown jewels include the Cape Spear National Historic Site of Canada, which is located along Newfoundland's coastline at the most easterly point of land in North America. A second example would be British Columbia's Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Site of Canada, the first lighthouse on Canada's west coast. These are true national treasures and deserve the highest level of protection and care.

If the national historic sites program and that which is proposed for heritage lighthouses are compared, several important differences emerge. National historic sites represent the very best of what Canada has to offer. They are national treasures. The designation process is selective and sets a high standard for inclusion. By contract, Bill S-14 does not specify designation criteria. The intention is clearly to include more lighthouses than the 13 which have been designated as national historic sites thus far.

Bill S-14 would provide statutory protection for designated lighthouses. For national historic sites, currently only those which are administered by Parks Canada enjoy that level of protection. There is a strong legislative basis for that level of protection, not only for the lighthouses that are there now but for all historic sites. This was identified by the Auditor General in her 2004 report on the protection of cultural heritage in the federal government.

Parks Canada is working toward legislation that would address this problem. If Bill S-14 were passed in the absence of this historic places legislation, then Canada would be in the peculiar position of protecting many lighthouses while not protecting its most precious built heritage sites, the national historic sites.

The Historic Sites and Monuments Act sets the legislative framework under which sites are designated and establishes the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. Bill S-14 proposes that this body, composed of experts on Canadian history, would be pressed into service in administering the heritage lighthouse system. This would distract their efforts from their primary task which is to make recommendations to the minister on matters of national historic significance. I do not disagree that the lighthouse issue is extremely important, but is each and every one of national historic significance?

The second existing built heritage program addresses the protection of federal heritage buildings. It comprises a two level designation process carried out under the Treasury Board's heritage buildings policy. Under the policy, buildings owned by the federal government which are more than 40 years old are evaluated and can be designated at the highest level as classified or recognized, which is the next level.

The Parks Canada agency is responsible for providing the research and for administering the policy through a secretariat known as the federal heritage buildings review office. Its purpose and mandate is to protect the heritage character of buildings while a property is within federal jurisdiction and to ensure appropriate measures are taken to protect heritage when such buildings are sold outside the federal inventory. There are currently 266 classified and 1,048 recognized federal heritage buildings. When the federal heritage buildings program is compared with Bill S-14, several important differences are evident.

The federal heritage buildings program is based on the premise that the department which administers a building is responsible for decisions about its care. For many lighthouses, for example, Fisheries and Oceans Canada makes judgments about how to best use and maintain them. When they have come to the end of their useful lives, it then sells or transfers the buildings in its care.

Bill S-14, by contrast, endows the minister responsible for the bill with the power to make decisions about work to be done on a heritage lighthouse and when it can be sold.

The bottom line is we need to do this in a fiscally responsible way. Yes, keep our most important treasures, but it has to be done without abusing the taxpayers of the nation as well.

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.


Loyola Hearn Conservative St. John's South, NL

Mr. Speaker, it is too bad that we have no time for questions because I am sure many of us would like to ask the parliamentary secretary a number of questions.

I want to thank my colleague from South Shore--St. Margaret's for bringing Bill S-14 to the House. The legislation has been on the go for quite some time and has been driven by two senators, the hon. Pat Carney from the west coast and the hon. Mike Forrestall from the east coast. Senator Carney has been a champion for protecting our lighthouses over the years, trying to keep them active and ensuring they are not forgotten by the people who have been served by them for so long. Senator Forrestall has done a similarly good job.

Maybe we should bring a bill in the House outlawing parliamentary secretaries because these are dangerous positions. Until members become parliamentary secretaries, they are ordinary people and they do what they are supposed to do on behalf of their constituents. Once they become one, they have to do what government tells them to do, and one of those things is to read a prepared government speech.

I just listened to the parliamentary secretary. He has been a champion for people involved in the fishery and marine life over the years. I was sure if there were anyone we could count on from the governing party to support Bill S-14, it would have been the hon. member. I think in his heart he does support the legislation, but I also think he is being pressured by government to come up with some excuses for not supporting the bill.

I believe the Speaker's ruling earlier today clarified the fact that Bill S-14 would not hamstring the government in relation to expenditure. It depends on what happens afterwards, and of course expenditure could be spread around.

Lighthouses have played a significant part in the lives of people in our country, particularly on the east and west coasts. On the east coast, where we have extremely heavy ocean traffic and abundant fog and storms, lighthouses have saved the lives of numerous people on many occasions.

The area in which I live and represented before the boundary change and to some degree part of which I still represent was known as the graveyard of the Atlantic. Hundreds of shipwrecks occurred in that very region because it was the turning point for ocean going traffic. It has a very rough and rugged coastline. For many years that area did not have the type of aids available today to those who ply the Atlantic or the Pacific or the Arctic.

The people who operated these lighthouses were on constant guard. It was only because of the fact that these facilities were located in strategic positions that many mariners were warned of the impending danger of the rocks and cliffs and consequently had the opportunity to veer clear. On many occasions, the people who lived in the lighthouses or associated dwellings saw from their vantage point ships in danger, took early action and saved numerous lives.

There are about 500 extremely important lighthouses throughout the country. The parliamentary secretary has made it clear that only 13 of those 500 are national historic sites. Many others deserve recognition. All of them deserve protection because of the role they have played. All of them deserve protection not because of history alone but because of their future potential.

In many marine areas the big draw is the lighthouse. Peggy's Cove was mentioned by our colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore. One of the draws at Peggy's Cove is not just a painted up building and cute little fishing area. It is the lighthouse.

I represent the most easterly point in North America and that is Cape Spear. The lighthouse there has been designated as a national historic site. It is a tremendous draw all year but particularly during the tourist season which would be from perhaps May to November.

These are unique facilities. They bring money into the area because of their draw and history. I do not think we have dug into this at all. Having known many of the people who have manned these lighthouses over the years, at least rough notes have been kept and people remember the stories. There are many anecdotes about what went on during the existence of the lighthouses and the part they and the people around them played in the culture and history of our provinces. I am sure what is true for Newfoundland and Labrador is true for British Columbia, Nova Scotia, P.E.I. and the rest. I believe only two provinces do not have lighthouses and those are in the prairie section of the country.

Properly researched and documented, stories of these experiences would add tremendously to our history, our culture and our folklore. They become a draw and tie in with the little museums we now see in many of the lighthouses.

I mentioned Cape Spear which is an extremely important one. It is in the most easterly point off North America. However, there is another one in the area that is well known. There are several lighthouses throughout my riding, but one in particular is the lighthouse at Cape Race. For years Cape Race has been on the turning point of ocean going traffic. It is around that area where the so-called graveyard of the Atlantic is located, with over 600 documented wrecks in that immediate area alone over the years.

When the Titanic hit the iceberg, the only message received in North America was at the radio room associated with the lighthouse at Cape Race. It then was relayed to ships that headed off to try to do what they could to rescue the people who were thrown from the great ship. That is just one example of how important it was to have the facility there at that time. What would have happened if the message had not been picked up at Cape Race? It was a disaster, as we know. How bad would it have been had the message not been relayed as quickly as it was?

That particular lighthouse and the radio room associated with it has been refurbished to some degree. The room has been rebuilt. It has become a tremendous attraction. Right next door to it, on the way out to the lighthouse, which is about 12 miles off the main road, there is a cliff where one can walk out and look at fossils which are spread out as if we spread pennies on a carpet. The fossils are 620 million years old. Not only the lighthouses themselves but everything surrounding them add so much and they should not be forgotten.

One of the reasons people are concerned with money is that the government has done such a poor job over the years to keep these in half decent shape. At times now it takes a lot to bring them up to par, but it has to be done. It is worth doing it. Therefore, we support the bill.

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.


Anthony Rota Liberal Nipissing—Timiskaming, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise in the House today to say a few words about Bill S-14.

I fully recognize the role that lighthouses have played in shaping Canada's history. Over the centuries they have come to symbolize coastal life to such an extent that they are now one of the most popular, if not the most popular, symbols of Canada's coast.

While these proud symbols still stand, their function has evolved over the years. Lighthouses are no longer a primary aid to navigation for mariners. New marine technology has usurped the role that lighthouses used to play. Technological innovations like digital global positioning services and automatic identification services offer today's mariners kinds of modern efficiencies that lighthouses never could.

This technology is also extremely cost effective, an important consideration in the highly competitive marine transportation sector.

For cost efficiency and overall effectiveness, lighthouses simply cannot compete, but this does not mean that lighthouses do not have a role to play in modern Canadian life. These structures continue to occupy a special place in the hearts of everyone from coastal communities.

Take their tourism potential for instance. Tourism is a burgeoning industry in Canada's coastal region. Lighthouses continue to be a popular attraction for visitors looking to experience coastal life first hand. In a similar vein, their educational value cannot be overestimated. For young Canadians they stand as an important symbol of our history and a tangible link to origins of modern Canada. To lose this link to our past would be an immeasurable loss to our society.

The question remains: how do we maintain these lighthouses? Given their function in modern Canada, what is the best way to preserve this key part of our shared heritage for future generations? This is a serious issue for DFO, because the reality is these lighthouses are playing a smaller and smaller role in DFO's operational work.

The department currently owns more than 750 structures that are considered by the public to be light stations. About 250 of these are known as major lighthouses which used to be staffed and were built complete with accommodation buildings.

In cases where the lighthouses remain staffed, DFO has tried to maintain the integrity of these lighthouses and outbuildings. For the remainder, the department has limited its maintenance to keeping aids to navigation service.

Over the years DFO has worked to transfer lighthouses that are surplus to program needs to other levels of government and local not for profit organizations which are finding new alternate uses for light stations, including promotions for tourism.

As it stands, Bill S-14 would place new responsibility on DFO to maintain and preserve light stations. Moreover, these responsibilities would detract from the department's ability to provide its ongoing operational services through the Canadian Coast Guard services that are essential in keeping mariners safe in Canada's waters.

Mr. Speaker, I know you are well aware of the key role that the Coast Guard plays in Canadian life. Like lighthouses, the Coast Guard is a visible symbol of life in coastal Canada but it is also far more than that. This is a proud Canadian institution that provides a full range of valuable life saving programs and services to Canadian mariners and indeed to anyone plying Canadian waters.

Investing departmental resources to maintain lighthouses would take much needed resources from these programs and services, programs and services like search and rescue, which play a direct and immediate role in keeping Canada's marine transportation system and the thousands of men and women who use it each year safe and secure.

Quite simply, the department does not have the financial flexibility to invest in light station maintenance beyond what is strictly required for operational reasons. It has no ability to take heritage considerations into account.

Without significant additional funding, DFO would not be able to maintain Canada's lighthouses as described by Bill S-14 without jeopardizing the valuable life saving services it provides mariners in Canadian waters.

The application of Bill S-14 must not compromise DFO's ability to fulfill its mandate and to make operational decisions about light stations as they relate to mariners' safety and security in Canadian waters. Having said that, I do believe that government has an essential role to play in protecting Canada's heritage, including its light stations. During the first reading of Bill S-14 it was indicated that we would like to see a better way to preserve the bill's intent.

While ensuring that DFO can carry out these responsibilities for safety and security in Canada's waters, it is essential that they continue to provide some heritage protection. A more comprehensive approach to the protection of built heritage including light stations would be through the proposed federal historic places initiative. This would give Canada's historically important light stations the level of protection they need. At the same time this approach would ensure that DFO could continue its high quality of service for mariners. It would provide that protection that mariners have come to expect while travelling our waters.

That is why while I offer my support for Bill S-14, I would prefer to see it amended to deal with the associated financial impacts on DFO and the services it provides in support of Canada's marine transportation system.

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity in the final few minutes of debate on the bill to add my strong support for the idea of special recognition for the historical significance that lighthouses played in the development of Canada and the history of our maritime development. Although I know many of the speakers today were referring to the importance of light stations to the east coast of Canada, Nova Scotia and Cape Spear and the many tourist attractions that exist there, I want to point that I have travelled in western Canada and it is worthy to note the role that our lighthouse system has played in the maritime navigation history in that part of the world too.

I come from downtown Winnipeg where the issue of lighthouses would not be expected to be of significance. I do point out the role of navigation on the fifth largest lake in North America, Lake Winnipeg, which does in fact have federally regulated lighthouses. The largest freshwater fishery in North America is on Lake Winnipeg. Many people do not realize that Lake Winnipeg has had a productive, healthy, multi-million dollar fishery and a lighthouse system throughout history, since the 1880s when the Icelandic people first settled in Gimli, Manitoba. They found this great inland sea that mirrored much of the topography where they came from, which gave them the opportunity to engage in fishing. The existence of the lighthouse system in the province of Manitoba is invaluable.

People may think it odd that in the middle of a budget debate members of Parliament would pause to deal with an issue on the preservation of our historic lighthouses. I do not see this as a contradiction at all. This is time well spent for members of Parliament to take note of the historic role that lighthouses play not just in Atlantic Canada, although it is obviously paramount in the minds of the people there, not just on the west coast from Gabriola Island up to Port Hardy, where the network of lighthouses is critical to the safe navigation in that part of the world, but also in Manitoba. Manitoba may not be known for the maritime influence on the lives and well-being of people especially in the interlake region and in northern Manitoba where that great inland sea is a key economic engine for the province of Manitoba.

My compliments to the senator for initiating this bill. My compliments to the member of Parliament who was the conduit to bring a bill that originated in the Senate into the House of Commons. There is strong support for the bill on behalf of myself and my NDP colleagues in the province of Manitoba.

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Is the House ready for the question?

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Some hon. members


Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Some hon. members


Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Some hon. members


Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Some hon. members


Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

All those opposed will please say nay.

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Some hon. members


Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, June 22, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

The House resumed from June 17 consideration of Bill C-48, An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments, as reported (with amendments) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The member for Winnipeg Centre has three minutes remaining in his debate and then five minutes in the questions and comments period.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders



Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to pick up where I left off the last time Bill C-48 was before this House. I will try and limit my remarks to wrap up the comments I put on the record last week.

Let me simply restate how very proud I am to be a New Democrat member of Parliament today in that in Bill C-48 we are doing something constructive for the people of Canada. We are, as a good opposition party should, taking advantage of a minority Parliament situation, all according to the rules, all within the parameters of a balanced budget. We are moving our legislative agenda forward.

That is a virtual civics lesson for the members opposite. I find that all we see with the official opposition is those members standing on the sidelines shaking their fists, gnashing their teeth, rending their garments and trying to tear down what we are trying to build up today.

I had to watch the late night debate on Thursday that went until midnight where speaker after speaker not only were loaded with misinformation about the reality of this balanced better budget, as we are calling it with the NDP's influence, but they were trying to state that they have an alternative.

All that is being offered by the 98 members of the Conservative Party, and it used to have 99 members but it now has 98 members, is negativity and a negative influence. Canadians are sick of that. Maybe that is why the Conservatives are plummeting in the polls because all that people hear from the official opposition is “Tear it down”. “Burn baby burn” seems to be their motto these days.

On this side of the House, I am proud to say the New Democrats are putting forward realistic, reasonable arguments that the social spending should be increased, so that the surplus in taxpayers' dollars actually gets directed toward taxpayers. There is a very grassroots sensibility to this. I am surprised that the people who used to call themselves the grassroots party do not see the contradiction. They are objecting because we interrupted yet another tax break for corporate Bay Street.

We left in the tax cuts for small and medium size business. That is another piece of misinformation the Conservatives are guilty of. In actual fact, the balanced budget that is before the House today has tax relief for small and medium size business. It has debt repayment. It has spending on affordable housing, post-secondary education, the environment. This is good news for ordinary Canadians.

The Conservatives have missed the boat. They are misreading the mood of the public out there. After eight surplus budgets in a row, we want some spending to go to taxpayers again. There is no rule that every bit of surplus has to be shovelled dutifully to Bay Street. That is where those guys as corporate shills do not get it.

On behalf of ordinary working Canadians, I am proud that we managed to use our political leverage and political influence to make some gains for ordinary Canadians. Let us spend our money on our needs at this point in time in Canadian history.

I am very proud to be here to speak in favour of Bill C-48. I hope it achieves speedy passage. Then we can all go back to our ridings and tell people that we used this opportunity to do something for them for a change.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders



Myron Thompson Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Evidently, Mr. Speaker, when this individual travels his riding he is not paying a lot of attention to what is happening to normal families and the taxes they pay, or to the overcharges happening to businesses when two people have to run their own business because they cannot even afford to hire people anymore. The taxes are outrageous in this land. Corporate tax cuts spread throughout the economy would help a great deal, but I do not want to go there because arguing about taxes and spending with a New Democrat is like beating my head against the wall.

According to the NDP, Bill C-48 proposes wonderful solutions for education and for housing, particularly the problems on the Indian reserves with housing, et cetera. Over 12 years I have seen the same thing in the budgets: money for housing, for education and for corrections to problems on the reserves. Things are going to be better, say the Liberals every year.

In my opinion, the Liberals have failed every year to meet the commitments they always make to improve things. These things still exist and they are not any better. In fact, on the reserves it is probably worse now than it was in 1993 in many cases. In regard to poverty, children's poverty was at the level of one million in 1993. Now it is at 1.5 million. Taxing and spending does not seem to cut it at all.

What makes the member so confident that the Liberal government will end up supporting the proposals put forward by the NDP when in the past we have not been able to trust it to keep any promise?

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I firmly believe that minority governments are good for ordinary Canadians. Minority governments are good for progress on social issues, depending on who is using the political leverage to motivate the ruling party of the day. The NDP, with our 19 seats, down in this dark corner of the House of Commons over here, has used its political leverage very well to move the ruling party on the issues that we care about.

The last thing Canadians would want to do is take advice from the Conservative Party, because many of us remember that the Mulroney government was the most wasteful government in Canadian history. It almost bankrupted this country.

The Grant Devine government holds its cabinet meetings in prison because the members were all so corrupt that they not only bankrupted the province of Saskatchewan but 18 of them were convicted of criminal offences.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

An hon. member

Tell us about British Columbia.