Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from South Shore--St. Margaret's, as well as the hon. Senator Pat Carney and the late hon. Senator Forrestall for the tremendous work they did on this file for many years in trying to bring this issue to the forefront.
Bill S-220 is a compilation of some bills that have been introduced not only in the House but in the Senate. My colleague from South Shore--St. Margaret's has a private member's bill on this, as do I. Senator Carney did yeomen's work trying to get the bill through the Senate and then to the House for this discussion.
I can appreciate some of the concerns my colleague from the Bloc Québécois had but I can assure him that the bill would do quite a lot of good, not only for Quebec heritage but for the rest of the country as well.
Are there a couple of concerns? Every bill has some concerns. As the chair of our committee so rightly said, if we can get this bill to committee we can discuss those concerns in a rather pragmatic fashion and we can bring in people from around the country. We can bring in departmental officials, people from the provinces and, quite possibly, those heritage groups that have insisted on taking over responsibility of these lighthouses. We think that in many ways this is a win-win situation.
The federal government does what it wishes to do through automation now. However, with the technology we have these days many lighthouses have become redundant but their structures have historical significance, not just to us in Atlantic Canada but to people right across the country. Every time one of those lighthouses comes down, either through an act of God or through deliberate attempts by us to remove it, we lose a piece of our history.
I have had the benefit of living on both coasts of this great country and I have seen many lighthouses. It is an absolute joy to picnic near a lighthouse and imagine what it was like 100 or 200 years ago when seafarers plied their trade and used the beacon of hope to direct them into a safe harbour.
We have many folklores and stories about lighthouses. Although we may be romanticizing this particular debate, we believe this issue is of significant importance. Just like other historical aspects within Canada, like grain elevators on the prairies or train stations and other things, lighthouses played a significant role for our ancestors.
We are not asking that every lighthouse be protected. We are not asking that every one of them be designated under a heritage aspect. That would be fiscally unwise and fiscally irresponsible. We are asking that those lighthouses of significant historical importance to the country be protected. People in the Dominion Institute and many others can identify those particular lighthouses.
We know that people within the Department of Canadian Heritage, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Environment Canada, the Coast Guard, et cetera, have expertise on this subject. They could identify the lighthouses that deserve special protection of this nature. We believe that in the end it would actually be fiscally responsible. We also know that many of these lighthouses suffer from environmental contamination and they need to be cleaned up.
As my colleague, who has the honour of living in South Shore--St. Margaret's on the lighthouse route, it is incredible to see the number of tourists from around the world who go to areas like Peggy's Cove, Cape Forchu, Cape Spear in Newfoundland and Langara Island on the west coast and have their pictures taken near what we sometimes call the candy pole or the barbershop pole. Many of the them are in salt and pepper designs as well. These lighthouses are absolutely fantastic. It is absolutely fantastic to explore them, to witness them and to read about their history. When we speak to volunteer groups in the communities that are attached to those lighthouses, we hear their desire to keep those lighthouses.
The love for these lighthouses and their historical significance is something we as politicians should understand more fully. We should also try to assist the volunteer groups in trying to maintain these lighthouses in perpetuity.
The goal of the bill is to eventually get those lighthouses into a state where they can be transferred over to non-profit groups, hopefully within the communities of interest, so that the integrity and the history of these lighthouses can be preserved for many generations to come.
Every time we lose a particular piece of heritage, it is a loss for all of us. I know my hon. colleague from Halifax is very supportive of the bill. I would like to tell my colleague, who is also the chair of our committee, that we in the federal New Democratic Party, as well as the provincial parties across the country, support this initiative.
On some of the concerns that he has outlined that we need to discuss, I am sure we can discuss them in a very pragmatic fashion within our committee.
I would remind the House, as has been mentioned before, that although the members of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans do not necessarily agree on everything, the reality is that I have been on that committee since 1997 and we have done many reports on all aspects of the fishery, and I believe we can work in a collegial fashion to move this issue fairly quickly.
This would really honour a true friend of Nova Scotia and a long time member, not just of the service, but also of the Senate, of the House and of Canada, the late Senator Mike Forrestall. He was a very decent human being. He had a love for this particular issue. We believe that it would be very fitting, in his honour and in his memory, to move a particular issue of this nature forward.
We believe this would be fiscally responsible. We believe that eventually the finances will be in upcoming budgets for this particular initiative. We believe the House of Commons can, once and for all, actually put its stamp on a heritage lighthouse act so that groups, like the Dominion Institute and groups throughout the provinces, the territories and the country, will be able to honestly say that we worked in a manner befitting this Parliament to move this issue forward in, hopefully, a unanimous way one day.
I am sure the Bloc member's concerns can be addressed in our committee as well. I look forward to that day.