moved that Bill C-370, an act to amend the Canada National Parks Act (St. Lawrence Islands National Park of Canada), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to begin debate on the second reading of my private member's bill, Bill C-370, an act to amend the Canada National Parks Act (St. Lawrence Islands National Park of Canada).
In 1911, Canada led the world by establishing a national service dedicated to it parks. As it celebrated its 100th anniversary last year, Parks Canada advertised our famous national parks to draw attention to the parks and the park service and to attract visitors. Among those parks that we celebrated and advertised was St. Lawrence Islands National Park, most of which is located in my great riding of Leeds—Grenville.
Today I will briefly discuss the background and mandate of Parks Canada. I will describe the region in which St. Lawrence Islands National Park exists, explain the importance of visitors to my riding and discuss marketing and branding of this national park. This will lead to the natural conclusion that St. Lawrence Islands National Park should be renamed Thousand Islands national park, the subject of my bill.
My goal today is to present an overall snapshot of the issue in the limited time that I have at my disposal.
Parks Canada has several important roles in Canada. Working for the people of Canada, the agency protects and presents nationally significant examples of Canada's natural and cultural heritage. It helps foster public understanding, appreciation and enjoyment while at the time ensuring the integrity of these special places in Canada. Parks Canada's website explains that it is guardian, guide, partner and storyteller to the nation and the world about our national parks.
National parks themselves were, and are, established to protect and present outstanding representative examples of natural landscapes and natural phenomena that occur in Canada. These wild places, located in every province and territory, range from mountains and plains, to boreal forests and tundra, to lakes and glaciers, and much more. National parks protect the habitats, wildlife and ecosystem diversity representative of and sometimes unique to the natural regions.
St. Lawrence Islands National Park is located in an area of rich biodiversity. It consists of several ecologically important mainland properties and islands between Kingston and Brockville. The visitors' centre at Mallorytown Landing provides an introduction to the park, with hiking trail, interpretive programs, exhibits and family activities. The park is a partner in encouraging sustainable lifestyles and protecting the ecosystems of the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve.
For those who are unaware, a biosphere reserve is identified by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, as an area that has an important natural and ecological value and is a place where people live, work and enjoy a variety of economic and recreational activities based on respect for the environment.
The concept of a biosphere reserve is that local communities, or representatives from key sectors such as agriculture, tourism, business, conservation and education, work together to develop projects that link conservation with economic development in their region. The committees are voluntary and community based, not connected to governmental or regulatory authorities. The Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve, which includes the St. Lawrence Islands National Park, was officially designated by UNESCO in 2002.
The St. Lawrence Islands National Park, which was established in 1904 as the first Canadian national park east of the Rocky Mountains, celebrated its centennial in 2004. The park is at a naturally occurring confluence of important geological formations and is also at a naturally occurring confluence of the cultural history of our nation.
I will read and paraphrase from the park's own information for a minute to provide a description of the park. It reads:
St. Lawrence Islands National Park is located in the heart of the 1000 Islands area, an 80-km wide extension of granite hilltops joining the Canadian Shield of northern Ontario with the Adirondack Mountains in New York State.
Glaciers retreated 10,000 years ago scraping sediments and exposing the rounded knobs of an ancient mountain chain. When the St. Lawrence River flooded the area on its path to the Atlantic Ocean, 1000 hilltops became the 1000 Islands.
Soil was slow to form over the acidic granite; today the area retains a rugged beauty. Plants and animals migrated to the area, encouraged by the moderating effects of the Great Lakes and the variety of micro-habitats which were created by the rugged topography. The islands form a land bridge from northwest to southeast across the St. Lawrence River, aiding movement of species through the area.
This narrow isthmus, known as the Frontenac Axis or Arch, is the vital link joining two important North American landforms--the Canadian Shield and the Adirondack Mountains--to form one contiguous ecosystem. Although the waters of the Great Lakes can be a barrier to migrating flora and fauna, the St. Lawrence funnels the water into a narrow channel and the islands form stepping stones, shortening distances between land masses.
The presence of the Great Lakes to the west has the effect of a 'heat sink' which moderates the climate in the area immediately surrounding the 1000 Islands. As a result, many plants and animals reach the limits of their range in the 1000 Islands.
The river also funnelled people coming from the Atlantic to the interior of North America through the islands. Native people, explorers and settlers have left their mark on the region and the islands. Enough native artifacts have been located to prompt a mandatory search every time waterfront is developed. Battles have taken place among the islands. Explorers and writers have marvelled at their beauty and mystery.
The French actually named the area les Mille-Îles, or the Thousand Islands, in the 1700s when French explorers travelled through the region. This was long before there were international boundaries. The islands themselves were named by the British navy.
The park began in 1904 with a small piece of waterfront property in Mallorytown Landing. Nine federally-owned islands in the St. Lawrence added to the attraction and recreational facilities were installed. Over the years, islands and land parcels were annexed.
Today the park contains more than 20 islands and about 90 islets scattered between Main Duck Island, which is located in Lake Ontario off Kingston and Brockville, Ontario. It includes mainland properties in Mallorytown Landing, Landon Bay, Jones Creek and Larue Mills Creek. Visitors come from all over the world to see the islands on one of the many boat tours of the region and visit the land-based facilities.
There are recreational opportunities of all kinds from bird watching to fishing to boating and swimming and so much more. Catering to visitors has become big business in my riding of Leeds—Grenville.
The latest statistics that are available from Statistics Canada indicate there are 438 enterprises that consider themselves visitor-based in my riding. These employ almost 6,000 people. Scattered throughout the riding but concentrated in the area closest to the Thousand Islands visitor services by any account is a very large employer in my riding.
I attended an event recently in Brockville that was celebrating the milestone in the construction of the Maritime Discovery Centre, a soon to be open tourist attraction that will concentrate its exhibits in the region. At that event, the mayor of Brockville, whose family business is printing, stated another interesting fact about how my riding was changing. He noted that as little as 10 years ago, the majority of printing he received, and he receives printing from both sides of the Canada-U.S. border, was industrial-based. Today, most of his work is visitor-based.
Visitation to the region and services for those visitors has always been important to my riding. It is becoming more important every year. If this were true only in my riding of Leeds—Grenville, all those business people in my riding would be pleased. However, this is not a situation that is unique to Leeds—Grenville. Visitor services have become a key ingredient from the economic development strategies of almost every community and region.
Knowing this, the folks involved in this industry in my riding are constantly seeking ways to make their products stand out. One way that this is accomplished is by what marketers call “branding”. Marketing associations define a brand as a name, a term, a sign, a symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers
How does this connect to a region or, in this case, a park? It is simple. It is important in this context that everyone works together throughout the region in this case to achieve a common goal.
While there are multiple facets to the technique of branding, I want to concentrate on one, the one that is addressed by my bill.
One of the most important aspects to branding is identification. Even today we identify objects with a familiar brand name. The quickest one that comes to mind is tissue paper and Kleenex. Good branding delivers a message clearly, confirms credibility and connects the market with the object. A solid brand lives in the hearts and minds of customers, clients and prospects. It speaks to their experiences and perceptions. Branding is a quest for a solid, long-lasting and easily identifiable name.
There is a name that people use to quickly and easily identify the area where the St. Lawrence Islands National Park is located and that name is the Thousand Islands. Parks Canada itself and the information about the park that it uses on its website, the information I read a few minutes ago, identifies the location of the park in the Thousand Islands.
As they watched the 100th anniversary advertisement for the St. Lawrence Islands National Park, those involved in visitor services in my riding were left with one observation: The name of this park does not define where it is located. The St. Lawrence River is a very long river. How does the current name of the park define where it is located?
In naming national parks, national marine conservation areas and national historic sites or geographical features in a park or site, Parks Canada follows the general principle of the Geographic Names Board of Canada. However, there is no historical record about how and why St. Lawrence Islands National Park acquired its name.
The general procedure to propose a new name or change a name states that a federal authority would generally investigate a name by consulting the residents of the area, historical documents, files and other sources.
When I began working on this issue, which was brought to me from many of my constituents, I consulted with business owners and members of the municipal councils throughout the region. Some were actually surprised that the park was not already named Thousand Islands National Park because they had been referring to it by that name for many years.
If we were to conduct an Internet search for St. Lawrence Islands, we would find very little information. If we were to conduct a similar search for Thousand Islands, we would find a great deal of information all tied to the region where the park is located. This is an indication that the Thousand Islands name is the one that is popularly used to describe the region and the place where the park is located.
Compounding the current name problem for the national park is the fact that the Ontario government operates an agency called Parks of the St. Lawrence. This agency operates properties along the entire length of the Ontario portion of the St. Lawrence River from Kingston to the Quebec border. It includes things such as Fort Henry, Upper Canada Village, parks and campgrounds all along the St. Lawrence in eastern Ontario. In fact, I used to be the chair of that agency and there was often confusion. Even when people are aware that they are searching for a national park with the St. Lawrence in its name, they can become confused with the Ontario government agency.
Parks Canada has as one of its roles the responsibility for the presentation of our national parks. St. Lawrence Islands National Park is located in what is popularly known as the Thousand Islands. It is comprised of some of these islands. Visitor services are growing and are an important part of the economic development of the region that encompasses this park.
A simple marketing theory demands that the park be easily identified in its location on the lengthy St. Lawrence River.
For all of those reasons, I encourage my colleagues to support my private member's bill to rename the St. Lawrence Islands National Park to the Thousand Islands national park of Canada.