House of Commons Hansard #118 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was jobs.


Canada National Parks ActPrivate Members' Business

May 7th, 2012 / 11:05 a.m.


Gord Brown Conservative Leeds—Grenville, ON

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.

Canada National Parks ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Rathika Sitsabaiesan NDP Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am wondering about the costs associated with the adoption of this bill. I wonder if the member has had his private member's bill costed out and, if so, what would be the cost?

It seems to me that changing the name of a 108-year-old national park would have a number of costs associated with it. As the member pointed out, the cost of re-branding is the marketing costs, such as signage, brochures, website redesign, et cetera.

Does the member have any idea what the costs associated with this re-branding would be?

Canada National Parks ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Gord Brown Conservative Leeds—Grenville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Scarborough—Rouge River for her excellent question and one that, in fact, I had asked.

There would be a minimal cost of somewhere around $100,000 over a 10 year period. Basically, the signs are already in place and therefore would be covered. Changes to the website and brochures are ongoing costs. The actual cost of this change is very small but the benefits would be great.

Canada National Parks ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Ted Hsu Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am looking forward to speaking to the bill later.

I want to invite my hon. colleague from Leeds—Grenville to talk about the kinds of benefits that can be expected from tourism as a result of the bill. Perhaps he might like to talk about the great attractions for tourists in the riding of Leeds--Grenville.

Canada National Parks ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Gord Brown Conservative Leeds—Grenville, ON

Mr. Speaker, part of this park is located in the member's riding, just off Fort Henry.

My colleague knows how important tourism is to Kingston and the Thousand Islands. There are many attractions in Kingston; I talked a bit about Fort Henry. In fact, I chaired the agency that operates Fort Henry. Fort Henry is owned by the federal government, and I am proud that this government has poured millions of dollars into restoring it, and the member for Kingston and the Islands is happy about that as well, because it was not that many years ago that Fort Henry was crumbling. Its future was bleak, but this government has ensured that Fort Henry will be sustainable for the long run.

Canada National Parks ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

Ajax—Pickering Ontario


Chris Alexander ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, obviously we are all grateful for this excellent piece of legislation from the member for Leeds—Grenville.

In answer to the question put forward by our colleague opposite from Scarborough—Rouge River about costs, the member could have said that the cost of making this change would be a lot less than creating a new park in the Rouge Valley, a park that she and many of us on this side of the House welcome.

The member speaks with such authority about the economy depending on this park. Could he tell us what it would mean for the economy of Leeds—Grenville? Could he tell us what it would mean for the tourism sector in Leeds--Grenville? What will changes like branding mean as we go into the bicentennial of the War of 1812, which also played an important role in his region?

Canada National Parks ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Gord Brown Conservative Leeds—Grenville, ON

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary is familiar with the Thousand Islands region, having gone to school there.

His question had to do with the importance of tourism. I spoke about 6,000 jobs in my riding alone, and I am sure the member for Kingston and the Islands has at least that many as well.

My colleague mentioned the War of 1812, and the first skirmish in the War of 1812 happened in my hometown of Gananoque in September. June 18, 1812, was the day war was declared by the United States on Great Britain. On June 18, 2012, a big event is going to be held to commemorate the start of that war. This year many events are going to be held along the St. Lawrence and in the Thousand Islands region to commemorate the War of 1812 as we welcome visitors from the United States as well as celebrate our Canadian heritage.

Canada National Parks ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Rathika Sitsabaiesan NDP Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to join the debate on Bill C-370, an act to amend the Canada National Parks Act (St. Lawrence Islands National Park of Canada). This is a very interesting bill, as it proposes to change the name of a Canadian national park from “St. Lawrence Islands National Park” to “Thousand Islands National Park”.

I would first like to talk a bit about the background of this national park. The St. Lawrence Islands National Park is located in the Thousand Islands region of the St. Lawrence River. This is a particularly special region, as it connects the Canadian Shield from Algonquin Park to the Adirondack Mountains. The park consists of 21 islands plus many smaller islets, and is Canada's third-smallest national park, with a total area of 24.4 square kilometres.

The park is located within the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve, which is known as one of the areas with the highest biodiversity in Canada. The Frontenac Arch Biosphere was designated by UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere program in November of 2002. It was designated as such for its unique flora and fauna, as the area contains a vast diversity of plant and animal life. There are many species at risk in the region, totalling 34 for both plants and animals. It is a beautiful region of our country and is one of the most diverse areas in Canada. It really is a phenomenal place to visit.

The region also has a vast history. Originally it was inhabited, like much of our beautiful nation, by aboriginal peoples; the first people of this area were actually the Iroquois, to be exact. The 17th century saw the arrival of many French explorers, fur traders and missionaries to the area as they followed the St. Lawrence River to seek their fortune in this new world. European settlers began moving into the area during the American Revolution. During the War of 1812, the park area was visited by both British and American warships. Actually, the hull of a British gunboat that was sunk in the area was raised in 1967; it was preserved and now resides in this park.

The park is also home to Cathcart Tower, one of the Martello towers that were built in the 1840s to defend the British from American invasion. The tower is also a UNESCO world heritage site.

In 1904 the area was established as St. Lawrence Islands National Park. It was the first national park established in Canada east of the Rocky Mountains. The history of this area, coupled with the fact that this park is the oldest national park east of the Rocky Mountains, makes it a remarkable part of our Canadian history and heritage, something I know all members of the House are interested in preserving and protecting.

My hon. colleague who introduced this bill sits as a member with me on the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, and he and the other members of his caucus who sit on that committee are constantly reiterating the importance of protecting our national heritage and history. With this in mind, I am very confused as to why he would want to change the name of such a historical and well-established national park. I feel that changing the name of this park is unnecessary and unwarranted. This park has been in existence for 108 years and is well established. Considering the cuts recently delivered to Parks Canada by the Conservative government, I also feel it is unfair for that same government to then legislate that Parks Canada spend some of its already tight budget on the costs associated with this unnecessary name change.

There are costs associated with changing signage, brochures, websites and generally rebranding the park. The rebranding of this park would be no small feat. The people in my riding of Scarborough—Rouge River have been calling for years for the creation of Rouge national park; the throne speech last summer announced the government's intent to create the people's park, yet this past budget did nothing but re-announce the same promise. There was no funding committed to the creation of the park, no outline or timeframe announced for the establishment of the park, nothing other than the same promise.

Instead, Parks Canada was dealt a total funding cut of $29.2 million by 2015, 638 jobs were declared as surplus at Parks Canada and an additional 1,689 jobs will be affected in some way between now and 2015, either through shortened hours, being deemed seasonal or just cut altogether. Of these cuts, 396 are located right here in Ontario.

The government is asking Parks Canada to dedicate valuable time and resources to renaming and rebranding a park that is 108 years old. It seems slightly unfair and impractical. Meanwhile, we hear that it will take up to 10 years until the creation of Rouge national park gets under way, a promise that the government made now one year ago.

Moreover, the negligible and unproven economic benefit of the bill in relation to tourism would be vastly outweighed by the negative regional economic impacts of shutting down the Kingston Penitentiary and throwing more than 460 people out of work in the region.

Canadians in my riding and across the country are suffering. People are unemployed and underemployed. They are having trouble putting food on the table and making ends meet. Seniors, many of whom are unfortunately already living in poverty, are being forced to work two years longer. First nations across the country are living in extreme forms of poverty and sub-par conditions.

Public service jobs have been slashed by at least 19,200 positions. Provinces are losing $31 billion in health transfers owing to a unilateral funding structure change made by the government. Students and their families are being straddled with enormous student debt. Approximately 280,000 federal skilled worker immigrant applications from people who applied prior to February 27, 2008, are being closed and refunded. The eco-energy retrofit program, which has been widely popular in this country, serving 250,000 households, is being terminated. This will cause a loss of 70,000 person-hours of work and $520 million in federal tax revenue.

I could keep going on, because this list continues. The government does not have its priorities straight. It cannot cut funding to Parks Canada in the budget and then saddle it with the costs of making an unnecessary change to the name of an already well-established national park.

The government needs to start focusing on the things that matter to Canadians: job creation and access to the services they rely. This bill is yet one more example of how out of touch the government really is with Canadians.

Canada National Parks ActPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.


Ted Hsu Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to rise this morning and speak to Bill C-370 introduced by my hon. colleague, the member for Leeds—Grenville.

When I spoke with park experts, they said several times that he was a good friend of St. Lawrence Islands National Park. I want to commend him for that.

I would just like to respond to the previous speaker by saying that this is actually a private member's bill and not a government bill. I know that Parks Canada is struggling with budget cuts, and I know that this particular park is struggling with budget cuts and having to lay off people. This is not a government bill, and I do not want to hold my hon. colleague responsible for these things. I have been told several times that the member is a very good friend of St. Lawrence Islands National Park and the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve.

This is the smallest national park in Canada. It is the oldest national park east of the Rockies.

The park was created in 1904.

Some of the park is in the great riding of Kingston and the Islands. It includes Cedar Island, which is just off Cartwright Point in Kingston and the Islands. On this island is Cathcart Tower, one of four Martello towers that guard the entrance to the harbour in Kingston and that were constructed during the 19th century. This park has a lot of history.

The park stretches from just south of Kingston and the Islands, south of Kingston to Mallorytown, comprising about 20 larger islands, a series of islets and a number of inland properties. Geologically, it is composed of old granite mountaintops in an old hilly strip connecting the Canadian Shield to the Adironack Mountains.

It is an important part of our history. It was settled by aboriginal peoples at the beginning of the Holocene epoch, the epoch that we are now exiting. It was settled about 10,000 years ago because it was a great place to fish and hunt. Wild turkeys still live there. Those wild turkeys were probably the origin of a wild turkey that settled on my mother's backyard porch in the middle of the city of Kingston. It is a very strange thing to imagine in the middle of the city of Kingston. That just points to the biodiversity in the area.

This area was settled by European settlers, especially United Empire Loyalists fleeing the American Revolution. In the early 20th century, this area became a getaway for the rich and famous in North America. A lot of the buildings, the elegant houses and the summer cottages are great sights seen on the various boat cruises of tourist attractions in the region. They are a large and important part of the local economy.

I want to go back to talk about the importance of the area as a reserve of biodiversity. This park is part of the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve, an official United Nations biosphere reserve. The function of the park is to help preserve that biodiversity and to make it available to people, especially to students. The history and the biodiversity are two reasons why this is such an important park for the region and for the country. That is why it is a national park.

I want to talk now about the Thousand Islands region. This is a region that consists of 1,864 islands on the western end of the St. Lawrence Seaway, right in the region of the park.

My personal experience with the Thousand Islands began in my youth. When our family travelled on summer vacations, we would all get in the car and travel around North America. When my parents wanted to explain to people in some other part of North America where we lived, they would just say, “It's near the Thousand Islands”. People always understood what that meant, or at least had heard of the Thousand Islands.

More recently, after being elected to this seat, a lot of the news media in Toronto who wanted to interview me kept referring to my riding as “Kingston and the Thousand Islands”. So the word “thousand islands” is really stuck in people's minds. It is already a brand associated with the region and with tourism. It brings tourists to the region and is very important for our local economy. I want to thank my colleague, the hon. member for Leeds—Grenville, for putting forward this bill. The idea of changing the name of this park to Thousand Islands National Park is something for which there has been a lot of community consultation. People have thought about this for quite awhile and there is a consensus that this would be a good thing to do. The name is recognized by tourists from all over the world. Nowadays, there are a lot of tourist buses on highway 401. We want them to stop and visit our region and enjoy what it has to offer. It is a very important part of our region's economy and provides a lot of jobs.

There are other reasons for renaming this park. As my hon. colleague has mentioned, the St. Lawrence River goes from Kingston all the way to Quebec and beyond. The St. Lawrence Islands National Park stretches from Kingston to Mallorytown so it really is centred around the Thousand Islands region. We do not want to confuse it with the whole of the St. Lawrence River and all the other islands that are in the St. Lawrence River from Kingston all the way to Quebec City. We also want to distinguish this particular national park from the phrase “parks of the St. Lawrence”, which is used by the Province of Ontario to describe a number of other attractions in the area, for example, Fort Henry which everybody should visit the first chance they get.

I would like to conclude by saying that this has been thought through by the community. This is not rebranding. It is attaching the name of this park to a brand that is very old and well-known throughout the world and something that people naturally talk about when they talk about the region. It would be very important for the economy of the region to attach this park to the brand so that more tourists come and visit. Finally, I would say that the St. Lawrence National Park is struggling with the government's recent cuts to Parks Canada. We will be struggling to protect biodiversity and to pass on the history of the region. I think that the member for Leeds—Grenville and I will be working to mitigate some of the effects of these cuts on what I hope will soon be known as the Thousands Islands National Park of Canada.

Canada National Parks ActPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


Royal Galipeau Conservative Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure today to speak in support of my hon. friend from Leeds—Grenville and his private member's bill, An Act to amend the Canada National Parks Act (St. Lawrence Islands National Park of Canada). My time is short and I will discuss tourism and visitors' services as it relates to the park at the centre of this bill.

One of the key economic challenges facing Canada is tourism and how we can take advantage of the growing market for international tourism.

It is no secret that between 2000 and 2009, Canada dropped from 8th to 15th place in the ranking of international tourist destinations.

That is why last year this government released a federal tourism strategy titled “Welcoming the World”. That document recognizes that millions of people from around the world come to Canada each year to see the country and participate in Canadian experiences.

The tourism and visitor services industry supports thousands of jobs all across the country and could keep on growing in the future.

We have a lot to offer visitors in this industry that continues to show resilience even through the recent tough economic times. The tourism strategy announced last year takes what is called a whole-of-government approach. Every department that touches on the tourism industry reviews its impact on the industry. In 2010, tourism was responsible for $73.4 billion in revenues in Canada which represented about 2% of Canada's overall gross domestic product. According to the tourism strategy, that is as much as the combined GDP of the agriculture, forestry and fishing sectors.

Nearly 600,000 jobs are related to visitor services in Canada.

It is important to note too that tourism drives some of our major service industries, such as accommodations, food and beverage, passenger transport, recreation and entertainment.

These industries account for 9% of Canada's total employment.

International tourism brought $14.9 billion into our economy in 2010, making it an important source of export revenue. Tourism represents about 23% of Canada's international trade in services, making it Canada's second largest service export behind commercial services. Tourism, especially international tourism, supplies more than economic benefits to Canada. It allows us to share our heritage with the world while at the same time forging links, promoting understanding and encouraging respect for the natural environment.

When we talk about tourism in Canada, we are talking about small business. Small business owners are the backbone of our tourism industry.

About 98% of Canada's tourism sector is made up of small and medium-sized businesses, such as boat tour operators, campground owners and marina operators.

Tourism is a many-faceted sector driven by small business.

All of these businesses and organizations, especially in individual regions of our country, work together toward a common goal, offering visitor experiences and products that are second to none.

Tourism, especially international tourism, is a growth industry that will continue to impact on Canada's economic recovery. Over the past 20 years, international tourism arrivals to Canada have been increasing on average 4% per year. Travellers are arriving from new countries and new regions all the time. The middle classes of many of the world's emerging economies are finding Canada an attractive place to visit. By 2020, the United Nations World Tourism Organization estimates that international tourist visits will reach 1.6 billion, double what the number was in 2009. While Canada has steadily dropped on the list of preferred destinations, as have other mature markets, it is still among the top destinations for visitors.

Nevertheless,. between 2000 and 2010, Canada's share of total international arrivals declined from 2.9% to 1.7%.

When we study what travellers want in a destination, the Thousand Islands region and St. Lawrence Islands National Park provide plenty of answers. More often, international visitors are turning to the Internet and social media tools to research destinations. They look for identity. The global market is crowded with destinations and tourism brands. A recognizable brand, for example a name, is increasingly important, not only for the country, but for the area where the St. Lawrence Islands National Park is located.

I have been speaking about our national tourism strategy for the past few minutes. Let me now bring the discussion closer to the park and the region in question.

The St. Lawrence was discovered by Jacques Cartier 477 years ago, on August 10, 1535. Many storied explorers travelled its waters, including Champlain, de Courcelle, Count Frontenac and Cavelier de La Salle. The first reliable geographic maps of the region were drawn by Jean Deshayes, hydrographer to King Louis XIV himself, who named it “les Mille-Îles” or the Thousand Islands in 1687.

Ever since the Thousand Islands region became a tourist destination, in the late 1800s, people have come from around the world to visit.

My parents spent their honeymoon in the picturesque Thousand Islands in August 1944, and we go back there every year.

There are in fact 1,865 islands. Tourism is increasingly important as the economic mix of the area has changed from manufacturing to services. The latest numbers from Statistics Canada indicate that there are 438 enterprises that consider themselves visitor-based in the area, and these employ almost 6,000 people.

And that number is rising steadily.

The Thousand Islands have been on the map for 325 years. Our colleague for Leeds—Grenville keeps them on the map, especially in his work as chair of the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group.

Further, the government has been supportive of this economic change in many ways, as we support improvements to national parks and historic sites in the area and participate in the development of new attractions in the region.

Within a few miles of this national park lie such treasures as Fort Henry, the Rideau Canal, Fort Wellington and historic mills and battle grounds from the war of 1812 and the Hunters raids of 1838.

For the region to continue to take advantage of Canada's push for international travellers and for its own marketing of the region, the St. Lawrence Islands National Park must be promoted as the Thousand Islands National Park.

Part of the federal tourism strategy is developing what is called a signature experiences collection. These are experiences that are unique and offer something special to the visitor.

Tourism operators in the Thousand Islands are starting to become familiar with this initiative, and in fact the Thousand Islands are already on the list. Parks Canada's mandate consists in part in presenting nationally significant examples of Canada's natural and cultural heritage and fostering public understanding, appreciation and enjoyment.

Since more international travellers are using resources such as the Internet to research their travel destination and to plan their activities, it only makes sense that this park should properly align itself with the Thousand Islands brand. A quick Internet search for Thousand Islands will show the need to accomplish this. The easiest and best way to do this is to change its name to Thousand Islands National Park, so that it would be found among the other attractions of the region.

The future of the park, like the future of Canada and the Thousand Islands region, is bright, and it will be even brighter once the park's name has been changed.

Canada National Parks ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleagues for their speeches about Bill C-370, An Act to amend the Canada National Parks Act (St. Lawrence Islands National Park of Canada).

I would also like to thank my hon. colleague from Ottawa—Orléans, who just spoke. I would urge him to take full advantage of the data from Statistics Canada, which still has enough statistics to quote. Cuts are imminent there, and more jobs will be lost. So I urge him to pay close attention to the statistics that are available because, unfortunately, that opportunity will soon be gone, which is a real shame. I would note in passing that the government is cutting 728 jobs at Statistics Canada. I know that is not what we are talking about right now, but I thought it was worth mentioning.

Statistics Canada is not the only organization that will be losing jobs. I hope that if my hon. Conservative colleague, who spoke and who introduced that wonderful bill, really cares about Canada's parks, he will remember that Bill C-38, the budget implementation bill, calls for 1,600 fewer jobs at Parks Canada. So if he really wants to do something to help Parks Canada, I suggest he begin by voting against the budget, which leaves so much to be desired in terms of improving Canada's parks. Unfortunately, his bill will not help Parks Canada at all.

My hon. colleagues also talked about other Canadian parks, including the Rideau Canal, one of the longest skating rinks in the world, if not the longest. There will be jobs cut there too. Unbelievably, there will also be job losses at the Fortress of Louisbourg in Nova Scotia, the Chambly Canal in Quebec, and Banff National Park.

What impact will this have? My hon. colleague's bill does absolutely nothing to promote greater diversity of parks, better conservation or greater accessibility to our parks. On the contrary, the next budget will completely undermine the modest efforts the member is trying to make. Changing the name will do nothing to ensure greater accessibility.

It is important to understand that job losses will lead to a shorter tourist season. Furthermore, service will be worse and wait times for the locks will be longer and longer, which will harm tourism. The Conservatives are always boasting about being the champions of the economy, but this time, they are attacking tourism directly, which will be very bad for our economy.

By cutting jobs, the Conservatives are hurting our economy. Job losses at Parks Canada are a disgrace and will definitely affect our tourism industry. The Conservatives are killing the tourism industry and they should be ashamed of themselves. It truly pains me to say this.

The bill introduced by our Conservative colleague will unfortunately not help Parks Canada in any way.

I am a member of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. The members of that committee are currently in the process of examining a national conservation plan. Everyone knows that Canadian parks promote national conservation and biodiversity. Furthermore, I can tell you that we currently have international targets and we have signed an international agreement aimed at conserving 17% of our land area and 10% of our marine area by 2020.

I can hear you, from your chair, Mr. Speaker, asking me what our current targets are and what goals have been reached so far.

All the Canadians and Conservatives watching us are wondering the same thing.

In fact, only 1% of our marine area and only 10% of our land area are currently protected. A lot more work needs to be done before we can start changing the name of a park. A lot more work needs to be done to conserve our biodiversity.

Bill C-38 contains a lot of legislation. I would call it a mammoth bill. It is not right. They have put everything into that bill and, unfortunately, we will not be able to review all these pieces of legislation in the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, as my colleagues already know. The bill also amends the Fisheries Act, which deals with fish habitat. Parks and habitat protection are truly essential for conserving our biodiversity.

I will read something interesting that I am sure my colleagues will be very surprised to learn. The year 2010 was declared the International Year of Biodiversity. It is important to take care of our biodiversity. I am quite concerned about biodiversity because it has an impact not only the conservation of various species, but also on our food supply. Species conservation matters to our health as well. It is truly important to have good biodiversity.

My colleagues may not know it, but human beings are one of the species at risk. We have a great deal of work to do when it comes to preserving biodiversity. I will also speak briefly about the priority given by this bill to changing the name of a park. There are a number of much more urgent priorities, such as climate change. There is nothing in the budget about global warming. On the contrary, global warming in Canada will rise exponentially and with catastrophic results.

One of the impacts of global warming is that one-fifth of the world's species face the threat of extinction, including human beings.

I will quote the executive secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity:

Each increase of one degree Celsius in average global surface temperature resulted in the loss of about 10 percent of all known animal and plant species. Climate change contributes to the reduction of biodiversity.

The article goes on to say:

Climate change does not threaten man [I prefer to say the human species] alone. It poses a real risk to biodiversity as well. In relation to the Copenhagen summit, the executive secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity announced that one-fifth of all flora and fauna face the threat of extinction if nothing is done to limit global warming.

As I mentioned, my honourable colleague's bill will do nothing at present for Canada's parks, quite the contrary. We have seen all the cuts that are being made. His bill will do nothing to preserve biodiversity or to fight climate change.

I am convinced that my hon. colleague supports Canada's parks, biodiversity and the richness of our land and marine areas. That is why I am urging him to vote against Bill C-38 to implement certain provisions of the budget, rather than bringing forward his bill. The budget implementation bill is the real danger. It is truly harmful and dangerous, because passing such a bill will result in the loss of 1,600 jobs at Parks Canada. My hon. colleague should vote against his party's budget rather than bringing forward this bill.

Canada National Parks ActPrivate Members' Business



Phil McColeman Conservative Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise today to support my colleague from Leeds—Grenville and his private member's bill, Bill C-370, an act to amend the Canada National Parks Act (St. Lawrence Islands National Park of Canada). I will spend my time today providing more detail on the history of the St. Lawrence Islands National Park.

The member for Leeds—Grenville has already provided a brief background on the discovery and naming of the Thousand Islands. The French were the first Europeans to travel the waters of the St. Lawrence and mark places for future travellers to stop and rest by planting poplar trees along the banks. According to records left by the French in the early 1600s when they arrived, natives were already living in the Thousand Islands region year round, growing corn and other crops and catching fish and game.

Archeological finds indicate that between 700 B.C., about the time Rome was founded, and 1600 when the French arrived, there was a great deal of activity around the Thousand Islands region, although the earliest records indicate that there were people there as early as 7,000 years ago.

Natives originally came to the water in the summer to catch fish and hunt using bows and arrows. Later, they settled in the area and practised agriculture. It was these native settlers, the St. Lawrence Iroquois, who Jacques Cartier met at Hochelaga in 1535. The French called the islands les Milles-Îles and, depending on current relationships with the natives, described voyages through the islands as safe, mildly exciting or very dangerous.

It was a British Royal Navy captain who was responsible for naming the islands in the early 1800s. He divided the islands into groups, the Admiralty, Lake Fleet, Brock and Navy Fleet, and then gave them names based on their grouping. For example, the Lake Fleet group islands are named after warships, while the Navy group islands are named after naval officers.

The period from the mid-1860s to the establishment of the park in 1904 saw a marked change in North American society. After the American Civil War, which ended in 1865, people moved in great numbers from the country to the city. Wages increased and the work week shortened to six and even five and a half days. The wilderness was opening up, thanks to steam engines and railways, and railway companies were being established everywhere.

George Pullman of Pullman car fame knew just the place to locate his railroad, right in the heart of the Thousand Islands. He began bringing the new American city dwellers with extra spending money to the Thousand Islands area. He was not the first to recognize the attraction of the Thousand Islands, but he was the pioneer who brought the first real crowds to the islands in his fancy new Pullman cars. By the early 1870s so many were coming to the islands that the islands themselves became attractive real estate. Citizens of Prescott, Brockville and Gananoque, as well as those in villages in between, became alarmed. Islands they had hunted, fished, farmed and picnicked for generations were quickly disappearing behind no trespassing signs.

In 1874 their concerns led to two petitions being sent to the governor general of Canada. They both read in part:

—[your petitioners] are afraid that if the islands are sold the timber now growing on them will be destroyed , their beauty spoiled and the source of health and recreation they now afford to the public will be utterly destroyed.

The reply was not encouraging. At the time, the federal government held the Canadian islands in trust for the native people who had ceded them to Canada. They were to be sold and the money used to benefit the natives, but the pressure from local residents continued.

In 1877 the idea of preserving some of the islands gained a new champion in Thaddeus Leavitt, the editor of the Brockville Recorder & Times, and a great historian of today.

It is very evident from the speeches today that the residents of the area clearly believe that the name should the Thousand Islands national park. As the member for Leeds—Grenville indicated, many people, including parks people, refer to it by that name and the people and municipal governments surveyed in preparation for this bill all agreed the name should be changed.

I am pleased to support the member for Leeds—Grenville in his attempts to rectify this historic misstep and change the name of St. Lawrence Islands National Park to Thousand Islands national park.

Canada National Parks ActPrivate Members' Business

12:05 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

The House resumed from May 4 consideration of the motion that Bill C-38, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


James Rajotte Conservative Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to rise to speak to Bill C-38, the budget implementation act. Before I get to the specifics of the budget, I want to give an overall view of the budgetary plan that we have been on for a number of years and leading into 2012.

We did two years of stimulus spending in 2009-10. Now we are on a path toward eliminating the deficit over the medium term through our deficit reduction action plan. While doing so, we are continuing our transfers to the provinces and to persons.

We have taken a path to ensure that social programs are sustainable in our country, in part by ensuring that elderly and family benefits continue, but also in terms of ensuring that health, education and social services, with our transfers to the provinces, continue on as well. With transfers to the provinces, we have been funding at 6% year over year, and that will continue for another number of years and then it will proceed at nominal GDP with a base of 3%, which is responsible funding for health care going forward.

At the same time, we will continue our funding at 3% for the Canada social transfer, year over year funding, which funds education and social services of the provinces, so provinces can plan long term in how they want to fund health care, education and social services.

I also point out that we are continuing our long-term plan with respect to taxation, a plan that began in the fall of 2007 with the fall fiscal update by the Minister of Finance, in terms of reducing our business tax rate to 15% federally, encouraging provinces to move to a 10% business tax rate, then moving to a small business tax rate of 11% from 12% and increasing the amount that companies can earn and still pay that lower rate of tax at 11%. They used to be able to earn $300,000 of business income and now they can earn $500,000 of business income.

It is important to point this out that we have had some very long-term strategies in place in lowering taxes, making Canada more competitive, drawing investment back to the country and moving toward a balanced budget over the medium term, something that has been recognized by international organizations as the right path.

I will focus my speech on the issue of innovation. Going back to the release of the science and technology strategy in the spring of 2007 by the government, we are trying to focus our research efforts in four main priority areas and also by investing in research and development, science, technology and innovation.

If we look at the investments we have made over the past number of years, these have been recognized by university and industry leaders across the country, and that is an important point. Many people will say that these are simply austerity times, that we have had our stimulus spending and now we are in austerity times, and that is not correct. We are looking for efficiencies through our deficit reduction action plan, but at the same time we are continuing to invest in innovation.

I will quote at length from a letter from the president of the University of Alberta, Indira Samarasekera, a very distinguished individual. We are very lucky to have her in Edmonton because she is an outstanding person. She says she would like to thank our government for:

—your outstanding support for advanced research in science, technology, and education and training in Budget 2012....Budget 2012 reaffirms the Government of Canada's commitment to post-secondary education and research while further encouraging innovation in the private sector.

As Budget 2012 outlines, innovation is integral to competitiveness in the global knowledge economy. While Canada is a world leader in many advanced research fields, forming stronger linkages between public and private stakeholders will yield important dividends for both sectors. The provision of $37 million to the granting councils to form industry, academic-partnerships is thus very timely. An additional $500 million in funding for the Canada Foundation of Innovation will also ensure that Canada's research infrastructure, which is an important element in attracting talent from around the world, remains state-of-the-art and world-class. By doubling the industrial Research and Development Internship Program, more talented graduate students will gain valuable experience in and exposure to the practices of the private sector.

Given the economic restraint occurring around the globe, Canada is fortunate to have strong economic fundamentals. Budget 2012 reinforces these advantages by recognizing the important role innovation plays in Canada's long-term economic prosperity. The investments included in Budget 2012 provide Canadian entrepreneurs and innovators with access to the resources they need to create jobs, make ground-breaking discoveries and form important linkages around the world.

It is important to note what one of our most distinguished university leaders has to say in terms of continuing to invest in innovation, research and development.

Also, the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada warmly welcome budget 2012, as did Polytechnics Canada. I will quote from its press release:

Specifically, we welcome:

the doubling of funding for the Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP), which benefits many of our small and mid-size company partners.

This was one of the things that was identified in the Jenkins report. Frankly, need to double this program has been identified by many small and medium-sized businesses across the country. This program is very effective in providing not only financial assistance but mentorship to these small and medium-sized companies that are growing in Canada, which is one of our main challenges.

One of our main challenges is that a lot of our smaller companies have some real challenges in growing into larger companies, or as they grow into larger companies and increase their sales and net volume, they experience some challenges. A CEO said to me recently that with a one million dollar company he could operate fairly well, but when sales increased to $7 million, he had some real challenges. In fact, the IRAP program mentored him through that transition.

I will continue with the press release from Polytechnics Canada, which states:

additional funding for the Strategy for Partnerships and Innovation—a key plank for the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council's...industry-facing programs; and

the new multi-year funding for the Canada Foundation for Innovation with its explicit intention to continue the very recent College-Industry Innovation Fund.

This is an important point of which many Canadians should be very proud. If we look at the early or mid-1990s, there was a real problem in Canada that we called the brain drain. Many people, scientists and researchers, left Canada to go to the United States or other countries because they felt they had better opportunities abroad. In fact, I think that has been reversed and I would credit the previous government in part for a lot of the initiatives during the mid-1990s and on, like the Canada Foundation for Innovation, which has been expanded and extended by our government with enhanced funding.

We have introduced a number of new programs in terms of research and development and continue to fund basic research through the granting councils. We are also focusing on the main challenge we have in this area, which is commercialization, to ensure that our small businesses can grow into larger businesses and continue to compete. That is why we set up the Jenkins report. I want to thank Mr. Jenkins for his panel's report and the important work in this area. We are continuing to invest in innovation.

The other area I want to point out is in respect to labour challenges. Whenever I do round tables in my riding of Edmonton—Leduc, the number one issue I hear from businesses is access to labour, skilled and unskilled people. I would love to have members come to my riding to do round tables. I would ask around the table how many people would be needed today and one business person might say that he or she needed 75 people or 125 people today of all types, skilled and unskilled.

This was a crisis about four or five years ago in Alberta and western Canada as well as in parts of Atlantic Canada. In Newfoundland, it is getting to be a serious situation in the lack of labour. This is why we have made a number of changes.

The Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development was in my riding in Nisku recently to announce changes to the temporary foreign worker program. It was an excellent announcement in terms of addressing some of the issues. However, we have to address both the immigration side and the employment insurance side. The Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism and the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development are addressing both in terms of enabling people to access the workers they need.

The Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism has spoken very openly about trying to move to a system similar to what Australia has where employers and employees can match very quickly and people could come to our country. However, we also have to engage and work with groups like Polytechnics Canada to ensure that Canadians have the skills and training in the fields that will enable them to move forward and have a very good quality of life.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, my colleague mentioned the job situation in Newfoundland. He also mentioned the job situation in his own riding and said that access to labour is a major issue.

I would like to get the member's comments on the impending changes to the Employment Insurance Act requiring people either to work in certain areas or having to give up their benefits at that time.

There is a plant in Port Union in my riding. It will take some time to get a new buyer for this plant if a new buyer does decide to buy the plant. Here is the issue. If the impending changes force people to move in that particular area, the issue of accessing labour becomes moot. It becomes less of a selling point for that particular plant.

I understand the original hypothesis as to why the government would want to do this, but in the end, for places like Port Union or Newfoundland outports, it could work against it.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


James Rajotte Conservative Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question very much. I obviously do not know the specific situation as well as the member does, but I am happy to talk with him about it and see if there is anything I can do with respect to that particular situation.

In general, I would say that this government recognizes that. In fact, the work-sharing program that was introduced by this government was designed to do exactly that. I recognize the problem. Once workers leave a company or an area like Nisku, it is very hard to bring them back. Once they have moved on to another area or another company, it is very difficult to bring them back, which is why we introduced the work-sharing program. It covered part of the cost so that the company did not have to cover all of the cost in terms of that worker during that tough period. That is exactly what that program was designed to do.

Obviously, in terms of the facility itself, management should be looking at the accelerated depreciation if they want to invest further in their facility to upgrade or modernize it if it is closed.

However, in terms of the workers themselves, I am happy to look at whether there are work-sharing programs or other types of programs like that for that specific situation.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Laurin Liu NDP Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, my comments are directed toward my colleague's comments on research and development.

I have the honour to serve as the deputy critic for science and technology on the NDP side, so my comments are with respect to the failure to renew funding for Sustainable Development Technology Canada, which succeeded in leveraging significant private capital and received praise from the expert review panel on R and D for the successful commercialization of Canadian green technology.

We know that in the current federal budget there is no new investment in green research, so we are missing out on an incredible opportunity to capitalize on the trillion-dollar global green tech market.

I would like to know my colleague's comments on that. Why are there no new investments in green research?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


James Rajotte Conservative Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, I welcome my colleague to her critic role.

In terms of investments into SDTC, she is absolutely right in saying it is an excellent organization, and I support it very strongly. I have done so on both the industry committee and the finance committee. It is an organization that will continue, as she well knows. It is also an organization we should perhaps look at—and this is something I have talked to the folks at SDTC about—in terms of moving to a model like an EDC, a model they would actually like us to look at, whereby they would bring in some funding and return some dividends to the government.

In terms of research and development in general, obviously a lot of initiatives here go toward what we would call green energy research. One of them is for clean energy generation. There is accelerated capital depreciation for large projects doing clean energy generation, which I would encourage the hydro sector in her province and other sectors to look at as well.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question will be short.

I want to thank the chair of the finance committee for his excellent speech this morning.

I have young people in my own family. My daughter is 21 and looking toward her future. What does this budget do for the future of young people in terms of job opportunities, not just in Ontario but across the country? Why is it important that we invest in innovation and research to allow for future employment opportunities for them across this country?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


James Rajotte Conservative Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will try to answer as quickly as I can.

I thank my colleague from Burlington. We do miss him on the finance committee. He was an outstanding member of our committee for many years. I know his daughters are very talented and very bright.

It goes back to my quote from the letter of the president of the University of Alberta in terms of continuing to invest in post-secondary education, in research and development and in the granting councils, so that they can work at basic research or in innovation commercialization and will have a number of job opportunities once they graduate from school.

However, looking beyond that in terms of lifelong learning, we have to move into an area where they may be going to school, going into the workforce, and then going back to school to upgrade their skills or upgrading their skills in the workforce. That is exactly what this budget is looking at doing.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to be here once again. After closing in on eight years of being in the House, I am standing to talk once again about how to deal with another budget and how we had hoped at some point to decipher this particular document and see how we can elevate debate within the House of Commons.

I would like to congratulate my colleague from Edmonton—Leduc, who did a fine job speaking to the bill. I do not necessarily agree with everything he said, but nonetheless he presented very well and always has.

In 2005 the Government of Canada signed new offshore agreements with two provinces regarding three pieces of legislation: the Newfoundland and Labrador Atlantic accord and accords with the province of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.

The federal government had worked out an agreement between the provinces to the satisfaction of both Premier John Hamm and Premier Danny Williams. The government proposed something on the order of a large payment up front and beyond that new calculations within the formula regarding equalization. The point was that as Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador were getting back on their feet, the clawbacks were really putting them back to where they were before, and the provinces wanted to be the principal beneficiaries of their resources.

In 2005 those agreements were included in a document similar to this, the budget of Prime Minister Paul Martin. I was sitting across the way, just behind the member for South Shore—St. Margaret's, and I remember my colleagues from Newfoundland and Labrador and the member for South Shore--St. Margaret's vehemently arguing for the Atlantic accord agreements to be taken out of the budget. They said they did not belong there. It was an omnibus bill, and they said it was trickery, tomfoolery. They said the government should not be doing this and that the agreements should be discussed in the House by themselves.

Let us fast-forward to 2012 and look at this budget document. It is a big document, and it contains a lot. One-third of it is about making fundamental changes to environmental assessments.

We can also talk about the fact that this document fundamentally changes many aspects of the governance of this country, including old age security and even the Fisheries Act, which is important to the area I come from because it has major fishing industries.

We are talking about making a unilateral change to the funding of Canadian health care. We are talking about tearing up 100,000 immigration applications that have been worked on for years. We are talking about sweeping changes to employment insurance. All of this is contained in this one document.

People across this country are crying for some of this to be taken out and debated in the House separately. Not only are academics, experts, provincial politicians, provincial bureaucrats and former federal bureaucrats asking for some of this to be taken out of the budget: some Conservatives have said it themselves. It is funny how time tends to change things in the House.

Rather than lecturing the Conservatives about practising what they used to preach, let us talk about Bill C-38 and some of the concerns about it. I will admit that I would entertain some of the stuff in the bill. I look at some of the things as being positive moves forward, but the problem is I only have one vote.

Any time members want to ask me about some of the positive provisions in the bill, I am willing to talk about them. Unfortunately I only get 10 minutes and I have far less time to talk about the negative stuff, but I just cannot help myself, as members can gauge from the laughter across the House. They too are waiting for me to move on to the negative stuff.

The government is talking about moving the old age security benchmark from 65 years of age to 67. The OECD, Canada's chief actuarial officer, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, and even the government's own experts agree that the change is not necessary because Canada's OAS program is already sustainable.

I get very many calls from people in my riding on this particular issue, telling me the response they get is only, “Well, don't worry; it's not going to affect you in the short term. It's just going to affect your children or grandchildren, that's all. No need to worry.”

We also want to talk about the departmental cuts that were announced and the layoff of 19,200 federal public servants. On the surface, people might say it is a good cost-cutting measure to cut the number of public servants so that the government can put us in line to control the deficit.

However, here is the issue. The Conservatives are going about it in a way that is not smart and that is certainly not achieving good government services.

In the smallest communities of this country, people are asking, “Where is the Government of Canada? It just doesn't exist anymore.” The only thing that exists is a flag flying above the post office, a crown corporation.

Service Canada cuts in my riding are going to be severe. Processing jobs in smaller communities are now being moved to larger communities. Where is the sense in that? These are jobs that can be done from anywhere.

Granted, the Conservatives want to get inefficiencies out of the system, and I appreciate that. However, this is not an efficient way of providing government services to our smallest communities. The government prides itself on providing good benefits to rural Canada, but the services are just not there. We are going in the opposite direction.

Just today a rally started in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, probably about 25 minutes ago, to save the marine rescue sub-centre, a centre that the government is closing. We never received any indication that it was a duplicate service or that this service could be covered by what is going on in Nova Scotia at the JRCC complex there. Now we find ourselves putting safety at risk up there. I personally think public safety is at risk.

The calls to reverse the decision have gone unanswered and were actually turned down, in the case of the regional minister for Newfoundland and Labrador, particularly the MP for Labrador.

It raises the question of quick decisions that were not thought through, yet when evidence is put forward that the decision was not a right one and that perhaps we should reflect upon that decision, it is met with absolute denial. It is met with indifference when we say to the government that there are a lot of sections in this bill that should be brought out, discussed and put through the appropriate committee, especially the environmental stuff, as my colleague, the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, will attest.

It is unbelievable. The preamble summaries describe something different from what is contained within the text of this particular legislation.

The environmental assessment that we discuss in here, through the fisheries department especially, should be brought through the environmental committee and vetted through that. One-third of this document pertains to that aspect.

I am sure the question will arise, and I have no issue with achieving economic development beneficial to people who have the skills and knowledge to do this type of work, whether it be pipelines, oil and gas, or in the mining industry. However, due diligence is called for. In this particular case, it is sadly missing.

Now, as time closes in, I want to talk about the final part, which is the employment insurance part of it.

Some of the positive aspects include the maintaining of the best weeks part this program, in this case variable best weeks, and the pilot project extended from 2005.

The problem is that the government is trying to get more work generated by this new committee. The government now will have the ability to force people into a situation of having to move halfway across the country, or at least that is what we assume is going to happen.

Unfortunately, the government will not hear of juxtaposing EI with economic development, but in certain cases, in order for smaller communities to reopen a closed plant, this approach does not work.

We have to look at this and realize and get the right information as to why the smallest of communities would suffer from this type of change.

I want to thank the House for allowing me this small opportunity to discuss this in the House. I wish we had more time.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.


Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, it sounds as if my hon. colleague is holding out a bit of an olive branch to the government side, and he sees many things he may support in this document.

However, I want to double back to something that is a recurring theme in this Parliament and that is the use of time allocation to discuss and debate vitally important issues that affect all Canadians. In the past and in this Parliament, the government has said we have already debated these things, that we debated them in the last Parliament so why would we need to go through the process again, which underlines the Conservatives' anti-democratic inclinations.

I wonder if the member could speak to this issue and whether he thinks it is appropriate for the government to impose time allocation on this massive document that has not 100% to do with the budget it is supposed to be referencing.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.


Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Davenport for bringing that forward. I did not get to that part of my speech about the time allocation part. The member touched upon the key component of that, which is to say that the Conservatives argue that a lot of this was debated in the past. At what point in the eight years I have been here did we have a serious discussion about raising the age of OAS eligibility from 65 to 67?

It did not happen. I do not recall evidence being brought forward in this House or any committee that shows this is a necessary action to, in their words, save the system.

The Conservatives talk about downloading to the provinces. Moving the age from 65 to 67 is going to download a huge amount of money to the provinces, but of course, as they say, we are not to worry as it does not affect us. However, they forget to say that this affects our children.

The time allocation part is a sad mistake because of the very essence of this particular document that pertains to, as the member said, so many things that to call it “omnibus” is an understatement. Not only did the Conservatives do that, but they also invoked time allocation.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's Nova Scotia


Gerald Keddy ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor only had 10 minutes and he decided to look at what he thought were some of the negative aspects of the budget. When I have my time, I will talk about what I see as the entire positive budget we have brought forward.

However, I have a question on process, and the hon. member did not quite get time enough to finish it. The fact is that the NDP decided it would take all the time to speak to the budget and not give the Liberal Party of Canada any time to speak to the budget. I have been in this House for 15 years and I have never seen that happen, so I would like some comments on that.