House of Commons Hansard #121 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was parks.

Topics

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Northwest Territories, NT

Mr. Speaker, it really remains to be seen. As the parliamentary secretary pointed out, there are agreements that have been made about certain staffing and certain things are going to go in place in Tulita, a town of 400 people. Those will certainly help that small community with those parks personnel.

However, what have I seen in the years that I have lived next to a national park? The number of personnel in the park has gone down under the Liberals. It has gone down under the Conservatives. We have seen that this has not been the panacea that has been laid out for us, because consistent cutbacks over the years have changed that relationship.

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, thank you for this opportunity to debate another park bill. This seems to be park day on the Hill. I am hopefully seeking from colleagues and from you, Mr. Speaker, the opportunity to split my time with the member for Labrador in the event that she does arrive.

In the meanwhile, I want to indicate our preliminary support for the bill. This is in effect an extension of the Nahanni park—

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

Because we are at second reading in the second rotation of this debate, we require unanimous consent for the member if he is going to split his time with another member. Does the member have unanimous consent to split his time with the member for Labrador?

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

There is unanimous consent.

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful to my colleagues. I am sure that members will be much more enlightened and informed by the comments the member for Labrador will give in this particular debate.

As we know, this is an extension of Nahanni park. The original Nahanni park was created by then Prime Minister Trudeau. We in the Liberal Party could hardly be against any park that originated with a prime minister named Trudeau. We are actually hoping that there will be a second prime minister named Trudeau, but that is up to the will of the people.

We are concerned about a couple of things. The park is good in its conception. We have some concerns about the way the boundaries were determined. Unlike the Rouge park we were debating this morning, there are actually boundaries this time. The Rouge park we were debating this morning has no boundaries except three small parcels of land in Markham. That is one significant difference.

A second significant difference is that this park commits itself to the provisions of the Canada National Parks Act, which is a high level of ecological integrity, whereas the debate this morning had to do with what a new commitment for an urban park would be in terms of ecological integrity. I would make those two notes.

I take note of the fact that when there was a canvassing as to whether this should be a park or a reserve, in 2010, the government entered into some consultations. Over 70% of the 1,600 people they consulted with wanted the entire South Nahanni watershed protected as a park. That was a clearly expressed will. When that was not going to occur, 65 people commented on options one, two, and three. Option one was the largest parcel. Sixty of the 65 people supported the largest option. Only three people supported the second option, which was significantly smaller, and only two people supported the option that is in front of us today. Therefore, of the 1,600 residents, stakeholders, and aboriginal folks who were consulted, only two people thought this was the best configuration possible for this particular park. It is a strange situation to be in to have only two people, of those consulted, actually agree that this is the best possible option.

There were four options: the entire watershed; option one, which was a larger concept; option two, which was a smaller concept; and, option three, which was quite clearly the smallest concept.

If we saw the actual configuration, it is divided into two pieces. One has to leave the one piece, go south into the original part of the park, and then go back into the other piece. There is no connection between the two parcels being put forward in this bill. It seems to me that this is a fundamental issue, because between the two parcels, the smaller parcel and the larger parcel, is a tungsten mine or a couple of tungsten mines. It may well be that the government decided to write the mines out of the park to facilitate these mines. I do not know.

It was not mentioned in the hon. parliamentary secretary's speech why the government chose the least palatable option for the people most affected. I hope that will be explained better in question period.

I am sorry. I do not mean question period. I do not expect anything from question period. I have very low expectations of question period, and they seem to be met each and every day.

I hope that in committee there might be some explanation forthcoming as to why this is a very small piece, relative to what the actual concern was. It may have to do, as I say, with the tungsten mines. There is no question that tungsten is a strategic asset. It is an asset that is largely controlled by countries other than Canada. Nevertheless, it is an issue.

As I raised earlier, there is a mining road that runs through the smaller portion of the park. Interestingly, the minister reserves for herself the right to license that road and to assign that license. She also reserves the right to take, in effect, water from the park and make it available to the mines. Again, these are questions to which I do not have answers, but it is in the legislation, and it does create a certain element of questioning.

It also raises the interesting question about consultation. If we have consultation and seek consent, social license, from the stakeholders, why would we actually go against the wishes of the 1,600 people who were consulted? It seems to be a somewhat superficial level of consultation. It is a concern that needs to be raised when we put this before committee.

As a general proposition, I think this is a concept that we in the Liberal Party can support. It is an idea we think needs a bit more examination. There are questions that need to be asked, but we look forward to asking them in committee.

I thank my colleagues for their time and attention, and I look forward to their questions.

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour of working with my colleague who just finished his speech, as well as with my colleague from the NDP who spoke earlier. You will recognize that I tried to get a question in earlier, but there was not time.

I would just like to comment that had it not been for the lack of co-operation from our NDP partners, we probably could have been in committee already doing some work on some of these important initiatives to protect our environment. Maybe my colleague from the NDP could explain at some future date why we are still not in committee, but that is another matter.

My colleague from the Liberal Party just acknowledged his support for this bill, for which I am thankful. It is important that we continue to support efforts to protect our natural areas.

In response to a comment my NDP colleague made earlier, he gave the impression that we on this side do not want to protect our natural areas. I would just like to point out that since 2006, our government has made a sixfold expansion of the Nahanni National Park Reserve in the Northwest Territories. It is considered to be one of the most significant conservation achievements of a generation. We have secured almost 4,000 square kilometres of ecologically sensitive private lands. We have added an area nearly twice the size of Vancouver Island to the network of federally protected areas.

I wonder if my colleague from the Liberal Party would disagree with my colleague from the NDP, who just moments ago made some disparaging remarks about the effort on this side of the House to protect our environment and our protected areas through national parks.

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, it always amazes me the sensitivity of the government members. If we are not patting them on the back, they feel insulted.

I am going to let the NDP defend the NDP. I have enough trouble defending Liberals.

The hon. member talked about the concept of putting land aside. Well, the Library of Parliament did a pretty good analysis and said that the Conservatives did not take the South Nahanni piece, which is what everyone wanted. It was the whole watershed to the south of 6,450 square kilometre. They did not take the 5,770 square kilometre piece. They opted for the 4,840 square kilometre piece. Basically, the government takes the position that something is better than nothing.

I appreciate the hon. member's sensitivity to any criticism whatsoever, but I would point out that maybe the Conservatives would not be quite so criticized if in fact they funded Environment Canada properly, if they funded Parks Canada properly, and if they actually created some trust among folks.

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Northwest Territories, NT

Mr. Speaker, this whole question of putting aside land for the future for Canadians is not something that started with the Conservative government. Many of the plans for some of these areas have been ongoing for many years. We have been working on parks, like the park on the north shore of Great Slave Lake, for about 25 years. If it happens to come to fruition under any particular government, that will be great.

We have a program in Canada that we continue through successive governments, and I hope it continues. It will continue, I am sure, under a New Democratic government, coming very soon to members' screens.

This is the reality of what we do in Canada. However, we need to make sure that when we take land out of circulation, we provide the proper resources. The effort needs to go into them to ensure that they are useful and significant parts of the local economies in those areas. This is what it is all about.

We could put aside much land. Remember, this is a national park reserve at this point in time. Does my colleague not agree that fundamentally, this program of protecting natural areas is something that is going to be valuable to Canada in the future? There are still many other areas, perhaps in—

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

Order. We are out of time for the question.

The member for Scarborough—Guildwood will have 30 seconds to respond.

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Thank you for your generosity, Mr. Speaker.

I hope that whoever is the next government continues this creation. I anticipate the creation of these parks. However, I also anticipate that it may be a while before NDP governments actually create anything.

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Yvonne Jones Liberal Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak in this debate. I thank my colleague, the member for Scarborough—Guildwood for sharing his time with me today. He is very generous.

Bill S-5 is really about expanding lands in the Arctic regions of our country. It continues a process that was started more than 10 years ago in this country by the Liberal government, and that is protecting different parts of Canada's north either through designation of national park areas or national park reserves. The Liberal Party has a long history of supporting the creation and expansion of our national park system in every part of the country.

We have a diverse geological environmental landscape, as we know, and we are very proud of that. It is one of the things that we continue to market as a country. In doing so, we also know that the animal species need to be protected and maintained in those areas, along with all of our agricultural species.

The Nahanni National Park Reserve was created in 1976, and I was reading that it was created by the Trudeau government. That would be a very proud legacy for the people in that particular area, as it would have been for many of the other parks that were created.

The Liberal Party has always been committed to the principles of habitat conservation. We must have regions in the Arctic of Canada that are dedicated to protecting and preserving our many species of flora and fauna, along with animal habitat. This particular reserve area, as was noted by others who spoke today, would certainly preserve the grizzly bear population, which has always been a national attraction in this country.

It is also important that we recognize the traditional lands and work in consultation with first nations groups before moving toward any of these particular designations. This is something the aboriginal people in the Northwest Territories, those self-governments in that particular area, have asked for. They have already seen the vision and the need to protect large reserves within and adjacent to their land claim areas to ensure that these lands are there for future generations to provide for those who live around them.

The Nahanni National Park is a great example of where we have seen aboriginal governments play a big role in the development of social and economic activity. We can only hope that the reserve that is now being looked at, the Nááts’ihch’oh reserve, would also some day be able to have those same opportunities.

I am sure there are very few national parks in this country that have mining developments. In the Nahanni National Park there is tungsten mining, all of it really being done in partnership with aboriginal governments. Almost all of the jobs in these mines are taken by aboriginal people and they have a large control over what is happening there, which I am very proud to say is a model that we could be using in a lot of other operations on aboriginal lands, which we do not see today.

I am very fortunate to have a riding where I am seeing the development of the Torngat Mountains National Park in Labrador. It was a process that started a very long time ago, as far back as 1969. It has been going on as long as I have been in the world. It took until 2005 for the park reserve itself to be established. We are now finally getting the agreement and consent of the Labrador Inuit people. We are seeing the vision of the Labrador Inuit people for this reserve land and how they want this national park emerge.

When their land claim agreement was finalized, soon after, in 2008, the Torngat transitioned into full national park status. That transition has taken them in large steps from that day to this, where they are seeing 10,000 square kilometres being developed. In fact, it is the largest national park in Atlantic Canada, and as Labradoreans, we are so proud of this. We are so proud of the unique area of this country that is being preserved in our homeland and being protected.

This year, in the Torngat National Park there were a lot of Inuit people who made the trek back to their original ancestral roots. There were a lot of schoolchildren who visited the park to learn about the environmental habitat of that particular park area, to learn the history of their ancestors. I can only hope that with what we are doing today with the Nááts’ihch’oh park reserve area, one day it will become a park and one day we will see those kinds of activities occurring in that region of the country as well.

I have had the opportunity to visit the Northwest Territories with my colleague in the NDP, who is the member of Parliament for the Northwest Territories, when we worked on the committee that was finalizing the land devolution agreement for that area. He is very passionate about what is happening in the Northwest Territories, and he is also very concerned that we do not have large enough areas of reserve in that area being protected. I understand, certainly, his view and his perspective, but I am sure as well he shares the tremendous excitement that exists there right now over the fact that they are able to create this reserve and are able to protect this entire area for future development.

Whenever we have those kinds of national park reserves and then they revert to national parks, there is also an expectation from people in the local area that it is not just an area of land that is protected, but it is also enhanced. It is an area of land that becomes a learning environment for all of us in Canada. It becomes a place where we can attract tourism, where we can attract development and infrastructure that will not damage the natural habitat and landscape but in fact enhance it and enhance the lives of the people who live there, allowing them to have good jobs and to have good programs and services in their area.

Oftentimes when these types of developments are done, they are accompanied with commitments from the federal government, commitments to provide for that learning environment, to provide for that infrastructure. I can only hope that it will happen in this case that people in this area will not just have a reserve area that can only be accessed or used by people who have deep pockets, but it will be a place of cultural learning and experience, a place where we can really promote this country and allow the people, the aboriginal people in particular who have ownership in these regions, to have real prosperity and growth.

I will conclude, but I just want to say I am very pleased to support the creation of this national park reserve. I hope that we can find new ways, great ways, to protect and preserve vital parts of this country for future generations.

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc NDP LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for her speech and for taking the time to visit the far north, as I did last summer. It is a wonderful region of Canada, full of natural beauty. It was also interesting to meet the people who live there.

What does my colleague think the bill is lacking? For example, if we are talking about surface area, does she think the bill contains rules that are strong enough to create a real park with an ecosystem approach that will be truly protected, a park that will focus on conserving and developing flora and fauna habitats?

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Yvonne Jones Liberal Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, I have had the opportunity to travel across all of Canada's Arctic regions, including the Northwest Territories. I have not been into every community there, but I have had the opportunity to visit some of the towns and to meet with many different groups and organizations.

I know from living in the north about living in an area that is very much dependent on the natural environment around us to be able to survive socially and economically, but also to contribute to the rest of the country. I know that protecting the lands is a sacred thing because that is the kind of environment that I live in today, and I know that others in the Arctic share that as well. For us, without the protection of lands, without the protection of habitat and our natural environment, we know that we jeopardize the future of generations of our own people not just the rest of the people around us, so we always make a very conscious effort.

I will speak to the Nahanni Butte park, for example. The boundaries there have been expanded probably six times since the park was created, leaving us to believe that there was not appropriate land reservation for the protection of the ecosystem in that particular area. I would say for the government to pay attention to the aboriginal people and the advice they are giving, because when they are talking about expanding the lot of land to protect a certain portion of the ecosystem, I can guarantee that nine times out of ten they are the experts and they know what they are talking about.

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to ask a question to my colleague. I know she is a very caring person and very passionate in regard to northern Canada.

She made reference to the 1970s when Pierre Elliott Trudeau played a role in the north and expressed a desire that we should be building upon our national parks. I wonder if the member could provide some comment. I find that over the last decade-plus, we have seen much keener interest from the public as a whole in doing more to promote and encourage our national parks system. Could she provide some comment in terms of the perception of Canadians' need to develop parks?

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Yvonne Jones Liberal Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, yes, it was former prime minister Trudeau who established the particular original park boundaries in Nahanni Butte. It was done to support the creation and expansion of a national parks system right across Canada.

If I had time, I could tell a story about the importance of protecting ecosystems like this because there are so many examples of where we did not have appropriate protection and where we have seen a decline in animal habitat. In my area we have terrible examples of how those things have happened.

I want to say that there is also room to have good economic and resource development, along with good ecosystem protection and preservation. It is key for governments to strike the balance and key for all of us to ensure we do it in an appropriate and proper way.

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve ActGovernment Orders

October 2nd, 2014 / 4:30 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

Order. It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment is as follows: the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands, The Environment.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Edmonton—Strathcona.

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise to speak to this particular bill.

I have had the privilege of living and working in Canada's north. This would provide yet another opportunity for other Canadians to travel to the north and not just learn about the richness of the beauty of the land, the wildlife, and the rushing rivers but also to meet with and get to know the first nations and Métis communities of our north.

I am pleased that the government is finally moving forward with the establishment of this park reserve. I am hopeful that it will soon be an actual national park, not just a park reserve. We shall see.

I am rising in support of Bill S-5, Nááts’ihch’oh national park reserve act. I understand it will be going to committee. I am hopeful that the government members of the committee will allow for as many people as possible to come forward who would like to speak to the matter.

That would certainly include the first nations and Métis people and other residents of the Northwest Territories, potentially those who think they might benefit from the tourism development, those who are concerned about the fate of grizzly bears and other threatened species and what might be necessary for the government to commit to actually making this happen.

This park reserve, like many, has been a long time in coming. My previous experience with the designation of parks in the north was during my tenure as the assistant deputy minister for renewable resources in Yukon. During that tenure, I had the privilege of working with first nations and Métis peoples in the negotiation of the first nation final agreements, a huge part of which was always the rights and interests of the aboriginal peoples of the north and how they could benefit from the settlement of those claims.

I sat in on many of those negotiations, which included the potential for designation of park boundaries. Among the more contentious issues was what happens when a national park is established. There can be a lot of benefits that come with the creation of a national park or a national park reserve, but it also means that some people might lose out.

In the case of this situation, as the member for Northwest Territories addressed very clearly, there has been some contention about the boundaries for this park and how much land would actually be set aside.

Typical to a lot of these discussions, particularly in the north where resource extraction is only just beginning, there is always the contention about whether or not there are pre-existing rights and interests that have been filed, or whether or not they might be filed in the future.

Clearly that was also part of the discussion about setting the actual boundaries for the setting aside of the Nááts’ihch’oh national park reserve.

There is also the issue of when the first nations may have rights or have previous rights, and it is always at the table. The Sahtu people had already finalized the first nations final agreement, so a lot of the decisions had already been made about the lands that were allotted to them and what might occur.

It is my understanding that all along, during the course of those negotiations and then also as negotiations continued on the establishment of this park reserve, they wanted to make sure that they might have rights and opportunities continued in this park.

To the credit of past governments, there have been some exceptions made. Certainly there were in Kluane National Park and Reserve. In that agreement they made some exceptions to what had happened normally in national parks.

We can recall in our history that, when Banff National Park and Jasper National Park were created, we basically booted the Métis and first nation peoples out of those parks. In fact, they have become the forgotten peoples. After the park was created, all we had was the heritage photos of when they used to have powwows.

Now, to the credit of the government, there have been arrangements made so that the first nation peoples can actually continue some activities and benefit from the establishment and development of this park.

As has been mentioned, this park, which is to be situated on the northern one-sixth of the South Nahanni River watershed, would cover almost 5,000 square kilometres. As has been mentioned previously, there was a lot of support for a slightly larger park, but I will speak later about why it was a matter of contention.

Most significantly, this park would be situated by and large within the Tulita district of the Sahtu settlement area, and as I mentioned, this area has long been recommended for protection by the Sahtu during the course of the negotiation process. The creation of this national park reserve has long been supported not only by the Sahtu but also by the Dene and the Métis peoples of the Northwest Territories.

In 2012, an impact benefits agreement was entered into between the Government of Canada and the Sahtu, Dene, and the Métis. I am advised that discussions were also held with the Tulita Renewable Resource Council, which I understand was established under that first nation final agreement.

It is important to understand what that agreement signed onto in 2012 provided for. It acknowledged the right to continue the aboriginal harvest. Clearly, that was recognizing the prior existing rights of the aboriginal peoples in that area.

Second, it provides for co-operative management. The agreement was already made, pre-existing the creation of this national park reserve, that whatever would be created would provide for co-operative management between Parks Canada and the first nation and Métis peoples.

Third, under that agreement, the government guaranteed economic opportunities to the signatory communities, including contract work.

Also, there was an undertaking in 2012 to build in the Tulita community a national park office and a tourist reception centre.

As we heard when the member for the Northwest Territories spoke in this place, similar kinds of promises were made when there was the expansion of the Nahanni National Park in 2008, the first year I was elected. As I recall, I was NDP environment critic and was at committee when we discussed that agreement. I am very disappointed to hear that still those undertakings to build those facilities have not occurred. We can only hope that this time around the government will move more expeditiously on delivering on these undertakings.

Finally, under that impact and benefits agreement, there was an undertaking to build housing for the park workers, that those would be built by the local tradespeople, and that it would ensure at least eight local full-time jobs. So here are some very specific undertakings, and we look forward to those being delivered for the benefit of the northern peoples.

When I asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment if any of these undertakings had been delivered on two years later, he replied that it is under discussion, or they will, or in other words, in the future. I repeat here again my concern. We are not simply talking about undertakings that might be in accordance with the bill that is before us—in other words, at a future point in time if the bill passes through committee and through this place and is agreed to. The point is that in 2012 the government already committed to take these actions and we have not seen any action yet.

It is clear that we do not have to await the final passage and proclamation of the bill. The government has already committed to those activities. It is clear that on the government side of the House members already committed to the creation of this park, to their credit. However, are they also committed to living up to the commitments they made in 2012? We hope so.

Also apparently under this 2012 agreement, the government committed to $1.2 million annually for an operational budget for the park and $50,000 per year for capital investments in Tulita. I guess the question will be to the government to respond. I look forward to Conservatives informing me following my speech of whether or not they have already begun to deliver some of these dollars. Clearly, if the creation of the park may be imminent, if any of the members in this place have ever spent time or lived and worked in the north, they know that there is a very short construction period and it would be great if we moved more expeditiously on creating those jobs in the north.

One thing is not clear to me, and it may well be under the 2012 agreement. One of the reasons the government members have given for why it is important to create this particular park reserve is that the current government is committed to the protection of threatened species, one of which in this area, apparently, is the grizzly bear. I guess we will all be looking toward future budgets. We know there have been ongoing cuts to the environment department and so there is less federal money there to actually act and protect threatened species.

I look forward to looking to the budget update and the budget next year to see if in fact there will be additional money; particularly, to create jobs in the north, where first nation and Métis people, many of whom are technically trained, work side by side with Canadian wildlife scientists on actually tracking the grizzly, verifying what the population is now and what needs to be done in the future to ensure that we protect this population within the park.

We certainly know from experience with the parks that already exist in Canada—certainly I know this from the parks in Alberta, particularly, in Jasper and Banff—that we are losing our grizzlies because of trains and because of traffic. I personally, so many times, have witnessed, to my chagrin, trucks and cars racing 20 or 30 kilometres above the speed limit where there is wildlife on the roads. Also, we have the problem where wildlife will interact with people who are visiting the parks.

It will be really important that Parks Canada also work very closely with the people of the north on defining the strategy to ensure we can attract tourism and, at the same time, protect these threatened species.

As my colleague the member for Northwest Territories has pointed out in this place, very clearly, very cogently, creation of parks is not a waste of resources. It actually helps to generate wealth for the country. It creates wealth for us because it actually can create tourism jobs.

However, in order to do that, we actually need to invest in and support those who want to enter into that trade; many of those include tour operators. It is not easy to set up those operations. I know from my experience in Yukon that, in many cases, while there was an absolute right for the first nations to participate in some of those outfitting jobs of taking tourists out, they simply did not step up because they did not have the training, and they need encouragement.

I think it is a really important point. I am very concerned that the government is cutting back on tourism dollars. Frankly, I am even more concerned with the cutbacks to Parks Canada.

We hear this over and over again from Canadians and Canadian organizations that watch what is going on in national parks; and it is very serious that we cut the budget in 2012 to Parks Canada by $29 million, over 7% of the budget, eliminating 638 positions.

If we are creating yet more parks where we can say, “I'm the Government of Canada; I created three new parks”, we also have to ensure that what it is doing is ensuring it is continuing to manage properly and protect the parks we already have and the parks of the future.

I just wanted to speak on that issue again, and that goes to the choices that were put before the government and the options of what they set forward.

As the member for the Northwest Territories clarified for us, there were three options presented.

As I understand, these were the options presented to the community considering the park and also to the public, asking what they thought should occur.

As I understand, almost 93% of Canadians who took the time to respond in this consultation process wanted to go with the larger size of the park.

Now, why is that? It is because the information they were provided was that we need that amount of acreage or hectares to actually deliver on the intent of the park. I presume that also includes sufficient habitat for the grizzly, who actually travel long distances and need that much for harvesting and so forth.

I have worked a lot on the protection of watersheds. It is important that we not just set aside the Nahanni Park, but that we also set aside and protect the watershed that serves the Nahanni River so it can continue into the future.

I, too, share with my colleague from the Northwest Territories, and the Canadians who responded, the deep disappointment at the decision of the government, presumably for the protection of mining extraction, to narrow the scope of this park. That is not a sizeable difference, but still there obviously was some kind of a rational reason for setting that size originally.

I share with those who have said that the tourism industry is important to our country. My own province suffers when tourists come to Canada. When the rest of the world was severely suffering in the recession, Europe, the United States and Asia, less people were coming to our national parks. It is important that the federal government, in partnership with the territorial government and with the bordering provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, put in dollars to help promote the northern parks and to encourage people to visit Canada. Our national parks, and the people who look after them, are probably the best emissaries that we have for our Canadian reputation.

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Philip Toone NDP Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened very carefully to my colleague's speech. Her research is excellent. She obviously knows the file well and truly believes in protecting our environment. For that reason, I congratulate her.

There have been so many cuts at Environment Canada and Parks Canada in particular that one has to wonder what possible future these parks can have. We keep hearing from the government side that the creation of this reserve is an economic opportunity, but it sounds like it is more of an economic opportunity for the mining sector than it is for people who try to protect the environment.

With all of the cuts at Parks Canada, does my colleague feel Parks Canada has enough resources to develop this park properly?

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member asked a question that all Canadians should ask the government. We need to ensure that the national parks we have in place and the other wilderness protected areas are resourced sufficiently so they can deliver on their incorporated intent.

We already have a serious problem in the existing national parks, where the number of wardens and the jobs they fill have been cut back. We always have this pressure of the increasing commercialization of our national parks.

Given the cuts that I mentioned previously in my speech, I am deeply concerned at our capability to finance the protection of this park, particularly given that it is in a northern location.

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, earlier this afternoon my colleague from Scarborough—Guildwood raised the issue of the government's options. The option that it ultimately chose seemed to be the least supported of those that were provided to the government.

When the government is afforded an opportunity to look at improving our national parks system, one has to question why it chose that option as opposed to going for an option that would have added more square miles to our national parks, other areas of our great nation, that no doubt would have benefited tremendously by it, not only from an environmental point of view but from an economic point of view.

Would the member agree that the government might have been a bit premature in the option that it chose?

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure if the issue is premature, because the government has been dragging its heels in setting aside this park. I am glad it is finally bringing it forward.

My concern is this. I have sat through negotiations with respect to setting aside parks, including offshore parks, as a member of parliamentary committees. The government does not seem to recognize the need for a buffer zone. It is my understanding that one of the clear reasons for the larger size was to create a buffer zone between mining activity and the national park.

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I have listened to the comments, but I want to put a couple of facts on the table, or reiterate them.

Protecting 4,895 square kilometres, Nááts’ihch’oh National Park is larger than 29 of Parks Canada's 43 other national parks. Only 14 parks are larger. It protects 70% of the South Nahanni River watershed that lies within the Sahtu Settlement Area, as well as important wildlife habitat for mountain woodland caribou, grizzly bears, Dall's sheep, mountain goats and Trumpeter swans.

I have heard some concern, which is legitimate, that the money has not been budgeted. However, I want to let the member know that in budget 2010 money was put aside for this park. Knowing that it is fully funded, will the member fully support the park?

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am a little bit puzzled by the update here. I am not sure if in 2010, the government budgeted for the agreement that it was negotiating, which was signed in 2012. That would make sense.

Yes, more land is set aside for wildlife, but there are clear criteria for when we decide to set aside protection of a natural area for wildlife. Scientists know this. They may need to know what size of a range they need, and so forth.

Yes, it is good that some more habitat is set aside, but it is regrettable that the government not only did not listen to the scientists, it did not listen to the Canadian people.

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc NDP LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to again thank my colleague for her speech. She brings a great deal of expertise to the House of Commons on parks, the environment and the best way to tackle this issue.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment mentioned that it covers 75% of a watershed. A watershed must be protected in its entirety, and as my colleague was saying, there must be protected areas.

How would my colleague improve this bill in order to protect our parks and recognize them as national treasures?