Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to speak in this House on behalf of my constituents from Surrey North on this very important bill, Bill S-5, which would amend the Canada National Parks Act to create a national park reserve for Canada. The name of the park that would be created in the Northwest Territories is Nááts’ihch’oh.
It is an honour, on days like today, to work together in the House and look to future generations. I think of the times that my son and daughter, and my whole family, would spend in our national parks.
I have had the opportunity over the years to visit both provincial and national parks, which are important for our communities. I know that people in my community enjoy the parks that are part of Surrey North. Therefore, it is an honour to support the bill before the House, which would create a national treasure.
Members speaking before me have talked about the gift that the aboriginal first nations people have given to all Canadians. I want to thank them on behalf of all Canadians, and particularly on behalf of people from Surrey North, for giving this wonderful gem to Canadians for generations to preserve.
I have thought about travelling to that part of the world. I listened to our NDP member from the Northwest Territories who always speaks highly of the areas in the Northwest Territories. I am hoping to get the opportunity, along with my children, to go and see that part of the world.
Of course, we need to preserve these parks for our future generations, as well as the habitats that are part of our wilderness and make us unique. Canada is a huge country with many parts to it. One of the things we can do is to ensure that future generations have the opportunity to enjoy this wilderness. We must preserve it not only for future generations to see but also for the animals inhabiting those areas, so that they can roam free and live in their natural habitat.
There were three options of area that were considered in the creation of the national park. Unfortunately, the Conservatives chose the option that had the smallest area, and I think there are some concerns about that from a number of people who were involved with the consultations. They had preferred the larger option for the park; however, the Conservatives chose the smaller option. Yes, it is a step in the right direction, but there was an opportunity to further enhance the park reserve. However, I am still happy that we at least chose an option that would provide a national park for generations to come.
I come from British Columbia, and I know the role tourism plays in its economy. There are hundreds of thousands of jobs created through tourism across this country. It is a way to diversify our economy, especially since we have seen commodities fluctuate in the last number of weeks, whether oil or other commodities. For example, oil has gone from $147 a barrel a few months ago down to about $61 this morning. Therefore, it is important for us to diversify our economy; and tourism is a natural for Canadians, as I know it is for British Columbia. There are many jobs attached to tourism, and creating parks like this can help to enhance the natural beauty of Canada and also diversify our economy with tourism-related industries.
Unfortunately, so many times I have seen, whether with a crime bill or a veterans' bill or a bill relating to first nations, the fact that we can make all the laws in the world that we want in creating things like parks, but there has to be funding available. There has to be money provided to ensure that some of the things we are doing in the House are carried through. That requires resources.
We know from reports that Parks Canada basically has a backlog of about $3 billion in maintenance work that needs to be carried out and that money is not available. That money has not been provided or allocated by the current government. If we are going to create these parks, we need to provide the funding to maintain these parks to ensure that we are doing everything we can so that these parks can function for generations to come.
Again, going back to how reserving a national park and how tourism can work hand in hand, my colleague talked earlier about the importance of tourism. He pointed out a number of other countries, such as Australia and France, that are actually making investments to increase their tourism.
However, what we have seen from the Conservative government are cuts to tourist-related programs aimed at attracting more tourism to this country, especially in British Columbia, where we have some of the finest skiing mountains in the world. They are right in our backyard. Some of them are a couple of hours away from Vancouver and some are actually minutes away from downtown Vancouver.
I understand the importance of tourism and how it plays into our economy. We can always do more to increase tourism.
Obviously, we support the creation of this park.
When we consult first nations and local people, we can achieve a lot of good. I have seen, in this particular case, the government work with the first nations, the Sahtu Dene and the Metis, in the Northwest Territories to work out an agreement to create this wonderful park. That is what we get when we consult people. When we consult people at the ground level, when we consult the very people who are going to be affected, the result is usually good.
Unfortunately, the current government, time after time, fails to consult the local people. We can see what is happening with the Rouge park in Scarborough, the urban park that is being created there. The consultations have gone sideways and many people in the community are opposing it.
Again, I want to thank the people of the Northwest Territories, the Sahtu Dene and the Metis, for giving this gift to Canadians at Christmas.
Talking about Christmastime, I know that my son is waiting for me at home. We are going to look for a video and find out how much it costs. Then we are going to appeal to Santa and, hopefully, it will be in his stocking or under the tree.
I want to take this opportunity to wish all Canadians and, in particular, my constituents in Surrey North, a very merry Christmas and a happy new year.