Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to be speaking to Bill C-565, a very important bill introduced by my colleague from Hull—Aylmer, who is also the chief opposition whip. This bill must certainly have meaning for most members of the House because it aims to protect one of the national capital's treasures. I was somewhat familiar with this region before, but I have learned more about it in recent years, now that I come here quite regularly as part of my duties as the MP for Sherbrooke.
Tourists certainly know about the park—it attracts 2.7 million visitors a year. That is quite impressive. One of the reasons why I am pleased to be speaking to this bill is that I love the national capital region, the Outaouais. Of course, I prefer the Eastern Townships, but that is a debate for another day.
There has been some debate about protecting parks in the Eastern Townships. For example, Mont-Orford provincial park created a lot of buzz in the Eastern Townships. The leader of the official opposition knows that topic well, as he was the Quebec minister of the environment at the time. That is why I think it is important to support the bill introduced by my colleague from Hull—Aylmer, which is designed to protect Gatineau Park.
I imagine that the majority of my colleagues' ridings include a number of parks or protected areas. For example, Sherbrooke has Bois-Beckett park, a wonderful spot that is protected by a municipal bylaw. There are provincial parks such as Mont-Orford. I am sure that there are parks in every riding. I believe that Drummondville has Voltigeurs park and, of course, the Boisé Marconi wooded area. Those are areas where biodiversity is protected by municipal, provincial or federal regulations. Today in Parliament, we are talking about a park under federal protection.
We need to protect the biodiversity of all these protected areas, giving animals a place to take shelter when there is a lot of construction and more and more people living on their land. It is important to preserve places where biodiversity can continue to grow. Gatineau Park is one of those important places in the region.
This immense park, which covers 7.8% of the greater national capital region, allows species threatened by the growth of areas inhabited by humans to go to places that are safer for them. That is why I support Bill C-565.
Here are some key facts to further the public's knowledge of this park. The park recently celebrated its 75th anniversary and is currently managed by the National Capital Commission. Unfortunately, Gatineau Park is currently not protected.
That is why the bill was introduced. The park currently has no protection. It can be sold to real estate developers. Houses can be built there. The law does not set any limits. The bill would ensure that real estate developers could not start a project in Gatineau Park without approval by Parliament, as is the case for all of Canada's national parks.
Giving an extremely important park like Gatineau Park similar protection—even if it is not exactly the same—is the least we can do. That is what the bill proposes. The bill would not make Gatineau Park a national park like all the others, but it would give it similar protections in order to protect the biodiversity so that the park's 2.7 million annual visitors can continue to enjoy it for years to come and our children and grandchildren can enjoy it as well. This is how we can ensure the sustainability of this massive green space that is part of the region.
It is also important to note that two official residences are located in Gatineau Park, including the residence of the Speaker of the House. Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, you do not live there, but as the current occupant of the chair, you are entitled to live in the residence, which is located in the park. The Prime Minister's country retreat is also located in Gatineau Park.
The bill proposes a number of things. I cannot list them all, but the bill's main purpose is to establish the park's boundaries and to prevent the sale of public land within Gatineau Park. This bill was drafted following a number of consultations held by my colleague, the member for Hull—Aylmer, who circulated petitions on this matter. It was one of my colleague's campaign promises. This bill is the result of extensive consultations and did not just appear out of thin air.
Other members have introduced bills in this regard. In the past, the government itself introduced bills concerning the park. Unfortunately, although the park has existed for 75 years, nothing has been done to this point.
When we vote on the bill in a few days, I hope that all my colleagues will follow my example and vote for this bill at second reading. We have heard that some Conservative members want to vote against it. However, I hope that they will change their minds so that we can at least send the bill to committee. I have heard some criticism from the Conservatives, but if the bill does not go to committee, it will be impossible to improve it. I urge those members to vote for the bill at second reading. If they have suggestions on how to improve the bill, they can bring them forward in committee. I urge all my colleagues to vote for Bill C-565, as I will be doing.