House of Commons Hansard #114 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was rouge.


Rouge National Urban Park ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.


John Aldag Liberal Cloverdale—Langley City, BC

Madam Speaker, as I mentioned, I worked in Parks Canada for over three decades and have really good first-hand experience with the application of this idea from the National Parks Act that ecological integrity needs to be the primary consideration in the management of protected areas.

I do not see that it is going to present any problems whatsoever in the management of an urban national park. Certainly there are challenges that are different from those in some in the more remote and northern parks, but the reality is that there is a rich amount of biodiversity within the Rouge National Urban Park. It will help managers, when they are making decisions, to look at what is in the interests of protecting and enriching the habitats that are represented.

I was looking through a sheet today that actually talked about the fact that there have been more than 31 actions taken by Parks Canada to do things like establishing new wetlands and improving the health of the wetlands, stream beds, and riparian areas. All these things can be done, and they will be guided by this idea of ecological integrity as a primary management decision. That is positive. It will make sure that it is protected green space. It does not preclude other uses, such as the agricultural uses that are recognized in this legislation. It will not preclude visitor use and enjoyment of the space. I think it works very well with what is happening.

Rouge National Urban Park ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.


Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his speech and for his long-term dedication to Parks Canada.

I noted that the member mentioned Grasslands National Park, where he worked. I have had the honour of visiting that site. I was travelling with biologist friends, and we were delighted that Parks Canada was then starting to hire biologists and plant specialists, because that is what is special about Grasslands, in trying to recover the species.

I also wanted to share that my own brother was involved in the Rouge area many decades ago when they were shutting down the tanneries and coming up with a plan for the reforestation of the area. Even though we live in Alberta now, we can appreciate efforts across the country.

I wonder if the member could speak to this issue that a number of the Conservative members keep raising. They seem to think that it is impossible for any kind of national park, including an urban national park, to actually recognize agricultural value for protecting species. I have conservation friends in southern Alberta who specifically bought grazing lands so they could show how they could raise cattle and build up biodiversity.

Rouge National Urban Park ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.


John Aldag Liberal Cloverdale—Langley City, BC

Madam Speaker, that was an excellent question. I would also like to acknowledge the work that the member has done on the environmental front throughout her career and continues to do as a member of our environment committee.

On the question of agriculture and biodiversity, I do not see them being mutually exclusive. In fact, we have seen great examples in this country of landowners being stewards and managing their lands for the ongoing conservation of biodiversity. Agriculture is not exclusive of good land management; in fact, it supports good land management in many cases.

I am concerned with the position of the Conservatives. They seem to be saying that somehow this is going to harm the management of the national urban park. I just think that is a completely false premise. We can actually have ecological integrity and agriculture, as we have in this legislation, and we can see the continuation of biodiversity within an urban national park.

Rouge National Urban Park ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.


Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Madam Speaker, I am delighted to speak to the subject of the Rouge National Urban Park, because this is a park that I was pleased to see our government get established. As the former House leader, I had some challenges in getting the legislation through because the Liberals were resisting it, and I will say a bit more about that in a short period of time.

It was a tremendous accomplishment by the folks at Parks Canada and by many people in the community who worked in alliances over many years to make it happen. Those efforts to establish this national park, believe it or not, can trace their roots to the Mulroney government era, when one of our predecessor parliamentarians, the Hon. Pauline Browes, was a member. She played a consider role as the member for Scarborough Centre in beginning to champion this issue. I can say, as someone who was active in politics in the Progressive Conservative Party in that day and age, that she was a force to behold as she went hither and yon, from person to person, lobbying and setting the agenda and saying that this was an important priority, that the Rouge Valley was a natural gem, that it was important to protect it, and all kinds of efforts had to be made, and the objective should be to have a national park established there, the first national urban park. Her work, along with that of many others in the community, continued for many years. Even after she left this chamber in 1993, her work continued in the community, as it did with so many other volunteers, so many folks from different organizations who cared about it.

That work made slower progress under the Chrètien government, but when we once again had a Conservative government, there was a good solid ear to the notion to establish this park. I was so pleased that the work was able to come to fruition, notwithstanding that the bill was filibustered, delayed, and obstructed by the Liberals as much as they could, as some members may remember. It was necessary, unfortunately, for us to use time allocation to get it through and adopted, but we were able to do that and get the park established.

However, as I said, there were some problems. Some political games were played. The Liberal government at Queen's Park, which I thought had more than its fair share of troubles and did not need to go looking for trouble, did go looking for trouble and created the basis for that delay and obstruction by its Liberal friends in Ottawa. It was fairly transparently understood by most people in the GTA and that was reflected in polling. They wanted to see the park, and they saw it as an effort to simply keep it from happening under the Conservative watch.

The argument was the notion of ecological integrity needing to be the guiding principle. I will remind members that the development of the park, the process, goes back to the 1980s and carried forward into the 2000s. We are talking about almost three decades of work. To throw out that three decades of work—including the agreement that existed between the province and the federal government—with this sudden curve ball at the end was objected to by many of the stakeholders who were an important part of developing the balance. It was unconstructive and unhelpful.

The provincial government went so far as to try to seek some kind of compensation before it would put its lands into it. It wanted to see all of the rules rewritten. It wanted standards that were higher than the ones it already applied to the regional park that it took care of there. It was an unusual circumstance, but the political motivation was transparent and understood by all. I was pleased that we succeeded and got through it. This legislation exists to provide a bit of cover for that kind of shameful piece of history on the part of the Liberal Party and what it did.

Where does this come from? Why do we even have this land in the first place? It actually goes back to another unusual chapter in big government liberalism back in the Trudeau area when lands were assembled for a Pickering airport that was apparently urgently required. The government expropriated the land for the purpose of this airport, all kinds of farmland, thousands of acres of high-value, high-productive, prime farmland in what is now the greater Toronto area, in Durham region primarily and a bit in York region. It was devastating to the local economy. The uncertainty continues to have an impact in that local economy.

The chair of Durham region would always point out the differences with Peel region, where there were highways hither and yon in every direction, but all they had in Durham region was a whole bunch of frozen land and the inability to do anything, an inability to have any kind of economic activity take place. It was a great source of frustration to the municipalities, it was a great source of frustration to the residents, but no greater frustration than to those farmers who lost farms which had, in many cases, been in families for many decades. They were productive, good, and valuable farms.

How egregious was this kind of high-authoritarian approach of the Liberal government at the time in establishing it? Well, we can look at Mirabel, the Montreal example where the government actually went so far as to shut down that airport. Those land issues still remain a sensitivity. Here we are talking decades later, almost half a century later, and there is still no airport even built.

The government got to the stage where it understood the amount of land was so much more, so it just protected the stuff it would need if there actually was an airport built. A footprint was established and lo and behold, thousands of acres extra was available, which had been taken from farmers. It was then rented to the farmers who were willing to do it on a yearly lease; a year-to-year uncertain situation. Anybody who is involved in agriculture knows that it is not a good way to farm. One is not necessarily a good steward of the land if one might be kicked out the next year. There is no great incentive to make the kinds of investments that farmers make to the land they own themselves.

I know that those who do not understand farming do not understand the concept of how one invests in the land, but those are very real things to people who farm the land in this day and age, and I will say a little bit more about that.

In any event, the government concluded that there was an opportunity to do this, and that became part of the federal government's contribution, starting, as I said, back in the Pauline Browes championing era: Let us get this federal land contributed, let us get the provincial land that it had also put together in the area, as well as some municipal contribution to create this wonderful urban park. This is how we got to where we were, and the park was being established. Then along came this curve, and it is now being dealt with through the bill before us, of the notion that ecological integrity must be made the guiding principle for all decisions regarding the management of the park.

It sounds really good. If I were to think of a national park, I would say that, yes, ecological integrity should be a pretty important consideration. However, should it be the overriding and guiding principle? Well, when we start getting into the case of an urban park, things are little bit different.

Let us not make a mistake. This is not Central Park. It is not surrounded by high-rises on four sides. This park is kind of at the urban fringe in areas. There are parts of the park that are going to be a little more surrounded by urban development, but as I said, parts of it are farmland and surrounded by farmland. However, we see a whole range of activities. Going through it are things like major highway corridors, pipelines, transmission lines, and so on.

Therefore, if a new pipeline is to be established, is that going to run into trouble there? If the 401 and 407 have to be expanded at some point in the future, is that going to violate the ecological integrity? Members can bet their boots it will.

Are we putting ourselves into a straitjacket that will continue the punishment of this part of the greater Toronto area through its inability to grow, and to deal with the normal contingencies of urban development, population growth, and economic development that occur? Are we going to put it in that economic straitjacket? I think that is one of the concerns.

I am going to focus on that one activity that I was talking about so much, which is farming and farmland.

To those who are saying not to worry about this consideration, farmland is protected, they are quite right. In the establishment of the original park, farming was a protected activity. That was part of the careful negotiated balance between all the interests. There were some farmers who did not even want it, but people were pragmatic and flexible. They were willing to give and take, and they came to the give-and-take on the understanding that farming would be a protected activity and ecological integrity would not be the overriding principle.

Why is it a concern to a farmer on their land if the overriding principle on their land is ecological integrity?

Guess what? The simple act of ploughing land is not respecting the ecological integrity. The normal process of agriculture is aimed at protecting the crop a farmer is growing, and we are just talking about cash crop and not other agricultural activities. The normal approach is that of eliminating competition for resources, such as competition from other plants, which farmers would call weeds, and competition from pests, such as insects and other animals that are going to consume a crop.

That is the normal ecological process for those weeds to go in. Would the spraying of a pesticide or even something a bit more benign like the use of Roundup as a fairly low-impact herbicide something that would be prohibited because it is interfering with the ecological integrity? Members can tell me that their opinion is no, but what would happen if an activist group starts taking farmers to court to challenge their ability to do this on the basis of a law that states that ecological integrity is the primary principle, and that means they cannot use Roundup on their land in their agricultural activity because it would interfere with that? We might say there is no need to worry because they would win the case. However, where would farmers get the money to fight the case to defend themselves against these activists who would try to assert this ecological integrity principle? It is not even land that the farmers own but land they are renting from year to year.

In the olden days, farmers would grow hedgerows and have fences because they had a lot of livestock, and so on. This land is now largely out of livestock and mainly cash crop. Now the normal practice is the removal of hedgerows. Ecological integrity would mean leaving those things alone and letting them expand to eat up the agricultural land. If they cut trees and seedlings at the edge of the field, are they violating that ecological integrity?

If farmers create driveways or pathways for agricultural equipment between adjoining fields because they have rented another one, are they violating that ecological integrity principle and, lo and behold, could face some private lawsuit asserting that they have broken this law in the National Parks Act, and have to defend themselves against that?

These are the kinds of things that farmers are quite legitimately concerned about. I could use all kinds of other examples, such as tile drainage or any kind of alteration of the land to ensure drainage. In the normal process, farmers who farm in an area with clay soil, as we find here, notice from time to time that through their plowing they have altered the grading a bit and have water pooling in their fields. They need to grade them to restore drainage to prevent it from happening again. Would that be objected to? Would farmers be forced to have their hands tied and lose all of their crops in a wet field condition in a wet year? I am quite sure that they would not be allowed to put in tile drainage as that is something that ecological integrity would dictate is not allowed.

Even if we changed it from yearly leases to giving farmers greater certainty and perhaps 10-year leases or something that would make it worthwhile to make that kind of investment, they would think twice or might not do it at all simply because of the fear that this would hurt them.

Let us suppose that farmers want to change what they grow, or even grow what they do now. Would they face activists who do not like genetically modified organisms or who do not like the use of genetics to produce better products? There are some in this House who feel that way. Would they suddenly get active and say, “If you're farming in this area where ecological integrity is the main principle, can you use some kind of new genetically modified crop, a new soybean or corn, that can resist a certain pest?” No, they cannot use it because that is not respecting ecological integrity. That is what the argument would be. These are the risks that farmers would face.

We can say offhandedly, “Don't worry, everything is going to be fine because the parks administrators will make sensible decisions”, and I do not doubt that as good, professional public servants they would make reasonable decisions because that is what we see happen, but we know that they are not the only players in the world out there. When we are talking about this park in particular and some of the players who have been involved on this issue of asserting this, we have some fairly aggressive folks willing to spend resources to assert their objective of ecological integrity. There are some people who think that what that means is achieving an end condition that is the prior condition, before we had European settlement here, meaning a Carolinian forest throughout this area. That is a wonderful idea, but there is no way that the transformation of this to a Carolinian forest can be considered consistent with protecting the rights of those farmers to continue their activities.

I say with respect that it is not a foregone conclusion that making ecological integrity a guiding principle will not hurt people. Other people talk about letting forest fires continue. I have talked about things like road widenings, or changes to putting guardrails along a road with a steep grade. Will that violate the ecological integrity, because if we put in a guardrail, are we suddenly keeping the deer or other wildlife from their normal migration route or travel route? Are we reducing the connectivity that the environmentalists say is so important as part of the ecological integrity? That is a life safety issue. Are we doing that, and putting those lives at risk by making that kind of activity?

When we are doing an urban park we have to do something different from when we are doing something like Nahanni National Park. We have people. We have economic activity. We have the agriculture I talked about, roads, all kinds of stuff going on. All of these things have to be taken into account, and I think that was the genius of the work of the Conservative government in this case, a couple of ministers of the environment and going, as I say, all the way back to the initial efforts of Pauline Browes to make this park happen. It was a genius that took into account all those stakeholders, all those different circumstances, the real challenges of an urban park, and tried to create a framework that respected that this is indeed different.

In fact, I can say, as House leader, as we were shepherding the legislation, we got it in later than I wanted because of some of the efforts to create an entirely separate category with separate criteria. The imposition through this amendment of ecological integrity, designed to create some patina of legitimacy for the obstruction and delay efforts and the kind of juvenile behaviour from the Ontario Liberal government on this over the past couple of years, is putting at risk all of that hard work of so many people and so many stakeholders, and, I think, creating a lot of unnecessary uncertainty.

I can simply conclude by saying that the Rouge National Urban Park is a tremendous accomplishment, something we are very proud of. Is this amendment a meaningful step forward? If it gets the Liberal government to co-operate and finally make the contribution that they were originally obligated to in terms of lands that would become part of this park, I suppose that is a gain. My concern is the price that is being paid for that gain, a largely symbolic one for those people with little consideration of the real consequences as a potentially, significantly negative impact.

I just want to conclude once again by going back to talk about Pauline Browes. She continues to be active on this issue. When we were dealing with it in the previous Parliament, she was right there, continually making calls, continually shepherding the process, continually making efforts to see that it would happen. I think that is a lesson to all of us about what it means to be a member of Parliament and have some kind of legacy, pick up a cause and continue with it, even after a member leaves this place, but using the wisdom they have, the knowledge they have and quite frankly the networks they have developed to continue to pursue that issue and achieve it for the sake of the public good. Doing something like this, a national urban park, has never been done before in a place where a lot of people have different ideas about what could be done. That is a pretty challenging thing to do.

Of course, in the case of government doing anything, it is often much easier to not do anything than to do something, but it was the persistence of the efforts of the Hon. Pauline Browes over all those years that got us to the point where we are today where we have the Rouge National Urban Park. I just want to pay tribute to her and all her work over those many decades of her public service as a member of Parliament and her time since. I hope the record will show that the role she played was very significant. I hope that the public will keep that name prominently in their minds as they reflect on this tremendous jewel, the asset that was created during our previous Parliament of the Rouge National Urban Park.

Rouge National Urban Park ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.


Gary Anandasangaree Liberal Scarborough—Rouge Park, ON

Madam Speaker, I certainly share with the member our deepest appreciation of Pauline Browse, who is a Scarborough stalwart. The member for Scarborough—Guildwood also mentioned her in his statement and gave her due credit for bringing us to this point. She was a very important player in this whole process.

I disagree with the assertion that the previous government was a genius when it developed the previous legislation. We are consulting the local community. As the member for Scarborough—Rouge Park, I have had the opportunity to meet with dozens of stakeholders, from environmental groups, to farmers, to community organizations, to schools. One thing has been very clear. Ecological integrity is not something people want to compromise on.

If he were to speak to the farmers today, I can assure him that they are happy today, because the Minister of Environment and the Minister of Health reached out and had extensive discussions with the farmers. What we have today is an element of certainty for the farmers. They have up to 30 years to continue their practice.

We put ecological integrity front and centre, as we should, in developing a new park, and in fact, a new park system, in an urban setting.

I would like to ask the member if he had a chance to speak to farmers directly. The message we are getting is quite clear. They are quite satisfied with what we are going forward with.

Rouge National Urban Park ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.


Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Madam Speaker, it just so happens that my wife's family has roots in this area as farmers, so yes, I am often at social gatherings where the subject comes up. I will take those discussions as evidence that the concerns I laid out are in fact very real.

I take my own experience. As some members know, I am on a farm. I understand what agriculture is about. My grandfather was an agronomist. I know that some folks in Scarborough, and a lot of folks in this House, have moved away from that tradition of understanding farming. Even if someone farmed 50 years ago, the farming of today is incredibly different.

We talk about things like ecological integrity and slide a straitjacket over it. There are, in land use planning, lawful non-conforming uses.

The hon. member is absolutely right. The farmers are happier with the prospect of longer terms. That is something we thought was very important and would be a potentially positive outcome of establishing this park. We thought it was a huge priority to go in that direction. That is welcome, but we cannot say that we are going to give them this and they can hope for the best on the other stuff. If we can get rid of the other stuff, it is a problem. Why create the problem? I do not see the need for it.

They say that it is so important to have ecological integrity as the primary principle. Do not worry, we are told, it is not going to harm anything in farming. Farmers can do anything they want, and forget ecological integrity; it is not going to apply there. They did not say that. There is nothing that says that ecological integrity is the overriding principle except that it does not apply to agriculture and that agriculture is allowed to go on developing as agriculture should. The fact is, it is interfering with it. The whole nature of agriculture is a change in nature by human activity. That is what it is. There is a real risk there.

Rouge National Urban Park ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.


Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, this is an issue we have talked about many times in other Parliaments.

My colleague is a long-time member of Parliament. Does he think that the government's bill takes all of the discussions we have already had about this issue into account?

Rouge National Urban Park ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.


Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Madam Speaker, that is an interesting question. I thought the bill that was presented in the previous Parliament actually effectively captured it. In fact, there was a belt-and-suspenders approach to dealing with all the issues that resulted in it coming to the House later than I was comfortable with. I think we lost about a year in our efforts to make sure that it was watertight and that there were no undue consequences that would hurt the urban park or other national parks by creating this separate and special category we did for it legislatively. That was something asserted very strongly by the Parks Canada officials, to the frustration of some of the political folks who would have liked things to move faster, but it was done.

We had arrived at the right place, absolutely. We had addressed all the issues that were of concern. Now, for the sake of something flashy that looks good and sounds good, we are putting at risk some practical, balanced solutions that had been arrived at. That is my concern.

Rouge National Urban Park ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.


Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Madam Speaker, my colleague raised the issue of ecological integrity. There is a broader concern I have when we are looking at balancing ecological integrity with visitor experience when we approach Parks Canada's management plans and how they are implemented on a day-to-day basis.

We know that Canada's brand is nature. When we look at how Canadians interact with our natural spaces and how we attract tourism, certainly having access to Canada's parks and ensuring that people can actually experience them is something I think should be prioritized and not shunted to the side when we are looking at a parks management plan.

In fact, one of the former executive directors of Parks Canada said:

...we will only be successful in safeguarding our national parks and national historic sites for future generations if Canada's heritage places are relevant to Canadians. Relevance is stronger when Canadians are presented with opportunities to use and enjoy our parks

I am just wondering if my colleague could comment on the importance of accessibility and ensuring that we are not putting ecological integrity at the forefront at the exclusion of Canadians' ability to enjoy and use our national parks and heritage sites.

Rouge National Urban Park ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.


Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Madam Speaker, the point the member raises is a very strong one and one I had not come close enough to addressing. I think it is valid.

We have Banff National Park. It is a bit more than an hour away from Calgary. There are huge pressures on it in terms of use. When people think of Canada's national parks, they think of it as the first one and as the most dramatic and successful one. Issues about use always come up there and at related parks through the Rockies.

Here we are talking about an urban park. There is a population in the many millions well within less than an hour's drive, which we presumably want to encourage to come to use it. We need to actually create, build, and establish the means for using it. Is ecological integrity going to be an impediment to creating the kinds of attractions, interpretation centres, trails, and other kinds of activities people would like to see and use in a national park? I think that is a legitimate concern and is something I have not heard addressed very well today.

Rouge National Urban Park ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.


Gary Anandasangaree Liberal Scarborough—Rouge Park, ON

Madam Speaker, I am having a hard time understanding why our friends opposite are rejecting the issue of ecological integrity. It is a very important issue that science has recognized as essential.

The park is not about using it for ourselves in this generation alone. A park is an intergenerational asset, an asset we are going to leave to our children and grandchildren, and so on.

I had a chance this fall to visit Central Park with my family. We had a fantastic time. We were able to enjoy the nature, because it was preserved. It was preserved in the busiest city in the world.

I do not understand why our friends across the aisle are rejecting the issue of ecological integrity and why they are so shortsighted in making sure that we protect this for the future.

Rouge National Urban Park ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.


Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Madam Speaker, the hon. member made my case better than I could make it myself.

Central Park, as an urban park, is not a natural park. It is not a park of ecological integrity. It is a park that has been reshaped and built by man. The features in it are man-made. The paths in it are man-made. The attractions the people who visit it everyday use are man-made. They are all things that are not part of the natural condition of that land before it was developed by human beings to be a park.

None of it, which he says is an absolute gem, would be permitted if ecological integrity was the overriding principle. It is an important principle. We think it is important to have it there. It is one of the most important factors. However, should it override every other consideration of human use and agricultural use, such as roads, pipelines, and human safety? No.

Rouge National Urban Park ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.


Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak to this bill today. Obviously, it is no surprise to anyone, based on my constant promotion of it but also because Banff National Park is in my riding, that I am one of the proudest promoters and supporters of our national parks system. I am certainly pleased to have seen, through the work of the previous government and others, that Rouge National Urban Park, Canada's first urban national park, would provide opportunities for people in the GTA to experience our national parks by having one in such close proximity. I hope they catch the bug and want to experience our other national parks. What better place than the first and greatest national park in our country, Banff National Park? I certainly believe it will be a great promoter of that.

In fact, I know that the previous superintendent of Banff National Park has moved into Rouge and has become the superintendent there. She has brought that great experience from Banff with her to that job. We congratulate Pam Veinotte.

Because I am an opposition member, people would say my job is to oppose. I would disagree with that slightly. I would say it means that my job is to try to ensure that we give the government the opportunity to improve and we show it ways to accomplish better things. The minute the government members choose not to pick those up, we can show them to Canadians and they can choose something that will be better. If all else fails, our job is to oppose.

In that vein, I want to point out the area of concern I have with this bill. I will spend some time on why that should be a concern and offer an opportunity to the government members to do better.

The section I am concerned about is about ecological integrity. It says that it must be of the utmost importance, above all the other important parts of Parks Canada's mandate. Parks Canada's mandate is obviously to promote ecological integrity, but it is also to promote visitor experience and visitor opportunities. Those things are important, and they all go together.

When part of a bill says, “Maintenance or restoration of ecological integrity...must be the first priority of the Minister when considering all aspects of the management of the Park”, it indicates that the Liberals have the intention of making that part of the mandate the prime focus. That would mean forgetting about the fact that parks are there for enjoyment and use. People will point out, and I would be the first among them, that it is important that enjoyment and use be there for both current and future generations. That is part of the reason ecological integrity is important, but we have to be clear that those things have to be done in unison. They have to be considered as a package. It cannot be the first and only priority, because without the opportunity for people to enjoy parks, they are not able to meet their fullest use.

I recently attended a speech given by Rex Murphy, in Banff, at the annual gala for the Association for Mountain Parks Protection & Enjoyment. I am going to speak about the association in a bit, because it has a great role to play in ensuring that this balance is there. Its members have some great suggestions. That is what I will offer to the government in terms of suggestions.

Rex Murphy made a great speech on the importance of parks. I will paraphrase all of his speech into one short comment. Essentially, his point was that parks needed people as much as people needed parks. There is no question about both of those statements. People do need parks. It is where we can reconnect with nature, spend time with our families, enjoy the great outdoors, and discover part of our souls sometimes. We get so busy with day-to-day life that we sometimes forget to reconnect with ourselves. Through nature, we can find those opportunities.

However, it is also important for parks to have people. Without people to enjoy them, they are not serving their greatest purpose. That is why it is so important to find that balance.

I want to delve into the last time we heard these kinds of statements. Coincidentally enough, it was the last time there was a Liberal government. That was back in the 1990s. In 1994, the minister responsible for Parks Canada was Sheila Copps. If one were to say that name in Banff National Park today, people still curl up into a fetal position. They wonder what is coming next, how they are going to be hit, how the tourism industry is going to be damaged next. It was all based on this same principle.

This is a movie that people in Banff have seen before, and they do not like the way that it ends. In the last year of the Liberal government, they are seeing the start of a sequel. It looks very much like the original movie and they are quite concerned about the ending, whether it will be the same as last time. There are all kinds of signs that this might be the case. I want to give the government the opportunity to hear some of those concerns today. Maybe it will take up some of those concerns and see if there are ways it can do better and improve. That is certainly my hope.

When we look back at when Sheila Copps was the Liberal minister, the Banff-Bow Valley Study was undertaken. It provided a whole series of recommendations, not all of which were taken up but certainly many were. At that time, we could not be in Banff without hearing about this topic. It was on the minds of everybody. People were definitely concerned. I will talk about some of the issues raised at that time.

It significantly delayed a number of projects proceeding, things that would have helped to improve the visitor experience, for tourism to flourish, for visitors to best enjoy the area, things like improvements to ski hills. The biggest was the twinning of the Trans-Canada Highway between Castle Junction and Sunshine, something the Conservative government put in place. The twinning of that highway was completed, which is so vitally important for human and wildlife safety.

The Conservatives were able to accomplish this because of our balanced approach in ensuring all of the different parts of the mandate, but at that time, it was on hold. Unfortunately it took deaths along the highway for the Liberal Party to wake up. The Conservatives, once in office, were able to finish that project.

When people look back at that time and the concerns that developed as a result of the sole focus in this bill, being only on the ecological integrity and not about the experiences and enjoyment of visitors, I think about all the things that were accomplished by the Conservative government in its 10 years. I wonder if any of those things could be accomplished today with this kind of move.

Most important to mention is the Legacy Trail, which is a multi-use trail but mainly a cycling trail that leads from Canmore to Banff. This is an incredibly popular trail. When the government talks about limiting development in national parks, I wonder if this would have been able to proceed. I suppose one of the answers might be in the fact that last summer, prior to the election, there was an announcement of a lot of great projects that were warmly received by the people of Banff and by the visitors who experienced Banff. One was the ability to build and widen the shoulders on the Bull Valley Parkway, which goes between Banff and Lake Louise. Cyclists would have a safer route to follow from Banff to Lake Louise. When the Liberal government took office, it cancelled that project. Cyclists, who were greatly pleased about their improved safety, lost that opportunity. Those are the kinds of things we are seeing.

With my remaining time, I want to discuss the biggest issue on the minds of those in Banff right now, who are seeking to make their livelihoods through tourism. I should point out for all members of the House, because some might not be aware. For Banff, tourism is the economy. It is not a part of the economy. It is not even a large part of the economy. It is the economy of Banff. Tourism is what employs almost everybody in that community. It creates hundreds of businesses for people in that area, allowing them to thrive and succeed. It enables the approximately four million visitors who are received in Banff each year to have the greatest experiences they can have.

Tourists of course go to Banff to enjoy the national park, but we have to provide them with the experiences, the lodging, the places to eat, and all of the other opportunities that a guest looks to see in a tourism experience. That is what the people of Banff do. That is the livelihood of the entire community. When we are talking about things that will lessen the ability to develop, or improve their products or their offerings because of their leaseholds, we are talking about harming their opportunities to make a livelihood and the ability of visitors to have a great experience. I have great faith in the people, the business owners, and the employees who serve our tourists. I have no doubt that tourists will continue to have those great experiences no matter what the Liberal government does.

However, I will point out that there are some concerns right now in the ability to take in vehicle traffic. The mayor of Banff, and I spoke to her as recently as today, has concerns about the capacity for vehicle traffic and the need for solutions. I am going to quote some of the mayor's concerns. Banff is welcoming and open to more visitors, but the capacity for vehicle traffic is a concern. The mayor has raised some of these concerns on behalf of the people. At a council meeting in October, she said:

I am deeply disappointed that Parks Canada has not come to the table on offering ideas in partnership with us to manage this high probability of increases in traffic in 2017....At the end of the day...The world heritage site and Banff National Park are the draw and we are here to service those visitors...I get asked consistently, a few times every week, by residents about what’s going to happen in the summer of 2017 with free entry to all national parks, including Banff… I’m very concerned.

She goes on to say that the offer made by the Liberal government of free entry is a nice idea, and it is. However, no thought seems to have been given to the real logistics of managing the increased traffic, particularly for the popular parks like Banff and Jasper. She said that:

When this was announced, I guess I assumed that Parks Canada would be working with us on how to manage the consequences of this, and I was assuming that would happen very quickly.

It is nearly the end of November, and we still have a real concern about what those plans are going to be for next year.

I want to talk a little about some of the solutions that are being offered, and I know there is not a lot of time left. I want to talk about the group I mentioned earlier, the Association for Mountain Parks Protection and Enjoyment. The group advocates for what is really the mandate of Parks Canada to ensure that this balance is found, the balance I talked about earlier.

It wants to ensure there is ecological integrity, but it is there for visitor experience and for those of current and future generations, and that we can provide that quality tourism experience. When it talks about solutions, it is a group that needs to be listened to. It talks about some of the issues that we are facing them right now, and offers these following solutions.

The group believes there is a need for things like mass transit solutions that are in line with its environmentally responsible visitor experience. It is talking about bicycle trails to reduce vehicles and to provide environmentally friendly access. It is talking about ensuring sustainable development, engaging guests with an enhanced visitor experience, new opportunities to connect new Canadians, and those with limited mobility.

Those are the kinds of solutions being asked for and what we hear instead is a government that says that it will limit all development and put this one pillar as the only consideration. Unfortunately, that creates a situation where those who want to come, visit and experience cannot. Solutions are being put out there, and we are just not hearing anything back. We are not hearing any take-up. We are not hearing any concern about trying to provide those kinds of solutions and opportunities.

When solutions or opportunities are not offered, then we have a situation where the park will be at a capacity for vehicle traffic. Then it will come into the kinds of problems that are difficult to solve without some help and co-operation from the government and Parks Canada. I know I have had great interactions with Parks Canada, both at the CEO level and also at the local level, with our local superintendent and others. I believe they are eager to try to work with the tourism industry.

The government needs to have that political will to push those solutions forward so we can continue to best serve the four million guest, and likely far more next year with the free parks passes. However, without the ability to deal with some of the new solutions that are needed to ensure proper vehicle access, we will actually have a really difficult time to best provide that experience for visitors.

As I said, I have great faith in the people and tourism operators of Banff. I know they will do that, but it would certainly be good if the government came to table to try to help ensure better opportunities in those regards.

Rouge National Urban Park ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The member will have a minute and a half for his speech the next time the debate continues, and 10 minutes for questions and comments.

Spruce BudwormStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Marilène Gill Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Madam Speaker, Quebec's forests, like those across eastern Canada, are grappling with an insect that is threatening our industry: the spruce budworm.

In 2014, the federal government allocated $18 million over four years to fight the budworm. It allocated $12 million to New Brunswick and half that amount, $6 million, to Quebec. Not only is that not enough, it is unfair. Quebec has more infested forests than New Brunswick has forests, period, and in Quebec, the infestation is spreading at a rate of one million hectares per year.

Stack that up against what happened in western Canada, and it looks even worse. The federal government handed British Columbia $225 million when it was facing a similar infestation. That is typical of the federal government's attitude toward the regions: out of sight, out of mind, and left out in the cold.

Quebec has 60,000 people in the forestry sector. The Bloc Québécois will not fail them.

The EnvironmentStatements By Members

November 24th, 2016 / 2 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

[Member spoke in Gwich'in]


Madam Speaker, the lifeblood, the spiritual survival, the culture, the food, and the clothes of the Gwich'in people of the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, and Alaska, for eons, has been integrally connected to the porcupine caribou herd. It is their soul. The herd migrates annually between Canada and the United States, which jointly manage it. Interrupting the most sensitive stage of the life cycle of these caribou and their calving on the 1002 lands of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, ANWR, could lead to their extinction, and the end of a way of life of the Gwich'in people. This herd could be devastated to extinction by potential oil and gas drilling in ANWR, now being discussed in the United States.

Therefore, I call upon all parliamentarians, and indeed all Canadians, to do whatever they can to preserve this iconic Canadian heritage and treasure, and the lifeline at the heart of the Gwich'in people. Mahsi'Choo, Gunalchéesh

Fort WillowStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Alex Nuttall Conservative Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte, ON

Madam Speaker, earlier this fall, Fort Willow was recognized as a national historic site. Fort Willow was a vital link in the supply chain connecting Lake Ontario with the upper Great Lakes. Since the conclusion of the War of 1812, the fort had fallen into severe disrepair and was threatened with being completely forgotten. That was until 1996, when a group of volunteers came together to rebuild and preserve the historic landmark.

The Friends of Fort Willow have since done a fantastic job of creating a highly educational and great cultural attraction. On behalf of the people of Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte, I would like to congratulate Friends of Fort Willow on a job well done.

As well, I would like to pay my respects to the men and women of the War of 1812, who made our country the true north, strong and free.

John NuraneyStatements By Members

2 p.m.


John Aldag Liberal Cloverdale—Langley City, BC

Madam Speaker, on Monday my community of Cloverdale—Langley City lost a remarkable man. John Nuraney was born in Kenya, before settling in Zaire. In 1974, John was forced to flee his adoptive country when the Zairean government nationalized his entire life's savings. A skilled businessman, John moved to Canada and quickly found success, operating several prominent local businesses. In 2001, he became the first person of Islamic faith to be elected to the British Columbia Legislative Assembly, holding office from 2001 to 2009.

For me, John was not just an admired figure, but a friend and a mentor, who was always a source of valuable wisdom, advice and fortitude. The sadness felt by John's loss will be felt by many people over many parts of the country.

I need not tell John's family, Gulshan, Nick, Asim and Naseem, that he was an incredible man. However, I hope they know how much he will be missed, by me and everyone who knew him.

I thank John for his service, guidance, and friendship. He will be missed.

Canada Pension PlanStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Cheryl Hardcastle NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to express my profound disappointment with the Liberal government's unwillingness to fix its CPP enhancement legislation, Bill C-26, so that Canadians are not punished for being on a CPP disability pension or for taking time off to raise a child.

For reasons that are not entirely clear, so-called dropout provisions have not been included in Bill C-26. NDP amendments to fix this oversight were rejected by the government yesterday. These dropout provisions have been part of CPP since 1976. Essentially, the government is stacking on a layer, or tranche, to expand benefits. Women and people living with disabilities are going to be penalized because this new tranche will not have the same dropout provisions as the existing one.

These provisions have been excluded from the legislation, but we must not give up on other measures in the very near future to fix this injustice.

The minister must commit today to undertake due diligence and consult with each province and territory—

Canada Pension PlanStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

Nathan Lloyd SmithStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Darrell Samson Liberal Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, NS

Mr. Speaker, on Remembrance Day, I attended a memorial service in my riding in honour of Private Nathan Lloyd Smith, who died in service to Canada on April 17, 2002, in Kandahar, Afghanistan, at the young age of 26.

Private Smith graduated from Eastern Shore District High School, and later with honours from Seneca College. He enrolled in the Canadian Armed Forces in 1998 and was assigned to the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry 3rd Battalion.

He graduated at the top of his class at Battle School, in Wainwright, Alberta and received the Royal Canadian Legion Comradeship Award at the end of his basic training.

It was an honour for me to meet his parents, Lloyd and Charlotte Lynn Smith, and to thank them for their son's service and sacrifice.

Lest we forget.

Aerospace IndustryStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Mr. Speaker, when the Prime Minister decided to exclude the F-35 from an open and fair competition, workers in Canada's aerospace industry were rightly alarmed. The Liberals' uninformed decision to sole source the obsolete Super Hornet has thrown the industry into a world of uncertainty. There is no region more concerned than my province of Manitoba.

The Prime Minister's politically driven decision has put thousands of high-skilled Canadian jobs at risk. There are more than 70 companies in Canada that are benefiting from over $1 billion worth in contracts through the joint strike fighter program, and all are now in jeopardy.

Magellan Aerospace, in Winnipeg, has said that future work will become uncertain due to the Prime Minister's election promise. What is worse is that the Liberals did not properly consult.

Manitoba premier, Brian Pallister, raised concerns on the impact of the federal announcement on our province's aerospace industry, and criticized the lack of dialogue with local industry on the decision to sole source the Super Hornet.

On this side of the House, we are fighting for good-paying aerospace jobs in Winnipeg, and right across Canada. Why are the Liberal MPs in Winnipeg so conspicuously silent?

Doris MittonStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Alaina Lockhart Liberal Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, there are people who come into your life who are inherently good, people who radiate kindness, warmth, and love. Doris Mitton was one of those people, and I am profoundly sad that we lost her this week.

Doris filled every room she walked into with a smile and an energy that made everyone feel that anything was possible. She was always optimistic and committed to making a difference in whatever way she could.

She and I shared a passion for the work of the Canadian Cancer Society, and worked side by side to deliver a Relay for Life experience for the people of Sussex that was both meaningful and hopeful. Sadly, being passionate about the cause did not grant Doris immunity from this devastating disease.

Today, I honour Doris, and I send heartfelt condolences to her husband Travis, her children, her grandchildren, and her extended family and friends.

Goodbye, Doris. May we all aspire to be a bright light like her.

Gulf of Georgia CanneryStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Joe Peschisolido Liberal Steveston—Richmond East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to pay tribute to the Gulf of Georgia Cannery National Historic Site. Built in 1894, and located in the fishing village of Steveston, the cannery was part of the largest commercial fishing port in Canada. It is now a museum presenting the history of Canada's west coast fishing industry.

This cannery tells the history of Richmond and is an important part of our economic and cultural heritage. It is also part of Richmond's future, as tourists and locals alike come to realize that the stories told here are not unlike what they experience today.

I would like to thank the Gulf of Georgia Cannery Society for its dedication and hard work in preserving our fishing history.

Agriculture and Agri-FoodStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Kevin Sorenson Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be working with ranchers from central Alberta who have come to Parliament with the Canadian beef producers to make the government aware of measures required to deal with the detection of bovine tuberculosis in some herds, and the quarantine of these animals. They testified before the agriculture committee, and I am pleased to be one of the members of Parliament who wrote to the Minister of Agriculture, spelling out what is needed.

Lives and livelihoods are being destroyed as the slow pace of testing proceeds. They need funding to cover the additional feed costs caused by the CFIA's mandatory quarantine. They need the CFIA to consider having local veterinarians speed up testing. They need to feed their calves, which should already have been sold, so that they can pay their bills.

The 34 families in the ranching businesses affected by this situation appreciate the actions to assure compensation for animals that must be destroyed.

I hope that the minister takes their requests seriously, so that ranchers and producers—