Mr. Speaker, on May 15, I asked once again in the House why the Prime Minister has not kept the promises he made in 2007 and 2009 to create the Lake Superior national marine conservation area, the NMCA, and allocate and spend $20 million that he promised for that purpose, including a visitor centre and administration building in the town of Nipigon.
While the Prime Minister proclaimed in Nipigon, “there is no goal more worthy than the protection and preservation of Canada's natural environment”, eight years later little has been done.
Two years later, in 2009, the Prime Minister repeated his promise, which encouraged the Town of Nipigon to begin investing heavily in waterfront development. After eight years of waiting, the Town of Nipigon has yet to see a penny of that promised $20 million. Instead, the Conservatives have actually cut staff in Canada's national parks.
Nipigon is not the only town in Thunder Bay—Superior North that has waited fruitlessly for eight years. Towns and first nations along the spectacular north shore are all still waiting, including Marathon, Terrace Bay, Schreiber, Pays Plat, Red Rock, Dorion, Shuniah, and Thunder Bay. I have been waiting a long time too.
In 1980, when I was a board member for the Wildlands League, we proposed this idea in our publication Wilderness Now. Later, Jake Vander Wal and I helped to co-create the Lake Superior Binational Forum and binational program, of which I was the first Canadian co-chair. Then I fought, along with Joanie and Gary McGuffin, for the creation of the Great Lakes heritage coast, which was later killed by the Ontario Liberal government.
There is a lot of blame to go around on why protection has been delayed for 35 years. I re-asked that question of our Prime Minister on Friday exactly a month ago. Five days later, like magic, or should I say like smoke and mirrors, Nipigon received a letter reaffirming that commitment. Then, on June 2, the Minister of the Environment introduced Bill C-61, called the Lake Superior national marine conservation area act.
That is great. However, I ask this question. Was this in response to my once again calling the Prime Minister to task, or is it part of a cynical plan to introduce a whole bunch of bills at the last minute of our parliamentary sitting with no real intent to pass them, or perhaps both?
The government has rammed a lot of dubious and contentious legislation through the House in far less than a month. I urge it to pass this important bill quickly. I doubt that anyone on the opposition side would oppose unanimous consent to create this ecologically important and long-awaited conservation area.
While the Conservatives continue to claim that they are somehow contributing to the preservation of the “world's largest freshwater protected area”, eight years later, north shore towns are still waiting.
Lake Superior is facing the effects of a warming climate. It has reached record low levels, 10 centimetres below the previous low recorded in 1926. The lake is 5o warmer than it was 30 years ago, and ice is down a whopping 80%. Lake Superior is one of the most important bodies of water in the world. It holds about 10% of the planet's fresh water, and biological diversity there is decreasing.
Eight long years ago, the people of Nipigon were told that they were going to receive federal funding for NMCA. Where is it? Will the Prime Minister finally keep his promise?