Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure today to rise on third reading of Bill C-7, an act to amend the Department of Canadian Heritage Act and the Parks Canada Agency Act and to make related amendments to other acts.
This bill would give legislative effect to the government's reorganization that was announced on December 12, 2003, as it affects Parks Canada, the Minister of Canadian Heritage and the Minister of the Environment.
The bill would update existing legislation to reflect two orders in council that came into effect in December 2003 and July 2004. They transferred control and supervision of the Parks Canada Agency from the Minister of Canadian Heritage to the Minister of the Environment.
The bill would also clarify that Parks Canada would be responsible for historic places in Canada, and for the design and implementation of programs that relate to built heritage.
The legislation would be primarily technical in nature. It would update the Department of Canadian Heritage Act and the Parks Canada Agency Act. It would also amend the statutes that enable Parks Canada to deliver its mandate; notably, the Canada National Parks Act, the Historic Sites and Monuments Act, the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act, the Species at Risk Act, the Canada Shipping Act, and the Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act.
Canada's national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas represent the soul of Canada. They are a central part of who we are and what we are. They are places of magic, wonder and heritage. Each tells its own story. Together, they connect Canadians to our roots, to our future and to each other. Responsibilities for safeguarding and celebrating heritage would continue to be shared among departments and agencies across government.
The Minister of Canadian Heritage would retain a key leadership role and overall responsibility for cultural heritage and would continue to work closely with the Minister of the Environment and with other ministers to keep common objectives with heritage.
I would like to assure the House that Parks Canada's organizational integrity would be maintained. Parks Canada would remain committed to working with Canadians to protect and present nationally significant examples of Canada's natural and cultural heritage for present and future generations. This is fitting given the important linkages between the environment, heritage and sustainable development.
I would like to clarify again that the Prime Minister has the continuing ability to decide on which minister has the responsibility for departments and agencies, and to transfer organizations to another minister's responsibility in order to meet objectives.
Parliament has given government the ability to transfer portions of the public service and ministerial powers, duties and functions from one part of the public service or from one minister to another. This would not give the governor in council the power to expand and alter the powers of either ministers or departments. Parliaments plays an important role in this regard.
The power granted to the government gives us necessary flexibility to reorganize the institutions of government to address government priorities and public needs. It is in keeping with the Prime Minister's responsibility to assign ministers portfolios, establish their mandates in keeping with existing legislation, and identify priorities for their portfolios.
The Minister of the Environment has been responsible for the Parks Canada Agency since December 12, 2003.
While the amendments simply reflect the current reality, the government must defend the principle regarding the Prime Minister's ability to make organizational changes. Therefore, we do not support the amendments.
I would like to take a few moments to talk about the built heritage aspects of Parks Canada's mandate. Built heritage includes sites, buildings and monuments recognized for their historic value. These include battlefields, forts and citadels, shipwrecks, archeological sites, cultural landscapes, bridges, houses, cemeteries, railway stations, historic districts, ruins, engineering marvels, schools, canals, courthouses, theatres and markets.
Responsibility for built heritage is managed through a number of programs, including national historic sites, federal heritage buildings, heritage railway stations, and federal archeological heritage shipwrecks in the historic place initiative. These activities are of interest to all parliamentarians and to Canadians in general.
Through the Parks Canada Agency, the Minister of the Environment has responsibilities in three key areas: the management of Parks Canada's built heritage, federal government leadership in programs relating to built heritage, and a Canada-wide leadership role in built heritage.
Hon. members are probably most familiar with the first of these areas, Parks Canada's role in the stewardship of historic places. Parks Canada leads the national program of historic commemoration which identifies places, persons and events of national historic significance. The program aims to celebrate Canada's history and protect associated sites.
Parks Canada administers about one in six of the more than 900 national historic sites which speaks to the diverse and rich history of Canada. Parks Canada's stewardship role with respect to these places, and their historic values and resources is similar to a stewardship role with respect to national parks.
Federal government programs relating to built heritage is the minister's second key area of responsibility. Through its leadership in the federal heritage buildings program, Parks Canada works with departments to protect the heritage character of buildings, while the property is within federal jurisdiction.
The Auditor General has indicated that problems similar to those for national historic sites administered by Parks Canada exist for national historic sites and federal heritage buildings administered by other federal departments. The government is considering ways to respond to the Auditor General's concerns over weak conservation standards and accountability requirements, as well as the recommendation to strengthen the legal framework to protect built heritage. For many years Canada has lagged behind other G-8 nations and its own provincial and territorial governments in the protection of historic places.
The minister's third area of responsibility is to provide Canada-wide leadership in built heritage. Only a portion of the historic places in Canada are owned by the federal government. Cooperation with others is critical. This requires participation by individuals, corporations and other governments across Canada.
Year after year, decade after decade, more and more historic places are being lost. Remaining heritage buildings and structures, cultural landscapes and archeological sites continue to be threatened. Recognizing the need to deepen its resolve to protect built heritage, the Government of Canada has responded with the launch of the historic places initiative, the most significant conservation effort related to historic sites in our national history.
The historic places initiative is based on the acknowledgment that government alone cannot save all buildings and other historic places. The keystone of the initiative is a broad, national coalition with the provinces, territories, municipal governments, coupled with equally valuable cooperation involving aboriginal peoples, heritage experts and a comprehensive number of institutions, organizations, communities and individuals.
In the field of heritage, we are truly in an area of policy interdependence. The goals of the initiative are to create a culture of heritage conservation in this country by providing Canadians with basic tools to preserve and celebrate historic places, and by protecting historic places under federal jurisdiction. Strategies focus on helping Canadians build a culture of conservation.
The protection of Canada's built heritage is not only about saving what is meaningful from the past. It is also about sustaining strong communities for today and tomorrow. Rehabilitation of existing buildings capitalizes on the energy invested in the original structures and prevents unnecessary use of new materials and energy.
Less demolition means reduced pressure on landfill sites and the revitalization of historic downtown areas. It increases the need for new civic infrastructure, such as roads, sewers and public transit. By contributing to such sustainable communities, public policy truly makes a difference in people's lives.
Consensus has emerged on the role that Canada and Canadians want for historic places in our lives in our communities. One of the common goals is the need to provide all Canadians with the practical information and tools they need to protect historic areas.
The launch in 2004 of the Canadian registry of historic places is a product of that collaboration. It is probably one of the most important initiatives that we have seen in this country in terms of the preservation and the celebration of history. For the first time in one place Canadians will have a registry of the buildings and the sites that are recognized as historic by any order of government in the country.
It is anticipated that the registry will contain approximately 20,000 historic places when it is fully populated. The registry will be an important tool for policy makers, community organizations, teachers, students, and families who want to learn about and help preserve the past.
As a former educator, one who taught Canadian history for 20 years, I can say that this is a significant breakthrough, not only a significant breakthrough in terms of establishing this registry, but because we now have a joint commitment by all orders of government. This is an example of good federal-provincial-territorial cooperation.
The standards and the guidelines provide clear and accessible guidance on good conservation practices. This document was developed in consultation with federal, provincial, territorial, municipal and non-governmental stakeholders. There will be a common benchmark for conservation principles and practices in Canada.
It has already been adopted by Parks Canada and by several provincial and municipal jurisdictions. The standards and guidelines are a model of promoting a new approach to the science and technology of building conservation, and promoting and circulating the information broadly for the benefit of all Canadians.
Parks Canada is also implementing the commercial heritage properties incentive fund, a new program announced in 2003 to engage the private sector in the conservation of historic buildings. This fund is a four year $30 million plan designed to tip the balance in favour of conservation over demolition. It provides financial incentives to eligible commercial historic places listed on the registry in order to encourage a broad range of commercial uses for historic properties within our communities.
Fiscal measures like this program are central to engaging others to achieve the government's goal for built heritage. Historic places connect us to our past, to our future and indeed to each other. They provide places of learning for our children and places of understanding for both new citizens and Canadians of long standing.
What we cherish as part of our national identity we also recognize is part of our national responsibility. All Canadians share the obligation to preserve and to protect Canada's unique culture and national heritage. Together we hold our national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas in trust for the benefit of this and future generations.
With this new reporting arrangement, through the Minister of the Environment, it will clearly define responsibilities for built heritage programs. Parks Canada will continue to work to safeguard Canada's built heritage, support the protection of historic places within federal jurisdiction, and engage Canadians broadly in preserving and celebrating our country's historic places. It will continue to play a similar role in the protection of Canada's heritage sites for which it is so well respected by Canadians and indeed admired internationally.
I respectively encourage all my colleagues on both sides of the House to support Bill C-7. The bill again has technical amendments to move the Parks Canada Agency from Heritage Canada to Environment Canada.
However, the work that we are doing collectively to ensure that not one more historic site is lost is extremely important. We have lost 20% of our historic sites since the 1970s. Therefore this agreement on the registry is very important and the work that we do and the support that we give Parks Canada, both emotionally and financially, will be important for generations to come.
Again I urge all members to support the legislation.
Mr. Speaker, it is certainly my pleasure to speak to the bill again and to let the House know that we support the bill in terms of transfer of parks from the heritage department to the environment department. We think it makes a lot of sense and obviously it can be administered better.
Today we also need to make a commitment to parks and to heritage sites so that in fact they will not become the poor cousins of the environment department and will be considered an important part of this whole portfolio.
The parliamentary secretary has mentioned cooperation between municipalities and between provincial governments. That is something in which our party believes very strongly.
It is interesting, too, when we talk to the general public. I just had the pleasure, along with my colleague from the Bloc, of addressing a group of university students who are here visiting the House this week. When we listen to their questions and concerns, what we hear is that environment certainly plays a very large role in what they think is important for their future, their families' future and their concerns. It is very rewarding to speak to a group like that because of their comments, their questions and their encouragement.
As well, I think it is important to talk about the heritage of parks and what they mean to different Canadians, their importance from an economic and an ecological standpoint, and of course we can get into tourism, what it means, and the image it creates for our country. Many of us who travel a lot and have for many years are very concerned about what people think of our country. Many of them do think about the parks and the parks system. Any number of times when I tell people where I am from they ask if that is close to Banff, Lake Louise or whatever, so it is an international thing that people know about.
I am very concerned as well about the $500 million deficit in infrastructure. The fact is that through the 1950s and 1960s we committed to preserving these parks, to having proper signage, to having a proper system of parks, and we have let that decline for various reasons. I think that for many parks we have done a disservice to future Canadians by letting this happen.
As well, when I visited the parks, I met with chambers of commerce that are close to the parks. I think most specifically of Jasper Park. One of the major comments I heard was the fact that cleaning of snow and repair of highways in parks comes out of the parks' budget, yet many of these roads are through the park and are part of transportation. A great deal of the parks budget is being used up for maintenance of highways, which is a transportation issue and really has nothing at all to do with the park.
Those are the kinds of issues that I hope Environment Canada takes a look at. I hope this department will manage better than the heritage department has done. As the critic for this area, I hope to hold the government's feet to the fire to be sure it makes parks the priority that I think most Canadians want them to be.
As well, having a long term vision and knowing where we want to go in terms of environment and the parks system becomes critical. It does not matter whether we are talking about the Great Lakes or the salmon fishery on the Pacific or of course the serious problems with oil spills in Atlantic Canada. It does not matter where we are talking about. No matter where it is in this country, I believe that we have had a relatively short term vision for what we want to do environmentally.
If anything, ecosystems do not work in the short term and changes to the environment usually happen over much longer periods of time. Again, I would encourage the government to come up with a much longer term plan for parks and for heritage sites throughout this whole country, and it will be our job to make sure that it does.
On the bigger issue, I will comment about the government's performance in environment. It is interesting that we are now rated 24th out of 24 of the industrialized countries by the OECD. We have an analysis done by the Conference Board of Canada. We have the environment commissioner, who for the last number of years has reported on our environmental standing. We are not doing that well. We have a number of major and serious environmental problems. Most of the world thinks of us as being that pristine, clean, pure air and pure water place, yet when we actually pull off the cover we find something quite different.
Therefore, I am disappointed that we are dealing with very minor environment bills. Obviously I am waiting for some substance in terms of the government's plan for the environment. While Bill C-7 is important, it could really be called a housekeeping bill. It is something that we are going to support but basically it is little more than housekeeping.
As for Bill C-15, which is basically about oiled birds in the Atlantic and Pacific, I think I asked my first question about oiled birds in 1996. The number of dying birds was 300,000 a year minimum and was probably more like a million, and I was told that the government would have legislation very soon. That was in 1996. I did a private member's bill in 1997 and here we are in 2004, almost 2005, and we finally have a piece of legislation on the oiling of birds.
That is not very quick action. If we do the mathematics, we see that this is an awful lot of birds. Those populations cannot withstand that kind of loss year after year with a government that is moving so slowly on environmental issues. I would hope that Parks Canada will not undergo that same tedious performance that we have seen to this point on a bill like that.
I want to come back to the environmental issues of our country. To be rated 24th out of 24 by the OECD is quite a shock. To be rated anywhere from 23rd to 15th or so by the Conference Board of Canada and to be rated by a number of other notable boards and groups in the very low part of the industrialized world is not something that I am proud of. Certainly as the senior environment critic, I hope we will change this and dedicate ourselves to change.
Let me give some examples. The first is the issue of raw sewage being dumped into the ocean. It is not a first world, advanced and developed country that dumps raw sewage into the ocean, yet we have three cities dumping raw sewage into the ocean and we call that environmental integrity. We have to change that, if for no other reason than just the reputation of our country.
I worked on the Sumas 2 issue, testifying in the U.S. as an intervenor on the Sumas 2 project and then again in Abbotsford on the same project.
Mr. Speaker, I know you are very familiar with that issue.
When I went to see the governor of the State of Washington it was very interesting. I went there to tell him they were taking water from our aquifer, that they were going to pollute the second most polluted airshed in Canada, the Fraser Valley, and that they were going to dump sewage into the Sumas River, which drains into the Fraser River in Canada. The most important issue was the location, which was wrong because of those factors.
The governor listened and then he commented. His comment was that he was very glad I went to see him. He said that he understood the air quality issue in the Fraser Valley, but he said, “Why don't you and I get in my car and drive down to the Seattle Harbour and you let me show you your sewage coming from Victoria?” He said that when we did something about our sewage, he was ready to talk about our air.
That is a pretty tough argument to follow up on. It is pretty tough to say, “No. My air is more important than your water”. It is not an argument that one is going to win. As a result, we left it at a draw. I came back home and said that I was going to fight like heck to stop that from happening in my country.
We talk about the pure, clean water we have and yet we have over 300 boil water warnings at any given time. Who would have thought that in a country like Canada we would not be able to drink the water wherever we are in this country? I am embarrassed that this is the case. I believe we must dedicate ourselves to fixing that problem because it is a serious problem.
Why did we not get a bill on that issue instead of this one? We could have very quickly transferred our parks. That has been done anyway. It is not a major thing. It is a housekeeping item. Let us talk about sewage. Let us talk about water. Let us talk about those kinds of things.
We have over 50,000 contaminated sites. We have a minimum of 8,500 federal contaminated sites. Let us talk about identifying, prioritizing and going after them. That would be a piece of legislation that a lot of Canada would be very interested in.
Let us talk about the record of cleanups. I do not think the people of Sydney will tell us that they are all that impressed with the speed at which the Sydney tar ponds have been cleaned up. Yes, there have been plans, and yes, there have been failed plans, but really there has been little else.
Let us talk to the parents of young children in Toronto. Let us talk about the smog warning days when little Johnny should not go out and when grandma should not leave her home because of the air that is not clean enough and could in fact damage their health. Obviously this something we can deal with.
Let us talk about landfills. Last week I went to British Columbia. On my way, I picked up a paper. On the front page of the Ottawa Citizen last Thursday, I saw that the City of Ottawa is being sued for $45 million. What is it being sued for? It is being sued for the seepage out of its landfill site, which has contaminated neighbouring property.
What about those brownfields that no one will insure? They have full servicing past them, costing municipalities a lot of money, but they cannot be used because of potential contamination and future lawsuits. Those lawsuits are starting to come.
This is our Canada that we are talking about. This is our environment that we are talking about. This is in the top five issues of all Canadians.
Are there solutions? Yes, there are. There are many solutions. There are solutions to that water problem. We need to understand our aquifers. We need to understand the charge and recharge. We need to understand the quality and pollution issues. We need to look at all of that. We need legislation that will help the provinces and municipalities to do that.
I had an interesting time at the end of August. My wife enjoyed it. I promised her a nice holiday at the end of August and in early September. I said to her, “Guess where we're going? By the way, did I tell you I have a few appointments on our holiday?” Our first appointment was at an incinerator. She has been to many other incinerators, so she knew where we were going. We visit landfill sites. We have been doing that for only about 35 years.
One day, we were picked up about 7:30 in the morning and we went to the most modern incinerator there is in downtown Copenhagen. It is fascinating because it is an incineration plant that is using the most modern technology. It has recycling at the front end, with cement products, building materials, glass and that sort of thing. Then the rest is put into a huge hopper. That big hopper then feeds it into a big turning drum, of which there are six, and that garbage is then turned and rotated. It is brought up to 100° Celsius. In this case, gas was used.
I went on another holiday with my wife to Berlin. We found it was using the methane from the fermentation of sewage for fuel. These cities are recycling this. That garbage is incinerated and the combustion from that goes from 100° Celsius to 1,000° Celsius, which creates steam. Animal waste and sewage can also be burned. The steam then drives a turbine which then produces electricity, which is sold. It takes that steam, cools it down and distributes that hot water.
The particular system travels 104 kilometres. It has a 2% loss of energy in that 100 kilometres, and the heat is sold. Now there is income from the electricity and from the heat. Then that flue gas runs through a number of treatments. Various chemical processes are used in this. One involves using ammonia and the sulfur dioxide from the flue gas, which becomes 85% on the first pass, is turned into gypsum, which is used in making wallboard. That gypsum is then sold, another source of income.
The nitrous oxide is then broken down into its component parts and that nitrogen is then turned into fertilizer, which provides a new source of fertilizer, which is sold to the agricultural community. The CO2 is captured is gasified and that gasified CO2 is then put into titanium containers, which are then sold to the greenhouse industry. Remember that the best use of CO2 is photo synthesis. By adding more CO2 to greenhouses, production can be greatly increased. It can also be sold to Norway, where it is put into wells and improves the recovery of gas and oil by sequestering it under the ground. Now the CO2 is gone.
Heavy metals now have been precipitated out and those heavy metals then can be sold to industry and recycled. The dioxins are separated out and further incinerated.
The point in this whole rant, if one wants to call it that, is that is the kind of vision and legislation we need in the House. It is environmentally sound and it will make a difference. It will deal with our air quality situation, our water pollution situation and provide income.
This is the final thing on garbage. I enjoy visiting these places. I am not sure my wife has the same joy. The neat part is the plant I visited is owned by 11 municipalities in 21 towns and cities. They took out a 25 year mortgage on it. That is how it was financed. Yes, it is more expensive than a landfill, but think about what they have done. The mortgage has been paid off, and they now have a resource from which they can make profit.
I could go on for a long time on the subject of the environment. I think I have demonstrated that in the past. I look forward to the opportunity of talking about the other kinds of bills that could come forward. Let us get the housekeeping done quickly and move on to some more substantial environmentally sound bills.