Yes, I think we need to think this through.
First of all, on the issue of whether or not you can receive advice from the clerk open to the purview of the committee, Mr. Chair, you receive advice from the clerk and you decide whether you follow that advice or not. I don't think it's really relevant to the committee members what exactly that advice is. And I'd rather allow you to have a relationship with the clerk whereby you can receive advice without it being necessarily broadcast.
But on the more important issue, I value my membership on this particular committee, and I value the reputation of the committee itself. Let's call a spade a shovel here. At 23 witnesses for 10 minutes, you have 50 seconds, basically, or a minute and 10 seconds for opening presentations, and then you have two minutes and 20 seconds for questions and answers from each of the witnesses.
I'm sure we're not creating a circumstance here whereby witnesses are appearing with unrealistic expectations of what exactly it is the committee is going to be able to hear from them and receive from them, because at the end of the day, I'm of the belief that our committee's reputation gets sullied if they do come with unrealistic expectations, if there is a belief by any of them that they're going to get five or 10 minutes with the committee—all 23 of them or 12 of them in the case of Acadie—Bathurst.
An hon. member: Agreed.
Mr. Gerry Byrne: And I would expect this discipline in members from this party and from the other side. If the committee were travelling to my particular constituency, I'd want to have 100 witnesses appear, but I'd know at the end of the day I'd be doing them a huge disservice if I created an expectation within them that each and every one of them would have a reasonable opportunity to be heard, knowing that is not necessarily the case.
I'll leave it at that.
Good morning. My name is Ina Toxopéus, or Everdina Toxopéus. I represent the Bruce Coast Lighthouse Partners and Cabot Head Lighthouse as well. I'm the chair of both committees.
Chairman and honourable members of the committee, I appreciate the ability to come before you to point out my case for why the lighthouse bill should be passed.
Our lighthouses are very important to all of us here, on all coasts, and to the Great Lakes. They are part of our architectural heritage. They are individually unique. They are survivors of the now fast-disappearing public architecture of the 19th century, from imperial towers—concrete towers or wooden stand-alone towers—two of which in the Great Lakes have fine buttresses, to towers built at the side of a house, or extending from the middle of the house or roof line, to one on Lake Erie that looks like the Parthenon in Greece. Cabot Head, for instance, has cedar eavestroughing, hand-made metal down spouts, shiplap board siding, a rock and rubble foundation, and board and bead along the staircases. The uniqueness of our lighthouses brings present-day tourists and connects them with our architectural heritage. The lighthouses are therefore an important tourist attraction.
The lighthouses were erected to safeguard ships and sailors in days gone by. They are at the heart of the marine history of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay in our Great Lakes, as well as both of our coasts. I'm not sure if we have any on our north coast. Our lighthouses are central to the dramatic stories of shipwrecks and rescues that are told on our coasts and the Great Lakes. They're a reminder of the first great commercial corridors of Canada. Canada was explored through these corridors. The lights still serve as a beacon of safety for those who sail our waters, even today, either commercial or pleasure vessels—and the latter even more so today. The volunteers who staff two of our lighthouses up in the peninsula have been involved in helping tourists who've had the misfortune of being stranded on an island, or having had to look for lost ones at Cabot Head.
Lighthouses have a fundamental connection to local communities. Their keepers were frequently recruited from local families. Many of these families returned with their grandchildren, or children, to recount stories of their time, or grandpa's time, spent at the lighthouse. Local communities see lighthouses as belonging to them, regarding them as essential features of the community landscape.
Lighthouses have a universal appeal. Just look at some of the publications on the Internet, such as by Bruce County. Our brochures are all centred around the lighthouse. The romance of their setting and their history captures the interest of many in the public. Visiting them takes one along scenic roads, or on a boat cruise, or tour. Visitors can view the lights and their museums, swim, picnic, and take in the walking tours, or just sit and dream.
They are now important local tourist attractions. The Municipality of Northern Bruce Peninsula depends heavily on tourism, with most of the businesses in Tobermory directly related to tourism.
This municipality is home to two national parks, Fathom Five being the very first marine park in the area—or in Canada, I think. It's a UNESCO biosphere, or part thereof. The Bruce Trail, the longest footpath in Canada, runs the length of the peninsula, and our lights are an integral part of that trail. Bruce County's lights are grouped into a tour, showcasing different aspects of our lights: the development of the lighthouses, their local history, the style of life that their keepers used to have, shipwrecks, local lumber and fishing industries. All of these aspects are represented at our lights.
The Bruce Coast Lighthouse Partners works closely with the Bruce County Museum in Southampton to improve and expand this product, giving the tourists a greater educational experience. We're now working on our newest product for the Bruce Coast Lighthouse Partners: educational packages that the museum in Southampton can give to children. If you take the lighthouse tour, you start with one lighthouse that gives the past history of lighted lights, which Cabot Head does. Flowerpot Island doesn't have a light station because all it has left is the keeper's cottage, and the other lights have their own specific theme, all related back to the Bruce County light museum.
Cabot Head and Flowerpot have an assistant lighthouse keepers program through which volunteers, in our case, pay to stay at the lighthouse or station and work wherever they are needed, usually at meeting and greeting the visitors.
Cabot Head alone received over 10,000 visitors last year. We have nine lights in Bruce County alone, six on the peninsula and five within the Municipality of Northern Bruce Peninsula, home to two national parks. Cove Island, Flowerpot and Big Tub lights are within the Fathom Five Marine Park, Cove Island's imperial tower being the oldest and the most complete site.
Tour boats in Tobermory, two big ones and two Zodiacs, are kept busy in the summertime taking people to and from Flowerpot Island. The Chi-Cheemaun passes by Cove Island light, in three seasons daily, to and from Manitoulin Island and Tobermory.
The lights are an essential ingredient in the promotion of regional tourism, adding greatly to the local economy. Bruce County's logo for tourist signs on the highway is a lighthouse. Bruce County has 854 kilometres of coastlines, and our lights are identified through the Ministry of Tourism product development process as a core trip motivator for tourism and development.
We have a strong connection with Michigan, as Michigan residents have a total of 240 lighthouse sites. Although visits from the United States were down in Ontario last year, they were up by almost 40% in Bruce County.
Bruce Coast Lighthouse Partners are celebrating the years of light with the celebration of the 150th year of the imperial towers. Our celebration will take place over the summers of 2008 and 2009.
Cove Island is a complete site, as I said before, located in Fathom Five Marine Park, Canada's first underwater park.
In 2006 Bruce County hosted the International Lighthouse Conference, and this year when we did that, Bruce County produced a guidebook with the lights in the back section. This year, in celebration of the history of the lights and the towers, our guidebook is again doing a good section on the lights, a little bit more extensive, and it's in French on the Bruce County website. I can give you the website, if you wish.
Bruce County produced a PBS show and has done three shows on the Bruce County lights alone, and those were carried usually in the American border states. The new Georgian Bay circle tour, which is a new initiative in Ontario, actively promotes 32 lights out of the 50 sites around Georgian Bay alone, six of which are imperial towers, two of which are in Grey--Bruce, with a total of seven sites on or near the Bruce Peninsula as it is. So you can see our lights are an integral part of the tourism industry in our area for both the county and the municipality of Northern Bruce.
I thank you for your time.
My name is Robert Square. I'm the chair of the Cove Island Lightstation Heritage Association. We take care of the 150-year-old, this year, Cove Island Imperial Tower.
I would like to thank the committee for allowing me to speak before you today. It's an honour to be able to do this and speak passionately about something I care so deeply about preserving.
The close association that our country has with the water is fundamental to our identity. Canada developed along the water, whether it's the east coast, the west coast, the Arctic, or the Great Lakes. Lighthouses have played an integral role in the development of our nation. Without these majestic towers and the people who kept the lights burning, Canada’s role as a trading nation would not have been possible. I don't think Canada would have developed as it has without the lights guiding people.
The establishment of many coastal communities is fundamentally linked to their lighthouses, and the historic significance of these lights to these communities is irreplaceable. Our lights are important to Canadians. They stand against winds, tides, and storms and are, I believe, a symbol of Canada's strength.
I am not alone in my love for lighthouses. Canadians and people around the world are familiar with the beauty of one of Canada's most famous lighthouses, at Peggy's Cove. It is as Canadian as the maple leaf. It is unique.
Preserving these special places provides Canadians with outstanding opportunities to learn and personally experience our marine heritage. They are integral in what Canada is and what Canada could be.
The light I represent, the Cove Island Lightstation, is an example of these precious landmarks. It is probably one of the most completely intact light stations anywhere in North America. All the facilities are there. For 150 years this magnificent light has faithfully stood guard, warning the mariners navigating those narrow channels between Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. It is a symbol of an era long past, with the walls of this circular limestone tower and stone cottage built in the middle of the Canadian wilderness. It holds very many fascinating stories. When Cove Island Imperial Tower was built, that area of Canada was essentially the end of the earth. There was nothing there. It was wilderness, extreme wilderness.
Visiting the light station and opening the heavy wooden door as you enter the tower, you are immediately greeted by worn grey circular stairs rising upwards within the tower. The darkness inside the tower is broken only by a small, single window on each landing. Personally, I can envision the ghosts of the lightkeepers walking up those stairs every night carrying their cans of sperm whale oil or kerosene to light the lamp, and throughout the often long night, they kept constant vigil tending to the lamp and keeping the area safe for mariners. They were always there for mariners, standing out as a symbol of security. Some of the surviving Cove Island logbooks have numerous references to mariners, whose ships had been destroyed in storms or run on the rocks, seeking refuge at the light station.
In the tower itself, under the eaves, there are bronze down spouts, lion's head gargoyles, on each of the windows. They're a symbol of a less complicated age. It was a touch of class, a real work of art in the middle of the Canadian wilderness.
The original stone cottage that housed the lightkeeper and his family remains. The second lightkeeper, David McBeath, and his wife, Mary Jane, managed to produce a family of 10 children in that little light. So there are a lot of stories in that house.
West of the tower sits the fog alarm building, and it is one of the only completely intact diaphone fog systems. When you enter the building it looks like you can just turn those Lister diesel engines and away it will go. It's immaculate.
We are encouraged by the pending passage--I hope--of Bill S-215, as we believe this will do much to preserve these historic monuments and to ensure that Canadians have the opportunity to experience and learn first-hand.
As volunteers, we are smitten--I guess that is the word--with these lighthouses. We're almost obsessed, to a point, in our efforts to preserve and protect them for Canadians of all generations. When you see young children having their first experience visiting the light, their sense of wonder and awe--their eyes just light up--it's priceless. This past summer we had a family group that came out to visit the light. They rented a boat in Tobermory and made the effort to come out to visit the light. This visiting family was from St. Petersburg, Russia. They had heard about the light and they wanted to see it and experience it first-hand.
I believe that the preservation of lighthouses, Bill S-215, is a shared responsibility, shared between the government and our groups, the non-profits. There's a wonderful opportunity here to do some really good work in preserving our lighthouses.
In conclusion, I'd like to say that Bill S-215 allows future generations to be able to visit and experience first-hand our unique and priceless marine heritage. We must be able to preserve the legacy and the lore of these lights for future generations.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. I didn't know I was next, but I'm ready to go.
Thank you, Mr. Chair and committee, for the opportunity to speak to you this morning about this very important piece of legislation.
I'm Rick Goodacre and I'm the executive director with Heritage B.C. We're a provincial non-profit association. We have about 160 member groups in our membership around the province. That means community heritage societies, historical societies, museums, local heritage committees, and things of that sort.
I'm not here as an expert on lighthouses and lighthouse history. This is what I do for a living. My expertise—and I've done this job for about 18 years now—is in the general business of heritage conservation. I'm not going to say a lot about lighthouses or their worth. I've been through the testimony from last week. I know the committee has heard a lot already from very authoritative personnel about why lighthouses are important. From reading through those minutes, I don't get the impression at all that there's really any resistance on the part of this committee to that notion. I think it's a kind of given; we're already there. We know these things are important. It's more a question of what to do about it.
I'll keep my opening remarks brief because I'd rather spend the time on discussion, which I think will be more useful. But I certainly can speak to the general business of what heritage conservation is and how it works. When I say “how it works”, I'm speaking very much as a pragmatist, because heritage conservation is a very pragmatic business, believe me. There's idealism, there are values at the root of it, and without the values, without the idealism, it doesn't make a lot of sense, but the business of doing heritage conservation on a day-to-day basis is very pragmatic.
Heritage conservation is really a continuing process, an ongoing process. It's a planning, implementation, review, and “plan and move on again” kind of cycle. It usually starts with identification. We have a notion that some things or some part of our life or our community have some historic heritage value and that we really need to identify those if we're going to understand them.
Identification usually gets into another stage, which is a kind of official recognition. The creation of a register, in British Columbia, is what you would usually see in a community heritage plan. You get onto the register, and it becomes officially adopted by council, for example.
You then have a conservation plan. You've identified these places, but then there are the “So what?” questions: “So these things are historic; so they're heritage; so what?” We think we care, but what are we going to do about it? You really need to move on to that next stage of it, a conservation plan, and that plan must be something that's workable.
Then you're dealing with the ongoing maintenance and repair of these places, because heritage always comes back to something physical. History is about ideas, things that happened. Heritage is invariably about something physical that you can get your hands on. It has an historic connection, but it's also about right now, today. This is a building. What are we going to do with it? What are we going to do with it tomorrow? How are we going to keep this building going? How are we going to keep it alive?
There has to be a legal framework to make all of this planning process happen, because we're always dealing with property, and property comes back to the law at some point.
There also has to be a financial framework. These things always have a cost factor. Or more to the point, rather than dwelling on the cost, there's always a choice factor, a resourcing factor. We only have so many resources; where are we going to allocate them? Where does heritage fit into this allocation process? What right does it have at the table to claim some of these resources? Or more importantly, in a lot of cases, does it even have a right to be at the table? Often, what we're doing is scrambling just to get to be at the table.
More importantly, I want to stress that there has to be a will to conserve. There has to be a desire, and that desire is always based on the understanding of values. I think you've heard a lot about that already at this committee concerning lighthouses, but you will always have to go back to it. If there's no will, if there's no real desire to make these things happen, regardless of the best framework planning process, legal framework, and what have you, nothing much will happen.
On the pragmatic side, the best guarantee that a place will survive is that it have a purpose. If you have a building that's identified as a heritage building, but it has no purpose—the owners don't want it, the owners leave it empty—it stands there empty and derelict for years, it goes into decline, and eventually you get demolition.
I work in the city of Victoria, live in that area, and work out of my house. I've been on the City of Victoria's heritage committee for a number of years. I'm not on it now—I've been cycled off—but I've been through that process of heritage building maintenance and conservation planning for many years there.
Right now we have a couple of historic buildings for which demolition permit requests have come forward. Why? Well, because the owners have let them sit literally for decades, and that's really been their plan--to do nothing. Now they're at the demolition stage, saying that things have come to this point--the roof is falling in--and they can't do anything else. So now the city and the owners are at loggerheads, and it's getting in the newspaper, and the whole process is kind of getting out of control.
The problem has been that those buildings have not had active use. Therefore, they're not making money for the owners. Therefore, there's no investment in them. That's the kind of cycle you get into, and that always spells doom for heritage.
This is an outline that applies to all heritage buildings and all heritage resources. But I think lighthouses and their history are unique. They are unique in the sense of their ownership. They are unique in the sense of their history and their function. What else is like a lighthouse? An office building is an office building, but it could be something else. A lighthouse is a lighthouse. I don't know what else it's going to be, except that its future use will have to evolve around its maritime reality and its very particular function.
Also, the situation is unique. These places are all on the water. They're usually in some remarkable outpost of our country and are often in very scenic places. I think that's why, in this case, special legislation is valuable and necessary. I don't believe the general blanket of federal policy for heritage buildings is sufficient to deal with our historic lighthouses.
I'd also say that these unique settings are a particular opportunity. Last year, about eighteen months ago, we had a case of a federally owned building in the control of the Canadian military. It was an historic building, an officers' mess, at Work Point in Esquimalt, near Victoria. The military didn't need this building. It sat empty for years and was falling apart. Eventually they decided to take it down.
There has been a hue and cry about this historic building being destroyed. The problem is that this building exists in the context of a very large complex of buildings. It's a secure area. It's within a complex of an institution that defends Canada. It's business; it's not heritage conservation, or at least the base commander doesn't see that as part of his job description. His job is defence of our country.
How do you deal with that building inside that large complex? Can you evolve that into another use, to turn it over to other hands? It's a very difficult situation.
You think of a lighthouse, and it's a completely different situation. You have a completely integrated system that's distinct, unique, and stands apart. It can be turned over from one set of hands to another, and a new process can be, I think, isolated or extracted from that overall context of our coastal waters.
So there are actually unique opportunities for each one of these sites. If we are going to evolve them into other uses, I think there are lots of things we can do with these sites.
I would just like to say, in conclusion, that if Bill S-215 is put into effect, Heritage B.C. will strive to see that it is implemented and that its intentions are realized. We'll do whatever we can to make this work.
I noticed that there was a lot of discussion about this last week, and this is bound to come up. And as Senator Carney said, this is not a money bill. It cannot be a money bill, originally being in the Senate. And I think everyone's kind of dancing around the question and they really want to ask what this is going to cost.
I don't know what it's going to cost. I would say that if you're talking about maintenance of lighthouses—and I think that's one of the reasons this bill is here—a building that no longer has a use tends to become neglected. If some of these structures are now being cycled out of use, they will be left and neglected.
If the bill is saying that if it's designated a heritage facility then there has to be some minimum expenditure in order to maintain these places so they don't degrade, then there will be a cost associated with that. And I would say that, with what you heard last week from Fisheries and Oceans, there's no ability in your existing budget to take care of heritage character buildings, because that's not within their mandate. So that will have to be identified as a function, and there would be some costs assigned to that. I mean, this won't happen unless there's some expenditure of dollars.
And when there are provisions in the bill for maintenance, again, you have to have a maintenance schedule. There has to logically be some costs assigned to that. But I don't see this as a major sudden upsweep in restoration. As Natalie Bull of Heritage Canada said last week, this is not a bill to suddenly turn these places into historic theme parks, where you have huge budgets to restore everything and make them ideal sites for presentation. They aren't necessarily all going to settle and become museums. Some of them might, especially on the east coast or in Ontario, but much less so on the west coast, where lighthouses are still mostly functioning, whether they're staffed or not. But I see that their logic will be that there will be some costs associated here.
I think another factor to consider here is that the Historic Sites and Monuments Board, through the Parks Canada Agency, has had a cost-sharing program for a number of years for national and historic sites. If it's a national and historic site and it can be in private hands, it can be a store. Rogers' Chocolates in Victoria is a national historic site. All kinds of different places can be national historic sites. But if you're a public entity, you can apply to the national cost-sharing program for some money.
Well, the way to keep a lid on that spending is simply by putting a lid on the budget. And they're saying, well, okay, it's $2 million; that's it, that's all there is. It's not a question of how much you need and that's what the budget is. The question is how much we are willing to allocate. So there's always that side of the decision, saying, okay, there's a pot of money for this maintenance program and these sites can apply to this pot of money. But they can easily put a lid on that amount of money. And that lid is often set by saying how much we're willing to spend.
So that's the same with local governments when they make money available. The City of Vancouver is providing density to buildings, to incentivate them. They now are doing a complete reassessment of that program because they don't want to create too much density, and they're also looking at the gap between how much it takes to make a building become rehabilitated in a marketplace situation and how much they're willing to spend.
So it's give and take. It will be negotiated.
First of all, I'd like to say thanks to our witnesses. It's the passion and the stories that make some of these things real for Canadians, particularly as so few Canadians actually do visit these places, some for just remoteness' sake and others perhaps in ignorance of the importance of our history.
Also, I'd like to say a quick thanks to the committee. Normally I sit on the environment committee. It's a pleasure to be at a committee that has such collegiality, with folks asking questions and moving ahead. We don't have that similar circumstance at environment right now. It's a pleasure to be here on fisheries.
I represent the riding of Skeena--Bulkley Valley, which is the northwest quarter of British Columbia. It's an extensive coastal riding, with some of the most remote places in our country. They're difficult to get to and dangerous to travel in. As proven by the sinking of the Queen of the North and a number of other vessels over the years, there are treacherous waters on the west coast of British Columbia. Lighthouses have played an integral role. You talked about the development and the history of our country. Without lighthouses, the trade and the building in that part of the world would have been impossible.
I have a question about this bill. Committee members will forgive me, as obviously I'm new, temporarily filling in for Mr. Stoffer, who has a great passion for lighthouses. I might ask questions that have already been answered by other witnesses, so the committee might be hearing it again, but sometimes a pair of new eyes can help when you're looking at a situation.
It seems to me, in reading through this bill, that the fundamental question--Mr. Goodacre, you spoke to this--is money. I'm also my party's critic for Parks Canada and some of the heritage sites that they're responsible for, and we've had consistent and ongoing reports on a lack of funding and a lack of upkeep on the capital stock in Canada for our heritage sites in general. Essentially, this bill seems to want to include lighthouses into that assembly of important places, find them some criteria and designation.
I guess my question, to put a fine point on it, is do you have any sentiment or experience that the government, if this designation were to go through and were to be included, would make more money available? At the end of the day, if you were put onto this list, if lighthouses were now designated in such a way, would that open up a source of revenue for you folks to be able to protect these places?
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I'd like to thank our witnesses for appearing today. A couple of points were made. Mr. Blais mentioned that Mr. Square spoke with a great deal of passion, and I agree with that. What I've heard from all of our witnesses is that you also have a passion tempered with pragmatism. I appreciate that.
I had carriage of this bill in a former incarnation in the House and have supported the bill the couple of times that it has come before the House. I understand that our members are concerned about the costs here, but I think there are a couple of things we should be clear on, and I just want to put this out to you folks to see if you're in agreement.
First of all, the process won't result in every lighthouse in Canada becoming a historic light, nor should they all be historic lights. There's a dual reality here, wherein we will have some heritage designations for lights that will remain under federal control and be federal property—and hopefully will remain federal lighthouses, as navigational aids—and we will have lights that will be facing a regular divestiture anyway, opening the process for community groups to take responsibility for those lights.
I represent a big fishery riding, South Shore—St. Margaret's in Nova Scotia, with West Nova right next to it. I was on probably a dozen wharfs last Friday, Saturday, and Sunday morning, and the thing I noticed on each wharf was that you could see a lighthouse somewhere in that harbour from it—or from the majority of them. But even so, some of those lights are navigational aids, and some of those lights have already been divested without any assistance from community groups.
My concern is that if we don't get this bill passed this time.... I think it's in a good format, a workable format. And I think that with the petition process, we will have enough dollars to cover it—and all of those dollars won't be coming from DFO, because this has to go through Environment Canada and, of course, through Parks Canada.
I'm not sure of the number, but I believe that in the riding I represent, there are between 13 and 16 working lights now. There used to be over 20. Some of them have been torn down and burned; they just no longer meet a need of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, or the Canadian Coast Guard. Some of them are no longer navigational aids. There are a number that have been divested since I became a member of Parliament—and the community groups then didn't have the clear guidelines to go by that we have here today. In one particular case, a lighthouse has been rebuilt by a community group; it had been gone for years and has been completely rebuilt as a tourist attraction. Although a number of our lights are on islands, a number of others you can actually drive to in Nova Scotia. Those have much more potential to be maintained by a community group.
If you could, I'd like you to go into the national historic sites. You folks talked about the importance of them a little bit, but the example you used was of your funding. I believe there is funding available to this bill; but either way, this government, or any government, simply controls the funding by the amount they put out as expenditure. I'd like to further explore that a little more.
Does anyone have a comment on that? I mean, it would be nice to have all the funding you could use, but—
In terms of making those choices, the Schindler's list of heritage, first of all, the proposed legislation states that the minister must “establish criteria to be taken into account in considering whether a lighthouse should be designated as a heritage lighthouse”. The minister must also establish an advisory committee.
There will be a process. This kind of discussion is always part of a process. In fact, if you made a list today, 25 years from now you might look at that list again and say you think the list is incorrect, because there's always a question of ongoing, shifting values.
If a community has a heritage register, they should revisit that every so many years to decide whether the list is still correct. At one point, the national historic sites in Canada all seemed to be battlefields. If you go to the national Historic Sites and Monuments Board now as ask them what their priorities are, those are very different from what they were in 1919. So it's an ongoing discussion.
There's also the question, as I said before, of money. You can talk about needing funds, that we need to fund these sites. There will always be a lid on the amount of money available. There will usually be a lid on the number of sites that are allowed into any given register, because when you add another property, that becomes another job to do.
Again, in terms of a municipal heritage register, I've seen cases where, enthusiastically, the city adopted a register that's really far beyond their means to deal with. Then they ended up having to backtrack and say, “Well, we really can't cope with this large a register.” So they want to bring it down to size. It's an ongoing push and pull.
So there have to be decisions about how many resources you want to dedicate to this particular program, and then when you're making those decisions about what gets in and what gets left out, you're looking at not only whether that site is a historic place, but also how big is the global picture; how many sites are we going to allow into this program? And then you start making your decisions.
There will certainly be places where you'll say, “Well, whatever the decision, this place has to be on that list.” There will be some stellar sites that simply are beyond dispute. But then you get into your secondary list and say, “Okay, we have the first five; what are the next 10?” And you'll have to work your way down.
So there's no way to protect yourself and say, “I know what that list is.” You are embarking upon a process, and that means there will be some indeterminate outcomes. But the principle involved is that you need to say, “We will recognize that we have historic lighthouses; we are willing to make those decisions as leaders”—because that's what you are, representing Canadian people. “We will make such a list and we will go out and find out what the truth is, find out how many historic places there are, and then deal with the facts as they come forward.”
The natural historic sites process is a process of commemoration. It is a process to recognize special places, people, and events in Canada, so it is not an asset management system. It is not looking at an inventory of buildings within a complete system to decide how to manage this category and that category.
For example, right now, as I said earlier, the national historic sites program is not eager to fund a lot more battlefields, because they've been there; they've done that; they have overextended themselves in that direction. The Parks Canada program of national historic sites, actual parks that are managed by Parks Canada--and in fact they're not really expanding those--is a program to make special places available to the public. They will be managed, particularly interpreted, for the visitor. So it's like a museum program. They have stories they want to tell and places they want to interpret to the Canadian public. Again, a very limited number of places are going to be candidates for a Parks Canada system.
The federal heritage building policy is a blanket program. It is an asset management program, and in fact it covers all of our buildings, and FHBRO, as was mentioned, has the responsibility to identify and rate and classify these buildings in terms of how they'll be treated. You might very well say that that third level is sufficient; we have a program in place. The evidence is that it doesn't work that well, and the reason it doesn't work that well is that it's not backed up by legislation. In fact, if you asked me what was wrong with the lighthouse act, I would say the problem with the lighthouse act is that I'd like to see this kind of legislation for all our heritage buildings in Canada. It isn't there.
When you look at the building I mentioned earlier, the Work Point Barracks, a military building that came down, I'm not saying that it had to stay, but I'm saying that the process that was involved was not adequate and the policies in place to protect that building as an historic place really were not strong enough. They were not backed up by real legislation.
So what we're dealing with here is a special class of buildings within that program. But given that this is a very special class and that it is a unique set of buildings, I would say that it probably is valid to have this particular piece of legislation, much like the Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act of the 1980s was identified as something that was needed then because of the change in the railways. We couldn't wait 30 years to figure this out; we had to act then.
So in that sense, I think this piece of legislation takes our blanket heritage policy, federal heritage policy, another step further for this special class of buildings, and it's something we need to do. I would also say that if we don't do it now, if this bill fails, it's not going to come back again and we will only have the dubious privilege of looking back in 20 or 30 years, those of us who are still around, and saying we should have done something and we didn't.
I hope that answers the question.