Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I am very pleased to be here on an issue that I care passionately about: the future of the National Capital Commission. I'll be very brief in my comments. I look forward to hearing your feedback, any questions, and anything else that I can take back to my colleagues.
I think the National Capital Commission is a real national treasure and is something that everybody from every corner of the country can take great pride in. Obviously, it's especially important for me as a lifetime resident of the national capital region.
If I could, I'll explain two things at the outset.
One is the responsibility for the National Capital Commission. We have a minister of state, Lawrence Cannon, who deals with this crown corporation. That designation was made by the Prime Minister. As well, obviously, it falls under my broader portfolio. Lawrence has the lead and I'm very much a supporting actor in this, but we have worked closely together on many of these files, both now and when he was the Minister of Transport and I was a member of Parliament from the other side of the river. That's the first thing.
Second is that today the National Capital Commission is having an important meeting that they didn't want to cancel, so the leadership from the NCC will be here at a later date to hear your questions, your concerns, and your suggestions.
I think the National Capital Commission should be non-partisan. It is something that all members, from any part of the country, can contribute to. In that spirit, we look forward to hearing about any issues that arise out of this committee.
Certainly the perspective that we in the government are taking on this bill is that it's not an ideological issue. I think there is a significant amount of agreement on the point that we all share in wanting to reform and improve the National Capital Commission.
I'm quite proud of some of the changes we've made. I have not been a vocal critic of the NCC over the past 20 years, as some have. I think Marcel Beaudry served Canadians very well in his post. It was not without making mistakes, and I didn't agree with every single thing he did, but I think he served Canadians very, very well.
I am, though, very, very excited and very, very pleased by the two leaders who have been appointed to the board. Marie Lemay is a really outstanding public servant who is providing great leadership to the NCC. I have been thrilled to work with her, both as an MP in the affected area and now as lead minister in the portfolio. Russell Mills, as chair of the board, brings a huge amount of integrity to his job and is a well-respected individual.
I think the first change we made to the NCC, a decision made in the Federal Accountability Act to split the CEO and chair, was really just good governance. I think it's an important change. In some respects it's symbolic, but in other senses it is very, very real. I think it has been tremendously well received and it is something that we support. Just the new spirit of openness and transparency has been welcomed by everyone in the region, I think, whether they are municipal leaders, the business community, environmentalists, or others who interact with the board, and it's important.
I should say at the outset that one of the issues that's tremendously important to me is the greenbelt on the Ottawa side. It is very much part of our character, of the national character, and it's part of the local quality of life that we enjoy in this area. It's tremendously important. It's very different from Gatineau Park, but there are parts of significant ecological integrity within the greenbelt that have to be protected and are very important.
Like many, I have been concerned over the last 10 or 20 years that we don't have any sort of plan. To see the greenbelt disappear piece by piece.... I think the NCC, in an issue with respect to Ottawa's city council, recently said that the city shouldn't presume that the national capital greenbelt is available by slivers and slices for this or that project, however noble the project is. That's something that I believe is tremendously important.
Like many people in the capital, I was concerned that the lack of a capital budget at the NCC caused pressures for them to eat what they kill, to sell off lands. When I first sought election to the House of Commons, I referred to it as selling off the family silverware to pay for groceries. In the 2007 budget, we got a $10 million capital budget for the NCC, which allows them to meet capital needs without having to look to asset sales. That's something that I think is tremendously important.
That also allows them to do some planning with respect to the future of the capital and allows them to maintain, to a certain degree, the infrastructure that supports it. Many of the infrastructures they maintain are tremendously important. They can maintain transportation routes, others, and planning work, so this gives them some stability but doesn't eliminate the need for government to be actively involved.
As you know, there are five key amendments in the bill, one of which is meetings in public. I think that has been welcomed by the public. It shows an openness and a transparency that I think we have all welcomed.
The 50-year master plan is something that I think people have called for, that it be submitted to government and tabled in Parliament. I think that has been a welcomed step.
The national interest land mass is something that is tremendously important. Not every square inch that the NCC manages is of equal importance. I mean, the property along the ceremonial route is very different from Gatineau Park or the ecologically sensitive areas in the greenbelt. Not all greenbelt land is valued the same. The Stony Swamp is something of great ecological integrity versus some scraps of land here or there that may not have the same ecological or national interest.
So the national interest land mass is something that I think is very important. Take the condominium that was built at Sussex and Wellington; that piece of land, in my judgment, was of national interest. I don't think we were well served by the NCC's decision a number of years ago to build a condo and restaurant on that parcel of land. I just use that as an example.
Environmental stewardship is something that's important. It's different in different parts of the greenbelt. Obviously those parts that are around the ceremonial route have a different importance than do others, which I've spoken about.
As well, there are enhancements for the governments in power to be able to bring in regulatory powers in a variety of areas, whether it be on issues of permits or controlling the commission resources and facilities, or whether it be restricting or prohibiting access to and activities on commission properties or ensuring that we protect the natural resources and the process on commission properties and the ecological integrity of Gatineau Park.
Those are just some very informal opening remarks. I am excited that the committee is moving forward on examining the bill. On behalf of and on behalf of the government, we welcome any suggestions, any comments, on what we can do to work together to strengthen the bill.
I'll say at the outset that this bill is not going to respond to every single concern. It is not going to go as far as every single person would like it. But I think overall it is a significant step in the right direction. As you'll know, the government had a three-person panel that looked at the future of the NCC, and much of the work that we have before us represents the fruits of that labour.
I know that my colleagues, particularly those in the national capital area, have closely followed this, particularly Mr. Dewar and Mr. Nadeau, as well as our colleague Mr. Bélanger and my colleagues Mr. Cannon and Mr. Proulx from the other side of the river.
So we're very excited to be here, and I look forward to answering questions.
As well, on behalf of Marie Lemay and Russell Mills, they look forward to the opportunity to appear before the committee to respond to your concerns and to hear your suggestions.
Yes. Excuse me, but these other bridges are already under the federal government purview in the sense that those not under the NCC are under Public Works, so it's six of one and half a dozen of the other.
Before we run out of time on this first run, on the master plan that you're talking about in proposed section 10.1, I don't understand why you would not want it to be approved by Parliament. The way this is presented, a master plan would be established, and Parliament would be informed. I think it should be the other way around. I think Parliament should approve a master plan.
On that master plan, I would like to hear your views on the fact that the plan should cover the employment polls, let's call them, in the national capital region. You can see me coming here with a 75%-25%, in the sense that if we are ever going to arrive at a proper sharing of jobs on the Quebec and Ontario sides of the river, somebody will have to act as the planner and the police on this. I would suggest for your master plan that this be covered by the master plan for the NCC.
Not only should we be talking about square footage, square metres, or spaces, but I think, as we have said for a long time, that we should be talking about jobs, and not only jobs relating to or answering to Treasury Board, but all Canadian government direct and indirect jobs--that is to say, all jobs in all federal organizations in the national capital region. As it is, there are too many organizations that are totally federal but are not included in the calculation of this sharing. For example, there are the museums and Canada Post, and I can go on and on, to the point where, should we include all of these, the Quebec side of the river is approximately 10,000 jobs short of reaching that 75%-25% sharing.
So to go back to my first question, should the master plan not be approved by Parliament?
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Minister, Mr. Dubé and Mr. Morency, good afternoon.
Any question involving the National Capital Commission is important to members whose riding contains NCC lands. Moreover this is also of interest to all Canadians and Quebeckers as we are talking about an investment. It is very important to ensure that this be done in cooperation with the other partners, that is to say the federal government, the provinces of Quebec and Ontario, as well as the two cities concerned, Gatineau and Ottawa.
One of the factors that is of great interest to me is the matter of the integrity of Quebec's territory. We know that under the Constitution, any changes to provincial borders require the consent of that province. This is to be found in article 43 of the Constitutional Act, 1982.
Moreover we know that changes cannot be made to a national park without the approval of the province wherein the national park is located. Gatineau Park is not a national park. We would be very interested in a legislative guarantee that would establish that in order to make changes to the park, not only would people have to consult the Quebec government, but also obtain its agreement. We are talking about the park boundaries. That is not in the bill.
What is your position on this? How could we work together to ensure that this be done?
Yes, and I'll share them with all of my colleagues around the table.
I have a question, because it did capture my interest, around the reforms to the NCC as a structure.
One of the things I had proposed—and it wasn't in this bill, and that's fine—is how we get some local reflection in the NCC. I know the NCC's mandate and I fully ascribe to it, but one of the proposals was that there would be a peer selection of someone from each of the respective councils to be on the NCC. I'm not going to fight that battle, but I'd encourage all of us to have both the Quebec and the Ontario sides of the equation, both the Ottawa and Gatineau sides, be more involved.
I'll just give you that in the past there has been a lack of consultation and involvement on transportation, so I'm glad to see that. There has been in this city, I don't have to tell you, concerns about transportation plans, not just on this side of river, in Ottawa, but also how it connects with Quebec and Gatineau, and I have to tell you that until recently there was no connection at all. In fact, the NCC was off on the side. Thankfully, they are now taking a leadership role. I happen to know they've been invited by Gatineau council. I think there will be meetings with Ottawa council. But I think if there's anything we can do, whether it's in this legislation or otherwise, to really push that....
Minister, we know that the potential of the NCC is to do good planning, to facilitate things. I don't really want to see bridges being thrown over to the NCC, quite frankly, but I want to see them facilitating so we get out of the morass of what we see in transportation. Have you any ideas on how we can improve that, either in this legislation and ideas behind that or otherwise?
Mr. Chairman, ladies, gentlemen, it is my pleasure to submit to you our comments on Bill .
Before I begin, I would like to give you a little more information about our organization. The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, the CPAWS, is the best known organization in the country when it comes to the protection of natural sites. We have been in existence for 45 years. This national organization, through its powerful network of regional branches and thousands of advocates for nature, has played a leadership role in the protection of numerous important natural areas covering more than 4 million hectares of exceptional wild environments. We are talking about a territory that is bigger than Nova Scotia and represents two-thirds of Canada's protected natural heritage.
More particularly, we have played a very important role in the expansion of the Canada Nahanni National Park Reserve in the Northwest Territories and also in the establishment of an important area along the Dumoine River which is very close to the national capital.
The Outaouais Valley Section was created in 1970 by a group of local citizens who were alarmed by major development projects in Gatineau Park. Very quickly, the section grappled with several problems affecting west Quebec and eastern Ontario. We are working on establishing new protected areas and ensuring the sound management of existing parks which explains our great interest in Gatineau Park.
CPAWS was ranked as one of Canada's top 10 charities by the Tides Canada Foundation and is considered among the 10 best-managed charities in the country; we have more than 45,000 donors and supporters.
I invite my colleague, Ms. Muriel How, to share with you our comments on Bill .
Mr. Chair and members of the committee, as a resident of the constituency that includes Gatineau Park, I'm honoured to have this opportunity to comment on the bill. And I thank my member of Parliament, the Honourable Lawrence Cannon, for establishing the review of the NCC and for following up that review with the introduction of Bill C-37.
We at the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society have studied the bill in great detail, and we have, in fact, concluded that there are several grave deficiencies, and I wish to bring some of them to your attention. I'd like to point out that really, with our recommendations, we believe the park can be managed by the NCC in a way similar to management of a Canadian national park. I think that's the most important part of our recommendations.
Gatineau Park is a park in name only, and this bill does not correct that omission. We therefore ask the committee to formally create and define Gatineau Park as a park, and this can be accomplished by the addition of a clause stating:
|| There is hereby established a park named Gatineau Park, the boundaries of which are set out in schedule 2.
Now, upon his death, Prime Minister Mackenzie King bequeathed his property at Kingsmere to Canada, in his words, “for a public park for the citizens of Canada...to have the character of a natural forest reserve”. That really became the core element of the park. Thus, because it is a park for all Canadians, we recommend the addition of a clause stating:
||Gatineau Park is hereby dedicated to the people of Canada for their benefit, education and enjoyment, and it shall be managed, maintained and made use of so as to leave it unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.
In fact, those very words can be found in the Canada National Parks Act. Consequently, in clause 2, page 2, line 18, we recommend replacing the word “area” with the word “park”, hence emphasizing its status.
We believe it's vital for legislation governing any protected area to clearly state that the overriding purpose is conserving nature and protecting its ecological integrity. But unfortunately, the bill does not address this sufficiently, nor does it provide a buffer zone around the park.
It also does not provide legal means to control development of private property within the park. Private development in a park belonging to the people of Canada and managed by a national institution—that is, the NCC—must be controlled in a manner that we think should respect this interest.
Now, for many years, the most serious challenge in the park has been the fragmentation by roads, utility corridors, and other infrastructure. This hasn't been addressed. Nor is there a statement that Gatineau Park should be managed to the same standards of ecological integrity and receive the same legal protections as those enjoyed by all Canadian national parks.
We therefore call upon this committee to amend the bill. And we have a suggestion. First, in proposed subsection 10.4(2), which is on page 6, lines 11 and 12, we recommend the replacement of the words, “give due regard to the maintenance of” with “ensure the maintenance and restoration of”, and that makes it stronger.
Now, secondly, we're not advocating legislation calling for expropriation of a residence, because it brings needless hurt and upheaval to families and it causes lifelong bitterness. However, we do recommend there be a clause to enable the commission to manage the park more on the lines of a national park of Canada, a clause granting the National Capital Commission the right of first refusal in the sale or disposition of any private property located within the boundaries of the park.
While Bill describes the park's boundaries, it allows these boundaries to be modified arbitrarily by Governor in Council, without the requirement for parliamentary approval. Canadians have every right to expect that the boundaries of Gatineau Park be enshrined in law in the same way as the boundaries of our national parks are legislated. It is imperative that changes to the boundaries of Gatineau Park be permitted only by statute, as is the stipulation for the national parks of Canada.
It's also unclear in Bill to what extent the bill and act apply to private property within the park. We would ask the minister whether private property is considered to be inside the park. If you look at proposed subsection 10.4(2), it's unclear whether this applies to private property. We would, therefore, call upon the committee to amend.... It's not only looking to the private property issue; also we would call upon the committee to amend clause 19 of Bill by replacing the words “Schedules 1 and 2” with the words “Schedule 1” so the boundaries cannot be modified by Governor in Council.
In conclusion, Gatineau Park is a national treasure. It's a beautiful wilderness of extraordinary biodiversity. Sadly, the park's ecological integrity is seriously threatened by various forms of development both inside and outside the park. Examples include new highways, houses, various commercial developments, and the list goes on and on.
We also take issue with Minister Baird's earlier statement that Gatineau Park could not have the same level of ecological integrity or the same level of protection as national parks due to the fact that parts of the park may be needed for roads and other development in the future, the idea of nip and tuck. We would argue that no portion of Gatineau Park should be used for roads, utility corridors, or any other development. The park is already too fragmented to perform its ecological functions, and every effort must be taken to restore the park. Therefore, we feel that Bill in its current form does not provide Gatineau Park with the protection it deserves. The amendments we are proposing are crucial to ensuring a basic measure of protection for Gatineau Park for the people of Canada and for future generations.
Consequently, we ask you to please accept our suggestions and comments with regard to wordings concerning Gatineau Park. Thank you.
Thank you to our guests, not only for your presentation today but for the work you've done to advance the cause of protecting Gatineau Park and a lot of our habitat around this area and, indeed, throughout the country. And thank you to the others who have worked on this file. It has been an enormous help to those of us who are in Parliament.
For those who don't know the key issues, the document you have brought today is a great primer. Thank you. I see it usually costs two bucks and you didn't charge us anything, so maybe people can donate to CPAWS later.
Ms. Muriel How: Thank you.
Mr. Paul Dewar: I think your amendments are really practical, and I have similar amendments to bring forward myself.
The question I have is that when you first looked at the bill and you tried to parse out...because as I mentioned to the minister, there is a lot in this bill. There are governance issues and there is Gatineau Park, and your primary focus, as in your presentation today, is Gatineau Park. What I got from your presentation is that the bill is going in the right direction but really needs these qualifiers, and I concur. I think what we heard from the minister is that certainly there is an opening to amend the bill to strengthen the intent. The piece I certainly asked him about was to match what we have in the parks legislation with Gatineau Park.
Is that basically where you're coming from?
Since I was appointed transport critic, I've been struck by how important aviation safety is and how important it is that we take our responsibility for that very seriously.
On April 21, I hosted in Ottawa a round table on aviation safety, and I heard how reports from inspectors and craft investigators are not receiving the proper attention. I learned that Transport Canada is actually ending inspections of many aircraft. A federal program to audit airline safety procedures has been cancelled and Transport Canada intends to stop regulating the frequency of inspections. The effect is to leave airline operators in a position of balancing business pressures and safety concerns, with minimal or no direct oversight.
I learned as well how people who deal with these issues are being treated in the industry and how they have suffered consequences from bringing forward their concerns. I can name a number of people who gave testimony in front of our round table. These results are available on a video recording at www.SafeSkies.ca. I have hosted press conferences on this to make public what I've learned. I have asked questions in the House as well.
Following a report on the CBC's the fifth estate, we see there has been a softening in the government's position. I think they are willing to take a good look at this to reassure Canadians that we are acting in their best interests when it comes to aviation safety.
The core of this problem is the implementation of an approach called safety management systems. It is a move away from prescriptive regulation, or criteria to which the industry must adhere, to performance-based regulation, which describes objectives and allows each regulated entity to develop its own system of achieving the objectives. In other words, the industry must develop its own policies and systems to reduce risk, which should include implementing systems for reporting and correcting shortcomings.
It's not that this system is not good. The International Civil Aviation Organization advocates SMS, but only as an additional layer to regular audits by governmental authorities--in this case, Transport Canada.
Justice Moshansky, who conducted the inquiry into an aircraft crash at Dryden, Ontario, said:
||It is extremely naive to think that under SMS a financially strapped operator is, on its own initiative, going to place necessary safety expenditures ahead of economic survival. The historical record hardly inspires faith in the voluntary implementation of safety measures by some such carriers, especially in the absence of strong regulatory oversight.
My office continues to hear calls for action. I want to emphasize that the most important action we take is to protect our citizens, and so I am putting forward this motion so we can get that reassurance.