Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill . I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak in support of this bill.
Sable Island is one of Canada's great natural treasures, a windswept remote island renowned for its wild horses and its historical role as the site of the nation's first life-saving station.
It is a place of astounding beauty, with sand dunes, marram grass and freshwater ponds. Anyone fortunate enough to visit this unique environment is captivated by its diversity of plants, birds and animal life. The island is home to several endangered species.
This rare and remarkable place also has a rich cultural history. Sable Island holds a special place in the hearts and minds of Nova Scotians and Canadians. It has inspired artists and writers locally, across the country and internationally.
An island of such spectacular beauty, rare flora and fauna and cultural heritage is wholly deserving of our protection. That is why on October 17, 2011, the governments of Canada and Nova Scotia signed a memorandum of agreement to establish and manage Sable Island as a national park reserve of Canada.
Our objective is to protect Sable Island for all time for the benefit, education and enjoyment of the people of Canada. As the House is aware, the designation of Sable Island as a national park reserve of Canada takes into consideration the Mi'kmaq asserted rights and title in Nova Scotia. These are being addressed through the made-in-Nova Scotia process between the governments of Canada, Nova Scotia and the Mi'kmaq.
Moreover, the governments of Canada and Nova Scotia have agreed that Parliament will enact legislation amending the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act to prohibit drilling for petroleum in Sable Island national park reserve of Canada and to limit the range of surface access rights in respect to the petroleum work or activity in the park reserve.
We have done the essential preparatory work, and I would like to highlight the many reasons why Parks Canada is uniquely situated to oversee the protection of Sable Island.
The Parks Canada network now includes 44 national parks, 167 national historic sites and 4 national marine conservation areas. Since 1911, this agency has worked hard to ensure that Canada's historic and natural heritage is protected and that Canadians and people around the world can engage in inspiring discoveries of our treasured and natural historic places.
Let me give an overview of how we have expanded Parks Canada's protected areas network in recent years. In 2006, that network was 277,400 square kilometres in size. Since then, the Government of Canada has taken actions that would protect an additional 149,639 square kilometres. This would bring Parks Canada's network to more than 427,000 square kilometres, or a 54% increase.
What these numbers demonstrate is how completely Parks Canada is committed to taking care of our natural treasures and to acting as their ever-vigilant stewards. The early visionaries of our parks system recognized that connecting with the natural world can be a deeply meaningful and moving experience, and a fundamental part of that mission was a way to foster these connections. This is a principle to which Parks Canada remains dedicated.
Allow me to give some highlights of Parks Canada's achievements over the past few years, all of which provide ample evidence of this agency's fitness for the stewardship role with regard to Sable Island. Let me start with some recent top achievements, several of them marking firsts, not just in Canada but in the world.
In 2007, the announced the creation of the largest freshwater marine protected area in the world, Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area. This addition to our system comprises more than 10,000 square kilometres, including the lake bed, islands and north shore lands.
In 2009, we expanded the boundary of the Nahanni National Park Reserve sixfold to over 30,000 square kilometres. There is absolutely no doubt that this landmark conservation achievement is quite significant. In fact it is the greatest accomplishment for Parks Canada in a generation. I am delighted to note that it was done in close collaboration with the Dehcho First Nations.
Another outstanding accomplishment in 2009 was the establishment of the Saoyú-§ehdacho National Historic Site in the Northwest Territories. This marks the first of three firsts in Canada. This national historic site was the first northern cultural landscape commemorated by the Government of Canada; the first northern national historic site co-operatively managed by Parks Canada and an aboriginal group; and also the first protected area established under the Northwest Territories protected areas strategy. This historic site comprises two peninsulas bordering the Great Bear Lake. It is an area of 5,565 square kilometres, which is approximately the size of Prince Edward Island. This site protects a cultural landscape of great importance to the Sahtu people of the Great Bear Lake. The elders' vision for the site is one of continued teaching and healing, a place that forever helps to sustain the culture and well-being of the people.
In 2010, the Government of Canada formally established the Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area Reserve and Haida Heritage Site, which some people call “the Canadian Galapagos”. This achievement was a result of historic and outstanding collaborative partnership between the Government of Canada and the Haida Nation. What is extraordinary about this unique protective measure is the combination of the existing park reserve with a new marine conservation area. In total, over 5,000 square kilometres are now protected: a spectacular wilderness that extends from alpine mountaintops to the deep sea beyond the continental shelf. The scope of this achievement is a first not only for Canada but also for North America and the world.
In 2011, Parks Canada oversaw the successful reintroduction of the plains bison and the black-footed ferret, an animal once thought to be extinct for most of the 20th century, in the Grasslands National Park. This measure was part of the $75-million investment to improve the ecological integrity of national parks and national park reserves across Canada.
It was also in 2011 that the Government of Canada announced it would create Canada's first national urban park in Toronto. The concept of a national urban park is an entirely new and unique one to Parks Canada and, indeed, to Canada. Once established, Rouge national urban park will provide an unparalleled opportunity to reach the 20% of Canadians who live within the vicinity of the park and in Canada's most culturally diverse city. Since the 2011 announcement of the Rouge national park, Parks Canada has made steady progress toward establishing this unique protected area in the heart of Canada's most populated area. The agency has worked with first nations and more than 100 communities and organizations including youth. I note that my riding in the city of Barrie is very close to this Rouge national park, and I know that across southern Ontario the commitment to it has been supported and appreciated.
I also remind members of the House about four successful multi-partnership expeditions that Parks Canada has led in Canada's Arctic, in search of the lost vessels of Sir John Franklin. This work has helped narrow our search, with the great added advantages of further asserting Canadian sovereignty and deepening our scientific knowledge in the Arctic. The work to protect our natural heritage is ceaseless, and it takes in all parts of our vast nation.
In May 2012, for example, the governments of Canada and Quebec announcement the creation of an advisory committee for the feasibility assessment of a marine protected area in Îles-de-la-Madeleine.
In August 2012, the announced the establishment and boundaries of Canada's 44th national park, the Nááts'ihch'oh National Park Reserve in the Northwest Territories. This new national park reserve will serve as a launching area for visitors to its northern wilderness, with its breathtaking landscapes of the upper reaches of the world-famous South Nahanni River. Together, the Nahanni and the Nááts'ihch'oh national park reserves protect habitat for mountain woodland caribou, grizzly bears, Dall sheep, mountain goats and trumpeter swans, while at the same time supporting the economic aspirations of first nations and the tourism industries of the region.
I need hardly tell members that the Parks Canada role in the protection of our diverse precious natural areas and species is one of which all Canadians can justly be proud. In its dedicated work as a steward, Parks Canada is an example to the world. In fact, its reach and influence extend globally, and it has received international recognition for its achievements.
For example, in May 2011, the World Wildlife Fund International recognized Parks Canada with its prestigious Gift to the Earth award. The award noted Parks Canada's outstanding conservation achievements, including the recent dramatic growth of Canada's system of national parks and national marine conservation areas.
In September 2012, Parks Canada led the development of the publication titled “North American Protected Areas as Natural Solutions to Climate Change”, released at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature World Conservation Congress in South Korea. This publication is a collaborative effort of the North American Intergovernmental Committee on Wilderness and Protected Area Conservation with the government representation from Canada, the United States and Mexico.
I would like to turn now to some of Parks Canada's achievements in the realm of historic and cultural commemoration. As I noted earlier, these are important aspects in the protection of Sable Island.
In fact, in 2012, Parks Canada received such a historic designation itself. That year, the Government of Canada honoured the agency as the world's first national parks service by commemorating the Creation of the Dominion Parks Branch and the birth of Parks Canada as an event of national historic significance.
Parks Canada's other commemorative highlights last year included the opening of the new visitor centre at Fort Wellington National Historic Site as part of the special War of 1812 commemoration. The Calgary Stampede, billed as the greatest outdoor show on Earth, was also recognized as an event of national historic significance as was the Grey Cup.
In August last year, our designated Canada's heritage lighthouses under the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act, which included the St. Paul Island Southwest Lighthouse in Dingwall, Nova Scotia and McNab Point and the Saugeen River Front and Rear Range lights in Southampton, Ontario.
On the 100th anniversary of the sinking of RMS Titanic, the government honoured the historic efforts of Canadians in the recovery of victims of the disaster.
Earlier, I mentioned Parks Canada's involvement in searching for the ships of the Franklin expedition. In July 2010, the agency embarked upon its 10 day archeological survey of Aulavik National Park to locate HMS Investigator wreck and document and map the land sites associated with Captain Robert McClure's expedition to find the Northwest Passage. This initiative produced a number of findings, including the shipwreck of HMS Investigator, three gravesites and new information on the equipment and provision cache site.
I said that Parks Canada's commitment to protecting our natural and cultural heritage is unceasing. So, too, are the agency's efforts to help connect Canadians with nature.
The early visionaries of our parks system recognized that when people connected with the natural world they could have an experience that was deeply meaningful and moving. A fundamental part of Parks Canada's mission is therefore to foster these connections.
Today, that mission is more urgent than ever before. As many members of the House know, North Americans are becoming more and more disconnected with nature. Tackling the disconnection and fostering Canadians' close relation with the natural world is therefore a task for Parks Canada, and it takes it very seriously.
It is typical of the agency's dedication to this vision that it used its own anniversary to further this crucial work. In its anniversary year of 2011, Parks Canada introduced a series of ongoing programs to reach Canadians and youth in particular.
Among these were the innovative and highly popular learn to camp initiative, overnight camping events aimed at introducing city dwellers, many of them young families or recent immigrants, to camping and other fun outdoor activities.
Through its my parks pass program, the agency provided every grade 8 student across the country with passes to enter all of Parks Canada's sites free of charge for 12 months.
Parks Canada also introduced a promotion called “Canada's coolest school trip” in which a grade 8 class could win a school trip to visit a national park or historic site.
Using multimedia, the agency's national parks project brought together 52 of Canada's best musicians and filmmakers to create music and film inspired by Canada's most breathtaking national parks. These films are available online. The soundtrack album is in stores and on iTunes and a documentary TV series is running on Discovery World.
Also on television, Parks Canada premiered Operation Unplugged, a reality show in which eight urban young people traded their techno-dependent lifestyles for a summer unplugged in the national parks.
In all these ways, Parks Canada's centennial celebrations help the agency meet its target for public engagement so Canadians' awareness of Parks Canada and support for its work are growing across the country. Parks Canada reports the visitation to national parks is now slowly increasing, helping to reverse a downward trend seen over many years.
In my overview, I have touched on many areas of Parks Canada's achievements, all of which demonstrate the agency's long history, experience and passion for protecting our natural and cultural heritage. I noted its international recognition and that it was the first national parks agency in the world. I am fully confident that this superbly well-qualified federal agency will make an ideal steward for the wondrous beauty and unique character of Sable Island. I am therefore urging all members in the House to support the bill, which would make this exquisite island one of the jewels in our national parks system with Parks Canada as its able steward.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House in support of Bill , at second reading.
I should first note that I will be sharing my time with the member for .
Among other things, Bill proposes to make Sable Island, a small island 175 km off the south-east coast of Nova Scotia, Canada’s 43rd national park.
It is a very interesting bill that has support from regional and national environmental groups. It is the result of negotiations between the federal government and the provincial NDP government. Clearly, with support from the community and from government, we already have an opportunity to take the longer view, and perhaps support it.
A few months ago, on one of those rare evenings of rest I was able to get, I happened upon an article about Sable Island. I was truly fascinated by what I was able to learn, particularly about the unique ecosystem of this thin sand dune off the coast of Nova Scotia. I found the island absolutely magnificent. It is a most impressive place, with over 300 unique species of birds, insects and butterflies, and a herd of the wild horses that are the cause of its fame.
The flora of Sable Island are just as varied, and include a number of plants rarely found elsewhere on our planet. Uninhabited, except for a handful of researchers, this island continues to stir the imagination of Canadians today, and must be protected, both because of its unique and important ecosystem, and its historical value. The island is very fragile, and exposed to the winds of the Atlantic Ocean. In an intensified way, it is subject to the weather conditions of the environment in which it is located.
In designating Sable Island as a national park, this government has the responsibility of granting it the enhanced environmental protection measures that should accompany its designation as a national park.
Although Bill seems to be an initial step in the right direction, there are still a number of concerns about its wording.
First, the bill prohibits drilling within one nautical mile of the island, or on its surface, but still allows drilling underneath it. This is a first for a national park in Canada, but it is not one to be proud of. In my view, a very dangerous precedent is being created for future national parks that may be created over the years in Canada. I would not like to see similar rights granted to some companies that own drilling rights, such as ExxonMobil, which still has the right to drill close to Sable Island. I believe such an opening is very dangerous, and it should be studied in detail in committee.
The current wording of Bill also allows various types of low-impact exploration on the surface of the Island, but without a clear definition of what that expression means. I have problems with this, because it is difficult to imagine all the different kinds of exploration that might be carried out on Sable Island, which is already very fragile.
My colleague from has raised some concerns about the effects of some kinds of exploration, which are considered to be low-impact but which can have very harmful effects on marine mammals in the vicinity of such tests.
For these reasons, the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development has a lot of work to do before we can fully support the bill as currently drafted. It has some fairly serious shortcomings, and we must ensure that the text that emerges from the committee's proceedings guarantees genuine protection for Sable Island's invaluable habitats and ecosystems.
Parks Canada's mandate is to protect the natural and cultural heritage of our national parks. The final text of Bill must truly reflect that mandate and implement practical measures to ensure that it is carried out.
I come from the riding of , where nature is a very important part of people's everyday lives and environmental protection issues are among their greatest concerns. They regularly enjoy the outdoors, hunting and fishing, but they also want to protect our natural resources.
Last Saturday, I attended the Saint-Basile-de-Portneuf fishing festival, during which I even had a chance to go and stock the river with trout.
This is one of the many actions the municipality takes every year to ensure that fishers retain their access to the river, which is very close to the village, and are able to continue fishing without depleting all the fish stocks in the river. These efforts show how important nature is to the people of my riding.
Although there is no federal national park in my riding, there is a provincial park, the Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier. There is also the Portneuf wildlife reserve, which I highly recommend to everyone as a summer vacation destination. People will not be disappointed by it.
The Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier is less than 30 minutes north of Quebec City. The Government of Quebec created the 670-km² park in 1981 to protect a representative sample of the natural region of the Laurentian mountains. Some of you may have had the opportunity to travel across part of the park if you have ever driven from Quebec City to Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean or other neighbouring areas. That route features a very good sample of the region's natural assets. In addition to a spectacular glacier valley, the park is also crossed by a salmon river, the Rivière à saumon, and is home to rich and diversified plant and animal life.
The Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier is also home to an isolated herd of nearly 75 woodland caribou, a cervid species considered vulnerable and found in very small numbers in the province of Quebec. I saw one on one of my many trips across the Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier, between Quebec City and Jonquière, where I lived for a number of years. Protection for the caribou's environment, part of which is located in the Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier, is essential to the species' survival.
The 775-km2 Portneuf wildlife reserve is located approximately 40 km north of Saint-Raymond, halfway between Quebec City and Trois-Rivières. It is another large nature preserve in my riding. Some of you may perhaps already be familiar with the region, which is well known to hunting and fishing enthusiasts who come to the service cooperative in Rivière-à-Pierre to stock up on provisions before heading off to take advantage of this wildlife reserve's magnificent hills and valleys, as well as its countless lakes and rivers.
Plans are already under way in my riding to create a protected area in the Portneuf wildlife reserve, and work to protect the ecosystems in this part of the area is ongoing. With such a wealth of natural resources in my own riding, it is difficult for me not to take an interest in other natural resources in Canada, including those of Sable Island, which is the subject of the bill before us today.
Unfortunately, I do not feel reassured when I look at the Conservatives’ track record on the environment, particularly when the bill would leave open the possibility of drilling underneath Sable Island. An environment as fragile as this already needs our protection, and preserving its ecosystem means that the number of people visiting it should be kept down. This bill, however, leaves open the possibility of drilling underneath the island. This, to me, is inconceivable, particularly given the Conservatives' track record.
In 2012 alone, the Conservatives eliminated important environmental protection measures, including 99% of federal environmental assessments and 98% of protective measures for Canada's navigable waterways. They eliminated the protection regime for most fish habitats. They also slashed $29 million from the Parks Canada budget and eliminated over 6,000 jobs, all of which clearly demonstrates that Canada's national parks are anything but a priority for this government.
The Conservatives are proposing the establishment of Canada's 43rd national park, but are not providing Parks Canada with everything it needs to fulfill its mandate to protect and preserve our natural heritage. That is what worries me.
I am therefore supporting the bill at second reading so that it can be referred to committee for the in-depth study that is necessary. I hope that what comes back to us in the House is a version that truly protects Sable Island, an outcome that is absolutely essential.
Mr. Speaker, thank you for allowing me to speak on Bill .
I first want to stress the fact that despite the importance of the debate and the exchanges on the subject, the Conservative government has again imposed a limit on debate. Consequently, there is once again an undemocratic short-circuiting of the customary parliamentary process.
That said, as stated, Bill amends the Canada National Parks Act and the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act and makes consequential amendments to the Canada Shipping Act, 2001.
In more concrete terms, this initiative from the Senate would designate Sable Island as Canada’s 43rd national park. Quite obviously, we are delighted at the move to protect this unique place, which has stirred our imaginations with its beauty, its history and the ecological heritage it represents.
The bill includes a number of measures. First, drilling less than one nautical mile from the island, or on the surface of the island, would be strictly prohibited. This would make it possible to protect the visible areas from any petroleum development. Of course, this would be an important step in preserving the integrity of the area and the ecosystem that is part of it.
On the other hand, it is important to emphasize that exploration activities would be tolerated, provided they had little impact on the ecosystem of the island. Moreover, this partial prohibition would not include seismic testing, which can have an environmental impact on the area.
In that connection, we note that unfortunately, the concept of impact is not formally defined in the bill. This will be one of the factors to be explored in committee. However, the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board should consult Parks Canada on the conduct of such exploration activities. This is important, because it would ensure collegial management of the space occupied by Sable Island and maximize its protection.
In the same vein, while surface drilling will be prohibited, underground drilling would be allowed. This would clearly constitute a first for a national park. Consequently, we shall have to know exactly how this significant aspect of the bill will be overseen. While the technology is not fully developed in this area, the fact remains that we will be confronting that aspect sooner or later.
Another element found in Bill is the installation of landing platforms for helicopters used to evacuate offshore workers. We applaud this inclusion, as we value the safety and security of all our people. The spirit that guides these measures takes us one step in the right direction in order to protect that jewel, Sable Island.
Let us remember that this ecosystem harbours many unusual species of flora and fauna, some of them unique to Sable Island. They include the 250 wild horses, the seals that reproduce there and the many bird colonies.
In 1977 the government had already recognized the ecological importance of Sable Island and designated it a migratory bird sanctuary. As a result, the unique ecological heritage of this area is well known and our duty as parliamentarians is to work to protect it.
Naturally, like many environmentalists, the NDP agrees with the principles expressed in Bill . We are in favour of protecting Sable Island in all its facets and establishing boundaries for the human activities that take place there.
Certainly, there are several aspects of this legislation that should be studied in committee. It will be essential to consider the concepts of exploration and impact we find in the bill. What will be considered a low impact? How much petroleum exploration activity will we allow on the island? What will the relationship be between the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board and Parks Canada? What will we do if a petroleum deposit is discovered beneath Sable Island?
It will also be important to consider the possibility of exploration using seismic testing. These are questions that must be asked by the parliamentarians who are members of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.
In short, the work done in the committee will determine the future success and survival of this national park. Moreover, we believe that we must be in constant contact with the various stakeholders involved in the current legislative process. They include the Nova Scotia provincial government, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, the Ecology Action Centre, the Green Horse Society and the Friends of Sable Island Society.
This is a serious matter. We must ensure that all stakeholders work together with parliamentarians to complete this project and set up a national park that will meet ecological and environmental objectives.
That said, the Conservatives are trying to present Bill as environmental good news. It was true, although certain reservations have been expressed about the creation of this national park. However, that does not diminish the fact that ever since it came to power the government has done all it could to eliminate, weaken and stall environmental measures.
The fact that Canada withdrew from Kyoto clearly showed that the Conservatives had abdicated their environmental responsibilities. Then they cut back considerably on environmental assessments, which must be done for companies' projects and routine activities. This is clearly having a significant impact on various practices, and it will have serious effects on our ecosystem. What is worse, the Conservatives deny that there is a problem with the environment or that climate change exists, which seriously taints the creation of Sable Island national park.
The NDP, on the other hand, has done everything it can to promote environmental values. We remain the only credible political party the public can trust to protect ecosystems and ensure that sustainable development is at the heart of everything we do.
That will be the basis for our work on Bill . We will support the bill at second reading, so that it can be sent to committee. However, we will do everything we can to limit potential and foreseeable environmental abuses. We will be listening to stakeholders and will do what we can to develop the best bill possible for the creation of Sable Island national park.
I am now prepared to take questions from my colleagues.
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise in the House to speak at second reading in support of Bill , which is the expansion and conservation of Canada’s national parks act.
The main purpose of this legislation is to legally protect forever the natural and cultural values of that treasure known as Sable Island. As the title of the act suggests, through this legislation, we would be expanding the national parks system to conserve Sable Island as our nation's 43rd national park.
As anyone who has resided or visited eastern Canada knows, islands are plentiful throughout this great region. Two of our nation's 10 provinces are islands: the inspiring rock of Newfoundland and Labrador; and the red sands and green fields of Prince Edward Island. There is New Brunswick's Grand Manan Island, Cape Breton Island of Nova Scotia, the Magdalen Islands of Quebec, P.E.I.'s Lennox Island and Fogo Island off Newfoundland. Each of these and other islands have contributed to shaping the distinct nature and culture of what we call Canada.
Over time, as we have settled and developed these grand islands, we have seized the opportunity to protect the nationally significant landscapes on some of these islands.
For example, Gros Morne and Terra Nova National Parks provide an opportunity for Canadians to explore and discover the east and west coast of Newfoundland. Prince Edward Island National Park is famous for its sandy beaches, red cliffs and the house that inspired the novel Anne of Green Gables and for protecting the piping plover habitat. There is the world renowned Cabot Trail that winds through Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Our government is working with the Province of Quebec to assess the potential for a marine protected area in the waters off the Magdalen Islands.
Now we are on the cusp of adding that mysterious and far offshore place known as Sable Island to our national parks system. I hope that all hon. members will join me in supporting Bill .
Throughout this debate, we have heard many testimonials on the natural and cultural attributes of Sable Island that have inspired us to add it to our national parks system. We are impressed by the fact that this island of 30 square kilometres, rising out of the Atlantic Ocean almost 300 kilometres southeast of Halifax, continues to survive as a shifting sandbar on the edge of the continental shelf.
We are inspired that on this island, composed mainly of sand, with sparse vegetation, so far from shore, life abounds. There are 190 plant species, 350 bird species, including the endangered roseate tern and Ipswich sparrow, grey seals and those famous Sable Island horses.
We marvel at the attempts made throughout the 1600s and 1700s to settle the island, despite the rough seas, the storms and fogs that make Sable Island such a hazard to navigation. The more than 350 recorded shipwrecks in this area stand as a testament to the difficulty of simply accessing Sable Island, let alone trying to settle it.
We are hopeful that in taking action to protect Sable Island under the Canada National Parks Act, future generations will be proud that the House of Commons, in 2013, developed, debated and passed legislation that enabled the protection of this magnificent and mysterious island.
As I have followed this debate, it appears to me that all parties in the House support the proposal to establish Sable Island as a national park reserve. Many members spoke of the urgent need to get on with the job, as this has been so many years in the making. It is clear from public consultations undertaken by Parks Canada in 2010 that this support and sense of urgency echoes the passionate views of Canadians, especially Nova Scotians. Establishing Sable Island national park reserve of Canada is the right thing to do, and the time to do it is now.
I would also observe a high degree of support for putting in place a legislative ban on drilling, from the surface of Sable Island out to one nautical mile from the shoreline. Many who have participated in this debate have acknowledged and thanked the petroleum companies, such as ExxonMobil Canada, for amending its existing significant discovery licenses to incorporate this legislative ban on exploratory and development drilling.
However, there appears to be one key concern with Bill , and that is the proposal to allow the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board to authorize low-impact seismic activity on Sable Island.
I would point out that in reality, the board currently has the authority to permit seismic activity on Sable Island. What Bill proposes is to limit that authority to low-impact seismic activity. In light of this, I would like to spend the next few minutes speaking to this concern.
As previous speakers have noted, we are establishing Sable Island national park reserve in one of North America's largest active petroleum fields. As we heard earlier, there is a federal-provincial legislative framework in place under the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act that administers all petroleum matters in the Nova Scotia offshore. Since 1988, this legislation has taken precedence over all other federal legislation in this region, including the Canada National Parks Act. As the preamble to Bill makes clear, this legislation will continue to take precedence.
In August 1986, the Government of Canada and the Province of Nova Scotia signed the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore petroleum resources accord. Under the accord, Canada and Nova Scotia agreed to develop oil and gas in the offshore in a manner that would harmonize the interests of all Canadians and those who reside in the province.
The accord called on both parties to pass mirror legislation to create a unified administrative regime for offshore petroleum resources. This goes to the heart of our deliberations. To give legal effect to the 1986 accord, both governments passed legislation in their respective legislatures, with essentially the same wording.
While the names of these bills are a mouthful, for the record, the Government of Canada passed the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act, and the Province of Nova Scotia passed the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation (Nova Scotia) Act. Members will recall that the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act takes precedence over all other acts. Thus, to put in place a legal ban against drilling on the surface of Sable Island and to limit potential seismic activity to low impact, both the federal and the provincial accord acts must be amended. This fact has profound implications for our deliberations.
On April 24 of this year, the hon. Charlie Parker, the New Democratic Minister of Energy, tabled Bill 59 in the Nova Scotia legislature to amend the provincial petroleum accord act for several purposes. First was to prohibit the carrying on of work related to drilling for petroleum, including exploratory drilling, in or within one nautical mile of Sable Island national park reserve. Second was to limit the surface access rights provided for under the accord act to, among other things, low-impact seismic activity. Third was to set out a process under which the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board must consult with, and consider the advice of, Parks Canada when considering an application to authorize petroleum-related work or activity in the national park reserve.
When the proposed provincial bill was referred to its law amendments committee, there was one witness, the Ecology Action Centre, that recommended that the bill be amended to delete the option of conducting low-impact seismic activity on Sable Island. However, the New Democratic government chose not to amend its legislation to delete the reference to low-impact seismic activity. The Nova Scotia legislature followed suit, passing Bill 59 without amendment. On May 10, 2013, the provincial bill was given royal assent.
In short, the provincial New Democratic government has passed the legislation called for under the terms of the 2011 national park establishment agreement signed by Premier Darrell Dexter and the federal and witnessed by Mr. Leonard Preyra, the provincial Minister of Communities, Culture, and Heritage, and the hon. member for Central Nova.
The provincial New Democratic government was satisfied with the arrangement and was not prepared to amend its legislation. Nova Scotia now awaits the outcome of our deliberations to designate Sable Island national park reserve under the Canada National Parks Act.
I recount this history, because given the concerns expressed about low-seismic activity, it is important to accurately outline the work that would be required in the weeks and months ahead should consideration be given to amending Bill as the only means of remedying these concerns.
Given that Canada and Nova Scotia passed mirror legislation in 1988 to implement the Canada-Nova Scotia offshore petroleum accord, and given that our Bill and the Province's Bill 59 have developed mirror legislation to amend these acts to implement the drilling ban and to limit seismic activity to low impact, and given that Nova Scotia has passed its Bill 59 without amendment, the implication for our work is clear: should we decide the amend Bill , additional work would need to be undertaken.
The provincial New Democratic government would have to decide whether it is prepared to once again amend its provincial accord act, this time to delete or amend references to seismic activity.
While I cannot speak for the provincial New Democratic government, it is clear that in negotiating the national park establishment agreement and in rejecting a prior recommendation to alter the seismic activity reference, they are supportive of the current approach.
Additional consultations would also have to be undertaken with the petroleum industry to determine its views on such a change. Again, while I cannot speak for the industry, it would seem to me that since petroleum activity within the broader Sable basin will continue, industry and the offshore petroleum board would require the most accurate seismic data in order to reduce the exploration risk when drilling expensive offshore oil and gas wells.
Allow me to offer a few observations on the issue of low-impact seismic activity.
It is my understanding that the offshore petroleum board has indicated to Parks Canada that it is currently not aware of a need for additional seismic data to be collected on Sable Island. However, these needs may very well change in the future.
In addition, should a company seek an authorization to collect new data from Sable Island, the board would require justification from the company that the current seismic information is not sufficient and that information could not be gathered beyond the national parks reserve.
Failing the above, the board would also seek from the company assurances that other less intrusive techniques could not be used to augment the existing seismic information.
Finally, if after all this it had been clearly demonstrated that a seismic program that would place equipment on Sable Island was required, an environmental assessment would be conducted under the policy of the offshore petroleum board. This assessment would have to meet the Canadian Environment Assessment Act standard of determining the likelihood of an activity to cause significant adverse environmental effects.
Given the requirement of Bill that the board seek the advice of Parks Canada on such a proposed authorization, Parks Canada would clearly have an opportunity to influence the nature of any proposed seismic undertaking.
I look forward to the in-depth discussions that will ensue at committee on these and other issues related to the designation of Sable Island as a national park reserve, and I trust that clarity will be brought to the issues that have been raised in this chamber.
I would like to address one other major concern that has been expressed during this debate: the notion that Bill will undermine the integrity of our internationally renowned national parks system. The concern focuses on the suggestion that by continuing to allow the offshore petroleum board to authorize seismic activities, although Bill proposes to limit that authorization to low impact, we are somehow setting a precedent for other national parks across Canada as well as for future national parks.
I appreciate this concern. It speaks to the non-partisan support that exists in the House for the desirability of protecting our nationally significant lands and waters in protected national parks for the benefit of present and future generations. It speaks to the actions that Parliament has taken over the decades, indeed, spanning the last three centuries since 1885, when it created Banff National Park to forever set aside iconic landscapes and their resident plant and animal species.
However, as the made clear in her remarks last Thursday, we are giving effect to the drilling ban and to limiting seismic activity to low impact by amending the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Accord Implementation Act, not the Canada National Parks Act. We are not introducing any changes whatsoever to the Canada National Parks Act that could be remotely interpreted as allowing seismic activity in any other existing national park. I cannot be clearer on this point. It will not be allowed in Aulavik National Park or in Yoho National Park or in any other national park in between.
I would also like to make it clear that we are not amending the Canada National Parks Act to permit low-impact seismic activity on Sable Island: seismic activity is already allowed on Sable Island. We are amending the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act to restrict any future seismic work to low impact on Sable Island. Thus, it will only be within Sable Island national park reserve that at some future date the offshore petroleum board may authorize low-impact seismic activity.
Through Bill , we are enhancing the integrity of our national parks system. We are bringing the highest level of federal legislative protection to Sable Island as a national park reserve.
As the parliamentary secretary also made clear, when we negotiate for the creation of new national parks, we are often challenged to consider whether or not to allow certain activities to continue on a case-by-case basis. For the most part, we are able to achieve a new national park that respects the act and that is completely true to the best of our intentions, but sometimes that is just not possible. That simple reality is no reason to completely abandon the idea of designating an area a national park.
I would remind the House that it was only in 2009 that Parliament passed legislation authorizing the permitting of several mineral access roads through the expanded Nahanni National Park Reserve. This was no doubt a difficult decision, but one that made possible a six-fold expansion of Nahanni, producing what was referred to as the greatest conservation decision of this generation.
As we move forward with Bill , I trust that we will balance our duty to maintain the integrity of our national parks system with the opportunity to finally provide Sable Island with the level of protection and conservation framework that has been called for over the past 50 years. With this approach in Bill to balance the conservation and development needs of Sable Island with the broader Nova Scotia offshore needs, with the balancing of the goals of the offshore petroleum accord act with the Canada National Parks Act, we are achieving real conservation gains for Sable Island.
Let me paraphrase the hon. in his remarks last Thursday night. Through Bill , we are accomplishing the following: a new national park reserve for Sable Island, Canada's 43rd national park; the application of a comprehensive conservation framework to Sable Island for the first time in 50 years; a legislative ban that for the first time will prohibit all exploratory and development drilling for petroleum resources from the surface of Sable Island; the creation of a legislative buffer zone around Sable Island that will prohibit drilling out to one nautical mile; a prohibition on the extraction of non-petroleum resources from beneath the surface of Sable Island; a limit on the number of petroleum-related activities that can be authorized by the offshore petroleum board on Sable Island national park reserve; limiting the current ability of offshore petroleum board to authorize any seismic activity on Sable Island to low-impact activity; providing a legislative requirement for the offshore petroleum board to seek and consider advice from Parks Canada should it choose to authorize activities listed in Bill ; and developing a management plan within five years that will direct the necessary measures to protect Sable Island to enable visitor experiences that respect the fragility of the island and to forge partnerships with interested stakeholders.
Finally, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the , the , the and the for their dedicated leadership on collaboratively developing legislation that will enable the creation of Sable Island national park reserve as Canada's 43rd national park. It is their leadership that has brought this legislation before us today. Now it is up to this chamber to complete our business to ensure that Sable Island will be forever protected so that future generations, whether they choose to visit it or not, will know that this Parliament took action to ensure that the natural and cultural values of this place persist forever.