I call the meeting to order. This is meeting 33 of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.
We are meeting today to consider Bill , an act respecting the Rouge national urban park.
We are honoured to have with us today Minister Aglukkaq, Minister of the Environment, from the Department of the Environment.
We also have guests who will be speaking later in the day, Mr. Campbell, Mr. Latourelle, and Pam Veinotte. Thank you all for joining us here today.
We are going to begin with Minister Aglukkaq who will give her opening statement, followed by questions from members. The first hour is with Minister Aglukkaq.
Mr. Chair, hon. members, and ladies and gentlemen, thank you for the opportunity to speak to the Rouge urban national park act. This is a key initiative to support the national conservation plan which the Prime Minister launched in May.
The bill would establish a Canadian first, a national urban park in the heart of Canada's largest city. It would provide the opportunity for millions of Canadians to connect and enjoy our rich natural heritage. To support this, Canada's 2012 economic action plan has allocated $143.7 million over 10 years and $7.6 million each year afterwards for this park.
I would like to highlight how this bill would strengthen the protection of the land that would become the Rouge national urban park.
This bill would give the park the highest level of legal protection. It was crafted to go well beyond the existing provincial laws and policies governing the land that makes up the future park. The bill would allow for the expansion of the park and protect more land. Once completed, this park would be much larger than the existing regional park and about 16 times the size of Central Park in New York City. The bill provides clear legislative protection and powers on mitigating and preventing pollution, as it would be covered by the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.
Let me go through a number of ways the Rouge national urban park act would improve the current provincial laws and policies. The bill directly prohibits activities such as mining and hunting on all lands in the park. This is not the case right now under the province. The bill directly prohibits the removal of native plants and fossils on all lands in the park. This is not the case right now under the province. The bill provides full protection under the Species At Risk Act to lands within the park. This means that species that are threatened under this act would receive full protection. This is not the case now under the province. The bill provides fines for illegal activities, such as poaching, that are equivalent to those in national parks. Again, this is not the case under the province.
To ensure that there is strong enforcement of these clauses full time and year-round, dedicated law enforcement officers would patrol the park. I don't mean to repeat myself, but this is also not the case under the province.
Parks Canada's 2014 draft Rouge national urban park management plan strengthens and supports provincial goals including the ecological link between Lake Ontario and the Oak Ridges Moraine. Given the unique setting of this national urban park, Bill provides an approach that is tailor-made for the park location in Canada's largest metropolitan area. As many of you may know, the park contains major highways, rail lines, homes, businesses, and hydro corridors, as well as farmland.
In designing a national urban park for this area, it was important for us to find a balance between all these factors. Clause 6 of the bill would specifically require me to take into consideration the protection of natural ecosystems and cultural landscapes, the maintenance of native wildlife, and the health of the ecosystem. This is an approach that recognizes the park's urban surroundings. This new model embraces an integrated conservation approach that strives to maximize the ecosystem health of the park without isolating one value or area at the expense of another. It would be managed in such a way that it remains healthy and strong, while respecting the fact that it is located in an urban centre.
In all of this, we need to remember that there are families of farmers who have lived here for a very long time. Our government's legal and policy protections would also extend to the Rouge's rich agriculture heritage. It would ensure that farmers could continue to work the land and implement best farming practices.
Earlier this year I met with some of the farmers, and I can say that they are very pleased with the discussions that are happening on the draft management plan and leasing strategy. We would provide long-term leases so that they could plan and be sustainable long into the future.
Working with the farming community and others, Parks Canada would develop a set of best management practices for agriculture in Rouge national urban park. These practices would be aligned, to the extent possible, with those in existence provincially and regionally to avoid duplication of efforts.
In a letter that was sent to my office, Paul Reesor, president of the York Region Federation of Agriculture, said:
The farmers in the Rouge National Urban Park already use Environmental Farm Plans incorporating best management practices as part of their ongoing stewardship of the farmland they have been caring for for generations.
The farmland in the park needs to preserved so that future generations of farmers can produce food for their surrounding urban neighbours.
We recognize that the future potential and viability of farms in the park are tied to the protection of natural and cultural heritage and the evolving needs of nearby communities. This means that Parks Canada must work in a collaborative manner to achieve all purposes for the Rouge.
There are a few other features of this bill that I wish to point out.
First, clause 7 of the bill addresses the protection of national historic sites. This means that for the first time national historic sites are receiving this kind of legislative protection. This means that the Bead Hill national historic site within the park will enjoy greater protection than ever before.
Parks Canada has made a strong commitment to work with the first nations in the protection and preservation of heritage places. Parks Canada has met regularly with first nations groups with historical connections to the Rouge Valley. An advisory circle was put in place to provide Parks Canada with input from 10 aboriginal groups on parks planning, presentations, and management. All members are supportive and keen to be involved.
Parks Canada has conducted extensive public consultations over the last two years, which have involved close to 150 provincial, municipal, aboriginal, agricultural, and community stakeholders and have generated positive comments from nearly 11,000 Canadians. This extensive engagement has continued. Since June of this year, the agency has conducted consultations on a draft plan for the management of the park. At the recently held public open houses throughout the greater Toronto area, we received tremendous support for the management plan.
Going forward, the Rouge national urban park act will ensure that the public will continue to have a voice in the management of the park by making public participation a requirement for the development of the management plan. In addition, the bill provides for the establishment of a committee to advise the minister on aspects of the park's management.
With the creation of the Rouge national urban park, Rouge lands will be protected with this strong federal law. This park is one of the greatest conservation achievements in our nation's history, and I'm very pleased to be a part of its creation.
I would like to conclude by reading a quote from Wade Luzny, executive vice-president of the Canadian Wildlife Federation. He said:
It gives us great pleasure to provide our solid endorsement of bill C-40 for the formal establishment of the Rouge National Urban Park....The future Rouge National Urban Park is sure to be a national treasure for generations to come.
That concludes my remarks. I'd be happy to take questions. Thank you.
Thanks, Minister, for being here.
Back in Oshawa this past weekend, it was a beautiful weekend to be out and about and walking around. It's exciting to know that this park is finally becoming a reality.
I guess we were all surprised and disappointed, Minister, at least on this side of the room, when we learned on September 3, through the media, no less, about the shameful behaviour of the Ontario Liberal Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure, the Honourable Brad Duguid, who is recommending to his caucus colleagues that the Liberal Government of Ontario not support the transfer of provincial land into the Rouge national urban park.
I was wondering, Minister, if you could tell those of us around this table when the Ontario government officially notified you of its changed position on the Rouge park. Did you have any indication through your discussions with Ontario cabinet ministers that there were problems in securing support for the creation of this historic park?
Thank you for that question.
Like everyone else, I was made aware on September 3 by a letter sent by the Ontario infrastructure minister, Minister Brad Duguid. That letter was also shared with the Toronto Star on the same day, so that's how I became aware.
Federal officials had met previously on dozens of occasions with the Ontario government to discuss the creation of the park. To my understanding, these discussions were always very positive and supportive.
The Ontario environment minister, Minister Murray, even stated last summer that the creation of the Rouge park “will be one of the most significant environmental projects ever undertaken in Ontario”. Mr. Chairman, I remain hopeful that through ongoing discussions we will reach an agreement with Ontario that will protect the environment and provide the residents a place where they can reconnect with nature.
Beyond the proposed Rouge national urban park, our government has committed to increase the amount of protected lands. Since 2006 we have added over 61,000 square kilometres to the network of federal protected areas, an area that's nearly twice the size of Vancouver Island.
This includes the expansion of the Nahanni National Park Reserve by over 25,000 square kilometres and a designation of 10 new sites. Also, recently our government was very proud to announce that it designated and protected the Ukkusiksalik National Park in Nunavut.
We also recently tabled a bill to establish Canada's 44th national park, the Nááts'ihch'oh national park reserve in the Northwest Territories. The bill will protect and preserve nearly 4,900 square kilometres of land directly adjoining the Nahanni National Park Reserve. Together, the Nahanni and Nááts'ihch'oh national park reserves will protect 86% of the entire southern Nahanni watershed, and I hope that members of this committee will support the passage of this bill so we can build on a strong legacy of protecting our historic and natural heritage.
We're also working with Newfoundland and Labrador and several aboriginal groups to establish a national park reserve in the Mealy Mountains of Labrador.
Welcome, Madam Minister.
Welcome to the government officials. I look forward to spending some time with you after as well.
I think this bill is a good start. The NDP has been really supportive of the idea of creating Rouge Park. You will probably remember that we actually managed to carve out two days of study on the park during one of our conservation studies here at committee. Everybody around the table is familiar with some of issues we're facing with this supremely interesting, yet supremely difficult, park that's about to be created.
As I said, it's a good start, and we're in support of the creation of the park. But there are quite a few issues, especially around the issue of ecological.... I'm blanking.
An hon. member: Integrity?
Ms. Megan Leslie: Ecological integrity. Thank you. It's been a long week for all of us.
I don't think the bill is where it needs to be, and I do want to ensure that we get it right. We are going to hear from a lot of witnesses. We are going to spend time with it at committee. I don't believe the issue of ecological integrity can be addressed through a management plan, personally. I think it needs to be enshrined in legislation.
Saying that, Minister, I'm not going to quiz you on what you would or wouldn't support or anything like that, as I don't think that's fair, but I am really honest and open about the fact that we do want to see a good piece of legislation here. I just want to ask you if you and your department would be open to amendments, if there's some area we can agree on, in particular around ecological integrity...but just generally, if you're open to amendments.
Thank you, Minister and team, for joining us today to talk about this wonderful project. I want to thank you for making this a priority for the government. I represent a riding which, as you may know, is located just to the west of Toronto and Highway 416, so I suspect that many of my constituents already do and will continue to enjoy the Rouge national urban park.
I also had the privilege of serving on the environment committee when we studied the national conservation plan and gave input to the then minister on what it should include. I want to thank you for taking up that advice this committee gave as well, because there was a focus on urban environmentalism. I can tell you that in Mississauga South, which is located on Lake Ontario, and the Credit River runs through my riding, my constituents and I are very proud of our beautiful lake and river. It is part of who we are.
I know that the people of the greater Toronto area appreciate this park and will use it. It will serve to inform generations of Canadians, millions of Canadians, who live very close by. I want you to know that their priority is conservation and environmental stewardship. It's not just people who live in rural areas and in northern Canada who appreciate the environment, so thank you for recognizing that.
I want you to know, too, Minister, that I invited my colleague to my riding. He laughed when he found out that you could drive from one end of my riding to the other in about 10 minutes, but he still appreciated the beautiful Rattray Marsh.
This park is basically an extension, I think, for the whole GTA to enjoy. Also, finally, thank you for backing it with a significant funding commitment.
Minister, all that said, it's clear that this is an unprecedented project on a grand scale. Can you tell us what the benefits are of branding this a national urban park instead of just a traditional national park?
Thank you, Madam Minister, for being here.
I want to start with a continuation of Mr. Carrie's question about the land assembly. He spoke of the provincial lands, and I'd like to speak about the federal lands that could be included in the study area for the park.
We know that thousands of Canadians have asked the federal government to significantly expand the park study area, which includes the adjacent Transport Canada lands that are in the greenbelt of north Pickering. These publicly owned lands are within the provincial greenbelt's natural heritage system and they are necessary to provide a true ecological and trail link between Rouge Park and the Oak Ridges Moraine, going all the way from the lake to the moraine. More than 22 square kilometres of additional lands are held by Transport Canada, and these exist beyond the greenbelt lands. For comparison with respect to airport size if that Pickering airport is to continue, the Pearson airport is approximately 16 square kilometres and the Toronto Island airport is about one square kilometre.
My question for you, Madam Minister, is whether you will work with your colleague at Transport Canada to add the federal government's greenbelt lands in north Pickering to the Rouge national urban park study area to thereby provide enough parkland to sustain nature, park visitor use, and farm uses along that corridor in the long term.
Thank you, Madam Minister, for attending with your officials here today. It's always a pleasure to hear you speak and to listen to the answers you give.
I want to preface my questions with the comment that this is truly a historic occasion. It is truly the first urban park in our country. I think that anybody who is well informed about environmental issues has to recognize that it's as a result of the commitment of this government to conservation and to connecting Canadians with the environment that we are taking this historic first step. I think also that anyone who is familiar with these issues has to recognize that it will be a work in progress and that the act itself does allow for future expansion, for further land to be devoted to it, and for the management plan yet to be developed and all of those details to be filled in.
For goodness' sake, after so many years of discussion, the suggestion of the Ontario government that at the last minute they should throw a spanner in the works, put a spoke in the wheel, and stop even the framework of this legislation from being enacted is almost beyond belief, quite frankly. It is time to move forward in creating Canada's first national urban park. In fact, I understand that it's one of the largest urban parks in the world, and I think the government can be rightly proud of that.
I understand that one of the issues we face is the fact that there are farmers in this area. I'm sure my colleague Mr. McKay will remember that under the Trudeau Liberals in the 1970s there was in fact a plan to evict farmers from their lands. They were given short-term, one-year leases to farm what I understand is class 1 farmland.
The Liberals endorsed a plan for the Rouge Valley that would completely evict farmers from this class 1 farmland, some of which has been farmed, I'm told, for over 400 years. I would like to hear from you, Minister, about how this bill will support the hard-working farmers that are in this area and how the bill reconciles their interests with that of the first national urban park.
Mr. Chair, the current regional Rouge Park was created in 1995. From 1995 to 2012 it was managed by the Rouge Park Alliance, and the chair was appointed by the Government of Ontario. ln 2010 the alliance commissioned and released a landmark governance report for Rouge Park. I think it's important to understand some of the history.
The alliance by way of its governance report unanimously recommended that Rouge Park become a federally administered park, cared for and managed under the leadership of Parks Canada.
As the minister mentioned, extensive public consultations have taken place since we first became involved in 2011, and we've met with and received feedback from over 150 different stakeholder groups and close to 11,000 Canadians.
ln short, the legislation and the draft management plan that we are consulting on now are the products of the most proactive and broad engagement of Canadians, communities, stakeholders, and different levels of government in the history of our agency, not only of this park.
For the remaining time, Mr. Chair, I wish to address three specific subjects: first, the agreement we negotiated with Ontario, what it is and what it isn't; second, the link between this bill and our proposed policy for the proposed park; third, the subject of conservation.
Recently in the media there has been a debate about obligations contained in the federal-provincial agreement signed between the Province of Ontario and the federal government in 2013 regarding land assembly for Rouge national urban park.
To ensure clarity on this matter, I would like to read a section of that agreement with respect to obligations required from both Ontario and Canada.
Paragraph a) of section 2.09 reads as follows:
a) Parks Canada will work with Ontario to develop written policies in respect of the creation, management, and administration of the Park that meet or exceed provincial policies regarding the Transferred Lands, including the policies set out in the Greenbelt Plan 2005, the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan, the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe 2006 and the Big Move.
Not once is there any mention of legislation in that commitment. The four documents mentioned are all provincial policies. I can assure you that Parks Canada is absolutely fulfilling the Government of Canada's commitment to meet and exceed in areas of protection of nature. Indeed, we have reviewed and incorporated the key elements of these policies into our management plan framework.
First, in our negotiations with the Province of Ontario, the province's lone stated legislative requirement for the Rouge national urban park bill was to include a provision that would allow lands to be returned to the province or other levels of government to help meet the expected future infrastructure and transportation needs of Canada's largest metropolitan area.
Second, as we plan to establish, operate, and manage Rouge national urban park, there are two interrelated but separate components that will provide us with a framework to manage the national urban park: the bill before you and our policy. The legislation provides us with the legal framework required to manage the park. The policy direction is found in the draft management plan and provides us with the long-term direction for the management and operation under the legislative framework.
lt is paramount that individuals not confuse these separate components. You will probably hear from groups during the committee process that will attempt to lump legislation and policy together, and it's important not to be confused or misled by this approach.
Finally, in terms of conservation, you should note that the term “ecological integrity” is not mentioned in the Ontario agreement at all.
Bill provides a strong legal framework under which to manage and operate the park and give the strongest protection in the Rouge's history.
First, the legislation will be applicable to the entirety of the future Rouge national urban park. This will be the first time the Rouge will have one piece of strong legislation governing the whole area as opposed to a patchwork of bylaws and policies that govern the current area.
I would now like to address the question of ecological integrity in Rouge national urban park. Again, this is an issue that has been raised in the media lately, and I wish to set the record straight and fully explain our approach.
The Rouge is truly an incredible place, but it does not exist in a landscape where Parks Canada's internationally acclaimed high standards for ecological integrity are unachievable. Seven million people live in the greater Toronto area, and the Rouge is fragmented by highways, roads, railways, hydro lines, private lands, homes, communities, malls, and infrastructure.
Our own Parks Canada experts have determined that approximately 72% of the current Rouge Park is disturbed, as opposed to an amount of about 2% for Banff National Park, for example, where we also have highways, so to have the same conservation standard between these two parks is unrealistic. However, this does not mean that we are settling for a second-class protected area by applying an ecosystem health approach across the Rouge's natural, cultural, and agricultural landscape. We will achieve the highest conservation and protection standards possible, while being realistic about the Rouge landscape. Our team is committed to maintaining or improving the health of that ecosystem.
We will apply the concept of ecosystem health across the entire park landscape in a way that not only conserves and restores natural and cultural heritage, but also promotes a vibrant farming community. We will end the cycle of one-year leases to provide farmers long-term leases and greater stability. The farmers in turn will commit to improving environmental protection and contributing to the visitor experience, and the cultural experience of the park.
The establishment of the Rouge national urban park is truly a unique opportunity for new, young, and urban Canadians to connect with Canada's incredible network of protected areas, and to be inspired to become stewards of this crown jewel.
Back in 1997, Mr. Duguid was the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing in the Province of Ontario. This was at a time when the Province of Ontario seized 600 acres of class 1 farmland in the area, provided $2 million, evicted farmers from the class 1 farmland, and actually evicted some of those who lived in that area and had lived there for 40 years. The Ontario government evicted them, reforested that 600 acres of land, and called it the Bob Hunter Park, which to this day is still closed. That's what that very same government did in 1997.
Now, in speech after speech in the House of Commons, we are hearing from both opposition parties about this ecological corridor concept that has been advanced by a gentleman by the name of Jim Robb, who, whether or not people would agree, has an extraordinarily poor relationship with farmers in this particular area.
This 1997 seizing of the lands of course builds on what happened 40 years earlier, when the Liberals actually expropriated this land and put them on one-year leases.
Would you agree that the farmers—and I know you've been working closely with them—have reason to be concerned when they hear the name of Jim Robb being associated with a provincial minister who in his press release cites Mr. Robb regarding an ecological corridor from a 1994 report that is no longer accepted by even the Rouge Park Alliance, to which some of the members of the opposition belonged? Nobody accepts that report. Would you agree that the farmers have reason to be concerned that a minimum of 1,700 acres of their land would have to be taken out of production? These are Mr. Robb's own words—and you can't actually do that without evicting farmers. Would you agree that's one reason that the farmers are so worried about this provincial government's lack of desire to transfer the lands?
Thank you all, and thank you, Mr. Latourelle, for your opening remarks. I found them very useful in explaining and laying some things out for us.
I do understand the difference between legislation and a management plan. That's part of my problem, that I do understand the difference. I also know that ministers come and go, so I'm reluctant to rest a lot on the management plan, because it can be redrafted quite easily. I tend toward wanting to enshrine certain principles in legislation.
I do understand that the MOU doesn't mention ecological integrity. None of these other conversations mention ecological integrity, but the National Parks Act does, and that's the problem for me. The National Parks Act talks about maintaining ecological integrity, and then we have a new bill with a different—I'm not going to say “lesser” right now—definition. As I said to the minister, I get that maybe we need a different understanding of our level of protection for an urban park, but I don't quite understand how this is different from a town in Banff, how this is different from a highway in Cape Breton highlands.
Yes, the proportion is different. You mentioned the percentage in Rouge Park. But when you're creating a highway, when you're maintaining a highway, you still have this principle of maintaining ecological integrity.
I'm still not with you here. Can you help me get this?
I think that is the starting point.
The second part of it is that when you look at Banff, as an example, you have close to 6,000 square kilometres of land adjoining Jasper National Park and another 10,000 square kilometres. You can have highways, but when you look at a place that's 16,000 square kilometres, we have been successful in maintaining the ecological integrity of that place based on the definition that's currently in the National Parks Act. It's not achievable here.
The other part of it is that people are asking why we need a definition. I think clause 6 is self-evident. It says the following:
The Minister must, in the management of the Park, take into consideration the protection of its natural ecosystems and cultural landscapes and the maintenance of its native wildlife and of the health of those ecosystems.
It is pretty self-evident, and it's not uncommon; for example, in 2002 the National Marine Conservation Areas Act, which we're responsible for, came into force, and it has no definition either.
From our perspective, that plus all of the other clauses in the bill, including, for example, the clause related to the management plan that guides what will be included in the management plan in terms of protection, I think will achieve the conservation outcomes that we want to achieve, because we are also governed by the Parks Canada Agency Act, and there are other aspects, such as the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and also the Species at Risk Act. Therefore, it's not a piece of legislation in isolation from all of the other pieces.
I just want to go back; I misspoke before when I said it was 1997 and former minister Duguid. It was minister Duguid in 2007. Actually in 1997 it was under the Mike Harris government when thousands of acres of land were transferred to the Rouge Park to be protected, and it was in 2007 that the Ontario Liberals then took away that farmland to reforest it.
There is an article from June 21, 2010. Kelly Hatton, who had lived on that land for 32 years, was evicted. Her farmland was taken away and reforested, after having been assured that this would never happen. The quote from the Ontario government representative at the time was, “Nothing stays the same [...] things change”.
This is why our farmers in this area are extraordinarily worried. They hear the Ontario government all of a sudden starting to talk about ecological integrity, and they hear parties opposite cite Jim Robb, who was paid by the Rouge Park to plant trees in the Rouge under contract to the Rouge Park Alliance. When they hear him being cited as an individual, a reason why the Ontario government is not moving forward with the transfer of this land, this is why farmers tend to get worried.
Now I want to go back to this. In many speeches during this debate, people talked about the ecological corridor, the 600-metre corridor. That came up in speech after speech. In questioning, I was told it doesn't mean you have to evict farmers. That is perhaps true and perhaps it's not. The number that I was given from Jim Robb was that a minimum of 1,700 acres of class 1 farmland would be reforested.
When I spoke with my farmers in the area, they told me that it can't be done without evicting them. I spoke to, and you mentioned, Paul Reesor. He said it can't be done. That's why they support what you have done. It's probably the first time in 40 years that the York Region Federation of Agriculture has supported a government initiative in this area. It's the first time in 40 years that the Cedar Grove Community Association—since they were kicked off of their land, and their land has been expropriated by the Liberals in the past—has supported an initiative.
You know that I was opposed to the creation of the Rouge national urban park. The reason I was opposed to it was that I did not trust government when it came to working with my farmers.
Alan, we have had a lot of very difficult conversations in the lead-up to this. I have now come on side with the work you've done, based on what my farmers, the Cedar Grove Community Association, and the City of Markham have told me. There is a complete reversal in people's attitudes on this.
We have one of the most successful farm markets in that area, something called Whittamore's Farm. Thousands of people across the GTA visit Whittamore's Farm. He's going to be here. He's convinced that if an ecological corridor forms part of this, he will have to close, putting hundreds of people out of work.
This is why farmers are anxious.
Again, I want to get it on the record. How do you create this ecological corridor that has been supported by the members opposite in many speeches, without evicting farmers, and without taking a minimum, I'll say 1,700 acres; you said 2,000 acres? How can you do that? In your negotiations with farmers, is there any way that you think that could be done?
You seem to be comfortable. They don't seem to be quite so comfortable. But we'll put that aside for the time being.
I want to address this false food fight with farmers. I had the privilege a couple of weeks ago of spending a day up with the farmers. I met with a whole bunch of them, including Paul Reesor, who was quoted by the minister. I spent the whole day with Paul. Since I have a farm background, I know quite well that farmers are probably some of the foremost, if not the foremost, stewards of land resources. They have a lot of great ideas which I think could quite easily be integrated.
What I keep circling back to is that if there's no legislated definition, if you're not actually prepared to deposit the plan based upon the definition here, they are as much in the dark as the rest of us. You might turn out to be eco-freaks for all I know, and poor Mr. Calandra's worst nightmares might come true that the whole place would be re-naturalized. I don't think that's ever going to happen. Nevertheless, it seems to me, for the purposes of comfort for ecologists and farmers alike, that a little precision in a definition wouldn't be amiss.
Thank you, Mr. Chair and the clerk.
With respect to farming, Mr. Calandra mentioned Whittamore's Farm. I go there all the time, because it's just north of where I live. By no means do I want to kick farmers off of their lands where they live and they farm.
The minister mentioned that sustainable farming will be developed in the area. Mr. Latourelle, in your remarks you also mentioned that we'll end the cycles of one-year leases and go to four-year leases. In turn the farmers will commit to improving environmental protections, contribute to the visitor experience...and the rest of your sentence there.
My question is, what does that mean? Does that mean that cash cropping will stop in these farmlands? Does that mean that pesticides will not be used anymore? What does that mean? I'd like to see a change towards sustainable organic farming in the community, because it's also affecting the groundwater tables.
I'm just asking you, what does that mean?
Thank you all for coming. I appreciate that. I'm happy the member for Scarborough—Guildwood spent the day with the farmers in the area. These are the same farmers who have been farming the land for 200 years, but he spent a day there so he has become professional on what they like. I thank him for spending that one day.
Speaking of friends of the Rouge, let's talk about Friends of the Rouge. The member for Scarborough—Guildwood, I believe the member for Scarborough Southwest, the member for Markham—Unionville, and the member for Etobicoke North submitted petitions from the Friends of the Rouge to the House. As we know the Friends of the Rouge plant thousands of trees in the park each year. They said that this plan ignores the ecological vision and policies of the former cooperatively run Rouge Park including a 600-metre wide forested main ecological corridor.
The Liberal member for Scarborough—Guildwood and two other Liberal members of Parliament and the member for Scarborough Southwest submitted petitions to Parliament calling for this 600-metre corridor to be enacted. We've heard that will take thousands of acres of class 1 farmland out of production. We know that will mean the eviction of farmers despite the fact they are trying to now back up and say that no, they don't want to evict farmers. We know that's what the result of that will be. I would suggest to you that's why farmers don't actually trust what they are saying. This is why farmers don't trust what the provincial government is doing, because the other parties to this in our House of Commons actually support and have submitted petitions to that end.
That's more of a comment than a question.
Is there mining in the park? I want to ask this. Is there actually any mining in the park?