I'd like to call our meeting to order.
This is meeting 34 of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. We are continuing today with our study of Bill an act respecting the Rouge national urban park.
We are pleased to have witnesses from the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, the Waterfront Regeneration Trust Corporation, and the York Region Federation of Agriculture.
Mr. Éric Hébert-Daly, national executive director, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, will speak first for seven minutes, and then we'll follow with Pauline Browes and Kim Empringham.
With the number of witnesses we have today, we'll try to leave some time for questions and answers.
We will proceed with Mr. Hébert-Daly, for the first seven minutes.
Good afternoon, and thank you for the opportunity to share with the committee our recommendations and thoughts on Bill , an act respecting the Rouge national urban park.
My name is Éric Hébert-Daly. I'm the national executive director of CPAWS. Since our creation about 50 years ago, CPAWS has played a key role in the establishment of about two-thirds of Canada’s protected areas. We have 13 regional chapters across the country in nearly every province and territory, including the CPAWS wildlands league chapter in Toronto, as well as a national office here in Ottawa. We have over 60,000 supporters across the country, and we work collaboratively with governments, industry, first nations, and others to conserve Canada’s natural heritage.
Over the last five years we've welcomed the arrival of new federal park initiatives, including the sixfold expansion of Nahanni National Park Reserve in 2009, and the creation of Gwaii Haanas national marine conservation area in B.C., in 2010.
We're here to discuss a different kind of park, the creation of Canada’s first national urban park in the greater Toronto area. CPAWS has been quite excited about and has supported this idea from its very inception. We see it as a remarkable opportunity for us to protect a very special natural valley in Canada’s biggest urban area, and at the same time to engage and connect people with nature.
Let me also be clear that CPAWS has recognized from the very beginning that farming is and will continue to be an important aspect of this park. We believe that farming can contribute to nature conservation at the same time that nature conservation can contribute to farming. We as conservationists actually share a very common interest with farmers, that of keeping urban development and urban sprawl from these lands. We often remark that the opportunity to create this national urban park is in part due to the farmers who themselves have kept urban development at bay, and the local grassroots groups who have been championing the Rouge for decades. In fact, we make no suggested changes to the aspects of agriculture within the bill.
In recent weeks we have listened with great interest to the debates about the appropriate management framework for the Rouge: should it be ecological integrity or ecosystem health? While we think there are valid arguments being made for both, CPAWS believes there is a more fundamental issue that needs to be addressed in the legislation, which is that nature conservation be clearly identified as the overarching priority for managing the park. This gets to the very essence of what a park is. Without it, we don't really have a park; we may have something else. We may have a multi-use zone or we may have other types of reserves.
However, prioritizing nature conservation is both consistent with international standards for protected areas and with existing federal and Ontario provincial legislation for parks and protected areas. It should, and it can, be reflected in the Rouge legislation as well, yet it is absent from the current bill, which only requires that the minister take into consideration nature and wildlife in managing the park.
For several years, Parks Canada has expressed a preference for managing the Rouge national urban park under an ecosystem health framework, rather than an ecological integrity framework, to distinguish national urban parks from other national parks. In the spirit of being solutions oriented, we have developed constructive recommendations over that period of time that focus on maximizing ecosystem health.
We are recommending that the legislation be amended to clearly identify maximizing ecosystem health to the greatest degree possible, which is a very important condition as part of the the overarching management goal for the Rouge. We also recommend that a robust definition for maximizing ecosystem health be embedded in the legislation.
Our recommendations would mean that language in the bill would meet international and Canadian standards for protected areas. They would provide park managers with stronger tools to protect the park’s existing natural values and improve the health of its ecosystems as much as possible, particularly given its urban and agricultural context. It would make Parks Canada accountable for improving the health of the ecosystem over time, while not giving the impression that they must achieve an end point of full ecological integrity.
Moreover, our recommendation would provide a clear mandate and incentive for Parks Canada to work collaboratively with farmers to identify strategies that would be good for nature and for farmers in the long run.
We have also identified a few areas where the legislation needs strengthening. On the management planning side, we see requirements for setting ecological objectives and indicators, as well as provisions for ecological monitoring and reporting that are needed in clause 9.
A state of the parks report should be required to be presented to Parliament every five years, as is the case with other national parks, so parliamentarians and the public can track how well Parks Canada is meeting its objectives over time.
Related to public infrastructure, clauses 12 and 16 need to be bolstered with stringent criteria to guide decision-making prior to the clearing of land or disposal of land in the park for infrastructure purposes. For example, we suggest that decision-makers be required to consider reasonable alternatives and to ensure that lowest cost is not the sole justification for infrastructure proposals that might harm the park.
Finally, I'd like to acknowledge parts of the bill that we support and would like to see remain in an amended bill. We support the list of prohibitions currently in the bill. We support the fixed limit of a maximum of 200 hectares that can be removed from the park for infrastructure. This is critically important to avoid the park being nibbled away at over time.
CPAWS urges committee members to work together to strengthen the bill to ensure that the Rouge national urban park effectively protects this natural treasure in the long term, while also supporting a healthy and vibrant farming community and encouraging people to connect with nature.
We've prepared several specific amendments that we will provide to all members of the committee in the upcoming days.
I thank you for the opportunity to share our recommendations. I'd be pleased to answer any questions you may have.
Thank you very much. It's a pleasure to be back on Parliament Hill.
I'm happy to see colleagues from the Scarborough area. It's a pleasure to be at this particular committee meeting as we discuss the Rouge national urban park.
I'd briefly like to share with you some of the background of the 30 years that I've been involved with the Rouge.
In the early 1980s action was brewing to save the Rouge Valley. The community was restless and enthused, and crowds of people jammed into the municipal council chambers wanting action and official zoning bylaws to preserve the Rouge. Much of the land was in public ownership by the province, since it had been land-banked for a green space between the proposed Pickering airport and the urban area of Toronto; however, there was a great threat of subdivisions, garbage dumps, and high-rise apartments in the Rouge.
I was the federal member of Parliament representing Scarborough Centre at the time, and representatives of the organization to save the Rouge, Glenn De Baeremaeker, Jim Robb, Ron Moeser, Cathy Gregorio, came to my constituency office to seek help on how they could save the Rouge. This is a magnificent wilderness area with breathtaking vistas of the banks of the Rouge and Little Rouge rivers, heritage and cultural areas, significant flora and fauna, and white-tailed deer running free throughout the area. It will be just a short distance from the largest urban area of Canada. Yes, indeed, it needed to be protected and preserved.
The task was to find a way. The Minister of the Environment at the time, in 1987, was the Honourable Tom McMillan, and I was his parliamentary secretary. The minister had commissioned a study concerning Parks Canada, and from that study came a recommendation stating that there may be important geographical areas in Canada that should be preserved that don't necessarily fit into the criteria of the national park designation. Yes, that was all we needed. The Rouge fit perfectly into that criteria.
There was a great need for finances to protect the Rouge. With many meetings and interventions, Minister McMillan in 1988 announced on behalf of the Mulroney government that $10 million would be provided to protect and preserve the Rouge as a park.
In 1990, as the first item of business in the House of Commons for that calendar year, I had the opportunity to present a private member's motion, seconded by my Liberal colleague Derek Lee, to have the Rouge designated as a park. The motion passed unanimously in the House of Commons. That was another step in the right direction.
At the same time, the Honourable David Crombie published in his royal commission report on the Toronto waterfront that the Rouge should be protected and established as a park. This was a major boost for the initiative. What followed is that the Province of Ontario took action and appointed an advisory group to consider this.
Later, David Crombie formulated the governance structure, which was the Rouge Park Alliance, with representatives from all the municipalities in the Rouge watershed, the Rouge Valley organization, the TRCA, the Toronto Zoo, and the federal and provincial governments. That $10 million was transferred to the royal commission, and later to the Waterfront Regeneration Trust, of which I am a member. That's where the finances have been for the park.
The interest on that federal financial contribution has been about $450,000 annually. That's been the main source of funds for the Rouge park during the Rouge Park Alliance's term. I might state that out of that $450,000, about $100,000 was given to Jim Robb of Friends of the Rouge Watershed every year.
Significant work has been accomplished. Thousands of trees and wildflowers have been planted, wetlands created, marshes and endangered species protected, and farmland, the trail system, just to name a few things. Meanwhile the province under every political party in a non-partisan way designated more and more land to enlarge the park. David Peterson, Bob Rae, Mike Harris, Dalton McGuinty: they all helped to create what we have as the park.
Over the years the Rouge Park Alliance has discussed how to get different governance and more money, finances, to protect this park. We reviewed all the options. Should it be a provincial park? Should it be a municipal park? Should it be a conservation park? Should it be a national park?
All the criteria...after all the deliberations, looking at all the policies, it was stated that the Rouge should be a national park, which would provide the largest, greatest, and highest protection for the park to stretch from Lake Ontario to the Oak Ridges Moraine.
Every municipality in the Rouge watershed passed a motion endorsing the proposal, as well as the TRCA, to urge the federal government to establish a national park. The Government of Ontario publicly and enthusiastically supported that recommendation. The community supported the recommendation. The information was forwarded to the federal government, and with the assistance of the , who was a representative of the Rouge Park Alliance, and under the watch of the and the late Honourable Jim Flaherty, the Rouge national urban park was included in the Speech from the Throne and subsequently allocated the extensive financial resources and the budget, which was absolutely thrilling. The agreement has been signed with the provincial government to transfer those publicly owned lands to Parks Canada.
This legislation is before you. Parks Canada, a heralded organization of experience and very competent individuals, has been assigned the responsibility of the permanent protection and preservation of the natural, cultural, and agricultural aspects of the Rouge national urban park. In particular I would like you to look at clauses 4 and 6. I have read the debates that each of you have made in the House of Commons and I am impressed by what you have been saying, but the language of these two clauses is clear and self-explanatory. These clauses will allow the minister to make the decisions based on the identified purposes for which the park is being created and the factors which must be taken into consideration. Pitting the elements against each other by putting one as a priority, as my friend has mentioned, would really create conflict. I would ask you to consider the natural, cultural, and agricultural aspects, and I mean the cultural aspects with the aboriginal issues and the archaeological issues. When I was a member we did some archaeological digs in the park and we found a 17th century French coin. There's a lot of cultural heritage within this park.
I appreciate being here. You are participating in some historical work in the creation of Canada's first national urban park. I invite you to visit the national park and I urge you to proceed with the passage of this legislation.
I'd like to thank you on behalf of the York Region Federation of Agriculture for giving me the opportunity to speak to you on behalf of its 700 farmer members in the region, including those farming in the proposed Rouge national urban park. We represent the farmers in the region on issues affecting their farms, as well as decisions that will affect them in the future.
The York Region Federation of Agriculture supports Parks Canada's consultation process that engaged over 150 stakeholder groups and thousands of individuals to create the Rouge national urban park. We support the integrated approach balancing natural heritage, sustainable farming, cultural heritage, and visitor experience found in both Bill and the draft management plan. We have confidence that Parks Canada will improve the ecological health of the park while maintaining the farmland in production.
Two of the guiding principles for the Rouge national urban park are to maintain and improve ecological health and scientific integrity, and to respect and support sustainable agriculture and other compatible land uses.
The draft management plan states:
The protection, conservation, and restoration of the park's natural, cultural and agricultural resources are integral to all decision-making related to park management.
The farmland in the Rouge national urban park, approximately 7,500 acres, is class 1 agricultural land, meaning it's the best land for agricultural production. Less than 1% of Canada's farmland is class 1. The farmers in the park have already given up 1,000 acres of productive farmland in the park to reforestation projects, completed by the previous Rouge Park.
With the world population expected to increase from seven billion to nine billion by 2050, there will continue to be a growing need to protect farmland resources and support production to meet local and global food needs.
Farmland should be protected for its highest and best use: for agriculture and food production. Any tree planting and habitat restoration should be encouraged in areas where farming is not feasible, such as slopes, riparian areas, wet areas, etc., or hedgerows between the fields. Farmers support the protection of natural areas, but it is important that natural heritage restoration doesn't unnecessarily encroach on productive farmlands.
The farmers in the park use environmental farm plans incorporating best-management practices as part of their ongoing stewardship of the farmland they have been taking care of for generations.
Farmland produces food production, carbon sequestration, climate regulation, improved air quality, wildlife habitat, hydrological functions, groundwater recharge, and buffering protection to natural heritage features.
Whether we are talking about the 51,000 farms across the province of Ontario, the 800 farms in York region, or the 40 farmers in the Rouge national urban park, we're talking about farm families, not industrial corporations. Some 98% of the farms in Canada are family owned and operated. They're handed down from generation to generation, but we must remember, these farm families are agricultural businesses.
The agrifood sector is the second biggest economic driver in the province. We have an important job to do, feeding our neighbours, whether they are in Markham or Toronto, across the province, or around the world. Our business is agriculture, but our heart lies with our family and our land.
For the farms to be environmentally and economically sustainable in the park, it will be important to ensure that farmers will not have unnecessary regulations or restrictions placed on them. They cannot be put at a competitive disadvantage compared with other farms across the province.
The farming community in the Rouge national urban park are the same farm families who have been caring for the land and growing food for the people of Ontario for the past 200 years.
The future of the farms in the park has been in limbo since the farms were expropriated in the 1970s. The farmers who decided to stay on their family farms after they were expropriated had to farm with one-year leases and no certainty in their future or the ability to make capital improvements on farms which they could be evicted from at any time.
Farmers in the park are not getting rich on the backs of Ontarians. They are paying $20 to $30 more an acre to lease farmland compared to farmers outside of the park on private land.
The infrastructure on the farms in the park has had no substantial improvement made to it over the past 40 years because of the one-year leases and uncertain future. The long-term leases outlined in the draft management plan will allow farmers to invest in their farms for the future in the park.
Farmers in the Rouge national urban park produce 46 different crops. Some of these crops are sold fresh to the consumer while others require some sort of processing before being consumed.
There have been some who question the value of growing corn on public lands, believing that it is not local food and that there's lots of corn being grown across the province. Of the 280 million bushels of corn produced in Ontario this year, 190 million bushels go to human and animal feed, and 135 million bushels go to ethanol production to fulfill the government requirement to substitute 10% ethanol into gasoline. There will be a 62% net reduction in greenhouse gas emissions on a per-litre basis when ethanol is used in gasoline instead of the equivalent petroleum products, but we don't produce enough corn to fulfill our needs. We have to import corn in 2014 and 2015 to supply this important environmental initiative.
I would like to reiterate that the farmland in the park needs to be preserved so that future generations of farmers can produce food, fibre, and fuel for their surrounding neighbours.
I would like to thank you again for the opportunity to speak to you today.
Thank you all not only for appearing here today but for the years and years of work you've put into this. It's not an easy bill, and it's not an easy park to create, so I applaud the work you've been doing behind the scenes for years. Hopefully, we'll get a good piece of legislation out of this and a fantastic urban park.
I know you've all followed the speeches that were made in the House, so you know where everybody stands and you know what the major concerns are.
Ms. Empringham, I want to ask CPAWS a question, but then come back to you for comment. It's around this idea of farmland.
Mr. Calandra has rightly brought up the example of Bob Hunter Memorial Park, where the restoration was seen as renaturalization. There is a fear about what restoration is. I can believe that it doesn't include renaturalization, but just because I believe it...it's not spelled out in the legislation.
Mr. Hébert-Daly, you said something about having a clearer mandate in the legislation to work with the farmers. I've been thinking a lot about how we could spell that piece out. I've written down some ideas saying something along the lines of acknowledging to the greatest degree possible the park's agricultural and urban context, or where possible acknowledging that you need to work with farmers and acknowledging that there is a highway and there are farms.
I want to pass it to CPAWS first, and then get a response about where we can go with that. I like this idea.
I'll hand it over to you.
So members are on the same page.
There has been a lot of talk about how often people come back and say that farmers have nothing to worry about: you'll never have anything to worry about; everything will be perfectly fine, and the sins of the past will not happen again.
In the letter I have, Minister Duguid referenced these three organizations: Environmental Defence, Ontario Nature, and Friends of the Rouge Watershed. Point number one says' “incorporate, strengthen and implement the vision, goal and objectives of approved Rouge Park Plans 1994 and 2001”.
I'm going to read something.
The 1994 Rouge park plan says, “Part of protecting cultural heritage values in the park involves the continuation of active farming”. That sounds good so far. It goes on to say, “since all activities must dwell within the framework of park goal and objectives, with the highest priority being the protection and restoration of the park's natural heritage, some reduction of farm land base is recommended to permit natural restoration goals to be met”.
That's in the 1994 plan, which is referenced by these three groups, which are constantly being talked about. It's referenced by Minister Duguid.
Is this part of the fear that farmers might have with respect to reduction in farmland? Am I correct?
Those millions of other people eat just about every day. But as for the industrial comments, some people believe that because the tractors are bigger, because the equipment is bigger, because of economies of scale, this has meant that we farm...as in a lot of other things in the world today, it's bigger. We need to farm, for some crops, larger acreage to be able to pay for the crop inputs and the equipment to be able to make a profit.
Looking at the equipment for instance, bigger is actually better in many cases, because, as far as conservation goes especially, one of the issues with the smaller tractors, the smaller wheels, the weight of that tractor is placed in a very small area. If it's bigger, tires spread out more and there's less compaction, which is a lot healthier for the soil.
I want to ask you another thing if I can.
The Liberal member of Parliament for Trinity—Spadina, , said:
Could the member explain to me if he knows of any plan by anybody to evict any farmer on the land in question?
I read the Rouge Park 1994 management plan which clearly says that they want to reduce farming land. You probably knew people who were impacted by the Bob Hunter decision.
Ms. Kim Empringham: Yes.
Mr. Paul Calandra: In that decision, farmers were told a Rouge Park would have no impact. They later came back to you and said, “Nothing stays the same”, and that's why farmers were being evicted.
Are you not somehow afraid that nothing will stay the same, yet again, unless you're specifically protected as this legislation does?
Thank you to each one of you for your contribution here.
I want to tone down the false food fight a bit and see whether we can arrive at some sort of reasonable understanding among both sides of what I consider to be essentially a false debate. I think the farmers by and large need to stand up and say that they are some of the world's foremost ecologists. I think what I heard the ecologists say and the environmentalists say is they actually recognize that farmers are among the world's foremost ecologists. This is my judgment of a largely false food fight, which is getting us nowhere.
The big issue as I see it is in clause 6. The big issue here is that the minister is saying in effect that all she needs to do is “take into consideration”, and there are a couple of other things, “protection of its natural ecosystems and cultural landscapes”, etc. There's the contrast between that and what a normal park bill looks like in the ecological integrity clause, which would say that the minister shall establish within five years a set of ecological integrity objectives and indicators, provision for resource protection and restoration, zoning, visitor use, public awareness, and performance evaluation, which will be tabled in the House.
I would have thought that a clause such as that would be of as much interest to the farmers as it would be to the ecologists. If I'm a farmer and I want some stability of land tenure, some guidance on how I manage watercourses, land, etc., all of the things that you outline, Ms. Empringham, it seems to me that I would want to know that no minister could unilaterally deal with zoning, could make visitor use wide open, or public awareness, have any impact on my use and enjoyment of the land. If we're not going to get that clause, and the government has made it abundantly clear we're not going to get that clause, what is it that would give some comfort to the ecologists and some comfort to the farmers that they're both on the same page so that they know and everybody knows what the framework is as this management plan is worked out?
I would direct this first to Mr. Hébert-Daly, and then to you, Ms. Empringham.
Good afternoon, members of the committee. I'd like to thank you for this opportunity to share with you our recommendations on Bill .
As mentioned, I'm speaking on behalf of Ontario Nature and Environmental Defence. My name is Caroline Schultz and I'm the executive director of Ontario Nature.
Ontario Nature is a charitable organization that works to protect wild species and wild spaces through conservation, education, and public engagement. We represent over 30,000 members and supporters, and 154 member groups across the province of Ontario.
Since our organization was founded as the Federation of Ontario Naturalists in 1931, Ontario Nature has been the voice for nature throughout the province, protecting and restoring natural habitats while connecting thousands of individuals and communities with nature. Over our 84-year history, Ontario Nature has played an instrumental role in establishing most of the province's protected areas.
Ontario Nature and Environmental Defence supports the creation of Rouge national urban park. The park has great potential to protect biodiversity while protecting healthy local food production and connecting urban dwellers in the most heavily populated region of Canada to the national park system.
However, if Rouge national urban park is to realize its full potential, we believe that Bill must be amended to clearly prioritize ecological integrity.
Here are specific recommendations:
First, we are asking that there be a requirement that ecological integrity be the first priority of the minister in park management. Bill affords significantly weaker protection to the natural environment than either the Canada National Parks Act or Ontario's Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act. In both of these statutes, ecological integrity must be the first priority of the minister in making management decisions about the park.
In contrast, Bill omits any mention of ecological integrity, a concept that is integral to the very purpose of the other two laws, nor does it require the park to be managed to protect wildlife and natural ecosystems. Rather, it leaves this critical element of park management up to the discretion of the minister. In other words, the minister need only take protection of natural ecosystems into consideration in managing the park.
Clause 6 should be amended to require and ensure that the protection of the natural environment is prioritized in park management.
On a second point, we believe that the schedule needs to be revised to include in the park approximately 48 square kilometres of publicly owned lands that are under federal jurisdiction. The Rouge Valley connects Lake Ontario and the Oak Ridges Moraine. The lands described in the schedule, however, will not protect this important ecological corridor. There is a wall of urban development around the town of Stouffville that effectively cuts off the Oak Ridges Moraine from Lake Ontario.
The schedule excludes about 48 kilometres of publicly owned federal lands that are currently available immediately adjacent to the proposed park. By including these adjacent lands in the park, the critically important ecological corridor between Lake Ontario and the Oak Ridges Moraine would be secured once provincial lands are transferred. The park would almost double in size, making it far more likely that biodiversity and ecosystem services will be conserved.
On a third point, we believe that the management plan requirements need to be strengthened by explicitly including details about ecological objectives, indicators, monitoring, and reporting. Clause 9 of Bill sets out details about what must be included in a park management plan, but it lacks in particulars regarding ecological elements to be included. We recommend that subclause 9(1) be amended to require that the management plan include ecological integrity objectives and indicators, provisions for ecological monitoring and reporting, and performance evaluation.
With respect to evaluation, we also recommend that a state of the park report be tabled in the House of Parliament every five years.
From a science perspective, size and landscape connectivity are vital considerations in designing protected areas. We therefore recommend that these adjacent federal lands be included in the schedule.
As point four, we recommend that there be provisions added to ensure that potential adverse ecological impacts are duly considered when decisions are made regarding infrastructure installation or maintenance.
Clause 12 sets out the powers of the park superintendent regarding clearing of land for infrastructure installation or maintenance, and clause 16 sets out the right to dispose of lands within the park for the purpose of installing or maintaining infrastructure. Such activities have the potential to adversely affect wildlife, ecosystems, and ecological integrity. To ensure that these issues are adequately considered and addressed, we propose that each of these clauses be revised to include requirements to consider reasonable alternatives and to minimize and where possible avoid environmental impacts.
Also, please note that we support the 200 hectare limit for transfers, as currently stated in the bill.
Our point number five is to strengthen the preamble. We recommend amending the preamble of the bill so that it first of all, explicitly includes the restoration of natural heritage, and second, avoids the vague and undefined term “diverse landscapes”. We believe that Rouge urban national park offers an exceptional opportunity to protect and celebrate nature and our agricultural heritage. Both nature and farming are specifically mentioned in clause 4, and “diverse landscapes” detracts from this clarity of purpose.
I'd like to thank you for your time and the opportunity to share Ontario Nature's and Environmental Defence Canada's recommendations with you. I'd be happy to answer any questions you might have.
Members of the committee, thank you for allowing me the opportunity to speak to you today about the importance of agriculture in the Rouge national urban park.
“The farmers in the Rouge operate industrial factory farms intensively producing monoculture corn and they pollute the Rouge River with runoff containing pesticides and phosphorus.” There is absolutely no validity behind these statements. They do, however, characterize the adjectives, thoughts, and ideas about agriculture in the Rouge park that were exchanged in this Parliament during debate at second reading of Bill .
I read all the transcripts. The agricultural community, my agricultural community, is disgusted, angry, but mostly sad that some people think so little of us.
This has been 20 years in the making. It started after the creation of the park in 1994. Through all the consultation over 20 years, the thoughts and the concerns of the agriculture community were ignored. We were told that we were just tenants with a conflict of interest. This characterization of agriculture took on a life of its own and some environmentalists fanned the flames.
There have been countless reports and editorials in the Toronto media over the last 20 years using the same adjectives, thoughts, and ideas. This was done to justify the reforestation of large tracts of productive agricultural land to create a sustainable Carolinian and mixed forest habitat which links Lake Ontario to the Oak Ridges Moraine.
Jim Robb, executive director of Friends of the Rouge Watershed, confirmed at a meeting in September with the provincial minister of infrastructure that it would take another 1,700 acres of class 1 farmland to be reforested to meet the goals and objectives of the Rouge north management plan. This is in addition to the thousand acres of prime farmland that have already been reforested in the past several years.
That's twenty-seven hundred acres, enough land to feed over 75,000 people in perpetuity, and this is just the beginning. Planting trees on productive agricultural land is wrong. It uses up a scarce resource that helps to provide the food, fibre, and security, particularly food security, for the seven million people that live within one hour of the park.
Reaching the ecosystem health objectives of the Rouge national urban park can be achieved in many ways, not just by planting trees. Agriculture can and should be part of the integrated solution to reaching that goal.
I produce fruits and vegetables on my farm. In the 30 years that I've been farming, we have adopted many new and innovative methods for producing crops while reducing our ecological footprint. These management tools include drip irrigation, minimum tillage, integrated pest management, no till planting, plant zone fertilization, and many others. We also continue to use management tools that have existed over the millennia, including tile drainage, windbreaks, and extensive crop rotation.
Today's agriculture not only provides the food and fibre for a growing urban population, it also provides a host of other benefits. Some examples are carbon sequestering, improved hydrologic function, improved air quality, pollinator species habitat, and finally, food and habitat for many forms of wildlife.
Bill and the Rouge national urban park draft management plan clearly acknowledge the importance of agriculture in the Rouge. This plan demonstrates that agriculture, culture, and nature are all equally important contributors to a vibrant education-centric urban park. Agriculture can and will play an important role in reaching the goals and objectives of the Rouge national urban park.
The farmers in the Rouge operate family farms and efficiently produce food and fibre using best management practices that protect and enhance the Rouge ecosystem.
These statements are the truth about who we are, what we do, and what we have done for generations. We are proud of our industry and we ask that all members of Parliament seek the truth and stop depending on others to formulate their opinions about agriculture in the Rouge national urban park.
I leave you with this closing thought: whether you build a house, pave a parking lot, or plant a tree, the results will be the same on class 1 agricultural land.
Thank you both for coming.
I'm looking forward to asking Jim Robb where he stores his horns.
I've known Jim for years, and there's a certain resplendent irony here, Mr. Whittamore, because without Mr. Robb and all his colleagues over the last 30 years—including Ms. Browes, Mr. Lee, and so on; a huge panoply of people and none of us are here—the pressure on any government to sell your land and everybody else's would be enormous. You are locked in this dance of the dialectic, which is somewhat interesting to observe from afar.
To my mind, the issue is how to address the concerns of the farmers inside a park because operating a farm inside a park is, by definition, going to be different. Ms. Schultz, can you see any objection to longer-term leases for the farmers?
Anything that's really said: water management and tile drainage; when we had a farm we drained our place, and it's a costly exercise and you'd better know that you own it and you want to get it back over a number of years. I don't see any objection to that. Pest management; sometimes there is a contradiction between renaturalization pest management and what farmers need. Again, I don't know if that's a huge reason not to address it.
I guess where I'm going here is to address the concerns of both of you, so both of you get the protection you think you need
. I was just reading clause 6, and if I'm a farmer I'm thinking that maybe that's not as sufficient protection as I would think I would like. It says, “The Minister must, in the management of the Park, take into consideration the protection of its natural ecosystems”—that may or may not be farms—“cultural landscapes”—I don't know; is a cultural landscape that standard auto wrecker down the street from you? I don't think that would qualify—“maintenance of its native wildlife and of the health of those ecosystems”. Other than clause 4, which talks about “vibrant farming community”, I don't see that the minister has to take into consideration the issue of operating farms.
The question becomes how to draft a clause that addresses both of your concerns. Are there any thoughts from either one of you?