Thank you very much and good morning. Thank you for the opportunity to present my ideas on built heritage in Canada.
My contribution is based on my experience as Parks Canada's director general of national historic sites from 1986 to 2005, so almost 20 years. During that time, I worked on a comprehensive heritage conservation program for historic places in Canada. Since then, I've deepened my understanding through the research I do at the University of Montreal.
I'd like to open by making two points.
The first is that heritage properties in Canada are recognized by various levels of government, and they include national historic sites, federal heritage buildings, provincial historic sites, and municipal historic sites. In other words, there are lots of levels of designation.
The second point is that the number of heritage properties needing care absolutely exceeds the possibility of governments themselves looking after them all. I would argue that stewardship for most heritage places, historic sites, is carried out by individuals, corporations, institutions, and not-for-profit organizations. That's not to say that government doesn't have a role. Indeed, collectively governments have important leadership, legal, and stewardship roles to play in protecting and conserving heritage properties in Canada.
What prompted this comprehensive heritage study in the last couple of decades was the loss and deterioration of so many heritage places. It's not new for Canada. I just remind you that in 1951 the Massey-Lévesque commission concluded that, our history is “written on the...surface of the land, but this history is threatened every day with obliteration.” That was in 1951.
An internal research report from the 1990s demonstrated the loss of 21% of the buildings that had been recorded 30 years earlier in the Canadian inventory of historic buildings, where I started my career. In other words, 21% of our heritage places were gone—not modified, but gone—in one generation. Then the Auditor General's 2003 report corroborated this by noting that 20% of all built cultural resources at national historic sites and national parks were in poor condition, and that 66% of all federal heritage buildings were in fair to poor condition. This pattern hasn't changed.
You will all have seen the Auditor General's report this year on the National Capital Commission, which reported that over 25% of their assets, many of them heritage assets, are in fair, poor, or critical condition.
What can the federal government do? To improve the preservation and protection of heritage places, government needs to support Canadians in their stewardship role, and it also needs to put its own house in order. In the first place, we need to know which properties have heritage value, how they will be conserved, and whether the conservation treatments have been effective in preserving the heritage values.
Significant achievements have been made towards these goals in the last two decades. Through a pan-Canadian collaboration, a single information source has been established to capture all historic places, all the designations, recognized for their heritage value at all the different levels. This single information source, known as the Canadian Register of Historic Places, has been unanimously adopted by all jurisdictions in Canada. It is managed by Parks Canada in collaboration with provincial and territorial partners, but I give a note of caution. It's my understanding that participation in the register has been slowing down.
To respond to the need to define appropriate conservation treatments, a team of governmental and non-governmental experts has produced something called “Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada”, now in its second edition. These standards have been adopted by Parks Canada, the National Capital Commission, the federal heritage buildings review office, as well as all provinces and territories except Ontario. They're also used by some municipalities. In order to evaluate compliance with the standards and guidelines, a national certification program has been developed, although it needs renewal.
With the register, standards and guidelines, and certification capacity in place, albeit in need of additional funding, the basic infrastructure has been created to preserve and protect historic places in Canada, but both the register and standards and guidelines need to be given a statutory foundation. But if Canadians are to be supported in their stewardship of heritage properties, and if the federal government is going to carry out its own stewardship responsibilities, a suite of legislative, financial, and fiscal tools is still needed.
The first is in terms of legislation. Federal legislation is needed for national historic sites and other properties under federal jurisdiction, as well as for federal actions affecting properties on the Canadian Register of Historic Places. Legislation could also provide a statutory base to Canada's international obligation to identify and protect world heritage sites of outstanding universal value that are in Canada.
Second is the basic heritage infrastructure. Further investment is needed to revitalize the register to ensure robust participation from all partners. Consideration should also be given to including indigenous registrars as an integral part of the register management, as this would be an important signal for reconciliation. A mechanism is needed to periodically update the standards and guidelines, and to renew the certification training program.
Third is the tool kit, which needs both reinforcement and expansion. For some types of property, grants and contributions are the most appropriate tool. For others, tax measures, including tax credit for investment in heritage places, would be more effective. The government could take specific action to improve the tools available. The national historic sites cost-sharing program could be made permanent, with sustained and adequate funding. Fiscal incentives like the highly successful American tax credit could be created for national historic sites and other properties on the register. Support could also be provided to not-for-profit institutions like the National Trust for Canada and ICOMOS, which, as you will hear, is the organization that gathers together professionals in heritage conservation. Both of those would do much to mobilize both Canadians who do stewardship activities and Canadians who are active in conservation.
My time is limited, as you've noted, Madam Chair. What I have attempted to briefly outline are what I consider to be the main components of a comprehensive heritage conservation program for Canada's historic places. The pattern of loss and neglect has not changed in decades. The Parks Canada Agency Act, I remind you, charges the minister responsible for Parks Canada, who is the , with responsibility for national historic sites, historic canals, heritage railway stations, heritage lighthouses, federal heritage buildings, historic places in Canada—hence the register—federal archaeology, and the design and implementation of programs that relate primarily to built heritage writ large. The agency act emphasizes that it is in the national interest to protect and commemorate these special places “in view of their special role in the lives of Canadians and the fabric of the nation”, but the minister cannot accomplish this work without a more robust suite of legislative, financial, and fiscal tools.
I hope that your study will provide a vision and practical recommendations to this end, in order to protect and conserve our historic places.
Good morning. I want to thank the committee for its invitation.
I'd like to focus my remarks on the need for the Government of Canada to take legislative action respecting built heritage and archaeological resources under federal jurisdiction.
When I retired from the federal public service in November 2003, a single bill containing two proposed acts—one dealing with national historic sites, the other dealing with other types of historic places and archeological resources—was in the advanced stages of drafting. It was my hope and my expectation that this bill would be introduced into the House of Commons sometime during 2004. This seemed a reasonable expectation, especially given the 2003 report of the Auditor General, which stated that federal built heritage was at risk because of shortcomings in the legal protection framework, and that there was a need to reinforce the legal protection framework. The stars, as they say, seemed to be aligned for the passage of legislation that would finally bring the federal government up to the level of the provinces and the territories and a long list of other countries that have comprehensive legislation dealing with historic places and historic resources.
Since 2004, I have searched every Speech from the Throne and every federal budget upon its release—you can do that in retirement—for some signal that legislation was imminent. I would not be here today had those searches not been in vain. I don't think I am the only person who has ever wondered why it is that the Government of Canada has sponsored and passed comprehensive legislation dealing with national parks, national marine conservation areas, national museums, wildlife, migratory birds, species at risk, and general environmental protection—to cite only a few examples—but there is no comprehensive federal legislation—with the emphasis on comprehensive—dealing with national historic sites and historic places. To be sure, there is legislation on heritage lighthouses and heritage railways, but significantly, both were initiated by private members, whereas the former were all government bills.
This is not to say that there are no statutes that deal with historic sites. In fact, there are three: the Historic Sites and Monuments Act; a single section of the Canada National Parks Act that deals with some national historic sites administered by Parks Canada; and the Parks Canada Agency Act. However, each of these statutes focuses on particular aspects of national historic sites, and none provide the systematic or comprehensive type of statutory protection that is required.
Why legislate? Parliament is the highest policy-making authority in the country in respect of matters falling under federal purview, and legislation is the highest expression of that policy-making authority. It is essential that Parliament legislate in the area of built heritage in order to signal to Canadians, as well as federal departments, agencies, and crown corporations and other orders of government, that the federal government values this heritage. Policy that is not expressed in, and hence sanctioned by, legislation does not possess the same degree of credibility, stability, or predictability as legislation, not only outside government, but equally important, inside government as well.
Those of us on the historic sites side of Parks Canada have lived through not having good legislation. Legislation is essential to provide a statutory basis for the expenditure of public funds on heritage, not only by the Parks Canada agency, but also by other federal institutions and entities that have significant custodial and other responsibilities for built heritage, whether national historic sites, federal heritage buildings, or archeological resources.
The Federal Real Property and Federal Immovables Act states that custodians have the right to use property “for the purposes of that department”. Really the authority to spend money is only for the purposes of that department. The act goes on to say “subject to any conditions or restrictions imposed by or under this or any other Act or any order of the Governor in Council”. Custodians are subject to conditions and restrictions relating to the protection of the natural environment. This has been done through other federal legislation. They are not subject to any legislative obligations relating to the conservation of the federal built heritage.
Legislation is also required for federal credibility. The Government of Canada is the only jurisdiction in this country that does not have legislation to protect in a systematic manner historic places and archaeological resources that fall under its jurisdiction. The federal government needs to get its own house in order if it is to be a credible actor in this field. The federal government has long been strong on the rhetoric of heritage conservation, but it remains the only jurisdiction that has not legislated effectively in this area.
At the international level, Canada compares poorly with other countries, such as France, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and others, in respect of cultural heritage since all these other nations provide statutory protection for their historic places. Indeed, one might say that providing statutory protection for the nation's most important historic places is considered a sign of national maturity. In this regard, Canada's immaturity is strongly evident.
What needs to be done? Briefly, here is what such Canadian legislation needs to accomplish.
In the case of national historic sites, there should be a national historic sites act. This new federal act would incorporate relevant provisions of the Historic Sites and Monuments Act and section 42 of the Canada National Parks Act. Most significantly, the national historic sites act would be the means for implementing Parliament's 1998 declaration as expressed in the preamble to the Parks Canada Agency Act that “it is in the national interest...to ensure the commemorative integrity of national historic sites”.
Among other things, it would achieve that by requiring federal custodians of national historic sites, including Parks Canada, to conserve such sites in accordance with the “Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada”; to communicate the reasons that the national historic site was designated; and to require that the heritage values of the site, including those not related to the reasons for designation, be respected in decisions and actions affecting the site. In reality, there is no reason that government departments, agencies, and crown corporations that own national historic sites and operate them for non-museological purposes—in the case, of course, of federal sites not administered by Parks Canada—cannot operate within the construct or the concept and framework of commemorative integrity.
Federally owned national historic sites represent about 25% of the total number of national historic sites in this country. The rest, all of which have been designated by the Government of Canada, fall under provincial or territorial jurisdiction, including most privately and publicly owned national historic sites. A new national historic sites act needs to address these national historic sites in a manner that scrupulously respects the jurisdiction of other orders of government. It can do so by containing a provision prohibiting the federal government from undertaking action that would adversely affect the commemorative integrity of national historic sites that fall under the jurisdiction of another order of government. This would be no mere window dressing, as many federal activities have the potential to adversely affect these sites.
I would now like to turn to the proposed historic places act, which should, among other things, provide a statutory foundation, as has been mentioned, for the Canadian Register of Historic Places and for the “Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada”, both of which are pan-Canadian instruments essential to the long-term conservation of historic places in this country. The act would provide a legislative regime for the protection of archaeological resources on federal lands, including federal lands under water. The federal government is the only order of government in Canada without such a regime. It would provide statutory protection for federal heritage buildings and for world heritage sites under federal ownership, and it would protect other world heritage sites from federal actions having an adverse impact on the universal value of world heritage sites.
In the time available, I have only been able to touch on some of the highlights of what should be in the legislation. Much fuller detail would exist in the draft legislation that was prepared 14 years ago, and additional issues and needs have indeed probably arisen since then that would also need to be addressed. My principal objective has been to emphasize that legislation is the only way to provide the essential and necessary legal infrastructure to ensure that Canada's most important historic places and archaeological resources are protected for this and future generations. In the absence of such action, Canada will remain a laggard among nations.
Thank you very much for the invitation, Madam Chair, and honourable committee members.
I'd like to speak to three more high-level themes. Rather than getting into the specifics, I want you to get the mood of heritage in Canada. You can follow along with the slides in front of you.
I want to talk about three things. They are what we consider heritage today, to provide a context for the state of built heritage in Canada, and to offer leadership goals that the federal government could meet.
I work for a company that values sustainability that is working towards carbon neutrality. That's the goal of this government. It's also a central goal in protecting heritage buildings. We all live our lives on a spectrum of past, present, and future, but we often live with only the present and future in mind, especially as the 21st century anxieties are our preoccupation. These include globalization, climate change, terrorism, and things like that. To be a healthy society, we need to embrace our past. Today, we have a chance to move Canada steps closer to what has already occurred in most G20 countries, namely, to support heritage in a real and substantive manner, rather than always framing it on the margins.
Like it or not, in this room, we are all heritage advocates. Each of you care about your past, whether it's learning about your family history, maintaining your cottage, or being a collector. There are many types of heritage. There's physical heritage. We often talk about physical heritage or built heritage that I'm going to talk about. Then there's intangible heritage, natural heritage, and even digital heritage. All of these might be meaningful to you, your family, your community, your province, your country, or even globally. Ask a question about what is a value in your life and you are probably thinking about heritage. Heritage is living sustainably. Heritage has significant impacts on social well-being, environmental conditions, from reducing waste to developing better construction, and holds huge economic benefits, especially in the tourism sector. Heritage can change in meaning. It is not fixed in one era, but a continuum of meaning. It is an interconnection with previous and future generations, akin to the seven-generation concept of the Iroquois Confederacy.
The Aga Khan Foundation understands this. In front of you is Al-Azhar park, a green lung in the middle of Cairo. The Zeidlers in Toronto understand this. Heritage conservation projects bring benefits to society. Each of these projects contains the ideal of what I call the three Cs: culture, community, and commerce.
Canada's context is one that has evolved from commemorating places based on specialized criteria and monumentality, both physically and conceptually, to understanding that everything is a cultural landscape. The old stereotype of activists fighting developers remains, but it is waning. There are people out there doing interesting work.
We now live in a world that Paul Crutzen described in the seventies, which he termed the anthropocene, or a global cultural landscape of human intervention. To educate the public on these concepts is a challenge. There are maybe a dozen professors in Canadian universities teaching on heritage. There are only a few professional programs in the educational system, actually.
Let's turn specifically to built heritage. The process of officially designating places by federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments amounts to one-tenth of one per cent. Based on Canada's building stock and with estimates of designations in the country, there's very little protected in Canada. About 41% of our commercial and institutional buildings were built before 1969. That's our building stock as of today; we have an older building stock. Construction costs on care and maintenance of places, which means renovations, upgrades, and retrofits, make up half of the construction industry today—half of the construction industry. It's not new construction. It's care and maintenance of places that exist today. None of this work, except for in a very few cases, requires proper conservation treatment. Within the construction industry, there's almost no experience in heritage conservation, and yet, almost a million and a half people work in the industry, with activity in the billions of dollars. As I said earlier, heritage is now about sustaining what we have: no more demolition, and better care and maintenance of what we have.
There is a disconnect between heritage and other industries, a place where the federal government could be a leader. For example, industry has not incorporated conservation principles into their standards, processes, and programs, even though work is performed on historic buildings. LEED and other green building programs have not integrated heritage. There are minor criteria for that. Even in the new WELL program through the International WELL Building Institute, there is no measurement of quality of place or of historic place. Some provincial building codes are strong on addressing heritage buildings, but the national building code is much weaker on the national level, often causing variances to the provincial code.
As the former Canadian registrar, I redeveloped the Canadian Register of Historic Places to be more accessible for people to learn about their places, but there was always the challenge of implementing proper documentation standards across jurisdictions, unlike models in other countries, such as the United Kingdom.
We have no real, proper data today on the state of heritage in Canada. There are 1,237 federal heritage buildings covered by the Treasury Board policy on management of real property, which was created in 1982 and regulated by the federal heritage buildings review office. It is a buildings-only policy. It is not a landscape policy or a land policy. It does not cover engineering structures or land use. It's out of date and needs an overhaul. It hasn't revised its approach to evaluation in almost 40 years. It does not maintain its designations to reflect changes in buildings. Buildings evolve over time. In fact, Parks Canada eliminated the role of the manager of FHBRO several years ago.
The policy is weak in terms of federal buildings. For example, it does not protect places that are owned and operated by crown corporations. Unlike Ontario crown corporations for instance, they are not accountable to any authority. These include Canada Post, CBC, Canadian museums, the Royal Canadian Mint, the Bank of Canada, the National Arts Centre, all of the port authorities, and the St. Lawrence Seaway. For example, two years ago, CBC demolished one of the earliest radio transmitter stations in Canada without requiring any review process. It was an art deco gem that could have been a national historic site, and yet even a commemoration would not protect it. Indeed, even when a department does due diligence and after repeated attempts to save a federal heritage building, it can end up in a landfill.
There are 968 national historic sites of which 200 are federally owned. The balance are owned by various levels of government, first nations, non-profits, and private hands. These are commemorations. They are moral in nature under the act. They have no legal protection and very little support, except for one federal program, the national cost-sharing program, which in fact is biased towards wealthier national historic sites and does not benefit those that need it most. Many national historic sites cannot raise matching funds, but you won't hear of those.
This is the Berthier railway station, and it's a national historic site. I discovered it had been lost along with several other national historic sites, yet I can't find any record of it being demolished. It's now completely gone. It lost its commemorative integrity.
Of the successful national historic sites, outside of having the economic advantages of being owned by the federal government, there are many sites working away trying to operate on reduced budgets. Glanmore, for example, runs its programming on just under half a million dollars in its budget, and that is probably half of what a federal agency would run their sites on.
One solution is an effort that I am part of to create a pan-Canadian network of national historic sites for the purpose of acting as a backbone organization that reduces the cost—not siphoning money away from them—and raises the profile of managing these places while protecting their commemorative integrity. In fact, federal support for such an organization could be fulfilled by the minister, who may, and I quote the act “make agreements with any persons for marking or commemorating historic places pursuant to this Act and for the care and preservation of any places so marked or commemorated”.
As leaders in heritage conservation, you can enshrine protection in legislation; address support for heritage places as you do in other industries; revise the models within government to protect federally owned property, including businesses owned by the government; sustain a greater family of national historic sites; improve how codes and standards are implemented; be the leader that demonstrates to industry the sustainable goals of this century; and finally, possibly punish those who think short-term gain is to their advantage.
To end, I'm showing you a modest building in London, England. In 2009, the building was under threat of demolition. In 2010, the U.K. culture minister listed it on the advice of English Heritage. Its grade II status means that carrying out unauthorized work is a criminal offence and owners can be prosecuted, and a local planning authority can also insist that all work undertaken without consent be reversed at the owner's expense.
Four lads from Liverpool, along with hundreds of other pop musicians, used these recording studios in Abbey Road since the 1930s. It is now protected, thanks to the legislation in place at the national level, and this could not happen today in Canada.
Thank you very much.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
On behalf of ICOMOS Canada, I would like to thank the committee for initiating this important study.
We believe it is timely to address this subject, because it is about protecting a human right, addressing the challenges of climate change, and envisioning a sustainable future for our communities.
I'll start by saying a few words about us to set the context for our comments. ICOMOS is the only global non-governmental organization dedicated to the conservation of the world's cultural heritage buildings, sites, landscapes, and areas. It carries out its work through more than 100 national committees and 28 international scientific committees. ICOMOS has the mandate to advise UNESCO on cultural heritage matters, especially in the context of the world heritage convention. It also focuses on developing theory and guidance for best practices through a series of charters.
At ICOMOS Canada we're the Canadian national committee. We have been active since the early 1970s in influencing the theory and best practices in conservation in Canada as well as abroad. We are an independent and multidisciplinary organization with members from coast to coast to coast. Our current priorities are to develop guidance on cultural landscapes, indigenous heritage, and climate change related issues. Recently, we've taken a leadership role internationally on sustainable development policies and bridging policies between environmental and cultural conservation.
We are happy to share with the committee a few important observations about our country's international commitments and how they translate into federal policies. Our comments are relevant to Parks Canada's mandate, but also to a number of other federal departments, such as Environment and Climate Change Canada, Indigenous and Northern Affairs, and Public Services and Procurement Canada.
Canada made commitments towards the protection and conservation of cultural heritage as early as 1976 by adopting the UNESCO Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage, or the world heritage convention, as it's known. In 1998, it ratified the UNESCO Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, or the Hague convention. Canada led the development and ratification of UNESCO's Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions in 2005.
Cultural heritage is included in international agreements related to the environment and sustainable development adopted by Canada. They include the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Convention on Biological Diversity, the New Urban Agenda, and the new sustainable development agenda.
A look at these commitments allows us to make three main observations. The first is that article 5 of the world heritage convention guides our current assessment of Canada's compliance with it and offers us the opportunity to update our national tools in response to that obligation. In particular, Canada would need to complete the main set of tools required, including legislation to protect, tools to guide decision-making, and financial incentives to implement proper practices.
The second is that the international commitments made by Canada regarding ecosystem protection and climate change include provisions related to protecting cultural heritage. In order to be consistent with these commitments, this should result in the integration of federal policies regarding natural and cultural heritage and a strengthening of federal capacity to protect and conserve cultural heritage through impact assessments, policies towards the reduction of emissions, and infrastructure investments.
The third is that the international commitments made by Canada regarding sustainable development recognize the role of cultural heritage in achieving sustainability and in making cities and human settlements inclusive, resilient, and sustainable. In order to be consistent with these commitments, the federal government should develop policies to guide planning, funding, and partnerships that address sustainability holistically, including the conservation of cultural heritage.
Based on these observations, ICOMOS Canada draws four conclusions.
The first is the disconnect between the practice of cultural heritage conservation internationally and federal legislation. The international context is broader in its definition of cultural heritage, ties together intangible and tangible heritage, considers more closely the relationship between nature and culture, and increasingly focuses on sustainable communities.
The second conclusion is that there is an incomplete set of federal legislative and policy tools to address the conservation of cultural heritage. Without legislation to protect, it is difficult to implement proper guidance and challenging to develop financial incentives. The federal government has a responsibility in regard to the international agreements and can play an important coordinating role with provinces, territories, other jurisdictions, and civil society to meet these commitments.
Third, there is a need to integrate policies related to cultural heritage, the environment, and sustainable development to reflect international commitments. This would strengthen the goals of addressing the impacts of climate change, investing in collective infrastructure especially in cities, and advancing reconciliation with indigenous peoples.
Last, there is an imbalance in investments and resources to support civil society to take action and conserve cultural heritage. This includes the support provided internationally to the advisory bodies to the UNESCO world heritage committee, such as ours.
As such, ICOMOS Canada would like to make a few recommendations to create an ecosystem of national cultural heritage; to establish priorities on sustainability and cultural heritage; and to develop an action plan for Canadians to conserve cultural heritage.
We recommend developing and implementing legislation, tools, and incentives to protect built heritage, archeological sites, underwater heritage, landscapes, and other forms of heritage.
We recommend reviewing the national historic sites program to articulate an active role and responsibility for the federal government in the conservation of all national historic sites. This would include developing appropriate governance models for cultural and indigenous communities to be actively involved at sites administered by the federal government. It would also include developing policies and resourcing Parks Canada to actively contribute to the conservation of sites that the agency does not administer.
We recommend strengthening Parks Canada's role in advising federal departments on the conservation of built and archaeological heritage and enhancing its ability to provide technical advice on cultural heritage matters related to impact assessments, energy efficiency, and climate change adaptation.
We recommend creating an interdepartmental advisory committee with the mandate of articulating goals for a federal sustainable development strategy that includes the conservation of cultural heritage and reflects Canada's international commitment.
We recommend developing and implementing practices to jointly recognize the significance and jointly conserve natural and cultural heritage.
We recommend correcting the imbalance of federal support to offer opportunities for cultural heritage groups to actively contribute to solutions. This includes strengthening existing environmental and infrastructure programs and investing in initiatives that support civil society's ability to engage in the conservation of cultural heritage.
Last, we recommend reviewing the role of Parks Canada in relation to the implementation of the world heritage convention in Canada. This is to recognize the shared responsibility with other jurisdictions and partners of protecting sites of outstanding universal value.
These recommendations are to be understood in the international context that I've just described. You have a supporting document that gives you more details and more fleshed out information on that.
It is important to note that Canada is the only G7 country without comprehensive national heritage legislation, as I echo Mr. Bennett's statement. This is a disservice to the citizens and a missed opportunity for Canadians to apply tools that have made a positive difference to the well-being of communities around the world.
The question of whether to invest and support the conservation of cultural heritage has been answered. Canada is already committed through its international agreements in culture, the environment, and sustainable development. Governments have called upon Canadians to play their part in achieving the goals of building a better society and addressing climate change. ICOMOS Canada is answering that call. We are bringing together professionals and communities to contribute solutions based on a better understanding of the role of cultural heritage in achieving these, such as diverting construction waste from landfill, improving building maintenance, and enhancing the resiliency of cultural landscapes. What we need now is federal leadership to achieve our full potential.
Once more unto the breach.... In terms of priorities—I understand that this question also came up on Tuesday—I'd like to address specifically the notion of competing priorities and competing interests. You heard on Tuesday about the need for dramatically enhanced funding for cost-sharing in order to effectively conserve, and we're just talking about the national historic site component, which is probably about 700 places outside of federal ownership and is already oversubscribed.
To me, the context always depends on where you're sitting. If I'm looking at the 2016 federal budget and I see $65 million approved in that budget for a bicycle and hiking trail in Jasper National Park, and I think of the needs of.... If the conservation is just not taking place on things that people highly value across this country, then I say to myself that I think it really depends on where you are. I think sometimes we need to get down and look at where the money is actually being spent. When you do that, I think, it's not so much culture versus nature, and it's not so much tourism versus this or that. It's something else.
Now, on framing things so that people appreciate why this investment has benefits other than just straightforward conservation, I think that makes eminently good sense. For example, in the United States, there is a 20% tax credit for approved work that takes place on any national historic landmark. In fact, I think any building on the register is eligible to apply for that funding. They built in something that said to forget heritage for the moment; any building built before 1936 in the United States that is converted into affordable housing will automatically get a 10% tax credit.
That tax credit program in the United States is credited by a number of people with being instrumental in the rehabilitation of American cities. Many of you are much younger than I am, but I remember reading in the 1980s about all these American cities that were basket cases and would never recover. New York City and Provincetown and all of these places were dead, yet it was this rehabilitation tax credit program that started interesting entrepreneurs. The high-tech industry started moving into old buildings. There was this creation of that sort of thing. In fact, when Christina and I were working, Deloitte and Touche in the United States had a section of their big consulting firm that was designed to put places on the register so they'd be eligible for tax credits, because of the very positive impacts this rehabilitation was having on those communities.
I agree with you that framing is important, but I would like us always to think in these terms: when we're talking about the competing interests, it really depends on how you are actually spending that money.
Perhaps I'll give you a pointer as to a big picture of where one could start.
There is a slate of tools that can apply specifically to Parks Canada, and then there is a slate of tools to consider for the entire federal government. I should disclose that I used to be an Environment Canada employee, and that is where I learned a lot about how the environment is part of the consideration of action by all federal departments.
There is something to consider there, where, for example, the federal sustainable development strategy, which aims to guide each department on how to achieve Canada's commitment on sustainable development, is reporting on its contributions. There are some significant challenges in aligning the objectives of that strategy with the international commitments, one of them being the fact that there is no mechanism to report on how we achieve sustainable development while considering cultural heritage. There's already an opportunity there to place a marker that cultural heritage is part of Canada's goals in achieving sustainable development, and that as a government we will look for those actions and performances that will help us achieve that goal.
As I mentioned in my introduction, there are various departments that are easily touched upon when one looks at heritage matters. It's a matter of their mandate not being called upon for cultural heritage, but they're already, in a way, addressing heritage issues. When we talk about reconciliation with indigenous peoples, we're obviously talking about certain aspects of heritage. When we talk about investing in infrastructure in urban centres, we will inevitably intersect with the cultures and the cultural expression of the communities in those urban centres.
I'm simply pointing out that even just starting with the federal sustainable development strategy, we can look at how that applies to other departments.
The last idea that comes to mind is that there will soon be an announcement on funding for eco.... I'm sorry. I forget the specific expression, but it's essentially encouraging owners to invest in greening buildings and eco-retrofitting. This is clearly an opportunity where we can talk about how the federal government views the importance of cultural heritage, not just because it has value, but because of its ability to perform to achieve our goals towards sustainable development and the impacts of climate change.