moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.
She said: Madam Speaker, I am proud to rise in the House today to speak to Bill , and to the work that has been accomplished to bring forward the proposed amendments to this important legislation for the future of Parks Canada.
I want to personally thank my hon. colleagues and the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development for their careful analysis of the proposed legislation. I encourage all members to join me today in supporting Bill at third reading so that it can make its way to the Senate.
The timing of the proposed legislation is significant as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation and the centennial of national historic sites.
Canada's national parks and national historic sites enable Canadians to experience our rich history and heritage. The legislation before us would give Parks Canada the authorities it needs to build on its role as a world leader in conservation and its growing list of accomplishments.
Bill proposes to amend three statutes: the Rouge National Urban Park Act, the Canada National Parks Act, and the Parks Canada Agency Act. Each set of amendments targets specific goals. Together these will benefit Canadians in several important ways.
Since 2011, when the initiative to create Rouge National Urban Park was first announced, we forged partnerships with community organizations and indigenous peoples. Parks Canada has completed dozens of projects to improve and protect ecosystems and farmlands in the Rouge.
Today, with Bill , we will make ecological integrity the management priority for the Rouge National Urban Park. Adding ecological integrity to the Rouge National Urban Park Act would help us realize the full potential of Canada's first national urban park.
Discussions around Bill C-18 have focused on the concept of ecological integrity. I believe that focus was justified considering the importance of the Rouge to greater Toronto area residents and all Canadians.
Ecological integrity is about maintaining the native components of a place, including plants, wildlife, waterways, and ecological processes. The Canada National Parks Act defines the term clearly, and it requires Parks Canada to maintain or restore ecological integrity in its management of all national parks. For Rouge National Urban Park, Bill would make this requirement explicit.
Rouge National Urban Park is unique and special for many reasons. It has remarkable diversity of flora and fauna, a rich history dating back to the first indigenous peoples, and a vibrant agricultural heritage. All of this is within one hour of seven million Canadians, and one can get there on public transit. It will be the first national park that many new Canadians get to visit. What better gift to all Canadians than free access to the Rouge and other parks across Canada to celebrate the 150th birthday of Confederation?
The combination of these factors presents both challenges and opportunities. The best way to meet these challenges and to make the most of these opportunities is to place ecological integrity at the forefront of the park's management.
The goal of this management approach is to preserve the Rouge National Urban Park's great wealth of natural, cultural, and agricultural features for future generations.
The Rouge is home to rare Carolinian forest, significant wetlands, and over 1,700 species of plants and animals. It includes some of the oldest indigenous sites in Canada, sites that date back thousands of years, and vast expanses of class 1 farmland, the rarest and most fertile land in the country. Some of that land has been farmed for centuries.
This approach puts ecological integrity first to ensure that the Rouge's cultural and agricultural heritage is protected now and for generations to come.
Our government is committed to the protection of our national parks, expanding the system of protected areas, and contributing to the recovery of species at risk. No organization in the world is better equipped than Parks Canada to support these goals. For more than a century, the Parks Canada Agency has acted to preserve and protect this country's natural and cultural heritage.
Parks Canada is recognized around the world as a leader in conservation, educational programming, and meaningful and high-quality visitor experiences. As other members of this House have pointed out, the agency has already made strides in these areas at Rouge National Urban Park.
It is because of Parks Canada's vast expertise in conservation that this government assigned the agency a co-lead role in fulfilling one of Canada's international commitments under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. The convention proposes to protect the world's biodiversity by encouraging countries to protect their lands and waters. As part of its commitment under the convention, Canada aims to protect at least 17% of our lands and fresh water, and 10% of our marine ecosystem by 2020.
Joining Parks Canada at the helm of the terrestrial component of this initiative is Alberta's Environment and Parks ministry, along with the province's climate change office. To achieve this ambitious goal will require broad collaboration and determined action to establish networks of protected areas that preserve Canada's incredible biodiversity along with a series of other equally important conservation measures.
In order to facilitate this collaboration and identify key initiatives, Canada and Alberta will create a national advisory panel. The panel will advise the governments on practical solutions for expanding the existing network of terrestrial and freshwater protected areas, particularly on how best to evaluate progress.
The panel will include members from various stakeholder groups, such as indigenous organizations and non-profit agencies, municipalities, representatives from the natural resources sector, as well as youth and community groups, in order to ensure that the panel's advice reflects a wide range of perspectives.
Our government is determined to expand this country's system of protected areas and to safeguard biodiversity not only to honour the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, but also because of its importance to each and every person on this planet.
Biodiversity is essential to our collective well-being and to Canada's ability to adapt to climate change. By protecting Canada's vast variety of species, ecosystems, and ecological processes, we also protect humankind and create a valuable legacy for future generations.
Natural spaces are a vital component of Canadian culture. They are central to our identity, to our heritage, and to our economy. More than a century ago in what is now Banff National Park, Canada became one of the first countries in the world to protect a natural space from development. Our country was also the first to establish a federal agency to administer and protect areas of natural and historical importance.
Another indication of how important natural spaces are to Canada and to Canadians is that we use legislation to designate protected areas. We understand these areas are vital to Canada's ecosystems and that they play a fundamental role in safeguarding habitat for wildlife, mitigating the impacts of climate change, and providing opportunities for tourism, recreation, and connection with nature.
In order to achieve our national biodiversity target, which is to protect at least 17% of Canada’s land and fresh water, our government will work with indigenous peoples in the spirit of reconciliation and a renewed nation-to-nation relationship.
We will work together based on recognition of rights, respect, cooperation, and partnership. Canada values the wisdom and contributions of indigenous peoples in our collective effort to reach our biodiversity targets.
Parks Canada works with more than 300 indigenous peoples across Canada to protect, conserve, restore, and present Canada's natural and cultural heritage.
To strengthen the agency's working partnerships with indigenous peoples, Parks Canada introduced a reconciliation framework last year and utilizes traditional knowledge in its work.
In addition, through budget 2016, our government invested in a five-year program that will encourage indigenous storytelling and support indigenous tourism opportunities. This year Parks Canada will work with indigenous communities to develop and deliver 40 interpretive activities at national parks and historic sites across the country to enable visitors to gain new perspectives on Canada's treasured places.
In managing national parks, Parks Canada maintains or restores ecological integrity, and provides Canadians with opportunities to discover and enjoy them.
The main reason why Canadians enjoy these spaces is that they tell stories of who we are, including the history, cultures, and contributions of indigenous peoples.
Making ecological integrity a priority will help Parks Canada protect the Rouge's natural, cultural, and agricultural treasures. Situated in close proximity to 20% of Canada’s population, Rouge National Urban Park offers a unique opportunity to make our national parks more accessible to Canadians, including youth and newcomers, so that they can experience the outdoors and learn about their environment.
By encouraging Canadians to visit national parks and providing them with the information and means to enjoy them, Parks Canada allows more Canadians to explore nature and to learn about our country's heritage.
For 2017, the Government of Canada is offering Canadians free admission to all national parks, national historic sites, and national marine conservation areas. We are thrilled with the high volume of visits to our national parks, and we look forward to welcoming visitors to Parks Canada locations to celebrate Canada 150.
The free 2017 parks discovery pass has been incredibly popular with more than 2.6 million individuals and businesses having ordered passes. I can say with confidence that Parks Canada has many tools at its disposal to effectively manage increased visitation.
Ecological integrity will continue to guide the management of our national parks. This includes helping visitors plan their experience in advance, encouraging shoulder season visitation, and promoting hidden gems and less frequented parks. For example, Parks Canada places are offering even more events and activities in the fall and spring.
We are also investing in our facilities to ensure capacity can be handled. This includes significant investments in infrastructure, particularly in campgrounds, day use areas, and trails, and the addition of oTENTik accommodations across the country.
Through budget 2016, our government is also investing in the popular learn-to-camp program, to reach more low- and middle-income families, giving them the opportunity to experience the wonders of Canada's outdoors. Budget 2016 also enabled us make significant investments in tourism facilities and roads to help connect Canadians to nature, while stimulating the economy in communities across the country.
Other highlights in 2017 will include bioblitzes, in collaboration with partners, to foster greater awareness of conservation and biodiversity. Bioblitzes are great examples of citizen science. They are fun events that bring together naturalists, scientists, and members of the public to identify as many species as possible in a particular area. Canadians can contribute to real science while connecting with nature in a personally meaningful way.
As we celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation, my hope is that many Canadians, including youth, urban families, and newcomers, will discover Parks Canada for the first time this year at Rouge National Urban Park.
The bill before us would help the Rouge achieve its full potential. Canada's first national urban park is located in the most densely populated region in the country. The greater Toronto area, already one of the most multicultural places in the world, continues to attract more newcomers, and more so than any other region. Many of these people have little to no experience with national parks and are unfamiliar with Canada's heritage.
The Rouge National Urban Park, accessible by public transit, is the ideal stepping stone for people to familiarize themselves with Canada's incredible network of protected areas that are so dear to Canadians.
To help newcomers experience our country's natural and cultural heritage, Parks Canada participates in the cultural access pass program, run by the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, and will be holding citizenship ceremonies in our parks as we celebrate Canada's 150th year. The pass provides free admission to more than a thousand cultural treasures from coast to coast to coast, including many Parks Canada places. Each newcomer receives a pass during his or her first year of Canadian citizenship. This helps to ensure that generations of newcomers to Canada have every opportunity to be inspired by the places and events that help define us.
I am also proud to say that as of 2018, admission to Parks Canada sites will continue to be free for all children and youth under 18, courtesy of our government.
It is important, when we are contemplating this legislation, that we look back on the work already accomplished to create Rouge National Urban Park and that we also consider the collaboration that made this progress possible. For decades, community groups and public agencies have worked to protect and celebrate the Rouge's natural, cultural, and agricultural heritage.
The creation of Canada's first urban national park in this environment required extensive consultation and strong partnerships. Parks Canada continues to work closely with farmers, indigenous partners, the Province of Ontario, municipalities, and other government agencies and organizations, as well as with educational institutions and environmental groups, in order to ensure the success of the Rouge.
It is a management approach that prioritizes ecological integrity and supports collaboration, because it involves a holistic, comprehensive approach. The proposed amendments to the Rouge National Urban Park would enable visitors from near and far to experience, understand, and appreciate the Rouge's unique combination of natural, cultural, and agricultural heritage. In particular, I would like to acknowledge the Government of Ontario's commitment to transfer its lands for the completion of Canada's first national urban park.
Let me turn to other proposed amendments to the Canada National Parks Act and the Parks Canada Agency Act. Bill proposes a second set of amendments that relate to the boundary of Wood Buffalo National Park, in northern Alberta. By withdrawing a portion of land from Wood Buffalo National Park, the Government of Canada would be able to honour its commitment to the Little Red River Cree Nation in supporting the establishment of the Garden River Indian Reserve. This would represent a small but vital step toward reconciliation with indigenous peoples.
The third set of amendments proposed in Bill C-18 would modernize the rules that govern the New Parks and Historic Sites Account under the Parks Canada Agency Act. Currently, funds from the account can only be used to acquire land or property to establish a protected heritage area that has not yet reached full operational status.
The amendments proposed would give Parks Canada more flexibility so that it could act quickly to acquire land and assets in order to expand or complete existing protected heritage areas that are already in operation, for example, the Grasslands National Park or the Bruce Peninsula National Park.
The amendment would also enable Canadians to contribute to the expansion or completion of such heritage areas.
The Rouge National Urban Park Act has been the subject of considerable debate in this House. During its review of the amendments to the act, the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development called several witnesses, studied several briefs, analyzed a handful of proposed amendments, and then proposed Bill with no changes.
As we celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation, I urge all members of this House to endorse Bill as a way to protect our natural, cultural, and agricultural heritage for the benefit of all Canadians, now and into the future.
Madam Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise to speak on Bill .
I represent the great riding of . The population growth of the Barrie metropolitan area is outpacing that of Canada's, at 5.4% annually, and the riding of grew by 7.9% between 2011 and 2016.
The riding is home to many wonderful parks and nature areas, including Kempenfelt Bay, which provides residents with walking, running, and play areas, including a great stretch of beach that at this time of year is home to many ice fishing huts and snowmobile trails.
I am pleased to speak on the third reading of . I will begin by saying that I will be supporting the bill.
Bill is a bill that has a history going back to 1990, when the Progressive Conservative government at the time in the province of Ontario, created an advisory committee to prepare an action plan to protect the Rouge River and its surrounding lands. In 1995, the Rouge River Park was created, and the Province of Ontario benefited with a donation of land, increasing the size of the park considerably.
With support for Canada's first national urban park, former Prime Minister Harper committed in the Speech from the Throne of 2011 to the creation of the Rouge National Urban Park. He further added an additional 21 kilometres to the park, with land from Pickering and Uxbridge. At that time, the park reached the size of 79.5 square kilometres. What was unique about the Rouge National Urban Park at the time was the diversity of the land that it encompassed, from forests to farmland.
In 2013, the federal government and the Liberal Government of Ontario entered into an agreement, transferring 47 square kilometres of land to the park. This transfer created a park that reached from the east end of the city of Toronto to Markham and Pickering. It created an urban park that was 22 times the size of New York's Central Park, and 14 times larger than Vancouver's Stanley Park.
In November 2014, the Conservative government introduced Bill . It passed the bill in May 2015 to create the Rouge National Urban Park. The park is unique in Canada. Previous to Bill , the lands were protected by Ontario's Greenbelt Act, which substantially lowered environmental protection standards from the federal laws that would become the new regulations for the new park under Bill . With the park now under federal jurisdiction, regulations under the Parks Canada Agency Act, the federal Species at Risk Act, and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act were all in consideration.
Located 100 kilometres from Barrie, the park is home to a unique combination of natural, cultural, and agricultural features, including 1,700 species of plants, birds, fish, mammals, insects, reptiles, and amphibians—more than 10,000 years of human history. Outcrops of rock formed in the last glacial period and found in Rouge Park are being used to study seismic activity, in particular for the risk of earthquakes. The faults that are visible indicate earthquake activity occurred between 13,000 and 80,000 years ago. Rouge National Urban Park contains the original portage route between Lake Ontario and Lake Simcoe used years before Canada's Confederation 150.
It sounds to me that by enacting Bill at the time, the federal government understood the environmental protection that this land required. Under Ontario's Greenbelt Act, the land would not have been at the level of protection that it would have been because of Bill . The bill brought together the protection of nature, culture, and agriculture in a new approach. With a strong legislative framework, protection would exceed and expand on the protections that were in place at the time.
At the time of Bill , the opposition felt that the term “ecological integrity” was missing from the legislation. In committee when this was discussed, Mr. Larry Noonan, from the Altona Forest Community Stewardship Committee, stated that:
Ecological integrity cannot be applied to an urban national park.
He stated further:
We cannot allow fires and flooding in the Toronto, Markham, and Pickering urban environment. The rouge national urban park...cannot have this term included, or there would have to be a list of [exemptions and] exceptions to the definition which could service to lessen its impact in the Canada National Parks Act.
Mr. Noonan also stated the following in committee:
Instead, Bill C-40 refers to 'the maintenance of its native wildlife and of the health of those ecosystems'. The Rouge national urban park and the management plan lay out strategies for attaining the highest possible level of health for the park's ecosystems.
When I first joined the House in October 2015, I sat until recently on the joint committee on regulations. Having sat through and researched items discussed in the regulations committee, I can honestly say that the last thing that Parks Canada needed was additional regulations to abide by. The , the sponsor of Bill , must surely know the weight of regulations that her senior staff struggle under.
In his speech for the third reading of Bill , the hon. member for and former minister of the environment, said:
The legislative framework for the Rouge national urban park meets the definition of a category V protected area under the stringent criteria of the International Union for Conservation of Nature. This category of protected area applies where the interaction of people and nature over time has produced an area of distinct character, with significant ecological, biological, cultural, and scenic value.
He further said:
This is exactly what Rouge national urban park represents. I will commit to the House that Parks Canada will see to it that all of this park's unique components live up to the highest international conservation standards and receive the strongest ever legal protections in the history of the Rouge.
Bill C-18 is nothing more than the Liberals playing political games at the provincial and federal levels.
In Queen's Park in Toronto, the Progressive Conservative MPP for Wellington—Halton Hills, Mr. Ted Arnott, has stood on several occasions, asking the Kathleen Wynne Liberals to abide by the 2013 agreement for the transfer of lands to the Rouge National Urban Park. His statement in the provincial house clearly shows that the Ontario Liberals were playing politics.
Taking a few sentences from his statement in April 2015, he said:
It has now been over two years since the Liberal government agreed to transfer land to the federal government to create the Rouge National Urban Park, which would be the largest urban park in North America. The creation of the Rouge National Urban Park would provide strong protection measures for the land between Lake Ontario and the Oak Ridges moraine, and as we know Parks Canada maintains high standards.
We also know that the Rouge National Urban Park would be protected by dedicated year-round park wardens. These wardens would ensure the ecological, environmental, and cultural integrity of the park by enforcing rules against illegal dumping, poaching, polluting, hunting, vandalism, and the theft of cultural artifacts—all issues that have plagued the park for many years.
By putting politics ahead of good policy, the minister is putting at risk almost $144 million that was committed by the federal government for this initiative. This is money that would be used to protect the environmental integrity of this land and ensure that the Rouge National Urban Park is enjoyed by the people of this province for decades to come.
Today, we call upon the minister to stop playing games, stop delaying, and instead take the step forward and work together to create the greatest urban park in North America. As Mr. Arnott put it, these are Liberal games and they are the only reason that the land has not been transferred as was agreed to in 2013.
Bill is nothing more than making the Liberals in Ontario get what they want, and what they wanted, “ecological integrity”, as stated by Mr. Noonan, is not responsible for the Rouge National Urban Park.
Another voice who has supported Bill as it was without the “ecological integrity” was the Hon. Pauline Browes, a former federal minister of the state for environment. Ms. Browes stated at committee, paraphrasing: Parks Canada is a “heralded organization of experience” with very competent individuals, and “has been assigned the responsibility of the permanent protection and preservation of the natural, cultural, and agricultural aspects of the Rouge national urban park”. The act allows 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, the urban, rural and park lands, against each other by putting “one as a priority...would really create conflict”.
Parks Canada has also disagreed with ecological integrity as a primary guiding principle for the park. It is important to look at just what ecological integrity means. The true environmentalist definition of ecological integrity would imply letting forest fires burn, floods run their course, and wildlife survive without human intervention. The Rouge sits alongside residential neighbourhoods, schools, and playgrounds. It also has highways, hydroelectric power lines, and a pipeline across various parts of the park. There is farmland, a former landfill site, and an old auto wrecker's yard within its boundaries. Will the environmentalists allow fires to burn down homes, floods to do personal property damage, let highway and transportation infrastructure fall apart, and allow animals to threaten the lives of perhaps women, children, men, and their household pets, and cause hardships to the livelihood of farmers in the name of ecological integrity?
As I mentioned earlier, the current protections provided to the Rouge National Urban Park are far and beyond whatever the Liberal government could provide. In fact, I would think that Kathleen Wynne would have welcomed the federal government taking the financial responsibilities of the parkland off its books. This is much more than two words, “ecological integrity”. This is about money for the Ontario Liberal Party. This is about ego. The Ontario minister of economic development, Brad Duguid, admitted that they had no intention of working with the Conservative government with an election approaching. He confirmed this, with statements in the house in Toronto on November 26, 2015. He said:
The government you spoke about, the Harper government, didn't take that responsibility seriously. Thank goodness that the new Prime Minister and new government do, and we are looking forward to working with them to put in place a real national park for the Rouge that is going to ensure it has the protections we have in place today....
Minister Duguid also said:
This is about working together with the federal government to get this done right. We finally have in place a minister of the environment federally and a government that cares about the environment, that is determined to save this planet, determined to ensure that we preserve these ecological gems like the Rouge Valley.
Let me say that the Harper government got it right with the Rouge National Urban Park. Witnesses in committee confirmed that the enhanced protection of Parks Canada in federal regulations would far outweigh whatever protection the Wynne government provided. Loopholes in Ontario's Greenbelt Act and the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act grandfather environmentally destructive clauses and provide for bad permits to be issued. The exemptions would do massive damage to terrain and allow endangered species to die.
Again, witnesses, such as former CEO of Parks Canada, Alan Latourelle, said:
Any individual or organization that directly or indirectly implies that the federal legislation for Rouge National Urban Park does not meet the standard of the current provincial legislation for Rouge lands is misleading the public.
As members have heard, Parks Canada disagreed with the need for ecological integrity.
The Friends of Rouge National Urban Park is a small group organized to encourage the Ontario government to commit to its legal obligation to transfer its 25 square kilometres of land to the federal government. It should be noted that at the time, November 2015, this group included former federal cabinet ministers, current MPs, and councillors. All involved with this group supported the original Bill , with no ecological integrity as part of the land transfer agreement. Contrary to the Ontario government, The Globe and Mail, on March 20, 2015, said that the federal government position was a reasonable compromise as it provides for the “flora and fauna and any endangered species”, and “prohibits hunting, dumping, mining, logging, and other unparklike activities”. Just as important, The Globe and Mail noted that the Rouge was an urban park and that natural ecosystems do not work in an urban setting.
This bill is also about money. The Ontario government is drowning in red ink. The deficit and debt grow. The provincial debt is at $316 billion. The individual debt of Ontarians is valued at almost $23,000. Therefore, it does not surprise me when I find out that the Ontario infrastructure minister, Bob Chiarelli, requested, make that demanded, a change to the land transfer agreement. A demand was made for a $100 million payment for the transfer of the Rouge National Urban Park to Parks Canada and the federal government.
If members remember the opening of my statement, I mentioned that the park grew with donations of land to the Ontario government from municipalities to grow the Rouge. The key here is “donation”.
The province was asking for money from some lands that were given to the province years earlier. Only after the demand for payment was given did the Ontario government decide to stop any transfer of the park lands in the name of ecological integrity. This goes against the June 22, 2016, announcement by Minister Duguid at the “Paddle the Rouge” where he stated that he would recommend the provincial land be transferred to the federal government. I wonder who forced the minister to reverse his decision?
Demands for money were replaced with demands for ecological integrity. The demands were made without Ontario Parks being able to evaluate and respond to the Parks Canada's plan for the new park.
Led by the provincial infrastructure minister and the economic development minister, the Ontario Liberal government broke a legally binding land transfer agreement with the federal government that covered 47 square kilometres. The Wynne Liberals acted in a partisan manner with a federal election approaching and, once again, used their inability or desire to work with another governing political party to get their way, when so many experts had gone on record in disagreement with the demand of that Liberal government.
In the 2015 election, Prime Minister Harper committed to expanding the park even though the Ontario Liberals had broken a legal agreement. New trails, streams, forests, creeks, and meadows would add to the Rouge National Urban Park. The then third place Liberals campaigned at the same time that the Ontario government would be provided with the “comfort” they needed to have them contribute their land. No commitment was made to expand and add to the park as it was.
Will the Liberal government go against the 2013 legal agreement for the land transfer? Will Premier Wynne get her $100 Million for “comfort”?
I want to end by saying that the previous federal government took bold steps to add more than 220,000 square kilometres to Canadian federal parks and marine protected areas, an increase of more than 58%. The former Conservative government's national conservation plan expanded national park lands by tens of thousands of square kilometres and secured ecologically-sensitive private lands.
Canada's national parks provide outstanding examples of our country's natural landscapes, generate significant economic activity by attracting visitors from Canada and abroad, and provide Canadians with access to our natural heritage. The environment is arguably the most common of threads that binds every citizen of this planet together, and I believe in conservation. I also believe conservation is in concert with many Conservative values.
I look forward to supporting Bill , but I just wish the Liberal government and its provincial Liberal cousins would stop playing politics that causes introduction of legislation that increases regulations and pits sectors of our economy against each either.