Mr. Chairman, if the minister is not going to answer the hon. member for Comox-Alberni I would like to refer to a matter in his department that is of more than passing interest to the people of York-Hum-ber, and to British Columbia as well. Since we last discussed estimates concerning water navigation I have been informed, by reading a letter to a private individual in York-Humber, that the administration of the Navigable Waters Protection Act has been transferred from the Department of Public Works to the Department of Transport. I want to congratulate Canada on this move because I
believe that now this act will be enforced with the proper intention under the Minister of Transport, something which it has not been for the past several years under the Minister of Public Works.
My interest in the Navigable Waters Protection Act has to do with the illegal filling of navigable waters and with the inaction of the cabinet in enforcing the regulations. I now believe that under the Department of Transport we will get action on this matter in Toronto, and may I say that I believe the same situation is developing in British Columbia.
I am not a lawyer and I know that the Minister of Transport is not a lawyer. But the Minister of Public Works is, and in the past, when I raised objection to the fact that the provisions of the Navigable Waters Protection Act were not being enforced, I was given learned lectures by the Minister of Public Works as to what is legal and what is not legal. Mr. Chairman, I have had better lectures from better lawyers, including my brother-in-law, who for many years was deputy attorney general of Ontario, and who has forgotten more about that act than the Minister of Public Works will ever know.
The reason I refer to this act now is because of the lessons that the Minister of Public Works endeavoured to give me, a mere layman. He drew my attention to the legal nicety that the beds of rivers and the beds of lakes are in the jurisdiction of the provinces, and that the beds of the lakes and the beds of the rivers being in the jurisdiction of the provinces, when the provinces granted a patent on a water lot the federal government had no authority over such lots -which is 100 per cent wrong, but that was the lecture.
[DOT] (8:50 p.m.)
This is interesting, because in the borough of Etobicoke it is possible for real estate developers to pour all the land they want on to water lots in lake Ontario,-as the Minister of Public Works says, because he does not enforce the Navigable Waters Protection Act. Precedents are being established for the province of British Columbia, which may in time bring tears to the eyes of the federal government. In the last few months we have had a statement from the Supreme Court of Canada, after a reference from the federal government to the Supreme Court concerning whether or not offshore mineral rights belong to the federal government or the province.
March 25. 1968
Certainly it was a victory for the federal government when the Supreme Court ruled that the mineral rights off our shores belong to the federal government and not to the province of British Columbia.
If the province of British Columbia will take the lesson the Minister of Public Works has been giving me for nothing they will realize that all they have to do, since they have control over the water lots and the beds of the coastal waters, is issue patented water lots to themselves, and then they can fill in the patented water lots as far out as they want and start to mine because, according to the Minister of Public Works, the beds of a lake and of coastal waters belong to the province, and they can issue patented lots. They can go as far out as the sovereignty of the province extends. Now we have the Roberts Bank proposition in British Columbia, where the premier of British Columbia wishes to develop a port. Normally this would be considered to be under the jurisdiction of the federal government under the Navigable Waters Protection Act, but Wacky Bennett can go ahead and give himself all the land he wants off the coast of British Columbia, if he grants water lots to himself.
Very dangerous precedents are being set up by the federal government in not enforcing the Navigable Waters Protection Act in the borough of Etobicoke, in the riding I represent. The Minister of Transport is a Toronto man. He knows Toronto well and I believe he knows the waterfront well. Surely with an able man like the Minister of Transport we will be able to have a halt placed on the illegal filling of lake Ontario. Someone may say that this is a small matter involving York-Humber. It is not a small matter when it establishes a precedent for off-shore mineral rights. If a province wishes to provide patented water lots to themselves and then mine them, what is to stop them? Or if the province of British Columbia wishes to build a great harbour off the coast of British Columbia south of Vancouver, they need only to grant themselves patented water lots and then they would have control because the Minister of Public Works did not enforce the Navigable Waters Protection Act when it was in his jurisdiction. Patented lots come within provincial jurisdiction and the province can grant these to themselves.
I would ask the Minister of Transport to please consider enforcing the Navigable Waters Protection Act by declaring as national park land the illegal land that has been filled
in on the north shore of lake Ontario in the borough of Etobicoke in metropolitan Toronto. This land is worth anywhere from $800,000 to $1 million an acre. If we have an uncooperative cabinet minister who is not going to enforce the Navigable Waters Protection Act, then we will soon have a lot of land in the heart of metropolitan Toronto worth $1 million an acre. If the cabinet is not willing to enforce the Navigable Waters Protection Act under the Minister of Public Works I believe the Minister of Transport will enforce it. If the cabinet is unwilling to enforce the act in the borough of Etobicoke, surely they can realize the danger of the precedent they are setting because lake Ontario is an international body of water.
There are dangerous precedents being established which I believe will only be avoided if the Department of Transport will start to enforce this act and see that the illegal fill that has been placed on the north shore of lake Ontario between the Humber river and Etobicoke creek, is declared to be national park land. By so declaring it they would stop the land developers putting acreage into the public waters of lake Ontario. I ask that the Minister of Transport give this his early consideration, after the leadership competition has been decided, and that he pay a visit to Toronto. I know where to look and I would be glad to accompany him along the lake shore of York-Humber and the section between there and Etobicoke creek.