Mr. Pierre de Savoye (Portneuf, BQ)
Mr. Speaker, during second reading of Bill C-27 on national parks, the Bloc Quebecois indicated that it was in agreement in principle, but that it intended to raise some important concerns. First, there was the issue of maintaining and restoring the ecological integrity of parks, and the question of the time limits for the examination of ministerial orders with respect to amendments to certain schedules of the proposed legislation, which we feel are too short.
There was also the issue of respect for the rights of communities living within or near parks and, finally, the designation of historic sites, without consulting provinces or municipalities.
Following representations made to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage by the various interested parties, the Bloc Quebecois moved twenty or so amendments. The committee agreed to include a definition of ecological integrity in the bill.
We would also have liked clause 4 to deal more directly with this issue of ecological integrity, but we are happy that clause 8 stipulates that the minister's first priority shall be matters of ecological integrity.
The committee extended the time limit for examining ministerial orders to amend certain schedules to the legislation from 20 to 30 days. This is no guarantee that the committees responsible for these matters will be convened, but it reduces the risk considerably and we are satisfied.
The issue of respect for the rights of communities living within or near parks has not, in our view, been entirely resolved. However, clause 12 has been considerably improved so as to require the minister to encourage the public to participate in the development of policies and regulations that might concern it.
In addition, I must point out that, thanks to the intervention of the member for Manicouagan, the representations from inhabitants of the Mingan Archipelago were well received. Thus, in accordance with the wishes expressed by its inhabitants, the Mingan Archipelago has been added to the list of parks in clause 17 of the bill in respect of which the minister may make regulations regarding the exercise of traditional renewable resource harvesting activities. Besides, the limits of the park in the Mingan Archipelago will be, for each island, at the high water mark, as the representatives of the area wanted it to be.
On another topic, clause 42 of the bill provides that the governor in council may set any land as a national historic site to commemorate a historic event or preserve a historic landmark.
At first sight, these provisions appear desirable and harmless, but a closer examination shows that the minister could intrude, without provinces and even interested municipalities being aware, on sites and historic sites and deal with them and develop them the way he wants without necessarily abiding by town planning, zoning or any other municipal bylaws or provincial regulations.
There is a risk that a quiet neighbourhood might be transformed over night. A historic town centre could become a federal property, one building at the time, and the whole of it would become free from any obligation relating to provincial regulations or municipal bylaws. This is unacceptable in my opinion.
The Bloc Quebecois moved in the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage an amendment proposing that such acquisitions should at least be approved by the provinces or province involved. The amendment was rejected by the Liberal majority.
This is why, and we will come to that later, I move that this clause be withdrawn, as it creates this type of risk for our provinces, municipalities and populations. If the House does not withdraw this section, I urge all provincial legislatures to legislate in order to subject to the approval of a provincial minister all real property transactions that would result in the transfer of a site to the federal government for the purpose of making it an historical site.
In this way the transaction could be made, but the provincial government and the municipalities would know about it and would be able to take steps to ensure that those transactions are respectful of the people and the authorities concerned.
To conclude, the Bloc will support the bill as amended at report stage. We will, however, be carefully monitoring how Parks Canada, whose priority must be the preservation and restoration of the environmental integrity, is carrying out its mission .
Topic: Government Orders
Subtopic: Canada National Parks Act