Mr. Charles H. Thomas (Moncton):
Mr. Speaker, my participation in this debate may be questioned by some who wonder why I should bother to speak about national parks since there are none in my riding. I would point out that the constituency of Moncton is situated halfway between the two national parks which presently exist in New Brunswick. Because many of my constituents enjoy the facilities of these parks and because Moncton, being the transportation centre of the Maritimes, is traversed by everyone who visits the parks, I have a very special interest in them. It is true, as the parliamentary secretary said, that this bill is merely a housekeeping bill, particularly concerned with updating the administration. I am particularly interested in clause 2 which gives the governor in council power to extend the boundaries and incorporate Crown lands within existing national parks.
I have mentioned that there are two national parks in New Brunswick. The problem of expansion is not too critical in the Kouchibouguac national park. It is a new park and the government is still upgrading facilities there. Therefore I shall confine my remarks to Fundy national park. The hon. member who preceded me said that the national park in his area is the smallest in Canada. I cannot argue with that; but if Fundy is not the second smallest, it certainly is one of the smallest. It is about 80 square miles in extent. Although small, it is one of the most beautiful parks in Canada. Visitors who have been there will confirm this. It contains some of the most beautiful scenery in Atlantic Canada, sea line, rugged forest and mountain lines. It is one of the real beauty spots. The problem at Fundy is simply that the park is too popular. Maybe that is not quite the proper way to put it. Anyway, it is so popular that it is now completely overcrowded.
In 1948, when the decision was made to develop Fundy national park, there were very few roads in there. Being a pretty rugged sector of the country, it attracted few visitors except campers and prospectors. The popularity of the park has steadily increased since then and I can give some figures in support of that. It is said that attendance at our national parks has doubled in each decade from 1952 to 1972. Fundy national park was officially opened in July, 1950, and in the year 66,300 visitors went there. By 1970, this had increased to 640,000 visitors. I have not seen the figures for 1972, but I venture to say they are over 700,000 and perhaps close to 800,000. The reason for this is simple.
November 19, 1973
Fundy is within a day's ride of probably the greatest concentration of population in North America. Fundy draws visitors from all the Atlantic provinces, plus the whole eastern seaboard of the United States, which is the heaviest settled area in the United States. As a result, it has become a very popular area for American and Canadian tourists. The most recent figures available show slightly over 700,000 visitors in an area of 80 square miles, or approximately 9,000 visitors per square mile; and of course, the whole area cannot be utilized for visitors as the bulk of it is forest and woodland which is, quite properly, conserved.
This brings up the conflict that seems to exist in national parks policy, Mr. Speaker. Instead of presenting a housekeeping bill, I had hoped that the minister would present some rational parks policy to resolve the age-old conflict between the two aspects of national parks policy-the first recreation, and the second conservation. In 1970, a series of hearings took place throughout the country in every area where a national park existed. The briefs and submissions pointed up the great conflict between the conservationists and those who thought parks should be devoted to recreational purposes. I wonder what has happened to those comprehensive reports and the submissions we heard in 1970, Maybe the minister could tell us what happened to them and, specifically, what is being done for Fundy and some other parks.
Our parks are desperately overcrowded. While I realize that many people would reserve them for conservation purposes, I think we must also realize that people are entitled to have a place for recreation, whether it be camping, picnicking, swimming or whatever is their pleasure. Surely we can strike a balance somewhere along the line and reserve one park for the nature lover and set up another for recreation purposes.
Over the years we have advocated that Fundy national park be enlarged to become an integral part of the much discussed Fundy trail.
The minister has often heard the hon. member for Saint John-Lancaster (Mr. Bell) and myself extol the beauties of the Fundy trail in this House. This trail would run from the Maine border through the southern part of New Brunswick up to St. Martin's and would co-ordinate the whole area. I know there has not been any agreement between the federal government and the province on the allocation of funds for such a project, but I have suggested in this House before that perhaps the most economic way to do it would be to extend the boundaries of Fundy national park 15 miles westward in a narrow corridor to the existing settlement of St. Martin's. This would provide the missing link between St. Martin's and the present borders of the park and would complete the Fundy trail. I do not know how many acres are involved, but the coast road along that part of the Bay of Fundy could be completed if this were done. I am sure under the terms of Clause 2 the federal government could work something out. Perhaps the provincial government would make the lands available to the federal government and they could become Crown lands. I should like to draw this matter to the attention of the minister because the time is long past when we should
National Parks Act
take action to provide adequately for the people coming to Fundy national park.
It has been estimated that by 1975, 3'/2 million visitors will be coming to New Brunswick every year and that this figure will increase by 25 per cent each year thereafter. If this is true, and if the same ratio exists as at present, in the next five years we will be getting over one million visitors. Unless something is done to extend the facilities, those visitors might as well stay home.
In his remarks the parliamentary secretary made reference to transit facilities within the park. But it is also very important to provide easy access. As the minister is probably aware, the main road to the park is very dilapidated and many tourists, especially those hauling small trailers, hesitate to use it. I think this is a proper subject for dicussion with the province. Perhaps a plan could be worked out whereby the highways to and from the park could be brought up to modern standards so that tourists from the United States and other areas would be glad to come to the park and enjoy its beauty.
I do not want to take up very much time, Mr. Speaker, because I agree with this bill. I have no quarrel with any of its provisions except that I hope that when we get to committee the minister will feel inclined to strengthen the bill to provide for the future expansion of parks. I hope he will accept some of the suggestions and criticisms made in committee. If he cannot do it with this bill, I hope that in the future he will bring in a more comprehensive plan to allocate parks for purposes of recreation and conservation. With this hope, I encourage the House to get this bill into committee so that the minister can give us his ideas.
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: NATIONAL PARKS ACT